Tag Archives: Disney

Toy Story 4 – Review

When Toy Story 4 was announced, there were a fair few grumbles from folk who had grown up with the series (myself included.) Toy Story 3 was the perfect finale – saying goodbye to our old friends with all the tears in the whole wide world fall down our cheeks. With a nod of his hat and a big ole; “So long partner,” we’d put our toys to bed so to speak. Chapter closed, franchised finished, and toys treasured.

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The resurrection of the franchise a seven or so years later seemed unnecessary. In spite of this, Toy Story 4 came out of the holster packing a huge, big question that has loomed over the franchise: What makes a toy – a toy?

This all rested on the pipe-cleaner shoulders of an animated spork named Forky. Set not long after the events of 3, this latest entry sees Woody newly abandoned in the wardrobe, no longer picked by Bonnie to play.  Determined to show that he is still a toy that matters, Woody sneaks into a Kindergarten Orientation day where Bonnie builds a new friend – the aforementioned Forky. However, Forky is meant to be trash so he is constantly trying to run away from the girl. Woody tries to save the day but an old familiar face could change his perspective on his purpose as a toy…

With Toy Story 4, Pixar have yet again shown how exquisite their animation is. Progressing over these past few decades, the studio have perfected every single detail. From the rendering on the hair to the glassy-eyed reflections in dolls, the scenes and the toys are impeccable drawn. It’s a wonder of colour and adventure.

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However, this latest instalment is a disappointment. The whole story and script feels borrowed from the other entries. Since Toy Story 2, the plot has gone like so: Woody finds himself in a place he’s never been before, a friendly/familiar face convinces him that this life is better than being with his child, and a character who starts of pretty amicable turns into a villain. Woody has a revelation and the fate of the toys are at his whim. There’s new hilarious characters voiced by actors who were huge in the eighties and nineties, there is a threat of death (or whatever death toys can have in a movie such as this,) and, badabing badaboom, you have  Toy Story film. The entire fourth movie feels so exhausting and there isn’t the same connection as the previous entries.

The introduction of Forky is exciting. Voiced by Arrested Development’s Tony Hale, Forky is definitely a personification of a whole world of adults who believe themselves as “trash.”  Not only that, but his existential crisis was a big draw and offered so many questions: Why are the toys sentient and what does it mean to be alive? These questions are brushed over in the first third, creating a muddled second and third one where the different points of views are confused together. It’s frustrating because there are strong ones too; Woody’s own conflict verses Forky’s huge debate added with an old friend in new circumstances. On their own, they make for riveting stuff but they never quite gel with one another.

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Sure, Toy Story 4 tugged at the heart strings and you’ll be hard pushed to find folk with a dry eye at the finale. There’s also new voice-work from Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, and Christine Hendricks (whose quasi-villain is creepy enough to be threatening, especially with her helper ventriloquist dolls.) The film has some great comedy in it too such and it’s worth sticking around to the end of the credits for the best payoff in the whole series.

But Toy Story 4 isn’t as impressive as the other outings. It’s like going on an incredible holiday with your best friends. It is such a good time that you want to replicate that magic the next year, and the next, and the next. At some point, it is going to get weary and you are going to become a little bit more jaded about your favourite holiday.

There is great, crowd-pleasing stuff here. Unfortunately, the rest is just fluff.

Toy Story 4 is out in cinemas now. 

Aladdin – Review

Disney live-action remakes are a scourge of the film industry. Not one has been enjoyable on it’s own merits, feeding off nostalgia to make a few quick bucks. The highly unnecessarily practise adopted by the word’s biggest studio has produced mediocre films that fail to capture the magic and imagination of the animation that proceeded it.

So expectations for this new Aladdin were entirely on the floor, not helped by nearly everyone feeling a strong affiliation to the late great Robin Williams’ and his crazed blue genie from the first film as well as the fact they’d hired action-director Guy Ritchie to tackle the adaptation.

Surprisingly, Aladdin may just be one of Disney’s better remakes (Cinderella still being the best one.)

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Aladdin revolves around the titular street urchin who steals and robs on the streets of Agrabah. One day he meets a young woman and instantly falls in love only to find out she is Princess Jasmine and she can only marry a Princess. Despite being a petty thief, Aladdin has a heart of gold and is used by wicked Royal Vizier Jafar to hunt for a magical lamp. There Aladdin discovers the magical genie and soon uses his wishes to get closer to Jasmine… But Jafar’s dastardly plan isn’t far behind.

Ritchie has pulled the rabbit out of his hat and given us a colourful and enjoyable spectacle. The film is a fresh-breath of air – a colourful and musical ride that is filled with adventure and soul. It’s not just the classic (and new) songs that get you tapping along and fully invested in the films – it’s the great direction and the undeniable spirit that flows through the film.

This is largely down to it’s two leads – Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine. Massoud nails what makes Aladdin such a brilliant character. Dapper, charming, but with a heroic heart at the beginning (and, sorry, with a smile that’ll melt your cold soul,) Massoud is wonderful and charming, giving the audiences a fun and dashing character to root for.

But it is British actress Naomi Scott that wears the crown in this film. Scott’s Jasmine is how you excellently update characters to this modern world (I’m looking at you Emma Watson’s Belle.) Jasmine is headstrong but also kind, and her relationship with Aladdin is second to her determination to help her people and country. She also gets her own song and it is a beautiful belter of a track.

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Admittedly, Aladdin is dull in places. It’ll take audiences a few moments to adjust to the new movie as the lead character parkours through his city set to a new take of Alan Menkin’s songs. Will Smith definitely has a harder job at paying homage to Williams’ famous role whilst making it his own. He can be successful in this but there is a distinct lack of energy in places. Plus, they took away Jafar’s villainous reprise – which is unforgiveable.

Also, it is worth mentioning that the film is framed like a Bollywood movie in places. Aladdin is famously set in Arabia and whilst the city of Agrabah is fictional, it would’ve been nicer to pay true homage to Arabic cultures then borrowing what they can from any Asian background. It’s pretty to look at but does feel a little rotten.

Rest assured that the strength of the leads, especially Naomi Scott’s head-strong and determined Princess Jasmine, carry the film to excellence. Energetic, colourful, and with brand new songs to fall in love with, Aladdin triumphed where it was expected to fail. And whilst it isn’t flawless, it is definitely a diamond in the rough.

Aladdin is out in cinemas now! 

Incredibles 2 – Review

Pixar has had a pretty shaky history of sequels. Their results have wavered. On the bad side are movies such as Monsters University and Cars 2 which have been mediocre productions. On the great, fantastic side we have the Toy Story Trilogy. Pixar always seem better at creating standalone features and any progress seemed to fail with average results.

So when they announced a follow-up to the super-hero animation Incredible , there was trepidation alongside the jubilation; will it ever live up to the original?

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Despite being 14 years since the first outing, Incredibles 2 picks up where we left off. After a school outing, a supervillain named The Underminer threatens to take over the city. The family of superheroes spring into action to stop him but their heroics come at a price; powered people are still outlawed and the government are already persecuting The Parrs. However, they are approached by a billionaire marketing manager who wants to bring supers back into the limelight, starting with sending Elastigirl on daring missions. Leaving Bob (or Mr Incredibles) to look after the family, the new dynamics put strain on the family. And what’s more, having superheroes back at the forefront could bring along more dangers…Can The Incredibles save the day once more.

With many people practically begging for a sequel to this powered animation from Pixar, there has been so much hype around the movie. Sadly, the movie doesn’t quite reach the stellar heights of the first film and there are plot redundancies and repetitive story-telling.

Incredibles 2 contains some great animated sequences here, particularly with the introduction of new superheroes such as Voyd or He-Lectrix showcasing some brand new astonishing talents. The action is terrific work, making you entirely excited throughout them. There’s also the funnier and more tender sequences with Bob looking after the family. Though he struggles to get used to his new place as a “homemaker,” it’s sweet to see him really try so Helen can succeed. There’s also funnier moments with Jack-Jack as he discovers his multitude of powers, offering some hilarious battles of will (particularly with a rogue raccoon.)

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It’s the story that is really lacking here. The overly familiar plot doesn’t string the above great components well enough together. There are times where the humour or interactions fall flat and you can find your mind-wondering more often than you’d like. It’s not that Incredibles 2 isn’t good, it just isn’t great or phenomenal and marks yet another somewhat lapse in Pixar’s sequel history.

Of course the voice-acting those pretty well, though Samuel L. Jackson is definitely underused here. Also, inconsequential sidebar, his infamous wife? Her one and only line is in the trailer and it’s a shame they didn’t truly monopolise on her cult fame just a little bit more.

With these disappointments in mind, Incredibles 2 does well enough to be an entertaining romp that will take your mind off falling about politics and losing some sporting games. Fun for all the family, Incredibles 2 is a good weekend summer treat.

Incredibles 2 is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!
To celebrate, check out this deleted scene!


Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge – Review

Remember when Pirates of the Caribbean was exciting? I do. I remember being heading to the cinemas at the age of 14, one of my first cinema experiences, and finding myself overwhelmed with joy. The sea-faring escapade was devilishly good with a terrific villain in Captain Barbosa, special and creepy effects, adventure scenes that are amazing, and Jack Sparrow – a hilarious intoxicated anti-hero pirate who you couldn’t help but love. It was exhilarating and timeless, an enjoyable romp for all ages and one that would stay with me for years after.

Sadly, all of that is ruined in the lacklustre fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film which is pure nautical nonsense.

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Salazar’s Revenge is exactly what you’d expected from a fifth Pirates film but all you never wanted: Johnny Depp’s drunken lout Captain Jack Sparrow has found himself in a spot of bother yet again. After losing his ship, his crew, and all his cash, yet again, he winds up selling his magical compass to get drunk, again. This awakens an old dead spirit called Salazar who pursues any pirate ship without mercy until he can get his vengeance on Sparrow. The only way he can escape is to find Poseidon’s Trident with the help of Henry Turner and Carina Smyth, two young’uns inducted into swash-buckling pirate-dom.

Yar, beware, there be spoilers beyond this point!

Salazar’s Revenge is complete and utter tosh, two hours of a strained and repetitive plot, offering nothing new to the franchise. The film consists of all the same elements; a ghostly villain, a drunken Sparrow, some daring escape scenes, and, of course, pirates. The story is a simple premise spread over 130 minutes which, by the way, you’ll watch tick away from your life. The jokes are neither innovative or funny, landing at the bottom of the sea and drowning in the abyss of tedium, whilst the characters are just two dimensional imitations of better ones including (and especially,)  Captain Jack , because what was once an Academy Award nominated character (no, really,) has become an obtuse joke much like Johnny Depp, who has taken to hiding behind his caricatures and fading away from a favourable public eye. There is nothing of interest here, flapping in the wind like a soiled Jolly Roger and jokes stalled like a ship without a sail. Not even the addition of Javier Bardem as the titular, relentless, evil can save the movie, with his lines becoming mumbled garble you’d barely understand.

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Female representation has become tricky in fantasy adventure movies and it is certainly shocking within Pirates of the Caribbean. Our leading female character Carina, played by Kaya Scodelario, is a head-strong, vibrant woman who likes astrology and can save the day herself, thank you very much. This would be a great character, if Scodelario could fill the roll with a might as fierce as Knightley who’d come before her but she fails to embody Carina and her dialogue delivery falls short, dulled to a monotone. Carina is also forced into a romance with Will Turner’s son Henry and with little to no chemistry throughout the film, this pairing feels off. Secondly, having this limp attempt at a rounded female character is immediately counteracted by having every other woman a stereotype. A “trollop” wooed by Jack, an ugly woman who we all must laugh at for wanting to marry Jack, and a witch in literally two scenes make up the rest of the female cast. Neither of them talk to each other, and, what’s worse, when Keira Knightley returns as Elizabeth Swan, she has zero words. It’s shocking and completely foolish for a film released in 2017. Do better Disney.

Tiring, tedious, and terrible, absolutely no one involved feels like they are having a good time, and you won’t either.

Just because it bares repeating, Salazar’s Revenge will have you begging; “do better Disney.”

Do better.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is out May 26th 

Moana – Brand New Trailer!

As I write this, there is torrential rain pouring down the outside of my window and the sky is a forbidding shade of grey. All in all, I consider myself very fortunate that there are plenty of bright, colourful trailers to chase away my blues, such as the latest offering from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Moana.

The trailer is everything the weather here isn’t, full of bright sunshine and iridescent blues to chase away the cold, upcoming winter. Complimenting the stunning visuals are wonderful character designs and some fantastic acting by both Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli’l Cravalho as they travel together to save their people.

The jokes flow like the tides of the ocean, incredibly subtle in the telling, but able to leave you out of your depth if you don’t pay close attention.

Moana looks set to be the warmest film of the winter. Here’s hoping it lives up to its potential.

Moana is in cinemas November 23rd!

Zootropolis – DVD & Blu-Ray Review

Disney are certainly on a high this year. The relentless dream-makers who have been making our childhoods complete have soared with endless hits this year following from the Christmas phenomenon that was Star Wars. Between the return of a galaxy far, far away to the impending Finding Dory movie, no studio has had the great success that Disney have had this year (with the exception of Alice Through the Looking Glass because that was terrible.)

Zootropolis is based on the idea that humans never existed and therefore animals have built cities and become anthropomorphic…. (Though, if we never existed, they wouldn’t be called anthropomorphic, would they?). Anyway, there’s a rabbit cop trying to do her best in order to catch a fox who is slyly trying to escape her. But on their journeys together, they find that there is a much more sinister plot at hand that could threaten to sanctity of their city.

Zootropolis is a greatly imagined and fleshed out (furred out?) story that encompasses a large world of imagination. With gigantic and small characters interacting with each other, the team at Disney have rightly envisioned the scale of the inhabitants within the vibrant city. The kinetic energy of the titular place resonates the nature of different beast living un-wildly together with purpose, love, and friendship, captured in the stunning and colourful look of the film. Enhancing from this, Zootropolis has added spectacular detail to the animal design that makes the anthropomorphic critters look completely real. With each hair design crucially crafted to the last follicle, a lot of passionate artistry went into lovingly developing the animals.

The animal-ation imbues the story with a glorious charm but it’s the themes and tale that are vital here. On the surface, this is a film about a rambunctious bunny who wishes to make it in the big city as a police officer and has the aid of a sly fox equally trying to make waves on the town, though in a much more criminal manne. But within this plot, the writers showcase the prejudice and racism that can happen in the most idyllic of places. The different species don’t peacefully cohabitate with one another and the line between prey and predator is still there no matter how forward thinking an animal is. An echo of the world’s climate at the moment, Zootropolis serves as a revelation of how prejudice can sever and alter a harmonious world. The clear underbelly of hate that demonises placated predators is manipulated by media and politics within this world and soon riots and protests begin to rampage whilst a sinister plot plays puppet-master behind the scenes. Urging the audience to see passed differences, Zootropolis becomes a perfect education for folks unable to see similarities, love, and family within multi-cultures.

Zootropolis is a daring, complex, funny, and entertaining film that is full of quips and a noir-like unfurling crime plot. Ginnifer Godwin and Jason Batemen play opposing creatures who find common ground and their voice work is terrific from the chipper Judy to the wry and sarcastic Nick. They lead a rambunctious cast that includes Jenny Slate, Idris Elba, and J.K. Simmons. A wonderful family film, Zootropolis is a Disney classic with purpose.