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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Cinema Review: Gravity

gravity-detached-official-trailer-1

 

DIR: Alfonso Cuarón  • WRI: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón • PRO: David Heyman • DOP: Emmanuel Lubezki • ED: Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger • DES: Andy Nicholson • CAST: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Basher Savage

Two actors pretend to float in space. The premise promises little, but Gravity is an exceptional film that has already pulled huge audiences worldwide and attracted rave reviews, both well deserved. It’s simply stunning.

Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Lt Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are among the crew servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. A Russian missile destroys an obsolete satellite. The debris hurtles through space, causing catastrophic damage to Stone’s shuttle. We know from film taglines that, in space, no one can hear you scream. There’s no air pressure, no oxygen. So, how will they survive? Is it even possible?

Gravity works well because Alfonso Cuarón, who co-wrote the script with his son Jonás, directs it as a thriller. He clearly sets out difficulties to overcome and the stakes should the characters succeed or not. He ratchets up the tension as oxygen levels fall, fuel runs out and space debris strikes again. The pacing is excellent.

But it’s more than a thriller. Gravity may very well be this year’s Life of Pi, a visually impressive film best seen in IMAX 3D. Gravity surpasses Lee’s film because its philosophizing is less trite, more subtle. Their central device is much the same: an isolated hero confronted by a vast wilderness struggles to get home. It’s possible to read Gravity as an existential meditation, confronting our fear of dying, our need to connect to other people, and our utter dependence on the planet we take for granted. Cuarón’s direction and the intelligent writing allow these themes to emerge, to be contemplated perhaps after the film’s initial impact.

Its imagery beguiles. Emmanuel Lubezki, Cuarón’s regular DOP, worked wonders with Terrence Malick and his natural light in The Tree of Life and To the Wonder. Here, he must integrate digital and live action, and it’s his lighting that makes it seamless. The visual effects are nothing less than marvellous. Gravity is often breathtakingly beautiful, with shots ranging from panoramic vistas of the Earth below or close-ups of Dr Stone’s tears floating before us in 3D. It’s one of the most technically accomplished films yet produced.

All this technical skill, philosophizing and striking scenery may draw parallels with the works of Stanley Kubrick, in particular 2001: A Space Odyssey. Indeed, some of the film’s images, such as Dr Ryan Stone assuming the foetal position in a space capsule, directly recall the 1968 classic. Whereas Kubrick’s films could be cold, Cuarón’s film avoids that pitfall with Sandra Bullock’s excellent performance and George Clooney’s important contribution.

The actors are often confined in small spaces, their movements restricted in their spacesuits, leaving them to convey much with their voice and facial expressions, and they succeed admirably. The dialogue at times seems far removed and unrelated to the captivating imagery, but Gravity frequently becomes profoundly moving.

Clooney gives the film its warmth and its humour, playing on his roguish charm and playboy image. Bullock demonstrates how much Hollywood has undervalued her abilities to date. Ed Harris reprises his role as the voice of Houston, and his interactions with the astronauts at the beginning serve as a sweetener before the crisis ensues.

A big budget epic made with the skill and intelligence that keeps its more lofty elements grounded, Gravity is a deeply affecting, mesmerizing film that exemplifies the best of contemporary cinema.

 

John Moran

 12A (See IFCO for details)

90 mins

Gravity is released on 8th November 2013

Gravity – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Heat

 TheHeat_PhotoLarge_8b

DIR: Paul Feig • WRI: Katie Dippold • PRO: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping • DOP: Enrique Chediak • ED: Brent White, Jay Deuby • CAST: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans

Buddy-cop comedies were a staple of the 1980s in the wake of the success of 48 Hours, which translated the talents of Eddie Murphy from the small screen to movies. In this summer of tedious city-levelling blockbusters, it’s a palette-cleansing relief to find The Heat reworking the ‘80’s formula of the reliable police officer paired with a wild and crazy partner. Here Sandra Bullock plays an efficient but uptight FBI agent forced to work alongside Melissa McCarthy’s scruffy and inventively foul-mouthed Boston cop in order to take down a drug lord. The plot only serves to generate situations that allow our odd-couple duo to demonstrate their comedic gifts, and, in this, it succeeds wonderfully.

