Sunday, November 23, 2008
Pixar genius reigns in this funny romantic comedy, which stars a robot who says absolutely nothing for a full 25 minutes yet somehow completely transfixes and endears himself to the audience within the first few minutes of the film. As the last robot left on earth, Wall-E (voiced by Ben Burtt) is one small robot--with a big, big heart--who holds the future of earth and mankind squarely in the palm of his metal hand. He's outlasted all the "Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class" robots that were assigned some 700 years ago to clean up the environmental mess that man made of earth while man vacationed aboard the luxury spaceship Axiom. Wall-E has dutifully gone about his job compacting trash, the extreme solitude broken only by his pet cockroach, but he's developed some oddly human habits and ideas. When the Axiom sends its regularly scheduled robotic EVE probe (Elissa Knight) to earth, Wall-E is instantly smitten and proceeds to try to impress EVE with his collection of human memorabilia. EVE's directive compels her to bring Wall-E's newly collected plant sprout to the captain of the Axiom and Wall-E follows in hot pursuit. Suddenly, the human world is turned upside down and the Captain (Jeff Garlin) joins forces with Wall-E and a cast of other misfit robots to lead the now lethargic people back home to earth. Wall-E is a great family film with the most impressive aspect being the depth of emotion conveyed by a simple robot--a machine typically considered devoid of emotion, but made so absolutely touching by the magic of Pixar animation. Also well-worth admiring are the sweeping views from space, the creative yet disturbing vision of what strange luxuries a future space vacation might offer, and the innovative use of trash in a future cityscape. Underneath the slapstick comedy and touching love story is a poignant message about the folly of human greed and its potential effects on earth and the entire human race. Wall-E is preceded in theaters by the comical short Presto in which a magician's rabbit, unfed one too many times takes his revenge against the egotistical magician. (Ages 3 and older) --Tami Horiuchi
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Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Alas! The fifth Harry Potter film has arrived. The time is long past that this can be considered a simple "children's" series--though children and adults alike will enjoy it immensely. Starting off from the dark and tragic ending of the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix begins in a somber and angst-filled tone that carries through the entire 138 minutes (the shortest of any HP movie despite being adapted from the longest book). Hopes of winning the Quidditch Cup have been replaced by woes like government corruption, distorted media spin, and the casualties of war. As the themes have matured, so have the primary characters' acting abilities. Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), and especially Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) are more convincing than ever--in roles that are more demanding.
Harry is deeply traumatized from having witnessed Cedric Diggory's murder, but he will soon find that this was just another chapter in the continuing loss he will endure. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned and, in an attempt to conceal this catastrophe from the wizarding public, the Ministry of Magic has teamed up with the wizard newspaper The Daily Prophet to smear young Potter and wise Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)--seemingly the only two people in the public eye who believe the Dark Lord has returned. With no one else to stand against the wicked Death Eaters, the Hogwarts headmaster is forced to revive his secret anti-Voldemort society, the Order of the Phoenix. This welcomes back characters like Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), kind Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), fatherly Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and insidious Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), and introduces a short list of intriguing new faces. In the meantime, a semi-psychotic bureaucrat from the Ministry (brilliantly portrayed by Imelda Staunton) has seized power at Hogwarts, and Harry is forced to form a secret society of his own--lest the other young wizards at his school be left ill-equipped to defend themselves in the looming war between good and evil. In addition, Harry is filled with an inexplicable rage that only his Godfather Sirius seems to be able to understand.This film, though not as frightening as its predecessor, earns its PG-13 rating mostly because of the ever-darkening tone. As always, the loyal fans of J.K. Rowling's books will suffer huge cuts from the original plot and character developments, but make no mistake: this is a good movie. --Jordan Thompson
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Tuesday, March 6, 2007
If you're still eating that fast-food burger after watching Super Size Me, you might not feel too hungry after watching Fast Food Nation, a fictionalized feature based on Eric Schlosser's bestselling nonfiction expose. Director Richard Linklater, who cowrote the screenplay with Schlosser, guides a topnotch ensemble cast through a peek behind the veil of how that Big Mac is born. Much of the film focuses on the illegal immigrants who work in the loosely regulated meat-packing industry, and actors including the luminous Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace), who plays a desperate but outraged laborer. Greg Kinnear also delivers a spot-on performance as a fast-food chain marketing manager, trying frantically to discover the source of stomach-turning contamination in the company's meat. Stories are woven in unexpected ways, and cameos by the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, and especially Bruce Willis keep the narrative fresh. The film has a point of view, but thanks to Linklater's deft touch, is never didactic. As Willis's character slyly says, "Most people don't like to be told what's best for them." Agreed, yet Fast Food Nation likely will help the viewer be more conscious of what's on the end of that fork. --A.T. Hurley
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007
In the early 1970s, Nicholas Garrigan, a young semi-idealistic Scottish doctor, comes to Uganda to assist in a rural hospital. Once there, he soon meets up with the new President, Idi Amin, who promise a golden age for the African nation. Garrigan hits it off immediately with the rabid Scotland fan, who soon offers him a senior position in the national health department and becomes one of Amin's closest advisers. However as the years pass, Garrigan cannot help but notice Amin's increasingly erratic behavior that grows beyond a legitimate fear of assassination into a murderous insanity that is driving Uganda into bloody ruin. Realizing his dire situation with the lunatic leader unwilling to let him go home, Garrigan must make some crucial decisions that could mean his death if the despot finds out.
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The story tells the professional adventure of Andrea, whose greatest dream is to become a journalist. Andrea gets a job in the fashion industry through Runway magazine, the most famous of its type, to make ends meet. But Andrea won't develop her writing skills in the magazine, but her talents as the editor in chief's assistant, Miranda. The problem is that Miranda is a merciless, posh and cruel woman, making the experience a living hell for the girl. The environment in the place will be cold and extremely critical with the physical appearance. The girl will have to change her simple and plain style, for a more trendy and elegant one, in order to gain the acceptance of her ruthless boss and colleagues, specially Emily, her unpleasant workmate. Despite everything against Andrea in the office, she will consider the experience as a challenge, drastically changing her clothes and self-image, with the help of Nigel, the magazine's art director. Nevertheless, the job becomes extremely demanding, because of Miranda's tough work rhythm and nearly impossible tasks, leaving Andrea without a private life with her boyfriend, family and friends. Maybe the old Andrea has gone, now more preoccupied about her image and her future in the magazine.
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Set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in 1990's Sierra Leone, Blood Diamond is the story of Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) - a South African mercenary - and Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) - a Mende fisherman. Both men are African, but their histories as different as any can be, until their fates become joined in a common quest to recover a rare pink diamond that can transform their lives. While in prison for smuggling, Archer learns that Solomon - who was taken from his family and forced to work in the diamond fields - has found and hidden the extraordinary rough stone. With the help of Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist whose idealism is tempered by a deepening connection with Archer, the two men embark on a trek through rebel territory, a journey that could save Solomon's family and give Archer the second chance he thought he would never have.
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