December 31, 2013

White House Down (2013)

Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Unlike Olympic gold medals and Miss America crowns, Oscars are never confiscated from actors at a later date, no matter how heinous a crime they commit later on. For example, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Oscar for Jerry Maguire was somehow expected to excuse him from starring in movies like Rat Race, Snow Dogs, and Boat Trip. Jamie Foxx won the Best Actor award for Ray, but didn't have to surrender it upon the release of this movie. Which seems patently unfair to Vanessa Williams.

Watching Jamie Foxx in this movie just made me wonder how anyone could consider him a great (or even good) actor. Seriously. How can someone go from winning an Oscar to being the worst portrayal of a president, ever? (Considering the president has been played by everyone from Kelsey Grammer to Luke Wilson, that's really saying something). Presidents command a certain air of stateliness and formality that is utterly lacking here. It's as if Jamie Foxx has never watched a real president speak (yes, I'm even including G.W. in that statement) and just decided to play the part exactly how he speaks and acts in real life. 

Without a doubt, there are problems in the movie beyond Jamie Foxx. I might even go out on a limb and say he was one of the better parts of the movie. Of course, he's competing against the likes of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Channing Tatum, and the wife beater in The Great Gatsby. So... it's sort of like being the standout of your middle school orchestra.

So instead of my companions and me zoning out in front of a slightly predictable, run-of-the-mill, mindless action movie, the viewing turned into a competition of who could point out the most ridiculous plot point or character dialogue. Like how Channing Tatum is in the middle of trying to avoid being killed by terrorists within the confines of the White House (and no, I am not spoiling the plot - if you can call it that) and Maggie Gyllenhaal tells him the first thing he needs to do is get to a TV and watch the news. Or the stiff, unmemorable banter between, well, everyone.

Final word: I haven't laughed this much through a movie since Magic Mike.

December 7, 2013

Frozen (2013)

Kristen Bell and other people not good looking enough to remember their names

I had a lot of reservations going into this movie. For one thing, I don't like Kristen Bell. It's not just that she dates Dax Shepard (though really, that's enough), but that she's a mediocre actress who gets an astonishing amount of work. I also still dislike her from the time I sat through When In Rome.

That being said, her voice was completely fine for the movie. If I hadn't known it was her ahead of time, I'm not even sure I would have been able to identify her, which is a positive thing in an animated movie. I've said it before, but there is really nothing worse than having a distinct voice for a character because then all you can picture is that actor instead of getting lost in the cartoon itself. That's why most cartoon TV shows have actors you've never heard of voicing the characters on the show. (Sadly, Seth McFarlane has made such an effort at being visible, he had to go and kill off Brian in Family Guy because Brian sounded exactly like Seth in real life. At least that's my theory behind Brian's demise.)

I was also apprehensive because the commercials really didn't sell the movie to me. Sure, there have been posters plastered on every city bus for months now, but the trailer itself didn't explain the plot at all. It also featured Olaf, the snowman, who frankly, seemed annoying in the ads. I was afraid the movie would try too had to use him as comic relief and end up with something that required a laugh track.

But this movie surprised me in a lot of ways. Olaf the snowman was an excellent character, who did provide comic relief, but in a genuinely funny way. What's that joke about comedy? The key to comedy is timing? (Or follow these incredibly lame steps.) This movie had excellent timing. Between the jokes, the songs (which were mercifully short) and plot twists, everything moved at what seemed to be the exact right pace: not too slow, not too fast. The entire movie seemed to fly by, which, if you think about it, signals a lack of slow parts and dragging in the plot.

But (and there's always a but), there was one glaring negative, weighing the movie down. And that was Elsa's singing voice. Here's the thing about Elsa (the blonde, older sister to the main character, Anna): she's beautiful. Not to be creepy, but after seeing her, I started to understand those weird guys who are super into anime because they think the girls are hot. Say what you want about Disney's affinity for making their princesses white skinned and blonde, but she beats out every other princess in my book. So her delicate little frame, wispy white-blonde hair and sheer, flow-y dress did not match the deep, raspy singing voice Disney gave her. I just don't get it. Her speaking voice? Fine. So why would they have her sound like a 180 pound, 40 year old* while singing? It completely ruined Elsa's solo, which is unfortunate because she's using some pretty badass magical powers while she sings. Fortunately, she only sings one solo, so she didn't ruin the entire movie.

One last thought about Elsa - I can't go into too much detail, but suffice it to say I think she's the better sister. I know, I know, the main character always has to the "quirky" girl who doesn't quite fit in or play by the rules because somehow people relate more to that (What about all the rule-followers out there? Who do they get as role models?), but Elsa is really just better in almost every way. She's prettier, she's got some pretty cool magical powers, and well, she's a queen, compared to Anna's princess status. I'm just not seeing why Anna is going to end up as the marketed princess. Sigh. Us perfect people have it so difficult.

Final word: I just hope Disney adds both princesses to their collection.

*Update: I later looked it up to realize Elsa is voiced by Idina Menzel (or Adele Dazeem, according to John Travolta). So she's not 180 pounds, but she is over 40 and while I understand she voiced both the speaking and singing parts of Elsa's character, I hold fast to my opinion that her voice was totally inappropriate in its singing capacity. I know she's on Glee, but just because you have a nice singing voice doesn't mean it was meant to sing this character. And now I have to hear it ever goddamn day because every child in America is obsessed with the friggin soundtrack to this movie and it plays on repeat in every coffee shop, book store, and toddler gym (yes, you read that correctly) I go into.

December 3, 2013

My Picks for Disney Princess BFFs

Rappers and Avril Lavigne copy other people, so why can't I? Jill O'Rourke's ranking of the 11 Disney princesses in order of their BFF potential got me thinking - what would these ladies bring to the table in a friendship? So with only my opinions substituted for someone else's article idea...

11. Aurora, Sleeping Beauty

Look, I like sleeping as much as the next person. My dream Saturday consists of alternating bowls of cereal and naps on the couch. But it doesn't bode well for a friendship if we're both so zonked we can never actually meet up or have a conversation. Besides, most restaurants stop serving brunch at 1 pm.

10. Cinderella, Cinderella

One word: mice. Being a pet person is one thing; inviting rodents into your home and singing to them is quite another. It makes me wonder if she's a less attractive version of Rebecca Romijn's character in Friends.

9. Pocahontas, Pocahontas

Living in San Francisco, I know plenty of hippies. I even enjoy them sometimes. Their "oneness with nature" and the foraging of their own food entertains me. But frankly, Pocahontas seems a bit too outdoors-y for me. I prefer to spend my girl time getting pedicures and gossiping rather than scaling waterfalls and frolicking through the forest.

8. Belle, Beauty and the Beast

We get it - Belle likes to read! If Belle lived in current times, she'd be a pseudo-intellectual hipster minus the skinny jeans. Think about it: she carries a satchel, rides a bike and always carries reading material just to prove to everyone that she's a 'reader.' She's just a New York Times subscription and a facebook page away from alienating her friends with constant reposts of every article she reads.

7. Merida, Brave

Merida is probably way too into Hunger Games (what with the whole bow thing), but she seems like the kind of girl who's up for a good time. And that accent! It would be like hanging out with Sean Connery, who can even make the words "an album cover" entertaining. The downside? You could never hang out at her house because of those annoying little brothers.

6. Jasmine, Aladdin

Personally, I think every girl needs one rich, beautiful friend. Yes, she may whine about how bored she is with all her first world problems, but think about all the fringe benefits: You get to play with her tiger! You can borrow her expensive silk (albeit, slightly ahem, revealing) clothes! You can be the third wheel on Aladdin's magic carpet!

5. Snow White, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

 Her voice is a little annoying, but she also cleans. She's the friend that comes over for a dinner party and totally does the dishes afterward. She also always travels with an entourage, so you can be sure she won't be clinging to you at a party, waiting for you to introduce her to people.

4. Rapunzel, Tangled

Sure, she's a little on the immature side, but dude, her hair can heal people!!! And she seems super low maintenance. I mean, her biggest dream in life is to travel like, 20 miles from home to see some lights and the only thing she brings is a frying pan! Hello, travel buddy! Besides, I like my friends to be a little on the optimistic side - I'm cynical enough for two people.

3. Ariel, The Little Mermaid

She's a bit of a hoarder, and you're likely to get re-gifts every year for your birthday, but at least she'll always get your something! Plus, think of her potential as a team member during guessing games like Catch Phrase - what's the word again? Winning!

2. Tiana, The Princess and the Frog

I live next door to a sushi restaurant and I've been trying to make friends with the owner for years. What could be better than a friend who can also make your favorite foods? Besides, I've never been to New Orleans and having friends to crash with in vacation destination cities is priceless.

1. Mulan, Mulan

I probably have an Asian bias, but Mulan seems the best of the bunch. For one thing, she wasn't born into royalty, so she seems less entitled and clueless than a lot of the other princesses. For another, she'll spend her days talking about stuff other than guy problems. And she hates skinny dipping with others. Because really, who wants to be friends with that girl who can't wait to strip her clothes off in front of people to prove she's 'crazy?' She had me with "we could just close our eyes...and swim around."

November 21, 2013

How to Pick a Made-for-TV Christmas Movie

I refuse to apologize for the fact that I absolutely adore made-for-TV Christmas movies. While I may have high standards for regular movies, I lower them considerably for this special film genre. Call it my holiday spirit.

Every year, both the Hallmark Channel and ABC Family run a Christmas movie marathon for the six weeks leading up to Christmas. During this time, Hallmark also debuts brand new Christmas movies every Saturday and Sunday night. (That's 12 brand new movies made just to let struggling actors renew their SAG cards, folks.) If you're worried about your social life cramping your ability to bask in the warmth of all this cheesy goodness, just make sure you set your DVR and watch them later, after all your friends have abandoned you because you can't stop talking about made-for-TV movies.

With so many options, how do you allocate your precious time between the movies?

The first thing you need to know is that all the movies include the following must-haves:
  1. A 90's B-List star or vaguely familiar looking famous-ish person (though a C or D-Lister from the 80's isn't out of the question in lean years). For example, I just watched a triple header of movies starring Elizabeth Berkley, Dean Cain and the chick who played Amber in Clueless. Watch enough of these, and you'll start to recognize actors just from other Christmas movies. As in, 'Oh that's the guy from that one movie where he was a rancher and fell in love with the woman whose car broke down on his property and just happened to know how to save his favorite horse, who is dying.'
  2. At least several references to "the magic of Christmas."
  3. Snow. Even if they are in the desert, there will be snow. Someone will create fake snow, if need be. There is always snow on Christmas in a TV movie. This may tie into the "magic of Christmas" point above.
  4. A miracle of some sort. It could be on a small scale, but there is always a miracle. Oftentimes they will even explicitly use the word "miracle." 
  5. And it always happens on Christmas Eve.
I've been doing this marathon for a few years now, and I have yet to see an example deviate from those points above. If all those things sound good to you, we can move onto the next step.

Despite the commonalities between them, the vast majority of Christmas made-for-TV movies follow four distinct plots:
  1. Romance. These are my personal favorite, since they combine the corny warm fuzzy feelings of the romantic comedy with some kind of melodramatic back story. Think: single moms, widowers, or people in unhappy relationships that don't realize it until they meet someone who is perfect from them mere days before Christmas. Then they confess their love and seal it with a kiss on Christmas Eve.
  2. Fixing past mistakes. These movies just copy other stories and stick Christmas in the title and theme. A Christmas Story with the three ghosts, reliving the same day over and over again like Groundhog's Day, or literally going back in time. Occasionally this theme combines with romance to have a character repeat a day until they realize they are in love with someone. And of course, correct it on Christmas Eve.
  3. Santa, his descendants, and saving Christmas. Christmas is somehow in jeopardy and it's up to either Santa's black sheep son/daughter or an unrelated child to save Christmas. Occasionally amnesia is involved (on the part of Santa, not the children). These movies tend to be heavy on must-haves #2 & #4 - Spoken references to both "the magic of Christmas" and Christmas miracles.
  4. Bringing joy to the holidays. This category may seem too general, because all the movies are in some way about bringing happiness to the holidays, but this involves plot lines like adopting orphans, helping scrooges re-discover the joy of Christmas, and really poor people coming into money that magically (again, must-have #4) solves all their problems. I don't know if the networks assume only poor people stay in on weekend nights to watch TV movies, but showcasing poor people coming into money seems to be a pretty popular theme.
So simply choose what appeals to you. Personally, I can only handle so many movies about orphans before I become hardened and insensitive to their plight. The three ghosts thing copies a story no one even really likes (but scared of looking like a jerk for disliking a story that features a poor, crippled kid) and come on, copying a movie made about the year's lamest holiday (with the exception of Flag Day and Bosses Day)? If reliving the same day is hell for the person in the movie, what makes them think we want to relive it with them??

With all this information in mind, go comb your TV listings, make a cup of cocoa (with mini marshmallows, of course, unless you're some kind of savage) and indulge in some guilty pleasure TV watching for the holidays. And if your significant other tells you they will leave you if they have to sit through another holiday screening of Love Actually, just make them sit through one of these movies and they will be begging you for Colin Firth and that absurdly hot guy who inexplicably hooks up with Laura Linney.

Final word: Watching made-for-TV Christmas movies is trendier and more enjoyable than going to an ugly Christmas sweater party.

November 15, 2013

Darling Companion (2012)

Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline

I thought this was going to be something like Marley and Me. Maybe a little sappy, but a drama about relationships that somehow involved a dog. It was, in fact, a drama about relationships that involved a dog, but was somehow far worse than a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. And the only tears shed were not due to a touching story, but over the hundreds of minutes of my life that were wasted while watching this.

First of all, Diane Keaton did her usual bit of freaking out every oh, 5 seconds. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just go watch The First Wives Club, Something's Gotta Give, Because I Said So (scratch that last one - it's just not worth it), etc. And I know old people still love her androgynous style from Annie Hall, but is it too much to ask that she ever wear something other than a pantsuit?

Besides having a terrible plot, the movie isn't even close to being balanced. If you're going to make a movie about relationships, at least try to make it seem like both halves contribute to its issues. "Marriages don't break up on account of infidelity. It's just a symptom that something else is wrong." [Name that movie! Bonus points if you can quote the following line.] Except in this movie, everything is apparently Kevin Kline's fault. Which isn't to say his character isn't a complete d*ck in the movie - he is. But again, the writers made him that way. Do people like this actually exist? If so, who marries them?

Additionally, the first half of the movie felt like it had been edited so much that you spent every 10 minutes wondering WTF is going on?? It had multiple plot lines that were given equal screen time, almost as if it were an ensemble movie. Except that it's not because the movie is supposed to be about Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, and their dog. It's as if the other story lines are a distraction to fill time because the writers couldn't come up with enough crappy dialogue for Keaton and Kline. And don't get me started on the reasoning behind putting a random gypsy into the storyline. Really? A gypsy? Why?

This whole movie just felt very... unfinished. Almost as if a drama student out there wrote this with hitting a certain word count in mind. The middle of the movie drags on and on and on with little action or meaningful dialogue and you have to wonder if they ran out of money to pay for new scenery or if their writers went on strike because absolutely nothing happens. I mean, there actually came a point when the movie switched into rough animation because I guess the director couldn't be bothered to choreograph an action sequence with a dog. I'm shaking my head as I type this because the whole thing was just so tragic.

Final word: I'm actually shocked this wasn't a straight-to-DVD release.

This somehow garnered 3.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Relatives of those involved with the movie must have been coaxed to write reviews. You can buy it and watch it for yourself. Don't say you weren't warned.

November 9, 2013

Morning Glory (2010)

Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton

I know this is probably an unpopular statement, but I don't really like Rachel McAdams. Sure, she did a good job in Mean Girls. And The Notebook. And I suppose, even The Vow. But here's the thing about those roles: they're all the same. She just played different variations of a snobby girl. And all of those roles could have been equally fulfilled by someone else. Even if you're a fan of her, you have to admit she's no Meryl Streep. 

Really, the only reason I watched this movie at all was because I had spent the previous day watching a marathon of Indiana Jones movies on TV and was feeling nostalgic over Harrison Ford and how he used to be awesome, so when this movie came on, I figured, how bad could it be? (Note to self: stop thinking this.) And I don't care what anyone else says, (What's the Story) Morning Glory from Oasis is an awesome 90's album. Which also led me to justify watching this movie, despite the album having absolutely nothing to do with the movie other than coincidentally sharing part of its title. (Note to self: if you can't think of a good reason to watch a movie, stop making up reasons to do so.)

The movie started out innocently enough - classic ambition, career-driven girl who works too hard at her job to find love who is somehow simultaneously always put together in her looks, but her personality is all over the map. (Note to self: find a rom-com that doesn't portray a successful woman as neurotic, quirky, or a general hot mess in creating and sustaining relationships.) Enter: Harrison Ford as the mean, unlikable guy who people respect because he's good at what he does and might secretly be a good guy underneath. (Note to self: just watch reruns of House on TV for this exact storyline.) Banter ensues. 

Aaaaaaaand that's pretty much the movie. I really don't need to elaborate or go any further because, well, you already know how it will end. All the characters are just endearing enough to make you somehow sit through the whole movie, despite knowing that it's lame. I guess that's why the producers spent $40M making it instead of casting Katherine Heigl and James Marsden for free because they're desperate to stay relevant. (Note to self: try and work in a reference to Katherine Heigl in every column.)

Final word: I think I even enjoyed 27 Dresses more than this.

Not to be confused with this album:

November 6, 2013

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake

You know how people think romantic comedies are predictable, cliche, and full of fluff? It turns out, dramas can be all those things too. And when I say predictable, I mean I knew almost every single event that was going to happen - in sequence - and some of the dialogue as well! It's as if the writer of this movie didn't have a single original thought.

I know there are die-hard Clint Eastwood fans out there, and I know he's made a lot of great movies over the years. And it seems a bit ironic, considering part of this movie premise involves ageism, but I'm starting to wonder if it might be time for him to retire. Not because he's old (though seriously, this man lived through the Great Depression!), but because he is apparently unable to play anything other than a cranky old man. I mean, he waited 4 years between movies and this is what he chose?? Come on, Clint - stretch yourself a bit. I saw more creativity from him talking to that empty chair!

Amy Adams, on the other hand, is convincing me she can play just about anything. Sure, we've seen this ultra-focused, career-driven, precise woman before (see: Leap Year), but she's just so gosh-darn likable you can look past her appearance in movies like this. And Cruel Intentions 2. (Everyone has to get their start somewhere, I guess.) She was about the only thing that made this movie even watchable (Sorry, JT - I still groan when I see your name on a movie poster).

Don't get me wrong: I like baseball. But I wonder what it is with Hollywood's obsession with baseball-related movies. I mean, they made two sequels to The Sandlot, for God's sake. I just feel like the romantic, nostalgic aura that surrounds most baseball movies is a little irritating. Yes, Field of Dreams was a fantastic movie. But look what happened: Kevin Costner tried to recapture that magic and ended up making The Perfect Game instead. We, the viewing public, shouldn't be continuously subjected to a few mens' love affairs with one sport. You can make compelling dramas with pretty much every other sport. (With the exception of tennis. Hollywood seems utterly unable - or unwilling - to find actors and actresses who can convincingly execute normal looking tennis strokes. And after Wimbledon, I'm not sure anyone wants to attempt it again.)

