DVD Tuesday: ‘Wall•E’ & ‘Tropic Thunder’

by W. Andrew Powell


Pixar’s Wall•E

Follow the fun-loving Wall•E on a trip through space as he follows his hearts desire, meets up with humanity, and tries to bring them back home. Also out this week, Ben Stiller directs and stars in the war drama spoof, Tropic Thunder, about a group of super stars lost in the jungle during the filming of… an epic war drama.

Wall•E (DVD & Blu-ray)
If there is such a thing as pedigree in the world of filmmaking, Wall•E would 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, that 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 unliveable, 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.

As with nearly all of their previous films, except for perhaps Cars, Pixar has a gift for delivering the miraculous, and the beautiful, with a moving and intelligent story. It has the unmistakable smart script you can almost always associate with a Pixar release, which doesn’t talk down to audiences in the least – true a rarity among animated movies.

The only real issue I had with Wall•E was the overly spoon-fed environmental message, that while important, feels like it gets milked a little thoroughly. Especially near the end. Pixar does handle the concept deftly, but I would have liked to see the message served up with a bit more style.

It’s also interesting to note that very little of that environmental message seems to have made it into Disney’s marketing department, since the packaging on the DVD and Blu-ray are anything but environmentally friendly. There are lots of fun features though, especially aimed at the kids, and it’s hard to imagine a more striking film on Blu-ray.

Tropic Thunder
Gunfire explodes across the field and a man is cut down by enemy fire as his comrades watch in horror from their helicopter. Is this the latest drama about the horrors of war? Well, only if Ben Stiller has suddenly given up on comedy.

Stiller stars alongside Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. as a trio of pompous actors filming a war movie in Asia. Realistic, and yet undeniably funny bloodshed breaks out when the bumbling director, played by Steve Coogan, decides to set his cast loose in the jungle where the production gets carried away by drug smugglers.

Featuring a who’s-who of celebrity cameos, including Matthew McConaughey, Tobey Maguire, and Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder is practically one big Hollywood in-joke. The film even begins with fake trailers featuring the film’s “stars.”

Perhaps surprisingly, considering how these spoof movies usually bomb, Tropic Thunder is a frequently laugh-out-loud comedy that doesn’t blunder through what might have been very lame jokes. Stiller and Cruise have some of the best moments in the film, but none quite so entertaining as Downey’s portrayal of an award-winning actor who is so into his role that he dyes his skin to play an African American sergeant.

The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2
Sporting one of the clunkiest titles ever, SOTP 2 reunites fans with the four young women who first shared their jeans three years ago. All four original stars return, including America Ferrara, Rachel Nichols, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn, and in the sequel they’re heading off to college, but they’re also starting to drift apart.

With the jeans only in tow for some of the film, the focus is on how these women are growing up, and how the issues of adulthood are beginning to affect them.

And while the story is sweet and ready to tug at your heartstrings, it is the cast that is getting the praise for making the audience really care. “Despite the flaws, the movie is reasonably pleasant most of the time,” said Randy Cordova of the Arizona Republic. “Some of that is leftover goodwill from the first film, but it is also a tribute to the four starring actresses.”

Television arriving on DVD…

Pick up the completely remastered edition of the original Star Trek, season three; season one of The Border; the third season of Bones; and the complete fourth series of Doctor Who, which featured David Tennant as the Doctor, and Catherine Tate as his companion.

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