Monsters University (Dan Scanlon) ***1/2 - PIXAR's first prequel may not be up to the high standards of the Golden Years of the studio (1995-2010) but it's still a really, fun visually eye-popping (as usual) animated feature. The plot is straight out of many college frat comedies (minus the sex and alcohol) as Mike and Sulley lead an underdog frat to their university's scare games though to their credit, it's given a fresh twist here. The film introduces a lot of wonderful and interesting new characters and opens up the monsters' world quite nicely. It provides laughs but also has a surprising amount of depth.
Spur (Anthony Mann) **** - Anthony Mann is one of those directors I'm
largely ignorant of so I'm working my way through his filmography starting with
this. Wow, what a film! A man hunts down wanted criminal to collect the reward
money. He captures him (along with a girl) with the help of a few other
characters and they try to make their way to Kansas to get the money. But things
are not that easy and black & white, this Western has a lot of great,
exciting scenes of adventure but it's also filled with morally ambiguous
characters and surprisingly brutal and violent scenes (at least for its time)
and occasionally even disturbing. Jimmy Stewart gives one of his career-best
performances here, hitting every note beautifully. I will say this is probably
one of my favorite Westerns and I've seen a lot of great Westerns.
The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola) ***1/2 -
Sofia Coppola is, of course, one of world's cinema's most exciting directors
working today. Going in, I'm thinking this film is going to be at least
interesting. But it was more than interesting. This film is a true story about a
group of upper-middle class teens who were responsible for a string of
burglaries targeting the houses ot the rich and famous including Paris Hilton
and Lindsay Lohan. With this, Coppola treats the world of upper-middle-class,
spoiled teens like an almost alien subculture that's inherently weird and
detached despite the fact this world has been chronicled in numerous reality
shows. Emma Watson is the top-billed name here and she, like the rest of the
cast, was terrific but the discovery here is Israel Broussard, who plays the
main male member of the Bling Ring. He should get more roles. The beautiful
cinematography here co-photographed by the late great Harris Savides reminds us
cinephiles what a truly great loss he is to the medium.
Despicable Me 2 (Pierre Coffin/Chris Renaud)
**1/2 - I liked this film just about as much as I liked the first one. It's fun.
It's entertaining. There's some pretty neat visuals. There are clever gags.
There's some great voice work. There are funny jokes. It's cute. Like the last
one, those Minions are the best part of the film and they get plenty of
screentime this time around. The rest of the film is just barely okay without
them. It's a good thing they're getting their own film (or is it a bad thing?
Sometimes things are only good in small doses/supporting roles). I have to say
those adorable little creatures are genius creations. Deceptively simply in
their design, their funny noises, physical humor and cute appearances are truly
fun to watch.