On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 10, 2013

When a movie only happens because the first was a surprise hit it more times than not has a sense it exists because the iron was hot rather than there being any ideas of value proposed to continue the story. Thus is the dilemma the makers of Despicable Me 2 likely encountered when the small Illumination Entertainment company scored a $540 million worldwide hit with the original film. Naturally, the studio was quick to get to work on a follow-up and now that the minions have become a cultural mainstay with a feature of their own on the way the anticipation for the second installment in what will no doubt become a more extensive series was sky high. The influence of the charming first installment looms over this uneven sequel though and unfortunately that doesn't always bode well as there is plenty going on here, but nothing really feels like it happens. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense if I'm being honest because the voice cast is on point, the story is a surprisingly natural extension of where the first one left off and though the animation itself is nowhere up to the standards of titan studios like Pixar, enough care is taken in the execution of the film to include countless side jokes, little details that add real personality to the characters and even a story arc for the minions, but in the end that doesn't make a complete film that is as satisfying as it should be. It is tough to explain and is really disappointing because I genuinely loved the first film and was very much looking forward to this sequel despite the fact I have no small children as excuses to go and see this with, but was more than willing to walk up and buy a ticket with my head held high. Maybe it is indeed the fact I had such high expectations going in that I was somewhat let down by what was delivered, but either way it should be understood that Despicable Me 2 is not a bad film by any means, but it is purely an average film that takes advantage of the minion popularity and eager parents willing to shell out money on these DVD's and Blu-Rays as well as countless other merchandise opportunities while the film itself feels rushed in all the human aspects it tackled so originally, or at least more interestingly, in the first film. Full review here. C+

Back in May, when Fast & Furious 6 was released in theaters I wrote that the movie was, "silly, sure, but you cannot say it isn't exciting or entertaining. Bringing characters together from every installment and having Diesel face off against Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson didn't hurt either and has now perfectly set the stage for the sixth and seventh films. And if Furious 6 is any indication, we're in for a good, long ride with this franchise." Of course, little did I know that a mere six months later the franchise would lose it's second in command and the future of the franchise would become as foggy as ever. The death of Paul Walker will forever loom over the series now, yet it is in knowing the amount of time and effort he put into these films that will allow fans to still enjoy them. With the sixth installment of a franchise that seemed to have completely run out of gas by the time the brand new cast of the third installment showed up, this thing has certainly turned itself around and while production has halted on the seventh chapter, I highly doubt this machine will slow its pace. I wasn't initially a fan of the original film that premiered in the summer of 2001. It was a different time, yet out of this opportunity to capitalize on the interest in street racing and cars as well as Walker's popularity came the star making role of Vin Diesel and one of the most unlikely film franchises ever. Furious 6 has director Lin perfecting his keen eye for action sequences while getting us to invest in these characters even more than the main plot of the film that is as typical as you might expect in these types of movies. No one cares what the bad guy (Luke Evans this time around) is trying to steal and what could be done to humanity if he ever got his hands on it, no, all we care to see develop are the relationships between these characters be it Brian becoming a father, Dom wrestling with how to approach a love he thought lost, the comedic relief supplied by Tyrese and Ludacris that builds their bond, the unavoidably tragic end to the budding romance between Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (the lovely Gal Gadot) and not to mention the powerhouse that is The Rock. This franchise and this installment specifically moves past taking itself so seriously and becomes aware of what kind of movie it is and has constructed that kind of movie in the best way possible: a no holds barred, action flick. Full review here. B+

There is an interesting psychology surrounding films where we are either repulsed or made angry while watching them yet still resonate as a fine cinematic experience or something we admire for its craft and importance. This is nothing new in a world where disturbing true stories are brought to the screen every winter in hopes of Awards contention, but when they are done extremely well it brings up how striking the line is between how this can be classified as entertainment yet we feel nothing but irritated and somewhat put off by the content of the tale we just witnessed. Such is the case with The Hunt, a Danish film from director Thomas Vinterberg that focuses on the perception of one man by people who thought they knew and trusted him, but are inclined to think differently based on things that come to light under a misguided investigation. It is a gut wrenching set of circumstances that set-up the fateful lie in which the story revolves around and if re-told as anything more than pure fact would indeed sound like it was being made up. The crutch that the film leans on though is that this man, our protagonist and who the film wisely sets up as trustworthy and completely innocent from the beginning in our all-knowing perspective is that he is by all accounts a well-respected and well-liked piece of this small communal fabric. The small town in which the tale takes place is itself a picturesque village with large houses and scenery to rest your eyes on for days with a strong, core companionship between the citizens that relays to each of them depending on one another to continue going about their daily lives in such peace. So, when an unexpected scandal hits the quiet town and it comes from within what was presumed a tightly woven fabric things begin to unravel quicker and uglier than any of these people would have likely ever imagined. It is easy for us to see the truth of the situation, but almost just as easy is to see how things become so misconstrued and even further, just how easy it would be to assume what the majority believes as those outside the situation no doubt do. The way in which it resonates throughout and loses more of the critical detail as it does so; we likely see it happen everyday, especially in our gossip-fueled society, but The Hunt brings to the forefront the reality of just how far misplaced power can be taken when perception is mistaken for unquestionable emotions. Full review here. A-

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