Saturday, 24 August 2019

Angry Birds Movie 2 ★★★★☆


2016 brought one of the biggest surprises of recent years in the world of animated film. The Angry Birds Movie should, by all accounts, have been shit. It didn’t have a huge amount going for it – it was based on a game, for starters. And not just that, but a PHONE game. Add to that the fact that it was brought to us by Sony Pictures Animation – the company behind Hotel Transylvania and the dreadful Smurfs movies – and this one should’ve been a dud. In actual fact, it was hilarious, charming, colourful fun. I loved it. So now, we are presented with something that should be even worse – a sequel to a film based on a phone game…


Picking up directly where the first film left off, this sequel follows King Mudbeard (Bill Hader), the ruler of the Bad Piggies, as he plots revenge against Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and the rest of the Angry Birds after they devastated his homeland in a prior battle, leading to a comical war that seemingly does not end - until a mysterious purple bird named Zeta (Leslie Jones) threatens them all with her own plans after being fed up with living in a remote, arctic island. To avoid a frozen fate, the Birds and Pigs forge an uneasy alliance and become ‘frenemies’ against Zeta and embark on a new adventure.

There isn’t a huge amount one can say about The Angry Birds Movie 2 that wasn’t said about the first film, so your enjoyment of the 2016 origin story will entirely dictate the enjoyment of this sequel. The bizarre humour, non-stop gags and general kinetic approach to story-telling is just as it was in part one – so if like me, you loved the first film, then you’ll have a great time with The Angry Birds Movie 2. It’s that simple. This is not a sequel that pushes the envelope whatsoever or does anything innovative. It’s very much an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sequel – and that’s fine by me.

What The Angry Birds Movie 2 does add, however, is some new characters. SNL’s Leslie Jones steals the show as the antagonist Zeta, while her right-hand-bird Debbie voiced by the hilarious Tiffany Haddish also gets plenty of laughs. Returning cast Sudeikis, Gad, McBride, Hader, Maya Rudolph and Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage slip straight back into their characters and make one of the funniest voice casts you could possibly ask for.


Obviously, this is a film aimed at children – but if you want a break from the seriousness of this world, Angry Birds 2 is the perfect antidote to the madness. The film’s crazy, surreal humour and charmingly simplistic narrative make for a wonderful cinematic escape, and easily one of the funniest animated films of recent years. Sure, it ain’t anywhere near Disney levels of quality, but it doesn’t care. It doesn’t take itself remotely seriously or really try and deliver much of a message – it’s too busy trying to make us laugh. And it succeeds admirably. Long may the Angry Birds cinematic universe continue!

★★★★☆
Sam Love



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Friday, 23 August 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold ★★★★☆


Well, here’s one of the biggest surprises of the year. At the time of writing this review, Dora & The Lost City of Gold is sitting pretty on Rotten Tomatoes at 80% - beating Disney’s 2019 Lion King, Dumbo and Aladdin remakes. Yep, this Dora update has bested not one, not two but three Disney films – at least on a critical level. I don’t imagine it’ll come anywhere near their box office. But Dora & The Lost City of Gold, directed by James Bobin, was expected by many to be an absolute shower of shit – and yet, somehow, against all odds, it has emerged as one of the best-reviewed family films of the year so far.


Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle, nothing could prepare Dora (Isabela Moner) for her most dangerous adventure yet - high school. Accompanied by a ragtag group of teens and Boots the monkey (inexplicably voiced by Danny Trejo), Dora embarks on a quest to save her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña) while trying to solve the seemingly impossible mystery behind a lost Inca civilization.

First and foremost, Dora & The Lost City of Gold boasts an absolutely fantastic performance from Isabela Moner at its centre. The rising star, who you may recognise from Transformers: The Last Knight, Sicario 2 and Instant Family, puts in a wonderfully layered and heart-warming performance as the wide-eyed young explorer. With the film aimed primarily at the now grown-up audience who grew up with the preschool TV series, the iconic heroine has been grown up too. While this is still absolutely aimed at a younger audience, it is far more sophisticated than the source programme – and the character of Dora has become a little more complex too, wonderfully performed by Moner.

The film, directed by James Bobin and co-written by Nicholas Stoller (the team who worked on 2011’s The Muppets) continue their love for self-aware, ironic humour with this surprisingly funny big-screen adaptation for a pretty basic TV series. All of Dora’s fourth-wall-breaking in the TV series is handled here so wonderfully and humorously, and a particularly funny sequence brings Dora’s iconic animation back to life on the big screen – only for us, the audience, to learn this sequence is a drug-fuelled sequence when our characters encounter hallucinogenic flowers on their adventure. Wow. Yep, this is certainly more mature than the source material.


This is funny, fresh and heartwarming fun that had absolutely no right to be this good. It’s by no means a masterpiece, obviously. But it’s got such an enormous heart and endless charisma thanks to the wonderful work from rising star Isabela Moner who could easily birth a whole franchise off the back of her work here. So, one of the biggest cinematic surprises of the year for sure. If you don’t believe me, watch the film - with an open mind – and I promise you’ll have a lot of fun. IF you don’t, you have absolutely no soul whatsoever and you cannot be saved…

★★★★☆
Sam Love



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Thursday, 22 August 2019

Fire Emblem: Three Houses ★★★☆☆


‘Fire Emblem’ is one of Nintendo's flagship titles but I’d say is probably the least widely appreciated.  It has, however, always had a cult following in the gaming world because of its amazing strategy gameplay and the wonderfully challenging permadeath function. The newest release, ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ has garnered a lot more interest from mainstream audiences and really seems to be a push for Nintendo to make it a mainstream success.

I’m going to say from the start that this is not your typical ‘Fire Emblem’ game. There has been so much added to it to make it meatier and appealing to RPG fans, and I’d say that this is mostly a good thing. In previous games, almost 80% of the game was focused on battle, with the remaining content being story elements, upgrading characters, and so on. In ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ I would say this contributes to only 50% of the game.


The other half is probably best described as being a ‘Persona 5’ system. Within the story, you are drafted in by certain events to be a professor at an Officers’ Academy for promising military-based individuals from three different countries on the continent. You get to choose which house to teach out of the Golden Deer, Black Eagles, and Blue Lions, and then from there you will interact with and guide certain individuals in your house in battle and socially.

There has been so much work gone into the social and teaching aspect of the game, such as every line of dialogue being voiced in both Japanese and English. This really adds to the immersion of the game and becomes especially important if you are playing on Classic Mode where permadeath is active. This means that if a character gets defeated in battle, they are gone forever from all parts of the game. Of course, if you don't feel like having this constant worry and anxiety over your characters’ lives (I found it really stressful, personally) then you can play on Normal Mode where if a character is defeated then they will be available in the next battle (and your rocketing levels of guilt are dissipated).

The battle system in the game is very well done like in previous games. You will level your characters up by fighting and then can upgrade and transform them into better types, such as mages transforming into priests to get better stats and magic.


My main complaint with the game is the writing, as it is trying to mirror ‘Persona 5’ but never really reaches the same heights. The story is good and has some excellent twists but many of the characters irked me as it went on, making me not care as much about the outcome of each story arc.

In the end, ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ feels like an experiment by the developer which on most fronts has worked.  It is a marvellous strategy game that suffers from some occasionally lacking writing but is saved by some truly epic moments within the story. If you are looking for a strategy game with the social system of ‘Persona’ then you really can't go wrong with it, and with the potential of hundreds of hours of content by playing through the story of all three houses then you will be kept busy for a while!

★★★☆☆
Hannah Read

Fire Emblem: Three Houses at CeX


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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

WIN a £1,500+ Tech Haul! Vote for CeX at the Mobile Choice Awards.


Calling all CeX fans!


WIN a £1,500+ Tech Haul including Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless headphones, Nokia 9 PureView smartphone and more!

Head to the Mobile Choice Awards page and vote for CeX in the 'Best Recycling Service' and 'Best Repair Service' categories in the TechRadar Mobile Choice Awards 2019.

Voting will run until 3pm (GMT+1) on the 28th of August and we're counting on your votes.
Ts and Cs apply, head HERE for more info.

Much Love
Team CeX


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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw ★★★☆☆


I’m pretty sure at this point, you all know exactly what you’re getting with a Fast and Furious film. You can expect speed and anger if the title of the franchise is anything to go by. And yeah, I think that’s really all you get when you think about it. Lots of scowling and heavy-handed masculinity sandwiched between over-the-top car chases. But it’s proven to be one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises, so it’s showing no signs of, ahem, slowing down.


Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw is the first of presumably a long line of F&F spin-offs and puts the spotlight entirely onto the titular characters Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a pair of bald tough guys introduced in the main film series. The film follows the once-enemies forging an unlikely alliance to take on a genetically-enhanced terrorist (Idris Elba). Also along for the ride is Shaw’s sister (Vanessa Kirby), which has proven to be one of the film’s most amusing talking points – despite her being over 20 years younger than the Stath, the film supposes that they are the same age which is either an ego-kissing compliment to Statham or an insult to the wonderful Kirby. Either way, on a plot level, it’s hilariously far-fetched.

Hobbs & Shaw is a film that is difficult to review, and it almost feels redundant to do so. The franchise’s blindly loyal fans aren’t going to care what anyone says and will throw all of their money at Hobbs & Shaw without question. Those who aren’t going to watch the film know that they’re not going to watch it from the franchise alone – so why do they care what I say. With that all said, what is there to say about the film?

Not a lot. If I were to sum up Hobbs & Shaw in a word, it would be ‘fine’. I can’t really knock the stupidity of the film because it’s so self-aware. Those who criticise the F&F’s franchise for the outlandish, over-the-top set-pieces are totally missing the point. I would argue that these films are actually subliminally spoofing the franchise they exist within. And it works. It’s just hilariously ridiculous and it knows it. The casting of two of the most self-aware and underrated comedy actors – Johnson and Statham – only reinforces this feel to the film. The pair are brilliant here and make the film entertaining at the very least.


Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby offer some solid support, with Kirby providing the franchise with a strong female character that feels pretty rare in these sorts of petrol-head films. Helen Mirren provides some real acting chops while cameos from Rob Delaney, Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart bring some added laughs. But you don’t give a shit about any of that, do you? You want to know what the action is like. And it goes without saying that it’s great, explosive fun – and, of course, preposterously silly. But it is well choreographed and the CGI is perfectly decent. I shan’t spoil any of the set pieces because let’s face it, they’re really all these films have going for them.

So, is Hobbs & Shaw worth your time? Well, it is flawed. First and foremost, it’s too bloody long and even then feels like there’s far too much crammed into what is essentially just a brainless car film. There’s far too much plot for a film that doesn’t need it and it does get tedious. But hey, there are worse ways to spend a mindless 2 and a bit hours. If you hate the franchise then obviously this isn’t going to convert you, and if you love the franchise you’ll probably consider this a masterpiece. If like me, you’re pretty neutral towards Fast & Furious, you’ll find something here to like.

★★★☆☆
Sam Love

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Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood ★★★★☆


I can't recall a single filmmaker ever dividing critics like Quentin Tarantino. Every movie in his illustrious career has split the critics and attracted controversy wherever they're shown. Whether that's from his particular brand of violence, the time someone passed out during the adrenalin scene of a showing of Pulp or the number of times a certain derogatory term is used. But here we are nine films in, almost thirty years later and the dude just doesn't care, carving out a filmography like no other, without a thought for his critics, making the films both he, and I, want to see.

I was lucky enough to have heard about a pop up at 'Sounds Of The Universe', an old record store in Soho, where if you were one of the first sixty people through the door, you won a ticket to go and see 'Once Upon A Time...' at Sony Pictures headquarters a week before general release. So I pulled myself out of bed at around 5.30am and basically ran to Soho. I snagged that golden ticket (rather, a pink wristband) and grabbed all the free Tarantino swag they were handing out.


I've been waiting for this film ever since the disappointment of his last film, The Hateful 8. But unlike the Hateful 8, a project I followed all the way from the script leak, with 'Once Upon A Time...' I avoided everything, including the trailer. I find now that trailers give away far too much so best to avoid them where possible.

'Once Upon A Time...' takes us back to the late 60s, when flower power and peace & love were what people preached. Our main character, Rick Dalton (Di Caprio), is a TV actor past his prime trying to make the transition to movies. Along with his best friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), they navigate through the cut-throat business that is Hollywood and a movie industry that is clearly in a period of transition. But like Tarantino's films of past, he takes a pinnacle point in our history (in this instance the story of Sharon Tate and the Manson Family) and does what only Tarantino does best. 

This is possibly the most, and hardest, I've ever laughed at any of his films. In every review I've read they are calling this '...a love letter to Hollywood' to which I would be inclined to agree. Having himself grown up in Los Angeles during this defining era, we are showered with obscure TV & film references that really only Tarantino would know about. His encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and its history is truly laid bare in this 2-hour 45-minute epic. As well as this, it has all the hallmarks you come to expect from one of his pictures. Over the top violence, tension in the right places, hilarious set-pieces, bare feet galore and the perfect soundtrack to tie it all together. If you do decide to go and see this film, as you should, you are basically talking a near 3-hour walk inside Tarantino's head. What could be better than that?

If I had to pick at it the only issue with any Tarantino film really is they all get compared to Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. These films made such an impact on the industry and the audience that he became a victim of his own success and genius. Luckily he doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks and makes the films he wants to make anyway. There are also a couple of scenes that don't really need to be there, in my opinion. It does drag it out a little, but he's Tarantino. He can do whatever the hell he wants!


Whilst the likes of Scorsese, Spielberg and Cameron have always pushed the envelope in new technologies within their own work, Tarantino remains one of the industries purists. Always insisting on shooting film instead of digital with a heavy hand on dialogue and unique, instantly recognizable characters. To see this film the way he wants you to see it, you have to find a cinema with the capability of projecting 35mm. His film making style throws back to another period in cinema that this really does lend itself to and whilst he's still around and making movies like this, we should savour these moments. 

But will this be the penultimate Tarantino film? It feels like it could be. He's threatened to retire at 60 after only making 10 films. He's now 56 and on his ninth film. The timeline looks about right so this could actually have some weight to it. But whether or not we get a Kill Bill 3 (I sure do hope so), or another western, I eagerly await whatever comes next. 

★★★★☆
Jake Bexx



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Monday, 12 August 2019

July Nintendo Switch Video Round UP


Have you watched our July Switch review yet?


Well isn't Wolfenstein just the talk on everyone's lips! This and a bunch more in Tom's latest Nintendo Switch July review! Last month brought us:

Wolfenstein: Youngblood / Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order / Fire Emblem: Three Houses / Dragon Quest Builders 2

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Sunday, 11 August 2019

July Phones Video Round UP!


Have you watched our July Phone review yet?


More pop up cameras, notches and bezzle-less screens to come this month! Join Lewis, as he looks and the latest and greatest July had to offer when it comes to phones! On this instalment, we have:

Xiaomi Mi 9T / Motorola Moto Z4  / Samsung Galaxy A30

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Saturday, 10 August 2019

July Tech Video Round UP


Have you watched our July Tech review yet?


July continues the AMD saga with our Risen 3900X review. Join Lewis as he covers the must-haves of the month! In this issue we have:

AMD Ryzen 3900X CPU \ Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e \ ASUS VivoBook 14

Enjoy!

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CeX give pair a fighting chance! says The Teesside Gazette


CeX-sponsored martial artists Ben and Nathanial bring home the glory!

Read the full article from the Teesside Gazzette below.

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Two Teesside fighters have been put on the road to success thanks to a sponsorship deal. 
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitors Ben and Nathaniel were in medal-winning form in Birmingham representing Submit2Success and their ZR team. 
Local business CeX, with branches In Middlesbrough, Stockton, and Redcar, is sponsoring Submlt2Success, a healthy lifestyle, and training project that uses the combat grappling sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to engage young people. 
The pair, both from Thornaby, returned home from the NEC with gold and bronze in their respective divisions. 

Facing some of the top Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitors In the country, Nathaniel won gold becoming British Champion In his grey belt bracket, and Ben fighting against competitors from the renowned Gracie Barra and Pedro Bessa camps took bronze in his yellow belt division having faced some very tough matches. 

They both went back to the Middlesbrough CeX store that buys and sells games and gadgets to show off their medals. 

"We're chuffed to win this for Thornaby and Teesside and encourage others to get involved with the Submit2Success project," they said. "It's completely free of charge and thank CeX for their help". 
Local CeX store owner Raf Ali who sponsored the boys said: "We've run our CeX store in Middlesbrough for over 10 years and want to be useful to the community, donating to good causes like this should be at the forefront of every local business."

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Friday, 9 August 2019

July TV / Movie Video Round UP


Have you watched our July  TV / Movie review yet?


Captain Marvel is here to save the day! Join Sam as he takes a look at what else July had to offer:

Captain Marvel / Alita: Battle Angel / Dumbo / Chernobyl HBO Series

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Thursday, 8 August 2019

July Xbox Video Round UP


Have you watched our July Xbox review yet?


Our July round-ups continue with Lewis, and his review of the latest and greatest the Xbox has to offer for last month:

Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle / Wolfenstein: Youngblood / FIA European Truck Racing Championship

Which was your favourite game this month?

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Wednesday, 7 August 2019

July PlayStation Video Round UP


Have you watched our July PlayStation review yet?



Summer holidays are here and so are our July round-ups! Jake is here once again with the latest & greatest that PS4 has to offer! Last month, we saw the release of:

Wolfenstein: Youngblood / Dragon Quest Builders 2 / Kill la Kill the Game: IF


Which was your favourite game this June?

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Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Killers Anonymous ★★☆☆☆


Killers Anonymous, directed by Martin Owen, has an interesting premise – a group of killers meet regularly at Killers Anonymous to share their stories and work on, well, not killing. On the night of an attempted assassination of a U.S. senator, touted to be the next President, things suddenly aren’t as they seem and the group try to unravel who in the group is responsible for the attack.


It’s certainly possible to over-do a film, and sadly ‘Killers Anonymous’ has done just that. You’ll notice immediately how stylised it is… While I’m usually a fan of stylised films (‘Baby Driver’ springs to mind, which I loved), there’s a difference between those that I love and this one, and that difference is that the other ones are done well. Some of the shots in ‘Killers Anonymous’ are executed perfectly and are pleasing to the eye, however, the majority come across as clunky and overused. Take a conversation at the start of the film between characters The Man (Gary Oldman) and Jade (Jessica Alba), for example… a distant overarching view combines with wildly close-up face shots that seem to serve only to disorientate the viewer. I loved the colours and the mood of the style that Martin Owen went for, but the movement and sometimes puzzling set-up within certain frames was detracting and made it feel gimmicky, perhaps more like something you might see during an A level Media Studies project.

Talking of puzzling, the plot was what really got me. It sounds like it’s going to be a classic whodunnit but it’s not, and if I’m honest I’m not really sure what the point of the plot was, or what the writers were trying to prove. It feels like it’s attempting to be really clever, but it didn’t come together like it should have done, and by the end, I didn’t really feel like I cared. It’s a shame really because some parts I was really engrossed in – especially the first half, where some of the killers stepped back into the past to describe their first kill. This was the only part of the film where I felt like I connect with the characters – once it got into the actual plot the development didn’t impact me as much and it felt like I was watching a bunch of strangers involved in something I wasn’t overly bothered about.

Saying that I can’t fault the acting of the film, which I felt was very good and the connection between the characters felt believable. I particularly liked MyAnna Buring as Joanna, the leader of the support group, and Tim McInnerny made an excellent creepy doctor that just loves to watch his patients die. Leandro, played by Michael Socha, was my favourite character, especially after his backstory was revealed, and Elliot James Langridge and Tommy Flanagan were also good as Ben and Markus respectively. I wish there had been a lot more Gary Oldman though – what he did he did very well, but his character seemed to spend most of the time looking through a pair of binoculars, and I feel like Oldman should be utilised for more than that. It was the fact that he was starring in it that made me think it might be worth a watch, so I was disappointed, to say the least when he turned out to have such a small amount of screen time.


You can probably tell I wasn’t overly impressed with ‘Killers Anonymous’ – while the actors did what they could, it fell short on plot and editing. There may be something there for people that love hyper-stylised films, but if you’re hoping for a strong, memorable plot then this probably isn’t for you.

★★☆☆☆
Hannah Read



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Shaft ★★★★☆


Everyone knows ‘Shaft’ from the ‘70s – originally played by Richard Roundtree, John Shaft was a three-movie hero that all the kids wanted to be. In 2000 came a sequel in which the John Shaft we focus on is now the original Shaft’s nephew, played by Samuel L. Jackson, and now we’ve got an even more modern ‘Shaft’ film… Not exactly a sequel or a reboot, but rather a spin on the original concept of the film. 

