The Wolverine Steps Back Towards Roots

The Wolverine

            Comic fans rejoice, Marvel has brought out another super hero movie to tickle our fancies this summer.  The hero of choice this week is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), in the ever-creative title The Wolverine.  Our short-tempered friend with lots of issues has taken on the task of not only fighting the Japanese warriors, but also redeeming the series of the previous flops in the series.  Thus, the question comes up can the lone warrior meet the tasks, or have we gotten another hastily put together film, that leaves us asking why?  Read on to find out.

 

I’m sure you’ve seen the trailer, but in case you haven’t the plot takes place after the Last Stand.  Logan has isolated himself from the rest of the X-men squad to face his ghosts, until a man he saved during the war offers him the chance to lose his curse of immortality.  With his powers starting to fail, Logan must uncover the source of his new weakness while protecting the innocent who have been caught in the mess.  What on Earth could happen?

 

Well I won’t reveal the plot elements, but The Wolverine has returned to the plots we loved before the Final Stand occurred.   We all know Logan’s past, so I’m sure many are sick of hearing about it.  Luckily, this movie decides to push away from treading down his story, and instead focuses on developing Logan now that the love of his life, again, has passed away.  Wolverine has to move away from the safety of the X-men and forge new relationships that provide a new twist on his emotions.  New fans of the series might be lost, but they shed some light on a few pasts without retelling the story for the seventh time.  While Wolverine gets some more development, can’t say the story is the most original or surprising, at least for me.  I predicted most of the twists, and wasn’t surprised by the ending, though felt it was nicely closed.

 

Of course a Marvel story can’t really be told without some action mixed in can it?  The answer is no, and the trailers promised plenty of claw slashing, death defying stunts in a two hour timespan.  Did it deliver?  The answer is yes, as The Wolverine’s fight scenes were choreographed to deliver fast pace action that lasted more than thirty seconds.  Instead of over-emphasized punches and dramatic finish moves, this film chose to link some marshal arts vs. street brawl action that felt like a real fight.  Wolverine’s claws blocked, impaled, and countered many attempted strikes, and did it all in real time as opposed to slow as hell Spartan finishers.  Throw in some chase scenes, and a bullet train arena and you get some diverse fighting fun that the series has been lacking.  Unfortunately, the rush hits an impediment, eventually diluting to some promising epic battles that disappointingly fell short for me.  The final fight started to get some gusto back, but it didn’t get quite as fast as the earlier fights.  Another flaw was that some of the camera work needed improvement.  Again I found the camera crew’s inability to keep the camera steady during fighting annoying.  I know it’s fast, but the reason you practice and shoot multiple takes is to find the best way to capture the scene.  Yet they still fall short.

 

Logan doesn’t fight this battle alone though.  While most of the mutants we know are living their own lives, we have a few that have worked their way into Tokyo.  Yukio (Rila Fukushima) the clairvoyant samurai not only has moves, but provides some comedic relief and support to Logan’s journey.  Fukushima played the tomboy, honorable bodyguard role well and her accent gave her comedic lines an extra humorous edge.  Tao Okamoto took a more serious role, playing the key cornerstone of the movie that drives Logan’s changes.  Okamoto did a great job, her beauty very eye appealing and her delivery containing the required emotion with only a few instances of overacting.  As for Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), the mutant was better than some of the poor excuses we’ve seen recently, but not much.  Her design was a bit elaborate and noncreative, her obsession with green being a bit cheesy for this reviewer.  However, the special effects for her powers was impressive, and her deceptive use of her powers added some deadliness to the mix, though she still wasn’t that impressive.

As the title suggests though, Jackman got most of the camera time and he pulled it off great, as he mostly does.  Jackman stepped right back into the temperamental X-man role, grabbing hold of the fury and pissed off edge and taking it by the horns.  Fans who love his could care less attitude, will enjoy it once again as Logan delivers classic lines that while filled with ire and angst, are timed to make you laugh.  Audience members who find the Australian attractive are going to get their fill of tight t-shirts, muscle built arms, and his smolder.  Jackman still growls and screams the same, but luckily we don’t get too much of the prolonged screaming to the sky.

Overall I enjoyed the Wolverine, and feel it was worth a trip to the theater.  I don’t see the point of seeing it in 3-D, so save your money and stick with the 2-D version.  The story is simple and the villains are a bit lame, but the character development and new relationships were enjoyable and nice to see the story continuing on.  Action wise, it’s pretty good, but the poor camera choices, and slower pace ending might disappoint you a little.  Oh well, the scene halfway through the credits makes up for some of the flaws and promises to return to the roots of this series and hopefully an even better movie.  My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0 

R.I.P or M.I.B.?

ripd

This weekend seems to be one about death in the movies, as not one but two movies premiered this weekend about things beyond the grave.  I’ve already covered the Conjuring, so this review is on the more comedic side of death in the form of R.I.P.D.  Girl eye candy Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges team up to face Deados, renegade souls who have somehow have dodged judgment and returned to walk amongst the living.  Armed with unique weapons designed to destroy specifically spirits, the dynamic duo attempt to stop these creatures from causing harm to the world.  Wait a minute unique weapons, things walking among the human population in disguise, and a partnership that seems to face them down? Does this sound like a movie we’ve seen before?  If you’re thinking Men In Black, then we’re thinking the same thing, and if you’ve seen the trailer you might be thinking R.I.P.D is a knock off of the extraterrestrial comedy. If yes, then once again we are thinking on the same level.  So let’s get this review started.

 

The best part of this movie for me was the actin between the two main characters.  Like Smith and Jones, Reynolds and Bridges are an entertaining pair that worked well to play the rookie and elite agent roles.  Reynolds, being the chameleon that he is, does a nice job balancing serious emotion with some comedic twist.  His character had more issues to deal with, and was the main element in driving the story.  Thus, rather than being comedic relief, Reynolds character takes the serious side of things.    Instead Bridges the elite, loose cannon cop, takes the comedy role firing off hilarious one liners and sarcastic rants in just about every scene.  For this reviewer, Bridges comedy kept me hooked and laughing, especially integrating his cowboy attitude and mannerisms into the action fray.  Perhaps I found the lines extra funny because of his voice. Bridges still sounds like he is drunk and chewing tobacco, most likely the reason he plays a lot of cowboy roles.  The movie relied a lot on Bridges for comedy though, so if you don’t like him avoid the movie. While the two are entertaining alone, they are better together.  Both of them act as if they have always been partners, brothers in arms who can insult each other and still be good friends.  The chemistry is good, but unfortunately the roles are just too similar to the MIB agents we’ve come to know and love.  Oh well, if the MIB gets old, we have these two to fall back on.

 

While Bridges does hold the weight of the comedy, and Reynolds holds most of the looks there are two other characters that help entertain the audience.  As you have seen in the trailers, Reynolds and Bridges don’t look like themselves to the normal public.  Instead their appearances are of a small, old, Chinese man (James Hong) and a very attractive lingerie model (Marisa Miller).  Hong just looks funny, especially when side by side with the beautiful blonde and even sillier holding a banana.  His high-pitched voice adds some more humor to the mix and knowing he is Reynolds avatar just makes it ironic.  As for Miller, I can’t say she does much other than strut in a revealing outfit and look sexy for the camera.  They did a good job integrating a country accent into her, well decent for the little time she had, but let’s face it guys are going to enjoy this eye candy more than anyone else.  While these avatars have a brief time on screen, the timing is right to get a good laugh, but don’t get your hopes up that it will be a riot.

 

What else to say about this movie?  If I haven’t said it enough times this movie has many similarities to MIB.  The gunplay mirrors MIB, from the sounds of the spirit bullets to the explosion of the Deados.  Sure they’ve tweaked it to be a little faster pace, and even integrated some slow moving matrix action to add some spice, but overall you know these battles were designed for the 3-D version of the film.  The spirits themselves have taken many qualities of previous alien villains, though there are more human qualities to them.  However, these spirits look to have been cut from the same cloth, with many having the same anomalies like multi digit hands, elongated necks, and often fat or distorted chins.  All of this is in glorified CGI beauty, so while impressively designed it’s not the most realistic ghosts I’ve seen.  The plot of the movie isn’t that unique either, with little surprise to the linear take on bad guys, gets more training, and then shoot more bad guys.  Reynold’s character is the heart of the tale, and I’ll admit there are some moving scenes that will pull at some heartstrings, but nothing I can really give much praise.

 

R.I.P.D is a fun comedy action film that will certainly entertain a lot of moviegoers.  If you’re looking to relive the comedic styles of MIB, or just looking for some good old cowboy humor and sarcasm you should see this movie.  Is it the best movie?  No, but it’s a fun film that people of all ages should be able to enjoy and I feel that there will be at least one sequel to come if the box office makes enough money.  My scores are:

 

Comedy/action: 7.0

 

Movie Overall:  6.0

Conjure up some bravery, this movie is scary

The conjuring

 Horror, a genre of movies that has continued to evolve over the years as the technology has improved.  This type of movie has essentially one goal, to scare the crap out of audience members in as unique, often bloody, ways.  While many of these movies sacrifice plot, and push the blood and scares into cheesy levels, there are still some treasures out there that have the chemistry right.  My review today is on one of these treasures called The Conjuring, a horror film that has promised epic scares from trailer 1.  Let’s get started.

 

Where to start with this review?  I guess a good place is the scare factor of this movie.  The Conjuring my friends has set it’s scare factor up to maximum, using all the elements to create a product that is diversely scary. Instead of making a movie that is a tribute to artificial blood and dismemberment, the Conjuring sacrifices the use of cheesy tricks to create a world that is twisted, dark and scary.  What made it so scary?  It starts with the setting, a typical farmhouse and surrounding land that looks and feels normal.  No dark spooky woods, no abandoned buildings or houses that make great dare targets, and no shadow filled alley ways where you no trouble lurks.  Beneath the normal surface though lies the threat, which for once isn’t introduced in some elaborate ritual or manner where a shallow character hits the magic switch and unleashes hell.  Hell has already been unleashed in this place, it’s just lying in wait for its next victim.

 

How is it introduced?  Well I won’t give away anything, but dark entity is gradually introduced in this film, making subtle moves to make its mark and get the crowd terrified by messing with their minds.  Small creaks in the hallway, heavy knocks of wood in a silent house, and slight whispers of a voice that get under your skin.  Thus, this critic appreciates two aspects of this movie that are used to scare you out of your wits end.  The first is the use of what I call jump moments, scenes that involve something coming from nowhere, or a sudden sound that makes you jump.  Although I’m good at predicting these moments, The Conjuring does a fantastic job spacing these moments out, integrating them within the story so the scare comes out from a natural source instead of some ridiculous creature or prop falling out of nowhere.  The other thing that helps is that the silence to be broken happens in the background, the sound naturally drowning out instead of the typical lets pull a vacuum and then scare them.  It makes the jump scenes less obvious, and keeps you pulled into the horror.  The second factor is the one I appreciate more the creepy factor.  Like some of my favorite movies, the Conjuring has those subtle techniques that breach your mental defenses and get ingrained into your brain.  While we have heard things go bump in the dark before, this movie still finds a way to get to you.  Whoever designed the screenplay did a great job forcing the audience to use their imagination to create their own spirit.  Using the shadows of the house and the eerie use of lighting kept me guessing, wondering what lurked within the innocent looking house.  Tie in the religious aspect of the movie and you have created a threat that really affects me more than I like to admit.

 

I guess this allows me to Segway into the next aspect of the movie.  The Conjuring is a very religious movie, tying in many aspects like demonology, premonition, and spirituality that give it a more realistic edge.  This isn’t some rogue beast that escaped from a parallel dimension/lab or some undead serial killer that can survive explosions.  Instead the storywriters developed an antagonist, and a good horror story, that was believable, realistic, and that much scarier.  For those who practice religion, these very qualities will be a key element in scaring, while those who choose not to might not be as affected by what plagues the house.  Thus, use caution before seeing this movie, and take stock at what could really mess with your mind.

 

Putting religion aside, the Conjuring has one of the better stories I’ve seen in a horror movie.  The family who plays victim has some good, albeit simple, character development that helps one get attached to the characters.  While the mom (Lili Taylor) and dad (Ron Livingston) have more depth to their characters and therefore story, the little girls are strategically used to add that young child creep factor that affects a lot of people.  However, the characters that I latched on to the most were the mediums of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Judy (Sterling Jerins) Warren.  Let’s face it most mediums, clerics, and priests have little story in the genre.  Often they are supporting characters who read from a random verse in the bible, or are tragically killed by the vary spirits they are trying to eradicate.  The Warrens fall into the small group who have a back story that sets the stage for the struggles to face.  Throughout the movie you get to know the Warrens, and you see a change in them from simple detectives, to a loving member of the family they are helping and the attachment they feel towards them.  I can’t go into too much detail, but as the situation changes, so too do their methods, which keeps things diverse, fun, and of course me entertained by the movie.

 

While the movie is indeed very well done, there were some aspects that I didn’t like.  My main complaint is there are some plot holes that needed to be filled.  One thing was the event that affected the Warrens.  Apparently something got to the medium and altered the relationship between the husband and wife.  They start to explain it, but never tell you what messed her up; I guess something to be explained in the already mentioned sequel or director cut.  Another thing is of the five little girls, why were two of them the primary focus.  They did attempt to balance the haunting amongst the girls, but I observed two in particular were the focus and I have no explanation why.  There are also some other victims that make an appearance that don’t have a follow up, it is again another question left answered, and was a bit pointless introduction.  Another thing that was a bit odd, though we actually do get an explanation, was the obsession with women as the victims.  Why they chose that I don’t know, but we know that spirits are usually not as biased in their victims.

 

Let’s wrap this up, the trailers are correct in The Conjuring has brought the horror back to the genre.  It’s realistic, it’s scary, it’s creepy and it has a story that ties everything together.  While I don’t react quite like the audience, there were plenty of screams, jumps, and shocked cursing to assure this movie delivers on the scare.  Don’t set your hopes too high though, or you might just come out disappointed and feel you wasted your time.  One warning I can issue though is for the love of all that is good do not take infants, small children, or children for that matter to this movie. My scores for this movie are:

 

Horror/Thriller:  9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

Chaotic Comedy and Too many stars

Grown Ups 2

 Robbie K hitting you up with another movie review.  This time we hit another comedy sequel starring one of the most famous big kids in the world (Adam Sandler) and his gang.  Let’s face it; Sandler’s characters haven’t changed much over the last two decades as he continues to bring child like mannerisms into various situations.  While this was funny in the beginning with Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, etc., many have grown tired of the linearity that has become his career.  Well this weekend we get one of his first sequels in the form of Grown Ups 2, which bragged about the cavalcade of comedians that were making an appearance.  Of course a star studded cast often fails in many ways, which seems to present a challenge to directors to try and defy the trend.  Was Grown Ups 2 one of these movies or did it fail to impress?  Read on to find out.

 

Comedy is the primary element in Grown Ups 2 that entertained me, as well as the audience, the most.  What kind of comedy?  In truth, this movie has a quite a spectrum of comedic styles tagged with the various celebrities that fill this movie to the brim.  Sandler’s focus is spread between bathroom humor, exaggerated injury stunts, and throwing insults at the random people he meets.  Kevin James acts like an overgrown kid, who screams at the top of his lungs, while cracking jokes about his weight.  Chris Rock takes the comedy involving awkward approaches and fear of his daughter dating.  Finally David Spade plays the lazy bum with issues, in particular falling for the wrong women and now trying to deal with the illegitimate son (Alexander Ludwig).  You’ve seen these roles plenty of times now to know if you want to see them again, where those who are tired or can’t stand these actors wanting to avoid this movie like the plague.  I’ll admit I chuckled at some of these tired comedy shticks, but many of the jokes these guys threw at did little to amuse me.

 

Instead the parts I laughed with had to do with the surrounding cast, who seemed to have gotten the better, often more extreme, humor situations.  Nick Swardson got the more extreme character that knew no limits, often got injured in ridiculous ways, and crossed the line often to make his character unpredictable.  Did it go a little too far sometimes?  Yes, especially when it came to some sexual relationships and inappropriate dressing.  Shaquille O’Neal believe it or not wasn’t that bad either, the former Kazaam star often getting a well timed joke about his size, or basketball weaknesses.  As for the rest of the extras, they were kind of hit or miss for me.  Sometimes extras like Steve Buscemi, Jon Lovitz, or Maya Rudolph would get a lot of laughs for the few things they did.  Other times characters by Tim Meadows, Taylor Lautner, and Cheri Oteri were either too stupid, too annoying, or did the same things over and over again to bore you to death.  The younger actors that play Sandler and crew’s kids have been diluted in this role, now nothing more than tools used for the adult comedy.  Last movie they provided the cute comedy, the naïve belief of everything their parents saying being true.  This time however, they have a couple of cute scenes, awkward scenes, but for the most part just lack anything worth elaborating on.

 

So what is my point of telling you comedy styles other than to fill up space?  It is to make the point that bringing in lots of stars is not the best formula for a successful movie.  Grown Ups 2 could have been just as cute and entertaining as the first movie had they not crammed so many people into such a small time frame.  I’ve already admitted there is some well timed moment that will have you laughing, but Grown Ups 2 felt like a mash up of too much stupidity rolled into one package.  The result of this, a lack of any story or moral dilemma for the characters making them really just clumsy idiots who have yet to grow up.  I know that is kind of the point, but at least the first movie had a plot to build this concept around, while bringing some cute morals to the table.  Without this story, the comedy was chaotic and unorganized, making it annoying and tiresome for this reviewer.  Luckily, there is a common endpoint to unite all the cast together, the last thirty minutes tying up any loose ends for the whatever plot there is.

 

Other than that there isn’t much else to say about the film, so let’s go ahead and wrap it up.  Grown Ups 2 is a fun movie for those who just want to laugh at constant comedic jabs.  Fans of Adam Sandler or any of the Happy Madison crew will still enjoy the tried and true characters from the films, because they are the same guys we’ve seen for over decade.  However, if you want something more to your movie, such as a plot or organization, then skip this movie and wait for the bunch that are coming out next week.  Grown Ups 2 scores are the following:

 

Comedy:  6.0

 

Movie Overall: 4.5

Action on The Pacific, Let’s Get Ready To Rumble

Pacific Rim 4

 

Remember the classic days of Godzilla?  The men in detailed rubber suits battling it out in a model city as they destroy the poor city of Tokyo.  While classic and still holding some charm, we have, fortunately, improved our ability to make monsters come to life.  This weekend yet another tale of humans vs. monsters unfolds as Pacific Rim releases into theaters.  Being a sucker for action, I can’t lie that this movie was one of the higher ups on my list for the season.  So is this movie just a knock off of Transformers meets Godzilla, or have we found a movie that can stand out and shine.  Read on to find out.

 

Action fanatics rejoice, for Pacific Rim is a movie that delivers the promise the trailers made earlier on this year.  At the start of the movie, we get to see the elite weapon arsenal called the Jaegers jump into action as they battle the impressively designed, nightmarish beasts called the Kaijou.  In a manner similar to Reel Steel, the titans clash it out until a victor finally stands, which also attempts to set the story up for one Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam).  After this battle, there is a lull in the action, with only a few fistfights, trainings segments, and new clips to momentarily satisfy your action hunger.  I’ll admit this was disappointing and had felt down, but luckily the last forty minutes or so saved the film.  Pacific Rim’s coup de grace is indeed the finale where the action cranks up to ten as more colossal beasts rear their ugly heads.  As an epic soundtrack of battle music plays, the action cranks up to max as punches merge with epic weaponry that, yes, is a carbon copy of Transformer technology.  I guess the idea pool for unique weapons has been drained I guess, but surely Warner Bros could have made their design more unique and not knock off DreamWorks creations.

 

Of course the action isn’t the only aspect where various movies have been pieced together.  Pacific Rim’s plot contains a number of borrowed ideas that while old have been edited into a fun, albeit shallow story.  Keep your eyes out for numerous science fiction references including some Independence Day, a little bit of Rocky, some Star Wars, and a few other things scenes and plot points you have seen before.  Unfortunately for this film, they mistimed some events that I felt would have done better later on in the movie.  The struggles of Raleigh and Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) are hastily revealed before the relationship develops leaving me feeling the characters a bit flat and lacking shine.  General Pentecost (Idris Elba) has a bit more to his character and has more time to hold on to his secrets, and had some conflicts that helped develop him.  For me though the best character dynamics lied within Dr.’s Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and the Hansen team.  The scientists of the story provide a few pieces of information to fill in the gaps, but for their rivalry reveals their character while providing laughs that help relieve some of the tension.  As for the Hansen team, the characters have a tension, drama, and various other qualities that help drive some of the other character’s plots.  The problem with so many character tales is some details and paths are kind of dropped or hastily tied up to make the whole plotline rather pointless.  Still you develop some emotional link, or drift in this case, with the characters.

 

As for the graphic and design, Pacific Rim is beautiful in this department, its visuals rivaling the technological feats of Transformers.  The robots move exactly as I would imagine, the weapons unfolding with that metallic edge and crunch.  I also loved the design of the Kaijou, well defined in their skin texture and color, and impressively created to show off evolutionary qualities in their alterations to their basic forms.  Yes they are a generic shape and body structure, but there are clear differences to help differentiate the monsters from one another.  When these worlds collide, the action was amazingly entertaining, as the combat involved more than a simple laser blast to the head, or an overdramatic thrust through the spark chamber.  The battle between the colossi run smoothly as well, the two forces moving fluidly, only glitching when some hindrance occurs.   Despite the dynamic creatures and designs though, one thing the staff failed was balancing the other robots into the equation.  The other Jaeger bots had so much potential, but they had little screen time and in truth limited moves compared to Optimus Prime, I mean Gypsy.  Gypsy was a beautiful robot, but come on don’t be like all the other movies and make creations that aren’t going to do jack squat, that’s just lame.

 

Weaknesses for this movie other than those stated above, can start with the story.  It’s a well-edited collection of plots, but I felt the storyboard team bummed a lot of other stories.  The result was some cheesy tie-ins and plot weak points that are humorous or irritating depending on your character.  The other thing I felt was there were too many plots crammed into a two-hour film leading to some rather hasty tie-ups to get to the action.  Luckily, all of these weaknesses are a little diluted by the awesome action and fun you will have.

 

Overall I wasn’t disappointed in Pacific Rim and give it two thumbs up in the action department.  Unlike other action flicks, Pacific Rim brought both action and laughs, without overdoing it on the comedy, like a few other robot movies have done.  It focused on the pilots and their armor, gave some dynamic features to the monsters, and did it all in stunning graphic and sound quality.  Yes it still needs to work on balance of character and story and could certainly use some originality to their story instead of stealing from other story lines, but it is a fun film.  As for the 3-D quality, I did see this movie in the high definition quality and say if you can handle the 3-D and loud sounds this movie is worth the trip.  It was used for shadows and detail and not for monster appendages and robot fists stabbing out of the screen, something that is a plus for me.  If not, still go see this movie in theaters, because it was made for the high quality sounds and big screen goodness.  My scores for this film are:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  9.0

 

Movie Overall: 7.5-8.0 

Minion madness and Grutastic comedy

Despicable Me 2

 I know I’m a little late, but the time has come to review the latest animated flick to storm the theaters.  Today we will be covering Despicable Me 2, another sequel that had big expectations to meet not only for me, but also for many of my friends and fellow critics.  Yet like many sequels there is always the chance that the sequel will tank, and the box office now has your money you could have used for dinner.  Is Gru and company’s new adventure one of these cases, or is there still some treasure within the coal mine of sequels.

 

We all remember how cute and fun  the first Despicable me was.  Gru’s (Steve Carell) journey from super villain to loving father was heartwarming, and had plenty of comedy to make one laugh throughout the entire film.  Although it wasn’t the best and more in depth story, it was just involved enough to make girls go awww, parents smile, and keep the kids entertained with all the laughs.  If you’re a fan of that, you pretty much get the same thing in this film, though the story is much simpler and less endearing.  From the trailers you can get that Gru has given up the villain game, and is being conscripted into the anti villain league (AVL) where his criminal mind is to assist in catching the latest criminal.  While you may think this would open a fun plot set, the tale instead focuses on Gru’s love life as the primary tale, working to grow him closer to a variety of odd-looking ladies who have some extreme features to their characters.  While the love story is cuter than one of Taylor Swift’s love songs, it’s incredibly predictable, and a little too focused for my taste since it took away from some of the other characters.

 

Luckily love can’t take away from the mission and Despicable Me 2’s just as big a doozy.  Rather than trying to steal the moon, Gru’s goal is now to help find the villain responsible for stealing a complex containing a rare formula with destructive consequences.  A few new characters get added to the cast to act as suspects, one of which has the most involvement and is obviously the villain since they persistently pursue the plot.  As I mentioned earlier, the plot isn’t that complex or captivating in these movies, and Gru’s fears of love have taken the front seat, stealing attention from other points of the movie.  Most likely though you won’t really care for a complex plot if you go to see this movie, and just want to see something that is fun.  You’re in luck this movie is still a lot of fun and laughs in a colorful box.

 

Although his story is much simpler, Gru was still entertaining to me.  Carell brings his voice talents back as he delivers his lines with that hilarious accent and sarcasm we loved in the bald fool.  He still over exaggerates things, is a clumsy fool that somehow manages to land on his feet, and yet has some humorous dialog that will have all ages laughing with delight.   As for Gru’s new partner Lucy (Kristen Wiig), she’s a ball of energy with a side of awkwardness.  Wiig’s energy has been captured in digital form, and her character’s child like qualities are a fun little trip that gets a tad annoying at times.  Universal did give her some adult qualities though that although do not develop her character, helps drive Gru’s development in the story.  Those who like the three girls of Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith, and Agnes well prepare to be a bit disappointed in this movie.  Margo and Edith in particular have taken a serious cut in their parts and have been reduced to a few fun scenes that are really more about Gru than them.  Agnes, the cute little munchkin, is still super sweet and full of those imaginative little remarks that seem to melt girls’ hearts.  However, even she has been reduced to a smaller role that provides less laughs than what we saw before.  As for Dr. Nefario and Vector, well you’ll be disappointed with what they have done to these dudes.  The evil assistant is scarcely in this movie, making a few, well-timed appearances that are not as entertaining as they once were.  Vector the immature twerp is nowhere in sight as well, apparently still stranded on the moon doing who knows what, (my guess is building his next fortress for a possible third sequel).

Of course if you’re like me then the real reason you were pumped for the sequel was because of the minions.  That’s where the other big focus of this movie is, the minions get a lot of screen time as well.  The humor with the yellow blobs is still silly, dimwitted fun that still has some cleverness in what they dug out.  Kids, and those young at heart, will enjoy the juvenile sounds and random screaming they make.  The slapstick humor of the minions getting harmed, blown up, smashed, and countless other methods of harm were also funny to me as well, but for those who like a little more edge and attitude behind it, you’ll probably just beg for the scenes to be over with.  For me though, the greatest treasure is the references to music, movies, and television of the past, and the edge the little dudes have.  I don’t want to give much away, but the minions have gotten a little more developed over the last few years.  While most are really just babbling extras that clumsily get themselves in trouble, a few have some personality to make them stand out, and become characters on their own.  Bottom line is, the minions are fun, ridiculous, and funny and if you liked them then, you’ll like them even more now.

Despicable Me 2 is a fun movie that brings the cute laughs and story that you expect.  The line of if it ain’t broken don’t fix it appears to be the motto, as this movie has a lot of the same qualities the first one had.  Yes the story is much simpler, the emotional level has been turned down, and many of the characters we loved in the first are downscaled or not there at all.  The constants of Gru and the minions are a good enough reason to see this movie though.  As for the 3-D aspect, I can’t really comment on that since I saw the 2-D version.  If you want stuff flying out of the screen towards your face, or want that for your kids, I can say it would be worth it, but save your money and see the regular instead.  So families this reviewer is saying bring yourselves to the theater and have some movie fun.  The score for this movie is:

 

Animation/Comedy/Crime:  8.5

Movie Overall:  8.0 

The Lone Tonto

The Lone Ranger

Hey all, we’re back with another movie review as we approach the holiday weekend.  In honor of the patriotic holiday 4th of July, Hollywood decided to revive the classic Western heroes of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, in Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest production entitled well… “The Lone Ranger.”  While many of the younger generation have had little, if any, experience with the desperado of yore, Disney has once again attempted to bring a series back into the milieu of movies.  How do you do that?  Put popular actor Johnny Depp into the movie, make him the iconic character, and then advertise as an action flick for the whole family.  What was my verdict on the movie?  Read on to find out.

