The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Review

So I’ve just spent the last three hours trying to think of a clever, funny, witty way of saying “uhhhhhhhhh.”

Or, if my boss is reading, I’ve just spent the last three hours typing up my notes about the meeting we just had in time for the next meeting about the meeting to be held after that in which someone might possibly consider consider the possibility of maybe one day imagining a possibly moderately effective solution to suggest to out client which they will immediately ignore in favor of THEIR utterly useless solution which we rejected two meetings ago.

The sooner ‘society’ descends into Mad Max the happier i’m going to be.

And whilst I’ve been siting their taking notes that no-one will ever read, I’ve also been struggling to find a way to pad “The Lego Movie 2 is very funny, very well done film with a perfectly adequate cast but I just simply didn’t take to it very much.”

160 words…. all done… pub?

Maybe I should clarify my statement.

Did you ever watch Wall-E and think that it should have stopped at the half way point so we didn’t have to deal with  the slight downgrade in quality that was all that stuff on the spaceship? It’s the same deal here.

Set a few years after the events of the first film, we start off in a post apocalyptic world before becoming an outer-space musical with a ticking clock to the end of the universe, an absolutely, defiantly not evil queen (she sings about how she’s not evil and no-one ever lies in songs), there’s a marriage that probably should be stopped, Batman is still the best character and the whole things gone a bit meta.

Now, that sounds really cool, right?

Except it isn’t.

My wife slept through thirty minutes of it and she hasn’t done that since Fan4stic! It’s not that the film does anything wrong per se, it’s just that well… I hate the twist from the first film. There’s a reason that the Lego Batman movie is the best one of the franchise (and arguable the best Batman movie of all time- You. Heard. Me.) Not only is it fast moving and funny, but it ignored the whole ‘this is just taking place in some guys basement’ nonsense that limits the whole franchise.

It’s a twist that limits what can be done and also, it makes some of the things that happen later on in the film… well… they seem to break the rules of this universe unless this universe shares space with the Toy Story lot. Without the twist and ‘real word’ setting then I think this film could have done a lot more with the toy box of wonders that it has.

Aside from that, the film made me laugh a lot, it was very inventive, the plot had a few pretty cool twists and I was never bored but I wasn’t terribly engaged either. It reminded me of a story from back in the ’70’s  regarding Easy Rider. Basically the suits had no idea why it became this big cultural touchstone that made them loads of money, awards and critical acclaim so for the next movie they just gave him loads of money and let him get on with it because clearly this guy was didn’t need an adult watching over him and in exchange they got…. The Last Movie, widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time and a shoot so mad that the FBI had to go and keep an eye on the cast and crew. And this feels a lot like that except the Lego Movie 2 is still pretty good. And the FBI wasn’t called in to watch anyone  involved with this film.

As far as I know.

The fact o the matter is that when the Lego Movie was announced, people generally thought it was the worst thing to happen to pop culture since they cancelled Firefly but it turned out to be so good that people were legitimately annoyed when it wasn’t nominated for the Best Animated Oscar! And it made tons of money as well so, yeah, why wouldn’t the suits just leave the money in a bag and let the children play? Except they needed an adult in the background. There is such a thing as too may meta jokes you know.

At the end of the day, I get why people love this film, I WANT to love this film but I just can’t quite. I like the songs, I like the fast pace, 80% of the jokes, hell, even the celebrity voice cast were… tolerable, the plot was really good… but maybe if the team involved was even slightly restrained it would have been a better experience for me.

At the end of the day, (me tying myself in knots aside) this is a very good film, everyone else in my audience seemed to be having fun (although some of the smaller kids were getting a bit fidgety towards the end), this is the best kids film out now or in the not too distant future, hell, I’m looking forward to what they do with this universe (assuming they drop the humans completely). But, for me, it just didn’t quite click.

And I’ll be damned if I know why.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

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Happy Death Day 2 You Review

Dunkers I’m used to having my heart broken on Valentines day but by Blumhouse? My favorite live-action studio in the whole, wide world? The studio that brought us the Venom film we all deserved in Upgrade? Who’s business model of making films on tiny million dollar budgets means that a wonderful, amazing break from CGI super-blockbusters is never too far away. Hell, their even allegedly bringing the DARK UNIVERSE back to life with an allegedly low budget, small focus, no stars 18 rated film in the pipeline. Aka EXACTLY WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

But back to today and I find myself being put through Happy Death Day 2U Death Harder which is a sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day which is basically Groundhog day meeting a slasher film, a pretty solid film which needs about a sequel about as much as well…. Groundhog day.

Because where is there to go with a sequel? Either you retread old ground by either forcing the character to go through another looping day or you switch to another character and have them relive the same day over and over again.

Happily though this film decides to go for option three and completely flips genres on us. So instead of having to sit though a pointless sequel about another killer after our heroine, we get a pointless sequel that presents and then ignores a fascinating idea about how this time loop are destroying the universe and our cast should do something about it by killing themselves forever, instead opting to punt our heroine into a parallel universe where she has to relive the first film whilst debating whether she should return home or stay where fate has dumped her…

Except the killers different and all the people that we came to know over the first film have different relationships and personalities because different universe. Except we aren’t focusing on finding our new killer, we’re instead focusing on…erm….

Actually, what the hell are we focusing on?

I mean there is the thread about Tree (our alleged heroine)trying to get home by utilizing some wibbly, wobbly timey wimey device straight out of a middling episode of Doctor Who but where the first was a very tight, very simple film, this film is baggy and seems very plot light. I confess I did enjoy some some the death scenes but that’s very thin gruel when I can go to any Final Destination or Saw movie or even Death Day 1 and watch people die in interesting ways.

The dialogue isn’t as good, the characters aren’t as interesting, the film (even though it”s a mere 4 minutes longer) doesn’t really seem to have any idea what to do with itself. I get wanting to go back to the well but sometimes you should just leave be.

At the end of the day, Happy Death Day 2: Death Harder  is trying to do something more than simply retreading the first one but when you open with the idea of the universe decaying because of the events of the prior and current film and then do nothing beyond another time loop film without little hints that the universe is decaying and that time is therefore running out to fix this just seems maddening. Imagine the possibilities!

And yes, the thread that Trees body is retaining the damage it’s accumulating thanks to the repeated deaths and therefore she’s getting weaker every loop is continued but wasted. Put her in a wheelchair, a cast, have her wake up missing a leg, a hand, an eye – SOMETHING to show that she’s decaying but, instead it’s just one random trip to the hospital and then off we go. And yes, there is still the mystery of who the killer is (and they do do something slightly interesting with it) but it’s just off to the sideline and is solved pretty much by accident and very little fanfare.

If this was a CW show (which it seems to aspire to want to be,) this would be one of the episodes they throw together when the budgets running low, but this isn’t a TV episode, it’s a feature film made by one of the most innovate studios out there. A sequel with no reason to exist as it has very little to say. It’s not completely hopeless, but it’s the weakest film that I’ve seen Blumhouse put out and i’m not looking forward to the already in production part 3 in the slightest.

My Score- Skip It

Alita: Battle Angel Review

Those eyes! Those terrfying yellow eyes!
Sorry, before we get to the reason that I won’t be sleeping tonight (or, more likely ever again.) I feel I should set the scene.

Alita battle angel is the first mega bomb of 2019 and since it’s primary character is a 14 year old girl fighting giant robots and cyborgs with a sword that’s bigger than she is, I’m going to make an educated guess and assume that it’s based on some sort of Anime or manga that probably did a much better idea of explaining what in the name of Idris Elba was going on.
As far as I could puzzle out (and it wasn’t easy), 300 years ago there was a war between Earth and Mars which Earth barely won and now we have your bog standard all the rich live in the floating sky city and all the poor live on Earth. Then, Christoph Waltz finds a Robot in a junk pile and everything changes…
Well, sort of. If this film ended with to be continued appearing on the screen then it would be a more satisfying ending.
Oh, and yes, I did say Christoph Waltz. This film is a whos who of acting legends. You’ve also got Jennifer Connoly, mahershala ali AND Jackie Earle Haley all turning up to collect their pay check. Ed Skrien turns up to humiliate himself but that’s what happens when you try to play with adults.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, with a 200 million dollar budget with the guys at WETA doing the CGI this film should be amazing, right? Who could be better with killer robots than Cameron who gave us both Terminator films? This films should be a licence to print money.
Except it just doesn’t work.
What little plot there is, is so generic that you’ll see it all coming, there’s so many characters that everyone may as well walk around with a giant sign above their head stating their purpose on set.
Then you have the question of why this film has a single frame of live action at all. There’s so much CGI on screen that you could have made it an animated film with so little effort. And if you were so desperate to show off your A list cast on screen instead of using them as voice actors then what’s wrong with motion capture? Seriously, sometimes this film looked worse than the CGI in AI and the rest of the time it was up and own the uncanny valley like an out of control rollar coaster.
Don’t get me wrong, this film looks amazing. Some of the visuals are works of art and every penny is on screen but you can have all the pretty visuals that you like but bad fight scenes, dull characters and so many other issues let it down. You can only hide so much with slow mo. Especially repetitive slow motion shots.

Yeah…. then fight scenes are some of the dullest I’ve seen in a while. Were never given a clear idea of what Alita is capable of, she seems to regard losing limbs as nothing more than a minor annoyance and never seems to be vulnerable in the slightest. Now, I can take one easy fight to show how much of a badass she is, but if you keep having fights where the hero is never in danger of so much as a split end then why should I be invested?

Also, the editing for this film is absolutely shocking. I’m not talking about the kind of editing that can turn an 18 rated film into a hard 12a  (although there’s plenty of that) but the kind of editing where it seems that whole scenes have gone missing. Somewhere out there is a 3 hour 18 rated version of this film which would be slightly better. It wouldn’t fix many of the issues with this film but at least it would feel whole, un-neutered and at least a film doing what it want’s to do with a director who’s being allowed to make the film he wants to make.

Who gets Robert Rodriguez to make a 12a movie? That’s not his skill set. I think Spielberg would have been a much better choice or someone else capable of directing this kind of epic. Hell, Cameron would have been better! At least he has experience of films of this size and scope.

But that’s another issue. The biggest issue with this film. Not just the fact that the whole film should have been full CGI which would have meant a lower budget and more freedom for the director, as  well as allowing for a more consistent tone.- Once scene that I think was supposed to be be an turning point for our heroine instead provked hysterical laughter in m y screening. But, that’s not the big issue. The big issue is that someone, somewhere, probably full of  ‘inspiration powder’ decided to give Alita the absolutely massive eyes that you normally see in an anime, whilst giving everyone else and I do mean EVERYONE else has normal eyes. Why? You tell me. It’s distracting and scary, looking fake whilst adding nothing to the film. If it gave her terminator vision then I could understand, but it doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than to look like it did in the source material. It means that Alita, even though the film is live-action, is done with CG animation!

The films really gory as well. Parents thinking that this is a similar level of violence to say a marvel film, please be aware that this film has an insane amount of violence which may scare younger viewers. I swear with maybe 12 seconds added, the rating for this film would go to 18, which is where it belongs.

Alita: Battle Angel is a poorly plotted, badly edited mess which should have been a gritty, gory 18 rated CGI film instead of a 12a blockbuster. Give the main character some normal eyes or make it clear that these give her some sort of an edge in the bland, badly done combat combat get rid of some characters and give those remaining something to chew on.

As is, the only thing this film leaves in the mind is will it be as big or a bigger bomb than X Men: Contractual Obligations?

My Score- Skip It

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Review

Of the big animation studios, Dreamworks is the most interesting. I mean Sony Animated Studios stuff is near universally unwatchable, Illuminations stuff is so aggressively mediocre that the only way to review their stuff is in rhyme (trust me on this) and of course, Disney/Pixar are usually the unassailable kings with Arrdman snapping at their heels.

But Dreamworks has always veered all over the shop. They’ve made good films, great films and borderline unwatchable films. However, whilst most of the praise has gone towards the bafflingly popular Shrek franchise my favorite work of theirs has been the How to Train your Dragon Franchise based on some books I’ve never read. Nor do I intend to. Which, despite being awesome films seem to get very little attention.

Starting from the fantastic point of mixing Dragons with vikings, this franchise has amazing animation, great characters, incredible visuals, a fast enough pace to gloss over the fact that this franchise has an implied body-count in the hundreds, great music and has the rare distinction of actually using Gereard Butler the right way- a a big shouty warrior king.

Not only did it do all that right, but they’ve made a song and dance about how this is the ‘final’ film in the trilogy and, yeah, i’d agree with that. But, there was just something about this film that didn’t quite click with me.

I mean it still had amazing animation, great characters, incredible visuals, a fast enough pace to gloss over the fact that this franchise has an implied body-count in the hundreds, great music and has the rare distinction of actually using Gereard Butler the right way- a a big shouty warrior king. But despite all of that there was just a feeling of a franchise running slightly out of steam.

In theory the plot is very simple. Group A (nice vikings and dragons) are running away from group B (evil vikings with brainwashed dragons) whilst trying to get to point C a ‘hidden world’ where vikings and dragons can live in peace. Very simple plot which I think was actually called Battlestar Galacatica the last time I encountered it. (The original 70s series, the modern remake did my head in.)  However, there’s also the subplot of our main characters dealing with the fact they both have partners now and maybe their worlds aren’t meant to mix.

I mean yes, I laughed at the funny bits and my beloved wife cried like a baby at the right bits but at the same time there was slightly too much run-time given to characters that speak only in grunts and gurgles, the villain is a bit of a step-down from previous entries in the series and would have functioned better as a sidekick or being split into two characters as he’s simply not as menacing as he’s built up to be. He wants to be Jafar but comes across more as Iago. (The parrot, not the character from Othello.) I’m glad that the franchise tried something new but it hasn’t quite worked. But as he’s barely in the movie anyway so I guess it all balances out. Giving some side characters less run-time (especially one with a really unfunny running joke about a beard) would have made me happier.

Also, the musics getting a bit repetitive. Yes, it’s lovely that you made a really uplifting piece of music but  by the 37th time I’ve heard it it’s going to grate a little.

Also, it’s got this really weird view of relationships- basically that once you find a partner you can never have fun again. Ever. Under any circumstances. You just have to stay home. A least that was my reading of it. Which doesn’t tally with my experience of healthy relationships.

These quibbles aside, this is a very, very good and incredibly definitive to one of the most underrated animated trilogies of all time. It looks good, it’s got  a slightly overlong run-time and the villain could do with an upgrade but otherwise its a fantastic end to a very under-rated trilogy.

My Score- See It 

Best

1Best\n10 Anihaltion \n9 Overlord\n8 Mandy \n7 Alpha\n6 Sgt. Stubby\n5 A quiet place\n4 Upgrade\n3 Spiderman\n2 three billboards\n1 Cold War\n\nWorst\n10 sherlock gnomes\n9 birth of the dragon\n8 Darkest Minds \n7 Robin Hood\n6 Predator\n5 the spy who dumped me\n4 50 shades \n3 Happytime Murders\n2 Peter rabbit\n1 Grimdlewald \n\nMost disappointing \n10. HOUSE with a clock\n9 downsizing \n8 Venom\n7 Solo\n6 Deadpool 2\n5 red sparrow\n4 Spiders web\n3 B Rhapsody\n2 Avengers \n1 Pacific Rim 2\n0 Anihaltion

9 Overlord

8 Mandy

7 Alpha

6 Sgt. Stubby

5 A quiet place

4 Upgrade

3 Spiderman

2 three billboards

1 Cold War

Worst

10 sherlock gnomes

9 birth of the dragon

8 Darkest Minds

7 Robin Hood

6 Predator

5 the spy who dumped me

4 50 shades

3 Happytime Murders

2 Peter rabbit

1 Grimdlewald

Most disappointing

10. HOUSE with a clock

9 downsizing

8 Venom

7 Solo

6 Deadpool 2

5 red sparrow

4 Spiders web

3 B Rhapsody

2 Avengers

1 Pacific Rim 2

Overlord Review

You know, a J.J. Abrhams film that isn’t full of more lens flares than unexplained red goo just doesn’t feel right. It’s like a superhero film not being full of instantly dated CGI, Meryl Streep giving a bad performance, Michael Bay turning in a tender, understated film that’s generating Oscar buzz, or even a James Corden film that’s actually watchable- it’s just wrong somehow. It would be a nice change but it’s just not the way that the universe should work.

But, here we are. not once in the 110 minutes that Overlord was on the screen, was there a single lens flare. And I should know because I hardly blinked during the entire run-time.

Hell, this film could have been tailor made for me. Set the night before D-Day, we follow a pair of American soldiers who have to blow up a radio tower before 6am the next morning otherwise the D-Day landings could fail. Their drop goes wrong and they find themselves severely outnumbered, low on supplies, men and morale. Surrounded by the most cartoonishly evil Nazis this side of a saturday morning cartoon and with the growing realisation that there’s something terrible happening in the church which could change the entire course of the war.

There’s no CGI (bar a few really bad planes in the first ten minutes) no flashbacks explaining who everyone is and how they got that way, people die – a lot of people die and director Julius Avery (who’s also working on a Flash Gordon reboot with  Matthew Vaughn which should be interesting….) is clearly relishing the fact that this is an 18 movie by putting in exploding heads, body transformations, some nightmarish visuals and gruesome deaths among other treats.

It was tense and exciting with very little let up since the film takes the Saving Private Ryan approach to it’s opening scenes (except not as good obviously, I mean the Saving Private Ryan opening scene is the best movie scene of all time.)  With characters who were sort of introduced just being casually murdered, leaving us to realize that no-body is safe, and as a result, the screen frequently hums with tension.

In fact, were it not for the Darth Vader breathing constantly complaining to no-one in particular about the levels of violence in a rated 18 film Muppet sitting next to me, my screening would have been in perfect silence.

This is the best B-Movie I’ve seen in the cinema in years.

It’s not perfect though, like I said, the few Nazis that do get any character development and arent just goons to be shot are pretty much Saturday morning cartoons and, with such an important deadline, there should have been much more of a sense of a ticking clock. The knowledge that if these men fail then D-Dy itself might be at risk. Also, for a horrifically well guarded fortress, the Nazis central base is pretty easy to slip in and out of. For films like this to really work, the tension has to be built up to unbearable levels and kept there, with an ever more terrified soldier with ever dwindling and ever more ineffective ammunition being attacked by mutated monstrosities all the while aware that thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of men’s lives hang by the single thread that is own life and, whilst there was some of that, the fact that the main characters would pop in, suffer a few jump scares and then pop home for a cup of tea before trying again twenty precious minutes later did let down some of the tension.

Also, either Third Reich soldiers had one hell of a union when it came to their own tea breaks or this lot were hired from a home for the audio and visually impaired because there were at least four or five times where our ostensibly stealthy heroes decide to start firing guns in the middle of an under curfew village, right next to at least two Nazis! French soundproofing must be incredible.

And, whilst I got that these soldiers weren’t going to be telling us their life story, a bit of depth would have gone down nicely. Along with a few jokes – a bit of black humor goes down  a treat in these films. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything along the lines of Dog Soldiers “I am not breaking radio silence just cos’ you lot got spooked by a dead flying fucking cow.”  But, a few quips here and there would be appreciated.

There’s a few little niggles as well. Our soldiers all seem to have unlimited ammunition, there’s a possibly enhanced dog that just vanishes, there were a few shots which existed purely to be in the trailers (there were all glossy and slo-mo and seemed really out of place.) Soldiers of African heritage weren’t integrated with Caucasian units during World War II (which could have been fixed really easily) but there’s no real deal breakers just lots of little things that only added up when I started writing my script.

All in all though, Overlord did it’s job really well. It’s a good, gory, violent, tense, movie (with unexplained red goo) that I could happily pop on when it comes out on download. Hell, I even liked the child actor. With a touch more tension and maybe some black humor this could have been a great movie.

My Score- See It 

Halloween 2018 Review

40 years ago, John Carpenter pretty much created the slasher genre- whereupon a group of biologically curious teenagers are picked off one by one by a masked unstoppable killer who goes by the name of Michael Myers who… “can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

In fact, Myers has Less of a backstory than The Terminator! Myers has no backstory, no explanation of why he does what he does, or even if he’s human or just some ancient, primal force of evil that can only be slowed down but never stopped. He never speaks and the fact that you NEVER see his actual face means that you can’t even read his emotions, a slight head tilt is all your going to get.

He was the first of so many copy’s that it’s insane. But, to my mind? He’s the best. Even if legal issues prevented that legendary mask from being in Baby Driver.

Anyway, this film is set 40 years after the original and joins me in ignoring every single sequel that this franchise churned out. Especially Halloween III: Season of the Witch. That was just…. weird.

Anyway, back to the 2018 offering and it’s a relatively familiar tale. Myers escapes and begin murdering everyone he meets on his way to a final confrontation with Laurie Strode (played by the always and eternally great  Jamie Lee Curtis).

And there is a lot here that’s really, really good. From the moment that iconic theme starts playing you get a sense that this is made by people who get that Myers is a force of nature. I loved that so many people are driven to understand him and frustrated even to the point of madness by Myers refusal to engage with them in any way, shape or form. Which drives a lot of the first act as people try so hard to project what they think must be going on in Michael’s head even as they are told again and again (mostly by Curtis) that their overthinking  Myers.

I even enjoyed some of the films kills, but I find it interesting that in the original film, the body count is a mere 6 (5 if you don’t include a German Shepard). Here? That total is surpassed before the end of the first act! Also, where the first was relatively chaste with it’s violence and quite graphic with it’s nudity, this version is ridiculously graphic with it’s violence and really chaste with it’s nudity. Maybe there’s some sort of comment there on how society has become more open in some ways and yet more prudish in others but i’ll let those with more free time then me pick it apart.

Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic but she’s basically Sarah Connor Mark 2 who has tried to raise her daughter and granddaughter to be ready for a inevitable conflict that they don’t seem to realize is coming. I enjoyed the doctor who has spent his life studying Michael and, and….

It’s a clone, ok.

I was really trying hard to get into this film because Blumhose make amazing low budget films and I love pretty much everything they do. I love the cast and the way that the iconic theme music is used. I love that Carpenter was involved, but….

There is a difference between making nods to the original and lifting whole scenes, almost frame by frame and giving everyone a smartphone. Scenes that in the original had me scared and worried, here just made me check off an imaginary checklist. And the ending? Well, that’s twenty minutes that could have been handled so much better. I get what it was trying to go for but towards the end it was verging on the slapstick! Pointless slapstick as well. You could have removed it with a slight rewrite and lost nothing at all.

And there were so. Many. Characters. People forget that the first Halloween film was a low budget, stripped down film with no-body there that didn’t need to be there. Here? There were so. Many. Characters who existed purely to die. Half the films body-count could have been removed and nothing would have changed except the run-time.

When it was setting the scene it was interesting, when it was a Halloween film in the second act it was tense, when it was in the third act… it was fine but overlong by the end.

When it’s a modern reboot it’s tense but pointless, well acted and with a few interesting ideas but it goes on too long and it wastes a fairly interesting twist late in the third act. It takes too long to let Myers get on with his thing and to be honest?

I’d still take the original any day of the week.

Halloween 2018 is fine, nowhere near as good as the original but it was never going to be. I saw it, liked it but the more I check my notes, the more I realize that it was fine and all the bits that worked were lifted almost frame by frame from the original. Strip out the last third, reduce the run-time to the 90 minutes  that films like this need to have in a bid not to overstay their welcome.

What a shame.

My Score- If Nothing Else