Apologies for the delay posting the names of the winners. I had to make sure a couple of things were organized at home before I could announce them.
Everything is organized!
Congrats to our five winners of The Long Good Friday DVD giveaway! Daniel Pagan, Stuart Baker, Leon Waldman, Chris Brandimore and Will Carpenter. Each of you will be recieving a copy of The Long Good Friday which is now available in store.
If you sent in an application but didn’t win, thanks for your time and support. Generating interest for events like these will increase the likelihood that we’ll get to do them again so be sure to spread the word!
Again, congrats to the winners. You should be seeing your DVDs in the mail within the next week or so!
Hey, guys. I wanted to be sure and create a second blog post for this because I’ve got an awesome opportunity for you that I don’t want you to miss.
Be sure to tune in and listen to The Triple Feature talkcast tonight at 9:00 PM. In addition to the awesome hour-long content about movies you’ll be getting from yours truly, Joe Dunn from Joe Loves Crappy Movies and Gordon McAlpin from Multiplex will be in the house to add to the mayhem. Tonight’s topic of discussion will be… well, I don’t know what tonight’s topic of discussion will be. I’ll have to check with Joe and Gordon! Luckily, I downloaded last week’s episode, so I know that Joe planned on seeing Kickin’ It Old School. There’s also a possibility we’ll be talking about Nic Cage’s latest bomb Next and The Invisible.
But I won’t lie. I just wanna talk about Spider-Man 3.
That uncertainty aside, there are TWO big reasons to listen to the show tonight because we’ll be giving away copies of TWO big movies.
Our first contest is for the Academy Award winning Dreamgirls. This was a big hit last December and I loved it for the opportunity it gave Jennifer Hudson to upstage Beyonce Knowles and Jamie Foxx – two entertainers that could stand to be knocked down a few pegs. Dreamgirls is available on DVD this Tuesday, May 1 so be sure to check out the performance that catapulted a cast off from American Idol into Oscar history! Either that, or you can listen tonight’s episode of The Triple Feature for a chance to win a FREE copy for yourself!
The other big movie we’re giving away is Diggers. Okay, it’s not that big of a movie. In fact, it’s being relased on DVD and in theaters on the exact same day. But it has pedigree! Diggers is written by Ken Marino, who you may or may not remember from the sketch comedy group The State. It stars Paul Rudd as a Long Island clam digger who tries to maintain is small town way of life in the face of social change in the 1970s. I know it doesn’t sound like a laugh riot, but this film has a lot of heart to it and some great character moments along the way. It’s kind of like Wet Hot American Summer, but with a brain. It has that same nostalgia feel, but with some more drama to it. It’s a really unique film and it has a ton cool actors in it. A few of Marino’s buddies from The State show up and it also features performances from Maura Tierney and Lauren Ambrose.
Again, you can win your free copy of either one of these movies by listening to The Triple Feature, tonight at 9:00 PM CST. All you have to do is listen to the program and wait for the secret clue. Since we’re giving away two movies this week, there will be two individual clues. Hold on to those clues and then come back to Theater Hopper on Wednesday for the second half of the clues. E-mail the complete clue along with your name, age and mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org and winners will be selected at random.
Most importantly, since we’re doing two giveaways this week, it will help me to keep things straight if you send in your submissions independent of each other. I know that makes you guys jump through hoops, but it will improve your odds of winning if you send one e-mail for Dreamgirls and one for Diggers. I take all the submissions I get and organize them in a folder. If you’re entering both contests with one e-mail, I’m going to have to toss out your entry. Sorry.
Remember, if you’re unable to listen to tonight’s broadcast live, you can always download completed recordings from The Triple Feature page over at Talkshoe. We have almost 20 shows under our belts and there’s a lot of good stuff there. So if you’ve never listened in before and want to get a sense of what we do, download a couple of episodes and get familiar. They’re only an hour long a piece, so they won’t take up a lot of your time. Besides, they’re a lot of fun.
