Doctor Strange (2016) Review

I’m loving Marvel’s recent willingness to risk high budget movies on some of their obscure characters. Back in 2014 I’m sure nobody thought a Guardians of the Galaxy film would have worked because even among comic fans they weren’t very well known but it did work, gloriously.

Dr. Strange is another gamble for Marvel, if you’ve read any big event comics you’ll have probably came across the Sorcerer Supreme. He’s the guy everyone calls when they have a magical problem or when technology has failed them. He’s a good utility player to have in this wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This review will contain plot spoilers, including the after credits scene

We start out getting introduced to Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), he’s a rock star surgeon who seems to be more concerned with recognition for his skill rather than saving people. We see his lavish apartment, car, clothes and also the dismissive way he treats his fellow doctors. It’s a pretty similar format to the first Iron Man movie, We hate him but also kind of like him because he’s charming and good at his job. In keeping with that format Strange’s hubris is soon met with a horrible car accident in which he suffers severe nerve damage to his hands. Naturally this means he’ll never be able to work as a surgeon again and sends him into a dark spiral of blame and self loathing. I felt like during this part they maybe went a little too dark though. He routinely abuses his friendship with fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) and she kind of just takes it. Even going so far as to forgive him later in the movie without much push back. It’s annoying that Marvel continues to downplay the women in their stories. It just further alienates female fans and it made it hard for me to root for the character as a hero later on.

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Idle Hands are Mephisto’s Play Things

After all of his top surgeon friends abandon him because his condition is too risky to try and fix Strange starts to look for more unorthodox methods of healing. This leads him to Kuala Lumpur looking for a place called kamar-Taj. There he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and as many movie characters like him before doesn’t believe in magic or anything beyond the physical realm. The Ancient One decided to open Strange’s mind and sends his soul hurtling off the earth and out of our plane of existence. I can’t talk about this movie without mentioning that the special effects are incredible. They capture the psychedelic visuals of the 60’s comics perfectly. There are some incredibly complex actions scenes later on that are a cross between an M.C. Escher painting and that folding city scene from Inception.

From this point in the film the plot moves pretty quickly. We don’t actually see too much of Strange learning magic so it comes as quite a shock when he’s thrust into some fights and seems to hold his own. They don’t really make it clear how much time passes while he’s training. They try and explain his leap in skill away with Strange’s photographic memory, which I guess makes sense since most of the magic seems to involve memorising hand movements and incantations but it’s not very satisfying for the viewer.

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Before his training is totally complete our bad guy and former student of The Ancient One Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen) shows up ready to destroy earth’s magical barriers and let in the dark dimension. Mads does a pretty good job with what he’s given but he’s written as a totally forgettable villain. We don’t really get to see him do anything and there is barely any depth to his character. Add in that his character’s name is hard to pronounce and nobody will ever remember this guy.

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Doctor Strange has all the potential to be a great movie but the rushed pacing really lets it down. They do set up some really cool stuff for the future including name dropping some crazy characters (like Dormammu and the Living Tribunal) and setting up that Strange will be joining Thor in his next outing with the mid credits scene. I think Doctor Strange would have worked better as a TV show, we would have had more time to get to know the magical side of the Marvel universe and we could have actually got to know the characters and learned how his powers worked. It’s also a pretty formulaic film they don’t really throw any unexpected plot points your way and you can easily predict how most scenes will play out. So not a perfect first outing for the good doctor but I’m excited for what he’ll bring to marvel movies in the future.

★★★☆☆

John Wick (2014) Review

For some reason whenever I hear the name Keanu Reeves I don’t immediately think “action hero”. After pondering this I’ve realised that’s my own problem, perhaps I watched the Bill & Ted movies too much as a child because all I think of whenever he’s mentioned is this…

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Woah

However, after watching John Wick I am totally a believer in Keanu as an action star and if they do ever make a third Bill & Ted movie I’ll probably be a bit on edge expecting Mr. Logan to snap and go on a killing spree at any moment.

This review will contain some early plot spoilers for John Wick

One Man and His Dog

In the opening of the movie you’re treated to a montage of Mr Wick enjoying his life with what you assume is his wife. Unfortunately it’s not long before this goes sour, she ends up in hospital with an unknown illness and before we know it we’re at her rainy funeral. Upon getting home John receives an unexpected delivery at his house. The cutest puppy in all of existence!!!

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Daawwwwwwwwww

Turns out she was expecting her untimely death and set up this surprise pupper to be delivered after her funeral. It’s cool for plot purposes but this is not a thing normal people do.

Woof Woof Bang Bang

After some cute bonding scenes between him and the pup he realises he needs to get some doggy chow. While he’s out his cool car gets the attention of some unsavoury Russian mob types (led by Reek from Game of Thrones) who want to buy it but he not so politely declines. This leads to them following him and invading his home late at night so they can beat him up and steal his car keys. During this ruckus the bad guys commit one of the greatest atrocities in film history and kill the dog! Now with this being a revenge story they had to kill someone to get the film going. Usually it’s the main characters partner, mentor or good friend. They really ratcheted it up a notch with this puppy though, after seeing this any person with an ounce of humanity will want to go after these bad guys with the fury of a thousand suns.

