Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Demko's DVD shelf: The wonder of "Wall-E" and the future of Pixar

Actually, the coolest news I could find out there this morning is that Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who crafted the simply splendid Harvey Pekar bio "American Splendor," are now about to give the same treatment to Sam Kinison for HBO.

The duo are adapting the Kinison bio "Brother Sam" for Tom Shadyac (who, yes, has "Patch Adams" on his resume) to direct and Dan Folger (star of "Balls of Fury") to play Kinison. Folger can be a pretty annoying presence on screen, but, frankly, so could Kinison, and having seen Folger in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" I can attest he can be a genuinely funny guy, so keep your eyes on this one.

But here today, however, it's about this week's DVDs and - more specifically - the wonder of "Wall-E." Looking back on my mid-year movie report, I had "Wall-E" fifth out of 10, not exactly a stellar rating giving that "Ratatouille" was my single favorite movie of all of 2007. I stand by that, but I will concede that, just as froggy director Guillaume Canet's "Tell No One" has delivered the best closing 30 minutes or so of this year with its amazing reveal, the first third of "Wall-E" is easily the best beginning to any movie of this year.

Watching our hero go through his daily routine and seeing robo-love slowly unfold with the tempestuous Eve (or, as he says, Ev-a) was without exaggeration magical. Here's what I had to say in my original review:

As corny as this certainly sounds, if you've seen Pixar's "Wall-E" (and if you haven't, why the heck not?), can you think of any movie in any genre for the last 20 years or so that had more to say about the power of love?

Well, robot love, of course, but the story of Wall-E and Eve still just grabs you faster and keeps you fully attached longer than almost any love story that I can think of (some might mention "The Notebook," but for simple entertainment value and much more, "Wall-E" just blows that away.)

It does lose a bit of steam as the movie slowly gets more and more conventional, but Andrew Stanton has still crafted a real charmer worth picking up on DVD. And more on Pixar coming in just a bit, but first two more DVD picks this week.

"Tropic Thunder"

When it comes to comedy, I have a broad range of likes, from the sweet (Woody Allen's "Vicky Christina Barcelona" and Peter Sollett's "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" have lasted as two of my favorites from this year) to the truly crude.

In the latter category, there have been two truly tasteless moments in 2008 that I have to admit just made me howl. One is the anal sex joke that comes near the end of Kevin Smith's mostly satisfying "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (which you won't hear any more about here since this is still linked from a family-friendly newspaper) and the other is Robert Downey Jr.'s "full retard" speech in "Tropic Thunder."

I just assumed that, given how much he appeared in the trailer, the best of his jokes as the black-faced method actor Kirk Lazarus were revealed there, but for once I was wrong. It's worth at least renting "Tropic Thunder," especially if you haven't seen it, for his retard speech alone, but there's also plenty of more crude capers (and more than a bit too much Jack Black), plus the rather funny mockumentary "Rain of Madness" to boot.

"Monty Python Holy Trinity"

I'm ashamed to say I own only one of these movies, "Monty Python's Life of Brian," on DVD. That one has just always had a special place in my heart, I think because amazingly enough I first watched it at a meeting of our Episcopal church youth group. Blasphemy, but not really all that harmful, methinks.

This week, for the rather reasonable price of $29.99 at Amazon, you get that flick packaged with the classics "Monty Python's Meaning of Life" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" with extras in a six-disc set. Not sure I can spring for it now - with Christmas coming up and all - but I have a feeling I will at some point in the fairly near future.

More on Pixar, present and future

I'll close today with a couple of clips. The first is "Burn-E," the Pixar short you'll get if you spring for "Wall-E" on DVD. It uses a lot of "Wall-E" in sharing the exploits of the welding robot, but the moment when he hangs his head in shame is just pretty cool.

Second comes the second trailer for Pixar's next flick, "Up," which rather ominously uses the first minute or so to simply extol the virtues of Pixar flicks past. Once it gets going we do get see our septuagenarian super hero (voiced by Ed Asner) and his flying house (ring any bells? I know there aren't that many original thoughts left at this point, but it would seem this steals rather directly and recently from Hayao Miyazaki!) Anyways, enjoy the trailer, and have a perfectly pleasant Tuesday.