Corpse Bride (2005) – Film Review

Tim Burton’s twisted story of a man accidentally marrying a deceased bride could certainly be seen as too dark for an animated family adventure by some, but the film actually blends many of its dark scenes with plenty of heart and humour throughout. Making this stop-motion flick not quite one of the director’s best, but definitely a must-watch for fans of the unique director.

Plot Summary: When a shy groom (Victor Van Dort) practices his wedding vows in the inadvertent presence of a deceased young woman, she rises from her grave assuming he has married her. Before he knows it, ‘Victor’ soon finds himself in the land of the dead, and now must find a way to return to the land of the living before he loses his still-living wife forever…

Alongside the entertaining narrative, throughout the film there are various different musical sequences, which were surprisingly entertaining considering I’m usually not a huge fan of musical numbers in film. But I actually found many of the songs throughout the film actually added to the plot and gave the film another creative element which worked really well when combined with the brilliant original score by Danny Elfman.

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter portray: ‘Victor’ and his accidental ‘Corpse Bride,’ alongside the supporting cast of Emily Watson and Paul Whitehouse. Who are all pretty great, with the two leads in particular having pretty some great chemistry with each other, which really added to some of the romantic scenes throughout runtime (especially when it comes to an animated film). The cast also features Richard E. Grant, who portrays the villous: ‘Barkis Bittern’ perfectly, coming off as very sly, rude and intelligent from start-to-finish.

The cinematography by Pete Kozachik is pretty effective considering his previous work is usually far from the realm of stop-motion animation, as although there is definitely room for improvement, the cinematography is interesting enough to keep the viewer engaged throughout the film’s story.

Without a doubt, the original score by Danny Elfman is definitely one of the best elements of the film, as well as being one of my favourites for a Tim Burton flick. As while not quite on the level of the original: ‘Batman’ or ‘Edward Scissorhands’ for example, the entire soundtrack still perfectly captures the creepy tone of the film, as well as many of it’s more emotional moments, all adding to both an extremely memorable and beautiful score. Especially the tracks: ‘Main Titles’ and ‘End Credits Pt. 1,’ which are my two personal favourites from the film.

The stop-motion animation throughout the film is simply outstanding, as each character’s unique design influences their movements, with many of the characters having very interesting and over-the-top designs which perfectly fit within the world of a Tim Burton story. The film also has an unexpectedly ranged colour palette, as in addition to the usual dark Burton-esque colours. The film surprisingly also uses a large range of bright greens, purples and reds in a few scenes, which all really help the film stand-out, and give a little more light to many of the miniature sets and various characters.

Overall, while I didn’t expect to enjoy ‘Corpse Bride’ as much as I did, the film’s fantastic stop-motion animation, great humour and emotional scenes all topped with the unique Tim Burton style, I’d say the film is a pretty solid watch aside from the occasional cheesy joke or scene. Final Rating: 8/10.

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This Year in Film (2019) – Film List

Personally, I feel this year in film has been a bit of a mixed-bag, as while I do feel we’ve had our fair share of great films this year, I also feel we’ve had plenty of disappointing entries as well. Obviously, I haven’t had the chance to see every film this year, and I will most likely update this list as time goes on. But for now, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on a variety of films I saw this year…

Us

Beginning the year in quite a disappointing fashion, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his 2017 smash-hit: ‘Get Out’ was a far-cry from excellent for me. As despite its brilliant reviews, I personally found the film’s story to be bloated with unexplained ideas and ridiculous scenes alike, equalling to a horror flick that places far more emphasis on it’s themes than it’s actual narrative, alongside being incredibly inconsistent with its tone.

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Joker

One of my favourite films from this year, ‘Joker’ directed by Todd Philips, is an interesting take on the comic book genre. Focusing more on being an engaging character piece with themes of untreated metal illness rather than your usual barrage of CG action and explosions, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an eerie original score.

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Knives Out

Director Rian Johnson proves himself a talented filmmaker once again after his smash-hit: ‘Looper,’ as although I personally wasn’t an enormous fan of: ‘Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.’ I knew this director had skill elsewhere, and this was proven to me by ‘Knives Out.’ A hilarious and clever twist on the classic murder mystery, with some great performances from the huge cast, plenty of plot twists and a well-written narrative. I feel you’d struggle to not enjoy ‘Knives Out.’

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In the Tall Grass

One of the many Steven King adaptations from this year, ‘In the Tall Grass’ comes to us from ‘Cube’ director Vincenzo Natali, and with that sci-fi classic being a personal favourite of mine, I had high-hopes for this Netflix thriller despite its somewhat weak source material. However, as the runtime continued on, I soon realised the film was far more interested in attempting to explain its bizarre and messy plot rather than experiment with any of its unique ideas.

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Marriage Story

Standing-out mostly for the fantastic performances from the all-star cast of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, director Noah Baumbach takes on this wonderful story of a couple broken apart by relationship troubles and long distances, which, despite not being anything outstanding in regards to filmmaking, still manages to be entertaining, emotional and very enjoyable from start-to-finish.

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The Silence

Easily one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, ‘The Silence’ directed by John R. Leonetti, mostly known for the awful ‘Conjuring’ prequel: ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Wish Upon.’ Is another generic horror with weak performances, dreadful CG effects and a plot which feels as if it’s been ripped straight from ‘A Quiet Place’ released back in 2018.

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Haunt

Although the plot of a group of teens heading into a haunted house on Halloween only to get more than they bargained for may initially sound incredibly over-done, ‘Haunt’ is actually one of the hidden gems of the year, in my opinion. Utilising some visually-impressive sets and lighting in addition to an array of tense moments and creative ideas, the film is certainly one of the better horrors/thrillers from this year despite its issues.

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Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari)

After directing one of my favourite films of 2017: ‘Logan,’ director James Mangold now takes on the real-life story of the creation of one of the fastest race cars ever built in order to win the iconic: ‘Le Mans ’66.’ Featuring some excellent performances from the main cast in addition to some great cinematography and high-fueled racing scenes, ‘Le Mans ’66’ is a true thrill-ride of a film.

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Toy Story 4

‘Toy Story 4’ is definitely one of the most disappointing films of the year for me, as the original ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is (in my opinion) near perfect, and this film seems to do nothing but continue the story for the sake of it. As although the animation is incredible throughout the film, and the performances and original score are also pretty great, the narrative and character-arcs simply let the film down and make it the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ series for me.

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I Am Mother

This slick science fiction thriller had me excited for quite some time leading-up to its release. However, when I eventually watched ‘I Am Mother’ I found myself a little disappointed. As the beautiful visuals and solid sci-fi soundtrack are sadly let down by a drawn-out and sometimes bland story. As while not boring by any means, I felt the film was a bit of wasted potential overall.

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It: Chapter 2

Director Andy Muschietti returns to bring the demonic clown: ‘Pennywise’ back to life in this sequel to the ‘It’ remake from 2017. This time around however, I personally found the film to be a bit of a letdown. As although there were plenty of entertaining scenes and great character moments throughout the film’s extremely long runtime, there were also plenty of ridiculous moments alongside the barrage of enormous CG monsters.

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Crawl

Going-off the initial reviews, I originally had high hopes for: ‘Crawl,’ hoping it would be an extremely tense, edge-of-your-seat kind of experience. But unfortunately, the film felt like a mostly standard thriller by the end of its runtime. Having nothing more than a few tense scenes and a couple of effective jump-scares to make up for its mediocre CG effects and mostly dull characters.

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Yesterday

Whilst certainly not on the same level as many of the other iconic films from Danny Boyle’s catalogue of work, ‘Yesterday’ was still a pretty entertaining feel-good comedy which I felt had an enjoyable upbeat tone, and enough likeable characters to carry it through many of its cheesy moments and sometimes overly-predictable story.

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The Platform

Definitely a futuristic thriller fans of: ‘The Belko Experiment’ should check-out, ‘The Platform’ is just as violent as it is suspenseful, as this Spanish sci-fi thriller deals with a variety of dark themes and ideas, all whilst keeping the viewer engaged through its interesting plot, decent performances and surprising turns.

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Aladdin

This year’s first entry from the usual barrage of pointless live-action Disney remakes, ‘Aladdin’ is exactly what I expected it to be. The classic story most know and love but incredibly dulled-down, trying to capture the adventure of the original film through an enormous amount of CG visuals, nostalgia and a new cast lead by Will Smith which are all rather bland.

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The Hustle

Although I may not have been the target audience for: ‘The Hustle,’ judging by the dreadful reviews from critics and audiences alike, it seems as if I wasn’t alone in finding this comedy just as bland as it was unfunny, with many of the jokes feeling extremely lazy as the film takes all the obvious hits anyone would expect at Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson without attempting much else in terms of humour.

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Velvet Buzzsaw

Despite ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ not quite being the hilarious, gory and extremely weird horror-comedy I was initially hoping for, in addition to going-off the back of director Dan Gilroy’s other film: ‘Nightcrawler’ (which is one of my all-time favourites). I still found the film interesting enough throughout its story to keep me watching, despite it not being overly memorable in its entirety.

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Avengers: Endgame

Marvel finally bring their enormous franchise of superhero flicks to an end (for now that is) with ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ a blockbuster spectacular which gives many viewers the conclusion they’ve been desiring for many years, and although it isn’t one of my personal favourite Marvel films, I enjoyed ‘Avengers Endgame’ for what it was. As the film provides some endings for characters alongside plenty of comedic moments, fan service and thrilling action set-pieces.

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Dolemite Is My Name

Based on the real-life story of Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy makes his awaited return to film after a long break. As this brilliant comedy-drama makes all the right moves to keep its audience engaged within its story through plenty of humour, style and emotion throughout its runtime.

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Jumanji: The Next Level

A sequel to ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ from 2017, as well as the original: ‘Jumanji’ from 1995. ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is very similar to the previous instalment in regards to its tone and story (with some elements mixed-up of course) and despite some humour and story moments going a little too over-the-top for my taste. The film is still enjoyable-enough for those seeking another fun family adventure from this franchise.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Unable to actually decide what I thought of the film initially, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is a true mixed-bag of a blockbuster, having some fantastic monster action with flawless CG effects and a surprisingly ranged colour palette be completely bogged-down by weak characters, cheesy moments and at points, a very messy story.

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Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Director Quentin Tarantino returns to the silver screen once again with ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.’ Bringing-us a subversion of some of his usual film tropes, to focus more on a story of a man seeking his return to fame in Hollywood, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an excellent 1960s soundtrack.

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Terminator: Dark Fate

Of all the franchises dragging themselves out in an attempt to drawn-in whatever loose profits still remain, ‘Terminator’ has been by far the worst, with ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ only further proving this. Being extremely bland and cliché throughout, this time-travelling sci-fi series truly feels as if it’s got nothing more to offer, even with a talented director at the helm and James Cameron back on-board as a producer, this franchise is now really just a shadow of its former-self.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

In another one of this year’s biggest disappointments, ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ is the third entry in the ‘John Wick’ series, which sadly, leaves a lot to be desired. As many of the trilling and well-executed action scenes are dragged down by a messy and uninteresting story, as well as a variety of extremely out-of-place comedic moments.

