Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
A treat for the whole family.
Infused with Hawaiian mythology, the latest animated flick from the Mouse House feels different despite being centred on the same girl-fulfils-heroic-destiny formula it has rolled out time and time again. Following the restless daughter of an island-bound Chieftain, this seafaring adventure is packed to the brim with goofy animal sidekicks, toe-tapping song and dance numbers, and the usual Disney charm. The whole movie is anchored by an endearing protagonist who earns a spot amongst Disney's more famous female characters thanks to her pluck and tomboyishness; there are no love interests or royal weddings for this independent woman. Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) doesn't do all the heavy lifting though, spending a large portion of the runtime with Maui (Dwayne Johnson charismatic as ever), a hilariously egotistical demi-god who can shape shift and hurl insults. The chemistry between Moana and Maui is fantastic, their witty banter and odd couple clashing plays both for big laughsa sailing lesson with a paralysed Maui is downright hilariousand for touching moments. Not everything lands perfectly though, with Jemaine Clement's nefarious crab Tamatoa not quite landing, the sneering and sarcastic crustacean a little too reminiscent of Clement's diabolical cockatoo Nigel in the Rio series. The climactic showdown against a gigantic lava-throwing demon boasts some impressive visuals, however it also feels inessential coming off the back of what was otherwise a subtler affair. But the film works up so much goodwill elsewhere a few missteps can be easily forgiven. Disney delivers yet another family treat that can be enjoyed by those of all ages.
Office Christmas Party (2016)
Lightweight and disposable
December always brings with it a raft of Yuletide yarns that are often fun but not overly great. This crude comedy continues that trend with an enjoyable yet completely disposable romp about the epic eponymous work shindig. When laidback office head Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) is warned his Chicago department (inherited from Daddy) is going to be closed down unless he can secure a big contract, his solution is to throw an expensive party with live animals, lots of booze and the promise of bonuses. Of course the proverbial hits the fan and everything that can go wrong, does. Think The Hangover: Xmas Edition where we actually witnessed the night unfold before seeing everyone wake up with killer headaches and life lessons learnt. The gags fly at a million miles an hour with some sticking and some not, but it coasts by on it's super light mood and the sense that this group of extremely funny people are just having a blast hanging out on set and cracking jokes. Miller's man-child and Kate McKinnon's HR by-the-book weirdo are the standouts, and Jason Bateman's and Olivia Munn's more sensible employees are fine (although lacking chemistry as love interests), however Jennifer Aniston and Rob Corrdry are total misfires which bore throughout. The film also dovetails quickly when it gives a pimp subplot way too much attention, and the save-the-internet finale is dumb even by a popcorn comedy's standards, although the eclectic Christmas-themed soundtrack is surprisingly good. The epitome of a throwaway movie, Office Christmas Party maintains a certain level of enjoyment with its breezy vibe and the occasional laugh-out-loud gag, but is ultimately forgettable.
A worthy conitnuation AND a great new start.
A Harry Potter spinquel (spin-off prequel for those playing at home) relocated from the wonderful wizarding school of Hogwarts to the streets of New York circa 1920, the latest Potter-verse entry is an adventurous old-school delight. It thankfully ditches the origin story template to throw us headfirst into the escapades of clumsy British wizard Newt (Eddie Redmayne), as he bumbles his way through the bustling streets of Manhattan trying to recapture his exotic creatures before the close-minded humans harm them. Along for the ride is lovable muggle Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an inspiring baker just trying to catch a break in life, and by-the-book wizardry enforcement agent Tina (Katherine Waterston), a socially awkward love interest for Newt. This ragtag groupalso including Tina's mind-reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) on occasionstumble upon a curious string of incidences involving dark magic which, although a little too convenient at times, keep the pace rollicking along at such a speed you'll barely notice the contrivances. Series veteran David Yates is calling the shots on his fifth Potter-verse outing and at this point, with his fantasy-action chops refined after the climactic battle of Deathly Hallows, he knows how to hit all the right buttons. The dragon in a teacup set piece is immensely enjoyable; the wand battles are always gratifying to watch; and the havoc-wreaking finale is largely engaging despite featuring a strangely nondescript villain that really could've done with some sprucing up. Visually it is an upgrade from the preceding movies with the stunning period set design and advanced CGI giving it an edge, although the visual palette is still very much shared with the other instalments. Both a worthy continuation and a wonderful fresh start, Fantastic Beasts avoids franchise fatigue with quirky new characters, a superb period setting and a quick-moving tale that establishes an intriguing over-arching storyline.
