*NEW* MOANA REVIEW *NEW*

Easygoing fun.

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui (The Rock) reaches Moana’s (Auli’i Cravalho) island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.

Typical Disney. But it still hit the spot.

The animation was stunning. Beautiful to look at. I just wanted to dive into those clear blue waves. Yes, I know they weren’t real! BUT that’s how good the visual effects were.

The opening song numbers weren’t too bad. They set up the story and established Moana’s background perfectly.

Torn between exploring the world and fulfilling her duties as the new Chief of her people.

The running theme of identity and personal being was an intriguing one as the deviant Moana opposed her father’s numerous attempts to keep her on the island.

The Hawaiian folk lore and supernatural guff was entertaining enough. The cheesy singing and mad journey was fun.

BUT I was a little disappointed with the songs. They weren’t really that memorable.

It only takes somebody at work to say, “Let’s get down to business” and I have to fight the urge NOT to burst into the Mulan jam (Go on, confess. How many of you are right now?)

No?

Don’t get me wrong, they were easy listening gems and Cravalho has a lovely voice BUT I could only remember two tracks off the top of my head while writing this.

There was certainly plenty of humour and heart. A gag involving tweeting drew a guilty grin from me.

A predictable journey lifted with some fantastic supporting characters from Hei Hei, the special chicken to . . .

The Rock. My God. He stole the show as Maui. The guy is a demi-God. Let alone voicing one.

They must have had him in mind from the get go as the tattoo woven, bicep flexing, eyebrow raising (They even included the Brahma Bull’s brows) machismo.

His conflicted character had me in stitches. I loved his little tattoo. A Jiminy Cricket running around all over his body to let the big guy know when he’s making a big mistake. Brilliant.

And who knew the big guy could carry a tune?

Any WWE fan will know the Rock can sing.

I didn’t think I’d throw that into a review any time soon. You’re welcome. See what I did there?

Just when I thought the pace was beginning to lull and Moana was thrown into the water by Maui for the umpteenth time, thankfully there was a new challenge or foe to keep things going.

I didn’t expect Flight of the Conchord’s Jermaine Clement to appear in this. Applying his David Bowie-esque gravitas to the troubling Tamatoa.

Shiny, shiny! He was hilarious as the conniving crab.

As much as I was entertained, for all the hype, Moana just didn’t stand out.

The journey was all too predictable and normally I’m one for the ride NOT the destination BUT it just didn’t quite hit those highs for me like her Disney predecessors.

Moana was a resilient and resourceful heroine BUT her character seemed to get a little lost in the ever-growing Disney universe.

BUT this is coming from a cynical man reaching his thirties so make of that what you will.

It killed the time, the animation was amazing and the True Grit dynamic between Moana and Maui was a nice touch.

So despite my grumblings, this was still a charming little film that Disney fans will lap up a treat.

3/5

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*NEW* THE BFG REVIEW *NEW*

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The BIG FLOPPIN’ MESS

On paper, the dream of Roald Dahl’s works and Steven Spielberg’s direction should have spelled perfection BUT despite Rylance’s brilliant performance, there was something missing.

A girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounters the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kind-hearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.

Definitely one for the little ‘uns. It has been a long time since I read The BFG. I loved Dahl’s books as a child and genuinely enjoyed the film adaptations. Some I still watch as guilty pleasures BUT this won’t be one of them.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was exactly how I remembered. The animation and cinematography (from regular Spielberg stalwart Janusz Kaminski) were fantastic. The BFG’s introduction was lifted straight from the book. His eyes twinkling in the dark alleys. The giant hand clambering through the curtains. The sweeping shots across the beautiful English countryside.

It was delightfully easy going. Barnhill carried the role as well as she could. It’s an incredibly difficult task for a child actor to get the balance right. Whether it was the script or her performance BUT there were moments where the poor girl just got on my nerves. BUT it was still a commendable debut for the little lass.

After his Oscar winning turn in Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance reunited with Spielberg yet again. The animation and effects were impeccable; mixing live animation with Rylance’s facial expressions. His delivery really made all of Dahl’s insanely ridiculous jargon almost believable. He really was the BFG. Perfect.

However, the main issue was the pace. It went on far too long. This would have been much better if it was reduced by a good 30 minutes. If anything, the meandering pace gave me time to pick at how nothingy the story of the BFG really was. Apart from catching dreams and eating whizpoppers (a horrible looking cucumber), there wasn’t really much going on.

What was originally a beautiful scene with the BFG and Sophie chasing after the pixie like dreams flying around the trees, I found myself nodding off. I hate to blame the twinkly lullaby score of John Williams. The maestro providing yet another wonderful score. It just didn’t grab me. The CGI and effects were marvellous BUT it wasn’t enough.

NOT even the giants made enough of an impression for me. Considering the talented supporting cast voicing the eclectic bunch of fantastically designed beasts, the only one that made a memorable impression was Flight of the Conchord’s Jermaine Clement as Fleshlumpeater. The only giant with any depth or dialogue.

I didn’t even realise until the closing credits that Bill Hader (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) was voicing Bloodbottler! I wanted more of them. There were opportunities for the BFG to overcome the years of bullying. I know it was only a kids’ films BUT I couldn’t help but ask endless questions; Why did the giants hate rain so much? (Especially when the BFG wasn’t fazed at all). Why catch dreams and give them to people while they sleep?

The giants weren’t really as intimidating as I’d hoped. If anything, they were irritating. Despite a wonderfully animated sequence with the dimwitted dirt dwellers throwing the BFG on a digger and Sophie in a battered car and racing them around the hill, they didn’t do much at all.

It was the meeting with the Queen that made me feel my age. For the first time, I actually felt uncomfortable watching a children’s film. I always enjoy family films because they always have something for everyone. BUT this time, it really was just for the sprogs.

Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) was brilliant as Her Majesty. It’s just a shame she was playing her in this. Rafe Spall and Rebecca Hall were completely wasted (and unnecessary in their roles). And once everybody was guzzling frobscottle (a strange fizzy drink with bubbles that float down) and farting green smoke including the bloomin’ Corgis, I knew I was getting too old for this.

I know I’m heading towards my thirties and I’ve become an older and more cynical movie goer BUT I can still watch The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Wilder version, of course. RIP) as guilty pleasures. BUT the meandering pace and silly little gags just didn’t deliver. The giants were barely used and weren’t really as much of a threat as they could have been.

It was watchable guff BUT I’m afraid to say that Spielberg’s dry spell continues. The little ‘uns will love it BUT the older Dahl fans will be disappointed.

2.5/5

RIO 2 REVIEW

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Enough silly animation to entertain the little ‘uns. A watchable, colourful sequel that fails to beat the original but just about gets away with it.

Here we join Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), now complete with three loveable kids, as they trade the frantic festival city life of Rio de Janeiro for the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel (Jermaine Clement), and meets his most fearsome adversary of all: his father-in-law, Eduardo (Andy Garcia).

The animation is brilliantly detailed and very colourful, providing luscious landscapes which makes for great viewing. The story is hardly original but with likeable characters it just about gets away with it as everyone can relate to feeling the outsider or having to face their partner’s in-law or parent.

There’s enough action, gags and musical numbers to keep the movie flapping along nicely. Miguel Ferrer plays a relatively generic and stocky sinister logging constructor who is threatening to destroy the natural Amazonian habitat. Hardly memorable for the Kojak cherry lollypop sucking fiend. The real devil in this is the hilarious scene stealing Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).

Always hilarious with his “altered” Shakespearean soliloquies and parody song numbers ripping a number of movies, it was a shame that Nigel was not in it enough. It felt like he was forced into the subplot a little. Luckily so.

His crew of misfits brought the odd laugh; the hyperactive poisonous frog with verbal diarrhea, the appropriately named Gabi (brilliantly voiced by Kristin Chenoweth – Pushing Daisies) and the silent Charlie Chaplinesque ant eater. Gabi’s infatuation with Nigel and song number, “Poisonous Love” was funny, if incredibly corny.

The cast bring the characters to life. Eisenberg and Hathaway convey the loving couple and Eisenberg is always good at playing the neurotic worrier, with his fanny pack in tow. The plot is corny, cheesy and predictable. What does stand out for Rio 2 is the supporting characters.

Will.i.am is dope as the pop-pop-poppin’ Pedro with the funky flapper Jamie Foxx. The talent show sequence was funny alone from the slow high-fiving tortoises, the wrecking ball swinging monkeys and a rapping Nicki-Minajesque sloth (Amy Heidemann from Karmin) that drops off after a rap that will have Busta Rhymes tipping his cap. Bruno Mars was hilarious as Roberto. His singing was decent, to be expected and his voice acting was actually pretty good as the lothario swooping in on Blu’s family.

However, certain characters were pushed into the background. George Lopez’s Rafael and Tracy Morgan’s dribbling pitbull, especially, were barely in it. While Tulio (I can’t believe it was 300’s Rodrigo Santoro) was unfortunately in it too much with his incessant squawking and stupidity. Andy Garcia was a surprise as the frustrated father-in-law. A nice change from the slimy slick roles we know and love him for. Leslie Mann also did her best with the limited screen time.

Not bad. Enough to keep the little ‘uns entertained for 90 minutes. If adults can get past the usual predictable guff then there’s just about enough to keep you giggling an’ all but hardly groundbreaking or outstanding.

Not the worst by a long shot but seen it a lot better. Got enough to keep flight but hardly soaring high or flopping like a turkey. Enough avarian based punnery, you get the gist. 2.5/5

Currently ranks #123 out of 168!

MUPPETS MOST WANTED REVIEW

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Meh-na-meh-na- Muppets Most Wanted? Unfortunately this time round, Muppets Missed Something.

Before you ask, I am a big Muppet (We know that. Stop it. We’re better than that) fan. I’ve loved the TV series and the movie franchise. After the fantastic reboot, it was inevitable a sequel would be in motion. This is hilariously demonstrated in the film’s opening toe tapping musical number, “We’re Making a Sequel”. The list of unexpected cameos who pop their heads up in this film is ridiculous and unexpected, despite some being pointed out in the trailers to help flog the film. I won’t name them all because firstly it would be a long list and if not for the cameos, there wasn’t much to look forward to this time around. Don’t get me wrong, the Muppets are still funny and have their moments but the material seems to stretch on for too long and we’ve seen it done before a lot funnier before by the gang in their earlier efforts.

A silly premise of Kermit being imprisoned and replaced by his criminal Russian doppelganger, the number one criminal in all the world, Constantine with a distinguishing feature makes for a funny gag that unfortunately drags on for too long. This cues a lazy excuse for a tour around the world with slapstick and shenanigans. It was great to bring Kermit back as the leading . . . frog after the last film was about Walter. Unfortunately, Walter doesn’t really appear or make an impression until the hour mark. However, when dealing with such an array of characters, it’s hard not to isolate certain characters. An unexpected inside joke pokes fun at this. It’s not all bad. Kermit’s incarceration in the gulag allowed for a funny prison musical number with Jermaine Clement (we’ve had one half of the Conchords, why not have the other?), Ray Liotta (All my life I was always wanted to be in the Muppets. He doesn’t say that. But I wish he did), and Danny Trejo as . . . Danny Trejo. Tina Fey as the ice cold gulag warden brings the odd chuckle and her singing isn’t too bad, despite an exaggerated Russian accent.

Now as you know a certain Mr Ricky Gervais (who has not stopped tweeting about this project) plays a pivotal role as the suspiciously notorious tour manager Dominic Badguy (Bad-guy? It’s French for nice man. Nothing? Well). Gervais’ comic delivery is surprisingly stale. Never was an actor. Let’s be honest. However, his expired ‘look to the camera’ face pulling spiel actually works and his song and dance number with Kermit was a surprise. He gives it a go and pokes fun at himself, inevitably Brenting it up. If you’re a fan of Gervais, then he’s does alright. Otherwise, his smarmy presence works for the role but just doesn’t quite click or come off as funny as you’d expect. This film seems to miss that energy and chemistry that Amy Adams and Jason Segel brought to the table. I mean even Chris Cooper rapped and still pulled off the evil role.

The gags on the language barriers weren’t too bad, most notably in Berlin (Die Muppets? They hate us already). Fozzy Bear, Animal and Walter provide some of the more memorable moments. However, there’s one diva you can’t miss and that is Miss Piggy. It’s hard not for her to stand out (it’s like she’s real or something). A surprise duet with another “diva” made for a typical Muppet parody. The Muppets still bring the laughs but it seems that the human counterparts let this show down for me. I mean for the movie buffs, the Swedish Chef does a passing Ingmar Bergman reference. Straight over the little ‘uns heads but brilliantly done. The songs don’t seem to be as memorable as before, apart from the opener, they don’t stand out like the Oscar winning “Man or Muppet”. The cameos, despite being unexpected, are hardly fantastic or funny for that matter. Brings the odd smile but once you see them, they don’t do much else or stand out, bar Christophe Walz doing the Waltz. Worth it for the punditry alone. Ty Burrell (Mr Peabody and Sherman/Modern Family) is a notable exception. His Clousseau-esque detective is not bad and his rivalry with the Eagle makes for a cheeky poke at US/French relations with a compensating big badge off. A guilty gag that gets a giggle. It has enough for the little kids but for the bigger ones, to quote the opening song, “The sequel is just not as good”.

Harsh but if not for the cameos, this could have been one of their TV movie counterparts. It’s tough but you can’t help but compare to their more successful sequels, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and the Muppets 2011 movie, and feel it missed the mark. Watchable, the odd giggle. Not bad but back to the drawing board, maybe guys? 2.5/5

Currently ranks #101 out of 156!

*Please note before the film there is a good little Monsters University short called Party Central.