Review: Minions

Minions-2015

DIR: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda • WRI:  Brian Lynch • PRO: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri  • ED: Claire Dodgson • MUS: Heitor Pereira • Cast: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush

 

While Minion’s predecessors Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 focused on the antics of Gru, the world’s greatest supervillain, this film focuses on, well, you can probably guess. Gru’s beloved little yellow henchmen are the be-all and end-all of this film, in their historic quest to find an evil master worthy of their service.

Things start off with the Minions’ evolution since long before mankind showed up and their insatiable desire to serve the biggest baddest creature around. From giant fish to dinosaurs and, eventually, to humans, the minions manage to mess things up for every master they serve and are forced into exile to live out their days in peace… and total boredom. When enough time passes, the minions are so depressed with their now meaningless lives that three brave/foolish minions, Kevin, Stuart and Bob, venture into the world on a quest to find a new master, and evil, villainous, despicable master.

When the three make their way to America, the year is 1968 and they manage to stumble their way to a supervillain convention where they seek out the most celebrated baddie the ’60s have to offer. The particular brand of the chaos that the minions specialise in follows them everywhere and the film rarely misses an opportunity to throw laughs at its audience.

Now, anyone familiar with the first two films will probably recall that the minions speak in a frenzied blend of different languages and actual gibberish, meaning that a great deal of the story relies on physical comedy and action to move forward. However, that doesn’t mean that this film should be written off as simply silly humour for kids. It’s fantastically silly humour for kids and some really intelligent cultural references and jokes which should sail right over younger heads and make some parents chuckle, if not laugh out loud.

The cast (yep, there’s a cast), includes some wonderful performances by Sandra Bullock as supervillain extraordinaire Scarlet Overkill, Jon Hamm as Herb Overkill, Scarlet’s husband, and Geoffrey Rush as a sombre narrator, with some wonderful cameos by Steve Coogan, and Michael Keaton. It also has to be mentioned that Pierre Coffin also manages to give the best voice performance (for all the Minions) where the words don’t carry any of the meaning since Vin Diesel broke our hearts as a talking tree. The performances all hit the mark and there are really no missteps in terms of story or entertainment. The biggest flaw I could find with this film is that the 3D effects were a little bit hit and miss, occasionally drawing attention away from what was actually happening and making it hard to focus.

The minions were easily the breakout characters from the Despicable Me movies and it would have been easy to tack on any cast and weak story to sell movie tickets and a lot of yellow toys with this film. What we got instead was a clever and hugely entertaining film with a lot of evidence of thought and effort put in. Minions is a film that tries to improve on its successors and, in many respects, it really does.

Ronan Daly

 

G (See IFCO for details)
90 minutes

Minions is released 26th June 2015

Minions– Official Website

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Review: Spy

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DIR/WRI:  Paul Feig •  PRO: Peter Chernin, Paul Feig, Jessie Henderson, Jenno Topping • DOP: Robert D. Yeoman • ED: Mellissa Bretherton • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • DES: Jefferson Sage • CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale

 

When super-suave agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) is killed by the fabulously-quiffed Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne), his CIA desk jockey handler Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is devastated. Worse than that, now there’s a nuclear bomb available to any dastardly buyer, and Cooper begs Chief Crocker (Allison Janney) for a chance to finally get out in the field and do some real spying-type stuff.

Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) laughs off that idea – he wants to go in with all guns blazing – but this requires a light touch, and he’s too OTT. When he storms out, the Chief has no choice but to – reluctantly – give the nod to Susan. Finally she’s going undercover!

Quick as a flash – well, after getting her underwhelming super spy “weapon” – Susan has said goodbye to her BFF and fellow agent Nancy (Miranda Hart) and is on the way to Budapest, slipping into her first hideous cat women/single-for-life frumpy middle-America lady tourist disguise.

Ford is there too – he’s gone rogue – and now Susan has to deal with him and try not to blow her cover (or make too many mistakes). She manages to infiltrate Raina’s inner circle, but then things start to get really dangerous: can Susan and her friends save the world (and finally get a decent haircut and frock to stop Raina’s bitchy comments?).

Written and directed by Feig, Spy reunites him again with his Bridesmaids and Heat star McCarthy, who was wobbling a bit after the relative failure of Tammy, which was the first film where she was the only name on the poster.

Perhaps taking note of this, Feig does the unusual for this kind of film; he beefs up the supporting cast and actually gives them something to do. Apparently a huge fan of English TV star Miranda Hart (an unknown in the USA), Feig gives her a funny and meaty role, and she almost steals the film from McCarthy at times; they’re like a kind of female Laurel and Hardy.

The rest of the supporting cast – Statham, Law, Byrne and another British comedian Peter Serafinowicz, playing an amorously cheesy Italian agent – get plenty to do as well, and because they’re all totally up for a laugh, the combination effect works really well and makes McCarthy shine a little more.

There are plenty of laughs to be had, and with smart direction (we’re in Bond territory here of course, but there are chases and knife fights alongside blood, vomit and plenty of f-bombs – Americans love to hear English people swear), this is likely to set off a sequel or two…

James Bartlett

15A (See IFCO for details)
119 minutes

Spy is released 5th June 2015

Spy – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Mr Peabody and Sherman

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DIR: Rob Minkoff   WRI: Craig Wright  PRO: Denise Nolan Cascino, Alex Schwartz  ED: Tom Finan   MUS: Danny Elfman  DES: David James  CAST: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Allison Janney, Stanley Tucci, Lake Bell, Patrick Warburton, Mel Brooks

 

STOP. DO NOT CLICK OFF THIS PAGE…

I’m not one for stereotyping or profiling but I have a sense of the average Film Ireland reader. And I’m sensing kids’ animations get short-shift from you lovers of interminable European arthouse dirges and avid fans of restored silent black and white Eskimo epics from 1936.

What can I do to change your collective mindset? All I can say is that if you pass over this film with your snooty cineaste nose held aloft, then you are potentially missing one of the early unexpected highlights of 2014. (If you have a snotty cineaste nose – go see a doctor. That’s a whole other condition). So do you hate enjoying yourself? Do you hate laughter? Do you hate children?

If you’re still here, you’ll be happy to hear that I’m not exaggerating. This is a little gem of an animation bristling with verve, imagination and genuine warmth. I’m blissfully ignorant of the original TV show (bar a tangential reference in a Simpsons time travel episode) but I instinctively doubt it was as subversive and sharp as this modern re-imagining.

The film centres on and celebrates the relationship between a super-smart canine Mr Peabody and his adopted human boy Sherman. Even in an animated fictional world, their pure and mutual affection is viewed with incredulity and suspicion. Sherman becomes self conscious about having a dog as a dad when he starts a new school. However he is proud enough of his guardian’s inventions to try and impress a classmate by showing her a top-secret time travel machine. When they start to zip and rip through the fabric of history, their only option is to confide in Mr Peabody and trust that his genius brain can re-impose order on the past.

Naturally this playful confection has a zany take on history from Troy to the French Revolution but by jingo – there’s a subtle yet substantial educational pill inside this candyfloss entertainment.  Yet, the film is never less than an irreverent and rollicking adventure. Summed up by the duo developing a habit of being ejected from any animal shaped construct whether Sphinx or Trojan horse by the rear exit – if you get my drift. And it’s hilarious.

On paper, the character of the know-it-all Mr Peabody could easily be a bore or just plain annoying. However he is brilliantly personified by the dulcet tones of Ty Burrell (who is equally impressive as the effete father Phil Dunphy in TV’s Modern Family). As well as undercutting his boffin status with practical shortcomings and occasional over-confidence, Burrell imbues the dog with palpable insecurities. The stiff upper lip of the character is adroitly established with the clever deployment of a discernible trace of an English accent in the vocal performance. On the back of this wonderful work, I envisage Burrell being a stalwart on the voiceover scene for the foreseeable future.

Much like veteran vocal artist Patrick Warburton who is hysterical in the Troy sequence as an empty headed but overly emotive Agamemnon.  That entire section has me in stitches from the moment the occupiers of the main Trojan horse are fooled into bringing a much smaller wooden horse into their covert hiding place. Again, the film operates superbly but differently for kids and adults. The comedic peak of the film’s ambitious climax is a supremely naughty reference that kids will be blissfully oblivious of.

And though rampant incessant entertainment would have been reward enough, the film even has an emotional arc that resonates without being cloying or overly saccharine. The writer Craig Wright must be singled out even in this most collaborative art form. His script zings and fizzes with giddy creativity but in fairness, the visuals are exceptional too.

Even the 3-D is expertly and continually utilised to accentuate the storytelling. And that really is rare. Most 3-D in this field focuses on the opening sequence and perhaps is again concentrated on during the closing stretch. An entire raft of animated films has displayed this token approach to 3D but this film distinguishes itself by never forgetting about the extra dimension. From sword fights to snake fangs or angles that emphasise the height and depth of an Egyptian tomb, the effect is, for once, mesmerizing.

Kids of a certain age love watching favourite films over and over again. This title will instantly enter that firmament. Personally, I could have easily sat through it a second time just after the first screening had concluded. When’s the last time that happened in the cinema?

James Phelan

G (See IFCO for details)
92  mins

Mr Peabody and Sherman is released on 7th February 2014

Mr Peabody and Sherman – Official Website

 

 

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Cinema Review: The Way Way Back

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DIR: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash • WRI: Simon Barrett • PRO: Tom Rice, Kevin J. Walsh  • DOP: John Bailey • ED: Tatiana S. Riegel•  DES: Mark Ricker • CAST:  Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb

We meet 14 year old teenager Duncan (Liam James) en route to what he’s sure is going to be the worst summer holiday of his life. His mum Pam (Toni Collette) has been dating Trent (Steve Carell) for a while now, and that means a trip to his holiday cabin in a tourist-filled Cape Cod seaside town – whether Duncan likes it or not.

