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31 Days Of Horror 14: Monsters University (2013) by Jamie

Ok… I know I was stretching the definition of horror with Stoker. Yes, there is no way that Monsters University could truly be defined as a “horror” film but Monsters is right there in the title and I’ve been enveloped in gore, murder and all that kind of stuff lately and god damnit I need something light so I’m going ahead with this one… Did I mention that the word Monsters was in the title?

So, the original Monsters Inc. It’s a good movie I can’t deny that but I was never a massive fan of it.  It had some interesting ideas but it was kinda formulaic especially after Toy Story 1 and 2. It kinda falls above Bug’s Life for me but definitely near the bottom of the Pixar pile, a good pile though it may be. So how good could a prequel released twelve years after the original actually be especially given the fact that prequel is almost a curse word by this point?

Well, honestly I think I preferred it to the original. Scrap that. I definitely preferred it to the original. I’ll admit, I was sceptical as many were when I first heard of this film. It seemed as though lately Pixar had been falling into a sequel quagmire and their latest original film wasn’t exactly ground-breaking (Yes, I’m looking at you Brave). Monsters University was just another attempt at a soulless cash in by a company that was running out of good original ideas. I also wondered exactly why they were releasing a movie set at a university, a movie ostensibly aimed at kids.

Having watched it though, I can say that whilst this may not be Pixar’s most heart-warming movie, though it still has it’s moments, it is one of their funniest. I also realised that despite the colourful monster designs this isn’t a movie aimed squarely at kids like the Cars franchise is and it made sense to me when I considered that twelve year gap between films. The kids who saw the first movie are probably around University age themselves now. There’s no way kids are gonna get jokes about new age philosophy or subtly implied accidental incest jokes but the kids who watched that first movie twelve years ago are and this is a movie for them. There’s still plenty of jokes and stuff kids will enjoy, don’t get me wrong, but I firmly believe that kids today aren’t the primary audience for this film.

Pixar are really good at this ageing with their audience thing and getting a good balance between appealing to both kids and adults. Hell, just look at Toy Story 3 released ffteen years after the first film. It’s all about growing up and leaving behind your childhood, about parents saying goodbye to their kids. It’s a film that I absolutely believes resonates more with the generation who grew up watching that first film than it does with kids today.

Still, it does fall into a few traps that prequels inevitably do. The crammed in jokes that serve as a bridge between the two films. They aren’t anywhere egregious as the hoops Lucas jumped through to ensure that every little thing in the Star Wars prequels was connected to everything else (3PO was built by Vader! Obi-Wan was chased by Boba Fett and his dad! Yoda hung out with Chewbacca!) but there is a plot thread featuring Randall from the first film which seems like it just stops at one point, feeling like an excuse to have the character there because, you know, prequel.

Still overall this a damn enjoyable film and, to further justify this being included in my horror month, one of the final scenes is a pretty nice homage to horror movies in general. It even takes place at a summer camp. It’s a scene where a character finally realizes… Well, saying anymore would be entering spoiler territory but it’s a surprisingly different place than I thought the movie would go so good for it. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

 

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2011 in Film: Number 4: Green Hornet by Jamie

(This is a repost of a review from 17, February, 2011)

Nothing really too spoilery as far as I can tell. Still, be warned.

I’ve never seen the 60s Green Hornet show as far as I can remember. Never listened to any of the old radio shows and if there are or have been comic books as well then I’ve never read ‘em. Still, I have some knowledge of the characters involved simply due to the way that pop culture just generally seems to infect my brain. Still, I can’t say I was really anticipating this film but everything else good had already been seen and ‘True Grit’ wasn’t coming out for another week so what the hell.

The story is that Britt Reid (Played by Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen) is the layabout, no good partying son of newspaper tycoon James (Tom Wilkinson). One day James is killed by a bee sting and Britt fires his mansions staff except for the maid. The next morning he finds that his coffee is not to his usual liking. He discovers that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) used to make the coffee. It turns out that Kato is a technological genius as well as a Master of the martial arts. Britt also inherits his father newspaper, a position which he doesn’t really want and decides to basically leave it in the hands of Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos playing a watered down version of William Adama if he worked at a newspaper).

