A couple years back, the calls began for Pixar to have a female lead in a movie, and I began to roll my eyes. As the calls got louder over the last couple of years, I rolled them more. But Pixar answered back with Brave, and movie that will appeal to both boys and girls.
Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) has been trained all her life by her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) to take her proper place. See, Merida is a princess in one of the clans in middle ages Scotland, and she must act properly and take a husband at the proper time.
That time is now, and her father Fergus (Billy Connolly) has called a gathering of the other clans. There is to be a contest, and the winner will become betrothed to Merida. But Merida enjoys her freedom and being outdoors. Can she find a way to change her fate?
Now if you are worried that the previews give away too much know that they do…from the first act. Everything I've seen in previews (and I think I've seen most of them) took place early on in the film, and when it really got going, it shot off in an unexpected direction.
That's not to say I couldn't figure out the big brushes of the project early on. But I was still caught up in the story, even as I was a step or two ahead of the where the plot actually was.
Merida and Elinor are really the main characters here, and their journey is compelling because they are so well fleshed out. I truly came to care for them. The rest of the cast are the supporting players, and they do a great job of it.
I enjoyed the Scottish accents of the supporting cast. I never had a hard time understanding them (well, except for one character, but that's the joke with him). And everyone does a great job bringing their characters to life.
It goes without saying, but the animation is gorgeous. While other studios make fun computer animated films, no one does it with the artistry that Pixar does. The scenery is just gorgeous.
The film is rated PG, and parents should pay attention to that. I'd definitely say it is for older kids and up. There are a few scenes of humor revolving around what men do and don't wear under their kilts, including one of brief rear end nudity. Frankly, I thought those scenes were pretty funny. More worrisome for parents are several scary scenes involving bears. I hear a couple little kids leaving the theater where I saw it talking about how scary it was. You know your child best, so judge accordingly.
While this movie does star a princess and have some elements of magic to it, it is certainly a story that will entertain both boys and girls. It has lots of action in the story, and Merida is quite the tomboy.
And definitely stay through the credits. There is a fun final scene at the very end you'll appreciate.
For me, this is in the second tier of Pixar films, and it took me a while to put my finger on why. I think it's the story. Yes, predictable stories aren't necessarily deal killers, but I think I usually expect more from Pixar. From any other studio, I would have loved this one, but Pixar has set the bar so high for themselves that this becomes a lesser entry.
But by all means go and see it. Brave is a bit of a more serious movie from Pixar, but it is still enjoyable. I think they have another hit on their hands.
on 19 August 2014
BRAVE  [3D Blu-ray + 2D Blu-ray + Bonus 2D Blu-ray] A Triumph of Animation!
PIXAR Animation Studios, the creator of ‘Toy Story 3,’ whisks you away on an astonishing adventure to an ancient land full of mystery and tradition. Bursting with heart, unforgettable characters and PIXAR’s signature humour.
Take a heroic journey with Princess Merida, a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Determined to carve her own path in life, Princess Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land. When Princess Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos in the kingdom, she must harness all of her skills and resources, including her clever and mischievous triplet brothers, to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late, and discover the meaning of true bravery. It’s legendary on a PIXAR/Disney Blu-ray with never-before-seen bonus features!
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 2013 85th Academy Awards®: Won: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year for Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. American Cinema Editors: Won: Best Edited Animated Feature Film for Nicholas C. Smith, A.C.E. BAFTA® Awards: Won: Best Animated Film. Critics' Choice Awards: Nominated: Best Animated Feature. Nominated: Best Song for Mumford & Sons and Birdy for "Learn Me Right." Golden Globe® Awards: Won: Best Animated Feature Film for Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Grammy Awards: Nominated: Best Song Written for Visual Media for Mumford & Sons and Birdy for the song "Learn Me Right." International Film Music Critics Association Awards: Nominated: Best Original Score for an Animated Feature for Patrick Doyle.
Voice Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Sally Kinghorn, Eilidh Fraser, Peigi Barker, Steven Cree, Steve Purcell, Callum O'Neill, Patrick Doyle and John Ratzenberger
Directors: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell (co-director)
Producers: Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, Katherine Sarafian, Mary Alice Drumm and Pete Docter
Screenplay: Brenda Chapman (story), Irene Mecchi, Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell
Composer: Patrick Doyle
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English: 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English: 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, English: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, French: 5.1 Dolby Digital, English: 2.0 Dolby Digital, French: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Russian: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Castilian Spanish: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Catalan Spanish: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Ukrainian: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Kazakh: 2.0 Dolby Digital, and English: Audio Described English
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Russian, Castilian, Spanish and Ukrainian
Running Time: 93 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 3
Studio: PIXAR Animation Studios / Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Chafing under the domination of her mother Queen Elinor [Emma Thompson], Princess Merida [Kelly Macdonald] isn’t interested in being groomed for the throne and is definitely not ready to be betrothed to one of a trio of grisly young men from three other Scottish clans. So, she happens upon The Witch [Julie Walters] in the forest who offers her a spell-ridden cake for her mother which Princess Merida hopes will change her mother’s point of view about her daughter’s future. But as is often the case with magic, what appears fool proof on the surface goes awry as one bite of the cake turns her mother into a bear. With the fearsome bear Mor’du having bitten off her father King Fergus’s [Billy Connolly] leg as a young man, Princess Merida knows bears aren’t popular around the castle, so she hastens to get her mother away from the clans and hopes she can find the witch to reverse the spell. When that fails, Princess Merida and her mother find their bond becomes stronger in their common search for an answer to her dilemma, but time is running out to change her mother back as the spell becomes permanent after two days.
The story flows smoothly as we watch Princess Merida grow from a young girl to a young woman becoming a proficient archer along the way. Even with the setting of 13th century Scotland, much about the dynamics between the parents and children in the movie have a distinctly modern ring to them, and Princess Merida’s recalcitrance at being forced into something she’s not emotionally ready to undertake with no possibility of stating her own case will be easy to identify with for almost any audience, especially with Princess Merida’s showdown with her three suitors in an archery tournament is one of the film’s high points. While the writers get a bit too cute with The Witch’s personality in her two sequences, she’s undeniably entertaining if a bit too modern to fit comfortably among these rustic warriors of old. The film’s production design, however, is simply jaw dropping as Scotland comes alive in these majestic, detailed CGI renderings, and the directors use their ravishing settings to stage a number of memorable sequences. The highlight of the film remains a bucolic sequence when Queen Elinor as Mum-bear learns to forage for food in a stream where gorgeous animation provides both tender moments and slapstick comedy in the best PIXAR tradition.
Kelly Macdonald is full of feisty sassiness and plenty of pluckiness for Princess Merida, and her Scottish brogue, as is the case with the other Scottish actors hired for the film, is never too thick to prevent understanding of what she’s saying. Emma Thompson has a noble carriage and the gentle art of diplomacy as Queen Elinor while Billy Connolly’s braying and clumsy King Fergus is always a real treat. The three Scottish clan leaders putting their sons up for selection are played in the expected extroverted manner by Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson. Julie Walters has all kinds of fun with the eccentric witch who moonlights as a wood carver, and bears are a specialty.
The computer animation is, of course, spectacular, with meticulous attention paid to the smallest of details. The performances are fine, too, infused with enough enthusiasm and warmth to make the characters as dimensional as the images they populate. And after a couple of sequels and there's that Disney influence once again, and it's nice to see PIXAR return to an original story that transports us to a foreign setting and simpler time, and give young girls a spunky role model they can learn from and emulate.
At 93 minutes, 'BRAVE' is one of PIXAR's shortest films, but despite its efficient storytelling, it still possesses a fair amount of depth. Though the characters it depicts may reside on a rarefied plane, the issues they confront are universal and timeless, and the ultimate message emphasizing the strong bonds of family, however trite, is presented in a poignant and effective manner. 'BRAVE' may not be as bold as its title, but it is a good solid PIXAR effort, celebrating not just girl power, but the power of understanding and mutual respect.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The film’s theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 is faithfully rendered in this awesome 1080p encoded image. Whether in 3D or 2D, the images are breathtakingly beautiful. The details in hair, clothes, a tapestry, especially where you can see individual strands, trees, moss, stone, and other objects just defy description. Colours are bold and deeply saturated with Merida’s red, red hair coming close to but never quite blooming. Black levels are rich and deep, and the image is as perfect as one should expect. As with most PIXAR 3D films, outward projections are not of primary importance to the animators though there are arrow tips and hands that reach beyond the frame for split seconds. But the sense of depth in the image is often quite staggering, and the 3D version of the film is much more interesting visually with its complex placement of people, animals, and objects within their environments which 3D exploits to the maximum.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD sound mix is a miracle of audio design with split sound effects occupying the fronts and rears at an almost constant pace. There are pans across and through the sound field, and the rear back channels are used to make smooth transitions for sounds at the rear of the field. Patrick Doyle’s music and the Gaelic ballads of Julie Fowlis get remarkably fluid renderings in the fronts and rears aiding immeasurably in establishing the time and place of the action. Dialogue has been beautifully recorded and has been placed in the centre channel.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Director Mark Andrews, co-director Steve Purcell, Editor Nick Smith, and story supervisor Brian Larsen: All four sit down for a lively commentary that allows us to see inside the creative minds of the filmmakers. From an abandoned alternate opening and a homage to 'The Sound of Music' to character insights and scene analyses, the quartet shares a wealth of interesting information in an easy-going, accessible style. They talk about, among other things, adding fresh elements to stereotypical figures, such as princesses and witches, various concepts that never materialised, balancing comedy and dramatic intensity, managing the movie's pace, and the incredible amount of trial and error that go into making an animated film. Children may find the discussion a bit dull, but adults, especially animation fans like me, found this commentary a worthwhile time investment.
Special Feature: Pixar Short Film: La Luna  [1080p] [7:00] A fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances. Tonight is the very first time his Papa and Grandpa are taking him to work. In an old wooden boat they row far out to sea, and with no land in sight, they stop and wait. A big surprise awaits the little boy as he discovers his family's most unusual line of work. Should he follow the example of his Papa, or his Grandpa? Will he be able to find his own way in the midst of their conflicting opinions and timeworn traditions? This exudes a subtle sense of wonder and is filled with beautiful imagery. ‘La Luna’ was nominated at the 84th Academy Awards® for Best Animated Short Film.
Special Feature: Behind-the-Scenes [1080p] [50:00] Eight behind-the-scenes documentaries are available on the feature film disc. "Brave Old World” follows the PIXAR team on a research trip to Scotland. Merida and Elinor digs into the lead female characters with the voice cast, designers and animators. "Bears" should be even more self-explanatory to those who've seen the film. “Brawl in the Hall” looks at the development and animation of the comedic clash of the clans. “Wonder Moss” delves into the complex mathematical creation of the movie's background moss, something most people will take for granted. “Magic” dissects Brave's fairy tale roots and magical elements. “Clan Pixar” introduces the artists and animators, touching on their daunting task and intense efforts. And “Once Upon a Scene” offers a glimpse into various versions of Brave's opening, key scenes and story.
Special Feature: Fergus & Mor’du: An Alternate Opening [1080p] [7:00] A cautionary fable about the pitfalls of jealousy, ambition, and forsaking one's family, this dark tale ties nicely into the plot and themes of 'BRAVE' as it charts the development of the film's scariest villain.
Special Feature Documentary: Fallen Warriors [1080p] [2:00] This montage of deleted shots and snippets celebrates the hard work that goes into even the tiniest sequences in an computer animated film.
Special Feature Documentary: Dirty Hairy People [1080p] [4:00] This piece shows how the animators stayed true to the film's time period with regard to personal hygiene and appearance. Rotted teeth, unkempt hair, and sullied clothing are a few of the challenges they faced in composing their subjects.
Special Feature Documentary: It is English . . . Sort of [1080p] [4:00] This documentary showcases the numerous Scottish actors who lent their voice talents to 'BRAVE,' and examines the various dialects they employ, as well as some of the foreign Scottish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the film.
Special Feature Documentary: Angus [1080p] [3:00] Animating a Clydesdale horse wasn't easy, and here we learn about the particulars of hair, movement, and body language and all vital components of Princess Merida's horse that needed to be subtly but accurately conveyed to the audience.
Special Feature Documentary: The Tapestry [1080p] [4:00] This piece shows us what went into animating this critical element of the 'BRAVE' story that symbolises family unity and structure. Achieving the proper texture and movement of this object required a surprising amount of research and various trials.
Special Feature Documentary: Promotional Pieces [1080p] [15:00] A collection of five fun promos and three trailers from the U.S.A, Japan, and Great Britain that comprise this section. “Feast Your Eyes” [4:00] is a clever, amusing, and visually dazzling sampler of 'Brave' characters and personalities; “Relics” [1:00] introduces us to the lovable, bumbling, comedic trio that comes to court; “Clan Dun Broch” [1:00] introduces us to Princess Merida's family via a vigorous swordfight with her dad; “Launch” [0:30] shows us Merida's archery skills and the mischievous nature of her brothers; and “Flying Guts Theatre” [1:00] gives us the backstory of the courtship of Queen Elinor and Fergus as acted out by their three boys.
Special Feature: Art Gallery [1080p] More than 470 images are spread across five galleries under the headings Characters [178 images]; Colour Keys [95 images]; Development Art [96 images]; Environments [65 images] and Graphics [37 images]. Different viewing methods and bookmarking capabilities allow you to somewhat tailor the viewing experience to your personal preference.
Sneak Previews: ‘Wreck-It Ralf’ 3D [1080p], ‘Monster University’ 3D [1080p] and ‘Planes’ 3D [1080p].
Finally, PIXAR finally shows its feminine side at last with its first princess computer animated film, but 'BRAVE' is no shrinking violet. With as much muscle as its more masculine Pixar counterparts, this captivating portrait of wilful, free-thinking lass in 11th century Scotland combines action and mysticism with a relatable emotional core to produce a period piece that's refreshingly contemporary and utterly entertaining. And like all the Blu-rays in the PIXAR repertoire, this Blu-ray disc shows off the computer animated film in the best possible light. A drop-dead gorgeous video transfer, which is even more mesmerising in 3D, exceptional audio, and a wealth of supplements spread across two Blu-ray discs make 'Brave' a dazzling and memorable home theatre experience. Unlike Merida's archery skills, the film may not always hit the bull’s-eye, but this 3 disc set sure does, and without question, it comes with very high praise and now it has gone pride of place in my ever increasing PIXAR Blu-ray Collection, especially the 3D versions. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom