UglyDolls

I had the privilege of being invited along to the press/family screening of the new animated adventure, The UglyDolls, at the Vue Cinema, West End this Sunday. On arrival I was greeted by friendly staff and ample photo opportunities.

Screenshot 2019-08-12 at 11.17.52On the 1st floor of the cinema they had a selection of children activities taking place, build your own UglyDoll, face painting, meet the characters and a green screen photo booth, among others.
On all the seats in the cinema screen were snacks and cans of water for all as well as an UglyDolls goodie bag, a brilliantly hosted event from all involved.

 

 

In the picturesque town of UglyVille live Moxy, Ox, Ugly Dog, Lucky Bat, Wage and Screenshot 2019-08-12 at 11.20.48Babo, they are the UglyDolls.
Moxy is eager to get to the Big World to find a child to love, in an attempt to escape UglyTown she gathers her friends and they set off on a big adventure. On their way to the Big World they find themselves in a new intimidating place, The Institute of Perfection, a place where dolls are sent before they can enter the Big World to become the perfect toy. 

 

Moxy and her friends go through the gruelling process of learning how to become a perfect doll but they stumble along the way, no thanks to the leader of perfection, Lou.

The UglyDolls is a colourful, family friendly adventure packed full of positive messages for children and adults alike to learn that no matter what you look like or who you are, you are still perfect. Screenshot 2019-08-12 at 11.20.17
Jam packed with great characters from a huge cast from the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Nick Jonas. It also bids a fantastic soundtrack with painfully catchy songs.

Although the animation is patchy (no pun intended) at times, this film is truly full of a heart and will be a sure hit for the summer holidays.

UglyDolls is in cinemas around the country from August 16th.

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UglyDolls

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Vue Cinema, Westfield London, Sunday morning around 10:30am and I’m stood stroking the back of a very friendly python (non-harmful of course). I’ve been completely inundated with pastries, cookies and fruit, with as much tea/coffee/juice as I could shake a stick at. So safe to say it was a warm welcome, and a very well organised event from all involved. The screen wasn’t packed because they had plenty of screens showing the film with a mixture of families and critics alike, which was nice.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold tells the story of a grown up Dora the Explorer moving to the “big city” (in this case, Los Angeles) to become more accustom to real life as she has spent all of her life thus far living in the jungle, not to be confused with Mean Girls.

The film starred up and coming actress Isabela Moner (Instant Family, Transformers) who managed to perfectly capture Dora’s innocence and unbeknown sass. I was already laughing aloud at around 5 minutes in when Dora’s Dad, played brilliantly by the ever hilarious Michael Pena, called her out on her famous “Can you say *insert Spanish word here* kids?” talking to camera. Absolutely brilliant and proof that even the filmmakers knew the film they were making was ridiculous. Pena and Eva Longoria stole the show as Dora’s explorer parents, hilarious and completely self aware.

I was unsure about the drug inflicted cartoon sequence, it was an interesting attempt to entertain the adults and confused the crap out of the children. The script wasn’t great, the “shocking” twist at the end of the third act was very predictable and the forced love story was painful and tedious.

Boots (Dora’s trusty talking monkey side kick) was probably my favourite part of the film, funny and cute and everything you want and expect from an animal side kick. Shame about the CGI being completely weightless and badly acted against, but he provided some light relief. I didn’t understand the character Swiper, he didn’t really have a lot of relevance to the story – I’m guessing he’s from the cartoon series and kids probably love him so they didn’t want to leave him out of the film. It was a hilarious surprise to see he was voiced by Benecio Del Toro.

Overall I think kids will absolutely love it and the parents will be embarrassed to laugh along with it, safe to say James Bobin has found his niche with family fun summer holiday hits.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Chernobyl

This breathtaking drama follows the devastating events that took place in 1986, Russia, after the fatal toxic explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Told brilliantly through a high intensity 5 part series, Chernobyl tells the story of the heartbreaking aftermath of the explosion.

HBO are notorious for the success of their mini-series’, with the likes of Band of Brothers and Sharp Objects, Chernobyl does not fail to follow suit being the highest rated TV series of all time* pushing Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad out of it’s path.

The real beauty of this series is the calmness, it totally lures you in by creating a sense of almost tranquility, despite the obvious horror of the situation. We know the stakes are high when we see one of the main characters committing suicide in the opening scene, and this is not the most shocking thing we see as the series goes on.

We see the tragic event take place through the eyes of many different people to give a clear image of the realness of the situation. We follow a wife who’s fireman husband is killed at the very start when he goes to the ambiguous scene to help with the initial destruction. We see a young lad who is ordered to join the forces to help clear the surrounding area and is appointed the job to kill any living pets/animals to avoid the spread of infection which they would all inevitably carry. We’re introduced briefly to an elderly woman who refuses to evacuate her house, after having survived the war, she doesn’t think it necessary. It’s really powerful to see all these people having to deal with this incident that has never happened before and seeing how it effected real life.

The series is jam packed with shocking moments, particularly from the men in power, it’s breathtaking to think that what you’re watching truly did happen.

After reading comments from people who grew up in the area and know about the history of Chernobyl, it seems that HBO didn’t fail to keep the drama as true to fact as possible.
The decision to have the performances in English is powerful and cleverly done, with use of the Russian language where necessary, without distracting the viewers.

The tension of the final episode is so powerful you find yourself questioning what’s going to happen in the end regardless of it being blatant, having already seen the concluding scene in the first episode.

Emily Watsons powerful portrayal of scientist and theorist, Ulana Khomyuk, is outstanding. Teamed up with Jared Harris’ performance as Valery Legasov is a match made in casting heaven.
Packed full of incredible performances from Watson and Harris to Jessie Buckley and Stellan Skarsgard, Chernobyl is one of the most powerful tv series we’ve ever witnessed and a triumphant achievement.

“We live in a country where babies have to die to save their mothers. To hell with your lie.” – Emily Watson as ‘Ulana Khomyuk’

 

*According to IMDB at time of publication
Chernobyl

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Despite the fact that the only city in the film that actually got destroyed instead of CGI destroyed was London, I really enjoyed the film. (I just re-read that and if you haven’t seen the film you’re going to think the visual effects team literally destroyed London, and that is not at all the case. So if that first sentence didn’t make sense to you, stop reading and go and see the movie!)
This film must have felt like I did at school that time I had to follow the smartest kid in class with the best presentation with my ‘Can we just talk about how good the Hunger Games is?’ presentation. Honestly though, how does anyone follow Endgame?

Far From Home was a breath of fresh air after the devastation of Infinity War/Endgame. The writers did what everyone was hoping and brushed on the whole “what happened after the pre/post/current effects of the multiple snaps?” I personally would have liked to have found out a bit more about how the world coped with the weird age gaps that now exist between wives/husbands/children etc. I mean, people have missed 5 years of their children lives, thats quite a big deal. But we did get a short section about how it effected Peter Parker’s high school which was both hilarious and rewarding.

The film opened with a brilliant powerpoint presentation showing the Avengers we lost to the soundtrack of Whitney Houstons ‘I Will Always Love You’, which unsurprisingly included Captain America. He is either seen as ‘dead’ to the rest of the world or he would have just died anyway because he’s now like, really really old.

Unfortunately I already knew the twist that was coming regarding Mysterio after reading my Marvel Encyclopaedia before seeing the film (I know, more fool me, right?) but despite my prior knowledge, Mysterio’s big reveal was my favourite scene. It was so exciting to see Jake Gyllenhaal in a role like this after all the serious dramas we’ve seen him in in the past and I absolutely loved that evil smirk he gave the camera. As everyone in the audience was figuring out what was happening it was both terrifying and exciting to watch. Not to mention the inclusion of the flashback scenes from the earlier films which just worked perfectly. One thing I really do love about Marvel (other than everything) is that they put content in their films to please the fans but it’s not too overpowering, it’s enough to get the hardcore fans excited but without ruining the film for the newbies. 

We’ve had so many different takes on Spider-Man and although Into The Spider-Verse is my favourite, the Tom Holland era works so well and he’s such a fantastic Peter Parker. His chemistry with Zandaya (MJ) is so believable and his friendship on and off screen with Jacob Batalon (Ned) resonates throughout the film.

I also need to approach those post-credit scenes, because lets be honest, if you’ve seen the Tobey Maguire films this was a very exciting moment. Not only is J K Simmons playing THE SAME CHARACTER that he did in those previous Spidey films, but we also now have confirmation that the Daily Bugle is going to feature. It was a mind blowing moment if I ever knew one.
And if that wasn’t enough, we learn that throughout this film Nick Fury was not Nick Fury at all but the shapeshifter skrull leader Keller who is featured heavily in the previous Marvel adventure, Captain Marvel. But what does this mean? How long has he been using Nick Fury’s appearance and why did Fury need a holiday so badly? How is this going to effect the rest of the MCU? Not to mention, Keller’s wife was sitting in place for Agent Maria Hill so where is she hiding?
They were fantastic post credit scenes and it’s details like this that make these films the roaring success that they are.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a treat for the whole family and an absolute feast for Marvel fans. The only, tiny, minor disappointment was the fact that we have been completely teased with the chance of seeing the multiverse within the MCU because, I for one, was very excited to see how that was going to be executed. But we can’t win them all.

Far From Home is now storming through the box office in cinemas everywhere. Go and see it!

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Toy Story 4 – Hidden Mickeys!

I absolutely loved the latest instalment of the Toy Story series. When the film was first announced I was sceptical about this whole thing, as I believe a lot of people were. After the perfect ending of Toy Story 3 I didn’t believe that we needed another story about what happened to the gang after Andy handed them over to Bonnie but how wrong was I?
My opinion started to change from cynicism to excitement when I realised just how much Bo Peep was going to feature as she was my favourite character growing up, she may have changed quite a bit but she’s still just as awesome as I always thought she was. I was a bit disappointed when I realised they had changed the voice actor from Jodie Benson to Annie Potts, I need to find out why that decision was made, but she did a great job of bringing Bo back to life.
Beside Bo Peep, my favourite character from the latest film was none other than the one, the only, Duke Caboom, voiced by the currently trending Keanu Reeves. He was a brilliant additional character to the story who didn’t bring a whole lot to the plot but provided the audience with some much needed comic relief.
The two things I picked up on initally after watching the film was 1. How sad it was at the end (I’ll do my best to stay relatively spoiler free) and 2. How scary it was! Anyone who has a fear of dolls and chose to go and see Toy Story 4 rather than Childs Play this weekend will not be best pleased. So Duke Caboom came into the picture at the exact right time to free us all of our tears and fright!

As always with any Disney or Disney/Pixar production it was jam packed with Hidden Mickeys* (also known as Easter Eggs outside the Disneyverse) and I seem to be able to pick them out even on the first watch so I thought I would brain dump some of the ones I noticed.

*Hidden Mickeys refer to the placement of items/characters/imagery from past (and occasionally future, for example Duke Caboom can be seen in The Incredibles 2) Disney or Disney/Pixar productions.

The Pizza Planet Truck

Featured in every Disney/Pixar films since the first Toy Story was released in 1995, the Pizza Planet truck has become a staple of Hidden Mickeys and everyone who knows about it will be looking out for it. See below for a few examples from recent Pixar films:

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 11.31.41.png

In Toy Story 4 the Pizza Planet truck can be found tattooed on the leg of the teenager running the carnival stall where multiple characters find themselves hung up for prizes throughout the film.

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 11.39.36.png

Dug

The film takes a turn when Woody and Forky find themselves trapped in an antique shop at the state fair where they meet the villainous Gabby Gabby, in an attempt to escape they are running through the shop jumping from shelf to shelf and in the background of one shot can be seen the famous painting of dogs playing poker. One of these dogs is indeed Dug the lovable labrador from the 2009 Disney/Pixar film Up amongst the other pups from the film. After doing a bit of research I found out it can also be seen in the poster for the film.

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Pixar Shorts

I’m sure I wasn’t alone when I sat down with my pic’a’mix and diet coke ready for the inevitable Pixar Short that we all look forward to before the feature starts only to be utterly devastated that there doesn’t seem to be one for this film! Come on Pixar, you’re basically throwing an Oscar away!
However, even though they didn’t give us a new Pixar short they did have a couple of homages to the old ones which I very much appreciated.

From the 1988 Pixar Short Tin Toy, Tinny can be seen greeting Woody and Bo as they enter the toys nightclub on their way to find the one, the only, Duke Caboom:

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 11.44.26.pngScreen Shot 2019-07-01 at 11.43.12.png

In another attempt to escape the awful Gabby Gabby the toys are climbing up a wall of shelves and in the process they climb over a stack of board games, all of which go by the names of some Pixar Shorts of days gone by, Partly Cloudy and Lifted were part of that pile.

