Archive for February, 2012

The Instant Critic goes swimming with Elmo: Reviews of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey and Oceans

Welcome back, fellow film enthusiasts!

In case you missed last week, a sleek adventure and a masterful documentary caught our attention.

This week, I have decided to take a look at another two documentaries currently featured on Netflix Instant.

BEING ELMO: A PUPPETEER’S JOURNEY (PG, 76 minutes – featuring Kevin Clash and narration by Whoopi Goldberg)

Who says that nice guys finish last?

This heartwarming documentary tells the story of Kevin Clash, the kindly, humble voice behind one of pop culture’s biggest icons.

Even as a young boy, Clash always had a dream. Educated to adore everything about puppeteering, the future star would create puppets out of simple supplies as a child. This love carried Clash far beyond anything he could ever imagine.

Interestingly enough, his rise to fame did not come through anything but pure service. Clash was discovered through his work with a children’s hospital.

If anything, Clash’s discovery sums up the documentary.

Kevin Clash deserves every accolade he has received. He deserves the doors that were opened for him. He deserves any sort of fandom or recognition.

Clash uses his gifts to help other people. Even with his worldwide fame through Elmo, Clash still makes time to meet with children and families in need – just like his days working at the children’s hospital.

The film itself takes viewers on quite a journey. Clash’s story inspired me in a way that I had not been in a good while. Seeing someone so genuine achieve their dreams through positive focus and goodwill is nothing short of captivating.

I wholeheartedly recommend giving this fantastic, fascinating documentary a try. The film is true inspiration in its purest form.

OCEANS (G, 84 minutes – featuring narration by Pierce Brosnan)

Rather bluntly, Oceans gives its primary focus away in the title.

The second film released in the cannon of the Disneynature series, Oceans offers an intriguing look into life below the surface.

Led by the soothing narration of James Bond himself, the documentary features stunning scenes of marine life. A few moments will leave your jaw firmly placed upon the floor.

Not every second can be called pure gold, but when the documentary hits its stride, you will be mesmerized by the spectacle.

A few moments in the film almost seem staged – a true testament to the quality of the footage.

One scene, a battle between two groups of crabs, really stands out.

At the end of the day, the documentary is a pleasant voyage into the depths of our planet’s oceans.

What say you? Have you seen either of these documentaries? Do you like movies focused on nature?

As always, the lines are open for a few requests. Let me know if there is a film you would like to see covered with next week’s post.

Until then, may your popcorn be fresh and your movies wonderful.

The Instant Critic


The Instant Critic steps into the Grid: Reviews of Tron: Legacy and The Pixar Story

Welcome back, fellow film enthusiasts!

In case you missed last week, I offered my two cents on two movies featuring horses.

By popular demand, this week’s post will take a look at a stellar adventure and an intriguing documentary!

TRON: LEGACY (PG, 125 minutes – featuring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde)

A sequel to the 1982 gem, Tron: Legacy excels as being a visual treat as well as a moving narrative.

The story takes place inside the Grid, a fictionalized computer world where Kevin Flynn (Bridges) has been trapped since the early 80s. His son, Sam (Hedlund), stumbles upon a portal that takes him into the Grid, igniting a series of events that will reunite father and son just in time for a battle of epic proportions.

Those looking for rip-roaring action have found their match. The film’s strongest moments come from the eye-popping visual effects. A certain light-cycle battle in an arena of thousands will leave you breathless.

The score, orchestrated by the techno duo Daft Punk, brings an added fury to the film.

Bridges channels his inner mellowness for Kevin Flynn, and Hedlund provides a strong, anchoring performance as Sam.

Tron: Legacy makes for a wonderful sequel, but the film also works extremely well as a standalone feature.

Now, let’s go from the Grid to Emeryville.

THE PIXAR STORY (G, 88 minutes – featuring interviews with John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and George Lucas)

There is not a film studio that comes close to rivaling Pixar.

Any film that bears the Pixar logo enchants our imaginations in ways that most studio fare cannot.  Over the years, audiences have been spoiled by the astronomical levels of quality a Pixar title brings to the table. Toy Story, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Monsters Inc. are just a few of the classics the studio has produced.

Care to see how this humble studio came to be?

A good documentary always tells a story that can rival the fictitious creation of a Hollywood screenwriter. A great documentary almost seems fictitious itself. I am happy to say that The Pixar Story falls into the latter category. This fascinating documentary gives viewers an engaging look into the storied past of the famous studio.

I do not want to spoil the surprises the documentary has to offer, but did you know the late Steve Jobs had an impact on the studio’s beginnings?

The Pixar Story is a success because the viewer will truly feel as if they have been granted an exclusive backstage pass into the world of Pixar.

What’s your take? Do you agree with my praise for Tron: Legacy?

How about The Pixar Story? Let me know in the comments section.

Next week, I’ll be taking a look at a pair of Oscar-nominated documentaries.

Until then, may your popcorn be fresh and your movies wonderful.

The Instant Critic

Watch the Mane Attraction: Reviews of Secretariat and High Noon

Welcome back, fellow film enthusiasts!

In case you missed last week, I offered insight on two of the finest films on Netflix.

This week, we’re headed to the stables to take a look at movies featuring everyone’s second favorite four-legged animal, the horse. By request, I’ll offer some thoughts on Disney’s Secretariat. Also, I’ll take a look at the Gary Cooper classic High Noon.

SECRETARIAT (PG, 123 minutes – featuring Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Fred Dalton Thompson)

When I think about Secretariat, I can’t help but remember the stunning horse-racing sequences. No matter the medium, a good horse race will always catch my attention. The filmmakers should be thankful for the fact that these scenes worked. When I say thankful, I mean thankful.

Without the horse racing, Secretariat amounts to nothing more than the typical melodrama found on the Hallmark Channel. I found some merit with the performances, but the film struggles early on to find its narrative footing. Is this truly a story worth telling? The last 45 minutes seem to indicate so. If you can stomach a little Disney-approved inspiration alongside a slightly overlong runtime, this film warrants a viewing.

Now, let’s look at a film where the horses serve as transportation instead of entertainment.

HIGH NOON (NR*, 84 minutes – featuring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges)

High Noon refuses to go down in history as anything else but a classic Western. Two-time Academy Award winner Gary Cooper, unarguably one of the greatest actors of all time, gives a demanding performance as Will Kane, a retiring Marshal who must garner courage to face an old enemy. Director Fred Zinnemann gives Cooper the perfect stage – a world where Kane, forsaken of all help, must solemnly walk alone into his possible doom. It’s a striking portrayal of true, unflinching grit in the face of evil.

Despite the high quality of the work, some viewers might be afraid to watch an entire film in black-and-white.

Please don’t let the cinematography turn you away. Titles like High Noon set out the blueprints for the films we love today. If you want to see where modern-day adventure and drama gained inspiration, watch the classics. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also fantastic films.

High Noon really is something special, largely in part to Cooper’s portrayal of a truly courageous individual. If you love a good Western, here’s your movie.

And if the theme song doesn’t get stuck in your head, I don’t know what will.

*I would equate this film to about a PG rating. There’s a little violence, but that’s about it.

So, what do you think?

Am I being too hard on Secretariat? Are you affected by black-and-white cinematography? Does it really matter to you? Let me know in the comments section.

For next week, I’ve offered a poll to see which genre I should focus on. Be sure to cast your vote!

As always, if you’d like to see a certain movie reviewed, let me know. I’ll feature it with next week’s post.

Until then, may your popcorn be fresh and your movies wonderful.

The Instant Critic

Hold the phone: The two must-watch movies currently on Netflix Instant.

If you have a Netflix subscription, I’m about to give you some of the best advice you’re likely to hear all day long.

Here are the two movies currently streaming on Netflix Instant that are, in my opinion, required viewing.

  • The Iron Giant (PG, 86 minutes – featuring the voices of Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Christopher McDonald and Vin Diesel)

For his first animated feature, Brad Bird (best known for his directorial work on The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and last December’s blockbuster sequel Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol)  helmed this whimsical-yet-poignant tale about a boy and his gigantic robot. I’ve always had a soft spot for the “boy and his dog” genre, but to me, The Iron Giant does it better than most. Before I get overly sentimental, not many films have impacted me the way The Iron Giant has. By providing a Cold War era small town backdrop, the film brilliantly infuses the time’s paranoia of the unknown with its tried-and-true plot-line in a way that naturally strikes your emotions. The Iron Giant captures childhood innocence and wonder to a degree of rare beauty.

  •  Toy Story 3* (G, 102 minutes – featuring the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen)

Another animated title? Say it ain’t so! Well, if you have any vague idea about the Toy Story series, you’ll know what I mean. I’ve talked extensively about this gem on various platforms over the past year and a half or so, so forgive me for keeping this brief. Toy Story 3 is a near-perfect film. It’s a film that has received critical acclaim in a way that not many titles have. It’s the perfect ending (?) to one of the best franchises of all time.

*The film was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2011. 

There are plenty of other fine films available on Instant that I’ll cover in later weeks, but for now, here are the two I can’t recommend enough.

So, what do you think? Have you seen either of these films?  Do you wish to agree or disagree? Leave a reply, and let’s get a discussion going.

Also, do you have a film that you would like to see reviewed that’s currently on Netflix Instant? Leave a comment and let me know. I’ll feature it with next week’s post.

Until then, may your popcorn be fresh and your movies wonderful.

The Instant Critic