Category Archives: Reviews

Fast Five Review: American Gods

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American Gods

Drama | Television Series | 2017
Reviewed by Jennifer

Shadow Moon embarks on a road trip across America with enigmatic conman Mr Wednesday. On their journey, Shadow discovers that Mr Wednesday is one of the old gods, who warns of a war brewing between the forgotten gods of myth and the new American gods of money, technology and media. As Shadow finds himself embroiled in this world of gods among men, he has a choice to make. Should he follow Mr Wednesday into battle and find out more about his own mysterious past or attempt to reconcile with his recently deceased wife, who has now returned from the grave?

1) Did you like it?

Yes. I loved the Neil Gaiman book it’s based on, and have been looking forward to the TV adaptation for a while. I think it was worth the wait, though I’m only about halfway through the series as I write this.

2) Why?

The original book of American Gods is a series of intricately woven, atmospheric, intertwined tales, with a grounding in history, religion and mythology, all held together by the main narrative. Book adaptations are always a bit of coin toss, and this one presents many challenges. But to my eyes, the TV series retains the nuances of the book – due in part, I’m sure, to the fact that Gaiman was involved in the screenwriting process. The characters look exactly the way I imagined, and the whole show is beautiful, visually.

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While the decision to create an R-rated show made with online streaming in mind may seem like a cynical attempt by Amazon to compete with Game of Thrones and the swarm of Netflix Originals, I think it was ultimately the right choice. Unlike a lot of screen adaptations (especially of graphic novels), American Gods retains the raw impact of the original story. The sex and violence is in context, and without it some of the characters just wouldn’t make sense.

3) You’ll enjoy this TV series if…

You like the urban fantasy genre – shows like Stranger Things, Grimm, The Dresden Files, etc. If you were a Buffy fan in your youth and are willing to take that extra step further into the darkness, this will probably take your fancy.

4) This TV series made me think about… 

The fairly new phenomenon of the R-rated TV series, with cinematic sensibilities. I’m glad I have a projector to watch this one on!

5) Stars out of five?

4-stars

Fast Five Review: Jasper Jones

jasperjonesblogbannerJasper Jones
Drama | 2017

One night in the scorching hot summer of 1969, outcast Jasper Jones knocks at Charlie Bucktin’s window and beckons Charlie to follow him into the bush, where Jasper reveals to Charlie evidence of a crime – a crime for which Jasper is sure to be blamed. It’s a secret that will change Jasper and Charlie’s lives forever…and will tear their small town apart.

1) Did you like it?

First up, it’s taken me a while to watch Jasper Jones because I really enjoyed the book (which was written by Craig Silvey and published in 2009, by the way) …and I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand bad adaptations of books I love. I get grumpy when filmmakers take too many liberties with books. Or play it safe, and follow the book too closely. In summary: I’m pretty picky.

So, with all that in mind: yes, I liked Jasper Jones.

2) Why?

The thing with Jasper Jones is that it’s a seriously complicated book, with subplots galore – and even though it juggles some pretty heavy themes, it’s also genuinely funny.

Of course, the film can’t capture every one of the book’s nuances and threads. That’s always the case with film adaptations. However, Jasper Jones does a really good job of capturing much of what makes the book unique. Sure, there are a few questions that the film doesn’t quite have time to answer, but for the most part, this is a faithful, careful adaptation that does its source material justice.

(In fact, there are even a couple of elements of this story that the film actually improves, like the relationship between Charlie and Eliza, and Toni Collette’s portrayal of Ruth, Charlie’s mum, brings a humanity to the character that didn’t seem as pronounced in the book.)jasperjonesimage1

3) You’ll enjoy this movie if…

…you loved the book. But that’s not to say that this will only be a hit with novel fans – it’s also set to become a classic in its own right.

4) This movie made me think about…

How rare (and welcome!) it is to encounter a good film adaptation of a much-loved book.

5) Overall rating?

4.5-stars

Fast Five Review: Ghost in the Shell

ghostintheshellbannerGhost in the Shell
Science Fiction, Action | 2017

Major Mira Killian is the first of her kind: a perfect, cybernetically enhanced soldier, designed to hunt down the world’s most dangerous criminals. When a new terrorist threat arises, Major is the perfect choice to stop it – but as she prepares to face her enemy, she uncovers secrets from her past that leave her reeling.

1) Did you like it?

Well look, it’s complicated. I came to this film with not much in the way of previous knowledge of Ghost in the Shell. This live action film is a reimagining of the classic 1995 anime version, considered a classic of the genre, which is in turn based on an earlier manga version.

What I do know about Ghost in the Shell is that casting Scarlett Johansson in the lead role – a character who was originally Japanese – was never going to be a good idea. And, without giving anything away, the film’s attempts to correct this misstep only make the problem so, soooo much worse.

Let’s just say right from the start that this is a movie with some pretty irredeemable flaws. There are brief glimpses of brilliance, but they’re few and far between.

2) Why?

One good thing about this film? It’s visually stunning. The opening sequence depicting the rebirth of Major Mira Killian – that’s Johansson’s character, by the way – will take your breath away. The world in which this film is set is one of holographic advertising, vying for space with towering skyscrapers and ordinary people trying to make a living. It’s all very pretty. And pretty familiar.

ghostintheshellagainThere’s more to world-building than just throwing in a tonne of CGI. Compare this movie to The Fifth Element or Blade Runner, for instance – they’re also films set in sprawling metropolises, but they actually made you feel what it was like to be a part of that world. That’s the thing with this film – there’s not much in the way of atmosphere. Oddly, for a movie about ghosts and shells; souls and machines, Ghost in the Shell often feels as hollow as a chocolate bunny. Ironic, huh?

3) You’ll enjoy this movie if…

Fans of The Matrix are going to love this film. Consider this The Matrix re-Reloaded.  Action lovers will also get a kick out of Ghost in the Shell. Its action scenes are slick – and frequent.

4) This movie made me think about…

When’s the new Blade Runner film coming out again? Is it soon?? I hope they don’t mess it up. Will there ever be a Neuromancer film? Also, how amazing is Scarlett Johansson’s hair?

ghostintheshell3 ghostintheshell25) Overall rating?

Five stars for Scarlett Johansson’s hair…two for the film.

2-stars

 

Fast Five Review: The Boss Baby

thebossbabyThe Boss Baby
Animated | 2017

Tim is perfectly fine being an only child, thank you very much. His parents work hard as the marketing managers at Puppy Co, makers of the cutest puppies in the world, but they somehow always have time for Tim. That’s until one day, Tim’s baby brother arrives – a baby dressed in a suit, with a briefcase by his side. Suddenly, Tim’s not the centre of his parents’ universe any more. But when Tim learns that the evil CEO of Puppy Co is hatching a plan to put Baby Corps, the celestial factory where babies are made, out of business, he must team up with The Boss Baby to save the day. 

1) Did you like it?

I really wanted to – after all, this is a Dreamworks film: the people who brought us classics like Shrek and Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon. Which is why it bugs me to say – no, I really didn’t like this film.

2) Why?

I know, right? A cute baby! In a suit! Voiced by Alec Baldwin! What’s not to like? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is “pretty much everything else”. This whole film is constructed on a really flimsy premise, with a bizarre plot that feels like it was pulled from thin air to justify making a movie with Alec Baldwin as a suit-wearing baby.

The thing with The Boss Baby is that it’s just too weird. That’s not to say that kids’ films can’t be surreal – look at Up, for example…if you can get though the first ten minutes without passing out due to feels-related dehydration. The Boss Baby is rife with plotholes and oddly jarring moments that don’t feel as if they were fully thought through – like the scene where Tim is about to catapult his baby brother from a second storey window. Kinda disturbing, from an adult perspective. But there’s not that much here for kids, either, because a lot of the film’s humour centres around parodies of films that kids won’t have seen. So yeah – I’m not quite sure who this film is for, but it’s not for me.

3) You’ll enjoy this movie if…

The one thing The Boss Baby does have going for it? It’s a cute story about sibling rivalry that just might help kids come to term with the arrival of a newborn brother or sister.

4) This movie made me think about…

Way too much, unfortunately. For instance: Tim’s parents are the marketing managers at Puppy Co, but they don’t own a dog?

5) Overall rating:

2.5-stars

Fast Five Review: The Lego Batman Movie

LegoBatmanBannerThe Lego Batman Movie
Animated | 2017

From the team who brought you The Lego Movie comes a new film starring everyone’s favourite sarcastic superhero: Lego Batman. The Joker has hatched a maniacal plan to flood the streets of Gotham City with all the meanest, baddest villains of all time…and it just might work! If Batman is going to save the day this time, he’s going to need to get used to something he’s not going to like: teamwork.

1) Did you like it?

As someone who really loved The Lego Movie, this film had me a little worried. You know what they say about sequels, right? They’re never as good as the original film? And the thing is, The Lego Batman Movie isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, but it definitely comes very close. And, as far as I’m concerned, a film that’s almost as good as an excellent film is still pretty amazing!

2) Why?

Just like the first Lego Movie, this film is ridiculously fun. It’s got great characters, hilarious jokes, non-stop action and a cute story. You could say everything about this film is…well, awesome! I won’t ramble on – just watch it!

3) You’ll enjoy this movie if…

The Lego Batman Movie is packed with genuine, laugh-a-minute humour that’s perfectly suited to adults and kids alike. It’s got something for everyone.

4) This movie made me think about…

I have to be honest, this movie was so much fun, I didn’t do that much in the way of thinking – I just sat back and enjoyed the film. Which is exactly what I wanted!

5) Overall rating:

4-stars