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Barnyard (2006)
47 out of 95 people found the following review useful:
"Barnyard" smells every bit as good as it looks, 6 August 2006

There's no getting around it: "Barnyard" is the worst animated feature I've seen in years, and one of the worst movies I've endured during summer '06. 3-D, 2-D, no-D...the tools are irrelevant. It doesn't matter whether you're pushing pixels or pencils: if the story isn't there, all the synergistic cross-platform push in the world won't overcome archaic, low-tech, person-to-person word of mouth. In the case of "Barnyard," Paramount and Nickelodeon don't even have much of a "product," much less a movie. It didn't appeal to the little ones in our party, and left several of the adults in various stages of slack-jawed stupefaction.

The much-discussed cross-gender, udder-enhanced bulls only hint at the parade of dubious marvels to be found within this marketing opportunity. (Again, "Barnyard" may be many things to many stockholders...but it's *not* a movie.) Its demerits have been detailed by so many critics, reviewers and movie sites that they hardly need to be repeated here.

We saw "Barnyard" at a drive-in theater, so if there was something in the film's multichannel audio mix that would somehow enhance its qualities beyond belief, we missed it. However, the coup de grace to "Barnyard" was unwittingly delivered by the exhibitor, who ran an old Tex Avery cartoon ("Doggone Tired") prior to the show. There was more comedy, better artwork (the design and poses of the dog alone drew laughs) and more emotional honesty in this six or seven minute cartoon than in all of "Barnyard." My 6-year old niece and her 4-year old brother kept recounting the best moments of this "ancient" short all the way home. When I interrupted to ask my niece what she thought of "Barnyard," she paused a moment and said, "Well...I'm sorry, but...I didn't think it was really too good" - then proceeded to chatter on about the Avery cartoon.

When children find that a nearly 60-year old cartoon short (in a faded, deteriorating print to boot) is more entertaining and memorable than the 2-hour animated feature it precedes, it can only mean one thing: Time for the suits at Nickelodeon to call more meetings, do more "market research," and tell the "creatives" to come up with storyboards for "Barnyard II: The Original Party Animals Meet The Fairly Odd Parents!" (No doubt followed by another "brand-extension" classic-in-progress: "Barnyard III: The Original Party Animals Moo-ve into Outer Space With Jimmy Neutron!")

Cars (2006)
Better than I'd been led to believe, 30 July 2006

The critical knives were unsheathed for this one ("Has Pixar Lost Its Touch?" being a common plaint), but on a clearer day "Cars" seems to be a very good film. True, the humor tends to generate quiet smiles rather than peals of laughter, and the overall pace and style tends to be extremely laid-back (with the obvious exception of the car racing).

The animation reaches new heights of technical excellence. There are several sections where the line between computer-generated imagery and reality has been erased completely. Whether or not one agrees with the aesthetic goal of pursuing such photographic realism, it represents an enormous achievement - and sets the Pixar studio leagues ahead from the rubbery-looking "3-D" characters currently glutting multiplex screens ("Over the Hedge," "Monster House," the upcoming "Barnyard"...write in your own candidate).

For me, Paul Newman's voice work was a minor revelation. He can still sound astonishingly young and vital, then turn around and deliver lines with the age-worn weariness of his octogenarian self. The man remains a terrific actor.

"Cars" doesn't achieve the near-perfect blend of story and style that marked "The Incredibles," but its merits are far from negligible.

(For what it's worth, this is the only summer '06 movie my 12-year old daughter asked to see twice.)

Scoop (2006)
186 out of 234 people found the following review useful:
The critics didn't get the "Scoop" on this one, 30 July 2006

Reading a wide variety of "Scoop" reviews over the past few days, I walked into the theater prepared for a subpar outing from Woody. Happily, I couldn't have been more wrong. Granted, Woody the performer is slowing down a touch or two, but Woody the writer/director is in fine form - and found a credible way to integrate his 70-year old self into the story. Judging from the laughter and guffaws, the audience ate up Allen's one-liners and dialogue in a way that I haven't seen in several years.

In a movie landscape dominated by software-approved story arcs, twentysomething tastes and assembly-line formula fare for kiddies, it's a source of both satisfaction and inspiration to see Allen pursuing his highly personal and still-rewarding path.

38 out of 54 people found the following review useful:
Great talent - but too individual for today's film audience?, 14 November 2004

The work of highly individual artists often prompts extreme

reactions in moviegoers. Based on the evidence of "Moonstruck"

and the woefully underrated "Joe Versus the Volcano," writer/director John Patrick Shanley could have developed into a

vital film figure on the level of a Frank Capra or Woody Allen, a

creator whose personal voice would have given him a distinctive

identity - potentially his artistic and commercial strength (or


"Joe Versus the Volcano" has its occasional shortcomings, but its

sheer conceptual audacity set it apart from the film fare of its day.

Now, nearly a decade and a half after its premiere, the quality of

the dialogue alone reminds us how far our THX-ed out, Dolbyed-out, effects-obsessed movie "culture" has fallen.

The plot combines fantasy and satire in equal proportions. Joe

(Tom Hanks), a seemingly passive man who's worked at a

dreadful, abusive, dead-end job for years is told he has an

incurable disease (authoritatively diagnosed by physician Robert

Stack as a "brain cloud.") Joe quits his job and receives an offer

the next morning to go on an all-expenses paid journey to a tiny

island...that will culminate with his leap into a volcano!

Meg Ryan portrays three separate characters, and her glee in

masking her "All-American Sweetheart" screen persona is

palpable, particularly in the first segment. Even the occasional

gambits that fall slightly flat (for instance, Abe Vigoda's turn as a

leader of island natives obsessed with orange soda) cannot

seriously mar the overall brilliance of Shanley's work.

As it turned out, the box-office failure of "Volcano" didn't deter

Hanks and Ryan from reteaming for the enormously popular but

comparatively colorless "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got

Mail." (It's probably no accident that these were far safer

commercial bets than "Joe," both owing large debts to earlier


On the other hand, John Patrick Stanley has returned to crafting

plays for live theater, apparently for good; one hopes his finely

tuned ear and immense imagination will flourish in an environment that's largely removed from the demographic

panderings of Wal-Mart Nation. His gain is our loss.

Earlier, I mentioned Frank Capra as a semi-analogue to Shanley.

Perhaps this comparison may help: If you are one of the many who

can't abide Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," you probably should

stay away from "Joe Versus the Volcano" as though you had the

plague...or even a "brain cloud."