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. 94 – The LEGO Batman Movie, John Wick: Chapter 2, Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis, The Edge of Seventeen, and Beavis & Butt-head: The Complete Collection

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Jerrod and Cody review “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “John Wick: Chapter 2.” They also dive in to new home entertainment releases “Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis,” “The Edge of Seventeen,” and “Beavis & Butt-head: The Complete Collection.”

[00:00-29:30] Intro/SXSW tease

[29:30-44:48] Review: “The LEGO Batman Movie”

[44:48-56:37] Review: “John Wick: Chapter 2”

[56:37-1:19:19] No Ticket Required: “Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis,” “The Edge of Seventeen,” and “Beavis & Butt-head: The Complete Collection”

[1:19:19-1:22:50] Wrap up/tease
Click here to download the episode!

The LEGO Batman Movie

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Brian, Reviews

Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Chris McKay (TV’s “Robot Chicken”)
Written by: Seth Grahame-Smith (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”), Chris McKenna (“Igor”), Erik Sommers (“Spider-man: Homecoming”), Jared Stern (“The Watch”), John Whittington (debut)

Learning, post-screening, that “The LEGO Batman Movie” director Chris McKay cut his stop-motion, pop culture incisors on three-seasons-and-a-movie of “Robot Chicken” feels something like — if you’ll be a peach and pardon the simile — the final piece clicking into place in that pixel-y, scale-model-ish helicopter/racecar/pontoon boat/Millennium Falcon you’ve been coaxing into being from a puddle of disparate, primary-colored, plastic Danish peg-bricks.

That is: It fits. It makes sense. It was always there, formless yet undeniable until it was made explicit and you uttered a sotto-voce “of course!” It’s what Lego Oprah (surely that exists) might call an “Everything is Ahawesome” moment. (Good gravy. No more Lego puns for me.)

It explains, in other words, the palpable kinship in sensibility between the incumbent Bat-comedy and the wryly frenetic Seth Green brainchild, which strobe-lights references both broad and arcane at its adoring viewers with the stamina and breakneck pace of a Gatling gun manned by a circa-’90s Dennis Miller.

In case this sounds like a complaint: It isn’t. For one thing, if “Lego Batman” feels something like kissing cousins with “Chicken,” it feels even more unmistakably and specifically at home (by purposeful design, certainly) with its record-breaking, Chris Pratt fronted forebear, “The Lego Movie” (on which McKay served as editor and animation co-director, among other credits). Fans of the latter, thus, should find much to enjoy here. For another thing, it’s replete with more than enough fond-and-loving nods to Batman’s greatest hits (Burton/Keaton, Nolan/Bale, et al.) and deep cuts (Killer Moth? Gentleman Ghost? CONDIMENT KING?) — as well as to pop culture at large — to satisfy Batman casuals, diehards, and don’t-cares alike.

As the film opens, we’re re(re-re)introduced to our iconic, mildly bell-shaped, adorably Byronic antihero (Arnett): He broods, raps cavalierly at the fourth wall, raps (and beatboxes) and thrashes on electric guitar, and saves the city in a stunning pyrotechnic display of superheroic prowess without so much as breaking a shiny yellow sweat. And: He never takes off the cowl. Figuratively, at least, but pretty much literally, too. At home, he absently microwaves lobster thermidor, pads through cavernous, echo-chamber hallways, gazes wistfully at pictures of his parents when he thinks no one’s looking, and otherwise generally worries manservant/father figure Alfred (voiced by Ralph Fiennes, in apparent and much-appreciated observance of my deeply held personal belief that Ralph Fiennes should be in everything, please), who wants nothing more, in keeping with canon, than for his ward to lighten up and let people into his hermetic, kevlar-insulated world. Enter Richard “Dick” Grayson: uncommonly spry orphan, megawatt-candlepower Pollyanna, recent adoptive-son-via misunderstanding to billionaire Bat-beard Bruce Wayne, and soon-to-be alter ego of pantsless ur-sidekick Robin — limned, in a stroke of mad casting genius, by Michael Cera.

“The Lego Batman Movie” is at its best and most brilliant in these moments of winking, hyperbolic-yet spiritually-reverent adaptation. The characters we know like family, the tentpole relationships that have been hewn in granite for decades, are giddily skewed and exaggerated here, but are also yoked to the thrust and load-bearing theme of the tale: No Batman is a Bat-island. (Or, if you like, a Batcave beneath the surface of a Bat-island.) As did “The Lego Movie,” “Lego Batman” creates fruitful comedic juxtaposition by imagining The World’s Greatest Detective as a whiny, moody, braggy, dim, nigh-pathologically self-absorbed virtual adolescent who happens to be a superhuman athlete and crime-fighting savant.

