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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Big Hero 6 (2014)

The Nerds come around for another week of movies to cover Big Hero 6! On a scale from one to ten, how do you think they rate their pain? Or enjoyment?

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different classic from the Nerdosphere.  This week Dave and Patrick review the 2014 Marvel/Disney animated hit Big Hero 6!

The Flick:  Big Hero 6

What’s it About:  In a future a merged megacities where technology has taken over  most aspects of everyday life, young Hiro is an inventor with a penchant for finding trouble.  His older brother Tadashi tries to set Hiro on a better path by encouraging him to apply at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology where Tadashi is a student developing a medical care robot named Baymax.  He also introduces Hiro to Robert Callahan, the head of the institute.  Hiro is so enthralled by Tadashi and his other students’ inventions that he develops micro-bot technology to show at the Institute’s Innovation fair where Callahan decides to take on new students.  During the expo, an explosion occurs and Tadashi is killed trying to rescue Callahan, who was trapped in the building.  In the wake of Tadashi’s death, Hiro discovers someone has stolen his micro-bot technology and is using them to commit crimes.  Hiro converts Baymax into a super hero robot and forms a team of heroes among Tadashi’s friends in an effort to bring the thief to justice.

Metacritic Score: 74

The Nerds’ Take on Big Hero 6 (2014):

Patrick:  With the Halloween season past us, I convinced Dave it was time to shift the Nerd Review to some more heartwarming fare.  With that in mind I suggested the Disney/Marvel animated flick Big Hero 6.  The Movie follows the story of fourteen year old Hiro who forms a team of superheroes in the wake of his older brother Tadashi’s death.  Front and center in this team is Baymax, a nursing robot created by Tadashi but no converted into a fighting machine by Hiro.  Hiro does this to track down a mysterious villain who stole Hiro’s micro-bot technology.  Like many Disney films, it is difficult to summarize the plot because it is incredibly complex for an animated feature.  The film tackles issues of grief and healing as well as building friendships.  It does this all while also putting together a vibrant, colorful action film.

The film does a great job building the relationship between Hiro and Tadashi in the first act so that Tadashi’s death really impacts the audience along with Hiro. From there, Hiro’s story really plays out as an allegory for the five stages of grief.  In the wake of Tadashi’s death, Hiro is sad but also in disbelief.  He initially reacts to Baymax’s efforts to cheer him up with anger.  And it could be argued that Hiro’s drive to create a superhero team and alter Baymax’s programming is an attempt at bargaining to bring back Tadashi before seeing his obsession bring him and the team to the lowest of lows.  Once Hiro accepts the reality that Tadashi is truly gone and that there is life moving forward, Hiro and his team can then successfully track down the mysterious figure who stole Hiro micro-bot tech.  It’s a rich story that opens some real opportunities for parents to talk with their children about life and loss.

But enough of the heavy stuff.  The animation in Big Hero Six is top notch, especially in the team’s use of color.  Everything is bright and pops off the screen which makes for an exciting experience.  The little O’Dowd ate up this film.  The action sequences are exciting, but not too scary for younger audiences and there really is a character for everyone.  The voice cast is great as one would expect from a Disney film.  Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, T.J. Miller and Maya Rudolph are probably the most famous names in the cast, but everyone carries the film well.

I’ve held the belief that superhero films can carry heavy themes, but bottom line they need to be fun.  Big Hero 6 accomplishes both in a terrific movie.  This film was one of the earlier off the wall Marvel books picked up by Disney and it was a shrewd decision.  The gamble paid off in the box office as well and spawned an animated series on the Disney Channel.  Big Hero 6 is a terrific film for the entire family loaded with heart.  You will be satisfied with your care.

Patrick’s Rating:  4.25/5

 

Dave: After spending the past two weeks in some pretty dark, scary, and sometimes quiet places, this weeks Nerds’ Review went in the complete opposite direction. There are very few certainties in this life: Death, taxes, and Disney making an excellent animated feature. Big Hero 6 is no exception to this rule.

