Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Movie Double Play

Grade: B-

Pixar’s incredible animation team cranked out another movie worth seeing for both adults and children, but this one leans more toward the children than some of the studio’s top films.

The movie takes place in a world where cars are the living beings and revolves around racing superstar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), a me-first athlete who cares about little but himself and wishes to become an even bigger star. All that worries McQueen at the start of the movie is the Piston Cup, which is billed as the Super Bowl of this sport.

But on the way to the race, McQueen is lost by Mack, his truck (har har) and ends up in a small town on Rte 66, which used to be a bustling little neighborhood before the big highways were built.

There, McQueen manages to destroy a long strip of road down the main road and is sentenced to fix it before he can leave.

Along the way, he meets the town folk (folk doesn’t feel right there, though) including Mater, a tow truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, Sally, a Porsche voiced by Bonnie Hunt and Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), who is a Hudson Hornet with a coincidental past.

Anyway, Lightning makes friends, falls in love and learns some of life’s great lessons. The end.

There you go. There was nothing to hate about this movie. It may have been on the long side, but everything was just OK and Pixar has set the bar higher than that.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Grade: B+

I read Moriarty on Aint It Cool News compare this movie to Empire Strikes Back and I thought that was incredibly accurate.

There are a lot of similarities between the two movies. First, you could argue that the second movie is better than that first. Then, there’s the journey of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) that I won’t give up here, not to mention the ending, which is super-Empire-y.

Anyway, Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) returns and he owes an unpaid debt to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and his scary crew. The debt? His soul. Only Jack isn’t all that ready to give it up and hilarity follows.

Actually, this movie is an interesting combination of laugh-out-loud funny moments and some jump-straight-up startling moments. There are good fight/chase scenes that include laughs, exhilarating action and a touch of scariness.

Director Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first one, has no problems jumping from funny to scary and it works in this movie.

The story takes you all over the place and feels even longer than its 150 minutes at times. There is a lot going on and a lot that needs resolving, even if the end result doesn’t feel that resolved. In fact, the movie was shot back-to-back with the final installment of the trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and sets that one up perfectly.

As for some specifics, I really liked the effects done on Davy Jones and his crew. They look so real and you wonder where the man ends and the sea creature begins. The fight scenes are well done and you can see Depp having fun again in the character that got him an Oscar nomination the last time around.

Bloom and Keira Knightley, who plays his fiancĂ©, are both having a good time as well and it shows on the screen. I’m not sure this film is terrific, but it does entertain and is a great popcorn flick.

Definitely worth checking out to beat the heat for a few hours.

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