Wisely, though, the film digs deeper to suggest the roots of this Big-style emotional stunting: Bruce is, in many ways, just a well-muscled kid who misses his parents. Alfred, ever of sage word and furrowed brow, a sea of tough love restrained by propriety and diction, struggles to shepherd his Herculean middle-schooler: In one of the cleverer bits divulged in trailers, he places a parental lock on the Batcomputer. Robin, traditionally conceived as a youthful, bright counterpoint to the “Dark Knight,” is here pushed to 11-and-then-some: He communicates in giddy squeals and effervescent ’80s pop songs and takes the world in guilelessly via Coke-bottle lenses that turn his eyes into saucers.

The most inspired mutation, though, is in Batman’s relationship with Zach Galifianakis’s Joker. Under Lego’s watch, the well-documented “you hate me but you need me,” intertwined-fate, two-sides-of-the-same-coin trope is writ flatly and unapologetically as an “An Officer and a Gentleman”-style “why won’t he let me in” movie romance, to the point that, when it resolves, you almost want Bats carting the Clown Prince off in his arms to the silky-gravelly strains of Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker. It’s one of those moves, an idea so simple and immediately, obviously right that you can’t believe you haven’t seen it before, or that you didn’t think of it yourself. Well played.

There were brief moments in which I found myself drifting. The story progresses logically and well, and even drew tears from me at certain points (it gets sweet, and I’m a crier), but “Lego Batman” is so engaging when it’s poking practical, affectionate, self-aware fun at the monolithically established Bat-Universe that I found myself wishing for a companion version of the film that eschewed plot and emotional resonance and cohesion and character growth and just let its writers loose to “Robot Chicken” jokes at me for 106 minutes. Still, McKay and company do an impressive job of weaving the thing into a working, breathing, family-friendly cautionary tale about overcoming pain and fear and letting oneself love and be loved again. (Again: I cried. At “Lego Batman.”)

And again, the writing, concepts, and casting are so smack-your-face fantastic at times (Jenny Slate as Harley Quinn!) and so warmly considerate of its fan base (Billy Dee as Two-Face!) that I’m eager for a second viewing. My viewing partner, an enormous “Lego Movie” fan, didn’t dig this outing as much, and I don’t know that I’d necessarily call it a perfect movie, but there are lots of things about it, particularly as a Bat-fan, that I love and appreciate to an extent that, frankly, I want to hug them and never Lego.

(Last one.)

TMNT: Out of the Shadows

June 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Stephen Amell
Directed by: Dave Green (“Earth to Echo”)
Written by: Josh Applebaum (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) and Andre Nemec (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”)

As an 11-year-old in 1990, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fandom hit me right in the gut. When the first feature film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” hit theaters, my friends and I were puzzled by the differences from the beloved cartoon series that was all over afternoon and Saturday morning TV. Where was the turtles’ armored transport, the Party Wagon? Why was Shredder so scary? And where were the other bad guys: mutants like warthog Bebop and rhinoceros Rocksteady, or extra-dimensional brain-in-a-robot-body Krang? While the 1990 film remains the best, most competent movie from point A to point B, it’s the newest film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” that captures the goofy spirit of the property kids fell in love with nearly three decades ago.

Picking up a year after 2014’s dismal, dumb reboot, “Out of the Shadows” opens with our CGI heroes – helpfully labeled on screen as Leo, Mikey, Don, and Raph – jumping off the Chrysler Building and into Madison Square Garden to watch a Knicks game from inside the Jumbo Tron. As Mikey laments that their status as mutated turtles keeps them out of the spotlight, motor mouthed cameraman Vern (Will Arnett) returns to be honored at halftime for saving the city from Shredder, part of an agreement with the turtles to keep them from being exposed to the city they saved.

Meanwhile, convicted terrorist(!) Shredder (Brian Tee) is set to be transported to a maximum security prison, escorted by corrections officer Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) and in the company of street punks Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus). That’s when Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), a mad scientist who is under investigation by reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) uses a teleporter to retrieve his sensei from the prison van. Something goes awry in the teleportation, however, and Shredder ends up in front of Krang (voice of Brad Garrett), a talking brain inside the belly of a robot body. Krang recruits Shredder to put together pieces of something or another that will allow a battle station called the Technodrome to travel to earth in order for Krang to enslave humanity. To help him in his mission, Krang gives Shredder some purple ooze, which he uses to create his own mutants to battle the turtles.

Look, the plot is junk, there are too many lowbrow fart-type jokes and the music is bombastic and ill-fitting, but holy shit, they got the four turtles and villains Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang exactly right. Leo, Mikey, Don, Raph and the aforementioned bad guys are essentially perfectly transplanted from the original cartoon series, and it’s just so much fun. The highlight of the film, a mission to Brazil that starts with our heroes diving from a cargo plane and ends with fight on a river revolving around a floating tank, is energetic and exciting and the best example of these motion-captured turtles as living and breathing characters. The humans don’t fare so well, however. Shredder, outside of his trademark costume for most of the film, is relegated to a mere middleman, while newcomer Casey Jones never really settles in to a groove as a trusted-yet-unhinged partner to the turtles or a love interest to April O’Neil, here again nothing more than eye candy in the sexy, sexy form of Megan Fox. While a vast improvement on the reboot from two years ago, it’s not without its pitfalls, one of which is the very modern problem of keeping one looking ahead toward a sequel at all times (i.e. not a single villain dies in this movie – even goons tossed out of airplanes are given parachutes). Grab yourself a big, cheesy slice.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

August 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman (“Wrath of the Titans,” “Battle Los Angeles”)
Written by: Josh Applebaum & Andre Nemec (“Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) and Evan Daugherty (“Divergent”)

We should all be resigned to the pop culture of our youth being strip-mined for lackluster, cash-in film franchises by now. Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the Smurfs have all made their way back to the big screen in the last few years, all with middling-to-terrible results. But nostalgia is a potent force, and retreads of popular characters from the movie going populace’s respective childhoods act as powerful magnets for hard-earned cash, with each property making enough money it its initial theatrical outing to warrant at least one sequel. That said, nostalgia can only go so far before the true aroma—or stink, if you will—starts to waft through the perfume of reliving a youth gone by. And with the latest cinematic incarnation of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” the smell is reminiscent of a slightly overripe turtle terrarium: not bad enough to stink up the whole house, but smelly enough to be a nuisance you don’t want to spend too much time around.

The shell of the story remains the same as previous TMNT outings, with a nefarious gang of criminals known as The Foot terrorizing New York City. Intrepid reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) in intent on exposing the truth behind the crime wave, only her news director (Whoopi Goldberg) has her working the fluff news beat instead. When April makes her way down to the docks on her down time and witnesses four vigilantes—those being our turtle heroes—take down a gang of Foot, she unknowingly becomes embroiled in a long-simmering plot orchestrated by The Shredder to hold the city of New York hostage to a poisonous gas, where the only remedy is the mutagen which created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

When this version of the film was announced with schlockmeister Michael Bay in the producer’s chair, the collective internet immediately dismissed the film based on the lack of merit awarded to Bay’s treatment of the Transformers, to put it kindly. While nothing in this incarnation of TMNT sinks to the levels of stupidity present in the four Bay-directed Transformer films, the movie is just sort of there. Not good enough to recommend, and not terrible enough to inspire rage—especially with at least one or two well-received films under the franchise’s belt from decades past to satiate fans. Yeah, the film makes some stupid choices, like tweaking the origin story to make the Turtles and their rat sensei Splinter childhood pets of April O’Neil, a claustrophobic decision that echoes the worst ideas in the recent “Amazing Spider-Man” films. But the action scenes are well-orchestrated in a cartoony way, and the CGI—in spite of what you think of the Turtles’ nostrils—is a definite step up from the animatronic costumes of the ‘90s trilogy. You know, maybe you should just watch those instead.

The Secret World of Arrietty

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bridgit Mendler, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi (debut), Gary Rydstrom (debut)
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”), Keiko Niwa (“Tales from Earthsea”), Karey Kirkpatrick (“The Spiderwick Chronicles”)

As impressive as computer-generated 3D animation has become in recent years, there is something still incredibly charming about hand-drawn animation. There are flaws, odd movements and static elements that all add to the experience and even inform the personality of the film. Perhaps nobody believes in hand-drawn animation more than Hayao Miyazaki (“My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away”), the man behind the beloved Studio Ghibli from Japan. After flirting with the help of computers for a short span, Miyazaki has gone back to his roots. With a screenplay penned by Miyazaki himself, Studio Ghibli continues its American partnership with Disney with “The Secret World of Arrietty,” a beautifully understated animation centered on a forbidden friendship.

