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Wednesdays For Beginners


One of the greatest recurring characters during the Russell T Davies era was without a doubt Jackie Tyler, so combining Jackie with the all time greatest recurring character Captain Jack Harkness is a work of pure genius. I hope whoever came up with this idea, be it writer James Goss or the set's director Scott Handcock was given a decent pay rise for coming up with such ingenuity. When this pairing was announced, I was beyond excited and eagerly looking forward to what sounded like a truly memorable piece.

Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) has a stalker. Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) has been following her since he moved in at the Powell Estate, as a means of keeping an eye on Rose's mother whilst she's travelling through time and space with the Doctor. One day Jackie finds the Powell Estate totally deserted, with her only company being the stranger who has been stalking her for the last few months. Jack and Jackie team up to find out where has the entire neighbourhood disappeared to, and who is behind the disappearance.

In case you haven't already got the message, the biggest draw about this story is the pairing of Jack and Jackie - and it doesn't disappoint. They are absolutely hilarious together, evoking shades of the Tenth Doctor and Donna as they bicker and form a strong friendship. Jackie isn't shown as completely useless as she was occasionally on television either (I'm thinking of that infamous scene in Journey's End here when the Doctor wouldn't let Jackie help pilot the TARDIS). This Jackie is every much as clever as Donna Noble could be, showing occasional flashes of brilliance. It's Jackie who figures out how to bring the neighborhood back, and the solution strangely involves sausage rolls.

I never thought I'd hear John Barrowman and Camille Coduri form a duet, but that's one of the many pleasures this story offers. It also neatly sums up how much fun Wednesdays For Beginners is, adopting almost panto-like silliness with jokes about a neighbour's extremely boring CD collection and the completely barking mad idea (which works) of saving Jack from the story's monsters the harvesters by
WARNING: spoilers below
pouring a boiling pot of kettle over them.
I could easily listen to a whole box set of Jack and Jackie together - in fact, I could listen to a whole box set of Jackie Tyler on her own. She is extremely engaging to listen to, and lights up any scene.

The twist that
WARNING: spoilers below
Jackie Tyler is who the story's monsters the Harvesters are searching for and not Captain Jack
is predictable, but in this case I don't really care. The story is more about Jackie's world whilst Rose is travelling with the Doctor, and at times you really feel for this mother left on her own whilst her daughter's on some distant planet. James Goss's decision to isolate her even more by taking her entire neighbourhood away only highlights this even more. It's a good decision that helps us empathise with Jackie by bringing that loneliness to the forefront of the adventure.

You've probably noticed I haven't said much about Jack. Well that's because like the best Doctor Who stories, this Captain Jack story is more about Jack's 'companion' than Jack himself. Jackie Tyler is the main focus here, but Jack is still very much the main character: the hero who helps Jackie in her quest to bring her neighbours back. This story really plays to John Barrowman's talents with the humour and singing in the narrative, and with Jackie as the story's focus he still plays a vital part in the narrative. Without Jack,
WARNING: spoilers below
Jackie would have called the Doctor and Rose, and the Harvesters would have feasted on the time travellers.
John Barrowman's presence is always felt when he's stalking Jackie too; you get a sense that Jack is there, even when he doesn't talk.

Overall, Wednesdays For Beginners is just as much fun as you would imagine a story where Jack and Jackie team up would be. It is at times a wonderfully silly story, and at others a character piece that leaves you feeling sorry for the isolated life Jackie leads whilst her daughter travels across time and space. One day I hope Big Finish release a Lives of Jackie Tyler box set; judging by this release, it would be the audio set of a lifetime.




I might review the BBC series Trust Me at some point, because I feel like ranting about how that had the WORST ending to a television series ever.

I mean seriously, what the hell? Since when was committing fraud a good thing?



I might review the BBC series Trust Me at some point, because I feel like ranting about how that had the WORST ending to a television series ever.

I mean seriously, what the hell? Since when was committing fraud a good thing?
I saw a bit of that and I liked Jodie Whittaker; her acting was good. Funnily enough it was the "I'm a doctor" moment with the father. It will be interesting to see her as the Doctor, especially post-regeneration and in trailers. I don't feel like I'm going to get a light bulb over my head and think "that's the Doctor" but I won't rule it out. Being at the lowest possible ebb as a fan isn't a great place to be when they're ushering in a changeover .



I saw a bit of that and I liked Jodie Whittaker; her acting was good. Funnily enough it was the "I'm a doctor" moment with the father. It will be interesting to see her as the Doctor, especially post-regeneration and in trailers. I don't feel like I'm going to get a light bulb over my head and think "that's the Doctor" but I won't rule it out. Being at the lowest possible ebb as a fan isn't a great place to be when they're ushering in a changeover .
Jodie Whittaker was the one thing that was brilliant throughout all four episodes of Trust Me. She was the only part I enjoyed about episode four. The other three episodes were fantastic, but the fourth is one of the worst pieces of TV I've seen so far.

I really think Jodie Whittaker's going to make an excellent Doctor.



Trust Me


Oh, Trust Me. You started off so well, then you had to go and ruin it with that ending. First airing August 2017, this four part series by screenwriter Dan Sefton showed so much promise, yet failed to deliver on every level in the final episode. 'Woman steals her best friend's identity' is a strong premise for any TV thriller, but there are certain tropes that need to be fulfilled for it to prove a satisfying watch - one of those is seeing the web of deceit slowly unravel as more and more characters begin to find out who our lead really is - but we never get this with Trust Me. Instead the series in hindsight feels more 'meh' than 'yeh'.



After her concerns about patient neglect to the hospital board fall on deaf ears, Cath (Jodie Whittaker) loses her job in Sheffield as a nurse. Her best friend Alison Sutton (Andrea Lowe) holds a leaving party, having decided to move to New Zealand and upon finding her CV and references in the bin, Cath sees this as the perfect opportunity to embark on a new life in Scotland with her daughter Molly (Summer Mason) as 'Doctor Alison Sutton'. A romantic relationship with fellow doctor Andy Brenner (Emun Elliott)
WARNING: spoilers below
results in him discovering her true identity
, and when Molly's father Karl (Blake Harrison) follows his ex up to Scotland in order to be closer to his daughter,
WARNING: spoilers below
he begins to realise what Cath is up to
. Can Cath keep up her pretence, or will either Andy or Karl expose her lies?



The first three episodes of Trust Me were expertly directed by John Alexander and Amy Neil. You really felt the tension as characters had conversations in the hospital and turned to glance in Cath's direction. At times it seemed like her secret could be exposed any minute even though you knew whilst watching the series that there was a fourth episode to come. When Andy
WARNING: spoilers below
discovers her identity
its so tightly directed that there's a certain air of unease that isn't present in the fourth episode.



Unlike episode four these first three episodes proved extremely well-plotted and written by Dan Sefton. When Andy drives Cath to a remote location in episode three you have no idea what he's going to do. What is this guy we barely know capable of? Is he going to kill her
WARNING: spoilers below
(it's later made ambiguous in episode four as to whether he is capable of murder when it is left deliberately unclear as to whether Karl's death in hospital was caused by him or the car running him over as he saved his daughter)
? Leave her stranded? Well, it turns out he's just brought her to a holiday cottage he owns. But that tension that you need for a thriller is there. Until episode four.



Episode four unravels the build-up of the entire series, with only one more person discovering the truth -
WARNING: spoilers below
Cath's ex and Molly's father Karl. A man who is subsequently killed rescuing his daughter from traffic, leaving Andy the only other person who knows Cath's secret once more.
There are no consequences for Cath's fraud, instead the series bizarrely awards her for what she's done. Apparently now it's a good thing to commit fraud and if you attempt to steal somebody else's identity: don't worry, you'll be rewarded for your outstanding behaviour.



The excuse the series seems to give is 'Well, she's a good doctor despite not having the qualifications'. I'm sure that would wash in Judge Rinder's court. Or with the real Alison Sutton. Could you imagine if Alison discovered what her so-called 'best friend' had been doing and took her to Robert Rinder's court? That would be the show's quickest ruling, and it wouldn't be in favour of Cath.



Episode four is a mess. Cath even takes on another lie, covering for her friend Brigette (Sharon Small) even though she had been drinking during work and her clouded judgement had nearly resulted in the death of a patient they were both working on. This makes her getting away with her fraud even more unbelievable, and seem more like fantasy than any form of realism. Nobody would get away with this much in real life, especially when
WARNING: spoilers below
in episode two Andy discovers Cath's real identity by googling 'Alison Sutton'.
How come nobody else had decided to search her name by episode four? I could have accepted her other colleagues not searching for her online until episode four, but it seems ludicrous that nobody has tried to find her Facebook profile yet or contact her on Twitter.



WARNING: spoilers below
And why is Andy totally fine with it? I know he's her boyfriend but he only ever knows Cath as Alison until episode three (well technically the end of episode two given that's when he first discovers the truth, but Cath doesn't reveal herself to him as Cath into he calls her real name in episode three), and in episode four she goes against their decision to let Brigette take the blame. Surely that would make him trust her less?

Nope.

And in the same episode he later sees Cath in his house with another man (who we know as her ex Karl but Andy hasn't met yet). Does that make him trust her less?

Nope. He still goes along with the lie. He even winks at her when she receives her job promotion at the series' conclusion.

Andy's character motives make no sense; his decisions are less about character and more about servicing the plot. He may as well be called 'Doctor Plot Advancement'.




The best thing about Trust Me is the performance by Jodie Whittaker. She is fantastic in all four episodes, effortlessly playing Cath as both Cath and Alison Sutton. You can tell from her role here that she is going to be the best Doctor since David Tennant; she is every bit as engaging to watch, and immediately attracts your attention in the way Tennant consistently does in any television show or film he appears in. I have a feeling many unsure of a female Doctor will soon be changing their minds about the concept once Series 11 airs.



Overall, if episode four had been as great as the first three episodes I would have given this series five stars out of five. Unfortunately episode four is arguably one of the worst endings to a BBC drama series ever, as it unravels much of the tension and build-up from the previous three episodes in order to deliver the questionable message that committing fraud is 'great'. Jodie Whittaker's performance on the other hand is consistently amazing throughout the series and highlights just why she is such a great choice to play the Doctor in Doctor Who. Trust Me had so much potential as a thrilling BBC drama but in the end it was all wasted on a lie which really needed to be exposed.




Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)


Nobody was asking for a Jumanji sequel. The first Jumanji, released in 1995, was a relatively unremarkable affair despite featuring an excellent performance by Robin Williams as Alan Parrish. I never particularly wanted to see a sequel to it, and if it wasn't for Karen Gillan's casting I doubt I would have seen this film at the cinema. So as you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised when I found Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle to be more than just Amy Pond 'dance-fighting' video game henchmen in a revealing Tomb Raider-style outfit.



Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle begins exactly where the previous movie left off. In 1996, teenage gamer Alex (Mason Guccione) discovers the Jumanji board game washed up on the beach and upon arriving home chucks it to one side claiming 'nobody plays board games anymore'. Upon seeing Alex playing a video game, Jumanji transforms into a game cartridge. Twenty years later, teenage school kids Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Spencer (Alex Wolff), Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner) all find themselves in detention tasked with clearing out an old room in the school, where they find an old video game console and the Jumanji cartridge. The gang decide to play the game, and they are sucked into their avatar counterparts in the Jumanji world. Nerdy Spencer becomes the tough Smoulder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), the tall and butch Fridge becomes Smoulder's tiny and useless sidekick Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), awkward book worm Martha (Morgan Turner) is the sexy badass Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and the self-absorbed Bethany finds herself in the esteemed academic Professor Shelby Oberon (Jack Black)'s body. The group are tasked with returning a magical green gem to its place in the eye of a stone jaguar, but the journey won't be easy: videogame villain Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) also wants the gem, and with his ability to control the animals of the Jumanji jungle kingdom he will use any means necessary to take it from the group.



The film starts off weak with scenes set at the teenagers' school, which largely feel cliche and derivative of other movies featuring teenage characters in an educational environment. You have an intelligent kid completing a fellow student's homework, the pretty one who is obsessed with her own self-image and the shy student who refuses to join in with the P.E. lesson. We've all seen this stereotypes countless times before; there's nothing new here. Thankfully these early scenes are not representative of the rest of the movie, which is much more inventive with its videogame format, but the school scenes do perhaps go on a little too long and the fact that these four characters all end up in detention at the same time comes across as more than a little coincidental.



It's when they find the Jumanji game cartridge and console, and the teenage characters are sucked into the game world where the film really takes off. The four adult cast members - Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan - are hilarious together and have much more chemistry than their teenage counterparts. Jack Black in particular brings many laughs as a self-obsessed young woman stuck in the body of an 'overweight middle-aged man', trying to get used to certain male body parts and teaching Karen Gillan's Ruby Roundhouse/Martha how to flirt. Speaking of which, Karen Gillan more than holds her own alongside these well-accomplished comedy actors; this film neatly showcases her knack for comedy demonstrated in her many funny moments from Doctor Who Confidential, especially in the hugely entertaining scene where she tries to flirt with Van Pelt's videogame henchmen, and completely fails. It's not hard to see why Karen Gillan has quickly become one of the most successful actors to come from Doctor Who, as she is instantly endearing to watch on-screen.



