Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Movies [that I saw]

As hard as it is to believe that this year is finally over, it's even harder to believe how few movies I wound up seeing. Not just in theaters, but also on HBO or other random TV networks.
I don't know if this past election had anything to do with (it does put a damper on things when so many people are acting like having a President Donald Trump is the end of the world...) or less accessibility to a local theater (the one I'd done countless reviews at burned down earlier this year) or this year's movies sucked... but I just wasn't feeling it this year.

So, of non-theatrical releases I saw this year, the best were:

  • Breakfast at Tiffany's
I'd been waiting at least 5 years to see this one and it was totally worth the wait. My parents kept saying how much of a flake Holly Golightly is, but Audrey Hepburn played her so well. While it might not be the best thing to live your life the way she does (not so much the call-girl thing, but making your life into a fantasy), it was something I wish I could pull off. There's a certain romance about it.
  • Sully
Tom Hanks was so good in this. While I thought the whole premise (not just in the movie, but real life as well) is completely ridiculous, how the FAA and other agencies grilled Captain Sully and treated him like a criminal because he chose a water landing that ruined a perfectly good airplane... but halfway through, when things were starting to look up, the movie got even better. And it oddly wasn't as long a movie as you'd think, considering it was a bio-pic.
  • Hacksaw Ridge
I'm not big on war movies or movies that run a little on the long side... but this was one exception. I had planned to watch only an hour and go to another movie... I just couldn't look away. I had to find out what happened with Andrew Garfield as this conscientious objector. And damn, he was good. 
  • Hidden Figures
This movie deserved all the praise it got and probably more awards than simply nominations. #GirlPower
I'd never seen Empire, but I know what a bad-ass Taraji B. Henson is as Cookie. And it was kinda cool to see her in a complete opposite role than her most famous. All the girls were so good in this. I don't know what it is about Kevin Costner, but when he does roles like this where he has some authority or does something to stand up for someone else... or maybe he's just easy on the eyes. I don't know. But really enjoyed this one.

So for theatrical releases... I was under the impression that I didn't see that many this year. Then I completely spaced on the fact that I saw "Sing" AND "La La Land"-- I guess it's easy to forget that when they were technically 2016 releases.

  1. Sing
  2. La La Land
  3. 50 Shades Darker
  4. Lego Batman
  5. Beauty & The Beast
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  7. Wonder Woman
  8. Despicable Me 3
  9. Leap!
  10. Lego Ninjago
  11. Thor: Ragnorak
  12. Justice League
  13. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Oh wow, 13 movies?! Goes to show how much I was paying attention to this...

As far as theatrical experiences go, La La Land was the worst. I mean, our little local theater wasn't perfect, but that wasn't its finest hour. 3-4 times throughout the movie, the sound got so foggy that you couldn't make anything out. But thankfully, it was a musical, so you didn't need all the dialogue to get what was going on.
Best theatrical experience: Star Wars-- because everyone got so involved with it and was totally into it. It's movies like this that are why people go out to movies. You cannot get this same thrill from seeing it on your phone or your iPad. It's getting out of your house, into a room with dozens of other people and everyone shares the same experience for 1-2 hours.

Overall, a few of these much hyped movies were disappointments.
Guardians of the Galaxy-- it was maybe trying a little too hard to be like the original and some jokes fell flat.
Thor-- trying to capitalize on what made the first Guardian's movie so good while trying to find its own niche in the Marvel Universe (when it's been overshadowed by every Iron-Man and Captain American movie)
Beauty & The Beast-- I'd been looking forward to this from the moment the first trailer was released. I will admit that it did fall short in a couple spots. But it did a lot right- Emma Watson as Belle, nobody could have done it better. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere- not bad for someone not familiar with the original movie. And of course Josh Gad as LeFou... way to steal the show, Olaf! Loved it.
And of course Justice League-- I mean, I didn't particularly care to see this movie, but I figured I'd check out the so-called "competition"... I didn't need to worry too much. I'm just putting it here because I'm sure a lot of DC fans were disappointed by it.

50 Shades Darker...yeah, I liked it. You want to make something of it?
It's not the type of movie I'd fight tooth and nail to defend. It's nothing to do with the sexual content turning me or anything like that. I just enjoyed it overall. If anything, it was worth seeing for Dakota Johnson doing this character much better than she was presented in the book and the moment when Marcia Gay Harden gave Kim Basinger that right hook.

There were 5 animated movies this year. Two were Lego related. Nearly all of them were ones my sister really wanted to see. And because I'd seen so many Marvel and book related movies I saw with my mom and my aunts, it's only fair that she gets to pick the movies every once in the while.
Batman and Lego Ninjago had their points where I was really on board. Of the two, Batman probably has more re-watchability, but I liked that Lego Ninjago kinda took the Lego franchise into a different place.
Leap! was a bit of a disappointment in places. Particularly with the villains. Kate McKinnion as the stage mom was WAY over the top to the point there was zero logic. Her own daughter accepted our protagonist as her superior, but her mom goes on a rampage that involves her saying "Hammer Time!" in the middle of a time period when the Eiffel Tower was still being built. (And for the record, I still say "hammer time!" whenever the occasion calls for it... almost like I can't help myself)
Despicable 3-- I loved the 80's references and the fact the villain was a former child star of that generation. I don't think that angle has been pursued in a movie before. But after a while, I couldn't help but wonder if all the references were out of appreciation for the decade or making fun of it because everyone else does. (As a die-hard 80's fan, I really hope it was the former)
Sing- by far, was the winner of all the animated movies. It introduces so many great characters that you'll want to return to see again and again. I can only hope that the sequel does right by it and it doesn't fall short the way so many others have.

Wonder Woman-- while it didn't keep my attention the entire time, it was one of the stand-outs this year by far. Not just because it's a female lead, but just overall. For me, the super hero genre is starting to wear thin just a bit and this brought some much needed new energy back into it.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to keep Justice League completely afloat. At least for me.

One thing that kinda sets this year apart for me being as into movies as I've become... it's the first year as an RDJ fangirl that I did not see him in theaters once. Not just superhero movies in general, but I'd been so over all the Spiderman movies. As good as I've heard this new one is, I just wasn't feeling up for it. Not even having Tony Stark as part of it was enough incentive to get me to a theater.
I hope that next year, not only the next Avengers movie is better than everything this year, but he gets to do more movies away from Marvel. Particularly with Team Downey- he and his wife Susan got this production company together and put out "The Judge" and it did well. I know their goal was not to go by deadlines, but I'd like to see something else come out of it. Hopefully this year or next. And that I'll be able to get to a theater that's showing them :P

I'd go through and give my top 5 movies in order... I'm just not sure if I'm up for it...

Wonder Woman
Star Wars

I think that's my top 3, though...

As far as movies are concerned, I hope next year is just a little better.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

[Spoiler-Free] Theatrical Review: Star Wars Episode VIII- The Last Jedi

Date: Saturday December 16 2017
Time: 10am
Location: Cinemark Theater in Stroud Mall
Party: 3 (my mom, sister and I)

Writer/Director: Rian Johnson
Composer: John Williams

Luke Skywalker- Mark Hamill
Princess/General Leia Organa- Carrie Fisher (RIP 2016)
Rey- Daisy Ridley
Kylo Ren- Adam Driver
Poe Dameron- Oscar Isaac
Finn- John Boyega
Rose- Kelly Marie Tran
General Hux- Domhall Gleeson
DJ- Benicio Del Toro
Vice Admiral Holdo- Laura Dern

Duration: 151 minute (+ many trailers... 8)

Opening Remarks

Only a movie like this could get me to downtown Stroudsburg this early on a Saturday. Especially when I was up a little late the night before and I had a harrowing drive home from work cuz people were going 20 miles an hour because of 2 measly inches of snow. :sigh:
Anyway, totally worth it. I definitely didn't want to wait too long because I didn't want to hear any spoilers about this one.
I think the only time I caught any spoilers for a movie was accidentally walking in to see the end of Sherlock 2... almost a year of anticipation ruined cuz I got to the theater too early and I've never gotten over it.

The theater had a few open patches throughout the main stadium seating section, but not many for three people, so we took the back row of the "orchestra" section. Roughly the same area where my mom and I saw The Judge back in 2014.

So yeah, those are two rather blatant RDJ references, but the coincidences just kept popping up. I actually had a dream about him last night where we were talking stuff and we had a nice chat. But when I asked Robert when he was going to do any non-Avenger movies, he was evasive about it. Pretty much said that being in the Marvel movies still feels like the best Halloween ever.
And coincidence again... I saw the trailer for the new Avengers movie for the first time today. Among many others... so many dang trailers! and commercials! This 10am movie wound up becoming an 10:20 movie.


Spiderman- Into the Spider-verse

I have no idea what the hell is going on with this one. It's animated. We're following a young black teen Spider-man and we see him talking to who appears to be an older Peter Parker, asking how many there are. Dude, what the hell? Why does there have to be multiple Spider-men? It makes the whole storyline of Peter Parker randomly being bitten by a radioactive spider totally pointless. Because it makes him less special.

Early Man
I saw the movie poster for this by the ladies' room and I was saying how we'll see the trailer in the next couple months. Nope! More like the next couple minutes... it's by the same people behind Wallace & Gromit so we have an all British cast. The Stone Age meets the Bronze age, cavemen vs. Vikings (I think??). And how this tribe of cavemen had this thing of hunting rabbits. But with people like Eddie Redmayne, Timothy Spall and so on in this, how can it not be good?

Every Day
Man, after seeing this trailer, I said "I have to read this book"... I somehow get the feeling that movie won't be quite as good as the book, but it's a really cool idea. And I'm sure that the LGBT crowd will love it too because all kinds of relationships come into place. Basically, it's about a girl and another person who wakes up as a different person every day- and each person happens to be someone that this girl knows. Sometimes they're a guy and sometimes they're a girl and the main girl falls in love with this person's soul. So many possibilities, but one thing is clear- it's going to be a tearjerker at the end and it's going to probably suck, but I'm willing to take that risk.

Jurassic World- Fallen Kingdom
I'm afraid the movie is going to get so hyped that by the time it comes out, it's going to be kinda disappointing. I just know my dad is super excited about it and there are very few movies he gets THIS excited about. The two of us had seen every one of these movies in the theater, so that tradition will for sure continue.
The story here seems to be that the island is going to be destroyed by a volcano eruption and Owen and Claire have to try to save all the dinosaurs. Lots of crap happens and we have an Ian Malcolm cameo where he says his most famous line from the original movie "Life will find a way." Well, we shall see, won't we?

Yikes, they're hyping up this Dwayne Johnson movie as much as San Andreas and it's probably just as doomed to fail. It's kinda like Mighty Joe Young meets King Kong meets genetic engineering and we have to save a city from being taken over by mutant animals.

It takes place in 1170 BC in Israel and it's about the Biblical figure infamous for his hair. No idea how this is going to turn out, but at quick glance (and it was a very short quick trailer), they may finally do a Biblical movie where people can't complain about it being whitewashed. If anything, the next movie demonstrates that movies are more diverse than they've ever been

A Wrinkle in Time
I'd heard this movie was coming because Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling are among the cast members. I know it's based on the Madeline L'Engle children's book (which I've never read). It looks a lot more epic than the book entails. It's about this girl whose dad is with NASA and he supposedly disappears and she may discover where he's really been this whole time. The visual effects look amazing and I have no idea what is going on. Maybe with more time and more promotion from the large cast of characters, it'll become more clear

Avengers: The Infinity War

This really was the last trailer they showed- I'm not slotting it last for any special emphasis. But yeah, I think Thanos is coming to Earth looking for the other infinity stones to put on his gauntlets. The Vision has a stone on his forehead and it may be taken away from him. I see Loki, I see Doctor Strange, Black Widow is blonde for some stupid reason (dude, this character is a redhead, you can't bloody change that!)... and maybe Captain America has been off the radar for a while because they seem to be welcoming him back kinda how Superman was welcomed back in the Justice League movie, except Steve Rogers grew his hair out a bit.
Seriously, it looks like EVERYONE in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to be here and lots of crap is going to happen. There isn't much dialogue, more narration, so I don't know what's going on. I just know there were only a couple of Tony Stark/Iron-Man screenshots and when he's out of his armor, Tony just looks lost and confused like his PTSD from Iron-Man 3 is coming back and he can't handle it.
I mean, I'd almost welcome him being killed off because I'm dying for Robert to do some other projects... even though I'm kinda over Tony Stark, it would still be sad to lose him.

Ok, I'm done. Now for...

The Main Event

In a nutshell- Episode VII was about finding Luke Skywalker and the Resistance rebels destroying yet another version of the Death Star.
This movie, Episode VIII is about the aftermath of the former and the Resistance fighting to survive to fight another day while being actively pursued by the First Order.

The way this movie was put together, it almost felt like the subsequent Star Wars movies after the original. The crew is split apart and we're following 3 different groups of characters.
We have Rey on that far-off planet trying to convince Luke Skywalker to rejoin the Rebellion (or in this case, The Resistance) and she's also having several via-the-Force conversations with Kylo Ren.
We have Finn and his new comrade Rose, who are going to another planet to find a code-breaker to help disengage the tracking device that's allowing the First Order to pursue Resistance ships.
And we have Poe Dameron trying by all means necessary to buy them the time to do so.
Of course, we also have a few scenes where we're following the bad guys. General Hux and Supreme Ruler Snoke (who we get to see "in the flesh" in this movie... opposed to a hologram in the previous installment)... but we really care more about the good guys, right?

