Its difficult reviewing animated movies, because the quality is often so high, it’s tempting to just rate them all the same. So I tend to be a bit harder on them that some other movies. This unusual story presents an enchanted, fairy tale world that turns its back on magic, favouring technology to develop very much like the regular world. So people have jobs, there’s police, shops, fast food restaurants etc. On his 16th birthday, young elf Ian is given a present from his Dad who died of an illness before he was born, and it turns out to be a wizards staff. After reciting a spell that’s meant to bring the dad back for one day only … the spell goes wrong and only half of the dad’s body comes back – literally from the waist down. However his big brother Barley says there’s a way of completing the spell and so a quest unfolds to resurrect their dad before the sun goes down.
Like Monsters Inc and Inside Out before it, this presents a world full of character and personality. Again it’s a feast for the eyes and full of memorable side characters, pop culture gags and references – but it’s the unique idea that’s the winner; a caper comedy that’s weirdly a lot like 80s comedy Weekend at Bernies. Some moments, especially the freeway chase with the biker sprites certainly had me laughing out-loud. Yet underneath the visuals and gags lies a great deal of heart – something Pixar have always been masters of.
Tom Holland as Ian is perfect, but is overshadowed by Chris Pratt’s Barley who turns a potentially irritating loud mouth of a character into someone I really cared about. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is also good as the two brother’s Mom. The ending also turns the story on its head to deliver an emotion-heavy and wonderfully bittersweet conclusion. So there you have it – damn, another Pixar gem that shouldn’t be missed! Sigh.
I went into this fairly blind, other than seeing the trailer a couple of times and thinking … hmm, looks fun. You see, I never played the long-running MMORPG PC game on which this takes it’s inspiration, and well sitting down to it I was presented with a colourful if unremarkable fantasy adventure movie. The story has a race of Orcs who travel from their world which is apparently dying into the human world of Aseroth after their powerful wizard opens up a doorway powered by, it seems the souls of innocents. At the same time we meet a conflicted Orc and his pregnant wife who don’t seem totally in approval of the wizard’s ways but follow him anyway. Once in Aseroth the Orc race start attacking the humans in a bid to take over, which brings forth seasoned warrior Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a reluctant mage and a powerful warlock ‘Medivh’ (Ben Foster) who must figure out a way of saving their world.
Adaptations of video games (or even computer games) have rarely gone well, with a couple of exceptions (Silent Hill, Tomb Raider?). In the hand’s of director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) however I was hoping for more. Sadly we don’t get that. This avalanche of hit-and-miss CGI and surprisingly wooden performances is only marginally helped by some exciting battle sequences and vaguely interesting character development especially from the conflicted Orc and a half-human, half-Orc female. Yet this fails to really hold it’s head either alongside or above similar fair like The Hobbit or even Game of Thrones and is a little too pretty and safe. Hardly any blood is shed for that family friendly rating and it really grates especially when the movie would have benefited from some gritty violence. The final act does liven up proceedings, what with a magically animated ogre and some fun effects and tense showdowns. However that can’t help a very weak story, a world I was left knowing very little about (it begs for an explanatory prologue) and characters only had a fleeting interest in.
Perhaps fans of the game will be spotting references and nods throughout for added fun, but anyone else should get their fantasy-adventure fix elsewhere.
Yesterday after much anticipation, I finally got my hands on the latest novel from acclaimed horror / fantasy writer Clive Barker. Now those not in the know, this writer was responsible for the ‘Hellraiser’ movies (especially as he wrote and directed the first instalment waaay back in 1987) and quickly garnered a big cult following with numerous novels and short stories to his name. I first discovered this man through his ‘Books Of Blood’ anthologies and although I haven’t read some of his more epic tomes such as Abarat and Weave World, I have admired his imagination and prose for many years. So this return to the horror genre and one of his most famous characters, the hell priest Pinhead was an exciting prospect.
I don’t read all that much, but make an exception for ‘Barker, who for me is far more interesting than his immediate rival Stephen King. I’m therefore looking forward to really getting absorbed by this latest masterpiece.
British born writer, artist and film maker Clive Barker.
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