Ratatouille – The Review

Pixar strikes gold yet again with this delightful, thoughtful, touching and meaningful movie with absolutely mind-boggling abundance of creativity in every second of the film. Ratatouille may be the first Pixar movie that is so advanced, so sophisticated, it doesn’t feel like it was made for kids. This film is so much more than a cartoon.

It has deep meanings of life and happiness. It’s all about fulfilling your dreams. About going beyond preconceived notions and boundaries. And at the end, it’s simply about following your heart and living life doing what you’re passionate about.

This movie takes the most vile, hated and disease ridden species of animals in the history of the world and then makes them cuddly, cute and adorable. That is just ingenious craziness! Adding to that, it is cleverly scripted, genuinely humorous and it touches your heart and reaches your soul effortlessly and almost instantly. It combines cartoon fun with the rich beauty and romance of Paris, the value of family and friends and most importantly the wonders of food.

Food is the heart and soul of the film. It deserves a special mention. Expertly created and executed scenes with the life and happenings in an restaurant kitchen (esp. a French one!) are just breath taking with extensive attention to detail. Be it the juicy, ripe lemons being squeezed and zested, fresh scallops being pan seared with white wine, baby corn and peppers being sautéed, leeks so real looking, the world renowned French omelete exquisite looking on that white plate, fresh herbs like dill, rosemary, oregano and basil, even to the extent of using dried garlic and leeks for the soup where just out of this world. I could almost smell and taste all of this while I was seeing the movie!

The grand finale of sorts, the last culinary creation in the film, the signature dish, the “Ratatouille” was magnificent. The colors from vegetables , The yellow from squash, green from zucchini, purple from eggplant, red from onions, white from potatoes,  the sauces, the garnishes, the copper bake dish it was made in, the way this colorful delight was served against the white plate(true French style) was an out of the world experience. A disrespected, disregarded mere-peasant dish has been given a new life in the world of gourmet.

The cherry on the top was Remy using a drop of water to wash his hands expertly like a real chef does and Peter O’ Toole as the food critic Anton Ego. Simply superb.  This film is highly seasoned, layered with complex flavors and has the perfectly needed sweetness at the finish. C’est magnifique!

The movie gets a 10 out of 10


Ratatouille – All about the food

Food deserves a special mention, an honorary one infact. Two dishes prominently featured in the movie are the “Confit Byaldi” and of course the “Ratatouille”.You can find their recipes here – Confit Byaldi; Ratatouille

“A challenge for the filmmakers was creating computer-generated food animations that would appear delicious. Gourmet chefs (in both the US and France) were consulted, and animators attended cooking classes at San Francisco-area culinary schools, to understand the workings of a commercial kitchen.
Sets/Layout Dept Manager Michael Warch, a culinary-academy trained professional chef prior to working at Pixar, helped teach and consult animators as they worked. He also prepared dishes used by the Art, Shade/Paint, Effects and Sets Modeling Departments. Celebrity chef Thomas Keller allowed producer Brad Lewis to intern in his French Laundry kitchen.For the film’s climax Keller designed a fancy layered version of the title dish for the rat characters to cook, which he called “confit biyaldi” in honor of the original Turkish name. While new programs gave an organic texture and movement to the food. Completing the illusion was music, dialogue, and abstract imagery that represent the characters’ mental sensations while appreciating food.The visual flavor metaphors were created by animator Michal Gagné.  To create a realistic looking compost pile, the Art Department photographed fifteen different kinds of produce, such as apples, berries, bananas, mushrooms, oranges, broccoli and lettuce, in the process of rotting.” *From Wikipedia 

Ratatouille – The Story

Rémy (Patton Oswalt) lives in a rat colony in the attic of a French country home with his brother Émile (Peter Sohn) and his father Django (Brian Dennehy). Unlike his kin, Rémy is a gourmet whose keen sense of smell is used by the colony only to detect rat poison in food. But Rémy yearns for more, sneaking into the kitchen to read the cookbook of his hero, Parisian chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), who appears to Rémy in visions throughout the film to expound on his motto that “anyone can cook.” Rémy learns that Gusteau died after a harsh review from mean-spirited food critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole).

The rats flee the house when the resident, an old woman, discovers the colony. Rémy, separated from the others, floats in the storm drains to Paris on Gusteau’s cookbook, following the chef’s image to his namesake restaurant, now run by former sous-chef Skinner (Ian Holm). As Rémy watches from a kitchen skylight, Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano), a young man with no culinary talent, arrives and is hired on at the request of his recently deceased mother to do janitorial duties. The boy, unknown to all but his mother, is in fact Gusteau’s son. Linguini spills a pot of soup and attempts to cover up his mistake by adding nearby random ingredients. Horrified by Linguini’s actions, Rémy falls into the kitchen and though desperately trying to escape, cannot help but stop and attempt to fix the ruined soup. Rémy is caught in the act by Linguini, who himself is caught by Skinner as he captures the rat, but not before some of the soup has been served. To everyone’s surprise the soup is a success. The kitchen’s sole woman cook, Colette (Janeane Garofalo), convinces Skinner not to fire Linguini provided he can recreate the soup. And thus begins an alliance, uneasy at first, by which Rémy secretly directs Linguini. The two perfect a marionette-like arrangement by which Rémy tugs at Linguini’s hair to control his movements and stays hidden under Linguini’s toque blanche.

Skinner discovers that Linguini is Gusteau’s son, which he hides to prevent Linguini from inheriting the restaurant, which would thwart his ambitions of exploiting Gusteau’s image to market prepared frozen dinners. Suspicious of Linguini, Skinner plies him with fine wine in an unsuccessful attempt to discover the secret of his unexpected talents. The next morning, hung over and disheveled, Linguini nearly confides his secret to Colette. Desperately trying to stop Linguini, Rémy pulls his hair, making him fall on Colette, leading the two to kiss. They begin dating, leaving Rémy feeling abandoned.

One night Rémy and his colony are reunited. Rémy argues with Emile and his father over his new career as a secret chef. In the process of scrounging food for the clan Rémy discovers Gusteau’s will which, after a chase by Skinner, he presents to Linguini. Linguini now owns the restaurant, fires Skinner, and becomes a rising star in the culinary world, attracting renewed interest from Anton Ego, who had written off the restaurant for dead. Linguini and Rémy have a falling out, Linguini deciding he no longer needs Rémy, and Rémy retaliating to the snub by leading a kitchen raid for his rat colony.

Things come to a head the night of a planned review by Ego. Linguini, unable to cook without the rat’s guidance, admits his ruse to the staff when Remy shows up, leading them all to walk out. Colette returns after thinking through Gusteau’s motto. Django, inspired by his son’s courage, returns with the entire rat colony to cook under Rémy’s direction, while Linguini, discovering his true talent, waits tables on roller skates. Colette helps Rémy prepare ratatouille, a dish so good that, in the climax of the film, a bite of the dish leads Ego to relive childhood memories of his mother serving him the dish as comfort food. Ego asks to meet the chef, but Colette tells him he must wait until the rest of the diners have left. At the end of the service, Rémy and the rats are revealed. A changed man, Ego writes a glowing review, declaring that the chef at Gusteau’s is the greatest chef in all of France.

In the denouement the restaurant is closed by a health inspector, who finds the rats after being tipped off by Skinner. Ego loses his credibility and job when the public discovers he has praised a rat-infested restaurant. Everything is for the best, however. With Ego as investor and regular patron, Linguini, Colette, and Rémy open a successful new bistro called “La Ratatouille,” which includes a kitchen and dining facilities for both rats and humans.

‘Sivaji’ and more….

I am a big fan of Rajinikanth and Kamalhassan and never miss(or have missed) any movie of theirs. A lot of people don’t get how I can say that, How I can love them both! It usually is one or the other for most of them but not for me.

I love Kamal’s progressionist thinking, novel ideas and simply, his passion for cinema, not just indian but world cinema. This passion clearly reflects in his work. His comic timing and unlimited multi faceted talent is simply mind boggling. Truly a genius considering how a despite being a 7th grade drop-out he has a natural flair for all languages all art and literature.

Rajini on the other hand is talent with atmost humility. His screen presence, style and charm is simply unmatchable by ANY actor yet. All he has to do is appear on screen and it creates a vibe and connection with the audience. That is no simple task. Not everyone has that kind of presence. Despite his so called ‘average’ looks, scrubby hair, dark skin and lanky body he has the ability to create a fan base in the millions and captive audience to see him in the billions all over the world. That is not any simple task either.

The movie Sivaji totally proves this. The movie has nothing else worthwhile noting but Rajini and Rajini all through. Thottatharani the Art director proves yet again he is the master in his class with his flawless work. Shankar brought a bit of stereotype in his story telling. But it can also be argued as ‘his style’.

Music was totally lackluster with the worst kind of movie background score I have ever heard. I was more disappointed because it was AR Rahman and he ususally gives much better stuff that this. This movie is far below his quality and genius. I wouldn’t even dare comapre this to his usually high class quality like Roja and even his recent Jilliunu Oru Kaadhal. Usually it takes around 15 to 20 listens to start getting/feeling ARR’s music but 50 listens did nothing for me but irritate me more. With the bad immitation of rap and hip hop in ‘Oru koodai sunlight’ and absolutely logicless choice of Udit Narayn for a melody ‘Sahana’ , added to the irritation. The first song of the any Rajini movie, his introduction song usually packs a powerful punch and gives you goose bumps with SPB’s voice and inspiring lyrics perfectly adding to the song. This is the first movie where this song did NOTHING for me. Totally non descript and uninspiring’Balleilakka’. Even SPB’s voice couldn’t come to the rescue. Usually even a bad song sung by SPB can sound better solely attributed by his absolute emotion and purity in his voice. But this one was too far beyond help. ‘Vaaji Vaaji’ is another circus on its own, with madhushree killing and butchering words as usual and a barely memorable interlude music.  The few other songs are not really worth reviewing.

The other actors worth noting are Vivek the comedian/Hero’s side at all times and Suman the Villain. Both are fantastic. Shreya the heroine simply serves as the token, ‘for the sake of balance’ female in the movie. She is totally dispensable from the whole movie. Ofcourse if that happened, there would be zero drooling and oggling, which totally doesn’t work with Indian cinema.

Overall rating for the movie:

Logic – 0
Story idea – 6
Shankar/direction – 6
Thottatharani/Art- 10
Sujatha/Dialog – 8
KV Anand /Cinematography – 9
AR Rahman/music – 2

Rajini – 10
Vivek -10
Suman -10
Shreya – 4 ( a token rating for the token woman who has danced her ass/hips/belly button off for the sake of drool factor)

If this movie has created such records and hit the roof in popularity despite the bad music (usually very essential for a successful movie) and stereotypical logicless story, yes, Shankar’s , AR Rahman’s , AVM’s brand name definitely  had something to do with it, But its mostly all because of and only because of the master of style and charm – Rajini. That’s how much power he has and thats the screen presence I was talking about.

Music and Lyrics

The king of romantic comedies strikes again!

Okay, by now you know that I love Hugh grant movies! So needless to say, I loved this movie too. The thing I love about him is that he doesn’t try too hard to fit in. He found his niche with romantic comedies and comedic light hearted movies in general and he’s sticking to it despite the criticism that he doesn’t do any serious “acting” roles. He says “I know this is what I’m good at, I found the one thing I fit in and its making me money and fame, why would I want to change it?”. How great is that philosophy? And its been working for him for over 15 years now !

In this movie, he plays the character of Alex Fletcher, a washed-up 1980’s pop star who once belonged to a group called “PoP”. Their super hit song was ‘Pop Goes My Heart’. He is now reduced to playing state fairs and high school reunion dances with a standard list of 3 songs from their once hit album. What’s worse is, his fame is burning out. As a last opportunity, Fletcher is given the chance to write and record a duet with pop diva Cora Corman( a take on young stars these days like Shakira and Lindsay Lohan). He just needs to produce a hit song by the end of the week, and Cora needs to approve. Enter Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher, the quirky plant lady who has a flair for words. Fletcher convinces a reluctant Fisher to collaborate on the song together. And then you can guess what happens….

