5 ideas about a movie: The Grinch

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to another Christmas movie review that’s coming out way too early. This is The Grinch!

IMDb summary: A grumpy Grinch plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville.

  1. The Grinch was written by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow. I don’t really have strong feelings about the film’s script: I think it was adequate but didn’t really add anything to the material. The message of belonging and family was a cute one but wasn’t really executed in a way that would make it powerful. What I’m saying is that basically, The Grinch lacked an emotional impact. What I liked best about the writing were the bits of rhymed narration: I thought that they added authenticity to the movie.
  2. Dr. Seuss’ books are absolute children favorites. The 2000 live-action Grinch is a family classic and a Christmas-staple: I clearly remember watching it every year on TV. Thus, since I have fairly fond memories of the last cinematic adaption of this story, maybe that’s why this one seemed unnecessary and average at best.
  3. The Grinch was directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney (two filmmakers that haven’t had that much practice as directors). The animation was absolutely stunning and extremely detailed: one could literally see every individual hair on Grinch’s body. The slapstick humor of the film was a win with the kids at my screen too.
  4. Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the Grinch and was really good. At first, I couldn’t really tell that it was him but after a while, you could distinguish his voice. I don’t know if he bested Jim Carrey’s performance, though. Supporting cast featured the voices of Cameron Seely and Rashida Jones. Pharrell Williams was the narrator.
  5. Before The Grinch, a short Minions film was screened, as both properties belong to the animation money maker that is Illumination entertainment. I don’t really have much to say about the short film (I’m not really a fan of the Minions), but I appreciated the fact that it was actually short (I’m looking at you, Frozen shorts).

In short, The Grinch is a good but, ultimately, unnecessary retelling of well-known Christmas legend.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Grinch trailer

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Movie review: Despicable Me 3 

Movie reviews

Hello!

Illumination Entertainment has replaced DreamWorks as the other ‘it’ animation studio in Hollywood (first being the Disney/Pixar conglomerate). Let’s see whether their latest offering – Despicable Me 3 – is worthy of praise.

IMDb summary: Gru meets his long-lost charming, cheerful, and more successful twin brother Dru who wants to team up with him for one last criminal heist.

I, personally, really enjoyed the first two Despicable Me films (and other recent Illumination movies, like Sing and The Secret Life of Pets) but I vastly despised the Minions spinoff. I hoped that the minions’ meme would have died down by now but is still as strong as ever. Thus, the interest in this movie is, most likely, big. Minions have been definitely used more in the marketing than when advertising the previous pictures of the main series. While their role in the movie is smaller than I expected (thankfully), two of them actually appear on the screen first, a few seconds before Gru – the supposed star of the franchise.

Writing

The writing duo Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio wrote the third film in the Despicable Me series (they also penned the original and the first sequel). Overall, the script was a mixed bag of stuff. Story-wise, a lot of things were happening and multiple plotlines were being developed (with varying amounts of attention and screentime). The biggest ones were Gru’s and his brother’s story, the Mother-Daughter bonding idea, the new villain’s Baltazar’s plotline, and the Minion shenanigans (that had little to do with anything else in the movie). The daughter characters also had their small side quests (unicorn and engagement). While I don’t really think that all these lines necessarily worked together, I would at least like to compliment the scriptwriters for trying to do something with the story and the characters.

Speaking of the characters – I loved the new villain Baltazar. I loved his 80s look (shoulder pads!) and affinity for music and dance. He really reminded me of Baby from Baby Driver – stealing into the beat of the music similarly to driving into the beat of the music. I also loved his Guardians of the Galaxy-like dance-off idea. Agnes character – the most adorable of the daughters – was also delightful to watch and I very much enjoyed her ‘hunt’ for the unicorn (definitely more than everything related to the Minions).

Thematically, Despicable Me 3 tackled adult themes and paired them with childish humor. The grown-up characters were dealing with being fired and finding a new life path, while also coming to terms with failed dreams of their youth; they were attempting to reconnect with long lost siblings and were worrying about being good parents. Things, like gambling online, sexual innuendos, and baldness were also mentioned. On the completely opposite end of the spectrum was the film’s humor – it was mostly childish. The Minions comic relief side quest could have been cut out of the movie and nothing would have changed. The Minions were actually sort of replaced by pigs. The new brother character, who failed at being a villain, got annoying really quick too.

Lastly, one meta idea that I immensely enjoyed about Despicable Me 3 was the fact that the movie’s villain was attempting to take down Hollywood, while the film itself was very much a product of Hollywood. Oh, the sweet irony.

Directing

Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, who directed all the previous pictures of the series, helmed Despicable Me 3 and did an okay job. The animation was good, as it always is. The pacing was also fine and I liked the fact that the movie was quite short and not too overindulgent in itself. The score (by Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams) was catchy too. While the film was surely my least favorite in the franchise (it went downhill as so many series do), I think that the kids would definitely enjoy it. I wonder if they will attempt to continue the franchise – is the final scene of Dru teaming up with the Minions an indication that the next film might be Dru vs. Gru. And we all know that ‘versus’ stories are popular now.

Voice work

Steve Carell performed a double duty and voiced both Gru and Dru. I liked his work here as much as in the previous films and appreciated the subtle differences in the voices of the two brothers. Kristen Wiig was also good, while the co-creator of South-Park Trey Parker was a neat choice for a villain.

In short, Despicable Me 3 is a perfectly servicable kids’ movie that doesn’t offer anything too special but is, overall, entertaining, if one can stomach the Minions.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Despicable Me 3 trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Sing

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to one of the last reviews of this year. Without further ado, let’s start discussing Illumination Entertainment’s latest feature – SING!

IMDb summary: A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

  1. Sing was written and directed by Gareth Jenkins. This was his first solo project after working with Nick Goldsmith on a number of films and music videos. Jenkins made this movie for Illumination Entertainment – a relative newcomer to the animation scene. However, this company has already established itself: they made the successful Despicable Me films and the crazy lucrative Minions movie. Just this summer, they had another huge hit – The Secret Life of Pets. So, Sing has to meet fairly high expectations, both financial and critical ones.
  2. Sing was advertised as an animated musical. We already had a couple of those this year, like Trolls and Moana. Since it focused on singing animals, Sing also made an impression of being Zootopia: The Musical. However, the film surprised me because it had a strong story with organic music number rather than being a straight-up musical that a story had to accommodate.
  3. Thus, the writing for Sing was actually quite good. The story itself wasn’t the most original but it was executed well. It had the emotional appeal (the ‘feels) and was also interesting intellectually because of a varied bunch of great characters. All of them were underdogs but in a unique and different way. I really liked the opening sequence which set up all of their individual plots. In general, the picture both celebrated the love for music and performance but also showed the hardships of show-biz. The film was not as light or childish as I expected it to be.
  4. The musical numbers and the audition ideas of the film obviously tried to capitalize on the success of music competitions, such as The X Factor and The Voice. Nevertheless, the audition montage was still funny and entertaining. The twerking bunnies, as well as the K-Pop group, were my favorite. I also fell in love with Gunter. I want him to be my spirit animal or my best friend. The other funny scene that I’d like to spotlight was the car wash sequence. The final performances were also cute. The short snippet of George Michael’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ also made me tear up a bit.
  5. The original voice cast was full of Hollywood A-listers. I was only able to hear their voices during the singing performances, as the rest of dialogue was dubbed (the joys of spending the holidays in a non-English speaking country). Nonetheless, I enjoyed listening to the singing performances by Reese WitherspoonSeth MacFarlaneScarlett JohanssonTori KellyTaron Egerton, and Nick Kroll. I would have loved to hear what Matthew McConaughey did with the leading role as well, but as his voice is so distinct, I think I still imagined him speaking in my head. 

In short, Sing was a great animated film, perfect for the holiday season. It had a lovely narrative at its center, while the equally nice musical numbers occupied a secondary role.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Sing trailer

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Movie review: The Secret Life of Pets

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

The animated movies have been really dominating the box office this summer, so, let’s review one of the latest additions to the genre – The Secret Life of Pets.

IMDb summary: The quiet life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.

Recently, there has been quite a few animated pictures about talking animals – we just had Zootopia and the new animated musical SING also has animals as its characters. This concept has always been popular and it is definitely not going anywhere. While the idea to show how animals act when the humans are not around is cool and clever, it is not the most original. Another recent animation that kinda did the same thing was Bolt. So, since the TSLOP can count on originality, it is all about the execution.

Writing: story and ideas

The Secret Life of Pets’ script was written by Brian LynchCinco Paul, and Ken Daurio. This trio has previously worked on other Illumination Entertainment projects like the Despicable Me films and Minions. I’m a fan of the main Despicable Me franchise but can’t really stand its spin-off. I feel like with TSLOP movie, the screenwriters mixed everything I loved about the first property with the things that annoyed me about the second brand.

The positives: 

  1. I liked how the animal characters had both animalistic and human-like features and manners. I also enjoyed how the various stereotypes were played up. Sometimes, human stereotypes were used on animals as a joke: for example, in the scene with the white Pomeranian and the telenovela. In other instances, these stereotypes were subverted and made for an even funnier moment: the poodle who likes rock music was a nice idea and the main antagonist of the film – the anarchist bunny – was also an unexpected and subversive addition to the picture.
  2. I loved the little relatable moments like the scene with the cat and the turkey. That tiny inside competition between the cats and the dogs was also a great real-world tie-in. The inclusion of concepts like the cat videos on YouTube and the vacuum cleaner to be used to get rid of the pets was neat as well.
  3. The idea to make the barking of dogs their language was obvious but still nice and super funny when showed visually on screen.

The negatives:

  1. The film didn’t have the most original narrative – it was a basic save and avenge storyline. It was still an enjoyable adventure to watch but the viewer might feel that he/she has seen it before numerous times.
  2. The picture really got dark at times and I don’t know if those ideas had a place in the film. The picture wasn’t really that sophisticated and it was definitely on a more simplistic side and aimed at the younger audiences, so I don’t think that it was a good idea to show the suffering animals like the tattooed pig or the magician’s rabbit and talk about killing the owners. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to talk about the first thing – that people are not always the nicest to the animals – but I don’t think that a mainstream kids’ movie was a place to do that, maybe if it had a more serious tone, I would have had a different opinion.

Directing: visuals and animation

TSLOP was directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney. Renaud has previously directed the Despicable Me films and has created the voice of the Minions, who he voices in all of the movies that they appear. Cheeny has only directed a few shorts up until now but he has been a production designer on the Illumination Entertainment pictures. I really enjoyed the directing of the film for the most part. I really liked the montages at the beginning which set up the independent world of pets nicely and it was also a great idea to end the movie with corresponding montages – it tied everything together perfectly. The actual animation was also spectacular – the fur of the animals looked excellent and the NY skyline was also realized beautifully – it is so iconic and recognizable even in animated form. The actual character design of the animals was cool and cute too. TSLOP also had a good complimentary soundtrack, I liked the inclusion of the Welcome to New York song. The only sequence of the film that I disliked was that Sausage World – I felt that it was too childish even for a light children’s film and, moreover, those sausages reminded me of Minions too much.

Voice Work

The actors who voiced the animals did a good job. The stand-out for me was Kevin Hart (he voiced the rabbit) – I could instantly recognize his voice and really loved the way he delivered the lines and the one-liners. His character was definitely the funniest and I think that that was because of Hart’s involvement. I’m definitely starting to become a fan of him after this film and Central Intelligence. The great comedian  Louis C.K. voiced the main character – a Jack Russell terrier, while Eric Stonestreet really fit the voice of his character – the large and furry mongrel. Steve Coogan was great as a Sphynx cat – the British accent was somehow appropriate. Lastly, Jenny Slate was a great choice to bring the Pomeranian to life. Slate has recently voiced another animal – a sheep – in Zootopia.

In short, The Secret Life of Pets was an okay film. It was as subversive or adult-friendly as Zootopia but it did make me laugh more than a couple of times and I’m sure that the kids would have a blast watching it.

Rate: 3.7/5

Trailer: The Secret Life of Pets trailer

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Movie review: Minions

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve just came out of the cinema where I’ve watched probably the most anticipated animated movie of the summer – Minions! Let’s review it.

To begin it, I really liked the Despicable Me movie and its sequel. For me personally, the first Despicable Me film is one of the best animated films of the recent years. Maybe it’s not my favorite animation but it is definitely at the top of the list. Sadly, Minions aren’t even going to make that list. Let me explain why.

IMDb Summary: Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world.

Minor spoiler ahead!

Setting

I have already mentioned that I love when movies include real historical facts. It was nice to see this trend continuing in Minions. Also, as a European, I liked the fact that a lot of famous individuals, who were represented in the film, were of European origin. For instance, Napoleon, Dracula and even Queen Elizabeth. Inanimate objects were also represented – one of them was the King Arthur’s sword in the stone.

References to real life

Some of the events of the film reminded me of the real life events. For example, when minions were going to the Villain Convention in Orlando, all I could think about was Playlist Live – a YouTube convention that happens in Orlando. The fact that Scarlet Overkill had an appearance in hall H was a slight callback to San Diego Comic Con as well.

The reference that I enjoyed the most was the one where Bob (I think it was Bob) is getting out of the Underground and he runs into the Beatles, walking across the street like on the cover on their album “Abbey Road”.

Childishness

The humor of the film was quite stupid, so I don’t think that this is an all ages film. The parents will probably be bored and will have to suffer. My favorite part, which made me chuckle the most, was when Kevin expanded into a giant and got stuck in that tiny street. I mean, that would really happen in real life and I was always wondering, how these big monsters or other giant creatures don’t get stuck in narrow streets during action films.

Visual appeal

The computer animation has reached its high long ago, but I am still shocked while seeing what can one achieve by just simply drawing on a computer. The amount of work that goes into every little detail is mind boggling and even if I don’t like the story or the characters, I can always appreciate the technical side of the animation.

My favorite prop of the film was definitely Scarlet’s dress – that’s a cool super-villain costume. Also, Bob’s teddy bear was really cute.

Plot

The plot of the film involved a lot of misbehavior which, don’t get me wrong, was funny and entertaining but not a great example for children, especially the young ones. Also, at one point I thought that they were going to recycle the first’s Despicable Me plot and run with it (changing Gru into Scarlet, and the moon into the crown), but they added a few nice twists and turns, which were a nice surprise.

Voices

Since animated movies are mainly aimed at kids, they are dubbed in my country, so I wasn’t able to hear what Sandra Bullock or Jon Hamm brought to the film. However, the minions had their own language which didn’t require any translation. I liked that you could hear a mixture of languages in their language: there was definitely some French (Illumination Entertainment – the production company behind Minions – is of French origin), some Spanish and a bit of English. So, despite the fact that you couldn’t actually understand what the minions were saying, you instantly knew what they meant.

SPOILERS

Could you spot the young Gru and his mom at the Villain Convention? I though that this was going to be the only tie-in with Despicable Me series but I was wrong. The ending shout-out was really cool and unexpected. I loved it a lot.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. To my mind, minions work better as side characters and the real stars of the Despicable Me franchise are Margo, Edith, and the cutest one ever- Agnes. Moreover, the real driving force behind that franchise might be the girls relationship with Gru. While I liked how the movie was able to tie in with the main series, I don’t believe that it could stand on its own or that it will stand the test of time.

Rate 3.5/5

Trailer: Minions trailer

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