Reek then goes back to his mob boss father to brag about his successful night of horror but once daddy realises who they’ve stolen from he gives him a very satisfying (for the audience) gut punch. Turns out John Wick is one of the greatest hitman in the entire world, a one man army that gained the nickname Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman). Reek’s disappointed father isn’t very confident in his son’s chances but does agree to at least try to protect him. While these scenes are going on we’re treated to a furious John Wick smashing up his garage floor to reveal his secret stash of high-powered weaponry and gold coins that he presumably thought he’d never need again.

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Killing is his business…

After this point the movie never really slows down. John goes on a monumental killing spree at all of the Russian mob’s places of business trying to flush out Reek and his idiot friends. The action has a really good flow to it. Wick moves smoothly from one henchman to the next either filling them with bullets or doling out a fatal beating. He doesn’t pause to say one liners or anything stupid like that, he just keeps on killing.

Unfortunately I did feel like this action style got a bit stale after the first few scenes. I guess I prefer when there’s a bit more variety in my action movies. I would have liked it if they’d taken some inspiration from movies like The Raid where there’s seemingly endless variety in the ways the bad guys are dealt with.

One thing that really impressed my about the action scenes is that they always synced up with the movie’s musical score. It really helped give the action a rhythm and it just feels good to watch. They also filmed the action in a way that you can always tell what’s happening. There are so many modern action films where the camera is zoomed in too far and you can’t tell what’s going on (I’m looking at you Dark Knight trilogy). Whether this is to hide sloppy fight choreography or intentional I’m not sure but there’s none of that in John Wick, it’s a pleasure to watch.

 

Show, Don’t Tell

One surprising thing for me was that they actually set up a pretty interesting universe in between the brutal action. There are times when you’re given glimpses of John’s hitman world. he stays at a hotel that serves as his base of operations in the city but it’s also a place where no hitman-y business is to be conducted. There’s even a fancy jazz bar on the premises where everyone knows John’s name. Everything is paid for with these big pirate style gold doubloon coins and you get a sense that all the characters have a crazy history together but they leave most of that an intriguing mystery.

I was really impressed with this movie overall, it’s definitely not the best pure action film I’ve ever seen (That’s still The Raid) but John Wick is very well-rounded. All of its pieces come together well and there are no wasted scenes or dull parts. I’m really excited to see where they go in the future and their newly announced sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 is high on my list of 2017 movies already.

★★★★☆

Dirty 30 -Movie Review

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I have a confession… I haven’t bought a movie for years. I get DVDs for Christmas but generally I just wait until a film is out on Netflix or NowTV before I watch it.

Dirty 30 was different. I’ve been watching YouTube for years now and Grace Helbig was one of the first people I ever subscribed to and of course this lead to me to following Mamrie and Hannah Hart (not related). I’ve followed the holy trinity for years now and they’ve never failed to keep me entertained.

In 2014 the three YouTubers starred in Camp Takota and after seeing many a YouTuber try to make is as an actor/actress, I was wary that my three favourites would follow in their footsteps and appear wooden and over act. Nevertheless, I bought Camp Takota (probably the last thing I bought before Dirty Thirty) and was pleasantly surprised when I found that the three women were good actresses and I enjoyed the film more than I had a lot of high budget films.dirty-30-mamrie-hart-grace-helbig-hannah-hart

When I heard Dirty 30 was being made, I knew it was something I would eventually want to watch and I looked forward to behind the scenes on YouTube. I didn’t realise however, that I would be buying and watching Dirty 30 the day it came out because I was just too impatient to wait until it was on Netflix.

Dirty 30 follows Kate (Mamrie Hart) on the approach to her thirtieth birthday. After receiving a letter in the post which she wrote to herself as a child, she realises her life is in a rut. Kate’s two best friends, Evie (Grace Helbig) and Carlie (Hannah Hart), manage to convince Kate she should have a big party for her thirtieth in the hope that she will maybe get out of her rut.

I loved everything about this film. Not only are the main three YouTube starts great actresses but the supporting cast are excellent. Never once did I feel any of the cast were wooden and the real life friendships between the cast was clear on screen as well as they normally are off.

The story itself was great, I’m anyone’s for a bit of romance and this film was full of it with a nice helping of comedy to go with it. I loved the character of Kate and, as a 28 year old female, I felt I understood her completely as a single female just trying to work it where their life if headed. Along with this I felt the friendship between Kate, Evie and Charlie was just brilliant. They were the perfect mix of people who met in school and stayed friends despite living completely different lifestyles.

dirty-30-movie-poster-612x380Evie and Charlie were the perfect sidekicks, I loved Evie’s constant enthusiasm, wether it was about throwing a party or helping alpacas with alopecia while Charlie’s competitive nature made for excellent comedy.

