If I saw Disney/Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. in theaters when it first came out back in 2001, I don’t remember it. To make up for it, I made sure to catch a showing when it was re-released in theaters in 3D back in December 2012…and it was fantastic. Oh, sure, I had seen it dozens of times at home on the DVD player, but nothing beats seeing a film on the big screen. The magic of the world that Pixar created is incredible; the colors are bright, the characters are lovable, and the story is both entertaining and valuable. That’s what I wanted to walk away with when seeing Monsters University on the big screen, and I’m happy to say that I did.
Monsters University opens with first-grader Michael Wazowski’s (voiced by Noah Johnston) class field trip to Monsters, Inc., where an encounter with scarer Frank McCay (John Krasinski) convinces Mike then and there that he wants to be a scarer too. He studies and works hard until he finally arrives at Monsters University, where he (now voiced by Billy Crystal) plans to study to be a top scarer. We are re-introduced to younger versions of familiar characters, such as the nerdy Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi), Mike’s new roomate, and, of course, Jimmy Sullivan (John Goodman), who comes to class thinking that he can coast through on the reputation of his well-known scaring family. Mike and Sulley begin to compete with each other, both trying to prove to Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) that they have what it takes to be top scarers. Along the way, they make new friends, including Don Carlton (Joel Murray), Terri and Terry Perry (Sean Hayes and Dave Foley, respectively), Squishy Squibbles (Peter Sohn), and Art (Charlie Day).
Watching this film brings me right back to my childhood in the best way possible. The world is familiar, the characters are familiar, and the overall feel of the movie is like stepping into a pair of comfortable shoes. The movie manages to make plenty of references and homages to the original film without being a slave to it; it stands alone excellently, but it also adds to the world of Monsters, Inc. without forcing it. The voice actors are great, especially Crystal and Goodman, of course. Their comedic timing is perfect, and they bring laughs to the table just as skillfully as they did twelve years ago. The relationship between these two characters builds appropriately, with the twist of them being “enemies” rather than best buds adding a lot to their characterization. Helen Mirren plays a memorable Dean Hardscrabble, a record-breaking former scarer (perhaps the record that Mike and Sulley are trying to beat in the future?) who now uses her tactics to intimidate her students.
One of the aspects of the film that I thought was particularly done well was the idea of college life, something that, as a current college student, I can relate to. From the awkward interactions of the upperclassmen with the freshmen on move-in day, to the extreme measures taken to be prepared for an exam (i.e. excess coffee), to the social stigmas attached to being a member of certain on-campus organizations, to the pressures of adult expectations, everything feels like a reflection of life at a human university. Sure, certain aspects are exaggerated, sometimes even extremely so, but the atmosphere is close enough to be familiar.
Another part of college that is represented well is the need to take chances, something that Mike does quite a bit; he breaks rules, he stands up to authority, and he throws himself head first into a field of study where he has a natural disadvantage. But taking chances is important in life, no matter what the result, and Mike’s willingness to do that in this movie shows his strength as a character. Pixar also took a chance in making this film in the first place; it’s their first prequel, and it arrived after two less-than-stellar Pixar films (Cars 2 and Brave; my review). But, like Mike, their leap of faith seems to have paid off. It’s certainly not a perfect film (though the amazing commitment to lame jokes is admirable – the late-for-class slug in the film is painful), but Monsters University does a great job of both honoring its predecessor and bringing charm and heart back to Pixar films, something that has been sorely missed since Toy Story 3.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
P.S. – The Pixar short shown before the film, titled The Blue Umbrella, is maybe the first Pixar short that I just didn’t like. While I enjoyed the interactions and facial expressions of the random inanimate objects in the environment, the umbrellas as the main characters just felt strange. The story of the short itself is also familiar, but not in a good way…it’s just a lame rehash of the awesome Disney Animated Short Paperman, attached to last year’s Wreck-It Ralph (my review), which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Where Paperman is touching and sweet, The Blue Umbrella is stiff and bland. Thankfully, the movie following the short was great!
P.P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Randy Newman, here!
1 Comment | tags: 3D, animated short, billy crystal, brave, cars 2, charlie day, dave foley, dean hardscrabble, Disney, disney animation, disney pixar, Disney/Pixar, don carlton, frank mccay, helen mirren, james p. sullivan, james sullivan, jimmy sullivan, joel murray, john goodman, john krasinski, michael wazowski, mike wazowski, Monsters Inc., monsters incorporated, monsters university, noah johnston, paperman, peter sohn, Pixar, pixar animated short film, randall boggs, randy boggs, sean hayes, squishy squibbles, terri and terry perry, terri perry, terry and terri perry, terry perry, the blue umbrella, Toy Story 3, wreck it ralph | posted in 4.5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
2012 was a fantastic year for film, and, for the first time, I’ve seen a majority of the nominated films, including all nine Best Picture nominees, all five Best Animated Feature nominees, all five Best Live Action Short Film nominees, and all five Best Animated Short Film nominees. I also own and have listened through all five nominated Best Original Scores. Needless to say, I feel relatively prepared enough to type out my own predictions list for this year’s Academy Awards, with a little help from various other people’s lists in the technical area. Just to clarify, though: this does not necessarily reflect my personal favorites (otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen Mychael Danna’s score to Life of Pi for Best Original Score), but it instead shows what I actually think will win.
I’ll give commentary for the first six awards and will simply list the rest.
P.S. If something is linked, it’s a link to my personal review of that material, if you’re interested in reading.
Best Picture: Argo
When I first decided that I was going to type up one of these, I argued with myself for a long time over whether or not Argo would win the Oscar for Best Picture, but now I’m almost positive. In the entire history of the Academy Awards, there have only been three instances ever when the winner of the Best Picture Award did not also win the Best Director Award, so, since Ben Affleck isn’t nominated for Best Director, I was leaning more toward Lincoln/Spielberg for the Best Picture/Director awards, but Argo has gotten enough steam built up behind it to snatch the Oscar, and rightfully so.
Best Director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Had he been nominated, I think that Ben Affleck would have won this award for directing what is sure to win Best Picture, Argo, but, since he’s not, Spielberg seems to be the best choice. He has a long history of bringing us excellent films, and Lincoln was no exception. However, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Ang Lee received the award for directing Life of Pi, but I don’t expect that’ll happen.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
I wasn’t able to see The Master, but of the other four nominees there is no doubt that all four actors did fantastic jobs in their respective roles, but I think that Day-Lewis will take the cake after his incredible portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg’s latest film. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get the award, but, if I had to make a second guess, it’d be for Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook.
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
I may have this one completely wrong, as Jessica Chastain also seems to be a popular pick for her role in Zero Dark Thirty (which I don’t agree with), but I think that Lawrence was the definitely the best of those nominated. I must admit to not having seeing The Impossible, but I’m pretty sure that the winner will be either Lawrence or Chastain, and my hope is for Lawrence.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
I’ve changed my mind about four times while trying to write this because both Christoph Waltz as Dr. Schultz in Django Unchained and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln were fantastic and are deserving of the Oscar. However, I do believe that Waltz’s performance shines just a bit brighter than Jones’, putting him at least slightly ahead in my book.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables
I am almost completely confident that Anne Hathaway will win this award. While Sally Field was a great Mary Todd Lincoln and Jacki Weaver did a fine job in Silver Linings Playbook (I haven’t seen The Master or The Sessions, but I’m sure that Amy Adams and Helen Hunt were great as well), but I think that Hathaway’s stunning performance of the classic “I Dreamed a Dream” is reason enough to justify her receiving the Oscar.
Best Writing – Original Screenplay: Michael Haneke for Amour
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio for Argo
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Documentary – Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Documentary – Short Subject: Open Heart
Best Live Action Short Film: Curfew
Best Animated Short Film: Paperman
Best Original Score: Mychael Danna for Life of Pi
Best Original Song: Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth for “Skyfall”
Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Sound Mixing: Les Misérables
Best Production Design: Les Misérables
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Les Misérables
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Film Editing: Argo
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Leave a comment | tags: Abraham Lincoln, Academy Awards, adele, alan arkin, amour, amy adams, ang lee, anna karenina, anne hathaway, argo, ben affleck, best actor, best actress, best adapted screenplay, best animated feature, best animated short film, best cinematography, best costume design, best director, best documentary feature, best documentary short, best film editing, best foreign language film, best live action short film, best makeup and hairstyling, best original score, best original screenplay, best picture, best production design, best sound editing, best sound mixing, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best visual effects, Bradley Cooper, bryan cranston, chris terrio, christoph waltz, curfew, daniel day-lewis, django unchained, helen hunt, i dreamed a dream, jacki weaver, jennifer lawrence, jessica chastain, john goodman, les mis, les miserables, life of pi, Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, michael haneke, open heart, Oscars, paperman, paul epworth, predictions, president, quentin tarantino, Sally Field, searching for sugar man, silver linings playbook, skyfall, Steven Spielberg, thaddeus stevens, the master, the sessions, tommy lee jones, wreck it ralph, zero dark thirty | posted in Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
2012 was a good year for movies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see everything – films like Moonrise Kingdom, The Master, Argo, Les Misérables, Django Unchained, etc. are all films released in 2012 that I haven’t seen yet – but I DID manage to see quite a few. Here is my personal list of the best films of 2012 (click on the titles to view my full review):
10. Wreck-It Ralph
This was another film that I had been looking forward to for months on end. I’m not as into video games as some other people, but watching this film was still like revisiting my childhood. The heart of this movie is in the right place, with the main message being “accept who you are because you’re a wonderful person just as you are.” A talented voice cast, a sweet story, candy puns out the wazoo, and a fun score by Henry Jackman make this film everything I wanted it to be…and the animated short shown before the film, Paperman, was just as fantastic.
9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I was late to the whole “Lord of the Rings/J. R. R. Tolkien” party, having only seen Peter Jackson’s film trilogy in the past two years, but I was keen to read The Hobbit and see the movie as soon as I possibly could. While I was disappointed on my first viewing, mainly due to the cartoony special effects that resulted from the higher frame rate (48fps HFR), this film was a faithful adaptation to Tolkien’s original novel, and the return of familiar faces such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum is refreshing. The real highlight of the film, though, aside from Howard Shore’s beautiful score, is Martin Freeman, who plays the perfect Bilbo Baggins. While some may find the run time to feel a little stretched, I found it to be justified by the attention to detail to the original novel.
8. The Hunger Games
I read Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed Hunger Games trilogy just a few weeks before I saw the film, and I was hooked from the get-go. The film did a wonderful job of adapting the novel, perfectly capturing the dystopian society introduced in Collins’ literary world. Jennifer Lawrence did a particularly outstanding job as Katniss, and the scenes added by the filmmakers to show the control that the Capitol has over the people of Panem and over the Hunger Games do nothing but add to the story in a great way.
Robert Zemeckis, director of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, released his first live action film in more than a decade this year. Flight was something I had anticipated for months, and it quite lived up to what I had in mind for it. Denzel Washington gives a powerful performance as a pilot struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, and the film explores topics such as love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Zemeckis proves that he still has what it takes to direct a top-notch film that focuses on character and story just as much as it does on visual effects.
6. Life of Pi
This is a film that I sort of went to see just on a whim, and I’m glad I did. With gorgeous visuals that looked fantastic in 3D (something I don’t say often), Life of Pi excels the most in its storytelling. While the ambiguity of the ending may not appeal to some people, I found the film to be a thoughtful exploration of faith and of religion in general, leading me to look at my own relationship with God. It sort of melds the biblical Book of Job with Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, and it definitely sparked my interest in reading the book it was based on.
In anticipation of this film, I first watched Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, which was entertaining in its more muted kind of way, and Quantum of Solace, which was pretty disappointing. I still had high hopes for Skyfall, though, and it exceeded every expectation I had set for it. The action was fun, Javier Bardem as the villain sent chills up my spine (and also brought a couple of laughs), and Daniel Craig and Judi Dench both gave outstanding performances in their respective roles. The length wasn’t an issue to me because I was too caught up in the entertainment of the film to care.
Does Spielberg make bad films? I’d answer that with a “no” (I have an argument in favor of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). With 2011’s War Horse and his newest film, Lincoln, he has taken a step back from the typical sci-fi/action/fantasy films he is known for and has focused more on period dramas – both of which were fantastic. If Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor, I won’t know what to think. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones also deliver standout performances in a film that is just as engrossing and fascinating in its exploration of politics as a good action film is in its exploration of shooting and blowing things up. Spielberg is a true master.
3. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan set the bar high with 2008’s The Dark Knight, and this conclusion to the acclaimed trilogy did not disappoint. Tom Hardy as Bane was sinister and terrifying, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were both welcome new presences, and the return of the familiar faces – i.e. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman – was satisfying and well-done. The Dark Knight Rises perfectly concluded Nolan’s trilogy.
