Dumbo (2019)

dumbo_ver2

Another Disney remake is in town, though this time it tries something different to show off because it’s inspired from the short 64 minute run-time of 1941’s ‘Dumbo’. This grants filmmaker Tim Burton the chance to go above and beyond, but does he?

The Medici Brothers Circus; led by Max (Danny DeVito) pulls in punters across America and with the arrival of a new baby elephant he hopes to show off a new hot attraction. However, this cute calf has freakishly large ears which two young children learn can help him fly. The arrival of Vandevere (Michael Keaton), an owner of a hugely popular amusement park sees Max, Dumbo and his circus troupe hit bigger but more troubling heights.

Considering this film has the zany, possibly former brilliance of Burton behind the camera, you’d expect the element of circus life, freaks and outcasts to be right up his twisted street but this quickly becomes a movie that fails to soar, and is far from the engagingly dark and playful retelling it should be.

Calling it boring would be a smidge too harsh but it definitely drags its lumbering ears throughout and feels like a movie that never, ever needed to be remade; the extra story feels totally wasted and unexciting. It’s a Disney big-top event which will have you almost wanting a refund on your ticket, unless you’re a teeny tot amused by the antics of li’l Dumbo.

To be fair, there are some good aspects. A final shot is awesome and is jaw droppingly beautiful in the way it stirs up ‘Planet Earth’ vibes with a lick of paint from the House of Mouse. The baby elephant himself is captivating as heck it has to be said, the CG animators have created life in the eyes of Dumbo, his dopey blue sparklers and his adorable smile do wonders in loving this floppy-eared creature.

Now, more than the overstretched plot and plodding nature of it all comes my biggest disappointment with the movie. The Pink Elephants on Parade portion may as well be non-existent because what this family feature does is present a dull, short bubble show devoid of any trippy quality which Tim Burton was 100% the man to provide. The classic cartoon from the very start of the 40’s still manages to be one of the most amazingly animated excursions into weird hallucinogenic wonder, but if you’re eagerly awaiting a clever, twisted take on that sequence then leave your expectations at the door.

DeVito is as DeVito as ever and the boisterous mannerisms are greatly played. Colin Farrell seems to limp and whine through in a role that sees him struggling to be dad and performer, till the obvious latter stage breakthrough. Keaton puts on what I can only assume is a drawl of an accent to seem showy but it’s distinctly odd and he’s far from an excellent villain, in fact some earlier Rufus character possessed more sneer than the Dreamland owner.

1941’s ‘Dumbo’ had you believing an elephant can fly and now in 2019 he jets off again but this re-imagining is grounded thanks to having next to zero oomph and spirit and the unshakeable fact that it never needed to be made.

5/10

Advertisements

2018 Top 50

2018-0104-TruthorDare-tout

Smile folks, it’s been an absolute blast this year in the cinemas and on streaming services alike. Yes, if you want to jump right in with my top 10 movies, I have already compiled a top ten list which you can find HERE, but if like me, you can’t abide a whole ton of great movies not getting their dues then this is their time to shine as I’ve come up with my first ever Top 50 countdown!

*Disclaimer* – I have not seen certain films like ‘Mandy’ or ‘Leave No Trace’ hence their absence and no ‘Truth or Dare’ doesn’t rock up, though it was a fine comedy. Okay, away we go…

50 – NEXT GEN

screen-shot-2018-08-15-at-3-07-14-pm

A surprisingly fun and pacy cartoon flick with futuristic ideas and a charming connection between gal and bot.

Review – ‘Next Gen’

49 – MARY POPPINS RETURNS

STEP_PAYOFF_POSTER1_UNITED_KINGDOM-640x914

Emily Blunt steps into the ten to two shoes of Julie Andrews and does a spiffing job as the prim and proper nanny with magic endlessly pulled from her special bag.

Trip the Light Fantastic over to my review – ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

48 – ROMA

10000

Alfonso Cuaron’s black and white semi-biographical tale which hit Netflix is absolutely beautiful to look at but I just can’t quite connect to the majesty that everyone else has seen. There’s a fine story and lovely cinematography but that’s about it, no higher in the list. Don’t @ me.

My review is here – ‘Roma’

47 – BUMBLEBEE

Bumblebee-streaming-watch-full-movie-online-legal-1061049

If someone had told me that a ‘Transformers’ spin-off would have featured higher than a stunning foreign movie lauded for Oscar glory I would have scoffed…a lot. But Travis Knight has captured the fun and nostalgic appeal that Michael Bay could only dream of.

No Decepticons here, this is a good film, my review – ‘Bumblebee’

46 – A STAR IS BORN

mv5bmje3mdq0mta3m15bml5banbnxkftztgwmdmwndy2ntm-_v1_

Bradley Cooper dons a stetson and the first-time director title in this fourth telling of ‘A Star is Born’, it has some issues but a mostly great soundtrack and the might of Lady Gaga help this romantic country and western musical come alive.

Step into the Shallow end with my review – ‘A Star is Born’

45 – JOURNEY’S END

webp-net-resizeimage-28-770x433

A sombre and reflective WW2 drama, this truly grips you and makes you thoughtful about the dark trench warfare these brave soldiers faced. Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield are excellent.

The journey begins with my review – ‘Journey’s End’

44 – CAM

cam-1

Another Netflix feature that took me by surprise, this has dark and original ideas and a blisteringly brilliant performance from Madeline Brewer makes this tech-thriller/horror a sexy yet smartly creepy film.

Clickbait 

43 – GAME NIGHT

636548361514747841-GN-FP-0040

Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams are a fun pairing in this entertaining comedic flick but the true MVP and best selling point for the films worth is Jesse Plemmons.

Roll a dice, right foot yellow and review is yours – ‘Game Night’

42 – ISLE OF DOGS

isleofdogs-2

Another quirky and lovely stop-motion outing from the wonderful Wes Anderson, this poochy plot has moments of rabid darkness but plenty of delightful storytelling.

Woof! My review is out of the kennel – ‘Isle of Dogs’

41 – A SIMPLE FAVOR

simplefavor-900x460

Paul Feig’s latest has definitely divided audiences but I for one thoroughly enjoyed this strange concoction of humour and thrills all tinged with a French cinema flavour.

Only a simple favour to ask but please check out my review – ‘A Simple Favor’

40 – THOROUGHBREDS

Thoroughbreds_Payoff_Onesheet-e1519679786460

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are chillingly exceptional in this fairly cold yet entrancing off-beat film. It’s quite simply put, an original film with unsettling music and unpredictable moments.

Give my review a thoroughread – ‘Thoroughbreds’

39 – MOM AND DAD

momanddad_01b-h_2017

Crazy is as crazy does: surely a motto best suited to Nicolas Cage. This frenzied and pacy film may not be a superb film but I had a right good time watching the madness unfold and it knows what it is – a pure delightful crash of crazy.

Read more – ‘Mom and Dad’

38 – THE NIGHT COMES FOR US

TNCFU_2.0

Woah Nelly! This Indonesian action which is on Netflix is a furious and bloody thriller which may be light on plot but is soaring to the heavens with hellish injury detail and electrically charged, fascinating fight choreography.

37 – GHOST STORIES

dzdnbzfw4aia_xp

Originally a stage show, which is somewhat evident at certain points, what with some theatrical elements and practical frights leading the way, this is a nightmarish and engrossing British horror with clever storytelling.

Boo! My review – ‘Ghost Stories’

36 – TULLY

07-tully.w600.h315.2x

This is most certainly a film that goes somewhere a healthy percentage of audiences might not expect but it doesn’t tarnish the previously built maternal plot and Charlize Theron’s stunningly crafted performance, if anything it just makes it a more memorable story.

Don’t dilly dally – ‘Tully’

35 – THE HATE U GIVE

di8-9bsv4aeb4pr

Upon seeing the trailer I really wasn’t expecting to get anything from this film. Happily it’s much more than a generic YA adaptation, it has emotion, heart and the richest relevance to current world events. Amandla Stenberg & Russell Hornsby are mind-blowingly effective in this.

Don’t let the THUG-life get ya, read my review – ‘The Hate U Give’

34 – THE SHAPE OF WATER

shape-of-water

You can always trust on Guillermo del Toro to make a dark fantasy a totally captivating experience and this time the Academy Awards agreed, gifting this woman-loves-fish story the Best Picture trophy. It’s beautiful, weird and Sally Hawkins is the perfect lead.

The Shape of my Review can be found here – ‘The Shape of Water’

33 – BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

yrrwcircdevszkjs6byg

A true ensemble piece of cinema and a film noir that almost fully sinks its teeth into you. Aside from a slightly dissatisfying story that takes over, this is a clever, highly original movie and well acted thriller which deserved higher box office.

No bad times with my review – ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’

32 – CRAZY RICH ASIANS

merlin_142331751_4bd6c342-c5c7-43f7-bd6b-be91fdcb646f-articleLarge

I openly admit I’m not an advocate for the rom-com genre but this family set story around an impending wedding really bowled me over. The luxurious visuals, stunning locations and more stunning cast balance romance and humour with finesse.

Take a walk down the aisle to my review – ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

31 – YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

lead_720_405

Lynne Ramsay excellently weaves a gritty and immersive city thriller, aided by an astonishing turn from Joaquin Phoenix, this has threads of ‘Taxi Driver’ and is a bold and tense piece of cinematic art.

30 – RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET

original

Fairly bloated with internet bustin’ gags and Disney references, but it’s fun, fast and a well animated sequel with Ralph and Vanellope just as endearing a friendship duo as back in 2012.

It’s good and that’s not bad, my thoughts – ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’

29 – SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

91whyhljnql-_sy741_

Truly original and absurd, two qualities which you can’t complain about in the climate of sequels/prequels and the like. Boots Riley goes all in directing & writing a superb screenplay that links to current affairs and issues in an offbeat, comical and twisted manner.

Giddy up over to my review – ‘Sorry to Bother You’

28 – PHANTOM THREAD

PhantomThread

Possibly Daniel Day-Lewis’ final feature, his role under the direction of Paul Thomas Anderson is sublime, as are Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville…and a beautifully acted breakfast scene for the ages. This early UK 2018 film looks gorgeous and bursts with spits of spite and comedy.

Sew, a needle, pull and thread – ‘Phantom Thread’

27 – IN THE FADE

image

Diane Kruger’s first German feature and one that’s put across the audience in three parts. Not every part is as strong as the other and a finale may be slightly lacking but a gritty opening and glossy, tense court room second act along with Kruger’s formidable performance make this a solid thriller of loss and revenge.

1, 2…Kruger’s coming for you – ‘In the Fade’

26 – BLACK PANTHER

10606035_web1_M-black-panther-edh-180215

A massive hit and an even bigger stepping stone for black representation in superhero movies, this Marvel entry deals with spectacle, politics and leadership with detail and thought, fuelled by a great villain expertly handled by Michael B. Jordan, ‘Black Panther’ is a near-perfect comic-book film.

Enter Wakanda – ‘Black Panther’

25 – AMERICAN ANIMALS

american-animals-poster

This is a clever spin on the heist genre as director Bart Layton mixes truth and fiction by blending the real life people alongside his actors. As the films plan nears fruition, the gang and audience alike are left unable to back out to culpability.

A review is up for grabs just here, go on, go – ‘American Animals’

24 – THE INCREDIBLES 2

The-Incredibles-2

After 14 years too long, Pixar returned to the Parr family and their mix of city saving powers. The one animated feature deserving of a sequel, this one does not disappoint. Apart from a predictable turn of events and villain, this is a joyous and stunning animation to watch and any return of Edna Mode is a positive in my book.

Dash over to my review – ‘Incredibles 2’

23 – BLACKKKLANSMAN

blackkklansman_poster_2

This Spike Lee joint is a funny and disturbing tale of KKK infiltration. It makes you laugh but importantly, it’s something which makes you irate, angry and fits nicely against the backdrop of divide so felt nowadays. Style and power rip through this film.

Don’t be a Duke, click my review – ‘BlackKklansman’

22 – THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

5_Gwgr2

The Coen Brothers enter the Netflix way of life with this western anthology of six mini stories. The likes of James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson and Zoe Kazan excel in their segments. Sure, not all the tales are great and there may not be a resolute connection between them but it’s masterfully acted and captures the heart…and dust of the western genre.

21 – OVERLORD

1116292

You’d not be wrong in thinking from outside glance this would be a naff horror but it’s in fact so much better than that. A gem of war, thriller and gory zombie effects, this is a brain-splattering delight.

Come on over – ‘Overlord’

20 – WILDLIFE

1069870

Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan create a thing of quiet beauty in this drama about family. The former calls the shots as debut director and this adaptation of a 1990 novel is stunning not to just to look at but to revel in the towering acting from Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. Scenic views, fraught relationships and a teen running home in the snow are tenderly accomplished.

Check out the ‘Wildlife’

19 – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

three_billboards_outside_ebbing_missouri_xlg

I’ve always enjoyed the writings of Irish playwright and ‘In Bruges’ commander Martin McDonagh, this angry tale of grief and, well anger is no exception. The mix of great comedy and uneasy darkness clouding over Ebbing are thickly coated but don’t outweigh Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand.

More of my musings – ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

18 – HEREDITARY

toni

Jinkies, this horror from Ari Aster is a chilling and terrifyingly effective narrative of family tensions. If you took out all the damned creepy moments then this would be a drama on grief and that only highlights the weirder, scarier qualities included by Aster. Toni Collette is absolutely fantastic in this.

Don’t click your tongue, lcckk – ‘Hereditary’

17 – WIDOWS

widows-fallmovie

Steve McQueen tackles the thriller genre but makes sure to keep his sturdy understanding of character to make this an investing movie, led by four strong women. The moments of heist drama are tense and the more politically angled aspects are wonderfully handled.

Mission: read my review. I’m sure you’ve got the balls to pull this off – ‘Widows’

16 – COCO

cocoposter

Two Pixar releases for the UK in 2018 and both make my top 50, mostly because their animation is always so delectable but on top of this they’re a studio almost always capturing emotional and captivating stories. ‘Coco’ is no exception, this Day of the Dead inspired animation tugs on the heart strings and incorporates tingling music and colourful visuals.

 Don’t forget to click my review, Remember Me – ‘Coco’

15 – ASSASSINATION NATION

assassination-nation-slice-600x200

This is 100% a movie which will split people, I can see why some will dislike the heck out of it but I positively loved the stuffing out of this bold, loud and violent film. It pops with trigger warnings of every nature and the feminine power of the above fearsome foursome are a force to be reckoned with as their town turns on them.

Reveal some more secrets – ‘Assassination Nation’

14 – ANNIHILATION 

MV5BOGUyODQxNDAtYWIzOS00N2NkLWExZjQtYTBhMDU0MTU5NTQxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_SY1000_CR0015921000_AL_

Shamefully Alex Garland’s recent sci-fi didn’t get to UK cinemas but it’s streaming on Netflix and is a sheer masterpiece of visuals and is also a movie which leaves you thinking. Headed by a brave team of females, this mix of science and horror is dreamy, ambiguous and downright superb.

Enter the Shimmer – ‘Annihilation’

13 – UPGRADE

upgrade

Rammed to the skies with inventive camera shots and pacy fight scenes, this adrenaline fuelled futuristic flick bursts out of the screen with entertaining energy. On top of this, it has flashes of humour, body-horror and stylish flair.

There’s no need to Upgrade to find my review – ‘Upgrade’

12 – A QUIET PLACE

a_quiet_place_monsters_explained

This film has magnificent levels of sustained threat, wince-inducing visuals of pain, smart uses of playing around with sound and Emily Blunt on top form as a pregnant wife caught up in a farmhouse of fear. John Krasinski becomes feature director for the first time and really gets to grips with the model of horror building making this one of the most effective cinema experiences I’ve ever been part of.

Ssssh, my review is over here – ‘A Quiet Place’

11 – THE BREADWINNER

breadwinner_poster_final_web_emma3_1200x1200

The creators behind ‘Song of the Sea’ have gifted the world another animated gem. This one is less fantastical though and this Middle-Eastern texture only makes the film a much more heart-felt trip, one that’s interspersed with yarns of magic but the plight of a girl stepping up and out to help her family is a powerful and outstanding watch.

My review for #11 is here – ‘The Breadwinner’

There we have it, those were my top 40 films of 2018 and now it’s time to reveal my faves of faves as I collect the big 10.

10 – SEARCHING

filmlead1836

John Cho leads a frenzied hunt for his missing daughter in a screen-set thriller that is anything but a cheap gimmick. The tension is palpable and the story is riveting, as it’s portrayed through calls, Facebook and other social media searches.

No need to search far as the review is here – ‘Searching’

9 – HALLOWEEN

61pmwtwtnal-_sy741_

Michael Myers returned, swiftly and thankfully, slashing away all the sequels, letting this story follow on 40 years after what happened to Laurie Strode that fateful Halloween night. David Gordon Green shows he has a skill for the horror genre and the entire team clearly adore the original which is why this feels like a perfect chilling return to form for the Shape.

Don’t fear the Boogeyman – ‘Halloween’

8 – LADY BIRD

lady_bird_ver2_xlg

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a brilliant, humour filled coming of age story about mothers and daughters. There are great pangs of emotion and with perfect performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, you feel wrapped up in a comforting blanket watching this film.

It’s the titular role – ‘Lady Bird’

7 – HEARTS BEAT LOUD

image6

Well, here is a film that utterly bowled me over and completely surpassed my expectations for it being a generically mediocre Sundance indie. What this film is, is pure charm and sunshine, with Offerman and Clemons providing great music as a dad and his daughter. The songs are glorious and I’d be lying if I said I don’t listen to them almost constantly.

Don’t blink, my review isn’t a million miles away – ‘Hearts Beat Loud’

6 – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Bohemian-Rhapsody

I truly don’t care what some filmy types and critics have been saying about this film. I positively adored the majority of this foot-tapping, hand-clapping tale of Queen and its front man, the legendary Freddie Mercury, who is exquisitely played by Rami Malek. The film is fun and the music speaks for itself. A stadium sized biopic that will rock you.

You are the Champions if you give my review a read – ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

5 – I, TONYA

i-tonya-poster

Margot Robbie steps onto the ice as Tonya Harding in this fresh and exciting visceral take on an ill-fated moment of Winter Olympics drama. Allison Janney is a great supporting feature as Harding’s mum and throughout we see a story presented in way that’s unreliable but entertaining, which makes the latter emotional moments that more resounding.

Get your skates on to the review – ‘I, Tonya’

4 – REVENGE

lead_720_405

This is a blood soaked film, one which side-steps away from the schlock way of vengeful flicks and becomes an engrossing thriller capably led by bad-ass Matilda Lutz. This is an explosive female led and directed movie from Coralie Fargeat which arrived in May and I haven’t forgotten about in the slightest.

My review won’t put up a fight – ‘Revenge’

3 – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

avengers-imax-main-large

Snapping its fingers and claiming bronze, this is an epic comic-book celebration that I saw three times and didn’t tire with any minute of it. Unlike repeat viewings of ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Age of Ultron’, this is a blockbuster outing which grows better upon more watches. There’s the purple might of a superb villain, great visuals and a cracking conclusion to ten years of MCU building.

You don’t need to assemble any heroes to locate my review – ‘Infinity War’

2 – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

SpiderVerse_cropped.0

Miles Morales swings into the hot spot of silver, in the only animation to feature on my top ten. This is not only one of the most sensational animations I’ve seen but one of the best films, full stop. The styles are incredible, the voice work is perfect and the story is just right for the Spider-Man world.

Sling yourself over to the review – ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

1 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

tom-cruise-releases-teaser-spot-and-poster-for-the-mission-impossible-fallout-social

This is the sixth instalment in the M:I franchise and it is showing no signs of exhaustion, in fact quite the contrary, with action hero Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie again teaming up to make Ethan Hunt and his globe-trotting, ankle-breaking antics an exhilarating treat to see. The stunts are next level and knowing they are practically executed makes you appreciate the action that much more than a second rate movie filling in set pieces with CGI. Fallout is 100% the real deal and is one of the finest action films I’ve seen…ever.

My review won’t self destruct in 30 seconds – ‘Mission:Impossible – Fallout’

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

milesposter

Slinging into cinemas is an animated take on the New York web flying hero we know and love and whilst the MCU may have dusted off Parker for now, this superhero outing is well and truly alive with comedy, colour and creative heart.

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a teenager in the Big Apple wanting to follow his artistic side and on a graffiti adventure he’s bitten by a radioactive spider making him a second Spider-Man in the city. As a super collider threatens his world, Morales is faced with a host of other Spidey heroes and learns to be one himself thanks to the teachings of multi-verse Peter B. Parker (Nick Johnson).

It’s this multi (or Spider) verse setup which makes for fun blends of different animation. The artists and illustrators have amazingly captured the details of quirks from the likes of ‘Looney Tunes’ inspired slapstick, brooding noir shades of black and grey and cutesy anime amongst the normal world of circled crosshatching to reflect the patterned texture of real-life comic books. The animation across the board is stunning and some of the best example of computer-animated graphic I’ve ever watched.

The story makes time for great team ups between the meeting heroes and they’re never messy or confused, each version of Spider-Man gets their time to shine and the story is totally engaging and cleverly thought through. Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman add great layers of darkness, humour and heroic morals into the screenplay whilst never losing the central beating heart of Miles and his world.

Vibrancy feels like too weak a word to describe this colourful comic-book flick, which just explodes off the page with flashes of bright visuals and gorgeous style. It’s a darn art masterpiece which takes the breath away and should win every award that goes its way. In all honesty it’s an incredible wonder of workmanship and the whole thing from start to finish is insanely enjoyable. The impending glitch of the villains’ plan gives the film great drive and Morales’ learning curve lends the film that “with great power comes great responsibility” ideal but marvellously riffs on that and a couple of other Spider-Man moments.

Into the Spider-Verse’ is a lively and immensely entertaining animated superhero movie. It’s backed by a cracking soundtrack, spot-on voice performances, sensational style and a unique mirage of shifting shapes makes for one of the best final acts you’ll see. This is no doubt the best ‘Spider-Man’ film and it’s quite possibly one of the best comic book movies.

9/10

The Breadwinner (2018)

breadwinner_poster_final_web_emma3_1200x1200

From the studios that gifted us the stunning fantasy feature ‘Song of the Sea’, comes this equally stunning film. There’s a smart combination of visual wonder and coming of age material, but it’s also a story not scared to tackle the troubling setting of a Taliban controlled city.

On the streets of Kabul, a young girl called Parvana (Saara Chaudry) helps her father sell wares to passersby. A heated argument causes a furious Taliban member to arrest him and he’s taken to prison. Parvana has a mother, sister and little brother back at home, who are running out of food and because women aren’t allowed to roam free by themselves, she decides to change her identity in the hope of helping her family and finding her dad again.

This story based off a book by Deborah Ellis is such an honest, textured look on a world far away from the luxuries of Western living. Ellis and Anita Doron have mastered a screenplay that wonderfully juggles the main narrative with a magical story within a story. What works so flawlessly for this film, is the way they aren’t afraid to show how brutal the place can be and how chained women are; by the words of men and society in general. When the film illustrates these times of powerful masculinity beating down on innocents, it’s a significant weight that bears down on you watching and really makes you think.

The animation is gorgeous and there’s two styles on show. The prominent one is a standard but immersive, grounded and dusty drawing of Afghanistan’s capital, one that’s filled with squared off imagery, browns, whites and muted yellows with the odd pop of candy colour. Then there’s the tale narrated within the story, this like ‘Song of the Sea’, is mystical and bursting with a vivid fantasy set-up. The characters that walk this world look like paper puppetry and the flat visuals roll sideways like a bewitching sideshow act.

There might be some that think a character stepping stone reflects a Disney heroine, but Parvana cutting off her hair is where the ‘Mulan’ similarities start and end. Women are deemed fine to walk the city only if they’re covered up and led by a man, otherwise they best be inside. This stifling way of things leads the well-read and smart young girl to bravely make a change and step out into a place dominated by men. A developing friendship with a fellow child on the streets of Kabul is great to watch and important too, it’s her escape, they can share an innocence and much needed play-about antics, but what’s so well presented is their maturity. Where they’ve grown up has made them wise beyond their years, so they know how to try and avoid the dangerous environment that is presented throughout the film.

‘The Breadwinner’ is a film I won’t forget anytime soon, women live in a world of rules, no breathing room and incoming Western threats which aren’t shied away from. I am devastated to see that on a $10 million budget, the film hasn’t even broken $500’000, because this is a film that deserves to be seen and applauded for it’s beautiful story of culture, humour, war, loss, oppression and transformation.

