As I went to the theater last weekend to attend an empty IMAX screening of Lisa Joy’s Reminiscence, I was shocked by how many people were inside the theater. It was the first time since 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that I saw a cinema this packed with families who were going to see a movie, especially on a hot and sunny Friday afternoon. Moviegoers were lined up at the concession stand; the arcade was full of children happily playing and enjoying an unfiltered version of life. This was a sign that the movies are indeed back. But what particular film drew a literal crowd akin to The Rise of Skywalker‘s opening weekend in mid-August? By now, most people had seen F9 and Black Widow, and while Free Guy is certainly entertaining for families, it may not be appropriate for small children. What movie was it? That’s right, PAW Patrol! If you were living in Montreal’s greater south shore region and wanted to see it in cinemas this weekend, heh, good luck trying! Most screenings were packed with families making their grand return to the movies after an 18-month long period of no theatrical experiences, and what better way to return to the place where all dreams are possible than watching an adaptation of a top-rated children’s TV show that contains the same aesthetic as the TV PAW Patrol with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and film stars instead.
If you aren’t a fan of the TV show (which probably means your age is above 6 years old), don’t bother. The film panders strictly to children who are well-versed in the world of PAW Patrol through a breezy animated adventure that won’t require much thinking nor any storytelling risks in the process. This feels more like a film to introduce young children to the art of moviegoing (and could potentially influence them to work in the industry, you never know) than anything else. I mean, put yourself in the mind of a 3-year old going to see a movie on a screen so immense with a bag of buttered popcorn ready to be whisked away to be a part of the latest PAW Patrol adventure. It’s immensely memorable and something they will never forget for the rest of their life, especially when this film introduces them to the art of the cinematic language. It’s not groundbreaking, by all means, but for them, it’ll be a masterpiece.
PAW Patrol: The Movie chronicles our titular characters’ fight against political corruption in Adventure City (not even joking) as they are tasked to stop the nefarious Mayor Humdinger (Ron Pardo) from destroying the city through a cloud-sucking weather device unleashing a week’s worth of bad weather and multiple instances of criminal negligence to fill his overtly petulant ego. It’ll be up to the PAW Patrol to regain control of the city and arrest the mayor for his crimes against the citizens of a rather peaceful place. And if you’ve seen any kids’ films with despots/egotistical politicians as its primary antagonist, then you’ll be glad to hear that PAW Patrol: The Movie is no different than the plethora of risk-free animated films being released on our screens these days.
I was surprised by how many positive reactions the film has gotten from professional critics, with many unironically calling it a sweet and lovable animated film. And while it certainly is quite lovable and carefree for children looking for pure escapism, PAW Patrol: The Movie isn’t anything groundbreaking, nor an animated film that’ll do any wonders for the medium. It exists purely as a commercial for kids that haven’t been introduced to the TV series and an accompanying piece of content for existing franchise fans. If you haven’t seen the show, don’t worry, the film does a decent job of contextualizing who the main characters are within its opening scene, which is the film’s most entertaining part. Tyler Perry voices a distressed truck driver carrying Canadian maple syrup, who has an accident trying to avoid a turtle on the road and gets rescued by the PAW Patrol. The comedic timing of the sequence is quite good, featuring bouts of humor adults will enjoy. But it’s after the film’s opening credits sequence where PAW Patrol: The Movie becomes strictly for young children looking to see a cinematic version of their favorite animated TV characters.
This scene, alongside its surprisingly cinematic action sequences, which strangely recalls the work of Zack Snyder in Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, make PAW Patrol: The Movie a relatively easy film to watch, though it’s not anything spectacular. None of the protagonists are developed and stay inside the same cyclical character beats of the show. We know a bit more about Chase (Iain Armitage) compared to the film’s other characters, as he has a traumatic past life in Adventure City but not much else to clamor for. Most of his fears get resolved through two pep talks, with Ryder (Will Brisbin) and Skye (Lilly Bartlam), which are extremely surface-level, though that may be enough for young kids to find poignant and adults enjoy its messaging.
Unless you’re three years old, you’ve seen the film’s plot countless times before, where a group of lively protagonists will overcome faux adversity to defeat pure evil. This time around, the pure evil is Mayor Humdinger, an egotistical political force who does everything he can to serve himself and himself only while looking down at his population. Adult viewers will likely find the similarities between him and President Donald Trump (the movie never hides it). At the same time, kids may see Humdinger as an adult version of a high school bully who constantly plays the victim and flees the scene after harming people. It’s an interesting antagonist for a children’s film and one that could’ve worked if it was better developed and didn’t revert to endless clichés and familiar character traits.
But the problem is that writer/director Cal Brunker and his co-scribes Billy Brolick and Bob Barlen never go past clichés and familiar character traits. Some will say, “you’re judging a film made for three-year-olds too harshly,” which is a valid argument but riddle me with this. When I was three, we had legitimately intelligent kids programs like Sesame Street to not only educate us but raise awareness on the social issues of our time in a thoughtful life. Nowadays, kids seem to enjoy brainless entertainment without much thought on the values they’re learning, nor if they’re being educated by watching one episode per day. If we expose our kids to thoughtful stories as they grow up, they have a better chance of becoming more literate in society, not only through art but on the way they see the world. And while PAW Patrol: The Movie certainly has the makings of a thought-provoking animated film, it never wants to surpass audience expectations and pander to die-hard fans of a cyclical show that’ll never end.
Great animated movies go above and beyond fan pandering and craft a truly memorable story for kids and adults to enjoy, but this one has no interest in doing that. Instead, it presents a simple story with simple character development and simple resolution. Heck, the PAW Patrol resolve three similar situations (or strikes) brought by the Mayor before arresting him. Strike one gives us a first look at Chase’s fears, while strike two exalts them until strikes three finally sees Chase overcoming his fears through pure willpower and cinematic slow-motion. Minimal development equals minimal results and minimal entertainment. Of course, if you’re looking to introduce your child to the art of moviegoing through a purely carefree and escapist piece of entertainment that won’t require much thinking from children and will distract them for 88 minutes with popcorn and a large screen, then look no further. But if you’re looking for something more wondrous and imaginative for both children and adults, with values that are way more memorable than in anything eight years of PAW Patrol taught us, then you better watch Vivo on Netflix instead.
PAW Patrol: The Movie is now playing in theatres and streaming on Paramount+
Sung Kang’s ‘Shaky Shivers’ is a Campy Horror-Comedy With Superb Performances
If you thought that Sung Kang can only thrill you with amazing car stunts, then you are wrong. The acclaimed star is set to take you on an entertaining ride with his directorial debut titled ‘Shaky Shivers’.
The latest horror-comedy film marks the feature directorial debut of Sung Kang, renowned for his roles in the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise and several other big projects. The movie stars Brooke Markham and VyVy Nguyen, with an ensemble cast including Jimmy Bellinger, Erin Daniels, and Herschel Sparber.
From the very beginning, ‘Shaky Shivers’ grabs hold of your attention with the comedic chemistry between lead actresses Brooke Markham (Lucy) and VyVy Nguyen (Karen). Their hilarious banter and dynamic friendship draw you into their world of magic, mayhem, and monstrous encounters. While a few other characters make appearances, the heart of the film rests on the shoulders of Karen and Lucy, whose relatable and believable friendship makes the story even more bewitching.
One of the best aspects of the film is how Sung Kang skillfully directs the title despite limited cast and limited settings. It still manages to keep audiences engaged and entertained. Kang also pays homage to classic horror films like ‘American Werewolf in London’ and injects fresh energy into the scenes while showcasing his comedic flair.
If you are one of those who enjoy unapologetically goofy and fun movies, ‘Shaky Shivers’ is undoubtedly a fun watch. Embracing its campiness, the film doesn’t try to be anything other than an enjoyable ride filled with supernatural elements. The characters have a helpful book of spells that they use to solve problems, which adds a clever and funny element to the story that will make you laugh..
While categorized as a horror-comedy, ‘Shaky Shivers’ leans more towards comedy than horror. However, don’t worry, as the supernatural beings like werewolves, zombies, and witches make their presence known throughout. The practical effects and impressive monster makeup, reminiscent of old-school horror flicks from the 70s and 80s, immerse you in a world of creatures and enchantment.
The plot of ‘Shaky Shivers’ escalates in an exciting and compelling manner, filled with unpredictable twists and goofy surprises. While it may not leave you terrified, the perfect blend of supernatural ambiance and comedic moments guarantees plenty of laughter and enjoyment.
In conclusion, ‘Shaky Shivers’ is a must-watch horror-comedy that delivers on laughs, friendship, and supernatural encounters. With its engaging storyline, talented cast, and Sung Kang’s impressive directorial debut, the film is a delightful addition to the genre. So grab a large tub of popcorn and take your family for this fun-filled ride.
Sex Education Season 4 is a Spectacular (and Overstuffed) Conclusion to One of Netflix’s Extraordinary Series
When the first season of Sex Education came out on Netflix in 2019, it felt pretty daring and exciting for everyone. While there were many shows about teenagers and sex, ‘Sex Education’ stood out because it talked about these topics openly and covered them in a pretty detailed manner. Without any guesses, the show became really popular and is now considered a classic on Netflix. For 3 long seasons, viewers have seen students of Moordale, and everyone around them, dealing with a lot of complications, but now, it’s time to say goodbye to some of our character as the Netflix series has returned for its fourth and final edition.
At the end of Season 3, Moordale Secondary School closed down. This means that Otis, Eric, Aimee, Jackson, Vivienne, Cal, and Ruby have to go to a new school, Cavendish Sixth Form College. Some of them fit in well, while others struggle. And while Otis tries to focus on his therapy work, he finds out that there are other young people who are experts on relationships and sex in town.
