This week’s movie releases

This week’s movie releases

A new Disney release is always cause for celebration. This time Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced its 56th animated feature – and it’s a joy to watch.

Review of the week

Film: Moana
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho, Temuera Morrison
Directors: Ron Clements and John Musker
Classification: PG
Reviewer: Peter Feldman

Rating: 4/5

A new Disney release is always cause for celebration. This time Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced its 56th animated feature – and it’s a joy to watch.
It is a sweeping and boisterous CG animation feature about an adventurous teenager, the daughter of the chief, who against her parents’ wishes, is inspired to leave the safety and security of her Polynesian island on a daring journey to save her people.

They are faced with an environmental threat. Her quest involves getting in touch with her seafaring ancestry and to leave her island, Motunui, to restore the glowing green heart of stone to the goddess Te Fiti.

Inexplicably drawn to the ocean, Moana (voice of Hawaiian actress Auliʻi Cravalho) convinces the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) to join her mission, and he reluctantly helps her become a wayfinder like her ancestors who sailed before her.

Together, these two engaging characters voyage across the open ocean in a tiny boat where they encounter enormous monsters and face impossible odds. Along the way, Moana also manages to fulfil her quest and in the process discover the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.

It’s a delightful coming-of-age adventure in which the intrepid teenager is empowered to carry the hopes of the island on her young shoulders.
What makes this production such an intriguing proposition is not only that it is a feast for the eyes (especially in 3D), but it taps nicely into Polynesian folk law.
The colours that emerge are certainly amazing; a limitless ocean sparkles in the sun and the lush greenery of tropical-island paradises are everywhere.

Another strong facet is the songs that punctuate the storyline. Songs by ‘Hamilton’s’ Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer Opetaia Foa‘i and Grammy-winner Mark Mancina are superb and can be likened to a ‘Lion King’ level of excellence. The film’s ‘We Know the Way’ is an anthemic ode to exploration and self-discovery. It could become an instant classic.

The film is imbued with passion, humour and grace and the key characters are memorable entities, including a dumb, self-destructive rooster named Heihei with bulging eyes who goes along for the trip. During Moana’s often wacky journey, where she encounters a horde of coconut pirates, she discovers within herself a deep connection to her ancestors and their seafaring culture.

The massive, tattooed, shape-shifting demigod Maui is voiced by Dwayne Johnson, whose wry line readings give the impression he was having a whale of time in the recording studio. This character has an ego as outsized as his body and he expects Moana to be awed by his awesomeness. She is not and their squabbling is very funny. Also, his myriad tattoos have a habit of coming alive and serve as his conscience to rein in his egotistic excesses.
The story is attributed to no fewer than seven writers and it gets a tad lumpy at times, which makes me think that some judicious pruning would not have detracted from the film’s overall impact.

The principal directors are Ron Clements and John Musker, a pair of Disney veterans who previously directed ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Aladdin’. They mined Polynesian lore for the story elements and I read that everything in the production, from the characters’ clothes and hairstyles to the vessels they sail, bear the stamp of authenticity.
It’s a great all-round cinematic experience that will appeal to all ages this holiday season. The timing could not have been better.

danny-glover-and-monique-in-almost-christmasFILM: ALMOST CHRISTMAS
CAST: Kimberly Elise, Danny Glover, John Michael Higgins, Romany Malco, Mo”Nique, JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Omar Epps, Nicole Ari Parker, Jessie T. Usher and DC Young Fly
DIRECTOR: David E. Talbert

‘Almost Christmas’ tells the festive story of a beloved patriarch who asks his family for one gift this holiday season: to get along. If they can honour that wish and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another, it will be a Christmas miracle.

In the past decade, writer/director David E. Talbert has created beloved comedy films including ‘First Sunday’ and ‘Baggage Claim’, but the 24-time NAACP Theatre Award nominee and Best Playwright winner admits that his first love has long been holiday movies. “I’m just a huge fan of them all; the big, broad, emotional ones,” Talbert explains. “I love the season and what it represents, so I thought, ‘What would it be like if I did my own holiday film?’”

As he brainstormed, Talbert reflected that most films in this genre revolve around the matriarch. So for his next theatrical release, he wanted to make a film where the patriarch is the glue keeping everyone together. “Being a new father myself, I thought it would be interesting to see the patriarch holding the family together,” reflects the filmmaker.

Talbert crafted a screenplay about a retired automotive engineer in Birmingham, Alabama, who lost the love of his life and mother of his four grown children the year before. Now that the holiday season has arrived again, his troupe must deal with all of the emotions of celebrating with one another, while still mourning the loss of the pillar of their family. As Talbert does best, the raucous humour that is a coping mechanism accompanying unthinkable loss, as well as the strength to pull together, became the through-line of his script.

a-scene-from-jonathanFILM: JONATHAN
CAST: Rikus De Beer, Beáte Opperman, Paul Eilers, Brümilda van Rensbrg, Rika Sennett, Eric Nobbs, Frank Opperman, Lizz Meiring, Jacques Bessenger, Anel Alexander, Albert Pretorius, Elton Landrew, Marnus Kruger, Francois Viljoen
DIRECTOR: Sallas De Jager

Jonathan, a dreamer and wannabe stand-up comedian in his late 20’s, still lives with parents. After yet another failed open mic performance, he gets drunk and crashes his father’s dream bakkie. This is the last straw for his loving, but fed up parents, who eventually kick him out of the house. Sitting at a restaurant not knowing where to go, he watches car guards in the parking lot and decides that he will also become a car guard just to stay afloat until the next big stand-up competition, which he firmly believes he can win. After a very hostile reception by the other car guards, the eldest car guard decides to take Jonathan under his wing, teaches him the fine art of being a car guard and, more importantly, he teaches him about life and how to survive as an outcast.