9/10

 

Finding Dory (2016)

Finding Dory - 2016 - tt2277860 - Poster

Thirteen years after the watery world of ‘Finding Nemo’, we’re back under the sea with the recognisable clown-fish and blue tang. This time around the story shifts into following forgetful Dory and though there are distractions of new characters, stunning animation and some fun moments, this doesn’t make you forget that you’re watching something familiar and predictable.

Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is still with father and son pair Marlin and Nemo (Albert Brooks & Hayden Rolence) but she feels she’s forgetting something important. Flashbacks and tid-bits of her past and parents come and go and she ends up in a Marine Life Institute hoping to finally remember something and find her family.

Now, I must say I wasn’t a huge fan of the 2003 aquatic adventure but I admit it was and still is colourful and quite poignant in places. This sequel, directed again by Andrew Stanton has the same watery wonder but feels very samey and for a Pixar movie, that’s a trend I’m starting to worry about now…what with the less than inspiring ‘The Good Dinosaur’.

Animation speaking, this is one of the finest movies out there. I say this because the detail in every shot that must have been ached over in story boarding meetings come to fantastic life. I can imagine water is hard to get right but they pull it off mightily. This feature and the sweet Piper short beforehand excel in texture and shading. The grains of sand, waves of water, foam, sea-life and plants all look beautifully real.

What I found a little bum aching about this film is that it begins stretching out and even the children of the audience were restless before the third act had kicked in. Maybe it’s because it’s following the most annoying character from the first flick or perhaps it’s that thing after thing keeps happening stopping Dory getting to her goal, which as you’d expect her to get to it anyway it all begins dawning to a yawn fest as she’s tested time and time again.

The memory loss idea is fine to a point and endearingly cute when handled by the bug eyed baby Dory, but then it just keeps going, just keeps going, going, going. Hey, even silly is okay in my books, more so for animations but there’s points in this film that ideas become a tad too over the top and the whole Marine location doesn’t feel as special as it could be. It’s generally the knack of repeatedly telling us about memory, life and being good even if you’re missing of something, i.e memory that don’t need to be so often and so obvious.

I did like the weird yet well written use of Sigourney Weaver as some unseen goddess aiding the forgetful fish. The animation as mentioned is superb, the new characters are fun, from a cool camouflaging octopus to a struggling beluga whale. The moments of darkness are done well and make you near emotional as the film questions Dory’s existence but I can’t help thinking that I’ll forget this pretty soon and remember that Piper was much better than the actual full length Pixar creation.

Ellen DeGeneres is much loved in America and here she must have her fans, so I can imagine they’re loving her non stop forgetful routine and energetic enthusiasm she voices, which I like to a point but there’s a line and it gets grating quite quickly. Albert Brooks is a great worrier as Marlin and it’s nice to hear him back as the parental clown-fish. Ed O’Neill is Hank the octopus and voices cranky very well but makes him a character to still like. Fellow Modern Family actor Ty Burrell is Bailey the beluga whale with echo location problems and though he’s underused he gets some funny nervous lines and excitement nearing the end. It’s nice to see that former Nemo voice artist Alexander Gould gets a role in this movie too.

Spectacularly animated and a decent sequel, but more of something that feels like an unoriginal continuation and nothing different.

6/10

It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

It's_Such_A_Beautiful_Day_Poster

This 62 minute animation from the weirdly artistic and absurd Don Hertzfeldt is funny, philosophical and unsettling. The notions of life and the crippling fear of losing it is dealt with in a comedic yet dark way that worms into you as you watch.

There are 3 chapters to this movie as Hertzfeldt created three separate shorts before combining them all. The first segment titled ‘Everything Will Be OK’ focuses on stick-man Bill and his medical condition. The second chapter, ‘I Am So Proud of You’ sees more of Bill’s past and his Grandma too. Then ‘It’s Such a Beautiful Day’ wraps up things with Bill in hospital and coming to realise death could be taking him soon.

It’s a great hour-ish feature that involves us with a stick character, more amazingly it manages to get inside our heads about Bill losing his. Bill’s mind is getting frayed and he’s clearly losing it but he’s still engaging and as we see him do things, the film speaks out in a personal way. The grand scare of forgetting everything and moving on is dealt with a blackly comic manner but has droppings of revelations and visionary splendour.

It isn’t just stick creations and black and white, there are real life backgrounds that enhance the story. Trees or skies or cities fill the screen adding a quirky edge to the wobbly drawn lines of Bill and his world. Flashes of colour also speak volumes in actually being alarming and akin to the mental state of Bill. This narrative and the squawks of reds and oranges burst out like the disturbing nature of the ‘Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared’ videos. Bill’s life is animated at such an absurdist level that shows off the affecting thoughts life can throw up.

Hertzfeldt writes and directs and well pretty much does everything for this film. The story is great for the most part. There’s brilliantly tossed in lines about persecuting Jews, train deaths or inconvenient caskets and general quick fire comments that are random but poignant. The dark humour tag couldn’t be more right for this film, it steps into the same shady landscape of ‘Salad Fingers’ and his unsettling tone. From ex-girlfriends, literal fish heads and a tennis shoe filled with leaves, this movie paints a uniquely twisted look on heartbreak, family, life and death.

Musically this film is backed by many classical composers that do magic in making everything seem grander and more profound. The droll humour of the nonchalant narration adds another grit of sound to the collection of used car noises or screeches in the more nightmarish moments. It’s as if the voice leading the story forward is unbothered but charismatic enough to make the words stick.

If you’ve always been interested in films with a difference than this animated spin on memory, melancholia, loss and life in between should be right up your hand-drawn street. If not then check out the weirdest Simpsons couch gag by Hertzfeldt called ‘Clown in the Dumps’ to see what kind of absurd visuals I’m on about.

6.5/10

 

 

Zootropolis (2016)

zootropolisposter

Fluffy and fun, this is seriously one of the best animations from Disney I have seen. The story is captivating and more politically charged than you may expect from a cartoon about anthropomorphic animals. There’s plenty of laughs for both adults and children and it just looks so loved by the detail in every shot.

In the countryside lives Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), an enthusiastic rabbit who always wants to follow her dreams, which happen to be becoming the first cop on the force in busy Zootropolis. There she gets slung to the job of parking warden by Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) but thankfully it lets her meet cunning fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) who may just be able to help with the more alarming spate of disappearances in the city.

Disney have crafted such a rich animation with this movie, it looks absolutely incredible. It’s a very beautiful film, with lots of colour, texture and detail to draw you into this urban landscape of upright walking mammals. It’s 100% a film that warrants repeated viewing, to enjoy the fast paced fun of the story but more so to try and keep up with all the brilliant visual puns that litter the backdrop of mostly every scene. From billboards to pirate DVDs, this film is stuffed full of gags that enrich the environment of this animal world.

Jared Bush and Phil Johnston pen a wonderful screenplay that has enough heart and fun for the kids, but also clever comedy and darker subtext for the grown ups watching. Of course the message about trying and never giving up is nothing original but somehow here with all the additional writing about stereotyping animals for attacks and subjecting them to exclusion is extremely relevant to the worrying topic of what’s happening in the world right now. It’s a political angle that I never expected but gladly accepted because it makes this movie feel so much more necessary and thoughtful than prior Disney films.

Michael Giacchino provides the music, making you feel safe in his capable hands. I mean after a collection of credits such as ‘Inside Out’, ‘Super 8’ and ‘Up’ you know the score is going to be impressive, and it is exactly that. It bounces like Hopps does and it buzzes with intrigue as the mystery of the case begins counting down. On top of this is Shakira’s inclusion as a popstar Gazelle who provides an infuriating ear-worm of a song that may just rival the similarly catchy ‘Let it Go’.

Ginnifer Goodwin makes Judy Hopps come alive with bouncy enthusiasm as she tries to make it in the metropolis. So when she becomes more upset and generally droopy in the ear, her vocal performance makes that contrast more noticeable and you feel for the character. Jason Bateman is great as Nick Wilde, giving him that hustler edge but all the time you know there’s something under the fuzzy orange surface, to make him more human if you will. Idris Elba is booming and fierce as the chief of police, Tommy Chong lands in one of the weirdest yet funniest scenes as clear stoner Yax the yak. Nate Torrence is also a star of the show as an obese cheetah full of camp and admiration for Gazelle and her music.

This is such a magnificent film that serves importantly to children about the message of difference and how to treat that, it’s also funny, clever, well written, paced and animated making it one of the finer Disney releases I’ve seen. Ever.

8.5/10