Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Movie Review: “Minions”

Posted by sanityinjection on July 12, 2015

Trying something new here. I very rarely go to the cinema to see a movie, so I thought I’d share my review of the new animated movie “Minions”, which opened this weekend.

First, let’s understand what this movie is. It is not breaking any new ground in the world of cinema. It’s a light children’s movie with slapstick humor and cartoon violence, but with many references geared toward adults. This movie is not trying to change you or make you think, but simply to pleasantly occupy your time. In that, it generally succeeds, with plenty of action and plot movement to keep you engaged.

“Minions” is the third movie in the “Despicable Me” animated franchise. While it doesn’t rise to the level of the original, it is at least as good as the rather mediocre second film. For the most part, it can stand on its own with viewers unfamiliar with the other films, with the exception of some scenes at the end that will be harder to appreciate. “Minions” is a prequel to “Despicable Me” set mostly in 1960s England. This choice makes for a lot of easy 60s pop culture references that adults can enjoy. For example, a scene in which three royal guards are hypnotized into performing a well-coordinated rendition of the musical hit “Hair” will just seem like a bit of random silly fun to kids, but also tickles the adult funny bone. There are also subtle homages to a wide range of films including “March of the Penguins”, “Ratatouille”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “Vacation”. Moviegoers who sit through all of the credits are rewarded with a music video at the end featuring almost everyone in the entire movie.

Much of the fun of the movie naturally comes from the minions themselves (voiced by director Pierre Coffin) and their “Minionese” language, which for all its gibberish is largely understandable through context. I found it particularly fun trying to pick out the words and phrases from actual languages that are incorporated in their babble, including French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Hebrew, and probably others.

The marquee name in this movie is Sandra Bullock, who gets to chew a little scenery as the main villain of the piece (the appropriately named Scarlet Overkill), but whose considerable talent is hardly tested here. In addition to Bullock’s character, a second strong female character is none other than Queen Elizabeth, voiced by Jennifer Saunders. Generally, however, the acting talent is pretty irrelevant; much like a “Chipmunks” movie, it’s all about Coffin’s minions.

“Minions” doesn’t hit too many sour notes, though one scene in which the minions are depicted creating a short human bridge from Australia to India will ring false to anyone with a basic grasp of geography. It lives up to the “fun for the whole family” label that almost every children’s movie seeks, but not all realize. There are a lot worse ways to kill 90 minutes on a hot summer day. My rating: 3 out of 4 stars.

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Is it important for movies and TV shows to be historically accurate?

Posted by sanityinjection on October 16, 2008

Who doesn’t enjoy a good period TV show or movie like “Roots”, “Titanic” or “Shakespeare In Love”? There are great stories to be told, not to mention the fun of period costumes. As a lifelong student of history, however, I find myself frequently irritated when presented with a scene or detail which I know is historically inaccurate, but which most viewers would be unaware of. My friends tell me I am being too picky and should be able to enjoy the show without insisting that everything be accurate.

With this in mind, I was heartened by recent comments made by historian David Starkey regarding a BBC television series, “The Tudors”, about the Tudor kings and queens of England. Starkey explains very well the essential problem:

“Historian David Starkey has blasted racy period drama ‘The Tudors’ for bringing ‘shame’ on the BBC with its ‘ignorance of the facts’. The historian, who specialises in Henry VIII and the Tudor period, told an audience at Cheltenham Literature Festival the TV series was ‘terrible history’, and complained that most of the costume ‘was Elizabethan’. Answering a question on what he thought of the film A Man For All Seasons – about Henry VIII’s lord chancellor Sir Thomas More – Starkey said: ‘It’s terrible history but at least it has a point. The Tudors is terrible history with no point. It’s wrong for no purpose. I’ve got no problem with getting history wrong for a purpose – Shakespeare often got things wrong for a reason. But it’s the randomised, arrogance of ignorance of The Tudors. Shame on the BBC for producing it.'”

I would extend the same logic to the role of special effects in movies today. We all enjoy a great visual effect. But special effects are supposed to enhance a movie – not comprise the movie all by themselves. Too many movies nowadays – especially in the “action/adventure” genre – seem to have scripts that are mere excuses for a train of special effects. Remember the explosion of the Death Star in theĀ original Star Wars movie? That was a great use of special effects because it created a visual climax to go with the emotional climax of the film. In other words, the explosion wasn’t just visually cool, it was integrated into the total experience of the movie. Similarly, the Indiana Jones movies feature thrilling special effects sequences – but it is the themes that underlie the visuals that make the movies memorable. Though its car chases are terrific, will anyone sing the praises of a film like “2 Fast 2 Furious” – or even remember it? Yet the Lord of the Rings movies are loaded with more special effects than that film. The difference is, they serve the movie’s purpose rather than being added for gratuitous shock value.

OK, I accept that not every TV show or movie has to be an enriching experience. A little mindless drivel now and then has its place šŸ™‚ But when the drivel starts to become the majority rather than the minority, that’s when I get cranky. TV and cinema are mediums that have great potential to bring quality entertainment to huge numbers of people for little or no cost. It is a loss to all of us if that potential is increasingly wasted.

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