Sing

Image: Illumination

While he may not be the best businessman, Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) has the spirit of a showman; and anyone who is serious about showbiz knows one key thing. The show must go on! In an attempt to save his beloved theatre, Moon decides to host a singing contest. Que all animals great and small! From a tiny snail to a giraffe whose head in in the rafters, there are auditions of all kinds, their acts and varied as their species.

In the end, the line-up includes Gunter (Nick Kroll) and Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), two pigs with very different styles, Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a little mouse with big opinions of himself, Ash (Scarlett Johansson), the rock and roll porcupine, chronically shy elephant, Meena (Tori Kelly), and Johnny (Taron Egerton) the gorilla, wanting to find something more than the family business. Continue reading

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Red Dog: True Blue

Image: Screen Australia

Whether it be the beauty of the Australian outback, an adorable dog, or the story of a young boy and his best friend that draws you to this film, you won’t go away disappointed.

Director Kirv Stenders returns with Red Dog: True Blue, both part prequel and sequel his 2011 Red Dog that captured (and broke) so many hearts. Without spoiling too much, the prequel part of the tale tells the story of young Sydney boy, Mick (Levi Miller), whose mother sends him to live with his grandfather after the death of her husband. Michael’s grandfather (Bryan Brown) owns and runs the NAME cattle property. Living this rural and remotely is a challenge for Michael at first, but when a storm brings a little red pup, Blue (Phoenix), to his side, things start to change.

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Moana

Image: Disney

Summer holidays means kids movies! And you can’t go wrong with a little bit of Disney magic.

Moana is the latest heroin to join Disney’s repertoire. This water loving Polynesian girl is the village chief’s daughter. While her mother and father want nothing more than for Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) to take her rightful place as the future chief, the young woman has dreams of her own. She wants nothing more than to be with the sea. Her love to the ocean is so great that when an ancient curse invoked by the demigod Maui (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) threatens all life, the water choses Moana to help fix it.

Being Disney, you come to expect a pretty catchy sound track; and Moana doesn’t disappoint. With Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) on board, you can expect to have at least a few of these tunes stuck in your head long after the movie has finished.

Catering for multiple ages, this film has the colour and sound to occupy the littlies, those expected shrouded jokes for the adults, and a complex and entertaining enough storyline to entertain anyone in between.

One particular feature, which may seem small to some but had me internally shouting, was the fact that the characters actually put their hair up! So often you see animated characters with ‘princess hair’ that, no matter how rough things get, just seems to sit perfectly. Well not here. You see Moana’s amazing curls get in her way on occasion, enticing her to just tie them back and get on with her mission!

As far as animated movies go, 2016 is set to finish on a high with Moana.

Trolls

Image: DreamWorks Animation

It’s time to dive down the rabbit hole in a swirl of colour, hair, glitter, and music. If you can get past the psychedelic use of every colour in the spectrum, you’ll find a story a friendship, self-belief, and how to find happiness. But if you don’t want to think that hard, just sit back and enjoy the rainbow splattered song and dance numbers.

For twenty years, the trolls have live happy lives, free of the fearsome Bergens. Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) enthusiastically leads these bright little creatures in celebrating their freedom each year with a party; this year’s being the biggest ever. However, not all the trolls agree with her idea. Branch (Justin Timberlake) is Poppy’s polar opposite. Preferring to be unnoticed, this drab green and grey troll refuses to take part in a party so loud it could potentially lead the Bergens to the troll village. And he does NOT sing.

As predicted, Poppy’s party attracts the attention of a particularly gruesome Bergen who kidnaps her friends. It’s then up to Poppy and overtly negative Branch to save the day.

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Storks

Image: Warner Animation Group

Storks used to deliver babies but, like the rest of the world, they’ve had to adapt to the changing times. Now they deliver for Cornerstore.com! One of the best delivery storks, and slated to be the next boss is Junior (Andy Samberg). He only has one thing to deal with first. Tulip.

Tulip (Katie Crown) was the last baby the storks were to deliver, but when her locator beacon was broken, they had no way of knowing where to delivery her. So she grew up among the storks. Unfortunately, as much as Tulip just wants to help, she causes more problem that she fixes. The last such problem being to promise delivery of a baby.

Now she and Junior must complete the delivery without anyone finding out.

The film itself is very cute in its animation with a few funny moments and some sideways comments about the online consumer market but not much else. Perhaps its most mentionable plot point is the reminder to spend time with your family while you can rather than putting it off for ‘another time’.

If something bright for the kids and easy for the adults to watch is what you’re after, this film will be a good choice.

Secret Life of Pets

Every wondered what your pets get up to while you’re at work or school? Well now’s your chance to find out!

New York City is filled with so many different types of people; and just as many different types of pets. One such pet is Max, the little white and brown dog who lives with his loving owner. Max’s life is pretty good. At least is was. Enter Duke. This pound mutt wins the sympathy of Max’s owner and is brought home to live with them. As anyone with pets can probably tell you, the introduction of a new pet to a household doesn’t always go smoothly. Max and Duke are no exception. Adventure ensues when Max and Duke find themselves lost in the big scary city with no way home. Add some courageous friends and slightly manic bunny into the mix and you get a kids movie.

The film itself is visually attractive with bright colours and beautiful scenery. As far as storylines go, this one is quite cute, however it lacks a lot of the hidden jokes that often keep mum and dad entertained.

