Sunday, May 31, 2009

Up - ***1/2 (2009)

What a delightful, ambitious, sweet and good-natured undertaking this is! Pixar’s “Up,” the studio’s tenth feature-length endeavor and first to be filmed in 3D, opens on a note of human subtlety that goes beyond what we expect of a cartoon and grows into what may very well be the most touching human drama of the year. We are used to seeing many things from the minds of this high-functioning production company, ranging from charming shorts to brilliant fully-realized feature films, but as always you can never really know what is hidden in that big hat of tricks. Ten films later, and after great achievements like “Wall-E,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” we now realize that we are not simply dealing with animators but visionaries, who treat their craft with all the care and precision of a director straight out of Hollywood’s golden age.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Terminator: Salvation - *** (2009)

The ominous fashion in which “Terminator Salvation” begins its existence on screen does little to calm the nerves of franchise devotees worried about a film that is missing a quintessential action hero, but it does offer new challenges. Instead of being faced with bleak setups or recaps of prior finales, the movie instead opts to open in a jail cell in 2003, where a death row inmate (played by Sam Worthington) is visited by a mysterious figure known as Dr. Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter). She is there in a last-ditch attempt to get him to sign over the rights of his cadaver for scientific study, specifically for purposes of cancer research (as suggested by her ghostly, balding appearance). A little persuasion works in her favor, and mere hours before one Marcus Wright faces his lethal injection, the company which Dr. Kogan represents becomes the legal owner of what will remain of this prisoner. Flash forward 15 years: judgment day has happened, Earth’s surviving humans are in isolated pockets across the globe waiting to rise against the machines, and Marcus appears seemingly out of thin air, alive and breathing, with no memory of his whereabouts since that fateful day of his execution.