So, I had one wish for this movie after seeing the previous one... GIVE OSCAR ISAAC MORE SCREEN TIME... the previous movie had him either in the cock pilot or simply M.I.A. after his ship crashed on Jakku (good on him lobbying with J.J. Abrams to not kill off his character and they basically rewrote the movie because of him... after seeing him play a couple of not-so-nice roles, I was really glad what they gave him here).
And boy was my wish granted... couldn't be happier.
The guy is pretty reckless as a pilot, but damn, he's so good at what he does. Of course, that does land him in hot water with authority, but characters like him are always great when they're done by charismatic actors like him. Some pretty hilarious moments. But the best part was where Leia and her Vice Admiral mutually agree about him in their last scene together.. I wish I remembered the exact dialogue, but it was pretty much saying how much of a rebel he is, but despite that, they like him.

Kylo Ren still has a bit of a temper on him and that does come into play. (Particularly in the last battle scene- one of the best scenes in the movie by far and I'm sure people are already talking heaps about it). But we also get to see more of that vulnerable side of him that's conflicted. He and Rey have these odd conversations that randomly start happening, where she learns what happened to him and Luke's Jedi Temple and there seems to be a chance they'll be allies. How things go down, though, it's hard to predict. Even going into the final movie, I don't know how it's going to go and that's kinda exciting.
Some people who saw the last movie complained about him not being threatening because we see him without the mask. Supreme Ruler Snook actually has a bit of dialogue a lot of those people could agree with... don't bother with the helmet because he comes off as (again, I can't remember the exact dialogue) a child wearing a mask.
Domhall Gleeson (son of British acting great Brenden Gleeson) returns as the First Order general, so full of snark, but it's kinda funny how his authority gets undermined throughout this movie. Each person gives him their unique dose of that.

Former Storm Trooper Finn finds a new partner in Rose, whose sister was involved in the big battle scene at the beginning of the movie. She's a new character and in some ways, the heart of the movie. She and her sister came from the very same planet the two of them are visiting to find the code-breaker and we learn how they came from some sad circumstances where they were basically weapons test subjects as children. She's a prime example of why things need to change in the world, why the Resistance exists in the first place. The code-breaker they wind up meeting is played by Benicio Del Toro and like with many of the characters he plays (although I only have his Bond villain to go by personally), you never really know what to expect. Either way, it makes things interesting.

Going by the Empire Strikes Back, I was sure this movie would have a cliff-hanger ending. Throughout the final battle scene (where the Resistance evacuates to another planet with an abandoned rebel base), there were at least 3 moments where I thought the movie would end and I was oddly ok with that. But the way it does, it's not a cliff-hanger, but we are still left wondering how the hell the good guys are going to completely defeat the bad guys.
But in the same fashion as Once Upon a Time (a show I'd been meaning to do a write-up on because I decided last season was my final season. I want nothing to do with it without Emma Swan and certainly not after the previous season finale broke my heart a million times), you always have to have hope...

I'm not giving anything major away, but Luke Skywalker does get involved (with everything that's happened, why wouldn't he?) and it is absolutely epic.
The movie is extremely character-driven and you kinda need to care about these characters to be invested. While it stays true to the mythology of the original trilogy, there are moments of humor that have a modern feel to them. Meaning that they are a little over the top and obvious and sometimes they're self-deprecating.
But this audience really enjoyed this movie. There were laughs at the right times. A couple moments had some cheering because a character got what they deserved. There was even a moment where the movie went dead silent and I heard people making some random comments throughout it, so into it. And of course, we all clapped at the end, because, why wouldn't we? Ultimately, it's movies like this that are the reason why the theater experience exists and why it will never go. Nor should it.

Grade: A
(You can't beat the original and never will... but this was better put than the previous one, which I enjoyed, but there were areas where I thought it could be better. With this one, I have a feeling I'm just going to be finding new things every time I watch it. And sometimes, that's the best part of revisiting movies, other than seeing old friends again) 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Theatrical Review: Justice League

Date: Sunday, November 26 2017
Location: Cinemark Theater at Stroud Mall
Time: 12pm
Party: 3 (my mom, aunt and myself)
Director: Zach Snyder (of 300 and Watchman fame. I know him as the writer/director of SuckerPunch. The rest of the world probably knows him for Batman vs. Superman)
Writers: Chris Terrio (of Argo and Batman vs. Superman fame), Zach Snyder and Joss Whedon (TRAITOR!)
Composer: Danny Elfman (it's been a while...)
Batman- Ben Affleck
Superman- Henry Cavill
Wonder Woman- Gal Gadot
The Flash- Ezra Miller
Aquaman- Jason Momoa
Ray Fisher- Cyborg
Lois Lane- Amy Adams
Steppenwolf- Ciaran Hinds
Duration: 120 hours (+7 trailers)
Opening remarks
Well... it finally happened. I thought this movie would never happen cuz- cmon- you can’t get Superman and Batman together in one movie. They’re just too huge.
But yeah the movie happened. Trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Marvel universe of superhero movies. The question is- is DC so late to the party with this movie that nobody cares for these movies anymore. Wonder Woman got the pot brewing again but perhaps this movie is a step backwards- depending if critic reviews and box office totals matter to you.
It was a full but not satiated theater. We got good seats with no tall people in front of us and we were in middle of the action. Some time the crowd laughed and they actually applauded at the end. Not ravenously but out of respect for a job well done. Or at least they found it enjoyable.

There were so many I had to write them down on my phone so I wouldn’t forget any.

Black Panther
Like all marvel movies the action and scenery is fantastic. As a movie though I’m not sure if it holds a lot of interest for me. I might wait for the critics to sound off on this one. (As much as I don’t trust them half the time they were my deciding vote about seeing Wonder Woman.)

The Commuter
I saw Liam Neeson and I’m like “oh no it’s not another Taken movie is it? That family needs to never leave their house again). But nope it’s another Liam Neeson thriller- this time Vera Farmiga seems to be the sociopath he needs to cooperate with and then defeat. (She’s such a good psycho- I know this for a fact). With her in this movie, just maybe, it won’t be another cliched effort from this guy.

It’s kinda like Mighty Joe Young meets genetic engineering/alien artifacts meets King Kong. Dwayne Johnson (who has been freaking everywhere lately- at least he’s not John Goodman) is a man who has a friendship with an albino gorilla. Not only is this friendship tested when the gorilla finds some sort of technology in the jungle and mutates into a giant, but there are other hostile animals also infected and involved. Considering this is from the same people behind San Andreas, I’m not holding my breath.

Pacific Rim Uprising
To fight giant aliens invading a city apparently you need giant robots. I knew this movie was coming from the Microsoft Surface commercials. Although later in the trailer, I thought it might be Halo. Except I think that world was post apocalyptic and they weren't giant robots. Either way, another pass.

Tomb Raider
Heard about this one as well. Geesh Alicia Vankander won an Oscar and all of a sudden she’s everywhere. Brie Larson too but that’s another movie.
Do we really need to resurrect this franchise? I didn’t like it the right time but I also don’t care a lot for Angelina Jolie.

