Infallible Fish Review: Justice League vs. The Fatal Five Review

Blog Justice League Fatal Five Review Title

Bravery is not the absence of fear, but acting despite it.

As much as Marvel deserves every accolade going for its cinematic universe (seriously Endgame was such a perfect culmination of the whole Infinity Saga and I’ve never had quite a cinema experience like it and maybe never will again), but it’s not the first company to put together a connected superhero universe outside of the comics. Let’s talk about the DCAU (DC Animated Universe), spanning across Batman the animated series, Superman the animated series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (I get iffy with whether the Teen Titans should be included since it had a different style to it and they never got to do any crossovers with the other shows so I’ll leave them off the list for now), but the DCAU is the reason I love superheroes. The shows it encompasses were my introduction to superheroes and while I also watched all of the Marvel cartoons as well, these are the ones I keep coming back to (and the reason I’m a DC fanboy). Why am I rambling on about this instead of the movie I’m meant to be reviewing? Well, because to me, this film feels like a lost episode of Justice League Unlimited (with added swearing and a fair amount of blood, but I’ll come back to that) and I feel that was very much the intention.

The nostalgia is certainly strong with this one, outside of the fact that the art style is that of the DCAU with classic Bruce Timm designs, we’ve also got Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg and George Newbern reprising their roles as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman respectively. Add on to that the soundtrack, which either outright plays the old themes or comes up with new arrangements of the classics, and I was a kid again, watching a brand new episode of Justice League Unlimited and I loved it. Seriously, after Batman the animated series, Justice League Unlimited was my favourite cartoon of the DCAU (the Cadmus arc is one of the finest story arcs in cartoon history as far as I’m concerned), with Batman Beyond and Static Shock close behind it. This film also follows in the spirit of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon and introduces us to a whole host of new heroes (some of whom I’ve never met before and am definitely going to look into more after watching this).

I suppose it’s about time I talked about the actual plot though and, as I mentioned it covers several areas of DC that I’m not that familiar with so forgive me if I get stuff wrong (I’m a DC fanboy but there’s only so much trivia I can store in my head, at least until I upload my consciousness to a supercomputer and absorb the internet and you will all bow before me! Sorry, went a bit super villain there, not sure why.) Anyway, we start off in the 31st century, where three members of the Fatal Five (including a guy who disintegrates everything he touches with his hand, a guy with an axe that can cut through anything and someone I have mentally dubbed ‘half-Metallo’) break into the headquarters of the Legion of Superheroes and steal a time machine. Luckily one of the Legionnaires, Star Boy, tags along for the ride and manages to seal the Fatal Five inside the time machine, on the downside, he’s now stuck in the past, a past that doesn’t have the medicine he uses to keep himself mentally stable. Oops. Luckily Star Boy runs into Batman. Unluckily he’s naked and going on about how he’s from the future, so he’s shipped straight to Arkham.

That brings us to our other starring hero, Jessica Cruz, Green Lantern. Now I’ll hold my hands up here and say that I know very little of Jessica Cruz, the fact that she’s a Green Lantern is about as far as my knowledge of her goes, I’ve never read a comic that features her before and after watching this movie, that feels like an oversight on my part. I have no idea how accurate the movie’s origin is for her, but the Jessica Cruz we get in this film is dealing with a whole heap of trauma and anxiety and it not only makes her a very sympathetic character, but it’s always good when mental health issues get talked about, we need more of this. Anyway, back to the plot, the Justice League accidentally releases the trapped Fatal Five, Oops, and they go after Jessica, wanting to use her to free the remaining two members of the Five, with Star Boy breaking out of Arkham to try to warn/help Jessica and convince her that, despite what she thinks of herself, she is quite possibly the bravest lantern going.

There’s a lot to love with this film for a DC fan like me, the animation is great, the characters are all on point and a lot of fun and the action is fantastic, however, that brings me to the problems with this film and, honestly, they’re the same problems that I have with the majority of DC’s original animated movies. One, it’s too short. I get these are done on a budget and it takes a lot of time and effort to animate stuff, but would an extra ten to twenty minutes really kill DC? Everything is there in the film, we see the bond develop between Jessica and Star Boy and they get a few minutes to mull over their issues, but that’s it. I just fell like the film needs a few extra minutes to breathe, to show us more of how Jessica and Star Boy cope, and it would make those moments were they shine all the more powerful.

Two, violence and language, now this film is by no way the worst offender, there’s only a couple of swear words and some of the more violent deaths are often quick or quickly moved off screen, but they are there (we see Superman lying in his own pool of blood). I’d be okay with this if it was necessary for the plot, but it’s not, so much of this film is trying to feel like the Justice League Unlimited cartoon and then Jessica will say s**t and I’m completely snapped out of the moment. Just because the main audience for this film is going to be fanboys like me who grew up on the cartoon doesn’t mean you need to insert blood and swearing to any decree, we get it, we’re an adult audience now, but inserting that stuff doesn’t make your product more adult, it makes it juvenile and frankly insulting so DC (and I know you’re reading this), stop it, just, stop it.

All in all though, I did enjoy Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, my small complaints about the language and violence aside, this film has been a great nostalgia trip for a fanboy. I’ve got to hang out with old friends I adore and got to meet some new icons who I hope to get to know better. If you’re a fan of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon or just fancy getting to meet a wider range of DC heroes then check this out.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Infallible Fish Reviews: Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

Blog Batman vs TMNT Review Title

Ninja…Turtles?

Okay, I’ve talked about my love of Batman before on this blog (he is my favourite superhero and I devoted a whole month to him a few years back), but in the almost five years of writing this blog, I’ve never talked about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which this movie finally gives me a chance to rectify. I fell in love with the Heroes in a Half Shell when I was a kid, their original cartoon was one of the tent poles of my childhood. There was so much to adore, cool character designs, comedy and ninjutsu action, not to mention that I’m pretty sure the TMNT is where my love of pizza started. Now putting fun-loving giant turtles into the same film as the grim Dark Knight may sound odd at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense.

Not only are there multiple, successful, mini-series that crossover these two beloved franchises, but I think they actually fit together rather well. I mean on the surface there’s the fact that both sets of characters have been trained by ninja masters so that gives you plenty of epic martial arts fights, but on a deeper level both franchises are chameleons. What I mean by that is you can take a character like Batman and drop him into a noir-soaked detective story or a globe-trotting adventure, he can fight demons and aliens and be back in time to punch a gangster. Batman can adapt to any situation and the TMNT can do the same. You can play them as goofy and silly, or dark and serious (just take a look at some of the comics for some of the more mature storylines), the franchise has been going for a long time now, with multiple iterations, each with their own style. Both of these franchises can adapt and survive to anything you throw at them and that makes them perfect for one another.

On to the movie though, and I suppose the best place to start is with the story that brings our favourite characters together. It’s a very simple story and, honestly, that’s exactly what it needed to be. Shredder and the Foot clan have come to Gotham for a secret deal, stealing experimental technology from across the city. Of course this brings them into conflict with Batman and when the Dark Knight hears about four mutant turtles running amok in his city, well, he’s not going to stand for that either. One major shell-whooping later and the turtles and the Caped Crusafer are ready to team up and take on the combined forces of Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul as they transform the inmates of Arkham into mutated monsters and plan to tear the whole city apart, because that’s what Ra’s does. It’s a simple, easy narrative, but that leaves room for all the great interactions and moments we as the audience want to see, which is the key to any good crossover. Whether its fights like Batman vs. Shredder or watching Donnie and Batgirl debate whether to refer to the green goop as mutagen or ooze, this film is packed with everything I wanted to see upon hearing the title.

Every character gets a moment to shine and, almost as importantly, a moment to interact with one another. I never knew I needed a scene of Mikey in the Batmobile, but my life is more complete now because I have it (then again, Mikey’s reaction to first seeing the Batmobile is priceless “What do you think something like that costs?” “My soul probably, since I’d pay that.” We all would Mikey, we all would). That’s something else I wanted to bring up with this film, and probably my favourite aspect of it, the dialogue. This is a really witty, funny script and none of the jokes feel forced, every line is just a natural zinger, whether it’s Commissioner Gordon longing for his retirement to literally anything that comes out of Mikey’s mouth. (The line that gets me the most though comes from two unnamed background characters as Mikey bursts into a pizza place and we overhear the conversation “I think we should see other people.” “But I don’t like other people.” I don’t know what it is about that line, but it had me in hysterics. Also I promise I’m going to stop quoting the film now, because I could seriously do that all day there’s so many lines I love). Also credit to a really terrific voice cast, well, except for the voice for Robin, but that’s only because that’s not the voice I’ve ever pictured Robin having. I get what they were going for, it just took a lot of getting used to.

