Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse - Review

A feature length animated film brought to us by Sony Production Studios, Spider-verse is a really enjoyable film with terrific effects and telling an excellent story with the first big screen appearance of Miles Morales here voiced by Shameik Moore. As the title suggests and seen in the trailer, a distinct combination of spider-people across the comics history are brought into Miles Morales’ world. Spider-verse is an action packed film but at it’s core is the story of Morales origin with coming into his own in his new circumstances and what it means to be Spider-man.

Sony, in partnership with Marvel, bring this animated incarnation of a Spider-man story and does in a gratefully novel approach both technically and making Miles Morales as the main web slinger. Telling the story of Morales becoming Spider-man in a different New York from what had been seen in previous Spider-man stories brought to the big screen. Morales comes from an African-American father and Hispanic mother living from Brooklyn. This friendly spider-man comes from a neighbourhood that is noticeably diverse, adding that additional layer to the portrayal of New York lacking from the previous films. Also one that is a tad darker than expected but the tone works well in terms of the plot.

A one in a million chance leads Morales to be bit by a lab research spider and soon after developing super abilities and at the same time an experiment involving accessing other universes accidentally leads to some of their Spiders being pulled into Morales’ world including an alternate Peter Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson). Morales tries to get to grips with his new abilities while navigating his personal life and school. Gradually meeting the other spiders and helping each other with getting to their respective universes back home and stopping the Hadron Collider type device from ever being used again.

The decision to transition and have a new hero be at the forefront since the last 16 years have given a bit of Peter Parker fatigue and allowed Sony & Marvel to introduce new characters. Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy (voiced Hailee Steinfeld) giving a fresh perspective and some diversity to the franchise which has felt a tad absent from Sony and Marvel productions previously. Seeing this expansion to the roster of characters, Peni Parker from the future especially does feel like breathing new life here and for non comic readers like myself does give prominence to lesser known spider-people. The choice of those pulled to Miles Morales Earth not only shows the range from the comic universe but also different genders, races, ages and from different eras of time. While also detailing Miles Morales origin story it does feel a little like the other heroes don’t get their due with Gwen Stacy particularly getting little to do.

Still a supporting character however, Peter Parker is in his late 30s and is rather jaded by how his alter ego affected his life. Somewhat reluctantly, he becomes a mentor to Miles with both Shameik and Johnson conveying this dynamic and respective struggles very well. Both characters have a lot of heart as their relationship progresses and their stories expand as they both help each other continue their journey. Johnson’s Peter Parker particularly bringing some levity to the film alongside his longer serving Spider-man dealing with a teenager and showing the ropes to the latest addition to their ranks. The choice for the characters at these particular ages works well and also a nice change of pace from the high school or early college aged Peter Parker. The supporting characters notably Nicholas Cage as Spider-man Noir and Liev Schreiber’s Kingpin give gravitas to the characters but not given as much to do but contribute to the action comic book theme of the film juxtaposing the character development of Peter and Miles. Unfortunately not all of the characters get their due like Gwen Stacy but with the plan for future movies and spin offs hopefully that will change.

A departure from live action of the normal Marvel-Sony films, the use of animation does work well in terms of being visually appealing but also allowing freedom in production that live action can’t provide. Not unlike the Marvel Spider-Man video game released earlier in the year. I believe it was close to 140 animators who worked on the film to combine animation and hand drawn art style to deliver the final product with great results. The technical style didn’t feel cartoony or childish and delivered striking visuals especially during the action scenes but even something as simple Miles walking down the street.

Overall Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is an excellent film Sony has made in partnership with Marvel, perhaps the best since joining forces. With a solid voice cast and moving away from the run of the mill Peter Parker story we see more of what the studio is capable of. Introducing less main stream characters from the comics or known characters in different forms works well with the story that has begun. A little busy like many superhero origin films but not to its detriment. With further films in the works before major release and is easy to see why with the fresh protagonist and animation style in what may be the best Spider-man film so far.

Assassination Nation - Review

From director Sam Levinson comes a dark comedy thriller set in Salem, Massachusetts when a hacker unleashes many of the population’s secrets and the chaos that ensues as a result with the four female teenage protagonists at the centre. A combination of a teen drama and The Purge, Assassination Nation gives an interesting take regarding online personas and how much we put of ourselves and through digital communication when intended to be private or anonymous. That combined with the downright insanity that the town is driven to in the final act and how it affects these four women, the name isn’t a coincidence but overall was a surprisingly fun and enjoyable movie with a well delivered message about the internet and sexism just below the surface of drama and madness that ensues.

The film follow Lily (Odessa Young) an 18 year old along with best friends Bex (Hari Nef), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) and Em (Abra) over a two week period approximately navigating high school. You see the characters and friends and family before the hacks. We see and hear the significance of digital devices and the internet with the characters in their daily lives as the hacking happens to individuals and their responses along with friends and family but then half of Salem has their private data released affecting everyone to some degree. The impact this has results in Salem devolving with paranoia, fear and anger boiling over into madness and pandemonium when Lily is accused of being the hacker and so she and her friends are hunted by the town.

The main character of the movie is Lily and as a result she gets the majority of the focus. The character is written as a bit of a cliché but Odessa Young’s portrayal added depth with her struggles with parents, her boyfriend Mark and life around school. Notably during a fight with Mark, a voice over narration from Young is well delivered in sync with the physical motions of the Lily and Mark as the argue giving more weight to the scene and more depth to Lily. She is also the only one of the four women that sticks for the people hacked before the mass hack and so the conduit for illuminating some of the sexism of the film.

Sadly not all of the characters are as developed with Sarah and Em getting no backstory or character development at all except for Em being raised by a single mother. This was really disappointing for the core group of friends as it led to not being worried for them or anything much at all unfortunately. Bex however did get some character development and backstory. Except when it was directly relevant to plot, I really enjoyed the fact that Bex being born male but identifying as female wasn’t overstated. There were no signs that she was any less accepted at school or with her friends and even gets a love interest with Diamond, one of the school’s male football team. This along with Nicole Maines as a main cast member in Supergirl is a strong time for transgender people especially women being represented in mainstream media.

The film revolves around people’s personal data being put online for the world to see and the aftermath that comes with it. This is done in an interesting way because it shows the attitude of the internet in general with not directly seeing of feeling the impact you are desensitised almost or judge without having all the information be it the cross dressing politician or the educator with photos of his daughter in the bath which we see with the characters. One aspect I really enjoyed is how when the mass hack portrays behaviour in real life like stereotypical internet users e.g. calling women sluts and insulting women as if the photos etc. give them an invitation to do so.

When it gets very much like The Purge, townspeople are attacking others in public like car parks and begin wearing masks, even young children, for anonymity which they no longer feel they have online. One of the secondary characters both encapsulates the impact on high school girls and the overall violence is when we see Grace (Maude Apatow) slowly seethe with anger over leaked texts revealing her best friend Reagan (Bella Thorne) was the one who shared nude photos of Grace over school. Then Grace snaps, goes to Reagan and brutally hits her with a metal baseball bat and when arrested is treated with applause by other students. Assassination Nation does make you think about the sexism feeding this part of the film but the message in a video made by Lily as a call to arms did have it’s message a little muddled with exposition with its message but did give a voice to what the film brought up so far with how women are treated.

The final act when the four young women are pursued when suspected of the data reveal gets really dark and gets into the hysteria and almost literal witch hunt the town is famous for but without any trials. Levinson does well to bring out strong performances from Odessa Young and Hari Nef with their respective plights as Lily and Bex struggle, again Sarah and Em given little to do in this part of the film. Once free thanks to a single kind soul and a very clever improvised weapon and coming across an arsenal of weapons the film takes a turn to being comical in this dark thriller. The four teenagers are united and unafraid at this point and want to end the madness and get a little payback. This is epitomised with a shootout scene with a group of masked people who previously were about to execute one of the group. Using way too many bullets, the women put an end to this small mob. When faced a single unmasked enemy and classmate of the group, he apologises and begs for mercy as opposed to before when he was masked and among a crowd. The ending was predictable and all but confirmed when you know Lily didn’t do it but when the hacker is revealed and says why it was done that also was disappointing and either indicative of what adults think of teenagers or accurate of teenagers depending how you look at it.

Overall I did really enjoy Assassination Nation and while some of the school and house party scenes were a little grating I would chalk that up to being well out of my teenage years. The rest of the film did give an interesting and watchable portrayal of high school students and how much of their lives is influenced by the internet from texting to social media. It goes on to demonstrate how much of ourselves we put online and use it as a mask for other aspects of ourselves and how people are judged without context. A dark version of Clueless meets The Purge, Assassination Nation is an entertaining film that does well with Young and Nef on the surface but delivers a strong message despite it’s end reveal. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to delete my internet history.

Robin Hood - Review

One of the well known British legendary heroes, Robin Hood has been the subject of theatre, film (both drama and comedy), TV and even a Disney animated film with anthropomorphic animal versions of the characters and the latest telling of the story comes from director Otto Bathurst in partnership with Lionsgate and Appian Way, Leonardo Dicaprio’s production company. While giving a somewhat different spin on the story, the film is disappointing in being made into a by the numbers action movie and rather than utilise its sold cast more effectively Robin Hood is more set up as a platform for I assume planned sequels given how the film’s story ends.

The film begins with Lord Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) meeting Marian (Eve Hewson) for the first time and their relationship before he is drafted to fight in the crusades against Muslims in the Holy Land. We see some of his time there and then his return to discover what has happened to his home now under the iron fist rule of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn). Upon returning home he finds Marian now involved with Will Tillman (Jamie Dornan) the outspoken representative of the common people. Robin begins his quest to protect the people of Nottingham and realises he can best do this by being Lord Loxley by day to get into the Sheriff’s good graces to figure out what his plans are and by night utilising his skills as an archer to steal the wealth gathered from high taxes and give it back to the people. Doing all of this while being aided by Marian, Little John (Jamie Foxx) and Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin).

The story of Robin Hood has been adapted in many productions over the years but has always been a skilled archer and either a commoner or minor noble turned outlaw dedicated to supporting the common people against the greed of the rich. This has expanded to the mantra steal from the rich and give to the poor he is best known for now alongside Maid Marian and his band of merry men. Taron Egerton is well cast in the role bringing the same on screen charisma seen in Kingsmen but his Robin Hood wasn’t enough to save the film instead barely made the film bearable. Similar to the recent King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Bathurst and Lionsgate miss that the reason these characters have remained popular is what they stand for but instead the film forces them into a big budget action movie going as far as to cram in an extreme carriage chase around Nottingham, the heart of the main character feeling secondary.

Those same aspects of the film are the reason that the supporting cast are wasted on this film. Oscar winner Jamie Foxx incarnation of Little John portrays him as a skilled Muslim warrior who becomes Robin’s mentor and this becomes his only real role with his backstory being coincidental to the overall plot. Foxx was the other part that allowed me to keep watching with also having a great on screen presence let down by the film’s script. Eve Hewson as Marian does well as Robin’s love interest and did have some chemistry with Taron Egerton but felt more relegated to the love triangle aspect and her own person rebelling against the sheriff could have been explored more and felt like Marian more of a damsel in distress at times. Now well known for playing villains, Ben Mendelsohn is very ham fisted and all over the place with the characterisation of the sheriff of Nottingham. Mendelsohn gives a great performance but sadly the words and plot given to him seemed out of place and extreme so left me confused as to the motivations within the story that was aimed for.

A significant component of Robin Hood’s story is the struggle of the poor majority against the rich and powerful minority is a key part of the plot but it taken to the extreme with the former seemingly all working in a mine and living nearby in a sort of shanty town but is a novel way to physical way to show the stark differences between the 2 groups. Thinking on it, the film is really set in only a few locations but the aforementioned mines and the holy land were large locations and did work well for what was intended including for the many fight and chase sequences including that extreme carriage chase/battle. The backdrop against the crusade allowing the sheriff to take control of Nottingham is another common factor but one part of the plot I did find interesting was the behind the scenes role of the Catholic church. The crusades being a war of religion it makes sense but from the previous adaptions of Robin Hood I can’t remember the church having such a significant hand in the events of the story. It also gives a fresh change of pace as I was expecting this all to be done to assist Prince John in a plot to overthrow King Richard.

Knowing the story in broad strokes meant you do know roughly how the story will play out but without spoiling it the ending does have a couple of twists and surprising moments that in hindsight do make sense. Believing it to be stand alone the ending also lends itself to being open to further films which I can only assume is the intention but sadly at this point with globally grossing $24 million against a budget of $100 million this likely won’t happen.

Despite having a great cast with Egerton, Foxx and Mendelsohn, Robin Hood overall is a poor film with its redeeming features being far outweighed by the bad ones. Missing out what makes Robin Hood with over the top action sequences in its place means it is all over the place with what was intended. Definitely skippable but may want to see to get your Taron Egerton fix who apparently will be absent from Kingsmen 3.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald - Review

The follow up to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, David Yates and JK Rowling return as director and screenwriter respectively for The Crimes of Grindelwald. Returning to the world of magic a few months after the events of Fantastic Beasts we reunite with Newt Scamander and company with the aid of the amazing creatures he encounters to put an end the machinations of Grindelwald. Taking place primarily in Paris, the characters are separately for the most part and by the film’s end all contribute to it’s dramatic conclusion. Fantastic Beasts based on a short fictional guide of Newt Scamander written by JK Rowling to accompany the Harry Potter series means the film is a brand new concept and following that up with Crimes of Grindelwald means steering away from the tracking down magical creatures and combating Grindelwald which is to its detriment. While still a visually striking and evocative film and with an interesting story, Crimes of Grindelwald is a really good movie but less captivating and enjoyable as it moves away from the heart of its predecessor.

Crimes of Grindelwald sees Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) still working towards maintaining the safety of rare creatures, he is pulled into events after Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) escape as he was key to his previous capture in New York and the assumed death of Credance Barebone (Ezra Miller) in the prior film. Newt’s quest to protect endangered magical creatures has resulted in the British ministry of magic banning him from travelling abroad and he declines their offer to join them to kill Credance. This adds to the complicated nature of Newt’s relationship with his brother Thadeus (Callum Turner) and his former close friend and soon to be sister in law Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz).

He is however drawn in after speaking to Dumbledore who appeals to Newt’s caring nature and good heart. This further puts him at odds with his brother and the ministry but also through this conversation we also find out he was the reason he was in New York also. Credance had found himself in Paris and fell in with a magical circus and befriend Nagini (Claudia Kim), a woman cursed to be a maledictus so can turn into a snake at will eventually would be permanent. Grindelwald is in Paris to find Credance as is Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) with her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler) following shortly behind. Arriving separately but drawn together sides are chosen in the wizard civil war between anonymity from non magical world and peaceful co-existence that Newt is trying to maintain or as Grindelwald plans, reveal themselves and take charge of the whole world while enslaving non magic users.

As a spin off to the Harry Potter film series and being directed by David Yates who also directed the latter half of that series as well, of course set it the same world you definitely feel like stepping into that world again, albeit set several decades beforehand. Like in the Potter films that Yates directed it is also taking place in a dark era of the magic world with Grindelwald’s schemes and plots much like Voldemort later in time and coincidentally having similar rhetoric so it makes sense to have Yates continue directing as well as JK Rowling as writer. Yates does well to show the reluctant hero and with much the same cast and a few newcomers brings out solid performances, especially Eddie Redmayne. Set approximately 50 years before Harry Potter, the prequel series here fleshes out the world more with nods and references to fans of the books and previous movies which may be lost on new fans and while to those viewers some aspects may seem out of place doesn’t subtract from the overall experience. With a planed further 3 movies in the Fantastic Beasts series it is difficult to say but it seems like including Nagini and others like Nicholas Flamel are more fan service and may be a detriment to the end product.

In reprising the role, Eddie Redmayne is again fantastic as Newt Scamander and similar to his portrayal of Steven Hawking in A Theory of Everything gives a performance, both with dialogue and physical mannerisms, that encapsulates the character and really makes the film. We see Newt as knowing there are big events going on but wants to stay out of it and focus on helping magical creatures around the world but also compelled to do the right thing. Possibly even more so than Fantastic Beasts we see the instant connection Newt has with even the scarier creatures and how he struggles to engage with his fellow humans which really is a testament to Redmayne’s acting skill. Newt struggles to relate with most people including his brother and love interest Tina when trying to correct a mix up, he is much more at easy with other animals. A fine example of this being when a giant lion like creature (think Falcor from Neverending Story but feline) escapes the magic circus and is running through Paris, Newt faces it down and pacifies it with what can only be described as a cat toy and later seen the same creature playfully embracing him.

One side effect of the multiple separate storylines is that other characters don’t get as much to do or time to develop especially the new ones but Johnny Depp’s portrayal as Grindelwald does gets it due. We get a much better sense of the scope of his following and how he reads people to manipulate them or come around to his way of thinking to further his pro magic users agenda. There was a moment when there is an inconvenience for Grindelwald and the solution involves a line he won’t cross and when one of his inner circle does so he seems to regret that it happens which gave more dimension to Depp’s Grindelwald and perhaps later influences his attitude later in the film. The film doesn’t detail how but that Grindelwald has some knowledge of what is to happen in the future and uses this to further convince his pro magic user path is just but also knowing some future events and trying to prevent them may be his overall goal instead of just a scare tactic. The busy story also meant there wasn’t alot of time to see these characters but Tina again was excellent as feeling responsible still for Credence and interacting with the bumbling Newt but definitely could have a bigger presence.

The reason for everyone going to Paris is of course Credence. Still a young man struggling with who he is but now more in control of his powers and seeking to find his biological family all the while being hunted as either a threat or a tool except for Newt and Tina who want to help him. Ezra Miller’s portrayal is again solid and empathise with his struggle as we continue to follow his story and possibly the connection between him and Nagini is their respective curses and struggle with their dark side. Perhaps paving the way for the future but was a bit of a let down with bringing in Dumbledore, Leta Lestrange and Nagini as they felt more plot devices than actual characters. We do see Leta in flashbacks to when she and Newt were at Hogwarts but that again is more plot device and to further Newt’s backstory but like Tina hopefully there is more to come in the planned three future films.

