Pokémon Detective Pikachu


Viewed – 24 September 2019. Online rental

I only mildly got into Pokémon last Christmas when I had Pokémon Let’s Go for the Nintendo Switch. The world and all the creatures within certainly fascinated me and so a live action movie definitely appealed. This somewhat weirdly has Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu, and follows a story set in the fictional Rome City (clearly influenced by many of the worlds cities) where a twenty something guy investigates the mysterious disappearance of his father, aided by his father’s former Pokémon. However as a strange gas begins to send Pokémon crazy the guy teams up with a plucky wannabe reporter girl to discover what’s going on.

Yeah this wafer-thin, at times confused plot is mostly an excuse for Reynolds to deliver his brand of one-liner wise-crackery and also showcase the endless varieties of Pokémon. It fails to truly delve into what Pokémon is and its intricacies, so newcomers should instead take this as simply high fantasy science fiction. Justice Smith playing the main guy is only passable and next to Reynolds razor-sharp (if family friendly) line delivery … comes off poorly. Kathryn Newton as the sort-of love interest is pretty and reminiscent of the games and anime but generally not much better. Veteran actor Bill Nighy lends a bit of personality as the head of a corporation that may or may not be sinister, and the fact the movie only hints at the inclusion of Pokémon baddies Team Rocket feels like a missed opportunity.

The CGI for the creatures, the city and various sequences on the other hand, is top notch and brought everything to eye-catching life, and as a casual fan this still ticked many boxes for how I’d imagine this sort of movie to turn out. Good fun, but ultimately a bit forgettable.

Verdict: 3 /5

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Ralph Breaks the Internet


Viewed – 31 August 2019. DVD

I remember enjoying the first movie. Wreck It Ralph was a great idea, borrowing it must be said, from Pixar’s Monsters Inc yet not quite reaching the potential of its rather brilliant concept. However it delivered first-rate turns from John C Reilly as Donkey Kong inspired video game villain ‘Ralph’ and Sarah Silverman as cute kart racer girl ‘Venelope’. So yeah, I was keen to see what (mis)adventured this likeable duo would get up to next. This brings forth the arrival of wi-fi connectivity to the little arcade that’s home to Ralph, Venelope amongst others (including Pacman, various Street Fighter characters and several more recognisable faces), and after an over-zealous gamer breaks Venelope’s arcade machine steering wheel, a quest to get a new one (from eBay no doubt) is undertaken, with the world wide web ripe for exploration.

I found this built perfectly on the foundations set up in the first movie and delivered exactly what a sequel should … bigger and better. The animation is top-notch and I’ll go as far as to say its sone of the most lush, imaginative and personality-filled CGI I’ve ever witnessed. With the looming shadow of Pixar’s Toy Story 4, any hype for this seemed to get brushed under that carpet at time of release, which is a travesty as in many ways this is the superior movie. Ralph & Venelope are a great double-act and although the story is mostly focused on the plucky racer-girl’s journey of self discovery, Ralph still gets many of the best gags and a brilliant final act (hint…one Ralph is never enough!). The clever mickey-takes and references of the internet and especially of Disney themselves are also well-observed and often laugh out loud funny. The Disney Princesses scene is pure gold.

However the story isn’t exactly all that on paper, but its exploration of a developing friendship is poignantly observed none the less. Yet Disney’s obsession with forcing feminist propaganda into every movie these days raises its head again in the closing moments, but it’s at least more subtle than Avengers: Endgame. Tiny gripes aside though, this was great fun and one of the best animated movies of the year.

Verdict: 4 /5

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse


Viewed – 19 July 2019. Online rental

I wasn’t that fussed about watching this. This is mainly down to the fact, I’ve found the recent Spider-Man movies underwhelming.  However I kept hearing good things about this, especially the animation so I thought I’d give it a go.  Miles, a young black kid with a talent for graffiti, gets bitten by a radioactive spider after trespassing into an underground facility.  There he witnesses a battle between Spider-Man and various super villains just as an experimental device creates an inter-dimensional rip in reality.  Soon after Miles discovers he has wall crawling abilities just as various other ‘Spider-Men’ appear from alternative realities.

Immediately I was taken back by the excellent animation and particularly wowed by how it combines the look of 2D comic book art with CGI – it’s certainly a style I want to see more of.  The story whilst initially a bit cliched anchors itself with convincing relationships and a solid learning-to-be-a-hero ark.  The various multi-verse versions of Spider-Man are also a great idea ranging from a brooding noir style to Japanese animation and even a Porky Pig-style incarnation.  We also get the semi-usual Spider-Man and even Spider-Gwen.  Action throughout is also inventive, exciting and a visual showcase.

Villain Kingpin’s look is too exaggerated for my liking, but characters like The Prowler (something about that guy sends shivers) and Doctor Octopus are a welcome addition.  For a movie called ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ the fact multiverses aren’t especially explored is disappointing, and the final battle has a bit of a weak conclusion.  However for a Spider-Man movie this is a step-up from The Amazing Spider-Man movies and even Homecoming.  Recommended.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Toy Story 4


Viewed – 25 June 2019 Cinema

When toy cowboy ‘Woody’ (voiced by Tom Hanks) finds himself sidelined by new owner ‘Bonnie’ in favour of other toys, he finds new found purpose after Bonnie’s hand-made new toy ‘Forky’ goes missing at a carnival during a family road trip. At the same time Woody is reunited with his old flame, Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

I was looking forward to this. I’m a big fan of the other movies and couldn’t wait for the further adventures of Woody, Byzz and the gang. This time around we are introduced to a new villain, antique shop dwelling Doll ‘Gabby Gabby’ (Christina Hendricks). Yet despite initial promise with her brilliantly creepy Ventriloquist doll henchmen, she just failed to live up to her potential. The same could also be said for wasting the presence of such established characters as Jessie, T-Rex or even Buzz Lightyear (who is mostly demoted to a supporting role). Instead the movie focuses on Woody and Bo Peep which is at least different, even if Bo’s topical feminist symbolism was a bit too on the nose.

With that said, Forky is a welcome addition and gets all the best gags, and the movie looks as expected, stunning – the CGI animation often wowing this viewer. The caper at play here, if a little typical is still great fun too. The heart-strings get pulled firmly towards the end and the key characters are well written with at times real emotional depth. Overall though, this fails to be quite as sharp, clever or funny as what’s come before and the plot was not as engaging, Toy Story 3 had everything coming full circle. This however, whilst still worthwhile … didn’t have much more to say.

Verdict: 3 /5

Aquaman


Viewed – 23 June 2019. Blu-ray

When Nicole Kidman’s Atlantian queen washes up before a lighthouse, her forbidden love with land-dweller Temuera Morrison produces Arthur a half-breed who grows up to become underwater superhero Aquaman. However despite his reluctance to be the hero he’s destined to become, a war at his home world of Atlantis causes his own kind to come calling.

This colourful, energetic comic book adaption has a potentially star-making central performance from Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa and delivers a setting that immediately intrigues. It’s a shame then, that an over-use of CGI and green screen means that almost nothing in this looks like it was shot on location, leading to a largely artificial look and feel. Add to this a cliched story I felt I’d already watched with strong resemblances to the Thor films and Black Panther, with predictable revelations and plot twists … and what’s left is a movie that feels like it arrived too late for its own party. Momoa is charismatic and well cast and handles a plethora of fight sequences with genuine skill and showmanship, and the gorgeous Amber Heard is equally enjoyable. Willem Defoe feels kind of miscast and despite often being cast as the villain – should still have been the villain (Patrick Wilson is largely forgettable) and what really, is Dolph Lundgren doing here?

With that all said it’s hard not to be entertained. The action is slick and at times jaw-dropping (a particular roof top chase is heart-in-mouth exciting) and at times it’s really feel good. It re-introduces the character (following Justice League) well and brings with it a fascinating underwater world ripe for sequels. Just a pity it’s all feels so deja-vu.

Verdict: 3 /5