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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Despicable Me 2 Fun For An Occasional Watch

Courtesy:  Universal Studios

Courtesy: Universal Studios

The latest installment in Universal’s Despicable Me franchise is more proof of the old adage that the sequel is never as good as the original.  Despicable Me 2 is an enjoyable story.  But ultimately, it is just as forgettable as so many other unnecessary sequels, prequels, and remakes that Hollywood has churned out in recent history.  That’s not to say that it is terrible.  It just was unnecessary.  Though to the script’s benefit, it can be noted that the pop culture references peppered throughout the story make up for the relatively lackluster story.  While the story itself was largely unnecessary, it can be noted of this movie that lead actor Steve Carell is just as entertaining this time out as he was in Despicable Me.  That talent, along with the pop culture references thrown in for good measure, makes this movie one that is good for a lazy day at home, but sadly little else.

The story at the heart of Despicable Me 2 is a continuation of the bad guy-gone-good story established in the franchise’s first flick.  The story of a bad guy-gone good is nothing new to the movie industry.  So the question left to Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul was how to make this story stand out from the others of its ilk.  The end result is a story that is unbalanced and predictable.  Daurio and Paul have crafted a story that becomes more rom-com than its family friendly predecessor.  The story starts well enough with Gru being recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help stop an evil mastermind.  In the process, Gru is teamed up with agent Lucy (KristenWiig).  The rom-com storyline that ensues ends up taking a front seat, while the real story ends up being sadly little more than a distraction.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, at least one of the jokes inserted into the script is one that was completely unnecessary.  The joke in question saw Gru looking for a syrum via a high-tech belt buckle of sorts.  As he searched a store for signs of said serum, it looked like he was dry humping pictures and even a statue.  Despicable Me 2 is supposed to be a family friendly movie.  So the gag in particular will leave some older viewers scratching their heads, wondering why Daurio and Paul thought they had to go blue.  Thankfully, it’s the only joke of its kind through the course of the movie’s near two-hour run-time.  Of course, the script would have been well-served to have not even had the gag in question included in the first place.  Luckily for Daurio and Paul, there are more than enough hilarious pop culture references mixed into the story to make up for that one unnecessary tasteless gag.

Despicable Me 2 suffers from its share of problems as should be evident by now.  But it isn’t without its merits.  One of those merits is the number of pop culture references thrown into the storyline, not the least of which being a handful of James Bond references.  Older audiences will appreciate the references to Dr. No as well as other classic Bond flicks.  At one point, there is also a tribute to the classic sci-fi/horror hybrid Alien.  One wouldn’t think that such a reference would work in this story.  But it does indeed work.  And again, audiences familiar with that movie will also find themselves laughing at the reference.  Daurio and Cinco pay homage to other classics throughout this story.  And audiences that watch the movie for themselves will take joy in each one.

The classic film references added to Despicable Me 2 go a long way toward saving the movie from itself.  The acting on the part of Steve Carell also helps salvage the story.  Carell expertly interprets Gru’s attempts to balance his newfound life on the other side of super villain status with being dad.   Audiences will laugh uproariously at Gru’s reaction by a certain woman to set him up with her friends.  So many older audiences will admit that they can relate to Gru’s relationship plight.  And even as the voice of a computer generated figure, Carell can make audiences laugh in the moments of physical comedy, too.  He makes a scene such as when Gru is attacked by a “watch chicken” feel as funny as any live action physical comedy bit.  It’s one more testament to Carell’s ability as an actor.  This is just one more of so many examples of Carell’s talents.  As with the jokes and gags peppered throughout the story, Carell’s acting is the only other saving  grace to what is an otherwise forgettable film.  It is available now in stores and online.  Despite being largely forgettable, it is still a movie worth renting once in a while.

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Pawn Holds Its Own Against Other Crime Thrillers

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new crime thriller, Pawn is an interesting work.  For a movie that was filmed in roughly fifteen days, and helmed by a first time director—David A. Armstrong—it turned out to be not the standard crime thriller.  Rather, it’s a story that requires audiences to completely invest their attention on the story.  If viewers can do this, then they will find that despite some scripting issues, it still turns out to be a movie that is worth at least one watch.

One of the main positives to Pawn is that it wastes no time jumping right into the story.  The story is simple enough.  On one side, audiences get a crime thriller that’s front loaded with lots of crosses and double crosses; so many in fact that some viewers may need a program to follow exactly what’s going on.  In direct relation is the story of a young man who simply wants to turn around his life after having gotten out of jail only hours before the standoff at crime boss Yuri’s café.  The young man is used as a red herring for one specific aspect of the story.  Though, it becomes increasingly obvious that he is used in such role as the story advances.  Because of this one can’t help but cheer for him and hope that he gets out of the café alive and in one piece.

The writing behind Pawn forces viewers to fully engage and immerse themselves in its world.  It’s just one of the movie’s positives.  What can also be noted of the movie is that the acting on the part of both Chiklis and Common was expert once again.  This should come as no surprise, especially considering that Chiklis has quite the extensive resume when it comes to crime thrillers.  He worked for seven seasons on FX’s The Shield, not to mention an equally extensive stage resume, too.  And Common played the role of a crooked cop himself in the 2010 movie, Date Night.  What’s most interesting is hearing Chiklis pull off a British accent.  Typically American actors don’t have much success trying to pull off foreign accents.  But somehow, he pulled it off.  Though he did sound somewhat like Bob Hoskins as Smee in Hook.  And considering that Hoskins is a U.K. born actor, this is actually quite the compliment to Chiklis.

Next to the outstanding of the movie’s all-star cast, one can say of Pawn is its cinematography.  The angles and the fast paced shots help keep the suspense throughout the story.  Even in less action packed moments, the camera work does an impressive job of keeping viewers entirely engaged.  One such example comes late in the story when the unnamed “Man in the suit” (played by Ray Liotta) attempts to feel Amanda’s (Nikki Reed) baby bump after having spent quite an amount of time threatening her life and that of her husband and her unborn child.  The tension in the room is thanks in large part to the camera work.  The angle of the shot leaves viewers wondering what he’s about to do.  It’s just one of so many impressive shots achieved throughout this crime thriller.  And it’s just one of so many moments that make this a crime thriller that is worth at least one watch.

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Hope Springs A Funny, Heartfelt Rom-Com For Every Married Couple

Courtesy:  MGM/Escape Artists/Mandate Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: MGM/Escape Artists/Mandate Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Hope Springs is one of Meryl Streep’s most heartfelt, moving performances of her entire career.  Despite what many might want to believe, it isn’t just another chick flick.  It’s a movie that every married couple should see no matter how long they have been married.  Co-star Tommy Lee Jones has been typecast once again as another gruff personality in a power of authority.  Typically, he stars as a police officer or another similar authority figure in his movies.  This time, he stars as a high powered businessman.  Ironically enough, while he has been typecast yet again, his character Arnold is a fitting counterpoint to Streep’s Kay.  The couple has gotten far too comfortable in its marriage, and has completely grown apart.  It’s a simple story.  Yet it’s such a realistic story, unlike so many rom-coms that Hollywood has churned out over the years.

Many audiences seem to have had a belief that Hope Springs was aimed largely at older audiences.  But the reality of the story is that it mirrors life for younger married couples just as much as for those with years of experience.  The story is less about Kay and Arnold’s sex life or lack thereof than it is about simply how the pair has forgotten who the other is.  As a result Kay and Arnold are more strangers to each other than a married couple.  Again, this is something that is just as easy for younger couples to have happen as for those who have been marred for decades.  Maybe that is why the audiences and critics that panned it did so.  Perhaps, just perhaps, those that panned it didn’t like seeing the reality of their own lives playing out on screen.  This sort of denial and rejection is exemplified through Arnold’s own refusal and denial to talk to Doctor Feld (played here by Steve Carell in what is one of his most impressive roles yet, too).  No one likes to have to admit when things aren’t the way they are in life.  This is especially the case when it comes to relationships and marriages.  If viewers can get past their own pride—as Arnold was forced to do—they will see just how much value this story has, even if watched just once and that it is okay to admit that no one’s marriage is perfect.  It’s something that couples have to work at throughout their lives.  As John Lennon and his band mates in The Beatles sang, “All you need is love.”

The central story of Hope Springs is one to which any married couple can relate.  For all of its deep, heartfelt moments, audiences can’t possibly ignore the story’s funnier moments.  The way in which Doctor Feld candidly talks about Kay and Arnold’s sexual relationship and the couple’s reaction to his candid discussion.  This is just one more factor that makes Hope Springs so enjoyable for any married couple.  The very thought of discussing what goes on behind closed doors or in the deepest recesses of a person’s mind is still considered very taboo by most Americans.  Keeping this in mind in seeing the reaction of both Kay and Arnold will leave any viewer laughing.  It’s obvious how uncomfortable both Kay and Arnold felt in discussing their sex life…or in their case, the lack thereof.  For all of the comic elements of these moments, the deeper more emotional root of the couple’s lack of intimacy reminds audiences how serious this can be on a marriage.  It’s just one more aspect of the near two hour movie that makes it surprisingly enjoyable.

The acting and the writing of Hope Springs are both important to the movie’s success.  There is one more factor that should be given note here in the story’s success.  That factor is the work of the movie’s makeup department.  In so many of the movies in which Streep has starred, she has managed to look different from her previous role.  This movie is one more of those cases.  This movie’s makeup department is to be highly commended for making Meryl look so believable as an older woman.  From the makeup to the hair, there was something about her look that was completely different from her previous roles.  It was done so expertly that one can’t help but wonder, is this perhaps what she would look like off-screen without her makeup?  In other words, the hair and makeup looked natural.  And to look natural is a success.  It makes Kay that much more believable as a character.  And along with the acting of both Streep and Jones, and the story’s writing, Hope Springs turns out as a whole, to be a movie that any married couple should see at least once in their marriage.  It is available now in stores and online.

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Crazy, Stupid, Love is crazy, but not stupid

Boy meets girl, loses her, and gets her back in the end.  Name that movie.  Pretty tough call, right?  That’s because it’s the most common theme for nearly every romantic comedy ever made.  The plot has been done so many times–in so many different manners–that it’s amazing the genre is even still considered viable.  Thankfully though, every now and then a diamond in the rough comes to light, and renews hope in the rom-com genre.  In 2011, that diamond in the rough was the ensemble piece, Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a quirky and original rom-com led by the one and only Steve Carell.  It’s not the first rom-com with an ensemble cast.  Who out there remembers Valentines Day?  I should be ashamed for even knowing about that movie.  It was an awful movie, by the way.  But I digress.  Unlike so many other movies that pollute the rom-com genre, it’s a movie that actually has heart, and an original story.  The problem with the story is that as original and heartwarming as it is, it has too much going on.  There are too many interweaving plotlines.  The general story tries so hard to cover all of its bases that it leads to a pacing problem.  The issue with the story’s pacing is so noticeable that it can lead some audiences to want to hit the fast forward button on their remotes.

The primary storyline in the movie is between Cal Weaver (Carell) and his wife, Emily.  Cal is trying to rediscover himself after Emily tells him during a night out, that she wants a divorce.  She proceeds to admit to Cal on their drive home, that she had been cheating on him.  This is where things begin to get complicated.  So pull out your scorecards.  Ready?  In attempting to rediscover himself, Cal meets playboy Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), who teaches Cal how to woo women.  During the process, Cal meets his son’s teacher, Kate (Marisa Tomei), and Jacob meets Hannah, whom he later falls for.  This results in Jacob changing his ways, and a surprise twist thrown in for good measure.  The tie in with Kate is directly related to Cal’s son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) cursing in class one day because his affections toward an older girl were spurned.  The girl in question is named Jessica (Analeigh Tipton).  Jessica has a schoolgirl crush on Cal.  And that leads to some interesting events.  So, is everyone following along?  The whole game of six degrees continues on even more, to the point that a person would need a program to follow it all.  It simply bogs the story down too much. 

No one can be blamed for wanting to skip through portions of the movie, due to its pacing problem.  No one can even be blamed for actually doing it.  However, those who don’t will be rewarded with a happy ending that’ll leave them with some sense of fullfilment, and a smile on their faces in the end.  Said audiences’ minds might be reeling from all the storylines after it’s all said and done.  Those who manage to keep up with it all will definitely find Crazy, Stupid, Love to be crazy, yes.  But they’ll also find it to be anything but stupid.