Monster's University Grade: B
Monster's University isn't as good as the Toy Story sequels. But it's not even close to being as bad as Cars 2 (or the first one, for that matter). So there's that.
With the scarers of Monsters, Incorporated harnessing the energy of laughter at the end of Monsters, Inc., Pixar needed to go a different route with the follow-up movie. Enter Monsters University, a prequel about the initially acrimonious relationship between future pals Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman) when they first go to scare college.
Mike knows every scare theory in the book, but in practice, he's as terrrifying as a tadpole. Meanwhile, Sulley arrives on campus with scary natural talent, a good pedigree and no work ethic. Sulley would be that ridiculous college athlete who never learned the playbook because he was too busy hanging out with freshman girls.
The inevitable clash between brains and brawn drives much of the film's plot, which is decidedly less original than the plot of Monsters, Inc. If you've ever seen Revenge of the Nerds, last month's The Internship or any of the many college misfit movies, all will be familiar to you. In fact, the detailed allusions to real college life (like Frisbee-tossing and horrible campus guitar players) are the funniest parts of an otherwise-sort-of-unfunny movie.
We always expect more from Pixar, so in a way, Monsters University is a disappointment. But the tone is still sweet, rather than trite. The scares and laughs from the audience won't power Monstropolis quite like they used to, but the life of Monsters, Inc. hasn't run out yet. Rated G.
World War Z Grade: C
You've never seen zombies like the ones in World War Z. A ravenous race of undead borne from a rogue rabies virus, these zombies move in vicious hordes, though even that might be an understatement. When Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) ventures out of his family's car and sees the impending zombie chaos coming their way, it doesn't look like a wave of zombies -- it's more like an avalanche.
But quantity rarely enhances quality, so the overcharged CGI-fest that is World War Z doesn't emit much more than a dull roar. Loosely (and I mean loosely) adapted from Max Brooks's hit novel of the same name, the film eschews the novel's original and ingenious allegorical functions in lieu of conformity and conventionality.
Sometimes, the movie has some genuine moments of terror. But they're tame ones. Yeah, it's cool to see a million zombies climbing up a huge wall outside of the allegedly-safe Jerusalem, but the horror is too clean. How do you make a PG-13 zombie movie (with the exception of you, Warm Bodies)?
The movie takes no risks with anything, especially the political implications that were so important in the book. They don't even try to dumb that aspect down for the masses -- it's just completely ignored.
You don't care about Brad Pitt's relationship with his family because his wife (Mireille Enos) spends the whole movie waiting for him to call on her satellite phone. Gerry has no arc outside of figuring out the virus and none of the other characters have enough screen time to make any sort of meaningful impression (including Matthew Fox, who's inexplicably in the movie for about 10 seconds).
Don't worry though -- apparently they're making a sequel. Rated PG-13 for intense, frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.