Blogathons · Movie Reviews

Arthur Christmas (2011) – Christmas in July Blogathon

There might be a long-awaited heatwave in the UK right now, but today we’re talking about Christmas! It’s July, and that means it’s time for another of Drew’s Movie Reviews’ Christmas in July Blogathons! I’ve taken part for a good few years now and it’s something I always look forward to, I just love Christmas so much! Check out his original post here to find out more about the blogathon.

In previous years I’ve made lists, drawn posters and generally tried to think outside of the box. But this year I’m keeping it simple and I’m bringing you a movie review of Arthur Christmas (2011). It’s a movie I’ve never seen before but it’s been on my watchlist for 5 years now. I know it’s something I would enjoy but once November/Winter comes around, there’s so much going on and there’s so many beloved movies to watch that I’ve never found the time for something new. I’ll always pick an old favourite like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) or Jingle All The Way (1996) before I take a risk on something new. So the blogathon was the perfect opportunity for me to watch Arthur Christmas and see if it’s worth it.

arthur-christmas-movie-posterArthur Christmas is an animated movie made in collaboration with Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman Animations. If I’d known all along that Aardman was involved I would have seen it immediately, you can always rely on them to pack in a ridiculous amount of detail into their work. The animation is a beautiful blend of claymation meeting digital, it’s nothing that stands out against today’s animations but it’s still gorgeous.

It also has a wonderful voice cast. James McAvoy plays Arthur, one of Santa’s sons who works in the post room and has so much passion for making Christmas perfect for each child. He reads every letter and always makes sure the children get exactly what they ask for. Hugh Laurie voices Steve, Santa’s other son and heir to the suit. Steve’s worked hard to modernise the night of Christmas Eve with technology and efficiency, but he cares more for numbers and stats than the magic of it all. Santa himself and his wife are voiced by Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton. I’m sure they’ve done so much more but they will always be Slughorn and Umbridge to me.

Arthur Christmas is, I guess, a very to-the-book Christmas movie whereby Christmas is in danger of being ruined and it’s up to the underdogs to save it. I don’t have a problem with that as long as it’s done well and Arthur Christmas absolutely smashes it. The best Christmas movies are those that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike and this is one of them. It’s the subtle jokes like the elves delivering presents and switching the oven on because the adults had forgotten after putting the turkey in before bed. That’s just one very small example off the top of my head.

arthur-christmas-santa-steve-arthur

If I had any complaint at all it would be this question. Did the people involved in making this movie have young children AT ALL? Find me a child still asleep on Christmas morning past 7am and I’ll eat the laptop I’ve been using to work from home with. By 7am the presents are already opened and the house is chaos!

But anyway – in conclusion, Arthur Christmas will 100% be re-watched many a time in my house, when the real Christmas is here.

Now, my favourite part of Drew’s blogathon is the party he hosts at the end of it. We all get to bring a guest of our choice, someone we’d like to meet under the mistletoe. I’ve been very fickle and brought a new guest every year and 2021 is going to be no different. There’s only one person on my naughty list this year and the god of mischief himself, Loki, aka Tom Hiddleston. Drew, if we’re allowed to come in costume I’ll put together my very best Sylvie outfit!

loki-christmas-blogathon

Movie Reviews

Goodfellas (1990) – Film & Wine Club

goodfellas-movie-review-poster-1990Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 146 Minutes

Main Cast: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero, Tony Darrow, Mike Starr, Frank Vincent, Chuck Low

Plot: The real-life story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his life in the mob, from when he was a child running errands to his downfall, covering his relationships with his wife Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco) and his mob partners Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci).

My Thoughts: Film & Wine Club had to take a short break but we’re back, and this time we watched my Dad’s third choice, Goodfellas (1990) – cue a groan from my Mum about the length of the movie even though two of her choices were over two hours too! Seriously, I’m the only one who followed the ‘less than two hours’ rule. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of gangster movies, and I don’t really know why. A few years ago I watched The Godfather (1972) for the first time and whilst I could appreciate it, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. I liked Goodfellas a whole lot better, though. It definitely feels like the more modern gangster movies I’ve seen were trying to recreate what this movie does.

At the heart of it, Goodfellas is all about the characters, and that’s what Ii enjoy the most about it. It was clear that Henry saw all of the good sides of the mob, the family aspect and all the perks it brought. He wasn’t fond of violence and tried to do the right thing, but clearly he was influenced too heavily by all the people around him. My lamest complaint about these kinds of movies is that they’re too long and they feel even longer, but I didn’t notice the time at all here, I was just fascinated.

Whilst Ii don’t think I’ve been converted to the genre (yet), I definitely feel like I’ve painted all gangster movies with the same brush, and I’ll be more open to watching more of them in the future. Tomorrow brings the final night in the first round of our little club, it’s Mum’s last pick and it’s Thelma & Louise (1991). I won’t point out to Mum that it’s over two hours long…she’ll find out herself! Then it’ll be time to pick another 3 movies each to put into the hat!

goodfellas-ray-liotta-laughing-meme

Best Bit: This only made me laugh but in the scene at the restaurant where we first meet Tommy I spotted something. It’s when Henry and the others are laughing at Tommy’s story and I was just like ‘Hey! That’s a meme!’ I’ll hand in my critic hat at the door when I see myself out. It’s bad enough that I hadn’t seen the movie at all until now, isn’t it? Also, I know now that’s a real famous scene based on something that actually happened to Joe Pesci (thanks for the random trivia, oh husband of mine).

