On the Shelf this week, some fun family fare for your holidays, cars driving quite quickly for the sixth time, a physicians’ pow-wow, and a couple of showdowns between men of action. Sometimes writing these oblique teasers just makes me feel like a big doofus; Today is one of these times. We’ve got movies and stuff on The Shelf this week. There.
It seems strangely fitting that the favorite characters from most animated films are the comedy sidekicks, who often get their own movies. The Madagascar movies were fine, I guess, but the Penguins of Madagascar are continually funny. And who was the best part of the Ice Age franchise? It sure wasn’t any of the characters with lines. A similar thing is happening with Despicable Me; the gibberish-spouting yellow Minions are going to get their own movie in 2015. But, really, Despicable Me 2 is just a Minions movie that happens to have other characters in it as well. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The film follows the further exploits of Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), the now-reformed supervillain who is now raising his three adopted daughters, Margo, Edith, and Agnes, and trying to live a peaceful existence as a jam-maker. His minions remain loyal, but his longtime associate Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) decides the suburban life is not exciting enough for his villainous energy. Gru’s life doesn’t remain boring for long, though, as he’s quickly kidnapped/recruited by a clandestine government agency called the Anti-Villain League headed up by Steve Coogan’s Silas Ramsbottom (“heheheh, bottom”) to find another great supervillain. To aid him, Gru will have the help of the rather daffy but nice agent Lucy (Kristin Wiig). As they go about finding the villain, who owns one of the handful of stores at the local mall, Gru and Lucy begin to see more than just co-work in each other.
It’s not a particularly innovative story, but if you’re trying to make a sequel that allows your once-evil main character to still do something, this is one of the better ways to do it. The comedy in the film is actually very funny and more clever than you might expect. The Minions, of course, have the bulk of the laugh moments, but are also used for scares when they’re turned by the bad guy into insane, purple monsters. It also ends in one of the best animated action sequences committed to CGI.
The Blu-ray comes with three mini-Minion-movies, in case you didn’t get enough of them, several making-of featurettes, a directors commentary, and one whole deleted scene. All in all, it’s a very funny movie and good, wholesome, family entertainment, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.
If you read my 13 favorite things from the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, then you’ll know that I pretty much categorically adored it. It was exactly what I wanted from a multi-Doctor story and an anniversary special. It explains a whole lot of stuff, celebrates the past, looks forward to the future, changes everything and yet nothing at all, and it weaves quite a good narrative as well. I know it didn’t impress everybody, but I think the vast majority of folks who watched it were in agreement about it. It’s just wonderful to see Matt Smith and David Tennant together, it was great seeing Tennant again at all, and it was really lovely the way John Hurt became one of my favorite Doctors in his very limited screen time. (I expect a fair number of War Doctor novels and or audio adventures, by the way.) I’ve now watched it three times and I have to resist the urge to watch it another 50.
And now that it’s out on Blu-ray, in a handy 3D, regular, and DVD set, you can watch it as many times as your little hearts desire. Or your enlarged hearts desire; I don’t know your life. The set has a decent number of extras, especially given the speediness of the release from when the thing actually aired. I expect this has something to do with the Christmas special’s impending airdate. “The Day of the Doctor” has both minisodes (including the fabulous “The Night of the Doctor,” featuring the brilliant Paul McGann), the 13 minute making-of that played after the cinema screenings in the US and Canada, and the 45 minute special “Doctor Who Explained,” which has the same narrator and graphics as the “Revisited” specials. This is far from a vanilla release, for which I’m thankful, but I feel like there could be a lot more extra things they could have done. For instance, a commentary track, preferably with Smith and Tennant, would have been extra brilliant, or maybe a few things we haven’t seen already. Still, like I said, this is a speedy release designed to be stocking stuffers before “The Time of the Doctor,” so I’ll forgive it a lot. And maybe one day they’ll do a special edition release. That’d be awesome.
As for something else that happened a half-century ago, Mary Poppins, Walt Disney’s classic and possibly best film, turns 50 in 2014, and since there’s a movie out about the making of said film, Saving Mr. Banks, it seemed high time a spiffed-up Blu-ray release happened. Without doubt, this has to be one of the best movies ever made. Yeah, suck it, Bridge on the River Kwai! (NOTE: I have nothing against David Lean or even that movie, I just thought it would be a funny reference. Who knew?) I remember watching Mary Poppins whenever I was home sick in elementary school, because it’s a long movie and it would keep me quiet for awhile. The movie still manages to delight and impress even after so long. Even Dick Van Dyke’s not-at-all-English English accent seems to fit with the proceedings somehow. I think the only word that can really describe this movie begins with S. I’m not going to spell it out for you.
Fast and Furious 6 – It seems like very bad timing, given the current circumstances, but now you can watch the late Paul Walker’s final foray into driving speedily along with Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. Check out our interviews with director Justin Lin and co-star Jordana Brewster.
Futurama The Complete Series – Now you can own all 124 episodes and four feature-length movies of the show that is simultaneously one of the funniest comedies of all time and one of the cleverest science fiction shows of all time. We’ll be watching this until 2999. Check out my interview with writer/EP David X. Cohen from before the final season began and watch our coverage of the series finale with cast and crew.
The Big Gundown – The OTHER-other Sergio in Spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Sollima, directed this raucous and exciting adventure starring Lee Van Cleef and Tomas Milian. Long out of DVD circulation, this new release has a Blu-ray, DVD, and soundtrack CD, which is well worth it.
Gatchaman Complete Collection – Anime fans rejoice! The complete series of the landmark 1970s space adventure is now out on Blu-ray. Get your space-bird costumes ready.