An emotionally, narratively and visually spectacular sci-fi drama.
Non-action science fiction films are becoming rarer than hen's teeth in mainstream cinema, usually skipping the big screen for a video-on-demand release due to their tight budgets. The one-two punch of this year's Midnight Special and Arrival will hopefully change that. Fresh off the modern masterpiece that is Sicario, director Denis Villeneuve again showcases his incredible talent by crafting a deeply thought-provoking motion picture that credits its audience with the sort of intelligence and maturity so few movies are willing to do. When alien spaceships appear in 12 random locations around the globe, the international community must band together to figure out who controls these vessels and, more importantly, what their purpose on Earth is. Enter Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams amazing), a professor of language who is brought in to communicate with the extra-terrestrials aboard the spacecraft situated in Montana. Banks has her own personal problems though, with memories of her dead daughter permeating throughout her thoughts. These two coinciding plots are handled with immense care and precision, ultimately bringing an intense poignancy to the overall story that culminates in a fantastic final act twist. The unpredictability of the reveal is inarguably clever, but it's the extra layer of emotional depth it adds that really hits home. The imagery is spectacular too: the alien vessels are simple yet beautiful; the squid-like creatures are simultaneously frightening and graceful; and the gravity-defying environment inside the ship is presented with subtle wonder. The icing on the cake is the profound auditory experience that the film offers, with the glorious, otherworldly sound design and an affecting, sonorous score conducted by Jóhann Jóhannsson (whose Sicario score should've won the Oscar earlier this year). A contemplative movie that eschews big budget action for provocative musing, Arrival is a tense, emotional and utterly gripping sci-fi drama.
The Accountant (2016)
A largely entertaining, but deeply flawed, action-thriller.
Ben Affleck's acting resurgence of the last few years (Argo, Gone Girl, his take on Batman) notches up another tick in the box, this time with an introspective and multi-layered turn as the titular black-market bookkeeper who battles autism, assassins and federal agents. An intricately woven thriller boasting multiple twists and turnsof varying predictabilitythere's enough meat on the narrative bones to compensate for the over-utilisation of rote flashbacks and the occasional slip into genre cliché. The autism angle certainly lends a fresh viewpoint on old tropes but the film never feels completely confident to commit, becoming selective about when it depicts the mental condition warts-and-all and when it tames it down to suit the scene. That's possibly an unfair criticism though as this movie is an action-thriller first and foremost, and a damn good one at that. The set pieces are a mix of scrappy hand-to-hand fights, à la the Bourne series, and gunplay that emphasises practicality similar to that displayed in John Wick; combining to create sequences that are both brutal and stylish. Thankfully the editing isn't as impatient as it can be in a lot of action flicks, with shots held on the recognisable actors just long enough to convince you they're doing their own stunts, whilst the booming sound design gives the sniper scenes an extra bit of chest-pummelling oomph. It's a shame the otherwise exciting finale is at times lit so dimly it's like you're viewing it with sunglasses on, as it detracts slightly from what could have been an epic climax. But hey, that's a minor quibble. Sharing the screen with Affleck, Jon Bernthal's wild streak comes out to play in another menacing badass role and J.K. Simmons is dependably magnetic as a lead agent with a secret past, however Anna Kendrick's kooky numbers cruncher seems to have walked in from a completely different movie (Pitch Perfect 3 perhaps?). It's by no means flawless, yet the high calibre action, gripping central performance and a few plot-based surprises make The Accountant a largely satisfying cinematic outing.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
A solid return for Gibbo.
