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Film Review: The Lego Batman Movie

 “Hey Batman! I’m Rubbing My Butt All Over Your Stuff! Gonna Have To Rename This The “Buttmobile”…”

A few years back, the appeal of an animated, feature-length Lego movie did indeed falter at first input into my mind, with the only response to the existence of such being an unashamedly sarcastic giggle, a response which in hindsight was one of undeniable small-mindedness considering the monumental success of The Lego Movie back in 2014 and the irritable notion of walking out the cinema singing “Everything Is Awesome” for the foreseeable future, which in itself resulted in astute looks of bewilderment from those within my singing range. With power however comes great responsibility and more importantly, a sequel, a sequel which this time focuses primarily on the Caped Crusader himself and a sequel which continues the sharp, witty standards set by the original whilst successfully improving upon its’ predecessor by being a much more relatable and comedically astute animated offering. Being a huge fan of Gotham’s most infamous export anyway, The Lego Batman Movie is an undeniable universal success, providing a steady output of eye-boggling animation for the younger viewers as well as a rafter of constant jokes to keep the older audience smiling from beginning to end.

With a lightning-fast string of laugh-out-loud quips, puns and nods to the world of comics throughout its’ more than satisfactory ninety minute runtime, The Lego Batman Movie is a movie which lays to waste most so-called comedies of recent years, relying on a mixture of gold-plated one-liners and animated slapstick amidst a narrative which obviously verges on the edge of absurdity from the get-go, one which features a broken hearted Joker and a selection of infamous villains from a wide range of different universes such as Harry Potter’s Voldemort, Sauron from The Lord of the Rungs, and my personal favourite; the Daleks, all of whom team up against the most egoistic yet unrelentlessly hilarious incarnation of Bruce Wayne yet, one which gives Christian Bale’s portrayal a run for its’ money. Whilst the film does become too fast-paced at times, with the structure so relentless you live in fear of missing certain jokes and particular Easter eggs, The Lego Batman Movie is a superb and mightily entertaining piece of cinema, one which not only adds to the argument of the current golden age of animation but one which will result in you never watching any other Batman movie in the same way ever again. Everything is awesome once again.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Sing

“When You’ve Reached Rock Bottom, There’s Only One Way To Go, And That’s Up..!”

As we are all well aware, the golden age of animation is well and truly upon us, with the contemporary battle between Universal and Disney for the right to declare themselves masters of the animated art a mouth-watering proposition, resulting in a wide array of superb movies such as the Minion franchise from Universal and the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis from those crafty devils up in Disneyland, whilst the likes of films such as Song of the Sea and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya prove that gems are being formed from all areas of the globe. Following on from the success of Minions last year, a film which took a staggering one billion plus at the box office, Illumination Entertainment boast an early return with Sing, an animated swing at the tedium of modern-day talent shows featuring Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Seth Macfarlane who each lend their voice to an animation which could have been better served by being one of those five minute shorts that precede films that are worthy of being a full-length feature. Sing isn’t necessarily a bad movie in any sense, it’s just a fine example of a film which runs out of steam just under half way through and fails to grasp any effective reason to continue into a staggering 110 minutes of a jukebox style cheese-fest.

Featuring a endless swarm of overplayed chart sewage from the past couple of years or so for the majority of the soundtrack, the film does offer rare snippets of a relieving sense of juxtaposition with half-decent attempts to cover good classic tunes including Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”, but with all the voice talent and Son of Rambow’s Garth Jennings on directorial duty, Sing follows in the footsteps of last years’ The Secret Life of Pets by being a film which ultimately is a resounding disappointment and a movie which completely lacks a punchy and durable narrative amidst semi-laughable set pieces which were used so heavily in trailers and advertisement for the movie. Whilst the plot is somewhat obviously played, Sing suffers too from a rafter of characters which although tick the checkbox in attempting to grab a vivid selection of cultures and societal traits, still resort to singing corporate crap which most of the world is sick and tired of by now and belongs nowhere other than the next version of Now That’s What I Call Music! Forgettable and mediocre, Sing serves to be nothing more than an animated version of season 43 of The X-Factor, just without Simon Cowell’s sarcastic banter.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

“You Don’t Have To Make Us Feel Safe, Because You’ve Made Us Feel Brave…”

