Based on the movies coming out today, you’d think this was the greatest movie week in recent history. These movies cater to almost everyone – Children, horror fans, children horror fans, Whedonites and intellectual comedy lovers. But do these movies hit their mark or do they lose their way? Keep reading to find out! (We call that a tease)
Monsters Inc is one of Pixar’s best movies. It is colorful, original and emotional. It’s hard to imagine that it’s been 12 years since its release. Now that Pixar is making sequels to their films, it seems a given that Monsters Inc gets a sequel. In this case, it’s a prequel. Hey, as long as they’re not making original movies anymore, why doesn’t Pixar make a sequel to The Incredibles?
Monsters University shows Mike and Sully as college freshman looking to get through the University’s Scare program. Mike is a studious over-achiever who seems to be lacking in actual scares and Sully is an overly-confident jock, who thinks he might as well have his diploma already. Because they get in each others’ way, they fail scare school and their only chance to get back in, is to win the Scare Games. Unfortunately, their fraternity brothers are a mismatched group of leftovers and rejects.
So it basically uses the same plot of Revenge of the Nerds, The Internship, or any college movie.
Fans of Monsters Inc will be happy to revisit this world. Sully, Mike and Randall are great characters, and kids will have a great time seeing classrooms full of unique monsters. This movie is as colorful as ever and the visuals are top notch.
Sadly, it’s not all that funny. There are scattered laughs that pay off, but they’re too far and few between. It tries to rely on college life tropes for humor. The jokes have a set up but never pay off. All of this would be forgiven, but there’s no emotional center as there was in the first. Basically, I’m trying to say that this movie is missing Boo. Without Boo, you just have Mike and Sully competing to be the best “Scarer” until they become best friends, but it’s not enough.
Once the Scare Games begin, the movie becomes more enjoyable and it flows smoothly, but, as I said, it’s just a sequence of events we’ve seen in other college movies. Where is the originality Pixar?
If your kids love Monsters Inc. then there’s no question you’ll be taking them to this movie. Also, if you love the world and characters (minus Boo) of the first movie, you’ll be happy with the cameos. But if you like Pixar for its originality, humor and emotional impact, you’ll walk away thinking it was “okay.” This is tier 3 quality for Pixar. Rent it.
World War Z
Once upon a time, in 2006, Max Brooks (son of Mel) wrote a fantastic novel called World War Z. This book, alongside his previous work, Zombie Survival Guide, became the new Zombie Bible. Fans clamored for years that someone develop a WWZ movie. Because why not? Well, Hollywood made us understand why not.
The production of WWZ was troubled from the beginning. Fans of the book were shocked that Brad Pitt was cast as the lead, the problem being, the book doesn’t have one lead character (beyond the journalist). Also, there were ongoing reports that no one knew what direction to take with the material, not even the director or writers.
So a year into filming, new writers were brought on to write a new ending, and now we have the final product World War Z. I give you this history only to set you up for the low expectations I had going into this movie.
The zombie outbreak begins only minutes into the movie as former United Nations employee, Gerry (Pitt) and his family struggle to survive and seek shelter. He is called on to find the cause of this horrific outbreak and find a way to stop the zombies and salvage some hope for the future of humanity.
The zombies, yes they actually call them zombies in the movie (win!), are aggressive and overwhelm people with their incredible speed. This movie is full of larger-than-life action scenes where zombies attack without pause. If you’ve never seen a zombie movie before, (because they’re typically rated R) then you will enjoy these rabid zombies.
If you’ve ever seen a zombie flick before, then you’ll be put off. These are not zombies, they’re human velociraptors. There is no hunger for flesh or bloodlust involved. Instead, they bite someone once and move on to the next running victim. The effects are a mixed bag. In hordes, the zombies look like they were borrowed from I Am Legend, but close-up there is some great makeup.
Why is Brad Pitt in this? I’m not saying he’s too talented to be here, I’m implying that he doesn’t look like he is even trying. He had no charisma or personality. That can be said about any of the actors involved. Each character had about 4 minutes of screen time and it felt like they were acting against a green screen. I never once felt the anxiety and pressure of an ongoing zombie threat. I would have preferred anyone else in the role of Gerry (worst hero name ever?)
There is no reason for Gerry to be married in this movie. Pitt doesn’t seem like a fatherly character at any point. Also, his wife (Mireille Enos) is relegated to a role of “nervous wife who waits on the other end of the phone.” This movie is rampant with weak characterization throughout.
None of the actors seem like they’re properly responding to the possible end of humanity due to the zombie virus outbreak. It feels like they’re acting against a green screen. There could have been any monster and the movie would have been the same: Yetis, werewolves or Nessies’. I would have preferred this movie was about an outbreak of Loch Ness Monsters. They could call it “Dead Loch.”
Back to the velociraptor point. This movie feels like a decent Michael Crichton adaptation. It really is a combination of Steven Soderberg’s Contagion & Jurassic Park. Just because it references science and Mother Nature, doesn’t make it a smart movie.
And….I’m off my high horse. Summer action movie fans will get into this. Everyone else will forget about this movie as soon as they drive away from the theater. It’s a rental because it’s worth a dollar.
I wonder if I would like this movie more if it was called “Running of the Dead,” based off the popular Temple Run game.
Much Ado About Nothing
Before I go on, I should say that I am a Whedonite. My favorite show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer and if I could join the Browncoat resistance, I would. Before he had the runaway success of The Avengers, Joss Whedon was known as the witty TV writer who always had his shows cancelled. But now, he is essentially King Midas. Everytime someone sneezes at Marvel Studios, the press goes nuts and asks Whedon for his thoughts on the subject.
He has always seemed like the showrunner that everyone would want. During the filming of Angel and Buffy, he always had cast parties where they would have open mic acoustic guitar nights and also they’d read Shakespeare to each other. So, it’s a natural progression that Whedon would adapt a clever Shakespeare comedy and include his best friends, right?
The plot of this Shakespearean comedy revolves around the arranged wedding of Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese). Meanwhile, villainous Don John (Sean Maher) interferes and ruins everyone’s plans for love and happiness. This is all background to Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker), who can’t stand being around one another and constantly trade barbs, even though there is definite intimate tension between them.
The cast will sell this movie to anyone who’s visited the Whedonverse. Beyond those mentioned, it includes Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Tom Lenk (Buffy), Clark Gregg (Avengers) and Reed Diamond (Dollhouse).
So with that cast and director involved, why doesn’t it work? In short, it’s another adaptation of a play that was done already/better by Branagh in 1993. This film tried to achieve a balance of both style and substance. The substance was there, but the style did not fit. It was a modern looking take, though filmed in black and white.
I would have loved to see Whedon translate the classic play in his own words. It had the potential to be the best Shakespeare adaptation ever, but instead, using Shakespeare’s exact lines just felt lazy.
You can sense that this is Whedon’s passion project. It’s a movie that would have never seen the light of day were it not for Avengers. I think it’s great that Whedon has those kinds of opportunities now, but why not put more effort into it. This was filmed in 12 days at Whedon’s home. That’s very commendable, but it also feels like he was filming his friends at one of his Shakespeare parties and decided to film it and edit it together.
Okay, I’m done with the negatives. After 20 minutes of stilted acting and forced Shakespearean language, I got carried away due to Denisof and Acker’s chemistry and acting. Since Angel, I’ve always wanted these two to have a happy ending and this movie satisfies the nerd in me. Both actors are extremely talented and I hope this is the career boost that Denisof deserves. Also, the scenes of Fillion and Lenk were great. They provide the most memorable scenes of the movie.
This movie is not for you unless you’re a Shakespeare lover and a Whedon fanboy/girl. Even then, it will take some patience to let this experience soak in. It feels more like a good episode of Angel than it does a great movie.