Reviewed: The Lego Movie (2014)

the-lego-movie-posterYou what?! – made a highly entertaining, imaginative, visually stunning and dare I say emotionally charged story with Lego? Did you also insert a subversive message about the evils of big business using the very tool you’re crying out against? Well done, folks – very well done.

Okay, that’s enough lip service. Now to figure out why it works so well. At first glance it seems like a pretty standard hero’s journey with Emmet (Chris Pratt) being our hero who doesn’t know his full potential. Crossing paths with Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) draws him into a world of adventure that he could never dream of as it is revealed to him that he may be more important to everything than he ever could have imagined.

The evil he’s fighting against is Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who only really wants to keep order in his domain and that’s not such a bad thing for everyone if you don’t have a problem with being a drone and playing ball with the system in place.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the masterminds behind this one. Their previous efforts helped make Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs the success that it was and they bring the magic to this too.

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It’s a really pretty movie. The choice to make it CG but make it look stop-motion was perfect. Building the universe almost completely out of existing Lego pieces is another stroke of genius. Up close everything looks so tactile and the wide-shots and backgrounds are simply breathtaking. As Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs does, this film taps into childlike ideas and presents them as exactly that – giving it an earnestness that one can’t help but get swept along with.

The voice cast is perfect with Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks leading the charge against Will Ferrell, and support from a range of others such as Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman and a most memorable Will Arnett as Batman.

Like many others about my age, I dare say that Charlie Day’s Bennie will leave quite an impression with his note-perfect older generation character brought to life in a most amusing way.

Hell, this is all coming off as one big love letter. I’m trying to be subjective but it’s not going as planned. Basically, if growing up you ever had an obsession with Lego, this movie is for you. If you like good stories, this movie is for you. If you want get in touch with your inner child for 90 or so minutes, this film is for you. Get on it.

Reviewed: RED (2010)

RED_posterThis here film was well-received enough that it got a sequel – the sequel’s quite good but let’s go back in time to 2010 to where it all started…ish (I’m sure Bruce won’t mind – he loves time travel).

For a while there, I’d lost my faith in Bruce Willis. After the atrocity that was Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free Or Die Hard) it seemed it was getting harder to find a project with him in it that didn’t feel like he was just going through the motions. Sure, I didn’t watch Cop Out but did I really need to? Then this little gem came out of left field. Based on a DC comic penned by Warren Ellis (the beardy English writer, not the beardy Australian muso) and drawn by Cully Hammer, what we have here is a solid action movie infused with a decent amount of humour and warmth of character delivered by a superior cast.Red_1The story follows retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) who we find is having a little trouble adjusting to the humdrum life of a regular citizen. His phone conversations with Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) who works at the government pension processing office is the only thing in life that he looks forward to. As is wont to happen with ex-CIA, the past comes back to haunt Moses and he finds himself in the sights of his old place of employment and he must get the old crew back together in order to clear his name and get to the bottom of who it is that wants him killed and to what end.

Featuring Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban and a handful of greats from yesteryear as well – this one should put a smile on your face and hell, it may even get you in the mood for the sequel.

Reviewed: When The Wind Blows (1986)

when_the_wind_blows_DVD-coverOnce upon a time when I was a wee lad looking for comics in my local library, I found a particularly depressing one by Raymond Briggs – an English cartoonist who told the thought-provoking story of two old people experiencing the potential fallout (literal) of nuclear war in England. This book was made into an animated film featuring music by David Bowie and Roger Waters.

Many years later, the film found its way onto the shelf at the video store I work at and I was finally able to get around to watching it. As with many other decent films adapting comic books, this is incredibly faithful to the source material.

The animation is simplistic yet effective. Using a collage of traditional animation, stop-motion and live action – these elements all blend together in a flawless fashion, the likes of which you’ll have to see to believe. So much so that when I first noticed the stop-motion element I sat there for a second thinking – how the hell did they do that?

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Directed by Jimmy T Murakami with a script adapted by Briggs himself, this is the story of retiree couple Jim (John Mills) and Hilda (Peggy Ashcroft) as they prepare their home for a nuclear attack by way of a government-issued pamphlet. The steps taken are ludicrous yet I suspect that they are genuine in the same way the US had “Duck & Cover”.

The sleeve of this DVD on the Australian release has a rating warning as follows – PG May contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting.

If confusion is something that as a parent, you want your children to avoid – yes, stay away from this film. Mind you, I think they should have the same warning on the cover of Pixar’s Cars – a concept that I will never get my head around.

Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s a children’s film. Like Animal Farm, Watership Down or Urotsukidöji I – Legend of the Overfiend, be aware that your kids might have a question or two about its content. But come on adults; don’t fear your kids having questions about things. I read this book at a very young age and it didn’t affect me (What? Cynicism and anxiety are healthy. Leave me alone).

Reviewed: Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

intolerable-cruelty_posterLike so many people who live in the world and watch movies, when a new Coen Brothers film comes out, I get a little wet in the pants. These guys are consistently good at what they do whether it be drama, comedy, thriller or more commonly – a combination of all three. My first exposure to them came in the form of Fargo but it was The Big Lebowski where the love affair began. After that I made the effort to track down all they’ve ever done and consume it with relish*. There were a few key flicks that I missed however and this was one of them.

A romantic comedy starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones may at first glance be a bit of a turn-off for many but a Coen Brothers film is a Coen Brothers film no matter what flavour of the hour it may happen to be toting.

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The story follows hotshot lawyer Miles (Clooney) and gold digging socialite Marylin (Zeta-Jones) whose paths cross in a courtroom on opposite sides of a divorce case. Miles represents Marylin’s husband and makes every effort to make sure she doesn’t get a cent. But… it’s love at first sight and the next time she finds herself in a similar situation, she gets him to represent her. It’s a tale of two-facedness, double crosses and deception with a plot that twists and turns in the gratifying way expected when the Coen lads are at the helm. And as per the norm, the supporting cast is thoughtful and includes Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Richard Jenkins and Billy Bob Thornton.

In terms of the development of this story, the Brothers Coen came on board considerably late in the process and I can only guess that without their input, this may have been a very bland film. Anyway, it is what it is and that’s a perfectly cast film with a memorable climax.

As a Coen afficionado, I recommend that you check this one out.

 

*Health Warning: Do not eat video media – even with relish.