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Soul | Review

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Time and time again, Pixar manages to create a masterful film with beautiful imagery and so much heart and -dare I say- soul to them. Is their latest effort Soul, directed by Pete Docter and co-directed by Kemp Powers, a worthy addition to the Pixar filmography? Absolutely!

Soul follows a school music teacher called Joe Gardner, voiced excellently by Jamie Foxx, who finally gets his shot at his dream- performing jazz music with prestigious musician Dorothea Williams (Angela Basset) when suddenly he falls down a manhole. Joe is supposed to have died then but instead, he embarks on a journey to try and return to his body along with 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), a new soul who needs training before she can head to earth, in order to experience the moment that he’s lived his entire life for.

“Music is all I think about. From the moment I wake up in the morning… to the moment I fall asleep at night. I was born to play. It’s my reason for living.”

Every time a new Pixar film comes out, the animation seems to get better and better and Soul is no exception. Even though the last Pixar film Onward only came out back in March, the quality of the animation here seems so much better. The worlds that Pixar have created just look so stunning and it’s a joy to just sit back for 100 minutes and let the incredible animation sweep you away. The film just looks so beautiful and it makes you wonder how they’ll be able to top the wonderful animation in their next film although I’m sure the geniuses at Pixar will have no problem making their next film look even better.

As well as looking beautiful, Soul has a really beautiful message at its heart. The whole film is all about life. It’s about finding your purpose in life and enjoying the limited time that we have with our life on Earth. It is quite a heavy subject matter, particularly when you remember that a large proportion of the people watching this film will probably be young children. Whilst I don’t know how young children will respond to all the ideas about finding your purpose in life, but even if you remove all the deep meaningful points this film raises, it’s still a lot of fun and people of all ages can certainly be entertained by Soul.

There are a lot of exciting characters such as Graham Norton’s sign-spinning Moonwind and there’s a lot of fun to be had with Joe and 22 when trying to reunite Joe’s soul with his body. I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises but there’s a very entertaining part involving a cat when things don’t quite go to plan when trying to get Joe back to his body.

“Is all this living really worth dying for?”

It’s very easy to praise this film and there really is a lot to praise about Soul, however looking at some of their other films like Inside Out, the Toy Story series and Up to name a few, Soul doesn’t quite reach that level. I think it’s one of those films that the more you re-watch it, the more you’ll grow to love it even more, but at the minute after just one watch, there are some things that don’t quite sit perfectly for me.

I much preferred the second half of the film and there’s a scene in a barbershop about halfway through which is where the film really changes for me. In the first half of the film there are quite a few scenes in “The Great Before” where we see new souls training to be ready to go to Earth and it’s these scenes that don’t quite hit the mark and can feel a little clunky, a little too exposition-heavy and don’t quite work for me. That being said, I did absolutely love the second half of the film once it had got past all the necessary exposition and explaining of things. There’s quite a lot of explaining of things that they need to try and do early on so that the audience can keep up with where Joe is, what’s going on and to explain how this soul world works.

It’s a shame that the film won’t be released in cinemas as it has some really incredible animation that would have looked lovely on a big screen but at least it means we’re all able to see the film much sooner than if it were delayed until next year instead.

Overall, Pixar’s Soul is a worthy addition to their filmography as it’s a charming, warm, entertaining film that certainly does have a lot of soul to it.

4/5

Soul is streaming on Disney+ from Christmas Day

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs–6c7Hn_A

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Action

Kung Fu Panda 4 Review: Po and Co are Back to Pack Hilarious Punches.

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I’ve seen too many great animation franchises deliver diminishing returns with more and more sequels. To name some recent examples one could include How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Cars, etc. Kung Fu Panda is another franchise that unfortunately falls in this category. The threequel that released in 2016, was most people’s choice for the weakest entry in the beloved franchise. So that made me pretty skeptical whether the world was ready for this franchise to return and gave us good cause not to have expectations set too high, especially given the weak marketing campaign and smaller production budget. To make things worse, it was being reported that the furious five would not be a part of the story.

So I went in with my expectations in check but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s been 8 years since the last Kung Fu Panda movie, but the characters are somehow still fresh and fun. One of the best things that the makers are able to do is remind the viewers what makes Po such a darling and why we love him so much. Jack Black is such a natural fit for his voice and makes this character special with his wit and wisdom in this latest entry. 

This entry is notably structured in a very different way from the other 3 entries. This one focuses on Po’s search for a successor and his ascension to the Master of Peace. The main characters are split up pretty early in the movie and are sent on separate adventures in a sort of buddy-cop-style scenario. On one side we have Po and Awkwafina’s Zhen, and on the other, we have Bryan Cranston and James Hong as Po’s dads. These two duos are a lot of fun in their own ways.

(from left) Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Po and Xen have more of a good boy-bad boy dynamic, while the dads have more of a light-hearted brotherhood between them. Both pairs of misfits deliver a string of humorously entertaining sequences that will have you laughing your heart out. The humor here works for most parts apart from one or two instances and the dialogue in particular is very smartly written. The story, on the other hand, is where the movie is at its weakest.

The structuring is pretty generic with a very cliche twist at the beginning of the second half and the script mostly fails to provide significantly fresh plot points. But credit to it for executing the successor plotline better than a lot of movies that have tried it, especially Cars 3. The writers make sure to put their entire focus on humor and entertainment value, but they do come up with a couple of charming moments and some subplots that come full circle.

The animation here is surprisingly really good, especially given the significantly lower budget. The trailers didn’t get too many people encouraged about the quality of animation, but I can tell you that even though it’s not DreamWorks’ best, it’s still really well done. The background score also hits the right spot where it’s able to compliment the scene and lift it at the same time. The voice work here is also pretty solid. Jack Black is amazing as always and Awkwafina Ke Huy Quan are welcome additions.

(Center) Chameleon (Viola Davis) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Apart from Po, the best part of the movie is Li and Ping. They are the heart of this movie. The two of them have incredible chemistry and Mike Mitchell finds a way to bring out the best from the both of them. They play off of each other in the most silly, but whimsical manner which is just a joy to watch. We could do with a spin-off of them. Ian McShane’s return as Tai Lung is another highlight here. He is nicely integrated and fits well into the story being told. On the other hand, Viola Davis’ Chameleon is somewhat of a disappointment. For a villain that has the powers of all the previous villains, she was a rather tame antagonist.

Overall, Kung Fu Panda 4 is a return to form for the beloved franchise. It has a lot of elements that made the franchise successful and is a much-needed reminder of how much we love these characters and in particular, Po. Jack Black knocks it out of the park with Bryan Cranston and James Hong emerging as surprise standouts. It lacks the emotional depth of the first two entries and has a disappointingly tame villain. But it is a major improvement from the last entry and unsurprisingly very very entertaining.

Kung Fu Panda 4 releases in cinemas on March 8.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_inKs4eeHiI&pp=ygUXa3VuZyBmdSBwYW5kYSA0IHRyYWlsZXI%3D

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Animation

Marvel Animation’s X-Men ’97 | Official Trailer — Disney +

Continuation of X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)

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Genre:

Animation, Action, Adventure

Release Date:

March 20, 2024

Director:

Disney +

Cast:

Jennifer Hale, Ray Chase, Lenore Zann

Post Summary:

Continuation of X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)

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Animation

Despicable Me 4 | Official Trailer — Universal Pictures

Plot unknown. Fourth installment of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise.

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Despicable Me 4 [credit: Universal Pictures]

Genre:

Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Release Date:

July 3, 2024

Director:

Chris Renaud, Patrick Delage

Cast:

Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wig, Sofía Vergara

Plot Summary:

Plot unknown. Fourth installment of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise.

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