Britt and Kato get hammered and come to the conclusion that both of them hated Britt’s father. They decide to cut the head of off his memorial statue but, during the process, they see a couple being mugged and the two leap into action to save them with Kato doing most of the actual saving thanks to his Kato vision (?) and his ability to make cars multiply or something (???). The two are mistaken for criminals themselves, which technically they are having just committed vandalism, and they flee the area.

Britt convinces Kato that they should join forces as a crime fighting duo who pose as criminals in order to get into the seedy criminal underworld of what ever city this is supposed to be… Los Angeles. Right… And also in order to protect the innocent people in there lives which, considering they’re both orphans who don’t seem to have any friends apart from each other, seems to be an odd reason. Britt uses his position at the newspaper, deciding he should take a more active role in the way it’s run, to raise the profile of the newly dubbed Green Hornet (a name which was thunk up by Kato after Britt suggested the name The Green Bee in a scene so hilarious I had to stab myself in the legs to prevent myself from laughing too hard… Yes. That was sarcasm… Actually to be fair that scene did include the one line which I probably laughed at the hardest involving blowing this man all out of proportion…)

Anyway, Britt hires Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to be his personal assistant after she comes in looking for a temp job. She has a degree in criminology and so Britt uses her to try and figure out what moves The Green Hornet should make next. This also begs the question as to why someone with a degree in criminology is seeking a temp job at a newspaper rather than doing some criminologying but whatever. And so The Green Hornet and Kato start blowing up meth labs much to the chagrin of local crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz playing a watered down version of the Jew Hunter if he was a crime lord rather than a Nazi).

That’ll do for the synopsis I reckon. Needless to say the villains and heros clash and more things occur. Also there’s a shitty kind of love triangle that develops between Britt, Kato and Lenore. You know, kind of like what happened with Peter Parker, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3. And I guess that’s my biggest problem with this film. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If you want a film about an ordinary guy who decides he wants to be a superhero, you’ve got Kick Ass. If you want a film about a billionaire who can afford all kinds of shit to help him fight crime then you’ve got the Batman films. If you want a Seth Rogen comedy then you’ve got a lot better Seth Rogen films out there you could be watching instead.

Also, why the fuck is Michel Gondry directing this film? There where a few of his stylistic touches here and there like the aforementioned baffling car multiplying and an interesting kind of dream sequence type thing but other than that I honestly can’t think why he’d sign up for this. It was just… weird. And not in the good Michel Gondry weird way.

I will say this. The film was a little funnier than I expected but not really funny enough and then the action scenes just seemed to kind of bore me. There were interesting moments but overall the whole thing just seemed to fall a bit flat. Speaking of which, the 3D was utterly pointless. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



2011 in Film: Number 3 : The Dilemma by Jamie

Oh, Kevin James. Kevin James, Kevin James, Kevin James. Those two words strike fear into my heart. I have never seen a film that starred Kevin James that was in anyway worth watching. It’s not fair to say I hate the man, though he certainly doesn’t make it any easier on himself by releasing shit like Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Zookeeper.

So it is with no small amount of trepidation that I watched The Dilemma, a film starring James, Vince Vaughan, Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder. It’s a relatively good cast, aside from James, to be fair though Vince Vaughan certainly has his off days. The basic premise of the story is that Nick (James) and Ronny (Vaughan) are two best friends and partners in an automobile engineering company. They’ve developed a new type of electrical engine which makes the noise of the muscle car engines of the past. They need to get all of the kinks out before a big meeting with Dodge that could make or break their company.

At the same time, Ronny is planning on proposing to his girlfriend Beth(Connelly) and whilst checking out the botanical gardens that he thinks will be the perfect place in which to do that, he spies Nick’s wife Geneva (Ryder) making out with a different man, Skip (Channing Tatum). This understandably shocks the fuck out of Ronny and he finds himself in the titular dilemma. Should he tell his best friend? Confront his cheating spouse? Would telling him bring more stress to a friendship that is already strained by the importance of the deal with Dodge? Yes, it certainly is a dilemma indeed.

Anyway, the rest of the film is filled with the kind of wacky misadventures that you’d probably expect from this kind of film, many of them ending with Ronny getting injured in some manner. I suppose the moral is if you don’t do the right thing then really you’re only hurting yourself. His sneaking around trying to catch Geneva out also has the unintended consequence of making all of his friends and family think that he has fallen back into an old gambling addiction that he apparently had. Still, this is a pretty formulaic film and I’m sure you can guess how the whole thing ends.

Along with all of these shenanigans, the movie seems to throw in dramatic and emotional scenes, creating tonal shifts that could cause whiplash. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about movies in January it’s that they are generally released at this time because the studios don’t seem to have much faith in them and it seems to me as though the number one reason that they lack that faith is because the movies don’t seem to know what they want to be. I guarantee you that if this had just been a straight up comedy featuring James and Vaughan, it would have received a later release date. I’m not saying it would have been any good, it just would have been released later.

Perhaps the part of this movie that I enjoyed most was Channing Tatum. He is actually a genuinely funny guy and his few scenes in this film actually made me laugh more often than not. Good for him. He’s made me really kinda wanna go and see 21 Jump Street. Other than him though, the film, whilst not particularly terrible, isn’t in anyway recommendable either. On the whole, it was a little better than I thought it would be but not by a lot. There are major problems with the plot such as it being too formulaic, too predictable and it also doesn’t really address the fact that Beth’s infidelity isn’t her fault alone with Nick clearly having some part in the break down of the relationship. Maybe if you catch it on TV it might be worth a watch but that’s the only time I’d bother. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



2011 In Film: Number 2: Country Strong by Jamie

Spoilers ahead.

Generally speaking, country music isn’t my thing. Sure there are exceptions but as a whole, it’s not something I can really get into. Add on top of that the fact that, outside of Iron Man, I’m not a massive fan of Gwyneth Paltrow. So it’s fair to say that Country Strong, the film starring Gwyneth Paltrow as an alcoholic country singer, is the least aimed at me film that could have possibly been made. Still, I made a commitment to sit down and watch all 200 or so movies listed on Wikipedia’s list of films released in 2011 and so I sat down and watched it.

The main gist of the story is that Gwyneth Paltrow is Kelly Canter, a famous country singer who is in rehab after falling over drunk whilst five months pregnant on her last tour. Whilst in rehab she begins an affair with Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), an aspiring singer/songwriter, but her husband/manager James (Tim McGraw) takes her out of rehab early in an effort to get her to tour again and rebuild her reputation. He also picks up Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) to support her on the tour and, having seen them perform together, he decides to take Beau along as well, under the pretense that he’s also there to look after Kelly as her rehab sponsor.

So during the tour, Kelly gets drunk and either misses or fucks up the show. She also grows increasingly jealous of Chiles and increasingly resentful of Beau and James. Due to her constant inability to perform, it’s more and more up to Chiles and Beau to keep the tour going and so they find themselves becoming more and more famous and eventually they fall in love. Anyway, Kelly finally cleans herself up for the last big show and knocks it out of the park. Everyone is happy and things look like they’re gonna finally be OK. And then Kelly kills herself with an overdose. Beau moves on to California to work on a ranch and play his music for the love of music, man, and eventually Chiles joins him.

Christ, I know that there was more than that in the film and I literally watched it a little while ago but my mind is mostly drawing a blank. This film was so cliché, so by the numbers and so incredibly, incredibly boring. Even the big shock ending wasn’t a shock. Of course Kelly was gonna die. I’d be more shocked if she’d finally sorted herself out and did good.

Also the main point of this story seems to be that you can have fame or you can have love but you can’t have both. Really? Maybe if your husband is also your manager and so both your incomes rely on you but I’m fairly sure there are famous people who have managed to handle having both.

