As promised, another review, hot on the heels of the last one! This time around it’s Trolls, and this is a very different film to Storks, but it’s still good.

Trolls is very much a musical, and it’s very bright and colourful. The trolls themselves are naturally inclined to party and sing, and their enemies (the Bergens) believe troll happiness is the key to their own – hence Bergens eating trolls to get their happiness! 

It’s a light-hearted, funny film and my little girl loved it. like Storks, it’s one worth watching again, and there’s enough going on to keep adults amused too. The kids are being spoilt with their movies this year!

The first of two consecutive family film reviews – Storks – is here! I know you’ve all been waiting for this one! The other film up for review is Trolls – which movie wins? In my view, it’s Storks, all the way.

This isn’t a put down on Trolls, which is a very good film in its own right, but I found Storks to be just that little bit smarter and funnier. In truth, they are very different, despite both being kids films, and so there’s an apples and oranges thing going on. My six year-old loved both films, but has declared Storks to be her favourite! 

So what is it about Storks that makes it different to the typical ‘lost soul finding one’s self’ tale (which is more or less what Storks is)? It’s the style of dialogue, which is punchy and imaginative. The characters are delightful, especially Junior and Tulip, and the scene where they desperately try to get the baby back to sleep is one every parent can relate to! The stars of the show are the wolves, though it must be said that the scene with the penguins was excellent too! 

I won’t hesitate to admit that the finale was quite sweet and moving. The film has heart, and is definitely one I could watch again!

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Ok, where do I even begin with this one?!

Sausage Party (I had to be very careful googling that to get the movie poster) is an animated adventure film, set in a supermarket, that deals with one sausage’s realisation that the promised land beyond the doors is in fact one great big lie. It’s also a film filled to the brim with swearing, sexual references and some very off-colour political humour.

As is now pretty much expected from animation, it all looks very slick and polished. The humour… the humour is twisted, and crude, and there’s a good chance it will offend at some stage – but behind all that lies a film I would best describe as ‘subversive’.

I’m not actually sure that’s the right word, but I can’t think of a better one right now. Sausage Party puts ideas of faith and truth under a microscope, as the characters – who have had unwavering faith in ‘The Great Beyond’ (paradise), come to suspect this might be one big lie. Confronted with evidence, some characters take it upon themselves to shove what they consider to be the new truth down everyone else’s throats – others rebuke the idea, preferring to believe in the Great Beyond, for that is easier. You can probably guess what they’re actually referring to.

There is subtlety here. It’s woven into the threads of a film that made waves for being brash and rude (which it is, it very much is!), but there is also cleverness.

I honestly don’t know if this is a film that can be easily enjoyed. If bad language offends you, don’t watch it, for it’s extremely heavy on the swears. In fact, my chief complaint is that there is an overload of swearing. I’m no prude (read my Greatest Ludus story, which is gradually going up on the site, and you’ll see that), but there were points where even I felt the swearing was getting out of hand. If sexual references offend you, don’t watch this movie. There’s a lot of that too (and the finale of the film goes nuts with this). If you don’t like close-to-the-mark political statements – well, there are a few of these as well.

Despite all that, I have to say that I actually enjoyed this film. It isn’t something I’d necessarily go out of my way to watch again, but I wouldn’t switch it off if it were on TV.

7/10

Firstly, many thanks to the people of Bella Italia for inviting us along to a fresh menu tasting! Free food is always a plus for me! 

My wife, daughter (who insisted upon wearing one of her princess dresses, and why not eh?) and myself were seated promptly upon arrival and surprised to learn that we would be sampling the complete range of new menu items that Bella Italia are considering. We were even more surprised when full-sized dishes were brought out! Given the occasion, this was very generous and drew an expression of delight:

So, on to the food. Round 1, the starters. 

In the red corner – Pizza bread:

In the blue corner – Risotto balls:

Which would win? Or would we have a joint winner? Would one dish do a Tyson Fury and retire for five minutes? 

The pizza bread was nice. It was good. It’s hard to go wrong with it. The risotto balls were amazing, but it wasn’t until after I’d eaten one that my wife informed me of the terrible truth – these were mushroom risotto balls!

It couldn’t be. Mushrooms are things of pure evil. How could such great flavour come from such a hideous thing? I didn’t want to believe it, but as I cracked open another, I realised it was true. 

But it was possible. I had actually enjoyed a mushroom dish. More than enjoyed. I had loved it.

My daughter by the way, being six, had the tomato soup off the kids menu, but it was more of a minestrone/vegetable soup. She enjoyed it, but it was different to what we expected. 

So, on to the mains, of which there were three:

From left to right: a chicken dish with spinach and ricotta ravioli, a mushroom ravioli and a panchetta tagliatelle. My wife had the mushroom dish and thoroughly enjoyed it – my attention was split between the other two. Chicken versus panchetta. 

This may be more a reflection of my pallette and taste than the food itself, but there was a clear winner. The chicken dish was excellent. In fact, the hero for me was unquestionably the spinach and ricotta ravioli. It was gorgeous. In fact, if this were to be offered up as a menu choice on its own, with a creamy cheese sauce, and sprinkled with a little basil, I would bury my face in the bowl. 

Finally, dessert. 

From left to right: Salted caramel gelato, chocolate orange gelato and banofee gelato. I don’t personally like orange in that sort of style, but the other two desserts were wow! I’d happily devour the restaurant’s entire supply of banofee. 

My daughter had some strawberry gelato which was for some reason amusing to look at:

Stop sniggering. 

So, how would I rate the visit to Bella Italia? Very highly. In fact, I give it the highest accolade a meerkat can give – a three-grub rating! My little girl also declared it the best restaurant ever!

Where do I even start with this one? My first instinct is to call Swiss Army Man the strangest film I’ve ever seen, and it is a compelling, surreal and bittersweet journey into one man’s mind as he battles insanity, forging an unlikely friendship in the process. That’s all I will say on the plot.

This film is all about the performances. Daniel Radcliffe has come a long way from his days as Harry Potter, affirming himself as a versatile actor, and Swiss Army Man sees him give his best performance yet. Yes, I know he plays a dead body, but trust me, once you’ve seen the film, you’ll know what I mean.

The other main actor in this film is Paul Dano, and I will admit that prior to this film I had no idea who he was. He was in Looper (a somewhat mediocre time-travel film), but I didn’t know that until I checked his IMDB entry. His performance is as good as Daniel’s, and his character is the main one in this movie. His loneliness is what drives the film – he needs Daniel’s character to keep him grounded in his isolation, and it’s through his interactions (which get very bizarre) with Daniel’s character that he discovers he needs to go home.

I can’t say any more than that, without giving away too much. All I shall say is, you need to see this. You won’t regret it.

9/10

I was excited by Spore. When this game was revealed, it suggested a rich, immersive experience that would involve developing a species from the ground up – shaping their evolution from the microbial stage, right through to the emergence of intelligence and through to space-faring civilisations. Unfortunately, the game didn’t live up to the hype, proving to be disappointing, especially in the latter stages.

The good: The depth to which you can design your creation is pretty incredible. You can give them as many limbs as you want, shape their eyes, their height, skin colour, everything. This extends to the next stage (when your species crawls out of the ocean and becomes a land creature). Even the point where your creatures develop early civilisation (think hunter-gathers) is quite entertaining. Unfortunately…

The bad: … at this point the game wanes, and becomes very samey. Your options for developing your civilisation are limited, and the more advanced you get, the worse this gets. By the time the game takes you to interstellar space, you’re faced with a frustrating and confused four-X game where you have only one ship, yet are expected to put out fires across multiple planets. If the game had evolved into a Civilisation/Master of Orion-style simulation once it reached those stages, it would have excellent. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

5/10.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Legend of Zelda series. For me, LoZ defines me as a gamer. That being said, I am (as a Nintendo fan) no stranger to the importance of a certain Italian plumber and his adventures.

Super Mario World was a launch title for the Super Nintendo (which was released 25 years ago today in the US) and it still holds up as a fine example of a well-executed platform game. The game world is huge, you can go back and redo levels you’ve already completed (and in some cases it benefits you to do so), and the levels are crafted with terrific attention to detail. It’s clear Nintendo wanted to get this game right before releasing it – and they nailed it.

What ensures SMW takes its place as one of the all-time great Mario games is its replay value. If you know what you’re doing, you can reach the final boss in virtually no time (Star Road can see to that), but likewise, you can battle through different worlds and uncover different exits to levels that in turn open up new, secret levels to complete. You can even find secret worlds within secret worlds – so in many respects, completing the game is less about beating Bowser and rather, about finding all the secrets and completing every exit from every level.

New gameplay options are introduced too – the dinosaur Yoshi becomes Mario’s companion, and he will eat enemies for you. Mario can once again fly, and in fact the cape is in my view the most useful of all his power-ups. Stomping on koopas will force the turtle out of its shell, which you can then grab and use as a weapon, whilst new blue and yellow koopas bring new and unique challenges.

