The Incredibles 2


Viewed – 22 December 2018  online rental

I don’t watch as many animated movies as I should be, and realize I’ve missed out this year some big hitters.  However on browsing the latest rental releases, this took my interest as I recalled really enjoying the first movie.  This long time coming sequel pretty much picks up where we left off, with our super-hero family having to go about their crime fighting adventures in secret, with a law having been passed outlawing people with powers.  This brings in a wealthy brother and sister who propose to change things for the better by hiring Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) to showcase just how good super heroes are to the masses.

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I’m a little bit sick of this concept of the public unsure of or shunning super heroes.  They almost becoming the enemy when there’s all too many actual enemies out there.  A similar plot device was used in Captain America Civil War and Batman V Superman.  Why does Hollywood think we want our heroes being portrayed with such distrust and fear?  Aren’t they meant to be the heroes?  Thankfully this admittedly very entertaining and visually arresting movie jumps between such plot threads and a twist on family responsibilities and throws in plenty of spectacular action.  The villain though is sign posted a bit too well and I guessed their identity easily.  Also there’s a clear feminist slant to the reversal of roles and some of the dialogue and themes, which yeah is everywhere right now.  As unnecessary as it clearly is in a movie that was never just about the male lead anyway.

The voice work is top notch though including a welcome turn from Breaking Bad’s Bob Odenkirk, and Pixar’s animation is as gorgeous as ever (even if the character design is a bit ugly … what’s with Elastigirl’s massive ass?).  Overall and considering the long wait for this, I was expecting a bit more … the villain is forgettable and cliched and the story adds nothing to the formula.  As it stands though, this is still a lot of fun regardless of wasted potential.

Verdict: 3 /5

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The Christmas Chronicles


Viewed – 16 December 2018  Netflix

In hindsight, Kurt Russel makes for a perfect Santa Claus, but as I sat down to watch this I thought … really?  I’ve been a fan of this guy for a long time (Kurt I mean, although who doesn’t like Santa?), and this story has two kids on Christmas Eve out to catch him in the act of delivering presents, and unwittingly sabotage Christmas when they stow away on his slay.

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It’s a fairly typical Hollywood rendition of a Christmas movie and focuses on a family who have since lost the children’s father who was a fire fighter, and we get a stereotypical moody teenager on the brink of going off the rails with the wrong crowd, and a spirited younger sister who still believes in the magic of Christmas.  I’ll admit the somewhat motor-mouth young girl playing the sister got irritating fast, and the squabbling between her and her brother was cliched as hell.  Yet this is Kurt Russell’s movie and showcases an actor, who let’s agree hasn’t been in that big a stuff of late, seriously on top of his game and makes an initially grumpy Santa very likeable and fun.  The movie’s budget sadly shows cut backs in the CGI department, with the elves looking like Minion rejects, and overly this isn’t that flashy or visually creative.  A small twist towards the end involving Santa’s hat doesn’t make much sense either.

However for a perfect getting in the mood for Christmas experience, this does the trick, is funny, exciting in parts and delivers one of the most endearing Santas I think I’ve ever seen on screen.  Worth a watch.

Verdict:  3 /5

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.

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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

Police Story


Viewed – 22 August 2018  Blu-ray

A few years ago I was heavily into all things Hong Kong Action Cinema and explored not only the movies of the legendary Jackie Chan but everything from John Woo to Tsui Hark and Jet Li.  I got pretty burnt out it has to be said but occasionally I’ll revisit that interest when I see one of the classics get the Blu-ray treatment.  This 1985 action comedy has Chan as rule-breaking super-cop Ka-Kui, who following a successful raid on a shanty town to capture a notorious drug dealer, finds himself looking after a witness (played by genre queen Brigitte Lin).

Police Story

This 1985 movie, the first in the long-running series … was a huge hit and won awards in it’s native land whilst helping turn Jackie Chan into the superstar we all know him as.  Watching this movie now, whilst well structured and entertaining throughout, seems to lean a little too heavily towards comedy with drawn-out scenes devoted to silly gags and comical situations involving his girlfriend (Maggie Cheung) and often bumbling co-workers.  Thankfully when the action does kick in it’s terrific, showcased in three varied scenes that prove without a doubt why Chan’s so respected, not just as a martial artist but also as a choreographer and daredevil with his unique brand of environment-using stunt work.  Influences from the likes of Buster Keaton are obvious and even all these years later, watching him is mesmerising.  Not exactly the greatest action movie Chan’s ever done or even his best movie but it’s still a classic for what it set in motion.

Police Story Blu-rayThis UK Blu-ray from Eureka! Is presented as a double feature box set with Police Story 2 and boasts a detailed booklet as well as a wealth of extra features.  We get three cuts of the movie (the original release, the Japanese extended cut & a shorter American home video cut), behind the scenes featurettes, archive interviews, a brief over-view of Chan’s stunt wok, deleted scenes and trailers.  The movie itself is in decent shape, with a 4K re-mastered image that whilst boasting nice detail and vibrancy, some darker scenes suffer from a smudgy, overly dark appearance.  The soundtrack is good though with both 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks presented in English dubbed and Cantonese subtitled, although the movie’s age means those surrounds are barely used.  Overall, solid treatment for a movie that’s still a great deal of fun.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

Ant-Man and The Wasp


Viewed – 08 August 2018  Cinema

I really enjoyed the first Ant Man movie and thought it was a fun concept with some excellent effects and comedy.  This follow up has Paul Rudd’s Ant Man under house arrest following his actions during Captain America: Civil War and when Michael Douglas’ scientist and his daughter discover a way to possibly retrieve Douglas’ wife from the Quantum Realm, they turn to Ant Man for assistance.

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Not the deepest of storylines and one of the failings of this sequel which is mostly surface level entertainment more interested in gags and some slick action than having anything new to say that wasn’t already covered by the last movie.  The house arrest subplot also seemed shoe-horned in to tie-up loose ends from other movies.  I’d also add the pointless appearance from Walton Goggins (in his unending quest to be forgettable in every movie he appears in), and that motor-mouthed friend who like last time balances awkwardly between funny and annoying … even if he still gets some of the movie’s best lines.

Thankfully then, this energetic romp is bolstered by plenty of memorable sequences and welcome support from Lawrence Fishburn who plays a rival to Douglas.  The relationship between Ant-Man and his little daughter is also really charming (if underdeveloped since last movie).  I should also mention the mysterious, bad-ass character of ‘Ghost’ – an assassin who can phase in and out of form, enabling them to walk through walls etc who nearly steals the movie.  For such a concept Ant Man never stayed in shrunken tiny perspective for long enough for my liking, preferring to jump in and out of sizes … but usually to great comedic effect (the school sequence).  So quibbles aside this was still a solid follow up, but hopefully for the inevitable Ant Man 3 we’ll get something with a little more ahem… scale.

Verdict:  3.5 /5