Monsters University Mike

Pixar Animation Studios has created a monster and it’s not named either Mike or Sulley. It’s called “expectations.” After pretty much a decade of flawless excellence, the creators of Toy Story, Cars, Finding Nemo, Up, The Incredibles and so much more hit a bit of a critical rough patch. 2010’s Toy Story 3 was their most successful film of all-time, grossing over $1 billion worldwide. That was followed by Cars 2 and Brave. Each were financially successful, and Brave even won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but many Pixar fans were disappointed. They looked ahead to 2013 for the next chance at Pixar perfection.

That chance comes this weekend with the release of Dan Scanlon‘s Monsters University. The film comes not only with the baggage of Pixar’s last two films, but the fact that it’s the company’s first prequel. That’s a lot to live up to. As reviews were released over the past few weeks, reactions have been decidedly mixed. Some, like me, praised it as a return to the glory of Pixar. Others have dismissed it as a sub-par cash grab with little heart or emotion. Personally, I have no idea how anyone could come to that latter reaction, but we’d love to hear your thoughts on the film below.

Is Monsters University a return to the Pixar of old? Or is this their third questionable film in a row? Read our review here, listen to the /Filmcast review here and tell us what you think in the comments below.

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‘Man of Steel’ – What Did You Think?

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There’s little question that Zack Snyder‘s Man of Steel is, at least on the surface, the movie that fans have been asking for. It has a solid performance from Henry Cavill in the lead role, a few great talents orbiting him in important supporting roles (notably Amy Adams, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon), and the biggest, hardest-hitting depiction of super-powered action ever to hit a movie screen.

For some people, that — along with a detailed, wild vision of Krypton, and a revision of Superman’s origin — is probably enough to lock this as one of the best screen incarnations of the character. There’s a lot more than that to talk about in Man of Steel, however. So weigh in below, and tell us what you think of the film. Spoilers are encouraged below.

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‘This Is the End’ – What Did You Think?

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Who coulda guessed that the best comedy of the summer might involve a bunch of actors facing the Biblical end of the world? Years ago Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jay Baruchel (with Jason Stone) made a trailer for an imaginary movie called Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, and this week they released the feature expansion of the idea. Rogen and Goldberg wrote and co-directed, each making their feature debut as directors.

This Is the End sees six actors — Rogen, Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and James Franco — trapped in Franco’s house when a raging party is interrupted by the Rapture. The movie has all the lewd and vulgar jokes you’d expect from that crew of actors, but also pokes sly fun at celebrity, and wraps all the goofy humor around a genuinely moral core.

It’s not the movie you expect, and it is funny as hell. Man of Steel is the big attention-getter this weekend, but don’t overlook This Is the End. After you’ve seen the film, chime in below to tell us what you thought about the movie. As always with these pieces, spoilers are fully encouraged. Read More »

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Cast your mind back to the release of 2 Fast 2 Furious, a film that was derided from nearly all corners, and then look at this week’s release of Fast & Furious 6. It took a decade, but Universal’s car-racing franchise has evolved into “event” status. Whether you like the films or not, there’s no arguing that under the stewardship of Justin Lin, who took over as director with the third movie, this series of films has exploded as a fan favorite. Lin knows how to manage action, and he’s had a long-term plan to consistently up the ante on that front.

Much more importantly, Lin realized that consistent characters are what bring people back to the films. He talked Vin Diesel back into the fold and then developed a suite of characters to fill out four individual films that ultimately work as one interlocked narrative. It’s an action-movie soap opera, sure, but one featuring precisely the sort of reliance on character that very few other action series get right.

The sixth film pushes outward in every direction: there are more characters and amped-up drama, and the action setpieces are more improbable and ridiculous than ever. Fast & Furious 6 won’t ever be held up as a major moral statement, but there’s a lot to be said for the series’ general tendency to trumpet values in friendship and family. There’s a sense of values here that could also be present in, say, the Die Hard movies, if the last couple McClane sequels weren’t such botch jobs.

With Fast & Furious 6 in theaters now, we’re curious to know how you feel about the film. Does the action work, and do the interlinked stories and characters provide enough meat to flesh out all the time between setpieces? Let us know in the comments below, where spoilers are allowed and encouraged. Read More »

Star Trek Into Darkness - Spock and Kirk

It’s in theaters now, and all the secrets are out in the open. Star Trek Into Darkness, the second Trek film from J.J. Abrams, has been locked (mostly) in the producer/director’s “mystery box” for over a year. For hardcore fans, at least, the secrecy around the precise nature of the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch has been a big part of the marketing allure, but the energy Abrams and his cast brought to their first outing on the Enterprise has been enough to make a huge audience curious about their encore.

