Brave looks like a Disney princess film set in Scotland. It seems predictable, but after Cars 2, Pixar needs a major change of pace. Here is what variety has to say:
Walt Disney began his feature career with a princess story. Now Pixar gives princesses a go after making a dozen other toons, and though the studio brings its usual level of perfectionism and heart to the assignment, “Brave” seems a wee bit conventional by comparison with, say, how radically “The Incredibles” reinvented the superhero genre — not that Pixar’s eager international following will object. Adding a female director to its creative boys’ club, the studio has fashioned a resonant tribute to mother-daughter relationships that packs a level of poignancy on par with such beloved male-bonding classics as “Finding Nemo.”
Though going all girly has made parent company Disney skittish in the past (most recently retitling its Rapunzel adventure “Tangled” to play to crossover interest), this new Celtic princess comes off as enough of a tomboy to ensure near-universal appeal. As its title suggests, “Brave” offers a tougher, more self-reliant heroine for an era in which princes aren’t so charming, set in a sumptuously detailed Scottish environment where her spirit blazes bright as her fiery red hair.
Voiced with verve by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald, young Merida takes after her father, King Fergus (comedian Billy Connolly), still nursing a grudge against the bear that ate his leg. A defiantly independent lass, Merida prefers archery and horseback riding to the dainty yet dull pursuits taught by her ladylike queen mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson), resulting in many a royal scolding.
The film breezes through most of Merida’s upbringing to find conflict on the eve of her betrothal, when Elinor somehow manages to surprise her daughter with the news that the clan believes in arranged marriage. As far as Merida is concerned, she doesn’t need a man to live happily ever after — a novel concept in the relatively narrow world of cartoon logic, and one that allows the movie to do without a lowly stable boy or other replacement love interest. And so Merida upstages her suitors before running away into the woods alone.
For a girl distrustful of tradition, Merida is quick to put her faith in the ancient forest spirits, following a series of glowing blue will-o’-the-wisps to the door of a witch’s cottage. Had Merida only watched more Disney movies as a girl, she never would have made her next mistake. Naive in the ways of magic, she asks for a spell that will change Elinor’s mind, receiving instead an enchanted cake that transforms her mother into a giant black bear — that most endangered of species in Fergus’ ursine-averse kingdom.
“Brave” may not be a romance, but it is most certainly a love story, using this enchanted device to explore the dynamic between Merida and her mother. Thompson brings deep reserves of empathy to the film’s less obvious but equally strong female role model, matched by a number of touching, nonverbally protective actions after she takes on bear form. The animation is at its best when allowing Elinor’s character to shine through her awkward new shape.
Merida has two days to undo her mistake before the change becomes permanent, but by this point, the film has become just another fairy tale, and only the youngest of children will be surprised by what follows. Familiar though its elements may be, “Brave” feels quite different from earlier Pixar films, demonstrating a refreshing versatility in an oeuvre that was starting to look a bit staid, especially as sequels overtook the slate.
Behind the scenes, Brenda Chapman began the project and retains a directing credit, though Mark Andrews reportedly stepped in around October 2010. However the duties may have been split, the resulting film appears darker and more intricate than anything the studio has attempted before, from the richly textured Highlands cliffs to the individually rendered curls of Merida’s burning-bush hair.
Musically, gone are Randy Newman’s folksy tone and Michael Giacchino’s infectious pep, making room for a different signature from Scottish composer Patrick Doyle. When Merida needs some alone time, the soundtrack offers lovely ballads by Gaelic folk singer Julie Fowlis, but in nearly all other moments, Doyle’s dynamic bagpipe and strings arrangements swarm into action.
That energy reinforces the film’s restless, almost agitated spirit, further mirrored by virtual 3D cameras that swoop and race through the meticulously conceived environments. While elaborate attention was clearly paid in designing this tale’s belligerent gents (with amusing voicework by the likes of Connolly, Robbie Coltrane and Craig Ferguson), Merida and Elinor appear to be its two least detailed characters. Yet Merida’s wild red mane more than compensates for any personality absent from her expressions.
The toon “Brave” most resembles is DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon,” offering the flipside of that pic’s sensitive-boy predicament in its adventure-seeking heroine. An interesting study could be made in contrasting the two studios’ approaches, no doubt, and yet celebrating their respective accomplishments drives home how far both have come since the year when “A Bug’s Life” and “Antz” bowed opposite one another.
As an added treat, “Brave” is preceded by Enrico Casarosa’s Oscar-nominated short, “La luna,” adding seven minutes to the running time of Pixar’s shortest feature since “Monsters, Inc.”
Camera (Deluxe color, widescreen, 3D), Robert Anderson; editor, Micholas C. Smith; music, Patrick Doyle; music supervisor, Tom MacDougall; production designer, Steve Pilcher; art directors, Matt Nolte (characters), Noah Klocek (sets), Tia Wallace Kratter (shading); story supervisor, Brian Larsen; supervising technical directors, Bill Wise, Steve May; supervising animators, Alan Barillaro, Steven Clay Hunter; sound designer (Dolby 7.1 Surround/Datasat), Gary Rydstrom; supervising sound editor, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle; re-recording mixers, Rydstrom, Tom Johnson; effects supervisor, David MacCarthy; stereoscopic supervisor, Bob Whitehill; associate producer, Mary Alice Drumm; casting, Kevin Reher, Natalie Lyon. Reviewed at Disney Studios, Burbank, June 9, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 100 MIN.
Seeking a Friend at the end of the world is an interesting concept that just might work. Steve Carell is very effective when he does film with dramatic elements (Dan in Real Life, Crazy, Stupid Love, Little Miss Sunshine) and does not try too hard to be funny. Him and Knightley are an interesting coupling. Carell is like Bogart in that he works with almost any romantic pairing because he is both ugly and good looking.
From the great Russian director of Night and Day Watch comes an uninteresting concept. Abraham Lincoln:
Vampire Hunter. I hope this is the last of these type of historic horror films to be adapted from all those awful novels.
this site dead lately
I know. What’s the deal?
I actually wrote quite a few responses and deleted them. Suffice to say, I rage over Timur Bekmambetov far beyond his actual significance to the world.
I would rather start effusing about Brave but the thing is, it actually doesn’t seem all that attractive of a movie for me and I have to fully admit that my only reason for seeing it is because I’m a Pixar fanboy.
Yeah, I have to admit that if I see Brave, it will only be because it’s Pixar and not because it looks all that interesting.
This is not a terribly exciting weekend for wide releases. Abe Lincoln might be cheesy fun to see with a large crowd but that Steve Carrell movie looks unwatchable. But that might have something to do with Keira Knightley.
In limited release, Woody’s film To Rome With Love opens and I’ll definitely be seeing that (even though I’ve heard it’s not as strong as Midnight in Paris). Also, Kirby Dick’s new doc The Invisible War opens, which looks amazing.
Kirby Dick is a relatively good addition to the New Yellow Journalism (I like, just made that term up right now. You heard it here first!) style of documentary (i.e., the Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock/Kirby Dick putting themselves in the line of fire as part of the drama of the investigation documentary, of which of course Moore was the proliferator but most unethical practitioner. Make sense?).
I know someone who worked on Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and they said the script is wonderful and they expect good things.
Do with that what you will.
A first time director was given a decent budget + Carell and Knightley based on her script, probably isn’t that bad.
I think I’ll see Brave with the offspring. And might catch Seeking if I’m bored during the week and get up for a cheap show.
I noticed that, a few months ago, there were quite a few Abe Lincoln promos, mostly trailers in the theatre, but I feel like recently Seeking has been getting more advertising than Abe. And obviously Brave is getting the most marketing of all.
I’m gonna admit it:
The Irish accents of Brave are kinda annoying.
That being said, I’ll go see it, mainly because it looks better than Cars 2. Will definitely see Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for its historical revisionism cuz it looks fun. Seeking looks cool, and Nero Fiddled I will definitely see if it’s in Houston when I come back.
haha those are scottish accents duderino (or what passes for)
@santino: Yeah, The Invisible War does look amazing.
Seeking is gonna disappoint. Great premise. But it’ going to devolve into a road romcom where both characters are obviously in love w/each other but refuse to admit it. Stale hijinks will be had. Also, it looks like the latter half is gonna be loud action.
edit- I think the main reason I’m somewhat looking forward to Seeking is the Talking Heads in the trailer.
The Scottish accents are all from Scottish actors. Craig Ferguson, a hilarious man, is in it!
Kind of sad that the reviews have been unenthusiastic so far. I hate to see Pixar stop making great movies.
“The Irish accents of Brave are kinda annoying.”
“haha those are scottish accents duderino (or what passes for)”
“The Scottish accents are all from Scottish actors. Craig Ferguson, a hilarious man, is in it!”
It pretty much doesn’t matter. An American studio had the audacity to make a movie featuring another culture. Every last mistake they make will show just how awfully out of touch we are.
Ratatouille had similar treatment. The creators spent a lot of time in actual French kitchens to try to get the details right, and still people (not necessarily French people, mind you) got their panties in a bundle about it. What would an American movie know about real French cooking? I am lead to understand that ultimately general French audiences more or less liked it, and most of the snark came from non-French anyway.
Look up Pixar Brave Scottish accents on Google. I’ll give 3:1 odds its mostly complaints.
Meanwhile, a Russian director just took a highly respected humanist hero American President, and turned him into a camp revisionist tale. People’s response? Well fuck yeah! Say it was Gandhi: Vampire Killer and the director was American: “I can’t believe they show such disrespect for our culture’s heroes and history, and the serious real life problems he faced.”
Ha, I was thinking about that clip as I wrote!
The end of the world can’t come fast enough in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” a disastrously dull take on the disaster-movie formula that chooses to spend the last three weeks of life on earth with two of its least interesting inhabitants. Dodge (Steve Carell) wears fuddy-duddy sweaters and sells insurance; Penny (Keira Knightley) likes old records and pot. The story of what happens to this pair in the face of certain extinction is only modestly more compelling than what happens to their houseplants. By releasing it amid blockbusters, Focus merely amplifies the understated pic’s shortcomings.
If the films of Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay have taught us anything, it’s that Armageddon is only as interesting as the lives it threatens. Subtract spectacle from the equation and character becomes even more essential. By the time writer-director Lorene Scafaria got around to casting him, Carell had played endearingly boring one too many times, leaving a vacuum where Dodge’s personality should be. Penny feels equally underwritten, which leaves the awkward sight of Knightley, evidently still stuck in “A Dangerous Method” mode, straining to appear girl-next-door cute while her facial expressions scream “mental patient.”
One might expect a livelier pair from Scafaria, who previously adapted “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” and counts herself among Hollywood’s recent wave of dirty-girl scribes, including Diablo Cody and Dana Fox, known for writing pull-no-punches relationship pics from a fresh female perspective. Certainly, “Seeking a Friend” distinguishes itself from most male-directed end-of-the-world outings, having more in common with Don McKellar’s talk-ourselves-into-oblivion indie “Last Night” than the typical testosterone-driven doomsday epic.
Eschewing the showy visual-effects treatment, the film only hints at the approaching asteroid, occasionally cutting to a solemn old-school anchorman (“Mad Men’s” Mark Moses) to remind auds that mankind’s fate is not in dispute. The end is definitely nigh; the question is what people will do with their remaining time. Some take to the streets and riot. Others hunker down in fall-out shelters. Dodge’s closest friends see the end as an excuse to cut loose, trying heroin and consequence-free sex. For the Eeyore-like Dodge, however, the prospect of a looming deadline to get his life in order sends him into retreat.
He’s the sort of guy who has never known what he wanted, which is part of the problem; it’s hard to root for someone who doesn’t even root for himself. Even Dodge’s wife (played by Carell’s real-life spouse, Nancy) can’t bear to spend the end with him, clearing the way for a meet-cute with Penny, the pretty neighbor Dodge discovers crying on his fire escape.