Although Disney acquired Marvel back in 2009, Big Hero 6 was actually the first time that a Disney animated film featured Marvel characters. To say Disney got it right here is an understatement. The movie tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old boy living in the fictional city of San Fransokyo (which is a pretty spot on rendering of what a merging of San Francisco and Tokyo might look like). When the movie starts, Hiro is more interested in Bot fighting than anything else in the world. Hiro is highly intelligent for 14 years old and he has developed microbot technology, a variation of nanobot technology where thousands of tiny robots all merge together through the use of a neural transmitter worn by an individual. Using the neural transmitter, the wearer becomes something akin to Green Lantern, able to use the thousands of microbots to create just about any solid structure imaginable. At the urging of his big brother, Tadashi, Hiro uses this technology to impress Robert Callaghan, the head of the University’s Nerd Lab, aka its robotics program. During a presentation of this technology, Callaghan is impressed and offers Hiro admittance into the program. Before the celebration begins in earnest, however, a fire breaks out at the Exposition Hall. Callaghan is trapped inside and Tadashi selflessly goes into the burning building to rescue him. It is in vain as an explosion kills Callaghan and Tadashi.

From there, the movie goes in a different direction. Tadashi had developed a robotic healthcare robot named Baymax. Baymax tries to help Hiro overcome his grief, in line with his programming. Along the way, they discover that Hiro’s microbots were not destroyed in the fire and that a mysterious man in a kabuki mask has gained control over the microbots. Hiro surmises that this mysterious individual was responsible for the fire that killed Tadashi. He enlists the help of his friends and fellow robotics students from the university to fight this mystery man. In addition to giving Baymax some seriously powerful upgrades, the group evolves into Big Hero 6, with each individual utilizing robotic technology of some sort to, in essence, become super heroes. Hiro’s quest to avenge his brother leads to some difficult morality choices and, just like any good super hero movie, we soon discover that not everything is as it seems.

As noted before, Disney does not know how to make a bad animated movie. This one has all the elements you are looking for. The art-style is top notch and the story is excellent. It is charming and heart-warming in so many places. Hiro deals with a great deal of loss in the movie and the relationship between he and Baymax is the heart and soul of the film. I also particularly enjoyed the heroes. Unlike Project Power from a few months back, where all the heroes seemed to be copies of other well-established heroes, all of the heroes here felt quite unique. They are all flawed in some way but they all work together well as a team. If there is a minor complaint it might be that the team does not truly come together until late in the movie. Then again, this is an origin story of sorts. Make no mistake though, Baymax is the star. He persistently sticks to his programming, which makes him unique in that he appears to have sentience, but he really is not a form of AI. Nevertheless, he clearly learns as the movie progresses, and this is especially notable at the end which is equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful.

The movie was a huge success, both commercially and critically. It was the highest grossing animated film of 2014. The film was so successful that it spawned a series on the Disney Channel in 2017 and rumors of a full-fledged sequel have swirled for years. It is easy to see why. Unlike the DC animated features, which are excellent in their own right, Big Hero 6 is more about the characters involved and the relationships of those characters, than it is about the on-screen action. Even so, Marvel’s influence is heavily felt in the movie, including a nod to the MCU movies by combining a Stan Lee cameo with a post-credit scene that clearly opened the door to a sequel or two. Big Hero 6 can’t match the size and scope of a live-action mega flick like Infinity War or Endgame and it does not have to. It is unique and excellent in its own right and it is another of the many movies we have reviewed here that definitely get Big Dave’s stamp of approval.

Dave’s Rating: 4.25/5

 

Nerds Rating on Big Hero 6 (2014):  4.25/5


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Bandwagon Nerds #83: Netflix Finally Did Something

The Nerds review the debut episode of Loki, pay another visit to the trailer park, and break down news from Netflix’s Geeked event.

