Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Cinema File #227: "Trance" Review

Trance, the new cerebral heist thriller from Danny Boyle, follows a would-be art thief with apparent amnesia who is held hostage by the gang he doesn't remember screwing over. Once they're convinced his memory loss is genuine, they turn to a seemingly random hypnotherapist to help him recall where he stashed the stolen merchandise before he forgot, along the way unlocking hidden memories, alternate personalities, and a dark past that causes events to spiral out of control. Well, out of the control of some people, but all according to the best laid plans of others. Plots within plots and twists within twists are the order of the day with this movie, and ultimately your enjoyment of it will be determined by how many narrative back flips you can tolerate, and whether or not you can suspend your disbelief that anything so convoluted could actually happen.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Personal Life Update - Pimping Myself Out To The World!

No big movie review today, but a few quick notes about me and other me related things:

1: If you read this and live in the area of Columbus Ohio as I do, please be sure to check out The Gateway Film Center, 1550 North High Street, this Wednesday 7/31/2013 at 8:30 for the 48 Hour Film Project screenings (Group B). The 48 Hour Film Project is a local short film competition where teams are challenged to write and produce a 4 to 7 minute short film in 48 hours or less. My team Team Edwin J. Hill produced one, the second year in a row we've participated, and it will be showing in the second group. Our movie is called Cordless, and it is awesome. If you want an example of some of our other work, you can see last year's entry HERE.

2: This Thursday, 8/01/2013, a pilot script for a TV show I co-wrote with my good friend Nate Zoebl will be reviewed on the Scriptshadow website at It's called State of Decay, and follows a group of survivors in a mysterious post-zombie world where the dead are officially dead again, and people have to live with what they did to stay alive. This is a big deal actually, as Nate's already got management contacts and a script optioned off the strength of a screenplay review, and while nothing is guaranteed of course, it's a lot of exposure.

3: My Celebrities I'd Go Gay For List is now officially a Top Ten:

- 1 - Keith David
- 2 - Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
- 3 - John Hamm
- 4 - Michael Fassbender (for the size)
- 5 - Avery Brooks (but only if I get to call him Captain)
- 6 - Kevin Sorbo (if he lightens up on the right wing stuff)
- 7 - De Forrest Kelly (if resurrected as a living person - not a zombie or walking skeleton)
- 8 - Hugh Jackman with Wolverine Sideburns (Snikt!)
- 9 - C. Thomas Howell (After Keith David and Avery Brooks, I've got a thing for black guys)
- 10 - David Boreanaz circa ten years ago, pre Bones flab (re-watching Angel currently)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Cinema File #226: "The Wolverine" Review

As much of a comic book fan as I am, I must admit that Wolverine and the larger X-Men universe have never really been my cup of tea. Mostly its just the fact that I didn't grow up with it as a comic like I did with Spiderman or The Fantastic Four, only coming on board with the nineties animated series and backtracking from there, but more than that, I never really understood why mutants were so intolerable in a world with so many other super beings. Why is a red, white, and blue roids junkie a national hero but a group of people with a shared genetic condition a suspect class? It always came off to me like an excuse for what amounts to social commentary too heavy handed to really be effective, and stylistically, more "cool" and "edgy" than substantively awesome. No single character embodies that style over substance better than Logan, The Wolverine, an amnesiac loner with claws and a healing factor, like Lobo or Deadpool more a loose assemblage of bad ass cliches and fan service than an actual character. Even for this comic book guy, the new film The Wolverine had a ways to go to win me over, and while it doesn't quite measure up to some of the best superhero movies in recent years, it is far from one of the worst.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stop Or My Mom Will Podcast: Episode Six - Part One! Now Available!

