Inside Out review

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It’s been two years of absence and InsideOut is Pixar’s most triumphant return since Toy Story 3.

There’s a reason why I respect Pixar as a movie company. All their films are incredibly mature while mantaining that innocent and cheerful spirit of an animated film. Also, every new Pixar movie is quite unique and different from the rest.

Inside Out aroused a lot of expectancy from me because Pixar is already good at portraying deep topics, so, when I heard that they were making a movie about how the emotions work inside the head, I knew something big was coming.

But most importantly is that we are talking about the emotions inside 11 year old Riley, a young girl who’s life has been mainly guided by Joy, hence, most of her memories are happy ones. Riley’s life seems very colorful in every aspect as Joy, Fear, Disgust and Anger all co-work in a very efficient way. The only one that doesn’t seem to fit very well is Sadness, as nobody really knows what she is there for.

However, things start giving a radical turn when Riley has to move to another city because of her dad’s job. This means goodbye to everything she once knew and now she has to  face the changes of a new school, a new sports team, new friends… and the 5 emotions are having a very hard time trying to find new ways for Riley to be happy again.

The most brilliant aspect about this movie for me is the fact that everything is a total represantation of real life. Everything Riley lives is actually what real kids sometimes have to face when they are growing up and Pixar takes advantage of this to explain how the emotions become out of control and try to restore balance to them.

And everything becomes even deeper and better when the movie starts showing the conflict most people have between Joy and Sadness in a very funny and heartwarming way. The way Pixar shows how all the emotions have a very important role in daily life is quite unique to experience.

Great merit for the film to feel authentic and immersive goes to the main characters who are the emotions. Everyone has his own personality portrayed in an excellent way while caring for restoring emotional balance. Joy is always energetic and cheerful and literally glows of happiness; Sadness is always remembering the possible sad outcomes; Fear is the one responsible for the second thoughts about decisions; Disgust is always judgmental; and Fear is the one who can’t tolerate injustices.

Another great aspect of the film is that everything is told in a very funny way. All the jokes have to do with the emotions and how the head of a little girl works. It’s enough to say that even the jokes make sense with the plot and are not just silly random jokes.

There are even short scenes where we visit Riley’s parents heads and see how their respective emotions work based on their personality, which results in very hilarious moments.

There are heartbreaking scenes, too. Another big topic in the movie is forgotten memories, and some of those memories end up being crucial for the film’s plot,  and when we see them vanish, it’s truly heartbreaking.

As a whole, Inside Out results in yet another masterpiece from Pixar. I really hadn’t enjoy another Pixar movie that much since those days of Toy Story 3. In fact, if you pay attention, there are some elements in Inside Out that will remind you of that movie, too.

Inside Out is a movie that has it all. It’s beautifully animated, the plot is a perfect combination between a deep story and a funny one, the jokes make sense with all the plot, it’s a new and great way to show kids and adults alike the importance of emotional balance…. I would say those 2 years of waiting for a new Pixar movie were worth it.

10 stars

Rating: 10

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Watch_Dogs review

After making a great change in the industry of games with its parkour assassin’s back in 2007, big Ubi wants to repeat its achievement with its first game for both previous and next gen consoles. In its new attempt to bring a fresh, new open-world game, Watch Dogs was born, a game where your phone and hacking skills are vital to fight for what you hold most dear. The premise was simple: to “go beyond the limits of today’s open world games”, according to director Jonathan Morin. Did they manage to achieve their goal? Well, let me tell you… The hacking mechanics is something very original and does make you feel you have the power to control everything. However, that alone does not make it feel entirely unique. There’s something uncomfortably familiar with other games Ubi has released and even some ideas taken from other types of games.

We follow the story of Aiden Pierce, one of the “modern world magicians”, as he likes to call himself due to his hacking skills, in the modern city of Chicago. On a common day in Pierce’s life, he tries to steal some bank accounts with his phone and his friend, Damien. Suddenly, they find another hacker around their area who steals information from them. Concerned about what he might do with that info, Aiden flees with his family (his sister, nephew and niece) but a gang shoots the car which results in a car crash that eventually ends up killing his niece, Lena. He is now willing to fight for his own justice and find the people responsible for the murder.

