The Lego MovieAnthony Macali
An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.
"The Lego Movie" is an amusing anti-hero story wrapped in a world of little interconnecting blocks. It's puzzling to identify the target audience; adults will revel in the nostalgia and quick-wit, while kids will delight in the fast and frenetic colour and explosions. The film-makers have exceeded expectations in capturing the wonderful creativity and fun of their subject matter, with brilliant characters and animation. Break out the toy box, Lego is awesome.
Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.
"Frozen" is the story of two sisters surrounded by a dazzling world of ice that gleams so impressively in this animation. While the characters and relationships are tailored to suit a modern audience, the core of the story sticks to a classic formula with familiar themes of family and love. Full of adventure and laughs thanks to a troupe of goofy sidekicks, this film distinguishes itself with merry displays of music and song. For the young princesses of the world.
A cropdusting plane with a fear of heights lives his dream of competing in a famous around-the-world aerial race.
"Planes" is a simple story of flying fun. The premise is basic and sticks to a tried formula, lacking the boost in creativity required to distinguish this animation from the rest. As a result, the film is best suited to the youngest of age groups, who will marvel at the soaring aeroplanes brought to life in colourful 3D. There is plenty of spectacle and lots of racing, astutely captured and easy to follow, darting to the finish of a short and sweet running time. Fly in, fly out.
Monsters UniversityAndrew O'Dea
A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University - when they weren't necessarily the best of friends.
"Monsters University" is more than adequate as a stand-alone film. Although it brings the same successful charm to screen as its predecessor, it takes far less risks, and seems content to appease its audience rather than dazzle them. Impressively animated, there are still a host of clever moments that deliver life lessons to learn and college humour to laugh, with both subversive gags for the adults and colourful entertainment for the kids. B minus.
Despicable Me 2Anne Murphy
Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.
Despicable has become respectable and it must be Spring as dating and romance are the featured themes. The writers have set up their reformed villain to meet a love interest and create a traditional family. How’s that for uninspired? Needless to say, "Despicable Me 2" is not as delightful as its predecessor. Thankfully those little yellow guys, the minions, make merry with fart jokes and other slapstick mayhem; they are more attuned to junior audiences than the besotted lead characters. Disappointed me.
Wreck-It RalphAndrew O'Dea
A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
"Wreck-It Ralph" brings classic arcade games to life through a wildly fun and exciting premise. It's just a shame the brilliant concept doesn't quite live up to its potential. Although the animation is superb, it eventually runs out of tokens, winding up as a simple 8-bit film that gives preference to visuals over heart. You won't be disappointed by the brilliant animated-short that precedes it, but unfortunately the main event is only mildly entertaining at best. Game over.
A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
"ParaNorman" has an admirable vision; introducing a younger audience to the world of horror. From the outset, the slightly warped aesthetics grab your attention, signalling an animation far from normal. There are plenty of ghouls, but they are a small distraction. At its core, the story is about a kid fighting his fears and the bullies at school. It's a touching experience and one with welcome bouts of humour. Inspiring a generation to battle their demons, this film is alive and well.
A young boy conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog back to life.
"Frankenweenie" is the pet project of its director, brought to life in trademark gothic style and ethereal black and white. The cute story is bound to resonate with any person caring for a creature of their own, but the kids can only make it last so far. Despite all the odd and wonderful characters, and the adorable dog Sparky, you have to wonder who the target audience is in this animation veiled by horror. All of the nods and winks to the many iconic films of its inspiration can't save this beast, eventually waning in interest. Frankly boring.
Hotel TransylvaniaTom Jones
Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter.
Depicting Dracula, Frankenstein, the big bad wolf and all the other legends as suffering from the same dilemmas and stresses as humans, was obviously designed to offer greater perspective to the intended audience. Unfortunately these characters are likely to keep children awake at night. Despite all their human charm and sense of humour, they are still scary, particularly to look at. Undeniably, this film is entertaining, but parental guidance is necessary. It is the mash, it is the monster mash.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most WantedAnthony Macali
Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe join a travelling circus on their back home to New York.
"Madagascar 3" starts like most franchises that run out of ideas... by travelling to Europe. Within the wag of a tail, our favourite animal friends are overseas and roaring along at a frantic pace, opening with a ruckus to satisfy the most attention-seeking of kids. Once the initial excitement dies down, the energy runs out, and the film resorts to the limitless colour and fireworks at its disposal to enthral over the thin circus plot. An uninspiring show.
An astonishing cocktail of friendship, resistance and life set among the unexpected landscape of an elderly care facility.
The simplicity of the animation style is key to the appeal of this feature. The style presented complements what is a story told in a simple but direct way from the perspective of the residents of a nursing home, and plays to our worst fears of being confined to a similar place by well intentioned family. There is something melancholic about the mature way the story is related, no-one will want to look to far into their own future after viewing "Wrinkles". Time for botox.
Determined to change her fate, Princess Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to her kingdom.
There's nothing really brave about "Brave". The Scottish highlands setting is small and far from the adventurous, playing home to a patchy story of borrowed ideas and lacking any of the spectacle promised in its title. The only war to be found is between a mother and a daughter, and while it may ring true, the moral outcome is lopsided and won't teach the kids any lessons. As per usual, the visuals are stunning and the voice-casting excellent, but we've come to expect a more from these cartoons, especially when engaging a younger audience. Where is the hero?
The Pirates! Band of MisfitsAnthony Macali
The Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals for the Pirate of the year Award.
"The Pirates!" is another adventure from a production house who continue to painstakingly animate their films with clay. They do so successfully with this film, creating a world of splendid colour and detail that keep the eyes busy. The story is an inherently amusing one, moving along at a swift pace, but the journey is lacking in laughter, with numerous gags failing to reach that 'hilarious' territory. It becomes even more frustrating when you acknowledge the time and effort that has gone into the craft, and realise that the humour just isn't on the same deck as the visuals. A stunning mismatch.
Dr. Seuss' The LoraxAnne Murphy
Dr. Seuss' classic tale of a forest creature who shares the enduring power of hope.
"The Lorax" targets young audiences and captivates them with candy coloured animation, cute critters and a lively pace, all presented in 3D. Although the original story book was written 40 years ago, this is a fable for today with greed pitted against green. There's a strong moral message about the importance of caring, and thankfully the lesson is related without preaching; instead there's singing and dancing in a kid's own adventure. Spirited school holiday viewing, a magical movie starring Truffula trees.
The Adventures of TintinAndrew O'Dea
Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship.
This instalment of the revered cartoon is faithful enough to the source material and its host of much loved characters to keep the hardcore fans appeased. There's enough of the mystery and adventure one would expect from our classic hero, and - of course - his irrepressible little white dog. The 3D animation is exquisite as the camera swoops and soars, bringing the motion-captured world to life. Unfortunately, the stunning visuals aren't matched by a lacklustre story. "The Adventures of Tintin" might be a fun ride, but still far from the exhilaration of a rollercoaster.
Happy Feet TwoAnthony Macali
Mumble's son, Erik, is struggling to realize his talents in the Emperor Penguin world.
"Happy Feet Two" is actually an existential film with penguins, but don't let the seemingly grim subject matter get you down. It takes a good hike to get going, but once it does, there is plenty of the famous singing and dancing that made the first film so popular, and en masse. Thousands of penguins stamp their feet in this majestic world, its scope and beauty coolly realised with some very colourful animation. In the face of grave danger, these flightless birds find hope and life in their music. Skip along and you will be happy too.
Puss in BootsAnthony Macali
A story about the events leading up to the sword fighting cat's meeting with Shrek and his friends.
The cat's out of the bag with "Puss in Boots", the 'diablo gato' showing enough charm to headline his own film. He's cheeky, cute, and a wanted outlaw, as we discover in a delightful flashback of his back story. Curiosity is lost when the fairy-tale plot begins, introducing characters who aren't as much fun as our hero. The animation is great, just look at the fur, but could have looked better and brighter if they shied away from the 3D format. It's is still very funny when felines break out and exhibit their cat-like traits. A welcome spin-off to cross swords.
Arthur ChristmasWendy Slevison
On Christmas night, Santa's youngest son looks to use his father's high-tech operation for a mission.
"How DOES Santa deliver ALL those presents in one night?" Well, here is the answer, in this charming and engaging addition to the Christmas movie genre. Santa's family are just like any other family, so it seems, with their squabbles and power struggles. Ultimately the job must get done though, and despite some quirky yet substantial obstacles on this particular Christmas Eve, it eventually does. With voice work provided by a quite dazzling array of well-known actors, this delightful romp is guaranteed to imbue Christmas spirit into even the most cynical of viewers. Merry Christmas!
The SmurfsAnthony Macali
The evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their magical village.
If you watched the original cartoon, then this 3D reanimation of "The Smurfs" marks a nostalgic return, with young newcomers also sharing in the wonder of these cute-little-blue guys. They enter the real world, and it's funny watching them run amok, in particular Clumsy Smurf, who loves to cause trouble with satisfying results. Beyond these initial encounters, the story lacks imagination and is best suited to the tiniest of toddlers. Let's hope any further arrivals are reserved to once in a blue moon.
The Lion KingAndrew O'Dea
Tricked into thinking he killed his father, a guilt ridden lion cub flees into exile.
Although 3D doesn't add a great deal to this conceptually brilliant masterpiece, we are thankful for the opportunity to once again view this magical movie on the big screen. "The Lion King" is a sprawling and grandiose epic played out across the African savannah, driven by a story that is Shakespearian-esque, and a soundtrack that is both uplifting and fun. The hand-drawn animation is still as exquisite and extraordinarily beautiful as ever. What a pleasure that generations both old and new are still able to enjoy and marvel in its magnificence. The king of cartoons, this is a royal treat.
Kung Fu Panda 2Andrew O'Dea
Po joins forces with a group of kung-fu masters to take on an old enemy with a deadly new weapon.
The familiar plot of this story is overawed by stunning visuals and an engrossing nature. Thrilling action sequences are buoyed by a host of exquisite backdrops set throughout ancient China, and are glorious when viewed in the film's 3D medium. The vocal performances are superb, particularly that of our hero. Although some may find it lacking when compared to its predecessor, "Kung Fu Panda 2" still provides all the action, heart and humour required to entertain both young and old... all neatly wrapped up in a fluffy, black-and-white ball of awesomeness.
Cars 2Anthony Macali
Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix.
It takes time adjusting to a parallel world of talking planes, trains and automobiles. Once "Cars 2" hits its rhythm, this clever adaptation of the most famous spy franchise of all time will appeal to all ages. Our favourite characters are back, with laughs (and lessons) coming from the most unlikely of heroes in the simple-minded Mater, whose case of mistaken identity drives most of the laughter. While the film is probably one leg too long, it does allow for some more time to enjoy the cultural joking and the iconic cities recreated and polished in beautiful digi-colour. Can't lose this race.
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. EvilAnne Murphy
Red Riding Hood is training in the group of Sister Hoods, when she and the Wolf are called to examine the mysterious sudden disappearance of Hansel and Gretel.
Red is a girl who stands up for herself and knocks her opponents out, delivering action before comedy. Still, the snappy dialogue and cracking one-liners are welcome in movies aimed at younger audiences, providing enjoyment for the grown-ups. Annoyingly, there's some not so subtle stereotyping, and you can't help noticing the baddies are all chubby and the goodies fit and trim. Wink, wink, as all in all, it's more good than evil.
Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.
Although "Rango" might contain guitar playing owls and animals aplenty, it's not really an animation suited for kids. Like a lucid dream, our philosophical lizard ventures into the desert, and through an amusing account of luck and classically trained theatrics, becomes a leader to an eclectic bunch of western inspired creatures. Superb aesthetics, scarily realistic textures and political motifs central to the film create a very odd, yet surprisingly enjoyable experience. Cool, clever and deeply refreshing.
Gnomeo & JulietAnne Murphy
Garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbours.
"Gnomeo and Juliet" is an animated frolic up the garden path. The concept is cute, and the plot adaptation of the classic tale of star crossed lovers is kitsch. This quality children's production is hobbled by its adult storyline. Still, there's much for young audiences to enjoy, a colorful and dramatic build, fabulous soundtrack and a jolly ending that transforms the original story of woe. Beyond the title the pun is fun but limited. Wherefore art thou Romeo?