Recap of June’s Theatrical Releases

I saw six out of the nine major theatrical releases of June. I still plan on seeing the following from the month of June, in alphabetical order: “Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Bling Ring”, “Byzantium”, “The Internship”, “Maniac”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Song for Marion”, “Syrup” (because I love Brittany Snow), “Violet & Daisy”, White House Down”. Considering that the lowest score of June’s new releases was 50 out of 100 (surprisingly “awarded” to “Man of Steel”), it was hardly a bad month for movies. Here’s the ranking of the June’s releases from best to worst, with a blurb from each of my reviews.

This is the End (6/12)

This is the End (6/12) [My review]

“This is an insanely funny movie. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy.” 91/100. This was my fourth most anticipated movie of June, and it exceeded expectations, and it’s currently my favourite movie of the year thus far. 

IMDb Score: 7.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 7/10RT Audience: 8/10.

Monsters University (6/21)

Monsters University (6/21) [My review]

“I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”, and an impressive Pixar movie.” 90/100. This was my most anticipated movie of June, and it truly satisfied.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10RTC: 6.7/10; RTA: 8.4/10.

World War Z (6/21)

World War Z (6/21) [My review]

“The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. Since I have not read the book, I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional, but very enjoyable ‘find the cure’ type of film.” 75/100. This was my tenth most anticipated movie of June, so it really impressed. 

IMDb Score: 7.3/10RTC: 6.2/10RTA: 7.6/10.

The Heat (6/28)

The Heat (6/28) [My review]

“The humour is raunchy as hell, but usually funny as hell. When I wasn’t laughing at the jokes, I was at least smirking a little. When it isn’t being hilarious, the likeable chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy really carries it along. The movie balances out to a fun, predictable, but hysterical time at the movies.” 75/100. This was my seventh most anticipated movie of June, so it did satisfy. 

IMDb Score: 7.1/10RTC: 6.0/10; RTA: 8.0/10.

The Purge (6/7)

The Purge (6/7) [My review]

“The concept helps make this movie memorable. However, this rushed home invasion flick/intriguing social commentary ends up being incredibly average. It’s disappointing, and while it has some worthwhile menacing villains, it’s the latest movie to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.” 57/100. This was my third most anticipated movie of June, so it was truly disappointing.

IMDb Score: 5.6/10; RTC: 5.1/10; RTA: 6.0/10.

Man of Steel (6/14)

Man of Steel (6/14) [My review]

“I do not appreciate the constant changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.” 50/100. This was my second most anticipated movie of June, so it was a big let-down.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10; RTC: 6.3/10RTA: 8.0.

Here are some statistics: 

IMDb Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.9), 2. “Man of Steel” (7.8), 2. “Monsters University” (7.8), 4. “World War Z” (7.3), 5. “The Heat” (7.1), 6. “The Purge” (5.6). Average score: 7.25/10. 

RT Critics Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.0), 2. “Monsters University” (6.7), 3. “Man of Steel” (6.3), 4. “World War Z” (6.2), 5. “The Heat” (6.0), “The Purge” (5.1). Average score: 6.21/10. 

RT Audience Ranking: 1. “Monsters University” (8.4), 2. “The Heat” (8.0), 2. “Man of Steel” (8.0), 2. “This is the End” (8.0), 5. “World War Z” (7.6), 6. “The Purge” (6.0). Average score: 7.66/10.

My Average score: 73/100. (Adjusted [excluding lowest grade]: 77.6/100.)

What movies did you enjoy out of June’s releases, and which ones did you hate? There were a total six votes in my Most Anticipated Movies of June poll (4 to “Man of Steel”, 1 to “This is the End”, and 1 to “Monsters University”, which was my vote). Did your most anticipated movie satisfy or disappoint the hell out of you? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’ll be posting my Best of the Year So Far article sometime this weekend or early next week. Stay tuned! 

