Moana is the latest film from Pixar/Disney. It is based on the legends of the peoples of the Pacific Islands. You can catch the trailer on the IMDB site, or here.

Moana is the tale of the daughter of an island’s chief. Everything is peaceful and the people are happy, but that’s about to change. When she was little, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) would listen to the stories her grandmother would tell of how her people came to be. They were always fanciful and also scary. Things were such that they never leave their island, not even to venture past the reef that surrounds it. Problems start happening with their food supply, and Moana relies on the stories she used to hear to find a solution, to seek out the Demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) to fix things. If it were only that simple.

First and foremost, this is a musical. I wasn’t aware, though. However, the songs are happy and funny. It certainly helps that some of the songs and lyrics were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame. This is also a comedy, of sorts, and rather funny. I found myself laughing throughout the film. Much like any decent kid’s film, there’s plenty of humor for the adults. Moana has a companion, a rather confused chicken, “voiced” by Alan Tudyk.

I really enjoyed myself at the screening. I highly recommend this film, and I already put it in my top 10 films of 2016. It is available in 3D, but I did not see it that way. It was not necessary to see it that way, though I’m sure there were some benefits of the 3D experience.

There is a funny post-credits scene.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a movie that exists in the world of Harry Potter, written by J.K. Rowling. In essence, it is a prequel to that story.

You can view the trailer here.

In the 1920s, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a Magizoologist, a Wizard who studies Magical creatures. He arrives in New York City, and is on a journey to meet someone. While on the way, he bumps into a Non-Mag (non-magical person, or a muggle), and The Old Switcheroo happens, and they accidentally swap cases.

He manages to catch the eye of Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), who is a member of the Magical Congress of the USA, similar to England’s Ministry of Magic. She’s noticed that his case had magical animals, which is against the law in the U.S., and brings him to the Magical Congress, but they are more concerned with more dangerous matters, as strange things are happening in NYC. Is there a connection between these problems?  What do you think?

It’s a good tale, with a lot of heart and emotion. There is a sequence of “Hey, look at the creatures” which reminded me too much of that moment in the original Jurassic Park film. This is, at its core, a kid’s film, and some of the same sort of irritations from the Harry Potter movies are here, too. I won’t go into them here, but it suffices to say that they hampered my total enjoyment of the movie.

I still recommend it, though. It’s available in 3D, but I saw the 2D version, and do not recommend you spend the extra money to watch it any other way. There’s good acting, and they were rather successful in capturing the spirit of the ’20s, so it works on several levels.

Arrival (2016)

Arrival is a science fiction film, based on the short story “Story of Your Life”, written by Ted Chiang. The story won several awards in 1999 and 2000.

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a professor of linguistic studies. She is on her way to teach class when she walks past many students hovering around a TV, where news is coming that aliens have arrived on Earth, and no one knows what to do. They appear in 12 places around the world, and no one knows what to do.

Shortly afterward, she is visited by a Colonel Weber (Forrest Whittaker), who asks for her assistance in communicating with the new visitors. She resists but eventually consents. She is teamed up with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a physicist who’s handling the science of the meetings. Col. Weber implores them to find a way to communicate with the aliens, and is demanding to know what their intentions are.

This movie is a slow potboiler of a film. It plays out in a plodding manner, letting the enormity of the situation sink in to the characters, and the audience, as well. I really can’t talk about the story that much, because it would spoil the experience. There’s the underlying urgency to understand, and it provides the base for the film.

Going back almost 40 years, Close Encounters of the Third Kind attempted to tell the story of encounters with aliens, and it was incredibly stunning, visually, but, to me, was a bit flat. To this day, the 5 notes and those 5 hand gestures never meant anything to me, and they never bothered to reveal what they meantl. That film frustrated me, while it entertained me.

Arrival answered some of those questions, but not all of them. It has a heart that you won’t find that in many science fiction films. This movie was a unique experience, giving me something I haven’t seen 1000 times before.

I strongly recommend Arrival, and I already know that it’s one of my top 10 films of the year.


Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange is the latest film to come from the Marvel Comic Universe. It tells the origin story of one of the more colorful heroes.

Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the world’s most brilliant neurosurgeon, especially if you ask him. His ego is huge, but he has the talent to back it up. While on the way to a speaking engagement, he gets into an accident that effectively ruins his ability to operate, ruining his life.

Desperate, he is looking for a solution. When Western medical science can’t cure him, he turns elsewhere, and looks for a solution in Nepal. He finds it, but not the way he wants to. Strange is a man of science, and the solution he seeks is based in the supernatural, which he cannot accept. The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) attempts to convince him of the possibility, and she is able. He becomes a student of the mystic arts.

This opens up new worlds to him, ones that he could never conceive of. He dives in, using his eidetic memory to devour any book he can lay his hands on, and he is a quick study.

Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games. There are those who stand opposed to The Ancient One’s teachings and beliefs, and they seek to overturn the order which our world is based.

It is a well-told story, and you do not need to have any previous comic-book knowledge to understand and enjoy this film. It is visually stunning, and they are given enough time to properly develop the plot, as far as it can go.

This movie really pushes some perceptions of reality. The trailers made it seem like there’d be sequences much like the world-building scenes in Inception, but Doctor Strange goes far beyond what you saw there. This is one of the rare few times I would recommend you see the film in 3D, because they make strong and purposeful use of it, throughout the movie. It really made several scenes pop, but I don’t want to spoil anything further.

I’m recommending this one, if you hadn’t guessed. There is violence in the film, of the hand-to-hand variety. It’s not overly graphic, but it is there.

There is a mid-credits scene, as well as a post-credits one.


The Accountant (2016)

The Accountant is an action film that follows a forensic accountant (go figure), who is really good at his work.

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a guy who, as a child, was diagnosed as having High Function Autism. He’s very good at his job, so much so that criminal organizations hire him to find where they’re “losing money”, aka finding who’s channeling funds to themselves. He keeps to himself, but his activities have caught the eye of Ray King (J.K. Simmons), who is a director for the U.S. Treasury Department.  he brings on Marybeth (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to assist him.

Wolff has many identities, and is extremely difficult to track down. He works with an intermediary, who sends him to a tech company that’s discovered a minor financial error. The CEO, Lamar Black (John Lithgow) meets him, and gets the ball rolling.  Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) is the accountant who found the error, and she tries to explain her thinking to Christian. It’s an awkward meeting, and the two of them get along, as well as could be expected.

It’s a story of intrigue, ripped from the pages of Thrilling Accountancy Adventures Monthly. Seriously, though, they made an effort to try to remain respectful of a person with autism, and to give a sense of proper financial management, but not having experienced either, I can’t decide how faithful either effort was. All I can comment on is that it made sense. The movie didn’t sensationalize autism, which I had expected it would.

We get some glimpses into Christian’s childhood, PLUS, a decently written B-story involving the Treasury Department. Given the subject matter, I’m surprised that someone in Hollywood green-lighted this movie.

It was an acceptable movie, and most everything tied together. I can appreciate the effort that went into making it, but that’s about it. I’ll say that it’s worth a watch, when it is available in your favorite Streaming Service, but don’t bother seeing it in the theater. I say that because I had completely forgotten it two days after I’d seen it, and had to think for a moment to describe the movie.

There is some violent content, so the most squeamish amongst you might want to pass.