Tag Archives: Helen Mirren

What Happens in the Kremlin Stays in the Kremlin

RED was the sleeper hit of 2010. The well-written action/comedy exceeded expectations both in quality and commercial success. It is littlered_2_poster_teaser wonder  the film was destined to do well with Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich portraying aging retired CIA, MI6 and KGB operatives. As is the current nature of Hollywood, the sequel was a forgone conclusion. Amazingly all of the fantastic talent returned for the second outing.

RED, along with the Expendables (2010), touched off a type of action film renaissance–not just a renewed appreciation for the genre, but a glow placed on the stars that drove the genre in the 80s and 90s.  What differentiates RED is its reliance on those who were often not action stars, and John Malkovich providing high comic relief.

RED2 begins with Bruce Willis’ Frank Moses once again trying to adjust to civilian life. Moses and his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) are experiencing a very realistic relationship issue. Following the events of RED Frank is overly worried about Sarah’s safety, and Sarah has gotten bored with their non action RED 2packed lives. After the presumed death of Malkovich’s Marvin, Moses is brought in for questioning about a portable nuclear device the details of which have just been released via Wikileaks. After a fantastic shootout between Moses and various special forces, led by the very capable Neal McDonough, Moses and the not dead Marvin are forced to go on the run in an attempt to clear their names.

Our unlikely team of heroes are joined by Cathrine Zeta-Jones as a former love interest of Moses’ and Anthony Hopkins as the delightfully mad scientist who invented the bomb at the center of the plot. The trail leads them to Paris and Moscow all the our team is stalked by the “worlds greatest assassin” played by Byung-hun Lee.

RED2 explores complex relationships and displays depth even though it doesn’t have to. The action sequences are a tad over the top, so much so that it seems to poke fun at more serious movies in the genre. The new characters and exotic locations are fantastic. Though often accused of phoning it in as of late, Bruce Willis’ performance is one of his best. He conveys a great deal of emotion through facial expression, and seems to show genuine surprise and irritation as he reacts to some of the more ridiculous scenarios. red2set-116

RED2 doesn’t break any new ground, and it doesn’t need to. What it does has already been done. Where it succeeds is in its acknowledgment of that. Everyone is doing it, but from where I stand, no one is doing it better.

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‘Monsters University’ Delivers Laughs, Lessons, and Likability

Monsters University combines two of my favorite things: Pixar movies and college. If that combo isn’t as big of a draw for you, no worries. The film is still worth your while.

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Mike and Sully weren’t always best buds. ‘Monsters University’ tracks their road to friendship. (Image: ign.com)

This prequel to Monsters, Inc. gives viewers a look into the lives of Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) before their career at Monstropolis’ mega corporation. After going on a pivotal field trip to Monsters, Inc. in his youth, Mike sets his sights on becoming a Monsters University graduate. His expansive knowledge of the art of scaring gives Mike an edge at the start of the program, but he is soon upstaged by Sully’s thunderous roar technique and prestigious family name. Their rivalry escalates until they find themselves competing on the same team during the university’s annual Scare Games. With a group of misfit monsters in tow, they learn they must work together to succeed.

Although the plot of Monsters University is somewhat simplistic, the film manages to win over viewers with its commitment to character development. Mike and Sully’s stories become more rounded; we get to know them just as the two get to know each other. Through the course of the film they show equal parts strength and vulnerability, humor and perseverance.

The motley brothers of Oozma Kappa (OK) toughen up for the Scare Games. (Image: youtube.com)

Mike and Sully are not the only monsters with whom we get acquainted, however. We meet Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi) when he is still a gawky chameleon who wants to be part of the in-crowd. We also get acquainted with the brothers of Oozma Kappa, including Don (Joel Murray), the non-traditional student with a history in sales and Squishy (Peter Sohn), a multi-eyed creature with a good heart. Overseeing all of these students is the formidable Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), whose strict demeanor is as legendary as her all-time scream record.

Although the hijinks and personalities are plenty entertaining, it’s what we do not see that leaves the most positive impact. In typical Pixar fashion, Monsters University presents themes that are relatable and timeless: strive for your goals, celebrate your talents, and embrace the uniqueness of others. Those are messages that both monsters and humans can live by.

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