Movie Review – “Coraline” (2009)

 

 

While I certainly feel that “Kubo and the Two Strings” is Lakia’s most visually enthralling and captivating film, “Coraline” is Lakia’s most well-told story with mesmerizing visuals that both astound and terrify. It shows that Lakia isn’t just about making one-of-a-kind stop-motion movies, but can tell a tale that encases a multitude of emotions that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
The movie follows its titular character, Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), a young girl who just moved from the midwest to the west coast into a rundown boarding house. Her parents are far too focused on completing their gardening catalog to pay attention to her, and her new neighbors would rather talk about themselves instead of listen to what she has to say. But one day, Coraline discovers a secret door in her new house that ultimately leads to some sort of alternate world where everyone is nice, pleasant, and wants to make life exciting for Coraline. She is eventually presented with the possibility of staying in this world, but at the cost of having her eyes replaced with buttons.

 

 
Part of the reason “Coraline” is so enthralling is because of the pacing, which is just slow enough to cast doubt on this colorful world but to see why it is worth living in. Information about this “other world,” and especially Coraline’s “other mother” is slowly fed to us in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or forced, so we put the pieces together just as Coraline does. It also helps that she is a clever protagonist who just wants to belong in the world. She completes the well-rounded mystery by making you want to pursue the truth.
The animation style is far more like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” than any other Lakia picture, with lots of vibrant colors that often take disturbing shapes, especially with the puppet motif in “Coraline.” It helps that this movie had the same director as “Nightmare,” Henry Selick, as he adds his visual hellish landscape-vibe to this movie.
Add in the well-paced story, a well-written main character, plenty of mystery and horror, yet still making it enjoyable for both children and adults, and you get a smart, fulfilling experience. “Coraline” is one the better Lakia movies and is certainly worth checking out.
Final Grade: A-

 

Movie Review – “In the Mood for Love” (2000)

 

 

Love and loneliness often walk hand-and-hand with one another, and it is impossible to fully appreciate one without the other. They are also concepts that break cultural boundaries, as seen in Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong 2000 film “In the Mood for Love.”

 

The film is set in 1962 in a Hong Kong apartment complex, when two tenants move in on the same day, both young married couples but all of them devoted to their work. The wife of one couple, Shu Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung), and the husband of the other, Chow Mo-whan (Tony Leung), have jobs close to home, but their spouses’ careers lead them overseas to Japan, leaving them alone most nights in a town that doesn’t speak their language. Chow and Shu become friends and see a lot of each other, especially when their significant others are out of town an increasing amount. The two slowly begin to realize their spouses are out of town at the same time and piece together that they are having an affair with each other.

 

“In the Mood for Love” excels at creating an atmosphere of isolation and the need for companionship and understanding. Shu and Chow go about the same daily routine, avoiding contact with foreigners as much as possible, only to return to an empty tiny room to eat the same noodles, day in and day out. Their only comfort comes when they get to be with each other, as they talk about writing a script for a marital arts television program and their spouses. The two discuss having an affair of their own, but Shu becomes skittish and shuts down the moment romance is mentioned.

 

 

 

The film portrays Shu and Chow as being entirely alone in the world and are looking for some sort of acceptance in the world, but both are doing it in different ways – Chow wants to be with Shu, but Shu might hope to get back with her husband. It delves deep into the unspoken rules of marriage in China and Hong Kong and how society treats those who cheat and go through divorce, mostly through Maggie Cheung’s repressed emotions and reserved nature around Chow. She hates her husband for what he did, but she doesn’t want to be an outcast.

 

But I will remember “In the Mood for Love” for its color palette and cinematography. The colors are stylized yet tasteful, subtle yet bold, where every room, outfit and camera angle has an impact on an emotional level. From the billowing red curtains to a jade-green dress, the look of this film is breath-taking and supremely beautiful.

 

Overall, “In the Mood for Love” is a subtle, somber film about two lost souls longing for acceptance in different ways. It is deeply enriched in the customs of the Chinese culture and the diversity of Hong Kong in the 1960s, so be aware of the cultural differences. But if you ever see a Chinese film that doesn’t have to do with martial arts, be sure to check out “In the Mood for Love.”