We get all classical and shit this week with a lengthy discussion of Shakespeare by way of the stupidest text book in the world, and then Mom talks about...well, you'll just have to wait and see to be surprised, because its just so totally different from all the other episodes, where she just talked about the same fucking thing over and over again.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Schlockbusted #2: "The Philadelphia Experiment" Review

I normally have an arbitrary cut-off date for movies I'll review under the Cinema File banner, to enforce a measure of self-discipline in only featuring movies released in the current or previous year. Today's movie is probably the oldest Syfy Channel Original movie I have saved in my queue that still falls within this range, which is the whole reason I started the Schlockbusted series, to give me the opportunity to examine some of the older examples of Syfy's catalog  among other "classic" schlocky movies on the underside of Netflix. Though I happened to come to this decision around the time I watched The Philadelphia Experiment, the level of excitement that inspired said decision is a total coincidence, and should in no way suggest that today's movie is anything other than a boring, completely pointless piece of crap.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Cinema File 225: "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox" Review

Witness Reason #8652 for why Warner Brothers should just give up and let the DCAU crew write all of their live action superhero movies from now on. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is based on the fairly recent mini-series Flashpoint, starring, as you might expect, the Flash. What you might not know if you're not that into comics is that Flashpoint, in addition to being a great story in its own right, is actually the final chapter in the last great era of DC comics, its time distorting premise paving the way for the lackluster and increasingly confusing New 52 continuity. Perhaps its fitting that such a useless world of comic books would be set up not by a tent pole hero like Superman or Batman, but by a second stringer like the Flash, more well known for how trifling his rogue's gallery is than for any of his classic tales. That's not to say Barry Allen can't kick ass every once in a while, and if there's ever a story to redeem the character in the eyes of a largely uncaring public, this is it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Idiot Box: Beware The Batman 1x02 - "Secrets" Review

Yeah, I know I said I probably wouldn't follow this show regularly like I do some other ones, but given the marked improvement in episode two for a show I expressed such lack of faith in, I felt it was only right that I mention how much better this second installment of Beware The Batman is than the pilot. This week we were introduced to Magpie, another villain plucked from DC obscurity and used here as BtB’s version of Catwoman, pursuant to their rule of using lesser known villains in place of Batman’s established Rogue’s Gallery. If you know anything about Magpie, you might find it strange that she would be brought into any show that’s trying to be even remotely dark and gritty, but then this show is as much about re-examining these characters as it is highlighting them for an unfamiliar audience, and unlike last week, this time it’s actually done well, in such a way that it largely justifies this approach.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Cinema File #224: "Grown Ups 2" Review

Recently I reviewed the independent comedy film InAPPropriate Comedy, written and directed by Shamwow pitchman Vince Offer, which re-defined terribleness for a new generation. It was a movie so bad that relative to all the racism and homophobia trying to pass for humor, the single best part of the whole thing was the presence of Deuce Bigalow himself, Rob Schneider. Walking into Grown Ups 2, the sequel to the prototypical lackluster Adam Sandler lazy comedy Grown Ups, it is interesting to note that while Schneider was willing to be in the movie with Flirty Harry, Blackass, and The Amazing Racist, he was for some reason unwilling to appear in this film. I'm forced to ask, how bad could Grown Ups 2 possibly be that Rob Schneider was too good for it? Well, admittedly its still not as bad as the Slapchop Guy's crapnum opus, as if anything could be, but its still pretty goddamn bad.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Cinema File #223: "InAPPropriate Comedy" Review

Being an amateur online film critic, I end up seeing a lot of movies in general, and a lot of them tend to be really bad. I rarely ever seek out bad movies, it’s just that I like to give everything a chance, and my tastes also tend to align with a few genres that are known for less than stellar productions. Being an avid fan of schlocky straight to video trash, one might think I would be better prepared for a movie as soul crushingly terrible as InAPPropriate Comedy, but after watching it, I wonder if anyone could adequately prepare themselves for the sheer terror of the undertaking. With as many reviews as I've written, I'm almost positive I've made the comparison to Lovecraft: that watching a bad film is akin to staring into the maddening maw of Cthulu himself, with all the resultant follicle draining and insanity, but never has this symbolism been more apt to describe a movie viewing experience.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Cinema File #222: "RED 2" Review

