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New Movies: Finding Dory; Last Cab to Darwin; Hell or High Water

September 18, 2016

New Movies

Finding Dory

The animated sequel to “Finding Nemo” (2003) reverses the plight of the main characters: this time it is the memory-challenged bluefish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) rather than clownfish Nemo (Hayden Romence) who gets lost during a search to find her long-lost parents. Nemo and his father Marlin (Albert Brooks) try to find and rescue Dory with the aid of many other new characters. As this is an animated film, there are many antics, perils and troubleshooting that ensue.

Like its prequel, this film has beautiful animation especially in the beginning as the camera follows the sea creature characters through long and fast journeys. The main characters and the array of new ones are quite funny and entertaining. The delightful DeGeneres is quite enjoyable throughout especially her high-energy flow of humour at the start. At times, she reminds one of the benchmark for animated performances: Robin Williams in “Aladdin” (1992).

There are times “Finding Dory” is less than what it could be especially a pivotal scene in the second half. This scene began with the right emotional impact but then became too casual too soon. But by the end, the movie does what a Pixar/Disney cartoon is supposed to do: entertain. When the climactic scene is met with Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”, we know we are entering goosebump movie heaven. What a wonderful world, indeed.

RATING (out of four stars):   * * *

Last Cab to Darwin

In a small town in New South Wales, Austrailia, Rex (Michael Caton) is a septuagenarian cab driver who learns he has fourth stage cancer. As he is determined to avoid dying in a hospital, he takes on a journey of travelling thousands of kilometers to Darwin in another state (Northern Territory) where legislation is in progress to legalize euthanasia.

In addition to the affable Rex, the viewer is blessed with other interesting characters in Rex’s town and those he meets during his journey. They include Polly (Ningali Lawford-Wolf), his aboriginal neighbour who is also his occasional secret lover; Tilly (Mark Coles Smith), a young, aboriginal man who is likeable but carries a lot of emotional baggage; Julie (Emma Hamilton), a nurse from London who is taking a break from her job as she lives and works in Australia; and Dr. Farmer (Jacki Weaver), the doctor in Darwin who is spearheading the campaign to legalize euthanasia.

Rex is an interesting character and quite funny (as is much of the film) but it’s hard to get why he would go through so much in his condition to reach his goal. It’s also difficult to believe that he could drive such a long journey, mostly on his own. Polly, Tilly, and Julie are all delightful and engaging. Their individual stories add greatly to the movie’s impact. Weaver does her best as Farmer but it’s really hard to get this character and her motives as the movie progresses in the second half.

There could be good reasons to give this movie a *** rating but there are flaws and unbelievable moments that bring in down a notch.

RATING: * * 1/2

Hell or High Water

In rural Texas, two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who have had difficult lives are robbing small banks to save the family farm. Two rangers (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham) are assigned to solve the series of crimes.

In some ways, “Hell or High Water” resembles “Bonnie and Clyde”. Once we know the plight of the robbers, we viewers end up sympathizing with them despite their occasional brutality.

The film has a good chase scene in the second half though compared to other past crime capers (of which there are many), the action is more steady than exciting. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The movie’s strength is mainly in the dialogues: those between the two brothers and those between the two rangers.

The Bridges character is near retirement. He is smart and likeable in some ways but acts like a dumb ass when he makes racial taunts to his long-time colleague whose heritage is half Native American and half Mexican. Birmingham’s reactions to the “teasing” tells a lot in subtle ways; there is offense mixed with a history of accepting the rudeness. Despite this tension, it is clear the long-time colleagues respect each other.

There is an underlying theme that represents our modern times: that many people, like the robber brothers, are living in hard financial times and it is the banks who are regarded as the true villains. It’s rather courageous and rare for a modern film to challenge the status quo this way. Add to this the bonus of a cameo appearance by Margaret Bowman as a waitress in a small town dive – someone who seems to have been born in a swamp.

RATING: * * *


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