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The Mitchells vs the Machines review – a cranky AI gets her revenge

At this stage in my adult life, I must admit that I am way behind the pace when it comes to keeping up with all of the latest animated features. I’m not particularly proud of it, but I tend to make the effort for each new Disney and Pixar release, and then leave everything else unwatched. In an attempt to shake off the sombreness of this year’s Oscars ceremony, however, I decided to turn to Netflix for an animated adventure that had the hype train fully loaded and out of the station.

Produced by The Lego Movie creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, The Mitchells vs. The Machines tells the story of teen girl Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) and her family as they find themselves the only humans left to save the world after an army of robots descends to cause technological chaos. Queer, quirky and an aspiring film maker with eccentric creative juices, Katie constantly finds herself at odds with her parents, particularly dad Rick (Danny McBride), but the family are forced to put all differences aside as they battle to save humanity, learning, as you would expect, lots of lessons along the way.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, let me say that on the whole The Mitchells vs. The Machines is great, it’s full of laughs, fulls of life and full of action, with some all important heart to bridge the gap between all out robot adventure and poignant family drama. The one thing I would say isn’t in the film’s favour, however, is simply the fact that is tries to do so, so much. Something that I have gotten used to in Pixar movies in particular, is an elegance in the way that stories are told, something like Soul, for example, being about so much but feeling so minimalist on the screen. Minimalism certainly isn’t something that The Mitchells vs. The Machines is going for here, but once you adjust to the hectic rhythm of the narrative, it’s definitely a ride that is worth taking. There are parts of the film that feel so packed with plot that the emotions get a little bit lost, as well as more than a few hand wavy moments for the sake of plot progression, so whilst the movie may not be a complete masterpiece, there is no doubting that it is one hell of a fun ride.

The filmmakers have definitely taken a scatter gun approach to audience enjoyment here, throwing a LOT at the screen to see what sticks, and what might stick for one viewer may not stick for another. The humour is a mile a minute, and on the whole the majority if jokes worked for me. The thing is, though, it didn’t really matter when something fell flat because four more jokes were always lined up to go straight after.

The wider narrative concept of smart tech ‘coming to life’ to wreak havoc on society isn’t a fresh one at this point, but there’s real need for nitpicking here. The robot revolution is simply a fun, shiny device in which to tell the smaller scale story of a family reconnecting with one another, and those moments are the most emotionally satisfying in the film. It also goes without saying that the style of animation is really, really fun!

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Infinity War: Every Fighter Ranked, From Worthless To Most Powerful

After what seems like an eternity, Avengers: Infinity War is finally up on the big screen. The fan reaction so far has been largely positive and the movie just broke the record for the all-time highest-grossing opening weekend in film history. This impressive feat started with it becoming one of the few movies to make $200 million in its opening weekend and making the most money on a Thursday night release of any Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.

Having seen the movie and our favorite heroes pitted against the Children of Thanos and the Mad Titan himself, we can now compose a definitive list of whom the best fighters are among all the so-called Infinity Warriors. To that end, we have chosen thirty characters from Avengers: Infinity War to rate.

It should be noted that there will be SPOILERS AHEAD for those who have not seen Avengers: Infinity War.

It should also be noted that this list is based on a variety of factors, including combat training, strategic ability, raw power, any impressive feats the character accomplished, and their ability to utilize all their advantages in a fight.

We also limited this to characters who we see in at least one extended fight scene, which sadly disqualified M’Baku’s small role since we don’t really see him in action.

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Review: Doctor Strange is Marvel’s best-looking film. But it’s not Marvel’s best movie.

The first seven minutes of Doctor Strange, Marvel’s first cinematic foray into its magical universe full of sorcerers, relics, and dark dimensions, are a punch in the mouth. It’s a fight scene; Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his goons are taking on the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), and to get the upper hand, they begin folding the buildings around them like origami.

It’s vaguely reminiscent of that scene from Inception, you think to yourself. But you don’t know half of what’s about to hit you.

The buildings gnarl and twist like segments of a Rubik’s Cube. Balconies become conveyor belts. An adjacent edifice buckles over and starts spinning, threatening to smash down on various characters like a maniacal rolling pin. Gravity flips and shifts with each camera angle as the goons look like inebriated hamsters on a wheel. The basic physics concepts you’re used to no longer work in the way you’ve been taught. It’s like watching reality tear itself apart.

By the time you catch your breath, a realization dawns: That opening sequence is the most stunning seven minutes of footage Marvel has ever created. And Doctor Strange is, without a doubt, the best Marvel movie in history when it comes to looks — a movie whose ambition and creativity is matched by its execution. If there is justice in the world, Doctor Strange will win an Oscar for its visual effects.

