Category Archives: Films

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.

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.

Rewatching films is sometimes not a good idea

The anime re-watch blog I did a little while back got me thinking that it might be a solid idea to do something similar with films in general that I’ve not seen in ages as there’s been a few films that I’ve not seen in a while that have been in my head demanding to be watched again. The always interesting thing about this is that it’s a good opportunity to see how film holds up and whether they’re as good as I remember them being, though on that note I probably won’t bother re-watching anything I previously thought was shit to see if it sits with me differently as I just don’t have the energy for that sort of enforced masochism. There’s likely to be spoilers here too just for fair warning.

Event Horizon – I’d not seen this in well over 20 years at this point, it was one that me and some school friends loved as it had a cool concept, essentially a haunted house but on a spaceship, and at the time was genuinely freaky and unnerving. The director has largely gone on to make films that aren’t exactly great so I was interested to see if I was just remembering through the pleasant haze of youthful nostalgia. The premise remains brilliant, the ship in question disappears through a wormhole a number of years later and then returns so a rescue team go aboard to investigate what happened to the crew and trouble ensues. The CGI is a bit wank but that’s to be expected given the age and the fact you’d assume it didn’t have a huge budget, it does keep this to a minimum for the most part though so it’s never really distracting. The cast is excellent, Laurence Fishbourne leads them and does so with an assured swagger but it’s Sam Neill who really stands out as the troubled creator of the ship Dr Weir, you witness the ship start showing the crew things which naturally doesn’t tend to end well for them but with Weir it drives him mad and makes him side with the ship. It’s about an hour and a half long and the first hour or so is mostly build up before the proverbial shit hits the fan and when it does it’s pretty relentless. It holds up surprisingly well it has to be said, it’s nowhere near as gory or scary as I remember it being but it was definitely entertaining to the end so that’s a positive.

Dragonheart – Another 20 something year old film, I expected this one to have dated due to there being a CGI dragon in there. There are exceptions but for the most part I find that 90s special effects don’t tend to age well. Dennis Quaid is always engaging though from memory it’s set in England and he’s a knight but makes no effort to put on an English accent and then you have Sean Connery voicing said CGI dragon so there’s a couple of plus points going in so I was hopeful though I have to say not hugely optimistic. Quaid does seem to do an accent but its so inconsistent that it’s really hard to know for definite, and actually it’s oddly endearing to be honest. The opening shows why Bowen becomes the bitter man he is and why he blames the dragons he’s now hunting for the actions of the prince he was mentor too before he became a none to pleasant king. Connery is excellent as the voice of Draco, he brings a sense of gratis and wry humour to the role and serves as a guide to Bowen to try and make him remember who he is and what he stands for and that’s the heart of the film ultimately. David Thewlis is a complete shit, which I guess shows he’s playing the villain well, and Jason Isaacs adds yet another bastard to his CV which I’d forgotten, this is back in the good old days where bad guys didn’t get much development but did get to overact magnificently. The CGI isn’t as bad as I was expecting, it’s obviously dated quite badly and doesn’t look great but it works and the way Draco interacts with the world around him is actually quite impressive still. So overall visually it hasn’t aged amazingly but in terms of how much I enjoyed the film that thankfully hasn’t changed.

Timecop – It’s a 90s action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme which includes time travel, I have vague memories of thinking it was quite clever, which I was expecting to have after watching it again, but also memories of it being fun. It literally sets up that the makes no sense whatsoever, even by film standards, so that was expected at least, it does try and establish logic though bless its heart, and to be fair it’s not just the time travel logic that’s as dumb as fuck, the whole film is absolutely idiotic and the dialogue is absolutely abysmal. There’s a completely gratuitous sex scene and Van Damme’s character gets to have a tortured backstory in order to make him more gruff and serious, this is somewhat  undone by his incessant quipping which while amusing does little to convey gravitas, also his mullet is gloriously ridiculous. Mia Sara is largely wasted as the wife too, she’s killed of early doors and then factors back into the time travel bullshit later on. Special effects haven’t aged well which I guess is to be expected for a 26 year old film which I’d assume didn’t have the biggest budget, the upside is that there aren’t a huge number of effects shot to look shite. It’s still entertaining in spite of being stupid and ,to be honest, quite shit, it’s oddly endearing for this though. Ron Silver as the villain is a definite plus point as he seems to be really enjoying himself and hams it up quite nicely and Bruce McGill gets some great lines as Van Damme’s put upon boss. The action is amusingly over the top and you get to see some of the classic moves like Van Damme doing the splits which seemingly never gets old and the fact that the film takes itself so seriously actually makes it funnier for some reason. Ultimately it was probably shit even back in the 90s but it has the good grace to be entertaining bollocks which is easy to watch.

Near Dark – This is a vampire movie from the 80s that came out around the same sort of time as the Lost Boys, it’s a very different beast though starring Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein (all fresh off appearing in Aliens) as the bloodsuckers in question and Adrian Pasdar as the young man that gets caught up with them. All I could really remember was that it had strong performances across the board and a decent soundtrack so it felt like I was largely going in blind. Pasdar is good as Caleb, the naive country boy that gets dragged into things he can’t possibly understand and Jenny Wright is equally good as Mae, who is responsible for Caleb’s predicament but the film very much belongs to Henriksen, Paxton and Goldstein who are just utter forces of nature. Paxton as Severen is absolutely psychotic and really leans into the role, and Henriksen is unbelievably intense as Jesse, there’s a quiet malice there and this is one of the roles that really makes you really how underrated he is as an actor. The soundtrack is excellent, it manages to be sinister, melancholy and and fits the film perfectly, Tangerine Dream (who I’d never heard of prior to this) created something pretty special here. It’s interesting as it plays pretty loose with the typical rules of vampire lore, the only things seemingly set in stone are the drinking blood, aversion to the sun and the benefits of being a vampire, to the point where the word vampire isn’t actually mentioned at any point. It’s got a decent visual style where it makes the most of the lighting available and has some really distinct locations, and it uses practical effects for the most part which work very well. It’s an interesting blend of genres, there’s western and horror elements for sure and the art of the film is basically the romance between Caleb and Mae, it does a great job of blending these different styles into a cohesive film. The ending is a little bit jarring as it just essentially ends 2 minutes after the climatic showdown but that’s realistically a minor complaint for what is still an excellent film.