 

Final Grade: B

Mini-Review – “Mission: Impossible III” (2006)

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Remember when I said that Ethan Hunt went on his most personal mission in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”? Well, I take all that back now that I’ve seen “Mission: Impossible III.” Not only does Tom Cruise get a chance to do more than just run and perform amazing stunts, but he gets to hold a grudge and do questionable things that keep this spy thriller interesting.

I have no problem saying this is the best film in the “Mission: Impossible” series.

This is mostly due to the superb acting from not only Tom Cruise, but also the ever-elegant Philip Seymour Hoffman. He plays the elusive Owen Davian, a black-market dealer who has funded terrorist organizations with money and weapons for years, yet has never been close to being captured. When Davian kidnaps one of Hunt’s former students, Ethan makes it his personal mission to hunt down this criminal and bring him in, especially before he gets his target, an unknown device called the Rabbit’s Foot.

From the beginning, we’re told that Ethan is done with the secret agent business and has decided to settle down. Normally, this would be a cliché way of getting the older veteran back into the action one last time, but with “Mission: Impossible III,” Cruise makes it all seem legitimate. Hunt has found a woman he is willing to settle down with and raise a family, get a normal job and go about living like a regular man. He never stops smiling when he’s around his fiancée, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), and takes every opportunity to be near her. It comes across like he doesn’t miss the agency, and only takes the mission when he learns the woman he treats like his little sister is missing.

That’s what makes this so personal – Ethan was ready to give it all up, only for a despicable man to take his shining chance at happiness and force him to watch it die right in front of him.

It is difficult to get a beat on Hoffman’s character, whether he takes a delight in causing pain in others like the Joker, or if he only does it because he feels he has to, like Anthon Chigurh from “No Country For Old Men.” Owen Davian falls somewhere in the middle, where he will resort to brutal and under-handed tactics to get what he wants, but his facial expressions suggest that he is either keeping his happiness hidden or feels nothing. This is due to Hoffman’s brilliant acting, with the right mix of creepiness, subtlety and mystery.

Of course, like the other films in the franchise, “Mission: Impossible III” has some great stunt work, especially when dealing with leaping from tall buildings in Shanghai with nothing to cling to but a small parachute. With Tom Cruise still doing all of his own stunts and little to no CGI, the moment where we see Ethan nearly slide off a slippery skyscraper has quite an impact.

Overall, “Mission: Impossible III” was a blast to watch, with a great mix of drama, suspense and comedy when it needed to. The gadgets are not overused and fit in nicely with the world these films have built. Cruise and Hoffman turn in some great moments together and give this movie the emotional punch that it needed. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys spy films of any kind.

Final Grade: A-

 

Paul’s Favorite Films – Common Themes

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This final entry in my favorite films countdown is going to be different from the others. I would like this one to be as interactive as possible, because I want your input and thoughts. If you have extensive film knowledge, or even if you don’t and only know about these 25 movies I’ve mentioned simply through my reviews, I want to hear what you have to say.

 
The question I’d like to ask is – what do you think are the common points that connect these films together? What do any of these 25 films have in common, if anything? You don’t have to relate all 25 together, but I would like to see what you think even two of these films share. This could be anything from common plot points, to characters, themes, atmosphere, message, tone, production values and anything that you can think of.

 
And, for those that do have a massive film knowledge, there is an optional question – With these common points in mind, what other movies can you think of that also share those points? Just to give myself some recommendations for the future or to possibly rethink another film in a whole new light.

 
I’ll give this a starting point and talk about the most common type of story throughout my favorite films – the misfit in a world of misfits.

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There are several of these twenty-five films that focus on a particularly strange character, for one reason or another, in a world that is either full of characters that are strange of a different variety or characters that contrast the protagonist. At times, his/her behavior is not so different from a passionate and driven individual, but in a world where that is frowned upon, this character is seen as an outcast.

 
Jefferson Smith was ridiculed by the majority of Congress in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” for staying far too close to the ideals of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, just like Edward D. Wood Jr. was never taken seriously in “Ed Wood.” Both of these characters stayed true to their passions and outlook on life, even when everyone seemed to be against them. In a way, they are both films about fighting the system for ones’ beliefs.

