The Lego Movie

The Movie Snob finally makes it back to the movies.

The Lego Movie  (B-).  This movie is getting high marks from the critics, but I just can’t go better than “pretty good.”  It’s an animated film about a world made of Legos—a world of bland conformity ruled by the Big Brother-like President Business (voice of Will Ferrell, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby).  But there is a prophecy that an ordinary Lego person will rise up and break Business’s stranglehold on Legoland, and it looks like The Chosen One may be an ordinary construction worker named Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt, her).  His potential chosenness is discovered by a nonconformist chick named Wyldstyle (voice of Elizabeth Banks, Definitely, Maybe), who recruits him to join some sort of rebellion against Business and his main henchman, Bad Cop (voice of Liam Neeson, The Phantom Menace).  The movie has plenty of pluses.  The animation can be very striking, some of the humor is pretty good, and it is fun to pick out all the famous vocal talent at work, including Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Will Arnett (TV’s Arrested Development), Jonah Hill (This Is the End), Alison Brie (TV’s Community), and many more.  On the down side, as in many regular action movies, many of the action scenes moved so fast in places that I just gave up trying to figure out what was going on.  It started to feel a little long after a while, and I didn’t think the climactic ending was all that great.  Still, I give the film makers credit for trying something reasonably fresh and original.  Oh, and the theme song “Everything Is Awesome” really is kind of awesome.

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The Internship

Mom Under Cover sends us this movie review.

The Internship – B

This buddy movie proves that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have a certain chemistry on-screen that was not a fluke (Wedding Crashers).  Billy and Nick (Vaughn and Wilson) are forty-something salesmen out of a job because no one wears wrist watches anymore a la Willy Loman.  They enroll in the University of Phoenix to qualify as “students” for an internship at Google (which is portrayed as Nirvana). Despite their hilarious interview via Skype, Billy and Nick secure spots as Nooglers.  The movie is predictable — the youngsters eschew Billy and Nick, but in the end, the old geezers have something to share with their younger counterparts and are not obsolete after all; the team comes together–Kum-bay-ya.  For those of a certain age, Billy and Nick’s ’80s cultural references that fly over the heads of the co-eds are pretty funny.  Rose Byrne plays Wilson’s alluring love interest.  Will Farrell has a cameo as a mattress salesman that is uncharacteristically flat.  Go with low expectations and you will enjoy it.

Casa de mi Padre

New review from The Movie Snob

Casa de mi Padre (B).  This is a weird movie, but I enjoyed it.  It’s a comedy starring Will Ferrell (Old School), but it is in Spanish and is shot in the style (I gather) of a Mexican soap opera.  Ferrell is Armando, the none-too-bright son of a Mexican rancher.  One day his much-better-loved brother Raul returns to the ranch, with a ravishing beauty named Sonia by his side.  But Raul seems to have gotten involved in some shady dealings, and an evil drug dealer named Onza is powerfully interested in both Raul and Sonia.  Dark secrets will be revealed, and blood will be shed–can true love win out against all odds?  I thought the movie was very funny.  Blatant continuity goofs (like Sonia’s undergoing a big outfit change mid-scene), obviously animatronic animals, and an awkward love scene consisting mostly of bare derrieres are just some of what you have to look forward to.  Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, who were so good in Y Tu Mama Tambien, are entertaining as Raul and Onza, and the gal who plays Sonia, Genesis Rodriguez (Man on a Ledge), is stunningly beautiful.  Efren Ramirez (Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite) has a small part.  I was surprised to see Dan Haggerty (TV’s Grizzly Adams) listed in the credits as “Himself” because I didn’t remember seeing him in the movie — turns out he’s in a tacked-on scene after the credits.  It’s as weird as the rest of the movie!

Megamind in 3D

New review from The Movie Snob

Megamind in 3D (B+). First of all, I say you don’t need to pay the 3D surcharge. The 3D effects are fine, but they added virtually nothing to this enjoyable animated feature. In an amusing twist on the Superman story, two alien babies are shot to Earth from a doomed solar system at the same time. The normal-looking one catches all the breaks and becomes a Superman-like superhero named Metro Man (Brad Pitt, Troy). The blue one with a freakishly large cranium becomes Metro Man’s nemesis, supervillain Megamind (Will Farrell, Stranger Than Fiction). Caught between them is savvy, saucy reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey, Baby Mama). But what would happen if Megamind unexpectedly won one of his epic battles with Metro Man? I thought this was a consistently amusing flick that tweaks lots of superhero conventions. Plus it was great to hear the voice of David Cross (TV’s Arrested Development) as Megamind’s minion — an alien fish named Minion.

