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

Finding Dory (2016)

A year after¬†Nemo has been found we catch up with the little clown fish living with his dad, Marlin, and new neighbour, Dory. Dory of the “short term remembery loss”, unable to recall what she was talking about a minute ago, let alone anything else. That is until a series of comments¬†do stir a deep memory, and spark a new quest: Dory is off to find her long-lost family!

Via flashbacks to the unbearably cute younger Dory, we relive her uncovered memories of her parents and the trauma of getting lost as the trio set out once again across the ocean. Along the way there are new friends – and old! – to meet, and a few dangers to overcome.

I thought¬†Finding Dory was cute, but very very light on substance. I did laugh a fair few times – the wall-eyed bird and amazingly grumpy octopus are standouts for humour – but to be perfectly honest I can’t see me ever wanting to sit through this movie again. Cute has its place, but repeat viewings need something a little more to get your teeth into.

Lots of ‘what family really means’ message here, but nothing desperately new and almost zero on the excitement scale. And please, save me from whale-talk o_O

Released: 29th July 2016
Viewed: 6th August 2016
Running time: 97 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 6/10 – cute, looks lovely, but I’m never going to want to watch it again.

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

Max has an idyllic life with his beloved owner – apart from those odd spells every day when she leaves their New York apartment without him. Every morning,¬†pets throughout the block are left with a cheery “See you later!” and¬†must find their own way to deal with the separation: Max sits in front of the door, patiently waiting for Katie to return; Chloe¬†raids the fridge; Sweetpea puts his favourite video game on. Welcome to the secret life of pets!

The real drama kicks off when Katie brings home a new rescue dog, Duke. Max isn’t best pleased, and soon the feuding leads to disaster as the pair are lost in Manhattan¬†and on the run from¬†the gang of ‘Flushed Pets’, led by the psychotic-but-cute Snowball. Can Max’s friends and neighbours mount a rescue mission?

I found¬†Life of Pets a sweet enough little movie, with the occasional moment of decent¬†humour – but they were¬†very¬†occasional.¬†The story is nothing special, either,¬†with nothing feeling¬†particularly new or original. Not one I can see many people raving about, but if you do get dragged to see it with the kids, you’re not going to end up wanting to claw your eyeballs out either!

Released: 24th June 2016
Viewed: 26th June 2016
Running time: 90 minutes
Rated: PG Рinoffensive fluff

My rating: 6/10