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



Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone by Jamie

There are certain movies out there that you can tell were written with a different actor in mind than the one they ended up with. Films like ‘Balls of Fury’ which stars Dan Fogler because they obviously couldn’t get Jack Black or ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ being written for the invention of time travel so a young Bruce Campbell could have been cast as the lead. ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ may not be one of these movies but it sure as hell feels like it is.

Burt Wonderstone really, really feels like a second rate Will Ferrell character to the point where at times it even sounds as though Steve Carell is doing a half-arsed Ron Burgundy impression. And when I say a second rate Will Ferrell character I really mean that. I’m talking ‘Semi-Pro’ levels of comedy here. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not great, is what I’m saying.

Unfortunately Steve Carell really is the problem here. Most of the other characters in the film provide small bright spots of comedy here and there but the film seems to go through long stretches following Burt Wonderstone and nobody else. This doesn’t really help with the Will Ferrell comparison because it’s so incredibly blatant in scenes when Burt is by himself, talking to a throwaway character or complaining on his phone about how small his bed is.

Like I say the other characters do bring some funny moments here and there but they’re used so sparingly that you just end up feeling disappointed. There’s Steve Buscemi as Burt’s partner Anton who has a pretty good subplot wherein he visits poor, staving people in the third world and rather than food or clean water delivers the gift of magic. Jim Carrey occupies the villain role as a magician in the style of Criss Angel and he steals every scene playing something akin to a douchier version of Ace Ventura with a masochistic streak but you can’t tell if it’s because he’s actually being really good or everything around him is so lacklustre. Alan Arkin is pretty enjoyable as Burt’s role model but again he gets so little actual screen time that it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Oh, and Olivia Wilde is there because Steve Carell’s character needs a woman twenty years younger than him as a romantic interest. Otherwise how would I know he’s successful?

Hell, honestly I could maybe even forgive a middling comedy if there were anything original about it but sadly there isn’t much here we haven’t seen before. It’s the story of someone famous for doing something but soon finds himself being replaced by someone younger and edgier coming along. He finds himself at the lowest he can possibly get until he decides to try one last time to pull himself out of the gutter and beat his rival. Will he succeed? Have you ever seen a movie before? So yeah it’s that plot and this time it’s with magicians.

Even the jokes are old, things we’ve seen a dozen times before. For example there is one scene where Burt and a groupie walk into a room with the promise of sexual acts about to take place. From outside the room we hear the groupie exclaim “It’s huge!” Cut to inside the bedroom and it reveals that she’s talking about the bed (Apparently it can sleep two dozen adults). Oh the hilarity!

I will give it a little credit as early on it shows Burt talking to the owner of a casino and being old he will only hire Burt if he drops Anton from the act. I thought ‘Oh great, it’s gonna be a film about two partner’s who separate because one gets greedy but then they realise they need each other and come back together.’ However Burt refuses and the casino owner relents and hires them both. ‘Oh,’ I thought ‘The film knew that’s what I was gonna think this was and cleverly fooled me. Maybe this will be something original after all! Great!’ and then it basically threw that in as a subplot later anyway. So yeah, thanks for tricking me movie.

Overall the movie is really just a meh. If you find yourself considering watching this I recommend watching a good Will Ferrell movie instead. You’ll be glad you did. One and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone




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