The LEGO Movie

tlm2

Imagine drinking eight cans of cola, snorting a line of cocaine and standing on the roof of a skyscraper during a hurricane whilst listening to heavy dance music. That is what it feels like when watching a movie by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the million-miles-a-minute, comic genii behind this year’s surprise smash hit, The LEGO Movie.

Everything is awesome in the life of an ordinary LEGO construction worker, Emit. That is until he accidentally stumbles upon a plot by the evil, Lord Business; a lover of conformity, Business wants to put an end to life as LEGO knows it. Can Emit and his band of merry pop culture references save the day, and the LEGO universe, forever?

I will put my cards on the table now and say that, as a child, I was a huge LEGO fan. There was something so compelling about having the freedom to create whatever you wanted out of the small plastic bricks, even when it never looked as good as it was on the box. It is for that very reason that, after 5 minutes of watching The LEGO Movie, I was sold. The way the directors have incorporated, what feels like, every type of brick was extremely satisfying (even the little translucent fire!) It felt as if I was watching two drunk guys build the movie in front of me, talking to each other, saying “dude, what about this piece? And this piece? Oh man, that would be awesome to use that piece for the car! And the fire! Let’s use the fire on his hair! Haha, awesome; pass me another beer”. The film, while having all of the pop culture references and humour one would expect from Lord and Miller, felt very playful, which made for a great cinematic experience.

Ironically, even though it is in vogue with these directors’ style, one thing that may put some people off is the pacing. While the characters are hilarious, the story is compelling and the visual design is wonderful, the pacing is ridiculous. There are many occasions when the imagery is literally flying past the camera, so if you don’t mind the risk of seizure then you should be okay. I did find the humour hitting the mark for most of the movie, but the times when the jokes failed to hit the mark was mainly due to me being unable to register that it was a joke before we were onto the next one.

Aesthetics aside, the movie also contains a contemporary allegory that is concerned with conformity and independence. Much like the best animations – and greatest movies in general – one can read something from the narrative that teaches one something. For the first two acts, The LEGO Movie teaches us that conformity, rigidity and not getting out of one’s comfort zone is not good for creativity, or for culture and our society; the world in which Emit lives is rife with awful TV shows, annoying songs and friends who don’t see the real you. The independent thinkers out there are the one’s who influence change it says, however, for a movie that purports this message for 80% of its run-time, as we get to the climax, the message gets diluted by references. As evidenced by the last half a decade, it is easier to package an allegory within the threads of your movie without the presence of humans. Unfortunately, when Ferrell and his child share the screen time with Emit in the real world, even though it was a decent change of pace and I thought it worked in a superficial context with the story, the message gets lost in the saccharine; this is a shame because it was doing a satisfying job commenting on the vapid nature of entertainment culture.

Now that I have taken off my ponsy film school hat, it’s not everyday you get transported back to your childhood, yet, Lord and Miller have done it to me again. After watching The LEGO Movie, even though the ending didn’t quite hit it out of the park, I have to admit, mostly everything, really is, awesome.

 

Advertisements

Ernie’s 10 overlooked genre picks

Lauren is away enjoying her honeymoon (wooo), which means I’m holding fort for the week! So, without further ado…

10 overlooked films. 10 genres. None of these movies are mentioned in previous lists (but two I have reviewed: cheating, right?)!

1) Action: Tropa de Elite

TROPA

City of God is often lauded as the greatest Brazilian film of recent years, and deservedly so. That said, Tropa de Elite pushes it a close second, in my opinion. The sweaty, vibrant Rio is once again under the spotlight, but this time the focus is a team of expert urban police named the BOPE: Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais. It’s violent, funny, poignant and just fucking great. The sequel is as good as the original, and the final film in the trilogy is rumoured to be in production! Excelente!

2) Animation: Sword in the Stone

SITS

As a child, there were few things as exciting and magical as watching the song Higitus Figitus (all the shrinking household objects!) in Sword in the Stone. Merlin was my favourite Disney character after Genie from Aladdin, and if you haven’t seen this 1963 classic then where have you been?

3) Comedy: Kenny

The proper use of sanitation equipment, as explained by Kenny (Shane Jacobson).
“There’s a smell in there that will out-last religion.”

A charming, sincere and heartwarming mockumentary about an Australian shit-shoveller called Kenny. The writing, although being very culturally-specific to Australia, delivers a universally-relevant protagonist; Kenny has a slight speech impediment but a huge heart. Much like Homer Simpson, Kenny is one of those characters you wish was a real person. It’s an utter success as a comedy, too, with some laugh-out-loud scenes milestoning the few touching moments throughout the narrative. You must see this movie; it doesn’t have 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for nothing.

4) Documentary: Restrepo

RESTREPO_FILMSTILL_006

We love documentaries here on Frame Rates (Blackfish, McCullin, The Summit, Searching for Sugar Man, The Cove), and Restrepo is no exception to this rule. Focused on a platoon of US soldiers, Restrepo is a visceral study on the effects of modern warfare; losing friends, winning battles and leaving loved ones are elements put under the microscope here. It’s harrowing, hard to watch but also exhilarating (if a bit “‘Murica, baby”, and is one of the more honest documents about the War on Terror.

5) Drama: The Hunt

The Hunt (Jagten) film still
Click for full thoughts

6) Horror: Excision

gross
Click for full thoughts

7) Sci-Fi: Westworld

westworld

Click click click click click. That is the sound of the killer cowboy hunting you. This is not a case of mistaken identity, but rather a case of machines going wrong. Westworld is a dystopian take on future theme parks, in which you can take vacations in bygone day; drinking in saloon bars, shagging disease-ridden hookers and gallivanting around the Wild West. That is until the wiring in one of the machines goes wrong and you are left fighting for your life! 1970s sci-fi at its depressing, paranoid best.

8) Thriller: Leon

Leon-The-Professional

I don’t think this is that overlooked, however it is one of my all-time genre favourites. What starts life as a lone wolf thriller quickly falls into buddy territory, however the buddies are a middle-aged Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman. Luc Besson’s best movie, alongside The Fifth Element, is a joy to watch, has some laughs juxtaposed with some epic violence and a turn from Gary Oldman that will require you make change of underwear upon finishing the movie.

9) War: Brotherhood

Taegukgi_hwinalrimyeo_(2004)-2

It’s not cool to cry at movies, right? Well, regardless of the fact I don’t think that’s true at all, fifteen year old me was extremely shocked when salty stuff started coming out of his eye sockets after watching Brotherhood. A story about two brothers that find themselves on opposite sides of the Korean conflict, Taegukgi is hearthbreaking. I haven’t actually seen this in years, but I remember being absolutely astounded by the movie, and this is a reminder to myself to hunt this down and have a second viewing.

10) Western: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

jesse james coward robert ford PDVD_008

Gotta be honest; I haven’t seen too many Westerns. Rango, 3:10 to Yuma, The Searchers, TGTBATU and True Grit come to mind, however what Andrew Dominik has achieved in Jessie James is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s like watching a series of perfectly-framed photographs, and the script is alright as well! Sam Rockwell, Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are brilliant, and even the often monotone Jeremy Renner pulls out all the stocks for this movie! It’s very slow and requires your undivided attention, but if you are in the right mood this will wash over you wonderfully.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Cloud1

Steve!

Pixar Studios take the plaudits when it comes to modern day animation. The creators of such gems as Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and Wall-E have managed to blend child-like innocence, storytelling and humour in a way that captivates kids and adults alike. However, if you were to ask me what my favourite animated feature film is of recent years, I would have to say Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Flint Lockwood is a misfit. He’d rather be inventing spray-on shoes or rat birds than playing outside with his friends. His father wants him to take over the family sardine business on their island (which is under the A in Atlantic), and finds it hard to accept Flint’s enthusiastic, scatty way of living life. When teenage Flint stumbles onto an invention that changes the mood and colour scheme on his tiny island, the meteorological outlook suddenly looks a lot more…meaty.

There are multiple occasions during this movie that will make you feel like a giddy child. The character design, colour palettes, script, plot, adventure, tone, action and humour are almost perfectly executed. There is even a Wilhelm Scream (you have heard, I promise), which is a film history joke for the geeks! Even though you may begin to feel like a kid again, this is almost certainly a film made for adults wrapped up in a kids movie package. There are multiple levels of humour to the jokes, self-referential nuances, and a tone that is easy to revisit again and again.

I’m proud to say, even as a 25 year old male, this movie is firmly cemented in my collection, that I have watched it at least 5 times and intend to watch another 5 and some. What a story, what a film; I wish burgers would fall from the sky. Thank you, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, for making me laugh and making me feel 5 again.