A Silent Voice Review

“A Silent Voice, one of Kyoto’s finest productions to date, undoubtedly gives the viewer provocation to reflect on any regrettable childhood actions.”

Director: Naoko Yamada; Distributor: Anime Limited. 12 cert, 130 mins.

Last year one of the most tragic events in Japan since World War II took place at Kyoto Animation. 36 people died in a horrific attack that has left a feeling of reflection and sadness associated with any Kyoto Animation production. A Silent Voice, one of Kyoto’s finest productions to date, undoubtedly gives the viewer provocation to reflect on any regrettable childhood actions. Naoko Yamada’s adaption of Yoshitoki Ōima’s manga Koe No Katachi, A Silent Voice, is a coming-of-age drama; A story of atonement, friendship, and much more. Originally released in the UK in 2017, it now receives the special edition DVD/Blu-Ray treatment thanks to Anime Limited. Sadness and reflection may root at the core of A Silent Voice, but its poignancy and beauty are defintely worth savouring.

6th grade student Ishida Shouya is the resident class prankster. That is until his increasingly-serious bullying behavior results in a hearing-impaired classmate being transferred out of his school. Ishida, ostrasised by his friends and classmates, begins to learn first-hand how it feels to be the victim. The original title translates as “The Shape of Voice”. It not only displays at both the beginning and end of the movie, it is also curiously closer to the movie’s meaning.

A Silent Voice is a movie about many things. Self-worth, friendship, love, restitution, even regret. The movie originates with bullying as its focus; its many forms and repercussions of such actions. Ishida’s pranks are cruel, unfair and systemic. And although he is responsible for the majority of the bullying against Nishimiya Shōko, his friends and even his teacher immediately and continually reject their new classmate’s difficulties, as well as her personality. Ishida’s happy-go-lucky life is turned upside down when both friends and staff ostracise him following Shōko’s bullying-driven transfer.

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Bullying is a subject that is of course very real. Whether it be shunning someone who just wants to be friends, or throwing their school bag into a pond. Yamada’s delivery of such actions plus their repercussions in later life are eloquently delivered. There is a distinct tenderness to Yamada’s direction, despite the movie exploring a number of unpleasant and difficult topics. Scenes with sign language are subtly non-subtitled to give you a flavour of what it’s like to deduce what is being said. Equally effective are silent Shōko scenes that lead you, through family facial expressions and Shōko’s actions, to empathise with their plight. Empathetic, endearing yet subtle.

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A Silent Voice makes extensive use of photography work. The palette is lightly-coloured and bathes the city of Ogaki with elegance and beauty. More so than the real thing, which is what animation should be; a representation of a world and it’s character, not the world itself.

The soundtrack is also a delight. Soft piano and ambient melodies capture the mood just as effectively as the moments where silence take centre stage in delivering emotion. It’s an auditory experience that’s memorable as a whole as opposed to standout tracks that stick in your mind.

Beguiling, sensuous, delicate yet brilliant, A Silent Movie is simply a captivating experience. The subject matter may well be polarising for some, but it’s a powerful movie that’s definitely worthy of anyone’s time.

Studio Ghibli movies coming to Netflix UK from February

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From next month, Netflix will show 21 feature films from Studio Ghibli in the UK for the first time. What better time to sample some of the best animation, along with accompanying scores, the world has to offer.

With Netflix’s acquisition, the movies will also be available to watch across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. Previously, Studio Ghibli had declined to offer digital versions of its content in any capacity. However in the US recently, Ghibli made downloadable copies available for sale.

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The movies will be subtitled in 28 languages as well as producing new dubs, which will no doubt be the main source of scrutiny.  The first wave of releases drop on February 1st. That means greats such as Castle in the SkyMy Neighbor TotoroKiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso will reach Netflix UK’s estimated 9.5 million subscribers.

Further to that, on March 1st, more classics will be added, including Nausicaä of the Valley of the WindPrincess Mononoke, and personal favourite Spirited Away. And again, on April 1st, Whisper of the Heart, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, The Wind Rises, and others, also drop. That’s no April fool. What a time to be alive.

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Fans of Grave of the Fireflies will despair however, with publishing rights currently residing away from Studio Ghibli. But that is nevertheless only a minor downer in contrast to the quality on the way. For me, I’m very much looking forward to educating my 7 year old daughter on Ghibli’s gorgeous, glorious greatness.

Full list of what to expect and when :-

February 1st

Castle In The Sky

My Neighbour Totoro

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Only Yesterday

Porco Rosso

Ocean Waves

Tales From Earthsea

 

March 1st

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind

Princess Mononoke

My Neighbours The Yamadas

Spirited Away

The Cat Returns

Arrietty

The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya

 

April 1st

Pom Poko

Whisper Of The Heart

Howl’s Moving Castle

Ponyo

From Up On Poppy Hill

The Wind Rises

When Marnie Was There

Which Studio Ghibli movie is your favourite? Which will you watch first?

Akira is Making a Comeback, Let’s Fall in Love With it All Over Again

The anime behemoth is back – in more ways than one

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This past weekend at Anime Expo 2019, legendary manga creator Katsuhiro Otomo announced a new anime project, namely an adaption of his Akira manga. Sunrise, one of Japan’s biggest animation studios, creators of classics such as Cowboy Bebop, Mobile Suit Gundam and even non-Japanese productions Inspector Gadget (i miss that) and Batman: The Animated Series, will produce. Sunrise CEO Makoto Asanuma confirmed the intention of incorporating the entire story of the manga. So yeah, pretty huge news.

And if that news alone wasn’t huge enough for you, well how about this: The original 1988 movie will receive a 4K remaster in both Japan and the US. Hopefully a UK version will follow also, with Akira still serving as one of Manga UK’s key licenses.

Otomo’s original sci-fi action manga ran for 8 years in Kodansha’s Weekly Young Magazine, from 1982 to 1990. It is set in Neo-Tokyo, a city that has been rebuilt following a mysterious explosion. The movie, directed by Otomo, created an explosion of its own in the west back in the early 1990’s. It is still considered by many, me included, to be the benchmark is Japanese animation. Its hard to argue this point, despite many other glowing examples in the last 30 years.

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After paving the way for anime into the mainstream, Akira also helped launch Manga Mania, a UK-based anime/manga magazine from Dark Horse Comics. The western translation became its premiere manga strip, with 100 pages each month. The magazine’s decline is often attributed to the end of the strip in issue 38. Akira’s 6-volume run is always in circulation across the globe, and remains one of the most successful and influential manga ever created.

As for the movie, a 4K edition is most welcome, and certainly deserving. Of all the Japanese anime works in the world, especially one that is over 30 years old, there are few that look better, even today. It wasn’t the most expensive anime film of its time (1.1 billion yen) for nothing. It has already undergone remaster treatment for both DVD in 2001 (as well as the alternative English dub track) and more recently Blu-Ray, featuring a Japanese Dolby TrueHD 192 kHz remaster. Definitely plenty to look forward to from a 4K version.

As for the manga adaption, if it indeed is produced as a series, don’t expect the same lavish production. Although I’ve little doubt that if Otomo is involved, it will need to be some form of standard-setter. His 2004 effort Steamboy is still the most expensive anime ever produced, standing at 2.4 billion yen, and was in production for 10 years. It’ll be interesting to see how the creative style stays true to his manga. Although the 1988 movie does not follow the original manga (it was still being produced by Otomo while he was making the movie), the style remained very true to the original.

So after 31 years, Akira has once again come to the forefront of Japanese animation across the world. I will of course remain sceptical of the planned Warner Bros Taika Waititi Hollywood effort. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go watch and read Akira all over again.

Buy Akira on Blu-Ray here

Buy the Akira manga here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Ball Super: Broly Blu-Ray Review – The Franchise Beast Comes to Your Living Room

Its Over 9000, etc etc

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This post includes the previously published cinematic review from February 2019.

Movie Review:-

There has never been a better time to be a Dragon Ball fan. Following Dragon Ball’s resurrection after almost 20 years with Dragon Ball Super, there has been a resurgence for Akira Toriyama’s franchise like never before. And while that series has now ended, there is no sign of a let up in that resurgence, either. Dragon Ball FighterZ, the excellently-accessible and instantly beloved beat-em-up, took the fighting video game scene by storm as well the franchise’s fan base, me included. And now, in early 2019, comes Dragon Ball Super: Broly: an anime movie for the ages.

Unlike the non-canon Broly movies of the 90’s, DBS: Broly is no simple series tie-in movie. This is Broly’s official integration into the Dragon Ball canon, with the story coming from series creator himself, Akira Toriyama. And where 1993’s Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan felt like nothing more than disconnected DBZ DLC, this Broly absolutely feels like the real deal.

Dragon Ball Z and Super were both series known for thrusting muscle over matter. DBS: Broly parks that notion somewhat for the first half of the movie. In its place is a history lesson. Broly’s origin is detailed but also that of the the Saiyan race as a whole. Indeed, the Planet Vegeta opening, admittedly initially met with uncertainty, quickly becomes the most successful and powerful gambit Toriyama has ever played. The Saiyans are not as they have always been perceived to be.

Nothing to see here, Richard Donner

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Their status as planet conquerors is reaffirmed, but under nothing more than a slave capacity to – guess who – Frieza. It’s a wholly refreshing take that also integrates the series’ sense of charm and humour to lighten the mood in the face of hardship. Furthermore, insight into Goku and Vegeta’s origins offer what no other Dragon Ball movie ever has before – immediate accessibility for newcomers to the universe.

As for Broly himself, as a child he is outcast to a distant planet due to his immeasurable potential power. Despite his father’s dedication to his son’s well-being, Broly is a child born of mental fragility, a loss of innocence, and the relationship with his father is a strained one. All of which resonate far too well; this is not some simple rival for Goku or a world-conquering threat. Broly is a young man who has been denied the chance to discover his own destiny by both his rulers and his father. Fast forward to the present, where – being mindful of spoilers – Broly, Goku, Vegeta and Frieza face off in a jaw-dropping, spectacular and unrelenting second act that few will forget.

A bit of work required on Broly’s ‘breaking the ice’ technique

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DBS: Broly is absolutely one of the best drawn animated movies ever. The use of 2D shading over 3D models during the excellently choreographed fight sequences is very well done. It delivers a sense of speed and detail never seen in the Dragon Ball universe. You’d be forgiven for having your jaw pushed back up from time to time, such is the quality Toei have delivered here.

As a spectacle, like many a Dragon Ball conflict, DBS: Broly feels like the build up to a boxing title match. You know for a fact there is a big fight on the way. But part of that anticipation is not knowing how it will turn out. It could be anticlimactic. It could be a fight that will live long in the memory. Somehow, over the course of its 40-minute back and forth fight sequence, DBS: Broly manages to be all of those things. It has to be seen to be believed. Slightly unfortunate however, given the shift from origin-movie drama to breakneck battle bonanza, is the resulting inconsistent change of pace. It reached a point that quite frankly feels a little overwhelming on first viewing.

DBS: Broly is an energetic, emotional and exciting thrill ride of a movie. It’s incredible to realise that Dragon Ball, a franchise that began over 30 years ago, has not only sustained its popularity, it stands to be more popular than ever before. It’s the Dragon Ball movie all fans have been waiting for. Given its rampant success so far on its theatrical run, plus the revelations of its Toriyama-penned story, there are sure to be new fans waiting in the wings.

Blu-Ray Review:-

Manga Entertainment’s release comes in various formats. There is the Blu-ray and DVD combination Steelbook, a collector’s edition Blu-ray featuring art cards and poster,  the standard Blu-ray and DVD, as well as a combination pack that includes Broly with Resurrection F and Battle of Gods. Sainsbury’s are also offering an exclusive edition featuring four art cards that are different from those included in the collector’s edition. Personally, I opted for the collector’s edition Blu-Ray release.

The transition of the movie to Blu-Ray is flawless, with both original Japanese and English dubbing tracks available. There is no ‘green tint’ that was present in the US Funimation release. Unfortunately, the UK release of the movie has no special features, which appears to have been a licensing issue.

Regardless of the lack of extras, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a must-buy for any Dragon Ball or anime fan in general. Despite its place in the Dragon Ball canon and timeline, the movie serves as a good introduction for new fans of the series. There are plenty of emotional moments for existing fans also. The first act alone is some of the engaging Dragon Ball material ever produced. And the final act, consisting of a 35-minute strong fight scene, is breathtaking anime entertainment.

