Pixar films have been a bit dangerous in the last few years. By which I mean, they have been steadily getting more and more existential and they make me sad. Inside Out is one of the best discussions about mental health that I’ve ever seen. Coco explored the concept of death in such a moving and human way. These are the kind of films that I wish had been around when I was a kid. Maybe I’d have grown up to be a slightly more well-adjusted adult. Not much obviously. Pixar are great but they can’t perform fucking miracles! Considering the studio has something of a habit of making me cry, I was especially concerned about their latest film but I also knew that I couldn’t miss it. Even the poster was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. How could I not watch the whole thing?
I’ll tell you what, the 25th really can’t come quickly enough for my liking. I am so tired and really craving a break. Which is another reason why my heart really isn’t in this post. It’s probably going to be a fairly quick one because it’s quite late as I’m writing this. I’m also currently listening to a Spotify playlist called Christmas Lullabies so I can feel festive and get ready for sleep. I’ll be honest, I’m not feeling particularly festive right now. No matter how hard I try, it’s just not there right now. Watching a Christmas film every day hasn’t done much to help but that’s possibly due to the films I’ve been watching. They weren’t necessarily the best of the bunch. I’d better get round to my favourites soon or I’ll run out of time.
For advent last year, I tried to watch a Christmas every day leading up to Christmas. I’m pretty sure that I managed it but I can’t actually remember. I was supposed to be posting each film on my Instagram story but I kept losing track of which day I was on. In the end, it was just better for everyone that I gave up. This year, I’ve vowed to do the same thing and, hopefully, keep up with my Instagram story record. I was already getting into the festive spirit thanks to The Princess Switch: Switched Again. So, I decided to keep the joy going with the most ridiculous looking film that I could find on Netflix. To be fair, I have already watched a lot of the shitty Christmas films on there for the TBT posts in past years. It left with one of the horrifying Nativity series or this monstrosity.
I felt as thought I’d seen this film at some point but I never had. It’s probably just because of how much attention this film was given. If I remember correctly, this was a major deal. The David Hasselhoff cameo also ended up being a major deal and apparently got him a new generation of fans. However, even the prospect of briefly seeing the ex-Baywatch star wasn’t enough to get me to watch this film. Until I’d decided to watch the most recent SpongeBob film. It only felt right to watch the show’s first movie outing before I gave the latest one a try. As I mentioned on Tuesday, I’m not a big fan of the show, so it wasn’t as if I was massively looking forward to it. Still, I’m not in the mood for much complexity right now. This felt perfect for my mood. At the very least, it wasn’t going to be too long.
I can’t say that I was ever a fan of SpongeBob SquarePants when I was younger. It just passed me by and I wasn’t really aware of its existence until I was too old to care. I briefly lived with a guy at uni who had been given the nickname Sponge and had the animated character tattooed onto his person. Still, I didn’t feel like checking it out. I didn’t watch a whole episode until I first subscribed the Netflix and started watching it ironically as an adult. I appreciated the series but I can’t say that I saw what all of the fuss was about. So, I’m not exactly the kind of person who would be rushing out to watch the latest movie but these are Covid times. Nothing really makes much sense right now so I decided to watch it. At the very least, I figured that it would work with my current reduced attention span.
I almost didn’t have anything to review today. For some reason, I never got around to watching a film this weekend. I guess I just spent too long trying to get through that bloody Murder, She Wrote book. I didn’t realise until Monday that I’d forgotten. So, I had the choice to write something else for today or watch something and review it in the same night. I had thought about weighing in on the Johnny Depp/Fantastic Beasts news but I didn’t know if that would go against my ban of the writer who must not be named. In the end, I picked the quickest new release on Netflix that I could find. I didn’t know anything about it but someone I follow on Instagram had watched it recently. What did I have to lose?
I miss going out to the cinema. The news that Cineworld would be closing due to Covid has made me realise just how long it been since I was las sat in a cinema. I obviously hope that cinemas will survive but it seems clear that, post-Coronavirus, the way people watch films is going to change. I’d love to be able to go out and support my local cinema but I just don’t want to take the risk. I’m not officially shielding but as a “high risk” individual in a virus hotspot, it really doesn’t seem worth the risk to sit in a room full of strangers for a few hours. No matter how good Tenet might be. And it’s not fair to place the survival of a whole industry on individuals anyway. But I digress. For the time being, there are plenty of films being released on Netflix at the moment to keep me occupied. It won’t ever be the same but it’s something.
