Jordan Roberts

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Big Hero 6 Review


Good

Fans of bright, flashy things will love this colourful, kinetic animated adventure, although anyone seeking originality or involving characters should probably look elsewhere. This is the first Disney animation based on a Marvel comic book, although they have essentially only retained the title and a vague semi-Asian setting. The result is a film that feels like something you've already seen before, with the usual Disney plot formula, characters and action beats, plus lots of sentimentality. At least it's witty and fast-paced enough to keep us entertained.

The futuristic setting is San Fransokyo, a slightly more Japanese version of San Francisco in which 15-year-old computer-geek orphan Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) lives with his Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph). Both are shaken when Hiro's brother Tadashi dies in an explosion Hiro thinks he might have caused. Then he meets Tadashi's health-care robot invention Baymax (Scott Adsit), a cuddly inflatable creature who just wants to take care of Hiro. He goes along with Hiro's plan to turn him into a fighting machine that helps find the masked man who stole Hiro's microbot invention and actually caused the explosion. Baymax also helps Hiro assemble the Big Hero 6 team, adding Tadashi's nerd-inventor pals: goofy Fred (T.J. Miller), rebellious Go Go (Jamie Chung), nice-guy Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) and girly Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez). Together they set out to stop the villain before he enacts his nefarious plan.

All of this is animated with bright colours and a snappy sense of the technology. There are several exhilarating set-pieces along the way as the young heroes work out their special powers by inventing all sorts of gadgets. But nothing about the script meaningfully deepens these characters. Each person on-screen is essentially one personality trait, while potentially colourful side roles (including Aunt Cass) are left badly undefined. What holds the interest is the superb interaction between Hiro and Baymax, mainly because of the obvious affection between them. And also because Baymax has all of the film's funniest lines.

Continue reading: Big Hero 6 Review

American Teen Review


Bad
American Teen, the new documentary about teen life directed by Nanette Burstein, lends credence to the somewhat comforting yet completely ludicrous idea that teen comedies, from John Hughes through American Pie, have high school life completely pegged. Mounted on the shoulders of four teenagers living in East Nowhere, Indiana (okay, okay, it's Warsaw, Indiana), Burstein excavates the meta-dramatic senior year of the four pre-collegiates, peppered equally with family squabbles and a carousel of break-ups, hook-ups, and almost-relationships. The four sociological archetypes are covered perfectly: A Jock, a Bitch, a Nerd and a Wild Card. As always, the insinuation is that they all have a lot more in common in the end then they realized. For those who felt that the 40 minutes of MTV's True Life were just not enough, your film has arrived.

Burstein's film, her third major documentary to date, is the first film I feel completely comfortable labeling "reality filmmaking." The very fact that MTV didn't have a hand in this leaves me dazed. In editing, framing, and even (dare I say?) dramatic arc, Teen is the distant cousin of the music channel's monster hit series The Hills, the heavily-manipulated "reality" show about a group of young women trying to make it in the fashion business.

Continue reading: American Teen Review

March Of The Penguins Review


Excellent
From a distance, the tuxedo-colored penguins waddling, single file, across the expansive Antarctic ice in March of the Penguins look eerily similar to stubby, slightly unsteady Manhattanites trudging to and from Grand Central Station commuter trains at the end of a long workday. A loving ode to the life-altering (and at times life-threatening) dedication and devotion of parents toward the conception and protection of their children, Luc Jacquet's breathtaking and surprisingly sweet documentary intentionally anthropomorphizes its pint-sized subjects, utilizing stunning footage of the animals in their natural habitats to highlight the similarities (emotionally, if not literally) between penguins and humans. Far more moving, modest, and efficient than 2003's somewhat similar Winged Migration, this small, quiet gem about parental fidelity has an understated grace and touchingly sentimental soul that's aided by the director's astonishingly intimate, up-close access to his flightless subjects.

Shot over thirteen months by Jacquet and expert cinematographers Laurent Chalet and Jérôme Maison (during which time the crew lived, without respite, in the Antarctic), March of the Penguins finds beauty and poignancy in simplicity. Though released in its native France with humorous, slightly surreal dialogue for its penguin protagonists and Emilie Simon's Björk-esque music, this American release instead opts for Morgan Freeman's elegant, understated narration and Alex Wurman's pleasant score, both of which work in tandem with Jacquet's stunning images to make clear the similarities between bird and human culture. Its narrative is an uncomplicated one, tracing the arduous yearlong procreation process during which hundreds of penguins (led by the leader-of-the-line male emperor penguins) travel 70-plus miles to a solid stretch of ice. There, they engage in an amusing courtship dance to find a desirable mate, a routine that can end in romantic beak-to-beak snuggling or, in certain cases, female-on-female violence when a bitchy femme attempts to steal an already-taken man.

Continue reading: March Of The Penguins Review

Around The Bend Review


Bad
The kind of thing that would be playing nonstop if there were a Lifetime Network for Men, Around the Bend is a getting back in touch with your family drama that would be mawkishly entertaining if it weren't so utterly hackneyed and false. Ostensibly a labor of love for first-time writer/director Jordan Roberts, the film gives us four generations of men stuffed together in one slovenly kept house - with a foreign blonde off to the sidelines to provide some tasteful eye candy - who have to come to grips with their atrophied relationships when the patriarch kicks the bucket.

Films of this nature usually need a gruff, salt-of-the-earth type to provide hard-earned wisdom, and here it's the Lair family's elder statesman, Henry (Michael Caine), an ailing archaeologist who despairs at how little fun that his grandson, Jason (Josh Lucas) is letting his own boy, Zach (Jonah Bobo), have in life. Jason is an uptight banker type who's basically raising Zach alone after his wife absconded to Nepal (women, right?), leaving the business of taking care of Henry to the live-in Danish nurse, Katrina (Glenne Headly). On the eve of Henry's impending death - which he's able to foretell with preternatural accuracy - the bombshell dropped in their laps is the arrival of the family's missing link, Turner (Christopher Walken), Henry's son and Jason's father (never mind that Walken is only 10 years younger than Caine and looks even closer to him in age), who wants to make up for his wasted decades of crime, addiction and familial neglect.

Continue reading: Around The Bend Review

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Jordan Roberts Movies

Big Hero 6 Movie Review

Big Hero 6 Movie Review

Fans of bright, flashy things will love this colourful, kinetic animated adventure, although anyone seeking...

American Teen Movie Review

American Teen Movie Review

American Teen, the new documentary about teen life directed by Nanette Burstein, lends credence to...

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Around The Bend Movie Review

Around The Bend Movie Review

The kind of thing that would be playing nonstop if there were a Lifetime Network...

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