Despicable Me 3


Viewed – 11 December 2017  Blu-ray

The original Despicable Me was a great spin on an old idea… a somewhat inept but dedicated villain finds his life and evil world-conquering plans turned upside down when three orphan girls come into his care.  It worked great and also happened to (for better or worse) introduce the world ‘the minions’.  Now reaching the third entry, following a somewhat underwhelming minions movie spin-off, I approached this with only marginal hype.

Despicable Me 3

Gru (perfectly voiced again by Steve Carell) is now a special agent working for the Anti-Villain-League, who after failing to apprehend for the umpteenth time a wily villain obsessed with the eighties – suddenly gets fired by the agency’s new boss.   However whilst sitting on his laurels, tempted to return to a more villainous life, he discovers he’s got a long lost twin brother.

This was a riot of fun.  It’s a little jam-packed with story threads but somehow manages to hold it all together, helped by a sharp and laugh-out-loud script and colourful, brilliantly designed characters.  South Park’s Trey Parker turns in excellent voice work as comedy moon-walking villain Balthazar Bratt – a former child actor who never got over his career hitting the skids when puberty kicked in.  The several spot-on music cues work wonderfully and the gags come thick and fast.  ‘Dru’, Gru’s brother is a tad irritating, and I’d have liked much more for the three girls to do other than bonding with Gru’s girlfriend Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and hunting for a unicorn.

By the third outing, ideas of course can get recycled (ahem, Toy Story 3) – but something about the Despicable Me franchise I could just watch and watch.  This latest effort doesn’t buck the trend.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

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Spider-Man: Homecoming


Viewed – 05 December 2017  Online-rental

Of all the super-heroes, ol’ Spidy has had some trouble finding sure footing in recent years and for me, there hasn’t been a decent Spidy movie since the second Toby Maguire entry.  However after an enjoyable (if unnecessary) cameo in Captain America: Civil War, the web-slinger has returned in probably one his best received movies since the Sam Raimi directed original. 

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Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is under the watchful eye of billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) aka Iron-Man and so wants to be an official part of The Avengers, not just someone you call on when you’re in a bit of a fix.  So he’s out to prove himself after he witnesses some advanced, out of this world (literally) weapon technology being used by petty thugs.  Turns out there’s a ruthless arms dealer in town who dresses like a robotic vulture.

There’s several things that don’t sit right with me here.  Firstly the constant bumbling, representation of such a beloved character grates after a while, and then his characterisation, without an origin tale or any personal tragedy, is wafer-thin and not something to get all-that caught up in.  Same goes for Michael Keaton’s Vulture, a rather pathetic former salvage worker annoyed by being put out of work by Tony Stark’s bank-rolled clean-up crew following the events of the first Avengers movie, who decides to steal alien technology so to become an arms dealer.  There’s no personal tragedy other than the inconvenience of having to find work elsewhere, and therefore little reason behind what he’s doing other than greed and being a bit of a psychopath.  So what else do we get?  Holland is likeable and well cast as Parker/Spidy, and Keaton is also good despite limited material.  We also get some decent action, including a great sequence at the Washington Monument, and some support characters are fun.  Yet overall this greatly lacks depth and feels like a pilot for a TV show or the opening chapter of a bigger, better story.  I’m guessing that’s the idea … so bring on the inevitable, superior sequel!  After two reboots of ‘meh’ quality however, it’d take something special to get me back on-board.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

The Babysitter


Viewed – 09 November 2017  Netflix

Netflix have been going from strength to strength of late, what with hit Netflix original programming like Stranger Things and then the occasional Netflix original movies … it seems to be a great time to be a Netflix subscriber.  One such movie that caught my eye was this little tongue-in-cheek horror.  It tells the tale of Cole, a stereotypical nerdy loner kid in suburban American who is bullied at school and a bit of a mommies’ boy.  Thing is too despite not being that young, Cole still has a babysitter – helps then that she’s super-hot.  Step in Margot Robbie look-a-like Bee (Samara Weaving) who is not only the kid’s best friend but also keeps a watchful eye over him and helps fend off bullies.  When the girl across the road however points out she thinks said Bee is probably inviting ‘boys’ around once the kid is tucked off to bed .. the kid decides to find out if it’s true – and is in for the shock of his life.

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Directed by McG this has the same heightened reality, comic-book feel he brought to the two Charlie’s Angels movies, and there his epileptic style with wacky editing and mad-cap characters suited such a venture.  However here it feels for the most part over the top.  Told primarily through Cole’s eyes it makes sense from a kinds point of view but for what turns into a gory horror comedy, it creates a rather silly vibe that although fun makes it pretty throwaway too.  The characters you see, are not all that engaging and it all gets very predictable.  That being said the gore is at times spit your pop-corn out surprising and inventive, there’s some fun pop-culture references and social media obsession digs, and at least does kind of turn into Home Alone meets Buffy The Vampire Slayer (at least tonally). 

For 90 minutes entertainment, this doesn’t out stay it’s welcome, has some good jokes and plenty of the red stuff, and performances are adequate, and sometimes that’s good enough.  Unlikely to become a genre classic though.

Verdict:  3 /5

Baby Driver


Viewed – 29 June 2017  Cinema

I went into this fairly blind.  I knew it was directed by Edgar Wright, who’s style had impressed me with movies like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Shaun of the Dead, and well… who doesn’t enjoy a good car chase movie?

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Relative new-comer Ansel Elgort plays a young guy who works as a getaway driver for Kevin Spacey’s heist planner, and has to work with a variety of violent crims along the way.  The thing is, he happens to have a bad case of tinnitus following an accident and resorts to playing his iPod to drown out the ringing (good way to make it worse, mate).  This unusual spin on a tired formula has a likeable lead performance, a gentle slow burning love story involving a (very) cute waitress and several heart-in-mouth action sequences involving some damn fancy driving.  So this delivers as a fast, fun and frantic ride but what does it bring to the table we haven’t seen before?  The inclusion of music ranging from Motown to jazz is an interesting idea and has some of the action and gun fights even playing along to the tunes – albeit only marginally successfully.  Thing is the music itself isn’t that memorable and when it really should have stood out, the other sounds, like gunfire and tires screeching, drowned out what is actually being played (including a near inaudible ‘Brighton Rock’ by Queen).

Thankfully the script is sharp and often funny, and the central love story is engaging with Ansel good as the lead (although his frequent dancing and bopping gets a little silly).  Also turns from John Hamm, a scene-stealing Jamie Foxx and of course Spacey are all on-par.  Oh and Edgar Wright sure can film action, with lots of clever, ultra-stylish imagery making every sequence explode.  So all in all this was a fun …ride, but what originality it tries to inject ultimately left this feeling overly familiar instead.  One to check out though.

Verdict:  3 /5

Wonder Woman


Viewed – 01 June 2017  Cinema

Despite many people’s misgivings about Batman V Superman, few could argue that Gal Gadot’s sensual Wonder Woman was a particular highlight.  Her appearance kept viewers eager for more, and so we have this origin story that focuses on how Diana (who funny enough is never referred to as Wonder Woman) came to be involved in a mission during (interestingly) the first world war.  Quickly we’re introduced to Diana’s fantasy world of Amazonian warrior women and a loose connections to Greek mythology.  There we have Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) as the reining Queen and also Diana’s mother, as well as the queen’s gutsy sister played by Robin Wright (House of Cards), who despite seemingly a departure for the actress, proves a good fit.  However their peace is soon interrupted when an American pilot Chris Pine (Star Trek) crash lands at their shore, and Diana comes to his aid.

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This plays mostly like a fish-out-of-water adventure with some well observed comedy and sharp dialogue, helped immeasurably by the chemistry between Gadot & Pine who spark wonderfully off one another.  The WWII backdrop also means we get plenty of action and thrills within a fun ‘dirty dozen’ escapade.  When Diana gets to kick ass too, its a sight to behold, superbly choreographed and well, she’s very appealing to the eyes (where did they find this beauty?).  The movie is a tad over-long and degenerates into typical over-powered villain verses overpowered hero showdown, and well some of Wonder Woman’s super-human powers aren’t fully explained (she can easily toss a tank aside with one hand).  Add to this an avalanche of CGI where some acrobatics began to look a bit cartoonish once people are flying around left right and centre.

However this has it where it counts; with colourful characters that work well with each other, a decent script with plenty of humour and some excellent set-pieces.  DC seem to have turned a corner with this one, so on such evidence, I can’t wait for Justice League!

Verdict:  4 /5