News Column

One minion too many

June 30, 2013


ONE of the biggest surprises of 2010 was the box office bonanza known as Despicable Me, which took a monstrous half a billion bucks worldwide.

The surprise being that it must rank as one of the most pedestrian animations to hit cinemas in yonks. And it's the same story with this inevitable sequel which is sure to please kids, but almost nobody else.

Steve Carell returns as the voice of ex-criminal Gru who's recruited by Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) to spy for the Anti-Villain League. They are attempting to bring down an evil mastermind who has developed a serum to turn people into monsters. The voices of Steve Coogan, Russell Brand and Ken Jeong also feature.

As far as storylines go, we're hardly in groundbreaking territory, something you suspect the makers realised, hence their decision to put Gru's minions front and centre.

These are the yellow creatures - somewhat resembling Tic Tacs - who provided most of the laughs in part one. Here, however, they're overused, with their nonsensical babbling swiftly going from endearing to plain irritating.

Still, the film deserves some credit for not just rehashing the earlier ideas. There's an enjoyable romance between Gru and Lucy, plus a very amusing scene where the former, wearing a hilariously bad wig, goes on a disastrous blind date.

The animation is also impressive and the 3D effective.

Despicable Me 2 won't be giving the animators at Pixar or DreamWorks any sleepless nights but, if you're a parent of young children, consider this a foolproof way of plugging an afternoon gap.

STAND UP GUYS (15) THIS crime caper marks the first time Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin have shared the same screen. But, despite the pedigree, it's not quite the movie event you'd hope for, although it makes for easy viewing.

Pacino plays ageing gangster Val who, after a 28-year stretch, sets about making up for lost time, all the while unaware his old pal Doc (Walken) is under orders to kill him to settle an outstanding Mob score. Meanwhile, Arkin plays former getaway driver Hirsch, whom the pair spring from a nursing home with one last job in mind.

A melding of The Bucket List, Tough Guys and Red, Stand Up Guys gets most of its laughs from Val's attempts to adjust to the modern world. But although the set-up is all very familiar, the starry cast just about manage to lift this into three-star territory.

THE ACT OF KILLING (15) DIRECTOR Werner Herzog has called this documentary one of the most frightening things he's ever seen. You can say that again. Rarely will you see a film so profoundly, yet subtly, disturbing.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer, surely a name to watch, heads to Indonesia to meet the men who carried out acts of mass murder following the 1965 coup. Rather than interviewing them in standard fashion, he urges them to recreate their acts of genocide in the style of their favourite gangster films. A scene where one of the killers laughs about how he stabbed a dozen Chinese will stay with you for an awfully long time. Essential viewing.

CTHIS IS THE END (15) IF RECENT comedies have made you throw your hands in the air and pray for the apocalypse, take heart. Here's a comedy about the apocalypse funny enough to restore your faith in humour.

Goofy, raunchy and wonderfully daft, it provides as many, if not more, laughs than the first Hangover movie.

Actors Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jay Baruchel, playing themselves, are at a housewarming party just as the world comes to an end. Holed up in a basement as LA collapses around them, the stars, plus pals Emma Watson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride, await The End with a bong, lots of booze and attempts to make a home video.

Even sillier than it sounds, what might have been an in-joke may actually be the comedy of the summer.

HUMMINGBIRD (15) WHILE he hardly breaks into new territory, Jason Statham's latest at least gives him a chance to act, in between beating hell out of the bad guys.

Britain's premiere hardman is homeless former Marine Joey Jones who takes refuge in an apartment and, discovering the owner is away for months, assumes his identity and sets about avenging those who killed Jones' girlfriend.

It goes without staying that Statham gets to kick all kinds of ass, but at heart, Hummingbird is a sombre movie touching on themes of those who've slipped beneath society's radar and the post- traumatic stress suffered by veterans.

However, the mayhem and the message never convincingly come together, making this a movie with an identity crisis. But, if nothing else, Statham displays hitherto unknown dramatic chops.

YK Teen star Miranda Cosgrove, who voices Margo in Despicable Me, is better known as Carly Shay in hit TV programme iCarly

James Franco received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role in 127 Hours

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