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

The Wolf of Wall Street

new

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. (Source: IMDb)

Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, has certainly caused a stir among the critical masses. On one hand, this tale of excess – both mental and physical – has been lauded in certain circles; it has earned a Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for DiCaprio and Hill respectively, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Oscars 2014. And then on the other hand, a number of dissenters have pilloried the movie for being misogynistic, vulgar, navel-gazing and ‘boring’ (last one being Mark Kermode, 2014).

I am not sure if this says something about my personality, but I found The Wolf of Wall Street and, more significantly, Jordan Belfort, immensely compelling. Even when he is acting his most debauched, there was a part of me that felt a modicum of fist-pumping machismo for the character. Perhaps it is my fondness of DiCaprio that I only strayed from the side of the protagonist once – during a scene with his daughter – yet that is not to take anything away from a performance that would in any other year be a dead-cert for Best Actor; unfortunately for Leo he is up against Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. The energy DiCaprio brings to the movie is nothing short of incredible. In the past, he always embodied his characters, but there was the ‘he was Jack in Titanic‘ aspect to his on-screen presence. It’s thanks to his talent and Scorsese’s direction in The Wolf of Wall Street, that I feel this Leo’s coming of age role, and now he can be considered as one of the modern greats. Turns from Jonah Hill, Naomi Lapaglia (in her first role), as well as Rob Reiner and Jon Favreau were all brilliant, and there was even a fantastic cameo from a certain favourite around here, Matthew McConaughey, as Belfort’s career role model, Mark Hanna.

At three hours long, one could expect oneself to go on a mental stroll, however the pace, biopic-nature and playful yet dark tone of the movie is very reminiscent of Goodfellas, a comparison which has undoubtedly been drawn, but is relevant nonetheless. There are scenes of cringeworthy humour, shocking drug misuse and abuse, and a lens that falls often on bare naked ladies (no, not the 1990s pop band). However, I don’t for one second feel that Scorsese’s camera is any way misogynistic; the excess of Belfort’s life is a literal orgy of naked flesh, drugs, and money, with one capitalist fist-pumping scene after another. Yet, even though there are some women in this movie that are tools for Belfort’s pleasure, I feel the leering ends up being at Belfort while he is of his face on drug cocktails (and more drastic these scenes become), and not at the breasts on screen; they are very matter of fact breasts, if you will.

The Wolf of Wall Street was a fantastically fun movie to watch. It ticked all my taboo boxes, one of which I didn’t even know I had, and albeit for one scene of genuine darkness and abyss-staring, it was a romp and a half. It won’t win any of the Oscars for which it is nominated, but in an ideal world, 12 Years would have been released this later this year and Leo would get the recognition he truly deserves.

IH

First Look: British horror comedy “Crying Wolf”!

2014 is going to be a year with more bite than bark.

Crying Wolf, a British horror comedy from the mind of Tony Jopia (Deadtime, Cute Little Buggers), tells the story of macabre and gruesome events in the quaint English village of Deddington. When a local girl, Charlotte, gets ravaged by a mysterious beast, teams of desperate reporters, crazy detectives and revenge-seeking hunters try to uncover the truth before it is too late.

Crying Wolf stars Caroline Munro, Gary Martin, Joe Egan, Kristofer Dayne and Ian Donnelly, it is released in March 2014 and you can check out the trailer and first pictures here!

We are both very excited by this low budget movie. From the trailer it seems to be perfectly toned as a British horror comedy, clearly has a sense of knowing, and some great makeup, CG and gore effects. Watch this space…we certainly are.

twitterfacebook

 

Bachelorette

bachelorette

Last year’s female ensemble comedy, Bachelorette, is basically The Hangover, but instead of the groomsmen losing the groom, the bridal party have a misdemeanor with the bride’s dress and things get craaazy.

You may think my tone here is one of formal comedy snobbery. However, even though the plot of this movie breaks no new ground, and it is as predictable as Swiss cheese, there aren’t too many holes in what actually turned out as quite an enjoyable comedy. The comediennes Rebel Wilson and Lizzy Caplan, joined up with Isla Fisher and the lead, Kirsten Dunst, all play best friends and somewhat cookie-cutter characters (like the rest of the cast), but on evidence here they all have multiple funny bones in their bodies. The standout performance was from Lizzy Caplan, who delivers her coke-addled, wise-cracking yet insecure New York thirty-something with consummate ease.

