Moana

Moana Review

by A. West

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘Moana doesn’t have a love interest – she’s too busy pursuing her quest without the unnecessary love interest helping her and/or saving her.’

Director: Ron Clements and John Musker

Voice Cast: Auli’I Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Sherzinger and Alan Tudyk

Plot: Moana, daughter of chief Tui, embarks on a journey to return the heart of goddess Te Fitti from Maui, a demigod, after the plants and the fish on her island start dying due to a blight.

The film itself is brilliant as it pays tribute to Polynesian culture including the significance of the tattoos in which can be seen on all of the characters bodies, and the way in which the tattoos are done. Disney even used a Polynesian tattoo specialist to check all of the designs to ensure authenticity. According to The New York Times, “The Samoan tattoo artist Su’a Peter Sulu’ape, a sixth-generation master tattooist, checked every mark and pattern; fishermen in Fiji helped with the film’s boats and ropes. ‘We would not lock a design until we had someone’s eyes on it.’ So this film was a groundbreaking moment in which it showed kids the true meaning behind these tattoos, rather than shielding them from the body art.

It also was one of the first Disney films in which they showed Polynesian culture so this was a breakthrough moment for the Polynesian people as they finally had representation of a princess in the Disney world that could be enjoyed and praised. But this film also hints at the fact that a woman doesn’t need a man to be strong and this brings hope to the young girls whose sole goal is not simply trying to impress boys. This is shown through the fact that, throughout the movie, Moana doesn’t have a love interest – she’s too busy pursuing her quest without the unnecessary love interest helping her and/or saving her. The characters in the movie are excellent from the performance of Dwayne Johnson to the animation of the chicken Hei Hei. The chicken was essentially the most comedic character and the portrayal of this not so bright chicken who misses his food makes for easy laughs. The performance of Dwayne Johnson when he is trying to fatten up the chicken makes the scene ten times funnier as we can hear the perfect tone in his voice, which just heightens the humour.

Moana is currently available on Disney Plus and Sky. It was rated PG by the BBFC.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Book Review

by E. Stevens

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘Make sure to put aside a whole afternoon to enjoy this book, as once you start reading you will not be able to put it down.’

Author: Agatha Christie

Main Characters: Dr Sheppard, Hercule Poirot, Roger Ackroyd, Ralph Paton

Synopsis: Hercule Poirot is asked to investigate the murder of wealthy Roger Ackroyd by his relative, young Flora Ackroyd. Everyone in the house is under suspicion and, helped by his new neighbour Dr Sheppard, Poirot must uncover the truth before it is too late.

What is the truth behind the deaths of Ackroyd’s fiancée, Mrs Ferrars, and her previous husband? Who was being blackmailed? Why has a supposedly innocent man disappeared from town after the murder? Only when these questions are answered can the mystery be solved, but Christie creates such an intricate plot that this book will keep readers guessing until the very end.

The story is narrated by the quiet and reserved Dr Sheppard, who lives with his inquisitive sister, Caroline. They are old friends of the Ackroyd family, who live on one of two large estates in their village, King’s Abbot. After Dr Sheppard was called to examine the body of Mrs Ferrars, Ackroyd’s fiancée, Ackroyd invites him to his house (Fernly Park) to discuss a secret she had told him just before she died. It is revealed that Mrs Ferrars was being blackmailed by someone who knew she had killed her previous husband, so she had committed suicide rather than give in to the blackmailer. She had given Ackroyd an envelope with the identity of the blackmailer inside, but Ackroyd refuses to open it until Sheppard returns home. However, later that night, after Sheppard leaves Fernly, Ackroyd is found dead in his study. Famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is at once asked by Ackroyd’s niece, Flora to investigate the crime. Her fiancé and Ackroyd’s stepson, Ralph Paton has been accused of the murder, but to make matters worse, he has disappeared from the town. Flora fervently believes he is innocent, but as Poirot conjectures, why would an innocent man run away?

