Movies – Inside Out Review (or “Definitely Not *Just* For Kids”)

July 28, 2015

Lately I’ve been involved in a debate concerning animated films. Some people say that all animation is aimed specifically at children, and while that’s obviously ludicrous, the more intensified argument is whether or not the big budget ones like Disney’s Pixar movies are?

For me, it’s a no. You’d have to be a bit of a weird adult to go to see certain animated movies at the cinema – like the new Thomas the Tank Engine picture for example – but Pixar’s films have an appeal that spans all ages and demographics. They are deliberately aimed at everyone; if they weren’t, Disney wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful as it is.

Mindful of this, I went along to their newest effort, Inside Out.

Movies – Inside Out Review: What’s This About?

It’s about Riley, an 11-year-old girl who is uprooted from her life in Minnesota to live in San Francisco, and the little people in her head (or her five emotions Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness) who struggle to insideoutnavigate her through this trying time in her life.

Some might say this is Disney stealing the DC Thomson idea of The Numbskulls, and they’d have a point.

Movies – Inside Out Review: Who’s In It?

Pixar get it bang on with the casting of this one, with Joy played by the super bubbly Amy Poehler, while Sadness is expertly performed by The Office’s Phyllis Smith. Other voice actors involved include Richard Kind, Mindy Kaling and Kyle Maclachlan.

Movies – Inside Out Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Massively. I haven’t read a bad word about Inside Out, and whether it’s imdb (8.6), Rotten Tomatoes (98%), Metacritic (94%) or the written press, this is being described as a masterpiece.

Movies – Inside Out Review: My Thoughts

It’s quite clear that Inside Out is has more than one layer to it.

If you were going to be critical about the general plot it’s that it has essentially the same one as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up, Wall-E or just about any other Pixar or Disney movie. You know the one I’m talking about; characters are separated from something or someone and must get back to where they need to go. On the way, they bump into a variety of hazards and characters.

In this case it’s Joy and Sadness who are accidentally removed from HQ  – Riley’s brain controls – and have to get back before something bad happens.

That’s the hook and that’s what the kids will follow.

But beyond that it’s a surprisingly deep movie that deals with – and does a decent job of explaining – complex issues like fading childhood memories, how our personalities are formed and the importance of varied emotion and how sadness isn’t the worst thing in the world.

There are even instances where specific characters and incidents will have different meanings to different age groups. As an example of this, the character of Bing Bong – Riley’s imaginary friend who has been wandering around her memories alone for the last few years – will come across as a loveable and funny character to kids, but to adults will seem like a sad reminder of a lost innocence. It’s all very well done.

And as you would expect, the way it’s done is designed to pull at the adult heart strings. Considering the amount of sobbing I heard during it and the dozens of people wiping away tears when the lights went up, I think it served its purpose.

As good as it is though, I don’t think I’d consider it quite the masterpiece the press are touting it as.

Because it did rely upon that same rather tired ‘Home Is Just Over That Mountain’ plot that Pixar use to fill up time in movies, it slowed down a bit too much in the middle, and for that it loses some points as far as I’m concerned.

But it is well worth seeing, and a reminder that these movies are not just for kids; there’s something there for all ages to enjoy.

But Wait, There’s More…

As with all Pixar movies, there’s an animated short before the main picture begins.

In the past these have been so good they have stolen the show, whether it was the one about the paper aeroplane or the old fashioned 2D/3D Mickey Mouse short.

With Inside Out, it’s a 5 minute long musical love story called Lava, about two volcanos who fall in love in a relationship that lasts for millions of years.

I thought it was fantastic, and managed to tell the standard romance story more effectively than most movies could hope to. Not only was it a lovely song, but it was presented in an animated style that really brought it to life. More than Inside Out, this tugged at my heart-strings.

Not for the first time, I thought the quality of the animated short exceeded the movie.

You should obviously see it yourself, but the song is available on YouTube.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Movies: Ant-Man Review (or “A Welcome Change In Scale”)

July 23, 2015

When I told my brother that Marvel were making an Ant-Man film a couple of years ago, he thought I was taking the piss.

Why Ant-Man? He’s not even a B-Level Superhero is he? And the name is hardly one that will draw in the crowds?

Well perhaps that’s true, as it was reported that it had the weakest opening weekend takings of any Marvel movie since 2008. That’s not to say it hasn’t done well of course, but just that it’s lagged behind other, more famous Marvel brands.

None of that is of any consequence to the viewer though I suppose; what matters is whether or not it’s any good.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: What’s It About?

When the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) realises that one of protegés has discovered the secret to his shrinking suit technology and is planning on selling it to the highest bidder, he enlists the helpantman of ex-con burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to take over the mantle of the miniscule Superhero to stop him.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: Who’s In It?

