Neven Mrgan added
If you like 'Hostel', you may also enjoy this Eli Roth co-produced, co-written, co-starring little horror film. It's not nearly as graphic or depraved, and that plays against it in some parts; overall, it feels a bit slight, not taken to its full potential. Still, it featurs believable characters, an unusual plot, and lots of neat little symbology and crime/punishment stuff I prefer to supernatural voodoo you often get in horror movies. Fun.
It's true, I only just saw Minority Report now. The past decade has vindicated some of its futuristic predictions while other parts of it have dated rather badly, but it's just a fun cinematic ride, so I was happy to watch it that way.
Overall, it's rather shaky. The chief problem here is that Spielberg doesn't handle film noir very confidently; his obsession with grand American family themes, classical heroes, and neat endings doesn't really click well with a story that wants to be dark and bitter. The story is nonsensical, which is par for the film noir course; but this would be easier to ignore if we weren't beaten over the head with it so much, and if, in true noir fashion, it hinged on people's motivations more than on unlikely supernatural, technological, and social fantasies.
And speaking of which, while I realize this is a big hunky piece of summer entertainment and not an activist documentary, I still found it a bit offensive to paint a near future in which DC (of all places) suffers only "crimes of passion" such as a rich white man elegantly stabbing his rich white wife for cheating on him with another rich white man. I guess the drug- and poverty-stricken thousands that struggle with institutional and historic social problems which today lead them to depressingly high crime rates "got the message of precog" and just chose not to commit them. Cool.
The imaginary technology on display is attractive, but it's unfortunate that it's been so influential in the real world of software, since it's largely ridiculous. Spielberg's team wasn't trying to build real products, of course, but too many real companies have used this kind of flashy gadgetry as inspiration. Depressingly, the only part of Minority Report's technological future that we're seeing now (and are likely to see more of) is bigger, more frequent, and more creepily personalized advertising.
For sure! And the exteriors were definitely better than the interiors. Also, I think the 80s/90s feel can be captured effectively without sacrificing image quality to the degree that they did in this film--for example, check out American Beauty, American Psycho, Boogie Nights, Fargo, or Hot Rod.
I'm really torn on the visuals in this one. On one hand, the lighting sucks and looks really artificial, and the color is flat and pretty gross. Composition-wise it doesn't bring much to the table either. But on the other hand, it's almost fitting--it matches the lackluster mood of the…
A great little film about broken people, nostalgia, change, interpretation, and a ton of other things. Not as good as the comic book it's based on, but still great.
Art Teacher: [looking at a drawing of a man smashing another man's head in with a sledgehammer] What can you tell us about your piece, er... Phillip?
Phillip: Er... it's about The Mutilator.
Art Teacher: [smiling] My goodness!
Phillip: It's a really great video game about a guy who kills people with a big hammer.
Art Teacher: Oh. I thought maybe this was supposed to be your father.
Letterboxd just crashed and deleted my long review, so here's a short one as a bulleted list:
• Way too much happens for a film that's already pushing standard runtime
• Raises the stakes so often I stopped becoming even remotely invested
• Visually generic and lacks the artistry of the original Iron Man
• Feels exactly like The Avengers in that its apparent focus on characters is not genuine—we see that they have developed often, but only when we're not looking
• Several good actors are wasted on parts that are just silly
• The overall message is muddled by the strange motives of the villain
• The villains' powers are poorly animated and they seem to finally die only when the story needs them to
• Treats tragedies like domestic terrorism as melodrama in a way that comes off as disrespectful
• I was getting pretty tired of Shane Blackisms by the end—not every Shane Black movie can be Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Why is it good? Because it's big, fun, exciting, and funny. That's about it.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about Monsters University.
In terms of technique, there's no denying that Pixar's animation team is the best in the business, still trumping Disney Animation Studios's work on Wreck-It Ralph or anything that Dreamworks has been able to put out to date. Monsters University benefits from stellar art direction and character design, and Pixar's virtual cinematography has vastly improved as their lighting systems and texturing have become so much more nuanced over the past decade. The film also has really incredible sound design--there are a few moments in the third act especially that are just masterfully executed with sound alone, and Randy Newman's score effectively utilizes the college marching band aesthetic without dominating the more subtle moments of voice and effects work.
Choosing college life as a subject for a kids' film was also a risky move that mostly paid off--while there's no denying that it's a pretty saccharine depiction, it sustains itself on genuine charm and clique stereotypes that somehow work (despite being more appropriate for a film about high school). On the whole, I think current college students especially will appreciate many of the nods to the bizarre intricacies of college living embedded throughout the film.
The problems that I have with Monsters University are almost exclusively with narrative structure. First and foremost, the third act so brilliantly outshines the first and second that it's almost upsetting--the first two acts are about on par with the emotional resonance of Pixar's Cars (which I actually did enjoy, but is undeniably on a different level than the Toy Story franchise or The Incredibles, Wall-E, or most importantly, the original Monsters, Inc.). The first act spends so much time introducing characters and making little puns and visual gags that at a certain point I just wanted them to get on with it.
The main structural issue arises from the fact that the second act hinges on a fairly repetitive procedure that feels more like the middle levels of a video game than a film. There are certainly moments of great filmmaking within the second act, but as a whole it feels drawn out because the structure is laid out so early that it's almost a chore to watch at times (and on another note I'm confident that even the most uninitiated moviegoer could predict the outcome of the whole second act subplot). And without spoiling anything, I found the film's final resolution to be a bit half-baked in concept, even though it was executed very well. It's one of those things that works in the theater but has you scratching your head once you've left.
Finally, I think the biggest problem is that most of the film lacks the age-blind universal appeal of the classics in Pixar's filmography. It feels more like a kids' movie and I'm pretty confident that the over-forty audience will not find it as enjoyable as will the under-twenties.
But this is a pretty grating review for what I called a 3.5-star film. Why? Because it's very enjoyable on a gut level, and more importantly, the overarching struggle and message of the film are just incredibly powerful. The characters and voice performances are really where the film thrives--in the end it's Mike and Sully's internal struggles that define the phenomenal third act and elevate the film far above Pixar's most recent efforts. Pixar obviously thoroughly understood the thematic direction to take Monsters University and, despite some problems with execution, it's still a film that I would highly recommend to just about anyone.
Michael Bay's attempt to be Guy Ritchie is embarrassingly bad in just about every respect. The story--which actually happened--is insane, but Bay's sweetening removes a lot of its legitimacy. Visually it's absolutely awful, and Steve Jablonsky's score is way too profound for how primitive every other aspect of the film is.
More importantly: the objectification and dragging through the mud of women, overweight people, old people, and America as a whole is unbearable. And ultimately, it's unable to come off as the joke I hope it was intended to be because it's really par for the course for Michael Bay.
Why one and a half stars? For one, there were times when I laughed--Dwayne Johnson had a few lines that were so outrageous that I couldn't possibly keep a straight face. But more importantly, there are moments when Michael Bay's abhorrent direction seems to disappear and the actors are actually allowed to do their thing. There is a redemptive quality in these moments and, despite hating every character, I actually got sucked into it for a few minutes.
But yeah, it sucks, and Michael Bay should be charged for treason for perpetuating the worst possible image of America and perhaps being responsible for the rest of the world hating us. And for receiving $25 million dollars and making people exchange legal tender and TWO HOURS of their time to see this load of crap.
- The Place Beyond the Pines
- Star Trek Into Darkness
- Monsters University
- Iron Man 3
- Pain & Gain