Friday, July 18, 2008

The Chronicles of WALL-E: Speed Panda and the Iron Skull

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One thing I love about summer is summer movie season. So far this season, we've seen
  • Ironman
  • Speed Racer
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Kung-Fu Panda
  • WALL-E

Given this list, I would have expected to enjoy WALL-E, Indiana Jones and Prince Caspian the most, and Ironman and Kung-Fu Panda the least. In truth, it was almost the opposite. Notice, I said enjoy. This does not mean Kung-Fu Panda is a "better" movie than, say, Prince Caspian. We're talking enjoyment. And hopefully, that's what you'll get from my mini-reviews....

Iron Man

I had no desire to see this movie. Although I'm a minor superhero fan, I didn't grow up reading DC and Marvel comic books, so I didn't really know Ironman's story. I could have picked him out of a lineup (even a lineup that included other superheroes...because, you know, otherwise the suit would have been a dead giveaway) and that's about it. Couldn't have told you his "real" name. Couldn't have made a single guess at his origin story. Couldn't have drawn one line to him on the "match the superhero to the supervillain" worksheet. But after a couple good reviews from people I trust, who have rather disparate movie tastes, I became fascinated. How could both these people like this movie?? Well, I'm here to tell you, it is good. Just as good as they'd said. Robert Downey, Jr., is brilliant as Tony Stark. Gwyneth is brilliant as well (although we'll just leave her character name out of it. Pur-lease, who comes up with these???) SFX: great. Story: great. The only major objectionable content is a reporter who badgers Tony about his scruples and turns out to have none of her own. But as it plays to his character arc, and sets up such a fabulous scene for Gwyneth, it gets a pass. Just know if you're taking a teenage boy, you might need to have a brief eye-covering in there. It's incredibly violent. But I think I was most gratified that nowhere in the movie did Ironman say, "Can't we all just get along?" It was clear that, no, they couldn't. So by golly, let's defend the innocent against the guys with big guns rather than blather on at them with words they can't hear, anyway, for the rat-a-tat-tat of their machine guns. I loved it.

Speed Racer

I heard one reviewer say that watching this movie was like being hit in the head with a pack of Starburst. Sugar fiend that I am, I loved it. I enjoyed the cartoon (though I was not a superfan), and I was hoping the Wachowski brothers would create a great look for it. I think they succeeded. The race sequences were brilliantly conceived. At first, I was taken aback by the fact that it wasn't "regular" racing...the tracks are more like roller coaster tracks, and a "jump" button on the cars is standard. But then I realized that they needed to "plus" the racing experience, and this was a great and fun way to do it. The movie has some very funny moments, and it's all about family, so what's not to like? Not to mention Matthew Fox in leather...and doing can you say "no" to that??

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

I liked about half of this movie. Not the first half, nor the last half, nor the half in the middle. I liked the half that stuck to the book plot. The half I didn't like was where Peter was going through the same exact character journey he went through in the first movie ("Gee, I have to lead a bunch of people! Maybe I'll be a total jerk about it! Well, that didn't work too well....") and Susan was succumbing to hormones. Once again, my favorite character ended up being Edmund. I can't wait to see what Skandar does when he's older...hopefully he does some good films and doesn't become too "arty" like Dan Radcliffe ("Eq! Eq!") The interaction between the brothers was priceless. My least favorite part of the movie (and this will only be a spoiler if you've recently read the book) was when they introduced a plot point that C.s. Lewis has Reepicheep suggest as a viable option, merely to show Reepicheep's chivalry-over-reality character trait. "Hey, a mouse suggested this campaign that's doomed to fail! Let's put that in the movie!" Reepicheep, on the other hand, though not perfect to my vision, was great.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I've now seen this twice, since we took Michael's dad for Father's Day. I enjoyed it much more the second time around, although the plot holes gaped wider. The good: Harrison Ford cannot help but be charming as Indy, and Shia LaBeouf is great. He's fast becoming one of my favorite young actors, probably because of his subtle grasp of comedy. Also good: The best introduction to "what time period are we in again?" ever. The bad: Remember, according to Spielberg & Lucas, Indy is an archaeologist who hunts down artifacts with a supernatural bent. I often forget that last part and think only of adventures. But you're a little more slapped in the face with it in this movie. Turn brain off and try not to make sense of it, 'cause the sense ain't there for you to find. The ugly: An homage to Tarzan, or just random swinging through the trees with monkeys? You decide.

Kung-Fu Panda

By all rights of taste, I should not be a Jack Black fan. But yet, I am. The man makes me laugh. Now, granted, I have not seen most of his movies. But School of Rock? That's the funny, dude. And the funny continues in this movie. JB is at his comic timing best, and the supporting cast is awesome, though seriously under-used. I didn't even realize Viper was voiced by Lucy Liu until the end credits! Which, by the way, are worth staying for. They're not as flat-out awesome as the opening credits, which rock in stereo, but still worth it. I went to see this movie based on good reviews, since I am not, in general, a DreamWorks Animation fan. They tend to do things on the cheap, and it shows. Kung-Fu Panda is an exception to that rule, though. The character animation is probably the best they've done. And, you are in for possibly the best fake-out moment in all of cinema. Seriously.


This was probably my most-anticipated movie so far...even more than Caspian or Indy. I mean, is there any way I wouldn't enjoy a Pixar movie? I laughed my head off during the short at the beginning and settled in for the main event. The graphics blew me away. I remember during previous movies periodically telling myself, "This is CG!!" During this first half of this one, it was more like I completely forgot about it and there were a couple distinct moments where something made me remember. It was a good way. The movie was engrossing, but afterwards, I felt vaguely uncomfortable. I LOVED the story, but I wasn't sure if an insidious environmental agenda was being pressed on me. Kind of "An Inconvenient Robot"...until I read this interview with Andrew Stanton, the director (WARNING: this article contains spoilers!). Without being spoilericious: If all your needs were fulfilled, what would happen to your relationships with others? Environmentalism shoved down my throat? No, thanks. Caring more about others than your own selfish desires? Now there's a message I can get behind.

More excitement than you can shake a Pixy Stick at.


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Kung Fu Panda or Prince Caspian, but have seen all the others. I'm a huge Indiana Jones fan from way back, so that was my favorite. I saw Iron Man twice, because my husband and I saw it, and then went again with DS. We're going to see The Dark Knight tomorrow. That's my most anticipated film of this summer!

Erin (moviemuse) said...

ROTFL!! You're title is too funny, but "An Inconvenient Robot" just caused me to lose it completely. ::chuckle:: And I have to say that, so far, Kung Fu Panda and Iron Man are my two favorite films so far this summer. As you said, not necessarily the best movies, but the ones I enjoyed the most.

Shanta Hayes said...

Okay the only one I even seen remotely part of (tired 2 yo having to potty mid-movie) is Wall-E and what I saw I liked. Thanks for the link it really gave me some material for my blog post on Sunday.

Shanta Hayes said...

Also if the offer still stands, could I get the code for JiffNotes? Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit"... minus the cheesy 80's style of course

Richard Cook said...

When you hear "Pepper Potts", remember that the comics series originally began in the 1960's, so that was the usual for the time.

Over the years as they've "updated" the origins in the comics, his origin first happened in "French Indochina", later in Iraq/Kuwait during the first Gulf War.

And you call yourself a geek. Have you ever seen my Giant Size Man Thing?

geeky Heather said...

That's the first thing I thought when I saw the trailer! Also, I like the parallel because Short Circuit had to "overcome" his programming once he became "alive": He was built to destroy but wanted to coexist. WALL-E is built to serve, and confirms his creators' intent even after he has free will...he still decides to love and serve his fellow creatures.

richard...I know Iron Man was updated. Are you sure Jean wants you showing off your Giant Size Man Thing to just anyone?? ;)

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