PREVIEW: August 2019

Well, we are now about to enter the final stage of summer, which feels somewhat crazy, but also a bit of a relief as I struggle with heat quite badly. July has been a reasonable month in terms of new content for the blog, and I recently hit the milestone of 600 posts with my list of the Top 5 Pokémon battles from the anime’s Sinnoh saga. It was also recently my birthday and, as is tradition, my parents increased my film collection, this year with a big increase in my World Cinema library, by giving me the following films:

  • The Bad Sleep Well (1960, Akira Kurosawa)
  • The Beaches of Agnès (2008, Agnès Varda)
  • The Child (2005, The Dardenne Brothers)
  • Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962, Agnès Varda)
  • Dodes’ka-den (1970, Akira Kurosawa)
  • Drunken Angel (1948, Akira Kurosawa)
  • The Gleaners and I (2000, Agnès Varda)
  • High and Low (1963, Akira Kurosawa)
  • I Live in Fear (1955, Akira Kurosawa)
  • Ikiru (1952, Akira Kurosawa)
  • Jacquot de Nantes (1991, Agnès Varda)
  • The Kid with a Bike (2011, The Dardenne Brothers)
  • La Pointe Courte (1955, Agnès Varda)
  • Le Bonheur (1965, Agnès Varda)
  • The Lower Depths (1957, Akira Kurosawa)
  • L’Une Chante, l’Autre Pas (1977, Agnès Varda)
  • The Promise (1996, The Dardenne Brothers)
  • Red Beard (1965, Akira Kurosawa)
  • Rosetta (1999, The Dardenne Brothers)
  • The Silence of Lorna (2008, The Dardenne Brothers)
  • The Son (2002, The Dardenne Brothers)
  • Stray Dog (1949, Akira Kurosawa)
  • Vagabond (1985, Agnès Varda)

Anyway, enough about my ever-advancing age. In the coming month I will be in and out of London a fair bit, due to visiting family and friends. I will also be trying to lay some foundations as I prepare to start my PhD in Film and Cultural Studies at Kingston University in the Autumn. Nevertheless, I have a few cinema trips lined up, which include Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, AnimalsBlinded by the LightGood BoysOnce Upon a Time…in HollywoodAngel has FallenScary Stories to Tell in the DarkCrawlThe Sun is Also a Star and Pain and Glory. I will endeavour to, time permitting, get reviews for all of these films up, as well as whatever other content takes my fancy.

So, thank you as always for visiting my blog and, as ever, for the month ahead I wish you all Happy Reading!

FILM: The Intruder (2019, Deon Taylor)

The Intruder (2019 film) poster.jpg

Psychological-horror The Intruder is distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. Scott (Michael Ealy) and Annie (Meagan Good) buy a beautiful Napa Valley house from Charlie (Dennis Quaid), who is planning to retire to Florida. However, Charlie keeps showing up at the house randomly, which puts Scott on edge as he suspects that Charlie a) still regards the house as his, and b) has a crush on Annie? Annie takes pity on Charlie, who is clearly lonely, but does Scott have good reason to suspect what he does.

CONS

  • An uninspired and somewhat shameless rip-off of Cold Creek Manor, with a predictable narrative that swaps genuine tension for a few cheap jump scares.
  • Weak characterisation and wooden acting by a cast who are taking a B-Movie of this ilk way too seriously, partly no doubt due to some heavy-handed direction.
  • A tonally incoherent film, as several of the scenes which are meant to be of a more serious nature have the upbeat tone of teen soap opera, thanks to the choice of soundtrack and clunky dialogue.
  • A botched attempt at a sociopolitical message on a rather topical issue – gun violence.

PROS

  • A suitably over-the-top performance from Dennis Quaid, which is perfect for a B-Movie of this ilk and quite engaging at times.