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Star Wars – Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Arguably the most disappointing film of the year for many, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ attempted to close the enormous legacy of the ‘Star Wars’ saga, which unfortunately failed quite miserably. As overly-fast-pacing and an extremely messy (and unsatisfying) narrative really dragged the film down despite its fun moments and exciting action scenes, further proving that this franchise needs a long-rest before it’s inevitable return.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home

Most likely my favourite Marvel film of this year, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ hardly breaks-new-ground when it comes to superhero flicks. But the main cast’s great performances mixed with plenty of exciting action and a surprisingly interesting antagonist, leave ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ an enjoyable and mostly faithful comic book adventure for the iconic web-head.

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The Lion King

The second of this year’s live-action Disney remakes, ‘The Lion King’ directed by Jon Favreau, is definitely one of the worst, in my opinion, as although the film’s CG visuals are nearly flawless, the film simply lacks any of the charm, heart and overall personality of the original film. Resulting in the remake being nothing more than an overall boring experience.

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Little Monsters

Although the film is help-up by some strong performances and some interesting ideas, ‘Little Monsters’ never manages to break the structure of your usual zombie film. Coming-off as an occasionally fun yet mostly bland horror-comedy, which is just as predictable as it is dull, despite many of its decent comedic moments.

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Serenity

Whilst I personally didn’t dislike ‘Serenity’ as much as many others, the film still suffers from a variety of issues. As director Steven Knight attempted to achieve something very different with this film, which at some points works quite well, and at others doesn’t work at all. As many of the unusual performances and can really drag down the film’s great cinematography and editing.

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Fractured

Overly-predictable and formulaic, ‘Fractured’ focuses on the potentially compelling narrative of a father’s family mysteriously disappearing within the walls of a hospital, yet despite its few effective scenes, ‘Fractured’ soon ends-up feeling like a path nearly every viewer has been down before. Resulting in the film becoming just another forgettable Netflix Original.

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The Lighthouse

Despite my dislike of director Robert Egger’s other film: ‘The Witch’ back in 2016, ‘The Lighthouse’ had me gripped to the screen throughout its runtime. As the film’s bleak greyscale colour palette along with it’s eerie original score and intriguing story, leave the ‘The Lighthouse’ a film that’s just an interesting to discuss as it is to watch.

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Parasite

I went to experience Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ mostly due to its outstanding reviews rather than due to its trailers (which I personally found quite poor). But yet, with some absolutely gorgeous cinematography and brilliant performances, ‘Parasite’ is now definitely up-there with some of my personal favourite foreign flicks such as: ‘Oldboy,’ ‘Veronica’ and ‘The Host,’ in addition to possibly being my favourite release of this year.

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Captain Marvel

One of the blandest Marvel films I’ve seen for a while, ‘Captain Marvel’ focuses far too much on pushing its themes of female empowerment that it forgets to actually craft a likeable protagonist or an interesting origin story, making the film overall feel simply forgettable more than anything else.

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Surprisingly, ‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ was more enjoyable than I was initially expecting. As while far from as memorable or as enjoyable as the original for me, there were more than a few moments of humour between the cast that had me laughing, despite the film’s tone going even more over-the-top than before.

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The Irishman

Iconic director Martin Scorsese returns to bring-us another tale of crime and regret with ‘The Irishman,’ and while the over three-hour-long runtime can definitely make the film drag at points, the brilliant performances and phenomenal filmmaking are sure to keep those paying attention engaged for the majority of the film’s runtime.

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Hellboy

The latest superhero to get his own remake is the iconic: ‘Hellboy,’ with the remake this time falling far, far from the mark. As a ridiculously messy story mixed with poor CG effects and dreadful comedic moments, leave the film pleasing no one, despite David Harbour’s serviceable performance as the horned anti-hero.

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1917

Made to appear as if it was filmed entirely within one shot, ‘1917’ is a brutal, gripping and engaging story involving two soldiers who set-off in a race against time to save thousands of men from a doomed battle, and while not flawless, the film is definitely impressive for both it’s narrative and filmmaking.

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Fighting with My Family

Directed by actor and comedian Stephen Merchant, ‘Fighting with My Family’ is a light-hearted British comedy-drama based on the true story of WWE wrestler: ‘Paige’ portrayed extremely well throughout the film by Florence Pugh, and despite a few cringy scenes, ‘Fighting with My Family’ was a huge surprise for me. As a very investing story and some brilliant moments of humour leave the film a genuinely enjoyable experience that seemingly went under most people’s radars upon its initial release.

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Jojo Rabbit

Heartfelt, emotional and brimming with comedic charm, ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is another one of my favourites from this year. Being a completely different take on the war genre by giving the audience a new view of the events of the Second World War through the eyes of a child. All under the excellent direction of Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok).

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Missing Link

From Lakia animation studio, the production company that brought to-life many of my favourite stop-motion animated films, such as: ‘Coraline’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ comes another fun family adventure. Shame this one couldn’t have done better at the box-office, as the film is wonderfully put together, featuring plenty of humorous moments alongside the great voice acting and beautiful animation.

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Ready or Not

One of the most surprising films of the year for me, ‘Ready or Not’ may have your usual cliché plot for a modern horror, but somehow the film manages to carry it through. Managing to be extremely funny, gory and fun throughout nearly the entirety of its runtime.

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Doctor Sleep

The long-awaited sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic: ‘The Shining,’ ‘Doctor Sleep’ attempts to continue the story of the ‘Overlook Hotel,’ and does so with mixed results. As although the film does pay plenty of the respect to the original film, I couldn’t help but feel the film doesn’t stand on its own very well, having a mostly predictable story with some pretty bland characters within its nearly three-hour runtime.

