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A new type of princess.
Pixar has done nothing for me since Up. I’ve never understood why people like the Toy Story movies as much as they do and the less said about Cars 2 the better. Now in what is a landmark moment that should have come a decade ago, Pixar decided to make a movie about women. Not only is Merida (Kelly MacDonald) the first female protagonist in a Pixar movie, this is the first time a Pixar film has focused on an exclusively female relationship: that of mother and daughter. Though destined to be a Disney Princess (another first for Pixar, getting a character into that vaunted club), Merida is a new breed. Gone is the tacit assurance that finding love and getting married is the apex of womanly existence. You have to hand it to Pixar: when they join a club, they aim to change it. Maybe this is because Brenda Chapman, getting credit both as a writer and director on the project, is a woman. She was the first woman to direct a major animated feature for a Hollywood studio (The Prince of Egypt). So there’s a lot of new ground being broken by Brave behind the scenes.
In terms of quality, well, Brave is every bit as good as the typical Pixar movie. It’s got the same beating heart beneath the action and comedy, the same simple but completely human themes running through its somewhat fantastic story. Above all, it’s really about relationships between people and strong emotions expressed through clear, confident storytelling. This is another one of those cases where they make it look easy over there. It’s got a little The Little Mermaid mixed into its DNA and I don’t just say that because half the characters are gingers. There’s the same narrative of the rebellious young woman only this time, it’s her mother and not her father she’s rebelling against. Add in some colorful secondary characters, a magic spell, and some danger and you’ve got a solid formula that, while not groundbreaking, allows everything about Brave that is groundbreaking to breathe. Read the rest of this entry »
What do you get when you cross a bunch of bizarrely placed actors, a blender-bomb mix of influence, style, and tecnique, an archetypal revenge story with bromance thrown in for kicks, and a series of inventive fights that are the best of their kind since Kill Bill?
Bunraku is what you get, apparently. And it’s not a movie that people are going to notice let alone rush out and see. That’s a shame for the kind of eclectic geek it was made by and for, for whom this type of thing is like catnip. It’s probably a wise move by everyone else because five seconds of Kevin McKidd fight-dancing with his stick and scarf will be enough to turn them off.
For what’s it worth, I fall more into the former category. That isn’t to say that Bunraku doesn’t err on the side of its own lunacy and ambition at times (the narration isn’t always great and the narrator himself is actually fairly bad). For the most part, its flaws are part and parcel with its commitment to the colorful, improbably, and kinetic world in which its story is set. That story is nothing too amazing. It’s a familar East-meets-West revenge tale in which the two main characters are actually a samurai and a cowboy. Of course, the twist is that Bunraku takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where any weapon including and beyond firearms is outlawed and martial arts melees reign supreme. So it’s a cowboy without a gun and a samurai with no sword (well, for most of the movie). Read the rest of this entry »