9   +   5   =  

For all the criticism aimed at the present state of the film industry (Dustin Hoffman and Michael Douglas have been weighing in recently), you can’t deny there’s a certain degree of variety out there. Just look at this week where a talking bear grapples with Irish folktales and Brian Wilson for supremacy. Sometimes it’s not all about superheroes. Sometimes.

A foulmouthed soft toy and Mark Wahlberg do not make for the likeliest of pairings you might think. Writer, director and voice of Ted, Seth MacFarlane managed to prove otherwise when the first film came out in 2012. Now he returns with the imaginatively titled Ted 2, an attempt to bottle the lightening that led to box office and critical success last time out. The focus is now firmly on Ted as he battles to prove he has the same legal rights as a person. It will be offensive, brash and relentlessly insulting. Hopefully funny can also be added to that list.

You’d be forgiven for bemoaning the state of animation if you looked at box office hits alone (to be fair, pretty much the same thing applies to any genre at the moment at the big budget end). Sure, Pixar might be about to return to form, and Disney are rolling again, but it’s all a bit bland elsewhere. Look beyond the mega budgets and you can find gems like Song of the Sea though. Tomm Moore’s fantastic journey through ancient Irish legend and family heartbreak is a beautiful film in every way. The animation is stunning, matched only by the writing. Moore is proving to be one of the very best storytellers we have.

Cinema is having a great time mining pop music for new biopics to sling up on screen. Next comes Love & Mercy telling the turbulent life of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. Unfolding across two time periods, we see Paul Dano as Wilson in his pomp, and John Cusack as a paranoid, severely ill Wilson manipulated by Paul Giamatti’s doctor. It’s done decent business with critics and there will be plenty of good tunes at the very least.

Do you remember when Neil Blomkamp was the next sci-fi messiah? Riding high after District 9, he looked like the person to merge big ideas with big budgets. Two films later and the picture’s not so rosy. Elysium was a mostly tedious affair and then came Chappie. Out now on DVD, it’s surprisingly entertaining and ridiculously stupid. The thinking, feeling AI of the title soon gives way to crazy explosions, poorly planned criminal enterprises and a stupid switch to an entirely different topic by the end. In short, it’s a mess, but one that’s hard not to watch.

That wraps up another week. See you next time as a tiny Paul Rudd saves the world.

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