Tag Archives: Elizabeth Banks

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

As you might have guessed, we’ve been so busy at Disney World lately that our movie nights have been few and far between. But now that we’re back from Florida, we are trying to catch up as best we can!

The-LEGO-Movie-2-The-Second-Part-Official-Trailer-2The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is a movie I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Picking up right where The LEGO Movie left off, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part follows Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and the rest of the Bricksburg gang (Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman and Alison Brie) as they battle against the DUPLO invaders. After five years of war, Bricksburg has become an apocalyptic wasteland (and aptly renamed Apocalypseburg). When a new type of invader drops out of the sky and kidnaps Emmet’s friends, Emmet blasts off to the Systar system in hot pursuit.

Sequels are often hard to critique, and I assume even harder to create. Stay too close to the first film and you risk feeling stale. But stray too far from the original and you might lose the magic that drew your audience to you in the first place. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who wrote the original, both return for The LEGO Movie 2 (bonus points to Lord for also writing the outstanding Into the Spider-Verse).  Lord and Miller chose to stay close to the original, and the result is a comfortable ride through familiar territory with a (very) few new characters joining the existing gang. I think it’s the right choice.

The unique feeling of the first movie can’t be replicated, because this is now the 4th LEGO-ish movie, and because I had high expectations coming into the sequel (instead of my zero expectations heading into the original). But the charm, the wit, and the warmth remain. It’s nice to spend more time in the LEGO Movie world, because it’s the world I used to play in with my LEGO as a kid. Except way more professional looking, of course, but the feeling remains exactly right, where adventures are everywhere and where your own creations are more important than the original police station from which most of the blue pieces came.

That bottled nostalgia is the best thing about The LEGO Movie 2. And that’s saying a lot because it’s also smartly written, beautifully animated, and just a whole lot of fun. Sure, it’s not as “fresh” as the first time, but if that’s the only bad thing to be said about this movie, that says a lot.

The Happytime Murders

It’s not a total bag of shit. But it is a mixed bag, and I suppose we must allow that there is some shit in that mix.

I have a certain admiration, and perhaps a higher tolerance, for movies that take risks and push buttons. But a movie like this is going to test even my boundaries, flimsy as they are.

It’s set in a Los Angeles where humans and puppets live together, though not exactly peacefully. The puppets are treated like second-class citizens. And despite the fact that they’re called puppets, there’s no acknowledgement that traditionally that word has referred to an object animated by a human hand up the puppet’s bum. These puppets are people, and their plight is a very interesting allegory for the African American experience. Unfortunately, the film makers keep up that thread for maybe 10 minutes before they drop it in favour of shock-factor antics.

And I get it. Who can resist making puppets do rude things? I LOVE Avenue Q, but MV5BMjEyMjg5NDMwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQ4OTMwNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Avenue Q has a message and a point. It’s well-written and cleverly delivered. The Happytime Murders derails itself with its lewd antics, and if they get a laugh, they also take away from the plot, which is thin to begin with.

The gist: The Happytime Gang was a TV show, and now someone’s murdering its cast one by one. Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) and her ex-partner, puppet Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) have to overcome their history and a massive grudge to work together to save their friends.

But then: porn! So much puppet porn. And not the tasteful or vanilla, either. Puppets are in to some crazy stuff. Not to judge. But there were buckets of jizz, and puppet pubes, depraved bunnies, thirsty cows, and literal horn dogs. The murders are so much more sedate in comparison, puddles of stuffing rather than blood. It’s amazing, though, that something that sets out to be so shocking can so quickly become rather dull. One Sharon Stone-inspired puppet pussy shot is brilliant; repeating it can only reveal your lack of material.

The saddest thing, though, is the movie’s complete waste of funny ladies Melissa McCarthy and Elizabeth Banks. The script asks very little of them. McCarthy is relegated to sidekick status, and though she seems at ease among puppet costars, she doesn’t really get a chance to shine. If anyone, it’s Maya Rudolph who kind of steals the show as Philips’ long-suffering secretary, Bubbles, although it must be said that the puppetry is top-notch, and between you and I, I think I would have 100% enjoyed a documentary about the making of this movie better than the actual movie.

The Happytimes Murders is frequently disgusting, and often crude, but it’s not always bad. It’s not meant for everyone, but there was one woman in my screening who laughed like a hyena for the entire 91 minutes, so it does have its audience, it just may not be you. Or me. It goes out of its way to be ludicrous. If director Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son) could hide in the theatre and poke you with a big puppet penis, he probably would. The movie was clearly made with glee and abandon, even if it isn’t always received that way by audiences. Personally, I just think it confuses lewd and dirty with entertaining a little too often, and for me that joke wore thin. But I won’t pretend I didn’t laugh occasionally – it was just usually the kind of laugh where you hide your own eyes in shame and hope that Grandpa isn’t watching from Heaven.

 

Pitch Perfect 3

The Barden Bellas from the first 2 movies are back, but they’ve been replaced. Having finally graduated from college, a new crop of girls is singing acapella at their alma matter and the old Bellas are feeling obsolete. Shitty jobs aren’t panning out and dreams are already broken, and the old Bellas are feeling obsolete (I know! Who would have guessed that majoring in mouth music wasn’t really the best life choice?!). A last ditch effort to reunite comes in an invitation to perform for the troops in a USO show and since the Bellas have literally nothing else going on (except for one unwanted pregnancy), off they go to a warn-torn Spanish resort hotel to do their part.

Now you might think that being in a war zone is the toughest part of this new chapter, but in fact, to the Bellas, because they’re not crazy AT ALL, the worst part is dimscompeting against bands that play instruments. How dare they! I thought college was supposed to prepare you for the real world but these ladies are literally not even prepared for guitars. Yeesh. (Not to give too much credit to the new “bands”, including Evermoist, led by Ruby Rose, because after seriously mocking the Bellas for being a “cover band”, it turns out they all do covers too! A Cranberries tribute is particularly poignant with the recent death of Dolores O’Riordan.)

Anyway. There was absolutely no call to make a third movie here, and the script strains so hard to justify itself you’ll want to buy it a squatty potty. If you absolutely must watch it, you’ll want to wait until it’s available at home, where you can fast-forward to all the Sia bits and avoid the inane “plot” (though you’ll want to hear John Lithgow sing with an Australian accent at least once, just to say you did). It’s pretty clear that this franchise needs to learn the same lesson the Bellas do: moving on is good.

 

 

Catch Me If You Can

My first encounter with the life of Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. was accidental.  I was about 5 or 6, poking around the house, when I came across a book cover that instantly imprinted on me:Catch Me

I didn’t read it then, because I couldn’t read a 50 page book before my short little attention span made me want to “look at” ants through a magnifying glass or something similarly fun.  And I never ended up reading it at any time in the next three decades.  It’s probably still sitting in my parents’ bookshelf, and as a kid I would have read it ten times over if I had just read a different page every time I picked it up instead of just looking at the creepy faceless man on the cover over and over again.  But really, the cover was enough for me to draw my own conclusions about how this “amazing true story” turned out.  And it was not until this week that I learned how wrong I was all these years.

My biggest mistake was thinking that this story centred around the fact that this guy actually had no face and that’s why he needed the pilot mask. Symbolism was lost on me then (and probably still is to this day).  It turns out that this guy had a normal face, wrote a lot of bad cheques, and for some reason the key to his scheme was pretending to be a pilot.

I found that part of the story absolutely amazing.  Most of all because I feel like it’s probably true.  Pilots in the 1960s were gods among men.  They were the paragon of success and reliability.  So much so that a pilot’s uniform changed Frank Jr.’s cheque scams from fruitless endeavours to an avalanche of other peoples’ money.  Can you imagine this happening today?  It seems as likely as an apparently successful model taking a cheque in exchange for turning tricks.  Which, as I learned, also happened in this true story.

Incidentally, that successful model was played by Jennifer Garner.  Catch Me If You Can is full of soon-to-be-stars making cameos, including Amy Adams, Elizabeth Banks and Ellen Pompeo.  Add Christopher Walken, Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen, and Leonardo DiCaprio, and you’ve got a pretty impressive cast.  And the director, Steven Spielberg, is no slouch either.

Maybe all these young faces are the reason that watching Catch Me If You Can felt doubly nostalgic.  As only a movie set in the good old days can, the movie puts a bright sunny face on $2.5 million worth of cheque fraud, where if you go big enough then inevitably the FBI will negotiate your release from prison so they can offer you a job.  And those good old days now seem to be either the 1960s, when this movie is set, or the early 2000s, pre-financial crisis, when this movie was made.

Catch Me If You Can is an entertaining movie that remains enjoyable mainly because it fully embraces its ludicrous premise.  If it took itself more seriously, it may still have worked in those good old days but by now probably would have lost its luster, as I think we are now too jaded to be charmed by ultra-rich assholes who think the rules don’t apply to them (with Donald Trump being an obvious and unfortunate exception).

But Spielberg and DiCaprio didn’t ask me to like Abagnale.  Instead, they gave me a kid who figured out how to do one thing really well but who was terrible at every other aspect of life, a guy I almost felt sorry for, and that was a brilliant choice.  Add Tom Hanks as an opponent/father figure who by the end of the movie sees right through Abagnale, and you get a movie I should have watched long before now, especially when it has been sitting on our DVD shelf since Jay and I moved in together.  Things might have been different if the DVD cover had a man with no face – because then I would undoubtedly have picked it up long ago.  That was Dreamworks’ one misstep.

Catch Me If You Can gets a score of nine giddy stewardesses out of ten.

The Lego Movie

The only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be. I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it’s true. -Vitruvius

Sometimes movies try too hard. Sometimes the effort to be meaningful or say something important is so obvious that it overwhelms the entertaining parts of the movie. That did not happen here.

This movie is gleefully insane but in the smartest possible way. It strikes a very difficult balance – it makes me laugh at the same silly things as my nieces and nephews. It feels made for all of us at once. And it makes me feel good about watching it with them, not only because it makes them laugh, but also because it has something really good to say. It has a great heart, and I think I want them to grow up to be like Emmet. Except not plastic.

Everything this movie tries, works. I just love this movie. And if you read my Big Hero 6 review, you know how much I loved that movie. But Matt was right. This is the best animated movie of 2014. Hands down. Everything truly is awesome here. You can see the love put into this in every single glorious frame. Everything is little bricks, everything looks like Lego and feels like Lego. It is unique and wonderful. See this movie and you are sure to find something to love too.