Tag Archives: Michael Keaton

Yellow Fellows

‘Minions’ breaks out ‘Despicable’ sidekicks for solo shenanigans

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Starring Sandra Bullock & Jon Hamm

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

PG

Their sideline shenanigans got some of the biggest laughs in Despicable Me (2010) and its 2013 sequel. Now the minions, those little nubby, yellow, evil-enabling assistants, headline their own madcap spinoff about their long, crazy quest to find the “most despicable master” of all to serve.

And what a quest—it begins, we find out (as guided by the narration of Geoffrey Rush) in primordial ooze and quickly bops through various incidents across the centuries as the minions seek out a succession of “bad guys” from dinosaurs and Dracula to an Egyptian pharaoh, Napoleon and an abominable snowman. But they always bungle things, with comically disastrous consequences.

So they keep moving, throughout the centuries and around the globe, until a trio of minion explorers (Kevin, Bob and Stuart) lands in New York City in 1968. Then things shift into comedic high gear as directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda riff on the vibrant sights and sounds of the era (the movie has a killer soundtrack of groovy late-’60s tunes) and serve up a buffet of pop-cultural cleverness for all ages.

2421_FPF2_00051RWhen Kevin, Bob and Stuart see a late-night TV ad for Villain-Con, an upcoming Comic-Con-like convocation of baddies, they know they have to hook up with event’s headliner, the queen of mean, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock).

The minions have always had an instant appeal to kids, for obvious reasons: They look like wobbly toddlers, they speak gibberish (a goo-goo gush of Euro-babble, provided by director Coffin) and there’s an innate goodness and innocence underneath whatever “bad” they might otherwise be trying to do. They’re guaranteed laughs from children by just walking onto the screen.

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Sandra Bullock provides the voice of supervillain Scarlett Overkill.

But there’s so much more to the humor here; parents will be greatly entertained by the vocal performances of Bullock as the preening villainess (which some major unresolved childhood issues); Jon Hamm as her groovy spy-gadget-guru husband; and Michael Keaton and Allison Janney as a bank-robbing mom and pop.

The plot zips and zings through dozens of silly sight gags, especially when things move to England and a scheme to steal the queen’s crown. A minion on stilt-like, spy-suit extension legs runs amok in the streets of London to the tune of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” Two minions flee a buzzing bee round and round on a cathedral chandelier, and with every frantic lap the fixture unscrews more and more. Rays from a “hypno hat” cause a trio of royal guards strip down to their undies—and break into a gonzo chorus from the musical Hair. The minions intrude on The Beatles’ photo shoot for the cover of Abbey Road.

Stay for a closing-credits montage that brings the minions full circle with Gru (Steve Carell), their master in the two Despicible movies—and a delightful ensemble treat from the whole cast.

At times it made me think of what the Three Stooges would be like if Moe, Larry and Curly were recast for the modern age as pint-size, goggle-wearing, butter-hued niblets. It may not be high humor, but boy, it sure made me laugh.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Going Badly

Two Oscar winners flounder in sitcom-ism geriatric gloop

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And So It Goes

Starring Michael Keaton & Diane Keaton

Directed by Rob Reiner

PG-13

A paint-by-numbers romantic comedy for the AARP crowd, And So It Goes stars Michael Douglas as a cantankerous Connecticut real estate hotshot, Diane Keaton as New England’s most unconvincing lounge singer, and young Sterlin Jerins (who fled zombies with Brad Pitt in World War Z) as the adorable moppet who brings them all together.

Director Rob Reiner has made some good movies, and even some great ones—This Is Spinal Tap, Misery, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Stand By Me. Measured against cult masterpieces and all-time audience favorites like those, a lot of other movies would have a hard time measuring up. But this sitcom-like blob of sentimental geriatric gloop, alas, doesn’t have a chance.

ASIG_02615.NEFDouglas’ character, Oren Little, is still bitter 10 years after losing his wife to cancer. Now he’s a full-fledged grump and one-man insult factory, shooshing playful kids, muttering ethic slurs to potential clients and pelting stray dogs with his paintball gun. “Do people really let you get away with being you?” asks his next-door neighbor Leah (Keaton), incredulously.

When Oren’s long-estranged adult son shows up, he’s packing a surprise: He’s headed to prison. Can Oren keep his young daughter—the grandchild he never knew existed—until he gets out of the pokey?

ASIG_04670.NEFIf you’ve never seen any other movie or television show, ever, you might wonder where this story is headed. Otherwise, you’ll see every twist, turn, bump and bumble coming long before it gets there, as the new “unwanted” addition to Oren’s life sets him on a fresh, friendlier course—and reignites his romantic spark.

Douglas and Keaton are old pros and they ride out the storm as best they can, but even these two solid Oscar winners can’t put much of a shine on a script full of cheap jokes, lame gags and flat-out embarrassing lines of insultingly dumb dialog.

And they can’t keep director Reiner’s mind out of the gutter. We watch a pooch take a poop, see a little girl react to a dog humping a stuffed animal (“Look Mommy—it’s just like you and Daddy dancing!”), and hear Oren make a crude crack about being confronted with…ahem, genitals…when a little boy changes out of his swimsuit. After a badly botched attempt at lovemaking, Leah rebukes Oren: “I had a dog once who wouldn’t leave my crotch alone, and it was more romantic than this!”

ASIG_03855.NEFFor some people, the pile-on of feel-good mush at the end might divert them enough to think they’ve seen a decent, even uplifting movie. But most will be discerning enough to know they’ve just really just been buried alive by a truckload of artificial sweetener.

In one scene, Oren and his granddaughter discuss a sandwich made of two slices of baloney and one of cheese. That’s actually a pretty good metaphor for this slapped-together attempt at making a quick, no-frills multiplex option for viewers old enough to get senior-citizen discounts.

It’s just that I can’t imagine this baloney, and this cheese, being what anyone wants for a movie meal—at any age.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Of Man & Machines

He’s a little bit human, a lot of ’bot—and all cop

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Bluray $39.99, DVD $29.98 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

A rockin’, sockin’ remake of the ’80s sci-fi cult classic about a Detroit policeman transformed into a crime-fighting cyborg, this updated tale of men, machines, capitalism and corruption in high places stars Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Haley and Samuel L. Jackson, and comes packaged with nearly an hour of bonus content, including featurettes on the movie’s arsenal of heavy weaponry and the special effects behind the high-tech Robocop suit.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Vrooom For Improvement

Disney’s video-game-based racing movie coasts on other films’ fumes 

NEED FOR SPEED

Need For Speed

Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper & Imogene Poots

Directed by Scott Waugh

PG-13, 132 min.

“This ain’t just about racing,” says one of the characters in Need For Speed in a conversation that scrapes momentarily up against something other than what the rest of the movie is all about.

OK, if want to be picky, you might also say it’s about love, rivalry and retribution, and the Cinderella story of a young mechanic, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul of TV’s Breaking Bad), out to save his family business and clear his name.

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Aaron Paul plays mechanic-racer Tobey Marshall.

But let’s cut the crap—it’s really about racing. It’s the movie version of a popular video-game about fast cars and the adrenaline junkies who push them beyond limits any sane person would consider normal.

There’s a suped-up, 900-hp 2015 Mustang GT, a Lamborghini, a McLaren and several other exotic pieces of world-class automotive muscle. There are also airplanes, helicopters, goons with guns, and things going on road, off road, into the air, and in one memorable scene, over the side of a deliriously high desert cliff.

If all that gets your saliva glands glistening, well, this big, grinding gear-fest is for made for you. The folks at Disney are hoping you won’t notice that this low-star-wattage clone of the wildly successful Fast & Furious franchise is mostly running on empty, coasting on fumes from other, better movies.

And Disney surely must be turning a big blind mouse-eye to the fact that everything in it glorifies an illegal, dangerous activity, and that even its “good guys” show no regard for the lives of the innocent bystanders they imperil, whether they’re plowing around a poky school bus full of kids or smashing into a homeless man’s shopping cart as he pushes it across a city street—then laughing about it.

The only time you see anyone even buckle up a seat belt, it’s also also used as a punchline. Safety, yeah—ain’t it a hoot?

NEED FOR SPEED

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton plays the manic promoter of an invitation-only, secret-location race to which only the best drivers get invited. Tobey’s foil is a stinking rich piece of car-collecting Euro-trash (Dominiqic Cooper). There’s a token female (Imogene Poots), who gives her subplot a whiff of Smokey and the Bandit.

In fact, director Scott Waugh tips his hat several times to car movies of the ’70s, and viewers who are inclined can pass the time between vroom-vrooms connecting the tire tracks to American Graffiti, Bullet, Two Lane Blacktop, Duel and other iconic flicks about the rubber hitting the road.

The plot is about as thin as the wisp of air between vehicles swishing past each other on a narrow highway, and the actors say empty-headed things like “I’m never gonna stop,” “You are out of your mind—and I love it!” and “We’ll settle this behind the wheel.”

But blah, blah, blah. People who go to see this movie are going to go for the cars, the rush, the roar, and the fact that this is real metal, real roads and real stunts, with a minimum of added special effects.

Anyone who doesn’t have quite the same compelling “need for speed” can just putter along in a slower, safer, saner lane—and pray that you don’t get flattened by some revved-up grease monkeys like the ones in this movie.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Of Men and Machines

Rebooted robot tale is more recycled than refreshed

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RoboCop

Starring Joel Kinnaman, Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman & Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by José Padilha

PG-13, 117 min.

He’s a little bit human, a lot of machine—and a total throwback to 1987, when the original RoboCop first clicked, whirred and blasted onto the big screen as an R-rated whammy of speculative, satirical sci-fi about crime and justice, corruption, corporate greed, the media, and what might happen if we ever let computers do the thinking for us.

This tamer, toned-down PG-13 remake follows the basic plot of the original, with a few tweaks. Here it’s 2028, and Joel Kinnaman (from TV’s The Killing) plays Detroit police officer Alex Murphy, whose remaining body parts are implanted into a rock-’em, sock-’em exoskeleton after a dangerous undercover mission goes awry.

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The newly reconstituted “robocop” (Joel Kinnaman) with the doc who put him back together (Gary Oldman)

But Murphy’s high-tech reconstruction is underwritten by a mega-corporation with motives that aren’t exactly medical—and a billion-dollar stake in “privatizing” crime control.

Michael Keaton is the corporation’s smarmy CEO. The always-dependable Gary Oldman brings subtle shadings of conflicted genius to his role as the researcher/physician/surgeon who integrates man with machine. Jack Earle Haley makes a dandy, devious foil as a robot trainer. Samuel L. Jackson pops in and out as a one-man Greek chorus, a TV talk-show host stumping for bots to do all the dirty work for police officers and soldiers.

Back in 1987, that concept seemed a lot more far-off futuristic than it does today, when robots and robotic processes have already taken over all sorts of jobs once done by humans, and drone airplanes are doing widespread military surveillance—and more lethal tasks—as well as operations for police, firefighters and reporters.

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Jack Earle Haley (right) is a devious robot trainer.

This RoboCop isn’t a total clunker. It looks cool and sleek, and Brazilian director José Padilha, making his first English-language film, keeps things moving at a lively action-movie clip. But after 25-plus years, too much of this rebooted robot tale just feels recycled instead of refreshed, especially compared to the visceral, original kick of its groundbreaking ’80s predecessor.

I do have to give some props to the rockin’ soundtrack, however. Any movie that works in Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” orchestrates a shootout to the loony ’70s hit “Hocus Pocus” by the Dutch group Focus, and rolls end credits to the Clash’s cover of “I Fought the Law” gets at least one pop-cultural attaboy from me.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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