Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)

black-mirror-bandersnatch-movie-review-posterDirector: David Slade

Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, Mystery, Drama

Runtime: Varies – Roughly 90 Minutes

Main Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Craig Parkinson, Alice Lowe, Will Poulter, Asim Chaudhry, Tallulah Haddon, Alan Asaad, Catriona Knox

Plot: Set in the 80s and played out like a Choose Your Own Adventure story, Bandersnatch is the story of a young gaming programmer who is adapting a dark fantasy novel with a morbid background into a video game.

My Thoughts: I love Black Mirror. I love video games. I love fantasy novels. Although it’s been well over a decade since I read one, I bloody love the Choose Your Own Adventure books. If ever there were a Netflix movie made with me in mind, Bandersnatch is the one. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to settle my toddler off to bed so I could eat cold pizza and watch it.

The ‘choose your own adventure’ concept obviously isn’t new, but this is the first time it’s been released in TV format, and I really hope it isn’t the only time either. I never thought I would find myself so stressed out about picking a cereal that I wasn’t even going to be eating!

So I made the mistake very early on of telling Satpal that I would work with him which clearly I wasn’t meant to do, I feel like most people would have made the same mistake which I thought was clever because we’re then introduced to the ‘game over’ feature quite early on. I suppose the downfall of Bandersnatch is that if you take the movie at face value without the gimmick, it’s not that strong of a story, as much as I enjoyed it.

black-mirror-netflix-choose-your-own-adventure

Best Bit: Spoilers ahead, because the best bit for me was the ending that I got. Our Bandersnatch game got rated 5/5, but we ended up in prison for murdering Dad. Years later, Colin’s daughter Pearl falls down the same rabbit hole as we did, as she adapts the video game Bandersnatch into a choose your own adventure movie for Netflix. I’ve since looked into the other possible endings and still feel like mine was the best.

Worst Bit: I really didn’t want to kill Dad…I wanted an option to question him further about everything he had done! I also slightly regret the choice to chop him up…that was a bit grim.

Fun Trivia: Some of the Black Mirror Easter eggs in the movie are Black Mirror episode titles, misspelled. The game titles METL HEDD and Nohzdyve, refer to Metalhead and Nosedive respectively.

My Rating: 4 and a half boxes of Frosties, which are superior in every way to Sugar Puffs. Seriously, who picked Sugar Puffs?!

black-mirror-bandersnatch-frosties

Advertisements

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)

mowgli-legend-jungle-netflix-movie-review-2018Director: Andy Serkis

Genre: Drama, Adventure

Runtime: 105 Minutes

Main Cast: Rohan Chand, Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Naomie Harris, Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan

Plot: We all know this plot by now, right? Mowgli is a human child, raised by wolves, hunted down by the mean tiger Shere Khan, struggling with his own identity.

My Thoughts: It feels like years ago now that both Disney and Andy Serkis announced they were both doing a live-action Jungle Book movie…in the same year. What was up with that? At least as time went on they sorted the scheduling out a little better, although I’d completely forgotten about Serkis’ version until I got a notification on my Netflix account. Whoops!

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is much darker than both Disney versions, and that’s both its greatest strength and weakness. It stands out from the crowd, but I’m not sure who the target audience is here. It’s way too dark for the young ones, and do us grown-ups really need to watch another retelling of the same story?

I think the movie got better as it went on, the start was quite dull. Also, kudos goes to both Rohan Chand for playing an excellent Mowgli, and to Benedict Cumberbatch for being the perfect Shere Khan without really having to do anything. My bottom line here is if you never see Mowgli, you’re not missing out on anything, although there are much worse ways to spend your time, too.

mowgli-legend-jungle-wolves-trial

Best Bit: Baby Mowgli is just the cutest little thing in the entire movie. However, my Mum brain wouldn’t switch off and I started to think about how on Earth those wolves actually raised him. How do you warm up a bottle of formula in the jungle?!

Worst Bit: I haven’t looked this up but I’m guessing because this is Andy Serkis’ movie, motion capture was used for the animals. I’m not saying it was bad quality at all, but it just made the animals look a bit off, somehow. Shere Khan in particular…his face was all kinds of weird?

