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.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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It took 32 years, but we finally have it: A film completely worthy of the ‘Star Wars’ mantle, a mantle that has been dragged through the mud, restored, battered, and remade, but one that has always been at the forefront of pop media since the debut of the original film back in 1977.

Yes, we did get the Prequel Trilogy starting in 1999, but they always felt like they were missing something, and J.J. Abrams has given us exactly what that was with ‘The Force Awakens’: an underdog fight.

Say what you will about the Prequels, but from ‘A Phantom Menace’ through ‘Attack of the Clones’ and up to ‘Revenge of the Sith’, they never gave us a story that the masses could get behind. Honestly, I’m not even sure if any of us even knew that this was what was missing until seeing the new film.

‘Star Wars’ requires a strong, ever-present dark side to balance out what is essentially a coming of age story for our heroes and their discovery of the The Force. All three of the Original Trilogy films had an out-in-the-open big bad and the Resistance resonated with the general audience all the more for it.

With that little background information behind us, let us finally get to the meat of this little blurb. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is just simply a fantastic blockbuster film. It is not perfect, and there are a few things I that I could nitpick but I won’t for a while, but it is damned entertaining, and is a great example of how to tell a story.

You may run into some people that will lament that ‘The Force Awakens’ comes across as a shot for shot remake of ‘A New Hope’, and as a result will also begin to tear into Abrams’ reboot of ‘Star Trek’ from 2009. Don’t listen to these people. Yes, there are some similarities between the very original Star Wars film from back in 1977 and this year’s release, but that is bound to happen, as there was clearly a story that work and Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan went back to scratch from.

Of course, with any film this big, this anticipated, and under a microscopic lense from day one like ‘The Force Awakens’ was, there are bound to be a couple of slip ups, and the biggest, as far as I am concerned, was the casting as Adam Driver as the big bad, Kylo Ren. Spoilers will prevent me from diving into this right now, but this is the one major item that I wish could have been improved upon.

On the flip side of the coin, I think we are seeing the debut of the next big name actress as Daisy Ridley is the star of this film. We are left with some big questions as to just who Ridley’s character, Rey, is, but this was a masterstroke from Abrams and Kasdan, even if neither is returning in a writing role for the next two films to come. These questions will surely be the carrot to the horse for the story of Episode VIII in 2017, and I for one cannot wait to see how that plays out.

Ridley has the ability to give a complete range to her character, and most of that is built on her eyes, which is nicely tied into the film during the second act, to the point where you ask if she was cast to fit the role or if the role was adjusted to her. Either way, Ridley’s Rey is the character that the Sequel Trilogy will be tied to.

As good as Rey was and as much as I wish that Kylo Ren could have been a tad different, ‘The Force Awakens’ is stolen by the returning Han Solo and Chewbacca. Harrison Ford seems like he has been waiting for the past 30 years for this film, and be it true or not, appears to be having a sincerely great time returning to one of the two roles that made him a household name.

His chemistry with our favourite Wookie, Chewie, has never been better than it is in the new film, and the way that they play off of each other allows the film to move from the first act into the third, and provide not only the film’s key doses of nostalgia, but also the necessary torch passing to not only Ridley’s Rey, but also to John Boyega’s Finn.

At the end of the day, the easiest way to describe ‘The Force Awakens’ is this way: take everything that you love about the Original Trilogy, couple it with today’s CGI, motion capture and special effects, add some well placed nostalgia, sprinkle in enough new blood, and what will you get? A new generation’s epic sci-fi space opera. Exactly what we all hoped for 16 years ago, we just may not have been ready for it yet.

I will do a further review after the next time I have seen ‘The Force Awakens’, one replete with spoilers, but ones that will allow me to properly explain all of my thoughts.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Also, take a moment to peruse my past reviews, and let me know what you agree or disagree with. Cheers all.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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2014 was a year of change for me, and part of that change resulted in a scaling back of how many movies I saw, both in the theater and at home. One of those films to get pushed by the wayside as a result of this was the reboot of the 1980’s parody styled, cult comic book, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

While the characters have spawned numerous TV shows, two different film franchises and other media, there is nothing quite like what happens when rights to characters are sold to a new company, and that is exactly what happened when kiddie-TV company Nickelodeon bought the rights to the Turtles in 2009.

Eager to capitalize on the current trend of comic book/toy/board game/anything from the 1980’s being made into films, Nickelodeon found an eager partner in Paramount and producer Michael Bay, and lo and behold, here we have what might be the worst of all five of the Turtles movies that have been released to date. The key part there is “to date” as this reboot is getting a sequel next year.

To put it bluntly, 2014’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is a mess. From Megan Fox’s “acting”, to Will Arnett’s gravely voice miscast as a TV cameraman, to Shredder’s armor, this film is one bad scene after another filled with director Jonathan Liebesman’s vision of a Michael Bay ‘Transformers’ film, but fleshed out with talking turtles instead.

As one should expect when Michael Bay is involved though, the visuals are the best part of this movie, and with that being said, I don’t have any issues with how the actual turtles looked, it was an interesting take on using the trend of motion capture to allow CGI animators the chance to give us four distinct characters in shape and size and not just characterization.

In the end, as much as I wanted to hate this movie from the reviews and word of mouth about it, and regardless of how much I love the Turtles characters and wanted to love this idea, I could do neither. ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ just ends ups as another average run of the mill film that we seem to be getting from big budget Hollywood lately.

It will be interesting to see what 2016’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ brings, but I will not be holding my breath for anything different.

At least the Turtles didn’t end up being aliens…

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and take a peak back at the old list of reviews and see if there is something that peeks your interest. If you disagree, feel free to let me know. Cheers everyone.

The Good Dinosaur

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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  that 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.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One

kinopoisk.ru

kinopoisk.ru

The final Harry Potter book, “The Deathly Hallows”, ended up being broken up into two films, and after seeing both films for a second time, this definitely has ended up seeming to be a cash grab by Warner Bros., one that they have become quite familiar with over the years.

I need to be honest here, as ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One’ was the first Harry Potter film that I ever saw. I know that this seems weird, and it probably is, but I saw this film in theaters as a way to get a free ride home from a visit at a friend’s place over an hour away from my home. The fact that I saw this with the woman that would become my girlfriend just a couple of weeks later has never been lost on me, and I know it carries a special place in her heart five years later.

That being said, upon an in timeline viewing of ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ is the most bloated, over-blown film of the series since ‘Chamber of Secrets’ was filmed as a book-to-screen literal translation. The weakest of the four films directed by David Yates, ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ suffers as a result of far too much exposition, too many scenes of sitting around and waiting, and an overall dullness that does a disservice to the start of the film.

Opening up with a scene which shows the great lengths that the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix will go to keep Harry alive, we see an interesting battle between Harry and Voldemort, a prelude to the series finale we will see in the final film. After this, we get to see a wedding, an attempt to return to the normalcy of life, one that does not end well and finally puts our main three characters, Harry, Hermione and Ron, on the run from Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and the Ministry of Magic.

As the film progress, it slows down to a snail’s pace, in what can only be considered a full on attempt to justify splitting the final book into two films. Eventually, ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ finds its footing again as it builds to its “climax”, the splitting of the story, in a pair of scenes that will not reveal their full truths until the bitter end.

In between, we see the effects of the recently acquired Horcrux on all the main characters, but mainly on Ron, where he sets of on his own from Harry and Hermione, and in the end, with his destruction of this Horcrux, literally comes face-to-face with his worst fear and overcomes it.

With the destruction of a third Horcrux, Voldemort feels he is becoming ever more vulnerable and heads off to find the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in existence and one of the fabled Deathly Hallows. This is how ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ ends, with Voldemort in possession of the one wand that he believes will allow him to kill Harry Potter and live forever.

The beginning and end of ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ are strong, essentially rivaling any other film of the series, but the middle part, which drags like only the first two films do, hurts the overall caliber of the film. I wonder what a full single ‘Deathly Hallows’ would have looked like and if the splitting of the story was truly needed.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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The Harry Potter series continues with the sixth instalment, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’. ‘Half-Blood Prince’ deals with the realization that Lord Voldemort has dealt with horcruxes in a bid to cheat death and reign supreme over the wizarding world.

Along with this plot thread, we also start to see how Dumbledore is willing to use Harry and his “celebrity status” as the possible Chosen One to further his investigation into what he sees as artifacts of Voldemort’s youth.

‘Half-Blood Prince’ also gives us a final decision on the see-saw nature of Severus Snape’s allegiances, as he undertakes the Unbreakable Vow with Draco Malfoy’s mother, in order to complete Draco’s killing of Albus Dumbledore should he fail to do so himself. While very in line with his “double agent” role in the series, his story ultimately leads to the films defining moment, when Snape follows through with this on a weakened Dumbledore.

The rest of the film deals with the final realization that a young Tom Riddle used former, and now present again, Potions teacher Horace Slughorn to learn how to create Horcruxes, and how Dumbledore and Harry will need to eliminate those items in order to defeat Lord Voldemort in the end.

The second film from David Yates, ‘Half-Blood Prince’ succeeds due to the continuation of having a consistent vision from the same director as the previous film, ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’. As a result of this, ‘Half-Blood Prince’ is a stronger film than the story may have originally allowed. Essentially, this film is told to just further the story, and at times feels that is in place to just get us to the last story, which is split into two films.

Character development is a shining star in ‘Half-Blood Prince’, as Ron Weasley gets, and loses, his first girlfriend, which as a result finally forces Hermione Granger to come to terms with her feelings for Ron, something that fully plays out during the next film. We also see Dumbledore come to terms with his mortality, the way that Snape is seemingly torn by his role as a Death Eater, and that Harry is growing more and more into is role as the most important wizard of his age as he takes on more responsibility throughout the film.

In the grand scheme of things, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ suffers overall from its place in the series, but is saved by the continued vision of David Yates who directs the last four films in the series, and also from strong character development.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and if you are so inclined, check out older reviews on films you may be interested in. Cheers.