*NEW* ZOOTOPIA REVIEW *NEW*

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A fun and clever little family flick.

In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin – Once Upon A Time) and a cynical con artist fox (Jason Bateman – Arrested Development) must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

From the people that brought you Wreck It Ralph and . . . the better seasons of The Simpsons. A star studded and wonderfully animated little affair that cleverly tackles racism and delivers a nice message that anyone can be anything. Awww . . . Yuck.

It was a clever concept how the writers made up this metropolis of mad animals. The animation and detail on the numerous regions within Zootopia was breathtaking to look at. Once we accepted the crazy spiel that animals have evolved and live in peace (NOT to mention dress up in clothes too), the film got down to business.

We followed the young and excitable Judy Hopps (voiced perfectly by Goodwin) as she defied every obstacle and perception to become the first bunny cop of Zootopia. Tackling bullies and stereotypes to achieve her dream. Unaware that her biggest challenge was yet to come.

Breaking free from the overanxious paws of her panic-stricken parents in Bunnyburrow to help change the world and make a difference. It wasn’t long before our heroine’s rose-tinted outlook was crushed by her insensitive boss, the miserable Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) refusing to take her seriously and assigning her parking duty as a meter maid.

The pace did lag in parts and the 108 minute length might have the adults fidgeting, let alone the little ‘uns. However, things picked up once Hopps crossed paths with the sly hustling fox Nick Wylde. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Bateman to take on the role.

It was fun enough watching the fractious relationship between slick Nick and the determined Judy blossom into the inevitable as they unwittingly team up to solve a missing animal case.

The case delivered enough laughs and crazy chases to keep the little ‘uns (and the bigger kids. Yeah, I’m talking to you) entertained. One of the best gags involved a number plate search at the DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles). With Judy pressed for time, it didn’t help knowing that the whole place was . . . run . . . by . . . a . . . load . . . of . . . sloths. Brilliant.

The case wasn’t too bad with the missing creatures in question turning into feral predators without explanation. BUT as always its the journey NOT the destination.

“Haven’t you got a fox ice cream store back in your own district” – I loved how Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush subtly tackled racism within the piece; especially with Nick’s treatment. Never being trusted because of his “people”.

It was perfectly balanced against the fun chases and silly humour as Judy must address some of her own fears and assumptions, branding predators as a “minority” that should be monitored and carrying fox repellent despite telling Nick everyone should be treated the same.

I couldn’t believe the stars that popped up in this; J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk. Even Shakira had a cameo as political activist and media personality Gazelle.

Tommy Chong was hilarious as bohemian hippie Yax. But it was two of the lesser known actors that stole the show for me; Nate Torrence’s (She’s Out of My League) overenthusiastic Clawhauser and Jenny Slate’s (The Secret Life of Pets) bumbling Mayor’s aide Bellwether.

The metatextual references were brilliant; there was a fantastic Breaking Bad reference involving some rams dealing some illegal herbal substances and a Godfather-esque encounter with a Mafioso rodent called Mr. Big that was ripe for the pickings with gags and little nuances.

Disney have worked their magic to deliver another fun family movie but one that will rank with the greats? Not so much.

The pace was a little long and the middle act did stumble with the case solving getting repetitive and predictable. But it was still fun enough and left a nice message to never judge a book by its cover.

3.5/5

*NEW* THE FINEST HOURS REVIEW *NEW*

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Disney’s dullest hours, more like.

The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.

A great cast do their best to save this wishy-washy TV movie from being nothing more than a total wash-out. The opening didn’t get things going with a ridiculously cheesy first date between Pine’s Bernie Webber and Holliday Grainger’s Miriam. There was good chemistry between the pair BUT it was far too schmaltzy and frankly unnecessary.

It was strange to see Chris Pine (Star Trek) in a much more subdued role. A fresh change. BUT all the dancing and wedding proposal guff between the couple felt like nothing more than filler before the proper drama kicked off. Tragically, that took a good 30 minutes to happen.

From his fed up expressions and exasperated demeanour, I expected Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) to deliver a really dull performance BUT he was actually quite good. You rooted for the chap as he did everything to keep the tanker from sinking. Michael Raymond-James (Once Upon A Time) was probably the only other memorable crew member. Even if he did play the stereotypical mutineer causing panic among the ranks.

BUT it was all far too corny and laughable. Graham McTavish (The Hobbit) bellowing cliched macho sentiments to generic and unmemorable supporting characters didn’t help. The Chinese whisper sequence with the crew sharing coordinates was unintentionally comical.

Considering the amount of stars in this; the characters were very weak. Pine did everything he could BUT he came off as such a shy simpleton that relied heavily on sheer luck. Miraculously finding the stranded tanker by feeling the waves. Really?

Eric Bana (Black Hawk Dawn) was completely wasted as Daniel Cluff. There was potential. A new captain unfamiliar with the terrain and struggling to control his men. BUT he was very much in the background. Other than sending a whimpering Miriam out into the cold, he was useless.

All the maritime jargon and endless wave surfing didn’t do anything to keep my interest. I was only really hooked when the tanker continued to plunge further into disarray BUT even the Perfect Storm-esque sequences soon dragged on. The CGI got increasingly worse as the little tug boat rode the cartoony waves. The camera work was difficult and disorienting. If the effect was to make you feel sea sick then well done.

This was supposed to be in 3D. Barely anything jumped out or grabbed my attention to warrant it. There wasn’t enough tension, suspense or drama to keep things afloat either. The corny sea songs and defiant speeches were far too cringe-inducing to be taken seriously. Grainger (The Borgias) was left wandering around in the snow with a dull subplot that dealt with a botched rescue from Burt’s past.

I couldn’t help BUT think of Cast Away as the rescue team battled the relentless waves. I realized that I was more engaged in seeing a mad man and his volleyball survive than the people in this flick. The closing act did (finally) deliver a watchable affair as the rescue attempt unfolded.

If the story was true then I couldn’t believe that a rag tag team of inexperienced sea men (Easy now) were able to defy such odds. BUT even after that tense little encounter, it all fizzled out rather quickly and flatly. Leading to a dreadfully dull and incredibly corny finale. The only real surprise that I got out of this was that this was a Disney movie.

Watchable. BUT I fear that if the cast weren’t attached to this then it would have been nothing more than a TV movie at best. Disappointing.

2.5/5

*NEW* PAN REVIEW *NEW*

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I fear this one might get panned.

Even with a talented cast and impressive special effects, this latest offering on the Pan myth should still walk the plank.

12-year-old orphan Peter (Levi Miller) is spirited away to the magical world of Neverland, where he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.

The opening zipped along. It was easygoing and got straight to business. We watch Peter endure life at the Dickensian orphanage. Battling the ever cantankerous Mother Barnabas. Played to perfection by Kathy Burke. Not enough of her if I’m honest.

Levi Miller delivered an impressive debut for a young lad. There was the odd moment where certain lines and a couple of the scenes hindered with his delivery BUT nothing that can’t be fixed with a few more movies.

And it wasn’t long before our young hero was plucked out of his bed and taken to Neverland. This part of the story I’d seen before in Once Upon A Time and it did feel like a retread for me. I was disappointed that the war time setting wasn’t used to its full potential.

It did allow for a fantastic chase sequence with The Ranger pirate ship being pursued by the Royal Air Force. It was all a little too OTT for my liking BUT the pace and effects kept me subdued. For now.

It was great to see Nonso Anozie finally getting more screen time. It was just a shame that after a memorable introduction as Bishop that he was pushed into the background.

For the first half hour, I was pleasantly surprised. BUT the problems really popped up when Peter arrived in Neverland. The strange musical number in the mines didn’t set the right tone for me.

A bunch of miners bellowing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and The Ramone’s Blitzkrieg Bop felt like something that should have been in Moulin Rouge. Things improved slightly with the introduction of Jackman’s Blackbeard. But that soon spiralled downhill.

He lapped it up and was incredibly camp. A perfect panto villain. BUT that was also the problem. He came off far too comical. His bi-polar mood swings and OTT delivery soon killed what little tension there was around the iconic villain. I understand that it’s a family movie BUT I was more afraid of the CGI’d Sid from Toy Story than this chap.

Speaking of iconic villains, Garrett Hedlund as James Hook was terrible. Don’t get me wrong, Hedlund delivered one of his most liveliest performances. He looked the part with that shark toothed smile. BUT he got on my nerves. He just shouted his lines (which were weak) and every time he appeared on the screen, I instantly wished him gone.

Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions) was perfectly cast as Smee. He fell short of ol’ Bob Hoskins from Hook BUT he gave it a go and delivered the odd chuckle. Rooney Mara did her best with the role of Tiger Lily, the native chief’s daughter.

The only problem with Mara’s character was that it was spoiled by an incredibly hammy love subplot with Hook. It was cringe-inducing. Hedlund even shouted during those bits and all!

I know I said the animation was fantastic. And for the majority of the film, it was. Not quite sure whether it was worth the 3D investment. BUT there were a couple of things that didn’t look right. The Neverbirds looked terribly cartoony. They looked like something that should have been on the cover of a cereal box.

The lovely Cara Delevigne popped up in a badly CGI’d cameo as a mermaid. I don’t know why they just didn’t have her swimming about in a mermaid costume instead (What?).

Amanda Seyfried had the easiest job going as Peter’s mother. Anyone could have played her. The final twenty minutes were entertaining enough as Tiger Lily takes on Blackbeard BUT it was so rushed that it ended quite abruptly.

It was a fresh take to see Hook and Pan start out as friends BUT we didn’t see any real conflict and by the end of the film, there wasn’t any indication of their rivalry brewing. Just a nauseating exchange that they will be friends forever. Awww . . . Yuck.

Things were inevitably left open for another. BUT if I’m honest, it’s going to take a lot of convincing to get me to check out that one. It’s was too corny, frantic and didn’t even explore the mystery of Neverland.

It was watchable BUT memorable? If anything this made me want to dig out my VHS (What are those?! Showing my age now) of Hook.

Enough to keep the little ‘uns at bay for a couple of hours BUT it falls short of any of the other versions.

2.5/5