On Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

A few days ago, the country lost one of its greatest minds in the realms of film and criticism. Though there have already been a superfluous amount of articles memorializing the reviewer from the Chicago Sun-Times, it would be a mistake to not acknowledge a man who has had such a profound impact on film.

It seems that today just about anyone can hop onto a computer and consider themselves a critic (myself included), but serious criticism is harder than ever to come by. I won’t go so far as to say that Ebert was the greatest American film critic, but he was a symbol for a bygone era where films were more intellectual than entertaining and criticism wasn’t skin deep.

Ebert’s appreciation for film influenced my own through his many television shows, columns and a decade’s worth of “Two Thumbs WAY Up!” on VHS and DVD covers. He didn’t just review films for their overall quality but for how well they accomplished what they set out to do, as well as how much he believed the target audience would enjoy it. This relative grading scale made him the subject of a lot of ridicule, but at least there was an understandable method to his madness.

Those of us who obsess over film, both professionally and as amateurs, often don’t have too many close friends who share our passion for the silver screen. Losing Ebert feels like losing a close friend, one who understood something about you that no one else did.

This isn’t to say that Ebert was perfect. I often disagreed with his reviews and the man came across as a bit arrogant on more than one occasion in his writing. But that isn’t the point. Everyone I’ve ever met or heard of had some sort of defect, so there’s no sense in remembering a review here and there that may not be popular.

Ebert was the friend you discussed and debated films with at length, never growing tired of exploring new themes and ideas. Each week he invited us into his little studio and shared his views on the latest offerings from Hollywood. He did it with wit, intelligence and an amiable spirit. In the closing of his final blog post, “A Leave of Presence,” Ebert wrapped up everything I enjoyed about his work:

“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”

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Oscar Nominations: Snubs and Surprises

Yesterday morning, Seth McFarlane and Emma Stone announced the Oscar hopefuls for the 85th Academy Awards. As is the nature of any awards show, there are a variety of opinions on who deserves what and what films are worthy to be called the best of the year.

Best Director

Two of the biggest films this year were “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” which combined for 12 nominations. Sadly, none of those 12 will lead to Oscars for Kathryn Bigelow or Ben Affleck. Leaving Bigelow off the ballot makes some sense as she won the title back in 2010. The bigger crime is that Hollywood seems to still be punishing Ben Affleck for a couple of poor films from a decade ago. His three directorial features (“Argo,” “The Town” and “Gone Baby Gone”) are all loved by critics and were financially successful. It’s about time he was rewarded for resurrecting his career. On the bright side, Affleck is only 40 years old, so he has several decades to change voter’s minds. What is most admirable for this year’s category is the inclusion of first-time director Benh Zeitlin and his work with “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Apparently the Academy loved “Amour” and “Silver Linings Playbook”

Before Thursday morning, French film “Amour” was only expected to pick up a nomination in the foreign language department. On top of that category, it also received recognition at best actress, best picture, best original screenplay and best director. Quite the victory for a non-American film that flew under more than a few radars. It wasn’t a real surprise to see “Silver Linings Playbook” on the list of nominees, but the Academy’s love for the David O. Russell picture was overflowing when Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver were able to pick up supporting nominations (bringing the film’s total nominations to eight).

“Django Chained”

It isn’t unusual for Quentin Tarantino’s films to be under-appreciated at the Oscars, but many of his fans will be crying foul after failing to read the filmmaker’s name on the ballot for Best Director. Perhaps just as frustrating for them will be how the Academy overlooked Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio for supporting actors. But, let’s be honest, the possibility of getting 3 supporting actor nominations for one film is ridiculous. Even if it happened, none of them would probably win because they would cancel each other out with the voters.

Animated Feature

While most people may not be all that excited about this category, I’m just glad that all of the nominees are quality animated films. There’s no “Hotel Transylvania” or “Kung Fu Panda 2” on this year’s list. Although “Wreck-It Ralph” has most of the momentum going into the awards season, there are several films in this category that could win.

There’s several more remarks I could make about this year’s nominations, like “What does John Hawkes have to do to impress Academy voters?” but at the end of the day, a lot of this is subjective. For the most part, I think this is a solid class of films. Now let’s see how the Golden Globes go this Sunday night.

Happy viewing

Bond Week: Countdown to “Skyfall”

James Bond is one of the longest running and most prolific franchises in cinema. The spy has been featured in 25 feature films since 1962 and, for the most part, they’ve ranged from average to great.

With the latest film, “Skyfall,” being released today in the U.S., I have been counting down the last week or so with some of the best in the series. In order to rank the top 5, I took a consensus of what most people consider to be the best 5 Bond films and watched them this week (With the exception of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Thanks for not carrying it Best Buy!)

5. “Licence to Kill” (1989)

Timothy Dalton may not have been part of the franchise for very long (his credits are this film and “The Living Daylights”), but both of his films are quality entries. I chose “Licence to Kill” because it features Bond out for vengeance and going rogue in order to take down a drug lord. While 007 is often disobedient to his employer, he takes it an extra step here.

Dalton does well with the Bond character, although he does lack most of the charm others have portrayed throughout the years. Fortunately this film is more about action and revenge, so the difference is barely noticeable. A smart script, good action scenes and some decent acting make for a good Bond film.

Bonus: Frank McRae, a lesser-known actor (and former NFL player) from the city I’m currently writing from, makes a small appearance here as one of Bond’s friends, Sharkey. Also, a young Benicio Del Toro gives a couple of the good guys a beating.

4. “Dr. No” (1962)

The one that really started it all. Having been raised on the Pierce Brosnan films (I know, I know), I’ve never had the pleasure of watching these early installments. Until now, that is.

People have always told me there has never been an actor to match Sean Connery when it comes to this character and now I know why. Connery plays the part with intelligence and suave, all the while enjoying the occasional corny joke.

“Dr. No” introduces us to the character of James Bond and plays like your average film on espionage. While it might feel a little slow compared to today’s films, it moves along just fine for what it is. Best of all, it doesn’t treat its audience like children. I do wish we could see more of Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) and less of the overrated Honey Rider (Ursula Andress), but maybe that’s just me.

3. “Goldfinger” (1964)

The third film in the franchise is a very strong addition with a quality villain to boot. Bond investigates gold magnate Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and uncovers a plot to attack Fort Knox.

Well-known characters like Oddjob and Pussy Galore are found in here and make the film especially interesting. There are also bigger gadgets like a car that has machine guns, oil slicks and other tricks. Iconic images from the franchise include a laser beam threatening to cut Connery’s Bond in half as well as a woman who has been coated in gold from head to toe.

“Goldfinger” slumps a little in the middle of the film but overall its easily one of the best Bond films.

2. “From Russia With Love” (1963)

My favorite from the Sean Connery films. In “Dr. No” we learned about the evil organization SPECTRE and this film expands on the idea of an international terrorist network. We get to see behind the scenes of how they plan their attacks and what they’re capable of. It’s one of my favorite things in the series.

Connery makes the trip enjoyable as usual and the gadgets haven’t gotten too over the top at this point. “From Russia With Love” is the most masterfully crafted of the 20th-century Bond films. It has the finesse of “Dr. No” and “Goldfinger,” but the added component of SPECTRE’s behind the scenes work pushes the film ahead of those two installments.

When Bond isn’t busy picking up clues and killing bad guys, Grant, an assassin from SPECTRE, is doing everything he can to follow Bond throughout the film. This culminates in a fight between the two men that is one of the better scenes in the franchise.

All in all, a great spy film and definitely worth watching.

1. “Casino Royale” (2006)

Maybe I’m just a sucker for the new technology and fancy shooting style, but I love this reinvention of Bond.

Daniel Craig gives the best performance of Bond seen yet (the book purists can feel free to correct me). It is very layered and more intriguing than the playboy action hero we’re used to. Not to mention the action scenes have little competition from any other film in the series.

Vesper (Eva Green) is one of the best Bond girls there’s ever been. While Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) isn’t the most powerful Bond villain out there, he gets the job done. What really makes the film interesting is that we get to see more from Bond than usual. The mask comes off and we get a glimpse of who he is. Some people may not like that, but it made the film much better in my opinion.

Though it may be riding off the good fortune of being made when it was, “Casino Royale” was able to turn the franchise around after the horrible “Die Another Day.” Great action scenes, strong performances and a good story make this the best of the Bond series in my eyes.

If you feel like I’ve missed out on your favorite Bond film, let me know in the comments below. Now, let’s all go and enjoy the latest 007 outing, “Skyfall.”

Happy viewing.

Magic Mike: The Full Package

 

First of all, I need to apologize for that pun in the title. There’s no excuse, really. So let’s get to it, and put it behind us.