I mentioned it somewhat earlier but even though they are on the backburner we do see some more fantastic beasts including returning favourites Pick the bowtruckle and the niffler who also play key parts in their own right. The lion Falcor creature did look amazing and as a pet owner did enjoy it’s reaction to the cat toy Newt possesses. One thing I really enjoy about the Potterverse is the magical creatures and Crimes of Grindelwald didn’t disappoint in that regard with the look and animation except wanting more of course. Shifting the main location to Paris gave a chance to show magic in Europe and was well done with incorporating the culture and architecture into transitioning to their wizard area akin to Diagon Alley with more features like moving statues and so on. This area of Paris though, aside from the aforementioned circus, is much like the muggle areas with cafes and shops etc which I was also glad of by not being over the top. Sadly not much beyond what was in the trailer but Hogwarts is also back and was nice to see that castle again.

The parallel storylines converge with all the characters meeting to engage with Grindelwald in one way or another and leads to a special effect filled battle and without spoiling anything does show the extent of Grindelwald’s power and what he is willing to do to further his cause. Along with the special effects aside from Newt and a couple others surviving it was unknown exactly what would happen which improved the experience and spectacle. Prior to this battle though Grindelwald gives a speech summarising his agenda and plans and did give pause to wonder if he had a point which adds to his character being more three dimensional and a more compelling villain. The message behind his speech was one step away from make magic great again and while proposing kicking out all the muggles and building a wall did remind me of Trump’s fearmongering so an interesting aspect today and especially when being written and filmed.

Overall Crimes of Grindelwald is a really good film which I enjoyed a lot but felt like diverging away from the fantastic beasts and too much on Grindelwald plot and from the ending don’t see that changing much with future films. With great performances from Redmayne and Depp despite other great actors especially Law and Waterston not getting much to do with their I definitely recommend as it still gives a solid story, great effects and while a bit too much jammed into the plot as a jump off point for the next 3 films and leaning too much into fan service for big fans of Harry Potter but not to negatively affect the film for new people to the franchise.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Review

She-Ra & The Princesses of Power is an American animated series based on the character from the Masters of The Universe franchise and a re-imagining of the 1985 series. Aired on Netflix and created by Noelle Stevenson and produced by Dreamworks Animation known for franchises ranging from Shrek to How To Train Your Dragon. Stevenson a cartoonist known for creating the webcomic Nimona and contributing to Thor and Runaways Marvel comics.

The show tells the story of Adora who raised by Shadow Weaver and indoctrinated into and now a squad captain of The Horde, an massive army led by the tyrannical Lord Hordak, alongside her best friend Catra. One day she discovers a mysterious sword in the woods and in a King Arthur like moment, upon wielding it discovers she is also Princess She-Ra and one of the defenders of the land of Etheria. Outside of Hordak’s Fright Zone, Adora realises all she was told about the outside world was a lie and defects to aid the rebellion and dedicates herself alongside her new allies and friends Glimmer and Bow to saving Etheria. This version of She-Ra finding her powers on her own instead of needing He-Man’s help and while it may change in the future he doesn’t appear at all and with a few exceptions is a mostly female cast.

The series starts with seeing Adora as part of Hordak’s army in the Fright Zone and seeing how cold and hard that environment is where the rest of the world and other princesses are depicted as evil to justify Hordak's goal to take over the land. Seeing how vibrant and kind the other regions are helps towards Adora joining the rebellion now seeing the truth. As the series progresses there is the season long arc and sees the recruitment of the other princesses of power each episode to unite and with their collective powers along with their other allies to defeat Hordak and The Horde. The 13 episode season is one overall story arc rather than standalone adventures which works well with Netflix and delivers a well written and delivered story with tonnes of heart and connects you with the characters and world they inhabit.

Rather than the version of She-Ra in the 1985 series where she was a full adult, the main characters here are teenagers or young adults and the voice acting and script do well to depict characters at that period of the lives in this fantasy world. While the switch from The Horde to the rebellion does feel a little rushed but Aimee Carrero’s Adora does convey the remorse and struggle to reconcile her past with her new identity and role. The power and legacy that comes with being a legendary hero and the struggles that come with that are well depicted as well as her relationships with Catra her best friend who she grew up with and Shadow Weaver who raised the orphaned Adora. A significant part of the story is how She-Ra is a title and others have come before in times of need, first hinted at with the Rafiki like Madame Razz and it isn’t always guaranteed for good to prevail.

Adora/She-Ra is joined on her quest Glimmer, a fellow princess and Bow a skilled ranger and Glimmer’s best friend who she meets in the woods at the same time as coming across the sword. The relationship does evolve as initially being mistrustful as enemies but it doesn’t take long for them to become good friends on the same side. Bow is trusting and friendly to Adora from the start and is an interesting character in his own right as the only main male character non-royalty and without any magic abilities to boot, much luck Hawkeye using a bow often with technology-infused arrows. At it’s core, She-Ra is about the characters and their relationships particularly Adora and Catra. Being best friends and growing up together they have a special bond which does degrade as the bond between Adora and the rebellion strengthens and as the show progresses we see their parallel journeys. Catra also makes an interesting foil since she was always second best to Adora within The Horde and doesn’t have any inherent magical powers but is a match for Adora and She-Ra. Hence the title and slight spoilers, the show does really well with showing the complexity of having a team of princesses unite to save the world, how alliances do waver but come together in the end.

While it is a cartoon it does hold quite a bit for an older audience too for those parents/ older siblings along for the ride or fans or Masters of the Universe fans like me. The elements of the story can be dark with the slow and tyrannical conquer of the planet and the depiction of the destruction in the wake of the war. The theme of war is also combined with the struggle between nature and technology even in the types of weapons used (bows and magic versus guns and tanks) and the portrayal of the regions the two sides live in. A tyrannical lord using powerful technology to take over and destroy the rebellion will sound familiar and definitely get a Darth Vader sense from Lord Hordak when first seen directly and some other references like finding a record breaking rogue captain in a seedy bar.

She-Ra does an excellent job encapsulating the feeling of a Saturday morning cartoon with its look and humour and does include elements of Anime in the style of Hayao Miyazaki particularly the characters eyes when conveying strong emotions such as joy and surprise. On a technical aspect the series was traditionally animated aside from some of the more complicated machines in the show that Saturday morning cartoon feeling and definitely was reminiscent of its 1985 counterpart and other cartoons of that era. Perhaps due to the influence of Miyazaki in the art style the show did feel more tailored to children but did capture the feeling on the previous generation of cartoons that adults will remember and allow them to enjoy the show too along with the captivating story arc and characters.

In conclusion, Noelle Stevenson and Dreamworks have created a great experience and a delightful show that hopefully gets the four seasons in mind. It definitely is a children’s cartoon but non children can enjoy it too. With an interesting story that keeps you hooked and characters you root for, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, is a well made series with a strong subtext for the real world just below its surface.

The Haunting of Hill House Discussion

Now after writing up a spoiler free review I wanted to do a follow up with a spoiler full discussion and what I feel happened so of course spoilers for the series and if you haven’t watched there is my review an all episodes now on Netflix.

First of all in case it wasn’t clear from my review I really enjoyed the show, it was a well written and made horror series with a compelling story and creepy to boot.

The biggest aspect that was a mystery from first to last episode was the red room. Starting from the colour of the door to it being inaccessible that it was a major part of the story involving the ghosts. In the final episode we find out that it was a horrible reverse room of requirement (for you Harry Potter fans) that becomes your ideal room at the time and the ghosts use it to keep you there. It also mostly blocks out the outside world seen when young Theo is dancing to a music video and it keeps out Nell and Shirley. Thinking on it after finishing the show when mentioning the respective room it appears as e.g. a reading room for Olivia or game room for Stephen the other characters are unfamiliar with those rooms and only see what the ghosts show them. Thinking on it as that and also where the Crain family are taken while under the influence of the house as adults and seeing alternate realities to keep them there again. Nell’s ghost referring to the red room as the ‘stomach’ of the house is interesting and indicates that the ghosts of the house plan to gradually feed on them, harking back to Hugh referring to the family as an “unfinished meal” to Hill House.

A key plot point was the somewhat supernatural abilities that the family have, particularly Theo and Olivia. Theo of course with the ability to sense people’s feelings through touch and Olivia seemingly something similar and doesn’t seem to be afraid or even really mind the ghosts she sees. Another aspect of the show that was less developed was the time travel and visions of the future throughout. In the Nell centric episode we find out the bent-neck lady was her future self killed by the ghosts and visiting her younger self at various moments throughout her life both during and after living at Hill House. It is unclear if it was from the ghosts or herself but at a few points Olivia sees moments in the future with adult Nell in the funeral home morgue, adult Luke dying like he is in the red room but also a vision of the young twins talking about what will happen to them in the future after Hill House. This means either Olivia or the ghosts have the ability to see moments in the future and sadly the latter prey upon that.

On a final sombre note we discover throughout and at the end that anyone who passes away in Hill House comes back as a ghost. It’s not clear if this is through choice or with unfinished business but many of the Hill family are ghosts as well as Olivia, Nell and Hugh and at least Mrs Dudley and her daughter Abigail which is where they show ends and we are left to assume they spend their afterlife there.

Anything you feel I missed leave a comment, have a great day.

The Haunting of Hill House Review

The Netflix original series, The Haunting of Hill House, adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel of theame name is a chilling ghost story but at its core a family drama. The season is made up of ten episodes and tell the story of the Crain family, parents Hugh & Olivia and their five children: Stephen, Shirley, Theodora (Theo), Luke and Eleanor (Nell) and the impact living in Hill House had on their lives. The family live there for a time in 1992 and shows the supernatural events and transitioning to their lives present day 26 years later where events lead them to confront their past.

The series begins with a tragedy within the Crain family, coming together and bringing their issues with themselves and each other to the surface, trying to deal with these issues bubbling under the surface while they do their best to cope and contain these issues. The flashbacks to 1992 chronicling their time at Hill House and how these events both natural and supernatural shaped their lives to where they are in 2018.

No stranger to horror involving haunted families, show creator Mike Flanagan (Ouija: origin of evil, Gerald’s game) and reuniting with previous cast members Carla Gugino, Lulu Wilson and his wife Kate Siegel with great results. Flanagan has made a strong and truly unsettling show striking a chilling nerve with a combination of chilling supernatural elements combined with other issues the Crain family encounter such as marital problems, financial difficulties even drug addiction.

The majority of the episodes focus on each member of the Crain family, akin to Lost, about they were affected by their time in Hill House while also building up the mystery of the show with what exactly happened, making you wonder if there were any ghosts at all and just the children’s imagination from living in the old mansion or could it be a hereditary mental illness. The show builds on this uncertainty, peppering in ghostly apparitions in the present day compared to their frequent appearances in 1992 as the show ramps up to it’s conclusion as they return to Hill House in present day 2018.

The show was very well acted with strong performances from Carla Gugino as Olivia, Victoria Pedretti and Violet McGraw who portrayed adult and child Nell respectively. The show was well acted but found myself more invested in the mystery than the characters themselves but did feel for Olivia and Nell and their story being the driving force of the show. Olivia for how her time at Hill House wore on her and Nell for her struggle both in 1992 and 2018. Also from Annabeth Gish as supporting character Mrs Dudley as the housekeeper for the Crains in 1992 who had worked for the residents for years and suffered herself as a result.

In summary, The Haunting of Hill House is excellently made show which gave a few restless nights with both jump scares and really chilling moments with well written and overall interesting characters.

Halloween Review

40 years after John Carpenter’s Halloween comes the 11th movie in the series but retconning the franchise so wiping the slate clean in the story except for the original movie. John Carpenter and Debra Hill returning to the franchise this time as executive producers and using Carpenter’s score perhaps influenced by Rob Zombie’s recent reboot not as he imagined Myers and the story. Directed by David Gordon Green which he also co-wrote along with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride and Jamie Lee Curtis returning as Laurie Strode have made a well produced and aptly unsettling addition to the franchise.

Set in present day with Laurie Strode and Michael Myers both returning and seeing how the last 40 years has affected them both. Laurie Strode was traumatised by that night and that Halloween has fallen from memory. Sadly not for her though, the past 40 years has been spent anticipating and actively preparing for his return has strained her relationship with her family. Michael Myers meanwhile has been incarcerated since and seemingly catatonic while plotting his next killing spree. Recovering his mask and escaping an inmate transport, Myers makes his way to Haddonfield just in time for Halloween night and wastes no time making his presence known.

This time though Laurie is ready and out to kill him to finally finish it while trying to protect her daughter and grand-daughter. Also out for blood is Deputy Hawkins (played by Will Patton) who was an officer at the time of Myers’ original killing spree and doesn’t want it happening again. Also there in Haddonfield is Dr Sartain, Myers’ psychiatrist and former student of Dr Loomis who is a bit more interested in bringing him in alive and knowing what makes him tick than anything else. True to form Myers rampages through the town butcher knife in hand with no babysitting teenager or police officer safe until the showdown between Strode and Myers. Spoiler free of course but stick around for the end credits as it leaves the possibility of future movies in this now retconned timeline.

Perhaps due to the influence of Carpenter and Hill but Halloween is very faithful to its predecessor but to its detriment in parts as it you know what is coming more than normal for a slasher horror film. Not a problem as Myers is still truly unsettling as he makes his way through the town without letting anyone stop him and seemingly no one being safe or off limits. The pacing and cinematography was also excellent with the camera angles while some kills came brutally quick and others palpably slow as if Myers was savouring the upcoming murder. Slight spoiler but after going through one house there was a baby in a crib and thought for a moment he was going to cross that line too which is a testament to Green’s directing and James Jude Courtney’s portrayal. Also hinted at is the almost supernatural aspect of Michael Myers. Walking away from Loomis’ bullets in 1978 to present day when presented with his mask triggers a fervour in the other inmates near him and possessing seemingly super human strength for an assumedly catatonic 61 year old.