Steve’s bitchy teen daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) won’t even give him the time of day, and as soon as they arrive the “fun” begins, with neighbour Betty (Allison Janney) margarita in hand and already three sheets to the wind. Then Trent’s boating buddy Skip (Rob Corddry) and his flirtatious wife Joan (Amanda Peet) turn up, and the adults are ready to party – never mind what the kids are doing.

Duncan, his shoulders getting even more hunched by the minute, barely notices Betty’s seemingly-normal daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), and Trent’s put-downs and rules make him feel even less a part of the “family” Trent insists they’re going to be. And how come his mum is smoking pot with Trent and his friends? That’s not like her at all.

Salvation seems to come at the Water Wizz water park, where slobby owner Owen (Sam Rockwell) can’t believe this shy kid falls for all his witty bullshit patter, and offers him a job and a sarcastic but friendly face. As the days pass Duncan starts to lose his shyness among the high jinks with his fellow employees, though back at his summer “home” the tension grows, and he finds out that Trent has a summer secret.

He and Susanna start to talk a little more – they’re both kids of divorced parents, and both think this summer sucks – and while there might be some tears, it’s not going to end up quite as bad as they think.

We’re in the perpetual awkwardness of a teenage coming-of-age story here, and writer/directors Faxon and Rash (who won an Oscar for The Descendants and play small roles as water Wizz staff) make it seem timeless. When Owen gives Duncan the tour of the water park he says the owner wanted it to stay in 1983, and though we glimpse an iphone or two, other references make this story seem as if it’s taking place at any time from the 1950s to today.

James – a perpetual scowl on his unhappy face – epitomizes an unhappy teen, and the fine ensemble cast of actors (Rockwell and Janney especially) makes the best use of the excellent writing, which does so much by, for once, saying so little.

None of the expected, obvious moments come, yet we still get strong emotion and comedy, though more important than that it doesn’t offer us any easy answers about families, relationships or friends – just like it is when you’re a teenager, and an adult too.

This is that rarest of things these days – an original script with charm and real affection, but also an edge; the awkward silences between the adults at dinner says volumes without a word – and even the fab Water Wizz is a real place; look it up online!

Overall, this is a film that’s worth making the effort to see. It’s touted as akin to Little Miss Sunshine and Juno – it’s got fewer big laughs than that – but nonetheless it’s quite possible this will be floating around come Oscar time…

James Bartlett

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) 

103 mins
The Way, Way Back is released on 28th August 2013

The Way, Way Back – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: The Oranges

 

DIR: Julian Farino • WRI: Ian Helfer, Jay Reiss • PRO: Anthony Bregman, Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech • DOP: Steven Fierberg • ED: Carole Kravetz Aykanian, Jeffrey M. Werner • DES: Dan Davis • CAST: Leighton Meester, Hugh Laurie, Alia Shawkat, Allison Janney

Drama-comedies set in suburbia are, by and large, staid affairs with bland characters, thrust into extraordinary situations. Naturally, The Oranges does nothing to buck this trend. Set in New Jersey, it follows the lives of the Wallings (Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Adam Brody and Alia Shawkat) and the Ostroffs (Oliver Platt, Allison Janney and Leighton Meester) and a tumultuous affair between Hugh Laurie’s bored advertising exexcutive and his neighbour’s daughter (Leighton Meester). While this may echo the vastly superior American Beauty, it has none of its charm, beauty or intelligence. Although he’s worked extensively on TV, this is director Julian Farino’s first attempt at making a feature-length film. Unfortunately, this isn’t one to hang his hat on.

 

Hugh Laurie puts in a measured performance as the tired, worn-out husband to Catherine Keener’s highly-strung choirmaster of a wife, likewise Oliver Platt and Allison Janney work well together as a couple. Leighton Meester is somewhat intriguing as the vacuous, impulsive daughter who’s the object of everyone’s affection whilst Alia Shawkat is criminally underused as the voice of reason and, for the most part, sarcasm. All actors involved are far better than the material and Julian Farino’s boring direction does nothing to motivate or elevate their performances in any way. As well, the script is blatantly geared towards it being a middle-aged man’s ultimate fantasy; being found sexually attractive by a younger woman even though you’ve a noticeable bald patch. It’s not that it’s wildly unbelievable for it to happen in real life, it’s that the dialogue feels so forced and wooden that you can’t help but taken out of it completely.
There’s nothing overtly offensive about The Oranges, it’s that there’s nothing completely memorable about it either. None of the performances are particularly compelling, the script is languid and beige and Julian Farino’s direction is mediocre at best. The whole premise itself has been done before and done better, so that itself offers nothing new. Overall, The Oranges is a boring film with no real message, character or feelings to take away from it.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
90 mins

The Oranges is released on 7th December 2012

The Oranges – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEBknhHTe_I

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