Some interesting actors, including Jane Curtin, Demián Bichir , Tony Hale and Michael Rappaport appear in supporting roles, but  this is really a two-woman show. As seen in The Proposal, Bullock is adept at milking awkwardness and inhibition for all their comic potential. The real star, however, is McCarthy, who, both physically and verbally, heeds no boundaries of taste in order to elicit laughs. One can’t help but feel that much of her dialogue was unscripted. The film’s 15 certificate rating gives her free rein to coin some fresh workplace profanity, including a grandstanding tirade about her boss’s lack of balls. The filmmakers’ willingness to spurn a general audience in favour of the liberties afforded by the higher age rating also allows for unexpected moments of violence that further the comedy, including a bloody and bloody funny emergency tracheotomy needlessly performed by Bullock.

McCarthy made her first mark in 2011’s Bridesmaids, and that film’s director, Paul Feig, draws another great performance from her. Despite the massive success of Bridesmaids, some critics grudgingly marginalised it as a female-skewing, chick-flick phenomenon, as if its box-office total of $288 million worldwide was all made up entirely by hen parties, with men staying well clear. Straying into the traditionally male terrain of the buddy-cop genre and generating the same kind of laughs as Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, The Heat clarifies the fact that funny is funny, regardless of the gender of the protagonists.

Tony McKiver

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details) 

115 mins
The Heat is released on 2nd August 2013

The Heat  – Official Website

 

 

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Cinema Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

DIR: Stephen Daldry • WRI: Eric Roth • PRO: Scott Rudin • DOP: Chris Menges • ED: Claire Simpson • DES: K.K. Barrett • Cast: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow
A film like Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is going to be marmite – people will either love it and defend it from its detractors or others will see it as a callous, shallow attempt to pull at emotions in order to elicit a response. It’s very difficult to draw a line between one or the other with this film. On the one hand, it’s a poignant story of dealing with loss and making sense of a harrowing experience. On the other, it’s an annoying, saccharine-ridden heap that feels like it’s playing on people’s experiences and weaknesses. It entirely depends on the viewer and their own prejudices and cynicism.

The story centres around Oskar Schell (newcomer Thomas Horn), a young Jewish boy from New York who is in mourning over the death of his father, played by Tom Hanks. Set one year after September 11, he stumbles upon a key in his father’s closet that he believes to hold significance for him. He sets about meticulously planning and conducting a search of the city in an attempt to find what the key fits and, in doing so, how all New York has dealt with the atrocity. Along the way, he meets a variety of characters – including Max von Sydow in, arguably, the best role he’s taken on in the past ten years. Playing Oskar’s mother is Sandra Bullock in a very reined-in performance, the same goes for Viola Davis who plays one of the people Oskar interviews about the key. Eric Roth, the screenwriter, is no stranger to mawkish and over-sentimental works – just watch The Postman or, to some degree, Forrest Gump. Again, of course, this is down to the viewer and their own cynicism levels. Some may find Schell’s monologues about the trauma of that day heart-rending and genuinely upsetting. Others may see it as bare-faced blackmailing of emotions.
Stephen Daldry’s direction is assured and polished and he is able to convey just how much New York was affected by the events. He also works well with both Thomas Horn and Max von Sydow. The relationship between the two is heartwarming, but again, it does take some very sharp turns into cliched-ridden messiness. Thankfully, von Sydow’s performance is strong enough that even when the young Schell isn’t particularly delivering in a scene, his gravitas more than makes up for it. It says a lot about an actor like Max von Sydow that he can portray any number of emotions with a single glance or look. Time and age has given him a stillness that can’t be trained and imitated – it is his experience that comes to the front in this film. Likewise, Tom Hanks is able to take an extended cameo and make it seem believable that a child would that adversely affected by his loss. It’s tough to place an entire film on the shoulders of an untested actor, particularly a child actor. The entire film rests on their performance and whether or not you buy it. With Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, it’s a mixed bag. You do empathise with Horn’s character, however some of the voice-over monologues are particularly grating and it does almost feel exploitative. It is an unashamed tearjerker, but it does feel like it’s trying to be more than what it is – almost as if it’s saying that America should have gotten over it by now, the same way this child did. People deal with grief in very different ways – it isn’t always so Oprah Winfrey / Dr.Phil as this, unfortunately.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is released on 17th February 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close  – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_quK9SEGYE

