Second bananas should not become first bananas — even if they enjoy eating bananas and saying “Banana!” and kind of look like bananas. That is the lesson of Minions, which takes the lovably inept sidekicks from the Despicable Me series and thrusts them into the spotlight to punishing effect. In the right context, the Minions can be amusing. But the right context is definitely not a rambling 90-minute feature.
Movie Reviews - Page 2
It’s been at least five years since the last great Pixar film (or more, depending on your feelings about Toy Story 3). In the interim, they produced a series of sequels — some quite entertaining, but few as transcendently beautiful as the original concepts that turned the studio into the most dependable brand in all of Hollywood. Their latest effort, Inside Out, isn’t just a return to form; it surpasses almost all of their previous classics. It is, from start to finish, one of the best films Pixar has ever made.
When all you care about is money, bad things happen. That’s the message of Jurassic World, where greedy theme-park executives hoping to spike attendance engineer the “Indominus Rex,” a genetically-modified dinosaur that immediately turns on its creators and runs amok. Designed as a cautionary tale about the dangers of building a meaner, badder monster purely for the sake of profits, Jurassic World works equally well as a cautionary tale about doing the same thing in movies. All of the rationalizations provided by Jurassic World’s employees — “Consumers want them bigger, louder, more teeth.” “Somebody’s gotta make sure this company has a future!” — could have been taken directly out of the mouths of the studio executives who approved this gene splice of a reboot and a sequel. Their creation — the Indominus or the movie, there’s basically no difference — is as advertised; huge, mean, and visually striking. But this experiment is not without consequences.
Paul Feig’s The Heat took a genre that has traditionally belonged to men — the buddy cop movie — and gave it a female twist. Feig’s new movie, Spy, does much the same thing, this time for spy films, a world that has long been by, about, and for dudes and their power fantasies. Spy explicitly subverts the genre’s typical gender dynamics by casting Melissa McCarthy as a lowly, desk-bound CIA analyst named Susan Cooper, who has spent her entire career in the shadow of a glamorous James Bond-esque spy (Jude Law) and then finally gets her opportunity to step into the spotlight and become a full-fledged field agent.
That’s Entourage in a nutshell. Whenever things threaten to get too serious, the show (and now the film) would just trot out a celebrity cameo or two, distract the audience for a couple minutes, and then carry on as if nothing ever happened. For better or worse, the Entourage movie is an extremely faithful adaptation of the Entourage television show. All the main characters and most of the key supporting players from the show’s eight seasons are back, along with series creator Doug Ellin (who co-wrote and directed the movie). Even though the TV show ended with its lovable bad boys making their first tentative steps toward maturity and monogamy — Vince gets engaged, his manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) finally settles down with his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and Ari decides to retire to spend more time from his family — all of that gets instantly erased before the movie’s opening credits roll. Status quo restored, Vince, Eric, Ari, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) return to their luxurious, lascivious ways with R-rated abandon. Shouldn’t these characters have grown up by now?
Cameron Crowe keeps remaking Jerry Maguire. Elizabethtown. We Bought a Zoo. And now his newest movie, Aloha. Three times in a row now, Crowe has returned to the formula that yielded his biggest financial hit: A good-hearted screwup hits rock bottom and then redeems his disastrous professional mistakes by winning the heart of a great woman.
The classics of this genre featured danger and destruction on a scale a guy could wrap his head around; a hijacked airplane, a skyscraper on fire, a capsized ocean liner filling with water. But when you live by spectacle, you die by it too. And so the disasters got bigger and bigger, one movie trying to top the next, until it became an arms race of planetary devastation. One movie blows up the White House, the next one washes it away in a tidal wave. Where do you go from there? An exploding tidal wave? At this point, if your disaster movie isn’t eradicating a large portion of the globe, don’t even waste your time.
Everything that goes wrong in Poltergeist stems from an act of desecration; the building of a cookie-cutter housing development on top of an old cemetery. Some might find the sheer act of attempting a remake of Poltergeist similarly disrespectful; the 1982 original is something of a masterpiece of suburban terror. But if viewers can look past the sheer audacity of attempting another Poltergeist, they’ll find a solid modernization, the cinematic equivalent of a decent cover version of a great rock song. It’s totally superfluous, and not nearly as satisfying as the original, but well-performed and effective in its own way. It’s nice (or, in this case, deeply unsettling) to revisit an old classic in a new arrangement.
The best argument for Tomorrowland is its release date; a week after Mad Max: Fury Road, about a world destroyed by an oil war, and a week before San Andreas, in which an apocalyptic earthquake destroys half of North America. Less a blockbuster action film than a stern but well-intentioned lecture accompanied by an elaborate audiovisual presentation, Tomorrowland argues that rampant cynicism is actively poisoning our future. People become so convinced by movies like Mad Max and San Andreas that the world is doomed that they start to believe it really is. So they give up, and dystopia becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“This is a movie that strains at the leash of the possible, a movie of great visionary wonders.” That lovely sentence concluded Roger Ebert’s 1985 review of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Thirty years later, Mad Max is finally back in a new sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Ebert’s words feel truer than ever. Fury Road is an incredible achievement, one that strains so hard at the leash of the possible that it eventually breaks free and barrels headlong into the realm of insane genius. Forget Max Rockatansky; director George Miller, the guy who co-conceived and shot this gorgeous, glorious lunacy, is the true madman here. And the true hero for having pulled it off.