WALL-E tells the story of a small, garbage-collecting robot who’s task it is to clean up trash on Earth. Unfortunately, mankind has turned the planet into one giant garbage dump and left long ago…Aside from a cockroach pet, it appears that WALL-E is the last inhabitant, perpetually cleaning up long after all his fellow robots have ceased functioning. The beginning of the movie takes us through a typical day for our little hero as he does his job compacting and stacking the mess while collecting artifacts he finds interesting.
Eventually, a spaceship arrives and drops off a visitor in the form of a reconnaissance robot named Eve who’s mission it is to find out if there’s any sustainable life left on terra firma. Eve and WALL-E cross paths and after a rocky introduction, get to spend some time getting to know each other back at WALL-E’s bachelor pad. Eve becomes fascinated with the various knick-knacks that WALL-E’s collected including a plant that he shows her. She abruptly takes the plant and goes into a sleep mode awaiting for a ship to arrive since this is part of her prime directive. The ship arrives, collects Eve and WALL-E jumps in for the ride since he’s developed a love interest in Eve.
So there’s the set up! I don’t want to spoil the rest for you in case you’re planning on seeing it (which I would highly recommend).
One of the things that’s interesting about this film is not only how things play out, but the statements about mankind and how it ended up. What’s kind of scary about it is that there are some dark overtones regarding our possible future and how we could actually go in the directions being implied here, we’re already on our way in some areas in fact. The redeeming thing is that there is hope for the future, so that’s a good thing!
Pixar as usual does a brilliant job with the writing, the animation, the directing and always manages to set the bar in different ways with regard to computer animated stories. They’re also great at building the tension and delivering the happy…You know it’s going to turn out to be OK but you still get those “oh no!” moments along the way to keep you on your toes.
Included in the cast are Jeff Garlin (from HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm), John Ratzenberger (a Pixar staple), Kathy Najimy, Fred Willard and Sigourney Weaver. The real actors though are the robots who emanate an amazing amount of emotion without seeming cheesy or forced in a cartoony way; just another testament to the talent of the animators at Pixar.
For some great family fun and an uplifting spacey adventure, pop in WALL-E!
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Meet Darren, he’s 16 going on immortal…So says the tagline from the movie. The story of Cirque Du Freak centers around a 16 year old boy who, along with his best friend Steve are going through some of the usual teenager stuff. Darren’s popular at school, gets good grades and has a good life at home. Steve is unpopular, angry, his dad isn’t around and his mom’s an abusive alcoholic. Just as the 2 of them are resolving some friendship issues, a strange visitor drives by and tosses a flyer at them for a traveling freakshow; the wheels of fate are set into motion.
From there, the storyline continues in a Harry Potter-ish kind of way. While the freakshow isn’t Hogwarts, the assistant theme works out in a “learning to be a vampire” kind of thing for both boys even though they end up going in different directions. The underlying storyline starts to emerge which includes a feud between 2 vampire factions – the normal vampires who don’t kill humans, they just daze them and “sip” from their unconscious victim and the vampanese (sorry, but that name just sucks) who hunt and kill humans. Darren and Steve both end up on opposite ends of the feud with Darren joining up with the freakshow and the non-killing vampires while Steve goes to the dark side.
Considering the movie is based on a book series, the ending wasn’t a big surprise as this film acts as a set up for more movies down the road. The story overall is ok but predictable and has some really cheesy moments in terms of the dialog.
Visually, the effects are ok, but not mind blowing. The scenes are set up nicely in the freakshow and some of the freaks are pretty wild. The makeup and wardrobe here are a bit iffy with some dated looking clothing in the kid’s high school and some shoddy makeup done on John C. Reilly’s character. The opening titles are pretty cool and have a Tim Burton kind of feel to them.
The acting isn’t awesome. The tone is a kind of forced exaggeration which comes off a bit cartoony. This is a bit disappointing considering the actors involved so I place this shortcoming on director Paul Weitz who’s known for movies like In Good Company and American Pie. His directing style doesn’t lend itself very well to the story of the film even though he also worked on the screenplay. The choice for the lead actor (Chris Massoglia) wasn’t the best either as he looks like a deer caught in headlights most of the time which makes him hard to connect with. Even when he’s leaving his family for good he’s not that emotional or connected to the situation even though he’s supposedly close to them. He seems like he was picked for his looks not his abilities; they could’ve done better.
There are some good moments in here, be sure to check out the deleted scenes if you get the DVD, some of the stuff in there should’ve been left in the movie as there are some substantial story line plotpoints that never should’ve been cut. The story foundation and the majority of the talent is there including: John C. Reilly, Willem Dafoe, Selma Hayek, and Orlando Jones (who’s under-utilized). So, overall I’d say that the pieces of the puzzle were all laid out, they just weren’t put together all that well.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Set in Los Angeles starting in the late 1920
Public Enemies centers around the capture of John Dillinger, a notorious bank robber who, during the great depression, became known for robbing banks, killing police officers and escaping prison (twice). The movie picks up well into Dillinger’s bank robbing career just prior to the time when he’s killed. Dillinger is portrayed as suave, confident, organized and admired by those around him (he was thought of as a Robin Hood of sorts). He’s consistently on the run and hiding out as he’s wanted on a federal level for his crimes all which took place during the development of the FBI headed up by J. Edgar Hoover.
