Despicable Me (2010)

I dislike movie posters that inadvertently give away Things.

I dislike movie posters that inadvertently give away Things.

Directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud (Renaud was responsible for the terrible Lorax movie)

Written by: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (they wrote the underrated Bubble Boy)

Starring: the vocal cast of Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Kate Fisher, Jemaine Clement, Jack McBrayer, Danny McBride, Mindy Kaling, Rob Huebel and Ken Jeong.

What it’s about: a super-villain discovers there may be more to life than evil plans

B-Movie Alternate Title: I Stole the Moon!

What I liked: This is one of those animated films that actually manages to tug at the heartstrings, which is almost unheard of in nowadays non-Pixar animated movies.  Steve Carrell does some fantastic vocal work with the character of Gru.  The Minions are of course adorable and hilarious, and credit for that mostly goes to the animators who definitely had fun with the characters.  There’s some decent writing going on here as well.  I appreciate certain amounts of zaniness, and this movie certainly was overflowing with it.

What I disliked: Knowing that Russell Brand was one of the voices in the movie, and was somewhat enjoyable.  Jason Segel’s character was annoying far past the point of “he’s doing a good job BECAUSE he is annoying”.  As an adult, I disliked some of the set pieces that involved stupid physical violence for no reason than to get a laugh out of little kids, but that’s just a minor quibble on my part.  Also, I bought this Blu-Ray at my Blockbuster, previously viewed, and somehow an asshole customer managed to scratch an unscratchable disc.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Certainly, it is fun for people of all ages.

Rating: 4 / 5

So fluffy that I could die.

So fluffy that I could die.

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Cop Out (2010)

National Lampoon's Stupid Weapon oh kill me now

National Lampoon’s Stupid Weapon oh kill me now

Directed by: Kevin Smith (his best movie will most likely always end up being Chasing Amy, which used to be in my Top Five of All Time)

Written by: Mark and Robb Cullen

Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Pollak, Adam Brody, Rashida Jones, Guillermo Diaz, Seann William Scott, Jason Lee and Michelle Trachtenberg.

What it’s about: two wacky cop partners get wrapped up in something stupid

B-Movie Alternate Title: Stupid Cops

Movie Mash Up: The Last Boy Scout – everything great about it

What I liked: I generally enjoy seeing Bruce Willis in movies, so that was a high point.  Kevin Pollak, also.  Moving on.

What I disliked: I don’t get how Tracy Morgan is popular for just spitting out goddamn non sequiturs.  He was pretty terrible to watch in this movie, and since he was Willis’ partner, they pretty much share every scene of the running time, which made it particularly torturous for me.  The writing was bad, the action was bad, the acting was bad, it was just bad in general.  The humour is grade school dick and fart jokes without being ironic or Jackass-level brilliance.  I think there was one scene that actually made me laugh out loud in the movie.  Why do I even own this movie?  Does anyone want it?

Would I recommend it to anyone?: No, it is a pretty dumb cop action comedy with very little to enjoy.

Rating: 1.5 / 5

This is close to the scene that made me laugh.  Movie magic.

This is close to the scene that made me laugh. Movie magic.

TRON: Legacy (2010)

When I heard that they were making a sequel to TRON, I had mixed feelings about it.  At that time I still held TRON in high regard (as yesterday’s review stated, it doesn’t age as well as I wish it did), and it was nearly three decades after it was released, and blah blah blah Hollywood doesn’t have original ideas anymore, etc.  Yes, there was a potentially huge cult fanbase that would blindly embrace anything TRON-related, but could it be great or even as good as the first one?

In my opinion, yes.  A 2010 TRON movie would easily be on par with the 1982 version’s technical achievements, and with an elderly Jeff Bridges comfortable with his real life Zen persona being shown onscreen, well certainly the acting would be much better.  The set pieces would be guaranteed to be far more epic and action-packed, and with the nostalgia factor, for me the only way it would have been disappointing is if it had no heart or story.

Thankfully, it’s a decent enough tale, though not nearly as action-packed as I’m sure modern audiences would have wanted.  Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) ends up following in his father, Kevin Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) digital footprints by being transported onto The Grid in much the same manner, with Sam being forced to compete in The Games for the entertainment of the masses.  Turns out that Kevin’s creation, CLU (a digital Bridges), took over The Grid in order to create a perfect world, and Kevin had been living in hiding for 20 years or so.  With the help of Kevin’s apprentice, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam attempts to get back to the real world with his father.

