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

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Viewed – 12 November 2019. Online rental

In the wake of the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is on a school trip in Europe when a series of elemental beasts begin to attack various cities. When a hero from another dimension appears to battle them, Parker feels obliged to offer his help, aided by new tech left to him by the (spoiler) late Tony Stark.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last few Spider-Man movies but do think Holland is perfectly cast. This time around he teams up with Jake Gylkenhaal‘s Mysterio, who proves a very interesting character even if an actor of his calibre is hardly ‘stretched’. Samuel L Jackson‘s Nick Fury is also a welcome return after his absence from other movies. The story is generally teen angst complicated by an inconvenient new threat, and the shadow of Tony Stark / Iron-Man looms once again which for me spoilt the last movie. However here at least Spidy gets to do his own thing and we are treated to some great set-pieces with some very imaginative moments revolving around Mysterio’s illusion powers.

At the end of the day this hardly breaks the mould for a Spider-Man or Marvel movie and lacks the depth of a Captain America or Avengers – but when it’s all this entertaining … does that really matter? Not ‘amazing’ then, but still the best Spidy outing in quite a while.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Viewed – 05 December 2017  Online-rental

Of all the super-heroes, ol’ Spidy has had some trouble finding sure footing in recent years and for me, there hasn’t been a decent Spidy movie since the second Toby Maguire entry.  However after an enjoyable (if unnecessary) cameo in Captain America: Civil War, the web-slinger has returned in probably one his best received movies since the Sam Raimi directed original. 


Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is under the watchful eye of billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) aka Iron-Man and so wants to be an official part of The Avengers, not just someone you call on when you’re in a bit of a fix.  So he’s out to prove himself after he witnesses some advanced, out of this world (literally) weapon technology being used by petty thugs.  Turns out there’s a ruthless arms dealer in town who dresses like a robotic vulture.

There’s several things that don’t sit right with me here.  Firstly the constant bumbling, representation of such a beloved character grates after a while, and then his characterisation, without an origin tale or any personal tragedy, is wafer-thin and not something to get all-that caught up in.  Same goes for Michael Keaton’s Vulture, a rather pathetic former salvage worker annoyed by being put out of work by Tony Stark’s bank-rolled clean-up crew following the events of the first Avengers movie, who decides to steal alien technology so to become an arms dealer.  There’s no personal tragedy other than the inconvenience of having to find work elsewhere, and therefore little reason behind what he’s doing other than greed and being a bit of a psychopath.  So what else do we get?  Holland is likeable and well cast as Parker/Spidy, and Keaton is also good despite limited material.  We also get some decent action, including a great sequence at the Washington Monument, and some support characters are fun.  Yet overall this greatly lacks depth and feels like a pilot for a TV show or the opening chapter of a bigger, better story.  I’m guessing that’s the idea … so bring on the inevitable, superior sequel!  After two reboots of ‘meh’ quality however, it’d take something special to get me back on-board.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Fright Night

Viewed – 23 February 2012  Blu-ray

I was a big fan of the original Fright Night, which if I am correct starred William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon and the late Roddy McDowall.  It was a great concept, that of a kid who is obsessed with a TV show hosted by vampire hunter Peter Vincent (McDowell) and then finds out his new neighbour is a vampire.  So naturally, as with Hollywood’s growing trend for remaking classic horror movies of late, we come to this … and to be honest, I quite liked the idea of revisiting these characters.

Anton Yelchin plays school kid Charley Brewster, currently dating the hot girl and leaving his nerdy past behind him, by ignoring former best friend Ed (the wonderful Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who is convinced that Charley’s new next door neighbour Gerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire.  Of course this turns out to be true, and before long Charley is turning to renowned magician and vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant) for help.  This sticks fairly close to the original story (no shock as its penned by Tom Holland, who wrote the original) but deviates in several areas, perhaps to make it more up to date by having Peter Vincent as a Vegas magician than a TV show host, and by having the character of Ed the paranoid vampire obsessive.  Charley is portrayed somewhat more heroic than in the past, which surprised me, as this pretty much makes David Tennant’s character pointless, who as a result seemed mostly in the way.  Thankfully Farrell delivers the goods as charismatic vampire Gerry, and although much of his actions are a little stupid (such as killing two teen guys in a car in the middle of the neighbourhood) and with no actual depth (he’s a vampire – that’s it), he still made for a great villain down to pure screen-presence.  Christopher Mintz-Plasse naturally steals the show every time he appears, and he continues to be one of my favourite young comedy actors.  I didn’t like how quickly Gerry was accused of being a vampire though, and a throwaway line connecting him to Peter Vincent was clearly tacked on.  Thankfully such shortcomings are masked well with quality vampire effects, lots of blood and several memorable lines (watch out for the reference to Ebay).

Overall then, this was an enjoyable ‘tribute’ to one of the best horror movies of the 80s, and even if the script has its limitations and some of the casting doesn’t exactly nail it – I still had a good time.

Verdict:  3 /5