 
Other examples include Marge Gunderson and her husband Norm being the only competent and intelligent people in “Fargo,” Tobey Maguire and Resse Witherspoon being literally from a different time in “Pleasantville,” WALL-E being the only creäture to have come in contact with Earth for over 700 years, and of course Kanji Watanabe in “Ikiru” daring to challenge the bureaucratic symbol of Japan when he realizes that he has so little time left to live.

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We also see this go to opposite extremes with characters like Bruno Anthony in “Strangers On A Train” and Reverend Harry Powell in “The Night Of The Hunter.” Two characters that have a lot in common, but are also radically different. They are in love with themselves more than anything else and love what they do. They both have silver tongues, but to varying degrees. Harry Powell can convince just about any body to join his side by using religion and God to his evil benefits, while Bruno is more crazed and people are merely fascinated by his theories.

 
Characters like Kanji, the Tramp in “City Lights,” Marge and George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” are not afraid to challenge what is expected of people. One could say that they live in a world separate from the one they inhabit, and wish to show everyone else the benefit of this other world. One free of hate, greed and selfishness, and instead replaced with self-less passionate people.

 
Which brings me to the next common theme throughout most of these films – hope.

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Perhaps there is a subconscious reason why I chose “Son Of Godzilla” and “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” of all the films in the series to be on this countdown that even I wasn’t aware of. Not because I think they’re the best Godzilla films, but because they are the two most optimistic of the series. For a series that includes nearly thirty movies of a giant monster destroying Japan, those are the two that choose to show mankind battling these monsters in a whole new way and focus on making a better world for the future.

 
“Son Of Godzilla” does this through not only the human endeavors to perfect a weather machine and make lands in Africa and South America fertile, while “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” has a theme of removing distrust in the world for the sake of protecting humanity. That a world divided is much more easily conquered and that the biggest threats can only be taken down together.

 
We see hope shine in so many of my favorite films. Hope for George Bailey and the struggle of man against the industry in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” hope for the Tramp and to not judge others by their status in life in “City Lights” and hope for the survival of the human race “WALL-E,” so that they can understand there is a lot of world out there.

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To opposite ends of that, we have films like “Apocalypse Now” and “Ran,” which were founded on pillars of hope and kindness, only to watch it all turn sour and rotten. In the case of “Ran,” Lord Ichimonji was blinded by pride and love for his sons to see that they were greedy selfish people who wanted nothing more than control over the entire kingdom, even if that meant destroying everything their father worked for. “Apocalypse Now,” has hope in the characters that travel down this navy patrol boat, as they want to get this done and over and move on to the next mission. But as they travel further down to the river and into the maws of hell, we see them turn to desperation and drugs, in trying to hide from the tragedies they’ve witnessed.

 
But if there was a common type of story told throughout my top 25, it would the tale of a “loner,” like Kanji Watanabe or Marge Gunderson, as they put their beliefs and morals on the line, against a threat that is not uncommon. It could be something as simple as cancer or their own greed, like “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre.” And as the film progresses, we learn this loner is not unlike us and their struggle is just as simple.

Or, to put it in the terms of one of my favorite quotes, these characters are realizing they don’t want to merely survive, but to live.

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Some of these characters knew from the beginning what it meant to live, like Marge, and is content with her life with Norm, despite everyone else in the film trying so hard to get “a bit of money” and failing at it. Others realize it over time, like George Bailey, who is so caught up in his work that he never realized just how big of an impact he had on Bedford Falls until he saw what the town would be like if he never existed. There are even characters that try their best to live, given their surroundings, like L.B. Jefferies in “Rear Window,” as he makes up names and back stories for every one of his neighbors.

Then you get characters like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” who is merely surviving, but lives in her own twisted world where she is the living the dream and can’t wake up from something that has since turned into a nightmare.

But these characters are fighting for something the chance to live, and to give this chance to others as well. Whether they are running from giant monsters, hiding from a shape shifting alien or loving every second of the gangster lifestyle, there is something worth fighting for in all of their minds.

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Anyway, those are the common threads I noticed between most of my top 25 favorite films. There are a few more obvious ones, like how James Stewart is in four of these films or reoccurring directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa, but I decided to go with something a little more interesting.

What do you think my 25 favorite films have in common? I would really like to hear what everyone has to say and I cannot wait to see the varying responses. And remember, if you think there are any other films that aren’t mentioned in my countdown but you think I might enjoy due to those commonalities, be sure to mention those.

 

 

Paul’s Favorite Films – Honorable Mentions

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Of all the couple thousand films I have watched in my lifetime, it was actually quite difficult to narrow it down to just 25 of my favorite films. I have an entire collection of movies which I adore that did not make it into the countdown. So many films that I could watch at any point and still love every scene, but only so many spots on showcase my favorites.

Which is why it seems fitting to talk about some of the other films that just missed making this countdown. These are the ten honorable mentions to my top 25 favorite films of all time. I’ll give a brief explanation to each film. Who knows? Maybe some day, I’ll come back and review each of these ten movies in detail.

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“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

The only Stanley Kubrick film to make either the top 25 countdown and the honorable mentions, “2001: A Space Odyssey” transcends what most movies attempt to be, and enters into a state of mind. With virtually no story, we are left with two and a half hours of atmosphere and questions about the future.

Like most Kubrick films, he pays attention to every single tiny detail and draws it out for the audience to enjoy. The reason “2001: A Space Odyssey” gets here over other Kubrick films is because of the scope of space, and to make a film that covers such a vast distance of time and space while keeping the audience entranced.

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“Ace In The Hole” (1951)

Billy Wilder followed up “Sunset Boulevard” with this look at the newspaper business, in which Kirk Douglas finds the story of the century – a man is trapped in a collapsed cave and is slowly being crushed to death. But once Douglas is told they can rescue the man in a few days, he delays the rescue to draw out the story and take the credit for saving this man.

Just as in “Sunset Boulevard,” the dialogue is crisp, but never to the point of absurdity. It is a joy to listen to these people talk about how this story needs to heard across the country. But what really gives “Ace In The Hole” its bite is Kirk Douglas’ performance. He is haunting and disturbing, yet keeps his values and morals close to his heart, even as things get far worse.

“Ace In The Hole” is a tragic tale of searching for fame, only to realize that it often comes at the price of ruining innocent lives, especially in the journalism business.

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“Shadow Of A Doubt” (1943)

Of all the films Alfred Hitchcock made, he often said this was his favorite – the tale of a young Californian family that is visited by their uncle, whom one of the children is named after, only to slowly realize that the uncle may not be who he says he is.

Perhaps this was Hitchcock’s favorite because it was one of the first films he made after coming to Hollywood, and it represented his own fears and doubts about the Hollywood system. Maybe it was the often brilliant cinematography that captured how small our family is to this monster of an uncle they all adore. It could also be the performances of Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright, as they fight for their twisted morals of nature versus nurture.

In any case, this is a classic early Alfred Hitchcock film that hits right at home and how family can often be a bad thing.

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“No Country For Old Men” (2007)

Anton Chigurh. Just Anton Chigurh. “No Country For Old Men” makes this part of the countdown simply because of its villain, a man who feels like he must be anarchy and misery in the world. That he has no other choice but to be this evil, uncaring maniac. He certainly doesn’t get any enjoyment out of killing anyone who sees him, but he remains dedicated to causing mayhem, otherwise he would have no purpose.

“No Country For Old Men” is, more or less, about the evolution of the dark criminal mind and how it has gotten to the point where can no longer understand it, much less control it. Anton is the perfect representation of that darkness, never satisfied with his work, uncaring about those he kills, unconcerned if he is doing right or wrong, and he couldn’t care less about any of it.

A villain the perfectly encapsulates chaos, along with a mostly silent film that sees our hero get chased across Texas and Mexico for just a bit of money. This is one Coen Brothers film that won’t be forgotten soon.

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“Giant” (1956)

The next two films I have already talked about in great detail, but that’s because these are the only films on both countdowns that I have previously reviewed. In a way, I have a greater respect for them because I got to share my new-found love for these films with all of you.

“Giant” is a perfect representation of an epic – Large scale, covering a massive range of both land, people and time, yet it still feels comfy with its focus on the Benedict family and their conflict over pride, race and legacy. We watch as the world changes, but our characters never take that into account and go ahead like the world has always been flat and was the center of the universe.

