Review of the week
Film: The Secret Life of Pets
Cast of voices: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper
Directors: Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney
Reviewer: Peter Feldman
Have you ever wondered what your pets get up to when you leave home?
Well, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is a glorious animated comedy which gives an account of what our cats and dogs (and a few other creatures) do when they are bored. It’s breezy, it’s light-hearted and it’s very funny.
The story centres on a pampered dog named Max (voiced by comedian Louis C.K.) who has the run of the place of his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). He has his group of friends, a feline neighbour Gidget (Jenny Slate), and the finicky fat cat Chloe (Lake Bell), who rejects her dried food in favour of refrigerator leftovers.
Then one day Max’s idyllic existence is brought rudely down to earth when Katie brings home a new “pal” for Max; the bossy, oversized Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The inevitable turf war spills out onto the streets and during the next day’s walk, Max and Duke, slip away from their sitter and are captured by animal control workers. One rescue later, they find themselves right out of the fire and into the frying pan when they confront a gang, led by the rough-tough bunny rabbit, Snowball (Kevin Hart), whose owners have abandoned them.
The bunny does not appreciate the small deception that Max and Duke have perpetrated on them. The remainder of ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ then consists of Max and Duke trying desperately to return home before Snowball and his posse finish them off. Meanwhile, Gidget, Chloe, and a few friends are trying to find Max and Duke, with both adventures played out in the alleys and sewers of New York. The myth that there are real alligators living in the New York sewer system is perpetuated here.
The animation has a generic quality and the filmmakers are heavily influenced here by the ‘Despicable Me’ style, which shouldn’t be surprising, as there is a cross-pollination between the Gru/Minions films and this one.
The story-line is not exactly fresh (‘Toy Story’ had a similar concept), while the people look like caricatures and the creatures have a cartoonish, stuffed animal appearance. The backgrounds are the most arresting aspect of the enterprise and the striking New York skyline must come in for a special mention.
What is fascinating is that familiar characteristics are incorporated into the animals’ actions. Chloe, for example, echoes the behaviour of any domestic cat by chasing and pouncing on moving streaks of light.
‘The Secret Life of Pets’ may not be ground-breaking animation, or inventive storytelling, but there is enough meat on this bone to keep viewers (especially animal-lovers) happily engaged for a few hours.
Other releases (Synopsis)
FILM: DEEPWATER HORIZON
CAST: Mark Wahlberg Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien, Kate Hudson
DIRECTOR: Peter Berg
On April 20, 2010, one of the world’s largest man-made disasters occurred on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. ‘Deepwater Horizon’ follows a vital story that many have not seen: the story of the 126 crew members working aboard the oil drilling rig that day, caught in the most harrowing circumstances imaginable.
The ultra deep-water drilling rig off the Louisiana coast — the Deepwater Horizon – riveted the world as it experienced a devastating blowout, fire and nearly unstoppable ocean floor oil leak. For 87 days millions watched, hearts in mouths, as more than 50000 barrels of oil a day gushed from the sea floor into the Gulf of Mexico. It would become the largest accidental ocean oil spill in human history. A fragile marine system hung in the balance, livelihoods were left in limbo, and red flags were raised about the true costs and dangers of drilling for oil in deep water conditions.
Filmmaker Peter Berg once again collaborates with Oscar nominated actor Mark Wahlberg, sharing an untold story of men and women, real life heroes, who faced extraordinary consequences with extreme bravery. The pair previously explored a Navy SEAL team mission gone wrong in the Oscar nominated ‘Lone Survivor’.
Wahlberg takes on the role of real-life Transocean chief electronics technician Mike Williams, a devoted family man who was overseeing the rig’s computers and electrical systems on April 20, when everything he imagined could go wrong… did. Oil rig workers are a notoriously tough and gritty breed.
The work is physically punishing and ultra high-pressure – as workers grapple with complex equipment approximately 60-feet above remote seas. Yet even for Williams, what happened that day was unprecedented. Williams knew the work was desperately behind schedule, but he also knew the Deepwater Horizon had sophisticated defenses said to be able to prevent even the worst blowouts. Nevertheless at 10pm that night, volatile methane shot up into the rig, and all the rig’s defenses failed. The result was a sudden, deadly explosion and a series of fireballs, as the shattered rig and its crew were shaken, hurtled and drenched in combustible gas.
From that moment on, Williams was in a race to save his own life and those of his crewmates – each driven by the hope of making it home — in an escape that seemed to defy all the odds.
“I play a rig worker who was an ordinary guy who had to do extraordinary things — not only to survive, but to help others in a moment of overwhelming disaster. For me that’s an extremely compelling story to tell. It’s something I find very inspiring and those are the kinds of movies I most enjoy making and seeing,” says Wahlberg.
FILM: LABYRINTH OF LIES
CAST: Alexander Fehling, André Szymanski, Friederike Becht
DIRECTOR: Giulio Ricciarelli
It’s 1958…Johann Radmann, a young public prosecutor takes a special interest in bringing a former Auschwitz extermination camp commander turned school teacher to justice. When his noble efforts are thwarted, he uncovers a conspiracy of prominent German institutions and government officials trying to protect Nazi World War II crimes.