Movie Review: “Finding Dory”

Starring
Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Hayden Rolence, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Idris Elba, Dominic West
Director
Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane

Well, this is disturbing: Pixar, which for years was the most creative, most consistent studio in Hollywood (that includes live-action films and animation), has five films in various stages of production, and four of them are sequels. If you go back to 2010, Pixar has produced seven sequels, as opposed to four films based on new ideas. Three of those four new-idea films have been released. One of them (“Inside Out,” one of only a handful of reviews I’d like to rewrite after misinterpreting a key plot point) has already ascended to classic status. The other two were two of Pixar’s weakest efforts (“Brave” and “The Good Dinosaur”). The fourth one, “Coco,” is inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is the exact setting for Fox’s 2014 film “The Book of Life.” Ahem.

The first of the five films in production is “Finding Dory,” the follow-up to 2003’s “Finding Nemo,” far and away Pixar’s most successful film until “Toy Story 3” made over $1 billion worldwide in 2010. Thirteen years is a long time to be away, and Pixar is clearly mindful of the gap, because the story structure is part sequel, part remake. Several jokes from the first film are rehashed, with diminishing returns from all but one (the sea lions). For the most part, the film plays it maddeningly safe, and then the third act arrives, at which point all hell breaks loose in the most glorious, adorable way possible. In addition, it appears they even threw in an homage to “Inception” for the adults.

After a cute but heartbreaking sequence involving a toddler Dory and her parents, then later lost tween and adult Dory trying to find her parents, the story eventually settles a year after the events of “Nemo,” where Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) has a sudden urge to, yep, find her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). With a vague memory that she was raised off the coast of California, Dory, Marlin (Albert Brooks), and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) enlist the help of an old friend (no spoilers) to take them on the roughly 7,000-mile journey. Shortly upon arrival, Dory is snagged in a plastic six-pack ring and picked up by employees of the local marine institute, which treats marine life for release back into the ocean. Dory recalls living in one of the exhibits and convinces a standoffish mimic octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill, in a bit of inspired casting) to help her. Meanwhile, Marlin and Nemo are concerned that without them, Dory will forget where she is and why she’s there, and embark on their own adventure to save their friend.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Movie Review: “The Conjuring 2″

Starring
Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Simon McBurney
Director
James Wan

Horror sequels like “The Conjuring 2” are a dime a dozen, but director James Wan’s sequel manages to capture the spirit of the first film – hitting some familiar beats along the way – and takes the series and its two protagonists in a chilling new direction. What stands out about this franchise is that it’s not so much the scares that draw you in, although Wan does accomplish that, but rather its lead characters the Warrens.

The sequel begins with a new case – the famous Amityville incident – which screenwriters Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes, David Leslie Johnson and Wan only touch on briefly to give the audience a sense of where the characters are at in their careers and, rather seamlessly, efficiently establish a new internal and external threat in the film. Most of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren’s (Vera Farmiga) journey takes place in Enfield, England, where the Hodgson family is under attack from evil spirits. One of Peggy’s (Frances O’Connor) children, Janet (Madison Wolfe), is possessed by the spirit of Old Bill (Bob Adrian), a man that wants his home back. Although most believe the case is a hoax, Ed and Lorraine are willing to take a chance on the desperate family.

This sequel wisely puts a face to the villains. They’re more tangible, have identities and pose a greater threat. They’re all genuinely frightening, too, whether they’re seen or not. Wan waits for the right time to reveal his team of evil spirits, but the most effective depiction of one of the villains comes in a fantastic, seamless long take. As Ed tries to reason with Old Bill, who’s obscured in the background of a shot as Ed has his back to him, Wan and cinematographer Don Burgess capture the tense interaction all in one long take that slowly zooms, making the audience tighten up as the frame does. It’s a remarkable take – a slow burn of a shot that isn’t showy.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Movie Review: “Warcraft”

Starring
Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Ben Schnetzer, Daniel Wu
Director
Duncan Jones

Hollywood has a pretty awful track record with video game adaptations, so when it was announced that director Duncan Jones would be bringing the mega-popular “Warcraft” franchise to the big screen, many people were hopeful that he would finally break the curse. Sadly, it doesn’t even come close. Although there’s no question that Jones (a self-proclaimed fan of “World of Warcraft,” the massively multiplayer online RPG that boasted 12 million subscribers at the peak of its popularity) is a talented filmmaker, “Warcraft” is a disappointing misfire that swallowed up several years of his career. That’s time he could have spent making more original movies like “Moon” and “Source Code” instead of this sluggish and derivative fantasy flick.

