Monday, April 14, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

It wasn't until The Avengers that I really saw what the potential for the Marvel Cinematic Universe ("MCU") could amount to and even then, I felt that it was mostly because the film was able to get so many of the interlocking components to work together that I was particularly impressed. The first Captain America film was, like many first titles in the MCU, an origin story, and one that was actually pretty interesting until it gave up exploring its implications for action set pieces. Unlike its predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier actually manages to let its theme drive the action. While it does struggle a little with an identity crisis and some level of contrivance, The Winter Soldier is definitely one of the strongest MCU films yet thanks to the relatively smart plot twists the thematic commentary.

The film begins with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and the S.T.R.I.K.E. team executing a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission to rescue hostages from a S.H.I.E.L.D.-run ship that had been overtaken by pirates. However, when Romanoff sneaks away to capture some data, Rogers becomes frustrated with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s executive director, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the layers of secrets through which he operates. With the eminent launch of three new immensely powerful S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers and despite his support of the project against Rogers argument that it is an overreach of power by the agency, Fury has misgivings about the project which is swiftly followed by an attempt on his life. With secret data entrusted to Rogers by Fury and the instruction not to trust anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers is made a fugitive and, with the help of Romanoff, must uncover the secrets of the clandestine spy agency.

Inspired by the identically titled story from the comic book and fueled by international spy and conspiracy thrillers, The Winter Soldier benefits from the infusion of espionage in both thematic content, including the relevant conflict between security and liberty, as well as lots of plot twists as double crosses and surprises pepper the script, possibly the smartest of the MCU's films yet. That's not to say that there aren't problems, with the story. For one, we hardly really see Rogers dealing with the shock of being in contemporary society and the clash that comes from being from a wholly different era. Furthermore, the story is so much about S.H.I.E.L.D. that sometimes Captain America seems like a secondary character in its own film. Finally, Rogers' final decision-making at the film's end seems just a bit forced and out of character in order to facilitate future movies' plots.

However, what does work really well is how in-continuity The Winter Soldier feels as it links back to The First Avenger enough that it's clear that the seeds for The Winter Soldier's story were sown even during the conception of the previous film. This further adds to the feeling that The Winter Soldier is part of the greater MCU. The final act's climactic battle does seem a bit like an obligatory action set piece, but it certainly makes a lot more sense and has a lot more meaning than The First Avenger's final showdown and I also really appreciated how the film showed secondary and even background characters in S.H.I.E.L.D. dealing with the fallout of the plot's unfoldings. That doesn't make some of the story logic in the film any less questionable, but it does make The Winter Solider a much more solid film than perhaps any previous Marvel film.

Brother-directors Anthony and Joe Russo surprise in their turn from working primarily in comedies and manage to handle The Winter Soldier well. They don't really leave much of a noticeable personal signature on the film as Joe Johnston did on The First Avenger, but the Russo brothers don't really struggle with pacing issues, keeping the two-hour-plus film's espionage, thrills and action flowing along effectively.

The cast in particular does well in The Winter Soldier with its major players having had lots of time to embody their roles. Johansson in particular gives Romanoff even more layers of depth after showing development on The Avengers and the chemistry between the actors is quite good, helping with the suspension of disbelief even when threatened by story logic issues. And the film predictably looks good, benefiting from the heavy use of practical effects to help ground the film, and then special effects at the end to launch it into the sky, literally.

While The Winter Soldier doesn't really herald the ascension of the MCU film to the level of its DC counterpart, The Dark Knight, as it clearly seeks more to entertain in a more mainstream way, the increased sophistication in plotting, examination of themes, and willingness to engage ambiguity does help elevate it past the first generation of MCU films and makes it arguably the strongest entry in the MCU, even with its identity crisis of being as much (or more) a S.H.I.E.L.D. film as a Captain America one and a few stumbles in story logic as well as the slightly disappointing bid for mainstream cliche in its somewhat overblown final action sequence.

But even with those criticisms, I had a good time thanks to the smart plot twists and incorporation of greater MCU storyline threads and the questions the film asks, even though it feels like it answers them a little too bluntly at the end. But as The Winter Soldier gives me hope for the future of the MCU, I have to say that it's a positive sign for the MCU as a whole and I hope the rest of the franchises can follow suit in willingness to aim higher than simple action crowdpleasing, as The Winter Soldier has done from The First Avenger. 8/10.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Avengers (2012)

Marvel has no shortage of large scale team ups and series crossing events its comic books, so I wasn't terribly surprised at the end of Iron Man when it floated the idea of The Avengers. Though one of Marvel's iconic superhero teams, it never gained the public awareness and popularity of the X-Men and with public awareness only strong for The Hulk in the wake of its television series, it's no surprise that Marvel never made the movie. That was until Iron Man's enormous success. Threaded through the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are pieces leading to perhaps the biggest superhero team-up in film history, and, like the actual team itself, the sum appears to be greater than the parts.

The film picks up as the Tesseract, retrieved after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, is now in the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D. and being researched by Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), who we last met in Thor. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who had been hitching a ride in Selvig's mind after the events of Thor, finds an opportunity to capture the Tesseract, mind control Selvig and S.H.I.E.L.D. sniper Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), and escape, having made allegiance with an alien force known as the Chitauri to hand the Tesseract to them in exchange for aid in conquering Earth.

With the threat of intergalactic war bearing on them, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) revives The Avengers Initiative and calls upon the help of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to help find and stop Loki from using the Tesseract for his nefarious goals, gaining another ally in Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who arrives to bring Asgardian justice to Loki. But secrets, clashes of personality and ideals, and no small amount of manipulation from Loki threatens the fragile alliance and the allies must learn to become a team in order to defend the Earth against Loki's intergalactic assault.

The ability for The Avengers to gather together not only the characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but tie together all the threads it had woven into its films is pretty impressive, especially given that The Avengers gives as much attention to its characters as it does to the plot, never feeling like any of the characters were grafted into the film, but that each character was carefully considered. It's not perfect and with so many moving plot pieces, there are some contrivances, like Thor's appearance, that are accompanied with plot holes, and given the number of characters, the film does struggle to really find a single point of view, but I think the observation in slices of those characters also contributes to its story of characters with different perspectives and ideas, while not fully understanding each other, still choosing to come together in a time of great need and surprising each other.

Director-writer Joss Whedon is at his best when working with his characters intimately, which isn't surprising given his television pedigree and that comes across in The Avengers. This degree of intimacy in the direction doesn't always suit itself well to the often grand story of alien invasions, so the film sometimes feels surprisingly small for a feature film and the final extended action sequence in particular feels a touch clunky, almost like it was added to give someone a bit more action in the film, rather than a truly organic and natural sequence, but if those two are tradeoffs for the film's ability to bring the characters together genuinely, I suppose it's a worthwhile sacrifice.

The cast is all predictably good, all performing as well as they had in their own respective films and that prior experience with their characters also contributed to how natural their performances felt, with Ruffalo doing a solid job taking over Bruce Banner for Edward Norton, making Bruce Banner his own while rooted in the character that Norton carved out in The Incredible Hulk. And visually, the film is everything you expect from a summer blockbuster, so it looks good and I think most of the money did manage to make it onto the screen.

Ultimately, there's not a lot of depth to The Avengers. The film, not unlike the initial comic, is basically a slightly more complex superhero team up. Like most of its constituent films, it doesn't really aim at being much more than a super-powered popcorn film, but adding together all those parts and orchestrating a larger film that manages to work and give each of those parts its due while telling a story of coming together in the midst of adversity is an impressive feat on its own and the amusing bits of comedy that pepper the film help keep its drama even. While I wouldn't necessarily say that The Avengers is the apotheosis of the superhero film or even the superhero team-up film, but it does manage a great deal of fun even despite its extended running time and manages to make one of Marvel's most satisfyingly entertaining films yet. 8/10.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Having finally caught up with all of other the films leading up to The Avengers, I finally watched Captain America: The First Avenger. This is a particularly unique entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it's actually set in the past: World War II to be precise, linking up with his Marvel Comics origins well. Unfortunately, the film stumbles in its second half as it ramps up in action and sort of loses its story and plot, in which it had plenty of potential in its more dramatic first half and while it isn't enough to sink the film, it becomes quite predictable and a little stale in the end.

The titular Captain America is Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a smaller young man with a great earnestness to serve his country in the Second World War. Though constantly rejected by the US Army, he is eventually brought on to a secret super soldier program run by the military, despite his many physical ailments, by Doctor Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and is transformed into the titular super soldier. On the Western Front, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), himself made a super soldier by Erskine, leads the scientific research division of the Nazi Army called Hydra, which sends an assassin to stop the super soldier project before Schmidt begins his own personal plan to conquer the world.

The First Avenger has so plenty of potential for its story packed into its first half, especially considering the theme of right use of power, the contrast between Steve Rogers and Johann Schmidt, and the potential for personal conflict as the good hearted little Steve is given a great deal of power. And yet the film, despite exploring an interesting side story as Steve is made to become a spokesman for US War Bonds by the military, just ends up pretty much turning into a surprisingly mindless "good guys beat the bad guys" montage after the halfway point, with only one real minor setback along the way. This leaves all of the narrative promise of the story completely unfulfilled as Rogers and company all stay one-dimensional and there is never a moment of doubt that Captain America will save the day, blotting out any iota of tension in the second half of the film.

That's not to say that there isn't some fun to be had in the action. The montage in the middle of the film is obviously an homage to World War II propaganda films, but it doesn't seem to have a point to justify its length and is rather dramatically inert as there is little obviously at stake. The rescue of the captured soldiers in contrast, is more exciting and interesting because of the number of lives at stake, but once the good guys start winning, they seem unstoppable and that doesn't make for very compelling film.

Also, one personal pet peeve that The First Avenger exhibits is the utterly suspension-of-disbelief-destroying use of language, specifically that all the Germans in the film speak English among themselves rather than German. But there are other scenes where we hear one character translating German to English and another scene where two characters speak in French, so there is no consistency to the use of language.

Now, although I'm not fond of the montage that director Joe Johnston uses in the film, the film's action sequences are just engaging enough to escape boredom which keeps the film from utterly floundering in its weightless second half and I really appreciate all the period details and how they are meshed together with comic book science fiction. The special effects for Steve Rogers before the super serum isn't fully believable the whole of the first act of the film, reaching into the uncanny valley, but the rest of the effects were good. The cast is pretty decent as well with some of the supporting Howling Commandos reaching a little campy like Thor's Warriors Three. The campy characters and direction keep some levity in the film without being overly distracting, which is a good balancing act.

It's just unfortunate that the film ended up giving up on its original premise and themes in exchange for a weightless mediocre action film. It's fortunate for The First Avenger that the action is strong enough to push an audience through the end, but when the final credits roll, the film is merely an adequate superhero film with some solid period elements. Watchable. 6/10.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Monuments Men (2014)

You know, I really liked George Clooney's first three films, so given an opportunity to attend a screening of his latest, Monuments Men, it was easy to go see it, especially considering the talent he assembled for it. Based on a real life story of a group of soldiers tasked with protecting Europe's art treasures, this film never quite nails the drama or the stakes for its characters, leading to a surprisingly inconsequential film.

Taking its name and rough story from the similarly named book, the film sees Frank Stokes (George Clooney), assembling his team of art and architecture specialists to go to Europe during World War II in order to protect antiquities from the destruction of war as well as theft by the Nazi German Army. Then the team splits up when they arrive in France, with James Granger (Matt Damon) tries to earn the trust of French art curator Claire Simon (Cate Blanchett), to discover where Hitler ordered the French art collections to be moved to and the others splitting up and investigating different points in Europe to recover stolen art or prevent its theft.

Unfortunately, despite the rousing speeches from George Clooney, the fractured narrative doesn't really yield that much investigation into each character and almost never explores the personal stakes that most of the characters have to volunteer for what could be a deadly mission, perhaps with the exception of Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) and even his story never manages to fully play out. The snippets we do get from each story don't quite build enough of a story that the film's supposedly emotional moments pay off at all, good acting and production be damned.

Honestly, the story of The Monuments Men simply doesn't seem to be well fit to exploration in a single feature film, given the number of characters involved, and so it's a wonder that it was brought to a film instead of a television serial where each character and storyline could be given the necessary depth. As it is, it all just ends up being an ephemeral quasi-history lesson about how Nazi Germany tried to steal Europe's art. The fault for the film's failure should be accordingly placed on the wrong choice of format for this story. Were the story distilled more in its adaptation or focused to a single character's perspective, perhaps it would have been more convincing as a feature film, but that's not what we have with The Monuments Men.

And that's enough to sink the film for me. The direction and performances were good, given what little the actors had to work with. Clooney keeps his direction fairly straightforward this time and combined with the production details and catchy soundtrack, it feels a little bit like the propaganda films of bygone eras, but none of that is really able to overcome just how minimal the characters are in the story and how it fails to give the audience anything to invest it, making for an inconsequential viewing, despite the theoretical stakes of Western art history being threatened.

And so this is the first Clooney-directed effort that I've seen that hasn't impressed. I mean, the cast does give the one-dimensional characters some small modicum of gravity, but none of that manages to make this any more interesting a story given how little each character and the overall art-theft story is explored. Perhaps fans of Clooney or the other performers and possibly fans of World War II set stories might still want to watch it, and it's not frustrating or unwatchable. But many will probably still find The Monuments Men shallow in the end. And they wouldn't be wrong with that assessment. 5/10.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Iron Man was something of an unexpected success for Marvel, having been a lesser known character that made a mainstream splash. It also marked the beginning of an ambitious plan for upcoming Marvel movies: to tie them all together into a single universe, much like the comics on which they are based. Iron Man, in particular, is a major figure of The Avengers and Marvel would probably need to gather some more Avengers regulars for the eventual , the original lineup including Thor, who got his movie a few years later and the Hulk.

Prior to Iron Man, the Hulk was probably the best known of the original Avengers, largely because of the fairly successful and long running television series from the 1970's. In 2003, in the wake of Marvel's successes with Spider-Man and X-Men, Marvel produced a Hulk reboot that got a tepid response from both critics and audiences. With 2008's The Incredible Hulk, Marvel opts to reconnect with the most successful incarnation of the big green guy and abbreviate the origin story. While the smart references to Hulk past are quite appreciable to longtime fans, the story is rather lacking and so we get a film that isn't all that much better than its direct predecessor.

Rather than redo the whole origin story of the Hulk, we see a recreation of the origin story in the extended title credits sequence, which actually mirrors the classic television series. Five years after the incident that turned him into the Hulk, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is in hiding in Brazil from the US Army, led by General Ross (William Hurt). Searching for a cure to his condition, he communicates with a scientist going by the name, Mr. Blue (Tim Blake Nelson). However, when he is found out and hunted by Ross and elite solider Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), Banner ends up having to head back home to Virginia to seek out the data from the experiment that turned him into the Hulk and possibly putting himself back in contact with his ex-girlfriend, Betty (Liv Tyler), who he worked with during that experiment.

The problem with all this, even just in synopsis is that the film lacks any real narrative drive. If the whole story were about Banner trying to evade Ross while looking to cure his condition, the simplicity would have aided in making a tense chase thriller. However, the insertion of Emil Blonsky as a secondary character and antagonist is never really winning considering what Ross knows about the Hulk's incredible power and Blonsky is never really given enough story to make his descent into villainy particularly convincing. The result is a dilution of what could have at least been a more focused and intense cat and raging-mouse story.

Where the film lacks it makes up a little in terms of lots of amusing references to the Hulk television series from the opening credits to the inclusion of a part of the "Lonely Man" closing theme song and hitchhiking. Even original Hulk actor, Lou Ferrigno returns for a cameo and voices the actual CGI-Hulk. There is a lot of love poured out in the direction of the series, which is great for fans. Unfortunately, it only really is a plus for the fans and for the unacquainted, these are just throwaway moments. By the film's climax, it's not really clear what the story was even really about other than a whole lot of chaos as weak storylines crash together and, despite some decent action moments, the film simply doesn't have any resonance or impact.

Aside from the references to Hulk past, it's those action sequences that probably remain the film's strongest points, despite how they are sometimes rooted in incomprehensible logic, like soldiers firing small arms at the Hulk, despite knowing that all those bullets don't really accomplish much and still trying to combat the Hulk in the face of the fact that not even explosives really hurt him. But putting that aside, there is some visceral thrills in watching the big green guy tear the US Army apart and that part is thanks to director Louis Leterrier's action film pedigree.

