Sunday, June 29, 2008


In a Nutshell: Very good movie. Liked it, but didn't love it.

Quick Plot: Humans have trashed the Earth, to the point that they had to leave while a group of robots tries to clean up the mess. After 700 years, WALL-E is the only one still functioning. When a probe robot named EVE appears, WALL-E falls in love with her, following her into the depths of space when she is recalled to the mother ship.

In Detail: It really is a very good movie. I see why the critics love it. It is very sweet and full of heart. It is quite funny in places, it is sad in places, and it is very pointed in places (particularly for adults). Ignoring the setting, it is so very much like a classic Disney movie, it's almost scary. Hey, there's a reason we still consider those movies classics today, and I have no doubt that *this* movie will become one of those classics that my great-great-grandchildren will watch. All of that said, I was a little disappointed in it. It just wasn't a lot of fun. Now, I'm not saying that all Pixar movies have to be fun, I was just hoping it would be a bit lighter, a little more for kids, dare I say, a little sillier. It was fine for kids, no objections to content. In fact, it was great for little kids in one respect: it is not a heavy dialog movie. It is more like a silent movie than anything, and even young kids can intuit a good bit of what is going on. But the deeper points would be totally lost on anyone younger than at least 7 or 8 years old. And if it hadn't been for the fact that they do market their films to children, I suspect the ending would have been different.

We did take the child, and he did seem to like it. It was later in the day than I would have liked, and he'd gotten up unusually early, so he was pretty tired by the time it started. He was very engaged for the first 30-45 minutes. He seemed to zone out a bit in the middle, partly due to what was going on, I think, and partly just due to being tired. He perked back up with 20-30 minutes left to go, though, and he did ask to see another movie when it was over, so I guess he enjoyed the experience. He just wasn't as excited about it as I'd hoped he'd be. We knew it wasn't the perfect movie for him we'd been waiting for, but that's okay. So far this year, Kung Fu Panda is really more what I had in mind for him. I may have to reconsider what I said last week and take him to see it. We're still considering.

Will I Buy It? Yes. I know I sound a little negative about it. It really is a very good movie! It just turned out a little different from what I wanted it to be.

Addendum: As with most Pixar movies, the more we see it, the more we like it. Even the child loves it (robots and space ships, what's not to love).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

In a Nutshell: Great fun! We really liked it a lot.

Quick Plot: Po, the "fluffy" panda, dreams of joining the Furious Five masters of kung fu in the Jade Palace, but his father wants him to take over their noodle house. When this untrained warrior wannabe is selected as the Dragon Warrior to defend the town, no on can believe it, especially Po. Can he master this martial art and save the village?

In Detail: We really did like this movie. The opening sequence had us just rolling! Those 5 minutes alone were worth the price of admission. We will never again use the word "awesomeness" without laughing. Most of you know that "typical" Jack Black films (like Nacho Libre) are not my cup of tea, and I was concerned that Kung Fu Panda would be "too Jack Black," but it wasn't at all. I thought he was great. The animation was quite good, and the kung fu sequences were amazing! They really spent a lot of time working on them, and it showed. (For those not aware, the Furious Five are based on the five main forms of kung fu: tiger, mantis, monkey, crane, and snake.) The plot is very straight forward; nothing unexpected except maybe how the final battle resolves, which was priceless. It was also a lot more serious than I was expecting. Not in a bad way, I just expected them to try and be funny all the time, but it really had a lot of heart and quiet moments as well, which to me was a very good thing. My one main criticism is that the other voice talents were very under-used. Why go after such big names if they don't have worthwhile parts? But that is about the only thing I could find wrong with it. Oh, and do stay for all of the credits. Not only is there a coda at the end, the "background" that is going on behind the credits actually fills in some small bits of the story. Nothing major, just little tidbits that were follow-ups to some things that has been left and not picked up again. It was very neat to see and made waiting for the coda very enjoyable.

Now, for those wondering if we will be taking the child to see it, the answer is no. It is not that I object to any of the content! From that perspective, in my opinion, it is fine for children. The problem is that, at age 3.5 (can you believe it?!), my child doesn't have the judgment not to "hi-ya" everything in sight, and I *know* that is what would happen. He would want to imitate what he saw on the screen, and I think he just needs to be a little older so that he doesn't hurt himself (or us, or the furniture, or the cats, or....). Give it a year or two, and it will be a great movie for him.

Will I Buy It? Yes! We'd buy it just for us, even if we didn't have a child.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Iron Man

In a Nutshell: Loved it. If you like action movies, comic book adaptations, or Robert Downey, Jr. at all, you should definitely see it.

Quick Plot: Tony Stark is the world's leading weapon manufacturer. When he is kidnapped by insurgents and ordered to build them a weapon of awesome power, he instead builds a suit to help him escape and decides to fight evil.

In Detail: Not sure how much detail to give. I certainly don't want to spoil any of the fun bits! I will tell you that my husband grew up reading Iron Man comics and is quite a fan, and I have never read a comic in my life, and we both really enjoyed this movie. You all know that I like brainless action films anyway, and this is by far one of the best movies we have seen in the last 2-3 years. It even had a little bit of brain to it. The effects were good, the banter was wonderful (how could it not be with Robert Downey, Jr.?), there were serious moments and hilarious ones, the film was paced very well, it never felt too long... I could go on and on. Even my parents liked it! Just extremely well done. Definitely looking forward to the next one. Oh yes, there will be a next one. Don't believe me? Be sure you stay for all of the credits; there's a coda at the end.

Will I Buy It? Definitely!

The Pixar Story

In a Nutshell: Excellent Pixar documentary. If you are a Pixar fan at all, you should see it.

Quick Plot: The story of how Pixar came to be. This is not about their technical achievements or software design, but about the people who make Pixar the company we love.

In Detail: Just excellent. I cannot say enough good things about this documentary. I have been a fan of Pixar since *before* Toy Story. We saw most of Pixar's shorts on VHS in high school (1993 or 1994) because one of my teachers knew someone who knew someone at Berkley, if I recall the story correctly. Then came Toy Story, truly one of the most amazing things I ever saw at the theater, both in terms of technical achievement and in terms of pure story. Pixar does amazing things, but what makes the company continue to be amazing is its people. Those people are at the heart of this documentary. See them in their natural habitat, see them when they were young and naive, see them as they are today. And never cease to be amazed at what they have achieved, and what they have overcome to achieve it. (A little bit of trivia for you: the writer and director of this documentary, Leslie Iwerks, is the granddaughter of an old friend of Walt Disney and the first ever Disney employee, after Walt himself. His name is Ub Iwerks. Amazing man; you should do some research on him if you are a Disney or animation buff.)

Will I Buy It? I'm seriously thinking I will. To put that into perspective, I only own two other documentaries, both of them about Titanic.

The Bourne Ultimatum

In a Nutshell: Not a whole lot of plot, but it more than makes up for it with excellent suspense. One of the best nail-biters I've seen in a while.

Quick Plot: Jason Bourne is tired of living on the run with no memory. He wants to know who he really is, and he wants to be left alone.

In Detail: That pretty much covers it. Not a whole lot of plot to speak of, but that's okay. I don't mind if a film doesn't have a long detailed plot as long as it does well with what it has. On this front, the film does quite well. More Joan Allen (good), more Julia Stiles (good), and adding David Strathairn (good). And they really did build the suspense from one scene to the next. They would build it up and let it down, but not quite all the way down, then build it back up again. We really enjoyed it. Just sit back and let it roll; don't think too hard.

Will I Buy It? Don't know. I don't even know if we own the first one. It was good, I'm just not sure if we'd watch it over and over (besides, my parents own it, so we could borrow it if need be).

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

In a Nutshell: Disappointing. Not terrible, just not as good as Raiders or Crusade. Perhaps on par with Doom; better in some ways and not as good in others.

Quick Plot: A Soviet KGB agent seeks an ancient crystal skull, reported to have mind control powers. Indy must stop her, both to restore his reputation and to help a kidnapped friend.

In Detail: I honestly don't know what to say about this movie. It just felt... off. It was very strange. Most of the things that critics/reviewers liked about it were the parts I didn't care for, and most of the things that they thought were done poorly were the more enjoyable/important parts for me. The opening sequence, in particular, seemed almost to be a caricature of Indiana Jones movies, as though we weren't really supposed to believe what was going on. Some of that is fine, realizing that Indy can't do what he used to do with his added years (and mileage). It also broke a cardinal rule for me with this kind of "willing suspension of disbelief" film; if you establish the rules of your world as functioning in a particular manner, then you have to stick with your own rules! (Magnetism, for those who have seen it. That's all I'll say here.) Very unusual for Spielberg. To me, the film improved in the realm of believability after this segment, at least somewhat. Despite that, no one in the film seemed to really believe what they were saying, at least not most of the time, particularly on the looped segments (looping is when dialog has to be re-recorded after the scene has been filmed, usually due to excessive background noise of some sort; think dubbing). It did have its moments, don't get me wrong. Some scenes were done very well, and I thought they did an excellent job of lending some weight and importance to Indy's activities since we last saw him. But the pieces of this movie just didn't seem to mesh as well as in previous films. To address the two other primary concerns I have heard from many people: 1) I had no problem with the CG effects in the movie, so don't worry too much about what you have seen in the previews. I was fine with what they did, generally speaking. And 2) yes, Cate Blanchett is a one-sided character, but she is meant to be, much like the high priest in Doom. Given that, she does it well. Just don't expect a deep and multi-layered performance; it was never intended that way.

Will I Buy It? Probably, but more because we feel compelled to than because we liked the movie. ::heavy sigh::