And in the end, the irony is that, while there was a type of secret to preserve with respect to the character, in the end he plays a weird role in the plot. (There’s a certain kinship to Iron Man 3 in that respect.)

Abrams has said that he wanted to make Star Trek for people who aren’t Star Trek fans, and in that respect he might have succeeded. Into Darkness has a few well-executed setpieces, and loads of the same winning cast presence that made the first Abrams Trek a success. But does it work? Does the film’s wide divergence from many well-established Trek characteristics fly, and does it even really matter who Cumberbatch is playing? Weigh in below, where full spoilers are in force. Read More »

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We’ve come to know Michael Bay as the maestro behind a very specific type of huge movie, as he has defined the image of  glossy pictures full of gorgeous women and explosions. His work, as that suggests, isn’t really known for subtlety.

But since before Bay latched on to the Transformers franchise, he has wanted to shoot a film based on the story of a few Miami bodybuilders who concocted a plan to kidnap a businessman and steal his wealth. Years later, that story has become Bay’s “little movie,” Pain & Gain, starring Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, and Dwayne Johnson. The movie isn’t likely to change Bay’s image, but it does represent something (slightly) different from the director. Reviews have been coming in for a few days, but now we want to know what you think about Bay’s true-crime tale. Read More »

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‘Evil Dead’ Remake: What Did You Think?

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The remake of Sam Raimi‘s first signature film is now open. After a long period of speculation about the possibility of a fourth Raimi Evil Dead film, or a remake by some other filmmaker, audiences have a chance to see what Fede Alvarez has done with Evil Dead. This remake has some ideas of its own, as it follows a group of young friends to a remote cabin where one plans to detox. But it also has a heavy reliance on Raimi’s set pieces, many of which are firmly entrenched as calling cards for his career.

Beginning with its premiere at SXSW there has been mixed reception to the remake — some love it for the over the top violence, while others (myself included) think that, yeah, the gore is good, but there’s not enough of a movie there. So weigh in on the conversation — let us know what you thought of Alvarez’s Evil Dead, and keep in mind that spoilers are fully encouraged in the comment thread below. Read More »

Today’s the day — over a decade after the premiere of Peter Jackson‘s The Fellowship of the Ring, the director returns to Middle-Earth with the first of three planned films adapting J.R.R. Tolkien‘s first novel The Hobbit. The films won’t adapt only that book, however, as Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro have also incorporated elements from appendecies and supplements to The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien eventually devised a dense amount of parallel story to buttress the episodic adventure of The Hobbit, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey incorporates some of that material.

The film is also Jackson’s first film set in Middle-Earth to be shot on a digital camera and in 3D, and the first studio feature film ever to be shot and projected at a high frame rate of 48 fps, compared to the standard 24fps.

Suffice to say, despite the presence of familiar Lord of the Rings faces such as Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee, and Hugo Weaving, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is very much a different look at Middle-Earth. Germain has weighed in on the film itself, and I’ve put down some thoughts on the high frame rate presentation. Now, tell us what you thought of the film, below. Spoilers follow in the text after the break, and are encouraged in the comments to facilitate full discussion of the film. Read More »

‘Looper’ – What Did You Think?

We’ve been pretty high on the idea of Rian Johnson‘s third film, Looper, since the movie was first announced, especially as we learned that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would play a near-future assassin who kills mob victims illicitly sent back in time. Add Bruce Willis as the older version of the same character, who becomes a target for JGL, and things got really interesting. Then a test screening last fall got word out that Johnson may have really knocked Looper out of the park, and expectations for the film went through the roof.

And now, as we fairly easily begin to forget the unsatisfying sumer of 2012, Looper has hit theaters. And I’m happy to say that it is an excellent film. Not only is Johnson firing on all cylinders as a storyteller and director, the film is both a great piece of sci-fi and a satisfying character piece that really puts that central assassin character through the wringer. And even for those who have been paying attention to all the marketing, Sony left a few things unrevealed, so Looper gets to keep a few tricks hidden up its sleeve right until the end.

Moreso than for any other recent genre film, I’m curious to know what people think about Looper. So have at it in the comments below, where spoiler discussions of the film’s story and meaning are fair game. Read More »