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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Birdman

birdman

DIR: Alejandro González Iñárritu • WRI: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo • PRO: Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole • DOP: Emmanuel Lubezki • ED: Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione • DES: Kevin Thompson • MUS: Antonio Sanchez • CAST: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton

 

The French New Wave erupted in France during the 1950s, chucking all the formal rules of filmmaking out the window. A postmodern and critical cult began with the likes of Godard, Truffaut and Rohmer, who soon paved the way for American filmmakers such as Scorsese, Spielberg and De Palma. After the collapse of the studio system in Hollywood, young directors were left to their own devices and audiences were given a breath of fresh air.

 

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman is an American movie with European sensibilities, focusing more on mood and style rather than narrative. Birdman unfolds like a French New Wave film with its idiosyncrasies and philosophical dialogue. Even the title sequence is reminiscent of Godard’s Pierrot le Fou. Birdman doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table, but it is bursting with so much energy that it can’t help but win audiences over and create the sense that they are watching something entirely fresh and original.

 

The sense of the movie being shot entirely in one take with its complex tracking shots, fused with its rapid-fire dialogue keeps the audience alert and excited. It possesses a vibrant pace that challenges viewers to keep up as it races before our eyes on the screen.

 

And even though the movie is highly eccentric – whether it’s the cinematography, acting or fantasy sequences –  it never leads us astray. In fact, because of its technical tracking shots we feel part of the entire process. The film’s characters are preparing for a Broadway play and as the camera follows them through the hallways, dressing rooms, stage and streets of Manhattan, we feel like we are right there with them. It’s a voyeuristic wet dream. Hitchcock must be jizzing in his grave.

 

From a technical standpoint, Birdman is clearly a tremendous achievement, but we must not forget the actors, who had to stick out the gruelling shoot and not only make it work, but actually enhance it to the next level. Wonderfully cast, Birdman is a commentary on various subjects and one of those is acting itself. In this movie the actors are playing actors and at times it nearly becomes a game trying to figure out if they are in character for the play or not.

 

The acting method and process is superbly demonstrated in a sequence involving Riggan (Keaton) and Mike (Norton), who attempt to get into character during a rehearsal, which is so perfectly timed and natural I just sat there smiling like an idiot.

 

Throughout the film there is a struggle between reality and fantasy, whether it’s Riggan and his Birdman persona, Mike wanting the performance to be so real that he must actually drink real gin or really fuck on stage to succeed, or a strict critic trying to separate (real) high art from Hollywood.

 

Birdman had all the potential and possibility of being a pretentious art-house flick, but because of its sheer vigor and humor it has become a crossover hit and serious Oscar contender. Much like the struggle in the film’s subtext, I’m racking my brains trying to decide if it’s a great fantastical Hollywood picture or a real original film. Can’t win them all I guess.

Cormac O’Meara

15A (See IFCO for details)
119 minutes.
Birdman
is released 2nd January 2015.

Birdman   – Official Website

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