Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Review: Big Hero 6

2014 Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung

Big hero 6 started life as comic book produced by marvel in the late 90s, Disney (who now own Marvel) have adapted and tweaked the comic for a wider audience and the silver screen. They did a pretty good job of it too!

The film centres around a young boy genius Hiro and his older brother Tadashi. Hiro use his talents to build fighting robots whereas his brother studies advanced robotics at a prestigious university.
After paying a visit to the university Hiro decides he needs to be there, despite his young age! The two brothers collaborate on a science project to wow the university and gain Hiro's entrance. The brother's manage to invent 'microbots' which are able to work together to build themselves into almost any shape. Hiro takes first place in the competition and is swiftly accepted by the university. His happiness however, is short lived when a mysterious and sudden fire erupts inside the university and older brother Tadashi is tragically killed after trying to rescue the University's professor.
It is here we are properly introduced to the star of the film - Baymax! Baymax is a Michelin man looking medical robot designed by Tadashi. After some really laugh out loud scenes of the 2 figuring each other out, they discover hiro's microbots are still active and set out to find them. What they find however is a sinister laboratory guarded by a masked villain using the stolen Microbots as a weapon! Hiro comes to the conclusion that the masked thief must also be responsible for the University and ultimately the death of his brother. The Big Hero 6 are swiftyl assembled Composed of Hiro, Baymax and a rag tag bunch of Tadashi's Uni friends!

I simply cannot write this review without mentioning the beautiful city of San Fransokyo, Disney did an amazing job of blending traditional Japanese architecture with the quirky and chilled out vibe of San Francisco's streets. Everywhere the heroes went you were treated to huge sweeping shots of bridges, bustling streets and neon skyscrapers. The attention to detail was second to none! The background entertainment had some real hidden gems for the observant and you will need to see the film more than once to be able to take it all in. (Look out for a cat in Iron Man armour!)
The story itself was fairly run of the mill, good vs evil with the odd curve ball thrown in for effect. The emotion was really present in Big hero 6 despite it's simplicity, this is a tale about brotherhood, friendship, injustice and mainly loss. These may sound like pretty heavy topics for a child friendly film but they were handled with care and finesse. Putting a positive spin on things and injecting humour carefully where it was needed. Disney delivered one of it's most powerful emotional scenes to date in this film and I was determined not to cry!

The characters in Big hero 6 were fairly cliche, but they were all likeable. We weren't treated to much back story on them other than 'this is the tough chick' or this is the funny one' but they worked well bouncing witty and funny dialogue off each other till the credits rolled. Talking of laughing I did alot of it during Big hero 6, almost the the first 40 minutes were spent in giggle fits! When the team were suited up the special powers contained within ranged from clever to downright ridiculous, Ill let you decide which is the latter! I think besides Hiro, Gogo Tomago was my favourite character with her punk rock attitude and futuristic rollerblades!

The pacing of the story felt spot on, never a dull moment and the beginning middle and final battle ending were all where you expected them to be. I suppose running time could have been extended to account for more character development but I didn't feel it was essential. Big Hero 6 had me smiling, laughing almost weeping but above all it proved innocent and fun storytelling is alive and well.
A fantastic film to start the year with!

The Verdict

Disney did it again and have crafted another brilliantly detailed, hilarious, and heart felt tale!
Big Hero 6 hits all the right notes with it's thrilling action, a beautiful setting and easy-to-relate to characters. It could have benefited from slightly more character development where side characters are concerned, but you will be too busy staring open mouthed at the gorgeous visuals and intense action to really give it much thought. A grand time to be had by all!


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Review: Birdman

2015 Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton

Birdman has been massively praised, hyped and even nominated for an Oscar before it's release so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
This will be a particularly difficult review to write because the the story is simple enough yet the film as a whole is very difficult to put into words. The basic premise is that Michael Keaton is a washed up actor who used to play the role of a super hero named Birdman. He now stars in Broadway shows and dreams of reaching the peak success he so briefly tasted in the past.

The good parts
Top Notch acting from Keaton and Norton, Emma Stone also did a fantastic job and it was great to see her in such a serious and tragic role.

Beautiful cinematography and really long swooping shots that made you think 'how did they do that!?'

Good message in the film, just a shame it was buried by pretentious twoddle.

Not alot else.

The bad parts
Everything that was shoved inbetween the plot. This film is so self aware and concerned with being arty and deep that it is just a chore to watch, this isn't a spoiler but a particular flying scene had me putting my head in my hands.

Irritating and irrelevant cutaways, asteroids falling to earth and other scenes try to be relavent to the events that occur in the film but just end up looking out of place.

Character development just completely abandoned for no reason. Characters that have been with us for 2 thirds of the film are left without care or explanation.

Pathetic lazy ending disguised as an interpretive scene. This type of pretentious, artsy fartsy film making is becoming a nasty trend now. There is nothing clever or skilled about an ending scene like this. Make a real film from beginning to end please.

Birdman falls flat on it's hipster face.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Review: Into The Woods

2015 Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep

Into The Woods is the silver screen adaptation of the popular Broadway musical by the same name, it features a huge cast of big names and songs that will have you humming along to for days on end.

The story centres around the baker and the baker's wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt) being unable to have a child, they are in luck when the witch next door (Meryl Streep) visits them and offers to grant them their wish for a baby if they can locate 4 special items found within the woods. The pursuit of these items will lead the baker and his wife on quest that has them encounter all manner of other fairy tale house hold names. We are introduced early on to Cinderella, Jack and a rather silver tongued Red Riding Hood. Each of these characters has their own reason for also being in the woods and tells their story via musical number.

The songs in Into The Woods were extremely catchy and fitted each scene perfectly. I thought it was so clever how they could almost just describe what they were currently doing or a simple task but make it into a full on song and dance. When it came to the musical moments vocal talent was of a high standard, Anna Kendrick shined the most playing Cinderella and could really hit the high notes! It was also nice to hear James Corden and Emily Blunt's songs bounce of one another. James Corden did a nice job of narrating the whole film too.
There was a performance by Johnny Depp as Mr Wolf that I felt was completely wasted, appearing for barely 5 minutes on screen I couldn't help thinking what was the point? By far my favourite character was Red Riding Hood played by Lilla Crawford, she gave a brilliantly sarcastic and bratty edge to the role which gained the most laughs from me!

Into The Woods barrelled along quite nicely for about 2 thirds of the film, however there were strange dark scenes that really lowered the tone. It is nothing new for fairy tales to feature dark and sinister twists, but the speed and delivery of these moments had me scratching my head somewhat. It pulled me out of the film rather than making me feel sympathy or remorse for what had happened.
In the last third of the film a large new plot development occurred that felt to me like a complete after thought. I will not give too much away at this point but whole idea of the film being a musical went right out the window and erratic out of character choices were made left right and centre. This was such a shame because I had been enjoying the film so much up to that particular point. I wouldn't say it ruined the experience, it just changed the tone so rapidly it left me struggling to adjust to new style and pace. A possible trim by 15 minutes or so may have benefited it a great deal, a minor annoyance though in what was ultimately a really enjoyable and well thought out tale.

The Verdict

Into The Woods was a great coming together of classic fairy tale characters with good laughs and an impressive soundtrack to boot. There is a wide array of talent in this film and the director did well to make sure everyone had their own shining moment. Overall a very enjoyable 2 hours but a few puzzling inconsistencies in tone and a lacklustre third act held Into The Woods back from being truly magical.