Drive In Double Feature: Monsters University (2013) & Iron Man 3 (2013)

monsters university We’re pretty lucky to live in an area with not one, but three drive-in movie theaters that are less than an hour away. We usually go to the Warwick, but they’ve had some pretty strange pairings this year. I’m still not sure why they didn’t go with an Iron Man 3/Star Trek Into Darkness combo, but that’s neither here not there. As the parents of a 2-year-old without a regular babysitter, we’re pretty limited in our movie-going options, so we like to have at least one film that Lu will kinda-sorta like. So, when we saw that Hyde Park had Monsters University paired up with Iron Man 3, we figured it’d make for a pretty good outing.

Lu and I actually have never seen Monsters Inc., but we did both see the show at Disney World based on the film. Even so, I’d say we both enjoyed the experience. Lu loves pretty much anything that’s big and bright and I thought the movie was a fun, kid friendly version of the kinds of college flicks I’ve loved since I was a kid myself.

The film follows Mike (Billy Crystal), a young monster who wants to be a scarer who winds up getting in to the number one school for such things, Monsters University. There, the overachieving bookworm meets Sulley (the glorious John Goodman), another scaring student who’s the latest in a long line of scarers. The problem? Mike isn’t actually scary and Sulley relies too much on his family name. The two wind up in the same geeky fraternity which allows them to compete in the Scare Games. Thanks to a deal made with the dean (Helen Mirren!), if they win the Games, she will let them  back into the scare program. From there they have to join forces, become friends and learn to work together.

I like everything from Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds to PCU and Pitch Perfect, all of which either influenced or are somewhat similar to this movie, so it’s right there in my wheelhouse. Even though I haven’t seen the original, I didn’t feel lost when it came to this movie which was nice. I didn’t realize that one of the villains from the original was also in this one, but my wife told me about it on the way home, so I was in on the joke after the fact. I’d say this works extremely well as a stand alone film and a prequel because it does actually make me want to see how these characters act as adults. Time to move that flick to the top of the ol’ Netflix Queue!

iron man 3 Much as I wound up liking Monsters University, Iron Man 3 was the movie I was more excited about. Movies like this which are big on the geek radar can get a little tiresome to folks like myself who cover them on the interwebs. Even though I probably wrote a dozen or two stories about this film for Spinoff, I still enjoyed it and — more surprisingly — was still in the dark on a lot of the major plot points. It helped that I avoided every tweet and conversation about the film after it came out.

So, the story this time around is that Tony Stark’s going down a fairly dark path. He’s pretty disturbed after the events of The Avengers which saw him possibly destroy an entire world/army/dimension. He’s building all kinds of armors, but there’s a more physical threat gunning for him: The Mandarin. An international terrorist played by Ben Kingsley, the Mandarin has plenty of shady people working for him like Guy Pearce, but more importantly, his people have been imbued with Extremis, a techno-organic program that can rewrite a person’s DNA, making them a fire-breathing, superpowered menaces. They blow up Tony’s house which sends him out on his own without a suit to figure out what’s up with the Mandarin and spoilerific things ensue.

I’m not going to get into specific spoilers just yet, but I do want to talk about the ending of the film. Like I said, I went in relatively spoiler free, but I did figure that the extra armors Tony built would come into play during the film and boy do they. It’s so rad seeing Tony running around a giant structure, hopping in and out of different suits and fighting off bad guys. It’s the kind of thing that Joss Whedon did really well with the final battle scene in Avengers and something director Shane Black followed up on pretty well in this film.

Okay now it’s time to get into SPOILERS. Consider yourself WARNED. Man, I really liked what they did with the Mandarin in this movie even though the reveal feels a bit like the one used in Batman Begins with Ra’s al Ghul. In this case it helped that they got such a weighty actor and had him turn in first, a scary performance and second, a hilarious one. Going for the complete personality switch is what sets this apart and makes for a great moment. This was the element of the film I was most surprised hadn’t been spoiled for me yet. Then you’ve got the ending which certainly leaves Tony Stark in an interesting place in the Marvel Studios Universe. He’s still got that big brain of his, but he doesn’t have the ARC reactor which powers his suit. It’s the kind of move that would last for maybe a few years in the comics before something else would pop up and he’d have to, I don’t know, have his heart get blown up again or something. But, since we’re dealing with a film universe — even a shared  one — they get to play with the elements and the players a bit more. The real world side of things is that RDJ might not want to play Iron Man much longer — Tony Stark seems less taxing — and it might make sense within this new world to go a different route and have someone else fill in inside the suit. Of course, since the Extremis now exists in the movie-verse, it’s within reason that Tony will find himself in a situation where he needs to inject himself, this becoming Iron Man Version 2.0. There’s a lot of possibilities and it will be interesting to see where things go with the character from here.

