Tag Archives: Pixar

2012 in review – Reeling in Films

As each year rolls to a close, I find myself desperately Googling lists of films which opened in the year in an effort to determine what I actually saw at the cinema.  You may encounter a similar situation – did I really enjoy that movie this year or did it come three years ago and I’ve only just caught up with it?

That said, I’m pretty sure that I can post a solid top five movies of the year – all of which are mostly perfectly defensible.  Ahem…

1) Brave

Women with bows and/or arrows - you couldn't avoid them in 2012 pop culture

Women with bows and/or arrows – you couldn’t avoid them in 2012 pop culture

I hated “Cars” so much that I purposefully avoided “Cars 2” when it opened last year.  I know people who loved both movies, but I’m firmly of the belief that I’ll only see it when it ends up free to watch on TV.  I’m happy to say that “Brave” reaffirmed my belief in Pixar’s storytelling abilities and seemed, at times, made for me.

Set in Scotland? Check.  Strong-willed heroine with character layers and imperfections?  Check.  Knockabout comedy and thrilling action sequences?  Oh yes.   Amazing voice cast? Emma Thompson, Kelly McDonald, Billy ConnollyCraig FergusonRobbie ColtraneJulie Walters – check-a-mundo.

And how bold of Pixar to essentially pull the rug from underneath you in the cinema and deliver a film which is quite different from the one advertised – there’s plentiful adventure to behold in this film but also a really interesting meditation on family and obligation which the trailers didn’t exactly shy away from but certainly managed to undersell.

My favourite Pixar movie is “Ratatouille” but this glorious adventure runs it a close second – if you didn’t get to see it in cinemas, I heartily recommend picking it up and wallowing in master storytellers weaving a brilliant yarn.  I’ve not loved an animated feature as much since “How To Train Your Dragon”, which is high praise indeed.

"Fanboys?  Let them eat Mjolnir!"

“Fanboys? Let them eat Mjolnir!”

2) “Avengers Assemble”

Joss Whedon – the vindication!  You may have seen this film once or twice.  I saw it three times theatrically, a couple of times since on Blu-Ray (full disclosure – I own two copies of it, as the UK release ditched various features and a Whedon commentary track).  The culmination of the first phase of Marvel’s Movie Take-Over didn’t disappoint, pitting the cast of bickering heroes against a galactic scale threat and finding a way, finally, to bring the Hulk to thrilling life via Mark Ruffalo and some absurdly brilliant CG wizardry.

Whedon’s voice remained undimmed by the demands of the multiple characters – much to the chagrin of his vocal detractors – and he managed to miraculously balance the demands of mythology, actor screen time, the expected summer movie explosions-per-second ratio and his own fan base to deliver a superhero smack down for the ages.  If you ever read comics as a kid, this movie was pitched directly at you and realised in vivid detail those action figure battles you sketched out at eight years old in the school playground.

Plus, you know, Shawarma.

Genre cannon fodder, meet your puppeteers...

Genre cannon fodder, meet your puppeteers…

3) “Cabin In The Woods”

It really is better if you know as little as possible about this film before you see it, such is its puppyish determination to take what you know and love about horror cinema and then twist it, delivering a glorious, genre-warping ride which celebrates the scare-flick even as it places some of its more objectionable stylistic tropes under an exacting microscope.

Best ending of the year?  Quite possibly.

4) “The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists”

More jokes per minute than any movie this year and most of them are brilliant...

More jokes per minute than any movie this year and most of them are brilliant…

The latest from Aardman Animation arrived in cinemas in the spring and departed with indecent haste, which says to me that a great many people didn’t get to enjoy this joke-stuffed, superbly inventive pirate adventure and that’s a great shame.  This is a hilarious movie, with fantastic performances from Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman and David Tennant, staggering levels of detail crammed into each gorgeous frame of this stop motion work of art and a really infectious sense of off-kilter humour – it is, in essence, a Monty Python movie for kids and if that doesn’t recommend it to you, I really don’t think that there’s any hope for you.

=5) “The Woman In Black”

What Harry Did Next

What Harry Did Next

A genuine breath of swampy, slightly decaying air, “The Woman In Black” capitalizes royally on our fear of creaking furniture in quiet old houses, of unexplainable noises late at night, of the thing that you glimpse for a second from the corner of your eye and delivers a bone-chilling, restrained journey into terror which eschews gore for melancholy, substitutes atmosphere for flashy jump scares and shows the idiots cranking out PG-13, pseudo ‘found footage’ schlock just how to genuinely unsettle an audience.

Daniel Radcliffe is superb in the lead as haunted young lawyer Arthur Kipps, wrestling bravely with events that he can never hope to understand and confirming that his will be a long and storied career if he continues to make smart choices like appearing in this film.  He’s already an audience identification figure for a generation of movie-goers and this film trades on that, using his iconic, essentially decent countenance to draw us into a Victorian milieu which is swiftly and convincingly drawn as a stultifying and closed-off nightmare – Kipps’ job-stipulated stay in a possibly haunted, rickety old mansion seems positively inviting by comparison.

More scares per minute than any other film in 2012?  I should say so.

=5) “Resident Evil: Retribution”

Evil goes virtual, more like...

Not so much a film as cinematic DLC. Yep, a bit of a tough sell…

Suck it haters!

 

In dispatches, I should also mention the likes of James Bond adventure, “Skyfall”, Christopher Nolan‘s audience dividing but audacious trilogy-capper, “The Dark Knight Rises“, Peter Jackson’s little movie that could, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, genius bare knuckle, sci-fi adaptation, “Dredd”, gleefully daffy TV remake “21 Jump Street”, putative epic sci-fantasy adventure “John Carter”, vamps versus werewolves franchise entry “Underworld: Awakening“, Ridley Scott‘s return to the “Alien” universe in “Prometheus”, addled fantasy revisionism “Snow White and the Huntsman“, mumble-core superhero fable, “Chronicle”  and Sony’s promising, web-slinging reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man”.

And 2013 brings us a new “Star Trek”, “Elysium”, “Oblivion”, “Riddick”, “Iron Man 3”, “After Earth”, “Pacific Rim”, “Ender’s Game”, “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” from merely the Sci-Fi and Fantasy film spheres – there’s a huge movie at the multiplex seemingly every month and I’d guess that I’ll get to see a mere fraction of those titles at the movies next year.

Which is kind of where we came in, isn’t it?

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BraveHawk? BraveEye?

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via Cherry Garcia on Tumblr (and the SFX Spurious Awards)

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Parvel? Mixar? Coolness…

Marvel? Pixar? Start making this movie and never make another "Cars" sequel. That is all.

Pixar Marvel – via Reddit & Imgur.

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“John Carter” trailer 2 now live, “ER” fans resolutely bemused…

Taylor Kitsch is the eponymous "John Carter"...

Perspective is a funny thing.

When you’ve been around for a while, you start to see the difference between being an influencer and just being influenced.

Take this second trailer for Andrew Stanton and Disney’s “John Carter”, for example.  Many online reactions to the footage have centred around perceived echoes to scenes from “Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones” (the arena battles and the alien creatures) and “Avatar” (erm…John Carter is covered in blue monster gunk at one point?).

So, it couldn’t be the case that James Cameron and George Lucas were influenced by pulp sci-fi classics and managed to get their visions to the screen first, then?

Not skimping on the CG creatures...

I will concur that this trailer feels a little more generic and slightly ‘Bro’ audience-friendly than the first teaser – when the Led Zep tune kicked in, my eyebrow raised in sympathy.  It’s a weird choice, no doubt – better to use some sympathetic cues from Howard Shore or James Horner than to have a rather out-of-place classic rock jam being rather out-of-place in a trailer which is going to get in front of a lot of eyes in the next month or so, surely?

...Blue Man Group live at Red Rocks? No? I'll get my coat...

Films (and film-makers) are the product of their influences, just as games and developers soak up influence and project it into their craft – witness the number of fans who look at “Halo” and the lore that Bungie created and then see “Aliens” for the first time and somehow convince themselves that James Cameron is guilty of ripping off a game which came out perhaps twenty years after he began work on his film.  It’s asinine and absurd, but less well-informed fans will insist on believing it.

Does he look like an Ewok? Does he?

Influence and those who are influenced – look into it.

A Martian spaceship, yesterday..

“John Carter” is out in March 2012.

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Disney cranking up the “John Carter” hype train…

A new franchise for a classic literary character...

Disney have strongly hinted that we can expect to see a full trailer on Thursday – there’s a teaser here at Apple’s trailer site – so it appears that the hype train for their sci-fi blockbuster-in-waiting, “John Carter” is beginning to build a head of steam.

