Thursday, June 23, 2016

Movie Review - Finding Dory (PG) - Review by Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 97 min

Finding Dory is a new animated movie and sequel to the 2003 beloved original, Finding Nemo. In addition, it comes as the seventeenth full-length animated film from Pixar Animation Studios. Like many people of my generation especially, I have seen just about all of these movies over the course of the years. It seems as if the company can do no wrong, as many of these films are viewed as masterpieces of animated storytelling, appealing to all age groups. A few of my favorites are Monsters, Inc., the Toy Story trilogy, and more recently, 2015s Inside Out. Finding Nemo would be right up there as well, being one of the most emotionally powerful stories to ever come from Pixar. All of that being said, I was very excited and had fairly high expectations for this long awaited sequel.

Although this film was released over a decade after the original, the main storyline picks up just a year later. As the title clearly suggests, Dory (once again voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), sort of takes the reigns as the main character this time around. Dory suffers from short memory loss, as most of you may remember (no pun intended) from Finding Nemo. However, she does know that she was separated from her parents sometime in the past. Without giving too much away, Dory goes off on a quest to find them with the help of Nemo, Marlin and a variety of other aquatic friends.

As with every other project by Pixar, I had a blast watching this movie. While it is seemingly targeted at a younger audience, I found myself laughing out loud at quite a few clever moments. Pixar is a master of appealing to everybody and it is on full display yet again with this film. As with all of their work, the animation was absolutely flawless and amazing to watch. The combination of the new and returning voice cast all did exceptional work, particularly Ellen in her iconic title role. While it is mostly an uplifting and fun movie, there are more than a few heartfelt moments that nearly had me tearing up. 

Overall, I wouldn’t say that this surpassed the sky high standards of the classic Finding Nemo, but that is hardly an insult. I think that Finding Dory is another excellent Pixar film that does a great job of expanding on the story of its predecessor.

Friday, June 17, 2016

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Movie Review - Alice Through The Looking Glass (PG) - By Stephen Signor

Run Time: 113 minutes: Rated PG

Six years ago Tim Burton’s interpretation of the spectacular underworld came to life on the silver screen. Now Director James Bobin joins the long list of directors bringing his own version to the big screen. Fortunately for us it includes most, if not all, of the same all star cast. So, need I really even begin to mention them? Yes, Yes, I do; just in case you have been since living in your own rabbit hole. But before I do I must give credit to screenwriter of Maleficent (2014), Linda Woolverton who returns to add to the new twists and turns from the original novel by Lewis Carroll that will keep you guessing without losing focus. 

Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) has spent the past three years following in her father’s footsteps as a sailor of the high seas. She returns to London only to find that Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill) has deviously acquired her father’s business as payback for her rejection to marry him. Upon her retreat to another room in frustration and anger she is then summoned to a magical looking glass with the help of none other than Absolem (Rickman). 

It is here Alice returns to the whimsical realm of Underland she is reunited with her friends the White Rabbit (Sheen), the Cheshire Cat (Fry) and of course the Mad Hatter (Depp), who as it happens is not himself. He has lost his Muchness, so The White Witch Mirana (Hathaway) sends Alice on a quest to borrow a Chronosphere, the mechanical device inside the chamber of the Grand Clock which powers all time. Returning to the past, she will come across friends as well as enemies at different points in their lives while embarking on a perilous race to save the Hatter before it is too late and time runs out.

Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner for Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen assumed the role of a new villainous character named Time. The numerous never ending references and clich├ęs to the clock were welcome and hysterical in context. Cohen is brilliant, period. But he doesn’t steal the show. All of your favorite characters continue to entertain and with the new plot are flawless. The “Looking Glass” gives hope and even a future to sequels in general. I will even go out on a limb to say that I enjoyed this movie more than the first installment.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Movie Review - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13) - Stephen Signor

Run Time: 112 Minutes; Rated: PG

Despite popular belief, the re-casting of Megan Fox was not the reason I went to see this film. I do have to admit her role as Mikaela Banes in Transformers was successfully transferred once again to her return role as April O’Neil. But, no, the real reason was the local ties here in Maine, which is Portland’s co-creator of the original comic, Kevin Eastman. From the idea of bus kicking turtles in ’83 to the first pages created at Mirage Studios in ’84 his collaboration with Peter Laird gave us our first taste and so the games began. Since then fans continue to be enthralled with this quartet of raw justice.

This sequel was announced just two days after TMNT (2014) was released. Here these four reprise their roles when they are called upon once again to restore justice and protect New York City, their home, from the key player of The Foot Clan. Yes I am referring to Shredder, this time played by Brian Tee (Wolverine 2013). He is menacing and a true match for the fearsome foursome. Well, almost. But their challenge is two-fold because they also come into conflict with T.C.R.I. scientist Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) who hires Shredder to create mutants of his own to even the score.

Meanwhile,  the Turtles discover a Retro-Mutagen and hope manifests they can become humans following an extraterrestrial invasion above New York City led by the Dimension X inhabitant known as Krang. With Krang's Invasion, the Turtles are of course are mentored with precise wisdom in preparation to their fight by their Master, Splinter

Just like the proceeding films, that wisdom would strengthen their resolve. Success always seems to be contingent on the out-of-the- ordinary. This was cleverly introduced through the use of theme music from Ocean’s Eleven. You’ll get it. 

When you add up all the elements that went into this production it is plain to see why it is still iconic. Even with the replacement of Director Jonathan Liebesman by David Green (Earth to Echo) the execution of the scenes remained as effective. Kudos also go to Producer Josh Appelbaum (executive producer of several episodes of Zoo television series) and Phil Barrie (Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice) 2016 for the sound editing of this film. It’s difficult to not to entertain with this entire cast and crew.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Movie Review - X-Men: Apocalypse (PG-13) - By Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 144 min
X-Men: Apocalypse is yet another 2016 comic book movie and the ninth installment of the X-Men series. In fact, it joins Deadpool as the second movie in franchise this year alone, completing a new trilogy that includes 2011s First Class and 2014s Days of Future Past. Bryan Singer returns once more to direct his fourth film in the series and the movie hosts a star studded cast featuring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Oscar Isaac amongst others. The X-Men series has certainly hit a few bumps in the road, particularly with 2006s The Last Stand and the Wolverine spinoffs. That being said, I am still a big fan of the franchise and the last couple of movies have been some of the best to date. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see what they would do with this next chapter. 

Taking place ten years after the timeline altering events of Days of Future Past, the X-Men now must go up against the villainous title character in their biggest challenge yet. Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is the very first as well as the most powerful mutant from the entire X-Men universe. Since the ancient Egyptian days, he was seen as a god-like figure, expanding his power by acquiring the abilities of many other mutants, including invincibility and immortality. Now, he has reemerged in the world and it is up to the X-Men to save humanity from his plans of complete extinction.

After reading some early critic reviews, I was slightly disappointed by some mixed to negative feedback. To be completely honest, I haven’t disagreed this much in a very long time. I really think that X-Men: Apocalypse is an outstanding comic book movie and the best installment in the now 16-year-old series. I did not find myself bored once during the lengthy runtime, as this may very well be the most action packed chapter to date. However, the film also did an amazing job of developing the plot and fleshing out the many different characters featured in the movie. Everybody in the all-star cast was on their A-game and the visual effects were better than ever. There is a lot going on in this epic, fast paced plot, but Apocalypse is truly an outstanding balance of exciting action and effective storytelling.