The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)

kid who would be king poster

Alex Elliot, and his best friend Bedders, are prime targets for the school bullies, Lance and Kaye (yes, those names are subtle o_O). When Alex runs away from them one night and into a building site, it’s destiny that he’ll find a sword in a stone. Pulling it out, of course, sets off a whole chain of events involving shape-changing wizards, evil root-covered sorceresses, and undead knights wielding flaming weapons.

As re-imaginings of the Arthurian legends go, this one isn’t that bad. Britain is indeed in dire, leaderless times, so the whole myth works quite well. Alas, setting it in a school and using children for 99% of the cast wasn’t my favourite way to go – ymmv.

Movies starring kids largely have me asking that they *not* be too irritating, and most of the time this movie does at least hit that. But Alex’s earnestness turns whiny a few too many times for me, the obviousness of most of the set up is a bit too cheesy, and the lack of actual peril doesn’t add to the action levels.

The adult characters didn’t get nearly enough screen time, or non-scenery-chewing dialog, for my liking: I think Rebecca Ferguson is a fantastic actor, and Sir PatStew’s acting chops go without saying. Neither are best utilised here.

The one actor/character I really did like was the young Merlin. Gawky, ungainly, and so much fun, he nails the part perfectly. Again, he’s just not in it enough.

Plot-wise, as I said, it’s all very predictable, but then why would I have expected anything else?

Overall this is inoffensive family fun, and I realise I’m not the target audience. If you still need a movie to take the kids to over midterm, this one isn’t going to cause actual discomfort to the adult audience. In fact, most of my fellow viewers in the cinema seemed to be older, and the loudest laughs were from grown men. So. Hmm.

Released: 15th February 2019
Viewed: 15th February 2019
Running time: 120 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 6/10

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Iron Man (2008)

iron man poster

I don’t often go back and review older movies, but with the upcoming release of Avengers: Endgame (squeeeee!) it seemed like an excellent excuse time for a rewatch of my beloved Marvel movies. And, since many of them predate this blog by a number of years, it’s also a good excuse to see how well they hold up.

It’s hard to imagine a time now when the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) wasn’t the juggernaut that it is today: 20 films already released and box office gold, another three due this year and oh yeah, possibly the most anticipated movie of the year with the aforementioned A:E.

Back in 2008, however, Marvel was not exactly swamped with success or cash. They made a relative pittance licensing their comic book properties such as X-Men and Spider-Man to other film studios. The real money would be in making their own. It was a gamble and a half – if their first attempt failed, they’d probably go bust, never mind getting a second chance. So, which world-famous superhero would they bring to the big screen? Iron Man!

*tumbleweed*

Hah, yes: back in 2008 no one had ever heard of ‘Iron Man’ (well, the comic book fans, but much as I love the MCU I was never one of those). I can’t imagine how the pre-production conversions went, from ‘who’ on the character, to ‘you must be kidding – you want to cast a former drug addict and convict as a superhero in a kids movie?!’

And there’s one thing I think worked so well: Marvel was *not* making movies for kids. We had plenty of those, doing so-so business, but some bright spark twigged that adults – many of whom had grown up with these characters – might not want to sit through more teen angst dressed up as burgeoning superpowers (Spider-Man). More, how about we buck the trend for dark, troubled superheros (Batman) or literal god-like aliens desperately trying to hide their real identity (Superman) and go with a ‘real’ person, albeit a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Tony Stark?

It worked – duh – and on a repeat viewing it *still* works. I remember sitting in the cinema blown away with how different this movie was from the Batmans and Supermans I’d grown up with. It was taking itself seriously, but it was chock-full of humour (Dummy the fire extinguishing robot had me in stitches). Robert Downey Jr just *was* Tony Stark – still is! – perfectly suave yet damaged, and omg was he actually *happy* to figure out how to be a superhero? Yup – you could see the glee in his first flight, getting to swat bad guys, and that announcement: “I am Iron Man.”

