An evil presence lived in my bedroom closet. I would only hear it at night when I was a little boy. It would make a creaking sound as if a giant’s foot was stepping out of the closet to eat me. One of my defenses was to hide under my blanket and be very still. The other was to make pretend spiders out of black construction paper and place them on the floor, in front of the closet door. They used to do a good job; so good, that I accidentally scared one of my brothers, when I left one of the spiders on the floor. As I grew up it dawned on me that what I was really afraid of was the unknown. It would have been a big help if this animated comedy had been around back then. A film that showed monsters going to school to learn how to scare humans was a wonderful idea. For those of us who saw Monsters, Inc this was the opportunity to visit with a younger Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan, voiced by Billy Crystal (Parental Guidance, Analyze This) and John Goodman (Argo, Flight). If you are not familiar with their story, it will not be a major factor in watching this film. A few sly references would be missed. However, the charm and originality of the previous movie was also missing. The story took a little part from the movies Carrie and The Hunger Games, minus the frightening parts. I believe young children will still enjoy this movie; though, I did notice the kids were noisier here than at other animated family films I have seen. Billy and John were perfect voicing their characters again, as was Steve Buscemi (Rampart, Broadwalk Empire-TV) as Randy. The addition of Helen Mirren (Red, Hitchcock) as Dean Hardscrabble was my favorite character. Though there was a little less magic and a little less fun in it for me, I still enjoyed finding out how monsters learned to be scary. Stay through the end of the credits.
2 3/4 stars
The people who believe there is no age discrimination in the work place are the same ones who think their employer will always be loyal to them and never lay them off. I am here to tell you that is not the case. Listening to my friends’ ordeals in their search for a job, the baby boomers are under attack. One friend only got a job after he whitened his teeth and dyed his hair. Another one hired a trainer and a stylist to lose weight, tone up and update his wardrobe. No matter where they went the person interviewing them usually was a couple of decades younger. I have encouraged them to let their personalities come out if it is appropriate, because I believe humor can work to their advantage. In this comedy co-workers Billy McMahon and Nick Campbell, played by Vince Vaughn (The Break-Up, Fred Claus) and Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, MIdnight in Paris) were forced to look for a job after their company closed down. By some stroke of luck they landed in the internship program at the internet company Google. Not used to the high-tech ways of doing business, the two friends only had their sales skills to stand out from their younger competitors; but would it be enough? I wanted to sympathize with the characters Vince and Owen portrayed, they were easily relatable. The acting, however, was stale; Vince played the same character he has played in his past several films. There seems to be a trend starting where movie stars are being credited for the story, like Will Smith for After Earth and now Vince Vaughn for this movie. Based on these two films, it needs to stop because the scripts have been dreadful. I did not find anything funny here because the jokes were generic or maybe I should say geriatric. It is sad, but the trailer for this lame film should be considered the highlights reel. I am always being told you cannot believe everything you read on the internet. It seems that goes for movies these days that claim they are funny, but really are not. One would think with the internet company at their disposal, the writers could have looked for examples of humor to incorporate into this mess.
1 2/3 stars
Being the designated driver for some of my friends, I have been stuck staying at a nightclub until closing time. When the lights came on I was stunned how the entire place radically changed. When we first arrived at the club there were colored strobe lights sparking everywhere, narrow spotlights searching the dance floor while a cool, low fog circulated around our feet. At the end of the evening the room was flooded with harsh white light, exposing stained dark walls and a floor littered with confetti and crepe paper streamers. Some of it was clumped together on parts of the floor where drinks were spilled. At one of the leather clad booths along the wall, there was a passed out patron. As you can see it was not a pretty picture. The same could be said for this tired film. Consider this movie the last call of the franchise. Phil, Stu and Justin; played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Silver Linings Playbook), Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids, The Office-TV) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure franchise, The Rebound); participated in an intervention for Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, Due Date). On the way to the treatment center; the Wolfpack was ambushed by Marshall, played by John Goodman (Argo, Flight). Holding Doug as hostage; Marshall gave the rest of the gang three days to find Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong (Community-TV, Pain & Gain). The story was one dimensional; in other words, it seemed as if they planned the jokes first, then wrote the story around them. The problem was the lack of humor; the jokes were utterly stale. Using Alan’s questionable feelings towards Phil as a continuous joke quickly became old. The character of Mr. Chow derived his humor by being inappropriate for these politically correct times. When the first movie came out it was a novel and fresh idea. I found the film to be dreary and lazy. Consider this film a reminder to never stay beyond last call.
