Archive for the ‘Children’s / Teenage Movies’ Category

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Who am I? What am I? Where am I? Was everything before just a dream? Why?
These questions uttered by the legendary Pokemon Mewtwo in a semi psychic monologue within the opening moments of the film set a tone unlike that of most children’s films of the time. A tone that is pretty adult in thought and in questioning. A Pokemon questioning it’s own mortality is something not seen within the show as Mewtwo is the first to speak or at least express itself in the same language as humans. It’s quite a deep subject which is only emphasised when we see him floating in a laboratory like some test subject. He was created to be the strongest, but the big word here is ‘Created’, can he still have a normal mortality if he is genetically engineered and created in a test tube? With todays technology we can see how far it has come in genetics and how it is possible to birth life in a lab, but it wasn’t as known back when the film came out in 1998. We had had successes in the field with plants and the first cloned animal ‘Dolly the sheep’ but an entirely lab created organism that grows and questions its own being is something that was still quite new and worrying to many. Many authors over the years had tackled the subject of artificial life and the possibility of machines gaining sentient awareness but these ideas were not often put into the forefront of a kids film. Children may not notice the intricacies of such philosophical ideas but viewing the film as an adult I am impressed with the depth in which the writers go to with the subject. Questions such as who we are and why we are here have been some of the biggest mysteries of the universe and ones that philosophers and the like have searched for since mankind began, so presenting it in this fantastically conceived way at the younger audience is a remarkable feat and one that almost succeeds flawlessly.
Looking past the philosophical ideologies of the film, we are presented with a tale of power and the will to find ones place in this world. Pokemon trainers from around the world are summoned (including our heroes Ash, Misty and Brock) to a special tournament unknown to them, run by the power crazed and mentally complex Mewtwo as he tries to find out why he was created and if he is truly the strongest Pokemon in existence. Along the way our intrepid trio (quarto if we include fan favourite Pikachu) struggle to understand what they are to do and how they are to ultimately stop such a powerful being. The tournament style story is reminiscent of the seventies martial arts masterpiece ‘Enter the Dragon’ in which martial artists are summoned to an island to prove who is the strongest. Although different in style, the deep underlying tone is very similar which is impressive.
With such deep and powerful ideas its only natural for the makers of the movie to put in some comic relief in the form of the bumbling Team Rocket who in my opinion are one of the only flaws of the film. Seeing them failing in their task of stealing Pokemon detracts from the rich story and characters that are presented to us and especially from Mewtwo’s innermost ideals. I understand why team Rocket are here and I understand at it’s heart the film is aimed at children, but with such an adult premise I find them hard to like.
As the film progresses some of the ideas become much deeper and the way it handles death is remarkably powerful. Rarely in a children’s film have I found myself so emotionally involved with the characters where I truly worry about their wellbeing. It again could be the fact it is a children’s film and that I didn’t expect such deepness in such subject matters but it really did blow me away. The last children / family  film I remember that made me feel this way was 1991’s ‘My Girl’ which truly aimed to show children that death is as natural as life no matter how sad it may make us feel. The addition or the questioning of mortality is so well handled and so rich in content that the film raises itself above what one may imagine when going into it.
There is one big flaw within the final act which takes the film down a level for me and that is one which I entirely understand why it was done. For me it detracts slightly from the ideas pushed upon to audience up to that point and it becomes hard to warrant it from a story point of view. It is during this moment that the tone shifts to a slightly lighter tone. It’s not that this moment (which is obvious when you’ve seen the film) wrecks what we have seen before as it does initially feature one of the films most powerful moments, its just that if the creators had truly had the guts to go with it and stick with their decision it would have been near perfect.

pika
As a kid I remember seeing the film on the opening weekend (and collecting the limited edition Pokemon cards you were given with your ticket). I loved it then as a much grander representation of the characters that I had grown to love through the TV show and the games. As an adult I see the film in a different way. I still get that sense of joy of seeing the characters I enjoyed back then but I also see the depth and complexities hidden within the script. Its a remarkable film in how it handles some of the deepest questions in life and death while staying fun for children and fans of the franchise.
Pokemon the first movie is an absolute must see and it really holds up as well today as it did back then. The richness of the film is something that has been lost in all of the movies that have followed but this really stands heads and tails above its followers. It is a masterpiece of animation and is probably the best thing the Pokemon franchise has pumped out since the original games.
I have little more to say other than to give the film a chance and to open your mind to some of the films questions. You never know, you may walk away knowing a little more about yourself and your own mortality

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With over 10 games in their arsenal since their first appearance in 2002 it was only a matter of time before the dynamic duo of Ratchet and Clank made it to the big screen (well across  a limited number of cinema screens) 2016 would be the year of this event and also the year that a revamped reboot / remake of the original game would hit Playstation 4’s across the world. With such a back catalogue of adventures and a wide fan base across the years, it’s a risky move reinventing two iconic gaming characters for a cinematic audience especially as the creators would be hoping to keep fans of the games happy while also not alienating people new to the franchise.  How does this film hold up? Does it succeed where many video game adaptions fail? (*shudder* street fighter: the legend of Chun li)
What they have created is basically an origins story which treads on some of the frame work of the games (albeit not quite as deeply due to the run time and lack of interaction). This allows those new to everything a brilliant way in while also kind of keeping fans of the games happy. [I’ll just say that I have played some of the games but have never been a diehard fan. I like the characters and the stories but I could never find myself fully absorbed]
For those new to the franchise, the film follows the adventures of Ratchet, a foolhardy Lombax (feline like alien) and his companion Clank, a small self aware robot who was created in an accident. The two travel across the galaxy trying to stop the universe destroying plans of the evil Chairman Drek and his robot armies.
There is nothing amazing original to the proceedings and the story is as you’d expect a film like this to be even down to the pacing. This isn’t a bad thing and it makes everything accessible to all audiences while not being to heavy or draining on the mind. Its a fun adventure and one that never outstays it’s welcome. The first half is in my opinion stronger then the second but that is only my opinion.
The visuals are surprisingly good for a film like this. I expected a cheap looking cash in but was greeted with some bright beautiful animation which could easily be up there with some of the best we’ve seen from the later game sin the franchise. It all feels crisp and clean while not being garish and distracting. The action sequences are truly stunning and at times it’s hard to not be truly engrossed. The great visuals are complimented by some truly amazing audio. The voice work is brilliant from the cast of the games (with both Ratchet and Clank being voiced by the original artists) and also features some big names such as Paul Giamatti, Sylvester Stallone and even John Goodman. Everyone performs brilliantly and cannot be faulted in their commitment to the characters on screen. The musical score is a beautiful collection of melodies that just fit the visuals perfectly; From industrial factories through to open hillsides, everywhere has it’s own feel and it’s own sound.
There are a lot of in references to the games as you’d probably expect (and even some clever references to other Playstation game franchise’s). We have a lot of the weapons arsenal that made the games stand out in the third person shooter market that, at the time was becoming quite large and samey. We also have most of the main charters from the games aiding our intrepid duo on their mission. This helps as each person has their own feel that helps distinguish them from the crowd and helps elevate the film higher.
That isn’t to say that everything is perfect. I found at times the lip syncing was a bit off which is often an issue with animation. It never detracted much but occasionally it would draw me out of the film. It also feels like there is something missing form the film, that little spark that just says the film is awesome. I can’t put my finger on it but there is definitely something.
So when all is said and done is it a good film? Yes. I really enjoyed it and would be happy to watch it again. I hope that sequels are made as the big screen does bring these characters to life in ways the games never did for me. Its a great family film even if it isn’t the most original out there. I’m happy to recommend this film to everyone even with it’s few flaws.

I will begin by saying this will be my most controversial review so far. (I considered not even reviewing it but thought what the hell. Please don’t think less of me.) The review will also feature major spoilers……..

Right…..

Well let’s start at the beginning;

  • Twilight – I hated it. I thought it was poorly directed, awfully scripted and really badly acted. It instantly put me off Pattinson and Stewart and their hideously soppy relationship that was basically a more girl friendly take on Romeo and Juliet or even Underworld. I guess the visuals were ok but they couldn’t save it. 5/10
  • New Moon – I liked the fact the film had more scope then the first but I thought it was equally as bad. The script was just as bad and the acting although slightly better was hindered by the introduction of Lautner as a main character and love interest. The three way relationship annoyed me and just came down to lots of overlong glances between each of the characters. 4/10
  •  Eclipse – I don’t even know why I watched this but I’m kind of happy I did because it did contain a pretty awesome fight sequence that used the fact that vampires shatter when killed to create some brutal beheadings and violence. I also thought that the CGI on the wolves was really good. That being said, the script was still awful and the acting pretty bad (but much better than the first two). The directing was a noticeable step up as well with David Slade bringing some of the style from his previous vampire film ’30 days of night’ across for good measure. 6/10
  • Breaking Dawn part 1 – kind of enjoying the third film I held out a bit of hope for the fourth. Visually the film was brilliant and I thought the score was great. The acting was better than all of the previous films (probably because of the mature nature of the film) but that still isn’t saying much. What we have is essentially a build up for the 2nd part which is just boring. It’s padded out as a way of splitting the film and making more money from all of the twilight fans out there. There is the odd scene like the wedding that does carry some kind of emotion but the rest was just rubbish. There is also a ridiculous amount of sex (not particularly graphic but still kind of out of place in a film like this.) The film just made me annoyed at the fact that I’d have to sit through another 2 hours of another film to see how it all ends. 5/10

This brings us to the final part in the Twilight Saga. The film many regard as one of the worst films ever made. I only wanted to see it because I felt cheated at the fact the previous film didn’t really end and left on a cliff-hanger (the best way to make someone see another film). I sat down in front of the TV and prepared for the worst.

The first thing that shocked me was the great music that accompanied the amazingly well filmed title sequence. I don’t usually take that much notice of title sequences as they usually serve as simply a list of names and add nothing to the film itself (except for some, most notably ‘Se7en’.) This was a bad sign as the film was bringing me out of defensive mode straight away. The Time-lapse photography is really great and is stunningly beautiful at times. The sequence does feel like it’s building to a finale and has a certain ‘epic’ feel none of the other films had.

I will say that as soon as you see Pattinson and Stewart you can see that they have developed as actors (Pattinson especially). That is not to say that they are great in the film, but they are highly watchable. I think it is also the fact that Bella is now a vampire. For some reason this instantly makes her a cooler character and the red eyes are awesome. They feel comfortable in these roles after the previous 4 films and it’s nice to see them not really looking like they’re acting, more just being themselves.

One thing that I really dislike about this film and the previous films is how they make the vampires move quickly. It reminds me of the old ‘Flash’ television series where they just sped up the footage. I find it just looks really bad compared to some of the great effect that the filmmakers use in the film. I will say that the seemed to give up on the whole ‘make the vampires glisten in the light’, which made me happy as I always found that kind of stupid and pointless. While I’m on the effect I will mention that the wolves are stunning to behold and the animation on the fur especially is true art. They move like real wolves and the look like they have proper weight to them. On the other end of the scale is the baby. The CGI baby is almost as creepy as the Baby in the film ‘junior’ featuring Arnie’s face. The baby just looks awful and is laughable.  (This leads me onto the side note of how they could have had a baby in the first place as no blood is running around Edwards’s body. How would he essentially get it up? It’s a question that worryingly stayed on my mind for quite a while.)

From here we’re pretty much straight into the point that they are preparing for battle (they say they’re not, but they are). This film has already got a better pace than any of the previous films. It still has the awful script and some truly laughable scenes and lines but for some reason it didn’t bother me as much. It felt like the cast knew this and they were just having fun. Every line is delivered like a statement with dramatic pauses added to make the characters think. They knew they wouldn’t be making any more so they just thought they’d play it more tongue in cheek. The film is so much better because of this. In the preparing for battle the Cullens gather a group of vampires who all seem to have powers much like the X-men. you have the electric one, the one that controls the elements, the one that can make a shield, the one that can trick the mind, the over strong one and the big furry one (although technically he’s been in the saga from the first film). I kind of liked this gathering of people as it felt like it was building to something, unlike the previous films flat line pace.

I quite like this new group of vampires we are introduced to. They’re all pretty likeable and actually seem to have had a little thought put into them. (It really does feel like the build-up to a massive X-Men fight though.) Also, when Alice disappears with jasper it just reminded me of Gandalf going off in ‘Lord of the Rings’ and saying that he will come with the coming dawn. (This film just takes bits from everywhere.)

We get a cool back history of the Volturi which features a cool beheading of a lady and Dakota Fanning throwing a baby into a fire. I thought it quite extreme a thing for a character to do on screen for a film aimed at young teenage girls. But to be fair this film has the same style sex scenes we had in the last film which I again think may be a little too much. (It also does not promote safe sex. Vampires may not worry but I really think that we should not be promoting young teenage girls to be having children at an early age in the current climate we are living in.)

I really like the idea of Resesmee (Bella’s daughter) aging ridiculously quickly as I thought it may have been going for the darker angle of Bella having to accept that she may outlast her own daughter who she barely knows. Alas the film didn’t go down this route. It went for a much happier tone with Jacob possibly becoming her future mate. (Which I thought really weird. ‘Can’t have the mother so he’ll have the daughter’. They have a weird relationship.)

The Volturi arrive and the two ‘armies’ square off against one another on an icy field surrounded by trees. (They just step into a massive arena for battle). It is here we get the most brilliantly bad piece of acting in the whole film. Michael Sheen, who is usually a great actor, here portrays an over the top leader of the ‘bad’ vampires. He plays it brilliantly over the top but during this sequence he does this thing after touching Renesmee. He laughs. It may not sound like much but trust me when I say it is so out of place. I could understand an evil laugh but what comes out of Sheens mouth is a crazy high pitched laugh like I’ve never heard before. (Just check it out on YouTube. It’s both brilliant and awful at the same time.)

Alice then turns up and grabs Sheen’s hand. This is when all hell breaks loose and the epic battle music begins. The vampires rush one another and start battling. The music and the combat paly off one another like a classic heavy metal music video. Characters are torn apart and burned while others flip in slow motion and behead the enemy. I loved every minute of the battle and was so happy seeing some of the characters die. I thought it was a brave move until….

IT ALL TURNS OUT TO BE A DREAM (well a vision).

It was like ‘Dallas’ all over again. No one was dead (well they are vampires so they are kind of). I was so annoyed. I was literally shouting ‘NO!’ at the screen. Why did they have to screw up this awesome battle by making it not happen? It is such a cop out and is the films biggest let down. After this we just have a bit more bad dialogue and a romantic bit in that field of flowers from the first film (or second. I can’t entirely remember.)

We then get a really beautiful credits sequence that sums up all of the characters that have come and gone throughout the 5 films. This sequence is possibly the most moving, romantic feeling scene in the whole franchise. It is a really great finale after the annoying ending of the actual film.

So it’s pretty obvious that I did enjoy this film. It was just pure guilty fun. I would argue that none of the other films are needed and that this film would work even better if it were entirely stand alone. You don’t need to know how she became a vampire or any of the padding that came before. You could just have this. A nice well-paced piece of guilty fun. You even get a little recap near the end which would work better if there were no films before it. I wanted to hate this film but I just couldn’t. It delivered what it’s been trying and failing to give for the last 4 films. FUN!

I advise people to watch this film without seeing any of the others as it is really what all of them seem to aspire to be. It’s the most adult, most well-acted and the best directed (it feels so different form part one which was also filmed by Condon). It’s really worth a shot and is nowhere near as bad as people say it is (I was expecting the worst but I don’t know if I’d even call it bad) It’s not going to be for everyone and there are those that have already made their minds up but for those who are open minded just go into it expecting fun. Its guilty entertainment and great fun.

7/10 (It may have gotten an 8 if they had the balls to not make the battle a vision.)

Growing up, it was all about running around the garden shouting the names of dinosaurs while holding our ‘morphers’ in front of us. We’d then fight each other like we were shown on television (this may be one of those times when violence on TV kinda did cause violence in the youth).  We’d continue this until the enemy was vanquished; we were called in for dinner. Or the program we that taught us these fight moves came on. That program was MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS.

Fast forward almost 20 years and the show is still going. It has lost most of the magic that once made it so great and made it truly stand out from everything else on TV but still its legacy continues. I remember the afternoon they aired the first episode in the UK. Me and a friend sat there glued to the screen (not literally), we had seen nothing like this before. Taking the kung Fu from its Japanese predecessor and the likeable American teens reminiscent of those from Saved by the Bell, Power Rangers broke new ground. Of course years before there were the badly dubbed episodes of shows like ‘Monkey’ and ‘The Water Margin’ but this was straight out of the west and just felt fresh.

The main group of rangers has changed over the years but during the first 3 amazing seasons (some of this team appeared in the third season), one movie, and one sequel series (Zeo) we had the best team of all Tommy, Billy, Kimberley, Rocky, Adam and Aisha.

I remember that as a kid the sheer amount of violence in the series was captivating. It was something you just didn’t see as much of in a single show. Sure you had things like Thundercats and He-man, but they were animated. Now we had real people beating up other real (when they’re not models) people. The media were all over this yet they never really won. I guess they’ve toned it all down a bit since the original 3 series and film but there is still a lot of fighting.  Power Rangers was essentially a combination or fighting, explosions, monsters, more fighting, bigger monsters and even more fighting.

As such a fan of the TV series I was so excited to see that they were making a feature film. I remember dragging my parents to the cinema to see what I hoped would be the ultimate Power Rangers experience. I wasn’t disappointed. The film blew my mind. The monsters were bigger, the villain more over the top, the fights were bigger (it was the first film I saw where a person backflips over another person). In fact it was just like an extended episode with a much bigger budget.

But has the film held up 19 years on?

The short answer in my eyes is yes. It may not be worthy of any awards but it is still a fun (violent) adventure film for children. Let me get the violence out of the way first. Unlike the series where the bad ‘lackeys’ were made of putty and kind of ran away clutching their chests when defeated, the film features ‘lackeys’ made from ooze. During one of the big (pretty well choreographed) fights in a construction yard, these villains are exploding from punches and splattering everywhere. If you changed the ooze for blood the film would easily have to be cut. There is one moment when a skip is dropped on a few of these Ooze creatures and they get crushed, ooze seeping from underneath. As a kid you don’t really question it but now it’s a bit close to having blood splattering everywhere and occasionally a little uncomfortable. The rangers don’t seem fazed by all this ooze exploding onto them, in fact they don’t seem fazed about killing anything that doesn’t look human (watch out E.T). The fights themselves are surprisingly well put together and are actually quite fun to watch.

The money has really be invested wisely while making the film as the locations and the costumes also are a massive step up from the series (they now have leather suits instead of spandex). There is also a far more varied variety of locations from forests to temples to cities to construction yards. It gives the whole film more scope and a more ‘epic’ feel.

Another thing the film gets right is the rangers themselves. They are all likeable and believable. They feel like real teens (well ok mid 20 year olds) who want to help and save the day. Many children’s shows feature annoying characters that whine and moan every step of the way. Here we actually have a good team of people that feel like the know each other (most worked together on the series) and trust each other to get things done.

I love this film. I really do. It brought back so much nostalgia. But that isn’t to say it’s perfect. Far from it.

The biggest flaw in my eyes is the use of CGI over miniatures. I’ve always preferred model work as I find it ages far less and looks more believable when done right. Just look at Star Wars a new hope. Not the redone version but the original. Sure it’s looking slightly ropey, but it always did. It hasn’t aged though. Now look at this film or the feature film version of ‘Lost in Space’. They look pretty bad. This especially. The Zords look terrible as does the ridiculous gigantic version of Ivan Ooze (the villain of the picture). It is horrible to watch. CGI can be used very effectively as can be seen in things like ‘Lord of the Rings’ but even then I find that any characters generated on a computer age quite quickly. I find CGI is better used to enhance what is already there or sculpting part of landscapes. The more hidden, the better.

I also didn’t care for the side plot of the film with all the parents of Angel Grove (home of the Power Rangers) turning into zombies under Oozes control. I’d have preferred to stick with the rangers training in the way of the ninja.

As a standalone film I think it is a great bit of entertainment. As an evolution and companion to the TV series I’d say it’s a complete success (excluding the CGI). I’d say it’s well worth a watch for nostalgia fans and a must see for current fans of Power Rangers who missed out on the very best of it… 7/10

GO GO POWER RANGERS!!!!!!!

 

A modern retelling of Beauty and the beast starring Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer may not sound like a particularly good idea but to be fair it’s better than it probably should be.

Basic gist of the story is Alex Pettyfer’s character ‘Kyle’ is the pretty boy in school who cares for no one but himself. Along comes Mary-Kate Olsen (yes the one from that show about the twins) who curses him with ‘hideous’ looks unless he can find true love before the all the petals fall off his tattoo of a tree. He falls for Vanessa Hudgens’ character and trys to win her over by any means necessary, including kidnapping (well kinda).

What confused me is the fact that the tattoos and facial scars possible make Pettyfer look far cooler then he previously looked. It made him more of an individual which ultimately he was saying from the start by saying he was more beautiful than everyone else. (I know it’s kind of the point, about looking through the ‘ugly’ outer layers but still.) In fact I think this is a flaw of the original story of Beauty and the Beast. The ‘Beast’ falls for the beautiful girl and ultimately doesn’t change that much. It is the girl who has to fall for and look past the outer layers of the beast, meaning that  although the beast says he has learned about true love, he hasn’t really.

The film is what you’d expect from a teenage romance flick. It’s fun, soppy and mildly cringworthy at times. But to be fair, it’s what I was expecting. There is a great performance from Neil Patrick Harris (the bloke from ‘Starship Troopers’ and ‘How I met your Mother’) as Kyle’s blind tutor. Other than him, no one really stands out as either good or bad. (Mary-Kate’s performance is bordering on bad).

If you want a fairly fun and ‘safe’ romance flick you could do much worse than this. (you could do much better as well. But still…..) Overall 6/10