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.

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.

Forget any misguided preconceptions about this movie based on the fact it came from a ride of the same name at the Disneyland Resort. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, aside from having a really long name, stands out as one of the best movies of the summer and showcases some of the best acting performances all year.

You wouldn’t think that a live action Disney movie would be anything more than slapstick comedy intertwined with lame dialog, horrible special effects, and bottom of the barrel storytelling. Pirates is different. This isn’t the crap-fest that The Mighty Ducks turned into, The Curse of the Black Pearl is Disney’s first PG-13 movie released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner (others have been handed off to Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures) and where you would expect a subpar script you get an incredibly fun movie brought further to live with some incredible characters.

The Curse of the Black Pearl starts off with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and her father Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce) sailing for Port Royale. On the way they find a small boy by the name of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) floating on a board with a gold medallion around his neck. When the wreckage of his boat is seen burning on the water, Elizabeth takes Will’s medal, fearing the crew will take him for a pirate. Of course it only adds to the story that Elizabeth takes a liking to Will, but they are from different castes and, of course, it is never meant to be. Flash forward eight years when pirates come ashore and begin to plunder Port Royale looking for the last piece of the cursed Aztec gold. Since Elizabeth has this final piece they kidnap her Turner enlists the services of the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), imprisoned for a daring attempt to steal a British boat, to find an island that cannot be found and rescue the women he cares for.

Pirates script goes from cliché to inspired throughout the movie. The old world classic storyline of a simple craftsman in love with a Governor’s daughter who has been proposed to by a young member of the Royal Navy stonewalls it’s way into the script. Of course this isn’t allowed because of the nature of the class system, and the fact that everyone wears funny wigs. There is also “treasure” hidden on an “island” that makes you wonder, “Where have I seen this before?” To the screenwriter’s credit the film does offer up some genuinely funny moments, most coming at the hands of Johnny Depp.

This is a Depp movie and it shows in the amazing characterization that he gives Sparrow. From the tiny twitches to the wobbling, drunken walk, Sparrow comes to life onscreen via Depp. While his performance in Edward Scissorhands may rival this one, he is clearly on mark with his better work as seen in Sleepy Hollow. The supporting cast also deserves credit for creating memorable characters in the shadow of the top-billed star. Notable among these is Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa, the mutinous first mate of Sparrow who took over his ship and left him to die on an island, twice.

Of course the real star of the film is the special effects work by Industrial Light and Magic who do an amazing job bringing the tattered rags and bones of the cursed pirates to life. From the life-like interaction with real actors to the money making scene underwater the CGI pirates leave your mouth hanging open. Like all CG it isn’t perfect, and there are times when it looks as though the computer generated antagonists are a bit too cartoony.

Director Gore Verbinski at times leaves us guessing just what direction he wanted this film to take. One one side it is based on a Disneyland ride enjoyed by all, and on the other it is a pirate movie, and pirates are not known for having you over to enjoy tea and crumpets on Sunday afternoons. It is evident that you are seeing two very different pictures inter-woven into one film. You have the comedy and one-liners on one side, the other houses a few throat slashes and sword thrusts worthy of a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

None of this severely detracts from the film because over the course of a somewhat bloated 143 minutes you have a good time, and isn’t that what movies are suppose to do? Superb performances by Depp, Rush, and Bloom make up for the nearsighted plot that doesn’t stray too far from the beaten path. Pirates of the Caribbean may be the most fun you have in a theater this year, and the nods to the ride only add to a great time.