Archive for steve buscemi

The Boss Baby

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

DreamWorks Animation and the director of Madagascar invite you to meet a most unusual baby. He wears a suit, speaks with the voice and wit of Alec Baldwin, and stars in the animated comedy, DreamWorks’ The Boss Baby. The Boss Baby is a hilariously universal story about how a new baby’s arrival impacts a family, told from the point of view of a delightfully unreliable narrator, a wildly imaginative 7 year old named Tim

What people are saying:

“The contrast between the helpless-infant stage of life and corporate-speak is funny but fairly high-concept for a kiddie movie, and the plot grows denser as it goes along and the baby and Tim reluctantly join forces to stop a conspiracy by which puppies would corner all the love in the world” 3 stars

“I’ve seen previews for animated films in the past and gotten the complete wrong impression from them before. That did not happen this time, as this movie looked boring and contrived, and it certainly was that. There’s some cute potty humor, and a few jokes from the alarm clock that made me smile, but otherwise this movie was simple, obvious, and boring. It was very difficult after the climax to sit through the rest of the film… which would be emotional if the movie had done it’s job of making you care about the characters. There’s very little to like here. I’d recommend this to children 4-6 years old? Maybe? ” 1 star

“I could have done without the kewpie-doll faces and oversized eyes, but for the most part and where it counts, gets its kids just right.” 3 stars

“This movie surprised me. I did not expect to like it very much. I thought it would just be a bunch of crude humor but it turned out that the story and the characters pulled me in, and I ended up caring about them very much. I enjoyed that the movie just got better as it went along and ended up being a movie with lots of heart! (the scene with the tons of plastic beads really got to me; it was so touching!) Don’t want to spoil it for those that have not seen the movie yet. Good story about family and love between siblings4 stars

“the juxtaposition between imagination and reality is brilliant, and the story strikes a great balance between hilarity and heartwarming. On the flip side, some elements are overly repeated (I’ll puke if they play blackbird one more time!), the chase & fight scenes are annoying, the story gets a bit complicated for a PG film (not to mention the plot-holes this creates), and there’s so much room to edit this down by a good 15 minutes.” 3 stars

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Armageddon

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

As a massive asteroid hurtles toward Earth, NASA’s head honcho hatches a plan to split the deadly rock in two before it annihilates the entire planet, calling on the world’s finest oil driller to head up the mission.

What people are saying:

“Just when you think you’ve had it with this movie, there comes a farcical, rock ‘n’ roll sort of comedy sequence, or a hilariously goofy line.” 3 stars

“Yes, it’s big. It’s stupid. It’s also completely kick butt. A true adventure film, Armageddon takes you by the throat and won’t let go. For as silly as the script seems, I dare you not to be on the edge of your seat during the tense moments or touched by the admittedly sappy sentimentalism later in the flick. There are too many moments here that are full of sheer joy not to watch this again.” 5 stars

“Now I love movies, I really enjoy action movies, but this….Oh my! This IS one of the worst movies of all times. Mindbogglingly dumb, full of cliches and a meaningless ending. Why so many people adore this waste of time and money, I’ll never understand.
A typical Bay-affair. Still waiting for him to just release a movie with 90 minutes of just explosions!” 1/2 star

“Yeah, gotta go with five stars for this one. Yes, it unashamedly goes for the heartstrings, yes the song is cornball, and yes, it’s full of cliches and REALLY bad science. It’s also action-packed, full of humor, loads of fun, and if you don’t cry at the end, you’re probably not human. This one and Twister are my two favorite cornball ‘disaster’ movies.” 5 stars

“NASA decides to recruit and train a courageous group of drillers to save Earth from a large asteroid. A List movie stars-Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, and a great movie soundtrack “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith. Despite the movie having a very serious plot, some characters provide comic relief including Rockhound, Bear, Lev Andropov, and Oscar Choi. One subplot is the conflict between Harry, Harry’s daughter Grace, and AJ (Grace’s boyfriend) which eventually gets resolved. This movie has great footage of NASA’s spacesuits, equipment, rigorous training facilities/program, control center, and space shuttles. It also has superb special effects of the smaller asteroids striking Earth, the team traveling through space to land on the asteroid, and the team on the asteroid. Once arriving in space, the team appears jinxed facing one unexpected challenge or tragedy after the next leading to the courageous climax of the movie that will make viewers cry. This movie has a strong plot and subplot, excellent character choices, is well written to touch the heart and emotions of viewers, and has amazing special effects making you feel like you are there with the team. Most people would not have enough courage to do what this team did in outer space to save Earth.” 5 stars

Escape from L.A.

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The year is 2013 and Snake Plissken is back from Escape From New York. An earthquake has separated Los Angeles from the mainland. In the New Moral America, all citizens not conforming to the new laws (no smoking, no red meat, no Muslims in South Dakota) are deported to L.A., now a penal colony. The President’s daughter has stolen a doomsday device and has fled to L.A. It’s up to Snake Plissken to find the President’s daughter and retrieve the doomsday device before its too late.

What people are saying:

“A dreadful belated sequel to the entertaining Escape From New York. Perfectly epitomizes how Carpenter’s skills have eroded since his late ’70s, early ’80s heyday.” 2 1/2 stars

“It’s preposterous and there’s nothing particularly new that wasn’t introduced in the last one, Escape From L.A. is nonetheless an extremely fun and entertaining watch with plenty of social commentary strewn throughout.” 2 1/2 stars

“Set in a not too far dystopian future , this movie is a sequel to John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York.” Although not a very popular film, I actually liked it. I love the way movie gives you the real deal about politics and our society in a humorous and adventurous way. But at the same time, it is a warning of the totalitarian government that continues to rise. Despite bad special effects, the movie still delivers a lot of action and interesting characters.” 3 1/2 stars

“Pretty bad movie. It tries to be cheesy, B-movie entertainment, and it succeeds, except for the entertainment part. It’s too cheesy, the effects are not good, even for the time, the action is ok, and the performances are bland, especially Russell. One of the moments that proved this movie’s quality was when Russell and Fonda surfed a tsunami in downtown LA to chase a car.” 2 1/2 stars

“While not as gritty as “Escape From New York” this movie still manages to be very entertaining. It may be a tad bit campy in comparison and some parts feel like carbon copies from the first. There was even a point in the beginning when I checked to make sure I was Watching the right movie. This movie is still a good time and I definitely recommend a watch, especially if you enjoyed the first movie.” 3 stars

Hotel Transylvania 2

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Some time after the first film, Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her new fiancé Johnny (Andy Samberg) are finally married, with the approval of her father Dracula (Adam Sandler), and the world becomes aware of (and unfazed by) the existence of monsters. Mavis later reveals to Drac that she is pregnant and a year later, she gives birth to a baby boy named Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), who later befriends Wayne’s daughter Winnie (Sadie Sandler). Nearing his fifth birthday, Dennis has yet to grow his fangs and Drac worries that his grandson might not gain vampire powers. Noticing the dangers of Transylvania, Mavis starts to consider raising Dennis where Johnny grew up, much to Drac’s disapproval.

Drac tells Johnny (who doesn’t want to leave the hotel either) to bring Mavis to California to visit the in-laws, Mike (Nick Offerman) and Linda (Megan Mullally), but to make sure to keep her distracted so that she will not move, leaving Drac to “babysit” Dennis. Drac enlists his friends, Frank (Kevin James), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key) and Blobby the Blob (Jonny Solomon) to help train Dennis to become a monster, to no avail. Drac takes Dennis to his childhood summer camp, Camp Winnepacaca, where he learned to hone his vampire abilities, and discovers that the camp is safer than it was when he went there. Drac stubbornly believes Dennis is a “late fanger”, so he hurls Dennis from a tall, unstable tower to pressure the boy’s transformation into a bat. Dennis does not transform, and Drac has to fly and rescue him at the last second. The stunt is filmed by the campers and uploaded to the internet, which eventually reaches Mavis and Johnny. Mavis angrily transforms into a bat to fly her and Johnny back to Transylvania. Drac and his friends reach the hotel a couple of seconds after Mavis. She confronts her father for putting Dennis in grave danger and his inability to accept that he is human. She states she will move out of the hotel after Dennis’ fifth birthday the following Wednesday. Drac hangs his head with deep guilt.

Mavis invites Vlad (Mel Brooks), her grandfather and Drac’s father, to Dennis’ birthday party. As Vlad is much worse than he was when it comes to humans, Drac tells Johnny to have the human party-goers disguise themselves as monsters. Vlad receives the invitation and arrives with his monstrous bat-like servant Bela (Rob Riggle) to meet his great-grandson for the first time. Meeting him, he believes that fear will cause Dennis’ fangs to sprout and possesses a stage performer dressed as Dennis’s favorite television monster, “Kakie the Cake Monster,” to scare Dennis, but Drac shields his grandson at the last moment and exposes the deception to Vlad, who is outraged that Drac has accepted humans as guests in his hotel. Drac confronts his father about how humans are different now.

Mavis becomes upset with her grandfather’s behavior (regretting inviting him to Dennis’s birthday party) and while the family argues, Dennis sadly flees the hotel (followed by Bela) and enters the forest with Winnie in tow, hiding in her treehouse, but they are attacked by Bela, who mistakes Dennis for a human. When Bela injures Winnie and threatens to destroy the hotel, Dennis’ anger causes him to instantly grow his fangs and his vampire abilities manifest. He begins to fight Bela, who calls his giant-bat minions. Drac, Mavis, Dennis, Johnny, the rest of the monsters and (some of) Johnny’s family team up to defeat his minions as Vlad watches. A livid Bela then attempts to kill Johnny himself with a stake, but Vlad appears and shrinks him to a harmless size telling him never to come near him and his family again. This allows the Werewolf Kids to lick him nonstop.

With Dennis having vampire abilities, Mavis and Johnny continue to raise him in Transylvania, and they resume the party with his friends

REVIEW:

Adam Sandler’s movies haven’t been doing very well lately, with the exception of Hotel Transylvania (which he only has a voice acting part in). The first film was somewhat of a surprise hit which, of course, means there has to be Hotel Transylvania 2, right? I’m so sick of sequels, prequels, threequels, etc., but I digress. I’m sure this will be worth my time, right?

What is this about?

In this batty animated sequel, high jinks and hilarity ensue when Vlad, Dracula’s cranky estranged dad, arrives at Hotel Transylvania for an unexpected visit — and promptly creates an uproar.

What did I like?

Hanging with the guys. As with almost all of Adam Sandler’s movies, he makes sure to cast his buddies. This is no exception, but the difference is we get to see them actually act as if they are lifelong friends. The last time we saw that from Sandler and co. may have been Grown Ups.

Vlad. Let’s see, Dracula is Jewish comedic legend (whether we want to admit it or not), so his father would have to be an even bigger Jewish comedic legend. How about Mel Brooks? Yes, they cast Brooks as Vlad and he does not disappoint. First, he shows why he has been in the funny business all these years by having a comedic standoff with Sandler and then, we see the grumpy, human hating, all powerful father of vampires. In the short time he is on screen, we get a nice layering of the character that really pays off the build up they gave him early on in the film.

Parks and Rec. The human parents are total opposite of Dracula. Serious and non-flinching, they make you wonder how they even had their son, who doesn’t seem to fit in with them, either. Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly reunite (after many episodes avoiding each other on Parks and Recreation) and give us the tranquil ripples in this maelstrom of madness.

What didn’t I like?

Like father, like son. In the first film, I was not a fan of Andy Samberg’s character. This annoying human who somehow stumbled into a monster hotel nearly ruined the entire film for me. His son, while not as annoying, seems to have the same effect in the sequel. This kid is nothing more than a mop of bright orange hair that always needs saving and talk in such a way that we’re supposed to think him cute. I didn’t.

Tentacle monster. With all the monsters at the hotel, you would think we wouldn’t hear/see about any others, right? Well, lo and behold, out of nowhere (and in a normal, human neighborhood, mind you) we come across a tentacle monster that is married to a human woman, but everyone goes about their business as if nothing happened. How is this thing just up and running around town? I just don’t get it!

Worry too much. Mavis is a great character…at least she was in the first film. There was development, depth, and a touch of human to her that we all could relate to. This go around, she has been reduced to having nothing else to do but worry about her kid. I understand that is what mother’s do, but seriously, they could have given her something…anything else besides spending all her undead life doing things for her annoying kid…and don’t get me started on that little freak out over the camp video!

Final verdict on Hotel Transylvania 2? This is a valiant attempt to recreate the magic of the first film. IT actually comes quite close, but the failure here comes when the writers decided to use more kid humor or more adult humor, rather than finding a happy medium that all could enjoy. That being said, this is still a highly enjoyable film and better than most pictures out there. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do.

