Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Finding Dory (2016)

finding dory
Image is property of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Finding Dory – Film Review

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olsen, Ty Burrell, Idris Elba

Directors: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane

Synopsis: Set one year after the events of Finding NemoDory begins to get flashbacks about her past and her parents. Determined to find answers, she sets off on a quest to reunite with her long lost family.

Review: It has been thirteen years since we were introduced to a bunch of lovable fish that swam their way into the hearts of audiences in Finding Nemo. It could be argued that of those group of fish, there was one who perhaps swam her way into the hearts and minds of viewers more than most, this of course being the blue tang Dory. So of course it was only natural that this phenomenal piece of storytelling would get a sequel. Sequels for Pixar are generally a mixed bag, for every Toy Story 3, there’s a Cars 2. However, given Dory’s immense popularity, the head honchos of Pixar decided to make this movie about her, and what an inspired decision that turned out to be.

Nemo director Stanton, along with Angus MacLane, with a scripted penned by Stanton and Victoria Strouse take us back to the big blue, and one year after Dory has helped Marlin reunite with Nemo after the latter went somewhat astray. Seemingly content with life, and still a bit forgetful, she begins to have flashbacks about her past and believing that somewhere out there she has a family, Dory goes off on her own adventure with Marlin and Nemo in tow. Pixar certainly knows how to give its audiences full on emotional punches, as last year’s brilliant Inside Out demonstrated, and once again, they have delivered a heartfelt worthwhile story with a great new batch of characters and a script that is packed with plenty of laughs.

Once again, Ellen DeGeneres is on outstanding form as Dory, her humour ensured she was one of the funniest movie sidekicks of the 2000s but now she is front and centre and she absolutely holds her own. Brooks returning as Marlin is his usual somewhat grump self and Hayden Rolence replaces Alexander Gould as the voice of Nemo. Adding them on their quest are a great bunch of new characters, the standout by far though is Ed O’Neill’s Hank the Octopus. He may be a bit grumpy too, but he certainly adds a lot of humour to the story. Ty Burrell as a beluga whale and Kaitlin Olsen as a clumsy whale also add a great deal to the plot. The seagulls were another highlight of Nemo, yet they have been replaced by a pair of equally amusing sea lions voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West.

Pixar has certainly shown in the past that they’re not afraid to go deep (pun absolutely intended) with their films. They tug at your emotional heart-string and it’s one of the many reasons why they have cemented their reputation as an animation powerhouse. There is no real villain here, but it’s not a hindrance to the plot in any way, as the struggles of family life and finding your place in the world are themes that almost anyone out there can resonate with. A debate could rage all day about whether Pixar or parent company Disney make the better movies. However it cannot be argued that both have put out tremendous pieces of work so far this year, and both of these are centred around animals.  This particular Pixar sequel was not out of its depth, but instead swam its way to success, and that bodes well for the sequels that are currently in the works. The price of a ticket is worth it if just to see perhaps the cutest animated short you will ever see in your life too.

Pixar produces another superb piece of storytelling, beautiful animation, with more well developed characters, and another superb performance from DeGeneres, a worthy sequel to Finding Nemo. 

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Finding Nemo (2003)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios

Finding Nemo – Film Review

Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Geoffrey Rush

Director: Andrew Stanton

Synopsis: When a young clownfish is abducted by deep sea divers, his timid father must brave the terrifying ocean in order to rescue his son.

Review: The big blue ocean, something that covers around 70 per cent of the surface of this planet. It’s something that is so deep and terrifying, yet there is certainly for some, a deep fascination with the big blue beyond, and the life within it. It would certainly seem that a few folks over at the animation juggernauts of Pixar have this fascination.

