Monsters University Review

Last summer before I watched the disappointment that was Brave, I ranked all Pixar movies from my favorite to least. This year, the groundbreaking computer animation department of Disney pulled out another win to end the streak of mediocrity that was Brave and Cars 2. Although I am not one for money-grabbing sequels or prequels, I can’t deny the power of continuing with compelling characters or going back to their origins and finding out what made them the way they are. Monsters University does the latter pretty efficiently. Monsters University

I went in blind to this movie, so if you want the same luxury the plot skip this next paragraph.

We start out on an elementary school field trip to Monsters Inc. where a little (and dang cute) version of the single-eyed Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) finds his ambitions to become the world’s best scarer. His dream to attend Monsters University ignites and time jumps to Mike’s first day at the school of scaring. Mike has the drive to become the best in his class but not necessarily the build or demeanor to achieve his dream. The first day of class he meets a younger James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) who is a lot more cocky, confident and lazy as he is in the original adventure. He comes from a pedigree of the best scarers so he assumes he can skim by on that alone. The two are put at odds with each other with their idea of how to achieve in the scaring program so when they are forced to work together is when the story really builds. Mike and Sully join a fraternity of misfits who have zero talent in the art of scaring as they compete in a campus wide Scaring Games.

What comes out of this premise is an underdog story with great tension between two likable characters. About a third of the way through I thought I had it figured out on which way Pixar was going to go with the story. If they would have it would have been pretty conventional. Because they didn’t take the easy road of focusing on just the two main characters.  Pixar stuck to their strengths and pulled in an ensemble of other enjoyable monsters who have fun chemistry.

The energy that the movie brought into the theater was lively and kinetic; I never felt bored or time wasted. The mix of emotions throughout from tension to dramatic to hilarious keeps interested. There weren’t many laugh out loud moments, mostly small chuckles which only tells me that they didn’t try to overdo the cute factor that plagues many “children’s” movies.

What comes out of the wash is an origin of a buddy relationship that doesn’t tell anything too deep but helps us understand that friends aren’t supposed to be the same but complimentary of each other to have a good relationship. As far as Pixar movies, it runs in the middle to high level of the packs. It doesn’t draw any tears like Toy Story 2 but doesn’t leave you feel unsatisfied like Brave. 

Rating: take your family to an affordable matinee.

Summer’s Best of List (So far)

1) Star Trek

2) Iron Man 3

3) Man of Steel

4) Monsters University

5) Now You See Me (Review coming next week)

6) The Great Gatsby

7) World War Z

World War Z Review

Three things to start off my thoughts of this new Zombie Apocalypse flick. First, people really need to shut up during movies; the not-so-quiet talkers in my theater are lucky I’m patient and nice. Second, let’s just disconnect the book and the movie adaptation for now on. I’ll post more about this in the near future. Third, let’s just recognize that this movie got made; with the production catastrophes that surrounded it I’m happy that this movie was made regardless of the quality.

World War ZWorld War Z follows an ex-United Nations investigator, Gerry (Brad Pitt) re-recruited to trace the origins of a world wide epidemic that is creating fast and aggressive zombies. The movie begins on a regular day with Gerry, his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two girls when a riot of some kind erupts in the middle of the city causing devastation everywhere. We start on the right foot as it follows this small family’s survival when they scavenge for supplies and shelter. The film makers did a stellar job to realistically depict how the public would react to something this large of an outbreak.

What follows is not as real or interesting even though it promised to be. When Gerry attempts to trace the disease back to it’s beginning point we follow a very formulaic structure of action, cut scene, rinse and repeat. This way of storytelling reminds me of how video games are structured which makes me wish that that was the adaptation that they went with.

This wasn’t a character driven plot whatsoever. We taken from place to place because that’s where we are told what we need to do. Gerry isn’t compelled to do anything but follow the bread crumbs and interact with 2-dimensional characters along the way who help our hero but just acts as plot points. Although I wasn’t entirely bored throughout, it suffered from being too serious for its own good; a gripe I also had with last week’s Man of Steel. The resolution also wasn’t too interesting or clever. There was potential for it with the investigator angle but didn’t follow through with it at all. Gerry didn’t really have to work for the satisfaction of the resolution and neither did we which made for a hollow ending.

A positive note I can make is the production value and execution. There wasn’t anything astounding about the cinematography, some shots were fun to look at, but still didn’t have a unique aesthetic to it. The VFX were well done even if the zombies didn’t have a distinguishable look to them, but I do say that how they moved individually and as packs was frightening and believable enough. Mark Forester (director) made the action followable along and the sequences strung together pretty cohesively.

If I had to mash up two movies that World War Z borrows from I’d say it takes from the militaristic investigation of Zero Dark Thirty paired with the survival zombie edge of 28 Days Later. A fine concept in theory but together didn’t work in World War Z’s favor.

This is a Wait For Cable kind of movie. Sorry Brad.

Summer’s Best of List (So far)

1) Star Trek

2) Iron Man 3

3) Man of Steel

4) Now You See Me (Review coming next week)

5) The Great Gatsby

6) World War Z

Tomorrow will be the Monsters University review so be looking for it!

Belated Mini Review: Now You See Me

As I said following my Man of Steel review I would be posting about a movie that came out weeks and weeks ago, my #17 Most Anticipated Summer MovieNow You See Me

Seeing this a few weeks ago on my trip up to Washington I can only remember a few elements about this movie that I did and didn’t like. 34_now-you-see-me-poster_7B13

I remember the cast being very good. Names like Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Cain, Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman got me in the seats. I love all these actors but I don’t think they performed and/or had the right script to elevate their performances to the level that I would want them to be.

The story was actually very tight. The opening sequence got me into the action soon and had me throughout its runtime. About a team of magicians who get this Robin Hood-esque plan to rob the 1% was clever enough to have me guessing wrong at every turn. Yes, the plans were too elaborate for their own good but it didn’t take away the enjoyment I had of watching them unfold.

The major problem I had with this was the ending. I’m alright with being dooped. I’m an M. Night apologist for goodness sakes. But I want the parts of the whole, the puzzle pieces, to actually fit together so that in retrospective I can blame only myself for not catching on. This “twist” (which is loosely used for this) comes out of left field. It didn’t make sense. In a second watch it might, but if it doesn’t work the first time it makes for a weaker movie.

On the other hand, maybe this whole movie is a magic trick where only figuring it out will ruin the wonder of it. but the same rules for magic doesn’t apply for cinema sadly.

This isn’t a must see, but it’s a movie that if you want to have a good fun time, try it out.

Rating: Redbox at best.

This weekend look out for my reviews of World War Z tonight and Monsters University tomorrow afternoon.

Man of Steel Review

Man of SteelWhat made Nolan’s Batman Trilogy so special was the liberties that he took to retell the modern day mythos of The Dark Knight in a different light. It had the perfect tone and themes radiating through each episode that was undeniably enthralling and engaging. Every sequence was based in another reality but a believable one. How can Nolan take that magic that resurrected Batman into a fan favorite into one of the most unrelatable characters in comics? Somehow he did.

Man of Steel begins on Krypton, a planet destroying itself, where Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) makes the decision to send their new-born son, Kal-El, away to survive on an alien planet. When General Zod (Michael Shannon) tries to save Krypton by overtaking the government, he’s soon arrested and encapsulated for his treason. Director Zack Snyder makes the interesting choice to tell Clark Kent’s upbringing in a past/present switch between scenes which is a fresh way to tell any origin. When Zod and his crew escape from their prison their manhunt for Superman and their quest to rebuild a planet similar to Krypton ensues. Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) (whatever you want to call him) must discover his purpose on earth, become their protector and form himself into the man he is destined to be.

The themes tap into is the power of the individual. Like Superman, we all have potential to become greater than what we are designed to become. Nolan and Synder turn Superman into a Christ-like figure (Superman is 33 for goodness sake) and allows us to either look to him for an example or put ourselves into his position. Just like Nolan’s Batmans, the deeper meanings is a huge strong suit that binds the film together.

Now, a lot of creative liberties were taken with this interpretation of a very well-known superhero; some may say the most recognized. But that’s what I love about it; it takes what is recognizable (the suit, symbol, communication with Jor-El) and gives them reason. These elements that seemed so far-fetched are brought down to a level of believability. I guess Snyder couldn’t do that with his red underpants and that’s why he ditched them. As a movie as a whole, I enjoyed the reforming of expectations; it was cleverly done and intriguing.

But Man of Steel is not without its flaws. For one, except for Shannon’s Zod every other character was void of character. Everyone seemed so flat, boring and uninteresting. Also, the last half (at least it seemed like it) was non-stop exhilarating action sequence one right after the other. I could hardly catch my breath. Not saying they weren’t well shot or fun to watch, it just got tiring after a while. Lastly, there were about 2-3 real laughs in the whole two and a half hours. To have a real crowd-pleaser it needs to have more of a light personality. Throughout the whole movie it was  all about business.

Although there are a lot of things to nit-pick and criticize the parts make up a wonderful whole that makes the cinematic experience not too much fun to watch but definitely worth watching this re-envisioning.

Summer’s Best of List (So far)

1) Star Trek

2) Iron Man 3

3) Man of Steel

4) Now You See Me (Review coming next week)

5) The Great Gatsby