STOP READING THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ENDGAME. Right now, if you haven’t seen it… well, tell me what it’s like under that rock of yours, and second go and see that movie so that you’re as caught up as you can get because we’re going to talk about major spoilers from that movie since they make up a large amount of the foundation for this one. Again, I’m going to make the assumption that from this point on you are officially caught up on the major events of Avengers: Endgame and that I can spoil that movie like it was milk left under hot lights in summer. OK, let’s do this.
The world of animation in 1995 was a very different place. Hand drawn animation ruled the land, the Disney Renaissance was in full swing and the only CGI you ever saw was used to enhance 2D work. This was mostly because CGI was still early in its development and no one really knew what to do with this toy. Sure there were little short films popping up, but no one really tried to make a feature-length film with this brand new tool until a little company called Pixar told the story of a pull-string cowboy who had to deal with an astronaut coming into his space and propelling him on an adventure. Toy Story set a standard that every CGI animated film would have to try to compete with for years to come, it became the highest grossing film of 95 and spawned two sequels. The second film would be the third highest grossing of 1999 and then in 2010 the third film would come out and be top of the box office. Every film in the franchise has received overwhelming critical acclaim, part three even taking home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Of every franchise that Pixar has done, this is the one they’ve gotten right every time and the ending of part three felt like a nice end to the series. The toys were given to a girl named Bonnie in a sequence that was designed to make everyone watching cry like a baby and we were sure that we’d only see Woody and Buzz in the occasional cameo or TV special… and then the company realised that they really liked money so they went and made the fourth film because they wanted to make more money. Luckily, they actually put in the hard work to make sure that they would actually deserve the money they were going to be earning.
In 1997, the earth was saved by the legendary Men in Black. It was a film that blew audiences and critics away with its elaborate effects, clever script and terrific leads. It destroyed the box office that year, only being beaten at the box office by the juggernaut that was Titanic and to this day there probably hasn’t been an alien comedy that could compete with it, not even its own sequels which just did worse and worse at the box office. The last one, Men in Black 3, was released 7 years ago to just above average critical praise and didn’t even make its budget back domestically so you would think that might be the sign to retire the black suits and move on… I mean, you might think that but then you remember that Hollywood is a sadistic bastard that enjoys flaying horses years after they’ve stopped neighing and so now we have Men In Black: International or as it probably should be known “Men In Black: Look, we hired the people from Thor: Ragnarok so that means we’re just as funny as Thor Ragnarok, right?” but I’m guessing that probably wouldn’t have fit on the poster.
Released: 20th June (Advance Screening) Seen: 8th June
The animation company Illumination has something of an interesting reputation when it comes to critical acclaim. Their Despicable Me series, for example, was a breath of fresh air that everyone seemed to love… until they unleashed Minions on the world and people began contemplating an open revolt against the company. Their film Sing also scored a lot of praise, but then they would unleash a couple of Dr Seuss adaptations that were pretty abysmal (one of them so bad that it made me go through a period of uncontrollable rhyming). They’re very hit and miss so going into The Secret Life of Pets 2, I had some trepidation While I hadn’t seen the original I have heard enough about it to know that it was a hit and if we follow Illuminations pattern, this one had a good chance of being a miss… but turns out, it was closer to a light tap of the bat. Still technically a hit, but nothing to write home about.
It would be a lie for me to say that I’ve kept up with the X-Men saga over the years. I saw the first three movies in the original series, I might’ve been one of the few to actually kind of enjoy X-Men: The Last Stand, and then I didn’t really come back until Deadpool, Logan and Deadpool 2. This new group of young X-Men never interested me so I never really went to go see them and felt no real need to have this franchise be a part of my cinematic diet… and then, ya know, stupid me decided he wanted to try and be a critic and therefore would need to see every film when it came out. I, of course, was extra stupid and decided to do this right around the time that the series apparently decided to stop being interesting… because I’m clearly a bad person who doesn’t deserve nice things. I certainly don’t think I was bad enough to deserve the kind of boredom that was being offered to me by Dark Phoenix but hey, apparently I’ve just been that much of a bad boy.
