The LEGO Movie – 2014

the lego movieAn ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.

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What we think: Arguably LEGO is the world’s greatest toy, it’s been around for years and has brought joy and imagination to children and adults a like.

So why it has taken so long for a dedicated big blockbuster, a cinematic release, to be made is anyone’s guess. The plain looking mini figures have inspired many popular films such as Star WarsHarry Potter, Lord of the Rings even Iron Man to cash in on merchandise.

Now though, the wait is finally over as writer/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller bring a whole host of craziness to the ever popular Danish building blocks.

The pair cemented themselves on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and then took to reimaging the TV series 21 Jump Street onto the big screen in 2012, a sequel to be released this year.

With a cast that comprises A-list stars from both TV and film it gels magnificently well, it has a simple plot that takes its characters through a variety of comical and highly creative worlds.

Emmet Brickowoski is your average happy go lucky mini figure, tirelsy working away each day as a construction worker (they follow the plans to the letter) and does it all with a big smile on his face and positive attitude.

Film Review The Lego Movie

When he runs into Wyldstyle (voiced by ) she takes him on a journey to help her and the master builders save the world from Lord Business () who is planning to stick everything together with his secret weapon ‘the kragle’.

They’ve labelled him as the ‘special one’ in a very Matrix style approach, but poor Emmet is way out of his depth and is unable to find himself or make an impression on his new friends.

It’s devilishly funny with some star turns, Will Arnett voices every ones favourite troubled super hero Batman, who will only work with black bricks, “or very, very, very dark grey ones”.  as Bad Cop is also a winner, chasing Emmet through the Wild West, Cloud Cuckoo Land and Middle Zealand to name but a few.

That’s only a small handful of characters, in what is a long line up of neat cameos. Superman and the Green Lantern show up for some hero banter and its a shame that they could’t have joined the party for a little longer. And there is another brilliantly placed cameo that to go into any detail would spoil it for when it happens.

At no point does it tail off or become stupid, and you only have to sit in awe at the way it was made, using CG-animation and stop-motion to bring to life these small characters on screen. They even have the ability to quickly construct a wide range of LEGO sets to get them out of trouble.

What really stands out with this film is the high level of detail that has gone into making it, everything and I mean everything is LEGO related, both in the foreground and the background.

The ending is a pleasant surprise although some might feel like it jumps right out of one world into an all too familiar other, but its delivered with precision and it is most certainly a satisfactory one.

A sequel is most certainly already being drawn up with Emmet standing out as one of the most loveable animated characters of 2014.

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What did you think of the LEGO movie, was it what you expected? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

 

 

 

 

Mama – 2013

mama posterAnnabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they 

DirectedAndrés Muschietti

StarsJessica ChastainNikolaj Coster-WaldauMegan Charpentier

What we think: When a film is presented by a well-known director it initially has a certain weight to it that will place it above the shoulders of others.

In the case of horror/thriller Mama it has the backing of Spanish director Guillermo del Toro which is a certain plus point for any one who is a fan.

However, any big name attachment is probably there to push the marketing of the film, sadly this one doesn’t quite do itself much justice and falls some way short of achieving any greatness.

It’s simply put, a film of two halves, which as the second and third acts take shape becomes more and more ridiculous.

The film is brought to the big screen by director by Andrés Muschietti who also helmed the short three minute piece. It follows the story of two girls Lily and Victoria who are taken away by their father Jeffrey after he goes a bit doolally and offs his co-workers and wife.

When the car they are travelling in crashes they take shelter in a house deep in the forest, riddled with guilt Jeffrey then decides to enter into murder suicide, but something supernatural stops him and the girls are left to fend for themselves.

Move ahead five years and Jeffrey’s brother Lucas continues his search for the girls hiring a couple of hicks to trail the forest looking for the derelict cabin. When they are finally found the girls are practically feral and need psychiatric supervision as they are welcomed back into society.

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Lucas and his grunge girlfriend Annabel are given custody as well as a nice new house for them to live in, all under the watchful eye of Dr. Dreyfuss. Once inside the house its clear to see that the girls have brought something back with them, something that doesn’t want to let them go.

Mama starts well enough, with a frenetic opening that glimpses the supernatural entity through blurred vision it moves from eerie strength to strength building tension and then unleashing it in small doses not giving the audience long enough to draw breath.

Of course it sticks quite closely to now tried and tested horror clichés, with things lurking in the shadows, children talking to imaginary nothingness and the so old “what’s in the closet” routine?

Then the director, whether bored with just giving us tit bits of the mother like antagonist, decides to reveal ‘it’ in all its glory. It then moves from scare mongering horror to poorly constructed ghost story in the space of a few minutes.

The acting is nothing to write home about, Jessica Chastain while so dominant in Zero Dark Thirty is flat and a little off the mark here, why the need for the grunge look is beyond me. Maybe it was in keeping with the Gothic back story?

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The young girls do well, sweet and innocent yet dependable when needed, the rest of the cast pretty much fall by the way side.

The ending was for me beyond ridiculous and undid most if not all of the good work the start gave us, although saying that it was pretty much on the decline when Mama herself becomes much more of a central character.

It’s not as main stream a horror as you would expect, but the protagonist shadows the central figure that graced the god awful Darkness Falls and that is one supernatural entity well worth staying away from.

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What did you think of Mama, was it as good or as bad as you thought? Leave a comment and let us know we’d love to hear from you?

 

 

Monsters University – 2013

monsters university posterA look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

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What we think: Have Pixar ever made a bad film, well if you’re a child then more than likely they haven’t.

If you fall into the adult category you’ve still probably enjoyed them for what they are, great animation and loveable story telling.

I recently took my 4 year old son for his first cinema trip and as luck would have it the only other film he has managed to sit through so far was Monsters Inc., so it was a no brainer that this would hold his attention also.

I saw the original some time ago, and if I’m honest animation isn’t always my first port of call when I am choosing a film to watch. But the delight of seeing his face light up and be in awe at the size of the screen was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Monsters University is a prequel to the original and follows Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan before they became the best of friends. We follow Mike as a youngster, an almost social outcast by his class at school he only has one dream, to be a scarer.

Sully on the other hand makes his way to monsters university off the back of his family name, but that is surely not going to be enough to see him through to the end when things take a turn for the competitive.

The first part of the film  focuses on Mike and his initial journey to Monsters University as well as his first meeting with Sully and the ensuing rivalry that takes place.

Mike has a dreamed about this day of for most of his life, practically reading every book on scaring along the way, he’s prepared for any eventuality.

Once there he is greeted by the formidable figure of Dean Hardscrabble voiced by , who deems him to be failure and a disappointment, but most of all points out that Mike just isn’t scary enough.

When Mike and Sully team up for the scare games, they have to pit themselves up against other fraternity houses and do so in the company of some unlikely friends.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

The underlying theme of most if not all of Pixar’s films is clear to see, but it also dishes out a life lesson to children that in this case its ok to be different and the path that we choose is not always the one that takes us to our eventual goal.

One thing worth noting is MU is a little light on the laughter and in jokes that Pixar is so well renowned for, sure there are some funny moments, (my son chose a random one from the cafeteria scene in which monsters eat garbage) but you’re always expecting that bit more.

It could have been opened up to a lot more silliness and high jinx, after all this is a college story in the same vein as many other college stories (minus the booze and nudity perhaps). However, the losers will always triumph in the end.

The characters are all unique in their own way, different personality traits are constantly shining through at every available opportunity. The Oozma Kappas’ have their hearts in the right place but are constantly mocked, think the animated version of nerds.

The story is if anything predictable but then what child is going to mind that, they just want larger than life characters to make them laugh for almost two hours. By this time for me the popcorn was running out, yet my son’s attention was continually held.

This will surely be most people’s cup of tea, and the short film prior to the main event is worth the admission price alone. With the titled The Blue Umbrella kicking things off it surely sets the tone for another Pixar triumph.

Have you seen Monsters University? If so leave a comment and tell us what you think?

 

Killing Them Softly – 2012

killing them softly posterJackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse.

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Stars:   and 

What we think: There has been quite a significant gap between films for writer/director Andrew Dominik, five years in fact.

His last outing The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a Western epic and now he has teamed up with Brad Pitt again for Killing Them Softly, one with a significantly shorter run time.

Pitt plays Jackie Cogan a gun for hire who is called in to clean up the mess made after a mob protected card game is robbed and the criminal economy takes an unexpected nose dive.

With the criminal underworld unsure of who to trust and with no games being run it’s up to Cogan to eliminate those responsible and get trust restored.

The film is also set against real footage of Bush and Obama referring to the struggling US economy and the need for the country to pull together as a community to get itself back on track, which is ironic given the narrative that Dominik is conveying.

The group behind the heist are hardly your career criminals, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) are a pair of down and outs looking for some fast cash.

These guys are a highlight, prepping for the robbery with yellow rubber gloves, masks and a sawn off shotgun so short it would take everyone out whose in the room. Mendelsohn is especially solid, his appearance as a disheveled drug taking dog thief is one of the few comedic elements to an otherwise dry film.

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Killing Them Softly is a film where you have to rely heavily on the acting, and there is plenty on show. Pitt of course is ever commanding in his role, slicked back hair and leather jacket he’s the archetypal hitman, he calls the shots and others listen.

Then there is James Gandolfini, no stranger to the world of fictional organized crime having been head of the most famous TV family, the Sopranos.

Here Gandolfini is another hitman, called on by Pitt to assist in taking out one of the targets, however the only thing he’s capable of doing is consuming large amounts of booze and women.

Add into the mix Ray Liotta (another with a fictional mafia past) whose responsible for knocking off his own card game in the beginning, he’s the innocent party this time around and is whacked in a spectacular slow motion capture drive by.

Dominik’s script is nowhere near as tight or as in depth as Chopper, it becomes confused at times and it’s hard to know exactly where it is supposed to lead us.

There is no question that the acting is top draw and there are some great scenes of dialogue that leaves you wanting more, of course it does seem to drift on a bit too much and the short sharp cuts between actors can get annoying.

It’s fair to say it has its share of brutal violence, poor Markie Trattman (Liotta) is on the receiving end of one of cinemas heaviest beatings, and when the hits are made there is no getting away from the realism to them, blood will fly.

At the end of the film Cogan has been short changed for his work, and as an audience you might feel short changed that the film promised was not the one returned on?

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Please feel free to leave a comment about this film, we would love to know what you think and we’ll do our best to respond!

King of Devil’s Island – 2010

King of Devil's Island Poster

Norwegian winter, early 20th century. On the boys home Bastoy, a new inmate leads the boys to a violent uprising against a brutal regime. How far is he willing to go to attain freedom?

DirectedMarius Holst

StarsStellan SkarsgårdBenjamin Helstad and Kristoffer Joner

What we think: Any story about rebelling against the system is generally going to get an audience, people love an underdog story and King of Devil’s Island is a chilling one, in almost the literal sense.

Erling (Helstad) is a troubled individual and when he makes the journey to the island of Bastoy his stay is not going to be a pleasant one, but one of hardship and manual labour.

Under the watchful eye of Bestyreren (the ever brilliant Skarsgård) he has to follow the rules or face punishment in the worst form possible, and that’s after trying to battle the freezing Nordic winters.

Even when he is read the rules the only thing on his mind is escape, failed attempts only bring more pain and misery.

Inside he manages to share a bond with some of the other boys, but those who have been there for longer know the rules and rarely step out of line.

Along the way he is forced to deal with the harsh reality of the situation, and when Bestyreren let’s the return of vicious guard Bråthen back into the borstal the revolt begins.

The Norwegian surroundings are an unforgiving place especially in this environment as Erling finds out the hard way, in one punishment he is made to move massive rocks from one spot on the ground to the other.

King of Devil's Island

There is a sense that Bestyreren’s motives are for the good of the boys he presides over, he is harsh but fair and if anything he has empathy for them although he doesn’t show it. Turning them from outcast delinquents into responsible men.

The acting is solid, Skarsgård is always a commendable actor and turns in a decent performance, Benjamin Helstad also does a great job for someone quite unknown in world cinema.

But Holst captures the essence for the need to survive and break the so called chains, it’s a powerful film, but then most Norwegian films that I have seen lately have been like that.

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Please feel free to leave a comment about this film, we would love to know what you think and we’ll do our best to respond!