[REVIEW] ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ or the Best Minions Sequel?

Anyone who has followed my reviews for any amount of time knows I am not the biggest fan of the Despicable Me franchise and in particular the gibberish-talking minions that took over the world in 2010. I even just did a podcast episode with my friend Stanford on how I think Megamind, which came out the same year with a similar story, is the better film.

I especially did not like the first Minions movie and found the screenplay to be off-putting and lazy. So suffice it to say I did not have much hope for the sequel Minions: The Rise of Gru and the fact I had to watch trailers for the film for 2 years did not do much to increase my enthusiasm.

Well, consider me surprised that I actually had a decent time with this film. (This is why I always try and keep my mind open to any film I sit down to watch.) I know it’s  damning with faint praise but it might be the best in the franchise since the original Despicable Me movie? It still has problems and I still find the minions to be annoying but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh quite a bit in this zany adventure.

Minions Take an Airplane on a Wild Joy Ride in New Trailer For MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU — GeekTyrant

The minions at their best capture a the antics of a silent movie comedy. For example in this film there is a sequence where the 3 main minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob are flying a plane and it’s ridiculous but funny in a classic slapstick way (I think it is Bob that also gets stuck in the airplane toilet which is pretty funny.

Minions: The Rise of Gru' Review: A Delightfully Silly Sequel - Variety

They also spend big money on music for these movies and with this one set in 1976 they get a lot of humor off of famous song drops. One of my favorites is a funeral scene where the minions in a choir sing ”You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones. That was funny. Little Gru is also a big step up from Gru and Dru we got in Despicable Me 3.

Minions: The Rise Of Gru To Open Annecy Animation Fest In World Premiere – Deadline

Unfortunately there are some negatives to Minons: The Rise of Gru. The plot with the Vicious 6 drags and especially the action towards the end is bland. It feels like something we’ve seen a million times. I honestly just wanted it to get back to the slapstick laughs again. The animation is also fine but it doesn’t do anything to stand out or be visually special.

Also, this film is not helped by the fact it is so similar to the recently released The Bad Guys, from DreamWorks which is superior in every way. The animation in The Bad Guys is much better but also the script, story, characters and even the voice-work are better.

Perhaps Minions: The Rise of Gru is helped by extremely low expectations but I can’t deny that I laughed a fair amount. If you are a fan of the franchise you will enjoy this one and even if you are a skeptic like me it might win you over. At the least, I bet a lot of people will agree with me this is the best entry since the original Despicable Me film. Go figure!

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Despicable Me 3 Review

If you have followed my blog you know my feelings about the minions. Those little yellow gobbledegook speakers have been the bane of my existence the last few years. I hated Minions and have been meh about the other movies. So you can imagine my trepidation going into Despicable Me 3 but I still try to go in with as much of an open mind as possible. And what did I think of this latest entry from Illumination? It’s a mixed bag but I didn’t hate it like Minions so that’s a plus.

Let’s talk about the positives first. The film divides its characters up into smaller subplots. If you read my Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 review you know I don’t always love this approach but in that film I love the group dynamic. Not so much here.

Anyway, I thought a couple of the subplots worked. I liked seeing Lucy trying to figure out how to be a Mom to the girls. As someone who champions adoption this was a nice element to share and I wish they had devoted more time to it. Kristen Wiig in the vocal performance is also great as Lucy.

I also liked getting to spend more time with the girls as I’ve always found them more enjoyable than the minions. Here Agnes is looking for a unicorn in the forest. It doesn’t have anything to do with rest of story but it was cute.

There was also a few laughs in the movie unlike Minions. 80s loving villain Balthazar Bratt had a couple of good jokes and I admit the minions even made me laugh. There is a gag where they sing Modern Major General from The Pirates of Penzance that made me laugh.

