Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
"Manners Maketh Man"
Matthew Vaugh, director of "Kick-Ass" and "X-Men: First Class" once again succeeds in adapting a comic with "Kingsman: The Secret Service". While the film takes a few liberties with the original Secret Service story, the movie ultimately delivers an outrageously fun take on the spy movie genre one that should appeal to fans of the series as well as moviegoers who are in the mood for cartoonish violence and action. Certain elements might be a little too crude for sensitive viewers but Vaughn's film includes enough crowd pleasing laughs, stylized fight choreography, and slick spy gadgets to make it an easy recommendation for casual moviegoers in search of popcorn entertainment.
Kingsman relies heavily on toying with genre expectations. It retrofits spy movie tropes (gentleman who are super spies, twisted villains, and zany henchmen) with modern filmmaking aesthetics. The core storyline and character outright acknowledge these parallels to humorous affect; though, the film itself is still locked in a relatively stock spy outline (a game of cat and mouse between heroes and villains) paired with the familiar tale of a scrappy young person given the chance to do something extraordinary with their life assuming they are bold enough to take it. Vaughn's moment to moment execution supplies a constant stream of sharp action, enjoyable characters, and clever pop culture nods.
In fact, while recent James Bond films continue to retrace 007′s signature style, Kingsman presents a hyper-stylized variation that, without question, offers some of the best fight choreography that moviegoers will have seen in the spy genre as of late. The tone can be tongue-in-cheek, and gags are lewd, but Kingsman isn't just a silly spy romp either - there's a heart to the story that, in between all of the blood, explosions, and sexual innuendo, imparts thoughtful commentary on the men behind the suits.
For that reason, Firth (whose name had been thrown around years back as a possible candidate for Bond) furnishes one of his most likable and entertaining performances, in an already illustrious thirty-year career, as Harry Hart. Fans may never get to see Firth don a 007 tuxedo but, thanks to Kingsman, the actor proves he has the necessary charisma and flexibility to lead future action vehicles - often out-Bonding recent James Bond movies.
As stated within the film, a spy movie is only as good as its villains and the combined pairing of Jackson (doing his best Russell Simmons impression) and Sofia Boutella (as his bladed henchwoman Gazelle) are a fun set of opponents for Hart and the Kingsman. Unsurprisingly, Jackson is a scene stealer as Valentine injecting laughable quirks that punctuate the character's contagious charm and unrepentant insanity. Kingsman also features a strong cast of supporting players led by Taron Egerton as Eggsy. Even though Hart is the biggest draw of the film, Eggsy is the central figure of the story as he transitions from troublemaker to a tailored suit wearing hero. To that end, the juxtaposition between the young actor and Firth is especially captivating and, often, heartwarming providing a unique and layered mentor/mentee relationship that isn't often explored with such care in the spy genre. Rounding out the cast, viewers are also treated to genuinely fun moments from Mark Strong (Kick-Ass) and Mark Hamill (Star Wars) as well as Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and newcomer Sophie Cookson.
Vaughn and Goldman borrow heavily from espionage-thriller classics but through smart genre riffs and hyper-stylized action, Kingsman: The Secret Service manages to provide a clever twist on the spy movie format. Vaughn successfully balances a hefty amount of world-building, humor, action, and character drama into a tight two hour runtime laying the foundation for a film franchise that, much like its main character, might be a little rough around the edges but delivers where it counts.
"Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige."
In Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Michael Keaton plays former blockbuster movie star Riggan Thomson remembered best for portraying comic book hero Birdman on the big screen (back in the 1990s). Fast forward two decades and Thomson is no longer a hot Hollywood commodity. Broke, separated from his wife (Amy Ryan), estranged from his rebellious daughter (Emma Stone), and forgotten by his once adoring fans, Thomson sets out to prove that he's not just a washed up hack opting to write, direct, and star in a Broadway show based on the Raymond Carver story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love".
