Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Film Review: "Big Hero 6" (2014).

"We didn't set out to be superheroes. But sometimes life doesn't go the way you planned. The good thing is, my brother wanted to help a lot of people and that's what we're going to do. Who are we?" They're none other than Big Hero 6 of course. This computer-animated superhero film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 54th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, and is inspired by the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. The film tells the story of a special bond that develops between a young robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada and his plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech superheroes to combat a masked villain.

The film features the voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney, T. J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., Génesis Rodríguez, and Maya Rudolph. The cast gave amazing performances and were the animated equivalent to The Avengers cast. Each having distinctive personalities and yet having a great team atmosphere. But the one character that stood out was Hiro’s inflatable robot buddy, Baymax. In regards to the design of Baymax, director Don Hall mentioned in an interview, "I wanted a robot that we had never seen before and something to be wholly original. That's a tough thing to do, we've got a lot of robots in pop culture, everything from The Terminator to WALL-E to C-3PO on down the line and not to mention Japanese robots, I won't go into that. So I wanted to do something original." Even if they did not yet know how the robot should look like, artist Lisa Keene came up with the idea that it should be a huggable robot. Early on in the development process, Hall and the design team took a research trip to Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, where they met a team of researchers who were pioneering the new field of 'soft robotics' using inflatable vinyl, which ultimately inspired Baymax's inflatable, vinyl, truly huggable design. Hall stated that "I met a researcher who was working on soft robots. ... It was an inflatable vinyl arm and the practical app would be in the health care industry as a nurse or doctor's assistant. He had me at vinyl. This particular researcher went into this long pitch but the minute he showed me that inflatable arm, I knew we had our huggable robot." Hall stated that the technology "will have potential probably in the medical industry in the future, making robots that are very pliable and gentle and not going to hurt people when they pick them up." Hall mentioned that achieving a unique look for the mechanical armor took some time and "just trying to get something that felt like the personality of the character." Co-director Chris Williams stated, "A big part of the design challenge is when he puts on the armor you want to feel that he's a very powerful intimidating presence...at the same time, design-wise he has to relate to the really adorable simple vinyl robot underneath." Baymax's face design was inspired by a copper suzu bell that Hall noticed while at a Shinto shrine.

A sort of Avengers for the elementary school set, Big Hero 6 is wonderfully animated, briskly paced, yet derivative in the storytelling department.

Simon says Big Hero 6 receives:

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Film Review: "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (2014)

"One day I'll remember. Remember everything that happened: the good, the bad, those who survived... and those that did not." This sums up the final and defining chapter of the Middle Earth saga in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. This epic fantasy adventure film, directed by Peter Jackson and written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro. It is the third and final installment in the three-part film adaptation based on the novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, following An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Desolation of Smaug (2013). The film centers on Bilbo and Company when they are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.

The third film was originally titled There and Back Again in August 2012. In April 2014, Jackson changed the title of the film to The Battle of the Five Armies as he thought the new title better suited the situation of the film. He stated on his Facebook page, "There and Back Again felt like the right name for the second of a two film telling of the quest to reclaim Erebor, when Bilbo’s arrival there, and departure, were both contained within the second film. But with three movies, it suddenly felt misplaced—after all, Bilbo has already arrived “there” in the Desolation of Smaug." Shaun Gunner, the chairman of The Tolkien Society, supported the decision: "‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ much better captures the focus of the film but also more accurately channels the essence of the story."

The film stars Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving and Orlando Bloom. The performances in this film were major improvements from the last film, finally seeing the true side and depth to the characters. Freeman gave an incredible performance. We see his journey from a hermit to an adventurous hobbit who learnt to step outside his shell. Thus coming back home to the Shire a changed hobbit. Armitage gave his best performance in the series. If viewed closely, one could view his character and performance reminiscent to Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. Where he becomes consumed with greed. But unlike Anakin, he is able to realize early of how blind he had become and was not fully corrupted. Lilly also gave her best performance of the trilogy. Where we got to see her character truly, other than a ruthless killing machine, through her relationship with Killi. Evans gave his most physical performance yet. However, I felt we didn’t get to see the human side much as we did in The Desolation of Smaug. Cumberbatch gave another brilliant performance as the titular dragon, however his role was ‘stuck down’ rather quickly than expected. Which kind of made this installment a bit of a ‘bummer’.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the best of the trilogy Mr. Jackson has directed. It is the richest and most challenging movie in the cycle. As well as being a relatively thoughtful story. Even if Jackson got bogged down in solemnity and theory in The Desolation of Smaug, the film is quicker-paced and action filled this time, and it proves just barely that it is a great piece of entertainment.

Simon says The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies receives:

Also, see my review for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Film Review: "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" (2014).

The tagline of the film reads “Get ready for the best worst day of your life.” Which is what you’ll experience in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. This Disney comedy film directed by Miguel Arteta, from a screenplay written by Rob Lieber, based on Judith Viorst's 1972 children's book of the same name. Alexander's day begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by more calamities. Though he finds little sympathy from his family and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him, his mom, dad, brother, and sister all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The novel, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, was published in 1972, is an ALA Notable Children's Book written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz. It has also won a George G. Stone Center Recognition of Merit, a Georgia Children's Book Award, and is a Reading Rainbow book. Viorst followed this book up with two sequels, Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday and Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move.

In 2011, it was reported that 20th Century Fox had plans to make a live action film adaptation of the book. Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Rob Lieber, it was set to be directed by Cholodenko, and produced by Shawn Levy with Dan Levine for Levy's 21 Laps, and Lisa Henson with Jason Lust for The Jim Henson Company. Steve Carell has joined in April 2012. In October 2012, Walt Disney Pictures picked up the project, reportedly due to Fox being "uncomfortable with the budget." In February 2013, Deadline reported that Cholodenko has left the project, and a month later, that Miguel Arteta was in talks with Disney to replace Cholodenko. In April 2013, Jennifer Garner was in talks to star in the film. In June 2013, The Walt Disney Studios set the release date for October 10, 2014, and confirmed that Carell and Garner will appear in the film. The same month, Disney cast Ed Oxenbould and Bella Thorne. Megan Mullally and Jennifer Coolidge joined the cast a month later.

The film stars Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey, Bella Thorne and Ed Oxenbould, The cast in this film gave great performances despite the ultimately predictable and flawed script. Especially to Carell, Garner and Oxenbould. Oxenbould did a great job of carrying this film forward.

Neither unique nor funny, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is just as cursed as Alexander and his family. However, the film does present one elemental theme that is universal; we have to have our bad days in order to appreciate the good days even more. Affably pleasant without ever trying to be anything more, the film is a fine—albeit forgettable—family diversion.

Simon says Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day receives: