Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

When computer hacker Matt Farrell, played by Justin Long, finishes a program amidst competition from his fellow hackers, he unknowingly helps his employer, Mai Linh (played my Maggie Q), and her boss, Thomas Gabriel (played by Timothy Olyphant), begin a takeover of the U.S. Government’s computer networks. When traffic signals are altered to cause mass pile-ups on the road, and entire areas of the country are left without power, a move no doubt inspired by the real life blackout the United States suffered in 2003, the government attempts to round up all the known hackers they can find for questioning. McClane is asked to bring in Farrell and is assured the task won’t be a big deal.

Always in the wrong place at the wrong time, McClane goes to find Farrell and he and Farrell are attacked by Gabriel’s henchmen who proceed to blow up Farrell’s apartment. McClane brings Farrell in for questioning by the FBI only to find out that seven other top hackers have all been killed by similar explosions. Farrell later admits to knowing who the other hackers were, stating that they were his competition while working on the program for Linh. Farrell informs McClane the hackers are attempting a three-stage “fire sale” on the U.S. computer networks. “Everything must go,’ he says and by everything, he means the transportation and financial systems, as well as the power grid. Computers alone cannot take out the power grid and it is with knowledge that Farrell and McClane attempt to track down Gabriel.

Gabriel’s hackers prove to be too much for the government to stop, so Farrell suggests going to see the Warlock, played by Kevin Smith. Warlock informs McClane and Farrell that Gabriel was a former FBI computer security director who was publicly humiliated after interrupting a Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting after 9/11 to inform them the U.S computer system security had been compromised and was vulnerable to attack. Warlock tells Farrell the code he was asked to write for Linh is used only at one location in Maryland that wasn’t “storing Social Security numbers.” Turns out, while Gabriel was working for the government, he created a fail safe where if the government’s computers were hacked, all the financial data from the entire country would be automatically downloaded into the computer in Maryland as a backup. Knowing this, Gabriel hacked the system so he could download this financial information for himself. Gabriel is alerted to McClane’s presence and captures McClane’s estranged daughter, Lucy (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in an attempt to blackmail him. McClane and Farrell come to rescue Lucy and predictably save the U.S., after which Farrell and Lucy separately profess their romantic interest in each other to McClane – much to McClane’s chagrin.

While Live Free or Die Hard presents a terrorist scenario that is entirely possible, one still has to suspend their belief in reality during some of the scenes. For instance, McClane takes out a helicopter with a moving car by timing a jump just right and manages to “surf” on a crashing F-35 jet without falling off. Still, one expects that sort of thing in this type of movie and thankfully it is kept to a minimum.

The DVD features a number of bonus features, including the theatrical and unrated versions (It was released in theaters with a surprising PG-13 rating), a documentary “Analog Hero in a Digital World: the Making of Live Free or Die Hard,” a conversation between Kevin Smith and Bruce Willis, entitled “Yippee Ki Yay MotherF******,” a music video by Guyz Nite and a commentary with Bruce Willis, Director Len Wiseman and Editor Nicolas De Toth.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Blackmore's Night - "Paris Moon" DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

It’s been over 10 years since Ritchie Blackmore left the final incarnation of Rainbow to form Blackmore’s Night – a fusion of Renaissance music, folk music, and rock and roll that really can’t be classified as any one of them, yet has elements of all of them. Paris Moon captures the band live during their first trip to France at the famed Olympia Theatre in Paris.

Led by vocalist Candice Night, Paris Moon features two hours of highlights from the band’s entire catalog including “Play Minstrel Play,” “World of Stone,” “Renaissance Faire” – a sort of call-to-arms for the band’s fans, many of whom, like the members of Blackmore’s Night, dress in Renaissance-period clothing and “Ariel” featuring Blackmore on his famous Fender Stratocaster – the guitar itself getting an ovation.

The band also runs through a number of cover songs, including Jethro Tull’s “Rainbow Blues,” Joan Baez’ “Diamonds and Rust,” Joan Osborne’s “Saint Teresa,” and even a song from the David Coverdale-era of Deep Purple, “Soldier of Fortune.” Night teases the crowd before “Soldier,” saying, “you might have heard a rumor that Ritchie was in one or two bands before this one.” Night makes the songs her own with her haunting, emotive vocals.

All of the musicians in Blackmore’s Night are given their chance to shine during the show and their love for this music is apparent – especially Night, who is beaming throughout.

The DVD has several audio options, including 5.1 Dolby Digital, 5.1 DTS and 2.0 stereo. The DVD features a short documentary about the band where Blackmore describes the “snobbery” he and Night deal with from fans of Renaissance, folk, and rock music who complain that it isn’t really any of those. What the band is trying to create is something new out of familiar elements. Also included is a photo gallery with photos from the show, set to “Streets of London,” sung by Night in French.

Included with the DVD is a CD containing nine tracks from the concert, as well as a studio version of “The Village Lanterne” and a radio edit of “All Because of You.”

Captured in widescreen, Paris Moon is beautifully filmed and with its Renaissance-themed stage show, is as much a joy to watch as the songs are to listen to. For fans of Ritchie Blackmore, or of Blackmore’s Night, Paris Moon is a must-own DVD.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Help! DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

Less than a year after making their big screen debut in A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles returned to the silver screen – this time in color – with Help!

Directed by Richard Lester, who also directed A Hard Day’s Night, Help! tells the story of an eastern religious cult about to perform a sacrifice, only to find their sacrificial ring has gone missing. They discover it is in the possession of Ringo (who can’t get the ring off his finger) and stop at nothing to try to get it from him.

The cult chases Ringo and the rest of The Beatles from London to the Austrian Alps to the Bahamas in an attempt to get the ring. They try to bite it off his hand, pull it off his finger when he drops off mail in a mailbox, and saw off his hand while The Beatles dine at a restaurant. The cult members are not very good thieves and their theft efforts prove humorous. Along the way, The Beatles encounter a mad scientist (played by Victor Spinetti, who was also in A Hard Day’s Night as well as Magical Mystery Tour), who after attempting to remove the ring from Ringo’s finger, decides he needs the ring for himself as with it he could, dare he say it, “rule the world.”

Seven classic Beatles songs are featured in Help!, including the title track, “You’re Going to Lose That Girl,” “I Need You,” and “Ticket to Ride.” The musical sequences could all stand alone and, in that sense, are very much a precursor to MTV. The film has been restored and has never looked or sounded better with remastered audio presented in PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. Oddly enough though, no Dolby 5.1 track is included.

Disc two contains a number of special features, including “The Beatles in Help!” – a documentary about the making of the film, the restoration of Help!, memories of Help!, a deleted scene with Wendy Richard, three theatrical trailers, and radio spots from 1965 which are hidden in the menus. While there are no interviews with the surviving Beatles or George Martin, the documentaries are interesting nonetheless. Also included is a booklet with outtake photos, an introduction by Lester and excellent liner notes by Martin Scorsese.

While John Lennon once said that the song “Help!” was his personal plea, none of the problems that would plague the band just a few short years later are evident in the film. Help! is one of the last looks at not only the group in its “mop top,” innocent glory, but also a very different London pre-“Summer of Love.” The times were about to change for both very quickly, however.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The McCartney Years DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

It’s been nearly 40 years since that other band Paul McCartney was in before Wings called it a day. During that time, he carved out one of the most successful solo careers of all time. It was also during this period that McCartney followed his old band’s lead and made promo films for many of his hit singles. Those films comprise the bulk of The McCartney Years.

With three DVDs and over 400 minutes of material, The McCartney Years is an exhaustive look at the solo career of Paul McCartney. The set contains over 40 promo films from “Maybe I’m Amazed” from 1970’s McCartney to a seldom seen “Band on the Run” clip that oddly features The Beatles instead of Wings to “Fine Line” from 2005’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. The films have been restored from the original prints with remastered audio as well as new 5.1 Surround Sound mixes.

Viewers can choose to watch the videos chronologically, or in playlists selected by McCartney, who offers insightful commentary on a number of tracks. For instance, we learn that the Plastic Macs band name from the “Coming Up” video was a take-off of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band. Each menu on the DVD also includes a rare video from the McCartney archives that plays while the viewer makes his or her selection.

The set also includes the documentary, Creating Chaos at Abbey Road, McCartney’s Superbowl performance and his performance at Live Aid. Disc three features parts of three concerts, Rockshow, which captures a Wings 1976 performance, MTV Unplugged and his 2004 performance at the Glastonbury Festival – all available on DVD for the first time.

While billed as a definitive collection, The McCartney Years is far from complete. Many promo films are missing, most notably from 1979’s Back to the Egg LP. Also, none of the three concerts on disc three are complete, giving the impression that it is a teaser disc for a later release of complete versions of these shows. Most troubling though is that all of the videos have been remastered to 16:9 widescreen. This is an issue because many of the videos were not shot this way originally and some of the shot is lost as a result.

Nevertheless, these issues don’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the collection. The videos look and sound great and the amount of picture lost from the widescreen conversion likely will not bother most fans. It is a treat for an artist of McCartney’s stature to open the vaults like this and present a collection such as The McCartney Years. One can only hope that this will lead to further archive releases down the road.

Shrek the Third DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

Shrek, Donkey, and Puss in Boots make their comedic return in Shrek the Third. When Shrek’s father-in-law King Harold (played by John Cleese) falls ill, Shrek has to fill in as king of Far Far Away. Predictably, his kingly duties go horribly wrong as he manages to sink a ship when he breaks a bottle on it and a knighting ceremony with a sword ends badly for the knight to be.

As King Harold lay dying, he tells Shrek that he is giving the kingdom to him. Horrified, Shrek asks if there are any other heirs and in his dying breath, Harold tells him “Arthur.” Though Arthur, played by Justin Timberlake, is not the first choice to be king, Shrek, Donkey, and Puss in Boots nonetheless set out to find him to convince him to become king so Shrek can return to his swamp with his wife Fiona (played by Cameron Diaz).

As the trio sets out to sea, Fiona informs Shrek she is pregnant, adding to his stress levels and causing nightmares of hundreds of ogre babies terrorizing his home. Shrek, played by Mike Myers, is concerned there will be no future for his ogre baby as they aren’t considered “cute and cuddly” and Myers does an excellent job of playing the worried parent.

While Shrek is gone, Prince Charming (played by Rupert Everett) rounds up a who’s who of fairy tale villains to kidnap Fiona and her princess friends. He then attempts to make himself king of Far Far Away. Fiona’s fellow princesses – Snow White, Beauty, Cinderella and Rapunzel (played by Amy Poehler, Cheri Oteri, Amy Sedaris and Maya Rudolph) – decide they are above trying to help themselves and, in Snow White’s words, “assume the position,” standing or lying helpless while they wait to be rescued. Fiona, angered and not knowing if anyone will come to save them, motivates the princesses to fend for themselves and they go after Charming and his crew in a humorous action sequence set to Heart’s “Barracuda.”

Meanwhile, Shrek discovers Arthur, or “Artie” as he prefers to be called, jousting Lancelot at Worcestershire Academy. Artie is an awkward teen who gets picked on a lot and is anything but kingly. Shrek finds in Artie a kindred spirit, as he too was picked on and tells him to ignore the names people call him and just trust who he is. The message in Shrek the Third is “be yourself,” and while that’s been done many times in movies before, it is done to good effect here. Merlin (played by Eric Idle), a past-his-prime wizard turned magic teacher, casts a spell to send Shrek, Donkey, Puss in Boots, and Artie back to Far Far Away where they battle Prince Charming to save the princesses and the kingdom.

Shrek the Third is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as 2.0 Surround Sound. The DVD comes with a number of bonus features, including: A Worcestershire Academy Yearbook, deleted scenes (in sketch form), bloopers, a donkey dance, and interviews with the cast members. Also included is a DreamWorks Kids bonus menu with Merlin’s Magic Crystal Ball, where you can ask questions, a “how to be green” environmental feature, instructions on how to do the donkey dance, and DVD-ROM “Shrektivities.”

Friday, November 16, 2007

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

It’s been nearly 35 years since the last men set foot on the moon, yet the Apollo lunar missions continue to pique our curiosity. After all, only 12 men have accomplished the feat. We have the photos and video from the original mission, but they are primitive by today’s standards. Now, through modern technology and IMAX, we are offered a glimpse of what the astronauts might have seen on those brave missions.

Hosted by Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon was originally presented as an IMAX film in 3D and features original photos and video from the Apollo missions, as well as newly created footage in an attempt to recreate the moon’s surface. While any film converted from IMAX to standard widescreen suffers from a loss of grandiosity, the images are nonetheless stunning. The film does a fine job in showing what the lunar missions were like, in the limited amount of time the astronauts had on the surface and the difficulties with perspective when walking. One minute they could be on solid ground, the next they could be standing over Hadley Rille – a cavernous, deep rille that would be like standing over the Grand Canyon on earth.

In addition to Hanks’ narration, Magnificent Desolation has voiceovers from many famous actors, including Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, and Paul Newman, reading quotes from the actual astronauts from the Apollo missions. There are also interviews with grade-school students, testing their knowledge of the missions to the moon. One student in particular, Veronica Lugo, age 7, believes she will be the first kid on the moon and wants to be an astronaut when she grows up. A scene at the end of the film imagines her as Commander Lugo, overlooking a base on the moon. It is a breathtaking visual to say the least.

Magnificent Desolation ponders the question of what if something went wrong on the moon and demonstrates how two astronauts may have shared one oxygen supply to survive. Nothing like this ever happened, but it is something the astronauts had to be prepared for.

The DVD has a number of bonus features, including NASA photos, a video diary, a trivia game and maps of the lunar surface from the various missions.

Many people believe the lunar missions were staged and never really happened. The film addresses those people by explaining it was hard for them to believe because the moon always seemed out of our reach. The moon is definitely within our reach on Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon. Through vintage footage and new recreations, it is as close as most of us will ever come to setting foot on the moon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

At the tail end of 1981, Queen was at the height of its considerable powers, having topped the album and singles charts in both the UK and US, playing for over 130,000 people in Brazil and with the number one video in the UK. It was during this period that they were filmed over two nights in Montreal. Originally titled We Will Rock You, Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid is 96 minutes of Queen at their live best.

Filmed as one-off performances, this was the last time the band played with just its four original members on stage before Hot Space introduced keyboards and extra musicians into their live mix. It is also the first time they played their classic hit, “Under Pressure,” live. Touring off Greatest Hits, Queen played a set featuring songs from their entire career including “Keep Yourself Alive,” “Tie Your Mother Down,” and “Another One Bites the Dust.”

The original idea for the show, which was shot on 35mm film, was to take it on the road as sort of a traveling concert, played on large screens at high volumes – a precursor to IMAX in many ways. However the original film suffered from poor editing and sound problems. Those have since been fixed, as Queen now owns the rights to the film, which has been restored from the original negative and presented in newly mixed and remastered DTS Surround Sound.

From the included commentary from drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May, we learn the band was never comfortable with the film crew being around and that was a great source of tension, resulting in many of the songs being played much faster than their recorded versions. Still, tension often makes for great rock and roll, and the band really pushes the songs here with Freddie Mercury in great voice throughout.

Also included on the two-disc set is the band’s legendary performance at Live Aid. In 20 minutes, Queen reminded the world why they were one of the greatest live acts in the world with their tight powerful set of old classics including “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” as well as “Radio Gaga” and “Hammer to Fall” from their then-new album, The Works. Mercury and May return later for a duet on “Is This The World We Created,” also presented on the DVD.

In addition, there’s 11 minutes of unseen rehearsal and interview footage from Live Aid, a Web link to the Queen Rock Montreal Web site and an interview from the old US television show, PM Magazine.

For a good look at Queen at their live peak, as well as their complete Live Aid performance, Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid is a must-own DVD. HD DVD and Blu Ray versions come out on Dec.4

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Concert Review - The Palace of Auburn Hills - Auburn Hills, MI 11/5/07

Written by General Jabbo

Opening with “Radio Nowhere,” one of nine songs featured from his new album, Magic, the band played a spirited set that went over two hours and rarely let up in intensity.

A staunch critic of the Bush administration, Springsteen introduced “Magic” and “Livin’ in the Future,” both from the new release with warnings about not believing what you see and illegal wiretapping to a mixed response. This was not the Vote For Change tour and Springsteen, understanding this, kept the Bush bashing to a minimum.

Springsteen’s message for the most part was one of hope. He followed the somber “Magic,” with a bluesy rendition of “Reason to Believe.” He also debuted a moving version of Magic’s “I’ll Work For Your Love.”

“Jackson Cage,” from the 1980 album The River, made its tour debut and made for a potent combination when followed by a rocking “She’s the One.”

Springsteen is the rare veteran artist whose audience comes to the shows as much for the new songs as the old ones. No one would have guessed “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” was a new song by the number of people singing along with it. Springsteen dedicated the song to the Detroit girls, and one from New Jersey, referring to his wife and band mate Patti Scialfa.

Still, it was the hits that garnered the biggest crowd response, from “Tunnel of Love” to main set-ending “Badlands” to the encore double shot of “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark.”

While the crowd tended to be on the older side, a young boy held up a handwritten sign during the encore that said, “Ramrod please.” Springsteen, smiling ear-to-ear, said, “He’s been rocking all night. My kid’s 16, he’d be asleep by now.” The band didn’t deny the request, playing “Ramrod” for the first time in five years to the delight of the crowd and especially the boy.

Springsteen closed the show with a rousing version of “American Land,” a holdover from the Seeger Sessions tour complete with song lyrics on the screen so the audience could sing along, its lyrics speaking of opportunity for all in the American land.

Bruce Springsteen’s music is as vital today as it was 30 years ago and his show was a good reminder of that. From the new songs off Magic to the classic hits, no one left the Palace disappointed.

Monday, November 5, 2007

SiCKO DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore returns with SiCKO, an eye-opening look at the American health care system and all its flaws.

Moore opens the film by declaring that nearly 50 million Americans are without health insurance, but that this film isn’t about them. It is about the other 250 million Americans that do have insurance and the difficulties they go through trying to get the coverage that they paid for.

According to Moore, many people are denied health care because they are too thin, too fat, or have a pre-existing condition. If there is no evidence of a pre-existing condition, many of these companies scour through health care applications to find things that they can deny service for. If they still cannot find a condition, they send in a “hit man,” who tries to get the health care company’s money back. Moore interviews one such “hit man” named Lee, who said the company will go through your records like it is a murder case to find something they can deny you with.

Linda Pino, the former medical director at Humana, testified before Congress that she once denied a man a surgery that would have saved his life and that no one held her accountable for it as she saved the company half a million dollars and that, in their eyes, made her a good medical director.

Moore interviews a man whose daughter was going deaf. She was denied an implant in one ear because her treatment was deemed experimental. It was only when the man took it upon himself to call the health care company and inform them of Moore’s documentary that they decided to approve her claim for both ears.

Moore’s solution is universal health care, like in countries such as Canada, Great Britain, France and even Cuba. Moore attempts to dispel the myth that universal health care leads to long lines, poor coverage, lack of choice of doctors and doctors not being able to practice medicine where they want.

Moore interviews a Michigan woman who was denied treatment in the U.S for her cervical cancer as she got it when she was 22-years-old and, in the eyes of the health care company, was too young to have cervical cancer. She travels to Canada, where she tells the pharmacist she has been living there for three months and is able to get her medicine.

He travels to Great Britain, where he interviews a doctor who works in the NHS system who is very happy where he works. He lives in a million-dollar home and drives an Audi. Hospital stays are free in England and all prescriptions are roughly $10 U.S. and free for people under age 16 and over age 60.

He travels to France, where he learns that all health care is provided by the government, that a government-paid maid will come to the house of a new mother to help with her needs around the house, that all employees get five weeks paid vacation and unlimited sick days and that a man recovering from chemotherapy can get paid time off from work for at least three months.

When a number of 9/11 rescue workers were denied health care in the U.S. because they were contract employees, Moore takes a boat down to Cuba to Guantanamo Bay, as he had learned that the prisoners there were getting full health benefits. He never gets let in, but it leads to an amusing scene where Moore, speaking through a megaphone, asks that these Americans get the same health care treatment that al Qaeda gets. He finally ends up in Cuba where a woman pays five cents for medicine that would have cost her over $100 here.

While Moore presents universal health care in an almost utopian view, there is always a catch to such a lifestyle and Moore does point out that the people in these countries are drowning in taxes. He is merely suggesting that if all these counties can have health care for all their citizens, why can’t we?

The DVD includes over 80 minutes of bonus features, including a session before Congress regarding bill H.R. 676, which would propose universal health care for Americans, an interview with a woman who works for General Electric in France that gets free health care, even though G.E.’s American employees do not and a music video for “Alone Without You” by The Nightwatchman, who is Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fame.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sammy Hagar Concert Review - Detroit, MI 11/2/07

Written by General Jabbo

Sammy Hagar brought the Cabo Wabo Cantina to Detroit on Friday as he and his band, the Waboritas, rocked the Fox Theatre. The tour, which includes fellow ex-Van Halen member Michael Anthony as both an opening act and member of Hagar’s band, made its Detroit stop less than two weeks after Van Halen played its two reunion shows in the area.

Billed as the Mad Anthony Express, Anthony’s group, which included guitarist Vic Johnson and percussionist J.D. from Hagar’s band on drums, opened the show with a half hour set of mostly David Lee Roth-era Van Halen classics, including” “Runnin’ With the Devil,”
“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Light Up the Sky” and “D.O.A.” – the last two being songs Van Halen hasn’t performed on their current tour. The instant Anthony sang his harmony parts to the songs it became apparent what was missing from the Van Halen reunion. Wolfgang Van Halen held his own on the Van Halen tour, but he is no Anthony. The band also included a cover of the ZZ Top song “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers,” with Johnson and Anthony trading lead vocals.

After a short break, Hagar’s band came out, opening with “Sam I Am” from 2006’s Livin’ It Up! album and delivered a set featuring two new songs – the Van Halen-sounding “Open” and the country-flavored “When the Sun Don’t Shine.” The show featured plenty of Hagar classics as well, with three songs from 1981’s Standing Hampton, including his cover of “Piece of My Heart, “The Girl Gets Around” from the Footloose soundtrack,
and, of course, “I Can’t Drive 55.”

Anthony returned to the stage to perform a short set of Van Halen songs with Hagar, including “Best of Both Worlds,” “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” and “Why Can’t This Be Love.” He later returned for an acoustic version of “Dreams,” as well as an a cappella version of “Cabo Wabo.”

Hagar in recent years has reinvented himself as sort of a hard rock Jimmy Buffet, attempting to recreate the atmosphere of his Cabo Wabo Cantina at each of the stops on his tour. A mariachi band greeted fans when they entered the theatre while girls in bikinis served drinks. It is an interesting shift, as while the Roth era is generally considered to be more of a party band than the Hagar era, their show was all business, with little talking in between songs. Hagar’s show was like walking onto the middle of a giant New Year’s Eve bash. A different approach for sure, but both shows were great
and fans should be ecstatic both groups are still performing at this level given their history and their age – Hagar recently turned 60.

Hagar said he planned on doing this the rest of his life and thanked the crowd for giving him the opportunity to do so. He seemed genuinely elated to be back in Detroit – a stronghold of his – and it came through in his performance.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ratatouille DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

Disney and Pixar have cooked up yet another great story with their latest hit, Ratatouille. Directed by Brad Bird of Incredibles fame, Ratatouille is the unlikely story of Remy the rat. Voiced by Patton Oswalt, Remy dreams of becoming the finest chef in France.

Remy’s idol is the famous French chef, the late Auguste Gusteau, whose motto was “anyone can cook.” Remy sneaks into elderly woman’s house in search of better food than the garbage and leftovers he is accustomed to as a rat and it is there that he sees Gusteau’s television program and reads his cookbook while the elderly woman sleeps. When she wakes up and discovers Remy, she opens fire on him with a shotgun, knocking a chandelier off her ceiling, and revealing the rest of Remy’s family who had been living in the attic. As she chases after the rats, Remy gets separated from his family and ends up in Paris where he discovers Gusteau’s restaurant.

It is there that he sees restaurant garbage boy Linguini making soup to pass the time – only Linguini has no clue what he is doing. “He’s ruining the soup!” Remy cries. Unable to watch, Remy sneaks in the restaurant and adds the right spices to the soup, making it an instant hit with the restaurant’s patrons. The problem is, Linguini can’t reproduce the soup without Remy’s help and thus a team is formed. Remy hides under Linguini’s chef hat and “pulls his strings” via his hair to decide what ingredients to use.

The pair return the good name to Gusteau’s restaurant, which had fallen on hard times under the watch of new head chef Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm) as he seemed more interested in using Gusteau’s name to sell frozen food. Notorious food critic, Anton Ego, played perfectly by Peter O’Toole, is even impressed with the new pair’s dishes. Remy even helps Linguini catch the eye of female chef Colette, voiced by Janeane Garofalo. Linguini eventually takes ownership of the restaurant after it is discovered he is really Gusteau’s son.

is a story of perseverance, of rising above one’s existence – even if it is not the popular thing to do. Remy’s family strongly disapproves of him associating with humans until they see Linguini genuinely cares for him. Then they are happy for him that he is following his dream.

Paris is a beautiful city and it is reproduced splendidly on the DVD. One feels as if they were in Europe when watching the film and a lot of the animation looks real. The colors are vivid and jump from the screen. The disc is presented in Dolby 2.0 as well as 5.1 audio and while not a two-disc set like other Pixar films, includes some bonus features including three deleted scenes – all in rough sketch form, two short films – including “Lifted” which was shown in theaters with Ratatouille, and a conversation with Brad Bird and chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry.

Ratatouille has something for everyone. Children will love the physical comedy of Linguini, as well as Remy’s hijinks, while adults will enjoy the budding romance between Linguini and Colette, as well as Remy’s determination to better himself.