Monday, July 30, 2007


This new movie from Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) combines a little action adventure in the vein of Armageddon or the Core, Sci-Fi suspense like Even Horizon, and deep philosophical meaning as in the Fountain. It takes an absolutely terrible premise, and makes it almost palatable. When I first heard about this movie about a year and half ago, I was suspicious. When I heard Boyle was directing it, I grew a little excited. When I saw the trailers, my hopes were dashed.

Everything is summed up pretty well in the opening monologue delivered by the hero, Capa (Cillian Murphy). The Sun is dying and seven years ago, a ship was sent carrying a bomb the size of Manhattan to restart it. (There was some technical jargon about it not actually restarting it, but sparking a new star. Ignoring all of this, they're using a bomb to save the Sun and therefor us, from dying). Unfortunately, that mission never made it. Now, seven years later, the sequel to that mission is the Solar System's last hope. You may be asking yourself why Michael Bay isn't directing this. It would make a bit more sense that art house darling Boyle, but he actually does a good job dealing with big budget visual effects for his first time.

As with any space mission ever put on film, this cannot run smoothly. After Capa makes a fateful decision, the ship runs into a whole heap of trouble, and obliging secondary characters start dying off one by one. This shouldn't come as a surprise, however, seeing as a requirement for a mission to the Sun itself is supporting characters mortality. Sunshine strays from this action based formula and ventures into the realm of science-fiction/horror when they stumble across the remnants of the previous mission. This is turn leads to more depth with concepts of God and immortality.

What's interesting about this movie is that the tension between the characters as they start to turn on each other in this claustrophobic environment. There are even conversations of sacrificing crew members so the others may survive. With all this development, you almost forget that they're flying straight into the bloody Sun. It's almost as if the absolutely stupid premise takes a back seat and didn't even bother me.

If you've seen any of the trailers, you can tell that this is a fairly stunning movie. Boyle does a fantastic job of capturing the stunning, yet terrifying nature of the Sun. It's easy to see where the almost religious undertones come in- with the concept of creating new life deep within the Sun. He flips back and forth between the cold and sterile blues of the inside of the space-craft, depriving us of any warm tones; and the intense reds and oranges of the Sun. It is virtually a visual masterpiece.

It's interesting because this movie is half wonderful, and half terrible. The concept is awful, but the movie doesn't dwell on it. Some of the action and horror aspects fall flat, but they don't seem important. It looks beautiful, but does that make a movie good? It's incredibly close to being a deep and inspirational piece, but it lands a little short. I guess I'll have to split the difference between the two.

Watch the Trailer


Thursday, July 26, 2007

License to Wed

What happened to the Robin Williams from Insomnia and One Hour Photo? He plays a good creepy. Even the slapstick Mrs. Doubtfire, or the "this is funny, but I really shouldn't be laughing" Good Morning Vietnam? I miss that Robin Williams. Now all we're getting is RV and License to Wed. John Krasinski, and Mandy Moore are the other two casualties of this below average romantic comedy. In my eyes, the genre is all but dead, and this movie is not helping it any.

In License to Wed, Ben (Krasinski) and Sadie (Moore) are getting married. Their plans hit a snag, however, when Sadie decides that she is set on being married by her old Reverend- Reverend Frank (Williams). Apparently the good father has the power to deny their matrimony unless they complete a course indicating that they are ready. This course includes robotic baby simulators (twins non-the-less), awkward situations with the soon to be in-laws, and of course, no sex. Throw this together with Sadie's attractive, male, best friend, and mandatory couples therapy sessions gone horribly awry, you have the making for a decent comedy. Unfortunately it just doesn't deliver.

As strong as Williams is in all of his characters, I think that Reverend Frank is the weakest link. Moore and Krasinski both play with a certain restrained humor, but Williams is his typical off the wall self. This zany character took me out of the movie, and just had me wondering: how does a reverend have mechanical babies that defecate a foul smelling toothpaste substance? Can he really spend three weeks spying on this couple? Doesn't he have a congregation to lead, and a church to run? Did he really follow them to Jamaica? My confusion goes on and on.

