Finding Dory Review

Oh for goodness sake, let the sequels end! “But this is different,” I hear you say, “it’s Disney/Pixar”. And yes, before they became the super-media conglomerate that eats up every single other piece of entertainment, Disney and it’s younger creator Pixar crafted some excellent contained movies. Which they are now soiling with unnecessary add-ons like Cars 2 and Monsters University (admit it, you completely forgot they made Monsters University). But let’s dive in (pun intended) once again for Finding Dory.

Finding Dory stars Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence and Ed O’Neill and is directed by Andrew Stanton. The film follows on one year after the events of Finding Nemo, when Dory (DeGeneres) remembers her parents, she sets off to find them, with Marlin (Brooks) and Nemo (Rolence) in tow.

While I was on-board for the sequel, the story is rather boring. In Finding Nemo, Marlin was unsure of how to reach Nemo, and that’s what made the story exciting. In the sequel, we are pointed to exactly where Dory’s parents are at the beginning of the film, so it just gets tiresome after the fourth or fifth time Dory goes in the wrong direction. Even in a 90 minute film, this feels like extraordinary padding. To the end of the film I was really getting angry at the drudging story, but then during the final twenty minutes, the film pays off for one beautiful scene, before heading back to trudging boredom for the finale. And sure, it’s nice to go back to these characters, but there aren’t many memorable new ones. But stick around until the very end credits and you may see some familiar faces.

The film is a lot lighter on jokes than previous Pixar films, and most of the good ones were shown during the trailers. The majority come from the duo of Dominic West and Idris Elba as a pair of “geezer” sea lions (who were shown, but only one moment), who switch from stretching out in the sun to barking at trivial things. They are one of the funniest things in the film but are only in the film at the very beginning and at the very end.

Since the whole film is set at an aquarium, you would think that you would get some lovely shots of thousands of fish swimming around the giant tanks. Sadly not so. We may get one or two fleeting glimpses of shots similar to the school run at the start of Nemo, but most of Finding Dory is set in bland white corridors and darkened storage facilities. With Pixar being one of the biggest animation houses, I would really want for something a bit more stimulating than nondescript buildings.

Maybe Pixar spent the entire budget on the short film before, called Piper. It’s another animal based story, of a small bird learning how to hunt for food in the sea. It’s almost photo-realistic, like a nature documentary, but with some silly human qualities added to the birds to make them more relatable I guess.

But I can’t deny, the music is what pushes the film along. Thomas Newman returns once again, and basically does the same thing he did for Nemo. It’s sad when the best thing about the new film is something that was perfected back in 2003, but it’s great to hear Newman’s signature style in a cinema sound system.

To finish, Finding Dory was just like every other sequel this year, really, REALLY not needed. And Dory continues the trend of Pixar properties of having a really good first film and a quite boring second attempt (Toy Story being the only exception). I would say let’s learn from our mistakes, but heck, we’re all going to go watch Incredibles 2 aren’t we?

Score: 5/10 Fleeting moments of greatness, let down by a wilting story.

Bridge Of Spies Review

Steven Spielberg is hands down one of the greatest working directors in the world. Known as the Master of Dreams, Spielberg’s films often work over generations of movie-goers, speaking to something in every single member of the audience. Does his new film, Bridge Of Spies, have the same viewer-spanning watch-ability as his others?

Bridge Of Spies stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Austin Stowell, Jesse Plemons and Mikhail Gorevoy and is directed by Steven Spielberg. The film follows the real life story of James Donovan (Hanks) who is tasked with negotiating an exchange of spies from both sides during the height of the Cold War.

It wasn’t going to be too much of an ask that the acting be great, and each actor duly deserves the praise. Tom Hanks plays the usual “super-dad” role that he is known for, as well as showing a rugged toughness in some scenes that hasn’t been seen from him since Road To Perdition. His interactions with Mark Rylance are very well written and performed, even if Rylance’s accent hops all about the British Isles, before heading over to Eastern Europe.

Good acting is one thing, but it can only go so far. Luckily the script is one of Spielberg’s best, managing to create tension just by characters talk to each other over different sides of a table. The Coen Brothers have a credit on the script, and just like a lot of their other penned works, is full of great conversation set-pieces and filled to the brim with dark humour. Several scenes in the film had the screening I was in fill with laughter at some rapid-fire jokes at the Donovan household. This isn’t a sombre Spielberg film in the mould of Schindler’s List, Bridge Of Spies knows when to have its serious discussions and when it can have a bit of a laugh with the audience, with a repeated line by Rylance being an absolute favourite.

While the first half of the film is spent in New York, with the discovery of KGB agent Rudolf Abel (Rylance) the second half and the pulse-pounding finale take place in snow-blinded Berlin. It’s a great setting for any film, let alone a spy thriller, and calls to mind many of the other great spy thrillers of the period. The finale, set on the Glienicke Bridge, is a tense standoff as both parties try and weasel what they want out of the exchange, with a subtle hinted doom for one of the characters.

The soundtrack, by Thomas Newman (of Skyfall/SPECTRE fame) is what makes the film truly great. The inclusion of Newman’s score in specific areas turn good scenes into beautifully atmospheric ones, all it needs is the inclusion of a few bars of music. The soundtrack is heavily inspired by the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer, and sounds very much like the latter composer’s Spielberg collaboration, The Pacific. As usual, I’m listening to it as I write the review and I’m still as blown away as I was when I first heard it in the cinema.

My only real bug bears with the film are linked together, and are to do with the story/length. Bridge Of Spies is 141 minutes, and for someone like me who likes films to have a sense of brevity, it’s punishing. There are some scenes that bring up a certain dilemma┬áthat is┬ánever brought up again, and some scenes that go on for way too long. The story could have been cut down but, as usual for a historical film, scenes were probably kept in to preserve the true events that the film is based on.

In summary, Bridge Of Spies is not only a great Spielberg film, it’s a great spy thriller and character piece. Not all spy films these days have to be about sophisticated suave men (and women) blowing up extravagant villain’s hideaway lairs, Spielberg shows us it can be just as tense and as exciting watching them work together to get their men back home.

Score: 8/10 A soaring soundtrack, amazing actors and full of clever conversations, Spielberg’s done it again.