However, when Thomson is unhappy with the actor cast as Nick in the production (Jeremy Shamos), he makes a last minute replacement auditioning critically acclaimed stage performer Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) to take over the part. Impressed by Shiner's sincerity (and method acting approach), Thomson hires the quirky thespian less than 24 hours prior to the first preview performance of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. However, when Shiner makes a scene during his first public rehearsal, Thomson is thrown into a spiral of self-doubt and fear second-guessing his own talent, personal relationships, career choices, and begging the question: will audiences even be willing to love him again?
Birdman was written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. He's made a film that's both technically astounding yet emotionally rich, intimate yet enormous, biting yet warm, satirical yet sweet. It's also the first time that Inarritu,actually seems to be having some fun.
Birdman" is a complete blast from start to finish. The gimmick hereand it's a doozy, and it works beautifullyis that Iñárritu has created the sensation that you are watching a two-hour film shot all in one take. Working with the brilliant and inventive cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, Iñárritu has constructed the most delicate and dazzling high-wire act.
Through impossibly long, intricately choreographed tracking shots, the camera swoops through narrow corridors, up and down tight stairways and into crowded streets. It comes in close for quiet conversations and soars between skyscrapers for magical-realism flights of fancy. A percussive and propulsive score from Antonio Sanchez, heavy on drums and cymbals, maintains a jazzy, edgy vibe throughout. Sure, you can look closely to find where the cuts probably happened, but that takes much of the enjoyment out of it. Succumbing to the thrill of the experience is the whole point.
The actual story is focused on more personal matters: troubled relationships, artistic integrity, Broadway versus Hollywood, and the true definition of love. Birdman is about a father, husband, lover, business partner, and actor not a superhero. Instead of an active plot point, Birdman is a shadowy figure from Thomson's past one that, above all else, haunts him (as a voice to his self-loathing). He's a shoulder devil, rarely seen but a gripping source of temptation and self- destruction when the actor is vulnerable. The interplay between Thomson and Birdman charts a journey of risk and rejection - along with the pitfalls that accompany personal ambition and sincere attempts at artistry.
Iñárritu has produced an arresting tale of love and art in a time of viral videos and celebrity gossip columns but, in spite of the film's achievements, Birdman is not going to be for everyone. Potential viewers who are hoping for a lighthearted riff on comic book movie culture where Keaton suits up (again) for action will probably be surprised, and possibly put-off by Iñárritu's contemplative and layered black dramedy. Nevertheless, those open to the film's experimental style will find Birdman provides a thought-provoking and inventive exploration of artistry, family, the difference between power, popularity, and prestige not to mention what we talk about when we talk about love.
Source Code (2011)
"Everything is going to be okay."
"Source Code" is an ingenious thriller that comes billed as science fiction, although its science is preposterous. Does that matter, as long as everyone treats it with the greatest urgency? The "science" in this case is used to prop up an appealing story of a man who tries to change the past.
His name is Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal). That he is sure of. That's why it's strange when he finds himself on a Chicago commuter train talking to Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), a woman he's never met. It's even stranger when he goes into the toilet and sees a face in the mirror that doesn't belong to him.
How can this be? We are far from sure in the early scenes, which embed us in his confusion. Because some of the pleasure comes from unwinding the mystery, I'd advise you to stop reading now; Spoilers ahead.
Colter gains consciousness to find himself (as himself) in a secret Army lab, talking to a scientist named Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). He gradually understands that the commuter train was destroyed by a terrorist bomb, and that the brain of one of the victims was harvested for memories of the last eight minutes before the explosion.
But listen. Goodwin and her Army intelligence team believe that by rerunning those eight minutes, they can discover the identity of the terrorist and prevent a larger explosion that could destroy Chicago. This is because the terrorist unwisely detonated the small bomb as a warning, or something, I dunno. In the movies, evildoers love to pass out alarms and clues so they can be prevented from carrying out their schemes.
Now comes the human touch. As he returns again and again to those fateful eight minutes, Colter finds that he can remember his previous visits, even though for Christina and others on the train, they are of course happening for the first time.Colter begins to care for Christina, as well he might; As the conscious occupant of this borrowed body, he apparently possesses free will and need not duplicate exactly what the original memory donor did.
What we have here, setting aside the fancy editing involving the time travel, is something that looks like hard science fiction. That's a threatened genre. Movies with plots are threatened in general; much modern "science fiction" involves blowing stuff up. The good classic sci-fi involved starting with an idea and exploring its implications.
Characters in Duncan Jones movies should learn not to be so sure of things. But Jones has the right spirit, Gyllenhaal and Monaghan are adept at playing their variations on the eight minutes, and here's a movie where you forgive the preposterous because it takes you to the perplexing.
"Our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, cause our destiny lies above us."
In the not-too-distant future of Interstellar, Earth has been ravaged by an environmental disaster known as the Blight forcing humanity to abandon technology and the dreams of discovery, in order to focus on basic survival. To that end, former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widowed father of two, is now a farmer tasked with growing one of the planet's last remaining sustainable crops: corn. In a time when humankind has been asked to put aside personal desire in the interest of a greater good, Cooper has attempted to make peace with farm life, providing for his teenage children, Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and Murph (Mackenzie Foy), as well as his aging father-in-law (John Lithgow). Yet, even as conditions become increasingly dire on Earth, Cooper's thirst for scientific discovery remains.
However, when Cooper is reunited with an old colleague, Professor Brand (Michael Caine), he is offered a new chance to fulfill an old ambition. Informed that the situation on Earth is much more serious than he previously knew, Cooper is asked to leave his family behind (in an increasingly dangerous world) and set out on an uncertain journey into space to find humankind a new planet.
Director Christopher Nolan has built a career on cerebral storytelling starting with his feature debut, Following, in 1998. Since that time, the filmmaker has delivered one thought-provoking drama after another (Insomnia, Memento, The Prestige, and Inception) while also setting a new bar for comic book adaptations with a contemplative three-film exploration of Batman (and his iconic villains). As a result, it should come as no surprise that Nolan's Interstellar offers another brainy (and visually arresting) movie-going experience one that will, very likely, appeal to his base (those who spent hours pouring over minute details in the director's prior works); however, it may not deliver the same casual appeal that made Inception and The Dark Knight cross- demographic hits.
Interstellar is an imaginative movie, but a heavy-handed mix of personal sacrifice and theoretical physics doesn't leave much room for subtle storytelling (or particularly memorable action). For a film that is rooted in the love between a father and his daughter, Interstellar offers surprisingly cold (and often stiff) drama albeit drama that is buoyed by high-minded science fiction scenarios and arresting visuals. Nolan relies heavily on lengthy scenes of surface-level exposition, where characters debate or outright explain complicated physics and philosophical ideas, to educate the audience and ruminate on humanity (both good and bad) in the face of death and destruction.
Unlike Nolan's earlier works, the filmmaker's passion is most apparent in his science (based on the theories of physicist Kip Thorne) - rather than his characters. This isn't to say that Interstellar doesn't provide worthwhile drama, but there's a stark contrast between the lofty space-time theories and the often melodramatic characters that populate the story.
McConaughey ensures his lead character is likable as well as relatable, and manages to keep exposition-heavy scenes engaging. Still, despite a 169 minute runtime, Interstellar never really develops its central heroes beyond anything but static outlines and Cooper is no exception. Viewers will root for him, and come to understand what he cherishes and believes about humanity, but any major revelations come from what happens to him not necessarily what he brings to the table or how he evolves through his experiences.
The same can be said with regard to the supporting cast. Everyone involved provides a quality turn in their respective roles, but they're shackled by straightforward arcs limited exposition machines that add to the film's thematic commentary and/or advance the plot, but aren't particularly well-realized or as impactful as Nolan intends. To that end, in a cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, and Matt Damon, two of the most memorable characters are actually non-humans - quadrilateral-shaped robots, TARS and CASE, that aid the crew on their adventure (and inject much-needed humor into the proceedings).
Casual film-goers who were wowed by the director's recent filmography may find that Interstellar isn't as accessible as Nolan's prior blockbuster movies and dedicates too much time unpacking dense scientific theories. Nevertheless, while the movie might not deliver as much action and humor as a typical Hollywood space adventure, the filmmaker succeeds in once again producing a thought-provoking piece of science fiction. For fans who genuinely enjoy cerebral films that require some interpretation, Interstellar should offer a satisfying next installment in Nolan's well-respected career.
That said, for viewers who are simply looking to get lost in a thrilling adventure with memorable characters (from the director of Inception and The Dark Knight), Interstellar may not provide enough traditional entertainment value to balance out its brainy scientific theorizing. On many levels, it's a very good film, but Interstellar could leave certain moviegoers underwhelmed and feeling as though they are three-dimensional beings grasping for straws in a five-dimensional movie experience.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
"We have... dragons!"
I really had no expectations the first time I saw this film. Frankly, based on the trailers I'd seen I thought it was going to be fairly hokey and formulaic. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be a funny, heartfelt and action-packed movie for kids.
How to Train Your Dragon tells the story of "Hiccup" (voiced by young Jay Baruchel, but who I would have sworn was Christian Slater), a skinny, quirky pre-teen growing up in a Viking village. He's clumsy, intellectual and prone to inventing things using the crude technology available at the time. The village is a harsh place to live and the Vikings are portrayed as big, beefy, hearty men and women who have to fight not only the elements but invasions of attacking dragons, which they've fought for generations.
The Vikings in the village define their lives through their battles against the dragons, and Hiccup's father (Stoick, voice by Gerard Butler) is the biggest and bravest of them all and the leader of the village. He thinks Hiccup is not cut out for dragon-battle despite Hiccup's desire for just that very thing (motivated in great part because he believes it'll get him a girlfriend). Hiccup is mesmerized by Astrid (America Ferrera), a blonde warrior in training who can hold her own against the boys her own age with whom she is training.
There are many, many types and varieties of dragons here, but the most elusive one that not only has anyone ever seen, much less killed, is the mysterious and super-fast Night Fury. Hiccup uses one of his gadgets to bring down the Night Fury far from the village. Of course no one believes him, and he goes out in search of the deadly dragon. I won't say much more than of course Hiccup finds it (he names it "Toothless" for reasons that are apparent) and the film is basically about how they come to be friends. From Toothless Hiccup learns how to train dragons and appears to subdue them in dragon battle training.
I was concerned that the audience would be bludgeoned with some sort of "message" in this film, but instead I found the story to be uplifting and the message more subtle than that of Avatar a film that this reminded me of with the scenes involving dragon flight and a battle towards the end. Yes, for the most part you'll know where this story is headed, but they actually managed to turn the story in a direction I didn't expect at all something I can't say about the aforementioned other film.
I found the CGI animation to be very detailed, although a little more expressiveness in the characters' faces might have been nice. I particularly enjoyed Gerard Butler's performance loved hearing him speak any time his character was on screen. Although you'll know where things are headed between Hiccup and Toothless and between him and Astrid, I felt the movie took its time getting there and didn't make it too easy for the inevitable transitions to take place. Toothless was a joy to watch they made him a cross between the best aspects of a dog and a cat as far as personality and he was completely lovable.
Overall I found How to Train Your Dragon to be great fun with a big heart it drew me in and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. Feel free to bring kids of all ages to this one, nothing in it is inappropriate or so scary that it would give the little ones nightmares. Personally, I look forward to seeing it again every time I pop it in on DVD
"The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability"
Remy is a member of a large family of rats (a horde, I think, is the word) who ply the trash cans and sewers of a Parisian suburb, just like good rats should. "Eat your garbage!" commands Remy's father, who obviously doesn't come off as a loving parent. The rats are evicted from their cozy home in a cottage-kitchen ceiling in a scene that will have rat-haters in the audience cringing ), and they are swept through the sewers in a torrential flood. Remy washes up near the river, in view of the most famous restaurant in tout le France. This is the establishment of Auguste Gusteau, author of the best-seller Anyone Can Cook.
Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt) has always been blessed, or cursed, with a refined palate and a sensitive nose, and now he starts skulking around the kitchen of Gusteau, his culinary hero (voice of Brad Garrett). Alas, when the monstrous food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) issues a scathing indictment of Gusteau's recent cooking, the chef dies in a paroxysm of grief or perhaps it is not a paroxysm, but I like the word, and the kitchen is taken over by the sniveling little snipe Skinner (Ian Holm). Lowest of the low is Gusteau's "nephew" Linguini (Lou Romano), who must be hired, but is assigned to the wretched job of plongeur -- literally, one who washes the dishes by plunging them into soapy water.
Linguini and Remy meet, somehow establish trust and communication, and when Linguini gets credit for a soup that the rat has saved with strategic seasonings, they team up. Remy burrows into Linguini's hair, is concealed by his toque, can see through its transparent sides and controls Linguini by pulling on his hair as if each tuft were a joystick. Together, they astonish Paris with their genius.
All of this begins as a dubious premise and ends as a triumph of animation, comedy, imagination and, yes, humanity. What is most lovable about Remy is his modesty and shyness, even for a rat. He has body language so expressive than many humans would trade for it. His eye for detail is remarkable. Every prop and utensil and spice and ingredient in the kitchen is almost tangible, and I for one would never turn off the Food Channel if Remy hosted a program named "Any Rat Can Cook."
I will not dare give away the ending of this movie; in my opinion, this is the perfect ending to a fantastic movie. It's heart-warming, funny, clever, and the ending monologue is very thought provoking. This is clearly one of the best animated films ever. Every time an animated film is successful, you have to read all over again about how animation isn't "just for children" but "for the whole family," and "even for adults going on their own." No kidding!
North by Northwest (1959)
"Now you listen to me, I'm an advertising man, not a red herring."
It's the ultimate reluctant hero story about an innocent man who is being chased all across the country by both the police who think he's a terrorist, and actual terrorists who think he's a government agent. Reluctant in finding the real agent, he goes on a quest. As the plot unravels and gets more complicated, he finds out the agent never existed (spoilers), and it was a decoy planted by the FBI. But now that he's assumed the role of the agent, he's enlisted to become the agent he was trying to prove he was not. It will make your head explode!
Cary Grant is phenomenal in the role, making quick comebacks and speaking rapidly; you would believe that someone with his personality would get in such a mess. It feels like a precursor to a James Bond movie or an Indiana Jones movie in my opinion: a suspenseful thriller that works as a comedy all rolled into one.
The screenplay, written by Ernest Lehman, keeps the viewer guessing but also provides answers in a timely fashion. For example, when things start going wrong for the protagonist near the beginning, we aren't forced to wait until the closing scenes to uncover the plot against him. Enough clues are provided early that the intelligent viewer can deduce what's going on and move to the next mystery. Such intellectual participation, always a Hitchcock hallmark, is sadly lacking in most of today's so-called "thrillers."
As is the case with many of Hitchcock's films, the director sets up his hero as the only one who knows the truth. His story is so preposterous that no one else believes him without a great deal of convincing. We, of course, sympathize with the hero immediately, because we know that he's sane and is the victim of a conspiracy - even though we don't understand what that conspiracy entails.
Of course, the hallmark of North by Northwest is the way in which Hitchcock develops tension. It only takes one introductory scene - the one with Thornhill and his secretary in a cab - for us to lend our sympathy to the hero. From that point, with a lone exception, we see things through his eyes. There is only one scene in which we are given information that the protagonist is not privy to - when the camera takes us into a government office to shed light on Thornhill's situation while adding deeper layers to the mystery. In fact, it's the complexity of Thornhill's trap and the seeming impossibility of getting out of it that builds suspense.
Hitchcock introduces strong comedic elements into this film. The result doesn't diffuse the tension, but offers an occasional break from it. For a '50s film, North by Northwest is also surprisingly forthright when it comes to sexual matters. There aren't many euphemisms or double entendres in the interaction between Thornhill and Eve.
From the brisk strains of Bernard Herrmann's opening-title fandango to its concluding gag of a honeymoon train speeding into a tunnel, North by Northwest is the apotheosis of Alfred Hitchcock's exploration of the wrong-man-pursued comic thriller and functioned in 1959 as a summary of the Master's career to date. Few films can be a showcase to the art of great film making (considered from a purely entertainment perspective). North by Northwest is one of them. I recommend renting it and watching it on as large a screen as possible
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
"The stuff that dreams are made of"
Among the movies we not only love but treasure, "The Maltese Falcon" stands as one of those films. Consider what was true after its release in 1941 and was not true before:
(1) The movie defined Humphrey Bogart's performances for the rest of his life; his hard-boiled Sam Spade rescued him from a decade of middling roles in B gangster movies and positioned him for "Casablanca," "Treasure of the Sierra Madre," "The African Queen" and his other classics. (2) It was the first film directed by John Huston, who for more than 40 years would be a prolific maker of movies that were muscular, stylish and daring. (3) It contained the first screen appearance of Sydney Greenstreet, who went on, in "Casablanca" and many other films, to become one of the most striking character actors in movie history. (4) It was the first pairing of Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, and so well did they work together that they made nine other movies, including "Casablanca" in 1942 and "The Mask of Dimitrios" (1944), in which they were not supporting actors but actually the stars. (5) And some film histories consider "The Maltese Falcon" the first film noir.
The moment that sticks out for me comes near the end, when Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) has been collared for murdering Spade's partner. She says she loves Spade. She asks if Sam loves her. She pleads for him to spare her from the law. And he replies, in a speech some people can quote by heart, "I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. . . . The chances are you'll get off with life. That means if you're a good girl, you'll be out in 20 years. I'll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I'll always remember you."
Spade is cold and hard, like his name. When he gets the news that his partner has been murdered, he doesn't blink an eye. Didn't like the guy. Kisses his widow the moment they're alone together. Beats up Joel Cairo (Lorre), loses patience with Greenstreet, throws his cigar into the fire, smashes his glass, barks out a threat, slams the door and then grins to himself in the hallway, amused by his own act.
If he didn't like his partner, Spade nevertheless observes a sort of code involving his death. "When a man's partner is killed," he tells Brigid, "he's supposed to do something about it." He doesn't like the cops, either; the only person he really seems to like is his secretary, Effie (Lee Patrick), who sits on his desk, lights his cigarettes, knows his sins and accepts them. How does Bogart make a character get away with making such a dark guy the hero of a film? Because he does his job according to the rules he lives by, and because we sense (as we always would with Bogart after this role) that the toughness conceals old wounds and broken dreams.
The plot is the last thing you think of about. The Maltese Falcon is a black bird (said to be made of gold and encrusted with jewels) has been stolen, men have been killed for it, and now Gutman (Greenstreet) has arrived with his lackeys (Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr.) to get it back. Spade gets involved because the Mary Astor character hires him to--but the plot goes around and around, and eventually we realize that the black bird is an example of Hitchcock's "MacGuffin"--it doesn't matter what it is, so long as everyone in the story wants or fears it.
To describe the plot in a linear and logical fashion is almost impossible. That doesn't matter. The movie is essentially a series of conversations punctuated by brief, violent interludes. It's all style. It isn't violence or chases, but the way the actors look, move, speak and embody their characters. Under the style is attitude: Hard men, in a hard season, in a society emerging from Depression and heading for war, are motivated by greed and capable of murder. For an hourly fee, Sam Spade will negotiate this terrain. Everything there is to know about Sam Spade is contained in the scene where Bridget asks for his help and he criticizes her performance: "You're good. It's chiefly your eyes, I think--and that throb you get in your voice when you say things like, 'be generous, Mr. Spade.'"
The greatest fairy tale never told.
This is not your average family cartoon. "Shrek" is jolly and wicked, filled with sly in-jokes and yet somehow possessing a heart. All that work has paid off: The movie is an astonishing visual delight, with animation techniques that seem lifelike and fantastical, both at once. No animated being has ever moved, breathed or had its skin crawl quite as convincingly as Shrek, and yet the movie doesn't look like a reprocessed version of the real world.
