Moana || Review


Moana packed a much bigger emotional whallop than I ever imagined it would when I walked into the cinema. There were not twenty consecutive minutes that went by in which I wasn’t crying at some point. That’s not to say that this is a sad movie: it’s simply a powerful movie. Joy, loss, adventure, sorrow – every feeling that is expressed feels concentrated and heightened.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the demi-god, Maui, and with that kind of star-power you might just expect him to be the biggest draw in the film. Whilst his famous charisma definitely translates with just his voice – although a few of his jokes fell flat – the character of Moana was by far the star of the movie. Duh, her name’s kind of in the title.

Everybody is fond of describing the new Disney heroes as ‘not your typical princess’ but you could say that of any of the protagonists since Aladdin‘s Jasmine in 1992 – and arguments could be made for before even then. Disney are producing complex, relatable, an extraordinary female characters and Moana is a prime example of that. That’s not to say that they don’t sing and have animal sidekicks – they haven’t gone mad.

Speaking of singing, the songs in this film are sublime. It’s the sort of music that you leave the cinema singing – I say that, because as I write this, How Far I’ll Go is playing on repeat in my head. With a mixture of songs in English and Tokelauan, the music creates this beautiful atmosphere where everything seems possible and it fully embraces its Polynesian roots.

Ultimately, Moana is a film that will make you feel good. More than that, it’s a film with a strong message about family, following your heart, and believing in yourself. I implore you to watch it (but take tissues).

Have you seen Moana yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them || Review


Real magic never really dies and that’s exactly what J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding world is. From the familiar Hedwig’s Theme during the title sequence which transformed into its own song, this film took the nostalgia of the Harry Potter movies and applied it to a new but equally excellent story.

Those familiar with the Harry Potter books will find plenty of references that will delight but this movie is accessible to everybody. There’s no way to fully separate it from the previous franchise but it begins with a black slate so that even those unacquainted with the Wizarding world are able to enjoy it.

The film takes place in 1920s New York which in and of itself is a beautiful backdrop but pales in comparison to the Wizarding world locations that are showcased. A particular favourite of mine is the US version of the Ministry of Magic that stretches into the clouds.

Whilst the film’s title indicates a focus on a menagerie of magical creatures, the most fantastic creature of all is surely Newt Scamander, played masterfully by Eddie Redmayne. Newt is the hero that we rarely see but so desperately need: he is pure of heart and driven by a desire to educate and protect. He’s the poster-boy for Hufflepuff-ness.

Friendship is a key theme throughout this movie and as such, the friends that Newt makes along the way are also wonderful characters, played by great actors. In the spirit of not spoiling anything, I won’t say too much about the villains except that I was surprised by the ending. Delighted, but surprised.

I entered this movie expecting to love it and I wasn’t disappointed.

Have you seen Fantastic Beasts? What did you think? Are you less biased than me and have actual criticisms? Let me know in the comments.

Doctor Strange || Review


As far as MCU films go, Doctor Strange has been the one that I was least excited for. Maybe that was because of a lack of advertising; the fact that I didn’t have much prior knowledge of the character; or because it had the incredibly daunting task of following on from Captain America: Civil War. Regardless, I didn’t have that same sense of anticipation that normally accompanies a new Marvel release. Unsurprisingly I now realise that I should have more faith in Marvel.

My biggest worry with this movie was the director, Scott Derrickson – whose previous body of work is almost entirely of the horror genre. Knowing that he fought for the chance to direct this film (completing 8 separate interviews with Marvel) I was sure that he was passionate about the project but passion doesn’t always translate to a good piece of work.

In this case Derrickson produced one of the most cinematically beautiful films in the Marvel catalogue. An obscenely large budget and beautiful sets helped but that doesn’t take away from how perfectly crafted each shot of this film came across.

The cast was fantastic but with actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Tilda Swinton, that was always a given. The real star of this movie was the visual effects which were astounding. There were moments where I jumped in my seat because the dimension-bending visual was so realistic.

I struggle to find any fault in this film: it is a truly immersive piece of work (although its musical score’s similarity to the new Star Trek theme was slightly unnerving). However, I will say that it left a lot unexplored and there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered. Fortunately, this was just an origin story and we can look forward to seeing plenty more of Doctor Stephen Strange in the future.

Have you seen Doctor Strange yet? How would rank it compared to its Marvel predecessors? Let me know in the comments.

Are Reviews Relevant?

I post reviews on here a lot less often than I used to for a number of reasons:

  1. Going to the cinema is seriously expensive.
  2. Of all of the things that I write, I least enjoy reviewing.
  3. I’m not sure that anybody really cares.
  4. I’m worried that my opinion could rob somebody of a great experience of their own.

Cinema is an art form. Nobody is debating whether or not that is true. Film is art and like all art it is subjective which means that one person’s opinion of it is going to be completely different to another person’s opinion. Yet, art is what we choose to write reviews on.

Admittedly we review pretty much everything nowadays: computer software, Uber drivers, restaurant service, but nothing is quite so in your face as movie reviews. I have written about how I feel about television reviews before and today I really just want to focus on films.

Image result for empire magazineEvery month I buy Empire magazine – a magazine that is primarily film reviews – not to read their reviews but to read the features and interviews… and then I also read the reviews because that’s the only way that publications can communicate which films are worth watching.

I don’t have an issue with the act of reviewing. I strongly believe that art should illicit reactions and if people want to put those reactions out in the world then by all means, go for it.

The first review that I wrote this year wasn’t actually a review so much as a response. I saw Creed one night in the cinema and I came back feeling inspired and electrified – a feeling that I wanted to document and express with no sort of motive except that I wanted to do something.

When I was younger, I loved films without knowing any of the nerdy stuff that I do today, I just enjoyed them. The system behind my choosing to watch a movie was very simple: watch a trailer in the cinema, decide to watch a film, watch it. Or maybe: turn on the TV, watch a film.

My point is, I didn’t know anything about a film before going into it and I grew up loving movies. Now, I feel like I’ve become this bitter, jaded figure that passes judgement on movies that I haven’t even seen nor possess the skills and abilities to make. In regards to myself, I think that I can only really write a review if I feel as though I have something to say on the topic that hasn’t already been repeated a hundred times by different people.

I don’t actively seek out reviews but they come my way all the time. Even if I don’t know exactly what’s good or bad about a film, I will have been given a general consensus by the world and that will inform my decision about whether I spend my money watching it.

I wish that I could say that they didn’t affect me but they do. I went to see Snow White & The Huntsman: Winter’s War and it was exactly the kind of action-adventure-romance thing that I enjoy (thanks to my mum’s taste which I have unwittingly inherited). Unfortunately, it’s not “artistically” up to scratch and seeing all of the negative reviews beforehand had me scrutinising every moment of the action when I finally saw it.

Image result for snow white and the huntsman winter's war

On the other side of that, when media celebrates a movie it raises my expectations to a place that few movies are able to live up to. It’s great in the build up: before I saw Jungle Book this year I was excited like everyday was Christmas Eve but in the end it was just a movie – it was really good but it wasn’t Captain America: Civil War (the bar by which all movies are now judged).

Film reviews are important within the film industry – they are how one part of the industry give kudos to another but what about the wider world? I don’t know many people that check reviews before going to see a movie and I have to wonder: are reviews still relevant?

So much of cinema now is predetermined: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find ThemDoctor Strange and Rogue One are all coming out in coming months and they are all going to make lots of money. Will they have good or bad reviews? Probably a mixture but they are still going to be hugely successful, just look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Reviews are only really helpful for the smaller movies that can’t afford a massive advertising campaign or huge-name actors to star in their films.

Do you read reviews before you see a film? How do reviews affect your film-going experience? Let me know in the comments.

The Girl on the Train || Review


The Girl on the Train is a perfect example of the middle-class, suburban thriller. Unfortunately, that means that it does not bring very much to the table that hadn’t been seen before.

The story centres around three different women whose lives are connected and it is this very connection that makes what should be a simple murder case, so complicated.

One of the positive attributes of this film is that it actually passes the Bechdel test (although some critics say that the perceived normalisation of violence against women negates that) and does so with some amazing female actors. You may not like Emily Blunt’s character but she is a character that you never see in film: intrinsically flawed, unstable, and pathetic.

Danny Elfman’s musical score created an edge-of-the seat tension but unfortunately the action on the screen didn’t match up.

Whilst The Girl on the Train has all of the right elements for the genre, it fell flat. There were plenty of interesting ideas and sub-plots which added to the story but it just failed to draw you in. The use of flashbacks was helpful but at times it was simply characters recounting their stories rather than living them.

The story picked up in the final act but even in the end there was no real feeling of anything: vindication, sadness, relief… nothing.

Overall, this is a decent film but it lacks depth.

Have you seen the movie? Does it live up to the book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children || Review


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is one of my favourite books: it was the first book that ever scared me and not many have joined that rank since then. Naturally, when I heard that a film was being made, I was wary. When I heard that Tim Burton was making the film, I was even more wary. A film that Burton directs is “a Tim Burton film” whereas Miss Peregrine is utterly unique. Fortunately the film respected that.

After getting over Asa Butterfield’s occasionally shaky American accent, I found myself completely immersed in the world that had been created.