 

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Monsters University (2013)

Monsters UniversityRelease Date: June 21, 2013

Director: Dan Scanlon

Stars: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi

Runtime: 110 min

Pixar is one of this century’s most consistent studios; but they are fallible. I’ve seen 10 out of 14 of their movies. Cars 2 is apparently the runt of the litter, and I haven’t seen that, or the original. Brave (my review) is a good animated movie, but I’m not so big on the story and I haven’t (nor has anyone else, I doubt) forgiven it for winning that Oscar for Best Animated Feature yet. Monsters University is the fourteenth film out of Pixar’s creative cannon, and their first prequel.

From the moment Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) met, they couldn’t stand each other. Monsters University brings us a look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley when they weren’t exactly two peas in a pod.

Many people, mostly critics, have set their expectations for Pixar movies too high after the release of Toy Story 3. They’re a studio, they’re going to make a mistake. Their movies won’t be near-perfect or beloved each time. Deal with it. I’m here to tell you that this time around, Monsters University is deserving of being called one of Pixar’s best movies in years. I’m sure it will become a classic one day. It’s a great animated movie and a great Pixar movie. I’m not going to mention any other Pixar movie (excluding Monsters, Inc.) from here-on-out in this review. I want to review it as a Pixar movie, and not as a Pixar movie in the shadow of other, possibly better Pixar movies. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t a Pixar movie, because that just isn’t possible, and a disservice to Pixar. It also isn’t possible because their exemplary animation is present.

This is the most creative, the most charming, and the best, animated movie of the year so far. It’s heart-warming, moving, and funny. Everything here is top notch. The story features great entertainment and a whole lot of heart. The animation is beautiful, and the creativity put into this is prominent. The stakes are high during the movie; because of a situation caused by Mike and Sulley’s feud. Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), is a frightening monster who, in some ways, is reminiscent of Henry Waternoose from Monsters, Inc. Thankfully, and impressively, this Dean is a completely different character. One might get the vibe that this franchise teaches University deans and bosses cannot be trusted.

I love how Pixar can create movies that both children and adults will love. The humour isn’t always cutesy, it’s usually extremely clever. The plot is also smart and rather enthralling for an animated family feature. The last thirty (or so) minutes is an amazing final act, and one of the best and most memorable in Pixar’s filmography. Even people with the smallest bladders should hold their urine like there’s no god-damn tomorrow. This is set at a university (hence: Monsters University), which might play a part in the appeal to older audiences. This isn’t set where it is purely because of marketing to older audiences (because Monsters, Inc. definitely would be enough to bring fans back to the theatre to see this). This is set at a university because it’s the best time for these two monsters to meet. It’s when people meet their lifelong friends. It’s where their feud makes sense. This wouldn’t be set at a pre-school, mostly because their feud could be over petty things like a crayon or Teddy Graham crackers (even though those are really freaking tasty). The creators really know what they’re doing, and how to give each of these characters depth.

You better believe this little guy is the cutest thing about the movie.

You better believe this little guy is the cutest thing in the movie.

There’s a new slate of colourful and inventive characters. This university looks like a great place to go to school. (And since Mike and Sulley can attend university, it makes me think I can do it, too!) This is part coming-of-age tale because the fraternity house crew, Oozma Kappa, that Mike and Sulley fall into, are a group of misfits who cannot scare, but they do have a lot of heart. The gang, and Mike, must find it within themselves to let out their scariest and mightiest roars.

One of the main criticisms this movie might receive is that “it doesn’t need to exist”. Justin Bieber doesn’t need to exist, but some people like him. (Yes, I did just compare this to Justin Bieber. If Monsters U is going to go up against Justin Bieber, MU is going to win ten times out of ten.) If you do feel MU didn’t have to see the light of day, you’ll be glad it gets made. As a fan of Pixar, a lover of movies, and a lover of Mike and Sulley, I’m estatic this exists. This movie is so entertaining, and I love it. It’s a great opportunity to see beloved characters in a new light.

They get new layers. Mike is a student who knows everything about everything, but he hasn’t always felt like he belongs. Sulley is a student who thinks he can get by just because of his family name. We see these characters in new, more vulnerable situations. We get to see these two monsters become an inseparable pair. We also get to see how Randall Boggs came to hate this dynamic duo. We also get to see some hilarious cameos. And for those opportunities, I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to Monsters, Inc., and an impressive Pixar movie.

90/100

Parental Guidance (2012)

Parental GuidanceParental Guidance

Release Date: December 25, 2012

Director: Andy Fickman

Stars: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei

Runtime: 105 min

Tagline: Here come the grandparents. There go the rules.

Artie (Billy Crystal) has just finished up a season as being “De Voice” of the local minor league baseball team, the Grizzlies. Much to his dismay, he gets fired because the team wants someone younger and more modern, preferrably someone who has made social updates on Twitter and Facebook. Soon, he and his wife, Diane (Bette Midler), get asked to look after their three grand kids because their parents need to go out of town. The mother, Alice (Marisa Tomei), stays home for a little longer than expected, and Artie and Diane’s old-school parenting skills collide with Alice and Phil’s 21st-century parenting skills. Chaos soon ensues, but Artie might finally get to live his dream of being the voice for the San Francisco Giants (and keep using his signature sign-off of “Lights out, Alice”). As this film teaches, it’s all about meeting halfway and learning to bend that binds a family together.

Parental Guidance may be a film with good intentions, but the target audience is unclear. Are the children supposed to enjoy it more, or are the adults? It passes itself as a family comedy, but the humour is hard to find in a few areas. A film that resorts to hitting a character in the balls with a baseball bat, and then have that said character throw up on the young child, isn’t exactly funny, it’s simply immature. Still, there are a few yuks to be had, and it’s at least a little funnier than The Guilt Trip.

The family comedy’s intention is to express that grandparents and parents must come to an understanding of how to deal with their children. This is also a film about second chances, because Artie and Diane did a poor job with their children, so they want to do it better with the grandchildren. However, this is going to appear difficult, as the grandkids don’t know them well, they think of them as the “other” grandparents. This family comedy is simply redundant, because there are other, better comedies to express afamily connectedness round the holidays (like This is 40). It also redundant because themes it tries to explore, like the parent feeling abandoned by their children or vice-versa, have already been explored in features like This is 40 and Trouble with the Curve. There are laughs, but a lot of the feature is tedious. There is one scene where a character has a sort of self-realization moment, which is supposed to be sentimental, but it was so tedious that it made two minutes feel like seven. The performer is loud and boring, and that isn’t a good combination for any working actor. There has never been a time during a film where I would have just loved a baseball bat to my grapes instead of watching the scene.

The three kids are silly, but the charismatic Bailee Madison makes the best of her character. Harper, the character Madison portrays, is a tightly-wound violinist trying to get into a competitive musical arts school. She just wants to live a little, with her mother pushing her the most. Turner (Joshua Rush) is the stuttering middle child who gets bullied at school. Finally, we have Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), a kid who wants to be bribed by Farty (his nickname for Artie) and has an imaginary Kangaroo friend, Carl.

Artie and Diane try to bring in their old-school parenting skills, but the writer should have expressed that conflicts can’t be solved with cake, ten dollars and letting the kid watch some torture porn horror. Any conflict that comes also gets resolved in about seven minutes or less. The writer makes most characters have what Hollywood calls self-realization/overcoming obstacles moments, and most of them are sweet and are nice attempts as being sentimental. Others are just tedious and irritating. The story is also nothing you’ve seen 102 times before, and about four times already this year. A main problem with this is performers with no charm. Billy Crystal is the most charming and the funniest. Bette Midler is a one-joke woman, and just because she gestures and does facial a lot doesn’t mean she’s a good actress, or even fun to watch. Admittedly, Crystal and Midler do have a decent-enough chemistry. Marisa Tomei and Bailee Madison (who really is a great young actress) are the only other performers that are easy to watch. Tomei and her husband, played by Tom Everett Scott, have one really bad inside joke they share. Tomei may just have had better chemistry with the young Barker’s imaginary kangaroo friend, Carl. It doesn’t help the film that Barker and Turner aren’t charismatic. They’re cute, sure, but they’re loud and annoying. They’re miniature, manipulative demons, and their presence gets irritating quickly. Can’t you tell how bratty they are from the poster?

