All posts by lopezgreen

Checking out some graphic novel type books

Last year at some point during one of the lockdowns I started trying to reading more graphic novel type books, I was getting recommendations from friends and doing alot of browsing to find random books that I could read alongside the regular books I was trying to work through. It’s taken me a little which to write up some of the books I’ve read since then as I tend to go through phases of reading stuff that isn’t what I’d normally pick up but I’ve gradually kept at it so figured it’d be nice to write about some of the books even gif some are more in line with what I’d normally read.

J&K – This was recommended to me by a friend, I mean I say recommended but it was more forewarned. It’s bit of a weird book as from the art style you’d think it’d be quite a cheery kid friendly friendly book but you’d have been suckered in if so. It follows the misadventures of Jay and Kay and it’s all seemingly normal stuff like rocking up to parties and shopping but there’s a weird edge proceedings as weird things like a zit essentially becoming a sentient person happen. There’s a also an oddly dark tone that sets in as the book progresses and tonal shift is interesting but also jarring, and there’s latterly almost a sense of dread regarding the characters. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting that’s for sure but it’s well worth a read if only to experience it and I’m definitely glad I gave it a go. The hardback version comes with some weird little add ins like a vinyl record which are delightfully odd and realistically probably a little useless for alot of people but just increases the overall charm of things.

Sad Ghost Club – I initially bought this because it seemed kind of cute and because I was curious so see what it was about. Turns out it is pretty cute and it’s essentially about a ghost called Sam who is very much trapped in their own head over-analysing every little thing which is something I can really identify with. Sam essentially after a seemingly mundane day which is pretty overwhelming decides to go to a party and feels a little out of place, while there they make start chatting to another ghost is seemingly like minded and you get the sense that them talking helps each other. It’s possibly the most I’ve ever identified with a book character, and I’d say it’s definitely trying to make discussion about mental health a little easier and more approachable. It’s a very sweet book which honestly I didn’t expect to identify with the way I did. It also has contact details for a number of mental health resources at the end of the book which I thought was cool as it’s something that may help someone who is struggling in some capacity and honestly that’s something that’s not always as obvious for people at times so it’s nice that they’re provided.

Lost at Sea – This one was a re-read of a book I hadn’t read in ages, it’s written by Bryan Lee O’Malley and was his first book before he did the Scott Pilgrim books. It follows Raleigh as she travels with people from her school she doesn’t really know, she believes a cat stole her soul and seems to be carrying a weight with her. As the book goes on you learn more about that weight and she starts to befriend her companions. It’s a book that has always really resonated with me as Raleigh is a very relatable character, which I guess is the point there. It’s a nice book too as while it’s sad for the most part due to the way Raleigh sees herself and her situation it’s great because it becomes much more hopeful towards the end of the book and seemingly ends with Raleigh in a much better place which is really encouraging to me. It’s a book that despite not having read in a while I can remember how the ending made me feel so it was nice to revisit the full story and build up to that ending, especially as I think I maybe have a different take away to it now than I did when I originally read it ages ago.

I Love this Part – Another recommendation, this book by Tillie Walden (who’ll appear again on this list oddly), isn’t a particularly long book and each comic panel essentially takes up a page but it’s book that sticks with you well after the fact. It follows two young girls as their relationship evolves and ends, the art is solid and the dialogue is minimalist but captures the earnestness of the characters. It’s poignant and bittersweet and I think it can be a little ambiguous in terms of the subtext but my take away from it was that sometime regardless of feelings the timing just absolutely sucks for whatever reason and I think that’s something that’s a pretty universal thing as are the feelings that go with it. It’s impressive how much emotion it manages to convey in the limited page count, I’ve since found out it’s available as part of a collection called Alone in Space too if you wanted to check out other stories by Walden too.

On a Sun Beam – The other Tillie Walden book on the list, I bought this randomly at the start of the pandemic as I liked the art on the cover and then never actually read it. Obviously remedied this after the previous book and loved everything about it but especially the art and the use of colour within. It started life as a webcomic and the book is a collected volume. Mia is the main character and there are 2 plot lines, one following her in present time of the scifi setting the book takes place in and one when she was at school and it’s fascinating how they eventually link in together. The characters are all well brought to life and you feel like you’re getting to know them all over the course of the book. Honestly annoyed at myself for leaving it as long as I did but also happy that I’d bought it in the first place to then read after I Love this Part.

Lucky Penny – This was picked up from Forbidden Planet at a point where I was looking for new books that weren’t ones I already knew anything about and this one stood out for me as the cover reminded me a little of Scott Pilgrim. The art style is sort of similar but what’s impressive is the way that shading is used to enhance what is in theory a pretty basic black and white colour scheme. Penny is a great character and I found her oddly relatable despite being somewhat exaggerated, it’s a fun book though and does get pretty insane towards the end and doesn’t really do an amazing job of explaining it which is a little odd. I think my only real complaint about it is that there isn’t more of it because I’d have liked to have seen more of Penny and I think building up to the weirdness and expanding on it would have been beneficial, that being said I’m definitely glad I picked it up as it was alot of fun and really endearing in places.

Suki Alone – Most of the Avatar comic books so far have followed on from where the TV show ended, there’s been some side stories but this is the first book that fills in gaps. It shows what happens to the character of Suki at 2 points when the series moved on from where she was, the first where she leaves home to try and help other people and the second where she’s imprisoned. It’s good because there was always the feeling that Suki didn’t quite get her dues in the series as she didn’t really join the gang until after her rescue from the prison so it’s always nice to see more of her as she’s a really good character and the book is as enjoyable as all the others and the art is great, which I guess is a little easier to do when you’re basing in on an animated show so therefore have a consistent basis to work from. My only real criticism, and this is more for these Avatar books in general, is that they never feel long enough.

Batman: The Detective – Tom Taylor might be my favourite comic book writer at the moment and this one story is an interesting concept. The villain of the piece is taking out people that Batman has saved in the past, and the reasons behind this once you find them out are really interesting and actually raise a fascinating conundrum about the ripple effect of what Batman does and whether the rigidity of his moral code is always for the best. Art wise it’s not completely my cup of tea, especially in comparison to something Taylor has written where the art is done by someone like Bruno Redondo. I’m not saying it’s a bad looking book at all, there’s some very striking visuals at play and it perfectly captures the tone of the writing, it’s just that I’ve been spoiled with some truly stunning books of late so I’m probably unfairly comparing more than anything. 

Life is Strange: Dust – A follow up to the game that is the first volume of 6 collections of the comic, it ties together the 2 possible endings to the game nicely and builds on the themes from the game too. I loved the game so it was really nice to see the continuing adventures of Max and Chloe even if there’s an emotional gut punch towards the end which I’ve not managed to get out of my head. I’d assume it’ll be resolved over the course of the series but the last volume isn’t out as yet so I’m trying to resist the temptation to read all the others until then so that I can binge it all in one go pretty much. I expected it to be a comic that I’d broadly enjoy which would ultimately be a bit throwaway but if it continues along the lines of the first book then I think I’m going to be very impressed, it’s massively ambitious and the creative team clearly care for the characters in the same way the audience does, I’m not looking forward to the potential heartbreak along the way even if I suspect there’ll be a happy ending.

Giant Days – I’m not even sure how I found this, possibly someone recommended it on Reddit or something but it looked amusing and I fancied something new to read so picked up the first trade paperback. One of the main characters is from Northampton which I didn’t realise going in but gave me a personal connection off the bat and it didn’t hurt that she wasn’t very flattering about it either which amused me no end. IT being set at Sheffield Uni allowed from some very British humour which I very much appreciated and it’s odd to read some of the slang I’ve said loads over the years but haven’t really ever read much in books previously. There’s an entire chapter in the book about the 3 main characters getting colds and how they each cope with it and it’s honestly brilliant, partially because it’s very funny and partially because there’s so many parts where I gave a wry smile at recognising some elements of how I react to getting a cold and I think that sums up the book nicely and I know I’ll be checking out more of this.

Overall I’d say I’ve done quite well, reading some of these has been particularly fun as it reminded me of when I was a kid and would go to a used book market with my nan and pick books up based purely on the blurb on the back and the cover as there was no internet at that point for me to do research with. Also didn’t hurt that largely I picked up things I’d read again  which I see as a win, but it’s been quite fun and it’s nice getting to expand my reading a bit and it’s definitely added a range of other book to my list of intended reading.

Cinema cards are something of a mixed blessing

Time to discuss more films I’ve seen as I’m going to the cinema a bit more often so far this year. There’s a load of stuff on streaming that I need to get to at some point but I’m at least watching alot of the new stuff coming out on the big screen though there’s obviously a caveat there about seeing stuff that isn’t always reviewed great to try and make my own mind up.

Moonfall – Let’s be real, at this point you can be broadly certain of how a disaster film by Roland Emmerich is going to wind up being, that is to say absolutely batshit and generally falling into the entertainingly bad category. It feels like with this one, where the moon is falling and on a collision course with the Earth might be his most ridiculous premise yet, especially as aliens seem to be a factor too based on the trailer, and if I’m being honest it’s hard to see where he goes from here as it’s difficult to see a bigger threat than the moon hitting the planet. I will say I had adjusted my expectations suitably going in and I had a good time with it even if it’s a preposterous load of bollocks, but there’s so many things it just gets completely wrong in film making terms. Patrick Wilson is a solid main character but he’s given such a cliched back story at the start of the film to explain why he’s a pariah with his family and with NASA that it’s borderline insulting, he’s engaging enough that you can just about get past that but Christ does it always have to be the case to have a character have to deal with this sort of shite at this point. John Bradley is fun as the comic relief but again he’s a stereotype, though at least as comic relief he’s not the butt of the jokes so that.s something. The film is hugely CGI heavy which often gets very messy when the disaster porn ramps up and the fact that the trailer uses Bad Money Rising as the backing music but it’s not in the film feels like a missed opportunity. The film also endeavours to waste actors of the caliber of Michael Pena and Donald Sutherland, the latter of which is literally in the film for about 2 minutes and the role is completely throwaway. It also falls in to the Emmerich trap where it follows 2 groups of characters separately and you only really care about what’s happening with one of those, in this case the space bound part of the story is far more interesting than the Earth based portion which is a shame. In terms of what it does well Halle Berry is very good in her role, it’s honestly great to see her getting more roles again and she and Wilson play very well of each other, in spite of the excessive CGI there’s some genuinely impressive shots in there, some of the more understated moments like the shuttle first hitting space in particular look great and the whole thing manages to stay entertaining throughout despite the clearly batshit premise. I think the story was always going to be problematic as there’s not really a way to ground something as ludicrous as the moon on a collision course with the planet coupled with the existence of some sort of alien antagonist, it actually manages to get more batshit with some of the reveals later in the film too and it somehow leaves room for a sequel you’d have to assume will never get made. In truth the cast do their absolute best with the material but there’s no escaping the fact that ultimately you can’t polish a turd, just make it an entertaining train wreck.

Jackass Forever – Full disclosure I’ve never been a fan of Jackass, I’m not opposed to it but it’s just always been one of those things that I’ve never really gotten into. I’ve watched the previous films when someone has put them on largely for drunken background noise while doing something else. They’re not films in the conventional sense as there’s no real plot and it’s just a bunch of guys doing stupid shit to themselves and each other, and while I’ve found some stuff amusing historically, generally I’ve just thought it’s all a bit pointless. That being said some of the guys involved have somehow managed to actually make me give a shit about them, I have a soft spot Johnny Knoxville, Steve O and Chris Pontius, though equally I also detest some of them like Bam Margera. Bam isn’t in this latest film owing to a seeming breakdown in his relationship with some of the other guys due to his personal demons, I can’t stay I was sad about this as I’ve always thought he comes across as a cock but hopefully he’ll sort himself out in time. In terms of the film it’s largely great seeing most of the guys back together as they all still play off each other really well, they largely take less risks in this outside some of the bigger stuff Knoxville does, Pontius in particular doesn’t take many risks outside of a snapping turtle to the wang which I can’t imagine was much fun. There’s a distinct focus on cock based trauma as Steve O has bees all over his junk at one point which naturally leads to stinging which can’t be much fun, Dave England (who is probably the MVP throughout the film) also does a cup challenge which is basically involves him taking a hockey puck and softball at full pelt to the dick and also being punched by a heavyweight MMA fighter, it’s bloody brutal. What I didn’t really like so much are the newer guys, they’re clearly massive fans of the whole Jackass thing but the fact that they’re clearly so happy to be there and go along with things where had the entertainment for me was the realisation of the originals that mistakes had been made, it’s all well intentioned but it definitely takes something away. It’s also a bit hard to watch some of the stunts, especially one with Knoxville where you know he got pretty severely hurt and there’s. It basically confirmed to me that Jackass will probably never be something I’m fully invested in and film wise it’s a bit shit given it’s just a glorified TV episode but it’s not the worst film I’ve seen this year and my mate loved it and I’ve dragged him to some absolute shit in the past so ultimately it’s not the end of the world.

Death on the Nile – Kenneth Branagh has the shittest luck (or very questionable taste in leading men), Murder on the Orient Express was released around the time Johnny Depp was subject of a domestic violence scandal which hasn’t gone away and with this sequel having been delayed due to the pandemic the new release date coincided with a number of accusations being levelled again one of the main stars Armie Hammer and while I’m not up to speed on the details of the full extent of it all what I have read is pretty horrific and he’s been kept very far away from the media rounds for the film which is probably sensible. As such it’s a very weird experience to watch a film where it’s impossible to warm to a character for a reason outside the scope of the film, you’d hope to christ this sort of thing is going to go away bloody quickly but sadly that’s probably not going to be the case. Back to the film, it’s difficult to discuss the plot too heavily as the mystery is very much the key to the film, needless to say it follows Hercule Poirot solving a murder on a boat on the Nile, it’s got me interested in reading the Poirot books as I’ve become conscious that I basically have no basis of knowledge of the character outside of these films and from speaking to a friend there are a fair few elements that have been changed. What I can say is that I do enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of the character, I think he’s possibly played a little too comedically but I have no frame of reference there so it could be bang on in relation to the books, he’s always engaging. In terms of the rest of the supporting cast you’ve got people like Gal Gadot, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Annette Bening, Russell Brand and various others, across the board there are solid performances though there are some people like Rose Leslie who are very good but feel a little wasted but I think that’s sometimes a risk with an ensemble cast. Some of the special effects are a little ropey in places but it still manages to be visually impressive as Branagh has an eye for an easy on the eye shot, and he definitely makes the most of the Egypt setting too. Overall it’s a really solid film that’s hugely overshadowed by a controversy that the filmmakers had no control over, I’m not sure whether Hammer had a reputation prior to everything that has subsequently come out but I’d be very surprised to see him in a high profile film ever again, as it is him being in the film adds a layer of discomfort to watching it. It’ll be interesting to see how the film performs overall as it’s been reviewed reasonably well as far as I can tell, I rather suspect there may not be a further sequel this time though.

Uncharted – Video game adaptations are typically shit, either unsuitable games are chosen for films, the source material is broadly ignored or a film will try and cram in elements that might work within the game that don’t so much in a film given that they’re different experiences. Uncharted was always one that felt like it should work as a film with no real issues, you’ve got a wise cracking Indiana Jones-esque hero in Nathan Drake and a grizzled mentor with a heart of gold in Victor Sullivan, plus the games are hugely cinematic anyway with some outstanding action set pieces so there’s a lot to draw from. It’s then a shame that the actual film turns out to be just a lazily made, generic action film, you have continuity gaps such 2 characters being fully submerged in water and then in the next scene you have one who still has wet hair and the other has perfectly dry hair and this happens more than once and is incredibly noticeable everytime, you also have huge gaps in logic like a part where Drake sends the bad guys to a different location to the one where everyone actually needs to go but then pops past said area in a boat so that the bad guys see him on the way and then track him to the actual location which is just idiotic and really hurts the image of Drake as being clever which they try to go for multiple times so it’s frustrating that he does something so stupid even gif you basically know it’s a plot device to ensure there’s some conflict in the final part of the film. Casting wise it’s bit of a mixed bag Tom Holland in theory should be good a young Drake and he does show signs of growing into the role as the film progresses but there’s a feeling he’s just being Peter Parker, especially early on, though at least the character is broadly recognisable in relation to the Nathan Drake of the games so there’s hope there for any potential sequels. Antonio Banderas and Tati Gabrielle are both solid as the villains of the film but are disappointingly one dimensional, Sophia Ali is great as Chloe Frazier who helps Drake and Sully over the course of the film. In terms of Mark Wahlberg you essentially know he’s going to be playing the same character in every film more or less, as such it feels massively out of place in this film and that’s not helped by the fact that they’ve changed the character of Sully so that he’s a backstabbing arsehole who is only out for himself which is the thing they get most wrong and it really harms the film. There’s some great action sequences, the plane one in particular which is lifted from the games is great and the final sequence on the old ships is alot of fun too, it’s just a shame that everything that links it all together is so disjointed. That said there is potential there for any future sequel so hopefully if one does happen they learn some lessons from this so that a better film is made.

Studio 666 – This is one of those random films which I didn’t know existed up until seeing a trailer a few weeks before it released, it’s a comedy horror film that stars the Foo Fighters which sounds insane. Obviously they aren’t actors so there was an expectation that it might not be great but the trailer made it look damn good fun if nothing else and it’s pretty impossible not to like Dave Grohl at this stage as he just seems to be a top bloke. As it stands he’s comfortably the best thing in it, the talented bastard, it genuinely feels like he can do anything he decides he wants to do and do it well. The rest of the band are solid and I think lean into the fact they’re not actors and it just feels like they’re bantering with each other for the most part such is the easy going way they play off each other. The other advantage of leaning into the comedy is that you can get away with things that a more traditional horror might not, there’s some definite less than stellar CGI on offer here but because it’s not playing it entirely seriously it’s much more easy to let it go and just enjoy it for what it is, and you also just nod and smile at some of the more silly bits. ~The ending is a prime example of this, it probably keeps going longer than it needs to and doesn’t seem sure on how to end which combined with the sheer ludicrousness does weaken the film a little but again it’s amusing and the film isn’t too long overall so it just about manages not to overstay its welcome. The non band cast are all solid even though they’re not in it too much, the band naturally being the main focus of the film, there are some fun cameos though which are well done.Plot wise it’s essentially band go to a murder house to record a new album, not knowing past of said house and unpleasant shenanigans ensue. It’s fairly run of the mill in terms of what you’re used to in a horror film but tonally it feels like a creepier Evil Dead 2 type, there’s definitely some slapstick stuff in there and the gore and violence can be a little cartoony in places but it doe a fantastic job at building tension ,there are points where you’re just dreading a jump scare and points where a jump scare came out of nowhere. This is the sort of film where having a cinema card is a huge advantage, it’s one where you make a judgement call based on the trailer and just take the risk on it not being completely dogshit, thankfully in this case it was a gamble worth taking though I think it’ll be the last horror film for a while at least.

The Batman – A new Batman film is always going to be a must see for me, he’s probably the comic book character I’m the most familiar with at this points so it’s always interesting to see what a director is going to do to stamp their own mark on things. I’m going to avoid going into the plot as it’s broadly typical super hero stuff, it’s everything else that makes it distinctive so I thought I’d go over what I liked and disliked about the film while trying to avoid giving too much away as it’s definitely a film that’s worth experiencing fresh if at all possible. The 3 hour run time is on the face of it prohibitive and by the end it definitely feels its run time as the last hour feels like it potentially could have been scaled back a bit, that being said for the vast majority of it the run time feels quite brisk as it’s well paced and uses the run time to build atmosphere, which is done incredibly effectively. Some characters are underserved to a certain extent, Alfred in particular and Jim Gordon and Penguin to lesser extents but that does come with the caveat that you’d expect them to get more focus in any sequels. I think that’s sort of the key to the film, there’s a definite sense that it’s building something, while I don’t necessarily agree with the last third there’s a definite sense that it’s being done with one eye on setting Gotham up with a new status quo to be used in the future. The cast is phenomenal, Andy Serkis, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro and Peter Sarsgaard are all excellent though I do wish they’d gotten more screen time. Paul Dano is skin crawling as a very different take on the Riddler than has been seen to date and Zoe Kravitz is a really good Catwoman who gets some decent emotional beats to work with and nails them. Obviously the key to the film is Robert Pattinson as Batman and I personally thought he was great it’s a different take on Batman in that he’s seemingly lost himself in his mission and as a result really doesn’t spend much time as Bruce Wayne, to the point where it almost feels like an origin story of sorts for Wayne rather than Batman which is a really interesting dynamic for me. Soundtrack and cinematography both contributed hugely to what is a hugely atmospheric film, as a result Gotham City feels like a very distinct location and pretty different to other interpretations which was surprising and honestly any film that finds a place for a Nirvana song on the soundtrack is doing alright in my books. The action sequences are very good, the car chase in particular is a highlight, and it’s fun getting to see more of a focus on the detective element of the character. There were design choices for the Batsuit and Batmobile that I wasn’t sold on but seeing them in action and in context they work far better than I initially anticipated, in fact that’s sums things up nicely – I expected it to be good but to not like artistic choices that were made and that ended up not being the case, I appreciated that the choices set the film apart and allowed it to be its own beast and I honestly loved the tone and can’t wait to see how they progress things in the next film.

The Adam Project – I was onboard with this the minute I found out it had Ryan Reynolds and Mark Ruffalo in it, I didn’t even know what type of film it was at that point, though I will say the fact it was a Netflix film made me lower my expectations, I was expecting it to be a fun but throwaway film, something that was largely cemented when I found out it was a time travel film. As it happens it’s more than just a time travel film, it’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster as there’s science fiction, action, family drama and a love story smashed together, and on paper it shouldn’t work but it really clicked for me. It’s got a fantastic cast, joining Reynolds and Ruffalo are Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Garner and Catherine Keener though the standout is probably Walker Scobell as the younger version of of Reynolds’ character Adam, he and Reynolds bantering off each other is a definite highlight. There’s some pretty glaring issues, the sci fi elements have really generic designs which is a shame, the special effects are occasionally solid but inconsistent and the de-aging used on Keener’s character looks pretty ropey even if they try to disguise it somewhat by using camera angles. Garner and Saldana realistically aren’t in it enough but by Christ what there is of them is used amazingly, they both make a significant impact and there’s an interaction between Reynolds and garner that’s easily one of my favourite moments in the film. Ruffalo brings his usual charm and warmth to his role as the father of Adam, who is essentially responsible for creating the time travel that makes the events of the film possible and Reynolds broadly gets to do his schtick though what’s nice here is that he gets to go beyond that as there’s some complexity to his character where the quips aren’t just all he has going on and his interactions with his younger self as well as the other characters are what gives the film some emotional heft and honestly it’s nice to see even if it’s more of a tweak of the usual formula. Time travel is the usual nonsense though it seems to know this and approach it with tongue very much in cheek which is helpful and seems to at least try to be consistent though time travel will always make this difficult, it certainly wasn’t as seemingly convoluted as some attempts I’ve seen so there’s that. Overall it was a pleasant surprise, I think it benefitted hugely from making the emotional core of the film the main focus though part of me does wish that there’d been more for some of the characters but considering what I was expecting going in this is a small niggle. I’d say it’s the best Netflix film I’ve seen thus far and though that could very much come across as damning with faint praise where I honestly really enjoyed this.

Phantom of the Open – The blessing of having a cinema card is that you can basically go and see any films that look interesting without worrying too much about it, this was one that I’d never heard of prior to seeing the trailer for it, I also had never heard of the truth story that it was based on. It’s the story of Maurice Flitcroft, a man with no prior golf experience who decides to enter the qualifying for the British open and proceeds to shoot the worst round in the history of the tournament, so bad was the score that he was subsequently banned so to get round this he took to disguising himself and adopting a fake name in order to play. Mark Rylance plays Flitcroft and is as solid as he generally seems to be in the films I’ve seen him in to date, Rhys Ifans plays the golfing bigwig that bans him, the rest of the cast I’m not really familiar with but are all decent and the standout for me was Sally Hawkins as Flitcroft’s wife Jean who I think is the emotional core of the film. There are some odd choices with the film, the chief of which is that there are some dream sequence type things which seem weirdly out of place as they add a surreal aspect which doesn’t really go anywhere given that they’re not massively present. I also think that the film didn’t use the fake golfer element to the story to the fullest extent as given some of the fake names he apparently used it does feel like there was more scope to focus on that and play into the comedy much more than it does, to the point where it actually feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity which is a shame as the comedy is done well and I laughed a fair few times, there’s some fun one liners too which often raise a smirk. It instead focusses much more on the family element of things and Flitcroft’s relationship with his wife and kids, this is all very well done though it does possibly wind up being a bit too twee for my tastes though it tells a really sweet story and Rylance and Hawkins play off each other really well and very much have you wanting a happy ending. I particularly enjoyed the end credits as it shows videos of the real Flitcroft which acts a nice little bookend to the film. Overall it’s not a film I’d have likely paid to see but it was good natured, easy going fun and was definitely a feel good film.

Ambulance – This is another one that was largely picked due to the cinema card and the fact that there wasn’t much else on at the cinema at the time it’s also the latest Michael Bay film so one I approached with caution, given that in recent times his output has been of a questionable quality. The fact that it’s got Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II piqued my interest though as they’re both generally very good in the things I’ve seen them in, in this they’re brothers, one a bank robber and one a veteran struggling to make ends meet and provide for his family so is roped into helping with a robbery. Naturally the robbery goes bad and they have to get away an in doing so they steal an ambulance which has a paramedic, played by Eiza Gonzalez, who is trying to keep an injured policeman alive during all of this. Given my trepidation given the directors more recent films I went into this with what I thought were appropriate expectations, turns out I was wrong and I found it to be worse than I was expecting. The first thing that strikes you is how incompetent everyone seems to be, Danny’s (Gyllenhaal) crew are seemingly new in town and fuck up very quickly which devolves into a shit show with the police who despite being seemingly a team for this exact situation don’t seem to know what they’re doing and then a criminal gang factors into proceedings later on and they’re as utterly useless as everyone else. The editing is a little more restrained than usual for Bay, though he seems to want to make the most of using a drone for filming with some of the shots which is a little off putting, he also scales back the disaster porn significantly though there is still plenty of vehicular carnage if that’s your thing. The run time is over 2 hours and that definitely feels like it could have been trimmed for a more focussed film as it definitely feels like there’s stuff that could have been cut out. There are some positives, Gonzalez and Abdul-Mateen II are both engaging and ground the film to an extent, Gyllenhaal does his best and is alot of fun but he’s badly served by a script that has his character wind up being massively inconsistent and honestly it’s nice to see Garret Dillahunt on screen as the police captain. I genuinely think it’s one of the worst films I’ve seen this year and it’s made so much worse by the self fellatio Bay is partaking in with this where there’s parts where he references some of his older films and actually quotes The Rock at one point. I don’t think I’ve sighed so much during a film as I say I really wasn’t expecting much but fucking hell.

Morbius – The latest film from Sony’s Spiderman universe that they’re seemingly trying to build, this one has had something of a troubled production as it’s been delayed something like 7 times at this point and also apparently underwent extensive re-shoots, which is presumably pretty accurate given that some things from the trailers have changed dramatically and not in the typical way Marvel deliberately put fake stuff in there. It’s off the back of this and the fact that I’ve not been sold on the two Venom films that I was expecting this to be a bit of a shit show, especially given that Jared Leto is typically excellent or terrible in films with very little middle ground there in my opinion. Well turns out it’s not so much a shit show as an utter fucking train wreck, there are very few redeeming features at play here so there’s start with the positives, Jared Leto is very good as the main and only really defined character in the whole thing, the soundtrack is great and really adds some atmosphere to proceedings and Matt Smith seems to know what he’s starring in and hams it up to glorious effect, taking a very one note role and adding a sense of fun where there probably shouldn’t be and there’s one inventive set piece involving a corridor and motion activated lights. In terms of the negatives there’s a shit load, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal are all wasted in supporting roles and Michael Keaton essentially cameos where the trailers had given an indication he’d feature more. The special effects are embarrassing for a super hero film at this point in time, the “smoke” effects when Morbius is using his powers are ridiculous and the the final 10 minutes or so are essentially such a mess that’s it’s difficult to tell what’s going on at times, to the point where it may be worse than the final battle in the non MCU Hulk film which is pretty terrible. There’s some truly shocking continuity issues on display, possibly the worst being that Harris’ character appears to be the exact same age in modern day and flashbacks despite there being twenty or thirty year gap between them. It feels very much like a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a film, it genuinely feels like it’s been randomly pieced together at times and some of the editing is horrific, the use of slow motion is woeful, with some sequences jumping from slow mo to normal speed multiple times which is just terrible. Add to all this that the post credit scenes are utter bollocks and make no sense whatever and you’ve got one of the worst comic movies ever made in my opinion, just shockingly shit to the point where Sony should really be re-evaluating their game plan for their live action Spiderman universe.

There was alot of disappointments on this one, we’re moving into the summer type season soon though where alot of the big films for the year tend to be released so hopefully the next piece should be alot less moaning from me.

Starting 2022 off with films, naturally

2022 might be a fairly interesting yer for film watching as there’s shitloads on the streaming services I should start making my way through finally and my best mate now also has a cinema pass so we’ve already decided to check out films we’d probably ordinarily give a miss to given it doesn’t cost us any extra to go. There’s a fair few things coming out this year that I know I want to watch and there’s always the obscure stuff I’ve never heard of and classic films I’ve not seen so hopefully there’ll be some nice surprises there but this is the initial batch of films I’ve watched so far.

The Matrix Resurrections – I was surprised at being intrigued by this given I hated the second and third films in the series, predominantly because the original trilogy ends on a pretty definitive note but also because the first film was such an amazing surprise, but also a product of it’s time so I was interested to see how they’d make something that was more in line with today, I will concede I wasn’t expecting much though. I’m going to damn with faint praise here but it was actually pretty enjoyable, it’s absolutely nonsensical how Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are brought back but somehow it just about works, they’re understandably the key to the film and thankfully they’re both solid. They’re ably supported by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who replaces Laurence Fishbourne as Morpheus, this re-casting is explained and makes a degree of sense if you don’t think too hard about it but regardless of all that he does a really good job of paying tribute to Fishbourne while also getting to do a bit of his own thing with the role. Jonathan Groff takes over from Hugo Weaving as Smith and seems to relish the role and is definitely a very enjoyable part of the movie and if they do more films off the back of this it’d be interesting to see what he’d do with it. Jessica Henwick and Neil Patrick Harris round out the main cast and they’re both really good too, in all honestly the issues I have with the film aren’t anything to do with the cast. The main issues for me are that it leans too heavily into the nostalgia of the previous films, with a hell of a lot of flashbacks which does take a toll on the pacing a little as it breaks up the flow quite a bit. It’s also a bit to meta for it’s own good and alot of it lands as more eye rolling than anything else. The doesn’t seem to know whether the peace Neo sacrificed for held properly or whether the machines are essentially under new management and there are factions within the machines that aren’t so keen on the peace. Most of the special effects are pretty amazing, it’s not the groundbreaker the first film was but it’s still very very good though there is one specific sequence which doesn’t look quite right and it’s at a pivotal point in the film where the plot starts to try to tie together so that’s a bit of a shame, the last battle sequence is also too chaotic, it’s a bit difficult to track at points and while it employs some interesting concepts it never gives anything the opportunity to fully develop before it moves onto the next thing. Ultimately it’s a fun but overly convoluted film that is just completely unnecessary, this is pretty much perfectly encapsulated by the post credit scene which is pointless and just didn’t need to be made.

Red Notice – The latest big budget Netflix film, it follows the usual formula they tend to have in that there’s a core group on big name actors, in this case Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot and the remaining cast is largely made up of actors I’ve never actually heard of. I don’t mean this to be disrespectful to those actors as hats off to them and I hope it leads to them breaking out and becoming big names themselves but at this point they’re not the reason for people watching. As it is I was expecting a fun if pointless action comedy with Johnson and Reynolds playing their typical roles – charismatic hard man and snarky motor mouth respectively, roles they could play in their sleep at this point. Plot wise it’s a massive cliche as Johnson’s FBI agent John Hartley is framed by Gal Gadot’s Bishop  and has to work with Nolan Booth, played by Reynolds, who has been previously arrested by Hartley so that they can stop her and Hartley can clear his name. There’s the usual bickering and distrust between the odd couple pairing combined with the typical gradual bonding that always happens with these sorts of things. It’s every bit as predictable as expected, there’s the occasional wrinkle in proceedings that at least add a degree of freshness to how it feels though there are so many instances where you have to basically disengage your brain due to the sheer ridiculousness as to think about some of it too hard basically makes you realise how much sheer bollocks thy’ve crammed in to the film. Gadot is a solid antagonist and as expected Johnson and Reynolds do what they do which actually never seems to get old though you’d assume it’s going to at some point. It’s a great looking film, and I really enjoyed some of the camerawork as that’s some really nice tracking and panning shots on offer so definitely have to compliment the director on that though the Ed Sheeran cameo is cringe inducing so points are definitely taken off for that. There’s a twist which is pretty cool but is overplayed to the point where it’s actually a little irritating and the ending is just plain shite as it’s essentially just sequel bait and there’s no clear resolution of the film. Ultimately it’s a well shot film where the stars are solid without every really having to step out of their comfort zones and it’s badly let down by a generic script, Christ only knows if it’ll get a sequel but you’d hope a better script would be a must if there were to be one.

The Kings Man – I have to say I wasn’t expecting much of this going in, it’s a prequel to the two Kingsman films and the second of those while entertaining did kind of feel like it’d run out of ideas to some extent so I was expecting more of the same with this. It’s got a great cast with Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou and Harris Dickinson, and you’ve got actors like Charles Dance, Rhys Ifans, Tom Hollander, Daniel Bruhl and Stanley Tucci in there in smaller roles. The film naturally follows the events that lead to the formation of the Kingsman agency seen in the original films and in that sense it can be a little annoying at times as there’s naturally lots of winks and callbacks there which while understandable can feel a little forced in places. What I did like in terms of the story is that it’s tied into events linked to World War 1, I like when real life events are worked into a story so that it’s things you’re familiar with but a novel spin is put on things (obviously when done well) and here it was effective in terms of getting me invested in what was happening. I did worry about the humour of the film as I didn’t think what was on display, especially in the second film, would translate especially well into the time period as it was a little over the top but they’ve almost gone the opposite way and kept it very serious for the most part, and actually while it works in context it also does take away some of the charm the series had established to this point, that said the Rasputin sequence leans into the weirdness and that lends for alot of amusement and the rest of the humour tends to be much drier which I did enjoy so it’s not the end of the world. Some of the effects are a little ropey in places but I think that’s par for the course on most films that don’t have an absolutely enormous budget and there’s nothing that ruins the film, it certainly doesn’t detract from the action sequences either which are largely excellent. To that end Matthew Vaughn knows what he’s doing with action, the sequences here are inventive and well shot which complements the narrative, some of it is naturally a little over the top and that’s where the fact it takes itself a bit too seriously actually pays off. There’s a couple of surprises over the course of the film, one which I genuinely wasn’t expecting at all but which makes sense in context and the other pertaining to the reveal of the main villain which was a surprise and pulled back to an instinctive reaction I’d had earlier in the film and then forgotten all about which was quite cool, in both instances though they work well. Ultimately I really enjoyed it, far from perfect but it’s fun and makes me want to see other Kingsman films set within other key events on the past as there’s definitely legs there I’d say.

The Tender Bar – This was one I was always going to be interested in, a George Clooney directed, Ben Affleck starring film ticks a few boxes which pique my interest from the get go. The film is based on the memoir of a journalist called JR Moehringer (who I confess I’d never heard of), the film covers off his growing up and going to Yale for the most part, you have Daniel Ranieri as the young JR and Tye Sheridan as the older JR. Affleck plays JR’s uncle Charlie, Lily Rabe plays his mother, Christopher Lloyd as his grandfather and Max Martini as his absentee father. There are strong performances across the board, Rabe is great as JR’s mother, as a character she’s had a rough go of it but her absolute belief in him, Christopher Lloyd is good fun as the curmudgeonly old man who isn’t happy that is adult family all seem to end up moving back in with hi, though he is under utilised and Martini is suitably effective as the scumbag arsenal but the film realistically belongs to Affleck, Sheridan and Ranieri. Ranieri is a suitably sweet kid in need of a father figure, Sheridan is a man who is struggling to reconcile what he wants to do with his life and the realities of having to make compromises and Affleck is the father figure dishing out advice, looking out for JR and doing his best to steer him down the right path. The character interactions between JR and his family are where the film shines and is where a lot of the heart comes from, Affleck is on good form with an easy going charm as he dispenses wisdom and honestly the way he plays off both Sheridan and Ranieri is a delight. Sheridan has been in other films I’ve seen and honestly I’ve never actually liked him, that may be more the roles he’s played than him to be completely honest but here he’s incredibly likeable, which makes me suspect he’s very good at getting into the characters he’s playing. I personally think it’s well directed, it flows well and does a good job of conveying the fact that it takes place in the seventies and eighties. The fact that it’s a character driven drama film means that it can feel a little slow at times but I didn’t find that the time dragged at all which can happen. Issues I have with it are that it doesn’t necessarily always seem very well focussed and as a result some elements don’t always seem to pay off, though I concede that this could be accurate to how the book is. This also extends to the ending as again I’m not sure if it mirrors the point the book ends or if the point is chosen for effect but it feels like an odd place to end and that there should be more, though him seemingly leaving town for a new chapter in his life does feel appropriate and it also has a really great shot as he drives off into the distance. It was a genuinely sweet film though and one that I found to be quite heartwarming and honestly sometimes you just need that.

House of Gucci – I didn’t know much about the story of Maurizio Gucci beyond the fact he was murdered so the opportunity to see this knowing it was a Ridley Scott film and they’re generally worth watching at the very least had me intrigued, the fact Adam Driver was in it and I don’t think I’ve seen him not be solid at worst in a role added to this. The film is based on a book and covers Maurizio meeting his wife Patrizia and their falling in love up to his murder and the fall out of that and covers quite alot of ground between that which if it’s even half true is utterly mental. Cast wise it’s pretty great as alongside Driver you have Lady Gaga as Patrizia, Jeremy Irons as his father and Al Pacino as his uncle, who both own Gucci at the start, Salma Hayek as a psychic and Jared Leto as his cousin who I’ll speak about separately in a bit. It’s fascinating as Maurizio is essentially disowned for his relationship with Patrizia and is happy living a simple life but she urges him to re-connect and then gradually move into the family business which leads to a fair bit of back stabbing which puts him in charge and the changes to who he is as a person as he goes from shy and awkward to much more confident and he seems to recognise that Patrizia’s ambitions have changed who she is as a person too and they go from seemingly madly in love to outright resenting each other.  Gaga commits fully to the role and is a force, Driver is much more restrained and understated and their dynamic works really well. Pacino is solid and mostly keeps himself in check but does occasionally veer into over the top territory, Irons is good and suitably aloof and Hayek is great and her psychic adds to the madness with how she figures into the story. Lets talk Leto, he’s borderline unrecognisable as Paolo Gucci with the make up and hairpiece but his performance feels like it belongs in another movie, he’s ridiculously over the top to the point where either Scott gave up trying to keep his scenery chewing in check or he’s doing an absolutely spot on impersonation of Paolo Gucci, it’s honestly one of the most memorable performances I’ve seen in a film he backs up with some truly ludicrous dialogue, it’s kind of a car crash but it is entertaining at least. The soundtrack is great though some of the some choices feel a bit weird even if they do fit well. Overall it’s a flawed, fascinating movie that tells an interesting story in an entertainingly mental way, it’s definitely worth checking out.

The Green Knight – This was one that either had a limited release at the cinemas or I just plain missed, it’s apparently based on a 14th century poem called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and has Gawain, who is King Arthur’s nephew, setting out on a journey to face the Green Knight as a test of courage. I’ve always been interested in the King Arthur legend but haven’t read up on much beyond the more obvious so things that I’m not overly familiar with such as this are intriguing prospects and it helps that Dev Patel is portraying Gawain as I think he’s a solid and likeable actor. The synopsis doesn’t really do the film justice but to dive too much into it would really spoil things, essentially Gawain faces the Green Knight at the start of the film and forms a pact as part of that in which he’ll travel to where the knight resides to face him again, this journey is the bulk of the film and while on it Gawain encounters all manner of things, some that wish ill on him and some that want his help, there’s also some fantastical elements as he encounters spirits and giants whilst also befriending a fox. The supporting cast is made up actors such as Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton and Barry Keoghan, all of whom are solid if a tad under-utilised which feels more due to the nature of the story being told rather and the need for Gawain to be on his own alot more than anything else, which is a shame as with some characters it would have been nice to see more of them if only for a sense of closure regardless of how unrealistic that would be in context. Patel is excellent, it’s hard to tell what of a man Gawain is as he often comes across as selfish and inconsiderate but at the same time there’s an internal conflict there and you get the impression he wants to be better and Patel manages to convey all of this, and again he has to do alot of this alone  with no one to play off so he’s very impressive. The film itself is stunning, some of the cinematography is genuinely beautiful and the locations fantastic, the more supernatural elements add to this and the film remains grounded in spite of their inclusion, the soundtrack is largely great at enhancing what’s happening on screen but there’s alot of instances where the only sounds on screen are those of the locations and the people, no music at all, it’s incredibly effective. It’s a very slow film, I don’t mean that as a criticism as it’s quite methodical and paced in such a way that it never feels like a slog but it’s definitely aiming to be more thought provoking than action based and I’d say it succeeds on that basis, the ending in particular I though was excellent and it’s more surprising as the type of ending that’s very open to interpretation which I’m not usually a fan of but it’s framed in such a way that Really appreciated. Not the film I was expecting at all, I was expecting something much more straightforward but I’m so glad it wasn’t, it’s a genuinely fascinating film.

Scream – Firstly lets start with the fact that given it’s the fifth film in the series it feels like something of a waste not to call it 5cream, though given it’s essentially got a fresh cast that’s supported by the three surving members of the original cast this is definitely deliberate. Plot wise it follows the usual beats of a series of murders being committed by a dude in a mask and everyone being a suspect, there’s the usual good natured piss taking of the horror genre along with the references and nods which show that the film makers respect the genre. There was some nervousness personally given this was the first film of the series not directed by Wes Craven but co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett do a great job of capturing the feel of the previous films. Cast wise everyone is solid with particular standouts being David Arquette back as the returning Dewey Riley, Melissa Barrera as Sam Carpenter and Jack Quaid as her boyfriend, Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox are also back as Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers though their roles aren’t particularly large and this feels like a bit of a let down despite them being great in their screen time. Negatives for me were that it sometimes gets a little too referential for it’s own good, some of the events require some very convenient plot devices to tee them up and that the pacing is a little slow in places though actually these are really minor niggles in the grand scheme of things. In terms of my positives I enjoy that it sticks with the series penchant for misdirection in relation to the killer, it’s quite adept at messing with expectations to the point where you think a scene will play out a certain way but there’s a fake out or 2 followed by the pay off which was fun and the way it ties back to the first film in particular is particularly enjoyable. Some of the kills are brutal without ever feeling over the top and there were some things that happened which were expected going in but that were done in a way that I didn’t actually expect which was fun. This kind of shows that there’s still legs in the franchise and as long as they keep the self awareness about it then they can get away with a fair amount that a more conventional film might not be able to get away with as easily, that being said it would be very easy for any potential sequels to feel like a step too far so it’s definitely a balancing act. I will say based on this one though I’d definitely be interested to see what they’d do if they were to do more sequels.

Licorice Pizza – I was interested in seeing this purely based on it being a Paul Thomas Anderson film, I’ve also subsequently realised this is based purely on my having seen Magnolia at the cinema way back in the less complicated days of 1999, turns out I’ve not seen any of his other films which is probably something I should remediate at some point. Plot wise it follows Gary Valentine as he meets Alana Kane and start spending time together, he proves to be something of an entrepreneur and starts a few businesses over the course of the film and she helps while also trying to find a path for herself and there’s the usual fallings out that these sort of films have where there’s a romantic element in play. There’s alot about the film I liked, Alana Haim is superb playing namesake Kane, there are many facets to the character she nails them all and some of the best comedic moments stem for her rage which is always timed for the best delivery. It’s beautifully shot, I’m not usually a fan of the visual style of films set in the 70s as they typically look very similar but some of the camerawork on display is outstanding and leads to some great shots and some of cinematography is very impressive. The soundtrack is great too, that always seem to be the case with these sorts of films though and I think Anderson does a great job of picking songs that fit what’s happening on screen. Cast wise you have seeming all of Haim’s family as her on screen family and the interplay is fun, Cooper Hoffman plays Valentine and we’ll come back to him, and then you’ve people like Sean Penn, Maya Rudolph, John Michael Higgins and George DiCaprio providing back up and they’re all largely solid. The absolute best thing in the film though is Bradley Cooper who plays Jon Peters who is a real person I’ve heard stories about, and those stories always seem to portray him as some sort of lunatic, and Cooper’s portrayal very much leans into that perception and honestly I just wish there was more of him in the film as he’s absolute gold. For all the good there is there are 2 things I really can’t get past, one of those things is Valentine as he’s just character that at no point could I get past my dislike of, I just found him to be infuriatingly smug and arrogant, which may be due to his being a 15 year old and I appreciate that it may just be me that felt like this. The other thing was the romance element as Valentine is 15 and Alana is 25 in the film and I was just never able to get past the discomfort I felt at that, it’s not played out as creepy and it’s heartfelt but that age disparity was just something that didn’t feel right. It’s weird to have watched a film where it’s literally spoiled by very specific reasons, I’d imagine I’m in the minority on this and I’m not saying it’s a bad film by any means, just one that I couldn’t get on with.

Belle – Belle was a happy accident, it was a film I’d have always been interested in but I’d have missed at the cinema but learned about while looking an article about films coming out in 2022, then stumbled across it when booking for another film so actually was really pleased about getting to see it at the cinema as otherwise it would have meant waiting for it to be released to the home market. It’s an anime film which follows Suzu, a girl who as a result of the death of her mother has put a wall up from her life to the point she just seemingly drifts through trying to not be noticed, she joins U which is a huge online community where she gets an avatar which is anonymous and she starts to sing which is something she’s seemingly not done in years and she proves to be very popular with the other people in the online world. While doing a performance it’s disrupted by someone people refer to as the dragon, who is violent towards those attempting to catch him. Suzu then attempts to find out who this person is as she wants to help them and this is the main part of the film but it’s also about her rediscovering herself. The voice acting of the English dub is mostly solid though there are a few performances which are a little flat, thankfully Suzu is not one of this given that she’s the focus of the film. Visually it’s stunning, genuinely one of the best looking anime films I’ve ever seen, the online world is interesting and consistently pretty but actually it’s some of the real world stuff that stands out, like a sequence that happens in the rain which looks great. The soundtrack is also excellent, you’d hope it would be given that singing is such a focus so it’s great that it’s as good as it is. There’s an awful lot to like, which I expected given that it’s from the director that also did Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time this isn’t exactly a surprise. There are some things I had issues with though,  some characters don’t get the development it feels like they should and the interactions with them and Suzu feels like a bit of a missed opportunity, this for me is be cause it feels a little like it’s based on a book series and has been condensed into a singles film and compromises have been made to tell the story, I honestly would have been happy for there to have been more in all honesty. There are also some incredibly complex themes that are touched on that could have been further developed further which would have been fascinating. It does manage to have one of the more satisfying endings to an anime film I’ve seen recently, there’s just the right amount of resolution while leaving a bit to the imagination, but it’s just a genuinely uplifting and hopeful ending which I really appreciated. As seems to be the case with anime films I see to wind up seeing it was a very pleasant surprise and definitely one I’d recommend to people.

Dolittle – I was aiming to deliberately watch a film which had been badly reviewed just so I don’t potentially always write about films I like, I had been intending to go for Cats on this one but couldn’t face it so went for Dolittle instead. I figured it couldn’t be as bad as the reviews had said, and if it did wind up being truly awful it should be entertaining at least, plus having Robert Downey Jr starring had to offer some redeeming qualities in theory. The cast list is mental as you’ve got Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent in the live cast and then you’ve got actors like Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Holland and literally loads of other really good actors doing voice acting for the animals, with Danny Elfman doing the soundtrack you’ve got a film on paper that should work out to be solid at the very least. Well it turns out it’s not great, it makes some very odd choices from the off such as Robert Downey Jr using a Welsh accent for starters which may be in line with the books for all I know but it’s honestly just difficult not to feel like he’s doing a Fireman Sam impression the entire time which genuinely never stops being jarring throughout the film. Some of the dialogue is truly terrible, whether that be because the film is set in Victorian and you have John Cena calling people bro (and to be clear I like Cena’s character overall) or just some of the ways characters talk to each other, it’s cringe inducing bollocks at times. It also has some of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen, which given it apparently cost $175 million to make is a pretty shocking state of affairs, I mean I appreciate that you’re going to get a degree of shoddiness effects wise when there’s this many in a film however it’s state of some of it, it’s legitimately some of the shittiest CGI that I’ve seen committed to film to the point where any suspension of disbelief. There’s a scene late in the film where there could have a been a genuinely emotional moment and instead they go for a fart joke which is frustrating and the Sia song that play with the end credits seems hugely out of place too which felt par for the course at that point. That being said as much of a mess as it is there are some definite upsides, it’s very well paced, Sheen is clearly having a glorious time hamming it up as the villain of the film, Banderas is solid if under utilised and the voice cast are pretty much all great and there’s some genuinely funny moments which made me laugh, just a shame there weren’t more to be honest. So yeah overall it’s not a crap as I’d been lead to believe and that’s very much damning with the faintest of praise, I’d probably suggest not watching it if given the opportunity, though it probably wouldn’t be too bad for younger kids which I suspect is probably what it’s aimed at.

It’s nice to have the motivation back to be watching films more regularly after struggling for motivation for alot of last year, definitely easier given more regular company to discuss the films afterwards and to also pick up on films I may have otherwise missed. Definitely trying to factor in films outside the usual big Hollywood films where possible too though it has to be said that’s becoming more difficult at the cinema.

Rounding out 2021 with some more films

Well I figured it be a decent end to the year/start of the new year to give a run down of the new films I’d seen in the tail end of the year. Again mostly cinema films with an exception but being able to go to the cinema after all the lockdowns still hasn’t lost the charm. Hopefully there’s going to be a decent crop of films out in 2022 to get watched.

No Time to Die – The Daniel Craig Bond films have been a bit of a mixed bag to date, Casino Royale and Skyfall were great with Quantum of Solace and Spectre being not so great. I was looking forward to this new film as the trailers had looked solid and it was the first Bond film I’ve been aware of where it had definitely been the actors last film in the role so I was interested to see how they ended things. Having now watched it there’s alot I enjoyed about it and a few things which weren’t ideal and while they impacted the film overall they didn’t really prevent my enjoyment of it thankfully. The main issues for me that it’s too long, and most of that run time seems to be spent trying to tie everything from the previous films together and in some cases to seemingly undo alot of what happened which was feels like a bit of a weird approach. Another issue is the use of the villain Safin, he’s essentially barely in it, doesn’t get much in the way of development and as such doesn’t really feel like much of a threat and it’s a massive waste of an actor as talented as Rami Malek. That being said it does an awful lot well, it feels like the first Bond of the Daniel Craig era that attempts to find a bit of a middle ground between more modern approach and the humour of the older films, and the humour worked quite well for me too as it was never over the top or intrusive, it felt quite natural. Craig gives, in my opinion, his best performance as Bond and his weariness at playing Bond actually seems to be channeled into his performance, there’s a nuance there that I don’t necessarily think was there as much in prior films and it humanises him. The supporting cast are largely excellent and make the most of the time they get given even when it’s not a huge amount, of particular note for me was Ana de Armas who has a sequence which is really alot of fun and she and Craig bounce off each other really well, to the point where it’s a shame it’s not longer. It also has a very definitive ending for this iteration of Bond, I guess this is an advantage to knowing it’s going to be your lead actors last outing in a role. I will say in terms of the ending I loved it, it felt oddly earned and was also pretty brave I thought, definitely memorable if nothing else. It’s a visually impressive film which is pretty standard for a Bond film and the Hans Zimmer soundtrack is very good too, I’d say it’s probably my second favourite of the Daniel Craig Bond films just behind Skyfall, that’s how highly I think of it though I will concede that I’ve not seen Casino Royale in a while.

Val – A documentary about Val Kilmer always had the potential to be fascinating such is his reputation as a complicated figure who can be difficult to work with so this was one I was interested in when I initial found out about it. The fact that it turns out Kilmer has been keeping what’re essentially home movies of his life added to the interest as you’re looking at some really interesting insight into his life and career as he’d made videos on the various film sets he worked on over the years. Apparently the project came together after Kilmer got throat cancer and recovered to an extent, though his voice has been severely impacted, and apparently this was the catalyst for him wanting to tell his story.It doesn’t cover every single films he’s done but it does cover off the more well known films like Top Gun, Batman Forever, The Island of Doctor Moreau, Tombstone and a few more and while it covers most of his big films there are things not covered off that I’d have loved to have learned more about, like how he ended up voicing KITT for the Knight Rider reboot series or more about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or Bad Lieutenant with Nic Cage, who was presumably interesting to work with. It also covers off his youth and that’s interesting in itself as it sounded like he had a complicated family life though also nothing too outlandish, what is clear very early on though is that he always wanted to bee an actor, to the point where he maybe took it a little bit too seriously and as such he’s a perfectionist and you get the impression that part of the issue he had working with other people was that he expected everyone else to have similar standards and would get frustrated when this wasn’t the case. It’s narrated by his son Jack which is unfortunately a largely necessary choice as the times where Kilmer speak he’s quite difficult to understand and it seems to cause him discomfort too, which is pretty understandable all things considered. There are definite issues, which maybe is as a result of the level of access that Kilmer was able to provide. It tends to shy away from the more controversial elements of his career like the way he behaved while filming Batman Forever and The Island of Doctor Moreau, the annoying thing is that from what we see there’s potential reasons to explain why he was the way he was to some extent, on Moreau for example the production seems pretty chaotic and the actors seem to struggle with it generally, and Kilmer isn’t happy with the way Marlon Brando is being treated so I think that showing more of the less desirable stuff would have made for a more interesting end product. Not that it isn’t interesting, it honestly is as well as being quite moving at times, I’m very glad that I got to watch it.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage – Lets be clear, I wasn’t a huge fan of the original Venom. I thought it was ok but relied too heavily on the violence that the age rating allowed them to have in order to cover for the fact that it wasn’t especially well written in terms of the overall plot and especially the main villain so I wasn’t really looking forward to the sequel despite Woody Harrelson being onboard as the villain and Andy Serkis directing which had me intrigued at least. The first mistake it makes is that in the States it isn’t an R rating so the violence is significantly reduced from previously, though it somehow has a 15 rating over here despite that which is odd. The relationship between Eddie Brock and Venom is played off too slapstick for it to really work well, the attempts to humanise Cletus Kasady are clumsy and didn’t really work for me, I think he’d have been more effective if he’d just been kept as a chaotic psychopath and there’s a sequence in the film where Venom leaves Brock and is jumping from person to person and getting to live on its own a little which is played for laughs despite the in film logic being that the symbiote kills pretty much anyone it bonds with (with Brock being the notable exception) so the humour feels a little flat when you know people are being killed for what is essentially a falling out – what I’m basically saying is that tonally the film is all over the place. It is also odd though as run time is just over an hour and a half which for a comic book film seems incredibly short and honestly as a result it feels like it’s missing a middle act where Carnage gets to really let loose and establish itself as a proper threat, which never seems to happen much and I appreciate that my complaining about a film being too short when I consistently moan about films being too long but this definitely needed some more story beats. I will say that the film was visually impressive and the special effects were pretty decent, which is always useful with a film that uses as much CGI as this one does and as a result the action sequences are solid though I also say (possibly uncharitably) that there wasn’t anything that stood out. Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Stephen Graham do their best with parts that don’t really have a massive amount to do in comparison to the focus on Hardy and Harrelson. Ultimately it feels like a bit of a cash grab sequel where I feel like it could have been so much more, kind of the same as the first one really but without the violence to hide behind this time. 