1 3/4 stars
If the occasional bump or rumble disturbs you while flying in an airplane, then the beginning of this film will make you start traveling by train. I love to fly but found myself holding my breath during the intense flight crash scene. Gratefully I never experienced a problem when flying, since the time of my first airplane ride at 12 years old. An airline was offering 30 minute flight tours around the city, so a friend and I traveled to the airport to take a ride. At that time it was one of the most exhilarating things I had ever done. Keep in mind this was at a time when traveling by plane was easy and respectful. These days flying is more like riding an elevator without cables: passengers being herded towards their seats, the doors close, people squeezed together and when the doors open they are in a different location. In one of his best performances Denzel Washington (Safe House, Training Day) was pilot Whip Whitaker who valiantly steered a disabled plane into a crash landing. When he finally awakened and found himself in a hospital bed, Whip soon discovered the federal investigation was zeroing toward his dark secret. Due to the trailer, some people may be expecting an action film and that was not the case. This film was a study guide into a man’s character. Besides Denzel, Don Cheadle’s (Hotel Rwanda, Traitor) acting was impeccable as he portrayed lawyer Hugh Lang. All the humor in the movie was expertly handled by John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, Roseanne-TV) as drug dealer Harling Mays. One issue I had was with the subplot involving the female drug addict; the character seemed out of place in the way she was introduced and used to accentuate Denzel’s character. The director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, The Polar Express) kept the viewer interested in the main players by digging deeper into their characters and allowing the tension to build. Thanks to this movie I now have something else to worry about the next time I fly. Brief scenes with blood.
3 1/4 stars
I could not wait to post this review, pushing aside what I was working on already. After seeing this film last night, I am happy to report the hype you have heard is all true. Hollywood can confidently welcome into her arms a new generation of filmmakers in the form of Ben Affleck (The Town, Hollywoodland). They say the 3rd time is the charm and that is so true here with Ben’s 3rd outing as director of this movie based on a true story. Ben has shown his true talent is his amazing directing skills. A critical time in history, the story was set during the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis. Six Americans escaped from the American embassy as it was overrun by revolutionaries, finding refuge in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence. It would be only a matter of time before they would be found. Ben Affleck played CIA specialist Tony Mendez who devised an outrageous plan for what most believed was a no win situation. Pretending to be part of a Canadian film crew, he would fly into Iran to scout out film locations then fly the 6 Americans out as part of his crew. To accomplish this never before done rescue operation Tony would need to set up a fake film production company. He turned to film producer Lester Siegel, played by Alan Arkin (Get Smart, Little Miss Sunshine), and special effects expert John Chambers, played by John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, Roseanne-TV), to set up a fake film production company. The pacing of the story was well thought out, skillfully using Alan and John for comic relief as the tension rose to a crescendo. I loved the graininess to the film that added an authenticity to the period being shown. Here is the bottom line: this movie did everything right to give the viewer what I felt was a flawless experience. Along with prime acting, including Bryan Cranston (Drive, Breaking Bad-TV) as Tony’s boss Jack O’Donnell, the story was told brilliantly. Hollywood, the CIA, world governments and real people all expertly handled and meticulously placed in the gifted hands of Ben Affleck. C’mon Oscar nominations, this movie is waiting for you.