[Early Review] Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Director: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon

Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker

Screenplay: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio

90 mins. Rated PG for action and mild humor.

 

Despicable Me 3 opens with Gru (Steve Carell, Foxcatcher, Café Society) losing his job at the AVL (Anti-Villain League) for failing to capture Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, Team America: World Police), a child-star-turned-villain bent on stealing the world’s most expensive diamond. Now Gru, Lucy (Kristen Wiig, The Martian, How to Train Your Dragon 2), both jobless, are invited to meet his long-lost brother Dru (also voiced by Carell), a successful, rich, and slightly better looking twin who wishes for Gru to train him in the family business: villainy. Gru decides to utilize his brother’s impressive cache of expensive technology to capture Bratt and get back into the AVL. Also, there are minions.

If you were looking for anything new or shocking in Despicable Me 3, take this as a warning. For the most part, you won’t find anything that rockets this franchise to the next level short of the excellent voice work by Parker, who is mostly known for his foul-mouthed presence on the popular Comedy Central series South Park. That being said, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (The Secret Life of Pets, The Lorax) asked themselves, “What is this franchise missing?” and answered in unison “More Gru!” Sadly, the Gru/Dru story fizzles out. It’s rather cliché and doesn’t really add anything new.

On that note, I also felt like the film was rather overstuffed with plot threads. Gru has Dru, Lucy has a uninteresting arc of a new mom learning to become a new mom and it doesn’t really surprise and interest. The three girls gets short little arcs that kind of work but feel underdeveloped. At least the minions have a lot of fun on a somewhat solo adventure after leaving Gru when he chooses not to return to the life of villainy. Their plotline feels similar to Scrat from the Ice Age films when Scrat actually worked.

You might think I hated the film, but I didn’t. In fact, I rather enjoyed myself for one exemplary reason. I love these characters. And while I hate on Gru quite a bit, it’s because he works better when played off another, and that’s why his story with Dru might have worked better if they hadn’t been twin brothers and it someone other than Carell had voiced him. I also enjoy Lucy and the girls even if they  don’t have enough to do. I was sad at the absence of Dr. Nefario from the previous installments but I felt like the minion sections of the film learned a lot from the experiment spinoff feature that they had a few years ago. They are given enough screentime to really play around without the film relying too heavily on them.

But I must return to the impressive work Trey Parker as Balthazar Bratt. His role was so much fun as an over-the-top villain obsessed with his past (a nice parallel to Gru’s journey) and addicted to the 1980s. A big win for me as I was unimpressed with the villain of Despicable Me 2.

Now it sounds like Despicable Me 3 may be the last of the official series with Steve Carell said in an interview that he may not return as Gru outside of another Minions cameo, so if this is it, it ends on an okay note. Again, the finale of the film is nothing original, but I’m also thinking I’d rather end it there rather than see what happens next. Overall, Despicable Me 3 was a lot of fun and I did enjoy myself. This is the entry that gets closest to the original with some big wins and a few classic sequel misses, but if you’ve enjoyed this franchise so far, I see no reason to miss this one.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Sucker Punch (2011)

 

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

Screenplay: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya

110 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.

 

Wow, I remember being very excited for Sucker Punch five years ago. I really enjoyed Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen, both directed by Zack Snyder (300, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and I couldn’t wait to see what the visual director was going to bring next. Sucker Punch had the right amount of mystery and confidence to carry it for me. Then, it came out. My mind quickly changed. Looking back now, I decided to revisit Sucker Punch five years later to see if it had changed.

Sucker Punch is another one of those movies impossible to fully describe in a paragraph, so I’ll try to make it as easy as possible. Babydoll (Emily Browning, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Legend) has just lost her mother, and her step-father has sent her to an asylum for the mentally ill, which Babydoll sees as a brothel. She meets others there, like Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish,  Limitless, RoboCop) and her sister Rocket (Jena Malone, Contact, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2), and she is introduced to Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), who makes Babydoll and her friends dance at his club. Not wanting to deal with the cards dealt, Babydoll escapes into a fantasy world where she battles Nazi Zombies, Robot Samurai, and of course, a dragon, all the time attempting to get tools to plot her escape.