Dune – To start things off here I think this has been marketed poorly so far as it’s being sold as Dune but the minute the titles come up the name is actually Dune: Part One as the book has been basically been broken down into multiple films (part 2 has just been confirmed so that’s a plus at least) but it feels like people are going to go in expecting a complete film where that definitely isn’t the case despite the 2 and a half hour run time. I’ve never read the book and didn’t see the 80s film, the sum total of my knowledge of Dune is a PC game I played more than 20 years ago and that basically extends to knowing that spice is important. Turns out that is not a helpful level of knowledge for this going in, it really doesn’t do an amazing job of catering for people who aren’t familiar with the book to the point where it felt like even a voice over of some sort to offer exposition at key points would be helpful. I’m hoping that part 2 will offer a little more in terms of background and explanation so that it’s a little easier to know what’s going on. This is the biggest complaint I have but not the only one, though most are as a result of this being part of a larger whole – the end of the film drags and it really does seem that there isn’t a natural breaking point for the film so while to does the best it can it’s just not a great end point, though the sting is lessened knowing that the story will continue at least. Complaints aside there’s alot to recommend too, the cast is pretty exceptional with Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa being standouts, Timothee Chalamet is the main focus and is solid, with Rebecca Ferguson also being interesting. Stellan Skarsgaard is heavily made up to the point you may not initially know it’s him and he does a decent job, but Dave Bautista is underused and Zendaya is also barely in it though you’d assume they’ll both have bigger roles in future. It’s the cinematography where things really shine though, I thought a film predominantly set on a desert planet might look at bit dull but that’s definitely not the case here, it looks stunning and it’s backed up nicely by a solid Hans Zimmer score and the action sequences are pretty stunning looking too, the big screen definitely helps the overall experience. Overall I’m glad I checked it out despite it essentially being half a film an it being not so welcoming for a newbie to the Dune story but I’ll definitely interested to see how it plays out over what I assume will be 2 films.

The Last Duel – A Ridley Scott period film starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck was always going to be one I was going to be interested in seeing, finding out that Jodie Comer was in it after seeing her in Free Guy was an unexpected bonus. As it happens she’s probably the best thing in the film, she has alot of heavy lifting to do acting wise given the subject matter and she’s more than up to the task. The story is that of the last duel in France which came about when Jacques Le Gris, played by Driver, is accused of raping the wife of Sir Jean de Carrouges, played by Damon, and a duel is requested by Carrouges as this was seen as a way of God judging the party not telling the truth in the process. The film is split into threes chapters, which are essentially the viewpoints of Carrouges, Le Gris and of Marguerite de Carrouges, played by Comer, and while the third account is positioned as the truth it’s interesting to see the other view points and how the egos of the two men seemingly colour their memories. That being said this approach is also the films biggest issue I’d say as the none of the different viewpoints offer anything sufficiently different to justify the run time of the film, in my opinion a single focussed narrative that allows for a little more expansion to certain events that take place. There are a few battle sequences outside the eponymous duel of the title and Ridley Scott continues to show he knows what he’s doing with these, honestly any period film with battles done by Scott is at the very least worth a watch and the duel itself is genuinely excellent, it’s as violent as you’d expect and doesn’t exactly pull any punches. The rape sequence is nowhere near as graphic as it could have been It’s a good looking film as per any Scott film and the soundtrack is solid and not done by Hans Zimmer which is a bit of a surprise, but Harry Gregson-Williams has a no dissimilar style os there’s that. Special mention also has to go to Ben Affleck who seems to be having the time of his life playing Count Pierre d’Alencon, he adds some much needed levity to proceedings (in appropriate places thankfully) and is the only one of the male characters that doesn’t seem to lie to himself. I don’t know how historically accurate some of the elements of Marguerite’s questioning are after her assault but if there’s anything there then it’s a pretty damning indictment of how we, as a society, treat rape victims today and that should probably be the biggest takeaway of the film.

Last Night in Soho – Edgar Wright has a tendency to make films that appeal to me, I’m not typically a horror fan or of those sorts of films but the trailer had me intrigued by the seeming pitch of a girl from modern day who travels back to the 1960s and becomes a girl from that time where she experiences the seedier side of things. There’s a solid cast including Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg and Matt Smith but the main focuses of the film are Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie. Eloise is a troubled girl who is obsessed with the sixties and goes to London to study fashion, she moves out of the college dorms and into a house in Soho where she starts to experience life as Sandie, an aspiring singer, who is trying to make it big in the 1960s. It’s these dual performances that really anchor the film as while both women come from very different worlds they’re very similar in as much as they have dreams they’re trying to pursue and in so doing they find out the worlds they’re inhabiting aren’t as pleasant as they’d initially expected. Eloise finding that her fellow students aren’t the nicest people and start to make her life hell to the point where she moves, Sandie on the other hand is much more confident and outgoing which makes her the initial connections she things will help her to become a famous singer but it quickly becomes apparent that the people she’s dealing with aren’t the most pleasant and as a result she discovers the seedier side of the world she wants to break into quite quickly. This is where Matt Smith comes in, he’s her manager and starts off charming and friendly but soon shows his true colours and it’s a really good performance from him as he switches between being suave and menacing so easily it’s easy to see why Sandie struggles to breakaway. Visually the 2 time periods are very distinct, with the 1960s era taking on something of a character in it’s own right given how vividly it’s portrayed, and as always with a Wright film the soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to what’s happening on screen. The atmosphere is great, it does a perfect job of being creepy and fostering a sense of unease which can lead to the jump scares you’d expect in a film like this. There’s a few issues for me, there’s plot points that seemingly get thrown out that don’t seem to go anywhere or get expanded on in a way that satisfies and there’s a twist at the end that while great doesn’t make a massive amount of sense when you think about it too hard. Ultimately these might be bigger problems for someone else than they were for me but for me it didn’t overly detract from what is a solid film that I really enjoyed.

The Eternals – The MCU film which follows on from Black Widow in terms of the release order for this year, it’s also one of the Marvel properties I have absolutely no familiarity with so I didn’t know much about it beyond the cast and what I’d seen in the trailers. In terms of the case you’ve people like Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Madden and Gemma Chan as well as less well known cast members, plus Kit Harrington though he’s not in it much and definitely introduced more with a view to what’s to come after this. I’m not going to get to much into the plot beyond it being pretty typical MCU fare though it actually doesn’t feel like a typical MCU film in the way it’s structured which was a pleasant surprise though it does come with definite downsides. At 2 and a half hours it definitely feels its run time and this isn’t helped by the pacing which is hampered by flashbacks to the past, while these help establish the relationships with the various characters it does break up the flow of the film. The number of characters is a problem too, when you’re introducing new characters bringing in a dozen-ish isn’t going to be easy as some are going to get short changed and in so doing you’re wasting decent actors and you’re touching on storybeats which don’t have necessarily go anywhere at this point. Jolie for example isn’t used to the fullest which is a shame as her character feels more of a plot device than a fully formed character and some of the other characters outside the core cast aren’t given a huge amount of development which is a shame as what you do get is actually very interesting, though I guess the plan is to build on that with any future sequels. The main villain isn’t the best too, the reveal of their motivations is interesting but beyond that they’re broadly underdeveloped which is a shame. On the positives note it’s visually stunning, the flashbacks allow for some really striking visuals and the present day stuff looks great too, Nanjani is great as the comic relief and Chan is great as the main character. While the flashbacks aren’t great for the pacing it’s a handy device for allowing the viewer to get to know the characters and how they went their separate ways prior to the film and they’re generally interesting time periods too. With there being a deaf character and a gay character there’s what feels like a positive step towards more diversity being introduced into the MCU though I can only speak from my perspective here. There’s some interesting twists over the runtime which have the potential to have some really interesting pay offs in future films. Overall it’s a fun but flawed film where I think it was maybe a little too ambitious for it’s own good but I think I’d rather that to some extent than something that doesn’t have a sense of ambition.

Ghostbusters Afterlife – I love the first two Ghostbusters films, I was not overly fussed about the reboot and I have to say I don’t think I was the target audience there so I’ve left that alone for now but I was very interested to learn of a new film which was a proper sequel to the initial two and the trailers I’ve seen just managed to make me more excited for it. The inclusion of Paul Rudd and the fact that it Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Ernie Hudson back was pretty much the icing on the cake in terms of my anticipation. I had to wait a bit longer than initially thought given the delays that have happened due to the pandemic but eventually it did actually get released. My initial reaction after getting out of the film was that I couldn’t find any fault with it, now I know this is utter bollocks however it made me feel like a kid again in the best possible way, if I were to re-watch it I’m pretty sure there’s things wrong with it and even with the benefit of hindsight it’s potentially a little too close plot wise to the first film and the tribute to Harold Ramis possibly treads an incredibly fine line if you don’t know that his family were onboard with it. The main focuses of the film are Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace as Trevor and Phoebe respectively, children of Carrie Coon’s Callie who is struggling financially and moves to Summerville when she inherits the house of her deceased father, who turns out to be Egon Spengler. It’s the family element that drives the film as Trevor has to make new friends and Phoebe ends up in a summer school of sorts which is overseen by Rudd’s amazingly named Gary Grooberson. Phoebe is very much the primary character of the film, she’s very reminiscent of Egon and has alot in common with him. It’s her that starts to piece together there was more to Egon moving out to the middle of nowhere than people seemingly thought. I honestly had so much fun watching it, there’s certain things that bring on nostalgia and the proton packs firing up and the Ecto 1 are very much up there. It’s great seeing the original busters show up too, they’re not in it loads which is fitting given the story being told here but when they do show up it’s pretty great. There’s a mid credit scene which is a lot of fun and then a scene after the credits which os partially a deleted scene from the first film which is quite touching in context and then potentially a little tease of more to come which is going to be welcome if it make me feel like this does. I’d honestly say it’s probably my film of the year, I went in hoping for the best and if I’m being completely honest expecting to be disappointed so it was a pleasant surprise that I wasn’t.

Spiderman: No Way Home – Far From Home left things at an interesting point as Mysterio had revealed to the world that Peter Parker is Spiderman which obviously has a number of implications. The trailer showed that Peter would go to Dr Strange to get a spell cast so people would forget and that would go pretty drastically wrong, tapping into the multiverse thread that Marvel are establishing by bringing back villains from the previous Sony Spiderman films, including Alfred Molina as Dr Octopus, Jamie Foxx as Electro and Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin amongst others. While I’ve been looking forward to this I’ve been convinced that it’d either be a great film or an absolute clusterfuck given then number of moving parts it’d potentially have, thankfully I thought it was great but I’m going to avoid discussing the plot too heavily so as to avoid any potential spoilers. All I’ll say about the story is that it broadly works, it feels like a fitting conclusion to this trilogy of films and it sets up a new and interesting status quo to potentially be built off. In terms of what doesn’t work, the run time isn’t ideal though understandable with everything it’s trying to cover though this does lead to some pacing issues where it drags a little in the middle of the film. The number of characters in the film means that some get a bit shafted in terms of screen time though everyone does their best which is something on that front, I’m also undecided on whether the mid credits scene is genius or lazy as hell, it is effective though so I’m erring on the side3 of it being both which I actually think is oddly charming. The positives, and there are a fair few are that you’ve got a great performance from Tom Holland, I personally think he’s been great as Spiderman and this emphasises that for me as he’s given a lot to deal with. THere’s strong performances across the board, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya and Jacob Batalon are all solid as ever and Cumberbatch, Molina and Foxx are all great but Dafoe pretty much steals the film with his performance, he’s all in and he seems to be having a great time Special mention also to JK Simmons back as J Jonah Jameson in a piece of casting done so well that they didn’t even attempt to re-cast the role. It has the typical MCU production polish so it looks and sounds great and I’d say it’s probably the strongest MCU film of the year and it’s going to be interesting to see where the the series goes next year and what Spiderman gets up to whenever he returns.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City – I’m not going to lie I wasn’t expecting much from this, Resident Evil films have a mixed quality on the whole and that’s being generous as they’re typically a bit shit. I as intrigued given that the director had said it was going to be faithful to the games, this turned to concern when I learned it was adapting the first to games into a single film as that’s a hell of alot of ground to cover in what it turns out is a less than 2 hour run time. I actually turned out to be pleasantly surprised, to be clear it’s very much shite but there are things to recommend which I legitimately wasn’t expecting so lets start with the positives. It’s mostly a decent cast Robbie Amell is solid as Chris Redfield and Tom Hopper is decent as Wesker though we’ll be revisiting him, Donal Logue and Neal McDonough are solid if underutilised and Avan Jorga could have been decent as Leon Kennedy if the character had been as per the game (another one we’ll come back to) but it’s Kaya Scodelario who’s the standout as Claire Redfield, she’s honestly great. The set design is also absolutely amazing, the mansion and the police station genuinely feel like they’re straight out of the games and that’s massively impressive, the zombies are pretty cool design wise too and it’s nice that you’re aware of the reason the people are turning into zombies. Now we move onto what it gets wrong, combining the 2 games into a single film is a massive mistake as it really doesn’t do either game justice as it breezes through some plot points and misses out some entirely which is infuriating, this also leads to some character changes such as Jill Valentine being largely pushed aside which is a shame as the actress playing her is decent and deserved more, Wesker is changed so that he’s not an antagonist as such which is a huge shame given what an iconic villain he is in the first game, much less the series and Leon is massively fucked over as a character, he’s turned from a rookie whose first day on the job coincides with a catastrophe to an incompetent idiot who got his job through nepotism. The special effects on the monsters are fairly ropey, especially the main monster at the end of the film and alot of the fan service to the games doesn’t gel especially well in film form and feels pretty forced. Ultimately it’s an improvement on the Paul WS Anderson films but it’s too ambitious for it’s own good, I honestly wish it’d picked a game and run with that rather than trying to smash the 2 together as it would have worked so much better as there’s honest potential there which is ultimately the most frustrating thing.

I realistically need to get back the motivation to watch new films in other mediums again as I’m building up quite the list of things on streaming and Blu-Ray to watch which I really need to stop putting off. Maybe my New Years resolution will be to get on that.

Masters of the Universe Revelations

I’d watched the She-Ra reboot on Netflix last year and fell in love with that, I’vge written alot about it, and at some point after this a new He-Man show was announced which was being worked on by Kevin Smith. I’m a big fan of Smith as I’ve loved his films and his Q&A stuff is always entertaining and I obviously knew that he’s a massive geek and he was saying all the right things about it, and the added intrigue was that it was intended to be a continuation from the original series rather than a reboot.

I’d tried to re-watch the original 80s series a few times now and it’s aged incredibly badly in my opinion. I’m not even talking the animation as that’s understandable given it’s nearly 40 years old at this point. It’s the sound that I don’t like, the way the voices sound (and that’s not a knock on the actors at all), it just doesn’t sound as good in a modern context as something Transformers does. I dislike it to the point where I much prefer the early 2000s reboot which I find much easier to watch.

That being said I did watch it as a kid and I’ve read a fair few of the comics so I’m familiar with some of the lore of the show, though it’s obviously not 100% confirmed how much of that is going to be utilised  in this though there are certain things hinted at which I guess may prove to be either proved or disproved in the second half of the season once that drops. As such what I’ll be doing here is offering opinions for part one and speculating a little about part two and as a result there will be some spoilers which I feel like it’s impossible to avoid.

Let’s talk voice cast to start with, Kevin Smith has managed to assemble and incredibly solid group of actors. There’s a nice little nod to the past to start as Skeletor’s original voice actor back to voice a secondary character, but you’ve got actors like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lena Headey and Tony Todd doing voices and everyone pretty much nails it for me. Chris Wood as Prince Adam and He-Man is solid though I’d never heard of him but the big get in terms of casting was Mark Hamill as Skeletor, he’s a great voice actor anyway but he’s pretty much peerless when it comes to bringing villains to life at this point and this show doesn’t change that thankfully.

The first episode establishes an interesting status quo very early on, Adam and Skeletor are both killed off and this causes a ripple effect of events, including Adam having to split the sword of power into 2 component swords beforehand which are transported to the shows versions of heaven and hell – Preternia and Subternia. Teela finds out that He-Man was Adam all along and also finds out that she was seemingly the only one the that was ignorant of this and as such walks away from her old life as she’s incredibly disillusioned by everything at this point.

The show then picks up after an unspecified time jump with Teela working as a mercenary with a character called Andra who appears to be a re-purposed character from an old comic book series from the 80s. Teela has a new look and has a much more cynical world view and a general distrust of magic, which is all pretty understandable in light of what she’s gone through. Andra is something of surrogate for the audience as she’s the more talkative of her and Teela and therefore tends to drive some of the exposition that fills in what’s happened during the time jump and it’s a choice that works for me from a story telling perspective.

Story wise Adam splitting the sword of power into the 2 component parts and them disappearing off has caused magic in Eternia to fail which is basically going to wind up causing an end of the world type scenario. The Sorceress essentially finesses Teela back in to the fold to help fix things which winds up with her having to work with Evil-Lyn which leads to an interesting dynamic and arguably goes some way to making Lyn a sympathetic character to an extent as there’s a definite implication that she’d been essentially trapped in an abusive relatiounship of sorts with Skeletor.

Teela and Lyn are tasked with obtaining the 2 halves of the sword of power and re-forging it to bring magic back to the world, the dynamic of former enemies becoming uneasy allies is generally one I find quite interesting and it works quite well here in my opinion. The have to travel to Subternia and Preternia to do so and over the course of the journey meet up with recognisable faces (though no Fisto so far disappointingly), some who help them and some obviously wanting to hinder them. This somehow manages to make Orko one of the most likeable characters and it’s also fun getting to see what some of the villains have been up to, Tri-Clops starting a cult wasn’t what I was expecting but it was interesting.

Adam is encountered in Preternia and he and Teela re-bond a little, although she is still hurt by his keeping secrets from her. They collect the sword piece and Adam comes back to the real world with the group (with the ominous warning that if he goes he probably won’t be able to come back when he dies again). The sword of power is reforged and they take it to Castle Grayskull where Adam uses the sword and seemingly corrects the magic issue, thus saving the world. At this point Skeletor emerges, having hidden in Lyn’s staff when Adam and he seemingly died, he stabs Adam and takes control of the sword and becomes something more powerful, and this is the point where part 1 or the series cuts off.

Now I do somewhat understand some of the blowback there’s been for part one of the series, there was definitely something of a bait and switch with the early marketing in that He-Man was featured incredibly prominently and then wasn’t in it much. I always thought that this would be rectified in part 2 and the trailer for that which I’ve now seen does seem to indicate that this will be the case. I do think that the Netflix model when it comes to animated shows where they release seasons in parts rather than as a whole does leave them open to this kind of situation, where a more patient approach and releasing in one go would possibly prevent this, though it may just cause a different issue.

What I don’t agree with is the level of vitriol that’s been levelled at the people involved with the series. As I say I get that people feel like they’ve been misled but the way this has been channeled by some people into attacking people just feels toxic at this point and actually it’s done pretty well critically so it’s just a shame that there couldn’t be a little more civility around discussing what people haven’t liked but that does seem like something to a theme these days. Hopefully people will give part 2 a fair chance and subsequently enjoy the whole thing as a whole but sadly it’s also possible that people will double down and it’ll all just become even more unbearable.

Anyway as noted I’ve now seen the part 2 trailer and it does seem to confirm some of the things I had speculated about – Teela does appear to become a new sorceress which ties in at least partially with some of the things I’d seen in the comics, whether or not she’ll be the daughter of the original sorceress remains to be seen but it seems that this may be where they go. Teela seems to heal Adam too and He-Man makes a return, which realistically was always going to be likely and it seems that there’s a nod to the new She-Ra in there (whether deliberate or a nice coincidence) around needing the sword to transform. The trailer indicates it’s going to be much more action heavy than part 1, which is to be expected I guess as part 1 is largely moving the various pieces into position.

In terms of what I’d like to see in part 2, there’s definitely some emotional beats that I’d like to see. I think there needs to be some sort of resolution for Teela on why Adam didn’t tell her the truth, I have my own feelings on this but I figure professional writers would have a better handle on it. Man at Arms has something to share with Teela and I suspect that’ll be who her mother is and I’d like to see Lyn maybe break away from Skeletor, there’s definitely things in part 1 that indicate that she’s not happy with her prior choices so some pay off there could be interesting and actually the absence of Adam and Skeletor in part 1 allowed for some characters to grow in unexpected directions and it’d be nice to see that continue.

I think I was ultimately spoilt by She-Ra in terms of the emotional level of the story telling there, these definitely some interesting emotional content here though in very different terms to She-Ra and I appreciate that they’re two very distinct entities in these terms. I’m hoping that some of the more emotional character threads pay off in satisfactory ways in the second part, I have things I’d like to see happen in terms of character interactions but I’m also willing to be surprised as I can appreciate that often things can pan out in ways I didn’t necessarily expect and then find that even more satisfying. Whatever does wind up happening though, it’s unlikely to be boring and there’s something to be said for that if nothing else.

Actual new release films being watched, it feels like it’s been a while

This is another run down of films I’ve not previously seen before, it didn’t initially start out as such but it’s ended up being actual newly released films which I wasn’t expecting after the last year and a half. Most of these have been cinema films which has been such a relief honestly, there’s definitely something unique about seeing a film on the big screen and it’s definitely something that I’ve missed more than I expected to with the whole pandemic largely ballsing up the cinema experience.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – I enjoyed the original film, it definitely had some flaws but it was largely a fun distraction of a film and as such I was interested in seeing the sequel when it came out. As it is it’s the first film I’ve seen at the cinema in not far off a year so that was a definite plus but after watching it I feel largely the same as I did about the first film. Flaws wise it’s again got a few, the most notable ones being that the film walks back Ryan Reynolds’ character from where he was in the first film and makes him a punching bag which is a shame, it also wastes Antonio Banderas somewhat as the villain, not to the same extent the first film wasted Gary Oldman, but more screen time would have definitely welcome. I think my biggest issue is the tonal shift from the first film though, the first was obviously silly but it existed in a world that was pretty grounded for the most part, this film leans into the ridiculousness much more, you’re talking giant drills as being key to a plot to cripple all of Europe and there’s much more slapstick humour than previously, it doesn’t stop it being fun but it is quite jarring. Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson are typically solid, but they are essentially playing characters that they can do in their sleep at this point, they never feel like they’re phoning it in and the interplay between them is very funny but it definitely isn’t challenging them. As noted Banderas is alot of fun as the villain, just not utilised enough, villains in this sort of film always appear to be having the best time and there’s no exception here. Salma Hayek is comfortably the best thing in the film by some margin though, she’s got the best lines and is just clearly having the best time ever and is probably the main reason the film is as fun as it is. There’s some occasionally dodgy special effects but largely it’s well made and action sequences are well shot which is pretty much a must. I think the thing I appreciated though was the brisk runtime, it’s a decent amount under 2 hours and is decently paced, it’s actually a refreshing change to get through a film that never outstays its welcome. Overall I’d say it was a decent film, it was fun and I really enjoyed it, probably a solid 6 out of 10 film.

Black Widow – As the first MCU film since Spiderman Far From Home in 2019 I was really looking forward to this. It was originally meant to be released last year but obviously the pandemic put paid to that so it’s taken a while to actually be released but it’s finally arrived. It’s mental to think that Scarlett Johansson originally started playing the character way back in 2010 in Iron Man 2, and that it’s taken that long for her to get a standalone film. Thankfully despite the various delays I really enjoyed the film, it’s a more personal story than the Avengers films and it works really well for the character and Johansson can basically play the character in her sleep at this point. What’s most impressive is how the film takes place just after Civil War but slots in quite nicely, they’ve done a good job with the MCU in that they’re able to slot stories into the existing time line without too many issues, it’s amazing what you can do when you have a plan.The film has a great cast with David Harbour, Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh provide support and they’re all excellent, Harbour provides alot of the humour though he manages to provide layers to the character, Weisz is more reserved in her role but works well with what she has but it’s Pugh who is probably the big stand out, possibly more so that Johansson at some points and their dynamic is very much the heart of the film and works incredibly well, they play off each other amazingly. Villain wise Ray Winstone does his best but Dreykov is basically a one dimensional monster, his Russian accent isn’t the best though which isn’t exactly helpful. Taskmaster is a bit of an odd one as it’s not exactly the character from the comics, though works well in the context of this film and as an imposing terminator like threat it’s a solid enough role. The film is as visually impressive as you’d expect from a Marvel film and the action is decently realised, even if I personally don’t agree with the choice to pull out to a distance with some shots during some set pieces as I think keeping the closeness would have worked better as it would maintained the sense of immersion where I think that was lost a little, not a major issue but a niggle nonetheless. Overall it was definitely worth watching and a solid start to the film element of phase 4.

Stillwater – I didn’t know much about this going in besides the very basic synopsis that Matt Damon plays Bill Baker, a dad, who tries to clear the name of his daughter who is in jain for murder. Apparently it’s loosely inspired by the real life story of Amanda Knox which I knew very little about anyway. It’s set in Marseille and it’s an interesting choice of location as it’s a not what I would consider to be a typical place visually, there seems to be a distinct difference to the more well to do areas and the rougher areas but it was definitely a nice change of pace for sure. Damon is good in the lead, he’s taciturn and it becomes apparent he wasn’t a great father at any point and you get the impression that he sees his attempts to help his daughter as a way of making everything right. Abigail Breslin is decent as the daughter, she doesn’t have much to do overall but she makes the most of it and both her and Damon do a really interesting job of making you believe that there’s a genuine strain in their relationship. The real standouts are Camille Cottin as Virginie and Lilou Siauvaud as her daughter Maya, they help Baker over the course of the film and way the relationship grows makes for a compelling narrative but it also derails the film a little bit. The issue with this element of the film is that it basically makes the film like 2 films that have been stitched together – one a crime drama and the other a family drama, and it’s a little jarring at times. That being said there are things I like, Baker is obviously massively out of his depth with his investigations and the film doesn’t shy away from this and the mistakes he makes along the way, it makes things feel more human some how to know that the main character is very much fallible. Things as a general rule just feel messy and that really works in the films favour as there’s generally a sense of convenient solutions or improbable leaps in logic in other films like this, it’s not perfect but it does feel like the way things pan out are more in line with how things would work in real life and I appreciated that. There’s also a little twist towards the end which changes the context of some of the things that happen over the course of the film and that’s nice too as it just emphasises that people are flawed. Overall it was a decent, understated film that does a good job telling the story it sets out to and is weirdly unsatisfying which feels like it’s point, it’s definitely worth checking out though.

The Suicide Squad – This was one I’d been looking forward to since it was initially announced that James Gunn would be working on it, I’ve enjoyed his films to date and this one had an amazing cast so there were high hopes. It acts as a sort of sequel and almost reboot to the original film which was deeply flawed for what seems like a number of reasons which we won’t get into here, suffice to same Gunn seems to have had less interference with this film.It’s very much a James Gunn film, the sense of humour and the dialogue are very much in line with his previous efforts and the violence is probably pushing the boundaries of what’s allowed for the age rating as it’s really quite gory in places. The cast is genuinely excellent, there are too many actors to go into everyone full but John Cena is great Margot Robbie and Viola Davis are typically excellent, Joel Kinnaman is much better served by the script this time round and Idris Elba gives one of his best film performances for me. Daniela Melchior and David Dastmalcian are also both excellent and King Shark comes close to stealing the show at points and Sylvester Stallone is excellently cast as the voice. The first thing you notice is how much some characters had been featured in the marketing for the film played by some reasonably well known actors, including Gunn stalwarts Michael Rooker and Nathan Fillion, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d have a big part to play but they’re essentially cannon fodder in a entertainingly brutal opening sequence, appreciate this is a spoiler without being completely specific but with the film being called what it is there’s an element of this that’s very much expected. I’m not going to go into the plot too much but basically the squad go in under the premise of shutting down a weapons program but it naturally emerges there’s a little bit more to it than that, it’s hardly original but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if the script is at least entertaining, and it definitely is and it’s helped along by the fact that everyone is clearly having a great time. I think the biggest criticism to be levelled at DC is that film wise they’ve been trying way too hard to replicate what Marvel have done in a much shorter time frame and it just hasn’t really worked, hopefully this film is an indication that they’re just going to focus on making entertaining movies and doing their own thing as they have some amazing properties and the films they make do seem to wind up being better when they allow directors a certain amount of freedom, it’s definitely well worth checking out.

Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins – This was a film that I was especially looking forward to when I knew it was coming out. There’s maybe 3 characters that have been favourites since I was a kid and Snake Eyes is one of them. This appears to act as a reboot for the GI Joe movies, which is probably a solid choice as the previous 2 films were a little bloated and certainly pretty inconsistent. Henry Golding is solid as Snake Eyes and gets to work through quite an emotional range, and the rest of the case are all decent with Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow in particular giving a great performance. Samara Weaving as Scarlett and Ursula Corbero as the Baroness both seem well cast, especially if this leads to further films in the series, and they’re utilised sparingly so as not to get in the way of the main narrative for the most part. The film is largely well shot, there’s some excessive shaky cam during action sequences in the first half of the film that I wasn’t a fan of but this is thankfully much reduced in the second half which I think improved the action sequences, though I appreciate this is a personal preference. There’s also some seemingly mystical elements which are touched on and then sort of go no wheel which is odd, it’s like the film can’t quite decide what it wants to be tonally. To be clear I really enjoyed the film and I thought some changes to the established origin that I’m familiar with were necessary. The Vietnam war aspect obviously couldn’t be held over and there was connection to Cobra Commander in there that would have probably taken too much effort to get through and probably wouldn’t have made for a very good film overall, I can also understand a reluctance to have him lose his voice though I do think it would have been great for inclusion purposes to have a lead character with a disability. That being said the working for the yakuza, being out for revenge for his father’s death and the forced links to both GI Joe and Cobra things I Had a problem with as it felt like too much was being changed of the actual character, and I totally appreciate this is always going to be a problem when you’re hugely invested in a character going in to an adaptation but it just felt a little unnecessary and like they were just trying to make him edgy. Overall I enjoyed that it was much more focussed than the previous GI Joe films and I’m interested to see if they make any sequels as there’s definitely potential here, even if I don’t agree with all the creative choices.

Free Guy – A computer game based film that isn’t linked to a specific game, you have Ryan Reynolds as a background character in a game who becomes self aware and starts breaking out of the routines of his programming. This was largely as much as I knew about it going in, I’d seen trailers which indicated it’d be a amusingly entertaining film but probably a solid if unspectacular one and I have to say I was shocked that it resonated with me much more than I expected. Now lets be clear it’s a little bit of a mess – it doesn’t know what sort of film it wants to be, there’s a few different genres vying for attention here and it’s a little jarring at times, it feels like it wants to be a snarkier version of the Truman show but the real world sub plot doesn’t really allow for the same level of charm there. Reynolds is as dependable as always but he’s playing a role that he could essentially do in his sleep at this point, he never feels like he’s phoning it in and he’s incredibly good at this sort of role but it’d be nice to maybe see him do something a little different some time soon. Taika Waititi is excellent as an utter douchebag but his character feels like it belongs in a different film as he’s just too over the top. There’s a track on the soundtrack that’s used a few times which is a track used in a Disney short film from 2012, it’s the sam composer for both and it’s a great track but still it’s an oddity for sure. I think the biggest issue is the fact that it leans to heavily into gaming references, it’s understandable but it also feels like they’ve alienated a fair amount of any potential audience as a result, the fan service (especially towards the end) treads dangerously close to going too far and taking you out of the film and there’s points where it cuts to real life streamers commenting on what’s happening in the game at the core of the film and it just kills the pacing which is frustrating. All that being said it just worked for me, I appreciated the gaming stuff and early on alot of the humour is found in what’s happening in the background while the film is establishing the characters which I enjoyed. Jodie Comer is probably the spine of the film given she plays a character in the real world setting and then her in game avatar too and thankfully she’s great and Joe Keery is great too as the conflicted former business partner. It’s to the point where I actually initially thought I’d hate the real world stuff and actually I was really engaged with it and it had what I found was one of the most cathartic pay offs I’ve seen in a film in recent times, genuinely had me leaving the cinema feeling good which ultimately is all I can really ask for from a film.

Reminiscence – I didn’t even know that this existed until I saw a trailer for it before another film and it looked intriguing as it seemed thematically similar to a film I love called Strange Days where people can experience other peoples memories. Having read a little bit about it after the fact it takes place in a near future type setting where climate change has caused the seas to rise and flood some cities and with this as a backdrop it follows Nick Bannister as he apparently uses other peoples memories to try and track down his lost love, which seemed like a pretty simple premise but the potentially interesting setting and the fact that Hugh Jackman was playing Bannister at least piqued my interest to give it a go. The initial panning shot through a Miami that is both familiar and obviously different due to the water level is actually pretty stunning, and you get a little voiceover from Jackman to establish the background of the memory machine which is actually interesting in itself and quickly shows you what it can do as Bannister lets an old war buddy use it to see his dog again which cements it as an immediately interesting concept and the first quarter of the film is spent establishing the relationship with Mae and his ties to his friend Emily Sanders, along with the fact that he’s taken Mae’s disappearance badly and is very much on edge and the way this is done very much like a noir film, something that the voiceover really emphasises. There’s a time jump and Bannister is pretty much obsessed with finding Mae at the expense of pretty much everything else, Sanders gets them a job which provides a clue in what happened to Mae. What unfolds after is a mystery of what happened to her and how Nick is involved, it’s actually a surprisingly compelling and I really enjoyed watching it play out though it does rely on some leaps in logic in places. There are definitely flaws, the pacing is a little slow in places and some special effects are a little ropey, it’s also a little overly convoluted in places but I loved the setting and the aesthetic, it’s atmospheric as hell too and the soundtrack contributes. Solid performances from Jackman, Thandiwe Newton, Rebecca Ferguson and Cliff Curtis definitely help and honestly it’s refreshingly different to most of the films I’ve seen lately which was actually nice. It does a great job of building a world I’d like to see more stories in that’s for sure and honestly there’s alot to be said for a film that can do that, no matter what other flaws it has.

Shang-Chi – The latest MCU film and one where I knew nothing about the character going in, I’d seen the trailer but that was the sum total of my knowledge upfront. I went in cautiously optimistic as you expect a certain standard with these films now and I’d been been massively into martial arts films when I was younger so there was alot of things I was looking forward to on paper. I wasn’t hugely familiar with alot of the cast, the only ones I’d really heard of from the main cast were Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung and given this is the letters first Hollywood film that’s quite a huge bit of casting as far as I’m concerned as I’ve seen how great he is in various Hong Kong films. The film is typically visually stunning, the soundtrack is great and it’s fits the MCU tone perfectly while actually managing to not feel like it’s being forced to. My knee jerk reaction after getting out of the film was that it’s in my top 3 MCU films to date, there’s genuinely alot to love about it. Simu Liu and Shang Chi is great, Meng’er Zhang as his sister is solid with potential to grow further in later films, Michelle Yeoh brings a sense of gravitas and it’s honestly funny without feeling forced and this is in large part down to Awkwafina, as Shang-Chi’s best friend Katy, who serves as surrogate for the audience due to her being caught up in the events that unfold. The action is great, the fight sequences really benefit from feeling a bit like an old school martial arts film and I have to say the slow motion is utilised pretty well and never feels over used. It benefits alot from the plot feeling quite intimate, it’s essentially the story of a grieving family but there’s a depth there and consequences that raise the threat level but none of that works without this simple core. It also benefits hugely from one of the best antagonists the MCU has had so far, there’s a complexity to the character of Wenwu and he’s brought to life by an amazing performance from Tony Leung, it’s honestly one of the best casting decisions they’ve managed in these films. He’s for all intents and purposes the real Mandarin but his withering disdain for the fake one and the name from Iron Man 3 is great and actually leads to a really fun pay off too. There are definite flaws, the special effects are occasionally pretty ropey and the end fight has far too much CGI but for me it’d earned enough goodwill over the rest of the film that the flaws didn’t really spoil my enjoyment. I suspect it’s going to wind up being a Thor Ragnarok type of film where I can watch it loads and never be anything less than entertained.

