Saturday, 24 August 2019

July Phones Video Round UP!


Have you watched our July Phone review yet?


More pop up cameras, notches and bezzle-less screens to come this month! Join Lewis, as he looks and the latest and greatest July had to offer when it comes to phones! On this instalment, we have:

Xiaomi Mi 9T / Motorola Moto Z4  / Samsung Galaxy A30

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Friday, 23 August 2019

July TV / Movie Video Round UP


Have you watched our July  TV / Movie review yet?


Captain Marvel is here to save the day! Join Sam as he takes a look at what else July had to offer:

Captain Marvel / Alita: Battle Angel / Dumbo / Chernobyl HBO Series

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Thursday, 22 August 2019

July Xbox Video Round UP


Have you watched our July Xbox review yet?


Our July round-ups continue with Lewis, and his review of the latest and greatest the Xbox has to offer for last month:

Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle / Wolfenstein: Youngblood / FIA European Truck Racing Championship

Which was your favourite game this month?

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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

July PlayStation Video Round UP


Have you watched our July PlayStation review yet?



Summer holidays are here and so are our July round-ups! Jake is here once again with the latest & greatest that PS4 has to offer! Last month, we saw the release of:

Wolfenstein: Youngblood / Dragon Quest Builders 2 / Kill la Kill the Game: IF


Which was your favourite game this June?

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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Manifest: S01 ★★★☆☆


With a massive ensemble cast, a vaguely religious theme, and a story surrounding a mysterious commercial plane, NBC’s Manifest can’t help but draw comparisons to Lost. The story follows the passengers and crew of Montego Air Flight 828, reappearing five years after the flight first set off with no warning. 

They were suspected to have perished in a crash, which leads to the question; what the hell happened? Were they snapped by Thanos, or have they been co-opted into some madcap government experiment? Are they stuck in another universe, or could it be purgatory? Anything but the last one is fine by me, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a while to get anything remotely close to a satisfactory answer.


Many of those who were left behind have moved on with their lives, leading to problems for the passengers who were flying from Jamaica to New York. Can they reconnect with family after mysteriously disappearing for five-and-a-half-years, and what can you do if your spouse leaves you for your best friend in the meantime? The narrative flips between various members of the 200 strong cast, but the overarching mystery is likely to be the aspect that will keep you hooked. Melissa Roxburgh and Josh Dallas receive top billing, although the first episodes skip to different passengers and interested parties regularly. Saanvi Bahl (Parveen Kaur) was working on a pediatric cancer treatment that has been since been released, while Daryl Edwards is NSA director Robert Vance, trying to figure out just what is really going on. 

It’s a bit schlocky in places, with thick dialogue that isn’t exactly subtle. Given the scale of the story, these are teething problems that could be necessary as pieces are set into place. Creator Jeff Rake has planned for six seasons, and he’s opted for a slow-burning approach to storytelling. With 16 episodes to get through, it can be a slog considering the incremental gains, and there’s always a chance that it could be cancelled before the mystery is explained entirely. NBC has confirmed a second season is in the works along with two others, so you’ll get some answers if you’re willing to stick it out. In an unexpected turn, the passengers begin to hear voices, and it feels like dialogue issues could be due to heavy foreshadowing and necessary character placement to get it all to work. It’s still early days, and they now have the security of over 30 additional episodes to push the story forward.


Manifest is slowly picking up steam, and it’s a ratings hit in the US. While all of the questions raised will inevitably need to be answered at some point, that’s a problem that can be pushed off until sometime in the future. It’s nowhere near as gripping as the beginning of Lost, although it could potentially have a better ending. If I could time skip five years I could tell you if it’s worth watching, but I’d be more interested in finding out how and why I was suddenly in 2024.


★★★☆☆
James Millin-Ashmore



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Saturday, 6 July 2019

The Secret Life of Pets 2 ★★☆☆☆


The Secret Life of Pets 2 is a decent kids film, and I’ve seen my fair share over the past couple of years. I’ve arguably seen a few too many, and I made the mistake of rewatching Up a day before watching Pets 2. The balloon-fueled drama filled my mind for long intervals during the latter, and it made it hard to judge the more recent animation by any fair metric. In comparison, Pets 2 is a hastily cobbled sequel that doesn’t match up by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not completely dire.


The original Secret Life of Pets was a massive commercial success back in 2016, earning $875.5 million from a budget of $75 million. It’s no wonder Illumination decided to make a sequel, even if they didn’t really have a compelling story to tell. Your children will be happy to hear that *Max and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) are back for the second instalment, which now has a trio of stories. 

The main arc sees the cowardly pooch in the lead role struggling with overprotectiveness as toddler Liam begins to grow up. Side plots involve Gidget (Jenny Slate), who is busy trying to rescue Max’s favourite toy from a crazy cat lady’s house, and Kevin Hart’s rabbit superhero Snowball who decides to rescue an abused white tiger. He’s assisted by Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), and Harrison Ford joins the cast as surly sheepdog Rooster. The A, B and C plots eventually intertwine with fairly amusing consequences.

*Louis C.K no longer reprises the role of Max, given the multiple sexual harassment allegations he faced in 2017. Instead, Patton Oswalt takes up the mantle.

Most of the runtime is dedicated to showing Max attempting to get used to the child that his owners have thrust into his life. He soon becomes too anxious and is forced to wear the “cone of shame” as he struggles to adjust. It’s easy to empathise with his inability to deal with upheaval, but it isn’t really explored deeply. (Which is fair enough, given the target audience is younger children.) Each branch of the story is watchable, although it does start to lack direction by the midway point. You’ll watch a series of events happen in each of the plots, and there are a fair amount of laughs in between. Action sequences see monkeys and cannons in a circus-themed battle towards the end, but it does feel a little lopsided considering the talents of the cast.


It’s not a low-budget animation by any means, but it doesn’t compare to a typical Pixar offering in terms of humour, emotion, storytelling or visual quality.

Fans of the first should be happy enough to see their favourites return, and most children will be satisfied by the time the credits are rolling. So will most adults, but probably for different reasons. It’s worth mentioning that for such a short film (86 minutes), I lost count of how many times I glanced at my phone to see how long was left to go. It’s still half decent overall, but Pets 2 doesn’t really improve on the original in any meaningful way.

★★☆☆☆
James Millin-Ashmore



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Friday, 5 July 2019

Batman VS TMNT ★★★★☆


After the terrifying graphics and shoddy delivery of Michael Bay’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ in 2014, I’ve not ventured much further into the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ franchise. I’ll admit, I had to pause for a moment when I saw ‘Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. I’d completely forgotten that there was a whole comic miniseries dedicated to this concept, and seeing it again made me realise just how bizarre the mash-up sounds. DC’s serious and brooding Batman mixed with Nickelodeon’s hyped up and pizza-loving turtle brothers… Could this really work?


Set in Gotham, Batman (Troy Baker, who also voices The Joker), Robin (Ben Giroux), and Batgirl (Rachel Bloom) are investigating a series of high-tech thefts from various research centres in the area. The evidence suggests ninjas, however, Batman and team aren’t exactly sure who they are. Leonardo (Eric Bauza), Donatello (Baron Vaughn), Raphael (Darren Criss), and Michelangelo (Kyle Mooney) are hot on the scene having arrived from New York City, and they conclude that this mysterious bat-cloaked figure has something to do with the thefts. After a couple of misunderstandings, the brothers and the Bat realise they’re both on the same side, and team up to stop the thefts from threatening the very existence of Gotham.

I actually can’t believe how well this animation has worked out – it could have fallen completely flat, but director Jake Castorena and writers Marly Halpern-Graser, James Tynion IV have done a seriously good job here. The turtle brothers are brought to life in the film, their personalities shining through the script. This doesn’t take away from the Batman feel of it though, with that side of things equally strong. The two teams having to pair up is quite interesting and, although this type of plot (two completely different styles working together) has been done thousands of time before, it actually feels fresh.

One thing I really appreciated was the commentary from the turtles as they travel around Gotham. Their constant observations reinforce exactly what the audience is thinking – Gotham is a seriously weird place. The way they bounce off the Gotham residents leads to character development on both sides, and there’s so many memorable one-liners that inject lots more humour than you might expect, plus of course lots of slapstick from Michelangelo which I thought wouldn’t work but really did.

The other thing that really stands out is the fighting, with excellent choreography that demonstrates different fighting styles on both sides. It really brings the animation to life, from the scene where Batman and the turtles fight to a gripping battle between Batman and one of the main antagonists towards the end of the story. I found that it was much more well-choreographed than other animations in the DC universe, and because of the turtle brothers’ martial fighting style, more attention is paid to this than usual. Sometimes I find the fighting scenes to be a little lacklustre and dull compared to the more story-progressive parts, but this was certainly not the case this time around.


‘Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ was an animation that I didn’t have massively high hopes for and if I’m honest, was a little bit worried about. Thankfully it far surpassed my expectations, delivering a seriously fun and refreshing crossover that managed to make a fairly average plot into a story I’d happily recommend to fans of either universe.

★★★★☆
Hannah Read



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Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Sinking City ★★☆☆☆


Out now, ‘The Sinking City’ is an open-world action-adventure horror game played in the third person. The game is created by Frogwares, who are probably most known for their work on their ‘Sherlock Holmes’ series of games. They are an indie studio and mainly develop what you would call AA games, which typically have a much smaller budget than most large developers.


‘The Sinking City’ is their first real foray into the horror genre - not just any horror, but the wonderful Lovecraftian style.  I was quite hesitant at first when I began playing as I was sorely disappointed ‘Call Of Cthulu’, another Lovecraftian horror that was out last year. Upon beginning the game the style and detail in the world is immediately apparent, and if the developer has done one thing right it’s that the game is gorgeous and really evokes Lovecraft.

Of course, like many games in this style, you play as a detective trying to solve mysteries and you are always treading the line between sanity and insanity in your own mind whilst suffering from terrible visions. If I’m honest it felt a little bit like deja vu as this is a theme and story that has been tried many times before, not just within gaming but other forms of media as well. Luckily, the characters of the game and the twisting story was compelling enough that it was able to pull ahead of the crowd and feel a bit more unique than it could have done.

The real issue with ‘The Sinking City’ is that the actual mechanics of playing the game feels very… off.  The combat feels like an afterthought, perhaps something that was tacked on – as if the developer needed the player to be doing something in-between cutscenes and dialogue. Frogwares created such a stunning and detailed world in the fictional city of Oakmont, but what you actually end up doing in the city feels lacklustre. This is worsened still by the fact that the protagonist is supposed to have a long military history, so frankly I expected him to have better combat skills than the ones displayed.

Even as you gain skills throughout the game you never really feel powerful in any way.  Thankfully the difficulty setting of normal, which most players will play the game on, is quite easy and the A.I didn't give too much of a problem on there, but it’s not too good for those who want both a challenge and the feeling that they’re really doing well.  There was also a lack of enemy types and boss characters throughout, which I felt was actually quite odd considering the genre.


It really does feel like the developer would have been better suited to creating more of an interactive story type game instead of an action open world. I’m not suggesting that aspirations aren’t a good thing when developing a game, but perhaps this also would have suited their budget better.

Ultimately, the story and characters of ‘The Sinking City’ are the one shining light in an otherwise underwhelming experience. The game is being sold at a price expected for AAA games and feels a bit too much for me. If it was priced at around £30 then I think this would be well worth the asking price, but I can’t recommend the game for anything more than that. Wait until it’s on sale, or buy second-hand instead.

★★☆☆☆
Hannah Read



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Monday, 1 July 2019

Judgement ★★★☆☆


‘Judgment’ is the latest game published by SEGA and is a semi-open world action-adventure game set in the same universe as the ‘Yakuza’ franchise. The ‘Yakuza’ franchise has a cult following (and rightly so) and is lauded for its story and strange activities that you can do in the world. This isn’t the first time a spin-off has been made from ‘Yakuza’ as there games such as ‘Yakuza: Dead Souls’ and of course ‘Fist of the North Star’. Although they were all serviceable for what they were, the spin-offs never reached the same level of acclaim as the mainline games.


‘Judgment’ may be set in the same world as ‘Yakuza’ but it is vastly different story-wise.  Instead of playing as Kiryu (a retired Yakuza trying to get away from the crime world) you play as an ex-lawyer turned detective who is trying to solve a case of serial killings. As a detective, you’ll find that you will be doing very similar things that you would be in ‘Yakuza’.  There are many cutscenes, as to be expected, and the game looks stunning when compared to ‘Yakuza 6’.  In between this, you will spend 50% of your time fighting and 50% exploring and doing detective work.

If you have played a ‘Yakuza’ game before and loved the fighting then you will no doubt enjoy this one. In a similar vein, you fight with the several styles that are available and will be hitting many enemies in the face with bikes or other various items – something I must admit I don’t really get bored of! 

In a way, this is slightly off-putting at first because ‘Judgment’ isn’t the bombastic and sometimes crazy game that ‘Yakuza’ is.  The story is very intimate and there are fewer explosive events leading into each other.  Mixing what is a serious story with the over the top combat of ‘Yakuza’ is somewhat jarring.

That being said the fighting is so much fun that you can end up getting lost in it, desperate to look for fights and increase your skill as you explore Kamurocho. And of course, away from the main story, there are some hilarious and intriguing side missions to complete that I won’t spoil here. It’s not as bizarre as ‘Yakuza’, as I’ve mentioned, but there are certainly some interesting aspects to it.


The other half of the game is more detective-style, with many parts focused around accusing others and making objectives in a courtroom-style situation and unfortunately, the mini-games and actions that you do aren’t nearly fleshed out enough for them to matter.  None of the things you do really add to the overall experience in any positive way and end up feeling like an add-on to a ‘Yakuza’ game to make itself seem unique. I also felt that it was all a bit too familiar – like with the ‘Yakuza’ series, ‘Judgment’ is set entirely in Kamurocho and I think being able to visit some other locations would have helped to spice it up a bit and keep it fresh.

