“Zootopia”

The trailer for “Zootopia” made it look as if the only standout moment was that now-famous sloth scene. The trailer editors should be fired because there’s way more to “Zootopia” than satirical DMV commentary.

It’s a world run by animals and our protagonist is the first rabbit cop, Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin). Tired of being assigned to parking duty, she steps up and investigates a missing otter case with the help of a con artist fox named Nick (a terrific Jason Bateman). And like in all cop mysteries, the case is bigger than they expected.

“Zootopia” is the biggest surprise so far this year because going in, I didn’t expect this to be Disney version of Film Noir. I didn’t expect a five-minute-long “Breaking Bad” parody. I especially didn’t expect meta and fast-paced jokes reminiscent of “The Simpsons'” golden age (makes sense since co-director Rich Moore directed some of the best episodes).

We’re treated to wonderful voicework from Bateman, Goodwin, and Idris Elba as the stern police chief cape buffalo, who delivers some of the film’s best lines (keep your ears open for the monologue about real life). The script is also well-rounded in world building, as we see how an animal-run society functions.

Predators are ten percent of the population and have the most authoritative positions while smaller animals (like rabbits) are looked at as underdogs. Foxes are treated cruelly due to their savage reputation. This makes Nick and Judy a terrific buddy cop pair. They’re the outcasts out to prove to Zootopia that the outcast animals can succeed.

There’s social commentary present that is by no means preachy or heavy-handed. Between a scene where Judy addresses being called cute as inappropriate and scenes involving Judy’s discouraging parents, it’s a good lesson for younger audience members.. That’s if they can make it that far without being bothered by the jump scares.

Moore and co-director Byron Howard are also behind other recent Disney greats such as “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Frozen”. Those two were also meta, grandiose, and surprisingly dark like “Zootopia”. “Zootopia” is more on par with “Wreck-It Ralph” in terms of style, but still as magical as the latter.

Grade: A

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“The Gift”

What makes Joel Edgerton’s (“Warrior” (2011)) directorial debut so admirable is his subtle development and revelation of horrific secrets. It’s also the film with this year’s most polarizing ending.

Edgerton writes, directs, and co-stars in “The Gift” as Gordo, A seemingly friendly loner who runs into an old acquaintance named Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall), and offers his friendship. He sends them a bottle of wine, some goldfish, and window cleaner, but Simon is immediately unnerved and tells Gordo to leave them alone. He regrets it when Gordo subtly makes his life a living hell while Robyn starts to question her husband as a person.

“The Gift” is a twisted tale of revenge and karma that defies all the stalker thriller’s cliches and audiences’ expectations. It remains distinct from other thrillers because the focus isn’t on the creeper’s agenda, but on seeing Simon and Robyn’s true colors. Gordo is merely an instigator in tearing apart Simon and Robyn’s marriage. The more harm Gordo does, the more we learn how morally corrupt Simon is and how unhappy Robyn is.

Hall and Bateman carry “The Gift” and add some emotional punches to this movie. Hall is very believable as the fragile and troubled Robyn while Bateman disappears into his role as Simon, a corporate sociopath. Through shots of their facial expressions and their realistic delivery, I completely bought into their troubled relationship.

SPOILER ALERT (Seriously, this will ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it).

Edgerton is very restrained and unsettling as Gordo. While his vengeful actions are satisfying at first, I found his video involving Robyn was an insult to injury for Simon and plain disgusting; especially if you believe Gordo did what he implied (though, I personally don’t)!

Putting the uncharacteristically ending aside, “The Gift” is an otherwise brilliant mumblecore thriller featuring Bateman and Hall’s best work. They’re the stars here and seeing the story primarily from Robyn’s perspective is a breath of fresh air.

Grade: N/A