Ralph Breaks The Internet, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms & The Grinch Movie Reviews

Three more quickies today as I try to catch up on reviewing the 2018 films I’ve seen. Two of these were okay (just okay) and one was pretty dreadful…

Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)

Directed by Rich Moore & Phil Johnston

Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph,” Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.

My Opinion:

I love the first Wreck-It Ralph. I think it’s easily one of the better Disney films of recent years and I appreciated that it felt like such an original idea. Hell, it’s almost as good as Pixar’s films! (Almost). And being a lover of the Eighties, I of course loved the classic video game element. Therefore, it was likely that I wouldn’t enjoy this sequel as much. It doesn’t have the magic of the first film (as is often the case with sequels). And it also loses the simple video game innocence of the first film by making the Internet the focus of this one (and having all the brand names in your face constantly). I hate the Internet. Okay… I’m on it all the damn time… (like now). But I’d still rather be living in the pre-Internet Eighties again.

I’ll start with the best thing about this sequel: Ralph & Vanellope. I love these characters and they’re just as loveable in the sequel as in the first film. Actually, Vanellope is even better in this one – she’s much sweeter since becoming friends with Ralph. They make this movie worth watching and I did really enjoy seeing them again even though I didn’t like the story itself all that much. I also enjoyed the “Oh My Disney” bit. It kind of goes against saying I wasn’t crazy about all the commercialism but I admit that I love Disney. I’m a Disney whore! I love going into the damn Disney Store. I’m such a child. So, I did really like seeing Vanellope with all the Disney princesses. Those bits were a lot of fun and I liked spotting so many other Disney characters & references. Oh and I loved that one cameo (don’t want to spoil it)! Screw it – This is a Disney film. They’re allowed to Disney-fy the crap out of it! I liked those bits just fine.

Where it fails is when it talks about eBay & memes & viral videos & etc etc etc. And the end gets a bit bizarre and didn’t really work for me at all. I really missed the innocence of the first film. This was okay but where can they go from here? It was just a little disappointing but my expectations weren’t too high anyway since Disney sequels are rarely all that great. Oh, but the end credits scenes were brilliant! There are two: one partway through the credits and one at the very end. I highly recommend staying for them as they’re pretty much better than the entire movie itself.

My Rating: 7/10

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (2018)

Directed by Lasse Hallström & Joe Johnston

Based on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann & The Nutcracker by Marius Petipa

Starring: Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
This is a retelling of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and Marius Petipa’s The Nutcracker, about a young girl who is gifted a locked egg from her deceased mother and sets out in a magical land to retrieve the key.

My Opinion:

Wow – this has very negative reviews & ratings on IMDb. I don’t fully understand why. I think people were definitely too harsh on this one. No, it’s certainly not great and is quite weak for a Disney film but it was lovely to look at and had a fun story. Hell, I enjoyed it more than that live-action and completely pointless Beauty And The Beast. At least this is a story I didn’t already know and isn’t a re-hash of a far superior film.

Maybe the story was a little too weird for audiences these days? People don’t really go for anything slightly bizarre anymore. As I said, it’s quite a lovely looking film and I liked that it felt a bit like Narnia at first. It makes for a good winter movie in the lead up to Christmas. I also thought the main girl was very good, just as she was in Interstellar (she was the only good thing about that overblown Nolan film).

And Morgan Freeman is in this. Yay! (Am I allowed to admit to loving him again yet? Are people over the “oh my god, he said flirty things to women!” bullshit?). And Helen Mirren – I like that saucy minx too. Unfortunately, Keira Knightley is in this as well. Have I mentioned that she annoys me? (Yes, I have. Many times). Speaking of her and how I said in my previous review that I’m a Disney whore: Knightley recently got on her high horse again and said she doesn’t let her kid(s?) watch Disney movies because they’re a bad influence and blah blah blah. Screw that. How about you talk to them & teach them the difference between reality & fantasy and then let them watch what every other kid watches and enjoys? Are they not allowed to watch this movie, then???

