Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

Image is property of Warner Animation Group and Lord Miller Productions

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph

Director: Mike Mitchell

Synopsis: When alien invaders attack the city of Bricksburg, it leaves the city in ruins an several people are abducted, leaving Emmet Brickowski with no choice but to step up and save his friends…

Review: “Everything is awesome,” three simple words, and ones that whenever you heard them back in 2014 transported you to a world of bricks, and tiny yellow men and women, otherwise known as Lego. For decades, these simple bricks have provided children with endless hours of fun. So when a film about these bricks was announced, many assumed it would be a film marketed as a cash grab just to sell more bricks. However, it turned out to be a really witty and extremely entertaining piece of film-making. This is of course is 2014’s The Lego Movie, and yes everything was awesome with that film.

A couple of spin offs have followed in its wake, but now we have a direct sequel that picks up immediately from the first film. Everything seems to be going well until the city of Bricksburg comes under attack from some outer space visitors. Their attack has wreaked havoc on the city, turning it into a desolate wasteland of a very similar ilk to the Mad Max franchise. Years later, and despite the bleak circumstances, Emmet’s positive outlook on life has not diminished. However, that is put to the test when a subsequent attack results in the abduction of among others, Lucy and Batman by a threat from outer space, leaving Emmet with no choice but to rescue the ones he cares about.

Back when it came out, the first film was such a wonderful, innovative breath of fresh air, and extremely entertaining to boot, helmed magnificently by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Though the duo, are now merely on board as writers/producers, t’s clear that their influence comes to the fore and new director Mike Mitchell continues on the trajectory that was set by Miller and Lord. Inevitably, as tends to be the case with sequels, it does mean that it doesn’t feel nearly as fresh or innovative when compared to its predecessor.

The animation and the voice work are once again excellent, with Chris Pratt lending his voice not just to Emmet, but to a fearless warrior named Rex Dangervest, who feels like what would happen if the Lego counterparts of Han Solo and Star Lord had a child. There is an aspect to this story, concerning Tiffany Haddish’s character that could leave some viewers a bit frustrated as it’s a bit superficial, and not very well executed. This isn’t to say that there is nothing substantial as there are some elements, particularly towards the end that are much stronger in terms of the messages they deliver.

However, with plenty of extremely amusing references to some other pop culture properties, it keeps the plot moving along. These will keep the adults entertained, as unfortunately the film unlike its predecessor does feel more aimed at the younger demographics. Furthermore, while “Everything is Awesome” was this insanely infectious piece of delightful pop music that was impossible not to love, this movie’s version of that song is not quite as catchy, or indeed memorable, despite its best effort to be exactly that.

Not as innovative or as witty as its predecessor(s), and the story is hit or miss with its messages. Yet some extremely entertaining pop culture references ensure that this is a mixed, but entertaining, bag of bricks. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Image is property of Dreamworks Animation Studios

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Film Review

Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Kit Harington, F. Murray Abraham, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler

Director: Dean DeBlois

Synopsis: Having become the new chief, Hiccup strives to create a utopia for both humanity and their dragons on Berk. However, a new threat emerges which encourages Hiccup to go in search of the previously undiscovered Hidden World…

Review: When it comes to top quality animation, it is hard to compete with the juggernauts that are Disney Animation Studios, and their subsidiary company Pixar, but if there is one company that is giving them a solid run for their money and pushing them hard, then Dreamworks Animation is perhaps that company. Apart from one notorious Ogre and his friends, no franchise better epitomises the excellence of their output over the last few years than the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.

Set one year after How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup has ascended to the position of chief of Berk and is simultaneously being besieged by questions as to whether he is ready to propose to Astrid. As he is adjusting to his new responsibilities as leader, the island of both people and dragons is becoming more and more populated. Furthermore, a new threat is emerging to the people of Berk in the form of Grimmel, a dastardly figure who will stop at nothing till he has hunted all the dragons down, which naturally puts him on a collision course with Hiccup’s ambition to create a human and dragon utopia.

“Look at the shiny lights….”

One key aspect of this animated franchise is the core relationship between our primary antagonist Hiccup and his relationship with Toothless. Together, these two have been on a remarkable journey, and in Toothless Hiccup has a creature with whom he has experienced a substantial amount of friendship, unity, and as we saw in the last film, devastating heartbreak. For Toothless, the adorable beast that he is, his attention is now on a mysterious new female Light Fury that has arrived on the island, nicknamed a Light Fury by the locals. that Toothless has fallen head over claws for. Hence, putting the pair’s friendship to the ultimate test.