The game itself is very fun to play, especially when you are doing what the ‘Yakuza’ developers do best (fighting), but unfortunately, the game does fall flat in several areas and I found this to impact how I enjoyed the game. If you are a fan of the ‘Yakuza’ series though there is definitely lots to love here and I could see this game developing its own kind of cult following – just perhaps not quite as big as its older brother.

★★★☆☆
Hannah Read



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Friday, 28 June 2019

Take your games to infinity... AND BEYOND at CeX!


Toy Story 4 is out today so we are paying tribute to the great Pixar movies with our latest ad!


Don't forget about your old toys - Take your games, consoles, gadgets & tech to infinity and beyond at CeX! 

Get the most cash for your stuff or exchange for something you really want in stores nationwide or online.


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Monday, 17 June 2019

Creed II ★★★☆☆


Remember in 2015 when Creed came out? Everybody, including me, wanted it to f*** off so badly. We did not need to see Rocky again, and as that was to be his 8th outing, it reeked of desperation from ol’ Sly Stallone. But then it came out and was actually bloody good. Sly took a backseat to let Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed became a new icon for the sports film genre while Rocky acted like a muscly old Yoda. It was only a matter of time before we were force-fed a sequel, and that day came in 2018.


Creed II is better than you expect but doesn’t hit the heights of the first. That’s to be expected really, as Creed had the element of surprise. Nobody expected quality from it. But that’s not to say Creed II is a failure. The film follows a fight over 33 years in the making, as Adonis Creed meets a new adversary in the ring: Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago, the powerful athlete who killed Adonis' father Apollo Creed. For fans of the Rocky series, this is a pretty iconic and historic plotline to continue now, all these years later. 

But it does feel a little lazy – the film’s narrative is pretty reliant on a “hey, remember that?” approach. Nothing about it feels particularly fresh. The strict adherence to the franchise formula gives it a very much cookie cutter approach where each plot beat can be seen coming a mile off, but I guess that applies to every Rocky film. Every sports film, even. But it’s a time-tested approach that resonates with all ages and all generations, so I guess it falls under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category.

The film certainly looks and sounds like one of quality. It’s a stylish and solid piece of filmmaking throughout with some terrific performances and some good direction from Stephen Caple Jr who picks up the duty from Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler who serves as an executive producer here. But being the 9th film in the series, the whole thing just feels a little past its sell-by-date. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the film, but there’s nothing to make it feel particularly remarkable either.


On the whole, Creed II isn’t going to win over any newcomers to the Rocky saga. This is strictly fan-service to people who have been following the characters for a while – the central plot of this film, the rivalry between Drago and Creed, is pretty meaningless to anyone who hasn’t spent time with Rocky and his gang before. But hey, these sporting movies are comfort food, aren’t they? For the most part, they’re mindless background entertainment at the end of a long day. If that’s what you want from Creed II, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all. 3/5 

★★★☆☆
Sam Love



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Sunday, 16 June 2019

Escape Room ★★★☆☆


I’m awful at escape rooms. As my girlfriend will happily confirm for you when I get confused by a puzzle I rage. I would’ve loved to have been staff at the Telford escape room I last played, watching my anger unfold on the CCTV…But despite this, I do love them. They are such a unique and fun way to spend an hour and a great opportunity for team building. But I would’ve been absolutely f***ed in Escape Room, directed by Adam Robitel.

The film follows six adventurous strangers who are invited to travel to a mysterious building to experience an innovative new escape room - where players compete to solve a series of puzzles to win $10,000. What starts out as seemingly innocent fun soon turns into a living nightmare as the four men and two women discover each room is an elaborate trap that's part of a sadistic game of life or death, structured around each player’s dark past.


The film is basically Agatha Christie does Saw, with a group of strangers invited to a mysterious and frightening venue and forced to fight for their lives. But honestly, I love shit like this. I will happily defend the Saw franchise to anyone who will listen. Sure, it’s rubbish, but there’s no denying the layered universe the films created is so full of unpredictable twists and turns that you have to respect it. Escape Room tries to replicate this and honestly, it isn’t far off. The plot packs some real surprises and innovative and exciting death scenes, but being rated PG-13 in the states does suffer somewhat for a lack of violence. I’m not sadistic, but I like a bit of gore in my horror. The deaths here, although interesting, leave a little too much to the imagination for my liking.

But a film like this succeeds or fails on the strength (or lack thereof) of the characters, and I’m happy to say that Escape Room boasts a pretty good cast with lots of interesting material to work with. Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis and Nik Dodani portray our mixed group – there’s a selfish banker, an escape room expert, a quiet victim, a young student…all the usual archetypes. But they’re made more interesting than usual here and the chemistry between all of the cast is very solid.


But unfortunately, I felt like the film missed some pretty big opportunities. The big reveal at the end of the film isn’t explored nearly enough, obviously paving the way for a sequel but leaving viewers of this first film with too many questions. There are, obviously, plot-holes (this is a modern horror after all) and some pretty poor dialogue. The lack of gore can be distracting, and there are some scenes that will have you screaming at the TV in utter disbelief of why our characters are making certain choices. But all of this amounts to the norm for the genre and doesn’t detract too badly from the final product. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s fun and thrilling. Escape Room was an entertaining little thrillfest – not without its flaws, but certainly, an entertaining way to kill 90 minutes. 

★★★☆☆
Sam Love



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Saturday, 15 June 2019

Glass ★★☆☆☆


M. Night Shyamalan’s has got to have one of the most inconsistent filmographies in the history of cinema. When he’s good, he’s great (The Sixth Sense) and when he’s bad, he’s bloody abysmal (The Happening). His latest film, Glass, sits somewhere in between his two opposite levels of quality, with a resounding and disappointing “meh”. 

In 2016, Shyamalan made a comeback with Split. The psychological thriller introduced audiences to The Horde (James McAvoy), a man with 23 different personalities, as he kidnapped and imprisons three teenage girls in an isolated underground facility. As the film goes on, we learn more about the so-called “Beast”, one of his personalities with super-strength and abilities. If you haven’t seen the film, I strongly recommend it – it’s a bloody good watch, thanks mainly to an absolutely phenomenal performance from McAvoy. But as you all know, the film ended with a shocking reveal that it was, in fact, a sequel to M. Night’s Unbreakable all along. Shortly after the release of Split, Shyamalan revealed the unsurprising news that he was working on a film which would bring together the characters from both films for a showdown. The result was Glass.


Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds David Dunn (Bruce Willis) pursuing the superhuman figure of The Horde (McAvoy) in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Elijah Price/Mr Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

While it is initially rather exciting to revisit the characters of Dunn and Price after almost 20 years, the novelty soon wears off when it becomes abundantly clear that they are both too old for this shit. The whole thing reeks of a missed opportunity – it is, quite simply, too late. Years ago, this might’ve been a goer, but in 2019 it hits the ground with an almighty thud. That’s not to say the film is without positives. James McAvoy is, again, just stunning in the role of The Horde. He makes every single one of the personalities feel like its own layered character and it is simply staggering to watch him work in these films. A straight-up sequel to Split without this shoehorned Unbreakable link would’ve been the way to go because McAvoy’s Horde is one of the best supernatural characters in years.


The film suffers from a feeling of opportunistic desperation, creating a cinematic universe that absolutely nobody asked for. We did not need to revisit Dunn and Price and we certainly didn’t need to expand the universe they lived in – Unbreakable was a nice little self-contained slice of early 00s cinema with a lot of happy nostalgic memories attached. Bringing these characters back is akin to flogging a dead horse, and leaves such a sour taste in the mouth that it actually impacts one’s happy memories of the original film. Glass is a mess. Filled with narrative cock-ups and missed opportunities, you’ll spend the whole time yelling at the television in disbelief and anger at the paths the film is inexplicably taking. It’s an enormous disappointment, but then again, what did we really expect from this convoluted premise from the man who brought us The Happening, After Earth and The Visit? Glass is another shattered mess from ol’ M. Night. 

★★☆☆☆
Sam Love



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Friday, 14 June 2019

Gloria Bell ★★★★☆


There has been a recent trend in world cinema filmmakers remaking their own films for an English-language audience – I suppose they’re the most suited to remake the films than anyone else! Celebrated Norwegian filmmaker Hans Petter Moland made his Hollywood debut this year with Cold Pursuit, a remake of his 2014 film In Order of Disappearance. Michael Haneke famously remade his twisted Funny Games ten years after his original shocked the 1997 Cannes Film Fest. Now, Sebastián Lelio has remade his award-winning Gloria almost shot-for-shot as Gloria Bell, featuring a phenomenal performance from the great Julianne Moore in the lead.


The film follows the titular Gloria Bell (Moore), a free-spirited divorcee who spends her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at clubs around Los Angeles. She soon finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance with Arnold (John Turturro), filled with the joys of budding love and the complications of dating. Despite moving the setting from Santiago to Los Angeles in this US-set remake, the film still has the feeling of independent world cinema and not Hollywoodised tosh.

The film absolutely belongs to the fabulous Julianne Moore who deserves every accolade under the sun for this understated and layered performance. Appearing in almost every single frame of the film, Gloria is a complex character hiding behind a care-free attitude and permanent smile. Julianne puts so much character into Gloria’s eyes and demeanour in a role that isn’t showy or hammy, but incredibly subtle. It is remarkable work from a consistently engaging and unforgettable actress. But the supporting cast – including Turturro, Michael Cera and Sean Astin – are all stunning too and don’t exist purely in Moore’s shadow. 

The film’s visuals are utterly wonderful. Shot in peachy and saturated neon by cinematographer Natasha Braier, the film transports the viewer to the world of LA nightlife with the film’s look alone. Complimented wonderfully by a stellar soundtrack – including Bonnie Tyler and Paul McCartney – the film oozes style. But it is not a film of style over substance. Director Lelio has described this film as not a remake but rather a ‘cover version’ of his original film, and that feels accurate. Despite being near shot-for-shot and packed with the same story and character beats, there is certainly a feeling of freshness and originality to Gloria Bell that makes the film feel like it could stand alone – or at the very least, as a loving tribute to the original film.


The film raises an interesting discussion for film fans. If a remake is to be made, should it be reserved for the original film’s director? And furthermore, are remakes ok if they’re made by the original filmmaker? Are they even a remake at all? There’s a lot to think about in the wake of Lelio, Haneke and Moland’s remakes of their own works – and something that we may very well see a lot more of in the future. But for now, it certainly feels like these ‘remakes’ are in the most capable hands and it shows in the final products – Gloria Bell is a wonderful little film full of heart, a phenomenal lead performance and truly beautiful visuals. The film took me by surprise and kept me utterly entranced for the duration, and I think it will have the same effect on you. 

★★★★☆
Sam Love



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Thursday, 13 June 2019

Mortal Engines ☆☆☆☆☆


Most of us will never see a million dollars. I know I won’t. I’ll never come close to having that kind of money in my life. Mortal Engines, the latest film from Peter Jackson (although he doesn’t direct it, despite the confusing marketing trying to allude otherwise), has suffered estimated losses of $175 million. LOSSES OF $175 MILLION. Can you imagine being in an industry where that kind of loss can occur? F*** me, in my line of work a loss of a £50 is troubling. Let alone a loss of 175 MILLION. Holy mother of shitballs.


Anyway, let’s take a look at the film.
Shitballs is right because this film is a combination of shit and balls. Absolutely dreadful piece of work from all involved. For those of you who don’t know what it’s about, it goes a little something like this. Hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester, emerges as the only one who can stop London - now a giant, predator city on wheels - from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy, an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang, a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.

Now I’m not going to take a shit on the source material because I know it has a lot of fans and maybe the utterly ridiculous story works well on paper. Hell, it must’ve done, because it won a Smarties Children’s Book Prize award. But for a newcomer to Philip Reeve’s universe, all I can say is what is that guy smoking and where can I get some. London is now a predatory city on wheels?! Who thinks of shit like that with a sound mind? Good grief. Totally bizarre. But I’m willing to accept that crazy premise if we can at least have some interesting characters and an interesting story. Oh, no, we have neither! 

This totally wooden, vacuous and empty paint-by-numbers YA thriller is just so empty and without character or personality that it is impossible to get even remotely invested with a single character. I didn’t give even a shred of a shit about anybody’s goals, motives, past or present in Mortal Engines. I couldn’t confidently tell you anything about the characters now, either. I don’t even remember why Hester wears that cloth around her face or why London is now on wheels. Because I just didn’t care enough to take it in.


For a film with such a colossal budget and talent like Peter Jackson involved (evidently in a bullshit producer role), you’d think that something entertaining, exciting or at the very least coherent would come out of the other end. But no, we’re left with this steaming pile of filth. I don’t have a single kind word to say about Mortal Engines so I’m just going to wrap this up right now. 

☆☆☆☆☆
Sam Love


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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse ★★★★★


The superhero genre is so crowded, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out. With over 20 films in the MCU alone, it seems like every year we get another handful chucked at us whether we like it or not. Some are good, and some are Aquaman. But every once in a while, one comes along that just blows our collective minds. Whether it was the shock ending of the epic Infinity War or the quirky humour of Ragnarok, we occasionally get something so fresh that it skyrockets the superhero genre to the top of cinematic quality. Well, I’d argue that we have just had the best one yet.


Teenager Miles Morales struggles to live up to the expectations of his father, police officer Jefferson Davis, who sees Spider-Man as a menace. When Miles's uncle Aaron Davis takes him to an abandoned subway station to paint graffiti, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains spider-like abilities. But as he crosses paths with five counterparts from other dimensions in the Spider-verse, Miles must team up and stop a threat for all realities and the Spider-verse itself.

The first thing that jumps out when watching Spider-verse is the breathtakingly gorgeous visuals. Combining Sony Pictures Imageworks’ computer animation pipeline with traditional hand-drawn comic book techniques inspired by the work of Miles Morales co-creator Sara Pichelli, the film is a visual feast that makes the film stand out as one of the most original and innovative animated films…ever. While I’m sure we will see plentiful imitators from now on, these visuals are an absolute work of art and deserving of the film’s Academy Award win for Best Animated Feature alone. But where some films of this nature may suffer from a ‘style over substance’ argument, the film’s style is actually secondary to the content.


Written by Phil Lord (The Lego Movie) and Rodney Rothman, the screenplay is absolutely bursting at the seams with in-jokes and references that even a casual fan can enjoy – a very early dig at Spider-man 3’s dance sequence is a particular highlight. The film’s meta and self-aware humour throughout is something we so rarely see in films of this genre and make for hilarious viewing. This is aided brilliantly by the superb voice acting across the board. Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld and many more (including Nicolas Cage, because why not) all lend real quality to the film and create such an enjoyable vibe. Everybody seems to be having fun, and it’s contagious. 

I’m not a huge superhero buff so a lot of the references in the film probably went way over my head, but even I can acknowledge that this is one of the most innovative films in the superhero genre thus far. I cannot recommend it enough; whether you’re a casual or die-hard fan, this is a passionate and endlessly entertaining romp with a visual flair to die for. I was utterly in awe of the film from the first to the last second (the post-credits zinger is a delight), and I know you will be too. My film critic sense is tingling hard for this one. 

★★★★★
Sam Love



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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Bumblebee ★★★★☆


Since 2007, there have been six Transformers movies. With a total of $4.3 billion, the series is the 13th highest grossing in cinema history. We have had 880 minutes of robots smashing the shit out of each other, and evidently, we’re not tired of it yet. But while the films have been on a downward spiral of quality ever since the first film back in ’07, the quality level has skyrocketed to an all-time high with this latest entry which might actually be one of the best action/adventure blockbusters in years. I loved it. And I hate Transformers.


Yes, Bumblebee was an absolute delight. Taking place in an affectionately portrayed 1987, the iconic yellow autoboot Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. What follows is a very familiar human-and-robot buddy film in a similar vein to The Iron Giant, Big Hero 6 and more. But while the plot doesn’t bring out anything particularly surprising – nothing at all, actually, it’s ridiculously predictable – it’s still a bloody enjoyable romp.

First up, let’s talk about the setting. We’re clearly still living in a Stranger Things world, with seemingly more and more media set in a nostalgia-heavy 1980s. While this feels like a gimmick for some films, here it feels like such a loving and heartfelt homage to an iconic period in history. The soundtrack alone gives the film a nostalgic feeling of adulation for a bygone era; and also gives us one of the film’s funniest scenes wherein Bumblebee shows his dislike of The Smiths. The film’s 80s setting gives the whole thing a throwback vibe, with the film’s plot, pacing, humour and characters feel like something out of a John Hughes classic – just, you know, with more robots beating the shit out of each other.

The film’s action is actually surprisingly strong – after years of Michael Bayhem in this franchise, Bumblebee feels like a much higher quality product. Yes, Michael Bay is still involved (sigh) but here his presence isn’t quite so uncomfortably felt. The action was actually easy to follow and enjoyable, not the usual frantic, poorly-edited explosion-a-thon. But the film truly shined in the more understated sequences. Our protagonist Charlie played wonderfully by the brilliant Hailee Steinfeld, is certainly the best human character the saga has seen. Complex, layered and above-all not overly sexualised, she is a breath of fresh air for a series with female involvement usually adding up to a scantily clad Megan Fox bending over a car hood. Steinfeld is brilliant in the role and has such remarkable chemistry with Bumblebee that you’ll be convinced he’s real. Sorry kids, he’s not.


Bumblebee was an absolutely brilliant film and one that vastly exceeded my expectations that were already pretty high due to the remarkable critical reception and word-of-mouth. This is a great throwback film, looking, feeling and sounding like an 80s romp and not getting itself bogged down with dark grittiness and overly complicated plot. This is just a fun, simply smash-‘em-up blockbuster, just like mama used to make ‘em. This is what the Transformers films could’ve been all along. The perfect formula has finally been discovered – let’s just hope the inevitable sequel doesn’t take a hot, steaming shit all over it. Bumblebee is the best Transformers film by far. 4/5

★★★★☆
Sam Love



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Monday, 10 June 2019

Hellboy 2019 ★☆☆☆☆


Rebooting Hellboy was always going to be a hell of a risk. Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman’s 2004 adaptation and 2008 sequel are iconic, and boast legions of fans even to this day - so it came as a shock that director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) had the audacity to have another crack at it. But it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The project began as a sequel to Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Yes, you read that right, this was supposed to be Hellboy III. But Guillermo del Toro was not offered the full writer-director capacity he had performed for the first two Hellboy outings, and Ron Perlman refused to return to portray the eponymous anti-hero without del Toro’s involvement. And so, the project fell to pieces and was put back together again by Neil Marshall, who decided to go his own way and make the film a gore-filled R-rated adaptation. The result is a hot, steaming pile of demon shit. It’s disappointing, absolutely. But it isn’t really all that shocking, is it?


This new take sees the legendary half-demon superhero (now portrayed by David Harbour of Stranger Things) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Resident Evil’s Milla Jovovich, obviously), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world.

I feel sorry for David Harbour. He was destined to fail. While his performance – and indeed Jovovich’s, to some extent – isn’t bad by any stretch, it exists in the shadow of Ron Perlman’s beloved performance. Much like when Quinton Jackson portrayed B.A. Baracus in the 2010 A-Team, it’s next to impossible to take on an iconic role without being unfavourably compared to the original unless you do something pretty damn special with the role, as Heath Ledger did with his Joker. Unfortunately for Harbour, the character has already been perfected by Ron “The Perl” Perlman, and to try and make it your own now is futile.

And so, 2019’s Hellboy giveth and 2019’s Hellboy taketh away. While the fans – and casual movie-goers – were hopeful, this film was everything the world hoped it wouldn’t be. But while Perlman’s presence is entirely missed, the most troubling and gaping lack is the lack of Guillermo del Toro. The auteur’s style brought so much to the first two Hellboy films, and it is greatly missed here. While some attempts have been made by Neil Marshall to replicate del Toro’s style, much like Harbour’s attempts, it is futile. But Ian McShane is in it. So it can’t be all bad, can it? Ian McShane elevates the lowest of shit by a couple of points just by being there, the beautiful bastard. It is a shame, but not one that comes as much of a surprise. This Hellboy is utter rubbish. 

★☆☆☆☆
Sam Love



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Sunday, 9 June 2019

Pet Sematary 2019 ★★★☆☆


We live in fruitful and exciting times for Stephen King fans, but there is a risk of too much of a good thing. We’ve had countless remakes, reboots and fresh adaptations of his work over the past few years including new takes on It, The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game, 1922, Cell, Carrie…The list goes on. We’ve also had TV adaptations of 11.22.63, Mr. Mercedes and The Mist, and of course the stunning Castle Rock series. 2019 promises 3 more big-screen King outings in the form of It: Chapter 2, In The Tall Grass and the long-awaited Shining sequel Doctor Sleep. Are we beginning to suffer from King fatigue?


2019 has also given us a new adaptation of King’s iconic novel Pet Sematary, previously adapted for the big screen 30 years ago back in 1989. Despite the earlier incarnation being a little dated now and certainly not without flaws, it hold a special place in many people’s hearts and so the news of a remake/reboot/re-adaptation/whatever was met with a little concern from film fans – especially as the trailer didn’t inspire a huge amount of confidence, marketing itself as merely a jump-scare riot with little substance and certainly not much of that slow-burning Stephen King dread. Thankfully, the final product is actually a pretty good piece of horror entertainment and an interesting adaptation of the book, doing enough to distance itself from the previous adaptation and stand on its own two rotting feet. 

For those who don’t know, the story of Pet Sematary follows Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his wife (Amy Seimetz), as they relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground – the Pet Sematary - hidden deep in the woods near their new home. When the family cat dies, it is buried in this spooky location which inexplicably revives the cat and returns it to the family, but it returns aggressive and different. When tragedy strikes the family again, a perilous chain reaction unleashes an unspeakable evil with horrific consequences – despite warnings that “sometimes dead is better”.

It’s a fascinating and unique tale, well told and presented with a suitably dark and often harrowing atmosphere. The film is often uncomfortable viewing and it does deal with some very complex themes of loss, grief and family tragedy. But unfortunately, there is – unsurprisingly, it being a recent horror after all – an over-reliance on jump scares that cheapens proceedings considerably. The terrifying plot of this film could’ve easily worked a slow-burner of dread and horror – as indeed, brief portions of the film do. But no, Hollywood had to stuff it with cliché and remove the power from King’s original novel. And incidentally, some questionable changes are made to the source material here that will have die-hard fans scratching their heads and furiously tweeting their disgust.


Now, big-screen book adaptations are never better than the book. That’s a given. But is this 2019 incarnation of Pet Sematary at least better than the 1989 adaptation? Of course, it is – but it’s not really a fair comparison when you consider the larger budget, bigger names and generally better technology available to filmmakers today. Pet Sematary doesn’t hit the highs of the recent It adaptation and certainly will never stand in the same league as the early King adaptations – Christine, The Shining, Misery, etc. – but it’s a decent little horror and worth a look for fans of the genre.

★★★☆☆
Sam Love



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