Director, Ken Kwapis, who is also a regular director/producer for the show "The Office" harvested the ranks of the TV series heavily for this movie- much to my pleasure. Besides Krasinski himself, Brian Baumgartner, Angela Kinsey, and Mindy Kaling all have small roles. These little additions helped me sit through the entire movie.

I'm not sure what this film is trying to say. Sure there are the obvious themes of honesty, accepting people as they are, and open communication. None of this seems to matter in this picture, however. It's almost like disappointing and utterly distasteful turn Jack Nicholson took in Anger Management. The ending twists are absurd, and dumb; and in this case- completely obvious.

Maybe I'm being too hard on the movie. There are some parts that I actually did laugh at, but not many. Most of these were at the befuddled charm of Krasinski, not the crazy antics of Robin Williams. This may have had some potential, but in the end, it was a very lackluster attempt at cinema. Maybe if we're lucky Williams has another creepy villain part with his name on it.

Watch the Trailer


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Knocked Up

It seems that Judd Apatow can do no wrong. This is the first film he has directed since "The 40 Year Old Virgin", but he produced and wrote the widely successful "Talladega Nights", and before those- "Anchorman." Knocked up is actually the best of the lot. It reunites Apatow with many actors he has proven to work well with, not just from these movies, but going as far back as his days as writer/producer/director of the short lived, but incredible shows "Undeclared" and "Freaks and Geeks." Apatow is a very talented force at the top of his game, and his movies are very, very funny.

The plot is essentially as follows: Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is a loser living with his loser friends off lawsuit winnings from a decade ago. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a rising star on the E! television station. They have a chance meeting one night, and after a whole montage's worth of drinks, their new found acquaintanceship. At first Alison just brushes it off as a mistake and goes about her life again- until she discovers she's pregnant. After wrestling with the decision to keep the baby, she and Ben try to get to know each other, and make an honest attempt at a relationship.

I'm not going to lie, as simple as the premise sounds, Knocked Up proves to be one of the most bizarre comedies I have seen put on screen. It combines of course the romantic comedy between Alison and Ben. This is mirrored in the marriage troubles of Alison's sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd). It also has elements of the loser buddy pictures, with Ben's friends (Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, and Martin Starr) as they smoke pot and try to launch a website informing visitors about nude scenes in movies. It even throws in elements of a Hunter S. Thomsonesque vibe in a hilariously climactic scene of Ben and Pete travelling to Vegas on psychedelics. I know these down sound terribly odd, but once you see a conversation between Ben and Pete discussing Back to the Future as a sexual metaphor, you'll understand my thoughts. These scenes are unusual, but brilliantly timed.

This is also by far the most mature movie yet- and I use mature very loosely. First, the theme of an unwanted pregnancy already seems to lend itself more easily to a drama than a comedy. Second, there is drug use at every turn. You find yourself getting angry at Ben, wanting to yell at him to put down the bong and pick up the baby books. Finally, the language is more severe than all of Apatow's other movies combined. The foul language count seems to be up there in the league of the Big Lebowski, or Glengarry Glenn Ross. Also, this is perhaps the first time I have ever actual scene a baby crowning in a movie. That caught me off guard.

Knocked Up runs a little long- at just over two hours. It difficult to maintain essentially one joke for that long. Developing the other characters seems to take the pressure off the repetition between Ben and Alison being on, and off, and on again. The movie drags a little bit in the middle, but starts strong, and ends strong, and remains funny mostly throughout. There are some scenes that could have been cut or shortened, just make the length a bit more manageable.

Above everything else, this movie is funny- really funny. It's not often that I'm actually laughing out loud at a movie. The conversations are frequently hilarious, and the characters are actually very well developed- another unusual trait in a comedy. I think Knocked Up has potential to be even more quotable than Napoleon Dynamite- if every other word wasn't a profanity that is.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I go about watching these movies with a very unique approach (as I do with most movie-book adaptations). I always watch the movie first, then read the book. Since movies are never as thorough as the books they are based on, I'm able to enjoy the movie for itself, and the book even more. That being said, I can't really write this review based on how the movie stacks up to the book. If someone who has read the book and seen the movie would like to comment, that's more than welcome. I will say, however, that at the time of its release, it was the longest book, yet at just over two hours, it was made into the shortest movie of the series. This clearly indicates much was left out- and it shows. This seems more of a transitional movie, no major revelations, and it ends not very far from where it began.

This movie starts where the previous one leaves off, with the return of the Dark Lord Voldemort, after 14 years of being in hiding. Unfortunately, almost nobody believes Harry, especially those in political positions. The title comes from a group of wizards that had fought Voldermort the first time, and are preparing for his return. They are essentially gearing up for an all out Wizard War. The Order of the Phoenix continues the themes of loneliness and dependence on friendship that have been so prominent in the series- perhaps pushing them even more blatantly than ever before.

One aspect that I really enjoyed about this movie was that it was the first one with a true ensemble cast. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint reprise their roles as the leading triumvirate, but their schoolmates play a much larger role in this movie than they other did before. James and Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Katie Leung, and Matthew Lewis made up a fantastically dynamic cast. Evanna Lynch, in her debut picture, stole the show in the role of Luna Lovegood. Harry becomes a de-facto defense against the dark arts teacher in secret (a role that has been filled by a different teacher every year), when the current teacher proves to be worthless- in that she's actually a mole planted by the corrupt government. The scenes with Harry teaching the other students in a hidden room are some of my favorite.

This is by far the most serious movie of the collection. The fun comedic releases of the first four are nowhere to be found in this one. Even though this one is not quite as action packed or adventurous as the last one, it is deathly serious. There were several groups of little kids in my showing, and I could not help but feel that this was not appropriate for them. I'm not sure if this correlates with the nature of the book, or if David Yates who helmed this installment simply stripped it down to the bare bones plot.

As is to be expected from this franchise, the visuals were stunning, if a bit cheesy at times. It's a fine line to be treading in the fantasy genre between impressive visual effects, and downright corny ones. Phoenix essentially had one foot on each side of the line- combining wonderful and thrilling effects, with others that seemed unnecessary; simply saying "hey, look what we can do."

It's hard for me to make a definitive review without having read the book, so consider this just a look at the movie for the movie's sake. Despite the fact that I don't know what I was missing in the book, it still seemed a little hollow. I realize it was already over two hours, but I think it could have held an audience's attention for longer with more depth (the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie was over three hours). I just felt that the whole plot was a little weak, never really going anywhere- which could be reflective of a transitional novel, or maybe simple because so much was left out. This doesn't hurt the movie unto itself, only when taken into the continuity of the whole series. It's still very enjoyable and entertaining as a self-contained movie. Even though it didn't seem like it had much to say, I still enjoyed myself.

Watch the Trailer


Friday, July 13, 2007

79 Best Pictures

There is another blog I found where the author is spending a year watching the 79 best picture winners and reviewing them. It's an interesting concept, and a very well done site. The link is on the left of my page.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Evan Almighty

This lukewarm movie can be summed up with one word- "eh." Evan Almighty is the sequel to the smash hit "Bruce Almighty." This movie takes one of the minor characters from the first one, and focuses on him. Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) is a former news anchor, recently elected to Congress. His bright career runs into a snag when God (Morgan Freeman) tells him to build an Ark. There you have it, that's the movie- the entire movie. A United States senator building an Ark. Did you laugh? If not, you probably shouldn't see this movie. If you did, watch the trailer- that's all you need.

I thought that Bruce Almighty was actually a fairly decent movie. Even in his minor role, Carell did a good job. I'm a big fan of his, (The Office is the best show on TV right now), but he just wasn't very funny in this movie. It's just one awkward situation after another- Evan growing an uncontrollable beard, Evan being followed by animals, Evan seeing God; they're all essentially the same. Lauren Graham plays Joan, Evan's wife. I am a fan of the Gilmore Girls (don't tell anyone), but based on this, and other movies she has been in, she can only play one character. John Goodman also makes an appearance as another congressman. His role is forgettable at best.

The movie is one long build towards one small climax. It's rare for a comedy to be this big on visual effects, and I can see why. The effects are well bellow average, leading to a severe lack of excitement. Unfortunately the humor doesn't make up for this. Even Carell seems to be phoning in the gags, which is understandable seeing the material he was given to work with. Possibly the funniest character was Baxter's assistant played by Wanda Sykes.

I will give director, Tom Shadyac, credit for employing the use of that many animals. It truly was impressive the wildlife that played a major role in the movie. If the animals were as good at making a movie as they were at building an ark, perhaps they should have taken the helm. I wish had more to say about it, but Evan Almighty really was just one 90 minute sight gag.

Watch the Trailer


Monday, July 9, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

What happens when Bruce Willis's John McClane comes across something he doesn't understand? A lot of things blow up. I mean a lot of things. In the fourth installment in the Die Hard series, Willis is this time pitted against cyber-terrorists bent on shutting down all of the country's major information, communication, and utilities centers. To make up for his technological ineptitude he is joined by Matt Farrell (Justin Long), a hacker who inadvertently helped the bad guys led by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant).

I was dubious about this movie, especially following the disappointments of the second and third installments. Bruce Willis is in his fifties- can he really still be a viable action hero? At least by the fourth Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were acknowledging their age. Willis (and I suppose movie magic), put those fears to rest. He's just as hard as ever. Long adds an enjoyable bit of geekiness, creating a comical foil to McClane's machismo. A guest appearance by Kevin Smith as "Warlock" just enhances these juxtaposed personalities.

It wouldn't be a Die Hard movie without gun fights, car chases, and many many explosions. Director, Les Wiseman takes these action movie cliches to a new level. A helicopter chase, a confrontation between a semi, and an F-35, and even a gunfight in car- while suspended in an elevator shaft (likely a reference to a pivotal scene in the first Die Hard) are all action packed sequences.

For the most part I loved the action. There were some parts that were just overdone a little, however, and brought down my enjoyment a bit. The sequence with McClane taking on a fighter jet, was dare I say it, a little dumb. A few too many things blew up, treading the border of absurdity found in a James Bond movie. It's difficult for an already well established action star to still pull off the reluctant hero role. One of the things that made the first movie so good, was that Willis was not an action hero yet. He was literally just someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. That can only be convincing so many times.

For this movie they tried to play up the reluctant idea a little too obviously. His daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is brought into the conflict, playing a rather unnecessary role as a bargaining chip. We never really get to know her. I don't like the idea of John McClane having a daughter. It tried to humanize him a little, but instead just made him flat. There was no convincing chemistry between the two, and I never felt he truly cared for her. Willis was obviously trying to wrestle with portraying McClane as a father, without cracking his tough guy shell. The end result was a little messy on all fronts.

Perhaps I was looking a little to much at character. After all, it is the fourth movie in an action franchise dating from fifteen years ago. I might have enjoyed it more if they didn't even attempt the failed character development, and just went straight ahead on the action (but still toning it down just a little). Despite all of this, the movie was fun- even though they censored his trademarked "Yippee Ki Yay Mother F*****." I guess that's what happens when you take a rated R franchise, and make it PG-13.

Watch the Trailer


Sunday, July 8, 2007


I inherently have an issue reviewing blatantly agenda driven movies, and nobody is more obviously agenda driven than Michael Moore. Each one of his movies is even more so than the last. I wasn't necessarily able to escape this feeling during Sicko, Moore's investigation into the American Health Care Industry, but it didn't bother me as much as it did in Fahrenheit 9/11. Unlike most documentaries, even if you don't agree with what he has to say, you still might actually enjoy this movie.

Moore molds this movie in the same style that he always has. Included are his interspersed animations, lampooning of government figures, and his man-on-the-street confrontations. Not to mention his build up of hypocrisies found in opposing arguments. Moore, as always, comes across as the smart-ass elitist who knows that knows more than everyone else. Unfortunately, his now unmistakable narratives seems forced in this outing. They lacked the smug wit that seem to be underlying his other works.

I feel like I've seen this movie before, except just with different topics. All of his movies seem to follow the same formula, just changing out the data, but if it works, why not? It's just that nothing he tells is really shocking anymore. One of the reactions that really made his previous movies.

