THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)

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The Matrix or ‘How it all came together’.

Since the 90’s boom of intelligent animation, Aladdin, Toy Story, Nightmare Before Christmas etc, western film-makers have realised that you don’t have to aim cartoons/animations solely at kids, the grown-ups can be included in a way that doesn’t alienate the little ‘uns (of course the Japanese have known this for years). Finally, the west have realised that a family film can be just that, for all the family, not something the adults have to sit through so little Timmy/Tammy can have their fun. Sure, there are still plenty of films out there that don’t have this remit but every now and then a film comes out that is just downright entertaining across the board of ages. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

The last film like this was Wreck It Ralph, a well thought out animation that had story and character at the top of its priorities. Like Ralph, The Lego Movie is a joy. Similarly, a well constructed story with 3 dimensional characters as key.
The hero’s journey has several stages and pretty much all are followed here. They say there are only seven basic plots and the adhering to one or more of these combined will result in a well structured story.

What directors/writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have achieved with this fantastic piece of storytelling is incredible; the metaphors for life using the wonderful world of Lego come in thick and fast and also manage to be very funny. Clever, astute and paying perfect tribute to these famous plastic bricks and all they represent to both kids and adults. Without mentioning the word Lego once in the whole film, Lord and Miller make a wonderful statement about the power of imagination both inside and out of the box.

The voice cast is a dream, Chris Pratt (recently in Her and soon to be seen as one of the Guardians of the Galaxy) is our protagonist, Emmet, an average construction worker, happy to be just fitting in and playing along with societies rules until the day he finds the piece of resistance (see what they did there?). He finds himself thrust into a world he had previously no knowledge of, becoming extraordinary in the process and also, possible saviour of the Lego world. There is the perfect blend of innocence and everyman in his voice work and he pitches it perfectly.

Will Ferrell is brilliant as the evil Dr Business (best baddies’ name since Dr Evil). The ever-talented Elizabeth Banks plays the love interest WyldStyle and, unlike most love interests in Hollywood, really gets to have a journey. Will Arnett is Batman, giving his best in rasp and creating a spoilt, selfish and very funny Batman. Allison Brie (Community) is making her mark in the world outside television, here playing the always positive Unikitty and gets one of the best moments in the film.
Morgan Freeman is the Moses/Morpheus-a-like and has some great lines. Also starring, Dave Franco, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill (as Superman and The Green Lantern with a wonderful recurring joke) and the irrepressible Nick Offerman as ye olde pirate, Metal Beard is very funny.

This is the kind of film you should be showing your kids. The message is to find your element and run with it. More of these kinds of films please, filled with love of story and life lessons for the little ‘uns and the grown ups too.
The Lego Movie over a bunch of Despicable Me types any day of the week.

“Emmet, don’t worry about what others are doing, you must embrace what is special about you”

Just brilliant.

4/5

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THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)

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The Wiseguys of Wall Street.

Comparisons to Goodfellas will be coming in thick and fast with this ‘real life’ tale of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who broke a lot of rules to live the debauched life he so desired.

The voice-over for one. Was it just me or did Leo even sound like Ray at times? I don’t think this was a conscious thing but his voice had a little Henry Hill in it. (Kaaarrrrennnn).

The sprawling tale, taking the viewer though time to tell the story.

The fantastic soundtrack.

The reasons it’s not a 5 star film-

David Mamet once said:

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.

Now, as with Lincoln, we saw too many scenes with Lincoln giving his speeches, and it bored me to tears, Marty gives us too many Leo speeches, that don’t do any more than the previous one did.

I get the plot ones but other than that we get that Jordan is obviously a great rallyer of troops. We get it. Tighten up.
It is not propelling the story forward. Leo, as with DDL, is a great actor and I enjoy watching him (he reminded me of a young Jack Nicholson at times) but I don’t need to see the same scene with different words. It’s boring.

The debauchery is over-egged as well, too many scenes saying the same thing.

The film ultimately wasn’t tight enough. People talk about how long it was and in this case it was true. However, if the 3 hours contained a composition that merited the time then cool, bring it.
Roger Ebert once said: “No good movie is long enough and no bad movie is short enough”.

The film was a fun ride, no doubt and had a great deal of jokes and humour in it. The best scenes were with all the brokers, old mates, kicking it verbally. Very funny. The original dinner and the selling of the pen right up to the interviews, Usual Suspects style, were by far the funniest and it was a shame more wasn’t made of their relationships, I think it would have made for a more satisfying entertaining outcome.

Instead we were shown the relationship with Naomi a little bit too much. I get it, they love each other, she hates him, move on.

Everybody was great in it (I’m looking the other way when it comes to Jon Bernthal here) and the direction was as good as you’d expect from one of the greatest directors America (nay the world) has produced. The mighty Thelma Schoonmaker was doing her thing, but maybe there needed to be some more brutality in the editing room. It must be hard to be too close to the subject in order to see it clearly and through the eyes of an audience member, but people change with time and their aesthetic tastes change. Fair play.

Terence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire) was on screenwriting duties and delivered a script worthy of the great director.

Scorsese’s last great film (IMO) , was Kundun, in 1997 (apart from the George Harrison doc, which was wonderful).

I haven’t fully enjoyed the Leo/Marty collaborations, not that they’ve been shit, merely not nearly as good as the Bobby/Marty masterpieces.
The Wolf of Wall Street has probably been the most enjoyable of their pairings, but it’s not quite the masterpiece it feels like it should have been.

It is, however, very enjoyable and worth a watch, it’s a shame it misses the mark, it could have been as magnificent as Jordan Belfort’s appetite for narcotics, women and money.

3.5/5

BUY THE BLU-RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE