Sunday, 18 September 2016

Sausage Party (2016) (Review)

In a summer cursed with unoriginality, sequels and adaptations, Sausage Party initially stood out as the antithesis of everything we had come to expect from the blockbuster season, and indeed the animation genre; an R-Rated 'cartoon fuelled with more F-bombs and sex references per minute than you can count one hand. aimed at completely the opposite side of the demographic spectrum. A Disney or Pixar release, this is not. It features the ensemble cast expected of a Seth Rogen collaboration, including Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco and Danny McBride, all playing various food items found in the fictional supermarket. With a great deal of buzz surrounding the release, and a solid 82% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, how will the film play to general audiences?

Frank (Rogen), a sausage, hopes to leave the store with love interest Brenda (Wiig), a hot dog bun, with the 'gods' who will take him to the great beyond, where all food will find freedom. However, after learning the cold, hard truth about their existence, he must go on a journey to stop the murder at the hands of the humans, encouraging his friends too to escape their fate. Read that synopsis again and try and tell me that this film has no potential: it does, it has it in buckets, but it largely succumbs, however, and ultimately becomes a testing animation that touches on a few interesting ideas before throwing a rude joke in because it lacks the confidence to do anything more with some thought-provoking themes other than enforcing them with too much vigour and vulgarity. Animation in general has become really quite incredible with engaging audiences with complex and thought-provoking themes, including a selection of them this year alone - Finding Dory and Zootopia, to name just a few - but Sausage Party fails to present these themes in the right way, forcing you to leave your brain at the door if you are to find any amusement in this sloppy comedy serving.

With the talent involved, the film should be bursting with laughs from start to end and it certainly has its moments. The solid voice cast do more than enough to bring the anthropomorphised food to life and each of them do have their brief moments to illustrate why they are big names in the business. While Seth Rogen's filmography - arguably Ted aside - does nothing for me, he certainly has spearheaded and revived a certain style of comedy and continues to do so with Sausage Party, which should be applauded for its initial smartness and invention alone, even if it never lives up to its promise. Succeeding in evoking the style of animation that Disney/Pixar have mastered, Sausage Party creates quirky characters and underdogs and presents them with the same uplifting spirit family-friendly animation is known for, just with a few extra ingredients in the mix. Stylistically, Sausage Party nails its satirical presentation of the animation genre, but thats all about it gets right...

Thematically, some big ideas are touched upon and some elements that could have worked very well come off as either half-baked or way too conceited to be appreciated, fumbling them almost entirely. When the film considers cultural clashes through the characters of a bagel and a lavash, it tricks you into believing far more exists beyond the barrage of curse words and innuendos that are fired off and hiding behind smut. This, however, is one of the only examples of the film diving below the surface and even that isn't explored to the highest degree: one doesn't expect major character work or deep philosophical themes in every scene or for it to be front and centre of this 'food porn' comedy, but it would greatly benefit it, and freshen up the otherwise stale film. It dances between blatant stereotypes and completely opposing countertypes so quickly that we see no character development at all and everything, including the jaw-dropping penultimate scene, feels a stretch too far and completely undeserved, even for a story about food discovering the reason behind their existence.

Crude, vulgar and puerile don't even begin to cut it with this film and the novelty very quickly wear off after the first ten minutes of obscenities. The jokes do fire off radially but the film still feels very unbalanced - some jokes hitting but most of them missing - and are well passed their sell-by date after an hour or so of the same antics unfolding. It's brazen and in your face and it can be appreciated for being a little bolder than most, but that's down almost entirely to the originality of the premise rather than the execution of it. If the humour was half as original as the idea of a sausage on a journey for the truth, this would be a film succeeding on more levels than it does in its current form, but it feels so lazy and uninspired in the humour department. Of course, thats all down to preference and I would pick a Melissa McCarthy film over a Seth Rogen one any day but I can still notice when something's funny and when its been hammered home to death. It feels silly to criticise an R-rated animation for being both too gross and too childish (that's not in terms of content...) but this somehow manages the seemingly impossible.

Littered throughout Sausage Party's relatively brief 89 minute run-time are some incredibly funny comedic sequences that demonstrate what a brilliant, inventive and ground-breaking comedy this film could be; from the moment the 'battlefield' scene on the supermarket floor plays out to the trailer-friendly moment the potato is 'first to enter eternity' and is promptly skinned, along with a montage of other hilarious food demises. This can only tide you over for so long though and the language, sex references and repetitive nature become tiresome and too one-note to sustain a comedy, especially one with so much potential. The whole film seems to merge into one and inspires very little to compel further viewings. If a sequel is on the horizon, they need to harness the potential and create something a little more than food swearing and sex humour over and over again. That said, some of the puns were bangers.


Summary: Sporadically amusing but more often than not repetitive, Sausage Party's talented voice cast aren't enough to distract from the gross-out, one-note vulgarity that is better in theory than in execution.

Highlight: The two previously mentioned sequences really stand out. The rest all merges into one.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

2016 Summer Blockbuster Season: Theatrical Edition (collaboration with Quickfire Reviews)

Welcome to my first collaboration! I’ve teamed up with QuickFire Reviews to share out thoughts on the summer 2016 blockbuster season. To say its been an interesting one is an understatement and it has been filled to the brim with interesting lessons for all to learn. We’ve created a new ‘awards’, as such, and tried to include a real array of the films released over the summer period (March 2016 to August 2016, with a few extra additions from films that thrived in the summer but were released before). We'll have some agreements and some pretty big disagreements, so be sure to share your own thoughts too! Hope its an enjoyable read!

Take this as our 'theatrical edition' - who knows, a few other ideas were left on the cutting room floor - maybe we'll release the 'extended edition' soon!

1. Favourite film of the summer?

Nathan: Easy for me - Captain America: Civil War. I promise I won’t use too many cliches, but it really ticks all the boxes - it has a solid cast, intriguing storyline and central concept and brilliant action, while managing to balance the darker moments with some light and humour. It was crafted very effectively, changing the course of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe while impacting the wider superhero genre too. Its success was further highlighted by the failure of some of the season’s other genre offerings. Contenders for the runner-up positions are Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Ghostbusters and Zootopia!

QF: My favourite movie of summer 2016 is Captain America: Civil War. The action in this Russo Brothers directed installment is honestly some of the best I've ever seen, not to mention the amazing stunts. The cast all boast typically brilliant acting chops, and, as a whole, this thirteenth-entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, elevates the franchise – and comic book films in general - to greater heights, with an appropriate amount of sophistication and depth injected into a thrilling, high-energy 147 minute comic-book romp.

2. Least favourite film of the summer?

Nathan: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is easily my least favourite film of the summer. I hate comparing films, as each are crafted in their own right, but the similarities with Civil War (concept, genre and 'event' status) only emphasises how bad a film Dawn of Justice really is. It was all style over substance and tried to run before it could walk - I felt no investment in the two main characters because the film spent so little time establishing them beyond their basic character traits and what could have been an intriguing moral question is wasted by a poor script, structuring and editing. Everyone loses with Dawn of Justice - Batman, Superman, the DCEU and the audience. I also agree that Independence Day: Resurgence is pretty low on the summer list, as well as War Dogs.

QF: With all style and no substance, Independence Day: Resurgence is my least favourite movie of the summer. It's certainly enjoyable for those who desire nothing more than mindless action and it does has strong visuals. However, there is no heart to the picture, the smaller moments are terribly-bland not to mention the frustrating lack of urgency. I was also found it laughable to see how similar Resurgence is to the original Independence Day flick. I understand and accept franchises tend to follow a certain formula, but this installment didn't take the franchise to the places it should have. And, with a really terrible ending the sets up a third adventure, one can only hope it improves on this mess.

3. Biggest disappointment of the summer?

Nathan: Before the DC warriors come out with their pitchforks, I really, really wanted to like Suicide Squad, but after such an incredible marketing campaign, starry ensemble cast and killer soundtrack, they became a victim of their own success and heightened expectations with Suicide Squad. The final product was a bitter disappointment, with only a few redeeming features (namely Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn), and managed to squander so much potential with a letdown of a final product.