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Child’s Play

From the producers of the ‘It’ reimagining from 2017, this remake of the 1980s horror classic: ‘Child’s Play’ does have some great elements, such as some hilarious scenes of dark comedy, gory and creative death scenes and even a pretty memorable voice performance by Mark Hamill as the iconic killer doll: ‘Chucky,’ and yet, the film never quite manages to escape its remake roots and goofy original idea, usually feeling more unnecessary than anything else.

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Wounds

Regardless of its atrocious reviews from both critics and audiences, I actually quite enjoyed ‘Wounds.’ As although this psychological horror may have some bland cinematography and an overeliance on jump-scares at points, the film’s weirdly-unique narrative and main performance by Armie Hammer simply won me over by its end, despite the film being nothing that memorable in the long-run.

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Pet Sematary

In this new interpretation of Steven King’s classic novel, Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz portray: ‘Louis’ and ‘Rachel Creed’ a couple who move to rural Maine only to soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden within the woods near their new home, and aside from the dark and interesting plot the film provides. ‘Pet Sematary’ is nothing more than a bland jump-scare fest with little focus on building character or atmosphere.

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I Lost My Body

This unique animated French film co-written by the writer of the beloved: ‘Amélie,’ is very charming and beautifully crafted throughout the entirety of its tight runtime, with a variety of stunning shots and plenty of creative ideas, ‘I Lost My Body’ is certainly worth a watch despite being overshadowed by many other films released this year.

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Uncut Gems

After many poor attempts at comedies in recent days, Adam Sandler gives one of his best performances in years with ‘Uncut Gems,’ portraying a shady jeweller who’s actions and consequences carry the film brilliantly from start-to-finish, despite the film’s shaky cinematography and bizarre original score being a little distracting at points.

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Midsommar

Although I quite enjoyed ‘Hereditary,’ director Ari Aster’s first film from 2017, ‘Midsommar’ was most certainly not for me. Feeling far too pretentious at points with a slow-paced narrative and weak characters, the film’s unique ideas and attractive visuals simply couldn’t save from becoming the boring experience it eventually ended-up being for me, with the exception of another excellent performance by Florence Pugh from this year.

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Unicorn Store

Led by a mediocre and sometimes irritating performance from Brie Larson, ‘Unicorn Store’ attempts to be a fun, colourful and heartwarming tale of a grown woman letting-go of her childhood. Yet unfortunately, the film passes the mark for most of its goals, as ‘Unicorn Store’ is far more dull and forgettable than the whimsical and uplifting tale its story attempts to be.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Whilst I definitely would’ve preferred an anthology-type structure when it comes to an adaptation of the ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ book series, this Guillermo del Toro produced horror does still have some entertainment value, and I could see the film being very appealing to younger viewers desiring a gateway into the genre.

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The Kid Who Would Be King

A decent fantasy adventure for families, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) definitely has some areas in need of improvement. As the film is brimming with cheesy moments and a very out-of-place original score. Despite this however, the film still manages to utilise its fun story and exciting action scenes to the best of its advantage, resulting in an entertaining if not perfect family flick.

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Rise of the Guardians (2012) – Film Review

Truly a very underrated DreamWorks flick, in my opinion, ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is a very comedic and action-packed animated adventure. Feeling almost like an ‘Avengers’ blockbuster aimed towards a younger audience at points, filled with plenty of heart, emotion and a wonderful original score by Alexandre Desplat, the film is a genuinely an animated hidden gem.

Plot Summary: When an evil spirit known as ‘Pitch’ lays-down the gauntlet to take over the world, the immortal ‘Guardians,’ a.k.a. ‘Santa Clause,’ ‘The Easter Bunny,’ ‘The Tooth Fairy,’ ‘Sandman’ and ‘Jack Frost’ must join forces for the first-time in millennia to protect the hopes, beliefs, and imagination of children all over the world…

‘Rise of the Guardians’ takes a lot of inspiration from the children’s book series: ‘The Guardians of Childhood’ by William Joyce. As the film has a lot of fun with its plot, playing-into the over-the-top ideas of its story resulting in many interesting/unique locations and plenty of little jokes between the characters.

The entire cast of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Isla Fisher, are all fantastic as their various characters. Each giving their character a likeable and amusing but not overly irritating personality, I particularly enjoyed Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin as ‘The Easter Bunny’ and ‘Santa Clause,’ as I feel these characters were definitely given many of the best jokes and moments throughout the film’s runtime, with the actors behind their voices clearly having a lot of fun of portraying them.

Throughout the film, the animated cinematography is fairly decent, as while by no means anything exceptional. The film does make use of many different moving shots, usually having the camera tracking or spinning around the characters/locations to make the film feel like a true spectacle. The original score by Alexandre Desplat is easily one of my favourite elements of the film however, as while this composer has worked on many other brilliant soundtracks in his past, such as: ‘The Imitation Game,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ (Part I and II) and ‘The Shape of Water’ just to name a few. I feel this has to be one of his most underrated scores similar to the film itself, as the tone captures all the elements of wonder, amazement and excitement perfectly.

The animation within the film is stunning throughout, everything from the hairs on-top of the character’s heads, to the many sand effects for: ‘Sandman’s abilities, alongside ‘Jack Frost’s snow/ice effects all look phenomenal. The film is always very beautiful to look at and has a very diverse colour palette, ranging from light blues, to pale greens and dark blacks, making every shot look very appealing and always different from the last.