This time around its Shaft Jr.’s turn, played by Jesse T. Jr., who is the abandoned son of Jackson’s Shaft, now the son of Roundtree’s Shaft (thankfully the confusion stops there). Shaft Jr. is a caricature of the modern-day male millennial, an FBI data analyst with a strong stance on guns and a love of coconut water. After his friend Karim (Avan Jogia) dies of a heroin overdose that Shaft Jr. and childhood friend Sasha (Alexandra Shipp) suspect is down to something more sinister, Shaft Jr. finds himself now in a world of drug deals and violence, and reluctantly gets back in contact with his Dad as he may be the only one able to help.
You may have already read reviews of ‘Shaft’ to find them filled with claims that it is homophobic, racist, and all sorts of other things down to Samuel L. Jackson’s old-school character. Shaft, again rather caricature-like, is your classic old-fashioned man with the belief that masculinity is down to how many fists you’ve sparred with and women you’ve refused to apologise to. He’s not quite with the times like Shaft Jr. is, seeing homosexuality as perhaps a bit of a weakness and men who aren’t hyper-masculine as slightly defective. This is where many of the jokes come into play, with the two men struggling to see eye-to-eye on a variety of things. I’d hardly call it homophobic though… More highlighting how ridiculous these sorts of beliefs are and showing that are not, in fact, correct like Shaft thinks. 
I’m glad I ignored the reviews and watched the film anyway, as it’s well-written and full of some high-octane scenes that make for great entertainment. Whilst, not all acting is excellent, Samuel L. Jackson makes Shaft his own, getting so into character that it’s hard not to be convinced. It’s classic Jackson, and he sparkles as always. Usher also makes a great Shaft Jr., not overplaying his considered weaknesses and instead embracing his personality and standing strong with his beliefs. Again, I’m not seeing why everyone is so wound up when our protagonist is actually such a positive and modern character. 

The humour, albeit not very politically correct at times, made a refreshing change from some of the films of late, taking me back to those iconic films of the ‘70s and ‘80s that really didn’t hold back. It’s got a sort of ‘Starsky and Hutch’ vibe to it – it’s silly and probably not all that likely in a real-life situation, but each scene is entertaining and a good set of casting helps to bring the story to life and excuse some perhaps unlikely scenarios that film-realists might not gel with so much. 
If you like a good action/comedy film then I’d recommend this one for lots of laughs and some good old-fashioned conflict, too. If you’re easily offended then maybe steer clear… No film will please everyone.
★★★★☆
Hannah Read

Yoshi's Crafted World at CeX


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Monday, 29 July 2019

Child's Play ★★☆☆☆


In the great pantheon of pop culture villains, there are some that will just live forever. You’ve got your Michael Myers, and your Jason Vorhees, and your Freddy Krueger. And you’ve got your Chucky. Everyone’s favourite homicidal ‘friend till the end’ doll has been around since 1988 and has gone through quite a development. From his humble beginnings as a straight horror character, through the film’s first sequels as a wise-cracking slasher, into the film’s later campy sequels where he became a comedy character and back out the other end into horror again. Much like Krueger, he’s done it all.


But now, some buffoon in Hollywood has decided to reboot the franchise and start fresh with a new creative team, voice actor and feel – despite the fact the original franchise is still ongoing. That’s pretty rare, huh? Rebooting a franchise that is still very much alive? Original creator Don Mancini has totally disowned this reboot while he continues to work on the next level of the OG Chucky franchise. Rightly so…because this one reeks of desperation. 

Straight out of the gate, this new Child’s Play goes in a different direction to the original/ongoing franchise by changing up what makes Chucky tick. While in the originals, Chucky was a host for the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, this time he is simply a malfunctioning smart-device, after having all his safety features switched off by a disgruntled sweatshop worker who was fired while putting the doll together. Very much a modern horror for our times, this is clearly aimed at the techno-fear generation and puts our homicidal doll into the “internet of things” – he is synced up to all home appliances and even electric smart-cars, so of course, he can cause a lot of shit.

Narratively, the film follows a similar path to the 1988 original – Chucky falls into the hands of Andy Barclay, a lonely young boy from a broken home who becomes best friends with the innocent-seeming doll before things go tits-up. Despite everything wrong with this film, I cannot fault the narrative structure – it is a respectful retelling of the original plot. Sure, there are some minor changes, but the characters are faithfully reconstructed for the most part. The biggest issue is Chucky himself. Apart from looking bloody ridiculous and totally not scary (although I am glad they kept the effects largely practical) – his voice is wrong. Brad Dourif is, and always will be, Chucky. Here, he is recast with Mark Hamill – a terrific voice actor, sure, but not Chucky.

But the film’s main downfall is that once we get into the killing, it just becomes a bog-standard torture porn schlockfest with very little creativity or effectiveness in the attempted scares. The film does not frighten as the original did, and nor is it funny like the later sequels – it is somewhere in between; not scary, and funny for all the wrong reasons. It is humorous just how much this new Child’s Play gets wrong, primarily the design of the psycho doll himself. If your Chucky looks (and sounds) wrong, then your whole film is destined to fail.


I was disappointed in this Child’s Play – not just as a Chucky fan, but as a horror fan. This is a needless and soulless reboot that doesn’t get anywhere near justifying its own existence and only serves as a reminder of how good the original franchise is in comparison – which is saying something, because, and even as a Chucky fan, I can admit that the originals are a bit shit. 
Steer clear of this totally unnecessary reboot and stick with Don Mancini’s originals. They’re flawed, but at least their twisted heart is in the right place. 

★★☆☆☆
Sam Love

Child's Play at CeX


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Sunday, 28 July 2019

Green Book ★★★☆☆


Another year, another Best Picture winner. But as with every year, a few months since the win, does anyone care anymore? Is anybody still talking about Green Book? Easily one of the most controversial wins in the history of the Academy Awards – a win that caused Spike Lee to jump out of his seat and attempt to leave the ceremony in disgust – this one is certainly infamous. Let’s take one last look at Green Book before it is lost forever in the annals of cinema history, destined for a lifetime of being a pub quiz trivia answer that absolutely bloody nobody will be able to remember.


The film follows Tony ‘Lip’, a bouncer from an Italian-American neighbourhood in the Bronx, and the time when he was hired to drive Dr Don Shirley, a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South. On their journey, they must rely on "The Green Book" to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism and danger - as well as unexpected humanity and humour - they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime. So, yeah, on the surface, it’s already not exactly original. But the lack of originality here is not the issue.

The issue with Green Book is just how much it perpetuates the white saviour narrative trope to a point that almost feels like a parody. The film makes a hero with a heart of gold out of Tony ‘Lip’, and it’s no surprise whatsoever that this film is written by the real-life Tony’s son. This is a “Look how amazing my dad was” film through-and-through, despite many reports to the contrary that in actual fact, a friendship between him and Don never blossomed and he remained a racist. I don’t know if that’s true – I wasn’t there – but a lot of people, including Don’s family, came forward to confirm this. It doesn’t surprise me. This is Hollywood, after all. Never let the facts get in the way of a good, heart-warming white story! 

One thing that cannot be argued with is the acting power of the two lead actors. Both Viggo Mortensen (Tony) and Mahershala Ali (Don) put in powerhouse performances and have a chemistry between them that cannot be denied. Scenes between the two characters as they bicker in the car over food, music, history and other subjects are great – mixing comedy and drama wonderfully. It’s just a shame they never bloody happened. The whole film around these performances reeks of a missed opportunity – with such incredible work from the cast, it’s such a shame that a better final product was not crafted around them. Instead, we are left with a frustratingly underwhelming, overly sanitised and downright predictable ‘true’ story that continues an upsetting trend of the white saviour.


In a year that also gave us BlacKkKlansman, it’s simply criminal that this film won all the accolades and public appreciation – I guess that’s down to the fact it’s a much more easily digestible, dumbed down and accessible portrayal of the period to be spoon-fed to the masses. But crucially, it is offensively sanitised and downright inaccurate, shitting all over what was a very harrowing period and turning it into a feel-good comedy. But again, I haven’t a bad word to say about the two leads. As such, Green Book hits the road with a very generous.

★★★☆☆
Sam Love

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Holmes & Watson ☆☆☆☆☆


Oh my. Holmes and Watson has achieved a very impressive feat. It has managed to be even worse than the critical and audience panning had led me to believe. I’d heard the horror stories about this absolute cinematic disaster but I was sure they couldn’t all be right. Nothing is that bad. But my goodness, the legends are true. Holmes and Watson is just an abomination of writing, acting, directing, editing…everything. There are no positives here whatsoever. But let’s talk about Holmes and Watson, the winner of four of 2019’s Razzie Awards – including Worst Picture.


For those of you who have avoided all knowledge of this disgrace even existing, do yourself a favour and get out of here. Save yourself. Knowing this exists will only make your life worse. Nothing good can come of knowing Holmes and Watson is out there. Run.

Still here? OK. Well, the film follows Detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson as they join forces to investigate a mysterious murder at Buckingham Palace. It seems like an open-and-shut case as all signs point to Professor James Moriarty, the criminal mastermind and longtime nemesis of the crime-solving duo. When new twists and clues begin to emerge, the world's greatest sleuth and his trusted assistant must now use their legendary wits and ingenious methods to catch the killer before the Queen becomes the next victim.

Reading that now gives me hope. Forgetting that it’s a comedy, I look at that synopsis and think “hey, a new Holmes film, that could be good”. The Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law ones were great. But this is not great. This is not even remotely good. Despite reuniting the Step Brothers themselves and former Talladega Nights teammates, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, this is not fit to lick the shit off those former films’ boots. 

So just what about Holmes and Watson is so bad. Well, it’s difficult to put into words. First of all, for a comedy, it is painfully unfunny to a point of agony. Whether the jokes are puerile and juvenile to a point that even schoolboys would cringe, or they’re considerably dated, or just downright offensive, there are absolutely no laughs to be had. The performances from our leads are just bizarre in how shockingly awful they are – Ferrell’s English accent, in particular, is almost impossible to listen to without feeling sick and angry in equal measure that a whole film has been built around it. John C. Reilly, the far superior actor in the pair, fares slightly better but still doesn’t come out smelling of anything other than shit. A shame, as Reilly had otherwise a brilliant year – The Sisters Brothers, Stan & Ollie and Ralph Breaks The Internet were all terrific.


A supporting cast of Ralph Fiennes, Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Rebecca Hall, Kelly Macdonald and Hugh Laurie are all completely phoning it in and making a remarkably tiny effort that it would take a microscope to see. The direction and structure of the film are abysmally amateur, the screenplay from Etah Cohen (not Ethan Coen) is an absolute travesty and the whole thing just looks and feels cheap. 

This whole review has actually been pretty generous because to tell you how I really feel about Holmes and Watson would be a much angrier and inappropriate rant. Instead, I am trying to be civil. As such, I will end by discussing a good point of Holmes and Watson so that my review hasn’t been entirely negative. There’s a really good bit in the film when it ends. That’s all I’ve got. Steer clear of Holmes and Watson, you owe it to yourself to not put yourself such a cinematic disgrace.

☆☆☆☆☆
Sam Love


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Saturday, 27 July 2019

Late Night ★★★★☆


Here in the UK, the late-night talk show circuit isn’t exactly a cut-throat world. We have Graham Norton and we have Jonathan Ross. That’s pretty much it. Over in the states, however, they have Kimmel and Fallon and Conan and Corden and countless others. It’s an enormous business, with the hosts themselves being the stars. Thus, for UK viewers, Late Night might be a little lost on viewers – we simply cannot relate to the late-night talk show world, and with the entire narrative built around it, will the film find a UK audience?


Late Night follows Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), a legendary late-night talk show host, as her world is turned upside down when she hires her first and only female staff writer (Mindy Kaling, who also writes the film). Originally intended to smooth over diversity concerns, her decision brings about unexpectedly hilarious consequences as the two women who are separated by culture and generation become united by their love of a biting punchline. The film is refreshing in its narrative; while there is a minor romance in the film, it is so subtle and understated that it is barely worth mentioning. The film is a bromance between two women and is all the more charming and heartwarming for it. 

As with every single film she stars in, the film just belongs to the fabulous Emma Thompson. As the cold, biting Katherine, she slowly reveals a heart below the tough exterior and turns what some actors would make a pretty one-note character into a deep, complex and layered woman. Mindy Kaling is on fine form as always too, doing the Mindy Kaling shtick she’s become known and loved for. A supporting cast includes the ever-brilliant John Lithgow, Veep’s Reid Scott and Hannibal’s Hugh Dancy. A stellar cast – which, in itself, is always a pretty huge make-or-breaker for this kind of character-driven comedy.

But it’s Kaling’s script that is the main attraction here, tackling vital and timely themes in a light-hearted and digestible manner that does not detract from their importance, but rather makes them more accessible and understandable to a mainstream audience. The film deals with issues of workplace equality – particularly sexism and racism – in such a confident and assured manner, without shoving them down our throats and choking us with sentimental political correctness. Under the fluffy comedic surface though, the film is a very sharp and thought-provoking social satire and commentary on modern workplace culture.


Late Night probably isn’t going to be a future classic. I don’t think people will really be talking about it an hour after they’ve seen it, but it’s a warm and pleasing little film that confidently deals with some very important and complex themes in a way that feels fresh and confident. I enjoyed the film immensely thanks to the typically fantastic work from Emma Thompson and both Mindy Kaling’s performance and a sharp script. But whether I will remember any of it in a few weeks remains to be seen. If you’re a fan of any of the cast members or the heartwarming comedy genre, there’s a lot to like in this charming and understated little film of friendship and acceptance.

★★★★☆
Sam Love

Late Night at CeX


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