Fish are not exactly many people’s first choice to have as pets, and therefore to make a full length feature about them, might have seemed like a mad idea for Pixar. Yet as they often do, they pulled it off in spectacular fashion. Right at the very start, everything appears all happy and joyous, and then instantaneously it changes. Disney movies of the past certainly weren’t afraid to go dark where necessary, and the opening scene here is certainly not on a Bambi level of terrifying, it is rather melancholic. But it sets the tone for the movie and really builds the character of our main protagonist, Marlin and why he’s so overprotective of his son Nemo. As such when Nemo is whisked away by divers, Marlin has little choice to go out of his comfort zone, go after him and brave the terrifying ocean, and the ensuing adventure that Marlin ends up has its mix of delightful humour and some more darkish moments.

finding nemo

Though it’s probable not many of us have been there ourselves, certainly not as deep, director Andrew Stanton does a terrific job of immersing the audience in this ocean world. The other wildlife and the plant life are all beautifully recreated along with the animation being absolutely perfect. In addition to this, we have a very interesting collection of characters. Marlin is a clownfish, but he struggles to tell a good joke. However he doesn’t need to as he’s aided on his quest to rescue his son by the lovable but forgetful Dory, voiced by the brilliant Ellen DeGeneres. There’s a fair bit of dramatic moments mixed in with some truly hilarious ones too, such as the shark equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In Nemo’s unfamiliar surroundings, we have the likes of the serious but friendly Gill (Willem Dafoe) Bloat (Brad Garrett) a porcupine pufferfish of whom does his bit to ensure that the laughs keep on coming. The screenplay is so well written that you care about every one of the characters on screen, particularly Marlin, Nemo and certainly Dory too. The latter of whom proved to be such a popular character, that she is getting her own film, due out this summer. It’s easy to see why as a lot of the comedy comes from her forgetfulness and funny one liners. The characters are extremely well developed and the fact that the voices involved are provided by some top Hollywood talent ensures that the there’s that emotional connection between them and the audience.

There are plenty of humorous moments littered throughout this really entertaining story. Even some of the side characters provide some of the most ridiculously entertaining moments. The sharks, the turtles and in particular the seagulls especially in particular do their best to keep the laughs coming. The latter of whom although they don’t have the largest amount of screen time, they certainly make a significant impression, and you might just find yourself saying “mine” just a little bit. Whoever knew that a story about the life of aquatic based animals could be so entertaining and so heartfelt?

Beautiful animation with some great humour, along with well written, developed and lovable characters, Pixar just kept swimming onto success with this wonderful story. One of their finest without a doubt.

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Toy Story (1995)

Image is property of Disney and Pixar

Toy Story – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris

Director: John Lasseter

Synopsis: Woody, a cowboy doll, is the leader of a group of toys that belong to a boy named Andy, but when a brand new Space toy called Buzz Lightyear arrives, and because a firm favourite of both Andy and the other toys, it creates a rift between the toys.

Review: Toys, we all played with them when we were kids, and chances are if you have had kids, or intend to, you will probably deal with toys all over again. And surely we have all wondered, what happened to our toys when we have left the room? Do they come alive and have thoughts of their own? Well if you have seen Toy Story, from the juggernauts of Disney and Pixar, chances are you might just have thought so at one point in your youth. This first collaboration between the two, with John Lasseter at the helm, was a match made in heaven, and while it was the first full length feature film to be fully computer animated, it has a claim to being the studio’s very best.

The story focuses on a group of toys, led by the jovial and upbeat Woody, who is the firm favourite of their owner Andy. This is until the arrival of the shiny and awesome Buzz Lightyear who becomes the centre of both Andy’s attention and the attention of all the other toys. Thus making Woody exceedingly jealous that he has been displaced as Andy’s favourite plaything. Even more so for poor Woody, is Buzz’s fixation that he’s not in fact a toy, but a Space Ranger charged with the protection of the Galaxy. It’s such a simple concept, but the story is outstanding with lots for kids to enjoy and plenty of adult references that will ensure watching parents get a good chuckle. What’s more, the voice acting is also first class.

Tom Hanks is sensational as the voice of Woody, providing calm and reason to the rest of the toys when they have an ever present fear of being replaced, whilst also showing authority over the other toys when he needs to. Tim Allen also is equally excellent as Buzz, Woody and Buzz are in many ways the polar opposites of toys, but this drives the movie on to the soaring heights that it does reach. The rest of the voice cast is also absolutely perfect from the somewhat aggressive Mr Potato Head, to the timid Rex.

