New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday November 13.
The latest animated adventure from Pixar is set in Scotland in a rugged and mythical time, and features Merida, an aspiring archer and impetuous daughter of royalty. Merida makes a reckless choice that unleashes unintended peril and forces her to spring into action to set things right.
Brave features a great cast of British and Scottish voice actors including Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane and Craig Ferguson.
I enjoyed Brave quite a bit. I was especially struck by how beautiful and lush the visuals were. The film looks absolutely gorgeous. There is a fair amount of humour in the film as well so it's quite entertaining throughout. While there is definitely some rousing adventure contained within, at its heart is a story of the relationship between a mother and daughter and the special bond that they share. This is the emotional center of the film, and where most of the weight and depth of the picture derives from.
While this may not be amongst the very best that Pixar has created, and it didn't resonate as strongly for me as "Up" or the Toy Story films, it is still a wonderful family film that can be enjoyed by all ages.
You should most certainly check out Brave.
Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry - raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with the extraordinary beauty Ophelia (Blake Lively).
Life is idyllic in their Southern California town... until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the cartel, Elena (Salma Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel. The reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta) joins the boys for the ride. And so begins a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high stakes, savage battle of wills.
Savages is the new blood-spattered crime film from director Oliver Stone, and he definitely doesn't pull any punches with this one. It is unflinching in its depictions of violence, and the grisly images of torture and murders might turn some people's stomachs.
There are some solid performances in the film and Stone shoots it in a stylish way, but it isn't without its flaws. It runs a touch too long and the ending is likely going to divide and frustrate audiences. Personally, I thought it was a bit of a cop-out ending where Stone could have his cake and eat it too.
Overall though, Savages is a pretty decent bit of sordid entertainment that should appeal to fans of violent crime fiction.
Four everyday suburban guys come together as an excuse to escape their humdrum lives one night a week. But when they accidentally discover that their town has become overrun with aliens posing as ordinary suburbanites, they have no choice but to save their neighbourhood - and the world - from total extermination.
The Watch stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade.
I thought this lame brained and uninspired comedy was a total mess from start to finish and in my opinion is easily one of the worst films I've seen this year. It's just lazy, dumb and completely uneven, and it barely made me laugh much at all.
But hey, different strokes for different folks. Comedy is totally subjective, and just because I hated it, or the fact that it only got 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, doesn't mean you're not going to like it.
Don't say I didn't warn you though.
Also out this week is the comic caper film Thin Ice starring Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin and Billy Crudup, the documentary about bipolar disorder called Of Two Minds and the indie comedy Bindlestiffs.
Blast From the Past
Picking up where I left off last week, here are my top ten films of 2003.
10. American Splendor - A touching and funny biographical comedy-drama about comic book writer Harvey Pekar. Paul Giamatti gives a wonderful performance as the sad sack loner Pekar. This is just a superbly done character study full of insightful wit and humour. American Splendor is a real gem!
9. Mystic River - Sean Penn and Tim Robbins both won Oscars for their roles in this powerful drama directed by Clint Eastwood. A complex and mutli-layered plot surrounding the murder of Penn's daughter keeps the viewer guessing and makes the film a compelling and riveting piece of work. Mystic River is excellent!
8. Touching the Void - This docu-drama is the gripping and harrowing true story of two men's disastrous and near fatal attempt to climb the treacherous Siula Grande mountain in the Peruvian Andes. It combines documentary footage of interviews conducted with the two men as well as a re-enactment of the horrific ordeal performed by actors. This is an incredible film about an adventure that turns into a complete nightmare. It's one of the best tales of survival I've seen in recent memory. This should immediately go on your must watch list.
7. City of God - This ultra-violent film from Brazil tells the story of several slum gangs in Rio de Janeiro and the growth of organized crime in the region throughout the 70's. The scary part is how many youth and children are involved in such violent activity in Brazil. The filmmakers used hardly any professional actors, instead opting to go for gritty realism by using actual residents of the slums. This is a harsh portrait of a lifestyle that, thankfully, I know nothing of. Amazing film for those that are not squeamish.
6. In America - A moving and heartwarming story about a poor family of Irish immigrants and their struggle to make a living in New York City during the early 80's. Written and directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father), and based loosely on his own experiences, In America is a film that will make you laugh one minute and cry the next. I found it to be an emotionally uplifting and gratifying experience. Seek out In America!
5. Love Actually - As we are only mere weeks away from Christmas it's the perfect time to sit down and enjoy this cheery confection of a romantic comedy. This wonderful British film features an incredible ensemble cast that includes Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, just to name a few. It tells ten separate stories, many of which become interwoven as the film progresses, and takes place a few weeks prior to Christmas. It's hilarious, bittersweet, schmaltzy, warmhearted and always entertaining even if it is a bit over-bloated in its length. I make no apologies for giving in to this sentimental and sweet natured film. It is one of my favourite modern day romantic comedies.
4. Finding Nemo - I wear my unabashed love for all things Pixar on my sleeve so it should come as no surprise that FInding Nemo ranks high for me. This animated classic is a clever and funny film filled with a whole heap of adventure and absolutely stunning and vibrant animation. Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres do some fabulous voice work here providing many laughs throughout. This is fun for all ages. Finding Nemo is simply marvelous!
3. Kill Bill Vol. 1 - The ultimate revenge thriller as only Quentin Tarantino can do. Not everyone likes his hyper-violent films but I'm a huge fan and really appreciate his stylish attention to detail. He's a true film geek with a real passion for the history of cinema and with Kill Bill he pays homage to a wide variety of genres such as Hong Kong martial arts films, spaghetti westerns, Japanese samurai cinema, blaxploitation and grindhouse revenge flicks. Uma Thurman is totally badass as the woman out for revenge and the action sequences are insane and incredible. Kill Bill is awesome!
2. Lost in Translation - Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson star in this superb drama about an aging actor experiencing a midlife crisis and a recent college graduate who develop a rapport and ultimately deep connection after a chance meeting in a Tokyo hotel. Directed beautifully by Sofia Coppola this funny and sardonic film explores themes of loneliness, isolation and culture shock. I love how the relationship grows organically between the two and nothing about the film ever seems forced or contrived. I love everything about Lost in Translation. Great film!
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Shocker right? If you read the previous two lists then you had to know this would be my highest rated film of 2003. The enormous epic conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies in film history is a staggering achievement in fantasy filmmaking. It set a record at the Academy Awards by winning all 11 of the awards that it was nominated for and it remains the only fantasy film to ever win Best Picture. I can't believe that it's been a decade since I saw these in the theater but now I have Peter Jackson's upcoming Hobbit trilogy to look forward to. Fantasy film fans everywhere rejoice!
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