Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Standard issue poster, nothing exciting here.

Standard issue poster, nothing exciting here.

Directed by: Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon (between the two of them, they are responsible for some truly atrocious films, so this is easily their best one)

Written by: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Rob Letterman, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger wrote the screenplay based off of Letterman and Vernon’s story.

Starring: the vocal talents of Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Paul Rudd, Kiefer Sutherland and Stephen Colbert among many others.

What it’s about: a group of monsters are released by the American government to combat an alien invasion

B-Movie Alternate Title: It IS a B-Movie title

Movie Mash Up: The Monster Squad + oh I dunno, any Alien movie minus all the disturbing imagery

What I liked: For the most part I love the vocal cast, I mean look at them all!  There’s a huge “Office” presence, the former awesome real-life couple of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen and I guess Reese Witherspoon can be okay sometimes.  The monsters are wonderful, particularly the moronic B.O.B.  Paul Rudd gets to play an asshole for once, and while the role isn’t great, it is decent comedy.  Honestly speaking, I would rather this entire cast were reunited for an R-rated animated version of this exact film.

What I disliked: Well, I didn’t even realise it until the beginning of the film, but with the Russian meteor event of the past week, the entire meteorite sequence at the building was totally unrealistic.  And yes, that is only because of all those Russian YouTube videos that I knew that.  It put me off for the whole film.  I thought it was decent, but it wasn’t on a Pixar level by any means.  Enjoyable, but unless you’re a kid, repeat viewings will probably make it less enjoyable each time around.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, it is not an offensively stupid animated film, and it is decently entertaining for both kids and adults.

Rating: 3 / 5

Probably the most entertaining bit of animation in the entire movie.

Probably the most entertaining bit of animation in the entire movie.

Juno (2007)

It has been nearly five years since Juno was released, and pretty much everything I said about it back then is how I felt when I was re-watching it. So instead of just re-hashing my thoughts, here’s my well-written review from then, rather than the rambling short review I usually write up now.  Enjoy!

Every year in December, major studios tend to release a lot of smaller “human” films that seem like a hollow attempt to garner Academy Award nominations come February.  In some cases the movies themselves are actually quite good, but would have failed to attract any attention at any other time of the year.  In the case of Juno, well it’s a bit of a mixed bag to tell the truth.  If Fox Searchlight Studios would have released the movie outside of the December awards attraction window, most of the focus probably would have been on the subject matter of the film, rather than Ellen Page’s performance as the titular character . It’s not that it’s even that controversial of a topic these days, but the religious right more than likely would have had a field day with a movie about a 16-year-old girl that has premarital sex because she’s bored and gets knocked up because of it and eventually decides to have the baby.

Directed by Jason Reitman and written by first-timer Diablo Cody (Ed. note: she won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for this movie), Juno is all about Juno MacGuff (Page) and the impact her decisions regarding her soon-to-be born child will have on her life and the lives of those around her.  Juno’s a quirky and somewhat crass girl, and there’s no indication exactly how she came to be that way based on the level-headedness of her father Mac (Simmons) and her step-mother Bren (Janney).  Her best friend Leah (Thirlby) is somewhat odd, but only if you find the idea of a high school girl who is horny for her teachers an odd thing.  Nowadays, that sort of thing is such a regular occurence that Britney Spears’ 16-year-old sister can get knocked up by a producer on her TV show and there isn’t too much outrage.  Well, aside from the religious right that I’m not a part of that is.

The comparison has to be made, so here it is: yes, the character of Juno is so reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite that they might as well have titled the project Joséphine Dynamite.  Juno and her family life aren’t nearly as strange as the Dynamites were, but she’s definitely not what anyone would really consider to be a “normal” teenage girl character in the movies.  The structure of the film is slightly comparable to Napoleon Dynamite, but only real idiots would say that it’s a rip-off of the movie.  Sure Michael Cera’s character of Paulie Bleeker is an awkward high schooler, but it’s Michael Cera for god’s sake.  He essentially plays the same awkward character in every movie, just with subtle nuances added or diminished depending on the genre of the project.

It’s funny that I watched Juno almost right after I watched Waitress, as the characters played by Ellen Page and Keri Russell in both films are startlingly similar.  In my books, Russell deserves an Oscar win for her performance, and I think Page will probably have to settle for a nomination (Ed. note: she was nominated, Keri Russell wasn’t).  A lot of critics have been comparing Juno to last year’s Little Miss Sunshine as the feel-good movie of the year, and while I do see it, I don’t necessarily agree with it.  Sunshine was an ensemble cast performance extraordinaire, whereas Juno is pretty much a one-girl show.  Page is awesome, but the overall feel of Juno is too uneven for it to be considered as an excellent movie.

The supporting cast of Juno is tremendous, especially with the way the characters of Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons’ parents are written and the real way they’re portrayed.  Jennifer Garner is surprisingly top notch as well, same with the patented Michael Cera performance.  Jason Bateman was probably the highlight of the movie for me, to the point where I actually sympathized with the decisions his character made and was kind of angry at the movie for almost manipulating me into viewing him as a villain-type.  True, his actions aren’t of the typical good guy variety, but I can honestly see where his character was coming from.  In the end, Juno is a very good movie, and just slightly short of true greatness.

4 / 5

Super (2010)

I was all set to deride Super as a Kick-Ass ripoff before I had even seen a minute of the film.  Then I saw Ellen Page doing her “inappropriate” costume self-touching and I was jazzed, positively STOKED to watch it… for purely cinematic appreciation reasons, of course.  Writer and director James Gunn (of Troma and criminally underappreciated Slither fame) crafts a story bordering on a profile of a serial killer, whilst being able to generate genuine sympathy for the sad sack character.  And genuine sympathy is far better that sad, pity sympathy.

Having Gunn, Rainn Wilson, Page, and Nathan Fillion on my Twitter Following list has resulted in numerous Tweets and ReTweets about Super, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of the crew that support it fully.  While Kick-Ass was dark, it also bordered on raunchy, and Super seems to go the other way, chronicling a deeply emotional and potentially self-destructive journey of self-discovery by Frank D’Arbo (Wilson).  When his wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), leaves him and descends back into her addictions – thanks to the wonderfully smarmy Jacques/Jock (Kevin Bacon) – Frank has hit rock bottom, and starts taking stock of his life to the point where he begs an answer from God (Rob Zombie).  And then he becomes a crime fighter.

Frank’s turn on being a hero often borders on deeply disturbing and highly illegal acts of brutality, and there is certainly cause to question whether it is parody or satirizing America’s obsession with violence.  Ultimately though, it IS a journey Frank/The Crimson Bolt is going on, and he discovers many things about himself along the way and I’m going to cut this short and say that Super certainly isn’t for everyone, but it is a quality film that deserves more attention right now.

4 / 5