The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

The Five-Year EngagementThe Five-Year Engagement

Release Date: April 27, 2012

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Stars: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt

Runtime: 124 min

Tagline: A comedy about the journey between popping the question and tying the knot.

One year after meeting, Tom (Jason Segel) proposes to his girlfriend, Violet (Emily Blunt), but unexpected events keep tripping them up as they look to walk down the aisle together.

It’s that classic boy gets the girl, boy loses girl, boy probably gets girl back situation. It just plays out a little longer than most romantic comedies. That’s okay though, because it’s funny enough to stick around for a while. Some characters are quite great, but others are just trying too hard at being funny, or they’re just really hit-and-miss. Tom, Violet and Suzie (Alison Brie) are quite funny. Secondly, Alex (Chris Pratt) is quite hit-and-miss. Also, the characters of Tarquin (Brian Posehn) and Vaneetha (Mindy Kaling) try a bit too hard at being funny, and it doesn’t quite work half the time. Some characters like Ming (Randall Park) and Doug (Kevin Hart) were pleasant surprises.

While this is very much a comedy, there’s some drama here and there. Tom and Violet’s relationship is threatened by Tom’s lack of success. Violet thinks that Tom blames her for that; and that adds some development to them. A lot of the other characters don’t get well-developed, and they’re just there for some comedic support. That happens in the majority of comedies, so one could not trash this flick for that.

The Five-Year Engagement does have a better comedic momentum and laughs-per-minute than Bridesmaids. The laughs that Bridesmaids generate would be louder and harder than that of Engagement, but it doesn’t have the greatest momentum. Bridesmaids doesn’t necessarily overstay its welcome, but it’s pretty long. The real strong suit of that film is that it may not be hilarious every ten seconds, but when it tries to be funny, it’s hilarious – and when one scene wants to make you laugh, it makes you laugh throughout the whole thing. When Engagement makes you laugh, sometimes you may give a good hearty laugh, and other times it may make you cry from laughter. It all depends on the scene.

The plot of Bridesmaids feels more fresh and original than this does, but this still does have its fair share of originality.

The Five-Year Engagement has its fair share of good characters, bad characters, great laughs and British accents. The great comedic presences help make it stand out. Fans of Jason Segel or fans of romantic comedies will really appreciate it, because it’s pretty freaking funny.

75/100

Reviews from my Notepad: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Reviews from my notepad will be a series of reviews coming out every Wednesday, or whenever I feel like posting it. They will just be quick reviews of films that I waited too long too write a full-out review for, so I just write a few thoughts about it. Or it may be some jot notes I found that have my thoughts of the film. Either way, they won’t be long reads. Here’s the first review: Million Dollar Baby (2004).

——————————————————————————————————————————————

Million Dollar Baby

Release Date: January 28, 2005

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman

Runtime: 132 min

Tagline: Beyond his silence, there is a past. Beyond her dreams, there is a feeling. Beyond hope, there is a memory. Beyond their journey, there is a love.

Million Dollar Baby may pass itself off as that old generic underdog story that has been done one thousand times before. It does have a few elements to make it that generic story, but this one won Best Picture. With a lot of underdog stories, the feel-good moments often outweigh those sad scenes. That is not the case here. The first half has enough happy scenes to keep you going, but the mood and atmosphere alters completely in the latter half of the film. It becomes much more ominous and depressing, and if you’re not prepared for that drastic change, you may not be open to liking this. The truth is, it’s a good film that may have a very abrupt alteration of atmosphere, but it still transitions that fairly well. The plot is fairly simple, but it uses it to its advantage – and it puts some great themes, and deep emotional content, into play. The relationship that grows between Maggie Fitzgerald (portrayed by Hilary Swank) and Frankie Dunn (portrayed by Clint Eastwood) is quite beautiful. It changes from a sort of loathing on Dunn’s part, to a deeper respect and love, where it feels like a non-condescending father-daughter relationship. This transition is well done, and it is not rushed, so it does feel believable. There are great performances from the cast: Morgan Freeman especially, Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood. The motivations of Swank’s character is easy to see. She has had difficulties in her life, and that’s probably because of her very rude and selfish family. It’s a film that’s good, but it wouldn’t be worth the price of one million dollars.

90/100

Box Office Predictions: November 30 – December 2

 

The Collection

The sequel to 2009’s The Collector. This sort of has a similar atmosphere to the Saw serial, without all the moral dilemmas, and just more torture porn. The Collector opened to $3.5 million, and grossed $7.7 million. That was well-appreciated by audience members, so I anticipate this to gross more than the first. People seem to really miss the Saw franchise, and this could really fill that void.

T.C. Box Office Prediction: $5 million

Killing Them Softly

This looks really good. The story seems awesome and the cast is stellar. Brad Pitt as a hitman? Cool.

K.T.S. Box Office Prediction: $9.8 million

TOP 10 BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS

TITLE/PREDICTION/STUDIO/ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2/ $32, 000, 000/ Summit Ent./ 47%
2. Skyfall/ $22, 500, 000/ MGM/ 92%
3. Lincoln/ $18, 000, 000/ Buena Vista/ 91%
4. Rise of the Guardians/ $16, 000, 000/ Paramount (DreamWorks)/ 76%
5. Life of Pi/ $15, 800, 000/ Fox/ 87%
6. Wreck-It Ralph/ $11, 000, 000/ Buena Vista/ 86%
7. Red Dawn/ $10, 200, 000/ FilmDistrict/ 11%
8. Killing Them Softly/ $9, 800, 000/ Weinstein Company/ 90%
9. Flight/ $6, 400, 000/ Paramount/ 77%
10. The Collection/ $5, 000, 000/ LD Entertainment/ 86%

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: David O. Russell

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Runtime: 122 min

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is a former history teacher who has been in a mental institution for the past eight months because he nearly killed the man who was having sex with his wife. Now, Pat is out and he’s trying to reconcile with his ex-wife, Nikki. He is staying at his parents house (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), and all they want him to do is move on and share their family obsession of the Philadelphia Eagles. Pat then meets a mysterious girl named Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman with many problems of her own. After their meeting, things get very complicated.

The relationship between Pat and Tiffany is pretty nice. They both have many problems. Pat is struggling with consistently taking his medication, he is not fully comprehending that he might never be able to reconcile with his wife, and he is having much difficulty controlling his emotions and anger. He’s sort of like a fairly more controlled Hulk.

Tiffany is a very young widow that has recently lost her job. She lost her job because she slept around with just about everyone in her workplace. This may sound sort of peculiar, but the way she tells the story is actually quite funny. Tiffany may have multiple problems of her own, but she is much more comfortable with her current state of mind than Pat is with his own.

Soon enough, Pat learns that Tiffany has a way of communicating with his ex-wife, Nikki. He cannot do it himself because of the restraining order, but he asks Tiffany if she could deliver a letter to her. But wait, there’s a catch. Tiffany needs help with this dance competition, and if Pat helps her, she’ll deliver that letter. This allows them to bond over time, and grow a solid relationship. Together, these crazies will have to find that silver lining on any old negative or dark day.

Silver Linings Playbook offers a great story that will be talked about for years to come. The plot may seem like yet another traditional romantic comedy, but no, it is much more than that. While it does have some components of the formula to make a romantic comedy, it is far from that. This is more of a dramedy with a few spices of romance, for good taste.

There’s a great canvas of incredible characters. The whole cast brings the multi-layered characters of Matthew Quick’s novel to life. Each actor wonderfully captures the exact emotions they are supposed to be expressing. A notable character is Chris Tucker’s Danny, who further adds some comedy to the feature. Though, the real notable performers are the two primary characters themselves, Bradley Cooper as Pat and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany. They both express craziness well, they are both very hilarious, and they express emotions of stress, anger and anxiety well. When they are called to have an outburst, they do it very well. The direction by David O. Russell is also very amazing, and he directs these people with ease. To any ordinary director, directing these performers may be difficult, but this guy makes it look easy.

Silver Linings Playbook offers an experience that is difficult not to love. It is hilarious, sexy, beautiful, meaningful, sad, emotional, and sometimes quite dramatic. All of these aspects go very well together. Some thing that helps that is the impeccable writing by David O. Russell, and Matthew Quick who originally wrote the novel. The pacing never gets off track, and it never misses a beat. The viewer may not be able to relate to the exact situation of these characters, but they could fully understand their motivations – and most may have felt similar emotions that these characters express on a daily basis. This makes 2003’s Anger Management look like trash, and it ranks up to the greatness of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Sure, it may not be as dramatic as Cuckoo’s Nest, but it has great performances like that – and it sure is funnier than Anger Management. This is easy to admire because at times, it finds comedy in many intense situations.

100/100

Red Dawn (2012)

Red Dawn

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: Dan Bradley

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck

Runtime: 114 min

Tagline: Heroes are made in America

Oh look, Chris Hemsworth is in a second movie this year where he goes to a cabin in the woods.

Jed Eckhart, an experienced soldier on leave, leads a group of teenagers to the forest as a way of escaping the North Korean soldiers that have just attacked their town. Soon enough, they form a terrorist group called the Wolverines, and they plan to take the town back from the North Koreans.

Directed by newcomer to the directing game, Dan Bradley, this is a remake of the 1984 cult classic of the same name (which I haven’t seen). Apparently, the only thing that is really changed is the invaders are North Korean, not the Soviet Union like the original. You may think that sounds like a promising story, but you’d be wrong.

The film opens with some compiled archive footage explaining a situation in North Korea where Kim Jong Il has recently died, and the people are furious for some reason. It just feels disorganized and it was a very dumb history lesson. It sort of sets the tone for the film and adds some context on what’s to come, but it isn’t easy to appreciate.

The plot has a fine pace, but there really isn’t any story at all. It’s just a series of events where The Wolverines attack North Korean forces, steal flat bread, meat and soda from a Subway, and just generally wreak havoc as a way to take back their town. The action comes around a lot, and that’s pretty nice, but that doesn’t leave any time for much character or plot development. The action is just a whole lot of explosions and lots of bullets being shot. For any lover of war violence, they’ll eat it up, but it certainly doesn’t measure up to something like the great action of Saving Private Ryan.

Sometimes my suspension of disbelief is really stretched. At some points, the North Koreans had perfect opportunities to shoot at the so-called Wolverines, but they didn’t take that golden opportunity. Or, they widely missed. Wouldn’t they have had military training? Who’s training them, Forrest Gump? “Just keep staring, and staring, and staring. That’s all I have to say about that.”
The dialogue is very, very poor. One character asks “Legit?” and he doesn’t even bother to say the full word. Another character says, “I’m not giving you dick!” The context, though, is when character asks the person to give him the gun, but he refuses and utters that stupid line. Who wrote this screenplay, a white thirteen year old wannabee gangster?

Red Dawn is filled with A-list and B-list actors who were fairly unknown when it was filmed in 2009. Since then, it has been stuck on the shelf, and it should have stayed that way. The action is non-stop, but that action is sometimes boring. One other poor thing about the film is the characters. They are one-dimensional, and I didn’t particularly care for any of them. Their motivations are to become heroes of the town and avenge the lives of their loved ones, and take their homes back. Some of them are particularly selfish, too. They are not easy to admire or respect, so when any of them gets killed off, the viewer could easily rub it off their shoulders and forget about it. Whenever the film tries to put in any character development, it’s pretty mediocre, and frankly, boring.

The list of Red Dawn‘s redeeming qualities is a very short one. The actors are great, but their source material is bad. There are some good action sequences, and there are some mediocre jokes to be offered (mostly from Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his buddies). That’s about it. The acting is bad and the cinematography is very shaky, and the storyline isn’t a thick one. Red Dawn is a poor action film, and there are much better action films in theatres right now. If you feel you must see it (probably because of Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson or Josh Peck), and that is something I discourage, go in expecting a generally poor feature with amateurish direction.

40/100

November 23-25 Box Office Results

If you missed any of my reviews of the movies in the Top 10 Box Office, just click the link on the title and it will lead you right to it!

Top 10 Box Office, The Results (Estimates)

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2: $43, 070, 000

2. Skyfall$36, 000, 000

3. Lincoln: $25, 020, 000

4. Rise of the Guardians$24, 025, 000

5. Life of Pi: $22, 000, 000

6. Wreck-It Ralph$16, 760, 000

7. Red Dawn: $14, 600, 000 (review will be up tomorrow)

8. Flight: $8, 600, 000

9. Silver Linings Playbook: $4, 623, 000 (review will be up Tuesday)

10. Argo: $3, 875, 000

My Box Office Predictions (Title/Prediction/Off by(+/-))

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2$52, 000, 000(+) $8, 930, 000

2. Skyfall/ $22, 800, 000(-) $13, 200, 000

4. Rise of the Guardians/ $59, 500, 000(+) $35, 475, 000

5. Life of Pi/ $28, 400, 000(+) $6, 400, 000

6. Wreck-It Ralph$13, 500, 000(-) $3, 260, 000

7. Red Dawn/ $17, 200, 000(+) $2, 600, 000

8. Flight/ $4, 300, 000(-) $4, 300, 000

9. Silver Linings Playbook$5, 250, 000(+) $627, 000

10. Argo/ $3, 200, 000(-) $675, 000

Other predictions 

18. Hitchcock/ $360, 000(+) $59, 000

35. Rust and Bone/ $175, 000(+) $144, 800

I was off by a grand total of $75, 670, 800.

 

My reviews of other films in theatres

Chasing Mavericks

The Dark Knight Rises

End of Watch

House at the End of the Street

Looper

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Pitch Perfect 

Seven Psychopaths

Sinister

Taken 2

Ted

Trouble with the Curve

Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: Ang Lee

Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall

Runtime: 127 min

If 1997’s Titanic won eleven Oscars, this should get twelve.

Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, this is an incredible story of adventure and discovery, centering on Pi Patel, the curious son of a zoo keeper. He and his family hail from Pondicherry, India, but they want to move to Canada to seek a better life. They hitch a ride on a large cargo ship that is destined to sink. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift on a 26-foot lifeboat accompanied by an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a fearsome Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker.

The film starts out with a beautiful opening sequence with multiple animals running all over the screen, as if they are running off of Noah’s Ark. Then from there, it gets right into the story.

An older Pi tells his life story to a writer through flashbacks and reflection. Since an older Pi is telling the story, there’s no question of whether or not he survives or not. The story is not about that question, it is about how he survives. Irfan Khan (that one Indian guy from Slumdog Millionaire and The Amazing Spider-Man) portrays the older Pi, while the younger Pi is portrayed magnificently by acting newcomer Suraj Sharma. Like Dev Patel’s film debut in Slumdog Millionaire, this is a great and promising start to a career. We, the audience, have the pleasure to watch a star being born. The only other really known actor (to the Western World, at least) is Rafe Spall (Anonymous, Prometheus, Hot Fuzz), who portrays the writer who may just sell Pi’s life story.

Pi’s story is a very interesting one. We see him grow up as a very curious boy that gets mocked at school because of his name (he gets called Pissing for a short period of time because his real name is Piscine). He is also a young boy of self-discovery who is interested in Hinduism, Catholicism and Muslim beliefs. He doesn’t know who he is quite yet, a feeling all of us experience when we are young. When Pi and his animal friends set adrift to the center of the Pacific Ocean because of the unfortunate shipwreck, the majority of the animals don’t last very long. They say their hello’s, and then soon enough the quick good bye’s come around and Pi and Richard Parker are the two remaining beings. They start off as sort of how an only child might feel if an adopted child is brought home, they both are skeptical of each other, and because of that they must keep their distance. Over time, the bond grows, and Pi and Parker become beings that must rely on each other. This transition is quite beautiful. Who said a man’s best friend can only be a dog?

The measure of faith that Pi possesses is inspirational, and brings some great themes of religion and hope to the feature. The CGI effects are great and the visuals are magnificent. The hailing of this being the next Avatar is quite accurate (in regards to the visual beauty, only). The story is about as great as Slumdog Millionaire, and the shipwreck sequence is both thrilling and terrifying, comparable to both White Squall and Titanic.

This film is not fit for the faint of heart. The shipwreck sequence is exciting and terrifying and very intense. There are also many sequences involving the tiger and other aspects. The viewer knows that the tiger is in the lifeboat, but we do not know where exactly he is, or when he will jump out and roar. This really brings on the conflict of man vs. carnivore. Other conflicts are: man vs. nature, and man vs. self (oh, and man vs. CGI; ha, ha). Both Pi and Richard must fight against waves and crazy storms. Pi struggles with his own faith and wicked hunger.

Life of Pi is a near-perfect film that gets its pacing thrown off at the ending. The ending raises questions of all the events that have preceeded it, and it adds a great sense of ambiguity. Nonetheless, it is very thought-provoking.

Life of Pi is a visually beautiful film, it’s surprisingly funny, it has a great story, great direction, wonderful cinematography, great conflicts and relationships, and it has many aspects of it that can be magnificent, terrifying, thought-provoking and saddening. The actors bring it all to the table, and short list of performers carry the film very well. This is one of the best films of the year that will be a large Oscar contender. If you’re going to see this, see it in its full 3D glory.

90/100

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: Peter Ramsey

Stars (voices): Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher

Runtime: 97 min

Tagline: Legends Unite.

Wait a minute, wait a minute! Who’s Jack Frost, again…? Is he that one guy that’s always nipping at everyone’s noses?

When a forgotten bogeyman from the Dark Ages called Pitch launches an assault of fear on earth, the Immortal Guardians are all called to fight off against him to maintain the innocence of children all over the world.

The beginning feels sort of like one student in high school is trying to write a report, but they’re having trouble organizing their thoughts. That being said, the beginning is an introduction to the characters which feels a bit disorganized. Though, after a small amount of time, it finds its pace and the story just gets better and better.
This is a great time of year to try to build up the spirits of children everywhere. This is brilliant because this time around, it is not all about Ole’ Saint Nicolas. Everyone gets their chance to shine in this. The Guardians are just great, and they give all the figures, that children believe in, the chance to show their flares.

There’s of course Santa Claus, but this time around he has a funky Russian-esque accent offered by the voicework of Alec Baldwin. He is pretty traditional looking, but he also seems pretty edgy because of his ‘Naughty’ and ‘Nice’ tattoos on his forearms. He offers some insight onto who’s actually making the toys at the North Pole. Apparently, it’s a bunch of Yeti’s, they only make the pointy-hatted elves think they’re making the toys. Who knew?

There’s also the Easter Bunny. Hop was the last Easter-themed flick, but the Guardians‘ Bunny makes the little Easter Bunny from Hop look very ordinary. Here, Hugh Jackman offers some great voicework to this character, and in the process he makes him Australian. He’s a six foot-two Easter Bunny that has a sweet boomarang, that makes him feel like he just stepped out of a video game.

There’s the Tooth Fairy, voiced by the beautiful Isla Fisher, who’s a mix between human and hummingbird. There’s also the mute Sandman (who isn’t voiced by anyone, the studio dodged a bullet casting this guy) who communicates with symbols and funny gestures. There isn’t any explanation necessary on what these two do. Though, this next character, you might need a little introduction to him.

The new Guardian in town is the wayward Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine). No, not anything like a snowman or Martin Short’s version of him. All Jack wants to do is cause snow days and havoc, but he wants to have a little fun while doing it. He constantly wonders of his true destiny, and he is a character that knows what it feels like to be invisible. Another character that knows what it feels like to be ostracized and forgotten is the film’s main antagonist, Pitch Black (voiced by Jude Law).

Pitch is a jagged-toothed Bogeyman that wants to instill fear in the hearts of children everywhere. His main motivation of doing this is so he can teach the Immortal Guardians the feeling of loneliness and invisibility he has felt for hundreds of years. He wants to be the big guy on campus for once. Pitch’s main rivals are both Jack Frost and the Sandman. When Pitch steals Frost’s memory of a former life, Frost’s motivation is to retrieve this very valuable material. Frost is also on the fence about his destiny, and he relates to Pitch from time to time because he, too, knows what it feels like to be overlooked because of his juvenile behaviour. The main conflict between Sandy and Pitch is simple. The Sandman brings happy dreams to the children of the world, while Pitch brings dark nightmares. Sandy is obviously not very happy about this, and you won’t like him when he’s angry. However, these are not the only conflicts – the characters are all given their time to shine, so it never feels as if there is one primary character.

There was a concept that came to mind when both the characters of Pitch and Man on the Moon (the moon practically, it’s like God to the Guardians) were initially introduced. It brought to mind the concept of how Lucifer was cast out of Heaven by God, because he wanted to be the head honcho. A plot point that I attempted to predict is that Pitch may have once been a Guardian, but then he was cast down because he was turning evil. That’s just a thought that came to mind because of the good vs. evil forces.

The message is one of the finest in animated films this year: if you believe, it will overcome all fear. It’s greatly displayed in this family film.

Like Monsters, Inc. was with Pixar, this DreamWorks’ edgy children’s and family film. It’s a sort of strange concept that works pretty well. Pitch, the Bogeyman, is sometimes depicted so ominously, it might be a little too hard to handle for the smaller children. There is also some thematic material that can get quite dark. However, there is enough innocent humour to level it all out.

The 3D effects are sometimes gimmicky, but that’s okay. While it is sometimes gimmicky, there are also many cool effects that bring very inventive animation to life even more vibrantly.

Rise of the Guardians is a slightly flawed animated adventure that may have some deeply thematic material and action sequences that could be midly scary for small children. The main flaw is the beginning, because it feels disorganized – but it finds its pace soon enough. The story is wildly inventive, as are the alterations of the beloved Guardians. It’s a great thing to teach the kids this holiday season – don’t just believe in Santa Claus, believe in the other figures too, when their time of year comes around, at least.

80/100

100th Review: Brave (2012)

Brave

Release Date: June 22, 2012

Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell

Stars (voices): Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson

Runtime: 93 min

Tagline: Change your fate.

Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.

Considering that this took six years under works, one would think this would be a little better. The story is just lacking, and it isn’t enough to be entertaining throughout the whole 93 minutes. Where it lacks in story; it makes up in message, characters and laughs.

Merida is the first female protagonist of a Pixar film, and she’s a promising first attempt. She is headstrong and very ambitious. She feels that her fate is carved in stone, but she wishes to alter it somehow. When she does try to change it, however, it comes with drastic consequences. When she gives her even more headstrong mother a potion (in the form of a cake), made for her by a witch shop owner, Merida has no idea her mother will turn into a bear, the very animal her father hunts. This situation causes many problems, like her father and castle guests sent on a wild bear hunt, but also causes Merida and her mother’s relationship to prosper. With this situation, they are able to see life through the other person’s eyes. Also, the father is a great character, he is quite funny. The voicework from everyone involved is pretty great, everyone has funny moments and they offer jokes that are great for all ages. Merida’s three brothers are pretty cute; not anything special, they’re just cute. They’re practically mute, so they’re just there to lighten the mood a little.

The message is pretty great – honour your parents and communicate well with them, and cherish family. It’s a message all children should learn and hold dear, because family is a great support system. Though, this message isn’t anything a child’s parents can’t teach them.

The sequences of archery and other action sequences are quite great, but some scenes can get somewhat frightening for younger viewers (maybe anyone under the age of 4 or 5).

I’ve seen many better stories in animated features. The whole ‘undo a curse’ premise feels quite reminiscent of Shrek. Sure, this is quite original, but Shrek did come to mind while watching this. Maybe it felt reminiscent of Shrek because Shrek has a Scottish accent… Anyway, back to the story. The pacing is decent, but it isn’t a story that works well enough to fill ninety minutes. This is Pixar’s first period piece, and even though the story isn’t superb, the mythology was intriguing. Regardless of the story, the animation is very beautiful. It is some of the finest I’ve ever seen, and some of the finest animation of the year. The Scottish scenery is really beautiful and it really complements the animation. Also, it really portrays Scotland as a beautiful place, and it portrays its people as beautiful. Some may seem like lumberjacks, but they seem so cheery – it’s hard not to like them. All the Scottish accents in the film are sort of contagious, and when one quotes or explains the film, it’s hard not to talk in that dialect.

Brave offers some great characters, some fine animation, and a very mediocre story. Compared to great Pixar stories like Toy Story or Monsters, Inc., it pales in comparison. Brave does a great job of mixing beautiful animation with great Scottish scenery, and it makes for an experience that is worth checking out. It might not win Best Animated Feature of the Year (my “money’s” on Wreck-It Ralph), but it certainly deserves a nomination.