Adapted from the 1952 classic novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton and dubbed from the original Japanese animation, “The Secret World of Arrietty” centers around the Clocks, a family of tiny people who live in the floorboards of a house and “borrow” supplies they need from humans. When 14-year-old Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) goes on her first “borrowing” with her father Pod (Will Arnett), she gets noticed by Shawn (David Henrie), a young boy who has just moved into the house. Though it is discouraged by her father and mother (Amy Poehler), Arrietty slowly develops a friendship with Shawn, while still attempting to remain incognito to protect her family.

One of the stronger points of “The Secret World of Arrietty” is the fantastic voice acting across the board. Known mostly for her TV work on the Disney Channel, Mendler is great as the young Arrietty, particularly in vocalizing her curiosity. While the rest of the voice cast is strong, the highlight of the cast is Poehler as the constantly flustered and anxious Homily. Her overexcited inflection and screams alone provide the film with some of its funniest moments. Though dubbing foreign films over in English can sometimes cause a distracting discrepancy between mouth movement and speech, that isn’t the case in “Arrietty.”

There is an underlying sense of tranquility that weaves its way throughout “Arrietty,” a tone that is established early and reinforced especially through the stoic Pod character and the leisurely pace of the film. The scenes where we see Arrietty and her father journey through the nooks and crannies of the house are filled with mesmerizing long takes that display an environment in which the smallest items like nails or sugar cubes serve as foils in their adventures.

Although there is one monologue in the film that might be a little intense for younger kids, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a film that is enjoyable for audiences of all ages. There are plenty of visuals and adventurous scenes to keep children invested. The film works largely in part to Miyazaki’s fantastic script filled with empathy and sentimentality, mostly for the Borrowers themselves and Shawn’s earnest desire to make friends. If nothing else, “The Secret World of Arrietty” proves you don’t need high-tech animation to create a captivating world with its own intricacies.

When in Rome

January 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Dax Shepard
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson (“Ghost Rider”)
Written by: David Diamond (“Old Dogs”) and David Weissman (“Old Dogs”)

Take the screenwriters of one of the unfunniest comedies of 2009 (“Old Dogs”) and team them up with the director of two of the worst superhero movies of the last decade (“Daredevil” and “Ghost Rider”) and there’s no telling what kind of mutant cinematic love-child can be spawned.

Whatever label you’d like to put on the new romantic comedy “When in Rome,” it’s unfortunate that Kristen Bell (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) – an actress that makes looking adorable an art form – has her name attached. It’s the type of pointless rom com that is easy to dismiss if you’ve clawed your way through enough of them.

In this latest entry of chick-flick torture, Bell plays Beth, a Manhattan museum curator who is too busy with her career to search for Mr. Right. Her interest in love is at an all-time low since her last boyfriend dumped her at Applebee’s and announced his engagement to another woman soon after.

While a wedding would be the last place Beth would want to go, especially with her boss Celeste (Anjelica Huston) breathing down her neck about an upcoming art show, Beth travels to Rome to see her little sister get married to an guy she’s only known for two weeks.

In Rome she meets Nick (Josh Duhamel), a sportswriter and charming best man who could have made perfect boyfriend material if Beth wasn’t so skeptical about relationships. Her cynicism (in addition to a little too much wine) drives Beth to take coins from a fountain in the city’s square where people make wishes to fall in love. In turn, the men whose coins Beth snatches from the magical fountain immediately direct their attention to Beth and follow her back to New York to try to win her heart.

Leading the pack of stalkers are actors Dax Shepard as an arrogant male model, Will Arnett as a crazy Italian artist, Jon Heder as a untalented street magician, and Danny DeVito as a friendly sausage capitalist. Other than DeVito’s short stature and the fact that he’s the only character of the bunch not written like a bumbling fool, there’s nothing remotely funny about Beth’s ridiculous suitors.

As the story continues to unravel as predictably as possible and with scarce humor, screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman decide that it might be neat to emphasize their unoriginality by writing in a “Napoleon Dynamite” reference into the script where Heder (the star of the 2004 indie hit) reunites with actor Efren Ramirez, who played Napoleon’s best friend Pedro. Really? The cameo works about as well as the rest of the thoughtless jokes that plague the script.

In the end, “When in Rome” is one uncreative sight gag after another. From Beth and Nick’s date to a restaurant where food is served in the dark to the weird “Wizard of Oz” curveball it throws at the end, director Mark Steven Johnson seems to have told the entire cast to just run with it and have some mindless fun. If only we were so lucky.