Tag Archives: Despicable Me 2

A Mid-Summer Report Card: Pondering Superman, Monsters, and “The End”

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We’re at about the midpoint of summer, movie-wise, and it’s been a wild one, with a few hits, several high-profile bombs (“After Earth,” “White House Down,” “The Lone Ranger”), and some indie successes. I have not seen everything – still need to get to “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and “World War Z” – but here are some very brief thoughts on what I HAVE seen. (Note that even though I said “report card,” I’m sticking with the 4-star system.)

“Iron Man 3:”: Not a BAD film , exactly, but one that to my mind did nothing to move along the franchise. Robert Downey Jr.’s shtick has grown increasingly old, and I found the second installment far superior. That being said, Ben Kingsley gives his funniest performance on years. 2 1/2 stars

“Man of Steel”: There are some great moments here, and it will turn out to be, I think, a fine first chapter in a new Superman series. But it’s an odd film, and in some ways, a brutish, unrelentingly grim one. Still, I love Michael Shannon having a role in a blockbuster, and Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, and Russell Crowe each turn in solid performances. What’s up with the insane product placement? By the way, I’m fine with Supe the killer. I come down on the side of the semi-satisfied … barely. Because 2 3/4 is not allowed, I’m going 2 1/2 stars

“Monsters University”: I haven’t seen “Brave,” so I’ve yet to see EVERY Pixar film, but this felt like the weakest by far. It’s entertaining, as they all are, but wayyy too long. 2 1/2 stars seems low, but I gave the superior “Despicable Me 2” 3 stars, so …

“This is the End”: Funniest comedy I’ve seen in some time, and can’t wait to see it again. Backstreet’s back. Yes, I would have liked Michael Cera and Emma Watson to have stuck around a bit longer, but still. 3 1/2 stars

“Before Midnight”: Another insightful, smart, passionate burst from Linklater-Hawke-Delpy. The opening, with the son boarding the plane alone, still gets me. 4 stars

“Frances Ha”: I’ve made my feelings on this clear – still the best thing I’ve seen this summer. 4 stars

“Copperhead”: I’ll be writing a longer review of this one soon; it is compelling, well-acted, and a tad dry, but overall it works – if you care about the Civil War going in. 3 stars

“The East”: Impassioned, brisk, and utterly fake. 2 stars

“The Great Gatsby”: This came out during the summer? Feels like I saw it two years ago. 2 1/2 (being generous)

“Mud”: A twisty coming- of-age epic brimming with great moments and performances. 3 1/2 stars

“Despicable Me 2”: What can I say? It entertained me more than Superman and Iron Man. 3 stars

 

Rentals …

“Hyde Park on Hudson”: This one literally evaporates upon viewing. Even Bill Murray can’t save this dull, strange concoction. It’s a misfire on every level. 1 1/2 stars

“Warm Bodies”: Not particularly funny or clever, despite a game cast. 2 stars

“Mama”: Scary and silly on equal measure, “Mama” has just enough to qualify as slightly above-average horror. 2 1/2 stars

“Quartet”: I love Dustin Hoffman, and it is difficult to find a weak link in the cast, but his directorial debut makes “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” look like a Gregg Araki flick. 2 stars

 

More to come soon, including “Fill the Void,” “The Conjuring,” and, hopefully, “Stories to Tell.”

 

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Review: Even Pacino-Free, “Despicable Me 2” is a Summer Success

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“Despicable Me 2” is pummeling “The Lone Ranger” at the box office, and I’m not surprised. It’s a fun movie, one written and directed with style and verve, and easily one of the summer’s more enjoyable films. I actually think it was significantly stronger than Pixar’s “Monsters University.” Here is my three-star review from Thursday’s Buffalo News.

“Despicable Me 2” star Steve Carell brought Maxwell Smart to the big screen in 2008’s “Get Smart” – to rather unmemorable effect, incidentally – so let’s paraphrase that iconic character’s most famous line: Would you believe this animated sequel is a more satisfying summer film than “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel” and almost every other blockbuster released so far this season?

In a weak summer for family-friendly fare – yes, there is “Monsters University” – “Despicable Me 2” qualifies as a true crossover success, a film that should prove as pleasing to both 4- and 40-year-olds.

It is the follow-up to one of 2010’s most successful pictures, which introduced the Bond villain-esque Gru (Carell), a criminal mastermind who adopts three adorable girls – bespectacled Margo, ninja wannabe Edith and cute-as-a-button Agnes – and has a plan to steal the moon.

“Despicable Me” also introduced Gru’s minions, little, yellow, gibberish spouting, Twinkie-like helpers that rank among recent animated cinema’s most clever and humorous creations. (A spinoff is on its way in 2014.)

In the end, Gru changed his ways, and as “Despicable Me 2” opens, he is a doting father, one who is not above dressing as a fairy princess for his youngest daughter’s birthday. Sure, he is painfully single, and misses the thrill of villainy, but Gru is happy in his new suburban bubble.

But when he is approached – OK, kidnapped – by the top-secret Anti-Villain League, Gru returns to work, this time with the good guys. He is soon partnered with the wacky, karate-chopping Lucy (Kristen Wiig), sent undercover as a mall shopkeep.

While on mall duty, a rotund Mexican restaurant owner known as Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt) introduces himself, and Gru finds him vaguely familiar. Meanwhile, his trusted colleague Dr. Nefario finds a new job, Margo falls in love and Gru starts to fall for Lucy.

It all leads to some mutant minions, a villain known as El Macho and lots and lots of red jam. The kids will love every minute of it, even if the mutant minions offer a few scares.

Admittedly, the Gru saga does not stand for much, lacking the emotional oomph of Pixar’s best or the creative force of a “Frankenweenie” or Disney’s old-school finest. But the “Despicable” saga is not as obnoxious as any “Shrek” installment, and offers few reasons for parents to feel uneasy.

The first movie’s directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, are back at the helm, and they’ve crafted a tidy 98-minute sequel. Like “Despicable Me,” the film is a 3-D affair; I would call the 3-D solid but inessential.

For Carell, the film is a certified winner after a rough patch. Following his first outing as Gru, Carell chose one winner, the Chris Schobert Guilty Pleasure Favorite “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” the so-so “Hope Springs” and several duds: “Dinner for Schmucks,” “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”

As Gru, Carell is back to his likable best, creating a character who is sweet, funny and just over-the-top enough to serve as a believable ex-villain. Meanwhile, the endlessly lovable Wiig is perfectly cast as Lucy, Russell Brand nicely underplays Dr. Nefario, and Bratt is a surprisingly full-throated treat as Eduardo.

One caveat, however. Al Pacino was originally set to voice Eduardo, and the concept of Tony Montana voicing a character called El Macho feels like some kind of bizarre burst of genius. Sadly, “creative differences” led Pacino to jump ship.

The fact Pacino stayed with Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill” but bailed on “Despicable Me 2” says Gru is not getting the respect he deserves from the animated establishment. But this film’s sure-to-be-robust grosses should more than make up for it. Perhaps Robert De Niro is available for “Despicable Me 3.”

 

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment Copyright: © 2013 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Weekend Preview: In Which Minions Seem Infinitely More Appealing Than Johnny Depp

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Well, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong. In my weekend preview last week, I predicted “White House Down” to come in at No. 1 at the box office: “‘White House Down’ should have no trouble coming in at number one, although I would expect it to open below last week’s number two film, ‘World War Z.’ ‘The Heat’ should follow in the second spot, with ‘Monsters University’ up next.”

I was … a bit off. “Monsters” had no problem coming in first with $46 million, an indicator that parents have been waiting for some kid-friendly summer fare. And No. 2? “The Heat,” which I always felt would do well. Melissa McCarthy is on a helluva role at the box office, Sandra Bullock is as well-liked as any actress in Hollywood, and what other female-centric films are in wide release at the moment?

The big surprises were what came next: “World War Z” in third, and THEN “White House Down,” with only $25 million. When your big summer release hits fourth, you’ve got a problem, and clearly Roland Emmerich’s film does. I think this is a case of a release date that just did not work. It is a crowded marketplace, Channing Tatum fans likely opted for “The Heat,” “World War Z” has proved surprisingly muscular, and, of course, there is “Olympus Has Fallen,” the similarly-themed spring hit that will likely end up having taken in more than “White House.”

Prepare for more animated success, because this holiday weekend is certain to be topped by Gru and his minions: “Despicable Me 2” opened on Wednesday, and it’s already huge. I reviewed the sequel for the Buffalo News, and found it winner: “[It] qualifies as a true crossover success, a film that should prove as pleasing to both 4- and 40-year-olds.” I had a much better time than I did at “Iron Man 3” or “Man of Steel” — although I liked both — and I think there is a serious chance that Gru’s gang ends up finishing its run with more dollars than “Monsters U.”

While “Despicable” has arrived with strong buzz, Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” seems to be moving in the opposite direction. From the get-go, the Armie Hammer-Johnny Depp-starrer seemed an unsafe bet, and the result, according to early reviews, is bloated, overlong, ugly, and disappointing on just about every level. Depp has a following, to be sure, and a PG-13 rating will help, but I think this could end up as Depp’s second critical and commercial summertime disappointment in a row, after “Dark Shadows.”

We shall see — the film could rally. But I’ve found it unappealing from the very first trailer, and I’ve seen nothing to change my opinion.

The week’s only other major release is the stand-up film “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,” which finds the comic playing Madison Square Garden. The trailer is a hoot, and Hart’s fans might make this a solid little earner.

On the other end of the spectrum is a trio of new smaller releases: “Lootera,” a 50s-set Bollywood romance playing the Elmwood Regal; “Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta’s somewhat poorly-received adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s beloved novel (at the Amherst Dipson); and “The Attack,” a drama about an Arab surgeon who discovers a dark secret about his wife after a suicide bombing.

Note that “Stories We Tell” is still playing at Amherst, and “Copperhead” and “Love is All You Need” are still playing at Eastern Hills.

The Screening Room will please many by showing “Grease” at 7:30 p.m. on July 5–7, and July 9, while next Thursday, July 11, features two very different sci-fi films: “Equilibrium” and “Forbidden Plant.” Author Mark Malkasian hosts this special event, also featuring sci-fi trivia.

Bacchus returns with “Anchorman” on Thursday (July 10), while the UB North Campus shows the late Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” on Friday (July 5) and “42” on Tuesday (July 9), both at 9:15, and the UB South Campus offers “42” at 9:15 on Wednesday (July 10).

One last note: Some of this summer’s crop is already hitting the cheapies: “The Bling Ring, “After Earth,” “Epic,” “Fast & Furious 6,” and “The Hangover Part III” are now playing McKinley. That doesn’t mean summer’s almost over … right?

 

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment Copyright: © 2013 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.