Ep. 118 – The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, High Flying Bird

February 13, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review the highly-anticipated sequel “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part” and Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix film “High Flying Bird.”

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The Lego Movie 2

February 7, 2019 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews, Uncategorized

Starring: Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett
Directed by: Mike Mitchell (“Trolls, Shrek Forever After”)
Written by: Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“The LEGO Movie”)

Dizzily upending the pre-release dread of a film based on a toy line that was bereft of its own characters—they’re BLOCKS, for crying out loud—2014’s “The LEGO Movie” was pure joy from start to finish. Firmly cementing the writing and directing duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller superstar creators, the film was an unexpected delight, a love letter to creativity from a toy line that long ago seemed to abandon that aspect in favor of building ships from “Star Wars” or castles from “Harry Potter.” And, unlike most non-Disney/Pixar animated fare, the script was peppered with whip-smart jokes and enough meta jokes (the reference to the short-lived LEGO NBA line from the early-2000s might have been directed squarely at me) for to make even the most aloof post-modernist laugh his ass off. Everything was awesome, as the song went.

It’s been five years and two spin-offs, “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “The LEGO Ninjago Movie,” were fine and not good, respectively, but we’re finally back to the story of everyman Emmett Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and his friend/chief rescuer/master builder Lucy, a.k.a. Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). After defeating Lord Business (Will Ferrell, who hilariously seems to be phoning in his voice acting this time), the town of Bricksburg was invaded by baby-talking Duplo creatures. We then flash forward half a decade, as the real-world implications of a little sister co-opting her big brother’s LEGO bricks are echoed in Bricksburg, which has transformed into the desolate Apocalypseburg.

Despite everyone else, even Jeff the cat, being hardened into “Mad Max”-style desert dwellers, Emmett remains upbeat and optimistic about moving into his dream house with Lucy. However, his dreams and home are destroyed when the leader of the Duplo army, on orders from Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), kidnaps Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) and Benny (Charlie Day) and takes them to the Systar system. Now, it’s up to Emmett and mysterious adventurer Rex Dangervest to save them.

So, is “The LEGO Movie 2” a blast? Yes, it very much is. Is it as good as the first one? Not quite, it takes a while to get going. Is the magic of the reveal—that this is all happening at the whims of people in the real world—missing this time around? Yes. It’s not hard to put together what’s going on, with names like the Systar system, or the ominous warnings of Ar-mom-ageddon. And that’s the price we pay, unfortunately, because the rest of the movie is top notch, and ups the ante on laser-specific jokes. Do you know what it’s like feeling as if you’re the only person a vocal cameo from former Sonic/Laker Gary Payton is meant for? “The Second Part” doesn’t quite stack up to the original, but it’s still light years better than most animated films that most parents would rather step on a LEGO than watch with their kids.

Ep. 115 – Solo: A Star Wars Story

May 29, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod travel to a galaxy far, far away to review Lord and Miller’s Ron Howard’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

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22 Jump Street

June 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
Directed by: Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“21 Jump Street,” “The LEGO Movie”)
Written by:  Michael Bacall (“21 Jump Street”), Oren Urizel (debut) and Rodney Rothman (“Grudge Match”)

At this point it is almost common knowledge that 2012’s big-screen version of “21 Jump Street” should not have worked at all. A comedic spin on a late-‘80s undercover teen crime drama starring a young Johnny Depp, the film starring the schlubby Jonah Hill and the beefcake-y Channing Tatum went on to become a hit with both audiences and critics. With success comes sequels, and when it comes to “22 Jump Street,” what is the approach? In the hands of Hollywood’s hottest directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the answer is a brilliant and hilarious deconstruction of just what a sequel is made of.

Unlike how “Muppets Most Wanted” earlier this year acknowledged the diminishing returns of sequels in an opening number that amounted to the cleverest thing in the whole movie, “22 Jump Street” merely flirts with breaking the fourth wall by camouflaging all of its talk on the nature of sequels in the trappings of another police assignment that happens to resemble their first adventure. This time around, Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) must infiltrate a drug ring at a local college dealing “Whyphy,” a mix of Aderall and Ecstacy responsible for the death of a female student. Along the way, Schmidt and Jenko fall into patterns reminiscent of their first undercover assignment, only this time it’s happening in a college setting.

Much like Lord and Miller’s “The LEGO Movie,” the plot of “22 Jump Street” is merely a framework to hang metatextual jokes and references on. There are no real surprises to be had when it comes to figuring out who the drug dealer is this time around, especially when monologues from Ice Cube’s and Nick Offerman’s police captains basically spell out just how the plot and interpersonal conflicts between Hill and Tatum will unfold. The film is a near-masterpiece of subversion – earned by Lord’s and Miller’s box office pedigree – that would be impressive enough even if the movie wasn’t as funny as it is.

The laughs work on multiple levels, from the pure physical humor of Hill and Tatum, the dim frat-boy antics of Jenko’s new would-be soul mate Zook (Wyatt Russell), or the meta-humor maybe a third of the audience will laugh at, like a reference to red herrings or an over-cranked car chase taking place in front of the Benjamin Hill Film studies building.  Perhaps sensing there’s not much else to wring out of this premise, Lord and Miller button the end of the film up with dozens of clips of would-be sequels. While I’d be fine with this being the curtain call for the Jump Street gang, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see Hill and Tatum continue their adventures in culinary school or a prestigious dance academy.

Chris Miller & Phil Lord – 21 Jump Street

March 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

Last up were directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord. Their hit animated family movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” may have grossed nearly $245 million worldwide, but that success didn’t mean they could waltz right into whatever live-action project they wanted.

Your big film was “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

Both: It’s true.

What was the transition like to live-action?

Phil Lord: It’s faster. And shorter. In animation you can sit and go to lunch and figure out the answer to something and on set you have to kind of figure it out right away. But other than that, you know, animation has human people, and its basically the same thing as being creative with other human people.

Chris Miller: I mean, yeah, there’s a large crew and there’s obviously the cast of that movie that we dealt with, and this was a similar situation but just, as Phil said, a lot more fast-paced and crazy.

What’s it like getting the call to do an R-rated raunchy comedy?

PL: It’s so weird. One minute, you’re sitting in bed, you know, having a perfectly normal breakfast. And then you get a phone call from Hollywood and they’re like, “You’re doing ’21 Jump Street’,” and I’m like “I didn’t even wanna do ’21 Jump Street!’”

CM: They said, “That’s what you’re doing.”

PL: And they’re like, “That’s what we decided!” and then you’re like, “Well, we’ll make the best of it.”

Was it a call from Hollywood in general?

CM: The mayor of Hollywood.

PL: The mayor of Hollywood. [Adopts ’30s carnival barker voice] “Hello, Hollywood speaking! How are you doing? How would you like to direct ’21 Jump Street?’” [back to normal voice] “Do I have a choice?’ [back to carnival barker voice] “No!”

CM: [Also in ’30s carnival barker voice] “A motion picture! I got Douglas Fairbanks and a pirate ship, see?”

PL: “You’ve got one week!”

[Joining in the ’30s carnival barker voice] It’s a talkie!

CM: We actually sought this out because we wanted to do something that felt very different from “Cloudy” and we thought doing a crazy, R-rated action comedy would be a lot of fun. And we were big fans of Jonah, who was already involved and working on the script with Michael Bacall, and so we actually were the ones making the call rather than the mayor of Hollywood.

PL: Yeah, we kinda went after it. We had to take a bunch of meetings and convince people the cartoon dum-dums could make it.

What’s it like working with an actor who also happens to be the writer?

CM: It was great. Both Jonah and Channing were producers so they were wearing different hats where they were thinking about the whole movie and not just their parts. For the most part, on the set, they were two really smart actors and we had a nice open set. We had a good script and everyone was very familiar with it. We did a lot of table reads so everyone knew where their characters were at any given time, and it was a nice springboard for them to do a lot of improvisation and stuff. Everyone was so familiar with the movie in its entirety and not just their little part in it that it made the improv a lot better.

PL: We’re greedy, you know? I want as many people with ideas and writing talent as possible, you know? It’s awesome to have Jonah there. It’s awesome to have Channing there, who’s got a great mind for story and comedy. It’s awesome to have Ice Cube there, who’s like, you know, a quadruple-threat. It’s great to work with amazing filmmakers. I’ll take free ideas from anyone. And take credit for them. (Laughs)

Were you fans of the TV show?

CM: Yeah, we both watched the show growing up. When I was a kid, the popular girls watched the show, so I also watched the show, thinking maybe we could talk about it in the hallway. Which we did not. It never actually happened. But I had a fondness for the show so we tried to put as many little details, little nods to the show, throughout the movie as possible, even though the movie itself has a very different tone. But it was a lot of fun.

Any plans on doing an adaptation of the “Booker” spin-off?

CM: (Laughs)

PL: Yeah! I’m all for it. That sounds hard.

Somebody call Richard Grieco.

PL: Somebody call him. He’s around. Doing stuff. He’s out in the world.

CM: It’s true. (Laughs)

PL: He is. He’s still with us, God bless him.