 

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Paradox Review – Wilson Yip and Sammo Hung Return To Reignite a Franchise

Thriller in Thailand

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It’s been 14 years since Wilson Yip masterminded one of the best martial arts thrillers of recent times, Kill Zone. Known as Sha Po Lang in the east, Kill Zone aided in propelling the careers of both Yip and its action star, Donnie Yen. Both are of course most famous for the Ip Man series, of which a fourth instalment is due in 2019. After handing the director’s chair to colleague Pou-soi Cheang for the Tony Jaa sequel, Wilson Yip returns to said chair for this latest instalment. Rest assured, Paradox (SPL: Taam Long) is a worthy addition to what is quickly becoming a benchmark Hong Kong franchise.

The Sha Po Lang series isn’t your typical multi-movie affair; Kill Zone 2 featured new characters and storyline, yet retained Wu Jing and Simon Yam to its cast. With Paradox, the same rules applies again. Tony Jaa returns in a minor yet significant ass-kicking role, and Sammo Hung also returns – albeit in the action choreographer role. But the most surprising casting here is that of non-martial artist Louis Koo. What is even more surprising is how well it pays off.

Koo plays Lee Cheung-Chi, a policeman whose daughter goes missing whilst on a trip to Thailand. Having become somewhat estranged by having her boyfriend arrested after her pregnancy announcement, she travels to Thailand in search of a friend. Once informed of her disappearance, Cheung-Chi fears for her safety, regardless of their recent conflict. Teaming up with the local police, it all becomes clear there are bigger forces at work behind the disappearance.

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As expected from a Wilson Yip vehicle, there is an impressive visual flair to proceedings, and Yip is quickly becoming a veteran in that regard. Everything is on point here. And while we’re not seeing anything new from Yip or Louis Koo, you know exactly what to expect from them both. And yet, in the face of its beautiful locations Paradox is a lean, mean and surprisingly grim thriller.

Louis Koo is no action star. If Paradox is your first Louis Koo movie, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was, thanks to Sammo Hung’s excellent fight choreography, as he dispatches anyone and everyone in his way quickly and convincingly. Couple that with Koo’s flair for the dramatic, and you’ve got yourself a wonderfully tense affair. Tony Jaa showcases his talents in a critical highlight scene, while Wu Yue puts in an equally ass-kicking shift, as you would expect from both of them. Gordon Lam is on sinister form as the determined mayoral candidate’s assistant.

All of this may well sound like a generic Liam Neeson Hollywood outing. Instead Paradox serves as a shining example of what Hong Kong cinema can still produce. Sammo Hung’s impeccable choreography and Wilson Yip’s brutal, grim and gritty depiction of Pattaya deservedly brings the Sha Po Lang series back into the limelight. Just don’t expect any Hollywood happy ending.

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Dragon Ball Super: Broly Review – The Ever-Soaring Franchise Hits Further Heights

Its Over 9000, etc etc

50290445-D152-4B03-B2D6-77F5956BAEA5

There has never been a better time to be a Dragon Ball fan. Following Dragon Ball’s resurrection after almost 20 years with Dragon Ball Super, there has been a resurgence for Akira Toriyama’s franchise like never before. And while that series has now ended, there is no sign of a let up in that resurgence, either. Dragon Ball FighterZ, the excellently-accessible and instantly beloved beat-em-up, took the fighting video game scene by storm as well the franchise’s fan base, me included. And now, in early 2019, comes Dragon Ball Super: Broly: an anime movie for the ages.

Unlike the non-canon Broly movies of the 90’s, DBS: Broly is no simple series tie-in movie. This is Broly’s official integration into the Dragon Ball canon, with the story coming from series creator himself, Akira Toriyama. And where 1993’s Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan felt like nothing more than disconnected DBZ DLC, this Broly absolutely feels like the real deal.

Dragon Ball Z and Super were both series known for thrusting muscle over matter. DBS: Broly parks that notion somewhat for the first half of the movie. In its place is a history lesson. Broly’s origin is detailed but also that of the the Saiyan race as a whole. Indeed, the Planet Vegeta opening, admittedly initially met with uncertainty, quickly becomes the most successful and powerful gambit Toriyama has ever played. The Saiyans are not as they have always been perceived to be.

Nothing to see here, Richard Donner

dragonball-b

Their status as planet conquerors is reaffirmed, but under nothing more than a slave capacity to – guess who – Frieza. It’s a wholly refreshing take that also integrates the series’ sense of charm and humour to lighten the mood in the face of hardship. Furthermore, insight into Goku and Vegeta’s origins offer what no other Dragon Ball movie ever has before – immediate accessibility for newcomers to the universe.

As for Broly himself, as a child he is outcast to a distant planet due to his immeasurable potential power. Despite his father’s dedication to his son’s well-being, Broly is a child born of mental fragility, a loss of innocence, and the relationship with his father is a strained one. All of which resonate far too well; this is not some simple rival for Goku or a world-conquering threat. Broly is a young man who has been denied the chance to discover his own destiny by both his rulers and his father. Fast forward to the present, where – being mindful of spoilers – Broly, Goku, Vegeta and Frieza face off in a jaw-dropping, spectacular and unrelenting second act that few will forget.

A bit of work required on Broly’s ‘breaking the ice’ technique

maxresdefault-1024x576

DBS: Broly is absolutely one of the best drawn animated movies ever. The use of 2D shading over 3D models during the excellently choreographed fight sequences is very well done. It delivers a sense of speed and detail never seen in the Dragon Ball universe. You’d be forgiven for having your jaw pushed back up from time to time, such is the quality Toei have delivered here.

As a spectacle, like many a Dragon Ball conflict, DBS: Broly feels like the build up to a boxing title match. You know for a fact there is a big fight on the way. But part of that anticipation is not knowing how it will turn out. It could be anticlimactic. It could be a fight that will live long in the memory. Somehow, over the course of its 40-minute back and forth fight sequence, DBS: Broly manages to be all of those things. It has to be seen to be believed. Slightly unfortunate however, given the shift from origin-movie drama to breakneck battle bonanza, is the resulting inconsistent change of pace. It reached a point that quite frankly feels a little overwhelming on first viewing.

DBS: Broly is an energetic, emotional and exciting thrill ride of a movie. It’s incredible to realise that Dragon Ball, a franchise that began over 30 years ago, has not only sustained its popularity, it stands to be more popular than ever before. It’s the Dragon Ball movie all fans have been waiting for. Given its rampant success so far on its theatrical run, plus the revelations of its Toriyama-penned story, there are sure to be new fans waiting in the wings.

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Donnie Yen’s Ip Man 4 Instagram Reveal

#areyouready

The production of Donnie Yen’s latest upcoming flick, Ip Man 4, was revealed some months back now. Now fans, like me, eagerly await details of its impending release since production wrapped up in July last year. Thanks to the series’ star, Donnie Yen, with a clever use of the latest social media craze, one of Ip Man 4’s first images has been revealed.

What latest social media craze you say, given there are so many? The 10 year challenge. Simply post 2 photos of yourself, 10 years apart. And while that provides many friends, families and social groups to reveal their changes over the years, it is of course the celebrity stars that have caught the eye the most. And Donnie’s is no exception, as you can see below.

Fans of the the Ip Man series will need little explanation of the above. But for the uninitiated, the Ip Man series stars Donnie Yen as the eponymous Grandmaster of Wing Chun. Although most recognised as movie legend Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun teacher, Ip held the rank of Grandmaster during his lifetime. This series, along with other Hong Kong movies based around him, have helped raise the popularity of the teachings of Wing Chun, as well as Chinese culture in general.

The top image is from the first sequel in the series, Ip Man 2. The shot itself is taken from Ip Man’s “trial” fight against Hung-Chun-Nam (portrayed by the movie’s action choreographer, Sammo Hung), where Ip must prove his worth to carry on teaching Wing Chun in Hong Kong. The scene, with both fighters confined to battle atop a tea room table, is one of many memorable fight sequences. The movie won the best action choreography award at the 2011 Hong Kong Movie awards.

Fast forward ten years, and Donnie’s next image looks to come directly from the latest in the series. It captures the reflective stance Donnie has mastered during his time in the role, in a wonderful black and white crowd shot.

The hashtag #areyouready is certainly appropriate; I am more than ready, and cannot wait for this one.

Ip Man 4 will release sometime in 2019, and is directed by Wilson Yip.

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Teen Titans Go! To the Movies – An Upbeat Inspirational Superhero Movie

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This past month I decided to treat my daughter to my local cinema’s “Movies for Juniors” promotion. £2.50 a ticket gets you into an early doors family movie showing, in the biggest screen the complex has to offer. Can’t say fairer than that. But this trip was met with initial caution and scepticism.

Having used the same promotion to watch Incredibles 2 the previous weekend to this visit, it was met with mixed results from the younger contingent in the audience. Murmurs of “is it finished yet?” were common-place at times, given the 2-hour running time. Now that is not a damning evaluation against Incredibles 2 as a movie. It is a remarkable return to the fun, family/superhero comedy vibe 14 years in the making. But it should be no surprise that a family movie, with many minutes of overly-saturated plot-elements, will test the best of attention spans of the lower demographic. My daughter included.

Then came along the next Movies for Juniors option – Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. I’d never seen its namesake series Teen Titans Go! before. As a superhero comics fan, particularly Teen Titans, this is a pretty terrible effort from me. Having viewed the trailer together it garnered giggles, gusto and a resounding “let’s go daddy!” I have to admit I was as excited as she was.

It had been quite some time since I’d seen a movie without reverting to my usual dossier-compiling habits (Wikipedia/IMDB/general consensus), so the aforementioned cautiousness and scepticism elevated to eagerness and nervous excitement for the both of us. In the back of my mind however I couldn’t help reminding myself of the previous weekend’s minor misgivings.

A child’s happiness and joy is the most wondrous feeling for a parent. For me personally it is the most amazing feeling in the world. As is the feeling when a decision made reaps of success in abundance. And so it was, just 90-or-so minutes later, that 2 children left the cinema. Not just a father and daughter taking a speculative trip to occupy a Saturday morning. For you see, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies wasn’t just an excellent movie, it was a surprisingly spectacular movie experience for the both of us.

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Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a smarty-pants spin on superhero movies and superhero tropes. Craving respect from their fellow superheroes such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, the team believe a Hollywood movie is the solution. And so Robin (voiced by Scott Menville) and his crackpot team of Cyborg (Khary Payton), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Raven (Tara Strong) and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) venture to Hollywood to create the movie that will garner that respect. What unfolds is a wacky, silly, stupid yet slick and smart musical action adventure in the comedy mould of Lego Batman.

For anyone who has seen the 5-season strong Teen Titans Go! series, the chibi-style animation, characters and humour remains true to that form in its big screen counterpart. But as with many transitions to the cinema, all those attributes are tweaked with considerable success from its original format. Particularly the low brow humour.

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Its superb voice cast, again retained from the series, maintain the madcap mood relentlessly. Factor in the magnificently meta additional cast including Nicholas Cage as Superman (finally), his real-life son Kal-El as a young Bruce Wayne and Will Arnett (who also produced the movie) as Slade and you’ve got a world class cast. Also deserving of an honourable mention is British comedian Greg Davies also, and inspired choice for Balloon Man. “Hello!”

But such low brow humour and guffaws can be too much for some. Upon treating my daughter to an after-movie McDonald’s Happy meal as a treat, cries from select other parents declaring their hatred for “the worst movie I’ve ever seen” was met with a wry smile from myself. A simple yet resounding “it wasn’t, Daddy, it was excellent!” daughter-sponsored review became a suitable counter-argument. And fair enough, if such simplistic, pop-culture humour isn’t for you, you went to the wrong movie. But it is its simplicity, pop-culture and fourth wall comedy that makes it so good. Its superhero origins-inspired gags are worth the admission price alone.

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Such a successful cinema visit still resonates at home almost a month after the event. The soundtrack has become a staple listen for car journeys, and has quickly become a quotable source of humour around the house. Bear in mind my daughter is only 6 years old. And yes I am proud of my achievements. We’re both now well into the third season of the show also (thanks to Prime Video, watch it now), which is also relentlessly hilarious. Given each episode lasts a little over 10 minutes, its transition into a 90-minute movie is a remarkable and genius achievement. Thank you Warner Bros, I now excitedly await the DVD release. And you should too.