The film tells the story of Jacob, a Floridian boy, who seeks out a group of children with peculiar abilities after his grandfather is killed. His grandfather was once one of those children and was murdered by a monster whose kind hunts peculiar children. Jacob goes to learn the truth about his grandfather and ends up being drawn into their world and also their problems.

My protective instinct in regards to this story had me scrutinising the casting choices right from the trailer but I take back any negative thought that crossed my mind. Every single character in this movie was wonderful: with a mixture of big names (Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench) and newcomers (Ella Purnell, Finlay MacMillan), there is a very real sense of chemistry and they make the unbelievable seem real.

Not to give all of the credit to the actors, the special effects in this film were also first class. Whilst they weren’t necessarily hyper-realistic, they had that Tim Burton feel about them. They felt magic – like childhood. A particular favourite of mine was a scene in which a skeleton army wages war on Blackpool pier.

Going back to the book, this film deviates from the plot in a lot of ways but in no way that really matters. It was smart for them to gloss over the fact that the protagonist’s love interest used to date his grandfather and the new ending was beautiful.

The book is the first in a trilogy but I hope that this is a stand-alone film: not because it wasn’t fantastic, but because it’s fantastic on it’s own. The ending works perfectly well as a finishing point but it also has the potential of opening up new stories – only time will tell.

Have you seen Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children? What did you think? What did you love? What did you hate? Let me know in the comments.

Coming Through the Rye || Trailer Review

I didn’t know which trailer I was going to talk about today: so many great ones were dropped last week. There was new Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, a Doctor Strange trailer, Fences blew me away, and The Space Between Us seems like it’s going to be a very special film. It was almost impossible to choose but then this trailer was released on Saturday.

Coming Through the Rye tells the story of a boy who wants to adapt the book The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger into a play. I had heard about the Nicholas Hoult biopic film (Rebel in the Rye) about Salinger’s life but this one had completely flown under my radar until this trailer.

I think that The Catcher in the Rye is the sort of book that either resonates with you or doesn’t. When I read it, it was everything to me: this book was validating everything that I felt at the time. I understood Holden Caulfield and he understood me.

With that said, this trailer has that same essence about it as the book. Obviously I can relate to the main character and I already believe that Alex Wolff is an amazing actor who is truly perfect for this role.

Yes, it’s a coming-of-age story with a boy and a girl and a journey but it just feels fresh. It feels light and at a time where there are so many massive, tent-pole movies (that I still do like), it feels personal.

What did you think of the trailer? Have you read The Catcher in the Rye? Let me know in the comments.

Luke Cage || Review

*Spoiler Alert*


There’s nothing that can hurt you, so what the hell are you afraid of?

My issue with Superman is that he’s boring. He is essentially all-powerful and he lives to save people – no matter what he comes up against, the outcome is pretty predictable. I was slightly worried that Luke Cage might suffer from the same problem. If he’s invulnerable, how exactly were they going to create real stakes? Never doubt Marvel.

After months of anticipation, the first episode of the series was aptly named, “The Moment of Truth” and it delivered. They made sure to pack it full of wider MCU references, from the Avengers, to Jessica Jones, and even Justin Hammer (definitely look out for all kinds of Easter eggs in this series – including that Power Man costume).

If they felt that they had to reinforce the fact that this show was a part of the MCU, that’s because this is completely different to anything else that Marvel has produced.

Whilst the Netflix shows are known for their grittier, darker takes on heroism; Luke Cage strays from that model. Yes, there’s blood and violence but Luke isn’t like Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones. He has his issues but he’s not the tortured vigilante: Luke Cage is warm and funny and it takes an Uncle Ben-esque moment to force him into the position of hero.

There are no masks and Luke doesn’t fight crime in the shadows – he’s out in the open. Honestly, this feels almost revolutionary for a superhero show: a hero who doesn’t hide??? Obviously there are reasons why this doesn’t happen often in the genre and this show examines those to great effect.

One of my favourite scenes in the entire season is where Luke and Cotton Mouth fight, not with their fists but in a debate. It’s brilliant and a technique that other shows can’t employ. It makes it immensely clear that the battles in this series extend past brawls between individuals and incorporates a fight for the public support.

A hero is nothing without a good villain and there are plenty to choose from in this show – maybe too many? This show was fantastic at building the back-stories of all of their characters but sometimes it felt too late. They would wait until that character’s final arc and then reveal their motivation which meant that there was such a long period in which these villains just didn’t quite make sense.

The perfect example of this is the show’s “big bad”, Willis. We’ve seen the theme of religion handled expertly with Daredevil’s Catholic guilt, and in comparison this felt weak. The idea of the character was a lot more interesting than the execution and at points it felt like he was just a caricature of an evil religious zealot.

On the other hand, I liked the other villains of the season a lot more – particularly Shades and Mariah. Throughout the season a part of me was rooting for Shades and I was certainly sympathetic towards Mariah during that game-changing scene in episode 7 where she kills her cousin.

Rape, racism, prejudice: this show handles some heavy themes. Luke Cage is a black superhero and that matters a lot. The creators of the show don’t try to dismiss that, they really embraced it and portray this honest depiction of black lives in Harlem without being preachy. It gave a balanced view: looking at the racial divide from both sides of authority.

There are a lot of things that make this series special and you certainly can’t forget the soundtrack. It had already been announced that music would be a large part of this show and it was true. The mixture of jazz and hip-hop, whilst actually shooting in Harlem gave a wonderfully authentic feel to events. Harlem feels like more than a setting, it’s like a character in and of itself.

Amongst my favourite parts of this show were the flashbacks, which were always superb, the gorgeous cinematography, and more Claire Temple than we’ve seen in Daredevil and Jessica Jones combined.

This didn’t hit as hard as Daredevil with the action sequences; it didn’t have as compelling an antagonist as Jessica Jones; but it held its ground. Luke Cage is a different kind of hero so he has a different kind of show. It’s still amazing.

What did you think of Luke Cage? What were your favourite parts of the series? What didn’t you like? Let me know in the comments.

Fist Fight || Trailer Review

We all know that if you’ve watched the trailer you don’t need to watch the movie, right? Most trailers nowadays seem to spill the entire plot and in a lot of cases the trailer is way more interesting than the actual movie (I’m looking at you Green Lantern). So this is a new segment that may or may not continue in coming weeks. First up, Fist Fight.

This is an entire movie about a schoolyard fight. An entire movie. It should be ridiculous (and the jury’s still out on that until the film’s release) but I think that I love it.

Whilst Ice Cube has definitely created a strong foothold in the comedy genre, he’s still very much a scary dude and if this plot is going to work, he has to be. Other than Ice Cube, the cast of this movie is amazing: Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses), Tracy Morgan (30 Rock), Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street) and Kumail Nanjiani (Franklin & Bash) all star as well.

The trouble with comedy trailers is that all of the jokes might be in the trailer (case in point: War Dogs) but this seems like a movie that is going to deliver on the laughs. The writing team don’t have many credits to their name but one of the producers is Max Greenfield a.k.a New Girl‘s Schmidt and who doesn’t find Schmidt hilarious?

As far as trailers go this manages to be interesting whilst not spelling out exactly what happens.

Why are they fighting? Who will win? Why was there a horse in the school? I have a lot of questions but my overall impression was hilarious insanity. I will definitely be watching this when it reaches cinemas next year.

What did you think of the Fist Fight trailer? Are you interested? Why do you think there’s a man tied to a galloping horse? Let me know in the comments.

Why I’m Not Reviewing TV

The fall television season begins this week and I can’t wait. There are so many shows that I love that are coming back on which would normally mean that I had a crazy upload schedule because of the tons of reviews that I would be writing. It feels strange not to be in that position but it’s also a relief.

I was writing four television reviews a week last season and that was… an experience. There are a lot of reasons why I’m not going to be doing that anymore and I feel like it’s only right to explain them.

Firstly, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, it’s exhausting. I live in England so in order to get reviews out whilst they were still relevant I would have to get up by 5:30 in the morning and as soon as I had watched the episode and written the review I would have to rush to get ready for university (damn those 8:30 lectures). It meant that I was always in a hurry so I was never fully satisfied with the quality of what I was writing and I didn’t get to enjoy the show – which is the whole reason I was reviewing in the first place.

Over the summer I wrote about the changing direction of this site and how I was going to stop giving myself impossible schedules. I love movies and shows: that’s what this is about, so if I’m writing something, it has to be because I’m enjoying it and I want to write about it, not just because I feel as though I have to.

There are some weeks when I just don’t have any strong opinions on what I’ve watched (that’s a rarity, but it happens) so when I sit down to write about it, I’m essentially making up reactions to try and reach some arbitrary minimum word count.

Another large reason why I won’t be doing episode reviews this season is because it occurred to me that reviewing any show episode by episode is a completely unfair way to judge television. Reviewing single episodes is a bit like watching a random 45 minutes of a movie and judging it solely on that. TV shows are designed to span several weeks or months and the season is the complete package.

With that said, I am entirely open to reviewing seasons (there will almost certainly be a Luke Cage review up next weekend), in fact I much prefer it.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t be plenty of content on here over the next few months. Just because I’m not discussing every single episode of all the shows that I watch doesn’t mean I won’t be talking about television. I don’t think I could manage that if I tried.