VERDICT: 2/10

Top 5 Pokémon Battles (Unova Saga)

File:Pokémon logo English.png

I have never made it a secret that I am a huge fan of Pokémon, a franchise which got me into both gaming and anime. As such, it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Pokémon battles. On this list, I shall be counting down what I consider to be the 5 best Pokémon battles from the Unova saga of the anime. Do note, there will be no Decolore Islands battles here or on a separate list as a) that saga was one of the worst fillers in the history of anime, and b) there were barely any non-Team Rocket battles in that saga. So here we go…

5) Ash vs. Iris – Powerhouse Sparring (Episode 773)

File:Ash Charizard Iris Dragonite.png

The fact that a sparring battle between two travelling companions makes it to the Top 5 is rather telling of the quality of the Pokémon anime’s Unova saga. Nevertheless, a sparring battle between Ash’s recently returned Charizard and Iris’s Dragonite made for a great battle. With two Generation I powerhouses going for it to show each other their strengths, it was quite a spectacular and heated battle, and rather exciting to watch. N called time on the battle once it became clear that the two had come to understand and respect each other, and to see Charizard in action again for the first time in nearly 7 years was terrific. If only Ash had brought Charizard back to his team in time for the Unova League…

4) Ash vs. Iris – Club Battle (Episode 699)

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In the final round of the Club Battle tournament, travelling companions Ash and Iris battled each other, with Ash sending Pikachu out against Iris’s Excadrill. Despite Excadrill’s immunity to Electric-type attacks, Pikachu put up a good fight and was able to hold his own against his opponent and friend. An excellent combination of moves from Iris eventually led to her victory, after an exciting and fast-paced battle which emphasised Ash’s ability to think on his feet. More than anything though, it emphasised how far Iris had come as a trainer, after she had regained Excadrill’s trust only a few episodes earlier, and showed just how well the two battled together.

3) Ash vs. Brycen (Episode 736)

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In the episode before the battle for his seventh Unova Gym badge, Ash and Krokorok did some special training with Gym Leader Brycen and his Beartic. The Unova saga is renowned for having several of the all-time worst Gym battles in the anime, but the subsequent Gym battle between Ash and Brycen was a great battle. Ash’s Scraggy defeating Vanillish, despite not having mastered Focus Blast, emphasised just how far the little guy had grown under Ash’s training, while Ash’s Pignite defeating Cryogonal highlighted that he was a reliable member of Ash’s Unova arsenal. In the final battle, Krokorok had an intense match with Beartic, and won after Ash adopted a very unorthodox strategy, which reminded viewers of just how unpredictable Ash can be in battle, while foreshadowing how Krokorok would become Ash’s Unova MVP after he evolved into Krookodile.

2) Stephan vs. Montgomery (Episode 730)

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During the Clubsplosion tournament, which was geared towards Fighting-types, Stephan’s Sawk with Montgomery’s Throh, who had won the tournament the year before. In the final round, the two Pokémon faced off against each other in a very intense battle which tested their fighting spirit, their determination and their endurance. The two deal enormous amounts of damage to each other, and as they battle they come to respect each other as opponents, which is emphasised with how graciously and respectfully Sawk eventually scraped a victory. It was an intense battle with a great conclusion, which emphasised the importance of good sportsmanship.

1) Ash vs. Stephan – Unova League (Episode 762-763)

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Here we are, the only Unova League battle worth watching in the entire conference happened to be a battle Ash had with a long-term friendly rival. To gain a place in the tournament’s quarter-finals, Ash battled Stephan in a 3-on-3 battle. It was a close battle, with Ash’s Krookodile taking a lot of damage before defeating Stephan’s Liepard, and Ash’s Palpitoad only managing a tie against Zebstrika, despite a type-advantage. Ash’s Leavanny managed to do a lot of damage to Sawk, but the Fighting-type proved that he was not the Clubsplosion Champion for nothing by defeating his opponent. In a tense finale, Krookodile narrowly defeated Sawk with his newly-learned Aerial Ace, winning the match for Ash, in a moment which shows just how unexpected, yet also brilliant Ash’s strategies can be. An excellent battle to watch, this is the most memorable and ultimately the best of not only the Unova League, but the Unova saga.

Top 5 Pokémon Battles (Sinnoh Saga)

NOTEThis is Post 600 on this blog. Six-hundred posts into blogging here, and I have loved every minute of it.

File:Pokémon logo English.png

I have never made it a secret that I am a huge fan of Pokémon, a franchise which got me into both gaming and anime. As such, it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Pokémon battles. On this list, I shall be counting down what I consider to be the 5 best Pokémon battles from the Sinnoh saga of the anime. So here we go…

5) Ash vs. Volkner (Episode 645)

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After their original Gym battle was interrupted by Team Rocket (classic Team Rocket!), Ash got some extra time to train for his battle against Volkner for his eighth Sinnoh Gym badge. This battle was close and intense throughout, and also a battle of firsts – including Pikachu defeating Volkner’s Electivire, and finally gaining his first ever win against a member of the Electabuzz family. However, the battle culminated in Ash’s Infernape defeating Volkner’s Luxray in a very close match, after activating its Blaze ability and (for the first time ever) maintaining control over it, which alone was enough to make it a moment of triumph for Ash and his Sinnoh powerhouse. Not a bad way to conclude a regional Gym campaign at all.

4) Ash vs. Conway (Episode 651)

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While Conway may have only been a minor rival to Ash, he was a very shrewd and intelligent one. When they faced each other in the Sinnoh League, Conway chose his team of Shuckle, Lickilicky and Dusknoir after spying on Ash training with Infernape, Torterra and Glalie, and assumed that his opponent was opting for pure power battling. While Ash’s actual team of Noctowl, Donphan and Gible caught Conway by surprise, he still kept Ash on his toes, and getting Dusknoir to use Trick Room to gain a speed-advantage really caught Ash off guard. Eventually Ash won, after Gible bit down on Dusknoir’s Shadow Punch in one of the most amusing moments of any Pokémon battle in the history of the anime, before finishing the Ghost-type off with Draco Meteor (which he mastered during the battle – a double win for the little Pokémon).

3) Ash vs. Maylene (Episode 534)

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After Veilstone Gym Leader Maylene’s confidence was restored, she had a Gym battle with Ash. Both trainers gave it their all, and we finally got to see the full battle potential of Ash’s Staravia, as he not only defeated both Machoke and Meditite, but also mastered Brave Bird. The battle culminated in Ash’s Buizel vs. Maylene’s Lucario, and in Buizel’s fighting spirit we see just how well suited he and Ash are to each other. The battle between the two powerful Pokémon was very intense and ended in a tie. Despite the tie, Maylene awarded Ash the Cobble Badge as she deemed it the best Gym battle of her life, while we the viewers came to regard it as the best Gym battle of the Sinnoh saga.

2) Dawn vs. May (Episode 545)

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Prior to the Wallace Cup, Dawn had a losing streak which massively knocked her confidence in her potential as a Pokémon Coordinator. However, through hard work, determination and lots of encouragement from others, she made it to the Cup’s final round, where she battled against Ash’s former travelling companion May. Dawn’s Piplup battled May’s Glaceon in an intense battle which was absolutely stunning to watch (as all Contest Battles have been, particularly in the Sinnoh saga). Through some dazzling move-combinations and a lot of endurance, Dawn narrowly won in what proved to be the most significant battle of her life, as winning the Cup meant that her self-confidence was restored, and from there she went on to grow into a great Coordinator.

