Onward


Viewed – 03 October 2020. Disney+

Its difficult reviewing animated movies, because the quality is often so high, it’s tempting to just rate them all the same. So I tend to be a bit harder on them that some other movies. This unusual story presents an enchanted, fairy tale world that turns its back on magic, favouring technology to develop very much like the regular world. So people have jobs, there’s police, shops, fast food restaurants etc. On his 16th birthday, young elf Ian is given a present from his Dad who died of an illness before he was born, and it turns out to be a wizards staff. After reciting a spell that’s meant to bring the dad back for one day only … the spell goes wrong and only half of the dad’s body comes back – literally from the waist down. However his big brother Barley says there’s a way of completing the spell and so a quest unfolds to resurrect their dad before the sun goes down.

Like Monsters Inc and Inside Out before it, this presents a world full of character and personality. Again it’s a feast for the eyes and full of memorable side characters, pop culture gags and references – but it’s the unique idea that’s the winner; a caper comedy that’s weirdly a lot like 80s comedy Weekend at Bernies. Some moments, especially the freeway chase with the biker sprites certainly had me laughing out-loud. Yet underneath the visuals and gags lies a great deal of heart – something Pixar have always been masters of.

Tom Holland as Ian is perfect, but is overshadowed by Chris Pratt’s Barley who turns a potentially irritating loud mouth of a character into someone I really cared about. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is also good as the two brother’s Mom. The ending also turns the story on its head to deliver an emotion-heavy and wonderfully bittersweet conclusion. So there you have it – damn, another Pixar gem that shouldn’t be missed! Sigh.

Verdict: Essential

Mulan


Viewed – 08 September 2020 Disney+

I never got around to watching the animated original, yet it had always intrigued me … but unlike some other live action Disney remakes of late, I thought this would suit such a take better. Telling the tale of a young woman in ancient China who chooses to join the Emperors army disguised as a man, after an invading army declare war.

This is a gorgeous movie, awash with vibrant colours, beautiful costumes and stunning scenery and locations. Yes, there’s an overdose of CGI and occasionally the use of green screen for backgrounds is a bit obvious, but overall this was a treat for the eyes. Martial arts star Donnie Yen appears as a general who trains up the Emperors army, and an unrecognisable Jet Li appears as the Emperor himself. Jason Scott Lee’s vengeful leader of the invading army is good but he’s overshadowed by Gong Li’s brilliantly ruthless witch, who is definitely one of the movie’s stand out characters. Yet Liu Yifei as Mulan herself is very good, tough yet vulnerable and can handle the various elaborate fight sequences and carries the movie well. Yet the star here is the direction and visuals, Action scenes are plentiful and the camera work is often unique and stylish.

The story is nothing that special though and gets rather predictable. Some of the gravity-defying fantasy aspects can get a bit silly too. Also I found myself having to suspend belief when Mulan was disguised as a man, but still looked feminine to me. However, despite these things, I was still highly entertained from start to finish. One to check out.

Verdict: Recommended

Frozen II


Viewed – 25 August 2020 Disney+

I can’t say I had any intention of watching this. I enjoyed but wasn’t blown away from the (at the time) heavily lauded first movie, and guess a sequel was inevitable – although was surprised to see it receive very little hype at release. However I spotted it on Disney+ and as starved as we are of new, worthwhile movies of late … I thought what the hell.

Call of the Wild…

Magical Ice Queen ‘Elsa’ is haunted by a voice that calls to her. It seems strangely linked to a story her late father told her and her sister Anna when they were children, of an enchanted forest covered in mist. Eager to find out what it all means, Elsa sets out on an adventure, along with her sister as well as snowman Olaf and other friends.

This musical fantasy of course looks great. Frozen’s animation style may not be as visually dazzling as say, something from Pixar but it suits the throwback, classic style and is still beautifully done. The story is fun even if it felt a little forced initially with the whole ‘calling’ having little reason to ‘suddenly’ occur. The songs are entertaining, even if there’s nothing to rival the first movie’s ‘let it go’. Snowman Olaf also proved a bit irritating early on but I’ll admit I warmed to him as the movie progressed. Despite such issues however, I still found this really enjoyable. It’s quite funny and the characters (especially Anna) really had some great moments. Also that ending was feel-good perfection that I found quite touching. Not exactly another Disney Classic, but still well worth checking out.

Verdict: Good

Mary Poppins Returns


Viewed – 28 March 2020. Disney+

The original Mary Poppins was one of my favourite movies of my childhood, and even though I haven’t watched it in years, those songs and routines have stayed embedded in me. Chim-Chimney’s enchanting melody has always been a fave. So we come to this unexpected but welcome follow-up set a number of years after that last movie and has the Banks children grown up and facing the re-possession of the family house, due to mounting debts. So it’s time for the magical Nanny to return and put things right.

Nanny Mc…who?

Emily Blunt is perfectly cast. A decent, British actress and it turns out a very capable song and dance performer … but most importantly she delivers a perfect rendition of Poppins that would make Dame Julie Andrews proud. Although the many musical numbers can’t quite compare to the original, songs like ‘can you imagine that?’ and ‘trip a little light fantastic’ are solid numbers with fantastic set pieces sequences. The China bowl sequence especially was dripping with artistic flair. The story is pretty much a remake though but that’s not a bad thing when the mood, the charm and the atmosphere of the original are so brilliantly recreated. Support casting is also spot on with Bond’s Q, Ben Wishaw great as the grown up Michael as is Emily Mortimer as Jane, and the child actors playing Michael’s kids are decent also. A stand out, like Dick Van Dyke in the original is Lin-Manuel Miranda who occasionally steals the show as lantern-lighter Jack.

Production values, animation, effects and most importantly fun factor are all quality and if the original didn’t exist this could be placed in classic status … but sadly remains in that movie’s shadow, not helped by less memorable songs. On it’s own merits though, this was great entertainment from start to finish.

Verdict: Recommended

Bottom Ten Movies of 2019


It wasn’t all home runs for the movies I watched in 2019. Not all here are ‘bad’ movies they just either underwhelmed or disappointed me compared to other movies in 2019. Listed in order of disdain

10.

Aquaman

 

9.

Men in Black: International

 

8.

The Highwaymen

 

7.

Cold Pursuit

 

6.

3 From Hell

 

5.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

4.

Blackkklansman

 

3.

Climax

 

2.

The Equalizer 2

 

1.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood