Monsters University made me happy…

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YAY!!  I will admit that I was worried.  The last two Pixar films have been mediocre–by their standards–and I was not sure how well a prequel would work.  I loved Monsters, Inc. and I am still amazed by its creativity and unique premise–could they capture the magic again?  Well, the answer is yes…yes, they could.  Monsters University is clever, original, funny and yet, with the tender heart and emotional core you’ve come to expect from Pixar.  And although I will not rank it in my top 5 Pixar films–they have met the challenge–beautifully.

Now, this story is not connected to the original–the characters have yet to evolve to that point and the events of that film are far from happening–so, the story has to stand alone and led into that time period.  This time, Mike Wazowski (my favorite) gets the character attention.  They focus on Mike and James P. Sullivan’s introduction and how their relationship evolves while attending MU–it is great knowing how it all turns out in the end–it adds something sweet to story–you know?  This premise allows for a whole new crop of characters and all sorts of college high jinks.  The parallels to our own human college experience are hilarious and the small troupe of misfits in the fraternity Oozma Kappa are all  lovable and charming.

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Billy Crystal was born to play Wazowski and he shines here–this is Mike’s story and Crystal bares the burden easily.  John Goodman is perfect as Sully (again) and I appreciated how he made Sullivan feel and sound younger.  The OK members are all perfectly cast–Sean Hayes and Dave Foley as Terri and Terry–Peter Sohn and Joel Murray as Squishy and Don–but my all out favorite is Charlie Day‘s Art!!  OMG! LOVE HIM!  Here is a random treat…

Monsters University – A Performance By “Art” – YouTube

All the voice talent is top-notch!  Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble is a bit intimidating and her character design is pretty cool.  And I love that Steve Buscemi‘s Randall is included–so great!

The intricate world of Monstropolis is expanded and they are able to capture all its charm.  I need to watch it a few more times to catch all the little, funny details in the background (loved that about Pixar!).  The character designs are amazing!  If you were impressed with Sully’s extraordinary hair–wait until you see Art’s fur!!  But, as always it is the soul that they are able to convey that continues to be their greatest achievement.

OH!  Before I forget!  Make sure to go early because the Pixar Short this time is AMAZING!!  It is The Blue Umbrella by Saschka Unseld (I am excited to see more from him) and the animation is incredible–looks so real it is mind-boggling.  And what they are able to accomplish with just some animated eyes and a mouth!  It’s a wonderful addition to their short library.  Check out this clip:  The Blue Umbrella

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Written by Monsters, Inc. scribes Daniel Gerson and Robert Baird the new narrative is consistent with these characters and they feel familiar and right.  Director Dan Scanlon did a fine job with the pacing and made smart choices with what could have been typical plot devices.  I enjoyed the unexpected directions and especially loved the ending–a great nod to accountability and real consequences–but also about having faith and working hard to achieve your dreams.  Being that this is his first big feature to direct–I am looking forward to what he does next.   And I need to mention Randy Newman‘s score, which is perfect and added to the feel of the film.

Obviously, I loved my time at Monsters University!  I laughed.  I awed.  I choked up.  I was moved.  I smiled.  Yup.  That’s a good Pixar experience–maybe not the best in their library but definitely better than the last two–which is hopeful for future projects.

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MIKE WAZOWSKI!!  😀

 

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This is the End is the funniest film I’ve seen in 2013!

This Is the End (2013) Poster

OMG!! I haven’t laughed this hard since the original Hangover!  Yeah…really.  Truth.  From beginning to end, I laughed out loud.  Now, yes this is raunchy, vulgar, gross (at times) and there is  flat-out craziness–and yes…I loved it!  I’ve already seen it twice (that tells you a lot) because I had to take my daughter, Vieve right away so we can share in the awesomeness (She loved it just as much ;))

The premise is clever.  A group of friends are facing the end of the world.  (What kind of end?  I will let you find out. :D) These group of friends just happen to be actors–and these actors are playing thinly veiled versions and parodies of themselves.  First of all–how cool of them to be willingly to have fun with their images–and from what I read in some interviews they took true and real aspects of their personalities and then twisted them, one way or the other, to suit the story and propel the comedy.  It is a creative and very effective idea.  This group of friends  just also happens to be hilarious–all of them have perfect comedic timing and can bounce of each other even in the littlest ways.  Watching them interact is part of the fun!

Written and Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (based on a short Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypsethe narrative is simple.  Yet, in simplicity they are able to touch on a variety of human emotions–fear–anger–jealously–rivalry–love–respect–honor–etc–and all in the wildest way possible.  LOL!  I was impressed by how well it was constructed and how the quick pacing kept it from going over the top.  Oh! The CG effects are also awesome and a surprise since I did not expect any.  😀

There is so much to say!  And yet…I can not.  I do not want to give a single solitary thing away.  I will say a few things:  I am now an even bigger fan of Jay Baruchel (and my daughter is now crushing on him ;)).  James Franco is fantastic.  Danny McBride is insane!  Jonah Hill is a trooper.  Craig Robinson is one cool dude.  Seth Rogen is everyone’s favorite.  Emma Watson is indeed a badass.  And Michael Cera?  LMAO.  Wow.  I will never look at him the same again.

I can go on and on.  There is way too much awesomeness for one post!  LOL.  But, I will end by saying go check it out!  You will laugh.  A lot.  And I kind of forgot how good that feels.  Laughing is good.  Really good.   Go get you some.  🙂

Man of Steel? I want to like it more than I do AND I want to hate it more than I do…

Superman, bearing his traditional red and blue costume, is shown flying towards the viewer, with the city Metropolis below. The film's title, production credits, rating and release date is written underneath.

Really.  I am conflicted with Man of Steel.  Although there are a lot of things done right with this latest reboot of the Superman story–there are also just as many things wrong.  The more I discuss it with people–the more I find myself praising and criticizing the film at the same time.  “I liked this…but I hated that…”  Round and round we go.  Anyways, I will try to make sense of it for you guys and again, you know I will not divulge any particulars so you can experience it on your own.  Here we go…

The Praise and the Criticism–they go hand in hand.

1.  The origin narrative.  I was stoked the first quarter of the film–I liked the Krypton prelude (ran a bit too long though) and then the flashes back to childhood while we follow Clark becoming an urban legend (very cool premise–again–wanted more along that vein).  Screenwriter David S. Goyer is a well-known fan boy and I liked the approach of showing how hard it was for Clark to grow up being “special” and how scary and overwhelming it would be to come to terms with all of it–especially when he was just a kid.  This is where Kevin Costner shines.  As Pa Kent, he is the emotional center of the film.  BUT….there were too few of these scenes.  I would have gladly traded a bloated fight sequences (more on that later) for more time with Clark and his human family, as well as the people he affected–I would have cared more for ALL of them if that had been the case.

2.  Henry Cavill.  Cavill definitely fits the part of Superman.  Physically, he is a perfect fit.  As an actor he is charismatic and although imposing in size–he is capable of seeming gentle and kind (an important aspect of Superman’s nature) and I can see him grow into this role.  My problems with him are not really his fault.  I blame Goyer’s script.  Cavill does not have much to work with.  I thought we could get to see his internal struggle–thought we could see him build relationships with humans on his travels–something other than what we already know.  Nope.  Ends up being flat.  And I know Superman can be a stick in the mud sometimes…but c’mon!  Can we have some levity?  Some jokes?  (I miss you Chris Reeves! :()  It sure would have helped us connect with him.

3. The script.  This thing was full of exposition!!  Two thirds of this is talking about stuff that already happened–to explain–because we had to fill up with so much action we have to tell you the stuff you need to know.  Boring.  Show.  Don’t tell.  Isn’t that storytelling 101?  The worst crime is the lack of character development.  Every single one is shallow.  With this top-notch cast it is a shame that they have no chemistry–and I believe that comes from the underdeveloped writing of their characters.

4.  The visual.  It sure does look pretty (shout out to cinematographer Amir Mokri).  And Zack Snyder can direct action.  He has a clear sense of style and this film has his fingerprints all over it (quick double zoom!).  The costumes and CGI are all pretty cool–loved all the Krypton design.  While the flight sequences are beautiful and their power is palpable–(you can almost feel the air rush past you)–the action sequences due tend to become heavy-handed.  There was a lot of action.  A LOT!   And if the sequences were unique or creatively orchestrated maybe they would have kept me engaged–but, it was all too familiar.    Especially the last quarter, I was ready for the destruction to stop.  😀  But, then I enjoyed the flying fist fight–very cool–for the first 5 minutes…  -_-

5.  The AWE factor.  Where are all the people?  The running theme throughout was how humanity would react and respond to the discovery that there is an Alien among us and guess what?  The reaction?  Well, there isn’t any.  NONE.  We don’t get any of it.  Not the “It’s a plane!  It’s a bird!  NO! It’s Superman”  classic line…not the “WTF?”  reaction…not the “Holy crap!  You’re flying!”   Nothing.  And that “awe” factor is important and an intricate part of his mythology.  Superman is humanity’s protector–right?  And yet, we do not see anything about them until towards the end–when a family of four is used as the representation for all humans and then they literally vanish.  Not even a “thanks-strange-man-in-a-cape-with-god-like-powers-for-saving-our-lives”–Wow.  Rude.

6.  The cast.  Costner is the stand out here and I truly hated how they concluded his story line–illogical and just plain dumb.  But, at least it was nice to see him back to form.  Diane Lane has one great scene with a young Clark–after that she fades in the background.  Russell Crowe is a force to be reckon with as Alien daddy Jor-El and I believed his convictions–Strong showing, for sure.  Amy Adams is a strong, modern Lois Lane–even though I still have issues with a reporter being present in all the scenarios that she is present for.  I like her okay, but do not believe the forced, rushed “love” story with Clark/ Kal-El–it left me wanting.  Laurence Fishburne is an afterthought as Perry, as well as the rest of the Planet staff (who is that again? I asked during a climatic scene.)  Michael Shannon is a good villain.  Good, not great.  I appreciated General Zod’s new-found purpose and focus and I think that while subdued in performance, Shannon is able to portray intensity with only his eyes.  You can see his madness.  Well done.  Oh!  I also loved the badass supers as henchmen.  😉

7.  The future.  Okay, Christopher Nolan‘s influence can be felt here–the dark/gritty feel to the universe–but that is about it except for his power to expand the Superman world.  I know that a sequel has been green lit and the rumors of a Justice League begin to form again and this is where I dare to get hopeful–there is enough here to work with–if they can enrich the characters–flesh out the universe–maybe a JL film will finally be possible.  I will keep my fingers crossed.

So, as you can tell, I can not hate Man of Steel, but I can not ardently love it either.  It is a better Superman than the last attempt and the potential seems greater than before–that in itself is a good thing…BUT…yeah…I will probably never watch this one again.

Until next time!  Later!

PS– I should state that I like Superman.  I grew up with the 70s films and loved the Justice League animated series, but in the greatest showdown between the Alien and Batman?  Yes.  Batman always wins.  Hell, I wanted to BE the Batman.  Really.  True story.   :p

Vieve’s View on Jack The Giant Slayer? Meh.

Hi Peoples!

This is Vieve here–Nedi’s daughter–to keep you updated with films that sometimes my mother is just too busy to watch. 😀    Or films I do not care to see…  😉  I will call these posts Vieve’s View on…

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hopefully, it will help fill in some film gaps.  Thanks, baby girl!  

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Finally we were able to watch Jack The Giant Slayer.  Sure, it didn’t look like the greatest movie, but it seemed like it could be fun! (Also, Ewan McGregor looked NIICE :P) Well my mom completely passed out–that should tell you something–and my best friend and I were left alone with a crappy movie.  The beginning of the film looked great visually and story seemed promising.  There were plenty of beautiful scenes and the animation/graphics were well done and they connected to the story to help it flow.

Then they fast forward and you are thrown ten years into the future with characters that are not very well-developed and that then seem to fall flat.  Even my weakness for Bill Nighy‘s voice or McGregor’s excellent armor–and great hair–and plenty of suave acting could salvage the film.  The film is very predictable, as we might have expected–and all though the film is one full of adventure, the typical obstacles, the typical conclusions, some cool graphics, a typical Hollywood romance, and of course plenty of action–in the end, I got all that I was expecting but the key ingredient was missing…character development.

I couldn’t care less for any of the characters–especially for Jack.  Nicholas Hoult is a fine actor but this role does not allow for much and has no real arc or growth .  Now, for the villain.  Wait.  Is there a definite villain?  Like my mom says–a villain can make or break a film and in this one it is broken.  Okay– another  big issue I had with the film was the ending. What was the point? Who is the boy? Why?

I understand what Jack The Giant Slayer was trying to do– a fantasy adventure romance– but where Matthew Vaughn executed that idea perfect in Stardust , unfortunately director Bryan Singer fell short.  (Real shame, Singer has yet to come back since X-Men…I hope he finds his groove again–soon.) 

A little part of me wishes I would have just fallen asleep and cuddled with my mom–she enjoyed herself the most, I dare say. Yet, I am glad I stayed up–I was curious about Jack The Giant Slayer and now I know.   Disappointment.  So, if you are curious?  Be warned.  Proceed at your own risk.  😀

Well, this was fun.  I will be back with some other reviews.  Bye!

Before Midnight brings a wonderful trilogy to the perfect end.

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I can’t believe it’s been eighteen years!  Wow!  Time truly does fly.  Before Midnight brings us back to visit the small, quiet universe created by Richard Linklater and then enriched by its stars and co writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.   With the Before trilogy, this talented trio has brought us one of the most honest, real and un-Hollywood stories about love, self discovery and our connection to others, especially as men and women.  My daughter, Vieve, and I decided to re-watch the two predecessors before the latest installment and it was very interesting to see them back to back.

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It was 1994 when Linklater had this daring idea to make a film, Before Sunrise, that was about two people walking and talking.  That’s it.  Nothing else happens–they walk and talk–and it is brilliant!  A new approach to an old formula of two young people falling in love.  A young American tourist, Jesse bumps into a Parisian young woman, Celine and they decide to explore Vienna together before his flight back to the US.  The evening they share is insightful and biting and yet, tender and hopeful.  Like its young stars, the story addresses the issues that are important to them and although romantic, they are both inexperienced and still have the optimistic view of love and life.  It was wonderful to watch their natural chemistry and to fall in love with these characters.  They part at the end with the promise to meet again in 6 months with no exchange of information–just their word that they will meet.  It is left to the audience to decide their fate.  Did they?  Do they live happily ever after?  Or do they continue with their separate lives with a common memory?

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Nine years later, they told us what happened in Before Sunset.  You know that I won’t give it away :D, but the premise is that they meet again in Paris.  Much has happened and whether they meet, as promised, or not–they are both older and full of life experiences.  It was awesome the way Linklater, Hawke and Delpy connected the two.  Revisiting topics of conversation to show the effects of time, wisdom and the consequences of our choices.  Now Jesse and Celine are a bit more cynical about life and love.  We are offered an honest approach to the decisions people make.  Do we settle?  What is love?  Is it not just commitment and compromise?  Will they find their happily ever after, after all?  Again, brilliant.

Now, another 9 years have passed and they give us Before Midnight.  This time around Jesse and Celine are in a totally different place than either of the earlier films.  And again, they offer an honest approach to relationships and revisit some familiar topics.  Officially middle-aged, they are now confronted with a whole new set of discussions and feelings about life and love (this time in Greece).  It was awesome to find answers to questions asked before–to seem them come full circle in ideas and in actions–and to see them both grow and change.  Side note: Whether you tend to agree with Jesse or Celine–I appreciated the debate brought forth–both sides have valid points and neither is cast as the wrong or right–in other words–it’s a fair fight!  😀  Well done.

I love this trilogy.  Sharply written–full of warmth, humor and truth.  Simply, yet smartly directed–Linklater makes intelligent choices in pacing and flow in all three movies that keeps it interesting–which is necessary when there is a bunch of talking and only talking going on.  😉  Beautifully and skillfully acted.  Both Hawke and Delpy are fantastic throughout!  They put a lot of themselves in the scripts and their wit and intelligence shines through.  How fascinating to create and play a character for so long–to see them evolve–I am sure that is a rare opportunity in film and it’s a pleasure to watch.  Honestly, you do not need more than that, despite what Hollywood says–you really don’t–it is enough.  I enjoyed my 18 years with Jesse and Celine–and I would love to revisit them again–maybe in another 9 years??  If they do–I will be there, ready to see what that chapter brings in their lives.

May Movie Watching in Review

It is hard to keep up with my film reviews–between work and stuff it gets difficult sometimes…(as you ALL know, I am sure!)  So, I decided to make compilation posts a monthly thing.  It may be cheating ;D but hey,  it will be a great way to wade through all the films I watch and for it not to end up being 6 months later.  😀

After Earth

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Oh, M. Night!  I really, really what him to do well…I miss him.  Unfortunately, After Earth is not his triumphant return.  It is NOT as horrible as everyone is saying–but it is NOT that fantastic either.  It is safe and bland.  I almost understand how M. Night Shyamalan would be scared to do anything “special” since he has been panned by critics and fans alike for so long now–almost understand.  But, by playing it safe, After Earth is perfectly mediocre.  It has a creative premise that is then saddled with typical themes and characters.  I enjoyed the performances by Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith but it was not enough to save the film.

Now You See Me

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I love magic and films about magic–so, I was excited about this.  Well, Now You See Me is guilty of a lot of things–being a cool story about magic is not one of them.  Director Louis Leterrier‘s style may pass the empty-action test but when given a real scenario with real people well…he seems to have some trouble.  Let me count the ways… 1.  It tries WAY too hard to be clever.  2.  It is shallow and superficial, which is a pity because it had so much potential.  3.  It has ZERO character development–and I mean ZERO!  4. There is no chemistry between the cast, which is surprising because this is a notable ensemble. So, at the end I was left  shaking my head and a bit sad because of its lack of  “magic”.

The Company We Keep

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This Robert Redford directed films hails an impressive cast and although they all give good performances, The Company We Keep is flat and kind of boring.  I have to think hard to remember what all happened. Yeah, that’s not a good sign.  😀

Dark Skies

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So close to being DAMN good!!  The ending of this thriller is frustrating enough to taint the film.  What a shame too, because writer/director Scott Stewart creates a unique look at what can be an over done alien theme.  With the fresh approach I was invested.  I loved the time spent on the family and their dynamic.  It had several good scares and some really cool stuff going on.  Kerry Russell and Josh Hamilton give strong performances and I love J.K. Simmons small appearance.   See?  All good.  But it unravels at the end.  Sad.

The Guilt Trip

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I love Barbara Streisand!  Period.  The Guilt Trip is exactly what I expected…some Streisand time! LOL!  Hey, this is a paint by numbers movie.  Predictable themes, but Seth Rogan and Babs have some good chemistry and sell the mother/son connection.  I laughed and enjoyed my time visiting an old friend.

Safe Haven

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OH!  I remember this one…it’s Sleeping with the Enemy–right?  Wait…OH!  Nicholas Sparks.  I get it. Actually. No. I don’t.   One thing though, the adorable little girl?  Is almost an exact replica of my daughter at that age…awwww!  So cute!   That’s it.  That is all I got from that.  😀

The Last Stand

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I was thinking this could be fun–maybe even good.  The return on Arnold Schwarzenegger–YES! (I am a child of the 80s ;)).  Directed by Kim Jee-Woon, who had haunted me with I Saw the Devil.   This could be really good.  Well…I was wrong.  It’s terrible.

Side Effects

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OMG!!  This movie was so awesome–when it was titled MALICE!  -_-

Steven Soderbergh has left me feeling “meh” a lot lately…sure…I can find some good things, but I have to really look hard because the “meh” is too powerful.  Meh.

Well, folks.  That’s it.  Let’s see what June offers…

Later! 😀