All posts by Timothy English

‘The BFG’ movie review

Fun, but lacks the Spielberg magic we all know and love

7/10

Steven Spielberg holds a special place in my heart as a lifelong fan of motion pictures. “Jaws” came out the year I was born. As a child of divorce, I totally identified with Elliot’s isolation in “E.T.”. And of course, Dr. Jones was my first taste of adventure. He wasn’t a super hero. He was just a man. I was pretty sure someday I could be Indiana Jones.bfgposter

As an older, jaded film critic — I’ve long given up my dreams of becoming a filmmaker (although I have several bad ass scripts lying around, give me a call…) — I still hold a certain fondness for Spielberg, even if lately it seems like most of his movies have been adaptations. Where’s the originality?

Okay. Let’s skip the “originality is dead in Hollywood” stuff for today. “The BFG” is in theatres. It’s directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s written by Melissa Mathison (pssst…she wrote “E.T.”) — and yes, it’s based on the book by Roald Dahl.

Let’s just get this out of the way. It’s good. Not great, good. Certainly one of the best of the summer. That’s not saying much considering the awful, watered down summer movie season we’ve seen plummet down a steep hill ever since Iron Man and Captain America broke up.

The BFG (Disney)
The BFG (Disney)

From what I could tell, Spielberg stays pretty true to the book, at least as much as I could recognize. It’s been a spell since I’ve read the book, but it absolutely feels like Roald Dahl’s classic brought to life. The BFG, (Big FRIENDLY Giant, as I’m having to constantly remind myself) is played by Mark Rylance, who recently stole Sylvester Stallone’s Academy Award out from under his nose at this year’s Oscars — in all fairness Rylance was amazing in”Bridge of Spies” (also Spielberg).

Rylance brings the character to life through the magic of motion capture. It’s an impressive performance, although not quite the realism we’ve seen in the past from Andy Serkis, but it’s still a solid, humanizing performance that only rarely looks more animated than real. The BFG for the most part blends seamlessly into his live action surroundings.

The BFG (Disney)
The BFG (Disney)

Ruby Barnhill plays Sophie, the human child who is swept into the kindhearted BFG’s life when she catches him rummaging through the streets of London late at night. She’s a cute kid and this is her first big movie. She delivers a fine performance as a precocious orphan who befriends the BFG. But it’s the connection between Barnhill and the motion capture of the BFG that never quite establishes the emotional connection it needs to.

While Spielberg reunites with “E.T.” scribe Mathison, the movie never quite seems to capture the magic and awe he introduced us too back in the early 80s. The movie is fun, interesting and touching, but it just seems to be missing something. Perhaps it’s the humor, which is aimed primarily at younger audiences. Look out for a lot of flatulence jokes. If you’ve read the book, you know what’s up. But the film also pushes 2 hours in running time, which is likely to test the patience of the core audience it’s aiming for.

That being said? It’s a fun movie. It’s Spielberg, so it’s expertly directed and looks gorgeous. Adults may not be struck by the nostalgia of Spielberg the way we are accustomed, but your kids are gonna love it.

The BFG (Disney)
The BFG (Disney)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Written by Melissa Mathison

Based on the book by Roald Dahl

Starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Bill Hader, and Jemaine Clement

Disney’s The BFG Official Website

Photos and video property of Walt Disney Films

‘Finding Dory’ movie review

Finding Dory trailer (Disney, Pixar, The Ellen Show)

Fun characters make for passable sequel

7/10

I have an interesting relationships with Pixar movies as I’m sure most adults my age do, even if they aren’t as honest about it as I am. Some of them tear me apart — ahem, “Toy Story 3”, “Inside Out” and the first 15 minutes of “Up”. Others are just kinda ‘meh’ — looking at you “Brave”; or dumb — that would be you “Cars” and “Cars 2: Why is there a Sequel”.

Finding Dory movie poster (Pixar)
Finding Dory movie poster (Pixar)

But here’s the thing about “Finding Nemo”: I never really cared about it one way or the other. Sure, I loved the animation, but I just never connected emotionally to the characters or the story the way I have with others. And full disclosure, thought Dory was kind of annoying. She was actually my least favorite part of one of my least favorite Pixar movies. So a sequel that focuses on her? YAY.

Here’s the thing, in “Finding Dory“, the Pixar creative team, being the wizards they are, not only manage to make her more likable, they find a way to turn her her ailment into a sympathetic crutch…and it almost makes for a better movie. Where “Nemo” played Dory’s forgetfulness as a joke, the sequel plays on her difficulty in living with short-term memory as a disability.

Finding Dory (Pixar)
Finding Dory (Pixar)

In “Finding Dory”, Dory (Ellen Degeneres) suddenly begins to remember clues that trigger memories of her parents and how at one time, she had been search for them. So, her adventure is setting off to find them, which has Marlin and Nemo tagging along in an attempt to bring her home. Her search becomes more than a quest for her parents, but a journey of self-discovery, and all that jazz.

Oddly, the movie is a lot more fun when Dory is kicking it the supporting characters. She spends a lot of her journey with a squid named Hank (Ed O’Neil), who wants to escape to Cleveland and they have great chemistry — or at least as much as a cartoon fish and squid can have.

The film really picks up when Dory gets to a rescue, rehab and release center, where she meets Destiny, a pen-pal shark with a vision problem (Kaitlyn Olsen), and a whale in need of channeling his eco-location purpose (Ty Burrell). But my favorite are the cockney sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West). Can we get a spin-off about this place? I’d be down for that.

But, despite all of that, the story drags on far too long, testing the patience of some of the younger children in the audience. And it feels long, especially during a final act set piece that feels tacked on to give Marlin and Nemo a purpose. Unfortunately, you could have easily cut them completely from the movie and had a tighter film with a clear focus.

Yes. The film looks incredible. Is there any doubt there? The Pixar animation team once again has outdone themselves. This is the rare movie when shelling out a few extra bones for the 3D up-charge is well worth it.

Finding Dory (Pixar)
Finding Dory (Pixar)

The good news is, even though “Finding Dory” feels like more of the same from Pixar, it’s still a pretty satisfying flick. Again, it doesn’t hit all the emotional feels that a great Pixar film does, but the animation is amazing, the characters are fun, and the story hits some surprising chords that will mean more to the kids as they grow up.

Directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane

Written by Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse

Starring ¬†Ellen Degeneres, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlyn Olson, and Albert Brooks

Pixar’s Finding Dory official website

Photos and video property of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Marvel Cinematic Universe movie release schedule

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE RELEASE DATES

2016

May 6: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

November 4: DOCTOR STRANGE

2017

May 5: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY vol. 2

July 7: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

November 3: THOR: RAGNOROK

2018

February 16: BLACK PANTHER

May 4: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR pt. I (to be retitled)

July 6: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

2019

March 8: CAPTAIN MARVEL

May 3: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR pt. 2 (to be retitled)

2020

May 1: UNTITLED

July 10: UNTITLED

November6: UNTITLED

Delayed: INHUMANS