As ever Hiccup is the protagonist you can’t help but fall in love with and just want to root for him, especially when it comes to making that all decision to propose to Astrid, whilst at the same time, doing his utmost to keep his people safe, talk about pressure being on the shoulders of such a young leader! Though he has able support, it can be hard Which brings us to Grimmel (F.Murray Abraham). His terrible plan is certainly one that requires Toothless and Hiccup to take to the skies for one final showdown. Given how how the bar was set by the nefarious Drago from the previous film, Grimmel is certainly dastardly but he doesn’t quite match those standards of uncompromising villainy.

The film had some really high octane action sequences, and once again, there are more than a few scenes that are just a visual treat for the eyes. However, it does downplay the action in favour of considerably more emotional stakes. An admirable choice to make, though it doesn’t quite match up to the lofty standards set by the previous instalments. However, fans of this franchise can rest assured that if this is the last time that this series takes flight, Dreamworks has produced a series that is up there with the likes of Toy Story as one of the finest animated trilogies ever made.

Third films in franchises so often disappoint, and while The Hidden World doesn’t quite soar to those wonderful heights set by the previous instalments, it is without doubt, a worthy conclusion to the franchise.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Ralph Breaks the Internet – Film Review

Cast:  John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill

Directors: Rich Moore and Phil Johnston

Synopsis: When her game Sugar Rush becomes at risk of being unplugged, Vanellope and her best friend Ralph must journey to the vast world of the internet in order to save her game…

Review: The great wonder of film-making, particularly when it comes to animation is that the possibilities are endless. There is no limit to what you can or cannot do, this is also very much applicable to this rather marvellous invention known as the internet. It is also a world of endless possibilities and a place where you can do literally just about anything you so desire. It seems fitting then that after a film that explored what video game characters get up to after their games close for the day, to go up a notch for the sequel and explore the crazy world that is the internet.

A few years have passed since the events of the first film, with Ralph (Reilly) and Vanellope (Silverman) enjoying a solid friendship hanging out together when their gaming duties for the day are done. However, for Vanellope, something is just not fulfilling enough, she strives for something more. When her game suffers a malfunction that puts its immediate future at risk, she and Ralph must journey to the centre of the conglomerate of the internet in order to save her game.

Sequels should always aim to broaden the scope of their predecessor, and so to make the jump from the inner workings of something as small as an arcade, to the never-ending maze that is the internet is a bold move on the part of Disney, but it turns out to be an inspired one as it makes for a very intriguing adventure. Given that the world of the internet offers users so much to explore, the way that the filmmakers concoct the internet is really quite clever. To be expected, there are a fair number of jokes centred around the internet and various phenomenons that have gone viral because of the internet, which provide plenty of humourous moments.

Furthermore, given the vast array of properties that Disney now owns, there’s a vast array of Disney “Easter Eggs” to be found. The most notable example of this would be the appearances of all Disney’s most popular princesses. This could be problematic as it could have come across as egotistical on the studio’s part. However, their appearances provide the film with some of its best moments (including a rather ingenious Brave gag).

The voice work of Reilly and Silverman in particular once again shines brightest as we watch these two, who seem the unlikeliest of friends, try to make their friendship work. Which, while heart-warming to see given how likeable they both are, is a very familiar premise and therefore doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of story-telling. Gal Gadot, though not herself a Disney Princess, is also a welcome addition to the cast. Despite that, you cannot help but feel, though her character and world are interesting, that the themes explored are somewhat clichéd and could have been a bit more innovative in light of the brilliantly clever concept of exploring the world-wide web.

Though the film is somewhat lacking in terms of a fulfilling narrative, some choices in particular do really feel completely out of the blue. It makes up for this with plenty of heart and (to be expected) some marvellous animation. However, the inevitability of sequels is they are going to be compared to their predecessors, and unfortunately Ralph Breaks the Internet is just not as clever as its predecessor. What’s more, the filmmakers really missed a trick with the title of the film, surely Ralph Wrecks the Internet would have been better?

