MINIONS MOVIE REVIEW

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Not as despicable as I thought but nowhere near as good either. I know. Whaaatttttt?

This Minion fan was left feeling a little blue. For all the promise and the crazy cast, this lazy offering did enough to keep things watchable for the little ‘uns but failed to really make a mark like its predecessor.

Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) are recruited by Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb (Jon Hamm), hatches a plot to take over the world.

As soon as the Universal logo emerged and those funny little yellow buffoons started humming the theme, I could feel a guilty smile spread across my face.

The animation was brilliant. The pace zipped along. The minions had enough charm and silliness to keep things lively. However, my smile soon faded as the opening 15 minutes were exactly like the heavily flogged and overlong trailers. If you were lucky enough not to see them then it’s fun enough. BUT for me all the best bits were spoiled.

I honestly thought that Gru had made the little yellow money makers. But it turns out they had been on this Earth long before man. The only surprise that I got from the film. That and the fact this script got through editing.

We watch the Minions as they desperately search for the biggest, baddest villain to serve and somehow manage to eliminate them instead. I did laugh at the gang as they knock a T-Rex into a volcano, blow Napoleon Bonaparte out of the sky and wipe out Count Dracula after opening the curtains during the day to surprise him with a birthday cake.

Geoffrey Rush’s voiceover was entertaining. If anything I wished there was more of it BUT there were only so many times the man could pronounce the word, “BA-NA-NA!” in a funny way. Thankfully, all the heavily flogged bits were wrapped up in that opening act.

And things did take a more interesting turn when the Nelson family were introduced. Michael Keaton and Alison Janney were on fine form. To be honest, I wish the Minions had stuck with them. They were mental!

I liked how you were able to tell Kevin, Stuart and Bob apart. Each with their own unique personality. Not bad considering they all sound the flipping same with their helium induced broken English, Spanish and gobbledygook.

Sandra Bullock did her best to bring the notorious Scarlett Overkill to life but her lines were not nearly as funny or memorable enough. She fell short of Jason Segel’s villainous Vector (“Curse you tiny toilet!”) and wasn’t even half as crazy as Benjamin Bratt’s brutish El Macho.

She had the odd one liner, “What are your names? My knights in shining denim”. But as she blathered on about her crusade for the Queen’s Crown Jewels, I realized how much I missed Steve Carrell’s Gru.

I couldn’t believe Jon ‘Don Draper’ Hamm was voicing Scarlett’s hub Herb. Completely out of character and lapping it up. He did his best to steal the show as the dimwitted scientist.

The sixties soundtrack was rocking, man. The Who, The Kinks, The Doors, Jimmi Hendrix. Loved it.

The premise was a little weak with our heroes, I mean villains, tasked with stealing the Crown Jewels. Cue a lazy montage of the Minions minion-ing up London as they breeze through a number of landmarks; The House of Commons, The Tower of London, Trafalgar Square. One little landmark did get a laugh that I didn’t expect.

BUT there just wasn’t enough. The gag ratio was low. Don’t get me wrong. The little devils still delivered in parts. Stuart wearing a thong while bathing in a hot tub with two yellow fire hydrants got a chuckle and the song and dance number homage to Singin’ in the Rain’s ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ was brilliant.

I just felt that the writers went for lazy gimmicks. Resorting to old stereotypes for a quick titter. The whole British people with bad teeth and constantly drinking tea spiel has been done to death. I’m not just saying that as a Brit but come on! Really?

Not even the legendary Jennifer Saunders could save the day as Her Majesty. It was too OTT and just not funny. The bobbies on the beat running around with tea cups and shouting “Cor Blimey!” just infuriated me and the scene with the Beefeaters was just weird. No, seriously. It was a strange Full Monty-esque moment. Desperation?

The dark undertones were handled well. The macabre bumping off of “leaders” and the torture chamber scene luckily went over the little ‘uns heads. A joke involving Kevin and a noose may not have been the best thing for a kid’s film.

The Minions were always the funny scene stealers in the Despicable films but this movie proved that you can have too much of a good thing. And maybe that there was a reason why they were only minions.

It’s not all bad but it’s not that great. Disney and Pixar have proven time and time again that you can have films that appeal to everyone. This has enough for the little ‘uns but for the bigger kids (at heart) you may be left disappointed.

2.5/5

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GRACE OF MONACO REVIEW

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Nicole Kidman pouts and frowns away as former Hollywood star Grace Kelly. Not as bad as you think but certainly not that good either. A film that questions its own relevance as its draws nearer to its pretentious finale.

We join Kelly as she deals with the crisis of marriage and identity during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle in the early 60s. With the threat of a looming French invasion, Kelly must deliver her best performance yet. The premise really sounds a lot more interesting than this film actually is. I mean it zips along well enough to keep you watching. But it seems ridiculously exaggerated to keep you entertained and less dramatic than it should be.

I know there was a little controversy around the film’s release. However, it is done in such a light, fluffy style that you feel like you are watching one of those films on the True Movies channel. Kidman does her best but the material is corny, clichéd, predictable and all a little nothingy.

I was a little anxious on how Tim Roth would convey the Prince after his random twitching and creepy face pulling from the cancelled TV show Lie to Me. However, he was very good and played a much more revered role. To be honest, there is a great supporting cast and they do their best to bring this bumbling biopic to life. Parker Posey (Superman Returns) plays the sour faced cow of a personal assistant to perfection.

The eloquent speaker that is Frank Langella (Robot and Frank – He will always be Archer, Leader of the Gorgonites) providing his supporting gravitas yet again, even if I couldn’t determine what position in the papacy he actually had.

It was great to see Robert Lindsay (My Family) given the platform, even if his accent was a little wishy washy. However, there were a few duds. Roger Ashton-Griffiths (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover) certainly looked like Alfred Hitchcock but his manner was all wrong and incredibly droll. Terrible. Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) was a very weak and passive character. Anyone could have played him.

It’s beautifully shot. Kidman does her best. The fact that Kelly’s career was used against the Prince which put her in a state of isolation was an interesting angle that did deliver some watchable moments.

However, addressing the people and learning to act like a Princess came off very hammy. The training montage in which Kidman is pulling faces to convey emotions in a certain way was hilarious. It felt like a parody of The King’s Speech with Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) being a flamboyant Geoffrey Rush.

The whole crusade in which Kelly must choose between her acting career and family did make engaging if predictable viewing. However, the film gets a whole lot sillier and Kidman’s Kelly soon becomes a martyred Diana.

And that’s kind of the problem. The pressures of being a Princess and having a family is a good topic but it was always done so cheesily and predictably that it doesn’t amount to much. Kelly’s closing speech was merely an elongated collection of words with some operatic music for dramatic effect.

It made no sense. Kidman might as well have said this is the part where I say something that will inspire the people and help the nation. That naff, I’m afraid.

This film very much follows the vein of Diana. Corny, predictable, the cast do their best but for all its efforts, you can’t help but feel what the point was in the first place. 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #144 out of 182!

THE BOOK THIEF REVIEW

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An endearing and heartfelt drama. Brilliantly written, nicely shot and well acted.

Against the backdrop of the impending Second World War, a young orphan Liesel Nieminger (Sophie Nelisse) finds solace in stealing books as well as hiding a Jewish refugee, Max (Ben Schnetzer) who is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.

I’ve never read Markus Zusak’s best selling novel BUT certainly want to now after watching this. A brilliant narration from Roger Allam (V for Vendetta) accompanied a sobering and dark opening sequence as Liesel met her foster parents for the first time; the instantly loveable and easygoing Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and stern and frumpy Rosa (Emily Watson). It allowed for an easygoing first act as she adjusted to her new home and made friends with the eager Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch). BUT also enemies with the delightfully unpleasant bully Franz Deutscher (Levin Liam).

The film subtly built up to the impending war. It was an interesting transition as it soon took a toll on the community. At 131 minutes, there were parts where the film did dip BUT it was still riveting and beautiful to watch. Once Max (a fantastic debut from Schnetzer – Pride) entered the mix, the film branched out and made for an endearing, suspenseful and engaging war drama.

Nelisee is a good little actress and carries the film well. She is definitely going to be one to watch for the future. It’s always important that these dramas have characters you can root for and care about. The supporting cast were perfect. Rush and Watson were fantastic as her sparring foster parents. Liersch and Nelisse had great chemistry as the childhood companions desperate to keep hold of their friendship as the war takes those around them.

It’s always tough to make a war drama after so many fantastic examples. It’s important to remember that this is an experience of the Nazi regime under Hitler through the eyes of a little German girl. If you’re expecting a gritty, explosive war flick you will be left disappointed. However, the film builds up to an unexpected, harrowing and tear jerking finale as the war breaks apart the idyllic Heaven Street. All aided with the a beautifully Oscar nominated score from none other than the great John Williams (Jaws/Harry Potter/Star Wars)

My main qualm with the film was that it breezes over crucial turning points in Hitler’s regime. We all know some aspect of the man’s madness. BUT we’re also NOT history buffs. We’re all aware of the horrendous treatment of the Jews BUT may not necessarily know the Night of the Long Knives. The overlong pace may test some. The first hour may have been a little schmaltzy BUT it still delivered a harrowing finale. The only problem was that it felt a little abrupt and left too many questions about certain protagonists. There could have been a little more time spent on explaining and been better for it without spoiling anything.

However, I still went in, NOT sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. Definitely one of the better films.

3.5/5