Friday, June 21, 2013

Monsters University Passes (But Not With Honors)

File photo: Henry J. Waternoose III
The Wisdom of Pixar is pleased to present this exclusive review of the Pixar film Monsters University by none other than Henry J. Waternoose III, former CEO of Monsters, Inc., who now resides in the MonsterMax Correctional Facility for the Maniacally Troubled.

Watching Monsters University brings mixed feelings. I miss my role as CEO of Monsters, Inc., but nevertheless enjoyed seeing it in the film. It was exciting to see the eagerness of future scarers, too, reminding me fondly of my old trademark move, the Waternoose Jump and Growl.

Whoever the filmmakers cast as young Mike Wazowski, this little fellow has truly captured a childlike essence and sense of wonder. His visit to Monsters, Inc. was, for me, a high point of Monsters University. That's exactly the kind of reaction I always wished to instill in young visitors--hoping they would want to become the scarers of the future.

Given my past, uh, encounters with Mr. Wazowski and Mr. Sullivan, some might think I hold a grudge. Oh, I did the first five or six years after my ... departure. But now, after twelve years, I have changed. Sulley, incidentally, did a fine job of slimming down for the role, while Mr. Wazowski looks about the same as ever.

The story is very much about Wazowski and his experience in wanting, more than anything, to become a top scarer. Beginning his studies at Monsters University. Wazowski discovers that college life is more difficult than he anticipated.

Thrust into an unexpected alliance with rival Sullivan, the two make some unlikely friends in the members of the Oozma Kappa fraternity, as well as some enemies in Roar Omega Roar. Once the stage is set for a contest, the film hits its stride, showing the underdog Oozma Kappa's both capable and determined. The message is fairly simple: teamwork is helpful and use and embrace your own talents and strengths.

Visually, the film is stunning, as expected, but no doubt much time and care went into each frame. The music is acceptable, sometimes rising to wonderful, but at other times sounding far too much like music from films like Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and, no doubt deliberately, Monsters, Inc.

Admittedly, the characters did not grab my attention as much as I'd hoped they would, nor did the overall story. The dialogue is simply not as funny as Monsters, Inc. Don't get me wrong. It's entertaining enough. Monsters University passes, so to speak, but never quite graduates with honors. Perhaps Pixar's next film, The Good Dinosaur, will rise to the likes of originality found in Up. Monsters University seems to lack the deeply emotional punch that Pixar is known for, unfortunately.

Still, Monsters University is a fun film. The color palette is beautiful and some supporting characters are quite fun to watch including Ms. Squibbles, Johnny Worthington III, and Dean Hardscrabble. Some jokes, though, felt flat and uninspired, such as the slow-moving slug.

Overall, Monsters University is a middle-of-the-road Pixar film--not superb, but far from a failure. It is, for my tastes, too average. Pixar can do better.

As for that old photo of me in the credits, what can I say? Everyone looked that way back then!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Monsters Mother's Day

Check out this happy Mother's Day spot from Monsters University, Pixar's latest movie due out next month.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Latest Monsters University Trailer

Here's the new Monsters University trailer. Personally, I'm avoiding watching the promo material in order to remain surprised when the movie comes out in June, so I haven't seen this one ...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Monstrous new Pixar poster

Monstrous new poster for Monsters University revealed. Look for the latest Pixar film out in the U.S. on June 21!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Three Reasons Brave Will Lose the Academy Award

Let's get something out of the way: Pixar's Brave is a great film. I enjoyed it, as did my family, and Anton Ego (see his review here).

But even though I predict Brave will get nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Feature category, I also predict that it will lose. Why? Here are three reasons.

1. Brave is a great film, but it never quite rises to being an exceptional film. In my assessment Up was Pixar's most recent original masterpiece (Toy Story 3 was fantastic, but it was a sequel).

2. The Competition. I've seen some great animated movies this year. As a gamer I'm biased, but I think Disney's Wreck-It Ralph will take the award for Best Animated Feature. DreamWorks Animation, too, has done a fine job with Rise of the Guardians, which will give Ralph some competition.

 3. The Academy. After the "fall" of Pixar with Cars 2, the fickle Academy no doubt wanted another masterpiece from Pixar as a follow-up. They got a good movie in Brave, but not a masterpiece. After Cars 2, critics and the all-important Academy expected far more to "rebound" Pixar. Note: I also enjoyed Cars 2 and still do not believe it deserves the dismal 38 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Pixar is still making some fine films. While I'm personally not that excited about the upcoming Monsters University or The Good Dinosaur, I have high hopes for the untitled Pete Docter film that will explore the mind.

Do you think Brave will get nominated as Best Animated Feature? Do you think it will win? What might beat it?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WALL-E Comes to Life!

Check out The Yo Show. WALL-E the lovable robot comes to life!
Take a look at creator Mike Senna's WALL-E blog, too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

5 Myths About Pixar

Pixar has a new movie out soon (Brave), so it's time to start hearing some "myths" about the successful animation studio. Here are some brief responses to five myths about Pixar.

1. Sequels are ruining Pixar

Nonsense! Didn't you see Toy Story 3? Only bad sequels can hurt Pixar, not good ones. Sure, Cars 2 didn't do too well with critics, but Pixar isn't nearly as sequel-heavy as people think. Yes, Monsters University, a prequel, is due out in 2013, but we'll have to wait and see how it does. Also, it doesn't really matter if a film is a sequel, so long as it is well crafted. Ever heard of The Empire Strikes Back or The Godfather: Part II?

2. Pixar has lost its creative edge

Really? Have you seen the Pixar short La Luna? It plays before Brave and, in a word, it's fantastic. There are also three upcoming projects that sound really creative: The Good Dinosaur; a Pete Docter-directed movie that will go "inside" the mind of a young girl; and a movie exploring the Mexican Day of the Dead, directed by Lee Unkrich (director of Toy Story 3). And that's only the stuff we know about. Since Pixar works as much as five or more years ahead of schedule, who knows what creative efforts they have planned after these projects?

3. Disney is a bad influence on Pixar

This is doubtful. John Lasseter, who's been with Pixar since the beginning, is now Chief Creative Officer at Disney Animation and Pixar. If he doesn't know what's best for Pixar, who does? Besides, Pixar is way up in Northern California. I think this geographical separation from where Disney is located is a plus to retaining Pixar's unique style and culture as a studio. It's possible that at some point Disney might make some bad calls in reference to Pixar, but so far I think this has largely been avoided. Since Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Pixar has released what are arguably some of their best movies.

4. Pixar's new movies are nowhere near as good as [insert popular Pixar movie title here]

Everyone has a few favorite Pixar movies--those that they keep on a pedestal. For me these include Up, The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo. I think each of these films is near perfect in its own way. But is it fair to always compare Pixar's latest movies to their so-called classics? It's hard not to compare, but when it gets down to it, Pixar makes really good movies that can stand well on their own. Sure, some people just hate the Cars movies, or for some bizarre reason don't like WALL-E, but in general Pixar makes some great entertainment and they put the time into doing the best they can.

5. Pixar has sold out

This myth claims that Pixar has sold out and, as a result, is more interested in money and merchandising than in storytelling. I highly doubt this claim. We're dealing with artists here--storytellers who want to make a positive difference in the world, not junk dealers. Yes, there is merchandising, but in my assessment this doesn't even come close to defining Pixar's projects. Yes, they can sell billions of dollars worth of Cars toys, but if there is a demand for it, so what? About a billion dollars of Cars stuff is probably in my house alone. My kids love it. So there.

Is it possible that some or all of these myths might become a reality some day? It's possible, but it would take a lot of bad decisions over many years to make that happen. Let's hope it never does.