Elizabeth Banks

February 12, 2014

The LEGO Movie

INSPIRED
The LEGO Movie – Inspired

The magic of movies, at least for me, is where a film can take me back to a time in my life where I was happiest and made me feel joy.  It’s important that a filmmaker(s) be able to connect with an audience at not only an intellectual level, but also a human level.  Going to the movies is as much an experience as it can be a sanctuary for young and old.  Usually, as we get old, we get more cynical and jaded and there are times that are few and far between where we can remember what it’s like to be a kid and simply have fun.  That’s how I felt with “The LEGO Movie” an extremely inspired film-going experience that had me laughing, smiling, and nearly crying when it was all said and done.

“LEGO” from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the guys that brought us the hilarious “21 Jump Street” in 2011, channel their inner child and have created a “kids” film that will keep the little ones entertained throughout with explosions, but are still able to create an intelligent film that will have LEGO collectors, or even casual builders, in stitches throughout it’s entirety.  The film follows Emmet, voiced by Chris Pratt, as a stock LEGO-man piece; he loves to follow rules, watch “Where Are My Pants?” (which needs to be a real show by the way) and builds things like couch bunk beds.  Emmet’s world is thrown out of whack when he discovers that he’s a part of a prophecy to save the world from the evil Lord Business, voiced by Will Ferrell.  To say the least, hijinks ensue, and things blow up a lot.

What really makes “LEGO” special is the attention to detail.  You can tell that Lord and Miller really went out of their way to make the ultimate meta LEGO film.  From the obscure LEGO figurines, to the way things explode into fiery LEGO pieces, and especially how things are built.  We can all remember how awesome it was the first time we built our first spaceship, or even that weird creation that was the cross between a taxi cab, and a bathtub, its all in “LEGO.”

Aside from the incredible attention to detail, the voice cast is incredibly impressive.  You can tell that Lord and Miller have an great Roll-O-Dex of people they can contact.  From Nick Offerman to Allison Brie, with a few surprise voices thrown in for good measure, the cast simply seems…..again……inspired.

As I mentioned before, what really gets you as a LEGO fan, or just a fan of storytelling, albeit the overall plot is rather cliche, which I’m sure was the point to begin with, is how the third act of the film is something you really don’t see coming.  Again….inspired wouldn’t even do it justice.  Just when you think you are simply dealing with a film that just stars yellow building blocks, you’ll get the feeling you might have gotten in “Toy Story 3.”  Something deep down inside you will tell you “hey, it’s okay…..let it out.”  I’m not saying that I did, cry that is, but the message is beautiful, and it would be a real shame to ruin it in this review.  It’s an unexpected scene that really makes “LEGO” such a great film for not only kids, but the kid inside each and every one of us.

Yes, I’ll be one of the first people to say that I scoffed at the notion of a LEGO movie.  Personally, between video games, theme parks, and the actual toys, I was reaching a LEGO saturation point.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only is “LEGO” one of the more thoughtful kids films to come out in a while, but it’s also a film that gives you a little hope.  Some hope that people still care about making quality films and still have some original ideas left out there.  Of course this is ironic that both Lord and Miller also helmed “Jump Street,” which I also had reservations about before it came out, but it’s the way that they paid homage to the original, while still creating a funny and “original” concept.  They do the same for “LEGO” which is by far my most enjoyable film-going experience since “Pacific Rim” in 2013.  Well done guys, and keep UniKitty happy…..you wouldn’t want to see her when she’s angry.

Fun Fact:  LEGO began manufacturing interlocking bricks in 1949 in Denmark.

February 6, 2014

Matt Simply Loves Anna Kendrick: Pitch Perfect

GUILTY

Pitch Perfect – Guilty

I’m really going to put myself out there with who I love this month. I could be cliche and pick an actor the likes of Mike Ruffalo (who I still might) or perhaps even Joaquin Phoenix, but I’m singing the praises, fittingly enough, of one special lady who by all accounts would be Jennifer Lawrence if Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t Jennifer Lawrence, if that makes sense.

I’m sucker for short girls with attitudes, and its the reason why I married one.  I guess I like a challenge and someone who can keep up with my smartassness.  That’s why I love Anna Kendrick.  She’s the perfect combination of spunky, deadpan, and cute.  She’s a proven indie darling and has the chops to hang with some of the biggest actors in Hollywood.

One thing I do find surprising about Kendrick, and I’ve mentioned this before in my “50/50” review, are all the negative comments she gets from critics, mainly over the things that she says.  Yes, she has a little bit of a potty mouth, but that’s what makes her even more charming and real.  So many young actresses want to act prim and proper and act like they need to impress everyone in order to get jobs and gain fans.  My belief is that being yourself is the only way to endear yourself to a much larger audience.  Just take a look at her Newcastle ad, it’s pure Anna, and it perfectly sums her up.

For the most part, you won’t find me watching many films that have a lot of musical numbers, or feature music as a main plot point.  What you might find me watching, however, are films that are either directed by Christopher Guest, which is ironic because I love “This is Spinal Tap” and “A Mighty Wind.  Again, ironic, but there are exceptions to rules all the time, and 2013 found me watching “Pitch Perfect” starring the wonderful Anna Kendrick, over and over again.  Yes, it’s my biggest guilty pleasure of this past year.

“Perfect” is in fact pretty perfect, if you’re looking for unexpectedly funny performances, catchy-as-f*ck songs, and of course, Anna Kendrick.  Now, there are some cliches of course.  Anna plays the typical outsider role, full of angst and a tongue as sharp as her wit.  You have the Type-A leader, played by Anna Camp, who is also extremely extremely charming, and of course the fat girl comic relief, played by Rebel Wilson.  Yes, you’ve seen glimpses of this film if you’ve ever seen a “Bring It On” or “Step Up” film, but what sets “Perfect” apart is it’s dry wit and it’s actors who you might not think can bring the funny, and pleasantly surprise you.

As previously mention, “Perfect” follows Beca (Kendrick) a college freshmen who is more interested in moving to L.A. and paying her dues than her Intro to Philosophy class.  After an ultimatum by her father to move her out to California if she joins an extra-curricular activity, Beca decides that “organized nerd singing” is the way to go, as she joins the Barden Bellas, an all-female A Capella group.  Of course hijinks ensue, tension is created, and finally we have redemption come the very end where the Bellas win.  It’s typical of the “go to college and have an adventure” genre, but there is enough humor and heart to set it apart from the rest of a tired genre.

While “Up In the Air” garnered her her most critical acclaim, and “Twilight” gave her her largest film roll out, “Perfect” is Kendrick’s star-making performance.  It allows her to act, bring the comedy, and of course, sing.  Now again, I’m not the biggest fan of singing and musical, but for some reason, I find myself singing just about every time I watch this film.

Despite the fact that Kendrick is playing another teen cliche, as I mentioned earlier, she is still able to create a character that feels new and interesting.  The “mysterious alternative girl who secretly loves things” has been done since “The Breakfast Club” but Kendrick brings her wit, and spunky personality to the role that’s the harbinger for the entire film.  She’s the heart, soul, and engine that guides the story.  Beca is that girl you saw in school that you always wanted to say something to, but you noticed the giant “F*ck Off” on her forehead.  “Perfect” shows you one thing;  girls have a soft spot for 1980s films, and if you have an even half-way decent singing voice and red hair, you got a shot at that girl.

All in all, “Pitch Perfect” is one of those films that you might feel guilty for liking, until you see how many people actually love it.  So much so, “Pitch Perfect 2” is being fast-tracked, with the ever amazing Elizabeth Banks behind the camera, and Kendrick likely returning in the starring role once again.  So you’ll have to aca-scuse me, I have some singing to do.

Fun Fact:  Sorry Kristen Stewart fans, but Kendrick is the only actor from the “Twilight” series that has been nominated for an Academy Award in 2010’s, “Up In the Air.” 

July 20, 2012

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a PornoLong

I consider Kevin Smith somewhat of a personal hero of mine.  Not only is he not afraid to take chances (Red State) but this guy dropped everything he had into his first movie and he was successful and got the chance to keep making movies.  Yes, he’s hit a few roadblocks along the way (being too fat to fly, “imploding” at Sundance 2011, “Cop Out“) but the guy makes movies for his fans, and not to mention himself which I respect.

When “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” came out there was some fan fare, and it did decent in the theaters, but for me the standout was one scene with one character and one actor with the surname “Long.”  In genius cameos, Brandon Routh aka the Superman that everyone hates aka Dylan Dog aka Todd Ingram, plays Bobby Long, the high school heart throb that Miri (Elizabeth Banks) has always been secretly in love with.  Meanwhile Zack (Seth Rogan) has recently made the acquaintance of one Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long) a film star most famous for the coming-of-age tale “You Better Shut Your Mouth Or I’m Gonna Fuck It.

In five short minutes Justin Long and Brandon Routh received pardons from me for both “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Superman Returns,” respectively.

Fun fact: Kevin Smith wrote one of the original scripts for a Superman re-boot that involved a giant spider (later taken by Wild, Wild West). “Zack and Miri” stars an actor who played Superman, while Kevin Smith co-starred with Justin Long in “Live Free or Die Hard“.

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