QF: The BFG was the biggest disappointment of the summer for me – now that's not to say it's a bad movie - because it's not. But as a fan of the original novel and 1989 animated TV movie, it lacked the darker aspects of the story that I so loved and appreciated – which I believe could have made for a stronger movie. The various locations on display are beautiful, the movie is full of charm, but I was overall let-down.

4. Most overrated film of the summer?

Nathan: I didn't love Deadpool as much as everyone else did. The impressive critical reception (84% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) was a little excessive for what is a pretty average film. It wasn’t nearly as subversive and progressive as it thought it was and was more formulaic than most admit it to being. I don’t think its a bad film and, somehow, its still one of the better superhero films of the year, despite it being underwhelming on the whole and rather overrated, but that says more about its cohorts than itself. I do admire the film, however, for the risks it took and I am glad they paid off for Fox.

QF: The Shallows is my pick for most overrated movie of the summer. Blake Lively literally carries the film brilliantly, but the movie in my opinion is undeserving of the positive critical reviews it has received (77% on Rotten Tomatoes). I found this thriller to be an enjoyable time at the movies, but like I said, overrated. My reasoning for this are due to scenes, that took themselves seriously, coming off unintentionally humourous, a horribly fake CGI shark and a ridiculously non-sensical ending. I found it to be nothing more, than an enjoyable rental.

5. Most underrated film of the summer?

QF: My pick for most underrated? X-Men: Apocalypse. I thought Apocalypse was a great villian, the cast once again have great chemistry and I loved the realism that comes with these movies, all the while never being dull. I fail to understand the less than stellar reviews. I does not push boundaries for comic-book films, the way Civil War did, but it still remains a thoroughly engaging entry in the long-running series.

Nathan: Time to move on from the superhero films (for now at least!). I absolutely loved Nerve - in a summer that felt the opposite, Nerve felt very original and inspired, standing out for all the right reasons. It didn't set the box office alight and the reviews (from both critics and general audiences) were mixed. I can nit-pick the film for its faults and flaws, particularly the moralising and melodramatic ending, but Lionsgate crafted an entertaining popcorn flick with some brain behind it that felt new, refreshing and under appreciated. it's exactly the type of film Lionsgate should be making in their post-Hunger Games future and the sort of small, original and exciting films that we need among the tentpoles. I also enjoyed The Boss, Now You See Me 2 and The Huntsman: Winter's War more than most, although I'll probably lose any shred of credibility for admitting that out loud!

6. Standout performance of the summer?

Nathan: Margot Robbie takes the crown for me, and is an absolute delight as Quinn, working so desperately hard to save the film. I appreciate how dedicated to the role she appeared to be, how much fun she brought to it and how she can flit between beautiful subtle acting and the bravado that otherwise defines her character - she truly is the reason I will give a proverbial Suicide Squad 2 the time of day (although, preferably, we’ll fast forward to a solo series and all be on our way).

QF: For me as well, the standout performances of the summer is Margot Robbie's energetic turn as the complicated Harley Quinn. In my opinion, she is the best thing about Suicide Squad. Jared Leto's Joker also showed hints of greatness, but that's all there was due to his much-discussed little screen time.

7. Biggest surprise of the summer?

Nathan: I was very worried about Finding Dory before it came out - as stellar and almost flawless as Pixar are, their sequels tend to be more hit and miss and I feared that Finding Dory would be a Cars 2 rather than a Toy Story 2. I had no reason to doubt them at all, as Pixar served up another heart-warming and entertaining film, following on from Finding Nemo all those years ago, and has turned out to be one of my favourite of their solid filmography. It’s a beautiful treat, both in terms of visuals and what it has to say about family, disability and ocean life, and an unforgettable journey all round. Also of note, Eye in The Sky and Money Monster were a welcome change of pace, surprising by simply being different to the usual mammoth-budgeted affair.

QF: Now for the movie which I deem the biggest surprise of the summer – the delightful Pete's Dragon, which has all the elements of a Disney classic. A great family movie with a terrific performance from Bryce Dallas Howard. In a summer of big blockbusters, I found this charming tale to be refreshing. I had no expectations or any real desire to see Pete's Dragon, but I'm whole-heartedly glad I did.

8. Biggest franchise misfire of the summer?

QF: As for biggest misfire, I'm going back to March with Allegiant. I adore the escapism that comes with this movie, and I am a big fan of the series. I was not however a fan of the high-tech, sci-fi direction they took with this third chapter, and splitting the novel into two unfortunately hurt the movie. Also, Suicide Squad's poor critical reviews is not a good sign for Warner Brother's DC Extended Universe. Every release in this comic-book franchise has received worse and worse reviews, and while they are making money for now, it's essential they start making better movies before even the most loyal fans lose interest.

Nathan: I'll have to agree - Suicide Squad was supposed to put the DCEU on the right track, but it instead added insult to injury and pushed (general) audience's patience a little more. If they don't get out of this rut of poor films and start building a stronger foundation, the franchise will be beyond saving. X-Men: Apocalypse really let me down too, and seemed to do the X-Men franchise more harm than good in the long run. After the rather fantastic Days of Future Past and refreshing the series with the off-kilter Deadpool, Apocalypse felt like a discouraging step back. It felt very rushed, recycled and, in places, rather boring. It did have its redeeming features - some exciting sequences and the three main leads - but it felt like a step back, rather than several steps forward.

9. Winning genre of the summer?

QF: Family films are the winning genre of the summer, for me. Movies like The Jungle Book, Zootopia, Pete's Dragon and Finding Dory were all fantastic all-ages entertainment. Family films were also the most consistent this year in terms of quality and had the perfect balance of style and substance. I only watched Zootopia for the first time ahead of this written-discussion, and I regret not seeing it earlier, as it now ranks high-up on my list of my favourite films of the year.

Nathan: As well as family films and animation, and at completely the other end of the scale, horror has really succeeded this year. Although I haven’t seen them all, The Purge: Election Year, The Shallows, Don’t Breathe, The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out have all very successfully waved the banner for horror this year, with most of them becoming critical success and all of them performing very commercially.

10. The film that deserves multiple viewings?

Nathan: Ghostbusters! I’ve personally seen the film three times in theatres and I'm not nearly bored with it. I have championed the film since the very beginning because of the phenomenal cast and I was so concerned about not enjoying the film the first time that, after my first watch, I let that fear leave me and so consecutive viewings were much more enjoyable. It's a very enjoyable popcorn summer flick that improved with more viewings.

QF: The film I think deserves multiple views is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was mixed on the film when I first saw it and while I still think it's flawed and problematic, it's a film I continuously enjoy and appreciate the more I watch it. I'm now interested in seeing will this the same-case scenario for Suicide Squad.

11. Best franchise next step of the summer? 

Nathan: Jason Bourne, while not a perfect film, definitely but the whole franchise back on the right foot after a serious misstep with The Bourne Legacy, in which the main protagonist does not appear! Reuniting Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass was definitely the smartest move the franchise could make in going forward and while the film did feel like a rehash of earlier instalments, it successfully reminded audiences of the grit and realism the franchise was ground in and set itself out from other spy films. 

QF: My pick for the best franchise-next-step is The Conjuring 2. I enjoy horror films – when they are done right – which unfortunately, in my opinion they rarely are. The Conjuring 2 did what is rare for sequels is be better than the first, which is absolutely fantastic to see. It not only had me in complete suspense, but told a wonderful story, with great characters. This franchise is now full-steam ahead, and if they continue to make Conjuring films with this level of quality, this could very well become a classic horror franchise.

12. Biggest game-changer of the summer?

QF: As I've said, Captain America: Civil War, in my opinion, elevated the Marvel Cinematic Universe to greater heights and is a game changer for the comic-book genre. Another undeniable game-changer is Deadpool – a crude, R-rated feature, with a character lesser-known to  mainstream audiences, that still managed to be a critical and box office success  Now, because of Deadpool, there is more and more discussion about releasing R-rated superhero films, which is a testament to it's success.

Nathan: I'll play Devil's Advocate here and say that Allegiant has been the biggest game-changer, but for all the wrong reasons. The Divergent series always paled in comparison to The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, for example, but to see it crash and burn on the penultimate hurdle - in terms of ticket sales, critic reception and general audience interest - is a real shame and Lionsgate are in a lose-lose situation going forward: they can either stand to lose money with the final instalment (as this third has already done) or disappoint fans by continuing down the rumoured television (without the main cast!). This could have been avoided had they not had tried to cash in and unnecessarily split the final novel into two, where the demand did just not exist. It will be interesting but rather uncomfortable seeing how they continue with this franchise. I do not envy them at all. on the flipped of the question, I would agree that Civil War has changed everything moving forward with the MCU.

13. "Against all odds" success of the summer?

Nathan: The Purge: Election Year really thrived in a commercial sense - interestingly, it is one of the only franchises to come out of the summer in a stronger position than it was going in, regarding box office receipts. It defied the odds of the summer (dying sequels) and crafted another thought-provoking and insightful entry into the horror-thriller dystopian series. It feels fresh and it still stands out in the horror landscape, three films in.

QF: Against all odds, Ghostbusters made for a really fun, entertaining movie that gave me what I wanted and expected out of it. Despite underwhelming promotion and mostly unwarranted backlash, the Paul Feig directed flick made for a feel-good, perfectly silly and fun summer popcorn film that doesn’t takes itself too seriously.

14. "Dead on arrival" film of the summer?

Nathan: Alice Through The Looking Glass was dead before it even arrived in cinemas at the beginning of the season. Essentially, it was a sequel that no one asked for, to a film that no one, really, liked. I can see why Disney were tempted, given the fact that Alice In Wonderland became one of the first films to clear $1 billion (before it became a regular thing), but it stood out for all the right reasons 2010 (star names with Tim burton and Johnny Depp on board, the first ‘big’ use of 3D after Avatar, an exciting marketing campaign) but fast forward six years and it simply became another ‘tentpole of the week’ that quickly burned out. It has just finished its domestic run, earning way less in its entire run than the original’s opening weekend confirming my suspicions that it was dead on arrival.

QF: Alice Through the Looking Glass is the film of summer 2016 that I deem dead on arrival. Perhaps if it was released one or two years after the 2010 Tim Burton directed picture, Through the Looking Glass would have been more sucessful. However general audiences have moved on, there seemed too be no hype or excitement surrounding this release, so I predicted it wouldn't do well financially, and alas, this undeniably unnecessary release didn't.

Round Up & Looking Forward:

Nathan: Summer 2016 for cinema has been a very mixed one, to say the very least. Feeling very uninspired in places, mainly due to a saturation of tentpoles and franchises and sequels, it did have its bright moments and the better films were all the more appreciated. 

I am beyond excited for Passengers starring Chris Pratt and, my absolute favourite, Jennifer Lawrence, as well as Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train. As the Oscar season kick starts in the coming week, it will be interesting to see the Best Picture contenders step into the spotlight.

I am already excited for summer 2017, with Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Dunkirk, Homecoming and Fast 8 already my standouts.

QF: The 2016 summer movie season is over – overall there wasn't as much great movies this summer, as a whole it was a let down, but still had some gems in there.

We can still expect some hopefully great entertainment before the year is out. I am particularly excited for Passengers starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. My most anticipate movie would have to be Fantastic Beast and Where To Find Them. 

Next summer has many films I'm very much looking forward to, namely Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man Tells No Tales, Wonder Woman, Spiderman: Homecoming and Dunkirk.

From both myself and QuickFire reviews, thank you for dropping by and be sure to check out the rest of our content. We may look into updating this post with extended and new answers, so be on the look out for that too. Thanks again and enjoy the movies!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Purge: Election Year (2016) (Review)

The Purge series has always worked better in concept than in execution; by far, its my favourite horror franchise at the moment but it has failed to reach the peak potential its intriguing premise offers. Now in its third instalment, following the original in 2013 and the follow-up, Anarchy in 2014 (which was a significant improvement over the predecessor) one still awaits a film that can explore the 'twelve hours a year all crime is legalised' with the depth it deserves. Can The Purge: Election Year live up to that promise?

With the 2040 election race heating up, two very different opponents battle for success; the New Founding Fathers of America frontrunner Minister Edwidge Owens is the early favourite although anti-Purge Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) is quickly catching up. Wanting the 'American tradition' to end after her family were killed eighteen years previously, her opposing ideology has attracted unwanted attention from the NFFA who want to eliminate the competition; using the Purge night to target her and bodyguard Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), they are forced to go on to the streets and survive the twelve hours, despite danger at every turn from a host of different purgers.

Election Year's biggest success is its continued topicality and political subtext, and whilst subtlety never enters filmmaker James DeMonaco's vocabulary, one cannot help but admire the brazen way it approaches the multitude of timely themes, including immigration, racial supremacy, evangelicalism and entitled classism. Fuelled by this political subtext, Election Year builds and succeeds by its real-life parallels, and whilst a real-life Purge will hopefully never come into fruition, the two opponents are painted with similar strokes to those of the American frontrunners - with the Trump-like figure demanding the continued butchery that eliminates the undesired (anybody not old, white and rich), Clinton can be recognised in Roan's idealist. Whilst these parallels are a little less forced and obvious than the thematic content, it enhances the experience by encouraging the discomfort that makes the dystopia portrayed a little too close to home.

Aside from the intriguing set-up, we have some genuinely interesting characters included in the mix, who feel a little more fleshed out than in most of the genre's offerings. Grillo's Leo Barnes returns again as a man who wants the annual tradition wiped out, siding with Mitchell's Senator Charlie Roan, who both give solid performances as individual's simply trying to survive the night and complete their jobs. In terms of new characters, it truly is refreshing to see a genuine mix in the cast in terms of diversity, even if some of the acting of the minor characters has a lot to be desired. Going hand-in-hand with the thematic musing on racism, the supporting cast is padded out with a number of ethnic minorities of each gender, with a renewed focus on youth entitlement (including one of the most abhorrent girls you will ever see) and 'murder tourists', which is a fascinating angle the film fails to explore to the highest degree. Apart from the disconcerting scene featuring these tourists, who are visiting America simply to purge and clad in American-theme iconography to commit their crimes in one of the franchise's most striking moments that muses on what the Purge has come to represent America as, it leads us down a road that instead trails off and abandons us. Again, another wasted opportunity.

Stuffed with visual irony that manages to strike the right chord of discomfort - including surgical instruments cleansed in a church with holy water before purging innocent victims and a young bride dancing around in a blood stained dress with a baseball bat in hand - as with previous instalments, Election Year works well effectively by pushing the visual shocks. Seeing gunfire in a church and a killer priest is another of the franchises critiques on figures of power and opulence and works exceedingly well with this outrageous commentary that pushes barriers on more than a few occasions. As well as visually, the soundtrack perfectly underpins the film and creates an uneasy atmosphere throughout, with tension continually building because of Nathan Whitehead's killer motion picture soundtrack that does actually what it needs to do when it needs to do it, capturing all the emotions and pushing them even further than the visuals allow.

Despite the endless opportunities that the series could explore and push, Election Year decides to slip back into the narrative formula that worked so well for Anarchy, which more often than it should retreads old ground. In essence, it is the same film with different characters, and even those (minor) characters are painted with similar paintbrushes and recognisable stereotypes. It attempts to expand the 'mythology' of the series but does not fully realise the potential it has and makes narrative beats that are too strikingly similar to prior instalments. It also suffers from an awkward first ten minutes that tries to set up too much, rather than having it occur naturally, but gets right back on track when the Purge begins. Despite the occasional predictability of the film, the twists and turns are pulled off with palpable, nervy tension and bravery, meaning that Election Year can be forgiven for sticking with what it knows works well - it will have to be careful moving forward with the franchise however, and will really need to reinvigorate its structure to remain as fresh and exciting as the two sequels have been and the premise promises.

Election Year takes a lot of glee in exploring the twisted nature of the annual tradition, often fetishising the brutality but never using it overtly - yes, there is a lot of blood but never uses it too graphic or dwelled up, avoiding the gratification most horrors employ. Instead, it takes aspects of both the horror and thriller genre to satisfyingly jolt audience between the two, crafting another potently satirical cultural critique, mixed in with the mindless mayhem that ensures it moves at a thrilling pace (when it gets going, that is). It still is frustrating to see a franchise squander so much potential on another 'good but not incredible' film, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that this is still one of the strongest genre entries from the past few years, and a franchise that continues to find things to say, even if it doesn't go about saying them in the most effective way. While Election Year closes on a somewhat conclusive note, the possibilities for further instalments are endless, and with renewed inspiration and dedication, could continue the upward traction The Purge series has experienced over the course of their neat and chilling trilogy.


