Movie Planner: 'Minions,' murder and doomed musicians

The Minions in Minions do the evil bidding of Scarlett Overkill (voice of Sandra Bullock).
The Minions in Minions do the evil bidding of Scarlett Overkill (voice of Sandra Bullock).
Published July 8, 2015

Inside Out finally gets competition for summer kid dollars this weekend with the release of MINIONS (PG), starring those yellow, thumb-shaped havoc wreakers who stole two Despicables Me's from Steve Carell.

Personally, I've never understood the appeal of these gibberish-squealing sidekicks for anyone over 10, unless you're video-babysitting someone under that age. Armchair psychologists would explain them as manifestations of pure id, doing whatever they please and laughing past consequences. Stadium-seated moviegoers simply explain them as fun.

Minions traces the history of these mischievous critters B.G. (before Gru), serving a series of super villains including Cleopatra, a T. rex and Napoleon before settling on Scarlett Overkill (voice of Sandra Bullock), who wants to take over the world, as any super villain worth his or her death ray does.

Find a full review of Minions here.

Definitely not for children is THE GALLOWS (R), a horror flick whose scariest quality going in is featuring a starring role for Cassidy Gifford, daughter of TV host Kathie Lee Gifford, who's doing what she can to plug it.

Otherwise, The Gallows appears to be standard shakycam terror, with the usual supernatural gimmicks (night vision, yank wires, etc.). Students learn that a class play staged 20 years earlier resulted in an accidental death, which is the fastest way to earn bad reviews. Now they want to re-stage the play to honor the departed but something deadly gets in the way. At only 81 minutes counting end credits, The Gallows hardly seems worth a trip to the theater.

Avoid the rugrats jabbering like Minions and adults posing as dead teenagers by getting your movie fix on home video. An Academy Award winner and someone who has attended the Oscar ceremony have new movies on DVD.

WOMAN IN GOLD (PG-13) stars Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee from the Holocaust whose family's fortune, including a painting by Gustav Klimt that shares the movie's title, was stolen by Nazis. Maria seeks to reclaim that artwork from her native Austria's government, with the help of a lawyer (Ryan Reynolds) who's in over his head.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called Woman in Gold "a shamelessly sentimental fictionalization of this true story, but it's a fascinating story nonetheless, beautifully photographed and greatly elevated by a brilliant performance from the invaluable Helen Mirren."

Sounds classy. Then there's MAGGIE (PG-13), a rare instance of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie without a trace of overblown hype. Schwarzenegger portrays the father of a zombie bite victim (Abigail Breslin) who slowly is joining the undead.

Rather than focusing on the flesh-munching routine, Maggie concentrates on the grim inevitability of zombiehood, and the persistence of parental protection against all odds. In other words, if you want action star Schwarzenegger, go see Terminator Genisys (which you'll never catch me suggesting again). reviewer Eric Kohn wrote: "Maggie stands out as the first genuine tearjerker in Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. The actor delivers a notably gentler performance unlike anything we've seen from him before."

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Gentler than Jingle All the Way? No, thank you.

This weekend's limited release of Amy (find a full review here) chronicling the life and premature death of singer Amy Winehouse, got me thinking about other fine documentaries about doomed musicians. Watch these, and wonder what might have been:

Ain't In It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm: The heart and percussive soul of the Band, Helm died of throat cancer two years after this profile.

Biggie and Tupac: The East Coast vs. West Coast rap/hip-hop rivalry violently claims the lives of the musical genre's true warriors.

This Is It: Filmed during rehearsals for a concert series Michael Jackson didn't live to perform, This Is It posthumously captures his feverish creativity.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck: An intimate biography of Nirvana's frontman, incorporating candid home videos on his way to self-destruction.

Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me: The country-pop icon deals with Alzheimer's disease during a farewell concert tour, an astonishment as anyone who attended his 2012 shows at Capitol Theatre can testify.