The story begins in Draenor, the dying homeworld to a warrior race of orcs. Their leader, the evil sorcerer Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), uses a dangerous magic called the Fel – which feeds on the energy of life – to send a small war party of orcs through a portal to the peaceful realm of Azeroth in the hopes of conquering the land and using its inhabitants as fuel to transport the rest of the fleeing Horde. But not everyone agrees with his methods, particularly Durotan (Toby Kebbell), the noble chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, who believes that Gul’dan’s obsession with the Fel is what caused Draenor to wither away. Meanwhile, the human forces of Azeroth – led by King Llane (Dominic Cooper), heroic warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and powerful magician Medivh (Ben Foster) – scramble to defend their kingdom with the help of Garona (Paula Patton), a human/orc half-breed who must decide where her true loyalty lies: with the orc Horde that raised her or the humans that freed her from a lifetime of slavery.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Movie Review: “Now You See Me 2″

Starring
Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Radcliffe, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
Director
Jon M. Chu

If the idea of a sequel to the illusionist action comedy “Now You See Me” is shocking, look no further than the box office numbers. The original film grossed four times as much as it cost, and probably would have netted even more if they hadn’t stacked the movie with so much high-priced talent. For the sequel, “Now You See Me 2” (that they didn’t call the film “Now You Don’t” seems like a missed opportunity), they went for a flashier direction style, which suits the story well. At its core, it’s a heist movie, so appropriating from the “Ocean’s” films is to be expected.

One year after the events of the first film, the master illusionists The Horsemen are still lying low, waiting for instructions from the secret organization of magicians who call themselves The Eye. Their handler, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), finally gives them a target: tech guru Owen Case (Ben Lamb), who has invented a mobile phone chip that steals customers’ personal information in order to sell it to the highest bidder. The Horsemen, who are now folk heroes and wanted men (and woman), crash Case’s launch party with the intention of exposing him, but they get the tables turned on them by Case’s former partner Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who abducts the Horsemen and forces them to steal the chip before a slew of black market goons intend to. Rhodes and the Horsemen are completely stuck, but they receive help from an unlikely source.

It is so nice to see that Jesse Eisenberg has recovered from whatever chemical imbalance/hypnotic spell/caffeine overdose led him to give the worst performance of his life in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” He’s not extraordinary here, but no one is – it’s not that kind of movie, and that is why they cast the aforementioned high-priced talent. Get the right people to just read the lines, and everything else will fall into place. And that’s exactly what happens.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Movie Review: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”

Starring
Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Laura Linney, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee, Gary Anthony Williams, Sheamus, Brad Garrett
Director
Dave Green

Contrary to the harshly negative reviews that it received, Jonathan Liebesman’s 2014 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” wasn’t that bad. The product of a misguided adaptation that was course-corrected with extensive reshoots, the film doesn’t hold up as well on repeat viewings, but it’s still a better-than-average franchise-starter that got enough things right to warrant a sequel. Though “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” isn’t necessarily better or worse, you have to hand it to the filmmakers for actually listening to the fans, because the new movie is such a nostalgia-fueled throwback to the original animated series (the holy grail for adult fans) that it atones for many of the first film’s blunders.

One year after stopping The Shredder from unleashing a deadly virus on New York City – an achievement that news cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) has gladly taken credit for to protect the real heroes’ identities – Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) continue to watch over the city from the shadows. But when Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes police custody and teams up with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to open a portal to Dimension X, thereby allowing the nefarious, brain-like alien General Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) to invade Earth with his world-destroying war machine the Technodrome, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) calls in the Turtles for help. This time around, however, Shredder has enlisted a pair of dimwitted mutant henchmen named Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and WWE wrestler Sheamus, respectively) to do his dirty work for him.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts