This summer, a few films reminded us that motion pictures are far from being dead.
Starring Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano & Janeane Garofalo
Directed by Brad Bird & Jan Pinkava
Early previews for this film offered up the brightly colored, digitally-animated eye candy that audiences have come to expect from PG-Juggernaut Pixar.
However, where many other animated films seem to boast a beautiful exterior in an attempt to hide a somewhat generic storyline and empty set of jokes, “Ratatouille” has quite a lot of meat on its bones.
The movie follows the life of the food-enthusiast rat, R?my. Feeling out of place with the rest of his garbage-eating relatives, the endearing rodent finds himself in a sewer system that coincidentally enough opens up underneath the top restaurant in Paris.
After partnering up with a struggling, palette-less slop-boy, R?my takes the restaurant by storm, the whole time trying to keep his identity hidden from the other chefs.
And while the premise of the film may sound odd and even slightly nauseating, the execution of it is anything but disgusting. Featuring the finest CGI ever produced by Pixar and some well-cast roles (especially Janeane Garofalo as an easily aggravated, yet sensitive sous-chef), “Ratatouille” is not only the best animated film this summer, but probably the best all year.
Directed by and starring Michael Moore
Some people love him, some people hate him. No doubt about it, Michael Moore has lit up movie theaters with some highly-political and opinionated films in the past few years. So it would be no surprise that when posters showed up earlier this year plastered with Moore’s big grin, people started talking. Whereas past films such as “Fahrenheit 9/11” had a direct political standpoint, “Sicko” somewhat abandons Moore’s strong views and focuses on the topic at hand: the corrupt and disorganized health care system in America.
Pointing out major flaws in pharmaceutical companies, big business health insurance and both the Democratic and Republican parties, “Sicko” enlightens the plight of those unable to afford health insurance and the false sense of security that it provides to those who have it.
Offering up the slick comedic edge that Moore’s films are generally known for, audiences will find themselves laughing at something as disturbing as a man having to figure out which of his severed fingers he can afford to get re-attached.
Never disrespectful and fully engaging, “Sicko” will haunt you after the movie, on the drive home and as you’re lying in bed.
Directed by Adam Shankman
Starring Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Michelle Pfeiffer & Christopher Walken
The days of musicals being an acquired taste seem to be finished. The movie adaptation of the musical adaptation of John Waters’ kooky 1980s comedy appeared in theaters this summer and took the public by storm.
Based in 1960’s Baltimore, “Hairspray” follows a young, pleasantly plump teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad (played by Oscar-worthy newcomer Nikki Blonsky) as she auditions for her city’s local dance show.
Bouncing along with an upbeat soundtrack, the colorful cast of young and old Hollywood royalty take the audience on an over-the-top journey to movie-musical heaven.
Keeping true to the flamboyant aura of the stage show, “Hairspray” offers up big laughs and quite a few wonderful surprises (seeing John Travolta in drag for the first time will definitely drop your jaw into your lap). However, while director Adam Shankman keeps the beats pumping at high-speed, the film also touches on some serious topics.
As the rejected Tracy struggles (and eventually succeeds) to be accepted in a much slimmer world, her journey is juxtaposed with the state of racial segregation taking place at that point in time. Breaking down the boundaries between black and white, Tracy fights for racial mixing, though never without a song and dance.
There is not a more enjoyable picture this year and when the cast sings the show’s finale, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” it will be hard to wipe the smile off your face or to get the melodies out of your head.