'Despicable Me' a film the whole family can enjoyDec. 13, 2010
By G. Michael Dobbs
A very funny animated film, a homage to "Shaun of the Dead" and a television series that will give many people the creeps are in this week's DVD review column.
I had wanted to see this film in the theaters, but the time to do so eluded me and now I've caught up with it on DVD and I'm glad I did.
The trend in animation lately is to present the story in computer animation as the medium and 3-D as the marketing point. Although simply using computer generated imagery (CGI) is no guarantee of a quality film, at this time the medium is dominating the industry.
I do miss the artistry of hand-drawn animation or the realism that traditional stop motion brings to a film, but in the right hands, CGI is fine. I thoroughly enjoyed "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," and this film joins them as a movie both adults and kids can enjoy over and over.
Gru is a criminal mastermind who yearns to be the most successful evil genius in the world. When he comes up with a plan to shrink the moon to hold it for ransom, he is stopped in his tracks by Vector, a younger super villain on the rise.
In order to obtain the shrink ray Vector has, Gru uses three orphan girls as cover for the robbery. The three girls, though, have an effect on Gru he did not expect.
The film opens with a wonderfully twisted sequence that defines Gru. He encounters a little boy who is upset that he has dropped his ice cream cone. Gru cheers him up by twisting up a balloon animal and gives it to the boy. As soon as the kid is happy, Gru punctures the balloon.
To see this professionally evil guy change is the heart of the movie. It never gets bogged down in sentiment and there is much humor created by Gru's minions -- little yellow pill-shaped guys who make the various things he needs to carry out his plans.
I saw the film flat and it works just fine. I really think the current 3-D hysteria is vastly unnecessary.
The voice performances are quite good and Steve Carrell gives Gru a great "foreign" sound. I did think it was silly for the producers to bring in someone as talented as Julie Andrews for literally a handful of lines as Gru's mom. What's the point? Any number of voice actors could have done that.
That's a minor gripe. This is an animated film adults shouldn't dread watching.
It has been said, "Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery" and I think there is some little love note to "Shaun of the Dead" in this new zombie horror comedy from Great Britain.
Lucky for horror fans, the producers of "Doghouse" have come up with enough twists to keep the film fresh.
Stephen Graham -- currently seen as Al Capone on the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" -- is Vince.
Vince used to be quite the ladies' man until his marriage and now that he is depressed over his up-coming divorce, his friends have decided to undertake a road trip for all of them to re-assert their single maleness.
All of them are in lousy relationships with women and naturally they don't blame themselves.
So where to go but a remote village where women outnumber the men and they would be the new roosters in the henhouse?
Except this village is the site for an experiment that has turned all of the women into cannibalistic zombies who only attack men.
While "Shaun of the Dead" was a vastly superior film that could be enjoyed by non-horror film fans, "Doghouse" is marketed to a crowd that likes their films "moister."
There are plenty of blood and guts, humor and genuine surprises to keep things interesting; although the movie has one of the worst endings I've seen in a long time.
Not for everyone, horror fans should welcome "Doghouse".
Billy The Exterminator, Seasons One and Two
Just in time for the holidays are these two collections of the television series that details the professional adventures of a Louisiana exterminator.
A high concept, indeed.
Billy Bretherton was featured in two episodes of "Dirty Jobs," and he was clearly charismatic enough that producers at A&E decided he could carry his own show.
Billy and his family tackle any number of critters and what makes him different -- I assume -- from his peers is they don't dress as if they are roadies for a heavy metal band.
Billy likes his bleached spiked hair, his studded bracelets and black ensembles and goes to work removing alligators, wrestling opossums and mixing it up with raccoons as if he had just shopped at Hot Topic.
Despite his clownish look, he takes his profession seriously and drops a variety of factoids throughout the show.
He clearly tries to make the show educational and there is a theme of "I'm a professional; don't try this at home" running throughout it.
I like the show, but if you are bothered by legions of cockroaches, a beehive as big as a shed, bats, rats and other small beasts, you might want to consider watching something else.