To the reader, it seems there is a new revelation on every other page. Every character is distinct and well developed ,and everyone appears to be hiding something that is a clue to the mystery. Christie’s murder mystery plots are always ingenious, but this one especially so. True to her other Poirot mysteries, Christie includes several red herrings to make the truth even harder to uncover, but once it is revealed the answer seems obvious. Perhaps even more enjoyable is re-reading the story and noting all the subtle clues the writer included to hint at the solution. Make sure to put aside a whole afternoon to enjoy this book, as once you start reading you will not be able to put it down.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is available on Kindle and in all good bookshops (such as Waterstones in St Neots)

Need for Speed

Need for Speed Review

by O. Spooner

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘It’s got everything you would want out of a film based on the Video Game series: fast cars, crazy backstories, and explosions that would put even Michael Bay to shame.’

Director: Scott Waugh

Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Kid Cudi, Rami Malek & Michael Keaton

Plot Synopsis: After getting out of prison for manslaughter, a street racer drives from where he lives in New York to California to joins the infamous ‘De Leon’ race, where the person who framed him is also competing.

First of all, what is the De Leon? The De Leon is a race that was created by a person called Monarch (Michael Keaton). If you win the De Leon, you get all the other competitor’s cars (if they’re not in a million pieces). Now let’s get on with the review, this film is great, even if a lot of things online will tell you differently. But in my opinion, I think it’s a pretty good film. It’s got everything you would want out of a film based on the Video Game series: fast cars, crazy backstories, and explosions that would put even Michael Bay to shame. It’s a good representation of the game, well, the later instalments when they decided to make it more about street racers finding revenge on people who did them wrong, which is what happens in some of them. All the races are fun to watch and make for some of the best moments in the film!

There are a few problems with the film as there isn’t really that much character development – everyone is the same as they are in the beginning of the film, as they are at the end. Also, there is a scene when they’ve just started the cross country drive and the main character tries to get the passenger out by driving like a maniac, afterwards the passenger says “ this is going to be the longest 44 hours and 11 minutes of your life.” First of all, that seems a bit too specific as it could have just been 44 hours and I think it would have made the script flow better. Also, the main character has been in prison for the past 2 years so it’s safe to assume that during that was probably the longest 44 hours of his life!

Overall, I think that this film is good and it does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s the Need for Speed game series in film form.

Need for Speed is currently available on Netflix and was rated 12A by the BBFC.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘Alice’s figure as someone who breaks social norms in the “real” world, but who is completely accepted in Wonderland once it is decided that she is the “right Alice,” constructs a beautiful message that spins the concept of “normal” on its head.’

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter & Anne Hathaway

Thirteen years after her initial fall down the rabbit hole, nineteen-year-old Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) has lost both her imaginative father and her belief in the place she called Wonderland. On the verge of being forced into a restrictive marriage, she runs away, distracted by a white rabbit, only to fall straight back into the world she thought only existed in her dreams. Underland (as it is truly called) has fallen under the harsh rule of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) who much prefers to be feared as a ruler than loved, and is ready to command the beheading of anyone who opposes her. With the help of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and his fellow Underland creatures, Alice must fight to slay the Jabberwocky, an action which will remove the Red Queen from power and return the rule to her sister, the benevolent White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and restore peace, while also trying to find who she herself is and how she wants to live in the world above.

With a classic tale so twisted and, of course, mad, it seems only appropriate that a Tim Burton adaptation of Alice’s story has been created. This darker telling of the story feels suited to those who have grown up, just like Alice herself, with Wonderland in their minds and answers many questions of the origins of beloved characters. Alice’s figure as someone who breaks social norms in the “real” world, but who is completely accepted in Wonderland once it is decided that she is the “right Alice,” constructs a beautiful message that spins the concept of “normal” on its head, and Mia Wasikowska embodies her perfectly. Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp, who are often featured together in Tim Burton films, each play their characters as the colourful, completely bonkers personalities that could only be found down the rabbit hole. In fact, everyone in the cast is irreplaceable and they each illustrate their characters perfectly. This film is a wonderful adaptation of the original Lewis Carroll story which almost seems to perfectly represent what he was imagining, making it arguably one of the best Alice reimaginings to date.

