Film Review: Moana

Moana

Directors Ron Clements and John Musker create magic once again with Moana. Seven years after The Princess and the Frog, and 24 years after Aladdin, the duo provide the winning formula for their latest film.

Teenager Moana longs to explore the ocean, but is confined to her birth island by her chief father. However, Moana has been chosen by larger forces to reunite a goddess with a relic. She will need the help of a demigod to complete her mission…

Moana combines all the right ingredients to generate a memorable fantasy adventure. The film recreates a winning formula that was key to some of Disney’s greatest animated films. Nevertheless, the preoccupations have a sufficiently modern edge. In a sense, the film combines the best of the old and the best of the new.

Focusing on the teenage daughter of the of chief (a princess in all but official title), Moana features a quest at the heart of its narrative. The film combines Polynesian mythology with an adventure which has well-paced peaks of tension. The narrative moves at a good pace, introducing characters at good intervals, and allowing for sufficient development for the film’s protagonists.

The title character is suitably strong-willed, yet is endearing enough for viewers to side with her. Moana is very much a modern Disney female protagonist. Taking cues from Brave and Frozen, the protagonist is independent and outspoken. She does not rely on the strength of a man to escape peril, and there is no love interest (so obligatory in the earlier Disney princess films). She is a modern character, and a good role model to children. Maui, similarly, goes through his own personal development through the course of the film.

Songs in Moana, some of which were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, are excellent. They have a show tune quality, which complements the style of the film. The animation is incredibly appealing. Auli’i Carvalho, Dwayne Johnson, and Jermaine Clement are great in their respective roles.

Moana is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, which should please viewers young and old.

Film Review: Brave

Disney Pixar’s Brave is visually sumptuous, much like other animated features from the company. Unlike their recent films however, this Scotland-set tale does not pack the same emotional punch.

Merida is a princess who prefers to practice archery than to be schooled in the customs of her position by her mother. When the ritual of her betrothal approaches, Merida is dead set against the traditions of selecting a husband. Merida and her mother clash, with some disastrous consequences…

Brave adheres to some family tropes, in terms of the animated Disney feature. Merida’s struggle is between following her own wishes and bearing the weight of responsibility that her position calls for. This tension is at play in most Disney animated films. Moreover, a parental clash is at the centre of Brave; not unlike The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas and others.

Brave differentiates itself from previous Disney efforts in a pivotal way. The emphasis in most of these films is in having the freedom to find happiness. This usually relates to a partner of choice, rather than one the protagonist’s standing demands. Brave distinguishes itself, and perhaps heralds a new era in Disney thinking, by featuring a protagonist who is happy in her independence and has no desire to marry. It is this aspect of the film, which is played out openly but not forcefully, that is most refreshing.

This recent effort from Disney Pixar does however lack the emotional pull of WALL-E, Toy Story 3 and others. The story is engaging enough, and unfolds to include fantasy and legend. Notwithstanding, it does not evoke the type of strong emotion that the aforementioned films excel at inspiring. That is not to say Brave is a bad film in any way, but merely that it is unlikely that viewers will form the same kind of attachment to it.

The animation in Brave is fantastic. The use of colour is superb, with the vibrancy of Merida’s hair contrasting nicely with the greener backdrops. Some great voice work is provided by Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and others.

Brave is an enjoyable family film that should satisfy viewers. It is unlikely to take on classic status, unlike several of Disney Pixar’s films of the last decade.

Trailer Round-Up

This week is all about the The Expendables 2. Well, not really but the trailer was released this week. Gangster Squad, Brave and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter also feature in this round-up.

The Expendables 2

This film looks amazing. I was one of the people who quite liked the The Expendables, so I am looking forward to this sequel. The Expendables 2 features more of Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as Chris Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. Let’s hope the film matches this stellar action cast. The Expedendables 2 is out on 17th August 2012.

Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad is the new film from director Ruben Fleischer. Starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling, the film tells the story of the LAPD’s battle with gangsters in the late 1949. The film is being distributed by Warner Bros, who were famed for the gangster movies in the 1930s. Hopefully Gangster Squad will bring back some of that magic. The film is released on 9th November 2012 in the UK.

Brave

Here is an amusing little video to promote Disney’s Brave. The Scottish theme is really being played up in the film’s publicity. Brave will be out in the UK on 17th August 2012, although cinemagoers in Scotland will be able to see the film two weeks before this. Brave will premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June, so expect to hear more about the film around that time.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Above is a short featurette about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The film’s UK release date has been brought forward; the film will now open on 20th June 2012, bringing it in line with the US release. Given the premise of the film, it should be a lot of fun to watch Lincoln fight vampires in 3D.

Trailer Round-Up

Four trailers of new movies to share this week, as well as a new a clip of Disney’s Brave. Spring/Summer offerings include a pregnancy comedy, a remake of an 80s television show, a fantastic Aardman animation, and a blockbuster sequel.

21 Jump Street

For those that are unaware, 21 Jump Street was a television show which made Johnny Depp a star in the 1980s. It was popular at the time, but never really gained a later cult following. It is for this reason I do not foresee a backlash against this new film version. According to the trailer, the film seems to retain the same premise as the television series; cops go undercover at a high school to investigate criminal activity. 21 Jump Street is out in cinemas on 16th March 2012.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Based on the New York Times bestseller, What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a comedy about pregnancy. The film features a host of stars, including Cameron Diaz, Chace Crawford and Chris Rock. The film also stars Jennifer Lopez, but hopefully she will not feature too heavily given the assemble nature of it. What to Expect When You’re Expecting is due for release Spring 2012.

Wrath of the Titans

A sequel to 2010’s Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans catches up with Perseus ten years after the events of the previous film. Wrath of the Titans reunites the original cast of Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson. Like its predecessor, the film is released in 3D; hopefully the quality of this will have improved. Wrath of the Titans is released on 30th March 2012.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

This week I was lucky enough to see The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists. I can honestly say it is tremendous fun.The film features Hugh Grant as the voice of Pirate Captain, beloved by his crew but a weak contender for Pirate of the Year. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists is released on 28th March 2012.

Brave

Set in Scotland, Brave is the newest animated feature from Disney Pixar. The animation in the clip above looks amazing. Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, appears to be very much in the same vein as other recent Disney princesses. From the clip above, Merida seems independent and strong-willed, traits that are associated with modern Disney heroine. Given its setting, Brave is released is Scotland on 3rd August 2012, with the rest of the UK able to catch the film on the 17th August.

Brave Trailer

Following the release of stills for the film earlier this week, here is the first full trailer for Pixar’s Brave. The film seems very much in the Disney tradition, with a princess not wishing to conform to the ideals expected of her. However, there is a noticeable lack of talking animals. Perhaps they do appear in the film, but have not been featured in this trailer. Or maybe there aren’t any, which is chilling prospect. Brave is released on 17th August 2012.

Brave New Stills

Here are some new stills from Disney’s Brave, due for release on 17th August 2012. Brave is the first Pixar film to be set in Scotland. I’m still waiting for one to be set in glamorous South London. Anyway, Brave centres on Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald), daughter of the king and a skilled archer. The film comibines fantasy and folklore, and surely a dose of humour, given Pixar’s involvement.