Buttered Popcorn Movie Review: “Despicable Me”

Originally Straight From The Recliner was supposed to be a review website that looks at the latest batch of movies and TV. Instead the reviews morphed into a fun, retrospective look at what we have watched from the ’80s and  ’90s (two eras most of you grew up in). Therefore I feel obliged to review at  least one new movie currently screening in a cinema near you. If there’s one movie that screams everything new in movies (i.e. CGI, 3D, new celebrities) and since the school holidays has wrapped up, today we are discussing the family-friendly hit Despicable Me.

Despicable Me

Produced by Universal Pictures, Despicable Me is about a no-goodnik meglomaniac named Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) who plans to steal the moon with the help of his trusty sidekick, Doctor Nefario (an almost unrecognizable Russell Brand) and his motley crew of monsters simply known as “minions”. However when his scheme is challenged by a younger, Jerry Lewis-esque villain Vector (How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segal), Gru adopts three orphan girls to, unbeknownst to them, help him conduct his most evil plan yet.  Will Gru complete his mission or will he turn from superbad to superdad?

Before I watched this, I had zero expectations for Despicable Me. Apart from seeing the trailers and TV commercials, there wasn’t much hype towards this CGI film compared to franchise juggernauts, Toy Story 3 and Shrek Forever After. Thankfully, Despicable Me is better than I thought. Similar to last year’s Disney/Pixar film Up, the film has the same lovable “grumpy man grows a kind loving heart” formula but still be in a league of its own. The graphics are fun to watch and almost has a French cartoon feel with the looks of the characters’ faces and setting. Although the latest trend of making movies in 3D are overrated, Despicable Me is one of the rare films that took the 3D gimmick to its full potential especially during one scene involving a shark and later, a roller coaster. You don’t have to watch this film in 3D however as the movie is good alone.

Normally, I can’t stand A-list Hollywood actors providing voices in big-budget animation films. Why spend millions of dollars in getting a celebrity to voice one character where you could get a full-time professional voice actor who can uniquely play TEN characters (i.e. Rob Paulsen, Grey DeLisle, Billy West, etc). Usually most of A-list celebrities in animation sound bland and they are just being themselves behind the microphones. For example, I cringed when I saw boy band N’Sync in a Simpsons episode. On the contrary, the celebrity cast in Despicable Me are actually good.  Steve Carrell was a treat to hear as the European-accented Gru. Jason Segall  brought cockiness to the film’s real villain, Julie Andrews is surprisingly cynical (therefore funny) as Gru’s mother and mentioned earlier, Russell Brand steals the show as the old nutty professor. So the producers of Despicable Me did a great job of assembling an all-star cast that actually sounds good in animation.

So if you want to see a fun animated movie that does not have the Disney or Dreamworks logo at the start, go for Despicable Me. Like most CGI movies out there, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it.

“No More Late Fees?”-The death of the local video shop

About five years ago at secondary school, a friend who worked at a Video Ezy store predicted the video rental industry will became extinct because of the Internet. Five years later, he was right.

Last year, video rental giant Blockbuster has closed down a thousand branches in the US and the company recently filled for bankruptcy. No doubt the already fading Blockbuster stores will close down in Australia. It’s hard to believe Blockbuster and other video rental chains used to be top business twenty years ago. There’s a strong chance Video Ezy and Devoted DVD are next. It seems everyday we see less and less of video rental outlets. Video shops were common as Fish-N-Chips at the streets and now there are only one hidden at your suburb.

What’s killing the video rental industry is anyone’s guess. Here’s the list:

1) The damn Internet. Everybody are streaming and downloading (either legally or illegally-I choose the later) movies online without leaving the house. Computers has further dominated our entertainment viewing with the introduction of iTunes, YouTube and BigPond Movies.

2) Current generation consoles PlayStation 3 and X-Box 360. Same reasons above. Sony and Microsoft have introduced movie downloading service where people can own or rent downloaded movies without any use of DVD and Blu-Ray discs. All movie files from Sony and Microsoft are in HD.

