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Monsters University Review

For Pixar’s 14th animated feature, they are departing from traditional Pixar and attempting something new: a prequel. Sequels yielded mixed success for Pixar in the past, with Toy Story 2 and 3 breaking records for the still-young company, while 2011’s Cars 2 proved otherwise. Monsters University brings back Mike and Sully, two of Pixar’s most beloved mascots, and tells us the story of how they first met at Monsters University. MU is one of the most delightful Pixar films of date, and, though it doesn’t stray far from the college buddy formula, it is still an enjoyable watch for both kids and parents alike.

Mike's first steps on the MU campus.

Mike’s first steps on the MU campus.

Monsters University starts with a flashback. Mike Wazowski, everyone’s favorite one-eyed green ball, is on a school field trip to Monsters, Inc., a company within Monstropolis that harvests children’s screams for alternate energy. Mike’s dream from that day on is to become a scarer, so eventually he enrolls at MU, where he is determined to pass through the scare program with flying colors and become a top scarer. It’s here that Mike meets Sully, and, through unfortunate circumstance, the two are kicked out of the scare program by the dean, Dean Hardscrabble. She is giving them one last chance, however, and the duo must win the campus-wide Scare Games in order to be let back into the scare program. The two join the team of fraternity Oozma Kappa, which introduces some new lovable characters, but they are certainly the underdogs in what is determining the rest of their lives.

Monsters U has a pretty formulaic premise, but that’s not a big deal here. We’ve seen all kinds of college movies like this, where the underdogs must become the heroes. Luckily, Pixar presents it in such a way so that it doesn’t become cookie-cutter. For starters, Monsters U isn’t like any other university. Every monster is unique, even if they follow college stereotypes. Every building, professor, and campus event has the Pixar flourish to it that makes Monsters U a detailed and enjoyable experience, encouraging repeat watches to notice all of the little things. Frisbees fly over the quad, the parties are off the hook, and the Greek Life at MU is awesome. Pixar is always all about the details, and in MU it’s no different.

Mike and Sully are the stars of the movie here. Mike is determined, and studies hard, but the problem is, he’s just not scary. Sully, on the other hand, has it all. He was born scary, and carries the Sullivan name. However, he’s a slacker. At first, the two are rivals, as Mike studies hard to pass the scaring final while Sully wings it. And Sully has a reputation to live up to with his father, and his fraternity, Roar Omega Roar. Sully is in the popular crowd, and must join forces with Mike and Oozma Kappa if he wants a shot at becoming a top scarer. This dynamic between the two main characters is perfect, and it’s what drives the film emotionally. Almost everyone can relate to Mike and Sully’s struggle. We’ve all been there, where you’re working hard for what you want while others just cruise through. Pixar has always been known for their life lessons, and Monsters U carries one of the best ones. It doesn’t have one of the biggest emotional impacts, but it’s still an enjoyable comedy tale.

Mike and Sully are given a second chance through the campus-wide "Scare Games."

Mike and Sully are given a second chance through the campus-wide “Scare Games.”

The new characters add a new flavor to the monster world. Dean Hardscrabble, voiced with great strictness by Helen Mirren, is the film’s main sort-of-villain. She’s the one who kicks the two out of the scare program. But she does have heart, and gives the two a second chance. She isn’t as complex as Mr. Waternoose from the first film, but she is darn creepy, and she fits right in as the school’s dean. Randall is also back. He goes by Randy this time, and is Mike’s first roommate. He doesn’t have much time on-screen here, but still provides some laughs as he has his own storyline as he transitions from nerd to popular. The rest of the main characters lie in the fraternity Oozma Kappa. These guys are straight A-losers, and they are the misfits of MU. The movie manages to make them lovable and very memorable characters by the end, due to all of their endearing and interesting personalities. Don is a middle-aged man going back to school, and the founding member of OK. Terri and Terry are a two-headed monster with conflicting personalities. Squishy is a nervous softy, and the fraternity lives at his mom’s house, which provides for some of the movie’s best laughs. And Art is a free-spirited philosophy major. All of these characters give Monsters U a new flavor, and help it move out of the shadow of its predecessor.