4 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Big Fish

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At his son’s wedding party, Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) tells the same tale he’s told many times over the years: on the day Will (Billy Crudup) was born, he was out catching an enormous uncatchable fish, using his wedding ring as bait. Will is annoyed, explaining to his wife Joséphine (Marion Cotillard) that because his father never told the straight truth about anything, he felt unable to trust him. He is troubled to think that he might have a similarly difficult relationship with his future children. Will’s relationship with his father becomes so strained that they do not talk for three years. But when his father’s health starts to fail, Will and the now pregnant Joséphine return to Alabama. On the plane, Will recalls his father’s tale of how he braved a swamp as a child after he was dared by a few other children. He meets a witch (Helena Bonham Carter). She shows Don Price and another boy how they were going to die. They run away, frightened. When the witch shows Edward his death in her glass eye, he accepts it without fear. With this knowledge, Edward knew there were no odds he could not face.

Edward continues telling tall tales, claiming he spent three years confined to a bed as a child because his body was growing too fast. He became a successful athlete, but found the town of Ashton too small for his ambition, and set off with the misunderstood giant Karl (Matthew McGrory). The witch with the glass eye is seen bidding him farewell. While traveling, Edward and Karl see two separate roads out of Ashton. Edward suggest they each take one way. He’ll take the old dirt road and Karl should take the new paved road. They will meet on the other side. Karl feared that Edward was attempting to abandon him, but Edward gives him his backpack to prove that he isn’t. After walking through a scary swamp, Edward discovers the hidden town of Spectre, where everyone is friendly to the point of comfortably walking around barefoot. Their shoes can be seen hanging from a wire near the entrance. When he enters the town he is greeted by the Mayor and his wife. The Mayor has a clipboard that says Edward was meant to be in their town but he had arrived early. He also tells him of the poet Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi) who was also from Ashton. While there Edward has an encounter with a mermaid. She swims away before he could see her face. Edward leaves because he does not want to settle anywhere yet, but promises to the town mayor’s daughter Jenny (Hailey Anne Nelson), who developed a crush on him, that he will return. He believed that he was fated to be there someday.

Edward meets up with Karl. They attend the Calloway Circus where Edward falls in love at first sight with a mysterious woman. Together, Karl and Edward begin working at the circus. Karl meets his destiny by working as the giant man, replacing the old one who is much smaller than him. Edward works without pay, as he has been promised by the ringmaster Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito), who claims to know the mysterious woman, that each month he will learn something new about the mysterious woman. Three years later, having only learned trivia about her, Edward discovers Amos is a werewolf. In return for his refusal to harm him in his monstrous state, Amos tells Edward the girl’s name is Sandra Templeton (Alison Lohman) and she studies at Auburn University.

Edward goes to Sandra to confess his love. He learns Sandra is engaged to Don Price (David Denman), whom Edward always overshadowed during his days in Ashton. Sandra refuses Edward’s proposal but that does not discourage Edward. He writes “I love Sandra” everywhere he could. Don arrived to challenge Edward to a fight over Sandra. Sandra makes Edward promise not to fight Don. Edward allows Don to beat him up. Sandra, disgusted by Don’s violence, ends their engagement and falls for Edward. Edward later reveals that Don died from a heart attack on the toilet bowl at an early age (as Don saw in the Witch’s eye). During his recovery, Edward is conscripted by the army and sent to the Korean War. He parachutes into the middle of a show entertaining North Korean troops, steals important documents, and convinces Siamese twin dancers Ping (Ada Tai) and Jing (Arlene Tai) to help him get back to the United States, where he will make them stars. He is unable to contact anyone on his journey home, and the military declares him dead. This limits Edward’s job options when he does return home, so he becomes a traveling salesman. Meeting the poet Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi) from Spectre again, he unwittingly helps him rob a bank, which is already bankrupt. Edward explains this to Winslow, who then decides that he will work at Wall Street. Winslow later thanks Edward for his “advice” by sending him $10,000, which he uses to buy his family a dream house.

