Movie Review: WALL-E

WALL-E Year Released: 2008 Directed by: Andrew Stanton Starring: Robots, and co-starring people. Production Company: Disney/Pixar

After first experiencing WALL-E, I was floored. It was a beautiful story with endearing characters, a social message, and empathy and yet there was no dialogue for the first hour! WALL-E is the last machine left on a garbage encrusted earth; he dutifully carries out his task: compacting garbage into cubes and making skyscraper sized works of art out of them. With humans travelling the stars with no real intent of coming back home, WALL-E has been faithfully carrying out his job for 700 years with no interaction with others, save for his pet cockroach. During all this time, WALL-E has succeeded his other brethren, seemingly still sane due to his lovable curiosity and love of collecting junk. I anthropomorphize WALL-E only because I couldn’t help but root for the little guy. He’s just doing his job until the humans come home; which might never happen.
Short Circuit 3: Jonny 5 in space
WALL-E’s home itself is a testament to all the junk people can create, but it plays towards the old saying: ‘one man’s trash is another’s treasure’. Through it all, WALL-E cares for all his belongings and lovingly takes care of his pet cockroach, feeding him Twinkies, which I always figured would last a million years. His only interaction with people up to this point is a very old VHS (or possibly BETA) version of Hello Dolly that he watches religiously and at the certain scenes, longs for touching hands with someone else; it’s a lonely world for the little robot. WALL-E’s world is turned upside down at the arrival of EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), the super sleek, overtly Macintosh-inspired lady machine, looking for plant life on earth. As luck would have it, WALL-E’s attempts at wooing her fail miserably until he presents her with a plant he found growing inside an old fridge; her prime directive in finding any plant life, she shuts down, waiting for the arrival of her ship to bring her back home. As it turns out, WALL-E inadvertently hitches a ride with the ship and right into the adventure of his lifetime. Humans work their way into the story in the last act, which for me was the weakest portion of the film. Ultimately, the goal is to have human’s re-colonized earth again, rather than travel through the stars. The machines all have a life of their own, as simple as they all look, most don’t even have eyes, and rely on their zany movements or manic behavior to tell us what they’re thinking. It all works, beautifully.
“So, what was your cut of the profits?”
You have to give credit to the Pixar animators, as they really show what they can do even without interaction or speech. Compare WALL-E to Final Fantasy (2001) which was a technical achievement and you’ll see what I mean. Final Fantasy was more concerned about getting their characters to look and act like real people, a noble effort, but the end result is a puppet on screen with dead vacuous pixels. Pixar took the formula, and gave life to WALL-E, so much so that you get the idea that he’s looking behind the film to see who’s operating the camera. I still can’t believe the animators did all this without giving the title character a mouth, just binocular type eyes that only rotate up or down. The pure curiosity, the sell of the moment, the lighting of the picture was even presented as a historical document that I could have believed. WALL-E is a story for every one of all ages, of all walks of life. There’s a social message hidden in there; namely that we can’t ignore our garbage problems, or just leave when the going gets tough. There’s little treats peppered throughout for the detail oriented, watch for other Pixar movie props to appear on garbage piles, and listen to the AXIOM computer voice, a little nod to an actress who made space cool again. The movie plays out like one of the great silent movies, there’s empathy, there’s pathos, there’s even a love story. I highly recommend this flick to anyone who enjoys a good movie. 9.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Iron Man

Iron Man Year Released: 2008 Directed by: John Favreau Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gweneth Paltrow Production Company: LivePlanet

As farfetched as having a guy build an exo-suit that can fly, punch through tanks, is bullet proof, and filled with more technology than the state of California, sounds pretty out there. But John Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. sell it, and sell it excellently. The Marvel comics roots are still there, yet thankfully, the realism is intact and the physics and storyline all make perfect sense. Bravo, Marvel studios, Bravo.
“I was sure I left my keys in here somewhere…”
Iron Man is the story of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, played to perfection by the fast talking, ingenious Robert Downey Jr. whose company, Stark Industries supplies the United States military with high tech armaments. Stark is kidnapped by a Middle Eastern faction during a weapons test, and must find a means of escape with only his mechanically inclined mind. During the kidnap, his own manufactured weapons are to blame for shrapnel coming perilously close to his heart; as a result he’s tethered to a car battery powering an electro magnet making sure the shrapnel doesn’t kill him. He’s being kept alive by the terrorists so he can build them a weapon of mass destruction, a little something his company whipped up that can basically destroy a whole shit load of towns.
“Dammit, I just want to use the john”
With a little bit of physics, Stark creates a miniature Arc Reactor with which he can ‘power his own body for 50 lifetimes, or something really big for 15 minutes’. So what’s a billionaire industrialist to do? Build a sweet looking gigantic monster suit that can shoot 50 foot flames and can fly short distances. That’s what. Well, he does and it can. And it’s all believable (in the confines of this movie world at least). Stark high-tails it back to the good old U.S. of A and first thing he does is chomp down on a hamburger. At which point, he calls a press conference to tell the world he’s no longer making weapons of mass destruction. The decision doesn’t sit well with business partner Obidiah Stane (one bald Jeff Bridges), who’s in the business for pure profit rather than the consequences of destructive weapons. Meanwhile, Stark takes his original prototype used to escape and improves it with some bad ass technology; namely Marvel’s repulsor ray, coupled with a newer, more powerful arc reactor attached directly to his heart. The new exo-suit itself if believable and ultra-cool. Take the Robocop suit, add in super mobility, flight and the fact that Downey Jr. isn’t a re-animated corpse and you got yourself Iron Man.
Stark sets his sights for on Gweneth’s tight sweaters
Being a comic book geek, I should point out that Iron Man is Marvel comic’s version of the classic Batman. Batman was a billionaire son of Gotham city, who lost both his parents in a brutal robbery, and dedicated his life to improving his mind, body and fighting crime with the aid of bat-fear symbolism. Iron Man lost his father to a heart attack, was always mechanically inclined, had a shit load of money and used his cash to finance wars, and build an indestructible suit to fight crime. So, Tony Stark is who Bruce Wayne would be if his parent’s weren’t killed in front of him, and he enjoyed a drink or two once in a while. If I could pick between the two, I’d have gone the Iron Man route. The real gem comes from the comedic timing of Downey Jr.’s attempts at creating the suit; between test flights in his garage where there’s at least a million dollars worth of classic cars, he’s shooting repulsor rays, falling through ceilings and getting a fire hose in the face from his pet robots. He’s able to weigh down his heavy pathos and genius mind with the carefree spirit needed to imagine these fantastic toys. Plus, he’s got a smoking hot assistant in Pepper Potts (Gweneth Paltrow), why a guy whose worth more than most third worlds would rather give it to Vanity Fair reporters instead of his assistant is beyond me; it could have been a writing flaw.
“Can you point me in the direction of Canadian Tire?”
The special effects are awesome, try picking out the parts that are CGI versus live action. The late, great Stan Winston himself had a hand in creating the goliath first prototype suit; sadly it was the last project he was involved in, and the mythos of special effects wiz Winston was just the icing on the cake. The pacing is adult and doesn’t once make you feel like you’re watching some kids movie repackaged into a re-release, all the parts fit together nicely, and if you watch past the credits, you’ll be in for a little treat. Marvel studios is gearing up for something big; since they own most of Hollywood, thanks to titles such as X-Men, Incredible Hulk and to a lesser extent Fantastic Four, the company is more on the lips of the populace. The comic book giant is keeping the characters and storylines canon in the movie universe and there might be a little mixing and collaborations in the future, so just keep your eyes peeled for that little special mega-blockbuster all the fanboy geeks have been waiting 20+ years for. If Iron Man is any indication of the level of quality to come from the house of words, then I’m sold on the plan. 8.5 out of 10