Pixar goes Scottish in the brilliant Brave

FILMS
BRAVE
Cert: PG
****

Brave is not only Pixar’s first foray into fairytale, it’s the company’s first movie with a female lead. Set in Medieval Scotland, among roaring chieftains, sprites and fairies, Brave is cacophony of colour and sound, rendering clanland in a mosaic of gorgeous pastels. Many films are released in 3D to dubious advantage: this one looks totally fabulous.

Pixar rarely misses a trick, but Brave is a particularly compelling story. It rejects the traditional knight in shining armour fairytale, starring a young woman – Princess Merida – who prefers shooting to the fineries of courtship and who is more concerned with her relationship with her mother than with that of a swashbuckling potential husband.

When her parents try to make her marry a boy from a local clan, she rebels, insisting on her right to choose herself (take that, Prince Charming!). After a row with her mother, she races out into the forest where a witch gives her a cake to proffer to mum, purportedly as a cure for the current conflict about her future. But the cake is evil, and after a bite, Merida’s mother is turned into a bear. Now, a bear is bad enough at the best of times, but years before, Merida’s father was brutally mauled by the legendary bear Mor’du, so his wife’s new incarnation is particulary gory.

Merida must now erase the old woman’s curse herself by solving a riddle telling her to “repair a bond”.

Most of Brave consists of Merida’s attempts at reparation for a moment of rashness. But what makes it satisfying is that this rashness was a reaction to a righteous travesty and so the reparation is rich and intriguing. Once of the summer’s best shows.

FILM
STEP UP
Cert PG | By Zoe Strimpel
*

ARE you a fan of the Step Up films? Didn’t think so. But if a secret part of you doesn’t mind, perhaps even likes, the fanfare of hot young things breaking into dance routines in bars, galleries and on the street, then you might want to sneak out and see this one. Anyway, someone is going to watch Step Up 4: Miami Heat, and in case it’s you, rest assured that previous experience is not required: this is about as formulaic as it gets.

Stud Sean (Ryan Guzman) and babe Emily (Kathryn McCormack) dance together and fall in love. Competitions ensue. Whereas the previous films involved rival crews dancing against each other, this one is more about flash mobs and impromptu performances. The main contest stems from the desire of “the Mob” to win an online competition by attracting 10m views to their videos. The sub-plot sees Emily’s father, a nasty and greedy property developer, trying to bulldoze Sean’s neighbourhood.

FILM
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SAY SORRY
Cert 15 | By Zoe Strimpel
****

CHINA’S most famous artist Ai Weiwei is also its best-known, most outspoken critic. With a backdrop of strict censorship, his insistence on self-expression through art and social media has resulted in the closure of his blog, the bulldozing of his newly built studio, beatings and secret detention.

This film, which won the special jury prize at Sundance and has done well at other festivals, is Wewei’s inside story. First-time director Alison Klayman – formerly a US radio correspondent in China – gained unprecidented access to Ai while working in the country. “For me,” said Klayman, “one of the driving questions is: ‘Who is this guy?’”