All this is thanks to the one thing he does best: hacking his way through. The whole game revolves around that idea. Ubi gives you Chicago ran by the operating system ctOS, a phone with practically endless battery (everyone’s dream, right?) and the possibility to access all of the people’s information with the press of a button. It might sound scary in real life, but Watch Dogs makes it feel genuine for completely different gaming mechanics. Everywhere you go in the city of Chicago you will find remote access to cameras, explosives, and every single person’s phone so you can steal money or just have a little fun reading some of his private habits. However, all of it makes sense and becomes your primary weapon when you have to infiltrate some of your enemies’ hideouts. That way you can see through the cameras what is at your surroundings that can be useful, or even detonate some explosives via remotely to annihilate or just distract guards, giving you time to sneak in without making much trouble.

It’s always a lot of fun and there are a lot of ways you can sneak your way in. Nonetheless, if your thing is shooting your way in or out, you can always choose to do that. There are plenty of weapons that can enhance that experience. Now, if you combine those two, everything becomes better. If a guard hears you, you can either find another cover and move around, or hack anything from your surroundings that will catch his attention. There will always be a lot of things. Once you have set up your plan, it’s very much your call whether if you want to kill them or just ignore them. In addition, you will be asked to solve a puzzle once you have finally reached the file you are looking for (because it’s everything about computers) which never gets old. The whole hacking system is always entertaining.

That might be what the game does best but, sadly, it’s not enough to cover the whole thing. Everything else doesn’t exactly deliver a memorable experience. To begin with, the story lacks emotion, suspense, drama, etc. Also, Aiden is by no means a strong character; his personality is too cold. Sometimes it is justified and it is a good thing for the story, but sometimes it just makes him be obsolete. His voice acting doesn’t help, either. The real charm comes from her sister and some of his sidekicks, but they are never around so not many things motivate one to empathize with Aiden.

Making you feel like a real hacker was very pleasant, but the whole world makes you feel, on the other hand, that you have done these things before. There are some side missions that are actually quite original, like trying to find QR codes throughout the city, align them, and find some secret info, but everything else has its roots from Assassin’s Creed, yet, the painful part is how noticeable they are. The map will show you places of interests and collectibles after you have visited a ctOS tower (which acts as your viewpoint). Whenever you approach an enemy area, a message is displayed on the screen as “Warning: you are entering a restricted area”. Finally, right after doing your heroic stuff, it’s very probable that you will end your mission with a car chase, just like most AC games (except for the car).

The car chases are in part entertaining, actually, because even at driving you get access to use the streets as booby traps for whoever is after you. It comes in handy because it is very difficult to disappear from their sight without using the environment, as they are always too close from you.  Albeit, it feels weird that you can’t shoot from the car. I understand it must be already hard enough for Aiden to drive with one hand and have his phone on the other, but when your enemies are shooting at you, and there are no traps around the streets, the situation becomes harder. I found myself crashing at them a lot of times until I had finally killed them. It is practical but, still, something felt empty.

There were also some minor technical issues here and there. They might not be that vital for the game to be tedious but sometimes it becomes annoying. I had many problems with the illumination, as, whenever  I was trying to get out of a building, the game had trouble darkening the effect of the lights, which was a little bit of concern due to the fact that there were enemies outside waiting for me and I couldn’t see anything.

Everybody had a lot of expectations for Watch Dogs, including me. It delivers many good things, like the gameplay system and all the hacking mechanics that give you the power to control the whole city. But, unfortunately, the rest of the elements which the game is composed of don’t really live up to those expectations. The story is nor complex nor memorable and the protagonist doesn’t help much, either, and the world doesn’t have the sensation of being original. If you are more into gameplay, it should be a fun game for you. However, if your thing is the story of a game, you should probably look somewhere else. If you are neutral, you might have fun, but it surely won’t last the whole time.

Rating: 6.8 – Fair

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SpongeBob: Sponge Out Of Water review

It’s been 15 years since the first time Sponge Bob came to life via Nickelodeon and it remains today as one of the favorite cartoons to watch for kids. Since some are very popular, it’s not uncommon that cartoons have their own movie at some point of their lifespan and Sponge Bob has already had its own chance some years ago with Sponge Bob Square Pants: The Movie on 2004, however, Nickelodeon has changed the roles this time a bit to present us a mix of 2D and 3D action that feels at the same time pleasantly familiar with the series yet fresh enough to be a movie while avoiding the mistake many cartoon-based films have of making us think it’s just another episode. Even with all those years of presence, Sponge Out Of Water confirms us that everyone’s favorite resident of a pineapple under the sea has still a long life ahead.

The story of the movie revolves around the same concept as the series but with slightly turn of events. The charming pirate Burge-Beard (Antonio Banderas) has found a mysterious book in a lonely island that will help him leave Bikini Bottom to its doom and steal that which is most sacred in the whole sea: the Krabby Patty secret formula. Meanwhile, everyone enjoys a relaxing day at Bikini Bottom while eating a succulent Krabby Patty that Sponge Bob (Tom Kenny) cooks so well. Plankton (Mr. Lawrence), the series’ main villain, has developed a new plan that makes him able to finally steal the burgers secret formula, only to see it disappear in front of his one eye. Bob is the only one that witnessed Plankton’s lack of guilt and, thanks to that big heart of his, is willing to defend his innocence from Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), turning both of them into accomplices of the crime forcing them to develop a teamwork to recover the lost formula in a journey that will take them out of the water.

The whole story is rather simple because, after all, it is a cartoon. However, the charming experience of the complete film comes in many different forms. First of all, the new concept of this flick is Sponge Bob’ entrance to the CGI. The way this was done was surprisingly nice and fun to watch, because the movie does a great job by starting with the classic 2D art style and once they are out in our world, they look both real and colorful. Perhaps if everything had been done in CGI, things would have looked very strange to everybody, but since it was not, it brings a new vision of the series while reminding us that it still the same cartoon. The transition between the art styles throughout the movie is quite something entertaining.

Secondly, as someone who watched Sponge Bob in his childhood, I can say the people responsible for the series were saving their funniest jokes to this very moment. From start to finish, Sponge Out Of Water delivers quite a bunch of jokes that are far from being tiring and reminds even the adult audiences that grew up with Sponge Bob what it was all about. It is a child’s movie, yes, but the jokes will not be found as ridiculous or something only a child would laugh at. The whole family will definitely have a funny moment with the whole characters. Even the score is perfect for every moment to be funny.

Loyal fans, newcomers and the whole family will find this movie delightful. The plot is simple, and there is no real moral message or something like that, but what the film tried to do was done right: to entertain with rather funny jokes and make you grow fond of the characters. Not all of them have the participation that I would have expected them to have, especially when the CGI comes to life, but, in the end, the overall experience is quite satisfying. With this new Nickelodeon feature film, far from being obsolete, the series will definitely catch a lot of attention from kids and new fans alike.

Rating: 8 – Definitely worth it

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Batman Arkham Asylum review

Superheroes have a long and appealing history in everything surrounding comics and even movies but their role in the gaming industry has had a lot to be desired… until now. There are very few exceptions that have managed to get some praise and Batman: Arkham Asylum is not only one of those exceptions, but probably the best superhero creation ever in the history of video games. It’s so good to see that the same love that has been put in the new Batman films is also present in the consoles. There are already thousands of Batman fans out there and every single one of them, and whoever isn’t one already, will undoubtedly feel very pleased knowing that Rocksteady studios has created a superhero game loyal to the Batman legacy while remaining self-reliant of its movies counterparts with a gameplay so intuitive, fun, and innovative that you will finally feel… Batman.

It’s so rare to find these days a superhero game that isn’t just a copy of the movie that has just been released. However, some of the charm that makes Arkham Asylum different from the rest is the fact that it doesn’t rely on what has happened in any of the movies. It is a story made exclusively for the game written by Paul Dini, a very familiar face of several DC animated series, and the result is probably what you might not expect after seeing how the Batman cartoons and movies have been carried out. It is definitely not something made to be cute as the whole atmosphere that comes from the environment, the characters and the story itself is a very dark one. Now the villains take their role of seriously bad guys to the limits by the use of a strong language and explicitly putting forth their wish to kill Batman for real. But, actually, this is not a bad thing; it totally helps the experience to feel even more real since it is based on an asylum.

Arkham Asylum starts with almost no background story. Batman has just captured Joker and taken him to the asylum as he has done with every other bad guy he has come across with. However, Joker seems extremely passive about the situation. He is not concerned about being captured, as if it was all planned. And actually, it was! Joker now sets free inside the building to complete his distraction and carry out his plan of destroying Gotham City while Batman is trapped in the Asylum as well. From this point on, after a just couple of minutes, you are in control of Batman’s movements to find Joker and the rest of his allies that will do anything (and they mean it) to stop you AND kill you.

As you can see, the whole plot might look a bit simple and it might also be true but the most important factor that makes it worth it is how its narrative is presented. Part of this accomplishment comes from the terrific voice acting of other familiar faces of Batman with Kevin Conroy as the Dark Knight, Mark Hamill as The Joker and Arleen Sorkin as Harley Queen. It’s really nice to see that the same people are being asked again to represent their characters because it makes the game feel connected to the whole Batman universe that is already known in the animated series. But these guys are not the only ones that know how to talk in an attractive way; essentially all of the remaining characters, including villains and even support characters, helps everything taste exquisite.

Right after you are free to start your journey across the asylum the main attraction in the game is instantly shown. This game is extremely focused on every single ability Batman has as an actual superhero. The first thing you will notice is the combat mechanics. Batman is well known for being quite a fighter face to face and this is where you can totally take advantage of it yourself. It’s a simple system, very few buttons are required to deliver fascinating combos and that makes it real easy to learn. Nonetheless, the real challenge comes in the form of many enemies at a time. You will still use the same mechanic of directing punches to a foe and use your reflexes to block the guy next to you that wants to punch you too. And just in case you get bored of that just wait until the enemies with guns arrive because that’s the moment when you will truly test your skills because Batman takes real damage from them.

Thankfully, Batman is not just all about martial arts. He is very well equipped with weapons that you can strategically use to get rid of enemies in a way they would never expect it, such as the Batarangs. But the Arkham Asylum is not only meant to fight fist to fist, as you will utterly feel in love with being a silent assassin clearing your way out from the shadows. All the gadgets he brings with himself let him sneak around using the Batclaw to attack from above and an explosive gel to reveal hidden paths and to harm nearby enemies as they pass by. To make things even more interesting, as you progress in the game you will earn enough experience to purchase more ninja skills and enhance your whole arsenal as well as your detective vision.

The detective vision is the last element that fulfills the totally-being-the-Dark-Night experience. Bruce Wayne’s “mental perfection” has always allowed him to be the best detective ever and you can see that through his eyes now. By using the detective mode, the whole place changes. Walls likely to be destroyed are light out, just as the characters that are foes in red and how many with guns are there and hidden secrets that you will definitely spend a lot of time on. The Riddler is the one that wants to test your detective skills and intelligence because he leaves secrets and collectibles throughout the whole island. With the use of riddles that pop up in the screen every time you visit a new room (and literally, every room) there are plenty of things to do on the asylum to distract with.

One last final touch worth mentioning is the fact that the studio has made this game accessible for newcomers of Batman’s story. Even with very little real plot, some of the collectibles that find around the island (and some thanks to The Riddler riddles) are some information about recognized characters both heroes and villains of the franchise with their story, their first appearance info and what they are doing today. You will also come across some recordings that reveal some additional background stories for some of the characters like Harley Quinn’s twisted story interviewing patients when she was one of the psychiatrists.

It’s evident the amount of support that one of the most acknowledged superheroes of the time has also been shown enough love to shine in the video game industry. Many already recognize it as the best superhero video game of all time and with utter justice. It’s good to be part of a story that is not only a copy of a movie. It is a fresh script made specifically for gamers to know what being Batman is all about. And it is done in a terrific way as all his skills that he is known for are implemented with extreme detail. It seems superheroes in video games still have a very promising chance to stay in the business.

Rating: 9 – Outstanding experience

Tomb Raider review

There will always be a special feeling whenever a new title of a long-running franchise comes out, especially if it is one that has conquered the hearts of gamers for many generations already. And the hype can’t be any greater when the franchise we are talking about is one that has one of the most iconic video game characters as the protagonist, Lara Croft. She is one of those characters that will never get too old to be loved. Lara has appeared in several installments as the brave and already-well-experienced-at-surviving heroine we all know but now Crystal Dynamics have come up with a brand new Lara that is different from the rest of her alter egos. In this game, we witness the new Lara developing survival skills from zero while facing more danger than ever in a reboot that feels fresh and more real than ever.

It is not the first time we have the chance to see a Croft learning to be a badass but the way this time it is one is quite unique. It all begins with Lara being so enthusiastic about finding the truth of the mysteries surrounding the lost kingdom of Yamatai off the coast of Japan. As she and her colleagues and friends reach their destination, a huge storm destroys their boat leaving them all stranded in the island. Unfortunately, Lara landed on a different location than the rest and is forced to get over her innocence and build up enough courage to venture into the island by herself if she ever wants to see her friends again and find a chance to escape.

From this point on, everything is focused on Lara’s journey to discover her brave side. Since the very first time we are able to have control of her, it’s inevitable not to feel compassion for our young adventurer. Her most exciting expedition yet has been ruined leaving her apparently helpless and without any real convincement that she will survive. What enhances the tension are the sudden dangers that she is forced to face so soon. But these are the moments in which Lara starts using her young, but gifted, instincts to survive. And that is everything that drives the story forward because as we see her growing up Lara passes that feeling on to the player.

And that is a remarkable achievement done by Camilla Ludington, who plays the role of new Lara throughout the game. Her acting is outstandingly convincing in every portion of the story. The transition from the injured and scared young girl to the now ferocious killer is something worth witnessing. Nonetheless, although the talent is quite evident, it is true that sometimes her constant screams end up being slightly frustrating. But, after, it is a Tomb Raider game. Constant dangers are to be expected. But while Lara is still learning to withstand them, it gets a little tiring at times. Yet, it’s nothing that truly affects the overall experience in the end.

Another aspect to highlight is that Tomb Raider is no stranger for gun fighting. Weapons in this 2013 edition play an important role and definitely have an impact on the gameplay experience. Since very early on the game, you will notice that silently sneaking around is one of Lara’s greatest talents and it is very probably that you end up fond of that mechanic like I did. And that’s because the bow and arrow can be used in a very efficient way that makes you feel like the real predator hunting its preys. However, there will be times when a little use of the machine gun or shotgun will be necessary. Sadly, this is one of the sections where I feel Tomb Raider lowers its quality. Gun fighting can be fun at times, but it doesn’t feel as fresh as other aspects due to the fact that it really doesn’t offer anything new (apart from some clichés).

The gameplay mechanics have its pros and cons. To begin with, controlling Lara throughout the whole game is rather satisfactory. She feels so light whether while jogging or climbing and how she automatically squats to take cover feel so natural as a whole. On the other hand, the difficulty level is rather controverting. To be entirely honest, I felt that difficulty level decreases significantly over time due to a number of reasons. The game teaches you right at the beginning how to purchase skills to improve your combat and survival instincts even more. At first it is cool to help Lara become a brave adventurer, but with the time everything becomes way easier as you keep purchasing the goods. That, and the fact that the ammo is found nearly everywhere doesn’t exactly make it a challenging quest from start to finish.

Last but not least, the world of Yamatai which the story takes place is very nicely done. The game is linear but there are several collectibles spread across every section of the map, including hidden tombs, that might make some players want to find everything because hidden details about some background story are featured in those items, while others might just ignore them and go on with the story. After all, they are not vital. Nonetheless, it sure helps the whole world not to feel empty or too narrow.

In every aspect, Tomb Raider is without doubt and extremely enjoyable experience. The experience of seeing Lara discovering her own wild spirit is something quite touching due to the great acting of Luddington. Sadly, the great involvement is not present in the whole game. It is to thank that Tomb Raider doesn’t rely on clichés for the story, leaving only the relevant elements to be told, but it regrettably does rely on them on some of the gameplay characteristics. Still, it is so pleasant to be part of a game in which a character full of history in the industry of games such as Lara receives as much love as in the previous installments of the franchise. It is a successful reboot, no doubt, and will leave many, including me, anxiously waiting for future sequels.

