Finding Dory (2016)

FInding Dory

Pixar filmmakers aren’t immune to the idea that all children’s films need morals, they’re just very creative about how they teach it. In 2003 Finding Nemo became a $900 million box-office smash by scolding overprotective parents, encouraging kids to pursue their dreams and gently suggesting that disabilities aren’t the same as limitations. The sequel Finding Dory narrows in on this idea with a story of coping with disability and despair, and then succeeding on your own terms. Writer-director Andrew Stanton and co-director Angus MacLane have delivered a heart-warming masterpiece thirteen years later, encouraging kids to believe in themselves.

We’re all familiar with Finding Nemo’s transoceanic voyage and the Pacific regal blue tang with severe memory disillusions, but Finding Dory digs deeper into her vulnerabilities when random associations trigger memories of her lost parents. Dory frantically attempts to reunite with her missing kin, fuelling her determination with forgotten memories of her childhood. She doesn’t remember her parents, or how she lost them, but piece by piece, her past slowly starts to come together. Dory, Marlin and Nemo encounter many comical characters during their pursuit of Dory’s parents, including break out star Hank, a cranky seven-limbed octopus who is naturally a master of camouflage. Dory’s journey is so action-packed, we hardly pause to breathe throughout it.

Given the looseness of the plot- a one-thing-leads-to-another quest periodically backtracking in circles, the weight of the story lies heavily on the characters rather than plot development. As most sequels go, this film is filled with hilarious one-liners and lots of hidden empathy, but is perhaps too action-packed for a sequel to its emotionally teeming counterpart.  The colourful characters don’t hide the fact that when compared to Finding Nemo, this film is portraying a story less ambitious and less emotionally intense. Ellen DeGeneres is so brilliant as the comic relief, but she often struggles to hit the dramatic notes Dory requires. And Stanton’s script is cleverly built around flashbacks, but the frantic back and forth action rarely integrates organically with the rest of the story. Nonetheless, Finding Dory is visually stunning and you’ll most likely be laughing way too much to think about the plot – this film is seriously funny!

So although Finding Dory doesn’t quite manage to reach the heights of Finding Nemo, it is a lovely experience for those riding the Pacific Ocean currents for the first time, and a nice nostalgic for those of us returning. The post-end credits epilogue is amusing enough to stick around for, and the six-minute Pixar short Piper is entirely charming – animated with an exceptional degree of photo-realism. Finding Dory is definitely worth the nine dollar ticket and an entertaining flick I would gladly watch again in the near future.

★★★☆☆

Advertisements

The Book Thief – Courage Beyond Words (2013)

book-thief-clips-10282013-004517

The Book Thief is a very successful novel written by Markus Zusak that captured the hearts of over eight million readers worldwide. Director Brain Percival has undeniably captured the same courage, irony, horror and humanity of the original pages in this stunning film adaptation. The Book Thief is an impactful historical drama filled with impressive performances, comedic relief and tear-jerking scenes that will have you fumbling for a tissue.

The Book Thief is set in War stricken Germany between 1939 and 1943 and is narrated by Death, who illustrates with perplexity the seemingly strange way humans conduct themselves. Death tells the story of nine-year old Liesel Meminger, who he introduces when her younger brother dies on a train to the fictional town of Molching, Germany. A kind and affectionate working-class painter, Hans, and his strict but caring wife Rosa adopt Liesel into their childless home. Hans instantly commits to teaching his grief-stricken daughter to read and write after an incident at school labeling the girl as illiterate. With all the constant horror surrounding her, the bright girl manages to escape in words and language, all the while learning to read, write and smuggle books.

Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are well cast as Rosa and Hans Hubermann. Geoffrey Rush brings his usual command of humor and dramatic authority, making him one of the most sympathetic characters. He constantly radiates kindness, consideration and encouragement, especially towards Liesel. Emily Watson captures the dark and relentless character of Rosa with stability and domination, making her a personality hard to fall in love with. Rosa is sharp-tongued, rigid and impatient to all those around her, a clear reflection of the original novel character. Ultimately the undeniable horror of losing her home and her loved ones exposes Rosa’s inner warmth and fondness for her infuriating husband and adopted daughter.

The film delivers quality acting, mesmerizing settings as well as humor weaved carefully throughout the heartbreaking events. Overall, The Book Thief is a rewarding and emotional film with heart, celebration of language and a reminder that in times of utter madness there is always a silver lining.

Last Vegas – It’s Going to be Legendary (2013)

Last-Vegas

I haven’t posted in a while but now that the New Year has begun I’ll be posting a review every Monday for all of my readers. Thank you again for your support!

Starring four legends like you’ve never seen them before. Last Vegas stars well-known Academy Award winners Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline. If you loved The Hangover and The Bucket List than you might look fondly upon Jon Turtletaub’s indulgent, high-concept comedy about a group of rapidly aging childhood best friends living it large in Sin City.

Faded Brooklyn buddies Billy, Archie, Sam and Paddy reunite in Las Vegas after 58 years of friendship to celebrate the much-anticipated wedding of their ring leader Billy. He’s a long-lived bachelor who has finally decided to get hitched with a fair-skinned beauty half his age, not surprising when you notice his coppery skin, silk shirts and mostly invisible insecurities. The old buddies embark on a weekend through the fantasy world of modern-day Las Vegas, whistling at young girls by the pool, gambling and drinking alcohol to their heart’s content.

Morgan Freeman plays the wily gentleman Archie, a naturally gifted gambler who struggles with his health to the point where he’s not entirely intact with his sons family. Robert De Niro smiles rarely, so naturally he’s cast as the killjoy of the group. De Niro reveals his tough side once again and proves that despite his age, he’s still got it. Michael Douglas is cast as the privileged, charming old dimwit who’s terrified of growing old. Kevin Kline elevates the film with his provisional failure, carrying the notion that he is terribly worn down. Kline manages to downplay every scene and line, timing punchline moments to advance his character’s wit. Thankfully, a soulful performance from Mary Steenburgen, an older night club singer, provides the film with at least a little heart. I suppose the film would have had edge if the characters had really been prepared to misbehave.

Despite the frequent humorous moments, Last Vegas isn’t a film I am fond of neither a film that I would recommend you watching.There are extraordinary scenes that I won’t describe, except to say they were terribly written, ridiculous but somehow painfully funny. The film faded from my memory instantly once the credits rolled, much to say that Last Vegas is simply a mockery of previous successful films based in Sin City, like The Hangover.

Last Vegas is a ninety minute picture with a few bright moments, starring the actors you like in a comedy of unmeasured proportion.

★☆☆☆

Gravity – Don’t Let Go (2013)

Just in from Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuaron comes this outstanding Science fiction thriller. With no stronghold of fantasy, the film is simple and engaging throughout. Gravity is outstanding from a cinematography perspective complete with raw acting and perfect tone. But at the same time the story line is fairly slow, lacking pace and often sub-plots. The film is attractive yet alarming, elaborate yet gigantic and specific yet astronomically engaging. It’s directly a survival story set in outer space with no glamour, aliens or automated robots, just pure humanity.

Gravity opens with a speck in the darkness that grows into an exceptionally vivid shot that seemingly lasts forever. The Earth’s spectrum is captured from over 500 km in outer space where there are a number of trained astronauts working tirelessly in a space station. The focus shifts primarily to a skillful medical engineer by the name of Dr. Ryan Stone who is busy fixing an exterior spacecraft malfunction. A veteran astronaut on his final mission accompanies her out on the spaceship, clowning around and cracking jokes. All of a sudden the pair are informed of debris traveling from a nearby space station propelling towards them. The rest of the film is their detailed struggle for survival.

Gravity only features two living and breathing actors, Just in from Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuaron comes this outstanding Science fiction thriller. With no stronghold of fantasy, the film is simple and engaging throughout. Gravity is outstanding from a cinematography perspective complete with raw acting and perfect tone. But at the same time the story line is fairly slow, lacking pace and often sub-plots. The film is attractive yet alarming, elaborate yet gigantic and specific yet astronomically engaging. It’s directly a survival story set in outer space with no glamour, aliens or automated robots, just pure humanity.

The Notebook – Behind every great love is a great story (2004)

I decided to review a fairly old romance, however this movie is my one of my favourite films of all time. Everything about this film is magnificent and no matter how many times I watch it, it still brings tears to my eyes.

Young lovers Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun find themselves in a fast tracked passionate summer romance and, after years of separation created by Class differences and the World War, the lovers unexpectedly reunite. The film is distinctly photographed and the simple filming techniques create a thrillingly atmospheric twist on ordinary romance.