One of the this film’s best features has to be the soundtrack. The opening sequence to Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York is bound to out you in a good mood. Not to mention the varying music tastes of the animals themselves.

While it’s by no means going to be comedy of the year, the Secret Life of Pets is a cute, fun movie to spend a couple hours on with the littlies, or if you’re just looking for something easy to watch.

Pete’s Dragon

It was once said that “it simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” While this isn’t the particular tale he was referring to, Tolkien’s words still ring true. Pete’s Dragon is definitely a worthy adventure.Director David Lowery brings this beautiful story to life, impressing audiences right from the start. The opening scene was excellently portrayed, showing the sadness of the events without being excessively graphic or traumatising. 

A great amount of credit must also go to the cast. Oakes Fegley is adorably innocent in the leading role of Pete, the young boy who has grown up in the woods with only Elliot for company. The stand out fact that makes this story all the more amazing? Elliot is a dragon!

Of course not everyone is going to react the same when the existence of said dragon comes to light. Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a park ranger who, with the help of her father, Meacham (Robert Redford), and her boyfriend’s daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence) want to protect Elliot. On the other side of the coin, we have Natalie’s uncle, Gavin (Karl Urban). Gavin’s reaction upon discovering the dragon is to go hunting. 

We really can’t blame Gavin too much for his reaction. It seems, more often than not, that upon finding something unknown to us, our instinct as humans is to fear it. Stories generally tell us that dragons are something to be feared, so that is the view point adopted by Gavin and his friends.

Thankfully, as in most children’s movies, lessons are learnt and friendships made, so don’t despair too much.

The soundtrack was another facet to this film I really enjoyed. The mostly calming song choices kept the magical feeling throughout.

Lastly, but by no means least, we must address the elephant in the room; or rather, the dragon. Elliot’s mannerisms remind me of a large (ok, massive) green Labrador puppy. His excitement as he plays with Pete and the fear and sadness when he finds himself alone are very well displayed. Effects used to create this adorable, furry giant are fantastic in their quality and his personality is shown extremely well for a character who has no dialogue. 

For kids and adults alike, Pete’s Dragon is the perfect tale to put a little magic in your day.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Filled with sarcasm, jokes, and puns, each worse that the last, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a movie anyone can enjoy.

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is the foster kid who doesn’t fit in. All his life, he’s been bounced from house to house, only to continuously get into some kind of trouble. As a last ditch effort, his case worker sends him to live with Bella (Rima Te Wiata) on her farm. At first it’s a big change for Ricky; there’s nowhere to get into trouble, and Bella’s husband Hec (Sam Neill) doesn’t seem very interested in him.

A very big theme throughout the film seems to be that there are lots of people who don’t care about foster kids. It’s something Ricky has come to understand and expect in his 13 years. Until he finally finds a home with Bella. Small gestures and constant effort on Bella’s part start to pay off. It’s both heartening and tragic to see how far a little kindness can go to changing one kid’s outlook on the world.

Unfortunately, it seems that even good things can’t always last. With Bella’s sudden passing, Ricky fears he will be lost once again in the foster system. Not wanting that to happen, he takes off into the bush. Knowing that a city kid like Ricky won’t survive long on his own, Hec goes after him only to be injured upon tracking the kid down. As so the story really begins. After spending a few weeks camping out to allow Hec’s leg to heal, the pair start their return to civilization to find that they have been the focus of a massive manhunt. From here, the movie picks up speed as Ricky and Hec continue to evade the authorities.

Director Taika Waititi does a wonderful job, covering all facets of Ricky’s story. Although the surface of the film is amusing in a way that is designed to make both children and adults laugh, Sam Neill’s character, Hec, is used very well in allowing the more mature members of the audience to see the real issues. Throw all that into the mixing pot with the beautiful scenery that is the New Zealand bush, and you have movie that is both intellectually entertaining and visually pleasing. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a definite must see.

The BFG

For most of us, the witching hour is a time to be fast asleep, tucked up in our beds. For Sophie, it’s the time when the adventure of a lifetime begins!

Director Steven Spielberg brings Roald Dahl’s BFG to life in this beautifully magical movie. Travel from an orphanage in the streets of London, to Giant Land and back again with Sophie as she learns all about giants (both the mean and nasty ones, and the Big Friendly one).

With scary giants, new friends, ucky snozzcumbers, drinks the bubble backwards, fascinating dreams and so much more, this is a very cute movie for anyone who has read the book or those who haven’t.

Finding Dory

It’s been thirteen years but the fish that taught us to just keep swimming is back on the big screen. Ellen DeGeneres returns as the voice of forgetful blue tang fish, Dory, as she, Marlin, and Nemo embark on their next adventure.

The cuteness of baby Dory is outweighed only by the heartbreak of realizing how her short term memory loss has effected her all her life. Despite having loving parents who doted on her and protected her as best they could, little Dory gets separated from them. Jumping forward to where life has brought her now, Dory has a little home of her own next door to Marlin and Nemo. Both clown fish do their best to help their forgetful friend as she becomes accustomed to life on the reef.

It’s interesting how Dory’s forgetful nature, used as such a comedic thing in Finding Nemo, is portrayed differently in the sequel. They really strive to show how it affects Dory’s life and those around her, while still showing that Dory never let it stop her from living.  

With wonderful animation, full of colour, plenty of characters form the original movie, and even more new friends, Finding Dory is a great school holidays movie. So if you’ve been waiting years for the sequel to Nemo, or if this is totally new to you, check it out.