Worst Bit: Oh man, I was along for a fun ride up until Tommy started treating that guy serving drinks like absolute s**t and ended up killing him…that was cold, and I guess I woke up and realised that was going to be just the half of it!

Fun Trivia: Robert De Niro wanted to use real money for the scene where Jimmy hands out money, because he didn’t like the way fake money felt in his hands. The prop master gave De Niro $5,000 of his own money. At the end of each take, no one was allowed to leave the set until all the money was returned and counted.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 cloves of garlic that should always be sliced with a razor blade.

goodfellas-slicing-garlic

Movie Reviews

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

space-jam-2-new-legacy-movie-review-posterDirector: Malcom D. Lee

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Runtime: 115 Minutes

Main Cast: LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe, Khris Davis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Ceyair J Wright, Xosha Roquemore, Harper Leigh Alexander, Zendaya

Plot: LeBron’s son Dom (Cedric Joe) wants to focus on making his video game, not playing basketball. LeBron would prefer him to focus on his athletic abilities but when Dom is kidnapped by an artificial intelligence being (Don Cheadle) at Sony, LeBron is forced into playing Dom’s game in order to save his family.

My Thoughts: Disclaimer, I’ve never seen the original Space Jam movie. I wasn’t into sports and I wasn’t fussed about Looney Tunes when I was a kid so it was just never on my radar. But it’s currently 30 degrees Celsius in the UK, and I’ve sworn to watch anything and everything I can at the cinema, so I was there for the air con, the ice cream and a fun time. I’m pleased to say I got all three, mostly. I guess my biggest question is, who is A New Legacy aimed at? If it’s for kids then you can forgive a lot of its errors, but the kids of today don’t know who the Looney Tunes are and they aren’t going to pick up on all of the Warner Bros references. Apart from the 8 year old’s in front of me who knew who Pennywise was. Questionable parenting there, folks.

So if it’s not for kids then it’s a nostalgia trip for the adults who grew up loving the original, which seems more likely than the alternative. Which is fine, other than the fact that at face value, it’s a pretty terrible movie. LeBron can’t act, but you can hardly blame him for that. Everyone seems to be loving Don Cheadle’s villain but I found him the most awkward part of the entire movie. Some of his lines were actually painful to listen to, they must have physically hurt to read. But at the end of the day, I’d rather watch a bad movie that was a lot of fun than a well-made movie that bores me to tears, so there you have it.

The best chunk of the movie is easily when LeBron has landed in the cartoon world and is helping Bugs Bunny get the team back together. It’s not up there with The Muppets (2011) but it’s still a lot of fun, delving into the world of Warner Bros. Did you know LeBron James is a Hufflepuff? Sure, it felt like WB trying to brag at their own collection, but I’m a sucker for references like that and it made the movie more enjoyable as a whole.

space-jam-new-legacy-bugs-bunny-lebron-james

Best Bit: *SPOILERS* If there’s anything I love more than movie references, it’s unexpected cameos – and Space Jam has a great one. The Tune Squad are losing and need a plan – in the form of Michael Jordan, basketball legend and star of the original movie. Now, I might not recognise Michael Jordan himself but I sure as hell recognised that shadow doing a slow-mo walk towards the camera. Michael B. Jordan! Best cameo of the year for sure and an excellent joke.

Worst Bit: Warner Bros just admitted that their new content is all created by an algorithm, didn’t they? It certainly explains their dodgy marketing plans, I guess…

Fun Trivia: After the original idea for “Space Jam 2” was canceled, there was an idea for a spy film titled “Spy Jam” starring Chinese actor Jackie Chan, but he left the project and it evolved into Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).

My Rating: Two and a half sticks of dynamite…that’s all, folks!

space-jam-new-legacy-looney-tunes-dynamite

TV Shows

Loki Episodes Ranked

Loki has always been my favourite MCU villain and I doubt anyone else will take that spot for me, so of all the MCU shows to be released this is the one I’ve been waiting for. I’m a huge fan of time travel and alternative universe theories so this show was always going to tick all my boxes. So here are all 6 episodes, ranked from worst to best (although they were all great, so more like least awesome to most awesome), by yours truly! Spoilers ahead of course…

loki-episode-2

Episode 2: The Variant – I’ll admit, for the first half of this episode I was getting slightly frustrated by all the dialogue. It was expected and accepted in the first episode, but it was starting to get a bit much. However – the scene in the store in the future? Fan-bloody-tastic. I didn’t expect to see this other Loki so early on, it really felt like some final episode level of drama!

loki-episode-1

Episode 1: Glorious Purpose – Talk about information overload! I purposely avoided trailers and any news for the show before its release though, so that’s on me. This was such a great set-up episode though. Loved the introduction and the explanation as to what the TVA is. I’m a sucker for time travel and alternate timelines so I was drawn in immediately. It’s also so nice to see Owen Wilson again!

loki-episode-3

Episode 3: Lamentis – I didn’t want this episode to end. This was like, Mandalorian levels of despair when the credits started to roll. I could watch Loki and Sylvie bicker for hours, and the singing on the train? Loki getting to smash a glass and shout ‘ANOTHER’ was the absolute highlight. The chatter on Twitter and Reddit also reinforced the fact that I love these weekly releases. When a whole season drops online it’s impossible to talk about it. You’ve either binged the lot and are waiting for others to catch up, or you’re desperately trying to get through the episodes to avoid spoilers.

loki-episode-4

Episode 4: The Nexus Event – Oh, this episode really grabbed the pace of the previous one and ran with it. I’m glad in a way I fell behind and had to watch 4 and 5 back to back because that cliffhanger ending would have killed me! Just like Mobius…that death totally took me by surprise, although it wasn’t long before I realised he wasn’t really dead. I loved the bad memory time loop that Loki got trapped in, such a cool concept. Also, why am I totally on board with Loki falling in love with himself…herself? They’re both just so charming.

loki-episode-6

Episode 6: For All Time. Always. – I had no idea what to expect from this episode, other than the fact I was pretty sure the timelines were going to be unleashed. What an emotional finale, though! How far Loki has come, and grown since the Loki we used to know. “You can’t trust, and I can’t be trusted”. That line actually broke my heart. And I feel so guilty, because for a split second I didn’t trust him either, I put my hands over my eyes because I was expecting him to stab her in the back (figuratively) and well, I just proved his point, didn’t I? I’m so excited to see what Season 2 brings, it’s so great to have Loki back!

loki-episode-5

Episode 5: Journey Into Mystery – On any given day I could change my mind about whether Episode 5 or 6 is my favourite, but this one has to be up there with the greatest things to ever come from the MCU. Alligator Loki? I want one. A massive brawl of Loki’s fighting each other after double-crossing them? Love it. But Richard E. Grant as classic Loki conjuring Asgard itself and finally finding glorious purpose? That laugh just before he met his end? I am HERE for it. What a paradise of easter eggs, too. I spotted a couple myself, read about at least 5 more on Reddit, and I’m sure by the time the series is over there will be full lists somewhere. Oh, and was that a variant Pizza Planet van?!

Movie Reviews

Black Widow (2021)

black-widow-movie-review-poster-2021Director: Cate Shortland

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

Runtime: 134 Minutes

Main Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Olga Kurylenko, Ray Winstone, O.T. Fagbenle, William Hurt, Simona Zivkovska, Yolanda Lynes

Plot: Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) finds herself reunited with her long-lost sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh). Begrudgingly, they both work together to take down the force that ruined their childhoods and turned them into trained killers.

My Thoughts: Can we talk about how great it is to witness the Marvel opening title on the big screen again? Actual chills. Black Widow and No Time to Die are going to be the most surreal cinema experiences for me because of all the delays. Black Widow has never been one of my favourite Avengers, but I was so excited to see Florence Pugh in the MCU, and she didn’t disappoint. She’s easily the best thing about this movie – no offence to Scarlett or anyone else but Florence just dominated.

Black Widow has a dark, upsetting opening act that surprised me. It’s no secret that Natasha had a rough upbringing of course but having it all spelled out on screen is something different entirely. I worried that would be the tone of the whole movie, but it quickly lightened up once the sisters met. Ddavid Harbour creates a lot of laughs and Rachel Weisz is also great in her role, but the aging is a little odd. Marvel has so much technology behind them so the decision to not try and age Rachel Weisz at all for the scenes in the present was weird.

I had a great time though, and I wish this movie came out before Endgame. It would have given Black Widow so much more character and made her death have a bigger impact. Of course, it would mean the end-credits scene couldn’t exist, and this was a good one. Suddenly, a character from Falcon and the Winter Soldier makes much more sense! I’m really excited to see where that leads.

black-widow-2021-david-harbour-florence-pugh

Best Bit: Basically, any time Florence Pugh did anything at all, my face was like a child on Christmas day. I don’t know what was better, her love for the vest that she bought with all the pockets (I want one) or the way she mocked Natasha posing all the time and her disgust when she tried it for herself.

Worst Bit: *MINOR SPOILERS* So, I guess the controversial topic will be the character Taskmaster. I didn’t read enough of the comics to really know the character or form an opinion but clearly the character was a man in the comics. I don’t have a problem with Taskmaster being a woman in the movies, it actually fits in really well with the narrative, but I just feel like Marvel already pulled this reveal stunt in Ant-Man and the Wasp and Ghost. You know, the whole ‘this costume looks like it was made for a man but HEY, there’s a woman inside!’

Fun Trivia: Black Widow’s wrist-mounted tasers are colored yellow. This is an homage to Natasha Romanova’s classic Black Widow costume, which was an all-black suit with yellow bracelets.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 shots of vodka that I wish I was drinking instead of the travel mug of tea I took to the cinema with me.

black-widow-movie-shot-of-vodka-family