I suppose if I can say something good, it’s that everyone seems to be trying really hard and everyone’s singing there own songs and doing pretty well at it as far as my ear for country music goes but honestly, this film is just so… meh that I really can’t recommend it. Half a pint out of five. Laterz.



2011 in Film: Number 1: Season of the Witch by Jamie

Spoilers ahead.

Starting a new little project on this blog and going to try and watch every film released in 2011 (at least as listed on Wikipedia) and as luck would have it, I must begin with a Nicolas Cage film. Now normally I like to do a video review of Cage’s films but I’m having some technical issues in that department so I have to resort to something barbaric like typing out the words with my fingers rather than speaking them with my mouth parts. Enough of my problems, on to the review!

The film opens during the crusades which were apparently fought by quipping Americans who may or may not be trying to do English-esque accents. I honestly can’t tell if Nicolas Cage is trying speak with an English accent and just failing or if it’s just the way his voice goes when he’s trying to speak in somewhat faux Olde English. Ron Perlman, on the other hand, doesn’t even seem to bother and honestly, his performance is more enjoyable because of it. Anyway, the two Crusadery chums are hacking their way through battles, killing for God and drinking with wenches and just generally having as good a time as two knights can. After a while though, they come to the realisation that they aren’t just killing deserving infidel warriors but also women and children too. They decide that enough is enough and leave the Crusades and go on the run as deserters.

So they find themselves wandering around medieval Europe. What are they doing? Well, that’s never really explained. Probably going from village to village and righting wrongs where they can. That’s the ind of shit that righteous outlaws are always doing from Robin Hood to The A-Team. Anyway, they come across a kingdom blighted by the plague where they are recognised and arrested. However they are given a holy quest by a plague-ridden Christopher Lee (in one of the more bizarre cameo appearances in film history). The quest is to deliver an alleged witch to a monastery where a rite will be performed that will remove the curse of the plague. Cage is reticent to sign up and work for the church again but ultimately relents in exchange for a guarantee that the accused witch will receive a fair trial and that he and Perlman are given full pardons.

They are accompanied on their quest by a priest, the unfortunately named Debelzaq, a swindler/merchant named Hagamar, another knight whose own land has been ravaged by the plague, causing him to lose his daughter, named Ulrich and a young aspiring knight Kay. They set off and, honestly, not much actually happens on the way. There’s a few deaths and few things which are possibly meant to make you wonder if the girl actually has supernatural powers or not whilst actually makes it pretty fucking obvious that she has supernatural powers. What happens could best be described as dude gets stabbed, there’s a rickety bridge on which no one dies, some demon wolves and then bam. They’re at the monastery.

There are bad things afoot at the monastery however! Apparently the plague has struck there too and it’s down to Debelzaq to try and perform the rite to sort out the witch. But bad things are afoot inside the girls body! It turns out that she’s not a witch at all but she is, in fact, possessed by bad CGI Satan! So any chance of this being in anyway interesting is almost immediately lost, any hint that maybe the girl wasn’t supernatural and was perhaps just crazy is instantly gone (though they would have had to explain a shit lot of the stuff that happened earlier if they had gone that route). What we’re left with is a final battle between our main cast and some poor special effects. Ugh.

So where exactly did this film go wrong? Well, there’s the cheap look which renders everything just a little unbelievable, the poor writing and somewhat stilted acting but the biggest problem is the constant shift in tone. This film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a buddy action comedy? A psychological thriller? A straight up supernatural horror? Don’t get me wrong, tonal shifts in movies can work but not when they seem to be happening every time there’s a scene change. It’s just comes off as jarring.

Was there anything good about the film? Well, this isn’t the worse that Cage has been and he isn’t exactly bad at playing the repentant, world-weary warrior but you can’t help but feel a little disappointed that Cage isn’t playing it a little crazier given the setting. Also Perlman’s entertaining but he’s taken being entertaining in cheesy bullshit and turned it into an art form.

At the end of the day those two points aren’t really enough to recommend the movie to anyone really. I will say that there are entertaining moments but they are very few and far between and most of them are quite near the beginning of the film. Overall I can’t in good conscience give this more than one pint out of five. Laterz.




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