“You’re Bonnie’s Toy. You Are Going To Help Create Happy Memories That Will Last For The Rest Of Her Life…”
Come the end of Toy Story 3 back in 2010, it’s fair to say that a huge majority of both film critics and fans alike seemed to all be in universal agreement that the story of Woody and Buzz had been wrapped up rather beautifully, concluding a trilogy of award-winning animation movies which would forever be regarded as Disney Pixar’s very own pièce de résistance and a particular franchise that would never be topped. When the first whispers of a further sequel arose therefore, a wave of pandemonium and panic justifiably surfaced across social media, with the same critics and fans jaw-dropped at the idea that such a beloved trilogy could potentially be tarnished for what seemed to exist for no other reason than that of a quick cash-grab, and whilst many may head into Toy Story 4 carrying a suitcase worth of trepidation, what a huge relief it is to report that Disney Pixar’s latest is a heartwarming, hilarious and sometimes beautiful animated delight, a third sequel which mixes the return of all of the franchise favourite characters with interesting new inclusions alongside a central narrative which although does feel overly familiar for a series spanning twenty years plus, will undoubtedly work for both children and adults alike.
With a different director at the helm once again, Pixar Animation Studios stalwart, Josh Cooley, is gleefully offered the top job, taking the directing mantle away from the likes of John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich, after his work on recent animated works including Inside Out and Up, and with a script from a whole army of screenwriters, including Lasseter himself, Toy Story 4 primarily picks off where its’ predecessor ended, with Woody (Tom Hanks) and co. now being cared for by young Bonnie, the playful daughter of the parents living next door to Woody’s previous owner, Andy, and with Woody now being resigned to a limited amount of playtime, Bonnie soon finds herself a new best friend in the figure of Forky (Tony Hale) a makeshift, DIY hybrid of trash and toy whose lust for freedom results in Woody and the gang attempting to rescue him and bring him back to the loving arms of his creator. With more comedic punches than so-called contemporary comedies, an array of interesting new characters including Keanu Reeves’ (John Wick) Duke Caboom, and simply stunning animation, Toy Story 4 is indeed Disney Pixar at their most charming, and whilst the overall plot does seem slightly run-of-the-mill and franchise built, Cooley’s movie benefits from a tonal sensibility that only the best Disney movies can do, with it the type of movie which within the space of just over ninety minutes makes you smile, laugh and cry all at the same time. Oh, and I loved the massive nod to The Shining.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Emmet, You’ve Gotta Stop Pretending Everything Is Awesome. It Isn’t…”
When it comes to 2014’s The Lego Movie, it is fair to say in retrospect that everything and everyone involved with such a movie was indeed particularly awesome, with my own personal view at the time of its’ initial release verging more on the side of caution when contemplating a feature length movie based upon those tiny multi coloured blocks that really hurt your feet when accidentally stepped upon. With the movie blossoming from the much welcome mix of critical and financial success therefore, including the added impotence of journeys into the realm of equally successful spin-offs, including the ridiculously entertaining, The Lego Batman Movie, which remains my personal of the series so far, here we are again with The Lego Movie 2, the inevitable animated sequel which sees Phil Lord and Christopher Miller drop from directorial duties as they boast both a production role and a screenplay for Trolls and Shrek Forever After director, Mike Mitchell, to work around. With the first film famously featuring a central twist in which we see that the lives of our yellow faced friends are actually being controlled by the hands of Will Ferrell and his playful son, The Lego Movie 2 takes matters a step forward as we see the young sister of the family now being allowed to play with the seemingly endless pool of Lego, resulting in Chris Pratt’s (Avengers: Infinity War) Emmett being heart and centre of a series of utmost destruction which turns his world into a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max inspired war zone.