Sometimes it felt like the humour was verging on tired, especially when one of the running jokes dealt with the mass use of a white class A drug, nevertheless, it was edgy enough at points. And there weren’t myriad dick and ball jokes, and the ones they did include weren’t the punchline of a major scene. There were also moments of genuine darkness that went beyond dark humour, which grounded the lives of these women in some reality, as it dealt with drug abuse, eating disorders and the results of one of life’s most difficult choices. The only real ‘problem’, if one can call it that, I had with this movie was a casting choice that verged heavily into racial stereotype territory, which was pretty awkward to watch.

Obviously, comparisons can be drawn between Bachelorette and Bridesmaids, and as a person with male genitalia that has seen both movies, I think I enjoyed this one more. One could argue that Bridesmaids broke the comedy mold by ushering in an age of strong female ensembles, and while Bachelorette is piggybacking on its success, the question is this; what white, male, conservative, American comedy movies have you seen in the last 5 years that have done anything original?

Midnites 4 Maniacs presents Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz & The World’s End

1002138_1396407007244633_1863424876_n

I’m a lucky, lucky boy.

On Friday I entered a competition to win a golden ticket to the Bay Area premiere of The World’s End and a Q+A with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright. Not only this though, as the premiere would be prefaced by a double screening of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (yes, that’s 9 hours in the cinema). Well, long story short, I won.

The event was Monday @ AMC Metreon in San Francisco and it was….well…fucking awesome. Not only had I never seen Shaun of the Dead on the big screen, but I hadn’t seen Hot Fuzz in over (ballpark) 2 years, so I was almost as excited about those two movies as I was about seeing The World’s End, the final movie in the press-named, Blood and Ice Cream trilogy. This here is a review of the event itself, as well as a few words about the first two Wright movies, as I want to give The World’s End its own post.

Things kicked off at 2pm, and that meant an hour waiting in a queue for the Midnites 4 Maniacs team to hand out the winning golden tickets and wristbands (smug alert). Once we were in, and after a short, inspirational speech about the state of indie film and independent cinemas by our MC (M4M’s organiser/Film History lecturer, Jessie Hawthorne Ficks), the wonderful Shaun of the Dead was presented.

Shaun of the Dead

SHAUN

I had actually already watched this twice this year, however it was still an absolute pleasure seeing one of my favourite movies of all time projected on the big screen in beautiful digital 4K. From the first second to the last the audience was laughing, and this was actually a trend that continued until the trio left the stage at 22:30.

Shaun of the Dead has a wonderful balance between gore, humour and a thick thread of touching realism, despite the film being about a zombie apocalypse. When a quintessentially British movie is being revered by an American audience, you know your film has a universal appeal, and that was regardless of some of the jokes and cultural references being understandable by the only Brit in the room (which was evident when I was the only person to cheer the mention of Britain).

Hot Fuzz

FUZZ

Overlooked by America when it was released (apparently), Hot Fuzz is set in Edgar Wright’s hometown, yet shows a side of Britain that we rarely see; the shooty-in-the-country, balls-out action side. Pegg and Frost play a pair of star-crossed policeman officers, and according to Wright, Frost’s part was originally written as a woman. I honestly forgot how funny this movie was, and seeing it on the big screen for a second time was a revelation. I defy you to use the phrase ‘sleepy England’ after watching this film.

Q+A

thetrio
You can tell these guys have a blast working together just by how they talk to each other. Pegg and Wright co-author the movies, yet Frost has the first say on the scripts, which they go into in this video.

There wasn’t too much juicy gossip to tell from this session, except the Cornetto references in the three movies are a result of Wright’s recommended hangover cure and nothing else! I fucking love these three movies, I fucking love these three guys, and I fucking love Midnites 4 Maniacs for choosing me to experience the magic of the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy on the big screen.

