The LEGO Movie

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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.

 

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Walk of Shame

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Walk of Shame, written and directed by Steven Brill of Movie 43 infamy, starring Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden and a striking yellow dress is the latest female-led situation comedy attempting to resonate with audiences. Banks plays Meghan Miles, an uptight yet perky news anchor who, following a slew of bad news, parties like its 1999 right into the bed of attractive bartender/writer James Marsden. Come morning, Meghan then must make the ‘walk of shame’ in an attempt to get back to her car so she can get to work at the local news station. What happens next can only be described as Adventures in Babysitting for the pseudo-lobotomised generation. Sure, Banks is likeable enough, she has enough comic prowess to hold my attention, and there are a few jokes that really zing… however, it simply isn’t funny or clever enough. Or even one of the above. If you are going to rely on a heavily questionable narrative that rides the wave of implausibility for the entire 94 minutes then the jokes need to be heaped on and they need to hit the mark. If these jokes aren’t there as a pillar to hold the whole film together, then the narrative needs to be solid, including a lead character for whom you can root. Walk of Shame wasn’t nearly funny enough for us to ignore the pulsating rage at the stupidity of Bank’s character or the sheer lack of humanity from any of the supporting characters. As an aside, if you don’t want to burn that dress by the end of the film then you are a better person than me.

All in all, Walk of Shame just doesn’t make the grade as a comedy, or as anything else either. Tonally it felt confused, jumping from outright misogyny and then to bar-burning feminism, which made it difficult to see at which market this is really aimed.  I want to call this film Walk of Same, as it feels as tired as it does flat, but then I thought that Steven Brill’s A Series of Unfortunately Written Events seemed more fitting.

Movie 43

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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.