Incidentally, our contests for Copying Beethoven, Deja Vu and The Queen are still running because we haven’t received the giveaway copies from the distributors yet. I’ve been reassured they’re coming soon, but technically, that still leaves a window open for you guys to win free stuff! Download the April 2 broadcast for the first half of the clue to Copying Beethoven and the April 16 broadcast for the first half of the clue to Deja Vu. Access the April 4 blog and April 18 blog respectively for the second half of the clues to those two contests. The complete clue for The Queen was given in the April 25 blog.
Hope to hear from you guys during tonight’s broadcast and thanks again for supporting The Triple Feature!
Hey, gang. I just wanted to send a quick reminder to everyone to listen to tonight’s broadcast of The Triple Theater at 9:00 PM CST over at Talkshoe. And to help keep your memory fresh, I wanted to take a moment to outline the two new DVDs we’ll be giving away to people who either listen in live or download the show before Wednesday.
First up is Wild Hogs. The star-studded cast of this hit comedy includes Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macyas four suburban couch jockeys who suffer from mid-life crises and take motorcycles to the American asphalt expecting nothing but fun and adventure.But being an easy rider isn’t so easy, especially after a chance encounter with the real-life Del Fuegos biker gang proves just how lame and tame the Hogs really are.
From what I’ve heard, Ray Liotta steals the show as the leader of the rival biker gang. If for nothing else, he’s the reason to check out this film.
If your curious about the movie, here are a few clips you can watch:
- Break his Legs
William H. Macy confronts the age old question – what do you need more – hands or legs?
- Slap the Bull
To know you’re alive, sometimes you gotta slap the bull.
- Bonus Clip
How to Get Your Wife To Let You Buy a Motorcycle.
- Bonus Clip
The other DVD we have for you tonight is The Ex. Tom Reilly (Zach Braff) and his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) are in for some major changes now that they have a newborn. As a lawyer, Sofia has always provided a comfortable living while Tom has contributed love, support and the occasional paycheck. When Sofia decides to be a stay-at-home mom all that changes. Tom moves the family to Ohio to work for his father-in-law (Charles Grodin). His boss, Chip (Jason Bateman), happens to still carry a torch for Sofia from their high school days. Chip will stop at nothing to see Tom defeated while no one but Tom can see Chip for the evil genius he is. Through it all Tom’s esteem is depleted, his manhood challenged (by a surprisingly large adversary) and he’s watching his family slip away.
Ever since Arrested Development, Jason Bateman has been a favorite of mine. Hey, I’m just as surprised as you thank I’m enamored with the guy from The Hogan Family and Teen Wolf, Too. But guess what? The guy is hilarious in damn near everything he’s in.
So there you have it. Those are the DVDs I have available for giveaway.
Be sure to listen to The Triple Feature over at TalkShoe tonight at 9:00 PM CST for the first half of a clue that will put you in the running. Then come back here on Wednesday for the second half of the clue. Put both clues together and send them to me at email@example.com along with your name, age and mailing address. And please keep your contest entries seperate – one for Wild Hogs and one for The Ex. It will help me keep things organized.
Thanks again and we’ll see you at The Triple Feature tonight!
In what has to be one of the most agregious oversights in pop culture last year, Tina Fey’s excellent freshman sitcom 30 Rock languished at the bottom of the ratings while brain dead reality shows and game shows involving no skill dominated. America – If you’re complaining that there is nothing good on TV, you have no one to blame but yourself. Hopefully, with the first season now on DVD, you can get caught up before the second season premiers on October 4.
30 Rock was one of two behind-the-scenes-at-a-sketch-comedy-show offerings NBC had on its schedule last year. The other was the now-canceled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Perhaps confusion kept people away from 30 Rock or perhaps its poor scheduling against powerhouses like Survivor and Grey’s Anatomy led to it being overlooked. But it doesn’t subtract from the often witty, topical and sometimes absurd story lines. Whatever shape it takes, it’s always funny.
Fey, as the series producer, head writer and star, does an excellent job portraying the beleaguered Liz Lemon as a kind of post-modern Mary Tyler Moore. Things start to come off the rails when a brash network executive played by Alec Baldwin forces Lemon to hire an out-of-control movie star played by Tracy Morgan to spice up the show.
The initial premise of the show causes some interesting conflict from which comedy is mined, but it begins to drag somewhat when you realize that Tracy Morgan’s antics are best in small doses.
Some flashes of brilliance are seen in the series third episode “Blind Date” when Baldwin’s character sits in with the shows writers and is drawn into their weekly poker game. Cleaning everyone out thanks to his shark-like ability to “read” people. But when he is confronted with the eternally upbeat Kenneth, the studio page (Jack McBrayer) who he cannot “read”, he sets out to mentally destroy him.
However, it isn’t until the shows’ seventh episode that it really hits its lunatic stride. When Baldwin’s character puts Tracy Morgan on Conan O’Brien, it’s a race against the clock to put Tracy back on his medication before he repeats an unfortunately near-stabbing like he did the last time he was on Conan. Between executive producer Pete’s new-found self-confidence through wearing a wig, Tracy’s hallucination of a little blue man and the introduction of Dr. Spaceman (that’s pronounced “Spa-chem-in”), the series cements it’s stance in finding absurd laughs in everyday occurrences.
DVD extras in the collection are somewhat paltry. There’s your standard deleted scenes and blooper reel, but they just kind of sit there. The blooper real is wrapped up in a kind of fake “E! Hollywood Story,” which would have been better if they had seen the concept of the parody all the way through.
“An Evening with Kenneth” are a series of shorts that the actors made while in character featuring Jack McBrayer as Kenneth the page hosting his own late-night comedy show. A few chuckles, but nothing more.
What I was curious to see was the original pilot of the series that featured Rachel Dratch as Fey’s best friend and star of the show-within-the-show. But she was bumped by network executives and replaced by the acceptable Jane Krakowski. What’s the matter, NBC? Afraid we’d see the folly of your mistake?
It should go without saying that the extras are not the reason to buy this collection. Buy it for some excellent original comedy. Disciples of Arrested Development and The Office will find plenty to like here. With any luck, Baldwin’s Golden Glove for Best Actor and the series Emmy win for Best Comedy Series will help drag it out of the ratings quagmire for season two.
Like John Irving or Alan Moore, Steven King is one of those writers who can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to the translation of his ideas to a visual medium. For every Misery, there’s a Thinner. One could argue that the best Stephen King adaptation contained the least amount of his vision. Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining stands a a beacon of psychological horror.
Maybe there’s less to be said about the filmmaker’s role in these adaptations as there is to say about King’s choice in subject matter. 1408 – originally a short story about a haunted hotel room – is another great piece of psychological horror that stands just below The Shining in it’s effectiveness.
In 1408 (on 2-disc DVD on October 2), John Cusack stars at Mike Enslin, a jaded author who abandons his wife after the death of their daughter writing travel novels about haunted hotels. He has become jaded in his travels and is thoroughly convinced that there is no such thing as an afterlife.
After another unsuccessful trip, he receives a mysterious postcard from The Dolphin Hotel in New York with the foreboding warning “Don’t enter 1408.” Intrigued, Mike begins to do research about the room’s grisly past.
It isn’t long before Mike is in New York squaring off against Samuel L. Jackson as the hotel manager Gerald Olin doing everything in his power to prevent Mike from staying in room 1408. He offers to upgrade him to the penthouse, bribes him with an $800 bottle of cognac and even gives him complete access to the hotels files on all the guests who’ve perished in the room so he will write his story and leave.
Jackson delivers an expertly grim performance as Olin. But only do the production diaries (an extra on the DVD) reveal the genius of his casting.
As written, Olin was a short, chubby white man of European descent. It was Quentin Tarantino who first suggested Jackson when he was given first pass at the script. An interview with Cusack summarizes things quite well. “If a English bellhop tells you ‘Don’t go in the room.’ you’re gonna go in the room. But if Sam Jackson says ‘Don’t go in the room.’ you DON’T want to go in the room. He’s a good crypt keeper. If it’s enough to scare Sam, it’s gonna scare you. So he gives it a kind of existential street cred.”
For all intents and purposes, the movie is being held up almost entirely by Cusack’s talent. Trapped in 1408, he is given nothing to interact with except the environment. As the room starts taking the shames of his past and using them as weapons against him, there is only Cusack there to convince you of the harrowing plunge into his own mind.
The first half of the film is effectively terrifying as director Mikael Håfström squeezes every last drop of tension from the commonplace surroundings of 1408 to keep you on edge. In what the film refers to as “the banality of evil,” you feel more fear waiting for something to leap out from the shadows than you do when things finally come off the rails and the haunted room starts to throw everything it has at our hero. To put it another way, after watching this movie you’ll never feel the same about “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters ever again.
I have a great deal of respect for this film. Not just for the performances or it’s director, but for the expert production design and effects work. Again, the production diaries reveal a great deal of 1408’s secrets and exactly what went into making such a confined space work in a horror setting.
Additional extras on the DVD are standard fare. Deleted scenes, webisodes, trailers and commentary from the writers and director. The film comes with both the theatrical cut and the extended directors cut with an alternate ending. I won’t spoil it for you, but the alternate ending isn’t much different from the original. It just adds an extra joy-buzzer jolt. So including it to add value to the purchase is somewhat superfluous. Cleverly, the packaging comes with fake postcards from The Dolphin inviting guests to stay in the room of the dammed.
Ultimately, 1408 probably will not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a film like The Shining, but Stephen King should be proud of the adaptation nonetheless. It is great entertainment that represents him well.
When Grindhouse came out in theaters back in April, I wasn’t able to see it in theaters as I was busy taking care of a newborn son. At the the time I felt badly that I wasn’t able to participate in what was supposed to be the great film geek-out of the spring. But as word spread, I was actually kind of relieved. Not because neither of the two films that made up the double feature were bad movies. But from everything I heard, the fim’s first half – Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror – was a goopy, gory mess and I wasn’t enchanted by the idea of being trapped in the theater for an hour and a half before getting to see Quentin Tarantino’s contribution in Death Proof.
I’m not a great fan of zombie movies, excessive gore or things that jump out of you looking for a cheap scare. Familiar with Rodriguez’s work in Sin City and From Dusk Till Dawn, I knew that there wasn’t the explicit whim of his inner 14 year-old that Rodriguez wasn’t adverse to indulging. You can imagine my anxiety sitting down to watch Planet Terror – available extended and unrated on DVD today, October 16.
The plot is typical zombie fare. A greedy bio-chemist played by Lost’s Naveen Andrews unleashes a chemical agent on a small Texas town that turns it’s residents into the walking dead. It’s up to a rag-tag group of misfits to fight their way to safety.
True to form, Rodriguez heaps on the carnage and mayhem. There isn’t an explosion too large or a sound effect to squishy or crunchy to be used in his arsenal. Everything in this movie is turned up to 11. When zombies are shot at, they explode like ripe water baloons filled with plasma.
What the movie lacks in subtlety, it more than makes up for with it’s excellent cast. Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodriguez turns in a surprising and commanding performance as the mysterious El Wray. Michael Biehn shows up as the town’s true-grit sherrif and Jeff Fahey shows up as his BBQ-obsessed brother. Bruce Willis plays it straight as a tough-talking army general and Rose McGowan, her acting somewhat wooden, creates one of modern cinema’s most indelible heroines in Cherry Darling – the go-go dancer/amputee with a high-powered machine gun for a leg.
In terms of visual excess alone, Rodriguez delivers the spirit of Grindhouse cinema. I can’t compare this extended version to the theatrical release because the DVD fails to include both. But nothing here feels overtly extrenious or draining to the film’s running time.
The DVD comes with an excellent collection of extras on the second disc including Rodriguez’s traditional “10 Minute Film School.” In it, he reveals a lot of the tricks used in the film to achieve it’s large number of practical effects. Everything from the explosions, the car wrecks, to composit shots and the CG magic behind the infamous machine-gun leg.
In “The Badass Babes and Tough Guys of Planet Terror,” we get to see how the casting of each of the roles influenced Rodriguez’s script as he was writing it. There is some slight discomfort listening to Rodriguez effusive praise of star Rose McGowan’s prowess performing her own stunts as well as what personality quirks she added to Cherry Darling in her ad libs. Considering the on-set affair the two of them had that resulted in the end of Rodriguez’s marriage to his wife and co-producer, Elizabeth Avellan, it feels like some of that could have been scaled back.
It gets more unsettling still as an entire bonus feature titled “Casting Rebel” focuses entirely on Rodriguez’s casting of his youngest son Rebel in the role of Marley Shelton and Josh Brolin’s son. “Meet your new Mommy, Rebel! She has a machine gun for a leg!”
All in all, those looking for a visceral thrill will find more than enough to wrestle with in Planet Terror. While the movie is intense, my initial fears of the movie being TOO intense were unfounded. Rodriguez injects just enough humor into the script to keep the scales from tipping over completely – All the while pushing the film into greater and greater parody of itself. At the point that Quentin Tarantino’s infected solider affectionally credited as “The Rapist” comes on screen, you’ve pretty much given yourself over to the cartoonish ridiculousness of things and just enjoy the ride.
Watching the Transformers two-disc special edition on DVD feels like an unfairly muted experience. A spectacle of this proportion is better served on the big screen. I reviewed the film during it’s theatrical release and found most of the problems I experienced in that initial viewing remained intact. The plot is spread too thin over too many characters. There are logic and pacing problems and there is still too much signature “Michael Bay-ness” in the film to endear itself to me.
One thing I became more forgiving of was the designs of the robots. Engulfing your entire field of vision on the big screen, the bodies of twisting, twitching metal were tough to identify. Confined to your TV, Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots become more manageable and recognizable.
As the movie progresses to it’s big downtown battle sequence, I found myself even more impressed with the complexity of their design and the fluidity of their movements. Once you get past the knee-jerk “But Ironhide doesn’t look like that!” reaction from your childhood, these modern updates makes more and more sense.
That aside, the two-disc edition includes an excellent set of extras on the second disc. Two hour-long documentaries broken into different chapters detail brilliantly the filming of the movie from concept to completion.
ILM comes off looking the best explaining the Transformers look and feel – how they developed the complex programming that gave every last nut and bolt a place to fold and lock into shape between vehicle and robot transformation. The detailing given to each character down to every last nick and scratch is the hallmark of this film.
The writers of the film – Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman – do a good job of explaining why some robots made it into the film and others didn’t. They also made a good case for fan favorite transforming into an “alien jet” and not a more terrestrial vehicle – more glaringly, why he doesn’t transform into his signature form, a Walther P-38 handgun.
“We decided there would be no mass-displacement in the movie. Megatron can turn into a gun in the cartoon and you don’t think twice. But we found in the movie that Megatron turning into a gun was the equivalent of Darth Vader turning into his lightsaber and having someone else swing him around.”
Although they make no explanation about the mass-displacement of the condensed Allspark, they make a good point about Megatron.
Between the writers and the animators, there is clear affinity for the characters and an understanding of their histories. But not everyone comes off so well. In their interviews, Michael Bay, Shia LaBeouf executive producer Steven Spielberg and representatives from Hasbro all look like money hungry opportunists trying to revive a 20 year-old franchise. It’s really not worth going into detail, but more often than not, you get the sense that these parties are looking down their nose at the geek culture that spawned this level of success for their film.
Despite the general unpleasantness Bay exhibits on a regular basis (yelling his direction through a megaphone is one of his more “charming” traits) you have to give credit to him as someone who knows how to deliver a visceral thrill and for insisting on doing it with practical effects. Watching the behind-the-scenes on how many of these complicated shots were achieved makes the film a much richer experience and makes the two-disc edition well worth the money.
When Michael Moore’s Sicko was in theaters earlier in the year, it had a hard time connecting with audiences and $24 million take at the box office was considered a “failure” in comparison $120 million take of Fahrenheit 9/11 only three years prior.
Maybe people weren’t interested in the controversy Sicko generated. Maybe they had grown tired of the conservative vs. liberal debate that nearly every pressing issue has devolved into. More likely than not, they probably felt so overwhelmed and powerless in the face of the medical systems, they didn’t have much hope that a documentary could unravel its riddle.
