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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Swing, batter, batter, yawn – Trouble With The Curve

Trouble With The Curve – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Trouble With The Curve (2012)

Director: Robert Lorenz
Writer: Randy Brown
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman

You would think that after starring in and directing some of the most acclaimed films of the last few decades, Clint Eastwood would be able to tell whether or not a movie was worth making or not. There are dozens of sports films out there, there are dozens of romcoms and dramas out there, and as I step into another film that I haven’t really heard of I hear myself asking “Is it really necessary that we have another one enter the world?”

The thing with RomComs and Dramas is that each one, although it may be formulaic and predictable, will appeal to its audience members in different ways. Trouble With The Curve is a story of an old hat baseball scout who is trying to stay in the game whilst his eyesight is failing and his bosses try and squeeze him out. Gus (Clint Eastwood) is joined by his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), on a last hurrah as a baseball scout before his eyes go. Their relationship is rocky to say the least. Mickey is a hotshot lawyer but has mountains of daddy issues and really just wants to do what he does. Their relationship is strained and their communication skills need serious work. But it’s a sweet kind of relationship that forms over the film, as you know it will. And it is the predictability of this film that makes it feel longer than it actually is. It is sweet at points and you do come to like the characters enough to want the happy ending for them, but you know from the opening moments of the film that it is approaching and it takes a lot of energy to care about the characters when you know their problems will be gone in an hours time.

John Goodman provides a stand out supporting role as always and Matthew Lillard, although he plays an incredible annoying and dislikable character, does it splendidly and so must be commended on making his audience hate him. Amy Adams plays a wonderfully strong female character which I love but is pushed down somewhat by the forced love interest of Justin Timberlake. Timberlake may be an okay actor but I felt the love interest was commercial and crowd appeasing more than anything else.

2.5/5

Murphy’s Law Embodied in Film – Argo

Argo - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Argo – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Argo (2012)

Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Joshuah Bearman (article)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman

As I sit in my comfortable bedroom feeling safe and warm, I write with a heaviness of heart for the parts of the world that live in true terror, not knowing if their streets will be safe tomorrow. I have become desensitized to war, crime, death, riots. I do not know what it is like to fear for my life. And yet I surround myself with entertainment that reveals these terrors to me; that engage and entertain me; that help me escape from my mundane and uneventful life. Argo is a film that has shocked the reality and terror of war and military resistance back into my heart and mind.

Based on a declassified true story set in 1979 Iran. The U.S. Embassy has been stormed and hostages are held for 444 days. Six American embassy workers escape and find refuge in the Canadian embassy. The rest of the film unfolds as the adventure of how they get out of Iran without being found and executed for being spies for the U.S. Affleck has composed a film that builds slowly and steadily the tension and stress of these people as the CIA tries to get them out as a Canadian film crew. With parts verging on the ridiculous side of tense, the film plays out Murphy’s Law in every way possible. It is a movie that you have to buy popcorn, because you will stress eat the entire way through the final third of this film.

What really made this film brilliant for me was the reactions of my friends sitting either side of me. It made me realise how unfeeling and desensitized to violence and war that I’ve become. This film captures the way fear and anxiety can play in war and uprising, and how innocent people can get trapped in the middle of military and government games. It’s the horrible truth of war and our world that people who have not called war upon themselves are thrust into the horrific arena of government power plays. You take the side of the Americans naturally throughout the ordeal of the film without considering much of what the Iranians were uprising against, and without wanting the American government to do what the Iranians want. I want to sit and question this position because I don’t know where I stand on this. Is it right for a country to play in the affairs of another country if it demands the people of that country to rise up against their authority because of oppression? Should they be held accountable for their part in the mess? What part does diplomacy play? I don’t have answers for these questions but I’m glad Argo has made me think about it.

All in all this is a brilliant and dramatic film with moments of both terror and humour. Affleck has brought to life a fantastic epic and has created a film that will be nominated for awards and will (in my mind) hopefully win a few. It is gritty and deals with a point in history that we don’t look at much. If you like action, drama, humour, hollywood, history, documentary or war themed films, go and see this. It’ll be a great adventure for you and will make the journey back to reality a great relief.