My blog has been rather quiet this month, that’s what I get for pushing to make a staff pantomime happen at work and then, y’know, having to actually write it. That and life in general has been rather busy what with my job and all that. Still, I’ve had enough time this month to get in a few new experiences so at least I get to end the month with my Monthly Mini Reviews! So here we go with October’s!
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (Takeshi Nozue, 2016)
I actually really enjoyed the previous Final Fantasy film that was released (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children), but that was a sequel to a beloved game so it was ultimately 100 minutes of FFVII fan-service and visually stunning fight sequences. Kingsglaive tries to move beyond that. It acts as our first real introduction to the kingdom of Lucis and the empire of Niflheim in the world of the upcoming Final Fantasy XV, it’s also our first real introduction to the characters of King Regis and Luna as well as Ardyn Izunia and a few other important characters to the game. But, it also tries to tell its own story, with its own characters with the major focus landing on a refugee warrior called Nyx. It’s a difficult job, trying to build a gigantic world and brand new characters in the space of two hours and Kingsglaive does ultimately struggle with this. Whenever it is dealing with subterfuge and politics it is engaging but potentially confusing, but while the action takes place it is mind-boggling but awesome and immensely satisfying. Visually the film is at times phenomenal. The animation is at times so lifelike it’s unreal, at other times the lip-sync hasn’t been worked on so much and everything slips notably into the uncanny valley. It’s easily one of the most impressive more photo-realistic animated films of recent years and those action sequences are spectacular. All of the actors do a great job with the script they were given, with Aaron Paul as Nyx, Sean Bean as King Regis, and Lena Headey as Luna along with Darin De Paul as Ardyn Izunia doing particularly amazing work. The film’s soundtrack is also particularly wonderful with nods to classic tunes and some orchestral corkers. On the whole, Kingsglaive isn’t perfect, but it’s arguably the best Final Fantasy film Square Enix have created so far. It does enough to be its own beast, though you will get more out of it as preparation for Final Fantasy XV. And really, Kingsglaive has done its job on me as it has me very excited for the prospect of Final Fantasy XV’s narrative thanks to the themes it attempts to deal with, and I can certainly appreciate that.
Rating: 7/10 – Good
Critical: 3/5 Personal: 4/5
Black Mirror Season 3 (2016)
I’ve been a fan of Black Mirror since it began way back in 2011 and I’ve been captivated by its dark and twisted view of the world ever since. Coming in to Series 3 I have two stand-out favourite episodes: The Entire History of You and White Christmas, partly due to their concepts, cinematography, and the emotional impact they had. Black Mirror Series 3 has double the number of episodes as previous series and each episode is longer than what we’ve experienced before. No expense has been spared this series, especially with the special effects in Playtest, but it is the more thought provoking episodes that come to the fore. None of the episodes are bad by any means, they all stand out brilliantly in comparison to a lot of other dramas, but some naturally rise to the top. San Junipero starts off oddly grounded before revealing its compelling twist which leads the episode to very poignant places meaning it ends up being the most positive and episode of Black Mirror yet. Hated in the Nation is the longest episode yet and deals with the online social media mob and online anonymity. It’s an episode about consequences and is so apt for today that I’d say it should be compulsory viewing for those so ready to send death threats over the internet over minute things. But the one that ends up being my favourite is Shut Up and Dance. After a teenager is filmed masturbating by hackers, he’s forced to do whatever they saw or else they’ll release the footage. It’s easily the darkest of the series, the tensest of the series, and the one that leaves you feeling utterly empty inside. It’s utterly horrifying and that’s what makes it so damn good. Black Mirror Series 3 isn’t entirely fault free and quite a few of the episodes lack the bite that previous series had, but on the whole, Black Mirror is still as deliciously twisted as always and an absolute (emotionally draining) joy to watch.
Rating: 9/10 – Awesome
Critical: 4/5 Personal: 5/5
The Little Prince (Mark Osborne, 2015)
The Little Prince is one of the most well-known books in the world, what with be the fourth most-translated book ever and being voted the best book of the 20th century in France. It’s a fascinating tale of a pilot being stranded in the desert and meeting a young prince fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid. It’s also remarkably poignant in its observations about life and human nature. This film adaptation now available on Netflix is the first full-length animated feature adaptation of the novel and while it very much does its own thing with the source material, it’s a lovely way of framing the classic story. The film follows a Little Girl as her mother pushes her towards academic greatness, but along the way she befriends an elderly Aviator who tells her a story, the story of the Little Prince, which truly speaks to her. The framing narrative is perhaps a little too heavy-handed and simplistic in its parallels with the story of the Little Prince, and it could easily be argued that the film is aimed at a younger audience and little more than that. These are both true, but the film just about gets away with it through its profound and moving tale. It plumbs some serious emotional depths sensitively and does so with a mixture of lovely normal animation and absolutely beautiful papercraft-style animation. It is in the moments where the Aviator tells the story of the Little Prince that the film is just perfect. The entire thing is well acted by Jeff Bridges, Riley Osborne, Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams and more, and just generally a really lovely film. It’s one I would love to watch again one day when I have kids of my own.
Rating: 8/10 – Great
Critical: 4/5 Personal: 4/5
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again (Kenny Ortega, 2016)
Rocky Horror is one of those cult classics that should not be touched unless it’s the stage production which can survive a little change every now and again. That’s why The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again was misguided from the start. They sought to remake the original film but re-imagine it for a modern audience. The problem with this concept is that Rocky Horror is still relevant to audiences today. Just see the UK Tour which has been doing brilliantly all over the country all year (and I adored it when it came to my hometown). That’s because it is still Rocky Horror with all its B-Movie, ultra-camp taboo weirdness. TRHPS:LDTTWA goes all in on the weird and trying to make it contemporary that it misses the sharp wit and style that typifies the musical. The result is a made for TV adaptation that’s enjoyable to look at but ultimately mis-cast, mis-directed, over-sung, and just misses the point entirely. Laverne Cox does her best as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and while it’s great for a trans woman to have such an interesting leading role, there’s something distinctly non-threatening and taboo about a woman wearing a corset and fishnets while singing ‘Sweet Transvestite’. This is but one of the remake’s many flawed decisions, which also include: changing Columbia from a peppy groupie into a sarcastic punk, over-stuffing and changing the sound and dance of ‘The Time Warp’, removing the word ‘mind-fuck’ from ‘Planet Schmanet Janet’, and numerous changes to the arrangement of songs like ‘Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me’. It’s a cleaned-up remake that is somewhat enjoyable but which seems to think it could fix the difficulties of Rocky Horror. It couldn’t and shouldn’t. Not even the appearance of Tim Curry as the Narrator/Criminologist could save it from being entirely misguided. If you want to watch a modern version of Rocky Horror that actually understands the material, just watch the cinema broadcast of the 40th Anniversary performance or the 2016 UK Tour. That is the Rocky Horror that’ll make you want to do the time warp again not this totally average imitation.
Rating: 5/10 – Average
Critical: 2/5 Personal: 3/5