Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oh dear, there's a Joker in the pack

Right now you'd have to retreat into a bat cave to escape the buzz about "The Dark Knight," released Friday. Amid giddy talk about a $130 million opening weekend and a posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger, I'm a little worried about the film itself, despite the great reviews. I predict that the film will be beset by the same problem that has plagued every Bat flick apart from, perhaps, Christopher Nolan's previous entry in the series. I'm not talking about Batman being unable to turn his head in his immovable cowl. No, I'm referring to Batman being a supporting player in his own franchise. In these films, the main focus is always on the avant-garde villains and, inevitably, they outshine the hero. From what I'm hearing, Ledger does exactly that....

Monday, July 07, 2008

A publisher's best friend...

I picked up “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” at a book store the other day purely based on great reviews and, so far, I'm enthralled by the story even though I have no idea where it's going. (If possible, I try to avoid reading a book-jacket synopsis to retain the element of surprise.)

What I do know is that this tale, set on a farm in Wisconsin, focuses on the relationship between a mute boy and his faithful hound companion. What, with the success of “Marley and Me” and “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” I predict that books about canine best friends are bound to become the next trend in publishing. Hollywood won't lag too far behind. Already, a film adaptation of "Marley and Me," starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, is slated to open Christmas day.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

James Bond has returned

I became a James Bond fan at an early age (the second movie I ever recall seeing is "The Man with the Golden Gun," hardly an auspicious introduction to the world of 007) and had read all the Ian Fleming books by around age 13. I read one or two of the later Bond books by John Gardner, too, but ever since the late 1980s my fandom has centered around the cinematic Bond. So, when novelist Sebastian Faulks ("Charlotte Gray," "Birdsong") reactivated the secret agent's license to kill, I was curious to see how someone with literary pedigree might update the Boy's Own spy series. In any event, the newspaper's book editor tracked me down to write a review since, like everyone else in the office, she knows that I'm a Bond aficionado. So, here's my take on "Devil May Care."

And, while you're here, you can check out the trailer to the new Daniel Craig entry in the series, "Quantum of Solace." Tell me how it is, because, as with Indiana Jones IV, I'm avoiding all previews prior to opening night.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

E-motion picture

Yesterday, I was talking to some friends of mine about their children's reaction to "WALL*E." Both the 10-year-old and the 8-year-old rated it as PIXAR's worst, alongside "Cars." Truth is, though the titular character may have the cutest, most expressive eyes in cartoonery since Puss in Boots from "Shrek," this fable of post-apocalyptic horror isn't really a kids film at all. (Exit polling revealed that a good portion of the film's attendees were adults without children.) The film's halo of humanity is just bright enough to ward off the encroaching shadows of sadness and despair that lurk in the corners of every frame. As such it's PIXAR's greatest achievement, surpassing "Toy Story I & II," "Finding Nemo" and even the company's previous highwater mark, "The Incredibles." It is the best movie of the year and, evidently, I'm not the only person who feels that way.

"Wall*E," a movie that has virtually no speaking made me cry twice -- which seldom happens to me -- but it will inevitably be relegated to the animation category at The Oscars. "Cartoons" have, for decades, been deemed unworthy of Best Picture status. Even though live-action pictures are made in just a fraction of the time it takes to painstakingly create a work of animation. (Peter Gabriel and score composer Thomas Newman oughta score an Academy Award for "Down to Earth," the great song during the end credits.)

As Brad Bird, director of "The Incredibles" and "The Iron Giant" once noted: “People think of animation only doing things where people are dancing around and doing a lot of histrionics, but animation is not a genre. And people keep saying, “The animation genre.” It’s not a genre! A Western is a genre! Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre. You know, it can do a detective film, a cowboy film, a horror film, an R-rated film or a kids’ fairy tale. But it doesn’t do one thing. And, next time I hear, “What’s it like working in the animation genre?” I’m going to punch that person!”