Princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) lives with her mother, Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson), and father, King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly), in the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch. She would rather hone her skills at archery rather than learn the mannerisms befitting a princess who's supposed to get married and eventually become a Queen. None of her potential suitors impress her, and her rebellious attitude against tradition frustrates and agers her mother. So, off Merida goes into the forest, following will-o-the-wisps, a.k.a. ghostly lights, which leads her to the humble abode of a witch (voice of Julie Walters). Merida asks the witch to cast a spell on her mother that would change her, but she gets more than she wishes for when the witch transforms her mother into a huge bear.
A truly great animated film should have, first and foremost, a clever and imaginative story, memorable characters, a whole lot of heart, and impressive animation. Brave undeniably offers terrific CGI animation that provides plenty of eye candy, especially when it comes to Merida's long, curly red hair that becomes a character in itself. When it comes to story, heart and memorable characters, though, that's where it falters, although, to be fair, it never becomes downright boring.
Co-directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman as well as co-writers Irene Mecchi and Steve Purcell take an initially intriguing premise and simply don't know what to do with it. Its modicum of heart and soul can be found in the evolving dynamics between Merida and her mother. That relationship, though, isn't focused on enough to make the film palpably poignant or to earn its happy ending---an ending that's not only schmaltzy, but also wraps things up too quickly while leaving some loose ends along the way---for instance, why have Merida cross paths with a Prince who's transformed into an animal if the Prince never shows up or is even mentioned again? The witch could have also used more screen time to provide more menace or something that would make her as memorable as Madame Medusa, Cruella Deville or other classic villains in the animated film world. Moreover, just when you think Brave will become a hilarious comedy of errors once the Queen becomes a bear, think again. It has a few amusing scenes and ephemerally thrilling chase sequences (some of which will probably frighten little kids), but it doesn't make the most out of its comedic potential, leaving you with a rather banal story, an uneven tone and forgettable characters.
The Invisible War
This powerful, deeply moving and provocative documentary sheds light on the issue of rape in the military. The victims include both women as well as men. In 2010 alone, there were nineteen thousand violent sex crimes in the military according to the Department of Defense's estimate. As you'll learn from The Invisible War, too few of those cases actually result in imprisonment of the rapists, and that the number of rapes must be much higher given the fact that many rapes go unreported.
Director Kirby Dick doesn't just interview the rape victims, but also high-ranking officers in the military and members of the congress. You have every right to be enraged when you hear that victims are afraid to report the rapes because the officials who they must report the rape too are either the rapists themselves or colleagues of the rapists which clearly means that there's a conflict of interest. Many rape cases are dismissed with no charges against the rapists, and even more shockingly some victims themselves end up facing charges. The U.S. military seems to care more about protecting its image by covering-up the rapes than helping rape victims find justice against the military members who rape them. Is there any part of the U.S. government that isn't morally corrupted by selfishness, greed and/or power? Sadly, no.
Kirby Dick wisely does not focus on the rapes themselves. You'll hear, though, some accounts of the rapes, and observe how the victims cope physically and emotionally years after the rape. The victims should be commended for having the courage to share their thoughts and feelings about their rapes candidly in front of the camera because it's probably very difficult to face such traumatic events in their lives. If you even have a morsel of a conscience, prepare to be emotionally devastated by their stories, and angered as well as frustrated with the lack of justice in the results of their cases.
The Last Ride