Browsing Tag

Not since the death of Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn has a sci-fi film truly expressed the emotional state of characters set in the far, far future. Today, on the small screen, at least, the science fiction genre is rich with emotional, compelling stories each week, but the silver screen versions, where two hours are usually devoted to action and “wow” moments, are sometimes lacking in the major development of what it means to be human. What better way to exemplify such a human emotion as love than two robots in Pixar Animation Studio’s latest opus, WALL-E.

The tale of WALL-E is easily Pixar’s most melancholy and glum tale to date, easily surpassing the Disney staple of “your mom is dead, here’s a life lesson” embodied since the release of Bambi. WALL-E is most likely the last surviving, functioning robot of his kind, his primary directive is to gobble up trash in his shell, compact it down into neatly stacked cubes, and await humans to return to Earth after it was polluted and left for dead. However, WALL-E has developed personality, and through repeated watching of his cherished Hello, Dolly! tape, he’s trying to love, although being alone (sans a cockroach friend) makes this difficult.

Enter EVE, the object of WALL-E’s affections throughout the 90 minute tale, EVE was sent from the massive AXIOM spaceship to seek out life on Earth, alerting mankind that the forlorn planet has recovered enough (after 700 years) to support human life again. WALL-E eventually follows EVE back to the AXIOM and becomes a hero for malfunction robots, and a hero for all human kind.

The social undertones of the film are present in the none-too-subtle opening shots of the planet in utter disarray. Stacks of compacted garbage cubes stand taller than the world’s tallest skyscrapers as WALL-E has been busy for 700 years. The oceans have dried up, plant life is near-to-none-existent, and the air is so polluted it makes Los Angeles look like Aspen. While a direct environmental message isn’t beaten into the audience, after all, this is a G-rated family film, the effects of humanities’ gluttony is easy recognizable, and when we are re-introduced to humans aboard the AXIOM, it’s basically what you would expect.

The film itself is a masterpiece of storytelling and art direction with each cog coming together to build a working, magnificent machine, capable of entertaining, saddening, and eventually making you cry with joy as the final act plays out. The beginning 30 minutes of the film are a harkening back to the era of silent films where a character’s actions were representations of the emotions we couldn’t usually see or hear about through dialog. WALL-E and EVE’s interaction, although cold at first, eventually warms up to the point where they are the most human characters in the film, they represent hope in the most dire situations, and for that Pixar and Academy Award-winning director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) has outdone themselves once again.

Just sitting in the theater seeing the once cold EVE replay the recorded memories of WALL-E protecting her after she completed her mission and deactivated was both heartbreaking and uplifting, showing the spirit the little robot had gained from a few pieces of seemingly innocent human culture.The film can bring you to tears, and have you laughing the next minute, a seemingly endless onslaught of emotional impact.

Everything about the film clicks and comes together in one of the best packages Pixar, or anyone else has ever assembled, live action or not. WALL-E is the antithesis of films like The Love Guru where one can proudly say that they have a love affair with cinema and movies that draw you in, and never let you go. Such a proud package has you happy for two animated robots, twice removed from reality, and potentially turning into the most talked about couple of the year.

Brad Bird knows how to make an animated movie, scratch that, Brad Bird knows how to make a masterpiece of a movie, period, his just so happen to be animated films with enough character, class, humor, love, and everything else that goes into making award worthy cinema. After the success of The Incredibles and its adult slant on Pixar’s well known writing, Ratatouille furthers Pixar’s reign as the animation powerhouse in the industry with a masterpiece that can only be described as magnificent.

Ratatouille is the film that justifies the move to computer generated animation from traditional, hand drawn 2D. The film has so much personality, so much style, so much everything in the design of the kitchen right down to the ears of the rats which gives each and every one a little something different to make them stand out.


Sure the story is a bit far fetched, a rat, Remy (Patton Oswalt), longs to become a masterful chief, using his heightened senses to create the most elaborate of dishes. Problem is, as a rat there isn’t a whole lot he can do in the real world. In comes Linguini, a garbage boy with a subtle flair for making dishes that taste horrible. After Remy aids Linguini in making a delicious soup, it’s up to the pair to keep their secret hidden and to avoid any unneeded questions.

Ratatouille isn’t the funniest Pixar film, but for a G-rated animated film, this comedy provides more than enough laughs to make it through it s nearly two-hour runtime. There are times when the film slows down and when plot devices are overused and noticed from miles away, but none of this really matters as the majority of the movie would be considered the “good” part, and these “good” parts nearly blow away any ill-feelings you might have towards the film.