Cop Shop – I saw a trailer for this and was intrigued as it looked like it could either being a fun little film or an entertainingly awful disaster, plus I have a soft spot for Gerard Butler so him being in it made me more interested than I probably would have been otherwise. Frank Grillo plays Teddy Murretto, a con man who has made a few enemies and gets himself arrested to avoid hitman Bob Viddick, played by Butler, who then also gets himself arrested to get at him. This is further complicated by Anthony Lamb, a rival hitman played by Toby Huss, and at the centre of this is Valerie Young, a cop played by Alexis Louder. It actually wound up being alot better than I expected it to be, the dialogue is great and my only complaint there is that it feels like it wants to be a Tarantino film at times. The soundtrack makes it feel like a 70s throwback and the other officers in the police station get just enough characterisation that you start to like most of them before they inevitably become cannon fodder. Grillo is an excellent scumbag, Butler is good as the imposing hitman and Huss is clearly having a great time portraying a psychopath but it’s Louder who really stands out as she’s the one virtuous main character in the film, she does a great job of getting the audience on her side. I really liked that the film makers managed to use different camera angles to keep the police station setting fresh, the fact that it’s largely set in the one location carried a degree of risk that you’d get sick of seeing the same places repeatedly but they avoid this. The films also actually manages to utilise shaky cam and slow motion, 2 things I bitch about alot, in a way that enhance the scenes they’re in and they’re used sparingly too so it’s not jarring, I was very pleasantly surprised on that front. There are complaints, the scenes that take place away from the police station feel tacked on and aren’t really long enough sequences to do much in terms of story enhancement, expanding these sequences probably would have benefited from being either a bit longer or there being a few more of them though I appreciate this would have impacted pacing which is pretty solid overall. My biggest problem is the last 20 or so minutes though, it just seems to be a stream of double crosses that stretch credibility to breaking point and go along way to undoing the good work the rest of the film manages, it does have a pretty satisfying ending overall but the lead up to it is just a little too much. Overall it’s a fun little film that’s well worth checking out in my opinion, there are definitely far worse ways to a couple of hours.

Kate – A Netflix film I’d never even heard of but which I was immediately interested in due to it starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead who I’m a big fan of, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in something where I haven’t enjoyed her performance. I didn’t even know who else was in it and to be honest aside from Woody Harrelson I’m not really familiar with the rest of the cast. In terms of the plot Winstead plays the Kate of the films title, an assassin who is poisoned  and not left much time to live so she decides to track down the people that did this and get revenge. It’s not a dissimilar synopsis to an old 80s film called Dead on Arrival (itself a remake of a 40s film) which I happened to really enjoy which was another positive going in. Setting it in Japan gives it a fun aesthetic, there’s some cool visuals to be had and the soundtrack is entertaining, frustratingly some of the effects sequences make it look a little bit like a computer game and some of the effects generally don’t look as realistic as you’d want in an action film and there are quite few times where it’s just too dark. It’s seemingly  tonally all over the place, it can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a serious John Wick type film or if it wants to be more tongue in cheek and some of the attempts at humour just don’t land, Kate takes a girl hostage and then they bond and she accidentally shoots Kate instead of someone else because she’s never fired a gun before, it’s that sort of thing where you’ve seen it in better films a million times before and that’s largely a theme if I’m being honest – it rips off a multitude of better films without ever managing to exceed them. The action sequences are solid, Winstead is pretty great in them and is convincing as a bad ass, in the same way she was in Birds of Prey, she’s very much the the core of the film and she’s never anything other than excellent and easily the strongest part of the film. Harrelson, as Varrick, is solid as always but under utilised and it’s to the detriment of the film that he is, it feels like the film would have been much better for focusing on the relationship between him and Kate as the film establishes a backstory there which it never makes the most of. Overall it’s a frustrating film, there’s a core of a really good action film here but it it’s just too generic and predictable to be anything other than crushingly average and that’s genuinely gutting as Winstead and Harrelson so their absolute best to make it work and are unfortunately let down by things outside their control. I’m especially infuriated as while it’s a film I liked just fine, it’s a film I desperately wanted to love.

Honestly it’s been great getting to watch actual new films again rather than just ones I’ve just not seen before. It’s been weirdly beneficial to my mental health just to be able to do things like go to the cinema again and hopefully there’s going to be more interesting films coming out now things are starting to get back to some sort of normalcy. It’s been fun getting to watch trailers before films again and plan what I want to see in the future, it’s a stupid little piece of normalcy that it’s been awesome to rediscover.

Checking out anime films I’ve not seen before

Last year I got re-invested in anime films after finally watching Your Name and that progressed to me watching a few other films that I seemingly did a good job of picking. As such I started to more actively get ideas for films via various avenues and naturally started getting some new films to watch as a result. I figured I’d do a full anime post rather than mixing them in with other new films to keep it all a little separate and give me an excuse to actually watch these films rather than just hoarding them with the intention of one day watching them. I’ve tried to avoid any massive spoilers but obviously there’s some broad plot points and things so this might be something to be a bit wary of.

Maquia – A film I picked up, as a few of these will, off the back of trawling through anime blurays online and reading the plot blurb to see what got me interested. Maquia is part of a near immortal race who has to flee her home and into a world she hasn’t experienced before and seemingly finds herself meeting people who don’t have the same longevity as her. It was a really interesting concept for me and I figured there’d be alot of scope for emotional moments and potential for some philosophical moments too. It’s starts of interestingly straight away as it establishes Maquia as feeling lonely and separate even amongst her own people, naturally when she finds herself away from home this feeling naturally worsens though she finds a baby and that seemingly gives her a purpose though there are some some amusing moments as she learns about the world but overall it’s not an easy journey for her as she has to learn to be a mother in essence. It’s visually stunning, and show cases a variety of different settings which are distinctive, there’s also some excellent use of lighting and some of the night scenes look absolutely amazing. The musical score is great too, again very distinctive tracks which suit what’s happening on screen excellently and the English dub is pretty good, though again I’m not familiar with the voice cast. Some of the pacing is a little odd due to there being time jumps but this is a key point to show that while everyone ages around her Maquia doesn’t, which obviously leads to emotional moments as things change, sometimes in unexpected ways. I think the biggest issue I have is that the first half of the film probably has a bit too much going on but is a little slow, Maquia is naturally the main focus but there’s a sub-plot with a seemingly evil empire and their efforts to grow their power further using Maquia’s people. There’s really cool elements like the way people Maquia has met seemingly keep crossing paths with each other over the years and how the time jumps show how those characters grow too. It’s a wildly ambitious film and honestly it does feel like there’s too much happening at times and it’s a little unfocussed but it also manages to be surprisingly intimate at times, which I think is due to the focus on certain characters and seeing them grow. I think what I find most impressive about it is how it manages to be both bittersweet and uplifting, it’s a story that I was fascinated by despite its flaws and I’m really glad I experienced it, the ending is absolutely exceptional while also being an absolute gut punch though oddly beautiful too, it’s definitely a film I’d recommend to people.

Okkos Inn – This was purchased predominantly because it gave me really strong Kiki’s Delivery Service which in all honesty is high praise though possibly an impossible standard to measure up to. It follows Oriko, also known as Okko, who goes to live with her grandmother at her inn after her parents die, Oriko can see spirits who she befriends and tries to help. It’s a fairly simple premise on paper but one that I couldn’t help feeling could also be incredibly sweet. Visually it’s very Ghibli-esque which I very much mean as a compliment, it’s not as stunning as some of the anime films I’ve written about but the characters look nice, if a little over stylised in places, and the scenery is suitably pretty, I will say there are some really impressive moments though. The parents are killed off very early on in a car accident which Oriko survives, it’s quick and thankfully not traumatising at all though this also seems to make it much less emotionally impactful than it probably should be, particularly as Okko doesn’t seem bothered by it at all initially which feels like a very odd creative decision though you do get some explanation towards her mindset as the films goes on which is helpful. The dub is ok – some of voice acting is great, Okko and her grandmother in particular are excellent, but some of the other voice acting varies in quality, one one is dreadful but I’ve just gotten used to more consistent dubs is all. Oriko is very much the heart of the film and thankfully she’s a delight, she can be headstrong at times but she’s also incredibly sweet and the filmmakers do an amazing job of making you care about her and they also address some of the trauma she carries from her parents death which was unexpected. There’s not much of a story early on, it’s just generally about Oriko learning to help around the inn and generally helping people out and cheering them up, it’s honestly probably the films greatest strength that it keeps things so simple. There’s some sadness in there which is to be expected given the subject matter but it does an amazing job of how it deals with it. It’s genuinely an incredibly sweet film, there’s honestly something to be said for a film like this where it’s hopeful tone just winds up feeling like a giant hug, and sometimes you just really need that.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya – A Studio Ghibli film I’d never seen before, which given it was seemingly released in 2013 is a bit odd, as I’d essentially never even heard of it until finding it in a shop. It’s based on an old Japanese tale called the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, which I’m naturally not familiar with at all so it was very much a case of going in blind barring a number of very positive review scores. Visually it’s utterly stunning, it’s almost a cross between watercolour painting and cel shading and honestly the use of colour is utterly astonishing, it’s impressive how on the surface it looks quite simple but if you look a little harder there’s a level of detail there which you don’t initially spot. There’s the usual Ghibli ability to assemble a solid voice cast, you’ve got people like James Caan, Mary Steenburgen and Chloe Grace Moretz amongst others and everyone delivers good performances which isn’t really a surprise with Ghibli films as they typically have good English dubs. Story wise it follows Kaguya who is found within a bamboo shoot by a bamboo cutter who decides to raise her with his wife, she grows incredibly fast and the bamboo cutter decides to move so that she can be a princess rather than a country girl as he has found gold and other things in the bamboo that imply that she’s meant for more. This goes about as well as you’d expect, princesses rarely seem to have a great time in fairy tale type stories and this one isn’t an exception and the result is quite melancholic at times and the use of silence at points does a very good job of driving this home. It’s far too long, it’s over 2 hours and it does drag in places, but while it could realistically be far shorter and therefore flow a bit better but you’d lose the melancholy I think and that’s weirdly part of what makes the film so beautiful. This build up also makes the last 20 or so minutes both incredibly uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, the ending is beautiful but an emotional gut punch which just about manages to finish on a hopeful note. Honestly there’s so much to recommend here and it does an amazing job of walking the tonal tightrope it does as it’s never depressing even when it’s sad, I’d definitely recommend it to people as one to check out.

Anthem of the Heart – This is a film that I’ve kept seeing pop up on various things when I’ve been looking at anime so decided that I’d give it a go as it seemed interesting. The blurb basically says that the film follows Jun, who is now doesn’t speak due to an incident in her youth which caused issues in her family, an egg fairy seemingly sealing away her voice to prevent any further hurt. Essentially as a kid she sees something which she then talks about and then gets blamed for the fallout despite it not being her fault at all, you see her initially as a happy, imaginative girl and later on she’s withdrawn and she’s lost that sense of joy that she had, it’s actually incredibly sad and as the film goes on it’s about her healing. There’s only a Japanese dub and it largely avoids the quirks that tend to make me stick to English dubs where I can, the subtitles showcase the films dialogue though, character interactions are incredibly earnest and there’s a sense of growth as the film progresses, I will say that I noticed spelling errors though which is pretty sloppy. Jun is undoubtedly the beating heart of the film but the relationships she builds with Takumi, Natsuki and Daiki are central to this and they’re all interesting characters in their own right. Visually it’s largely solid without doing much different to other anime films set in school, there are breaks from this where Jun imagines things and this provides more distinctive visuals and this has the added effect of emphasising how she sees herself which makes you really root for her to get a happy ending. The use of music is also really good, a nice blend of melancholic and uplifting which fits the tone of the film perfectly. At 2 hours long it probably could have done with being a little shorter but honestly it’s hard to think of anything I’d personally cut out as it all seems to be there to build the characters and their bonds and that’s pretty key to everything that happens. The way the relationships play out isn’t how you’d necessarily expect based on how things initially build but the weird thing is that it feels better for it as it somehow feels more chaotic and real as a result. Overall it was a really pleasant surprise, it’s a beautifully heartfelt film and thankfully it has a wonderfully upbeat ending.

When Marnie Was There – This is apparently the last pure studio Ghibli film currently released that I haven’t seen as yet, though there are others linked to the studio I haven’t seen as yet. It follows Anna as she goes to visit relatives and while there comes across an abandoned mansion where she meets Marnie, who she befriends and learns more about over the course of the summer and subsequently about herself too, typical coming of age stuff you’d think but it’s a little more complex than that. The English dub has a solid voice cast, you’ve got people like Gina Davis, John C Reilly and Kathy Bates and established voice actors like Grey Griffin and Fred Tatasciore all of whom know what they’re doing, Hailee Steinfeld voices Anna and has to display a fair emotional range and does a really good job of bringing her to life and making her relatable. Visually it’s a typical Ghibli film, the backdrops and scenery are love lyand the characters are really well realised and carry that distinct Ghibli style which I think will always be pleasantly charming. The soundtrack is exceptional, quiet and wistful for the most part it fits the tone of the film perfectly and adds to pretty much every scene which is incredibly impressive. Anna seems to have a sense of self loathing which has led her to keep people at a distance, this is as a result of her not really knowing who she is due to her past. It’s bittersweet watching her start to come to terms with her past as the film goes on and start to open up to people as it comes off the back of learning about Marnie and the tragedy of her life. Learning the truth about Anna and Marnie’s connection is a bit of a gut punch but it comes at a really uplifting point near the end of the film so it isn’t quite as brutal as it could have been, it’s a genuinely lovely ending that feels completely earned and there’s an epilogue of sorts before the credits roll where you get to see a much happier and more confident Anna and it just ends on an absolutely perfect note.

The Red Turtle – This is an animated film produced by Studio Ghibli but directed by  Dutchman Michael Dudok de Wit, so an anime in the Japanese context of the term which essentially covers all types of animation. Apparently Hayao Miyazaki had seen a short film by de Wit and had wanted to co produce a film with him, this led to this film being made. It follows a man trapped on a desert island whose attempts to escape are thwarted by the red turtle of the title. It gets noticeable weirder about half way in when he seemingly kills the turtle and she turns into a woman with a subsequent relationship of sorts forming between the 2 characters after this. The first thing you notice is that the colour palette is incredibly muted, the scenery still looks gorgeous but it’s not as vibrant as you’d normally associate with Ghibli film. This seems to allow for a more subtle use of lighting at different times of the day which provides some nice effects. I wasn’t initially a fan of the art design of the main character as it didn’t seem to fit the artistic style of the backdrop, but I thought he was amazingly animated, the way he moved felt very real to me. My dislike of his art style eased off early on when he interacted with a bridge in moonlight and it looked amazing, and the way shadows would fall on him also help make him feel part of the world he’s in. There’s also some moments that genuinely make you tense, early on the man falls into a cave and has to swim out through an incredibly narrow tunnel, you obviously suspect he’ll be ok but it does an excellent job of conveying a real sense of claustrophobia. The most striking thing about the film though is that there’s no dialogue, characters shout and make noise but there’s no talking to each other at all, it’s a bold move and does well to be engaging for the entire run time despite the lack of any exposition. As such the soundtrack needs to do alot of heavy lifting and it definitely does a good job of conveying the mood, whether that be loneliness, danger or anything else that the film is conveying at the time. It’s an odd little film but absolutely fascinating, I was honestly expecting to appreciate it but not really gel with it but actually I found myself being pretty riveted by it which was a nice surprise.

Penguin Highway – A film I found through trawling through the anime options for sale on an online store, immediately there was an appeal because of penguins. The synopsis on the back basically talks of penguins mysteriously appearing in a town that’s miles from the sea and main character Aoyama decides to try and solve the mystery behind this happening, and I’m not going to lie I was pretty much sold at that point. It’s a weird one as within the first 3 minutes or so it makes you hate Aoyama, he comes across as incredibly arrogant which isn’t ideal, I’m not sure if this is a translation thing and he comes across differently with the Japanese dub and subtitles mind you and he does get more likeable as the film progresses. The English dub is average, easily the weakest of the anime films I’ve seen of late. The voice actors are alright but they sometimes come across as a bit awkward and not very natural which is a shame. Visually it’s solid if a little inconsistent, there’s aspect that look amazing and then others that are decent and the soundtrack is alright though not exactly memorable. Luckily the film is delightfully weird and that’s what makes it stand out, as the mystery of the penguins is uncovered and it turns out to not be a naturally occurring phenomenon and it turns out a character can seemingly create them and then Aoyama begins to work with his classmates on another mystery that turns up and it’s seemingly linked to the penguins. There’s a few little mysteries in the film as it turns out and they all seem to be connected and it’s genuinely fascinating. The last 20 or so minutes is particularly striking and the ending kind of reminded me of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in that the core story is resolved but it leaves questions about what may happen in the future, it’s something I know will sit with me like it did with that film too. I have to say the film wasn’t what I was expecting at all but in the best possible way, there’s some definite flaws but I think the core story it’s telling (which is based on a book that I intend to check out at some point off the back of this) was interesting enough to make me look past the flaws which is impressive in itself.

Ride Your Wave – I knew nothing about this going in, I’d seen some screenshots while looking for anime and bought it purely based on the fact that this shots looked stunning. I suspected I’d made a mistake when reading about the plot as I figured it was going to be hard on the old heart as it follows Hinako who is rescued from a fire by Minato, they subsequently fall in love but this is cut short when Minato dies and Hinako is distraught though he somehow appears to her in water after this. The voice acting of the English dub is really good and it makes it very easy to warm to the characters, there seems to be at least a few established voice actors on the cast which I think helps, Hinako is voiced by the same voice actress that voiced Frosta in the recent She-Ra series which was a nice little surprise. I wasn’t initially sold on the art style of the characters but I warmed to that when I saw them animated, they work very well, and in terms of everything else visually it’s every bit as stunning as I had assumed it would be, the use of colour at times is amazing. The early part of the film follows Hinako and Minato as they first meet, go surfing together and as they fall in love and it’s honestly a delight, they’re disgustingly cute together, there’s an added layer of dread though as you know it’s going to be shattered at some point and when it comes it’s pretty brutal without ever actually showing anything – Minato is essentially there and then he’s not and Hinako naturally has a hard time with this. When he starts appearing to her in the water no one else can see him so you’re initially not sure if she’s actually just hallucinating because of her grief but when he proves to be real she seemingly starts to resume her relationship with him which doesn’t seem ideal. It’s an interesting film because it actually shows how Minato’s death impacts his best friend and sister too and you get to see how they all start to move on and heal and it’s honestly pretty heartwarming. There’s a sequence towards the end that’s more than a little silly but it somehow comes off as charming though it’s then followed by an emotional gut punch. Thankfully it ends on a much happier and more hopeful note but honestly it was a great film that I think handled the subject matter in a way that was refreshingly different to what I’d have expected.

Sword of the Stranger – I found out about this film from an article someone had written with the best anime scenes ever and this was either in it or someone called it out in the comments, and after a little bit of study it reminded me a little of Ninja Scroll which I loved so figured this would be worth a go if nothing else. The setting of feudal Japan and the fact it’s seemingly more action based than the other films on this list made for an interesting contrast and the plot of a boy trying to escape a prophecy (which presumably doesn’t end well for him) and enlisting the help of a stranger apparently called No Name, a warrior who has vowed to never unsheathed his sword, to escort him. It’s a seemingly pretty straightforward plot but such things have a tendency to not be quite so simple. I initially thought thee art style was a little retro and date but actually I warmed to it pretty quickly, the scenery looks nice and the action is well animated, some of the characters are a little too old school at times but it’s not the end of the world, my only real complaint is the blood spray and the only reason I’m complaining is that I bitched about Kill Bill for the same thing so it’d be churlish not to call out other films that do it. No Nam pretty much follows every cliche going in that he has a trouble back story, he’s distant from people and leans into the money grabbing mercenary trop and he warms to his companions as the film progresses, Kotaro is the typical kid who’s whiny initially though it’s understandable given his troubles but he’s also oddly endearing too and Tobimaru the dog rounds out the group and he’s an utter delight, though he does get hurt early doors. Villain wise pretty everyone seems to be one, none of them are especially well defined though the most distinct is Luo-Lang a blonde haired warrior whose primary motivation seems to be finding a challenging warrior to fight. Voice acting for the English dub is largely solid, the main characters are decent but some of the more throwaway characters tend to be a bit hit and miss, nothing that ruins the film but it’s can be a bit jarring at times. It’s a solid film overall but it’s definitely elevated by the sequence that initially piqued my interest, it’s pretty epic and the final battle is awesome too. I think the first half is a little slow but probably the last half an hour or so is amazing and more than justified the decision to check this one out.

Children of the Sea – Recommended by an artist I follow and whose work I adore, I seemingly waited ages for it to be released in the UK and it essentially became the inspiration for doing a whole anime watch blog with it being the last film on there so I’ve been looking forward to finally sorting it. The synopsis is basically Ruka is drawn an aquarium after seemingly seeing a ghost in the water and befriends two boys, Umi and Sora, who she meets there. They were apparently raised by dugongs and feel the same call of the sea that Ruka does and they all get caught up in a mystery as there is a worldwide disappearance of fish in the ocean. The beginning of the film establishes that Ruka doesn’t necessarily have many friends or get on particularly well with people at her school, and her mother and seems to be quite withdrawn generally, Umi on the other hand is very outgoing and friendly and befriends Ruka incredibly quickly, Sora is a bit more disagreeable and early on seems to enjoy annoying Ruka, which he’s quite good at though he does warm up in time. It’s absolutely stunning in places, the underwater sequences are amazing and very visually distinct, I can’t speak highly enough and there were a few scenes where I was just in awe. The score is the perfect accompaniment, Joe Hisaishi does and excellent job but having heard his work on various Studio Ghibli films this wasn’t really a shock. It gets seriously weird after the first hour or so, to the point where I wasn’t really sure what the overall plot actually was though seemed incredibly open to interpretation, which I have to say I’d usually hate but some how it just works. I think this is largely due to the fact that it seems to be absolutely massive in scope but having Ruka as the central character makes it feel incredibly personal and intimate at the same time. I was completely invested and fascinated the entire time even when I was trying to figure out what was going on during the trippier parts. There are definitely flaws with the way it tells its story and sometimes it feels like it’s missing parts, which may be down to it being based on a multi book manga where they’ve had to condense things like Akira had to as some characters feel completely redundant, the ending seems insanely abrupt too and again it’s open to interpretation but you see elements that suggest Ruka is in a better place overall there is an after credits scene though and that does feel like a near perfect end point for the film. It’s an odd film as while I’ve obviously highlighted issues I can already tell it’s going to be a film that’ll stick with me in a positive way as it’s definitely memorable.

It’s been quite a good experience watching these films, there’s definitely something to be said for not knowing much about a film going in and it’s been nice to know I can pick films I actually enjoy based purely on a bit of blurb and an idea of whether I like the art style. I still have films left over to watch and more that I want to check out as it’s now something I actively look into so this sort of blog may be something I do again in future, there’s also the possibility of doing a Ghibli re-watch at some point though I may put a limit on the number of films there rather than going back through everything.

More newly watched films

This is the first blog of the year where I talk about films I’ve watched that I previously haven’t seen before, it’s been a bit of a struggle with this one as depression has kicked my arse a bit and I’ve struggled for motivation to actually watch films in general, even old ones that are comfort films for. This has therefore taken me far longer than I’d have liked to get finished, as evidenced by a Christmas film being on here. I’m hoping that my mental health is going to give me a little bit of a break and I can watch some more films. Also hopefully cinemas may actually re-open in the not too distant future which would definitely be something to look forward to, even if it’s potentially older films that will vie shown to start with.

Surviving Christmas – I’m a Big Ben Affleck fan, though I’ll concede this is more to do with his more modern output than his early stuff. I do like to give the older stuff a go though which is why I picked this up after finding it cheap in spite of it seemingly being slated ,though I obviously managed expectations as a result of this. I’m not typically a fan of Christmas films as I find them overly sentimental and incredibly predictable, I got a bit of a bad feeling in the intro where a guy is donating to a charity Santa and throws his wallet, watch and wedding ring into the collection in what I assume was meant to be funny but wasn’t really and there were a few other scenes in this where dark humour is used which doesn’t really land. Affleck at this point in his career is well cast as a millionaire douchebag who after being dumped decides he wants the family Christmas experience so essentially rents a family for the holiday and it does not initially go well. He’s naturally an utterly entitled dickhead for much of the film but learns to be a better man as things progress. This is largely due to Christina Applegate’s character who acts as the romantic foil and thankfully Applegate is a delight, as she is in pretty much anything I’ve ever seen her in. James Gandolfini is comfortably the best thing in the film though, the sense of put upon exasperation he conveys is genuinely funny. Affleck overacts to a point where it’s actually cringe inducing a lot of the time, there are moments though where he’ll play a scene much more restrained which gives a much darker subtext to what’s happening and it really does provide a glimpse of a film that would have been far more interesting. As it is it’s largely a clusterfuck, an enjoyable one, but a clusterfuck nonetheless though it does have a quite decent ending. I’d warn anyone even slightly tempted to either not bother or seriously lower their expectations. I honestly want to see a version of this film where it’s played as proper dark comedy where you get the more restrained Affleck slowly unravelling over the festive period, it would have been a much much better film.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days – One of the only Makoto Shinkai feature films I’ve not seen at this point, and apparently his feature film debut. It’s also the film of his I’ve owned the longest, I honestly couldn’t say why I’ve never gotten round to it til now but having gotten properly into his films it felt like it was about time to get it watched. My initial impression was that it fits the pattern with his previous films in that it’s visually very, very pretty, Shinkai really knows how to use colour to effectively create atmosphere. The voice cast aren’t actors I know but they did solid work, it was a pretty decent dub overall. The film follows two friends, Hiroki and Takuya, as they rebuild a plane with the intention of flying it to a mysterious tower and there’s a third friend, Sayuri, who mysteriously disappears which causes Hiroki and Takuya to drift apart. It’s much more science fiction based than his films I’ve seen previously as it takes in things like parallel universes and an alternate history where the Soviet Union occupies half of Japan, which is a pretty interesting concept though it’s never really expanded on as much as I’d like, though I guess you’d either need a huge exposition dump or more time to explore it which would impact the pacing, which is largely pretty decent overall so while I’d have liked more background I understand that there’s a balance which is necessary. It’s much more violent than the other films of Shinkai’s that I’ve seen which is a result of the backdrop of the divided Japan, it adds an element of danger to the film which isn’t unwelcome. Sayuri is pretty central to the story being told, Hiroki reconnects with her in a dream of sorts and vows to fly the plane to the tower with her onboard as he believes doing so would allow them to re-connect in the real world. Overall it’s a cool film but I think it has too many plot threads going on which means that it’s not as focussed as it could be and as a result there isn’t the same level of character development I’d have liked, this is something I’d say has been learned from in later films though and honestly my main complaint is that it’s essentially too ambitious which isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world.

The Matrix Revolutions – This was apparently released way back on the good old days of 2003 when we were allowed to do things with other people, I never bothered watching it due to how much I’d originally disliked Reloaded. I decided I should give it a go give there’s a new Matrix film on the way and because having rewatched the second film I was interested to see how it all ended given the cliffhanger, though I will concede I wasn’t exactly excited about it. I honestly wish I hadn’t bothered, the opening 45 minutes is lots of talking with one action set piece which was decent and the first three quarters of the film keeps Neo and Smith to a bare minimum which is naturally frustrating when they’re the best things in the film, in fact Neo’s most significant contribution in this period is to get himself blinded by Smith (who hijacked a human body in Reloaded) though he’s still able to see in some fashion, which is obviously very fortunate. You get a major set piece about halfway through where the machines attack the human city and they have to defend it, which they do though they seemingly now have access to mechs and other things which is a bit of a stretch given what we’ve seen prior to this and I say this knowing how ridiculous everything else to this point has been. This battle is suitably chaotic and the effects are pretty solid but it suffers from one very key problem – I literally didn’t give a shit about any of the characters involved in this sequence. The characters they’d invested the bulk of the screen time making me care about weren’t actually in the battle and basically popped up right at the end to save the day. The final confrontation between Neo and Agent Smith felt like a wasted opportunity too, it was well shot and choreographed but it just felt incredibly soulless, this wasn’t helped by the fact that there was an army of Smiths stood around just watching it happen, it was just very anticlimactic. To be clear I didn’t hate the film though I can’t say I liked it either, I just couldn’t care about it at all, I couldn’t get invested in it which isn’t something I could say about the other 2 films in the series (for better or worse in each instance). I’m still very interested in seeing the fourth film when it comes out but I have to say that expectations will be tempered accordingly, I hope they can steer clear of the convoluted bollocks which ultimately hampered the sequels.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices – Also know as Journey to Agartha apparently, this was the last Makoto Shinkai feature film for me to see at this point. Where I had a vague idea of the basic stories for his other films this one I had no clue about which meant I was pretty much going in blind, therefore my expectations were purely around it being a visually stunning film that’d most likely be quite emotional in places. The film follows Asuna, a young girl whose father has passed away and mother works a lot so she spends alot of time on her own helping at home where she can. She’s attacked by a mysterious creature and saved by Shun, a boy from the country of Agartha, who dies not long afterwards. She later meets Shin, who is Shun’s brother, and they travel to Agartha. There’s much more to it than that as Agartha is a place where the souls of the dead reside and the seeming villain of the piece wants to bring his dead wife back. It’s a more complex plot than the other Shinkai films I’ve seen in my opinion but it feels like a more contemplative piece as a result, which I think is due to the focus on death and dealing with loss, it’s incredibly interesting. Visually it’s typically impressive however it’s quite a different style to his usual films, it reminds me more of a Studio Ghibli film which may have been deliberate given it’s much more fantasy based than his other films. It’s definitely not a bad thing, just a little jarring in terms what I’ve grown used to, though it’s always a positive to see a film maker that’s able to utilise different styles effectively. The English dub is decent if a little understated, there’s no actors I recognise in the cast but from what I’ve been able to tell the cast are largely made up of established voice actors and the experience shows. My only complaint with the film would be that it gets a little convoluted at times but the ending more than makes up for it due to the fact that it touches on loss and how it can be difficult. Also unusually for a Makoto Shinkai film it doesn’t end quite like his other films as there’s a more seemingly closed ending rather than the ones he typically goes for where they’re typically left open to interpretation, overall it’s well worth checking out.

Coming 2 America – I love the original film, it’s one of those films where if it happens to be on then it’s never a bad idea to sit and watch. That being said it’s not a film I’d have said needed a sequel, and with that there’s also a feeling that it may not even be good idea as there’s really no way this can even be close to as good as the original. All that being said I was super excited when it was announced and was also quite glad it was coming straight to Amazon Prime given the pandemic and how it’s shut down cinemas. It’s definitely trying too hard to re-capture what made the first film so special, and while it isn’t a patch on the original that’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. Everyone is clearly having a lot of fun and it’s great seeing Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall playing off each other again, the barber shop is again a highlight. James Earl Jones is back briefly and his character comes off more mean spirited than he really should which is a shame and Wesley Snipes is surprisingly entertaining. The de-aged Hall and Murphy used to expand flashbacks from the first film to explain the long lost son are a little jarring, but thankfully it’s not used excessively. There’s numerous little call backs and references to the first film which should probably annoy me a little but actually I found more charming than anything else, little things like the baby elephant from the first film now being grown up to a McDowells advert. There’s a scatter gun approach to the jokes where some don’t land and some do and it’s skewed a bit in favour of the former, but the ones that did land had me laughing, there’s also a very nice Trading Places reference in there which made me smile too. It treads some familiar story beats to the first film which I initially rolled my eyes at but actually it does feel like a natural progression from the first film and maintains a lot of the sweetness from the first film, I was honestly pleasantly surprised by that. It’s an unnecessary sequel and realistically it’s not a patch on what came before but it is harmless fun, and I really enjoyed it so I’m happy with it.

Wonder Woman 1984 – I really enjoyed the first film, I thought it was fun and got the tone of the character right which hasn’t always been the case with some of the DC films. My only really complaint was around the excessive use of CGI towards the end which I thought made things a bit silly, but that’s a pretty standard feeling with any film with too much CGI so it wasn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. I was therefore looking forward to the sequel though I will admit to being somewhat concerned when it kept getting delayed as that’s not traditionally a great sign. It’s visually stunning, it’s incredibly colourful and vibrant which I really like, and Hans Zimmer delivers a pretty immense soundtrack, there’s a scene early on that reminded me of the original Superman film from the 70s tonally and it eased alot of my concerns as it showed that the tone from the first film was consistent with this one which was great news. Gal Gadot is excellent once again as the title character as she always seems to be, she naturally carries the film as you’d expect and she does a great job of it. Chris Pine being back makes very little sense, they explain the character he played in the first film returning but he’s initially in a different persons body and Pine seems to return as all Diana sees is him which is a very silly but it just about gets away with this conceit as Pine is a delight as the man out of time and there’s a few good laughs there. Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig are the villains of the piece, Pascal is Maxwell Lord and Wiig is Barbara Minerva who becomes Cheetah, they’re both excellent and the characters they’re playing are pretty well realised, they’re more complex than most villains in superhero films. Wiig in particular is excellent and it’s all too easy understand some of her actions, she’s kept remarkably sympathetic despite going down the path she does. There’s some nice nods to the Wonder Woman character as a whole in there too, the invisible jet and her learning to fly, there’s also a cameo from Lynda Carter who played Wonder Woman in the old TV series. I really enjoyed the film, it’s well paced and tells a story I was interested in, sure it’s silly but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and  also manages to convey genuine emotion in there too, it’s definitely well worth checking out.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League – I’ve been curious about this since it was announced, given the amount supposedly re-shot by Joss Whedon for the theatrical release I obviously wanted to know how different the original vision was. Let’s start with the obvious concern – it’s 4 fucking hours long, which is exhausting thinking about much less actually watching, though in fairness it is split out into parts so there are natural break points in there if you didn’t watch it all at once. The film follows the same basic premise as the theatrical version but there’s more context provided, which is the advantage of the extended run time. The intro is completely different with it showing the death of Superman and how his dying scream seemingly awakened the mother boxes which drive the plot, it’s much more tonally in line with Snyder’s universe too so doesn’t feel as jarring this time around. Some of the  one liners and jokes are gone, some of these are better gone, the scene where the Flash lands on Wonder Woman and Batman’s quip about Aquaman talking to fish being examples. There’s alot of build up here, it’s slow paced for the first half with alot of world building and introducing characters interspersed with some action beats. It actually works much better than I expected though you know damn well while watching that it never would have been released like this and it does feel like hacking away some of it would have had a dramatic impact on how much sense things made given that you’d be potentially losing characters and arcs. Flash and Cyborg get far more to do in this version, Cyborg in particular feels far more important to the plot here where previously he felt like something of an afterthought and Flash, while again used for comedy relief, is much more consistent as a character. There’s a completely new score in place too, Junkie XL doing the honours here and it’s very good, the call backs to Hans Zimmer’s work from previous films is nice but I do miss the Danny Elfman score too given the references to the older Batman and Superman films. There was alot I really loved about this, Batman and Superman were much more how I’ve always seen them in terms of character, Aquaman is better characterised compared to the original version, Wonder Woman is as good as ever, there’s more Alfred which is a delight, it’s less quippy than the original which I appreciate more than I expected and the lack of Henry Cavill’s CGI’d top lip is a definite upside. The negatives are obviously that insane run time, the effects are occasionally a bit ropey, it’s at times incredibly self indulgent, I think there’s a bit too much crammed into the film and it teases a Batman film that’ll most likely never get made which is a a crying shame. Overall it’s a flawed film that’s alot of fun, it’s well worth watching if you’re a fan of Snyder’s previous DC films. It’s honestly amazing it’s even been released at all given everything that’s happened since he stepped away from the film after the tragedy he had to deal with but the campaign to get it paid off massively.

