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Reviews

The Island of Dr. Moreau
(1996)

What the hell was that?!
This movie was the byproduct of a troubled production cycle involving two directors clashing with the studio, Marlin Brando and Val Kilmer and the rest of the cast wanting to get out of the movie desperately. No one in this film seems like they want to be there AT ALL; David Thewlis looks like he's about to cry from realising the embarrassment this will give him for his career, and Marlon Brando looks like he's the most care-free arse on the planet whenever he's on camera hamming up his appearance to the extreme. How the hell did this movie get finished and then released? It's incomprehensible; the plot makes no sense, the characters go back and forth with their logic and the direction is unsure if the movie wants to be a body-horror or comedy.

And to top the absurdity of the movie off it's bookended by narration that tries to give meaning to the nonsensical experience we just witnessed. It tries hammering the relevance of men playing god by using newsreel footage at the end of the movie. The big problem though? Nothing happened in the movie to warrant using this commentary at all. It's just an overblown adaptation of a HG Wells story that could have been a good experience if the production wasn't such an outright disaster from start to finish.

This movie is a classic 101 in what NOT to do in Hollywood moviemaking: and it's bound to be a token example for years to come.

Sonic the Hedgehog
(2020)

Gotta go fast!
Sonic's finally made it to the movies after years of development: and it's the best video game film ever made by default! It's a fast-paced buddy-comedy superhero film that works well enough on its own. And for now, well enough is just fine: because video game cinema has a LONG way to go just yet. If video game films are to be at least Sonic-levels of quality there is hope for the future. It took time for Hollywood to get comic book movies right but they got there, so video games are sure to be the new frontier for the taking.

Sure this film's character arcs are predictable but it's not grossly offensive in its familiarity and it does add some self-awareness in the script thanks to Ben Schwartz and James Marsden's unusual buddy chemistry. Oh, and Jim Carrey's Dr. Robotnik was just right for this movie; he's arguably the most enjoyable aspect of Sonic the Hedgehog. This 2020 film has mid-90s charm to it in the way it was made and the way it plays out the story. It may date the movie for some but it's at least a firm base of style and direction, because many of these video game movies simply don't have direction or purpose: they usually squander with no arc or character resolutions. Thankfully Sonic realises it's a movie and doesn't bother hammering too many of the video game's elements for fan-service pandering's sake. It plays things out in a conventional, predictable but enjoyable manner.

I sincerely hope Hollywood takes notes for how Sonic was adapted for the big screen, because this is a big step in the right direction for video game adaptations. It's not perfect but it's good. And for now, good is more than enough.

Toy Story 4
(2019)

For me, it's an 'Alternate Conclusion'
Toy Story 4 may probably the most unnecessary sequel ever made but it's far from the worst. If anything, it could easily be the strongest fourth instalment of any film series out there. We all saw Toy Story 3 in 2010: we all agreed it was the perfect conclusion to Disney-PIXAR's super-series of films, and they made a fourth film anyway. Why did they do it? Money, of course: but it doesn't feel like it's the ONLY driving force for the movie. Toy Story 4 decided to 're-conclude' the story by focusing on Woody and how he's grown as the watchful protector of Andy's toys. And for me I think this sequel doesn't have to be seen as canon to all Toy Story fans: it's an extension of Toy Story 3's ending that can be interpreted as an alternate timeline.

Toy Story 4 was kind of predicted by jokes after Toy Story 3's release: and considering Toy Story 4 got 'Robot Chicken'-ed before the actual movie even came out, it's funny that the sequel wasn't as shallow as everyone predicted it would be. With that said, I still stand firmly by my interpretation of Toy Story 4 as an 'alternate epilogue' to the series.

If you want Toy Story 3 to still be the conclusion of the series, that's more than fine. If you wanted more, well, Toy Story 4 serves that purpose just fine.

Bird Box
(2018)

Competent
Bird Box seemed like it was going to be 'the biggest thing in the history of anything ever' the way people were fussing about it's viewership records back when it debuted in 2018. Now people have meme'd it via the 'Bird Box Challenge', seen it and analysed it to death because it's just like any other typical horror movie. The hype has dialled down since then and I can safely say: yeah, it's okay.

It's not the best movie ever made and it feels like it borrows too many things from 'A Quiet Place' (they both came out the same year) but it's still watchable. It's a Netflix movie, and for me those kinds of movies tend to be a hard HIT or MISS! This ones stuck between the two: it's got great actors and nicely done cinematography capturing the unease of a post-apolcayptic dystopia, but its over-familiarity to other horror films undermines some of the film's strongpoints. I still reckon Netflix has a long way to go with film production standards, but their TV shows tend to be consistent hits across the board.

Want to see the movie that inspired the 'Bird Box Challenge' craze? Well here are my two-cents on the matter.

Space Force
(2020)

Eh
This is a show, I guess. It's well made, well shot and well acted even. But where's the funny? Where is the Office-level of writing in this seemingly sci-fi-based sitcom? I couldn't find much to laugh at when I started watching the show; sure I had a small chuckle here and there but none of the jokes really stuck out in my mind. It's a flashy production with admittedly impressive sets and visual effects, but that's not what makes comedy funny: it's meant to be the script and the actors' conviction in realising the absurdity of their character's situation.

I usually really like Netflix's original shows, but this one: I don't even know why it's got the talent it has on board because the scripts just seem too damn weak to become anything impressive in the first place. In short, I thought this was a letdown.

Keep in mind that I'm reviewing the first season: I'm hoping the second season improves upon this one because it'd be nice to have a sci-fi sitcom on Netflix that works.

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
(2020)

Expected a little more out of this.
As confronting as the stories are, this documentary series didn't do it for me. It didn't have the same 'energy' or scope as Tiger King and the exposes on all of those connected to Epstein felt too conventional and cliche: it felt like interviews conducted for news broadcasts rather than something for a documentary tv series or film. Epstein was a monster, we get that: he had a lot of powerful connections, we get that too: why did he kill himself in jail? This series never bothers to closely examine the conspiracy theory that he might have been outright killed whilst he was in prison (at least from what I can remember watching the whole thing through WEEKS ago). The man seemed far too 'proud' of himself to consider suicide as an option.

Epstein seems like he was an interesting monster; too bad this series almost made him uninteresting, which is a unique disservice to the pursuit of truth and uncovering sex crimes of social elitists. If I were to cover the topic of sexual assault and/or harassment, I'd emphasise the disturbingly vast interconnectedness of such networks, like I'd really hammer home the idea that Epstein was trying to self-rationalise his own monstrosity in the same way Harvey Weinstein has in outright denying all the rape allegations against him. This series made the problem seem smaller than it really is, and though I fully understand the plight Epstein's victims went through, I'd want to reimagine this story as something more engaging and less simplified as 'Filthy Rich' is.

I do find these real-life stories interesting, I really do: but this one didn't work for me.

Watchmen
(2019)

An ambitious, controversial and brave sequel.
Watchmen was bound to divide people form the start: after its premiere and explicit addressing of the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 people started dubbing the series 'Wokemen' dismissing the original story's entire point about superheroes and ideologies not being as perfect as we always dreamed them to be. If Batman were real, he'd be like Rorschach and have right-wing populist tendencies in his hatred of the establishment and America liberalism; the way this series used Rorschach upset fans because it contradicted THEIR Rorschach because many saw him as an outright hero with no impurities. Even 'pure' figures can be bent into symbols of hatred and that's an unfortunate truth about the world. Now that the dust has settled after the Emmy Awards nominations for 2020, the reactionary (and seemingly right-wing) bashing of this show has waned significantly and rightly so. It didn't deserve any of it because users were blinded by their own idea of thinking the series was forcing political sentiments upon them: it wasn't. The politics in play were built into the original Watchmen story; it just wasn't explicitly defined as it is in the show.

Rest assured though, this ISN'T 'Wokemen': it's Damon Lindelof's Watchmen. It's a show made for fans of the comic but it's okay if some viewers don't like it: it's weird and unconventional but it's well done. It's a pure-minded sequel to the original story that tells an intriguing alternate history of Modern America, one where Robert Redford served as President in the past. This show has a DEEP take on Watchmen's backstory and it's bound to appeal to some fans and divide others; I was conflicted about the show's approach at first, but then I watched through the rest of the series and it grew on me in a good way. Just keep in mind, this isn't 'Woke' television crap: it's just ambitious and daring in expanding the world of Watchmen. And world-building is never going to be an easy thing to pull off for a beloved pre-established property like this.

Watchmen is a sequel, an expansion that dares to go even crazier than the original story ever dreamt of doing. It's got something to say about men-in-tights, racism and history. It's a 'non-linear reimagining' of a classic graphic novel. But it's not going to be for EVERYONE: so be wary.

The Mandalorian: Chapter 2: The Child
(2019)
Episode 2, Season 1

Probably one of Star Wars' finest moments outside the movies.
The Mandalorian is really shaping up to become a classic that will be immortalised outside the greater Star Wars community: as of this writing the show's been nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Drama Series, and I think this episode's escalation of the series' stakes and ambitions proved its worthiness in the golden age of television; not to mention it's noteworthiness in the franchise's canon.

'The Child' shows that The Mandalorian is striving to balance the Star Wars universe's aesthetics of Space Western and Science Fantasy in its storyline. Everything's lived in and well-worn, but that doesn't stop the mysticism of the Force from seeping through the cracks of The New Republic post-Return of the Jedi. It's world-building that feels new inside a familiar universe.

This episode is amongst the show's strongest ones. The future for Star Wars may indeed be in television.

Scream: The TV Series
(2015)

Could have been fun.
This series just didn't do it for me: beyond the shock value and goriness there's nothing to really keep the viewer invested. It's not psychological horror, it's not really jump-scare horror: it's just soapy horror that doesn't have any real 'bite' to it.

It's well made and competently acted out, but the writing's shallow and it doesn't suck people in who aren't fans of the Scream movies (like myself). I tried getting past the series' first three episodes and I couldn't go on any further.

In the golden age of television I say give this one a miss. But hey, for some of you this may be just what you're looking for.

C'era una volta il West
(1968)

It's a sweeping epic that isn't shy of going big.
Once Upon a Time in the West is a true Western: it's got all the ingredients of stories concerning gunslingers and outlaws, and it goes all the way with showing the scope of what life was like on the American frontier; just as the railroads began to span the countryside.

It's got sharpshooters in the concentrated forms of Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda, and they're two men fighting for different causes: Bronson's Harmonica is a mysterious trauma-ridden cowboy while Fonda's Frank is like a remorseless gangster trying to control his interests wanting to exploit the frontier's proliferating steam-engines.

The thing that's great about Once Upon a Time in the West is that even though the story's got ridiculously big scope, it knows that in the middle of the vast American deserts of the Old West, the people roaming it are still very much interconnected in ways that can't be changed regardless of how much terrain one can traverse by train or horseback. It's an epic with a tight-knit character-driven story dissecting the simplicity, vastness and ruthlessness of the American frontier.

This one's a movie for the ages, and it came out in 1968; probably one of the best years in cinema history, thanks to this, Yellow Submarine, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes and The Great Silence.

Solar Opposites
(2020)

I really like Justin Roiland's brand of absurdist sci-fi comedy.
Solar Opposites is the spiritual continuation of Rick and Morty's cultural footprint and its more streamlined style of storytelling makes this show a nice juxtaposition to Roiland's Adult Swim smash hit. Though some of the storytelling and character archetypes may be too similar to Rick and Morty's cast, rest assured Solar Opposites' cast gives a more alien perspective to Earth's very human culture.

This is a family sitcom rather than an existential black comedy which Rick and Morty's managed to pull off so well: but these aliens still possess it's predecessor's irreverent humour and energy all the same. Hopefully these two shows will crossover in the not-too distant future and we'll see how Rick and Korvo are two analogies for one another whilst having radically different ideas over the same stuff relevant to them.

This is a nice beginning to something new and fresh, and this may be Justin Roiland's chance to broaden his creative horizons even further.

Bloodshot
(2020)

It's got some nice effects, but the story's weak.
Bloodshot is the first instalment of the supposed 'Valiant Cinematic Universe' and I've got to say: it's not a great start. This movie is basically RoboCop and Captain America without the fun factor. Sure Vin Diesel's fine in this movie but he's the only element that really shines in this tired origin story to a character that hasn't even been rebooted a bajillion times like Batman or Spider-Man. I wish this movie was stronger, but it just isn't; at least not for me.

This is a cliche-fest that WAS self-aware at some point early on in the movie, but it's like the filmmakers forgot they were developing a character-driven drama and decided to settle on all the most basic superhero movie 101s imaginable WITHOUT being a parody: there's a tragic backstory, a stupid supervillain and a heartthrob who's seemingly duplicitous but not really all bad, and then you have fight scenes that are ripped straight from Venom and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I didn't like this movie too much; that's what I'm trying to say here.

I tried to give this one a fair shot, but it wasn't for me. There are other superhero movies out there; watch those instead.

Django
(1966)

It's great Spaghetti Western cinema.
Django has left its mark on modern cinema, with Django Unchained being this film's most famous 'follow-up' movie; that movie's not a sequel nor remake by any means of the imagination but it's a clear homage from Quentin Tarantino showing what an impact Sergio Corbucci's films had on him as a filmmaker.

This film's got all the gun-toting goodness you'd expect from these Spaghetti Western movies and a badass central character who seems like a distant-relative of the Man With No Name. And Django's not a man you mess with lightly. If you cross him in any way he'll make you regret it long and hard. If only there weren't some 30-unofficial sequels to this underrated classic.

Django's great fun. It's a 5/5 star experience.

Il grande silenzio
(1968)

It's criminally underrated for a Spaghetti Western!
The Great Silence is not your typical Western film, and it subverts does many tropes of the Hero's Journey in refreshing ways. There are payoffs that lead to some strong resolutions only for some of them to lead to bittersweet conclusions. It's a roller coaster of a Spaghetti Western that's got SO much crammed into it's under-2-hour runtime.

It's deep, the world's got so much backstory to it like any good Western and its taking place in the Snowy landscape of Utah is a fantastic choice differentiating it from the rest of the Spaghetti Western Film market. And it's all complimented by the mute lead character whose trauma-ridden past adds that much to The Great Silence's place in Italian Cinema.

This film's a criminally underrated gem that deserves to be (re)discovered by the masses in the future. Hopefully it'll become as revered as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

It's a 5/5 star experience.

Missing Link
(2019)

A good movie that was promoted poorly.
Missing Link was a good movie that fell victim to MGM's lacking distribution through United Artists: this film had a nice Shrek-like buddy-film vibe to it, and it had elements of the Old West weaved with the sense of adventure of the Indiana Jones movies. So what went wrong at the box office? The film didn't LOOK special enough in the pedestrian trailers. It looked like an atypical journey as opposed to something special like Coraline.

The story's familiar but it's complimented by the film's admittedly wonderful design and scope, something that really makes the experience pop out from the modern animated movie crowd. The buddy dynamic is also a nice touch showing that the whole two-outcasts-wanting-the-same-thing dynamic still has some life in it to tell some new stories with. It doesn't reinvent the wheel but it uses the wheel to give some refreshing scenery and character-development.

Give this one a go. It's a charming movie.

The Midnight Gospel
(2020)

A deep cartoon that's more than it seems to unsuspecting viewers.
The Midnight Gospel came from Adventure Time's creator, Pendleton Ward; except this show was also co-created by podcaster Duncan Trussell with the intent of giving absurdly over-the-top scenarios irreverent animated life through its deep conversations and deconstructions on philosophy, space and time and how the world's wisdoms bounce off one-another in the grand scheme of our lives.

