Tag Archives: michael pena

Jexi

Phil is a cliche who probably doesn’t exist in real life: he’s obsessed with his phone, he writes listicles for a living, he’s incapable of human interaction and would rather spend the night watching videos online than spending time with (or heck even making) friends.

Do Phils really exist? I suppose there’s a grain of truth in there somewhere: some people are overly attached to their phones, and overly desperate for likes on social media. But most people manage to have phones AND human friends. Our phones give us directions to where we want to go, they tell us who’s celebrating a birthday, and what bill needs to be paid. They help us call a car, and order lunch, and share a recipe. They remind us how to spell ‘accommodate’ and when our period is due, or overdue. They connect us to our adorable nephews who haven’t stopped growing just because they’re in quarantine. They keep us entertained on planes, they keep us up to date on elections, and they provide a near infinite supply of puppy pictures. All on one pocket sized device! So yeah, I’m not down on phones, or on young people for using them. I’m not sure who benefits for perpetuating the myth that only young people are obnoxious about their phones, but it’s patently untrue. Moms were the first to adopt cell phones, so they could stay in constant contact with their children. Moms are basically the only people who still use phones for calling people (ew!). Dads invented the belt holster so you could show off your love of wearable electronics (before they were technically wearable) while also accidentally broadcasting what a huge douche you are. When someone is blocking your view of the Mona Lisa by taking pictures with their iPad, 9 out of 10 times it’s a baby boomer. Elbowed in the eye by someone ineptly using a selfie stick? Boomer. Someone talking on their cell in the public bathroom stall next to yours? Most likely a boomer. Cell phone ringing during a Broadway performance? Definitely a boomer. And yet: Phil. Phil (Adam Devine) just can’t be separated from his phone. So yeah, he’s totally panicked when he literally runs into Cate (Alexandra Shipp) one day, destroying his phone in the process. Without a thought for the woman who may also be injured, he races his broken phone to the nearest ER cell phone store where employee Denice (Wanda Sykes) breaks the bad news: it’s not going to make it. You’d think that by the speed with which he rushed the thing to urgent care he’d be quite upset, but not only are cell phones replaceable, constant upgrades are a way to signal status. Behold the new phone!

This phone is unlike other phones. Its operating system is feisty. Call her Jexi. She sounds suspiciously like Rose Byrne, and she knows everything there is to know about Phil, since he’s documented it obsessively in the cloud. Not only does Jexi know everything, she has opinions about it. And she starts steering his life in the direction she believes is best.

Imagine if HAL from  2001: A Space Odyssey and Sam (Scarlett Johansson) from Her had an AI baby and named her Jexi. Jexi is strangely alluring for someone who doesn’t have a body. She’s no Ava (Alicia Vikander) from Ex Machina. She’s more like your craziest, most jealous, most stalkery ex, only Jexi has access to your dating profiles, your porn collection, your work contacts, and your dick pics.

Even though the 2020 movie season is experiencing extreme drought, I scrolled right by this rental for many months. I’m not much of an Adam Devine fan and though desperate times call for desperate measures, I held out hope that I’d not hit my bottom quite yet. But don’t despair. This viewing wasn’t motivated by desperation so much as it now being able to stream on Amazon Prime (so, free for me, since I have an account). But even free was too high of a cost – what’s worse than an unfunny comedy? An unfunny comedy that makes you wish you’d just watched Her instead. Or Ex Machina. An unfunny comedy that makes you wish you’d watched any other AI movie, or even any other unfunny comedy that didn’t get your hopes up just as you resigned yourself to it. Because while it was Adam Devine’s smug pug face keeping me away this whole time, actually clicking on it revealed castmates like Sykes, Byrne, and Michael Pena, all of whom led me to believe this might not have been as bad as I’d feared and then it was WORSE. Arghghghghg.

This movie is for a very, very small demographic: baby boomers lacking in senses of both humour and irony who will suffer through unfunny comedies just to feel superior to young people as they scroll through Facebook, clicking on all the COVID clickbait conspiracies planted by Russia as if they aren’t the ones who used screens as babysitters in the first place. Ahem.

Fantasy Island

I take it that Fantasy Island was a show once upon a time, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it. I can tell you a little more about the movie, available to rent on VOD.