In nowadays time in a nursing home, a man named James Garner desperately tries to rekindle the memory of a woman who is suffering from Alzheimer’s by reading a notebook to her every single day. The story tells the story of two young lovers by the names of Allie and Noah, who accidentally fall in love despite their different backgrounds and beginnings. She’s a rich girl with class and nobility and he is a dirt poor mill worker.

Rachel McAdams who plays lovestruck Allie Hamilton is unbelievably real and graceful and her counterpart Ryan Gosling is a handsome, incredibly vulnerable charmer who easily wins the heart of every female audience member.

This film follows a straightforward love story pattern, based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks. You will find the exquisite sunset, birds drifting through the sky, rain filled romantic evenings, but at its core it has wonderful performances that bring depth, courage and beauty to the filming masterpiece.

Despicable Me 2 – More minions, more despicable (2013)

If you like adorable animated films then this is a perfect movie for you. The entire movie overflows with quirky comedy and impressive animation. Despicable Me 2 picks mostly where the original ended, this time exploring the characters more deeply and uncovering hidden secrets as the movie progresses. Pierre Coffin directs yet another hit animation film but Despicable Me 2 sticks to a nicer only slightly evil sequel.

Steve Carrel returns as Gru, the villain turned loving parent of his three adopted little girls in the new minion filled sequel. Since parting with his life of stealing precious objects in the first movie, Gru has accustomed himself to a joyful life with his new family. It is however, Gru’s dormant evil persona that attracts attention of the Anti-villain league. A new threat has emerged that is seemingly positioned in the mall, a playground for Gru and his sidekick agent Lucy, who perhaps fall in love, unpredictable I know.

El Macho voiced by Benjamin Bratt is a potentially great and very interesting villain embodied with hairy-chested masculinity and a Lucho mask. Unfortunately he doesn’t become a daunting enemy until later. Dr. Nefario voiced by Russel Brand and the squabbling Minions are the highlight of the movie because events and actions centre on their emotions. Gru’s love interest Lucy does have her unforgettable moments and Gru is the more improved, recently emotion filled character we know and love.

DreamWorks introduces humour excellently that will entertain both parents and children without drawing offence or any inappropriate behaviour. The plot suffers occasionally from overpowering predictability, but there’s no refusing that Despicable Me 2 does a great job of appealing to anyone searching for indestructible characters and enormous robots. The minions never mature and the film uncovers a hidden side to the three adorable daughters. It’s a fantastic animated film that all ages can enjoy.

Now You See Me – Look Closer (2013)

“The closer you look, the less you see” reveals Atlas, a professional magician who specialises in misdirection. This begins an unstoppable quest to uncover unique illusions, true friendships and unpredictable misjudgments. It might seem illogical with each passing minute but this fast and risky heist film is a tremendously clever and highly unpredictable story.

A mysterious hoodie-covered individual has assembled an incredibly talented team of magicians to unleash a large stage show that takes Las Vegas by storm. The Four Horsemen are most powerful when they mess with the minds of their oblivious audiences. Unexpectedly their signature trick is robbing money on stage in full view of their audience. Both the FBI and Interpol make it their responsibility to uncover the strange schemes of the quartet and capture them before they pull of anything too big to handle.

Director Louis Leterrier has collected a charming group of actors who perform exceptionally well in combination with humor, illusions and deception. Atlas is the unofficial leader of the quartet, an annoying control freak. Jessie Eisenberg plays the role of Atlas superbly under pressure with no noticeable effort. His former magic assistant Henley, played by the stunning Isla Fisher, is a famous escape artist who easily draws in all male attention. Merritt is both a clever mentalist and a professional brain drainer. Woody Harrelson is the best match, filled with wit and mental strength required for the role. Jack used to make a living off street performing however he now stands as the fastest man in the team. Dave Franco returns to the big screen with flying colours, proving that he’s capable to pull of a massive role with wit and ingenuity.

Now You See Me is a must-watch film filled with incredible stunts and performances that will have you constantly on the edge of your seat. Now You See Me is a cinematic illusion performed with much razzle dazzle and no regard for reality. The film is only increasingly better with the addition of a well-cast ensemble including Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo. Make it a priority to watch this film, it is spectacular from start to finish and the big reveal is guaranteed to blow you away!

☆☆