This is a show that takes something as non-linear as podcast interviews and turns them into mad-lib storyline's about a 'Space-Caster' travelling across multiple worlds. This show might be a meditation for those suffering from the Five Stages of Grief: and this show might be a therapeutic way of the 'acceptance' part of that struggle. In that regard The Midnight Gospel is unusually important television, especially in 2020.

The Midnight Gospel will make Adventure Time fans feel right at home; and it's an ideal evolution from that show's imagination and style.

Peaky Blinders
(2013)

This is some damn fine television right here!
Peaky Blinders is like a BBC-HBO co-production without HBO's involvement whatsoever; it has British television drama vibes running through its veins and it's got production values comparable to Martin Scorsese' Boardwalk Empire, because this show feels like a response to it. And what a response it is: a loud, violent and beautifully-made period drama telling a story of crime, justice and life in the shadows.

This show's worth a go for any devotee of television drama anywhere.

Rocketman
(2019)

Egerton was snubbed of an Oscar-nomination for this one.
Rocketman is more than an Elton John biopic: it's a star-driven vehicle showing Taron Egerton's acting chops are very strong, and that he's definitely going to become a very unique leading man in Hollywood. Also this is one Hollywood movie that makes gay sex actually sensual for straight people.

Rocketman's a 4/5 star experience.

Yesterday
(2019)

For Beatles fans this is an absolute must-see.
Yesterday explores its parallel-universe well enough, though of course not everything can be explored all at once, because it's ultimately up to the viewer to decide how different the world really is without The Beatles in it. And I'd say yes, the world would be a hell of a lot poorer without them, but what's wrong with exploring what-ifs about a universe where they never became a thing? It's a fun premise done to the tune of a feel-good movie.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
(2019)

A well-made adventure that shows EA's learning from the Battlefront games.
Star Wars has had rotten luck in the gaming world lately: in 2013 Disney shutdown LucasArts' development arm and then they announced EA's licensing of the Star Wars franchise not long after that event. What followed was a less-than-savory start with Star Wars: Battlefront, but then Battlefront II near-crippled EA's Star Wars ventures with that game's notorious pay-to-win loot-box controversy: a controversy so extreme it's resulted in anti-gambling legislation in online video-gaming throughout Europe. And then in 2019, EA had Respawn Entertainment produce Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the first great Star Wars game in years.

This game was truly a breath of fresh air: the story's not derivative of prior Star Wars works and the gameplay is pretty damn solid in spite of the main character's awkward run-animations and clunkiness while double-jumping. Oh: and I forgot to mention there was NO pay-to-win crap at all. Thank Christ EA didn't go there again, because if they did there would be no going back from such an anti-consumer thing to do.

The story's solid thanks to its faithfulness in following Star Wars' history: Darth Vader is hunting you down with the help of his Sith Inquisitors dividing and conquering for the Galactic Empire. The player must rebuild the Jedi Order before The Empire wipes them out from the galaxy itself.

The gameplay of Jedi Fallen Order is strong, though it does leave room for some improvement with the inevitable sequels-to-come, but a strong start nonetheless. We've got bits of Metroid Prime, God of War and even Bloodborne. It's a nice mix of action-adventure gaming tropes in a galaxy far, far away.

Jedi Fallen Order is a great piece making up for lost time on Star Wars games and it deserves your time absolutely. Grab a copy whenever you can.

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
(2000)

Why was this even made?
Straight-to-video Disney sequels have become the butt of so many jokes on the internet and for good reason: they're generally TERRIBLE pieces of 'entertainment'. Where to begin? The plots of these sequels almost repeat beat-for-beat what happened in the previous movie(s) and add nothing to their canon. The same goes for The Little Mermaid II right here: a literal repeat of the original movie except it's inverted and there's TOO MANY annoying side characters to count made JUST for this film alone.

This film is SO bad it's almost a so-bad-it's-fantastic type of experience. If you want terrible movie-making, here's the film for you. 1/5 stars.

Highlander
(1986)

Enjoyably epic 80s schlock.
Highlander's proven itself to be quite the cult classic from the 1980s: and what a film to kick-start such a devoted following. And it's ridiculously fun to watch in spite of its many cliches.

