I have very little to say on this one. If you have seen the trailers of the film then I can tell you that you already have a solid grasp of the film’s tone and quality: it’s a kids film that gets dangerously close to being extremely adult, it does a wonderful job of bringing pokemon to life and blending them with reality without it feeling outlandish. It’s still a film for kids, so don’t be surprised when the plot is predictable and those elements presented as twists are conspicuous from a mile away, I was only surprised once, and I’ll save commenting on it until I’ve put up a spoiler tag.
As a 90’s kid (by technicality, didn’t live through enough of the 80’s to get the memes) I was raised to expect a very different sound coming from a Bulbasaur, but watching a troupe of them skipping through a stream was an absolute delight. I know I’m not alone in noticing a lack in diversity in the different types of pokemon on screen across the film, and considering that the number of pokemon and number of real species are starting to meet in the middle that lack of diversity is very conspicuous, multiple slakings, a lot of joltics, a lot of greninjas, a lot of panchams a lot of doduos and dodrios, and in most cases I’m not talking about them having a major screen presence, a lot of this is background material too.
I wanted to complain about the excessively fluffy pikachu, not the most rodent-like of fur, I was expecting something sleeker, but gengar took care of that for me, I genuinely loved the the depiction of gengar. It was about as family friendly as I’ll accept without being as harrowingly dark as I’d have liked, but all-in-all stunning. Actually every depiction of pokemon abilities was made realistic with no effort, making for a surprisingly immersive experience given the source material.
Odd question, is this a video game film?
And yes I know about the 3DS game, and yes the storyline is broadly lifted from the title of the same name. But Detective Pikachu is not that well known so far as the franchise goes, and while being based in the world, does not adhere to any of the mechanics that make the franchise great, it’s closer to a point-and-click. Even then, is it fair to compare it to other video game films?
I don’t think it is but hear me out! Detective Pikachu is filled with references, no two ways about that, but most of them come from the anime (and one Home Alone reference), like the entire Mewtwo narrative, a lot of the background details, kicking the magikarp, the squirtle squad, shamelessly heavy use of the theme tune. I noticed a couple of video game references beyond the fact that both this and the anime are based on a game franchise, the snorlax blocking traffic, and the background details. But here I think is a film based on an anime… based on a video game. In either case I think it’s a little unfair to include this in the discussion around video games and films.
The storyline – oh spoilers by the way – is shockingly noir! A street drug that enhances the aggression of pokemon for combat, a suspicious corporation and a contract that goes sideways, the journalist and her self-destructive pursuit of a story that nearly gets her killed. A ramped-up ditto shapeshifts into people, and not only does it make everyone you encounter highly suspicious, it’s also profoundly creepy when you see people with ditto-eyes. When Bill Nighy takes over the mind of Mewtwo, it’s a beautiful match-up of voice and character that I did not anticipate, and while it’s easy to predict his “turn for the evil” from his scene in the office, I still loved his dark mastermind moment at the finale.
Spoilers over but to be honest so is the review. I genuinely have little to say on Detective Pikachu but that may be the biggest compliment I have for it. I’m accomplished at complaining, and tend to be at my most verbose when irritated. This isn’t an unforgettable experience, nor would I advocate rushing to the cinema for it, but it’s certainly worth a watch and deserves all the praise it’s had so far, and Ryan Reynolds crying his way through “I Want To Be The Very Best” is a moment I think deserves to be well remembered in cinema and pokemon history.
In 2019, we should be getting a Sonic the Hedgehog movie. In principle, this is a good thing. The blue blazer has been part of video game history since the early 90’s. However when Paramount got ahold of Sonic, you’d have thought it’d have translated fairly easily. There’s an already well established cast, a simple but fun protagonist and lots of reference artwork… But yet, it still went wrong, didn’t it?
Trailers for this film immediately caught my eye, a psychedelic trip-fest of colours and sounds that screams “art and sci-fi are at it again”. It was a film I immediately knew I had to watch in the cinema to get the full experience, but even if I’d had the time to do so (life is hard, and full of stuff) I would never have got the chance. Annihilation saw theatrical release in America only and digital distribution via Netflix everywhere else.
We’ve been robbed of one hell of a spectacle, not just a visually stunning film but artistically rich. I have a rant on this that I’ll save for another time, for today let me get into Annihilation: (more…)
This will be a relatively short review, as from the perspective of a white British man there’s not an awful lot to comment on. This is a Marvel origin story, in the vein of Ant Man and Doctor Strange, it brings to light a character that has seen little screen time and attention in the past, and while we have met T’Challa before and know the basics of the Black Panther (at least from the MCU perspective) he’s still a relative unknown compared to the likes of Spidey and Iron Man.
Still, from someone with little investiture in African and African-American culture there was a lot to enjoy, remark upon and unpack. I am calling a Minor Spoiler warning but*… well I’ll get to that in a little while. (more…)
In 2016 New Line Cinema released a full length feature based on a short horror video that went viral back in 2013, Lights Out. If you’re not already familiar with it I’ve included it below, the premise is brilliantly simple and it’s little wonder that the idea caught the attention of big studios. I’m a big fan of the power of small creators getting their voices heard on the internet and making it big, it gives me hope, and kudos to David F. Sandburg for achieving what some of us can only dream about, but moving on from that optimistic tidbit.
Incidentally, the feature length version as it turns out is pretty good. So far as a short review goes, I’m glad they gave the director a decent shot and a good budget, and I hope it means more work for him in future. If I may remark on a couple of missteps that most of us could see coming, he uses the time to give the monster backstory and personality that she was scarier without. Still, he plays with the concept well, gets in a few good jump scares with that simple tension building technique. Moving on to the point I was getting to…
Increasingly we are seeing a problem emerging from the internet and it is the matter of copyright ownership, following the line of money and the source of creation, especially when an idea can spread faster than fire and inject itself so deep into the social consciousness that it becomes just another part of speech and of the way we interact with one another, terms like “trolling” are common parlance, internet celebrities becoming real celebrities, we are seizing the means of entertainment. Lights Out is a great example of this done well, YouTubers and Viners making it onto TV, musicians starting with internet distribution.
But there remains one very serious lack in communication and understanding, a generational gap at times, at others an apparently wilful spreading of misinformation to discredit the new kid on the block. Either way it usually ends up as a laughable disappointment, like parents trying their hardest to be “down with the kids”. Remember the CNN report about the hacker 4chan? It’s long established the memes die when pop culture grabs hold of it.
So next we come to Slender Man.
I love the internet’s bogeyman. As a huge Lovecraft fan I find myself wondering if he were alive today how close his creations would have come to that mysterious entity* that exists on the periphery of vision, and whose malevolence is only subject to conjecture. In his most popular depictions (the video game, the marblehornets series) he is seen as the classic “faceless pursuer” of nightmares, a warped depiction of a person devoid of features that we know instinctively to fear without ever really knowing exactly why we should fear him. We’re powerless, uncomprehending, and as good as dead.
The original creepypasta was the creation of Eric Knudson, but the concept has evolved, an idea that has grown bigger and bigger as more minds contributed to it; to say that it belongs to “us” may be a little (incredibly) overzealous, but is it something that should be in the hands of a big studio, and if they bring it to the screen do they then own it? So far the trailer has demonstrated… what?
Well, so far it all seems very mysterious I suppose, but the imagery thusfar has been that of the generically creepy, nonspecific flashes of insects, blood, surgery, teenagers compulsively writing and doing dangerous things with sharp objects, a teaser of a girl presenting something to police officers. The story will centre around a group of girls under The Operator’s control a la marblehornets, which is the second part of my problem.
General suspicions of corporate media groups aside, teenage girls, images of bloody violence and death, and Slender Man? Now I believe that no subject should be sacred, not even a word, it weaponizes it, makes it dangerous in its own right. Nevertheless, this does seem to cut close to the murders committed on behalf of a fictional character in 2014, no matter how disturbed the perpetrators may have been, it feels a little too “sensational” to make a supernatural thriller that plays into the fantasies behind a real crime.