Interestingly, in Sicko, Moore spent much of the time abroad- comparing the health care systems of Canada, France, and Great Britain to the American system. These segments were certainly interesting, and fairly convincing. Perhaps I just enjoyed these foreigners laughing at Moore's (and suppose the rest of America's) expense.

Of course the movie was filled with personal testimonies from people who have been slighted by insurance companies, forced to forgo important procedures, and choose between medications. More important than these, however, were the interviews with industry insiders, who had spent years developing procedures to deny people care. Some of these segments were very telling.

It would not be a Michael Moore movie unless he engaged in major confrontation. This time he actually took this aspect much further than any time before. After hearing about the health care suspected terrorists were receiving, he chartered several boats to take people to Guantanamo Bay to try to get treated. Without giving away too much of what happened- even the Cuban health care system was portrayed in a glowing light.

Surprisingly (and refreshingly), Moore did not focus on much politically. Only briefly did he talk about insurance lobbyists in the government, and only mentioned 9/11 a few times (when talking about the health problems suffered by clean-up workers). Certainly this movie wasn't flawless, and I think it could have benefited from a little more time spent in organization and writing, but it wasn't bad. Despite the fact that there's nothing unbiased found in this movie, it's still a pretty decent documentary.

Watch the Trailer


Friday, July 6, 2007


Transformers is your typical Michael Bay schlock (Bad Boys franchise, Armageddon, The Rock, and that reprehensible Pearl Harbor). I don't want to incite riots and burning of effigies in my honor, but he really didn't have much to work with in the first place. The movie is based on an animated movie, and an animated series from the 80's, which in turn was based on a collection of Hasbro Action Figures. The list of successful movies based on games is short enough, and toys is even shorter. I'm excited about the upcoming Light Bright Movie, and the Operation franchise (wait, I think that one was already done, and it was called Turistas). What I'm trying to say is that despite all my misgivings, and my deep rooted hatred of all things Michael Bay, he was able to craft a moderately fun movie that actually delivers what it promises- a bunch of big robots fighting.

This is more than just a metallic blood sport, however. The "plot" engages two warring factions: The Autobots- led by Optimus Prime, and the Decepticons- led by Megatron. These giant robots have an uncanny ability to transform into every day machines such as cars and airplanes. According to the back story presented in a two minute long exposition, a cube known as the "Allspark" was lost on Earth. It has the uncanny ability to turn normal machines into transformers. Megatron wants it to create an army to take over the world, and the Autobots want it to, well, not do that.

This is where the human actors come in. Don't worry, there's a lot more robot than there is human in this movie. Sam Witwicky's (played by Shia LeBeouf) grandfather discovered the Allspark on a mission to the North Pole. Now he is the target of both the Decepticons and the Autobots (who track him down based on his e-bay account- I'm not kidding). This all comes to a head when he buys a new car, which happens to be an Autobot in disguise. He and his new found lady friend (an over sexualized Megan Fox) get drawn into the epic struggle in the making.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, an army base is ransacked by an overly eager Decepticon- leaving only Sergent Lennox (Josh Duhmel- in a performance more rigid than the robots) alive. This leads to the Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight) to ready the army to engage the Koreans, or the Chinese, or whoever he thinks sent the robot. This is until Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor) in an unnecessary side-plot identifies a signal from the robots as extra-terrestrial (or something like that). Eventually it all boils down to the Autobots vs. the Decepticons, the government vs. whoever, and everyone vs. Shia LeBeouf.

I have been a huge fan of LeBeouf since his breakout roles in Holes and Constantine. He actually did not disappoint here. He plays the part with ample skill, and his trademarked awkward yet charming humor. Fox creates a nice foil for him, creating a sexual tension amidst nothing less than an epic struggle. The rest of the cast, however, falls rather flat.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the special effects. Of course the movie is filled with eye-candy. There are more shots involving the robots than there are the actors. Despite how rich and involved the CG robots are, I'm never fully convinced of them- especially when they're interacting with real people. It's almost as if each robot has several distinct personalities that change from scene to scene. I'm assuming this is not what most people would go to see, however. I'm sure the biggest draw is to see the robots fight and blow things up- both of which there is no short supply of.