My main issues with the film mostly revolves around its cheesiness, as while the film isn’t only aimed at children and does manage to reach an adult audience most of the time. The film never quite catches the older audience like a Pixar film would for example. There is also a small group of child characters in the film who play a role in the narrative helping the guardians, unfortunately I found these characters quite irritating, as I felt the film played into their ‘childlike nature’ a little too much, luckily, these characters don’t receive too much screen-time.

Rise of the Guardians’ is one of those great family films that can entertain most children and a fair few adults, while by no means is it one of the best animated films. It’s certainly up there with some of DreamWorks’ other classics such as: ‘Shrek,’ ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ ‘Megamind’ or ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ for me. As although the film may not be winning an Oscar for best-animated film anytime soon, I still feel it’s still a great watch around Christmas, Easter, or maybe just your standard family film night. Final Rating: 7/10.

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ParaNorman (2012) – Film Review

From Lakia animation studios, the production company behind many beautifully-animated stop-motion flicks such as: ‘Coraline,’ ‘The Boxtrolls’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ to name a few, comes another mostly enjoyable creepy family adventure, thanks mostly to some fantastic stop-motion animation as well as it’s great cast. Even if the film may not be as entertaining as some other films from Lakia’s animated line-up.

Plot Summary: ‘Norman Babcock’ is a misunderstood boy who can speak to the dead, but when ‘Norman’s estranged uncle tells him of an important ritual he must perform in order to protect his home town: ‘Blithe Hollow’ from a centuries-old witch’s curse. He must take on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups in order to stop the curse from destroying everything he’s ever known…

The weakest element of the film for me is unfortunately, the story, as although the idea of having a young boy who can see ghosts is a decent idea in itself, almost serving as: ‘The Sixth Sense’ for families in a way. The rest of the narrative never reaches the eerie tone of: ‘Coraline’ or the fun of: ‘Missing Link,’ with the film even attempting to have a few emotional scenes, but most of them fall a little flat, mostly due to never truly having the impact they need. The humour throughout the film is mostly decent however, as whilst not every joke lands, the majority of them do, and the film usually has a range of comedy for all ages, despite a few jokes going on for far too long.

Kodi Smit-McPhee gives a solid performance as ‘Norman Babcock,’ as well as Tucker Albrizzi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and John Goodman. However, my personal favourites of the cast have to be Anna Kendrick and Casey Affleck as ‘Courtney’ and ‘Mitch’ without a doubt. As the two of them portray two weak-minded teenagers helping ‘Norman’ on his paranormal adventure, with ‘Courtney’ clearly having an interest in ‘Mitch’ which he is completely oblivious towards.

Tristan Oliver handles the cinematography throughout ‘ParaNorman,’ which is definitely a weaker element of the film, as the cinematography simply backs-up the animation rather than doing anything incredibly interesting with the shots, there still is the occasional pleasing shot however, and the cinematography does display many of the miniature sets very well.

The original score by Jon Brion is very reminiscent of classic 1980’s horror flicks, which is suitable considering the film’s opening scene has the protagonist: ‘Norman’ watching a classic zombie film, and while the soundtrack isn’t incredibly memorable on itself, it works well enough in the film to increase some of the comedy and atmosphere when it can, with the track: ‘Zombie Attack in the Eighties’ being my personal favourite for this exact reason.

Unsurprisingly, the stop-motion animation is phenomenal throughout the film. As every character and every miniature set looks incredible, having a creepy and exaggerated yet still appealing look. All with smooth-motions similar to any other animated film, whether animated through CGI or not. In the few short instances where CGI is used within the film however, it’s normally used to great effect, usually to simply improve the visuals rather than taking the emphasis away from the hand-crafted animation itself. And in order to generate the film’s 3D effects, the camera was cleverly mounted on a rig, which would take one shot, then slide to a slightly different viewpoint to take another, allowing for more less movement in the figures themselves.

So, despite the film not quite managing to have an incredibly memorable story for the majority of its runtime, I would say I enjoyed myself. As although ‘ParaNorman’ still isn’t my favourite of Lakia’s film catalogue, as I personally feel there isn’t many areas the film overly-succeeds in. The film is decently entertaining for the most part. Final Rating: low 7/10.

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Toy Story 4: The Forgettable Epilogue – Film Dissection

So ‘Toy Story 4’ has finally hit cinemas, supposedly to be the ‘true’ conclusion to the animated saga. But does it live up to it?

From back in 2010 when I first watched: ‘Toy Story 3,’ I was blown away by the true greatness of this animated trilogy. Still to this day, I still honestly believe that the ‘Toy Story’ films are one of the best trilogies to ever be put to the silver screen. Combing beautiful animation, with incredibly memorable and iconic characters, in addition to plenty of humour, excitement and surprisingly in-depth themes at points. The films felt like one big story, split into three parts purely for the audience’s easy enjoyment, and I (along with many others) was very happy with the way the third film ended, finishing the story in both a satisfying and emotional way. That is of course until Pixar announced a fourth film to be released back in 2014.

So as I wasn’t really anticipating any-more sequels to the ‘Toy Story’ series (thinking this fourth entry was purely created to be a cash-grab), I wasn’t really looking forward to the film all that much. But after seeing all the fantastic reviews from both critics and audiences alike, I started to think that perhaps Pixar may have pulled off the impossible. So I went into the film with decent expectations, wanting to be pleased. Unfortunately however, although I don’t think the film is terrible by any means. The film is easily the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ films for me, feeling almost like an additional adventure with the occasional memorable moment sprinkled in. Aside from the ending of the film of course, which seems to be the main element that is really winning people over.

