Rango (2011) – Film Review

From the director of: ‘The Ring’ and the first three entries in ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ series, Gore Verbinski. Comes ‘Rango,’ an animated-western featuring a bizarre cast of comedically-grotesque animals, and although that strange concept may not sound as if it couldn’t possibly work, ‘Rango’ is without a doubt one of my favourite animated films in recent memory. As the film’s entertaining story and classic western visuals make the film an incredibly fun watch, regardless of your age.

Plot Summary: When ‘Rango,’ an ordinary pet chameleon accidentally winds-up in the small town of: ‘Dirt’ following a car accident, he begins to realise the dry, lawless outpost is in desperate need of a new sheriff. Being the talented actor that he is, ‘Rango’ poses as the answer to their problems.

Whilst ‘Rango’ is front and foremost a family flick, ‘Rango’ also serves a pretty successful throwback to classic westerns, balancing plenty of hilarious moments with more serious scenes and even some exciting action sequences throughout its story. The film even features a reference to the icon of the western-era himself, that being Clint Eastwood as ‘The Spirit of the West’, which I really appreciated as a fan of the genre. However, the character himself isn’t actually portrayed by Clint Eastwood, which I did feel slightly took away from the scene he appears in despite its short length.

Although all the supporting cast of Isa Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina and Ned Beatty are all fantastic as the residents of the small town of: ‘Dirt.’ Each having a western accent which sometimes even makes their voice unrecognisable in Isla Fisher’s case. Johnny Depp as the protagonist: ‘Rango’ is truly some flawless casting. As Depp always portrays ‘Rango’ as likeable and funny, yet cowardly, with plenty of humourous lines throughout the runtime. The film’s antagonist: ‘Rattlesnake Jake’ is also worth mentioning, as Bill Nighy lends his voice to this gigantic menacing gunslinger, actually mirroring the two actor’s characters within ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ series, whether intentional or not.

‘Rango’ is also one of the rare animated films which actually has some pretty stunning cinematography, as all of the film’s animated cinematography is very reminiscent of classic westerns. From extreme close-ups of character’s faces during stand-offs, to wide-shots of the barren desert, to even close-ups of hanging broken bottles on a porch, every-shot really adds to the narrative, whilst also displaying the film’s large variety of distinct locations. Truly utilising the limitless potential of animated cinematography. Legendary cinematographer, Roger Deakins, who worked on iconic films like ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘Skyfall’ in the past, was even consulted when it came to the film’s cinematography.

Iconic composer Hanz Zimmer returns to the work once again with director Gore Verbinski, and once again with another magnificent original score. This time replicating classic western scores without taking-away from the film’s adventurous tone. Making fantastic use of both electric and acoustic guitars, tracks such as: ‘Rango and Beans’ and ‘Rango Returns’ feel as if they were ripped straight-out of the golden age of film. The soundtrack even includes a unique western-esque version of the orchestral classic: ‘Ride of the Valkyries,’ which backs-up what is already a pretty memorable action sequence.

The animation itself is wonderful throughout the film, as ‘Rango’ takes a more daring and unique route when it comes to its animation. As rather than being overly colourful and cartoonishly attractive similar to films like ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Frozen’ or ‘Despicable Me’. ‘Rango’ focuses far more on being rather realistic and dirty, with each location always feeling very old and rustic. The character designs themselves also reflect this, as every piece of clothing and every object is coaked in scratches and dirt, giving the film an overall unpleasant yet not unattractive look. This animation style also continues to the film’s colour palette, as the pale beiges and browns give the film a true western feel. Due to ‘Rango’s reliance on this highly-detailed kind of animation however, there is the occasional shot where the animation looks slightly dated by today’s standards.

Packed with plenty of great comedic moments, attractive visuals, a great original score and of course, its marvellous cast. ‘Rango’ stands as one of the best modern animated films to date, as this western adventure truly does anything it can to make itself stand-out. As despite the film’s few fourth-wall-breaking moments (which come-off as slightly cheesy) and the film’s sometimes overly fast-pacing, ‘Rango’ still remains an enthralling ride. Although this animated flick may seem pretty unusual when compared to many other films the family can enjoy together, this true oddball of a film is sure to please those who decide to give it a chance. 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 of the 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 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 definitely not on the same level as many of the others films from director Danny Boyle’s catalogue, ‘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 black and white 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 on themes of strong female empowerment that it forgets to actually create 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

Incredibly 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’ remake from 2017, this reimaging of the 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 overreliance 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 remake 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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The Christmas Chronicles (2018) – Film Review

From director Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie) and producer Chris Columbus comes another Christmas family adventure with ‘The Christmas Chronicles,’ and while the film may be nowhere near as memorable as many other festive classics. I can still see the film being a mostly entertaining ride for families and younger viewers alike.

Plot Summary: When brother and sister: ‘Teddy’ and ‘Kate Pierce,’ are left alone on Christmas Eve, they devise a plan to catch ‘Santa Claus’ on camera, which soon turns into an unexpected journey that most children could only dream of. As they manage to hop aboard ‘Santa’s sleigh and join him on his task of delivering presents all over the world.

Although the two films do differ from each other in many ways, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this film and ‘The Santa Clause’ from 1994. As both Christmas flicks focus on characters going on a magical adventure with ‘Santa Clause,’ with them usually having strong themes of family and belief throughout. However, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ also seems to focus more on exciting action set-pieces.

Whilst Judah Lewis and Darby Camp portray the siblings decently well throughout the film (aside from the occasional line of dialogue) Kurt Russell is without a doubt the stand-out of the cast, as he brings his usual charisma and talent to create a fresh and memorable portrayal of Saint Nick himself. This is dragged down by the film’s characterisation however, as both of the siblings are pretty bland and dull from start-to-finish. As a pleasant little detail, ‘Santa’s list even includes several of Kurt Russell’s real-life grandchildren.

The cinematography by Don Burgess is also mostly generic throughout the film, usually serving its purpose without drawing the audience’s attention away from the action on-screen. Speaking of which, the action scenes throughout the film are handled surprisingly well. From the fast car chase through the streets of Chicago, to ‘Santa’s sleigh soaring through the night sky. The weak CGI throughout the film can detract from some these scenes however, with ‘Santa’s elves in particular having some very distracting CG effects at points.

The original score by Christophe Beck is decent overall, as while not incredibly memorable, and many could see it as slightly weaker when compared to many of his other soundtracks such as: ‘The Muppets,’ ‘Frozen’ or ‘Ant-Man,’ the score does have a festive and pretty up-beat tone throughout the film’s runtime. ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ even gives us a new spin on the classic song: ‘Santa Clause is Coming to Town,’ as ‘Santa’ shows off some of his style as he sings: ‘Santa Claus is Back in Town’ in an attempt to add some cheer to those around him.

My main issue with the film is the film’s overall cheesiness, as although the film does avoid the occasional Christmas film cliché. The film is still brimming with cheesy lines and scenes throughout the film’s narrative. However, I found this to be a problem mostly around ‘Santa’s elves, as not only did these characters have an awful new redesign, but they seemed to be purely used for the sake of being cute. I also couldn’t help but think the film could’ve been improved if directed by Chris Columbus, as although director Clay Kaytis doesn’t do a terrible job by any means, I feel the director of: ‘Home Alone’ (a true classic for many) could’ve definitely made the film better for what it was.

Overall, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ is a mostly fun adventure for a film night on Christmas Eve, as while the story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Kurt Russell’s memorable performance mixed with some entertaining action scenes and a very festive atmosphere all result in the film being a decent watch. So maybe check this one out one year if you’re in the need for a festive fantasy adventure, just don’t have your expectations too high. Final Rating: 6/10.

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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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Ready Player One (2018) – Film Review

A triumphant return back to the silver screen for legendary director Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Raiders of the Lost Ark), this time taking on an adaptation of a beloved science fiction novel by Ernest Cline. 2018’s ‘Ready Player One’ not only manages to capture that classic Spielberg whimsy all these years later, along with having plenty of breathtaking visuals and thrilling action sequences to-boot. But through its many, many references and appearances to/from iconic properties and characters from all types of media, ‘Ready Player One’ soon becomes a sweetly-nostalgic adventure for any age.

