Movie Review — Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is Star Wars. Forget the prequels, hell forget the Ewoks. This is what got you excited to visit a "Galaxy far, far away" in the first place. The Force Awakens had a lot of goals to accomplish and I think it managed to do all of them (some better than others perhaps). It's not a literary movie, nor a particularly deep one but it is Star Wars. The Force Awakens is not a reboot in the traditional sense, but it does wipe about 80% of the slate clean leaving future movies somewhere interesting to go. The prequels exist but they don't matter and the neat resolution that we were presented with …Read more  »

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Disney does superheroes, sort of. That's basically what Big Hero 6 is, but it's worth taking a moment to clarify what it isn't. It is not a Marvel animated movie, nor is it a Pixar movie. Approaching it expecting either of those things will likely end in disappointment. Generally Big Hero 6 follows a traditional Disney story arc. It executes it well and uses the trappings of superhero stories effectively but you can see its origins in The Lion King and other Disney classics. What's It All About? Hiro Hamada is a super smart kid with a talent for electronics who lacks direction. Inspired by his big brother he invents …Read more  »

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Well this was just plain fun. I had a smile on my face through almost the entire movie. And if you want a TLDR for this review, then fun pretty much sums it all up. Certainly this isn't an intellectually challenging movie but I think I can safely say that you'll enjoy every moment of it. When Marvel Studios announced they were making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie there was a lot of doubt online (where everyone thinks they are an expert) about the viability of taking a bunch of characters that probably wouldn't even be described as D-list and making a movie based on them. Shows what the …Read more  »

Movie Revew: X-Men — Days Of Future Past

There was a time some years ago when the X-Men movies were seen as the height of superhero adventure on the big screen. Things have changed a lot in the last decade. Mutants no longer reign supreme in the comics or the movies. Unable to participate in the great Marvel Plan and hampered by a truly atrocious movie in X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men movies just don't get the attention they used to. Which is a shame because if you look at the track record of the franchise it's really pretty good. X-Men: First Class was a great reboot of all things mutant and X-Men: Days Of Future Past takes …Read more  »

Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

If I was to generalize I would probably say that Pixar produces sophisticated movies for the whole family while Dreamworks produces funny animal movies. It's an over-simplification and there are definitely exceptions on both sides, but that's my general impression of the two companies and their animated output. How To Train Your Dragon, however, was a case where Dreamworks eschewed funny animals and produced a sophisticated movie.  It's one of my favorite animated movies of the last decade. How To Train Your Dragon 2 is better in almost every respect. And that's not something you can often say about a sequel. I saw How To Train Your Dragon 2 in …Read more  »

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

I'm a little late getting to this one. It's been sitting in my to watch pile for a long time, but I was never in the right mood.Pacific Rim  is not by most definitions a good movie but it may well be a very fun movie. Basically we're dealing with big, dumb, action movie here. It's likeTransformers pretty much. That should upset some people, but it is.I can honestly say that nothing that happened at any point in the movie surprised me. The dialogue, the plot beats, it all goes exactly the way you expect your action movie to go.Similarly the dialogue is... adequate but no more. It helps when some of it is being delivered by Idris Elba. On …Read more  »

Movie Review: The LEGO Movie

Movie Review: The LEGO Movie The LEGO Movie is far better written and directed than you have any right to expect. On the surface it is basically a cash in on the brands popularity. It would have been so easy just to skate through with some jokes and licensed figures to prop things up. Instead what we get is a multi-layered movie that can satisfy a variety of audiences and that has been crafted with what has to be love for the source material (yes I'm talking about plastic bricks). On the surface we have a fast paced mixture of action and jokes that will keep kids pretty entertained. There's …Read more  »

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

This is an action movie. Set your expectations accordingly. I know that's not what all Star Trek fans want, but like the last Star Trek movie this is primarily about providing explosions and thrills. Personally I have to say I like that. Star Trek movies have been far too prone to pontification and while hitting on some deeper issues isn't a bad thing, people standing around lecturing gets dull pretty quickly. Star Trek Into Darkness does actually touch on some deeper stuff but it's not subtle in how it does it. No one can miss the comparison being made about how the Federation apparently wants to handle this terrorist and …Read more  »

Movie Review: Dredd

I don't dislike the Stallone Judge Dredd movie as much as some do, but it's fair to say that it was not a faithful adaptation of the source material. The 2012 movie Dredd starring Carl Urban as Judge Dredd and Olivia Thirlby as trainee Judge Anderson hews much closer to the comic books though it does seem to be lacking the trade mark grim humor of the original work. Early on there are signs of budget limitations as some of the shots of Mega City 1 lack the level of ridiculous buildup that I would expect. However once the story gets focussed into a single block the set design is …Read more  »

Movie Review: Percy Jackson & The  Olympians — The Lightning Thief

I haven't read any of the books, so my reaction to this movie (and anything I say about it) is based purely off what was on the screen. I mention that because my immediate reaction to Percy Jackson & the Olympians - The Lightning Thief was that it desperately wanted to be Harry Potter. Everything that happened in the first 45 minutes just felt like Harry Potter with a slight twist. It's not that the Harry Potter concept was  particularly original but this movie hits so many of the same elements in a similar order that it's really hard to put the comparison's aside. Particularly when you're dealing with the …Read more  »

Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

Sequels are a tricky thing. They have to somehow extend the premise of the original movie to new areas while still hitting all the notes that the audience liked from that first one. Two goals that head in different directions. Despicable Me 2 largely manages the task though. It is a little less focussed than the first move as it tries to give all the characters something to do while simultaneously introducing the new plot. But once it gets all the plates spinning it keeps things going nicely and pulls everything together for the end. It's also a movie that's very aware of its dual audience. So we have fart …Read more  »

Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Let's be clear up front. This is a Hollywood movie with elements of thriller/action and probably primarily romance at play. Yes it is very loosely based on the Philip K. Dick story The Adjustment Team but it would probably be more accurate to say inspired by. But, it does gently poke at some larger questions on the subject of free will. And the importance of self vs. the importance of society. Though I'm not surprised which side it inevitably comes down on. Matt Damon plays an up and coming politician who suffers a crushing defeat in an election. The adjustment bureau working to the plan drawn up by The Chairman …Read more  »

Movie Review: The Hobbit — An Unexpected Journey

I think it's important to judge movies (or books or anything else really) not based on what I want them to be, but what they are attempting to be. And that's particularly relevant here. Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not a direct adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's beloved children's story The Hobbit.  And if that's what you want, you will be disappointed. This is a prequel to the movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Something that became apparent within the first 15 minutes of the movie. It's clearly framed as that. If you didn't like those movies... you won't like this one. It is not …Read more  »

Movie Review: Rise Of The Guardians

Rise of the Guardians is a movie based on the characters from William Joyce's Guardians of Childhood books. In fact the movie is set many years after the books and introduces a new guardian in Jack Frost, the other four (The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, Sandman and Santa Claus each having been introduced in their own books). The movie is clearly intended for children and the guardians picked because they will be recognizable to that audience. The storyline is similarly straight forward too. The Bogeyman has a new plan that will have the worlds children stop believing in the guardians. And when that happens all that will be left is …Read more  »

Movie Review: Oz The Great And Powerful

This movie is inevitably going to be compared to The Wizard of Oz. Which is unfortunate because it's not The Wizard of Oz. It can't ever be that movie. In fact no one can make that movie. It's something of it's time. As is Oz The Great And Powerful in many ways. The story does hold generally to what was established in the movie to which it serves as a sort of prequel, but it is a very different beast. Oz is... appropriately enough a con-man. A snake oil salesman of sorts. And the core of the story is of a cowardly man finally living up to his ambition to …Read more  »

Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

This turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. I had seen the adverts of course and as someone who grew up during the 70s and 80s they naturally appealed to me. But they really didn't give any indication of plot or characters. So I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. And Disney's track record with computer animation is not nearly as good as that of Pixar. In this case though they hit the ball right out of the park. At it's core we have a simple story about learning to appreciate who you are and what makes you special. A traditional kids movie theme that is wrapped up in …Read more  »

Movie Review: Skyfall

The long running James Bond series (50 years and counting) has faced a lot of challenges over the years including having to change cast and dealing with studio bankruptcy. But probably the single biggest challenge it has faced is the end of the cold war. For years it struggled to find a direction that made sense in the modern world, with varying levels of success.   When the franchise rebooted with Casino Royale they stripped things down to the bare bones with a more brutal Bond. While not universally popular the move was met with considerable acclaim. They also started to introduce a new organisation as an opponent for Bond. …Read more  »

Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania

We finally had a chance to watch this movie, which the boys had been talking about since seeing the adverts back at Halloween. Short version is that it's great fun.The story is pretty simplistic. You have an over-protective father (who just happens to be Dracula) and a human who wanders into a hotel for monsters (all of whom are more scared of him than he is of them). Don't expect too much in the way of Pixar sophistication or pathos either. This is more about fart jokes.And you know what, that's fine. Because this is aimed unashamedly at kids. And it gives them things to laugh at.  Adam Sandler and …Read more  »

Movie Review: Arthur Christmas

We took the boys to watch a cinema showing of Arthur Christmas today. We missed it when it came out last year.Modern kids movies that attempt to do the classic Santa type story usually face a dilemma, which is that the core elements of those stories (sleighs, wooden toys etc.) is quite dated at this point. The usual result is a painful attempt to update and make the old relevant.Arthur Christmas takes a different approach. Not only does it fully embrace modernity, but it acknowledges the contradictions between the old and the new.In fact it brings it front and center, giving us a story about three generations and a clash …Read more  »

Movie Review: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Or as it is more correctly known The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists! but... Americans. This is the latest stop-motion animation from Aardman Animation (best known for their Wallace and Gromit animations) and you can't miss their style in this, both visually and in the script. It doesn't quite hit those heights, lacking perhaps the juxstaposition of the familiar and homely with the fantastical, but it easily offers more originality and wit than 90% of family oriented animated movies. Visually this is the most ambitious stop-animated work I've ever seen. It maintains the claymation look that Aardman are known for, while effectively blending in computer animation for the backgrounds …Read more  »

Movie Review: Super 8

So, a movie directed by J. J. Abrams, produced by Steven Spielberg, set in small town USA in 1979 and centering on group of kids who want to make a movie. Oh and sci-fi stuff. The curiosity factor is obvious. Abrams has quite the track record these days and this project is just chock full of classic Spielbergisms. For me it had one obvious strike against it. I generally don't like it when writers put authors in their books and when directors put film makers in their movies. It tends to get either meta or self-referential and thus tedious. For the most part though Abrams avoided that in this case, except perhaps for …Read more  »

Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln — Vampire Hunter

I haven't read the book yet, but I have been told that the movie departs significantly from it's source. Worth noting for people who are bothered by that sort of thing. The core conceit of this move is patently absurd. One either accepts that going in or just doesn't go to see it. If I was to aim a single criticism at the movie though it would be that it doesn't fully embrace that absurdity. Sometimes it does. There are some epic moments involving silver forks being shot from a canon and young Lincoln leaping from horseback to horseback. But then it goes and gets serious and wants to talk …Read more  »

Review: The Avengers

I've been looking forward to this movie since Iron Man was released. But I had my doubts about whether it could work. Even the addition of Joss Whedon as writer/director didn't entirely reassure me since I've found his recent work very hit or miss. The Avengers though is pure hit from beginning to end. It's exactly what it should be. A giant, action packed, summer blockbuster of a movie. But more than that, it gives each of it's heroes a little time to breathe and show depth. It's also packed with Whedonesque quips as well, which doesn't hurt either. Although there are a few elements of the movie which benefit …Read more  »

Cars 2 — Mini Review and Thoughts

Ever since Pixar announced that they were going to do a sequel to their movie Cars, there has been an online backlash. I say online, because I haven't noticed the same reaction amongst people I know in real life. But blogs were full of people making snide comments and claiming that Cars was the worst movie that Pixar had done so why do a sequel? Personally I don't think Cars was Pixar's worst movie. Well short of their best, but not their worst either. Personally I preferred it to A Bugs Life, Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille.  The reason for a sequel though is obvious. Cars is a merchandising cash …Read more  »

The Hobbit Animated Movie, Review

Image by ProfessorMortis via Flickr I've been on a bit of  a Tolkien kick recently (in all honestly I've been on a Tolkien kick for my entire life) so I thought I'd watch the 1977 animated tv movie of  The Hobbit. I went into this knowing that I really wasn't the target audience for this adaptation, but curious none the less. What I found was a really mixed bag. There are some elements of the movie that are remarkably strong and others that just jar my nerves. I was surprised by how faithful the animated movie was to The Hobbit. It's short running time inevitably means that plot elements are left …Read more  »