ARCANE // s01

A high water mark for animation, bringing fantastic art design and execution to a rich and detailed fantasy world.

From my understanding, knowledge of League of Legends (the game franchise this is based on) is unnecessary, and it certainly seems interested in making itself both accessible and engaging.

Action is kinetic and complimented by exceptional VFX work. Characters are complex, and their relationships shift and change to keep you wondering who will survive, ally, betray. It’s a big cast, but it’s very well balanced, even when it occasionally feels like it’s spreading itself thin across too many threads.

Plenty has already been said about the stunning visual style, and it’s all warranted. Better though, the story feels like it barely scratching the surface of a huge world.

Already renewed for a second season, and incredibly promising.

Highly recommended.

MARVEL’S ETERNALS (2021)

So different to the usual Marvel fare that it’s understandable the audience reaction is so mixed.

I really enjoyed it though! Don’t believe the haters, there is really something distinct here.

A cosmic epic spanning millennia, centering on a group of immortal beings sent as caretakers for humanity to gently guide their development.

Yes, it’s very slow and often dense with exposition. I would argue it might have been better served as a prestige series to allow it more time to breathe, but it does a lot with the time its given even if the pacing is uneven. Even at two and a half hours it feels like some decent sized chunks were lost in the edit.

The characters are great and their “family” dynamic is full of well executed moments and humour. Their powers are all distinct and visually striking, some of the most interesting in the MCU. The visual design is on a whole other level, there’s a kind of scope and scale here that’s wonderful to behold. The lore, while heavyhanded, is fascinating and rich.

Not without its problems, but I’m willing to forgive a lot for the sake of ambition on display. Doesn’t require any pre-existing knowledge of Marvel stuff to get into it, this is actually impressively standalone for the most part. It’s taking chances I want to see more blockbusters take.

Not for everyone, but certainly not the disaster some are hyperbolically painting is as.

Recommended.

DUNE (2021)

The granddaddy of modern sci-fi finally gets its (partial) due on the big screen.

Yep, it’s probably worth knowing going in that this is very much Part One of a gigantic epic. For all the political machinations and galactic prophesies, it only covers around half of the first book — pretty much right before things get weird.

This is prestige science fiction: incredibly shot, full of iconic design and a thundering soundtrack, political subterfuge, stacked cast. It’s slow and contemplative and absolutely dense with cryptic worldbuilding; there’s a lot to take in and someone unfamiliar with the classic could find themselves kind of lost.

There’s a depth and a complexity to the visual design and lighting that makes it feel both jaw-droppingly fantastical and tangibly, organically real. It feels like a totally realised world on a galactic scale — an immense achievement and a high-watermark for blockbusters.

So yes, it does feel incomplete, but it absolutely lays an amazing foundation for sequels. It will be an utter tragedy if Villeneuve doesn’t get to continue his vision because he’s knocked it out of the park yet again, and we’ve only just scratched the surface of what the books have to offer.

EDIT: Part Two was announced as greenlit between my original post and the following morning. Hooray!

Now that things are safe, go out there and see it big and loud. A true cinematic experience, even if it’s only half of the first part of an epic story so far.

Highly recommended.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

Absurdly violent, ridiculously silly and very, very entertaining.

The smartest move was definitely to just ignore that they made one of these in 2016 and throw a whole pile of fresh C-list characters into the grinder.

Never once takes itself seriously, yet manages to take enough time to bring an emotional core to each of these assholes to make the stakes stick and the action meaningful.

Soundtrack’s great, characters are fun, story is appropriately bonkers. Most importantly, it’s a good time!

Easily the best DC film, requires zero comic knowledge to enjoy.

Definitely recommended.

THE STAND (2020)

Ironic that this released just as the world was dealing with a very real pandemic, so understandable that it was largely ignored or passed over given the circumstances.

Stephen King stories are best treated as limited series such as this, as it gives the characters plenty of room to exist and be human within the story.

As post-apocalyptic tales go, this is more mythical forces of good and evil acting through human conduits than say, your standard meditation on the nature of humanity in a world gone to hell.

Plus, the production quality really sells the end of the world and the casting is all excellent.

A solid and faithful adaptation of King’s epic, tweaked and modernised just enough to play to modern sensibilities.

Recommended.

LOKI (2021)

The best of the Disney+ Marvel shows so far.

Production design is outstanding, the cast is charismatic and strange. It’s a tight six episodes too, which is a real sweet spot for these series. Feels like the best parts of a Dr Who adventure mashed together with a big budget behind it.

There’s SO MUCH fan service drawing from the deepest, more ridiculous and obscure depths of Marvel Comics’ silliness.

Ultimately the story ends up servicing the next big phase of MCU projects, but it does so with style and the characters are fun. I mean, they weren’t exactly going to let Tom Hiddleston off the hook easily, were they?

Alligator Loki is MVP.

Recommended.

A QUIET PLACE: PART II (2021)

Solid follow up, keeps the tension high while adding some new variables to the mix.

Not much to say — if you enjoyed the first one you’ll find this a great extension of the story that grows the world just enough to fill in some questions lingering from the original without bloating.

Emily Blunt has less to do than trailers might suggest, but the switch to having the daughter shoulder narrative responsibilty is a good one.

Action’s fun, new wrinkles and characters work well together.

Recommended.

SWEET TOOTH s01

A tremendously sweet and strange tale about a human/deer hybrid boy traversing a post-apocalyptic world.

Each episode feels like a chapter from a storybook. The characters are endearing and the cast is great. The connection between the hybrids and The Sick which has ravaged the world is a solid, dark mystery.

Production values are excellent too — it was a good move to handle the hybrid elements with a mix of CGI and prosthetics/animatronics, as it really grounds the fantastical elements.

Deceptively sinister, but infectiously heartwarming.

Highly recommended.

THE MITCHELLS vs THE MACHINES (2021)

Sony Animation has really been knocking it out of the park lately!

Kinetic, hyperactive and full up with heart, this is the very definition of a modern family film run through a Gen Z TikTok filter and imbued with strong, colourful energy.

Hits all the usual beats of this sort of fare and does so with infectious enthusiasm and personality.

The animation style is brilliant, the voice cast is A-grade, the dog is hysterical.

Recommended.