A Quiet Place
This movie looks creepy as hell. The trailer is shown with no dialogue and no sounds except music that builds until the end.
Supposedly real life husband and wife John Kraskowski and Emily Blunt and their family live in a cabin in the woods and can’t make a sound cuz if they do they’ll alert a terrifying creature. :shudder:

Deadpool 2
I almost forget all about this one LMAO.
Yeah it’s a funny teaser trailer where Deadpool does his best Bob Ross inspiration. Keep an eye on the painting and how it changes.
Then we get a major flurry of activity and footage I can’t make heads or tails of. Anyway- the only movie out of these I’m excited for.

Considering how few movies I’d seen this year (in theater and at home) I hadn’t been excited about many movies at all lately.

The Main Attraction
Yeah... there are different parties involved but like the Avengers movie, the earth is under attack from alien forces and superheroes need to come together. Except the villain is an ancient being from another dimension that dates back as far as the Amazons (like Wonder Woman) and Atlantans (like Aquaman). And instead of S.H.I.E.L.D. it’s Bruce Wayne getting everyone together.
Some participants (like Aquaman and newly created Cyborg) are unwilling at first but everyone eventually comes together.
And there’s also a plot about resurrecting Superman cuz they apparently can’t do this without him.
Good news first: Ezra Miller (who I know best as Patrick from “The peeks of being a wallflower”) is great as The Flash as the token young guy still getting to know his newfound super powers. He had some hilarious jokes and one scene where he ate a whole pizza pie. My aunt said he needs to eat a lot. Considering his powers it’s easy to see why.
Cyborg was the reluctant participant, nearly into his transformation and we get a good back story how he was a promising athlete and tragedy befell him. But as a result everyone he knew but his father believe he’s dead.
There’s also a funny running joke (not that kind of running- although the flash is involved) how he keeps trying to fist bump Cyborg but the timing is never right.
Wonder Woman is maybe the glue holding everything together. Not just the group but the whole movie. She still feels like a breath of fresh air. Not as naive as she was in her origin movie (clearly a lot has happened between those events and her cameo in Batman vs Superman- which I still haven’t seen but maybe should to fill some gaps for myself) but yeah, Gal Gadot is great.
Of course I’ll keep with the avengers comparisons and maybe it’s cuz they’re both female but she kinda occupies the same field as Black Widow. But I like Wonder Woman more right now- I’m still kinda mad that they put her and hulk together as a possible romantic pairing just cuz the avengers apparently HAVE to have one. (No, it doesn’t...)
Then Aquaman gets involved cuz the villain paid him a visit in his home world as well... my compliments to the writers on this... I was so terrified when this villain visited his world and wonder woman’s that their entire families would be massacred cuz that’s what the cliche is. They didn’t. And I am so grateful cuz that just would have been painful. Especially after falling for the Amazons in the Wonder Woman movie. Not to mention they are bad asses and if they were all killed, it totally would have taken that away.
There, the compliments end. And I hate to say it but the issue lies with Ben affleck playing Batman. It just feels like nobody can play that role anymore. One too many recasts. (At least the kid from Gotham is still nailing a young Bruce Wayne- although not liking the destructive teenager story arc this current season has).
And I don’t really care for Ben affleck that much. Argo was maybe the one exception even though it was a long ass movie that had too many low boring points.
So it looks to me like Ben Affleck is getting this group together not Bruce Wayne and he made one comment how the aliens are going to affect climate change and ocean levels will raise. (Of course he says this to Aquaman and he doesn’t mind that... he adds that waters will also boil). Ugh! You and Leo, just shut the hell up! Do your jobs as actors and leave the politics out of it.
Also he goes toe to toe with Wonder Woman about how they respond to grief of lost loved ones and he said she couldn’t lecture him cuz she didn’t get over hers for years. Yeah, dude, but she eventually did. You haven’t and you’re insensitive to the fact she can’t bring hers back.
Once Superman is back in the mix, not as much screen time but maybe that’s why I thought he was good. Although it is kinda pitiful that the justice league can’t do this without him. The avengers have a demi God in Thor but he doesn’t contribute nearly as much as Captain America does and he isn’t as strong as him or Superman (although he is pretty strong- since he goes through punching bags pretty quickly).
But yeah all the action in the finale is great and it’s really cool how something the villain says throughout the movie winds up being his undoing.
It’s only a 2 hour movie but it felt like it took SO long to get there.
And as interesting as some of these character arcs are, I really don’t care enough about any of them to feel invested. That’s kinda what summed this all up for me.

Grade: B

Friday, November 24, 2017

Theatrical Review- Thor: Ragnorak

Date: Sunday, November 5th 2017
Location: Cinempolis in Roxbury Township, New Jersey
Time: 1:40 pm
Party: 3 (my mom, aunt and myself)

Director- Taika Waititi (his most significant credit is directing some episodes of Flight of the Conchords)
Writers- Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost
Composer- Mark Mothersbaugh (I think he was originally in an 80's band, but I know him best as the composer of the Rugrats music)

Thor- Chris Hemsworth
Loki- Tom Hiddlestone
Odin- Anthony Hopkins
The Hulk/Bruce Banner- Mark Ruffalo
Hela, goddess of Death- Cate Blanchett
Heimdell- Idris Elba
Grandmaster- Jeff Goldblum
Valkyrie- Tessa Thompson
Skurge- Karl Urban
Doctor Strange- Bendict Cumberbatch


Opening Comments and Coming Attractions

Gotta start off in saying the amount of commercials was so annoying! It's bad enough we get them at home and now YouTube is making you sit through 2 ads for videos... as if they're trying to kill us inside until we crack and invest in a YouTube Red subscription. It was just overkill.
It was a good sized crowd, but we wound up being in a row where people kept having to get up and use the rest room or buy more popcorn. And they'd do it during action scenes- guys, if you're doing stuff you'd be doing while watching movies at home, maybe you should have waited for this movie come on DVD.  

This got glowing reviews, but I read a few that said that this movie is lighter in humor like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Deadpool"... but that it also didn't take itself too seriously. The latter part of that is what helps the movie from becoming self-parody. And many of the jokes were funny. At times, there were maybe too many and some tried too hard, but most were genuinely laughable in the best way.

I don't think I'd seen any of the trailers before, but there were 6 of them. Which is a lot, plus all the other commercials, PLUS the ad for the Cinemapolis chain.

Jumanji- this goes way beyond the original version with Robin Williams and the Caldecott Award winning book (yeah, all these years later, I remember the Caldecott. That was a big deal- when a children's book would win every year for outstanding illustration). It stars Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson, but they are actually avatars in a video game. Four kids are playing this video game and they get sucked into the game and they're put inside these avatars that look completely different from them in real life. So it gives the actors a chance to act against type, which I find kinda interesting.
I don't know whether this movie is going to bomb or be hilarious, but it's an interesting prospect. It's kinda funny how all the avatars in the game have different strengths and weaknesses and apparently, Kevin Hart's weakness is cake and the trailer shows him eating cake and potentially exploding.

