DVD & Digital

DVD review: The Jungle Book


Disney classics have been transitioning to live-action pictures of late with Snow White, Robin Hood and Cinderella having already received the cinematic treatment and Beauty & the Beast and Tarzan in the pipeline. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s works of the same name, the multi-talented actor and director Jon Favreau steps up to the plate to direct The Jungle Book, the latest adaptation of the beloved story. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is an orphaned man cub, raised by wolves after wise black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) finds him alone in the jungle. When all of the animals gather to drink during a water truce in the dry season, wicked tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) learns of Mowgli’s place in the community. Out for revenge against man following an attack years earlier, Khan wishes death upon Mowgli after the drought has passed. To protect his adoptive family, Mowgli flees the wolf pack and soon meets roguish, but fun-loving bear Baloo (Bill Murray) who takes him under his wing.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Inside Out


It is a well established staple of Disney pictures to strike just the right emotional chord with audiences, having the ability to make us laugh in one scene and cry in the next. Continuing their hugely successful relationship with Pixar Animation Studios, the next collaboration personifies the emotions themselves to explore the goings on inside the brain of a child. Directed and co-written by Pete Docter, best known for his work on Up, ‘Inside Out’ mostly takes place in the head of an eleven year old girl called Riley whose family up sticks to San Francisco, taking her away from her friends and the home comforts of Minnesota. Dealing with the change from within the conscious mind known as Headquarters are Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), who work in harmony to keep Riley content. However, when Joy and Sadness are removed from HQ through the memory tube leaving the others to hold the fort, they must find their way back to restore normality.
    Loosely basing the premise around the changes in his daughter’s personality when she grew up, Pete Docter creates a vivid and vibrant world which brims with intelligence. There are laugh aplenty for all age groups in amongst universally clever ideas with which we can all relate to, due to the basic fact that we all had a childhood. The adults watching can chuckle away at tongue-in-cheek relationship-based humour and references to cubism and the San Fran ‘bears’, while the younger viewers lose themselves in a cinematic sea of colour and fun. Sections of Riley’s character are visualised as islands, representing the different areas of her being, from her playful side in Goofball Island to her competitive sporting attitude in Hockey Island. As she struggles to adjust to her new surroundings, darkness creeps in and disrupts the structured mind of a happy little girl.
  Each of the emotions are fantastic in their own way, each of them given their moments to flourish in a bright script. Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong is introduced partway through, who is amusingly ‘part elephant, part cotton candy, part kitten and part dolphin’. The innocence of his character is endearing and perfectly harks back to a time for everyone when life was just simpler. He is an excellent addition to the richly textured, in-depth environment envisioned where the next stroke of genius is never far away. The heartfelt storyline plays out with an emotional punch and a poignant overarching message just as all great Disney films should, driving home that joy can’t be appreciated without sadness and equally sadness needs joy. All aspects of your psyche have a part to play in the process of maturing and facing the reality of leaving childhood behind and the key is a sense of balance, which is just what the Docter ordered.


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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Big Hero 6

 In 2009, the Walt Disney Company bought over Marvel Entertainment, giving them full access to their vast back catalogue of characters and stories. It was only a matter of time before a merger project would surface, combining their strengths to give comic-book heroes the Disney studio treatment. Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams and set in the Americ-asian fictional city of San Fransokyo, ‘Big Hero 6’ is based on a comic of the same name from 1998 and documents the origins of a team of crime-fighting superheroes. Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a teen genius, but uses his intelligence to partake in illegal robot wars for monetary gain rather than applying himself academically, much to the dismay of his protective older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney). In an attempt to change his brother’s ways and put him on the right track, Tadashi takes Hiro to his university science lab and introduces him to his professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) and Baymax (Scott Adsit), an inflatable robot he had created to serve as a caring healthcare companion. When disaster strikes leaving Hiro in turmoil, will he use his brain power for good or bad?
  Narratively, it is very much a film of two halves as interesting characters and friendships are developed carefully and tenderly in the opening hour or so before the plot descends into more traditional, or generic, superhero fare as the Marvel roots begin to grow. The laughs come mostly from Baymax who is unknowingly hilarious and the physicality of the way his bubbly stature is animated only adds to the fun. Hiro and Baymax’s friendship has so much promise, and almost has a mismatched Kirk-and-Spock-like quality to it as both their similarities and their differences hold them together. The scripting sadly loses its early invention and creativity as the story develops, treading dangerously close to Scooby-Doo territory as the gang of goodies run around solving problems in order to unmask the villain of the piece. That being said, the visuals are stunning throughout, particularly in sequences involving Hiro’s magnetic micro-bots which can twist and transform to take any shape his imagination can conjure up.
  ‘Big Hero 6’ is an enjoyable watch that successfully opens up the exciting, limitless avenues of possibilities of the Disney/Marvel collaboration, even if the balance quite right this time. As a buddy comedy, it definitely works but as a comic-book origins fable, there’s something lacking. With the distraction of an action-laden final act along with some messy sub-plotting, the likeable characters aren’t given the emotive resolution they deserve and that is what Disney classics usually carry off so well. Flaws aside, we have been introduced to the brilliant Baymax and that alone is enough to make you leave the cinema with a smile on your face.
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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Frozen

 Following on from recent successes Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney Animation Studios bring us ‘Frozen’, the latest in an illustrious generation spanning collection. The company’s transition to digital is represented in an impressive short which is screened before the feature titled ‘Get a Horse!’ in which Mickey and Minnie Mouse do their utmost to outwit old foe Peg-Leg Pete. This quirky, imaginative little gem serves as the perfect entrée to what is to come.
  The main course is loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale The Snow Queen and follows two sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) who have a fractured relationship due to a childhood incident caused by the cryokinetic powers of the latter. As they grow up to become the princess and Queen of Arendelle respectively, they grow further apart, but when Elsa’s icy powers are unleashed again on a larger scale, Anna embarks on a mission to help her older sister overcome her burden and save Arendelle from the threat of a never-ending winter.
  Much of the opening hour is a rather drawn out preamble to the inevitable quest to reunite the estranged siblings and despite the entertaining musical numbers, the narrative fails to really get going until the supporting characters are brought in to save the day. The turning point occurs as Elsa belts out the catchiest of songs, Let It Go, and builds herself an ice-cold fortress as well as creating the lovable snowman Olaf, who is magnificently thought out and very funny in every scene. He humorously longs for a sweltering summer, blissfully unaware of the fact he would melt. He, along with traveller Kristoff and his trusty reindeer Sven form an alliance with the ever loyal Anna and plot to rescue Elsa from herself.
  The journey leads to a conclusion with a refreshing twist, remixing the expected Disney formula but with an equally satisfying result. The voice performances are solid, the characters are developed well for the most part but what will stay with you is the infectious soundtrack and overriding joyous message, installing the importance of family togetherness. In a time when effective animations are becoming fewer and far between, ‘Frozen’ is a treat which I am sure will sit fittingly alongside the classics and offers two worthy additions to the adored princess franchise. For a film so visually cold and frosty, it has the warmest of hearts.
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