Sing

singEver since Illumination hit the animation scene with ‘Despicable Me’ they have proven that they are the top competitor to the animation crown that has long been held by Disney, either on their own or with Pixar. While not always hitting perfectly, there is no denying their blossoming box office power. Such is the case with 2016’s ‘Sing’.

One of the great things about the breakthroughs in computer animation has been the ability for studios to increase their output and 2016 was just that for Illumination as they not only released ‘Sing’ but also ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ during the summer. While ‘Pets’ has the ability to appeal to both children and adults alike, ‘Sing’ was clearly designed for children first and formost.

With bright animation, tonnes of music and an easy to follow story, ‘Sing’ is a film that is destined to be played over and over again by young children in their homes, but a downfall to the film is the lack of a catchy original song. Still the domain of Disney films, a song to tell the story of a film is something that really does take away from this film.

I will say that the animation looks great, the voice casting takes nothing away from the film, and the as I mentioned, the story is easy to follow and easily does the job required of it. All of this adds up to a great kids film, but at 108 minutes, has a few moments that drags for adults.

If you have kids, this is a film that you should sit down and watch with them, and then let them watch as they will, but I highly doubt you will need more than one or two viewings to be tired of the kid-friendly-ness of ‘Sing’.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer for all this and much more. Cheers for now.

Moana

moana2To say that Disney Animation has turned the corner from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s blunders that they produced would be quite the understatement. In a year that they release a “B” movie in ‘Zootopia’ that may be the most topically accurate film of the last decade, they also release the most visually stunning animated film of all time with ‘Moana’

Telling a story of the south Pacific and Polynesia specifically, ‘Moana’ touches many cords, from great songs, altogether amazing music, simply stunning animation from both CGI and hand drawn camps, to tell an epic story of accepting mistakes and not showing a blind willingness to take things at face value.

The one thing that ‘Moana’ does do really, really well is act exactly like you would expect a Disney Animated film to act. Disney Princess (and there is even a joke in the film about this) with an animal sidekick is told what she can or cannot do, then with the advice of older female mentor character, heads off into the unknown to resolve the film’s overarching issues.

That it does so in such spectacular fashion is a testament to the writers, animators and all involved in the film. While you know exactly what you are going to be getting during the film, the way that it is presented, how it is grounded in community, how it is designed as a commentary on today’s environmental issues, are all sights to behold.

While I’m not sure if I have just been more open to ideas in the past twelve months or so, I will admit that a handful of films have just resonated with me, and ‘Moana’ is one of those films. Whether reminding us of the fact that humans are explorers, or the fact that music goes right down to the soul and that there is nothing quite like music that fits perfectly with a story, or that mythology and amazing stories are similar from across the entire globe, ‘Moana’ touches all the right cords.

I want to stay away from the voice acting because it is awesome work from all involved, but hard to not say anything about Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson singing his own song in a Disney movie as demigod Maui, or Jemaine Clement channeling David Bowie for his song as Tamatoa either. But rising above all of that is the work of young Auli’i Cravalho as the title character Moana, and not only her voice work but her work doing all of Moana’s songs as well, at least one of which will be up for an Oscar.

2016 has been a banner year, not just for Disney Animation but for Disney as a whole, and it was bookended nicely by their animated films, and ‘Moana’ is the most visually stunning of them all.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers for now.

The Good Dinosaur

tgd

I am a Pixar nut. Not quite a fanboy, but a nut. I love all of their films except one since they started making feature length films, and even that one looked damned fantastic, just didn’t nail it for me. So, with 2015 bringing us not one but two Pixar films for the first time, I was utterly ecstatic, and now, after having seen them both, I would say they got one near perfect but also one that left me wanting a little more.

As good as ‘Inside Out’ was earlier this year, and with a great message to boot, I feel like ‘The Good Dinosaur’ was a step back. What begins with a simply amazing idea of what would have happened had the great extinction meteor of 65 million years passed us by, led to a story ┬áthat ended up feeling like it was a mishmash combination of unused story elements laying around the animation office at Disney.

‘The Good Dinosaur’ is probably the best looking animated film, visuals wise, we have ever seen. The glimpses of what the animators could do at the end of ‘Monsters University’ when it ventures into the human world are fully visualized here in the background scenery. Be it a close up of a lizard, a crashing river or the acres of trees on a mountainside, we have never seen anything like this from an animated film before. Sadly, this is what the film may end up being known for.

With a great premise and the best animation we have ever seen, `The Good Dinosaur` could have been the next big groundbreaking film from Disney and Pixar, but what it winds up being is an above average cross of `The Lion King` and `Homeward Bound`, and one that never truly finds it`s own footing.

Kids will love it however, as it does try as hard as possible to tell a heartwarming story, one with some good laughs and some moments where the feels get a little too much, but one that truly never gets to that level the `Toy Story` franchise or the `Shrek` franchise that transcends being just a kiddy movie into one that is truly for the whole family.

In the end, my biggest takeaway from `The Good Dinosaur` is one of caution. Pixar and Disney are looking to release two films a year, and if it is going to be a success, they need to get closer to films like ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Toy Story 3’ for that to work, instead of films like ‘Cars’. That being said, ‘Cars 3’ scares me…

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. I promise to review more films and get back into the swing of things. Should be easy with the next trip to the theater coming in a couple of weeks with another film being released by Disney. Cheers everyone.

Minions

minions

When ‘Despicable Me’ was released in 2010 it essentially came out of nowhere and introduced another player in Illumination Entertainment to the animated film field. What it also did was introduce some yellow pill-shaped characters to the general populace in general and children in particular.

Fast forward five years and we have a spin-off prequel to ‘Despicable Me’ in ‘Minions’. Clocking in at a brisk 91 minutes, ‘Minions’ takes the titular yellow pill-shaped inelligible characters that have become a favourite of Facebook posters, and sets them in an origin film.

In the past week I have discovered just how polarizing the Minion characters have become. Many a person I have talked to despise how the Minions have been corrupted on Facebook, and others have compared them to the Penguins from ‘Madagascar’ fame, as supporting characters that work just perfectly in that role, as support, but not main characters.

Having watched ‘Minions’, I would have to agree one hundred percent with that take on the characters. What worked amazing as a silly break from the original ‘Despicable Me’, and even to a slightly lesser degree in ‘Despicable Me 2’, at times overwhelmed the film this time around.

Now, there are definitely some laughs, but for the most part ‘Minions’ is fully aimed at younger children, and I personally found that it lacked the extra dimension of also having some jokes aimed at parents. This is a hallmark of a truly successful film and as a result this film is severely lacking at times.

I do have to say that ‘Minions’ does prove yet another win this year for Universal Studios, who may be having their best year ever at the theater. Also, for Illumination Entertainment, it continues their good start to delivering animated fare as I will admit that the film does look good.

In the end, Stilt-Bob was not enough for me to fully fall in love with ‘Minions’. The film does its job of selling merchandise and toys to kids, while also giving us a throwaway bone at the end. I won’t mention what happens at the ending, but the ending at least gives us hope that there won’t be a sequel, albeit a small hope.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and also take some time to read older reviews of other films. Cheers.

Oliver &Company

o&c

One of my main goals as a person who watches films is to own all of the “canonical” Disney animated films. Well, this past week we came across ‘Oliver & Company’ on Blu-ray for ten dollars which meant that it was an immediate purchase for our upcoming Saturday night family movie time.

I need to lead with this, ‘Oliver & Company’ falls into the trap of many Disney animated films from the early-to-mid 1980’s, which is universally known as one of the two “lesser” points in their animation history. As a result of this, it is entirely geared towards children, and never has that been more evident than when we watched the film last Saturday.

Our two oldest boys were laughing and tapping their feet to the music, while myself and my fiancee were both very resigned to the fact that the film was not for us. The music is not up to par with future efforts from Disney during their “renaissance” era that would shortly follow ‘Oliver & Company’, and the jokes were not two-tiered, for both children and adults, which has become a staple of animated features from all companies in this day and age.

While presenting what one would have hoped was an interesting take on the Charles Dickens “Oliver Twist” story, ‘Oliver & Company’ was just another failed effort from the old Disney Feature Animation department during the 1980’s.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.