But even though the film is Marvel’s crowning aesthetic triumph, even though all four of its stars — Swinton, Benedict CumberbatchChiwetel Ejiofor, and Rachel McAdams — have their game faces on and act their hearts out, even though it’s got great humor and spirit, Doctor Strange isn’t close to being Marvel’s best movie.

Here’s why that’s okay, and why you should definitely see it anyway.

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Rev Rank: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is an enjoyable yet dull rendition of the classic Disney formula

Throughout the 2010’s, Walt Disney Animation Studios has relentlessly released film after film with titles like “Frozen,” “Big Hero 6” and “Moana” becoming instant household classics. Almost all of them are enjoyable, some more so than others, but one cannot deny how deeply derivative they are of one another.

A fantastical land, a mysterious power, a regal hero, smirking sidekick, the death of a family member, a quest for MacGuffins, a mindless antagonistic presence and gorgeous animation. All of these elements compose the tried-and-true Disney formula of moviemaking. It’s worked for decades, but the cracks are finally starting to show in “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Set in the mythical land of Kumandra, dragons and humans used to live together in prosperity. Then everything changed when the Druun attacked. Born out of human discord, these evil spirits began to ravage the world until the dragons sacrificed themselves in an effort to save humanity. Five hundred years later, the world is broken, separated into five kingdoms who all despise and distrust one another. Now, enter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), a loner and disgraced princess of the Heart Kingdom, who is on a quest to locate the titular last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina). Together, they will be able to reunite and restore balance to the mythical land.

Sounds familiar?

Yeah, I bet it does.

I mean, look. I did not hate this movie because there is so much to love and appreciate. For starters, it is absolutely stunning and impressively crafted with all the textures, fabrics, facial expressions and even the sky looking immaculate as ever. The world-building is extraordinary too. Each location and action set-piece are all beautiful and infused with Southeast Asian representation which is a major plus in my book. Additionally, the stylish direction and editing give the film a fast-paced, frenetic Guy Ritchie-esque sensibility. Oh, and James Newton Howard’s score is simply incredible to behold.

Everything that is visually and audibly presented is amazing, but the story just makes none of it feel unique. “Raya and the Last Dragon” moves from scene to scene with each character delivering stilted, expository dialogue necessary to the plot. There’s loads of improvised comedy (courtesy of Awkwafina) and some surprising personality in the line delivery, but it’s nothing special. The story is about as predictable as you can get with a Disney movie which is not necessarily a negative because I tend to care more about the journey itself rather than the destination. However, I knew exactly where this movie was going by the ten-minute mark. It deemed my experience with Raya, Sisu and squad of other bizarre misfits to be duller than I envisioned it being.

Overall, “Raya and the Last Dragon” is a fun, flawed Disney movie. If you can look past the blatant unoriginality, then you’ll probably have a good time with it. I enjoyed myself watching it, but it is definitely a film I could have skipped.

Also, if you do see this movie, see it in theaters. Don’t play $29.99 for it on Disney+ because that is just ridiculous.

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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ on HBO, Jim Jarmusch’s Mega-Cast Lark of a Zombie Movie

I’ll be the first person to admit that more often than not, I am persuaded to go and see a film not because of the storyline but because of the actors in it. I am much more performance driven than director driven, and with names like Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny and Tilda Swinton front and centre here, The Dead Don’t Die was something that I know I wasn’t going to be able to miss. The problem was, though, that my last journey in the to world of filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was nowhere near as satisfying as I wanted it to be. Could this new genre piece make up for the ‘meh’ that I felt for 2014’s Only Lovers Left Alive?

The Dead Don’t Die tells the story of a zombie invasion that takes place in the fictional town of Centerville, USA. Whilst local cops Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny) work to try to find the cause of some initial mystery killings, the rest of the town slowly but surely becomes aware that the cause of the problem is real, actual undead ghouls, apparently risen from their graves due to a shift in the Earth’s rotation.

A campy, silly premise like this certainly sounds like it has the potential to be fun, but then you have to remember whose film this is. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch has a penchant for making things so deadpan and counter reactive that, in my opinion, it ends up sucking the life out of everything in a really tedious and self indulgent way. Any traditional pleasure a viewer might take from a dumb zombie movie simply isn’t there, and whilst the aim was clearly to replace this traditional fun with a more wry, satirical edge, the fact is that the film isn’t nearly funny enough on a regular basis to make up for it.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home – Ranking Each Character Based On Likability

It feels like mere days ago that I was sat in the cinema watching the absolute chaos and climax that was Avengers: Endgame. Although we are twenty plus movies deep in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point, it really felt like the most impossible job in the world of film this year was going to be how to follow up that decade in the making extravaganza. Obviously, who do you call when the stakes are so incredibly high? Everybody’s favourite friendly neighbourhood superhero!

Picking up in the universe eight months after Bruce Banner reversed Thanos’s snap, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his fellow Vanished classmates are in the process of restarting the school year that they missed. Excited to embark on a European class trip to Venice, Paris, London and more, and eager to spark his romance with MJ (Zendaya), Peter finds his perfect plans interrupted by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who enlists him to help fight a huge elemental fire monster threat alongside new superhero recruit Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). But is Mysterio the real hero everyone believes him to be?

In terms of a follow up to Endgame, Marvel have done the perfect thing in going from one distinctly dramatic and earth shattering tone to an altogether more light and fluffy one. What do you do what you know you can’t match something straight away? You go fro the exact opposite. One of the most enjoyable elements of this new Spider-Man iteration is that it feels very light and breezy in the context of the wider MCU. Our lead characters are all cute teenagers dealing with teenage things, and in all honesty the moments I enjoy the most both in this and in Homecoming are those moments when the film is more of a YA comedy drama than a superhero flick.

This version of Peter Parker is an enjoyable character to spend time with, and his various companions are all great too. Where the film doesn’t quite match up to the majority of recent Marvel releases is in its CGI. Compared to the last few releases in the franchise, the action and CG work in Far From Home feels incredibly weightless and, to be honest, unimpressive. I grant you that Spider-Man in action is probably one of the most difficult superhero characters to make feel authentic, but there were certainly action sequences in the film that felt of a much lower quality than Marvel have treated us to in the past.

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‘Aladdin’ Review: This Is Not What You Wished For

In my household growing up, Aladdin was a huge, huge deal. Being the older sister of a little brother, the Disney catalogue at that point had few films that could entertain us both in equal measure, and as a result the 1992 animated classic is probably the animated feature that I have seen most in my life. Following the likes of CinderellaThe Jungle BookBeauty And The Beast and Dumbo, it was only a matter of time before Prince Ali and co. were given the live action treatment. I’m not going to lie, I went in nervous as hell.

2019’s Aladdin brings the same story to the big screen, the tale of a young street rat (played by Mena Massoud) who uses the power of a magical Genie (Will Smith) to become a Prince and win the heart of the Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the Sultan’s daughter. Here’s the thing, I wanted to really love Aladdin, like really really love it like I loved Mary Poppins Returns, but unfortunately this just didn’t do it for me. There are definitely certain things to like about the film, but if I were to write a pros and cons list, the cons would almost certainly win out.

There is something that all of these cartoon to live action adaptation have had in common from the beginning, and that is a lack of kinetic energy compared to the animated originals. In the case of Aladdin, this energy is most clearly lost, in my opinion, in the majority of musical set pieces that fall completely flat (the only exception, interestingly, being Jasmine’s new number). One Jump Ahead feels like a strange, underusing, over directed fever dream, Friend Like Me felt physically painful to me, and A Whole New World seriously fails to capture the soaring magic of the cartoon carpet ride. I will give Prince Ali and Arabian nights their due, however. I have seen many people praising the colours of the film, but I couldn’t disagree more. Certain scenes may be vibrant, but I can’t celebrate the colouring of an Aladdin remake when the cave of wonders was more grey stone than golden treasure and the A Whole New World sequence bordered on Battle of Winterfell levels of darkness. Guy Ritchie, what’s going on bro?

Interestingly, the majority of positive change that the film provides is in its slight story tweaks rather that its showmanship. Princess Jasmine in particular is given far more agency in this 21st century update, something that feels more fitting both for the times and for the vibe of the movie. The picture also possesses a fun levity and a fast pace that helps you along even in those moments where the performances or the songs aren’t quite doing it for you. Ultimately, if there is such a duel attitude as being unimpressed whilst simultaneously mildly entertained, then that is what Aladdin evokes.

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A Definitive Ranking of All Four ‘Toy Story’ Movies

If this blog had existed in 2010, you would have no doubt come along to read how I thought Toy Story 3 was the perfect end to a pretty much perfect trilogy of Pixar movies that felt like they were specifically made with my generation in mind. Six years old with the first, ten years old with the second and twenty-one years old with the third, it really felt like this franchise was something that neatly and perfectly bookmarked not only my early life but also my blossoming love for high quality cinema. You can imagine my apprehension, then, at the release of a fourth instalment. Was Toy Story 4 about to ruin something beautiful, or expertly add to it?

On the whole, I think I’d have to say it does a little bit of both. After being heart wrenchingly handed over to Bonnie at the end of Toy Story 3, the film picks up with Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and co. preparing to help their new owner get through her first days at kindergarten. During a celebratory pre-school start RV road trip with the family, the toys find themselves in all sorts of bother, with old friends like long lost Bo Peep and new friends like the homemade Forky bringing lots of action to the party.

The first thing to say about the film is that it is almost unbelievably beautiful. You have no doubt seen some of the comparisons of the CG animation between the original and today, and the difference is quite astounding. Films like this honestly make me wonder where the hell animation is going next, and I’m incredibly excited about it.

On a story and narrative level, there are some things that I really liked about Toy Story 4, and then there are some things that didn’t really grab me at all. It’s fair to say that Andy’s story was beautifully wrapped up in the first trilogy, and in many ways this film feels a lot like a tacked on goodbye specifically for Woody at the expense of most of the other beloved characters in the franchise. Without wanting to give too much away, it’s safe to say that many of Toy Story’s classic themes are front and centre, albeit becoming more and more complex as the series and its original audience mature.

We have Woody reckoning with the appeal of living another life with a child ending in inevitable donation, we have new character Forky touching on what the nature of the toy’s sentience even is in the first place, and we have other side tangents involving the concepts of lost toys, broken toys and antique toys that aren’t supposed to be played with. It sounds like a lot, and that’s because it is. Compared to the narratives and statements of its predecessors, Toy Story 4 feels like a great movie that is downgraded to good because it tries to do a little too much and suffers overall because of it.

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Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Remember back in 2016 when everybody piled in on the disaster that was Suicide Squad? I was a card carrying member of the crowd who thought the movie was massively flawed, but reading my review back, it’s obvious that one of the very few things I did enjoy was Margot Robbie’s take on Harley Quinn. Clearly, that seems to have been the general consensus, so here we are in 2020 with another trip to that version of Gotham, this time focusing on Harley and getting rid of all the driftwood that made Suicide Squad such a disappointment. I went in cautiously optimistic about this one.

And ultimately, though it does fair better than Suicide SquadBirds Of Prey is still only ‘fine’ at best. In an attempt to free the character from her oppressive ties to the Joker, the film puts Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in the middle of things with her own Gotham centred narrative. After breaking up with her long time villainous beau, Harley’s protection is lifted and she suddenly finds herself the target of most of the city’s bad guys out for revenge.

Connecting at scheduled points with a number of other female characters in the universe including vigilantes the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), young pick pocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) and cynical police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the narrative forms into a squad movie of sorts, with the women teaming up to fight off the movie’s main big bad, crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).

Despite a promising set up, I think the fact that I can barely remember the movie even though I watched it mere days ago says everything about it. Birds Of Prey has a lot to offer in terms of fun action sequences and vibrant visuals, but at the end of the day, some of the technical choices that it makes prove to be its downfall. Chiefly, the decision to rely heavily on flashback scenes to establish the timeline doesn’t really work for me. Every time you feel yourself settling into the story and enjoying yourself, yet another jump in time occurs and you find yourself having to find a rhythm all over again.

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Emma review – Austen’s sweet satire gets a multiplex makeover

In the world of classic authors, it’s fair to say that Jane Austen is a name that has become equally synonymous with cinema as it is with literature. From Pride And Prejudice to Sense And Sensibility to Mansfield Park, Austen’s work has proved to be a fertile ground for movie magic in the past. Published in 1815, Emma is a story that might be more familiar to film lovers in the form of 1995’s Clueless, a modern take that became one of the most beloved teen movies of all time. For her directorial debut, however, filmmaker Autumn de Wilde has decided to take us back to a time with which Austen herself might have been more familiar.

For those few who didn’t have to study it at school, Emma tells the story of Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), a “handsome, clever and rich” young woman who takes delight in meddling in the romantic escapades of her friends and close associates. From matchmaking for her governess (played by Gemma Whelan) to blocking an undesirable marriage proposal for a close companion (played by Mia Goth), Emma uses her wit and intelligence to manipulate those around her, all whilst determining never to marry herself despite a growing attraction to family friend George Knightley (Johnny Flynn).

You can see why the plot of this centuries old novel would make for such a perfect 1990s high school comedy in Clueless, the romantic twists and turns and sharp wit of the original source material are massively transferable to a modern adaptation, but that doesn’t mean they still aren’t enjoyable in a more traditional setting also. This 2020 iteration of Emma might not be an absolute banger, but it is certainly pleasant and proficient enough to provide a fulfilling period experience.

The film runs at a snappy pace and has snappy dialogue to match, and this helps to maintain a light and breezy tone from start to finish which is always welcome in a genre (period) that can sometimes feel bogged down. The different kinds of characters are the most enjoyable and defining element of Emma, from the sassy, headstrong protagonist to her hilarious hypochondriac father (Bill Nighy) to the boring but goodhearted village neighbour Miss Bates (Miranda Hart), the narrative introduces us to a plethora of endearing people, and then uses them as chess pieces in a story that, whilst perhaps not earth shattering by modern standards, has a gentle universal appeal that proves why the work of Jane Austen still feels relevant today.

If I were to be really picky, I’d say that the film flags a little bit in the middle before building up steam for a satisfying final third, but I can’t say that it is boring or unappealing at any point. It’s not Clueless, but then what is!?