Alice in Wonderland is currently available on Disney Plus and was rated PG by the BBFC.

The Madness of King George

The Madness of King George Review

by E. Stevens

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Director: Adam Penford (National Theatre)

Cast: Mark Gatiss, Adrian Scarborough, Debra Gillett & Wilf Scolding

Plot Synopsis: King George’s health is rapidly deteriorating, and the royal court faces various problems, such as crowning a Prince Regent and attempting to cure the king with all sorts of peculiar remedies…

Mark Gatiss stars as Alan Bennett’s depiction of the eccentric Hanoverian, King George III of England. Although typically portrayed as a humorous character, this adaptation explores some quite shocking and serious moments that the king faced during his reign.
The play begins with the character of King George before his decline in health. He appears to be devoted to his wife and a fairly strong ruler, although he has an extremely poor relationship with his eldest son, the Prince of Wales and future King George IV. The scheming Prince of Wales is determined to become Prince Regent, and therefore does not help the king through his madness when he falls ill. Trying in vain to cure the king are three royal physicians who offer some comic relief throughout the play because of their incompetence. Adrian Scarborough also provided an amazing performance as the sly Dr Willis, who is hired to cure the king, but has an ulterior motive: to have complete control over George III.

One of the best scenes came near the end of the play, when King George starts to recover and acts out Shakespeare. Up to that point in the performance, the script had not felt at all similar to The History Boys (a play also by Alan Bennett) but this scene did. The references to Shakespeare’s King Lear were very enjoyable as there are clear parallels between the lives of King Lear and King George III, and this also provided some humour after some quite intense scenes. In particular, the scenes where the king is being tied down to his chair and scalded were extremely hard to watch.

However, at times I did feel that the plot of the play got a bit too confusing. It is clearly aimed at an older audience, but even so there were a lot of different characters whose names were only mentioned once which made it very difficult to keep track of the story-line. This was especially true when characters were mentioning other characters’ actions. Despite this, the acting (particularly Mark Gatiss as the king) was excellent and although this play wasn’t my favourite, it is definitely worth watching.

The Madness of King George was available on YouTube via the National Theatre’s at Home season. New plays are added every Thursday.

Black Panther

Black Panther Review

by O. Spooner

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘This film is amazing! It has some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen; the special effects are great and so is the makeup design, which is used to show strange scars that people get as punishment for killing people (at least that’s what it seems to suggest).’

Director: Ryan Coogler

Actors: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o & Martin Freeman

Plot Synopsis: After his father dies, T’challa becomes the king of the mythical country of Wakanda and the Black Panther. However, when someone claims the throne that is rightfully his, the ultimate battle commences.

Firstly, what is Wakanda? Wakanda is a mythical country in Africa. People who don’t live in Wakanda know it as it has masked itself as a third world country but residents of Wakanda know it as a country which has made huge advances in technology. Why do they live in secret? Well, it’s because the real Wakanda is built under a substance called Vibranium. Vibranium is the strongest metal in the world – unfortunately it’s fictional but it would be so great if it were real. Vibranium is seen in other instalments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain America’s shield is made out of it, so it is used as a source for some of the best weapons in the Marvel series.

This film is amazing! It has some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen; the special effects are great and so is the makeup design, which is used to show strange scars that people get as punishment for killing people (at least that’s what it seems to suggest). Also, the battle scenes are extremely intense and satisfying to watch. I also love the main bad guy Killmonger – Michael B. Jordan plays a crazy person really well – he’s great at it.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the film. When the film came out, music artists made an album for the film and the songs would go into the film, but because all of the song contained explicit content, Marvel had to play the songs quietly so the film could still receive a 12A rating. If they played it loud enough, the film would probably receive a 15 rating, which Marvel didn’t want TO receive. And another bad thing is Martin Freeman’s terrible American accent. I know he’s meant to be a CIA agent but it’s not really a good excuse because they could have made him an MI6 agent.

Overall, the film is very well done and I strongly recommend it.

Black Panther is currently available on Sky and Disney Plus. It was rated 12A by the BBFC.

The Addams Family

The Addams Family Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘The film is filled with comedy and jokes about the family’s gothic values, but also carries so many important messages about being yourself and not judging others for doing the same, and for this reason it is a fantastic film that is perfect for the whole family.’

Directors: Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron & Chloë Grace Moretz

The famously eccentric Addams family are re-introduced in animated form in this adaptation of their story. Tired of being called monsters and chased with pitchforks in the town that they live, couple Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) move to an abandoned asylum, where they feel completely at home surrounded by a marsh separating them from the society that shunned them. However, it is only after their daughter Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) hears sounds from beyond their gates that they realise the marsh is being cleared by an over-the-top TV show host with a darker plan at heart – to destroy the Addams’ house, an eyesore on her perfect new neighbourhood. Wednesday, desperate to leave the confines of her house, befriends the daughter of the host, Parker, and together they discover more about their own identities without the constrictions of their family, whilst also working to stop Parker’s mothers’ evil plans.

For someone who has always been fascinated by the world of the Addams family but has never learnt more about it, this film was a perfect introduction. The commitment to making the family as dark, twisted and different to their neighbours as humanly possible, while also making it clear that they are the people we should be supporting and not the happier, more “normal” people we may relate to more, creates a brilliant underlying message that people are not always what they seem – for better or worse. Parker and Wednesday’s friendship also portrays how family values can limit your identity until you have the opportunity to find it yourself, and their friendship is a comedic, but adorable pairing who get revenge on all of the seemingly perfect people around them. The film is filled with comedy and jokes about the family’s gothic values, but also carries so many important messages about being yourself and not judging others for doing the same, and for this reason it is a fantastic film that is perfect for the whole family.

The Addams Family is currently available on Netflix and was rated PG by the BBFC.

Outer Banks

Outer Banks Review

by A. West

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘In conclusion, it is really worth the watch – if you are patient enough to stick with it.’

Created by: Josh Pate, Jonas Pate & Shannon Burke

Cast: Chase Stokes, Madelyn Cline, Madison Bailey, Jonathon Daviss & Charles Esten

Plot Synopsis: Outer Banks follows a group of teenagers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina who are called “Pogues”, who live at The Cut, and are determined to find out what happened to the missing father of the group’s ringleader, John B. Along the way, they discover a legendary treasure that is tied to John B’s father.

I personally I loved this series – it can be a bit slow at times when progressing through the episodes and finding out more information to do with the central story-line but, other than that minor detail, it manages to keep the audience hungry for more and more episodes in their desperation to find out what’s going to happen next. I’d say it has a satisfying development as it offers just enough clues to keep the audience wanting more without giving up on the show completely.

The show is very good for its genre of a coming of age story and a murder mystery. It really combines these two genres in a perfect harmony and just really helps to make this show as amazing as it is. There are some moments that are more emotional and mature but the show also has the right balance of seriousness and humour which help to lighten up the mood so that the audience can have a good laugh here and there.

Throughout the show, we get to follow the journey and the wild adventure that the characters go through, as well as getting to learn and go in-depth into their personal stories and seeing their relationships flourish and strengthen throughout. I liked exploring each character’s different backstory and how it drives their actions and motives throughout the season. The performance of the actors also really enhances the relationships we see among the characters. The only criticism I would give of the show would be the season finale. Though it left viewers with many questions and the plot with many open ends that could have multiple outcomes, I wish it had a more satisfying ending which would’ve paved the way for the second season in a more impactful way. The performance of the actors really makes you feel like you’re personally on their wild ride of a summer and the suspense and the action is amazing. The actors who play the characters of John B, Sarah, JJ, Kie, and Pope are particularly amazing and it truly enhances the show, as we get to almost actually be a part of the friendship group which the audience could either identify with and or connect with.

In conclusion, it is really worth the watch – if you are patient enough to stick with it. It’s such a good show because of the mystery dynamic of trying to find out what is going to happen to these teenagers and whether or not they will find what they are looking for. The performances of the actors really help bring together the show together and make it as great as it is. Personally, I would say that this show is a great watch and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries.

Outer Banks is currently available on Netflix and was rated 15 by the BBFC.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review

by O. Spooner

Rating: 3 out of 5.

‘First of all, the film’s subtitle is Never go Back and if you watch this film, that is exactly what you will want to do.’

Director: Edward Zwick

Actors: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders & Aldis Hodge

Plot Synopsis: An Ex-Major goes back to his old army base to meet the Major taking his place. On the day he shows up, he finds out she’s been relieved of command for espionage. The day after that, he’s imprisoned for murder. After getting them both out, he searches for his “daughter” whilst on the run.

First of all, the film’s subtitle is Never go Back and if you watch this film, that is exactly what you will want to do. This film is simply not the best. It’s based on a book, which based on how this film came out, is probably a hundred percent better. Even the fight scenes were dull and everything just seemed too predictable, such as in one scene where the other major is teaching the daughter how to escape when you have a gun to your head. What’s predictable is that later on, she has a gun to her head and gets out of it.

Also, there are moments that make no sense. One minute, the two majors are in a car park full of black saloons but they then escape in a blue and white military police car which is not seen anywhere in the car park! There are also a couple of attempts at jokes in the film, each one feels laboured and and in no way funny. It just isn’t a good film – it was very bland and there’s nothing which makes it special. If you want a good spy/military based film, then one of the James Bond films is your best bet. Some of the production is good, such as the makeup for the wounds, but that is only one of the few good things about this film. There just isn’t anything that makes this film different from other films like it.

Overall, this film is OK but not worth buying. If you have it accessible on a streaming platform you’ve already paid for, then you might want to give it a try.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is currently available on Netflix and was rated 12A by the BBFC.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘Everything about this film is a beautiful, fresh take on the Sleeping Beauty story you thought you knew, with an underlying message of judgement and repression, and how leaders sometimes choose to use fear rather than compassion against the people they rule.’

Director: Joachim Rønning

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer & Chiwetel Ejiofor

The unravelling of this famous Disney villain’s twisted tale continues in this sequel. After Aurora (Elle Fanning) has become Queen of the Moors, where mythical creatures and fairies such as Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) live, all seems to be going well, until Prince Philip proposes to Aurora. Despite raising her as her own, Maleficent’s hatred and distrust for humans outside of Aurora has not faded and she is reluctant, but is eventually convinced to attend a dinner in Ulstead, Philip’s neighbouring kingdom. While the Prince and King are completely genuine and welcoming, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) has an ulterior motive – to create fear in her subjects and wage war on the fairies.

When the first film of this series was released in 2014, the pure magic and re-imagined story-line seemed impossible to beat, but it seems that its sequel has surpassed it. The CGI animation creates a wonderful world in the Moors that expands on beautiful fairytale creatures beyond most imaginations. The introduction of an entire race of dark fay to accompany Maleficent is also a brilliant idea. As for Maleficent herself, Jolie plays her part with the perfect character arc of learning love and kindness, while still keeping a fantastic Disney Villain quality, and although the idea of being the villain to end a villain is hard, Michelle Pfeiffer portrays the manipulative, cruel Queen Ingrith perfectly from the moment her character is introduced.

Everything about this film is a beautiful, fresh take on the Sleeping Beauty story you thought you knew, with an underlying message of judgement and repression, and how leaders sometimes choose to use fear rather than compassion against the people they rule. This is an amazing film that I would recommend to everyone.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is currently available on Sky and Disney +. It was rated PG by the BBFC.