July 4th, we picked up Chris Madsen, and went over to Mayfair Mall (open 10-6 on the holiday)to see "Monsters University," the prequel to "Monsters, Inc.". In this one, ambulatory eyeball Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) is the protagonist, and the story deals with his entry into the prestigious Monsters University "Scarers" program, which prepares one for a career harvesting the children's screams that power the Monster world. James P. "Sully" Sullivan (John Goodman) is his classmate, and both get washed out of the program for differing reasons. The plot then goes on to detail their plans to get back into the program.
While its an ultimately sweet story, actions have real-world type consequences, and there are plot twists that take it away from the "loveable losers save the day for the school" story that's been made a cliche after first having been done by Harold Lloyd in 1925.
The veterans are well-supported by an interesting voice cast in a myriad of monstrous shapes, lead by Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble, and Alfred Molina in a nice cameo as Professor Knight. Unlike a lot of the "cute" monsters, Hardscrabble is a truly fearsome image, with the head,torso, and wings of a dragon, and the tail and legs of a gigantic myriapod.
Pixar continues to go from strength to strength in animation. The crowd scenes and long shots are particularly astonishing, as no to creatures are alike, or have the same number of heads, or number and types of limbs. The sources are drawn not only from myth and legend, but classical monster artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, as well.
We enjoyed the film a lot. As a prequel, it doesn't "spoil" Monsters, Inc., and you don't have to have seen Monsters, Inc., in order to see and enjoy "Monsters University."
After the movie, we went to the Applebee's restaurant at the Mall for dinner. This was the first time I'd been into one for many years. Chris and I each had their 9 oz. sirloin steak, and Georgie had a classic turkey breast sandwich. The steaks were good and cooked to order, and the potato and vegetable accompaniments were OK. Georgie said the turkey was good, but thought the ciabbatta used as bread was a bit insubstantial. We would definitely eat there again.
After that, we went over to Chris' place to chat and let dinner settle enough for dessert, which was apple pie and ice cream we had bought.
After leaving Chris, we walked down to Jackson Park for fireworks, which was a nice twenty-five minute show. We noticed a new color this year, a light greenish yellow that was quite interesting.
Saturday the 6th, we met Henry Osier for dinner at East Garden restaurant on Oakland Avenue, to be followed by the new film of "Much Ado About Nothing," by Joss Whedon at the Downer Theater.
East Garden is a Chinese restaurant, with the typical extensive menu. I had Mushu Duck, Georgie had Sesame Chicken, and Henry chose a ginger noodle dish. All the food was good, but not wonderful, and service was decent. I'd try them again if in the neighborhood, but wouldn't go out of my way just to go there.
"Much Ado About Nothing" is the production of Shakespeare's play put together by Whedon in ten days after "The Avengers" wrapped, shot in black and white, using Whedon's home as the villa where the action takes place, and cast with Whedon's regular players. The result is fun and interesting, with the cast giving a very accessible reading of the play that modern viewers not previously familiar with it can enjoy. The script was straight Shakespeare, although the actions were sometimes a bit more slapstick than typical on the stage. In particular, the antics of Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker) when they think they are eavesdropping on their friends, are rather over-the-top, but funny. Nathan Fillion was excellent as Dogberry, playing the role mostly straight, instead of as a Keystone Kop.
I generally liked the production very much, except for one salient thing--a wordless sequence at the film's opening showing the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick before the time of the play, which is directly contradicted by the script and the play's whole argument. This is responsible also for the reading given to Acker for her opening speeches about Benedick which are far from "merry war," and indeed bitter. I don't understand why Whedon thought this was necessary and find it a disappointing flaw in an otherwise fine film.
For me, the definitive film version of "Much Ado" is still the Emma Thompson/Kenneth Branagh version (although Fillion's Dogberry is better than Michael Keaton's baffling portrayal), but this is a very worthwhile addition to the canon of Shakespeare in cinema.
This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/238037.html. Please comment there using OpenID.