Friday, July 29, 2016


Directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava. Written by Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, and Jim Capobianco. Starring Lou Romano (Linguini), Patton Oswalt (Remy), Brad Garrett (Gusteau).

Bottom line: Ratatouille is a wonderful Pixar movie that I would recommend to anyone especially if one enjoys food.

Ratatouille opens with an exposition describing the late, fictional celebrity chef Gusteau (Garrett) whose motto was “Anyone can cook.” We cut to our protagonist; a rat named Remy (Oswalt). Remy is gifted with an advanced sense of smell which teaches him to appreciate the food that he eats. He’d rather not eat garbage when there is a whole culinary world around him. In his attempts to get some basic spices, he stumbles upon a cooking show featuring the aforementioned chef. Before he knows it, Remy finds himself in Paris. Exploring a little further, he makes his way to Gusteau’s restaurant. He watches, with hungry eyes, the creations of the master chefs. Remy crosses paths with the recently hired garbage boy, Linguini (Romano). The pair team up; Linguini will be the human representative of the two, while Remy provides the culinary direction.

Ratatouille isn’t too dissimilar from the dish of the same name. Ratatouille (the dish) is a bunch of vegetables, cooked together and baked. It’s simple but it can be delicious. In Ratatouille we follow the smallest of characters, a rat, in his quest to do what he dreams; to cook. There are so many wonderful decisions even with the basic premise. Consider the idea of simply cooking. It’s something we can all relate to because even if the audience doesn’t like to cook per se, who doesn’t like food? We can follow Remy’s quest and imagine tasting his creations. And even the desire to cook is attainable for anyone in the audience. It just takes practice to get a sense of the mechanics, aromas, and flavors. Indeed, “anyone can cook” and Ratatouille makes the ordinary that much more magical.

The music of Ratatouille is phenomenal (I’m listening to the theme song “Le Festin” by Camille as I write). Some of the characters, particularly Linguini, teeter on goofy which I’m not the biggest fan of but they are so darn endearing it’s ok. The graphics are, of course, incredible. Early in the film, Remy goes down a raging river and the water effects are amazing, even by today’s standards and this came out in 2008.

I’d highly recommend Ratatouille. I’ve seen it several times and it’s always been a lot of fun. It’s accessible to everyone too so it’s a great family movie. I hope you see Ratatouille and enjoy it as much as I have. This is, of course, assuming you haven’t seen it a number of times already.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Directed by Tim Burton. Written by Roald Dahl (book), and John August (screenplay). Starring Johnny Depp (Willy Wonka), Freddie Highmore (Charlie Bucket), David Kelly (Grandpa Joe).

Bottom line: I wouldn’t say that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory holds up as a standalone movie, let alone a remake.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is Tim Burton’s 2005 adaptation of the book with the same name. Just watching the opening credits, in all it’s dated (even for 2005) graphical glory, you can see the names appear on the screen: Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp, music by Danny Elfman. We got the whole Burton crew here, boys, let’s rumble.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, if you’ve seen the ‘70’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, is largely what you’d expect; the reclusive candy-man Willy Wonka has announced that he will open his mysterious factory to the lucky children who find the several Golden Tickets hidden within chocolate Wonka bars.

Let me just start off this brief review to say that I wouldn’t recommend this movie. I didn’t enjoy the songs, the characters, or the stylistic decisions. I couldn’t help but compare it to the original which I’ve seen countless times. The first portion of the movie is mediocre enough. It looks kinda like a Wes Anderson movie (he directed The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom) but more black and white checkerboard. But as soon as Johnny Depp comes into mix, everything takes a sharp downward turn.

You know how sometimes, especially with action movies, the hero eclipses the rest of the movie? It doesn’t really matter about what is going on because we get to see the hero kick butt. For example, at first, there was Terminator and then shortly thereafter, there were Schwarzenegger movies. It doesn’t matter who Schwarzenegger is fighting as long as I’m along for the ride. This works with Tim Burton now that I think about it; there was Nightmare Before Christmas and now we have Tim Burton movies. It doesn’t really matter what’s going on as long as I get to see some whimsy.

Now, with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we spend a decent amount of time establishing this whimsical movie about a poor boy named Charlie but, once Depp is introduced, the focus shifts to him. If any movie should be called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory it should be this one.

Depp’s representation of Willy Wonka makes me really uncomfortable. He seems to be channeling Michael Jackson but, doesn’t the whole pedophile thing color this in an odd way? I mean, Wonka is inviting half a dozen children into his mysterious wonderland for a contest for which only he knows the rules. Sure we get to see Wonka’s backstory (to explain his childlike nature) but that juice ain’t worth the squeeze. I was attempting a more candy oriented phrase, but that’s all I could think of.

I have pages of moleskine notebook notes about what I didn’t like about this movie and why and how but, then, last night I re-watched Ratatouille. I’ll go into more details about the plot but, for our purposes here, the main villain in Ratatouille is a food critic named Anton Ego.

At one point he says, “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so...”

The above quote makes me wonder about movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There are plenty of movies out there and even plenty of fun bad movies. I can even see having a fondness for bad movies (even if they aren’t fun). That said, I’m recommend avoiding Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you want some whimsy, why not go to watch one of Tim Burton’s older movies? And if you want some Chocolate Factory, I’d recommend the original film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Thanks for reading!