70/100

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Release Date: June 8, 2012

Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon

Stars: Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock

Runtime: 93 min

Tagline: Six years ago, they disappeared without a trace. Next summer, they finally resurface

After Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman (David Schwimmer) get abandoned by the penguins and the monkeys, they have to find a way to get off the African island. They swim to Monte Carlo to reunite with them, so they can get a ride home. They run into the antagonist of the movie when their actions attract the attention of Animal Control. How does the king of the jungle, a zebra, a hippo, and a giraffe get around Europe without attracting attention? The answer: they bamboozle their way into a circus. The penguins buy the circus with their earnings from Monte Carlo, and the gang try to find a way home.

The message is pretty nice and the story is great; the characters they meet are great, too; but most of all, this feature is fun.

It’s the ultimate road trip film of all animated films. It’s really the longest detour to home of all films. This is the third film featuring the New York Zoo gang, but they still haven’t found their way home. The Madagascar trilogy isn’t a great one, but it’s a good one. It isn’t great because the first two features aren’t anything special. This is a series that has improved in quality each endeavour. That is quite rare for a trilogy (the only other that comes to mind is The Lord of the Rings), and that makes it admirable.

The new characters they meet along the way are quite great. The character of Vitaly (voiced by Bryan Cranston) is a reserved character with a grudge toward life and the circus, itself. Though, the mystery behind this towering tiger is sort of intriguing. The other character of Gia the jaguar (voiced by Jessica Chastain) is nice. The potential relationship between Alex and Gia at first feels forced, but then it gets a little charming. Lastly, the other new main character is the scene-stealing Stefano (voiced by Martin Short). Stefano is hilarious, and he’s my favourite sea lion, ever (sorry scary sea lion from Eight Below and any sea lions at Sea World, but you guys can’t talk and this guy can, so he wins). Sometimes, he’s funnier than the primary characters themselves.

The message is a little preachy. It’s all about having a passion and finding one’s homeland; home is where the heart is, apparently. They don’t water this one down. It’s way out there.

Sometimes, the filmmakers just don’t give enough focus on the primary characters of Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman. The supporting characters are so vast in numbers, they just make the story feel a little flooded. Though, they’re all screen stealers and they offer some jokes the feature – so I won’t complain that much. The biggest screen-stealers are, as expected, the penguins. They’re masterminds at work, and they could probably work for the penguin version of James Bond. They’re little penguin Q’s in the making! The other large screen-stealer, besides Stefano, is King Julien, Maurice and that little big-eyed lemur, Mort. That little dude just multiplies the cuteness factor by 1002. Maurice may not get a big part in this (he has about two or three lines of dialogue) but when they’re all together [Julien, Maurice, Mort] – they make one of the funniest scenes in the film, possible.

The main antagonist, Captain Chantel DuBois (Head of Monte Carlo Animal Control), is simply annoying and over-the-top. Whenever she comes onscreen, it may make the viewer quite exasperated. She plays out sort like a parody of Cruella DeVille. She is despicable like Cruella DeVille, but she isn’t nearly as good a villain. Also like DeVille, their motivations are, in a way, similar. DeVille wanted the dogs to make herself a fur coat, and DuBois wants the lion’s head to put on her wall. They both wants trophies of sorts. Anyway, back to DuBois. I realize that the film must have a main antagonist, but it’s just a tad ridiculous to think that she’d have the audacity to follow this lion to Rome and London, while she only has any real authority in Monte Carlo. A few more notes on her: Why is her butt on backwards? And what’s up with that when she sniffs and crawls on the ground? She’s like a psychic spider. Her portrayal makes the people of France seem like a very animated and despicable people, and it’s sort of just a smack in their face. I’m not sure how much those from France would appreciate this sort of humour.

Madagascar 3 is filled with so many scene-stealing characters, that at times, they feel like the primary focus instead of the intended four zoo animals. The message is quite preachy and the antagonist is very irritating, but this is still great animation. The experience it offers is fun, and at times it is very exciting. There’s great humour for children, and for the older audience, too. It’s a great installment to the series, but in all honesty, I hope it’s over. They should really end it on a good note.

70/100