If you’re a fan of writer/director Damien Chazelle’s love letter to Los Angeles, La La Land, there are whole host of influential films you should probably check out too. Continue reading If you loved La La Land, here’s six films you should watch next
Film review: Asterix – The Mansions of the Gods
One of the few non-Marvel comic books that I adored as a child were the adventures of Asterix the Gaul. The art was crisp, the characters funny engaging, and the scripts were very witty, with an effortless ability to speak to fans of different ages at the same time.
The basic set up: The Romans have conquered all of Gaul (France) apart from one lone outpost, the small village populated by Asterix and his fellow holdouts. They have a druid who makes a special potion which gives them superhuman strength, and they are such fierce fighters that the Romans are petrified of them.
There have been many attempts to bring these stories to the screen, and the latest version is the 3D computer animated movie, Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods.
The plot (based on the 1973 comic book story of the same name), sees the Gauls resist Roman colonialism in the form of a housing development being erected on the doorstep of their independent village.
This is a French-Belgian movie that has been dubbed into English by an eccentric British cast, including Jack Whitehall as Asterix, Nick Frost as Obelix, and the wonderful Matt Berry as druid Vitalstatistix. Other cast members even include Dick & Dom!
To me, Whitehall as Asterix is a bit too public school for the rural Gaulish villager/warrior, but Nick Frost makes a good Obelix. The satirical nature of the comics is well represent here.
For me, Asterix will always be something that belongs on the page – but this is the best screen version I have seen, and is a great introduction to the adventures of the indomitable gaul. Just make sure you buy any converts after watching this some Asterix comics.
Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods has an RRP of £19.99 (BluRay). We were set a copy for the purposes of this review.
Furby Connect review: The cute kawaii toy has come of age
Furby Connect review: Hasbro’s cute kawaii toy has come of age in this latest version with its increased interactivity, range of sounds, and brightly animated LCD eyes.
Our daughter has been regularly bugging us for 2 things, for what seems like forever – a baby sister, and a pet. To her great disappointment, we are not planning on having either. She also has a rich entourage of imaginary friends.
She clearly has a great desire to have some kind of pal at home with her, so when Hasbro sent us one of their new Furby Connect toys to review, I thought it would be a hit with her,
First impressions: Thankfully, despite being listed on their database as a girl, Hasbro sent my daughter a blue Furby – they also come in Pink, Purple (more hot pink), and Teal (greeny blue). So basically, blue and pink.
Batteries are not included. You have to unscrew the Furby from the packaging to get at the battery compartment (it takes 4xAA batteries). Be prepared – as soon as you put the batteries in, the Furby will come to life.
Yes, come to life. Despite the fact know this thing isn’t alive it’s difficult not to feel that it is. The Furby moves and wriggles when you touch it, talks to you in a kind of English-Furby patois, and most alarming of all is its eyes. The technical explanation is that they are animated full colour LCD screens, covered with motorised eye lids. However, the effect is of incredibly expressive eyes – the classic window to the soul.
However, as they are illuminated screens – in low light they can look downright spooky.
The Furby can start to act like a kid on too much sugar after a while. Like an overactive child needing to be removed from stimuli, the Furby can be put to sleep (not a euphemism) by placing the provided eye mask on. Alternatively, just leave it alone for a while. We put it to sleep while watching TV, because it just wouldn’t shut up.
It also gave me a surprise when it woke up – delivering an in-joke for Blade Runner fans…
In answer to Philip K. Dick's question, my daughter's #FurbyConnect just woke up and announced it had been dreaming of electric sheep… 😱 pic.twitter.com/RfjBc4ql7P
— Man vs. Pink (@ManVsPink) October 6, 2016
I didn’t make it up btw – it actually said that….!
Be warned, if you’re easily offended by toilet humour you might want to stay out of earshot of this creature. It constantly – and loudly – farts and burps. My daughter and I find it more amusing than my wife.
This is called the Furby Connect because of the smartphone app you can link it too. We found this to be problematic, and continue to have issues with the app. It only works on one of our devices, and constantly crashes. When it is running, it often loses connection even when right next to the Furby.
To be honest, if you can avoid the app for the time being, I would recommend it. It’s a pain, seems full of in-app purchases, and – more than anything – why give the kids another reason to stare at a screen, especially when they have this pretty cool tactile toy to play with in reality.
Despite the fact it comes (so far) in variations of pink and blue, this is essentially presented as a gender neutral toy. My daughter says it’s a girl, but that tends to be her default for anything where the gender is unclear. I like that Hasbro are using both boys and girls to advertise it.
This toy isn’t cheap, but it is likely to be a hit with any kid. Our daughter has really taken to it. First thing in the morning she will wake it up. When she comes home from school, she will do the same. She laments that I spend more time with her Furby than she does.
Which is true. 🙂
Hasbro’s Furby Connect has a UK RRP of £99.99. We were sent this item free of charge for the purposes of this Furby Connect review.
Transformers – Power Surge Optimus Prime and Aero Bolt Figure
The Power Surge Optimus Prime (with Aero Bolt Figure) is one of the latest incarnations of the famed robot-to-vehicle toy line.
The Transformers emerged in the 1980’s as part of a wave of toys that used cartoons to help sell them to kids (see also My Little Pony, and He-Man). They remain as popular as ever, thanks in part to the Michael Bay movie series, but also endless cartoon shows that continue to support new lines of merchandise. The latest cartoon is Transformers: Robots in Disguise, and features this particular toy version of Autobots leader Optimus Prime.
The figure comes with a couple of accessories – a sword, and most importantly the Mini-Con Aero Bolt Figure. This is what unlocks the various modes: robot mode, vehicle mode, flight mode, and Power Surge mode. Each mode has accompanying sounds and/or different elements unlocked within the figure.
The figure also unlocks features on the standalone app, by scanning the shield (which the Mini-Con figure converts to).
But what about the key aspect of the Transformers – transforming?
While my daughter really liked the idea of the robot turning into a truck, she seemed much more into the robot. I was a little disappointed about the transforming part of this toy. The vehicle seems more like an afterthought, as Optimus the truck is not a very convincing disguise.
I could be charitable and suggest that perhaps the mere 5 step transformation is easier for younger kids to master. Even then I don’t think it’s that simple, as it’s hard to tell what it’s supposed to look like. We finished and were like “Is that it?” Also, some bits seem to fall off rather easily – but at least this is better than them breaking.
However, the robot version looks awesome – like the cool Japanese style giant robot he’s supposed to be, with sword, shield and wings. And the sounds are kind of cool.
To be honest, I think at nearly £50, this is priced high for what it is – but the little Transformers fan in your life may disagree.
The Power Surge Optimus Prime, from Transformers: Robots in Disguise, has an RRP of £49.99. Recommended age is 5+, app 9+. We were provided with this toy free of charge for the purposes of this review.
Kubo and the Two Strings – a stylish, classy and modern animated classic
A stop-motion animated movie, that combines Japanese and western storytelling, Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic, visually stunning kids film that treats its family audience with respect and intelligence.
The movie is from US animation studio Laika, who were behind dark children’s film Coraline and the more recent Boxtrolls among others.
Kubo is a one-eyed Japanese boy living on an island with his mother. The pair arrived there when he was a baby, running away from something terrible.
Magic runs strong in their family, and when their past catches up with them Kubo embarks on a quest to find pieces of a mythical armour, with an enchanted monkey and samurai beetle as guardians.
As the quest continues, we learn more about Kubo’s past, and see his own magical abilities grow stronger. His magic manifests itself via his guitar-like instrument, bringing to life sheets of paper in a kind of origami sorcery.
The film switched between intense action, comedy, drama, and some genuinely creepy set-pieces.
The villains are stunningly realised with a cold, menacing presence, and the scene when Kubo’s evil aunts are revealed is as mesmerising as it is frightening.
My daughter adored this movie – despite the fact she spent the majority of it cuddled up on my lap, frequently hiding her face and peeking out at the screen. The same thing happened with a dad & daughter sitting next to us. I heard more than a few upset kids elsewhere in the cinema.
But this is not to put you off from taking your kids – this is absolutely a children’s film, and one that I highly recommend. In terms of our experience watching Kubo, it’s worth noting we saw it on one of the biggest and loudest screens in the country (Empire, Leicester Square) which likely heightened the tension.
It’s great when a film comes out of the blue and blows you away like this. Stunning animation, sophisticated storytelling, fascinating characters and a great voice cast (including Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, and even George Takei).
Go see Kubo and the Two Strings. Take your kids. They’ll be delighted, enchanted, and possibly a little terrified, and they will love you for it.