Reel Critics: Heartfelt, fairy tale fun in 'Brave'

The Pixar studio is the gold standard for generation jumping animated films."Toy Story,""Finding Nemo" and"Wall-E" were ground breaking blockbusters. The win streak clearly continues with their rousing fairy tale adventure"Brave."

This time they add a dose of Disney philosophy to the Pixar formula. The spirited heroine is Merida, a spunky and self reliant girl with flaming red hair. She is a princess of course, as Disney requires in such stories.

Her father rules a kingdom in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. The plot thickens when she comes of age and her mother insists she choose a husband from a sorry group of suitors.

She defies her mother and flees into the forest. There she encounters strange forces, a grizzled old witch and magic creatures in the classic Disney tradition. Merida buys a spell from the witch to change her mother's mind. The many wild and unexpected consequences of the spell drive the rollicking action that follows.

Visually stunning animation compliments all the events on the screen. Resolution of the archetypal parent/child dispute is accomplished with lots of wit, charm and very good humor. Robust and heartfelt, it's sure to get Oscar attention.


Seeking a 'Vampire Hunter' at the 'End of the World'

I decided to brave"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"because it's got a killer title and concept, but the execution is unintentionally hilarious.

Who knew that a) vampires walked among us posing as white Southerners? and b) that Honest Abe (putty-faced Benjamin Walker) was better at splitting heads than splitting rails?

But first this lanky grasshopper had to learn the Ways of the Vampire Kill from mysterious Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), an expert in blood-sucking evildoers.

Cooper and Rufus Sewell, as leader of the Vampires Illinois chapter, bring some much-needed energy whenever they are on screen. Otherwise, this movie plods on right up to the ridiculous finale that had me cracking up in disbelief.

If this movie is remotely successful, could "Calvin Coolidge: Succubus Slayer" with Nicolas Cage be far behind?

Speaking of global calamity, "Seeking a Friend at the End of the World" is a dark comedy about what people might do if they knew the Earth would be destroyed in 21 days. What do you do with your time? Do you keep going to work to sell insurance ("the Armageddon package is extra")? Do you party like it's 1999?

Or in the case of Dodge (Steve Carell), do you try to reconnect with your high school sweetheart, rescue a forlorn dog and a neighbor named Penny (Keira Knightley), and do a road trip?

There are some nice reflective moments from Carell and company, marked with some great old songs and nary an explosion or vampire in sight.

"Seeking" starts out as satire but loses its edge to please its audience, even if the "happily ever after" is only for a few hours.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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