Saturday, June 30, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Ratatouille

My friend Ori and I caught this one on Friday night. We went to the late show cause like most sensible adults who like watching G rated animated/CGI films we don't want to be disturbed by crying or overly obnoxious babies and kids. Now normally I would wait to watch these kinds of things on DVD but this is Brad Bird's film and even though it's a film about a rat who can cook, it really isn't just for kids. If you know anything about Brad Bird's resume it's that he has been able to make kids films for adults. It's a tough thing to do but he has perfected it. In films like The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, not to mention his solid work for years on the Simpson’s. Ratatouille fits very snuggly into this category.As always Pixar has made another extraordinary film. The images of Paris look as good as the real thing and the mixing and cutting is of course top notch. Now we've gotten that out of the way. How do you make a Rat wanting to cook food interesting and funny? It helps to have good vocal talent. Remy, as voiced by Patton Oswald, is a rat who doesn't enjoy eating garbage. He likes to watch cooking shows and when the owner of the house is napping he likes to cook up a little something. His Father, voiced by Brian Dennehy, and ditzy brother (Peter Sohn) don't approve of Remy's particular tastes but the point becomes moot when the old lady spots them and starts firing the 12 gauge. The rats have to uproot themselves and of course Remy finds himself away from the pack. With a little help from his imaginary idol Gusteau (Brad Garrett), Remy discovers he is in Paris and within crawling distance of his favorite restaurant. If you know anything about restaurants it is inconceivable to accept any kind of rodent in or around the kitchen. These rats of course are cute and cuddly and probably don't have the black plague, so it's somewhat acceptable. Although I did read a funny review of this film where the reviewer thought that the film may have lawsuits brought against them from angry mothers. Why? Because the fear is that the kids may try to find Remy in the garbage behind the house and you know want to pick him up and have him cook something in the house.All that aside the film is well made and the characters are very entertaining. When Remy (Patton Oswalt) gets caught in the kitchen he finds a way to befriend a shy Dishwasher, Linguini (Lou Romano), before he sends Remy to a watery death. They decide to team up with Remy's cooking knowledge and Linguini being--well--human. They start a cooking revolution. Now most of the cooking jokes and jargon will go right over the kid’s heads until the dumb brother comes back in to bring the young ones back into the fold. Peter O'Toole is the voice of the food critic Anton Ego, who brings a clever menace to the role and a very unsuspecting ending involving his character. You also have Janeane Garofalo as Colette the saucy cook who falls for Linguini and the most entertaining role by far was Ian Holm's Skinner who tries to suck dry the Gusteau name brand by making tacky frozen meals. He also is bent on destroying poor Linguini and chopping Remy into little bits. All in all a fun romp with great humor and spectacular imagery.

Grade 4 Buckets

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Problem with Fox

After Ori's post about The Fantastic Four I have decided to take a second look at 2oth Century Fox and their feeble attempts to make comic book movies. They started off well a few years ago with X-Men and even better with X-Men 2 but they started to drop the ball on Daredevil, Fantastic Four 1 and 2 and with X-Men 3. Why is that exactly?There have been statements swirling around for the past 7 years or so that Fox chairman Tom Rothman (as pictured above) has never shied away from his disdain for the X franchise as most rumors claimed that he thought the X-Men franchise would tank from the beginning. After mild success with the first and a spectacular showing for the 2nd film Rothman always seems to want to subtly put the kibosh on the whole franchise and its characters even after it has made him a boatload of money. It is no secret of course that Fox runs their organization as a strict dollar and sense machine. They, in my humble opinion, more than any of the large companies out there seem to focus more on the greenbacks they make rather than the quality of the project. I mean look at the recent example of X-Men 3. It made a ton of money but most fans of the comic book and some fans of the actual film series were up in arms about the so-called end of their favorite heroes and villains. Like the butchery of the popular Phoenix Saga, the goofy and stupid idea to have Vinnie Jones play the Juggernaut. Of course my personal favorite the ridiculous death of Cyclops which somehow forces rogue bad ass Wolverine to act out of character and in essence become Cyclops by the end of the film. It also didn't help much to bring hack director Brett Ratner on to replace the excellent Bryan Singer. Rumors of course claim that Singer was pushed out for one reason or another but it goes back to my point about making a quality film with a capable director, Rothman just ain’t interested in that. Why would you leave the Fantastic Four in the very in-capable hands of Tim Story, who has to be one of the most incompetent filmmakers to date? Who knows?

