July 12, 2015, - 10:49 pm

Wknd Box Office: Minions, The Gallows, Self/Less, Strangerland

By Debbie Schlussel



Sorry for the belated movie reviews this weekend. Soon, I will also post the movies I couldn’t post reviews of for the last two weeks, because of technical glitch, illness, and other reasons given previously this past week. You haven’t missed much. I hope to have my movie reviews posted more promptly, this upcoming Friday. We’re at the midpoint in the summer, and I really haven’t liked much. This is the worst summer at the movies that I can remember, since I began reviewing most new movies on this site in 2005 (yes, it’s been just a little over a decade). I really only like one of the new movies that debuted this weekend. And remember, you can always hear my movie reviews live, first thing every Friday morning on “The Mike Church Show” on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125 after 7:05 a.m. Eastern, on “The Pat Campbell Show” on KFAQ 1170 AM Tulsa at 7:35 a.m. Eastern, and on “The James Show,” on KWTX 1230 AM at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. I do my movie reviews on all three shows, as well as some discussion of current political issues and pop culture topics.

And, now, for this weekend’s new offerings and my reviews . . .

* “Minions“: I liked this the best of the new movies, this weekend. I saw it in 3D and the 3D is good, but you’ll be fine and not miss much if you see it in regular, conventional 2D. This was very funny and cute, and quite witty and stylish. I loved the late 1960s style, clothing, and glamor, even if it was in animation. Before seeing this, I was of the opinion that the “Minions,” the yellow sidekicks to villain “Gru” of the “Despicable Me” movies (read my reviews here and here) could not carry a movie. But I was wrong. The story was strong enough.

The movie starts out by giving you the history of the Minions–how they came about (born in the sea) and what they do (they look for a villain to help). The Minions played a part with many villains throughout history, including Stone Age men and vampires. But each villain they glom onto as their boss seems to die or otherwise meet destruction (at their hands). So the Minions spend a few centuries living in a cave in Antarctica. But they get bored, and three of them set out to find a new villain that they can help. The three end up in 1968 New York and sneak into a department store, where they spend the night. Watching TV, they see an ad for “Villain Con,” in a secret location in Florida, where the ultimate villain, Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), will be appearing. The Minions hitchhike there with a family of bank robbers, and they win a contest to become Scarlett’s sidekicks. She takes them to her home in England, where she lives with her nerdy hubby, Herb Overkill (voiced by Jon Hamm). Scarlett seeks to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and become queen. She assigns the Minions to do this. But things don’t end up as she planned.

I really enjoyed this. It’s entertaining from beginning to end. And it’s sort of a prequel to the “Despicable Me” movies, as it tells us how the Minions ended up as the sidekicks to Gru.

If you are a parent, you might be wondering why this is rated PG. That’s because there is some glorification of criminal behavior (the Minions rob a bank with the family of crooks with whom they hitchhike), violence (the Minions shoot at police who are chasing them, and they shoot an RPG at them), and one Minion is wearing a thong in one scene (but there is no rear end–these are Minions, not humans). Still, if I had kids, I would probably take them to see this and definitely explain that crime is bad.

If you’re a single adult as I am, this is fun entertainment with a lot of the jokes aimed at adults and likely to go over the heads of the kids watching it.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Gallows“: This movie was a total bore. It was supposed to be a scary movie, but wasn’t scary until the last five or ten minutes. I struggled to stay awake, as it was slow, boring, and repetitive. There isn’t much meat here. It stars Kathy Lee Epstein Gifford’s daughter, Cassidy Gifford, who is pretty enough but resembles her father, NFL great Frank Gifford, more than she does mom Kathy Lee. All of the four lead actors in this movie are no-names who play characters with the same first names as the actors’ real-life first names, a sure sign of amateurism.

The story: 20 years ago, students at a high school perform the play, “The Gallows.” But when one of the students is supposed to pretend to be hanged, something goes wrong, and he is hanged for real . . . and killed. Now, it is 20 years later, and to mark this tragedy, the students who attend the school now are performing the same play. Um, why? The movie never explains why school administrators would encourage the marking of this morbid, tragic event by having students repeat the same play. What could go wrong?

The guy who plays the male lead in the play is a former football player and has a crush on the female lead. His friend, who is still on the football team, encourages him to go to the high school and destroy property from the play so that the male lead can swoop in the next day and be the hero to impress the female lead. Huh? Yup, a completely stupid idea that doesn’t make sense, but is needed to move this plot along. Stupid. So, they go to the high school at night along with the football player’s cheerleader girlfriend (Cassidy Gifford) and, after destroying some property, they discover that the female lead is in the building, too. Soon, they also discover that they are locked in and can’t get out. Then, they are tormented and chased by “ghosts” and they are running all over the high school, trying to get out and live until the end of the night.

Believe me, I’m making it sound better than it is, though I did laugh a few times toward the beginning, when it was meant to be funny. This is a snooze-fest with a tiny budget. And it shows. Somebody wanted to make a horror movie, but the only good plot points he/she/it could come up with take about five minutes and the rest of tiresome filler. Oh, and why did I have to sit through yet ANOTHER herky-jerky, hand-held camera, Blair Witch Project rip-off that gives me headaches? Pointless and a waste of time.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Self/Less“: I love science fiction, especially off-beat, campy, kitschy science fiction–which this movie tried hard–way too hard–to be. The story is interesting enough, but the execution . . . not so much. And it features two actors who are very good (despite Kingsley’s politics, which aren’t so good): Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds. (Though Kingsley’s New York accent in this is over the top, kind of comical, and comes in an out.) It’s also filled with action, which should make it more exciting (at least in my book), but doesn’t quite do the job.

The story: Kingsley is a New York real estate billionaire. He’s also a jerk who is estranged from his daughter and who completely destroys a potential young new partner for no reason. But, as the young guy points out, he’ll soon be dead. He’s dying of cancer. Still, he won’t accept the death sentence because he’s learned of something new.

A mysterious, secretive professor (Matthew Goode) has developed a way for Kingsley to live on in a younger, healthier body. Kingsley is told the bodies are farmed and synthetically made. And, so, when he realizes his time is just about up, he fakes his death, and is rushed in an ambulance to professor’s hidden facility for the transfer, of his self from the old body to the new, to take place. And, for the small price of $250 million, he is soon inhabiting the body of Ryan Reynolds. Once he’s rehabilitated and adjusted himself to the new body, he holes up in a fancy pad in New Orleans. And like any old, creepy billionaire who is once again young and virile, and now very handsome (though Reynolds looks a tad haggard and tired in this movie), he spends his days working out and riding around in expensive cars and his nights bedding various hot women and riding around in expensive cars.

But, soon, he has visions of other places, some of them traumatic, such as scenes of the war in Afghanistan or Iraq (I’m not sure they ever say which), and scenes of some other place and a woman and a daughter. And, soon, this billionaire “reborn” in a younger man’s body is wondering about that body and where it came from.

That’s where the intrigue and action play out. And there is violence and attempted murder, and chases. And that’s where the movie’s excitement and interesting themes end. It seems to give up on the science fiction and becomes an action movie but with little build to any suspense. It’s sort of a letdown.

And, so, while the unethical billionaire finally gets a morality injection and tries to do the right thing, I just didn’t care any more (or find it very believable).

The first third to half of the movie was great. But then the air quickly deflates.

Yes, there is an anti-business tone to the movie, but the evil billionaire is necessary to the plot. An evil poor guy couldn’t afford the cost of the “transformation” at the center of the movie. And an ethical billionaire would ruin the movie even more.


Watch the video . . .

* “Strangerland“: I’m not quite sure why someone thought this movie was necessary. It’s absolutely awful. Beyond awful. This movie is just miserable. And a time bandit that wastes nearly two hours of your life you’ll never get back. Whom to sue over this incredible waste of my life? The movie had a $10 million budget, and you wonder: where the heck did they spend it? Hard to tell.

Nicole Kidman plays a crazy, oversexed, way-too-intense mother in the outback of Australia. It turns out that she and her family recently moved there because her teen daughter had a sexual relationship with her teacher. And the family wanted to get out of dodge to start anew without the daughter’s reputation as a slut getting around. But it’s too late, because the daughter is already sleeping with the mentally slow Aborigine hired help. And she’s posing with him in pictures and writing about it in her very graphic diary. Oh, and the daughter is also trying to hit on and seduce every male (young or old) in town.

Soon, though, the daughter and the younger son go missing. The son walks around alone at night frequently because he can’t sleep. And with the daughter sleeping around and the son walking, nobody knows what happened to them. Their father, Joseph Fiennes, saw them leaving in the middle of the night but didn’t stop them because he didn’t think anything of it. Huh? Makes no sense.

And, even less sensical, Kidman’s way of “looking” for her two missing children is having very intense rough “hate sex” with her husband, whom she is constantly bitching to and about, and trying to seduce the grizzled chief detective in the small, dusty outback town.

Then, Kidman and Fiennes drive around a lot, even back to their old hometown to confront the teacher with whom their daughter had an affair. And it’s all over-angsty, way too melodramatic, and entirely unenjoyable. Why the heck would anyone want to watch this high-quality Gitmo torture material? Who would pay to see this? They should have paid me.

Oh, and in case you wondered, there’s no pay-off either way at the end. They find the boy nearly parched to death in the Outback desert. And he tells them that their slutty daughter got in a car with some guy. The end.

The Australian outback is dusty and hot and not safe for children to roam about alone at night. And some people from less rural areas are miserable and bored there. Gee, thanks for the tip. Oh, and bonus: you get to see some old guy’s saggy, naked butt while he’s having sex with a slutty Aborigine. Yup, my life is now complete.

Now, this is a horror movie, but not the way it was intended. Utter garbage.


Watch the trailer . . .

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4 Responses

Debbie – I’m glad your life is now complete. Watching a saggy male butt while the attached owner is having sex with an Aborigine is on my bucket list, so I might just go see the movie. After that, I’ll try and fulfill another bucket list item – watching an episode of “Girls” on HBO so I can Lena Dunham nekked. Going blind is also on my bucket list. Maybe I can kill 2 (mocking)birds with one stone.

Concerned Citizen on July 13, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Thanks for the useful review of Minions, Debbie. The local theater has $5.00 Tuesday nights with a free 44 ounce popcorn when you buy a drink (in my case, a bottled water).

Awesome thou art, as ausual.

Occam's Tool on July 14, 2015 at 11:52 am

Really- who do you think you are disrespecting a former president and one of the greatest humanitarians ever. You are poison- you’re poisonous ways will come back to haunt you. Jimmy Carter- regardless of how you feel his performance as president was- is one of the many millions of “points of light” in this dismal world. He fights for justice, democracy and is saving many lives through his fight against Guinea worm disease- you are a scab on humanity and I can’t believe FOX news would let you ever be a spokesperson for them ever again. You are evil.

Kat Straube on August 16, 2015 at 8:11 pm

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