Onward


Viewed – 03 October 2020. Disney+

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.

Verdict: Essential

Warcraft


The Beginning

Viewed – 18 October 2016  Online-rental

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.

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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.

Verdict:  2 /5

Now You See Me


Viewed – 20 September 2013  DVD

I love magic, from the likes of Penn & Teller to David Blaine and Cris Angel, so this was an easy pick for me.  Four famed street magicians are brought together by a mystery organization known as The Eye to use their skills at illusion to pull off a series of elaborate heists.  Yet an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) is hot on their heels, aided by a former magician (Morgan Freeman) who now hosts a TV  show exposing the secrets behind so called magic tricks.

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This is a very entertaining and cleverly plotted thriller, deftly put together by The Transporter’s Louis Leterrier and with several stand out performances, most notably the always interesting Mark Ruffalo and also Jesse Eisenberg, doing his geek/genius thing to perfection.  Also on hand is a sexy Isla Fisher and an enjoyably dead-pan Woody Harrelson.  For me the plot got a bit convoluted and some of the twists and turns were a little hard to swallow (especially the ending).  Also by exploring a subject many still consider steeped in mystery, the ‘magic’ goes a tad over the top and far fetched, with unnecessary use of CGI.  Also the motive for these clearly gifted illusionists turning to crime is not explored which I found hard to understand, especially when they clearly make them selves known for their crimes (?).

That being said the action, including an intense car chase and the illusions themselves make for a gripping and enjoyable experience over all, backed up by some very stylish looks.  Just a shame its all a bit too frantic and clever (or complicated?) for its own good.

Verdict: 3 /5