Speaking of getting used to things, let’s talk animation. When I first saw the trailers for this film I was worried about the art style, it’s very reminiscent of The Batman cartoon and I thought it’d take me a while to get used, but surprisingly I adapt fast. I love the use of colour in this film, especially when the characters are just a silhouette with a single highlight colour, but the best of this film from a visual standpoint is the fights. The fight choreography in this film is the best I’ve seen in along while, you feel the weight of every hit and I’ve already mentioned the Batman vs. Shredder fight, which is amazing, both times, but every fight is great.

I could talk about this film all day, but it’s just going to be me gushing more and more and then I’ll start quoting it again so maybe it’s best I leave it here. If you’re a fan of Batman or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you need to see this film. It’s everything I wanted from a crossover, its witty, smart and immensely enjoyable. It has every moment and interaction you could hope for and I completely forgot to mention how much I love the soundtrack. This is not only the best batman film that DC has put out in a while, but one of the best DC Universe films I’ve seen in a long time. Cowabunga dudes!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Blog Spider Verse Review Title

“I’m from another dimension…another, another dimension.”

The best Spider-Man movie ever! I’m not even joking with that. Now I know I’m meant to be reviewing an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man today, but I’ve seen this film and people need to go see it, right this instant. As such Spider-Month is now going to be a Spider-Month and a half, I’ll get to Ultimate next week. So, back to this being the best Spider-Man film ever made, because while there are parts I love about all the previous Spider-Man films (Except Spider-Man 3, no, I tell a lie, I do like the Sandman stuff in that film, shame that’s pretty much the only part of that film I like, but anyway), all the previous Spider-Man films have their flaws. The Raimi films are incredibly corny in retrospect and Toby McGuire takes being a dweeb to a whole new level. The Marc Webb films are just, well I feel like apologising ‘cause they could have been great, they had so much potential and then it all got squandered. Homecoming is probably the most fun Spider-Man film, but it’s hamstrung by the fact that it removes nearly all of Peter’s core motivation of his Uncle Ben except for one brief mention. Into the Spider-Verse though? It doesn’t put a single foot wrong, beginning to end, I love every single second of this film.

This film understands it’s characters down to a cellular level, and considering the amount of Spider-Characters in this one that is a real achievement (See DC, this is how you do a team movie with no build up!). You get to understand each and every one of the characters, even if they don’t get much time in the spotlight, though everyone gets a least one moment to truly shine. Every character, from the heroes to the supporting to the villains gets something to show you what’s going on inside their heads and it’s a glory to behold. From Miles feeling the weight of the expectations on top of him, to Peter B struggling to find his way back to the man he used to be and even Gwen’s crushing guilt. I love each and every person in this film and is it too early to start petitioning Sony to give each of them their own film or should I wait five minutes?

As for the story, it’s pretty simple, but then it needs to be to fit everything in and that doesn’t mean the emotional and comedic moments hit any less hard. Our story starts with Miles, an ordinary kid struggling between the expectation of his police officer father and the elite school he’s found himself attending. One night while he’s out with his Uncle Aaron, putting his artistic talents to use, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and wakes up with his trousers suddenly a size too small and incredibly sticky fingers (Ouch, sorry Gwen, that had to hurt). Tracking down the spider that bit him, Miles comes across the one and only Spider-Man, whose in the middle of a fight with Green Goblin, Prowler and Kingpin, the later about to turn on a Super Collider that, as per sci-fi law, will destroy New York if left on for too long. The Collidor gets turned on, there’s an explosion and Spider-Man gives the key to destroying the Collidor to Miles, making him promise that he’ll destroy this place. Then Kingpin kills Spider-Man (spoiler). Miles does try to be Spider-Man, but he’s not very good at it and when he goes to Spider-Man’s grave, he finds another Spider-Man, Peter B Parker, from another universe.