Downsizing- it stars Matt Damon and Jason Sudekis. The idea of downsizing is an irreversible procedure where people are "downsized" and get put into an made-up community for tiny people. Matt Damon and his wife were going to do it, but she (I think she was Kristen Wiig) calls him after he has the procedure done and says she can't go through with it.
Yeah, between Jumanji and this, and the next trailer, I had a hard time comprehending reality at this point. I believe the term, sorry for the profanity, is mindfuck.

The Disaster Artist-
apparently starring the Franco brothers, it's about this weird British actor who kinda reminds me of Russell Brand who doesn't get a role in a movie he fought for. And then he decides with his friends to make a movie. It was just a very off-beat sense of humor and weirded me out big time.
I don't think James Franco has done any movies I've really liked. And in the case of the Spider-Man movies, he wasn't the reason I liked that movie.

then we got to some really good ones...

The Last Jedi-
This was maybe the first full trailer I saw of this and of course we're excited for it. But there was so much going on that I couldn't process it all. What stood out was Luke saying how this isn't going to end how you think, Raye being in pain and maybe her and Kylo Ren joining forces.

The Justice League-
yeah, we're crossing the line to DC here, but this is a pretty big deal because a lot of people (myself included) never thought that this movie was going to happen. I mean, it's a tall order getting Batman and Superman in the same movie. But then again, they did that and it had mixed reviews despite all the money it made.
I think we might wind up seeing this one because it's the next big blockbuster to come out this year and it's coming soon.

Black Panther-
Not sure what to expect with this movie, but the character in Captain America: Civil War was really good.

The Main Event

Ragnorak is the Norse equivalent of “the end of days”- this is addressed at a couple points in the movie (in the beginning and the end to tie it all in a nice little bow). This isn’t quite a spoiler because it’s in the title and the way it comes about isn’t what you’d immediately expect. An interesting twist on Armageddon, I guess you could say.

After an obligatory opening battle scene set to music (Thor has a new theme song apparently and they kick ass together-- "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin- that song starts with the two "ah-ah-ah!" lines before actual lyrics), Thor and Loki locate Odin (who is M.I.A) with the help of a Doctor Strange cameo.
Interesting new touch on this- usually, the after-credits scenes are stand alone to tease about the next movie in the marvel story arc. The one from the end of Doctor Strange is the actual scene in this movie. Some might say Doctor Strange is just showing off with his teleportation powers, but it’s pretty funny what happens to Thor and Loki in these scenes.
Finally, they find Odin who is departing from existence (what’s with these superhero movie killing off Gods lately?) cuz it’s just “his time”. But his absence is quickly filled by Hela- the goddess of death and his firstborn. Cate Blanchett is in fine form and quite a bad ass in this role, which would be great if she wasn’t so evil and hard to kill. She actually knocks Thor and Loki out of the rainbow bridge on the way to Asgard- who does that?

Thor turns up on another planet where he is forced to fight in an arena. And if you saw any of the trailers, you know he’s up against the Hulk- who’s apparently got a following. Kinda nuts. Of course, it’s a great fight (at one point, Loki- who of course befriended Jeff Goldblum The Grandmaster in charge of all this- celebrates, bringing us back to one of the most memorable Avengers scenes) and how it ends was frustrating- putting it mildly and spoiler-free.
While we do meet some cool characters like the other gladiators and a former Valkyrie (who is in charge of Thor and has him in her power) this part of the movie where Thor plots his and the Hulk’s escape just takes too damn long. It’s bad enough Hela is unbeatable, but throw in another impossible scenario, hopelessness is exhausting.
Together with Loki, all four of them do manage to get away, but it’s an uphill battle. But along the way, we have killer chase and battle scenes and occasional comic relief with Thor and Loki. Gotta love Loki even if he is an opportunistic weasel. And Valkyrie is another bad ass chick. She’s been called this movie’s equivalent of Han Solo.

There’s also a couple of funny Hulk/Bruce Banner scenes, including one where he does his best Tony Stark impression. I mean, I’m kinda sick of Robert in that role cuz it’s not going to win him an Oscar, but that scene (I won’t elaborate) made me badly wish he was in this movie right now. But that’s mainly cuz I haven’t seen him in a while- nothing against this movie. It’s its own unique brand of fun through most of it. The rest- you can decide for yourself

Grade: B+

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Theatrical Review: The Lego Ninjago Movie

Date: Saturday September 23 2017
Location: Cinemark at Stroud Mall
Time: 11am
Party: 3 (my mom sister and I)

Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan
Writers: (too many to list)
Composer: (too many to list)

Notable Cast:
Master Wu- Jackie Chan
Lloyd- Dave Franco
Garmadon- Justin Theroux

Duration: 141 minutes (+6 trailers)

Opening comments

Yeah I’m posting this a little late but with this movie I figured there wasn’t a big hurry.
Like with Lego Batman this was another movie my sister wanted to see but she was also a fan of the Lego Ninjago series. I’d seen very little of it myself but any excuse to go to the movies these days (when there aren’t as many I want to see for whatever reason- I hope it’s just an off year) I’ll take.
The theater had a good crowd, a lot of kids but none that distracted too much from the movie. They laughed at most of the right parts- although I can’t remember which drew the most laughter.

Coming attractions

 A bunch repeated from the previous movie, Leap!
Daddy’s home 2, my little pony (my mom told us there’s no way she’s taking us to that one and we didn’t argue lol), coco and paddington 2 (the one trailer I forgot from the last one- hey, I’m used to only having to remember 3 trailers per movie, give me a break).

Then there was another rendition of Peter Rabbit. (Nick Jr had a series a few years ago with Peter Benjamin Squirrel Nutkin and a new female bunny named Lily- Peter has three sisters and they had to come up with another female protagonist? I don’t get it. Also have no idea if that series is still on but what little I saw of it I enjoyed).
This time it’s about the origin of Peter rabbit and how he became what he is... except it showed him hosting a party at mr mcgregors house and James Corden is doing his voice. Uh... I mean I like James Corden and Peter Rabbit but together? I’m kinda concerned- this is my child hood I’m talking about and I hope they didn’t ruin it by having this be a more PG version.
Then there was the curious “Isle of Dogs” which looks like Wes Anderson’s attempt at recapturing the success of Fantastic Mr. Fox (but with dogs and it takes place in Japan- and is likely to catch flack from the PC crowd cuz no lead roles are done by Japanese actors). The sense of humor feels very similar so I think this movie could be good. Just gotta see what the critics have to say.

The Main Event

 Maybe this is a Japanese thing but the methodology of our main characters seems extremely similar to Power Rangers. They even have their own Zords (although I think they’re just called Mechas in this case). But these 6 characters are high schoolers that will make an excuse to leave at the same time when the main villain attacks their town. And nobody seems to have a clue.
The other interesting coincidence is that the green one seems like the odd man out while poised to become the leader of the group. They even have an old dude as their master- except he’s in the flesh and he can hold his own in battle easily. I think the similarities end there (I guess between the ill advised peter rabbit and power ranger reboots I’m feeling nostalgic)

But here’s a couple of twists that make things interesting and set them apart-
The green ninja Lloyd is the least popular kid in school (unlike Tommy the green ranger)... because the villain Garmadon who is always attacking the town is his father. Yeah- how’s that for awkward?
Plus- all his friends have elemental powers like fire lightning ice earth and water. He’s just... green. (Funny enough I was thinking why he is the only one without an elemental power minutes before this conversation takes place)

Things boil up to a point where Lloyd decides the only way to defeat his father for good is to use the ultimate weapon. Which of course backfires or we wouldn’t have much of a movie.
This “weapon” (not saying what cuz it’s kinda hilarious how badly this turns out) summons Catzilla who proceeds to destroy the city.

Adding more to predictability- the ninjas need to go into the jungle to get the ultimate ultimate weapon and they need a true ninja to lead them. Their master is temporarily lost to them so, yeah, they gotta take Garmadon with them. By this point Lloyd had already revealed his secret identity to him (“and now we got bad blood, hey!”— sorry, couldn’t resist) so it makes the journey awkward at times but things happen and.. I’ll just leave the rest to the imagination.

Kinda hard to believe what a funny villain Garmadon is. I mean yeah he is kind of an idiot and kinda predictable but well written and acted. Justin Theroux isn’t very big in Hollywood and I know him better for co-writing Tropic Thunder and Iron-Man 2 (I think one led to the other and may be why Iron-Man 2 fell short of the original... but that could also be Sam Rockwell’s fault- his character is such a tool in that movie). But yeah he was great.
The funniest gag is him “firing” his generals when they say something he doesn’t like or they just have no ideas... but unlike with Dr. Evil in Austin Powers, this comes back to get him in hilarious fashion.

One nice difference about this movie is that it begins and ends in reality with Jackie Chan telling a kid the entirety of the movie and we get to see the story unfold without interruption. I thought to myself- I’m going to forget that the movie was being done this way by the time it ends. And sure enough I did.
And it’s worth sticking through part of the credits cuz we don’t just see the characters sing and dance but also Jackie Chan outtakes.

As for the movie itself, it was funny, had great characters and killer action scenes (although maybe a little too fast paced at some points). But even though it wasn’t a terribly long movie I found some scenes ran too long and I was asking myself when they’d be over. But my sister enjoyed it and that’s the important thing.
As far as Lego movies go, I liked how it was different from the others where they didn’t go too over the top with humor or pop culture references. And of course everything is better with ninjas- or for me some Asian influences just to set things apart.
It was kinda funny how it made fun of the formula of your typical “bad guy regularly tries to take over the town” story. We have GMA’s Michael Strahan and Robin Roberts hosting the morning show and asking themselves what % chance is there of an attack. Not to mention someone posing the question how effective the ninjas are because they defeat Garmadon but he always gets away. I kinda like it when cartoons ask the deep questions but the seriousness of said question doesn’t kill the fun tone of the movie or genre being presented.

Grade: B

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Theatrical Review: Leap!

Date: Saturday August 26 2017
Time: 11:55am
Location: Cinemark Cinema in Stroud Mall
Party: 2 (my sister & I)

Directors: Eric Summer and Eric Warin
Writers: Eric Summer (based on his idea), Laurent Zeitoun and Carol Noble
Composer: Klaus Badelt

Felicie- Elle Fanning
Victor- Nat Wolff
Odette- Carly Rae Jepsen
Camille- Maddy Zeigler
Merante, the choreography- Terrence Scammell
Mother Superior/Regine/Felicie's mom- Kate McKinnon
Luteau- Mel Brooks

Duration: 89 minutes (+ 7 trailers)
Opening Remarks

First off, I listed the venue for the first time in a long time for a very particular reason. A particularly sad one.
Our super local cinema was one of several businesses in our local flea market affected by a fire and is one of such businesses that may never recover. It happened a couple weeks after we saw Despicable 3... it sucks. Granted, it wasn't perfect. We've had our share of sound issues, screen splits and so on. A couple of times when the movie was shut off prematurely or we had to remind people we were still there. But it was SUPER convenient and I'm going to miss it.

The mall is a good 20 minutes away from the house and downtown traffic can have its issues every now and then. But it's a really nice place. Can't beat the cushy stadium seating. And it was the two of us and two other twosomes within this one theater, so it was pretty cool.

Probably the one negative... there are a million trailers. Not commercials. Trailers. And unlike with "The Judge," where I managed to write them all down, I was just lucky I was able to count these.


A bunch were animated and a bunch had real people. That much I remember for sure.

First up- "Daddy's Home 2"... how this movie got a sequel is as beyond me as Adam Sandler still being able to make movies when most of them are terrible...
Mark Walberg is the dad and Will Ferrell is the stepdad. But this time, their dads come into the picture for some holiday. Walberg's dad is Mel Gibson and Ferrell's dad is John Lithgow.

I'd never go to a theater to see this (certainly not traveling 20 minutes down the road to see it)- but Mel Gibson had some funny moments in this trailer pretty much side-eying Will Ferrell and saying to Mark Walberg "this [idiot] is raising your kids."
Mel Gibson has had his issues and RDJ has been lobbying for the past few years to get him acting jobs (paying it forward after Mel Gibson did the same for him after the final rehab stint)... but as crappy as this movie might wind up being, it's at least an opportunity Mel Gibson could possibly use... I'm spending too much time on this, moving on.

Next- a "My little pony" movie... yeah, this is getting a theatrical release. It looks super cute, but maybe not something I'd ever see unless it happened to be on TV and I happened to have nothing else I need to see.

Beyond that, I don't remember the order of these trailers, but this is what I remember.

Animated movie- Duck Duck Goose where this inept goose winds up becoming dad to a couple of ducklings who sound oddly mature for ducklings who'd recently hatched.
Animated movie- Ferdinand where a tame bull is sent off to be a bullfighter and a bunch of hedgehogs want to help get back to his girl... the hedgehogs had some funny moments, so this could potentially be a good movie

Animated movie- Disney's "Coco" where a live boy finds himself in the world of "The Day of the Dead" and meets his family... I still don't know why the hell the movie is called "Coco." I'm too lazy to Google it :P I don't care that much

animated movie- Lego Ninjago... my sister wants to see this one... she's really familiar with the series. This focuses on the green ninja Lloyd who has no friends beyond the other ninjas cuz his dad happens to be the main villain. The trailers feature the two of them meeting and Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" playing (so excited for her new album...).

and I think there's one other live-action movie and I can't remember what it is. Probably wasn't important.

The Main Event

Felicie and Victor are best friends who grew up at an orphanage and both have big dreams. Victor to become a famous inventor and Felicie to become a ballerina and enroll in Paris's world famous dance school.
Once they manage to break out of the orphanage (and evade the caretaker, Mr. Luteau- whose physical appearance reminds me a lot of Richard Griffiths in the Harry Potter movies), the story can finally begin.

One thing that didn't make it into the trailers- Felicie commits identity theft to get into the ballet school. (Maybe not the first time in a kid's movie, but it kinda shocked me). But considering whose identity she steals, we can let it go.

Felicie befriends Odette, who is the cleaner at the dance school and she asks to work as her assistant. Her other job is with this mean rich lady, Regine, who had bought her daughter Camille into the dance school. After meeting Camille and Camille breaks the music box her mother gave her, Felicie kinda gets her revenge by using Camille's letter of acceptance to get into the school.

A theme repeated throughout the movie- skill vs. passion. Felicie has all the passion in the world, but she's a bit of a klutz and has no professional training. But with Odette's help (she was a dancer before an accident stole that ability from her), she works hard and makes it through week after week. She also falls for Russian dancer Rudy while Victor is trying to get the courage to tell her that he likes her.
Meanwhile, Camille and her mother do find out what happens and the situation gets a little more dire: Felicie needs to nail the final audition to play Clara in the Nutcracker or she gets kicked out of the school.

And there's also another point where we see that Camille has the skill but no passion. She dances because her mom makes her. (Maddy Zeigler, who plays Camille, was on "So you think you could dance" last Monday night explaining it just like that)

Overall, the movie was great. The animation for the people had come so far. It's amazing how realistic it is. Felicie is a plucky fun heroine that a lot of girls will be able to relate to. Her friend Victor is a great friend to her (able to fix her music box, which is a very important trinket to her).

Carly Rae Jepsen, I have not liked for years because of "Call Me Maybe." It's catchy (heck, it went viral at the 2012 Olympics and was the song of that summer), but the lyrics are so badly written. She'd had other songs, but the radio only plays that one. But since she started doing acting roles, I've come around. She was perfect as Frenchie in Fox's rendition of "Grease." And she's great here. I don't know how old Odette is supposed to be, but she could easily be the same age she is.

In "Legally Blonde," Elle Woods said during her valedictorian speech that first impressions aren't always correct.
This goes on to be true about a couple characters in this movie and in a good way.

Not to spoil anything, but Luteau winds up being helpful to Felicie later in the movie and despite his gruff exterior, there's a heart underneath there.

The biggest surprise for me was the choreographer, Merante. I thought he was played by Tim Curry because he sounded like Nigel Thornberry (he wasn't), but the impression I got was that he was stuffy and he wasn't going to budge in his opinion of Felicie (although to be fair- she was pretending to be Camille and he didn't like how her mother bought her way into the school). But he does come around. He also is very accommodating to Odette- which made me wonder if they had a history or they were related. He did some kind things for her because she was a dancer he admired and he wanted to help her if she needed it now that she couldn't dance anymore.

There's a great scene where Felicie puts on a performance at a bar with Victor and he sees her and slips in a compliment... that made me smile and hastily clap a couple times.

The review in the local paper seemed to have only one issue with the movie- the historical inaccuracies. The movie takes place in the 1870's. Someone's wearing denim. And :groan: someone says it's hammer time...

The one negative I found personally, which kinda sucked the fun out of it a few times... Camille's CRAZY stage mom. Maybe it's the hairstyle, but she reminds me of Lady Tremaine (aka the Evil Stepmother from Disney's "Cinderella"). The cutthroat attitude and the absolute meanness. There were no redeemable qualities about her whatsoever and all villains should have something in their background to explain why they are who they are.

Not only do her actions completely derail the movie halfway through (that whole 3rd act issue that's been cliché for years)... towards the end, she's threatening bodily injury and there's a hammer involved.
She said "it's hammer time" and I groaned so hard thinking "she totally ruined that for me"...

she didn't... I said "it's hammer time" about something a couple hours later and still got joy from it.

I don't know- maybe it's just a personal peeve. Up there with villains who are depicted with no weak points so it's impossible for the heroes to defeat them. [And also to derail my earlier point- it was explained why the "House of Night" villain Neferet became evil, but I still hated how she had no weak points that the good guys could take advantage of to defeat her]

I guess what I'm saying... the villain was simply an archetype. She wasn't three dimensional like the protagonist was and that's not good.

Grade: A-

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Theatrical Review: Despicable Me 3

Date: Sunday, July 9 2017
Time: 11:45am
Party: 3 (my mom, sister and I)

Directors: Pierre Coffin (directed previous "Despicable" films), Kyle Balda (directed Minions & The Lorax) and Eric Guillon (a character designer for "Sing" and several other films)
Writers: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio

Gru & Dru- Steve Carell
Lucy- Kristen Wiig
Minions- Pierre Coffin
Balthazar Bratt- Trey Parker (yeah, one of the 2 guys behind "South Park")
Fritz/Ramsbottom- Steve Coogan
Margot- Miranda Cosgrove
Edith- Dana Gaier
Agnes- Nev Scharell
Clive the Robot- Andy Nyman

Duration: 90 minutes (+2 trailers)


Opening Comments

I forgot which movie we were going to see when they aired the trailer. The music and all the fun action happening was enough to sell me on this movie, not to mention it's been a good franchise up to this point.
Although part of me wonders if it's already worn out its welcome.
We got to the theater and a sign on the door said two of the theaters didn't have air-conditioning. This is a small local place, so it doesn't have the best facilities. But hey, it's close by. That's kinda hard to argue with.
It was the three of us and three other people. Then maybe a dozen other people showed up during the trailers or the first couple minutes of the movie. But considering we had to be told we were in the wrong theater (it said 3 Despicable, so we thought it was the right movie- not because it was where the 3D version would be later... but at least there was no issues with the screen or sound system, so I really shouldn't complain).


First there was a teaser for the Emoji Movie. It was narrated by the "meh" emoji with various other things going on. We get more from the trailers shown on TV, but they only show one trailer where it seems like the poo emoji is one of the most famous because he's very full of himself.
Me, I like these things as much as the next person. Heck, my favorites are the :P face, followed by the winkie face, and on Twitter, I've gotten into using the purple umbrella with rain drops for my Prince tweets and comments. And (a messageboard where I got my start in the fan community 10 years ago) used these things LONG before they were popular for cell phones. But we called them emoticons. And I still like that name better than "emojis"... I'm sorry, that always sounded lame to me. And by extension, this movie looks kinda lame. Like they're trying to commercialize emojis even more with a storyline that reads like a cheap imitation of "Inside Out."
I believe "Angry Birds" failed at the box office, but the fact the game isn't as popular as it used to be might have more to do with it than the idiocy of trying to do a movie about something you find on your phone. And don't get me started on the TV game show of "Candy Crush." What the heck is Mario Lopez even doing hosting that? He's probably the most successful alum from "Saved by the Bell" with various other hosting gigs on better shows and he's a part-time DJ. It's not like he needs the money... I don't think...
I'd spent way too much time on this thing I'm deeming a waste of time, moving on...

Leap!, by contrast, has the potential to be something really good. In a year where there really haven't been any standout animated movies, I can see this winning an Oscar. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
It's a story about a boy and girl who grew up in an orphanage and both have big dreams. The girl (played by Elle Fanning... whatever happened to her sister, Dakota... did Twilight "ruin her career" too or did she just outgrow her niche, which was precocious child star?) wants to be a dancer for a ballet company. The boy (played by Nat Wolff- this guy from two movies based on books by an author whose name escapes me...John Green... he's really getting a lot of good material coming his way) wants to be a world-famous inventor.
I was thinking while watching this that animation has come such a long way since Walt Disney did "Snow White"-- THAT was groundbreaking, but we now have 3D animation with really life-like human characters.
We'll see how the critics react (I don't put a lot of stock in critics, but I still check out what they say on some things), but this has a lot of potential, I think.
I just don't know if these kids are brother and sister or friends because there's a scene where the guy seems to be falling for the girl...and that'd be icky and not-so-kid friendly if they were related.

Geesh... I've had so much to say about the trailers, and I don't know if I'll have as much to say about the actual movie.

The Main Event

Here's the basic story-- Gru and Lucy (his new wife from the previous movie) are given the mission to bring Balthazar Bratt to the Anti-Villian League and thwart his attempt to steal a rare pink diamond (they don't call it the Pink Panther, but it might as well be).
However, while they manage to retrieve the diamond, Bratt gets away. And the new leader of the AVL fires Gru for this mistake (and Lucy, who says in the trailer that she'll have to fire her as well).
The Minions take this news in a positive way. Led by Mel, they decide they want to go back to villainy. Something Gru doesn't want now that he's happily married to someone who catches bad guys. So the Minions abandon him and due to some shenanigans they commit, they wind up in jail.
Gru also finds out that he has a twin brother named Dru. The whole family goes to another country to meet him. Dru reveals that their father was a great villain and he wants the two of them to go into the villain business together. Not telling his brother, Gru's plan is to gnab Bratt and bring him to the AVL to get his and Lucy's jobs back. Meanwhile, Agnes, the youngest of the three girls, is on a quest to find a real-life unicorn after hearing a barkeep in town rave about one.
And Bratt has another evil plot in mind and it involves getting back at Hollywood.

Balthazar Bratt is probably one of the most unique, most slyest, but goofiest villains I'd seen in any movie. He was a child star who had a show where he committed heists. The show got cancelled the moment he hit puberty and it got super awkward super fast to see a pimpled teenage Bratt say his noted catchphrase "I've been a bad boy."
His methods, funny enough, are real-life versions of things he did in his show. Only in an animated movie would they be able to get away with this and I thought that was kinda cool.

The best part, for me personally... his show was big in the 80's, so this guy is all about the 80's references. He wears a purple body suit with big shoulder pads. He has a keytar that not only produces a killer soundtrack for dance fights, but it literally blew Gru away and his clothes right off his back.
However, it did get to a point where I thought to myself: did the writers really love the 80's, as I do... or were they making fun of all the pop culture cheese that decade produced? It's hard to tell. Because after a while, I was even tiring of it, which made me sad. I guess you really can have too much of a good thing.
Then everything was okay after when he first unreleased a legion of his own action figures (merchandise that nobody bought, apparently) and calls them... wait for it... The Bratt Pack! [Brat Pack movies are among my all-time favorites... although the best of them is The Breakfast Club, followed by Ferris Bueller and the rest aren't quite at the same level]

As for the soundtrack... 80's songs included
"Bad" by Michael Jackson

"Into the Groove" by Madonna (my favorite song by her, by the way)
"Sussido" by Phil Collins (if you're one of those people who accused him of stealing this song's synth line from Prince's song "1999"... this movie has that 80's pop trifecta... I am not nearly THAT crazy)

"Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits (one of the best 80's videos ever!)
"Take on Me" by A-Ha

...I'm sure there were more, but those were the best of the bunch.

We've gotten to know Margo, Edith and Agnes a bit over these three movies. Margo is only 12, but she comes off as 16 (but she's also played by 20-something Miranda Cosgrove). She went from being the one in charge to the boy-crazy teenage to... kinda being embarrassed by her new stepmom, who makes her be nice to this local boy. Something that backfires, but how it resolves gets them closer as a result.

Agnes's cuteness still hasn't grown out its welcome, at least for me anyway. She represents the kid in all of us who wants to believe that unicorns are real and she just might get her wish this time to have a real one.
Edith... I still don't know what her character is supposed to be. She spent all of the last movie dressed in a karate/ninja outfit. In this movie, she likes pranking Fritz, the butler at Dru's mansion and she goes with Agnes to find the unicorn, but she's not quite believing it. I don't know-- so much attention has been given to the other two girls, I just don't get her the same way. And we're three movies in.

Of course, we have the Minions. They spend most of the movie in jail and, maybe because they have the numbers, they wind up ruling the roost. (At least it makes a lot more sense than Austin Powers 3 where Dr. Evil and Mini-Me manage the same thing with just the two of them). All the while, Mel (a Minion we hadn't gotten to know before this movie) starts regretting his decision to leave Gru and reflects on their time together. He acts like such a tough guy by leading this revolt, but the flashbacks show he was kind of a baby.
Sure, their cuteness legitimized them getting their own movie with origin story and everything... but I think that might have worn out its welcome a bit.

And Lucy spends most of the movie trying to adjust to her new role as stepmom. Which isn't perfect, but then again, who is?
One of the most often aired trailers for this movie has her saying to Gru and Dru "so you're villians now?"... that scene never happened in the movie! At one point, it appears she's starting to get the scent that something isn't quite right with those two, but there's no confrontation scene.

Of course, Steve Carell plays both roles of Gru and Dru. And they both have their individual quirks. It's kinda funny how each was raised by a single parent and that parent told their kid that they were the biggest disappointment. Yet when Gru is part of this job he's pulling with his brother, it really seems like he's a better villain than he appeared to be in the original Despicable movie. Meanwhile, Dru is a big klutz that nearly ruins everything. But they do come together in the end and come out on top.

Bratt may seem like a goof super obsessed with the 80's, but he does have moments of brilliance in his own villainy. Although there was one moment that happened that I saw through the deception almost immediately... maybe the writers wanted it easy for the adults to guess or they didn't... either way, I liked feeling super smart for a moment as long as it lasted.

The movie as a whole... it's not bad, but being the 2nd sequel of one really good movie... there were times where I was thinking it's getting stale and maybe they should quit while they're ahead.
However, the final act of the movie is really good. Very action-packed and exciting and it was fun to be back in the 80's again.

Grade: B+