The Worst Movie Ever #1: The Specialist

Does shower sex, the man who would be hades, and Eric Roberts make a good movie? No, of course it doesn’t.

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Spoilers alert! I recommend watching the movie before reading, or at least have a good memory of it. Be warned though, its a bit rubbish.

Everyone loves a bad movie from time to time. They can be entertaining for that very reason. This blog will cover some seriously bad movies. Or at least those with unfathomable qualities. Welcome to a new feature: The Worst Movie Ever Made.

This first entry, The Specialist, is a perfect specimen for this feature. This is a bad movie. One of Sylvester Stallone’s worst for sure. Seriously, it’s up there with Tango & Cash, minus the homo-erotic overload. Amazingly however it was one of Stallone’s most successful movies in the 90’s, earning $170 million at the box office against a budget of $45 million.

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It begins with a cliched betrayal from co-star James Woods, the terribly-named Ned Trent. The films’ title refers to Stallone’s character Ray Quick (seriously, they went with that name?!) and his skills when it comes to explosives. Apart from the title, that fact isn’t made obvious from the opening scene. Nor is it initially implied that either Stallone or Woods are bomb specialists; they’re just on a mission to plant bombs in camouflage gear! I could do that!

Back to the ridiculously-named main characters. Trent & Quick sounds more like a cowboy law firm than a pair of bomb technicians. Apparently they worked for the CIA, but it’s all explained in a loose, unconvincing manner. This is The Specialist’s biggest fundamental issue, given it’s the backstory to get you invested in the lead characters. So yeah, slightly important.

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After said intro-mission-scene concludes, Quick seemingly quits the CIA as their mission takes a child’s life. Woods thinks that’s merely collateral damage. Quick then turns into part hit-man, part stalker. His work influx comes from seemingly random internet forums. What look likes the display on a Mini-Disc player. Remember those? I loved my Mini-Disc player, but they were a bugger to record onto. Just another version of tapes essentially. But they sounded fantastic.

Anyway, said forums and wanted advertisement system is where Sharon Stone’s character May Munro slinks into the movie. She is the movie’s only semblance of empathy. She appeals to Stallone’s sense of honour and loneliness, but proceeds to rebuff her requests nonetheless.

“Have you decided to take the job?

I saw your ad today.

– I know it’s late…

– It’s never too late.

After all, you’re giving me a new life.

Really? When?

When you kill those three bastards.

I’m flattered.

You better get somebody else.

I like your voice.

You don’t need an explosive contractor.

Yes, I do.

– You’re my only hope.

– Go to court, use the law.

The law’s been bought.

Use a bullet.

Bullets…

…are imprecise.

I heard you control your explosions…

that you shape your charges.

What I shape is my business.

All I’m saying…

…word is you are the best.

Whose word?

If we could just meet…

I don’t meet or work in Miami

and I don’t do jobs like this.

Why do you keep calling me back?

Why?

I like your voice.”

It’s a conversation between 2 people that feels like completely different conversations. It also really isn’t clear what Quick’s job actually is at this point. If you’re not a bomber for hire to blow things up then….? There’s no mention of payment either, everything is just assumed. For a 2-hour movie the plot could at least be made more viable.

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Another thing, if he doesn’t meet/work in Miami then why is a bomb specialist doing IN MIAMI, unsuccessfully dissuading someone he’ll clearly end up taking on as a client anyway? Sorry, spoiler alert. And a final point here, she’s heard he’s the best? Where? Controlled Bombers-R-Us? Is Miami i saturated market for contract bombers? I’m guessing at this point Quick already knows Trent has put her up to this, hence why he sticks around. Otherwise he’s pretty dumb.

Quick quickly becomes obsessed with May following her plea for help. Presumably because she is using the alias ‘Adrian’ to get close to her parents’ killers, a Miami cartel. Or it could be the several instances of borderline phone sex between the two. Either seem to do the trick for Quick.

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Quick performs his recon/stalking whilst listening to the phone recordings, somewhat seductively narrated by Stone’s character. Or, which is far more uncomfortable viewing, whilst performing a sweaty Tai-Chi-style workout. Presumably with a raging boner as he imagines Munro alone and vulnerable, yet semi clad. Of course.

