Film Review: Brave, Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Brave is the new film from Disney Pixar directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt), and co-directed by Steve Purcell. I remember the trailers for this film being quite enticing. It showed beautiful scenery and an interesting story about a girl being forced into a clan’s tradition of marriage. So yes, both were in the movie… but they should have stuck to just that. Instead, they decide to play purely to the kids market and have Brave delve into magic. While the inclusion of magic could have been interesting if consistent with the rest of the plot, it instead side-lined the whole first third of the movie. Obviously Disney is a child-focused organisation, but surely they can stick to a promising storyline without making it silly. However, the film went on to tell the tale of how Brave needed to un-do her magic, while the beginning plot of finding a suitor went down the pan loosely tied up in the second third.

Character-wise, the two main characters: brave and her mother’s intentions were well portrayed. We understood Brave’s need to be free, while we also understood her mother’s want for her to be a traditional princess. What we didn’t see was anything else. These characters had no other traits. The mother was obsessed with making Brave into a princess, while Brave just wanted to run off… and that was it. This made their decisions very plot driven and stopped the characters going their own way. It made the whole thing very predictable and meant the film needed other characters to drive it forward. Not that the other characters were much to mention. The three sons were unnecessary and the three suitors (and their fathers) weren’t distinguishable enough.  On top of the weak character development came a weak backstory that was briefly mentioned just so they could add a scary bear in at the end.

Overall, the animators and actors did well, but the plot wasn’t thought out enough. It was choppy and swapped aims part way through, to then be decorated with a scattering of backstory and be tied up with a piece of string. What was quite a promising movie went in the complete wrong direction, relying on cheap humour and attempts at creating tension. What Disney should have done is stuck to the ‘suitors’ thing and brought in more information about the ancient folktale that was briefly dotted about. Kudos however, to: the composer, Patrick Doyle (also composed for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Thor), Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, British folk rock group Mumford & sons, singer Birdy and songwriter Alex Mandel, for the beautiful soundtrack that becomes the best part of the movie.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: The Hobbit, directed by Peter Jackson

The long awaited prequel to Lord of the Rings has arrived at last… or at least, the first part of it. With director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong, producer of District 9) taking the reins, the LOTR ‘series’ got a push into modern cinema: perhaps a little too much. This film was made for IMAX 3D and you can certainly tell. However, it presented itself well and people’s worries about the frame rate didn’t show to be a problem. The film ran smoothly… it just looked modern. This, in a way, took away some of the charm, but on the other hand the digital scenes looked incredible.

Story-wise, some details from the book have been changed, but it all ties together well. While not sticking to the book completely, all of the changes seem to be for the better: including the white Goblin that wants Thorin dead. It’s still a little disappointing that the film has been made into a trilogy, but the movie ended in a satisfactory place. I had a couple of gripes,though. I think the creatures (orcs, trolls, goblins) talk too much, or sound too clean spoken. I half expected one to turn around and say ‘good day, dear sir!’… at least grumble and growl a bit? Also, at one point some eagles appear out of no-where… well, there was a slight preparation but you’d really need to have read the books, or be a Lord of the Ring’s fan, to understand it.

Overall, the Hobbit was a good experience. It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, but I do think that the digital modern film style steals a… feeling from it. However, it does look incredible and it is an entertaining film. I’d definitely say to go see it.

Rating: 6/10

Theatre Review (Script only) – Waiting for Godot by Samual Beckett

Waiting for Godot: a play that could also be called ‘waiting for plot’. It’s notoriously known as the play where nothing happens and it sure lives up to that expectation. Waiting for Godot depicts two, what we can presume are human males, who are waiting on a hill for Godot to arrive. As they wait they meet two characters, Pozzo and his slave Lucky. Just reading the script of this play, I was quite shocked and disappointed to learn that the story wasn’t set in a post-apocalyptic world. The characters seem so strange and almost insane that you think they can’t possibly be real people in everyday life. And it’s not even insane in the good sense, but where it just makes things confusing. I wouldn’t want to see this play performed for the fact that how you could imagine the characters (as odd creatures that stalk the night) is a lot better than how they were meant to look.

A good aspect about this play is its dialogue. Beckett was well known for closely looking at the ways in people speak, to replicate dialogue effectively. So, the characters speak in a natural way, with re-phrasing, repetition, stumbling and forgetting… but what they say isn’t worth listening to. Well, he got one out of two. It was nice, too, to have so few characters. Despite their strangeness, you did spend a lot of time with the four and so got a lot of opportunities to get to know their character.

Repetition was a big part of this play and act one is very similar to the second. This made the play stagnate, as it wasn’t so much looping around as making you think “oh no, not this again”. Then there came the most random and boring monologue in act two that more or less finishes the reader off. I don’t know… maybe Waiting for Godot is simply out of its time. Perhaps at the time, the audience Beckett aimed his piece at would have made much more sense of it. But whether time, or something else, has killed the sense of this play, all it’s done for me is to push me more towards more modern playwrights, as if Beckett is known as ‘one of the best’ historically, It seems to be a sign that looking to the past is the wrong direction for theatre.

4/10

Film Review: The Amazing Spiderman

The Amazing Spiderman came out on DVD this week and so a DVD night was called for. The AMAZING Spiderman: a re-vamp of the Spiderman series, directed by Marc Webb. I had high expectations for this film and over-all it was a bit of a let-down. Sure, there were some nice animated effects and it was fairly enjoyable but it wasn’t as big and bold as it should have been. No wonder it failed with its tousle for popularity against the Batman film that toured cinemas at the same time.

Starting with the man himself: Spiderman. The Spiderman (and Peter Parker) of this film was played by Andrew Garfield (that guy from ‘The Social Network’). Did he work as Spiderman? Not really… I can’t remember a time when he showed good acting emotion and the director portrayed Peter Parker as way too hip. He was a skateboarder! Since when was Peter Parker cool enough to skate? Also, its pushed in our face from the start ‘hey look… this kid is modern, this kid is smart’ cause he web-searches everything and we makes silly gadgets to lock his door. Making his web-shooters seemed a bit silly, too. I know it stays closer to the comic that way, but it makes more sense with Sam Raimi’s portrayal in ‘Spiderman’ from 2000 that shooting webs was one of the genetical attributes he gains as a ‘super-power’.

Next to the bad guy: Lizard. I understand the reasons for making Lizard humanistic, in regards to facial features… but at the same time, it looks ridiculous. It would have been much more menacing to have a more velociraptor look to the head, tweaked slightly to make it easier for human speech. The one in this film looked way too human. It was like Barney the Dinosaur ‘gone bad’.  The transformations, however, were cool and the parts where it was actor Rhys Ifans, but with lightly added scales looked quite nice. But the villain wasn’t threatening enough. The fight scenes between Spiderman and Lizard were fair, though.

Finally, the plague of 3D effects hit this movie hard. It tried to add in as many 3D swinging effects as it possibly could… and when watched out of the cinema they just look awful. There was even, what I like to call a ‘trailer sequence’ of swinging just shoved on the end of the movie for no apparent reason other than to show off the “marvellous 3D effects”. It wasn’t impressive on DVD and I wish films would steer clear.

5/10

Attraction Review: The Tate Gallery, Liverpool

The Tate Liverpool Art Gallery has a wide collection of British and International modern art, with a variety of styles. From large sculptures (Naum Gabo’s Head No.2), to fine oil paintings (Paul Delvaux’s Leda) to Marcel Duchamp’s  ‘Fountain’ replica (a urinal the artist found and decided to write on and make art), the gallery really has tried to house everything. It attempts to hold and collate all different types of art in a jumble… which doesn’t really work. There didn’t seem to be any underlying structure to the lay-out and everything was a little ad-hoc. The non-permanent exhibits were structured, so why not the rest of the gallery?

Being modern art, the pieces displayed were all kooky and strange in their own way. However, some of the artworks just become confusing. Take the urinal, for example… or perhaps the construction table with a mounted sex toy. Yeah. Well, it wasn’t all that bad, but strange and unique certainly seems to be the essence. This can be inspiring I guess, as with one art piece used a completely dark room and viewers would need a camera flash, or mobile phone to view the pictures on the wall. Though to be fair, opportunities of being in a pitch black room are few, and enjoyment can also be found playing ‘weeping angels’.

Perhaps it’s due to me not being into the art world, and I’m sure people more interested in that genre of art would find more enjoyment. But art to me is more about the picture perfect paintings… or the grand, intricate sculpture. I just can’t find much sense in most pieces of modern art.

However, overall, I would recommend a trip to the Liverpool Tate Gallery, as art is meant to inspire thought and opinion. And what better a way to form inspiration than to take a look?

For more information, visit: http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-liverpool

Rating: 4/10

Theatre Review: Held – written by Joe Ward Munrow

There are not enough non-musical plays available in theatres lately, and ‘Held’ is a clear example of why we need to change that. Wonderfully performed by Ged Mckenna (David), Alan Stocks (Simon) and Pauline Daniels (Mary), this play greatly surpassed expectations. This was the first play written by Joe Ward Munrow after taking part in the Young Writers programme and it is being performed at ‘The Playhouse’ in Liverpool until the 1st of December, 2012.

The play centres around Mary, an elderly mother of two sons, who is suffering from a type of dementia. We see her sitting in a chair of an elderly home with her sons visiting her. Suddenly, strobe lighting flashes and there is a quick chilling buzz that makes you feel uncomfortable. This buzzing seems to indicate a change of perspective from Mary’s mind: that is running through memories, to the sons’ perspectives: who are making the painful decision on their next steps. The sons each have their own character monologue, where we see their contrasts. Both are intricately and sub-textually described through the aspects of their speech. Simon talks of the vastness of science and how he ‘just doesn’t want to think about it’ while David talks about a new hob design where the water and pan get hot, but the hobs don’t. Both are drenched in beautiful metaphor that creates powerful messages. However, the writer should maybe think about making these more succinct as some speeches got to their climax half way through and the effect dwindles thereafter.

The actors did extremely well. It seemed at first that they were ill-casted: as Pauline Daniels could never look old enough to have mothered Stocks and Mckenna! However, as we learned more about the characters, the family unit began to slot together beautifully. Each character’s traits caused brilliant contrasts and the relationships were greatly strengthened as we learnt about the individuals and heard their thoughts and feelings. Daniels (Mary) switched from absent and disorientated, to child-like and happy, to stressed and angry in an instant and never missed a beat. One thing that came off as less effective was that Simon’s character seemed to be at a point of high drama for most of his speeches. It might have been a good effect to have a softer side seen: increasing the shock of his louder points.  However, when emotion was required he was extremely effective. Mckenna also brought the spirit of his character alive and performed well.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with this piece. The stage and sounds, along with a part at the end where all actors were talking at the same time, were truly haunting. The character development and monologues were effective and use of pacing and perspective were used well. The acting was also astounding, and they interacted with the audience perfectly. I greatly encourage people to see ‘Held’ and to keep watch for more from this promising playwright.

To buy tickets: http://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

Rating: 9/10