Tag Archive: Wreck-It Ralph


Zootropolis-1Arguably, the output from Disney Animation Studios of late has been better than that of Pixar Animation Studios, not that the two are competing. Since 2010, Disney Animation (with John Lasseter as its head of production) has released Tangled, Wreck it Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and now Zootropolis, all of which were graced with strong to exceptional box-office numbers and equal critical acclaim. Pixar, while capable of still producing both critical and box-office darlings like Toy Story 3 and Inside Out, have seemed to lack a certain spark or depended upon hits of yesteryear (continuing to do so this year with Finding Dory). Disney themselves are once again leading the pack when it comes to mainstream animation, and in Zootropolis they have cemented what we were already beginning to suspect; Disney are in something of a resurgence period, one to match the second Golden Age of the 90’s. And this time, it’s political.

In  a world populated by animals of an anthropomorphic nature, whom all co-exist peacefully, young rabbit Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has just become Zootropolis’ first rabbit police officer. While often being faced with a certain degree of prejudice due to her size Zootropolis-2and species, Judy none the less is keen to make an impression and prove she’s more than capable to tackle the serious cases often handed out to her colleagues. The opportunity soon arises when she is tasked with a missing animal case, one of many in the city. Teaming up with street-wise con-fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Judy soon uncovers a conspiracy that could upset the peaceful balance held in the city of Zootropolis

Zootropolis is the type of animation that offers plenty for more adult viewers, despite the fact that it is a feature populated by talking animals walking on their hind legs. It is an incredibly timely tale that deals with various degrees of prejudice, holding a mirror up to American society, both its past and unfortunately its present. It tackles these mature themes through sophisticated allegory, all the while remaining a cute and engaging caper allowing for plenty of fun to be had throughout. Disney has often been very deft at such a balance, but rarely has it felt this timely.

Zootropolis-3Along with this potent allegory, Zootropolis also has a team of animators working at the top of their game. The level of detail in the design of the numerous districts of the city of Zootropolis and its suburbs is phenomenal, with many scenes littered with intrinsic features and visual gags. This is the sort of film which will appreciate home viewing experience so one can pause a frame and pick out all the wonderfully imaginative details that can be found within a chosen scene. The character designs as well hark back to Disney of old, with the 1973 Robin Hood particularly coming to mind through numerous characters.

The general plotting of Zootropolis is perhaps the weakest point of the film. While it does have some smartly applied allegory, it does take a while to get to the truly meatier aspects of its politically tinged plot developments. For the most part, the proceedings take on a noir-ish element, and it is not always all that successful, particularly when it feels the need to reference both films within that genre and popular culture which don’t particularly share any DNA with the proceedings. It means a few of the gags do fall flat, but for the most part the script remains largely witty, if a touch too obviously self-referential in regards to Disney’s history (and future).

Zootropolis does a great deal beneath the surface of being a seemingly traditional Disney animation. It has an incredibly well written central female role, as well as populating the rest of the cast with characters who feel well crafted and well defined, even if this still suffers from the prevalent issue of Disney movies of Zootropolis-4late struggling to deliver a truly memorable antagonist. The voice-cast across all the characters, no matter how small their part, all do excellent work, particularly Goodwin and Bateman, who strike a strong chord as the two leads whose dynamic is incredibly refreshing, proving to be excellent company across the neatly paced run-time.

It shall be interesting to see how long this strong streak lasts for Disney, as they will more than likely succumb to the call of sequelizing their recently popular titles (Frozen 2 is happening, a decision which is surely more financially motivated than it is creative). For now, though, they can revel in what is proving to be a resurgence in which both the studio and the audience benefit, providing films that offer excellent entertainment and important moral lessons for all ages. A shining new era is tip-toeing nearer.

4/5- Textured, progressive and incredibly timely, Zootropolis can easily class itself as an instant Disney classic. 

 

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Review: Frozen- Let it Snow!

Frozen-1I am always skeptical of movies which receive praise along the lines of: ‘Disney’s best since The Lion King.‘ For a film to have such a label attached to it is not fair to the film itself, or to the other Disney films in-between. Yet, this is something that Frozen has been stuck with. It is a big ask for a film to reach that benchmark, as The Lion King is a film that quite rightly stands out as one of (if not) the best of Disney’s Renaissance Era (from 1989 to 1999). So I tried to put that comparison out of my mind, and I suggest you do the same. It would not be fair to the film that is Frozen. However, it must be said, Frozen is one of the most impressive Disney movies to come out in recent years, following hot on the heels of Tangled; delivering a spirited, exciting, and down right beautiful experience.

A re-telling of Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen tale, the film focuses on the relationship between two sisters, the Princesses of Arendelle; Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). Elsa was born with the ability to create snow and ice, and is scared by the possibilities of her abilities. During her coronation, Elsa loses control of her abilities and throws the kingdom of Arendelle into an eternal winter. With Elsa hiding somewhere in the forest, the free-spirited Anna takes it upon herself to find her sister and bring summer back to Arendelle. She soon finds assistance in the form of ice-carver mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer companion Sven, and an enchanted snowman by the name of Olaf (Josh Gad).Frozen-2

Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen tale has been in the hands of the Mouse House since the 1950’s, and ever since it has had difficulty trying to find how to successful adapt the character to the big screen. Ironically enough, they found the character a bit too cold and hard to relate to. The answer to this conundrum seems to have been to introduce a sister, which works a treat. The two characters of Elsa and Anna mark a refreshing change for the model of the Disney Princess. They are both much more independent characters, with individual personalities. Elsa is a tortured soul who wants nothing but to show how much she loves her younger sister, while Anna is an energetic and highly excitable, if somewhat naive, optimist. They both feel like fully-fledged characters and are given an abundance of personality from the fine vocals of the hugely talented Menzel and Bell.

The narrative progression of Frozen does not hold many surprises in regards to how one expects a Disney movie to unfold. After a highly emotional opening ten minutes (there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house), the film takes its footing on a well trodden path, hitting the beats we’d expect it to. However, while it may seem very traditional, there are some surprises along the way which truly make this stand out as one of Disney’s stronger efforts of recent years. We know how this story will ultimately end, but we may not be quite so sure on how the film will get there, leading to a thoroughly refreshing spin on the quest for love. It is clever, relevant, and shows true growth in the company as a Studio responding to the modern age.

Frozen-3Where the film strives to be a more traditional Disney movie is where the film struggles at times. Its desire to have an antagonist within the tale leads to some rather rushed and predictable plot developments that do not feel convincing or particularly well conceived. The film does not have many action set-pieces to speak of, with the film struggling on the bridge between the second and third act, never quite knowing what direction it wants to take the story in; does it make Elsa the antagonist, or does it try to find that conflict elsewhere? Eventually it settles on its footing, but it slips on the ice trying to get there. However, the film’s strengths far out weigh its weaknesses, and its strengths lie exactly where an animated Disney movies strengths should; in its artistry and musical numbers.

The animation within Frozen is simply beautiful. You feel the passion behind each animated pixel, as the animators do their utmost to tap the artistic potential out of the story of the Snow Queen. The way the snow glistens, the way the snow falls, the way the ice forms; everything is so stunningly realized that it is just a joy to behold (particularly in 3-D). The musical numbers, courtesy of Tony Award-Winning husband-wife pair Roberto and Kristen Anderson Lopez, are highly memorable and lyrically energetic and touching. The highlight has to be the main number ‘Let It Go’. With powerful thematically relevant lyrics being blasted out with gusto by Idina Menzel, the number soars above the rest and can quite easily stand shoulder to shoulder with some of Disney’s best numbers (expect to see it in many a Best Song category come February time). It is also focused around Elsa constructing her ice palace, which just so happens to also be the highlight in regards to the animation. A stunning sequence and song that demonstrate the loving craft and devotion that has obviously been given to this film. Frozen-4

Frozen will be a film that will come to characterize what I think is almost a second renaissance period for Disney. The last three movies from Disney Animation Studio’s (pretending Planes does not exist) have all been hailed as some of the studio’s best; Frozen, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Tangled. While Frozen may not seem to be as original as either of those two films, which it is not, it is by far my favourite of the three. It manages to withhold much of what defines an animation as a Disney film, while adapting itself to more modern sensibilities and attitudes, a blend which was completely void in Ralph, and something which was done with less aplomb in Tangled. Frozen is a heart-warming tale that is perfect viewing in this winter season, and is a film that will most certainly join the ranks of Disney’s best animated classics.

4/5- A traditional Disney movie with some surprising tweaks along the way, Frozen is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts this Christmas. Simply a joy.

Greetings folks! My blogging has taken a slump as of late, due to University Work… and just generally forgetting really. A lot of big films have come out over the past three months that I just haven’t had time to cover on this blog, slipped beneath the radar as it were, to the point where it seemed too much time had passed to warrant a full review. So, just before I dive in to another batch of essays, I thought I would deliver a quick round up of films I have seen over these first few months of the year, following up with a full review of a new film that sees nationwide release this Friday (check back soon for that). Well then, lets not beat around the bush, lets do this thing!

DjangoUnchainedPosterDjango Unchained

A new Quentin Tarantino movie is always something to get excited about, and Django Unchained was no different. With impressive buzz, both critically and box-office wise States-side, the tale of Jamie Foxx’s vengeance seeking free slave seemed to be shaping up to be another Tarantino genre-blending classic. And lo and behold, he has certainly pulled off that trick again. Although still hyper-kinetic in its style and editing, there is the sense with this picture (and his last, and arguably best, Inglorious Basterds) that he is becoming a more assured, controlled director. He no longer needs to prove he is the new kid on the block. He now completely owns the block. Sure, he’s hardly a reserved director in the Malick vein, there is just much more of a sense that he is a director whose style and talent has been confirmed, and there is no need for him to show off anymore (hence the abandonment of a non-linear narrative). He can simply make the movies and tell the stories that his soul desires. And while his story of a freed slave joining forces with a bounty hunter to save his wife from an evil plantation owner has received somewhat of a negative reaction from certain people (*cough*spikelee*cough*), Tarantino still crafts a highly entertaining, at times very mature, and exhilarating tribute to all things Spaghetti Western, Grind-house and the wonder of B-movie logic.  Filled with quick-witted dialogue, unforgettable scene after unforgettable scene, all played along to the tune of a cracking soundtrack, supported by a barrage of exceptional performances (I’ll never understand why both DiCaprio and Jackson weren’t nominated), Django Unchained is most certainly in the same league as Tarantino’s classics and will surely go down as one of his best.  5/5 

LincolnLincoln-Poster

The other Awards-Season movie concerned with slavery. Albeit with much less gore. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln may have only won two of its 12 nominated awards on Oscar night; but that does not stop it from being one of the impressive pieces of cinema to come out this season. Sensibly deciding to focus on a landmark moment of Old Abe’s presidency, Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner manage to craft a tense, witty and suitably emotional account of the President’s struggles to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery in the United States. With Daniel Day-Lewis in the main role, you already know that you are going to be in for a film with a high caliber of acting class. And while Day-Lewis vanishes completely into the iconic mold of America’s perhaps most cherished President, it is the supporting players who perhaps stop the film from being simply a misty-eyed love letter to the 16th President. While the first hour is bogged down by a seemingly endless string of anecdotes, the film gets a good old kick up the arse in the shape of Tommy Lee Jones and the shift to focusing on the intricate details that led to the passing of the Amendment. Quite how Spielberg managed to construct such a level of tension around a subject in which we know the outcome is still beyond me, but darn nabbit, the master does! With sumptuous cinematography from Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg demonstrates once again quite why he is the master of iconography; constructing a great sense of grander around the legend of Lincoln, whilst also allowing for a very human portrayal to shine through the long stature and shadow of Abraham. Pacing issues aside, Lincoln stands as Spielberg’s best film since Munich, a film of masterful strokes, powerhouse acting and pure Spielberg-emotion. 5/5

HitchcockHitchcock  

Hitchcock received somewhat of a lukewarm reception from critics upon its release. Which somewhat puzzles me. Yes, it is a little too light and frothy, and yes it barely scratches the service of why Hitchcock was regarded as the master of suspense, as well as being rather slap dash with the rather darker sides to his personality. But is it fun and wonderfully entertaining? You’re damn right it is. Using the making of Psycho as the central plot device, Hitchcock‘s main focus is upon the relationship between the titular Alfred Hitchcock (a heavily prosthetic-clad Anthony Hopkins) and his wife and editor Alma (Helen Mirren), who long had to deal with living in the great shadow of her famous husband. A film with these two talents as the leads says something for the quality of the performances on show; from the undeniably impressive Hopkins, to the stunning Mirren to the little character performances from the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Danny Huston, James D’Arcy (uncanny as Anthony Perkins) and Toni Collette. While there certainly isn’t too much meat on its very glossy bones, the charms of Hopkins and Mirren engage effortlessly, providing an insight into a relationship of Hitchcock’s life that many people may not know much about. The period detail is also incredibly impressive, particularly in relation to its recreation of scenes from Psycho; the attention to detail is second to none. I am sure there is a much better film to be made of the genius that was Hitchcock, but for now, you could certainly do a hell of a lot worse. 4/5

Wreck-It RalphWreckItRalph

The favourite to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar (perhaps unfairly losing out to Brave), Wreck-It Ralph certainly was another film that had a high degree of critical buzz surrounding it, some critics even claiming it to be up there in the league of the Toy Story trilogy. This was somewhat of a big statement to make, and I never believed it would live up to that hype. And it didn’t. But that is not to dis-credit the film, Wreck-It Ralph is one of the most original Disney hits of recent years, and it is most certainly much better then the last two Pixar efforts. The tale of Arcade bad guy Wreck-It Ralph’s quest to be the hero for once is filled with brilliant video game references throughout its glorious first hour, set within the realms of game central before Ralph begins to game hop in order to earn a Hero’s Medal. This is by far the film’s best segment; smart, witty and filled to the brim with nostalgia. Once Ralph beings game-hopping, the concept loses a great deal of its creativity in the world of Sugar Rush. Sarah Silverman is adorable as Vanelloppe Von Schweetz, and the world of that game is still rich with wondrous design, stunning animation and inventive action, but you cannot shake the feeling that a Disney executive may have popped his head round the door and asked Rich Moore’s creative team to ‘Stop right there, gives us something more conventional and child-friendly.’ The older audience such as myself would have been perfectly happy to continue reveling in the joy of spotting all the references, but I suppose there is another demographic to please. There is certainly plenty to explore in this rich and vast world and I for one happily welcome a sequel on the strength of this installment. 4/5

mama-poster1Mama

The last time I watched a Guillermo Del Toro produced horror movie, it was the incredibly silly, stupidly entertaining Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. While I had fun with that movie, it was hardly what I’d call scary. It seemed like the sort of film that kids would have loved if it had been released in the 80’s (Gremlins-esque in a way). With Mama, I was expecting much of the same thing, and while it certainly does share an old school spirit with Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, it shook me up much more. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with a roller-coaster of a horror movie; one minute me and my friends were jumping out of our skins before quickly laughing to ourselves at the ridiculousness of our behavior. Jessica Chastain seemed to be having funny letting her hair down (well, cutting it and dying it black) as the girlfriend of a man who after five years of searching finds his long lost nieces, who have grown up in the wild, seemingly alone. When the pair bring the two back home with them, the girls appear to have bought something back from the forest with them in the form of a jealous evil specter known only as Mama. With assured CGI creature design and assured direction in the staging of its jumps and scares. The ending is horribly contrived, with a strong sense that the writers simply did not know how to round off proceedings. Despite this, Mama is one of the more enjoyable horror experiences I have had at the cinema in quite sometime. I know deep down that I really should not have enjoyed it as much as I did, but hell, sometimes you’re just in the mood for a creepy gothic elongated limbed crazy ghost type thing. 3/5

Oz: The Great and PowerfulOz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_Poster

I was very nearly tempted to write a full review of this film, but I think a lot of the buzz concerning this film has certainly died down very quickly, so a few hundred words should be more than enough to justify my opinion of this latest dive into the wonderful world of L. Frank Baum’s Oz. James Franco is Oscar Diggs, a travelling circus magician/con-man who is magically transported from 1900’s black and white Kansas to the bright and colourful Oz. The inhabitants of Oz soon begin to believe that Oscar is the prophesied Wizard who shall bring peace to the land of Oz. He soon gets in too deep and finds himself tasked with killing the Wicked Witch. Sam Raimi appears to direct this film within a very confined space. This being a Disney movie, Raimi was most definitely working within certain confinements. Yet within these confinements, he does what he can to throw in certain techniques and camera angles to remind the cinema-savvy audience that they are still watching a Sam Raimi movie. This was incredibly refreshing, as I was incredibly worried that Raimi was going to become yet another cog in the Disney machine, but his Oz surprised me. It is neither absolutely spectacular, nor is it a train-wreck like a certain Mr. Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. It is simply a bright, simple, innocent and very sweet yarn with a refreshing old-fashion spirit mixed in with some very impressive (but heavy-handed) CGI work. The cast are also incredibly game, with Franco proving to be a charismatic leading man in a rather unlikeable role. The three witches consisting of Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams all turn in a mixture of charming and deliciously wicked performances (extra points particularly go to Kunis) while Zach Braff and Joey King are very sweet in their respective sidekick roles (a cute flying monkey and a brilliantly animated China doll girl). The only thing that stops Oz from being truly great is its scripts apparent lack of being able to construct a truly memorable spectacle. The plot moves along at a steady and brisk pace, you’re never particularly bored, but you can see everything that is coming your way. The world however, is lavishly designed and the 3-D is definitely worth the extra ticket price, bringing the world to vibrant life, while Raimi is not adverse to throwing many an object at his audience. A fun, good-natured ride with an unmistakeable Disney spirit mixed in with a good dose of Raimi darkness. 3/5