November 25, 2007

Ratatouille - $8

Ratatouille is without question the most visually stunning animated movie I've ever seen, this does not necessarily make it the best, but even if it's animation were the only positive, Ratatouille would still be worth seeing.

Ratatouille is the story of a rat named Remy who is tired of eating the garbage his colony collects for food. Remy has a very enlightened taste for good food and he also finds a way to learn how to cook by sneaking into the kitchen of the house whose walls are his home. Through a series of traumatic events reminiscent of the animated classic American Tail, Remy ends up seperated from his family and alone in Paris. From there he befriends a garbage boy named Linguini in one of Paris' finest restaurants and predictably ends up helping the garbage boy become an amazing chef.

The story in Ratatouille is the typical underdog tale Disney has brought us so many times with warmhearted comedy and life lessons abounding throughout. Remy struggles with his lack of full acceptance in both the human and the rat world while Linguini struggles with the immense praise and credit he is getting for work that is not his. Remy and Linguini are completely dependant on each other for their individual success and of course their relationship hits a few bumps throughout the story as well.

While the specifics of the plot of Ratatouille are unique it's the underlying themes which are nothing new. This was an impressive movie in many ways but it was also a story I've seen before from Disney.

Still, Ratatouille is well worth seeing, the voice acting is very good and the writing, while not unique, is very good. Of course the visuals are the main reason you need to see this latest animated Disney/Pixar colaboration. While animation has become increasingly impressive the last few years Ratatouille has raised the bar to a whole new level. No other animated movie I've ever even comes close to the quality and detail in this one.

I can forgive the flaws of Ratatouille as they are to be expected in this genre. The good far outweighs the bad and it is going on the 'Watch It' list with a value of $8.

November 24, 2007

Paris Je T'aime - $10

If you love movies you owe it to yourself to see Paris Je T'aime. This was one of the most rewarding, moving, and fun movie watching experiences I've ever had.

If you have not heard of Paris Je T'aime you need to know a few things first. This is not really a movie at all, it's a collection of 18 short films related to each other only in that they all take place in Paris and all have love as their theme. These two commonalities were enough for me to feel like the entire film was one big experience rather than 18 individual experiences.

Not all the films were amazing to me but the more people I talk to the more I realize that everyone seems to have a different take on which were great and which were duds. That's really part of the magic of Paris Je T'aime, as long as you don't arbitrarily hate all short films I can guarantee you'll thoroughly enjoy at least a few of the stories told here.

The most impactful ones for me were the real life love stories such as the husband who is about to tell his wife he is leaving her when she announces she is dieing, in that moment he alters his entire life plan and chooses to take care of his wife. As she fades away he falls back in love with her more deeply than ever before. There is also entertainment to be found in some of the strangers short films including one about two mimes and another about a vampire falling in love with a tourist.

Paris Je T'aime features many great directors such as Gus Van Sant, the Coen brothers and Alfonso Cuaron, and an impressive list of actors, Steve Buscemi, Elijah Wood, Natalie Portman, Willem Dafoe, Rufus Sewell and Catalina Sandino Moreno, I could go on but there's nothing quite as affective at losing a readers interest like a list.

Paris Je T'aime will not be perfect to anyone but it will be enjoyable to everyone. Go and watch this today if you haven't seen it yet.

This is unquestionably on my 'Watch It' list and I give it full value at $10, it's not perfect but it's worth every penny.

November 16, 2007

Into the Wild - $9

Into the Wild is an astounding true story that sparked inspiration and criticism from those who read the book in the 90's. In the film version of this story the same debates will rage on but one thing is sure, this is a movie worth watching.

Into the Wild is the story of Chris McCandless, a 24 year old who has grown up in privilege and wealth but breaks from all that after graduating from University. McCandless donates his $24,000+ college fund to charity, burns his ID and cash and sets out on a journey that takes him all over the US, to Mexico and eventually to his ultimate goal, Alaska.

The debate around this story is between those who see McCandless as an intelligent visionary breaking away from what is wrong in the world and those who contend he was running from his life and drastically unprepared for the wild he longed to live in. Sean Penn wrote and directed this film version of the Jon Krakauer book and though they each paint a slightly different picture of McCandless what comes through is a version of the story that finds balance between the two extremes.

In the end what we're left with is a brilliant movie that left me thinking for days. The cinematography is breathtaking in Into the Wild as Penn gives a great feel for the surroundings of McCandless and an appreciation for the peace that nature seemed to give him. The performances in this movie really bring it all together, McCandless meets and befriends several people in his journeys and each character is played very well and brings cohesiveness to the story when only McCandless is the common thread between them all. Emile Hirsch plays McCandless and likely deserves most of the credit for finding chemistry with each and every actor he is alongside in Into the Wild.

This is a great story and a very good film. Whether the themes of Into the Wild inspire you, frustrate you or both you will come out of it having witnessed skilled storytelling, superb imagery and fantastic acting.

I put Into the Wild on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $9.

November 12, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard - $4

The fourth installment of the Die Hard series is far less engaging than it's predecessors. I can't claim I wasn't entertained but I was certainly not impressed.

The previous Die Hards, especially the original, brought the audience character driven stories and raw action done nearly to perfection. Live Free or Die Hard relies heavily on big special effects and stunts and doesn't give the viewer nearly enough story. The villain was never convincing to me, nor were his motives clear and as much as it's always far fetched that our main character John McClane lives through the many near death experiences each movie has brought his way, it went from far fetched to ridiculous in this one. At one point McClane jumps from an air force fighter jet and slides down a broken concrete overpass with the jet exploding overhead. I can shut off my expectations of reality for an action movie but he walked away a little too quickly from that one.

Overall Live Free or Die Hard is not awful. There are entertaining moments and when the action is bound by the laws of physics it is quite entertaining. Bruce Willis is great as always playing John McClane, and his co-star Justin Long is quite good as well as the funny bumbling sidekick.

For me this movie just didn't work though. The tame villain combined with the impossible to believe action sequences left me unable to forgive the thin and undeveloped storyline.

This is a movie worth seeing if you're a Die Hard fan but I have to put it on my 'Don't Watch It' list and give it a value of $4.

November 10, 2007

Evan Almighty - $0

Plausibility is a major factor in the enjoyment of any movie, this is one of many reasons that I didn't enjoy a single moment of the completely implausible Evan Almighty.

When I say Evan Almighty was implausible I don't mean the supernatural parts of its plot line. Anytime a movie has supernatural elements in its premise I'm willing to suspend my normal life expectations for the sake of the story. The impossible to believe part of Evan Almighty was every single character's reaction to Evan during the story.

Here's the premise, Evan Baxter (the news anchor from the mildly enjoyable Bruce Almighty) is a US congressman who is visited by God and asked to build an ark just like the one Noah built in the bible. Evan is convinced he has to do this and over the course of several days he miraculously grows a ZZ Top length beard and suddenly is followed everywhere by two of all kinds of wild animals. There's a little more to it but not much, and I don't want to give away the ending.

Think about what would happen if a person suddenly grew a foot long white beard, built an ark by hand and had birds, lions, monkeys etc... following them around. Honestly think about it, they would be a supernatural phenomenon that people would clamour to meet. I would venture a guess that they would be worshipped.

What happens here? Every single person in Evan Baxter's life thinks he has gone crazy, they betray him and completely discredit him. This includes his own family who sees the miracles first hand and knows them to be real but takes until the half way point of the story to rally around him. I realize that this movie is not meant to be a dramatic study of real people and their reactions to unexplainable events but I don't think it's too much to ask that the humans in a movie act like humans.

Besides Evan Almighty's MASSIVE plot holes it also brings you terrible writing and some truly awful CGI for many of the animals. Not even the brilliant Steve Carrell could save this one.

Please don't ever see Evan Almighty, you'll never get that time back. I put it on my 'Don't Watch It' list and give it a well deserved value of $0.

November 5, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited - $10

Wes Anderson has once again created an engaging story that is both hysterically funny and deeply emotional. This may be his best movie yet.

This story takes place mainly on a train travelling through India called The Darjeeling Limited. Among its passengers are the three Whitman brothers who have not seen each other in the year since their father's death. One of the brothers, Francis, has organized this reconnecting trip for his brothers with spiritual experiences scheduled on each days laminated itinerary. While the brothers make a valiant effort with each scheduled attempt at creating a spiritual experience, it isn't until the trip seems a total failure that an unscheduled event actually does give the brothers the experience they crave.

Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson play the Whitman brothers, Peter, Jack, and Francis, and Brody fits in impressively with Anderson's movie making style, one that is quite unique and that Schwartzman and Wilson each have experience with. For most people there is something very hit or miss with the subtle, witty and pause-filled dialogue that Anderson writes. For me it hits the bulls eye, or home run or target, or whatever metaphor you prefer. The Darjeeling Limited had me laughing and moved, sometimes at the same time, by the broken relationships of its emotional broken characters.

While the writing and humour are often subtle in Darjeeling the major themes of the movie are anything but. Three brothers on a journey together each having brought their belongings in their fathers old luggage (baggage) which they haul around with great effort throughout the whole movie. There are no big surprises or twists in this plot but the story is still captivating.

Visually the train setting allows Anderson to use some enthralling cinematography where at times the world is going by on the outside and at others the train itself is going by and must be caught. Frequently used are Anderson's characteristic slow motion sequences and long moments of holding a single shot.

The performances in Darjeeling are pitch perfect, the look of the movie is detailed and fascinating and the writing is as good as any Anderson has done to date.

I enthusiastically put The Darjeeling Limited on my 'Watch It' list and give it the rarely awarded value of $10.