Tag Archives: Sci Fi

Brave: Blu Ray Review

DisneyPixar’s Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Brave is available to own on November 13, 2012. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Standards have been set extraordinarily high for animated films over the last decade. We’ve been spoiled with spectacular work from DisneyPixar studios, with movies that went far beyond the usual fairy tales of the old days (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up). After the pitiful Cars 2, Disney and Pixar have returned to glory with their latest film, Brave.

In Brave, we follow a young Scottish princess named Merida’s desperate battle for freedom from the claws of tradition and her unrelenting mother.

Surely enough, a simple story with phenomenal attention to detail and a talented production team make this movie an absolute delight.

All of the voice actors squeezed everything out of their acting arsenal to deliver the perfect trio of humour, emotions and fantasy. Most impressive of all is 36 year old Kelly MacDonald (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), who plays the young and feisty Merida. She managed to perfectly portray her adolescent character, without becoming a caricature of an annoying teenager. Luckily, the studio avoided a disaster when they lost out on their first choice of Reese Witherspoon for the lead character.

This jam packed Ultimate Collector’s Edition features stunning 3D and 2D Blu Ray copies, DVD and a digital copy. On top of that, the special features list is as impressive as the film. Here’s a list of the features that you’ll want to check out:

• “La Luna” Theatrical Short

• “The Legend of Mor’du” Short

• Brave Old World

• Merida & Elinor

• Bears

• Brawl in the Hall

• Wonder Moss

• Magic

• Clan Pixar

• Once Upon A Scene

• Director Commentary

• “Fergus & Mor’du” An Alternate Opening

• Fallen Warriors Montage

• Dirty Hairy People

• It is English…Sort Of – One of the funniest features!

• Angus

• The Tapestry

• Promotional Pieces

Hours of fun stuff for fans to dive into.

Bottom Line: This Ultimate Collector’s Edition is a must own for fans of DisneyPixar animation!

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade A+

Runtime: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1


CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT A FUN GAME AND MAZE!

BRAVE Coin Archery Game PDF

BRAVE Merida Wisp Maze PDF


Prometheus: Blu Ray Review

Prometheus is available on Blu Ray + DVD + Digital Copy on Oct. 9, 2012. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox


With a classic sci-fi/horror like Alien (1979), any movie associated with it will be viewed under extreme scrutiny. Luckily, Prometheus separates itself from the original by focusing on the science, while adding elements of horror to spice things up.

In Prometheus, a scientific discovery leads to a galactic exploration in an attempt to find the origins of humanity. As with many sci-fi flicksm, What they discover when they reach their destination is nothing close to what they expected.

Legendary director Ridley Scott, with the aid of writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindeloff, takes us on a journey that explores man’s greatest mystery: Where do we come from? Both director and writers achieve an incredible level of thought provoking ideas. However, they also left a lot of unexplored venues which prevent this movie from reaching the stratospheric acclaim of its predecessor.

Michael Fassbender is phenomenal in his role as the multi-layered android. Alongside him, Noomi Rapace shows equal skill in manifesting her character’s emotions (very reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in 1979). While the rest of the cast is great, Charlize Theron completely lacked everything that was required to make her performance memorable. Mind you, it is hard to be memorable when your character appeared to be tacked on haphazardly.

For the Blu Ray + DVD + Digital Copy release, this movie is absolutely reference quality material, featuring breathtaking video and immersive audio. Special features include two entertaining audio commentaries: One from director Ridley Scott and one from writers Jon Spailhts and Damon Lindelof. There’s also a plethora of deleted/alternate scenes (with optional commentary), many of which deserved inclusion in the final cut, and a set of mini featurettes called The Peter Weyland Files. This last set serves as a great character development addition that is worth watching before viewing the film. If you’re looking for the 3D version and behind the scenes featurettes, pick up the four disc edition.

You can also download the Second Screen Movie App, which allows you to sync your tablet or smart phone with the movie and dive deeper into the film and its creation.

