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Big Hero 6: Charming, Marvel-Inspired Disney Animation
Big Hero 6 marks the fifty-fourth animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series and in its very first collaboration with the folks over at Marvel Comics, this latest animated adaptation of the lesser-known superhero comic of the same name, has managed to breed something that is best described as both painfully adorable and marvellously ingenious.
Written and adapted to the screen by an army of writers, Big Hero 6 is set in the futuristic town of San Fransokyo and it revolves around Hiro Hamada (Potter); a fourteen-year old science wiz who spends most of his days creating and operating small robots.
Raised by his adoring Aunt Cass (Rudolph), Hiro –who graduated from high school at the tender age of thirteen – loves to use his creations to compete in underground 'bot-battles' for money, while his older brother Tadashi (voice of Henney) – a science geek himself who is currently attending the self-proclaimed Nerd School – enjoys creating robots for other, more sensible purposes. While visiting his brother during one of the classes with Professor Robert Callaghan (Cromwell), Hiro becomes instantly inspired and decides to enrol in the robotics university as well.
Naturally, his admittance project – mentally controlled micro-robots – is a big hit, however, after a tragic family incident occurs, Hiro's future in the industry of robotic engineering is put on hold as his life becomes filled with sorrow and dread. Having pretty much given up on life, Hiro's heavy heart is soon lifted when he accidentally activates his brother's latest creation, Bymax (Adsit); an inflatable medical-assistance robot who soon begins to heal the hurting boy and help him get back on the right track.
Strip it away from all of its high-tech mechanisms and space-age super heroism, Big Hero 6 is at the end of the day, a story about a boy and his friend. Mixing the cultures of East and West, Big Hero 6 is told with plenty of heart, humour and visual flamboyance; the film engages, though its point of attraction will hit hardest with young teens. Correspondingly, the imagery is almost eye-popping – definitely worth seeing in 3D – and the action sequences are genuinely exciting.
On the downside, if you can really call it that, is that the film – especially in the second half – seems to go a bit crazy on the action, pushing the endearing relationship between Hiro and his almost house-broken robot to the back seat.
Nevertheless, this miniature flaw is easily overlooked thanks to Bymax; a dangerously adorable new character who, just like the film itself, is bubbly, charming and, most of all, extremely entertaining.
Those going in expecting an action-packed sci-fi adventure, complete with explosions, flying space-ship battles and a full-on war between humans and their extraterrestrial visitors, will be severely disappointed with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. Taking on a more philosophical approach to things, Arrival is an intelligent and a thought-provoking alien-invasion thriller which revels in its own complexity and manages strike all of the right chords, but for a few missteps.
Based on Ted Chiang’s short story titled Story of your Life, the film begins with the arrival of twelve mysterious alien spacecrafts which position themselves at twelve different locations around the globe, igniting fear and paranoia amongst the residents of Earth.
Recruited by Colonel Weber (Whittaker), linguist Louise Banks (Adams) – along with mathematician Ian Donnelly (Renner) – is brought to Montana to help deal with the possible threat by making contact with the aliens in order find out who they are and what their intentions may be.
However, establishing communication with the visitors is not as easy as one would have hoped with Louise soon discovering that the aliens have their own language which uses symbols to communicate. Deciphering their tongue into a language they can understand is no easy task and with the threat of a global war between humans and aliens on the verge of a breakout, Louise must work hard to suppress her own personal demons in order to get the breakthrough she, and everyone else on the planet, needs.
Following his success with a character-driven drama like Prisoners and intense drug-thriller, Sicario, Villeneuve turns to sci-fi this time and manages to deliver yet another impressive – and by far the most ambitious – piece of work. Tackling some rather big questions about life, time and what makes us human, the script - written by Eric Heisserer - works as both a character-focused drama and a sweeping sci-fi adventure. Drenched in an enigmatic aura of the unknown, the pacing is slow and purposeful with Villeneuve unraveling the story’s mysteries steadily but thoroughly, keeping the tension and momentum high, while composer Johann Johansson’s original score, infuses the story with plenty of atmosphere and mood.
Delivering yet another powerful performance, it’s not a stretch to say that Amy Adams is the true star of the show; embracing her character’s strength and vulnerability with plenty of presence and grace, Adams delivers on all fronts, while Renner, although not used as much, is quietly effective.
All in all, Arrival is a winner and although it does struggle a little bit with trying not getting too lost in its own complex ideas, it’s one of the most thought-provoking, touching and moving sci-fi films you will see this year.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.