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Fruitvale Station (2013)
Fruitvale Station (2013)
2013 | Drama
Here is another movie that was put up for consideration for my upcoming book 21st Century Cinema: 200 Essential Films. It didn’t quite make the final cut, but is part of the long list of honourable mentions – movies that are easy to like and recommend, but aren’t quite of the very highest quality in their respective genres.

Borderline superstar Michael B. Jordan owes his career to Ryan Coogler, which began in earnest in 2013 with the strong effort of true story Fruitvale Station, highlighting the life and final moments of Oscar Grant, who was one of a tragically long list of innocent young men murdered by the police in modern America. Since then he has gone on to star as the eponymous Creed and as the popular Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, making him more or less the most famous black actor under forty currently at work.

I mention him first because having seen the other two films first, I have to admit I wasn’t quite getting it. I mean he is fine in both movies, but nothing world beating. Then you go back to his acheivement in the earlier film and begin to see what he might be capable of given the right scripts. He pretty much embodies Oscar Grant to a degree you believe you are watching a documentary. Which is the major plus point of Ryan Coogler’s direction also.

By pulling us in to the family life of Oscar, as if we were a fly on the wall, we become connected to their story as if we were part of that inner circle, making the inevitable horror of events hit home all the harder. We watch mundane events and conversations take place with a shadow of foreboding that never crosses over into foreshadowing or signposting. The balance is very nicely done.

Melonie Diaz, as girlfriend Sophina, and especially the ever wonderful Octavia Spencer, as loving but grounded mother Wanda, offer solid support, but the camera clings to Jordan by choice, asking us to place ourselves in his shoes and feel the empathy first hand. It is a sober journey, almost totally devoid of directorial flair, which is both a strength and a weakness, ultimately.

With such an awful, heart-rending subject, it can be difficult to remove yourself into a dispassionate view of a film artistically, as the message overpowers your emotions. The best thing that can be said in this case is that the drama never crosses the line of sentimentality or overkill; it merely presents events as they were and asks you to draw your own conclusions. Having said that, I can’t over-praise it simply because the subject needs to be seen, heard, discussed and acted upon with total immediacy in the real world.

This film is already seven years old, and the issues are more pertinent than ever before, as the BLM movement rages all over the world, but especially in the USA, where the culpability and violence of police officers must be addressed and resolved before the loss of one more innocent life. The message delivered by the film is clear and unambiguous – it has to be heeded. And in that sense it is an indespensible film of great power, I would advise you to see.

And with that, it seems a moot point to criticise it, because there isn’t anything negative to say that would say anything useful. I would just say again that it doesn’t quite make the grade of the best 200 films since the Millennium. Whereas, BlacKkKlansman does. An unfair comparison in many ways, but an obvious one in others. See both. Think about them, do what you can, and help make hatred and prejudice a sad fact of history.

Decinemal Rating: 70
Evidence (2013)
Evidence (2013)
2013 | Horror, Mystery
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
A good "found footage" film
Contains spoilers, click to show
This is a film made in the style of "found footage". The whole film is made from the perspective of whoever is filming at the time. The style was made famous with The Blair Witch Project and perfected in Cloverfield. I saw the trailer for this and thought it could be good. After trying to track down the film I discovered it had just been released here. So I got hold of a copy and sat back.

The film is about a group of friends Ryan (Ryan McCoy), Brett (Brett Rosenberg), Abi (Abigail Richie) & Ashley (Ashley Bracken) who are out camping and making a documentary about the experience. They discover a strange creature and the trip quickly turns deadly. Soon they are on the run from strange creatures and anonymous military personnel intent on stopping the creatures.

You may have noticed in the above paragraph that the characters all have the same names as the actor playing them. This was either due to a very lazy writer, or as the writer was also Ryan McCoy one of the actors, an attempt to make the film feel more real and the friendships believable. I feel that the latter is the case as the group comes off as good friends. They interact with each other in a very realistic and genuine way. Especially the female stars. They manage to portray a wide range of emotions from playful happiness to annoyed and then terrified. The opening scenes are very well done. With most "found footage" films, the introduction to the characters and the plot are usually badly done, they are kind of a mess trying to get all the information out to the viewer. However this film is the exception to the rule. It's very well put together and the script and the pacing of the characters introductions are very good. The story starts of as a pretty standard you meet the characters, they go camping then the twist, they are not alone out there. The twist is where these type of films usually fail. But Evidence manages to succeed big time. You see a creature in the distance then during the night all hell lets loose. From this moment on the film is pure tension. I have not seen a film where for the whole last hour I was on edge. I was expecting something to happen at any moment. And it happens in so many different ways and at random times leaving you unable to let your guard down. Unlike many films in this genre, not even the camera operator is safe as the camera gets passed around for various reasons. The other great thing that I found was there was also a good reason to have the camera still on while they were running for their lives. Usually this is overlooked and we are meant to ignore that but here the reason is good and helps to make the film believable.