If there are two truly great things that came out of Sucker Punch, they are the visuals and the music. This movie is gorgeous looking, and I don’t just mean the talent in front of the camera. Zack Snyder’s constant flair for the screen  is again impressive here. The score and soundtrack, both in the original renditions and songs selected to fit the film, are incredible and rhythmic and a lot of fun. That is where the wins for Sucker Punch end.

I’m not even going to touch on the misogynistic feel of the overall film. The movie just wants to be better than it is. I didn’t feel the emotional impact of much of the film because I knew that what I was seeing was not exactly what was really happening. It isn’t very easy to make a popcorn movie with explosions and scantily-clad woman battling monsters into a total snoozer, but Sucker Punch did just that. Honestly, when I read down the list of components of this film, it should be great, but the poor screenplay from Snyder and Steve Shibuya shines through this film, ultimately making a disappointment.

The film is star studded, also including Jamie Chung (Big Hero 6, Bad Johnson), Carla Gugino (Night at the Museum, San Andreas), Jon Hamm (TV’s Mad Men, Minions), and Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs, The Barber), but unfortunately, the film feels overdone and undercooked, a beautifully confusing mess, a nicely mixed cocktail that tastes like mud. I really wanted to love Sucker Punch, but I just wasn’t in love with it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 17 – Beetlejuice (1988)

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Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder

Screenplay: Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren

92 mins. Rated PG for adult situations/language and violence.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Makeup

 

I remember really enjoying the animated Beetlejuice television series as a kid. When my mother finally introduced me to the idea that it was preceded by a live-action film, I just about went crazy. When she told me that it was going to be on television that night, I lost it. I saw it. I loved it. I still love it.

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Meet the Maitlands: Adam (Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Aloha) and Barbara (Geena Davis, Thelma & Louise, In a World…). They just died and now confined to an afterlife in their home. But when Charles (Jeffrey Jones, Sleepy Hollow, 10.0 Earthquake) and Delia (Catherine O’Hara, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A.C.O.D.) Deetz move in, accompanied by outcast daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder, Black Swan, Homefront), they are forced to go to extreme situations to haunt the Deetzes into moving out. In steps Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton, Birdman, Minions), a bioexorcist who specializes in getting people to move out of their dwellings, but the self-described “ghost with the most” has an agenda of his own, and the Maitlands have just gotten in too deep.

Beetlejuice came after director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Big Eyes) greated great success as director of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and used his clout to reveal his true genius with the visual medium as a gothic director of merit. Beetlejuice is an excellent exercise in tone, cinematography, storytelling, and excitement.

It seems as though everyone knows their place in this film, from Baldwin and Davis playing the timless Maitlands to the big city quirky Deetzes, and especially an often overlooked performance from Glenn Shaddix, who plays the smug and cynical Otho (after Shaddix’s death in 2010, the famous Day-O from the film played at the end of the funeral). Otho’s role in driving the plot with his hubris-filled attempts at showing his wide array of skills gives the story so much flavor.

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From a storytelling perspective, Beetlejuice proves that you don’t have to explain away the mysteries of your film. The script from Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren was rewritten from being a straight horror film with several cliché plot points into the afterlife character study that it is today. It is arguably one of Tim Burton’s finest works, and is easily viewable to any audience in any time, even if some of the effects have not dated well.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Batman, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

[Batman Day] Batman (1989)

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Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance

Screenplay: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren

126 mins. Rated PG-13.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

 

Happy Batman Day! I think, in honor of the legendary Caped Crusader’s special day, we should look back on the 1989 Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Big Eyes) film, Batman, featuring Michael Keaton (Birdman, Minions) as the tycoon-turned-hero.

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On the dark criminal-filled streets of Gotham, tough guy Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson, The Shining, How Do You Know) has been betrayed by his boss, villainous gangster Carl Grissom (Jack Palance, The Swan Princess, Tango & Cash) and now, disfigured by a vat of toxic chemicals, he has donned a new persona, the Joker. Commissioner James Gordon (Pat Hingle, The Land Before Time, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams, Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Fanboys) are powerless to stop him, but there is hope in the guise of the near-mythical masked vigilante Batman (Keaton) to stop the incoming crimewave.