The strongest point is the script, albeit flawed in parts, as described above, the character of Remy is developed in such a way that you honestly feel for him and his plight, do you choose the life you were born for, or do you follow your dream?  With a supporting cast including the talents of Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett, and old stand-by John Ratzenberger, there’s a lot of comedy genius working on this film, once again, making each character unique and fitting into Bird’s vision.


Ratatouille is Pixar’s finest film, and regardless of its opening box office numbers, the film’s strongest point is its unforgettable characters. Sure you may not recognize members of the cast, and you may not feel all that great about rats in the kitchen, but this movie is served for you fresh and ready to go. All you need to do is sit back and savor it.

If the first two big sequels of the summer movie season are any indication, things are not looking good for the latest entries in the Pirates, Die Hard, and Rush Hour franchises as both Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third have disappointed with substance but taken the box office crowns each and every week. Things may look up though, for first entries into many franchises like the Michael Bay-directed Transformers and The Simpsons Movie, but with a nosedive in quality here in the first month of the season, one can only hope reprieve is at hand for us all.

Shrek the Third is just not a funny movie; it’s an animated comedy about an ogre who doesn’t want to be king and sets out to find the next heir, thereby shunning his job on to a young boy, Arthur (Justin Timberlake). Although after rolling in the allies during the COPS sequence in Shrek 2, there were high hopes that Mike Meyers and company would be able to top themselves in every respect, unfortunately this did not happen, so instead of another Wayne’s World, we’re left with Wayne‘s World 2, and we’re not happy about it.

The entire cast returns to reprise their voice rolls this time around which finds the aforementioned Shrek (Mike Meyers) seeking out Arthur to become rightful king of Far Far Away. Dastardly Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) has other plans as he organizes all the fairy tale villains to siege the kingdom and crown himself king after the death of Princess Fiona’s (Cameron Diaz) father.

Unlike the second film, the pop-culture jokes have been toned way back, with only a few shout-outs to Foot Locker and other small chains instead of the massively funny montage scene from the second film. Even the slapstick humor that set up the series in the original Shrek has been toned back, there’s very little social commentary, all in all it feels as though the series has lost that spunk, that fire that made it so popular with kids and adults alike in its previous two installments.

Sure, there are still a few moments where you’ll find yourself laughing, the Gingerbread Man’s life flashing before his eyes is priceless, but the fairy tale characters that played such an important role lampooning themselves and the Disney-treatment they’ve gotten over the last 60 years is sadly missing from this installment in the series.

So yet another third installment and yet another disappointment, it’s almost feeling like studios should go right to number four after two as three just might be a tad unlucky. Even for true fans of the series, Shrek the Third comes out smelling like an un-showered ogre.

There’s a lot to like about TMNT, but maybe not all the right things. First and foremost those of us who are in our early 20’s and grew up with the original cartoon and spent endless quarters in the arcades hammering on the old Konami cabinet will find a lot to like about the new film as seeing the mutant turtles on the big screen again is enough to satisfy.

For newcomers to the series, TMNT offers an ample introduction to the turtles, their master, and their fallen foe, The Shredder, who is reduced to nothing more than a two line explanation. In fact, that’s the reason many fans of the franchise will be disappointed with this 2007 update, many of the elements we remember have been taken out and a new, cliché-riddled storyline has been put in place concerning monsters from another dimension and an immortal business man with unknown intentions.

While a majority of the film focuses on the turtles and the fallout from the Shredder’s death (being a sequel to the live action films of the early 1990’s) one can consider this a reintroduction to the characters and a way to get them back on the big screen and set up sequels, this update is lacking in many things we would have expected to see. After abolishing Krang and the Technodrome from the live action films and putting a laughable third installment out, the fans of the franchise can only hope that Mirage and the film’s license holders come back to the comics, and even the recent cartoon series which provides a reasonable update to the characters as well.

With that said, TMNT is an enjoyable way to spent 87 minutes at the theater if you aren’t expecting brilliant storytelling and an endless supply of jokes. Few and far between does the humor resonate with the audience and, as mentioned before, the story could have been a little more relevant to long time fans of the series that would have killed to see a Shredder vs. Splinter match up on the big screen again.

What TMNT does very well is animation and the designers at IMAGI should be commended in as many ways possible for bringing the unique style they have devised to the big screen with the flair and technical prowess the studio has. One particular action scene has Raphael and Leonardo squaring off on the rooftop in the rain. As the camera moves around and eventually ends up peering up from the ground, the real beauty of the movie is shown.

For being as anticipated as it was TMNT does disappoint in some respects, but when you look at it as the first part of a new silver-screen legacy for the mutated turtles you can see where the creators were going and how they might be able to really turn on the nostalgia with some very ambiguous lines towards the end of the film. Could the Shredder or Krang be back the next time around? If they want to keep the fans enticed in this rebirth, they had better plan on it.

Chicken Little had a lot riding on it for Disney. After pushing back the planned fall 2005 release of Pixar’s Cars until summer 2006, the season’s only Disney released animated film was this CGI adventure. Unfortunately for the Mouse House, everyone is going to come away disappointed with this rather flat animated feature that fails to deliver the Pixar charm or the DreamWorks comedy. Chicken Little is a mostly harmless film that certainly won’t disappear due to Disney’s trademark over promotion of its films, but it won’t me remembered by many.

The title, in development for years, focuses on the old story of Chicken Little who cried out that the sky was falling. When it turned out to be nothing more than a hoax, the townspeople began to ignore the crazy little chicken’s claims until the one time he was right, and no one listened. The new Disney version mixes things up a bit by adding in space aliens in a War of the World‘s like farce that all boils down to a misunderstanding.

The trademark Disney notions of a dead mother, a misunderstood child, the odd-one out, and a cool character everyone can relate to are all present, but we’ve seen this story done a hundred times, and nearly half of them done better and with more life than this rehashed script. While the story comes up as short as the movie’s namesake character, the voice acting provided by an eclectic mix of stars gives the film its only life. Chicken Little is voiced by Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) and his friends Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack), Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn), and Fish out of Water (Dan Molina) all have enough life to make them somewhat memorable.

The big exception here is Fish out of Water, in this creation, a fish with a diver’s helmet filled with water on his head, Disney has once again outdone itself and created a truly memorable character and easily one of their most creative and funny creations in years. Even though the fish never speaks a single line, his actions and personality are the shinning moment in this otherwise dim film.

This isn’t to say there isn’t anything to like about Chicken Little, there’s some comedy, but no where near the level Shrek was able to achieve by putting the classic tales that Disney made a fortune on through the blender. There’s maybe one or two laugh out loud moments in the entire film, but overall, and after some of the hilarious moments The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. Disney really needs to raise the bar.

The CGI animation is top-notch, really the only part of the film that goes above and beyond what we’ve seen before in animated films. With most of the character’s being animals it leaves the animators and software designers to create lots of fur which moves pretty damn realistically in the lush environment. Another aspect which has a true touch of style is the character design and the world itself. The characters are over proportion in many aspects with big bodies and little legs. Chicken Little is ridiculously small whereas Runt is huge in comparison. The designs for vehicles are also distorted in the very same way and look somewhat akin to Rocko’s Modern Life.

Try as you might, there just isn’t a lot to get excited about Chicken Little. If it were 1995 again and Toy Story had just come out, and the closest other CGI movie ever released was Tron, the film would be something special and would more than likely be a hit merely for its technical achievements. But, like Disney’s ill-fated technical show Dinosaur, Chicken Little earns the dubious stripes of being better than Howard the Duck but no where near the quality we’ve come to expect from studios like DreamWorks Animation and Steve Job-headed Pixar Animation Studios.

After the reviews and box office results, Disney would be wise to give in to Pixar’s demands. If anything, at least they know they will be getting their name out on award winning material instead of digging up shallowly written stories and trying to adapt them for the 21st century.

Computer animation has come a long way since the debut of Toy Story in 1995. Since then we have seen Pixar Animation Studios re-up itself four times, with each successive movie getting better and better. We have also seen DreamWorks emerge to try and steal Disney/Pixar’s crown of best in the business. While Shrek and Shrek 2 have the pop-culture references and one-liners to make them stand-out hits, Pixar’s films, like The Incredibles, have the ability to stand the test of time and are destined to be classics for generations to come. This isn’t to say anyone will forget the Shrek series of films, but where Pixar takes a different road and subject with each film, DreamWorks runs the risk of milking Shrek straight into mediocrity.

The Incredibles, from director Brad Bird, lives up to its name. Simply put, the movie is incredible to watch and gives us everything we expect from Pixar’s sixth full-length outing. Like the Toy Story series, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo, The Incredibles relies on a smart, witty script crafted for adults and children alike, although things are a bit different this time around. Pixar’s previous movies seemed to balance the jokes between adults and children, satisfying both groups adequately, but with The Incredibles, the scales seem to be tipped in favor of more adult oriented jokes that will fly right over the heads of children. One example of this is towards the climax of the film when a group of guards prepare to have a drinking game while watching monitors of Syndrome’s (Jason Lee) creation tear apart the city. I laughed, really loud, or so it seemed with no one else making a peep in the theater. Still, parents shouldn’t be hesitant to let their children view the movie, as most of the more “mature” jokes won’t even be noticed.

What will be noticed is the PG rating, and the amount of press it has received in the last couple of weeks. This marks a first for Pixar, who obtained G ratings for all of their previous releases, but it doesn’t hinder the movie in any way, simply because the animated violence, even as realistic as this, is still so cartoon-oriented that no-one will be taking it seriously. Although mostly taking place off-screen, this film has, by far, the highest body count for any animated Disney film.

As with any animated film, the quality of the animation is only one part of a complex puzzle, the other is excellent voice work, and The Incredibles excels just as we thought it would. The cast is headlined by Craig T. Nelson (Coach) as Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible and Holly Hunter as Helen Parr/Elastigirl who do an excellent job playing husband and wife, superhero leads. In an underutilized supporting role is Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best/Frozone. This is one of the parts of the movie that left me a bit disappointed, the lack of exploration of Jackson’s character. He was prominently featured in the trailer, but isn’t on screen for much of the movie. Stepping into the villain role of Buddy/Syndrome is Jason Lee who is his usual marvelous self.

The Incredibles really shows how Pixar has evolved, not only in story telling, but in animation as well. Seeing Toy Story, and then nearly ten years later seeing The Incredibles side by side is an eye candy treat. When I first saw Woody and Buzz hiding under a pick-up truck at the gas station in Toy Story I was amazed. Now I see realistic explosions and a robot tearing apart cities built in a retro-60’s style and my jaw still hits the floor. The animation shouldn’t overshadow the story (something Sky Captain couldn’t overcome) but with Pixar they are six for six when crafting intelligent stories and appeal to all ages.

There isn’t much else I can say about The Incredibles that hasn’t already been said here or on another site. The film is full of life, interesting characters, great animation, humor, action, violence, and pop-culture references. The film has the legs to stand the test of time, and while it may never be the box office success that Shrek 2 has become, the film stands, right now, as the finest film to come out of the uber-talented Pixar Animation Studios. With all the studio’s wrangling with Disney aside, this company can put out an excellent movie worth of the label “Ten Best of the Year.” If you love movies, it is your duty to see The Incredibles, as I’m sure you will be just as entertained as I was.

Digital animation is the new wave, as if you needed anyone to tell you that. Aside from the classic works by Pixar Animation Studios, DreamWorks PDI has also delivered a film that is sure to trump Disney’s Finding Nemo as the highest grossing animated picture of all time. That film would be the sequel to the surprising grown-up 2001 hit, Shrek. I, honestly, didn’t know what to expect from Shrek when the film was first released in theaters, in fact, I never actually saw the film until it was released on DVD, but I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. While there are some who eat, drink, and live by the code of Disney, and want nothing to do with animation that doesn’t come form the Mouse House, those diehards will be missing out on one of the funniest, most appropriately adult and child oriented film to come out since the original Shrek.

Shrek 2 picks up right after the original film and begins with a montage of Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) enjoying their honeymoon. The happy couple return home to the swamp to find to unexpected guests. The first is Donkey (Eddie Murphy), who is having problems with Dragon, and the second is a band of messengers from the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) of Far Far Away summoning their daughter and her new husband to meet them. Of course, the King doesn’t know that the spell placed upon Fiona reverted her to an Ogre-like state, and the certainly don’t know that she has married Shrek.

As can be expected, the King and Queen are less than thrilled about their daughter’s chosen path, especially when the King has a pact with the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) to give Fiona away in marriage to Prince Charming (Rupert Everett). Hilarity ensues as the King tries to do away with Shrek by way of a hired assassin. Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is his name, and being one of the best animated characters of all time is his game. Truth be told, Puss in Boots really makes this movie. Every seen the character is in is truly funny, and every action, from licking himself to swearing in Spanish, really shows that DreamWorks really knows what they are doing.

