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Movies Review

Lightning Movie Reviews – Ant-Man, Ultron, Minions

I have some catching up to do, so you get some quick thoughts on some recent flicks.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – The first movie was so successful, so it would’ve been difficult to meet expectations here. Ultron definitely was a half-step down but still had some great action and humor. Ultron himself could’ve used a bit more menace – something Spader would’ve been capable of, and in the end Ultron comes off a bit odd. I loved the Vision though, and for all the worry about Quicksilver and the comparison to the X-Men movie version, he and Wanda were great in their limited role. Special shout-out to Hawkeye who filled the ‘heart of the team’ role admirably, and was probably the funniest of the Avengers.

Ant-Man – Okay, I really enjoyed Ant-Man. Thought of as the riskiest project in the MCU after Guardians of the Galaxy, especially with all the turmoil surrounding Edgar Wright’s departure. It didn’t catch fire like Guardians but has performed solidly, tracking to match or exceed Captain America: The First Avenger. The visuals were a ton of fun and seemed to keep some of the Edgar Wright weirdness around. I wish Hope could’ve been Wasp here but I’ll deal as long as they get her in for future MCU movies. I also hope we get to see more Hank Pym – I’d love to see Michael Douglas as Hank going toe to toe with Tony Stark.

Minions – Minions is the classic example of something that is funny in small bursts but drags when expanded out to feature-length. Like how Pinky and the Brain were funny on Animaniacs but significantly less so with their own 30 minute show. There were a few chuckles and it certainly wasn’t so bad as to be painful, but it’s telling that the biggest smile for me came from when (spoiler alert) young Gru appeared at the end. Catch it when it’s on FX or whatever.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Despicable Me 2

Thanks to the fine folks at Buffalo.com, my 5 year old daughter and I saw Despicable Me 2 last night.  It’s got a lot to live up to, as the first is one of our favorite movies as a family, and one of the most-quoted.  I’m happy to report that, for the most part, Despicable Me 2 lives up to it’s predecessor.

It’s a bit slow to start, while we see what Gru is up to now that he’s no longer a supervillain.  It’s broken up by some funny bits (including Agnes’s birthday party) and hey, MINIONS.  We learn why Gru is single, and it becomes clear that the heart of the movie is about his loneliness.  He has the girls, but there’s still something not there.

The other aspect of the movie, as you see from the trailers, is Gru working with the ‘Anti-Villain League’ to try and figure out who is behind some recent trouble.  A secret lab developed a serum that turns normal creatures into crazy, murderous versions of themselves, and it was stolen (of course!).  Gru and Agent Lucy Wilde are investigating the various suspects, our hero zeroes in on one he thinks is a long-missing, presumed dead villain named El Macho, doubly so when the potential villain’s son takes a shine to oldest daughter Margo.  It’s a lot of the same over-protective father bits you’ve seen, except that when the father is a former supervillain, he’s got more options on how to deal with it (FREEZE RAY!).

What I love about these movies so far is the family aspect.  It’s on display again here with Gru and the girls, as well as Dr. Nefario (can’t say much as I don’t want to spoil it).  It may not be a typical family – I don’t know about you, but I don’t have hundreds of minions or an evil scientist grandpa – but they love each other, and it shows.

For the 5 year old’s perspective, my daughter was beside herself with joy.  I could barely keep her from babbling the whole way through at all the stuff she liked.  For me, I think Despicable Me is still the best, but this is a worthy sequel.  Oh, and Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira did another bang-up job on the music.  “Happy” is infectious.  If you liked the first one, see this!

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Life

Thanksgiving Timeline

It’s time, once again, for what might be the best holiday of them all for grown-ups – Thanksgiving.  That goes double if you aren’t trusted to prepare food by your family.  You get awesome food, and it’s expected that you are going to eat a ton of it.  If you love football, there are some genuinely good matchups this year.  Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is fun, but that usually includes all of the same food prep, plus you are up late assembling/arraying presents around the tree, and if you are church-going folk, you’ve got that too.  It doesn’t mean that turkey day is totally without drama.  Here’s my expected timeline for lunch/dinner tomorrow:

