Childhood revisited – Monsters University

Monsters University - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Monsters University – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Monsters University (2013)

Director: Dan Scanlon
Writers: Dan Scanlon (story and screenplay), Daniel Gerson (story and screenplay), Robert L. Baird (story and screenplay)
Stars: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion, Helen Mirren.

Origin stories have become a real fad in cinema recently. It’s always fun to have a prequel to story you love, but there can be that niggling feeling at the back of your mind of the what ifs. What if they stuff it up? What if the characters aren’t as you remember them to be? What if it’s just a bad film?

Well Monsters University knocked all those what ifs from my mind the moment it started. The humour, the characters, the lightness was all there. Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James Sullivan (John Goodman) are back in this funny origins story. Monsters University is where all the great scarers are trained to go on to work at Monsters Inc. Disney is the champion of these types of stories. You know the ones, the little guy struggles against the big corporation to make them see that their prejudices are misplaced and then they all live happily ever after. Of course there is always much more to the story than just that, and Disney definitely know how to make it great. Monsters University doesn’t fail to live up to my high expectations. It is funny, heartwarming, and brings back all the delight of the first film.

Mike and Sully are headed to university. Both have dreams of being the best scarers the Monsters University has ever seen but they are both from very different worlds. Sully comes from a long line of scarers. Mike does not. Mike is a dreamer. He wants to be scary, but what is scary about a small green ball with a large eye? Mike and Sully are not friends. They are competitive, and polar opposites when it comes to scaring. But then they both get kicked out of the scaring major and must work together with a bunch of misfit monsters to win the Scare Games and the respect of their peers.

Monsters University is charming, funny, and has a great moral lesson woven into it. It’ll be one of my favourite animated films in the years to come. Almost everything about this film is great.

5/5

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Hope, Wonder, Fun, Delight – Rise of the Guardians

Rise Of The Guardians - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Rise Of The Guardians – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Director: Peter Ramsey
Writers: David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay), William Joyce (book)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin and Isla Fisher

There is something wonderful about children’s films. They are delightful to get swept up in, especially when they are good. Rise Of The Guardians is a joy to watch. It’s not the best animated film ever but it has everything it needs to make you smile and laugh as well as teach you lessons about what is good to believe in. The morals infused in every character are at the forefront of this story as we travel with Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) as he discovers who he truly is and why he is chosen to be a guardian of the children of the world.

Jack joins North (Santa, voiced by Alec Baldwin), Tooth (The Tooth Fairy, voiced by Isla Fisher), Sandman (not voiced, but wonderfully animated!), and Bunny (The Easter Bunny, voiced by Hugh Jackman), as they battle Pitch (The Boogeyman, voiced by Jude Law) who has taken it upon himself to torture and torment children with fear and nightmares. There is a great narrative progression through this film and it throws you around through the tunnels of children’s belief and their determination to believe in the core of each of these folklores. It is uplifting and cheery and has some great characters, although a little underdeveloped for my liking.

With Christmas creeping up incredibly quickly this is a great film for the family to see together as it refocuses both children and parents on what the festive seasons we celebrate in western culture represent. The wonder and delight of children are what we really aim for at Christmas, but we also love to reawaken that childish fun in ourselves over the Christmas and New Year period. Rise of The Guardians is not just a Christmas film but it certainly does hold all those little goodies that make Christmas movies so great and what make children films so beautiful.

3.7/5

Life isn’t worth living if I can’t be beautiful! – Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Howl’s Moving Castle – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay), Diana Wynne Jones (novel)
Stars: Chieko Baishô, Takuya Kimura and Tatsuya Gashûin

My dad had raved about this film after he saw it. I thought I had seen it before but it turned out I hadn’t. I know realise why my dad ranted about how wonderful this film was. There is a charm and childish dreamlike quality to this film that brings the animated characters to life.

I wasn’t expecting anything brilliant from the film, but I really should have since I’ve seen Spirited Away and Ponyo. Howl’s Moving Castle is in the same style of Japanese animation that Hayao Miyazaki is renowned for and it has the same magical and quirky sense of mystery and wonder that his other films have. And I have to say, the best thing about this film is how the script and animation ground the magic in this film.  There are just utterly unreal moments in this film where a character will come out with the best lines. For example, our heroine, Sofi, has been transformed into an old woman by a witch’s curse and then leaves her town, meets a scarecrow with a turnip as a head that keeps following her and she casually says as they are about to part company: “It was a pleasure meeting you, even if you are my least favorite vegetable! Take care, Turniphead!” – Genius! Seriously, if you can’t love crazy old Sofi then there is something wrong with you. There are gems throughout this entire film which had me giggling hours after the film had finished.

Sofi is so down-to-earth and matter-of-fact about everything but with a childish sense of adventure that gives her character wholeness and depth that you don’t really see in animated films (or at least I don’t). Her world is simple, magical, random, and at some times just plain insane and yet she deals with it as anyone would in any other world. She is compassionate, kind, hardworking, strong, and determined. She keeps her youthfulness in her aged-form and it reminds me of how I want to be when I get old. I want to be that crazy old lady who has the passion and determination to go mountain climbing at 70 or to step out of a comfort zone even at the age of 80. I want to live life with the dignity and love that Sofi shows to everyone around her.

In comparison to Sofi, Howl is vain and cursed to be heartless, always seeking something more beautiful and more magical. And yet through their interactions you see his broken humanity come into full view as he fights to save the world he lives in and attempts to save the beauty that is left. For Howl, he must learn to put aside his desire for his own beauty and to seek a beauty for others. Miyazaki seems to weave this moral of nature and beauty in an unusual way, for he both condemns and applauds the search and fight for beauty. It is framed so it is the beauty within and the beauty around us that we are to fight for, not the physical beauty of our own appearance, which just tends to cripples and destroys us.

I love how an animated film like Howl’s Moving Castle can illicit dreams and passions that I know lie dormant when I step back into reality but that remind me that I do have the capacity to be fabulous and to live a life of pure passion and adventure. Living vicariously through film means finding myself in every story and being reminded of the wonder that the world holds, and that it is waiting patiently for me to step out into it and take the opportunities that are in front of me. The great things about films, all films whether documentaries, animations, surrealist or otherwise, they help us to live and dream and to envision a world with us as the protagonist. I shall take up my part in the story of my life and live as it were a film, scripted just for me.

The Woman I Wish I Was – Beauty & The Beast

Beauty and the Beast - 3D Poster - from IMDB.com

Beauty and the Beast – 3D Poster – from IMDB.com

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Stars: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson and Richard White

There is something truly magical about Disney. It is the fantasy it creates of a world where issues can be overcome, where evil falls and good triumphs, where all things end in the most spectacular of ways. But the endings have never been my favourite part. I also like to see where the characters begin. And this is why Beauty and the Beast is still my favourite Disney film. Not just Disney “princess” film, but Disney film overall. And it is all because of who Belle is at the beginning of the film.

The first time you meet Belle she is walking into the village and the whole town erupts in song around her. The way she treats people through this sequence is what I love and the fact that she is strong, intelligent, polite, respectful, humble, and the same to all people. Her sense of equality breaks through the walls of the judgment she faces from the town, and even when it comes to the ghastly Gaston, she is polite and dismisses him respectfully, if only a little tersely. She is accepting of everyone and the one person she tells her true judgments to is her father, and even then she gives reasonable accounts of why she dislikes someone like Gaston.

Her whimsy, strength, sacrifice, boldness, and adventurous nature continue to be what shapes her throughout the film. When she comes up against the Beast her response is one of fearlessness and willingness to take him on and see past the harsh exterior of his beastly appearance. This is what I love about Belle. I love her character for every single moment of this film, there is never a point when I don’t like her or disagree with what she does. She is honest and kind and thinks of others as well as herself. She is encouraging and joyous of everyone and seeks to treat them as she would like to be treated. The only moment when I think she does the wrong thing is when she goes into the west wing where the Beast has forbidden her to go, but even then I would’ve done the same, just not on the first night I was there… And even then you expect it because, let’s be honest, the Beast is asking for it as soon as he says it’s “forbidden”.

Belle was my role model as I was growing up. She was my heroine of all literature. It was her intelligence and strength that captivated me and made me want to be her. I didn’t necessarily want to fall in love with a prince and live in a big castle but I did want to be strong and wise and kind.

Who has your role model been from a film, book, tv series, or other form of literature?