The film takes place a while after the third film, now focusing on the gang of toys living with their new owner: ‘Bonnie.’ However, this is where my first issue with the film comes in, as although we don’t find out exactly how much time has passed. It seems to have only been a months going by ‘Bonnie’s age within the film, yet during this time she has now grown out of: ‘Woody,’ completely ignoring him in favour of all her other toys. While I understand children can grow out of their toys in time, this simply feels like too large of a shift to me, especially when compared to ‘Bonnie’s love for: ‘Woody’ back in ‘Toy Story 3.’ This also plays into the ending of the film that I already mentioned, as here we a difficult moment for ‘Woody’s previous owner: ‘Andy’ as he hands over his favourite toy entrusting it to ‘Bonnie’ with a promise, to which she now completely ignores when going onto the next film, making this beautiful moment now mostly pointless and making ‘Bonnie’ feel like a victim of some weak writing.

The main narrative continues on however, as ‘Woody’ follows ‘Bonnie’ as she nervously heads to her first day at kindergarten, where she creates her own toy out of pieces of rubbish which soon become a sentient toy. This eventually leads the entire gang on a road-trip with ‘Bonnie’s family as ‘Woody’ attempts to stop ‘Bonnie’s new creation: ‘Forky’ from throwing himself away, believing he is a piece of rubbish rather than a toy. This soon leads onto ‘Woody’ encountering his old flame: ‘Bo Peep’ as he finds her now a rouge toy living a free life. It’s around this point many more of my issues start to arise, as from this moment on, the becomes film entirely revolves around: ‘Woody’ and his love interest. Ditching many of the classic ‘Toy Story’ characters such as: ‘Jessie,’ ‘Rex,’ ‘Ham’ and ‘Mr. Potato Head’ in favour of many new characters voiced by famous actors, and while many of these characters are mostly entertaining, it’s a shame none of the other characters get any kind of conclusion or even anytime to shine like in the previous film.

Even one of the main characters from the franchise: ‘Buzz Lightyear’ has a very reduced role in the film, making his relationship to ‘Woody’ barely even notable, despite it being a very heavy focus throughout the trilogy. It’s also due to this that the film’s conclusion lacks the emotional impact I feel it should have, as when ‘Woody’ eventually decides the leave the gang for good. He only shares a simple hug with many of his long-time friends, many of which he’s barley even shared any screen-time or even dialogue with throughout the film. Which I do believe there was time for, as many of the new characters took up a lot of the run-time with a few of them not even adding anything to the story, purely just there for comedic effect, which is a real shame, as I feel if this scene was handled well, it could’ve been even more impactful than the ending of: ‘Toy Story 3.’

My biggest issue with the film is also relevant to the ending, as personally, I didn’t find ‘Woody’s decision to stay with ‘Bo’ within his character. While I have seen many people attempt to defend his decision, I simply don’t feel that fits in with the rest of the series. As the theme of sticking with your owner regardless of whether you get played with or not has always been at the centre of the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy and ‘Woody’s character overall. Obviously, the film does attempt to give ‘Woody’ a character arc throughout the film, focusing on a toy’s need for more than just an owner, and the overall focus of self-worth, which is interesting, but I simply feel with the film’s rushed pacing and very large character arc they are attempting to pull-off, it just simply just doesn’t work. Perhaps if this was a single film I could believe it, but going off what we’ve seen before this, it’s just too big of a jump to me that ‘Woody’ would abandon his owner and friends of years for freedom.

Now I do feel this story for: ‘Woody’ could definitely work, and I do like the idea of the two best friends ‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz’ going their separate ways. But I just don’t feel this was the way to do, perhaps if this character arc was built up for ‘Woody’ in previous films it would’ve worked better. In regards to previous films, ‘Bo Peep’ returning again in this film was a smart move on the writer’s part. As this character is far more developed than she was previously, and I can see her being used to convince ‘Woody’ down a different life-path over some random new toy introduced purely for that reason. Overall, it seems like there were trying to do something a little ‘different’ from previous films, and I think that’s great. But I feel this way mostly conflicts with what was set up previously in this series. It’s not that this film is ‘bad’ per-say, it was just very disappointing for me.

Of course, the film does have many merits, as the animation is phenomenal (being almost photo-realistic at points) along with some great voice-acting, an interesting/unique antagonist and a decent original score once again by Randy Newman. But personally, I find the story, characters and overall themes of: ‘Toy Story 4’ a little messy. The film has been described by many as an ‘epilogue’ to the ‘Toy Story’ franchise, almost like a little additional bit of story after the main narrative. Giving ‘Woody’ a conclusion alongside his old owner: ‘Andy.’ But for me personally, the film doesn’t quite land on its feet. Feeling more than an additional adventure with the iconic toy cowboy rather than anything truly impactful or conclusive of note, and for me, the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy will always be the true animated classic, with this film serving as a decent side adventure. But clearly, I’m in the minority on this, as it seems most people adore ‘Toy Story 4,’ so at least the franchise can still appease most.

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Monster House (2006) – Film Review

A personal childhood classic for me, ‘Monster House’ is one of those rare kids films that isn’t afraid to explore darker themes of death and grief. Whilst still managing to be a solid piece of entertainment for any family urging for a creepy adventure, as producers Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg jump on-board alongside Gil Kenan director of the ‘Poltergeist’ remake from 2015 in his directorial debut, this animated adventure is always a joy to return to for me.

Plot Summary: After their creepy old neighbour who lives across the street suffers from a heart attack and is taken to hospital, three teenagers discover that their neighbour’s house is really a living, breathing monster. Eventually leading them to devise a plan to destroy it and save their neighbourhood.

This simple, yet extremely strange plot is one of the best aspects of the film, as the director makes as much use out of this concept as possible. Usually getting extremely creative and even catching the audience by surprise at a few points, no matter their age. Having a great blend of both comedy and tame-horror, the film has a mostly light-hearted tone, aside from the occasional dark scene of course, which actually works quite well for the film’s story. The jokes throughout the film are also pretty decent, as despite some gags being a little too cheesy or immature at points. For the most part, the comedy throughout the film can get a laugh out of me.

The three main characters within the film are portrayed by Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner and Spencer Locke, who all provide likeable and varied personalities to each of their respective characters, while Steve Buscemi lends his voice to the creepy: ‘Old Man Nebbercracker,’ who actually turns out to a very interesting and even sympathetic character by the end of the film’s runtime.

The animated cinematography is overall nothing outstanding, but does lend itself well to creating some attractive shots and eerie visuals throughout the film. I also personally enjoyed how the film utilized more hand-held like camera movements during the more chaotic scenes of action or terror throughout the story. The film even blends its bright animation colour palette with a more dark/pale horror-esque palette, only a little detail, but I appreciated it regardless. The original score by Douglas Pipes is also another wonderful element of the film, combing the feel of a classic animated film with undertones of horror.

Although the animation can sometimes range in quality, the visual look of the almost stop-motion-like animation does give the film an overall creepy appeal. However, due to the film’s age, the film has definitely begun to show some cracks here and there, as various points in the narrative characters can begin to look a little clunky or unnatural with their movements. This is mostly due to the motion capture technology that was used very heavily throughout the film, long before films such as: ‘Avatar’ or ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ truly tested the limits of it.

Many of the character designs throughout the film are also quite memorable, especially with the character: ‘Bones’ in particular, who always comes to mind for me when thinking of this film. I also personally adore the design of the ‘Monster House’ itself, as the design is incredibly menacing and really feels like a true horror antagonist.

‘Monster House’ never fails to be entertaining for me, every-time I revisit it. As the film truly provides a creepy experience which most other family/animated films simply can’t, as films such as: ‘Hotel Transylvania’ or ‘Goosebumps’ always try to capture this tone, but usually fall short. It’s here ‘Monster House’ succeeds, as despite some clunky animation and cheesy dialogue at points, the film succeeds in being an eerie adventure with a fantastic cast, and effective original score that the entire family could enjoy. Maybe it’s nostalgia for me, but I personally believe the film is honestly a great choice when it comes to a Halloween night, or maybe just a rainy day. Final Rating: 7/10.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – Film Review

A superhero film like no other, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is an extremely entertaining animated adventure, filled with plenty of humour, heart and exciting action scenes throughout its runtime. All displayed through some stunning illustration-like animation which looks as if the audience was thrown straight into the colourful pages of a ‘Spider-Man’ comic book, giving every location, character and even movement/action it’s own unique visual flair.

Plot Summary: When Brooklyn teen: ‘Miles Morales’ one day obtains strange new abilities, he soon finds himself in an unusual situation. Encountering the beloved superhero: ‘Spider-Man,’ alongside many other spider-people from multiple different dimensions, as New York City begins to collapse in on itself when a super-collider attempts to merge the other dimensions into its own…

From the opening scene of the film through to its closing credits, it’s very clear that the filmmakers behind ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ have a great love for this character. As the attention to detail throughout the film as well as the sheer amount of references to ‘Spider-Man’s long history and his enormous list of villains. The film feels like it was made for the fans, by the fans, and overall does a great job at expressing it.

When it comes to the cast, Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld and Mahershala Ali are all fantastic as their respective characters. Whether they are the villainous antagonists, or the iconic heroes we all know and love, they all give very charismatic and ranged performances, with Liev Schreiber personally being true stand-out for me, portraying the villain: ‘Kingpin’ almost as brilliantly as Vincent D’Onofrio did before him. Soon becoming one of the most intimidating antagonists ‘Spider-Man’ has ever faced on film. I also have to give the hilarious ‘Spider-Ham’ portrayed by John Mulaney an honourable mention, purely for the cartoonish and over-the-top nature of his character, which always had me laughing many times.

The animated cinematography within the film also helps back-up the incredible animation, as the film is brimming with beautiful shots throughout, many of which contain large amounts of movement as characters soar across New York City. The original score by Daniel Pemberton is also fantastic, as the soundtrack (similar to the film itself) is very unique and filled with style, blending tracks that sound as if they should be from different films entirely into one modern-day superhero flick, which is surprisingly very effective.

Even though the animation style is without a doubt one of the best elements of the film purely through its striking visuals, the action scenes throughout the film are also very impressive. Matching many of the actions scenes you’d see in your standard live-action blockbuster perfectly combined with the film’s varied colour palette and comic book style, creating many memorable and exciting moments. My personal favourite being the action scene in ‘Aunt May’s house, containing a variety of characters all in one singular small room. This is also when it becomes very clear that each version of: ‘Spider-Man’ has their own completely distinct design, movements and personality, with the clear example of this being: ‘Spider-Man Noir’ portrayed by Nicolas Cage, as the character is always seen in black and white and delivers all his dialogue very intensely, almost like a parody of: ‘Batman.’

My only issue with the film is the lack of time some scenes are given within the narrative, as for example, some characters not from ‘Miles’ reality discover that certain people are alive/dead in the universe they have now arrived in. As this could’ve been a really interesting piece of characterisation if done well, as well as adding another emotional scene to the film’s story. Unfortunately however, most of these moments are skimmed over, mostly due to the film’s very fast-pacing.

Altogether, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is some of the most fun I’ve had in a cinema, an absolute visual treat for the eyes alongside its original story, phenomenal animation and fantastic original score. The film truly becomes an amazing experience for any comic book or film fan. I highly recommend this one, especially if you’re a ‘Spider-Man’ fan like myself, as this is without a doubt the web-head’s best film to date. Final Rating: 9/10.

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What Happened to Pixar Animation? – Film Discussion

Whatever happened to the beloved animation studio Pixar?

Pixar Animation used to make some phenomenal animated adventures that the entire family could enjoy together, regardless of their age. Mixing brilliant storytelling with beautiful animation and incredibly memorable characters, each film never failed to stand-out amongst the rest. Some of the films such as: ‘Monsters, Inc.’ or ‘Wall.E’ for example (my personal favourite Pixar films), really got creative with their own narratives and flushing out their individual worlds. However, in recent years, I’ve noticed a serve downgrade in quality from their films. As it seems ever since the release of: ‘Toy Story 3’ back in 2010, Pixar has had a real reliance on sequels, prequels and spin-offs over original films. While still mostly enjoyable, I have noticed the storytelling, character arcs and world-building all seem to be lacking when compared to their earlier films.

In recent years films such as: ‘The Good Dinosaur,’ ‘Monsters University,’ ‘Brave,’ ‘Finding Dory,’ ‘Cars’ two and three and of course the upcoming ‘Toy Story 4.’ Have all ranged from sub-par through to simply awful, the ‘Cars’ series of course being the best example of this. As this series has always been Pixar’s black sheep. Never truly having the magic that makes Pixar special, always feeling like more of a cash-grab than anything else. ‘Cars 2’ being the easiest example of this, as this film is Pixar’s only rotten film to date. The ‘Cars’ series has always felt very immature to me, although I didn’t hate the original film, it’s definitely no one’s favourite. In regards to Pixar’s other sequels: ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Toy Story 4,’ ‘Finding Dory’ is nothing more than a reskinned ‘Finding Nemo,’ with the exception of a few amusing characters, the film has nothing more really to offer. Despite having fantastic reviews from critics for some reason, the film was never anything other than a massive nostalgia slap for me. As of now ‘Toy Story 4’ hasn’t been released yet, but I feel when it does it’ll be another film with great reviews, but with nothing truly memorable about it. As I personally believe the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy was ended so well, I don’t truly don’t understand why they feel the need to continue that story other than profit.

‘Monsters University’ is probably my favourite of Pixar’s recent continuations of their old stories, although I don’t think the film reaches the heights of: ‘Monsters, Inc.’ purely due to less originality and dark themes. I do still think the film is very funny, and it does explore the monster world further. It’s one of the few films I can say where it feels there was true thought put into it, as it doesn’t just lean on the legacy of the previous film. Finally, we come to Pixar’s original films. This being: ‘The Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Brave’, now whilst I don’t think these films are awful per-say. They simply just aren’t that memorable. ‘Brave’ having a few funny moments and an interesting setting, but falls more into classic 2D animated story at points. As for: ‘The Good Dinosaur,’ it’s simply a returning home story, with nothing of note at all other than the nice animation. It seems most people agree with me on this one too, considering its very low box-office return.

Now of course, there are some recent exceptions, Pixar’s ‘Inside Out,’ ‘Coco’ and last year’s ‘Incredibles 2’ I did enjoy very much. These films proved to me that Pixar still does have some great stories in them, although these films aren’t perfect and I wouldn’t rank them as high as the classic Pixar films personally, they definitely show potential. I would love to see more original animated films like this from Pixar. Considering how much money ‘Coco’ made when it was released, it’s clear they still make money just from the Pixar name alone. So why do they feel the need to rely on sequels? Many people would point to Disney pulling their leg, and although I could believe that. I also think it’s due to Pixar simply becoming uninterested, they now think of themselves as the animation giants the audience believes they are. This means they no longer take risks, and are comfortable simply gaining profit of their previous franchises.

This could also be due to a lack of original ideas of course, Pixar simply feeling more comfortable returning to their previous stories. But considering some of their big competitors such as: DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Animation, Warner Bros. Animation and Illumination Animation are all still pumping out original films (granted not all quite to the Pixar standard). Films such as: ‘Captain Underpants,’ ‘Ferdinand,’ ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘Despicable Me’ are all still a very enjoyable watch. Some of these films even making a pretty big box-office return, with the ‘Despicable Me’ spin-off: ‘Minions’ even becoming one of the highest-grossing animated films ever earning over £900 million. Even the company teamed-up with them, that being Disney, are beating them recently when it comes to original animated flicks, with Disney’s ‘Zootropolis’ being one of my favourite films of 2016 when it was first released.

In conclusion, what happened to Pixar Animation is very clear to me. They simply got lazy, focusing far more on wanting to make a large profit rather than give their audience new exciting stories. The company isn’t completely dead, films like ‘Coco’ and ‘Inside Out’ clearly proving there is still talent there. But with the older writers and creators now backing down from the company with newer faces arising. I’m concerned that Disney and Pixar executives may continue to push for more sequels, prequels and spin-offs with the knowledge that the films will always make money regardless of their quality. This is mostly why I fear for: ‘Toy Story 4,’ as even though I really hope the film is great, I currently have a lot of doubts in my mind about it. Pixar however, have also recently brought out a trailer for their next film following on from ‘Toy Story 4’ titled: ‘Onward,’ which does appear to be a completely original story focusing on elements of fantasy and adventure, so perhaps not all is lost for the iconic animation company just yet. But only time will tell I suppose…

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