By this point, it’s fair to say we’re well into Pixar 2.0, a period for the studio that’s not quite as fondly thought of as original Pixar. And yet, Monsters University is a worthy addition to the Pixar canon all the same. Unlike Cars 2‘s unwanted focus or Brave‘s promising but somewhat slight story, Monsters University takes two of the most popular characters in Pixar history—Mike and Sully—and puts them in a new surrounding: college. Since the film’s a prequel, in some way we know how this will end, but the journey the film takes is what makes it work. By subtly (and not so subtly) tweaking certain clichés about college life. It helps that Mike and Sully are two of Pixar’s most beloved characters. We know that they end up best friends, but seeing the journey they take to reach that point is filled with enough twists to make the story interesting. Pixar may no longer be the critically-acclaimed powerhouse it was a few years ago, but if they keep it up, they’ll still tower over DreamWorks and other animation studios.
World War Z
More like World War Zzz. While it contains some interesting ideas, World War Z may be the most boring zombie film I’ve ever seen. Credit that to the all-neutering power of a PG-13 rating. Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane (ugh, that name), a father who travels the globe looking for a cure to the recent outbreak of zombies in order to protect his family. About those interesting concepts: the most intriguing one is the way the film represents zombies. They’re fast, and they turn quickly. The film’s third act, which was completely reshot (and is why the increasingly maligned Damon Lindelof has a screenwriting credit), also includes an interesting solution to the zombie problem. It’s too bad that the ideas are saddled into such a boring story.
The Bling Ring
Privileged white teens expecting a consequence-free life of robbing celebrities? Thankfully, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, based on real incidents that happened in 2008 and 2009, has a biting and darkly comic tone. The cast is largely made up of newcomers, including standout first-timer Israel Broussard as Marc, the group’s lone male whose obvious sexuality is never treated as a “Big Deal.” The gang also includes Emma Watson, firmly shedding Hermione here. It’s the second “girls gone wild” film this year for upstart distributor A24, but unlike Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring is a fairly entertaining, definitely watchable film with characters you want to watch.
Much Ado About Nothing
How do you follow up one of the biggest films of all time? If you’re Joss Whedon, you follow The Avengers with a micro-budget modern take on Shakespeare with several close friends. Much Ado About Nothing largely sticks with Shakespeare’s words, but keeps the film in a contemporary setting. The juxtaposition of the two largely works thanks to the comedic nature of the play. The cast, led by Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, has remarkable chemistry and comedic timing. The standouts, though, are Nathan Fillion and Tom Leck as two oafish police officers. All in all, the film is an interesting addition to Joss Whedon’s filmography, and the film will likely be shown in high school English classes for years to come.