Minions Is Anything But Memorable

Courtesy:  Universal Studios

Courtesy: Universal Studios

First, there was Despicable Me. Then came its far less entertaining or memorable sequel Despicable Me 2 only three years after the original movie’s release.  Now two years after the release of that movie, audiences Universal Studios has taken yet another step back with the release of its new Despicable Me hybrid spinoff/prequel MInions.  Minions has remained one of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets ever since the release of Despicable Me five years ago in 2010.  Regardless of whether or not audiences have seen that movie, everybody knew that Gru’s little yellow, twinkie-esque henchmen would get their own movie somewhere along the line.  It was more a matter of when than if.  The thing is that just as everybody knew the movie would happen, everybody also knew that there was no need for this movie to be made, either.  And this movie proves that argument without a shadow of a doubt.  Given it is not the worst new theatrical release of 2015.  But it definitely is anything but one of the year’s best.  The main way in which it proves itself so forgettable is its script.  This movie’s script is completely contrived and feels as if it was written both by and for someone with ADHD.  The fact that it felt like it was written by and for someone with ADHD is in itself another issue that weighs down the movie.  It jumps from point to point and moves so quickly that audiences really must pay close attention to the movie in order to keep up with everything going on.  For all of its major problems, it can at least be said of Minions that there is one shining light among everything.  That shining light is the work of the movie’s cast.  More specifically, veteran actress Sandra Bullock is to be commended along with fellow veterans Michael Keaton and Allison Janney.  While the movie’s cast is impressive in its own right, it still is not enough to save the movie and make it anything memorable or fully enjoyable.  That being the case, Universal Studios’ new CG-based flick Minions proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new theatrical releases.

Universal Studios’ new CG-based family flick Minions is one of the worst of this year’s crop of theatrical releases.  This includes both the year’s new family flicks (as rare as they are) and movies overall.  It is yet more proof that Hollywood’s seemingly unending river of prequels, sequels, remakes, and spinoffs is something that must be halted.  This is made most obvious through the movie’s script.  The script behind this movie is completely contrived.  It follows the evolution of the Minions from pre-history up to the 1960s, when they meet their first real “master” who was not Gru.  Instead it was a woman named Scarlet, who as it turns out was the world’s first female supervillain according to the story.  Of course, them being her henchmen and bumbling through a bunch of Three Stooges style comedy in their roles, writer Brian Lynch decided to give them the standard zero-to-hero story, even making Bob King of England for about eight hours along the way.  Of course they go from living it up in Buckingham to suddenly just changing the law and letting Scarlet take over before becoming heroes, stopping her in the end.  Some might ask the question, “what’s wrong with all of that?”  The problem with all of that is that suspension of disbelief is very difficult considering it all.  The minions essentially created the whole mess when they tried to steal the queen’s crown for Scarlet.  That set off the whole chain of events that would lead them to face off against Scarlet in the end.  Having stopped her, the minions are rewarded for basically cleaning up a mess that they caused in the first place.  Sound Familiar?  It should, Avengers fans.  Yes, this critic went there.  Taking the entire story and its outcome into consideration alongside the events of Despicable Me and its sequel, it really leaves one questioning how exactly the Minions could go from zeros to heros and back to serving another evil master along the way.  The big picture of it all just makes this story’s script completely contrived and unbelievable.  In turn it makes the movie rather unenjoyable in and of itself.

Brian Lynch’s script is in itself a major stopping point for Minions.  It is just one of the problems that weigh down this largely forgettable flick.  The movie’s pacing is another heavily weighing factor.  The manner in which Lynch crafted the script makes it feel like Lynch himself has ADHD or ADD and in turn wrote it for similar audiences.  Lynch wastes no time with the story once he really gets it moving.  Once the Minions meet Scarlet, things pick right up and move so fast that audiences are left feeling as if they have to have a program to follow the story.  After all, it doesn’t take long for Kevin, Stuart, and Bob to go from being lowly no one henchmen to living it up in Buckingham Palace to looking again for their next master, even after having been made heroes (again) for cleaning up a mess that they created in the first place.  The whole thing moves at what feels like a rapid fire pace from beginning to end, slowing down only momentarily at given points.  That quick pacing partnered with a script that is anything but believable or memorable, Minions proves even more why this movie, while not the year’s worst, is anything but one of the year’s best.

Minions, as it is shown here, is anything but one of this year’s best new movies.  If anything it is more ammunition in the argument against Hollywood’s seemingly endless river of prequels, sequels, remakes, and spinoffs.  For all of the issues weighing it down, it would be unfair to say that the movie is a complete loss.  It can be said that despite the major glaring issues raised by the movie’s script and its pacing, the work of the movie’s cast it to be applauded.  More specifically, the work of lead voice actor Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, Speed, Miss Congeniality)  and that of fellow veteran actors Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns, Birdman) and Allison Janney (Juno, Finding Nemo, American Beauty) is to be applauded.  Bullock is entertaining in her own right as the villainess Scarlett Overkill.  Her chemistry with Pierre Coffin (who voiced the minions) makes for plenty of laughs.  While Keaton and Janney only play small parts in the movie, they are just as entertaining as Walter and Madge Nelson, the evil, bank-robbing couple that brings the Kevin, Stuart, and Bob to Villain-con in the first place.  The duo’s demeanor as they pick up the minions and then proceed to rob a bank on the way to the convention is hilarious.  It’s not the first time that movie villains have been portrayed in such comical fashion.  But that doesn’t make the pair’s portrayal any less entertaining. The same can be said of their work later in their shorter appearances, too. Their work in those moments is no less entertaining than in their central appearance early on in the story. That the pair remained so entertaining throughout even in bit parts is a tribute to each actor’s talents. Those talents and those of Bullock combined together make for plenty of laughs throughout the course of this movie. Of course as much as the trio does for the movie it still is not enough to save the production. In the end, even with their efforts, Minions still proves to be a movie that is going to find itself just as forgotten as its predecessors and the majority of Hollywood’s countless other prequels, sequels, remakes, and spinoffs.

Universal’s new Despicable Me prequel/spinoff Minions is anything but one of this year’s best new theatrical releases. It isn’t the year’s worst, either. But it definitely is not one that will go on to be anything memorable in the long run. That is thanks in large part to a script that at its base, is rather unoriginal. The script sees the minions creating a mess in their search for a master and eventually cleaning up the very mess that they created and being rewarded for doing so. The script’s pacing is just as problematic as the story housed within the script. The pacing of the script requires audiences to remain fully engaged in the story for fear that they will miss something. It moves that fast. While both elements weigh down the movie very badly, it can be said that Minions does have at least one saving grace—the work of certain members of its voice cast. Those members specifically are lead actor Sandra Bullock and supporting cast Micheal Keaton and Allison Janney. Their collective work makes for its own share of entertainment throughout the course of the movie. However that entertainment is still not enough to save Minions from itself. That being the case, Minions proves in the end to be a movie that while not the year’s worst movie, is also anything but one of this year’s best. Rather it is one more work that will hopefully do anything but make its audiences into minions of Minions.

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Beetlejuice Compilation Is Loads Of Spooky Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Warner Home Video

Everybody’s favorite “ghost with the most” is back once again.  That’s right! Beetlejuice is back again thanks to Shout! Factory and Warner Brothers Home Video.  This time, fans of the modern classic cartoon have gotten a special treat as Halloween gets closer, with the new compilation DVD, Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular.  This compilation is another great trip back in time for those that grew up watching this cartoon and for their own kids.  Its writing and animation were unlike anything else on TV in the show’s original broadcast.  And the same applies today.  That writing and animation help make it a good fit for any family Halloween party this year.  And for those that are true fans, it’s a good bridge for fans that are waiting to see if Shout! Factory and WHV will release any of the show’s other seasons, the first season and the complete series already having been released this year.  Suffice it to say that whether one is a kid or a kid at heart, Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular is great fun whether for that upcoming Halloween party or just to watch.

Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular is a great trip down memory lane for those audiences that grew up with the modern classic cartoon series, Beetlejuice.  It pulls eight episodes from the show’s original four-season run for a frightful yet fun time for both the kids that grew up with the series and today’s kids.  Audiences will love watching Beetlejuice go toe-to-toe with a Boris Karloff style character named Boris to Death in “Ghost to Ghost.”  Beetlejuice isn’t the only one that gets the spotlight in this collection of episodes.  BJ’s neighbor Jacques wants to become Mr. Neitherworld in “Raging Skull.”  But he doesn’t stand a chance without the help of Beetlejuice.  Any parent will appreciate the pop culture references both in the episode’s title and within the episode itself.  If this isn’t convincing enough, then maybe the inclusion of one of the series’ best episodes, “Laugh of the Party” will help convince fans to check out this compilation.  Lydia holds her own Halloween party in this episode as competition to her hated nemesis, Claire Brewster.  Being a Halloween party, Beetlejuice is actually able to come as himself.  There’s just one problem.  He brings some “party animals” to *ahem* liven up the party (ba-dump-bump-bump).These are just a few examples of what makes Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular so enjoyable for the show’s original audiences and their own kids.  There are five more episodes included loaded with family friendly jokes and more that remain unlike anything else on TV today for kids.