However with all the shocks and surprises, the film makers fail in trying to do too much. Towards the end the characters encounter many different types of creatures and I felt this was a little over the top. If they had kept to one or two different creatures it would have made a little more sense. As it was you are left very confused at the end with little or no answers as to what was going on. It worked with Cloverfield but here it missed the mark. Not by much and the film as a whole more than makes up for it.

There are a few plot holes but most can be explained away. However this is still a great addition to the "found film" genre. There have been many attempts to recreate these types of films and many fail. However people will continue to try and sometimes out of all the attempts you find something a little different, one that stands out from the rest. That one is called Evidence.
Arctic (2019)
Arctic (2019)
2019 | Adventure, Drama
This week has been one of the coldest on record across much of the United States. The “polar vortex” has brought with it sub-zero temps complete with snow and ice. It seems only fitting that Arctic a survival movie co-written and directed by YouTube star Joe Penna would be releasing the very same week. In his first feature film directorial debut Penna brings both the beauty and the dangers of the Arctic (Iceland in this case) to the big screen.

A lone man identified only as Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) has crashed his cargo plane somewhere in the arctic. We don’t know how long he has been stranded there, but long enough for him to have carved out a giant S.O.S in the snow. He has converted his downed plane into his new home and goes about the same routine every day. He sets his watch alarm to keep his schedule, which involves catching fish through the ice, and setting out in a different direction each day to manually wind his transponder in the hopes that a rescue will finally come.

One day, a day like countless days before it, Overgård’s transponder turns from red to green and in the distance a helicopter appears. His lucky day soon turns into tragedy as the harsh winds of the Arctic toss the helicopter around like a kite in a hurricane, crashing it to the ground. Overgård quickly runs to the crash site only to find that one of the pilots has died in the crash, and the other (Maria Thelma Smáradôttir) is barely conscious and has a gaping wound in her side. In a scene that could almost be described as humorous (if it wasn’t for the dire situation itself), Overgård crafts a sled out of the helicopter’s sliding door to carry the woman back to the safety of his plane, only to find out the next day that inside the helicopter was an actual rescue sled.

Sadly, it isn’t long before the young pilot’s wound begins to fester that Overgård must make a choice. Stay in the little slice of heaven that he has carved up for himself or risk the forces of nature in an effort to save the woman’s life. With a map he recovered from the downed helicopter, Overgård is able to identify an outpost and carefully plots out the journey that will take them there. The journey he plans for will take several days and has numerous obstacles to overcome. Yet, with a heart that clearly is as large as the vastness of the arctic itself, he realizes he has no choice.

Arctic is a movie with very little dialog, other than an occasional comment to himself or an attempt to rouse his unconscious guest. For a movie that says so little it’s the atmosphere that says so much. The film attempts to capture the harsh conditions that Overgård faces along his journey and does it so brilliantly that you can almost feel the icy weight as it bears down. The audience struggles with every wintery step as if they are not only spectators, but active participants in the journey. The scenery is as awe inspiring as it is deadly. The music seamlessly blends into the environment to a point where you are aware it’s there but doesn’t break the immersion.

Arctic could almost be mistaken as a documentary, a film about one mans survival in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Its pacing is deliberate, even if it is a bit slow at times. There is little need to add extra flair or danger into the mix, because nature alone provides it in spades. Arctic is not a movie that will appeal to those looking for non-stop action. At its heart it is really a movie about man vs nature, and nature can be a beast all its own. Arctic is certainly a movie for those looking for something a bit different. For those who are looking for a survival movie that doesn’t take place on a deserted isle, then this is right up your alley. Arctic shows that sometimes realism is far more interesting than fiction.

Andy K (10576 KP) rated Chernobyl in TV

Oct 6, 2019  
2019 | Action, Drama, History
No words...
Every once in a while, a piece of cinema comes along so profound, epic, chilling, horrible, emotional, disgusting, jarring, magnificent and wondrous it completely takes my breathe away. When I was a child it was films like E.T., Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the lost Ark. Since becoming an adult, it has changed to movies like Schindler's List, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Requiem For A Dream and now Chernobyl.

This five part HBO series not only accounts for the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but shows the relatively unknown sagas of those people who were just doing their jobs not knowing their heroism and ultimate sacrifice probably saved millions of lives and maybe the entire planet Earth.

The men in the control room of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant did not know what just happened. They heard an explosion and then thought there was a fire on the roof of one of the buildings. Residents in the nearly town went out to see the spectacle taking their children and stood on a nearby bridge so they could see. Those men with the local fire department were called in the deal with the fire and quickly arrived to see the devastation they faced. Little did they know most of them were doomed with this assignment.

Soon after, nuclear experts are called in to formulate a plan to not only contain and extinguish the atomic blaze, but also to contain the radiation which the wind is carrying to neighboring countries. Proud Russian state officials also downplay the situation to the rest of the world and are wary to ask for outside assistance not wanting to show weakness.

After the plan to douse the flames in successful a new problem arises. Large water tanks which are supposed to be empty now contain water from the fireman's work which now could cause a nuclear megaton explosion killing millions and laying waste to an entire region of the Earth. A plan is also forged to deal with this new development.

Meanwhile, hospitals overrun with casualties are now forced to deal with unimaginable human suffering from those who took the worst of the radiation. Their agony and torture is some of the worst human suffrage short of war time in the history of the Earth. At the same time, a scientist and nuclear expert speaks with the men near death to assume a timeline and details of what took place during those fateful minutes before the disaster.

The monumental feat this mini-series puts to task is truly astonishing. The technical and historical detail filmmakers took to ensure accuracy is among the most impressive I have ever seen. The European locations used for filming were authentic to the last detail and the style of film was harsh and unrelenting. I watched all 5 episodes straight through as I couldn't wait to get to the next installment. As each ended, I was left with my jaw on the floor is amazement wear tears in my eyes and streaming down my face. Creator/writer Craig Mazin should be commended for his screenplay which is based on quite a lot of first-hand accounts of the situation from people who witnessed it.

Lead actors Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson were all astonishing, especially Harris who portrayed Valery Legasov with such conviction, you as the audience were outraged and sympathetic to his role in this ordeal.

The human suffering portrayed onscreen through the use of remarkable make up effects were so real there were several points I had to stop the film just so I could catch my breath. I was so emotional while watching this masterpiece I feel now like a changed person after just having witnessed something as magic as this perfect piece of filmmaking.

I was so enamored with this production I watched all the making of material afterwards and a documentary about the real events including some of the real graphic patient images that I will never forget.

Hopefully, this will be shown in schools in the future and future generations will continue to learn about the Chernobyl catastrophe as a symbol of human arrogance so that it will never be repeated.


Elli H Burton (1192 KP) Nov 2, 2019

Okay I HAVE to watch it now!


Andy K (10576 KP) Nov 2, 2019

Lol I hope you love it and are as moved as I was.

Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazuko) (2018)
Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazuko) (2018)
2018 | Drama
8.8 (4 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Last month I had the opportunity to attend a screening of Shoplifters, following its huge success at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film was written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, and follows a large, multi-generational family who are living on the brink of poverty. They live in a cramped, very basic apartment in the heart of Tokyo, where those able to work all band together in a desperate attempt to keep the family sheltered and fed.

As the title suggests, some members are petty criminals and frequently shoplift from local supermarkets and convienience stores in order to survive. It’s become a talent in the family, passed down from father to son and almost feels like a bonding exercise when you witness the way they work together. The family leads a simple life, justifying their actions by telling themselves if the theft doesn’t bankrupt the store owner, then they can survive without the items they took. It’s a way of clearing their conscience and seems to work very well. Osamu and and his son, Shota are the major players in the art of shoplifting, and are literally partners in crime.

Their lives change when they encounter Yuri, a young child who is outside in the freezing cold and looks malnourished. Despite the fact they already have too many mouths to feed, Osamu makes the decision to take her home and give her food and shelter. It soon becomes clear that Yuri has suffered abuse, based on the marks on her arm and her very quiet and timid behaviour. They decide to keep her as part of the family, fearing for her wellbeing.

This decision makes life even harder for the family as they have to evade the police both when shoplifting, and when going out in public with Yuri, as she soon becomes a missing person. This selfless act forms the rest of the film, resulting in a gorgeous 2 hours of cinema.

I was completely blown away by Shoplifters and its intimate portrayal of family life. As the film progressed, I found myself bonding with the characters as an audience member. I enjoyed seeing them on screen and going with them as they went about their daily lives. Each character has so much depth, their own wants and desires and their own secrets, to the point where they feel real. It could have easily been a documentary based on how close we are to the subjects, and how much we learn from them. Their character development is just stunning, and events in the third act left me in a stunned silence as we discover some harsh truths about the family.

The visual style varies from scene to scene, switching from clean and clinical streets to the cramped, messy apartment and back again. We are given a well-rounded and contrasting look at Japan’s capital and the people that live in it. The family have next to nothing but their bond is strong, doing everything they can to keep each other happy and healthy. We see them enjoying a day at the beach and watching the fireworks, activities that are both free and a lot of fun. The film certainly places a strong focus on life’s simple pleasures, and gives you a sense of gratitude throughout. Though harrowing in places, the happier moments radiate from the screen and leave you smiling to yourself because of how beautiful and convincing they are. It’s truly an emotional rollercoaster.

I have never seen a film quite like Shoplifters and though its pacing is slow, the bonds between characters and the deep exploration of their lives is enough to keep you glued to the screen throughout. It is certainly deserving of its Cannes win, because of its deep, thorough and complex exploration of family life. It will warm your heart and break it soon after, leaving you wanting to stay in their lives by the time the credits roll. This is a must-see.
Fighting with My Family (2019)
Fighting with My Family (2019)
2019 | Biography, Comedy, Drama
A biopic that’s not just for wrestling fans
Let me make something clear before I dive into my review: I don’t like wrestling. Actually, I hate wrestling. I could barely name another wrestler aside from The Rock and John Cena, so at a glance this film really isn’t marketed towards me. But when we go a little deeper, it becomes clear that this is an incredibly accessible film with a powerful message.

Fighting With My Family tells the story of Norwich-born Saraya “Paige” Bevis. Brought up in a family of wrestlers, Bevis spent her life wrestling alongside her parents, brother and the local community, drawing in small crowds on a regular basis. The family has dreams of making WWE and becoming professional wrestlers, even going as far as sending audition tapes to the company. When Saraya and her brother Zak “Zodiac” are called for an official audition, the family’s lives change for better and for worse.

With an all-star cast including The Rock (obviously), Vince Vaughn, Nick Frost, Lena Headey and Florence Pugh, it’s an incredibly appealing film. Everyone involved takes to their roles effortlessly, bringing all the charm and quirks of the characters to life. It’s so easy to like the Knight family, as they come across as a strange yet passionate family who’d do everything in their power to support the community around them. It’s refreshing to see a depiction of working-class life that doesn’t make the audience sneer or judge. I found myself rooting for the Knights all the way, and wishing them all the best. Pugh embodies Paige so well, to the point where it was easy to believe you were watching the woman herself. She’s so awkward, British and hugely likeable throughout.

I was also surprised to learn that Stephen Merchant (yes, that Stephen Merchant) was at the helm of this film. I adored his direction style and hilarious cameo, making this an unlikely project that worked like a charm. Based off the documentary of the same name, Merchant brings his own unique vision to the project, with the legendary Dwayne Johnson helping out as an an executive producer. It feels like an unlikely duo, but it seriously works.

Fighting With My Family has classic British humour and a familiar grittiness to it, reminding me why I adore British cinema so much. There are clear tonal shifts between the UK and US, emphasising the cultural differences and how out of her depth Bevis felt at first. This is where a lot of the humour comes into play too, as a pale, pierced Norwich girl sticks out like a sore thumb amongst blonde, bronzed models. As Saraya steps into the world of WWE with the ring name “Paige”, she has to face numerous obstacles that are both mentally and physically challenging. As it happens, her identity is one of them, and she soon becomes an outcast.

Yes, this film is about one girl’s rise to the top of the WWE ranks, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s about family, class divide, jealousy, among others. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Saraya and Zak, as there’s a clear case of sibling rivalry here. Whilst Saraya succeeds, Zak is dealing with a whole host of personal issues whilst wallowing in his own sadness. This is jealousy on a massive scale, causing a rift between the siblings, and in turn, the rest of the family.

I loved the overall message that the film delivers: that it’s important to always be true to yourself, and do what makes you great. Whether that’s big or small, you can make an impact. This is something that Zak eventually learns whilst he’s feeling jealous of his sister’s success. The familial bond is so strong in this film, and it’s a truly beautiful thing to witness. They might be slightly bonkers, dysfunctional and off the wall, but they’d do anything to support each other. Isn’t that wonderful?
American Animals (2018)
American Animals (2018)
2018 | Crime, Drama
Story: American Animals starts as we see the heist about to take place, rewinding us 18 months where we meet Spencer Reinhardt (Keoghan) an art student in Transylvania University, struggling with his identity, turning to his streetwise friend Warren Lipka (Peters) the two discuss the potential of stealing rare expensive books from the library.

As the idea turns into a plan they bring in Chas Allen (Jenner) and Eric Borsuk (Abrahamson), can they make this plan come off, well the answer is no because as we see the planning we meet the real thieves now in their 30s discussing what they remember about the idea.


Thoughts on American Animals


Characters – Warren is the streetwise student on a scholarship, not living up to his potential, he will always get things down however illegal they might be. He is the one that brings the team together to make this happen even if he is also the one that gets them in the most problems. Spencer is the art student that comes up with the idea because he is sick of not standing out in the art world, looking for the pain be believes artist require. He is all in with the planning but when it comes to following through he thinks they will need to go too far. Chas is the getaway driver, he has the most money which helps with the planning of the heist. Eric becomes the brains learning where things could and would go wrong if they do it in certain directions. We do also meet the adult versions of these characters in the real version that are looking back on the crime they committed.

Performances – Evan Peters is the clear highlight in this film, he always comes off unpredictable which seeing the older versions of the characters you completely understand too. Barry Keoghan does play the stranger member of the crew well, he is the one that is happy to plan not commit a crime, he needs to be straighter faced than Peters character. When it comes to the rest of the cast they are fine without needing to do that much.

Story – The story here is based on the real story of four university students that robbed the rare book collection in the library of their university. The way the story is told is interesting because it does both help and hinder the film, having a mix of the actors playing the younger versions and the real men talking about the events does give the story a documentary feel. Where this does hinder the story is by telling us that they failed early on and are now just remembering what happen which takes away any excitement or edge of your set moments towards anything going on. There are moments in the story which are good to watch, for example the scene where they are watching heist movies to learn how to pull it off and seeing the pitch perfect plan in Warren’s head. If we are being honest, the story is about 20 minutes too long because the opening hour just drags you along, once the heist gets underway things get more exciting but by then you might see the audience lose interest.

Crime – The crime follows a real heist that happened at the same university, we get to see how it was planned, how things went down and seeing the consequences the boys felt.

Settings – The film is mostly set in and around the university, this helps for any heist film, we do get moments where we step away, but that is for the plan which does work when you see how the boys are out of their depth at times.

Scene of the Movie – Selecting the names.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The first hour.

Final Thoughts – This is an overly long heist movie that drags along at a horribly slow pace, once things kick off we do get some interest, but the fact we have the real criminals involved in telling the story we know the outcome.


Overall: Just watch for Evan Peters being slightly crazy.
The Big Trail (1930)
The Big Trail (1930)
1930 | Classics, Drama, Western
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
“The Indians are my friends…” Breck Coleman – John Wayne
Not exactly a statement that would exemplify the Career of a man rightly or wrongly associated as being the Cowboy of the Cowboy and Indian movies. But there is no doubt that John Wayne was certainly one of the biggest western stars of cinema.

And The Big Trail is where it really begins for Wayne, but this 1930’s classic was a box office failure, coming not only at the dawn of sound film, but at the time of The Great Depression. It would be another decade by the time “The Duke” wold be born and John Wayne would take his crown as the western superstar which we all know today.

But The Big Trail, originally entitled The Oregon Trail, is not really a John Wayne vehicle. He was a relative unknown actor alongside stage talent, many of whom were drafted into Hollywood at this time simply because they could give a decent vocal performance, as many a silent star was falling, failing to adapt the talkies.

But again, sound is not the selling point of this movie. This was one of a handful of films which pioneered the 70mm film format, in this case, Fox Grandeur, or Grandeur 70. A none anamorphic widescreen format, which whilst not the first attempt, nor the first 70mm film format, it was the nearest to which would succeed later.

2oth Century Fox would change cinema in 1953 with the release of the first CinemaScope film, The Robe, a year after the debut of Cinerama, but Grandeur more closest resembles Todd AO, a format which is still technically used today though in a somewhat different way. The secret to CinemaScope’s later success was in many ways the reason for the failure of Grandeur and that was the fact that CinemaScope was an anamorphic process, screening the image from a regular 35mm film and expanding with the lens, therefore making it a lot cheaper to adapt existing projectors and auditoriums.

Grandeur on the other hand was a larger film format and required a complete upgrade to theatres and therefore, especially at the dawn of the depression era, was financially untenable. Only two theatres in the U.S. would ever show this film in its widescreen glory, with rest showing the alternate 35mm Academy version.

And this film, had SIX versions shot simultaneously, in four different languages, 35mm and 70mm, each requiring different takes with different cameras or casts. This was an incredible feet but one which would soon be reduced with the use of audio dubbing, subtitles and ability to pan and scan.

The problem with this film is simple. It has a loose plot but no real twists and turns. This is almost a documentary following the wagon train trail across the west as group of pioneers make their way to the better life and building the United States, or at least personifying the romantic version of it.

But the film’s pacing and visual style works best through the widescreen lens, a beautiful journey with the untamed west as backdrop, but this is not the the version that most people have seen. The majority only saw the 35mm version which is 20 minutes shorter, edited more quickly and simply doesn’t have the visual flare of the Grandeur version. And without this vast visual canvas, the thousands of extras and props are almost cut from the film, a film with now feels a bit pointless and bit wayward.

Starring an unknown, though despite his hammy acting, Wayne manages to hold his own, the pacing is rushed and the fact that this is an epic journey which we are embarking on with them is somewhat lost.

The widescreen version’s main failing is the sound, which is inferior and poorly mixed in comparison to the 35mm cut, which is crisper and louder, but sound was never going to this movie’s strength and it was still rudimentary at this point. But on a visual level, considering the age of the print, the cinematography is up there as being some of the best, with scale and dare I say, “grandeur” about it.

This is an interesting film to watch now, though unless you are a strong western fan, I would say that it will not thrill, though as a peace of cinematic history, it is littered with footnotes and it very watchable.

Lee (2185 KP) rated The Lion King (2019) in Movies

Jul 20, 2019 (Updated Jul 20, 2019)  
The Lion King (2019)
The Lion King (2019)
2019 | Adventure, Animation, Family
Disney's 1994 animated version of The Lion King was a huge hit. Not only did it win Academy Awards for original score (courtesy of the amazing Hans Zimmer) but also for original song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" by Elton John & Tim Rice. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy and went on to become a huge Broadway stage show in 1997, winning further awards and proving to be one of the most popular shows ever. Some movie sequels quietly came and went, along with a couple of TV series, but it's the original movie which is still loved by millions to this day. While Disney currently feels the need to rework their animated back catalogue, and with considerable advances in photorealistic computer animation technology, it was only a matter of time before The Lion King had it's turn in landing a remake.

Right now, I'm neither for or against this current wave of remakes. I don't think they're entirely necessary, but I've been pleasantly surprised by one or two of them so far, so I'm happy to give them my time for now. The Lion King is the third remake to emerge this year though, following the disappointing Dumbo and the not as bad as I was expecting Aladdin. The term 'live action' has been used to describe this version of The Lion King, although it's not really live - more of a CGI upgrade - and it's been getting a lot of negativity online too, more so than any other Disney remake so far. Most of the backlash appears to be down to the fact that this is a beloved film, with the remake being more of a shot by shot recreation than any of the others so far, supposedly rendering it unnecessary in the eyes of the haters. But, while I agree that the original is an incredible movie, that certainly didn't stop me, or millions of others, from going to view the stage show production of The Lion King - a retelling and re-imagining of the story and characters you know and love, just with a different set of tools to do the job. So, why not treat this new movie in the same way, at least until you've actually seen it? And, even if you do hate the new version, the original is still going to be there for you to enjoy afterwards.

The story here, as mentioned earlier, is the same as the original movie, with a pretty impressive cast lending their voices to the characters. We follow young lion cub Simba (JD McCrary), who is destined to succeed his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones reprising his 1994 performance), as King of the African Pride Lands. But his uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has other plans, murdering Mufasa and forcing Simba into exile where he meets a warthog called Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and a meerkat named Timon (Billy Eichner). As an adult, Simba (now voiced by Donald Glover) reconnects with childhood friend Nala (voiced by Shahadi Wright Joseph as a child, Beyoncé as an adult) and mandrill Rafkiki (John Kani) and returns to the Pride Lands in order to take his rightful place as King. The circle of life, etc...

The visuals are incredible. Director Jon Favreau, who also directed the 2016 version of The Jungle Book, has taken what was done on that movie to a whole new level here. But the imagery is both the movies strength and it's weakness. As we sweep across the African landscape, in and around the animals as they go about their lives, you feel as though you are in a beautifully well shot documentary, the animals are that realistic. But that realism also means that animals cannot realistically convey human expressions or emotions, and there's a lot to be conveyed in the story of The Lion King - laughter, anger, sadness - and the majority of the voice cast cannot seem to stop it all from just feeling a bit flat and lifeless.

The first half meanders along, hitting all the right beats and songs from the original, but never really feeling like an improvement on it. And then Timon and Pumbaa arrive on the scene, providing much needed laughs and proving to be the movie's saviours. The film finds its feet, lightens up a little and becomes more enjoyable for its remainder, but it isn't enough. This is yet another remake where it's all style and not enough substance. Worth seeing, but certainly not better than the original.
Show all 3 comments.

Lee (2185 KP) Jul 20, 2019

Thank you @Andy K , really kind of you. At least somebody is reading them 😂


Andy K (10576 KP) Jul 20, 2019

Very thorough and detailed. Sometimes when I write I find it difficult to write more than a few paragraphs assuming nobody cares, but I think yours are well crafted and thought out. Well Done!

Dear Edward
Dear Edward
Ann Napolitano | 2020 | Contemporary, Fiction & Poetry
9.0 (3 Ratings)
Book Rating
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<b><i>Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano is one of the few books that instantly captures your heart, then shatters it into hundred pieces and teaches you many life lessons at the same time.</i></b>

"A reporter holds up a copy of The New York Times to a camera, to show a huge block headline, the kind normally reserved for presidential elections and moonwalks. It reads: 


The relatives have only one question when the press briefing comes to close; they all lean toward it like a window in a dark room:

"How is the boy?"</i>

Dear Edward features a boy called Edward, who is flying with his family to move across states. This is their chance of a new life, a brand new start. When the plane crashes, he is the only survivor.

The author tells the story through two different timelines; during the flight and after the plane crash. We follow Edward's life and how he is coping with the loss of everything he knew. We also see how he is struggling to cope with the unwanted celebrity title he has now.

I have always been intrigued by planes and plane crashes. I used to watch every single episode of the documentary on Discovery Channel back in the days. And today, I like to listen to the Plane Crash Podcast by Michael Bauer. I have had some bad experiences while flying, and have always wanted to understand what exactly happens when a plane crashes, and what aviation does to prevent this from happening in the future. This book contains amazing details about the crash, and my hidden mystery person inside me was deeply satisfied by all those pilot dialogues and explanations.

Edward's grief and growing up journey is so painful. He survived, but everyone he loved and cared about in his life died. He is lucky to have survived, but why does he then feel guilty? Why did he swap places with his brother on the flight? If they didn't - his brother would still be alive now. The brother relationship was written so perfectly. The love and the bond they shared for each other was so strong.

Despite the fact that Edward is the main character in this story, we also get to meet so many other characters, the people who lost their lives in the crash. Through flashbacks and "during flight" scenes, as well as encounters from their families, we get to see all the wishes that will never come through, all the hopes and dreams buried under the plane ash.

And that is why Edward's journey is so difficult. He doesn't have to only carry to guilt for his own family, but all those other lives as well. Edward receives letters from the families asking him to do all these things that these people would do. He is asked to become a musician, a doctor, a teacher, to travel around the world, learn knitting, etc, and Edward feels obligated to do all of these things, to give peace to the families.

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<b><i>I knew this book would stay with me forever from the moment I started reading the first few pages. It is so harshly real and painful, but what it does it remind us how every day is special and we should be thankful for it! We may not get a tomorrow, but that's why we have today. Let's make the best of it!</i></b>

Thank you to the team at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Also thank you to the team at LoveReading UK, for allowing me to be their Super Ambassador of this book for the month of November.

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