Monsters University is a beautiful film. Like I said, it’s filled with many little details that will make you want to watch again. The animation this time around has never been better. All of the monsters look gorgeous, and MU looks like a real college campus. New lighting effects add new animation techniques, and once again, Pixar is on top of their game in terms of animation. The soundtrack recycles some great jazzy tunes from the first film, especially when the group visits Monsters, Inc. The new songs fit right in as Pixar classics, using college fanfares as well as some quieter emotional songs.

Monsters University isn’t going to blow you away like Toy Story 3 or Up did. Rather, it’s one of the most enjoyable Pixar movies to date, offering some of most unique and funniest characters Pixar has ever created, all while displaying a school rivalry that everyone can relate to. It’s not emotionally draining either, so everyone can enjoy the film thanks to some smart humor and its quirky Pixar-style.

Overall: 3.5/4.0

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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My Top 5 Pixar Movies

In honor of Pixar’s 14th animated feature, Monsters University, being released this weekend, I decided to go back and rank my top 5 Pixar movies. I will not be including Monsters U in the final list. Although I have seen it, I don’t feel like I can rank it fairly right now. A review for MU will be up this week.

5. The Incredibles

The Parr family is a memorable bunch.

The Parr family is a memorable bunch.

Director Brad Bird, Pixar’s first outside director, has created one of the most enjoyable family action films. A family of superheroes comes out of hiding to save the world, what’s not to like? With its super sleek superhero retro style, The Incredibles told a tale of second chances, and each family member had their own personal struggles. It balanced humorous family dynamic with a super cool villain, and if it doesn’t get a sequel in the near future, I’ll be very disappointed.

4. Toy Story 3

I had a hard time deciding which Toy Story film to include in my top 5. All three are masterpieces in my opinion, but the third film ended the trilogy in such an emotional and heartfelt way to give the series some excellent closure. Andy grows up and goes onto college, and Pixar timed the film perfectly, as those who grew up with Toy Story 1 & 2 would also be leaving home. Woody and the gang get swept up in a scary daycare run by a tyrannous teddy bear, and they must escape in time before Andy leaves for college. With many laughs throughout and an ending that will leave you speechless, Toy Story 3 is the best of its genre.

3. Monsters, Inc.

In an alternate twist on the ‘monster under the bed’ tale, Monsters, Inc. tells the story of monsters behind the closet door, and their corporation where they harvest children’s screams as alternate energy. When something goes wrong and a kid enters the monster world, scarer Sullivan “Sully” and his assistant Mike must keep her safe and convince the world that she is harmless. Mike and Sully are Pixar’s ultimate duo, and they are a perfect pairing for a perfect film.With a colorful and memorable cast of characters and a wholly original tale, Monsters Inc. is one of the most memorable of Pixar’s films.

Remy is a complex character and makes "Ratatouille" shine.

Remy is a complex character and makes “Ratatouille” shine.

2. Ratatouille

Initially, Ratatouille didn’t do much for me. As I watch it subsequently, however, its true beauty is shown. As a sewer rat, Remy dreams of becoming a famous chef in a five-star restaurant. Problem is, he’s a rat. That changes when he is given the chance of a lifetime to cook in an esteemed Paris restaurant, under the hat of a lucky garbage boy-turned-souf chef. Ratatouille is Pixar’s most beautiful film, with sweeping images of the city of Paris, and it is a wonder to behold. It tells a great lesson, too, as Remy must make decisions regarding his rat family and his cooking family.

1. Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo is a perfect film. An otherwise retreaded premise becomes one of the funniest, most enjoyable animated adventure films ever. When his son Nemo is taken by divers, clownfish Marlin must travel miles across the Great Barrier Reef to save his son. All with the help of Dory, Pixar’s most endearing and lovable mascot. With its fishy humor and an emotional finish, Finding Nemo changed the world of animated films as we know it, and takes its place as one of the best films of the 21st century, and the best Pixar film ever made.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Other

 

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My Summer Box Office Predictions (Part Two)

June kicks off hot off the heels of a spectacular May, headed by the success of Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Fast and Furious 6. We have Pixar’s next big hit, a Superman reboot, another White House action flick, and a few more comedies, but can June duplicate May’s success? Not likely. Let’s take a look at my predictions:

June

June 7: The Internship

The first week of June is a quite one, with a small horror release (The Purge) alongside a bigger comedy. The Internship pairs Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two guys who get an internship at Google, but must compete with younger, brighter minds. The film seems to be relying on the comedy duo of Wilson and Vaughn, but audiences might react differently, since these guys are much older and less relevant than today’s top comedy stars. Still, it should do okay business with older moviegoers, but the younger crowd might stray away. I’m expecting an opening weekend of $25 million with a domestic total of barely $90 mil.