Plot Summary: In the dystopian future of 2045, humanity spends their days inside ‘The OASIS,’ a virtual world where the only limits are your own imagination. Until on his death bed, the original creator of: ‘The OASIS’ makes a posthumous challenge, promising his entire fortune as well as complete control over his virtual world to the lucky ‘OASIS’ user that finds his ‘Golden Easter Egg.’

As its story may imply, ‘Ready Player One’ follows its novel counter-part closely by structuring its narrative half in the real-world, and half within ‘The OASIS.’ Having all of the scenes set within the virtual world be comprised entirely of CGI, whilst reality is presented through live-action. While many viewers may initially be quite cautious of this (myself included), fearing a barrage of phoney-looking CG set-pieces, Spielberg actually pulls this idea off very well, as the film never feels as if its CG visuals are being overused despite them taking-up most of the runtime. Interestingly, Spielberg teamed-up with effects company Industrial Light and Magic for most of: ‘Ready Player One’s visuals, the company that previously worked with him for the first ‘Jurassic Park,’ so the Tyrannosaurus Rex that appears in the film is recreated using the same base-model made for the original film.

Best known as ‘Cyclops’ in the new incarnation of the ‘X-Men’ series, Tye Sheridan does a decent job at portraying the film’s likeable protagonist: ‘Wade Watts.’ Alongside Sheridan, Olivia Cooke as ‘Wade’s love interest: ‘Samantha,’ as well as Mark Rylance as ‘Halliday’ and Ben Mendelsohn and T.J. Miller as the film’s antagonists are all fine throughout the film. Yet whilst every member of the cast is trying here, the performances in ‘Ready Player One’ are made more impressive considering the film’s extremely weak characters. As unfortunately, nearly every character we meet within the story is mostly one-note, being nothing more than your traditional hero, companion or villain etc.

Although an enormous amount of the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is visually-striking, having a large number of moving shots where the camera soars through the limitless world of: ‘The OASIS.’ It’s difficult to judge it in its entirety, as a good majority of the camerawork is obviously CG due to half of the film’s story being set within a virtual world, and whenever we cut back to reality, the cinematography usually feels quite bland. However, I do appreciate the gloomy colour palette that’s utilised when the film returns to the real-world, as it contrasts well against the incredibly colourful visuals of: ‘The OASIS.’

Even though the film’s original score by Alan Silvestri is a serviceable and uplifting score in its own right, sounding subtlety like a Steven Spielberg classic. The film’s score was originally going to be composed by longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams, but as a result of a scheduling conflict with another Spielberg film, Williams left the project to Alan Silvestri. Making ‘Ready Player One’ only the third film where Spielberg didn’t collaborate with Williams.

Many of the main problems I find hard to ignore with ‘Ready Player One’ mostly revolve-around its weak writing, as although not continually noticeable, the film has a number of cheesy moments/clichés scattered throughout its story, in addition to many moments of humour which fall completely flat. Some viewers have also taken-issue with the enormous amount of characters from other media appearing in the film, seeing it as pandering and meaningless. I don’t agree with this criticism however, as the original novel is full of many of its own (unique) references. Personally, I also feel many of the film’s flaws are made-up for by its brilliant action scenes, from the opening race to the explosive final battle, to even a scene where the characters travel into the classic horror film: ‘The Shining,’ every set-piece is both creative, and enjoyable to watch.

Overall, ‘Ready Player One’ definitely has its faults, in particular, when it comes to its screenplay. But even with its problematic writing in mind, I’d still say the film is a great addition to Spielberg’s huge line-up of family flicks. As while it may not be on the same level of classics like ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ or ‘Hook’ for example, ‘Ready Player One’ overcomes its weak characterisation and occasional corny dialogue to become an exciting sci-fi/fantasy odyssey, and a film I’d recommend a trip into ‘The OASIS’ for. Final Rating: high 7/10.

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Goosebumps (2015) – Film Review

Based on the iconic children’s book series by R. L. Stine, the film adaptation of: ‘Goosebumps’ actually takes a very different approach to its source material. By this time actually having the book series itself play a part in the story, allowing for multiple different monsters from the classic series to appear, alongside Jack Black’s extreme portrayal of: ‘Goosebumps’ original author R. L. Stine of course. This all leading to a somewhat fun but overall flawed adventure.

Plot Summary: When an angsty teenager (Zach) moves in next door to the children’s horror author R.L. Stine and his teenage daughter, as he soon finds himself in a strange scenario. As the writer’s own monsters are brought-to-life from their own stories to inflict chaos onto their small town.

Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, Monsters vs. Aliens, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu) directs the film with a fun Halloween-like atmosphere, bringing together many different monsters and creatures ripped straight from their own books, with most of the designs of the monsters being recreated perfectly based on their original designs, despite many of them only getting a few seconds of screen-time, with the haunted dummy: ‘Slappy,’ being the leader of the monsters, and the main focus of the narrative, portrayed as an almost more sinister side of R.L. Stine himself. But as I’ve always been a huge fan of the original: ‘Goosebumps’ show on Cartoon Network, the film’s lack of scares is quite frustrating. As sadly, ‘Goosebumps’ chooses to focus far more on comedy than light-horror to appeal to a new generation of kids, which I personally think is a huge mistake.

Most of the cast here give decent performances for a family flick, as Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush portray a couple of teenagers thrown into this mad adventure fairly. Alongside their friend: ‘Champ’ portrayed by Ryan Lee, who I found extremely grating after a while. All lead by Jack Black’s portrayal of R. L. Stine as previously mentioned, in addition to his portrayal of the film’s antagonist: ‘Slappy the Living Dummy.’ Who as both characters, gives a performance a little too over-the-top for me.

The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe is overall nothing amazing, coming-off as mostly bland and generic throughout, but it does it’s job regardless. Danny Elfman also takes on the original score for the film, and again whilst not being anything super memorable, the score is a decent mixture between a spooky horror score alongside a more traditional family film soundtrack. The CG effects however, are actually one of the better aspects of the film for me, as while not outstanding they do succeed in bringing the various creatures to life, alongside many of the make-up effects and costumes, which I personally thought added to many of the action scenes throughout the runtime.

Although there are a few funny lines throughout the film, the writing here is one of the film’s biggest issues. As the somewhat original story is dragged down by some awful jokes and very cringy moments, which again falls back on why I would’ve preferred for the film to go for more of a creepy tone over a completely comedic one. The colourful end title sequence of the film is also a great throwback for classic ‘Goosebumps’ fans (despite not adding much to the film as a whole).

Overall, ‘Goosebumps’ was disappointing for me, as I was really expecting something more along the lines of: ‘Coraline’ or ‘Monster House’ on my initial viewing. A creepy family flick with plenty of eerie atmosphere, a few original ideas and plenty of throwbacks to the classic books. While I’m not completely against the idea of comedy within the story, the film simply comes down to nothing more than your standard family adventure with an over-reliance on goofy jokes, with the only difference being the slapped-on ‘Goosebumps’ name. Of course, I’m also not the film’s target audience, and I could definitely see some families enjoying this spooky adventure for what it is. Final Rating: 4/10.

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Beautiful Shots in Film – Film List

There are many beautiful shots in film, combing amazing cinematography, with an attractive colour palette and some excellent lighting. Many shots can become truly iconic on themselves, even telling the story of a specific character or location purely through the visual itself. Here are a few of my personal favourites…

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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The Matrix (1999)

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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Psycho (1960)

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The Revenant (2016)

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Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

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American Beauty (1999)

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Annihilation (2018)

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Scream (1996)

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Interstellar (2014)

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The Shape of Water (2017)

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Jaws (1975)

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American Psycho (2000)

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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The Road (2009)

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Life of Pi (2012)

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Fight Club (1999)

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The Shining (1980)

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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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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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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