Retaining the heart and vibrancy of its predecessor, Ralph Breaks the Internet offers up an imaginative look at the Internet, but doesn’t use the cleverness of its concept in a completely fulfilling manner. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Coco (2018)

Image is property of Disney and Pixar Animation Studios

Coco – Film Review

Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Edward James Olmos

Directors: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Synopsis: 12 year old Miguel strives to be a musician, but due to a tragic family past, his family won’t allow it. Undeterred, when he’s accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead, he seeks out his ancestor, who was himself a famous musician.

Review: It is perhaps a question that we as humans have been asking ourselves for as long as we have been around, what happen to us when we die? The belief in an afterlife is certainly extremely prevalent among certain cultures, perhaps most notably The Día de Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico. It is on this premise that animation juggernaut Pixar uses as a backdrop for its latest feature film.

After a few sequels, the decision to focus on an entirely original concept is a welcome one, especially since the studio has arguably been at their best when focusing on original concepts (see Inside Out). At the centre of this new tale is Miguel, a young boy who has a passion for playing music. He is desperate to pursue this dream, but a terrible incident in his family’s past means that music is not welcome in his family, instead their focus is solely on their thriving business. Yet this doesn’t stop Miguel from his dreams. But in trying to accomplish these goals, Miguel finds himself in the Land of the Dead, and is in a race against time to get back to the Land of the Living before it is too late.

The true power of music…

For a film that focuses on the afterlife, in which a considerable proportion of the cast are well dead people, seems unlikely to be family friendly material and is perhaps just a bit too macabre for the kids. However as they so often do, Pixar makes it all work an absolute treat. The story they construct is so beautifully told that once again, there are moments here that will tug on your heartstrings to such an extent that any audience member will find it hard to resist the urge to not have a quiet sob.

With Pixar you usually find some of the most beautiful animation to ever grace the big screen, and here they do so once again. The colours on display here are so vivid and just stunning to look at, and the animation feels so life like, that it brings all of the characters to life, whether they are living or if they have moved on. Miguel as our lead is immediately likeable, and despite the aggression he receives from his family for wanting to pursue music, he doesn’t take no for an answer, even when it looks like it will land him in a significant amount of bother.

Once again, Pixar has crafted a story works on two levels to tremendous for both the kids and adults. It explores themes such as love, family and what it means to have a dream, especially if you’re not encouraged to pursue these dreams. With another superb score from Michael Giacchino and what could well be another Oscar winning song in Remember Me from  Frozen duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. At this point, with their filmography brimming with so many beautifully told pieces of storytelling and animation, it is hard for any new release to take its place among the cream of the crop. However, Coco might just ensure it takes its place in that collection, as it is another string in Pixar’s guitar, that almost always hits the right notes.

Delivering animation of the highest quality once again, with another beautifully crafted story that tugs at the guitar strings and the heartstrings in equal measure. Another Pixar masterpiece.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Wreck-it Ralph (2012)

Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Wreck-it Ralph – Film Review

Cast: John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Mindy Kaling, Alan Tudyk

Director: Rich Moore

Synopsis: Video game Bad guy Ralph yearns for something more out of life than just being the bad guy, and when the opportunity to win a medal and become the good guy presents itself, he seizes his chance of glory…

Review: Everyone loves a good video game as the perfect activity to pass the time on a miserable day when it’s pouring with rain outside. There have been a great deal of very memorable video game characters down the years, yet when a video game is adapted for the big screen, the end result is usually nothing to get all that excited about, and in some cases, they have been HORRIFICALLY bad. Well, those folks at Disney certainly had a trick up their sleeve, as they often do, to bring the perfect combination of the mediums of film and video game to the big screen, in a deeply entertaining and very enjoyable manner.

The difference here is that this is not based off a single video game, as this film takes place inside an entire video game arcade. In the same way that when in Toy Story, the toys come to life when their owners leave the room. When the arcade closes for the day, the video game characters have their own lives and the way the lives of the characters once their gaming duties for the day are done,  is really innovative.

For Ralph, resident bad guy of the fictional game Fix-it Felix, well he’s not too happy with his current predicament. Having grown tired of the bad guy lifestyle and the unsatisfying outcome that this lifestyle brings to him, there’s no reward to his bad guy endeavours. Meanwhile he watches on with envy as the hero of his game, Felix receives the adulation that Ralph craves desperately, as such Ralph tries to change his fortunes, and though he’s the bad guy, you really feel for him and will him to turn things around for himself.

