July 9, 2007

Rats + Robots = 3D Eye Candy

RATATOUILLE - A review

Brad Bird’s done it again! But what can you really expect from Pixar these days other than superior animation and an engaging cast of characters set amongst a backdrop that (quite literally this time) makes your mouth water? Need I say more?

To avoid spoliers stop reading now and go see the movie! This is definitely a film you can’t miss this summer.

Of course, more definitely needs to be said about the movie. I can’t say enough good about it. I felt they treated the food industry as a whole in a sincere light - in the same way they did for Racing with Cars and Super Heroes with Incredibles. We see the characters as real people (and animals too) with passionate spirits willing to do anything to achieve their dreams. One of the major themes is: Anyone Can Do it!

As a young animator trying to break in to the Industry, you can only imagine how loudly this film spoke to me. It was something I needed to hear. Call me a forever optimist, but it was like they were saying to me - if this is what you want, you gotta go out and get it, and don’t give up, no matter what anyone tells you. I connected with Remy truly in that I feel the same way about Animation. It’s a passion. It’s a way to communicate. And it’s an art - a beautiful art, that many people see but only relatively few appreciate — just like a good meal hand-prepared out of love versus a microwave frozen burrito. (By the way, all the bits with his “imaginary” chef mentor were so refreshing… It’s nice to see someone else who has characters in their head. ;D) “Why am I talking to you!? You’re just a figment of my imagination!”

Did you stay until the _very_ end of the credits? (If not, shame on you!) For there was something worth staying for. At the end is a graphic a la 50’s diner menu style with a guy giving a thumbs up and a statement that clearly sums up how they viewed last year’s Oscar choice (in a pretty amusing way): “This film made with 100% Pure Animation. No Mo-Cap Here!” I laughed so loud and grinned. How very fitting.

And it’s easy to tell too- You just can’t mo-cap rats shimmying up poles like that. All my friends and I commented on how truly rodent-like everything about Remy and his clan was and yet how human they still behaved. It reminded me of the same treatment in Cars. Sometimes you forgot they were rats. And Linguini! What a likeable guy! (Great voice by their art director - that guy’s got a wonderfully pleasant voice!) He had really great animators working on him too. He was so real and his gestures so natural. A total underdog that you just wanted to win so badly.

The end brilliantly colored 2D end credits were just as fun (and surprising) to watch as the movie itself. I just love the scratchy limited style they were caricatured in. And the 3D Camera moves were just so perfectly timed.

TRANSFORMERS - A review

Okay, okay, so the plot was just about what most of us (Fans and Critics alike) expected it to be - a bit of pandering to the fans (but not quite enough according to the true hardcore fans) some low brow humor (Really now was Bumblebee “lubricating” on the Government Agent really necessary?) for the kiddies and the rest is fight scene after glorious building busting, explosion blasting, human tossing fight scene.

However, you have to admit, the Character Designs were really well thought out and the transforming sequences themselves were just as mind-boggling and droolworthy as the animation in Ratatouille. Having watched the Transformers growing up as a child of the 80s, you can imagine my delight in seeing it done (and done well) on the big screen.

I could have done with about 50% less army scenes and more Transformers. The bit of backstory/Cybertron that we did see was awesome! If only there could have been some flashback or something… I think all the fans were hoping for something like that. I was also wishing that Megatron and Starscream could have had larger roles. I was hoping to see a bit of classic usurping on Starscream’s part, but at least they included most of the classic characters (though again they did make a bunch of changes).

In a way, it almost felt like three movies converging. One about the Transformers themselves, one about the Army and a third about Sam and his history. I thought they all tied in pretty well, but the second and third act felt VERY rushed. I thought they needed another half hour or so to spread out the pacing some (though it was plenty long already).

Shia did an awesome job as Sam, by the way. I was hoping he wouldn’t be a “harry stu” and I was glad to see that he had some good character flaws and was somewhat of a jerk to begin with. You felt kind of sorry for him cause he really didn’t mean to be. As you can see, I connected with him pretty well. I’m not sure how I felt about his girlfriend since she seemed to be a bit of a “Mary Sue” - everyone likes her, she can do anything, has an angsty background — you know the type. Though it was nice to see a girl with some mechanical abilities. (Gadget from Rescue Rangers anyone?) There are some of us girls obsessed with cars too, you know!

I agree with the fans that some of the acting was OOC (out-of-character) - but considering they made themselves a new plot, you kind of had to look at it in the context of the movie.

If this movies was going to be the intro to a show about these characters, would I watch it? Yeah, probably… Never miss it? Less likely. Be sorry I tuned in? Not at all.

If you’re a Transformers Fan, you definitely have to do your patriotic duty and go see it. If you’re not, well just don’t expect to understand it fully and just sit back and enjoy the eye candy. I took my Dad and he was totally overwhelmed by the plot, but even he conceded that the animation was pretty amazing.

Until next time!

- Joanie /^>

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