Unlike the meticulously plotted Marvel Cinematic Universe, in which everything matters and all instalments work towards the established bigger picture, episodes in Warner Bros.’ Conjuring franchise are only ever as significant as the momentary pleasure they exude. Thus, the events of The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona bear no significance in Annabelle Comes Home, third in the porcelain sub series and seventh overall. Heck, even the previous two Annabelle films feel barely relevant with this one. An all too brief turn for Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s Ed and Lorraine Warren makes for a promising start but in their absence the film suffers a bad case of tonal confusion.
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‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ may be best known as the catch phrase of Pokémon collectors across the English-speaking world but it’s equally the attitude of Hollywood to East Asian franchise hits. Following the likes of Ghost in the Shell, and bolstered no doubt by the peculiar recent return of Nintendo’s Pokémon empire to global megastardom, Detective Pikachu finds the franchise translated for the first time to big budget, live action territory. And yet, unlike most video game properties, this one just about survives the transition. How so? The inspired vocal casting of Ryan Reynolds as a spiky, lightning tailed Pikachu has a lot to do with it.
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In spite of its tag, The Captor – known elsewhere as Stockholm – is neither particularly absurd nor notably true. A seventies period piece from Born to be Blue director Robert Budreau, the film explores the origins of Stockholm syndrome with all the psychological depth of a Liam Neeson B-movie. Whilst a failure to commit to either comic bravura or gruelling tension proves to be Budreau’s fundamental flaw, his casting of Ethan Hawke front and centre saves the film from irredeemable middle of the road ineffectuality.
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Only Marvel would follow the blockbuster to end all blockbusters with a lightweight teen vacation flick. The stakes have rarely been lower. The primary concern? Seeing the hero get his girl. What chutzpah to be so old fashioned. It’s audacious as a feat of mechanical regularity above all else. Indeed, give or take the odd surprise, Far From Home is pretty much business as usual. Almost dull even by the initial trick climax. Those hoping for boundaries to be furthered will be disappointed. And yet, this isn’t dull. It’s far from it. If some feel undersold, many more should be pleased to learn that the studio’s still got it – even if ‘it’ has long since felt inessential.
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A kind of animated Pudsey the Dog: The Movie, The Queen’s Corgi is pretty banal stuff. It’s a typically innocuous production from Belgian studio nWave – whose Son of Big Foot success was a rare hit. In its defence, The Queen’s Corgi is very well cast and as impressively designed as a film with $20m behind it can be. Beyond visual and vocal panache, however, there’s precious little to write home about here.
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When, one day, the big book of Richard Curtis is written, perhaps this will be known as his high concept era. Remember when plots were as simple as literally four weddings and one funeral? No longer. Since those bygone basic days, a dabble in Doctor Who has given way to linearity bending romcom About Time and now Yesterday, which practically science fiction in its exploration of a world without the Beatles. That said, sci-fi is rarely this cute, cuddly, warm and winsome. Nor so lacking in science. Regardless, Curtis’ way with quaint mannerism remains strong and his ear for comedy still tickles all the right bones.
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Did the world need another Toy Story? No. Did Pixar’s original trilogy not feel perfect? Yes. But only because it was perfect. The perfect beginning, muddle and definitive end. Definitive. What’s more, surely the only thing rarer than a trilogy without a misstep is a quartet that never once drops the ball. Curiously, Toy Story 4 doesn’t drop the ball but still doesn’t succeed in self-justification. At least, not entirely Gloriously animated, richly constructed and brilliantly witty, there’s no denying the film is a charmer and cross-generational hit. It’s a tricky one though. For all the successes here, questions of necessity loom large over all, perhaps leading to a singular conclusion.
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