One of the strengths of Sex Education is its diverse and inclusive representation. The show shines a light on various sexual orientations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, providing a platform for underrepresented voices. Season 4 continues to explore these themes, introducing new characters who add depth and complexity to the narrative. On ghe other hand, the only problem with Season 4 is that there are too many things going on at once. There are so many sub-plots that might distract you at times and make you feel that this story might have looked good if there was another season in pipeline.
Even then, the writing remains sharp and witty, creating relatable and genuine teenage characters who grapple with their own insecurities and desires.
The performances in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 are consistently strong. Asa Butterfield brings vulnerability and charm to his role as Otis, portraying the character’s growth and maturity. Ncuti Gatwa shines as Eric, capturing both his strength and vulnerability as he navigates new relationships and personal challenges. Emma Mackey delivers a nuanced performance as Maeve, showcasing her character’s intelligence and emotional depth. Mimi Keene is stupendous as well and bring another layer to her character which was so nice to see. Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson does what she is best at: deliver another extraordinary performance.
On the other hand, Aimee Lou Wood continues to mesmerise us with her charm and simplicity. Directors should definitely look at her and give her a leading role soon because she deserves it. Another actor that is surely a star in the making is Anthony Lexa, who portrays Abbi in Season 4. Her performance adds an additional charm to the series and gives a hope to Trans actors that they can too achieve their dreams.
The final edition tackles difficult topics with sensitivity and care, highlighting the importance of consent, communication, and understanding in relationships. The show’s ability to tackle these issues head-on without becoming preachy is a testament to its thoughtful storytelling.
While the final season of ‘Sex Education’ does have some pacing and narrative issues, the strength of the performances, the thoughtful exploration of important issues, and the show’s commitment to inclusivity make it a satisfying and engaging watch. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to these beloved characters, but the legacy of Sex Education will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the television landscape.
In conclusion, ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 continues to deliver a standout and boundary-pushing narrative that explores sexuality, identity, and personal growth with humor and sensitivity. Despite some minor flaws, the show remains a shining example of inclusive storytelling and offers a heartfelt farewell to its beloved characters.
Some goodbyes are hard and this is certainly one of them.
Flora and Son is a Heartfelt Exploration of Family and Music
Flora and Son, directed by John Carney, tells the compelling story of Flora, a single mother struggling to navigate the challenges of parenthood and find her own identity. Starring Eve Hewson as Flora, the film dives into the complexities of motherhood, relationships, and the power of music in bringing people together. There have been a lot of musicals in recent times that take a very complex route in telling a story, but Flora and Son is a bit different than all of them. The story is really simple and that’s what makes the film such a treat to watch.
The movie opens with Flora enjoying a night out at a club in Dublin, only to end up in a disappointing hook-up. Flora’s life is far from perfect, as she grapples with her troubled teenage son Max (Orén Kinlan) and a less-than-supportive ex-husband, Ian (Jack Reynor). Flora’s interactions with Max are often tense, filled with sarcastic banter and strained attempts to connect with him. As a single mother, Flora faces numerous hardships and setbacks, leading her to doubt her own potential. Her attempts to do right by her son are often met with indifference or resistance. However, a pivotal moment occurs when Flora acquires a guitar for Max, unaware that it will have a profound impact on her own journey. Flora’s decision to learn to play the guitar leads her to Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a songwriter and teacher based in California. Despite the distance between them, their connection is palpable, and through music, they bridge the gap. Jeff encourages Flora to embrace her creativity and express herself authentically, unlocking a passion she didn’t know she possessed.
The performances in Flora and Son are exceptional, particularly Eve Hewson’s portrayal of Flora. She effortlessly portrays a range of emotions, from humor and charm to vulnerability and raw emotion. Hewson’s nuanced performance brings depth and authenticity to the character, making her relatable and captivating. It will be a travesty if she is not spotted by a big filmmaker and gives her a chance to lead another extraordinary movie. On the other hand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is soulful and gives a performance that is really enchanting. The chemistry between Hewson and Gordon-Levitt, even through virtual interactions, adds an extra layer of depth to their characters’ connection.
Carney’s direction creates an intimate yet heartfelt atmosphere in the film. The use of music as a driving force in the narrative is a testament to Carney’s storytelling prowess, showcasing the transformative power of melodies and lyrics. One of the film’s strengths is its refusal to tie everything up neatly in a predictable manner. Instead, Flora and Son choose a more realistic approach, leaving some loose ends and logistics unresolved. This choice allows the characters to continue their journey of self-discovery, leaving viewers with a sense of hope and possibility.
In conclusion, Flora and Son is a touching exploration of a single mother’s journey to find her voice, both as a musician and as a parent. With exceptional performances and a thoughtful narrative, the film resonates with authenticity and emotional depth. Carney’s direction and the film’s emphasis on the transformative power of music make Flora and Son a standout family drama. The simplicity and innocence is what makes it such a heart-warming watch. This film will make your heart sing.
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