My The World’s End review is coming later today (PST), I just need to formulate words that make me sound reasoned and not like I am jerking off.

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.

Movie 43

Movie-43-Quad-Poster

I got back from Barcelona on Tuesday. I had a fantastic time, met some great people, but also had 24 hours ruined by a pickpocket stealing my iPhone; cue police stations, a lack of Catalan-speaking skills and sweltering heat. What possessed me, when I got back home, to rent Movie 43 I will never know – maybe it was a form of self-harm – however, I had to see what the fuss was about….and boy, was I not expecting the extent of what I actually saw.

Movie 43 is the most misjudged, confusing, insulting and boring movie I have ever seen. Period. Even the name, Movie 43, stinks of mediocrity. What was sold as THE BIGGEST CAST EVER ASSEMBLED was actually a half-arsed anthology film that delivered fecal jokes, farts, boobs, dicks and balls, racism, sexism, leprechaunism, and zero intelligent humour. Honestly, throughout the hellishly arduous runtime I found myself questioning how on Earth someone greenlit this screenplay beyond a first draft. The wrap-around story in the UK version – teenagers looking for the banned film Movie 43 ‘it will make you rip your dick off!’ – was like watching amateur ad-lib, and the stellar cast (all facetiousness aside) involved with each segment of shit jokes and ‘laughs’ – one section was actually child abuse – weren’t much better (bar a pretty convincing-cum-WHAT THE FUCK AM I WATCHING performance from Emma Stone).

This film is just an orgy of awful. Outrageous comedy doesn’t have to poke fun an minorities or make jokes about ‘gross’ periods. How long will it be until the skeletons of Hollywood realise that shit isn’t funny? Well, not in your face shit, because subtle shit can sometimes be hilarious. But everything in Movie 43, including its shit, is turned up to children’s TV presenter levels of obnoxious self-loathing. There is only so long you can watch a cartoon cat masturbate over pictures of Josh Duhamel in swimming trunks. Or watch the respected Broadway actor/Wolverine, Hugh Jackman, complete with balls hanging off his neck (this is played completely straight), take the Oscar winning actress, Kate Winslet, on a date. Those are spoilers, however there honestly is nothing to spoil.

I think the main problem with this movie is that, much like Disaster Movie, it’s going to build up a reputation for being so bad it is good. It is not. Movie 43, despite having one of the biggest ensemble casts of actors, comedy stars and Johnny Knoxville, should be locked up in a steel tub and sunk to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

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.

Grabbers

grabbers_2259324b

I like my Irish sci-fi horror comedy “B-movies” like I like my Guinness: bubbly, dark and only on a rare occasion. The best thing about Guinness is that, when I do take that first-and-only sip of my one-and-only pint of the year, it tastes fucking great, and the same can be said about Grabbers.

Grabbers is pitched perfectly at its audience. It is self-referential in tone, and is stylistically like the great b-movies sci-fi pictures of the 1950s, yet it holds its own among the great horror comedies of the last 30 years. Its constantly winking at the audience, and in a number of key scenes pays homage to some cinematic greats. The parody of country folk vs city dwellers, and the lampooning of the English is done with enough tongue-in-cheek to make it hilarious without being derogatory.

I have got to say that I haven’t laughed so much at a movie in ages. Many people say when you watch a movie on your own you laugh less but I laughed out loud at least a dozen times at Grabbers, which is a lot more than during many of the ‘comedies’ I’ve watched lately. One of the funniest characters is the whiskey-soaked fisherman that discovers the baby monsters around which the film is set. He has some absolutely rib-tickling one-liners that left me howling with delight. Everything ramps up neatly to the crux of the narrative, which is definitely the most stereotypically Irish aspects of the movie, but absolutely one of the funniest. The whole cast are brilliant, there isn’t a single weak performance and everyone has fantastic comedic chemistry.

The production values, even on the CGI monsters, are fantastic, which surprised me, and the film is definitely put together by a crew that love the genres as well as the art of filmmaking itself. The movie is quite an unknown recent release in the UK, and if you see it available through your selected mode of movie viewing then definitely check it out. It is fecking hilarious.