Sunday, February 9, 2014

Everything Is Awesome in The Lego Movie

Eight months ago I wrote my first review on a teaser trailer. Since then, the hype for that particular movie has built up and up, as has my excitement. Now that it's finally in theaters, I can bring this movie full circle ... or full square because Lego bricks aren't circular. That's right, I'm reviewing The Lego Movie (just in case you didn't read that in the title) and everything about it is awesome.
Pictured: perfection.
First off, the voice talent in this movie is just outstanding, probably the greatest cast of funny people ever assembled. Parks and Recreation's Christ Pratt provides the voice for the protagonist, Emmet, a simple construction worker whose only goal in life is fitting in. Elizabeth Banks lends her voice to Wildstyle, a tough girl and MasterBuilder. And Morgan Freeman's smooth-as-molasses-wise-old-man voice is given to Vitruvius, a wise old man with a voice as smooth as molasses. Other voice actors include Will Ferrell, Charile Day, Will Arnett, Cobie Smulders, Allison Brie, Shaq, and Liam Neeson just to name a few.
Oh, and Ron Swanson is a freaking ROBOT-PIRATE!
The storyline for the film (yes, I would go as far as calling this fine piece of work a film) was at the same time an old, over done plot AND freshly original. Contradictory? Yes, but oh well. As stated in the previous paragraph, the movie follows Emmet, a simple construction worker who just wants to fit in, but can't no matter how hard he tries. People around him don't think he's special, but it turns out Emmet is special. He's The Special, a chosen one prophesied to stop the evil Lord Business (Ferrel) from destroying the Lego Universe. Emmet, Wildstyle, Vitruvius, and Batman (Arnett) travel through the different Lego worlds to put a stop to Lord Business' evil plan and save the universe and their friends.
While it is an animated movie aimed at kids, most of the jokes and references in the movie are aimed at slightly older audiences. That's because the writing for The Lego Movie is perfect. It does a great job of not taking itself too seriously and making plenty of cultural references and there is just a slew of wonderful mini-fig cameos and Easter eggs that will make any fanboy-or-girl excited.
Really excited.
Even the music in The Lego Movie was great. It's just as playful and fun as the whole movie is and fits the tone perfectly. Listen to some of it here. And the brainwashing anthem of the film, Everything is Awesome is addictingly peppy.

I can't think of a single bad thing to say about this movie, everything about it was awesome. It was so much fun and was better than I had hoped. And just about everything in the movie was made entirely out of Lego bricks, which was just impressive and made me want to go home, dig out my big ol' box of bricks and get to building. My inner-child was ecstatic.
I don't care if you're a MasterBuilder, or have only put two or three bricks together. I don't even care if your only encounter with Legos is stepping on a brick barefoot. Go see it. You will most certainly enjoy it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day! ...

For those of you who haven't checked your calendars yet, today is Groundhog Day. A day with a premise so utterly ridiculous yet we Americans still practice almost religiously every year. Seriously, whoever came up with the idea that groundhogs were secretly subterranean meteorology experts successfully played one of the biggest pranks in history. The fact that humans turn to a rodent once a year to know the weather is just baffling. But I digress ...

Getting back on track, to celebrate this silly holiday I'm going to talk about the 1993 classic, Groundhog Day starring Andie McDowell and Bill Freaking Murray.
I wish Bill Murray were my alarm clock.
Groundhog Day follows the story of a news crew who travels to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the Groundhog Day celebrations. The meteorologist, Phil Connors (Murray), is a pain-in-the-butt and hates everything about the assignment. Once the crew finishes their story, they leave Punxsutawney only to find that a blizzard has stopped all travel. Connors heads back to the annoying town with his reporter, Rita (McDowell), and cameraman to stay the night.
The next morning Phil wakes up ready to leave only to find that it is again February 2nd. The weatherman, his crew, and all of Punxsutawney are stuck in one of the wibbly-wobbliest, timey-wimiest of time loops, forced to live February 2nd over and over again. What makes it worse is that Phil is the only one aware of it.

Phil uses perpetually living the same day to his advantage by doing whatever he wants and trying to seduce Rita. Eventually, he uses all of his time to better himself and the town of Punxsutawney in an attempt to break the time loop. Funny things happens, Bill Murray is awesome, and the audience laughs and loves every minute of it.
Groundhog Day is great. I love Billy Murray (as everyone should) and he's hilarious in this movie (as he is in most of his movies). I don't really have much to say about the other actors because I didn't really notice them. Bill just sort of steals the show ... I mean movie.
Most people who have watched Groundhog Day finish the movie and move on. Other more hard-core viewers with lots of time on their hands sit and ponder just how long Phil Connors was stuck in that time loop. And then they proceed to figure it out. Estimates range from 10 years to 30-40 years, based on how long it takes to master the French language, playing the piano, and ice sculpting
If you've never seen Groundhog Day then go watch it right now. Especially today. You can finish it right before that big football game that is apparently going on tonight. Watch it, enjoy it, and hope you don't wake up tomorrow on February 2nd.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hustle to Go See American Hustle

Just as last year came to a close, American Hustle (not to be confused with 2007's Katt William's American Hustle: The Movie) made its way onto the silver screen and into the hearts of whoever nominates movies for Golden Globes and Academy Awards. This film, directed by David O. Russel, was nominated for seven Golden Globe awards winning three of them including Best Picture, and has been nominated for 10 Oscars. Obviously, people think it's pretty great, including myself.
Just look at how great that cast is.
Taking place in the late 1970s, American Hustle follows the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his mistress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), two quite talented con artists. The duo is caught red-handed by an FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, played by a very perm-headed Bradley Cooper, and get roped into helping him investigate white collar crimes and corruption. This leads them to meeting New Jersey's favorite mayor Carmine Polito (Jermey Renner) and a whole load of shenanigans (also read as "the plot") ensue. Also, DiMaso wants to bang Sydney, Rosenfeld becomes friends with the mayor questions everything, and Jennifer Lawrence's character, Rosenfeld's wife, gets drunk. A lot.
She was perfect for the role.
I would try to better sum up the plot, but in all honesty it's kind of difficult to figure just what exactly this movie was about. So much happens and parts of the story is narrated by two people at some points, it really is a mess. However, this took away little from the overall quality of American Hustle.
While the plot was lacking and unclear, the cast and the characters makes up for everything. Lawrence's role as Rosalyn Rosenfeld, essentially a 1970's real housewife of New Jersey, was downright hilarious. She was a terrible wife, the Picaso of passive aggressive kung-fu, and damn was it funny to watch her blow up a microwave and blame it on her husband. Also, Christian freaking Bale went from Batman to fat-man for this film. Two years ago he was the Bruce Wayne, the pinnacle of human physique and intelligence and vigilante extraordinaire. In American Hustle, Bale's Irving Rosenfeld is a bald, chubby, scumbag with an elaborate comb over that competes with Donald Trump's. The first five minutes of the movie is just his character fixing his comb over ... and it was strangely entertaining.
The comb over may as well have been its own character.
Cooper, Adams, and Renner also did very well in their roles, but Lawrence and Bale undoubtedly stole the show.
According to IMDB, American Hustle falls under the film genre of crime and drama, but when I walked out of the theater I was pretty sure it was a comedy, too. It is nothing but entertaining and certainly deserves every nomination and award it received.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sisters Before Misters in Frozen

Since 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt Disney Animation Studios has been an unstoppable force when it comes to animated films. This was especially true in the 90's when Disney perfected the formula for cartoon fairy tale adventures with classics like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.
For 90's kids, this was our childhood.
Two decades later and Disney still can't be outdone. Even now in 2014, the basic equation for their princess movies hasn't changed. It's actually kind of simple: an attractive female character plus an attractive male character plus an adorable animal divided by the evil antagonist's plot equals dangerous, yet quirky romantic situations. Add to that the climactic scene and near death of an important character multiplied by a developing love story raised to the power of catchy musical numbers all adding up to a happy ending and lots of money.
Did I say simple? I meant predictable.
Nearly every Disney princess movie follows this standard formula. However, the newest addition to Disney's line of successful animated films, Frozen, throws an ice pick into the equation. For those who haven't seen it yet - seriously, it's been out for over a month now, go see it - be warned, there's spoilers ahead (scroll down to the last paragraph for my opinion on the film).

Frozen is based off of Hans Christian Andersen's story The Snow Queen and tells the story of two princess sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell), and Elsa (Idina Menzel). At a young age, Elsa develops magical ice powers (kind of like Frozone from The Incredibles), which almost kill Anna. So, their parents visit magic trolls to heal her and have her memories of Elsa's powers erased. Then, in order to prevent the people from freaking out over Elsa's powers, mom and dad lock their daughter away in her room forcing her to grow up in solitude and put the castle on lock down for pretty much forever.
Some years later, after Anna and Elsa's parents died, Elsa is being crowned queen. Queen Elsa decides to open the castle to everyone for the first time in forever (see what I did there?) for her coronation ceremony. Anna meets and quickly falls for a prince named Hans (Santino Fontana) who immediately proposes to her. Just when things seem to be going well, Anna and Elsa get in a fight, Elsa's ice powers go crazy, everyone freaks out, and Elsa runs away to the snowy mountains as the entire kingdom freezes over.
Anna goes after her older sister, leaves Hans in charge, and meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his dog-like reindeer, Sven. They totally flirt a bunch and make it to Elsa's ice castle in the mountains which she built in a matter of seconds while singing about her feelings. Elsa accidentally hits her sister with her powers freezing Anna's heart and sends the two away via a giant snow-golem (snow-lem) bodyguard.
Wrapping this summary up quickly (SPOILERS!), royal guards attack and arrest Elsa for endangering her own kingdom, Anna learns the only way to not die from her heart being frozen is an act of true love, Hans is a jerk and only wants to marry Anna to take over the kingdom for himself, Kristoff loves Anna, Elsa escapes, more guards attack, Kristoff tries to make it to Anna to kiss her and save her with an act of true love, Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa just as her whole body freezes, Anna sacrificing herself was an act of true love and saves herself, Elsa learns that love is the key to her powers, the snow storm stops, the kingdom thaws, and Hans is arrested. Whew, that was a lot.
Almost forgot this little guy, the funniest character in the movie: Olaf (Josh Gadd).
Now let's go backwards a little and look at the climax a little closer. Anna needs an act of true love to prevent her from dying, she goes back to the castle to see Hans, her fiance, and finds out the guy doesn't love her and is only using her to become king. Naturally, everyone realizes that Kristoff is going to be the guy that kisses Anna and saves the day ... but that isn't what happens. Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa just as she completely freezes. This is the act of true love that saves Anna, not Kristoff's kiss like everyone was expecting. While every other Disney princess movie ends with the love between the hero and the princess saving the day, the love that saves the day in Frozen is sisterly love.
This twist completely changes the deeper message of the movie. While most other Disney princess stories end with the hero rushing in to save the day and kiss the girl, Frozen teaches girls that they don't need a man to save them and they're perfectly capable of saving themselves.
Looking deeper into the movie, it's easy to see some feminist undertones in the portrayal of men in the movie and the act of true love previously mentioned. Also, some homosexual undertones can be found (if you over-analyze things a little) in regards to Elsa's powers, how her parents responded to her powers, and her big musical number. These undertones, while deep, take nothing away from the movie's quality.
Frozen is a great addition to Walt Disney Animation Studios' countless quality cartoons. The animation is beautifully intricate, the songs fantastic, Bell and Menzel's voice acting and singing are on-point and fantastic, and the film is simply a lot of fun. I've got a soft spot for Disney, and while it's not my favorite Disney movie (that title is jointly held by Aladdin and Wreck-it-Ralph), I recommend you see Frozen if you already haven't ... and even if you have go watch it again. You won't regret it.