Bay tried to add some humor in the form of LeBeouf trying to hide the robots from his parents. These scenes aren't so much funny as they are just a little painful to watch. The film-makers appear more awkward than the characters. Trying to add this dimension, in all honesty, just failed.

It's probably not the worst movie I'll see this summer, and it's certainly not the best. It was better than I expected, however (actually just about anything would have been). Even though it's clearly Michael Bay, I think he did okay with the material he had to work with. Besides, it's got a lot of big robots fighting. Isn't that what motion picture were created for?

Watch the Trailer


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Paris Je T'aime

Paris Je T'aime (Paris, I love you) is a series of vignettes about love and Paris. They range from first romances, rekindled flames, bizarre loves, and of course, loneliness. These 18 shorts are each created by a different writer/director, with such greats as the Cohen Brothers, Alfonso Cuaron, Wes Craven, Sylvain Chomet, Gus Van Sant, Tom Tykwer, and many, many others. There were many powerful segments, and only a few that I could have done without.

The movie started out very well with two stories of chance meeting based on human kindness, by Bruno Podalydes and Gurinder Chadha respectively. The first segment is about a man trying to find a parking place, which leads to him helping a sick woman on the side of the road. The second one involves a student, going against his friends to help a young Muslim woman. Both of these were touching and brought a smile to my face. A strong opening to this movie.

Throughout the movie there were a few that seemed to drag a bit. Gus Van Sant's portion, despite a rather amusing conclusion just took to long to get there, and a short segment with a woman baby sitting for a woman while her own child is in day-care is poignant, but unnecessary. Another segment with Elijah Wood and a Vampire was just plain absurd. Surprisingly, I was a little disappointed with the segment directed by the Cohen Brothers, featuring Steve Buschemi as a hopeless tourist that stumbles into a lovers quarrel in a subway station.

There were some truly fantastic parts. My favorite one was directed by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplettes of Belleville), about a mime who finds his true love. Alfonso Cuaron was behind an interesting Richard Linklateresque walking and talking segment starring Nick Nolte. This was in his trademark single shot style. One of the most powerful segments involved a dying man coming into contact with a paramedic he had been admiring from afar, professing his love with his dying breaths.

Wes Craven contributed a surprising sweet portion about a soon to be married couple exploring a cemetery. Natalie Portman starred in a Tom Tykwer directed piece about her relationship with a blind man. Their entire relationship was presented quickly in the matter of a few minutes.

The movie ends on a bittersweet note with a lonely American tourist narrating her own vacation. The movie ends very poignantly with "the moment I fell in love with Paris, and the moment Paris fell in love with me."

For the most part this is a fantastically powerful collection of shorts, covering all walks of love. Some of the best segments dealt with love lost. It is the same conversational basis that made Coffee and Cigarettes so good. Despite some weak segments, the good ones more than make up for it.

Watch the Trailer



Ratatouille is the latest release from Pixar, written and directed by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, and the Incredibles). I have grown to expect nothing short of near perfection from Pixar, with almost every single one of their movies being among my favorite animated films of all time. Ratatouille just continues this tradition of excellence.

Before I get into the meat of the movie, I need to mention the short that preceeded it- "Lifted". Accompanying each Pixar feature there is always a short, in the tradition of the cartoons that accompanied movies back in the 30's and 40's in the golden age of animation. LIfted opens with an Alien Abduction, but it is quickly revealed to be an abduction in training- sort of like driver's ed. Honestly, I heard more laughs during these five minutes, than during the rest of the movie. This was Gary Rydstrom's directorial debut, and I'm expecting good things out of him.

Now for the movie itself. It's not the best Pixar movie ever, but it's pretty good. Ratatouille follows Remmy (Patton Oswald), a rat who had an uncanny ability to cook. In the beginning of the movie, he gets separated from his family and winds up alone in Paris. After a series of unlikely events, he gets hooked up with Linguini (Lou Romano), a garbage boy in a fancy, but fledgling restaurant. Between the two of them, they create a wonderful chef, with Remmy creating the food, and Linguini being...well...human. They work out a system where Remmy controls Linguini by pulling his hair. Together they bring the restaurant back into the public eye.