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The Blind Side

The Blind Side

DIR: John Lee Hancock • WRI: John Lee Hancock • PRO: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Gil Netter • DOP: Alar Kivilo • ED: Mark Livolsi • DES: Michael Corenblith • CAST: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head, Lily Collins

How did this dross manage to be nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars®?

The Blind Side is supposedly based on the life of Michael Oher, a rags-to-riches American football star, but really it is the ‘true’ story of the Tuohy family – a rich, squeaky-clean family the likes of which George Bush senior dreamed off when he was quoted pontificating jibber-jabber about how families should be less like the Simpsons and more like the Waltons. Headed by the gun-packing, right-wing, Christian mother Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock), the family wave their magic wand and sprinkle their dream-dust over the poor Michael Oher (Quintin Aaron) and grant him the perfect life he never would have been blessed with had he stayed in that goddamn ghetto where his uncaring, druggie momma dragged him up.

Thanks to the divine intervention of the Tuohy family, Michael ‘learns’ how to play football and is ‘given’ an education so that he can go to college and play his way to the major league, where he becomes a star. Lucky for him he met some rich selfless white folks who save poor helpless black folk. That’s the major problem with this film – it depicts some sort of white saviour syndrome.

Now this may well be based on a true story (interesting to note that Oher himself has virtually disowned the film). But the truth is predicated on the Tuohys’ side of events. In particular Leigh Anne Tuohy. As a result, it is Sandra Bullock’s film (hence her Oscar®). Everything that goes on around her exists to spotlight her performance. While there’s no denying Bullock’s performance, it also stands as testament to the ignorant portrayal of Michael Oher. He is nothing in this film but a stooge that allows Bullock to shed tears, sissy fit about the place and make a home for her newfound exotic pet. There is nothing in the film that seeks to give a voice to Michael’s experience as his discomfort is used as an excuse to starve him of lines, strip him of motivation, and deny his own experience. He is basically a non-entity in the film, lacking any sort of subjectivity and exists as nothing more than an object of ‘charity’.

There is one among many grating scenes when the Tuohy’s provide Michael with a tutor (Kathy Bates) to improve his grades. Determined for him to go to a particular college, she attempts to put him off going to a rival’s college by force-feeding him some gobbledygook about bodies being buried under the pitch to scare him away – so there you have it: his tutor treating him like an imbecilic child who’ll swallow any old crap so that she can get her way. Tute on!

John Lee Hancock directs with all the skill of an ice-skating hippopotamus and serves up as many stereotypes and one-dimensional characters as Rafael Nadal’s aces. The script is full of wince-inducing dialogue and peppered with inanities (‘You’ve changed that boy’s life’…‘No. He’s changed mine’).

This revisionist skewering of biography has all the empathy of those ’80’s Sunday made- for-TV true stories of how heroic humanity can be in the face of despair. But in this film there is no sense of despair; rather an endless parade of backslapping heroism of the haves helping out the have-nots. Its saccharine oversimplification of complex sociological issues is a travesty. Don’t be fooled by Mister Oscar® – this is aneurism-inducing storytelling. At times, it’s like being in a coma and being force-fed heroin by Sarah Palin.

Steven Galvin

Rated 12A (see IFCO for details)

The Blind Side is released 26th March 2010

The Blind Side– Official Website

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