Since 1954 the world has had a repeated fascination with the Japanese movie monster Godzilla, a gigantic sea creature that was spawned by the nuclear radiation that would also regularly spit fire like it was nobody’s business. Godzilla is possibly one of the most iconic film characters of all time and for years he was a metaphor for nuclear war, natural disasters, basically anything that could best be embodied by a giant nuclear sea creature. Appearing in 35 films that span the gamut from iconically bad to some of the most fun you’ll have watching men in dinosaur suits slap each other, it’s a series that everyone has at least heard of and that Hollywood has tried to make on multiple occasions. The first time Hollywood got their slimy hands on Godzilla was in 1998 with Roland Emmerich decided he was going to make a Godzilla film even though, turns out, he didn’t even really make a Godzilla movie since he basically just made a movie with a weird dinosaur. It was a movie that was so bad that Toho, the company behind Godzilla, trademarked the new design as “Zilla” because there was nothing godly about that mess (except, perhaps, a godly amount of fish). Then in 2014, we got another Godzilla film and while that one was a step up from what came before, it also had maybe 10 minutes of Godzilla in it and spent a ton of time with the humans that no one cares about. So now, here we are, the third time that Hollywood would take on the king of the monsters and… god damn it, they finally got the damn point.
When I was growing up, the biggest games in the world were Pokémon Red and Blue. Every single person I knew had one of them; some people had both of them. I was always a Pokémon Red kind of guy who would happily pick Bulbasaur first because he would make it easier to get through the first two gyms (I know Charmander is cooler, but he’s also weak against the first two gyms and I played that game to win. Come at me). I also have vivid memories of when Pokémon Yellow came out and completing that game within a single sitting, only pausing to remove the batteries from my oversized clear Gameboy and clearing the gyms and elite four. It’s fair to say that a large chunk of my childhood included a monster that could be located in a pocket and then I did a very stupid thing… I grew up. I had less and less time to pull out a Gameboy and play whatever new Pokémon game was available; I didn’t keep up with the anime. I just kind of stopped caring about trying to Catch ‘Em All because I hit this time in life when it felt appropriate to put away childish things. I did recently pick up Pokémon Go because it’d be on the phone and a time waster but I kind of figured my love of Pokémon was dead. Then the trailer for Detective Pikachu dropped and a tiny little voice deep inside me screamed “I’m not quite dead… I’m getting better”
On the 25th of April 2018, celebrating a decade as a cinematic universe, Marvel released Avengers: Infinity War. A true box office smash, the film broke records and defied expectations and at the 2-hour 5-minute and 41-second mark, Thanos snapped his fingers and eradicated half of the MCU in a sequence that was instantly one of the most iconic things in modern cinema. It was meme’d into oblivion; it was a moment of cultural shock that is easily the ballsiest thing that a movie studio has done in a long time. They made us love every single character, and then they killed them in front of us in a 3 minute sequence that was designed intentionally to destroy the audience… and then they said “Come back in a year, we’re not done tearing you apart yet” and sure enough, they came back and they were not even close to done tearing us apart.
Stop Motion animation is probably the most difficult kind of animation there is. Building scale models and animating them in the physical world, moving just a tiny portion of the models for every single frame and slowly creating movement by hand, something where a small accident could ruin days of work. If a model dries up then that could destroy a film. For the longest time the big name in the field of stop motion animation was Aardman Animation, the people who made Chicken Run (which I just found out is getting a sequel, which is awesome), and now the new people claiming the throne of stop motion animation is Laika who has been fairly consistent in releasing great films, and their latest film is no exception.
I’ve previously talked on this blog about how nervous I get walking into DC films. After their attempt at an expanded universe netted exactly one good film (Wonder Woman, for the record) and got them a resounding box office failure with their massive team-up film… let’s just say that I get nervous when I walk into these things. Then Aquaman happened and it was above any expectation. I dare say that I should’ve probably given it an even 4 out of 5 now that I look back on it because it was a genuinely fun playful movie that understood that the material was not meant to be dark and so it didn’t bother being pointlessly grim. With the advertisements for Shazam! I was admittedly a little more excited, there was a brighter tone that excited me and made me hopeful that they were going to get this right… oh my god, oh my god you guys!