Movie Review: “Minions”

Starring
Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush
Director
Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin

It’s easy these days to take for granted the influence that Pixar has had on storytelling for animated films in particular and child-friendly entertainment in general. Prior to the release of “Toy Story” in 1995, there was no guarantee that adults would be entertained at all by a child-friendly film, never mind be entertained as much as the kids were (even Pixar’s now-parent company Disney was guilty of that), and in fact, most movies didn’t even bother pretending to appeal to both kids and adults. As Exhibit A, I submit 1994’s “Monkey Trouble,” starring a pre-“American Beauty” Thora Birch. Nobody likes this movie.

Pixar destroyed the notion that animated movies were simply kids’ stuff, and made films that were literally fun for the whole family. “Minions,” on the other hand, is a throwback of sorts to the pre-Pixar era, the movies that make a couple of dated references to give the parents a chuckle, but are otherwise devoid of a single plot piece or angle that would engage anyone from tweens up. In fact, the movie has no story at all. It’s just one ridiculous setup after another, and none of it makes any sense, but that’s almost beside the point; the minions, much like the “Penguins of Madagascar,” are simply funnier in small doses.

The opening credits show the evolution of the minions from the dawn of time, gleefully following behind the biggest fish in the sea and then land animal, as Geoffrey Rush gently explains to us that their life’s purpose is to serve the world’s most despicable creature (more on that later). That creature changes a number of times over the years, but after a mishap involving a certain vertically challenged army general, the minions go into hiding…and completely lose their sense of purpose. Minions Kevin, Stuart, and Bob dare to seek out a new evil ruler, and after a long journey lands them in New York (it is now 1968), they have found their new boss: Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the most villainous villain alive. The minions impress her, and she hires them for a job: steal the crown of Queen Elizabeth (Jennifer Saunders, holler!). At this point, the film’s screenwriter presumably fell asleep for weeks on end, and his screenwriting software finished the job.

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Movie Review: “Gravity”

Starring
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director
Alfonso Cuarón

There are so many appropriate words to describe “Gravity,” yet none of them seem adequate. To call it intense – and boy, is it intense – puts it in the same company as movies about serial killers and runaway buses. To call it bittersweet and uplifting brings to mind “Steel Magnolias.” (It’s nothing like “Steel Magnolias.”) It’s also mind-bogglingly gorgeous, and yet, it’s more than that as well. So forget those words, and remember this one: the movie is magical. It’s the kind of movie that will inspire a generation of kids to grab cameras and let their imaginations run wild, the proverbial face that launches a thousand ships. At the very least, it will raise the profile of director Alfonso Cuarón (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) in a way that his previous film, 2006’s brilliant and criminally overlooked “Children of Men,” should have.

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first space mission. Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) is on his last. Stone and Kowalsky are on a spacewalk, the former trying to fix a piece of equipment she helped design, the latter simply trying to set the record for longest spacewalk. Mission Control informs them of debris from a damaged satellite headed their way and orders them to get in the ship. The debris arrives too soon, however, and shreds their space shuttle beyond repair. Ryan and Matt are the sole survivors of the assault, adrift in space, and have limited amounts of oxygen and time to find a nearby, functional spacecraft before the debris makes its way around the earth and bombards them again.

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Movie Review: “The Heat”

Starring
Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Michael McDonald
Director
Paul Feig

With the exception of the 1988 comedy “Feds” (and to a certain degree, the “Charlie’s Angels” films), the buddy cop movie has been an exclusively male-dominated genre. It’s only a matter of time before Hollywood finally gets its act together and delivers a great female-centric action comedy, but “The Heat” is not that film. Though fans of Paul Feig’s “Bridesmaids” will likely enjoy his latest R-rated romp with Melissa McCarthy, anyone that wasn’t already sick and tired of the actress definitely will be after sitting through two hours of her annoyingly boorish and over-the-top brand of humor. “Identity Thief” should have been the final nail in the coffin of America’s love affair with McCarthy, but if her irritating performance in “The Heat” doesn’t put an end to that reign, then the moviegoing public deserves more lowbrow comedies just like it.

Sandra Bullock stars as FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, an arrogant overachiever who’s up for a big promotion in her department. But while she’s the perfect candidate on paper, Sarah still hasn’t earned the respect of her peers, whom she frequently humiliates during busts. To prove that she’s a team player and the right person for the job, Sarah’s boss (Demian Bichir) sends her to Boston, where she must partner up with local detective Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) to bring down a ruthless drug lord. Unfortunately, no one actually knows what the guy looks like, but Sarah has much bigger problems in the form of the uncouth Mullins, whose sloppy demeanor and unconventional methods clash with her straight-laced, by-the-books personality.

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