Rating: 8 – Definitely worth it

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Big Hero 6 review

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Versión en español: http://josephmovie.tumblr.com/

Nerds can be cool, too

One thing is clear: Marvel is the dictionary entry for “box office success”. Whether if you are a fan or unfamiliar with their works, in reality, every single movie of theirs can make anyone go to watch it. Back in 2009, the eyes of all the movies fans turned to Disney who acquired Marvel Studios later that year. “What would come up from that partnership?” was of course the most frequently asked question. Well, after 5 years of relationship, we finally have the first product that comes from the fusion of the two behemoths of the industry. Marvel’s field of expertise, superheroes, combines its forces with the pioneer of animation, Disney, to bring Big Hero 6, a CGI superhero origin tale based on the comic of the same name that brings those life lessons we are all used to see from Disney and Pixar: tragedy, loss, family first, and one’s quest to grow. And, frankly, the result is outstanding.

On a parallel distant future, San Francisco has merged with Tokyo to become San Fransokyo, where apparently, robots are now things of every day’s life. It is here where Big Hero 6 tells the tale of Hiro (Ryan Potter) and older brother Tadashi (Daniell Henney), two orphaned boys that are geniuses in electronics. The difference is that Hiro is very cocky to go to university and prefers earning money (illegally), in underground robot fights. Tadashi, as the father figure, concerned about his little brother, tricks him into thinking he will take him to his next fight, but instead, takes him to his university to meet his nerdy friends and learn about their science projects. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Tadashi shows Hiro his own life’s work, a robot, “designed to be adorable”, medical assistant, Baymax (Scott Adsit).

Fascinated about the new world he has discovered, Hiro is convinced he wants to study in that same institute. He presents a project which wins him the ticket to sign up for it and everything is joy for everybody. Suddenly, a tragedy occurs in the school, killing Tadashi and leaving Hiro alone. In his depression, he accidentally activates Baymax, who tries to treat his inner wounds by calling Tadashi’s best friends, who are now his friends, too. This is the moment when Hiro discovers the events of the school might not have been “accidentally”, so he and the group decide to build powerful costumes based on science to help them on their journey to find out who is behind all of this, including Baymax.

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Since many years ago, the animated sector has not exactly deliver “children’s movies”. Instead, they are movies that come with a deep plot but are, at the same time, easy for all the family to digest. The main focus of this animated film is a direct message: nerds can be cool, too. The word Nerd is frequently used in the movie without any of the common “cool guys” to bully them. It is something that is understood very early on the story, however, the other elements that comprise it make it a terrific plot. Some life lessons about how to overcome loss with the help of friends is perhaps not a new concept, but it surely has to be applied carefully for a family-friendly film. We all know something about the Disney protocol: there has to be drama. Nobody can forget what happens in The Lion King, Tarzan, Bambi, among others, and Big Hero 6 follows the Disney’s tradition by not making it feel cliché nor dark for children.

But I’m not saying the movie is only about drama! On the contrary, it is packed with so many funny moments sometimes you forget what they are trying to do. At the same time, the film is packed with so many emotional, heartbreaking moments, with most of them involving our big, stuffed balloon droid. He is a robot, yes, but the legacy of Tadashi that was programmed in his chip is crucial for Hiro to understand his true purpose. It might not be as groundbreaking as other giant Disney movies, but it does its job, although it has some Iron Man influences along the story that are quite obvious to notice.  Finally, Big Hero’s 6 animation is magnificent. The competence in CGI animation is surely a big one, with most movies from DreamWorks, BlueSky, Fox and Disney/Pixar resulting in such a sight for the eyes that the sense of awe is inevitable and this visual delight is no exception.

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Disney’s latest animation, with the influence of Marvel, results in a very nice, emotional and vastly funny experience. It is definitely one of the funniest CGI movies I’ve seen in a while. It is everything you would expect from the fusion of two of the experts in high-grossing films. The full experience of more than a century at making animated films and the superhero comics’ theme end up making a very good result. Perhaps some things might look a little recycled from previous films of both studios, but it’s nothing that truly affects the viewer’s experience. What really affects the spectator’s eye is the gorgeous visuals and the endearing plot that is unfolded by the great bond of Hiro and Tadashi and, later on, Hiro and his 5 big sidekicks. I keep falling in love with these movies that are not “children’s movies” anymore. These are family-friendly movies, which means, a strong message for the whole family to understand.

Rating: 8.5 – Definitely worth it

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3biFxZIJOQ