Broken Arrow – This was originally released 25 years ago which blows my mind, I remember renting it on VHS and watching it with my best mate at school. We thought it was amazing and it’s one of those films I’ve maintained a soft spot for over the years despite having not seen it an absolutely ages, I was therefore a little nervous about watching it as I didn’t want it to wind up being shit. The first thing I noted was that my memories of it having a cracking soundtrack were accurate, Hans Zimmer pretty much always does great work but I think this is one of his that really stands out. The premise of the film is ridiculous, a pilot, played by John Travolta, goes rogue on a test flight and steals a couple of nukes and it’s then up to his co-pilot, played by Christian Slater, to stop him. Travolta is excellent as the bad guy, he’s in full scenery chewing mode and is easily the best thing in the film, he honestly seems to be having the time of his life. Slater is suitably engaging as the plucky hero, he’s just the right amount of earnest to have you wanting him to save the day. The supporting cast is of a decent standard with actors like Delroy Lindo and Kurtwood Smith along for the ride but Samantha Mathis is the main support as the park ranger that gets dragged along for the ride and she’s very good as a character out of her depth doing her best. The special effects hold up pretty well, which I think is partially because there are some quite clever tricks used, for example the flight sequences at the start are done at night which makes it easier to mask certain things. The action is pretty great and holds up nicely but then I’d expect that to some extent from a John Woo film as he very much knows what he’s doing. The train sequence towards the end is a particular highlight but I don’t think there’s a weak action sequence in the entire film, I think my only real complaint is the romance that’s shoehorned in but never really properly developed, but I think that’s just down to the film being a product of it’s time. I’m really happy to find it’s every bit as fun as I remember it being, sure it’s not going to win any awards but it’s a bloody entertaining film and sometimes that’s all you need.

Judge Dredd – I remember this being a fund but dumb action film which I had a lot of time for back when I first saw it, going in I suspected that the special effects will have suffered badly and that having become more familiar with the comics than I had been at the time and having the more recent Karl Urban film that I wouldn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much. Sylvester Stallone stars as Dredd and Armand Assante as his evil twin Rico, I’d forgotten that they’d some how conned James Earl Jones into doing the opening narration which lends the film more gravitas than it deserves and I’d also forgotten that Rob Schneider was in it which didn’t bode well at all. The opening credits do reveal that Dredd’s armour was designed by Versace though which was a little weird. I have so say the the initial view of Mega City One wasn’t bad at all, someone clearly put a lot of effort into the sets, and there’s an attention to detail in terms of little details which is actually quite impressive. One of the issues early on is that all the judges apart from Dredd are portrayed as utterly useless and Stallone portrays Dredd as having a stick up his arse and just generally being constipated, it’s not helped by the general overacting going on around him by literally everyone, Armand Assante is especially guilty of this though he does appear to be having the time of his life which actually helps. The plot is utterly bollocks, Dredd is framed (by his evil twin obviously) to get him out of the way to replace the judges with clones loyal to the bad guys in charge, who Rico then naturally double crosses, which is as predictable as it is cliched, the tone is far too tongue in cheek, it didn’t need to be as serious as the more recent version but it leans a little too far into silly coming across as more of a cartoon which is a shame as there’s definite potential here. The tone is not helped by have Schneider in as comic relief, although actually he’s probably the one of the few people playing it slightly less over the top than everyone else. All in all it’s a load of shite but a fun one at least, there wasn’t a point where I wasn’t entertained even if there was a lot of eye rolling going on.

The Matrix Reloaded – I’ve only ever seen this the once and I hated it so much that I never bothered with the third film in the series, and I’m at point now where all I can remember is the ludicrous sequence where the Architect explains things to Neo in a way that’s just utter nonsensical bollocks. The reasons for the re-watch are twofold – to see if I judged it too harshly way back when and to lead into watching the third film in the series and just seeing if that one was any good, it could be a bad idea but I figure it can’t be any worse than some of the more recent shite I’ve tortured myself with. Within the opening sequence I was reminded of one of the things I disliked, slow motion is used way too much and the special effects haven’t aged especially well which didn’t exactly bode well for the rest of the film as I obviously remember it being incredibly effects heavy and that the films kicked off a massive craze of using slow motion in everything. The costumes are pretty ridiculous now, all trenchcoats, latex, leather and stupid sunglasses but again I remember how obsessed people were by them (myself included in the interests of full disclosure, I definitely wanted a trenchcoat), it just all seems incredibly impractical. There were things I’d forgotten about like the rave in the cavern which is utterly ridiculous and unnecessary, it’s something that easily could have been sacrificed. There’s also way too much exposition, characters spend way too much time talking and the stilted nature of the dialogue at times makes it tricky to watch, the actors do what they can to make it work but there’s only so much you can do. Special mention should go to Laurence Fishbourne here who truly does do his best and at least manages to add some gravitas to the shite he’s saying. Keanu Reeves, as the main star, and Hugo Weaving, as the villain, are the two best things in the film by some margin, it’s weird to think that if not for the Matrix series we’d have never gotten John Wick. The fight sequences are honestly generally very good, the sequence where Neo fights an army of Agent Smiths is honestly great fun so it’s just a shame that the excessive slow motion hinders them in my opinion. I will say that while the freeway chase sequence goes on way too long it’s honestly one of the most exciting I’ve seen in a film, genuinely had me on the edge of my seat which was a pleasant surprise as I remembered it being a bit shit, the Architect part is the same bollocks I remember it being so that at least is consistent. Overall I’d say it’s not as bad as I remember it being but in some ways it’s worse as, a few elements aside, it’s just incredibly mediocre.

Executive Decision – Another 90s film that I loved, I remember this one being a bit less gung-ho than most action films from that time due to it being on a hijacked passenger plane. Starring Kurt Russell as the lead and David Suchet as the villain, which were both sound choices from what I remembered, it was also notable for having Steven Seagal in it and killing him off in spectacular fashion very early on. I decided to re-watch this as I figured it’d be a fairly safe choice after the 2 Matrix films as figured at worst it’d still be a solid film that’d just aged poorly. The intro credits reminded me of Escape from New York a little which definitely isn’t a bad thing, it was accompanied by a solid score too. The film opens with a sequence where Seagal’s special forces team undertake a raid to recover nerve gas which is no longer there, it’s short and to the point in letting you know this stuff is going to be important in time. You’re then introduced to Russell’s character learning to fly and more setting up of what’s to come including the plane being hijacked, this is all done in the opening 20 or so minutes and it’s refreshingly to the point and not messing around though it is also a little uncomfortable given what’s happened in the world since the film was released. The infiltration of the plane is incredibly well done even though I knew how it worked out, when it starts going wrong it’s honestly one of the most tense sequences in a film I’ve seen and it’s the part where we bid farewell to Seagal as he’s sucked out when the link between the infiltration plane and the passenger plane decompresses. It’s something of a novelty in terms of this sort of film as it’s not over the top, it’s very restrained and does a really good job of building tension. Suchet is excellent as the villain, he plays him completely straight, no over acting and he’s so much more impactful for it as he comes across as a genuine threat. Russell always tends to be good and this is no exception, he’s an intelligence guy that gets dragged along and then has to help the soldiers that have got on the plane with him, which he naturally does his best with which thankfully helps save the day. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see that it still holds up, it’s not an effects heavy film which I think definitely helps it’s to avoid feeling too dated, the only thing that’s really aged it is obviously everything that’s happened in the world since 2001 but that aside it’s still a very enjoyable film.