As I said, I love a bit of romance and I was completely absorbed with the romance between Kate and Dan, I spent a lot of my viewing time just waiting for them to realise their love for each other. Like a lot of Grace Helbig fans I also ship Grester (Grace and Chester See) so much and from the second Ben (Chester See) took a shot from Evie’s belly button, I was hooked.

Now I don’t want to ruin anything for those who haven’t seen the film but the ending was just as great as the beginning and middle. If you want some light humour with a good helping of romance then I would certainly recommend Dirty 30.

5/5 stars.

To watch the trailer click here.

My Top 5 Tim Burton Movies

Tim Burton has been wowing audiences with his distinct visual and story telling style or years, earning him cult and auteur status amongst his biggest fans. His stories of outsider characters trying to fit into society has touched the many people who also feel like they do not belong. He has become a voice for the freaks, the weirdos, the misfits.

I have been a big fan of Tim Burton’s since I was a kid living in a small village. A distinctly round peg, trying to fit in a very square hole, the stories of skellington men, the scissorhanded, and the plain strange were a great comfort to me, as I knew then that I as not alone in the world. Although perhaps some of his more recent films haven’t quite hit the mark (I’m still not sure what Dark Shadows was all about) his earlier work still endures and is as popular today as they ever were.

With Tim Burton’s latest release, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children right around the corner, I thought I would compile my top 5 favourite films of Tim Burton’s for your reading pleasure.

5) Beetlejuice

beetlejuiceIt’s the ghost with the most. Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), the vile (but let’s face it, hilarious) human exorcist is employed by the ghostly Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitland to get rid of the terrible Deetz’s, who have moved into their home and taking over.

One of his earlier works this is full of that typical Burton style, there’s plenty of stripes, dark humour, wonky angles everywhere (especially in the ghostly government offices) a dark twist on suburbia, there’s even an early appearance from Jack Skellington, albeit it’s just his head on top of the merry go round Beetlejuice turns himself into. It’s a rip roaring comedy with some great set pieces and memorable scenes, not to mention a great calypso soundtrack.

 

4) Big Eyes

big-eyesThe most recent of Tim’s movies to make the list, this is based on the true story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams). Margaret was an artist in the 60s, who met and married fellow artist, Walter (Christoph Waltz). After realising Margaret’s paintings got far more attention during shows he began to pretend the works were his own, keeping the lie going for years, making Margaret work in secret, even from her own daughter from a previous marriage. Eventually the lies and secrets take their toll on Margaret and she plans to break free from her captor.

Although there are many things that might seem like typical Burton themes, the horrors of suburbia being the biggest, though I would say that visually it is very different from a lot of his other films. It’s all about bright colours, and rather than a fantasy like setting Burton keeps it real and simply for his colour palette, costumes and settings. He also explores the theme of domestic abuse, though I felt that this came secondary to the main story and could have been explored more.

 

3) Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

pee-weeFrom the latest, to the first. Burton’s Debut feature from 1985, might seem like a silly film about a strange man child. Really though it’s a masterclass in taking the absurd reality.

Pee Wee (Paul Reubens) has the best bike in town, it’s red, shiney, and really, really cool. One day as he’s shopping for new bike accessories Pee wee’s bike is stolen! Oh no! As you can imagine he is devastated, and sets off on an adventure of a lifetime to get it back. Along his cross country trek he meets many different people who help him to his destination. Every person is weird in their own unique way. They have a dream of some kind that sets them apart, makes them different in some way.

It might not be a film that will teach you about the human condition, or help you to learn about historical figures that lived 1000 years ago. It will, however make you laugh like a 3 year old mainlining sugar, and will provide an excellent way to spend a couple hours of your life.

 

2) Edward Scissorhands

edward-scissorhandsProbably Burton’s biggest criticism of American suburbia. Though set at the time it was made, in the late 80s/early 90s the small community at the centre of the story often feel like they’re stuck in the 1950s, but in style and attitudes.

Edward (Johnny Depp) lives on his own in a big, creepy castle overlooking a pastel coloured community, one day a lovely lady called Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest) wanders up to the castle, in the hopes that someone will buy her Avon products. Instead of a makeup starved housewife she find Edward, who she decides to bring down to stay with her and her family in their house. Though initially the new and unusual person is accepted by the community, though the tides turn when he does not want to sleep with one of them, and things begin to turn a little more sinister.

It’s a lesson on how suburbanites can often seem like good people, but the attitudes of the community can often be dictated by one person, and if you are not considered favourable by that one person then you do not have a chance in the community. The additional love story between Edward and Peg’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder) makes this a true modern fairy tale. This also marks the first collaboration between Burton and Johnny Depp.

 

1) Ed Wood

ed wood.jpgThis is my favourite Tim Burton Movie to date. It tells the tale of movie director Edward. D. Wood Jr, who was voted the worst director of all time in a 1979 poll thanks to movies such as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Bride of the Monster. If you’re not familiar with those titles, but you loved The Room, I suggest you look them up, they are a classic of the ‘so bad they’re good’ genre.