2020’s Fantasy Island is luxurious and exclusive. Guests arrive on a private plane and the enigmatic Mr. Roarke (Michael Pena) is there to greet them. Mr. Roarke is there to facilitate fantasies, but it’s the island that fulfills them. For Gwen (Maggie Q), a second chance at happiness; for brothers Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and J. D. (Ryan Hansen), it’s a pool full of models; for Patrick (Austin Stowell), a chance to play live-action Call of Duty; and for Melanie (Lucy Hale), some good old fashioned revenge.

But the island isn’t just some tropical paradise, it’s the physical embodiment of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Fantasies quickly turn into nightmares, and before long, the guests will either have to figure out the island’s sinister motives or pay with their lives.

It has been well-documented on this site that I am a chicken. I don’t usually elect to watch horror movies, but then again, I don’t usually elect to stay confined to my home for 9 weeks either. This pandemic has been an unprecedented time and I have been more willing to seek thrills outside my normal parameters. But if you’re an actual fan of horror movies, the truth is, you’re going to find this extremely mild. Even I wasn’t afraid!

I mean sure, people are being chased, tortured, gunned down, electrocuted. Bad guys bleed black, suffer eyeball bursts, and re-animate at inconvenient times.

But scary? Not exactly. The island is the bad guy. It’s evil, but not exactly subtle. Fire will try to burn you. Water will try to drown you. Men will drag you out from your hiding place, kicking and screaming. Everything bad that can happen will happen and so there’s no suspense or thrill.

Worst of all, no one opts for crazy sex stuff. Really? REALLY??? I wouldn’t mourn the lack of crazy sex stuff if anything else was entertaining me. As it is, Fantasy Island is just a so-so way to pass the time, and it’s best to temper your expectations.

Observe and Report

When we were in Mexico I was reading a book about cyber warfare – not your typical beach read mind you but very informative and interesting (David Sanger’s The Perfect Weapon). Among many things it discussed the Sony hack. Basically, North Korea was very mad about a Seth Rogen movie called The Interview that involved the assassination of their leader. Apparently North Koreans can’t take a joke. I mean, lots of North Americans don’t find Seth Rogen particularly funny either, but most of them don’t commit cyber crime in retaliation. They released a whole bunch of very embarrassing emails for Sony but it actually had the opposite effect. Whereas the big whigs had been debating pulling the plug on The Interview, now they HAD to release it so that the terrorists didn’t win or some such American flag-waving sentiment. So they got a theatre and VOD release and a bunch of us watched it just to see what the fuss was all about.

I rewatched it out of curiosity but found that I’d already reviewed it on this site and I was shocked to find that we’ve been at this that long (it came out in 2014) but my opinion hasn’t wavered much. It is profoundly dumb and yet if you’re a fan of Rogen’s, you will find a chance or two to chuckle. But the movie really did benefit from North Korea’s interference, spurring a marketing campaign that money couldn’t buy and Hollywood couldn’t think up.

On a Seth Rogen kick, I gave Observe and Report a second chance as well. And the truth is, I found it even harder to laugh at this one. Rogen plays mall security guard Ronnie, hopelessly in love with makeup counter girl Brandi (Anna Faris) and even more hopelessly determined to be a real cop. When a flasher starts haunting the mall, Ronnie sees it as his opportunity to shine and does not take kindly to a real detective, the surly detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), stealing his thunder.

Possibly it’s hard to genuinely laugh at Ronnie because he’s dubbed bipolar and his single-minded delusions just come off as illness. Or possibly it’s because the film has a real mean streak. But probably it’s because the script is bad and director Jody Hill didn’t have the chops to wrangle his cast and crew. The film is simply too sloppy to guess whether Hill’s script is subversive or actually deeply racist and misogynistic. I can tell you that it feels like laughter borne in ignorance and I’m just not comfortable joining in. We deserve better, and frankly, so does Ronnie.

Dora and The Lost City of Gold

I’m not what you might call a Dora stan. I have nothing against her, and I even have a measure of respect for intrepid young women who are curious and resourceful. But I’m a billion and a half light years too old to be watching her show – though I believe I did about 700 million years ago as a babysitter. Had Dora been on TV that long, or is she just living an extended life on Netflix?

