Screened Out: A Middling Summer Night

By : Stephen Miller
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Prequels have to tell us new stuff and show us new things
, or what’s the point? Despite Pixar being the Harvard of computer-animated film-I personally love their art direction and technology-Monsters University doesn’t quite make the grade.

SOMonstersUniversityFlashback from Monsters Inc.: legendary monsters Wasowski (Crystal) and Sullivan (Goodman) meet in college. At first they’re bitter rivals, but we know how that’s going to end up. Also attending is creepy chameleon Randall (Buscemi) who is at first a friend-and we know how this ends, too. After several mishaps, the monsters need to prove their terrifying mettle to university dean (and fantastically creepy creature) Mirren. This formulates into a kooky, kid-friendly version of Revenge of the Nerds.

The voices are fantastic, the humor is gently consistent, and the visuals are well rendered. Nobody does textures and lighting like Pixar.

The real nightmare is that there aren’t any big plot twists or cool character revelations to carry this creature feature. I wanted the university to be a place of unlimited wonder-a sort of Hogwarts filled with freaks and fiends. These critters are cute, but they never quite capture our imagination. The action lacks the roller-coaster thrills of the first film.

It’s Pixar, so it’d take a lot to create a total flop. Monsters University is sweet, but it isn’t shocking, scary, or otherwise surprising. For a fantastic-looking film filled with monsters, this one is actually pretty tame.


Director Josh Whedon is on a roll with his Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. Presumably to stretch himself, he decided to take on one of Shakespeare’s lighter works-a sort of DIY project, shooting it in 28 days over weekend. It’s inviting though inconsistent.

Much Ado is the classic, fluffy tale of two couples-one set of lovebirds is ready to marry, the other pair trade barbs and insults to hide true passion. An evil prince is dropped into the middle of the story, simply so he can gossip and stir up trouble. In other words, typical early Shakespeare comedy.

Whedon sets the scene in modern times with modern dress, letting the language and referential anachronisms stand. That’s neither good nor bad, but it does call attention to the more dated points of Shakespeare’s work.

More troublesome is Whedon’s erroneous use of handheld digital like it’s black and white film. The images are too sharp, lacking the warm fuzziness that traditional celluloid possesses. Each texture is so crisp that it’s distracting. On top of that, there are a few gaffs and some actors who cannot quite grasp the Bard’s language. Whedon wrote his own sumptuous musical score. It’s as rich and regal as the original Shakespeare text but not fitting the hipper modern elements he added.

So, inconsistencies abound. Overall, it’s an admirable toe-dip into the classics but not anywhere near where Whedon’s strengths lie.


Superman needed some real conflict. Thank Batman director Christopher Nolan for stepping in as producer. What Man of Steel didn’t need was grossly excessive, overlong violence-full cities in rubble with, presumably, piles of corpses underneath. Thank director Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) for that.

Clark Kent (super sexy Cavill) fears he will be ostracized by the human race for his powers, so he hides. Then some other Kryptonians (Shannon and his crew) claim Earth as their new planet, and Kent has to become Superman to save us all.

The acting is really quite good, and so is the art direction-even though this humorless endeavor is all overkill, literally.

Overblown scenes of carnage and mayhem stretch on and on, proving to us that Superman is invincible while scads of humans die. It made my head pound and my heart hurt for the endless death and destruction. It’s a problem I have with egregious violence like this. It’s a reminder of Snyder’s other stuff, and even Independence Day and the terrible Transformer series. It’s that moment when half the planet is in ruins, but there are no shredded human parts or puddles of gore to call attention to what we lost.

Instead, the few characters we care about step out of the Apocalypse and smile at the rising sun while, underneath them, the body count piles up. If this is the new dawn for Superman, it’s built on bloodlust.

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