Coco

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Coco is an American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The story is based on an original idea by director Lee Unkrich who teams up again with Toy Story 3 producer Darla K. Anderson.

The story follows 12 year old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who comes from a family of shoemakers but dreams of being a musician and following in the footsteps of the greatest musician who had ever lived, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

Unfortunately for Miguel his family’s long term ban on music, which has been passed down through generations, means he must hide his ambitions. Miguel’s great great grandfather was a musician who had abandoned his family to follow his dreams, leaving Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) to raise Miguel’s great grandmother Mama Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia) on her own.

When Miguel’s family discover he has been teaching himself to play guitar and his idol is Ernesto de la Cruz they forbid him from pursuing his dreams. Miguel determined to be a musician steals Ernesto’s guitar on Dia de los Muertos and accidentally transports himself to the Land of the Dead.

There he meets his deceased ancestors who also disapprove of his love of music so he tries to find Ernesto with the help of likeable con man Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) who needs Miguel to help him visit the Land of the Living. Racing against the clock Miguel must find a way to get home before the sun rises, which marks the end of Dia de los Muertos, or else he’ll be trapped in the Land of the Dead forever.

The story of Coco is a typical coming of age tale with Miguel embarking on an adventure and learning an important lesson about himself and his family which everyone will be able to relate to. Miguel’s journey is the emotional arc of the film but there are also plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep the story fresh.

Visually Coco is stunning with the backdrop of the Land of the Dead full of vibrant colours. The world is beautifully animated with various neighbourhoods, skeletons and neon-coloured spirit guides which are brought to life by the animators at Pixar. The Land of the Living is equally impressive.

With Miguel’s family being so large Coco mainly focuses on Miguel and his great great grandparents so they receive the most character development. Even so the story does provide small details of other family members which gives them some characterisation and depth.

Michael Giacchino is the film’s composer giving Coco a number of catchy and fun songs which are an integral part of the film though this is not a musical in the same vein as Disney’s typical animated films.

Coco is a fantastic film with visuals that raise the animation bar and a story that is full of heart, emotion and rich in Mexican culture. Some elements of the film are a bit dark for very young children but Coco has the makings of being another Pixar classic which will entertain all fans!

Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Thor and is a sequel to 2011’s Thor and 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. The film is directed by Taika Waititi and stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor alongside Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldburn, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.

Thor has been away from Asgard for a long time searching unsuccessfully for the Infinity Stones and begins to dream of the destruction of Asgard at the hands of Surtur in the event known as Ragnarok. Returning home he finds Loki (Tom Hiddleston) ruling over Asgard disguised as Odin (Anthony Hopkins).

Loki travels with Thor to locate Odin where they discover that Thor’s dreams are prophesied to come true. Odin reveals he is dying which will allow his firstborn child, Hela, the Goddess of Death, (Cate Blanchett) to escape from prison where she was sealed long ago as he had feared that she was becoming too ambitious.

Hela soon claims the throne of Asgard for herself and the brothers end up banished to the planet Sakaar. Loki manages to win the favour of the ruler, The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) but Thor finds himself brought by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to fight in the planet’s Contest of Champions. Thor is relieved when he discovers that he is set to battle his old friend the Hulk, the alter-ego of fellow member of The Avengers, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).

Along with Loki, Valkyrie and the Hulk, Thor escapes Sakaar and returns to Asgard in order to save it from the Goddess of Death and the prophesied Ragnarok.

Director Waititi’s comedic background can be felt throughout the film as he balances more dramatic and heroic moments with comedy to deliver a more light-hearted movie than the previous two films.

Visually Thor: Raganok has a different feel to Thor and The Dark World thanks to the colourful set design of Sakaar, with its landscapes and costumes and the brilliant Goldblum as the entertaining Grandmaster which all help to bring the planet to life.

Chris Hemsworth really shines as Thor this time round as he is given alot more humour to work with and Hiddleston easily falls back into his role as Loki. The Hulk is a great addition to the cast and his character works really well with Valkyrie. There are also brief but memorable turns from Hopkins as Odin and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.

Having an actress of Cate Blanchett’s calibre playing the villain is a wasted opportunity as with all Marvel films the antagonist is underdeveloped and Hela’s motivation for revenge and power is rather weak.

One of the funniest characters in the film is Korg, a gladiator made of rocks who befriends Thor. Director Waititi provided the motion-capture performance and made the decision to have the character softly spoken which works brilliantly.

Despite the change in style and tone from Thor and Thor: The Dark World, Ragnarok still fits well into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is a fun and entertaining adventure which will please both fans and casual moviegoers.

The Lego Ninjago Movie

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The Lego Ninjago Movie is a computer animated action-comedy marital arts film co-directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan and is the first film of the franchise to be based on an original Lego property.

The film tells the story of the city of Ninjago that lives with the constant threat of attack by the villainous Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) who wishes to rule over the city. This makes life very difficult for his teenage son Lloyd (Dave Franco) who is an outcast due to his family connection which results in Lloyd harbouring deep resentment towards his absent Father.

What they don’t realise is that Lloyd is part of the secret Ninja Force consisting of his school friends Kai (Michael Pena), Zane (Zach Woods), Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), Nya (Abbi Jackson) and Cole (Fred Armisen) who protect the citizens of Ninjago from Garmadon’s attacks. The group’s leader is Master Wu (Jackie Chan), Lloyd’s Uncle, whose wise words put his students on the right path to reach their full potential.

During one of Garmadon’s attacks, Lloyd’s feelings towards his Father finally gets the better of him and his actions place the city under even greater threat which must be stopped as soon as possible. With the solution located on the opposite side of the island the Ninja’s must embark on a quest to save the city where along the way they learn some important lessons about themselves.

As with its predecessors the film is visually-striking and fast paced with a continuous stream of gags. The gags this time round are more playful and light-hearted in tone which may appeal more to the younger ones in the audience.

Justin Theroux shines as Lord Garmadon and you can tell he is having fun hamming it up as he and Dave Franco as Lloyd get the meatiest roles and most screen time as the story centres on the dynamics between their characters.

This does however mean that the supporting cast are given no time to be fleshed out as individuals so the Ninja’s don’t come across as a team of friends with an inseparable bond. Jackie Chan as Master Wu though is entertaining and alongside Theroux gets the most laughs.

The storyline is much simpler than the previous two Lego films and this does seem to point to having too many writers involved (there are six credited to the screenplay) all with ideas they wish to incorporate but in the end none of them seem to be fully developed.

The Lego Ninjago Movie is a fun action packed film with positive messages (if not particularly deep) of empowerment, acceptance and courage. Though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie there is still enough for all fans to enjoy.

Dunkirk

DunkirkDunkirk is a war film written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. It features an ensemble cast which includes Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Aneurin Bernard, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh and portrays the Dunkirk evacuation of the Second World War known as Operation Dynamo. The film is a co-production between the United Kingdom, the United States, France and the Netherlands.

An introductory text tells the viewer that in 1940, after the invasion of France by Nazi Germany, hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers retreated to the seaside town of Dunkirk. As the allied perimeter shrinks and German forces close in, the soldiers await evacuation in a seemingly hopeless situation.

The film follows three inter-connected perspectives covering different but overlapping periods: on land covering one week, on the sea covering one day and in the air covering one hour. The three parts interweave to create a non-linear narrative.

On the ground at Dunkirk are British Army privates Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles) who are desperately trying to get off the beach by any means possible. Across the ocean are local mariners such as Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) who are recruited by the Navy to help and in the Sky are members of the Royal Air Force like Farrier (Tom Hardy) who are battling the German bombers in order to help the Allied soldiers in their efforts to evacuate.

With some 400,000 men on the beaches it soon becomes clear that making it out of Operation Dynamo alive will be a victory in itself for all parties concerned.

Director Christopher Nolan delivers his most intense and nerve-wracking film yet with the story of Operation Dynamo and the Dunkirk evacuation playing to his strength as a storyteller as he cleverly again explores the concept of time through a narrative composed of three distinct threads.

This plot structure not only generates narrative tension but it also serves to allow the central story threads to collide and overlap that showcase the film’s themes of self-sacrifice, heroism and how in times of war survival sometimes is victory enough.

Nolan reunites with his Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema for their most impressive work yet from dynamic aerial dogfights to explosive naval warfare sequences. Just as important as the visuals is Han Zimmer’s score which further heightens the tense mood. With very little dialogue in the film it is the visuals and music which create the tension.

As the story of Dunkirk is essentially a race against time there isn’t room for character development but the film doesn’t suffer for it. Some are afforded more depth than others and with the ensemble cast strong across the board the characters do feel like real people even though the viewer only knows so much about them.

Standout performances include Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy as well as newcomers Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles. James D’Arcy (Colonel Winnant) and Kenneth Branagh (Commander Bolton) make the most of their limited screentime delivering noteworthy performances.

Dunkirk is a genuinely intense and immersive experience that will leave you feeling as though you have actually been in a World War II battle. For those of you that want to watch a visual spectacle and clever storytelling then this is one not to miss on the big screen!

Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Spider-Man: Homecoming is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name directed by Jon Watts and stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man with Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Zendaya, Laura Harrier and Robert Downey Jr. It is the sixteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The film is set two months after the events of Captain America: Civil War with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) now back home in New York with the technologically enhanced Spider-Man costume designed by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to help him fight crime in his neighbourhood.

Peter though has other ideas and is determined to prove his worth so he can leave school and become an official Avenger which leaves Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his friends questioning why he is behaving so strangely.

Trouble is looming when Peter comes across some extremely powerful weapons which seem to be out of this world thus spurring him to investigate their origins. The weapons are the handiwork of Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton) a salvager turned arms trafficker when his company is forced out of business by Tony Stark’s U.S. Department of Damage Control.

Peter sees this as the big opportunity he has been looking for to prove he has what it takes to become an Avenger.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is not only Tom Holland’s first solo outing as the character but it is the first feature-length Spider-Man film to be included as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Director Jon Watts gives us a very funny film which works both as a high school comedy/drama and a strong standalone superhero movie set in the MCU.

Taking its inspiration from the comics we are given the “friendly neighbourhood” Spider-Man who is often seen running through someone’s backyard rather than its predecessor The Amazing Spider-Man who swings from tall buildings in downtown New York.

Given Tom Holland’s young age this version of Peter Parker makes the character more convincing as a regular teenager who fights crime on the side.

Watts and his director of photography Salvatore Totino take the same down to earth approach to the action sequences and superhero battles meaning they aren’t as visually stunning as previous Spider-Man films but it helps to make the character more relatable to the audience.

Tom Holland gives a charismatic performance bringing out the comedic side of the character whilst showing strong character development and acting ability throughout the film.

The spotlight through the film is on Peter and his school friends who are all equally likeable and believable, especially Jacob Batalon as best friend Ned, Zendaya as the loner Michelle and Laura Harrier as Peter’s love interest, Liz.

The characters of Aunt May and Tony Stark/Iron Man serve as supporting characters with the appearance of Tony Stark/Iron Man being very much a cameo role.

Homecoming also succeeds in bringing us one of the better and more fully-developed villains to the MCU with Keaton’s performance making him compelling and interesting to watch and a perfect foil for Holland’s Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Homecoming works for both the casual moviegoer and the die-hard MCU fan. With the next solo outing being set after the era-concluding events of Avengers 4 it will be interesting to see where this takes the franchise next!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman is an American superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name directed by Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince with Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Elena Anaya in supporting roles. It is the fourth installment in the DC Extended Universe.

Set in 1918, the film tells the story of Diana who grows up on the island of Themyscira, home to the Amazon race of warrior women created by the gods of Mount Olympus to protect humankind. Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana’s mother, forbids her from training as a warrior but her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright) defies the Queen and secretly trains Diana.

When soldier Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is rescued by Diana when his plane crashes off the coast of Themyscira he tells the Amazons of the Great War that is raging across Europe. Diana believes that Ares, the God of War, is responsible and wanting to ensure he is stopped she decides to leave with Steve to travel to Europe to find and defeat him.

Once they arrive they enlist the help of Steve’s secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) and ally Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) as they put together a small team consisting of spy Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), marksman Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and smuggler Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) to help them find General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his scientist Doctor Maru (Elena Anaya) who intend to release a deadlier form of mustard gas at the warfront.

Director Patty Jenkins gives us a beautifully told origin story which shows the transformation of Diana from a naive warrior to inspirational hero who provides a beacon of hope during dark times.

Visually the film succeeds with beautiful imagery and effects brought to the screen by Jenkins, cinematographer Matthew Jenson, production designer Aline Bonetto and costume designer Lindy Hemming.

Gal Gadot rises to the challenge of playing Diana portraying both her strength and innocence in equal measure as well as injecting warmth and humour into the character.

Chris Pine is charming as Steve who provides the love interest for Diana as well as being the main sounding board for her questions about mankind. Equally Diana plays a pivotal role in helping Steve understand what it means to be a hero.

The World War One setting allows for many action scenes which showcase Diana’s Amazonian fighting style and skills in battle using just her sword, shield and Lasso of Truth. This style of fighting versus the weaponry used by the soldiers and the changes in locations ensures the action never gets repetitive.

Where Wonder Woman does fall down is in the film’s major villain Ares. Though he appears throughout the film his character and motivation are not adequately developed resulting in this being shoe-horned into the final act of the film in a lengthy monologue to Wonder Woman when Ares confronts her. Having said that his presence does help to support Diana’s journey and development into a fully formed hero.

Overall Jenkins and Gadot have succeeded in bringing an origin story which is both exciting and inspiring and is worthy of the popular character!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team Guardians of the Galaxy. The film is a sequel to the 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy and is once again written and directed by James Gunn with an ensemble cast featuring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel & Bradley Cooper.

The film begins with the Guardians in the middle of a mission as they have been hired by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign race, to protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster in exchange for Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillian).

When Rocket (Bradley Cooper) steals some of the batteries for himself they are on the verge of being destroyed by the Sovereigns’ drone fleet when they are rescued by a mysterious figure called Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter’s (Chris Pratt) long-lost father.

Peter, Gamora and Drax (Dave Bautista) agree to accompany Ego and his empath servant, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to Ego’s planet whilst Rocket and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) remain behind to repair their badly damaged ship.

Unfortunately for the Guardians more trouble looms as the Sovereigns hire Peter’s old boss Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his gang of Ravagers to hunt down and capture them.

Director James Gunn sticks to the formula that worked so well in the first movie and quickly establishes the fun dynamics between the core Guardians team (Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot). The banter and jokes throughout the film will be familiar to fans but there are still plenty of new funny and touching moments to enjoy.

Visually Guardians Vol. 2 has stepped up a notch from the first film with sequences and set pieces being more sophisticated in design and Ego’s planet being particularly impressive with gorgeous psychedelic colours and the perfect use of CGI to bring it to life.

The storyline serves to resolve the “family issues” that Star-Lord, Gamora and Nebula all had in the first film setting the scene for them to have more interesting character development in future films. This allows more screen time for Yondu and Nebula with Yondu in particular evolving into a standout supporting character and is surprisingly the cause of the film’s most touching moments.

Of the new characters added in Vol. 2 the awkward but charming Mantis is the biggest standout whose interactions with Drax provide some of the film’s funniest scenes. In order to introduce new characters, locations and aliens this does mean that for most of the film Rocket and Baby Groot are split from the rest of the Guardians meaning the film loses some of the great team dynamic that worked so well in the first film.

Rocket and Groot are still very entertaining though with Baby Groot stealing every scene he appears in and fans will love the opening credits which include him dancing to an “Awesome Mix” song.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 provides the same non-stop comedy, action and great soundtrack that audiences will expect and helps to bridge the gap between the first film and the Guardians next outing in Avengers: Infinity War. As with all Marvel films don’t stop watching until the end credits of the film are completely finished!