The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

Lego 2

As surprisingly great as the first The LEGO Movie was, the latest LEGO movie, by comparison, is a bit of a disappointment. It’s not bad. It just lacks the magic that the first film delivered with its story, its songs, its characters and its surprises.

The story in The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is less coherent than in its 2014 predecessor. The songs, while amusing, don’t come close to those in the earlier film. The characters Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) are back as the focus of the meandering tale.

Other voices you may know include Tiffany Haddish, Nick Offerman, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, Jason Mamoa (Aquaman!), Ralph Fiennes and Bruce Willis, among many more.

The interaction between the imaginary LEGO world and the real world is not quite as emotional as the live action bit in the first movie. (That segment with Will Ferrell was truly touching.) Maya Rudolph is the real-life mother as the narrative shifts back and forth between the two settings in this newest film.

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is colorful and the animation is impressive. It will make you chuckle and it will make you happy. Just don’t expect to be blown away like many of us were by the first The LEGO Movie.

 

 

 

 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is more than just a bridge to next year’s finale. Things happen. Characters grow.

Having rebuked President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes an ally of the rebels. Realizing her power, she agrees to be a voice for those opposing Snow. President Coin (Julianne Moore) leads the opposition with key advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Heavensbee drafts Katniss for a series of videos, directed by Cressida (Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones). Cressida has a Skrillex haircut and a long vine tattoo on her left side—it’s a distinctive look. (Heavensbee’s guidance reminded me about Hoffman’s role as another crafty political consultant in The Ides of March.)

After scripted attempts at a propaganda clip fall short, Katniss and crew go on location for passionate, ad-libbed speeches that rip the Capitol crew to shreds. There’s also an action segment where Katniss takes down a fighter jet attacking District 8 with a well-directed arrow (with an explosive tip).

All the while, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is ensconced in the Capitol with several other survivors from the most recent Hunger Games. Like Katniss, Peeta is a media tool. Every time he appears on the Capitol’s TV feed, she watches intently.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 brings new versions of certain series characters. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) is now sober and not happy about it, thanks to Coin’s prohibition of booze. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) has doffed her outrageous wigs and dresses for a do rag and olive drab jumpsuit. Hunky Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is still more like a big brother to Katniss, but there appears to be something stronger between them this time.

Among the questions unanswered in THG: M1… Is Peeta’s call for the rebels to stand down sincere or is he just saying these things to save his skin? Is Snow being overly cocky as he plays mind games with Katniss and the rebels? Do the rebels have necessary firepower to take down the Snow regime? Will Coin turn out to benevolent or will power corrupt? And will Katniss and Peeta ever be a real couple? Stay tuned—Part 2 comes your way in exactly one year!

 

 

 

 

 

The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie is a pure delight! Colorful, clever and FUNNY! With a memorable song you might find yourself humming on your way home. And a story that springs from the dilemma that many Lego users face: do I follow the instructions or do I make my own creations?

The Lego Movie is my first “must see” film of 2014. Even if you’re a not a fan of silly stuff, you need to check it out for the visuals. Even if you never played with Legos or never had kids who played with Legos, the Lego movie will entertain you.

Emmet (Chris Pratt of TV’s Parks and Recreation) is an everyman Lego guy. But thanks to a series of unexpected events, he goes on a trip that’s almost as mindbending as Alice’s journey to Wonderland.

Emmet, through no effort of his own, is the chosen one, charged with derailing the plans of President Business (Will Ferrell) to glue everything in the universe together with something called “The Kragle.”

Along the way he meets a bizarre cast of Legos: a girl named WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks), Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), Vitrivius (Morgan Freeman), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Lego pirate Metal Beard (Nick Offerman).

Other Lego characters seen briefly are Abe Lincoln (Will Forte), Lando Calrissian (Billy D. Williams), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), Wonder Woman (Colby Smulders) and Superman (Channing Tatum) among many others.

The various Lego universes seen in the film are universally spectacular. And The Lego Movie‘s coda (whose content will not be revealed here) is sweet and touching.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller shared directing and screenplay duties. The soundtrack is by Mark Mothersbaugh, best known as a founding member of DEVO, but also known for doing music for the Rugrats TV show.

\My first thought when walking out of the theater was: “I want to see it again!” And I will! Soon!

 

 

 

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire everything is amped up. Everything is more, compared to 2012’s The Hunger Games.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is more skillful, more passionate, more political, more focused. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is more mature, more confident, more clever. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is more calculating and more concerned about the power and influence Katniss and Peeta are able to command.

After emerging as co-victors of the Hunger Games, the pair are presented to the nation of Panem as a romantic couple. They are heroes. Snow wants them to use their personal appearance tour to trump up support for his political system. When that backfires, he and advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) hatch a plan to kill them off: a new Hunger Games featuring previous winners.

As for the actual kill-or-be-killed game, the competition again closely resembles TV’s Survivor. The game is closely monitored and every element is subject to being reset and reordered. The events of THG:CF deliver a satisfying outcome but leave much unresolved. This film, of course, is designed to set up the next two films.

Two over-the-top characters are even more outrageous in THG:CF. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) wears more eye makeup and her costumes are more ridiculous. Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) as host of the Hunger Games TV show is smarmier this time around. He almost seems in his announcing style to be channeling Michael “Let’s get ready to rumble!” Buffer.

Director Francis Lawrence, whose credits include Constantine, I Am Legend and Water For Elephants, brings amazing visuals and near perfect pacing. Happily, he did not feel compelled to resort to 3D.

It was wonderful at last year’s MTV Movie Awards to hear The Hunger Games actors thank novelist Susan Collins for providing the story that has fascinated millions of readers and moviegoers. Her narrative, her characters and her vision of Panem society are entertaining and thoughtful. I can’t wait for installments 3 and 4.

 

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

It was better than I was expecting. (And much funnier than the book!)

Like most ensemble romantic comedy movies with large casts of interacting characters, WTEWYE is predictable. How predictable? Five seconds into the movie, you know exactly how the first scene will end.

WTEWYE does have more laugh out loud funny moments than the Garry Marshall ensemble movies, such as “Valentine’s Day.” Here we have five Atlanta area couples dealing with fertility issues, planned pregnancies, surprise pregnancies and adoption. Of course, there is also a fair amount of poignancy with the pregnancy.

Interestingly, the only mother-to-be in the film who has given birth in real life is Jennifer Lopez, whose character is infertile. She and her husband adopt a child from Ethiopia. The pregnant women are Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick and Brooklyn Decker. Elizabeth Banks is the funniest of the five.

A good bit of the WTEWYE’s humor comes from a group of dads who get together to push their offspring in strollers. Thomas Lennon of “Reno 911” fame and Chris Rock are part of that group.

For men and women who are new parents (and for many of us whose youngest offspring are now teens), the film will bring back memories of pregnancies, some of which you may have forgotten. Along with the pregnancies, we follow the development of romantic relationships between the couples to predictable outcomes.

Maybe the most impressive aspect of WTEWYE is how realistic the prosthetic tummies appeared on the film’s moms.

WTEWYE is a pleasant enough amusement. But if you are newly pregnant, don’t count on the movie to be instructive. Buy the book.