To make this post short and sweet I think it's time for Marvel Studios to really push their power and pull the remaining comic franchise films from Fox and give them to more deserving studios that really have an interest in these projects and would like to see them flourish the way they were intended. I know what most people think about Ghost Rider and the recent Spider-Man 3 but Sony at least has the right attitude towards filmmakers who appreciate the source material and give them the freedom to attempt to recapture what was great about the comic book versions. I don't think very much of Mark Steven Johnson who directed the terrible Daredevil and the very silly Ghost Rider but at Comic-Con in San Diego last year he mentioned to us that he felt that Fox was constantly breathing down his neck, Tom Rothman especially, and that they did not fully understand nor wanted to relate to these characters and their motivations.

Paramount is also doing well with their comic book franchises as they are set to release Transformers (which by the way is friggin awesome, I will post my review later this week.) on July 3, A CGI Beowulf later this year, Iron Man next summer, Nick Fury, Deathlok and Ant Man in 2008 and the Avengers and Captain America in 2009. Now I'm not trying to promote Paramount simply because I work for them but the facts do speak for themselves. Fantastic Four 2 made a decent amount of money but the true comic fans have mostly hated it. It is obvious that Fox is not interested in making a quality comic project now or ever. So do us all a favor Marvel pull the plug on all of your projects with them. That means no Magneto pre-quel (yawn) or Wolverine spin-off (wasn't that the X-trilogy anyway). Give it to a company more worthy of your time and attention where a great director can be found and the fans can be happy. Just say NO to Fox.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Hi folks--Unfortunately I've been just too damned busy to see any of the new films lately. So my friend Ori wanted to post his review of the Fantastic Four sequel and personally after what he had to say I don't think I'll be seeing this stinker anytime soon. So here it is Ori's review of Rise of the Silver Surfer--

So I just saw Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver
Hating the first FF movie I lowered my expectations as
much as possible, I think they were skimming the floor
hitting popcorn bits as I was walking. Coming out of
FFRotSS I can clearly say... IT WAS WORST THAN I

This movie had so much going for it, The Surfer, Doug
Jones as the Surfer, Galactus, all the horrible
mistakes the first one did... GALACTUS! And yet they
missed every possible opportunity to make something
good. Did they learn from their past mistakes and
correct them into awesomeness!? Hell no! Why change
some piece of crap that made millions into something
awesome that can possibly make more millions... too
much of a risk I guess...I'll just go and list the good things first...
ummmm... yeah... oh! the Marvel logo at the beginning,
oh yeah the first minute of Galactus eating a planet
(You don't see Galactus so it was cool). A minute and
a half into the movie it goes bad and just keeps
The surfer's CG is 85% cool (go watch T2 for some
awesome Surfer action) but the rest is atrocious, the lip syncing is horrible, and most of his facial movements look terrible. When it's real Doug in a suit the make up is also extremely wonky. The rest of the CGI in the movie was left for the last day of post production and looks like a 1997 made for TV movie.

Doug Jones moves like the Surfer should, he does all the Kirby stuff and is awesome, but it's like a nice cherry in a middle of a very moldy chocolate cake. The Thing looks worse here, his mouth is fixed in a terrible sneer and when he talks he sounds like a bad Rocky with Alicia Silverstone's mouth... His body isn't any better, it now looks 100% foam rubber and he just looks and moves like a fat man in a rubber suit, no rockiness to him whatsoever.

Sue... yeah Alba is hot, yadda yadda, get over it! Her
hair is a bad wig, she is waaaay too tan for a blond
and her acting is stiffer than the whole Thing
Reed was made to look younger this time, so he has no
white in his hair, which also looks like a bad wig,
and his character is basically as thin as he can get.
Being one of the greatest minds of the 21st century,
as he claims to be, he's not very bright... And his CG
stretching... uggg... mostly used for 6y/o oriented
jokes and relative uselessness.
Johnny, ah Johnny, the best part of the first FF
movie... The people at Fox and Mr. Tim Story realized
how good he was so they did the most logical thing and
cut his role to about 25% of what it was before, with
some terrible gags and some very cliche scenes.

Before we get to the really bad things I'll summarize
some other faults... -Tim Story cannot direct his way out of an action scene, no vision, no excitement, nothing!- The humor is just terrible falling on it's face every time, dead on arrival. Though it did make the little kids laugh ... -Geography, Time, what? nothing makes sense in this movie, the Surfer goes from Japan to Egypt to.. LA without going over the east coast (they say that) WOW! One second the FF are fighting by the great wall, someone gets punched and falls down, right into Shanghai.. yeah... there's like 3 hrs flight in
between, but who's counting... -The US army, roaming the world like no one else is there... I guess fighting in London and Germany is OK if you have a base set up in the middle of Russia....

And now for the best, errr... worst of it...
Doom... The first thing he does after waking up, for
some unknown reason, is take off the mask. Who wants
to see Dr. Doom when you can see Victor Von Doom the
pretty boy? He gets his looks back and for the rest of the movie he's normal looking guy from Nip Tuck with 0% menacing presence.Once he gets on the Surfer's board and puts his mask on he is about 10% more menacing but that's about it for 5 minutes... getting on the board... turning silver... COME ON! Galactus... yeah that... a huge sand worm shaped cloud.. OOOOH scary... why couldn't it be a huge spaceship hovering over NYC? It opens, a huge man comes out and steps on the statue of liberty.. yeah that would be so much cooler, and before you say "But that's goofy" just think that in a movie made for 6 year olds a man in a suit would fit right in! So they stupidly set up how this thing from space that kills worlds, with actual pictures from distant planets-- kids! Only to have him arrive in the last 10 min, look like a cloud around the earth and then get absorbed by the Surfer... oops I ruined the ending for you, or maybe I saved you some time and money, it's your call. The whole scene with Galactus (and they do call him Galactus, which is cool, and the surfer is called Norrin Rad, too little, too late IMO) is so short and uninspired. There's no flow, now movement, no thrill in it. It's just one old action/Sci-Fi movie cliche after another older one.

I really have no idea how a guy like Tim Story can get
a gig directing not one, but two, of what could have
been the flagship franchise of Marvel comics. He
managed to take something that could have been as epic
as Lord of the rings, as fast and exciting as
Spiderman and as technically visually cool as Star
Wars (Just think of the Kirby tech they could have
made....) and make it into a bland, run of the mill
movie... even Lost in Space was more exciting...
ARRRRGH.... I need to take a shower, I feel like
someone shat on me...

Grade: 1 Bucket

Really though Ori probably wishes at least that the Invisible Girl's clothes were really invisible. If only he could have viewed this for 2 plus hours. Sigh---

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Philly Comic-Con 2007

It's been a crazy couple of months, if you haven't read previous posts, a few friends and I got together about a year and a half ago to put together a 5 story compilation graphic novel. To top it all off we got a great artist who worked on Thor and other popular DC and Marvel characters over the last thirty years to draw our cover, Walt Simonson. It was a little too expensive to make the books here in the states so we had to outsource to China--sorry big Red, White and Blue you were just too hot for our ugly asses. anyway the books came in we didn't have any problem with customs--buuuut, yeah they couldn't open the damn crate on the boat. I was on my way to Philly when I got this news, needless to say I was kinda pissed. But it worked out in the end we got all of our books and we did quite well for the weekend. Whew!

Now onto Philly Con, it was very different from the others that I have been to in the past. Obviously it's not as big or as popular as the New York or San Diego Con but it was a great place to meet up and coming artists and writers and pick their brains for a while. Like Riley Brown an upcoming artist for Marvel who's kicking ass drawing the Cable/Deadpool mag. Or Tom Raney, who does an unbelievably awesome version of Sabertooth for the Ultimate X-Men and Khoi Pham who does an incredible job on X-Factor. These guys were really great, they, both of them were very cool to give us an idea on how to get started and get noticed on the business side of comics and for that I am very grateful. These guys put in a lot of hours to make the art work look top notch for the fans and these guys do not disappoint. We also met an upcoming artist named Joe Quinones who, when I walked by his table had a very cool looking Electra. You can check out his site at Next to him was a very cool painter named Paolo Rivera who is working with Marvel on Origin stories for popular characters like Spider-Man called Mythos. I also met Rags Morales (Identity Crisis), Rodney Ramos and Jim Calafiore (DC's Countdown).Our guys from the book Ori, Ian, Greg, Dezi, Jeff Z. and Jared must have done about 80 -90 free sketches combined for the entire weekend. They did a great job bringing people to the table by offering anyone and everyone to draw whatever they liked. They had a great time doing it too. They had so many people coming back for more. Usually at these things the artist charges 5-15 dollars a sketch and 20 - 100 or more for a commision depending on the artist. Since we are of course unknowns, the guys decided to go all out using inks and colors to give the guests at the Philly Con something really nice to take home and frame. It was pretty wild being behind the tables instead of ogoling the art from the other side, but it was a really great experience and I hope to do so again. So this coming weekend is the Big Apple Con--I won't be able to attend cause of a Family Reunion but I think Ori, Greg and maybe Ian will be trying to get a table so if you're in the Big Apple this weekend you should check out the Big Apple Con June 23rd and 24th.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Ocean's 13

After stepping out of the movie this evening I gotta say that George Clooney, Brad Pitt and company are friggin smooth. That's what this movie was 2 hours of cool elaborate revenge cons all directed at the bizarrely fresh faced Al Pacino. That's it--from the very beginning the boys put their criminal minds together to sabotage his new swanky casino. The fun is just watching this crew do their thing. Between the chemistry and the odd conversations that feel as if they started before we got there, Ocean's 13 just felt really--well--cool.Reuben (Elliot Gould) gets muscled out of his new fancy casino by a ruthless but colorfully dressed scoundrel Willie Bank (Al Pacino). Reuben ends up having a heart attack over the ordeal causing the boys to spring into action over their fallen teammate. Danny (George Clooney), being the fair criminal that he is, tries to give Bank an out before they destroy him. He thankfully refuses and we're off. Now I'm sure the people who didn't like the previous Ocean's won't like this one for the same reason, the elaborate and almost ridiculously expensive cons. Well there are plenty to go around in this one in fact they get in so deep at one point they actually run out of money and, if you've seen the trailers, they are forced to take funding from an old adversary, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Yes, they are over the top but it doesn't take itself seriously it's fun, and it totaly reminded me of classics like the original Ocean's 11, The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Thomas Crown Affair.Again the best part about these movies is just watching this cast interact. I completely believe that George Clooney and Brad Pitt are the Newman and Redford of the 21st Century. They have a great chemistry. And to top it off you get some great scenes from Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison and even the grease man Shaobo Qin. Eddie Izzard returns as Nagel as pompous and hilarious as the last film. I guess they couldn't get Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones but for some reason they snagged Ellen Barkin? Yeah, that one was a little weird--she was great but she hasn't been in a movie since--um well I don't really remember seeing her since Wild Bill in 95 but IMDB says she was in that really bad David Duchovny flick Trust the Man in '05 so what do I know. Anyway, this was a fun reminder about comedies from the old days. Director Soderburgh does a great job piecing together this nostalgic con with technological twists. It's also great for the crew to be back in Vegas, poking fun at the gaudy monstrosity's that grow bigger and tackier as the years go by. Clooney certainly channels classic Sinatra cool as these Robin Hood style thieves kick ass the only way they know how A-Team style.

Grade: 4 Buckets

Sunday, June 03, 2007


What is it with movies about pregnancy lately? My wife is also pregnant--just in case you didn't read the last review on this subject--The kid hasn't even come out yet and I'm starting to look at everything in a different way, it's a little crazy. Anyway I thought this film was hilarious in fact it was so damn funny I missed a large portion of it because the theatre was erupting with laughter every five minutes or so. This is Judd Apatow's second film and he just gets better and better. The 40 Year Old Virgin with Steve Carell was funny sure, but it doesn't blend the poignant/real life scenes with humor half as well as Knocked Up. Honestly the true brilliance behind the film is pairing up polar opposites Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl. I mean Heigl is drop dead gorgeous, and Rogan-well he's pretty hairy--like Robin Williams hairy. You would think after stupid sitcoms like the King of Queens, Still Standing or the really ignorant According to Jim that it's pretty inconceivable for the, albeit, loveable fat slob to get a banging hot model wife. The same is true about Knocked Up except that Rogan and Heigl do have really great chemistry and they allow that to build in a very realistic way throughout the film. For a comedy it's pretty long about 2 hours and 25 minutes. My wife keeps telling me that she's getting frustrated with the biblical lengths of the summer films this year. I heard it with Spidey, a little bit more for Pirates and of course once we saw this film she got all hot and bothered by the running time. She's cranky--she's hormonal--she's also six months pregnant.Ben (Seth Rogan) is a twenty-something slacker with little to no direction. Alison (Katherine Heigl) is a twenty-something career girl working her way up the ladder at E entertainment. Ben and his buddies Jay, Jason, Jonah and Martin are trying to start up an web site that tracks Famous female stars that have nude scenes, usually of course early in their careers. The funniest stuff in the film is with the slacker friends especially Jonah Hill who almost steals the show with his random quips. Alison lives with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd) and their two kids. So Alison gets some big promotion so to celebrate she takes her sister clubbing, they get drunk and end up meeting Ben. Everything falls into place as you would expect, Alison and Ben have the nookie and she tries to get rid of him in the morning. Eight weeks later--as the title suggests, she discovers her castle has been invaded.One of the great attributes of this film is the un-scripted feel of the dialogue. Nothing sounds forced or trite--funny as hell yes, but they don't bog it down with silly monologues about doing the right thing. It just felt very real and yes there is a lot of language especially from the very mousy Debbie. This chick could hang with George Carlin in the potty mouth department. I mean she could probably give him a run for his money. Katherine Heigl is actually funny, as I said before she is stunningly hot, but she can act too, which is rare for someone so damn beautiful. Seth Rogan has really come into his own after Freaks and Geeks and 40 Year Old Virgin, so what if he looks like the man-child of Art Garfunkel and Albert Brooks, he did a great job as leading man, maybe as a follow up he should make Defending your Life part 2! It takes a little while but Paul Rudd is great in this too, especially when they go to Vegas to see Cirque de Solis while tripping on Schrooms. If you are a fan of 40 Year Old Virgin, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared then you will love this film as much or more than I.NOTE: By the way Harold Ramis appears in this film--he used to be the skinny guy--He was Egon for Christ sake. I mean he's not Harry Knowles large but--he's certainly husky. But at least he's still funny--in fact his character could have been the older version of his Russell Ziskey character from Stripes in '81.

Grade: 4 Buckets