I am not accusing anyone of sensationalising a crime, and after four years then perhaps it has been long enough. The proof will be in the proverbial pudding of course, if sufficient details are changed and enough common sense used then we may have an incredible creation on our hands, the culmination of countless creative hands creating a mythology so potent that it becomes as much a part of folklore as bigfoot.
Otherwise we have Snakes On a Plane meets True Crime.
*Despite the fact that such questions are completely counter to my views on causality.
The word “prequel” sends shivers down the spine of every fan of an IP, be it book, film, game, or otherwise. Not the good kind of shivers either. But once in a while we are spared our apprehension and given that rare and wonderful thing, an enjoyable prequel that serves the original well.
Now, let us be clear that we are in no way saying that these prequels are better than their original properties, just that they did a good job of trying to tell the story before the story starts. They might make us see the original in a totally different way, add context, close plotholes, or just be fun to watch in their own right. With that in mind let us get into our Top 10 Good Prequels.
10) The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Starting with an unusual one, the video games Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena were highly regarded, in fact by many they’re regarded as being better than the films, detailing the bloody escape from triple max prison of one Richard B Riddick, earning him the infamy he boasts from Pitch Black onwards.
Graphics are very early 00’s, but Starbreeze delivered an excellent stealth/action game with some of the best voice acting from Diesel himself, Ron Perlman, and Michael Rooker. Riddick is easily a better game character than film character, but I still love Pitch Black and damn you if you say otherwise.
9) Star Trek: Enterprise
Enterprise was set before the events of the original series, and over the course of its four seasons we witness the dawn of teleporters, the coming together of species (politically and physically), the foundations of the prime directive, and humanity finding its place among the older space faring races.
It stands among the greats, with incredible stories, performances, and characters, lending new insights into the Star Trek universe and creating something new and enjoyable in the process. Captain Archer may not stand up to Picard, Kirk or Sisco (sorry Janeway, but… y’know) but he’s still an excellent centerpiece for characters who are the equal of any other Starfleet crew. And Floxx is a comedic masterpiece.
8) X-Men: First Class
The X-Men series of films doesn’t get enough love. No really, they don’t – There were a few rough films (and the more of us that forget about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the better.) However, what the X-Men series has always managed to achieve is a wealth of excellent characters introduced in a relatively simple to understand plot. The overall plot is convoluted, but each contained story within is easy to digest.
As such, when the X-Men franchise got a soft reboot in the form of a sort of prequel, it’s no wonder that it did so well. Of course, First Class isn’t the only prequel in the series – There are a number of them, including: X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse and next year we’ll be treated to X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
The series is always a joy to watch, even if I personally think they’ll never beat X-2.
7) Hannibal – The TV Series
Here I profess to having never watched Hannibal, but I’m willing to concede public opinion when I’m repeatedly told that something is worth a watch. While no one will best Anthony Hopkins for portraying the cannibalistic gentleman, of those who could at least make an effort Mads Mikkelsen must surely be near the top of the list.
In his three seasons he is truly sinister and charismatic, and in the role of a psychologist turned serial-killer-coach it seems the part is almost tailored to him. The series serves as a prequel to Red Dragon, before even the novels, telling some of the early tales of the famous man-eater, telling an original story without compromising the original creation.
6) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Long before the events of Harry Potter, the wizarding world was still just as dangerous and as magical. In America, the No-Maj, or Muggles as we in England refer to them, lived somewhat obliviously to the magical world around them. Although in England the events of all things magical happen in their own secluded areas, such as Hogwarts or otherwise. No instead, the wizarding world is hidden in plain sight.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a huge success, breathing new life into a franchise which had seemingly reached its apex. Where the series goes from here will be wild and wonderful – But it’s fascinating how many more tales from the wizarding world that J K Rowling could venture down, as some of the stories could be exceptional.
5) Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Before the movie, the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t quite as Wicked as she became. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch as we know her, is actually not all that wicked as we’re first made to believe in the original Wizard of Oz. In fact, she’s interested in the politics of the land of Oz and it turns out that treachery and deception makes her the way that she is – The green skinned witch.