In a nutshell: There are quite a few yuks in Parental Guidance, mostly given to you by Billy Crystal, and a Chinese restaurant owner, Mr. Cheng (Gedde Watanabe), but there should be more than one funny character and another supporting funny character with three minutes of screen time. For all the sweet or good moments, there’s a failed sentimental moment. It’s a sub-par family comedy with good intentions that doesn’t work well, and it is merely bearable because of the great Billy Crystal. It might bring in some real-life issues, but it’s still a predictable, sometimes tedious, and familiar ride to the old ball game. This is De Voice of Daniel’s Film Reviews saying: Lights out, Alice.

50/100

Monsters, Inc. (3D) (2001)

Monsters, Inc.Monsters,  Inc. (3D)

Release Date: November 2, 2012 (3D Re-release: December 19, 2012)

Directors: Pete Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich

Stars (voices): John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi

Runtime: 92 min

Tagline: Monsters, Inc. : We scare because we care

Monsters, Inc. is the fourth film that Disney is re-releasing in 3D (along with The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo) and the second for Disney’s Pixar. They are a studio that knows how to use the modern 3D visual effects with fine moderation. It seems as if they only visually enhance the best action scenes in a major way.

A city of monsters called Monstropolis centers around its power company, Monsters, Inc. That said power company generates the city’s electricity by scaring children half to death – they go into the human world and the more they scare the children, the more power they generate. The top scarer is James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), the lovable and cuddly big blue guy. At least, he’s lovable to his friends in the monster world – he’s the fuel for nightmares in the human world. He and his little green bowling ball buddy, Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) are the perfect dream team and the best of pals. One day, Randall (voiced by Steve Buscemi), a chameleon-like bogeyman leaves a door in the factory on purpose to steal the child he scares and use her for sinister purposes. However, Sully gets in the way – and the small child, Boo, wreaks havoc in the monster world and may just drive a wedge between the relationship of Sully and Mike. Will they be able to return Boo home and avoid Randall by all means?

The concept for this film is one of the most original for animated features to ever see the big old silver screen. While the children of that world are afraid of the big old monsters hiding in their closets every night; those monsters are terrified of an adorable girl in piggly wiggly tails and even a human sock that has an interaction with their skin. It’s very clever and fun. While the concept may be somewhat edgy for a family feature, it turns out to be fan-freaking-tastic.

It’s helped out by its fast pace, visually great action sequences and laugh-out-loud comedy. The comedy is astounding for the children, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable for older audiences. Everyone can really relate to this, as we as children would check under our beds before we sleep or ask our parents to inspect the closet for bogeymen (heck, I even look under my bed now from time to time – and I don’t even have a closet door any longer).

It is fairly surprising that one can so easily relate to this feature, as it is a simply refreshing and brilliant story about monsters who are terrified of little children, and vice versa. It also brings much truth to the “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” That is especially true for one monster, George, one who constantly gets mauled by the Child Detection Agency.

The story is great and it’s an overall splendid feature, but the real charm is in the voice performances. Goodman and Crystal convince us that they might as well have been friends for life, and the other chemistry is fine. Everyone involved does a great job, especially Mary Gibbs who voices Boo, and I’m pretty sure the only coherent word of English she utters is “Kitty,” the nickname she assigns to Sully. She is also a young girl who, unexpectedly, changes the factory and the hearts of a few select monsters for the better. You know, There are more powerful things that the sound of children screaming.

In a nutshell: Monsters,  Inc. is one of the most original animated features to see the light of day, and it is one of Pixar’s best. It is really a treat to be given the opportunity to see this in theatres again, and just a few months before the much-anticipated prequel.

100/100