And finally, the last one I spotted whilst watching the film, the Grape Soda bottle cap

Whilst Bo is packing up her skunk-mobile car with all the essentials, her nobel steeds Billy, Goat and Gruff hand her a familiar item, also from the film Up.

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I’m sure there are many more Hidden Mickeys throughout the lovable Toy Story 4 and if you see any, please comment!

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and I’m so happy the gang are back, it is so brilliantly written and will appeal to all ages.

 

Toy Story 4 – Hidden Mickeys!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Ok, what did we already know?

Godzilla is living under the ocean somewhere in some sort of hibernation since 2014 when Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen survived his invasion. Since then we’ve been to Skull Island with Bri Larson and Tom Hiddleston and met Kong.

Time has passed and Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler are grieving their son after he died in the first Godzilla attack and by the by ended up working for Monarch, the organisation who protect the Titans. Farmiga’s character, Emma, has developed a piece of equipment

to communicate with the Titans and in an attempt to control them decides that actually, the best thing to do is kill the human race. Similar to how Thanos wanted a perfect balance in Infinity War, Emma wanted to destroy the planet that evidently meant losing her only son.

With the help of her daughter Madison, played by Millie Bobby Brown, she gets herself tangled up with the likes of Charles Dance and everything goes a bit squiffy.

Whilst all of that’s happening ‘Zilla comes out of his long nap and ends up fighting against the Hydra-like monster in an attempt to keep his thrown as King of Monsters. With a few other mega-monsters, known as Titans, thrown in for good measure.

There were so many elements of this film that I’m bound to forget but I found myself getting seriously invested to the point that I was jumping out of my skin and actually covering my eyes in parts. It was fun and exciting and the human characters didn’t steal the spotlight of what I wanted to see, the monsters!

It was brilliantly directed…I’m being serious! The cinematography was really quite fantastic. A lot of it was shot from an almost POV aspect which worked really well, it felt like you were in there with all the action. I’d imagine it was really powerful in IMAX or ScreenX.

The visual effects were also very nice, especially for Godzilla himself, they felt really clean and convincing. I often comment on the “weight” of CGI characters (and I can’t be bothered to explain what I mean by that right now) but the weight of the monsters was spot on.

Ok, yes, the screenplay was patchy and at times incredibly cheesy ‘long live the king’ but it worked. But really, who even goes to films like this to appreciate the screenplay?

They utilised a fantastic cast with a couple of surprises along the way and some great performances. Especially from Brown, she really has perfected the traumatised-teenager role.

With subtle nods towards Godzilla vs. Kong (the next and I assume final instalment of this saga) I really enjoyed this blockbuster epic, it was fast paced, funny when it needed to be and generally very entertaining. I think the bad reviews are coming from people who were expecting more than a monster fighting monster film, because that’s exactly what it was and it was a great version of that.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Thunder Road

Written, directed and starring Jim Cummings (no – not that Jim Cummings, I thought that too, like the voice of Winnie the Pooh has suddenly decided to do his own film??) Thunder Road is a brutal, honest telling of a middle aged man going through different stages of his life whilst dealing with mental health issues. 

The film opens with Jim’s mothers funeral where he is the only one of his three siblings to attend, he is left to do the eulogy despite his own anguish. During the service he suffers an emotional breakdown and starts going off on a tangent about how his mother used to play him Bruce Springsteens Thunder Road to help him get to sleep. It’s uncomfortable to watch and relative for anyone dealing with loss, filmed completely in one take and running for approx 7/8 minutes it’s a powerful opening to the film.

This scene was taken from the short film of the same name, again written, directed and starring Cummings. 

Throughout the film Jim deals with more loss, stress, depression and the struggles of parenthood.

Incredibly strong performance from Cummings, amazing use of monologues and pure concentration on his character and how all the events of the plot effect him. Could be seen as quite self indulgent and will definitely be a love it/hate it film but for me it was really gripping and at times had me on the edge of my seat. Cummings should be incredibly proud of his creation. 

Safe to say this was unexpected excellence.

Thunder Road