Despicable Me 3 (Full Review)

Pixar and Dreamworks aren’t the only ones who can make great animated films. When Despicable Me first arrived in 2010, it became a surprise hit thanks to its endearing family story that molded seamlessly with a brand of Looney Tunes-like slapstick humor. But after a solid 2013 follow up film, the animators at Illumination tested their luck by making a Minions spinoff that fell flat. With Despicable Me 3, there is a need to rekindle the old magic to avoid the franchise from becoming stale.

Despicable_Me_3_(2017)_Teaser_PosterDespicable Me 3 picks up where Part 2 left off. Former supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) continues to raise his three adopted girls Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Agnes (Nev Scharrel), and Edith (Dana Gaier) while serving as a secret agent with his new wife Lucy (Kristin Wiig). After failing to capture an 80’s obsessed former child star turned supervillain (Trey Parker), Gru and Lucy lose their jobs as agents and are forced to seek refuge with Gru’s long lost wannabe villain twin brother, Dru.

If Minions almost made you forget just how great the Despicable Me stories are, Despicable Me 3 thankfully has several moments that are a pleasant reminder. The family dynamic is once again wonderfully charming and the laughs are plentiful. The biggest flaw is in the addition of the wholly unnecessary and often annoying character of Dru, but by the end even he manages to fit into the dynamic without feeling out of place. As for the minions, they are thankfully back where they belong as the comedic sideshow where most of them are involved in a plot that requires them to break out of prison.

Like the villains in the previous films, Trey Parker’s Balthazar Bratt is meant to be less of an in depth character and more of just a comedic caricature. And what a caricature he is. Dancing to Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ while doing the “running man”, the character provides some good laughs even if you could care less about why he exists. Despicable Me 3, unlike the Minions spinoff, has a better understanding of what works best in the franchise and even if the story isn’t quite as memorable as parts 1 and 2, it manages to still be a wholesome and funny family adventure.

FINAL GRADE: B

MOORE REVIEWS Grading Scale:

A = Must See/Top 10 Nominee

B = Good film. Flawed, but still very entertaining

C = Not Bad, but highly flawed/Worthy of a Redbox

D = Terrible Movie with a few redeeming qualities

F = I wanted to walk out/Don’t waste time or money

 

 

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Masterminds (Full Review)

You know a Michael Bay movie when you see it. You can usually figure it out after the tenth explosion within the first half hour. You know a Tim Burton film when you see it. It’s dark, creepy and weird. And after watching Masterminds, you’ll be fully familiar with the films of director Jared Hess.

masterminds_2016_filmJared Hess is the man who wrote and directed Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre. His films are stuffed full of social awkwardness and dry weirdness. Here, he brings a quirky take on the true story of the 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery in North Carolina. The movie has an all-star comedic cast at its disposal. Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, the armored truck driver who steals $17 million. Coaxed by his former co-worker (Kristen Wiig) and her thief friend (Owen Wilson), Ghantt leaves his bizarre fiancé (Kate McKinnon) and flees to Mexico while a hitman (Jason Sudeikis) and an FBI Agent (Leslie Jones) are hot on his trail.

It’s hard to call Masterminds a good movie because it barely makes any sense. But someone can make the same claims on all of Hess’ films. At times the movie is overwhelmingly discomfited. But it is a comedy. And the most important aspect of a comedy is to make the audience laugh. If you are in the group that thinks Hess’ other movies are hilarious, then you’ll enjoy Masterminds. But if you found those movies dumb and weird… well… guess what you’ll think of this one?

Personally, I own two of Hess’ films, so you can imagine which end of the spectrum I fall closer toward. While watching this movie, there were several times when I outwardly said “This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen.” But, some of those times I did so while holding back laughter. A few moments, like Sudeikis’ hitman using an old Mexican rifle to try and kill Ghantt, actually had me in tears. So while Masterminds is dumb and unrealistically goofy, it undoubtedly has an audience that will enjoy it.

