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TWO SETS OF CARTOON CHARACTERS
A new Pixar film is usually an event that’s worth waiting for, although last year’s Cars 2 was a fairly weak affair. Brave, Pixar’s latest effort, has had a slightly chequered history, as it lost its original director Brenda Chapman. Despite this, the film, which deals with Scottish princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) and her attempt to live her own life despite the demands of her parents Fergus and Elinor (voiced respectively by Billy Connelly and Emma Thompson), is very enjoyable. Although it’s not up there with the best of Pixar, Brave has heart and visual flair with some talented voices creating the characters and the 3D recreation of Scotland looks incredible. Merida is a decent female protagonist and Macdonald shows that she is well suited to animation. Connelly, Thompson, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd make for a decent supporting vocal cast. It’s not a classic but it is a very likeable film and one that sits well with the Pixar canon. Brave is worth seeing…
Expendables 2 is the follow-up to 2010’s film which brought together a group of past-it eighties action screen figures under Sylvester Stallone’s wing. Despite the fact that it wasn’t actually very good, it made enough money to justify another one. Jason Statham, as the young(ish) turk is back as is Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Bruce Wilis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have bigger parts in this second film. This time around, we also have Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris join the cast. Directed by Englishman Simon West (Con Air, The General’s Daughter), Expendables 2 is one of those films which is pretty critic-proof. It has a fairly stupid script, Stallone looks even weirder than he did last time, there are a few nice comic lines that show that the makers are aware that most of the cast are well past their sell-by date but they don’t really care and it has some well-directed action sequences. If you enjoyed the first one and miss the regular big screen exploits of Van Damme, Stallone, Norris et al, then you’ll lap it up…

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LEAKY CARBURETTER
Pixar don’t often put a foot wrong and their consistency at making films that appeal to both adults and children is incredible. But Cars 2 may be their first miscalculation. The first Cars in 2006 was a shallow and rather unmemorable film but John Lasseter obviously has a soft spot for the characters as we have this sequel out now. Cars 2 has world champion Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his cretinous sidekick tow-truck Mater (the voice of Larry The Cable Guy) head out to compete in a World Grand Prix race. The race takes them to cities like Tokyo and London but there is a sub-plot in Cars 2. Finn McMissile (the voice of Michael Caine) is a British spy who enlists Mater to help him in a matter of international espionage. Cars 2 is well-animated but the script is very weak indeed with almost nothing to keep the adults occupied while the very young kids enjoy the film. Casting Caine as a British spy car is a nice touch but the story, some drivel about a fuel magnate looking to discredit green fuel, really isn’t up to much. There isn’t the connection with the characters that you have had in say Toy Story 3, Up or The Incredibles. It’s as if they were so keen to make this that they forgot what makes Pixar films stand out: their meticulous writing. Cars 2 will probably keep six or seven year old kids happy (just about) but there’s nothing for adults to get their teeth into…

High-2Bres

SUPERHEROIC BEHAVIOUR
The Incredibles is arguably one of Pixar’s best films of all time. There’s also an argument that it is perhaps the best superhero movie of all time. At last you can enjoy it on Blu-ray as it’s released this week. I was lucky enough to get a review copy of it. Pixar’s films almost seem designed for the format and the transfer here is very nice indeed with the colours looking super-sharp, rich and vivid. Seven years after its release at the cinema, Brad Bird’s The Incredibles still holds up wonderfully well. The Parr family, father Bob, wife Helen and kids Violet, Dashiell and Jack Jack are forced to lead a normal suburban existence after superheroes are outlawed in Metroville. Bob (Craig T Nelson) holds down a dull job in insurance while Helen (Holly Hunter) tries her best to be a typical housewife. But Bob can’t quite pack in the superhero lifestyle and spends one night a week while he’s supposed to be out bowling with best friend Frozone (Samuel Jackson) sitting and listening to the police scanner. Then one day Bob gets drawn back into the world of costumes, contacted by a mysterious figure. He gets kidnapped by the grown-up super villain who Bob rebuffed when the villain was a kid. So the rest of the family are forced to come to his rescue. Blu-ray brings everything to life and actually gives The Incredibles the opportunity to attract a whole new audience. The sound gets an extra boost with the transfer to Blu-ray and the voice talent really shines especially Nelson and Hunter. The extras include a intriguing roundtable with the key players of the movie including Bird and producer John Walker and short Jack Jack Attack, which is entertaining. For anyone who’s an animation aficionado, The Incredibles Blu-ray is a must-buy…














COASTING PART THREE
Friday was spent mostly at the TRIPWIRE table, selling copies of the TRIPWIRE Annual 2009. I did get to do a Disney roundtable with Pixar’s John Lasseter and Japanese superstar director Hayao Miyazaki plus I also did a roundtable with Toy Story 3 director Lee Unrich. They were both very enjoyable if a little too short and I gave Lasseter a copy of Studio Space and the latest Annual. I also went to an Angel of Death roundtable in the evening with its writer Ed Brubaker, stars Zoe Bell, Ted Raimi, Doug Jones, director Paul Etheredge and producer John Norris, which was a lot of fun actually although it meant I had to sprint to avoid missing dinner. So Friday was a little bit exhausting but a pretty good day. I only did one press thing on Saturday and that was a Solomon Kane roundtable with its director Michael Bassett and star James Purefoy, Marc Anthony in HBO’s Rome. The advance word on the film is very positive and it would be great for a movie like this to do well. I also got a few photos of James Callis, aka Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica, when I went to find someone else. Weirdly, even though this was the Saturday at the show, there was no queue for Callis. So the busiest day of the show ended pretty decently…