1) Ash vs. Paul – Sinnoh League (Episodes 652-654)

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By the time that Ash faced Paul in the Sinnoh League quarter-finals, the pair had been rivals for four years and over 180 episodes. Despite his best efforts, Ash had never managed more than a tie against Paul, who had previously wiped the floor with Ash in a full six-on-six battle. For this full battle, Ash used the same team whom Paul had previously defeated (Pikachu, Staraptor, Torterra, Infernape, Buizel and Gliscor), who were all determined to not let history repeat itself. That, however, gave them a disadvantage, as Paul knew their battling styles and devised a detailed strategy, showing that he did actually take Ash seriously as a trainer. While Paul’s Drapion dealt major damage to Ash’s team, Ash eventually wittled Paul’s team down to just Electivire, while he still had Pikachu, Gliscor and Infernape. Electivire made quick work of the former two, before facing his rival Infernape in a heated battle, with Infernape scraping the win after activating Blaze.

This battle was a tense, slow-burn showdown between the two trainers, which made multiple nods to their previous battles and emphasised just how far they had come on their respective Sinnoh journeys, and just how unorthodox Ash’s battling strategies can be. By winning that battle, not only did Ash prove himself to be a trainer of merit, which earned him Paul’s respect and ended their rivalry, but Infernape showed just how far it had come from the timid Chimchar whom Paul abandoned, with the Fire/Fighting-type’s former trainer admitting that it was a powerful Pokémon whom Ash had raised well. A fitting conclusion to an ongoing anime storyline, and also one of the greatest Pokémon battles of all time.

TELEVISION: The IT Crowd (2006-2013)

The IT Crowd title card.jpg

British sitcom The IT Crowd was broadcast on Channel 4 for 25 episodes. Set in Reynholm Industries, the series focuses on the IT Department in the basement office – coding genius Moss (Richard Ayoade), work-shy Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and head of department/relationship manager Jen (Katherine Parkinson), the latter of whom knows nothing about computers. The trio get up to all sorts of shenanigans, many of which involve their man-child boss Douglas (Matt Berry).

PROS

  • Quite quirky humour which has led to the series gaining a cult status, as it celebrates nerd culture and its gags centre on the chalk-and-cheese relationship between quite amusing oddballs and a world which does not quite get them, but ultimately cannot manage without them.
  • The heart of the series is in the dynamic between the central trio, which is tremendously well-realised by the three leads. Richard Ayoade captures the socially awkward geek type wonderfully, while Chris O’Dowd does dry humour very well. Katherine Parkinson rounds the trio out very well in a chalk-and-cheese type way, her ability to be blunt contrasting very well with her co-stars.
  • Some great supporting players over the course of the series, but none more so than Matt Berry as Douglas, who conveys the sense of a man-child wonderfully and makes even some of Douglas’s most ridiculous moments hilarious to watch, thanks to his raw energy and excellent comic delivery.

CONS

  • The programme got off to a noticeably patchy start with the first six episodes, partly because it was still finding its voice, but mainly because Denholm (Chris Morris) – the boss in those early episodes – was never a well-realised character, the screenwriters coming across as uncertain in what to do with the character.
  • The last few episodes are easily the weakest, as the humour gets more and more ludicrous to the point of making the viewer roll their eyes, while the finale has far too many silly ideas crammed into a single episode, and does not give the series a fitting payoff.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: The Lion King (2019, Jon Favreau)

Disney The Lion King 2019.jpg

The Lion King is a photorealistic computer-animated remake of the Disney animated classic of the same title. Determined to become King of the Pride Lands, lion Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) plots to kill his brother King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and nephew Prince Simba (JD McCrary) so that he may become ruler. While he succeeds in killing Mufasa, Simba flees for his life. Years later, an adult Simba (Donald Glover) must decide if he is able to overcome past trauma and return to the Pride Lands to take his rightful place as King.

PROS

  • Visually this film is absolutely breathtaking, and truly groundbreaking in terms of what can be achieved with photorealistic CGI. It brings a real sense of authenticity to everything – animal and natural world alike – thanks to its rich colour palette and excruciating level minute detail.
  • Some very good voice performances, particularly Alfre Woodard, who brings a gentle sense of warmth and dignity to Sarabi, Chiwetel Ejiofor bringing a believable sense of malice to Scar, and James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa with just as much warmth and authority as in the original Lion King.