See when the Collider turned on all sorts of dimensions were opened up and Spider-heroes from across the universes were pulled into Miles’ world. There is Spider-Gwen, from the universe where Gwen Stay (Peter’s first love) got bitten by the spider rather than Peter. Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage in the role he was born for) a Peter from a dark and gritty world where he’s a dark and gritty private eye, he becomes fascinated by a rubik’s cube and this whole colour thing. We also have Peni Parker who is psychically linked to a spider (who’s her best friend forever) and they fight together in a giant robot. Then there’s Spider-Ham from a universe of talking cartoon animals (and quite a bit of Looney Tunes inspiration). Now the Spider-heroes can’t stay in Miles’ universe (it’s literally killing them), they need to use the Collider to get back home and then destroy it before the whole of New York becomes an Escher sketch.

Now of the many things that makes this film great is the way it can balance both its comedy and its drama. On the one hand this film is hilarious, there are so many quick, sharp and just plain witty jokes, there were times I was struggling to breathe I was laughing so hard (the end credits scene is the funniest end credits I have ever seen). Also can I just take a moment to just say it feels like forever since I’ve seen some really good slapstick. The slapstick in this film is spot on, from the timing to the exaggeration to everything about the execution, I definitely have the feeling that the people behind this film were Looney Tunes fans. There’s also a plethora of funny lines and I need to see this film again just to hear all of Nicolas Cage’s lines. However this film can also which from comedy to drama and it does it perfectly. Whether its Gwen talking about not wanting ‘friends’ anymore or Kingpin remembering his family or Miles with his Uncle, you feel the pain and struggles of these characters. There’s a beautiful moment where Miles has just lost someone important and complains that the others can’t possibly understand and Gwen just reminds him that they’re probably the only people who could.

Now, let’s talk about the animation. Even if you’re not a Spider-Man fan, even if you aren’t interested in comic books in any shape or form, if you love animation you need to see this film. The style and artistry in this film is beyond anything, this may just be the best-animated film I have seen all year. The use of colour is breath taking, the speed with which it moves and the way it can switch from broody and sombre to bright and vibrant. Each character gets their own style and the way they blend seamlessly together. I…I don’t have the words, you have to see this film. So stop reading this and go, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is quite possibly the best Spider-Man film made so far. It’s smart, it’s funny and heartfelt. It understands all of it’s characters and gives each of them the chance to shine. Go see this film!

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Incredibles 2

Blog Incredibles 2 Review Title

Pow pow pow!

I love the Incredibles and I mean that with every fibre of my being. It’s one of my favourite animated films of all time. It was, and still is, smart, funny, incredibly creative and found new and interesting angles to look at superheroes from. I mean it’s a Brad Bird film and I have yet to find an animated Brad Bird film that has let me down. But, we’re not here to talk about the original, though I could, for hours. No, we’re here to discuss the sequel. A sequel we’ve been waiting fourteen years to get our hands on. I admit I was a little nervous when the film was first announced, could they recapture the magic, especially after so long? Add on to that the fact that when the original came out they hadn’t exactly flooded the market with superhero films and, well, now they have (There are probably some lucky kids who never had to live through those dark times. Some of us are still scarred by Batman and Robin. Batman and Robin I tell you!) So, can Incredibles 2 live up to over a decade of hype? Yes!!! Sorry, little overexcited there, yes it can, and then some.

The film picks up pretty much where the last one left off, the Incredibles facing off against the Underminer and though they do happen to stop his villainous scheme, they also cause a lot of damage and, well, superheroes are still illegal. Before we go into that though, there are two things I want to bring up. First, this film is flippin’ gorgeous. One benefit of waiting so long for the sequel is that animation technology and skills behind it have come along so far. Every frame of this film is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The colours and all those retro designs wrapped up in perfect shots. I want to hang every frame of this film from my wall, which brings me to my second thing. The action. This film seriously ups the ante when it comes to the number and variety of its actions scenes, whether its racing a runaway train, a helicopter dog fight or even fights against other supers (all of whom I love), no one can accuse this film of being lazy. Also I like that everyone gets a fair share of the action and characters like Frozone and the kids get to join in a lot more than the last film. I do have to admit that although I love the action and the creativity of it, none of the action scenes have the same level of tension and drama as, say, the plane scene from the first film, they’re still tense and dramatic, but I don’t think there’s much that could top that plane scene. I do get to see a hero on hero brawl though, so I’m not complaining.

