Monday, 03 October 2022

‘Minions’ are still jokesters; ‘Terminal List’ thrills



‘MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU’ RATED PG-13

Beginning with 2010’s “Despicable Me,” Gru and the Minions, with Kevin, Stuart and Bob front-and-center, the pill-shaped international icons of mischief, mayhem and joy have delighted audiences in their elaborate criminal master plans.

An origin story of how Gru became a villain and allied with the banana-colored, goggle-eyed creatures, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” takes us on a wild trip suffused with 1970s pop culture.

The year is 1976, and the fashion trends that were all the rage in California come vividly to life in an explosion of brilliant colors, resulting in spectacular animation.

Long before he becomes the master of evil, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is just an 11-3/4-year-old boy in suburban San Francisco, plotting to take over the world from his basement.

During career day at school, while others aspire to be doctors or firemen, the mischievous Gru, with his precocious bent to the evil side, proudly announces that he wants to be a supervillain, and of course, gets mocked by his classmates.

Still too young to have mastered villainy, young Gru finds his incipient evil plans are not going particularly well, but then he crosses paths with the Minions and they join forces for a lasting bond.

The trio of Minions featured prominently (though I am unable to tell one from the other even if differentiated by having either one or two eyes) has a new member in Otto, sporting braces and a desperate need to please.

Meanwhile the infamous supervillain crew known as the Vicious 6 journey to a jungle to steal the powerful Zodiac Stone. The aging group leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) suffers a betrayal from his cohorts, presumably left to die.

The Vicious 6 won’t be the same with Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), sporting an afro even bigger than that of Angela Davis and swinging a lethal disco-ball mace, who looks like she belongs in a blaxploitation movie.

Remaining members of the Vicious crew include Lucy Lawless’ Nun-chuck, dressed in traditional nun’s habit; and Danny Trejo’s Stronghold, whose giant iron hands are both a menace to others and a burden to him.

Nordic roller-skating champion Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren) dispenses his enemies with spin kicks from his spiked skates; and the nihilistic Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme, the perfect fit) is armed literally with a giant robotic claw.

With Wild Knuckles dropped from Vicious 6, the most devoted fanboy Gru interviews to become their newest member, but they are not impressed by the diminutive, wannabe villain.

The Vicious 6 underestimate Gru, who outsmarts them by stealing the ancient pendant that gives them enormous power. With Gru on the run, the Minions try to master the art of kung fu, and things just get nuttier from there.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” is family-friendly entertainment that the kids are bound to enjoy, knowing the popularity of the little yellow jokesters, while adults may enjoy the sight gags, such as three Minions hilariously filling in as the flight crew on a passenger jet.



‘THE TERMINAL LIST’ ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

Normally cast in roles where an easygoing manner and a sense of humor matters, Chris Pratt demonstrates serious chops in the tense, dramatic part of a Navy SEAL caught in a web of betrayal by sinister forces in “The Terminal List” on Amazon Prime Video.

The eight-episode series begins with Pratt as Lt. Commander James Reese leading a platoon of fellow SEALs through a precarious mission that goes horribly wrong, and he ends up the only survivor returning home with an impaired memory.

Reese’s recall of the mission differs widely with the official version of events, but as soon as he’s attacked by masked henchmen during an MRI scan, it’s obvious something nefarious is afoot. Or is he just imagining an assault?

Things take an even more serious turn when harm comes to his wife Lauren (Riley Keough) and young daughter Lucy (Arlo Metz), and Reese will go to great lengths for bloody, brutal and unrelenting revenge.

The commander soon runs afoul of Navy Admiral Pillar (Nick Chinlund) and some other officers, most of whom seem to be desk-bound jockeys without the slightest appreciation of what Reese had to endure in a faraway land.

While suffering symptoms of a concussion, Reese becomes aware that he and his platoon may have been subjected to a failed experiment, which leads to a shady corporate tycoon (Jai Courtney) as one of many villains along with corrupt government officials.

Stirring the pot is investigative journalist Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) looking into the conspiracy theory angle. Meanwhile, Reese gets support from his CIA friend Ben (Taylor Kitsch) and fellow veteran Liz (Tyner Rushing).

It’s interesting how the public rates “The Terminal List” an extremely high score that is wildly divergent from the ratings given by critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

The people have it right, as they often do. Chris Pratt delivers the goods in this suspenseful thriller series with high-octane action that is on target as an audience pleaser.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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