The conflict between Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor comes naturally, as if they came from different worlds, but see a lot of themselves in each other – their thick-headed pride, but also their devotion to their life philosophies.

“Giant” feels like it takes up all of Texas, while still keeping focus on the marriage of these two and the consequences of their actions.

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“her” (2013)

Simple, yet innovative. This is a science fiction piece that understands technology in cinema is not just fiction, but can be relatable and logical, yet still fascinating and imaginative.

I found myself just as invested in this futuristic Los Angeles as I was in the romance between Theodore and Samantha, finding a love story set in a world not too different from our own. A world where technology might have advanced further than us, and has replaced us in many capacities, but “her” finds a middle ground where humans and technology make one another more desirable. That we wouldn’t be complete without the other.

With that quirky, off-the-wall craziness you can only get out of a Spike Jonez film, “her” is one of the most creative and heart-warming films in recent memory.

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“Godzilla” (1954)

One last time, we return my favorite film franchise.

Since “Son Of Godzilla” and “Mothra vs. Godzilla” made my top 25, “Godzilla” is my third favorite film in the franchise, but this is the movie I respect more than any other. For what this film set out to do, given their budget and the attitude towards nuclear weapons in 1950s Japan, this could have easily failed. Instead, we got a dark and eerie look at how fragile life can be in the face of unrivaled strength and power.

“Godzilla” isn’t just a great monster movie, but a great movie in general. Rather than focusing on a monster running rampant through Japan, we get a film about a weakened Japan attempting to combat such a threat, and the lives that are affected by this tragedy. Throughout the film, we watch as lives are crushed, burned, irradiated and ruined by something out of our control.

With effects that still hold up today, a creepy yet atmospheric score, and the theme of man’s evolution of weaponry taking shape, the Japanese version of “Godzilla” is one of the stand out monster films of all time.

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“Bride Of Frankenstein” (1935)

Speaking of stand out monster films, we have another amazing one at the opposite end of the spectrum as “Godzilla.”

Rather than a monster terrorizing helpless people, we have a monster that never set out to hurt anyone, didn’t wish to be created, and yet is seen as nothing more than an abomination. We fear him simply because he is different and must perish because of it.

Yet, Doctors Frankenstein and Pretorious play god and reanimate the dead just because they can. They attempt to set out and prove they are a higher grade of man by doing what no one else can do – decide to lives and who dies.

All while one of their creations meets an old blind man, and takes him in to his home, feeds him, warms him back up and gives him a good night sleep. And in this case, who is truly the superior man?

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“adaptation.” (2002)

The second Spike Jonez film in these honorable mentions. Even I didn’t know how much I adored his films.

Like Jonez’ other films, it is hard to nail down exactly what happens in “adaptation.” but what makes it far more difficult is the screenplay written by Charlie Kauffman, and then proceeds to make himself the main character of the film. We follow Kauffman as he attempts to adapt “The Orchid Thief” into a screenplay, but finds it impossible given the source material and his twin brother Donald, constantly interfering about how his screenplay is coming along.

I have never seen a film like “adaptation.” and I hope I never do. It is about the struggle of a screenwriter who somehow gets wrapped up in the ongoing story, and then works all of that into his screenplay. Are we watching Kauffman as he writes the screenplay? Or are we watching his interpretation of how it all went down? Or are we watching a man’s slow descent into madness?

I also love the overall message of the film and the realization that Kauffman comes to at the end of the film – You are what you love, not what loves you. An outstanding message for everyone.

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“The Princess Bride” (1987)

Part of the reason I love this film is because of how effortlessly the fantasy seems to come. Every character fits like a glove into the story, their motivation and dialogue feels natural and it all contributes to the narrative that never stops. “The Princess Bride” is beautiful to listen to, as their accents give way to crisp words said with passion and ferocity.

Who does not get excited when Inigo Montoya finally meets the six-fingered man and has a chance to redeem his father? Who doesn’t adore the relationship between Wesley and Buttercup? Who does not get a kick out of the three trails that Wesley must endure to rescue Buttercup?

