DOLPHIN TALE 2 REVIEW

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Two stars for the main mammals (the dolphins, that is)

Yep. You read that right. I watched Dolphin Tale 2. (Against my better judgement).

I’ve been feeling for some time that films just haven’t reached the levels that they used to. Going for the easy option. Predictable, lazy, cliched stories with badly written characters that rely heavily on star factor to put bums on seats. No surprises. TV has excelled where cinema has left me disappointed.

HOWEVER, family movies are normally bang on the buck with the little ‘uns (and some parents) being the toughest critics to win over. As I’ve said before, Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks have excelled at making films that have something for everyone.

Unfortunately, not this time round. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is a very watchable and easy going film but memorable? Not so much. I mean some of the Free Willy sequels that inevitably reared their ugly heads had a bit more going on than this. BUT I have found lately that films I write off normally surprise me. This was nowhere near as corny as I expected . . . until the closing moments.

It would help if you like dolphins. Duh, right? The opening sequence in which a dolphin is rescued by the aquarium certainly zipped things along. I didn’t expect to be bombarded with a number of dolphin facts. A few of which I did not know. It was informative without being pretentious. Unlike the Walking with Dinosaurs Movie. It kept things moving along and I found my cynical demeanor cracking a little.

You don’t need to see the first film to know what’s going on. If not for the obvious number tagged on the title, I would have thought nothing less (Tragically, it didn’t make me want to chase up its predecessor).

After all the recent SeaWorld controversy and the harrowing Blackfish documentary, it was only a matter of time that a schmaltzy, rose tinted view was taken. BUT skeptic views on animals captured and raised in captivity aside, at the film’s core is a story about a boy’s relationship with his fish (No, not like that).

This is helped with a likeable lead in Nathan Gamble (The Mist). He delivered a solid performance as Sawyer. Cozi Zuehlsdorff (No, I didn’t lean on the keyboard) was a little irritating to start with but once I got used to her character, she soon grew- became tolerable. She nailed the smiley SeaWorld instructor host with aplomb. The pair worked well together.

The real scene stealers were inevitably the animals. The scenes in which Gamble interacts with Winter the dolphin are well done with a mixture of real, CGI and model sequences. All which work really well. Just right. Not too cartoony for a change. The fact that Winter had a prosthetic tail made things a little bit more interesting.

There were some endearing moments in which Winter has become a mascot for amputees. A little corny but nicely done. A meeting with a war veteran and celebrity surfer Bethany Hamilton hit home.

Another notable scene stealer was a pesky pelican. One that didn’t even belong to the aquarium. Popping up at impromptu moments and delivering the laughs. I was more interested in the subplot involving the pelican assigning himself the role of guardian to a sea turtle. It shouldn’t have worked but it got me.

There is a great supporting cast at the director’s fingertips but not much was really made of them. Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr play their parts as well as they can but they are merely the supporting parents. A shame. I couldn’t take Connick Jr seriously as the father figure. Kris Kristofferson was in a rather subdued role and boy has he aged all of a sudden. I knew he was old but . . .

Morgan Freeman played his role without a care in the world. A legend in my eyes. His limited presence does make an impact when he gets the chance. The whole I have stuff older than you jibes were great to start with. But soon got old really quick. You may have blagged it in Last Vegas, Mr. Freeman. A second time? Shame on you.

The story didn’t have enough going to keep fidgeting bums in seats (and that’s just the adults). I couldn’t help making Free Willy comparisons and realizing that the content was very much a TV movie at best. The constant pressure from the corporate bigwigs in the initial opening was a harsh and all too real commentary.Concern for the animals taking second fiddle to advertising and merchandise deals.

But it all ends so dreadfully corny that I was left flailing my arms about; like the blasted pelican.

There were a couple of twists and turns that I didn’t expect for all my cynicism involving the dolphins. I was surprised by two particular plot points involving the dolphins that did peak my attention (without spoiling) but the main issue with these sort of films is that you know the inevitable outcome even with the threat of the dolphin being relocated.

The subplot of Gamble’s Sawyer’s internship has been done to death, spurring an unnecessary love story between him and Zuehlsdorff’s Hazel.

It is most definitely one for the little ‘uns. An easygoing and nicey nicey film but if you were expecting Free Willy or something a little more, you may left a little disappointed.

2.5/5

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DIVERGENT REVIEW

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Watchable enough. Even if the film was Di-Verging on Being a Hunger Games Rip off.

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris (Shailene Woodley) learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four (Theo James) must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

We’ve seen it all before. BUT with a well acted cast and likeable characters, I was happy to enjoy the ride.

I haven’t read the book. And after watching this, I don’t think I will any time soon. For those who also haven’t; the film is set in a post apocalyptic future Chicago. In order to maintain peace, the city has been split into five factions and shielded with a giant wall (Ironic). From what? Nobody knows. No, seriously. Nobody knows.

The factions are; Arudite, Candor, Dauntless (the irritating and OTT Dauntless), Amity and Abnegation. For those who haven’t swallowed a dictionary, Abnegation helps the homeless or “Factionless”, in this case. Introduce the lovely (and my new crush) Shailene Woodley as isolated teen Tris who is struggling to fit into said faction.

The pace chugged along as Tris was torn between fulfilling her obligations to her parents and finding her true calling, her identity (Zzzzz). Lucky for her there was a big test in which she can change factions. BUT everything is NOT what it seems.

Woodley is a very likeable lead and there were a couple of moments I didn’t expect to happen, which made a nice surprise from my teen blockbuster check list that I’ve accumulated over the years. Theo James played the brooding and mysterious (BUT NOT really that mysterious) Four well.

He has come a long way from sniffing p** in The Inbetweeners Movie (Yep, that guy). He even mastered a flawless American accent.

There was good chemistry between him and Woodley as inevitably sparks flew. The fighting through the ranks of the factions was very Hunger Games. The dinner halls were something out of Harry Potter, only more macho and messier.

The action sequences were entertaining enough; the Inception-esque dream sequences were interesting (if a little repetitive). The big twist reveals were predictable but the ending still kept me from twiddling my thumbs with a racy finish.

Kate Winslet played the icy bitch Jeanine with aplomb. She wasn’t in it enough. For someone of her gravitas, the role seemed minute. BUT of course, if there are more movies (Ha ha!) in the pipeline than I can wait.

The ending was racy, action packed and picked up a meandering pace that was putting me into a mini-coma. Two and a half hours? Really? Is there a Hollywood rule that decrees that these all best selling teen novel adaptations must be said length? Must be for the die hard book fans after the mistakes HP made.

In all fairness, there wasn’t a bad supporting cast attached to this. Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad) played the nasty Eric to perfection. Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd were good BUT anyone could have played them.

Miles Teller (Whiplash) was pretty much played the same old spiel as the cocky fast talker. Zoe Kravitz, the only person to come out unscathed from After Earth (and rightly so), gave her all. BUT Mekhi Phifer was terrible and, with Courtney being all the domineering presence, unnecessary but again if more is to follow then his part might be justified.

And if there will be more, I hope we will explore Four’s past. We got a measly taster and it was one of the more interesting subplots. My main grumble was that if this was supposed to be the opening movie for an ongoing franchise, it needed to come out guns blazing.

This didn’t BUT it had just enough to pique my interest.

Watchable. We’ve had the build up. Now surprise me with the next one.

3/5!