Friday Flicks: What Says Summer More than a Movie Called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?

Grab some popcorn and check out the movies you should see (or avoid) this weekend.

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Tagline: Change Your Fate.

Pixar has been rightly praised for producing a near-unbroken string of enjoyable, engaging and often groundbreaking films, but the fact remains that no major feature in its 25-year history has had a female lead. Until now. Brave tells the story of a Scottish princess called Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), who isn’t interested in the traditional feminine activities expected of her. “I’d rather die than be like you,” she says to her mother at one point, which isn’t the kind of dialogue you’ve come to expect from the Pixar (hey, if they’re finally going to break out of its female-fronting slump, they may as well really go for it). In defiance, Merida turns to a witch (Julie Walters) who is able to cast a spell so the young Princess can try and define her destiny once and for all.

The project benefits from the usual Pixar goodwill, perhaps from reviewers eager to forget the dire misfire of last summer’s Cars 2. “A 10th-century traditionalist finds her inner Susan Sontag,” concludes The Village Voice (which we think was a compliment). “Capturing the haunted greens, golds, blues and grays of a Scottish castle and the deep forest around it … Brave is another pictorial triumph for Pixar,” notes Salon. And Variety is similarly smitten, gushing that “the studio has fashioned a resonant tribute to mother-daughter relationships that packs a level of poignancy on par with such beloved male-bonding classics as Finding Nemo.”

LIST: TIME’s Top 10 Films of 2011

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