June 30th, 2007

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

""Ratatouille" is the Best Animated Feature of the Year

On paper, "Ratatouille" was not an inspiring pitch. The previews revealed the story of a rat who runs a French bistro. This premise did not distinguish itself from other animal movies created by cgi computer technology. Yet given track record of "Toy Story" and "Monster's Inc," one must remember that Pixar Studios is the conscience of family entertainment for Walt Disney Studios. Instead "Ratatouille" has become the front runner for best animated feature of 2007.

The prologue reveals that Gusteau (voiced by Brad Garrett) was a prominent Parisian chef who was destroyed by an elitist food critic Anton Ego (Peter O' Toole). Gusteau's philosophy is that “Anybody can cook.” As he watches Gusteau's cooking show, Remy the Rat (Patton Oswalt) takes these words to heart and develops an appreciation for fine cuisine. After becoming separated from his family, Remy ventures to Paris and aids Linguini (Lou Romano), a misfit who works in the Gusteau Restaurant as a garbage boy.

Remy and Linguini profit from their symbiotic relationship and, after much conflict, learn to live happily ever. While the film is pure family entertainment, one can see a self conscious subtext to "Ratatouille," most notably between Pixar and the departed Disney boss Michael Eisner. While not physical, there is a strong resemblance between Skinner and Eisner, both exploit a reputable name (Disney = Gusteau) to reap a quick dollar over long term profits. Those not seeking such subtext, can kick back and enjoy the positive entertainment values of "Ratatouille," which is supplemented by Michael Giacchino's musical score.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Live Free or Die Hard" is firecracker fun !

For the first time in seven years, the 4th of July week at the movies feels like pure fun. Bruce Willis as John McClain in "Live Free or Die Hard" and the release for Disney/Pixar studios "Ratatouille" have proven to be a welcome return for ticket buyers. "Ratatouille" and "Live Free or Die Hard" are a good one/two ticket purchase for the nuclear family. Fathers can drop their kids off at "Ratatouille" as they listen to John McClain make politically incorrect, but truthful, commentary about the bad guys.

Like "Rocky Balboa," John McClain is a simple man living in complicated times. Since we last saw him in 1995 with "Die Hard with a Vengeance," McClain is nearing retirement who is divorced with two adult children. His daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) prefers to use her mother's last name and is a graduate student at Rutgers University. While visiting his daughter in New Jersey, this New York cop is asked to pick up Matt Farrell (Justin Long) and escort him to Washington D.C. as a professional courtesy to the FBI.

McClain walks into a hornet's nest of domestic terror engineered by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a disgruntled former federal employee. Taking a page from the Osama Bin Laden School of Terrorism, Gabriel takes the security flaws and uses it to his full advantage. Harboring the collective fears of Hurricane Katrina, Gabriel unleashes mass phobia mixed with local annoyances of power outages and unreliable television coverage.

For all of the pseudo intellectual posturing of the "Die Hard" bad guys, the motives of the master villains are quite bland. John McClain seems to understand this and deflates the ego of the master villain, much to the delight of the audience. Much like the original "Die Hard," the action sequences contain surprises based on collateral damage and the laws of physics. Fox marketing has not revealed the best set pieces in their advertising campaign and they need to be commended for keeping the secret of the surprise.

Given the headlines of terrorism in Great Britain, a fictional depiction of one man defeating a terrorist cell could feel false. Yet the message is as relevant of when our founding fathers warned us that "Vigilance is the Price of Freedom."