Loki Episode 1 : Glorious Purpose

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Though I enjoyed Wandavison’s first episode more so than most, I think this is easily the best first episode of a Marvel Disney + series to date; the reason I did not mention, Falcon And The Winter Soldiers first episode is because it wasn’t very good and proved no real competition to this.

This episode had everything you would want out of a Loki series and then more on top. It has humour, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Owen Wilson’s Mobius have great on screen chemistry together and provide us with quite a few strong comedic scenes. It has heart and depth, such as when variant Loki, who had never seen the events of Thor The Dark World, saw his adoptive mother die for the first time. It also has a promising mystery, and pits Loki against himself.

I thought one of the best things about this episode was the introduction to the Time Variants Authority and the widening of the MCU as this fills in some blanks and also changes how we see the events of the MCU as a whole. The one thing I didn’t like in this respect is that they basically confirm that Agents Of Shield is non-cannon: there is a moment where one additional line of dialogue would have confirmed the shows place in universe, but we never get that conformation.

Finally, outside of Loki and Mobius the rest of the characters are sparse and only really seem to exist to facilitate one purpose and are quite one dimensional: hopefully this will be fixed later in the show and these characters might get to see more exploration.

Overall, a very promising first episode.

Pros.

Widening the MCU

Owen Wilson

Tom Hiddleston, particularly during the more emotion scenes.

Cons.

A few annoying side characters

Even more signs pointing to AOS being non-cannon

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Star Wars Rebels: Series Overview

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

I enjoyed watching Clone Wars, so I thought I would give this series a go and I have to say it was even better. I think from being one complete narrative that plays in order and has a central group of characters to focus on this show manages to take all the best parts from Clone Wars an expand them.

If you remember from my series overview of Clone Wars the two things that bothered me about that show were, how it jumped around in time and in and out of episode order as well as how it would have multi episode asides focusing on characters no one really cared about, neither of these issues this show. There are a few droid episodes that are a little weak, but they still tie in and feel like they have a place within the wider story.

The best thing this show does is expanding the Star Wars universe outward, building on pre-existing characters and ideas whilst also adding new characters and ideas. When I first began watching the show I wasn’t a huge fan of Ezra, in fact I found the character annoying, but as the show went on he grew on me and the same was true of a lot of other characters to a point that by the end I was sad to say goodbye.

A personal highlight for me was seeing Rex, Ahsoka and Maul crossover into this show, I thought the series really came alive when they featured heavily in episodes.

Overall, a wonderful piece of Star Wars content for new and returning fans alike.

Pros.

The crossover characters

Expanding Star Wars cannon

Everything with the Inquisitors

The surprisingly emotional ending

Cons.

A few weaker episodes that were not focused on the main cast of characters

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The Bad Batch Episode 2: Cut And Run

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

This episode is benefited from leaving the Crosshair stuff and focusing on something a little less predictable; I think it is fairly obvious Crosshair will be a baddy for a while and will then rid himself of the inhibitor chip it some way and probably save the Bad Batch- most likely in the series finale.

I enjoyed seeing this long lost clone deserter who has managed to have an entire life of his own outside of the various wars of the Republic, it makes me wonder if there are other clone deserters out there who we are yet to meet? I also thought seeing Omega interact with the other kids allowed me to warm to her that little bit more; though it is becoming evident that her voice work is more than a little jarring.

I found this episode to be more emotionally impactful, at least for me. I also again enjoyed the action set pieces and though they are rare when this show does give us some action it always gives us something worth seeing. My one growing concern for the show is it’s seeming lack of direction, where are our heroes going next, what is their purpose now; I suppose that is the theme of the show, but right now it feels like they are in-danger of having them go to different planets helping different people each week in very much a Supernatural monster of the week sort of way, which I wouldn’t like from a narrative perspective.

Overall, the show continues to have promise, though it is yet to blow me away.

Pros.

Omega interacting with the other kids

The clone deserter

The action

A few funny moments

Cons.

Directionless?

Omega’s VO work is distracting

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The Bad Batch Episode 1: Aftermath

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

This episode and this series so far as a whole feels very much like a direct continuation of Clone Wars, which I appreciate as it helps to fill in the gap between that show and the later Rebels. This episode revolved around Order 66, and the clone response to that, which again I found fascinating and hope the show will dig even deeper into. I thought the decision to have the majority of the Bad Batch not be effected by this order, bar Crosshair was a little strange as surely either they would all have not been effected, or all been effected as they have very similar DNA; hopefully the show will clear this up.

I thought the appearance of Kanan Jarrus and Saw Gerrera was again a nice way to tie the series in with what had come before, in terms of production. Though it did also feel a little ‘remember this character, remember that character’, with these returning characters acting as somewhat of a story crutch: the same can be said of Omega- but I’ll get to that.

As a character I am torn on Omega, on the one hand I think the idea of a female clone of Jango Fett, who also has powers, has a lot of potential. On the other hand I think they are clearly trying to recapture what they had with Baby Yoda and that parent-child bond which again feels like repeating things from the near past.

I thought the action and the animation as a whole were both very well done, with a clear progression between the 3 shows being clear to see.

I am looking forward to the next episode.

Overall, a solid start that is perhaps a bit too reliant on the past.

Pros.

The animation

The action

The Bad Batch themselves

Cons.

Omega

Bringing back so many old faces

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Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace: Jar Jar Is Even Worse Than I Remembered

Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

I have been greatly enjoying the animated Star Wars television offerings recently, so I decided that I would give the films another go; I watched them all when I was younger, and I was not a fan. Regardless of my new found knowledge on all things Star Wars, I still didn’t find my enjoyment of this film to be anymore than it had been when I was a child. If anything the issues were now far more glaring.

Unlike James Cameron’s Avatar, the effects in this film look horribly dated. The CGI does not hold up even to a late noughties standard, and the sequences that feature heavy practical work do look better, but not by much.

Moreover, the forced humour is irritating. The amount of tense moments that are cut away from, under cut or out rightly defused by a bad joke are staggering. Moreover, not only does the loathed Jar Jar Binks not serve as the comedic, toy selling masterstroke he was intended as, but rather a crudely put together racial stereotype that simply serves to offend; there has been quite a bit written on this subject and I suggest you go and do you own research. Basically it boiled down to George Lucas saying, I am not a racist for my stereotypical character, you are racist for noticing the stereotype. Like I said read up on it, it’s fascinating.  

The pacing is so slow it makes the film hard to watch, and if Lucas did not have complete creative control over this film I’m sure big sections of it would have been cut out, and honestly that would probably have made it a better film.

The only slightly redeeming parts are Liam Neeson as a jedi and Darth Maul, but they are underused and killed off so not really a pro for the film.

Overall, despite a wider appreciation for Star Wars on my part this is still a bad film.

Pros

Neeson

Maul

Cons.

The horrible CGI

All the needless padding

The racist characters  

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Justice Society World War II: I Think I Feel Asleep During This

Justice Society World War II

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

These days I am finding that a lot of the animated DC output is trapped in the meh zone, by that I mean it all just feels generic and samey, there is nothing to set one film apart from another. I used to love animated DC films when I was a kid, but recently I have been sorely disappointed, and this proves no exception.

None of the characters in this film felt likeable to me, and that is surprising considering that it is hard to make beloved superheroes unlikeable, yet they manage to find a way. The characters in this film range from boring and dull, to outright annoying.

The story feels uninspired also, are we not over the whole superheroes in history fad yet? Did Legends Of Tomorrow not entirely use up all the good ideas with the concept? Moreover, I felt myself getting so bored with this that my mind was starting to wander, and I was having a hard time paying attention.

Finally there are pacing issues galore here as well.

Overall, very meh, maybe if you were a DC diehard you might find something to enjoy here, but probably not.

Pros.

Matt Boomer is trying

Every scene with President Roosevelt

Cons.

The characters aren’t likeable

The premise is nothing we haven’t seen before

The animation feels samey

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Prince Of Persia: This Man Love Sand, The Inverse Of A Young Anakin Skywalker

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Video game films often get a bad rap, however, more often then not I find enjoyment in them- especially when they have fun with the games original premise. Assassins Creed, Resident Evil andthis all have more than enough campy, popcorn fun to make up for the fact they wont be winning any awards.

I think of the videogame films I’ve seen this is definitely on the better side of the genre, as the film works as an escapist action, adventure film that doesn’t require too much brain power. I thought the time mechanics, as yes this has time travel elements, are handled much better here then they are in the game. It is far more concise and obvious here, whereas in the games it varies and is never fully pinned down.

Jake Gyllenhaal can rarely take a step wrong, and that is again shown here, as he makes for a very likeable if not very realistic Prince of Persia. Gyllenhaal gives the role a light touch and has fun with it, he also shares great on-screen chemistry and rapport with Gemma Arterton who is the female lead. The two share a good amount of on-screen banter together that actually manages to be funny and hold up, which is an added pro.

Overall, this feels very much in a similar vein to the beloved Brenden Frasier Mummy films and does, in my opinion, deserve far more love than it receives.

Pros

Gyllenhaal

Arterton

Fun and breezy

Simplifies the games

Cons.

The CGI is distracting

Rather obvious white washing

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Raya And The Last Dragon: A Win For Kelly Marie Tran, A Loss For Everyone Else

Written by Luke Barnes

Raya And The Last Dragon is an animated action adventure fantasy film directed by Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada. We follow Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), a warrior who sets out to collect all the pieces of the dragon gem, to save the world from a dark evil.

So before I get into this review, I just want to say how nice it is to see Kelly Marie Tran come out swinging like this after all the hate she endured online, it is truly inspiring.

I enjoyed the premise and thought the story was a neat idea, it was original yet also a little familiar.

However, sadly that is where my praise for this film ends. I did not hate this film, but I did think it was very, very generic.

So firstly, none of the characters feel likeable- they just don’t click. They all have their moments here and there across the course of the film, but these aren’t enough and the second the film ends you forget all about it and its character’s none of them leave an impact on you.

Likewise the emotional heart of this film feels very hollow. The two big driving forces in terms of the heart of the film, are Raya being able to revive her dad and Raya’s rivalry with her arch enemy Nammari (Gemma Chan), both of these plot threads are resolved, but the payoff leaves you feeling cold and unmoved. Disney animation needs to take a few cues from Pixar to fix this.

Another fault of the film comes with ancient dragon Sisu (Awkwafina), who is the comedic side kick of Raya for most of the film.  The issue with Sisu is that the narrative builds her and other dragons up to being these immensely powerful beings and yet they don’t show the dragons doing anything to justify this reputation. Moreover, Awkwafina is not funny in the role and doesn’t not nail the performance, her character feels like it is trying to be Eddie Murphy’s Mushu and Robin Williams’ The Genie, all at the same time and yet doesn’t bring the charm of either.

Overall, this is very watchable and is fine fare for families just looking for something easy to watch. However, I would not say it is worth the price point, as the film itself is deeply average. Wait till June.

Pros.

Kelly Marie Tran gives a good performance

The lore and the world is interesting

Cons.

The emotion doesn’t stick

Awkwafina is badly miscast

It is very safe and predicatable

2.5/5

Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker: This Is Going To Be A Long One

Star War The Rise Of Skywalker is an epic science fiction film directed by JJ Abrams.  The plot ends the Skywalker saga that has been set up by the previous films and sees the final showdown between the light side of the force and the dark side.

Where to begin with this film? Is it terrible? No. Is it in any way good? No as well. There are so many things to unpack with this film, this might be a long one.

So firstly, the opening fight scene where Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), is slicing through rebels with ease and it looks awful. The choreography of this scene is clearly supposed to make Ren look scary and powerful; however it was somewhere around the moon walk stab that I laughed out loud; it does not open the film on a good note.

Secondly, when the final order is raised, it does not look impressive rather it looks cheap and it looks as thought they had skipped out on getting good visual effects. This is recurring through the film; this is not a one-off issue.

Thirdly, the humour there is something really particularly bad about the humour. Now, I am not saying every film needs to be direly serious, but it would have been better here than what we got. This film even more so then The Last Jedi is trying and failing to replicate the MCU. We have a deadly serious scene with franchise spanning implications and then before any of the emotional impact can register bam we get a quippy joke, it is irritating.

Before I get to my final issues with this film I just want to talk about a few things this film got right.

I enjoyed some of the new characters this film set up, even if they were severely underdeveloped, I would like to see some of them come back in future films/ Disney Plus series, there is potential there.

Personally, I thought the only moment of this film that actually worked was the final battle and even then all the stuff about Rey’s (Daisy Riddley), origins ruined it a bit. The final desperate fight in this film was the only thing that actually felt like Star Wars to me, having the Rebels effectively facing extinction and then just when all seemed lost help arrived- this was a cheer worthy moment, the only one of the film.

Now my two major issues with the film. Nearly all of the interesting characters from the previous films were blatantly ignored or reduced in favourite of focusing on Rey and Kylo Ren, and whilst I can understand that both of them are popular characters it just feels like a huge missed opportunity, poor writing and a slap in the face. Moreover, the reveal of Rey taking the Skywalker name at the end of the film did not make me cheer, it did not elicit any kind of positive emotion in me rather it made me cringe… and that was how the film ended, on a cringe.

Overall, this film single handed dealt more damage to the Star Wars brand than anything else in it’s history, at least The Last Jedi had guts.

Pros.

The one cheer worthy moment

A few cool new characters

Cons.

Doing nothing with most of the characters

The cheapness and the cringe

The bad and poorly done fight scenes

The eye rolling moments

1/5

Reviewed by Luke

Journey 2: The Kind Of Stepdad That Takes You Half Way Around The World To Bond With You

Journey 2, The Mysterious Island is a science fiction adventure film directed by Brad Peyton. The plot continues the adventure of Sean Anderson (Peter Hutcherson), as he now goes to another mystical land. First it was the centre of the Earth with his Uncle (played by a sourly missed Brenden Fraser), and now it is a mysterious island in the middle of the pacific with his stepfather (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson).

This film is a lot of fun there is not much more to it than that. Is it the best film you will ever see? No. However, it is an extremely enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half, and surely that is what matters?

This film as a whole like many others is made by the Rock’s easy-going charm. The Rock is one of the easiest actors to watch on screen and moreover he also has great chemistry with near anyone you put him on screen with, as proved here: Michael Cain and The Rock were the buddy duo you never knew you needed.

I enjoyed the adventure as a whole as well, I thought it was interesting to see this world realised and I thought the special effects were good enough to a point where I did not feel like I was being taken out of the movie.

Overall, it’s a fun film with a lot of charm and heart and some neat visuals, you can do a lot worse than this one.

Pros.

The Rock

The charm

The visuals

The adventure

Cons.

Parts do feel a little bit familiar and more originality could have been used.

4.5/5

Reviewed by Luke