2. The Avengers
There are so many ways that this film could have gone wrong. I mean, think about it – they took four characters from four separate films and brought them together into one super-film. In the hands of a less-capable director, it could have easily been one of the worst movies of the year, but with Joss Whedon at the helm, it ended up being one of the best. Smart dialogue with exciting action and a great story, The Avengers proved that an ensemble cast like this could work just as well in a film as it does on television.
Well-choreographed action sequences meet a smart script in this film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. As a time travel movie, it explores the consequences of our actions and the true cause of evil, and it spends just as much time in contemplation as it does making you sit on the edge of your seat.
Well, there you have it. My top ten films of 2012. What were your favorites of 2012?
7 Comments | tags: 3D, 48fps, Academy Awards, andy serkis, anne hathaway, Back to the Future, bane, bilbo, bilbo baggins, book of job, bruce willis, BTTF, casino royale, cast away, christian bale, Christopher Nolan, daniel craig, daniel day-lewis, denzel washington, flight, gandalf, gandalf the grey, gary oldman, gollum, henry jackman, hfr, Howard Shore, Hunger Games, ian mckellen, Indiana Jones, indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull, j. r. r. tolkien, javier bardem, jennifer lawrence, job, joseph gordon-levitt, joss whedon, jrr tolkien, judi dench, katniss, katniss everdeen, life of pi, Lincoln, looper, Lord of the Rings, lotr, martin freeman, michael caine, morgan freeman, oscar, Panem, paperman, peter jackson, quantum of solace, Robert Zemeckis, Sally Field, skyfall, Suzanne Collins, The Avengers, the dark knight rises, the hobbit, the hobbit: an unexpected journey, The Hunger Games, time travel, Tolkien, tom hardy, tommy lee jones, top 10, top ten, top ten films, War Horse, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, wreck it ralph | posted in Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies
Wreck-It Ralph is a film that I’ve been looking forward to for months. Disney Animation has been doing things right the past couple of years, and who could resist a film that revolves around a video game character? I certainly couldn’t, so I made sure to go to the midnight premiere…I loved it!
John C. Reilly as the title character is fun and lovable despite his role as a “bad guy,” but, as a character at the support group for video game villains puts it, “just because you are a ‘bad guy’ does not make you bad…guy!” However, this isn’t convincing enough for Ralph, who longs to be treated with the same respect that is given to the hero of his game, Fix-It Felix, so he goes game-hopping in a search for a medal, which he thinks will make him a hero in his own right and afford him the respect he deserves. As expected, his plans go awry when he ends up staying true to his name and wrecking things everywhere he goes, including in a candy-based racing game called “Sugar Rush.” It is here where he meets Vanellope Von Schweetz, a kindred heart who wants nothing more than to be a racer like so many other occupants in her game, but she is excluded in true reindeer fashion, just like Ralph. It is the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope that gives the film its heart.
The world seen in the film is super creative; we see a “Game Central,” which is located in the surge protector that provides power to all of the games in the arcade. The various video game characters travel to Game Central via train through their power cords…how genius is that? The visuals are stunning and colorful, and, believe it or not, are actually enhanced by the 3D.
Filled with video game references out the wazoo and puns galore, Wreck-It Ralph was everything that I wanted it to be. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman as the two main characters are delightful, and Jane Lynch (Glee) and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) bring a lot to the table as well. Of course, I would be remiss to not mention the fantastic musical score by Henry Jackman, most recently known for composing the score to X-Men: First Class. Filled with fun video game music references throughout, as well as including plenty of traditional, fun movie music, Jackman’s score only adds wonder to this fantastic world created by Disney. While Wreck-It Ralph certainly caters to a younger audience, adults will find plenty to love about it as well because it also carries a great message: being yourself is something to be proud of, no matter what others may say or think.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG – for some rude humor and mild action/violence
P.S. – The animated short shown before the film, Paperman, was nothing short of amazing. A good way to describe it would be to call it Wall-E with humans and less outer space. Despite the fact that there is no dialogue, we’re treated to one of the best love stories I’ve ever witnessed. It’s about following your heart and about how love is more important than all other things, and the animation is absolutely gorgeous. I would watch Paperman over and over again by itself if I could. Go see Wreck-It Ralph in theaters so that you can see this short as well, and then you can try and hide your tears of joy just like the rest of us did.
5 Comments | tags: Chad Likes Movies, chadlikesmovies, Disney, disney animation, fix it felix, henry jackman, jack mcbrayer, jane lynch, john c. reilly, sarah silverman, video games, wreck it ralph | posted in 4.5, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores