Tag Archives: movie review

John Wick (R)

john-wick-imagens-2-win-assassin-s-creed-a-john-wick-t-shirt-poster-and-free-movie-tickets

PHOTO SOURCE

John Wick is a superb action movie that is completely worth the price of admission if you’re a fan of watching countless nameless minions getting shot repeatedly. Honestly, this review can be summed up in that one sentence. The preview that I saw floating around for the past month or so has been bragging about how this is Reeves’ best film since The Matrix (small praise given the choices, really) but I’ll go one better and say it’s my favorite performance of his to date.

In this movie Keanu plays an emotionless killing machine by the name of John Wick (essentially the same robotic performance he always puts forth), and it’s wonderful. You can play tragic backstory bingo as you’re watching the intro scenes: immensely successful assassin for the mob; check. Managed to get away by accomplishing something terrible; check. Found true love only to have her die of some unfortunate disease; check. Terrible wrong is done to him after he’s lost her that drags him back into the seedy underbelly of society that he thought he’d escaped; check and check. It’s all rather shameless in its setup but for one bit that I’ll talk about in the spoiler section where it gets downright demented.

We launch into the film proper as the inevitable horrible events that lead to the wholesale slaughter play out. The world built here is done immensely well, adhering with almost religious devotion to the “show, don’t tell,” principle of movie making. You might recall that in my Maze Runner review I had a beef with the fact that they showed us plenty but never really made it clear what it meant. Here they demonstrate how much of a difference it makes when the principle is applied correctly… and it’s done with nothing more than a simple gold coin.

 

Heads up: explosive spoilers ahead!

 

After reclaiming his history through a good ol’ sledgehammer montage (and while the villain laments that his son was stupid enough to incite the wrath of a man named after a flammable substance), we see a case loaded with weaponry and neatly stacked golden coins. John’s home is then invaded by generic commando units who are swiftly dispatched whereupon he calls an old acquaintance and requests a dinner party for five. A team quickly arrives at his house with all the necessary tools for the removal of human remains and sanitation of any evidence their presence to which John pays the leader with five of his many coins. Throughout the rest of the movie, the coins are used as tools for admission to secret clubs, payment for services, and any activities associated with “The Continental Club” which is a secret society of vague purpose but undeniable coolness.

Willem Dafoe is also present playing the role of, well, Willem Dafoe. He’s a sniper friend who’s been hired to kill John. His scenes are entertaining as always and I really have no complaints, but the only thing that really makes them noteworthy is the fact that he’s the one playing the character. It also permanently linked this movie to Boondock Saints in my mind, which can only be a good thing.

The rest of the characters are pretty stock. There are plenty of generic goons, a mob boss, his worthless child whose stupidity causes the whole mess, Ms. Perkins (the femme fatale who’s pretty much wasted), and, oddly enough, Dean Winters (who you’ll most likely know from Law and Order: SVU or Mayhem from the Allstate commercials) who is playing a generic villain side-kick. There’s absolutely no character development and it doesn’t matter in the least. All that character fluff would only get in the way of the gun fights and each is a thing of beauty. Fights are fast paced, tense, and brutal and I really don’t have much to say beyond that. You should see them for yourself.

The last thing I have to talk about is one of the first scenes in the movie after the flashback montage. It’s not terribly spoilery given that I’m pretty sure they mention it in the trailer, but it is the only real heart wrenching scene, and the only one that I actually had to think about to decide what my feelings on it were. Feel free to head away from the review if you want to form your own feelings about it. The movie’s good and you should see it.

So, that scene.

The trailer makes it obvious that he had a cute puppy and it died, but it doesn’t really lay out just how traumatic the scene really is. Firstly, the dog is courier delivered the day after his wife’s funeral right as John’s trying to come to terms with her passing and it comes complete with a final postcard from beyond the grave read by his wife’s actress telling him to love again. Second, the dog is just about the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. It beats out the cutest kitten memes on the web. Third, you see genuine bonding between John and the puppy, probably the most human behavior you can hope to see from a Keanu Reeves performance. Then the home invasion occurs. It’s brutal, merciless, downright horrifying to watch, and it’s capped off by the puppy dying terribly. Beaten and bloody, John crawls over to the puppy and passes out beside it. I’ve seen a lot of messed up things in my life but that was one of the harshest things I’ve had to watch in my escapist action schlock as opposed to, ya know, real world news.