Batman is a strange but not entirely out of line choice for director Tim Burton, who had previously worked on dark horror-comedies like Beetlejuice and the short film Frankenweenie. Burton had a very tall order to deliver on, having a pantheon of stories to honor is his depiction of Bruce Wayne and his story, and fans were not too thrilled with the decision to cast Keaton in the role.

I think I can say wholeheartedly that fans were proven wrong. Michael Keaton kills it in this role. His decision to play Bruce as an unhinged man, fully committed to his insane lifestyle is what drives his performance home. He fits perfectly in Burton’s over-the-top occasionally overtly-goofied version of Gotham.

Add to that an absolutely bonkers portrayal of The Joker given by a perfect casting choice in Jack Nicholson. Nicholson almost passed up the opportunity to play the villain, but thankfully, due to a considerable offer, he signed on. This is also the first time ever that viewers received a Joker origin story. Up until that point, and in many subsequent versions of the character’s tale, we do not get the answers to why he is the way he is. This origin is perhaps not as powerful as the mystery surrounding the character, though.

Now, from a technical perspective, Batman is hit-and-miss. The set decoration, for which the film won an Oscar, is incredible, but from a sound perspective, I believe the film mostly misses the mark. The sound mixing is a real loss, and the idea of jamming a great theme from Danny Elfman (I can’t believe I just said that) with original music from Prince was a huge mistake.

I should point out that I do love the opening titles. How about that fantastic theme? Am I right? Another interesting tidbit from this film is in the sequence where an underground doctor is fixing up Napier after the incident with the toxic chemicals. The tools used to operate actually came from the Little Shop of Horrors props, which was remade from a 1960 film featuring Jack Nicholson way before being famous. Movies are fun, eh?

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Batman wouldn’t have worked if it were made in a different time period. It is darker than the overtly campy 1960s iteration and yet still embraces the silliness more so than Christopher Nolan’s self-contained trilogy. I still find the film, despite its shortcomings (seriously, how do people not know who Bruce Wayne is), to be an interesting and enjoying piece of pop art, and it was a ton of fun to revisit.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

  

For my review of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

July 2015 Preview

 

Wow. Jurassic World, nice job in June. But July is flat-out huge. There are so many major releases and highly anticipated films on the way to a theater near you. So let’s jump in and see what there is to all this mess of movies.

Obligatory Note: Again, I haven’t seen these films at the time of this post. This is merely a discussion based on my abilities to read these films from the outside, and I’m good at it, too, so take it with a grain of salt, and if you see something different, let me know!

 

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Faith of Our Fathers

I’m not really going to get into this film very much. These “Christian” film releases in recent years have all been just terrible. I’m not saying anything about the religion, so don’t put me in that bucket. I’m a religious person by trade, but these films are terribly made. They aren’t well-written. They aren’t well-acted. They aren’t well-directed. They just aren’t good. This one will likely not change that.

 

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Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike was a critical success due to Steven Soderbergh. It was a financial success due to Channing Tatum and his merry men of male dancers. Soderbergh isn’t returning to direct this sequel, but he is editing and providing cinematography duties to director Gregory Jacobs. I don’t think Magic Mike XXL will deliver on the same critical aspects that the original had, but I happen to think that Channing Tatum’s abilities to carry a film as well as provide high-level pelvic thrusting should bring the sequel to moderate financial success.

 

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Terminator Genisys

Now for the people that won’t be seeing Faith of Our Fathers or Magic Mike XXL. Finally, after hopping around several studios, the Terminator franchise has arrived once again with Terminator Genisys. This film reboots the franchise in a similar way to last month’s Jurassic World, while not retconning the previous films but really focusing on staying true to the original. I love the idea of revisiting the original film in a way similar to the Star Trek franchise, and I think it stays organic to the rhythm of where the series has been heading. Really, it’s the only logical step to take the franchise. Do I think it looks good? Not sure. I think it looks interesting, but this film’s visual effects were not ready when the first trailer released, and I’m not sure if they ever did get finished. I want to like it. I want to. I just can’t say I know it is going to be great.

 

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Amy

The Amy Winehouse documentary doesn’t seem interesting to me. I never found her life to be all that exciting to learn about. I didn’t care for her music, and I can’t say I was surprised when her addiction caught up to her. Skip.

 

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The Gallows

The Gallows is a new found-footage (damn) horror film about a school play titled The Gallows that accidentally resulted in the death of a student during its initial run 22 years back. Now, the school wants to get the play up and going, and several students realize that some stories are best kept from being told. I like this idea but I’m already playing out all the horrible ways that this film will be represented. There are ways to make this film the right way, but I don’t see it happening the right way.

 

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Minions

Minions is the newest property in the Despicable Me franchise. It is presented as a prequel focused on Gru’s minions years before he meets them. Looking at the trailer, I actually really like this film for more than the cute factor. It has a truly morbid sense of style that I think it embraces this morbidity quite well for a film like this. I see definite potential here.

 

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Self/Less

Self/Less is a remake of the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Seconds and is directed by Tarsem Singh. In it, Ben Kingsley plays a man dying of cancer who has his consciousness transferred into the body of a younger healthier man played by Ryan Reynolds. I like the idea, but I’m concerned about the possible connections I was making with Limitless and Transcendence. Elements of this idea have cropped up before to mixed results.

 

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Ant-Man

Well, if you thought selling Guardians of the Galaxy was tough, try selling Ant-Man, the newest member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hoping to build on the success of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, Ant-Man has an interesting style to it, focusing on creating a fun superhero film to take the franchise back from the seriousness that has been building in the recent films. It looks like a lot of film, but many are aware of the film’s troubles past with previous director Edgar Wright and especially off of Joss Whedon’s personal implosion following the release of the second Avengers film, people will be wary of this one, but I hope it brings people in to at least give it a try.

 

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Mr. Holmes

Ian McKellan is perfectly cast as the 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in 1947. It isn’t related to the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes series or the CBS series Elementary. It also appears to be a much more calculated piece, very much like the original series of stories from Arthur Conan Doyle. Mr. Holmes will be a critical hit, I know it was much loved when it screened at BIFF back in February.

 

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Trainwreck

I like Judd Apatow. I do not like Amy Schumer. He directed. She starred and wrote. I’m not going to waste my time.

 

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Paper Towns

I didn’t see A Fault in Our Stars. I’m sure it was fine. I don’t like when an author’s adaptation is successful, every other property is picked up immediately and thrown at the screen. The same thing happened with Gillian Flynn after Gone Girl. I think Paper Towns actually sounds pretty interesting and I will be seeing it.

 

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Southpaw

Man, Jake Gyllenhaal really wants an Oscar! In Southpaw, Gyllenhaal’s transformation into boxer Billy Hope who is unable to get out of the world of boxing to spend more time with his family. When tragedy strikes, Hope discovers that boxing is all he knows. From an outside perspective, these types of movies become great character pieces but not exactly great films. I foresee Gyllenhaal’s nomination but not much else.

 

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Pixels

I know you want to like Pixels. I want to like Pixels. I know I’m not going to like Pixels. I get the feeling you won’t like Pixels. Damn Pixels.

 

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Vacation

I have a lot of hope that the reboot to Vacation will reinvigorate this franchise. The idea of Vacation is eternal, especially when you keep the family line of the Griswolds with the ever-evolving dynamic with the children. It looks hilarious, too.

 

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The fifth Mission: Impossible follows in the franchise of three other great action pics and also Mission: Impossible 2. In Rogue Nation, we get the whole team together for another romping globe-trotting pic that sets Ethan Hunt and his team against the Syndicate. This film adds a level of vengeance and finality to the film even though I know that Tom Cruise isn’t finished with this series. I hope Christopher McQuarrie can handle this series and keep it alive because I’ve enjoyed my time with it.

 

So there you have it, here is your final tally.

Best Bets: Minions, Ant-Man, Mr. Holmes, Vacation, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

On the Bubble: Magic Mike XXL, Terminator Genisys, The Gallows, Self/Less, Paper Towns, Southpaw

Likely Misses: Faith of Our Fathers, Amy, Trainwreck, Pixels

 

So what do you think? What are you most excited to see this month and why? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

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