Still unimpressed by his father’s stories, Will demands to know the truth, but Edward explains that is who he is: a storyteller. Will finds Spectre, and meets an older Jenny (Helena Bonham Carter), who explains that Edward rescued the town from bankruptcy by buying it at an auction and rebuilding it with financial help from many of his previous acquaintances. Will suggests his father had been having an affair with Jenny, to which she replies that while she had indeed fallen in love with him, Edward could never love any woman other than Sandra. When Will returns home, he is informed his father had a stroke and is at the hospital. He goes to visit him there and finds him only partly conscious, and unable to speak at length. Since Edward can no longer tell stories, he asks Will to tell him the story of how it all ends: escaping from the hospital, they go to the river where everyone in Edward’s life appears to bid him goodbye. Will carries his father into the river where he becomes what he always had been: a very big fish. Edward then dies, knowing his son finally understands his love of storytelling.

At Edward’s funeral, Amos, Karl, Norther Winslow, and Ping and Jing arrive, making Edward’s stories real. Will finally realizes the truth of his father’s life for which his stories were embellishments. When his own son is born, Will passes on his father’s stories, remarking that his father became his stories, allowing him to live forever.

REVIEW:

With Big Eyes coming out soon and getting a bit of awards buzz, the spotlight is on director Tim Burton. A couple of critics that I regularly consult have been ripping the man a new one because they feel his style hasn’t evolved and he has become overrated. While there may or may not be some truth to this, Big Fish is one of his films that shows Burton is a capable filmmaker.

What is this about?

A reporter attempts to learn more about his dying father by finding the truth behind a lifetime of his tall tales and legends of epic proportions.

What did I like?

Soft light. In the flashbacks, I noticed a change in the lighting, especially when the camera was on Alison Lohman’s character. It was that soft light, and if I’m not mistaken they used what I call “the Vaseline filter” for even more dramatic effect. I have to say that it worked, because there is no question that she is the love of his life and the different look allows the audience to keep track of the past and present, just in case they can’t with the different actors.

Contrast. Tim Burton’s movies are perfect examples of how one can use light and dark tones together to make a quality film. In Edward Scissorhands, for instance, everything is bright and cheery, yet Edward is in a perpetual state of gray. With this film, Burton takes a “Southern gothic” story and inserts some fun tall tales into the proceedings causing an enjoyable result. I don’t believe this film would work as well had it been dark and dreary. The contrast is needed and appreciated.

Sweet home Alabama. I was talking to someone the other day about Southern accents in Hollywood and how hilarious it is that people from other countries tend to have the best versions, excluding those who have it naturally. Ewan McGregor, who is Scottish, if I’m not mistaken, gives a very convincing Alabama drawl when delivering both his lines and the narration. Is it accurate? Not being or lived in Alabama, I can’t tell you, but it is believable, which is more than can be said for many of his contemporaries who are don’t have to a)get rid of their UK accents and b)learn specific southern dialect.

What didn’t I like?

Run, Edward, run? I can’t remember exactly when this was released, but I know that it was after Forest Gump. What does that have to do with anything? Well, the basic plot of both films are very similar, making you wonder if Burton ripped off the idea. What is so similar? Both pictures feature someone detailing their life through a series of exaggerated stories. I could be totally off base here, but this just seems to be another case of Hollywood not having any originality left.

Cynical Manhattan. Does the name Billy Crudup ring any bells? No? Well, if you saw Watchmen, then you saw him in all his giant blue radioactive glory. In this film, he is the cynical, some say realistic, son of Albert Finney. With Finney’s character not long for this world, Crudup wants to get to know who the man really is and not a “series of lies.” Beside being some cynical, polar opposite of his father, I have to question why Crudup waited until his dad is on his deathbed to ask these questions. Was there something keeping him from inquiring when things were better?

Fantasy. As a fantasy film, this is not bad. I feel as if Burton was holding back and that perhaps some of the more fantastical elements ended up on the cutting room floor. For instance, Helena Bonham Carter’s character near the beginning of the film has a fake eye that shows people how they die. Seems to be that is something that would have been interesting to expand upon. How did she get this eye and why can it show such events? Is she a witch? Is she the character that she plays later in the film? I’m just saying that perhaps a little more fantasy would have been nice.

My best friend is a huge fan of Big Fish. She makes sure to let me know every chance she gets. For me, it is up there, but nowhere near as high as she has this ranked. The flaws are minor, but they do exist. The performances are great and the few effects we are privy to really compliment the picture. So, do I recommend this? Yes, very highly! For those that have been questioning the work of Tim Burton lately, this is one of his better, non-goth films that you should see (also check out Batman and Batman Returns). The man has talent. We just seem to have forgotten it with all the crazy goth stuff he’s done. I hope you enjoy this flick as much as I did.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Monsters University

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews, Pixar with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A young monster named Michael “Mike” Wazowski dreams of being a scarer (a monster who enters the human world at night to scare children so their screams can be harvested for energy) when he grows up, after visiting Monsters Inc.—Monstropolis’ most profitable and best-known scaring company—on a school field trip. Eleven years later, Mike is a first-year scare major at Monsters University, where he meets his new roommate, Randall “Randy” Boggs, and a large, blue, furry monster named James P. “Sulley” Sullivan.

Mike studies hard, while the privileged Sulley—who comes from a talented family of scarers—relies on his natural scaring ability and begins to falter. As the semester progresses, Mike and Sulley attempt to join a fraternity as pledges, but only Sulley gets into Roar Omega Roar. At the final exam for Scaring 101, Dean Abigail Hardscrabble fails them both and drop them from the program, stating that Sulley doesn’t study enough and Mike is not at all scary, prompting Roar Omega Roar to remove Sulley from their team. Mike decides to prove himself by entering the Scare Games, but Oozma Kappa—the only fraternity that was removed from the program—is denied entry as they are one team member short. Seeing the competition as his ticket back into the scare program, Sulley joins and Mike reluctantly accepts.

Oozma Kappa fails the first challenge, an obstacle course where the contestants dodge harmful, glowing “urchins,” but miraculously advances when another team is disqualified for using protection gel, which violates the Scare Games rules. Oozma Kappa places second in the second challenge, where the contestants have to avoid disturbing the librarian from her reading. The contestants attend Roar Omega Roar’s party where the other competitors humiliate and discourage Oozma Kappa. Mike arranges a secret visit to Monsters, Inc. to lift their spirits, but Sulley still doubts that Mike can be a true scarer. In the final round, they pull off a close victory cemented by a final decisive scare by Mike in the simulation bedroom. Afterwards, Mike discovers that Sulley cheated to improve Mike’s score. Determined to prove he is capable of becoming a scarer, Mike breaks into the school’s door lab and enters a door to the human world, but the door leads to a summer camp and he is unable to scare a cabin full of children.

Back at the university, Sulley confesses to Hardscrabble that he cheated, just as she is notified of the break-in. Realizing what happened, Sulley enters the door to look for Mike. After finding and reconciling with him, they try to return but they find they are trapped in the human world because Hardscrabble has deactivated the door while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Mike realizes that the only way to get back into the monster world is to generate enough scream energy to power the door from their side. Working together, Sulley and Mike terrify the adults, generating an overwhelming amount of scream energy and allowing them to return to the lab.

Their actions lead to their expulsion from the university, but the other members of Oozma Kappa are accepted into the scare program the next semester because Hardscrabble is impressed with their performance in the games. They share goodbyes and as Sulley and Mike leave, Hardscrabble tells them they are the first to have surprised her and wishes them good luck in the future. Mike and Sulley begin work at Monsters, Inc. in the company mailroom under the mailroom manager, the Abominable Snowman. Working their way up through the company, the two eventually become part of the Scarer Team, thus setting the events of Monsters, Inc. in motion.

REVIEW:

Pixar was once the gold standard for computer animation, but they’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral of late, so they decided to go back to the well and do a prequel to one of their most popular films, Monsters, Inc. This is where we get Monsters University, but there are two questions we all have. Could the prequel live up to the original and is this film going to continue the downward spiral of Pixar.

What is this about?

This prequel to Pixar’s popular animated tale Monsters Inc. once again features eccentric monster pals Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan. Set during their college days, the film tells the strange and amusing tale of how the pair became friends.

What did I like?

Evolution. There are two ways to look at how the animation has improved since we originally saw Mike and Sully. First, look at how much better their younger selves look compared to the older versions of years passed. As time has passed, Pixar has refined their animation style, which is why these characters look so much better and move smoother than they did originally. Second, take a gander at the backgrounds. The detail in the grass on the field, the books in the library, the stones on the buildings/floors are something to behold, much like the way Sully’s fur took our breath away in the original.