FINAL GRADE: C

Sausage Party (Full Review)

Remember when South Park first premiered in the 90’s? Remember how it was one of the most outrageous, disturbing, offensive shows ever to hit television? By the time I was old enough to actually watch an episode without procuring the wrath of my parents, I couldn’t stop laughing. And as I got older, I came to realize that within the outlandish brand of humor Trey Parker and Matt Stone had actually infused their controversial cartoon with healthy doses of brilliant societal commentary. Well… If you thought South Park was as wild as it could get, prepare yourself for Sausage Party.

Sausage_PartyCo-creator Seth Rogen stars as Frank, a sausage living with his fellow package mates (Michael Cera, Jonah Hill) in a grocery store where all of the products live with the dream of being chosen by the Gods (humans) and being carried away to “the great beyond”. But after a bottle of returned honey mustard (Danny McBride) threatens the status quo with creepy tales of what really happens when humans take home food, Frank and his hot dog bun girlfriend, Brenda (Kristen Wiig) find themselves out of their packages and lost in their massive world. While Frank searches for the truth to their existence with the help of some druggie non-perishables (Bill Hader, Craig Robinson, Scott Underwood), Brenda teams with a Jewish bagel (Edward Norton), a muslim lavash (David Krumholtz), and a lesbian taco shell (Salma Hayek) on a quest to find their way back into their aisles in hopes of being chosen. All while an angry douche… yes, an actual douche (Nick Kroll)… seeks revenge for being denied his opportunity to be chosen.

Like South Park, the humor in Sausage Party is meant for a very specific audience. Only the most immature of baby boomers won’t find this movie appalling. From the harsh language that uses almost every means of profanity fathomable to more sexual innuendo than a hardcore porno, Sausage Party tips the scales of anything I’ve ever seen in a movie, let alone an animated one. But me, 28 year old fan of cartoons aimed at adults, I couldn’t stop laughing. Sausage Party doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s aimed at audiences who enjoy crude humor, so don’t expect it to.

The funny thing is, like the aforementioned controversial TV show, it actually has a relatively insightful backbone to it. Crammed within the food puns, foul language, and sexual innuendo is a pretty endearing message about how society can get bogged down by beliefs and petty differences. Sure, it takes shots at religion, but the overall concept that we as a species are all in this together, is a correct one. And Rogen and the rest of his writing team deserve a ton of credit for even having a message. Sausage Party would be hilarious if it were just a gross out, adult comedy, but it’s undertones give it an extra ounce of heart that makes it memorable.

At certain points the puns fall flat. And sometimes the movie gets eye poppingly outrageous. The end sequence is a doozy no matter how mentally prepared you think you are. But after several days of recovery from the sheer absurdity of it all, I found myself laughing again. And a movie that can make you laugh hysterically, that also has a point, is something that anyone can appreciate even if it’s too much for some to handle.

FINAL GRADE: B+

2016 Ghostbusters (Full Review)

The original Ghostbusters came out in 1984. Who knew it was such an “untouchable” classic? The internet has somehow been outraged since the idea was first announced as if this is the first time an old film series has been kick started for modern day. And if this new film, directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy), being full of women in the leading roles is the only reason you’re against seeing it… then congratulations, you’re a sexist… because being a male was never given as a prerequisite in the original. Now that the film is finally out, it’s past time to judge this new Ghostbusters on its actual merit.

Ghostbusters_2016_film_posterLike the original films, this one also follows three paranormal scientists and one regular, street savvy African American citizen as they band together to take out New York’s rising ghostly threats. Despite writing a book on the existence of ghosts, Physics professor, Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is trying to put her ridiculed past behind her. That is until a real ghost appears and reunites her with childhood friend, co-author and fellow ghost scientist Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). Together with Yates’ quirky engineer assistant, Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) they create ways to fight and trap the ghosts despite the New York City Mayor (Andy Garcia)’s attempts to keep the events private. With the help of MTA worker and eye witness Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), and with a not so intelligent secretary (Chris Hemsworth), they set up shot above a Chinese Restaurant as the Ghostbusters.

Even though the original film predates my existence, I grew up a fan of Ghostbusters and even had the toy play set as a kid. But I was admittedly skeptical about the film like many were as I was bombarded with goofy trailer after trailer and commercial after commercial. And in the first few minutes I almost felt like I was headed down a hokey path filled with sight gags and slime. But once all of the major players are introduced, this new Ghostbusters actually turns into hilarious summer fun. This is due, almost entirely, to the undeniable charisma and chemistry of the leading ladies.

Kristen Wiig’s socially awkward Gilbert comes off as endearing and her school girl crush on Hemsworth’s comically dumb Kevin works well. McCarthy is unsurprisingly solid in the leading role and her character’s reoccurring gag with the Chinese restaurant delivery boy (Deadpool’s Karan Soni) hits its mark every single time. Even Leslie Jones, despite being the weak link, manages to conjure up a few laugh out loud moments. But the queen of the film is Kate McKinnon. Whether it’s physical comedy or just snappy dialogue, the Holtzman character delivers every second she’s on screen and is enough to make even the surliest of movie goers chuckle.

Even the action sequence at the film’s too familiar climax manages to be exciting. Sprinkle in some hearty cameos from the original main cast and this movie does enough to make for hearty entertainment even if it is something we’ve seen before. The only glaringly bad thing about the movie is the awful remix of the original theme done by Fall Out Boy. It isn’t as good as the first Ghostbusters, but who said it had to be? This movie has enough in its cast to be enjoyed on its own without having to be compared side by side to a film that is over 20 years old. So if you’re a fan or a newcomer that’s willing to see a movie before you judge it and if you’re more interested in comedic timing rather than the actors’ chromosomes, then this new Ghostbusters should be time well spent.

FINAL GRADE: B

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Full Review)

We go to the movies for several reasons; to laugh, to be amazed, to be informed, and sometimes to be inspired. Films utilizing the latter have become scarce in today’s times of big budget action films, raunchy comedies, and Oscar-starved dramas. So it’s a bit refreshing to have a feel good movie with the intention to encourage.

ImageThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty originates from a 1937 short story and later a 1947 film. I am familiar with neither. You probably aren’t either, which is a good thing, because this film stands on its own.  The only thing this version has in common with its predecessors is the titular character and his tendency to zone out into outlandish daydreams.

Ben Stiller, who also directed the film, stars as Walter. This time around, the character is a single, middle-aged, photo manager for Life Magazine in the final days before the popular publication goes full digital and renders his job, and the jobs of many others, obsolete. Day to day in his humdrum life, Walter drifts off into fantastical daydreams that allow him to picture himself saying and doing all of the things he’d like to do in real life; being heroic, hooking up with his attractive coworker (Kristen Wiig), telling his new boss (Adam Scott) to shove it. I’m sure we can all relate.

But, believe it or not, it isn’t the random Family Guy-esque cutaways that make this film enjoyable. The real adventure begins when Walter treks off on a European scavenger hunt to find the missing photo meant for the cover of Life Magazine’s final issue; a photo described by photographer Sean O’ Connell (Sean Penn) as the “quintessence” of Life.  In fact, the film’s most fun moments come from actual occurrences along Mitty’s adventure; a tussle with a drunken helicopter pilot, Mitty being rescued from shark infested waters, his conversations with an overly friendly eHarmony customer service rep (Patton Oswalt).

Many of the movie’s fantasy sequences can be seen in trailers and commercials. If that draws you in, you might be disappointed. If it doesn’t, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised and more than likely inspired by Walter’s personal and physical journey. It is without a doubt one we can all learn from as we approach a new year with new possibilities and opportunities.

FINAL GRADE: B+