Posts Tagged ‘film’

Monsters University: Now Available for Homeschooling

Monster-University-pixar

I am not much of a scarer. I went to college for more comedic reasons. Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan (John Goodman), however, went for the former. The two best buds from Pixar’s hilarious and touching Monsters, Inc have returned, albeit in a timey-wimey sort of way, for Monsters University, a prequel showcasing how the dynamic duo first came together.

The story of Wazowski and Sullivan gets off to a rocky start, and the film follows it through the fairly predictable course syllabus of self-discovery 101 with a healthy dose of teamwork thrown in for extracurricular requirements.

Monsters Univeristy does not offer a lot of surprises, save one experienced by Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), and a good chunk of the humor is based on the audience being familiar with the main characters in an omniscient sort of way—it’s funny now because we know how things turn out.

However, that doesn’t mean the jokes don’t work. I laughed loudly during much of the film. Monsters University is very funny.

In addition there are also a number of homages paid to the college comedy genre, with references to Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds, respectively, and they really make the grade. Granted, they won’t be recognized by everyone, but that is the key to Pixar’s success, making films that work on many, many levels.

Unfortunately, Monsters University misses on one—it is somewhat lacking in what Pixar does best: heart. There are moments of sentiment, but they are over too quickly and often feel too forced. The tender moments that Pixar has trained us to wait for come and go before we even realize what is happening. There is no lingering for effect. They don’t leave a tender moment alone. I thought everyone listened to Billy Joel in college.

The art is breathtaking, the humor hits, the characters are fun and relatable, but that special moment wherein the Pixar movies we know and love grab the audience by their collective tear ducts and dare them to hold on… it never happens.

Instead we are given a very enjoyable family film that is full of laughs that will undoubtedly do well at the box office, but left me just a little bit hollow, like getting a B+ in gym class.

Blue umbrella

Luckily, for those of you that have grown fondly accustomed to those special Pixar moments, they are all packed into the short that precedes Monsters University. The Blue Umbrella is sweet, sad, haunting, and hopeful—all within a few speechless minutes. It is a wonderful piece of filmmaking.

That said, Monsters University is a lot of family fun, and the laughs are deep and often. It passes with flying school colors. Monsters University comes out today on DVD and Blu-ray, and there will be all kinds of extra credit for the whole family to enjoy.

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The Lone Ranger: A Review

Lone Ranger and Tonto

Who was that masked man?

And what’s with the bird?

Disney’s spin on The Lone Ranger opens tomorrow, and it is a wild, wild ride.

The film follows the transition of John Reid (Armie Hammer) from lawman to outlaw to hero—he’s the title character, you can’t miss him. However, despite the name of the film the real driving force in the story belongs to Reid’s frenemy, Tonto (Johnny Depp), and the dead bird on his head. Reid and Tonto are quickly bonded together by a thirst for vengeance and a flair for theatrics, then they ride all over the screen seeking justice and answers. Hilarity ensues.

The fact that the film is very funny was something of a surprise. Mind you, it isn’t funny in a spoof sort of way, although there are a few jokes at the expense of previous versions of the story, but rather honest laughs based on the situations at hand and the manner in which Reid and Tonto handle them. Also, Silver (best performance by a horse since Animal House).

Tonto and Silver

Even more surprising is the action. Obviously I expected a good amount of it, but it far exceeded my expectations in both quantity and quality. The Lone Ranger is a non-stop thrill ride and I enjoyed every minute.

Mind you, I didn’t think I would.

I had the same misgivings about the casting of Depp, whom I greatly respect, as the rest of the Internet, and I’m pretty sure I would remember someone named Armie Hammer had I heard of him before. I was somewhat apprehensive as I entered the press screening with a bucket of popcorn and lightly salted hopes.

But I have got to admit, it wowed me.

There are sure to be some naysayers that feel the film should have stayed true to the original backstory between Reid and Tonto, or that there are historical inaccuracies regarding railroads, desert hares, and physics, but that doesn’t matter. Their idea of fun is not having any, and who needs naysayers when you have a horse running on the roof of a moving train? That’s summer blockbuster stuff, people.

This is where I would normally put in a spoiler or two, and give you the same basic plot outlines as every other outlet, but I’m not going to waste your time—neither will The Lone Ranger. Go see it.

Parents: I must point out that The Lone Ranger does live up to its PG-13 rating and there is no shortage of death or gun violence. It’s the kind of film that I would let the boys (ages 7 and 10, respectively) watch at home where discussions can be had as needed, but not necessarily in the theater where violence is soaked up, justified, and quickly forgotten.  But that’s just me. I’m that guy.

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My Way, Way Back

The Way, Way Back

This post is sponsored by Fox Searchlight Pictures, and I hope you enjoy it.

The summers of my Arizona childhood were long and hot, stretching sideways in both directions and embracing the unsuspecting months of spring and fall with sweaty, sunburned arms. It was the lazy hug of a friend that had overstayed his welcome while pretending to be oblivious about it. Summer dragged itself across the desert, and it pulled each of us along for the ride. We soaked up every moment.

Our station wagon had folding seats in the back that faced each other, and once opened the empty space filled with the activities of going somewhere—license plate games and bingo on billboards. We were going on a camping trip and we were taking everything we had ever heard of. We packed it all in alphabetical order.

We were surrounded by windows, one an open frame outlining the belly of the car and those that sat within it, and the other three of glass that magnified the sun and left us squirming for the world to see like unschooled fish in a traveling aquarium, flopping in the dry heat and gasping for breath.

Whenever possible I rode my bike. The roads were tired dust storms of dirt and gravel, spanning miles between the dots of trees that connected where we were to where we were going and making pictures for space like dull, green stars in reverse. I had a Walkman and cassette tapes, a canteen full of tap water, and my Wayfarers on. The 80s were sewn across my pocket.

Miami Vice was a lifestyle choice:

IMG_0609

The summer that I turned fifteen I took a job working maintenance at the local waterpark and rode my bike there more often than not. Sometimes people would offer me a ride and I would throw my bike in the trunk or truck bed while trying to spin the weather into polite conversation. Other times they would fly right by, and the sweat of my skin would catch the clouds of their dust, leaving me to cough and experiment with curse words as I watched them drive into the distance.

Sometimes, when my eyes locked on the faces of children flushed against the mouth-stained fog of their backseat windows, I felt like a pawn in somebody else’s game—I was bingo, and they were taking me on their camping trip. We would stare at each other until the clouds rolled in, and I would cough while I wondered where the hell we were going.

I was uncomfortably tall, awkwardly skinny, and I had a perm where a hat should be. My shorts were shorter and made of corduroy. I was as insecure as I was invincible.

My coworkers filled a bag of stereotypes, and being the youngest among them I idolized each accordingly. The guys on the crew were either stoned or hungover. The lifeguards were pants-stirringly pretty and college girl mean. The manager was a cartoon wrapped in bright, red flesh and he left his mouth open so the attitude could get out. After the last guest had left for the day he would put Judas Priest on the PA system, recline in a lounge chair with a beer and his shotgun, and shoot unsuspecting doves as they flew between the cotton fields that surrounded us. His dogs, apparently unable to read the stenciled warnings against it, would dive into the silent wave pool and fetch feathers with their teeth.

I was on the water slide, golden tan, and laughing loudly over three sips of lukewarm Budweiser.

By the end of summer I was well-versed in the ways to kiss a girl, and my perm had melted into curling locks that covered my ears and kept them from burning. I thought of the days ahead, which are now long since passed, and I reflected on those that had already gone by.

The next year would bring a divorce to my parents and a different job to my summer. My visits to the waterpark became few and far between. The station wagon was replaced with a car so crappy that it quickly became mine, and the rest of my youth was spent driving it from here to there, lured by smiles and the lips that made them.

Those memories, despite their distance, have returned bright and clear, but the truth is I haven’t thought about them in a very long time. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time those days crossed my mind, and if not for a recent screening of The Way, Way Back they would probably be forgotten still. I’m glad they’re back. The timing could not be better.

These days I have two young boys of my own, and I can’t help but wonder how their respective stories will be written. What will be their way, way back? What are the moments that will mold them? I can’t wait to watch, and I am in no hurry to get there.

Growing up is a long, muddy ride through the metaphors of summer, and it is worth every damn pedal.

The Way, Way Back

______________________

From Fox Searchlight Pictures: THE WAY, WAY BACK is the funny and poignant coming of age story of 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin).  Having a rough time fitting in, the introverted Duncan finds an unexpected friend in gregarious Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the Water Wizz water park. Through his funny, clandestine friendship with Owen, Duncan slowly opens up to and begins to finally find his place in the world – all during a summer he will never forget.

Follow The Way, Way Back (this link is fun), which is a great film, on Facebook and Twitter.

The Way, Way Back opens in theaters on July 5.

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Win Weekend Passes to See Stan Lee Win Something

The Avengers opens this week, and it is awesome. You may have seen the giveaway I’m running at the Disney Blog for some cool Avengers swag, but if you haven’t, go enter, I’ll wait.

I’ve also got something very special to give away here, and it too involves The Avengers. And Stan Lee. It’s a great power, great responsibility sort of thing, but with less spiders.

I’ve got two(2) weekend festival passes to the 2012 Catalina Film Festival, which includes a presentation by, and the honoring of, Mr. Stan Lee. Also, a special screening of Marvel’s The Avengers.

The catch? The winner needs to be in Southern California because travel to Catalina Island and other accommodations are not included in the prize.

Still, seeing Stan Lee and The Avengers is pretty cool, and Catalina Island is a great getaway. I’ve seen worse giveaways.

How to enter: If you are in SoCal and able to attend the Catalina Film Festival this coming weekend (May 4-6) then leave a comment below stating which Avenger is your favorite and why. It’s that easy!

Comments will close at 11:59 p.m. PST on Wednesday, May 2. Winner will be picked at random and contacted via email. Due to the sensitive timing of this giveaway winner must respond ASAP. If I do not hear back within 3 (three hours) I will contact another winner. I know, it’s not a lot of time, but hey, it’s my giveaway.

Excelsior!

_______________

See the video of Mark Ruffalo on his inspiration for the Hulk!

Read my review of The Avengers at DadCentric!

Photo: Disney/Marvel

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Assembling Avengers!

Get it? Avengers assemble. You assemble LEGO bricks. That’s pure gold, people. Pure gold. (No gold bricks are included.)

I’ll be interviewing these guys (the cast of Disney/Marvel’s The Avengers, not the actual LEGO figures) in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

Look here for a first look at the new line of Avengers LEGO bricks!

Also, the Avengers are on Twitter and Facebook for all your superhero social media needs.

 

 

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