Mortal Kombat – I guess this is technically a reboot given it doesn’t connect to the original films at all, but they’re all based on a computer game series so not really sure how it all works. Trailers for this showed a level of violence that at least mirrored the games, as well as a number of things that appeared faithful to that series so I was pretty interested, though with the caveat that game adaptations are typically shit. First impressions were that it was visually impressive though the blood effects were a little off, and it makes an odd decision to introduce a brand new character called Cole Young. Thankfully he’s pretty likeable and acts as a gateway into the world the film builds, there’s a certain amount already established which you learn about via Cole which is quite  a handy narrative short cut. It keeps the core cast relatively tight compared to the sheer number of characters that have been in the games over the years, this leads to some pretty glaring omissions like Johnny Cage though which just doesn’t feel right somehow. It sticks pretty close to the games tonally, in the sense that it doesn’t shy away from the violence at all. There’s some fatalities in there too for good measure and it largely doesn’t take itself too seriously though this does jar somewhat with the intro which sort of feels like it belongs in a completely different film along with the Sub Zero and Scorpion fight later on. Casting is largely solid, Joe Taslim as Sub Zero is probably the stand out though as he’s probably the main bad guy overall and there’s a genuine sense of menace about him which is impressive. There are definitely things I don’t like, it’s little too cliched and silly in places, some of the special effects are a little ropey, it doesn’t actually have the traditional tournament at all and it basically short changes Goro massively which is a shame. That said it’s a lot of fun and leaves plenty of room for a sequel which is something I’d definitely want to see as I thought the fight sequences were great overall. There’s also scope to bring in plenty of other characters, Johnny Cage being the most obvious and then there’s the second Sub Zero which could be a great addition. Ultimately I hope it does well enough to justify further films, I’d definitely recommend giving it a watch.

Double Dragon – I confess that I decided to watch this not because I especially wanted to but more to see if it was as bad as its reputation would indicate. It’s based on a computer game where 2 brothers beat the shit out of waves of bad guys to rescue the one of the characters girlfriends, not exactly a complex plot so it’s a little odd that the film goes a v very different route plot wise. It did star Mark Dacascos though who I’ve seen in a few things so made me hopeful the fight sequences might be alright at least, and Robert Patrick as the bad guy is, in theory, solid casting, needless to say though I went in with low expectations. These expectations were not exactly reassured when after the intro to establish an ancient medallion as plot macguffin it shows the setting as being New Angeles in 2007 where you honestly can’t help feeling like just having it be Los Angeles would have been less of a ballache. You also get a flavour for how bad the special effects are going to be when Patrick’s character takes possession of half the medallion, it’s really weird to think this came out after Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 and the effects are so want, though I concede I’d imagine this had a comparatively minuscule budget. It then establishes the heroes, Dacascos playing the more serious Jimmy and Scott Wolf as Billy who for want of a better word is a dickhead, instantly unlikeable and I wanted him to have his head kicked in early doors so I didn’t have to put up with him. The whole aesthetic is just weird, the futuristic setting means all vehicles look mental and the gangs that come out after curfew look like a mish mash of the Warriors and the Village People, it’s seriously fucking weird and hard to believe someone got paid to sort it out, the heroes have a car that has what appears to be a jet engine on it which is powered by an onboard incinerator they feed newspaper into, I’m all for suspending disbelief but for fuck sake. The dialogue is dire, genuinely appalling to the point where again it’s amazing someone was paid for the script. It tries to be clever and satirical, it cuts to news reports like Robocop does and there’s cereal branded by the bad guy (though these are just Rice Krispies with the elves wearing shades and a sticker stuck over the rice part on the box), but these attempts never really work as the film makers don’t understand what satire actually is. There’s also a henchman that gets some kind of medical procedure done to him to make him stronger and he winds up looking like a ball bag, I wish I was kidding. There’s also very little fighting which is idiotic given the game it’s based on, and it’s an utter waste given that Dacascos can actually fight. It is without a doubt every bit as shit as I was expecting, and actually it’s frustrating as if you remove the mystical bollocks, and the bullshit pseudo sci fi setting and just focus on the fighting to rescue the person you’re closer to the games, you’ve arguably got a better film and you could have used some of that special effects money to pay for a better script. Honestly the only thing that makes it semi worthwhile is that Patrick seems to genuinely be having a blast as the bad guy. Watching shit like this voluntarily though seriously makes me question my sanity, there are so many things about this that I could rip to shreds but honestly it’d take too much time and space.

Men in Black International – I originally intended to see this at the cinema, the trailers had looked promising and the chance to see Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson bantering off each like in Thor Ragnarok definitely appealed to me. Then it came out and got absolutely slaughtered in reviews and I just never bothered so figured I’d give it a go now it’s on Netflix. I went in with the mind set that it can’t be as bad as the reviews indicated surely, I appreciate that I should really know better at this point and keep expectations low but sometimes I’m sense of hope overrides my sense of realism. Thompson is very much the main character here as agent M, a new hire who has managed to track the Men in Black agency over the course of 20 years, she’s a socially awkward delight and you know she’ll have come into her own by the end of the film and Hemsworth is the maverick agent, you get the impression at this point he could do this sort of role in his sleep but he’s consistently entertaining thankfully. It’s very weirdly paced as M finds and joins up and has a montage of training which happens insanely quickly and then it takes about half the film to build up to the main plot, and even then it doesn’t flow especially well. There’s some questionable effects with some of the aliens and there’s special effects like the pointlessly transforming subway train which honestly would have worked better it had remained a standard train, this is a theme in the film in that some things just seem to happen for the sake of looking cool. Some of the alien designs are pretty cool but this comes with the caveat that bar a couple of exceptions none are especially memorable. It’s unbelievably predictable, you know that the alien M meets at the start is going to factor in again at some point and it happens, though I will say it’s quite sweet when it comes. The villains are imposing but literally have no characterisation and there’s a twist that is horrendously realised, it should be meaningful but because the character doesn’t get a lot of characterisation it comes off as trite instead.The most irritating thing about the whole film is there’s some really good performances in here, Thompson and Hemsworth play off each other well, Kumail Nanjiani is fun as the voice of an alien, Liam Neeson is solid as always and Emma Thompson might be the best thing in it, which is impressive given the limited amount of time she’s actually in it. Overall it’s shit but it just about manages to stay on the side of being mildly entertaining shit, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but if asked it would probably result in shrugged shoulders and a comment that I’d seen worse films.

I’m really glad to have got through this finally, I think the next newly watched film thing I do will likely be pure anime as I’ve acquired quite a few new films of late and I’ve been putting them off as I’d already done a few for this blog and didn’t want to overload it where I think a dedicated one is just fine. Cinemas are also hopefully due to re-open soon so there may be some stuff worth seeing there soon, though I’d imagine not for the initial few weeks.

Constantly trying to be a better person

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to post this or not given I don’t think it paints me in a great light. I’ve decided to go for it though as I feel like it also shows that I’ve gotten better and am trying to be better and figure that’s not a bad thing to talk about. 

I’ve been what I’d consider to be very lucky in my lifetime, I grew up in stable home with parents that loved each other and me, and the people I went to school with were largely the same. I never met anyone who had divorced parents until I started working at 17. As such I had a very specific view of the world and there was things I didn’t really understand or consider outside of my particular experience at that point.

With the benefit of hindsight a fair few of my viewpoints have been dickish at best, the way I’ve acted towards people has sometimes been problematic, especially towards people I consider friends. I’ve been incredibly lucky over the years as I’ve made incredibly good friends who I’ve learned from, who’ve been patient with me and who have stuck by when I’ve not always deserved loyalty like that. It’s been humbling and incredibly enlightening. 

These days I consider myself to be reasonably open minded, I’m open to learning about things I don’t understand and I want to be someone that doesn’t hate people or mock people because of circumstances outside of their control, traumas they’ve suffered, choices they’ve made or just who they are. It’s just odd to get to a point where you’re used to a certain way of thinking and then gradually that way of thinking is changed as a result of the people you surround yourself with, be it friends, family or work colleagues.

It’s something that’s been hugely eye opening over the years, turns out I was a bit of a prick when I was younger. I still am now to be perfectly honest, I think I’m just much more self aware than I was back then, coupled with the fact that I want to be a better person. As such I try to learn and listen to people, it’s taken time to develop that particular skill being the stubborn, opinionated prick I am but I have to say it’s been one of the most personally rewarding things I’ve done.

There was never any hatred in my thinking when I was younger, I was just the typical idiot who didn’t consider other people when I’d be joking about things. I was also the typical dickhead who thinks making jokes about topics like rape and calling your friends gay as an insult is the height of comedy, and you brush it off as just having a dark sense of humour. In my case I was just an oblivious wanker that didn’t really know much about the world and Jesus it showed more than I’d care to admit.

I think my view of things started to change when I started working at Virgin Megastore when I was about 20. I worked with a decent number of people that were gay or bisexual and basically realised they were just people. This seems so bloody obvious to me now and I question why I was so stupid but I’m just glad I was able to get past that way of thinking as it led to me making some really good friend, becoming more comfortable with myself as a person and just generally making myself more aware of some of the crap they have to deal with from people like I was or worse.

I think and hope that that’s the crux of the human experience, you meet people you care about and you learn to empathise with life experiences that differ from your own. I’m friends with people that have been raped and that immediately stopped me making jokes about it, that perspective of them having to have dealt with that kind of trauma just instantly stopped it being funny to me. For me it was one of those things where it made me angry at myself to think how callous I was and hoI could just make throwaway jokes about things like that. This is the wonderful thing about hindsight, it’s very easy to beat yourself up for past actions.

There’s loads of little things like the above examples that have happened over the years which have been really eye opening to me. From personal experience it’s very easy to just ignore things that don’t fit my worldview and don’t impact me but I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that not everything is about me. It’s been fascinating (sometimes morbidly so) learning more about these things, and I’m a little proud of myself where I’ve taken myself out of my comfort zone to do so, though I appreciate trying to be a non shit human should be the bare minimum.

I’d say I’m not sympathetic in the conventional sense, I don’t think I’m especially great knowing what to say in situations like that. I think I’ve become pretty good at listening and being a bit of a sounding board as I try to approach things from a logical standpoint. This has led to conversations with friends about things like counselling where I’ve had some experience which really helped me. I had a conversation with a friend about it once when she was considering and she said that talking to me about it had helped a little with the way she approached counselling and as a result the she found it a bit useful, it’s nice to know that while I’m learning from other people I have things to offer too.

I think that’s been the thing about my depression, I’m way too hard on myself. I’ve beaten myself up over the years and to be fair on my friends for the most part I don’t think they’ve had a problem with how I’ve been. Sure there will be disagreements about things but I’d like to think that they know I listen to them and take stuff seriously. If anything I’m hyper aware of how I can come across now, probably way more than I need to be in all honesty.

It’s weird because I see the way the world is changing, with racism being called out and with everyday sexism women deal with being highlighter it feels like we may actually wind up living in a world where people are capable of not being dicks to each other and if not necessarily accepting the differences of other people but being respectful and not being wankers about it. I suspect it’s going to be a slow going process to some extent but I figure any improvement of situation for people who are treated badly for things such as race, sexual orientation and things that have happened to them has to be embraced and has to be expanded.

Ultimately I am who I am now as a result of the people I’ve met, talked to, cared for and essentially wanted to learn from. I used to think as a kid I was open minded but I’m not sure I was, at least not on some topics. I’m not 100% sure I am fully now to be honest, I’m still very stuck in my way of thinking on alot of topics but I’m also trying to move away from that. I’m at least open minded enough to acknowledge I don’t know everything and to listen to people who know more about things than I do, which I figure is a decent enough 

This has extended to my friends, I’m trying to be a little bit less argumentative with them and losing my temper when they’ll sometimes say things I disagree with. We’re all stubborn and opinionated so no good tends to come from getting wound up about stuff. I’ve taken this to the point where if things start to get as little heated in our group chat I’ll remove myself from there for a bit to cool off and make sure I don’t say anything I regret. I like to think I’m a slow learner in some respects but I do learn eventually.

I’m not sure how effective it’ll be but I know I’m at least willing to accept when I’m in the wrong and not get offended about it which seems to be the very least I can do. Ultimately though I want my nephew to grow up being someone can see past all these issues and just knows to treat people with decency and respect, the person I aspire to be in essence. Based on how he is at 2 and wanting to be friends with everyone I suspect I’m going to wind up being very proud of him, and probably learning a few things from him.

When all said and done I just want to be the best version me I can be, I want to be there for my friends and help them wherever I can and I want them to know how much they mean to me and the regard I hold them. I don’t want to hate people as it’s exhausting, but if I do hate someone I want it to be because they’re an arsehole rather than for any other reason. And most of all I just want to make my little corner of the world a little better where I can, it doesn’t feel like much overall but at the same time it feels like I’m doing something at least.

If you happened to have read this and stuck with it to the end thank you, I’m not really sure what the purpose of this was beyond trying to convey my mindset a little while also trying to make sense of it myself. I overthink alot so this has been rattling around in my head for weeks now, as a result it may be a little all over the place but I also like to think it comes from a good place and makes some kind of sense.

Nightwing #78 – Really bloody good thankfully

I’ve talked about my issues with the Ric Grayson story arc a few times at this point, I didn’t like it overall as the book stopped being a Nightwing book for all intents and purposes. I did like how they eventually tried to tie it back to being a bigger deal story wise than it had been up to that point but by then the whole thing had gone on too long. The best thing for me about the Joker War storyline was that it basically represented the end of that arc which I think a lot of people were very much ready for.

I was immediately cautiously optimistic when Tom Taylor was announced as writer from issue 78 and that it was going to be a jumping on point, Taylor has done some great work on Injustice and DCeased even if Dick Grayson was killed off early in both of those. When I saw previews of the art from the issue by Bruno Redondo that cautious optimism turned into genuine excitement, it honestly looked amazing from what I’ve 

I’ve kept seeing stuff online which just made the wait for the issue to be released, it’s been unbearable at times. I’ve now read it though and I absolutely loved it, it was everything I wanted and then some. With that in mind I thought I’d talk a little about it just because I’ve pretty much re-read it about 4 or 5 times at this point and it’s probably going to get read a few more times. There’s going o be spoilers in here as there’s very specific stuff I want to get into.

It does some interesting work setting up what’s to come, you have Blockbuster killing the mayor of Bludhaven and installing the daughter of Tony Zucco, the man that killed Dick Grayson’s parents, as the new mayor. So there’s a personal connection there straightaway and and while Blockbuster doesn’t get much time he’s established as being a powerful and ruthless presence so you know he’s going be a formidable opponent in the future.

The art work is stunning, Redondo does a great job of making Bludhaven more distinct that Gotham City where it’s been very similar over the years via the use of colour, Bludhaven has been established as a Casino city so the implication I believe is that there’s alot of neon lighting. The art also does a really good job of conveying movement which is particularly useful give Grayson is an acrobat and his fighting style reflects this so it’s great that the artwork does such a great job of showing this.

There’s some nice acknowledging of past Nightwing runs too, the apartment block where he lives is a building he owns from a previous run which hasn’t been seen for a while which is nice. There’s also some light-hearted jabs at the whole Ric Grayson arc when he rescues the 3 legged puppy who looks to be becoming a fixture in the comic going forward which isn’t unwelcome as she’s pretty adorable on the whole.

The comic opens with a flashback to when Dick is a kid, it’s when he first meets Barbara Gordon at school as they defend a fellow student being picked on by a group of bullies. The subsequent follow where he’s taken home by Jim Gordon and starts helping Alfred with chores is really earnest as it establishes Dick as just wanting to help people. It’s such a simple thing to do but it also really separates him from Bruce Wayne as a character as this motivation is just there without the trauma of losing his parents playing a part. It’s such a small thing overall but it works.

This is the first time in ages that I can remember a comic focusing on the bond between Alfred and Dick. It was always great when they were allowed to interact as there was a clearly established affection there and it was always great to see it as Alfred is much more comfortable expressing emotion than most of the people Dick knows so they tended to have a lot of sincere moments. The scene of them talking as Dick helps Alfred with the washing up is one of my favourites though and has me hoping for more flashbacks in future issues.

The interaction with Barbara Gordon is largely great too, there’s a bit where she takes him by surprise that’s a little frustrating as it turns him into the butt of the joke a little which is a little frustrating coming off the most recent arc but it’s a small niggle. What’s nice is that the conversation is relative easy going despite the heavy reason for Barbara being there. A lot of their interactions in recent memory have been argumentative or mean spirited which is legitimately annoying when they’re meant to be as close as they are. I’m incredibly grateful for it not being the case here, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she figures into this run knowing she’s meant to be involved.

Her reason for being there helps tie together another bugbear I’ve had in relation to Alfred having been killed off. That being that there’s been no real payoff with regards to Dick as he was Ric at the time and then he came back during the Joker War arc so there was no real room for this to happen in a way that worked. This rectifies that as Barbara is there as the executor of Alfred’s will, turns out he was loaded and made some great investment choices and left the money to Dick and while this is nice it’s not the truly cathartic part of the comic.

To be honest the whole conversation where Dick and Barbara discuss Alfred and how rich he was and why he continued to basically look after Bruce and everyone else is really sweet. Dick wonders why Alfred would make him sandwiches and do his washing and Barbara’s response is perfect in its simplicity – it’s what he wanted to do. She also passes on a letter that Alfred wrong for Dick, turns out he’d write one every year as a precaution.

The letter Alfred wrote for Dick is genuinely the most emotional things I’ve personally ever read in any comic. It sums up the regard Alfred held Dick in , saying how proud he is, how much he believes in him and his ability to do good and referring to him as his son. It’s incredibly heartfelt and I’ve read these particular pages multiple times now and I get the same kick to the heart (in the best way possible) every single time. The whole issue would be worth it for this alone if everything else wasn’t very good but thankfully everything is largely great.

I’d go so far as to say this is properly my single favourite issue of any comic I’ve ever written, it’s really great to see Dick being written as a distinct character in his own right where it’s seemed like he’s been treated more as an extension of Batman of late which is frustrating. I’m incredibly excited to see where this run goes and I hope Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo stay on creative for as long as humanly possible as they make a fantastic team. I had really high hopes going in and for the first time in a long time those hopes were exceeded, which is a very pleasant surprise.

It’s personally the Nightwing comic I’ve been waiting years for, a talented writer who seems to totally get what makes the character so special, and also the fact that he seems to be able to keep him a bit separate from Batman. It’s been great to see Taylor talk about what he wants to achieve as it’s clear he holds Dick Grayson in the same sort of esteem as I do which isn’t a bad thing. Hopefully Taylor is going to get to tell the stories he wants to tell as if he does then this has the potential to be a truly special run.