It is high-concept fantasy cinema at its most ridiculous, most ambitious and most testosterone-fuelled righteousness.

Highlander is a 3.5/5 star ride.

The Willoughbys
(2020)

Enjoyable family-friendly romp
The Willoughbys has come out during an interesting time: it's one of Netflix's offerings that came out during the COVID-19 crisis, it's got cutting edge technology for its animation and yet it's got energy comparable to that of a cartoon from Chuck Jones in the 50s; it's technical eye-candy that has a tried-and-true story structure built into it. It's like a buddy film akin to Toy Story or Shrek, but it's got twists of The Addams Family here and there and aesthetics that evokes animation styles ranging from Genndy Tartakovsky to Tim Burton, and even trace elements of Nick Park's style (specifically with the Barnaby twins).

So what stops this film from being a beaming classic? I reckon it's got something to do with the story not really playing with the viewers' expectations for the plot: it plays out almost exactly as you'd predict it would (Story A converging with Story B because main characters cannot outrun their call-to-adventure or inciting incident/factor catching up to them this changing their destiny) though the characters are nice enough in their own some of these narrative shortcomings can be forgiven because of the energy the animation has to offer. It's cool that Netflix gave this film a chance because it's not your run-of-the-mill computer-animated Hollywood film: it's a remix film that evokes many animations before it and has the 'crunchy' frame-rate that cel-animation has.

It's enjoyable family fair that won't become an earth-shattering revelation for animated movies in the future, but for what it's worth The Willoughbys is nice, safe and vivid entertainment that gets its job done.

This film's a 3/5 star experience.

The Willoughbys
(2020)

Enjoyable family-friendly romp
The Willoughbys has come out during an interesting time: it's one of Netflix's offerings that came out during the COVID-19 crisis, it's got cutting edge technology for its animation and yet it's got energy comparable to that of a cartoon from Chuck Jones in the 50s; it's technical eye-candy that has a tried-and-true story structure built into it. It's like a buddy film akin to Toy Story or Shrek, but it's got twists of The Addams Family here and there and aesthetics that evokes animation styles ranging from Genndy Tartakovsky to Tim Burton, and even trace elements of Nick Park's style (specifically with the Barnaby twins).

So what stops this film from being a beaming classic? I reckon it's got something to do with the story not really playing with the viewers' expectations for the plot: it plays out almost exactly as you'd predict it would (Story A converging with Story B because main characters cannot outrun their call-to-adventure or inciting incident/factor catching up to them this changing their destiny) though the characters are nice enough in their own some of these narrative shortcomings can be forgiven because of the energy the animation has to offer. It's cool that Netflix gave this film a chance because it's not your run-of-the-mill computer-animated Hollywood film: it's a remix film that evokes many animations before it and has the 'crunchy' frame-rate that cel-animation has.

It's enjoyable family fair that won't become an earth-shattering revelation for animated movies in the future, but for what it's worth The Willoughbys is nice, safe and vivid entertainment that gets its job done.

This film's a 3/5 star experience.

Onward
(2020)

Entertaining, but not great PIXAR storytelling.
Onward is a nicely done if somewhat predictable offering from Disney: it's got the hallmarks of Pixar's Toy Story films' buddy-comedy dynamic going on, but it tries to go for heart-melting emotion like Up and it doesn't quite get there in the end. It's even got splashes of Disney's A Goofy Movie (though they're very broad connections, the road-trio trope being one of them).

It's typical family fare that's going to be a lot of kids' all-time favourite movie for a while, but me: I think it's a visually gorgeous movie that has familiar traits from the studio's previous outings in cinema. Compared to PIXAR's other movies, Onward is more a remix movie that rehashes a lot of fantasy cinema's cliches while making the central themes being brotherhood and fatherhood. And the film actually does show how important one's upbringing can really be.

If you're looking for something mind-blowingly amazing, think again (though you just might find it great anyway). Does it mean this film's worth a miss? No. It's good: just not great. You get what you see with this film.

Onward gets 3.5/5 stars.

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