No matter.

The movie doesn’t ask you to know much about the Dora universe; you could easily jump right in and be the 5th wheel on her trek through the jungle. If you do know the show, you’ll be delighted by several in-jokes; the movie is not afraid to poke fun of its origins, and those little touches separate Dora and The Lost City of Gold from others in its genre.

In the cartoon, Dora is a 6 year old, but the movie, unwilling to imperil a small child, instead chooses to imperil a slightly larger one, aging her up a decade, but keeping her innocence and hair band intact, though neither of those things makes her very popular in high school.

Little Dora was raised in the jungle by her professor/explorer parents, Elena (Eva Longoria) and Cole (Michael Pena). But when they’re preparing an epic and intensive search for Parapata (a lost Incan civilization, the film’s titular city of gold), they send Dora (Isabella Moner) away, to a proper big city with actual schools, and worse, peers. High school turns out to be an even more dangerous place. And while she’s happy to reconnect with cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg, nephew to Mark and Donnie), it doesn’t last long because she and a small group of students are kidnapped by mercenaries trying to find her parents, and not incidentally, all that lost gold.

Thus ensues an epic adventure, the kind only Dora could have, which is to say: filled with monkeys who may or may not wear boots, foxes who may or may not swipe, and songs that may or may not be about pooping. So even though Dora has boobs, she’s still a youthful, fun-loving gal who embraces the absurd (adorably, her grown-up back pack is designed in such a way that it appears to have a smiling face). There’s some very common denominator humour in here that had the kids in our screening spitting out their popcorn in delight. Truly, there was a variety of hoots the likes of which I have possibly never experienced before in a theatre. Moner is winning and lovable in the role, and what more could you ask for? It ticks all the boxes, occasionally manages to surprise and delight, and if I’m being honest, it exceeded my modest expectations, so I’m chalking this up as a win.

The Avengers Have Day Jobs

When The Avengers aren’t fighting crime on screen, they’re often teaming up to do other movies. Here, a totally non-exhaustive list, so feel free to contribute your own in the comments.

Zodiac: Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark (RDJ) hunt a serial killer, with future Spider-man villain Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). Tsk tsk.

Wind River: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Oslen) risk frostbite in this thriller.

I Saw The Light: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) get their
cowboy boots on in this country-western send-up to Hank Williams.

Infinitely Polar Bear: I totally recommend this film about how a bipolar diagnosis affects a family, starring The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana).giphy

Men In Black 4: This one is not technically out yet, but could we be more excited to see a movie starring Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)???

Her: This is a super cerebral movie about a man falling in love with the voice of an operating system (Scarlett Johansson) – look carefully and you’ll also see Star-Lord himself (Chris Pratt).

Sunshine: Danny Boyle assembles a team of astronauts to save the dying sun, among them Captain America (Chris Evans), Guardians Vol. 2’s Aleta Ogord (Michelle Yeoh), Endgame’s Akihiko (Hiroyuki Sanada), and Doctor’s Strange’s right hand man, Wong (Benedict Wong).

American Hustle: David O. Russell recruits the voice of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant-Man’s best pal Luis (Michael Pena).

Traffic: This is a really interesting and complicated movie about the war on drugs, by Steven Soderbergh, and just wait til you hear how it criss-crosses the MCU: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) star, with War Machine
(Don Cheadle) making an appearance also. Bonus level: Miguel Ferrer, Iron Man 3’s Vice President Rodriguez.

Chef: Beloved Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) plays the eponymous Chef, and is joined onscreen by pals Ironman (Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Antman’s daughter’s stepdad, Paxton (Bobby Cannavale).

Creed: Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) met his fate in Black Panther, but Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) gets to snuggle up in Creed.

sourceSherlock Holmes (TV): Although they never teamed up in the MCU, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) teams up with Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) is this addictive detective series.

Sherlock Holmes (movie): On film, Sherlock is played by none other than Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), and his faithful Watson by evil Kree Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). What an odd pairing!

Unicorn Store: Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) are reunited and it feels so good. And this time they’re getting a unicorn! Yes, a real one. Jackson’s wardrobe is cotton candy for the soul, complete with tinsel-weaved wigs. Must see, currently streaming on Netflix.

Marshall: Black Panther himself (Chadwick Boseman) plays Thurgood Marshall alongside N’jobu, Killmonger’s slain father from the same film (Sterling K. Brown).

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Captain America tumblr_nb04u6MGrq1te1cwfo2_500(Chris Evans) use their powers for evil instead of good – Larson playing rock star Envy Adams, Scott’s ex-girlfriend, and Evans playing action star Lucas Lee, one of Ramona’s seven evil exes. This is a fun one to re-visit, as it is written and directed by Edgar Wright, who also wrote the screenplay to Ant-Man.

Wonder Boys: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Ironman (Downey Jr.) make an uneasy alliance in this Michael Chabon adaptation.

13 Going On 30: The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) was surprised to learn that Captain Marvel (Larson) makes an appearance in this film as a mean girl in high school!

In the Heart of the Sea: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes Spidey (Tom Holland) under his wing in this Moby Dick retelling.

Isle of Dogs: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) gets her voice on in this Wes Anderson animated film, alongside GrandMaster Flash (Jeff Goldblum) and The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).

The MCU is super incestuous. I bet you can think of many more!

Extinction

Poor Peter – the schmuck hasn’t slept well in forever, plagued by nightmares about losing his family in some sort of attack. Michael Pena stars in Netflix’s new sci-fi offering Extinction, and the guy who’s known as the one good thing to come out of Crash is a perfect fit for family man Peter. It possibly doesn’t hurt that his character appears to work on a set that looks like an exact copy of the Van Dyne lab.

Anyway. Both his boss (Mike Colter) and his wife (Lizzy Caplan) urge him to see a sleep specialist and get his shit in order. But Peter starts to wonder if maybe there’s a reason he’s been chosen for these visions. And, for the first time in the history of marriage, it turns out he’s right. An alien invasion interrupts their dinner party and things get to explodey, apocalypty, emergency level so quickly that he doesn’t even get to say I told you so.

It occurs to me that Extinction’s invaders remind me a lot of something that invaded Ottawa this time last summer. We called it La Machine. Basically they’re storeys-tall robot-puppets that stalked the city’s busiest streets.

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It looks relatively benign behind Sean at the moment, but you have to see it in action to really get the gist. The spider, which is what I was reminded of in the movie, was joined by a dragon AND THEY WERE NOT FRIENDS. When they met up in the city, they invariably fought.

Sorry for the crummy video, but you can kind of see the people under neath the spider’s body who are controlling its various legs.

Anyway, sorry guys, this was a pretty big sidebar, even for me. Back to the movie.

Extinction isn’t bad, you just have to be willing to hang in during the first half, which is pretty standard, perhaps even subpar fare. At any rate: nothing you haven’t seen before. But there’s some clever foreshadowing that makes the second half much more interesting. It’s probably not a great move to inject the film’s personality into only the back end because lots of viewers won’t stick around long enough to find it. But for those that do, it’s an engaging and curious interpretation that a true sci-fi fan has likely encountered before in some form or another, but this kind of backward and forward thinking is always welcome. Extinction, by Hounds of Love director Ben Young, looks like a thriller, but this is a trick. You’ll have to survive the invasion to find out what’s really going on.

12 Strong

In the days immediately following 9/11, George Bush believed that Osama Bin Laden was being hid by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He demanded that Afghanistan hand him over, which they refused to do without concrete proof that he was responsible. So because everybody’s blood was up and something had to be done, they declared war. 12 Strong is about the first 12 guys who were sent over there on a special mission that they apparently did well, and quickly, only no one ever gave them the thumbs up about it because it was classified so they got no credit. This movie is their reward, but not a very good one. I would have preferred a sundae or an iguana or that new sunblock that has glitter in it. Instead what we got is yet another war movie, one that does little to add anything new to the conversation or the genre, one that feels derivative of other work and repetitive even within itself. It’s kind of long and boring and just not very good, other than the acting. Since that’s all the review I think this movie deserves, I will now attempt to act it out for you (minus anything graphic, or racist, hopefully) so that you don’t have to sit through it yourself. Of course, you still have my permission to watch it you wish. Or if you must. Or you can watch it without my permission, as may already have done (sorry I’m so late. I really did drag my feet on this one AND MY INSTINCT WAS CORRECT!) – frankly, you guys have done an excellent job of watching movies without my hand-holding, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever really congratulated you about that.

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When I told Sean I’d watched 12 Strong, he asked “The one with the horses?” Yes, yes it is.

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But not that one. Although, if you have a good memory, you know that apes on horses really freak me out. This movie just has soldiers on horses because there weren’t any Jeeps in Afghanistan. Don’t quote me on that. I just made it up, but it does explain the horses.

Chris Hemsworth plays the main soldier guy, who is just moving into a new home when the first plane hits the towers. Sad moment. Cannot make fun of that.

Good job casting the right Hemsworth, and even better, casting that Hemsworth’s wife to play his wife.  I just had to google Elsa Pataky because she had an accent in the movie but it sure wasn’t American or Australian, and yup, turns out she’s Spanish, so that checks out. I clearly don’t know her from much else besides having married into the Hemsworth clan, and she’s clearly too busy pushing out blonde surfer babies to do much acting, other than the Fast & Furious franchise, which I will politely look the other way on.

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This is the real Hemsworth family, not the movie one. I’m 95% sure.

So being a proud American and a keen soldier, Hemsworth volunteers to do whatever is necessary, and so do Michael Shannon and Michael Pena.

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Once they’re over there, William Fichtner tells them they’re going to fight alongside the Northern Alliance leader, Dostum. I know the titles implies that there are 12 guys but I’ve only named 3 actors, so here’s the deal: the 12 get split into 2 groups, the brave and good and movie-worthy group goes to battle, and the other group stays behind in a fortified camp and they are just as important as the alpha group guys, just as good, even if they don’t really do anything. So Hemsworth’s group is a pack of 6, and they just focus on the most handsome 3, which just makes good sense.

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Do I look like the kind of man who gets left behind at base camp?

Anyway, then there’s like 2 hours of fighting.

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Well, no, okay, it wasn’t a dance battle. If there was a dance battle, do you think I’d be dissing this movie? No, there were your standard guns, guns, bullets, guns, rockets, explosions, guns, bullets, guns. The typical war boner stuff.

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Then an Afghani man drives a very hard sheep bargain

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The transaction was not cute in any way and upon reflection, I cannot for one bloody second remember why Michael Pena wanted a sheep so goddamned bad. Anyway, there was at least one truly horrific scene that I can’t make light about, and Dostum and Chris Hemsworth get all buddy-buddy when Dostum talks about his dead family. But then he gets enraged because some other American contingent is back his rival, so he abandons them, feeling betrayed.

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But then he comes back! And there’s more fighting.

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And an email from Donald Rumsfeld, being a dick (is that redundant?). Michael Shannon gets what is described as a “sucking chest wound” and they all act surprised that someone could get hurt out here (no sense of irony for all the Afghans who have visibly been blown to bits). Don’t worry, Michael Shannon definitely survives because he’s already fighting the next war, which is against books.

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Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael Shannon and Micheal B. Jordan, airs on HBO May 19th.

 

 

 

Then there’s some slow-motion explosions (did Michael Bay make a directing cameo?) and some very heroic music and other American propaganda bullshit.

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And then they all shake hands and touch peckers and go home, because JOB DONE. This movie has embarrassingly zero hindsight and very little perspective. This little top-secret mission comprised the first 23 days of the war in Afghanistan, and they really dropped some bombs and shook some shit up, but guess what? That war is ONGOING. As in, the longest war in United States history. But never mind that. Let’s focus on those first triumphant 3 weeks and let our chests swell with pride.

The end.

A Wrinkle in Time

This movie came out when I was in Austin, Texas seeing a billion movies at SXSW, and even so, I still considered taking a time out just to see another movie, one that was just hitting theatres. I never made it to A Wrinkle In Time then, but I finally got around to it this weekend, and I wasn’t the only one: our cinema was packed on Easter Monday, and I was pleased to note how many families were in attendance.

For those of you who haven’t read the book (by Madeleine L’Engle), A Wrinkle In Time is about a young girl named Meg – troubled at school, grieving at home. Her parents are both brilliant scientists, or were – her father disappeared years ago while MV5BNzhkYzRlNzUtNzFhNy00MzllLWFkZGEtNDg0ZTE0YTYzOWNjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjk3NTUyOTc@._V1_working on a theory about a tesseract, which would involve “wrinkling” time and space in order to travel through it. One dark and stormy night, a mysterious woman named Mrs. Whatsit appears to tell Meg, her friend Calvin, and Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace, the child genius, that she has heard her father calling out to them through the universe. Turns out, Mrs. Whatsit and her friends Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which are supernatural beings prepared to engage in a rescue mission.

The book was repeatedly rejected – possibly because it was a work of science fiction with a young, female protagonist, and possibly because it asked a lot from its young readers. Not only does it use physics and philosophy as basic concepts, it directly tackles the nature of evil, and pits children against it. The movie, too, follows in its footsteps, embracing what made the novel so special and unique, proudly displaying the magic AND the science, and trusting a young audience to appreciate them both. If anything the movie is a little too ambitious – though I quite enjoyed it, I did, in the end, have the sense that parts of it were quite condensed.

Director Ava du Vernay gets the casting exactly right: Storm Reid as Meg is what we want every 13 year old girl to be – smart and strong and curious and cautious. Her determination in the face of her fear and vulnerability make her an exceedingly compelling character. She may at times be insecure but her love and loyalty toward family see her through difficult times. But of course it’s the larger than life characters that Meg meets that give the story so much colour. The Mrs. Ws are particularly enchanting, and I cannot imagine a more satisfying trio than Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah, large and in charge.

At just under 2 hours, the movie does unfortunately lose some of the detail that MV5BMTU5Njg0NTA0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTgwNDU4NDM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,929_AL_make the book wonderful, but it also paints a fantastic picture that I cannot stop myself from going back to in my mind. The visuals are exotic and beautiful and the world-building just divine. I can only guess at the kind of impression it makes on young imaginations.

Though the movie has some flaws, its themes are just as courageous and necessary today as they were when the book was first published in 1962. Light vs darkness, good triumphing over evil, and the only real weapon used is love. It’s also got a (somewhat diluted) message against conformity; Meg has to embrace her flaws in order to win the day.

See this movie with a child’s wonder and you will be delighted. Adapting this book was always going to be difficult, and the worst thing it does, necessarily, is rob us of the opportunity to do some of the imagining for ourselves. But in committing to the visuals, Ava du Vernay does the source material more than justice. She gives us a film full of hope and bravery, and shows little girls everywhere that they too can be the heroes of their own stories.

My Little Pony: The Movie

I was once a My Little Pony playing girl but the truth is, My Little Pony left fans like me behind a long time ago. It was rebooted in 2010 and found a surprise demographic: not just the expected little girls, but grown men as well. What the heck? These fans, who call themselves by the shudder-worthy nickname “bronies”, were brought to my attention in the 2012 documentary, Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Ponies.  It’s fascinating to watch in a train wreck kind of way and if you have to choose between it and this animated film, definitely definitely go for the documentary.

Anyway, whatever these adult fans see in the series is beyond me. And though I’ve now racked up 11 nieces and nephews between the ages of 2 and 9, there is not a single My Little Pony fan between them. To whom does this series appeal?

The film opens up with The Go-Go’s We Got the Beat playing – or is it? In fact, the lyrics giphy (1)have been tampered with. What I thought might be an appeal to our inner 80s kid turns out to be just an extended pony play on words. The song plays as Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship (the horse community has a stunningly high proportion of royalty vs subjects), is preparing Equestria for a festival of friendship when the party’s invaded by a dark force, led by Tempest Shadow and The Storm King, who encase the upper pony echelons in rock and prepare to do some evil, conquery thing to the happy go lucky ponies.

So the “Mane 6” (Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rarity) go on a journey that I suppose the creators have sold as “exciting” and “unforgettable” but in actual fact, My Little Pony: The Movie has no discernible difference in quality between its theatrical release and whatever passes for acceptable on early-morning kids programming. It feels like an extended episode of something really shitty, with bland, cornball songs thrown in for good measure, spouting predictable lyrics about working together and how anyone can do anything if only the put their mind to it (actual song titles: We Got This, I’m the Friend You Need, Time to Be Awesome). The main characters are all voiced by the same no-names who do the morning cartoons but new characters developed strictly for the film are voiced by the likes of Emily Blunt, Zoe Saldana, Sia, Taye Diggs, Liev Schreiber, Uzo Aduba, and Michael Pena, which in no way makes the film even remotely more watchable, and in fact, Emily Blunt isn’t even doing her own natural accent, so she’s easy to miss.

The ponies pay lip service to the sharing and caring type shenanigans you’d expect but when the chips are down, some pretty entitled bullshit really drives the plot. The good news is, you’re only likely to be subjected to this if you’re a parent, and there’s truly no other reason to watch it except under duress. And any road trip longer than an hour with kids under 10 counts as duress. The hard part is, I know that in lots of houses with young kids, certain movies get stuck on repeat. At my sister’s house, it’s currently “Woody” (Toy Story) and “Choo Choo” (The Polar Express), which aren’t too bad all things considered. But even Oscar winning fare gets tedious after its eleventh straight viewing. If you’re currently living through a similar My Little Pony scenario, may Pegasus help you.

 

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Sean has a video game called LEGO Dimensions. You buy character packs, build them out of LEGO, and then you can play them in the game. The character packs come in all sorts of cool recognizable shapes and sizes: Sean has the Simpsons, and Back to the Future, and Ghostbusters, for example. He builds a Marty McFly, and a Delorean, and then he can go through the plot of the movie using those characters. It’s pretty cool. But as a completionist, he’s also bought character packs that we have no experience with at all, like Harry Potter, Adventure Time, Portal 2, and Ninjago. And while we knew that Harry Potter were popular books, and a franchise of films, we didn’t know Ninjago at all. In fact, we didn’t even know how to pronounce it correctly until Sean called it Ninja-go in front of his 4 year old nephew, who looked at him like he was a complete sack of shit. It’s pronounced Nin-jaw-go, for your information. And apparently it’s a TV show used to sell LEGO sets. But whereas Bill Murray was a real flesh and blood person rendered into a cartoon version of a LEGO mini figure, the Ninjagos were always LEGO. LEGO has sold over 100 different sets of LEGOs based on that show, so you can see how it’s a big money maker for them. The movie is a cog in their money making machine.

AmazeThe gist of the movie: Garmadon (Justin Theroux) is the bad guy threatening the world of Ninjago. But every time he tries to invade it for good, he’s thwarted by a band of teenage ninjas trained by his brother, Master Wu (Jackie Chan) and led by the son he abandoned 16 years ago, Lloyd (Dave Franco) though none bear any familial resemblance. Being the son of a noted bad guy is hard, and so is being the vaguely named “green ninja” in a crew of ninjas otherwise named for the elements – Cole\Earth (Fred Armisen), Jay\Lightning (Kumail Nanjiani), Kai\Fire (Michael Pena), Zane\Ice (Zach Woods), and Nya\Water (Abbi Jacobson). They get to ride around in really cool LEGO robots that can shoot things and fly, and I can totally see the toy appeal. Lloyd’s robot vehicle is a dragon that shoots missiles from every body part imaginable – what kid could resist? But the genius is that that they all have something different, so the potential for you to spend money is almost limitless.

Anyway, when Garmadon makes his most successful bid to capture the city (and a monster threatens to destroy it), Lloyd will have to learn now to harness his vague ninja powers, pull his team together, and also bond a little with his bad guy dad.

Yes, it’s all a big ploy to get into your wallet. But like the other LEGO movies that came before it, it’s also shamelessly fun. But this one is the weakest of the three, in part because it only appeals to the kids who know and watch the show. The other two movies preyed on adult nostalgia and reminded them of the toys they played with as kids. The only thing this movie might remind you of is the sharp little buggers that get lost in your carpet and hurt like hell when you step on them at night on your way to the bathroom. LEGO knows what it’s doing: the butt joke ratio is extremely high, and the kids laugh every damn time. So go ahead and take them to it, as long as you understand that it’s likely to cost you more than just the movie tickets.