If you go in expecting some sort of Matrix-style movie, you don’t know much about the original TRON.  It’s far more Zen than that.  Legacy doesn’t really speed along at points, being much more comfortable in methodically going about its business.  My biggest issue with the film is related to some of the technical effects, with the younger Kevin Flynn/CLU portrayed in such an unsettling, Uncanny Valley manner.  CGI artists just haven’t gotten the human mouth down to perfection yet.  I really enjoyed Legacy, to the point where I would put it above the original TRON simply because it is a more entertaining and enjoyable movie experience.  The first one was a trailblazer, sure, but not nearly as fun as this one.

3.5 / 5

Kick-Ass (2010)

Note: I’m writing this before I go see The Dark Knight Rises, because I’m totally stoked for that movie and you read the review for it yesterday, probably, so you already knew that.

When Kick-Ass first exploded onto the scene, I knew next to nothing about it.  I had seen some footage that was released and was trying to figure out exactly what kind of a movie it was going to be.  It seemed almost like satire, over-the-top, balls out action.  Of course, that was just the scene of Nicolas Cage firing a gun at Chloë Grace Moretz’s chest after calling her “baby doll”, so you can see how I may have misread it.  I wasn’t even aware that it had only been released as a comic book series several months prior.  I wasn’t stoked about it or anything, though I generally wish success for comic book movies so I can have more of them.  Just no more Spider-Man or Fantastic Four movies, please.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (responsible for the surprisingly excellent X-Men: First Class last year), Kick-Ass is another in the gritty vein of comic book movies.  However, the production/art design on it is more Batman Forever than The Dark Knight, and that works well for it because it celebrates its comic book nature.  In my Avengers review I said that it was probably the greatest comic book movie of all time, and I still stand by that.  However, I don’t classify Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies as “comic book” movies, and every time I re-watch Kick-Ass, it gets better and better in my mind, so watch out Avengers, I might have to revise my opinion!

The strength of Kick-Ass lies in the fact that it pulls no punches.  It is dark, it is violent, it is filled with foul-mouthed characters who do Bad Things, it is a comic book come to life, although admittedly a bit filthier than your standard Marvel and DC fare.  The origin story behind the hero Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) is fairly believable and not condescending to the audience at all.  There’s a lot more to this movie than just the action and bad words, as a genuine romance buds between Kick-Ass’ alter ego Dave and his schoolmate, Katie (the always gorgeous Lyndsy Fonseca) and that leads to Feelings.

That’s not even more than the surface of Kick-Ass, as there are several other stories being told as well.  Damon Macready (Cage) has a vendetta planned for crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong at his movie heaviest) and has raised his daughter, Mindy (Moretz) to be a highly skilled vigilante in her own right.  D’Amico’s son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), wants to get into the family business despite his somewhat nerdish nature.  All of these storylines come together in amazing ways, and Cage gives one of the best performances of his career as an avenging husband hero type.  My words are failing me now, I just want to gush about how great this movie is.

It’s not a movie for kids, okay.  Do not sit down with your little ones to watch this little comic book movie, because you will be shocked and have to explain so much to them and unfairly resent the movie for that.  It’s not the fault of the movie that you didn’t do your homework!  Kick-Ass is an awesome and worthwhile movie watching experience.

5 / 5

This Movie Is Broken (2010)

Today is Canada Day, and what better way to celebrate that then by posting a review of a distinctly Canadian movie.  This Movie Is Broken is a sort of live concert movie with a very loose romance story taking place during the performances.  It was written by Don McKellar and directed by Bruce McDonald, both notable Canadian filmmakers that are pretty much unknown throughout the rest of the world.  It’s not that they’re not talented (although I hated haaaaaated McDonald’s The Tracey Fragments), it’s just that the world doesn’t seem to want that much of their particular Canadian perspectives.  What do I know though, I’m just seeing this from inside Canada.

The stars of the film are Broken Social Scene, an amazing Canadian band that I had been resisting listening to for years because I didn’t want to fall into that hipster garbage and how dumb was I for that?  Their songs are anthems, powerful collections of musical collaborations between many of their FIFTEEN members.  Their creativity blows me away.  The other two stars of the movie are Greg Calderone and the breathtakingly gorgeous Georgina Reilly, playing two people that have known each other since childhood.  Bruno (Calderone) has been carrying a torch for Caroline (Reilly) since then, and now, fifteen years later, they wake up after spending the night together.

The entire movie takes place on that day, a day when BSS is giving a free concert in Toronto, leading to Caroline and Bruno enjoying said concert.  The dialogue is natural, improvised, and generally takes a back seat to the songs.  I’d say it was guerrilla film making, but it’s actually more impassioned than that.  McDonald gets the shots he needs, tells the story, and the band provides a gorgeous background for the whole tale.

It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s a far better pastiche of scenes than the pretentious wankery of The Tracey Fragments.  There are some scenes that are captured so beautifully that it makes my heart ache, and if I’m being honest, they usually contain the lonely pretty girl, Caroline Rush.  She’s the kind of girl I used to write (probably) bad poetry about, you just want to know her, and I’m going to stop before I start writing “Ode to Caroline Rush” here.

4 / 5

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Alright, so I did a whole nice write-up yesterday for the first Iron Man movie, and well, this one is more of the same.  It’s not The Dark Knight sequel to Batman Begins, it’s more like what Batman Forever was to Batman, if that makes sense.  It probably doesn’t since I just casually omitted Batman Returns, but Forever had sooo much Batcrap shoved into it that the movie actually shat out a sequel.

I just wanna sit back and appreciate that thing that I just wrote.  Man, I hope I didn’t subconsciously steal it from someone, because it is such a perfect description of Batman & Robin.  You can LIKE this review or G+ it or RT it or whatever.  I don’t even want to write anymore.

Alright, fine.  So Iron Man 2 brings back almost the exact same cast and creative team as the original movie, minus the unlikable Terrence Howard (replaced with the awesome Don Cheadle) and bringing in Justin Theroux as the screenplay writer.  At this point The Avengers movie release date was (I think) set in stone and there were preparations and things shoved into the story that seemed to be less about just Iron Man, and more about pumping up the Avengers plotline.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it gives the whole movie more of an episodic feel.  Like, you can’t have “The Body” episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” without “I Was Made to Love You” which I had to research (and I actually dug that episode too) to remember it took place directly before “The Body”.

I feel like I’m getting all Pitchfork-y with this review, making allusions to other things that seem quite brilliant in my head and maybe seems assholeish when someone else reads it.  Anyways, the film also brings in Mickey Rourke as the main villain Whiplash, Sam Rockwell as Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) main business rival, Justin Hammer, and Scarlett Johansson as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent – and future Avenger- Natalya Romanov or y’know, Black Widow.  There’s also a lovely little appearance by John Slattery as Tony’s dad in archival footage, and the whole Stark family thing reminds me so much of “The Venture Bros.”

So there are parts I like about Iron Man 2 because they remind me of other things, and it’s a competently enough made movie, but not nearly as great as the first movie.

3.5 / 5

True Grit (2010)

I’m tempted to write another hate diatribe rant about The King’s Speech not deserving its Best Picture Oscar for 2010, but I already did that in my Social Network review.  However, as I look at the list of the rest of the Best Picture nominees for that year – this movie among them – I realise that of the ten movies nominated, I would put King’s Speech at number ten.  I put the lesbian family dramedy The Kids Are All Right at nine, and I don’t believe that deserved a Best Picture nom either.  SPOILER ALERT the rest of the nominees I would most likely rate as 4.5 – 5 star movies, including this one.

First of all, I’m an unabashed Coen Brothers fan, and as a film snob, that’s probably expected of me.  However, sometimes I have a contrary opinion to that of other film snobs (I think Stanley Kubrick was boring/overrated, same for Terence Malick, Martin Scorcese is hit or miss with me, etc.) so I just wanted to make it clear beforehand that I love the films of Ethan and Joel Coen.  Even the least praised ones are worthy of a watch, and damn anyone who tells you otherwise.

I still haven’t seen the original John Wayne version of True Grit (nor have I ever seen a single John Wayne movie), so I can’t comment on how they compare, nor should that matter.  There is nothing that could enhance my watching of this movie, as it is already a high quality story, a gorgeously made Western, and a well-acted film.  It’s got it all, dark humour, drama, tension, aside from being a Western, it’s pretty much a Coen Brothers movie.  The acting is all around great, from the well-deserved Best Actor nomination for Jeff Bridges, to the talented newcomer, Hailee Steinfeld.  Just an excellent all around movie and worthy of multiple viewings in my opinion.

5 / 5