The animation is also crisp, detailed and provides glorious viewing. Pixar set the benchmark for animated movies, and they’ve hit this mark, and then some time after time with lots of their feature films since Toy Story.  The debate as to the best Pixar film is one that in all probability many people have had, and it could be debated all day till the cows come home, but what is an indisputable fact, is Pixar’s maiden feature film revolutionised the genre of animated movies, etched itself into popular culture. It has themes of friendship and respect that we can all relate to, and is one of the best animated movies ever made.  To Infinity and Beyond, indeed.

In a word, perfect. From the voice acting, to the screenplay, to the animation, to the story. One for kids and adults to adore in equal measure, and deservedly so.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Inside Out (2015)

inside out
Image is property of Pixar Animation Studios

Inside Out – Film Review

Cast: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan.

Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen

Synopsis: As a young girl is uprooted from Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions, Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness all battle to try to keep her emotions in check

Review: ‘Do you ever look at someone and wonder “What is going on inside their head?”‘ asks a voice not long into the beginning of Pixar’s latest adventure. A question that many will have thought at some point in their lives when talking to friends or family if they’re doing something idiotic or daft. The human brain is a vast and complicated organ that makes us who we are. Throughout our own lives, we all go through different emotions, some we sometimes cannot explain. Yet rarely, if ever, has a film gone deep into the minds of someone and try to understand the maze that is the human brain. It’s little wonder that Pete Docter is one of the founding members of the Pixar Brain Trust, a group that has all powerful control of the slated movies in production, because this latest flick from Pixar is nothing short of absolute genius. 

The story focuses on that of 11 year old Riley, and the horror she goes through when her father gets a new job that forces the family to uproot for their cosy Minnesota abode to the uncomfortable new life in San Francisco. Her mind goes into overdrive and it falls to her five chief emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness to keep the ship that is Riley’s mind steady through this frightening storm. The emotions keep things in order in their shiny futuristic headquarters that have all of Riley’s stored memories that are represented by five islands that represent the key things that Riley holds dear in life. However when disaster strikes, and the emotions are separated in the maze of Riley’s mind, the emotions are in a race against time to sort everything out and make things right.

Pixar for many years has been the champion almost of witty, clever and just downright awesome animations in the last decade or two. You look back to the likes of the original Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo among others. Stories that hit adults as well as kids in incredible ways that everyone in the family can enjoy, and they have come up trumps yet again with their latest creation. Emotions are what makes us all human, we all go through difficult or testing scenarios in our lives and our emotions can sometimes overpower us, or keep us in check. Thus everyone who watches this movie can relate to it, as everyone has had deep emotions about something, or someone. The concept behind how the emotions and memories work is absolutely superb in its originality and innovation, and what is also superb is the voice work. Leading the way is Amy Poheler as Joy, the lead emotion in Riley’s mind who fights to prevent the other emotions from taking control, Lewis Black brilliantly portrays Anger, Mindy Kaling is Disgust, Bill Hader as Fear and Phyllis Smith as Sadness who is starting to gain prominence as events in Riley’s life start taking turns for the worse, and the emotions are all battling for control of Riley’s mind. The voice work from everyone is outstanding, but by far the leading light (literally) is Joy who has been the mainstay emotion of Riley’s life and the one who keeps things ticking.

The movie could get very lost in the maze that represents Riley’s mind, but at its heart is a very simple story of the human brain and all of the emotions that go with it, and the power that those emotions can have. It is a very simple story that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. The animation is pristine and top quality, as is the norm with Pixar. The studio has triumphed many times down the years and has an almost flawless track recordand this is an excellent  addition to that roster of top quality animations that the studio has produced.  Do not be surprised this bagging Pete Docter another Oscar and Ronaldo Del Carmen his first when next year’s Oscars roll around because the rest of the animated movies this year will need to produce something truly special to top Inside Out.

Original, clever, emotive and an insightful adventure into the workings of the human brain. A movie that will touch the hearts of everyone who sees it. 

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