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A “Brave” Double Take

This last weekend my family and I decided to go see “Brave”. Being an avid Pixar fan I was very excited to see their latest feature length motion picture that did not have anything to do with anthropomorphic cars. However, as soon as the movie was over I quickly went to my iPhone, pulled up the IMDB app and did a fast search for Brave. The reason being was I wanted to double check to see who made the film. Was it Pixar Animation Studios or was it Walt Disney Animation Studios. You see, most people don’t really know the difference. They see the Disney logo at the beginning of a movie and think it all comes from the same place. Wrong. Movies like “Bolt” & “Tangled” came from WAS located in Burbank while others like “Toy Story”, “Monster’s Inc.” and “Finding Nemo” came from PAS located in Emeryville. Two different companies, both owned by Walt Disney Pictures, but two completely different animation studios. I had to check this because “Brave”, for some reason, did not feel at all like a Pixar film.

Pixar Logo

Now don’t get me wrong. Brave was fun, well animated and an all around pretty solid movie. But because Pixar as a company set the bar so high with successes like the Toy Story Franchise, Finding Nemo and Wall-E, even a good movie from them can stand out like a sore thumb from the rest of the collection. It took me a day or two to process reasons why this may have happened and I have come up with the three facts that point towards Brave fitting in more with the Disney princesses than the Pixar gang.

1) Originality At An All-Time Low (for Lasseter & the Gang)

Pixar movies have all been completely unique stories set in completely original worlds with stories that will most likely become the new fairytales for children in the distant future. Toy Story, Monster’s Inc., A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, all films that have no basis in any previous fantasy worlds with brand new characters no one has ever met before. On top of that the stories were unpredictable and filled with twists and surprises. Brave sort of missed that mark completely. A medieval world with a princess unhappy with her lot in life gets help from a witch in the forest. As far as stories go that has been done a million times and is a much safer story than Pixar usually attempts to tackle. Add all that to a very predictable story that, as an adult, left you wanting more and you have a movie that, even though it was made by the genius animators of Pixar, never truly lifted off.

2) Too Much Reality, Not Enough Escape

Brave did something that few to maybe no other Pixar movies had ever done. They based the story around real humans and real animals. A lot of people will read that and go, “Wait, both ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Ratatouille’ had humans and there are plenty of Pixar movies filled top the brim with animals.” The difference between those movies and Brave is that Brave may have had animals but in their movie they made it a very strong point to point out the whimsy involved with anthropomorphizing them. “Oh look, a human turned into a bear! How odd! Now she’s fumbling with her crown! That’s so silly. You know, because bears don’t wear crowns.” On top of that, their main character was a plain old human. No super powers, no fantasy quirks. The only other character that has been like that was in Up and he at least had the absurd idea of flying to South America in a house floating by balloons.

Brave Exhale

3) Where’s The Tension

Probably the biggest difference between Brave and the rest of Pixar’s movie collection was a clear change in writing styles resulting in very little suspense, flat dialogue and a sub-par amount of humor. When your company has created characters like Dory the fish, Wall-E the robot, Buzz Lightyear the action figure and Mike Wazowski the monster you really can’t get away with having an entire film without a single character standing out as the next genius fictional creation. If not for Billy Connolly breaking the films staleness every once in a while there really wouldn’t have been much to look forward to throughout the movie. Lets face it, between The Hunger Games & The Avengers, we’ve all already gotten our fill of bow and arrow toting protagonists this Summer.

Lets face it, after the wreck that was Cars 2 we were all dearly looking forward to Pixar getting back its roots with an original non-sequel film that was going to bring us all back to the old days at the studio. Unfortunately, Brave just wasn’t the film to do that. And with their next two releases being Finding Nemo in 3D and the sequel to Monster’s Inc. it looks like we’re going to have to wait a lot longer for another chance.

Wisp

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The Genius & Tragedy of Prometheus

As the credits rolled and lights began to fade back up in the theater I turned to my wife sitting next to me who promptly said, “Well that sucked.” That was her reaction to Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” that we saw this last Friday night. In talking to her further about her opinion of the movie she revealed that she felt it was confusing, poorly written and was riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies. This is one of the many reasons why I love my wife. She will go see almost any movie that I suggest to her and nearly 90-95% of the time will be completely aligned with my reaction to the movie. If I like it, she usually likes it. But every so often we watch something that I instantly thought was good and she will turn to me with the most blunt statement of utter disappointment. I like that quality in her because that keeps me in check from just going goo-goo eyes over a movie without really thinking about its appeal to more than just the hardcore nerd. That was the case with the semi-sort of prequel to Alien that is Prometheus.