Summary: Election Year, rather unsubtly, captures a timely zeitgeist, and while the franchise continues to work better in concept than in execution, it still manages to offer another thought-provoking and exciting instalment in this unashamedly exploitative and savage franchise.

Highlight: When the two girls got mowed down. I think I heard a collective cheer.

Pete's Dragon (2016) (Review)

Closing out their record-breaking summer slate, Disney - with the latest live-action reimagining - elect to go with a somewhat quieter and gentler film to wave goodbye with. Following the likes of Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, Alice Through The Looking Glass and Finding Dory, David Lowrey's Pete's Dragon definitely flies more under the radar in terms of scale, budget and perhaps marketing but manages to feel quintessentially Disney in its execution, themes and quality, with another solid gem in their crown.

Following a roadside accident, Pete disappears into the woods and makes a new friend, Elliot, a dragon. Six years later, Pete (Oakes Fegley) is discovered by Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard), a forest ranger, and her family, including her Dad (Robert Redford), her boyfriend (Wes Bentley), her boyfriend's brother (Karl Urban) and her daughter (Oona Laurence). When Elliot is then discovered too, the question of what do with this information changes everything, and reminds of the importance of friends and family. Unlike the original, the musical element is removed and acts as a straightforward dramatic family adventure.

Pete's Dragon is as warm as they come. It presents a story that is filled with so much warmth, charm and emotion, feeling very hand-crafted and lovingly made by all involved. Portraying themes of human relationships and family, and loving and letting go, it feels very sincere in its approach and exploration of these themes, occurring naturally rather than feeling forced. It moves at a very steady pace throughout, building on characters and relationships with care and ensuring we understand them. Each of the characters almost encompass their own teachable themes, with Pete and Elliot's unique friendship demonstrating the differences between people and how they should be celebrated, with Grace portraying the unconditional love of a mother, defined by her selflessness and care. Even Gavin teaches of change and acceptance, and all feel important in conveying the themes the film offers in abundance.

All round, the acting is solid, with Dallas Howard being the particular standout as Grace. While not quite on the same level as The Jungle Book, it is also magnificent to see Oakes Fegley interact with the CGI Pete with such detail, and he demonstrates quite the talent and skill to be able to do this. He is definitely one to look out for in the future. Their relationship and interaction is stunning to watch which is helped by the seamlessness of the animation. It features a number of stunning landscapes and green colour palettes that enhance the beauty of the film and the soaring shots open the film to the world of Pete as he roams the skies, further captivated by the lens flares that give the film some further beauty.

Predictability is usually deemed a negative but doesn't always have to be with family-friendly adventures such as this. It does, however, seem to hold Pete's Dragon back as it doesn't always feel as inspired as it should or could be. Apart from the final ten minutes, which really up the emotional ante, it remains a little monotonous throughout, failing to step outside of the 'lovely' and 'gentle' tone that stays throughout it, feeling sometimes repetitive and occasionally failing to engage. In that way, its gentle and lovely to a fault, doing the simple things well but never pushing itself far enough, making it a very, very pleasant watch indeed but without the usually Disney ability to encourage you rush back to see it again. It's a recommend watch for sure, but not one that will stay with you as long as other family-friendly offerings this summer.

Pete's Dragon may be a smaller budgeted Disney film, particularly following their bigger hits earlier this summer, but it still contains the warmth, love, emotion and charm associated with them and is a worthwhile entry into their live-action reimaginings. It may not be as inspiring as most, and feel a little monotonous in places, but all can be forgiven for the otherwise heart-warming story about family and love, letting go and being free. 


Summary: Pete's Dragon is a lovingly-crafted and pleasant Disney film on a small scale, with more than its fair share of warmth, emotion and charm, but it lacks the usually inspiration behind Disney's other hits.

Highlight: The final ten minutes are incredibly emotional and moving filmmaking. You can tell that this film has been so lovingly craft with care and attention.