It has been ten years since Mel Gibson was calling the shots for Mayan saga Apocalypto, but his direction here is so confident and ambitious you wouldn't know it. It's like he never left. This true story is essentially split into three parts: the introductory story to our heroic protagonist, the training segment full of adversity, and the horrific battle between the Yanks and the Japanese atop the eponymous ridge. Each act is better than the last, with the family and romantic drama at the beginning slow and not totally convincing, the boot camp section predictable but highly engaging, and the extended war climax an immersive triumph. It doesn't come as a surprise that Gibbo feels most comfortable with the battle sceneshe is the director of Braveheart after alland in this respect he is firing on all cylinders, creating a truly intense and visceral experience. The death and decay is gruesome and unsettlingyou can almost smell the burning flesh and rotting corpsesbut the savagery is necessary to generate the authentic juxtaposition of horror and heroism. Portraying Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, Andrew Garfield is put the through the wringer both physically and emotionally, ultimately giving a solid performance despite working with some cheesy melodrama at the start. The supporting cast are predominantly strong, particularly Hugo Weaving who acts the hell out of his drunken WWI vet and Vince Vaughn who dishes out a delightfully shouty and zinger-filled turn as Doss' drill sergeant. A moving tale of one man's struggle to stay true to his beliefs whilst helping his country in the most harrowing of circumstances, Hacksaw Ridge is proof that Gibson should be behind the camera more often.
Hell or High Water (2016)
One of 2016's best films.
It's about five minutes into this gritty crime dramawhich kicks off with a long unbroken tracking shotthat you know you're in for something special. And the remainder of the film, all the way up until the bittersweet closing shot, doesn't disappoint. The story is set in a post-GFC West Texas and follows two bank-robbing brothers who have underlying motives to their unlawful actions (to tell would spoil the narrative's wonderful drip-feed style), whilst also tracking the soon-to-be-retired Ranger who's seeking to finish his career on a high. Taylor Sheridan's screenplay is remarkably simple yet effective, wisely resisting the temptation to resort to thriller-ish tropes despite ostensibly playing like one. He allows the multi-layered characters to do all the heavy lifting and is rewarded with a cast that absolutely nails it. As polar opposite siblings who share an unbreakable bond, Chris Pine and Ben Foster are magnetic; the former a level-headed brooder with the weight of the world on his shoulders, the latter an unpredictable live wire who would gladly kill for his younger brother. On the other side of the fence, Jeff Bridges brings his A-game as a sardonic law-enforcement veteran who is equal parts intelligent and stubborn, terrifically supported by an understated Gil Birmingham as his oft-tormented partner. Most impressively the film doesn't seem to pass judgment on any of the characters (or at least not until late in the piece), allowing them to exist without labelling them good or bad; they all have parts of themselves that fit into both categories. Director David Mackenzie also deserves a lot of praise, as he sublimely balances the need for a tight and tense plot whilst simultaneously allowing his characters ample room to breathe and grow. Mackenzie also gets the very best out of his cinematographer Giles Nuttgens who delivers bold, sharp and stylish camera movements in addition to a level of photography (i.e., lighting and framing) that is as good as you'll see this year. Narratively powerful, visually mesmerising and backed to Nick Cave's transcendent soundtrack, Hell or High Water is one of the finest motion pictures of 2016.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Marvel Studios has had solid success when it comes to bringing their second-tier heroes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU): Ant-Man was a fun little heist flick and Guardians of the Galaxy is still one of the franchise's best entries to date. This multi-realm fantasy film sits comfortably in the top echelon of MCU movies thanks to its ambitious concept and dazzling set pieces, the mind-bending parallel dimensions arguably the greatest challenge Marvel Studios has set themselves yet. Director Scott Derrickson and his VFX team visualise the multiple plains of existence with jaw-dropping splendour, the Inception-esque world-shifting of the dark dimension is awe inspiring and lends itself to a superb action sequence in the final act. What the climactic battle lacks in originality an otherworldly entity wants to destroy Earth it makes up for in sheer visual awesomeness, with our human heroes and villains going at it whilst a recently demolished town in Hong Kong mends itself in reverse. If the action is A+ then the story is a respectable B+. The pre-powers backstory of the titular hero is mercifully brief and there is a plethora of jokes that hit the mark, however there's some clunky exposition serving as narrative shorthand and the odd bout of dire-logue that could've been cleaned up. As for Strange himself, Benedict Cumberbatch plays him with a dash of Tony Stark's arrogance, a pinch of Steve Roger's sincerity and a sprinkle of Scott Lang's what-the-hell-am-I-doing bewilderedness, all the while adding a touch of the rock 'n' roll to his brain surgeon turned sorcerer. It's a mixed bag elsewhere though, Tilda Swinton's mischievous Ancient One and Mads Mikkelsen's malevolent Kaecilius are compelling, but Rachel McAdams is given little to do as Strange's love interest Christine and Chiwetel Ejiofor is frustratingly dour as sidekick Mordo. All in all Doctor Strange is a hugely entertaining blockbuster that once again cements MCU's position as the preeminent superhero series.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
Bland and uneventful.
2012's Jack Reacher was not by any means an amazing success, critically or commercially, however it at least provided an abundance of bone-crunching and popcorn-munching fun with minimal fuss. Sadly the same can't be said for this formulaic and utterly unmemorable sequel that, despite the valiant acting efforts of Tom Cruise and Cobie Smoulders, feels like it is operating squarely in first gear. After being accused of murder and espionage, the Cruiser's eponymous ex-military investigator and Smoulders' kickass army Major Turner are chased across Washington D.C. and New Orleans by murderous military contractors. The action is passable, barely, but lacks any sort of imagination or energy. Director Edward Zwick shoots his set pieces in the most mundane way possible, with choppy editing and a ridiculously overbearing sound design (where each punch sounds like a slab of meat being pounded against a wall) unsuccessfully utilised as intensity-builders. Adapted from the Lee Childs novel of the same name, the extremely dull plot goes nowhere in a hurry and struggles to overcome a confused tone that isn't sure whether it wants to be a serious thriller or a light hearted on-the-run adventure, subsequently failing on both levels. It's surprisingly sentimental as well, which actually works to a certain extent thanks to the three-way dynamic between Reacher, Turner and 15-year-old tagalong Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who may or may not be Reacher's daughter. Although there's mixed signals about the female empowerment angle the film clearly wants to comment on; despite numerous conversations and entire subplots about on the topic, Smoulders is either absent or lagging behind in the action sequences that count. But at least the charismatic Smoulders is given a decent character arc to work with, which is a lot more than Patrick Heusinger is offered in his role as the indefatigable assassin who is so laughably one-note he makes Jai Courtney's henchmen from the original look positively jazzy. The sporadic sly gag and the lead duo's exuberance save this from being a complete disaster, yet this follow-up remains a massively bland and uneventful affair that isn't worthy of a trip to the cinema.
Deepwater Horizon (2016)
An intense, insightful and entertaining true-story disaster flick.
With a fairly cheesy trailer and Peter "Battleship" Berg at the helm, early signs weren't positive for this based-on-a-true-story disaster flick. But those negative expectations are blown out of the water by what is a fascinating and nerve-racking motion picture. The first half is both a meet and greet with our ensemble cast and a quick (but enthralling) lesson on how a deep-sea oil rig operates, building up the camaraderie that forms our emotional connection to the story whilst also imparting just enough technical knowledge to help understand the severity of the forthcoming catastrophe. Then, when the proverbial hits the fan at the halfway point, it's intense action and nail-biting tension for the remainder of the film; a series of unfortunate (and worse, avoidable) events that escalate the situation from bad to worse. Berg shoots his fiery action with a claustrophobic immediacy that accentuates the truly frightening position in which the people aboard the rig find themselves, whilst also utilising wide shots (full of convincing CGI) to demonstrate the overwhelming scale of the calamity. Tropes of the disaster flick subgenre shaky cam, flickering lights, heroic moments, and sudden silence are certainly present but they're utilised as judiciously as possible by Berg, although he still manages to sneak in a shot of an American flag softly flapping in the breeze. There are no standouts amongst the cast, everyone from leading men Mark Whalberg and Kurt Russell to offsiders Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O'Brien offer solid performances, however John Malkovich has to battle with a completely underwritten and shallow role as the greedy BP company man. At a relatively snappy 107 minutes, Deepwater Horizon is a pacey, insightful and thrilling recount of a deadly man-made mishap that should have never happened.