Friday, June 22, 2012


Brave – 100Min – PG

Pixar does something new with their first feature focusing on a female lead character. Brave gives the Pixar studio another notch in its win column. They do not disappoint when it comes to the pains taking detailed world of medieval Scotland. From a technical standpoint this movie does an outstanding job of bringing to life these animated characters in a very fluid, lifelike smoothness. The 3D Aspects of the film do a good job of keeping the in your face shots to a minimum but deep in the forest and ruins add a depth that is exquisite. However the story is just ok. It does not pull out the same level of emotion as previous films did. Despite the average story it’s well worth a look and earns a green light.

Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a young princess and is forced into marriage by Elinor (Emma Thompson), her mother, the queen. There is a tradition that each family send their eldest son to complete for the right to marry Merida. Merida’s father, Fergus (Billy Connolly), brings together three families to compete for the right to marry his daughter. Merida defies her mother and as first born of her family she claims the right to complete for her own hand. Merida’s defiant act causes a rift in her family and the Kingdom. She confides in an elderly wise woman who turns out to be a witch. With the old woman’s help Merida changes her fate and her mother into a bear. Together they work together to try and undo the spell and repair the damage to the peace among the families.

There seems to be no end to the wonderful things technical feats this studio can do. I really enjoyed watching the realism of the hair and fur of these characters. They did a wonderful job of bring to life the lands scape and the people in this world. The directing team of Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell seem to all share the same focus on making these visuals for this film really special. What really socks me is that this team also wrote the story. How can a team of such talented people only bring forth an average story? Steve Purcell’s previous work was about animated cars that moved me more than this story about real live people did. All of them seemed to be more focused on showing us a fantastic setting then telling us a good story.

With the average story and all it does break new ground as it focuses on a female lead character who is strong and passionate and completely loveable. The story does focus on how important family is and that communication and understanding are the most important things in families. Heck it made me want to pull my bow and arrows out of storage and go down to the range and fire off a few rounds.

Spoiler warning!!!! anrheithwyr o dan y ddolen hon!!!!

Go to google translate to translate this phrase

I loved how the three brothers did not need any voices. They were very Harpo Marx-esque: completely expressive and completely silent. Nice touch and it would be hard to give them a voice that did not take away from the expressiveness. Even as bears they were well-played.

I loved how well they portrayed conversation between Merida and her mother. They were not speaking to each other and they edited it in such a way so it was seamless between them. It was a tad frustrating that all of this could have been avoided if they would have had that conversation for real. But it would not make for a good movie. Hummmm lets think about this, a Disney movie where the kids and the parents live and get along. Yawn.

I liked the connection of the legend of how the Kingdom was fractured and Merida’s same circumstances. It’s her work that mends the fracture on both story fronts. It was really well constructed but the story lacked a sense of sprit.

What do you think of Pixar’s new direction of strong female lead? Does she work as a lead, if not why?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed – 86min – R

This movie is one that most people will probably overlook. It’s a shame because it is such a wonderful film. I enjoy getting surprised by a film that has more to offer than you think. I really love the journey of a story that is well told. This movie takes you through an exploration of a journalist and his interns on a hunt for the person who has written this personal ad. “Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED”. The film gets a green light for several reasons the most important is that this film is not what you think it is.

Jeff, (Jake M. Johnson) a magazine journalist, is looking for the story surrounding an odd personal ad. He takes with him two interns Darius, (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni). They go to Oakview, California to find Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the author of the ad, to see if it was a joke or if this crackpot really thinks he can travel through time. They stake out the post office box and find him and try to insert themselves into his life to get more information. During the investigation Darius is used as a way in, and works to gain his trust. She starts to have feelings for him, and has to confront him on this crazy idea to try and bring him back to reality.