21 Jump Street

March 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson
Directed by: Phil Lord (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) and Chris Miller (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)
Written by: Michael Bacall (“Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World”)

Considering the handful of ’80s TV shows adapted into films over the last decade, it’s impossible not to dread the idea of “Manimal” or “Magnum P.I.” finding their way to the big screen anytime soon. Even as popular as the retro revival is today — from skinny jeans to the resurgence of 3D movies — there’s really no excuse for things like Michael Mann slummin’ with “Miami Vice” or the intentional ridiculousness of “The A-Team.” For obvious reasons, we’ll give Jessica Simpson wearing Daisy Dukes a pass for now.

Yet on the heels of these substandard movie versions comes the surprisingly clever and often funny “21 Jump Street,” an adaptation of the TV series that launched teen heartthrob Johnny Depp’s career in 1987. While the plot itself leaves much to be desired, screenwriter Michael Bacall (scribe of the overrated “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the duo behind the deliciously entertaining “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) use the kitschy nature of the crime show to their advantage by mocking its own drawbacks. More telling is their recognition that a “21 Jump Street” movie isn’t necessarily something fans of the series were begging Hollywood to make. With the pressure at a manageable level, the filmmakers toss all logic aside, don’t overdo the nostalgia, and simply have fun with it.

Starring hunky Channing Tatum (“The Vow”) and not so chunky Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”) coming off his first Oscar nomination, “21 Jump Street” takes the procedural buddy cop setup and injects some much-needed energy into the tired formula. Assigned to go undercover as high school students to find the supplier of a new hip, hallucinatory drug students are dropping, rookie police officers Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) maneuver their way through the social network of a younger generation. It’s not just about popular kids and nerds anymore, as we learn when Schmidt points out a group of Asian girls hanging out before class dressed like punk manga comic book characters and asks, “What the hell are those?!”

Like Drew Barrymore in the 1999 rom-com “Never Been Kissed,” Hill and Tatum are forced to revisit their awkward teenage years (Jenko was a dumb jock; Schmidt was a wastoid) and do so with some sharp comedic timing. Neither will ever be able to pull off Peter DeLuise’s mullet, but the hilarious Hill and Tatum tandem is a good enough reason as any to ignore ’80s TV show-turned-movie history and (cue Holly Robinson) jump down on Jump Street.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

September 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris and James Caan
Directed by: Phil Lord (debut) and Chris Miller (debut)
Written by: Phil Lord (“Extreme Movie”) and Chris Miller (“Extreme Movie”)

We might not get as hungry as we would if we were watching “Julie & Julia” or any number of culinary shows on the Food Network, but the new film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is an amusing romp through the refrigerator that proves Pixar isn’t the only animation studio cooking up winners.

While it’s going to be hard to one-up Pixar’s “Up” as this year’s best animation, “Meatballs” gets as close to doing it than any other computer-generated family film has in the last nine months. Based on the children’s book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett, the story follows Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), small-town aspiring inventor whose weird contraptions aren’t what someone would consider ingenious (spray-on shoes sound nifty if there were a way to take them off your feet).

With his father (James Caan) gently encouraging him to give up on his childhood dream and help him work at their family-owed bait and tackle shop instead, Flint’s future as an inventor rides on whether or not he can get his newest gadget – a machine that morphs water into food – to work properly without creating a catastrophe.

But when his experiment is accidentally launched into sky and causes it to start raining cheeseburgers, cherry pie, and a whole bunch of other fatty foods (can’t a guy get some lettuce wraps around here?), the once-economically unfortunate town sees Flint’s mistake as an opportunity to make money on “food tourism.”

However, when the machine goes haywire and stars pouring down food in massive proportions, Flint and his pet monkey (he’s strapped into a translation device like the dogs in “Up” and blurts out random words) must figure a way to stop the “techno food” from falling before the weather gets out of control (spaghetti tornadoes whooshing by in 3-D are such a delight!).

After seeing “Meatballs,” parents may want to keep a closer eye at the dinner table for those children who want to reenact the food showers, but that shouldn’t stop them from spending an afternoon savoring this visually scrumptious CG feature from Sony Pictures Animation. Just remember that saying “clear your plate” might mean something completely different once out of the theater.

Filled with wackiness and witty jokes, “Meatballs” is a riot that doesn’t pander to kids or over-think its humor for adults in the audience. The characters – including Anna Faris as a perky weather girl and Mr. T as a burly lawman – are written with a sharpness that is difficult to capture in a film with essentially two demographics. But where other animations have tilted in favor of one over the other, “Meatballs” serves up a nice balanced meal everyone will enjoy – even if the chicken drumsticks are as big as Mack trucks.