This is Pixar’s first film with a girl in the lead: princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is being forced into an arranged marriage with one of three clan suitors. Instead she flees into the mystical forest to a witch’s house, and has a spell put on her nagging mother (Emma Thompson). Merida must rescue her mother and save her kingdom without giving up any of her freedom. This is actually a real departure for Disney. First of all, the mother doesn’t get killed off in the first act, and the mother-daughter relationship takes centre stage. Also, this is the first princess tale I know of where there’s no prince: the only horse she rides off on is her own. Lovely visuals, a fresh family message and, thankfully, real Scottish accents.
A Thousand Words
Eddie Murphy plays slick literary agent Jack McCall, a guy who can talk his way out of anything. He gives lip service to his boss, he sweet-talks his wife (Kerry Washington), and he even lies about his wife being in labour so he can cut the line at Starbucks. Until one day he crosses a New Age spiritual guru, and a tree suddenly springs up in his backyard that loses a leaf every time Jack utters a word. When the tree’s out of leaves, Jack will die, so goes the wisdom. But there was no wisdom in filmmakers’ decision to hit Murphy’s “mute” button for two-thirds of the movie, leaving the actor to mime his way through the film. The message is muddled and it’s just not all that funny. The only extras on the blu-ray are deleted scenes and an alternate ending.
Wrath of the Titans
It’s been 10 years since Perseus (Sam Worthington) defeated the Kraken, but thanks to the immorality of the people, the power of the gods has been weakened. That leaves room for Hades, the god of the underworld, to unleash the Titans to destroy mankind. Perseus teams up with a warrior queen (Rosamund Pike), another half-blood god and a fallen god to help save the world. The story’s a little convoluted but the effects have greatly improved since Clash of the Titans: the creatures and settings are much more varied and interesting. It’s all about the effects and the video game potential, after all, and on that level, it succeeds.
21 Jump Street
Don’t worry if you’re under 35 and have never seen the TV show starring Johnny Depp: the TV show aimed to be a serious cop drama but the Jonah Hill-Channing Tatum film is the furthest thing from it. Two men who were arch enemies in high school – one was a jock (Tatum), one was a nerd (Hill) –meet up again at the police academy and form a friendship as they try and pass the entrance exam. But then they get assigned to the Jump Street undercover program and have re-live the horrors of high school all over again in order to bust a high school drug ring. Hill co-wrote this raunchy script with Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Project X) and it is crammed with so many zippy one-liners and most of them stick. And Tatum and Hill are the surprise buddy pairing of the year. Tons of special features on the blu-ray, including commentary, gag reel, an extra devoted to Ice-T, plus a bunch of making-of extras.
Julia Roberts stars as the queen in Tarsem Singh’s fairy tale adaptation, and Lily Collins is the princess who is banished because she’s too beautiful. The dwarves teach Snow how to fight back against the queen, while the prince (Armie Hammer) is being seduced by the older woman back at the castle. This is a visually rich film: costumes, colours and sets are fantastic. But Snow White is a little on the dull side, and the chemistry among the dwarves is more palpable that the relationship between Snow and the Prince. Rent it for the costumes, not for the plot.