3) Movie piracy. Has always been a threat to the movie industry in general but with everyone using DVD burners, the threat is here to stay.

4) The new fangled DVD rental vending machines. On paper, they may sound like a joke but they’re real and on the rise. They started to appear in Melbourne and now appearing at Shell petrol stations and supermarkets. Just insert 2 bucks and like a Coke can, you will get a movie out of the hatch.

5) Everyone wants a bargain. Granted the $2 Super Tuesday deal is great, but with vending machines, you rent cheap DVDs anytime you want. Internet you’ll download a pirated copy for free.

6) “Word Of Mouth.” This is probably the most common reason of the demise of video rentals but has not been discussed in the media. Friends and family would burn DVDs to each other or pass them through their USB drives. Why go to the store when you could get a movie off from your cousin, brother, school mate from the playground, etc.

It’s part of the changing times and the evolution of technology. Cassettes were killed by compact discs which are now challenged by MP3 players. Sadly like VHS, video shops are becoming extinct. Unless you’re going to do something about it.

If you can’t stand bad quality downloaded movies or you want to watch a movie that you never heard of, do yourself a favour and support your local video shop! Bring life back to the shelves!

Categories: Featured articles

Who digitalised Roger Rabbit?

It’s amazing what you would find on the Internet. Recently leaked out on YouTube, here’s what appears to be a screen test for the canceled sequel, Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2 that was made as a pitch for Disney executives in 1998. Not only it was supposed to convince Disney to make the sequel but it features a computer-generated version of Roger Rabbit himself. Keep in mind, this is all real and not fan-made.

The second Roger Rabbit movie was originally a prequel titled Toon Patrol where Roger and other Toons fight Nazis in World war II (no joke) and later a more family-friendly direct sequel set to be made in the late ’90s until Disney shut it down.

However, director Robert Zemeckis has announced there are new plans to make Roger Rabbit 2 after Disney went retro again with the long-awaited sequel Tron Legacy.

So yes we might see Jessica Rabbit swing her hips again very soon.

Categories: Weird News

Freeview in a nutshell: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Freeview

Let’s rewind back to 2003. Quite frankly, 2003 was a terrible year to watch free-to-air television. All the three major networks (Seven, Nine  and Ten) were airing nothing but “reality” TV programing and hundreds of house renovation shows that all looked the same. The early ’00s was a period when scripted drama (both Australia and US) were, believe it or not, close to extinction as everyone seemed to like watching wannabees singing badly at a karaoke contest, couples renovating a block and housemates doing absolutely nothing at a “big brother” house.  Just because everyone are watching reality TV, doesn’t mean they all like it.  The only TV shows that were entertaining back  then were old-school  Doctor Who repeats and CNNN-The Chaser’s Non-Stop News Network on ABC, mostly because they were different from the saturated prime-time trend. Apart from the non-educational offerings of ABC, the only resort for home entertainment are pay TV service FOXTEL and DVD box-sets but they cost tons of money. In retrospects, it’s impossible to tell the networks what you want to watch on TV but we should have given more viewing choices and variety without breaking the bank.

Daleks

It was either Big Brother or this.....

Let’s fast forward to October 2010. It’s the best time to be a TV viewer and a booming period for home entertainment. FOXTEL and DVDs from retailers, like JB HI-FI, are increasingly affordable while the introduction of Blu-Ray and high definition TV makes even the most boring show watchable just for the picture quality alone.  Broadband Internet has turned online videos into a legitimate medium and downloading music became more accessible. Finally, digital TV and Freeview has totally revolutionised living rooms across Australia.

Originated from the UK in 2002 and adapted by Australian networks to compete against FOXTEL, Freeview is a digital TV service that allow viewers to get extra channels in good picture & sound quality depending on your reception. Oh did I mention its for FREE? All of the free channels are spun-off from the the major networks (i.e. ONE Sports HD is part of the TEN network) and in addition to the recently launched 7mate and GEM, there are 24 channels available for your viewing pleasure. Obviously the best thing about Freeview is the wide selection of programs you want to watch on TV and each channel is crafted for a specific audience. Feel like watching repeats of Hogan’s Heores instead of watching the AFL Grand Final rematch? You switch to GO! Want Australian news anytime you want, there’s ABC 24/7 News Channel. For kids and big kids alike, there’s ABC3. Upset that the later seasons of Heroes and Lost were shown at the Gravyard shift on Seven?  You can watch them at a better timeslot on 7mate.

Great to see you again, Fred

As the above headline suggested, Freeview is a major step forward from what we used to have ten years ago. It’s great to see classics like The Flintstones make its surprise primetime return on free-to-air  and more choices for everyone’s viewing needs. Despite its original purpose, its unlikely Freeview could rival FOXTEL as there are popular programs , such as Australia’s Top Model and the WWE franchise, that are pay TV exclusive but they’re close to it.  Freeview shouldn’t be counted as the final nail in the coffin to the already dying video rental industry as DVDs are still popular and its insane to suggest anyone would prefer to watch commercial-interrupted movies over Blu-Ray. However, Freeview is welcomed for opening arms.

The only catch of Freeview is you need to get either a plasma or LCD digital TV set. If you want to keep that old bulky idiot box, there’s always the digital set top boxes. Either way, they’re worth every cent.

TV is finally cool again and 2003 is just a distant memory.

Mick Foley: The Movie!!???

Mick Foley

Here’s unexpected news. According to IGN, hardcore wrestler and bestselling author Mick Foley has teamed up with film production company Union Square Media to make a biopic movie based on his life.  Foley and his manager Barry Bloom will write the screenplay, but it’s too early to tell if the film will be a documentary drama such as Foley’s first movie Beyond The Mat or an acted drama piece like (i.e. Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler). More importantly it’s a mystery whether or not Foley will play himself in the picture, since Jerry Lawler played himself in the 1970s-set drama Man On The Moon, or hire an actor to play as him. It should also be noted that Foley is now wrestling for TNA and left WWE in bad terms around mid-2008. Most of Foley’s memorable moments were at the WWF/E, including the dive from Hell In A Cell and the 1999 Royal Rumble I Quit Match where his own family watched in horror from ringside. So it should be interesting if WWE will have a presence in the movie despite Foley working at the rival company.

I have no idea who should play Foley other than the man himself, but I always thought Warren Beatty would be perfect to play Vince McMahon.

Warren Beatty (Left) and Vince McMahon (Right)

Fingers crossed for a cameo from Mr. Socko!

That ’90s Show: Rocko’s Modern Life

Welcome to the second installment of THAT ’90s SHOW, a retrospective look at some of the shows you grew up watching (or at least saw) during the  greatest era of our time, the ’90s. Back then VHS ruled supreme, mobile phones were solely used for talking and CGI in blockbuster movies was new and not overdone compared to today’s standards.

Today’s spotlight is on the Nickelodeon classic Rocko’s Modern Life.

Around the early ’90s, there was a new animation brand that came to air. It was different and edgier from what we usually see from Disney and Hanna-Barbera. Unlike most cartoons from the ’80s, this brand wasn’t created (at least, not yet) to sell Hasbro toys for kids. Of course, I’m talking about kids cable network Nickelodeon who started producing their own animated programs under the Nicktoons banner. New to the animation game, Nick has produced three cartoons that became nostalgic classics: Doug, commercial hit Rugrats and the incomparable Ren and Stimpy. However, there is one show that stood out from the rest…and that’s Rocko’s Modern Life.

The show aired on Nickelodeon worldwide and broadcast in Australian free-to-air on ABC Kids.

Created by Joe Murray, this fish out of water series is about a mild-mannered wallaby named Rocko (voiced by comedian and future Reno 911! star, Carlos Alazraqui) who migrated from Australia to wacky American town, O-Town (A nice reference to MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This”).  Similar to real life but only exaggerated, Rocko deals with everyday situations and learn a thing or two about modern living whether its taking out the trash, working at a demanding comic book store, dating or confronting an old school bully. All funny of course. Rocko is a nice guy, but he does get his temper (and sanity) tested. He’s basically a soft-spoken guy in a loud, crazy world.

Rocko and Spunky

Joining Rocko are his best  friends, Heffer and Filbert. When those three characters hang out, Rocko is immediately the straight man as Heffer and Filbert are very eccentric individuals.

Heffer (Tom Kenny who later became SpongeBob Squarepants) is a happy-go-lucky, optimistic cow…I mean steer….who loves eating and having a good time. He’s pretty much a template of the overweight frat boys that you see in Hollywood High School flicks, like Animal House.  Heffer’s back story had him adopted and raised by a domestic family of wolves and pretty much a glutenous slacker. Filbert (voiced by animator Doug Lawrence) on the other hand is the opposite of Heffer. He is a turtle who is more or less the poster boy of all geeks and nerds. Originally a background character who later has an extended role, Filbert is a neurotic hypochondriac quoting his catchphrase “I’m nauseous” and “Oh fishsticks!” Out of all the main characters, Filbert has grown up during the show’s four season run. He married his sweetheart Doctor Hutchinson (A surgeon cat who has a hook for a hand) and a father of three.

(From left to right) Filbet, Rocko and Heffer

Every show has at least one recurring antagonist. In this case we have Mister Ed Bighead (voice veteran Charlie Adler). If you live next to a grumpy neighbour who is obsess with gardening and complains everything that exists on earth, then you know Ed Bighead pretty well.  A pencil pusher of business corporation Conglom-O (Has the tagline “We Own You”), he sees Rocko and his friends as the bane of his existence and takes joy in being the rain of their parade.  Bighead is a type of character you like seeing punished or get his come uppings. He has a wife Bev, who is your original cougar and desperate housewife, and a cartoonist son Ralph (voiced by Joe Murray himself).

Ed and Bev Bighead

When discussing about Rocko’s Modern Life on social networks and message boards, I often call it the “Seinfeld of Nicktoons.” Why you ask? Because it basically is! Rocko’s a satire of modern living and has observational humour of what we usually deal with every week. It’s actually the first cartoon to teach me that public transportation is the scum of the universe in the episode titled Commuted Sentence and the show’s writers couldn’t be more right. Come to think of it, Heffer and Filbert reminds me of Kramer and George respectively. It’s a no-brainer that Bighead is Newman.

Best of all like all successful cartoons from the ’90s, Rocko’s appeals to both kids and adults. In fact, Rocko generally appeals more to young adults than kids as the show ended when Nickelodeon wanted to play safe and cater strickly for kids and sugar-coated tweens.

There can only be one Rocko’s Modern Life. SpongeBob Squarepants is inspired by Rocko in terms of formula and characters, but doesn’t have the biting satire that Murray has in his show. After all these years, Rocko is the most requested series to be put on DVD (Viacom and Nickelodeon have yet to release a proper disc set) and often bootlegged by its ever-growing fanbase.

So if you see Rocko on Nickelodeon or any TV show, record it because you might not see it on TV again. It’s highly recommended viewing.

Besides Rocko is a HOOT!!!!!

TRIVIA: The catchy theme song is performed by The  B-52s, but originally the producers wanted big time film composers Danny Elfman (Tim Burton’s collaborator and created The Simpsons theme) and Alvin Silvestri (Back To The Future and Predator) to compose the intro music.

Greatest Quote in Movie History..Or at least in a horror flick

*WARNING: MODERATE LANGUAGE AND HORROR THEMES*

The “Welcome To Primetime…” line from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Poor Jennifer. All she wanted was to be a TV star, but Freddy Krueger has other plans. It’s irony with a capital “I”. What’s great about this one-liner was the timing and the fact it was actually improvised by Freddy himself, Robert Englund.

You will never watch an episode of Green Acres again after seeing this.

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