‘Monsters University’: Your Freshman Year, But With Hairier Dorm-Mates

Sequels are always a crap-shoot, and prequels even more so. But Monsters University, the upcoming origin story-spinning Pixar film starring the tall, blue and fuzzy and short and one-eyed heroes of the hit Monsters, Inc., actually looks like it’ll be a good time. There’s an element of the goofy, nostalgic college-movie spirit peppered throughout the promotion for the film, from the actual fake university website for MU that teased the film (complete with fake ".edu" address and all-star football quarterbacks with very quarterback-y names) to the new UK trailer released yesterday.

As it says on the tin, Monsters University details how Sully (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) met as Scaring majors (and roommates) their freshman (freshmonster?) year of college. Along the way, set to blaring trumpets and a popular Motley Crüe party anthem, they become rivals—Sully the cool, popular scaring expert; Mike the awkward, bookish retainer-wearing melvin—and try to out-scare each other, while encountering wild dorm parties, pranks, football games and frat monsters, all on a picturesque campus that may remind you of your wildest years. Don’t let the college nostalgia get to your head now. Watch.

Pixar Creates Fake University Website to Market ‘Monsters University’

With the release and reaction to Toy Story 3, it was clear that Pixar was onto something, appealing to the now college-aged audience who had grown up with the films. Now, after a pair of lukewarm releases (Cars 2 and Brave), the studio is marketing to the young-adult Pixar faithful with the upcoming Monsters, Inc. prequel, Monsters University, which looks at Sully and Mike’s college years. In what’s actually a pretty charming promotional exercise (if such a thing can actually exist), Pixar created a fake “.edu” website for the university in the film.

As far as a fake college website goes, the Monsters U site will look eerily familiar to anyone who’s gone through the university application process. Sweeping, brochure-panorama views of the campus, colorful CGI monsters biking on the quad and excessive school pride around athletics—the new football quarterback recruit even has a particularly quarterback-y name and the swim team conference champ won acclaim thanks to his worm-like body and seven legs propelling him to victory. There’s even a university news feed featuring academic studies and choir performances and information about Greek Life. Pandering it might be, but it’s comprehensive and, yeah, still cute. 

The Slow-Burn Talkie: ‘To Rome With Love’ Can’t Fulfill Our Modern Cinematic Desires

Woody Allen’s newest picture, To Rome With Love, contains plenty of the bread and butter ticks: witty complaining (courtesy of Allen’s own character, Jerry), Freudian line-dropping (see Jerry’s psychiatrist wife, played by Judy Davis), and any other kind of bullshit line-dropping (Ellen Page’s character takes care of those cringe-worthy nuggets). But it also seemed to offer what’s marked most of his Continental films as of late—a pleasantly low-stakes plot.

Less at play are the Crimes and Misdemeanors/Match Point moral meditations or the tight farcical narratives of Sleeper and Small Time Crooks. These recent films—Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris—exist as much as vehicles for delightfully self-indulgent dialogue and gawking at European cities (Gaudí! Mansard roofs! The Coliseum is still standing!) as they do for traditionally enticing three-act stories. Which is all to say, I’m ready to eat this shit up, especially when every other movie this summer appears to have an explosion (or implosion) or a chase scene at every ten-minute beat.

Even amid the hype surrounding Pixar’s new feminist princess film Brave are murmurs that the studio overdid it on the frenetic tension in order to draw in otherwise uninterested ten-year-old boys. At least for the two-minute trailer, there’s really no break between climbing things, racing somewhere on horseback, or someone getting smacked with an axe. But I think it’s less a marketing ploy and more just the exercise of your standard Robert McKee screenwriting dogma—conflict, conflict, conflict!

Judd Apatow, from time to time, seems to get labeled a successful maker of “dudes hanging out” movies. But the recent media storm around Girls has seen plenty of mention of Apatow’s mastery at emotional tension when it comes to screenwriting. Lena Dunham, who certainly has Woody Allen at the tip of her pencil the whole way, might have had a less impactful show had she kept it as a clever chat session instead of heeding Apatow’s advice. But it’s an understandable temptation: I don’t like watching bad things happen to people. I think, how much nicer would it be to just observe the Algonquin table roam around Rome for an hour and a half?

And then I sit through a movie like To Rome with Love and am humbly reminded why it’s just so boring to watch characters you don’t care about recite over-written conversations.

One of the film’s four unrelated storylines, featuring a lost-cell-phone-induced separation of two innocent young Italian lovers and the hilarity that ensues, is fun and amusing, but the joy is lost in the long 102-minute waiting time for the end credits. The vignette for Allen’s own character, essentially a witty gabfest about why Allen is afraid of retirement, is perhaps justification for said fear, or at least evidence for why making a movie once a year is a rough goal. But the parts with Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page are ground zero for what was both aggravating and tiring about the movie. Greta Gerwig, who plays Eisenberg’s sweet but aloof girlfriend, essentially invites Page, a self-involved actress, to stay with them and seduce her boyfriend.Aside from the over-done dialogue, what kills it is the sense that all these characters are so narcissistic that even if their relationships fall apart it still won’t really bother them. Why root for them? Why not? Two hours later, it is what it is.

The final storyline with Italian actor Roberto Benigni, who plays a briefly and arbitrarily celebrated media darling, has drawn a kind of “like Celebrity but worse” reaction. But the images of paparazzi swarms in Rome also harken flashbacks to 8 ½, Fellini’s film about, among other things, what happens when an in-demand artist lacks inspiration. You can’t then but sense that Allen, between his wonderfully inventive, intelligent films like Sweet and Lowdown or Midnight in Paris, has powered through the less inspired periods with sit-down-start-writing-and-see-what-I-come-up-with films like Whatever Works or You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

The thematic end-note, if you want to call it that, comes from Benigni’s storyline: after he’s been dumped by the paparazzi, he launches into a fit looking for attention, and his old chauffer reminds him that it’s better to have a little fame than none at all. I wouldn’t question Allen’s sincerity, and for that matter, far be it from me to knock the career of one of the greatest auteurs of all time. And you sense at this point that he’s making these films to keep his hands busy just as much as anything, with no pretense for each one to be deemed a masterpiece. But if there is any strain in Woody Allen that’s producing a fear of cultural irrelevance, he’s going about it wrong. Just shed some dialogue and put in a couple explosions. Or Snooki and JWoww. Same thing.

Pixar’s ‘Brave’: An Ode to Kick-Ass Chicks Everywhere

Pixar’s latest movie Brave opens today to the delight of kids and young-at-heart grown-ups everywhere. But Brave isn’t your typical animated flick; it features the bow-and-arrow wielding heroine Merida as its protagonist, meaning it’s not another burnt-out tale of a princess in need of some guy in tights and a cape (or as a prize to be won after a sword fight). In fact, it finally shows the true weaker sex in its pure unadulterated form: as bumbling, scrawny little pansies. Well, the princes at least. Here’s a list of our favorite heroines: further evidence that girls do it better.

Hit Girl 
Perhaps the most bad-ass eleven year-old on the planet, Kick-Ass’s Hit Girl showed us that size really doesn’t matter when decapitating 200-pound mobsters with expertly thrown butterfly knives and roundhouse kicks to the shin, without of strand of purple hair out of place. But I mean, if I were eleven, I’d love to be a bodysuit-clad, profanity-slinging, sai-wielding vigilante. Oh well, I guess writing about kicking ass will have to suffice for now.

 

Lara Croft
With the most enviable body on the planet (sorry Gisele), Lara Croft’s gorgeous gams aren’t just perfectly photogenic—they can also scale perilous cliffs with ease, reduce machine-gun toting men into ragdolls in a thigh headlock and propel her into gravity-defying feats up the walls of a building. In the words of the Croft herself, “Yes, a lady should be modest.”

 

Xena
Before there was Frodo, there was Xena: a leather-clad, chakram-throwing, 100% woman warrior with a Pantene Pro-V ready head of hair. Conquering the world, one blood-letting battle at a time? Check. Getting laid by Julius Caesar? Check. Killing 99% of the Greek gods via a supernatural power? Check and double check!

Sailor Moon
I don’t know about you, but as a wee little tyke I was always jealous of Sailor Moon’s awesome power to magically change into an outfit via a jeweled scepter and a bindi-esque forehead diamond. I also could never figure out why her enemies would be willing to wait the whole ten minutes while she changed into said magical outfit. Also, she has two talking cats! And a guy in a tux who always has a rose on hand! Some girls have all the luck.

 

The Power-Puff Girls
Sugar, spice, and Chemical X! Clearly, I need some of that stuff, because coffee just doesn’t do it for me anymore. The Power Puff Girls were the original symbols of girl-power, possessing super-cute, super huge eyes and the ability to kill all sorts of diabolical evil-doers via laser-shooting corneas and a mere tap of their fingerless…paws? I just have one question for the terrific trio—how do they keep their stockings so starchy white?

Pixar’s ‘Brave’ Heroine May Battle the Atlanta Braves

Disney and Pixar’s new film Brave is noteworthy, mainly because it features a female as its lead character, and she’s the adventuring protagonist, rather than a helpless damsel in distress. While few are raising objections to the film’s heroine (I mean, are there people out there who think that it’s not okay for Scottish girls to ride horses and fight battles back in old-timey times?), one group takes offense at the movie’s title. The Atlanta Braves have filed an objection against Disney’s trademark applications, claiming that the film will cause harm to the Major League Baseball team’s brand. Seriously.

According to Stitch Kingom (via Vulture): 

Although trademarks are specific to their singular and plural forms and the Braves do not possess any trademarks for the word BRAVE (only BRAVES), the organization believes that damages will occur as a result of Disney’s trademarks being approved as they have used the singular form before on merchandise and insist it is common for fans, media, et al to use the singular form when referring to a single player, whereas the pluralized form refers to the entire team.

Private negotiations between The Walt Disney Company and the Atlanta National League Ball Club are currently taking place in regards to several of the objected filings with the ball club intending to file an objection against yet another of the registrations. 

As any elementary school student with a modest grasp on grammar could tell you, the adjective "brave" and the plural noun "Braves" are two vastly different things. According to the very handy Dictionary.com, "brave" is defined as "possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance." The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, are a private sports organization represented by racist Native American imagery. See the difference?

In case you need further evidence, below are the trailer for Brave and a video of mostly white people simulating the use of a tomahawk. 

Pixar Puts on a Brave Face with the Trailer for ‘Brave’

Fact: Every Pixar movie has earned over $150 million in the United States alone. Other Fact: Their new movie Brave is their first to feature a female protagonist. So now that you’ve got your facts straight, pop quiz: Name another major studio movie featuring a Scottish woman as the lead character? Give up? That’s because there isn’t one.

The lead character, a brave lass named Merida, is voiced by Boardwalk Empire‘s Kelly McDonald, because no one puts on a better Scottish accent than an actual Scot. What do you think? Does the idea of a strong, young red-headed Scotswoman appeal to you? If yes, there is a site I could recommend to you but you might need a credit card. 

Take a gander at the trailer below. 

Afternoon Links: Aerosmith Goes Topless, Pixar Gets Their First Female Heroine

● The boys of Aerosmith, otherwise known as Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Joey Kramer, hit the beach together and posed topless for the paparazzi. It’s almost cute? [Vulture]

● She shouldn’t have to, but Mindy Kaling reminds us that you can wear lipstick and watch the Kardashians and still be smart and feminist. "I do think that if you like lipstick or watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians while you do the elliptical machine, and you’re willing to admit to any of that, that there are people who think you’re letting down women or something. Which is just a bunch of bullshit," she says. [AV Club]

● Bradley Cooper is your lastest Sexiest Man Alive, according to the "sexy" experts at People. He takes over for last year’s winner, Ryan Reynolds, who is too busy canoodling with Blake Lively to care. [People]

● Starbucks is tired of providing free and not-too-gross public restrooms for all of New York City. If you need a new pitstop.  [NYP]

● The best TV mom of the last ten years, Connie Britton, has adopted a nine-month-old boy from Ethiopia, meaning she is now a real mom, right? [Us]

● This new UNHATE ad campaign featuring photoshopped images of world leaders locking lips, President Obama, included, lends new power to phrase "what the fuck." [Flavorwire]

● It’s hard to believe, but Pixar is finally debuting their first female heroine. Meet Merida, the fierce Scottish Princess and star of next summer’s Brave. [Huff Post]