If this is the last movie I see for 2016, then 2016 will at least end on one high note as “Moana” is an absolute triumph in animated storytelling for the Disney Princess tradition. Set in the Pacific Islands, we open the story as the demi-god “Maui” has long ago stolen the heart from the Goddess; Tala. With his theft, a darkness is spreading and it is said that one day a hero will sail beyond the barrier reef and will force Maui to return the heart of creation. The Chieftains daughter, Moana, dreams of life on the ocean even as the responsibilities for the village leadership will eventually fall to her shoulders. She eventually starts on her journey and meets a far different Maui than the one she imagined.
The story is a simple hero quest with unlikely heroes, obstacles, villains, and a soundtrack fearing music from “Hamilton” creator, Lin Manuel Miranda. And it’s beautiful- the lush colors are like nothing I’ve seen in many previoius Disney productions, the animation capturing a look that is at once familiar and strange with an eye toward cultural heritage and respect. Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is spectacularly cast as Maui, an arrogant demi-god whose actions have had unintended consequences. Johnson is at his best despite only being a voice on the screen, perfectly capturing the humor and occasional pathos of a character driven by very human motivations. But while Johnson features heavily in the story, the soul and drive is entirely on Auli’I Cravalho in the title role. Her arc as a hero is wonderful to watch as she goes from uncertain girl to the woman that she needs to be in order to try and save her people.
Sea monsters, storms, volcanos and angry gods stand between Moana and her quest. Don’t let this film pass you by in the theater. You will laugh, cry, and feel everything you’re supposed to feel and this is the way movies should work.
10 out of 10 and a definite BUY! See it in the theater.
Rob Zombie released his latest film in select theaters through a Fathom event during the month of October. Events conspired to rob me of the opportunity to catch this film at that time. So I bit my lip and waited- biding my time. One month later and it’s streaming exclusively on the new Horror-Themed streaming service, “Shudder”. The time had come and I settled down for a night of blood curdling horror and psychotic clowns hunting people-
Set in the late 70’s, “31” tells the story of five unlikeable carnival workers who are kidnapped and forced to participate in a “Deadliest Game”-style murder game that is described as “31”. Throughout the course of the evening they will be chased around by psychotic clowns with a “head” themed name; IE Death Head, Doom Head, Sex Head, et al.. Malcolm McDowell plays a man who instructs the contestants as to the rules and introduces each “Head” as they appear in the film. Then there’s death, carnage, blood, and quite a bit of gore- unfortunately, it also features tone deaf dialogue dialed up to ten with foul language, obscenities, and shouting to the point where the film loses any sort of impact roughly one quarter of the way through. And the film also tends to retread previous Zombie material, but not quite as refined or as stylized as his first two films.
In total, the film isn’t a complete waste of time but it’s not going to be high on my “best of” list- there are a few decent kills and one chilling scene that almost lives up to the hype. The problem is that the material is unable to sustain itself and the movie screams itself hoarse before it’s unsatisfying conclusion.
5 out of 10, and a mid-priority rental.