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Soul

Since the release of ‘Toy Story’ in 1995, Pixar Animation Studios have gone from strength to strength. As well as sequels to ‘Toy Story’, works like ‘Finding Nemo’, ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Coco’ have further cemented their place in modern film animation. Whilst the visuals are usually brilliantly realised, it’s been the characters that are more important. ‘Soul’, with its music and emotion crafting, is another enchanting Pixar tale.

Joe works as a music school teacher to unenthusiastic students. Middle aged and bored with his humdrum job, what he really wants to do is play jazz. After being hired to be in a jazz band, Joe’s good fortune turns awry when he is accidentally killed. Drifting to the afterlife, he meets a group of souls, among them Soul 22, who need to connect with others in order to create life. Desperate to return to the living Joe teams with Soul 22 in order to reclaim his life and re-connect with what makes him truly human.

‘Soul’ is one of the few Pixar movies not specifically aimed at children. Whilst previous works have had themes many adults would have understood, ‘Soul’ captures life’s fleeting nature and past regrets to which several may relate. Finding a purpose and indulging in your passions can drive us to achieve personal and professional goals. The happiness in enjoying what we love is never something to ignore, which ‘Soul’ effectively conveys.

By no means is ‘Soul’ heavy viewing. Despite tackling serious issues, they way they are presented is in the usual Pixar light-hearted style. As always the film’s look is amazing, really enveloping the viewer into the strange world in which Joe resides. The talented voice cast also inject pure emotion into their characters with the music a listening feast, making it easy to understand Joe’s passionate musical pursuit.

Pixar have once again created another good animated production in ‘Soul’. Their consistent pursuit of excellence mirrors that of ‘Soul’s main character. Their passion in making easily watchable movies is a credit to their creativity which shows no signs of slowing down.

Rating out of 10: 8

CURRENTLY STREAMING ON DISNEY+

High Flying Bird

For those uninterested in sport, watching a sports film may not be appealing. The art of a good sports-themed movie isn’t the activity itself but the people involved. The emotional and physical dramas deriving from issues surrounding it often makes compelling viewing. No stranger to making fascinating works, director Steven Soderbergh makes ‘High Flying Bird’ a solid watch. Shot entirely on an IPhone, the experimental photography aids in drawing out the frictions the characters face.

Ray Burke (Andre Holland) is a sports agent caught in the middle of a bitter standoff. Representing a group of black basketballers, the League has locked out its players due to a financial conflict. With his clients wanting to play the sport they love while being paid a fair wage, Ray hatches a plan. With only 72 hours in which to implement it, Ray attempts to out-gun the white wealthy corporate mandarins. Using his intricate knowledge of the mindsets of players and managers, Ray’s actions uncovers who truly owns the game.

‘High Flying Bird’ succeeds in making basketball compelling. That’s more remarkable given so little is actually seen. What’s left is a slowly unwinding story of one upmanship against vested interests and power. This is made more potent by Soderbergh’s themes of race relations and thirst for more dollars. These drive Ray to sail close to the wind in terms of dealing with businessmen who could instantly destroy careers.

Despite the unusual choice of photography, it gives ‘High Flying Bird’ a sense of immediacy. You feel truly you are in Ray’s corner as he fights for his clients and their passion for the game. This ‘fly on the wall’ view of the various machinations allow the story to delve into character’s actions and the reasoning behind them.

It may be too talky in places and occasionally drags, but ‘High Flying Bird’ is generally riveting. It’s a credit to Soderbergh in making it interesting viewing. The diverse range of topics he’s tackled have always made him a director of note with his ability to balance commercial and independent film-making ideals showing little sign of fading.

Rating out of 10: 7

CURRENTLY STREAMING ON NETFLIX.