Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Gru (Steve Carell) might have sorted out his family life over the previous two installments, with Lucy (Kristen Wiig) now step-mom to the ‘gurrrrls’ (girls, Margo, Edith, and Agnes), but work isn’t going so well – the pair have just been¬†fired from the Anti Villain League for failing to capture 80s child TV star turned baddy, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker).

Gru then discovers he has a long-lost twin brother, Dru. Dru is desperate for his sibling to show him the dark side of villainy – something Gru has, of course, put behind him (much to the displeasure of the Minions, who walk out in disgust). However, what better opportunity to steal back the diamond Bratt has already stolen – and use it to get his job back.

I do love the Minions movies. This one has been getting mixed feedback, but I liked it better than the middle installment if not quite so much as the original. I think what worked well for me was all the 1980s references from the Bratt character, still stuck in the era of his glory days. I was just in the right mood for a Michael Jackson-themed ‘dance fight’, and all the cheesy hits of the day.

And, of course, the Minions! Their subplot had me in stitches, again with a bit of a dance theme at one point – but I will say no more ūüėČ The other subplot, with Lucy learning how to be a mom, is a lot weaker, but I did think added a little warmth to the movie.

Overall: lots of daft fun, and I’d happily watch it again – my measure for animated movies. Banana! ūüôā

Released: 30th June 2017
Viewed: 10th July 2017
Running time: 90 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 7.5/10

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The Boss Baby (2017)

When Tim’s new baby brother arrives by the less than usual method of taxi, dressed in a business suit and carrying a briefcase, he knows that something’s not quite normal. Despite an immediate feud kicking off, he eventually agrees to help Boss Baby fight the nefarious schemes of Puppy Co – who are taking love away from babies in favour of dogs (of which I wholly approve ūüėČ ) – in the hope of seeing his tiny rival depart, leaving Tim once again sole beneficiary of his parents’ affection.

While watchable enough, Boss Baby is a pretty run of the mill animated offering, skewing a little too on the junior side for me (although I confess my inner child laughed rather too much at the early dummy-heading-for-wrong-end scene).

There are perhaps two saving graces: firstly, Alec Baldwin voicing the titular character without whom I doubt this movie would have worked at all. Certainly the line “Cookies are for closers!” makes no sense unless coming from Mr Baldwin, but will still only be amusing to about half the adult audience, I reckon.

Secondly, the epilogue scene at the end gives a nice and slightly surprising sense of deeper meaning. Instead of ‘just’ an animated romp, you realise there have been messages about childhood imagination and sibling relationships. That closing scene deserves a cookie, and brings my rating up a little.

Released: 1st April 2017
Viewed: 21st April 2017
Running time: 97 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 6/10

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Batman might be a dab hand at rounding up the bad guys, but he’s still battling that crippling loneliness. It doesn’t help that he’s too afraid of (more) loss to let anyone close – or, quite frankly, that he’s a mega-arrogant douche ūüėČ Thankfully, the Lego Movie series is here to help us poke fun at a rich, weird loner who likes to dress in black, and a whole pile of superhero memes along the way.

Plot-wise, the Joker is upset when Batman refuses to acknowledge him as his ‘main adversary’ (“I like to fight around”), and sets out to be, urm, more appreciated. This might involve a group of cross-movie super villains¬†being rather superbly spoofed, but I’m not giving anything away ūüėČ Meanwhile,¬†the unfortunately named orphan Dick Grayson is out to get himself adopted, while Bruce Wayne is a little distracted by the new police commissioner…

There’s not a great deal of substance to this movie, really, but it serves to be ridiculous and does so pretty well. The bulk of the humour actually comes from¬†a host of rather throw-away¬†moments and lines, such as referring to Daleks as “British robots – ask your nerd friends”, or the characters all saying “Pew! Pew!” as they fire their guns (that slayed me. Don’t ask!). There’s also some great lampooning of Batman’s history-on-screen, as well as the character in general.

If there’s a weakness, it’s the ‘real’ meaning of the movie, which is all about family and working with others and *yawn*. Not awful, but y’know – pew! pew!! ūüėČ

Released: 10th February 2017
Viewed: 8th March 2017
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated: U (UK)

My rating: 6/10

Trolls (2016)

I had zero interest in seeing this movie when it came out. The¬†troll doll things that I remember from my childhood (and indeed, several generations seem to remember from their childhoods! o_O) had no appeal for me then or now, so a movie about them wasn’t even on my radar.

Until, that is, one of my friends adopted this as her go-to happy movie: by the wonders of a cinema pass, she must have seen it about a dozen times to combat rubbish days at work. And when the next opportunity arose, I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is everything you’d expect a troll to be – urm, that is to say, one of the happy ‘good luck’ trolls, not in the sense of under-the-bridge… oh, you know what I mean! Poppy is all about singing, dancing, parties, and hugs. She’s so resolutely upbeat that it’s a wonder she doesn’t squeee herself to death.

However, when things go a little wrong at the¬†20th anniversary party of the trolls’ escape from the evil, joyless Bergen – who think their only chance for happiness lies in eating trolls – Poppy finds that her talent for scrapbooking may not be the best skill for a rescue mission o_O

While the story line is pretty average – rescue mission, learning to find the happiness inside yourself, etc etc – I ended up really liking some of the animation style here. There are scenes made to look like they’ve been crafted out of felt, or knitted, and just look gorgeous. Even the spiders – urgh! – are done to look super-cute.

As an adult (yes, despite some of my viewing choices!) it’s the little moments that are going to make or break a movie like this for me, and indeed they are done well. Little touches of humour and cynicism for the grown ups cut through the saccharine just about enough.

The music is also a major factor here, and it’s resolutely upbeat and bouncy – I can see why this was my buddy’s go-to happy film. And yes, I came out with a smile on my face – can’t say fairer than that, really!

Released: 21st October 2016
Viewed: 11th February 2017
Running time: 92 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 6.5/10

Sing (2016)

Life is rarely what you wanted it to be. Mothers with no time left for themselves after looking after kids and husband, young men being pulled into the family life of crime, those with big talent but tiny confidence Рto any of these, and more, the faint glimmer of a dream provided by a singing contest is enough to at the very least shake up the routine.

There have to be a dozen or more singing and ‘talent’ shows on TV in any given week, I’m sure, so a movie about¬†just such a competition seems inevitable. But is it a yes or a no for¬†Sing?

All in all, this is just a ‘nice’ movie. I was actually a little impressed and pleased at the lack of cynicism – I had sort of expected the theatre boss running the competition (a koala voiced by Matthew McConaughey) to be a bit of a schemer, for instance, but by making him a dreamer, too, it makes the whole movie that bit sweeter.

The range of characters and their reasons for wanting the escape of fame add a little substance to an otherwise slim concept. Not that there’s a great deal of depth here, and¬†the gaps are simply filled with singing – well, duh! That may or may not appeal – this isn’t one of those movies where the adults get a different layer to appreciate while the kiddies are enjoying the dancing elephant.

Still, it¬†was an enjoyable enough bit of fluff for a Saturday afternoon, and¬†I’m 80% sure you won’t end up wanting to claw your (glass) eyeballs out ūüėČ

Released: 27th January 2017 (UK)
Viewed: 11th February 2017
Running time: 108 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 6/10

Moana (2016)

Many many years ago, the demi-god Maui stole the heart of the Mother Island, Ti Fiti, starting a plague of death and decay. Legends say that one day a hero will travel beyond the lagoon, find Maui, and force him to return the heart, thus breaking the curse and saving mankind.

Moana grows up hearing such stories from her grandmother (the self-proclaimed “village crazy lady” :)) and it leaves her with an urge to explore the giant, unknowable blue beyond their paradise island¬†lagoon’s safe barrier. Unfortunately, not crossing that barrier is the one rule of the island – and given that Moana is being primed to take over from her father as the island’s chief, breaking the rules isn’t really an option.

Faced with a choice between her head and her heart, what can Moana choose?

I always go into¬†animated movies¬†with slight trepidation: even if the reviews are good, are they kid-movie good, or¬†movie-movie good? I’m pleased to report that Moana was the latter, and I got exactly what I was looking for: some light-hearted fun, lots of giggles, and minimal saccharine.

First off, I really loved that we’re getting a legend from¬†a different culture rather than yet another European Grimm rehash. Moana is very much in the ‘new’ Disney princess mold: strong, opinionated, and not the size of a twig. And Polynesian.

I also¬†really liked the humour. Maui is voiced by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who does a wonderful job of sending himself up by making the character ridiculously full of himself. And then there’s the chicken. Seriously. Loved that chicken! ūüôā

The story doesn’t stray too far from what you’d expected, with themes of finding your inner strength, self-belief, etc, but all done nicely with next to no saccharine. I’d very happily watch this again – and there is no higher praise for an animated movie, I think!

Released: 2nd December 2016
Viewed: 17th January 2017
Running time: 107 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 8/10

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Kubo lives in a cave with his mother, who he cares for in her semi-catatonic state. For short periods she revives and tells wonderful stories about warrior heroes on brave quests, stories acted out by origami figures. Life is hard, but good Рuntil Kubo breaks the one rule: he must always be back in the cave by nightfall.

He has never known why this rule was so important, but now he discovers what he was being protected from. Now that protection is gone, Kubo must set out on a quest of his own, accompanied by a magical monkey figurine that comes to life, and a warrior cursed to be a (six foot!) beetle, but stripped of his memory so he remembers nothing of why he was cursed or how he might break it.

I had completely assumed that this was an English-language version of¬†an existing movie, which made it very confusing that the amnesiac beetle looked a bit like Matthew McConaughey – but of course, I was wrong and this is the original version. I think that’s all the more impressive, as I have to say, this movie is¬†gorgeous. Every scene is just so well drawn, the imagery just lovely. My particular favourites were the origami battles, and the ship made of leaves, mirroring the origami, both just lovely to look at and so well done.

The plot is also far deeper than we tend to expect from a ‘mere animation’.¬†You might guess where we’re going to end up, more or less, but there are enough layers to keep interest.

Absolutely recommended!

Released: 9th September 2016
Viewed: 12th September 2016
Running time: 101 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 9/10