Category Archives: On The Small Screen

Mowgli: The Legend of the Jungle – Review

Mowgli: The Legend of the Jungle is the latest interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic Indian set fable The Jungle Book. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Jungle, young human boy Mowgli is raised by the Wolf pack as one of their own. This time, it’s actor turned director Andy Serkis who brings the animals and man cub to life.

Although director Serkis has brought the titular character to the front and delivered a brilliant cast of performance captured creatures, the film suffers from  a lack of originality. Rudyard Kipling may have written a timeless classic but with numerous versions and the dominant Disney animation, did we need another retelling? No, we did not. Even though the film had strengths.

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Featuring voice and performance captured visuals from Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale and led by newcomer Rohan Chand, the story centres on young Mowgli (Chand), left in the jungle after his parents are killed by fierce tiger Shere Khan, (Cumberbatch). Found by Panther Bagheera (Bale), he is raised by the loyal Wolfpack. Yet as Mowgli grows, Shere Khan still threatens the human that lives amongst them. Can Mowgli and his animal family stop him and bring peace to their jungle home? As well as providing the voice and performance capture for bear Baloo, Andy Serkis also takes the directors chair here.
The original Mowgli stories were written in 1894. With the tale being adapted multiple times the main question of the story will be is it faithful? Yes, it is.

Therefore, the film follows the same narrative as the other adaptations. The character of Mowgli is more dominant here than in other adaptations. He is the driving force of the film and his animal companions take a backseat. This is definitely a much grittier take on Rudyard’s classic with more blood and danger. The stakes feel higher and the potential for loss is stronger but it’s not enough to truly set it apart from last year’s Disney live-action remake.

With Serkis considered the leader in the pioneering of performance capture, it’s no surprise that the creatures of Mowgli are incredible. Fierce but emotional the film combines the realism of wild animals with the emotional range of human characteristics. Their interactions with Mowgli are always felt, bringing Kipling’s jungle to life.
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The cast is led by young Chand as Mowgli. His is definitely the more raw performance, compared to other adaptions with a greater range. Some parts feel overdone but it’s a solid performance for the newcomer.
Serkis, Naomie Harris and Cate Blanchett all lend their strong vocals to the Bear, the Wolf and the Snake of the tale, as well as inspiration for the creatures visuals. Yet the stand outs here are Benedict Cumberbatch as the Tiger and Christian Bale as the Panther. Cumberbatch continues to lend his voice to strong CGI villains creating a menacing Shere Khan. Opposing this is the fatherly figure of Bale. As Mowgli’s fierce protector Bahgeera he is torn between his love for the man-cub and the duty to protect him and the wolf-pack who raised the young boy he found. His performance is one filled with love and the weight of responsibility.

Although this is the superior version in the latest batch of interpretations, Mowgli suffers from its predecessors. This may be beautifully realised and grittier but we’ve all been here before despite the effort and beauty.

Mowgli: The Legend of Mowgli is available to watch on Netflix 

The Christmas Chronicles – Review

Dear reader,

I am an audible film-watcher. A more of a reactionary, really. I gasp loudly, I flail, I grab the hands of my weary cohorts. I just love cinema and get ridiculously happy whenever something of great emotion or something epic and awesome happens on screen. Particularly if the film is a no-holds barred romp with gleeful adrenaline.

Annoying to some, embraced by many, this type of cinema-watching has always seen me through difficult times and many movies have given me…such joy.

The Christmas Chronicles is possibly the most excitable I have ever been in the screen.

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The Christmas Chronicles, aka The Sexy Father Christmas Film, revolves around the Pearce family. Following the death of father Doug, the previously obsessed family have dwindled in Yuletide cheer. Oldest Teddy has become a bit of a tearaway whilst the energetic Kate seems to be the only one trying to lift spirits. When on Christmas Eve, Kate decides to catch Santa in the act, the pair unwillingly undo the holiday and have to help bring it back before everyone stops caring in Christmas.

Casting Kurt Russell in the role of Father Christmas. (Alright, OK, Santa Claus) is an inspired choice. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it’s the choice that came before plot, director, and anyone else. One day an executive walked into a room (probably from watching The Hateful Eight,) slammed Russell’s latest headshot down on a wooden panelled table and screamed, “Kurt Russell as the big red man NOW!”

It pays off: Kurt Russell is definitely inhibits the role with a certain rambunctiousness and cocky air that makes him absolutely delightful to watch. In fact, he is so good as the character that every time he isn’t on the screen – for whatever reasons focusing on the children – he is absolutely missed. Russell is clearly having a wail of a time. This is not your cheery “ho ho ho” Father Christmas and neither is this your “Bad Santa” variety. Still a magical being who just wants to spread the joy, this Santa Claus has an edge but it’s fun, frivolous, and occasionally sarcastic. Every Christmas nod and line are so impeccably delivered that it’s hard not to fall in love with The Christmas Chronicles. Kurt Russell definitely owns the role, bringing glee for everyone.

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Judah Lewis as Teddy and Darby Camp as Kate are brilliant children actors. Though they cannot measure up to the sheer personality of Russell, they are delightful company on this thrilling ride with enough emotional arcs to keep you invested in their plight.

The Christmas Chronicles is the ultimate new Christmas film this year. Yes, it is jam-packed with cheesy sentimental moments and far-fetched plot points but it has spirit to boot. There are tonnes of sugar-addled elves to keep the little ones in check but may grate against the weary adult psyche (especially as they floss.) Yet this action-fuelled comedy-packed adventure will satisfy everyone.

The Christmas Chronicles hits Netflix on 22nd July
Check out this brand new featurette!

Legion – “Chapter 9” Review

There’s an episode in How I Met Your Mother where the characters start to realise annoying traits about one another. These are characteristics that have always been there but have been closed off from your mind. As though your love for them outweighs their faults, then someone shines a massive beacon-like spotlight that exaggerates flaws. The glass breaks, the truth is out, and you can never look at that some person in the same way.

I speak about How I Met Your Mother in the opening to Legion because this happened to me recently. I have adored, loved, and earnestly frothed at the mouth to anyone who will listen about the FX series. However, recently, I saw someone point out that it tries too hard to be bizarre and weird. Just like that the glass was broken. Smash.

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Now I am not saying this takes away from the superb first season because I believe the surreal elements had purpose, had depth and mirrored David’s psyche impeccably.

However, with the opening episode of Season 2, this has become more apparent with my now scrutinising eye.

Season 2 (this episode called Chapter 9) picks up a year after David was zapped into an orb. The time shift is unbeknownst to him, the incident happening merely yesterday. The others, however, have made home at Division 3, a seemingly weird government facility where David is being studied. Unsure how to navigate the time lost, and people not believing his amnesia, David becomes aware that Foruk, the Shadow King, is racing to find his original body whilst possessing Oliver’s. If that happens, it could mean worldwide devastation…

There’s a lot to process with this latest episode as the time jump, though merely a year, gives us a lot of mystery. There’s exposition to get through as well as the unexplained. It’s irritating that there is a lot of distrust in David, which causes friction for him and Syd, but with this annoyance, comes this air of intrigue: How much can we actually trust this character having seen the world from his perspective the whole time? This sets of a really interesting path for the season to follow.

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Acting-wise, the show continues to excel with Dan Stevens coming into his own with David Haller. His bewilderment mixed with power and the torment he supposedly left behind enriches this lead and causes a lot of interest.

But let’s get too it: The bizarre elements of Legion feel mismatched with the emotion. Noah Hawley and his team have created lavish set designs, wonderful costuming, and crafted a dance sequence that I could watch every day until I die and then die happy, but there is something just off centre for this opening. There are parts that feel remiss, shoved in characters with over-the-top outfits and situations that don’t seem to have any connection to the show whatsoever.

I suppose I get it – that this will slowly unravel and make sense as we follow David through this h. But whilst Season 1 had grounding for its imaginative dream-scape, Chapter 9 lacks that layering.

Legion appears on FX Tuesdays! 

Looking Back…Pacific Rim (2013)

Guillermo del Toro is no doubt a genius. You only have to look at Pan’s Labyrinth and his Oscar winning The Shape of Water to realise that. The man is all about the artistry as well as the story, marrying the two in succinct harmony to evolve a hauntingly incredible movie. His work from the aforementioned fantastical horror, vampire romp Blade II,  to the amazing Gothic action in Hellboy, del Toro has a sublime style that has evolved in his work.  Heck, I even love Crimson Peak despite it’s faults. Del Toro has a special something and, despite it’s naysayers, I think that continues in the underappreciated Pacific Rim.

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Perhaps his best work for polarising people, many seeing Idris Elba yelling; “we’re cancelling the apocalypse” and huffing at the idea, but Pacific Rim has its fair share of fans. Enough to lead to a sequel which, led by John Boyega and directed by Steven S. DeKnight is out tomorrow.

Pacific Rim revolves around a future where the human race, globally, is united against aliens known Kaijus who emerged from an interdimensional portal below the Ocean. Humanity, in an aid to stop total annihilation, build humanoid like robots, called Jaegers, that seem to work for a while, until the Kaijus get stronger, faster, and better. The story focuses on Rayleigh, a renegade pilot whose brother died years before and Mako, a rookie pilot who discovers they have a mental connection with one another…

Visually, this is an outstanding film, especially as this is del Toro’s romp through science fiction. He keeps to his own unique vision, as usually, and utilises a science fiction landscape to illuminate effects. His neon landscape of robots and aliens enhances this action film with a gorgeous aesthetic. The director also combines cultural elements to embellish this world where countries and borders are broken by a war by the extra-terrestrial, including Japan, America, and Britain. But ultimately, his vision is heavily realised with the Kaiju and the Jaegers which have their own look and feel. With ridiculous names such as Gypsy Danger, the robots are all different and with a personality which look astonishingly great on whatever screen you see it on.

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Whilst the themes and story may be a bit complex, the entire movie is prefixed with a backstory narrative that most “dystopian” films do to flesh out the present, the film does well with its intricacies unfold gloriously. This is particularly helped by the two leads, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi. As Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori, they form a rambunctious team who are daring to break the rules. As pilots of a Jaeger, they have to have this mental connection to drive the robot showcase a brilliant platonic relationship that works on mutual respect rather than romantic entanglements. The performances are in tune as are their characters, dealing with grief and responsibility together…

There’s also some welcome comedic relief from Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as Dr. Newton Geiszler and Gottlieb, who try to learn more about the Jaegers mindset. Don’t forget that this also stars Idris Elba as the leader of the whole damn thing and, yes, it’s bloody awesome. While Pacific Rim may masquerade as mindless sci-fi action, it has a brain and a heart all at once. With the release of Uprising, could it beat the original?

Pacific Rim: Uprising is out 23rd March! 

Annihilation – Review

The ever-growing power of Netflix and it’s global domination in the film industry has caused us to question everything we know about movie viewing. Coming from a demand for cheaper and more accessible films, the streaming service met many needs and has millions of us glued to the screen. It has mutated over the years; previously a host to home entertainment releases, they’ve grown substantially to now be privée to new releases, television shows, and have even begun funding their own projects such as Death Note, Mute, or the handful of Marvel series like Jessica Jones. 

Yet it has caused a conflict about where films belong. Of course, there are benefits and negatives. Films will always work better on the big screen whilst streaming opens the door to a wider audience. With more and more titles being monopolised by streaming services, many are worried about what the future of cinema is going to look like and what films are going to suffer because of this change.

One such casualty of this is Alex Garland’s Annihilation. Despite a (tepid) cinema release in the US, an altercation between producer Scott Rudin and studio Paramount meant that it’s overseas release was managed by Netflix. Now, as mentioned before, this is a fusion of bad and brilliant points. On one hand, more people (hopefully) are going to dig into this palpable and astonishing piece of work.  On the other much bigger hand, Annihilation is a movie with such powerful imagery and story-telling that it really  belongs to the big screen.

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So let’s deviate from this discourse to tell you exactly why you should add Annihilation in your My List, watch immediately, and then keep it there forever for future viewings. The Ex Machina genius Alex Garland, returns in this adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel. The movie revolves around a group of military scientists who lead a possible suicidal expedition into an unknown entity called The Shimmer. Lena, an ex-solider and biologist, volunteers to join after her husband disappears from a previous mission. However, what they encounter in The Shimmer is unlike any other…

And Annihilation is unlike any other film (though, I’d argue it has a spiritual counterpart with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.) Garland showcases his strength in direction and his ability to craft an imaginative science fiction piece of work. The visuals here are impeccable: A collection of the magnificent macabre that is drenched in colour. He splices brutal beauty and it bleeds onto the screen in a captivating manner. Rob Hardy’s accomplished cinematography enhanced by visual effects team Double Negative make the film an alluring one, capturing the attractiveness of the elusive Shimmer as well as its equally nightmarish side. These are towering visuals that keep you gripped, like a Venus Fly Trap pulling you into its mouth so it can snap and bite back.

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The troop of accomplished and powerful scientists are the main focus of Garland’s movie and they are led by Academy Award winner Natalie Portman. As Lena, she is incredible: emotive, passionate, determined, and with many conflicting parts of her – one of curiosity, one prepared to fight, and one battling her demons. Portman is great in this role. Though there are characters here who I wish we’d spent longer with (Tessa Thompson and her meek yet pained Josie being the main one,) the actor’s here amalgamate (appropriate word) to become this strong team, each with a different energy, essence, and explanation as to why they tick and act. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, the aforementioned Thompson, and Tuva Novotny anchor Portman whilst similarly create friction for each other to thrive upon. There are astute and studied performances here, from a sly cock of a smile in the otherwise stoic Dr. Ventress (Jason Leigh) to the immediate warmth of Novotny’s Sheppard – each actress is assured in their character and allows slight details to bring flesh to their role.

Oscar Isaac as Lena’s husband Kane is also impeccable. Let’s hope that Isaac continues to be a muse for Garland as the skilled actor is a chameleon in every performance he tackles. This is even more so in the film. Friend or foe, deranged or desperate, his immediate presence causes unease and shifts through the course of the film with a terror in his sullen eyes. Though this is placated by flashbacks pre-Shimmer and, therefore, a happier time for the couple, there is still an unnerving element to Kane and Isaac proves that, within this disquiet territory, he is more than able.

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Annihilation creeps and crawls, it shimmers and shakes – haunting and heart-breaking all at once. Garland has conducted a magnificent science fiction drama that nestles into your brain and keeps you locked inside its jigsaw.  It’s a multiple viewing type movie that’ll you’ll curiously digest; not only because of it’s striking display, but also its enriched story. There are twitches and twinges that seep throughout; puzzle pieces that are beautifully discarded across the screen that you happily put together. And yet, you are sure that if you were to scatter them again, following the same structure as before, you’d get a different painting or a deeper, more remarkable one. The mastery of it all is that you’ll want to dive into the shimmer repeatedly, but immediately remember that it is frightening and the fear present here will always stalk.

When it comes to Annihilation, I just wish that Netflix and Paramount would’ve combined the release, in a similar manner to Curzon Home Cinema in which it is available in certain cinemas as well as on streaming. That way you are appeasing the stay-at-homers, the cinema fiends, and those who would like a choice. Instead, it feels somewhat trapped inside this Netflix prism. There is a hope that if much weight is thrown behind the release (it’s available now,) then we may see it on the big screen at last.

Because Annihilation is a mind-bending, gorgeous, and pulsating sci-fi spectacle that deserves every attention that we can give it.

Annhilation is available NOW on Netflix

……and, hopefully, on a big screen too. 

Boy – Review

Taika Waititi can do no wrong. From Eagle vs Shark to What We Do In The Shadows, this New Zealand filmmaker has delighted with his special brand of humour and character depth. In fact, last year, his phenomenal indie hit The Hunt for the Wilderpeople topped many a list for ‘Best of 2016′ and made impressive waves at the Box Office.

After tackling the latest Marvel Entry, Thor: Ragnarok, his 2010 hit Boy came back into our lives and now it is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.

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Set in 1984 at Waihau Bay, New Zealand, Michael Jackson obsessed Boy is a Maori kid with lots of dreams, fantasies, and hopes despite being a . A lot of these revolve around his father, whom he idolises. When his Dad Alamein returns from prison, Boy is keen to kick start their relationship again with his heroic father. However, when they finally meet, he discovers that the man is more dim-witted than daring, and more self-centred than self-less. With the image of his father cracking, can Boy discover who he is?

Boy is exactly what Waititi does best, silly, stupid, and down-right uncomfortable comedy that works on a multitude of levels. Utilising the era with great homages to the King of Pop as Boy envisages his father to be, Waititi crafts a tonally on-point film that shifts from the fantastical to the hard-hitting reality. The film has a lot of depth; though it may seem like a frivolous coming of age day, it delves into the heart of family relations, particularly about putting a parent on a pedestal. In Boy, it’s not about figuring out that his father isn’t fantastic, in fact, the opposite. That is one of the biggest pains of your life: losing respect for your parents and Waititi tackles the subject matter with sensitivity and great comedic timing.

Similarly to Juilian Dennison in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (and despite staring Waititi himself as the foolish and foppish Alamein,) it is James Rolleston who commands the screen (well, him and his pet goat). As the dreamer and overly enthusiastic Boy, he is impossible not to love. A joyous titular character who’s first thought after finding a bag of cash is buying ice cream for himself and his mates. But Rolleston also manages to be realistic wounded after his father’s betrayal.

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As mentioned, Waititi is terrific as the somewhat whiny, and pathetic man who cares more about his loot and “biker gang” (really strong finger action on those air quotes, by the way,) rather than his family. Alamein wants to be the King of the Road, a legendary thief whilst still being admired by his children. When it all starts to unravel, he is hit with realism and Waititi handles Alamein’s break in glorious fashion.

Boy is sentimental as well as uproarious. A comedy with a ginormous heart as well as a spectacular finale that is certainly a thriller….

…Anyway, Boy is playing at select cinemas at the moment so it is definitely worth having a look.