Various journos were invited to see 20 minutes of footage at Disney’s London office recently – SFX’s Dave Golder’s piece is here whilst Den of Geek’s Ryan Lambie’s story is here.

Nascent sci-fi franchises are ten-a-penny, but there are reasons to be excited by this latest would-be contender – the presence of Pixar director Andrew Stanton behind the camera is but one.  He directed “A Bug’s Life”, “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E” for the digital animation wizards and that’s reason enough for me to be at the cinema on opening weekend.  “Wall-E” is probably in my top ten films of all time – “Finding Nemo” certainly is.

If he can translate his obvious storytelling gifts from one medium to another, we’re in for a treat – initial word says that he may have done just that.

My hope for this film is that it manages to make a more than decent fist of translating Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pulp sci-fi hero the screen and prompts studios to realise that there’s more to summer blockbusters than just superhero adaptations – there’s a wealth of classic sci-fi fiction which can be realised now in the digital era.

Of course, this could be a recipe for disaster if Hollywood lets the likes of McG and Michael Bay loose on the Golden Age of sci-fi novels.

Involuntary shudder in 5, 4, 3…

 

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Pixar’s “Brave” trailer strides nobly across the interwebs…

More Pixar genius or "Mulan" with a gentle Scots burr?

For most of the time, I love Pixar – let us not speak of the wretched “Cars” series and all will be well – and I find myself very much cheered by the first full trailer for 2012’s offering from the House that Lasseter built, Scottish-set adventure, “Brave”.

Great voice talent (Kelly McDonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Craig Ferguson)  behind the scenes, a fine Scots setting and a tantalising hint of fantasy-based adventure (seemingly utilising the mythology approach which so well served DreamWorks Animation’s How To Make A Perfect Movie How To Train Your Dragon”) the latter point being of the highest note, as Pixar doing Fantasy/Sci-Fi is very much my bag of premium quality, Etruscan Sea Salt and Moroccan Vinegar flavoured crisps.

The aforementioned automotive atrocities aside, Pixar haven’t really put a dainty sized 8 wrong for me during the last fifteen or so years – let’s hope that “Brave” continues their winning streak.  Yes, the beats in the trailer seem to be selling me “Mulan” with a Highlands accent and appear to riff on the whole proto-Feminist-but-not-too-feminist messaging that a lot of Disney-affiliated flicks like to trot out, but I’m still going to keep this movie on my radar.

 

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Quick Geek News, October 6 2011

Today’s fix of quick nerd news goes something like this –

Slashfilm has an update on the upcoming Universal theme park attraction for the “Transformers” franchise – with the theme park operator dubbing it, as you might expect, “Transformers – The Ride”.  It’s scheduled for a debut in the Singapore park in December of this year and in the Hollywood park in Spring 2012, blending 3D live action footage and animatronic effects.

As long as it doesn't feature John Turturro in a 3D-thong, I'm happy...

There’s a blog for the ride HERE

SFX, meanwhile, have a story about Warner Brothers cash-mountain in-the-waiting, the making of Harry Potter studio tour, which opens its doors from 31 March 2012 – you can book tickets here from 13 October.

Can we get an endlessly replenishing breakfast, too? That would be sweet...

Mrs Rolling Eyeballs is even now F5’ing as though a Hippogriff’s life depended on it.

The dream team of “Iron Man” helmer Jon Favreau, “Star Trek” scribe Roberto Orci and “Robot Chicken” co-creator Seth Green are working on an ABC tv pilot set in an “X-Files”-like division working out of the White House.

I'm always down for a show which recalls "The X-Files"...

I09 pays tribute to Steve Jobs, who died today at the age of 56, after battling liver cancer. He leaves a legacy of innovative and elegant products, from Apple computers to Pixar films, which made technology accessible to a mass audience and created a proud and passionate fan base of Apple geeks the world over.

Making complex technology simpler.

The Guardian, meanwhile, has Apple insiders recalling Apple’s culture and product design focus.  Even the Metal world gets in the act, via Blabbermouth, with the likes of Wes Borland, Fred Durst, Bret Michaels and more recalling the impact that Apple had on them.

File this one under – “I’ll believe it when I see it” – French website, via Eurogamer, reports that Spielberg-produced “Halo” movie to commence shooting in 2012.

 

Does want?

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