So many Easter Eggs…

The games in the arcade are all connected in a similar to this giant central hub, that very much resembles those concourses that you see in train stations.  players can interact with the other games in the winding down period after a busy day of gaming. One rule though, no one must ever leave their game, otherwise the consequences could be severe, but this is precisely what Ralph does in pursuit of his dream. Video game fans can rejoice as there are many rather good Easter Eggs cameos from some of the most recognisable faces in video game history, including a few at the Bad Guys Anonymous meeting. The story takes a few twists and turns before eventually arriving at a racing game which is like a cross between Mario Kart and a land of delightful sugary confectionery, appropriately name Sugar Rush, which sets the stage for some hyperactive drama!

It is here that we meet Vanellope, a character like Ralph who is experiencing some hardships in her life and is desperately striving to change things for the better, and the two share a connection in this respect, and watching these two, through their differing struggles and striving for acceptance, is heart-warming to watch, even if it is straying into familiar Disney territory with themes you will have undoubtedly seen many times before. It’s trademark Disney, but that does not prevent it from being exciting, colourful and really amusing entertainment that takes audiences on a pleasant and satisfying journey, and ensures that there will not be groans of frustration as a “Game Over” flashes on the screen.

 A very unique concept that’s tremendously well realised and extremely entertaining, with plenty of the humour and heart that you’ve come to expect from Disney.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Toy Story 3 – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Blake Clark, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Ned Beatty, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, John Morris

Director: Lee Unkrich

Synopsis: With Andy now grown up and heading off to college, having not been played with for several years, the toys face a tricky decision, whether to remain in the attic or move on to pastures new, or more specifically: Daycare.

Review: When you have made two films, the first of which redefined the genre of animated movies, and then you followed that up with another supremely well made and heartfelt sequel that built so successfully on the world that its predecessor established, that is quite the feat. Therefore, when you decide to complete the trilogy, let’s just say that you have an almighty task ahead of you to try and top what came before it. Leave it then to the animation powerhouses Pixar to complete their Toy-tastic trilogy in tremendous style!

Toy Story 2 had quite the superb intro scene, but here they somehow top it with an incredible action scene of sorts that immediately reminds the audience that there is no limit to the imagination when it comes to a child and the toys they have, whilst immediately hitting you in the feels with the “You Got a Friend in Me!” tune, arguably one of the finest songs ever written for a Pixar film. Though Pixar continues to make their films that work on both levels, it’s evident that this is a film that is geared towards those grew up with the first two movies, as they more than others will relate to the feeling of growing up and having that dilemma of what to do with the toys you once cherished more than anything else in your life. Yet as time progresses, that undying love, just slowly just fades away.

Blissfully unaware of what’s coming…

Indeed, this is the very situation Andy finds himself in, what with being off to college and all. Despite a last ditch effort to get attention, Woody and the gang realise that maybe now is the time to find a new life for themselves or risk never getting played with ever again. through a mixture of unfortunate events sees the gang end up at a children’s daycare. Their excitement at a new lease of life quickly turns to horror though as these kids have a VERY different take on the word playtime, and life with Andy is a distant memory now.

In Michael Arndt’s capable hands, the screenplay continues down the path that the first two films walked down. The characters continue to be well developed and compelling, including all of the gang you know and love with a couple of significant new additions. These being a Ken doll (voiced brilliantly by Michael Keaton) and Ned Beatty as Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (AKA Lotso) who is the leader if you will of the Daycare. Smell of strawberries he might, but he’s not as sweet as he comes across. The humour is also maintained throughout the film with a truly hilarious moment in which Buzz is once again convinced he’s a Space Ranger, except he’s gone a bit European! The dialogue is all vintage Pixar and it’s simply joyous to watch.

Though the first two movies had plenty of emotion in them, there’s a couple of scenes here that really pack the emotion in such quantities that if it does not generate an emotional reaction among the watching audience, in which they’re fighting back the tears, one would have to question whether they are indeed human. Pixar films are littered with such moments, but two in particular here, might just be the best of the best. With a superb ending that continues to pack that emotional weight and one that wraps up this trilogy in just about the best way possible. Trilogies tend to have the one film that trips them up, but when a trilogy comes along, with each film being about as close to perfect as it could, that is a rare feat, and kudos to Disney and Pixar for pulling it off.

It’s been quite the journey with Woody, Buzz and co, but as third films in trilogies go, this is one of those rare films that is as good, if not better than what preceded it. Another masterpiece from the brain boxes at Pixar.

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Toy Story 2 (1999)

Image is property of Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Animation Studios

Toy Story 2 – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammar, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wayne Knight, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris

Directors: John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich

Synopsis: When a toy collector steals Woody, Buzz leads the gang on a mission to rescue their rootin’ tootin’ cowboy friend.

Review: Creating a sequel to anything that enjoyed incredible success is always an extremely tough act to follow, because well what you make is inevitably going to be judged on what preceded it. Sometimes though a sequel does improve upon its predecessor, but give that 1995’s Toy Story was in many ways revolutionary for the animation movie business,  that was always going to be a challenge for Pixar. Yet despite that enormous challenge, it is one they rose to and delivered another wonderfully animated, funny  and heartfelt story concerning Andy’s (and indeed everyone’s) favourite toys.

Instead of dealing with a new arrival among them, the toys are thrown into disarray when the leader of the gang Woody is pinched by a toy collector who happens to reunite Woody with some past associates of his. His toyknapper plans to sell Woody and co to a museum in Japan, which Woody greets with initial dismay. For Woody, who spent the majority of the first movie berating Buzz for his delusions of grandeur of not being a space ranger but simply a child’s play thing, now faces his own dilemma as to what a toy’s purpose is, and where does he really belong, given that Andy will not be a kid forever. While all this is going on, Buzz is taking the lead on a mission to find Woody and bring him back to Andy’s Room, with the help of a few of the other toys. Though it takes a bit of time to get going, once Woody is toy-knapped, it really picks up the pace.

“The force is with you young Lightyear, but you are not a Space Ranger yet!”

The original movie established these characters that audiences everywhere grew to love, not just the likes of Woody and Buzz, but all of the toys in Andy’s collection too. Impressive then, that there are a handful of new characters here as well that are so well developed and well realised, that it’s almost impossible not to love them too, namely Jessie the yodelling Cowgirl, Stinky Pete the Prospector, and Bullseye, Woody’s trusted noble steed. The voice talent is truly of a very high order. On top of this, there’s a great villain, clearly inspired by everyone’s favourite Dark Lord, Darth Vader, this being the Evil Emperor Zurg, with a hilarious parody of an iconic Star Wars line thrown in for good measure. The story, much like its predecessor, is again a wonderful piece of work, much like its predecessor, it explores themes and ideas that will make an impact on anyone who has ever owned a toy in their lifetime, and if you’ve ever had to part company with said toy, it hits you where you live, kids and adults alike.

As well as the emotional tone, there is a great vibe of adventure and humour as we watch these toys go an exciting new adventure. An adventure where plenty of the toys really learn one or two things about themselves and also undertake some rather daring but hilarious ventures, like using traffic cones to cross a road, and mayhem ensues. As to be expected, there’s a handful of really good jokes aimed at the adults watching, in signature Pixar style. Initially, the studio planned for this to be a straight to video feature, but an eleventh hour decision meant that this thankfully got a cinematic release. It doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors lofty standards, but with that movie being one of the best animated films ever made, that was always going to be a tough act to follow. The studio reinforced their, at the time growing, reputation as a powerhouse of animated cinema, that would only continue to grow in the subsequent years.

Continuing on the path set by its predecessor, this superb sequel offers more well developed characters, tremendous voice animation, and a story with real emotional weight behind it.

 

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

beauty-and-the-beast-1991
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Beauty and the Beast– Film Review

Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Michael Pierce, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti

Directors: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Synopsis: A young woman offers to take the place of her father who has been captured by a horrible beast who unbeknown to her, is a prince who has been cursed by a terrible spell.

Review: Walt Disney Animation Studios, synonymous with making the most magical movies that exist on Planet Earth, probably. How fitting then, that they would bring to life what is perhaps the most magical fairytale of them all, and what is perhaps the most well known adaptation. Based on the French fairytale of the same name, published in 1740, focusing on Belle, a beautiful young woman who lives with her father. When her father stumbles upon a dark and mysterious castle and becomes imprisoned by the beastly owner of the castle, she offers to take his place, and what follows is without doubt one of the finest animated movies to ever grace the silver screen, and one that despite being released over a quarter of century ago, has stood the test of time remarkably well.

The third film to be produced as part of the Disney Renaissance, it really in many ways set the benchmark for the films that followed it to reach in terms of making a Disney Princess movie that has had a lasting effect on pop culture, and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the coming years. What makes this film so great is not only its superb animation, which particularly for the time is remarkable. But even more than that are the characters, both leading and support, they are all just so memorable. Belle of course, clue in the name, is a beautiful princess but she’s also intelligent and compassionate, with a great singing voice. Gaston is in many ways Belle’s opposite, brash and rather arrogant who thinks he’s just the best, and that women should just fall at his feet, but of course Belle isn’t buying it.

beauty-and-the-beast-1991-2

There are plenty of memorable tunes, right from the opening number to perhaps the most memorable tune, Be Our Guest, to the beautiful titular song, as performed by the great Angela Lansbury, which indeed won the Oscar for Best Song, which when you listen is easy to see why. The voice acting is flawless from everybody, and the singing too, every note that is sung is perfect, whether it’s Belle’s beautiful voice, or Gaston’s song about being the best man Belle could dream of, pompous to the maximum! Every song does its bit for the story, to move it along, and each of them have become some of the most iconic music, that’s perhaps ever been written for film. In addition, Disney’s films have become synonymous with producing magical fairytales, and this might just be the most magical of them all.

In addition to the Oscar for Best Song, a well deserved gong for Best Original Score, and the film also made movie history by becoming the first full length animated movie to get nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. It is a testament to the film’s quality that it was the first to achieve this honour, and this is before the Academy introduced a separate category for animated features, which is no mean achievement. Even more so that its legacy has endured for well over a quarter of a century now, and with the live action re-imagining shortly upon us, it should only ensure its legacy remains intact for generations to come, ensuring it will retain its status as a true timeless Disney classic, as if that was somehow ever in doubt.

Magical in every sense of the word, from story to characters to music. A truly wonderful piece of cinema that has been, and will continue to be adored for years to come. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, Warner Animation Group and RatPac Entertainment

The Lego Batman Movie – Film Review

Cast:  Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Michael Cera, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis

Directors: Chris McKay

Synopsis: With The City of Gotham under attack from the schemes of the Joker, Batman must fight to defeat him, but must also deal with the young boy he has inadvertently adopted.

Review: “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, ALWAYS be Batman.” A saying that has been around for a few years now it would seem, and one that definitely rings true today. Given the phenomenal success of 2014’s The Lego Movie, of which Batman incidentally played a crucial role, a sequel was absolutely inevitable, but that is not this film. Yet the decision to make a spin off focusing on Batman absolutely made sense, given that Batman has enjoyed enormous popularity, hence the very sound advice, “Always be Batman.”

Batman of course has been an ever present in popular culture, from those ridiculously camp early Adam West years, to the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton era, and back to the ridiculous and frankly awful Joel Schumacher years, before thankfully being revived by one Christopher Nolan, who opted for the more dark and gritty take on the character, which Zack Snyder has since followed. History has shown that the comedy take on the character usually fails in miserable fashion, but thanks to a franchise that has also remained very dominant down the years, this of course being Lego, it demonstrates perfectly that this bit more light hearted approach can work if done in the right manner.

Right off the bat (pun absolutely intended!) even if you weren’t aware of this, you would get the impression that the team that worked on the Lego Movie has had some influence on the script. Though Lego Movie writers and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were not involved, the films share a similar sense of humour. The jokes are more often than not great, you will find yourself laughing a lot in more than a few scenes. Gleeful pops are aimed at Marvel and some of DC’s own properties too, there are certainly no prisoners with this Batman. There are some great life lessons for the kids too, whilst the adults can enjoy all the cool little Easter eggs that can be found, old and new Batman alike, there is something for everyone.