Bottom Line: This is a must own Blu Ray for fans of the movie and the sci-fi genre alike.

Movie Grade B+
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 124 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1


Check out The Engineer walking around Downtown Toronto:



Robot and Frank: You can’t help but love them

Frank Langella and Peter Sarsgaard star in Robot in Frank. Courtesy of Sony Pictures


As an elderly person in need of full time care, would you prefer to have a human or a robot take care of your day-to-day needs? What does the future hold for us in terms of humanitarian occupations in the service industry? Robot and Frank gives us a small peak into the potential of robotic care, simultaneously examining the day-to-day happenings of a former thief befriending his mechanical care giver.

Frank Langella delivers an entertaining and convincing performance as an aged man living with memory loss. His chemistry with both Robot and the ever wonderful Susan Sarandon adds layers to an already fantastic story.

Writer Christopher D. Ford and first time director Jake Shreier successfully knit a charming, multilayered film. They give us a rather tight look on Frank’s life and his mischievous adventures with Robot. It would have been nice to see the social ramifications the all-pervading robots have on society at large but that’s just a personal nitpick. Both writer and director molded tight relationships and a highly entertaining story that stays within you after the credits roll.

The special effects department worked marvels with Robot, who never once looked out of place or unconvincing.

Bottom Line: Looking for an original, entertaining, and well thought out film? Then Robot and Frank is exactly what you’re looking for.

Grade A-

Runtime: 90 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Brave: DisneyPixar is back

Kelly MacDonald voices Princess Merida in BRAVE. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Standards have been set extraordinarily high for animated films over the last decade. We’ve been wonderfully spoiled with spectacular work from DisneyPixar studios, with movies that went far beyond the usual fairy tales of the old days (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up). Fast Forward to 2011 where we witnessed the less than impressive sequel, Cars 2. Are Disney and Pixar returning to greatness or diving deeper into the pit of reckless disaster with their latest movie Brave? The conclusive answer is: They’re back!

In Brave, we follow a young Scottish princess named Merida through her desperate battle for freedom from the claws of tradition and her unrelenting mother.

Sure enough, a simple story with phenomenal attention to detail and a talented production team make this movie an absolute delight.
All of the voice actors squeezed everything out of their acting arsenal to deliver the perfect trio of humour, emotions and fantasy.

Most impressive of all is 36 year old Kelly MacDonald (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), who plays the young and feisty Merida. She managed to perfectly portray her adolescent character, without becoming a caricature of an annoying teenager. Luckily, the studio avoided a disaster when they lost out on their first choice of Reese Witherspoon for the lead character.

Three directors/writers worked on bringing their script to life and it looks like they may have the Oscar for Best Animated Film in the bag.

Complementing the filmmaker’s vision is the jaw-dropping animation. Not only are the detail-rich backgrounds a photo-realistic heaven, but the movement is incredibly smooth – Particularly with Merida’s gorgeous red curly hair.

Bottom Line: The best animated movie of the year!

Grade A

Runtime: 100 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: Yes


CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT A FUN GAME AND MAZE!

BRAVE Coin Archery Game PDF

BRAVE Merida Wisp Maze PDF


Interview with Brave’s Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian


Having worked on some of DisneyPixar’s biggest hits, including Toy Story, Monster’s Inc., Ratatouille, and my all-time favourite The Incredibles, the pressure to deliver the next hit movie for the number one animation studio in the world was set on the shoulders of director Mark Andrews and Producer Katherine Sarafian.

I recently sat down with the lively duo to talk about their latest production, Brave.


What were some of your major challenges in making Brave?

Mark: Katherine was one of my major challenges.

Katherine: Yeah, he wouldn’t say I’m not difficult to work with. I think every director, producer, writer, etc. would give the same answer—Story! You can never assume you’ve got it right, and even when you do, you always want to make it better. With these films taking four to six years to make, right up until the end, we’re trying to make the story better.

Mark: Yeah, no matter how much time you think you have, it ends up being no time at all. You spend so much time in the development phase working with different permeations of ideas, “Should we do this? Should we do that? I don’t know…” By the time you finalize one idea and you put it up on storyboards, you look at it and go, “Gaaa, NOOO!” After multiple tries, all of a sudden the release date approaches and the pressure is on. We have a motto: Work is story and story is hell.

Tell us what led you to Scotland.

Mark: Sure! My fellow director and I, Brenda Chapman, have Scottish ancestry and I’m a huge myth and legend buff. Scotland being so rich in their history, myths and everything that surrounds it, combined with the Celtic tradition of telling stories as life lessons naturally gave us incentive to build this teen angst film around it. Basically, we write what we know. My only other thing is I wanted to put the whole thing in space, because I love sci-fi. You know, bring in a spaceship and basically that’s what happens with the curse (in the movie).

Katherine: There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t consider adding a spaceship.
Once we decided that it was going to be in Scotland we went on our research trip. If we got to Scotland and discovered that the landscapes and history weren’t conducive to storytelling, we would have changed it.

Mark: Or if we were smart, we would have set it in Italy and got some fantastic trips there. Or someplace warm like the Caribbean, because Scotland’s not warm!

You wouldn’t like Canada’s winters very much.

This is Pixar’s first female lead and princess. How did this develop?

Katherine: We didn’t start out thinking about delivering the first Pixar female heroine. We started talking about who would be the best possible character: Someone who is teenaged, and happened to be a royal girl. But those were all secondary and tertiary plans. Now I’m really happy that Merida will be looked at as a role model for being true to you and not just following a mold. If the world doesn’t quite see you the way you want to be seen, you can bravely face up to that and speak your truth.

Mark: I think that’s the big issue in this land and era of tradition (old Scotland), there are so many preconceived notions of what a woman or anyone needs to be – Even boys. I have a girl and three boys just like King Ferguson does in the movie, so for me it’s great that this movie tells you to be brave enough to be who you are. Don’t let anyone dictate who you’re going to be.

I love that message!

Did the cast ever get to record their dialogue together, or is this like most animated films where they never saw each other through production?

Mark: All done separately!

Katherine: They interacted when they were shooting other films together, but not on our film.

Mark: It’s too difficult. I would love to get everyone in there and have them work together. But it’s hard to build the performances, which is why we do several different takes. That way, if you’re coming on strong in your reading and I have multiple takes from the other actors reading their lines at different levels in the scene, I am able to form a rhythm and a pattern out of all the different takes.

How did you develop Princess Merida’s character without making her another annoying teenager?

Mark: We know this person is head strong and willful, but she also has to be appealing. I want to like her in the beginning and like her in the end, understanding why she had to do what she did as she transitions from adolescence to adulthood. The way Kelly MacDonald played the character made us fall in love with her from the first line out of her mouth.

Katherine: Throughout the entire process of making this movie, we were trying to get appeal. Whether it’s how big the eyes are, or how big the smile is, you’re going for appeal with character design. Then you’re going for appeal in character movement and animation before you even have the voice. By the time you get to casting, you’re only thought is appeal, appeal, appeal!

BRAVE’S Director Mark Andrews and Producer Katherine Sarafian.

Mark: All of the appeal comes from your gut. When I was talking to Emma Thomson (Queen Elinor), I told her we have to be able to laugh at the queen and not just think of nasty words to call her, which I did as we were writing the character.

Last question from fans and myself: If and when will you return to The Incredibles franchise to give us the sequel we’re dying for?

Katherine: Mark and I would both love to make The Incredibles 2 happen, but the studio has so many projects in the works right now it may be a while.

Awww shucks!

You can check out Brave in theatres this Friday June 22, 2012.

For now, save and print this fun banner challenge and maze for your wee ones to enjoy!

