Category Archives: movies

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

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Everything is not awesome in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (a comment I’m sure I won’t be the first or last to make), the sequel to the 2014 adventure that first introduced us to everyman Emmet and his pal Wyldstyle. That meta adventure was smart, fun and hilarious. In part two, the surprise and delight that made the first one is gone, and so is the rat-a-tat humor that made it so enjoyable. In its place is a disappointing facsimile that feels like mediocre fan fiction. The smart humor has mostly been replaced by too many musical numbers.

The story was setup in the ending moments of the first film as the real-life boy whose imagination created the film’s universe had his playtime upset with the threat of his little sister. In the second film, the Lego universe is a bleak, Mad Max-esque wasteland that faces an onslaught from space warriors from the seester solar system. A lot of the returning heroes from the previous film are captured by the totally not evil Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) and it’s up to earnest hero Emmet (Chris Pratt) to save the day, along with the help of a more adventurous bro Rex (also Pratt).

Chris Miller and Phil Lord who co-wrote and directed the first flick return as co-writers here (with Matthew Fogel, whose biggest prior credit is the third Big Momma’s House) but directing duties went to Mike Mitchell (Trolls, a later Shrek, an Alvin movie). While the live footage was a surprise in the first film, the second film leans into the meta concept and the collision of those universes makes the tenuous tie between the two tedious and unimaginative. Maya Rudolph does her best as the mom, but all of the live scenes fall a bit flat.

As bleak as this review is, the film isn’t outright bad, merely dull and unengaging. One musical number was fine, but the returns on those are lesser the more that pop in. Pratt does admirably with both of his roles, and Elizabeth Banks as Lucy/Wyldstyle is still a delight. The movie spends a lot more time with her, for both the meta perspective and while offering a fair indictment of the first film (that she was the smart, bold, heroic one that took a side chair to the hapless, average male hero). Fresh of his Lego spin-off film Batman (Will Arnett) also returns with a bigger presence, but all of the in jokes on that franchise may have been exhausted. Unikitty (Alison Brie), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman) and Benny (Charlie Day) also return, but don’t have much to do.

It’s a shame that the same writers that made the first one so solid, and were also responsible for last year’s amazing adventure Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse couldn’t recapture the same magic. Perhaps they were distracted with that film. While they overdelivered against the low expectations of the first film, the second seems to be underdelivering against higher ones and leaving a painfully average result.

My Grade – C

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Top 10 Movies of 2018

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A little late due to sickness and life. But here is my final Top 10 list for 2018 focusing on my favorite films. I’m still behind in reviews, so haven’t added Paddington 2, Aquaman, Bumblebee, Roma and a couple others, but only one of them made the list. BUT WHICH ONE?

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They Shall Not Grow Old

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There’s a tendency to think of the recent past, a hundred years ago or so, as existing solely in shadowy black and white images, as was the state of film at the time. In Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old the major conceit is the use of technology to colorize old footage to give it a life that it did not have prior. However, this is only one aspect to this vexing, engaging film. The stylized footage of ruddy-faced boys in blues and greens doesn’t really factor in until half an hour into the film, and at that point my attention was already focused, rapt as the every scene unfolded.

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If Beale Street Could Talk

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There’s a dreamlike quality that wafts around If Beale Street Could Talk, writer-director Barry Jenkins follow-up to his Oscar-winning film Moonlight, and based on the novel by James Baldwin. Following the love story of Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), childhood friends who become adult lovers, the film tracks the beginning of their relationship and it’s strain when Fonny is arrested for a rape he didn’t commit and Tish learns she’s pregnant.

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Ben is Back

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Julia Roberts is having a moment, with her venture into TV with Amazon’s Homecoming, and her welcome return to form in Ben is Back, her first leading movie role in a few years. As the movie of the titular Ben (Lucas Hedges), her oldest of four children, an addict, that surprises the family with an abrupt return on Christmas Eve. The film sets up intriguing character dynamics and shifts tones between family drama and mild thriller as the forces some surprising turns, but ultimately it never quite veers away from being a well-done version of a mediocre movie that Lifetime specializes in.

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Green Book

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There’s probably a great movie to be made about Dr. Don Shirley, the closeted classical piano virtuoso as he embarks on a tour of the south in the segregated 60s, but Green Book isn’t it. While the film itself is well produced, and leads Viggo Mortensen and especially Mahershala Ali are amazing, this film is more interested in showcasing and normalizing the casual racism of Mortensen’s Tony Vallelonga as he operates as Shirley’s driver. If you want to see a white-savior movie where a black guy learns about Little Richard and fried chicken from a white dude that uses “eggplants” as a pejorative then have at it, but this film made me feel more uncomfortable than anything.

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Free Solo

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Sometimes movies where the conclusion is known can be robbed a little bit of their momentum, but in the case of Free Solo, there was a fascinating tension throughout. The gorgeously-shot documentary film covers the intention of Alex Honnold to become the first person to ever scale the 3000 ft. wall of El Capitan in Yosemite with no ropes or gear of any kind. As the film tracks Honnold’s quest, his training, and his relationship, it also showcases the beautiful scenery of the mountains he scales, and somewhat surprisingly, there’s never a dull moment. Continue reading

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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By lunging headfirst into the Spider-Man mythos and poking fun at its tropes while continually reinforcing them, Into the Spider-Verse is a silly, heartfelt fun ride, that is as bold and engaging as it is dense and impenetrable. Amidst a story full of time-travel, parallel-universe hokum, the film nonetheless pulls at the right heartstrings while highlighting the universality that made the original Spider-Man an everyman hero.

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The Favourite

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While eschewing historical accuracy, The 18th century epic The Favourite plays like a political All About Eve, decorated with crowns and powdered wigs. Purporting to tell the story of Queen Anne (a deliriously grand Olivia Colman) and her dueling subjects, confidant Sarah (wryly malicious Rachel Weisz) and new servant Abigail (earnestly aggressive Emma Stone), the film veers into a seedy sexual triangle of one-upmanship. With lush backgrounds continually magnified through fish-eye lenses, the style of the film is only surpassed by the game performances of its three leads.

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Boy Erased

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It’s difficult to pinpoint what doesn’t quite work about Boy Erased. Written and directed and co-starring Joel Edgerton, it’s the dark, uncomfortable story of Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), a young boy with overly religious parents who send him off to a conversion camp when he admits that he’s gay. Based on the true-story of Garrard Conley who wrote the book the movie is based on, the film tackles an urgent matter, is performed delicately and expertly, and is as harrowing as it is hopeful. And yet, there’s just something about it that feels a little unfinished.

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