Anyway. This movie was okay but it was also missing something. I can’t quite figure out what it was missing, though. It has the right elements to make it a family classic but it’s already fading from my mind only a few weeks after seeing it. Maybe it’s Knightley’s fault! Her role is too big. She got on my nerves, especially with that stupid voice she put on. Yeah, let’s blame her. Otherwise, this is a decent enough family Disney movie that doesn’t quite deserve the horrible reviews it has had.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Grinch (2018)

Directed by Scott Mosier & Yarrow Cheney

Based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Cameron Seely, Angela Lansbury

Narrated by Pharrell Williams

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia)
The plot follows the Grinch as he plans to ruin Whoville’s Christmas celebration by stealing all the town’s decorations and gifts.

My Opinion:

Ugh. No. Okay – I’m a big fan of the 1966 American TV classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Who isn’t?! That show has been a yearly American tradition for ages now. It’s one of the most beloved holiday TV specials. That’s why they shouldn’t have done this film. They were never going to live up to something that is, quite frankly, almost complete perfection.

Speaking of movies fading from my mind only a few weeks after seeing them, I can barely remember a thing about The Grinch now. I remember liking his adorable and long-suffering dog Max, but the same goes for the 1966 version anyway. I think the biggest problem with this version is this: The Grinch isn’t enough of an asshole. TV Grinch was gloriously mean. Then, to make it even worse, this movie added a bullshit backstory to help explain why The Grinch is a bit of an asshole. We don’t need a stupid backstory! Can’t someone just be an asshole for the hell of it? I mean, I’m a bit of an asshole for no good reason. This is probably why I’ve always slightly preferred The Grinch before his heart grows. He’s damn funny at the beginning of the 1966 version. He’s boring as shit in this lifeless adaptation.

Oh well – I guess it’s still not as bad as that Jim Carrey monstrosity, which is one of my most-hated movies of all time. Just leave The Grinch the fuck alone, Hollywood. That’s what he wants anyway! Oh, and why the hell did they have Pharrell Williams only narrate this movie and not do the music as well? His music is one of the things that makes Despicable Me so great. Illumination is clearly never going to live up to that film ever again.

My Rating: 4.5/10

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An Education (2009) Blind Spot Review 

An Education (2009)

Directed by Lone Scherfig

Screenplay by Nick Hornby & Based on An Education by Lynn Barber

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age.

My Opinion:

This is my first Blind Spot review of 2016 (you can see all 12 of my Blind Spot choices HERE). I’m even managing to do this in January! Maybe I can aim to do these on the last Monday of every month. Maybe. I did start with the “easiest” watch, though (I’ll have to work up the nerve for things like Battle Royale). This movie was pretty good. Nothing too memorable but a solid film all around with Carey Mulligan in a star-making role.

There were two main reasons I’ve been meaning to watch this movie: Nick Hornby & Carey Mulligan. I like Nick Hornby’s books (High Fidelity being the best) so I was interested in this as he adapted the screenplay, which earned him an Oscar nomination. I also should really try to watch Brooklyn now since he’s again nominated for the adapted screenplay Oscar for that as well. Anyway, An Education is a well-written film (I suppose credit also goes to the novel’s author, Lynn Barber) with a good story and a strong young central character played convincingly by Carey Mulligan (which also earned her a best actress Oscar nomination). Oh, and the film itself was also nominated for Best Picture that year so it was up for three big awards and I’d say it deserved each of those nominations.

I first noticed Carey Mulligan in the absolutely fantastic Doctor Who episode Blink, in which she carried the whole show. I think this was back when they decided they’d have one episode each season which wouldn’t really feature The Doctor? They should do that again since Blink was a million times better than Doctor Who now – I don’t even watch it anymore. 😦


This photo is from Doctor Who, not An Education. Although it would’ve been cool to have some Weeping Angels in this movie…

Anyway! I’m assuming that role may be what got her noticed as An Education wasn’t long after that? I have to say I’ve been disappointed with some of her roles since (especially in The Great Gatsby) but I don’t know if some of that has been a fault with those scripts. She’s perfect in An Education, though, and utterly believable as a 16/17-year-old girl in 1960’s London. It looks like she was about 23 when she filmed it but I had to look into it as I did wonder if she was actually only a teenager at the time – it did seem like she could be (she doesn’t look like the thirtysomething cast of Grease!).

