I’M (LEGO) BATMAN!!!

The Lego Movie proved to be one of the biggest hits of 2014, what could have been a shameless cash grab, like Minions, was actually one of the wittiest films to hit the big screen. Now we have the follow up, in which Lego Batman, a supporting character from the last film, has his very own adventure!

The Lego Batman Movie (TLBM) stars our favourite brooding superhero, as we follow him constantly saving Gotham city, duelling with arch nemesis The Joker, and yet at the same time, struggling with his inner demons. Something that was done surprisingly well, considering the cosmetics of the movie!

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Simply put, TLBM is one of the funniest movies in recent times! It’s very rare to see a film that makes the audience consistently laugh throughout an entire film, but Lego Batman delivers with aplomb. The movie is very tongue in cheek, with a variety of issues being made fun off!  Whatever it is the previous Bat movies,  fellow DC heroes (Yes, Bane’s voice is horribly over the top!), or even cheeky digs at rivals Marvel (Batman v Ironman surely confirmed?!), the film doesn’t hold back! ”Using villains to fight villains?……..what a stupid idea!”

Will Arnett voices the caped crusader, and captures the current comedic iteration of our hero superbly, and although Mark Hamill wasn’t providing his iconic Joker cackle, Zack Galifinakis delivers a fine performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. Supported by the vocal talents of stars such as Ralph Feines (as loyal butler, Alfred), Micheal Cera (adopted son and Robin!) & Rosoria Dawson ( Voicing Barbara Gordon, The new chief of police), to name but a few, the film is full of famous names.

lego-batman-21-1500x844Yes the humour is spot on, and the film is knocking off one liner after one liner, but TLBM does a wonderful job in looking into the inner turmoil of our hero. Batman may be a multi-talented, bulked up crime fighter, but at the end of the day, he goes back to his mansion, alone. Since the loss of his parents, Batman fears losing anymore loved ones, which has lead him to following a life of isolation and loneliness. Where this film really excels is bringing in supporting characters like Robin, Alfred & Barbara (graduate from Harvard for Police!), and helping our hero escape his brooding ways! The film could have dropped them to the sidelines, and used some of the other well know heroes they could have used, but it was nice to see them stick with these ‘normal’ 3, throughout the films climax.

58988ce2dd0895fb718b4921-2000The cameos in the movie are a joy! You of course have the Justice League involved at some point,  with Bats continuing his long standing rivalry with Superman, the film even referencing BvS from last year! Warner Bros. also dig into their own movie archives, with surprise villains dropping by from other WB properties!

There really isn’t much to say against this movie, if you go in knowing what you will get, then you will have rip roaring time, especially if your watching with friends! The movie is utterly charming, full of fantastic humour and uses the Batman licence to a great extent! It’s a film for children and adults alike. You’ll enjoy it even if you aren’t a die hard DC fan, its appealing to both the hardcore and casual fans!  A superb movie, and already one of the films of the year!

 

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It was back in Summer, I noticed a poster for Rings while at the cinema. Even back then, I was sceptical if this was even worth making, for a franchise that’s been dead in the water for years. My doubts were proved right, as Rings has to be one of the dullest horror movies I’ve seen for a very long time!

Rings is a reboot of the original 2002 release The Ring, the successful American remake of the cult Japanese horror Ringu. For anyone not familiar with the lore, The Ring revolves around a mysterious videotape, anyone who happens to watch the tape receives a phone call soon after, a voice telling them that they will die in 7 days’ time. The film is iconic for the vengeful spirit Sadako/Samara (depending on the region of the movie!) emerging from within the TV screen of the victim. The latest release aims to bring the movie into the current generation, a decision that takes the edge off what made the original so great.

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Matilda Lutz as Julia and Johnny Galecki as Gabriel in the film, RINGS by Paramount Pictures

So the plot, our main character, Julia, sees her boyfriend Holt, move to college. After losing touch with him after a couple of days, she decides to go to the college he attends to see what’s going down (instead of simply calling the college and finding out what has happened!). It is never explained why his mates are angry at her, but they are! For some reason. It’s here she discovers a morbid experiment that is being run on campus by one of the Science professors in secrecy, and Holt has been dragged into it. After Julia ends up watching the tape too, it’s a race against time to save herself before the 7 days are up!