At first I was honestly a little offended by it. Make no mistake; this is blatant manipulation of the audience’s emotions while simultaneously setting up the film. After you’re likely to want to go out and get a beagle for yourself, but that scene will sour the idea. It took some time for me to be able to accept how necessary it was to the whole film, the helplessness established in this scene cements the total loss of his wife’s death and shatters any humanity left in him. What we see for the rest of the film is a weapon unleashed by tragedy and it’s glorious. It doesn’t make the manipulation any less blatant, but it’s one I find acceptable in this context. That being said, I’ll likely skip that scene during any further viewings because dear lord is it ever screwed up.

Up next week: Big Hero 6.

ThisTV Movie Review: Star Trek The Motion Picture

star_trek_the_motion_pictureI have a friend who calls Star Trek The Motion Picture a ‘very long tea party in space.’ Jokes on him, though, because they don’t even DRINK tea in this movie. And jokes on me, because even with the lack of tea drinking I understand the point he’s making (in his very snarky manner).

The plot for the first Star Trek movie breaks down basically like this: Some giant space anomaly type thing comes along and starts sucking up Klingons and space stations and common sense. Starfleet gets a bit freaked out when it realizes the anomaly is headed toward Earth so they decide to send the Enterprise out to intercept it. Of course Admiral James T. Kirk HAS to lead the mission, even though he’s spent the last few years working a desk at Starfleet headquarters AND the Enterprise has been almost completely rebuilt with a new Captain at the helm. Tensions rise (very slowly) as Admiral and Captain clash, Captain is re-introduced to an old love interest, friends are re-united to less than bromance level excitement, and EVENTUALLY the Big Bad at the heart of the anomaly is revealed to be someone(thing?) no one could have really expected because wow that was kind of a cool and surprising reveal.

startrek2Star Trek The Motion Picture is a big, long, strange mess. It feels nothing like an episode of the show, and nothing like any of the other movies in the franchise. The costumes don’t look right, the characters don’t really act right, and the story just doesn’t FEEL right. It isn’t that this movie is BAD, it’s that it is so WEIRD. Long scenes with people staring at things. Crazy effects and graphics just for the sake of having crazy effects and graphics (“look guys, we have a huge budget and we’re gonna spend it ALL on computer images and models and anything else we can think up!”). The inside of V-ger’s (the Big Bad’s) ship is cool and all, but it goes on FOREVER and traveling through it is just a lot of staring and making faces and staring and gasping in wonder and on and on and ON. The thing is I actually quite like the whole V-ger thing. It’s an interesting idea. Unfortunately it’s buried in all the weirdness of the rest of the movie.

And is it just me, or does it seem like the creators/costumers on Star Trek can’t ever figure out what exactly future fashion will look like? It changes almost every film and sometimes it is way more bizarre than others. In this first film in the series they’ve settled on a future/ancient Grecian … style? … I guess? Lots of short tunics and short dresses and short sandals and, yeah, lots of shortness going on. Except when people pop up in 70’s leisure suits with swanky medallions and bushy beards (Bones was into bushy beards BEFORE they were cool).

startrekAnyway, so yeah, Star Trek The Motion Picture, kind of a mess BUT like I mentioned before, the reveal of the Big Bad is pretty cool and raises all these great questions about robots and artificial intelligence and what it means to be alive and questioning existence and who may have created that existence. And while much of the cast is left in the background, miling around and getting randomly electrocuted from their work consoles, some good depth is given to Spock (quit trying to grow out of your emotions there buddy, it never works out well in the end for you) and Admiral/Captain/WhateverHeIsToday Kirk. From the second he catches sight of the Enterprise you can see in his eyes that he will never love anyone as much as he loves that ship. He’ll never fight as hard for a human relationship as he will for his right to sit in that Captain’s chair. In an incredibly d-bag-like maneuver first thing in the movie he steals the Enterprise from the guy who he told Starfleet to hand the ship to. Poor Captain Will Decker, he never really stood a chance, in his less-than-flattering gray unitard and righteous indignation. Decker wants to be Captain because that’s the next step in his Starfleet career. Kirk wants to be Captain because he’s married to his ship and doesn’t know any other way to be.

star-trek-MP_lIn addendum, some things I noticed and kept track of in this, my dozenth (is that a word? cause I’m using it whether it is or not) viewing of this film: Dr. McCoy walks on and off the bridge of the Enterprise six times for no particularly good reason (he’s the head of medical, why is he ALWAYS up on the dang bridge? doesn’t he have medical stuff to be doing?), there are six costume changes between the main characters of the film and most of those do not seem like they need to happen (though I do find the white short sleeved shirt uniform Kirk sports for a while quite fetching), and the scene that shows off the Enterprise for the first time in the movie takes a whopping five minutes. Five minutes of nothing but showing off the ship from every conceivable angle – to a rendition of the Star Trek theme done on harp, no less. Quick sidenote on that ‘five minutes,’ however, as I think that scene used to be longer. In fact I think several scenes in this film used to be longer, so maybe I had a special edition of the movie OR someone realized along the way that all the staring and gasping and watching scenes did nothing for the flow of the film and cut them down a bit.

– Mia V.

Star Trek The Motion Picture, 1979
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, Stephen Collins
Directed by Robert Wise
Written by Gene Roddenberry, Harlod Livingston

*Watch Star Trek The Motion Picture on ThisTV: Tuesday September 23rd at 7pm, Thursday September 25th at 8am, Monday September 29th at 7pm!

 

SOURCE – Image
SOURCE – Image
SOURCE – Image
SOURCE – Image

ThisTV Movie Review: Short Circuit

41J58RCYG9L._SY300_I had a giant crush on Steve Guttenberg when I was younger.

Don’t judge me. He was the Man in the 80s.

Police Academy. Three Men and a Baby. Cocoon. That crazy Village People movie (watch paired with Xanadu as it was meant to be seen, and then ask yourself “why?” while curled up in the fetal position).

Steve Guttenberg was hilarious but nice and always getting one up on the buttholes of the world. He might not have been as handsome as Tom Selleck or famous as Ted Danson. But he was still adorable and I still kind of adored him.

At least until I fell madly in love with Kyle MacLachlan, but that is another story for another time.

Short Circuit is probably my favorite of the Steve Guttenberg oeuvre. Here he gets a chance to play the romantic leading man with only a robot that has achieved consciousness to rival him. It’s no wonder he ends up getting the girl in the end. How can a robot compete with all that ‘Gute’ charm, after all?

The plot basically breaks down like this: Because it’s the 80s and it is pretty much required by law, a robotics company has used a nerdy genius’s genius to create killer robots that can be shipped out to the front lines in battle scenarios. He isn’t terribly impressed by this but is going along with it anyway because plot development. A flashy twist of fate changes all that when robot Number 5 is struck by lightning and becomes self-aware. He escapes the clutches of his creators and goes on a journey of self-discovery that includes a fair amount of disco dancing, bug squashing, bad driving, Three Stooges hijinks, military shoot outs, and Ally Sheedy.

I must have seen this movie dozens of times while growing up, and I’ve seen it at least a half dozen times since reaching adulthood. It’s just so dang cute. Number Five is a messy, curious, dangerous but ultimately lovable character. Ally Sheedy is cute and maternal and willing to put up with Number Five and all the danger he brings with him. And, of course, Steve Guttenberg is adorable as an anti-social geek forced to head out into the big bad world and interact with not only a robot who is bucking his programming but a perky young lady he (almost immediately) has the hots for.

Short_Circuit_Still_08Of course as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed the Important Messages scattered throughout this little family flick. The questions of what makes us human, where the line exists between ‘alive’ and ‘not alive,’ and how responsible we are for the beings we create that see themselves as individuals are very much apparent now that I’m focusing more on the story and less on the fact that a robot is driving a food truck (very badly).

But luckily with a great soundtrack, special effects that hold up surprisingly well, computer interfaces that are totally dated, and a healthy dose of Steve Guttenberg throughout, Short Circuit is just too dang cute to be dragged down by those Important Messages.