“I can’t spend the last month getting to know someone,” Dodge sighs wearily, and it’s easy to sympathize. Going to the movies is a lot like serial first-dating, constantly getting to know new characters in the hope of finding some worthy of a repeat viewing, maybe even a sequel. And then there are cases like “Seeking a Friend,” where the chemistry isn’t right and you just want it to be over.
That first night, Penny falls into a coma-like slumber on Dodge’s couch, and the expression on his face makes it clear he just wants to be rid of her. Scafaria’s job over the next two weeks/90 minutes is to bring Dodge (and audiences) around to craving her presence. The film complicates this by introducing a romantic rival in the form of Dodge’s high-school g.f., Olivia. Enlisting Penny, Dodge sets out on a road trip to reunite with Olivia, whose offscreen presence symbolizes more than either of the onscreen leads can compete with.
Even with this new mission on the books, things move a little too slowly as the pic attempts to give the pair the time they need to fall in love, with Dodge making small talk or Penny waxing philosophical about her record collection. Whereas some first-time helmers overreach by trying too many fancy techniques, Scafaria errs in the opposite direction, uncertain how to breathe life into a story that announces its expiration date at the outset.
Whether a factor of limited budget or limited vision, Dodge and Penny’s world is curiously bereft of extras, which gives the film an unintended post-apocalyptic feel. Where are all the people? Then again, every time a side character turns up (opportunities for scene-stealing cameos by comics such as Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, T.J. Miller and Amy Schumer), it suggests the many friends who might have made the end more bearable.
Camera (color, widescreen), Tim Orr; editor, Zene Baker; music, Rob Simonsen, Jonathan Sadoff; music supervisor, Linda Cohen; production designer, Chris Spellman; set decorator, Kathy Lucas; costume designer, Kristin M. Burke; sound (Dolby Stereo/Datasat), Ben Patrick; supervising sound designer, Scott Sanders; supervising sound editor, Perry Robertson; re-recording mixers, John Ross, Kasper Hugentobler; special effects coordinator, Don Frazee; visual effects supervisor, John Ryan; visual effects producer, J. David Everhart; visual effects, E3 Media, Go Blue VFX; stunt coordinator, Gary Wayton; line producer, Patty Long; casting, Jeanne McCarthy, Nicole Abellera. Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Beverly Hills, June 7, 2012. (In Los Angeles Film Festival — Galas.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 101 MIN.
If I see Brave it will be because it got a 90 or higher on meteoritic, like Toy Story 3, Up and Wall-E. Which I do not anticipate.
For the Carrell one it would need a 70 or so. I like that quote, “Carrell is both ugly and good looking”.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is probably the best idea ever for a bad movie. I may see it if I can get people together who want to go and laugh at it.
Suggesting an auspicious beginning for a franchise of demon-slaying politicians (“President Evil,” anyone?), “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is a Civil War-era actioner of questionable taste and historical accuracy but surprisingly consistent entertainment value. Striking a deft balance of silly, straight-faced and splattery, helmer Timur Bekmambetov and writer Seth Grahame-Smith spin an agreeably daft, fang-in-cheek tribute to America’s 16th president and his ax-wielding campaign to abolish a nationwide outbreak of vampirism. South-will-rise-again types may take issue with the pic’s vision of Confederate forces in cahoots with vicious bloodsuckers; others should lap it up, spelling potent if possibly short-lived summer B.O.
Pic has its roots in a 2010 novel by Grahame-Smith, the genre mashup artist responsible for the soon-to-be-filmed “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”; he also co-wrote the recent “Dark Shadows” (whose director, Tim Burton, is credited as a producer here). The scribe has efficiently streamlined his text into a down-and-dirty 105-minute item that barrels ahead like a locomotive, perhaps on the assumption that its cheerfully ridiculous premise doesn’t merit prolonged scrutiny. Yes and no, actually.
The opening passages, set in early 19th-century Indiana, establish how young Abe (Lux Haney-Jardine) developed an all-consuming hatred of vampires. Well, you would too if they killed your mother and treated the Southern slave trade as their personal food supply. As a tall, strapping young man (played by Benjamin Walker) hellbent on destroying his mom’s demonic assassin (Marton Csokas), Abe is recruited by the mysterious Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), who not only supplements Abe’s law studies with an intense fitness regimen but also teaches him how to vanquish these monsters, never mind that they can turn invisible and move faster than William Howard Taft in a buffet line.
