College is not an obvious setting for a Pixar movie. For all the vaunted animation studio's reputation for producing mature, adult children's films, college lends itself to a more immature brand of adult humor -- the kind with lots of nudity, profanity, and outrageous drunken antics. Sure enough, Pixar's 'Monsters University' brings new meaning to the phrase "safe school" -- this G-rated riff on 'Revenge of the Nerds' and 'Animal House' (they probably thought about calling it 'Monster House' at some point, right? They had to) doesn't push any envelopes in terms of content or humor. It's basically a formula college comedy, minus the raunch, in the world of 'Monsters Inc.' Nevertheless, it's a formula executed by some very talented animators, who've produced a lively, if mostly forgettable, movie.
The term "product placement" feels insufficient to describe the role of Google in 'The Internship.' This is not so much product placement in a movie as movie placement in a product. For two hours, viewers are treated to a series of bright, high-energy sales pitches for the San Francisco search engine and its vast array of products and services -- Google Play, Google Drive, Google Helpline, Google Maps and, of course, plain-old Googley Google -- plus, occasional attempts at comedy from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson while they stand in front of giant Google logos. Shameless? Absolutely. But that wouldn't be such a problem if 'The Internship' wasn't so mirthless, as well.
"Let's hope this still works," says David (Shiloh Fernandez) as he puts a key into the door of his family's old cabin in the woods. But of course he's not just talking about the key; he's talking about the idea of remaking 'The Evil Dead,' the 1981 cult classic that launched the careers of writer/director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell and remains close to the hearts of discerning horror fans everywhere. Between the original film and its two sequels, 'Evil Dead II' and 'Army of Darkness,' Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell created one of the most iconic horror franchises of all time. But that was thirty years ago. Times change; tastes change. And in the interim, 'Evil Dead' has been ripped off by so many other movies its plot smells about as fresh as a fruit cellar full of rotting cat corpses. Forget hoping it still works; you'd need the mother of all prayers, and maybe a blood sacrifice or two, to make an 'Evil Dead' remake click.
"I don't want to be a good man; I want to be a great one." So says Oscar, a humble (read: crummy) magician in a traveling circus circa 1905, just before a magical tornado sweeps him and his hot air balloon away to a land that just so happens to share his nickname: Oz. In 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' Oscar (James Franco) finds exactly what his heart desires; the chance to be a great man, wealthy and powerful, the ruler of a beautiful kingdom. And the kingdom does look damn good, and most of Oz's adventures in it are pretty entertaining as well.
Dirty Harry would love 'Gangster Squad,' a movie about cops who operate so far outside the law they make Clint Eastwood's signature detective look like a pencil-pushing dweeb. Assembled by LAPD police chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte), and supposedly inspired by a true story, the members of the so-called Gangster Squad operate as judge, jury, and executioners. They don't arrest their targets; they "wage war" against their enemy, mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). In their quest to bust up Cohen's rackets, the Gangster Squad brandishes about a billion guns and not a single badge. Hell, even Dirty Harry waited until the end of his movie to toss his away.
Somehow I made it through four years of high school, four years of college, and ten years since without ever reading Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road.' I'm not sure whether that makes me hopelessly unqualified to review the new movie adaptation of it -- because I can't tell you how faithful it is -- or better suited than most because I can judge the film as a film and not as a sacred cow of literature offered up for slaughter to the great, greedy god of cinema. And as a film, it feels like the CliffsNotes version of a great book; sketchy and incomplete. That's probably the film's destiny, too: to be watched by procrastinating teens the night before a big exam in lieu of reading the real thing.
Bill Westenhofer. Lubo Hristov. David Lauer. Gullaume Rocheron. Depending on your beliefs, you may or may not believe that God created the heavens and earth in seven days -- but I can say with some certainty that those men, a quartet of visual effects supervisors and designers (along with many other talented people) created the wondrous sights of 'Life of Pi.' It took them a lot more than seven days, though.
Movies allow us to experience life through another person's eyes. Video games allow us to experience life through another person's eyes -- and to control their decisions. We spend hours upon hours with these video game characters, until we feel like we know them; Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man, their adventures are so memorable, and their personalities so vivid that they almost seem alive. But of course their adventures and their personalities are all predetermined by programming, and they remain forever trapped by their unbreakable directives. If these characters weren't just a series of electronic impulses and computer code, it would be a tragic existence.
That, essentially, is the premise of 'Wreck-It Ralph,' a manic children's film about the souls of video game avatars. Made by Disney, it greatly resembles the premise of Disney's (and Pixar's) modern classic 'Toy Story,' in which toys are revealed to have lives and thoughts of their own when no one's around to play with them. Here we learn that when a suburban arcade shuts down for the night, the characters inside all the games cross over into each other's universes to socialize.
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