Cinepub


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.

 

Monsters_University_poster_3

Advertisements


Review: Toy Story 3 by Jamie

Right. This is a spoiler free review.

15 years ago, the first fully CGI animated film was released by Pixar. That film was, of course, Toy Story.. It introduced us to a cast of characters who, despite being made of plastic, had an emotional range equal or greater than many actors who have graced the silver screen. And far, far more emotional range than Keanu Reeves. It was a great film as was the second which came out in 1999. A good time was had by all.

Personally, I was 10 or 11 when the first Toy Story film came out. It’s hard to pin down exactly which because of the great difference in release dates between the UK and the US, especially with Pixar films and especially back then. Still even though I wasn’t exactly a little kid I still kind of grew up with the Toy Story films and, even though I’m always a little cautious with sequels, especially ones with the number three in the title, I was looking forward to Toy Story 3. So was my anticipation rewarded with the kind of joy akin to receiving a Castle Grayskull on Christmas Day or was my hope dashed to pieces like so many ruined LEGO creations?

The answer, of course, is rewarded. Toy Story 3 is seriously the best film to come out this year (Still haven’t seen Inception yet but even that will have to work hard to top this) and admittedly that’s not saying much given the turgid shit that this summer seems to have served us up so let me go one step further. Toy Story 3 is one of the best films this decade… Wait, that doesn’t work either what with this being the first year of the decade… Fuck it, Toy Story 3 is really, really good, alright.

I’m not gonna do one of my normal, long winded synopsises because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Everyone should see this film and they should see it knowing as little as possible about it. So I’ll just summarise a few things that everyone should probably already know. It’s a good few years after Toy Story 2 and Andy is 17 and is getting ready to leave for college. In the confusion of his packing, moving things to the attic and moving other things to the trash, his old toys get donated to a local daycare. They find life isn’t as awesome there as they might have hoped and so they decide to try and escape and make their way back to Andy.

There, synopsis over. Let’s get to the substance. There is so much going on in this film and yet it plays out in a beautifully simple way. It touches on themes of loyalty, love, friendship, family and learning to let go and it all seems as though Pixar where taking a massive risk taking the franchise in this direction. They could have done another film set when Andy is young and it all would have been very safe and familiar and I think the first idea for this film would have been like that with some kind of recall for Buzz Lightyear figures put into effect or something. Thankfully someone came up with this idea and thankfully Pixar doesn’t shy away from risks.

Perhaps first and foremost on the importance block is the fact that the film was funny. I mean really funny. There were scenes were the whole cinema was filled with raucous laughter, in particular a certain situation involving Mr. Potato Head and when Buzz is accidentally set to a Spanish mode (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, it was in the trailer.

Still, the character with the most consistently funny scenes is Ken (Michael Keaton) who I was surprised was actually in the film as much as he is. I remember seeing the clip of him and Barbie meeting in either a trailer or a preview clip online and thought that would be it, he would be there for that one joke. Thankfully he’s not and he is awesome. He is ridiculously camp, obsessed with fashion and just basically seems to have the kind of personality that a male toy from a girls toy line would probably have.

The villain of the piece shows up in the cuddly bear form of Lotso (Ned Beatty) a toy who certainly has some issues with abandonment. He is aided in his dominance of the Daycare by Big Baby, a baby doll who appears in one of the creepiest and bizarre moments of the films. I won’t give it away but I’ll just say it involves a swing and it is awesome.

Speaking of terrifying, Jesus fucking Christ, one of those creepy fucking cymbal monkeys is in here as well, his unblinking eye always watching for any escapees, his cymbals and horrible monkey screeches acting as an alarm. He also posses one of those rictus grins that those little bastards always have. Ugh, but still awesome.

Speaking even more of terrifying, there is a scene near the end that is actually pretty goddamn horrific considering the film is a U. But it is also this scene which has perhaps the second most heart-wrenching moment in the entire film, just watching the toys come together as a family and the way that they deal with what is about to happen to them. I have no shame in saying that I was crying at that moment and also genuinely scared for the characters.

The biggest heart-wrenching moment is, however, the ending. Seriously if you don’t cry during that scene then you are an inhuman monster, devoid of emotion, incapable of empathy and we should probably lock you away before we find a bunch of dead hookers buried under the patio in your garden. You sicken me.

Hmm, I don’t like this whole writing without spoilers thing. It constrains me too much. Still, you honestly just have to see this and I would hate myself if I ruined any of it for you.

Now, is there anything really that bad to say about the film? Well, not much actually. There is the occasional bit where the film seems to drag on a little but these moments are few and far between and quickly forgotten when things get going again. There’s also the feeling that some of the plots threads are recycled from the previous two films and the idea of a prison break style plot isn’t exactly massively original but it all seems easily forgivable given what the filmmakers do with everything they have at their disposal.

So to summarise, Toy Story 3 will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you nostalgic for your own childhood and your own toys. It has references to Jurassic Park, Cool Hand Luke and the original Toy Story with a cameo from Sid. Hell, it even has Timothy Dalton playing a thespian stuffed hedgehog.

Most importantly it is the ending to a great trilogy of films (Hopefully at least. The biggest mistake Pixar could make is deciding to green light a Toy Story 4), a trilogy 15 years in the making. For many of us that’s a substantial part of our lives, certainly over half of mine. We’ve travelled along way and for a long time with these characters, we’ve seen them lose their way and redeem themselves. We’ve seen them grow closer as friends and as a family. Finally we’ve seen the end of their story and, even though they are only toys, it’s one of the most emotional and human endings to any film series I have ever seen. Five pints out of five. Laterz.




%d bloggers like this: