Pixar’s seventeenth feature film, “Finding Dory,” takes place one year after the events of “Finding Nemo,” and thirteen years after the original’s release. That time lag means nothing, as this sequel still captures the same charm as the first, proving that these underwater characters have heart and determination to be remembered for years to come. The story follows the lovable, yet forgetful, blue tang Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) on her journey in finding her parents, but what she ends up finding is a world of so much more. The film focuses a lot on the belief in oneself while also hearkening back to the message of never giving up that made “Finding Nemo” so profound, making “Finding Dory” a top tier Pixar film.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is a surprising instance of a sequel fitting together more nicely than its predecessor. It is the follow up to 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” which was a letdown to the history of the franchise. “Out of the Shadows,” however, returns to the original lore that brought beloved 80’s characters to life, assembling the cast of heroes and misfits in a way that speaks to their true roots. Those roots, however, aren’t enough to drive the film forward as it lacks depth and motivation on both the good and evil side of the spectrum. Still, seeing the familiar faces of the 80’s brings the franchise together in a nostalgic and commemorative way.
Lewis Carroll’s stories of Alice are perhaps the most well known in children’s literature, incorporating kooky and zany characters and circumstances into a bed of deeply meaningful innuendos and messages. “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is loosely based off of these tales and is the follow up to 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland.” This sequel is set three years later and brings back all of the beloved characters from Underland as they travel through time, discovering secrets and surprises on their quest to save one of their own. While the film is just as screwy as the first, it fails to ignite any true wonder in its stale and seemingly vacant plot.
“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the follow up to 2014’s “Neighbors” and the newest comedy sequel to hit theaters. The film stars Zac Efron as previous Frat President Teddy Sanders and Seth Rogen as new dad Mac Radner. The duo were previously at odds in the first film and are now teaming up against a new sorority focused on women empowerment and making a mark for themselves. It’s a formula that worked in the past, but because of that, fails to reach the same level when played on repeat the second time. It does have its moments of fun, but they lack the memorable charm that made the first film a hit.
Marvel’s Phase Three is well underway, commencing with “Captain America: Civil War.” The film follows up with the aftermath of the events from “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” marking a time when the heroes tasked with saving the world become increasing liabilities in the eyes of the public. But in “Civil War,” they also suffer from criticism from within, which sets up the main concept and conflict of the film. It’s a well thought out approach that introduces several new Marvel heroes and manages to bring visual appeal in the action despite the absence of a blatant villain. It deals more with a questioning approach to human morality, touching upon issues of vengeance, forgiveness, and control. But at the core, the film still stays true to the focus of The Avengers as a team and how individual desires can sometimes disrupt a cohesive unit, which is why “Civil War” works and is a true success.
“The Jungle Book” becomes Disney’s newest live-action depiction of a classic children’s tale, drawing inspiration from Rudyard Kipling’s work and subsequent animated feature adaptation in 1967. It’s a film franchise that’s had a live-action remake before, but in contrast to that one, this Jon Favreau iteration focuses heavily on the animalistic jungle society, highlighting the flora and fauna more predominantly. Visually it’s an exciting treat and full of realistic life despite the lack of actual real life. It also makes strides in incorporating emotion into the journey, but unfortunately falls slightly short in fully drawing it out. Still, the plot is developed in a way that deepens the thematic story, more so than any other depiction of this tale, and for that it’s a win.
“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” opened to record breaking box office results, and though the feedback has been less than stellar, it’s still a formidable foe for other films in the super hero genre. And with the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominating this field, DC takes a shot back, proving that it, too, can create carnage and destruction in a world begging to be saved by a costumed vigilante or two. But there are a few missteps along the way, bogging down what could have been with what unfortunately was. And though the darkness of villainy represents what this film may have been, there’s still a slight glimmer of brightness, much like a superhero in that dark world. “Batman v.Superman” is like any hero story in that it is fraught with both good and bad.
“Deadpool” marks itself as the next super hero movie to join the fray, yet it seems to be a distanced attempt at creating heroism. Starring Ryan Reynolds as the wise-cracking, superhuman Deadpool, the film plays as a comedy that happens to have a well-known hero placed within. Still, its humor and wit catapults it to the achieved acclaim andsuccess within the box office. Though lacking in areas, it smartly avoids bringing attention to those places which is why it comes out on top.
“The Revenant” is Academy Award winning director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s recent feature film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as fur trapper Hugh Glass. The story is inspired by the true events of Glass’ life in the Midwest while on a fur hunting expedition in 1823. Being pegged as DiCaprio’s long overdue Oscar win for his work in this gripping tale of survival, he lives up to the hype by being stripped bare of everything, simply because he still has a breath left fighting for. “The Revenant” showcases the world in a time that none alive have witnessed and does so breathtakingly, giving Inarritu what seems like an obvious Oscar nod (nominations to be revealed January 14th, 2016). The tale is riveting and visually awe-inspiring, and though dull in parts still manages to create the excitement it deserves.
Earlier this year, Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios released its fifteenth feature length film, “Inside Out,” and it was a box office success, becoming Pixar’s second biggest opening and grossing film. Now, the studio that brought us “Toy Story” twenty years ago this month releases its sixteenth film, “The Good Dinosaur.” Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is a meek and timid Apatosaurus who lives with his Poppa Henry (Jeffrey Wright), Momma Ida (Frances McDormand), and siblings Libby (Maleah Padilla) and Buck (Marcus Scribner) in a time when Earth is flourishing due to being spared by an asteroid collision. It’s a story about fighting through fears to reach the beauty of what’s on the other side, finding a voice, and making a mark that will be forever lasting. And in true Pixar form, “The Good Dinosaur” may be everlasting, though it does unfortunately fall short of the studios’ best.