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Month: April 2020

Review | The Willoughbys

Posted in Film & Television

The Willoughbys went completely under my radar, not so surprising I suppose when you consider that it’s an animated film that doesn’t fall under the ever-encroaching umbrella of Disney. This in itself was quite a nice surprise as most non-Disney animated films tend to have a completely different vibe about them, such is the case with The Willoughbys.

Based on Lois Lowry’s novel of the same name, The Willoughbys follows the story of the neglected Willoughby children who hatch a plan to escape the thrall of their terrible parents by orphaning themselves – yes, you read that correctly, and it wouldn’t be an adventure if that plan didn’t turn out to be a needlessly elaborate plot – which it is, but that’s part of the fun of course.

Like so many animated films before it, The Willoughbys is based on a novel.

The Willoughby children consist of Tim, the rational eldest, Jane, the fun-loving middle child and the creepy twins named Barnaby (yes, both are named Barnaby). Tim is also obsessed with the once-proud history (and mustaches) of the Willoughby family, and wishes to recapture that lost grandeur however impossible that may be, his parents being the biggest obstacle of course.

One day, a baby is dropped off at the gates of the Willoughby house, and news of yet another child prompts the Willoughby parents to kick out all their children who may return provided they get rid of the infant. Needless to say, this puts all kinds of things into motion, including the idea of creating a travel brochure of dangerous places that would lure the parents to certain doom, thus orphaning the children…just as they wanted.

The Willoughbys is narrated by a blue cat (voiced by Ricky Gervais), adding a nice storybook feel to the atmosphere, further enhanced by the beautiful storybook-esque animation of the movie. While the overall story certainly lacks the scope of say your typical Disney animation or story of it’s ilk such as A Series of Unfortunate Events, it is a heart-warming and enjoyable tale all round, even if some of the plot devices – such as the baby at the doorstep are a bit clunky (the baby is literally just a trigger to progress the story and has no real bearing on the welfare of the Willoughby children.

I’ve never heard of Bron Studios however, looking at their Wiki page, they seem to have released many, many films since 2010 so it may be worth taking a look at their library, you never know what you might find. In conclusion, Netflix’s latest animated film while certainly worth a watch, leans a bit too much into style over substance as while its animation is undoubtedly delightful, there isn’t enough here to warrant repeated viewing.

Score: C

Much Ado About Nothing

Posted in Meanderings

Writing has always come naturally to me, whether it’s about something made up or perhaps even a work-related email, note, or blog post – whether or not I’m good at it of course is another story entirely. Hey, I think I’m pretty good, okay?

December leading into 2020 has been a bit of a nightmare, we hired a contractor (an acquaintance of a family member) to do work on the house and what was meant to be a 2-week job turned into a 4-month nightmare which technically never ended as the work was never completed, but I think I will rant about that another time.

Needless to say, by March, the Coronavirus had the world firmly clasped in its grip and by the end of that same month, we here in South Africa were also subjected to restrictions and a strict lock-down in an effort to slow down what is now called COVID-19. The lock-down regulations range from the perfectly reasonable (stay at home, social-distancing, and so forth) to the ridiculous (no tobacco, alcohol or ready-made foods to be sold in supermarkets). How is that ridiculous you ask? Well, in the absence of said alcohol and tobacco, the government has inadvertently (though it should not come as a surprise to them) created tobacco bootleggers and home-beer-brewers, the latter supposedly ‘illegal’ now too – just what the fuck did they think was going to happen?

Oh course, the whole no cooked foods thing is just a big fat fuck-you to front-line medical workers and the elderly who rely on the convenience of read-made meals – but hey, that’s in the ‘fast food’ domain and since all fast food outlets and restaurants are currently closed, you don’t get to have that pie or chicken you’re either too frail to prepare or tired to think about making after a grueling 18 hour shift attending to the sick.

