Minions (PG) *****
My beautiful movie-going partner and I work together. “What did he say?” is a frequent aside. In the case of the Minions, my answer would have to be, “This time, you’re on your own, Baby!” Comprehension is simply unnecessary in the verbal sense since the Minions have their own language yet everything they do and need is perfectly clear. This is true, even when the object of their activity is to find a new leader—to find the most Despicable Boss they can, according to narrator Geoffrey Rush. That leads them to Scarlet Overkill, voiced by Sandra Bullock.
Kevin, Stuart and Bob of the Minions are deputized to conduct the search and this leads them all over the world, ending up in London where Scarlet is trying to steal the Royal Crown. Described by Scarlet’s hapless husband, Herb (Jon Hamm), as “bald, jaundiced children,” the Minions end up foiling the plot and finding their Despicable Boss and a BanaNAH! or two as well as their way across Abbey Road and into a polo game riding corgis on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. If this all sounds somewhat mad, then you’re ready to accompany your kids to the latest edition of “Minions.”
Terminator Genisys (PG-13) ****
Saved from being just another blow-‘em-up movie in a series, this edition of the Terminator franchise is saved by its occasional leavening of humor, mostly from ancient Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian—“Old, but not obsolete.” A doctorate in horology may be necessary to unwind all the time shifts, references and cross-references. A bit of genealogy wouldn’t hurt either as, at one time or another, on screen are a man, his mother (who is/was also his wife), their son (who is also the man), a pseudo father and grandfather called “Pops,” and assorted others who belong to several time parallels at the same time.
Since the world has to end in 2017, thanks to a universal operating system named Genisys (!), don’t worry about it. It just has to be disabled ASAP. That is the job of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), his girlfriend/wife and mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke—also his mother) and Guardian. They are pitted against Terminator John Connor (Jason Clarke, Sarah and Kyle’s evil son but Australian so no relation to Emilia). Through several locations, time zones and parallel universes, they do so to the thrilling, often astounding results.
My favorite moment is the chase on the Golden Gate Bridge in which Sarah, Guardian and Kyle go head over heels in a school bus, ending with the bus crashing into the Bay. Quite spectacular. One of the frustrating things about the film, but also a key, one suspects, to its success, is the fact that the Terminators seem impossible to kill. Guardian finally stops one in the most banal way possible by spraying it with water, but a ducking in the Bay doesn’t seem to do any permanent damage and bullets don’t work. Terminators reconstitute themselves after being burned, smashed, stabbed, etc., and the drowning is only temporary.
The most insulting line is near the end when Guardian is told, “You’re nothing but a relic from a tattered time line.” True, but remember, “I’m old, but not obsolete.” Picky but true, Sarah looks to be 18 or less; too young for the part, but most folks may buy it because she’s so indomitable.
Young kids may think the mayhem is real and it is sort of gruesome until you realize nothing really happens to Terminators. And rest assured, there is a hint in the credits that this is not the end of the franchise.
Self/less (PG-13) ***
A very rich and powerful man regrets the loss to society that his death would bring, and he has only six months to live. He contracts with a specialty firm to transfer his character and personality because, after all, as the salesman says, “We should offer our best minds time to perfect their ideas.” Damian, the rich man played by Ben Kingsley, obviously assumes he is one of those best minds and gets implanted/transferred into the body of Ryan Reynolds, who thus becomes Damian though he had another life that he has to deal with peripherally.
He also has to deal with the primary side effects of the transfer: horrifying flashbacks and hallucinations from Damian’s earlier life. To forestall the attacks, he has to take huge red horse pills occasionally. Fair enough, except that Damian keeps losing them at all the wrong times. Apparently, though he’s one of our best minds, he can’t seem to figure out how to protect his stash.
His life is supervised by a mysterious character named Albright (Matthew Goode) and a horde of handlers, most of them trained in the martial arts, who try to keep Damian under control. That they cannot allows for some horrendous chase scenes and various confrontations that add up to two huge questions: Is this any way for a “best mind” to carry on and what’s he trying to achieve? The answers are “No” and “Who knows?” He finds a lovely Latina and her charming daughter to protect (Natalie Martinez and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). Loss of the pills eventually becomes a non-issue and, accompanied by a saccharine score by Antonio Pinto, everything sweeps to a sort of conclusion. Don’t be discouraged if you get to the credits and you wonder why you thought it would all become clear in the end. It never will.
Magic Mike XXL (R) *
The most disgusting, misogynistic film in recent memory, this badly written and directed, dull, trite, super-exploitative film is a total waste of time, especially for women. It may be “ab-stract” in the most pulchritudinous way—there is no male in it other than the driver, who does not have six-packs—but it also insults women everywhere who are treated like a pack of howling idiots, watching men take off their clothes, simulate sex, and otherwise insult every woman known by accepting their dollars that fall blizzard-like on them while they “dance” to bad music. There is a reason this edition of the franchise was not given much publicity—it stinks from top to bottom. It also wastes prodigious moments of time with meaningless, boring scripting and the usual ham-handedness and idiotic mumblings of its “star,” Channing Tatum, who, though in his 30s in the cast, still insists on wearing his baseball cap backwards.
Maybe the fact that Matthew McConaughey skipped this one removed the pace and fun, but this is a drag from start to finish. There are scenes that go nowhere while wasting time and plot “development” for no apparent reason other than to fill time. A prime example is an extended scene in a black bordello run by Jada Pinkett Smith. It has no place in the film other than to insult another racial group with gross simulated sex and the chance for the insults to go even deeper as one of the “male entertainers” runs his hands up the skirt of a heavy member of the audience, taking her skirt to the Spanx line.
To see women as tools, take your wife to this horror but defend yourself afterwards. If she has an ounce of pride or taste left, she’ll flay you for the favor.
The Gallows (R) 0
It is said that writing a bad review is easier to write than a good one. So be it. In the case of some movies, they are so bad that writing anything about them seems a betrayal of humanity and of life itself. So let it be with this travesty of film-making. The worst example of the “found film” genre begun with “The Blair Witch Project.” This takes the worst of the type and adds horrible acting, especially by its “lead,” Reese (played by a dude named Reese, as all the characters use their real names—not cute) and the only recognizable name in the cast, Cassidy Gifford (Cathy Lee’s daughter). It also adds inexplicable power run outs for video cameras (several times without visible re-charging), screamingly loud clatters and bangs for effect, inadequate lighting (found-film is never shot with clear lighting), a fake electronic short recurring in both cameras, briefly interrupting the image and serving as yet another irritant to experiencing this wretched thing, and a preposterously constructed storyline tacked onto a frantically corrupt ending.
This film collapses more than anything else into total unintelligibility—to end up being a groan-worthy disaster of the first order. If your teens are tempted to see what all the laughter is about, take away their allowances for a couple of weeks and make them entertain themselves with Mah-jongg or Monopoly or reruns of “The Simpsons.” It will eventually go away. Anything but encouraging them to totally waste their money on this amateurish attempt to steal their dollars. Fix popcorn for them, add some tacos—anything. But as a parent you have a duty to protect your child from the deterioration of the brain that this film will induce. And when they do sneak out and come back with reports of a strange scene in which high school kids were afraid of being found in a dark theater while filming with a photoflood on their camera, don’t take it as an early sign of brain rotting. It actually occurs in this waste of digital space. Ugh!