I complain a lot about how there are too many sequels/remakes and not enough new movies being made, which is partly why I tend to like computer animated movies so much: because they’re original. Except these days, when every other one is a sequel. I adored the first Despicable Me but I had my doubts that they could make lightning strike twice with a sequel, especially since Gru is not a villain anymore.
Retired supervillain Gru tries to navigate the world of dating while raising three adopted daughters and helping an anti-villain league track down a stolen serum.
They did a good job switching things up. They replaced Gru learning to love his kids with Gru finding a girlfriend, swapped out the villainous plans with hero plans, and kept all the hilarious minion sidebars. Despicable Me was cute and funny and watching the movie was a great time, but I didn’t love it like I loved the first one.
I’m really not sure about this movie. On the one hand, it seems to have that same combination of madcap action and wacky characters that made me like Pirates of the Caribbean so much, where you’ve got a straight-man heartthrob type (it was Orlando Bloom, now Armie Hammer) paired with an eccentric genius type in a flamboyant outfit (was Johnny Depp, still Johnny Depp) flailing their way through huge destructive setpieces. But the whole Tonto thing… isn’t it super racist? I know Johnny Depp has said he’s got some Native American blood in him and the Tonto character has always been way smarter than the Lone Ranger, but they’re still playing it for laughs, especially the outfit and the accent, and it makes me uncomfortable. Maybe I’ll just avoid the issue altogether by not seeing the movie.
DESPICABLE ME 2
I absolutely loved the first one but never got a chance to review it, so I’m looking forward to this one. I did wonder, when they announced that they were making a sequel, what they would have Gru do now that he was done being a villain. I was worried that he would stop being funny once he wasn’t trying to corral three little girls into helping him with a ridiculous evil plot. I’ve seen the trailers for Despicable Me 2 and I still can’t figure out what it’s about, mostly because Gru isn’t even in them except as a logo! They’ve focused entirely on the minions. I know the minions are cute and funny (actually cute and funny rather than intended to be cute and funny but actually annoying) but they can’t carry the whole movie. There’s got to be a plot in there somewhere.
THE WAY WAY BACK
Oh I see, Gru couldn’t be in the Despicable Me 2 trailer because Steve Carell was already booked to star in this trailer for The Way Way Back. It looks like a pretty decent (if pretty 500 Days of Summer-y) coming of age movie with the added bonus of Sam Rockwell as the father figure, but I don’t like the title. It’s too similar to The Way Back, an awesome movie about some guys who walked 4,000km to freedom after escaping from a Siberian Gulag. I also really don’t like that kid. He’s too hunched and sulky (i.e. too much like a real teenage boy) and I doubt I would appreciate spending two hours in his company. I’d probably come out sympathizing more with the supposedly douchey boyfriend than the kid.
I was first introduced to these documentaries by my Russian professor in college, who showed us the Soviet version of the first film in the series, 7 Up. It’s a pretty simple concept – interview a bunch of 7-year-olds and return every seven years to interview them again so you can capture a stop-motion version of their lives on film. Director Michael Apted started this project in 1964 and as you can see the original kids are 56. Watch the series from the beginning if you haven’t seen them before. It’s fascinating to see where people end up as opposed to where they thought they would be at that age.
When I heard that there was going to be a military show about Navy SEALs on a nuclear submarine, I thought: that’s going to be so awesome! Unfortunately when I watched the pilot my only thought was: this is so stupid. The premise of the show is that there’s an extremely convoluted plot afoot in the US government which results in the sub crew getting an order to launch their nukes. They refuse to do it, get attacked by their own people, and retire to a deserted island to bicker amongst themselves. I stopped paying attention after about 10 minutes. No wonder it didn’t get a second season.
Normally I don’t bother talking about Hallmark Channel movies on this blog because a) there are too many and b) most of them make me want to throw up. But I’m a Girl Guide leader so I wanted to mention this one, which is about a woman who becomes a Girl Scout leader in the United States. It’s got the format of an inspirational sports movie, so she of course sucks when she starts out as a leader but then they bond over selling cookies and then all the little girls love her. So it’s cutesy, but it’s a shout-out to Guiding. You’ll want to watch it if you’re a leader too.