Shrek 2, itself, is a jab at the over-stylized and over-realized culture that is Hollywood. Upon arriving in Far Far Away our merry band soon discovers that this is a very different place than what they are used to. The city itself resembles Beverly Hills in most aspects including huge mansions for stars, in this case fairy tale stars like Cinderella, and trendy stores all over the place. If you pay attention you will pick up shout-outs to retailers like GAP, Burger King, and a very abusive stab at Starbucks which may be one of the funniest jokes in the entire film.

The Shrek series of films has always been known for its pop-culture references, some blatantly obvious, some not so much. There were times when the entire theater would laugh at a reference, like Fiona kissing Shrek upside-down a la Spider-Man, but there were other times when I felt like I was the only one laughing. In the first five minutes you are treated to a visual onslaught of such references, each one as equally funny as the last. The funniest, bar-none, is a spoof of the popular TV show COPS called KNIGHTS which may require repeat viewings of the film just to get all the jokes.

Like most comedies the film throws tons of stuff your way in the beginning and then tapers off the funny stuff to make way for more dramatic story elements. Still, even with cutting back on the jokes mid-way through, the film is still funnier than most of the schlock released so far this year. As many other critics have stated, this movie will require repeat viewings just to get all of the jokes.

The only unfortunate downside to Shrek 2 is the fact that the movie ends and it will be a good two to three years until we get another dose of the big, green ogre. Hopefully DreamWorks is able to capitalize on the popularity of their 7-77 age comedy and make the upcoming Shark Tale a success. Until then, be sure to check out Shrek 2 (multiple times if needed), because it is sure to be one of the biggest movies of the summer, and very well may be one of the best of the year.

The negative press that has been surrounding the latest live-action Looney Tunes movie has been astounding in recent months. Rumor has it that pre-screening audience really didn’t like the film, and after the debauchery that was Space Jam, did anyone really want to see Warner Bros. destroy the prized Tunes franchise anymore? Luckily almost nothing is true on the web with so many fraudulent tipsters and bogus information. Who knows if rumors are actually worth even reporting anymore?

Regardless of the pre-release buzz, or lack thereof, Looney Tunes: Back in Action proves that Warner Bros. can make a very funny film by combining the aspects of animated characters and live actors. Back in Action is a humorous, sharp-tongued satire on the movie industry as a whole which has Warner Bros. poking fun at itself, other studios, and blatant product placement in films.

After Daffy Duck is fired from his job at Warner he runs-amok on the lot until a stuntman-wannabe, security guard, DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser) captures him, only to lose his job, and pick up a new annoyance, in the form of Daffy. When Kate’s (Jenna Elfman), the VP of Comedy, job is threatened by the firing of Daffy she sets out on a quest, with Bugs, of course, to track Daffy down and stumbles into the evil ACME Chairman’s (Steve Martin) plan to sell shoddy merchandise. The story isn’t much to get in to, and certainly won’t win any screenwriting awards, but most notably is Timothy Dalton who plays a parody of himself in the James Bond movies as a spy named Damien Drake who portrays a spy in movies as a cover.

Where Space Jam actually tried to infuse some ridiculous motive to bringing a live action “actor,” and I use that term loosely when referring to Michael Jordan, into the mix, Back in Action has a really loose story that brings in many of your favorite characters for cameos with Bugs and Daffy taking on the key roles.

The most admirable thing about Warner’s handling of this film is they didn’t bring in a bunch of characters just for the sake of brining in characters. The script allows for different characters to appear at different and very appropriate times, and for the sake of sanity, no one is playing basketball. Yosemite Sam owns a casino; the Coyote and Tasmanian Devil are agents for ACME, and Porky Pig and Speedy Gonzales are regulated to making fun of the current P.C. situation in America.

But everything else aside, Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a genuinely funny film that I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong on basing my preliminary beliefs on that unfounded press I spoke of above. Even the actors make fun of themselves with Brendan Fraser getting in a few cracks about his role in the Mummy films, and Matthew Lillard getting a few pointers from the real Shaggy and Scooby. In all respects, this is one giant licensing vehicle for the WB and their upcoming pallet of films.

Sure the acting is bad, the story is laughable, but it is a story that will make you laugh. It’s nice to see the cartoons updated for present day and put in some precarious positions that allow for the films writers to go out and make a film worthy of the Looney Tunes name. Forget about Space Jam and welcome Back in Action as the savior of the big-screen Tunes adventures.