Tag Archives: adventure

Brave

23 Jul

brave“Brave” is an excellent word to describe the decision by Pixar studios to set this gripping fantasy adventure in Scotland, complete with broad Scottish accents. Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire) voices impetuous young princess Merida, who scorns the kingdom’s tradition of marrying a lord’s son and yearns to choose her own freedom. However her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), demands she comply with the time-honoured rituals to maintain the balance of the kingdom.

Desperate to escape marriage to one of the three very undesirable kilt-clad young lordlings on offer, Merida seeks help from a witch (Julie Walters), who lands Merida in hot water by granting her wish. Meanwhile, Merida’s brawny father King Fergus (Billy Connolly) busy keeping the peace between the kingdom’s brawling lords, while keeping a paranoid eye out for the terrifying bear who roams the country and once bit off his leg. With its trademark Pixar sense of humour, this blends old-fashioned storytelling and fresh twists, and is one of the more original animations to emerge in recent years.

brave_pic1A further brave choice is placing a girl in the lead role and imbuing her with the feisty courage and deadly archery skills more reminiscent of The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen than any simpering Disney princess. Brave’s male characters are hugely entertaining but very flawed, and the movie’s chief strength is derived from Merida and her mother Elinor, and their complex relationship.

The animation is spectacular – the Brave kingdom skilfully straddles realism and fantasy, from the sumptuous landscapes to the glowing blue will-o’-the-wisps that lead Merida to adventure. Merida’s gorgeous flame-red locks are almost a character in their own right – Pixar created a new simulator to create the marvellous depth and movement of the 1500 tumbling fiery strands that shine against the rugged countryside.

A cast of skilful voice actors including The Late Late Show‘s Craig Ferguson and Robbie Coltrane keep the tone lively, and while some of the scary scenes may alarm smaller children, this is a clever reimagining of old-fashioned storytelling that will delight both boys and girls.

PG, 100 mins, Disney/Pixar

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Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides

22 Jul

pirates_stranger The fourth chapter of this swashbuckling franchise opens with cannon blazing as the protagonists set sail for the Fountain of Youth.  

While the story is loosely based on a 1987 historical fantasy novel by Tim Powers, like its predecessors, the plot takes a back seat to Johnny Depp’s strutting eccentricity, tropical backdrops and comically choreographed swordfighting scenes. Jack Sparrow (Depp) is ordered by King George (Richard Griffiths) to guide a ship helmed by Jack’s old enemy, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to seize the Fountain of Youth before their archrivals, the Spanish. Jack dexterously escapes his duties, but winds up kidnapped by jilted ex-lover Angelica (Penelope Cruz), daughter of Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane) who forces Jack on board Blackbeard’s supernaturally evil vessel, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, to help them find the fountain.

The competing parties discover that their quest is not that simple – first they have to find two silver chalices on a dead Spanish explorer’s ship, get hold of a mermaid and extract a tear from her, so that when both chalices are filled with magic fountain water, the person who drinks the chalice containing a mermaid’s tear will obtain the life of the other drinker. Complicated, yes, but it does give us an excuse to go mermaid hunting, in a frankly hilarious scene in which the siren-like temptresses (led by Australian Gemma Ward) lure the sailors into a lovesick trance, before erupting in a frenzied cross between sharks and supermodels. When a beautiful, less homicidal mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) is netted, it is a race to the finish line amid a whole lot of swordplay, double-crossing and pauses for pirate puns.

As always, Johnny Depp oozes charisma, and the feisty Penelope Cruz is a welcome replacement for the aloof former Pirates heroine Keira Knightley, and the chemistry and badinage with Jack is far more convincing and fun to watch. Pirates regular Orlando Bloom is also absent, but the presence of superbly sardonic McShane (Deadwood) more than fills the void. Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), this adventure romp is as thrilling and frothy as the theme park ride that inspired the series.

M, 2011, Disney, 136 mins