Final word: It didn't add anything new to my life, to these actors' careers, or movie history in general. 

If you have somehow gone through life without seeing this movie, please rent/buy/watch it immediately. This is a baseball movie.

November 1, 2013

Won't Back Down (2012)

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis

"Inspired by actual events." 

So... if I made a movie with overstated characterizations of good and evil and it contained opinions passed off as facts, but had anecdotal evidence to back me up, could I slap the words "inspired by actual events" on it? (Or in other terms, what most everyone is doing in debates over Obamacare.) For one thing, this movie isn't even based on a real person or event! Seriously. It's a composite of events that have happened in different parts of the country. So because parents out there are upset because schools out there are failing, that gives Hollywood the right to make a movie about it and call it "inspired by actual events." Therefore... I could make a movie about a parent dealing with their autistic kid because they gave their kids a vaccine made by an evil pharmaceutical company only out to pad its bottom like and call it "inspired by actual events" because well, Jenny McCarthy said it happened! What, a minute...

You know what movies are actually inspired by actual events? Apollo 13. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Miracle. Oh wait, those are "based on a true story." Sorry. Apparently we, the public, need to learn to distinguish between real stories and movies that are completely made up, but could be real... It's like learning to decode that special real estate agent speak like when they describe a house as "cozy," you know they really mean "tiny."

I don't mean to belabor the point, but it's just so frustrating when a movie is done in a certain style to make the watcher believe they are watching a true story, then promoted in a misleading way to again, make people believe it's a true story. Except it's not. It's just "inspired by actual events."

So why is this important? Because it makes teachers look like crap, for one. And while teacher bashing/union bashing (teacher union bashing really encompasses the whole two-birds mentality) is the latest cool thing to do, it apparently never occurred to the writers of this movie to give an accurate portrayal of the scope of the problem of our school system. I get that this is a drama, not a documentary, but then why put "inspired by actual events" on the poster? Why lead viewers to believe it's a real story? 

I'm obviously sensitive to the entire topic, having spent time as a teacher myself. And I don't deny the existence of crappy teachers, crappy schools, crappy administrators, and crappy union issues. BUT, when a movie is created to so clearly label "good guys" vs. "bad guys," you end up with a cartoon-like effect that makes it laughable to consider this a serious drama. It's so predictable, which is ridiculous, considering the writers weren't constrained to a certain set of facts because, as we already established, this story is MADE UP!! Ahem, "inspired by actual events."

While this movie was no doubt intended to inspire people to "fight the man" or something, the only thing it inspired in me was anger. Anger that this perpetuated the myth that there are so many bad teachers out there that don't care; anger that people still believe the only way to fix schools is to "hire better teachers; anger that Maggie Gyllenhaal's peppy demeanor is just so effing annoying! I mean, if I knew someone like her character in real life, I might need to slap her every once in awhile just to take her down a notch. There are a few good moments, of course, but those generally involved a few moments of spontaneity and not the long, contrived speeches that featured prominently throughout. Because hey, what would an inspiring movie be without inspired speeches? How about something that was "inspired by actual events?" Sigh. And it comes full circle. 

Final word: To say this movie was a well intentioned film that missed the mark is like saying Michael Moore fact checks his work. 

If you want to know a bigger reason kids are struggling in school, read this:

October 26, 2013

Girl in Progress (2012)

Eva Mendes, Matthew Modine, Patricia Arquette

Before I start to talk about the movie itself, I want to rant about Matthew Modine. For one thing, I often hear his name and think he is Matthew Morrison, which turns out to be highly disappointing when I see who it actually is (this is a personal problem, I realize). Secondly, Matthew Modine just looks like a douchebag. Seriously. Some actors will always be relegated to bad guy status; he's one of them. This movie is no different.

The movie itself is a pretty over-done story: an irresponsible parent/caregiver with an overly mature child who assumes the adult role in the relationship and all the problems that accompany that dynamic. But what makes this movie different (from say, Uptown Girls) is the approach the kid makes in changing this dynamic and the ability of this movie to find humor in what is actually a very tragic (and common) situation. (And, of course no Brittany Murphy and her insanely annoying voice. I know people get riled up when you say bad things about people who have passed, but come on there's no denying her voice was grating.)

As for Mendes, this role isn't a huge stretch from her usual "sexy" roles. She's still playing a rather shallow woman whose main attribute is her looks, but she does add some dimension to the character and it's nice to see an actress who can properly cry on screen. So bravo for that. (Because seriously, there is nothing worse than watching an ugly crier and/or someone who is unconvincing when they cry. It really saps a moment of its meaning.) 

The daughter does a great job in her role and I'm happy to see a movie with two Latina main characters hit the big screen, even if it only recouped half its production budget in ticket sales (ouch!). It may take some time, but between Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato on Disney and now movies like this, I have a feeling an explosion of Latina movie superstars are coming. Now if only we could find someone to carry the Asian torch for Lucy Liu...

Final word: A cute rework of the classic coming-of-age story.

October 21, 2013

The Heat (2013)

Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy

I have a confession to make: I am a Boston Red Sox fan. [pause for booing] I always have been, even pre-2004, when they were always disappointing and it seemed they would never shake the Curse of the Bambino. This is both relevant and important because:

A. The Sox are back in the World Series, and
B. My subsequent mocking of Bostonians won't seem like unjust bias

So about Boston...I've only been once, but my experience was work-related and didn't allow me to really explore whether or not the movie depictions of the city and its people are justified. But judging from the sheer number of movies that show Boston as full of trashy people with annoying accents (The Fighter, The Departed, anything from Ben Affleck...), I'm beginning to believe this portrayal must be accurate. It's sort of like Jersey - watch enough reality TV and you have to believe the whole state is full over over-tanned meatheads. One of the highlights of this movie is its consistent depiction of that Boston um, class.

The rest of movie, however, plays like a roast of Bullock and McCarthy themselves. Each plays a character almost exactly like so many of their others. In the case of Bullock, it's like a bad version of Miss Congeniality. For McCarthy, it's hard to tell how her character is any different from the one played in both Bridesmaids and Identity Thief.

There are funny jokes, to be sure - most of them being derogatory comments from McCarthy's character (I mean seriously, the addition of an albino character was genius), but the overall plot is just so basic. You strip away the 10 or so funny moments and you're left with a cop version of a romantic comedy. However, I do want to give some props for making a non-romantic comedy movie starring 2 women. It still played into some stereotypes that career-oriented women have no time for romance and that men generally dislike them, which is annoying, but I suppose I should just be grateful they didn't cast Katherine Heigl. (Looks like Hollywood finally got my memo on that!)

[On a added note, I watched the "unrated version" as opposed to the "theatrical version" and I can almost guarantee that I can pick out exactly what was edited for the theaters. I don't know why people think "unrated" somehow equates to "better." It just means a longer movie, filled with scenes that weren't good enough to make the final cut. End rant.]

Final word: Makes a better trailer than a movie.

BTW, this was the DVD I was given. Who needs both a regular version, a Blu-Ray version, AND 2 hours of bonus "extras?" Who has the time to watch 2 hours of extras from a mediocre movie?? Is this supposed to be a selling point? For $21.99? Really??

October 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire

Along with a slew of other books I don't remember, I had to read this for high school English class. I remember exactly two things about it:

1. There were a lot of parties, and
2. My English teacher told me that some have suggested a homosexual angle to the relationship between Gatsby and Carraway

So naturally, I spent the first third of the movie searching for signs of a secret longing on the part of either of the main characters. I didn't see any hint of that, so thanks for ruining a perfectly good story, Mr. Kuzma.

Beyond that, this movie has been thoroughly Baz-ified. (yep, I just turned Baz Luhrmann into a verb.) It contains many of his usual signatures like a musical score composed of popular songs, overwhelming colors, and that weird, fast-forwarded-type movement of people he also used in Moulin Rouge. Except sadly, this movie didn't have Ewan McGregor singing Your Song to Nicole Kidman, allowing me to imagine that he's really serenading me.

It did, however, have both Leo and Carey Mulligan, whom I adore (despite some questionable movie role choices in her past). And Baz's choice to use large portions of the text word for word helped me overlook the casting choice of Tobey Maguire as the main character (although really, after trying to make him a superhero in Spiderman, anything else is more convincing). [As an aside, does anyone else sometimes have trouble differentiating Amy Adams from Isla Fisher?]

BUT (and this is a biggie), there are portions of the movie that are just flat out slow. For instance, the first 20 or so minutes. And a solid portion in the middle. Considering the movie just clears 2 hours, that's a sizable chunk that's completely forgettable. But I judge a movie more on how it ends, rather than how it begins (if I make it to the end), so I was pleased with its strong finish. Now if only Leo could snag an Oscar, he wouldn't feel the need to keep going out of his way to play every neurotic character available to prove he can act.

Final word: More like, "The Good Gatsby."

Let's all be educated and go ahead and read the book.

September 30, 2013

Parental Guidance (2012)

Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott

Since it appears the creators of this movie just mailed in a half-assed effort, I will match their level of exertion in writing my review of it. Instead of composing a complete, thorough piece, I'm going to just list a whole bunch of snarky comments about the entire experience.

  • How did they land actors of such high profile for this? What was the budget on this movie? Were they blackmailed into doing this in some way?
  • I'm offended this movie was marketed to me - a parent. Just because I had kids doesn't mean I lost the cognitive ability to discern funny from idiotic.
  • I'm sort of offended this movie was made at all.
  • And that it sold over $77 million worth of tickets.
  • Even the word "cliché" is not cliché enough to describe the plot of this movie.
  • Ditto for the word "predictable."
  • I don't enjoy watching old people struggle with technology and slang for two hours. I see this all the time with my own parents and mostly just feel annoyed.
  • I thought this would be at least on par with mediocre kids/family movies of my childhood, like Blank Check or even Angels in the Outfield. When a movie makes me pine for Danny Glover, you know things are bad.
  • If you're really interested in a hilarious view of touchy-feely modern parenting, go watch Maggie Gyllenhaal in Away We Go.
  • I never thought I'd see the day when Bette Midler is the least annoying person in a movie.
  • Who f*ck came up with naming the kid Barker?

And there you have it. I've spent exactly the same amount of time writing this review as the writers of the movie spent on the script.

Final word: Much like a bad relationship or some other painful experience I elected to put myself through, I found myself trying desperately trying to pull positives out of the movie. I'll let you know when I think of one.

September 25, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg

But seriously, is it hard for anyone else to see Sylar (I mean, Zachary Quinto) as anything but a creepy serial killer who can split people's heads open with his mind? Granted, Spock is plenty weird as a character, but he's not meant to be serial killer, which is what I keep imaging every time he comes on screen. Maybe that's just a personal problem.

To the dismay of all you nerds out there, I am into neither Star Trek nor Star Wars. I'm decidedly anti-Chris Pine (which makes my endorsement for his movie, This Means War, all the more impressive) and have been ever since I first saw him in Just My Luck with Lindsay Lohan. And seeing as I'm probably the only person left in the world still rooting for Lindsay to make a comeback, it's safe to say it wasn't her that ruined that movie for me. He's just not attractive enough for the number of close-ups given to him in each of his movies. Although I must say his skin improved vastly from the first movie. Maybe he, too, has 50 friends on facebook who sell Rodan + Fields facial products.

The movie just started so slowly. I had all the makings of a cliché action movie - the hero is some sort of rebel without a cause, a mentor that "believes in him" because the hero reminds the mentor of himself, and my personal favorite, shots of the hero drinking solo at a bar wearing a leather jacket to show depth of emotion or something. However, the movie did hold some pleasant plot surprises and decent action once it got started, and Simon Pegg's Scottish accent is more than a little impressive. I'm a sucker for an authentic sounding accent.

Granted, I don't remember a lot about the first movie (other than I remember I thought it was lame), and I didn't watch the "originals," but this sequel was way better than I expected. Although maybe I just didn't expect much. Or maybe it's because it's about the only thing right now that doesn't have William Shatner in it.

Final word: Throw some more attractive people in this movie and it might be a winner in my book.

September 15, 2013

[Tyler Perry's] Why Did I Get Married? (2007)

Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Sharon Leal, Jill Scott, Tasha Smith, et al

It's taken a rather conscious effort, but I've never watched anything of Tyler Perry's before. None of his movies, none of his 50 shows on TBS, and definitely nothing with Madea. Why? A host of reasons, really.
  1. I can't get over the fact that he slaps in name in front of absolutely everything he does. Think about how narcissistic someone like James Cameron is. Can you imagine if he started naming every movie like, "James Cameron's Titanic?" And yet, no one even batted an eye when Tyler Perry extended this trend to his TV shows! (Yes, shows. Plural. Sigh.) There are really only so many prominent black directors in Hollywood - couldn't he just trust the viewing public to know these productions are his? I don't think anyone is going to mix up his movies with Spike Lee's.
  2. I just don't get the humor in cross-dressing men. The Birdcage, Mrs. Doubtfire, Big Momma's House - they all base their premise on a man dressing as a woman. Forgetting the political implications of that kind of humor and the fact that it's completely debasing an entire population of people, it's just simply not funny to watch a guy pretend to be a woman. Oh, he's struggling with pantyhose - haha! (What woman even wears pantyhose these days??) But Madea takes it a step further - Tyler Perry is just a woman in these movies. Why? Is he really so narcissistic that he doesn't trust any other actress to portray his character correctly, so he does it himself? Which really takes us back to point #1...
  3. His stuff just looks stupid. I've sat through a lot of horrible commercials in my lifetime, but I visibly wince every time a [Tyler Perry's] House of Payne or [Tyler Perry's] Meet the Browns ad comes on, followed by that horrible "TBS. Very funny." tag line that seems a touch ironic when you consider some of the syndicated reruns shown on that channel... (By the way, it also doesn't help that both shows appear to be interchangeable, though maybe Tyler Perry feels if Seth McFarlane can make a bajillion dollars off doing the same stupid sh*t, he can too?)
Anyway... after holding out for a number of years, it's becoming clear that Tyler Perry isn't going anywhere. And with people out there continuing to give him their money, I figured I'd see what all the fuss was about. So I asked a friend and Tyler Perry fan (I really had to search to find one) to recommend the "best" Tyler Perry movie. This is the one she picked. Sigh.

This movie simply reinforced my theory that Tyler Perry is an inflated-ego control freak. Because like everything else of his, he has the sole credit for writing, directing, and producing the movie. The problem with this is that the movie has 8 main characters. So when only one person is responsible for developing all these characters, they often become one-dimensional, which the 8 people in this movie are. Ensemble casts are difficult enough to pull off without the added pressure of making each person relatable in their own right.

Besides the lack of depth in character development, there was also a lack of depth in casting. Some of the actors (like Tyler Perry himself), do a convincing job. Others, like fake Kerry Washington (aka Sharon Leal), do little more than exist on screen. And while some singers and other non-actors have successfully made the leap to the big screen, I would not count Jill Scott as one of them. She was supposed to be the most sympathetic character of the movie, but I was so distracted by her bad acting I didn't really care. And from the movie description for [Tyler Perry'sWhy Did I Get Married Too (which I saved on my DVR in case I liked this movie), the entire sequel seems to center on her. Needless to say, I will not be making it a priority to watch it.

All in all, the movie reminded me strongly of a chick-lit novel I read recently. It had a lot of the same individual story lines, a predictable ending, and an easy watchability/readability to it. Do I believe Tyler Perry is talented? Absolutely. But more in the way that Lady Gaga is talented in making herself stay relevant and popular despite having only marginal talent in singing and songwriting. 

Final word: This is an excerpt from an article I recently read: "If someone comes in and asks for a recommendation and you ask for the name of a book that they liked and they can't think of one, the person is not really a reader.  Recommend Nicholas Sparks." Now substitute "movie" for "book" and "Tyler Perry" for "Nicholas Sparks."

September 6, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman

Let me walk you through a running dialogue of my thoughts as I watched this movie:

Hmm...this movie seems to just have a voice over reading of the book itself. Was the screenplay writer not creative enough to adapt some of this stuff to dialogue or action? [Ten minutes later] Finally, the omnipresent voice is gone. Hey, what is the guy who plays Bilbo Baggins from? I think it's the guy in Love Actually who does the weird porn scenes. I always wondered why that storyline needed to be included in that movie. Wow, I wish this movie would get going. I don't remember anything from reading this book back in 7th grade. I remember thinking the book was more interesting than what's happening right now, though. OMG, did the dwarves just break into song? Please tell me this isn't a musical.

[A solid 25 minutes later] Ok, this isn't so bad. Finally some action. Ooh, great, the elves. I remember thinking the elves were pretty badass in The Lord of the Rings movies. In fact, the long hair and archery skills might explain why it's the only movie I can stand to watch that has Orlando Bloom in it. I do wish they hadn't made the elves looks like Trekkies with those headbands and the pointy ears. Hey, maybe I spent too many years in Bible school, but is it just me or does the whole 'dwarves wandering without a homeland' story make anyone else think of Israelites in the desert for 40 years? Is The Lord of the Rings trilogy secretly a metaphor for religion like the C.S. Lewis books?

!!!Holy s*&^ Gollum is creepy!!! And WTF is he saying? Can I get some closed captioning? Hm, Gollum also sort of looks like Willem Dafoe. I always thought there was something off about him...

[Some time later...] Wow, this movie has rounded the bases of two hours and shows no sign of ending soon. Does Peter Jackson think he won the Oscar for Best Picture for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King because of its length?? I swear, I thought the book was pretty short. I mean, 12 year-olds don't exactly have a huge attention span. Sigh. I really wish this movie would end.

WTF?!? This movie has a sequel? How the f*$% does a prequel have a sequel?? I just sat through 2 hours and 40 minutes of a movie and I don't even know how it ends?? F%^& you, Peter Jackson.

[After the movie ended I went online and discovered that the 320 page book has actually been split into three (yes THREE) movies. I now know why people hate America.]

Final word: I cannot begin to tell you how much this did not need to be split into multiple movies.

Do yourself a favor and just read the book.

August 30, 2013

Identity Thief (2013)

Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy

There are certain actors in Hollywood who seem to play the same part over and over again. I have recently stated that Denzel Washington and Paul Rudd are two such actors. While some may disagree with my assessment of those two, the fact that Jason Bateman is one of those actors is not debatable. I mean, I get it. With a face like that, and a haircut like that, it's sort of inevitable that he plays some version of a boring, Type-A accountant in every movie. He's so believable in the part I'm starting to think that's what he's like in real life. (Kinda how I think Jennifer Aniston must be really whiny and high maintenance real life, which would explain all those Us Weekly covers that used to say things like 'Why Jen Can't Keep a Man.')

