Review: Zootropolis

zootropolis

Amidst the hype and publicity machine of Batman v Superman, Disney have been relatively gentile in their  publicity of new film Zootropolis (otherwise known as Zootopia in the States). Having seen a trailer prior to a screening of Kung Fu Panda 3, my 7 year old turned to me and declared ‘We HAVE to go and see that!’. How could I refuse??

Zootropolis os the story of Judy Hopps the first ever bunny police officer determined to change the world and make Zootropolis a better place. Zootroplois is a world in which all animal life has evolved to into a civilised society where prey and predator live harmoniously side by side. Hopps soon discovers not all is as it seems as some citizens have gone missing and returned to their ‘savage’ state. To solve the case Hopps must team up with the most unlikely of allies Nick Wilde the crafty fox.

I can’t begin to express how much joy Zootropolis gave me. This wonderful societal allegory made me smile from minute one and I’m still grinning ear to ear as I type. It is a timely film. In a world where hate and fear can be the dominating narrative, Zootropolis aims to be the cinematic antidote. Wonderfully poignant and with a great sense of humour the film never drops its pace, never loses its humour and stays on message throughout.

The film has within it plenty to enjoy for kids and adults alike, a Breaking Bad gag towards the end, lots of little incidental nods to other Disney films and so much going on in the background that repeated viewing may be essential.

The message of Zootropolis is not subtle but it is welcomed.Every animal plays their part and every animal’s skill is celebrated. Sloth’s processing vehicle licensing paperwork a particular highlight.

Hope remains that society will overcome stereotypes, judgemental attitudes and prejudice. Society can progress, move forward and evolve. Zootropolis may just be the blueprint we have been waiting for.

After the dirge and bleakness of Batman v Superman, Zootropolis was a great cinematic palette cleanser.

 

 

 

Review – Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

batman-vs-superman-posters

I said in my last post that I was excited. I was ready for the ultimate showdown. I wanted man vs god. I wanted comic book excitement. I at the very least wanted to be entertained. What I got was one of the most frustrating cinema experiences I have had in a long time.

This is a mess, a film with an incoherent structure, plot, and in Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor one of the most irritating characters of recent times.

Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.

Sounds like a simple enough plan for a film right?  Those who endured Man of Steel all reacted  in a similar way to Affleck’s Bruce Wayne (who is without question the most miserable Batman we have ever encountered). The reckless destruction of Metropolis did make us question what good Superman was doing and to be fair this was an interesting opening to the film. Almost as if director Zack Snyder wished to give us a cinematic right to reply for his previous endeavours. However once this slows down all plot, logic and reason disappear.

We are left with shots from CNN and the views of various media heads on who Superman is, what good he does or doesn’t do all while he’s off up a mountain with the spirit of his dead Dad for a reason I’m still not sure of!

Meanwhile Jesse Eisenberg is twitching  around like a philosophy student on a Red Bull high form an all night library session. Reciting to the viewer everything he’s ever learnt in class about the nature of God. Somehow he develops something close to a plot to make our two heroes fight each other for something.

There are inexplicable dream sequences, which may point to future film intentions. There is an erratic score. The 3D is headache inducing awful and unnecessary.   There is a good 30 minutes plus of CGI third act incoherent battling. Gal Gadot appears as Wonder Woman appears, which is refreshing, but at the same time not I’m not 100% sure why she was in Metropolis in the first place and she has very little to do or say really.

Ultimately this will film will make a bucket after bucket of cash. My keyboard bashing frustrations will not stop this juggernaut I realise that. My only hope is that a critical lambasting from all corners of the globe may make executives think twice about advancing with this DC universe too hastily.

Captain America – Civil War is next on the superhero cinematic production line and to be fair while Marvel movies can suffer from dullness at times but they at least make sense!

Superhero  fatigue is a reality now. Batman v Superman did absolutely nothing to change that.

 

*Thanks to MovieHouse for screening access

 

 

 

 

The Man of Steel, Easter & Destroying Structures

clarks-trip-to-church_137319-fli_1371488334

Tonight I’m off to a Batman v Superman preview screening. I’m a bit excited to be honest. While superhero fatigue is at an all time high for many, this film in particular has excited me. The man vs god angle depicted in the various trailers grabs my attention. Now I’m aware that trailers can lie but I’m intrigued by the premise.