The thing that really sets this (and most Pixar movies) apart from other animated features such as the Shrek series, are that these movies are original, with humor pertaining to the characters and plot. There aren't just throwaway gags- the jokes further the story. This is an important, and very refreshing attribute to Pixar's movies. Remmy controlling Linguini provides a large batch of the gags, relying on physical humor reminiscent of the pratfalls of the great silent comedians. There is a perfect balance between these gags, characters foibles, and plot developments.

The movie is filled with many colorful characters, humans and other. Remmy has an interesting relationship with his family, as does Linguini with the rest of the kitchen staff- even a romantic interest (Janeane Gorafalo). Some of the themes explored in family, and trust, and deceit might be a little foreign to a younger audience making this a more mature animated feature.

The animation, though not as wide in scope as Shrek, was still fantastic. The rats were almost a little too rat-like, and having them in the kitchen could make some uneasy- though it is important to note the Remmy always made a special point to wash his hands. the humans follow the Pixar trademark of being very cartoonishly animated. While other companies are making strides towards realism, Pixar's movies tend to favor cartoonish style. This isn't good or bad, just a different style, making the human characters very exaggerated (including a fantastically created food critic played by Peter O'toole.

One thing that I really found delightful about this movie is that I wasn't able to recognize any of the voices. This made the characters truly themselves not "oh wow, that's (insert celebrity)." I was genuinely engrossed in the story. When watching this movie, as with most animated movies, you just have to suspend your disbelief, and just accept everything that's presented to you. Just go in and have a good time.


Shrek the Third

The third movie in the Shrek franchise was actually one of the better ones. The first movie was decent, and the second one fell on its face. This movie, however, had several writers, and two directors, and it feels like it. The movie reeks of being created by a committee, not a single creative voice. Andrew Adamson was replaced by Chris Miller, and Raman Hui in the director's seat, and half a dozen writers contributed. On the plus side, though, Shrek the Third is a much more story oriented movie than the second one, with for focus on plot, that just gag after gag. The previous movie was nothing but one fairy tale parody after another, while the third installment does a little better job story wise.

Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Rupert Everett, and John Cleese reprise their roles, this time joined by Justin Timberlake, rounding out the star studded cast. One advantage to making a sequel is that you don't have to spend much (or any) time on character development, and can just jump straight into the story at hand. Here, Shrek (Meyers) and his wife, Princess Fiona (Diaz) are living in the kingdom of Far Far Away, which is ruled over by Fiona's parents (Cleese and Andrews). The two were planning to return to Shrek's swamp to settle down, but their plans are hampered when the king dies, and wants Shrek to take over the throne, unless he can track down his next of kin, Arthur (Timberlake). The thick of the story involves the conflict between Shrek and Prince Charming (Everett) who is trying to usurp the throne, and while Arthur struggles with his desire not to be king. It's not the thickest plot ever, but it's still better than some.

Despite the writers' new found stills at plot development, the movie is comprised mostly of a series of gags, that never run deeper than the surface. There's no real long-running comedy- once one gag is finished, the next completely independent one is set up. Bare in mind, many of these jokes are funny, but juxtaposing modern day humor in a fairy tale setting only works so many times. There was one rather funny scene in which Shrek, Donkey (Murphy) and Puss (Banderas) try to find Arthur- at a high school. There was a range of humor found here that could appeal to a wide range, including a possibly inappropriate gag of teens stumbling out of a smoked out van filled with murr. It's gags like these, however, that keep an older audience interested.

The animation was of the high quality that I've grown to expect from Dream Works. The rich engaging backgrounds, and wide range of characters simply astounded me. I don't think I have seen an animated movie with so many unique characters. There were over 20 primary characters, and over 4,000 individual supporting characters- 1,000 in one scene alone. These was the strongest part of the movie, setting a new bar for complexity in animation.

The acting of course was very good, which should be expected from a cast of that caliber, and the animation was spectacular. None of this can make-up for the substandard writing, and mostly unfunny gags.