As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a fun viewing experience. I also really liked the kid who played Harley and think he needs to be in a kids-dealing-with-craziness movie like The Goonies. At this point, I’m a general fan of the Marvel Studios films. Avengers is rad, I dig the Iron Man flicks and Captain America, Thor was okay and I haven’t seen Incredible Hulk in a long time, but didn’t like it at the time. I’m curious about the Thor and Cap sequels, but am far more interested in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and the other flicks starring new characters. Let’s see what they can do with some new old characters.

News Of The Day: Jack White Erupts While John Goodman Slims Down

Thanks to It Might Get Loud, I’ve become a pretty big Jack White fan after disliking him for many years (more on this on Friday!), but I haven’t made my way into the Dead Weather yet as I’m still checking out The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. Anyway, news came out today that White yelled at a bunch of Hollywood clowns while playing a show with The Dead Weather. Here’s a clip from the Daily News story:

“F- you, you hip motherf-ers!” White screamed at the audience, which included Liv Tyler, rock royalty Alexandra Richards, Shaun White and Mary-Kate Olsen. “Why don’t you rock the f- out?! Maybe I should go grab those free drinks and shove them down your throats, you hip motherf-ers!”

Pretty awesome, no? Why go to a concert if you’re not going to have some fun? The worst part is that he apologized at the end of the show (according to the article). What happened to rock stars that they’ve started apologizing for being egomaniacal jerks?

In other news (this time from People.com) John Goodman lost 100 pounds. Good for him! Having watched lots and lots of Roseanne over the past year, I noticed how big he got and still seemed when he’d pop up in things like Studio 60, Speed Racer or Confessions Of A Shopaholic. He’s one of the funniest guys around and anyone getting healthy is good news. Well done, John!

Newer Movie Round-Up

2008-09-28
3:42:25 am

Just wanted to say a few quick things about three movies that I’ve seen recently and really enjoyed.

Sometime last week or the week before Em and I watched Baby Mama, starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Steve Martin, Romany Malco and more. I am a big fan of Tina and Amy first from their work on SNL and later Fey on 30 Rock, Romany was awesome in 40 Year Old Virgin and I can’t wait for him to star in something on his own and Steve Martin is funnier in this as an aging hippy mogul that he’s been in anything I’ve seen in a while. The basic plot is that Tina Fey wants to have a baby, but she can’t so she goes through an agency and ends up with Amy Poehler as her surrogate. The plot itself is VERY formulaic (I had it nailed down about 20-ish minutes in), but it’s the performances that really make this movie worth watching. If you’re a fan of Poehler and or Fey, then it’s definitely worth checking out.

Then, just today we watched Speed Racer. I know it bombed in the box office, but I can’t for the life of me understand why. The Wachowski Brothers took a tired old cartoon that I generally disliked and turned it into this crazy mix of action and drama in a really effective live action cartoon. Oh, it also stars Christina Ricci who I’ve had a crush on since Casper. But really, I laughed and called out “Oh [bad word for poo]” off and on so many times during the 2 hour movie. Don’t believe the bad hype and check this flick out on DVD. Emile Hirsch, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox and Shaft himself Richard Roundtree all offer up fantastically believable performances even against the backdrop of this cartoony world. Plus, the chimp scenes in this movie are my second favorite next to Any Which You But Loose and its sequel. Big ups to the Wachowskis, I think there’s some kind of Hollywood conspiracy that kept this movie from doing well. A CONSPIRACY I tells ya!

Finally, tonight Em, her mom and I went to see the Coen Brothers’ latest flick Burn After Reading. It was 97 minutes of pure delight. Definitely more Lebowski than No Country. It was much funnier than I expected it to be (I actually didn’t really know what it was about going in, just that it was some kind of spy thriller). It’s also a pretty hard movie to summarize, so I won’t bother. Two of my favorite actors George Clooney and Brad Pitt were awesome, JK Simmons made me laugh so hard I almost watered up. And of course John Malkovich brought his A game. The Coen’s really wove an interesting yarn with this one, keeping me guessing as to what was going to happen next, but also challenging me to keep up with the story. Oh, I also really liked the poster. Well done, what a great week for movies.