The story follows Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers, who utilizes his Fat Bastard voice from the Austin Powers movie into the role). Shrek is an ogre who lives in a swamp surrounded by "Keep Out" and "Beware the Ogre!" signs. He wants only to be left alone, perhaps because he is not such an ogre after all but merely a lonely creature with an inferiority complex because of his ugliness. He is horrified when the solitude of his swamp is disturbed by a sudden invasion of cartoon creatures, who have been banished from Lord Farquaad's kingdom.
From there we have our plot: Lord Farquaad's desire to wed the Princess Fiona, and his reluctance to slay the dragon that stands between her and would-be suitors. He hires Shrek to attempt the mission, which Shrek is happy to do, providing the loathsome fairy-tale creatures are banished and his swamp returned to its dismal solitude. On his mission, Shrek is joined by a donkey named the Donkey, whose running commentary, voiced by Eddie Murphy, provides some of the movie's best laughs.
The expedition to the castle of the Princess involves a suspension bridge above a flaming abyss, and the castle's interior is piled high with the bones of the dragon's previous challengers. When Shrek and the Donkey get inside, there are exuberant action scenes that whirl madly through interior spaces, and revelations about the dragon no one could have guessed. And all along the way, asides and puns, in-jokes and contemporary references, and countless references to other movies.
No doubt all of this, and a little dig at DisneyWorld, were inspired by feelings DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg has nourished since his painful departure from Disneybut the elbow in the ribs is more playful than serious.
Nowadays, actors who do voice-over work have starring roles with fat paychecks, and the ads for "Shrek" use big letters to trumpet the names of Myers, Murphy, Cameron Diaz (Fiona) and John Lithgow (Farquaad). Their vocal performances are nicely suited to the characters. I feel like each performance is given great care rather than just having a celebrity do the voice.
"Shrek" unveils creatures who have been designed from the inside out, so that their skin, muscles and fat move upon their bones instead of seeming like a single unit. They aren't "realistic," but they're curiously real. The artistry of the locations and setting is equally skillednot lifelike, but beyond lifelike, in a merry, stylized way.
Still, all the craft in the world would not have made "Shrek" work if the story hadn't been fun and the ogre so lovable. Shrek is not handsome but he isn't as ugly as he thinks; he's a guy we want as our friend, and he doesn't frighten us but stir our sympathy.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
"We have a Twenty-three nineteen!"
Even though the premise of Monsters Inc. has been done before (monsters scaring kids and coming back to an office environment), this adds it's own creativity to it. It creates it's own world, it's own characters, and it's own reason to scare kids.
James P. Sullivan "Sulley" (John Goodman) and Mike Watzowski (Billy Crystal) are a monster duo that scare kids for the company that they work for, Monsters Inc. They need the screams of children because the screams power everything in their world. However, they're in tough competition with Randall (Steve Buscemi) for the most scares. The monsters one weakness though, is that they believe that kids are incredibly contagious and that one touch can kill you. When a little girl enters their world, chaos ensues and Sulley and Mike have to bring the girl back, only to discover a conspiracy within the company.
I'll just say what bothers me the most of the film: the evil conspiracy. While not bad, I barely could follow it. But to be fair, that's not the focus of the movie. The focus of the movie is the interaction between Sulley and Mike and the little girl, which they later name Boo. I like the irony of two monsters being scared of something as harmless as Boo.
The monsters, come in every conceivable shape, size and color, which must have been one of their attractions, and the movie is jolly to look at. And since the monsters are terrified of Boo, whose very name is a rebuke to their lifelong missions, there are screams and chases on both sides of the closet doors.
Speaking of those doors--turns out they're manufactured in Monstropolis, to such exacting specifications that no one ever figures out they didn't come with the house. The most entertaining sequence in the movie is a roller-coaster chase scene involving hundreds of doors on an endless conveyor line that loops the loop at a breakneck speed.
''Monsters, Inc.'' is cheerful, high-energy fun, and like the other Pixar movies, has a running supply of gags and references aimed at grownups