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The Good Dinosaur: A Simpler Approach by Disney & Pixar
Even though it lacks the subtle sophistication and refinement of other Disney-Pixar animations, there's still something rather special about simplistic, yet heartfelt approach, to The Good Dinosaur. Directed by long-time animator-turned-director, Peter Sohn, stunning visuals and the endearing relationship between the two leads will keep audiences engaged and seemingly distracted from the story's otherwise sweet but familiar premise.
The Good Dinosaur is set in an alternate world, where the deadly and massive asteroid that eventually led to the complete extinction of dinosaurs some sixty five million years ago missed its collision with Earth, leaving the dinosaur population very much intact. Millions of years later, we meet a family of corn harvesting Apatosauruses; Poppa Henry (voiced by Wright), Momma Ida (McDormand) and their three children, Buck (Scribner), Libby (Padilla) and the youngest member of the family, the always-fearful, Arlo (Ochoa).
The family is a hardworking unit, but Arlo strugges to keep up with chores. When a tragic event leads Arlo to be swept up by the river and into the dangers of the open wilderness, the young dinosaur is soon forced to face his fears. Befriending a young and extremely feral little human whom he soon names, Spot (Bright), Arlo and his new buddy set out to get Arlo back to where he belongs, whilst also finding the courage to battle and fight off the dangers along the way.
Marking Pixar's sixteenth feature film and the second one to be released in 2015 after Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur boasts mesmerising visuals and photorealistic backdrops of raging rivers, picturesque mountaintops and colourful landscapes. It's a survivor story and an unlikely-friendship story all rolled into one which is at its most beautiful and heartfelt self when it focuses on the main relationship between Arlo and Spot. The time spent with the two leads, as they share quiet and unspoken moments of true friendship and genuine kindness, is where The Good Dinosaur shines, drawing its audience into the story with a great amount of ease.
The performances on all fronts are vibrant and thoroughly engaging, while the story - which was stuck in a troubled six-year long production– is unexpectedly simplistic, the overall result still works in its favour. Fun, simple and beautiful to look at, it's aimed at a much younger crowd, but that doesn't mean us so-called adults won't be able to enjoy it either.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Armed with a zappy attitude, vibrant colours and a heavily-marketed soundtrack, the latest animated effort from DreamWorks Animation attempts to profit from the once popular toy brand in Trolls: a fun and a breezy animated musical which is a little light on story on substance.
Set deep in the heart of a magical land unknown to man, the Trolls are one of the tiniest and happiest creatures in the world who enjoy spending their days singing, dancing and generally spreading joy throughout their tiny little community. Their polar opposites are the Bergens; large, miserable and seemingly nasty monsters incapable of feeling joy on their own, needing to eat Trolls in order to consume their happiness. See, eating Trolls has become a Bergen holiday and on one of those holidays, the Trolls somehow manage to escape and, for twenty years, have been living a blissful and a carefree existence.
Fast-forward to present day, Princess Poppy (Kendrick) is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of that great escape, something which doesn’t sit all too well with the grumpy troll named Branch (Timberlake) who believes that the party will bring them unnecessary attention. His predictions soon come true when a Bergen Chef (Baranski) emerges from the shadows and grabs a couple of trolls and heads to Bergen command centre in order to redeem her bruised reputation, leaving it up to Poppy and Branch to go after her and save their friends.
Much like the Lego Movie before it, Trolls may come across to many as nothing but a calculated brand-driven cash grab which is looking to capitalise its profits from the popularity of a toy line which hasn’t been relevant since mid 90’s. Sure, money is always major motivators in productions like these, but there’s a fair amount of effort that is deserving of recognition.
Visually speaking, Trolls is a stunner. Offering an immersive and an almost psychedelic viewing experience, its visual palette is filled with vibrant colours and shimmering glitters, while the design of the trolls themselves –rainbow-coloured hair that shoots straight up, wrinkly foreheads and googly eyes – are showcased wonderfully. The voiceover work by the A-list cast – including Gwen Stefani, Zoey Deschanel and Russell Brand – is also solid with Timberlake and Kendrick using their easy chemistry and natural charm to bring the story’s main characters to life.
Unfortunately, where things go wrong is the story itself which comes across as uncreative, predictable and most disappointing of all, forgettable. Adults will left out in the cold by its excessively sugary feel, because ultimately, there’s not much here to engage with beyond the catchy pop-tunes, glittery farts and the candy-coloured façade.