*NEW* THE GOOD DINOSAUR REVIEW *NEW*

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Not good enough, I’m afraid.

An epic journey (Well . . . ) into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) makes an unlikely human friend.

The thought of having two Pixar movies in a year should have been a treat BUT this latest offering failed to hit the same highs as any of its predecessors.

I tried my best NOT to draw comparisons BUT it was hard not to when the story was so flat and predictable. Don’t get me wrong. It was watchable and there were some nice moments that still cracked the embittered cynic in me but memorable?

The opening with the infamous asteroid avoiding the Earth 65 million years ago teased a “What if dinosaurs weren’t wiped off the face of the planet scenario” BUT Pixar’s only answer to that was farming, apparently.

Really? It was easygoing enough but a little tame as Arlo and his family tended to their crops. Seeing Arlo as the runt of the pack and battling his fear of everything had been done to death. What didn’t help was that Ochoa’s voice really grated against me throughout the whole film and when Arlo howled with Spot (Far too many times), I prayed for them to stop!

Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace) played the role of Poppa well. Sharing his words of wisdom and desperately trying to get Arlo to conquer his fears and make his mark (Well, footprint) on the family wall (And the world, most likely). Awww. Yuck. While poor Frances McDormand (Fargo) was completely wasted in her role as Momma.

What baffled me was the Southern accents? It felt like a Western take on Ice Age. On paper, it had potential BUT it’s a shame that it didn’t really amount to much.That’s NOT to say it was all bad.

Pixar still delivered with their fantastic visual effects. The panning shots as Arlo rode down the river made you feel like you were there with him and there was a beautiful sequence in which Arlo and Poppa run through a field of glistening glow flies (Lame. Hey, it was great). I think that was the only moment where I wished I had invested in 3D. Otherwise, I don’t think the experience would have been enhanced in any way.

Despite its flaws, Disney and Pixar still have a way of dispatching tragedy that can break even the most cynical of critics. A spiritual send off may have been predictable BUT it still tugged a little at the heart strings.

The role reversal of the cavemen being more primitive than their prehistoric predators was a nice touch BUT had the gang NOT heard of a film called Ice Age? The introduction of Spot (Jack Bright) helped set up a nice pairing after a heated scrap. One that gets them lost and far away from home. The relationship helped keep the formulaic journey watchable and delivered the little chuckles as the pair put their differences aside to get back home.

Steve Zahn’s (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) pterodactyl Thunder Clap was probably the only other memorable character. He delivered the laughs but soon overstayed his welcome once he began to repeat the same gag, a mispronounced expression. One that was hardly a “relevation”. Yup, that bad. Things did take a slightly better turn when Thunder Clap decides to put Spot on the menu.

The stalking and chase sequences were racy and picked up the pace. The fins surfing through the skies like something out of Jaws was brilliant. What annoyed me was that Pixar were always able to bring a different take on something we’ve seen before. Inside Out was essentially a different take on Osmosis Jones.

The dinosaur angle wasn’t used enough in this. The idea of T-Rexes being ‘cattle handlers’ was cute BUT entertaining? Not for me. Sam Elliot did what he does best. Grumbling in an inaudible style and sharing his words of wisdom BUT it was far too corny for my liking. It took me until the credits to realise Anna Paquin (X-Men) was voicing one of the other T-Rexes.

Maybe Pixar’s charm is wearing off on me. For the wonderful animation and nicey nicey moments, it was rather disappointing. This ranked en par with the Plane movies. Watchable for the little ‘uns BUT it didn’t soar high enough for me.

2.5/5

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INSIDE OUT REVIEW

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It’s time for me to examine this piece inside out. Get ready for Pixar to play with your emotions again!

Funny, endearing, it looks like another winner on the cards.

After young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

I will confess. I am a huge Pixar fan. I love how they are always able to make films that have something for every one. Telling simple and predictable stories in such complex and wonderful ways with humour, heart and fantastic animation.

BUT that isn’t to say they’re perfect. Cars may have been watchable but it was certainly one of Pixar’s weakest entries. I still haven’t bothered to view the sequel. Unlike Toy Story and Monsters Inc.

Of course when going to the cinema, you don’t just get a Pixar movie. Oh no! You have a delightful animated short first. Their latest offering? A Hawaiian sing song volcano short called Lava.

BUT this time, it didn’t do much to get things going. This musical interlude nearly put me into a lull before Inside Out had even begun. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Lava was actually quite a drab affair.

The animation and visual design may have been beautiful BUT it was literally five to ten minutes of ukulele and two volcanoes falling in love. Awww. Nope. Funny enough, did anyone else notice that the male volcano bared a striking resemblance to Jabba the Hutt.

BUT after the hilarious Geri’s Game, the origins of Lupo the leaping lamp and hell even that Blue Umbrella with that annoyingly catchy tune; I felt Lava just didn’t quite hit those levels. Regurgitating the same predictable tripe. Not a good start. My fears rising.

BUT finally Inside Out started and . . . Not bad, not bad at all.

The opening act may have been a little slow burning but it was wonderful watching baby Riley develop over the years and most importantly her emotions. Her first emotion being Joy. Poehler (Parks and Recreation) played her with aplomb. Her enthusiasm and sheer bonkers personality really brought the character to life.

Before we know it, the other emotions are not far behind. I don’t think there was one character that didn’t steal the show at some point throughout the film. They were all perfectly cast. BUT Phyllis Smith (The American Office) certainly made a memorable impression voicing the appropriately coloured blue emotion Sadness.

What I love about Pixar is the detail that they put into every project. I won’t say too much
(If I can help it). BUT the little things. Riley’s train of thought being an actual train. The islands of personality. The memory balls. The forgetters that deal with the faded memories. The long term memory servers. Brilliant.

The mind workers. Oh the mind workers. Ever wonder why your mind will suddenly think of a jingle or a song out of nowhere? Blame these little devils. A recurring joke involving a gum commercial jingle delivered the laughs throughout.

I loved how the world of Riley’s mind and her own world tied in. The impact of her move affecting every emotion. An unfortunate sorting incident with the memory balls and Joy and Sadness are sucked into the back of Riley’s mind. Without their presence, the poor girl will not be able to express those two emotions. Cue one crazy journey.

Smith and Poehler worked well together. I loved how Joy always questioned the purpose of Sadness and did everything to make sure she didn’t ruin anything. “Why does anyone need such an emotion?” The debate has handled with the right balance. After all, this is still a kid’s film. Of course, on the positiveness of having such an emotion. In other hands, who knows?

The animation was superb. The abstract thought sequence in which the emotions were forming into all sorts of shapes and two dimensional objects was brilliantly done. The 3D was hardly a must. It certainly made things more prominent on screen but the animation was good enough anyway.

BUT for all the praise, there were still little niggles. The middle act did meander in places and although Pixar has the ability to take us on these fantastic journeys. These journeys are starting to get a little predictable. You could almost time when the bickering would begin. That moment when a character would experience a revelation. And of course, it ends oh so cornily.

I loved Richard Kind as the fluffy and affable imaginary friend Bing Bong who helped Joy and Sadness on their quest. And also . . . could anyone else believe that Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was in this?!

I wish there was more of the mind stuff between other people. A scene in which Mum and Dad try to deal with a frustrated Riley was fantastic. The closing credits certainly offered an insight into all sorts of people and animals with hilarious results.

Speaking of closing moments. Words . . . . Escape me. Pixar still have the ability to reduce a man to tears. I’m not afraid to admit it. The opening of Up, the finale of Toy Story 3 and now this. These films should come with a warning. Contains mild threat and scenes that will turn you into a blubbering wreck.

It’s great to see an original take on a film. Not a rehash, remake, regurgitation or sequel. A breath of fresh air (Even if it did bear a striking resemblance to Osmosis Jones).

A fun, entertaining and charming family movie that will keep the little ‘uns and the big kids occupied over the holidays for a couple of hours. Go see it.

3.5/5

With room to change to a 4

*THROWBACK REVIEW* PLANES 2: FIRE AND RESCUE

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I was surprised and anxious to hear that Planes had earned a sequel. To be honest Cars was a bit of a misfire. Watchable but hardly memorable. I didn’t even get round to watching the sequel. It reeked of desperation when they tried to merge the Cars and Planes universe together.

The problems was that Planes felt old fashioned before it even got to start. There was enough silly punnery and charm but it felt oh so flat. Proof that even Pixar can make mistakes. But yet enough money was made to make another and this time . . .

Despite being a visual sight to look at (which was to be expected), it pretty much delivers the same old silly wordplay and punnery, cheesy one liners and bland characters but without the charm and gusto that managed to make it scrape by last time. This really is one for the little ‘uns who are interested in planes and cars.

Dusty (Dane Cook) is now a renowned racer. However he is hit with the bad news that he can no longer race after his out of production gearbox starts failing. But Prop Wash Junction is in need of a new firefighter cue another re-tread (I mean journey) as Dusty must overcome the odds and prove everyone wrong again.

It’s a shame that Cook is having to voice such a dull and unmemorable lead character. You can’t help but feel that they have to keep bringing in crazier and funnier supporting characters to compensate for it. The 3D. What 3D? I could have taken my glasses off and not noticed a difference.

Terrible considering the price of a cinema ticket these days, let alone extras for 3D. 2D if you are still intrigued.

The new range of characters do their utmost to make this flailing film soar but to no avail. Hal Halbrook delivered an endearing turn to the ageing fire truck May Day. While Julie Bowen (Modern Family) was on voice stealing form as the neurotic Ms. Dipper who is infatuated with our hero.

The fact she watches him while he sleeps brought a little chuckle, if a little creepy. Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans) pretty much plays a parody of Magua in the form of a helicopter titled Windlifter. The legend that is Ed Harris played a straight faced, stern and predictably bland authority figure. A shame.

To be honest, it made me miss the incredibly OTT El Chubacabra. His presence was sorely missed. There was one good skit that parodied the old 70s cop show Chips. However, this time it was Chops. Tut all you like. There was a guilty chuckle. The fact a familiar voice made a cameo return made it all the better but unfortunately it was always going to go over the little ‘uns heads. The fire sequences were interesting and watchable enough but it all seemed by the numbers and a little stale.

The odd gag and punnery will get a chuckle from the kids and adults but it all feels like it should have been a straight to DVD film. If not for the Pixar label, I’m sure it would have been. A real shame despite the best efforts of a talented voice cast (that consisted of the likes of Cedric the Entertainer, Teri Hatcher, Patrick Warburton, Brad Garrett) to make their flat characters stand out but one for the scrap heap.

Sorry, Pixar. It didn’t work the first time, the second hasn’t improved. I don’t think third time’s the charm this time around.

2/5 for me

*THROWBACK REVIEW* ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH

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And the duds just keep on coming. I need to escape from the cinema for a while. Enough to keep the little ‘uns quiet for 80 odd minutes but parents might want to take in their Kindles (or a physical book if you’re old school).

Astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population. A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry). However, when the brothers receive an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet (Earth. What? Spoilers? Come on guys), Scorch rejects Gary’s warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission leading to his capture. Inevitably, it’s up to scrawny, risk-adverse Gary to do the real rescuing.

Brendan Fraser (The Mummy franchise/George of the Jungle) what happened? Oh how the mighty have fallen. In all fairness, his movie list of late is hardly legendary. He does his best to bring the laughs as chughead Scorch in his strangely Buzz Lightyear-esque attire.

It’s a shame with how much talent was attached to this. I know, it’s a kid’s film but Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks (most of the time) have delivered timeless classics with great stories, great characters and enough to entertain everybody. Unfortunately this one just doesn’t make the cut.

It’s not all bad. It has enough OTT slapstick gags to keep the little ‘uns giggling and the animation is brilliant. Visually colourful and detailed. 3D hardly a must but there were a couple of clever gimmicky moments in there. Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) plays the pathetic protagonist quite well.

Ricky Gervais once again pops up in a rather dull and fed up voice over as the computer system, BING, James Bing. Oh dear. Now I’m one for the puns and silly one liners but even that one got me cringing. Jessica Alba surprisingly goes against character type and plays the baddie for a change.

William Shatner provides his Trekky gravitas to the sinister General Shanker with aplomb. Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) plays a rather irritating and bland character that really doesn’t have a point or contribution to the film (Bit like Modern Family. Ouch. Stop it). Sarah Jessica Parker does her best with the lines, “Not bad for a mom who’s had two kids”.

As does Jane Lynch (Glee) as the one eyed creature and appropriately named Io, “First time I laid eye on you”. Does that line sound familiar? Hmmm I thought so too (*Cough* Monsters Inc *Cough*)

The characters that stood out for me were George Lopez (Rio/Rio 2) as the slimy slug hybrid Thurman. The ever talented Craig Robinson (This is the End) manages to make a memorable performance as the eccentric fast talking Doc. Steve Zahn (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) hippies it up as alien enthusiast Hawk. His first encounter with Corddry’s character was quite funny but it soon goes on too long and gets very annoying.

This isn’t the worst animation film I’ve seen this year. That honour goes to the turkey Free Birds (What?) but it’s pretty close. Interestingly enough for those who have seen Free Birds; was Escape from Planet Earth an unintentional spin off? The facility and more importantly, the quarantined Monsters Inc rip off suit guys look just like them.

Regardless, they steal the show in one tut worthy guilty pleasure of a scene in which they manage to parody a number of movies in a food fight. The Artist was a nice touch.

There is a cheeky pop at satire with the government propaganda video segment, “Do you believe in Communism? Then you are an alien”. Unexpected but not bad. The Beatle-esque aliens got a guilty laugh. The twist *POSSIBLE SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY* that humans have been capturing aliens and stealing their technology and claiming it for their own was a nice touch. Doc venting his frustration at the money he should be earning for Facebook was quite funny.

However, it gets all too corny and cheesy. For every good joke, there’s a dozen naff ones. I mean an encounter with a wacky waving inflatable tubed man brought the odd chuckle. But just doesn’t work as a recurring joke. Mainly because it wasn’t that funny the first time round.

If you’re looking for a quick distraction for the kids, then give it a go. Otherwise invest in How To Train Your Dragon 2 or something.