For anyone who hasn’t watched the previous films, the only way to avoid your inevitable death, is to pass the curse on to someone else, by making a copy of the tape and making someone else view it, a selfish move, but one you make out of desperation. This concept plays a central role to the film, and while it’s a nice twist, it just feels abit rushed. We start off by seeing the Professor discovering the tape, and the next time we see him, not only has he converted the VHS to digital media, but he has uncovered the trick to getting past it, how exactly did he know this? We don’t know, it’s never explained!

The second half of the movie is incredibly dull & sluggish, as it becomes a mystery movie, we follow our couple to a town in the outskirts, as they dig up clues to unveil the truth. It’s here where the film just goes into 2nd gear and cruises along, the characters are just not charismatic enough for us to be bothered about their journey, and it’s a lot of talking, with random lazy jump scares thrown in every now and again.

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The switch to modern media has definitely hurt the franchise. There is just something incredibly eerie when it comes to VHS, with its static and poor audio & image quality; it simply gives off a far creepier vibe than a high def movie file on a laptop!  The CGI in this movie is another downer, it’s shockingly bad. It’s so overdone, that Samara loses her aura, and looks like a character from a PS3 game! When she first appears out of a plasma TV, it’s so poor, you will end up laughing at how this quality was deemed OK for a big Hollywood release!  The abundance of CGI across the entire movie looks cheesy, and ruins the atmosphere.

The characters are utterly forgettable, Julia goes from ‘you’re so stupid for getting involved in this mess’ to ‘risking her life for this guy’ in one night! We don’t even know how long they have been together! The boyfriend is entirely useless in the movie; Julia does all the work. He hardly contributes anything, and even in the final showdown, he gets knocked out and plays no part whatsoever!  Johnny Galecki aka Leonard from Big Bang Theory seems miscast as the devious professor, and you just can’t take him seriously!  Vincent D’Onofrio does what he does, and is probably the best character in the movie; at least he got some backstory to his role!

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Though it may not be intentional, the move does rip off a scene from Don’t Breathe, which reminds you off a far superior horror film! The plot is predictable, you know when there will be a jump scare, and the choice of music is a curious one. A good score can make a good film great, but here, the soundtrack is overdone. It feels more like a video game than a horror movie. The opening scene on the plane is pretty hilarious, which sets the tone for the film! It would have done better to have more scenes with Samara, and less time seeing our couple wonder around digging up clues.

One other flaw is the blatant sequel baiting at the end, the film could have ended without it, and to end it with a nod to more potential films is poor form, considering how disappointing this film is. The ending is also shown in the trailers, which was a strange decision. So if anyone watched the trailer, they would know what scene is yet to come, another damaging hit to the films credentials. The trailer is also misleading in how the film is portrayed. We don’t see her suffer through 7 days as the curse develops, instead, she seems fine as she goes carries on with her mystery adventure, with no idea how many days have passed.

Rings is by far one of the worst horror films to come out in recent years, even beating The Forest from last year! Even The Forest had an original concept to play with; Rings had some great source material to work with, which is what makes it so crushing to see the movie stumble around.

Split Shines

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan” is a phrase that’s been associated with several cinematic disasters. The less said about the likes of Avatar, The Happening, After Earth and The Lady in the Water have all been savaged by the critics & fans alike. A roll of dishonour! It wasn’t until The Visit (2015) that his slow climb back up to redemption started. Split is the latest release by the eccentric director, will this movie prove that Shyamalan has still got it, or if The Visit was just a one off?

Split, as the name suggests, is about Kevin (James McAvoy), a person with split personalities, 23 of them to be exact! Kevin abducts 3 girls, and it’s via his interactions with his therapist, that we come to find out the sinister workings of our conflicted figure.

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McAvoy is by far the strongest aspect of the film, and does an outstanding job in portraying his various alter egos. Obviously the movie doesn’t show all 23 egos in the film, but the ones that do get screen time are wonderfully unique in their own way. We have ‘Dennis’, the intimidating alpha male, ‘Ms Patricia’, the caring mother, ‘Hedwig’, the immature 9 year old boy & ‘Barry’, the colourful fashion designer. It’s not just the simple costume changes that convey each character, but the body language and mannerisms that McAvoy manages to assign each persona. It’s a great shame the film missed out on the Oscar nominations for this year.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) our main protagonist, and the wisest of the three kidnapped girls, does a solid job as the calm, collected, yet emotionally scarred heroine. As her past is slowly revealed, you do feel for her, and care for her survival. Her other two friends though, feel disposable, and their lack of smarts pretty much makes them forgettable. Betty Buckley as Dr Fletcher makes a challenging foil to Kevin, it’s her interactions with our psychotic kidnapper that really opens up the clashes within his mind.

