Category Archives: Animation

Review: Brave

Brave is another animated movie from Pixar. It’s a studio that has built its reputation making computer animated movies that have better characters, more heart, and more soul that most live action films, and Brave is no exception. With some of the most stunning visuals and life like animations to date, this family adventure has such a wonderous appeal I doubt anyone would fail to find something to enjoy.

Set in medieval Scotland, Brave follows the story of Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) who is wrestling with the responsibilities of her station and her wild and free willed spirit. Bored by her Royal duties and her well managed life she yearns to take flight on a horse, bow in hand, exploring the wild Scottish countryside free of any care in the world. When her parents (Billy Connolly, Emma Tomphson) attempt to marry her off, she makes a wreckless choice that plunges her world into turmoil forcing her to take responsibility for her actions and seek a way to set things right.

The story is not dissimilar to Finding Nemo but instead focussed on the Mother/Daughter relationship, and focussed on the younger of the two making the attempt to repair the broken relationship. It’s refreshing to see stories that address the empowerment of women without perpetuating the myth that one can have it all. The film remains very grounded and reminds the audience that in the age of the individual someone has to accept responibility for the well being of society.

I do have a few elements I take issue with, for starters the film lacks the patience of previous Pixar stories and seems to jump around at a hectic pace more akin to the Shrek movies. Rest assured the comedy is well constructed however, it never reverts to cheap one-liners. There is also a fundamental contradiction in the story. Merida is a free spirit yet she spends most of the film following a pre-destined path set out by a mythical being. It felt odd that she allows something external to her to decide her fate and I was waiting for the moment she decided not to follow the path. She never does, I guess perhaps the film was trying to say that real courage is following your path, not running away from it, but to me that didn’t quite work.

What did work however is the quality of the animation. It’s is utterly stunning, I am always amazed how with each Pixar movie they manage to vastly improve on the visuals and aimation. Scotland is a wonderful country when filmed in real life, and this film certainly does it justice. For this reason alone it’s worth seeing it on the big screen.

Usually the name Pixar is all you need to hear when deciding wether to see this film, but they have stumbled with their last few movies. Rest assured however that Brave is a return to form, it’s not quite the delight of their earlier films but it makes their competition look like amateur hour.

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Filed under Adventure, Animation, Family, Film Reviews

Review: Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots is effectively a Shrek spin-off. Puss was a wonderful supporting character in the second Shrek film, but is he strong enough to carry a whole movie? The cynic in me says this is just another way to cash in on the success of the Shrek franchise, and this will be by the numbers. Puss has potential, especially with names like Antonio Banderas, and Salma Hayek. Unfortunately that’s exactly what it is, a by the numbers, run of the mill, decidedly pointless piece of brain dead entertainment … Well some might argue it’s not all that entertaining.

Set many years before the events of Shrek, Puss is an Outlaw set on paying an old debt and clearing his name. He seeks to do so by finding the legendary magical beans, ascending the bean stalk they will grow, and stealing the golden eggs from the Giant who lives there. When he discovers that Jack and Jill have possession of the beans he seeks to steal them but is thwarted by Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). The plot is relatively straight forward but it’s told in a rather disjointed manner that doesn’t allow the characters to develop well alienating the audience.

Puss should dominate the movie, his charisma is fantastic, but his development is weak and he feels like a human version of an actor reading his lines off a script. That is a slight injustice to the artistry at working bringing him to life and to the voice work of Antonio Banderas, but the film doesn’t ever convince me that Puss is a character worth caring about, let alone interesting enough to watch.

This is perhaps the films biggest flaw, it’s just another run of the mill story and it’s parts don’t quite sum up to make it whole. Zack Galifianakis voices Humpty Dumpty, but he is as clichéd as they come and he never quite works as a character. Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris voice Jack and Jill, but they also lack anything to define them or justify their presence in the tale. There’s a number of giggle moments here, but never a laugh out loud moment, and certainly nothing that takes you to a place you weren’t expecting to.

Shrek amazed us with clever wit, excellent characters and voice work, and a modern take on the typical knight in shining armor fairy tale. Puss in Boots on the other hand might match Shreks technical wizardry, but lacks all the rest, which is to say it lacks the qualities of even a decent movie. It’s a sign that Dreamworks are yet to really understand what makes the magic produced by Pixar really work and resonate with audiences.I really wouldn’t even recommend this to families or children, it was a strong indicator that even the children in my screening were not having much fun at all that the film really doesn’t work.

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Filed under Animation, Comedy, Family, Film Reviews

Review: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

This movie is a combination of two amazing phenomenon’s of todays modern culture. A combination of the amazing surge in Japanese Anime and incredible computer generated images. It is undeniable that the sensation of Japanese cartoon culture is very present in the lives of many all around the world. Television shows like Pokemon, DragonBall Z, Neon-Genisis Evangellion are so popular that not even the thousand or so episodes of a single series of these cartoons is enough to forfill our desire for them. It is also undeniable that the wonderful world of computer imagery is the basis for most of the modern movie marvels!

The plot for “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” is nothing new belive it or not. The whole story is a clone of the Japanes Anime “Neon-Genesis Evangelion”. Once again the world is under seige by some strange mystical beings from another world. All the cities are destroyed and have the word “old” attatched to the front of them (“old New York”). Then we have the “New” cities protected by some fantastical defence mechanism that is never truly explained (“New New York”). The bond between the sience world and religious faith are once again melded into the story. The whole story is presented and the detail is left out. Why are they killing everyone? What exactly are the eight spirits? How did Aki become infected?. And of course the resolution to the story is in a combination of science and faith (searching for something intangable and never really explained) in opposition to the military aggresions of our human institution.

Now we move onto something that is all brand new… The special effects. This movie is absolutely amazing and certainly some scenes are so hard to swallow as being “fake” (they look so real) If I did not know any better I would argue they are real! Apparently one fifth of the budget was spent on making the heroines hair look real. Well what do you know it is one of the more brilliant features of this already amazing feet in technology. Skip this next part of the paragraph as it contains a few more indirect spoilers. The opening sequence of about 20 minutes was the highlight for me with everything from the eyes, to goosebumps, cars and skeletons, fireworks and rubble, human movement and action were absolutely 100% top rate animation and so real I forgot I was in essence watching a cartoon!

The movie does have it faults, with the apparent lack of story-line detail that is always ever-present in Japanese Anime and the sometimes jerky body movements and unrealistic mouth movement I sometimes writhed in my seat wishing it was done a little better. Having said that, if you miss this movie I can do nothing but say “Your missing out on an amazing experience”. I do beleive in the next ten years or so we will have a whole line of fully digital movies, getting better and better as they come along. So if this was extraordinary, amazing, detailed animation… Then I wait in anticipation for what will come next.

You may not like the movie, and I may not have given it too many stars, but the imagery will blow you away.

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Filed under Action, Adventure, Animation, Film Reviews