Tag Archives: movie reviews

Feature Presentation: Trolls

Trolls_(film)_logoTrolls starring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Funches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, and Quvenzhane Wallis

DreamWorks Animation/Hurwitz Creative, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: When the ghoulish Bergens invade the Troll Village to steal its citizens for their annual Trollstice Feast, Princess Poppy recruits fellow villager/hermit/doomsday prepper Branch to journey to Bergen Town to rescue her friends.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this movie, but it was definitely girlier than I anticipated. Maybe it was something about the metallic trolls farting glitter or the hugging/singing/dancing nature of the trolls themselves. Sadly, even Branch’s depressed mood and color scheme didn’t do much in the way of making it less girly. Nonetheless, the film’s upbeat energy and the character’s happy-go-lucky attitude is truly infectious even in the most dire of circumstances. Poppy’s self-confidence and positivity sharply contrasts with Branch’s curmudgeonly demeanor, even when he agrees to help Poppy save her friends from certain doom. The Bergens themselves are just as depressed: their only true joy comes from the consumption of Trolls once a year and, as King Gristle Sr. tells his son, there is no other way to be happy. In their own ways, both the Trolls and the Bergens are searching for happiness, but it seems that only one truly knows how to achieve it. While there are part of the movie that seem trite and overly optimistic, the message of perseverance is one that resonates with viewers of all ages and encourages us to see the bright side of life.

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Feature Presentation: Sing

Sing_(2016_film)_posterSing starring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, and Nick Offerman

Illumination Entertainment, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Buster Moon’s greatest ambition has been to run a theater ever since he was a young Koala. So when the Moon Theater’s ledger goes deeply in the red, Buster decides to host a singing competition in an effort to save the institution he loves. Little does he realize that the contestants will not only change his life, but their own lives a well.

While the film centers around humanoid animals in a fictional city, the characters each touch on the different ways that one can go about pursuing their dreams. Ash, a porcupine, was just dumped by her boyfriend because he didn’t like that she wanted to sing lead and write her own songs. Meena is a shy elephant with a beautiful voice and a severe case of stage fright. Rosita is a stay-at-home pig mom who yerns to do something beyond taking care of her 25 offspring. Johnny isa gorilla with a natural born talent for singing that is being talked into helping out with the shady doings of his father’s gang. Mouse Mike is a street musician with a big ego in search of some recognition for his hard honed talents. Their ability to keep going in spite of the many setbacks the group endures while prepping for the big performance shows the audience that our ability to dream big dreams and fulfill them is only limited by our own discouragement. We find ourselves cheering for each of these contestants, hoping that they are able to break out of their shells and show the city and the rest of the world what they are made of. The film is largely formulaic in terms of its plotline, but the soundtrack and the eclectic nature of the cast make it worth the hour and forty-five minute runtime. Like with most family films, there is a broad range to the humor that will appeal to viewers of all ages. Younger viewers will be espeically amused by Buster using his own body as a sponge to wash cars in one particular sequence while older viewers will connect with Donnie’s fear of his grandmother Nana, a famous opera singer back in the Moon Theater’s heyday. Overall, a cute and inspiring film about following your dreams and unleashing your inner animal.

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Feature Presentation: How To Train Your Dragon 2

dragon_2How To Train Your Dragon 2 starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kirsten Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harrington, Kieron Elliot, Phillip McGrade, Andrew Ableson, and Gideon Emery

Dreamworks Animation/Mad Hatter Entertainment, 2014. Rated PG.

Synopsis: It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons. – from Twentieth Century Fox

Dragon 2 has everything we loved about the first film and then some. I’m willing to admit that it isn’t better than the original, but I appreciated that it expanded the world and the characters that were established in How To Train Your Dragon. The world has gotten a lot bigger now that the Vikings have the dragons to travel around and beyond the boundaries of the island, and with a larger knowledge of the world comes new discoveries and complications. Hiccup is still struggling with the notion of doing the right thing, this time in regard to whether he will become the chief his father Stoic wants him to be and if he can solve a conflict without it resulting in an all out war between tribes. Hiccup is more of a man of words while his father is heavier on the action, resulting in a clash between the father and son that helps fuel the plot. He has enough daring and tenacity to go again what Stoic wants, and yet Hiccup knows that he can rely on his father to have his back when things start to get rough. We are introduced to a host of new dragons in this film of varying shapes, sizes, and colors that seem to lighten up a lot of the dramatic elements. I loved the bits with the baby dragons – sure, they don’t listen as Hiccup points out, but they are cute and their introduction becomes important toward the end of the movie. The bond of friendship is showcased once again between Toothless and Hiccup as well as between the other dragons and their riders. It makes us feel good to see such a strong connection between the Vikings and these potentially dangerous creatures and reminds us with the bond we have with our own friends and pets. It’s a fun family film with a heartwarming message and a well-balanced story.

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Feature Presentation: The BFG

The_BFG_posterThe BFG starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa, and Jonathan Holmes

Amblin Entertainment/Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: When Sophie witnesses the appearance of a Giant roaming the streets from the window of the orphanage, she is snatched from her bed and whisked away to Giant Country – lest she be telling anyone about what she has seen. But the Giant who kidnapped her turns out to be friendly, despite his size, and the two begin a friendship that will lead them to an adventure neither of them could have ever dreamed of.

I tend to be a purist when it comes to the book versus movie debate – I’m more apt to choose the book over the movie because I feel like the story becomes warped in its journey from page to screen. I perhaps wrongly anticipated that this would not be the case with The BFG; but then again, look at what happened with James and the Giant Peach (which had absolutely no resemblance to its source material after about 15 minutes). The BFG thankfully kept a grand majority of the main plot points: Sophie is an orphan who is kidnapped by the BFG, who lives in Giant Country in the company of some rather more unsavory child eating Giants and the two enlist the help of the Queen of England to help stop the child-snatching once and for all. The screenwriters inserted a bit in which the BFG had another child companion before Sophie that I suppose was meant to better flesh out the BFG as a character, but it made him more of a tragic hero than an unwitting hero. The BFG is meant to be a fun-loving but misunderstood character that overcomes bullies and becomes a functioning member of society; it doesn’t feel like the same story or character when he’s given a tragic past. I liked Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, but I spent a lot of the movie irked by the fact that she was trying to be Mara Wilson. True, she’s a girl who exhibits wisdom beyond her young age, but the movie makes her out to be more of a caretaker – she picks up the mail the matron forgets off the front mat, locks the door, and turns out the lights after everyone else is gone to bed. She seems to lack the child-like, earnest nature that was so endearing in the book. Even though I felt like the film fell short, there are still a lot of entertaining moments that will no doubt get younger viewers to giggle, most notably the scenes involving Frobscottle – a beverage that fizzes down and produces flatulence of epic proportions. So, if you were hoping for a great film version of our favorite childhood book, you’re going to be disappointed. If you are searching for a great family film with a positive message, then this is going to be right up your alley.

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Feature Presentation: Moana

uk_moanaMoana starring the voices of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel Hall, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk

Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Moana Waialiki is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island’s fishermen can’t catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti’s heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology. – from IMDB

I’m always a fan of ancient cultures and myths being woven into our more modern tapestry. In a lot of ways, I feel like this puts us more in touch with the world at large and gives insight into where we came from, and perhaps more importantly, where we will go. There’s also something to be said about the message that while it might be uncomfortable to leave home/safe spaces/the familiar, we can achieve even more both personally and culturally when we stray off a beaten path. I’m reminded of the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”. In many respects, Moana is a well-behaved young lady: she desires to do what is best for her people and to follow the path that has been determined for her. And yet, she is still plagued by the classic dilemma of doing what is right by her family and doing what she feels is right for her, to help her become the woman she wants to be. Clearly her desire to get in touch with her voyager roots and venture beyond the island reef wins out, or this would have been a short movie. And like the Disney heroines before her, there’s a couple of musical numbers that assert her confidence in her decision to venture out on the ocean and the uncertainty of the success her journey may or may not bring. She still has moments of despair, but it is her stubbornness and quick wit that help her push through the obstacles that hinder her voyage. Despite the range of reactions to Moana, I feel like the film did a credit to the Polynesian culture and made it come even more alive for the viewer. I liked that native dialects were used in some of the songs and that the animators made trips through the islands in the South Pacific to do their research. It’s a coming-of-age story that encourages us once again to discover who we are inside and how we can share our purpose and passions with the world around us.

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Feature Presentation: The Lego Batman Movie Review

legobatmanonesheetThe Lego Batman Movie starring the voices of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Jenny Slate

DC Entertainment/Warner Bros./Warner Bros. Animation/Vertigo Entertainment, 2017. Rated PG

Synopsis: When Gotham’s bad guys surrender themselves, it looks like Batman might be out of his post as vigilante crime fighter. Once heralded for his heroics and bravery, he’s even more broody than usual now that there’s no criminals wreaking havoc. Plus, there’s this kid he adopted at a city gala for the police commissioner’s retirement that he isn’t sure what to do with that he’s maybe sort of hoping he can send back to the orphanage. So when Joker hatches a plan to break the city apart (literally), it’s going to be up to Batman, Alfred, Robin, and Barbara Gordon to save the day.

I love that Will Arnett is reprising his role as Batman because he is able to bring a distinct humor to a traditionally much darker character. Granted, this is  family movie, but it’s still refreshing to see Batman’s more childish side – something that is prevalent throughout Lego Batman. The film makes reference to all of Batman’s previous movie and television appearances: Alfred makes note of Batman’s many ‘phases’ and there is a bit at the end in which words like “Bam!”, “Pow!”, and “Biff!” appear in the air as Batman and Robin are fighting (spoiler: it’s a reference to the 1960s Batman television series with Adam West). These may go over the heads of younger viewers, but for those of us that have followed Batman in his many incarnations will get a kick. Viewers will also be amused to note that Siri (the iPhone personal assistant) is the voice of Batman’s computer and she seems to have developed a little bit of a personality to offset Batman’s sarcasm. I also loved Michael Cera’s Robin/Dick Grayson because he is such an innocent overachiever. He, like Batman, wants love and attention, but since Batman seems to be afraid of having a family and letting people in, Robin is there to show him some unconditional love. Alfred is still the most awesome butler ever and his ability to ‘handle’ his adopted son/employer is a bit of a running gag as well. But I think what really sold me at the end was the element of friendship and friends being the family we choose – there’s even a catchy pop song to that effect at the end to rival “Everything is Awesome”. It’s sure to entertain viewers of all ages.

 

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Feature Presentation: Finding Dory

Finding_DoryFinding Dory starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, and Dominic West

Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Pictures, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a Blue Tang that suffers from short-term memory loss, something that is somewhat of a conundrum to her other fish companions. So when Dory remembers her family, she becomes convinced that she must cross the ocean to find them. Reluctantly accompanied by Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), Dory journeys to the Marine Life Institute in search of the mother and father she left behind.

The internet memes weren’t lying when they joked about just how much non-Millenials have been waiting for this film. To really truly appreciate this movie, you had to have seen Finding Nemo, and I’m not just saying that because portions of the film are highlighted in Finding Dory. Finding Nemo is when we are introduced to and fall in love with Dory. Yes, she is forgetful; yes, she is somewhat naive; but despite her flaws, she heart and the creativity to be able to keep Marlin going as he searches for Nemo. She applies this same tenacity to her own search for her family after suddenly being able to recall portions of her younger years. Dory’s ability to consistently recall anything is something of an anomaly (“P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney” being the only other thing she has been able to recall to date, aside from names of her fish companions), and the disjointed nature by which she is recalling things at first seems like a reinforcement of her memory issues. But as the film goes on, we see that there is a sort of puzzle that Dory is solving as she searches through the Marine Life Institute for her parents and begins to recall the circumstances by which she was initially separated from them. There are a few scary moments, one in particular involving a giant squid in a field of sunken ships and another in which the characters are going through a rather perilous path of pipes. While I enjoyed the film, my one criticism is that it seemed to lack the emotional punch of its predecessor. There are a lot of heightened emotions involved with Dory’s search for her family, but for some reason it didn’t grab at my heartstrings the same way. Despite the lack of tear-jerking moments (for my part), it’s a fun, humorous story about the meaning of family and being able to find your way home.

 

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