Movie Review: The Lego Movie (2014)

May 8, 2014 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

the-lego-movie-poster-full-photo

I was really excited when I heard they were making a Lego movie. But then I saw the trailer and thought it looked lame. And then I heard people say really good things about it. So I watched it. And the verdict?

Everything is awesome!

I don’t usually care much for animated films and judge them by harsher standards by most people, but The Lego Movie is pure fun and a lot of joy. The jokes and wisecracks come fast and furious, and it didn’t take long before I found myself having an absolute blast, letting go of my prejudices and simply going along on the wild, adventurous ride.

It’s the funniest movie I’ve seen this year and probably still will be by the end of it. Not everything works, of course, but a surprising amount of it hit the mark with razor-sharp precision. And it’s a gags free-for-all, from slapstick to satirical and from lighthearted to black, with a touch of Will Ferrell randomness. I thought it would just keep using the same gags many of us have already seen from those Lego video games, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The best compliment I can perhaps give it is that the feel was Simpson-esque at times, with a healthy dose of the more tasteful South Park humour.

The most clever thing about the film is that it is multi-layered, from the jokes to the surprising message that rears its head towards the end. What it means is that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and that everyone will probably take something different out of it. You might laugh at different things depending on your age, but there’s no avoiding the uncontrollable urge to laugh.

Is there a story? Yes, and it’s a tongue-in-cheek one too. Chris Pratt voices Emmett, an ordinary construction worker who is suspected of being the prophecised one known as “the Special.” Together with the help of a sassy lady by the name of Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and a Gandalf-ish wizard by the name of Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Emmett must try and fulfill his destiny and stop the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from destroying their world with dangerous superweapon.

The all-star cast is filled up by other big names such as Liam Neeson, who plays the hilarious Bad Cop/Good Cop, Will Arnett as Batman, Channing Tatum as Superman, Jonah Hill as the Green Lantern and Colbie Smulders as Wonder Woman. Additional cast members include Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Dave Franco.

What impressed me about the voice cast was how they were utilised. Normally when you get A-listers doing voices in an animated film there is the risk of them being too recognisable to make the character effective. In The Lego Movie they used the most recognisable voices to its advantage, with Liam Neeson doing his best Bryan Mills impersonation (from Taken) while Morgan Freeman fired out his lines as he would had he been playing God. The results are but-gustingly funny.

The great thing about Lego is that it has so many licensing arrangements with different franchises that it has the ability to throw in a lot of well-known characters. If you were excited at some of the video game character cameos in Wreck It Ralph then you’ll spray your pants when you see some of the cameos in The Lego Movie. I don’t want to ruin the surprises, but if you the character has a Lego version then you’ll probably see him or her in the film.

And I haven’t even gotten to the visuals, which are spectacular. All the colours and all the bits and pieces of Lego you can imagine, being put together and taken apart rapidly on a regular basis. I expected The Lego Movie to be pretty, but not the visual feast it turned out to be.

At 100 minutes the length is about right, but it does slow down considerably as it tries to wrap up. Others might feel like the film was a bit out of control and too all over the place, and it probably was, but I think that was exactly how the filmmakers intended it to be — a crazy, energetic piece of imaginative entertainment that has something for everyone. Let’s hope the sequel (due May 2017) can produce an experience just as special.

4.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

July 24, 2012 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews

Notwithstanding its less than ingenious title, The Dark Knight Rises is everything fans of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy could have hoped for. It is every bit as satisfying as the finales for other film series in recent times, such as Return of the King and Harry Potter 7. For me, it is right up there with The Dark Knight, The Avengers and the first Ironman as the best superhero movie of all-time. It is without a doubt the most EPIC.

The Dark Knight Rises takes place 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight (which is fair enough when you consider that Batman Begins was released in 2005). Batman has not appeared inGotham city since he took the fall for the death of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in order to preserve the former district attorney’s pristine legacy, and Bruce Wayne has become a crippled recluse. But as Selina Kyle (Catwoman) says, “a storm is coming”, and we all know it won’t be long beforeWayne is forced to don his famous black suit once more. But will it be enough? (And trust me, this film will make you question it).

Christopher Nolan clearly went all out for The Dark Knight Rises. After the success of The Dark Knight, expectations sky-rocketed and the pressure was on to deliver in the concluding chapter. So Nolan and his brother Jonathan upped the ante on everything:

  • An intricate and ambitious plot that links all three films together and is loaded with back stories, emotional confrontations and twists and turns.
  • An enormous cast of characters, some old and some new, and many of whom have substantial roles and screen time.
  • One of the most physically imposing villains ever in Bane.
  • Fight scenes and battle sequences so mammoth in scale and intensity that it dwarfs anything and everything that has been done in the series.
  • Even the running time of 165 minutes sets a new record (Batman Begins was 140 minutes; The Dark Knight was 152 minutes).

So does bigger and longer necessarily mean better? Not always, but in this case the sheer epic-ness of the film certainly goes a long way in making up for its miscues. On the whole, The Dark Knight is probably still the most “complete” film of the series, but when placed in context, The Dark Knight Rises is arguably the most satisfying.

In my humble opinion, and I know it’s probably an unpopular one, Tom Hardy’s Bane is every bit as worthy of a villain as Heath Ledger’s Joker. For starters, Hardy’s physical transformation was astounding. It’s crazy to think that this was the same guy that I recently saw in This Means War. Even his physique in Warrior did not come close. The Joker was a mad dog, a psychopath, a switchblade that can cut you up in a lot of ways; Bane, by contrast, is calm, calculated, and a brutal physical specimen capable of tossing Batman around like a ragged doll. He’s a nuclear warhead.

The spectacular first scenes of the film introducing us to Bane set the tone so perfectly. It’s one of the most exciting sequences of the entire trilogy and reminded me a lot of the best Nolan’s Inception had to offer.

There are two other Inception cast members to make the jump to Gotham city. Marion Cotillard plays the lovely Miranda Tate, an executive of the Wayne Enterprises board who becomes the key to saving the company. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of my favourite actors and one of Hollywood’s most versatile (I mean, come on, Brick, 500 Days of Summer, Hesher and now this?), plays passionate young cop John Blake. He is the standout of the film, along with….

Anne Hathaway, who really surprised me as Selina Kyle, the master thief better known as Catwoman. I’ve always been a bit on the fence with Hathaway and felt she was a little overrated as an actress, but man, she nailed this one. Not just physically – the performance itself was brilliant, providing a much-needed exuberance and vitality to an otherwise intensely “dark” film.

The rest of the returning cast was also stellar. I can’t believe I haven’t even mentioned Christian Bale yet. There’s isn’t much to say except that he’ll likely go down in history as the best Batman ever. Not bad for a guy who has also been Patrick Bateman, John Connor, Dicky Eklund and The Machinist.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman; plus a few cameos from the big names from the two earlier films (sadly, of course, except Heath Ledger) – that is a ridiculous cast, and it amazes me that it never felt like they would overshadow or be a distraction to the film.

The only obvious weak links in the cast are two dudes I ordinarily love: Matthew Modine’s deputy police chief, who was responsible for much of the film’s clunky dialogue and lack of subtlety (I still love him; I mean, come on: Full Metal Jacket, Birdy, Married to the Mob, Memphis Belle, Pacific Heights), and Aussie Ben Mendelsohn, who was somewhat awkward and over-the-top as Wayne’s corrupt business rival.

I have a few other relatively minor complaints. After watching The Dark Knight Rises I went back and rewatched the first two films in the trilogy, and realized that they employed a lot more humour – something that was sorely missing in The Dark Knight Rises. The other thing I noticed was that Batman had more cool gadgets and made better use of his utility belt in the earlier films – in this one all the attention was on the Batplane.

If you really want to get picky, I suppose there were parts in the second act that felt plodding, but the same probably could be said for all three films in the series. All is forgotten by the time the epic third act rolls around in any case.

By the way, many of the plot points don’t make a whole lot of sense if you really think about it. But hey, this is a superhero movie about a guy dressed up as a bat, so suspension of disbelief should have been a prerequisite. And I’m sick of people trying to read into and getting caught up in the film’s supposed political and societal messages – why can’t people just enjoy a Batman movie for what it is? Please, no more September 11 analogies.

The Dark Knight Rises is far from perfect, but it’s one of those films where I just went, “stuff this, I just want to enjoy it.” Strictly speaking, it’s probably not a 5-star film, but what the heck.

5 stars out of 5!

PS: I wouldn’t recommend it if you haven’t seen the movie yet, but if you have, check out this awesome featurette.

Bill Gates is better than Batman

January 20, 2012 in Social/Political Commentary

At least until I watch The Dark Knight Rises

(Thanks to Adam from Frugal Dad for sending this through)

The website also has some very interesting and very bitter comments.

microsoft infographic

Source: frugaldad.com

 

‘Sorry’ Psycho: Chistian Bale speaks out about going nuts

February 8, 2009 in Entertainment

Batman's not acting so tough anymore

Batman's not acting so tough anymore

It was only a matter of time. 

Dark Knight Christian Bale finally spoke out on US radio about his ‘inexcusable’ rant, in which he was caught on tape going berserk on cinematographer Shane Hurlbut on the set of Terminator Salvation.

Batman admits he was a ‘punk’

Bale went on KROQ, an LA-based radio station, saying that he acted “like a punk” and “was out of order beyond belief.”  The embarrassed actor admitted he had a “potty mouth” and that he was hurt by the criticisms since the tape became public.  “The thing that disturbs me so much is that I’ve heard a lot of people saying that I seem to think that I’m better than anybody else,” Bale says.   “Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a very lucky and that is why I put so much into what I do, and why I care so much about it and why sometimes my enthusiasm just goes awry.”

Bale conceded: It’s been a miserable week for me…I regret that and there is nobody that has heard that tape that has been hit harder by it.”

No excuses

Despite saying that he made no excuses for his actions, Bale explained that the scene in which he flipped out was the key to the story, in which he was trying to convey the madness his character John Connor inherited from his mother, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton from the first two Terminator movies).

“Please, I want to make it clear,” Bale pleaded.  “I am embarrassed by it. I regret it. I ask everybody to sit down and ask themselves if they have ever had a bad day and lost their temper and really regretted it immensely.”

Please see the movie!

Bale was particularly concerned that his outburst would have a negative impact on the film at the Box Office.  “I’m asking people, please do not allow my one-time lapse in judgment, my incredibly embarrassing meltdown, to overshadow this movie and to have all of those people’s hard work  go to waste.”

(NB: are you kidding?  I want to see this film more than ever now!)

They’ve made up

Bale also says that he and his victim Shane Hurlbut have since reconciled and that they have “resolved this completely”.

According to Bale, they continued to work for a number of hours after the rant and for “at least a month after that,” adding “there is no problem whatsoever.”

He even had some kind words for the cinematographer:  “I’ve seen a rough cut of the movie and he has done a wonderful job. It looks fantastic.”

Batman’s sister says he needs help

You may recall last year that Bale was arrested for allegedly assaulting his sister Sharon and mother Jenny, but was released by police after a few hours of questioning.  Well, Sharon thought her brother’s embarrassing outburst was the perfect opportunity to rub salt into the wound.

According to the Telegraph, Sharon is “concerned” for her brother.  “It’s terribly sad,” she said.  “I feel for him. He seems to be incredibly stressed and angry at the moment. This sort of behaviour is totally out of character and I think he might need help.” 

Of course, she couldn’t help but remind everyone of last year’s incident. “People might now realise that is his temper: they might understand a bit more. I wish he hadn’t carried this on so long or so fiercely. It was upsetting to hear him.”

*    *    *

I’ve been a huge fan of Bale since American Psycho, and I believe he’s sincere and we should give the guy a break and support the new movie (we can judge for ourselves just how intense the scene really was!).  He obviously has some anger control issues, but so did Bruce Wayne and Patrick Bateman, and we still love them both.

PS: For those who have not been fortunate enough to hear the legendary rant yet, you can check it out here.  Also, do yourself a favour if you haven’t heard of RevoLucian’s awesome remix of the rant.  It’s one of the best songs I’ve heard lately.  Really.

Bale Out – the remix of Christian Bale’s flip out is actually a good song!

February 4, 2009 in Entertainment

I went on YouTube to check out some of these supposed ‘remixes’ of Christian Bale’s amazing American Psycho impersonation on the set of Terminator Salvation.

Most of them were pretty tryhard and didn’t sound any good.  But this one by RevoLucian called “Bale Out” is actually a very good, catchy song – not to mention it’s hilarious.  Check it out below (again, subject to the usual parental advisory disclaimer).

You can download a free MP3 of the song at RevoLucian’s website.

 
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