The scripts crafted for Beetlejuice made the show unlike anything else on TV in the series’ original run.  They continue to make the show unlike anything on television today for young viewers.  It’s even unlike the movie on which the series is based.  This is really a good thing.  It serves as a tribute to the series’ longevity.  It isn’t nearly as dark and creepy as its live action horror/comedy brother.  It’s been toned down to make it kid friendly.  And there is nothing wrong with this at all.  Just as the writing made this series more kid friendly, so did the animation.  To be more specific, the use of colors helped make it more kid friendly.  As subtle as it is, both the Neitherworld scenes and those scenes in Lydia’s home were animated using relatively bright colors.  This was a subtle element.  But it was an extremely important element at the same time.  It made the Neitherworld less scary to young viewers and more like just some funny fantasy world.  In the case of Lydia’s home, it helped to offset Lydia’s Goth personality and made her more relatable to viewers.

Keeping in account everything noted, Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular is a fun time both for today’s young viewers and for those that grew up with the series in its original run on TV.  It’s especially valuable for the show’s fans because the release of the entire series box set earlier this year was done strictly through Amazon as opposed to the release of the show’s first season.  So until or unless Shout! Factory and WHV release the series’ remaining three seasons, fans have in this compilation at least a taste of the entire series to enjoy.  It’s available now in stores and online.  Fans can order the single-disc compilation now online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/218183.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Beetlejuice Season One Reminds Viewers Why Beetlejuice is The Ghost With The Most

 

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

When it debuted in 1989, the Tim Burton helmed horror comedy Beetlejuice was one of the scariest, funniest, and most original movies of its time.  It wasn’t long after the movie debuted that Burton headed up an animated, kid friendly take on the movie that has turned out to be another of the best children’s cartoons of its time.  Even in only four seasons, this unlikely hit produced so many laughs both for kids and their parents who had likely seen the movie.  It has remained such a fan favorite because of its storylines and its entirely original animation style.  It also is so impressive thanks to voice actor Stephen Ouimette.  His portrayal of the “Ghost with the Most” successfully brought Michael Keaton’s character to the small screen.  His portrayal of Beetlejuice, along with the show’s writing and animation makes this another example of everything that was once right with children’s entertainment in the late 80s and 90s.  This is evident from early on in the series’ first season, which is available now on DVD.

Audiences that grew up with Beetlejuice: The Animated Series will remember this show fondly for a number of reasons.  One of the most notable of those reasons is the show’s writing.  Those that remember the movie on which this show was based remember how everything unfolded.  So they will recall that the animated series is quite different.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And keeping in mind the proposed plot for a long in the works sequel to the original movie, that Lydia and Beetlejuice would be friends in the series actually makes more sense in hindsight.  Having Lydia and Beetlejuice being friends is just one of the positives to the writing behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series.  The physical comedy and the nonsensical plots add to each episode’s comic element.  For instance, having Beetlejuice taking on a babysitting service just to earn the money to buy Lydia a gift is completely against everything that Beetlejuice stands for.  So it goes without saying that this is a solid first episode to the series.  And the jokes that Beetlejuice pulls on Lydia’s dad, Charles, and her rival, Claire Brewster make for more than enough physical comedy for viewers of any age.  Suffice it to say that the show’s writers offered plenty more for viewers to enjoy whether for the first time or the first time again.  But to discuss all of it would take far too long.  So it would be best to go on to another factor behind the success of Season One.

From the show’s writing, the next sensible point of Beetlejuice: The Animated Series to discuss is its animation. Beetlejuice: The Animated Series had its own identifying mark thanks to its animation.  As a matter of fact, the way that the show’s artists combined actual hand drawn animation with computer based animation was something that no other cartoon at the time was doing at the time.  And it wouldn’t be done again for many years to come.  It can be argued that its animation style was quite the influence behind other cartoons crafted during the late 1990s and early 200s.  A prime example of that influence is Cartoon Network’s short-lived series, Courage the Cowardly Dog.  It’s just one of a handful of cartoons that have followed suit.  And it’s very possible that without the work of the animators behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series, these later series might not have happened.  Or at least, they might not have been brought to life when they did.

The animation and writing behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series did so much to make this show stand out from all of the other cartoons from which kids had to choose in its original airing.  And it still does to this day.  There’s one other factor that makes it so enjoyable, even in its debut season.  That last remaining factor is the voice talent of one Stephen Ouimette.  Ouimette was the man that brought Beetlejuice to life on the small screen.  And he did quite the job of it, too.  He expertly translated the character portrayed by Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns, Mr. Mom) onto the small screen, making him just as entertaining as Keaton.  From the personality, right down to the voice itself, Ouimette was showed time and again that he did his research with this character.  There was no better choice for the role, since Keaton was unable to (or simply didn’t want to) voice the “ghost with the most.”  He might have only gotten to give voice to Beetlejuice for four seasons.  But in those four seasons, he helped make Beetlejuice one of the most entertaining and ironically kid friendly characters on television.  And along with the writing and the animation, the whole show proved to be one of the best on television at the time.  It proves even today, to be one of the best even on DVD.  It is available in stores and online and can be ordered direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217313.

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Tiny Toons’ Final Set A Lackluster End To A Classic Cartoon Series

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 4: Looney Links! Is allegedly the final installment of director Steven Spielberg’s hit Fox Kids cartoon franchise.  If this is indeed the final installment of the series, then it certainly is not the best way to end things.  While most of this set is presented in its entirety, there is one glaring problem with the set.  That issue comes in the episode, “Weekday Afternoon Live.” The episode in question actually splices the final minutes of the “Toon TV” in place of the final segment that aired in “Weekday Afternoon Live” in its original broadcast.  This is not like Warner Home Video to let such an error occur in its home releases.  This critic’s copy of Volume Four is not the only one that has done this either.  According to others who have purchased the set, they too have had the same thing happen to them.  That one major blunder aside, the remainder of the set will still bring enjoyment to long-time fans of this modern classic cartoon.

This new (and allegedly final) installment of Tiny Toon Adventures offers more than its share of laughs, poking fun at pop culture once again and even some former presidents.  This time around, Buster, Babs, and company take another stab at Batman (and director Tim Burton).  They also go after one of the biggest censorship groups of the time, the Parents Music Resource Council (PMRC).  Only instead of dealing with music, Buster and Babs have to face off certain parties that want to censor cartoons.  Long-time fans will recognize the episode “Toon TV.”  That’s because it’s quite similar to a previous episode from Season One titled, “Tiny Toons Music Television.”  It’s basically more music video spoofs.  This time, the Tiny Toons gang goes even further back in time, covering hits from The Coasters, The Contours, and Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase.  They even cover Tchaikovsky’s famed ‘Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies’ in this episode.  Of course, this is just a sample of what audiences can expect from this final collection of episodes.  Buster and Babs pay tribute once more to the golden days of animation by trying to save a group of “two-Tone” toons from an evil executive.  There is much more to enjoy from this final portion of the show’s final season.  But as noted already, the episodes contained in this final series of episodes aren’t entirely that original, thus making it less enjoyable than the series’ first two seasons.

For the seemingly decreased sense of originality in these final episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures and the problematic error created in ‘Weekday Afternoon Live’, there is at least one equally noticeable positive to this set.  That positive is an episode the directly addresses the problem of bullying.  To be more specific, it presents the situation in which Shirley The Loon is bullied by her classmates at her ballet class.  Upon telling Babs about the harassment from her swan classmates, Babs vows to get even with them, which she indeed does.  Of course getting even isn’t what people who have been bullied should do.  This is by no means the message.  But it does in its own way, go after bullies.  At the same time, it re-tells the story of The Ugly Duckling.  So in essence, it’s actually a doubly enjoyable episode for this.

The one major sequencing problem evident with Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4: Looney Links! is something that will continue to plague this set unless the people at Warner Home Video make the effort to alleviate this issue.  Luckily, it does have its positives as noted already.  Looking at this set from the perspective of its packaging, the people charged with assembling this set at least got that right.  As with so many multi-disc sets being released now, WHV has released this final installment in a standard single disc case with an insert.  The insert included allows for the set’s first disc to be placed in its own spot, thus protecting the disc from scratching and, in turn, preserving the disc (along with the second disc) to be preserved much longer.  So it is for that reason, and for the laughs offered throughout this collection, that it is worthy of at least some praise.  But the massive error of having the wrong episode spliced into the end of another and the rehashed previous episodes will make any long-time fan of Tiny Toon Adventures take notice that this set is not perfect.  It is far from it by chance because of these issues.  Despite that, it is still a good addition to the collection of any Tiny Toons Adventures fan.  With any luck, Warner Brothers and Warner Home Video will take notice of all the complaints from fans, and re-issue this set as it should be presented.

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