CONS

  • The emphasis on realism came at a cost – expressive characters. This is a real issue for a film such as The Lion King as inexpressive characters robs the film of any real heart and emotional weight, and makes it damned near impossible for viewers to get behind any of the characters.
  • The narrative is for the most part a beat-for-beat recreation of the original’s (albeit with much less energy and emotion), reflecting a real lack of creativity and heart for the project, while what little effort there is at fresh and original content comes predominantly in the form of misjudged efforts at comic relief with the hyenas.
  • Rather weak characterisation, with Zazu (John Oliver) being particularly poorly realised, Scar’s ability to get the hyenas on side being quite unbelievable, the dynamic between Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) not being that engaging, and no real energy to Rafiki (John Kani).
  • A lack of energy to the songs, with “Be Prepared” being especially dull, and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” taking place during the middle of the day (*facepalm*).

VERDICT: 4/10

75 Television Series from the 2010s to Check Out

The 21st Century has come to be regarded as the Second Golden Age of Television and, with the end of the century’s 20th year approaching, I felt that it had to be marked. In this piece I will list 75 television series which began during the 2010s which are worth checking out. Some were two-part specials, others ran for years. Some had a consistent standard, others got worse with age, but either way they are series which are worth watching.

Note that these will not be reviews, merely a list to give you a taste of the variety of content to premiere during the decade, while series which had good quality spin-offs/sequels/remakes that began during the 2010s will have the spin-off/sequel/remake included in its place on the list. So let’s get started with this A-Z list…

  1. 13 Reasons Why (2017-)
  2. The 100 (2014-)
  3. Adventure Time (2010-2018)
  4. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-)/Agent Carter (2016-)
  5. American Crime Story (2016-)
  6. American Horror Story (2011-)
  7. Arrow (2012-)/The Flash (2014-)/Supergirl (2015-)/Legends of Tomorrow (2016-)
  8. Attack on Titan (2013-)
  9. Avatar: The Legend of Korra (2012-2014)
  10. Bates Motel (2013-2017)
  11. Better Call Saul (2015-)
  12. Big Little Lies (2017-)
  13. Black Mirror (2011-)
  14. Black Sails (2014-2017)
  15. Blue Planet II (2017)
  16. Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
  17. Bob’s Burgers (2011-)
  18. Bodyguard (2018-)
  19. BoJack Horseman (2014-)
  20. Britannia (2018-)
  21. Broadchurch (2013-2017)
  22. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-)
  23. Call the Midwife (2012-)
  24. Chernobyl (2019)
  25. Continuum (2012-2015)
  26. Cooked (2016)
  27. The Crown (2016-)
  28. Daredevil (2015-2018)/Jessica Jones (2015-2019)/Luke Cage (2016-2018)/The Punisher (2017-2019)
  29. Disenchantment (2018-)
  30. Downton Abbey (2010-2015)
  31. The Fall (2013-2016)
  32. Fargo (2014-)
  33. Feud: Bette and Joan (2017)
  34. Frozen Planet (2011)
  35. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
  36. The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)
  37. Hanna (2019-)
  38. Hannibal (2013-2015)
  39. Homeland (2011-)
  40. House of Cards (2013-2018)
  41. Human Planet (2011)
  42. Killing Eve (2018-)
  43. Line of Duty (2012-)
  44. Luther (2010-2013, 2015-2019)
  45. Making a Murderer (2015-)
  46. The Man in the High Castle (2015-)
  47. Nashville (2012-2018)
  48. The Newsroom (2012-2014)
  49. Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)
  50. One-Punch Man (2015-2019)
  51. Orange is the New Black (2013-2019)
  52. Our Planet (2019)
  53. The Pacific (2010)
  54. Patrick Melrose (2018)
  55. Peaky Blinders (2013-)
  56. Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
  57. Planet Earth II (2016)
  58. Poldark (2015-2019)
  59. Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017)
  60. Revolting Rhymes (2016)
  61. Rick and Morty (2013-)
  62. Ripper Street (2012-2016)
  63. Sherlock (2010-2017)
  64. Spartacus (2010-2013)
  65. The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)
  66. Stranger Things (2016-)
  67. Suits (2011-)
  68. Sword Art Online (2012)/Sword Art Online II (2014)/Sword Art Online: Alicization (2018-)
  69. This is England ’86 (2010)/This is England ’88 (2011)/This is England ’90 (2015)
  70. The Trip (2010-)
  71. True Detective (2014-)
  72. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015-2019)
  73. Vikings (2013-)
  74. The Walking Dead (2010-)
  75. Westworld (2016-)

75 Television Series from the 2000s to Check Out

The 21st Century has come to be regarded as the Second Golden Age of Television and, with the end of the century’s 20th year approaching, I felt that it had to be marked. In this piece I will list 75 television series which began during the 2000s which are worth checking out. Some were two-part specials, others ran for years. Some had a consistent standard, others got worse with age, but either way they are series which are worth watching.

Also, there will not be series such as The Sopranos or Futurama on this list, as they began before the year 2000. Other things to note are that these will not be reviews, merely a list to give you a taste of the variety of content to premiere during the decade, while series which had good quality spin-offs/sequels/remakes that began during the 2000s will have the spin-off/sequel/remake included in its place on the list. So let’s get started with this A-Z list…

  1. 24 (2001-2010)
  2. 30 Rock (2006-2013)
  3. Alias (2001-2006)
  4. American Dad! (2005-)
  5. The Apprentice (US, 2004-2007, 2010)/The Celebrity Apprentice (US, 2008-2017)/ The Apprentice (UK, 2005-)
  6. Archer (2009-)
  7. Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013-)
  8. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)
  9. Band of Brothers (2001)
  10. Battlestar Galactica (2003)/Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
  11. The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019)
  12. Black Books (2000-2004)
  13. Bleach (2004-2012)
  14. The Blue Planet (2001)
  15. Bones (2005-2017)
  16. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
  17. Castle (2009-2016)
  18. Chuck (2007-2012)
  19. City of Men (2002-2005)
  20. Community (2009-2015)
  21. Criminal Minds (2005-2020)
  22. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015)/CSI: Miami (2002-2012)/CSI: NY (2004-2013)
  23. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-)
  24. Death Note (2006-2007)
  25. Dexter (2006-2013)
  26. Dollhouse (2009-2010)
  27. Drake & Josh (2004-2007)
  28. Firefly (2002-2003)
  29. Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)
  30. Foyle’s War (2002-2015)
  31. Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
  32. Fringe (2008-2013)
  33. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003-2004)/Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-2010)
  34. Gavin & Stacey (2007-2010, 2019)
  35. Grey’s Anatomy (2005-)
  36. House, M.D. (2004-2012)
  37. How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)
  38. The IT Crowd (2006-2013)
  39. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-)
  40. Kim Possible (2002-2007)
  41. Life on Mars (2006-2007)/Ashes to Ashes (2008-2010)
  42. Lost (2004-2010)
  43. Mad Men (2007-2015)
  44. Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006)
  45. Medium (2005-2011)
  46. Merlin (2008-2012)
  47. Misfits (2009-2013)
  48. Modern Family (2009-2020)
  49. My Family (2000-2011)
  50. NCIS (2003-)/NCIS: Los Angeles (2009-)
  51. Northern Lights (2006)/City Lights (2007)
  52. The Office (2001-2003)/The Office (2005-2013)
  53. Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
  54. Planet Earth (2006)
  55. Prison Break (2005-2009, 2017)
  56. Psych (2006-2014)
  57. Rome (2005-2007)
  58. Samurai Jack (2001-2004, 2017)
  59. Scrubs (2001-2010)
  60. The Shield (2002-2008)
  61. Six Feet Under (2001-2005)
  62. Smallville (2001-2010)
  63. Spooks (2002-2011)
  64. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2014)
  65. Stargate: Atlantis (2004-2009)
  66. Supernatural (2005-2020)
  67. Teen Titans (2003-2006)
  68. The Thick of It (2005-2012)
  69. Top Gear (2002-)
  70. True Blood (2008-2014)
  71. The Tudors (2007-2010)
  72. Wallander (2008-2016)
  73. The Wire (2002-2008)
  74. Wire in the Blood (2002-2008)
  75. Without a Trace (2002-2009)

FILM: The Lion King (1994, Roger Allers/Rob Minkoff)

In an African savannah, several animals stare at a lion atop a tall rock. A lion's head can be seen in the clouds above. Atop the image is the text "Walt Disney Pictures presents The Lion King".

A retelling of Shakespeare’s HamletThe Lion King is the 32nd animated feature from Walt Disney Pictures. Lion Scar (Jeremy Irons) plots to kill his brother, King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and nephew Prince Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) so that he can become King of the Pride Lands. While he succeeds in killing Mufasa, Simba flees for his life and Scar becomes King. Years later, an adult Simba (Matthew Broderick) must determine if he is able to overcome past trauma and return to the Pride Lands to claim his rightful place as King.

PROS

  • A magnificently animated feature, which boasts a rich colour palette, crisp quality, lots of background detail and expressive character design. A beautiful example of a hand-drawn feature which holds up to this day.
  • A powerful narrative that engages with themes of family, friendship, justice and destiny, while also boasting a great variety of songs that include the magnificent ‘Circle of Life’, the catchy ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’, the fun ‘Hakuna Matata’ and the beautiful ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’.
  • The characters are ultimately what make this such an endearing film, with Mufasa and Simba having a heartwarming, relatable father-son relationship, Scar being one of the great Disney antagonists due to his being a master manipulator, and Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) bringing lots of warmth and joy to the film through their positive outlook on life and iconic double act.
  • An excellent voice cast, with memorable performances from Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Whoopi Goldberg and Robert Guillaume. The most memorable, however, is James Earl Jones, who brings real warmth and authority to Mufasa, so much so that it is impossible to picture anyone else voicing the character.

CONS

  • There are a few moments in both the first part and final part of the narrative which feel quite rushed, notably moments which focus on Simba’s relationship with his mother Sarabi (Madge Sinclair), which does not have the same emotional weight as his relationship with Mufasa, despite there being moments where it really should.
  • While the narrative is powerful (particularly thematically), the gags do not always hit the mark, with several of the slapstick jokes feeling quite lazy next to the clever and amusing verbal gags. Plus the use of toilet humour in one scene feels a little childish for a film this serious.

VERDICT: 8/10

FILM: Stuber (2019, Michael Dowse)

Stuber poster.jpg

Action-comedy Stuber is distributed by 20th Century Fox, following its premiere at South by Southwest 2019. LAPD detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) learns that he may well have the chance to get justice for his recently murdered partner (Karen Gillan). However, he learns this on the same day that he has eye surgery that leaves him unable to drive. To help him pull of this arrest operation, he hires meek Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) to transport him, but Stu unwillingly ends up getting in too deep with the operation when things go awry.

PROS

  • Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani have a great chalk-and-cheese chemistry which stops the film from becoming a full-on car crash, the latter doing dry humour well.
  • Screenwriter Tripper Clancy successfully pokes fun at a number of action film tropes in quite a tongue-in-cheek manner.

CONS

  • A convoluted narrative which is not only predictable, but also weighed down by some pretty dreary subplots and misjudged attempts at emotional stakes.
  • A tonally inconsistent film whose fun moments are outweighed by dreary attempts at character development and gags which more often than not miss the mark.
  • Convoluted, over-the-top action scenes, several of which are made all the more messy by cinematographer Bobby Shore’s awful use of shaky-cam.
  • Poorly realised supporting characters, whose presence are a waste of time that do not use cast members such as Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Mira Sorvino and Karen Gillan to their full potential.

VERDICT: 3/10