Apart from the aforementioned Douglas and Rudd, this also stars Evangeline Lilly (Lost) as Pym’s daughter Hope, Corey Still (House of Cards) as the villainous Darren Cross and Michael Peña as Lang’s friend and partner in crime Luis.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Generally mixed. Imdb has it at 8.0 from just under 40,000 votes, but you can never tell how many of them are from fanboys. Most critics seem to have enjoyed it while a few felt that it fell flat.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: My Thoughts

Personally I liked it because it was a change of pace from most of Marvel Studios’ offerings.

Yes of course, despite the twist that this is about the original Ant-Man training the new one, Ant-Man is essentially yet another superhero origin movie, so it is by-and-large more of the same sort of plot about an ordinary person getting the grips with his new powers etc, but that’s not the change of pace I mean.

What I mean is that this movie operates at – and pardon the unintentional pun here – a far smaller scale than the likes of The Avengers or Spider-Man.

At its heart, Ant-Man is a comedy about a heist and so unlike just about every other effort from Marvel, this doesn’t descend into a third act all about destruction porn and cities being razed to the ground. Instead, there’s some actual plot involved in it and the special effects – like a toy Thomas the Tank Engine being turned life-sized – are used for humour.

Humour does play a big part in it, and so casting Paul Rudd – a natural comedic actor – in the lead role is important, but for me, it’s his friends like Peña who steal the show.

The only major criticism of Ant-Man is not really a criticism at all. I just feel that as a superhero, he has limited scope and a sequel would just be more of the same.  After all, how many nemeses can a guy the size of an ant have beyond other similar sized foes?

But that’s more a criticism of the state of Hollywood, because a movie shouldn’t have to prove that it can have multiple sequels for it to work.

As a standalone movie, this works well, and is worth seeing.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review (or “A Pleasant Surprise”)

July 2, 2015

A few months ago I was asked by a reader of this blog to review Kingsman: The Secret Service, but since it had only just finished at the cinema and I hadn’t gone to see it, I couldn’t oblige.

Why it didn’t catch my eye when it was on, I couldn’t tell you, but a quick google search shows that it had mixed reviews, with The Telegraph giving it one star (describing it as obnoxious) and Empire Magazine awarding it four stars, which by their standards means ‘excellent’. Perhaps I only caught the negative ones.

Anyway, since that request, I’ve seen nothing but praise for this movie; not from the press, but from punters who went along and loved it.

Someone even described it to me as one of the best films they’ve ever seen.

So this morning, I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – What’s It About?

Not so much a parody but a comedic love-letter to spy films of old,Kingsman is about a young working class Londoner who is brought in to a top secret – and incredibly upper class – British spy agency, and must

It can't be often when the lead actor in a movie doesn't even get his name on the poster

It can’t be often when the lead actor in a movie doesn’t even get his name on the poster

help save the world from an evil billionaire who plans to use mobile technology to cull most of mankind in a bid to save the planet from ecological decline.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – Who’s In It?

Though I wasn’t familiar with lead actor Taron Egerton (which is unsurprising considering he only seems to have five acting credits to his name), Kingsman is loaded with well-known actors like Michael Caine, Jack Davenport, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and even Mark Hamill.

Quite the collection.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – My Thoughts

There’s a scene halfway through the film where Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson discuss how spy films are so serious nowadays and that the old James Bond films with the over-the-top megalomaniac super villains were much more entertaining.

Now clearly this is a metatextual reference to what Kingsman is trying to achieve, and I think it sums it up perfectly.

As much as people like the Telegraph’s movie reviewer might think this is obnoxious, for my money it’s what spy films should be about.

Kingsman has the thrills, spills, action scenes and special effects that you would hope to get from any James Bond type movie and indeed it’s probably got quite a bit more violence, but it does it in a way that’s designed to entertain and make people chuckle; something which modern Bond has forgotten.

But Kingsman adapts it for a modern age and a modern viewer. There’s humour, there’s lots of swearing – and not for shock value, like when Judi Dench swore in Skyfall and Bond forums went into meltdown, but rather because it’s just how people talk – and there’s a certain appeal to it that should mean most people find something to enjoy.

The story itself has a good flow that not only builds up the main character to the point where he’s equipped for the final showdown with the villain at the end, but also allows for high points to keep you entertained until he gets there. I found the scene in the church quite a daring thing for any film to present.

And speaking of daring, the joke at the end where the Princess declares that if Eggsy manages to save the world, she’ll give him anal sex was controversial but hilarious. It’s a joke that’s designed to go one step further than the sort of cheeky ‘Bottoms Up’ style joke you’d find in some of these older films, but takes it that deliberate step over the edge. The zoom in on her bare arse just hammered that point home.

If I was to criticise it for anything, it would be that the way it’s directed – with each action sequence filled with slow shots – seems to weighted too greatly towards viewing it in 3D. That sort of gimmickry has long since past its sell by date.

To sum up though, I found Kingsman: The Secret Service to be thoroughly entertaining and would give it the thumbs up.

If you haven’t seen it yet, look it out.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

Movies – Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol Review (or “Crap, But Good Crap”)

July 1, 2015

Seeing as I’ve been told to rest a leg muscle injury, I didn’t have too much to do yesterday beyond sitting about and watching TV.

At the moment I don’t have any games I’m playing through, nor do I have any TV shows after finishing The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I looked through Amazon Prime to see if there were any movies I could while away the hours with.

And in amongst a selection of rather bland modern films and dodgy looking old ones (and no, I’m not being critical of old films in general, but I doubt vintage Dick Tracy films are going to be worth my while) I found one of the gems of my childhood…

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.


They put a lot more effort into movie posters back then

Now I’ve written a lot in the past about how we had a much more limited choice of TV and films to watch back in the 1980s and 90s in a time before On-Demand TV and cheap DVDs, and that any videos we did own we’d probably watch over and over again.

Well I had this movie on video, so I’ve probably seen it a couple of dozen times over the years.

But I haven’t seen it for a long, long time.

So does it hold its appeal after all these years, or does the memory cheat? Certainly modern-day reviewers don’t like too kindly upon it, as it manages to get a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.7 on imdb.

It’s surely not that bad though?

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Review – Thoughts

If I was to watch this for the first time today, I’d look at Police Academy 4 and I’d probably rip it to shreds in a review.

Let’s be blunt about it, it has problems from all sides…

  • Dodgy Acting: I can honestly say there’s not a single actor in this who you would want to cast in a film that you’d hope to be taken seriously. Most of the cast are there because of gimmicks rather than acting standards, e.g. Jones (He can make funny noises), Hightower (He’s big), House (He’s big and fat), Zed (I genuinely don’t know what the fuck is up with Bobcat Goldthwaite), Hooks (She has a squeaky voice),  and Sweetchuck (He’s tiny).
  • An Incredibly Bad Structure: Police Academy 4 has a start, it has a finish and then the middle 70 minutes are just like a series of random sketches unrelated to an ongoing narrative. So it’ll go from a scene where Zed and Sweetchuck get into a fight in a gym, to Captain Harris & Proctor accidentally going into a gay bar, to Mahoney, Zed and Hightower getting a construction worker team to put a portaloo with Proctor in it into the middle of a football stadium during a big match, to Mahoney flirting with a journalist, to Mahoney supergluing a microphone to Captain Harris’s mouth, to Zed and Sweetchuck having yet another fight in a gym. It doesn’t link and it doesn’t make sense.
  • Characters Popping Up Randomly: In a similar vein, there’s no real direction of purpose to the characters. You might think that it’s about the skateboarding kids being rehabilitated under the tutelage of Mahoney and his team, or that it’s about Mahoney – or even Zed – falling in love, but these story threads are picked up and dropped without any consideration. Similarly, the likes of Hightower don’t even appear in the final act, even though he’s positioned as the second lead.
  • It’s Sooooo Dated: Watched today, Police Academy 4 just seems unbelievably dated, from the hairstyles to the clothes to the music. And having a long montage dedicated to skateboarding? Awful. These days if I see an adult skateboarding, I just feel the urge to scream “It’s not 1987 anymore you muppet” at them.
  • Lack of Moral Centre: Ok, maybe I’m being harsh here, but in the same way the real villain of Ferris Buellar’s Day Off is Ferris himself for being a destructive truant, I don’t really get why Captain Harris is considered the villain here. He’s a police officer trying to do his job in amongst a group of cocky kids, incompetents and ne-er-do-wells who routinely abuse their powers as officers of the law.

But in spite of all of that, Police Academy 4 is funny and it’s enjoyable.

I watched it with a broad smile on my face, remembering all the weird characters and finding positives from all the bad parts I’ve just described. What makes it technically bad is what makes it charming, and whether it’s low brow or not, I just find stuff like Captain Harris calling Proctor a “Dickhead” amusing.

I also have to laugh at the way the some of the stuff was deemed acceptable for a 4-year-old me in terms of film classification. I went to see this at the cinema and my brother went to see it four times. All

Could you imagine a kids film with this in it these days? There'd be uproar!! By the way, I didn't even need to screencap this; a google search of Leslie Easterbrook returns multiple versions of this picture as the top hit.

Could you imagine a kids film with this in it these days? There’d be uproar!!
By the way, I didn’t even need to screencap this; a google search of Leslie Easterbrook returns multiple versions of this picture as the top hit.

throughout, there’s swearing, sexual references, violence and a scene where Lesley Easterbrook (Callahan) jumps bra-less into a pool and emerges with a t-shirt so wet you can see every aspect of her torso and then invites men in to ‘save her’. Could you imagine a movie with a U or PG certification doing that these days? Not a chance.

To be fair to it as well, some of the stunts throughout the film are actually very impressive and come across as the sort of thing that actors wouldn’t do anymore because using CGI would seem a lot safer. And my favourite character – Captain Harris (G.W. Bailey) – even does his own stunts, so credit to him for that.

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Review – Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Police Academy 4 is what it is. It’s crap, but it’s enjoyable crap viewed with a fondness that can only be attributed to a selection of 1980s movies that people my age watched over and over again.

I heartily recommend it, but appreciate that if you didn’t see it in the 80s, you’d probably think I’m insane for doing so.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’