June 15, 2008

REVIEWS: Rats and Unintentional Comedy

Directed by: Brad Bird
In a nutshell: Nobody has ever made a rat more lovable and compelling than Ratatouille. After watching the flick, my heart was light and filled with joy. No really.

I loved Brad Bird's other Pixar masterpiece The Incredibles and I regard him highly as a film director. His latest masterpiece- Ratatouille - is by no means different in terms of greatness- and that's great.

The story starts out with our rat hero Remy (Patton Oswalt) who is born with a greater sense of smell and taste and thus, aspired to be a chef. Because of Remy's extraordinary ability, his father- boss of the rat clan- appoints him a job as poison detector. But one day, when Remy and his brother Emile go inside the house of an old lady, much chaos ensue and the clan is exposed- making them run away to find a new home.

However, the sewers weren't kind to Remy as he becomes separated from his family. So now, all he has is a book by his idol chef named Gusteau which he reads. He becomes hungry, and this forces him to hallucinate that the illustration of the chef in the book is talking to him. The chef advises him to look around, and he finds an opening to reveal that he has been under the city of lights- and food: Paris.

Then we go to the life of Linguini who is a clumsy redhead hired to be a garbage collector of the restaurant of Gusteau- which has deteriorated since the chef's death. When Remy finds the same restaurant and improve the soup that Linguini ruined because of his clumsy antics- and a food critic loved it- their fates cross and they discover a way to fulfill each other's dreams.

Slapstick antics
Pixar made excellent use of the comedic opportunities the story provided- and with perfect comic timing and panache. If you thought a person on a bicycle hitting a car is so stone age, just wait till you see the comical effect this same scene would have in this movie.

Indeed, it's truly hilarious. But not all comedy in the film is full of slapstick, and that's because the smart dialogue is also effectively funny in its jokes.

Experiencing Paris
Another technical achievement by Pixar is its 3D rendering of the city of lights- and the various aerial views of the city never cease to amaze me. It simply looks stunning, eye-popping even. I mean, it's probably the best animated portrayal of France I've ever seen because it's bustling and realistic.

The food being prepared in the kitchen is also really mouth-watering, and during the course of the movie I just wanted to EAT SOMETHING! GAH!

Obviously, if you haven't gotten my point yet, the look of the film is very much superior. Even the human characters look better than ever, and Pixar finally perfected fur!

Cuddly... rats?!
People hate rats- except for hamsters- and that's a fact.

But after watching this movie- oh my God- I don't want to hate them anymore. Who knows who you're killing? It might be Remy's real-life counterpart!

But sarcasm aside, the movie really made me love Remy, but not exactly love all rats in general. I don't know, but it oozes some kind of charm despite the fact that the protagonist is a rodent people love killing- especially if it's in the kitchen. I mean, you just want to hug the rat and squeeze it until it dies with love! LOL.

Pixar definitely got its message subtly across. And among other messages, the one that stands out is the foundation of the movie itself: "Dreams can come true no matter how impossible.". You know, Chef Gusteau's book title ("Anyone Can Cook") has that meaning when thought about deeper.

I mean, I know that message is so cliche. I mean, since Pinocchio, many Disney films have geared toward that moral and it became tired when other studios tackled the theme. But here, it's just really, really affecting.

Putting the movie in synopsis form is rather taxing, and that's because in the inside, when you flesh the thing out, you'll find that it's actually a pretty complex balance of conflicts Remy- and Pixar- have to contend. And the balancing act they do beautifully as people manage to get how Remy balances the act of being one step closer to achieving his dream, all the while constantly wanting to make his father proud and abide by family values. I mean, whew! The thing's really a tough act to follow!

I'm glad that I finally got to watch Ratatouille! And I guess waiting for almost a year after its initial release was still worth the wait. You probably already know how I'll rate this film, so I need not summarize everything for you because it's so good, it should've been inside the category of "Best Picture" in the Oscars months ago.

Rating: 10/10

The Forbidden KingdomThe Forbidden Kingdom
Directed by: Robert Minkoff
In a nutshell: The film has a story based from a real Chinese legend- but that doesn't stop them from making unintentionally laugh-out-loud sequences. Action scenes are expertly choreographed however, so action junkies wouldn't want to miss this.

Obviously, this is the movie that pairs Jackie Chan and Jet Li for the first time in cinema history. But are they worth the price of admission?

The movie starts out with this teenager who seems to have an affinity for Hong Kong Kung Fu movies. (So yeah, there are Bruce Lee jokes involved in the later scenes.) He goes to the pawnshop of an old man and sees this golden staff. And this staff takes him back to the past into the legend of the West. And oh my God, the transition between modern day and Chinese history was so unintentionally funny because the teenager falls from the top of a building- and he does so to very cheesy effect.

Moving on, the boy "lands" into a Chinese village which is attacked by the Warlord's soldiers. The boy manages to escape because of a drunken master (Jackie Chan) who they later learn is immortal.

They also encounter the generic pretty Chinese girl (every movie should have that!) who is coincidentally good with jade darts and whatnot as well as a monk in white (Jet Li).

But exactly what role does the staff play anyway? Well, it's actually the weapon of the Monkey King who gets into a duel with the aforementioned Warlord. Yes, the Monkey King was on a roll, but he was too trusting and was tricked into thinking they were gonna have hand-on-hand combat. So when the Monkey King was about to turn into stone, he couldn't possibly at least give the Warlord the staff, and so he sends it someplace so it can wait until the "chosen one" comes out.

Now you can piece the things up together by yourself and answer as to why the American teenager was transported to the past by the staff anyway.

Why Jackie Chan hates the film
In an interview back then, Jackie Chan vocally announced that he "didn't like the film"- and for good reason: the plot is so stupid, you can predict everything that'll happen next.

You'd probably know that the boy would be able to release the Monkey King from his stoned state (WHY THE HELL DIDN'T THE WARLORD DESTROY THE STATUE-FIED MONKEY KING IN THE FIRST PLACE?!), or that Jackie Chan or Jet Li would fight and stuff, or that the American boy would probably fall in love with the Chinese girl. It's all familiar, and it all feels derivative- like it's been done before.

Saving grace
The movie's saving grace, however, is the real stars of the show namely, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and that's because they get to do what they do best: FIGHT. And those fights are choreographed so well, you will probably not mind about the stupid story- and not care for the American who "just wants to go home".

Hell, even in the review I already forgot their names!!! But the only unforgettable thing about this film is the white-haired lady! Boy, did she make me and my siblings laugh unintentionally!

Unintentionally funny
I found the movie so bad it was funny, which is why I'd rate it higher than it should. That's the thing that provided me a lot of entertainment (besides the action scenes): the laughs! What makes them more entertaining is that they're uncalled for!

If you've watched this film, however, it'd probably be hard to take things seriously, and that's because there's an American amidst the Chinese setting! Maybe that's why I couldn't appreciate Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai! God, when are people gonna learn?

Scenes to look out for include the cheesy fight scene featuring the Monkey King (which I forgot to mention is also Jet Li) complete with very cheesy effects (you know that running in the air thing), the fall of the American teenager from the building (the "AAAAAHHH!" accompanied with the bad acting makes it HILARIOUS), the way the White Haired Lady's hair is able to grow and whip stuff (talk about excellent shampoo!) and a lot more along the journey.

It's hard to take this film seriously, and worse, it has a bad plot. But Jackie Chan and Jet Li save it from mediocre territory because of their excellent fighting prowess and great kung fu choreography courtesy of Yuen Wo Ping.

Basically, it's one of those movies that you'll likely consider a guilty pleasure, and nothing more.

Rating: 6.5/10

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