Entertainment behind the scenes
In Pixar’s 2007 movie “Ratatouille,” a food critic played by Peter O’Toole offers a glowing review of a restaurant run by a rat, in a poignant scene at the climax of the film. O’Toole’s dramatic speech begins with the words, “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy,” before going on to say that his true job is the “defense of the new.” When it comes to Disney/Pixar’s latest animated release “Up,” Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times is on a similar wavelength. “Some films are an obligation to write about, ‘Up’ is the purest pleasure,” he reports.
Nearly all of Turan’s fellow critics agree about “Up,” which opens on Friday floating on a wave of box office success for other family-oriented films. The movie is about an old man and a boy who set off in a house carried skyward by 20,622 helium balloons. The aggregating Web site rottentomatoes.com reports that as of Thursday afternoon, 97 percent of critics have given the movie a favorable rating. Rotten Tomatoes has stamped all 10 Pixar films with its “Certified Fresh” seal of approval, going back to the 1995 “Toy Story.”
Turan in his review said that “Up” is noteworthy for starring an old man, voiced by Ed Asner, who appears genuinely old, instead of having the physicality of a young man. ”This is a film that is heartfelt enough to restore your faith in whatever needs restoration,” Turan wrote.
David Edelstein of New York Magazine remarked on the computer-generated imagery (CGI) of the film. “The look of ‘Up’ is a world away from Pixar’s usual CGI intricacies – simple in a way that only artists with a genius for complexity can achieve.”
A movie about the Los Angeles Times just got a big thumbs-down from the Los Angeles Times.
“The Soloist,” the fact-based saga of an unlikely friendship between one of the paper’s columnists and a troubled street musician, is “trite and contrived,” according to critic Kenneth Turan.
“I can’t help being mightily frustrated by ‘The Soloist,’” Turan added in his review published on Thursday, the day before the feel-good drama was scheduled to open across the United States and Canada.
“I can’t help resenting that it suffered the death of a thousand cuts and, more frustrating still, that all this happened in the name of doing good in the world, of making the story’s powerful lessons more palatable to a wider audience.”
Robert Downey, Jr. plays Turan’s colleague, Steve Lopez, a columnist who dedicates himself to improving the life of a paranoid schizophrenic cellist played by Jamie Foxx.
Turan was troubled that the film’s British director Joe Wright (“Atonement”) and Oscar-winning writer Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”) overplayed the story, “settling for standard easy emotions when singular and heartfelt was called for.”
Other reviews were generally mixed. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said the film “has all the elements of an uplifting drama, except for the uplift.” But Peter Travers at Rolling Stone said Downey and Foxx delivered “two of the year’s best performances.”
The $40 million-plus film was originally supposed to come out late last year with grand award-season hopes. But Paramount hastily pulled the DreamWorks production from the release schedule. Its new slot is something of a dead zone, coming a week before “Wolverine” kicks off the lucrative summer moviegoing season.
Box office prospects for “The Soloist” are unclear. The Hollywood Reporter said a three-day haul in the teen millions was “certainly doable but not quite guaranteed.” Prognosticators believe the weekend’s top slot will go to another new release, “Obsessed,” a thriller starring R&B singer Beyonce Knowles.