Robin Robin: Whilst You Sleep At Night Mice Steal Your Food

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young robin called Robin, voiced by Bronte Carmichael, is taken in by a family of mice, but must then find out who she is after she realises she doesn’t make for a very good mouse.

My track record with Aardman Animation is mixed, I liked Wallace and Gromit and thought Early Man was okay, but I really didn’t like Chicken Run. So when it came to watching this I was mixed, however I have to say this is easily the best Aardman feature to date and if this is any indication for what they are going to produce through their collaboration with Netflix then I am very on board for what is to come.

I thought the film was sweet and really sold its message of being yourself and being proud of who you are well. I enjoyed all the characters and thought each had their moments to shine over the features run time. I thought the pace was well decided as well, as by keeping it short it allowed the film to have a real momentum that lead to it be constantly engaging and never boring.

Finally, there is a musical element to this film which could be hit or miss for people, for me I thought it worked and I enjoyed almost all of the songs, bar the final proper one during the third act, but for the most part I thought the songs added to the film’s charm.

Overall, a lovely little animated Christmas film.

Pros.

It is sweet

It is well paced

It has fun characters

The songs work well

Cons.

The third act could use work as it is a little played out  

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Tiger King Season Two: Series Overview

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

All of the supposed Tiger Kings and Queens are back for a follow up.

The biggest question I have for this show after watching it is did we need the second season at all? What did it add? In many ways, it just showed us more of the same and doubled down on a lot of the themes and narrative through lines of the first season. Including more of the unethical issues that many decried the first series for, to see an example of what I and others are talking about consider the issue of bias within the second season of Tiger King. There are clear heroes and villains in the overarching narrative of the show and this is less to do with who is or isn’t guilty but rather who the public latched on to. Yes, I am talking about Joe Exotic. The second season is incredibly in love with him, and decides to ignore his rather obvious animal abuse charges and instead paint him as some kind of falsely accused, for the murder for hire plot, folk hero whilst painting all of his enemies even the ones not convicted of any wrong doings as villains. You can see why Carole Baskin didn’t want to come back.

In the sense of a true documentary this series is and always has been an abject failure. It does not care about the truth but rather what is the most entertaining narrative, as such it is more akin to reality TV. It is in this sense I come to my review score because whilst this season did not need to exist I did find it entertaining whilst it was on, I enjoyed the roadshow as much as anyone else so whilst I can stand here and say it is bias therefore it is a bad documentary series, I think it is already aware of that and doesn’t care.

Furthermore, in some ways this second season provided comfort to me as we got to see a lot of the worst characters from the first season go to prison, or be on their way there, which restores some of my faith in humanity.

Overall, though it was unneeded and incredibly bias, I did still enjoy my time with the series.

Pros.

Dumb fun

The absurdity

Seeing some of the cruel animal abusers facing consequence

Cons.

The clear bias

It was needless

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Tick Tick Boom: Andrew Garfield Really Can Do It All

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film tells the somewhat real life story of Johnathan Larson, recounting the making of his first musical Superbia.

I have been decidedly negative on the work of Lin Manuel Miranda  for the most part, I didn’t like In The Heights, Vivo or his role in the Mary Poppins revival; the only thing I have liked from him has been his role in His Dark Materials. However, this blew me away and really resonated with me.

I thought this film was strong across the board, Andrew Garfield was splendid in the lead role, but when is he not? The songs were top tier and the emotion always rang true. I think the latter of those points is the feather in the film’s cap as the writing here has an uncanny ability to reach through the screen and tug at your heartstrings. There were multiple moments in this film were I was on the verge of tears; the writing is incredibly poignant and meaningful and Garfield sells this to the letter, in what may be one of his best performances to date.

Honestly Netflix needs to make more films like this as it might shake up their stale blockbuster wannbe slate and actually help to elevate them as a studio.

Overall, a magnificent film in many ways with only a few slight pacing issues holding it back.

Pros.

Garfield

The songs

The emotion and the impactful ending

It is inspiring

Cons.

Pacing issue

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The Princess Switch 3: Vanessa Hudgens Is A TALENT

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Vanessa Hudgens is back switching places with people who look exactly like her again, this time it is because an expensive Christ ornament is stolen.

I unironically like these films, yes I know many think they are trashy and they certainly won’t win any awards for their plot or their characters any time soon, but there is just something so happy and fun about them that I will watch them every year as soon as they come out.

Hudgens does a good job of playing three separate characters and giving each their own moments and character traits so they can feel different and important narratively. I think this film is a little Fiona heavy, she was the character introduced in the last film and is the bad cousin, however I am not complaining really as Fiona is probably the most fun out of the three. It is clear that Hudgens is having a lot of fun here and it is very infectious.

The silliness of the plot and the surely known cheapness only serves to make the film more endearing and likeable as you can’t help but laugh at how dumb it all is. Certainly this isn’t one that you need to pay attention to and can just space out whilst watching, but again that not a bad thing here.

Overall, the film is a lot of fun and if like me you enjoyed the previous Switches then you will most likely like this one too.

Pros.

Hudgens

The dumb fun

The feel good ending

How needlessly over the top it is

Cons.

Hudgens other two characters, who aren’t Fiona, could have done with a bit more

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Father Christmas Is Back: Daddy Issues At 40

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of posh people come together to celebrate Christmas, however an unexpected guest throws things out of whack and causes emotions to fly.

I thought this film was good, for the first hour and a half and then it didn’t know when to end. Indeed, the first hour of this film is quite good, everyone is funny a lot of the jokes land, the actors have good chemistry and it doesn’t feel too overly semimetal. However, then the ending happens.

The final act of the film goes out of its way to redeem Kelsey Grammar’s absentee father character, having him basically be a saint and having left as he was a victim of infidelity. He even saves the day at the end of the film if that isn’t enough for you. I think the moral ground that this film takes in this regard is shaky and falls apart the more you think about it. Moreover, the finale just feels bloated so whilst it is doing all of this grandstanding you just want it to end.

Overall, one of Netflix’s better Christmas films for sure, but not one without its own share of issues.

Pros.

John Cleese

It is funny

Two thirds of it are very good

Cons.

The moralising

The ending and its bloat  

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Big Mouth: Season 5 Overview

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The kids face off against love and hate.

I thought after last season this was an improvement, that is not to say that last season was bad more that it went a bit too heavy on its themes of anxiety and future dread, this I felt did a better job as it tackled and did justice to its themes whilst keeping things moving at a fairly nice breezy pace.

Moreover, I thought the jokes were more on point this time around as it returned to the comedic ability of earlier seasons having me laughing quite a few times per episode. In terms of emotional weight I think this film tackles teenage love, unrequited love and hate all quite well having the characters go on believable journeys throughout the season. I enjoyed the scene where Nick, voiced by Nick Kroll, ventures into the monster world to find out who the boss is only for it to be the real life actor Nick Kroll, I thought the metaphor of you being in control and being the boss of your emotions was apt and quite poignant for the show.

If the show was going to end I would say that scene should have been the last of the show.

Moreover, I enjoyed the Christmas episode quite a bit as well. At first the idea of an anthology of stories seemed to be irritating as it was taking us out of the action, however it actually served as quite a nice pallet cleanser and had a number of great segments.

Overall, a strong season that saw a closer return to form for the show.

Pros.

It is funny

It is heartfelt

The Christmas special

The live action scene

Cons.

On occasion it belabours its points and drags them out for too long

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Love Hard: Make Better Films Netflix It Is Getting Embarrassing

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young woman, Nina Dobrev falls in love online only to later realise she has been catfished, the catfisher promises to set her and this guy up if she pretends to be his girlfriend during the holidays.

When I saw from the makers of Holidate I knew this was going to be bad, much like the previously mentioned film this again has a bad message and iffy morals.  By making Jimmy O. Lang’s catfishing character in any way redeemable this film almost feels like it is saying his behaviour is okay, it is not just in case you were wondering. I wish romantic comedies would stop pushing these icky narratives and toxic messages it’s time to move on, catfishing someone is not a valid or acceptable way to try and get a relationship.

Moreover, every line in this film is cringe. By that I mean the film thinks it is so cool and trendy in a lot of the things it says, sometimes directly towards the audience, but it is not. Best case it is saying supposed insightful points that other films have spouted before or at worst it feels like an out of touch executive trying to be down with the kids and failing horribly.

Overall, this is why people think Netflix films are usually trash because they put out far too much content like this.

Pros.

Nina Dobrev is trying

Cons.

The writing is stilted

It is horribly cringe

The romance feels forced

The premise is deeply flawed

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The Trip: Three Violent Criminals Saving A Marriage

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A husband and wife duo, played by Aksel Hennie and Noomi Rapace, head up to their cabin with plans to murder one another, however these plans are thwarted when three escaped prisoners show up and take them hostage.

I don’t think this film wins any awards for originality, I have seen this premise before, a husband and wife who hate each other being forced to defeat a threat and then coming back together at the end with the troubling events having saved their relationship. However, it is done well here.

Both Hennie and Rapace are terrific and I enjoyed the game of one-upmanship they have. Neither of their characters knows the other is plotting against them and I enjoyed seeing their plans run into each other with each thinking they had the advantage over the other only to later have that stripped away.

Moreover, I also really liked this film’s sense of humour and I found myself laughing a number of times throughout. Obviously the humour here is quite dark and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I found this to be one of the funniest films I have seen in a while.

My only real criticism of the film would be that there are a number of scenes that I think go too far and maybe start to cross into bad taste. I am of course talking about the attempted rape scene, many films have these sort of scenes in them as they apply to the story however here I found it to be far more intense and graphic than what we normally see and as such it made me feel very uncomfortable, the camera often lingered for too long.

Overall, a terrific dark comedy film, minus a slight bit of bad taste.

Pros.

The humour

Hennie

Rapace

The ending

Cons.

It goes too far for my sensibilities   

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Christmas Inheritance: The Big City Will Turn You Evil

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Highflying CEO to be Ellen, Eliza Taylor, must go and deliver a letter to her uncle in small town America in order to complete her training and take over from her father. Naturally going to this town forces her to see how morally corrupt big city life is and how she has had the wrong priorities all her life.

And so we begin, it is quickly becoming the time of the year where I review Christmas films- the good, the bad and the overly moralistic. This film is somewhere between those latter two, as it preaches the values of ‘real America’, and suggests that modern big city living is evil and causes people to lose touch with their humanity. This is nothing new from these type of Christmas films, and this plot has been recycled over and over again.

The romance here, as they always have to have the big city woman ditch her current boyfriend and find love in the small town, is poorly done. The trope as a whole is not helpful, and here it is particularly unbelievable as the characters have no chemistry so their whirlwind romance feels blatantly fake.

The only reason this film isn’t getting lower is because of Eliza Taylor. Taylor is clearly trying her best to give this role some personality and warmth and that shows, sadly what she is given to work with boxes her in and leaves her with nothing to work with. However, she still manages to be charming.

Overall, yet another samey, questionable Christmas film. Is small town America really this magical, or is this over romanticised  in the extreme? Let me know.

Pros.

Eliza Taylor

Cons.

It is the same story you have seen before

The morals

It feels sexist

The central romance doesn’t work

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The Meyerowtiz Stories: Adam Sandler Can Act

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This film tells the story of three children, played by Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Elizabeth Marvel who are brought back together after the sudden illness of their father played by Dustin Hoffman.

I genuinely do think that when he is trying, and not just trying to goof off with his friends and call it a film, Adam Sandler is a talented dramatic actor. You can see my point here as the film is far more of a character study and drama rather than a comedy film, there are jokes thrown in here and there but for the most part it plays it straight and Sandler excels. Sandler plays the often overlooked and taken for granted son well and you buy his complicated relationship with his dad, you can see the conflict going on within the character. Likewise, I think Ben Stiller also really rises to the dramatic mark here and nails the performance.

I appreciated what this film tried to do in an emotional sense, I thought it was very resonant and that the struggles and situations shown will ring true for a lot of people. I thought the film did justice to the bond between parent and child, showing just how messed up it can be, but that ultimately you can’t change it and can only make peace with it.  I found the film to be effecting and it certainly knew how to work my heart strings and make me feel something.

Overall, a strong film proving that Adam Sandler can be a good actor when he wants to be.

Pros.

Nailing the emotion

Sandler

Stiller

Marvel

Cons.

Pacing issues

Hoffman’s father character is a bit one  note

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