But that is where my praises end. While some subplots worked, the major plot of Gru meeting his twin brother Dru really didn’t at all. The two of them interacting weren’t funny or engaging in any way. Dru was kind of annoying and didn’t grow much as a character. They kept trying to make it emotional between the two brothers and I wasn’t feeling it at all.

Also, as much as I enjoyed some of the subplots they don’t tie into together well. Particularly the minions feel like they are in an entirely different movie. In fact, sometimes the story would be chirping along and out of nowhere we’d move over to a minions segment. It was really odd considering the popularity of the characters. It almost felt like they had made a movie and then afterwards added the minions in but that can’t be the case?

And even though I did laugh a few times there were a lot of gags that fell flat and felt very tired. I also do not appreciate Illumination’s love for butt and boob jokes. Enough already!

In the end, Despicable Me 3 feels like average passable entertainment but nothing you will remember in a few months. It’s on the same level as The Angry Birds Movie last year but that movie at least had better animation. There’s nothing that stands out or is special. There’s no great message you will be talking about or animation that tries something new.

I’ve often said Illumination is the fast food of animation and Despicable Me 3 is no different. It’s a passable, average, forgettable film that will probably make a lot more money than it deserves. At least I enjoyed it a little bit.

Overall Grade- C

Review Rewinds 6/13/2017

Today I am continuing in my monthly series of Review Rewinds!  This is a new series where I look at old reviews that I am either higher or lower on with the rewatch. My initial reviews are still valid as my initial response but I think it is perfectly fine to grow and change in opinions over time. Here goes:

Minions– Original Score C-. Rewind Score D

I wasn’t very high on Minions when I saw it. In the review I said “it was cute but I didn’t laugh.” My main excuse for the film was that it was ‘made for little kids’ but then I admit “but it has those adult moments which are unfortunate”.

On the rewatch I couldn’t even give it the kid credit because of the lewd humor and the boring story. It just did nothing for me and by the end of the year it ended up on my worst of the year list. The worst thing about it is it just isn’t funny at all and the story is all over the place. I’ve really grown to dislike the picture.

Independence Day Resurgence– Original Score C. Rewind Score D

The most likely candidate for a rewind review is movies I come out feeling meh on. In my original review of Independence Day: Resurgence I said “it all felt a little forgettable and silly but not necessarily in a good way. It just was ok. The acting was ok. The special effects are ok. The story is ok.”

On retrospect that’s just not good enough. I still don’t think ID2 is one of the worst films of last year but it is very boring. It really feels like nobody even tried to make a good movie here and in that regard they deserved all the disdain they got- especially because the original is so beloved to many.

I was pretty critical of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One but those films are leagues better than Independence Day Resurgence.  This deserves a D.

Age of Adaline– Original Score C- Rewind Score B+

I must own I am not finding many reviews I think I was too tough on for this Rewind project. However, one that I think qualifies is Age of Adaline. In the original review I said “it’s fine. I’m glad I saw it but it’s a definite mixed bag.”

I loved Blake Lively as the lead and Michiel Huisman as her hunky love interest. I also praise Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker as “very good” in their roles. My main issues with the movie are the narration, which I still think is horrible as it attempts to “take out the magic and make it about science”. Also I criticize the “dopey dialogue” and that “it would have been nice to see more of her in the different ages”

It’s fair criticisms but I found on the rewatch they didn’t matter as much. I thought Lively was strong enough in the role and the chemistry between all was so good I enjoyed it. Plus, I think there is something interesting about a woman from the 30s confronting modern life- not in a time machine way but in a ‘I’ve lived through it all and seen how we got here’ way.

I think Age of Adaline is worth a watch.

So there are my Review Rewinds for this month. What do you think of these 3 films? Please put in the comments section.

Secret Life of Pets Review

So I’m back friends from Spain!!! I hope you guys enjoyed art book reviews while I was gone. I enjoyed writing them very much and if there are any art books you would like me to review in the future let me know. Being gone for 12 days I naturally missed a number of movies, which I will now need to play catch up.

The first one that needed to be looked at was of course the animated film- The Secret Life of Pets. This is made by Illumination, a company which I have not been a fan of.  I particularly did not care for their entry last year Minions. But I enjoyed the teaser trailer for Secret Life of Pets and was excited to see something from Illumination without little yellow men in it…

And I saw the film and you know what I actually enjoyed it.  It’s a ring down from Finding Dory and Zootopia but I was charmed by the film.  Here is my youtube review.

I also had the honor and privilege yesterday to be a guest host for the Rotoscopers podcast!  I have followed the podcast for some time and am a patron so this was really neat. I hope you guys like my contribution.  Please give the video some love and maybe they will invite me back again someday.

Anyway back to the movie.  Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of the film.

The first thing that struck me right away about the movie is how great the cityscapes and NYC skyline looked.  It is the best NYC has ever looked in a film IMO. Not that many films are set in a city so I really enjoyed the urban environment. It reminded me a little bit of NYC in Oliver and Company.

pets pets2I am not a dog owner but the whole premise of the secret life of pets is adorable. What do pets do after their owners have left the house after all? Unfortunately the movie abandons that premise for a generic search and rescue pretty early on but I still liked the set up. I liked that it wasn’t just dogs and cats but all kinds of pets like guinea pigs and birds as well (even a crocodile at one point!).

pets7I didn’t mind the lead characters Duke and Max but my favorite were the side characters particularly Chloe and Gidget. They were very funny. The writing for these side characters was on point and I laughed quite ae bit.

gidget pets3Overall I was engaged in the story and thought it was a charming film.

But there were some cons so let’s talk about them.

A big problem many will point out is the similarity to Toy Story. As you can tell by my love for Good Dinosaur I have no problem reusing storylines from other films; however in this case I feel they missed out on a few things that make Toy Story special. The movie never achieves an emotional moment like the Toy Story films do.  There is a weak attempt to do so with Duke’s former owner but it doesn’t work. I think what would have worked better is if their owner Katie had realized they were gone and was upset missing them.  That would have given the movie more emotional heft than just a search and rescue film.

pets6Also they make Duke a little bit too unlikable. One of the things that makes Woody so jealous of Buzz is how much everyone loves him. We never get any moment to see what makes Duke special or why we should love him.  He’s just the annoying new presence in Max’s life and nothing more.  Also when they do become a team working together it doesn’t feel earned.

pets4My other problem with the movie is the Underbelly section with Kevin Hart bunny planning a revolution against the humans.  There was actually some funny writing and jokes in this section but I found Snowball to be an annoying character. Every line he gives it feels like he is shouting and clenching his fists. I wanted to say ‘calm down for half a second’.  The whole underbelly sections of the film feels generic and didn’t do much for me.

I also feel certain characters don’t really fit like Tiberius the hawk voiced by Albert Brooks. Maybe I’m too attached to that voice from Marlin in Finding Dory but it didn’t work. Other characters like Pops we don’t really get to see enough of to make him an effective character.

However, like I said the banter between Gidget and Chloe is very funny and I liked Max as our lead hero.  There’s also some good laughs throughout and our second animals driving a car scene for the summer.  I also felt the music cues and score by Alexander Desplat really worked well.

So overall The Secret Life of Pets did have problems but I left feeling happy I have seen it and charmed by the film.  I think your kids will enjoy it; although there are some moments of pet peril so be forewarned. It’s not a film you have to jump in the car and see but I liked it. It’s definitely Illumination’s best film by far.

Also the Mower Minions I can do without! Get them out of here!

My end grade on Secret Life of Pets is a B-.  What would you give it and what did you think of the film? Let me know in the comments section.


Minions Honest Trailer

Just had to share this with you guys because they totally nailed it.

I like how they pointed out all the questions about the minions the film doesn’t answer! How much more story they could have told!

Here is my review of the film which after a recent rewatch I am beginning to think I was too nice on the film. It really is a lame movie.

