Beautiful Creatures Review (Robert Harding)

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Directed by Richard LaGravenese

Starring Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson

Move over Sabrina, there’s a new teenage witch in the house.  But is she on the side of the dark or light? To find out, you’ll have to watch the movie. Beautiful Creatures is based on the novel of the same name written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl which is the first book in the Caster Chronicles series.

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Ethan is much too intelligent for his small town and is looking forward to the day where he can leave its sheltered borders for something bigger. When a mysterious new girl named Lena moves to town he is immediately drawn to her despite her families sordid past. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their families, themselves and their town.

Beautiful Creatures is geared towards the young adult crowd with a heavy leaning towards the female gender so it’s very easily compared to Twilight.  Both films involve a supernatural love story but Beautiful Creatures does a much better job of selling the relationship. While still feeling a little rushed, Beautiful Creatures establishes a previous attraction between the two main characters. This allows them to be drawn to each other above and beyond the normal sense and when you add the fact that both are outsiders of a sort, it just makes the relationship all that more plausible.

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Where the story weakens is in the films “breakup.” When a movie devotes time to  bringing two characters together so that the audience believes in the relationship you would expect that when something tears them apart  there would be a big emotional reaction. But the most expected and recognised responses are not what we’re given. In fact, there isn’t much of a reaction at all. This eventually results in a climax that lacks the potential impact it could have otherwise had.

Aside from the breakup, the film does a decent job of telling the story. It could have been a little longer in length and fleshed out the subplots a little better but they weren’t exactly necessary to tell the overall story. The lack of explanation with regards to the various subplots meant that the film feels a little rushed and it tends to jump from one point to the next without a smooth transition.

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I did enjoy the casting in this film. Filled with mostly unknowns and giving almost everyone a down to earth look instead of trying to use sex to sell the film meant that it had a more realistic tone (at least for a supernatural witch movie). Of course this might seem odd for a film called Beautiful Creatures but all is not lost for those looking for a little sex appeal. Emmy Rossum playing the role of Ridley Duchannes not only looks fantastic but does her fair share of adding a little eroticism to an otherwise “Christian” film.

Beautiful Creatures isn’t perfect and is likely missing a great deal of detail from the novel but it was much better than expected. Learning from previous films aimed at the same audience, it has a more believable love story all while tossing some FX heavy scenes into the mix to add some thrills to the drama.  The film may not fulfill all expectations but it does justice to enough of them to entertain. And like all good films of this nature, Beautiful Creatures leaves a little something come the end. Just enough to tease the audience. Sequel? There are more novels to pull from aren’t there?

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Brave Review (Nadia Sandhu)

Brave (2012)

Starring (voices) – Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, and Craig Ferguson

Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell

Brave is a big surprise.  The Pixar produced and Disney distributed film is a story about mothers and daughters.  There is no handsome Prince, but there is a Princess, a Queen, magic and a pesky witch.  Oh and some bears.

Pixar films are technically wondrous but can lack the warmth of the animated Disney Classics. With Brave they have finally broken that barrier. The film delivers a personal story and not, as the trailers seemed to suggest, Braveheart with a warrior princess.

Our protagonist Princess Merida boasts an intricately animated mane that would make Rapunzel jealous.  Merida is a tomboy and a rebel and doesn’t show any signs of wanting to grow up.  While her father King Fergus indulges her, mother Queen Elinor tries to teach her responsibility and constantly admonishes her to be a lady.  Tensions ensue, particularly when Merida is faced with having to do her royal duty and keep the kingdom together.

The plot twists into unexpected territory here – for good and bad depending on one’s personal tastes, but it is refreshing nonetheless.  Too many modern heroines are all “girl power” and not much else.  Merida is a far better realized character, growing and maturing before our very eyes, and this is probably why the ending strikes such a false note.  One suspects the resolution is more a result of pandering to modern tastes rather than organic growth in the characters.

Nevertheless, credit goes to the script which truly captures the incredible complexity and tensions that characterize the mother-daughter dynamic, however fantastical the yarn gets.  Brave sticks to a far more timeless storytelling style than most animated features today, with the now staple contemporary wise cracking of  supporting characters kept to a minimum, and thankfully so.  Not only do these jokes strike discordant notes that pull viewers out of the story,  they ultimately serve to date these films far before their time.

It will be particularly interesting to see how the film is received and reviewed internationally.  Set in Medieval Scotland and clearly created with Western sensibilities in mind, the film has nonetheless harnessed some universal themes.  I am South Asian, and the tensions between familial duty and individual desire resonated particularly well.  I swear I’ve had the same confrontations with my own Mother.

Is the story for everyone?  No.  The second half falls apart a little for anyone that doesn’t care for (wo)man vs. beast, but ultimately this is an emotionally authentic film and worth a visit to the local cineplex.

Take your Moms.

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Men in Black 3 Review (Kirk Haviland)

Men In Black 3 (2012)

Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Alice Eve and Emma Thompson.

Written by Etan Cohen

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

Will Smith returns after a decade to the role that cemented him as a mega-star, that of Agent J in Men In Black. Having come out a year after Independence Day, it was Men in Black with its fun and charming story of a brash young agent in training and the stoic and stubborn partner training him so he could retire, that started Smith onto a string of hits that would make him the most bankable star in Hollywood.  Well, its 15 years later and Smith’s J is still as wise cracking as ever and K is still not retired after being brought out of retirement in the dismal Men In Black 2. What antics will they get up to this time?

Men in Black 3 starts with one of the most unique jailbreak sequences I’ve ever seen. Boris the Animal (Clement) is in maximum security in the most clandestine and impenetrable prison imaginable, built specifically for him, because of Boris’ unique capabilities. After the jailbreak we discover that “K” (Jones) has a unique history with Boris; K was responsible for putting  Boris away and preventing a full scale invasion of earth from his people, a vicious alien race that has become extinct because of K’s actions. Boris tracks down the one man who can help him, the son of the man who invents the now banned Time Jump device, and goes back in time and kills K. With the universe split into a different reality because of this and J (Smith) apparently the only one who remembers that K is supposed to still be alive, the long delayed invasion begins.  The new director of MIB, “O” (Thompson), figures out what J is saying is true and sends him back in time to fix the damage before it can start all over again. Once J returns to 1969, he tracks the clues to a spree of killings that the Boris of 1969 commits and uses those to track him down. He of course bumps into the 1969 K (Brolin), and a 1969 O (Eve), and they set forth to find Boris and save the day.

Men in Black 3 is 4/5th’s of the fun time at the theater you are hoping for. Unfortunately it’s the last 5th of the movie that gets completely preposterous and runs the film right off the rails.  The chemistry that launched the series between Smith and Jones is still there and works, but the chemistry between Smith and Brolin as the young K may even be better. Smith and Jones deliver exactly what you think they will; they know these characters inside and out and don’t hit a sour note until the script lets them down at the end. Brolin has a lot of fun with his K – it’s one of the reason’s to watch the film. The main reason though has to be fantastic work here by Clement. The former Flight of the Concords member is nearly unrecognizable with all the prostheses his Boris has to wear, but he chews scenery left and right. His Boris is as strong a villain as the original film’s Edgar, and way better than the villain in MIB 2, and quite possibly just as creepy. Thompson and Eve both seen to be enjoying  the hell out of being in a MIB film, yet most of the jokes given to Thompson fall very flat.

The story behind the production is that they started shooting before they finished the script; this unfortunately becomes very obvious towards the end of the film. Men in Black 3 is a much better film than the 2nd entry in the series, but lags well behind the fun of the original. I give MIB 3 a very mild recommend, because the end just ruins it so much for me. The first 4/5th’s of the film would get a decent recommend without the final 5th.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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