Starring Johnny Depp as the titular character this is very different from a lot of other Burton movies, there’s no campy, twee, yet twisted setting, there’s not even a Danny Elfman score (they had a minor disagreement at the time). It’s even shot in black and white, which gives it more of an arthouse and realistic feel. A large portion of the story is about how Ed is a transvestite, and about his acceptance from the people around him, this is dealt with with sensitivity and unquestioning acceptance. Most of all this is a story about one man’s passion to get his movies made, his movies are his life and without them he is nothing, yet he is always suffering setbacks and ridicule, but he keeps going, he keeps pursuing his passion no matter the cost, and that is why this is the best Burton movie.

My Top 5 Studio Ghibli Films

Studio Ghibli has enraptured audiences since it’s inception in 1985. It’s produced some of the world’s most beloved characters that would give Mickey Mouse a run for his money. They have created opulent worlds full of magic, splendor and wonder. Most of all they have influenced and inspired almost everyone who watches.

For many they are the ultimate in Japanese anime, capturing Japanese culture and spreading strong messages about the preservation of nature. There are stories about loss and grief, stories about childhood innocence, about growing up. For myself they have been a big influence. I was immediately drawn in, mostly by the sense of magic that always seems to touch every single film, even those that might have more bleak story to tell, as well as the beautiful animations and captivating stories.

Here I’ve tried my hardest to pick just five of my favourite films that Studio Ghibli has produced.

5) Ponyo

ponyoWhat could be described as “Studio Ghibli does The Little Mermaid”. It’s about a little fish girl who falls in love with a boy. Her father tries his hardest to make her stay in the ocean, but the eponymous Ponyo only wants to be re-united with her friend.

That is really a bare bones description of the whimsy and beauty that lies beneath. Though Ponyo is clearly in love with Sosuke this is always portrayed as an innocent, or even platonic friendship. Compare this to the Disney version and it seems like a breath of fresh air. The characters are all adorable and you fall in love with them all. Especially little Ponyo herself, who’s cries for ham, a newfound favourite you can’t help but fall in love with.

This is a great movie that is a little more lighthearted than some other Ghibli movies, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch.

4) Howel’s Moving Castle

howlBased on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle is filled with Ghibli’s signature magic and visual style.

I found this a very interesting watch. I have read the book, and it is very, quintessentially British, even down to a joke throughout the book about Wales. So I was very pleasantly surprised when I finally got round to seeing Howl’s Moving Castle and found it to be thoroughly Japanese. It manages to take all the great things about the book and put them through a Japanese filter, whilst somehow keeping a lingering sense of British whimsy.

A great film to watch as a family as there is something for everyone in here.

3) Spirited Away

spirited-awayNow we get to the one that broke all the records and really started to get Ghibli’s name out into the wider world. It was the first anime to get a mainstream release outside of Japan, it was the highest grossing film in Japan, beating the record set by Titanic. It even garnered the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Chihiro must find work in the magical bath house to save her parents, who were turned into pigs for their greed when finding a food stall full of food. She has to go see the proprietor, Yubaba and make her way through this new world she finds herself in. Echoing Alice in Wonderland, it’s about a little girl who finds herself in a world full of strange, wonderful things and trying to make sense of the world that makes where anything can happen.

This a true cinematic delight, the story of little Chirio constantly battling on and never giving up no matter how hard the task at hand might be will win you over and have you cheering her every step of the way. The animation is stunning, it’s hard to believe that it was all hand drawn in the tradition style, it’ll knock your socks off.

2) My Neighbour Totoro

my-neighbour-totoroTotoro is one of Japan’s well known and well loved characters. To the Japanese he is like Mickey Mouse every young child knows who he is. He has inspired countless pieces of fan art and merchandise around the globe.

It follows the story of two young girls, Satsuki and Mei as they move into a new home to be closer to their mother who is being cared for in a hospital. Whilst exploring they come across the giant nature spirit, Totoro, who is part giant teddy bear, part spirit, all a bundle of love and joy. It’s a tale of innocence and exploring your surroundings. He even calls his catbus to help in the search when Mei goes missing.

A great film for young kids to help capture their imagination and inspire them to connect with nature

1) Laputa: Castle in the Sky

laputaThe first official Ghibli film (Nausicaa was made just before Ghibli was formed, though it is included in their DVD collections). It was part inspired by the flying island mentioned in Gulliver’s Travels.

It’s an epic tale following the trials of a little girl, Sheeta, who is thrust into a predicament she could never have predicted. She is protected by a magical charm passed down through her family from one generation to the next. A charm that is much sought after by sky pirates and the military. She teams up with a young boy, Pazu and together they must unlock the secrets of the amulet while trying to keep clear of those with bad intentions.

It’s a film about friendship, and finding out who you really are and taking your place in the world. It’s a beautiful film and you’ll love the robots that appear towards the end of the film.

The Frankenstein Theory (2013) Review

I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m the modern Horror genre’s biggest fan but every so often I find myself scrolling through Netflix or NowTV’s selection to see if anything piques my interest. On my latest trip I came across The Frankenstein Theory and at first glance it ticked some of the boxes for me. I mentioned in my review of The Visit that I like the found footage genre but I also like a good monster movie and this touted both in the description. It also said on the poster it showed on NowTV that it was from the creators of The Last Exorcism which is actually one of my favourite horror movies of all time. However since watching it I’ve looked up both these movies and I can’t find any crossover members of the directing, producing, music or writing teams on the Wikipedia pages so I don’t know where that claim came from.

 

This review will contain full spoilers

 

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Thinking About Neck Bolts

Our story opens up in the office of Professor Jonathan Venkenheim who has hired a documentary crew lead by our main character Vicky for a secret adventure. The audience and the film crew both get the big reveal at the same time, Venkenheim is in search of a Frankenstein monster! He believes that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was actually a loose retelling of actual events and that his ancestor is the real Dr. Frankenstein. Unfortunately all the evidence of this was burned in a lab fire but he still holds out hope that the monster is still alive. Understandably the crew don’t believe a word of this but he’s paying good money so they go along with it. I really liked the comradery between the film crew, they are the grounded characters that act as the audience surrogate and mostly remark on how stupid and hopeless their situations are.

 

So apparently ol’ Frank is somewhere in the wilds of Canada at the moment so they pack up and set out on the road. Their first stop is with an eye witness they want to interview but it turns out this witness is a little bit of a meth head who holds them up at gunpoint when they mention he may have met Dr. F’s monster. So as you can expect from a horror movie it all goes downhill from here. Next they meet up with their guide Karl who can take them further into the wilderness, he’s your classic salty old hard-ass. They play him off to be a bit creepy at first as he tells them that out there you either listen to his orders or face an icy death. I really enjoyed this character though, his inclusion alleviates some of the tension once the gang gets to know him a bit over some drinks while they’re huddled in a yurt.

karl frank theory

Fright Night

Once nightfall comes is where things start to get a bit more weird. At first they all hear the baying of wolves which is unsettling but then they hear an almighty roar and some thrashing that freaks everyone out and silences the wolves. Come morning they find that their snowmobile is trashed leaving them a stranded. They also find some comically big footprints which Karl decides to follow so he can teach whoever did it a lesson. This starts off that good old horror movie cliche of everyone being picked off one by one. This is where the film lost me, you don’t see nearly enough of the monster and he seems to be able to appear out of nowhere considering he’s so huge. You’d also think he’d be more noticeable seeing as they’re surrounded by untouched white snow so anything approaching should stick out like a big green sore thumb.

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So even after all of this murdering Prof. Venkenheim still thinks he can reason with Big F using their shared family ties but he seems reluctant to go out there and put this to the test. He is eventually forced to once Frankie has Vicky and him trapped in the yurt. At this point we’re watching through a locked camera pointed at the door. We see him walk out then hear him try to reason with him and at first it seems to be working but then we hear what sounds like Venkenheim getting snapped in half.

 

I'm sad now

 

So it’s not until the very last scene that we get a decent look at the monster and he just looks like the giants from Game of Thrones but a bit more zombie like I guess. He comes into the room, bashes Vicky on the head and carries her off. We get to watch him stroll away into the distance through the open door as the credits roll and that’s it! I felt like this movie ended just as it was getting going. They could have at least let us see what life was like for Francesco and his new lady friend through handheld camera footage or something. It was seriously the most jarring and unsatisfying ending I’ve experienced in a long time. I would have really liked to see more hunting of the monster, he just shows up the first night they set up camp without any mystery at all. The main reason I watched this was because of the (now tenuous) links to The Last Exorcism but this was nowhere near as good so I would just recommend you watch that instead.

 

★★☆☆☆

The Little Prince Review

One morning, whilst still in my pyjamas I plonked myself on the sofa and had a scroll through Netflix. I came across The Little Prince, and thought an early morning cartoon was just what I needed. Having never read the book it’s based on, I had no idea what to expect.

I was expecting a quaint little film about a prince going about his princely duties. What I got was a film about something every person has in common, childhood and growing up.

Straight away you’re drawn in with the beautiful animation and the perfectly gravelled voice of Jeff Bridges talking about how he was forced to abandon childish pursuits and grow up when only a young boy.

life plan.pngThe beginning of the film is about a little girl (Riley Osborne), being really encouraged by her mother (Rachel McAdams) to succeed academically, there is even a life plan for the Little Girl, planning her every second through the weeks, months and years to make sure she achieves, though exactly what she is to achieve is never really clear.

little girlOne day, at the start of the school holidays, the Little Girl is left to carry out her life plan alone, the next door neighbour (Jeff Bridges) starts his plane, causing the propeller to crash into her house, leaving a great big hole. After receiving a letter in the form of a paper plane later that night with the beginning of a story on it, she is compelled to ditch her studies and visit the old man next door. From there they strike up a friendship that’s a little like About a Boy meets Pixar.

planeThrough all the time that the little girl and the old aviator spend together he keeps telling her the story of when he met The Little Prince (Paul Rudd) and his adventures, and this the best thing about The Little Prince. It’s a story within a story. The story of the novella is neatly bookmarked between the sections about the little girl, who is trapped in her mother’s dream for her. It is through her time spent with the Aviator and hearing the story of The Little Prince that she is able to enjoy being a child and learns to play and have fun. She learns that books and learning are not the only ways to learn and grow.

prince and foxThe film separates the two different stories with different animation styles. The sections with the Little Girl are all in Pixar level CGI, with all the world around the two protagonists very square and uniform. The sections with The Little Prince use the most amazing stop motion, though it is obviously very modern it really harks back to those old 70s and 80s animated short films, and filled me with nostalgia. I’m a big animation fan, stop motion being my favourite and this was just beautiful to look at.

The story keeps you fully engrossed, though I felt it lost it’s way a little towards the end. I thought it just needed a little tightening, and it manages to flit between the two different sections throughout with ease and precision. I also found at times that it seemed to try a little too hard to be like a Pixar film, especially with it’s soundtrack contains little quaint jazzy numbers, and when it really wants to tug at your heartstrings. I would say that I prefered The Little Prince, partly or my love of stop motion and partly for the sense of wonder and magic held within them.

airplan

All the performances work well, which is a good job considering the great cast list. Jeff Bridges is probably my favourite as The Old Aviator, he manages to be just the right balance of childishly wise and childishly silly, it’s like sitting listening to your favourite grandpa tell you tall tales.

Overall this is a beautiful film. It really explores the themes of childhood and how important it is to run and play and be silly, that books aren’t everything, with a little bit of loss, moving on and learning to be yourself in a world that wants you to conform to boot. I’m not sure if young children would sit through it, as it can be a little slow going compared to a lot of recent movies, but it is certainly a treat for adults who love animation, and great stories about childhood.

★★★★☆

 

My Top 5 Movies About Moving House

Moving, moving, moving. Everyone around me seems to be moving house at the moment, myself included. So with just a couple of weeks to go before I embark on my 10th move in 10 years (seriously) I thought I’d take a look back at some of the best movies that involve moving home in the hopes of trying to fool myself that my move will go better than some of these!

5) Inside Out

insideoutA beautiful film that follows the personified emotions inside the head of Riley, a twelve year old girl as she makes the tough move from Minnesota to San Francisco.

Along the way Riley has to deal with feelings of isolation and fear as she makes her way in a new school, a new house and no moving van with all her home comforts. All whilst also pining for her old life that she loved so much.

Not only is this a movie about how sadness can be an important emotion and is integral to being happy again, but also about the art of mourning the past and being able to move forward.

4) Footloose

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Don’t tell me this doesn’t turn you on?!

So, you’ve just moved into small town America from The bright lights and wind from Chicago only to discover that these red neck hicks have banned dancing! What do you do? You start a dancing rebellion, of course! Well, that’s what Ren McCormick  did!

With his fancy city dancing and new fangled cassette Walkman Ren (Kevin Bacon), brings down the tyranny of the two left footed and really rather dour Father Shaw (John Lithgow), Moore and all the kids danced in the streets.

It’s a perfect cheesy 80s movie with the soundtrack to go with it. It’s so lovable and ban so silly you can’t help but get caught up in it all and by the end you’re dancing with the best of them!

 

3) BeetleJuice

beetleuiceAdam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) are poltergeists stuck in their quaint farmhouse. Despite their best efforts to spook them away, The Deetzes will not move. In their desperation to get rid of this vile couple they employ the services of one Beetleguese, a human exorcist to do the job for them. They end up making friends with Lydia, the daughter whose interest in the ‘Strange and unusual’ allows her to be able to see Adam and Barbera.

Beetlejuice manages to marry up dark comedy and horror in a unique way. One of Tim Burton’s earliest films, it’s full of his visual style and slightly warped sense of humour (anyone who commits suicide is doomed to be a civil servant for their afterlife). It’s a great warning for anyone moving into an old house, you never know, it could be haunted!

2) Coraline

coralineOne of my favourite films, ever. Coraline Jones is a feisty young blue head. She and her parents move into an apartment in a kinda creepy looking flat. Her parents, busy working all the time leave Coraline to explore the grounds and meet the new neighbours. Her adventures bring her to the Other Mother, who tempts Coraline to sew buttons into her eyes by showing her the magical and perfect alternate world she could be inhabiting. 

It’s glorious stop motion animation combines with it’s reluctance to talk down to kids to create a wonderful world that is filled with both beautiful wonder and darkest nightmares all at once.

With a kick ass lead character who can fight for herself and stand up for what is right, this is a great story for young girls. It is also a great story about exploring new places and learning new things, and perhaps that if something appears too be good to to be true, maybe it is.

 

1) Toy Story

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Woody has the cold, dead eyes of a killer

One of the greatest films ever, revolutionising not just CGI animation but how kids films are perceived by the wider public.

In this classic tale of jealousy and betrayal Woody, the rootinest tootinest sheriff in town, starts to get green eyes when a shiney new Buzz Lightyear appears on the scene taking over as the coolest toy in town. A mishap makes it look like Woody got rid of Buzz on purpose, so he goes on a quest to bring Buzz back into the fold, the clock is set, as they need to make it back before the moving van takes Andy and his family to their new home. Culminating in a tense and very emotional scene as Buzz and Woody try to catch up with the van.

This was the first feature length offering from Pixar, and it was an instant success. It’s revolution in CGI animation intrigued audiences, but they took it into their hearts because of the amazingly well developed and lovable characters and universal themes that we can all identify with, even if they are played out by toys.  

Finger crossed I don’t end up with creepy Other Mothers, ghosts or a fight between the toys!

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Though there have been rumours of a new ‘Busters movie for years I never really thought it would happen.  When it was announced that a new movie was not actually happening, like really happening, but that the cast would be all women, I was really looking forward to it. Despite the poor first trailer I stuck by it and stuck up for it, largely on the basis that it was another Melissa McCartney/Kristen Wiig/Paul Feig vehicle. I’ve been a big fan of McCartney and Wiig since Bridesmaids and a fan of Feig ever since he helped Sabrina with science in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

paul eig

As I’m sure you can imagine I was pretty excited when I finally got to see it at the cinema. We paid our money and purchased overprice yet oddly plastic tasting snacks and made our way into the cinema.

It’s at this point that I want to tell you that I had the single greatest cinema experience of my entire life. Sadly, as a purveyor of truth, I cannot.

I had heard from reliable sources that the opening sequence was awe inspiring and simply perfect, maybe it was these high expectations I felt like I was waiting for the life changing moment to begin. It revolves around a tour guide at a ‘haunted house’ that turns out to be really haunted. I’m not trying to say that it was bad, it was pretty good  actually and kinda creepy. I just wanted more from it, it didn’t blow me away.

Next we get introduced to Kristen Wiig’s character, Dr Erin Gilbert. A rather straight laced professor of physics who gets fired from here job at Columbia University. Consequently she has to visit her old schoolyard chum, Dr Abby Yates, an eccentric person who loves Chinese food, played by Melissa McCarthy. Unlike Erin, Abby did not give up on her search for ghosts and proof of life after death. In her search she recruited Dr Jillian Holtzman, (Kate McKinnen) who is pure eccentricity and my favourite of all the characters. The last ‘buster to be recruited is  Patty Tolan, a sassy black lady played by Leslie Jones.

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I must admit that my inner feminist loved seeing a group of four women doing some pretty kick ass moves, and investigating the various strange going on in New York without having a man to lead them in some way (it should come as no surprise that it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours) . The only man to really be a part of the gang is Chris Emsworth as Kevin Beckman, the well meaning, but somewhat simple and misguided secretary. I loved the role reversal of that character, and I must admit that Emsworth plays it brilliantly, often stealing the scene. I hope that this film helps to inspire young women and know that they too can be doctors of science and fight the bad guy without needing a man, and most importantly that she can be a complicated character that is worth so much more than window dressing for the men to stare at (Michael Bay, take note!)

That being said, the main plot involving a loner trying to bring about the end of New York with some kind of strange machines that bring ghosts out of… Ghost… world? failed to draw me in the way I would have liked. It works, I was interested as to what this strange chap was up to, and it kept my attention throughout, I never got bored. I just felt that the plot could sometimes be thrown out of the window in  favour of a neato set piece, and overall could have done with a bit of tightening. I felt at times as I was watching it that it needed more of a world building mythology, as we had with the original.

holtzmanThough the acting standard was good throughout, I felt that Wiig didn’t really give her all, she could have really sunk her teeth into the character and gone all out, and it fell just short of that, with McCartney occasionally joining her. Perhaps it was the requirement of a 12A (PG13 in America) certificate that meant their performances were toned down a little. Though it must be said, again, that it was really refreshing to have strong female characters with a complicated past and feelings. Holtzman was my favourite character, she was just the right amount of weird with a slight tinge of creepiness dashed in for good measure, she is the archetypal mad scientist and I loved her.

pattyThere are laughs to be had here, and I did titter throughout. for me though there were just not enough belly laughs, not enough smart insightful jokes peppered through to make me really think, it at times could be a little silly and puerile. Patty brings most of the good laughs and has some of the best lines. I did find Patty a little problematic at times, for a film full of individual women kicking ass, I felt that she could sometimes slip into a little of a black stereotype, luckily Jones brings lot of intelligence and brilliant humour to the character so they just about get away with it. If there were to be a sequel, I would like there to be a little more development of Patty.

One thing that was no lacking are the effects, they are perfect and manage to bring about a creepy and grossness without going too overboard. I also really liked how they seemed to invoke the style of the original, but they have taken it and improved upon it to make some truly stunning scenes. The end scenes where all hell breaks loose are so well done and the proton beams really look amazing.

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There are many references to the original, some that work well, like the effects, and others not so well. I’m sure others may disagree, but I felt that some certain cameos did not work for me. In a film about kick ass women these moments almost felt like they were getting permission from the men to make this movie, permission they do not need. The film works best when it stands on it’s own two feet and travels down it’s own path, to create something new and original, not just raking over old ground they desperately need to get away from.

This reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise has courted controversy from the moment it was announced, there has been a tirade of abuse from online trolls and misogynists who are under the misguided impression that women are incapable of being Ghostbusters. Whilst I do not believe this to  be a perfect film, I am pleased to say that it at least manages to put those notions to bed.

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The plot needed to be a little tighter, the comedy needed to be funnier and there needs to be less references to the 1984 classic.There are still great things here, the characters are kick ass, intelligent, individual and not dressed up in ridiculous, impracticable outfits, the effects are brilliant and you’ll have a rip roaring good time. It might not have blown me away the way I would have liked, but I still had a good time and you will too.

★★★☆☆

Stranger Things (2016) Review

I have done my best to give you an idea of what this is about without giving away the plot and the ending, as Stranger Things is best enjoyed spoiler free.

I just want to get this out of the way. Netflix is bringing about a new golden age of television on the internet. As it doesn’t rely on selling advertising space in order to make money, Netflix allows its shows more freedom to express themselves and they can afford to take more chances of smaller projects that might have been missed by short sighted executives who need to make a quota.

One of these projects was Stranger Things. It has become somewhat of a hit amongst Netflix subscribers. With it’s powerful and evocative story line, characters and 80s charm.

dungeonsThe story begins with a group of four boys playing Dungeons and Dragons when it’s home-time for the friends of twelve year old Mike who have come round to play. When he arrives home and there is no one around one of the group, Will appears to be attacked and consequently goes missing. The day afterwards a mysterious girl with a shaven head and telekinetic powers appears, kick starting a slow descent into the mysterious goings on surrounding the town of Hawkins, Indiana.

bikeWith it’s depiction of a great adventure on bikes, the resourcefulness of youth and having to hide a mysterious new friend from both The Authorities and parents, you can see how Stranger Things is clearly heavily influenced by those great 80s adventure films like The Goonies and E.T. All this comes together to give the whole thing an amazing charm and a sense of nostalgia for that period. It takes the adventure genre and manages to mix in a massive dollop of Stephen King mystery and thrill riding. The set pieces, the clothes, the movie posters, the music. Even the camera and direction style are all period accurate, and they all come together to create one of the best 80s series not made in the 80s.

winonaI must doff my hat to all the actors involved. Winona Ryder makes a triumphant return to form as Joyce, the beleaguered mother of missing child, Will. Her apparent descent into madness after the disappearance of her son was done well, and though to the outside world it may appear that she is simply going mad with grief, we as the audience are given snippets throughout to give her a method to her madness. The young children all give great performances, Finn Wolfhard as Mike and Millie Bobby Brown (who really shaved her head for the role) as Eleven, or ‘El’ for short are especially great managing to keep a sense of innocence despite some of the horrors they have witnessed. David Harbour as the police Chief Jim Hopper also deserves a mention for his performance as a man battling his own demons as he helps to search for Will and unravel the mystery surrounding his disappearance. It is important to note that they have used age appropriate actors of the roles of the pre-teen and teenager characters which is always nice to see. There’s something quite jarring about seeing people who are almost hitting thirty playing an 18 year old.  

Each episode is a chapter of a story, and though it never leaves you in the middle of the action, like Lost it does, it does have a cliffhanger at the end so you’re always begging for more. I watched it over two days, and I really regret starting it when I didn’t have a spare eight hours to watch it all at once. It manages to drip feed you the information perfectly throughout giving you answers or part answers to questions you’ve been gathering in your mind from the start. It always manages to give you just the right amount to get just enough to satisfy your hunger for more but never too much that you feel like you know what’s going to happen before it does. I would say that around episode seven (there are eight all together) there are one or two moments I felt it was running out of steam a little, but then it pulled it right back for the finale, which was 55 minutes of suspense and excellent payoff.

the gangAll the way through there is a sense of foreboding and terror that gives it an edge that makes it hard to tear yourself away from the screen, though it always makes sure to take a break from the tense energy every now then to show kids just being kids and having fun. Which can be a nerve settling release when you’ve just spent the last twenty minutes on the edge of your seat shouting at the screen for the characters to be safe. Which is probably my biggest criticism, it was so tense and nerve wracking at times I found myself getting a little exhausted.

All of this terror giving way to relative calm is beautifully tied together by the music, which is quite possibly my favourite thing about Stranger Things. The synth wave based soundtrack has been lovingly constructed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. It serves to really draw you in, and perfectly balancing the soft, gentle moments and the more intense scenes perfectly, it really gets under your skin and is another mark of how Stranger Things is able to effortlessly evoke that 80s feeling.

stranger things together

80s movies.  Stephen King. Really good kids adventure movies. Really good mystery thriller films. Great acting. Well played out story. Great Directing. Great Writing. Amazing Soundtrack. If you love at least one of these things then you will enjoy Stranger Things and I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it at the first available opportunity.

★★★★★