I’m going through a phase where I’m reading a lot of psychology, so I thought I’d also mention this one, which has a different title depending on where you live. It stars Julianne Moore as a therapist trying to help Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who’s got six multiple personalities. They all seem to be murder victims, so the only way she can help him is to solve the murders. It’s a pretty creepy movie even though it’s not terribly educational and it’s kind of a ripoff of Identity. It’s definitely worth two hours in front of your TV though.
I like zombie movies but I’m not often scared by them, largely because people in them tend to die from their own stupidity more than anything else. Running zombies are scarier than shambling zombies but running climbing hive-mind zombies? Terrifying. Those zombies alone are reason enough for me to go see the movie. I haven’t read the book (just the Zombie Survival Guide by the same author) and I find Brad Pitt to be a really bland actor, so those zombies are really all that’s keeping me going. I hope there’s a LOT of them in this movie (or the investigation plot turns out to be really interesting) or I’m going to be disappointed.
Normally I always go to Pixar movies, but I’m thinking about skipping this one. Monsters Inc. is one of my least favorite Pixar movies anyway (just above Cars 2 and just below A Bug’s Life) and the trailer just looks… bland. And kind of pointless. The storyline seems to be about Mike Wazowski trying to become a scarer but we already know that he doesn’t – in Monsters Inc. he’s Sully’s assistant. It’s also really hard to care about either Mike or Sully because I’ve never really found them that interesting as characters. So the question is: am I wrong (again) or is Pixar finally starting to go downhill?
Let me say upfront that I haven’t seen either of the two prequels, Before Sunrise or Before Sunset but I have a vague impression that they’re love stories about two people who only have a very limited amount of time together for some odd reason. It’s nice to know that should I decide to see this one, I won’t have to watch the other two first, because she just summed them both up in like three lines of dialogue. I don’t think I will decide to see this movie, though. It seems like it’s just This is 40, but for slightly more intelligent people. Unfortunately that still means they spend most of the movie whining about each other. Maybe I’ll be more interested when I’m forty.
THE BLING RING
This movie looks kind of interesting. It’s like a commentary on how wide-open people’s lives (especially celebrities’ lives) are now with everything ending up on the internet, and also how stupid teenagers are in thinking they can post all their misdeeds online and not get in trouble (um, duh, the police have computers too). But (and this is a big but) the movie is directed by Sofia Coppola. She also directed Lost in Translation, which looked funny and interesting at the trailer stage and turned out to be bland and boring as a full movie. So I think I’ll just content myself with the trailer and move on.
MY LITTLE PONY: EQUESTRIA GIRLS
OMG PONIES! I used to love the My Little Ponies when I was like four. But ponies turning into people? I’m a little weirded out by that. Besides, I thought the point of ponies was… well, PONIES! Regardless, it’s only coming to select theaters, so you might not be special enough to see it anyway.
Studios seem to be competing with one another to create more and more visually stunning movies to play in 3D. A lot of them forget to have a decent story to go with all the special effects, but Oz the Great and Powerful does pretty well. It’s a prequel to the Dorothy story which focuses on Oz the stage magician and how he ousted some evil witches to become the ruler of the Land of Oz. It’s a great movie to watch with kids (unless they’re little and/or easily scared) but it can be a bit of a struggle to like Oz himself. Check out my full review for more.
Updated versions of fairy tales are all the rage, but most of them, like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters are pretty bad. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as the fabled brother and sister, who become witch hunters after their encounter at the candy house. They’re both shallow and insufferable, the action is way too gory to make the movie acceptable for kids, and the writers seems to think anachronisms = steampunk. Check out my my full review for more on why even the Renner Factor can’t save this movie.
If this movie is to be believed, it is perfectly possible and even downright acceptable for the relatives of accused criminals to offer themselves up as sacrificial lambs in order to free their loved ones from jail. Dwayne Johnson, here masquerading as an ‘ordinary dad’ goes undercover for the government in exchange for the DA dropping the charges against his wrongly accused son. If you can get past that bit of ridiculous logic and the fact that an ‘ordinary dad’ can hold his own against the combined forces of the government and every drug dealer in the world, you might actually like Snitch.
I love the Lego video games and I’m chomping at the bit to get a copy of Lego Batman 2. Seeing your favorite superheroes as Lego minifigures who get blasted apart and put back together as often as the scenery is hilarious for both kids and adults. This movie, which is based on the game, features Lex Luthor and the Joker banding together to destroy Gotham against the combined forces of the Justice League, is great for parents to watch with kids because there’s a lot of clever little satirical bits, just like in the video games. It will make you nostalgic for the old Batman cartoons.
I like M. Night Shyamalan movies. I thought The Sixth Sense and The Village and Signs were good. But by the same token, he’s made a bunch of movies, like Unbreakable and The Happening that I was really unimpressed by. All the same, when I heard he was making a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie, I wanted to go, even if After Earth was easily confused with Oblivion at first blurb.
In the future, Earth is abandoned and dangerous. When a young boy and his father crash there, the boy must survive in Earth’s hostile environment long enough to summon help.
But where Oblivion was about conspiracies After Earth is pure survival. You get very little in the way of an explanation for why things are the way they are and we spend most of our time on a coming-of-age journey with the boy. I liked it for what it was, but if you’re expecting something more then you’ll be disappointed.
The premise for this movie is dumb: zombies cured by the power of love. Twilight with zombies. I almost didn’t see it, but I’m glad I did, because it’s actually a very smart satire on teen paranormal romances and on the whole zombie movie genre. It’s funny, cute, has some action, makes sense in its own context (always a bonus) and it even has a new interpretation of the brain eating thing: that they do it to see people’s memories rather than gain nutrients. Rent it or check out my full review for more, because this one’s worth your time.
Speaking of movies that are worth your time, this one isn’t unless you’re looking for a big dumb explosionfest. Bruce Willis plays an aging loose cannon cop who travels to Russia to bail out his son, whom he thinks is a screwup but is actually in the middle of a carefully planned CIA op that would have been impressive if the movie had been set in 1985. Bruce Willis’ arrival messes everything up and he has to spend the rest of the movie being chased by tanks and falling off buildings and ‘bonding’ with the son who hates him. Check out my my full review for more on why this movie annoys me.
Identity Thief has an interesting premise: a mild mannered office worker finds out that a female scam artist has stolen his identity. Almost immediately, though, it starts to get stupid. Instead of letting the police and credit companies handle it, he travels to Florida to reason with her and ends up in a series of increasingly ridiculous disasters, including the ever popular ‘accidental destruction of rental car.’ Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are both underused in this movie, as the writing is formulaic at best. Don’t rent this movie unless you’re really REALLY bored.
Movies like Escape from Planet Earth prove that great visuals still cannot make up for terrible writing. The story follows a blue alien who goes on a mission to a dangerous planet (Earth) but gets captured and has to rely on his dorky brother to rescue him. Like Planet 51, Escape from Planet Earth misses a great opportunity to create a really interesting, unique, and funny alien culture and instead just carbon copies American culture with a few nominal tweaks (for example, it’s BASA instead of NASA). Don’t reward their laziness by paying to rent this movie.
Dark Skies has a pretty standard premise. There’s a nice normal family: mom, dad, two kids. Then one of the kids starts acting weird (in this case, stacking things on other things). One of the parents (the mom) thinks it’s something supernatural (aliens) but the other (the dad) insists that’s not possible, until something too crazy to deny happens and suddenly it’s all about not being killed. The formula works well, which is why it’s so common, but with Dark Skies things are a bit too boring for a horror film. It’s more of a slow building thriller, so just keep that in mind if you’re renting it.
Straight to DVD movies usually have stupid premises or are knockoffs of other movies, but The Numbers Station is different. It’s an action thriller about a black ops agent and a civilian cryptographer who operate a secret radio station that sends instructions to agents via number codes. After bad guys break in, they have to crack a code in order to stop their agents from carrying out bogus terrorist missions. It’s pretty cool, but I’d have picked someone other than John Cusack to star opposite Malin Ackerman. IMDB says it was originally supposed to be Ethan Hawke. That would have been better.
I was all set to say that there was nothing else worth taking about when: HOMG BEETLEJUICE! Beetlejuice is a cartoon that’s loosely based on the Tim Burton movie about a crazy ghost from the Netherworld who hangs out with a morbid little girl in the real world named Lydia. Altogether there are about 90 half hour episodes. The show is fantastic (better than the movie, I think). I’d buy the DVDs in a heartbeat but at $70 (on sale – regular $90!) with no special features, this set is a bit steep. You might want to wait a while to see if the price comes down.
I won’t deny that I laughed at the first Hangover movie, but by the second one a pattern was starting to emerge. A pattern where they attempted to recapture their success by remaking the first movie with a few tweaks in terms of who’s missing and where. Kind of like the theory behind Final Destination sequels. Both featured the same set of guys waking up after a party with no memory, some sort of exotic animal, Ed Helms with a body modification he doesn’t remember, etc etc. Strangely though, there don’t seem to be any hangovers in The Hangover Part III. It looks like more of a comedic version of Taken. Maybe it’s a real sequel instead of a remake!
This looks like a cross between Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Honey I Shrunk the Kid, but not in an interesting way. In kind of a boring way. I mean, ‘leaf men’? What kind of a lame name is that? And why are they all the warriors white dudes? Is that the most interesting thing that the writers could come up with? Generic white dude forest defenders? Actually, Generic White Dude Forest Defenders would have been a better title – Epic is really bland too. I can see some of the Ice Age influence in there though. The part where the bird pecks her in the butt and the part where the fly ages in front of their eyes are really funny. Just not funny enough that I’d even consider handing over like $15 to see it in 3D.
FAST AND FURIOUS 6
Oh how I hate these movies. They’re nothing but a bunch of meatheads crashing around in those regular cars that douchebags soup up with purple lights and nitrous oxide. The plots never make sense, the characters are so shallow they would disappear if you turned them sideways, and there’s never more than a token nod in the direction of the laws of physics, even outside of the action scenes. I’ve put up with a lot from terrible action movies before because they had hot dudes in them, but Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Dwayne Johnson are so not my cup of tea. I like my hot dudes to have actual personalities and necks that can be distinguished from their heads. At least with my father and brothers living in other cities, there’s no one to weasel me into watching this latest epic fiasco.
I feel like this movie has been made a million times, but fans of Ryan Gosling tend to disagree with me on that. In Gangster Squad he plays an LA cop who joins a vigilante squad of rogue cops pitted against a mob boss played by Sean Penn. Their goal: to take back the city without all that pesky paperwork and due process. It’s your typical amoral noir-esque shoot-em-up full of mostly unlikeable characters, so if you like that sort of thing (and you don’t find Ryan Gosling as blank and annoying-voiced as I do) you may enjoy it.
The fact that this movie has such a generic title is unfortunate, because it may be overlooked. It’s the story of the 2004 tsunami from the perspective of a family on vacation to Thailand when ‘the impossible’ happens: everything is wiped off the map by a huge wave. Parents Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are spit up, he with their two younger kids, she with their older one, and they spend the movie searching for each other amidst the devastation. Don’t go in expecting The Day After Tomorrow but do go in expecting to need some tissues – it’s a real tearjerker.
This movie is trying to be the Thank You For Smoking of the oil and gas industry. Matt Damon plays the naive agent who’s trying to convince hard-up townsfolk to sell his company drilling rights over the objections of a local teacher (John Krasinski). It was Earth Day yesterday so the issue of economics vs environmental impact is a good one to bring up in a film, as it will help expose more people to the issue. It’s just a shame the movie turned out to be so lousy. Damon’s lack of charisma and the script’s reliance on cliches just make it seem simplistic and dull compared to a doumentary.
This movie has held up remarkably well in the twenty years since it came out. Even the special effects still look good. I wouldn’t pay extra money to have it in 3D, especially since I don’t even know anyone with one of those gimmicky 3D TV sets, but it is a movie that’s so awesome everyone should own a copy so they can show the next generation. Even cynical 2010s kids will love the idea of a theme park ravaged by real dinosaurs (and lawyers getting eaten – can’t forget that part). Just don’t show it to a little kid unless you want it to have nightmares.