It helps that Karen Gillan appears to have extremely good taste, with both Guardians of the Galaxy and now Jumanji having proven to be solid films. Jumanji is clever in the way that it plays with certain videogame conventions; each player, for example, has three lives and upon their death (providing they still have lives left) they fall through the jungle skyline, back into the game with one life lost. There is also the nice integration of videogame stats, projected in front of them upon pressing their chests, and each obstacle faced by the gang forming a 'level'. So much thought and attention to detail has been paid to the structure of videogames, even to the point of non-playable characters having a pre-set number of responses, and cutscenes cutting into the gameplay. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle may not be based on a videogame, but it is more a videogame movie than, say, the live-action Super Mario Brothers film, which bared no resemblance to the Super Mario game series it was based on.



Unfortunately videogame villain Russel Van Pelt has about as much depth as Bowser in the Mario games: IE none at all. He is possibly the most two-dimensional villain of any film of 2017, his evil antics reduced to nothing more than generic villainry and his interesting ability to control the animals living in Jumanji's jungle not used to its full potential. Russel poses little-to-no threat in the film apart from in the last ten minutes, with his videogame henchmen featured more heavily as generic soldiers on motorbikes. The stakes as a result don't feel particularly high, and it is therefore no surprise when the group succeed with the help of Nick Jonas' Jefferson McDonough/Alex.



Still, whilst the villain falls flat the action sequences are fun. Dwayne Johnson with a flame thrower is as awesome as it sounds, and Karen Gillan's dance fight scenes make for a cool watch. Both examples are well-directed by Jake Kasdan, and don't feel like they would be out of place in a videogame. Although they did miss out on a trick by not making the dance fight song Welcome To The Jungle by Guns and Roses; criminally the song only appears in the credits, and never in the film itself, which seems odd given that the film's subtitle is blatantly named after the song.



Overall, this is the kind of film you should go into without thinking too hard about what you are watching. It's not going to change the world, and it's far from the best movie out there, but what it does give you is a fun two hour cinematic experience with four extremely funny actors. In much the same way as Disney's Wreck It Ralph, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is a stronger film adaptation of videogames than many movies based directly on pre-existing games, and many who play videogames will likely find something to like here. However the school sequences are dull and uninspired, featuring age-old cliches seen in many school-based movies. The videogame world of Jumanji is where the film comes to life, and it's worth sitting through the boring school scenes to see the clever way in which this movie incorporates videogame elements.




REVIEW: Soul




Pixar, it's fair to say, never go for the typical or the obvious. Soul is a prime example of that. It's such a weird idea, to make an animated family film about a man who has a near-death experience, but it's what makes Pixar stand out from all of the other animation studios. Their films feel so mature and poignant, whilst catering to audiences of all ages, and that is always such a commendable quality for a movie to possess.

I just love the animation in the soul world known as The Great Before. It's so colourful and zany, it has its own unique stamp that's incomparable to any other animated film, and like the best fictional worlds it feels lived in. And the animation style when jazz musician Joe Gardener (Jamie Foxx) falls from the stairway to the Great After displays such creativity and energy, it really displays the talents of everyone at Pixar.

I think one of the most stand-out things about Soul however is just how diverse the animated cast is. 90% of the main characters are black, which shouldn't really be a big deal, but it happens so rarely in animated films that it's great to see ethnic minorities represented in grander numbers than before. There's plenty of people who look like me, a white person, in animated films, but I like to see that same logic applied to people who don't necessarily look like myself, the racial groups who are not as well represented, and deserve greater recognition.

This also has one of the best casts in animated movies. Jamie Foxx is the perfect voice for Joe, and Tina Fey is delightfully giddy as Soul 22. Graham Norton gives a very good turn as Moonwind, and Richard Ayoade made me laugh a lot as Counselor Jerry B. Rachel House as the accountant Terry is a very neat fit for the character, and the Post-Credits Ferris Bueller gag got a chuckle from me, even if it is a joke that has been done a lot.

This film for me was like a mix of Ratatouille and It's A Wonderful Life, with the crazy body shenanigans of Jamie Foxx's Joe (in the body of a cat) having to guide Tina Fey's Soul 22 in his body through his own life without Soul 22 messing it up. It's very reminiscent of Remy's control over Linguini in the kitchen in Ratatouille, with the scenes regarding Soul 22 discovering the wonders of life whilst living inside Joe sharing certain similarities to the plot of It's A Wonderful Life.

Overall, Soul is a film I had lots of fun with. I hope they find a way to make a sequel work in years to come, as this has the potential for a franchise with bags of imagination and creativity. Soul is one of Pixar's finest efforts to date, with a great cast, breathtaking visuals and a plot that is sure to leave you wanting more.

What do you think about Disney/Pixar's Soul? Let me know in the comments.




REVIEW: Wonder Woman




Originally published in 2020, here are my thoughts on Wonder Woman.

I don't usually watch the DC films, because they don't tend to be as good as the Marvel Studios offerings, but I have heard from a few people that this film is something really special, and I know that the critics gave it glowering reviews. It was described as a DC movie which bucked the trend, and focused on telling a great story rather than trying to pay catch-up with Marvel. As a result, I was curious to give this movie a watch, to see if it was as good as they claimed.

And boy were they right. This film is absolutely phenomenal, and not like a typical DC movie at all. It actually feels more like a Marvel Studios offering, sort of like a strange mash-up of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. The tone is much more reminiscent of a lighter superhero offering, with many gags related to the fish out of water aspect of this Amazonian warrior in the midst of the more mundane 'real' world, which helps to keep the film fun and engaging. There's a scene in the clothes shop in particular that is hilarious, where Diana tries on various outfits and insists on carrying her sword and shield through the store. There are only so many times you can be told as an audience member how dark the world is, and it doesn't lend itself for great cinematic entertainment, so it's great to finally see a DC film that understands this and instead offers a form of escapism.

Patty Jenkins' directorial style is utterly breathtaking. There's so many stunning pieces of cinematography in this film, and the action sequences are so well choreographed. I particularly loved the Young Diana (Emily Carey) training sequences at the beginning, and when Diana (Gal Gadot) is in the World War 1 trenches and walks across No Man's Land. These scenes make for some striking imagery that is sure to linger in the mind. It feels like every shot has been meticulously planned with the framing and lighting choices, with a great deal of thought and effort conveyed into the overall look of the film.



It helps that Gal Gadot is so perfectly cast as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, as she genuinely feels like the character lifted directly off the page. She oozes the presence of an Amazon warrior, really conveying a sense of the majestic and powerful. You really wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of this woman, as she's clearly someone who means business and will do whatever it takes to protect innocent bystanders from potential threats. It doesn't feel as though they could have cast the role much better than Gal Gadot, as she really embodies the part.

Overall, Wonder Woman is a rare cinematic hit within the otherwise wildly inconsistent DC Extended Universe. With jaw-dropping sequences and an impressive turn by Gal Gadot, I found myself grinning throughout this film, and I'm glad that I gave it a chance. I'd even go as far as to say it's better than Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel (also a great film in its own right), which is a first for me because I usually always prefer the Marvel offerings to DC's output. I just feel like between the two this delves deeper into the character of the lead, and her flaws, and does a better job with the fish out of water comedy. Wonder Woman is a film which demonstrates that the DCEU is capable of delivering a great movie, if only they'd just learn to have a bit more fun with their superpowered beings.




School Of Rock



When I posted my Twitter poll a few weeks ago asking if I should watch School Of Rock, many of you voted in your numbers to say I should check it out. In some respects, I'm surprised I haven't given it a go before. I like musicals, I think Jack Black always turns in a great performance and I like a bit of rock and roll. I guess the days before streaming made it hard to watch these films unless the TV schedules aligned, or you happened to find it on Lovefilm, but now Netflix makes it much easier.

It begins strongly, with Dewey Finn (Jack Black) playing a rock concert with his band. Immediately you get a sense of the film's tone, with a hilarious failed stage dive that suggests a comedic touch throughout the motion picture. Dewey is later fired from the band, which acts as a decent pivotal moment to set up his 'want' to create a new group that can set him back on the rock scene.

A couple of key supporting characters in this film are Dewey's roommates Ned (Mike White) and Patty (Sarah Silverman), who tell him he must get a job to play his share of the rent. It's a quick and easy way to establish a motive for Dewey to assume Ned's identity and fulfil the supply teacher role at the school. School Of Rock makes you fully understand and relate to his reasons for committing what is in reality a fraudulent act, and you can relate to his decision-making process. We all need money in order to survive, after all.

Dewey fulfilling the role of a teacher is a lot of fun from the off. It's just so amusing seeing him come in, and effectively strip the rule book out of the window, removing grades, stealing kids' lunches and given them a break time every few minutes. They really play fast and loose with the juxtaposition of this seemingly dumb and useless character suddenly finding himself in a position where he is expected to teach a bunch of posh kids, who all have parents with incredibly high expectations. Their parents have paid through the odds for their private education, and they want their money's worth for sure.

Child casts can make or break a film like this, but the kid actors in this film are brilliant. The amount of talent they possess is incredible, not just in their music and their acting, but also in their own comedic ability. They have so many witty moments throughout the movie, one of my favourites being when they hurl a load of insults at Dewey at Dewey's request. You really have to applaud the casting director Ilene Starger, who did an amazing job at finding such gifted children.


Probably one of the most interesting characters in the film is the school's principal, Rosalie Mullins (Joan Cusack). She has a pretty strong character arc, transitioning from this stern head mistress constantly worried about the looming presence of the parents who fund their kids' place at her school to this woman who learns to loosen up and have some fun. She arguably goes on more of a journey than any of the others in this flick, showing this surprisingly deep story of a woman who is too concerned about how others view her and has to let go of these worries in order to come out of her shell.

Of course, no musical would be worth its salt without a good tracklist, and School Of Rock has a decent set of songs. There's some catchy numbers here that feel reminiscent of popular hits such as 'Welcome To The jungle' and 'School's Out'. It captures the rock and roll vibe well, and it's no surprise that they adapted this film into a West End musical.


Unfortunately there are some problematic aspects to this film. The first being something that feels a little mean-spirited coming from our main protagonist. You see, upon discovering that the auditions for Battle of the Bands is over, Dewey - acting on a suggestion from band manager Summer (Miranda Cosgrove) - decides to tell the organisers that the kids are terminally ill patients from the local hospital, and have fallen foul of a rare blood disease. This doesn't feel right to me, because it feels like emotional blackmail, and they don't really earn their place in the Battle of the Bands concert either. This rather cruel lie means that they don't even have to audition, and are just automatically included in the show by default. It would surely have been more satisfying to have shown them win their place through talent rather than through such a mean bluff.

There's also a scene in the third act that doesn't quite work on a moral level. Dewey's deception has been discovered, and the kids decide to skip class and hop on the school bus for the planned field trip, telling the bus driver (who somehow believes them, despite no staff member in sight) that he's expected to pick Dewey up from his home and take them to the concert. When the kids arrive at his flat, instead of doing the right thing and taking them back to the school, Dewey hops on the school bus and takes them on the field trip to the concert for their performance. It's frankly bizarre, and essentially child abduction given that these children are supposed to be at school and their parents have no idea where they are. It's weird that nobody noticed how problematic this is, and pointed it out during the Pre-Production process, especially when they have a scene that shows the parents worrying out of their mind.

Overall, School Of Rock is a fun family musical with a great star turn from Jack Black. Whilst there are some problematic elements to the screenplay, it's still a great feel good flick, and certain to entertain even the hardest of souls. It's no wonder that it was adapted into a West End musical, as I bet it's one hell of a show.




Captain America: The First Avenger


The Marvel Cinematic Universe has come so far in the past decade that it's easy to forget its early beginnings. Long before there was this vast and ever-growing cinematic universe, there were a measly six heroes sharing the same world - one of whom was recast after his one and only solo feature. Captain America: The First Avenger occupies this early space, and it makes for an interesting film to rewatch with the hindsight of later developments within the tapestry of the MCU.

I chose to rewatch this feature on 3D Blu-ray, and I'm well aware that I'm in the minority when I say that I still hold a genuine love for stereoscopic 3D. I believe it adds a certain immersion to a given movie that's missing when you watch in plain old 2D. Good 3D leaves you feeling involved in the story, as though it's a hidden doorway into another world, and the action is taking place right in front of your very eyes. Captain America: The First Avenger's 3D is by no means the most mind-blowing 3D release I've seen, but there are some impressive moments, mainly revolving around Captain America's shield, which pops out of the screen when tossed as you would expect. The underwater sequences work particularly well also, conveying a true sense of aquatic submersion.

One of the most iconic aspects of the film is the scene in the alleyway. This sees Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) cornered by a bully (Kieran O'Connor), who proceeds to punch and torment Steve. It perfectly epitomises the spirit of the character, especially as he utters the line 'I can do this all day', which later in the film he repeats during his confrontation with Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). This is who Steve Rodgers is; he's this man with this dog-eyed determination and courage. He doesn't just give up when he's knocked aside like a rag doll, he gets back up and fights for what he believes is right. His greatest superpower is not his super soldier serum and the crazy amount of strength it gifts him, but his persistence in the jaws of danger.

In fact, the movie as a whole does a really good job at showing why Steve Rodgers is Captain America and not a stronger and more capable soldier. Take the scene where Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Colonel Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones) are visited during a soldier training session by the chief doctor behind the super soldier serum, Abraham Eskine (Stanley Tucci), for instance, who's looking for a candidate to become the first super soldier. There are so many men who would be more suitable to become this more beefed up version of a soldier in this training montage, but Steve is the man who Abraham picks despite not being the most physically capable candidate, because Steve's the one who thinks outside the box and acts on instinct, to protect those around him. When the colonel tasks the soldiers with taking down the flag, Steve unscrews it so that the flag pole drops to the ground rather than trying to scale it like his fellow men, and later when he chucks what he claims to be a grenade into the training ground, Steve throws himself on top of it to shield everyone else rather than fleeing like the others. What he lacks in strength, he makes up for with his tactical mind, and his quick-thinking compassion in potentially fatal circumstances. As the doctor later tells him, it's about being a 'good man', and not a 'perfect soldier'.

It's well documented that this film contains a cameo from Jenna Coleman as Connie, and it's weird seeing the actor before she became internationally famous for her role in Doctor Who as Clara Oswald. She only gets two lines here, where she puts on an extremely convincing American accent, as a one-time date of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) at the Stark expo. It's nice seeing her in this big film, as I've been impressed by Jenna Coleman ever since I saw her in Emmerdale, and her presence makes this film a joy to rewatch. It would be nice if Marvel Studios could find a way to bring her back and give her a bigger role in the MCU, although somehow I doubt that will ever happen.


The main romantic relationship is of course, that between Steve Rodgers and Peggy Carter. They're easily one of the greatest romances in the MCU, despite this being the only film where we get to see them together, bar a brief scene at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Their love for one another feels truly genuine, and the actors have this great amount of chemistry together; they feel like two individuals who are meant to be together, which only makes the ending when Steve ends up in the ice all the more tragic. It's almost quite Casablanca in its final conclusion, as these two star-crossed lovers find themselves thrown apart by circumstances beyond their control. Poor Peggy is made to believe her boyfriend is dead, but in reality he's just frozen in ice and defrosted in the Present Day. It's so cruel on Peggy Carter, the emotional ramifications of such an event later being something we get to see in her TV solo series Agent Carter.

America itself is shown to have this very romanticised view on Captain America. In this narrative we witness this entire country fall in love with this guy who has become a symbol of hope for Americans during the Second World War, as he puts on these cheesy theatre shows and even stars in his own war films. It's a really deep and layered dive into propaganda, and how it can create this idealistic iconography of a country's hopes in the midst of a major global conflict, even to the point of referencing the real life Captain America comic where Steve Rodgers punches Hitler in the face. It's such a great way of communicating to the audience the wartime spirits and optimism of the time, something which we know with hindsight will pay off, as the threat of Nazi Germany is eventually vanquished and Hitler defeated when the war comes to an end.

As Peggy tells Steve himself however, he's not supposed to be a mere propaganda machine. Steve is supposed to be so much more than that. This talk with Peggy is what inspires him to properly take up the 'Captain America' mantle and become the hero we all know and love. Both Captain America costumes by costume designer Anna B. Sheppard are absolutely fantastic; the first one conveys the rougher feel of an early costume nicely, which we also got with the first Iron Man costume which Tony Stark created out of scraps in 2008's Iron Man. The costume does its job for Steve, but it's not quite there yet; it feels thrown together, which is how it should be during this point in the narrative, as nobody has had the time to make him something especially for his war efforts yet due to it being a very last minute decision sparked by Peggy, The second costume is the more traditional 'Captain America' suit, and it effortlessly conveys the comic costume with such raw authenticity, whilst also avoiding the potential pitfall of looking ridiculous in the lens of a HD camera. It's probably the most perfect screen adaptation of his comics suit that you could expect, as it really evokes the look and feel of Captain America.


One of the most important aspects regarding the MCU's first three phases was the friendship between Steve and Bucky. The First Avenger gives us our first glimpse at this, as we see the pair during the war times, and it brings so much of the film alive. Their relationship feels so natural and raw; you can feel that camaraderie practically oozing through the screen, which only makes the scene where Bucky falls off the train hit harder. In hindsight we know that he later returns in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and subsequent other films in the series, first as a brainwashed Hydra assassin and later as a more reformed figure, but it doesn't lessen the impact of this development at all. It's just devastating seeing Steve lose this man who he fought so strongly to save earlier in the film through such a tragic circumstance as this. It's a death that could have been avoided had Bucky managed to grab Steve's hand, but he didn't, and so he becomes yet another assumed fatality within this grand war.

Unfortunately this film suffers from a flaw that would come to characterise much of the MCU's earlier offerings. The MCU for many years had an issue with its antagonists, which too often were lacking character or substance. The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) had potential, possessing such a rich comics history, but he doesn't quite manage to live up to it. For most of the film he essentially just comes across as a generic clone of Adolf Hitler, which is a shame because Hugo Weaving is a great actor who could have made the Red Skull a more memorable MCU villain had he been given more to work with. The Hydra organisation as a whole is much more interesting, demonstrating a totalitarian regime that feels separate enough from the Nazis to not feel like a direct copy. It's no surprise that Hydra would go on to play a significant role within the MCU whilst the Red Skull wouldn't appear for another seven years, as it's Hydra who feel like the more compelling threat.

The Howling Commandos are also a little under-served here, feeling largely under-written and thinly sketched compared to the other guest characters in this film. They consist of Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi), James Montgomery Paisworth (JJ Feild), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke) and Jacques Dernier (Bruno Ricci), and they don't feel distinct enough from one other as individual characters to feel like separate entities. To be fair the group are later fleshed out considerably in Agent Carter, which has more time than a two hour movie to explore them in greater detail, but here their lines all feel like they could be said by any member of the Howling Commandos, and it doesn't feel as though the film has a grip on what sets them apart as a group.

Overall, 'Captain America: The First Avenger' is a strong MCU debut for Captain America. It offers a thrilling war movie within the superhero sub-genre, offering a compelling central hero and one of the franchise's most captivating romantic relationships in Steve and Peggy Carter. Whilst its villain may suffer from the same failings as other antagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the characterisation of the Howling Commandos may leave a lot to be desired, Captain America: The First Avenger offers a hugely entertaining superhero blockbuster from start to finish, and is a film that left many audiences craving more from the star spangled man with a plan.




Captain America: The Winter Soldier


The Winter Soldier is a different kind of beast to most Marvel Cinematic Universe films. The franchise is largely known for its mix of typical superhero action and comedy one liners, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier delivers something different. Whilst, yes, it's still a Marvel superhero film and therefore contains all of the heroics that you would typically expect, the tone is much more grounded and serious.

I watched this film tonight on Blu-ray 3D, and let me tell you the 3D is absolutely incredible. Shields fly out, guns protrude out of the screen and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) flies right towards your eyes. It's a truly breathtaking experience, and one that I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of the MCU.

3D always tends to work well with films that contain plenty of intense action sequences, for reasons which are pretty obvious (3D being all about offering spectacle). So it helps that the Winter Soldier has some of the greatest action sequences in the entire MCU. From the opening fight on the boat to the amazing and truly iconic elevator sequence ("Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?"), the action is so well choreographed. The cinematography is on point too, shot with this shaky cam style that offers some real grit to proceedings. It feels like something straight out of a Paul Greengrass Jason Bourne movie, and it gives this film a really distinct and unique flavour away from the rest of Marvel Studio's filmography.

It's something that judging by the trailers, I can imagine the upcoming Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) movie having a similar style to, especially as her scenes here are some of the highlights of this movie by far. She's always been one of my favourite characters in the MCU, because she has this really mysterious back story that's honestly quite intriguing; we learn a little more information about it here, as well as get some fight sequences that honestly manage to rival Steve Rodger's (Chris Evans) superhero antics in the film.

One thing that's really weird is seeing Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) as an old lady. It feels so odd seeing Hayley Atwell in elderly make-up, given that we are so used to seeing her look so much younger. Her scenes with Steve are tragic though, as Steve pays her a visit and we see she has some form of dementia. It's sad seeing her suddenly act as though she's just seen Steve for the first time since World War 2, and forgetting that she'd already seen him since. It's handled so well too, as this is what dementia is like when you know somebody with it. You live through that pain of them slowly starting to lose their memory of you, like this cruel disease that keeps eating away at their brain.


It's clever how this is reflected in the story of the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Like Peggy, he too has been losing his memories in regards to Steve, although in this case it is due to his Hydra brainwashing rather than any form of dementia. The script really plays into this, as we see Steve's determination to trigger Bucky into remembering, and it recalls his stance from the previous film, 'I can do this all day'. Steve doesn't give up on his friend, he keeps pushing for him to break the immoral programming that Hydra have placed him under. He knows his friend is still there, and can bypass the killing machine Hydra have turned him into, and he won't stop until he gets through to him.

This film is also the first to introduce Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who will of course later become Captain America himself. Already you can see the qualities that will later make him a worthy holder of the shield. He's someone who will always help, who believes in Captain America and shows a great degree of loyalty towards the cause of battling those who seek to spread hate or misery. Sam, in short, is the perfect fit for the tales of Captain America, and it's not hard to see what Steve Rodgers likes about him.

Armin Zola (Toby Jones) returns in this film, this time with his mind inside a computer. He has created an algorithm of those he considers to be a threat to Hydra, both in the present and the future, and Hydra plan to use 'Project Insight' to eliminate these threats. This is a prime example of one of the elements I like the most about this sequel. It brings back so many past memories for Steve Rodgers; from Bucky to Hydra and Armin Zola, it's like his past is coming back to haunt him, like ghosts who will not leave him alone. It means that despite the now modern setting, it still feels intrinsically tied to The First Avenger. The algorithm allows them to throw in some really cool hints to future aspects of the MCU, such as Stephen Strange (who would later pop up in his own solo film, entitled Doctor Strange). It has that really strong thematic through line of the past and present (with hints of the future) colliding throughout, and it works extremely well.

Overall, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a prime example of how to write a sequel. It keeps its thematic ties with the original film, whilst also offering something fresh, new and distinct. This is one of those rare cases where the sequel is better than the first film, and it's no wonder that the MCU still looks to it for inspiration.




Captain America: Civil War



2016 was an odd time for cinema. With both Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice releasing in the same year, it seemed film studios were obsessed with having their cinematic superheroes fighting on opposing sides. One of these films, perhaps unsurprisingly, turned out much more successful than the original, and that was Captain America: Civil War. Unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice's awkward attempt to cram in multiple heroes before laying the groundwork in their own films, Captain America: Civil War came after we'd already had nearly a decade of getting to know these characters, and how they operated. And that's a key factor when constructing a story like this.

As with the other Captain America films, this week I watched this instalment in 3D. Out of the three movies that make up the Captain America trilogy, this one honestly probably has the best use of it, particularly in regards to the characters of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Wanda's magic shoots out of the screen, and Peter Parker's webs fly out right in front of your very eyes. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr) also lends itself extremely well to the 3D effects, with lasers protruding right into your eyeballs. And, of course, Captain America's (Chris Evans) shield provides plenty of moments where it breaks the screen too.

If this film's opening demonstrates anything, it's that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) has led a tragic life. Things just never seem to go right for this character, and you find yourself feeling somewhat sorry for her when she causes a major catastrophe in Nigeria. She's this character with all this immense power, but she can't control it, and it leads to colossal mistakes like this. This is what makes Wanda interesting as a character, somebody who previously I used to be quite down on. She has all of this pain and anguish that has built up inside, a lost soul searching for a way to be better, and I think we can all relate to that on some level.

It's this event which triggers the main crux of the film, the debate over whether the Avengers should sign the Sokovia Accords and hand control over to the U.S. government, or if they should continue to operate as vigilantes without the need to be regulated. What's great about this dilemma is that both sides have a valid response. Tony Stark/Iron Man believes that as heroes they shouldn't be above the law, whereas Steve Rogers/Captain America, fresh from his encounter with Hydra in The Winter Soldier, fears his trust will be misplaced in the hands of a government body. Personally I find myself siding more with Tony, as I think regulating superheroes in this manner sets a greater example for the everyday civilians in this universe, whereas allowing them to continue unsupervised results in a more murky divide between hero and villain. If heroes don't have to follow the same rules, then what stops them becoming a potential danger to the public?

Sadly Hayley Atwell doesn't feature this time round, as her character Peggy Carter dies off-screen. This sets up arguably one of the saddest scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as we see Steve attend the funeral of his first true love. Peggy was one of the most important people in Steve's live, and as such she gets exactly the send-off she deserves. Whilst I would have liked to have seen Hayley Atwell return, there couldn't have been a more fitting exit for her character than the one featured here, although it does serve to make the romance between Steve and Sharon (Emily VanCamp) feel a bit wrong. I'm not sure anyone was crying out to see Steve engage in a romantic relationship with Peggy's niece, and given Steve's deep feelings for her mother, it does make him come across a bit like a creep.


Two major heroes debut in this film. The first of these is T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who gets something of a origin story here, with the death of his dad T'Chaka (John Kani) being what leads to T'Challa becoming the new King of Wakanda, and subsequently the new Black Panther. I love how his story directly parallels Tony's here, with both character's fathers having been killed by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). The stakes are personal, and their different attitudes towards the actions of the Winter Soldier speaks volumes about their characters. T'Challa is more restrained in his anger, whereas Tony - being the loudmouth that he is - has a much bigger and exaggerated reaction. What culminates in a fight with a best friend for one (Tony), is a simple conversation unfolding his feelings and coming to terms with the death for the other.

The other major superhero to make his first appearance is Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and he's perfect from the start. Embodying a geeky awkwardness as Peter, and a more outgoing and quippier side as Spider-Man, this feels exactly how a live-action take on this comics character should be. It's the most perfect adaptation of the web-slinger to date, with a note perfect Tom Holland imbuing a crazy degree of screen presence. He manages to stand toe-to-toe with Robert Downey Jnr, Chris Evans and the other more established stars by this point with ease, to the point where it feels like he's always been a part of this shared cinematic universe. The impressive airport fight sequence featuring the heroes coming to blows wouldn't have been the same without this interpretation of Spider-Man, and it's weird to think that there was once a version of the screenplay where Peter Parker was not included.

One character who would go on to become significant within the MCU is one Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), who makes his first appearance here and proves to be one of the shared universe's greatest antagonists to date. Sly and manipulative, Zemo knows exactly how to push the heroes' buttons, and he ultimately becomes the man responsible for splitting up the Avengers to such an explosive degree. You could even argue that it's his actions here that are ultimately responsible for their colossal failure in Avengers: Infinity War, as if Zemo had not caused this rift between the superhero team in this movie then the full Avengers team would have still been formed, and they may have stood a better chance against Thanos.

Overall, 'Captain America: Civil War' is one of Marvel Studios' best sequels to date. Whilst the romantic relationship between Steve and Sharon is somewhat questionable, the rest proves to be one of the studio at its absolute finest, with a thrilling manipulator in Baron Zemo and a perfect introduction for two of the universe's most iconic masked vigilantes. Captain America: Civil War is proof that directing duo the Russo Brothers know exactly how to approach these major superhero team-ups, and we can only hope that after Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame, they will one day make their triumphant return to the universe that defined their directing style.




Enola Holmes



The Sherlock Holmes tales have inspired countless film and television adaptations, from BBC's Sherlock to the iconic Basil Rathbone movies. Something which the franchise has rarely delved into however is the realm of spin-off material. In some respects this is somewhat surprising, as the Sherlock Holmes stories feature a wide array of interesting characters outside of Sherlock himself. Enola Holmes focuses on the little-known sister of Sherlock and Moriarty, the titular Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), and is based on a series of books by Nancy Springer featuring the sixteen year old child sleuth.

One of my favourite aspects about this Netflix film is that it features a very unique spin on the detective tale. Instead of our lead interacting solely with the characters within the picture, Enola constantly breaks the fourth wall and gives various knowing looks to the camera. This fourth wall breaking style is something that has been utilised on a frequent basis on television (most notably in the sketches of Morecambe And Wise and in the sitcom Miranda), but it's rarely seen in the film. The Deadpool films and The LEGO Batman Movie of course do something very similar, but Enola Holmes is one of very few examples of cinema adopting this approach. It's a shame because it works extremely well, immediately making you feel engaged with the narrative, and inviting you as the audience to act as another character within the screenplay.

The film revolves around Enola's attempts to track down her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), who has gone missing, and along the way we meet a variety of larger than life characters who either knew Eudoria or connect to the mystery as a whole. My favourite of these encounters has to be martial arts instructor Edith (Susan Wokoma), whose status as Enola's first teacher and rather enigmatic stance in regards Eudoria's disappearance creates a certain level of intrigue which really adds to the movie's mystery tone. There's clearly a lot about Eudoria which we don't know; she's essentially a living cypher waiting to be unravelled, a puzzle waiting to be solved. She may not be physically involved in much of the narrative, but her presence is very much felt as this figure who keeps her cards very close to her chest.

When Eudoria does eventually show, it makes for a somewhat bittersweet moment. There's clearly a lot of emotional baggage left unresolved by their reunion, but both us as the viewer and Enola as our heroine are very much happy to see her appear safe and well. It's great that her return doesn't nullify the harsh disappearing act she made at the beginning without so much as leaving a note for her poor daughter. I think with plot points like this it's important to show that these scenarios are not simply just resolved by showing up again and giving a hug. Eudoria still abandoned her daughter, and left her wondering if she was even still alive. It's abundantly clear that Enola is hurt and upset by her own mother choosing to abandon her like she did, as it's reflected in Millie Bobby Brown's excellent understated performance, and I hope they explore this further in the upcoming sequel.

One of the clear highlights of this film is the casting of Henry Cavill of Sherlock and Sam Claflin as Mycroft. These two actors are excellent in their portrayals of these iconic characters, offering a substantially different and distinctive portrayal to the Sherlocks and Mycrofts that we are used to. In this film, Sherlock and Mycroft assume more of an antagonistic force, with the pair trying to locate Enola whilst Enola is trying to avoid them. Mycroft in particular is more villainous in his portrayal, as he displays a determination to place Enola in a finishing school for young ladies which Enola has no interest in attending. It's a fresh spin on characters who have been portrayed numerous times in multiple forms of media, and it means that this film stands apart from past works inspired by Arthur Conan-Doyle's stories.


This addition of more iconic elements of Sherlock mythology is however something I would have liked to have seen a little more of in the film. Whilst Jack Thorne's screenplay overall is excellent, with a highly engrossing sense of childlike whimsy, there are some noticeable absences of certain iconic characters within Sherlock lore. It's fun getting to see Lestrade (played brilliantly by Adeel Akhtar) trying to hunt down Enola at Sherlock and Mycroft's request, but it would have been nice to have seen John Watson incorporated into this story, as well as the likes of Moriarty and Mrs Hudson. Hopefully we get to see these characters feature in the sequel, as it seems odd to watch a film set in the Sherlock universe without them present.

One person I did not expect to see present was the actor Burn Gorman, who gets a decent sized role here as an assassin sent to kill Enola's new friend Twekesbury (Louis Partridge). Burn Gorman is best known for playing Owen Harper in Torchwood, and had seemed to somewhat disappear following his time on the show. Here he plays a character called Linthorn, and it's great to see him back. He's amazing in a role that is worlds away from Owen; here he's expected to play a colder and much more menacing figure, and he plays it with such a looming presence that he sends chills down your spine as a viewer. This is someone you really wouldn't want to cross in a dark alley, and it's a testament to Burn Gorman's acting talent that he manages to play both roles so convincingly despite of their extreme contrasts.

Overall, Enola Holmes is one of the highlights of Netflix's otherwise spotty cinematic track record. Jack Thorne's screenplay delivers a fun, whimsical and truly unique approach to the world of Sherlock Holmes, although the omission of certain characters from Sherlock lore can't help but feel a little noticeable as the film progresses without so much as a reference to these individuals' whereabouts. Enola Holmes is a highly engaging piece of filmic entertainment, and proof that it's about time more Sherlock Holmes spin-offs were made available to watch.




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The Mitchells vs. The Machines



Two of my favourite filmmakers in the industry right now are without a doubt Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Outside of Pixar, this pair are easily the duo making the most stunning and original animated movies right now. I was blown away by The LEGO Movie, and Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse was by far one of the greatest Spider-Man films Sony has made to date. The Mitchells vs. The Machines was therefore a film I was very much looking forward to watching.

Fortunately it lived up to expectations. As someone with a deep passion for film and who has never considered himself 'normal', the main character of Katie (Abbi Jacobson) is extremely relatable. Like Katie, I have also recorded videos with my dogs, and I spend a great deal of time on my phone. I also went through a similar period of excitement when I was accepted onto an undergraduate course in Film and Television Production, and this is something that allowed me to really connect to the character. I understand this type of person, and I get the emotions she's feeling.

But I don't think this is just a film that only those of us into film or have been to university can relate to, however. Like all great films, I think it's a movie that resonates on a universal level. How many of us have been on a family holiday that has gone disastrously wrong, or had moments where our parents have embarrassed us by bringing up something from our childhood? Anyone who knows me knows that the concept of 'family' means a lot to me, so I really enjoy films like this that explore it, and what it means to be connected to your loved ones. The script here puts it perfectly. 'Family' is not just about 'you', it's about listening to the people around you, even if you find their interests boring or uninteresting.

I think a greater message in this film though is the idea that 'weird' is good. Throughout the movie we are shown that the Mitchells are a dysfunctional family unit, that they're flawed and that they do things that others wouldn't consider normal. But that's what makes them who they are, and that's what leads to them saving the day. The seemingly perfect family are captured by the robots because they don't think outside the box. They're too perfect. Real heroes are flawed. I think that's an extremely important and powerful message to relay, especially in a family animated flick like this that will be watched by children who may worry about being seen as weird or different.

As with Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, one of the standout aspects of this film is the animated style. The Michells vs. The Machines carries on Lord and Miller's approach of delivering unconventional animation, and that means we get this wildly imaginative mix of kids' scrapbook drawings with the 3D CGI animation style, with some of Katie's video effects and editing style. It really helps to give the film character and identity, that would otherwise be lost if they stuck purely to the traditional CGI animation.


There's some really fun commentary here on how we all tend to be addicted to our phones too. I absolutely love that the main antagonist is simply a smartphone (voiced by Olivia Colman), and that it's defeated by being submerged in a glass of water. It's a really clever and witty way of approaching a robo-pocalypse storyline, by taking this object we all have in our pockets, and portraying it as this evil mastermind.

One of the best and most unexpected action sequences is the rise of the evil Furbies. I think every one of us has at one point wondered if those things are possessed, so it's hilarious to see them actually turned into these evil machine-controlled creatures out to get the Mitchell family. Like The LEGO Movie, it takes a popular IP and presents it in a way that fits the story, which means at no point does it feel like a random advert for Furbies coming late into the film. It's just seamlessly integrated into the narrative, in a way that makes complete sense.

The jokes in this film are exceedingly smart also. My favourite was possibly the running gag regarding how dinosaurs technically had feathers, which reminded me so much about the comments you see frequently on social media about how Jurassic Park's dinosaurs are not true to how they would have been in real life. There are so many memorable lines in this film however, particularly in relation to tech companies and their more shady attributes. It's a screenplay filled with so much wit, and the jokes all land perfectly.

Overall, The Mitchells vs The Machines is another strong outing for Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Just like their previous movies, this film offers a unique animated style, whilst continuing to deliver on the heart and humour that their filmmaking approach is so known for. Pixar better watch out, because Lord and Miller are delivering some truly spectacular animated hits right now.




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Bear Grylls, You vs. Wild: Animals On The Loose



Ever since Black Mirror debuted their choose-your-own-adventure movie Bandersnatch, Netflix seem to have really doubled down on these interactive stories. It's an area that clearly interests the streaming service greatly, although it's weird that the idea has suddenly gained prominence now, given that the concept has been around virtually forever. Bear Grylls' attempt, 'Animals On The Loose', is a film adaptation of his interactive family series 'You vs. Wild', and the feature adaptation provides somewhat mixed results.

The idea is a sound one. Bear Grylls is completing conversation work at a sanctuary, when poachers break into the facility and set the animals free. It's a serviceable plot that provides a solid structure for the movie, and explains why the viewer has been drafted in to assist Bear on his latest endeavour. This results in various fourth wall-breaking sequences in which Bear directly addresses the audience and asks what he should do, placing the choice firmly in the audience's hands.

The problem is that the audience's decisions don't leave much effect on the narrative. Making the wrong choice merely leads you back to the beginning of the scene where you messed up, which can lead to the film feeling somewhat repetitive when you are forced to sit through large chunks of footage that you've already seen. It would be better had they found a way for an incorrect outcome to lead to new sequences that audiences would otherwise not witness if they made the right call, as it would at least provide a new aspect to the narrative rather than merely forcing viewers to watch what came before.

The other issue that the solutions to protecting these animals or returning them to their habitats don't exactly feel true to life. The most obvious example of this is when Bear tries to hide a herd of elephants from the view of the poachers driving past the river. To achieve this feat, he simply leads them behind the trees and tells them to shush. Remarkably it works, but it's clear as day that in real life elephants would not simply obey a human instruction such as this. It's too convenient, and stretches credibility.

There are some truly exciting moments of peril featured in this movie however. One standout scene sees Bear nearly chocked to death by a snake hiding in the river, whilst another displays a face-off between a cheetah and a baboon. These scenes are a ton of fun to watch, and help to establish the danger behind these animals being on the loose, not just for the humans but for the animals themselves. The strongest moments are when the film leaves you wondering if this fictional version of Bear or the animals could actually die, as it least injects an element of risk to the choices you are about to make.


Bear Grylls himself also makes for a likeable presence. He's an endearing guide for the audience, providing helpful tips and pointers for survival techniques in the wild. The audience's familiarity with Bear also adds an air of legitimacy to proceedings, as we are used to see him hosting documentaries about natural survival in his extensive list of television shows. He's someone who has broad international as well as British appeal, making the selection of Bear as the film's guiding figure a smart choice indeed.

It is a little on the short side for a feature movie however. You V Wild: Animals On The Loose clocks in at around only an hour in length, which feels more like a running time for a television special than something billed as a feature film. Most movies usually average at around 75 to 90 minutes in length, which means Animals On The Loose falls somewhat on the short side compared to most feature attempts. It's a shame that they couldn't have expanded this runtime to at least a 75 minute running time, as 60 minutes leaves the viewer feeling somewhat shortchanged.

Overall, 'Animals On The Loose' provides a passable attempt at an interactive film. Whilst the solutions to the escaped animal issue feel somewhat unrealistic and the movie can feel a little repetitive if you make the wrong choices, its likeable lead and fun moments of peril allow it to rise above its less than stellar elements, and provide a solid piece of entertainment if there's nothing else to watch. Just leave your brain behind at the door and you should be fine.