Jumanji: The Next Level film might be the third film to include Jumanji in the title but it is actually the fourth film in the whole franchise. It’s easy to forget that Zathura: A Space Adventure is part of the same universe. Mostly because both the writer of the original books, Chris Van Allsburg, and director, Jon Favreau, wanted to distance it from the Robin Williams film. Favreau, in particular, didn’t like the film at all and wanted to make sure that people knew it. Yet, the studio was keen to show that both films were connected and Zathura is officially the second film in the Jumanji franchise. I’d never actually seen it, though, as I was 17 when it came out. It definitely wasn’t the kind of film the 17-year-old me would have been comfortable admitting to wanting to watch. So, I decided it was finally time. After all, it got a much better critical reaction than the first Jumanji film even if it didn’t do incredibly well at the box office. The opposite of Robin Williams’ film. Was the space adventure actually better or was this another time when the critics were way off in their assessment?
After watching the lovely but quite sad Ordinary Love for my Tuesday Review this week, I wanted to find something a bit sillier for my Throwback Thursday Review. After all, we’re living in quite a challenging time, so it’s important to find something to laugh about. I recently watched Horrible Histories: The Movie and it was pretty good. I know that I’m way too old for the television show at this point but I think it’s genius. I know that I read the books when I was younger but I’m not sure I ever truly appreciated them. If only the show had been around when I was a kid. I grew up loving history but I was always a little out of my depth academically. Although, if there’s one thing I do know, it’s literary history. So, of course, I appreciated the fact that the people behind Horrible Histories have also made a film about one of literature’s biggest figures. I never watched Bill when it came out. Maybe it was time?
Last year, Netflix proved that it had some great things to offer the world of animation. Both Klaus and I Lost My Body were worthy Oscar nominees at this year’s Oscars. It’s just a shame that Toy Story 4 knocked them out of the park. But it did go to show that Netflix was willing to push boundaries somewhere at least. Yes, the comedies weren’t exactly anything to write home about but they were clearly picking interesting animated projects. So, I was interested in their new animated film even before I knew anything about it. I didn’t know the book it had been adapted from or what to expect. It looked pretty interesting from the trailer so I decided that it would be worth a chance. It looked like Henry Selick but with added rainbows. At the very least, I figured that it would be a pretty film.
Imagine a world in which the Baudelaire orphans aren’t orphans but they’re parents were both as awful as Count Olaf. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the premise of this story. The four Willoughby children were born to two parents that had no interest in raising children. Mother and father Willoughby were so in love with each other that they had none left for anyone else. So, when their children come along, they just leave them to fend for themselves. Tim, the eldest child, always tries to live up to the Willoughby name. His family used to be full of great people with even greater moustaches. He tries to instil these traditions in his younger sister and twin brothers but they just want to get as far away from their family as possible.
Which is how the group come up with a plan to get rid of their parents once and for all. They send them off on a deadly adventure in an attempt to orphan themselves. They are left in the hands of Linda, a caring and happy nanny. The three younger siblings fall for Linda’s charms but Tim doesn’t trust her. To the extent that he calls Orphan Services and the children get taken away. All are sent to separate homes and are even more miserable than before. Can Tim come up with a plan to get the family back together? And just what does the orphan baby left on their doorstep have to do with it all?
The Willoughbys is a very original and exciting narrative. It might look sickly sweet on the outside but there is plenty of darkness here. The story has definite Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket vibes to it but it has enough rainbows and love to make it work. It is also pretty fast-paced. The narrative moves along at such a pace that you won’t have time to get bored. It’s constantly moving forwards and it is packed full of references. This is an energetic film that will keep younger viewers engaged and it has enough originality that parents won’t be too put-out having to sit with them.
Yet, compared to Netflix’s past animated offerings, it just feels a bit lacking. There is a sense that the darkness doesn’t quite work for the audience this film is aimed for. Or at least, that it could have gone further had it not been for the young audience. It brushes with death and darkness which is fine but it feels a bit childish still. The film opens by claiming that it won’t have a happy ending but there’s never a real sense of danger here. No matter how hard it tries to convince you otherwise. It would be interesting to see what could have been made had this film been pushed towards an older audience. It could have been more like A Series of Unfortunate Events instead of seeming like a pale imitation.
This is an interesting film but it feels a little fragmented. This is the main explanation for Ricky Gervais’ role as narrator. Playing a cat who oversees everything, the narrator is the thing that keeps all of these things together. Otherwise, the film would have the feel of a series of sketches instead of one complete narrative. I understand that, when adapting a book, having a narrator can feel natural but I’m not sure the cat added anything. It was Ricky Gervais playing Ricky Gervais again. It felt weird and out-of-place. I would have prefered the narrative to flow naturally without it.
Although, this is still an enjoyable film. The voice actors are all energetic and fantastic in their roles. The characters come to life on screen but its limited thanks to the pace of the storytelling. There’s plenty of fun and it is a visually great film. It’s just that there’s too much going on and it all happens too quickly. You can’t really sit back and enjoy the good bits because we’re skipping from bit to bit. It also means the overall emotional message gets lost a little. The film’s final act lacks the punch that it needed. It should have been a lovely moment but it’s just a bit flat. The Willoughbys isn’t the worst thing Netflix has ever created but, compared to some of their other animated films, it just can’t compare.