Tim Burton is back with his latest project, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, based on the novel of the same name by author Ransom Riggs, and whilst Mr. Burton hasn’t exactly hit the high notes of what he can accomplish in recent years, a mediocre Burton film is at least better than most things released in the calendar year of film. With Miss Peregrine’s, the typical tropes and traits of what makes Burton’s films his own are unashamedly there to see from the offset and whilst we are treated to a two hour plus marathon of sub-gothic horror, all with a teenage friendly 12A rating, which includes invisible monsters, Alice In Wonderland type parallel time zones and the removal of a hell lot of eyes, Burton’s latest is an undeniable snooze-fest, one that has the baseline of a good idea but one that is orchestrated in a tedious and rather unconvincing fashion, concluding with a final act which can only be regarded as the physical definition of anticlimax.

As we follow Jacob (Asa Butterfield) into the titular home, ruled over by the strict, yet caring, Miss Peregrine, portrayed in an overtly scene-chewingly fashion by Eva Green, the film begins in a compelling air of mystery, particularly when we are introduced to the notion of the Hollows, their origins and the plans of the evil Dr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). Unfortunately for the film, as soon as we are swayed away from the charming introductions to the residents of the titular home and into the bigger picture involving the Jack Skellington-esque Hollows, the film totally collapses under the weight of attempting to get as much plot in its’ two-hour runtime, resulting in a messy narrative which doesn’t allow the concluding act to have the impact and sense of closure it of course is meant to have. Although the film boasts some good performance from the likes of its’ younger cast, with Ella Purnell arguably being the standout, Miss Peregrine’s is a poor attempt for Burton to get back on form and therefore can only be regarded as a undeniable let down.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: The Secret Life of Pets

“Liberate Forever, Domesticated Never!”

Ever since the origin of those funky yellow guys who seem to speak a mix of drunken English and incomprehensible gibberish, Illumination Entertainment has hit the big time. With Minions taking an extraordinary amount of cash last year, The Secret Life of Pets is indeed the next big pet (no pun intended) project for Universal, a film which simply won everybody over with its’ short but sweet introduction to the movie in which we witness segments of different pets getting up to no good whilst their owners are away. Now with the full movie being released. the real question remained whether the 90 minute spectacle would live up to the promise billed in the films’ trailers and after watching the finished product, The Secret Life of Pets is indeed a film which is guaranteed to bring in the big bucks but ultimately a film, much like last years’ Minions, is fairly unsubstantial and one that although is good fun for the time spent with it, doesn’t exactly remain with you after it’s finished.

Featuring fundamentally likeable characters such as charismatic and fluffy dogs, crazy homicidal bunny rabbits and a lackadaisical overweight cat, The Secret Life of Pets is guaranteed to satisfy the younger generation with fantastic animation being present throughout the entirety of the film, but the problems come up to the surface when observing the rather unoriginal plot and continuous moments of sheer destruction caused by our beloved titular pets that seems to go completely unnoticed by the humans in this particular tale. I know guys, it isn’t meant to be the most fictional depiction of the world in which we live, but The Secret Life of Pets too often banishes the hope of a strong plot thread and substitutes it for loud, crashing car chases or James Bond esque villainous lair escapes. Maybe I’m looking too deep into it or maybe I’m right but whatever the result, The Secret Life of Pets is a solid addition to the Illumination canon but not much else.

Overall Score: 6/10 

Film Review: The Jungle Book

“I Am Mowgli, And This Is My Home..!”

Of all the Live-Action Disney remakes that have graced our screens over the course of the past few years or so, the latest from Iron Man’s Jon Favreau could easily be regarded as perhaps the best of the lot, with Kenneth Branagh’s take on Cinderella last year arguably being the closest Disney re-imagining that manages to at least rival and in some areas, better, the latest take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a film featuring an impressive foray of CGI inflicted animals, each with their own personalities, aided by a stellar voice cast featuring the likes of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and of course, Idris Elba as the terrifying figure of Shere Kan, an enemy completely parallel to the one featured in the 1967 Disney animated classic, highlighting the darker and scarier direction Favreau’s film has decided to go in. The real question still remains though; does the latest incarnation of Mowgli and Baloo’s story give justice to both Kipling and the 1967 animation? It does indeed, although, perhaps inevitably, probably won’t be as endearing as the latter has been in terms of longevity and legacy.

Of the film’s many successes, the CGI animals throughout the entirety of the film are a sheer wonder to behold, with flawless design and an incredibly voice cast accomplishing the incredible feat of forgetting the animals’ fictionalised reality and entirely believing in them from the outset. A dour joke at the beginning that fell flat on its’ face aside, the CGI through the course of the film is easily the best use of the technology in recent memory, perfectly realising the characters of Kipling, particularly that of the stand-out trio in Bill Murray’s charismatic Baloo, Idris Elba’s sinister Shere Kan and finally, Christopher Walken’s King Louie, harbouring a comical updated version of “I Wan’na Be Like You”. Letting the team down rather comprehensively however is Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa, a involvement way too short to have any impact whatsoever. Of course, being the only real-life actor within the film, Neel Sethi’s portrayal of Mowgli is one of depth and interest, a testament to the young acting abilities of Sethi, a previously unheard actor. Not any more I would think. Disney does it again, congratulations, The Jungle Book is a easy-going family treat, one that will please everyone that intends to see it. With a sequel already in the works, it is safe to say the story of Mowgli has a very strong future indeed. Any news on Star Wars now?

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Zootropolis

“It’s Called A Hustle Sweetheart…”

And finally, here we are at last. The showdown between two heavyweights. The greatest battle ever to have graced this crazy world. That’s right guys, it’s Zootropolis against Batman V Superman. Disney against Warner. Bunny against Bat. See what I’m getting at? Good, I’ll stop now. Continuing the riveting success of movies of the animated variety over the course of the past few years or so is Disney’s latest pet project (No pun intended) Zootropolis, a film proud enough to stand toe-to-toe with BvS in hope of snatching that esteemed number one spot in the top ten list come the end of the Easter Holidays. If money doesn’t speak volumes to you however, then the critical concentration of the two films is the thing you may indeed be looking at, with Zootropolis being leagues ahead in terms of overall quality in comparison to the Batman behemoth, with laughs being rife all the way though it’s Chinatown-esque mystery themes and nods to the adult variety which will bound to leave all audiences leaving the cinema with a smile. And a new annoyingly catchy song to hum to.

Leaving the carrot-harvesting life of her surroundings, optimistic young rabbit Judy Hopps enrols within the Police Recruitment program whereby she is reassigned to the vast and sprawling city of Zootropolis after graduating top of her class and having the esteemed reputation of becoming the first rabbit to do so. Although beginning life as a lowly traffic warden, Judy soon becomes unravelled in a kidnapping plot and with the help of fox con-artist Nick Wilde, she attempts to uncover the deep, dark secrets surrounding the cities anthropomorphic lifestyle. Featuring fantastic visuals and a incredible voice cast including the likes of Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and Ginnifer Goodwin as the young Officer Hopps, Zootropolis manages to encapsulate all the things that make animated movies the success that they are, with well-timed jokes cracked left, right and centre whilst the well-designed characters are crafted with more-than-enough detail to keep all the little ones interested and engaged. Although it perhaps doesn’t include the same wonder factor of last years’ brilliant one-two of Inside Out and Song of the Sea, Zootropolis is indeed a brilliant addition to the Disney canon, one in which I could watch again and again and continue to smile. Oh yeah, and that Shakira song is damn catchy.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

“I Should Have Stayed At Mum’s…”

When it comes to a juggernaut of a release such as Spectre, there is always a few films that attempt to grab the minorities attention and attempt to sway them away from Mr Bond and his exploding watch. Unfortunately for those who part of such a minority, one of the few films release side-by-side Spectre this week is Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, the newest and supposedly last incarnation of the well-worn found footage franchise that began all the way back in in 2009 with Paranormal Activity, which to be fair was rather creepy and overtly intelligent, satisfyingly so considering its’ tightrope budget was well and truly recuperated around a million times over by audiences via word of mouth and critical praise rather than overblown advertisements and propaganda. Once the first film was seen as a highly effective money-making scheme, producers decided to repeat the process over and over and over again with The Ghost Dimension proving to be the final nail in the coffin of the original which in effect has been completely tarnished by the reputation of its’ successors.

Paranormal Activity 2? Pants. Activity 3? Bit better. Activity 4? Real pants. The Marked Ones? Completely pointless. Am I missing anything? Do I care? No. Neither seemingly do the film-makers of The Ghost Dimension who seem not to realise that the overly boring setup of found footage films nowadays is really starting to become rather grating with The Ghost Dimension ticking all of the many boxes of what you expect with such a movie. People filming the house? Check. Cleaning the lens? Check. Wobbly, shaky, running scenes? Check. Camera catching no-so-creepy entity and then people looking at it again therefore repeating the same scene twice just so our so called cast can catch up with stuff we have already seen? Check. Get the picture? The one redeeming feature of The Ghost Dimension is that it puts to bed the overly tedious and overstretched plot-lines that apparently connects all of the Paranormal series, something of which I couldn’t care less about but does make me happy that we will never see any shaky-cam captures of the demonic and stupidly named Toby ever again.

Overall Score: 2/10 

Film Review: Everest

Snow, Lot’s of Snow

When a challenge with an intensity such as climbing Mount Everest is set upon us humans by the greater gods, aliens, those weird blue things from Prometheus, or whatever you believe in in regards to our creation, the natural response from almost everyone on Earth is to stay as far away as humanly possible from almost what is near-certain death, but in the case of the mad minority, a chosen few in the last century or so have decided to attempt such a feat in climbing safely to the top of Earth’s highest mountain, with the latest popcorn-fueled, 3D epic in the form of the aptly named Everest, attempting to tell the tale of the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster in which SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. Obviously if you are well versed in the National Geographic channel or other alternative options to observe our recent history, such spoilers limit the film’s appeal in some sense, but if unbeknownst to the facts, like myself, Everest brings a sharp cinematic appeal to one of the world’s most spectacular wonders.

Boasting a cast so A-List top-heavy, you could have been fooled for thinking actors such as Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Josh Brolin, were set to appear in a arctic spin-off of Avengers Assemble, Everest’s first half consists of both character development and build-up to an almost inevitable conclusion, particularly if you had seen the trailer, regarding the group’s attempt to accomplish their goal of reaching the top of the mountain, Not only does Everest suffer from the familiar movie trait of giving too much away in its’ pre-release trailers resulting in a feeling of, “oh, just hurry up and reach the top,” but subsequently suffers from an almost cramped amount of characters seemingly all played in cameo fashion from A-Lister’s such as Gyllenhaal and Brolin, without having one solid lead or hero, even if it is suggested that Clarke’s role as Rob Hall was the intended recipient of such with the movie switching from focus between Clarke and Brolin in the first and second acts.

If the first half of Everest is somewhat lacklustre, the second half of the film more than makes up for it and undoubtedly saves the film no-end, with the sheer horror of survival in the face of certain death being expertly displayed across gorgeous cinematography whilst scenes of sheer horror in which the effects of such perils are unpleasantly displayed result in a heavy sense of squeamishness. Although scenes in which the true horror and danger of climbing such a feat could have been added to, the film did at times leave me with a sense of vertigo but not in a fashion I would have deemed adequate from a disaster movie in which the tension should definitely be current throughout, something of which cannot be said of Everest, even with the mountainous terrain being constantly adhered to by the film-makers. Everest is a film that aspires to be a metaphorical equivalent to its’ title, with an A-List cast undoubtedly boosting the appeal but it suffers heavily from a slow first half and too many characters with none sticking out from the crowd in an attempt to form any meaningful emotional bond with throughout the course of their life-or-death situation.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Inside Out

Life of Riley

When it comes to my final countdown of this years’ best and brightest movies, at least two films within that list will be that of an animated pedigree, with the first being the wonderful Song of the Sea, released only two weeks ago, which proved to be one of the most blissfully entertaining and emotion rattling films that I had seen so far this year with gorgeous visuals, a simply gorgeous design and a soundtrack that rivals any classic musical companion to date. The second on that list however, without a doubt, will be this weeks’ new Disney Pixar release, Inside Out, a film so masterful in reaching all its’ cinematic targets and avenues that it begs the question whether Disney can ever outdo itself ever again in creating a film that not only touches the heart, but touches the mind too with concepts and ideas that are set to bring a overarching sense of joy out in everyone, even if they are too stubborn to admit it.

The story of Inside Out focuses on the life of young Riley Anderson and her five manifestations of emotions that reside within her mind who control the way in which her life is run, whether it be saving memories of joy and happiness, creating islands of Riley’s personality or just finding solutions to day-to-day problems and situations young Riley finds herself in. Of these emotions, Joy (Voiced by Amy Poehler) believes the best way for Riley to live her life is to constantly be happy and only resort to the other emotions of either Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness if completely necessary, yet Riley and her emotions are turned upside down when she is forced to relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco, resulting in a range of stark changes that set Joy and co. on a wild quest to adapt to their inhabitants sudden and relentless changes. From the plot synopsis alone, it is obvious that Inside Out is a movie that can be related with by almost everyone and anyone, regardless of age, with the youngest audience being there for the gorgeous visuals and design, the high comedic and slapstick output and relationship to the character of Riley, whilst the older audience being there to enjoy the relationship between Riley and her parents, helped by a deep understanding of the films’ main idea that growing up brings with it a rafter of changes, both physically and mentally.

Of the many positives within the film, the simple, yet brilliant concepts that continued to pop up were astounding to behold, with trains of thought, islands of personality, imaginary friends and subconscious fears all being expertly designed, resulting in a roller-coaster ride of emotions with moments of sheer sadness, uplifting joy, and an overall sense of wonder that the film willingly creates. For example, one young girl in the cinema showing I was in actually broke down in tears during the film and although I was never going to follow suit, I have to admit, there were times my tongue was being well and truly bit, particularly in regards to the final scene of Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong. I’m such an emotional wreck. These collage of magical elements that encompassed Inside Out throughout its’ runtime results in making the film not only one of the best of the year, but a true Disney Classic, one of which will live long in the memory of all that choose to watch it.

Overall Score: 10/10     

  

Film Review: San Andreas

Appetite for Destruction

If there were still any doubt that 2015 was indeed year of the blockbuster, then you only need to look at the release of San Andreas, an annoyingly over-advertised disaster movie set in the sun-soaked state of California starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Carla Gugino. and Paul Giamatti, whilst being directed by Brad Peyton, whose back catalogue of directorial credits include classic films such as Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Ha, no. So, any good you ask? Proceed with caution, it might get rough.

When it comes to movies such as San Andreas, there is always a recipe for disaster (pun intended) which tends to include fundamental and key box-ticking traits in order for it to be classed as a success. For example, one of these characteristics include the introduction and development of certain characters who we follow throughout the destruction that ensues all around them which whilst is off killing waves of incidental human life that the audience usually don’t really care about, seems to miraculously spare our beloved heroes and heroines. In the case of San Andreas, these characters are manifested into the body of Chief Raymond Gaines (Johnson), a man so extraordinary it was surprising not to see him declare himself as part of the Avengers during the ease-filled nature of not only ripping a car door from it’s hinges, not only being able to hot-wire everything and anything in his path, not only being able to breath underwater for what seemed like an eternity, but to also keep the same expression regardless of the situation in which he appears. I mean, I love The Rock, but it is painstakingly obvious after watching San Andreas that dramatic, expressionist acting is not a career path he should be aiming for.

The golden word that came to mind whilst watching San Andreas was cringe with it being filled to the rafters with cliche after cliche due to its’ simply dire script in which the two English characters are made to look like court jesters whilst American hero Dwayne Johnson pretty much portrays God. Do I care for him and his family? Not one damn bit. Top comedy marks however go to the inclusion of Kylie Minogue who overtakes Rita Ora as top contender for worst cameo of the year in a scene that filled me with unintended laughter inside, whilst worst parent of the year goes to the stupid mother who leaves her child on top of the Hoover Dam in a scene which looked good on the surface in terms of effects, but ultimately fell into the black-hole of emptiness that was the films’ depth and substance, a phrase that pretty much sums up the entirety of San Andreas. 

Aside from all the negativity, there are some good points that should be mentioned. Paul Giamatti is the best thing in it in terms of acting whilst the sheer scale of destruction that is depicted on screen makes the battle at the end of Man of Steel look like a typical teenage tiff, emphasising the notion that if its’ spectacle you want, San Andreas definitely delivers. So all in all, bring the popcorn, leave your brain at home, San Andreas is many things, an insult to your brain, a symphony of destruction, but one thing is for sure, its’ only a bit-part player in the catalogue of blockbusters that make up 2015 in film.

Overall Score: 4/10