Red 2

Red 2 is a couple hours of pretty enjoyable entertainment. But you have to be careful to not stop and think too much about these characters, as they don’t really make any sense at all.

You will probably like Red 2 if you enjoyed:
Red
Dumb and Dumber
Lethal Weapon 2 and 3
Pacific Rim

If you don’t like movies that use good actors in wasted roles and that wink at the audience, Red 2 is probably not for you.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released July 19, 2013

Written by John Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis, and Cully Hammer. Based on the comics.

Directed by Dean Parisot

Starring Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, and Brian Cox

Rated: PG-13

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Story

Frank Moses (Willis) has been out of the spy game for a while now, trying to settle down and make a life with Sarah (Parker). Out shopping, they run into Marvin (Malkovich), who informs Frank that somebody has uncovered Marvin and Frank’s participation in something called Operation Nightshade and now people are gunning for them in order to find a nuke hidden in Moscow.

To stay alive, Marvin and Frank will have to team up with some of their former cronies and find the nuke before anyone else. In the meantime, the best assassin in the world, Han (Lee), is after them and Victoria (Mirren) has also been asked to take them out. Sarah insists she wants to join Frank and Marvin on their journey, as she is clearly bored by the life she and Frank have been living, but along comes Katja (Zeta-Jones), a former flame of Moses, who might be able to help Frank and Marvin get out of the fix they’re in.

So Frank, Marvin, and the rest have to find the scientist who invented the nuke and who might know were it is. The problem is that this scientist has been locked up for more than 32 years. This is Bailey (Hopkins), and he is clearly somewhat off his rocker.

Along this seasoned group goes, firing countless bullets at all takers and basically doing their best to steamroll through all the baddies. Loyalties will be tested, as will love.

Critique

For all the hyperactivity of the fight scenes and enthusiastic effort of the players, Red 2 feels somewhat flat and generally like a bunch of people playing in the same sandbox without much direction or leadership. It feels as if the entertaining scenes were conceived in a vacuum and story was written to try to string these scenes together.

You can almost imagine the writers and director having a conversation. “Okay, so Sarah’s kind of a ditz, so we need a scene where her ditziness messes things up. Oh yeah, and also she needs to be clueless about guns.”

“Good one! Hey, let’s also have Victoria kick everyone’s ass and then deliver a zinger of a one-liner. ”

“Nice! Of course, we also need to see Moses and Marvin have plenty of banter and Moses needs to be in some awkward situations between his current love and his former flame. Willis can just mug here.”

“Good plan!”

So the story is decidedly formulaic, but where The Heat used its characters to freshen up the formula and bring sharp, intelligent dialogue into the scenes, Red 2′s dialogue is too often totally predictable and far too self-aware– winking at the audience as we are all in on the joke that these are old people delivering lines that a younger tough would usually deliver.

All of that said, here we also have consummate actors doing great work and having a lot of fun. Helen Mirren is a joy to watch, with her diminutive frame and sophisticated bearing, as she beats the tar out of people and seems to enjoy it. Malkovich steals every scene he’s in with manic energy and great timing. Zeta-Jones is a little underused; as it seems that her character is a plot device only. Hopkins has a great time and is fun to watch, although his character makes zero sense if you stop and think about him. And Bruce Willis, sadly, phones a lot of his scenes in, although there are a couple of scenes where we get to see his comedic timing.

The biggest tragedy is the casting of Mary-Louise Parker as the too-often clueless and flighty Sarah. Sarah gets far too little to do, and when she does do something right, it makes absolutely no sense– we don’t understand how she knew to do what she did. Parker is better than this role.

All in all, Red 2 is somewhat better than its predecessor, but is still a little flat, a little too silly.

Content warnings: Plenty of explosive violence and a goodly amount of salty language.

Writing: 3          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 3

If you don’t share this review with everyone you know, I hope you get red in the face!

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Monsters University

Monsters University is one of the better prequels that you will see. While it’s not as fresh as Monsters, Inc. the laughs aren’t quite as big, and the message is a lot more predictable, it’s still a lot of fun and the voice acting is top-notch. That it gives plenty of respect to its predecessor helps Monsters University quite a lot.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released June 21, 2013

Written by Dan Scanlon, Daniel Gerson, and Robert L. Baird.

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Starring Helen Mirren, Aubrey Plaza, Julia Sweeney, Bonnie Hunt, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Alfred Molina, Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion, Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, John Krasinski, Bill Hader, and John Ratzenberger.

Rated: G

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Mike Wazowski (Crystal) has been dreaming of attending Monsters University since he was around the size of a pea. When he finally makes it there, determined to be a scarer, the odds seem stacked against him. How could a one-eyed walking green grape that talks with a New York accent ever be scary?

Making things harder and worse is Sullivan (Goodman), a big, naturally scary monster that comes from a long line of good scarers.

These two butt heads in their first days at MU, getting both of them in trouble. In order to redeem themselves, they have to learn how to work together, helping a team of scarer rejects become the champion scarers at the university in order to get back into Dean Hardscrabble’s (Mirren) good graces.

As they fight to become the best scarers that they can be, they make friends and enemies with all kinds of characters, one being Randy, who we remember was their sworn enemy in Monsters Inc. But in this prequel, he’s their friend. It’s nice to see how the bad blood came between these monsters.

We also meet Jonny Worthington (Fillion), a smug scarer whose fraternity is basically the royal blood of the university. This guy and the pride of Mike and Sully serve as the villains of the story in Monsters University.

Critique

As Disney/Pixar has become quite adept at doing, Monsters University delivers plenty of clever laughs for all ages, packaging a nice message and a story of a person or people who have to overcome their pride in order to win the day.

Formulaic? Of course. Formula is familiar and Disney/Pixar is a pro at serving up well-polished stories and characters and fun dialogue. Helping things along are all of the very talented voice actors. Also helping the movie stay entertaining is a cast of interesting side characters, each with their own quirks.

Made up of fun, freshness, and the familiar, Monsters University entertains for all of its 104 minutes, surprising the audience at times with its heart and understanding of relationships.

This is a well-crafted movie that knows how to hit all of its marks without being too obvious about being so smart.

Go ahead and give Disney some of your money; you’ll enjoy this one. Monsters University won’t change your life or even leave you with lingering questions, thoughts, or memories of the movie, but it’ll entertain you.

Content warnings: Cartoonish, silly violence and a scene or two of child-scaring.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 5          Overall: 4

Be a sharing monster and spread this review and website all over the place. Seriously, go ahead. If you don’t, a possessed grape from New York will find you and scare you in your sleep.

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