Wednesday, March 25, 2009

“I come in peace, I mean you no harm, you're all going to die.” A Review of “Monsters Vs. Aliens”

I grew up in the 80's watching old science fiction played at odd times on various local television stations. “The War of the Worlds”, “The Fly” “The Creature From the Black Lagoon”, “The Blob”, etc; you name it, I probably watched it as a kid, and now Dream works has a new animated movie coming out that brings me back to my childhood days; “Monsters Vs. Aliens”.

The movie opens in beautiful Modesto, California where Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon: “Legally Blonde”,”Election”) is about to marry her weatherman sweetheart, Derek Dietel (Paul Rudd: “I Love You, Man”, “Knocked Up”) when she is suddenly and unexpectedly hit by a meteorite which gives her super strength, but also makes her grow to fifty feet in height.

Susan is quickly subdued by the government, and taken to a super secret facility under the watchful eye of General Warren Monger (Kiefer Sutherland: “24”, “Dark City”), and is introduced to her fellow monster movie stereotypes. There's Doctor Cockroach (Hugh Laurie: “House”, “Blackadder Goes Forth”), a scientist who crossed himself with a roach, B.O.B (Seth Rogen, “Superbad”, “Knocked Up”), a blob, The Missing Link (Will Arnett: “Arrested Development”, “Let's Go To Prison”), a prehistoric monsters thawed out by scientists, and Insectosaurus, a daikaiju from Japan.

The other monsters try to convince Susan, now dubbed Ginormica, that no one ever gets out of the base they have been imprisoned in, and this is true until an alien named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson: “The Office”, “Six Feet Under”) comes to Earth (America in particular, because where else do aliens land in movies?) searching for the substance that gave Ginormica her powers. After the president (Stephen Colbert: “The Colbert Report”) fails to make peaceful first contact with an electric keyboard, the monsters are called in to defeat the giant alien mecha now stomping its way towards San Francisco.

The first thing that struck me about this movie is its art style and character design; the world is vibrant, the vehicles in the film all have a very chunky almost toy-like quality to them, the characters look wonderful (although Susan seems to have been designed purely to be made into a Bratz-style doll), and everything has a wonderful sense of texture and realistic movement. Early in the film we see Susan in a jumpsuit when she is first captured by the government, and far from looking like it is painted on her like clothes tend to in computer animated films, this looks like she is wearing it, it bunches and folds as she moves like real clothes do. I was so taken by the quality of the animation in the film that I almost found it distracting at times.

After the art, the next thing to get my attention was the sheer amount of science fiction jokes in the movie, from the Dreamworks moon kid getting abducted by a flying saucer, to gags referencing everything from “E.T.” to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to “The Amazing Colossal Man” this movie's rapid fire humour brings me back to the first Shrek film. I am sure that on repeat viewings I will spot even more jokes that I missed the first time.

Of course you cannot talk about a computer animated feature film without comparing it to the gold standard, Pixar. As high quality as this film is, it is still not quite on the level of a Pixar film, but it is probably one of the best movies Dreamworks has released, certainly when compared to stuff like “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” or even the second and third Shrek films.

One thing I cannot comment on is the 3D effects. The screening I attended was not in 3D, but I could tell where the effects would be. The usual gags like someone playing a paddle ball towards the camera are present and accounted for, but there were also flying scene that will probably look stunning in 3D. I may actually have to go see this again in 3d just to get the full effect.

“Monsters Vs. Aliens” is likely to be the best family film out until “Up” is released. This is a great movie for all ages since it has a lot of jokes and references to movies, current events, and pop culture that will go right over kids heads, but will hit perfectly with parent. In other words, this is a movie that is appropriate for kids that will not make you feel like your IQ is dripping out your ears as you watch it. There is a good amount of violence, but it all has a very cartoony quality to it, and it is usually played for laughs (such as B.O.B. accidentally shooting an alien with its own raygun, and then looking very guilty about it afterwards), so if you don't have a problem with the sort of sci-fi violence you see in “Star Wars” then there should be no issues with this film.

Beautiful art, wonderful animation, a fantastic cast, and a script full of dialog that takes advantage of the cast as well as jokes that take advantage of the subject matter all combine together to make a movie that will keep kids and geeks alike laughing out loud. I definitely recommend seeing this film if you are any sort of science fiction fan. See who wins when the monsters battle aliens in theaters starting Friday, March 27

Check out ”Mallville – A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse”, my free ongoing blognovel.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Am Committed!

I have been officially committed to The Brink. It's not too late to commit yourself, just got to J.C. Hutchins' website submit your artwork, and create your patient profile like this one:


Monday, March 16, 2009

Personal Effects: Dark Art Trailer #1

J.C. Hutchins has just released the first trailer for his new book, "Personal Effects: Dark Art". This books looks awesome, I cannot wait.

If you are new to Hutchins, check out his "7th Son" podcast novel trilogy. With people like Hutchins, "Mallville" may never have been written.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Commit Yourself!

J.C. Hutchins is the awesome author of The 7th Son podcast novel trilogy (the first third of which is coming out as an actual book later on this year), and just a generally entertaining guy. He has a new book coming out called "Personal Effects: Dark Art".

"Personal Effects: Dark Art" takes place at the Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital (affectionately known as "The Brink"), and J.C. wants us all to get involved, to commit ourselves to The Brink. If you want to commit yourself, go over to and sign up. You get to create your own patient, complete with a back story (if you want), and you can submit your own artwork to Dr. Taylor which may appear on The Brink's website.

Unfortunately I am not an artist, but I am going to make an attempt, and you should too. Commit Yourself Today!

Monday, March 2, 2009

"I don't know, I'm drunk" A Review of "I Love You, Man"

There is nothing truly original left out there to write about. As a result of that, all movies generally follow certain well-used formulas, but every once in awhile someone manages to put a fresh spin on those old formulas; “I Love You, Man” is one of those movies.

“I Love You, Man” is the story of Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd: “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), a quiet kind of dull real estate salesman who has just gotten engaged to his girlfriend of less than a year, Zooey (Rashida Jones: “The Office”). Outside of Zooey and his mother (Jane Curtain: “3rd Rock From The Sun”), Peter really doesn't have any friends. He has co-workers, and the guys he fences with, but no one he considers a close friend, and certainly no close guy friends.

Coming home early one night he discovers Zooey and her friends (Including Jaime Pressly: “My Name is Earl”, “Ringmaster”) talking about his apparent lack of friends, and their concerns that there will be no one standing on his side at the wedding. This sets Peter on a quest to make some male friends, and ultimately find a best man.

With the help of his mother, his gay brother Robby (Adam Samberg: “Hot Rod”, “Saturday Night Live”), the Internet, and Zooey's friends, Peter goes on a series of disastrous man-dates, the results of which include him trying to keep his “date” from starting a soccer riot, playing backgammon with a senior citizen, and even getting tongue kissed.

When he's about to give up, Sidney Fife (Jason Segel: “How I Met Your Mother”, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) walks into his life. While holding an open house at Lou Ferrigno's house (yes, that Lou Ferrigno) , Sidney quickly shows a great ability to read people, and a frank honesty that Peter finds intriguing. The two guys hit it off, trade business cards, and eventually end up on a man-date of their own.

Peter quickly discovers that Sidney is nearly the polar opposite of him. Sidney is slobby, open, honest, relaxed, and does pretty much whatever he pleases. Sidney takes Peter under his wing, and teaches how to be a bro. The pair of them get so close that Zooey soon starts to become jealous of their friendship. Can Peter keep his new best friend and his fiance?

This movie is a nice twist on a standard romantic comedy formula. This is a relatively fresh spin on the formula from films like “The 40 Year Old Virgin” where the shy not-quite-a-loser guy is forced by his friends/family into a montage of horribly awkward dates in an attempt to find love. In “I Love You, Man”, Peter already has love, but it's the friends he needs. Knowing the formula doesn't matter though, as there are few plot twists to be found here, just plenty of laughs.

The comedy of this film is a combination of awkward cringe humour (More of the dude-just-talked-about-oral-sex-in-front-if-my-parents variety than the Ricky Gervais-style awkward-around-other-people variety), bawdy guy humour, and just a dash of gross-out humour. All of these styles blend together to create a film so funny that it is hard to hear the dialog over the laughter at certain points.

Aside from the main cast, there is a wonderful assortment of cameos and bit characters to watch out for. Jon Favreau, J.K Simmons, Thomas Lennon, Larry Wilmore, and of course Lou Ferrigno all make appearance. I'm sure there are others that I did not get, and, with the exception of Ferrigno, these parts could have been played by unknowns, however they do all add a little extra flavour to the film.

I would have to say that the humour in this film definitely skews towards men, but that doesn't mean that women won't enjoy it too (my wife certainly did). This is probably not a first date movie (and certainly not one for the kids), as there is not only heavy discussion of relationships, but also a lot of profane language and explicit discussions of sex (with and without partners). Then again, if that sounds like good first date material to you, knock yourself out.

This is easily the best comedy I've seen this year so far (to be fair, it's only up against “Fired Up!”), but I would also put it up alongside my favourite comedies of last year (“Sex Drive”, and “Yes Man”). If you want to laugh long and hard, then I heartily recommend that you go make friends with “I Love You, Man” when it hits theaters on March 20.

Check out ”Mallville – A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse”, my free ongoing blognovel.