So, moving onto the plot of the movie - it's stupid. I really don't know how else to delicately phrase it. It's also not funny, which is kind of a must for a comedy. Of course, I didn't like A Fish Called Wanda, I didn't like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and I didn't like Meet the Parents, so I guess it's not surprising that I didn't like this movie either. I just don't find it funny when everything goes wrong for someone who doesn't deserve it. Oh, your life is being ruined? And it just keeps getting worse? Ha...ha?

At the end of the day, this movie is predictable, cliché, and tries to generate a fair portion of its jokes from making Melissa McCarthy look like a gross fat person. Apparently Hollywood hasn't learned from Shallow Hal that just making fun of fat people isn't really a movie plot. At least Jack Black isn't in this.

Final word: I laughed exactly once. In 111 minutes.

Don't believe me? Go ahead, waste your money...
Identity Thief (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)

August 22, 2013

Wanderlust (2012)

Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Alan Alda, Malin Ackerman, Justin Theroux

Some years ago, I heard a comedian say there were three actors in Hollywood who never aged: Rob Lowe, Peter Gallagher, and Dick Clark (this was obviously before his stroke). Though it might be a bit early to predict, I think I would add Paul Rudd to that list. Think about it - has he changed at all since his big screen debut as flannel-wearing step-brother Josh in Clueless? As if!

[Side note: did no one else think it was really creepy that Cher and Josh hooked up in the end? I realize they were never related by blood, and their parents had divorced, but I think any time you need a technicality to explain the ok-ness of your relationship, it just means it's creepy to everyone else. (e.g. "but second cousins are allowed to marry so it's totally ok!")]

Anyway, since then, he's played a string of awkward but lovable characters who are all pretty much the same. I guess you can't blame a guy for sticking with what gets him paid (though I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if they stopped dressing him like he stepped out of a J.Crew catalogue). Jennifer Aniston has slightly more variation in her roles (if you count her "critically acclaimed" turn in Friends With Money, which was awful, by the way), but frequently winds up in movies you wish you could un-watch (Along Came Polly, Love Happens, The Bounty Hunter).

Here, they combine their mediocre acting forces for a mediocre movie. There's nothing surprising about the movie, the plot, or even the jokes. The only standout is the performance by Ken Marino, who does such an excellent job as Paul Rudd's obnoxious older brother, you just wish something bad would happen to him. Like death. Seriously. Everything else is extremely mild, especially given the intention, no doubt, of injecting some spice into the movie by having some characters be nudists. Maybe it's just from living in San Francisco, but there is really nothing shocking to me about nudists anymore. Especially after seeing Magic Mike. Just kidding.

Final word: I can confidently say this is an enjoyable movie, provided I am stuck on an airplane or trapped elsewhere for hours with no other form of entertainment.

August 16, 2013

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch

It's no secret that I'm a Disney superfan. This extends beyond their movies to Disneyland, Disney World, and even Disney flatware. (I have Disney kitchen utensils. They're wildly overpriced.) One of my favorite things about Disney is their attention to detail. As one example, when you walk through the Animal Kingdom at Disney World, you notice how there are leaf prints in the paths, as though they have been imprinted in the mud as they fell. Except that the path is concrete, not mud, and the leaf prints have been planted there (pun not intended). Or the fact that Disney makes sure to carefully coordinate the character's appearances in the parks so that a guest never runs across more than one of the same character, thereby keeping the magic alive for kids who believe these characters are real. It truly is the happiest place on earth and I mean that with all seriousness.

That geeked out feeling I get while walking through Disney World is the same I felt while watching this movie. The details were incredible! Everything, from the way the old video game characters move (the herky-jerky, everything at 90-degree angles movement) to the set design in the Sugarland game (like Candyland on steroids) made me feel as though Disney had literally thought of everything. I cannot say enough good things about it, really.

But even without the amazing details (which take it from a good movie to a great one), the concept itself is wildly creative. A video game character who's sick of being a villain and having no friends? Hilarious. A little sad at times sad, too, but also hilarious. And the sadness is on the light side - just enough to make the movie complex without making you depressed like Bambi or The Lion King (which really has some disturbing stuff if you think about it). It's this type of creativity of plot that kept Monsters University from being a great movie. Wreck-It Ralph is not just a great kid's movie - it is a great movie, period. Go Ralph.

Final word: This movie was so great, even Sarah Silverman's voice couldn't ruin it. 

August 8, 2013

Inhale (2010)

Dermot Mulroney, Diane Kruger, Jordi Molla

When watching a movie, I ask myself a number of questions, which basically boil down to this: Was it interesting? Was it enjoyable to watch? Would I watch it again? Is there a positive x-factor in terms of creativity, plot twists, set design, etc. that sets it apart from other movies? Boiling it all down to a letter grade or a number on a scale seems too arbitrary and not wholly accurate, since a movie can be interesting but not enjoyable, vice versa, or both interesting and enjoyable, but not something I'd ever sit through again.

This movie? Interesting, mostly enjoyable to watch, but not re-watchable. And its x-factor? Social consciousness. Seriously. Netflix categorized it as a "social issues thriller." Seriously. There is an entire category of movies that can be classified as "social issues thrillers?" What else exists here? John Q? That certainly says something about the category.

And therein lies the problem. Is the organ donation process a problem in this country? Yes. Is it the stuff of great movie entertainment? Riiiiiight.

So other than, you know, the main crux of the plot, there are other troublesome spots. For one, I really don't care about the little girl who needs the lung transplant. I know this sounds callous, but I really don't. Sure, it's sad she's sick and all, but a couple of shots here and there of her coughing isn't really enough to make an audience emotionally connect with her plight. Yes, you want her to get new lungs, but at what cost? Which, of course, is the exact point the movie is trying to make. It's predictable and not nearly as "thrilling" as the movie description will have you believe, but mildly thought provoking anyway.

And speaking of's good to see Jordi Molla as another morally shady head honcho in a Latin American country...

Final word: It's basically an edgy after-school special without the usual low-budget graphics and outdated outfits.

August 2, 2013

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson

I know Glee is a hit show. I also know that its fans call themselves "gleeks," as if combining the words "geek" and "glee" somehow make it cool to coin a term to describe fans of a a friggin' television show. (Newsflash: it doesn't work to make "trekkies" sound cooler and and it doesn't work here either.) I've wracked my brain and the only explanation I can come up with for why this movie was made was for these so-called "gleeks."

So, I watched it. I desperately wish I hadn't, but I did. I watched the first season of Glee and was maybe [overly] optimistically hoping this movie could at least echo some of the same entertainment value. Instead, this movie made me hate Glee for the simple fact that its popularity allowed a movie like this to be made. This movie had no edgy character like Sue Sylvester. It had no amazing singer like Rachel Berry. And it had no designated hot people like Puck and Santana. Yet it seemed to copy Glee in every other respect - a band of misfits come together to sing. Oh, they're good! They fight, but come to realize how much they need each other. They're even equally as racially diverse, with a token Asian and a big black girl. There's even a gay person! All they needed was the guy in the wheelchair and the writers could claim as much creativity in writing this movie as James Cameron did for Avatar!

Don't even get me started on the movie poster. And the movie tagline: "Get pitch slapped." *facepalm*

I've ranted previously about Rebel Wilson being the new Zach Galifianakis (aka in everything and playing the exact same part over and over again), but I'll say it again - she is in everything and playing the exact same part over and over again. Oh, I said that already? Well, that's how annoyed I am about it.

The only positive takeaway from all this is the song Cups, which is apparently Anna Kendrick's song in real life. She has a nice voice. That's it.

Final word: This movie was so lame, I actually started to wonder if it was supposed to be a spoof of something.

July 24, 2013

35 and Ticking (2011)

Kevin Hart, Nicole Ari Parker, Tamala Jones, Meagan Good, Jill Marie Jones, Darius McCrary

I didn't grow up watching a lot of movies with predominately African-American casts. I never even saw the movie Friday until after college. So when I watched and reviewed (and liked!) Think Like a Man, I thought I had discovered this untapped resource of quality romantic comedies. So I started surfing BET for prospects. As it turns out, bad romantic comedies know no racial boundaries.

I don't know even know where to start - with the awkward timing of split screen usage, the slow motion close ups, or the shaky camerawork throughout the first 30 minutes. Or how about the fact that the movie had the absolute worst movie score of all time? Seriously - worst of all time. Not only were the song choices frequently inappropriate for the tone, but the music also haltingly started and stopped as if controlled by some twenty-something who "deejays" in their free time. (You know who I'm talking about - all those people who think owning an Apple laptop and a music collection of more than one genre suddenly makes them a deejay.)

To say this was not a comedy wouldn't be a fair statement, though. I mean, sure, there were a few jokes in the movie and even less that were actually funny, but I laughed throughout almost the entire thing. Laughed because the dialogue and camerawork was so awful, but laughed nevertheless. So I watched the entire thing. I felt there had to be an ending that would make me understand why so many famous actors had signed onto the movie. **Spoiler alert - there was not.**

At this point, I'm ready to treat all "ensemble cast" movies with nothing but suspicion. I'm pretty sure the only reason a movie gets more than a couple famous people is because the actors get together and decide to do a movie together, no matter the topic or quality of the script. Which is how a movie like This is the End gets made. It's also how I've had to sit through movies like this, this, and this.

Final word: Think made-for-TV movie. Then think a level below that.

July 19, 2013

Lola Versus (2012)

Bill Pullman & Debra Winger are the only recognizable people in this movie, but have been relegated to the hardly seen, dreaded "parent" role to random unknowns (except one of those unknowns is now on The Newsroom, which is unfortunate, because he does not add any attractiveness to the cast)

There is a reason Sex & the City was such a huge phenomenon - woman can relate to it. In every woman, there is a little bit of proud Samantha, conservative Charlotte, smart Miranda, and Carrie - a hot mess. Watching other women struggle with the mundane and ridiculous somehow makes our lives seem more...validated. TV characters! They're just like us!

This movie delivers a bit of what the Sex & the City Movie couldn't - a real-ness the series had, but somehow morphed into rich, forty-year old women that were suddenly much less relatable to my twenty-something life that still featured ramen noodles on occasion. In contrast, this movie highlights the relationship mistakes so many of us make when we are young and stupid. Or old and stupid. But either way, stupid, relationship-wise. I'm not saying I can personally relate to every single cringe-inducing choice Lola makes, but I can certainly remember my friends making similar decisions... and having similar reactions...

What keeps the movie from becoming a depressing narrative on being single at 30 are the sharp, quick-witted remarks and awkward exchanges that keep it in the realm of comedy. A wry, tortured comedy, but comedy nevertheless. It's a pretty unknown movie (at least it was to me), but should be watched on girl's night, through a happy haze of cocktails and chatter about poor dating experiences.

Final word: I don't normally like the term "chick flick," but if ever there was one...

July 15, 2013

Monsters University (2013)

Billy Crystal, John Goodman

It's a fine line between making a movie funny and interesting enough that an adult can sit through it while still maintaining a clean sense of humor and teaching good values to kids. TV shows illustrate this perfectly: on one side, there are the sassy, back-talking, scheming kid shows that make you wonder if the show is even for kids at all. Take SpongeBob Square Pants. I mean, the entire premise is about a stoned sponge! How, exactly does that qualify as a kid's show? On the flip side, there are shows that do nothing but preach values and learning to the point where they are unwatchable by anyone with a mental maturity beyond the age of five. Think, Care Bears or a number of other shows I've never bothered to pay attention to but I'm sure exist.

What sets most Disney movies apart is its ideal combination of child humor and adult humor. I recently read a Slate article on the fact that kids and adults often don't like the same movies. This is obvious, and probably didn't need a whole article written on the subject, but it does illustrate the fact that many movies fail to achieve this balance. Case in point: CarsCars is probably the worst Disney movie ever made (and yes, that includes both Aristocats and Pocahontas). And yet... a sequel was made. And an entire theme park at Disneyland. And a new Disney movie called Planes that looks exactly like Cars, but features airplanes instead (p.s. kudos on the imaginative title). It's inexplicable.

Monsters University straddles this child/adult line well. It's cute and includes cheesy jokes that kids will understand, wrapped into a sports-type plot that anyone could follow. But it also smacks of Old School with its loser fraternity of outcasts and "mature students" which appeals to adults. And frankly, anything that can remind me to say, "You're my boy, Blue!" is a winner in my book. Of course, this movie is rated G, so the streaking, drinking and KY jelly wrestling all take place off screen. JK It's still a kid's movie, after all.

Unfortunately, my favorite part of the movie is its ending, but I can't write about it! It made me desperately want to break my rule of not spoiling movie endings so I could talk about it, but alas, I have principles. Sigh.

Final word: It's cute, but not amazingly creative, especially compared to the original.