Gru (voice of Steve Carell) desperately wants to regain his status as the greatest thief in the world, so he devises a plan to steal the moon. Before the scheme could work, he needs to steal a shrink ray from the hands Vector (voice of Jason Segel), a villain who now represents new competition for him after he had stolen the Great Pyramid of Giza. Three orphaned girls, Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), and Edith (Dana Gaier), arrive at Gru’s door selling cookies and, not surprisingly, he grumpily rejects their offer, but when he witnesses them successfully getting into the large mansion of Vector to sell him the cookies, he suddenly gets the idea to adopt them so that he could use them to help steal the much-needed shrink ray. Gru introduces his newly adopted children to his mean-looking dog, his small yellow minions, and his mad scientist, Dr. Nefario (voice of Russell Brand). The imaginative screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul supplies plenty of clever humor, witty dialogue and, to top off, a healthy dose of poignant moments that gently tug at your heartstrings. You can sense that a lot of thought went into the script because of all of the attention to details which will induce laughter if you’re attentive. For instance, at the entrance of the “Bank of Evil”, where Gru attempts to get a loan for his diabolical plan, there’s a sign that reads “Formerly Lehman Brothers.” Gru’s minions seem to be speaking their own unique language, but every now and then you’ll hear a little bit of Russian and Spanish such as when they say “para tu.” It’s worth noting that Gru actually has a backstory provided showing his failed attempts to impress his mom (voice of Julie Andrews). Co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud move the film along at an appropriately brisk pace and include impressive animation and 3D effects which never become too distracting. There’s never a dull moment to be found and, fortunately, the story itself doesn’t lose any momentum, so you’ll find yourself wishing to see more adventures of Gru and his adopted kids. At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes, Despicable Me never overstays its welcome. It’s a triumph of both story and animation that's thrilling, witty, hilarious, heartfelt and entertaining for kids and adults simultaneously.
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The Girl Who Played with Fire
Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. In Swedish, Italian and French with subtitles. Cyber hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) returns to Stockhold from abroad where she finds herself implicated in the murders of her abusive legal guardian, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), who had raped her, and two journalists for Milennium magazine investigating sex trafficking for a cover story. Even though the police find Lisbeth’s fingerprints on the murder weapon, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has a hunch that she’s innocent and that someone else is actually responsible for the murders. As Mikael digs deeper and deeper into the murder case, he learns that a mysterious gangster, Zala, might be the murderer he’s looking for, but finding him and getting those who know him to talk is a task that’s easier said than done. The screenplay by Jonas Frykberg treads along rather pedestrianly while spelling everything out for the audience instead of trusting their intelligence. A truly great mystery should be filled with intriguing details that compel you to attempt to connect the dots in many different ways. In this case, though, the dots all lead to the same place which Mikael discovers too early-on, so it’s then it just becomes a matter of locating the actual murderer and fighting off the bad guys who defend him. You’ll find yourself sporadically captivating whenever Lisbeth is onscreen because, just like in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace gives a raw and tough performance that radiates with charisma. If only the screenplay were as tight, smart and compelling as the character of Lisbeth. Unfortunately, the third act which should have been nail-biting and surprising instead feels ho-hum and not particularly plausible or surprising, especially given the inclusion of a very revealing foreshadow early on. At a running time of 2 hours and 9 minutes, The Girl Who Played with Fire is an unfocused, pedestrian and somewhat convoluted thriller deficient in palpable thrills and clever surprises. Noomi Rapace’s raw, sizzling performance remains a guilty pleasure
The Kids Are All Right
Nic (Annette Bening) works as a doctor while her wife, Jules (Julianne Moore), stays at their suburban California home to take care of their two teenage children, 15-year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and 18-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska). Nic and Jules’ romantic spark has been waning, and their sex life has become lackluster. Now that Joni’s 18, Laser persuades her to find and meet their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who had donated his sperm to Nic and Jules. It turns out that he runs an organic restaurant and an organic garden. He’s has never settled down with anyone before, so his meeting with Joni, Laser, Nic and Jules awakens his desire to embrace the value of family. He and Jules begin a sexually-charged affair with one another while she visits his home using the excuse to Nic that she’s designing his backyard as part of her new business as a landscape designer. Director/co-writer Lisa Cholodenko has woven very believable, unpretentious and intricate portrait of an American family that has rarely been captured with such sensitivity, warmth, pathos and humor. Nic and Jules suffer from marital problems that any married couple can relate to, but, most importantly, the way that they deal with their issues to try to save their marriage is handled very maturely, honestly and perceptively. Sure, Nic agitates Jules with her micromanaging, drinks wine too much and is a workaholic, but, thanks to Annette Bening’s strong, well-nuanced performance, she’s also very fragile and loving at her core. Julianne Moore also delivers a brave, resonating performance, although, Cholodenko allows for each and every actor onscreen to shine. Each character comes to life because the screenplay, co-written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, treats them as complex human beings who have flaws and issues to deal with just like any other person could go through. It’s refreshing to watch such a non-preachy film that never insults your intelligence while remaining emotionally resonating and captivating from start to finish. At a running time of 1 hour and 44 minutes, The Kids Are All Right is a captivating, honest, unpretentious and intelligent portrait of an American family that’s genuinely poignant, warm and funny. It brims with well-nuanced, brave and resonating performances.
Royce (Adrien Brody), a mercenary, awakens as he’s falling from the sky into a jungle before safely landing on the ground with a parachute. He finds others, Isabelle (Alice Braga), Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Nikolai (Oleg Takarov), Stans (Walton Goggins) and Edwin (Topher Grace), each of whom have also plunged into the jungle via parachute without any knowledge of who or whom threw them off the plane, why they’re there or even where they are located for that matter. They must now defend themselves against pernicious alien predators that hunt them down and have set up death traps them. Previous humans in the jungle have been killed by the predators, but will Royce and the rest of his stranded team be able to survive and outwit them? Co-screenwriters Alex Litvak and Michael Finch spend too long stretching out the first act until the prey meet a survivor, Noland (Laurence Fishburne), who finally explains to them about the predators and informs them about their spaceship. Up until that point, though, the first act treads water as Royce and his team continuously runs around the jungle trying to figure out where they are while trying to avoid death. Forget about caring about any of the characters or learning about their life back on Earth or finding out crucial info about the aliens’ motivations. Director Nimród Antal appears more concerned about focusing on mindless action sequences so, fortunately, easy-to-please action/sci-fi fans will surely be captivated on a purely visceral level. The special effects and musical score are both impressive, and it’s also worth mentioning that Antal doesn’t resort to shaky, nauseating camera movements during the action scenes in order to generate tension. In other words, you can actually follow precisely what’s happening to whom during those scenes quite easily. Also, just as expected, there are also some gore and nifty death sequences to be found along with somewhat chilling settings in the dark where your imagination scares you more than the action appearance of the aliens themselves. At a running time of 1 hour and 46 minutes, Predators is often lazy and somewhat tedious, but mindlessly exciting and thrilling on a purely visceral level thanks to Nimród Antal’s deft directing skills.