Saturday, July 7, 2012


Plot: Merida is a Scottish princess. Her father, Fergus, wants to her to marry a prince from a neighboring clan. They have a contest to pick the best prince, but Merida does not like any of the boys so she runs away, gets a magic spell that back-fires, and that leads to a big plot twist. In the middle of the movie Merida and her mom, Elinor, spend time bonding, while all the men drink and fight -- also act stupid and run around naked. In the end, modern American values triumph over medieval tradition. No spoiler there. [imdb link]    [photos]

Review: This is a good film for moms to see with their little girls. Like all princess movies in the last 40 years, the princess is super-competent, and the values of the film reflect middle class American values -- aside from the pro-monarchy thing. No one is for arranged marriages -- hard to believe you can still build a movie plot on such an idea. 

There is nothing surprising about the  basic story except how conventional it is. The positive aspect is the sequence after the plot twist -- clever and suspenseful -- and I have not seen that before. 

This film is most retro in that all the men are incompetent -- I suppose they needed to be losers so that we did not sympathize with the suitors. Screen-writers know it is possible to have a strong female character in a story that also had likable male characters, but that was not this movie. The guys don't have to be heroes, but maybe someone can not be an idiot or a jerk. 

The core curls in Merida's hair. Here is an article on it.
The best thing about this movie is Merida's hair. It is like its own big fuzzy red character. Computer animation sure has progressed. All the characters and the animals had lots of hair too. We have come a long way from Toy Story.

I also liked the mix of photography with animation in the outdoor scenes. 

In the end, Merida and the princes shirk off any adult duties for an extended childhood.  This is not so unlike what is happening with young adults here and in Europe -- although the economy is a factor in that.  

Written and directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman with  Steve Purcell and Irene Mecchi

Rating:   1.5 stars: not recommended

More: MINOR SPOILER  I wonder if they made this film before or after Sarah Palin made her famous "Momma Grizzly" speech. 

The concept art for Merida
Even more:  Maybe Merida's hair can have a sequel!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman (3D)

Plot: Amazing Spider-man revisits the Spider-man creation story with Peter as a high school student.  Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) visits his dead father's scientific collaborator, Curt Conners, (Rhys Ifans) and gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider -- and get super powers. Super powers make him more popular at school, but complicate his relationship with his favorite girl, Gwen Stacy, (Emma Stone.) Spider-man fights criminals and then fights an evil lizard man. [imdb link]    [photos]

Review: I did not think it was time to redo the Spider-man origin story again, and I was not excited about seeing it.  Happily, Amazing Spiderman is a better telling of the Spider-man origin story than the 2002 Spider-Man movie. It was better because it was more authentic and less comic. This movie is almost a romance because it spents so much time on the Gwen & Peter love story, and because the acting & dialog were so good. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone really stepped up. All their scenes were engaging, and better than the lizard fighting scenes. To use a cliche' "they had great chemistry." 

Amazing Spiderman was a straight-forward story without campiness or comedy like James Bond or there previous Spiderman series. 

Even though the root cause of the Lizard Man was a greedy chemical company, I did like the positive roles for scientists in the movie. 

I liked the scenes of Spider-man swinging around the streetscape. It looked like so much fun to do that, and it had such energy and grace. I understand it was an animation, but I liked it. I did not think the 3D was effective. The interior scenes had almost no 3D, and the outdoor web swinging scenes did not use the 3D that well. 

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans with Sally Field, Dennis Leary and Martin Sheen

Directed by: Marc Webb -- no really his name is WEBB.  Marc grew up in Madison Wisconsin.

Rating:   3.0 stars: the talking scenes were so good. The action part of the movie was weak and not as suspenseful as it could have been. The action movie effects were competent, but not outstanding.

More: Stay for the extra scene after the first group of credits.