This isn’t a big flashy film and it’s not one that everyone would necessarily go for but it’s a good “Sunday afternoon” watch. Which sounds kind of insulting but I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m also doing my best to not call this film “nice” as that word annoys the hell out of my husband. But, well, that’s how I feel about this one! So I’ve looked up “nice” at thesaurus.com:

An Education is “admirable, amiable, approved, attractive, becoming, charming, commendable, considerate, copacetic, cordial, courteous, decorous, delightful, ducky, fair, favorable, fine and dandy, friendly, genial, gentle, good, gracious, helpful, ingratiating, inviting, kind, kindly, lovely, nifty, obliging, okay, peachy, pleasant, pleasurable, polite, prepossessing, seemly, simpatico, superior, swell, unpresumptuous, welcome, well-mannered, winning, winsome”.

HA! I like “ducky”. This movie is ducky!

1960’s London (and also Paris) is a great time period & setting so I really enjoyed that. And Mulligan was adorable in that dress in the movie’s poster! The story, although slightly less relevant nowadays, is one I’d like to have my daughter watch when she’s the same sort of age as Mulligan’s character. Basically, the story is about Mulligan falling for a charming older man and how she’s willing to give up everything for him (mainly, her education – she’s a smart girl who plans to go to Oxford University).

I guess the only complaint I’d have about this film is that I hated Peter Sarsgaard’s smarmy character. I honestly don’t know if that was the point, though, or if that’s just how he happened to come across? I was thinking “how could she fall for this idiot?” but maybe the whole point is that a 16-year-old girl doesn’t know any better? He actually gave me the creeps. It just kind of sucked as I felt he let the film down and I wonder if I’d have liked it a bit more with a different actor. He just seemed so “wrong” while Mulligan felt so “right”. That’s my only real complaint, though. Overall, I enjoyed An Education although it’s not really something that would become a favorite or anything like that. It’s worth watching just once if you think you’d like it. It’s ducky!

My Rating: 7/10

Justin And The Knights Of Valour (2013) Review

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Justin And The Knights Of Valour (2013)

Directed by Manuel Sicilia

Starring Voice Actors:
Freddie Highmore
Antonio Banderas
James Cosmo
Charles Dance
Tamsin Egerton
Rupert Everett
Barry Humphries
Alfred Molina
Mark Strong
David Walliams
Julie Walters
Olivia Williams
Saoirse Ronan

Running time: 96 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)

Justin (Freddie Highmore) lives in a kingdom where bureaucrats rule and knights have been ousted. His dream is to be become one of the Knights of Valour, like his grandfather was, but his father Reginald (Alfred Molina), the chief counsel to the Queen (Olivia Williams), wants his son to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer.

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My Opinion:

I’ll make this quick & simple: This isn’t exactly a great film but, hey, it’s for kids. It’s not actually THAT bad, though, considering it wasn’t made by Pixar or Disney or even the inferior (well, what I see as inferior) Dreamworks.

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I think kids will enjoy this one. I myself actually enjoyed it a bit more than this year’s Epic, which looked prettier but had a story that was somewhat too complex for the younger kids and had forgettable characters. Justin of course has lessons to teach the audience, just like most kids’ films: Work hard, stand up for what you believe in, and bitchy self-absorbed girls never get the knight in shining armor (well, it would be nice if that last bit were true in real life as well).

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Oh! And you must have a knight who looks like Sean Connery if you’re going to make a movie about knights.

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Boys will probably like this one more than girls (especially if they liked How To Train Your Dragon) because of all the knights and a little bit of fighting with some baddies and Justin going through training to become a knight (the training with the elder knights was by far the best bit of the film). But there’s also a good, feisty female character that girls (and their mothers) will approve of. (You don’t think she’ll actually hook up with Justin by any chance, do you?!) 😉

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So, anyway – Justin And The Knights Of Valour isn’t going to change the world but it’s not the worst movie you’ll ever have to sit through with your kid. It has a solid enough story and few strong characters and the usual “teaching of values” with a bit of silly comic relief. Whatever. It’s better than I was expecting, at least.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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I just wanted to get this quickie review out of the way so that I can focus on finishing my review for Rush in the next couple days. Because that film was fantastic!!! 🙂

Monsters University (2013) Review

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Monsters University

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Starring Voice Actors:
Billy Crystal
John Goodman
Steve Buscemi
Helen Mirren
Alfred Molina

Music by Randy Newman

Studio:
Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios

Running time: 103 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

This prequel to Monsters Inc shows us how best friends Mike & Sulley first met while at Monsters University. And how they weren’t exactly best friends at first…

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My Opinion:

Oh Pixar… I love you so much. You’ve brought me so much happiness over the years, which is pretty amazing considering that I was already an adult when Toy Story came out. I won’t go on about Pixar too much – I’ll get on with the Monsters University review. Just letting you know I’m a HUGE Pixar fan.

