Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Hopper: Episode #1

No, not that Hopper. 

Welcome to a new segment of my blog, where I go see a block of movies all in one day at the theaters and then give my feelings on each one I see. At the end, I’ll go over what stuck out the most to me and what I think people should go out and see. Since this is the first of these, I might change the way I go about doing this, but we’ll see. 

With that said, let’s get started:

“Monsters University” (2013)

I’ll go ahead and admit it: To me, Pixar can do no wrong. Every movie they’ve done has never disappointed me. Though lately their films have decreased in quality, such as “Cars 2” and “Brave,” and they seem only intent on making sequels to their previous work at the moment, with the upcoming “Planes” movie being a sequel to “Cars” and this one, “Monsters University,” a prequel to “Monsters Inc.”

The film follows Mike Wyzowski (Billy Crystal), a one-eyed green monster, as he attends Monsters University to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a scarer. Very quickly, he meets his rival, James Sullivan (John Goodman), and the two set out to prove who is the better monster.

While going in, I didn’t know what to expect, once again Pixar delivers the goods where they need it and gives a solid entertainment from start to finish. One thing that Pixar has always managed to do incredibly well is adding in adult themes and messages about how difficult or strange life can be into a children’s film...and actually making it work.

If you’ve seen “Monsters Inc.” then you know from the start that Mike does not become a scarer. Though he spends most of the film going after a goal that he ultimately doesn’t reach, Mike has a revelation that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a kid’s film before. That even if you spend your entire life working towards something, try your hardest and sacrifice everything you’ve got, that doesn’t mean you’ll reach your goal. Sometimes, certain people just aren’t cut out to make it.

To see themes of failure, regret and acceptance of the bad being address, and in a children’s film no less, “Monsters University” immediately has my attention and admiration. 

Grade: B+

“Now You See Me” (2013)

Oh, the joys of taking a critical thinking philosophy class that talked about how mentalism and cold reading is nothing but bullshit.

The reason I saw this movie was because of all the big named actors attached to it that I enjoyed. Jesse Eissenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Caine are all some of my favorite actors, so this was a must see for me. It would be like a combination of “Zombieland” and “The Dark Knight” only with magic thrown in there as well. Too bad this film didn’t have any zombies in it, as that would have made things so much better.

“Now You See Me” follows The Four Horsemen, who are all aspiring magicians, con-mans or escape artists, as they attempt to pull of some of the greatest magic tricks the world has ever seen. It’s too bad that all of these magic tricks involve bank robbery, putting innocent lives in danger and getting the police involved. Darren Rose (Mark Ruffalo) is the cop assigned to their case and always seems to be three steps behind the Horsemen, as they seem to have a greater plan than it seems, which involves an ancient club of magicians, known as The Eye.

If that plot description sounds confusing, it’s only because it is. I didn’t even get into a third of all the crazy and non-sensical events that happen in this film. While they try to explain most of what’s going on, they leave so much up in the air that it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on without bringing a flowchart to explain everything.

Something interesting to note about this film is that every single character is rather unlikable. Everyone has committed a terrible act in their past or just does douchey things to other people. By the end of the film, you really want to slap every single one of these characters for being such assholes. 

But then again, maybe that’s just the thing about this film. The world of magicians and illusions has become so tainted and hateful that being a dick is the best way to get around. As such, I think the best thing about the film is how it builds up the world with only a few characters and their actions towards one another. 

Still, no amount of good world building is any substitute for a coherent and understandable story. As such, “Now You See Me” has some good things going for it, but overall it felt rather forgettable.

Grade: C

“This Is The End”

You know, I think the most difficult kind of movie to review is a comedy that isn’t funny. For one, comedy is entirely subjective. True that film itself is rather subjective art form, but there are a lot of things in movies that everyone can agree on. Not so when it comes to comedy. 

Either something is funny to someone, or it isn’t funny. And while I’m sure that lots of people found “This Is The End” to be hysterical, I’m not one of those people. I may have chuckled a couple times at a few celebrity cameos or jabs at some stars for their previous roles, like Seth Rogan in “The Green Hornet,” but that was about it. Everything else was just kinda awkward or insulting.

Jay Bruchel decides to take a vacation and visit his best buddy, Seth Rogan, in Los Angeles. After an day of getting high and listening to the Backstreet Boys, they decide to visit James Franco’s house party, much to Jay’s irritation. But as the party progresses, the earth opens up and it seems that the apocalypse has begun. Now the few remaining celebrities in Franco’s house must hold out until the apocalypse has settled down.

This lead me into my next reason why comedies that aren’t funny are hard to review. When the comedy doesn’t do it’s job, there’s really just one kind of comment you make: That joke didn’t work. That wasn’t funny. But let’s try to figure out why some of the comedy in “This Is The End” doesn’t work for me.

Most of the comedy in this film is rather crude and rude to the actors in this movie. If they aren’t cracking a joke about one of the actors smoking marijuana or drinking, then they’re talking about their junk or getting off on something. To me, that kind of humor has never been funny, only gross and disturbing.

There’s a scene where the remaining celebrities are kicking around a severed head, and I could hear people in the audience laughing. In my head, I was thinking, “Is this funny because severed heads are hilarious? If so, these people would be on the floor laughing if Vlad the Impaler was still around.”

Another thing about many of the scenes in this film is that they’re rather pointless. Some scenes will come up out of no where, add nothing to the film or the plot, then leave and never be mentioned again. And example of this is when James Franco and Danny McBride spend what feels like three minutes arguing over a Playboy magazine and getting their jollies off on it. Is the scene funny? To some, maybe. What does it add to the film? Nothing.

If you enjoy rude and crude humor, or just want to watch a movie with lots of famous comedian actors in one movie, then give this one a try. If you’re not a fan of that kind of humor, like I am, skip this one.

Grade: D+

Final Thoughts: 

The highlight of this block of movie hopping was certainly “Monsters University” with its smart and clever outlook on pursuing one’s life long dreams and goals. Not to mention, the animation was beautiful and the voice acting hit all of the notes that it needed to. The humor was a little wonky at times, but it consistently made me smile. I would even go as far to say that “Monsters University” is a better movie than it’s predecessor. Then again, both films go for an entirely different approach, but I believe that the newer film did much better job at building up this world of monsters and how it connects to our own world.

This just goes to show you the power of animation nowadays. We are now at a point in movies where a Disney/Pixar film is a better source of quality filmmaking than from movies featuring actors like Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eissenberg, Seth Rogan and James Franco. 

And with other recent animated films, like “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Paranorman,” “Rango” and just about any Pixar film, I think it’s safe to say that animation has become one of the most powerful forces in movies.

No comments: