Wall-E unfolds some seven centuries from now, when the Earth has undergone complete environmental collapse, a sort of fatal and global toxic shock. The planet is all dirt-brown vistas and dead cities, and not a living creature to be seen; like what one could imagine the world in Soylent Green looking like a few decades hence. Wall-E is a robot who’s spent untold centuries puttering around a poisoned Earth, busily compacting the mounds of detritus left by a big-box-shopping culture and turning them into neat little cubes that he then stacks into futuristic obelisks of waste. There’s no end of work for him to do, because as the film’s mostly silent opening makes clear, the humans that blasted off from the planet in 2100 were a frighteningly wasteful lot with plenty in common with those of us watching the film from cushioned stadium seating.
You can read the rest of my piece about Wall-E and its blatant and dead-on critique of consumer culture at PopMatters‘ blog Short Ends & Leader.
New on DVD
What does one do, or even say, about a film that is, by any measurement that matters, perfect? When considering Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s finely etched animated adaptation of Satrapi’s two-part autobiographical graphic novel about growing up in Tehran during the revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, the problem (if one could call it that) becomes particularly acute. By compressing into this film the myriad of themes that it handles, from religious oppression to teenage rebellion to cultural dissonance and war, the filmmakers could have easily encumbered it with a weight that would have outweighed its many sharp delights. But by some strange and fortunate circumstance born out of vision, patience, luck, and sheer unmitigated talent, they have managed to incorporate each of those weighty topics into a work of art that’s light as a feather, in the manner of the true masterpiece.
Persepolis is now available on DVD. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
New on DVD
If David McCullough, and everyone behind HBO’s impressive seven-part miniseries adaptation of his book on John Adams is correct, than the founding father and second president of the United States of America was perfectly well aware that he was doomed to be consigned to history’s dustbin. It was inevitable, perhaps. George Washington was the towering war hero and model of humble rectitude. Ben Franklin had the genius intellect and rascally wit to ensure that if he wasn’t lionized for the one, he’d be toasted for the other. Thomas Jefferson’s talent for self-promotion and moralistic stances made it almost inevitable that he would be remembered as the stalwart gentleman-scholar he seemed to believe himself to be. Then there was John Adams.
HBO just released John Adams as a 3-disc DVD set, and it’s well worth the renting. Read the full review at PopMatters.
New on DVD
To say that most early- and mid-’80s sitcoms resembled processed cheese is, on reflection, an insult to processed cheese. Even Velveeta may have tasted fine at one point in time. But there’s just no nutrition or joy to be had on catching up with Facts of Life in adult life. Fortunately, the same can’t be said for Square Pegs, a little sitcom about misfit teenagers that ran for about 19 episodes in the 1982–83 season. Looking at the show now over a quarter of a century later (in a long-overdue DVD release), it may not stand to be counted among television’s great shows, but for a show that premiered in the same season as epic, youth-skewing cheese like Knight Rider and Silver Spoons, Square Pegs is practically Playhouse 90 by comparison.
The complete run of Square Pegs was released on DVD last month. You can read the full review at PopMatters.