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Does Monsters University live up to Monsters Inc? No, of course not. But I doubt anyone expected it to – that would be a pretty impossible task as the first one is absolutely brilliant. One of the best things about the first one is the relationship between Sulley and the adorable Boo. Obviously, you don’t get that here so I knew from the start that it was going to be missing a big part of what helped to make these characters (especially Sulley) so endearing in the first place. I was also a bit worried as the trailers were making it look more and more like some sort of All-American Animal House kind of college comedy film. And it is. But it’s still fun and it was great seeing two of my favorite characters together again.

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As far as Pixar sequels (er, prequels) go, Monsters University is unfortunately not as good as Toy Story 2 & 3 were. I felt those really stood on their own as good films – the third one actually managed to be almost as good as the first while the second one was very funny. I was hoping that, where Monsters University wouldn’t have another “Boo” relationship, it would at least be really funny to make up for it. And it IS funny (unlike most inferior kids films from other studios, such as Dreamworks). But it had way fewer laughs than I was expecting – Monsters Inc is much more funny overall. I think a big part of the reason is that Mike Wazowski, one of my favorite movie characters EVER, is far more serious in Monsters University as he works very hard to achieve his dream of becoming the best scarer at Monsters University and to work at Monsters Inc. Okay – I realize he’s very serious in the original as well but all the funny stuff at his expense just worked much better in that one. Also, Sulley isn’t the loveable big blue furball that he is in the first one. As I said, this is thanks to the fact that we don’t have Boo there to help make his character that way. But also, and I think this is pretty common knowledge by now, he starts out a little “less than likeable” in Monsters University. But we all know that this prequel is about watching HOW the friendship develops between these two very different monsters and that was fun to watch. I still adore these two guys!

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Summary:

As to be expected, it lacks a lot of the heart of Monsters Inc but is also unfortunately lacking in the number of laughs we get from that one. It’s a bit too “frat humor” at times, which kids and most people outside of America won’t relate to. And the straight-forward college comedy/underdog storyline just can’t compare to the totally “out there” concept of Monsters Inc, which I feel sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves for how truly original it is.

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I hate that I’m making Monsters University sound bad, though, as it certainly isn’t – it’s just very hard to NOT compare it to the Monsters Inc movie I so adore. It does drag a bit in the middle but the beginning and, luckily, the ending DO make up for it and capture some of the magic (and some of the “heart” I keep mentioning) of the original. I obviously won’t give away the ending but I’m happy to report that I found it a satisfying conclusion (or “beginning” if you want to look at it that way) for Mike & Sulley. And as my hubby pointed out, it sends a good message to kids – which is good after a bit too much “college humor” that probably went over their heads. As for the beginning: I loved it. Probably my favorite part of the whole movie. But Mike Wazowski has always been my favorite… For lovers of Mike, you’ll be happy to know that Monsters University is much more the story of Mike whereas Monsters Inc is more Sulley’s story. And Mike as a little kid is the cutest thing I’ve seen in a very long time. 🙂

My Rating: 8/10

(FYI – My Monsters Inc rating is probably 9.5/10)

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Scene After The Credits?: Yes, Monsters University does have an extra little fun scene at the very end of the credits. Worth watching for completionists. Like me.

Characters From Monsters Inc?: Yes, we get to see some characters from Monsters Inc. I won’t say who so it can be a surprise. I feel bad at not mentioning Randall – it was fun seeing him again as well. Watch for the poster above his bed – You’ll recognize it if you know Monsters Inc well.

How does Monsters University compare to Despicable Me 2?: I was very much looking forward to both of these as I love the originals so much. My fear was that Despicable Me 2 was looking like it was going to be much better than Monsters University. Well, I do think Despicable Me 2 did manage to live up to its original a bit more than Monsters University did. I thoroughly enjoyed both but almost hate to say that I enjoyed Despicable Me 2 (slightly!) more. My review is HERE if you’re bothered.