What does let the film down somewhat however is some of the acting and the script. The scars are hinted at but I felt there should have been more of an impact on the small town especially Myers being moved just before the 40th anniversary. The strain between Laurie and her daughter was a significant part of the story but felt underdeveloped and perhaps could have benefitted from some pay off in that regard.

Didn’t to be a tad negative at the end there but I did really enjoy 2018’s Halloween and if a horror fan and of the series is definitely worth seeing especially now after October 31st when you are safe, at least until next year.

Overlord Review

From the vision of director Julius Avery (Son of a Gun) and partnered with Bad Robot productions and J.J. Abrams is a horror movie set in an alternate 1944 France immediately before the Normandy Landings also known by its code name Operation Overlord. Depictions of World War 2 in entertainment being no stranger to reinterpretations or alternate historical events or even combined with other genres but Avery delivers a satisfying and enjoyable experience with a solid cast especially its main antagonist but let down with a plot being somewhat thin and predictable.

The film follows the story of a squad of U.S. paratroopers Tibbet, Chase, Rosenfeld and Boyce led by Corporal Ford who land behind enemy lines in occupied France to destroy a German base by dawn the next morning to assist with Operation Overlord. Realising there is something more sinister going on underneath the church the Germans have taken over as their base, the soldiers work with a local civilian who shelters them while they plan and work to complete their mission. Arriving in the town almost immediately sees the change from war film to zombie survival with an eerie, ominous feeling taking over. They discover that the locals have been used in horrible experiments by the Germans and so they all work to destroy the base to aid the D-Day attack and end the development of their undead army. Once in the town there was the sense that the rapidly approaching deadline to take out the German base and radio tower fell to the side as with a few hours remaining that sense of urgency with the dawn deadline all but disappeared as it approached.

Right away the stereotypical character archetypes of a war film are established including Boyce (portrayed by Jovan Adepo, Fences) fresh from training after being drafted and over the film do understand and connect with more than the others. Boyce is set apart from the others as upon landing in France loses his helmet so looks less like the rest of the squad as well as feeling differently from them too. The film’s focus on Boyce as a man trying to do what is right is juxtaposed by Ford (Wyatt Russell, Black Mirror) who is hardened by the war and his focus is to complete their mission above all else. Also in the US squad is Tibbet, the squad sniper and is more of a foil for Boyce, both new soldiers but the former regarding Boyce as unable to even kill a mouse when the situation calls for it leading to friction between the two. The differences between these characters is cliché but how they clash, literally and physically, drives a lot of the film. Behind enemy lines the squad do butt heads often, over what is right vs completing the mission at all costs, their action or inaction determining how the events of the film progress but also a shift in their roles with Boyce being more pragmatic and Ford and Tibbet caring more about the German prisoners.

French civilian Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) is well depicted a survivor under the Germans and doing what is needed for herself and her young brother. The soldiers especially Boyce learn first hand the effects the war has had and also feeling the hopelessness as a result. As the film goes on Ollivier’s portrayal of Chloe changes and sees her getting more hopeful and fighting back. The face of the Germans in the town is Hauptsturmfuhrer Wafner (Pilou Asbaek, Game of Thrones). Wafner is captain of the garrison of German soldiers based there and Asbaek gives an excellent performance, not unlike Euron Greyjoy, cunning, cruel and sadistic making for a terrific villain all the way through and at one moment giving a Joker like grin that sends shivers down your spine.

The beginning of the film is where we see its biggest technical sequence showing hundreds of planes going to France and many being shot down or destroyed including the events inside the plane transporting the protagonists. The spectacle of this opening scene was well done visually as well as audibly with the plane being ripped apart with the sounds or lack of sound from Boyce’s perspective as he goes to escape the plane and the subsequent landing. The main locations of the small French village and nearby church fit well for the feeling the story is trying to get across with the slightly cramped house to the chilling and grimy feeling of the German laboratory. The special effects for the undead themselves were a little lacklustre but did work well both in terms of seeing the results of some experiments and utilised as enemies for Boyce and the others with fun, action filled encounters feeling the stakes with the protagonists in danger despite having a sense for the ending.

A refreshing mix of war and zombie horror film, Overlord is a highly enjoyable movie that despite is somewhat cliché and predictable but a solid cast and production overall delivers a quality experience particularly Asbaek. Overlord paints an intriguing depiction of France in a fictional World War 2 just before the Normandy landing by the allied powers and its importance, especially relevant being released so close to Rememberance or Veterans Day.