Thursday, June 28, 2012


Brave, Pixar's first female-focused film, feels sadly slight.  It's a nice, if simple, story of mother-daughter bonding filled with just enough danger and action and humor to keep its younger audiences engaged.  It features a few touching moments and, as always, Pixar really knows how to pull at heartstrings.  The stakes are high for the characters involved, but as a whole the film feels small and underdeveloped.  Compared to the father-son story of Finding Nemo, Brave just feels a bit empty.

That said, I'm glad I saw it, and I'm glad I saw it alongside my mother. 

The animation is simply gorgeous.  Every strand of protagonist Merida's hair moves on its own, creating a wild and effective look for the spirited girl.  The wisps who lead her to her fate dance about and the bears cut impressively scary figures.  Perhaps the prettiest scene in the whole film comes when Merida shoots at the archery contest.  The exquisite details in the arrow, the bow, even Merida's fingertips were a marvel to watch.

In fact, Merida herself is a winning protagonist--entirely recognizable as a clever, well-meaning but frustrated teenager in the middle of a spat with her mother.  The bond between the two characters is fantastic, giving the term "mother bear" a new meaning.  Merida's relationship with her father is a nice one as well, given the way they joke around with each other and the way he hesitates to give her boundaries or rules.  Naturally Mum comes off looking as the bad guy to Merida, though the audience knows she means well.  Merida's relationship with her little brothers is defined in a fun way as well, though they never speak a word through the whole movie.

It's really too bad the film doesn't live up to its Pixar predecessors.  Merida et al deserve more.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Going into the film Prometheus, I remembered a few things about the titular titan.  One, he gave fire to man at great cost to himself, getting himself chained to a rock and sentenced to an eagle-eaten liver a day.  I knew he had something to do with Pandora's story, though I couldn't remember exactly what it was.  I missed, of course, the biggest and most relevant part of his myth: he created man out of clay.  That was a pretty major one to miss, given the premise of the film.

Man's search for his creator is a common theme throughout history, though it's rarely as overt in modern stories as it is in Prometheus.  My favorite moment in the entire film came between a drunk, disappointed scientist and an android:

"We made you because we could."

"Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your Creator?"

The problem, for me, was that the rest of the film did not keep up with the standard set in that small exchange.  There were some interesting questions posed and some frightening moments and imagery (more on that later) but overall I felt rather disappointed by the film.

I am by no means an expert on the Alien movies.  I've seen the first and a good part of the second (though I don't think I've ever seen the whole thing), but if I've seen even a frame of Alien III or Alien: Resurrection (or Alien vs. Predator, for that matter) none of it has stuck with me.  As such, I can't really speak to this film as a prequel of sorts to those movies.

What I can do, however, is lament that every "twist" was telegraphed well in advance; there were no true surprises in store.  I know that a good storyteller needs to leave clues so an ending doesn't smack the audience as random or unearned, but those clues could do to be more subtle than the ones in Prometheus.

The film also fell into a trap that has always bothered me.  That is, when a character is revealed to have more sinister motives than previously expected and suddenly the way he acts around others is changed.  Prometheus is far more subtle than, say, the villain's sudden German accent after he's outed as a Nazi in The Rocketeer, but the shift was certainly present and it just didn't sit well with me.

Now, on to the scary moments and imagery I mentioned earlier.  The first Alien used a lot of rape and birth imagery to horrify its audiences, even if those audiences weren't quite aware of it as it was happening.  Prometheus follows that trend in no uncertain terms; in fact, one of the most unsettling (and effective) sequences in the entire film dealt with the latter in a fairly literal way.  It builds into the theme of the film quite well, really.  In Greek mythology, the new generation of deities always defeated and surpassed their parents.

As I write this, I think I'm talking myself into liking it more than I had originally done.  My initial criticisms still stand but I do have to give the film credit at least for the ideas it presents, even if it doesn't support them as well as I'd like.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I don't know the last time I heard so many characters monologuing in such a short period of time.  I understand that exposition and backstory aren't the easiest thing to bring across on screen, but it seems like nearly every character got a chance to tell the important and relevant parts of their life to at least one other character with very little prompting and no hesitation.  "Show, don't tell" had very little place in this film.

The movie was longer than it needed to be, certainly, and rather on the predictable side.  Of course one of the characters was going to die--even the suddenly-all-knowing narration called it inevitable.  Of course that couple was going to get together.  Of course they all (or most) were going to decide to stay in the still open and triumphant hotel. 

I found the acting mostly charming and the characters mostly likeable, save for one completely thankless role.  The scenery was pretty, the imagery was obvious, the writing was somewhat lifeless.  Really, it's thanks to the actors that the film had what likeable moments it did have.  It meandered nearly as much as this blog post.

I can see this film appealing to a certain audience; there are not many films made directly for the retirement set and that's too bad, really.  What else is too bad is that this movie brought together such a fantastic cast and a cute name and premise and wound up being only mediocre.