It took me a day of pondering and reading to come to a few conclusions on why I think she felt this way and why she is valid and definitely not alone in this opinion which is something I discovered after surfing the interwebs for other peoples’ opinions. Here are three reasons why Prometheus is both a cinematic triumph while simultaneously being a film failure.

1) Preparing for a Prequel Sequel

It isn’t uncommon in this day and age for filmmakers to make their movies with hopes and plans of making an immediate sequel to the project. In doing so they will include certain elements while at the same time exclude others to help setup the sequel to be more fluidly connected to its predecessor. However, anyone who is a fan of Damon Lindelof’s writing knows that he loves to do nothing more than to leave certain questions unanswered almost to a fault in hopes of enticing the audience to come back for more or even come to their own conclusions to certain aspects of the story. In other words, he by no means hands you the story on a solver platter. This is very much the case of Prometheus and that in itself will tantalize the avid fan and hardcore franchise enthusiast while at the same time piss off many others. Prometheus was clearly saturated in subtext and mystery so much so that I don’t doubt many people will leave the theater going, “What the hell, man?”

2) Too smart for your own damn good

There is always going to be a precarious balance in movies between pandering to the lowest demographic and snobbing it up so much that it’s inaccessible to everyone. Some movies lean towards the former (anything Eddie Murphy or Adam Sandler has made in the last 5 years) and others lean towards the latter (the majority of Darren Aronofsky’s work). Prometheus is a science-fiction thriller that most people will go to see because they loved Alien and they love being scared by movies. But what they will get is a little bit more than they bargained for. Namely, the fact that the filmmakers are going to ask them some philosophically existential questions that will require some thinking and deduction on their end. Some may see that as a welcome challenge, others don’t go to the movies for that kind of thinking and thus will make them turn away from the movie in frustration. Mix all of that with the mystery I just talked about and you have the components for a very confusing movie to some. Sometimes people just want the scary monster to be scary…and not question the origins of the universe at a genetic level.

3) Is Prometheus another Episode One?

When The Phantom Menace came out and veritably laid out the plans to ruin the Star Wars franchise there was an army of rage fueled nerds up in arms about Lucas’ ability to take away the “purity” of one of their most treasured franchises. Prometheus, to some, threatens to do the same. Alien & Aliens are two of the most popular sci-fi films in history and Prometheus on many levels attempts to explain and in some instances alter some of the mythology behind the series’ story. Many would rather Ridley Scott to have just have left well enough alone and been happy with what he had already created. Some of those people are going to be the ones who go see Prometheus and leave feeling betrayed and misguided by Mr. Scott and go home ready to rant about it on their blog. But some will see it more as a delicate plan of layering that Scott is doing to enhance and broaden a story that he left on the table so many years ago. Either way you look at it, Prometheus is a line in the sand.

In the end, Prometheus is clearly a polarizing film and only time will tell if it goes down in history as a one of Scott’s great achievements or another case of an old filmmaker who decided to revisit a successful franchise he created early in his career but inevitably destroyed with further tampering.

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Avengers Opening Weekend

I went and saw The Avengers this weekend. I will be posting a full length review on it soon but for now I want to address something else that happened during my theater viewing experience. This is basically how the movie went for me:

There were basically two types of scenes the movie varied between. A lot of times there was a whole bunch of action and loud noises going on with Hulks & Thors flying everywhere and Johanssons flipping their hair and legs around and Captain America’s flexing their muscles and Iron Mans rerouting all available power to thrusters and such.

My reaction:

Wow

But then things would get quiet and the characters would exchange things called “dialogue” that assisted in revealing “plot points” and “important story information” that helped the movie progress. Every time that happened one of the 3,000 underage toddlers and babies in my theater would start crying/walking around/have a 15 minute conversation with their parent about whether they needed to go potty or not.

My reaction:

Hmph

Let me run that by you again. Sometimes there was action!

My reaction:

OMG

Then there was quiet dialogue, aka baby screaming time.

My reaction:

Anger

The moral of the story? I am a father. I have a child that would not be able to sit through a 2+ hour movie that does not involve My Little Ponies, DJ Lance Rock or Disney musical dance numbers. On top of that, a PG-13 movie is inappropriate for her. Therefore, I leave her home when I go to these kinds of films. I would be very appreciative if the rest of the world would follow suit and waste their own money on a babysitter rather than waste my money I spent on the already overpriced movie ticket I had to buy for my wife & I.

Thank you.

Thank you.

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Review: Immortals

To me, watching Immortals wasn’t just a decision I made solely on the fact that I thought the movie looked interesting to watch. Immortals was both an audition video for Henry Cavill as the next Superman as well as a test to see if the film style and tone that Zack Snyder laid out with 300 could be replicated without just coming across as a pathetic copycat.

To the former, I give my nod of approval for Mr. Cavill to take upon the coveted and yet difficult mantle of playing Superman in film. Before watching Immortals I wasn’t sure if this Englishman had the acting chops to pull off not only an entertaining but also convincing Kal El in Zack Snyder’s upcoming “Man of Steel”. But after watching this film I can safely say that Henry is not only pleasant on the eyes but also on the ears and should do well in bringing life back to the well known Kryptonian on the silver screen.

To the latter, I also give a nod, mostly to Tarsem Singh but also to his crew, for pulling of an action packed epic that was not hollow and without a story driving it. Immortals was visually amazing and striking. The filmmakers brilliantly added subtle elements to the look and feel of the film to give it a bit of a resemblance to old greek theatrical styles. At certain points you almost felt like you were watching a high budget stage production with fantastic visual effects. But on top of all that visual glamour was a compelling story that took pieces from stories we already knew and yet wove them together into something unique and fresh. The film had a great balance between drama and adventure that didi a pretty good job of not cheaply sacrificing one for the other.

Immortals was a surprisingly good example of how good a battle-filled mythological epic can be when you sweeten the deal with good writing and a great cast.

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Jason Statham’s “Safe”

News: Jason Statham is in an action film called “Safe” (anyone else get the irony in the name of his movie?)

Safe

My reaction:

Eye roll

News: Movie synopsis for “Safe” is released - “A former elite agent takes on a two-tier mission: rescue a Chinese girl who’s been abducted by the Triads, then use a safe combination to outwit the Russian Mafia, corrupt NYC officials, and the Triads themselves.”

My reaction:

Headache

My hardcore Jason Statham “I’ll watching anything he is in including Crank 2 & Death Race” fan friend Scott’s reaction:

Handroll

My reaction to Scott’s reaction:

Why?

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Stephanie Meyer’s “The Host” Film

News: Stephanie Meyer’s book, The Host, is being made into a film, has a teaser trailer and a new poster.

The Host

My initial reaction due to the “quality” of the Twilight Trilogy movies:

Haha, no

News: Saoirse Ronan is the lead actress in the film

My reaction:

Ooooooh!

News: Andrew Niccol is directing and writing it.

 

My reaction:

Awesome!

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt + Bruce Willis + Emily Blunt = 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt + Bruce Willis + Emily Blunt = Yay

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Grown Ups 2?

News: Grown Ups 2, the sequel to this shiny piece of poo, has been greenlit for production.

My reaction:

Why?

News: Taylor Lautner, the great llama himself, will be joining the cast.

The world’s reaction:

Apocalypse

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Total Recall Totallity

News: Total Recall, the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-film film, is being remade.

My reaction: 

Head shot

News: Len Wiseman, director of the first two Underworld movies, is directing it.

My reaction:

Really?

News: Jessica Biel has a leading roll in it.

My reaction:

Meh

News: Bryan Cranston, from Breaking Bad, has a leading role in it.

My reaction:

Good

News: Kate Beckinsale has a leading role in it.

My reaction:

DFTBA

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions. Check out the new trailer below:

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“Goon” vs “The Goon”

News: Something comes out about the new “Goon” movie being made.

What I think of:

My reaction:

What the article is actually about:

My reaction:

Dear Mr. Fincher,

Please stop working on some stupid TV remake series and get “The Goon” into theaters asap.

Sincerely,

A lot of Fanboys