The director (Colin Trevorrow) and the writer (Derek Connolly) have worked together on one other project. As a relatively new director Trevorrow has huge potential. He does a wonderful job of taking this story and building likable characters. They build the tension in the story while still keeping it grounded in reality. At no times does this feel like a science fiction film. Even with the time traveler elements in the story the viewer really only sees this as a story about looking into a person’s life to see why they do the things they do. Connolly does an excellent job of keeping this story focused on how people interact and how they are brought together in life.

What I love about movies is how they can take us completely by surprise. I knew nothing about this movie when I went to see it. I happened to see a trailer for it and it made me interested in the film as far as I wanted to know more about the person who placed the ad. The creative team has made an outstanding picture out of average people. You feel the real nature of the people we see on screen and in that mindset we experience something completely original. 

Warning Spoilers!!!! You have to take “Time” to see these spoilers!!!!!!!!

I was completely gobsmacked when he went back in time. I was so not expecting that. I really was set up to be disappointed by reality. I was pretty heartbroken by the fact that Kenneth was going to have his dream taken away and was going to have to face the fact that he was just a crazy person. AND HE FREAKING DID IT!!! Great end to the movie. I was completely relieved that he was not crazy. It’s a testament to how well they created the characters that we felt so much for them.

I think that Jeff’s sub-plot of hooking up with his high school girlfriend was a distraction at first. I know that is a very real life feeling that people have but did it progress the story? There are themes of going back in time and changing the past: Kenneth wants to save his girlfriend’s life, Jeff wants to get that youthful feeling back. Past regret is a driving force for these characters that allows Arnau to live a moment in life he normally would not have. I can see the underlying message of "seize the day," but I think it gets lost.

Aubrey Plaza does a wonderful job of approaching the subtle depth of Darius. She is so intriguing as her character and completely enthralling in such a delicate way. She was great at relaying the problems with developing a relationship based on a lie. She showed us the gut-wrenching guilt that builds as your connection with the person you are lying to grows. Marvelous performance.

What event in your life do you want to go back and change, and would you?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman – 127min – PG-13

We seem to be in a Snow White phase. There are two movies out that focus on the raven haired maiden and her adventures. This version takes a more realistic approach to its filming and keeps a balance of fantasy and faith as its main message. One of the biggest concerns with this film was the performance of its star, Kristin Stewart. Her work in the Twilight series has been brought into question by lots of different people who either hate or love that franchise. It was great to see her in something that had a little more strength as a character. I give this movie a green light for its stunning cinematography and its great execution of mixing personal faith within a fantasy world.

Thanks to the Brothers Grimm, we are familiar with the German fairy tale about a faire maiden named Snow White (Kristin Stewart) who is far more beautiful than her evil step mother the queen (Charlize Theron). The queen sends a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) into the dark forest to kill snow white. Snow is befriended by eight Dwarves who are named Muir (Bob Hoskins), Beith (Ian McShane), Gorth (Ray Winstone), Coll (Toby Jones), Duir (Eddie Marsan), Quert (Johnny Harris), Nion (Nick Frost), and Gus (Brian Gleeson). This is where the movie takes a different turn. They join forces with group of locals who oppose the queen and use Snow White as a rallying point to start a revolution and usurp the queen.

This movie does a wonderful job of mixing the imagery of evil as dark and gruesome and horrific contrasted with imagery of good as beauty and wholesomeness and purity. The director (Rupert Sanders) is really new in the role as director and he shows huge potential as a storyteller with this debut film. What I like best is his ability to blend in so many subtle details into the story. For instance there were small things about the queen’s wardrobe and style that had something dead mixed into every scene she was in. His eye for the cinematic background was also exceptional. He has these very stark, dreary and muted villages that are under the queen's control and pockets of resistance to the queen’s power are painted with bright vibrant color and full of life.

On the strong female character front, this movie does a much better job of showing a strong role model for young women. Snow gives a stirring speech, saying follow me because I am the only one who can kill the queen. She reminded me of Joan of Arc front of the fight in armor, army at her back. Out of all the Snow White movies out this year this one is defiantly my favorite.

Spoiler Warning!! Take a bite out of these spoilers if you dare!!!!!!!

The prayer that Snow White said at the beginning of her escape was interesting. I did not think that they would go so far as to blend in the Lord’s Prayer with the fantasy setting of fairies and the spirit of nature. They did a great job of showing the spirituality of Snow White without giving us a sermon on how her faith kept her sane.

The love triangle between the huntsman, Snow White and the prince (Sam Claflin) was very apparent but they did not belabor the point that there were feelings amongst all three of these characters. This speaks volumes to the excellent story telling on Rupert Sanders part. He knows that his audience understands what’s going and gives us room to explore our own feelings about the relationships we see on the screen.

I know in movie terms there are some times in a battle where you have to show how bad things are and let the bad guy look like they are winning. There was much too long a pause in the final battle, to let the CGI shard monster have its way with the fodder that followed Snow into the queen’s tower. I would have loved to see Snow come in and the Queen starts something up and Snow runs her through before she has a chance to get the spell off or let the nasty creature loose. But that’s just me.

What Grimm story needs to be done next? What is your favorite?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Men in Black III

Men in Black III – 103min – PG-13

The Men in Black are back, and this “time” it’s personal. The team, for the most part, are back and are performing at the level we saw in the original MIB. It’s about time (no pun intended, that time). It has been way too long between films and I was beginning to think we were done with the series. I really liked the first one and was completely let down by the second one. I was afraid that the second one was such a stink burger that they decided to let it die and pretend the series never existed. I am happy to say that they have brought this series back, I am unhappy to say that it was really only as good as the first one. This is a yellow light film.

The moon has a prison for all of the aliens that the MIB uses for its most dangerious criminals. Among them is a one-armed Alien, Boris (Jemaine Clement). He breaks out and seeks revenge on the MIB agent that took his arm in his arrest, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Agent J (Will Smith) and K are doing their job when they realize that Boris has set a trap for them. Boris decides that the best way to get rid of K is to go back in time and alter it so that he saves his arm and take out K. J realizes that something is bothering his partner so he investigates who Boris is and what why he wants to harm K. During the investigation K gets ripped out of time and J is the only one who can remember him. The new head of MIB Agent O (Emma Thompson) tells him that whatever has happened K is in the middle of it. J rushes back in time to save his friend and runs into K as a young man (Josh Brolin) together they work to save the earth and K of the future.

The cast have some really great material to work with, the story is a solid formula based on the first one, a good mix of humor, effects and action. Brolin’s spot-on impression of a young K is worth the price of admission. But it seemed like they were trying to find their feet with these characters again. It almost seemed forced. There was nothing wrong with it but it did seem to come off as rediscovering the roles after 14 years.
Barry Sonnenfeld (director) made this seem to keep the same pace as the previous films. Etan Cohen (writer) took the original material as a base and took it in a new direction. This attempt was at best a reawakening of the series, now they need to use this momentum in the series in a bigger and brighter direction. I hope they don’t wait another 14 years to make another one.

Spoiler warning!!! I will flashy thingy you if you click on this link!!!!!

Time travel is a problem. For instance the guy who gives J the time travel devices say oh you must have been there that’s why you can remember, tell me all about it when you get back. If J goes back in time he is going to rewrite the future why would the guy know anything about what he did in the previous timeline? I know I am a geek and should really not look at stuff like that.

The technology they used was a bit too high tech for the past, I see where they did try and cover the fact that the technology should be high tech but really old. The motorcycles were way to advanced and should have been different.

The way they cover up the fact that Rip Torn is no longer in the series by having he die was perfect it gave Emma Thompson a chance to elegise in a different language. Very funny work, but mostly because of J’s reaction, And K’s eulogy was perfect.

Maybe my expectations are too high to expect that a third installment should have been better than the previous films. Do you expect movie sequels to be better than the previous film or are just meeting the expectations of the previous films ok?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - Posted on News Blaze

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen -  107 min - PG13

This is a movie that you can enjoy if you are in the mood for a film that highlights the differences in cultures and in people of the same culture. You can see my  review here