REVIEW: Brave

Brave
Directed by: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
Written by:Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman and Irene Mecchi (screenplay), Brenda Chapman (story)
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly and Julie Walters

Pixar has swept up diverse audiences of children, adults, film critics and casual movie watchers on fantastical journeys to their fully realized animated worlds.  That unparallelled run in quality, box office gross and awards has made them an unstoppably positive influence on modern movies.

Until now, men have dominated the spotlight in Pixar’s movies just as they often do in most others.  As the big studio “female” paradigm (very) gently shifts away from romantic comedies toward raunchier fare like Bridesmaids and action blockbusters like The Hunger Games, it only makes sense that the Mrs. Incredibles, the Jessies and the EVEs would start to occupy the center of Pixar’s spotlight.

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REVIEW: Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Josh Applebaum & André Nemec (screenplay)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg

Tom Cruise commits his body completely to a role, often at the expense of character.  Many of his most iconic performances, including this long-running gig as Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series, have him performing all the major action hero duties at a break neck pace.

In this latest installment, tacked with “Ghost Protocol” instead of the number 4, Cruise performs the biggest stunts of the series yet.  Brad Bird, director of Pixar films like The Incredibles and Ratatouille as well as lesser known ones like The Iron Giant, makes his live action debut and is tasked with controlling this chaos.

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Five Awesome Movie Moms

Good movie moms often go unrecognized.  The past two years, the Best Supporting Actress Oscar has gone to two mother monsters (not Lady Gaga) who give the role kind of a bad name.  So, to celebrate Mother’s Day, we take a look at some moms who either kill their children with kindness, or literally kill for them.

The Bride (Kill Bill)- As played by Uma Thurman, The Bride spends all of the first Kill BIll movie thinking her daughter is dead.  The second half of Volume 2 delves more into their relationship and adds some disarming humanity to the story.  Here’s a mom who takes time out of finishing her revenge conquest to lay in bed and watch Shogun Assassin with her daughter.  If that’s not a great mom, I don’t know what is.

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And the winners should be…. 2011 Oscar Predictions (Matt’s Picks)

Best Picture

The Social Network
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
Winter’s Bone
The Kids Are All Right
Inception
Toy Story 3
The Fighter
True Grit

Should Win I’d be the most happy with Social Network, Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right.  There’s no real Blind Side this year, but The King’s Speech is the least deserving… and it’s also one of the front-runners.
Will Win: The Social Network has a real shot, but so does The King’s Speech. Many have already handed it to King George, but I’m leaning toward King Zuckerberg.
Snubbed: There’s really no Blind Side this year among the nominees. However, over The King’s Speech I would’ve nominated The Ghost Writer, Enter the Void, White Material, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Splice or I Am Love.


Best Director

Tom Hooper- The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen- True Grit
David Fincher- The Social Network
David O. Russell- The Fighter

Should Win: Aronofsky.  His direction on Black Swan was the best thing about the movie, which is saying a lot.  Fincher is also great, but so many other elements of Social Network would’ve worked on their own if not as well.  You can’t really say that about Black Swan.
Will Win: Fincher.  Even if The Social Network doesn’t walk away with the night’s biggest trophy, this one is a pretty safe bet.
Snubbed: Yes, yes, Christopher Nolan deserved a nomination  for Inception here over Tom Hooper, but don’t forget Danny Boyle.  His direction on 127 Hours was impeccable and his movie was better than both Inception and The King’s Speech.   I’d also throw in Lisa Cholodenko’s low-key genius in The Kid’s Are All Right, Gasper Noe’s hallucinatory brilliance in Enter the Void, Roman Polanski’s artful storytelling in The Ghost Writer and the mesmerizing work of Claire Denis in White Material.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Written by: Michael Arndt, John Lassetter, and Lee Unkrich (screenplay)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, and Don Rickles

You always know the latest entry from the people at Pixar is going to be a marvel.  To see how great they are, like a Hattori Hanzo sword, you compare it to every animated movie that wasn’t made by Pixar.  In that respect, the Toy Story trilogy is the greatest animated trilogy animation has ever seen, with help from the exceptionally brilliant third entry.

Adult themes are always under the beautifully varnished animated images of the best animation, and nobody does it better than Pixar.  Last year’s Up was probably enjoyed more by adults than it was by children for that very same reason.  Though this is a story about play-things, the despair over uselessness has never been done quite so well.  Though the film is hilarious, it is at times also heartbreaking.

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Where have all the landmarks gone?

It’s interesting to think about which movies will be remembered as classics 20-30 years down the road.  Interesting, and also depressing.  Stop and think.  Is there one film made during the modern movie age that will resonate throughout pop culture like a Godfather or a Star Wars? There are no more Godfathers, mostly because the Mafioso in the modern studio system don’t believe in them anymore.

Movies mirror the culture they’re released into.  It’s no coincidence that the biggest movies now are sloppily constructed rehashes used to make a quick buck.  See also: the housing crisis.  The most endearing movies of the old age are often blockbusters, but they’re also something more: risks that paid off.  George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola had to fight like hell to get their movies made, and struggled to keep them once they were financed.  In modern times, once you’re inside the system, there is no fighting.  You make the movie they tell you to, or else you pay for it yourself.

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REVIEW: Despicable Me

Despicable Me
Directed by: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Written by: Ken Daurio, Sergio Pablos, Cinco Paul
Starring: Steve Carrel, Russel Brand, Jason Segel, Will Arnett, Kristen Wigg

Maybe our generation is spoiled. Given Pixar just eleven-peated at the box office and in reviews with the latest Toy Story installment, it seems like audiences can’t stomach any other brand of animation. It’s nearly impossible to read a review of an animated movie (Pixar or not) that doesn’t bring up the success the company has with blending sentiment, humor and cinematic beauty into its layers of computer generated imagination. So when any other work outside of Pixar comes out with one-note characters, cheesy karaoke or dance scenes, celebrity voice actors and the promise of a heightened 3D experience, it’s hard not to find it… despicable.

With Despicable Me, it seems no different. There’s the corny villain, the cute non-talking sidekick character(s) and the ‘everybody dances’ scene in the end because filmmakers couldn’t think any other clever, satisfying or touching way to end the story they just told for two hours. But luckily it is mildly saved in mild sentiment, mild story and mild humor of Steve Carrel. Continue reading