A Good Day to Die Hard – This is the fifth film in the Die Hard series, I’ve enjoyed the previous four films to varying degrees so I was always going to check this one out, I watched it and hated it so much that I’ve essentially erased all knowledge of the film so I can’t actually really remember what happens at all.. I’ve decided to subject myself to the likely torture of re-watching it because it could provide some entertainment when I wind up hating it all over again and there’s also the possibility that it might not be quite as bad as I’ve lead myself to believe. I opted for the extended cut rather than the theatrical cut as in theory it’s going to be the best version of the film which admittedly isn’t saying much. In the first couple of minutes I immediately took umbrage as you get a dialogue scene to set the tone of things to come and the camera isn’t steady, it’s distracting and unnecessary, I assume the rationale for this was to make things more realistic but it takes you out of the film because it just makes it appear that it’s been made by fucking amateurs. Bruce Willis is in full modern day Willis mode where he’s basically sleep walking through the film and seemingly only in it for the money, and I will never understand how Jai Courtney keeps getting work as he’s a truly atrocious actor and a charisma blackhole to boot. Courtney plays John McClane Jr (now going by Jack) who is estranged from his dad and a CIA agent, during an operation he gets himself into trouble to John hops on a plane to help him out. What follows is the biggest load of bollocks I’ve possibly every seen, McClane senior manages to blow a CIA operation, carjack someone and cause property damage on a ridiculous scale in the first half hour and he’s somehow meant to be the hero of the piece. The most impressive thing about the whole film is how it takes plucky underdog and everyman John McClane and turns him into a psychopath, in previous films he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and did his best to save the day, in this he absolutely revels in the carnage he causes and it’s a fucking terrible direction for the character. The bickering between John and Jack gets old after the first exchange but you then have to sit through an entire film of it before they inevitably make peace, it’s all insultingly predictable. It begrudges me to say but Courtney isn’t the worst thing in the film, in fact he seems to be doing his best to make the shitshow remotely palatable, the dubious honour is taken by Willis, this was just prior to him really hitting the taking any old bullshit film for money phase and it really seems like he’s checked out based on this, not helped by the fact that John McClane is written to just be an utter arsehole. It’s got what should be a decent run time, coming in at just under an hour and 45 minutes, and yet it seems far longer than that, and not in a good way – in fact it feels like it’s never going to fucking end and the actual villains have all the menace of a bastard care bear, they’re undeveloped and just a waste of everyones time. Turns out it’s every bit as terrible as I remember, honestly one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, to the point where the only positive thing I can say about it is that it does, eventually, fucking end.

Mortal Kombat Annihilation – I was going to end this with a film I had fond memories of but then I picked this up on the cheap so figured I’d “treat” myself, I say this knowing that my memory of this film is that it’s an abomination. The first film was silly but solid and above all entertaining, from memory this was a clusterfuck of bad decisions, shitty acting and piss poor special effects so I can’t say I was looking forward to it but self inflicted suffering is something I do. The film opens with a quick recap of the first film followed by an invasion of Earth by Shao Kahn and aside from the truly diabolical special effects from this sequence the first thing you notice is that 3 of the 5 lead characters from the first film have been recast, followed by how awful the script is based on Kahn’s opening speech. 5 minutes in and I was already regretting the decision to watch this as the dialogue and acting were fucking horseshit. Johnny Cage is killed off in those first 5 minutes and that’s actually a mercy of sorts as he was probably the best character in the first film and the recasting here was a significant downgrade. It’d honestly be hilarious how ineptly made this film is but for the fact it’s a franchise I like and sequel to a film I really enjoyed. The original film at least had the good grace to know how ridiculous it was a leant into where this one takes itself far too seriously, especially considering how shit it truly is. Some of the worst moments are when they try to put emotion into scenes, Cage’s death as an example, but the acting is atrocious and you get the impression some characters are just consipated rather actually emoting. It tries to shoehorn as many characters as possible from the game into the film and as a result it’s an overcrowded mess where none of them really get developed at all, you have popular characters like Sub Zero and Scorpion pop in for cameos and it’s utterly pointless. The fight sequences are shit, which isn’t what you want from a film based on a fighting game, they’re just really boring and you don’t care about anyone so you don’t really care who wins. To emphasise how stupid the film is there’s a scene where a character says Kitana is the key to winning and she then gets captured and the same character says not to go after her to rescue her, this makes no sense. I wish it had a decent soundtrack like the first film so I had something to enjoy but that’s a pile of wank too, there is genuinely nothing to recommend about this load of old ballbags. This might actually be the worst film I’ve ever watched, at least with other films where I’ve said this there’s usually something I can kind of appreciate but this is just a massive display of incompetence across the board, it literally has no redeeming qualities at all and I’m astounded that someone let it be made.

So this started out with good films and deteriorated to a veritable smorgasbord of bullshit. I had fun ripping the films to pieces though so that’s a plus, but while I’ll definitely do this again I do think I’m going to try and avoid films that are so fucking shite that they make me angry. I already have some ideas of films I want to re-watch and I already know some of them are going to be trash even though I suspect there will at least be some redeeming qualities to them where there weren’t with some of the batch here. It’s just as well I enjoy the writing element of this as the self inflicted masochism of watching some of this shit a second time would be very questionable indeed.

Even more films I’d never seen before

Here we are, still dealing with pandemic shit and not really being able to do anything like normal life so I’m still trying to use the time to watch films I’ve not seen before. There’s a couple of films I managed to see at the cinema too which was honestly a very pleasant change of pace. Obviously I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible but there’ll most likely be a few in here, though hopefully nothing too blatant.

Weathering With You – I read about this a while ago, I forget specifically what it was but it was saying about how good the film was which piqued my interest so I’ve been keeping tabs on it and waiting on a blurry release for a while. I then found out it was from the same guy that did Your Name (which I still can’t stop thinking about) and it just made me even more excited so I was hugely pleased to eventually get it and I watched it pretty much straight away as I’d deliberately avoided reading too much about it so I could go in knowing as little as possible. Visually it’s absolutely breathtaking, it’s probably the most stunning anime film I’ve ever seen and there are certain sequences that really did make me emotional. The dub is excellent, one of the best I’ve experienced and I think every voice actor is superb. I honestly loved it, it’s got some flaws, the last half an hour is a little over the top and silly in places and climate change warning is a little heavy handed even if it makes for an incredibly evocative visual but you have some amazingly realised characters, good dialogue and incredibly sweet interactions between the characters. I have the same problem I had with Your Name where it ends at a point where I’d have maybe liked a little bit longer from that point just to see more and follow what happens next but, again, as with Your Name it sits with you and lets you use your own imagination for that. I know it’s going to stick with me like Your Name did and it’s actually made me want to go back and rewatch 5cm per Second also by Makoto Shinkai, as I hated it when I first saw it but I want to see if I just didn’t understand it back then. I’ve never had a film make me want to go back and re-consider a directors earlier work so that’s definitely a new experience and I’m definitely looking forward to whatever he does next.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – To be clear the main reason I chose to watch this is that my brother has, for almost 20 years, described this as categorically the worst film he’s ever seen so naturally I was curious to see how bad after subjecting myself to Catwoman. I’ve not read the comics that the film is based on which may be an advantage as I’d imagine they’re better than this load of bollocks. I initially thought it was visually competent, shit special effects aside, but then I noticed how sloppy it was, continuity is just a word here and appearances change from scene to scene, most noticeably with the invisible man and his makeup so he’s visible, in the first 20 minutes it had changed from his face to his whole head and back again a fair few times and the vampire lady would have blood all over her face one minute, then a few spots the next, it’s just fucking lazy. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are just want versions of Bruce Banner and the Hulk, Hyde tears clothes when he transforms but conveniently has an oversized top hat, seriously who the fuck thought that was a good idea. The acting is bullshit and the characters are all basically a bunch of unlikeable dickheads and Sean Connery clearly has not time whatsoever for this utter horseshit. It’s actually impressive in the sense that it manages to get progressively worse as the it goes on, the special effects are so bad late on it’s like the spunked on the budget at the start of the film, realised they’d fucked up massively and then didn’t even try to half arse it. The plot is so reliant on on stupid decision making and convenience that it’s actually insulting by the end of the film, you can forgive a little of this in a film generally but it seems to be the driving force here and it’s fucking insulting, literally everyone from the good guys to the bad guys is just an utter shitting cretin. The funniest part is the clear sequel baiting right at the end, I refuse to believe that the people involved in this film thought that it was anything other than a fucking train wreck. The first thing I did when I’d finished watching the abomination was to apologise to my brother for doubting him, this might actually be worse than Catwoman purely because that at least didn’t take itself so seriously, this is just utter bollocks and I frankly don’t have enough swear words to use here, it’s so utterly shit that Sean Connery never appeared in another film again.

The Way Back – I was really looking forward to seeing this at the cinema back in April, but sadly Covid happened and fucked everything up for what feels like the rest of time. I subsequently had to wait for it to be released to buy, I could have rented it a little while ago but the rental price was more than the purchase price now is which is fucking insane, and if that’s the model for film releases if cinemas remain closed then I can’t see it being a huge success but that’s a rant for another day. This is the tale of Jack Cunningham, an alcoholic who starts coaching his old high school basketball team. I was looking forward to it as I think Ben Affleck is a great actor, more so latterly than perhaps with his earlier films (though he was the bomb in Phantoms), but knowing about his own struggles with alcohol this felt like it could be an incredibly raw performance which I was interested in. I’m not familiar with the rest of the cast, they’re all excellent though and ably support Affleck who is naturally the main focus of the film and gets the bulk of the screentime. Affleck is bloody excellent, as expected it’s an incredibly raw performance but he manages to also find the heart in it too, he’s a man struggling with his demons and as you learn more about them he becomes more and less sympathetic as you know what’s happened to him and at the same time you know the people he’s lashing out at have been part of it which makes him harder to root for, it’s a fine line to balance on but Affleck manages it superbly. The cinematography is excellent, some of the scenery shots are beautiful, even if they don’t add anything to the narrative, and the basketball scenes are frenetically engaging. The use of the score is brilliant and really conveys the tone of the scenes, moving from melancholy, uplifting or fraught as needed and it really adds to the experience. It’s not a typical sports film either, the point where a more tradition film would end happens about half an hour from the end here, what follows is genuinely uncomfortable but also very impactful, the ending isn’t what I’d necessarily hoped it would be, it’s not exactly a happy ending but it’s bittersweet and it’s hopeful and it really resonated with me. I genuinely loved it, to the point it may be my film of the year so far, my only real regret is that I didn’t get to see it on the big screen.

Tenet – I didn’t think I’d get to see this at the cinema as it was essentially released 2 months ago and a lot of cinemas are closing again due to the whole pandemic situation and most new films being delayed to next year. It was therefore a nice surprise to find a smaller cinema that was still open and showing it so I went for my first cinema trip since February I think. Anyway one of there things you know you’re going to get with a Christopher Nolan film is great cinematography and this doesn’t buck that trend, the special effects are excellent and some of the set pieces are genuinely brilliant. John David Washington is exceptional, he’s adept at the easy going charm element of the character as well as the physical aspects, he’s believable at being able to beat the shit out of people all of which is impressive. Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh also all stand out but the rest of the cast are all solid too. The time travel type concept is fascinating but does become somewhat complicated, it’s very grounded and the attempt to establish the in film rules around this lead to obvious questions and headaches which is pretty standard for anything where time travel of any kind is a factor. It can be difficult to follow and as things do start to click some elements can be worked out, time travel is largely bollocks as a rule and while there always seems to be problems at least Tenet manages not to dwell on them too much and keeps things entertaining. Music wise it’s odd to have a Nolan film where the score isn’t by Hans Zimmer, this apparently due to Zimmer having other commitments. Ludwig Goransson does a good job though I don’t think it was especially memorable which is a but of a shame, it works well with the action scenes though and doesn’t detract from what’s happening on screen in anyway. It’s definitely one I want to see again before I make any long term judgements on where I’d position it alongside Nolan’s other films, it definitely feels like a film that’d work well with watching it again as it’d allow you to appreciate and be on the look out for little details that may have been missed the first time round. A definite plus point though is that it’s made just that little bit more excited for Robert Pattinson as Batman, and I was pretty optimistic about that anyway.

Bill and Ted Face the Music – Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey was the first film I ever saw at the cinema, apparently way back in the good old days of 1991, so I’ll admit I was looking forward to the sequel which I never thought would happen. First thing that was a pleasant surprise was the run time, at just over an hour and a half it never outstays its welcome. It’s a time travel film so as with any time travel film it makes no sense at all and this film crumbles under even the slightest attempt to apply any logic to things, but on the other hand it doesn’t seem to even attempt to have it make sense which is surprisingly liberating as it’s just focussed on having fun and in that it succeeds. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are clearly having a blast and seem to be having more fun playing the different versions of Bill and Ted that appear while time travelling which is where a lot of the laughs are found. The other focus of the film is on the daughters of the main characters, played by Samara Weaving and Brigitte Lundy-Paine, this is fine and their side quest is fine and entertaining enough but it’s the way that it works back into the main story that works particularly well and is actually incredibly sweet. To be honest the whole film plays it safe and doesn’t do anything that is especially brave and it probably relies on nostalgia a bit too much but it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that and I’ll take a film that keeps things simple providing it’s entertaining, which this is. I feel like I’m being overly harsh and that’s not my intention at all, it’s one of those films that’s a comfort film, something to watch when you’re wanting to be cheered up. I will say it’s very odd watching Keanu do more light hearted stuff after seeing him kill a hell of a lot of people as John Wick, he’s not an amazing actor but seems to be good at picking roles that work perfectly for him, especially in the last few years. Overall I’d recommend the film, I came away from it with a smile on my face despite the flaws, which never actually ruined my enjoyment of things.