Back to the story. Our heroes are in trouble with the law and if you remember the end of the last film, they’re also homeless at the minute. Things are looking a bit bleak, up until a wealthy billionaire offers to help make heroes legal again. He’s a huge hero fan, knows all their theme songs (yes there are theme songs now, stay for the credits) and his idea to bring heroes back is to change the public’s perception, to show them the action and excitement of the heroes’ lives, rather than just the burning aftermath. It’s a good idea and the first hero he wants to make a TV star is Elastigirl. This does bruise Mr.Incredible’s ego a little bit (and we all know that’s the most fragile part of him), but he does begrudgingly agree that it’s the right call and while his wife is off saving the day, he’ll stay at home and look after the kids.

Now under anyone else this plot could have come across as a little cliché or stale (it feels like I saw a million sitcoms or low budget films about stay at home dads when I was a kid), but this is the Incredibles and if there’s one thing the Incredibles does better than anything else, it’s a sense of maturity and realism to its characters, which is odd in a film where a baby has every superpower going. Yes Mr. Incredible can lift a car over his head and punch his way through a steel door, but he’s a middle-aged man and goes through the same struggles as anyone else. He’s stumped by modern teaching methods, has no idea what to do about his daughter’s boy troubles and then there’s Jack-Jack, who like all babies is a non-stop natural disaster zone, and then you add in the superpowers. It’s almost as if raising three kids is stressful. The other characters all get their own moments in the spotlight too and get to fill up the screen with their personalities. Heart-warming is the best way I have to describe the characters in this film.

Anyway, while Elastigirl is on the job, she comes across a new villain, Screenslaver, who through flashing lights and a hypnotism guide can take control of anyone looking at screen. Like a lot of this film, it’s fairly easy to guess where they’re going with the villain’s plot. In fact from pretty early on in the film you can make a good guess at who the villain is, or at least get a very limited list of options. Not that it diminishes Screenslaver, I think they do have a good gimmick and a really good reasoning behind their plan. Like all good villains they have a rational behind what they do and you can almost agree with them, right up to the point where they start threatening people and trying to kill them. My only complain really is that Screenslaver lacks the impact and the presence of a villain like Syndrome, but I still enjoyed them.

The only really possible complain I can mark against this film is that it’s pretty predictable. From the moment a plot point reared its head I knew pretty much exactly where it was going. When the first Incredibles came out it was something fresh and new and this time around we’re expecting everything that’s coming. It turns the drama and excitement down a notch, but then again, the film is giving me everything that I wanted from an Incredibles sequel so can I really complain? No, not really. Despite the predictably I adored this film from start to finish, it gave me every single thing I wanted to see and so much more besides. This is a sequel more than worthy of standing besides its predecessor. Go watch the original if you haven’t already and then go watch this, you won’t be disappointed.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Blog Teen Titans Judas Review Title

Pain is what makes a hero.

Okay, I have to just take a moment and give thanks once again to Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (see my review here) for renewing my optimism about the DC original animated movies because without that I never would have seen this film. So many of the recent DC animated movies just mire themselves in darkness, whether that’s through excessive violence or even a dark and muted colour pallet ‘cause they think that’s what people want. Newsflash! Not everybody wants that! These are super heroes, you’re allowed to let a little light into proceedings. That’s not to say that Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is in any way kid-friendly, it’s not. Leaving aside some of the subject matter of this film for a minute, it has a pretty high body count and there’s a couple of gruesome deaths, though in most cases we’re spared some of the graphicness of the deaths by either only seeing the result or it happening so quickly that we don’t focus on it. Also the language in some scenes, but then again considering the characters involved and the situations, some of the language feels entirely appropriate.

What stops me getting annoyed at graphicness in this film as opposed to other DC films is that this film has a better balance. It’s very much just something in the background and isn’t rammed down your throat like other films. Instead the focus of this film is exactly where it should be, on the characters and the story, which is what I’m so thankful for. On the character side of things, I haven’t gotten around to seeing the previous film Justice League vs. Teen Titans, yet, but this group of Titans very much feels like a team.

Robin (Damian Wayne) is still surly and way too full of himself, but he’s calmed down a bit since his earlier film appearances and he actually compliments people and offers support to his team mates, even if he does do it in his own special way. Beast Boy is the joker of the pack and way too obsessed with social media (which I can completely see happening to the character). I also would like to commend his voice actor. The scene between him and Terra on the beach and that ending monologue, just damn, unless Kevin Conray and the rest of the old DCAU voice actors are in the mix I don’t normally expect that level of punch to the voice work in these movies. Blue Beetle is struggling with the alien scarab that has attached itself to his back and has a tendency to attack anyone that comes within three feet of him, but also manages to find a way to be a hero without his powers. Starfire is now the leader of the Titans and I have to say that’s not something I’ve seen before, but it really works for the character. It makes me wish this was a TV series and not a movie so I could see more of her in this role. I also like that we get to see a stable, loving relationship between her and Nightwing which is something we don’t see often enough in superhero shows and films in my opinion. Then there’s Raven who, while she’s perfectly serviceable in the film, doesn’t really get much to do. I’ll get to Terra, the new girl, in a minute.

All of the characters interact well and while I would have liked a few more scenes of them all just interacting so we could really see how they play off of one another, I’ll take what I can get. Also it’s good to seem them working as an effective fighting force. There are plenty of action scenes for the team to show their stuff, but the action is mostly there to keep the pace going, a lot of this film is about character. Every member, aside from Raven, gets something to do. Robin gets to have a few choice words with Deathstroke when he turns up. Starfire and Nightwing get to further their relationship while also working out how to lead the team without stepping on one another’s toes. Blue Beetle tries to find a way to get his scarab more accustomed to being around humans so that he can actually see his family in person. These little arcs that run through the story help to humanise the characters and are handled in a pretty mature way, there’s no conflict for the sake of conflict, every problem feels like a natural one that would come out of the situation. I only wish the film had another ten minutes or so, so that we could explore them a bit more because outside of character work they don’t really have that much affect on the main plot.

Speaking of which, Terra. She’s new to the Titans and is a trouble kid with, literally, earth-shaking powers. Now I’m going to try avoiding the plot twist with her character, even though it does come fairly quickly in the film and it’s pretty much famous for comic fans, but I won’t say specifically what it is, but if you want to avoid even a hint of spoilers skip to the next paragraph. There are two ways to do Terra’s character, in the comics she was a complete and total psychopath and in the original Teen Titans cartoon she was more of a tragic figure. Here the film tries to go for somewhere in the middle, though leaning more towards the cartoon version and honestly I think that’s for the best. Terra is an incredibly damaged character, we get flashbacks to her back-story and it is messed up to say the least (and part of the reason this film is not kid-friendly). You can’t help but want the Titans to get through to her, but in the end her pain is just too much and it buries her. Also I just want to applaud Terra’s voice actress. Not only does she give one of the best performances throughout, but those painful, anguish-filled screams at the end, dear lord they were good. I’m surprised the actress has any voice left after that.

When it comes down to it, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, isn’t perfect, but it is good. The main plot of the film is rather generic, evil cultist wants to capture the Titans so he can absorb all their powers, but it’s the characters, the acting and the writing that save this film. The Titans work as a team while also dealing with their own personal problems. The main arc of the story though comes down to Terra’s and it’s a wonderful exploration of a damaged character struggling to overcome the pain of her past. As Beast Boy says, pain can make a hero, like pressuring creating a diamond, or it could just grind you into dust (seriously go watch the beach scene with Terra and that ending, both are worth it.) Also it helps that all of the fight scenes are punchy and energetic. I enjoyed this so much more than I was expecting and you might too so go check it out.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Coco

Blog Coco Review Title

Remember Me.

I’ll admit I’m late to the party on this one, but then what else is new. I mean Coco was a huge hit when it first hit cinemas and while I could make some kind of defence about wanting to watch it after the hype had died down, I’ll be honest and just admit that I was lazy and waited for the DVD (Also Disney and Pixar have a habit of making me blub like a baby and that just gets messy and nobody wants to see that). So it’s out now, I’ve seen it and, well, yeah I agree with pretty much every good thing I’ve heard about this film. It’s beautiful, in so many senses of the word. Not only is it colourful and vibrant, but its also a look at a culture and a mythology that, although not obscure it really doesn’t appear in cinemasas much as others. I like stories about different cultures than my own to see how different people view things and, honestly, the more the points of view and diversity we can get into stories the better in my opinion. Of course there’s also the fact that the message of this film is so heart-warming and one that anyone can get behind, no matter their background. God I’m tearing up again just thinking about it.

What’s the story? Miguel’s family are shoemakers and proud, but Miguel himself wants to be a musician, which is a problem seeing as his entire family hates music, of any kind. See there is a story passed down through their family of their great-great-grandfather, who was a musician and left his family in order to pursue to his dream of singing for the world. From then on Miguel’s great-great-grandmother began to despise music and turned to shoe making in order to support herself and her daughter, thus creating the family business. Miguel can’t help being drawn to music though, especially the music of Ernesto de la Cruz. After accidentally breaking the frame of the picture of his great-great-grandmother (which has the head of his great-great-grandfather torn off), Miguel discovers that his great-great-grandfather had a guitar identical to that of Ernesto. He begins to wonder if Ernesto was actually his great-great-grandfather, which is the best news ever to him, but a nightmare to the rest of his family who just want him to give up on music and listen to them.

Then Miguel does something stupid. He breaks into Ernesto’s crypt to steal his guitar (so that he can use it in a competition and prove he’s a musician), but you see, he’s done this on Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This is a special day where ancestors are remembered and offerings given to them. To steal from the dead on a day like that is a very bad idea (not that stealing from the dead is ever a good idea). Because of this Miguel finds himself cursed and turned into a ghost. He can only return to the Land of the Living with the blessing of his family and his great-great-grandmother will only give her blessing on the condition he gives up music. Miguel does have a great-great-grandfather though and with the help of a fading spirit called Hector, sets out to find Ernesto and get his blessing before the sun rises and Miguel becomes one of the dead, permanently.

Firstly, this film is absolutely gorgeous. Everything from the colours and the textures to the sheer scale and creativity of the Land of the Dead is mind blowing. I especially love the spirit guides who are all beautifully designed and so colourful that they just light up the screen. Also I have to give credit to the character designers as well, I like that pretty much every character has a different body shape. They’re all really distinct and I appreciate that (also a round of applause for whoever did Mama Coco that is a wonderful design and probably a nightmare to texture). The visuals in this film are worth the price of admission alone, but this film has so much more than that.

Music is woven through the heart of this film, but there’s something that feels so natural, so realistic about it. When someone sings in this film I don’t hear someone in a studio going over the lines again and again in a recording booth, I hear someone in front of me that’s just pulled up a guitar and started singing. I think it’s because so many of the performances leave in the little breaks in the voices of the actors who are singing at the beginning. They’re not perfectly sung and that makes them perfect, especially during the quieter, more sentimental songs. It really hits you with the emotions of the performance and raises this film one more level. Also it helps that they’re also fantastic songs that they get in sing.

As for the story, it does what all the best Pixar stories does, it keeps it simple and knows exactly where its heart is at all times. I also like the fact that you can understand both sides of the argument, you get the families point about how this one family member leaving nearly destroyed them, but then you also get Miguel’s point about just wanting to sing and follow his dream. What it comes down to is that they have to listen to one another and that way they can truly remember and honour their family and their ancestors. It’s a film that gets you right in the feels and while I did suspect the twist towards the end of the film I didn’t guess at the specifics. Also Miguel is a great main character, both energetic and fun and props to newcomer Anthony Gonzalez for filling the character with so much emotion and life.

In the end Coco is a fantastic film that everyone should see, so if you’ve been waiting for the DVD or it to appear on Netflix or something don’t wait a second more. Go. See. This. Film. You won’t regret it.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Infallible Fish Reviews: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

Blog Gotham by Gaslight Review Title

Wait, it was him?!

Okay, I’ll admit I’ve been staying away from the DC universe animated movies of late. They seem to have lost something recently, I keep seeing clips and sneak peeks and my interest just isn’t there. There’s either an overabundance of darkness and violence where it isn’t needed (Batman: Bad Blood, I did not need to see a guy’s head explode thank you very much) or they just get terrible reviews (Batman and Harley Quinn). Gotham by Gaslight though, that had my attention and yes I know I just complained about excessive darkness, and this film gets incredibly dark, but if there’s any place that that kind of thing feels appropriate it’s a story about Batman taking on Jack the Ripper. Batman can fit into almost any setting, but a Victorian one feels more appropriate than most. It adds to his gothic appeal, those smog covered streets, that architecture against a moonlit night, I don’t know why this sort of thing doesn’t turn up more.

Now, this movie is based on a comic, which I have never read. So speaking to this film’s adaptation is kind of out of the window (I will get round to the comic eventually it’s on a very, very long list of comics, books, films and TV shows that I must own at some point). However, this film gives me pretty much everything I’d ask for from the concept. A host of characters reimagined in this new period? Check. Steampunk gadgets for our caped crusader? Check. Rooftop chases, contests of strength and intelligence as well as some detective work (i.e. the stuff Batman is really good at)? Check. Mystery and drama as our hero hunts through the back alleys of Gotham all leading to an epic final confrontation? Check. Could there have been more characters and namedrops, more gadgets and such? Sure, but I think they would have probably cluttered up the film too much if you tried to cram absolutely everything in. This is a pretty simple film with a simple story, it’s really an introduction to a world similar to the one we’re all familiar with, but not entirely (I’ll come back to this).

Characterwise Batman is Batman, obviously. Bruce Greenwood puts in a really good performance as a dark knight who’s just starting out. He’s guarded and clinically minded, but still makes mistakes and has a ways to go in the brawling department, which I appreciate. I like a Batman that hasn’t evolved into the Bat-God yet. Also the film makes use of his detective and observation skills, which I always appreciate. The other characters all feel like themselves too, even if on the outside they’re wildly different. Such as the street urchins that are Dick, Jason and Tim (the robins to those that don’t know) and the two-faced Harvey who shows his ugly side without the need of getting half his face burnt off among others. Though if I can take a moment, and please excuse the language, but…you bastards! Not only do you give my Ivy precious little screen time, but you let the Butcher have her! How dare you! I’ll…(Sound effect: being restrained and sedated.)

I’m back. Sorry, I…I…have a thing. I’m better now. Anyway, my favourite character has to be Selina. She’s smart, intelligent and won’t take any nonsense off of anyone; you feel the chemistry between her and Batman. She’s his equal and that’s the way Catwoman should be.

I suppose that brings me to Jack himself and while I’ll try not to spoil it I do want to talk about it. So, if you want to go in completely blank about the Ripper, skip this paragraph. So, Jack, I can see the reveal upsetting a fair few people. Like I said before I’ve never read the comic, so I don’t know if it was the same there, but damn you’ve got some balls. It takes one of the fundamental pillars of the Batman mythos, a character that should be unshakable, and twisted them into a completely new direction. It’s just…It’s…I don’t have the words. My jaw hit the floor when they did the reveal. “You can’t do that!” I cried and yet it made perfect sense. It fit this version of the character and that’s the thing. These are not the characters we all know and love, they may be similar, so very similar, but this is not the canon DC Universe. This is a different world and here there are no rules. There are no characters that are untouchable and I admire this film so much for taking something I thought to be fundamental and smashing my expectations into pieces with it. If the rest of this film was as daring as this reveal I think we’d have a classic on our hands.

On the animation front I like the style they’ve gone for. It’s clean and simple and allows the focus to be on the action and the performances. I also really like the designs of all the characters, simple, but effective. The action is great with lots of fast motion and heavy blows, I especially like the fight between Batman and Jack on the blimp. Though this film isn’t entirely action, it also does a good job of building tension, giving a real feel for this gas lit world.

When it comes down to it Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is a short and sweet story, giving us a glimpse of a world very similar to the one we know, but not quite. It’s driven by good performances, good writing and good animation, and while I don’t think it’s going to change anybody’s world, I’m glad I saw it. I’d love to spend more time in this world with these characters. I’m hopeful for the DC Universe movies again and, strangely, that’s the note the film leaves on too. Despite the horror that came before, there is hope for the future, a chance to build something better.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.