  • 12:30pm – Football!
  • 12:39pm – Children want to play Wii on the same TV.  Intense negotiations ensue.  I make sure the only game they can find is Wii Fit.  They lose interest.
  • 1:58pm – The first call to go to the table to eat goes out.  Since it involves 19 people aged 1 to 91, it takes some time.
  • 2:19pm – An adorable child says Grace.
  • 2:20pm – The other five do so as well, not wanting to be left out.
  • 2:22pm – The food is being passed, and plates are assembled for those sitting at the ‘kids table’.  I take a little bit of everything you eat to be nice to those that brought it.
  • 2:28pm – Nephew knocks over his drink.
  • 2:32pm – Upon taking seconds, I just take the things you really wanted in the first place (turkey, canned cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon bits).  Also, the first salvo of crescent rolls are gone.
  • 2:47pm – May or may not have thirds, possibly dependent on more rolls.  Other nephew knocks his drink over.
  • 3:111pm – Stuffed beyond all memory.
  • 3:14pm – Desserts are passed.  Based on the previous note, it is ill-advised to take one at this point.  I take three.

At this point, the evening becomes a blur.  Napping is attempted and thwarted by *gasp* conversation.  More football watching is attempted, but in my sleepy, bloated state I am unable to stop the children from putting in a movie.  Luckily they have good taste and it’s either a Pixar movie or Despicable Me.  The night will end early for me as I’m working really, really early the next morning.

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Featured Media

Movieline’s 10 Best Celeb Voiceovers in Animated Films

I saw this linked from IMDB today, and had to see who they had picked.  I don’t disagree with most of the choices, though my memories of things like Lady and the Tramp are kind of vague.  That is, until, I read some of the comments and started thinking about the names mentioned there.  There are a lot of choices here, some you may not have even realized, and definitely some that could make a case to be on the list.  In no particular order:

  • I prefer Eddie Murphy as Mu Shu in Mulan
  • Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in Finding Nemo.  Obviously a comedian is going to be able to handle the humorous aspects, but I was impressed more with her voice acting during the scene after she is apart from Marlin and before bumping into Nemo.
  • Peter O’Toole in Ratatouille.  Just close your eyes and listen.  The shift from vicious, jaded food critic to friend at the end is subtle, and O’Toole pulls it off oh so well.
  • Steve Carell in Despicable Me.  One of the few either on my list or Movieline’s that actually did a ‘voice’, affecting a sort of Eastern European-ish accent that just works for Gru.  Very expressive, making great use of Carell’s comic timing, and showing good heart as well.

There are other movies and famous voice acting roles that could fit on here, such as Mandy Moore and Donna Murphy (who may not be famous enough for the list) from Tangled, Ed Asner or Christopher Plummer in Up, and Tina Fey in Ponyo and Megamind.  Actually, speaking of Megamind, I’d like to give a special shoutout to Will Ferrell, he did a fantastic job, and I normally dislike him.  Easy to forget it is him.

So who else deserves a look at the list?  Any you vehemently disagree with?  Let me know!

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Featured Media

Classic Rock Will Never Die

…because we keep slipping the songs into our kids’ movies.  Whether it’s Elvis records via Lilo & Stitch, to Crazy Train, Welcome to the Jungle and Bad to the Bone in Megamind, to every other movie ending with a dance party of some type thanks to Shrek, these songs are everywhere.  That’s not even counting the comic book movies.  While it’s a bit embarrassing to have your son belting out Highway to Hell in polite company, at least you know he’s getting a solid musical education.

Movie fans:  What’s your favorite use of the classics in modern kid films?

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Review

Movie Review – Despicable Me

I took Thomas and Mattie to see this on Saturday, and we all enjoyed it quite a bit.  Well, Mattie was more interested in popcorn and changing seats, but that’s why we go to the kid-friendly showing in the morning. ;)

The story is about Gru, a super-villain comfortable in his solitary life until a new rival swoops in and takes the spotlight from him.  Determining Vector’s (the new villain) one weakness to be Girl Scout cookies, Gru adopts three orphan girls who had tried to sell them to him previously.

You can imagine what happens, in general terms, as Gru works on stealing back the Shrink Ray he needs from Vector, the girls are working on making the best of what appears at first to be a bad situation.  It’s not a full-on tears movie, but I’ll admit to misting up a tiny bit for the book at the end (you’ll see).  The minions don’t quite steal the show, but they are funny in way that adds to the movie, not distracts from it.

All in all, it was a quite enjoyable time.  It’s kind of unfortunate that all animated movies get judged against Pixar’s best now, but Despicable Me holds it’s own.  See it.