Despicable Me 3
Rated PG for action and rude humor
Sequel Finds Gru Bonding With Long-Lost Bro Before Facing Formidable Foe
Despicable Me 3 is actually the fourth installment in the animated franchise, provided you count the prequel Minions, which some may consider a spin-off. Co-directed by Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda and Eric Guillon, this episode revolves around Gru (Steve Carell) who discovers that he has an identical twin before facing-off against his most formidable foe ever.
As the film unfolds, we find the reformed reprobate and wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) being fired from by the Anti-Villain League for failing to prevent Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) from purloining a priceless pink diamond. FYI, Balthazar was an adorable child star until Hollywood had no further use for him when he hit puberty.
Embittered about being kicked to the curb, he’s ventured to the dark side and is currently bent on world domination. Yet, he’s a bit of a comical figure, since he’s still emulating the character he played in the ’80s, in terms of his clothes, haircut and musical taste.
Now that Gru and Lucy have joined the ranks of the unemployed, they have the time for a family outing to Fredonia to meet Dru (also voiced by Carell), the identical twin Gru never even knew he had. Other than sharing the same barrel-chested physique, the two are different as night and day. For, Dru is handsome with long blond hair and less of a Slavic accent. Plus, he’s criminally-inclined, and wants nothing more than to pull a heist with his relatively-gnarly, bald brother.
However, Gru hopes to kill two birds with one stone by duping his sibling into helping him “steal” the precious gem from Balthazar. What Dru doesn’t know is that his bro just wants to get back into his boss’ (Jenny Slate) good graces by returning the stone to its rightful owner.
While the twins embark on that quest, the other characters become embroiled in more subplots than you can shake a stick at. Gru and Lucy’s dating-age daughter, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), inadvertently encourages an ardent admirer (Adrian Ciscato). Their younger girls, Agnes (Nev Scharrel) and Edith (Dana Gaier), wander off into the forest in search of a fabled unicorn and the Minions land in jail after being arrested for trespassing.
The action is frenetic and the multi-stranded storyline eventually culminates in a manic finale featuring Balthazar terrorizing Tinseltown from the turret of giant, bubblegum-spewing robot. 90 minutes straight of the sort of overstimulation kids of the Attention-Deficit Generation crave!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 90 minutes
A Ghost Story
A24 / Zero Trans Fat Productions
Rated R for brief profanity and a disturbing image
Casey Affleck And Rooney Mara Co-Star In Surrealistic Romantic Fantasy
C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) are a nondescript young couple living in a modest ranch house in suburban Texas. Nothing of note transpires between the happily-married lovebirds besides carnal canoodling interrupted by things that go bump in the night.
The next morning, bliss turns to tragedy when he suddenly passes away in a car crash at the mouth of their driveway. Grief-stricken M is summoned to the morgue where she only lingers long enough to identify her husband’s body.
But as soon she leaves, matters enter another dimension when the ghost of C miraculously stands up and walks out of the place under the white sheet covering the corpse. Like a homing pigeon, the disembodied spirit proceeds to make his way back to his humble abode, deliberately traipsing across a rolling, verdant field to take the most direct route.
By the way, C’s flowing white linen covering (with a couple of eyeholes conveniently poked out) has somehow been rendered invisible to the naked eye. This ghost is mute, so there’s no “Honey, I’m home!” when he literally walks through the door.
M mourns, oblivious of C’s ethereal presence, despite his hovering over her obsessively. He might be frustrated by his inability to make contact. Or he might just want to protect. It’s hard to tell, since he never talks. Then, when she vacates the premises, he stays behind, and starts to spook the new residents, as if scaring them away might bring his wife back.
Thus unfolds A Ghost Story, a pretentious speculation on loss from the perspective of the dearly departed. The tortoise-paced production might be best described as a series of stark, shadowy tableaux, like an Edward Hopper painting come to life.
The picture was written and directed by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon), and co-stars a couple of consummate thespians in Oscar winner Casey Affleck (for Manchester by the Sea) and two-time nominee Rooney Mara (for Carol and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The pair’s considerable talents are underutilized, here, since Casey’s hidden under a Halloween costume 90% of the time, and Rooney’s character disappears about halfway through the movie.
Though Casey is earnest in his attempt to convey a range of emotions from under the sheet, ultimately, it’s the cinematic equivalent of watching a little kid try to fight his way out of a paper bag.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 87 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening July 14, 2017
The Big Sick (R for profanity and sexual references) Romantic comedy recounting the real-life courting of fan (Zoe Kazan) by a Pakistani stand-up comedian (Kumail Nanjiani as himself). Supporting cast includes Ray Romano, Holly Hunter and SNL‘s Aidy Bryant.
War for the Planet of the Apes (PG-13 for action, violence, mature themes and disturbing images) Captivating capstone to the popular primate trilogy pits Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the simians against an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson) in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of both species once and for all. With Steve Zahn, Terry Notary and Judy Greer.
Wish Upon (PG-13 for profanity, violence, disturbing images and mature themes) Body count horror flick about a mysterious music box that grants a grateful 17-year-old’s (Joey King) every wish, including money, love and popularity. Trouble is, she has no idea her good fortune comes with a deadly price. Co-starring Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee and Mitchell Slaggert.
Battle Scars (Unrated) Post-war drama about a veteran’s (Zane Holtz) attempt to readjust to civilian life after suffering devastating physical and psychic wounds during a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Featuring Ryan Eggold, Jamal Woolard and Heather McComb.
Birthright: A War Story (Unrated) Women’s reproductive rights are the subject of this documentary examining the effort to repeal Roe v. Wade.
Blind (R for profanity, sexual references and brief drug use) Romance drama about a blind widower (Alec Baldwin) who having a risky love affair with the wife (Demi Moore) of a powerful, white-collar criminal (Dylan McDermott) temporarily imprisoned for insider trading. With Eden Epstein, Viva Bianca and Dorothy Liman.
Bronx Gothic (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Okwui Okpokwasili and her autobiographical, one-woman play about coming-of-age black and female in New York in the ’80s.
Chasing Coral (Unrated) Climate change documentary featuring divers’ time-lapse photography as well as scientists exploring why the world’s coral reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Lady Macbeth (R for profanity, sexuality, frontal nudity and disturbing violence) Adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s classic novel, set in the 19th century, about a miserably-married teenager (Florence Pugh) who cheats on her rich, sadistic husband twice her age (Paul Hilton) with one of the servants (Cosmo Jarvis). With Christopher Fairbank, Naomi Ackie and Anton Palmer.
To the Bone (Unrated) Fact-based drama about a 20-year-old anorexic (Lily Collins) who enters a rehab clinic run by a physician (Keanu Reeves) with an unorthodox bedside manner. Cast includes Carrie Preston, Liana Liberato and Brooke Smith.