Monday Morning Critic – Pixar’s Brave and The Dismantling of The Disney Princess, John Carter on DVD

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

One of the downsides about a review of a film is that you can’t write a column when you get inspired in a review because that’s unfair to the reader. It’s something that popped up while writing the review for Pixar’s latest Brave, which I adored. I reviewed that film here, if you’re interested, and I kept thinking about one thing in the film that I loved about it.

The fact that finally there was an animated female protagonist who didn’t have to battle an evil mother/stepmother/woman or wait for a man to save the day from whatever.

It’s been happening in live action films for decades now, technically, and while rescuing the girl from distress is still a staple of action films it’s much more antiquated than it used to be. It’s an upside to the evolution of the action film that has been derided over the years: there are much different motivations for bad guys now and female characters every now and again get to do more than just be rescued. Granted it still happens regularly but let’s face it: a woman in distress is an easy plot point to use in a film and an effective one to boot. Saving the girl appeals to a protective emotion in all of us in the same saving a child does as a cinematic device.

But in animated films women get shorted for the most part. The only places where women are written this poorly are Twilight films for the most part.

It’s why I enjoyed Brave as much as I did; it’s lazy screenwriting in a female-centric character to have an evil step-mother type to play off of. It’s effective because making a woman into a shrew is easy with animation; Snow White’s wicked stepmother, et al, are all repulsively ugly and that’s easy to do in animation. It’s the same with male villains as well, of course, but the most memorable female villains in animation are the ugliest usually. Animators love to craft evil women and make them easily identifiable as evil.

The fact that Pixar could take a fairly simple daughter/mother story and infuse it so wonderfully without having to vilify the mother, and has done so on such a dramatic level of quality, is remarkable. Animation tends to be able to do things story-wise you couldn’t do with live-action; it’s why so many characters in animated films are inanimate objects or animals. A talking dog on an adventure is an easier story to tell when you don’t have to worry about using an actual animal.

With Brave having a solid opening weekend, a bit subpar for Pixar but remarkably strong given that it’s a female centric tale, maybe this is the first sign that the Disney Princess is going away. And that’s a good thing.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – John Carter

One of the things that bugged me about reading reviews of John Carter going in was that people seemed to want to bury the film immediately because of how much it cost to make. Rumored to have cracked somewhere between $250 to $300 million just on the production alone, it kind of bugged me when I tried to get a read on what to look for in the film that the film’s budget was seen as a bad thing. I honestly don’t care about how much a film costs, just whether or not it entertains me, but it’s an interesting point when it comes to discussing the nature of quality in cinema.

It’s a Transformers fallacy; everyone presumes because it’s more expensive that somehow it detracts from a film’s quality. It’s why a lot of bad indie films are held up amongst the best of the year by some critics, I think: a big studio making a big film with a huge budget against a small offering automatically triggers one to want to make the underdog film seem like a better film without it being so.

John Carter wasn’t a bad film despite its massive budget: it just happened to have a solid story with some of the best visuals of the past 20 years.

I reviewed it theatrically, of course, and you can read it by clicking back a little back. The interesting thing about this film is that it feels like a better film on DVD than it did in theatres, which is odd because this is a massively budgeted film that translates better on a smaller scale than it did in theatres. The Transformers films were fairly similar in this regard; on a small screen it’s easier to get into the film than it was on the big screen. It’s an admittedly odd assertion but John Carter becomes an easier film to watch with a small screen.

My thoughts from it theatrically remain the same and it’s not all that surprising that the film has found an audience on DVD. In the end of things the film might end up being seen by more people on DVD than in theatres when all is said and done, maybe.

The problem is that it won’t make enough money on DVD and in international grosses to keep it from something like a $100 million loss on the books for Disney. It’s a shame because there’s something to be had here when it comes to a franchise. On its own it stands alone effectively without any more stories to tell. At the end of the film JC returns to Mars there’s nothing else the film needs to do from there; he’s reunited with his love and back to where he belongs. No story needs to be told from here and yet there’s plenty of tales from the book series to be told if needbe.


What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Magic Mike – Channing Tatum is a stripper who teaches Alex Pettyfer how to properly give a lap dance while trying to screw his sister as well.

Skip It – Channing Tatum’s personal story is interesting but the “stripper with a heart of gold” shtick is old.

People Like Us – The new Captain Kirk inherits a bunch of money from his father to give to his sister (Elizabeth Banks) that he never knew.

See It – When Chris Pine is actually given a good role to sink his teeth into he’s a capable actor; considering this week’s releases it’s well situated counter programming.

Ted – Mark Wahlberg’s best friend is a pot smoking teddy bear.

See it – Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut will be an interesting one, for sure.

Madea’s Witness Protection – Eugene Levy goes into hiding and ends up dealing with Tyler Perry in a dress.

Skip it – Seen one sucktacular Perry film, seen ‘em all.

Take this Waltz – Michelle Williams plays another woman who’s happily married but decides to cheat on her spouse. This time it’s Seth Rogen. Apparently Sarah Silverman gets naked, too. In limited release.

Skip It – This has been gestating for some time in post production and now it’s getting a limited release during summer blockbuster season. That’s not a good sign.

Beasts of the Southern Wild – A six year old tries to find her mom in the end of the world Africa. In Limited Release

See It – It’s been getting good buzz on the festival circuit so far and that’s usually a good sign for a film with a small release.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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