Monday, February 10, 2014

Reviews: Lego Movie, Lone Survivor

The Lego Movie is an out-of-nowhere fantastically hysterical whirlwind of a film that (in the tradition of Pixar's best movies) appeals to both kids and adults.  I had the pleasure of seeing this 100-minute gem this past weekend as I took 6 kids with me for my son's birthday party event.  I can easily say that while the six kids were jumping for joy afterwards, it was I who had the best time of the group.

Directed by Phil Ford and Christopher Miller with a story written by a six-writer collaboration, The Lego Movie focuses on a hero named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) who is stuck in a mundane (but exciting to him) world of routine as a construction worker Lego piece.  He ends up banding with a cast of wacky Lego characters including Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), UniKitty (Alison Brie), Benny the Spaceman (Charlie Day), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and Batman (geniously voiced by Will Arnett) to battle the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell).  Emmet, who lives by the book using the "instructions" provided to him (and provided in every box of Lego toys) to get through his daily tasks, discovers that sometimes it's best to "think outside the box" to succeed.

I won't get into the specifics of the plot but the story is very well written and paced.  The movie flies by without too many lulls in action and we get a ton of humor and heart mixed in.  The visuals themselves (from the computer geniuses at Warner Bros. Animation Studios) are spot-on.  All of the Lego pieces actually look and move like real Legos.  When the trailer for this film came out, I had to look online to make sure this wasn't a stop-motion film using real lego pieces.  The film has the same style of wacky humor found in the numerous Lego video games.

All of the voice actors came to play with their A-games in this film.  Arnett really is the star though as his over-the-top gruff Batman voice is a scene stealer.  I especially enjoyed all of the old-school Lego references that Benny the Spaceman makes in his desire to build using old school "spaceship" pieces.  The nostalgia of Lego builders of my generation is explored to my satisfaction in this movie.  The live-action sequence towards the end of the film (featuring a real-life Ferrell in some scenes with his son) helps bring home the memories of building with legos for hours-on-end as a child.  Bonus kudos to the writers for a totally hilarious scene in the middle of the movie in which the Millenium Falcon and Lego-Han, Chewie, 3PO and Lando make a cameo with a nod to the original Star Wars trilogy.

This movie is as close to a perfect animated film as I've seen in a long time.  I am giving this supremely entertaining film a 4.5 out of 5 JRs... I nearly gave it a 5 but there's this one song "Everything is Awesome" that plays through the film that sort of ruins that perfect mark for me.  The song is catchy but I heard it from 6 kids over and over for about 4 hours straight after the movie was over.  I still have it in my head and can't get it out.  Expect to see multiple sequels to this film over the next decade.  Warner Bros has a cash cow on its hands after an incredible 69 million weekend box office haul.  Factor in all the additional Lego Movie toy sets that will be sold and you'll understand that the Danish toy giant stands to rake in even more money from this venture.  Go see this movie in the theater (skip the 3D, I hear it's not that great) with your kids or even by yourself if you're a Lego aficionado.  Otherwise, wait for video and give it a try for the sharp wit and humorous content that's packed into this film.  I can see this movie making my Top 10 of 2014 and I can't wait for more big-screen Lego adventures!

And I'd like to add a quick-hit bonus review of Lone Survivor, the latest film from Peter Berg, creator of Friday Night Lights.  This film, starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and others chronicles the real-life story of a team of Navy Seals in Afghanistan who end up being ambushed by a team of local Taliban fighters.  Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell who ends up fighting for his live and is rescued by a group of American sympathisers in a nearby village.

This film is an excellent war movie that doesn't shy away from showing the detailed violence and gore found in modern combat.  Wahlberg gives one of his best performances and Berg does a great job of letting the action and violence speak for itself without adding too much Hollywood fluff.  The ending seems a little too convenient and you can tell that the writers stretched the truth a bit.  Overall this is a memorable war film that deserves 4 out of 5 JRs.

COMING SOON:  My top 10 of 2013 and some final quick reviews of some Best Picture nominees.  Also look for me to co-star once again on Omar Latiri's ARC podcast as we preview the upcoming Academy Awards.

1 comment:

tim mark said...

In 1958 the block was generously upgraded, and this is the sort of Lego pretty much everybody has come to know and venerate. Blocks from 1958 will positively still interlock and work with blocks from 2010. Lego City Sets