Tag Archive: family


***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Winter’s Bone, an American independent drama, was released back in 2010. It launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career and achieved critical acclaim at the same time, being nominated for four Oscars.

Ree Dolly is a seventeen year old girl living in the Ozarks. Here she takes care of her catatonic mother as well as her brother and sister. Ree’s father is out on bail and skips his jury date, going missing which means that Ree and her family will lose their home, which was put up as a bond for her father, unless Ree can find him.

Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely brilliant as the unflinching main character and carries the film superbly well. Maybe I am a little biased due to my love for Jennifer Lawrence but her performance in Winter’s Bone saw her become the second youngest actress to be nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars so she can’t have been that bad! The acting in this film is actually breathtaking. A lot of the cast had never acted before appearing in this low budget drama but you could never tell that. Each and every cast member gives a fantastic performance, right from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes all the way down to the two children that play Ree’s younger brother and sister.

The story blends together themes of family, patriarchy, self-sufficiency and poverty and in doing so, Winter’s Bone managers to grasp a great sense of realism. Much of the story is told through pictures and visuals rather than dialogue as for most of the film there is very little talking going on. It means that great attention is needed to fully understand the development of the story and you will need to work hard to pick up on certain plot points. This doesn’t make the film any worse though and Debra Granik should be praised for her great directorial work.

Unfortunately, Winter’s Bone is incredibly slow paced and whilst this is probably done to give a more realist layer to the film it can leave the audience, at times, just waiting for the next big thing to happen and it might not happen for a long time. The first half of the film especially is very slow and we take a longer time than needed, perhaps, to get to know the ins and outs of Ree’s family. Slow pacing meant that this hour and a half long film feel a lot longer than it is.

Winter’s Bone takes itself very seriously, at times too seriously. But as well as this, the whole mystery of where her father is or who has killed him is built up as if we are in for a shock ending, something big. However, the ending is very anti-climatic and leaves a hole inside the audience, leaving them feel like they have missed out on something.

Despite this though, Winter’s Bone did get 4 Oscar nominations and will probably split audiences. As many people like this, there will be just as many people who don’t and I can see why people would or would not like this drama, but I did like it.

My Rating: 7/10.

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Mirror Mirror is the first in a long line of fairytale remakes heading to the big screen over the next couple of years. But while its competition in the genre, and natural main rival Snow White and the Huntsman, plan on setting a much darker tone on their stories, Mirror Mirror opts for a lighter, more comedic take on the classic tale.

So the story is pretty obvious. Mirror Mirror is of course about Snow White and her wicked step mother, the Evil Queen. Snow White is sent out to the forest to be killed, yet she is instead let free and ends up living with seven dwarves. However, in this version Snow White learns how to look after herself and become a skilled fighter and thief with the help of the dwarves whilst trying to win back the Prince who is under a love spell condemning him to long for the Evil Queen.

The cast really only carries one big hitter and that is Julia Roberts in the role of the Evil Queen. Roberts does a very good job really; you’re not supposed to like her character and the way that she is played makes you really see what a horrible character she is, not just as a villain but as a human being in general. You will probably find yourself wondering how much you could slap the Queen before you got bored. Lily Collins looks the part as the Evil Queen’s step daughter and heroine, Snow White; she is a perfect fit for the beautiful and innocent young girl and although her acting skills are not fully developed quite yet she certainly has potential.

The laughs are there in Mirror Mirror which is pretty handy considering it is being marketed for its comedy value. Arnie Hammer and Nathan Lane both offer up some laughs in their roles as Prince Alcott and Brighton respectively. But really the dwarves are the main source of comedy and that seems to be their main purpose within the film. A couple of the dwarves in particular, Grub and Half Pint will stand out.

So thats the good parts done with, now for the bad. The dialogue at times is really forced and chunky, placed within the film in order to blatantly feed the audience with information to a point where it is almost insulting the intelligence of the viewers. It felt like people were talking a lot more than they needed to be and the script could have been sharpened up slightly. There were several parts of the film where it felt as though the film had been clumsily put together and instead of flowing seamlessly from one scene to a next it just didn’t fit right.

I also have a problem with Snow White as a heroine. In the Disney film she wasn’t brilliant but that was many years ago now and people’s attitudes and expectations of the character surely would have changed but here she is still that naive princess. Despite learning to fight and look after herself she still needs the help of eight men at the end of the film to overcome ‘the beast’ and throughout the film it seems as though she is easily manipulated and as for the scenes getting her ready for her first kiss, it was very much playing up to little girls’ ideas of being a princess I felt and wasn’t really needed. She just is not a great heroine, but anyway I digress.

The biggest problem was the ending and the less said about how surplus to requirements it is, the better. We are told at the beginning that the King (Snow’s father) was never seen again. That was roughly ten years before the movie took place, the audience can and have accepted that Snow has not got a father anymore so there is really no need to bring him back at the end of the film, let alone let it turn out that he is ‘the beast’. How pointless is that. Really?!

Mirror Mirror, for all of its flaws, is enjoyable and it will probably make you laugh here and there. Its worth a watch at least once, maybe rent it once its out or just wait for it on television, but still worth a watch.

My Rating: 5/10.

With Pixar’s new movie, Brave, debuting the companies first female protagonist I have decided to compile a list of Pixar’s top ten characters so far. Enjoy.

10. Mater

First Appearance: Cars (2006)

Voiced by: Larry the Cable Guy.

I’m not a big fan of Cars myself and haven’t seen the sequel yet and don’t really want to, but I found Mater to be a good character. He’s always there for Lightning McQueen and he becomes a very important and valuable friend.

 

9. Rex

First Appearance: Toy Story (1995)

Voiced by: Wallace Shawn.

Rex is the big green dinosaur; a rough exterior but he is a coward on the inside. He is a stalwart of the Toy Story trilogy and is a highlight in the films, providing some great comedic moments. He is very loyal to his group of friends and will be there when needed.

 

8. Luxo Jr.

First Appearance: Luxo Jr. (1986)

Luxo Jr. was Pixar’s first film after becoming an independent company and was made to show what the studio could do with animation. Luxo Jr. is the small lamp that appears before and after every Pixar feature length film. He has become the mascot of the studio and has to be considered one of their best characters because he started it all.

 

7. Mr Incredible

First Appearance: The Incredibles (2004)

Voiced by: Craig T. Nelson.

Mr Incredible yearns for the life of a superhero once their activity is outlawed and he makes a successful return to the business. He longs for glory over evil-doers but at the same time is a very caring father and husband to his equally powerful family.

6. Mike Wazowski

First Appearance: Monsters Inc. (2001)

Voiced by: Billy Crystal.

Mike is the one-eyed little green monster in Monsters Inc. and he is the manager of Sulley. Mike becomes something of a scene stealer rather than a sidekick in the film but it is his friendship with Sulley that really makes him a great character.

 

5. Marlin

First Appearance: Finding Nemo (2003)

Voiced by: Albert Brooks.

Marlin’s wife and all but one children are killed at the beginning of Finding Nemo, meaning that Marlin becomes very protective of his only son. After his son is taken by a scuba diver Marlin must face his fears and explore the big wide ocean in search for his son. He is a real hero and an inspirational character as he faces up to his fears.

 

4. Carl Fredricksen

First Appearance: Up (2009)

Voiced by: Ed Asner.

Up was recognised by the Academy with five Oscar nominations and at the heart of the film is Carl Fredricksen. He is a 78 year old widow who uses a lot of helium balloons to fly his house around. The audience really feels for Carl as he goes on his journey. It’s funny, incredibly sad, and exciting all at once.

 

3. Sulley

First Appearance: Monsters Inc. (2001)

Voiced by: John Goodman.

Sulley is the top scarer at work but it’s impossible to see why as we get to know him through Monsters Inc and we learn about his softer side. His relationship with Boo provides some of the cutest moments Pixar have ever created. He is a fantastic hero and is rightly placed in charge Monsters Inc. at the end of the film.

 

2. Wall-E

First Appearance: Wall-E (2008)

Voiced by: Ben Burtt.

Wall-E is the loveable robot of the past set in a future where he is outdated and no longer needed. He is lonely and unloved but goes on a fantastic journey where he falls for Eve and he teaches mankind to be human again. His story is one that audiences of all ages can enjoy and love.

 

1. Woody and Buzz Lightyear

First Appearance: Toy Story (1995)

Voiced by: Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.

You can’t have one without the other. Woody and Buzz Lightyear have been teaching children for almost twenty years what it means to be friends. The two had a rocky start to their relationship but quickly learnt that they needed each other. After going on several journeys together, they have both needed to be saved by the other and have built a bond stronger than anything else in the world. Woody and Buzz Lightyear are without a doubt Pixar’s most recognisable and loved characters and they will have to work incredibly hard if they are ever to create such brilliant characters again.

***MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***

 

No matter what they do, it seems as though Dreamworks will always be working in the shadows of Pixar in terms of animation, film quality and story but their 2012 effort, How to Train Your Dragon, is a fantastic outing from them which is just as enjoyable as most Pixar films.

How to Train Your Dragon tells the story of Hiccup Haddock III (Jay Baruchel), the son of the Viking leader (voiced by Gerard Butler) who aspires to be just like his father and learn to kill dragons with him. That is until a meeting with one of the most feared dragons of the time, a Night Fury, leads to the forming of an unlikely friendship where Hiccup learns that there is more to the fearsome creatures than meets the eye.

This is not a typical children’s film when it comes to story; the focus of the film does not lie within it’s morality of good versus evil, in fact the villain does not really appear until more than halfway through the film. Instead, How to Train Your Dragon prides itself upon it’s character and it’s spirit. It is a story that blurs the line between interpretations of good and evil respective to the dragons in particular and shows true triumph in it’s portrayal of family values and the real meaning of friendship.

The character’s really come to life and the friendship between Hiccup and Toothelss, as the Night Fury is named, is very believable and at times incredibly touching. The voice acting is pretty standard although why the Vikings tend to have Scottish accents rather than Scandanavian accents is baffling.

Dreamworks’ animation is top notch and it is clear they took a lot of time in making the film look aesthetically pleasing. Visually, the film is perfect. In particular, the final act where the young vikings are riding the dragons makes you realise how much effort has gone into the animation. There are clues all through the film about the final act and the dragons in the final act all resemble their riders. This is something that I did not realise until late on but was really impressed with.

Unfortunately, there are some scenes where the action or dialogue is below par and at times it seems to drag a little and on occassion I did become bored. There are some silences as Toothless does not talk and at times the silence is effective and you get a lot of information just from eye movement and body language but when used too much it makes the film boring.

Overall, How to Train Your Dragon is a fun film with a good heart but it idn’t quite have enough to sustain my interest 100% over the hour and a half which it lasts. Saying that, though, I would definitely watch it again.

My Rating: 7/10

UK Release Date: 6th April 2012

The Cold Light of Day centres on a young American, Will Shaw, on vacation with his family in Spain. After a trip into the town Will returns to an empty boat and finds out that his family have been kidnapped. Will soon uncovers a conspiracy and must rush to give the bad guys what they want or risk his family being killed.

Henry Cavill takes the lead role in this film. He will be largely unknown to movie audiences at the minute but soon will be world famous when he takes over the mantle of Superman in next years Man of Steel. Also starring in the film are the very talented Sigourney Weaver and one of the most famous action stars of modern cinema, Bruce Willis.

I liked the premise of the film but unfortunately, the trailer didn’t do too much to peak my interest. Henry Cavill has all the looks of a leading action hero but there is soemthing missing from the trailer that I can’t quite put my finger on. It seems like your typical American action film; a family with hidden secrets, betrayal of a large organisation, a trade of ransom for his family’s life. We’ve seen it all before and whilst this film might be an enjoyable popcorn flick it will not be adding anything new to our understanding of the genre.

UK Release Date: 20th April 2012.

You can’t change your family, but can you change your destiny?

Jeff is a thirty year old man still living with his mother, in her basement. His brother, Pat, is struggling with his wife to hold his marriage together. When sent on an errand by his mother, Jeff may finally discover his destiny as he spends the day with his brother tracking his adulterous wife which, in doing so, helps the brothers to rediscover their family bond.

Jeff Who Lives At Home is an indie comedy led by the brilliant Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Ed Helms (The Hangover) with their mother being played by Susan Sarandon. The film has been an official selection at many of the top film festivals across America and has gone down well with critics and fans alike.

The trailer pretty much makes the film look like your typical, run of the mill, happy ending indie flick. But it is not the story that is important with this film; it is the journey the brother’s go on together and the family relationships that will keep the audience interested. The trailer is not so much laugh out loud funny and I doubt the film will be either but it will have it’s moments where everyone watching will be chuckling to themselves. It will be a film that everyone can enjoy, together.