Hotel Transylvania 2 Review

hotel trans2Can we all pass around a petition or something that will tell Adam Sandler he should only make animated films?  But then again there was 8 Crazy Nights a while back so he is by no means a homerun in animated films either.  Still, his best films by far of the last decade have been the Hotel Transylvania movies.  That’s definitely damning by faint praise but it is nonetheless true.

It’s weird trying to write a review of Hotel Transylvania 2 because I had a good time watching it but I can’t think of a whole lot to say in its defense.  Does that ever happen to you?  You like something almost in spite of itself?

Well, Hotel Transylvania 2 picks up where the fun but forgettable first installment left off with Dracula’s (Sandler) daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) getting married to Johnny (Andy Samburg) and then having a little boy named Dennis or Denisovich as the Count likes to call him.

hoteltrans2-2The Count is a doting grandfather and loves Dennis but is constantly preoccupied on whether he is a vampire or not.  He is a ‘late fanger’ as they like to say and has till he is 5 to get his vampire fangs.  If he doesn’t then he, Mavis and Johnny will have to move back to California where Dennis can be safe.

hotel trans2-3Leaving Dennis with Count Mavis and Johnny go to California to check it out and meet his parents (Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally who should be cast in more voice work.  She’s great!).  Mavis is thrilled with all the nighttime 24 hour options in California.

Back at the hotel Count has his friends from the first film Frankenstein (Kevin James), Invisible Man (David Spade), Blobby, and Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key who evidently is in every comedy of 2015).  They decide to try and scare the fangs out of Dennis and take him on a vacation of their greatest haunts much to Mavis’ anger.

They also end up involving Count’s old school father Vlad (Mel Brooks who is underused in the film)

hotel trans2-5That’s basically the plot.  It’s a silly comedy but it did make me laugh.  I particularly liked a repeated joke  with the Phantom of the Opera singing. The tangents with in California and on the scare quest take away from the humor and the ending drags on and is too maudlin.  But overall it is a pleasant amiable film that is aimed at kids with little to none of the adults only humor I didn’t care for in Minions.   I also laughed a lot more than in Minions from start to finish.

The animation is also nicely done led by the great GEnndy Tartakovsky.  The colors are bright and the characters are surprising and fun.

The voice talent all works but the cast is so large that some of my favorites are woefully underused such as Mel Brooks and Fran Drescher (who I know some hate but I’ve loved her ever since The Nanny).  She has maybe 3 lines in the entire movie. Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Chris Parnell, Nick Offerman are hilarious actors and they are given very little to do.

FILM STILL - HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 - Frank (Kevin James and Jonathan (Andy Samberg) watch the birthday celebration of Dennis (Ashler Blinkoff, center) with Wanda (Molly Shannon), Dracula (Adam Sandler), Mavis (Selena Gomez), Mike (Nick Offerman) and Linda (Megan Mullally) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Picture Animation's HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2.

And yet the running time is 89 minutes!  I told a friend of mine ‘if Bambi can tell its story in 70 minutes Hotel Transylvania 2 doesn’t need 89).  They could definitely cut out the animated dance number at the end- a trend in animation carried over from the 2000s that I really hate

Hotel Transylvania 2 is a movie made for kids without a ton of grown-up appeal but I did laugh a fair amount.  More than I did in Minions and definitely more than Dreamworks’ Home. It has better animation, writing and story than either of those films.

So take that review for what it is worth.  I would wait and get it from the redbox or rent it.  Have some laughs and enjoy a moderately entertaining animated film. Nothing more, nothing less.

Overall Grade- C

Here’s my video review

Minions Review

minionI got to see the Minions movie tonight. I went into this movie actually pretty excited.  I am not the biggest fan of the Despicable Me movies.  I think they are just ok, but the thing I like about them most is the minions characters.  They are really funny with their language and love of bananas.  There is something adorable about them.  They even like selfies on occasion…

minions9And little kids love the minions.  I’ve seen it with my 5 nieces.  They crack up and get a huge smile on their faces whenever they see the minions.  But it is always tricky when a sidekick gets their own movie (think Elektra…) especially sidekicks that don’t speak English.  How was this going to work?

