Film Friday: ‘Wall-E’ & ‘Wanted’

by W. Andrew Powell


Pixar’s Wall•E

This week at a theatre near you, Pixar’s little robot buddy Wall•E aims for the heart in a new animated adventure. Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy star in the action thriller Wanted. Plus, two documentaries open, one examining the Antarctic in Encounters at the End of the World, and the other has Ben Stein dealing with God and science.

If there is such a thing as pedigree in the world of filmmaking, Wall•E must be a purebreed of the best possible lineage. How else can you describe a film that was written and directed by Academy Award-winner AndrewFinding NemoStanton, from one of the best animation studios of the last decade, Pixar, and was scored by the talented composer, Thomas Newman?

Pixar’s latest animated film stars one small trash-gathering robot, alone on earth for hundreds of years and looking for purpose when he meets the sleek search robot, EVE. Mankind has moved on to other parts of the universe after Earth became unlivable, but what they didn’t know was that Wall-E was still working away on the planet, and EVE needs to tell humanity about something big that he has discovered.

There is little doubt in my mind that with the release of Wall•E, Pixar will once again have the top film of the week, if not the entire year. It’s a smart, cute, and endlessly funny film that is getting praise from all corners. I think it also speaks a lot for the film that so many Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated artists are involved with the film.

Robert Wilonsky of the Village Voice went so far as to call it, “A film that’s both breathtakingly majestic and heartbreakingly intimate,” while Richard Roeper of the TV show Ebert & Roeper said it was, “One of the best movies of the year.”

Get some popcorn and drop your butt into a movie seat for what is essentially a surprise to me: an Angelina Jolie action film that is getting good reviews. Even better, it’s an action film that wasn’t made for teenagers.

With the original concept coming out of the pages of a graphic novel by Mark Millar, the film is an odd collaboration since it was directed by Russia’s Timur Bekmambetov, the man behind the Night Watch series.

Wanted stars James McAvoy as Wes, a nobody with a bad job and no sign of success on his horizon, who is invited to join a secret organization called the Fraternity based on his hidden skills. Their job is to hunt down bad guys and take them out before they do more harm, and it’s all judged by the hands of fate.

Jolie co-stars as Fox, the woman who brings Wes into the organization, the film is rated 18A for explicit violence, and is truly a supercharged blockbuster with end-to-end action sequences that will blow action junkies out of their seats. In his review, Michael Rechtshaffen of the Hollywood Reporter says, “This over-the-top, ultraviolent, hyperkinetic action thriller pretty much has it all.”

Also opening in select theatres…

Encounters at the End of the World
Taking a trip to the Antarctic research station, Werner Herzog tackles his latest level of extreme with a look at the people who work in one of the harshest environments on the planet for five months of the year. This documentary looks at the beautiful, but truly intense conditions facing the people at McMurdo Station, while also looking at why they do what they do in such an unwelcoming part of the earth.

With rave reviews from critics, Encounters is a must-see if you plan on skipping the Hollywood fare coming out this week.

“Granted, this documentary… could have used more editing,” said Rafer Guzman of Newsday. “But it’s the notebook of a genius, and well worth cracking open.”

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Finally, Ben Stein, who only really seems to be known for playing the droning teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, offers his own documentary that ponders the complexities of intelligent design. This concept is essentially a scientific way of explaining the existence of a higher power, and has apparently cost some scientists their jobs, as Stein’s film suggests.

Stein interviews scientists, travels the world, and looks for answers of a sort, but critics are quick to point out that the film is merely a shallow cover for an opportunity to browbeat an idea into viewer’s heads. Much like other recent documentaries, which merely present one side of a debate, Expelled is a hard sell and with a 7% approval rating from the top critics at Rotten Tomatoes, it’s the most unloved film coming out this week.

Opening on Wednesday, July 2…

Will Smith stars as the damaged, and accident-inducing superhero known as Hancock. Wild, sarcastic, and causing more destruction than he stops, he will have to get his act together if the city will finally accept him, and PR exec Ray, played by Jason Bateman, is just the man to help him change his ways. Review coming July 1.

Film Friday is a weekly syndicated column produced by The GATE for print and online about the latest new arrivals coming to cinemas, with reviews, or a look at the critical consensus on each movie.

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