In a key twist conveniently borrowed from werewolf lore, silver (not stakes) is Henry’s recommended weapon of choice, and so with the help of a silver-bladed ax, a gun loaded with silver bullets, and a few moves apparently on loan from “The Matrix,” Abe is soon gutting bloodsuckers left and right. He also catches the eye of the fetching Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) but temporarily spurns her affections; after all, the lowly vampire hunter is doomed to a lonely life of self-imposed bachelorhood, not unlike Spider-Man or James Buchanan.
Still, it’s not long before this Lincoln lawyer is happily married with child, installed in the White House and embroiled in a very bloody Civil War. Dovetailing the historical and the supernatural, the script hinges on the metaphoric linking of two unholy scourges, slavery and vampirism. It’s a thin but effective conceit, sealed by the mildly incendiary image of noted Confederate leader Jefferson Davis (John Rothman) bargaining with New Orleans-based vampire honcho Adam (Rufus Sewell).
If anything, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” could have used more of that casually shocking, character-assassinating dark humor, though its unexpected secret weapon is how effectively it often plays as straight drama. Indeed, the picture works in no small part by applying a sheen of irreverently reverent mythology to one of the most lionized figures in American history, a physically imposing proto-superhero who here gets to decapitate and disembowel the most bankable movie monsters of the moment.
There isn’t a trace of irony to the way Walker channels Lincoln, his look of earnest, square-jawed determination shining through even from under a beard, a stovepipe hat and several layers of old-age makeup. He and Winstead strike remarkably poignant chords — no small achievement for a movie whose most memorably gratuitous action setpiece brings to mind a demented cross between a wuxia epic and a wild horse stampede.
Bekmambetov, who proved himself a dab hand at vampire thrillers (“Night Watch,” “Day Watch”) before he directed the 2008 graphic-novel adaptation “Wanted,” handles the violence in an arresting if flashily impersonal style. The early fight sequences, during which Abe impulsively seeks out trouble, have a creepily measured tension that largely vanishes in the later skirmishes, shot as a series of cool-looking but increasingly tiresome slo-mo ballets punctuated by eruptions of black blood (the scenes were conceived by Kazakh fight choreographer Igor Tsay and his Acting School of Fighting Kun-Do).
Always on the move and disinclined to overstay its welcome, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is almost good enough to make one wish it had been conceived and executed with a bit more care, or pushed to goofier and/or more visceral extremes. The period look is serviceable but a bit drab, and the 3D conversion does little to enhance Caleb Deschanel’s sepia-heavy widescreen images. William Hoy’s editing has fun with some violently whooshing scene transitions; naturally, the soundtrack wouldn’t be complete without some Linkin Park.
Camera (color, widescreen, HD, 3D), Caleb Deschanel; editor, William Hoy; music, Henry Jackman; production designer, Francois Audouy; art director, Beat Frutiger; set designers, Molly Mikula, Adele Plauche, Trinh Vu; set decorator, Cheryl Carasik; costume designers, Carlo Poggioli, Varya Avdyushko; sound (Dolby Digital/Datasat/SDDS), Paul Ledford; supervising sound editors, Wylie Stateman, Hugh Waddell, Dror Mohar; supervising sound designer, Mohar; re-recording mixers, D.M. Hemphill, Ron Bartlett; visual effects supervisors, Michael Owens, Craig Lyn; visual effects producer, Kendrick Wallace; visual effects, Method Studios, Weta Digital, CGF, Soho VFX, Spin VFX; special makeup, Greg Cannom; stunt coordinator, Mic Rodgers; fight choreographer, Igor Tsay; 3D stereo conversion, Stereo D; associate producers, Kathleen A. Switzer, Derek Frey, Mark Cotone; assistant director, Cotone; casting, Mindy Marin. Reviewed at AMC Century City 15, Los Angeles, June 19, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 105 MIN.
quoting myself. yea I was right on the money with this.