Weekend Movies: ‘Despicable’ You

It’s Friday and you know what that means. Yes, it’s “pants optional” day! It’s also the day that Hollywood (and several smaller, independent companies) unleash a tidal wave of new cinematic treats for you, the viewing public. We’ve got some heavy hitters from the studios this week, as well as a handsome crop of smaller films from the independents. So, let’s get to the rundown, shall we?

The potentially biggest movie this week is the 3-D animated ‘Despicable Me‘ from Illumination Studios, distributed through Universal. I have no idea what the word of mouth is like on this thing. I didn’t get a chance to see it this week, but I know it involves Steve Carell doing a vaguely Boris Karloff-y voice as a super villain named Gru. The star-studded cast also includes Julie Andrews, Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Kristin Wiig. From the trailers and television spots, the movie looks kind of frantic, with the animation given a dull, texture-less quality, even though the characters were designed by the same guy who did Brad Bird’s masterpiece ‘Ratatouille.’ There is one thing that I do already love about ‘Despicable Me,’ though, even having not seen it: the outrageously wonderful soundtrack album by uber-producer Pharrell. It’s a short, ten-track disc with a couple of bullshit songs (I could have lived without “Boogie Fever” being on another compilation), but it has a singular sense of anarchy and fun that I hope the movie captures. I’ll be seeing the movie this weekend. I wonder if it can dislodge ‘Toy Story 3‘ and ‘The Last Airbender‘ for the almighty family dollar. I’m thinking ‘The Last Airbender’ is going to take a huge dip in its second weekend. We shall see…

Also opening this week is ‘Predators,’ which I already reviewed this week and liked quite a lot. It’s the perfect Friday-or-Saturday night movie. Forget your worries, you won’t have to think too much, but you will see a whole lot of viscera and some pretty neat monsters. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays, considering it’s maybe the first big R-rated movie (besides the innocuous comedy of ‘Get Him to the Greek’) to make a play for some serious summertime dollars. ‘Splice’ was rated R but was way more niche than anyone suspected, and was produced for a fraction of the budget that it took to get ‘Predators’ to the screen.

On the indie side of things, there’s ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire,’ which is actually opening much wider than I thought it would. It’s playing at the local bijou in the small Connecticut town where I live. That’s got to be proof that the popularity of the first movie (and the books these are based on) could mean a lot of money for the sequel. Me, I thought it was a muddy mess of a movie. Two more things that really annoyed me that I thought about after I filed my review:

1.) Does anyone feel like the computer hacker stuff is terribly dated already? I felt like I was watching that awful Sandra Bullock movie, ‘The Net.’ They couldn’t have come up with a more 21st Century thing for her to do? It’s just lazy, clunky writing that’s symptomatic of the books/movies.

2.) Our main character’s on-again/off-again lesbianism. JUST MAKE HER A LESBIAN. In the first film we saw her with a woman and then she fell in love with her partner, the man with the oddly shaped head and the bad dye job. Thankfully, in the sequel, she’s seen making love to a woman, but there are still emotional, romantic undercurrents that sizzle beneath the surface between her and her old partner. They should lose this completely. Yes, it’d be more interesting if she was bisexual, and that may be easier to convey in a book. But in the relatively superficial realm of cinema, showing her having sex with a man seems like a sell-out, a betrayal of her character. Getting rid of this would have freed up some of the clunkier elements of the narrative in both movies and made them mercifully shorter.

On the SO GREAT EVERYONE SHOULD SEE IT IMMEDIATELY side of things we have ‘The Kids Are All Right,’ which actually presents lesbianism and bisexuality in a real, human context. It’s also incredibly funny. If I gush anymore, it’ll feel like flogging a dead horse. So just read my review and go see the movie. Please.

Premiering in select cinemas and on cable On Demand services is ‘[rec] 2,’ the sequel to the Spanish horror thriller ‘[rec],’ which was remade, virtually shot-for-shot, for the American movie ‘Quarantine.’ I didn’t have time to review it this week. (I’m only one half-man/half-machine!) The sequel is pretty much exactly like the first, except instead of a nightly news crew that tags along with a fire brigade as they investigate the mysterious events in an apartment building, we have a new set of first-person eyes. For the first half of the movie, we get our shaky POV shots courtesy of some special forces guys that have entered the building. About halfway through the movie, it shifts over to some kids who are playing with a video camera in the same building. Initially, I found this to be a jarring move that took me out of the narrative, if even for a minute. That’s saying something considering its decidedly thrill-a-minute structure. But then I came to appreciate the shift, mostly because it allows us to investigate some of the movie’s complex psuedo-religious mythology, which gives a nice demonic spin to your classic zombie yarn. This is highly recommended for anyone who likes to get goosed. Or who likes to do the goosing.

See you on Monday morning. I’ll be counting the dollars of the weekend box office wearing one of those see-through green plastic visors while chomping on a cigar! Have a great weekend, everyone!

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