Then the first trailer came out and it looked really cute.  It is actually the first 5 minutes or so of the movie in that first trailer and it is the best part of the movie IMO.  We get the history of the minions starting with amoeba cells and then through all time periods looking for a master to serve.  This takes us to 1968 and 3 of the minions decide to go out and look for their leader before they all perish from boredom.  They are Bob, Kevin and Stuart which for some reason makes me laugh.  It just seems like funny names for these minions.

minions6They then travel great distances and there are some cute gags but nothing that wasn’t shown in a trailer and that made me laugh out loud.  The best scene is probably when Stuart wants to eat Kevin and Bob because he thinks they are bananas but again that is in the trailer so you don’t need to pay the big bucks to see that. Eventually they make it to New York where we start to get material from the second trailer.  This trailer had me nervous.  It looked like a lot of adult ‘wink-wink’ humor which I really hate. Like do we really need to see Stuart in a thong and having a threesome joke?  I certainly don’t.

minions2But luckily there isn’t that much of those jokes so my fears were mostly ill founded.  Besides, pretty much all the adult humor jokes are in the trailer including a scene where they are tortured which was strange and hung in a noose. Do we really need that in our kids comedy?  These scenes were awkward instead of funny.

minions7 minions8The minions eventually go to Villain-con which was a fun sequence and they meet Scarlet Overkill voiced by Sandra Bullock.  Her character had potential but they didn’t do much with her.   I think they needed a vocal performance with a little more sauce to it like someone Russian or with an exotic accent.  Bullock ends up feeling flat as Scarlet but it isn’t really her fault because she doesn’t have much to do.  Her boyfriend is voiced by John Hamm who is actually a little bit funnier than Scarlet.

minions5The one thing I did like is Scarlet wants to be a princess and be treated like royalty.  She already has the money so I thought that was kind of clever to have a female villain who still wants to be pretty and a princess.  Usually the villain hates princesses. I also liked she wanted her hair cut like a drawing of her as a princess she did when she was a child.  That made me laugh.

minions4So she equips the trio of minions to steal the crown from Queen Elizabeth.  The rest of the movie is then spent in England and at one point Bob becomes King of England which was funny.

minions3 I think small kids who already love the minions will enjoy this movie.  It is definitely better than say a Home or Strange Magic.  That said, I never really laughed like I did for Penguins of Madagascar last year which was very funny and had great vocal performances.  It also makes me realize how clever Mr Peabody and Sherman was because that had a thin premise but the jokes were so good I laughed a lot.  Both those movies are much better than Minions.

A friend of mine asked me if she should still see and I said yes.  It’s fine but just know it is made for little kids without a ton of grown up appeal.  But then it has those adult moments which are unfortunate. However, it does look nice and is bright and colorful and the beginning 20 minutes is a lot of fun. It’s when they get to England that things really fall apart.

In the end I left Minions thinking ‘that was cute but I didn’t laugh’, and I think many of you will feel the same way. I also might have laughed more if everything hadn’t been in the trailers.  But like I said it’s cute, there are a couple jokes that work but there are sections where I got a little bit bored because I wasn’t laughing.

Kids will like it but probably forget about it rather quickly.  If you have a $1 theater by you wait till then to take the kids.  It’s worth a $1.  $10 I don’t think so.

If you like 1960’s classic rock you will enjoy the soundtrack with songs from The Who, Beatles, Kinks and many other bands.  They must have spent a fortune on all the songs so that is cool.

I will say the people in front of me were laughing hysterically so maybe I missed something? Or they were on something?  Not sure…

Overall Grade- C-

Any of you see it?  What did you think?

My youtube review