I can appreciate what they were trying to do with the story, but it just doesn't work. Gru's brother has no set character and his motivations fluctuate from scene to scene. Gru and Dru's relationship is the most confusing as the get close and pull apart randomly. The animation is the same as the other Despicable Me movies and the character designs are still bad, but I'm more hung up on why on Earth they would let Pharrell do the soundtrack again. There are a few licensed songs that are okay, but everything else feels like Pharrell just trying to get his friends a paycheck. These songs do not match the tone of the scene and are kind of inappropriate for a kids movie when you listen to the lyrics. It's like all he understands is "slow song goes here" so he calls up his bro for any slow song in his catalog. Looking at the credits, most of the worst songs were his own songs (go figure). I really didn't care for the movie and found it pretty boring really, but Pharrell's abysmal soundtrack is easily the most offensive part.
Imagine, if you will, a fifth grader coming home from school with a note from the principal; he's been suspended for fighting. The parents automatically ground him indefinitely and he pulls out an axe and hack them to bits before running through town assaulting any officer who tries to take him in. We eventually find out that his "fighting" suspension was really some Zero Tolerance BS and he punched out the bully who been kicking the crap out of him. Okay, clearly we are supposed to feel bad for the kid, right? He's only acting out because of extenuating circumstances. Sure, but what about all of the innocent people he's crippled and possibly killed? Am I really expected to still be on his side when he escalates a three out of ten scenario to a nine because he has issues? First Blood is basically that movie. Rambo is walking through town when an officer picks him up and drives him out of town because Rambo looks like a vagrant and that's not the kind of person the sheriff wants in his town. Yeah, the cop is a dick, but Rambo quickly turns what would have been a night in jail into a reverse Predator scenario where he's running through the Oregon forest laying traps for the officers tasked with bringing him in after he escapes the police station while injuring numerous officers. Are we supposed to like Rambo? I get the whole "he's just misunderstood" thread and the PTSD is ham-fistedly shown, but Rambo stabs a guy and tries to shoot others. For this to work, Rambo has to have some other traits to draw us to his side, but the character is written for Stallone, so he has zero charisma and there is no attempt to humanize or develop his character. The movie is only about 90 minutes, but it was such a chore to get through because the action isn't exciting and I couldn't give half a crap what happens to Rambo. I guess there is a little bit of fun in seeing a jerk get some comeuppance, but it's like watching a litterbug get lit on fire; it's far too much and quickly becomes uncomfortable. I'll credit everyone other than Stallone for providing a decent performance, but Rambo needed to carry this movie and he just can't. If you were hoping for an action packed explosion party, you'll be disappointed. If you were looking for a dramatic look at the real effects of PTSD after Vietnam, you are going to be so let down. What is this movie even trying to do? It's a very shallow movie with a protagonist that has nothing to offer other than a dead face.
Despicable Me 2 is a perfectly fine follow-up to the original. The story is much more streamlined and I think the Minions were used appropriately to bring a little levity to the movie. Even if you hate the Minions, they are an actual plot point so they do have a reason to be there. The story itself is pretty standard and predictable, but the new additions were fine and we do get to see a different side of Gru. The soundtrack is absolutely awful, however, but that is what happens when you let Pharrell do that part. The character model are still really weird and top heavy hitting a really weird place between trying to look realistic and trying to look exaggerated and cartoony. Really, this is Despicable Me 2 and it's a good Despicable Me movie, but not a great movie otherwise. If you like the first, this one is a good sequel. If you hated the first movie, you'll hate this one too. It's an okay movie that is watchable and while it's not really funny for adults, it's kind of cute and it gets a few chuckles.
This movie got hyped past the moon when it came out, so my first viewing in 2009 was a huge let-down. Over a decade removed from its release, The Hangover is a fun, stupid comedy that you wouldn't be able to make today. 90% of the humor is pure shock value, "Wait, what? moments with 10% being actual structured jokes. It did get a lot of chuckles, but most are things that won't hold up on a re-watch. I had over ten years between viewings, so everything old was new again. If I watched it again tonight, there really aren't a bunch of moments that are going to be funny again so soon. The story is simple and the movie really doesn't have anything to say, so it's pure comedy and there just isn't as many actual comedic elements as Airplane or even Old School. The acting is fine, although we get more caricatures than characters. I will note that although it definitely didn't bother me at all, depending on how much you enjoy recreational outrage, there are a few jokes an gags that aren't 2020 PC approved. A comedy movie really has to either have something bigger or deeper to say or be packed with humor and The Hangover isn't either. It's an enjoyable, fast-paced dude-bro comedy, but it's not something that I can see watching again before another couple of years go by and I forget everything again.
Wonder is almost exactly what you'd expect it to be, the only difference is that they'll switch to a B-character's POV for fifteen minutes before t hey are inevitably sidelined to focus on the main character again. I guarantee, that if you read the plot synopsis you can predict scene-by-scene 80% of the movie. To get it out of the way, the acting is all fine (some of the tertiary child actors are iffy, but Jacob Tremblay is WONDERful (I promise I'm only going to make that very obvious joke this one time)), the soundtrack is like what you'd hear if Kindergartners ran an independent Seattle coffee shop, and the cinematography and directing are overtly generic. Okay, now I can complain about how Wonder has exactly zero subtlety and every scene is written with a MAC truck of saccharine melodrama. Wonder is obviously a movie that is going to hit a lot of emotions, but there are tons of films about similar issues with equal or greater levels of emotion that don't let the emotions drive the entire movie. Wonder the book was a Middle School age novel, but Wonder the movie feels like it was written for first graders. We don't need every scene to tell us how to feel. I've heard that calling this film manipulative is a cheap declaration, but it is a 100% true criticism. Every character has to have a very black and white sob story to run with and every sob story has to be running at full magnitude. There are no named characters that aren't just dripping with melodrama. Tremblay is an amazing actor, you don't need the script to demand him yell and scream and cry every fifteen minutes; all Tremblay needs is to give us one look and we know what his character is feeling. I hate Julia Roberts, but she is more than capable of conveying her character's emotions without giving her five minutes of lines detailing why she's sad or mad or whatever. Again, it's like they think their audience is just first graders who need to be told how to feel. Anyone older than that is going to feel (at least a little) that this movie is almost condescending and patronizing. Even less good actors in this movie understand how to convey emotion without dialog; we don't need every single character to tell us how they feel so that we know how to feel. There is so much unnecessary melodrama and so many scenes that only function to make soccer moms cry because "What is my little Braxton was born like that? Why are kids so mean?!?". I'm not going to spoil it, but there is a death in the film that serves absolutely zero narrative purpose. It only happens to get a few cheap tears. If you've seen the movie, I guarantee you know exactly what I'm talking about. I also have a huge problem with the multiple perspective element. I do appreciate that we get different view-points, but they give these characters arcs that they have no intention of ending in any sort of fulfilling way. We get fifteen minutes of the main character's sister's former BFF for no reason. Her only importance to the story is to isolate the sister, but Wonder thinks we care about her and want her redemption arc, so they shoe-horn her in for a total of three more minutes at the end. Stop. I just barely became invested in your main character, stop trying to give tertiary characters story arcs. This movie is almost two hour long and it has no right to be. None of the other characters are given enough respect to validate giving them their on POV scenes. I love the sister, but her scenes don't make the movie better, they don't add anything. Wonder has two very large problems, it has no idea how to appropriately write emotional scenes without smacking you in the face with it and they try to give way too many characters things to do and then don't have them do anything worthwhile. I can easily cut out an hour of fluff and dead-end characters in this film. I'm going to say it again, Wonder thinks its audience is stupid and needs to be told how to feel. Anyone beyond first grade can read the scene well enough that you don't need Augie to tell us that he's sad, we can fucking see it on Tremblay's face, just let the actors to their jobs.
The Midnight Gospel is literally just re-spliced podcasts with a few lines of newly recorded dialog that play while an entirely unrelated lazy animation plays. They tell you the premise is something similar to the Interdementional Cable episodes of Rick & Morty, where our main character picks a different world simulation to join. I love the idea, but as soon as we join the new world, they start a "data-cast" and start talking about pseudo-intellectual crap that has absolutely nothing to do with what we are seeing going on. The first episode has the main character talking to Dr. Drew about drugs and meditation while fighting of a zombie apocalypse. You almost have to review the visual and audio elements separately. The audio is taken from Duncan Trussell's podcast and the add in a few lines to mention what is happening in the episode, but 98% is the most pretentious and inane conversations I've ever heard. It's two people who know nothing stroking each other's egos about stuff they heard in a Psych 101 class and didn't entirely understand. Do you want to listen to potheads talk about how cool drugs are, magic, Buddhism, and transcendentalism? I sure don't. The actual visuals often look like beautiful black light posters you'd find in the back of a Spencer's store, but they aren't animated properly. The animation is so rough and jumpy that it feels like they need three or four times as many frames to smooth it out. The Midnight Gospels thinks that it is a super deep philosophy discussion, but it's really just a #Deep rant between two stoned High School Freshmen in their mom's basement. I wanted Interdemensional Cable animated by the Adventure Time guy and this is none of those things.
The Haunting of Hill House is hard for me to rate. On one hand, we have really great performances from almost the entire cast; even the kids did very well and I was never reminded that these are all actors ad none of this is real. The sets were really good too, whether it was the funeral home, the rehab center, or the titular Hill House, everything has well designed and as realistically creepy and unsettling. On the other hand I essentially finished only because of the whole sunk cost fallacy and the blind hope that maybe they can right the ship. Every paranormal movie essentially gets to create its own rules for how ghosts and such work, so I can't really complain about the realism of how they chose to write their rules. I will say, however, that their rule book is bullshit and the stupidest fucking mess I've ever read. I won't spoil anything, because the incredibly slow and arduous unrevealing of the mystery is really the only the story has going for it, but I found it to be purposefully obtuse and cheap. They are trying so hard to create a mind-fuck story with the constant flashbacks and (maybe) dream sequences and we never really know if people are really seeing things, if it's just stories they are replaying in their head, if it's hallucinations or if it is just that the writers are trying to give us a visual while someone is being told a story. 85% of the story is just a family drama. It's a compelling drama and the characters are great, but we were pitched and promised a horror and we barely get that. the other 15% is easily the worst part. They do a fair job creating a sense of unease, but literally every unveiling garnered a response of "Really? Fucking really? That's their explanation?" One of the last one makes sense, but one particular one really made me physically angry; it's just so nonsensical, stupid, and unrealistic even for a movie about ghosts. This did not need to be a 10+ hour series and they certainly didn't deliver on the impression of horror. If we cut out all the bullshit, we could have a solid four episode mini-series about a family dealing with loss. I really wanted to love Hill House and they have all of the pieces to make a great show, but they fucked it all up. The cast was outstanding and aside from child actor with a very minor role, everyone gave Oscar worthy performances. The ghosts and ghouls or whatever they actually were looked pretty bad, but the Hill House set looked great. If they gave the pieces to a different writer and director, Hill House could be a classic, but I hate what Mike Flanagan did with them.