– Mia V.

Short Circuit, Rated PG, 1986
Starring Steve Guttenberg, Ally Sheedy, Fisher Stevens, GW Bailey
Directed by John Badham
Written by SS Wilson, Brent Maddock

*Watch Short Circuit on ThisTV: Friday 6/20 at 7p, Sunday 6/22 at 11a

 

(SOURCE – image)
(SOURCE – image)

 

TRANSCENDENCE (PG-13)

 

37370840-a55a-11e3-b43d-ff33a164400e_transcendence_poster_blog

The plot of TRANSCENDENCE hinges on Luddite terrorists that are tech-phobic enough to murder software engineers, but tech-savvy enough to lace their bullets with radioactive material.
That’s the first gut-punch to your suspension of disbelief, and it’s only ten minutes in. TRANSCENDENCE is just warming up.
Johnny Depp is renowned scientist Dr. Will Caster and he’s close to achieving his life’s work: creating a self-aware artificial intelligence, because we all know SKYNET went so famously well. On his way out of a public exposition-delivering appearance, Caster is ambushed and shot with a radioactive bullet by the aforementioned terrorists in a coordinated attack also involving computer bombs and a poisoned birthday cake (did Dr. Doom help these guys out or something?). Luckily, the resulting radiation poisoning gives a dying Dr. Caster just enough time to upload his consciousness onto his computer.
This new Cyber-Depp quickly escapes and infects the internet as a rapidly evolving, sentient computer virus with unknown goals. As the singularity incorporates every electronic device on earth, Caster’s former colleagues, the FBI, and even that terrorist group find themselves in an uneasy three-way alliance. Caster is clearly no longer human – but does he have any humanity left at all? And if not, can he even be stopped?
I wanted to love TRANSCENDENCE. Melding a human soul with software is heady, thought-provoking stuff, but the unfocused shotgun blast of a screenplay fails to cohere into much of anything. We’re left with a sprawling mess that introduces fascinating ideas and then immediately drops them to jaggedly rush into the next scene. The storytelling is as smooth as a dryer with a brick in it. It can’t even seem to decide on a genre – so we get a drama without enough character development and a thriller without enough danger.
Because the script is such a mess, the outlandish scifi concepts aren’t given the attention they need to work. At a breathless pace, TRANSCENDENCE introduces nanotechnology via raindrops, superhuman hybrids, and a climactic computer virus with baffling consequences. It’s just too much fi and not enough sci to ground everything. By the time the third act rolled around and Cyber-Depp started attacking everyone with magic CG tentacles, my mind had wandered back to the low-key narrative riddles of OCULUS, which was playing in the theater next door.
And that’s too bad, because TRANSCENDENCE also has some real strengths. The cinematography is starkly beautiful, the ideas are big, and the cast is terrific. If you adjust your expectations a few rungs, you can still salvage an okay time with this one. Some individual scenes work pretty well, and there’s no denying the coolness of the stuff on display.
But Michael Crichton could have written it way better.
And he’s dead.

2stars

-Taylor Adams

Photo Source: https://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/yahoo-movies/johnny-depp-goes-digital-in-new–transcendence–poster-180357010.html

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (R)

300-Rise-of-an-Empire-HD-Poster
The human body is seventy percent water. According to 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, the other thirty percent must be ketchup.
People don’t just bleed in this hyper-stylized movie. They explode. Gallons of red stuff splash and spurt with every death, all rendered in CGI too cartoonish to be disturbing. Every character is basically a human-shaped water balloon swollen with blood, ready to burst at the slightest poke. It’s pretty awesome.
Yep, I liked it. 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is a shamelessly entertaining semi-sequel to the 2007 hit. Running parallel to the events of that film, we follow Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) as he defends Greece against an invading Persian fleet, masterminded by the memorably psychotic naval commander Artemesia (Eva Green, who steals every scene she’s in). Because this is a Frank Miller adaptation, expect troubled heroes, gory action, and epic speeches. And because this is ancient Greece, expect character names that will take several tries to pronounce on the drive home.
The broader scope of the story is both good and bad. It’s nice to see more of this colorful, blood-drenched world, but it loses some of the focus and against-all-odds oomph that made the original film resonate. Even with Eva Green’s gloriously deranged performance, I doubt it will become a cult classic.
No worries, though, because 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is single-mindedly driven toward one goal: being awesome. Every aspect of this production – from the indulgent slow-motion kills to the booming Black Sabbath credits song – is designed for maximum spectacle. Early on, we see Persian warships surfing into battle atop a hundred-foot tidal wave. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how water works, but that doesn’t matter because it’s just so awesome.
I enjoyed the heck out of this film. You might, too. Like Zack Snyder’s original, it’s a bloody, fist-pumping war cartoon; a take-it-or-leave-it experience that’s utterly impervious to logic. I’m not even sure I can call this an acquired taste, because lots of people will have no interest in ever acquiring it. But for me? After a long day at work, sometimes a stylish, slow-motion decapitation just hits the spot.
Please don’t quote me on that.

stars

-Taylor Adams

NON-STOP (PG-13)

NONSTOP

NON-STOP is basically two hours of Liam Neeson playing “Clue” on an airplane.

Alcoholic air marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) needs to find out who’s murdering people on his flight. Fast. Every twenty minutes, another passenger will die unless $150 million is deposited in the mystery killer’s bank account. As the body count rises, everyone aboard the plane becomes a suspect – Bill included, when the authorities realize the bank account is (gasp) his. Against a ticking clock, our haggard hero must save the plane, stop the killings, and punch whoever’s responsible in the throat.

It’s a fun, twisty mystery for a while. The film presents a whole crowd of murder suspects, all exchanging shifty glances and red herrings. Every time the ingenious script seems to paint itself into a corner, it knocks down a wall. Major plot twists are hidden inside smaller ones, carefully arranged like narrative time bombs (and one literal one). The direction is marvelous, too – one particular shot halfway through the film gracefully swoops from end of the plane to another, eavesdropping on a half-dozen characters with evolving agendas. A lot of skill went into this film, and it’s easy to get swept up in the suspense.

But it’s hard to stick with it. How’s your suspension of disbelief? Because NON-STOP will put it through a triathlon. It’s not just the numerous plot holes (don’t even try to count them) – it’s the jarring tonal difference between where it starts and where it ends. The first half is a plausible, low-key murder mystery at 40,000 feet, and the second half descends to LEGO MOVIE absurdity. Poison darts? Check. Fighter jets? Check. Zero-gravity shootout? Double-check.

The last fifteen minutes drop to face-palm altitude. When the criminal mastermind is finally unmasked, he/she delivers a forced and bewildering “how I did it and why” speech, like an unusually violent episode of Scooby Doo. I guess the villain’s motivation doesn’t matter that much; it’s the end of the movie and Liam Neeson is in a neck-breaking mood.

NON-STOP isn’t a bad thriller – it’s just hard to love. It’s too smart to be mindless fun and too stupid to be anything more. Heck, 2008’s TAKEN delivered twice the butt-kicking with half the fuss.

I guess I like Liam Neeson better when he’s creating the body count – not cleaning up after it.

2stars

-Taylor Adams

ThisTV Movie Review: Eagle Vs. Shark

eagle-vs-sharkLove can be awkward and strange and painful and funny and sometimes only makes sense to those involved in the relationship.

Never has that been made more apparent than in Eagle Vs Shark. This romantic comedy from Loren Taylor and at least one of the writers of Flight of the Conchords is not your typical rom-com fair. Jemaine Clement (Jarrod) is hilarious but not the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘romantic lead,’ and Loren Taylor (Lily) is adorable but just so strange. It’s hard to picture her acting opposite the usual handsome love interests like Matthew McConaughey or Bradley Cooper (which actually makes Jemaine kind of perfect for her).