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A lot of this is down to Will Arnett’s utterly tremendous voice work as the titular character. He emits this rather gruff growl whether he’s in Batman mode or just Bruce Wayne mode, although it’s not quite a ridiculous as the one Christian Bale occasionally used when he was in the cape and cowl. He’s ably assisted by Rosario Dawson as the spirited Barbara Gordon and Ralph Fiennes in a brilliant turn as the trusted butler Alfred. Michael Cera as the young kid that Bruce adopts can come across as a bit annoying at first but he earns his stripes as Batman’s trusty sidekick, and Zach Galifianakis gives a very interesting take on the Clown Prince of Crime.

The plot for the most part keeps moving along forward pretty neatly, but there are a couple of places where the plot does lose a bit of steam. However these are usually only momentary lapses. Villains are an essential ingredient of comic book movies and a great deal of them are unleashed, not just from DC Comics, but from, oh, SO MANY areas of popular culture, and while villain overload has been the kiss of death of certain superhero movies of the past, it only adds to joy and entertainment of the movie in this instance. If this were live action, it could and probably would borderline ridiculous, but here it’s just ridiculously entertaining.

No matter how many times he’s represented on screen, be it in animated, live action or Lego form, one thing remains pretty clear, Batman’s popularity among audiences will likely never diminish or waiver, and even if certain pieces of work do tarnish the legacy of the character. Batman is a staple of superhero culture that has stood for decades now, and with this film now under his belt too, it will only boost his popularity. The Dark Knight truly does rise to epic proportions.

Relentlessly funny, with some great jokes combined with terrific animation and voice work, all matches made in Lego Heaven for the Caped Crusader.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tangled (2010)

tangled
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Tangled – Film Review

Cast:  Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy

Directors: Byron Howard and Nathan Greno

Synopsis: Rapunzel is a princess with extraordinary long hair who has been abducted by an evil witch, and raised in a tower, forbidden to go outside. Until one day she defies this rule, and experiences the world for the very first time.

Review: Whenever you sit yourself down for an animated film from Disney Animation Studios, you usually know what you’re in for. Musical numbers, great animation, and some well developed characters that you just want to root for, as well as an antagonist to boo and hiss it, as if you were at a pantomime. For their 48th animated adventure, check, check, check and check! Disney is well known for its princess stories, but what sets this princess apart is her remarkably long hair, that has magical healing powers. The ensuing adventure is familiar-ish territory, princess meets handsome man and they go on an adventure. Is this a problem? No, not at all, because it’s the usual magical brilliance that you expect from Disney.

Originally set to be called Rapunzel, but wisely changed to be the more gender neutral Tangled. The film focuses, as you might expect on the character of Rapunzel, the rather long haired princess in question. Taken from her biological parents shortly after she’s born by an evil witch, who uses her magical hair to stay youthful and beautiful. She is kept locked in a tower by said evil witch who has Rapunzel believe she is her actual mother. Until the mysterious and narcissistic Flynn (Levi) comes along and the opportunity presents itself for Rapunzel to leave her confinement and the chance for her to see something she has been dying to see ever since she was a child. Despite Flynn’s preening of sorts, he’s a man who clearly loves himself, but before long you will find yourself rooting for him as he joins Rapunzel on their adventure, with the usual combination of musical moments and emotional moments with characters you are absolutely invested in, from Rapunzel to Maximus, a horse who is quite the badass, and has quite the appetite for apples.

The chemistry between Rapunzel and Flynn is very strong and well realised, with the voice work from Moore and Levi excellent in bringing these characters to life. With Rapunzel, she her many locks of magical hair and lots of character despite spending, well pretty much her entire adult life confined to her tower. Flynn is of course the handsome, mischievous crook, who she uses as an opportunity to break free of her confinement. Both characters go on an emotional journey and their character development is very strong and excellently realises. With Disney you almost expect great music and they provide this once again with some superb tunes. Also well developed in her evil ways is Mother Gothel who has a few moments where she takes centre stage, and Murphy brings her to life tremendously well.

No one really does Princess films quite like Walt Disney Animation Studios, and here they produced another super hit to add to their remarkable collection of stellar animated films. With each Prince4ss film they tackle, the studio always manages to hit all the familiar tropes, that they have become well know for. However, they all manage to be wholly original and unique in many ways. In this instance, magical hair, a badass horses, great music, likable characters and oh yeah, beating up intruders with frying pans. What more could you ask for in a Disney movie?

The Mouse House brings the magic again with  its fiftieth motion picture, with a great story, terrific music and characters you genuinely have a connection with.

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