Saturday, July 6, 2013

Movie Review: "Monsters University"

  Last Sunday we decided to live dangerously and take our 2 1/2-year-old to her first movie in the theater. (Mostly because we wanted to take the seven-year-old and see it ourselves, but not pay for a babysitter.) "Monsters University" seemed like a good choice for her first experience; she's seen "Monsters Inc." several times, and it holds her attention pretty well. So, armed with a sippy cup of apple juice and a giant tub of popcorn, the four of us headed out.

  Surprisingly, aside from a few loud demands for "popcorn, please!" she caught on really well to the idea of being quiet and staying in her seat. It helps that she was completely riveted to the story, plus the Sunday matinee was full of other kids her age, thus camouflaging her occasional lapses.

 Honestly, I don't know why this movie is getting such disappointing reviews - I thought it was wonderful! Obviously, the first one set the bar pretty high, but I think the idea of a prequel showing how Sully and Mike met at college worked out wonderfully. On the surface, there's absolutely gorgeous animation, the expected monster-based humor that plays so well with little kids, and typical college-movie humor about meeting new people and fitting in. 

 But there are also some great lessons buried in the plot if you pay attention, lessons kids don't get every day.  Like how the guy who seems to have everything easy might still be struggling with problems you don't see. Or how you can work hard, try your best, but still fail - and how you carry on from that failure. (You never see that in a Disney movie - when was the last time you saw a Disney hero/heroine not get rewarded with their dream in the end?)

 It's great to tell kids they can be anything if they try hard enough, but sometimes, reality steps in - the awkward, chubby girl might love ballet, but won't be a professional ballerina. A kid can love baseball, but never develop the skills needed for a college scholarship, no matter how hard he practices. Learning to deal with failure with grace, using that failure to build towards a new dream -  these are great lessons to sneak in on a kid. Maybe too deep for a two-year-old, or even the seven-year-old, but if they watch it as many times as they've seen the original, something will sink in.

 Overall, the experience went so well, we might try for "Despicable Me 2" this Sunday!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Movie Review: "This Is the End"

 We had date night last Saturday, and being in the mood for comedy, picked "This Is the End." But I'm not sure how to review it.

  The movie stars Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and James Franco, along with a bunch of other familiar faces, all playing themselves, or actually, typical Hollywood stereotype-versions of themselves. (At least I hope so, I'd hate to think they're really selfish, self-centered, oblivious, violent drug-addicts.) Seth and Jay are at a party at James Franco's house, leave to get snacks, and while they're at the store, the Rapture hits, complete with earthquake, explosions, and the godly sucked up to Heaven in blue beams of light. They rush back to the party to find everyone completely oblivious - no one there has been Raptured. After convincing everyone they're not drug-addled, the apocalypse is really happening, the guests turn on each other in a panicked free-for-all, resulting in most of them dying in horrible (and horribly funny) ways.

 The movie then follows the small group of ill-equipped survivors as they hole up at Franco's house, and attempt to make sense of what's going on. In the process, the display all the petty, selfish traits that kept them from getting Raptured. Actually, although much of the humor appears sacrilegious, it's actually a pretty religious movie, with an underlying message of hope. Even these damaged people have the possibility of salvation, if they can mend their ways in time.

 It was a good choice for us, we laughed constantly (I laughed so hard I was crying). However, as much as I enjoyed it, I'm leery of actually recommending it. You see, as funny as it is, it's the kind of humor than convinces you you're going to Hell for laughing. This is most definitely a hard R-rated movie. These are the same actors who've made comedies like "Knocked Up," "Pineapple Express," "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," "Fanboys" and "Superbad," so if you've seen any of them, you know what to expect. And if you thought these movies were funny, you'll probably like this one.