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Previews of upcoming releases and special screenings

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STORY WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media

Amy

What is the price of fame? The tragically truncated life of Amy Winehouse offers a cautionary tale.

At the tender age of 24, the English singer/songwriter swept the 2008 Grammy Awards. Her album, “Back to Black,” won five of the coveted statuettes. This included three so-called Big Four, Best New Artist, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year.

Winehouse became an international sensation. She was at the top of the world. Would this early success portend a long and productive career?

Alas, by 2011, Winehouse, only 27, was dead of acute alcohol poisoning.

“Amy,” the new documentary by Asif Kapadia, examines Winehouse’s life, including her early years. Also known as “Amy – The Girl Behind The Name,” it includes archival footage, which capture her as a fourteen year old, long before she became a celebrity sensation.

In this image released by A24 Films, singer Amy Winehouse, right, appears in a scene from the film, "Amy." (A24 Films via AP)

In this image released by A24 Films, singer Amy Winehouse, right, appears in a scene from the film, “Amy.” (A24 Films via AP)

The cooperation of Winehouse’s parents was deemed essential to making the film. Mitch Winehouse, the subject’s father, was impressed with the Kapadia’s work on “Senna.” That documentary, focused on Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula One racing driver, who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at age 34. Amy’s dad agreed to allow his Kapadia to use footage in his possession.

A trailer for the film was first shown at this year’s Grammy awards. The site of Winehouse’s greatest triumph was the perfect place to show it, from both an iconographic and promotional perspective, to unveil it. Of course, it triggered a high level of anticipation for the film.

“Amy” was unveiled at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival at the Midnight Screenings section of the event. It elicited overwhelmingly enthusiastic reviews.

David Joseph, the CEO of Universal Music UK, touted the film, “About two years ago we decided to make a movie about her — her career and her life. It’s a very complicated and tender movie. It tackles lots of things about family and media, fame, addiction, but most importantly, it captures the very heart of what she was about, which is an amazing person and a true musical genius.”

The film is not without controversy. It portrays Mitch Winehouse, the subject’s father, in a decidedly unflattering fashion. Stung by the depiction, he has castigated the film and insisted that it is inaccurate.

Despite these criticisms, “Amy” has been widely hailed as a tasteful and balanced film.

Opens wide on Friday, July 10. R (for language and drug material) 128 minutes. A24

Minions

Minions are little yellow creatures with high pitched voices, which are totally unintelligible. They seem altogether adorable. However, since the dawn of time, these seemingly innocuous entities have served as assistants to such villains as Tyrannosaurus Rex and Dracula. In the “Despicable Me” films, they were lackeys to Gru, the super-villain voiced by Steve Carell.

“Despicable Me” and its follow up garnered $1.5 billion in worldwide box office. Gru’s gibberish-spouting simpletons proved irresistible to young tykes. Hence, they have now been spun off as the co-protagonists of their own eponymous prequel, “Minions.”

Voiced by the film’s co-director, Pierre Coffin, the minions are recruited by Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world’s first super-villain. Along with her husband, Herb (John Hamm from “Mad Men”), she plans to take over the world. That’s a modest little aspiration.

Scarlet covets the crown of St. Edward, the regal symbol of authority, worn by the head of the British Empire. She assigns the minions to steal it from the Tower of London. Will the minions succeed in their task? If they do, what will be the consequences?

The vocal cast also includes Carell (back as Gru); Geoffrey Rush, (who narrates); Allison Janney and Michael Keaton.

Although “Minions’ is an American made film, somewhat curiously, it has already had its debut abroad. In 44 overseas markets, it has been a huge hit. Indeed, in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia, it became the highest grossing animated film in the history of those countries. Step aside, “Frozen.” This early box office results should presage the wild success of “Minions” in the United States.

Opens wide on Friday, July 10.  PG (for action and rude humor) 91 minutes Universal Pictures

Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com.

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