*NEW* FINDING DORY REVIEW *NEW*

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Was it worth the wait? Should they have bothered?

The friendly but forgetful blue tang fish begins a search for her long-lost parents, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.

Awww. 13 years (That’s right. 13 years?!) have passed since the first outing and surprisingly only a year has passed in the story line but either way I can happily say that it felt like they never left.

Despite being ripped by family members and work colleagues, I was happy to see that I wasn’t the only 20 something looking forward to this. BUT did it deliver? In a nutshell, yes. Anyone who says otherwise, OFF! OFF! OFF!

Of course before the movie even started, we had an adorable little animated short about Piper. The baby bird who must learn to fend for itself and overcome the trauma of the tide. Delightful. Easing us in for one of the most anticipated sequels of the year.

A heart-warming opening explored Dory’s past as we delved into her childhood and her battle with short term memory loss. The subject matter was handled delicately as Dory’s loving parents try and support her condition. I loved how it filled in the gaps and explained the origins of that annoyingly catchy “Just Keep Swimming” song.

We follow young Dory as she loses her parents and her memory of them altogether. Wandering the ocean for years, disoriented and confused. That is until she crosses paths with a raving mad clown fish desperate to find his son.

The plot line may have been a complete retread of the original with Dory getting lost, abducted and thrown into a strange aquarium but it was a journey I was still happy to take. What Andrew Stanton and the Pixar co may have lacked in story; they delivered with humour, charm and heart.

It was great to see the old faces and I did crack a little smile when Dory, Marlin and Nemo surfed with Crush and the gang. However, there were several faces that I was disappointed NOT to see make an appearance (*cough* Hellooo Bruceee *cough*).

For the hardcore Pixar fans; I couldn’t believe there wasn’t even a John Ratzenberger cameo! The man whose vocal talents had featured in almost every one. Until now.

The aquarium world may have been a little confined (Pardon the expression) BUT at least we were rewarded with new faces that stole the show; Becky the dozy bird, Bailey the bumbling Beluga Whale (Ty Burrell – Modern Family), Hank the cantankerous Octopus (voiced to perfection by Ed O’Neill – Married with Children/Modern Family) and, my personal favourites, the sloth-like seals Fluke and Rudder (voiced by none other than The Wire’s Idris Elba and Dominic West).

Every new supporting character helped bring some much needed fun and energy to a highly predictable story line from Fluke and Rudder’s rock rivalry with simple Gerald to a depressed sea clam in need of some company. Burrell was hysterical as Bailey. His attempt at echolocation had me in stitches.

Marlin and Nemo were pushed into the background a lot more than I’d hoped or expected. I knew this was always going to be Dory’s story BUT Brooks’ mad ramblings and whimpering were missed.

However, DeGeneres was on fine form yet again as our leading lady. From the random stories to her hysterical whale babble. You really felt for Dory as she battled the memories and flashbacks. Desperate to reunite with her family once and for all.

The flashbacks were insightful (To begin with) but they soon overstayed their welcome and got a little repetitive. Reiterating the same old points by the closing act.

I liked the dynamic between Hank and Dory. They were a great duo. Hank’s resilience to resist Dory’s charm, as he focused on his mission to avoid returning to the ‘filthy ocean life’, was the perfect tonic.

A couple of the whale talking skits may have gone on a bit but it didn’t spoil the fun. The touch pool sequence was like something out of a horror film with all the little sea creatures hiding and clinging on for dear life. An unexpected cameo and an underwater pipe sonar sequence delivered a brilliant Alien homage.

The chase sequences (especially a high speed truck chase) may have took the biscuit BUT it was far too silly and fun for me to gripe about too much. There were also some genuinely touching moments. BUT yet it didn’t quite pluck the heart strings or grab me as much as the original did.

It was always going to be a tall order. Especially after Pixar outdone themselves with Toy Story 3 (I’m ignoring Planes and Cars on the sequel debate). BUT it was still good fun and easygoing with a mad bunch of characters. A nice post credits sequence subdued some of the little niggles that were bugging me.

Pixar delivered a wonderful message about coping with mental disabilities and still managed to work their magic to make this miserable movie moaner look like this for a couple of hours . . .

gerald

3.5/5

*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

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