Given the weak state of SA’s economy, needless to say the lock-down is driving the economy even further into the ground as 1 in 5 companies begin lay-offs, people starve and despite what the media would have you think, crime is in fact increasing due to pure desperation. In that regard, my wife and I find ourselves in quite a fortunate situation as she is employed by the government and I contract IT services for a company abroad.

Amid all this chaos, I selfishly wonder if the little Houw Hoek Farm Stall will survive not being able to make and sell those pies as that is exactly what it’s famous for…man, those pies are good.

Beyond that, I’m a bit at odds with what sort of creative endeavours I should pursue – I still have an unpublished book that needs attention, a YouTube channel to maintain, the desire to draw some sort of comic strip and of course, write. Fuck, something’s got to go. Again, selfish, I know, especially when the world burns around us, but I’m not going to apologise, it’s good to have goals, even during the apocalypse.

Any-who, I’m trying to challenge myself to post an update here as frequently as possible, so I’ll keep at it and scribble down anything else that comes to mind that I think someone out there may find interesting.

If not, hey, at least I’m writing.

Review | Avenue 5

Posted in Film & Television

I’ve had Avenue 5 in my downloads list for quite sometime now but somehow managed to put off watching it until now, it seemed my wife and I reached the point where we’d caught up with all the weekly shows as well as the binge-worthy ones. I believe I presented it as – “Well, might as well check this one out, it’s like the Orville, but with a luxury cruise ship instead of an exploratory one…oh, and it has House in it and Josh Gad – Gaston’s right-hand in the live-action Beauty and the Beast.”

That was enough to sell it – so we watched it all in two days.

So some important things to know, season one consists of 9 half-hour episodes, it ends leaving you wanting more and HBO have already renewed it for a second season – this last point is especially important due to how season one ends, so it’s better to know this going in for obvious reasons – especially given the cutthroat nature of prime spots, viewership numbers and all that other shit that goes on in the background that pretty much controls the fate of your favourite shows.

So why write an piece on this show in particular? Well, I enjoyed Avenue 5, it’s light-hearted yet clever at the same time, and the melting pot of characters including Hugh Laurie (obviously) make this the perfect distraction for the COVID-19 induced lock-down most of us seem to find ourselves in. Besides, black-comedy space shows are welcomed amongst the wealth of Star Trek reboots, Star Wars sequels and other endless space-operas trying to make their mark in the sci-fi department. Seth MacFarlane had the right idea with The Orville – a show that’s certainly humourous, but at the same time, oozes charisma, wit and has a penchant for clever story-telling.

So, without giving too much away – Hugh Laurie plays Ryan Clark, captain of the luxury cruise spaceship Avenue 5. Despite having to placate the thousands of spoiled, self-absorbed and often-times just plain shitty passengers (there’s a Karen on board, *eek*), the nightmare is compounded when the ship’s engineer is impaled to death and the ship itself is knocked off course, turning an 8 week journey into a 3 year nightmare.

Thankfully for us, this creates the perfect condition for humour as the funny and quite-frankly ubsurd (at times) interactions of Herman Judd (Josh Gad) – billionaire owner of the Avenue 5 whose name is quite literally plastered all over the ship, Head of Customer Relations, Matt Spencer (Zach Woods, Silicon Valley), no-nonsense Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura) and second engineer Billy McEvoy (Lenora Crichlow) all play off of one another beautifully, oh, and not forgetting the absolutely deplorable Karen Kelly (Rebecca Front), who as you can imagine really lives up to being a Karen.

So why haven’t you heard of Avenue 5 you might ask yourself? Fuck all marketing from what I can see and relatively low IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes scores are most likely the cause, but don’t let the idiotic opinions of aggregation sites deter you, Avenue 5 is an enjoyable watch, that opens itself up to a lot of potential for upcoming seasons should this cruise ship manage to navigate itself up and above the ocean of shitty, heavily-marketed mediocrity that seems to so-often plague our screens.

Score: B+