There is no question that Moore had his work cut out for him when making Sicko. But he approached the concept of the broken American health care system in a very democratic way. Soliciting for personal stories from visitors to his web site, Moore gathered over 25,000 e-mails detailing the frustration and hopelessness this small sample of American citizens faced when trying to acquire reasonable health care.
Now Moore was faced with the problem of telling 25,000 stories.
Some stories serve for a laugh. One man who sought to provide his daughter with an ear implant was denied coverage, but found his insurance provider willing to change their stance on the issue by merely bringing Moore’s name into the conversation. “Has your CEO ever been in a film before?” he asked. His daughter got the implants.
Another woman told the story of being charged by her insurance company for being taken to the hospital in an ambulance after a car accident because the ambulance ride was not pre-approved. “I don’t know when exactly I was supposed to have it pre-approved,” she says. “Was it after I regained conciousness in the car and before I was placed in the ambulance?”
Some stories serve to shock. Moore talks to individuals who worked within the health care industry who were hired to turn sick people away. An investigator that would go through ever record imaginable to find out if you failed to disclose a pre-existing condition. A call center worker giving quotes to sick people over the phone, but knows they’ll be denied due to medical history – bound from saying anything to prospective customers. A medical reviewer who reveals she was instructed to maintain a 10% denial rate and that doctors with the highest rate of denials would actually receive a bonus.
Time and time again, Moore serves to us examples of a health care industry run amok and the political powers that be that have allowed it. Neither Democrats or Republicans get off lightly in his expose. Hillary Clinton, for example, once the greatest proponent for universal health care in the early 90’s is now the second largest recipient of campaign donations from the health care industry.
But Moore isn’t simply finger pointing in this movie. There is plenty of blame to go around. From the insurers to the pharmaceutical companies, to the lawyers, lobbyists and the politicians. Everyone is taking their cut.
Moore wanders into dangerous territory when he starts to travel abroad. Comparing the American health care system to those of Canada, England and France, he’s been chastising for making them look like some kind of utopia.
If I could editorialize for a minute, this is where Moore’s critics get it all wrong. Assuredly, he is only showing a piece of the whole picture. But he’s doing it to incite a specific emotional response not unlike any other filmmaker or any other documentarian for that matter. It’s not journalism. It’s whistle blowing – and it’s two different things.
Granted, things start to step out of line when Moore takes three Ground Zero rescue workers to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for medical attention. Captured enemy combatants – terrorists, he claims – get better health care than the men and women who risk their lives after 9/11.
But once he arrived in Cuba to seek medical treatment from the country’s free health care system, the footage speaks for itself.
The rescue workers were asked for the names and nothing more. A full battery of tests were performed on each of them. Thorough diagnoses and health plans to follow when the returned home were given to them. For one woman with respiratory problems, she was given inhalers for free that would have cost over $120 in the United States.
The point, Moore states, is that even in the supposedly “worst” countries like communist Cuba – if they can take care of the sick, an “enemy” no less, without thought or question to who will pay for it, then why isn’t that something American policy makers can adopt?
I think regardless of where your personal politics lie or even what you think of Moore as a filmmaker (or muckraker, whatever you prefer) most people can agree that the American health care system is not the best it can be. For your own education, Sicko is an easy an access point to understanding a complex issue that you’re likely to come across. Even if you don’t agree with it, maybe it’ll prompt you to do your own research. A few more voices asking questions never hurt.
“If we see a good idea,” says Moore. “We take it. If they build a better car, we drive it. If they make a better wine we drink it. So if they’ve found a better way to take care of their sick, to teach their kids, to take care of their babies… then what’s our problem? Why can’t we do that?”
The logic is hard to refute.
I hope everyone had a chance to listen to The Triple Feature talkcast last night. If not, it was a good show. We covered a lot ground talking about American Gangster, Bee Movie and Shia LaBeouf being arrested in Chicago. Good times.
Something else I touched on quickly was the release of Michael Moore’s Sicko out on DVD today. In addendum to the review posted above, I have one copy to give away, so I’m running a little contest.
Download last night’s episode of The Triple Feature from our profile page and listen for the first half of a clue. Combine it with the second half of the clue (that I’m going to give to you in a second) and e-mail the compelted clue to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address. Make sure the subject line of your e-mail is “SICKO” so I’ll know you’re entering the drawing. One winner will be chosen at random. If you don’t want to download the show from TalkShoe, we’re also available on iTunes. Sign up for our podcast and have the latest epsiode sent to your computer every week!
Anyway, without further delay, the second half of the code is “YOU.”
Send in the complete phrase for your chance to win!
“The Best Reviewed Movie of the Year!”
The claim is somewhat dubious. The Pixar name alone is almost synonymous with quality. But within five minutes of watching the film, you understand why it is so highly regarded.
Ratatouille is the second paring between Pixar and director Brad Bird and their effort is as good, if not better than their previous film – 2004’s The Incredibles.
The movie is centered around Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a passionate French rat with a highly developed sense of smell and taste. Remy dreams of an existence beyond scavenging for trash with his dim-witted brother (Peter Sohn) and loutish father (Brian Dennehy). He fantasizes about being a 5-star chef, like his hero Gusteau – a celebrity chef whose book “Anyone Can Cook” Remy has been stealing glances at in the home his family hides out in.
Remy’s life changes dramatically the day his family is discovered by a shotgun wielding grandma and he is flushed down a storm drain into the sewers under Paris. His family lost, he emerges top side in front of Gusteau’s world-famous restaurant. Kismet at it’s most unlikely.
From there the movie kicks into high gear as Remy forges an unlikely alliance with a lowly garbage boy named Linguini whose ambition to cook is offset by his complete lack of talent. By pulling locks of his hair to manipulate his arms, Remy puppeteers him into creating fantastic dishes that excite the restaurant’s patrons and brings glory to our heroes.
There is conflict with the Napoleonic head chef Skinner (an unrecognizable Ian Holm) who has taken over for the now deceased Goustea and with Anton Ego – a rail-thin ghoul of food critic who refuses to swallow anything he finds unpalatable. Peter O’Toole as Ego delivers a mesmerizing, menacing performance that transforms the character from more than a mere food snob into a frightening threat.
What follows is a predictable arc about pride, humility, teamwork and family. But woven throughout the film are much more rich subtexts about creativity, authenticity and passion – both good and bad.
Gusteau’s motto that “anyone can cook” is pervasive throughout. One must only have the desire to cook, to experiment, to be successful. If one is brave and injects their heart into what the love, they can create beautiful things. It’s a life-affirming message and applicable to all forms of artistic expression.
Alternatively, Brad Bird pulls no punches against the critic character Anton Ego whose passion for food has corrupted his ability to appreciate it at all. Scathingly, Bird identifies critics at large to mostly irrelevant and the potential death nail to creativity. Everything from Ego’s tone, to his look, to his coffin shaped office and grim hollow typewriter facade that looks like a human skull re-enforce this.
It goes without saying that the film is a seven course meal for the eyes. Pixar continues to refine its technology to the point where water effects and the rendering of hair and fur look nearly as good as the real thing.
The DVD’s extras are surprisingly thin for a film experience so sumptuous. Two hilarious animated shorts, the theatrical feature “Lifted” and the DVD exclusive “Your Friend the Rat” are excellent. The three deleted scenes animatics introduced by Brad Bird are less so.
The last and most interesting extra on the DVD is the 15 minute documentary “Fine Food and Film: A Conversation with Brad Bird and Thomas Keller.” Keller is a name familiar to foodies. A world-famous chef, he was a consultant on Ratatouille and the signature dish in the film bears his signature for its unique preparation.
The documentary explores the unlikely similarities between animation and cooking as Bird and Keller separately discuss inspiration, collaboration and mentorship. There are several valuable insights. Producing more extras like this would have made the supplemental material much more satisfying.
Obviously DVD extras do not a successful film make. But for an animated feature that is so lovingly crafted, it would have been a real treat to explore more of the process and effort that went into its creation.
We may never understand all of the mysteries that lead to great art. But in any case, my compliments to the chef.