Superman has always had a god like quality. In fact for much of Man of Steel director Zack Snyder does a not so subtle job of reinforcing this. For example in one sequence having a praying Clark Kent in front of a stained glass window where his and the pose of Jesus are practically identical. I liked this aspect of the film of course (that’s my gimmick here) but it could have been a lot more delicately done. Snyder though is not a director known for subtlety.

The films loses its way in the final third and becomes one big CGI brawl that goes on for FAR too long. At one point our hero saves some people from falling debris and they exclaim their gratitude. At the time I laughed as I thought, yes to be saved is great but your city has been destroyed so good look getting a pint of milk when this is all over.

However this perhaps the most Jesus like moment.

Saviour yes but also also the destroyer of structures around us.

Easter is days away. Holy week is at the mid point and as Christians we await Good Friday and the East Sunday celebrations that follow. I’ve wrestled with Easter this year. I’m uncomfortable with it.

I’ve come to the point where if I’m not prepared to fully get behind the Easter story there really is no point. To believe what I do and believe in the person of Christ means that the structures that contain the message need to fall.

One of the first things to go on Good Friday is the temple curtain. This barrier to the holy of holies, the area where God lived only accessible to temple priests  is gone. The reveal of nothing being behind there says a lot. The man made concept of where God abides is gone.

To fully believe in Easter. To fully believe in the person of Christ means not only believing in the one who saves it’s also about believing in the structure breaker.

Review :Kung Fu Panda 3

Kung-Fu-Panda-3-feat.jpg

A third instalment in the Kung Fu Panda series wasn’t exactly something I was highly anticipating this year. I enjoyed the original and I remember nothing of the second film (never a good sign). I  am therefore pleased to report that Kung Fu Panda 3 is a lot of high kicking family fun.

When Po’s long-lost panda father suddenly reappears, the reunited duo travels to a secret panda paradise to meet scores of hilarious new panda characters. But when the supernatural villain Kai begins to sweep across China defeating all the kung fu masters, Po must do the impossible-learn to train a village full of his fun-loving, clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas.

Kung Fu Panda has always dealt with the discovery of self. This film is no different Po faces his past to reconcile the circumstances he faces in the present. The initial meeting between Po and his father is one of the stand out moments. Their bumbling nature and lack of smarts are hilarious as dumbstruck villagers look on.

A stellar voice cast are in top form and in particular J K Simmons as bad guy Kai has gone straight into my top 5 cinematic bad guys. This a bad guy who is a threat, who is an intimidating presence and still has some great comedy moments all of which are carried out perfectly.

Beautiful animation, plenty of laughs meant that both I and my daughter had a great time. Kung Fu Panda 3 is a perfect family popcorn guzzling day out at the cinema and sometimes that’s all you need.

 

Spotlight, Outsiders & Church

12715800_894010170716211_3236610091717564398_n

Not enough has been written about the role of Liev Schreiber and his role in spotlight. Yes Ruffalo is great, Keaton outstanding and Tucci wonderfully manic in their roles but Liev Schreiber for me was the key role.

Schreiber plays Marty Baron the new boss of the Boston Globe. He is an outsider. His non interest in sports is the first red flag thrown in the film never mind his Jewish faith background in a city dominated by the Catholic church.  This however is the key to Baron he is not like the others and by being an outsider he does not hold the same ideals in relation to the church. While others on the Spotlight team profess to be ‘lapsed’ or ‘non-practicing’ it is the difference that drives him on. He does not hold the church in the same regard and therefore encourages the team to investigate the allegations when the team has reservations.

The outsider holds the key.

So what of the church today? How comfortable are we with the outsider?

How comfortable are we when someone not like us enters ‘our world’ and points out our flaws?

I saw a quote this week that got me thinking

“…we know when we are really preaching and living the way of Jesus because it’s the Christians that are often most offended….”

– David Capener

All too often, when challenged,  offence becomes the go to reaction. Outsiders are not afraid to let us within the church know when we aren’t getting it right. Yet we often take it badly. Offence is so often the go to feeling. Often that is because the truth is uncomfortable. The truth will push us outside our comfort zones.

Personally I’d rather be outside my comfort zone that have my faith stagnate. Without the challenges from outsiders my faith becomes a pointless character accessory that can be reduced to a social media bio point or degraded to a meaningless hashtag.

The outsiders are vital.

We are called to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner.

Yet when we are called on it we become uncomfortable.

We need the outsiders.

They might understand Jesus better than we claim to.