Quick Picks brings you short reviews of films available to rent, buy or stream now. This edition features The Banana Splits Movie, A Glitch in the Matrix and Justice Society: World War II.
The Banana Splits Movie (2019)
Who here remembers The Banana Splits? Those strange looking man-sized animals, that formed a rock band on TV. Trying to emulate the success of The Monkees in foam, fur and rubber under the Hanna-Barbera brand. To me, The Banana Splits were always decidedly creepy, each character carrying a whiff of psychosis. Therefore, when Warner Brothers announced a Banana Splits Movie you would have been forgiven for thinking it would shrink-wrap childhood memories in an impenetrable bubble of nostalgia. But no; instead our furry friends become deranged robot killers, slowly wiping out their nostalgia loving audience with glee. In what can only be described as a brave, inventive and gore-soaked return of the late sixties TV show.
In an alternate present-day where The Banana Splits continue to dominate the TV schedules. Young Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) is one of their biggest fans, their TV show providing him with an hour of escapism every week. His birthday providing an opportunity for his mum Beth (Dani Kind) to arrange a special surprise; a visit to the Banana Splits live recording. Harley is, of course, delighted, even though his dad Mitch (Steve Lund) is less than enthused. So with his hormonal teenage brother Austin (Romeo Carere) and young school friend in tow, the family arrives at the studios for his birthday treat. Unaware that this will be the final ever Banana Splits show, the singing and dancing robots planning a bloody spectacular.
Mixing elements of Child’s Play with Westworld, director Danishka Esterhazy creates a deliciously dark nostalgia fest. Where Children’s TV becomes a nightmare of epic proportions for an audience of fans, young and old. But the real bravery and creativity come from the decision to subvert The Banana Splits legacy. Something that viewers will either lap up or struggle to accept as childhood memories turn to horror.
A Glitch in the Matrix (2021) Dogwoof On-Demand
Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher is no stranger to rabbit hole explorations of an idea, theme or belief. In recent years he has taken us into Kubrick’s Room 237 and the horror of sleep paralysis in The Nightmare. But, with his new documentary, Ascher delves even deeper, tackling themes of science, fiction and theology as he asks whether we are all living in a grand computer simulation.
Opening with Philip K. Dick’s 1977 lecture on the possibility that we live in a computer-programmed reality, Ascher’s documentary explores the simulation theory Dick’s talk created. While at the same time asking far-reaching questions on philosophy, mental health, art and fiction. His camera providing space to the believers of simulation theory while neither agreeing or disagreeing with the ideas presented. The result is an unsettling, fascinating and thought-provoking exploration of humanity versus technology. Here, the interface between reality, fiction and wish fulfilment becomes hazy as we are guided through a maze of virtual reality images, avatars and individual obsession.
Many will struggle with Ascher’s apolitical stance on the themes presented. But, A Glitch in the Matrix remains a gripping documentary that strives to challenge and succeeds. Its final message and worth, left in the hands of those who dare to journey down the rabbit hole of the interface between simulation theory and human belonging.
Justice Society: World War II (2021) Buy Now
Warner’s animated DC adventures have long held a place in my heart. And while a few have struggled, the majority have been excellent. Much of this success has come from a love of the comic book source material in both vision and direction. However, outstanding voice performances throughout the years have also ensured enduring appeal. Their new feature-length animated adventure is no exception, with Justice Society: World War II both intricate, engaging and action-packed. Here, Barry Allen (The Flash) is accidentally transported into the multiverse for the first time. Dazed and confused, Barry finds himself in a world where the newly formed Justice Society are fighting Hitler’s Nazi’s as part of the allied war effort; Wonder Woman leading the charge alongside Hawkman, Black Canary and Jay Garrick’s Flash.
If there is one criticism of the story that ensues, it’s how busy it is in a limited 90 minutes. However, this is a minor flaw, at no time distracting from the sheer energy brought to the screen. And it is within this energy, pace and action that Jeremy Adams and Meghan Fitzmartin’s delightful screenplay finds a voice; each character allowed space to develop amid the flying bullets and intrigue. And for those new to the Golden Age comics from which Justice Society is born, Barry Allen provides a great hopping on point.
Justice Society: World War II is aimed at a far younger teenage audience than many of its predecessors. So for adult fans who like their Warner animated movies, dark and broody, the upcoming Batman: The Long Halloween may be more your thing. However, that does not mean Justice Society is void of complex themes and ideas. And a few of these might surprise you in their depth.