But the other reason this film gets here is rather simple and often overlooked – that all of this is being told second-hand, as an old man tells this to his grandson. This is a story passed down through the generations, not as just a way to make people feel better when they’re sick, but to teach them about love and acceptance.

In the end “The Princess Bride” tells a story of two vastly different generations. One of fantasy and a fight for true love, and the other of a family growing close together through shared loves. To me, the scenes with Fred Savage and Peter Falk turn this film from a great fantasy into a timeless classic.

Well, those are just some of the my other favorite films that could have easily made my top 25 if there was a bit more room. I hope you enjoyed the quick looks at each of those films. Like I said, I might take a deeper look at each of those films in the future so be on the look out for those.

In the mean time, there is only one film left to look at this countdown – my favorite film of all time. If you’ve known me long enough, then you can probably guess what my favorite is. But if you only know of me through this blog, my top pick may surprise you.

Just in case, here is a refresher of the previous 24 films on this countdown.

25. “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” (1939)

24. “Ed Wood” (1994)

23. “Seven” (1995)

22. “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” (1966)

21. “Goodfellas” (1991)

20. “The Thing” (1982)

19. “Son Of Godzilla” (1967)

18. “Pleasantville” (1998)

17. “Singin’ In The Rain” (1951)

16. “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan” (1982)

15. “Under The Flag Of The Rising Sun” (1972)

14. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962)

13. “The Night Of The Hunter” (1955)

12. “Fargo” (1996)

11. “Strangers On A Train” (1951)

10. “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

9. “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” (1948)

8. “Ran” (1985)

7. “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)

6. “WALL-E” (2008)

5. “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” (1964)

4. “Rear Window” (1954)

3. “City Lights” (1931)

2. “Ikiru” (1952)

Stay tuned, because tomorrow I will reveal my number one pick and my favorite film of all time.

 

Paul’s Favorite Films – Number Six

Pixar is one film studio that continually pushes the boundaries of what a movie can and cannot do. Their worlds are not built around logic, but imagination. Instead of telling a story that we can relate to, we are transported to a new world filled to the brim with relatable characters, and timeless tales that appeal to young and old.

But one thing Pixar has been missing is an absolute masterpiece.

Don’t get me wrong, there is not a bad Pixar film. But as good as “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles” are, they are still innovators that began the 3D animated genre. These films were still trying to figure out the boundaries of what is possible. Notice the lack of humans in the early Pixar films? Maybe that’s because they didn’t trust their animation of humans to look believable. It could be more lenient with toys, bugs, monsters and fish because of their vast imagination and storytelling.

It wasn’t until 2008 that Pixar would produce their masterpiece, a film that not only takes what “Toy Story” started, but perfects it. This movie was Andrew Stanton’s “WALL-E.”

Every time I watch “WALL-E” it gets better. I find something new that I did not pick up on before, like robots in the background, scenes that reinforce continuous themes and character motivation. I remember once watching “WALL-E” on television, but missing the first thirty minutes. Later that day, I wanted to watch the scenes I missed on Netflix, and I ended up rewatching the entire film.

I watched “WALL-E” twice in one day and didn’t mind. That was the point where I fell in love with this film.

Sometime in the 29th century, the earth has been evacuated due to all the trash and pollution, allowing man to live out in space, while robots clean up the mess. After 700 years though, the trash has hardly even begun to be resolved and there is only one machine left to pick it all up – WALL-E, who after so much time of being active and possible alone, has developed a personality and a curiosity of the trash he handles, to the point of collecting the many unique times he finds.

One day though, a surprise arrives in the form of a space ship that drops off a probe – EVE, who is looking for something and continually fails to find it. WALL-E is fascinated by the sight of another robot and intends to show EVE the wonders that the vast world has to offer, including a green plant that he just discovered.

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There is so much to love about “WALL-E,” but let’s start with the most obvious – the lack of dialogue throughout most of the film.

The first line of dialogue is spoken 40 minutes into the film. Yet “WALL-E” is able to say so much without saying a word. We see that WALL-E has been alone for a long time, that a massive corporation, Buy ‘N Large, has taken over the world and controls every basic function of human existence, and that as long and hard as WALL-E has been working, building several spires of garbage that trump many of the buildings throughout this city, he isn’t even close to being done, but he is more concerned about exploring and discovering than he is solving this problem.

The garbage isn’t going anywhere and neither is he, so WALL-E might as well have some fun with it.

WALL-E is like Sisyphus if he came with his life and learned to love it. Like the film keeps telling us with references to the copy of “Hello, Dolly!” that WALL-E keeps with him – there’s lots of world out there. So go out and see what it has to offer.

“WALL-E” takes what makes silent films so powerful, their ability to give us this in-depth universe without saying a word, and gives it a bright color pallets and one of the most believable and fascinating romances in recent memory.

The great part of the relationship between WALL-E and EVE is that isn’t hammered in with sexual tension and is instead replaced with companionship. Much like the relationship between Marge and Norm in “Fargo,” as well as George and Mary in “It’s A Wonderful Life” to a lesser extent, WALL-E and EVE only need to look at each other to appreciate their existence. Simply being in the company of the other is their greatest gift.

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EVE is bound by her directive, like all other robots it seems. But as she witnesses WALL-E and his passion for learning everything he can about the world around him, EVE learns there is more to her existence than just her mission. WALL-E seems to have that effect on robots, allowing them to break out of their routine and see so many possibilities, as a reminder that any creäture shouldn’t merely survive, but live. WALL-E’s sense that one can be more is contagious.

EVE’s joy when she learns how to dance or her curiosity when she touches a light bulb and lights it up drives her evolution, while also making WALL-E appreciate her even more.

And all of this while still being about two animated robots. That is impressive, to say the least.

Some criticize “WALL-E” for its portrayal of humans. At the end of the first act, we are introduced to what humans have become after 700 years in space – they are blobs, confined to floating wheelchairs, never noticing the world around them and always in need of machines for assistance.

But I think “WALL-E” isn’t attempting to predict the future, merely to point out a trend in human behavior – to rely more on temporary solutions than one should, in replacement for what should be permanent solutions.

The floating wheelchairs were meant for old people to move around, yet now everyone seems to be fused to these chairs. They do this because it was easier to move around that way, much like it was easier to travel into space than it was to clean up the earth. In a way, humanity has been reduced to the state of small children, where everything is provided for us, so we would have no need to walk anywhere, and we are only concerned with our toys.

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This where that line from “Hello, Dolly!” takes on a whole new meaning – there’s lots of world out there. So don’t see it from the confines of your floating wheelchair.

Technology was meant to make man evolve and become more advanced, not make life easier. “WALL-E” has taken that trend to its logical conclusion – where man has not advanced for 700 years, because it was easier to survive than it was to live.

The great way that “WALL-E” goes about this is to not give grand speeches about stopping pollution and corporate take-vers, but to have us be eye-witnesses to what we are missing, and letting the audience draw its own conclusions. Instead of giving us a glimpse of what life should be like, we can be evangelists to a better life style.

When WALL-E is on earth, for example, the storage truck that he has converted into a home is full of odds and ends he has collected over the years, including plastic spoons, rubber ducks, christmas lights. Owning things isn’t a problem for WALL-E, but as we see through the copious amounts of useless trash in the world, it is when owning things leads to irresponsible behavior that it is.

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Yet the humans onboard the spaceship are anything from slobs, it is that they are living the only lives they know how to live – confined to a wheelchair. Everything is automated, and the only human on the ship who has a job is the captain, who complains that he has so little to do. All of this demonstrates that humans strive to accomplish something with their lives and do something meaningful. When that opportunity arrives in the form of a return to earth, it is no surprise that the captain jumps at the chance.

All of this, as well as the robots learning to follow more than their directive, contributes to the theme of being more than what you were born (or made) to be. To realize our full potential and that the easy way out not always the best option.

Finally, one of the notable aspects of “WALL-E” are the many similarities to another great science fiction piece – “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

I’m not talking about minor nods, like how the auto-pilot for the space ship has a big red eye like HAL-9000 or “Also Sprach Zarathustra” playing when the captain learns to walk, but continuous themes of evolution and technology throughout both films. This makes “WALL-E” is a wonderful companion piece to “2001.”

