Sonic the Hedgehog – Review

Hollywood forgets every so often that audiences are made up of real people who don’t always want films that carry a political statement or modern day protest. Breaking boundaries is great and all but sometimes films only ever need to be family entertainment in the form of an escape to be a success and that’s exactly what Sonic the Hedgehog is.

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My very first memory of video games is sitting beside my older brother while playing the then SEGA console of the time and seeing that blue speedy ball flash past the ever so colourful visuals while he collected gold rings. Sonic the Hedgehog is a gaming establishment and I have forever cherished the memories of playing those games as they came out in the early 90’s.

Over the years there have been a stack of video game to cinema adaptations. I can count the enjoyable one’s on a single hand and so when I saw they were finally giving Sonic the same treatment, like most I was hesitant in my belief. Turns out they did it and they did it rather well!

Over the weekend my brother joined me at the local cinema and like those days of old we watched that blue sphere rush through rich cinematic landscapes but this time with a narrative and so full credit goes to Ben Schwartz for voicing the ‘fastest thing alive’. And now after they improved the CGI of our main character it does look quite good.

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The story is simple and easy to follow; they’ve blended Sonic’s world with ours and so that’s the story; an alien hedgehog has been living in solitude on Earth until he gets discovered by ‘Green Hills’ local cop played by James Marsden who brings character balance to the film; he’s not only fun himself but bounces off the humour Sonic piles into the dialogue. Although there were many gags and funny moments; most were aimed at younger audiences but overall everyone will find the humour and fun in this. Our antagonist comes in the form of Jim Carrey, now say what you will about him; many don’t like his style or his performances but I thought he brought a perfect sinister level of creative humour that gave life to the iconic Doctor Robotnik – again another character who has never spoken in the earlier games. Some of his one-liners are typical Carrey which mainstream audiences will laugh at.

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You’ll find plenty of nods and tributes to the original games such as names, music interludes and even dialogue moments. For big time fans of Sonic; check it out, you will most probably enjoy the majority of it. To see my original gaming hero reach number 1 in both the US and UK film charts is quite special and credit where credit is due because they have done a good job in providing a film that might not be protest towards anything or have a ground breaking cast; but it’s entertaining and fun for all ages. Sometimes that’s all stories need to be!

8 Rings out of 10 

Joker – Review

The world has waited a long time for an origins story of quite possibly the most iconic antagonist in comic book and story-telling. We’re used to seeing the ‘business end’ of most ‘bad guys’ without their journey really being acknowledged. The hero swings in and they get beaten, the end… 

‘Joker’ breaks that mold in what I could only describe as a pure cinematic journey into a level of madness and depravity most would find some level of discomfort in – but that’s why it’s so good and even with this story unfolding before our eyes this is just the tip of a much deeper and realistic iceberg.

*There aren’t any specific spoilers in this review *

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A huge player in the theme of this story is privilege versus the downtrodden in a Gotham city where hard times are showing no end and this is where you’ll find the motive and choice behind our title character. Joaquin Phoenix or ‘Arthur’ brings so much to the table in this film; if it wasn’t titled ‘Joker’ it could easily be the tragic tale of a man with a history of being abused who has an abundance of issues while he slips through the cracks of care and society. Very early on you cannot help but back this man who is like everyone else in this world trying to make it through with aspirations and dreams.  

In places the film is awkward to watch and this a deliberate move to highlight ‘Arthur’s’ struggle socially and there will be moments that first appear funny but are actually tragic. This is a man who has been downtrodden his whole life in a world where everyone is sick of struggling while the elite prosper. Eventually these two concepts or themes meet in what is a culmination that is both shocking and incredibly powerful.

Just as the final thirty minutes of this film unravel the whole thing turns on it’s head and becomes a tale of pure anarchy. And even after this ‘Joker’ became apparent and did what he did, it’s portrayed in a way where his choices may have actually been justified for the life he has led. We see the grit of his story on his side of the fence and for everything he does it will leave you thinking, maybe he isn’t the bad guy after all.