Patema Inverted – I’ve been checking out a bit more anime of late so I’ve been looking out for films that people have recommended and then checking the synopsis to see if it grabs me. The blurb gives very little away beyond main characters Patema and Age meeting and getting dragged in an adventure of some kind, that vagueness coupled with what appeared to be an attractive visual style intrigued me enough to give it a go. The film opens with a disaster of some kind which seems to have forced Patema and the rest of her community to live in an underground shelter of some kind where they go scavenging, Patema is seemingly more curious than most and likes to explore places she shouldn’t and while doing this she falls down a hole where she encounters Age for the first time. Age lives in Aiga, a world that seems to be much like the real world though it’s a dictatorship where the kids in school are essentially indoctrinated but Age doesn’t but into this. The key difference thing that differs between where Patema and Age are from is that they’re inverted to each other so essentially Patema stands on the ceilings when in Aiga which is a little jarring initially, Age promises to help Patema get back home and thus the real story kicks off. I really like the visual style, there’s a interesting contrast between Aiga and the underground where Patema comes from and there’s some great use of panning which I’m a big fan of, there’s some use of slow motion which is incredibly janky as it looks more like it’s being paused and unpaused repeatedly rather than being slow motion which isn’t great but is probably my only issue with the visuals. The dub is fine, the voice actors for Patema and Age give the best performances which is a definite good thing given they’re obviously the main focus, the music is mostly decent but unspectacular but there are a few stand out pieces which add to the scenes they’re in. The story is interesting and actually has a genuinely excellent twist which changes alot of what comes before and the bond that grows between Patema and Age really adds a level of emotion to proceedings that may not be there otherwise. Overall I really enjoyed this, my only real complaint is that it doesn’t tie everything together as neatly as I’d like but that’s definitely more down to my need to closure than anything the film does wrong.

6 Underground – A film directed by Michael Bay and starring Ryan Reynolds, I’m not going to lie I went into this expecting a badly edited clusterfuck full of an excessive amount of explosions which Reynolds would do his best to make work and wind up being the best thing about the film,, essentially expectations were pretty much rock fucking bottom. The opening 15 minutes has an overly long car chase which largely lives up to my suspicions, Reynolds brings his trademark snark to the table and is suitably entertaining with it and Bay brings a ridiculous amount of carnage and some excessive slow motion, so far so predictable. This opening introduces the six members of the team and what they all do and then promptly kills one of them off, where they replace him with a new guy with a completely different skill set. The opening 45 minutes is essentially all about the back story that leads into the team essentially staging a coup in a country run by an utter bastard and installing a less genocidal leader as a replacement. Lets start with the plus points, Ryan Reynolds is comfortably the best thing in the film as expected, the rest of the team are decent too and their bickering back and forth is largely responsible for a lot of the humour in the film, Bay doesn’t use quick cuts like he normally would and he has an eye for a good looking shot, for the most part this is a very pretty looking film and on the whole it’s entertaining, though that does with caveats. Now onto the negatives, and there are a few for me. It’s absolutely fucking nonsensical, you’re supposed to buy into a billionaire essentially starting his own black ops unit which works completely of any other military or national security organisation, not only that you get the impression that sometimes they rely a little bit too heavily on luck. It thinks it’s far cleverer than it is and takes itself far too seriously for the most part, I think if it was played a little more tongue in cheek then it would be easier to swallow. It’s a convoluted load of bollocks, I’m all for non linear story telling but there comes a point where it becomes hard to track and the first hour is guilty of this, it becomes more formulaic as things go on though. The bad guy isn’t given a whole lot to do bar being a dictator that is a shit and murders his own people and the film as a whole is absolutely full of cliches. While the cuts are much more controlled the use of shaky cam and slow motion definitely are not restrained in the slightest and the destruction is absolutely fucking absurd, genuinely sometimes less is more and one of the mist frustrating things is that Bay could be a great director with more restraint but basically peaked with The Rock back in the 90s. Ultimately there are worse ways to spend two hours of your life, but by Christ there are many, many better ways too.

Black Mass – A gangster film starring Johnny Depp, based on the true story of Whitey Bulger who was a mob boss became an FBI informant. I knew nothing about the film or the real life tale going in, to the point where I didn’t know that the cast had people like Benedict Cumberbatch and Kevin Bacon. I obviously was also somewhat conscious of the fact that I’ve not exactly enjoyed the previous gangster films I’ve seen so far. The film mostly plays out  in a linear fashion starting in 1975 and with some time jumps but does occasionally flash to interviews with members of Bulger’s gang with law enforcement which allow for a bit more exposition to be delivered which is a pretty smart way of doing this. Aside for the three actors mentioned there’s a hell of a cast here, people like Joel Edgerton, David Harbour, Peter Sarsgaard and Jesse Plemons to name a few. Everyone gives strong performances with whatever time they’re given, which for some realistically isn’t enough which is a shame. Naturally it’s Depp, as Bulger, that is expected to do alot of the heavy lifting and Edgerton too given that he’s portraying Bulger’s FBI handler who also happens to have grown up with him too. Depp is honestly excellent, it’s nice to be reminded that he can act as it seems that roles like Jack Sparrow have been his go to in the last few years, here though he looks almost unrecognisable and he’s genuinely menacing at times but he keeps him restrained and also human which is impressive. Edgerton does an impressive job too, he starts out as an FBI agent wanting to use Bulger but gradually this goes awry and he starts to actually help Bulger, which leads to people getting murdered, and gets entangled in the shady activities, he becomes very much a morally grey character and this becomes a much more difficult situation when a new guy comes in that’s determined to take Bulger down. It’s a slowly paced film, it paints a pretty vivid picture of the sort of person Bulger was at that point and how the agents handling him got themselves into serious trouble, it’s always interesting and becomes genuinely fascinating towards the end when the walls begin to close in. Visually it’s solid but as a rule I don’t tend to find anything set in the recentish past to be visually stunning as a rule but there’s nothing wrong with that, it does what it needs to when all said and done. Overall I really enjoyed this, I’d go so far as to say it’s the gangster film I’ve liked the most out of all the ones I’ve seen so far.

The Devil Wears Prada – I knew next to nothing about this movie going in, essentially that it was meant to be amazing and that it had inspired a shitload of memes over the years and that was pretty much it beyond it starring Meryl Streep and Anna Hathaway. The film follows Hathaway’s character, Andy, as she starts a job as an assistant to Streep’s character, Miranda, who is the editor of a fashion magazine. Obviously this doesn’t initially go well as Andy struggles with the demands of the role and the fact that no one actually properly trains her and the fact that Miranda is a demanding bastard. Hathaway is excellent as the idealistic journalist that takes the job thinking she’s too good for it, and gradually starts to commit to the role though then starts to struggle to balance her life. Streep seems to be having the time of her life in her role, Miranda is demanding, harsh and dismissive but you’re always aware that she’s a human and Streep somehow manages to keep her mostly likeable where I suspect it’d be very easy for her not to be at all. There are only two other actors I’m familiar with, one being Emily Blunt who is excellent as an utter bitch, but rather less sympathetic as a result.  The other is Stanley Tucci who I don’t think has been anything less than superb in anything I’ve seen him in, and he’s not broken that streak in this, he’s also a bitch but does it with a twinkle in his eye and you know his bitchiness is a way of showing affection and as such he’s probably the most likeable character in the film. It’s hard to really offer an opinion on the visual style as it’s mostly set in an office, the scenes not set in the office have some really cool locations so that’s interesting and the camerawork is very good at capturing the emotions on the characters faces and frames them well which is pretty impressive. The sound track is really good, whoever picked the songs that get used did a cracking job there as they really enhance the scenes. The last 15 minutes or so is genuinely exceptional, you find out the kind of person Miranda truly is and Andy realises the she’s started to walk the same path and has a decision to make about who she wants to be, and it’s a moment that the film has been doing a cracking job of building towards and it really does a lot to show just how talented an actress Hathaway is. Overall it’s definitely not a film I would usually checked out but it’s one I’m glad I did as I really enjoyed it, definitely one that’s worth checking out.

Vengeance – My friends and I have a tradition at birthdays we give each other a seemingly shit film, I usually get someone a Steven Seagal boxset. This year I got this film which I’ve never heard of, it stars Nicolas Cage and seems to be one of a huge number of films he’s done in recent years where it’s seemingly for the money. Obviously this is all initially speculation though the fact that the full title is Vengeance: A Love Story according to IMDB didn’t exactly inspire confidence that this judgement would be proven wrong, added with the 4 and 5 star ratings quote on the cover are from places I’ve never even remotely heard of and IMDB gives it 5.2 out of 10 suggested it was definitely going to be a pile of shit so my only hope was it’d wind up being so bad it’s good. The intro actually provided some positive news in that the soundtrack is done by Frederik Wiedmann who has done a cracking job on the Dragon Prince soundtrack, and the soundtrack is largely pretty decent which was a very pleasant surprise. It also opens with a movie cliche where Cage’s partner is gunned down seconds after saying about how he’s going to propose so this seemed much more in line with expectations. It’s surprisingly good looking film in places, there’s one scene early on where the characters are walking through some woods and the use of lighting is excellent and some shots look utterly awful with a clearly fake backdrop. There’s an incredibly unpleasant rape scene which is significant to the plot but feels almost gratuitous which I’d hope to christ wasn’t what they were aiming for. There’s some really shit continuity in there, the same night as the attack happens we’re expected to believe that the police arrest the suspects and arrange an ID parade, and that they then get away with it in what is possibly the worst court scene I’ve ever seen in anything up to this point, it’s just a shambolic load of bollocks, it’s utterly unbelievable. Don Johnson is pretty great as the smarmy arsehole of a lawyer he plays although he is pretty key to the utterly ludicrous court scene. Anna Hutchison, as the victim, has to do a lot of the heavy lifting acting wise and she’s honestly excellent, as is Talitha Bateman as her daughter. Nic Cage is surprisingly restrained by his standards, to the point where he doesn’t really seem to give much of a shit and actually isn’t the main focus of the film until maybe the last 45 minutes when his character takes justice into his own hands. It has to be said that this is the point where the film picks up significantly as it’s incredibly gratifying when the pricks start getting what’s coming to them even if you have to suspend your disbelief to ridiculous levels. In all it’s an unpleasant and stupid film that is nowhere near as wank as I was expecting it to be, to be clear it’s also not a good film and I think if not for the performances of the 2 female leads it’d definitely fall into utter shite territory.

I’ve got a few films already in mind for another one of these in the future, I’ve actually found these to be pretty useful for my mental health as watching the films gives me something to do and concentrate on and then the writing about them provides something else to focus on. Not sure the watching shit films is ideal overall but it at least lets me swear about something so every cloud.

Music – pretty important for other media

Music in films, TV shows and games can be a pretty fucking huge deal, at worst it should be atmospheric background accompaniment and at best it should enhance the scene it’s being used in. I thought I’d write about a few of my favourite examples of the latter, I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible but given the fact some of these are linked to specific scenes it was pretty much unavoidable for some so fair warning and apologies. I’ve embedded Youtube videos for the tracks in question so you can just skip the text entirely if needed, I’m sure I’ll need to check in on this for broken links later on.

Promise – She-Ra: We’re leaning towards the second part of this song here, though the whole thing is pretty amazing. The part I’m referring to is used at 4 very significant points in the story and is representative of Adora and Catra’s relationship over the course of the series. The first is the point in season 1 where Catra turns away from Adora and chooses to stay with the Horde, the second is season 3 where Adora realises how toxic Catra has become, the third is the point in season 5 where Catra decides she wants to be different and kicks off her redemption arc and the fourth is in the final episode of the series at the culmination of Adora and Catra’s journey, these are all incredibly emotional moments that are enhanced by what is a very emotional piece of music.

Fireworks Festival – Weathering with You: Realistically there were a few options for this film but I went with this one due to the ethereal quality of this piece of music coupled with the scene it underpins. We’ve seen Hina up to now using her ability to stop the rain to help various people but this occurrence is slightly different though as it’s on a much larger scale as she does what she does on top of a skyscraper and she’s much more confident in herself at this point. You see the sunset punch through the clouds and and then see the city bathed in the light and then it cuts to a massive firework display over the city, it’s honestly one of the most visually stunning sequences I’ve ever seen. You also get the human element as Hina is happy to be helping people and feels like she’s found a purpose and this is when Hodaka starts to realise how much Hina means to him so it’s pretty emotional too and the music just really underpins that.

The Last Agni Kai – Avatar: This piece backs the final confrontation between a redeemed Zuko and a spiralling Azula and with this type of final battle you’d normally get quite a piece of music that tries to make the confrontation more exciting whereas here you get something that’s altogether more sombre and fits perfectly as rather than focus on the excitement of the battle it’s used to highlight the tragedy of what is actually a battle between a brother and sister and how their relationship has had to come to this point, it’s incredibly sad even without considering that they’re both teenagers and how Zuko has finally found a sense of peace where Azula is being consumed by her internal conflict.

Because She’s Rayla – The Dragon Prince: This comes at a point where main character Callum is describing how he says Rayla to someone who’s just essentially tried to steal their dragon companion from them and who Raykla has just saved from near certain death. It winds up being the culmination of them slowly realising they’ve developed feelings for each other after a fair few awkward moments, and there’s one here too just for good measure. It’s a genuinely heartfelt moment on Callum’s part and you get a sense of relief from Rayla who realises he feels the same way as her so it’s natural for it to be an emotional piece of music that backs the scene, and it’s very much that.

The Fields of Ard Skellig – Witcher 3: Something of an anomaly on this list in that it’s the only one that’s not linked to a specific scene of sequence, instead it’s background music which accompanies you when you make it to the island of Ard Skellig and Geralt continues his search for Ciri. It’s a piece of music there’s a definite sense of wonder in the music but it’s also melancholic which I think fits the the potential mindset of Geralt as a surrogate father searching for his daughter, and at this point in the game you’ve spent a lot of time looking for her.

Journey – Destiny 2: This plays right near the start of the game as you make your escape from what is essentially the last safe stronghold on Earth, which you’ve just witnessed essentially get invaded and the Traveller, which is the source of your powers, be captured which leaves you pretty much powerless. It’s a sad piece which definitely brings home the sense of loss you’re experiencing at this point not knowing who else has made it out alive as you try and get as far away as possible while trying to survive against any enemies you encounter with limited means of defending yourself. As you encounter something leading you to an end point the music sweeps as drums and vocals join and it becomes a much more hopeful and resolute theme, it’s actually one of favourite gaming sequences and the music is a huge part of this.

Lifestream – Final Fantasy 7: This game was one of my first experiences of music in a game that was on par with a film soundtrack. This is my favourite piece on a truly excellent soundtrack as it’s comes at a point where you and the rest of Avalanche arrive at Cosmo Canyon and have some truths about the nature of the world and how the cycle of life and death connects to the lifestream, essentially the living essence of the planet itself. There’s a sense of sadness to the piece as you essentially have it confirmed that Shinra, who are using mako which is basically taken from the lifestream, actually are harming the planet which up to this point is almost played off as being the mad ravings of a terrorist group.

Epilogue – Red vs Blue: It would take far too long to give full context here here but this track plays over the end of season 8 where main character Church (who is an AI it’s been revealed) goes into a memory storage device to look for someone. He decides that he’ll wait for her to find him and set up a simulation of his friends and where they’d been prior to all this so she’d know where to find him. The monologue is surprisingly touching and this piece just underscores the bittersweet nature of the ending, it rounded off the story arc that seasons 6 to 8 set out to tell pretty much perfectly.

Apotheosis – Journey: The music that accompanies the final level of Journey and the meaning of the word apotheosis he highest point in the development of something; a culmination or climax so it’s appropriate both as the lead up to the end and also because you’re about to complete your journey to the top of the mountain so it fits. The music in this game is amazing and the key to how emotional it is and this track is the best of the lot as in the penultimate level you collapse in the snow. You receive a sudden burst of life which propels you on the final stage and it’s amazingly uplifting and hopeful which is never unwelcome.

Death of Optimus Prime – Transformers the Movie: This scene was absolutely devastating to young me, and also pretty much unthinkable on reflection as it has them kill off Prime who had been the leader of the Autobots in the cartoon up to this point so was a character you’d just automatically assume would be safe but actually he’s the probably the biggest character killed in what is an absolute bloodbath. He gets to go out like the hero he was by turning the tide of the battle which was something to still, Jesus. The music to the scene is just haunting, and still to this day sends shivers down my spine as he’s surrounded by the survivors passes the torch to them but his passes just makes things feel pretty bleak at that point.

There’s a million and one music tracks that I could talk about here to be honest, and that’s not even factoring in tracks with lyrics so maybe I’ll do some more of these down the road.

The great anime re-watch of 2020

I’ve watched a few anime films recently that wound up being pretty amazing in my opinion. It’s been a little while since I’d actually sat and watched any so it was reassuring that I picked good ones. It’s definitely made me want to watch more though so I’ll be looking into new stuff to get but I also thought it’d be a good chance to go back and watch some stuff I’ve watched previously and see how it holds up. I’m going to leave out Studio Ghibli films for this one though as it’d be very easy to write about all of those and I have 20 films at this point so that might wind up being an a blog of its own. I’ll also be watching with the English dub where that’s available.

Origin: Spirits of the Past – I loved this when I first watched it, I liked the setting of an earth that has mostly been destroyed owing to an accident trying to grow super plants on the moon, and I liked the characters. Upon re-watching it while I still very much enjoyed it I was more aware of the issues with the pacing of the story and how it was all a little underdeveloped and shallow. And while the main characters Agito and Toola are easy to like, they’re never really developed to their full potential and none of the other characters even get to that level. It’s a shame as there are some really cool ideas in play that never really work as well as they could do, it almost feels like a series would have been better than a film to allow for that world building and development to happen. Overall it’s an enjoyable film that could have been so much more, though I did appreciate the hopeful nature of the ending, even if you have to get through the ludicrousness of a walking volcano – which is equal parts awesome and mental.

Sky Blue – I’ve not watched this in years, I always loved the soundtrack and the absolutely amazing visual style, I also remember enjoying the understated English dub and the bleak world the film is set in. It starts with a monologue where Jay, one of the main characters, establishes what led to the world the film is set in as well as the class system that’s in place which is useful. Jay and Shua make for engaging protagonists and their bond is well realised even as they find themselves on opposite sides of the class divide. It’s impressive that a film that’s about 17 years old at this point still looks stunning, it utilises a number of different animation and film techniques which mesh together nicely. The dub isn’t as good as I remember but it’s thankfully still pretty solid, the only thing that really lets the film down in my opinion is the runtime which at 82 minutes because it means the pace is such that certain events don’t get the chance to breath that they should have, ultimately I would have liked more of Jay and Shua’s relationship as it’s the emotional heart of the film but never gets the focus it really deserves which is a shame. The upshot is that it still remains one of my favourite animes in spite of the flaws, the tone and aesthetic coupled with an interesting story and decent main characters outweigh the negatives for me and I still love it.

Metropolis – Another one I’ve not watched in ages, my initial thoughts when it started up was that it hadn’t aged especially well, and given it’s nearly 20 years old at this point it was always going to be a possibility. The backgrounds are stunning but I’m not a huge fan of the character designs as they’re overly stylised and I find them to be quite distracting, it’s a very distinct art style but one that just didn’t really work for me. I have to admit I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I remember, I found the pace way too slow to the point where it felt like nothing much really happened until the last 20 minutes or so, and while I appreciated the jazz music on the soundtrack and it definitely offered something unique compared to other anime films I also felt like it was out of place. I liked the fact that the story deals with the segregation between robots and humans, and how robots are treated by most humans and the concept of Tima, the main character I’d say, being a robot but now knowing it was excellent and that feeds into the finale which is very interesting, all in all it’s a shame that my opinion of the film has changed over time but these things happen.

Tekkonkinkreet – The only thing I can ever remember about this is that it was utterly insane and didn’t make a great deal of sense, not sure why that’s my defining memory but there we go. It’s definitely not as batshit as I remember it being but it’s definitely very weird and I’m still not 100% sure I knew what the hell was happening for most of it but it was still definitely incredibly engaging. I really liked the art style, the characters are pretty stylised but it’s done in a way that kinda makes them look like comic books come to life, and the scenery is impressively realised too. The voice cast is seriously impressive too, most of the core cast are people with an excellent voice acting pedigree and it really helps as performances are very good for the most part. I think the thing I liked best is that it took the time to establish the bond between the 2 main characters, Black and White, which seems to be something that doesn’t seem to get the focus it should based on the other films I’ve watched on this list. Overall I’d definitely watch it again in the future, if only to try and see if I can finally figure out what the hell os going on.

Steamboy – This was done by the same director that did Akira, which I’m not sure I knew at the time, and apparently the most expensive anime film ever made. I honestly don’t remember anything about it bar the fact that it’s set in Victorian England which is pretty cool, I also vaguely recall enjoying it. It’s got a really distinct visual style which I like and the darker colour palette adds to this as it makes the film feel more grounded. It’s also got a pretty great voice cast with people like Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina and Anna Paquin being involved. The story is alright but largely pretty run of the mill, 2 opposing sides vying for power off the back of advancements made in steam power and stuck in the middle is a young boy.trying to stop it all. The steampunk element with the flying fortress powered by steam is seriously cool and the final quarter of the film is good fun as James flys around using what is essentially a steam powered rocket. The soundtrack is excellent and composed by Steve Jablonsky who was mentored by Hans Zimmer and the influence shows, it’s rather odd to watch an anime with such a western score but it adds to the atmosphere. Overall it’s probably too long and drags a bit in places but it’s entertaining and well worth a watch.

Summer Wars – Within the first 5 minutes I’d realised how little I remembered about this one, the film takes place in settings – the real world and a virtual world called OZ, so there are very different visual styles on display which is pretty cool, the OZ elements are very distinct and stand out where the real world elements look good but are pretty typical of anime. Turns out the virtual world has access to a lot of real world systems so naturally it gets hacked and things go tits up, this is happening against the backdrop of a family gathering where main character Kenji finds himself while pretending to be Natsuki’s fiancé. The family decide to fight back against the hacker and that’s when things start getting a bit outlandish as they seeming steel supplies from the military a university to get a computer setup and then drop a boat in a koi pond to help power it all, it’s delightfully odd. It’s fun and bizarre, there’s a card game in OZ to essentially avert a disaster, and while all this is going on you keep dropping in with the family and seeing how they all interact together, it’d be a lie to say they’re normal but there’s enough that you can identify with that weirdness as all families are weird in their own little ways. It’s definitely a film that’s well worth checking out as it’s unlike most animes I’ve seen and it’s refreshing to watch something a little different.

Paprika – I always get this and Tekkonkinkreet mixed up for some reason, no idea why as they’re very different films though both are seriously fucking weird. The basic premise is that there’s a machine that allows for entry into peoples dreams which has been stolen and it needs to be tracked down before a so called dream terrorist can use it. It’s pretty out there as you’d expect and the fact that it involves dreams means it gets seriously trippy as the film goes on. It’s visually pretty impressive and does a good job of conveying the assorted weird happenings and the voice acting is solid but seems to be a bit all over the place tonally, some actors play their characters completely straight whereas others seem to play it a bit more playfully or tongue in cheek, it’s an odd contrast. I really can’t emphasise how batshit the film becomes over time, especially as the dreams merge together and then start to bleed into the real world. Overall it’s mostly enjoyable if you can get past the weirdness although I have to admit I think it wants to be deeper than it winds up being, definitely worth a watch though definitely not one that has aged especially well for me personally.

5 Centimetres Per Second – I absolutely hated this when I saw it years ago, I found it incredibly unsatisfying and disliked the ending a lot. I have since then learned it’s by Makoto Shinkai who did Your Name and Weathering With You later on, which I loved, so I was keen to give it another go to see if my feelings to it had changed. The first thing I noticed is how pretty it is, I definitely didn’t appreciate that the first time round though it’s obviously not quite as stunning as the other two films I mentioned are which is understandable given it’s much older than those but there’s alot there to appreciate. It’s essentially split into 3 segments set in different time periods of the lives of main characters Takaki and Akari, it’s a story of unrequited love, drifting apart and life going on. I hated it when I originally watched it as I thought it was too slow and incredibly depressing but this time I found it bittersweet and incredibly contemplative, I still would have preferred a happier ending but that’s apparently because I’ve become a hopeless romantic in my old age and just want any romance to work out in the end. The soundtrack is solid and captures the mood of the film perfectly and the English dub is restrained really adds to the emotions. Honestly I’m glad I rewatched it as I definitely have a new found appreciation for the story being told, it’s definitely one that’s worth checking out.

Streetfighter Alpha Generations – This is the third anime Streetfighter film to have been made and I remember enjoying it because it unlike the previous efforts it removed the large cast of characters and focussed on Ryu and his struggle with the dark Hadou, a part of his martial art which relies on killing intent. It’s a more personal tale than the other films which are very much more ensemble focussed, the only other characters from the games who appear are Ken, Sakura and Akuma. First impressions of rewatching for the first time in ages are that the animation and art style haven’t aged especially well, there’s a definite impression of there being a much lower budget available comparatively. The English dub is also not great, though having looked at the work of some of the voice cast I suspect this might be due to the script as some of them have had some good roles after this, they’re just seemingly not helped by the stilted dialogue. The fight sequences are pretty decent though for the most part there’s not enough of them though the final confrontation between Ryu and Akuma is interesting as Ryu struggles not to lose himself to the dark Hadou. It’s actually intensely frustrating to watch as there’s some really good ideas that could have been fascinating had they been expanded on but ultimately it’s just badly executed which is a massive shame.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – This was one of the first anime films I remember having a properly emotional reaction to, it follows main character Makoto as she gains the ability to time travel and initially uses this new power for her own personal gain, sometimes for incredibly petty things like being able to eat dessert again. This selfishness actually makes her incredibly relatable as you can totally understand her reasoning for doing what she does, and this makes it easier to empathise as she starts to understand that her actions have consequences for the people she cares about, including her best friends Chiaki and Kosuke and the film does a great job of establishing the relationship with the 3 of them that feels real. Visually it more than holds it’s own compared to more recent anime films, the soundtrack is excellent and the voice acting is largely excellent, it’s a very well made film that still holds up almost 15 years on. It has the typical problems with time travel where things don’t make sense if you think too hard though it at least deals with potential consequences of changing the future, and doesn’t shy away from the potential for tragedy which is impressive. The only thing I don’t really like is the ending, it leans into the more bittersweet side of things where I’d prefer an outright happy ending but that’ll always be a personal preference. It’s nice to know that it still hits all the same emotional notes even after ages though, I’m definitely glad this one still resonates the same way it always did.

This has actually been good fun, I’ve enjoyed getting to watch stuff again. I think I’ll do this again, It’d be a good excuse to watch some of the Ghibli films again and actually could translate quite well to other films I’ve not seen in ages, it’d keep me out of trouble if nothing else so there’s that at least and heading into lockdown 2 (the sequel) it gives me something to do with the writing providing something to focus on which is always handy.