Voices carry. Aside from the returning voices, we get new characters. The two antagonists obviously stand out, especially to me as they are two of my favorite actors. First, there is the president of Roar Omega Roar, a scaring fraternity, who is voiced by Nathan Fillion. Fillion gives this character a smug demeanor, very similar to the his counterpart in Revenge of the Nerds. Second, there is the Dead of the Scarer program, who is voiced by Helen Mirren. Before I get into her voice, I have to mention the design of this character. Waternoose in the first film was a little scary, but it was obvious they just missed and matched some parts to create him. Dean Hardscrabble literally could appear in a horror film and give you nightmares. Helen Mirren gives her the headmistress voice she deserves, scary, firm, and in charge.

Getting it right. As you can imagine, there are plenty of references to characters we see in the original, but none of these are overdone. Everything seems to gel just right and nothing seems forced into the mythology, for lack of a better term. I have to commend these writers for that. There are many prequel films that have not been able to accomplish that feat.

What didn’t I like?

Original. I didn’t get the same sense of originality and wonder here as I did with the first film. As a matter of fact, it felt like a watered down version of Revenge of the Nerds in more places than I would have liked. Realizing that it is hard to do the underdog college fraternity story these days without the inevitable comparison to the nerds, I just felt that they didn’t need to stick so close to the “source material”.

Loose end. At the risk of spoiling anything, there is a scene where Mike and Sully get locked in the human world. Sound familiar? Well, the same thing happens in the original film, but under different circumstances. For me, I felt that this was a cop out and they couldn’t think of a better way to set up their close bond, not to mention make them pay for what they did in the games.

Joke. I don’t want to be that guy, but I really didn’t feel there was a need to have the older Oozma Kappa member hook up with one of the brothers’ mother. Making matters worse, in one of the final scenes, there is some rather odd wording that just seems out of place for a film like this. I won’t say what it is, and this is just a minor complaint, but it didn’t sit very well with me.

When I was at Disneyworld back in March, there were plenty of signs leading up to the release of Monsters University, such as the shrubbery cut in the shape of Mike, Sully, and even the entrance to Monsters U. At the time, I thought it was a bit much for a film that probably wasn’t going to be any good, but after seeing it tonight, I’m highly impressed and recommend this as a must-see. There haven’t been many films to blow me away this year, but this is one of them. Check it out as soon as you can!

5 out of 5 stars

Grown Ups 2

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Three years after the events of the first film, Lenny Feder has relocated his family back to his Connecticut hometown where he and his friends grew up.

In the film’s opening in the Feder household, Lenny wakes up to find a wild deer standing next to his bed. Upon waking up, his wife Roxanne startles the deer, causing it to urinate all over their home. Eventually, Lenny is able to get the deer out of the house just in time to take his children Greg, Keith, and Becky to their last day of school. Roxanne brings up the idea of their family having another baby, but Lenny says their family is perfect as is, upsetting Roxanne.

At the Lamonsoff household, Eric Lamonsoff and his wife Sally are at odds with each other over how to raise their children- Sally believes in unwavering support while Eric prefers to be more practical with them. At the McKenzie household, Kurt surprises his wife Deanne with a thoughtful anniversary present, only to find that she has completely forgotten. Meanwhile, Marcus Higgins is waiting at a train station after receiving a letter from an old girlfriend, who tells him that he has a seventeen-year-old son Braden. Marcus is stunned to see a tattooed, six-foot-tall boy, who turns out to be Braden. Marcus tries to be nice and takes him to school, but Braden shows an immediate dislike toward him.

After dropping off their kids, Lenny, Eric, Kurt, and Marcus spend the day roaming around town, reminiscing about the amazing summers they used to have when they were kids and Lenny’s childhood bully, Tommy Cavanaugh. Lenny argues that he could take Tommy as a kid and he can still take him. Eventually, the friends go to see Becky’s ballet recital, where Lenny runs into Tommy, whom Lenny is visibly terrified of. Tommy threatens that if Lenny ever lies again about being able to beat him up, he’ll publicly beat Lenny up.

Once the kids are out of school, Lenny, Eric, Kurt, and Marcus decide to visit the old quarry, where they used to swim as kids. There they run into a bunch of partying frat boys who force them to jump into the quarry naked. Braden who was partying with the frat boys, witnesses this and goes off to vandalize their frat house. When the frat boys return, they swear to take revenge.

Lenny arrives home to help Roxanne set up for a 1980s-themed party for their friends. Meanwhile, Marcus begins to bond with Braden, who realizes he was wrong about his father. As all of their friends begin to arrive, Roxanne urges Lenny to consider having another baby. Lenny continues to protest the idea and is left dumbfounded when Roxanne reveals that she is pregnant. Lenny, feeling overwhelmed by this discovery, goes off to drink with his friends. The Feder’s party goes well most of the night until Tommy Cavanaugh shows up and disrespects Lenny in front of everyone, so Lenny challenges Tommy to a fight. In a surprising turn, Tommy decides to take a dive so that Lenny can look tough for his kids, and the two develop a mutual respect. Soon after, the angry frat boys arrive at the house looking for retribution for the damage to their frat house. They go on to insult the local town residents, inciting a fight. The locals hold their own against the frat boys and eventually send them running away defeated.

After all the commotion dies down, the four friends have pancakes at Eric’s mom’s house. Mrs. Lamonsoff reassures Lenny that a new baby is a wonderful thing and eventually he will never be able to imagine life with just three kids. Lenny has a change of heart and returns home, telling Roxanne he is sorry and excited about the new baby, and they reconcile

REVIEW:

I think I was one of the handful of people who actually liked Grown Ups. Even so, I wasn’t clamoring for a sequel. Nonetheless, the gang got back together and we have Grown Ups 2, but do we really need it?

What is this about?

After moving his family back to his hometown, Hollywood talent agent Lenny Feder and his grown-up childhood friends learn lessons from their kids — and some of the locals — on the last day of school.

What did I like?

Shaq. Say what you will about Shaquille O’Neal, he knows how to have fun with his image. Comedic roles like this are the kind of things he should be taking, rather than the serious stuff like he started with in Blue Chips or the failed superhero experiment, Steel, and let’s not bring up some of his other failed films. Here, Shaq is a big cop and, despite his size, he appears to be just one of the guys. I have to mention that when he first appears, I couldn’t help but think of Hightower from the Police Academy movies.

Wives. I think I mentioned this in the last film, but I’m going to say it again. How in the bloody blue hell can these schlubs end up with these super hot wives?!? If ever there was proof that Sandler’s films were nothing more than his fantasies, this is it. Hey, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dreamed of waking up next to Salma Hayek.

Buck. We open the film with a deer in the house. Apparently, I missed the memo where you must have an animal in your opening scene, because this is the second film that does so. The other being The Hangover part III. Now, the insanity that ensued with this buck was actually quite funny, even the pissing, but what really made this something worth mentioning is that it wasn’t a forgotten device. They brought it back in the end (still wearing Salma Hayek’s bra on its antlers), which made it make sense and not a one-off something or other.

What didn’t I like?

Ad-lib. The previous film felt like it had a plot. This one seems like it was just Adam Sandler wanting to get together with his friends and make a movie. I have no problem with that. I even sort of liked that it felt natural and not scripted. However, all the subplots that were going on and the drastic shift in production value, for lack of a better term, from the first film made this film not work as anything more than just a series of vignettes, none of which ended up being funny. No wonder Rob Schneider didn’t come back.

Humpty dance. What in the world was going on with the Fluzoo’s and their noses. Not Shaq and Tim Meadows, mind you, but rather Ellen Cleghorne and the son. If you can remember back in the day, there was this rapper known as Humpty Hump who had this plastic nose he would wear. Maybe it was just the way they were lighted, but they both seemed to have Humpty’s nose, and I don’t really know why, unless it was supposed to be for comedic effect, which fell flat.

Tropes. I’m a fan of Adam Sandler’s movies, but he really needs to step out of his comfort zone, because these things are just getting predictable now. For instance, you know he’s going to have the usual supporting cast, at least 2 or 3 of his buddies from Saturday Night Live, a couple of super hot chicks, one of which he is married to, gay and fart jokes, something to do with his being Jewish, and the 80s. A few films escape this formula, The Waterboy, for instance, but most of them use the same thing, and it is starting to wear thin on even me.

I find it ironic that this film is called Grown Ups 2, when they aren’t really acting like grown ups. They were more grown up the first time around. I was expecting to love this film as much, if not more than the first, but instead, Sandler pulls this crap out of his ass. There are a few redeeming qualities for this film, but this is one of those flicks that is best watched at a party with lots, and I do mean LOTS, of alcohol!

2 3/4 out of 5 stars