We’re certainly in a new era, with the ability to watch the latest Pixar movie directly on your TV, with the advent of streaming services such as Disney Plus. So when I noticed this latest effort had appeared, I decided to give it a watch. Mei-Lee is a young Chinese girl living in Canada who lives for life, her friends, school and her deeply traditional family. However one morning she wakes up to discover she’s transformed into a huge red panda.
As an exploration of puberty, growing from a child into adolescence, this is fairly obvious but done well, retaining a great deal of fun whilst exploring a delicate subject. Pixar’s animation is top notch as usual and this time seems to have a Japanese anime influence. Mei-Lee is initially a bit of an annoying character but quickly proves sympathetic and endearing. It perfectly captures superficiality of teen crushes, boy band obsession and friendship, complete with over-protective parents and breaking the rules in order to grow and develop. It also reminded me of Teen Wolf at times.
Voice acting throughout is decent despite lacking celeb names bar veteran James Hong as Mei-Lee’s grandfather. On a whole this also felt slightly low-key compared to the usual Pixar blockbuster, but was no less entertaining. Check it out.
2020 has been a very strange year, due to a global pandemic resulting in the pushing back of big names movies, closing cinemas or forcing some movies to get released on streaming platforms for a premium price. So watching movies hasn’t been as simple or as accessible as we’ve been used to. During the year I’ve found myself watching older catalogue titles on Blu-ray or focusing more on TV, gaming or doing challenges like my A-Z challenge during the summer.
However that doesn’t mean I missed out on some quality movies, and the count down that follows, showcases for me the cream of the crop. Please note these are movies i enjoyed the most during the year … but some may have been released earlier than 2020.
Birds of Prey
Ford V Ferrari (aka Le Mans ‘66)
Fighting With My Family
Jo Jo Rabbit
Honourable mentions: Greyhound, Incident in a Ghostland
Well there you have it. Here’s to hoping 2021 goes a little more smoothly. Like 2020, I think we’re in for some treats as far as movies are concerned and of course I’ll try and watch and review as many as I can. Happy New Year folks!
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.
When toy cowboy ‘Woody’ (voiced by Tom Hanks) finds himself sidelined by new owner ‘Bonnie’ in favour of other toys, he finds new found purpose after Bonnie’s hand-made new toy ‘Forky’ goes missing at a carnival during a family road trip. At the same time Woody is reunited with his old flame, Bo Peep (Annie Potts).
I was looking forward to this. I’m a big fan of the other movies and couldn’t wait for the further adventures of Woody, Byzz and the gang. This time around we are introduced to a new villain, antique shop dwelling Doll ‘Gabby Gabby’ (Christina Hendricks). Yet despite initial promise with her brilliantly creepy Ventriloquist doll henchmen, she just failed to live up to her potential. The same could also be said for wasting the presence of such established characters as Jessie, T-Rex or even Buzz Lightyear (who is mostly demoted to a supporting role). Instead the movie focuses on Woody and Bo Peep which is at least different, even if Bo’s topical feminist symbolism was a bit too on the nose.
With that said, Forky is a welcome addition and gets all the best gags, and the movie looks as expected, stunning – the CGI animation often wowing this viewer. The caper at play here, if a little typical is still great fun too. The heart-strings get pulled firmly towards the end and the key characters are well written with at times real emotional depth. Overall though, this fails to be quite as sharp, clever or funny as what’s come before and the plot was not as engaging, Toy Story 3 had everything coming full circle. This however, whilst still worthwhile … didn’t have much more to say.
I don’t watch as many animated movies as I should be, and realize I’ve missed out this year some big hitters. However on browsing the latest rental releases, this took my interest as I recalled really enjoying the first movie. This long time coming sequel pretty much picks up where we left off, with our super-hero family having to go about their crime fighting adventures in secret, with a law having been passed outlawing people with powers. This brings in a wealthy brother and sister who propose to change things for the better by hiring Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) to showcase just how good super heroes are to the masses.
I’m a little bit sick of this concept of the public unsure of or shunning super heroes. They almost becoming the enemy when there’s all too many actual enemies out there. A similar plot device was used in Captain America Civil War and Batman V Superman. Why does Hollywood think we want our heroes being portrayed with such distrust and fear? Aren’t they meant to be the heroes? Thankfully this admittedly very entertaining and visually arresting movie jumps between such plot threads and a twist on family responsibilities and throws in plenty of spectacular action. The villain though is sign posted a bit too well and I guessed their identity easily. Also there’s a clear feminist slant to the reversal of roles and some of the dialogue and themes, which yeah is everywhere right now. As unnecessary as it clearly is in a movie that was never just about the male lead anyway.
The voice work is top notch though including a welcome turn from Breaking Bad’s Bob Odenkirk, and Pixar’s animation is as gorgeous as ever (even if the character design is a bit ugly … what’s with Elastigirl’s massive ass?). Overall and considering the long wait for this, I was expecting a bit more … the villain is forgettable and cliched and the story adds nothing to the formula. As it stands though, this is still a lot of fun regardless of wasted potential.
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