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
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
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
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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