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Bandwagon Nerds
Bandwagon Nerds #83: Netflix Finally Did Something

A sense of normalcy returned to the Bandwagon as Patrick, Dave, and PC Tunney begin coverage of the debuting Loki on Disney Plus!  Hear what the guys thought of the return of the God of Mischief, and what crazy theories do the guys have already?  Patrick puts a bit of a horror themed spin on this week’s visit to the trailer park, although the visit ends on a fun review of Ryan Reynolds’ newest film Free Guy!  Finally Netflix dropped a ton of news and updates as part of their Geeked week.  The Nerds give their thoughts on four reveals that excited them the most.

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About Bandwagon Nerds

Join Patrick O’Dowd, David Ungar, PC Tunney and Rey Cash as they keep everyone up on all things nerd, and maybe add some new nerds along the way. It’s the Bandwagon Nerds Podcast!

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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Army of the Dead (2021)

After a little intermittent action, the Nerds are back with another movie review! Dave Batista’s new film, Army of the Dead! Check out what they thought of the film!

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different movie from the Nerdosphere.  This week Dave and Patrick review the Zack Snyder’s Newest Film Army of the Dead!

The Flick:  Army of the Dead (2021)

What’s it About:  Las Vegas has been overrun by zombiesAs the government prepares to nuke the city, a group of mercenaries are hired by a casino tycoon to enter Las Vegas to recover his casino’s money before the city is destroyed.

Metacritic Score: 57

The Nerds’ Take on Army of the Dead (2021):

Dave What do you get when you combine The Walking Dead, World War Z, 300, the Oceans franchise and a little bit of Rambo? You get Army of the Dead, the latest offering from Zack Snyder. As you might expect from a Zack Snyder film, this one is over the top in many different ways but it is still an enjoyable romp, for the most part.

Zombie outbreaks are nothing new. They have been around for decades and have led to a slew of iconic movies, TV series, and video games. Army of the Dead, however, does some unique things with the zombie genre. Here, the zombie outbreak originates from what appears to be a military experiment gone wrong. An alpha zombie escapes and causes an outbreak in Las Vegas. Unable to retake Sin City, the government declares it a lost cause and puts a wall around it. As we get settled into the movie, the plan is to nuke Vegas and eliminate the problem once and for all. But we soon discover there are two types of zombies in Las Vegas. One type is similar to the zombies in World War Z. They are fast and overwhelm you with sheer numbers, speed, and savagery. Then there is the other group, headed up by a King (the original zombie) and his Queen. These zombies are self-aware and organized. It is similar to when The Hulk turns into Smart Hulk. Not only do they know they are zombies, they are able to control their impulses and, apparently, can even breed to make baby zombies. They are very dangerous because they are smart zombies and that is something not seen too often. And, let us not forget……a zombie white tiger.

Then there is the human element and this is where this movie struggles. Several people survived the outbreak in Las Vegas, but at great personal cost. Scott Ward, played by Dave Bautista, knew this all too well as he had to kill his wife, who had been bitten and turned. This act had a serious impact on his relationship with his daughter, Kate. Kate, meanwhile, works as a volunteer in a refugee camp right outside the wall of Las Vegas. Scott gets approached by Mr. Tanaka for a heist that seems like a suicide mission: Get into Vegas, get into his casino vault, and recover $200 million before a tactical nuke destroys Las Vegas. Scott agrees and recruits an assortment of interesting and quirky characters to help him with the job. Kate ends up going on the mission when she learns her friend, Geeta, went into Vegas with Lily and never came back out.

A couple of months back, I mentioned to Greg Demarco that this movie seemed like Oceans 11 with zombies. In some ways, that was a very accurate description. Don’t get me wrong though. Army of the Dead is nowhere close to the movie that Oceans 11 is. Still, the movie gets the tension of a seemingly impossible heist right. Then you add in zombies and a very pissed off King Zombie who will stop at nothing to avenge the beheading of his Queen, and you have things going on that even Danny Ocean might have trouble working around. The action sequences are all excellent. It has all the Zack Snyder earmarks, although he does not seem to go overboard with slow motion in this one. There is tension, drama, betrayal, close calls, shocking moments, and lots of humor to be found. I have no complaints with the things this movie does well, namely the set pieces, the zombies, and the special effects.

It is the people that are the problem, which was a familiar refrain from our review of the MosterVerse not so long ago. The people here make dumb decision after bad decision after worse decision. For instance, Kate leaving her father and the group behind to skulk off to the Zombie HQ to find her friend, with no hint as to whether she was alive or undead, was just dumb. That is just one example. While I am a much bigger fan of Zack Snyder than Patrick, he does not do emotions well. Every time he tries to inject emotion into a scene where there should not be any, it feels so forced that it is uncomfortable. One of the final scenes, where Scott and his daughter have survived a helicopter crash and are trying to reconcile various things with each other, is one of those moments. It felt forced and awkward and it was heavily telegraphed what was going to happen there. Ironically enough, the best emotion in the movies comes from the King Zombie as you can tangibly feel his heartbreak and rage at the loss of his Queen. I do not think Zack was trying to make the zombies sympathetic…. but that was kind of how they ended up to me.

As I always say, the most important question for me is this: Was I entertained? Yes, I was. The movie is a lot of fun and my longing for proper character development might be grossly misplaced with a movie like this one. It is supposed to be fun and not too heavy. It succeeds there. But, on the other hand, it is too damn long. Two and a half hours for a zombie outbreak movie? I don’t care how novel some of the ideas and concepts were, two and a half hours is just too much for a movie like this.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: If you like zombie movies or shows, you will like this. If you like lots of action with big explosions and excellent set pieces, you will probably like this movie. If you like Zack Snyder movies, this will be right up your alley (mostly). If you don’t care so much about character development and depth, you will likely enjoy this movie. If, however, you answer no to any of those qualifiers, this might not be the best movie for you. If you have two and a half hours to kill and are interested in a somewhat different take on a genre that has been beaten to death the past few years, then I say give Army of the Dead a try. It is good enough for me to comfortably recommend to most any adventure, action, or horror fan.

Dave’s Rating: 3.25/5

Patrick:  BREAKING NEWS:  This is a Zack Snyder movie I didn’t absolutely loathe!  That’s right, dear reader I can say that my viewing experience of Army of the Dead did not result in a desire to throw my television out of the window.  Now, before people raise their eyebrows any higher, let me clear that while I didn’t hate Army of the Dead, I didn’t exactly like it either.  What did happen was Zack Snyder made a perfectly fine zombie action film.  It’s loaded with dynamic action sequences and a cast that is a lot of fun on the screen.  However, Snyder’s film also trips over its own mythology, takes itself a bit to seriously and overstays its welcome.

Army of the Dead begins like so many other zombie films: with the release of some sort of catalyst that spreads the zombie infection.  In this case it’s a zombie being held by the military, presumably as a potential weapon, that escapes while being transported near Vegas.  The zombie proves to be of the fast variety and of course promptly bites two soldiers.  What follows is a classic Zack Snyder slow motion montage depicting zombies running rampant through Las Vegas, biting all in their path.  The audience is also introduced to the core characters of the film as they are shown fighting off zombies in various scenes.  Thankfully, this is the extent of the Snyder slow -mo.  Zack tends to over rely on the technique in many of his films, bogging the action down.  Here though, it is effective in catching the audience up to the state of the city and introducing the view to the cast.

Anyway, after seeing Vegas fall to the zombie apocalypse, we learn the government has sealed the city and is planning to destroy it via nuclear blast.  A casino owner hires Scott Ward, the lead soldier from the opening montage, to infiltrate the city before it is destroyed, break into his casino vault and recover the money kept there.  Ward then recruits some former members of his crew, along with some new faces to pull off the job.

Speaking of cast, wrestling fans likely flocked to this film due to Dave Bautista getting a true lead turn as Scott Ward.  Scott is one of the characters from the open and the main protagonist.  Ward was the leader of what appears to be an elite team of soldiers disbanded when the government isolated Vegas from the world.  He is estranged from his daughter Kate, played by Ella Purnell, who spends her time volunteering at a refugee camp outside the city.  Rounding out the core members of the team are Ward’s co-commander and love interest Maria Cruz, played by Ana de la Requera and Vanderhoe, played by Omari Hardwick.  Again, these characters are all introduced to the audience in the opening credits/montage but they are brought in quickly when Batista’s Ward brings the team together for one final job.  These three are the core of the film as their relationships is vital to making the team go and Bautista, Hardwick and Reguera have some really strong chemistry.  The three come off as more than comrades in arms.  There is a sense of friendship, even a familial bond that makes them interesting and characters you pull for to survive.

In addition to the core four characters, most audience members probably fell in love with Dieter, a safe cracker needed to open the “most secure safe in Vegas”.  Dieter is brilliantly played by Matthias Shweighofer by giving Dieter a combination of boundless confidence in his safe-cracking skills with infinite levels of terror and ineptitude for the environment he is entering.  It leads to some of the funnier bits of dialogue in the film and was the only other cast member to really, truly stand out.  Another notable cast member Tig Notaro as pilot Marianne Peters.  Notaro was a late addition to the cast and was digitally added to the film after production.  Notaro’s dry sense of humor pays off well, though there are some moments where you can see the dialogue not completely mesh with the rest of the cast.  There’s really only so much that can be done, yet Notaro performed admirably.

The other big highlight of Army of the Dead for me are the action pieces.  I don’t love Zack Snyder’s style of filmmaking, everyone knows that, but his action pieces in this movie really do pay off well.  Snyder’s affinity for the fast zombie dates back to his remake of Dawn of the Dead and it shows.  Once the action starts it is intense, fast, and of course every bit as gory as you could want from a zombie flick.  There are explosions galore and frankly, just not a ton of tension building like you see in other zombie flicks (more on that in a minute).  These action sequences effectively keep the film moving along through its two and a half hour runtime.

So why do I think this movie is fine?  Well, while I enjoyed the action, much of the plot just didn’t work for me.  Beginning with Ward’s relationships.  First there is his estrangement with his daughter.  It is played as this beg source of tension between the two, but the conflict resolves itself in one five minute conversation.  Poof! All better!  I didn’t need the problem to take the entirety of the film to resolve itself, but I am certain there is a happy medium in there somewhere.

Another problem with Army of the Dead is its own mythology.  It never explains itself.  It just is or is explained in such a throw away manner that it is clear this wasn’t Snyder’s primary focus in making the film.  For example, there are fast zombies and there are slow zombies.  Why?  Well, we get an explanation in on sentence and that’s that.  As someone who is a proponent of world building, I was left wanting more.  We also learn that this particular brand of zombie is evolving and has intelligence in ways not really imagined.  But the concept is explored at a rudimentary level and is clearly a vehicle to drive the action.  Again, I suppose that’s fine, but I do think there was a missed opportunity for a more compelling story that would have truly moved the needle for me.  Finally, like many zombie films, the rules for turning into a zombie don’t make sense.  Why do some people turn instantly while others don’t?  How do animals turn into zombies and seem to keep their animal instincts even becoming domesticated? Wait, some zombies hibernate?  Because reasons?  These devices are all clearly in place to drive the protagonists into challenging situations, but like other zombie films none of these rules or behaviors stands up to any scrutiny.

I’m not going to pretend like I hate Army of the Dead because it’s my thing.  Honestly this is a mindless action flick hidden in the guise of a horror movie.  There isn’t much plot to get in the way of the action, but I saw a real opportunity to make something more if Snyder had wanted to do it.  He didn’t though, so what we get is a perfectly adequate action film…with zombies.

Patrick’s Rating: 2.5/5.0

 

Overall Nerds’ Rating on Army of the Dead (2021): 2.875/5.0


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