At The Movies: Brave, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Since I punted last week here’s two this week to make it up to you.

Brave

“Brave” is a very good Pixar film. The animation is lush and colorful. The voice acting is fine — despite the thick accents it’s not difficult to make out the dialogue. The characters are fun. The story has humor and heart.

Yes, “Brave” is a very good Pixar film. But I expect better from Pixar.

Where the movie fails to reach the next level is its tired plot. “Brave” is the story of Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a free-spirited Scottish princess. Her boisterous father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), encourages her behavior while her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), wants her to be prim and proper.

The day arrives when Merida is to be wed to one of the sons of one of the three local clans. The young princess wants nothing to do with arranged marriage, or any marriage at this stage in her life, and runs away. She winds up at the home of a witch, who offers to cast a spell which will change her mother’s attitude and her fate. Things don’t go exactly as Merida hoped.

Seriously, Pixar? The rebellious princess trope? A lot of fuss has been made about how “Brave” is the first Pixar movie to feature a female lead. And this is what we get — a Princess Ariel/Princess Jasmine mash-up combined with “Brother Bear.” This isn’t a Pixar film, it’s a Disney film (yes, I’m aware of the irony).

If I hold Pixar to a higher standard, it’s because they usually deliver (“Cars 2” being the exception). I expect more from the people who gave us “Up,” “The Incredibles,” “WALL-E,” “Ratatouille” and the “Toy Story” trilogy.

“Brave” is a good movie. Your kids will probably like it. You will probably like it. I just wanted a great movie.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

It seems wrong that my second-favorite film of the summer season so far would be “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” But there you are.

Oh, it’s not a great movie. “Brave” is a much better movie. “Prometheus” is probably a better movie if I understood it. But I’m not talking about the quality of the film, but rather how much it entertained me. And Abraham Lincoln chopping up vampires with a silver axe while twirling around in bullet-time is the most fun I’ve had at the movies since “The Avengers.”

There’s something wrong with me, I know.

Based on the novel by  Seth Grahame-Smith (who also wrote the screenplay), “AL:VH” delves into a little-known aspect of The Great Emancipator’s career. It turns out that, at least according to Grahame-Smith, Abe Lincoln’s mother was killed by a vampire when he was just a lad. Lincoln witnessed the act, but his father makes him promise not to seek vengeance.

Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) keeps that promise until his father’s death years later, at which point he decides to have his revenge. He tracks down the killer only to learn that a bullet in the head doesn’t bring down a vampire. Lincoln is saved by the last-minute assistance of Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper).

Sturges becomes Lincoln’s watcher — sorry, wrong franchise — I mean mentor, teaching him the ins and outs of vampire slaying — I mean hunting.

It turns out many vampires left Europe for the New World to start a new life, just like the pilgrims. Many settled in the south, where they discovered the advantages of slavery. Owning people makes it that much easier to eat them.

You see where this is headed, right? The Civil War was not fought over states’ rights or freeing the slaves, but rather to keep the vampires from gaining a foothold in the governing of the United States. I fear for the future when dumb people see this movie and think it’s a documentary.

Tim Burton co-produced this insanity, but his was not the name that drew me to it. I was more interested in the fact that it was helmed by Timur Bekmambetov, director of the Russian films “Day Watch” and “Night Watch” and the American action-adventure “Wanted.” I didn’t understand the “Watch” films but “Wanted” is one of my favorite films of recent years.

All three films feature Bekmambetov’s inventive, chaotic style of action. That’s also the case with “AL:VH.” The slo-mo and the axe-twirling is sometimes overdone, and he repeats himself with a train sequence reminiscent of “Wanted,” but overall I really enjoy this stuff.

The movie plays it straight but not in the ponderous way that “Snow White and the Huntsman” did. It’s serious, but everybody knows its pretty ridiculous. The 3D is also very good, if you’re into that kind of thing.

If only Abraham Lincoln had met Carlisle Cullen (and yes, I had to look that up to make sure the dates would work).

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One response to “At The Movies: Brave, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

  1. Agreed.. Brave was okay but not up to the level of the other Pixar movies you mentioned. The comparison to Disney princess movies is right on.
    (vague spoiler…) I thought the mother’s condition in the middle of the movie killed the flow for awhile… I thought the first 30 minutes were the best.
    The kids in my theater clapped at the end so they must have liked it.
    Visually I thought her hair, her horse, and the scenery looked exceptionally good. I did not see it in 3D. (3D is always blurry to me so I’m waiting for the double frame rate “The Hobbit” before I try it again.)

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