On the other hand, the film lacks tonal consistency, at times going a bit campy, with both William Hurt and Tim Blake Nelson's characters on the campier side of the spectrum and the leads a bit more serious and when you put these characters next to each other, it isn't always an easy sell. The CGI animation for the Hulk isn't bad, but the Hulk still looks like a high quality video game character more than a real human-being gone monster and part of that might be the dark cinematography.

Despite leaving lots of space for a sequel, The Incredible Hulk simply didn't get one like its peers and this film, along with its predecessor, might suggest that perhaps the Hulk isn't really well situated for feature films. Or at least no one has figured out how to engage the character in a feature film well. The action here might make for decent disposable entertainment, especially for fans of the television series and perhaps also the comic books, but that's the best that this film and its messy, unfocused, and inconsistent story and storytelling is going to amount to. 5/10.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Awesome Asian Bad Guys (2014)

So I recently took a trip to San Francisco, primarily driven to catch the 2K14 Seoulsonic USA Tour at CAAMFest due the cancellation of their Los Angeles date, but given that it was quite a trip up, I decided I'd take the opportunity to catch a CAAMFest screening on my second night. Perusing through the schedule, the one I noticed was Awesome Asian Bad Guys by National Film Society. I'd heard of Awesome Asian Bad Guys before as I'd seen a couple of the videos made by National Film Society on YouTube and the duo had successfully raised funds to shoot what I thought was supposed to be a webseries by Kickstarter. While it was a smart premise and the film had some amusing moments, the story was a bit unclear at times and some serious technical difficulties with the screening made for a frustrating viewing experience.

The idea, as pitched by Stephen Dypiangco and Patrick Epino, is to gather a group of 80's Asian character actors who typically played bit parts as villains and bring them together for some purpose. That purpose turns out to be helping actress Tamlyn Tomita gather a team to take down the nefarious and successful commercial actor Aaron Takahashi. Everyone in the series/movie plays a parody of themselves and as the assembled team progresses towards its goal, conflict erupts inside the group while they also discover that things might not be as they appear.

The story is a bit messy and a little insular because the format is essentially taking the National Film Society's video-blogging format, complete with interspersed direct-to-camera commentary, and then converting it into a narrative comedy. However, it takes some awareness of National Film Society's other works to really understand what's going on, particularly with the inserts as they talk to the camera, which don't really fit in the narrative as a pseudo-reality stunt. For those already familiar with National Film Society's video format, the excursion into deeper narrative won't be much of a problem. What does get murky however are the reasons for conflict, like Patrick's reluctance for the project in his being a family man that never really gets sold, which lead to some similarly hard to buy infighting. I think this is because the narrative is still fairly shallow and as much as I appreciate how Awesome Asian Bad Guys gives proper respect to an unsung aspect of both cinema and the Asian American community, I'm never really convinced of what stakes Patrick, our everyman, has in the project.

That said, most of the comedy works in the context of National Film Society's quirky style and there's a lot of referential humor connecting both to the '80's films that the bad guys come from as well as National Film Society's works and the greater YouTube world as they have cameos of various YouTube videomakers. And it's all quite silly, playing well to the crowd that would already appreciate National Film Society's previous works and the broader style of humor will probably find laughs even outside that audience, although those same audiences might be as perplexed as they are amused.

The film/series does pretty well given its indie production budget and the production values fit its sort of homemade style quite well. There are times when the lighting gets uneven, especially during some, but not all, of the cuts to the talking heads and not all the photography is solid. However, the directing is fairly solid and is this best seen in the fight sequences where it's never confusing as to what exactly is going on along with solid comedic timing in the editing. The performances were a bit uneven as there wasn't quite a unified tone to the different performances, some actors playing campier than others which made some of the comedy fizzle at times when characters of different tones interacted with each other.

And I think that makes Awesome Asian Bad Guys a workable start in feature filmmaking for National Film Society as it's a film that's about as amusing as it is uneven. The greatest detracting factor of the whole screening didn't have so much to do with the content of Awesome Asian Bad Guys as it did with the presentation. The piece was screened from what looked like a high res movie file on a laptop. The giant sized watermark faded in and out at the bottom with a bit distracting--I would have preferred that it was a little smaller and further to the edge of the screen, but what was truly difficult to endure didn't start happening until the final third of the film. The video at a few points shrunk from full screen to windowed, which meant that we had to watch the person on the laptop use their mouse to return it to full screen, which was a little distracting. Then the video started skipping and this got worse and worse and by the film's final action sequence, the file was barely running at all. I don't know if this happened in the prior screening, but these three issues made watching the film truly frustrating, eliciting vocal cries of disappointment in the audience as it kept getting worse.