Iron Man was a joy of a movie, and I still loved it this time ’round – not my second or even fourth viewing, I’m sure 😉 It’s not perfect – what is? – but it is very watchable, and quite frankly hasn’t dated at all. Are we sure this was 11 years ago?! o_O

For kicking off a beloved franchise – although Marvel stumbled a bit with the next few *cough* Hulk *cough* – I was always going to be fond of this. To remind myself that it’s still a very fun, watchable movie is even better.

Released: 2nd May 2008
Viewed: 8th February 2019 (most recently)
Running time: 126 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 8/10

“Perhaps, if you intend to visit other planets, we should improve the exosystems.” (Jarvis to Tony Stark during the first Iron Man suit test run)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

How to Train Your Dragon 3 poster

The How to Train Your Dragon series has possibly my favourite animated character ever in Toothless the Dragon. His half-dog/cat type behaviour backed up by y’know, fire breathing, is just adorable. The humour in the rest of the set up, from Hiccup the very non-Viking-y brainiac chief’s son, the often dozy dragon riders with all their amusing foibles, not to mention an absolutely fab vocal cast, all make these films very worth watching, whatever your age.

With a third instalment, largely I tend to just hope it won’t tarnish the memory. I wasn’t expecting this to possibly be the best movie of the three!

One strength is how well the story continues with events, rather than just being A.N. Other adventure. We’ve seen Hiccup and Toothless meeting for the first time, we’ve followed the Vikings go from dragon-haters to dragon riders. And we’ve seen Hiccup grow up a little, not least as the mantle of chief is thrust upon him.

It makes sense, from the previous two stories, to open with Berk now a dragon haven but also drawing all the wrong kind of attention from those who still haven’t embraced the new human-dragon partnership model. And so the adventure here starts very logically, with Hiccup looking for a way to protect his new friends – even if that means chasing the impossible trying to find a mythical Hidden World.

I absolutely loved this film, even more than expected. I thought a bit of cute would suit a Friday night, but instead I was deeply moved at some parts, laughed out loud at others, and was overall impressed with the action. This is a fantastic animation, and a nigh-on perfect ending to the trilogy.

Toothless is still very much my favourite 🙂

Released: 1st February 2019
Viewed: 1st February 2019
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 9/10

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

ralph breaks the internet poster

Several years have passed since the events of Wreck It Ralph (2012), and the title character is happy in his routine of working in his game and hanging out in the Tapper bar room with his best friend, Vanellope. She, however, is finding the repetition a little stifling – so when the arcade gets wifi, the chance of an adventure in the internet is a welcome adventure. What could possibly go wrong?!

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel – possibly more than the original. The story follows well, but what really lifted it for me was the pop culture nods, from social media to Disney’s greatest. The scenes in the Disney online experience tickled me immensely – from the Princesses as seen in the trailer, to Stormtrooper guards, and omg Groot…! 🙂

The actual story, about clingy friendships and learning to let go, is more than adequate as an underpinning to the real fun of seeing Ralph join in with meme culture. Recommended slice of family fun.

Released: 30th November 2018
Viewed: 21st December 2018
Running time: 112 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 8/10

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

solo poster

Han Solo: cool, suave, cheeky grin. Shoots first, knows you love him. Almost certainly the best character in Star Wars. And once did the Kessel run in 12 parsecs, don’t ya know?

I had mixed feelings about this film – going in, and coming out. I like the Star Wars universe, it’s got a lot going for it that we maybe haven’t seen the best of via the main movies. So sure, let’s have another story set here, where aliens and humans and droids and all sorts of things mingle on planets of every type not just deserts, honest. I’m not entirely sure it needed to be this story, though: did we really need that cool-guy mythos broken down and laid out quite so much?

That aside, Solo is a fun watch. There’s a teenie little bit of the social commentary stuff that led to such a slow chunk of The Force Awakens, but mostly it’s just action, some laughs, more action, and plenty of nods to events and knowledge that viewers of the original movies will ‘get’.

I think the cast did very well here, especially Alden Ehrenreich with his near-impossible task of being Harrison Ford – he’s not as cool, but I suppose will grow into it 😉 Stand out for me was probably Phoebe Waller-Bridge as droid L3, done with such swagger and a chip on her shoulder the size of (“that’s not”) a moon (!). I wasn’t quite so taken with Paul Bettany’s baddie, but that might have been finding his menace less disturbing than why he had a face full of stretch marks o_O

Plot-wise it’s got few surprises, but it does try to cram quite a lot into the 2 and a quarter hours to stop you thinking too much. And that’s rather what I like from a trip to the cinema!

Released: 24th May 2018
Viewed: 25th May 2018
Running time: 135 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 7.5/10 –  I think this would have been better as a complete stand-alone rather than a prequel, tbh

Ready Player One (2018)

ready player one poster

In the not-too-distant future, a virtual reality environment known as the Oasis has captured the minds of most of the human race. Why deal with your unhappy reality, when you can be anything you want, go anywhere you want, and do anything you want, in an environment that feels as real as real.

Five years before we start the movie, the Oasis’s creator, James Halliday, dies. But he’s left a final game for the players of the world: if they can find three keys hidden in challenges throughout the virtual worlds, one winner will inherit all of Halliday’s wealth – and control of the Oasis itself.

Everyone is after the prize, from ‘clans’ of players to corporations, and individuals like Wade aka Parzival, a massive geek and Halliday fanboy. Five years have passed and no one has found any clue – is that about to change?

I read the book this is based on a few years back, and while I quite enjoyed it I didn’t buy into the massive hype that surrounded it at the time. Conversely, I actually really enjoyed the movie and think a lot of the criticisms thrown at it are rather weak. If anything, I think the movie has smoothed over a few of the bits that didn’t work quite so well, such as Wade’s apartment life, making for a slightly tighter story. Some changes don’t work quite so well, like having the characters meet much sooner in real life, but are needed for the more visual medium, I reckon.

And talking of visuals: excellent! This is a virtual reality done by Spielberg, no surprise it looks pretty ace.

One complaint I heard before going that I’d like to take issue with: women do not get a raw deal in this movie, imo. The lead is male, but he’s not perfect, and the females around him get to kick butt and solve puzzles too.

Overall: I rather enjoyed this! It’s exactly what I would have wanted from the book adaptation and more, and it’s a hugely enjoyable romp through pop culture.

Released: 28th March 2018
Viewed: 2nd April 2018
Running time: 140 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 8/10

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

jumanji poster

This sequel to Jumanji (1995) shakes things up a bit: the game itself takes the dismissive “who plays board games anymore?” to heart and evolves into a video game. And instead of releasing its dangers into the world, this time it’s going to suck its unwitting players into the heart of the jungle itself. And, perhaps my favourite alteration, once inside the game the four teenage leads are transformed into their character avatars, meaning we get The Rock, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan playing ‘teenagers’ trapped in very different bodies.

The laughs are mainly around this body-swap idea, with the scrawny geek now a muscle-bound fighting machine, the self-absorbed selfie queen finding herself now a tubby, middle-aged man (as shown in trailers), etc etc. There’s a hefty dollop of self-discovery to be had along the way, of course, as our team face myriad dangers and amusing video game tropes, like the NPCs with limited dialogue capabilities.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this, especially as I hadn’t been a big fan of the original. Losing the younger cast helped a lot, for me, and the adult actors are all pretty spot on. Even Kevin Hart, who annoyed me greatly in his last collaboration with Dwayne Johnson, Central Intelligence (2016), fits really well.

It’s far from perfect – oh, what is?! – but I was pleasantly surprised and found this to be amusing and fun. Recommended for a Sunday afternoon, or when you need a daft pick-me-up.

Released: 20th December 2017
Viewed: 17th February 2018
Running time: 119 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 7/10