Film 42: Pretty in Pink (1986)
Dir. Howard Deutch
Film 41: Brave (2012)
How excited I was to discover that Pixar would be releasing a new film set not only in Scotland, but featuring genuine Scottish voice actors and a strong female protagonist (very Miyazaki). This is what enticed me to go out and watch it initially, for Scottish culture interests me greatly and the inclusion of a heroine this time around seemed unorthodox for Pixar yet intriguing, in addition to a faithfulness to Pixar animation ever since Toy Story. I wanted to see how this would play out - if it was possible for Pixar to redeem themselves after Cars 2. I had virtually no clue as to what the actual plot of Brave was, but with Pixar’s track record of producing kid-friendly stories with sparse complexity and action-filled antics, I trusted that I would not be disappointed.
The setting here is very different from what Pixar fans may be used to. It’s nothing like Paris, the great barrier reef, or a spaceship (heck, the settings used in Pixar films are so diverse, it’s hard to picture an environment they wouldn’t use…). It’s the living, breathing highlands of Scotland. In this way, a Disney influence is most evident. A dark, menacing forest? Got it. A looming castle? Check. Don’t forget the lumbering king, his authoritative queen, a mysterious witch, and a princess to top it all off. We’ve seen these before, just not in this context. Does this make it a homage to the animated fairy tales of which we are so used to? It definitely looks that way. However, it’s much more fresh than the stories of Cinderella or Snow White - there is no damsel in distress nor a valiant knight to rescue her (not in the conventional sense at least). Here, the princess is the one who saves the day. The importance of a man in defeating the villain and rescuing those in dire need of saving is subordinated, and the role instead is given wholly to the woman. Yes, we’ve seen female protagonists in films of course, but it has always been sought to that a man, usually a romantic interest, is there to aid in her quest or save her from harm. It is not that Merida doesn’t have access to someone like that, but rather she chooses to rely on her own wits and strength to complete her quest. With that said, Brave is fresh without a doubt, whilst making use of elements from past stories.
The plot definitely gives Brave a fairy tale-like quality combined with slightly darker tones. Being that it is their first film with such traits, I almost felt like Pixar had taken a leap of faith in producing it. I found that the simple premise, however, was very accessible and engaging. It gets straight to the point, without losing its appeal in long, drawn out sequences or scenes that are not essential to the plot. Every frame and scene was strung together with brilliance, thus making the length of the film just right.
In regards to the art style and soundtrack, Pixar did not disappoint. The landscapes of the majestic highlands and mystic woods of Scotland are depicted beautifully, making it one of their most aesthetically pleasing films to date. A fantastic usage of lighting throughout is a highlight of the superb animation, definitely adding to the magical feel that is emphasized. Character designs are intricate down to the very last detail and even the unique features found on many of the characters may serve as reflections of their personalities and past, and Pixar yet again demonstrates their superiority in the field of computer animation by breathing life into these characters with outrageous fluidity. The soundtrack and the sound of the film is general was captivating. Cultural Scottish music proved to be the perfect fit for this setting and story without being obnoxious or excessive. I will always commend sound editors for playing the right tunes at the right times, and the sound direction of Brave is no exception.
If you expect a traditional epic fairy tale from Brave, you might be disappointed. But If you expect a fresh, smooth, and original tale that has its share of dark and gritty moments to contrast with its delightful and beauteous ones, you will find that Brave is comfortably embraced.
Film 35: The Avengers (2012)
In all honesty, I truly believe that no review could do this movie justice. It’s simply amazing and will keep you completely engrossed in the action until the very last moment. Every single scene is acted out and shot extremely well and the action is virtually nonstop. I suppose that this might not appeal to a select few, but really now - who could resist the drawn out action scenes complete with excellent camerawork, amazing stunts, and perfect effects? And if you’re not all about action, you have a star-studded cast to provide you with generous heaps of unforgettable drama and humor.
You fall in love with the characters almost immediately, whether you’ve seen their solo films or not (which should be watched for added depth, being that character development is not a highlight of this film, but it’s no requirement in any way), and continue to see them as real, dependable and exceptional, superheroes. Each of their introductions is characteristic of their personalities and carried out in a fashion that does not disappoint. The chemistry between the characters is greatly emphasized and works to your satisfaction, and fortunately each of our heroes is given their own time to shine. Hawkeye and Black Widow, the ‘underdogs’ who lack their own personal films (though they have been featured in Thor and Iron Man 2, respectively), receive a surprisingly sufficient amount of screen time and are just as magnificent as the rest. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark retains his magnetic charm and is always a blast to watch onscreen, as Iron Man or not. It is believed that no one else could possibly play Stark as brilliantly as Downey Jr., and I can definitely see why. In his hallmark performance, Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers was my favorite to watch in this film. I was entertained by his demeanor and style, even more so knowing that Captain America is, in actuality, a 90-year-old war veteran who isn’t afraid to express his elderly spunk (please excuse my use of the word ‘elderly,’ it being the last word one might use to describe that perfect body). Thor is ridiculously entertaining if only for the fact that he is continually confused in regards to Midgardian customs and yet, being a god himself, possesses very human character dynamics. Bruce Banner, or the Hulk, is also quite lovable and gives our main villain a beat down to remember. That brings me to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who is lives up to his title as god of mischief and may possibly be the most complex of the characters. In Thor, Loki had been a more innocent and merciful young antagonist. Here, he is determined to his purpose and unyielding. He may not be pure evil, but you can sense traces of it developing with his character. You may see yourself as being on the side of the good guys, but you can’t help but root for the bad guy as well. This is where the acting element truly shines.
In terms of action and effects: wow. Each battle or fight scene, from shot to shot, leaves you breathless and on the edge of your seat. It delivers in the sense that it caters to the audience’s need for more and more action, even when things seem to settle down. Cinematic quality of this calibre is a rare sight, and few manage to capture such erratic action as well as The Avengers. Joss Whedon is a genius.
In every sense of the word, it is a roller coaster of a movie.
Film 34: Cabin in the Woods (2012)
To be quite honest, I don’t know what I expected from this film. Though I knew for sure that it wouldn’t be a typical american horror film, I was continually caught off guard as the plot progressed. In truth, it isn’t a horror film at all. It’s a satirical black comedy masked as a horror film, a fresh approach to an all but overplayed movie genre that essentially gets the job done. It has all the makings of a common, cheesy teen slasher flick, yet the plot seems to spin out of control the very moment you begin to figure things out, panning out to reveal something much, much bigger than initially perceived. I cannot say much for the acting or the cinematography, both of which are generally unexceptional, but suitable. The comedy aspect is extremely crude and even downright nauseating at times, though it was necessary with the attributed subject matter… Many people will find this film annoying, strange, or just plain stupid, but only because its supposed goal is to astound and bewilder viewers with its sarcastic play on horror films. I guess it’s safe to say that whatever viewers take away from their experience watching this film is entirely dependent on how they see it.