The plot reveals that May/Adrian witnessed the hit on her parents several years ago, by the aforementioned cartel. Patriarch Jon Leon (Rod Steiger) and his well-versed son, Tomas (Eric Roberts), are running the show. May becomes Adrian to infiltrate the cartel as Eric Roberts’ girlfriend (someone has to), but all is not as it seems. Because as a twist of fate that anyone will have seen coming, James Woods works for said cartel. Not only that, he’s blackmailing the vengefully-driven Stone into the cartel, all as an elaborate ploy to draw out Stallone. If only they’d put that much effort into entertaining the audience.

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Speaking of which, the only entertainment in The Specialist stems from James Woods. He steals every scene he is in, some of them comically bad but still outclasses everyone around him. The problem with that? Stallone wasn’t happy about being shown up on screen during the production. It is no coincidence they spend very little time on screen together because Stallone had the scenes removed. Furthermore, re-shoots were done to emphasise Stallone even further. Particularly the grit-less scene with Eric Roberts’ character. Why? For fear of being upstaged by Woods of course. Which he was in the final cut anyway. But Stallone being Stallone, this was a platform for him. His influence behind the scenes are well known. Pretty ballsy from Stallone given the role was almost taken away in favour of Warren Beatty in the first place.

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As for Sharon Stone, she manages to pull off the role of vengefully-disturbed vulnerable victim pretty convincingly. Just 2 problems; Stone was 36 at the time of filming yet her character is in her early twenties. Eric Roberts was 38, just 2 years older, yet his character killed Stone’s parents when she was a child, 16 years earlier. As for filming the steamy scenes with Stallone, they went far from swimmingly.

“OK. Let it be known, I didn’t want to do this scene because Sharon was not cooperating.

We get to the set and she decides not to take her robe off.

The director asks only a few of the crew to remain, and she still won’t take it off.

I promised her I wouldn’t take any liberties, so what’s the problem?

She said, ‘I’m just sick of nudity.’

I asked her if she could get sick of it on someone else’s film.

She was having none of it, so I went down to my trailer, brought back a bottle of Black Death vodka that was given to me by Michael Douglas and after half-a-dozen shots we were wet and wild.”

Its not clear whether nudity was contractual on Stone’s part, but Stallone seemed prepared to say and do whatever it would take to get her to do the scenes. The Michael Douglas reference was weird too, as if to say vodka from the man who previously performed sex scenes with her would persuade her?!

In truth, the scenes are not necessary in the grand scheme of the movie. But I would argue they gave the movie the media attention/controversy it needed to sell tickets. And was surely one of the main reasons that one of Stallone’s worst movies of the 90’s grossed as well as it did. I still recall to this day mainstream news reports showing clips of the shower scenes. Sometimes, sex really does sell.

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The Specialist is not a good film. It’s near 2 hours of total boredom. Given how slow developments occur, it felt a lot longer. An excellent, neurotic but underused James Woods, plus a score from long time James Bond composer John Barry, are the only high points. Like Sharon Stone’s character states in the final line of the movie (“How do you feel?” “Better”), you will also feel better knowing its all over.

Let me know your thoughts on The Specialist below, or on twitter. What other films would you like to see dissected? With a few suggestions a poll on twitter will be used to decide. Look out for more of The Worst Movie Ever Made!

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FOF Podcast #1 – Amateur Podcaster

So i made a podcast. Huh.

I finally did it. I’ve been mulling over recording a podcast for a few months now, and now the pilot episode is done.

So here’s what to expect:-

  • Round up of Video Game/TV/Movie highlights
  • Blast from the Past – An in-depth look back at an entertainment piece/franchise that is 15 years or older
  • Feature topic (series, discussion points)

I hope to expand content over time, this is (hopefully) just the beginning.

How to listen

You may have seen the player at the top of the page. Just click play and you’re off.

If you’re on iTunes, then you can download it here. Please leave a review. Be gentle.

If you’d rather search and listen/download within your own preferred podcast app, simply search for ‘Feast of Fun’

I am already working on the next episode, and while the quality of the content is important, what is more important is feedback.

Feel free to @ me on Twitter (@agent_prince), or drop a like/follow on Instagram @agent_princekk

And finally, i hope you enjoy the podcast, even if it is just a few seconds of it.

Ta-ra for now!