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Movie Reviews: ‘Brave,’ ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,’ ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’
BY ROB HEDELT
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
3 OF 4 STARS
VOICES OF KELLY MACDONALD, BILLY CONNOLLY, EMMA THOMPSON, PAUL GIAMATTI
A unique hero—a young girl with an unruly shock of red hair and an adventurous spirit—makes this animated adventure from Pixar a good choice for the whole family.
Though her mother wants her to follow the princess path and arrange a marriage, Merida wants to chart her own course.
And that means dashing out on her huge horse when she wants to and shooting arrows with deadly accuracy from the bow her father gave her as a youngster.
When a festival is called for several of the neighboring Scottish tribes to present suitors for the princess, Merida ruins it by jumping into the archery competition that is set to pick her future mate.
That sets off a conflict with her mother, the queen, that leads to a magical spell and a struggle to set things right.
Merida is a great “girl power” hero for young ladies in the audience. For once, we get a princess who isn’t blond, tall and in a dither over the perfect dress.
She’s a free spirit who can ride, shoot, climb and care about her kingdom as strongly as anyone around.
Aside from her mother (Emma Thompson), who’s spot-on as a caring queen, many of the other characters are a bit overwrought.
They include the loving but outsized father (Billy Connolly), the leaders of the other clans and three silly little brothers who scamper about doing harmless mischief.
Like most other Pixar films, the story is made to engage young viewers along with the parents and older siblings who will accompany them to theaters.
One slight caution for those thinking of bringing very young viewers: there’s short, scary cartoon action here where the young hero and others are chased by large bears that try to bite and rake them with claws.
Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor. 100 min. [MC, RA, RF]
“ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER” (R)
2.5 OF 4 STARS
BENJAMIN WALKER, MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD, RUFUS SEWELL, DOMINIC COOPER, ANTHONY MACKIE
What a strange film this is.
Strange good? Well, there are captivating parts of this film that mix real history and a bizarre vampire-killing tale that sees Honest Abe take a silver-coated ax to the fanged masses.
Strange bad? Yeah, like when they try to explain that vamps supported the South in the Civil War to keep large, healthy slaves as a food supply.
The story works best with the young Lincoln—first when he loses his mother to a vampire and then as he takes revenge, hunting them down under the direction of a monster-killing mentor.
When he begins to follow his real-life path towards politics and the presidency, the vamp part of the story starts to wear thin.
Some big action scenes arrive about that time, saving the story with a train, a burning bridge and battle scenes with vampires in the Confederate ranks.
Will the donated silver trays, utensils and candlesticks from the residents of Washington arrive in time to be melted down into vampire-killing bullets and cannonballs?
That’s the tension that helps make an otherwise very odd piece of history worth watching until the credits roll.
Did I mention that the old rail splitter can spin his silver ax like a martial arts fighter?
It’s amazing that he doesn’t pull it out to handle his frustrations with Stephen Douglas or the other politicians that make his life difficult.
Those interested in dubious historical accuracy should keep an eye out for Harriet Tubman, Jefferson Davis and other figures from the time period.
How odd we don’t have better records on the role vampires played in the Civil War. Hard to believe I slept through that part of history class.
Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality. 105 min. [MC, RA, RF]
“SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD” (R)
1.5 OF 4 STARS
STEVE CARELL, KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, MARTIN SHEEN, MELANIE LYNSKEY
Steve Carell wanders aimlessly in this movie. Unfortunately, this strange film about the end of the world is just as aimless. Carell can do better.
It’s an interesting premise: if you only have a few weeks before an asteroid demolished Earth, how would you spend your last days?
Hopefully, you’d find something more meaningful than these two main characters. Carell is a guy who’s lost his wife and will, and Keira Knightley is a loosey-goosey sort of free spirit who is distraught about missing a plane to see her folks.
The pair eventually make some romantic sparks, but how hopeful can things be with the Earth poised to become a galactic fireball?
Making things worse is the odd pace, which has the pair wandering from one unlikely encounter to another, slowly falling for each other as they go. A guy who gives them a ride is killed by an assassin he hires; Knightley’s former lover has buddies in a bunker; Carell’s girlfriend is sought for but never seen.
The ending? Don’t look for a sequel.
Rated R for language including sexual references, drug use and brief violence. 94 min. [PV]