The midpoint of the summer season brings three high-profile movies that got and will continue to get a lot of people talking.

Ratatouille – Pronounced “rat-a-too-ee,” the latest Pixar creation is a story about a rat with a sophisticated palate who befriends a garbage boy in order to cook in a famous French restaurant. The film is named after a French stewed vegetable dish.

Remy_and_Skinner_in_Ratatouille

The original director of the movie was Jan Pinkava, an Oscar-winner for the Pixar short Geri’s Game, which ran before A Bug’s Life in 1997. He created the core storyline and characters, before leaving Pixar in 2006. He was replaced by Brad Bird, who directed Iron Giant and Pixar’s The Incredibles. Pinkava still receives a credit as co-director.

Remy

Pixar went to great lengths to create realistic animated characters, sets, and food. Well, as much as they could with talking rats that cook. They brought in live rats to study for realism. The crew traveled to Paris and dined at authentic top restaurants. They even took real food and let it rot for a few days in order to recreate spoiled cuisine. Here is a quick behind the scenes look at the creation of the characters.

Ratatouille is receiving extremely positive reviews, including my own, which you can read here.

Live Free or Die Hard – Die Hard 4 already hit theaters on Wednesday, earning a solid ~$9 million in its first night. Despite the ill-conceived title, it seems to be doing surprisingly well with audiences and critics alike. The name is actually a reference to New Hampshire’s state motto “Live Free or Die,” though I’m not sure what the great state of NH has to do with the film yet.

It’s called “Die Hard 4.0″ oversees because it’s about John McClane’s battle with a group of internet terrorists bent on terrorizing the world. It dips into the realm of a Hackers or Enemy of the State. Which is interesting considering the original script, which had nothing to do with Die Hard, was called WW3.com, written by the same screenwriter as Enemy. It was reworked after 9/11.

Of course, the main controversy is about the PG-13 rating, which I also talked about here. The funny thing is Willis managed to say the entire “Yippie-ki-yay-MF” on live TV earlier this year. Willis conceded that he had even hoped for another R rating, but that studios are making those kinds of decisions more and more to reacher broader audiences. He covered his tracks though, saying, “but we still made a pretty hardcore, smashmouth film.”

Sicko – Michael Moore’s new controversial documentary takes on the health care industry in America. I had a chance to see it and wrote a review about how I didn’t really like it.

Most of the news leading up to the release has been about Moore’s stunt when he brought 9/11 volunteers to Cuba for medical treatment. He’s being investigated by the U.S. Treasury Department for “travel-related transactions.” Other articles have reported that the government might even fine the rescue workers $65,000 each for the visit, with possible jail time.

The movie was also leaked onto the internet over two weeks before it was released in theaters. Most of the news stories are covering the upload in sections to YouTube, mostly because it’s a mainstream reference that people will recognize. The truth is that it had to come from somewhere and was most likely swapped around before being chopped to meet YouTube’s length requirements.

Weinstein Co. execs have spoken out, saying they have hired several firms to investigate the source and are taking a “very aggressive approach to protecting the film.”

Michael Moore, after rattling off a conspiracy theory about why it was leaked, surprisingly said this about the piracy: “I’m glad that people were able to see my movie,” he said. “I’m not a big believer in our copyright laws. I think they’re way too restrictive.”

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