You need to know something about me. I’m a sap. A sucker. A dupe. Why? Because I allowed the trailers for Magic Mike to shape my expectations of the movie. AS TRAILERS SHOULD! But unfortunately, they don’t always give us an accurate view of the movies they promote. For example, the EPIC trailers to Terminator: Salvation and Watchmen. But against all reason, I allowed myself to believe that Magic Mike was basically a 90 minute strip tease, a non-stop buffet of beefcake, an all-expenses-paid trip to the Isle of MAN. But what I got, surprisingly enough, was an actual movie. How disappointing.

Magic Mike is the story of, well, Mike Lane – construction worker/entrepreneur/something else by day, stripper by night. He’s been in the game for six years, and this whole time he’s been saving up to start his own business doing what he loves: making custom furniture. At the construction company, he meets Adam, a 19 year old who is perfectly content sleeping on his sister’s couch rather than doing anything he doesn’t want to do. This means turning down jobs because they want him to wear a tie, or quitting for being told not to steal soda. Seriously, he’s a brat. But then he starts stripping, and begins to grow up, and Mike gets his loan, quits his jobs, and starts his business, and gets the girl, the end.

Except not at all. Serious spoilers to follow.

Ultimately, the appeal of the night life proves too much for Adam. As someone who has lived paycheck to paycheck, there actually IS a strange allure to these kinds of jobs. You get to sleep late, stay up late, and when your only worry in the world is making rent, there’s an odd peace. I mean, yes, sometimes there’s nausea or panic as the end of the month draws closer and your bank account gets emptier. But it’s a very “now”-centric existence, without worrying about the future, or anything else. He begins dealing drugs as a way to make some extra money, but gets in way over his head, owing the dealers over $10,000. Ultimately Mike bails him out, sacrificing most of his life’s savings to do so. At the end of the day Mike is left having quit stripping with no real plan, and Adam is the same entitled prick he started as. It was a bit of a downer, really. But hey, he got the girl so… yay?

It was this non-conventional story/ending that made me like the movie so much. I mean… I would have liked it pretty much regardless, what with the Channing Tatum’s butt in the first five seconds of movie, and the Joe Manganiello playing a character aptly named “Big Dick Richie,” and the Matt Bomer and all. But from a critical perspective, I actually really enjoyed it. It didn’t glamorize stripping, but actually portrayed it for what it is: a little bit fun, but also equal parts sad and ridiculous. When you do an act as a Ken doll coming to life, or as a golden statue, or Tarzan… your life is sad and ridiculous. And I liked that things didn’t work out perfectly in the end. Magic Mike could have easily been a “stripper with a heart of gold” movie, where everyone learns and grows and hugs and gets real jobs. But it wasn’t, and that’s pretty gutsy for a film largely marketed to Lifetime special-watching housewives.

And of course, this being a Soderbergh film, it is gorgeously filmed. Yes, at times it feels a little pretentious for a movie about strippers, but it really does elevate the movie to more than just a sexy summer flick. And finally, the actors are all-around pretty great. Channing Tatum is charming as always, and as always, has great comedic timing. Alex Pettyfer plays petulant and self-destructive with shocking subtlety. Matthew McConaughey plays essentially himself, but balances dickish club owner, with weirdly paternal boss, with over-the-hill stripper very well. Manganiello and Bomer are good as well, though their roles are so small they sometimes feel like little more than window dressing (especially Joe… sigh…).

So I guess the bottom line is, don’t be suckered in by the marketing campaign. This movie might be too saucy for the average Christian viewer, though it was far less graphic and sexual than say True Blood or Game of Thrones or Spartacus. And the average All-American Male might think it’s too “gay,” but all the characters are straight, there’s Olivia Munn boobs, and honestly who cares. If I were straight, I would still rather take a girl to Magic Mike than Twilight, because at least this movie had quality acting, great cinematography, a soundtrack that wasn’t picked out by a teenage girl, and oh yeah, a real plot with tension and emotion.

TL;DR: Magic Mike is a movie, not a giant strip tease, and it’s honestly worth watching for the story, and not just the visuals – cinematic or beef-cake-ular.