Michael Mann is at the helm on this one both directing and contributing to the screenplay. The screenplay is pretty well written with much of the emphasis placed on Dillinger, his exploits and escapes in addition to Dillinger’s relationship with his girlfriend, Billie Frechette. Unfortunately the story falls a bit short in terms of character development but keeps things moving with action and some controversy with an FBI subplot in the background. This was a time before the internet, cell phones, etc., so tracking down criminals was much harder which made Dillinger’s rampage a bit of an embarrassment for the police and the government. The FBI’s formation and their efforts to catch Dillinger add a nice dynamic to the film and while this helps make up for some of the slack, it’s also one of the contributing factors to not having enough time for character development.
There’s some great talent in here with Johnny Depp playing John Dillinger, Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover, Christian Bale portraying Melvin Purvis (the man who brought down Dillinger) and Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette. The cast is rounded out by Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Dorff, Leelee Sobieski, Stephen Lang and others. All the talent give solid performances, unfortunately the only one that gets to really get his hands into his character is Depp as the others get some on screen time but not really enough to appreciate the depth of the person they’re portraying. Crudup as Hoover is one of the more compelling performances but Bale doesn’t really get to assert himself that much with Purvis as his on screen segments are kind of short and on the move. Same goes with most of the other characters as the focus lies mainly on Depp’s Dillinger.
The visual style is interesting since Michael Mann has fully embraced high-def in lieu of film, which gives the movie a more “real life” quality, almost documentary-ish. This style tends to make you feel a bit more like you’re there rather than being removed watching in your living room. The set and costume design are spot on with the 1930’s time period; it’s especially impressive considering the scale of this project.
The movie is a little long (140 minutes) but for the most part goes by at a good pace. If you’re into historical/period piece movies and can appreciate gangster films, you should give this one a try.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
So this is Jerry Seinfeld’s venture into cg filmmaking. Meh, blah, yadda-yadda. That sums up the way I felt about this one.
The story centers around a bee that’s dissatisfied with his lot in life working in the hive. Eventually, he accidentally ends up in the city & starts a friendship with a woman (he can talk of course). Ok, so this is a bit stupid even for a cg film as the relationship borders on romantic. It soon becomes hard to tell if this movie is geared towards kids or adults or both as the storyline gets a bit ridiculous for adults while being too complicated for kids.
As the story unfolds Jerry’s bee discovers that humans have been selling honey for profit with the bees not getting a cut. So he does what any bee would do – he takes the human race to court. Meh, blah, stupid. It turns out that the bee also has a law background.
Anyway, aside from a lame storyline, the cg is ok but not exactly innovative or even very exciting to watch. It’s very average by today’s standards of cg design & animation.
The cast includes Renee Zellweger, , Chris Rock, Larry King, John Goodman and Oprah Winfrey among others. Even with the starpower involved, the movie still falls flat as the novelty of these people’s involvement isn’t enough to save it from the poor writing & directing.,
reviewed by Sean McKnight
In the Halloween spirit, I’ll be trying to review horror movies for a little while.
I wanted to start with one of my favorites – John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Perhaps not one of the films he’s best known for (like Halloween, The Thing, Christine, Escape from New York to name a few), but this is definitely one of the scariest…
The scariest movies for me personally are the ones that seem like they could (or actually did) happen. This is one of those films. Reminiscent of The Exorcist (for some of the religious overtones) and a little bit of The Omen (with it’s ties to the dark side), Prince of Darkness falls somewhere in between to me in terms of storyline, which by the way, draws you in from the very start with a strange plot revolving around a mysterious, ancient cylinder stored in an abandoned church that a group of scientists and students comes to investigate.
One of the other things I find compelling about the film is the imagery and the way people are used throughout the film. One moment, you notice an innocent enough character, next they’re not so innocent. The way Carpenter uses the homeless people in the film is especially creepy (keep your eye out for Alice Cooper!). The film feels gritty, dark and cold when you watch it due to the visual style that’s indicative of John Carpenter’s touches throughout the film.
In terms of talent – not giant actors but talented for sure, including Donald Pleasence (who also appeared in Escape from New York), Jameson Parker (anyone remember Simon and Simon?) as well as Victor Wong (Tremors, Bloodsport, The Golden Child, etc.). All the actors do a fine job and make you feel sorry for them and what they’re going through. I know I was rooting for them.
One of the scariest parts comes towards the end when much of the mystery to the story comes to light but still leaves things a little open-ended, which is even more troublesome given the events leading up to the end.
Great film, high creep factor. See it in the dark by yourself for the full effect and then see how you feel about going to sleep.
reviewed by Sean McKnight