2016 Catch-up Triple Bill #1

Been a quiet few weeks at The Fast Picture Show as I was off helping Santa make toys for the children of the world after the elves went on strike about dangerous working conditions - an elf and safety issue apparently........

You've missed me, haven't you?

Anyhow, all this toy-making has left me seriously behind in the movie-viewing stakes, so as all the credible, organised film critics assemble their Top 10 of the year, I'm going to actually try and watch 10 films so I can actually have a lit too. Since I've been busy making kids toys, let's start with an animated triple-bill

Moana (Clements & Musker, 2016) is a feisty Polynesian island girl who must embark on a voyage of (self-)discovery across the ocean to save her people, accompanied only by her dimwitted pet chicken and a vain demi-God Maui (hilariously voiced by Dwayne Johnson). In short, it's great. Following its lead from Frozen, it sets out to subvert a few Disney princess cliches and although it still follows some formulaic beats, it's enormously enjoyable. The animation is eye-wateringly beautiful, the action is exciting, the sidekicks are funny and, best of all, there's some great toe-tapping musical numbers throughout. Okay, so it doesn't have a very memorable villain and the moral eco-message is a bit heavy-handed, but when you have Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement as a jewel-encrusted crab belting out a fabulous Bowie-esque tune, you'll be grinning to widely to care. See it with kids and feel your heart soar. Then sit back and wait for the inevitable stage musical.

In contrast, Finding Dory (Andrew Stanton, 2016) isn't quite as stirring and it never reaches the heights...er...depths? of its predecessor Finding Nemo. This time forgetful sidekick Dory is pushed centre-stage and, like Moana, she embarks on a voyage of (self-)discovery across the ocean in order to find out where she came from. It's fun while it lasts, with a hopeful message about over-coming disability. but it probably won't stick in the long-term memory. That said, it does have a cephalopod up its sleeve with Hank the escapologist octopus (voiced by Ed O'Neill) who is by far the best thing in it - worth seeing for him alone and for his end credits antics.

Laika StudiosKubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight, 2016) has a lot of love this year, but I confess it left me a little underwhelmed, despite some obvious merits. It's a fantasy adventure set in Japan, where a young boy with a magic shamisan embarks on a Quest, accompanied by protective Monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron) and cavalier Beetle (Matthew McConnaughey). The main attraction here is the wonderful stop-motion animation which is just incredibly impressive, lending the whole thing a distinctive visual style which makes a nice contrast to the more glossy films above. However, for a plot that emphasises the importance of story-telling, it's a bit muddled in its own story as it tackles themes of mortality and spirituality during Kubo's voyage of - you guessed it - (self-)discovery. However, it's still commendably ambitious film-making, the origami-based vignettes are wonderful and there's a satisfying 'A-ha!' moment when the meaning of the seemingly unwieldy title becomes clear.

Right. back on track now, a few more catch-up triple bills and bad jokes to follow shortly....

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