I hope that the duo figure out a better platform for delivering the film over a huge movie file played off of a laptop for their next screenings as what they have in Awesome Asian Bad Guys isn't bad and will certainly please their existing fans. Because of its nature being so specific to the videos that they've already made, the film has mixed accessibility and as much as new viewers might appreciate it's silly comedy, its format and meta-story might be confusing the uninitiated. So fans of National Film Society as well as those well versed in YouTube and new media filmmaking will probably get some appreciation out of this still-rough effort, others might want to brush up on it before wading into the waters of Awesome Asian Bad Guys. 6/10.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Lego Movie (2014)

I never saw The Lego Movie coming. I mean, I should have due to the wide popularity of the brand, especially in the wake of the successful and seemingly neverending game series, which takes existing licensed franchises and then puts them through a family friendly comedic blender for some light gaming adventure. The film, similar to its gaming franchise peers, is somewhat irreverent in its comedy, but manages to do a lot in terms of its animation, as the film, with a few minor exceptions, is mostly built out of animated Lego blocks and the result is imaginative and visually impressive ride, even if the story doesn't fully come together in the end.

The film begins with Lord Business (Will Ferrell) breaking into the sanctum of Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a "master builder", that is one that is able to see the world for all the Lego pieces it is made out of and can repurpose those parts to create whatever he or she wants. Lord Business steals the Kragle, a weapon capable of great destruction, leaving Vitruvius with only the prophecy that one called the "Special" will discover the "Piece of Resistance", a Lego piece that is capable of stopping the Kragle.

This "Special" one is Emmett (Chris Pratt), an ordinary construction worker who lives in the city governed by President Business and is your ordinary cookie cutter citizen. One day, he encounters Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), falls into a hole and founds himself bound to a very unusual piece, which turns out to be the Piece of Resistance. Then captured by President Business, he discovers that Business, annoyed by the freedom of both the Master Builders and the regular folk of Legoland to be anything more than the picture perfect representations in his own mind, plans on using the Kragle to freeze everyone in the Legoverse as he desires. So while Emmett might not have a creative idea in his head, Wyldstyle and Vitruvius are counting on his as the "Special" to lead the master builders in stopping Lord Business from freezing the world forever.

In a lot of ways, the film is about what it means to be special, but towards the film's end, it kind of loses its plot, especially as it tries to weave in a different theme built around the concept of real life people playing with these Legos. This is sort of skirted by inserting a somewhat saccharine father-son moment and it's not as though the idea doesn't drive the plot, but neither that nor the internal theme of the film really gets woven together in a satisfactory way. And that's a notable weakness, but that doesn't mean that the film isn't still chock full of amusing antics and highly observant comedy that takes advantage of both the idea that we are in a Lego world, but also the many franchises that Lego and Warner Bros. have and fill the script of irreverent humor. And for the most part, until the finale, it really helps drive the film quite well.

What's especially impressive about the film is the choice to have the whole film built from animated Legos. It intentionally resembles a stop motion film, shortening the frame rate to give all the CGI the slightly more jerky animation that you would see from actual stop-motion animation and the use of tilt-shift photography helps give the animation a miniature feel, which clever replacing of pieces and references to Lego part numbers and instructions. Furthermore, a real love of Legos is evident in the way that the film chooses its characters and sets, highlighting all the different Lego worlds, giving reason to why they are separated and even grabbing some amusing older designs to incorporate like Benny (Charlie Day) and his 1980-something space designs.

The atmosphere that the Lego Movie generates is frantic and high energy, much like its omnipresent theme song, "Everything Is Awesome!!!", which even plays a part in the actual plot of the film. The film does border on being unbearable for its hyperkinetic pace and non-stop hijinks and humor (as well as the aforementioned theme song), but its irrepressible joy and love of all things Lego is usually more infectious than grating. And I think that makes The Lego Movie a pretty amusing way to spent 100 minutes and will be especially enjoyable to fans of the Lego franchise, old and new. Fun. 8/10.

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