Quick Hits : Cheap Thrills (2014) & The Illusionist (2010)

Directed By – E.L. Katz
Starring – Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, David Koechner, and Sara Paxton

Everybody has those conversations with their buddies over a couple beers. “What would you do for X amount of money?” I’m sure that 99% of the things that get brought up would never actually get done. I’m 100% sure that some of the things that happen in this film would never be done, unless your buddies are a bunch of desperate people willing to degrade themselves for a little cash. My moral standards are pretty strong but knowing what it’s like not to have money makes me wonder…what would I do for $25,000? The film centers around Craig and Vince. Craig is an unemployed father and husband who needs almost five grand in a week or else he loses his apartment. Vince is an old friend who basically only exists as an asshole who hasn’t made anything of his life. They run into each other at a bar and end up making friends with a couple who can’t seem to stop spending money. The party heads back to the couples house where unveil their plan to challenge Vince and Craig to dares or tasks in exchange for money. It snowballs from there.

The film boasts a great cast with Pat Healy and David Koechner stealing the show. Ethan Embry, who reminded me he’s still a person, does a serviceable job and Sara Paxton kind of just breezes through this one but her character wasn’t really called upon to do much. The film gets a little gross, a little bloody, and features a pretty nice ending. It’s not something that will knock your socks off. Being the first feature of the director there are pacing issues. The lead up to the “game” takes way too long unfold and there were some character arcs that didn’t seem to go anywhere. It was however a pretty decent way to make your first feature film. I’d recommend it for horror fans.

3/5

Directed By – Sylvain Chomet
Starring – Jean-Claude Donda and Eilidh Rankin

No, this is not the one with Edward Norton. This is the film that was nominated by the Academy for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010. The director happened to make one of my favorite animated films ever “The Triplets of Bellville”. The story follows a magician trying to make money hits the road to Scotland where he meets a young woman who follows him on his journey. I honestly didn’t get sucked into the story on this one. The animation and beautiful score are what made the film enjoyable to me. The various illusions and magic tricks that the magician does were pretty mesmerizing. The night scenes in streetlight backed streets of Scotland were gorgeously done. The score was engaging and just fit the scenery so well. Chomet and his animation team really know how to use colors and music together to create an immerse film. Like “Bellville”, the film doesn’t have much dialogue so the animation has to pick up the slack. It does. It certainly does.

The story just didn’t do it for me. The magical settings painted in the beginning of the film just sort of floated away by the films end. It got really sad and depressing. I understood the theme of the film but that kind of mood switch threw me for a bit of a loop. I wanted to stay in the happy place. Besides that it’s an excellent animated film and proof that Sylvain Chomet and his team are one of the top animation teams in the business. It isn’t just Pixar.

3.5/5

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Film Review : The Lego Movie (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.5
Rotten Tomator Score – 96%
Currently number #164 on IMDB Top 250 <—–Woah.

Directed By – Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Starring – Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, and Liam Neeson

An 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.

I need to get this out of the way. THIS MOVIE WAS AWESOME!!! SO FUNNY. SO AWESOME. SPACESHIP!!!

Okay, that was the twelve year old me getting some much needed screen time on this website. You can only review depressing relationship films, gritty foreign dramas, and anything that falls out of Lars Von Trier’s ass for so long. The inner child had to come out and I picked a wonderful film for that. The perks of working at a movie theater came to fruition as I picked the latest showtime last night for my friend and I to see this film. We were the only ones in the theater. This had good an bad points. The good points were that we were able to talk a bit without the fear of pissing people off and I was also able to laugh like a lunatic during a movie aimed at kids without seeming like a freak. The bad points were that I would have loved to enjoyed this film with other people because it was a riot and a lot of fun. In the end though I was glad I didn’t have children telling their parents what just occurred on screen for five minutes as they drowned out the audio. This film is a joke a minute type of deal. Hell, I didn’t even catch 100% of the jokes and I was paying full attention. Let’s get into why this film was so awesome.

First off let me describe my childhood as quickly and as entertaining as possible. I was an outdoors kid and when I wasn’t doing things outdoors I was inside playing Sega or playing with my matchbox cars. The second part there is important. I huge theme of “The Lego Movie” is that you should honestly build whatever the fuck you want to build and let you mind be imaginative. I had that. I just didn’t have it with Legos. I had it with matchbox cars. I would create scenarios and situations with over fifty cars as I would crash them, create sound effects, make scenery and roads for them to drive, and of course, mangle the shit out of them with vice grips. What? You never did that? The point is that I had an imaginative mind but focused the energy on little cars. I had Legos, but I would honestly play with them for about twenty minutes before I got bored and got my multiple boxes of cars out. I tried a couple times to build a Millenium Falcon but just couldn’t keep my attention on it to get close to finishing it. That being said, my enjoyment of this film was not out of some nostalgic euphoria, but rather an old fashioned coming out party for my inner child.

This film didn’t need you to be a Lego freak when you were younger. The whole concept of playing with toys as a child was in full focus throughout the whole film, even to the point of attaching mouth sound effects to moving legos ships and machines, JUST LIKE KIDS DO. Multiple situations were fixed with thinking outside the box and attaching unorthodox Lego blocks to parts of the body and other whacked out things kids would do with these things. Look at this great strip from one of my favorite things ever, Calvin and Hobbes…

That was what this movie was. It was a bunch of adult kids getting to let their inner children come to life in a way that never has been seen before. We’ve had Lego movies before. These movies were made with cheap special effects and looked like they were rendered on Windows 95. This is a film shot entirely in CGI but with the delicacy to make sure that every single Lego block looked real. The animation was so real looking that I had a hard time believing I wasn’t looking at a stop motion film using real Legos. It was great. Everything was Lego. The water was Lego. The smoke was Lego. The fire and bullets were Lego. It was a great sight. I remember first seeing posters and trailers for this and thought it was going to be too silly but in reality it was a perfect blend of kid humor and adult humor. This is what makes Pixar fantastic and what is now making Phil Lord and Christopher Miller household names in animated films. They aren’t just for kids. I’m glad they exist.

The cast is also fantastic. Chris Pratt was the perfect person to play the lead Lego man Emmet. Pratt basically plays Emmet as he plays his one of a kind character of “Andy” on Parks and Rec. He is a lovable but ultimately small brained Lego man that is just trying to fit in. Morgan Freeman plays the Gandolph like “Vitruvius” who is a blind prophet trying to stop the evil Mr. Business, played hilariously by Will Ferrell, from taking over the world. Other fantastic roles include Charlie Day as the 1980’s spaceman…SPACESHIP!!!…Alison Brie as Unikitty, and of course, Will Arnett as FUCKING BATMAN. That felt good to say. Batman and Benny the 1980’s Spaceman were the best parts of the film in my eyes. I haven’t laughed that hard in a theater since “This is the End”. The whole cast was a riot.

Lastly there is a good message at the end. I won’t go into spoilers but parents who bring their children hopefully will be leaving with a nice war fuzzy feeling inside and hopefully will spend time building things with their kid. I expected somewhat of a mushy ending and that’s what I got, but it certainly didn’t detract from the film at all. It didn’t add a whole lot but was a nice way to end a film that’s sole purpose was to entertain and make us laugh.

Overall I loved the movie. I want to see it again. I love being twelve years old. The movie was charming, hilarious, and featured one of a kind animation. I’m looking forward to anything those two make i the future and the film lived up to the hype.

SPACESHIP!!!!

4.5/5




Film Review : Akira (1988)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 87%

Directed By – Katsuhiro Ohtomo

A secret military project endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psionic psychopath that only two kids and a group of psionics can stop.

Up until now my experience with Japanese anime has only consisted of a few films and every Miyazaki film ever made. I’ve never really been into the fantasy element that accompanies such anime shows as “Full Metal Alchemist, “Bleach”, and “Dragon Ball Z”. I’ve read about “Akira” in articles detailing the history of sci-fi and have read on multiple accounts that it is the best anime film ever made. When I was browsing Amazon a week ago I noticed that “Akira” has recently been released on blu ray and I decided I could afford to spend a moderate amount of money on a blind buy. I’m glad I did. What I ended up witnessing is in fact the greatest anime film I have ever seen and one of the finest animated films of all time regardless of country of origin. I only thing is that I don’t really understand what the hell I just watched.

The film is set in 2019, thirty years after World War Three. Tokyo was devastated but has only recently rebuilt its city center. The setting in the city is one of light dystopian future. While there aren’t raving lunatics trolling the streets, there are street gangs and more specifically, street bike gangs. This is where were find our main characters. The gang is run by Kaneda, a member who may be in possession of the coolest bike in the city. Along with him, Tetsuo, Yamagata, and a few others attend their run down high school during the day and prowl the streets at night invading bars and looking for fights. During one of these street fights the gang runs into demonstrators fighting the government over the use of human experimentation and general imperialism. Tetsuo, trying to create an identity for himself, takes Kaneda’s bike and runs into a local gang. Tetsuo is saved by a mysterious boy who comes into contact with Tetsuo, possibly transferring over some kinetic energy to him. Tetsuo is then taken by the government after they learn he has come into contact with the boy.

Got it? It may seem complex as hell, mostly cause it is, but the overall plot of the film is laid out pretty well during the film. What follows next cannot be explained in detail because it was that fun to watch it all unravel. I can say that it was an animated experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The film goes down a rabbit hole into psychotic masterpiece and never looks back. The cover of the box claims that without this film there could never be a Matrix. I happen to agree. The concept of perceived reality is questioned about twenty times throughout the duration of the film but also keeps the entertainment factor high with excellent violence and breathtaking hand drawn animation. The colors, which are important considering most of the film takes place at night, are vibrant and unrelenting. It;s a gorgeous film rendered perfectly on this new blu ray disc.

If you’re a fan of anime I’m sure you’ve already seen this film but if you’re into science fiction or animated films at all I suggest giving this a watch, hell maybe two viewings would do it. It’s a fever dream of a film that I can’t begin to comprehend but will certainly try over many more viewings.

5/5