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The film is essentially told in 3 segments. Kevin, Dr Fletcher and the girls.  The scenes with Kevin & Dr Fletcher are the most intriguing, and provide the best parts of the movie. It’s the scenes featuring the trapped girls, where the film tends to fall into the horror cliches. It’s pretty predictable what will happen to them in their scenes, and slows the movie down a lot.

Split is by far the best movie that Shyamalan has released in well over a decade, after a string of disasters; it’s relieving to see a throwback to his earlier movies, such as Signs, Unbreakable & The 6th Sense, when his directing was more visionary than sporadic. Split builds up the suspense in is tremendous ways, and this is mostly due to the charisma of McAvoy, the plot does well to weave in the multiple personalities, but the ending is quite hit & miss. It’s not as dramatic as The 6th Sense, the finale is a lot more subtle. I can see viewers either loving the ending, or being disappointed by it. Long term fans of Shyamalan will be delighted by the cameo at the end, so stay seated after the final scenes!

January hasn’t been a stellar month for releases over here in the UK, and Split isn’t the perfect movie, but it is by far the best film to hit our shores at the start of this year!

Xander Cage…Stupidly Fun

Director : D.J.Caruso

Starring: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev


Return of Xander Cage is the 3rd in the series of xXx movies, starring Vin Diesel as the titular character. It’s been 12 years since the last instalment, State of the Union, which was pretty forgettable; can the latest release bring the franchise back to the forefront?

xXx, for those not aware, is a spy organisation, with the aim of recruiting extreme athletes for the purposes of espionage. This film picks up following the apparent death of the legendary Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), who decides to return back into the game following the death of a close friend.

We follow Xander Cage, as he attempts to retrieve Pandoras Box, a device that can control and drop satellites from the sky at will. The device is stolen by a group of mercenaries from the hands of the government, and it’s a race against time before the device ends up in the wrong hands.

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The story is very generic, and there isn’t anything mind-blowing. There is the usual McGuffin that is the goal of the film. In this case, Pandoras Box. The item itself has very little storyline, who created it? Why does it exist? It just does, for the sake of the film. The eventual betrayal in the film is shockingly predictable, and you can see it coming quite early on in the film. The  villain isn’t very threatening either, it’s just a random character in the background, who gets like 10 minutes screen time the entire film! They don’t really explain a motive behind why they are doing it, apart from, because they are! Is it for money? for power? for justice? Who knows….

This film is attempting the copy the highly successful template that the Fast films have deployed, using a diverse cast of characters, high octane stunts and  a total lack of logic when it comes it any resemblance of a story line! The movie itself is pretty safely nestled under ‘dumb action movie’, if you don’t take the film seriously at all, then you will enjoy it, try to analyse it, and you’ll be left dumbfounded!

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The main strengths of the movie is in the characters themselves, especially the scheming Xiang (Donnie Yen), who brings his vast charisma and action to the role, his character is by far the best, and probably even outshines the main star! The rest of the cast are big hitters too, but it’s a mixed bag regarding their characters. Xiang’s team is supported by Serena ,played by Bollywood superstar, Deepika Padukone, making a solid debut in Hollywood and legendary fighter Tony Jaa. But unfortunately Jaa is reduced to very little screen time, and portrayed as comic relief, a waste, considering the potential action scenes with him & Yen.

On the side of Xander Cage, are a bunch of ragtag rebels, but it does feel like most of them could have been cut out form the film. Ruby Rose is wonderful as sharpshooter Adele Wolff. Who is both witty, and highly useful in combat!  The other two, ‘getaway drive’ Tennyson (McCann) & DJ Nicks (Wu) feel pretty redundant, and only there to even up the so called teams. With the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Nina Dobrev & footballing superstar Neymar on board, the big doesn’t lack in big names!

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If the plot is nonsensical, the action is even more outrageous. If someone isn’t jumping across skyscrapers, and shattering thick glass ceilings, their upper cutting soldiers with a motorbike. If they’re not skating on the side of a bus, their exploding satellites with a plane!  It reaches a level where you just know no one will die, they even have the action cliché of two people standing back to back, shooting at all the enemy soldiers that have them surrounded. It’s utterly pointless, but it looks awfully slick. The film is very tongue in cheek, and even demeans itself by referring to the fact one of their new recruits for xXx thought he was joining the Avengers!

The film has the habit of trying to force us to believe the Xander Cage character is wanted by every women that sees him, the opening third shows him with several women, and it does feel like they are trying a bit too hard to make him look so desirable. They also really try to force on the one-liners, which just don’t work with this character. There’s one line that the film pretty much sets up at the start of the film, and when the moments arrives near the climax to use it, it just falls flat.

Overall, the film is nothing special, but it does have several moments that will probably make you laugh out loud, simply due to the sheer audacity of some of the stunts they pull off! With films like this, you tend to overlook the plot & character development, in exchange for the mindless action, and it’s here that it delivers. If you go watch this, knowing what you will expect, than its just harmless cinema fodder, that will pass a couple hours in the dreary January chill!

 

 

 

Assassin’s Creed……Needs more Assassins!

Assassin’s Creed marks the latest Hollywood foray into the world of Video Games. A genre that has long been much maligned with dire releases, but with a powerful cast including the likes of Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard, can this movie finally break the mold?

 Though I am a fan of video games, I haven’t played the Assassin’s Creed series, so I’m not entirely familiar with this franchise, but I shall review it as a standalone movie, rather than simply comparing it to the source!

 The film revolves around Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a prisoner who is saved from execution by the Abstergo Foundation, a group claiming to have links to the Templers. Their goal is to retrieve the mythical ‘Apple of Eden’, an item which is said to possess the genetic code for free will, and vital in their mission to eradicate violence from society. The key to their mission is Callum, who by using their Animus Machine can use his genetic memories to relieve the events of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, to hunt down clues to the location of the apple.

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 The films main strengths lie in all the scenes taking place during the flashbacks, which occur during The Spanish Inquisition in 15th century Andalucía. These are the scenes that fans were looking forward too, and it’s here that the film delivers. The intensity in there scenes is fantastic, and the action is relentless. You also get a Game of Thrones vibe from here, which is always a promising sign! The rooftop chases are a series trademark, and they are executed with great precision, even featuring the infamous ‘Leap of Faith’.

 Sadly, this is the highlight of the movie, and for some reason, the Assassin scenes are very limited, on my count, there were 3 scenes in the Iberian. The film mostly focuses on the present day, and the events that take place at Abstergo. How Abstergo are under pressure from above to fulfill their mission, to a messy story line regarding Callum’s father. This is where the film slows down to a horrible crawl, the scenes are too long, and very dialogue heavy.

The supporting cast is supremely talented, Cotillard as the head scientist at Abstergo. Jeremy Irons as the chief of the foundation, and Micheal K Williams as one of the fellow assassins held captive. But they don’t really add anything, none of the characters are charismatic, nor do you really care about them. If anything, the film should have been set in the 15th century, with occasional cuts to present day. Of course you require some back story, but it shouldn’t be taking precedence over the action in such a film! The final act of the movie takes place in modern London, where an epic Assassin showdown would have been more climatic and fitting.

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The violence was also toned down, with rarely any bloodshed, the games are targeted towards mature fans, but it’s obvious to see that the film was toned down for a more lucrative 12A rating. Considering the nature of the fights, the scenes are rather tame. You can’t help but feel that the rating was one of the key reasons why the action scenes are so infrequent and lacking any real brutality.

 Overall, the film isn’t in the same league of Street Fighter or Doom, in regards to disappointing video game adaptations. It’s still an adequate movie, but with the cast on hand, and a compelling source material, it’s a shame they couldn’t produce a film to rival the games. In this regards, definitely needed less talk, more action!

Passengers : Style over Substance

Fortunately, we have seen a revival of good space ferrying films, some of my favorites of recent years have been Interstellar and The Martian, so I was highly anticipating watching Passengers with the cross genre between Romance and Science Fiction.

Set on the self-navigated spaceship Avalon, 5000 people are travelling in hibernation pods to start a new life on the colony Homebound 2. The trip should take 120 years but due to an unexplained jolt in space, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and then Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are awoken 30 years too early. The story revolves around Jim and Aurora accepting their 90-year journey together forming a deep and meaningful bond. However, not all is quite what is seems when a series of supposed malfunctions put the lives of the 5000 unconscious human beings under threat, and it’s up to the only human passengers, Jim and Aurora to save the day. There is a short guest appearance from Laurence Fishburne which keeps the film ticking along, but the most notable performance goes to the Android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen).

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The overall premise of the film is compelling, but the first 30 minutes of the film is a disappointment mostly due to Chris Pratt’s lacklustre performance, as he tries desperately to illustrate the highs and lows of living alone. From waking from his chamber, Jim tries to make the most of his unfortunate circumstances and turns his attention to the delights of the ship including holographic dance offs to indoor space basketball. This quickly dissipates into Jim becoming depressed knowing he would never speak to another human being again. It reminded me a little of the loneliness portrayed by Tom Hanks in Castaway, a forlorn soul longing for human contact becoming more disheveled in appearance as the days go on. However, Chris Pratt is no Tom Hanks nor can he shine in stand alone scenes.

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The story becomes a lot more watchable when Aurora steps into the picture. Jennifer Lawrence stuns in every film, not only visually, but her wit, charisma and has a good backstory to her character. As a writer, Aurora start to narrate the story of her life on board the starship, telling the viewers she wanted to travel to Homebound 2 to be the only writer  on ‘overrated Earth’ to share the experiences of colonist life. Her character has purpose, momentum and sass, in stark comparison to Jim’s weak performance and lack of character development. There is some chemistry between the two main leads, but you quickly feel that the plot was designed to showcase two beautiful individuals on screen together.

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The saving grace of this film is the android bartender Arthur. Michael Sheen effortlessly conveys a witty and heartfelt performance still maintaining mechanical expressions, which is a difficult feat in itself. Even Michael Sheen said it was hard to ’make drinks and not look down’. I especially loved how Arthur had a human body and electronic legs to remind the audience that Arthur is a part of the Ship and Jim and Aurora are really alone.  The film also uses Arthur as prop to become a sounding board to the main characters, which allows the film to explore the depths and questionable ethics the characters must face, being the only conscious human beings in space.

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Overall this film fails to be a cutting edge science fiction debut or memorable romantic comedy. I think the film’s greatest strength was the notion that perhaps one day that we will be able to travel in space cryogenic-ally frozen, but for now as the film likes to remind us, that we are simply passengers on this journey, and its far better to be happy to accept our surrounding than long for a life that’s unobtainable. Would I see this film again, no, but if you want to sit and watch two beautiful stars for 2 hours then by all means watch this film.

 

TBT : Tropic Thunder!

If you think of 2008 & Robert Downey Jr. your first though may be Ironman, which saw the stock of the star rocket into the stratosphere! But there was another film he starred in that year, the ensemble comedy Tropic Thunder.

Tropic Thunder is personally one of my favorite comedy films, and it’s a film I can happily watch over and over again! The film packs in numerous A-Listers, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Tom Cruise & Matthew McConaughey and produce a hilarious satire of  Hollywood.

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So whats it all about? Tropic Thunder is the story of a group of actors, who are thrown together into the jungle of South East Asia to film an adaptation of the story of a Vietnam veteran. Tugg Speedmen (Stiller), our lead star, is the washed up 80s action hero. Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.) is the ultra intense method actor. Jeff Portnoy (Black) is the type cast comedian, who is forever associated with his toilet humour. You also have the fresh faced new actor, who none of the experienced actors take seriously, and the rapper looking to crossover into films for that extra income.

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What the film does well is how it portrays how ridiculous Hollywood can be. How some actors will go so far into character, that it’s borderline ludicrous. Which was the point of making Downey Jrs. character undergo skin pigmentation therapy to portray an African American. He even says ” I don’t drop character ’til I’ve done the DVD commentary”, just to hammer home the point! The film also makes a point on how hard it can be for a director to control highly strung actors with their diva like behavior! Or how actors will take part in cheap PR opportunities to appeal to fans .

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One surprise in the film, was the appearence of Tom Cruise as Les Grossman. The arrogant, overtly crude, and on one crazy power trip,  big shot Producer! The fact many didn’t even notice him until the end credits made the cameo even better! His expletive exchanges over the phone are by far some of the most memorable scenes his filmed! Full credit to him for trying a role which is so out of his norm, and totally nailing it!!

The movie is full of quotes that made you laugh out loud!

” I don’t read the script. The script reads me.”

”I know who I am! I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude!”

”And we’ll weep for him… in the press, set up a scholarship in his name, eventually – and I’m talkin’ way, way down the road – we file an insurance claim.”

Sure there are a few more quotes, which are more explicit, so I wont share them here 😛

The film has small touches that gives it a lot of charm, such as the spoof trailers of the in film stars playing before the start of the film. Their so well done, for a moment you believe that the trailers are real!

So if you’re a fan of Ben Stiller, and the kind of humour his films usually deliver, then I would most definitely recommend you dig it up from the archives and give it a watch! You’ll love it! 😀

 

 

2016: what we enjoyed!

2016 has been another busy year for movies, in no particular order, here are some of the films that stood out for me this last calendar year! Just a note, these are films that I managed to watch myself, so some films may have been left out! If there is something you think deserves a shout out, do leave a comment 🙂


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10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane was a film that could have worked without the Cloverfield name, as it’s a vastly different film from the 2008 monster movie. What we got a spectacularly intense thriller. The film is essentially set entirely in one location, as we follow Michelle, who happens to be held captive in an underground bunker by stranger. He says that he saved her, and the world outside has been attacked. Is he telling the truth? Or is he just a madman with issues? John Goodman steals the show with his intimidating performance as the captor. It’s a game of cat and mouse, can she trust him, and should she make a run for it? Is it really dangerous outside? A fantastic movie!


 

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Zootropolis / Zootopia

This was released here in the UK, around the same time as the nostalgic The Jungle Book, but the sheer originality of this movie just edges it in front! Following the adventure of a buddy cop duo, Disney once again delivers gold. Zootropolis is a film that both kids and adults can enjoy. Yes, it has all the usual Disney charm, bright colours, fun characters and vivid locations. The film also discusses deeper issues, such as racism & prejudice, something that really did surprise me when I watched it. The lead duo share great chemistry, and the film is filled with jokes (for both children and grownups!). A must watch!


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Moana

Moana is a film that most certainly deserved a lot more attention and marketing that it got. Seemingly forgotten in the late November/early December box office, and eclipsed by Rogue One, it was a curious decision to release it at that time. Personally, Moana is one of Disney’s finest animated films. It breaks away from the traditional princess storyline, instead focussing on saving the world. The ocean theme worked beautifully, the animation for the water is simply magnificent.  The characters are very charismatic, Moana is a determined, driven protagonist, and Dwayne Johnson does a stellar job as the wise cracking demi-god Maui. They play well off one another, and their interactions are great to see. Finally, the music is of course on point, especially the recurring main theme.


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Kubo and the Two Strings

It was a strong year for animated movies, as this list shows! What made Kubo stand out was the animation. The stop motion animation gave it a unique charm that combined well with its story. As one review online mentioned, it is pretty much The Legend of Zelda, if it was made into a film! Following the adventure of a young hero, to obtain the legendary items,  and save the world from evil! The casting was excellent for this, featuring the likes of Ralph Feinnes, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey & George Takei. It should be a strong contender for the Oscar for Best Animated Film; though it would do well to fight off the challenges from the Disney juggernauts.


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Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) race into battle against Iron Man’s group in “Captain America: Civil War.”

Captain America: Civil War

Well this was bound to be on here!! The biggest blockbuster of the year delivered after all the hype. Where Dawn of Justice failed, Civil War succeeded. The MCU has been building up over several years, and it all culminated here. It could have been easy to turn this movie into a complicated mess, considering the number of heroes involved, but they managed to blend them all in with the right quantity. The action scenes were amazing, the humour was typical Marvel, and the storyline was just as intriguing. The marketing for the film was based of choosing a side, but the film actually does very well to display both sides of the fight.  Also, the introduction of Black Panther and Spiderman was a win!


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Lights Out

It’s been a sensational year for horror fans, 2016 has seen several outstanding scares arrive at the big screen. Conjuring 2, Origins of Evil & Don’t Breathe were all great, but if I could only choose one, it would have to be Lights Out. Not only did it have a unique concept (spoilers alert, keep the lights on!) but it was one of the few films that didn’t fall into the trap of the usual horror film cliches! Shall I run back inside alone? Or get some help? We know how it works with most horror films, but they change it up here! Yes the backstory behind the ‘ghost’ was abit of a mess, but that shouldn’t take away from a well-made scare. Whereas Don’t Breathe & Conjuring 2 got slightly ridiculous near its finale, this film manages to stay on course.


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Rogue One

What’s left to be said about Rogue One? It’s our latest review, so feel free to check out our in-depth analysis elsewhere on our site! To keep it straight-forward for this, all I can say is that Rogue One has a high bar to clear after The Force Awakens, and it cleared it with ease! Yes it has its flaws, as does every film, it’s not perfect. It is however, a story that is essential to the Star Wars universe, with a fine ensemble cast, and a movie that is dramatically different to the other films in the franchise. The more mature and dark tone to the film really makes it stand out from the rest, and a cameo from a certain Star Wars legend is a treat for every fan!


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The Shallows

 A film that snuck under the radar during the Summer box office rush, but The Shallows was a highly enjoyable shark film! Films such as the Sharknado series have really taken the shine of Shark films, becoming more of a joke, than a serious threat. The Shallows takes the genre back to its roots, such as Jaws. The film follows a surfer stranded off the coast of a beach, being stalked by a vengeful shark! It’s a battle of wits, yes, the shark is a tad over the top, but it’s not Sharknado levels of ridicule. It’s also a beautiful film to look at; the location is stunning and the surfing shots are majestically executed. It may not have been the biggest movie this year, but one I most certainly enjoyed.


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Arrival

This was an Alien invasion movie like no other. What we got with Arrival was a smart, cerebral drama, as opposed to the typical alien attack films that we get. Director Denis Villeneuve captures the movie is such a way, the invasion almost feels like a mystical experience, rather than an apocalyptic event. The key here is Language, and how powerful it is. It’s about the science, and not the shooting!  It makes a nice change, and an interesting twist on the Alien genre. Amy Adams delivers a powerful performance here, which should see her rewarded with at least an Oscar nomination come the New Year! It’s that good!

Moana Sails To Glory

Director : Ron Clements & John Musker
Starring : Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger

2016 has been a tremendous year for Disney. The top 4 highest grossing films of the year all have ties with the studio. Zootropolis & The Jungle Book both sit in the Top 4. Along with Captain America: Civil War & Finding Dory, with both Marvel & Pixar having affiliation with Disney, making it a dominant year for the company.  There was still time in the year for one more release; can Moana match the sensational Zootropolis from earlier in the year?

Simply put, yes! What we get is a story that is as refreshing as Mulan, which breaks away from most traditional Disney themes.

The film follows the journey of our title heroine, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of the island chief, who rules the tribe on a Polynesian tropical paradise. Although she is warned by her father several times to not venture beyond the island reefs, she longs for adventure, eager to see what lies beyond the horizon. Moana is tasked to return a sacred gem, back to its original resting place. In order to fulfil this, she must search for demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who stole the gem in the first place and now must aid her to take it back, otherwise without the gem returning, her island will eventually perish.

What makes the movie great is the perseverance of our heroine. Even after she meets the charming Maui, she still wants to prove herself. It would have been easy to let her take the back seat, and let the muscle do all the work! Maui also proves a big hit, with Dwayne Johnson bringing all his enduring charisma to the part. His role in Central Intelligence was abit awkward, but here, his act is perfect, Maui wasn’t bad, he was simply trying to help humans by gifting them the gem, unaware of its consequences, he has no ulterior motive. All he wanted was the adulation from the people he serves. Plus, his humour is on point, and the interactions with Moana are one of the brightest points of the film. Speaking of humour, Moana’s pet rooster, Heihei, provides plenty of laughs, he is the smartest of animals, even the creators have called him the stupidest character in any Disney film!

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Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) may be a demigod—half god, half mortal, all awesome—but he’s no match for Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho)©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

If Frozen had the theme of Ice & Snow, than the essence here is Water & Ocean. This allows the production team to use some amazing animation, especially with all the water that’s around! Zootropolis may have been incredibly detailed, but this movie is unbelievably beautiful at times.  The Ocean itself is a sentient being, and has its occasional moments of banter with the audience! The subject of the film is sailing and exploration, anyone who has played the Zelda video game, The Wind Waker, will have a comforting feeling!  We see Moana go from a rookie, to a master navigator, with the help of our Demigod!

With this being a Disney film, means that of course, you’ll have your fair share of song and dance. The film even makes a joke referring to the ‘breaking out in song’ troupe! The main recurring song though, sang by Cravalho, is a rather powerful melody, which will leave you humming it even after you’ve left the cinema!

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The film still has a few clichés, we have the usual death of a character, which pushes our heroine to start her quest. The departing character also comes back in spirit, when our protagonist is at her lowest. The song that follows seemed a bit abrupt and ill-fitting of the situation. It would have been like Mufasa going into a song when he returned to talk to Simba! We also have the predictable moment when the two heroes fall out, which happens in most films, so can’t take away too many points for that!

With the Christmas break coming up, I would highly recommend you check this out with friends and family! The film has not received the same level of marketing and hype as previous films here in the UK, which is a tad disappointing. With is blend of gorgeous visuals, engaging story and plentiful humour, it’s one of the best Disney animations to come in the few few decades.

Worst of 2016 : The Forest

With the year coming to a close, it’s an opportune time to take a look back at the best and worst of 2016!

Obviously there are several films that come out over the course of a year, and we can’t watch everything, but one film that I did watch, which left me horribly disappointed, was horror film, The Forest.

2016 has been a stellar year for the horror genre, films such as Lights Out, Don’t Breathe, The Conjuring 2 & Origin of Evil have bucked the trend in the cheap jump-scare filled flicks from years prior. Currently standing at 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, then film not only managed to be one of the worst horror films of the year, it’s one of the worst films of the year full stop!

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The story is based on the infamous Aokigahara Forest in Japan, more commonly known as the Suicide Forest, where twin sister (Jess) of our main protagonist, Sara, has gone missing. So Sara flies over from the States to Japan to find her missing sibling, who she refuses to believe is dead. Natalie Dormer plays the role of both twins here. The film does well initially, in setting up the journey into the forest, but once she sets foot inside, with the help of an American reporter (who isn’t suspicious at all!) & a local guide, the film starts to fall apart.

The film never gets around to explaining why there are ghosts in the forest, or any reasoning to why the suicide forest itself exists. Maybe there are spirits that lure venerable people to it? But nope, we get nothing. Instead we just get a story filled with plot holes. And a very lazy hallucination plot device, which is used a few times to cover shoddy storytelling! The missing sister also just happens to randomly appear in the final few moments of the film, as if to say, “don’t forget about me!”, with next to no explanation on what happened to her before the events of the film, apart from what we already knew.

The Forest could have been a lot more suspenseful, similar to The Grudge series, but we just got a bland story with cheap scares! Luckily we got more than enough excellent horrors out this year to make us forget about this!

Episode 9 is out!

We’re back again! This month’s show features a new set, and improved picture quality! The only way is up! We take a look back at a busy November, including The Accountant featuring Ben Affleck. Denis Villeneuve’s critically acclaimed sci-fi drama Arrival and the eagerly anticipated Harry Potter spin off, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

Enjoy 🙂

Visiting ‘Bond in Motion’

The ‘Bond in Motion‘ exhibition at the London Film Museum has been a wonderful opportunity for any James Bond fan to get close with the memorabilia from the franchise. I had an opportunity to go there last year, before this site was running! So this is a nice time to share some of the photos I took!

The exhibition contains the largest collection of Bond vehicles ever gathered in London. From the classic Aston Martin DB5, to the submersible Lotus from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ to the Power Boat used in the memorable Thames chase from ‘The World Is Not Enough’.

There’s also other bits of memorabilia on display, from the gadgets, the weapons and even some of the behind the scenes production materials. Not to forget the gift store, selling a whole range of Bond merchandise!

The exhibition is still on going, so if you’re around the area, this is most certainly worth a visit for any fan of 007!

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