“Liberate Forever, Domesticated Never!”
Ever since the origin of those funky yellow guys who seem to speak a mix of drunken English and incomprehensible gibberish, Illumination Entertainment has hit the big time. With Minions taking an extraordinary amount of cash last year, The Secret Life of Pets is indeed the next big pet (no pun intended) project for Universal, a film which simply won everybody over with its’ short but sweet introduction to the movie in which we witness segments of different pets getting up to no good whilst their owners are away. Now with the full movie being released. the real question remained whether the 90 minute spectacle would live up to the promise billed in the films’ trailers and after watching the finished product, The Secret Life of Pets is indeed a film which is guaranteed to bring in the big bucks but ultimately a film, much like last years’ Minions, is fairly unsubstantial and one that although is good fun for the time spent with it, doesn’t exactly remain with you after it’s finished.
Featuring fundamentally likeable characters such as charismatic and fluffy dogs, crazy homicidal bunny rabbits and a lackadaisical overweight cat, The Secret Life of Pets is guaranteed to satisfy the younger generation with fantastic animation being present throughout the entirety of the film, but the problems come up to the surface when observing the rather unoriginal plot and continuous moments of sheer destruction caused by our beloved titular pets that seems to go completely unnoticed by the humans in this particular tale. I know guys, it isn’t meant to be the most fictional depiction of the world in which we live, but The Secret Life of Pets too often banishes the hope of a strong plot thread and substitutes it for loud, crashing car chases or James Bond esque villainous lair escapes. Maybe I’m looking too deep into it or maybe I’m right but whatever the result, The Secret Life of Pets is a solid addition to the Illumination canon but not much else.
Overall Score: 6/10
“It’s Called A Hustle Sweetheart…”
And finally, here we are at last. The showdown between two heavyweights. The greatest battle ever to have graced this crazy world. That’s right guys, it’s Zootropolis against Batman V Superman. Disney against Warner. Bunny against Bat. See what I’m getting at? Good, I’ll stop now. Continuing the riveting success of movies of the animated variety over the course of the past few years or so is Disney’s latest pet project (No pun intended) Zootropolis, a film proud enough to stand toe-to-toe with BvS in hope of snatching that esteemed number one spot in the top ten list come the end of the Easter Holidays. If money doesn’t speak volumes to you however, then the critical concentration of the two films is the thing you may indeed be looking at, with Zootropolis being leagues ahead in terms of overall quality in comparison to the Batman behemoth, with laughs being rife all the way though it’s Chinatown-esque mystery themes and nods to the adult variety which will bound to leave all audiences leaving the cinema with a smile. And a new annoyingly catchy song to hum to.
Leaving the carrot-harvesting life of her surroundings, optimistic young rabbit Judy Hopps enrols within the Police Recruitment program whereby she is reassigned to the vast and sprawling city of Zootropolis after graduating top of her class and having the esteemed reputation of becoming the first rabbit to do so. Although beginning life as a lowly traffic warden, Judy soon becomes unravelled in a kidnapping plot and with the help of fox con-artist Nick Wilde, she attempts to uncover the deep, dark secrets surrounding the cities anthropomorphic lifestyle. Featuring fantastic visuals and a incredible voice cast including the likes of Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and Ginnifer Goodwin as the young Officer Hopps, Zootropolis manages to encapsulate all the things that make animated movies the success that they are, with well-timed jokes cracked left, right and centre whilst the well-designed characters are crafted with more-than-enough detail to keep all the little ones interested and engaged. Although it perhaps doesn’t include the same wonder factor of last years’ brilliant one-two of Inside Out and Song of the Sea, Zootropolis is indeed a brilliant addition to the Disney canon, one in which I could watch again and again and continue to smile. Oh yeah, and that Shakira song is damn catchy.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Look For What Is Special About Each Individual, Focus On That…”
When the name Charlie Kaufman is brought up in conversation amongst the many cinematic ramblings, films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich are the first that always spring to mind with the former being a particularly strange and wonderful feat of cinema featuring arguably Jim Carey in his best role to date. As for Duke Johnson, I’m afraid to say that this is a name that I was not aware of in the slightest before watching Anomalisa, a animated feature that brings together the wacky, surreal sensibility of Kaufman and morphs majestically with the stop-motion talents of Johnson (Thanks Wikipedia) creating a piece of art unlike anything else that will be released this year. Not only is the story wonderful, the ideas out-of-this-world and the stop-motion itself rather flawless, Anomalisa is a movie that speaks about the honest pains of the world’s oldest emotion; love. Just with puppets. Featuring David Thewlis as the voice of Michael Stone, the comically least motivated motivational speaker you have seen in film, Anomalisa follows Michael’s venture to Cincinnati and his stay at the local hotel wherein he meets the unique Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a woman whom he believes is the chance for a new beginning in life.
Carrying on the wonderful imaginings that originate from the mind of Kaufman, Anomalisa focuses solely on the POV of Michael, a man who seemingly realises his life is going nowhere, tent-poled by a marriage which bears similarities to Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham in American Beauty with both partnerships being there for show rather than for actuality on the basis of love, with even Michael’s son being more interested on the ownership of toys rather than his fathers’ affection, culminating in a rather hilarious scene in which Michael brings back his son a rather questionable Cincinnati present to play with. Boosting the notion of Michael’s loneliness in life is the way in which everyone around him sounds exactly the same, one that is rather monotone and ever-so slightly eerie masterminded by the voice of Tom Noonan. The constant familiar voice is intended to portray Michael’s singularity and depressive nature, a nature that is brought comfort by the discovery of Lisa whose voice, to the wonder of Michael, is inherently different, a soothing, comforting one in which Michael finds solace and can’t hear enough of, evidenced by a wonderful scene in which Lisa sings Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.
Amongst the wondrous joy of Anomalisa is the mandatory subverted strangeness, with Michael’s dream sequences being rather Lynchian to say the least, with one in particular exposing the puppetry of Michael’s orchestration, a nod to the film-maker’s decision to allow the design of the puppets to be seen clear-as-day on-screen, perhaps suggesting the life of Michael can be boiled down to that of the proverbial puppet on a string, one in which life and loneliness comes hand in hand except for that brief moment in which you find true happiness, happiness which goes all two quick for our titular Anomalisa. Much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman has orchestrated a superbly imaginative piece of cinema, one in which should not forget the work of Duke Johnson in any sense, and one in which will stand up against anything else released this year. Superb.
Overall Score: 9/10
And It Was All Yellow…
One of the many benefits of heading into my local cinema is to experience a wide range of movies which jump from one completely different genre to the next with my experience of watching Universal’s Minions being a prime example, with it undoubtedly unlocking the 7 year old child that is still inside of me and seemingly transforming all the bad energy in the world to a charming and quite bonkers 80 minutes. The fundamental existence of the minion character has always managed to make me crack a smile, regardless of how I felt at that certain time, meaning before even entering the cinema I was bound to at least like Pierre Coffin’s spin-off from the Despicable Me series, yet unfortunately for the cute little freaks, “like” seems to be the key word after watching Minions with it yes, being rather heartwarming and funny, but altogether not being pretty spectacular whatsoever.
After years of isolation from both the world and a evil leader to follow, Minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob are tasked with leaving the confines of their cave in order to seek a new leader to follow in order to bring back the long-lost sense of purpose which has been taken from their race. During their journey, they are taken up by crime-lord Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock, Gravity), who tasks them with stealing the crown jewels in return for the race of Minions to serve once again. In terms of the plot of Minions, not only does it lack originality and freshness, but it is also completely bonkers and thriving with quite huge plot holes, but hey, it’s a kid’s film with bald, yellow alien things, what do you expect? Yet the fact that such plot holes were even picked up reinforces my sadness at how just un-engaging Minions actually was, with an over-reliance of the Minions either falling over or making a complete tit of themselves wearing off and becoming rather quite tedious after the first 15 minutes or so.
On the upside of Minions, in places, it was rather funny, with the scenes in a rather rib-tickling overly stereotyped 1960’s London being the highlight of the film, with every English character seemingly all having exactly the same traits including drinking tea, eating scones, and shouting “cor blimey,” of which I found rather enjoyable. Overall, if a film such as Minions can just about hold a 21 year old’s attention for its’ short 80 minute run-time, then I’m pretty sure the kids will love it. Charming and funny in places, but lacking in originality and engagement in most, Minions passes the time, but don’t expect it to be loved as much as you would like.