Thursday, May 28, 2009

FILM REVIEWS: Wall-E, The Animation War

WALL-E (2008) Disney/Pixar

The whole story of Wall-E was sparked by one question: "What if mankind had to leave Earth and somebody forgot to turn off the last robot?"

That last robot goes by the name Wall-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) and is the new lovable hero from the world of Pixar. The story is set in a very probable future. The humans have left the lifeless and desolate planet because of an overload of waste. They left behind the Wall-E robots to clean it all up for when they return. Our Wall-E is the only one left and continues with his job day after day, and along the way develops a personality.

I can't put into words how cute this little robot is. When I was in the theatre, I wanted to get off my seat and hug the screen everytime Wall-E was on it. He is seriously that cute.

The first half of the film was just outstanding. There is very little dialogue used because a) Wall-E can't talk (but he can make the cutest noises) and b) he's all alone. The result is a very exquisite piece of modern filmmaking with a Chaplin-esque, classic movie vibe. I was ecstatic after the first half hour. The level of craftmanship was so high I can only describe it as a visual, cinematic orgasm. It's artistry doesn't get in the way of its main purpose: entertain the kids (and their parents) and it does it well. Some people think that kids are just going to get bored with this movie as their isn't a lot of action, with very few dialogue. But those people seem to underestimate kids these days because the children in the theatre that I was in were in absolute awe. I've never been in a movie theatre, packed with kids that had been that quiet. They were glued to the screen and they were with Wall-E the whole way through.

This will easily fit on my list for top ten films of last year and I find it unbelievable that it wasn't considered for the Best Picture in the Oscars (although it did win Best Animation, but that was already a given anyway). I will recommend this movie to anyone. It's universal and timeless appeal will make sure that it's one of the most beloved films of our time.

Rating: 10/10
So Pixar wins!
1st: PIXAR: Artistic Value: 100% Entertainment Value: 100%
2nd: STUDIO GHIBLI: Artistic Value: 100% Entertainment Value: 80%
3rd: DREAMWORKs: Artistic Value: 50% Entertainment Value: 100%

Poster link here

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

FILM REVIEWS: Pixar vs Studio Ghibli vs Dreamworks

KUNG FU PANDA (2008) Dreamworks Animation

Unfortunately, there is a negative notion towards animated films as being targeted exclusively for kids, or adults who have kids. But recently films such as Ratatouille and Shrek have proved that this is no longer the case. The two giants of the genre, DreamWorks and Pixar are going head-to-head once again. Failing miserably from 2007 with a dried up Shrek The Third, DreamWorks have once again opened up the floodgates last year with a fresh and quenching release, Kung Fu Panda.

I viewed this film in a massive G-Max Cinema. Wall to wall, ceiling to roof screen. I was thankful for that, as this film is a visual delight. Bright and colourful without being tacky or overpowering *cough Speed Racer cough*. This is one of the movies of the year that must be seen on the big screen.

The movie follows Po (Jack Black), a lazy and always hungry panda who secretly wishes to become a kung fu master one day but is forced to help his father (strangely, a bird) run the family noodle shop. A kung fu master, Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) has a premonition that Tai Lung (Ian McShane) is going to escape prison and threaten their village. Oogway chooses the Chosen One and who could that be other than the unlikely Po. Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) trains him along with the Furious Five to help defend the village and ultimately defeat Tai Lung and in turn prove that a kung fu master can come from just about anyone.

The storyline I thought was predictable at times but nonetheless carries the audience seamlessly through the end. The animation was spectacular and special praise to the fantastic choreography that created the insanely exciting fight scenes. People were clapping and cheering all the way through the film. And they should. Mostly funny but needed a tiny bit of tweaking to give some of the dialogue a bit more wit but with that aside this is great entertainment and is a definite must see. With a few tweaks here and there, I think DreamWorks Animation can finally reach the elusive bar of Pixar perfection. Not only visual wise but also, hopefully, in storytelling.

Rating: 7/10


I fell in love with Japanese anime ever since I viewed Howl's Moving Castle then later on, Spirited Away. I was moved by their spectacular imagery, beautifully drawn characters and the sheer capacity of imagination that oozes from these films. The girl who leapt through time was no exception.

The title pretty much sums up what the movie is about. A girl finds an object the allows her to travel in time. This is a clear example of having too much of a good thing because as she uses the power more the more problematic things become and she's forced to go back and forth to fix the damages that she causes. Discovering that the amount of time travel that she can use is limited, she makes a choice of what is more important to her.

I became quite attached to the characters due to their high level of likeability. The storyline is simple yet in a way also complex. The plot is layered yet each piece of it follows a simple narrative thus creating a simplistic complexity in the story. The visuals are outstanding. I wouldn't say it's on par with Spirited Away but then again TGWLTT does not include fantasy creatures. The pace of the film is near perfect although the ending was a bit of kick on the gut since it didn't wrap things up as nicely as I would have liked it (Disney ending influence? Oh no!). Nevertheless, this is a fine film with an imagination that pushes beyond boundaries. I welcome Studio Ghibli with open arms in my animation war.

Rating: 8.5/10

TO BE CONTINUED: Pixar's Wall-E review and conclusion are coming on the next post.
Poster links here and here

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Girlfriend Experience

I haven't put too much attention to Soderbergh's work before but after hearing raves about him in the glorious podcast called Filmspotting, I've developed quite a keen interest on his films.

The Girlfriend Experience, one of his less mainstream films, is an honourable accomplishment despite the poor acting.

I love how he plays with the traditional linear narrative. He makes the audience jump from one conversation to another, from scenario to scenario and minute by minute we are able to understand more of what's it really like to be a call-girl, a sophisticated one at that. The cinematography, my favourite element of all films, is top notch. It captures the personality of high end New York with ease and it's such a splendid experience to be able to peregrinate through it's streets through Soderbergh's lens. This was a really interesting concept of taking the life of a sophisticated call-girl, whose clientele consists of rich, powerful and politically active men and seeing that story play out in the buildup to the 2008 presidential election during the economic crisis. Even though its badly acted, I still felt an odd sympathy for the main character because it is taken to such a personal level. It's shot almost like a fly-on-the-wall documentary and I find these characters, so interesting.

Poster link here

Monday, May 11, 2009


Bjork, the swan dress girl from the Oscars. What a daring woman, and she immediately caught my eye. Her performance of "I've Seen It All" on the Kodak Theatre stage was so mesmerizing that even highly paid and highly talented actors, directors and other film industry people in the audience were in awe of her audacity.

Her music is the epitome of unconvention. I feel like this kind of music comes from somewhere otherwordly but at the same time, strangely familiar. There's almost no single rhythm but it beats in its own tempo and it feels improvised, like she's been given a single tune and she makes up the lyrics as she goes along. At first, I was put off with her voice but as she continued to sing I realised what true musical beauty is.

Call her weird, but you can't deny her fearlessness. Her fashion statement in the Oscars is a glimpse to who she is, one who always stand out. No one that I can think of in the music industry compares to what she does.

The only one that I can think of that comes close is Roisin Muprhy, also daring in her music and her fashion statements but what she doesn't have is Bjork's ethereal, celestic and almost alien persona. I just love her.

Her music videos rank in my list as one of the best made, artisitically and it almost looks like it belongs in some sort of contemporary museum. The one below with the song "All Is Full Of Love" is just stunning, check it out.

Image source here License here

Withdrawal symptoms and Reality TV

I have not seen a movie in about 5 days and I'm currently experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Not severe ones, thankfully. Our household Quickflix (Australian equivalent to Netflix) subscription has been cut off for no apparent reason, so no DVDs and I've been so busy throughout the week with parties and other stuff that, I didn't find the time to go to the movies.
But I'm planning to watch Angels and Demons and Star Trek with friends in the next week. Yay.
Oh about Star Trek. I'm not the biggest fan of sci-fi films (I don't like Star Wars) and I've always thought that Star Trek was, well, too weird for me, and boring. But it's been getting great reviews, the trailer looks ok and with the creative input of J.J. Abrams, I'm giving this film a chance. But I will not become a Trekkie. I have enough obsessions already.

Also, I've been watching a few reality shows on youtube. I'm still obsessed with ANTM and no sign of that diminishing. I'm also starting to hate Tyra Banks now. If you watch the earlier seasons and compare her behaviour with current ones, you'll know what I'm talking about. Is fame making her head big?
Also, I've been watching Survivor intros on the tube and had just come to the realisation of how awesome the soundtrack is. You know what I'm talking about, that ethnic chanting song that plays. I want it on my iPod but unfortunately I'm not finding it on limewire.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

THE TOP TEN: My most anticipated films of 2009

NOTE: Again, this is not in particular order.

#10: Where the wild things are

I've never read the book but the trailer looks fantastic. After Pan's Labyrinth, I'm all in for storybook tale movies with a dark twist. Plus Spike Jonze is directing, who am I to resist?


#9: Bruno

I just recently re-watched Sacha Baron Cohen's previous film, Borat and it reminded me how groundbreaking this comedian really is. Daring, risky and shocking. In a good way. His name alone will secure a seat for me in the theatre and judging from the trailer, it's going to be hilarious.

Do yourself a favour and see this on the big screen. Comedies like Borat are best seen with a group of people in a dimly lit room. Trust me.

#8: Up

The yearly Pixar release is always going to make it to my anticipated films list of any year. You don't understand how much of a fan I am of Pixar. I love their work and I love what they do with their movies. They're the only ones who seem to be able to produce movies that are artistic masterpieces but at the same time make it marketable to mainstream audiences. They don't seem to fail and I don't see why they're going to fail with this next one. A sure-to-be instant hit.
According to test screenings at a certain film festival (forgot what it was called. BNAT-? i think. Google it), Up seems to be receiving a positive buzz even in its rough version.
Oh and did I mention that it's being screened on 3D? CAN'T WAIT!


#7: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I'm not usually a big fan of action films. This is because in most films, I see the same car chase sequence over and over again, with few variations. So most of the time I just get bored with it. But there's something about Michael Bay films that make me jittery on my seat. I love films that are pushing their over-the-topness, without actually going full blown OTT.
Transformers was one of these films. I have never been so ecstatic in a movie theatre, ever. I was practically high on adrenaline. Hopefully, this does not fall short of it predecessor.

#6: Angels and Demons

Yes, I read the book. Kept me awake at night for about a week, I couldn't stop reading it. When I finally forced myself to turn off the lights and go to bed, I just stared at the book in the dark, and it teased me. Then I would give in and start reading it again. Now imagine that kind of willingness to see (or read) a story progress and have that translated on screen. BOOM. You have Angels and Demons.

#5: Inglorious Basterds (no it's not a typo, that's just how Tarantino likes it spelt)

Tarantino. Enough said. No, I'm not a pretentious fan. He's just a bloody fantastic filmmaker.


#4: Julie and Julia

Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Those two names alone will have me rushing down to the theatre. Oh. It's a film about cooking. Perfect. I have this thing with films and shows about food. You know, movies like No Reservation and Ratatouille. TV shows like Hell's Kitchen and Masterchef. There's something so delicious about them. I actually like eating dinner while watching them, it's weirdly satisfying.

#3: The Fantastic Mr Fox

Another movie movie adapted from a beloved novel. And with big names attached to it like Cate Blanchett, George Clooney and Bill Murray. No, this movie must not be skipped.

#2: Shutter Island

A definite Oscar contender. There's just so much talent involved with this film, this just had to be on this list. You can't really go wrong with Scorcese, I mean The Departed is going to remain as one of my most loved films. Let this be the next one.

#1: Moon

Independent and sci-fi usually don't go hand in hand when you're talking about films. But apparently this succeeds spectacularly. The new Sam Rockwell film screened in various film festivals, including Tribeca and is generating quite a buzz. Can't wait until it's released theatrically.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

FILM REVIEWS: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This is one of my most anticipated movies of the year. I've been the biggest fan of the X-Men franchise sine I was a kid (still am though). I watched the TV series but never read the comics, I still count as a fan right? I have a french X-Men comic I got in France but I can't understand it. Ok. I still consider myself as a fan, if you disagree, get over yourself. I actually wanted to become a mutant when I was a kid. I was waiting for my powers to come one day. At the same time I was waiting in the letterbox for the letter inviting me to go to Hogwarts. Don't judge.

My God I ramble on, don't I?

So I came into the theatre expecting something spectacular. The last installment was a bit of a letdown so I was hoping this would revive the franchise. I was getting all jittery in my seat waiting for the trailers to come to an end.
The opening scene and opening credits are very promising. Showing the two brothers Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) fighting for various wars. Most of the character development occurs in these two scenes, but who cares. It's X-Men I came to watch them kick each other's ass. And it gave me that. The love interest sub-plot did not detract me from the whole overall experience at all, it usually does for me but not in this movie. In fact, it kept me interested.

The only criticism I can give for this is the very little screen time the other mutants were allowed to have. Sure, it's Wolverine's story but it wouldn't hurt to showcase the smaller characters just a bit more. That is, after all X-Men's predominant appeal. The diversity of mutants and the variety of cool superpowers.
But it did enough to satisfy me at least.

Hopefully this does very well in the box office to encourage the studio to make more sequels. Fingers crossed the piracy does not hurt the film's profits. But for now, I'm pretty confident that we'll see more X-Men in the future. A quick check in imdb tells me they have an origin story in the works for Magneto and X-Men: First Class, which explores the childhood stories of a couple of students in Xavier's Academy. I'm getting excited just typing about it.
See this movie. Please.

Rating: 8.5/10
Poster link here


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