With Emmett attempting to remain as the same old, happy-go-lucky everyman amidst a wasteland of negativity, he is soon called into action after Elizabeth Banks’ (Power Rangers) Lucy is kidnapped alongside a group of fellow heroes in order to satisfy the ambiguous wishes of Tiffany Haddish’s (Night School) Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, the shape-shifting ruler of the wonderfully named, Systar System. Sounds bonkers right? And The Lego Movie 2 is just that, a bizarre but highly comical animated adventure which successfully manages to balance the right amount of cinematic appeal to both older and younger audiences, with the colourful, playfulness of the visuals and the smirk-inducing slapstick guaranteed to keep the children in the audience entertained, whilst the array of constantly smart and well-timed comedic gags and slight, off-hand knowing film geek references, including digs at particular film franchises and comic book heroes, are worked effectively into the narrative in order to make the more mature audience member giggle with glee. Whilst the film does struggle to contain the steady hit-rate of comedy throughout its’ slightly misjudged one hundred minute runtime, a weakness which also affects the pacing of the piece, particularly around the halfway mark, The Lego Movie 2 is a worthy successor to a movie which I can admit to being wrong about first time around, albeit one which fails to land the same kind of punches The Lego Batman Movie managed to do. Maybe more Batman next time. You can never have too much Batman.
Overall Score: 7/10
“My Name Is Miles Morales. I’m The One And Only Spider-Man. At Least That’s What I Thought…”
With the superhero genre reaching some sort of unprecedented cinematic peak in 2018 with the likes of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War in particular reminding that even in a climate stuffed with familiar tales of heroism, there are still many tales left to be told, the last month of the year has reserved just a few more before returning once again with a new handful of highly anticipated releases come 2019. Produced by the successful American pairing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the first of two big comic releases this month is of course, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a barmy and maniacal addition into its’ respective genre which continues the recent success of the pair’s ventures into animation after the likes of the rather excellent The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, with a movie which utilises the versatile figure of Marvel’s web-slinging cash cow for a dazzlingly designed superhero adventure which attempts to offer something slightly different to the same old comic-based routine many of us are well and truly used to. With a gorgeously orchestrated animated design and some snappy comedic dialogue, Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining if slightly functional Marvel addition, offering some of the best visual splendour available this year but suffering ever so heavily from an overstretched running time which does unfortunately begin to test the patience as it ticks just under the two hour mark.
With an overly familiar Lord/Miller tongue-in-cheek sensibility running through the central core of the film, Into the Spider-Verse begins by poking fun at the varying cliches attached to the superhero genre, particularly in regards to the many origin-based stories and similar cinematic developments of Spider-Man himself since the turn of the twentieth century, and with a clear understanding that many in the audience will undoubtedly be comic obsessives themselves, the snappy dialogue and in-house running gags prove effective, even when the core storyline does strangely end up falling right into the familiar superhero plot devices the script finds joy in making fun out of. With the central appeal of the movie hanging on two key factors, the first of which being the jerky, stylised animation which more than ever before seems to be a direct three dimensional transition of the comics from paper to screen, and the second of course being the chance to see radically different versions of the Spider-Man character all appear together on-screen in order to combat the central threat of the larger than life, Wilson Fisk, the question remains whether such selling points actually benefit the movie as a whole or are simply nothing more than cinematic gimmicks. In the case of the animation, a high proportion of it is indeed spectacular to behold on the big screen, with sweeping, soaring wide screen views of an animated New York really quite breathtaking, but as the movie moves into its’ predictable climax, the overreliance on stuffy, messy and maniacal splashes of pixelated colour brings the film on par with Teen Titans! Go To The Movies in terms of the headache inducing pain your eyes endure before the credits ultimately roll, but with a stellar supporting voice cast including the likes of Hailee Steinfield, (True Grit) Nicholas Cage, (Mandy) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining, if flawed, sugar rush of a movie with enough to like to counteract the migraine you may obtain after watching it.
Overall Score: 6/10
“And Now For The Million Dollar Question: Do People Assume All Your Problems Got Solved Because A Big Strong Man Showed Up..?”
Continuing on from 2012’s highly entertaining animated spectacle, Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest venture sees the return of the titular well-meaning and reluctant arcade game villain, voiced once again by the one and only John C. Reilly (We Need To Talk About Kevin), who continues his blossoming relationship with Sarah Silverman’s (Battle of the Sexes) bubblegum racing princess, Vanellope von Schweetz, in an adventure which follows the atypical cliche of most movie sequels by offering something bigger, bolder and particularly in the case of Ralph Breaks the Internet, a movie which thrives on being rather quite barmy. Directed by the working couple of the returning Rich Moore and Zootropolis screenwriter, Phil Johnston, the second installment in the Ralphverse pretty much continues on from where its’ predecessor ended, with Ralph, Vanellope and the motley crew of arcade game characters carrying on with their wildly colourful existence within the confines of a universe full of retro throwbacks and particular designs which seem to make certain fanbases in the world giggle with utmost joy when seeing their favourite characters appear on the big screen. Wowed by the introduction of the unpronounceable “WiFi” plug which is brought into the arcade by the aged, behind-with-the-times owner, Ralph and Vanellope soon journey into the the new area after the latter’s game, Sugar Rush, is unplugged due to an accident indirectly caused by Ralph himself.
Whilst the central storyline to Ralph Breaks the Internet undoubtedly fails to be as straightforward, streamlined and easy to follow as its’ predecessor, moving from one plot point to another and then to another again in the spirit of George Lucas at his insufferable worst, the most surprising aspect of the movie is the almost uncanny similarity to the truly awful, The Emoji Movie, with varying familiar themes regarding on-the-nose product placement and the darker, seedier side of the world wide web all bringing to mind how terribly wrong everything involved with that particularly movie ultimately became. Fortunately for Ralph and co, Disney’s attempt proves much more successful, blending the wide range of internet-based notions to a much more effective degree which even manages to suppress the annoying factor of the obvious advertisement, and with crisp, well designed and admirable animation to soak up, Ralph volume two is rife with astronomical levels of detail including numerous, off-centre comedic asides which in a similar vein to The Lego Batman Movie, will undoubtedly require subsequent viewings in order to locate every single easter egg on offer. With effective guest voice actors including Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) as a Death Race inspired, super-cool racing driver and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) as a social media obsessed entrepreneur, a trippy final act filled with animation spectacle at its’ finest and a particular scene involving Disney Princesses which is the finest animated comedic set piece since everything involving Jack-Jack in The Incredibles 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a more than adequate sequel which ticks all the boxes for all-round family friendly animated adventure.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Titans, You Guys Are Never Actually Doing Anything Heroic…”
With the success of The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie proving that poking fun at the biggest franchises in the world can be best achieved within the format of animation, DC Comics’ turn at rivalling Marvel once again comes in the form of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, a feature long adaptation of the U.S show, Teen Titans Go!, which sees the titular squad of lesser-known superheroes attempt to prove their worth in a universe surrounded by the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman and lose their image of being too immature to be taken seriously as heroes. Featuring a voice cast which mixes the regulars of the television show with guest stars such as Nicholas Cage, Jimmy Kimmel and Kristen Bell, Teen Titans is an energetic mixed bag, one which does manage to successfully orchestrate a huge number of brilliant in-house gags with eye-wateringly hilarious results, but a movie which also suffers from a headache inducing sense of not entirely warranting its’ cinematic status, with issues regarding the movie’s screenplay, direction and tone resulting in a movie which certainly lacks the aplomb its’ predecessing familiars managed to get ever so right.
With the best animated movies satisfying both younger and adult audiences alike, Teen Titans Go! does at least attempt primarily to aim at older viewers in regards to a high percentage of the satirical gags, with comments on the shared universes from Marvel and DC alike, the awfulness of Batman Vs. Superman, and the universally accepted hatred of Shia Labeouth all managing to work to impressive comedic means, but with an over-reliance on more times than not to default back to over-zealous screaming, shouting and an awful, bubblegum pop soundtrack, Teen Titans Go! unfortunately fails to balance its’ tonal control, resulting in you more likely to leave the auditorium with an excruciatingly painful headache than a gleeful rush of wishing to see the film again as quickly as possible. With a screenplay which weaves in and out of a central story, the narrative path of the film does quickly become overly tedious and dull, resulting in watch checking a common theme as the loudness of the movie forces you to stay awake, and with an overriding sense that Teen Titans Go! should have indeed offered a lot more, the ride from screen to cinema is undoubtedly one of crippling disappointment.
Overall Score: 5/10
“It’s Time To Make Some Wrong Things Right. Help Me Bring Supers Back Into The Sunlight…”
With the likes of Inside Out, Zootropolis and this year’s Coco categorically proving that the twentieth century has been open ground for a wide range of superb animation releases, the much anticipated return of the power-inflicted Parr family in Incredibles 2 after a prolonged fourteen year wait since their first appearance on the big screen back in 2004 mightily continues the winning streak which Disney is currently relishing in. Directed and written by Brad Bird, the brains behind the original, whose ventures in between the two films have included the rather enjoyable Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the not so enjoyable Tomorrowland, Incredibles 2 is a uproariously entertaining animated blockbuster, one which attempts to balance two separate story-lines as it revels in reverting particular familial stereotypes and one which ties into the conventional superhero mould by blending action spectacle with an abundance of rib-tickling humour, and whilst at times the twists and turns are rather unsurprising and the movie carries an overall feeling that two hours is far too long for most movies, let alone an animated feature, Brad Bird’s fourteen year project in the making does have flaws, but thankfully the many positives result in his latest feature being a damn fun ride.
Ditching the real life time gap and picking up three months after events of the first film, Bird’s screenplay sees the Parr family attempting to rebuild their life after the outlawing of superheroes, and with the help of Bob Odenkirk’s (Breaking Bad) Winston Deavor, a superhero-loving millionaire, the matriarchal figure of Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, The Big Sick) is placed front and centre of a scheme to reintroduce powered saviours back into favour of the world’s ever-watching eyes. With Helen’s absence therefore, the job of stay-at-home parent falls to Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson, Gold) who attempts to juggle the stress of managing his three children and wife’s new found success alongside the threat of the ominous Screenslaver, a tech-savvy terrorist type whose intentions seem to be aimed towards the newly popular band of superheroes. Jumping in and out of the two main narrative strands throughout the course of the movie, the primary superhero plot involving Elastigirl and her discovery of Screenslaver is solid enough fun, incorporating flashy and bright action set pieces including a high speed monorail chase and some epilepsy inducing boss battles, however the real winning streak of the movie falls in events back home with Mr. Incredible, particularly in the discovery of infant Jack-Jack’s new-found powers, an extended gag which offers a wide range of set pieces which genuinely land up there with some of the best on-screen comedy I have ever seen. With eye-catching animation, a heartfelt centrepiece message at the centre of the story and a heavy balance of enough there to fulfil both child and adult audiences alike, Incredibles 2 isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it offers enough of a good time to be more than worth a visit to see its’ ravishing pleasures.
Overall Score: 7/10
“The Age Of Stone Is Over. Long Live The Age Of Bronze…”
Best known for his work on the many forms of Wallace & Gromit and the ever-charming Shaun the Sheep franchise, Nick Park is undoubtedly the first name which springs to mind whenever the art form of stop-motion animation comes into discussion, and his return to the big-screen this week in the form of Early Man is one which reminds how much of a delicate and impressive pastime such a particular form of expressive freedom actually is, and with the likes of Chicken Run and 2015’s rather surreal Shaun the Sheep Movie both proving financially and critically successful, the cinematic appeal of stop-motion still applies more than ever. Utilising an equally impressive voice cast featuring the likes of Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers), Park’s movie centres around a rather straightforward and overly predictable heroic narrative focusing on Redmayne’s ambitious caveman, Dug, who challenges the rule of Hiddleston’s green-eyed, wealth obsessed and questionably accented Lord Nooth to a game of football in order to claim back their quaint and idyllic homeland of which was stolen in order to mine out its quantity of ore.
