Posts Tagged ‘Emma Thompson’

Partially successful; Pixar’s ‘Brave’ new departure

July 29, 2012
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‘Arrow ‘arrow – what’s goin’ on ‘ere?

An Active 3-D review: Brave

Rating: ***½ (out of 5)

This Disney/Pixar adventure is such a departure from what we’ve been seeing from Pixar, that it knocked me completely off-guard. For starters, gone are the smooth, clean, plastic shapes, and clearly delineated edges, of characters such as those in Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Here, it’s gritty and rough – and the setting is grand, sweeping and mountainous. We even have a female director running the show, so this is fresh turf on so many levels.

The story’s set in Scotland during those far-off agrarian times when each of the various clans held sway over its region. Our heroine, the young Princess Merida, whose bountiful, tousled mop of red hair is – I dare guess – a motif for her fiery, independent spirit, lives with her parents (King Fergus and Queen Elinor) and her little triplet brothers. Merida’s voiced – quite appropriately – by Glasgow-born Kelly Macdonald.

Our olden-day-yet-new-age princess discovers early in the tale that she’s about to be married off. It’s tradition, so there’s little room for discussion. Merida’s a self-possessed lass – and, incidentally, a dab hand with a bow and arrow – and she’s not about to be farmed out to the first kilted hopeful who comes along. Therein lies our drama.

Although the Scottish accents have obviously been reigned in, they’re still a tad tough to follow at times, and I’ve always thought that I had quite an ear for Britain’s range of linguistic quirks. (Which led me to wonder how our American cousins have coped…)

I found Brave to be a relentlessly loud film – although that may well be because we previewed the movie at Montecasino’s Il Grande cinema – where the lads were eager to show off their new Dolby Digital 7.1 sound system.

It should be noted that the Disney tag doesn’t automatically mean that the film’s appropriate for the littlies. It has elements that I found to be startlingly dramatic, such as a great big grizzly bear that crops up in the film much as the crocodile had done in the Disney classic, Peter Pan. It could be argued that my formative years established unreasonable expectations within me, but, if I see a bear in a Disney movie, I expect it to be cuddlesome. Yet, by my oath, there’s nothing huggable about this bear (even if one’s embrace could indeed encompass its furry girth). Again, this is quite possibly the ‘fault’ of the wonderful Il Grande cinema, which now boasts an even larger, post-revamp screen. So big screen, big sound, big bear; it definitely doesn’t add up to entertainment for the wee ones, who are bound to be terrified.

For the adults, there’s enough to relish, including the top-notch voice cast, from Billy Connolly (voicing Merida’s mountainous but loveable dad) and Emma Thompson (as the mom, Elinor), to Robbie Coltrane to John Ratzenberger (whose talented tones appear to have become a staple in Pixar productions). Having said that, the film’s feminism is a touch on the strident side, and the disarming charm of the bulk of Pixar’s earlier features is largely absent. I suppose that we can’t always expect Pixar to tick all of the boxes. I believe that this beloved animation studio let the side down with the Cars movies (yes; both of them), and this film, too. It’s undoubtedly entertaining, but it doesn’t punch through as one of the studio’s greats.

In fact, the highlight, for me, was the delightful, European-style Pixar cartoon, La Luna that precedes the feature.

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Close Encounters of the Third Dimension: Men in Black 3

May 25, 2012

An Active3D Review

Rating: *** (out of 5)

More silliness revolving around those agents who deal with underground alien activity on planet Earth… This time around, we have Agent J (Will Smith) going back in time to prevent terrible things from happening to his partner (who wasn’t his partner back then), Agent K (played, in the present, by Tommy Lee Jones as usual; and, in his younger days, by Josh Brolin, who does a splendid imitation of Jone’s languid speech).

Movies dealing with time travel invariably invite hiccups in logic but at least, by travelling back to 1969, we’re afforded a meeting with Andy Warhol (perfectly captured by Bill Hader), plus an exciting Apollo 11 storyline, which has our heroes brawling with the villain on the gantries attached to the spacecraft. (This, in turn, had my fingernails embedded in the theatre seating’s armrests!) And, did you know, by the way, that Andy Warhol was also an MIB operative? 😉

Emma Thompson does an amusing turn as Agent O, and The Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement takes the role of the practically-indestructible villain, Boris “the Animal”, whose efficacy probably owes more to special effects than actual performance.

At 1¾hours, it’s a tad long for a slender, whimsical fantasy such as this is, but it does, to its credit, introduce a dramatic element which had been absent in previous Men in Black movies, which gives it an emotional edge.

The 3-D is superb, and scenes which involve height – such as one which has Will Smith standing on one of the Chrysler Building’s famous gargoyles – will bring out the vertigo in most moviegoers! Going by the credits, the film was shot in 2-D and post-converted into 3-D. Whether portions were shot in native 3-D is hard to tell, but, fortunately, the state of the art of post-stereoptification has advanced to the point where the results are often superior to movies originated in 3-D (as witness, Titanic 3-D and this film). Hopefully the truly-awful, eye-straining 3-D conversions that we’ve seen in movies such as The Last Airbender are a thing of the past (as if the film itself wasn’t bad enough!).