Monsters University made me happy…

Monsters University poster 3.jpg

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.

monsters-university-review-mike

MIKE WAZOWSKI!!  😀

 

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Brave is gorgeously told fairy tale! And the short La Luna is amazing!

You may have heard some rumblings. Whispers that Brave does not live up to the high standard set by Pixar. Poppycock! That’s what I say to that. I loved this entry into fairy tale territory and their first princess, is a headstrong, opinionated firecracker, who is not looking for a prince. Excellent! And the bravery they end up addressing delves deeper than just mere adventure and danger. It was funny and heartfelt. I do not about you, but that resonates as a solid Pixar film to me. (As recently discussed at Fog’s Movie Reviews, it may not rank as high as other Pixar Classics, but it is still a worthy addition to the company’s amazing filmography.)

Brave is also carrying many firsts.  It is the Pixar’s first fairy tale and princess movie and it is smartly set in 10th century Scotland. This allows for some unbelievably beautiful scenery. Actually, a bit of trivia is that to make Brave changes (for the first time in over 20 years) had to be made to the studio’s software (to create the complex visuals) and it reaches some incredible realistic heights.

Also, this was the first with a female director in the mix, Brenda Chapman ( with co directors Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell).   I think having Chapman on the team helped since this was the first time the story focused on a female lead.  There were very strong female themes that were explored and I am sure having a woman on board made it easier to be truthful to the feminine perspective.   As someone who appreciates strong women on-screen it was nice to see Pixar put there spin on it and hit the mark.

I will add that the narrative surprised me.  It was NOT what I was expecting given the trailers.  How awesome is that?  And although simple and straightforward it is told in an engaging fashion, full of love and a bit of magic. It made me laugh and it made me tear up (no spillover :D).  All the voice talent is spot on–especially Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson as the mother/daughter team.  I can not too much more for those who have yet to see it.  Go ahead.  Ignore the naysayers.  Pixar had there miss already with Cars 2 :).  I think you will come out happy you gave it a chance.

Another reason to go see it is for the new short that plays beforehand.  La Luna!  WOW!  It is absolutely lovely and kind of magical.

Cars 2 is a fine action movie aimed for kids–I just expected more…

 

 

Pixar has rendered their first summer action movie.  Cars 2 is thrilling, fast paced and completely superficial.  This is the first time I can say that I did not care about the characters in a Pixar film.  It was funny and entertaining, but never touched my heart. 

I will admit that Cars was never high on my list of  favorite Pixar films.  It was clever, heartfelt and enjoyable, but the characters did not stick with me as much as others.  I was never too excited about a sequel and then I saw the previews and realized it seemed to be The Mater Movie–and I was even less excited.  Mater is cute, but in small doses. 

Yet, even with Mater being the star, I enjoyed myself.  The world is again, clever.  I loved watching all the little details of this automobile universe and being a James Bond fan helped because Finn McMissile is all Bond.  What was missing was the characters we liked in the original.  They are all brushed to the side for all the action–even Lightning McQueen. 

Was the movie fun? Yes.  Full of entertaining action? Indeed.  Is it as good as the other Pixar films?  No.  And mostly because without the emotional core and unique characters we have come to expect, this film is forgettable.

#3 Toy Story 3

Many toys all close together, with Buzz Lightyear and Woody holding the top of number 3.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Produced by Darla K. Anderson
John Lasseter (Executive)
Nicole Paradis Grindle (Associate)
Screenplay by Michael Arndt
Story by John Lasseter
Andrew Stanton
Lee Unkrich
Starring Tom Hanks
Tim Allen
Joan Cusack
Ned Beatty
Don Rickles
Michael Keaton
Wallace Shawn
John Ratzenberger
Estelle Harris
Jodi Benson
Blake Clark
Music by Randy Newman
Studio Pixar
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures

Where do I begin?  There is too much awesome-ness!  Too many favorite things to start naming–so, I will say that Toy Story 3 is perfect!  The perfect ending to a perfect trilogy.  Humor–tension–fear–slap-stick comedy–anxiety–heartfelt separations–all of it wrapped into one package–yeah…just outstanding!  It is a masterpiece celebrating imagination, friendship and loyalty.

Pixar has magic mojo! It’s quite impressive–their run of superior films just keeps adding up.  (For the last 4 years their releases have been in my Top 5!)  And with TS3 they create a fine tribute to the movie that started it all for them–Toy Story–which was 15 years ago!  Crazy!

Dezi grew up with these characters–she was 4 when the original was released (and she eagerly exclaimed “I knew it!  I knew my toys came to life!”)–and by TS3 she–like Andy–was heading to college.  What an emotional roller coaster for both of us! Revisiting our beloved characters and saying good-bye–it was very difficult–but it also felt right–because there always comes a time to move forward–carrying the things you love with you–never forgetting them and thankful for what they have given you!

Thank you, Pixar.   Thank you very much.

Resources: Wikipedia

Metacritic