Whilst the feature includes a wide range of chuckle-inducing, zippy one-liners, ranging from cute, animated asides to comments about the state of modern-day football, Park’s movie unfortunately never feels expressive or varied enough to warrant its’ big-screen release, with a ninety minute runtime attempting to squeeze as much out as possible of an incredibly basic plot and failing, resulting in a sense of a one-note joke being somewhat stretched to the widest extent possible and creating a staggering pace which begins the terrible feat of time checking curiosity. Thankfully for Park however, the stop-motion animation is flawless and beautiful enough to somewhat paper over the cracks, and with a concluding act which although confines to the plot’s heavy predictability, is impressive in its’ charming demeanour and positive sensibility, resulting in Early Man managing to succeed in being a solid, if overly throwaway, ninety minutes of animated escapism in which will undoubtedly work for kids more than it may work for us picky, somewhat legged, coffee consuming adults.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Never Forget How Much Your Family Cares For You…”
With Disney currently monopolising the entire cinematic landscape with the likes of Star Wars, Marvel and live-action adaptations of classic animated tales being released on what seems a bi-monthly basis, one could argue that Pixar has somewhat been backtracked to a much lower priority when placed up against its’ behemoth, franchise existing brothers, yet with the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis holding the torch of excellence for the studio it recent years, it comes at no surprise that from an audience perspective, the art of animation has arguably never been better. With the release of Coco therefore, Pixar’s hot streak successfully continues with a musically infused, heartbreaking tale of one boy’s quest for ancestral discovery during Mexico’s world famous Day of the Dead festival in a stunningly designed animated fashion. With an underlying narrative which bears more than a similarity to a few Disney Pixar predecessors, Coco thrives in a wide range of areas elsewhere, and with a beautiful acoustic-based soundtrack to make even the sternest of audience members shed a well-hidden tear, Disney’s first release of the year is a well-meaning and pleasantly played family adventure which can be admired and enjoyed by all.
Boasting arguably the most impressive and jaw-droppingly beautiful animation offered up by Pixar so far, Coco revels in its’ ability to add layers and layers of elements both comedic and emotive to prop up a underlying story which undeniably has an uncanny link to Inside Out, with both features primarily focused on their respective leading characters’ journey back home from an uncharted and unknown world, all the while learning a bit more about their purpose in life, but with a handful of stunningly designed props, including sparkling, rainbow coloured spirit animals and on-screen guitar work which relievingly looks genuinely authentic, Coco is much much more than just a continuation of a story many are well versed in already. With a Mexican Mariachi infused, guitar based soundtrack at the centre of the narrative and a genuinely startling twist to set up a rivetingly exciting concluding act, Coco is everything you would expect from a classic Disney outing, and by examining darker themes including the afterlife and the importance of family remembrance, Coco is an ideas laden animation which brings more to the table than one might expect, and for a movie to successfully connect with an audience filled with both adults and children, you can’t really ask for much more. The golden age of animated works joyously continues.
Overall Score: 8/10
“My Feelings Are Huge. Maybe I’m Meant To Have More Than Just One Emotion…”
Yes, you read the title correct, The Emoji Movie is indeed a real thing. Whilst films such as Dunkirk and The Big Sick recently showcase the real wonder of what cinema can offer to a wide array of audiences, sometimes you just gotta take the dark with the light and understand that for every Apocalypse Now there is unfortunately a Gods of Egypt, and whilst it’s never healthy to enter an auditorium with preconceived notions about the overall quality of a particular movie, a film entirely based on the existence of Emoji’s does inherently and fundamentally lead you to hold your head heavily in your hands and await your fate. So, enter the foyer and grab your ticket as you grip tightly the cold, smooth surface of your overly priced fizzy pop which aids you in your journey through the passages of hell as you grace your sticky, oversized seat and watch a movie about cartoon faeces and gigantic thumbs. And breathe. One could argue that with The Emoji Movie undoubtedly being a movie aimed at the younger variety of audiences in its’ creation, the thought of a 23 year old coffee maniac sitting down and reviewing it does seem rather disjointed, yet after managing to survive one of the most painful 85 minutes of my entire cinematic life, the horror and sheer toxicity of a film such as The Emoji Movie doesn’t deserve just to be reviewed, it deserves to be stripped down from top to bottom and dissected in hope that the many, many troubling issues at the heart of it can be highlighted to as many as possible in the hope that it simply fades away from cinema entirely.
As mentioned by many already, the overall narrative of The Emoji Movie rather unfortunately bears a sickening similarity to the masterpiece of animation which is Inside Out, a film which effectively highlighted the complications of an emotion-ridden child and built a world within which was both intelligent and fluffy enough to serve both a young and elder audience. With The Emoji Movie however, the key message of the film is for young children to simply use their mobile devices as a way of living your life from beginning to end, where instead of socialising through conversation and active involvement with others, apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Just Dance should be bought and used instead in order to really succeed in life at such an early stage, and whilst such a narrative is inherently toxic and vulgar, the film is made worse by the straight-faced manner in which such a message is played rather than there being any air of irony or satire to accept it. Amidst awful dialogue consisting of conversations regarding piracy, hackers and internet trolls, the evoking of swear words and sexual references make The Emoji Movie one of the most misjudged U certificate films I have ever seen, and with enough saccharin sweet awfulness and ear-piercing musical pieces to make you want to throw up in the aisle, animation has never hit levels so desperately low. In the 1990’s growing up, my generation had The Lion King. In 2017, the animation of the summer is The Emoji Movie, a hate-filled barrel of toxic slumber which deserves to be derided by everyone who pays to see it. What prevents it from being one star you ask? It’s only 80 minutes of your life you will never, ever get back.
Overall Score: 2/10
“You’ll Never Be The Racer You Once Were. You Can’t Turn Back The Clock, Kid, But You Can Wind It Up, Again…”
With the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis being superb recent examples of when Disney get it bang on in regards to releases from their animation platform, with the latter managing to proclaim itself as one of the few top marked films on this particular film review site, a healthy title if ever there was one, the release of Cars 3 is ultimately a bit of a downer, a sequel to one of Disney’s more middling franchises but too a film which undoubtedly will surpass many releases at the box office due to the nature of the prolonged six weeks summer holidays in which sweet-addicted children swarm your local cinema screening and make you cringe at their unwanted immaturity and annoying little booster seats. Bit harsh I know, but what we have with Cars 3 is ironically a solid entry into the ever-expanding Disney canon, a film which takes no time at all in laying the groundwork for the narrative ahead, with its’ sweet, harmless tone offering more than enough spectacle for the young at heart. whilst an effective array of jokes prove that there is more enough chewy material to satisfy the adults, even when the plot does fall into the realm of cliche and over-sentimentality at times.
Suffering from the inevitability of old age and facing the threat of newer, faster racing vehicles including the likes of the Armie Hammer voiced, Jackson Storm, Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen begins to question his suitability on the race track, and with the legendary racer potentially facing the unwanted exposure of falling into past history, McQueen teams up with Cristela Alonzo’s wannabe-racer Cruz Ramirez and Chris Cooper’s legendary racing trainer, Smokey, in order to get back on track and finally overcome the presence of the egotistic Storm. With flashy colours and an explosion of jet-waxed colours from beginning to end, Cars 3 ticks all the boxes in what you would expect from a Disney animation sequel aimed primarily at kids, and whilst the narrative is somewhat obvious and cringey at times from an adult point of view, the smart-witted dialogue and joyous concluding act proves that the film’s existence does hold more than just being that film that you take your kids to see. Whilst the money will keep on rolling and the spin-off merchandise will keep on selling, the concluding edge of the narrative does suggest we have seen the last of the Cars franchise for good, but with Disney not exactly shying away from a quick buck at times, you can’t take anything at face value these days.