COCO (USA/PG/104mins) Directed by Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina. Starring Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Edward James Olmos, Alanna Ubach THE PLOT: Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) wants nothing more than to be a musician, but his family has outlawed music since his great grandfather abandoned the family before he was born. Desperate to play on the Day of the Dead, Miguel finds himself accidentally entering the Land of the Dead to try and solve the family mystery. THE VERDICT: Already a massive hit in Mexico, ‘Coco’ is Pixar’s latest animated feature; the first from ‘Toy Story 3’ director Lee Unkrich since his foray into the land of Buzz, Woody and pals, and although ‘Coco’ has the trademark beauty of a Pixar film, there is some of the magic missing in this spooky story of skeletons and family.
The voice cast is an impressive one, including Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Edward James Olmos, Alanna Ubach and relative newcomer Anthony Gonzalez as the young and enthusiastic Miguel. The voice cast do well with bringing their characters to life, and the emotion in the film comes from the performances behind the camera.
Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich’s screenplay, from a story by Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich, is not the first Pixar film to deal with uncomfortable subjects, but it is the first to truly deal with death, and what may happen after we depart this world. The Land of the Dead is a wonderful idea, and lends itself to adventure and fun, and as always with Pixar films, leaves the audience wanting to see more of the world that they have created on screen. That said, some elements of the film feel rather familiar, and those that do not, feel obvious, as though they are a long time coming before they actually are revealed on screen. This goes a long way to diluting the emotional impact of the film, leaving it feeling a lot more flat that the Pixar films that have gone before.
As directors, Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina have created a beautiful world in ‘Coco’, and although the film deals with some of the darker sides of life – and the after life – this darkness is well balanced throughout, and should not be a deterrent to grown ups bringing the littler members of the audience to see the film. As well as this, the voice performances are strong and engaging, making the characters endearing and warm. That said, some of the emotional punches of the film feel as though they are missing – although this could be the fault of a predictable script – so moments that should have drama and impact end up feeling deflated and underwhelming.
In all, however, ‘Coco’ is a beautifully designed film that has a lot of fun with the adventure elements of the story; it just lacks the emotional strength and impact of Pixar films that have gone before. There is a lot to enjoy about ‘Coco’, not least the carefully handled darkness and adventure, but there is a predictable feel to the film that drowns out some of the moments that should have been the emotional hits. RATING: 3.5/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
THE COMMUTER (UK|USA/15A/104mins) Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Liam Neeson, Killian Scott, Vera Farmiga, Sam Neill, Patrick Wilson. THE PLOT: After he loses his job, Michael McCauley (Liam Neeson) has a couple of drinks with a former work colleague, then takes the train home. When he gets on the train, however, his peaceful commute is turned upside down, when he meets a mysterious woman who insists that he find a mystery person on the train. THE VERDICT: Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously brought us ‘The Shallows’, ‘Non-Stop’ and ‘Run All Night’, reteams with his star from ‘Run All Night’ – Liam Neeson – for ‘The Commuter’, a film that starts off feeling as though it could be a cousin of Neeson’s first Taken film, but takes a very silly turn somewhere along the line.
Liam Neeson leads the cast as former cop Michael, who is suddenly made redundant from his desk job, and although Neeson can still growl a menacing line like no other, the physical excitement that the actor brought to action films in the past seems to be slipping, as well as this, Michael is a character we have seen Neeson play before, and is not fleshed out very well. Vera Farmiga , Sam Neill, Patrick Wilson and our own Killian Scott make up the rest of the cast, but make no mistake, this is Neeson’s show from start to finish, and it is a less exciting show than we have seen in the past.
‘The Commuter’ is the first screenplay from writers Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi, and unfortunately, it shows. The plot alternates between boring and incredibly predictable, the dialogue is unsubtle and expository and the pacing of the film feels messy and unfocused. As well as this, the very idea of having Liam Neeson seek someone out on a train feels rather silly, and there are several obvious solutions that would turn this film from a 104 minute feature to a 5 minute short.
As director, Jaume Collet-Serra tries his best to bring his trademark tension and fast pace to ‘The Commuter’, but he is fighting against a silly screenplay and a miscast lead actor from the very beginning. The pacing of the film is a mess, the twists obvious and can be seen a mile away. As well as this, there is a dated and old-fashioned feel to the whole film, as though it was written in the 80s, and quick decisions to modernise it never quite worked.
In all, ‘The Commuter’ is a very silly, unengaging and uninspired film. The entire affair feels predicable and obvious, and seems to make the statement that the time has come for Neeson and Collet-Serra to step away from action flicks and stretch themselves by doing something truly unexpected. RATING: 1/5 Review by Brogen Hayes