June 12: This is the End

An apocalyptic raunchy comedy where movie stars play themselves? An interesting premise for what might be this summer’s Ted. With such power stars like Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jay Baruchel, with a lot of smaller cameos, This is the End should do well domestically. Opening on Wednesday could prove beneficial, as Man of Steel should dominate the second weekend of June. An opening day could rake in around $12 million for a five day total of $60 million or so, closing around $150 million.

A Superman reboot looks like one of summer's biggest hits.

A Superman reboot looks like one of summer’s biggest hits.

June 14: Man of Steel

Arguably the summer’s biggest release is a Superman reboot. After Superman Returns’ mixed success, Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan are giving it another go starring Henry Cavill and Amy Adams. The directing/producing duo should bode well, as it should attract the younger demographic given the track record of the two (300, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight). Marketing seems poised at shrouding Clark Kent’s origins in mystery, so the plot looks like it will bring in more serious moviegoers. It should do great business here in the U.S. with decent business overseas. Expect a high opening weekend at $130 million with a total of $270 million.

June 21: Monsters University

Pixar’s track record has been slacking lately, but Monsters University seems to break that, as it should connect with younger audiences as well as 18-25s who grew up with Mike and Sully. A prequel is an interesting take on the tale, as it’s something that Pixar has never done before, but Monsters University should be the biggest animated hit of the year. Franchises are risky for Pixar, though. Outside of Toy Story, Pixar’s only other franchise has been Cars, and we all know how that went. Monsters University should connect, though, and an opening weekend of $75-80 million seems likely, closing higher than its predecessor at around $270-280 million.

Monsters University should bring Pixar back to center stage.

Monsters University should bring Pixar back to center stage.

June 21: World War Z

One of 2013’s riskier flicks, director Marc Forster’s take on the action-horror novel could be the next After Earth. The only star being Brad Pitt, who isn’t well-known for action vehicles, World War Z should have trouble finding footing, especially after so many action movies this summer thus far. A strange marketing strategy hides the story and the zombies from the public, focusing on Pitt’s star power, which could backfire and leave many viewers confused. World War Z should open at around $40-45 million and end around a disappointing $130 million domestic total.

June 28: The Heat

A well-known comedy pairing? Check. Great director and track record? Check. Action-comedy not starring old men? Check. The Heat should perform very well, not only among women but also with younger moviegoers, and could prove to be the next Bridesmaids. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy seems like a match made in heaven for comedy shenanigans, and Paul Feig is no stranger to these two lovely women. After many disappointing action-comedies of late, audiences might find The Heat to be a breath of fresh air. Tracking indicates an opening of $50 million or higher, winning the weekend, and ending around $170 million, with a sequel looking likely.

June 28: White House Down

This weekend’s other action pairing stars Jamie Foxx as the U.S. president and Channing Tatum as a secret service agent. This year has already had a White House thriller in the form of Olympus Has Fallen, which proved a big hit for such a small company. White House Down might have trouble, since the two films are releasing only three months apart. But with star power like Tatum and Foxx, who have been very popular lately, White House Down shouldn’t have much of a problem. Marketing indicates a darker thriller, but still providing comedic bits, so it should connect with younger audiences, especially given its PG-13 rating as opposed to Olympus’s R. An opening weekend of $45-50 million seems possible, and a total of around $140 million should put it above Olympus Has Fallen.

That does it for this month’s big releases. Next month we have a sequel to a surprise animated hit (Despicable Me 2), some risky moves from well-known directors (Lone Ranger and Pacific Rim), and Hugh Jackman’s return to the clawed mutant (The Wolverine). Keep it here to Re:Spawn to see my July predictions next month.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Other

 

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