BRAVE Banner Design PDF

BRAVE Triplets Maze PDF


Prometheus: A step below greatness

Logan Marshall-Green, Noomi Rapace, and Michael Fassbender star in Prometheus. Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox


It’s difficult not to become completely encapsulated in an epic horror/sci-fi the likes of Ridley Scott’s Alien from 1979. With the standards set from that film, any movie associated with it will be viewed under extreme scrutiny. Luckily, Prometheus separates itself from the original by focusing on the science and adds elements of horror to spice things up.

In Prometheus, a scientific discovery leads to a galactic exploration to find the origins of humanity. What they find when they reach their destination is nothing close to what they expected.

Ridley Scott, the once legendary director, has returned to where his major success had initialized with classics like Blade Runner. With the aid of writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindeloff, Scott takes us on a journey that explores man’s greatest mystery: Where do we come from? Both director and writers achieve an incredible level of thought provoking ideas and thrilling storytelling. However, they also left a lot of unexplored venues which will prevent this movie from reaching the stratospheric acclaim of its predecessor.

Casting for this movie hit an almost perfect score with an excellent ensemble of actors to portray the various archetypes. Michael Fassbender is yet again phenomenal in his role as the multi-layered, intriguing android. Alongside him, Noomi Rapace shows equal skill in manifesting her character’s emotions (very reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in 1979). While the rest of the cast was great, Charlize Theron completely lacked everything that was required to make her performance memorable. Mind you, it is hard to be memorable when your character appeared to be tacked on haphazardly.

The cinematography is beautiful, but the musical score lacked atmosphere to really provide punch to crucial moments.

Scott’s use of the added 3rd dimension works phenomenally. The entire film viewed through 3D glasses delivered the most realistic “looking through a window” effect to date. Definitely worth the additional cost.

Bottom Line: No matter how great this film appears to be, the nagging flaws keep it from becoming an epic classic.

Grade B+

Runtime: 124 minutes
IMAX: Yes
3D: Yes


John Carter: Blu Ray + DVD Review

Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins star in the Blu Ray release of John Carter. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Edgar Rice Burroughs’ magazine serials from the early 1900’s hit cinemas earlier this year in the form of John Carter. Unfortunately, the film was completely ill-advertised and suffered a disastrous box office run. Hopefully more people are willing to give this fantasy/sci-fi adventure a chance when it’s released on Blu Ray today.

The movie tells the story of Civil War veteran John Carter’s unwitting transport to Mars, discovering a race of human and alien life forms at war.

Academy Award winning writer/director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) does a good job with his first foray into live action cinema. He creates a good balance between drama and action, with neither element overpowering the other – Unlike a hollow blockbuster. To be honest, this isn’t his best work, but there’s enough substance in the story to keep the audience eagerly intrigued.

This is Taylor Kitsch’s first time as a lead in a film with such a vast budget (estimated at $250 million… Not exactly pocket change). Kitsch did a great job as the leading man, showing a good range of emotion as well as a much appreciated knack for slap-stick comedy. The rest of the cast felt solid, but never outstanding.

For Blu Ray + DVD release, Disney has included a stout amount of special features for fans to explore. Among these are Disney’s interactive Second Screen feature that allows you to connect with a computer or tablet for additional viewing pleasure, Deleted Scenes, Barsoon Bloopers, 360 Degrees Of John Carter featurette, 100 Years in the Making featurette, and a feature length commentary with the director and producers.

On top of that wallop of special features, the movie itself looks and sounds fantastic.

Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of the film or looking for something different to watch, this movie will provide a ride you’re sure to enjoy.

Movie Grade B
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 132 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1


Men In Black III: Delivers what the second movie couldn’t

Josh Brolin and Will Smith star in Men In Black III. Courtesy of Sony Pictures


The original and highly entertaining Men In Black came out in 1997, taking audiences on a rollercoaster ride of fictional extra-terrestrial conspiracy theories. Five years later, an unfortunate mistake was made resulting in the creation of a lackluster sequel that stepped too far from the charm of its predecessor. Fast forward to a decade later, and we’re a little hesitant with the third movie due to the dismal track record of money-driven sequels. Fortunately, Men In Black III returns to the formula that made the first movie a success.

In the third movie, Agent J (Will Smith) must travel back in time to prevent a ruthless alien, Boris the Animal, from murdering Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).

The producers made the perfect decision to hire an entirely new set of writers to pen the script. They’ve limited the cheesy gags to the bare minimum, making them funnier than expected. This paired with a cohesive story made for a very entertaining movie.

The cast seemed to work very well together, especially Will Smith and Josh Brolin (young Agent K). Their humor and chemistry reinvigorated the characters and made the ride that much more fun.

Barry Sonnenfeld, director of the first two films, returns for the third installment with a welcome case of amnesia that eliminated Men In Black II from his memory. With his second chance at a sequel, he takes the audience on a journey that ties the first and third films together wonderfully.

Even the post-production 3D treatment is well done, as is the thunderous, dynamic audio mastering.

Bottom Line: Leave your well-founded fears at home and trek out for the sequel that should have been.

Grade B+

Runtime: 106 minutes
IMAX: Yes
3D: Yes


Lockout: Not perfect, but fun

Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace star in the sci-fi action, LOCKOUT. Courtesy of Alliance Films


Science fiction films have brought eye opening ideas and experiences to movie goers for generations. Chances are these stories have probably made you ponder the possibility of a Utopian and/or apocalyptic future at some point or another. Along the darker lines, Lockout examines how we may handle our convicts in the not too distant future.

In the year 2079, convicted ex-government agent Snow (Guy Pearce) fights to clear his name and his freedom by venturing into space to rescue the U.S. President’s daughter who is being held hostage.

Guy Pearce (Prometheus, Memento) is too much fun in this role. His countless, hilarious one-liners add the perfect light-hearted touch to this adventure. Other notables include Maggie Grace (Taken), who shows a welcome maturity in her performance, and Joseph Gilgun (Harry Brown) as the psychotic, charismatic inmate.

The directing team of James Mather and Stephen St. Leger co-wrote the original screenplay with Luc Besson (Taken, The Fifth Element). Inexperience is present in their direction, but they got enough right to keep it enjoyable. It is because the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously that keeps the audience interested.

The special effects on the other hand…not so much. There’s a fair bit of CGI-heavy scenes throughout the movie, not all of which were necessary and some of which looked dreadful.

As a cinematic experience, this needs a lot of polishing, but there’s a solid amount of fun in there too.

Bottom Line: If you’re in the mood for an 80’s style action/sci fi, this movie will take you on the right ride.

Grade C+

Runtime: 95 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


The Darkest Hour: Acting couldn’t save it

This sci-fi thriller is available on DVD April 3rd. Courtesy of eOne Films


Alien invasion movies are a dime a dozen, with most of them landing at the bottom of the trash pile. Even with an estimated budget of $30 million, The Darkest Hour gives off a strong smell of a “B” movie.

In this sci-fi action a strange race of aliens with electrical energy force-fields have destroyed most of the world’s population leaving a few survivors struggling to defeat them.

With a weak script and retro-worthy special effects (the aliens), there is no reason to expect very much from this movie. Not all is lost however.

What keeps this movie from being a total disaster are a couple of good performances from Emile Hirsch (Milk, Into the Wild) and Olivia Thirlby (Being Flynn, No Strings Attached). Both actors managed to keep every line of their dialogue convincing.

What is troubling about the script is that writer Jon Sphlaints has also worked on Prometheus, one of the highly anticipated films of 2012. We can only hope he shows more talent there than he did in The Darkest Hour.

For the DVD home release, there is a good set of special features for fans to enjoy. A short film Survivors gives a brief look at the continued battle against the aliens after the movie’s events. Visualizing an Invasion is an interesting featurette showing how the stunts and special effects came to life. There are also four deleted scenes and an extended scene that you can watch with commentary, as well as a full length commentary for the film.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking to get your money’s worth, stay away from this film.

DVD Release Date: April 3, 2012

Movie Grade C-
DVD Grade B-

Runtime: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1