Of course, the problem with this is “2001: A Space Odyssey” is one of the most ambiguous films of all time. It seems like every time someone watches it, they get an entirely different meaning out of the film. So my interpretation of “2001” might be different from everyone else, yet still worth noting.

And I see “2001: A Space Odyssey” as thus – It is the tale of man’s evolution, which was achieved when we learned how to use tools. To find items that would help us become more than we could be on our own. But eventually, man would evolve to the point where our tools would over take us, in other words, technology. We would rely on those tools far too much, and we would no longer advance as a species. Man could only evolve further by conquering its tools.

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“WALL-E” shows those tools have now become more advanced than us. We created tools that can run our lives for us and have now gotten to the point that they can run a spaceship on their own, and the only human doing anything is giving the morning announcements. Our reliance on those tools has left man’s evolution at a stand still, or perhaps a de-evolution as we see in through the many pictures of the previous captains. As the figures of the captains grow larger, so does the auto-pilot’s control over the ship.

It isn’t until we learn that man must do more than survive that our evolution can begin again. At times, “WALL-E” feels like a natural progression of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which makes both films even better.

“WALL-E” is the best film out of Pixar’s amazing library. While still containing the classic trademarks of a Pixar film, it tries so many filmmaking techniques. From the lack of dialogue, to the gender reversal of EVE being the hero, to the continuous themes of learning one’s potential and striving for more. This is one of the few films I can watch over again and never get tired of.

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Movie Reviews of “Southpaw” (2015) and “Rush Hour 2” (2001)

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It has been a long time since a film nearly put me to sleep, especially in theaters, but “Southpaw” found a way.

The biggest problem with this Jake Gyllenhaal boxing movie is that the majority of the film is uninspired and taken from better boxing movies. Most of the film is spent on how Gyllenhaal’s character has anger issues for no reason other than being a boxer, and how that is destroying everyone around him, which feels like it was taken directly from “Raging Bull” and “The Fighter.” At one point, his life is destroyed and everything is taken away from him, but he is given one last chance to redeem himself in the ring, just like Rocky Balboa.

Boxing movies are meant to inspire and show that strength doesn’t come from muscles and punches, but from determination and having a reason to fight beyond loving the sport. “Southpaw” take elements from other movies, but doesn’t seem to grasp what it all means. Gyllenhaal starts at the top, already invested in his family and simply has anger problems. He has a multi-million dollar house and consistently fights at Madison Square Garden. Forgive me if I’m not invested in his fall and rise back to power, but that a spoiled brat of a character who consistently makes poor life decisions. It would be fine if those decisions seemed logical and thought-out, but “Southpaw” almost feels stream-of-consciousness, so all it gets is a roll of my eyes.

The only saving grace for “Southpaw” is Forest Whitaker, who plays the trainer that brings Gyllenhaal back up. Most of his scenes are forced and written exactly like any scene from “Rocky” that features Mickey, but Whitaker at least has a few emotional scenes where we find out his motivation to help out children.

Outside of that, “Southpaw” is boring, uninspired and a hodge-podge of other boxing movies. If you want the “Southpaw” experience, just have a boxing marathon of the Rocky movies and “Raging Bull.”

Final Grade: D

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Second verse, same as the first. Except even less prop fighting and martial art goodness, and more of Chris Tucker, though less obnoxious than the first.

At least this time, Chris Tucker learns to control the volume of his voice and can hold a conversation with a normal person, and without resorting to referring to Michael Jackson songs or dancing all over the place. Oh, he still does all that, but he is at least less willing to do all of that. Jackie Chan, however, is really starting to show his age, which is probably why there are so few extravagant fight sequences or ones that are mostly CGI.

The best part of “Rush Hour 2” is a fight sequence between Jackie and a gang of triad members climbing a building with a bamboo support structure, while Chris Tucker chases them up the building and interacting with all sorts of foreign customs. Jackie and the gang make it all look so simple, and it ends with a great stunt with Jackie and Chris holding on to one stick of bamboo on top of the building.

Overall, “Rush Hour 2,” is more of what we got in “Rush Hour,” except with a bit more characterization, better comedy from Chris Tucker, but less action. So it depends on what you want out of the films – If you want great action, watch the first film, but for comedy and characters, give this one a try.

Final Grade: C