I think this film is going to get my number 1 of 2019 and personally I think awards don’t mean much but Phoenix at least needs a nod. Robert De Niro was also fantastic in this film and played a role I never imagined to see him in. Throughout it felt like old school cinema with just a hint of independent film making and a dusting of Tarantino all wrapped up with a great soundtrack and some good cinematography.

5/5 – It’s harrowing, depraved, violent and graphic in places, it isn’t for the faint of heart but I highly recommend this film! By far the best ‘DC’ universe film since the ‘Dark Knight series’. 

 

 

The Lion King – Review

A visual spectacle where the show is stolen once again by two familiar characters…

It’s hard to deny that the Lion King is a tale of epic Shakespearean proportions, after all it’s ‘Hamlet with lions’ but the story has appeal to all ages and Disney continue to do that clever thing where they adapt a previous release into live action. This concept is near enough a solid strategy for selling tickets to the young and old and yet again it’s worked in that respect but a live action adaptation that involves just animals; does it really deliver?

My answer is yes and no, because I can’t deny visually the cinematography and computer generation somewhat merge into an impressive spectacle. Much like when Jurassic Park came out most people found it hard to determine when they had used CGI and not. The same is for the Lion King and although it looks great it feels like a certain dimension of the story is missing with this choice and I am talking about emotion.

Yes these are animals and they express emotion differently and in a cartoon you can make a lion frown or smile but when it’s appearing as ‘real life’ the concept is kind of lost. This is even more so apparent in musical numbers where emotion is the real key to delivery.

I’m not a film critic so that’s the subjective part out of the way because overall I enjoyed the Lion King – I avoided the animation for a many years because its quite sad in parts and the same is for this version but the story is about redemption so I dig it. The voice acting can’t be faulted along with most of the musical numbers – it seems ‘Be prepared’ was mostly omitted disappointingly… but everything good about this new version is what makes it worth seeing. It was pretty rewarding to see some scenes exactly how they were in the animation, a fitting tribute for this new live action way. I really liked how some of the characters were created visually; Scar looked exactly how an outcast lion would – dark and ominous and who wouldn’t mention Timon and Pumbaa – two characters who stole the show yet again and their comedy made the whole thing! Of course full credit to James Earl Jones who reprised his role as Mufasa from the original.

You’ll laugh a lot as well as find some of the film emotional in what is a brave execution for Disney leaving some audience members still unsure, but if you ask me the Lion King gets 8 ‘Hakuna Matata’s’ out of 10 

  

Toy Story 4 – Review

A fun, emotional and sometimes laugh out loud film that finds the true meaning of purpose and life…

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There are many sequels out there that never live up to the heights of their original, many try to recapture the magic of the first and there are even some that just re tell an old story.

Toy Story 4 achieves way more than any of it’s previous installments in what is a true masterpiece of storytelling. Now some of you are probably wondering what else is there left to tell other than just remapping of old ground. Well in this film the word purpose is explored in a deep and somewhat emotional fashion. Toy Story 4 is not just a fun action packed adventure, it’s a deep look at the purpose of life and its beautifully done.

Just what happens to a toy when its owner no longer wants to play with it? You can find out by watching this film. Its a combination of nostalgia and something new; a concept many sequels barely achieve. Woody embarks on a journey of reflection while doing what he does best; caring for other toys and trying to be there for his kid; along the way he finds the truth and although its sad, it’s kind of liberating and heroic.

The concept of Toy Story is such an original and fun thing. It has captivated generations of kids including me who saw the first one at aged five, I was blown away then and I am now by the fourth. On more than one occasion I will happily admit I was moved to tears during this film; the triumphs, the drama, the comedy and the reality of purpose this film conveys caps of what is a wonderful series of imaginative stories.

The animation looks real, something I noticed straight away. Pixar have done an awesome job in putting together the epitome of emotional story and childhood all rolled into a fun film!

You’ve got a friend in me….

5 Stars –  A must watch for everyone who likes the series…