The original RED, very loosely based on a comic book by one of my favorite writers currently working today, Warren Ellis, was a delightful if somewhat overly silly spy action romp that was mostly saved by the pedigree of its cast. What made the movie so instantly enjoyable was just how much fun the actors were having playing off of each other, which came across on screen and elevated the material beyond what was a largely forgettable plot. RED 2 is considerably less fun, with the characters we know from the first one falling into a slightly disappointing mechanical routine when their not being ripped of every quality that made them interesting the first time, and a rapidly expanding cast including the addition of Catherine Zeta Jones and Anthony Hopkins, none of whom make up for one regrettably absent Morgan Freeman. And yet, perhaps solely on the left over goodwill from the original, even as all of its constituent parts are clearly deficient in comparison, RED 2 comes together in the end as something just good enough to justify the undertaking.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Cinema File #221: "Turbo" Review

Is there anyone currently living on the planet Earth who, when they first heard the premise for Turbo or saw the trailer for it, didn't think it was completely ridiculous? A snail wants to move fast, takes a hit of nitrous oxide, and then joins the Indy 500, which he's eligible to enter because who cares. It sounds like Dreamworks just broke down their CGI formula and started playing Mad Libs with it, and this is what came out. And you know what? Despite all common sense that might lead you to believe otherwise, it's actually not that bad. It's not great, and at the end of the day it's mostly forgettable, but it isn't nearly as painfully annoying as I think anyone would reasonably expect going in, and on the whole not nearly as bad as it could have been, or by all rights should have been. Turbo, the super fast Indy racing snail decent. Go figure.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stop Or My Mom Will Podcast: Episode Five - Part Two! Now Available!

Yep, its that time again, which is to say the completely random interval in which I decide to upload a new episode of my podcast. This week's episode of Stop Or My Mom Will Podcast is the continuation of part one, which features our in depth discussion of the film Star Trek Into Darkness, if you have a very broad definition of in depth that includes a lot of meandering and tangents that go nowhere or peter out. Also some other stuff I assume, I forget for the most part. Enjoy!

Stream Below!

Or download it directly HERE.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Cinema File #220: "Under The Bed" Review

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I've always been a fan of movies that pit younger protagonists against supernatural evil. To me, its the perfect fit, as most primal fears that inspire a belief in the supernatural begin in childhood. Most people don't start being afraid of the Boogeyman at age 30. A while back I reviewed The Hole 3D, a disjointed mess of a movie by Joe Dante that given my intense love for the majority of the man's work I found massively disappointing. I just watched the independent horror/fantasy film Under The Bed, and frankly, any die hard fan who was as saddened by The Hole as I was needs to watch this movie to see exactly where Dante went so wrong.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Cinema File #219: "A Band Called Death" Review

I often find myself stymied when attempting to classify the music I enjoy listening to. Most of this comes from the fact that a lot of my favorite music is fairly eclectic (what genre would you call They Might Be Giants, Elvis Costello, Oingo Boingo, or Weird Al Yankovic for instance?), but even when I’m listening to more mainstream stuff, sometimes I have trouble with the labels. “Is this rock, alt rock, punk, proto punk, metal, nu metal? It’s still rock and roll to me,” I might say, and then I realize I’m once again quoting Billy Joel songs to solve all my problems, which means I’m officially too lame to even be having this train of thought (you have no idea how many I times I’ve moved out of Allentown to escape those pesky arson charges). It all just seems so confusing, so if you want to tell me that a band called Death, as featured in the new documentary A Band Called Death, is the first black punk band, or even the first punk band in general, I’ll just have to take your word for it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Cinema File #218: "Downloaded" Review

The Internet is incredibly awesome. Not only does it provide a platform for insightful movie review blogs and vulgar movie podcasts, more broadly, it represents the one arena of modern life that still affords actual intellectual freedom to those who seek it. Now, that might sound strange considering how many corporate hoops you've probably had to jump through today alone to manage your online life, be it via your ISP, the various pop up ads you've had to close, or the many social media sites whose terms and conditions you've had to navigate to "express yourself." But that's only one facet of this amazing Internet thing. The confluence of the digitization of media and the lack of boundaries to Internet ethics has created an environment where any enterprising nerd with a DSL connection can get literally any piece of information they want, proprietary or otherwise, completely free. Whether you call it file sharing or piracy, the power this has taken out of the hands of the mighty and placed into the hands of regular people is undeniable. As seen in the new documentary Downloaded, one of the dominoes that led inexorably to this point was the tiny, unassuming late 90's start up company called Napster.

The Cinema File #217: "Room 237" Review

Stanley Kubrick is one of the most over-rated directors of all time. Now, before you get your panties in a wad and start thinking I have to turn in my critic's license...which I totally have because that's a thing, know that I don't mean that he's a bad director, or that many of his films aren't every bit the classics they are said to be. Dr. Strangelove is easily one of the ten best movies of all time, and while it eventually goes off the rails and up its own ass in the end, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a technical masterpiece and a riveting piece of science fiction that still holds up today, which is something that can rarely be said for sci fi films of the era. Hell, I even think A.I. is better than most people say it is, even if I think it should have ended twenty minutes earlier with a sad robot kid drowning forever in the ocean. When I say Kubrick is overrated, what I mean to say is that no other director is quite so synonymous with and ultimately diminished by his own mystique, the over sized myth of the man, his method, and his madness overtaking any objective analysis of his work.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Idiot Box: Beware The Batman - "Hunted" Review

As is to be expected after the culmination of a successful film franchise, DC Comics' Batman is once again on our TV in cartoon form, and as with every new series from The Batman to The Brave And The Bold, we have another attempt to do the impossible - recapture the unparalleled awesomeness of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series. One cannot speak to this specific iteration of cartoon Batman without addressing the controversy that preceded it, following the announcement that Beware The Batman would be taking a radical new direction from prior series, in full CGI, replacing Robin with Katana from the Outsiders and possibly a field active Alfred, and most problematic, a blanket ban on many of the most well known Batman villains in favor of more obscure bad guys never before seen in cartoon form. I for one didn't mind these changes and actually rather looked forward to some them, but after watching the first episode, I can't say we're off to a good start.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Schlockbusted #1: Sharknado!

(A quick production note: You'll notice this isn't under my normal Cinema File banner used for movie reviews, but under a brand new one that sounds vaguely similar to my Mockbusted series. That's because I've decided to take this opportunity to unveil a new review series I've been planning for a while, specifically for movies too schlocky to really fit in the Cinema File, but ones that aren't directly mockbusting any mainstream film. Unlike the Cinema File, there will be no year old cut off date, so this will be my chance to explore the schlock of the recent past, mostly from the dark and fun side of Netflix and Hulu Plus. First up, I thought it was only fitting that I pop my Schlockbusted cherry with a movie everyone's rightfully excited about - Sharknado!)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mockbusted #18: Atlantic Rim

I walked away from Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim somewhat conflicted, but only because my love for the Giant Monster genre placed me in a position where it was much harder to be objective about what is at the end of the day a thoroughly entertaining summer blockbuster. In light of my resulting nerd rage, I wasn't sure how I would feel watching the Asylum version, except that everything I saw in the trailers told me to prepare for the worst. At the same time, being a cheap imitation at the outset, Atlantic Rim was not subject to the same problems I had with Pacific Rim, because being derivative and exploitative is sort of the point. Unfortunately, whatever hope I might have had was dashed after about the half hour mark, when I literally fell asleep just trying to watch the damn thing.

I've always said that being boring is the worst sin a movie can commit. Even a terrible movie that holds my interest is still worth more than one that doesn't, and Atlantic Rim is easily the latter. It follows the same basic structure of Pacific Rim with Giant Robots fighting Giant Monsters, except in a world essentially otherwise like our own, without any of the kind of detailed world building that made the del Toro film so much fun to sit through. Most of the movie plays out more like an episode of Power Rangers, with color coordinated bots and pilots and a whole lot of cheese for your trouble. Actually, to be more precise, the movie doesn't even have the charm of Power Rangers, which at least has guys in suits reminiscent of classic Godzilla movies; this is more like the chintzy CGI Zords from the first Power Rangers movie.

Its strange to say it, but Atlantic Rim actually did a lot of the things I criticized Pacific Rim for not doing, it just does them so badly that any advantage is lost. With the exception of one undersea battle (the first one, as if to say the climactic one from Pacific Rim is only the beginning for this movie), every conflict takes place in broad daylight so that the action is clearly visible. When you have the budget to make everything look amazing, this is a good thing, and something Pacific Rim sorely lacked, but when you don't have that budget, effects that obscure this like weather and poor lighting are your friend. Also, the design work is a little more fanciful, colorful, and less realistic, which again in a good movie would have been an asset, but here just showcases the cheapness of the production. The models are no more differentiated, just the same robot in three color swapped forms, and they literally fight the same monster twice because they didn't have the money to make a second one.

And yet, the lame CGI action scenes are easily the best part of the movie, which is to say the only part that is even remotely entertaining. If the whole movie had been just that, it might have even been one of the studio's better efforts. The problem is everything that happens outside of the suits, most notably the focus on the pilots' private lives. The movie starts out fairly fast, enough to make you think you're in for a fun silly ride, but after the first fight, we're treated to an unbearably long series of filler segments including a completely pointless fire rescue scene, a scene in a brig that feels almost as long as the sentence of the prisoner inside it, and a fancy dinner party that might have had some bearing on the plot, except that was about the time I fell asleep, and I couldn't bring myself to not skip to the next scene when I started it over the next day. Graham Greene's general and an eye patch wearing rival officer try their best to save the non-robot scenes by not giving a shit, but it is to no avail.

I can't help but think that this shouldn't have been a mockbuster of Pacific Rim at all, but in true Asylum contrarian fashion, should have been the mockbuster for Jack The Giant Slayer, instead of the abysmal Jack The Giant Killer. Just call the robots Jacks and lend the monsters some vague mystical fantasy element to them, and this would have been the kind of weird formula twist we've come to expect from this company. As it stands, its too similar to Pacific Rim, which sounds strange considering what its supposed to be, but then the best of these movies haven't cared about the content being the same as long as the title does the work for them. They had to know they couldn't improve on the technical skill of Guillermo del Toro, and that this was the perfect opportunity to go into a completely different crazy direction. That they failed to do this in favor of a cheap imitation of an expensive imitation is sad, even for these guys.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Come On Geeks, Unite! Already. Like Voltron And Shit (Further Thoughts On Pacific Rim)

Coming away from Pacific Rim, I have to think that it will prove to be one of the most mainstream niche movies, or one of the most niche mainstream movies ever made. It sits at this strange apex of geek culture and popcorn populism, big budget and full of action and yet infused with so many little touches that evoke more heady material, elements that if they were to be explored in any substantive way or without the slam bang CGI carnage would be anything but relatable to a wide audience. One might think that this attempt to be all things to all people and to appeal to as many different demographics and subsets as possible while maintaining some degree of authenticity with a very specific and esoteric sub genre would be doomed to failure and ultimately entertain no one. And yet, it largely succeeds, at least at the entertainment part. So, in light of all of that and my seemingly contrary lukewarm review, I have to ask myself, why am I so crabby?

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Cinema File #216: "Pacific Rim" Review

A few days before attending an opening night showing of Pacific Rim, I was in a different room of the same theater at a weekly event I frequent, locked in intense trivia combat that on that night had been dedicated to classic Giant Monster movies to honor the upcoming film. Out of ten or so contestants asked to name as many examples of the genre as possible one after the other, eliminated upon drawing a blank or repeating an answer already said, I ended up in the final round against a more than worthy opponent. I ultimately lost, but only because in the heat of battle I forgot that the film Godzilla: All Monsters Attack had already been said under its alternate title Godzilla's Revenge (yes, that's how esoterically geeky this contest got). I bring all this up not just to brag, but to also point out that if anyone on the planet was in the target audience for Guillermo del Toro's latest exercise in high concept nerd-stroking, it would be me, and yet the farther I come away from it, the more the whole thing leaves me cold.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Today's Posts Are Cancelled Due To Giant Monsters...

Just stopping in to say I don't have time to say anything today. Ordinarily I'd have a review or something, but I got a 7 o'clock showing of Pacific Rim tonight, so I'm all booked up at the moment. Stay tuned for my thoughts tomorrow, and then my thoughts on its mockbuster Atlantic Rim probably sometime over the weekend (Hint: I fell asleep watching it).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mockbusted #17: Apocalypse Z

There is always a distinction that needs to be made between true mockbusters, those movies purposefully designed to be knockoffs of current or upcoming big budget films, and movies like Apocalypse Z. At first blush, Apocalypse Z would appear to be a mockbuster of World War Z, but really it is so in name only. That is to say, this was a completely different movie when it started (I can’t exactly say original given how derivative it is), and then they just changed the name to sound similar when they saw they were coming out around the same time as World War Z. That being said, considering how little World War Z tried to be different from every other zombie movie ever made, you could argue that any zombie movie coming out this year could be considered a mockbuster, and since there are typically hundreds and I have neither the time nor the inclination to watch them all, I’m gonna have to go with this to tide me over.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Cinema File #215: “The Heat” Review

Since showing up as the breakout character in 2011's Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy has arguably become one of the most successful female comedic actresses working today. Her talent is obvious and undeniable, as is the shameful way in which it has been abused of late. Whether its a brief cameo in This Is 40 or a painfully long starring role in Identity Thief, the idea that someone with such a clear acumen for improvisation would be pigeon holed into playing the same character over and over and over again just seems like a waste. In her latest film The Heat, she's teamed up with Sandra Bullock, who after a much longer career filled with many bland romantic comedies knows what wasting comedic potential is all about. The result is, surprisingly, not as bad as expected. It's not great by any means, but based on the low standards I had going in, I found myself laughing about as much as I was sighing or rolling my eyes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Cinema File #214: “The Lone Ranger” Review

Given the presence of Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski, and Disney, many have compared The Lone Ranger favorably and unfavorably to The Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, applying the same high impact action comedy style of the successful swashbuckler to the equally over the hill Western genre. While the comparison makes sense, I couldn't shake the memory of a completely different movie, 2011's The Green Hornet starring Seth Rogen. Both films are attempts to revive a long dead franchise that is completely unrelatable to a modern audience, both feature an annoyingly ineffectual hero propped up by a much more capable non-white sidekick who speaks in broken English, and both co-star actor Tom Wilkinson. In fact, for all you trivia nerds out there, The Lone Ranger is actually the The Green Hornet's great uncle, both with the surname Reid (look it up!). Also, unlike the Pirates movies, both represent massive financial failures that deserve their lack of success, being entertaining to a point, but ultimately terribly misguided.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Stop Or My Mom Will Podcast - Episode Five Now Available

What's all this then? A new podcast so soon after the last one? Holy shit balls. Check out Episode Five, Part One of Two, because yes, we've finally realized that two hour podcasts are too fucking long, so we're splitting that shit in half. You'll just have to listen to find out what surprising things we talk about, but here's a hint - we'd have to be crazy to keep talking about the exact same shit we've talked about for the last four episodes, right?

CLICK HERE to download or stream.

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Cinema File #213: "Despicable Me 2" Review

The local theater where I see most of my movies happens to be a part of the Cinemark chain of cinemas, not because of any brand loyalty on my part, but simply due to its close proximity to my home, and its relatively cheap ticket price as compared to the next closest theater, an AMC boasting thirty screens and many luxuries that inflate the cost. One of the drawbacks to the Cinemark experience that almost makes me want to spend the extra money to go elsewhere is that I have to regularly be assaulted with the presence of the Minions from Despicable Me. I don’t know if they do this nationwide, though I have no reason to think they don’t, but at my theater, at least for the past year since I’ve been going there, these tiny yellow gibberish spouting creatures have been the mascots of this chain, appearing before every movie engaging in their wacky antics to remind me to be quiet and buy popcorn. In the original film, I found these monsters to be only mildly annoying and occasionally amusing. I have grown to despise them and everything they stand for with every fiber of my being. Just thought you should know where my head was at going into the sequel, Despicable Me 2, as your experience may vary considerably.

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