Wicked became a play, many, many years after the release of the novel. Not only was it a play, it was a hugely successful one. With a film on the way in 2019, if you’ve not had the opportunity to check this out, I’d highly recommend looking out for the film in the coming years. It’s going to be wicked!
4) Monsters University
Without question, this was the prequel that inspired the list, and may even be the best prequel I have ever seen. We bring together Sully and Mike at University, and while it may not be easy for John Goodman and Billy Crystal to play teenagers, the characters are brilliantly rolled back to their younger and more arrogant selves. Mike is the nerd with delusions of grandeur, Sully is the lazy jock getting through on a scholarship he doesn’t deserve.
Watching the two overcome their differences to work together and bring their new friends from the bottom to the top of the MU pecking order casts new light upon their tight friendship at work many years later. Ok, so it’s a classic college film, the Dean is mean but ends up friendly, the mismatched pair get dumped with the frat of underdogs and losers, but come out on top. But with monsters! And Nathan Fillion!
3) Samurai X
Before the days of Rurouni Kenshin, the samurai was a lot more dark and gritty than we could ever have imagined. With the release of a 4 episode special known as Samurai X, we learned a lot about the dark past of the character, along with a perfect lead into the first episode of the highly popular anime. It was bloody, it was gritty and yes, Samurai X is one of the best anime prequels released.
I’d personally so far as to say it’s the best anime prequel – Granted it doesn’t have huge catalogues of other anime to go through with a prequel. In fact, off the top of my head, the only other anime I had was Dragon Ball Z’s Bardock. However, Samurai X was such a grim retelling, it made for most-see viewing. It’s stylish, it’s dark and yes, it’s everything you’d want from a story about samurai.
2) Star Wars Rogue One
I don’t think any of us expected to see episode 1-3 on this list, simply not going to happen. Rogue One on the other hand fed perfectly into the beginning of episode 4, and gave us a new hope (hah!) for the reign of Disney over the property. The elite force sent to gather the plans for the Empire’s new superweapon were always doomed to a tragic end, but the journey taken is nothing short of epic.
The film throws the evils of the Empire into far harsher relief than we have seen elsewhere, families torn apart, the oppression of an omnipresent regime, cities stripped of their wealth and then destroyed with space lasers, so that to hear Luke talking about joining the Rebels makes him seem a little more noble, and a lot more naive, unaware of the kind of horrors that he is putting himself against.
1) Castlevania III – Dracula’s Curse
WHAT IS A MAN?!
Well before Simon Belmont became a fixture name in Castlevania, there was a name even more powerful in the Belmont family. Trevor. Trevor Belmont was the first man to go and take down the evil Dracula. Say what you will about Castlevania, but it’s a franchise that not only has stood the test of the time, but it is partially responsible for creating a genre that is still inspiring games today with Metroidvania.
Frequently getting into Top 10 lists for Best NES games ever released, Castlevania III introduced some amazing new mechanics, such as mid-air jumping and wall climbing in the form of Grant Danasty. Along with Trevor, being able to switch between companions is a hugely important addition to the franchise – Without this game, we’d probably not have seen any more continuations of the legendary Castlevania series.
Some things are just good – No matter how you look at it. Some things are good, but sorta not quite on the level as the above list. Whatever you think about our next two entries, they both were definitely well received additions to their respective franchises.
Bit of a polarising one, and would have been considerably less so if the practical effects work in the film had been left broadly untouched, because a lot of effort had been made to ape the style of the 1982 horror masterpiece. The 2011 prequel was actually very well written and directed, but there’s no question that thanks to studio fiddling it became a poster child for the evils of CGI against practical puppetry.
There’s still the air of mistrust and suspicion, and the terror of the beast. Watching it embrace someone and absorb him into its amorphous mass is grisly, and you feel the fear on the poor man’s face as he’s devoured. Watching someone’s head split open to reveal the lashing tendrils and rows of wicked teeth, knowing that three people are trapped in a helicopter with it is a tense moment unmatched in the ‘82 film. The CGI took a hefty chunk out of the enjoyability of The Thing prequel, but give it another shot, it’s still a damn good film.
Puss in Boots
When Shrek 2 came out, everybody was infatuated with the newest (and sassiest) character introduced. It was the lovable little orange fuzzball himself; Puss in Boots! We all loved him, from his cute eyes, to that little hat and the boots he wore. Oh and it helps that this cat bites back, with a razor sharp tongue and an equally as dangerous rapier. Yes, Puss in Boots is cute but deadly!
Of course, the Puss in Boots standalone film was considered a success. Similar to how the Minions movie was out not too long ago, there seems to be something to be said about lovable, cuddly mascot characters and their own films. Sure, Puss in Boots wasn’t anything special, but it gave you a bit more story about him in his own adventure.
Extra Honourable Mention
I knew I wanted to get a mention in to this film, because this is incredibly convoluted… And I wasn’t a fan of the film/s, but I know people who are fans of it… So I’m playing devil’s advocate today and giving an extra honourable mention to:
The Desolation of Smaug – What a fantastic title for a film! Of course, The Hobbit is a relatively average sized novel, featuring Bilbo Baggins and a crew of Dwarves. They go on journeys with Bilbo, who happens to be a Master Thief, in an attempt to save the Dwarves home. With the evil, dangerous Smaug in their home, it was up to Bilbo to steal a specific item to draw Smaug out so the Dwarves could reclaim their home.
It’s not a genius story and, in terms of chronological order, it was indeed a prequel to The Lord of the Rings… However, it’s not a prequel! The Hobbit was written first. When we came to Peter Jackson’s vision of the stories, he chose The Lord of the Rings to be translated to film. Then, many years on, he chose to go to The Hobbit to be the next trilogy. If only it was translated to one film.
So yes: It’s a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but it’s actually not a prequel, as it was written first. So there!
If you thought I was originally good, you should have seen me before the original me! Whether or not you’re a fan of prequels, or if you think they’re a blatant way to spin some extra cash out of a story, they’ve been around for some time – and they won’t leave us any time soon. However, we’re now in the Christmas season – You know what that means, right? From next week onwards, our Top 10’s will be somewhat festive! Help us choose the first of our Festive Top 10’s:
That’s it for another week, we’ve gone back and re-examined the past and we’ve come to the conclusion that it was good. The future looks great, but the past was just stellar. But, what did you think of our Top 10 list this week? As always, if you think we missed any great options out, then let us know. Did we get the order right, or did we mess that up? As always, let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.
It looks like the Warner Bros/Lego tag-team might have a far grander future ahead of them than expected. It might also be the salvation of DC on the big screen, if a somewhat comical take.
Lego Batman was something of a breakout star in the original Lego Movie (2014), perhaps based on Will Arnett‘s performance, more likely the epic song he wrote. LB is a perfect and childish parody of the comic-book Dark Knight, blending in the campy Caped Crusader, we saw him initially to be an overblown stereotype of dark and brooding, playing off every move he makes as super-cool and totally intentional, and to my mind the writers used the members of the Justice League perfectly. Green Lantern’s powers are pointless in a world where anyone can create anything, and the innate magic of imagination basically renders Superman useless, Wonder Woman is probably fine, but the ingenuity and creativity of Batman makes him the perfect Master Builder, although one with a limited colour palette. (more…)
I am not a Star Wars fan.
The film is not without it’s flaws of course, and I must admit that the flaws in Rogue One are rather glaring, but set within one of the darkest and most gripping sci-fi adventures I have ever seen.
As part of this review I will be limiting most of my examples to the temple of Jedha. It’s early enough in the film to keep this nice and spoiler-free, and the scenes in Jedha are a perfect microcosm of Rogue One as a whole. (more…)
The legendary festive demon is making something of a resurgence, especially as more and more of us become increasingly jaded towards the consumerism of the season and start to wish for a giant goat-man to come and stuff the mean people into a big sack and drag them away.
Sadly I’m not even sure the 2015 family horror film Krampus ever made it to my local cinema, which is a shame, because the trailer had me immediately curious. I’m a fan of the mythology, and I was more than a little curious as to what could be made from it. Having seen it, I think I still have a lot more to be curious about. (more…)