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Moana – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review


Disney’s Moana was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and I think it was very much a “classic” Disney film.  The story was essential a fable, as the old Disney stories were; it had clever humour; plenty of catchy songs; spotless animation and even openly stated in the film that if the female lead wears a dress and has an animal sidekick she’s a princess.

Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is the daughter of the chief of a Polynesian island.  Their people stay close to their island, and never venture out past the reef that harbours them, for out beyond the reef the world has been cursed and is plunging into darkness.  A long time ago the demigod Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) stole the heart of the goddess Te Fiti which unleashed Te Ka, a fire demon who struck down Maui and his magical fishhook and brought the darkness to the world.  Moana’s people seemed safe, but when their fishermen bring back no fish, and their crops start to die, it appears the darkness has reached their island too.  From a tale passed on by her grandmother, Moana learns that Maui is the only one who can defeat Te Ka and return the heart to Te Fiti (which Moana’s grandmother happens to have).  Learning that her people are actually descended from wayfaring voyagers and not sheltered farmers and fishermen as she has been led to believe, Moana steals a boat that was hidden in a series of island caves and sets out beyond the reef to find Maui and save the world, with Hei Hei….a very dumb rooster as her animal sidekick.  Braving challenges, defeating monsters and embracing her destiny on their way, Maui and Moana set off to return the heart.

As I said, this one was lots of fun.  I particularly enjoyed Moana reminding Maui how to be a hero, and how she turned him to her side.  When first she meets him, he is just a selfish person, but he is also very dejected.  Ever since he lost his magic fishhook he can no longer shapeshift into animal forms.  Moana helps Maui recover it, which immediately returns his confidence; and Maui teaches Moana to sail the seas like her people did generations ago.  The two do develop a friendship, and would willingly sacrifice themselves for each other as they finally face the lava demon in their quest to save Te Fiti and save the world.  As I think I’ve mentioned before, the “returning hero” storyline is one of my favourites, so I really enjoyed that part of Moana.  Once Maui got his “powers” back, there was some pretty good humour as he got used to shapeshifting again.  And we got to see the true heroic demigod in action once he worked out all the kinks.  Moana herself saved the day in the end with the tried and true “brains over brawn”, as she had completed her own journey of self discovery.

Very fun, quite funny, quite musical, and they did a very good job animating water which is always a difficult task.  If you’re in the mood for a nice light bit of myth, fable and storytelling, you can’t go wrong.

Bottom Line: I think I liked this more than Zootopia…


Hercules (2014) – DVD Review 3.5/5 stars

Product Details3.5 Stars

It wasn’t great, but it was fun.  It delivered exactly what you think it will based on the commercials.  If you’re expecting more than a light hearted sword and sandal action flick, go read a book on mythology.  If you want a nice bit of entertainment watch the film.  It is not unfaithful to the Hercules myths, but it is not a verbatim story.  Liberties are taken, but they are explained fairly well.

Hercules, the legendary strongman; the Son of Zeus and a mortal woman; the demigod is famous for his twelve labours that earned him back the good favour of the Gods of Mount Olympus after Hera caused him the madness in which he killed his wife and children.  He has been the subject of movies, comic books, television shows, and cartoons for years, and will be for many years to come.  This time out Hercules (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock) has completed his labours (or has he?) and is acting as a mercenary.  With his friends Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), Hercules is hired by the daughter of Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to help defend his kingdom from a rival.  Training Cotys’ army and leading them into battle, Hercules is unbeatable and truly the hero that Thrace needs, but is everything as it seems in the Kingdom?

Great action, fun battle scenes, this film was quite enjoyable to watch.  The Rock Dwayne Johnson is excellent as Hercules, and the part fits him perfectly.  The man oozes charisma into every role he takes, and you can see that he was having a lot of fun with this part.  But aside from a rock solid performance from Johnson, what made this film gel was the supporting cast.  Giving Hercules an “entourage” and explaining that they are there to “bring the myth to life” by protecting and helping Hercules in his battles made sense, and it helped give the film a kind of Magnificent Seven feeling (they even had a guy who threw knives!).  They help lighten the mood of the entire film and I appreciated that.  Ian McShane is one of my favourite actors so it was great to see him in the movie. Yes, things were a little predictable, but I wasn’t expecting Homer (or Shakespeare). Another reviewer said this was essentially a live action Saturday morning cartoon, as it was very formulaic and quite family friendly for the subject matter that it was. I suppose I have to agree, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Having the typical characters like the “cranky old guy”, the “girl who can hang with the guys”, the “quiet, crazy guy”, the “sarcastic guy” and the “young warrior trying to prove himself” can be a problem if the movie doesn’t embrace them properly. I think Hercules did, and played them as strengths.

Bottom Line: Based on Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Radical Comics, it wasn’t epic or mythic, but it was still quite fun.

Review – G.I. Joe Retaliation

Product Details3.5 Stars
This week G.I. Joe Retaliation came to DVD, if you remember it came out in theatres this spring, but was supposed to come out last year.  Supposedly it was pulled to make the film 3D (though from what I watched, nothing would have benefited from the extra dimension except the films box office gross); some said though that Joe 2 was delayed for several re-writes and re-shoots to fix up a bad script.  I could definitely see the latter being the case.  This Joe movie was a lot better than the last, and I personally felt it was a little closer to the toys and cartoons that I remember growing up with.
— Nerd mode: ON —
  • Cobra Commander looked pretty cool in his helmet with the silver, reflective face mask,  and it meant that we couldn’t complain that Joseph Gordon-Levitt didn’t come back.
  • We saw Cobra developing HISS tanks, which looked like a fairly believable real world counterpart to the toys of yesterday.
  • Cobra had a massively simple yet over complicated world threatening weapon.  All that was missing was the weapon to be split into three pieces for teams to track down across the globe and make great after school watching all week long.
  • We got a few more fan favourite Joes, Roadblock played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Flint and Lady Jaye
  • This one had a lot more ninjas than the last one…..
  • Classic storylines from the comics were introduced, including the Blind Master (RZA), and even Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes teaming up.
  • And we got Bruce Willis
— Critical Nerd Mode with minor SPOILERS: ON —
  • Uhm, they killed off 98% of the G.I. Joes in the trailer!
  • and that was only like 30 guys it seemed….I seem to remember a lot more being in the last film
  • and they killed them all off in one spot…because apparently there were only like two other guys who weren’t in the same place
  • ….so that means they had no backup?  Seems poorly planned…. “hey let’s send the entire team out to the desert!  Good idea?”
  • they sure used a lot of bullets this time around.  Now my memory is fuzzy, so I don’t remember if people got shot with bullets in the last one, for some reason I think they used lasers (without frickin sharks).  I may be entirely wrong here, and if I am, please comment below and let me know, because I don’t really plan on watching the first one again anytime soon.
Okay, back to just reviewing.  I actually enjoyed the film, even though there were things that bothered me (see above).  It played out like a pretty good action movie and had a lot of fun doing so.  The fact that it was G.I. Joe did bring back a few fond childhood memories but there were a few things that could have been done differently.  I realize that they needed to somehow write Duke out of the movie because Channing Tatum is too expensive, too busy or too famous now; but they could have done so without killing off all the characters.  Really that is my biggest complaint about the movie.   Bringing in some other big name stars (Bruce Willis and the Rock) was a nice way to bring in a larger audience.  I wasn’t expecting a lot, so the fun that it did deliver was appreciated.
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