Fun Trivia: The original Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling is actually an anthology of separate tales, with Mowgli’s story being just one of them. This is one of the few adaptations that reflects this, being titled simply Mowgli instead of The Jungle Book.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 elephant tusks…and you better keep them hidden too because let me tell you right now – elephants hold a mean grudge!

mowgli-legend-jungle-elephant-tusk

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

the-ballad-buster-scruggs-netflix-posterDirector: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Western

Runtime: 132 Minutes

Main Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown, David Krumholtz

Plot: An anthology movie comprised of six different stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.

My Thoughts: Despite it being a Netflix release, I was so excited to see The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. I’ve never hated a Coen brothers movie (although I’ve enjoyed some more than others) and the trailer was hilarious. It’s a long-ass movie but knowing it was split into six stories eased my mind a little. I’ve always been a fidget!

The first segment with Buster Scruggs is nothing short of a masterpiece. I was laughing from start to finish. My husband was trying to play World of Warcraft and cursed me as he shut his game down thinking he had found his new all-time-favourite movie. The comedic timing, the crazy action, the musical numbers, ugh! Just perfect. And then it ended, and it dawned on me that Buster Scruggs was only a very minor part of this movie.

Maybe that revelation tainted it for me, but from there I just grew more and more bored with each of the other stories. They still had some great moments, but it felt like I was watching a whole lot of nothing before being rewarded with those short glimpses of brilliance. Each story also felt longer than the one before it, making the whole thing feel about 3 hours long.

the-ballad-buster-scruggs-tim-blake-nelson

I think I’m probably in the minority here though, and I can absolutely see why most people loved it. I guess I was expecting the whole thing to be as crazy and funny as the first segment, and I set myself up for disappointment. One thing I will say though, the cinematography was absolutely gorgeous. I paid more attention to the landscape than what the characters were doing half the time.

Best Bit: The way Buster Scruggs killed the guy at the cards table was just epic. It was that perfect mix of shock and humour that makes you jump and laugh at the same time. Then the musical number that followed. Heck, I need to watch that segment again…and again!

Worst Bit: There’s no moment in particular, but I can’t comment on the sixth and final story at all because my brain had completely switched off by that point, and I was playing the Disney Emoji game on my phone instead, trying to unlock Darth Vader. (I got him)

Fun Trivia: The poker hand that Buster Scruggs refuses to play, two pair aces and eights, is infamously known as the “dead man’s hand” as it was reportedly the hand-drawn to Wild Bill Hickok before he was shot and killed.

My Rating: 2 and a half clever chickens who can answer simple math questions.

the-ballad-buster-scruggs-chicken-liam-neeson

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

the-christmas-chronicles-2018-netflix-movieDirector: Clay Kaytis

Genre: Adventure, Family, Comedy, Fantasy

Runtime: 104 Minutes

Main Cast: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Judah Lewis, Darby Camp, Oliver Hudson, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Martin Roach, Lamorne Morris

Plot: After spotting what looks like Santa Claus’ arm in one of their old family Christmas home movies, siblings Kate and Teddy hatch a plan to try and catch Santa on video, ultimately leading to his sleigh getting broken, and Christmas being left at risk of being ruined.

My Thoughts: Netflix made their own Christmas movie, and cast Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. Do we all need any other reasons to give it a go? One thing is for sure, Kurt Russell is a great Santa, although to quote my husband, he isn’t as ‘sweary’ as he perhaps could have been. There’s a good reason for that though I think, The Christmas Chronicles is very much your typical family-friendly festive movie.

There’s nothing new to be found here, there are plenty of cliches including one sibling not being a true believer, Christmas needs saving, etc but it has enough charm to be an enjoyable watch from start to finish. Plus, I don’t remember another Christmas movie where Santa has a blast during a car chase sequence with cops whilst driving a Dodge Challenger! “I’ve traded 8 reindeer for 400 horses!”.

So whilst it might not make its way onto my list of movies that simply must be watched every year, if you have a Netflix account you can’t really go wrong with giving this a watch for a bit of feel-good fun.

the-christmas-chronicles-kurt-russell-santa-claus

Best Bit: Whilst incarcerated, Kurt Russell hands out musical instruments to his fellow inmates and uses a group of hookers as backing singers in a fairly epic jailhouse rock-style musical number. Yep, you read that right!

Worst Bit: I forgave the ‘fake news’ line without much trouble. But I’m fairly certain I saw one of those odd, annoying elves doing the floss, and that just made me sigh and shake my head…

Fun Trivia: This movie features yet another Kurt Russell connection to Elvis Presley, of which there have been several in his career. Kurt Russell’s first movie was in the Elvis movie “It Happened at the World’s Fair” (1963) where Elvis pays Russell to kick him in the shin. 16 years later, Russell portrayed Elvis in a TV movie “Elvis” (1979). Then, 15 years later, Russell lent his voice to the actor playing a young Elvis Presley in “Forrest Gump” (1994). 7 years after that, Russell played an ex-con who robs a casino during an Elvis Impersonator Convention in Vegas in “3000 MIles to Graceland” (2001). And here in The Christmas Chronicles (2018), the song that Santa (Russell) sings in the jail scene is one of Elvis’ most popular Christmas songs, “Santa Claus is Back in Town” (1957).

My Rating: 3 out of 5 chainsaws, which are apparently wielded by tiny little flossing elves who aren’t afraid to castrate a teenaged boy if need be.

the-christmas-chronicles-elf-with-chainsaw

How It Ends (2018)

how-it-ends-movie-review-2018Director: David M. Rosenthal

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama

Runtime: 113 Minutes

Main Cast: Theo James, Kat Graham, Grace Dove, Nancy Sorel, Nicole Ari Parker, Forest Whitaker, Aaron Hughes, Lanie McAuley, Josh Cruddas, Aidan Ritchie

Plot: Will and Samantha are having a baby. They’re also getting married, but Samantha’s Dad doesn’t know. When Will flies out to ask his disapproving future Father-in-Law for his blessing, an unknown apocalyptic event takes place in Seattle. Will and Samantha’s Dad end up on a road trip across the States to rescue her.

My Thoughts: This movie is hilariously bad. Most ‘end of the world’ movies are, but at the very least they’re entertaining to watch. I don’t know how this one managed to be so darn boring, but I was dying to know how it ended, so that I could move on and get on with my life, mourning my lost 2 hours. Too bad How It Ends has the most ironic title ever…

At first glance it’s hard to tell that it’s a terrible movie. It starts out fine, sets the scene perfectly, introduces it’s main characters well. The acting, whilst non award-worthy, is absolutely fine and the cinematography is pretty good too. The problem is that nothing at all makes sense! 2 days into having no internet connection and the population have turned into characters from Mad Max. Absolutely everyone out on the road is out for blood. Why?

Not to mention all the unexplained moments. Where did Samantha’s Mum go? Ricki, the duo’s car fixer upper, what happened to her? What even is this apocalyptic event? I’m all for a movie that leaves you with questions, but this is ridiculous. You know when you were a kid and you would write stories but get bored after a while and end it with ‘and then they woke up and realised it was all a dream’? That would have been a better ending. Heck, it would have been an ENDING.

how-it-ends-forest-whitaker-theo-james

Best Bit: Ricki. That chick is a badass. I don’t know about anyone else but I know for sure she’ll survive somehow.

Worst Bit: “Oh no, my car has run out of fuel. I KNOW. I’ll get this full jerry can of fuel out the boot, pour it all over the car, set it on fire and walk the rest of the way.”

Fun Trivia: The Arlington Bridge in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada, shown in some of the scenes, is 105 years old. It was open on February 5th 1912.

My Rating: One and a half out of five jerry cans. If nothing else, having to Google ‘what is the container you store spare fuel in called’ for this post has at least added to my vocabulary!

how-it-ends-movie-jerry-cans-fuel