Normally films like this put me on edge.

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) when her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older brother (Blake Jenner).

I didn’t think I’d enjoy this at all.

The endless praise and surprisingly high ratings piqued my curiousity. When I saw Miss Steinfeld in True Grit, I thought to myself, “She is going to be one to watch for the future” BUT the last few films I’ve seen her in, I’ve been disappointed. Playing nothing more than a neurotic, fast talking, annoying teenage daughter.

She really grated against me in Pitch Perfect 2.

Within the first ten minutes of Nadine’s verbal diarrhea, I thought I might have to switch this off. Her melodramatic cries for attention had me wincing. That was until she shared her feelings with a seemingly uncaring teacher (Woody Harrelson).

What ensued after was a pleasantly entertaining coming-of-age family drama that hit home.

The film flicked back and forth as we got a glimpse into Nadine’s past right up to the . . . edge of 17. The melancholy and nostalgia ripe for the picking as she made her first friend at pre-school and bumped heads with her erratic mother (Kyra Sedgwick).

Her dad being the wedge between them. An endearing relationship that was cut short (rather unexpectedly).

It was easygoing and funny enough as Nadine dealt with growing up, high school crushes, her sibling rivalry with her over achieving brother Darian (Nope, not a typo. Actual name) and those . . . embarrassing haircuts. Rocking a do that bared striking similarities to Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite.

However, being a teen drama, it wasn’t long before Nadine’s relatively tranquil and normal life came crashing down after walking in on her BFF in bed with Darian.

Throwing her into a helter skelter of emotions and self-reflection as she threatens to lose her only real friend and cause a rift in the family.

After commending Harrelson’s performance in Three Billboards last month, I was impressed to see that the comedy actor wasn’t a one trick pony (I know! True Detective, yeah yeah yeah). He really has matured as an actor and delivered a sterling turn as the cynical Mr Bruner.

I loved the dynamic between Nadine and her long suffering tutor. The tit for tat banter really made the film. A constant thorn in the miserable mentor’s side. BUT beneath that gloomy exterior, lied a man with a good heart. Desperate to see this neurotic teenager find her way and . . . leave him alone for a god damn second.

Hayden Szeto was brilliant as Erwin. The geeky film nerd desperate to win Nadine’s love and affection. The awkward cringe inducing first date, the idle chit chat, we’ve all been there. I felt for the poor chap as he got “friend zoned” again and again.

What I loved most about this film was how writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig tackled loneliness and isolation among the characters.

Nadine’s depression and frustrations reaching breaking point as she tries to break up the people who are desperately trying to help her. The stubbornness and refusal to see other people’s problems over her own as she acted out.

I was a little embarrassed to admit that I could relate to the headstrong 17 year old girl. I was dropped by my best friend in sixth form out of the blue which knocked my confidence for six and forced me to re-evaluate myself.

I know the situation was reversed for Nadine BUT the anguish and awkward encounters as she tried to branch out struck a chord for me. Brilliantly captured and acted perfectly by Steinfeld.

I wasn’t sure on what direction the film would take as it reached it’s emotional finale. I won’t spoil it. BUT worth a watch.

A pleasant surprise. Not without its imperfections. It was still a little cheesy and the pace did test in places BUT hype definitely helped this time around.




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?)


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.