SMW is a beautiful game to look at too. Yes, the SNES doesn’t boast advanced graphics compared to today’s consoles, but as with A Link to the Past, it does a great job with what it has.

All in all, I give this a very well-earned 9/10.

The latest instalment of the family-friendly saga about a mammoth, sabre-tooth tiger and a sloth has hit the screens and it continues the rich vein of form for the Ice Age franchise.

As always, the characters bring their charm – in particular Sid, whose idiocy pairs with eternal optimism to make him a lovable character. Buck returns for this film, and provides a frenetic energy to proceedings, in his chaotic fashion, and we see the continuation of Manny and Ellie’s adventures in parenthood, as they face up to their daughter Peach’s impending marriage.

There are little tropes and nods to other films throughout this – including an inspired ‘Armageddon‘ moment and a brilliant ‘Matrix‘ moment too. In terms of the plot, it’s far-fetched, but you have to remember this is a film aimed at kids, and it’s less about the story than the characters. Little ones (and adults) will always be entertained by the misfortunes of Scrat, who couldn’t get any more luckless, and referring back to Buck – well, he steals the show (as he did in Ice Age 3). I rate this film 8/10.

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The third instalment in the DCCU marks the biggest step so far in created an expanded universe – but is it any good?

I didn’t mind Man of Steel or Batman vs Superman, but the latter film in particular felt a little flat. It was too long and felt a little directionless. Suicide Squad doesn’t feel too long, but it did at times feel a little aimless, and it’s not what I expected from the trailer. That being said, it’s the strongest entry in the DCCU so far.

What leads me to say that? Well, it has a little more fun than the films that preceded it, despite being visually very dark (as with BvS). Some of the characters are more interesting with varied backstories that make them more than simply villains. In particular, Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn steal the show in presenting supposedly ‘bad’ characters as more three-dimensional than first thought.

Harley Quinn’s character and her relationship with Jared Leto’s Joker is a glimpse into an abusive relationship. It’s subtle manipulation that turns Quinn from a respected doctor to the right-hand of a psychotic killer, and yet we see at times that beneath the façade Quinn has constructed for herself, she is not as self-assured as she appears to be. The character is trapped by the Joker’s exercises in control, and by the need to not let anyone see what’s truly going on inside.

We don’t see enough of the Joker, a point Leto himself made recently. The actor is said to be angry at how he was ‘misled’ into taking the part and disappointed with the direction the film took. What might be in store for the future of the Joker in the franchise? DC surely don’t want to lose an actor of Leto’s reputation.

Will Smith gives a solid account of himself throughout the film. His character is a hitman and unashamedly so. He is good at what he does, knows he’s good and doesn’t sugar-coat anything for the benefit of anyone else. He is also quietly loyal to the Squad.

Some of the performances seemed forced. Whether or not Cara Delevingne was told to play the Enchantress as a stiff robotic witch I don’t know, but the acting at the film’s conclusion was painful to watch. Jai Courtney was just boring as Boomerang, but then, he never had much of a chance to shine, and the same can be said of Jay Hernandez (Diablo) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc).

I wasn’t too sure of the plot either. The sudden appearance of magical entities seemed a little out of left-field, and disjointed in its execution.

All in all, 7/10.

The fifth installment in the Jason Bourne franchise has arrived, and it delivers certain things that we by now expect to see happen in a Jason Bourne movie. The action sequences are suitably impressive, the car chase scene at the end is exhilarating, and when sitting in the cinema, the film was very watchable, as all the Jason Bourne films have been. So why is it, as I sit here and type this review, I find myself thinking that the franchise has become all too formulaic?

As was the case with The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, we rejoin a Bourne who has gone into hiding. He’s laying low, attempting to live his life but he’s plagued by memories of his past. As with the two films mentioned, events occuring elsewhere drag him back into the world of black ops, as misunderstandings lead the forces at the CIA to (yet again) believe he is a one-man band out to ruin them.

I’m being a little harsh. Bourne learns a little more about who he really is, and why he ended up in the Treadstone programme. I won’t go into too much detail, but sufffice to say, it seems his life was never his own.

The initial sequence in Athens is set amidst a backdrop of rioting and turmoil, and demonstrates Bourne’s survival skills and ability to improvise. This is repeated in London, which features a rather ruthless Bourne at one stage, and sets up for a big finale in Las Vegas, but once again, whilst each element of the film is put together really well and is visually stunning, it follows the same set pattern of the previous Bourne films, and nothing is resolved by the end (well, not really). Bourne is still seen as a threat, and still officially being hunted.

All in all, it’s enjoyable and I don’t regret paying money to see it, but I would hope for something a little different next time. 7.5/10.