The plot to Eagle Vs Shark basically breaks down like this: Lily is quiet and awkward and madly in love with Jarrod, who comes in to the fast food restaurant where she works in order to pick up her co-worker, who is not at all interested. Determined to make her love known, Lily crashes Jarrod’s costume party, almost defeats him at his favorite video game, and pretty much inserts herself into his life from there on. Of course the path to true love does not go smoothly for Lily and Jarrod, and soon they are traipsing across the country to exact revenge on Jarrod’s old nemesis, prove their worth to friends and family, and finally (hopefully) find what they are looking for in each other.

eagle_vs_shark3If you are a fan of Flight of the Conchords, or comedy from New Zealand, or that wonderfully hard to watch type of comedy that makes you feel uncomfortable and embarrassed for the characters, Eagle Vs Shark should be right up your alley. There are quite a few moments in this film where you find yourself desperately wanting to look away or take a bathroom break or even pretend you are asleep. They’re funny, but you feel almost bad for laughing.

There are also some amazingly sweet moments where you watch the two leads reach out to each other in quiet, emotionally stilted ways. Ways that you can find yourself relating to because they seem so realistic. We’ve all had those moments in a relationship, especially at the beginning, where we want to connect to another person but have no idea how to make it happen without some awkwardness thrown in. It isn’t huge and flashy and exciting when it finally does happen for Lily and Jarrod. But in its soft and strange simplicity it’s pretty much perfect.

– Mia V

Eagle Vs Shark, 2007, rated R
Starring Loren Taylor, Jemaine Clement, Joel Tobeck
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Loren Taylor, Taika Waititi

Watch Eagle Vs Shark on ThisTV!
Monday March 3rd at 3pm or(again) Friday March 14th at 9am.

POMPEII (PG-13)

Pompeii-2014-Movie-Poster1

I have never rooted so hard for a volcano before.

W.S. Anderson’s POMPEII spends most of its runtime copying other movies – and not even the right ones. Surprisingly, the disaster itself is largely sidelined so we can get a poor man’s GLADIATOR crossed with a stupid man’s TITANIC. Our star-crossed lovers are Milo (Kitt Harrington), a Celtic gladiator with a murdered family to avenge, and Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Pompeii’s ruler. She’s being blackmailed into marrying the third corner of this love triangle: Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), a snarling Roman senator. Who will survive the coming disaster? More importantly, who cares?

That’s POMPEII’s biggest problem. None of the characters are written or acted well enough to earn our sympathy. They just sort of stand there, posed in various scenes cribbed from better films, and recite stilted dialogue like kids in a school play. It’s a bizarrely lifeless movie. Worse, it wastes a full hour on tedious stage-setting while the volcano impatiently grumbles in the background. Milo and Cassia’s chemistry-free romance feels like a studio-mandated attempt to please a demographic that wouldn’t be caught dead in a W.S. Anderson movie anyway.

Eventually Mount Vesuvius erupts, possibly because it’s as sick of the characters as we are, and delivers the flaming rocks, pyroclastic flows, and tsunamis promised by the trailer. It suffers a bit in comparison to 1997’s DANTE’S PEAK, but at least Anderson is finally copying the right movie. The city’s fiery demise is undeniably cool, but in a glossy, digital way. It feels more like a PS4 game than a real-life disaster. We don’t see any of the blood, grit, or burns, so our heroes might as well be fleeing a giant wall of cotton candy.

The movie does have its guilty pleasures, though. Anderson shoots a handful of kinetic fight scenes with some memorable (PG-13-rated) spills, and Kiefer Sutherland seems to be the only actor here with a pulse. He sinks his teeth into the cardboard role of Corvus, delivering every line with mustache-twirling evil and a baffling accent. Of course, it’s bad acting, but it’s so bad, it transcends badness and becomes kind of awesome. POMPEII needed more of Sutherland’s energy.

At least the volcano wins.

stars

 

Review By: Taylor Adams

THE LEGO MOVIE (PG, 2014)

The-Lego-Movie-2014-image

I was going to start this review with “I can’t believe I liked a movie based on a toy,” but then I remembered that I enjoyed TRANSFORMERS.

So… I can’t believe I liked another movie based on a toy.

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is an anonymous construction worker in a perfect (vaguely fascist) Lego metropolis where the coffee is $37 and the number one sitcom is “Where’s My Pants?” Every day is choreographed to an excruciatingly catchy Tegan and Sara song and overseen by the Orwellian President Business (Will Ferrell), sold separately. When Emmet stumbles onto a mysterious artifact, he sets in motion an ancient prophecy that could save – or destroy – not just his Lego universe, but all of them. He soon allies with an ensemble cast including Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), and Batman (Will Arnett). And Abraham Lincoln. And pirates. And a unicorn-cat thing.

I promise, it’s funny.  Funnier than anything I’ve seen in a long time. THE LEGO MOVIE boasts a razor-sharp script and a canny sense of the absurd, hurling joke after joke and challenging you to keep up. Chris Pratt’s empty-headed but sincere hero is a standout comedic performance in a cast full of them. Who’d have known a movie about a toy brand would have more laughs than both HANGOVER sequels?

Visually it’s stunning, although not always for the right reasons. Every inch of the Lego world is lovingly animated, right down to the authentic smudges and imperfections on the pieces. Even the dust and smoke is made of tiny bricks. It’s imaginative and vibrant, but also a little overwhelming. Every frame is crowded with so many small touches of genius, and it’s all edited so blisteringly fast, that THE LEGO MOVIE sometimes looks like a colorful headache. But it’s a headache worth having.

This excess of creative passion is why I like this movie so much. It overachieves. It works hard. The plot is lightyears ahead of competing fare, eventually launching its third act into a sort of CABIN IN THE WOODS-ish meta-narrative. Few movies are brave enough to even try this, and even fewer stick the landing. To be fair, THE LEGO MOVIE does stumble a little bit toward the end, when the cleverness reaches a sort of critical mass, the fourth wall falls, and the story grinds to a halt so we can be force-fed a moral about the importance of individuality. Cue the hugs.

The real moral is “buy Legos.” It’s the funniest, best Lego commercial ever.

stars

 

By: Taylor Adams

F/X (R, 1986)

f_x

Don’t mess with Hollywood special effects guys.

The villains in F/X make this mistake, and spend the next ninety minutes paying for it in increasingly hilarious ways. This is a clever popcorn thriller with some great payoffs.

Our hero is effects wizard Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown), reluctantly recruited by the Justice Department to fake the assassination of DeFranco, a New York mob informant. Compared to goblins and car flips, this looks like easy money for Rollie – just a restaurant, some blood packs, and a .38 loaded with blanks.

Or… were they blanks?

Now Rollie is on the run, DeFranco is really dead, and the Justice Department is “tying off loose ends.” Hunted by corrupt spooks and a detective with an agenda of his own (Brian Dennehy), Rollie must untangle the conspiracy and learn who framed him and why. Along the way he uses every trick in his arsenal (accumulated over a long career of gory B-movies such as “I Dismember Mama”) to outwit his pursuers, and eventually, fight back.

The script is entertaining and well-paced, serving up a constant supply of problems, solutions, and even few major twists. Early on, F/X surprised me by killing of a character I assumed to be protected by plot armor, and a late double-cross involving Dennehy’s detective had me laughing. The tone walks a careful tightrope – dark enough to build real suspense, but light and goofy enough to be fun.

Dennehy is great as a Dirty Harry-esque cop, but it’s Bryan Brown’s show and he makes a charmingly unconventional action hero. He’s basically an ordinary guy with an extraordinary talent for deception, so the obligatory shootouts and fistfights are handled creatively. Being an eighties film, Rollie’s portfolio is refreshingly free of the high-tech stuff we’ve grown so accustomed to in recent movies. It’s strictly hardware – mirrors, latex masks, pyrotechnics, and good old superglue – and F/X is all the better for it as we watch Rollie jerry rig a lethal surprise with little more than the contents of his trunk.

Sure, his tactics are so immaculately timed and staged (particularly in the final thirty minutes) that he seems to possess some mild form of precognition. Many of his ruses depend on the bad guys reacting in a very precise way – and not, for example, putting an additional bullet into an apparently dead body just to be sure. But why pick at improbabilities? It’s a piece of entertainment, not a thesis paper. At one point in F/X, Rollie literally kills a man with a balloon.

A balloon.

To see how he accomplishes this, check out F/X this Saturday at 9pm on ThisTV (or catch an encore on February 25th or 27th).

stars

 

 

Review By: Taylor Adams