From the Console to the Cinema: A Look at Video Game Adaptations

Recent reports indicate that actor Michael Fassbender has attached himself to the film adaptation of popular gaming series “Assassin’s Creed.” At first it looked like it would only be a spot as co-producer, but a starring role seems likely. Since Fassbender is one of the hottest rising stars, some are saying this could be the first great video game adaptation.

Around the same time studio execs figured out that superheroes could have major success at the box office, video game adaptations were also being considered. What comic books and video games both offer the film industry are built-in fanbases and easy story templates to mimic. Unfortunately, these films tend to be too good to be true, delivering lame copies of their original inspirations.

“Assassin’s Creed” has a great story and the film’s potential is there, but we won’t know much more about it for several months. Let’s look at some of the other games that found their way to the silver screen over the years.

Super Mario Brothers (1993)

It makes sense that Mario would be the first console character to get his own film. The series has had such a huge impact on Nintendo and gaming as a whole, surely the film will do it justice. Not so much. Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo play Mario and Luigi and Dennis Hopper takes a shot at King Koopa in this seriously misguided adaptation. While I can say that I enjoyed it as a kid, it’s a bit ridiculous these days and widely considered to be one of the worst films of its kind.

Street Fighter (1994)

Coming one year after the plumber debacle, “Street Fighter” is another one of those franchises that has enough interesting characters to where you could at least imagine a film. This film cared about those characters so much, they crammed as many as possible into the film. The story is a mess and, with Jean-Claude Van Damme playing Colonel Guile, you can bet it’s an awesomely bad 90’s action movie.

Now that’s just the first two video games to lay the groundwork for these movies. There were others in the mid-90’s like “Double Dragon,” but let’s not make ourselves go down that road.

Skipping ahead a few years, let’s see if the movies get much better.

Resident Evil (2002), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010), and the upcoming Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Go ahead and shut your gaping jaw. Yes, there really are soon to be FIVE “Resident Evil” films. Although there are plenty of people who love these zombie movies, most of the game’s original fans despise the very existence of Milla Jovovich’s Alice character. I admit that I enjoy these as a guilty pleasure, but they are only based on a fraction of the games and are pretty generic as action films (not horror). Two major setbacks, especially if you buy into the rumors that George Romero was originally involved with the first film before Paul W.S. Anderson took over.

Max Payne (2008)

As someone who spent half a semester of 8th grade playing “Max Payne.” this is arguably the most disappointing of the video game adaptations. The game really wasn’t that hard to turn into a film, as its plot is your average crime/revenge film. Throw in some bullet-time and trim down the game’s nightmare sequences and you’re guaranteed to have a decent film.

After some ridiculous casting (Ludacris playing a character that was originally a 55-year-old white guy?!) and cutting most of the game’s better scenes to make way for some drug hallucinations, the fans were disgusted and everyone else just shrugged their shoulders at a painfully mediocre action film.

Just to be fair to this little genre, there have been a small handful of films that have been pretty good (not great). One of these was 2006’s “Silent Hill,” which did a good job of keeping the game’s feel while presenting a decent story. The other is….

Hitman (2007)

Timothy Olyphant coming straight off of his villainous turn in “Live Free or Die Hard” was an inspired choice for Agent 47 in this adaptation. The only real problem I had with this take was that the filmmakers ham-fisted a romantic angle into the film just to pretend like there’s a point to the film aside from assassinations and revenge. While still not a “great” game adaptation, it and “Silent Hill” are among the best that Hollywood has been able to muster thus far.

So, will “Assassin’s Creed” be the first truly great game adaptation? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: Hollywood either needs to start taking these films seriously or just stop toying with fan’s emotions.

I left out several films in this post, some better than others. Did I miss your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, happy viewing.

Amazing Spider-Man: Not the Movie We Need, but the One We Deserve

In case the title didn’t clue you in, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fairly unnecessary reboot. Five years is just too soon, although expect it to be the norm going forward. After all, Batman is getting rebooted right after TDKR comes out. Presumably something about keeping the rights or some corporate BS. That being said, Amazing Spider-Man is pretty good.

So, overall, you know most of where the movie is going. Peter is a nerd, his parents are out of the picture, raised by an aunt and uncle, science lab, spider bite, dead uncle boom. But, there is enough change thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. Firstly, there’s the mystery of what really happened with Peter’s parents. The movie manages to build a fair bit of momentum early on by focusing on this. Peter’s dad is a scientist, whose mysterious work is obviously highly sought after. They get spooked and hide Peter with relatives while they disappear to deal with whatever is going on, never to return. This is quite intriguing, although that’s about as far as it goes, which is disappointing.

Also keeping things fresh are the new (and improved) Aunt May and Uncle Ben. And while Martin Sheen has reached Shatnerian levels of bloatedness, he brings new depth to the character. Sally Field does a great job as an Aunt May that isn’t 6,000 years old, which is nice. I was just always so afraid the old Aunt May would spontaneously keel over. And what’s an 18-year old doing with an aunt that’s 80?? So anyway, the characters are younger, which makes them seem more real, more married, and more parental than ever. These are all good things. Plus, no Mary Jane!

Now, sidebar, I love Mary Jane Watson. In the comics. She’s a super model. She’s a party girl. She’s sassy and vibrant and sarcastic. She’s the definition of the Fiery Red Head. She’s the ultimate Veronica (from Archie [Yes, Veronica is ALSO the ultimate Veronica, shut up]). She’s fun, which is nice to play off of Peter, whose life is consistently awful. BUT, Kirsten Dunst played her like Human Valium. She mumbled through all her lines with half-closed eyes like she mistook her Ambien for breath mints. Gross.

In her place is Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s first True Love. She’s beautiful, and every bit his mental equal. This is more interesting to watch, because the characters have more levels on which to connect. It also enables her to participate in the action of the movie more, and feel less like A) a distraction, B) a side-plot, or C) a victim. In fact, Gwen is integral to the resolution of the plot in a way Mary Jane never was. So, in conclusion: Team Gwen. (PS, EMMA STONE, DUH)

The main weakness of the film is the villain. Not only is it painfully obvious where everything is going, he just seems really one-dimensional. He’s interesting as a scientist – there’s the connection to Peter’s parents, the pressure from the enigmatic and ominous Norman Osborn, and his mentorship of Peter. And then with almost no prodding, he takes the serum and goes completely bonkers. There’s no “What have I become?!?” afterwards, no wrestling between Jekyll and Hyde, no real emotional sense of loss when he wakes up without an arm again. Just a switch that flipped from Sane to Bat-S#!t. Also less successful: the mystery of Peter’s parents. While theoretically intriguing, there isn’t enough resolution to keep me interested. I know this is something that will be addressed in sequels, but I just needed a little more… something to go on.

But back to strengths. The biggest, by far, is Peter. Not just as Spider-Man, but as Peter Parker. First and foremost, we get to see him be intelligent, rather than just being told. He solves equations, thinks through problems, and designs web-shooters. Personally, I think web-shooters are stupid. I mean, if you’re going to make a hero with spider powers, shouldn’t he be able to make webs? I mean come on! That being said, web-shooters do make him seem smarter, so OK. Some critics have whined about him being too angsty. I really disagree. I mean, yes, he sits alone in his room, he beats up villains unnecessarily, he picks a fight with a police chief, but the dude DID just lose a second father figure and get superpowers. So, I give him a pass. PLUS, he makes jokes when he fights! Which is like… Spidey’s THING! Which you would never know from the old movies. And he’s super nervous and adorably awkward with Gwen.

In conclusion, this isn’t a perfect movie. The plot is only so-so, the villain is weak sauce, and the mystery is a bit of a wet fart so far. But we have a Peter Parker that is smart and nerdy, a Spidey that makes jokes, a love interest that participates in the plot, an aunt and uncle that feel realistic and less cheese-spouty, and a more emotionally complex, nuanced movie. It was by far the most fun I’ve had watching a Spider-Man movie, and I definitely can’t wait for the sequels.

Movie Review: Brave

Disney princesses get a bad rap today. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read or conversations I’ve heard about Disney movies being responsible for young women’s messed up expectations of romance. Sometimes Disney deserves this, other times I’m not so sure. For example: Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty are barely characters. They are victims who need rescuing from a man. Gross. But then you’ve Belle – the only Disney princess who can read. Jasmine doesn’t want to get married. Pocahontas risks her life to prevent a war, while Mulan suits up and goes to war. They may not be the strongest, most fleshed-out characters out there, but they aren’t entirely victims or dependent on a man either.

Pixar is generally praised for its strong character work – male and female (and robot, bug, and toy). The Incredibles brilliantly captured the ennui of suburban life, the compromises you make for family, the nostalgia for a golden age, teenage angst, marital woes, the desire to be special, and so many other great emotions. UP was fantastic at bringing Carl from a timid boy to a sweet man to a doting husband to a crotchety old man who had lost everything he loved, and then back to sweet man. The one thing Pixar has lacked is a female protagonist. Until Brave.

Brave tells the story of Merida, a Scottish princess as wild as her ginger mane. All she wants is to hunt and ride and shoot and climb and put her weapons on the table. But as a princess, she has duties and responsibilities, and her mother will not rest until she learns them. As a result the two are constantly at odds, neither feeling listened to. So when Merida hears she will be betrothed, she sets out to find a spell to change her fate. And that’s when things really get going.

Unfortunately, it takes kind of a while to get to that point. I personally enjoy a slow build-up, unless the rest of the movie feels rushed as a result – which I found to be the case in Brave. Without giving too much away, the spell has a time limit of just two days, instead of a perhaps more standard three. While this might have increased the similarity to another Disney film I’ll discuss in a second, I think we could have benefitted from an extra day of consequences and quests.

So, yes, let’s discuss what I’m sure you’ve already heard: Brave is pretty… conventional. Even standard. I mean… A red-headed princess who wants more from life and seeks out a witch for a spell that has a time-limit and potentially dire consequences? Sounds a bit familiar to me. Or maybe a princess who is beset by suitors, and runs away from the pressure? Have I heard that before? But in my opinion, they are all totally different. Where The Little Mermaid succeeded was its sense of longing. Ariel might be a princess with a perfect life, but we all know that feeling of wanting something different. We all have something we want to do, some place we want to go, but for some reason or other, just can’t. We’ve all felt that powerful longing, that ache for something more. That, to me, encapsulates The Little Mermaid. And Aladdin isn’t really about Jasmine, it’s about Aladdin, natch. Brave, on the other hand, isn’t really about longing. It isn’t about finding a new world. I mean, yes, Merida longs for freedom every bit as much as Ariel (though we don’t feel it nearly as powerfully). But the driving force behind the movie is really her relationship with her mother, and this is where Brave distinguishes itself.

Name a Disney movie about a mother and daughter. Go ahead. Try. Snow White? Evil step-mother. Cinderella? Evil step-mother. Sleeping Beauty? Her mom is in four seconds of the movie. Alice in Wonderland? Same thing. Tangled? Evil fake-mother, although this is the closest we’ll get. Lion King? Father/son. Hercules? Father/son. Aladdin? Father/daughter. Little Mermaid? Father/daughter. Beauty and the Beast? Father/daughter. Mulan? Father/daughter. Noticing a pattern?

So yes, maybe Brave tells a pretty standard story. Maybe that was the point. Maybe they looked at a world where there were no standard Mother/daughter stories and thought, “Hey, let’s make one.” It’s not about creating a female protagonist, who has to be this new feminist symbol for a new generation of women. It’s about creating a new story, a new fairy tale, that mothers and daughters can curl up and watch together in the same way that daddies and daughters could watch Little Mermaid. At least, that’s what I thought.

Anyway, the movie is gorgeous. I mean just stunning to look at. Pixar has really outdone themselves visually this time. In fact, I would argue that the look and sound of the music (by which I mean the score and soundtrack), add depth to the movie where the script is perhaps a little weaker.

The characters are pretty solid, with what little time they’re really given. Like I said, I would have liked to see another day or two in there. I envision a film where Merida and her mother are off on their quest for a couple days getting into crazy hijinks and dangerous situations, and the men-folk realize they’re gone, and set off to find them, getting into problems of their own. We could have flashed between the two, thereby showing us more personality for the suitors – who were painfully one-note – and their parents, who were better. The triplets could still have run some interference and been sort of obnoxious/adorable depending on your point of view. Ultimately I think this would have been a stronger, but longer movie. But then I’m not a film maker so who cares what I think anyway.

So, in conclusion, I definitely liked it. It wasn’t an UP/The Incredibles/Wall-E/Toy Story 3, but it definitely wasn’t a Cars/Cars 2/Toy Story 2 either. It was like a Ratatouille. If you have a daughter, take her to see it for sure, because Merida is a strong female character. She’s also a bit of a brat at times, but then I believe characters should be flawed. I think boys will enjoy it just as much as girls too. I don’t think it’ll reach the college crowd the same way as those first four Pixar movies I just listed did, but if you go in expecting a fairy tale, you won’t be disappointed.