Let’s face it we all thought that this movie was going to be a Western knockoff of Pirates of the Caribbean and in many ways it is.  Unfortunately for this reviewer those similarities mirrored the latter films, whose qualities were a bit lowered than the epic first film.  The biggest similarity is of course Tonto, the Indian version of Captain Jack Sparrow, just with some broken speech patterns and a little less rum.  Depp has dived into the character pool once more, and has adapted well into the awkward tracker/shaman.  Using his unique personality, Depp places a spin on a character that is very entertaining to watch.  Tonto was the highlight of the movie for me, primarily in his ability to somehow take any situation and make me laugh with just a few words.  Like the infamous captain, Tonto also has the ridiculous movement patterns that get stranger as the movie continues on.  Unfortunately this film skimped on a few things that made Tonto less of a memorable character.  Sparrow had a story, a goal, and a history that bled into the swashbuckling tales and kept us on our toes trying to guess what his next move was.  Tonto does not, as his story is very simple, his relationships not well developed, and surprisingly his moves are a bit lacking when compared to his other roles.  My guess is they chose to focus on Armie Hammer’s story and tried to give Depp the main character role without the main story.  Regardless Depp fans will love the man once more, as his dedication and entertaining styles continue to survive the tests of time. 

Putting Tonto aside, The Lone Ranger lacks a lot of things that I look for in a movie.  It’s almost as if the directors of this movie couldn’t decide what type of a film they wanted to make and instead mashed a few genres together, skimped on the story, and then paid Depp to make the film great.  For instance, at the beginning it seemed like this was going to be an adventure that was light hearted, good Western fun that all audiences could enjoy.  Then somewhere along the line director Gore Verbinski decided to flip on the dark switch and turn one of the villains into a savage that had a taste for various organs, hello The Last of the Mohicans.  These dark moments were surprisingly frequent and often graphic enough, to issue the warning that this is not as much a kid’s movie as you might think.  When people weren’t being massacred though, the action is alright, often more chasing and haphazard shooting than anything really exciting.  I felt that the actions scenes were all about Depp making us laugh and less on the outcomes of the battle.   Had it not been for the amazing soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, I don’t think I would have had any interest in the music, yeah it was that lacking.  Needless to say, the story itself mirrored the action, where there really wasn’t much to grab your attention.  A simple linear story, that kind of had a Western feeling to it, but lacked the heart of the wild west that was made famous long ago.  Any attempt to develop the characters, was dropped for a hearty laugh and slightly touched upon later on in the film.

Speaking of the characters, most of the cast really didn’t impress me in both character and acting.  Despite the movie being about the Lone Ranger, his story was simple, not that entertaining, and rather bland for the most part.  Hammer looks pretty for the girls, but honestly there isn’t much to him other than a prop for Tonto.  The main villain Butch Cavendish, looked the nasty part, but they didn’t really pursue much with him or his party.  The damsel in distress Rebecca Reid (Ruth Wilson) but not much else can be said, because like the other characters, she just didn’t get a whole lot of interest from the direction staff.  If I really had to pick another character that stood out, it would have to be Ms. Red Harrington (Helena Bonham Carter).  Most likely this character got more attention because of the actress, but Red has some sass and attitude that mixed with Carter’s talents makes for an entertaining cameo with a little more “kick.”  Perhaps next movie, if there is one, will have some more background, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The Lone Ranger relies a lot of Depp for its entertainment purposes, but as many of us know one man can’t make a movie.  Verbinski dropped the ball on this one and I can’t really say it’s worth a trip to the theater.  If you’re a die-hard Depp fan you’ll probably still go and have fun, but skip this and wait for television or Netflix.  My scores for this film are:

Action/Adventure/Western:  6.0

 

Movie Overall:  6.0