Stan Lee dies


So sad to hear that the legendary Stan Lee has passed away. The creator of many of our favourite super heroes, including Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, he was the pioneer of many a kid’s childhood fantasies and well, we wouldn’t have the Marvel Cinematic Universe without his boundless imagination. He will be sadly missed.

R.I.P.

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Mary and the Witch’s Flower


Viewed – 09 September 2018  Blu-ray

When news reached me that beloved Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli were closing their doors, I was concerned that the type of movies seemingly unique to that studio, would never see the light of day again.  Thankfully that concerned was quashed on hearing about this release from new studio  ‘Studio Ponoc’ and directed by Ghibli stalwart Hiromasa Yonebayashi.  Based on the children’s book ‘The Little Broomstick’ by author Mary Stewart, we have Mary, a spirited young girl who stumbles upon an enchanted broomstick one day after wondering into a misty forest.  Soon she is transported to another world, a school for witchcraft not dissimilar to Hogwarts, where the colourful characters may be hiding a secret linked to a sacred flower.

Mary-and-Witch-Flower

This is where the movie revealed an identity crisis, that lingered throughout.  Despite best intentions and a charming veneer of wonder and imagination with top-notch hand-drawn animation … echoes of the movie’s heritage and titles like Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service meant it all quickly began to feel overly familiar.  No bad thing but the characters whilst interesting to look at and with some typically bonkers design … lacked personality.  Apart from Mary herself, an endearing yet clichéd character for this type of movie … the villains and various side characters just came off as typical, with the villain’s scheme also not fully explored. 

Yet a twist towards the end was welcome and brought the story full circle in a particularly satisfying way and add some fun action and plenty of energy – I still found a lot to enjoy.  Ghibli-lite, but as (hopefully) the start of a new era for Japanese animation, this is a promising start.

Verdict:  3 /5

Ready Player One


Viewed – 11 April 2018  Cinema

I went into this not knowing much.  However, for as long as I can recall I’ve been a huge fan of much celebrated director Steven Spielberg, and usually seek out his movies when they land.  Yet this particular effort seemed like something different whilst at the same time an excuse for Spielberg to throw his hat back into a field he’d pretty much pioneered.  Does he still have it to deliver blockbuster spectacle once again?

ready-player-one

Set in 2046, a society lives in the slums governed by rich corporations who run everything whilst the general public turn to a virtual world for escape.  One such player, Wade Watts (Ty Sheridan)  finds escape from his real world problems by entering the ‘oasis’ a vast online game where the only limitations are one’s imagination, where all your favourite pop-culture, video-game and movie obsessions run wild.  Following the death of the world’s creator, the reclusive, eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance) it transpires he has left an ‘easter egg’ and if a player can find it, he will own it all, worth trillions.  Of course a shady government organization lust for such power also, and so a race to unlock the game world’s secrets is on.

Art3misThis was an interesting cinema experience.  The theatre I was in was fairly bare considering the movie had not long been released, and it got me thinking well, this isn’t a sequel, a remake or a comic book movie.  That’s a shame that cinema going has become that marginalized, but I guess it’s inevitable and probably why Valerian bombed at the box office.  I predict a similar fate for this, which would be very disappointing because this was refreshing, imaginative and most importantly – a barrel load of fun.  At it’s core it’s kind of a cross between Wreck It Ralph and The Matrix, with a sprinkling of Tron for good measure.  The writer of the book it’s based on clearly had many influences, and the wealth of references, cameos and nods to movies, games and music is exhausting.  Initially I had trouble getting into the movie – it’s a bit of an avalanche of information and visual excess … but once I adjusted I was along for the ride – and what a ride! The rag-tag team of ‘resistance’ who team up to beat the game are a incredibly likeable bunch especially Bates Motels’ Olivia CookeBen Mendelsohn also makes for a suitable boo-hiss villain and I got a kick out of each character’s video-game alter egos (think avatars from games like World of Warcraft or Destiny).  This is a movie that plays to the geek in us, it seemed to work for me as a gamer and a movie geek but I can see it possibly dividing audiences as a result – and well, all that recognisable imagery doesn’t exactly serve the story.  That matters little though, with amazing sequences like a section in the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and a ton of spectacle and fun characters, I had a blast with this.

Tired of superhero movies?  See this.  Want something different?  See this.  Love geek culture?  See this.  Simple as that.

Verdict:  5 /5

Moana


Viewed – 20 January 2018  DVD

It seems there’s so many animated movies these days, its hard to keep up and I’ll admit I’ve missed out on a few big titles.  However I managed to get hold of this recent Disney offering and although knowing little about it, rarely does the house of mouse let me down.  Moana, the only daughter of a tribe living on a peaceful tropical island finds herself setting out on a journey to find the once-mighty demigod Maui, who her people believe has cursed their oceans after a sacred stone was stolen from a far off island.

Moana

This plays very much on Disney tradition; the princess yearning for a life beyond her palace (island) who has to go on a journey of self discovery and finally believe in herself to overcome impossible odds.  It’s incredibly clichéd which holds this back a little despite plenty of action and songs.  For a musical we do get some enjoyable numbers (stand out: ‘You’re welcome’) and characters are full of personality thanks to some excellent animation.  Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson especially stands out as Maui.  The movie also looks gorgeous too as is expected these days, even if like most CGI it lacks a little artistry.  So what does it have we haven’t seen before?  Not much but it’s often funny and frequently exciting and leads to a solid, feel good ending that still left me satisfied.

Disney played it safe here but it’s still near impossible not to find something to enjoy when it’s done so slickly.  Not essential, but worth a watch if you’re a Disney fan, otherwise there’s more unique animated movies out there.

Verdict:  3 /5

Top Ten 2017


It’s that time of year again and once again I’ve compiled what I feel are the ten best movies I managed to see this year.  Note: some may be older than 2017.

10.

Your Name

your-name

‘A beautifully animated, heart-warming, emotional and funny body-swap drama’

9.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian_

‘Pure escapist entertainment at it’s finest.  Luc Besson is back’

8.

Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman

‘DC gets it right and one of the most purely enjoyable comic-book movies in years’

7.

War for the Planet of the Apes

War-For-Planet-Of-Apes

‘Full of heart and emotion and spectacle.  The most satisfying rebooted franchise ever’

6.

Annabelle Creation

AnnabelleCreation

‘Atmosphere, well-judged scares and solid performances make for a surprising sequel’

5.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

‘Cleverly structured and powerful relationship drama with excellent performances’

4.

Gerald’s Game

Geralds_Game

‘A Stephen King adaptation that does a great deal with a very simple premise’

3.

Train to Busan

train-to-busan

‘Korean genre cinema at it’s finest.  Action, thrills and a surprising amount of heart’

2.

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw-Ridge

‘A powerful true story with expert direction and great performances’

1.

Logan

Logan_

‘An incredibly effective take on a familiar character turned into a road movie with powerful performances and genuine grit …  and Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar’

 

Honourable mentions:  A Street Cat Named Bob, Hell or Highwater, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2