This movie is yet another romantic comedy under his belt, but his comedic timing is refreshing every time I see it. Its deft and witty. No matter how empty-headed or fluffy the script or the story is, Hugh Grant manages to charm his way through and uplift the movie from its mediocrity with his charming and charismatic persona. Oh and Who knew Hugh Grant could sing? He has sung all the songs in this “music” based story and he’s surprisingly good !

The video of his 80’s hit “Pop goes my heart” is a fantastic mock and perfectly captures the classic music videos of the 1980’s. It’s use of checkerboard backgrounds, cheesy transitions, split-screens and horrible musical scene reenactments is the highlight of the film!

Grant is well versed at charm, and Barrymore is comfortable as the quirky girl next door. However, the chemistry is severely lacking between the two making their romance a bit random and obligatory almost! This should normally be the death of a romantic comedy, but somehow it isn’t!! There are other things in the movie that make you overlook this flaw. Newcomer Haley Bennett as Cora Coleman has perfectly captured the current state of sex symbolism in pop music

Overall, the movie is a charmer and a delight despite its few flaws. Everyone wants to indulge in some unreal, sappy, ideal moment once in a while , at least I do, and this movie does exactly that.

I rate it 7 out of 10.

Napolean Dynamite

I am a big fan of dry, wry, obscure humor and this movie is the holy grail of all such comedies.

Jon Heder simply rocks as Napoleon, an awkward teenager with an insatiable love for martial arts (which he sucks at), drawing portraits and non-existent animals (which he sucks at) and dance(which he’s awkwardly but hilariously good at). But it’s ok that he sucks – that’s the point. Heder with his huge glasses and red hair, is so perfect for this role and totally justifies it. He’s my rock star ! Heder delivers his dialogue with such passion and timing that a word like “Gosh!” will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. He’s so desperate for attention and so full of crap that you actually find him endearing. He  captivates and captures the geek inside every one of us.

Adding to this insanity is Aaron Ruell as ‘Kip,’ Napoleon’s 31-year-old internet-chatting brother, the understated Efren Ramirez as ‘Pedro,’ Napoleon’s Mexican best friend, and the cute Tina Majorino as Deb, the love interest. Pedro and Napolean as BFF’s(best friends forever) have just made history with their absolutely hilarious chemistry and comedic timing.

Napoleon is a unique character in that he has almost no fear. Be it chucking oranges at his Uncle’s truck, standing up to the school bullies or dancing(awkwardly ofcourse!) his heart out for a friend in front of the entire school, he gives it all without any hesitation or embarrassment. That takes guts.

This movie is so relatable that we feel like we’ve been there ourselves. We’ve all felt like outcasts or geeks at one time or another, and now we have a hero. Under the guise of some of the dumbest and wackiest humor ever , this movie definitely has the potential for a classic in my opinion! This movie has now gone into my list of all time favorite classics.

It’s one of those movies that you watch over and over until you begin quoting the lines to your friends, downloading pictures off the internet, wathcing clips on youtube and reminiscing about your favorite memorable scenes.

I rate this movie a perfect 10 out of 10.

Charlotte’s Web

The current popular trend is to remake almost all mega popular books into movies, thanks to Harry Potter, Wizard of OZ, Dr.Seuss, Polar Express and the list goes on……

Charlotte’s Web is another such movie made from the children’s book authored by E.B White, first published in 1952. It tells the story of a barn spider named Charlotte and her friendship with a pig named Wilbur. It is wildly popular book and has been successful for almost 50 years now.

They should’ve left this book alone.Totally doesn’t work as a movie. This part animation/part motion film has a problem of total miscast whether it comes to animation voices or the actors in the movie. The main character, Charlotte the Spider is more creepy and strange than wise and sweet(as intended originally in the book). Very overrated animation voices with big names like Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates, Robert Redford, Thomas Hayden church (total waste of his talent I think!). They really don’t add value or bring anything special to the movie. This movie completely depends on the celebrity value of the voices, but sadly, apart from popularity in Hollywood you also need good talent to make a hit.

I rate this movie 2 out of 10.