Stepbrothers

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Step Brothers (B-). How do you rate, much less review, a movie that is as unrelentingly crude, that is as aggressively stupid, and that is as completely nonsensical as this one? Especially if it makes you laugh out loud several times along the way? The “plot” is preposterous. Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction) and John C. Reilly (Talladega Nights) are Brennan and Dale–two 40-year-old men who still live at home with their single parents, played by Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Mary Steenburgen (Parenthood). Their world is upended when their parents meet and wed. Brennan and Dale act like they are about 9 years old. At first they hate each other, then they become best friends. Brennan has a successful younger brother named Derek who makes his family sing “Sweet Child of Mine” like a hymn while they ride in their SUV. Derek’s wife hits on Dale quite enthusiastically after he punches Derek in the face for being an arrogant jerk. Brennan falls in love with his therapist. Brennan and Dale go on job interviews together, with predictable results. None of it makes any sense, but as I said, I got some laughs out of it.

Movie Snob’s Best of 2007

Happy New Year, and welcome to The Movie Snob’s Best of 2007 column. As usual, the films eligible for consideration and inclusion in this prestigious work of film criticism are those that I saw in a movie theater during calendar year 2007. As usual, this means that a lot of 2006 releases will be included. For the record, I saw 58 movies in theaters in 2007, up from 45 in 2006.

Movie of the Year: It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film —The Lives of Others totally blew me away. Set in Communist East Germany, it is the story of a member of the secret police who is assigned to spy on a playwright. He bugs the playwright’s apartment and spends hours listening to his activities. The playwright starts out a true believer in Communism, but as his faith erodes, so does that of his unseen listener. If you can tolerate subtitles (or know German), rent this movie a.s.a.p.

Best Drama: This was a rich category. Some critics found Amazing Grace, the story of the British parliamentarian who fought and eventually buried the slave trade, too schmaltzy, but I totally enjoyed it. Renee Zellweger impressed again as revered children’s author Beatrix Potter in the charming and moving little film Miss Potter. Into the Wild features lots of great performances, and amazingly got me to sympathize with a protagonist I felt sure I was going to dislike. I have a hard time picking just one, but if forced to choose I would have to give the nod to Into the Wild.

Best Comedy: Like last year’s Little Miss Sunshine, this year’s winner is more of a dramedy, a movie about a serious subject that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Featuring great performances by Ellen Page and Jennifer Garner, among others, the award goes to Juno. First runner-up is Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, the send-up of Walk the Line and similar biopics. It made me laugh from beginning to end. I would also cite the French movie The Valet, in which a hapless car parker is suddenly hired to pose as the boyfriend of a supermodel, in order to conceal an affair she is having with a married tycoon. It’s a very enjoyable romp. Honorable mentions to the Will Ferrell movie Blades of Glory and the overly maligned Evan Almighty.

Best Action/Adventure: There wasn’t much competition for category winner The Bourne Ultimatum, which was just as slick and exciting as when it used to be called The Bourne Supremacy. Seriously, I can’t recall a single difference between the two, except in this last one we find out that Jason Bourne was Catholic before he became a government-programmed assassin. Go figure. Children of Men was not as impressive in the thrills department but was far more thought-provoking. Beowulf was a lot of fun, at least in its IMAX 3-D incarnation. That last Pirates of the Caribbean movie wasn’t bad, although it was awfully long.

Best Documentary: I didn’t see very many this year, but in the short list of contenders is an excellent movie. In the Shadow of the Moon is a very interesting look at the Apollo missions, and it features interviews with lots of the mere handful of men who have actually been to the moon. Alas, Neil Armstrong was not among them, and there is only the slightest allusion to the fact that he has apparently become an odd recluse somewhere.

Best Foreign Film: Setting aside my Movie of the Year (and The Valet, which I put in the Comedy section), there were some other foreign flicks that are well worth your time if you can stand subtitles. Actually, the first one has substantial portions in English. After the Wedding is a Danish film, I think, about the unexpected events that befall a Dane who has returned home from his work at an orphanage in India. Very interesting. I also really liked the Penelope Cruz movie Volver, even though I don’t much care for Ms. Cruz herself. Pan’s Labyrinth is compelling, but it is a very dark film. Brace yourself for lots of cruelty if you see it.

Honorable Mentions. I don’t mind a good chick flick from time to time, and two of this year’s honorable mentions fit that category: Becoming Jane, which is about Jane Austen, and The Jane Austen Book Club, which is about, well, you figure it out. Stardust was an interesting attempt to become this decade’s version of The Princess Bride. It doesn’t quite succeed, but it’s a good effort. Babel was a good movie. Did it win the Oscar? I forget, but it was a good movie nonetheless. And last but not least, check out this year’s little movie that could: Once. It’s a sweet indie film about an Irish street musician and a Czech girl that he chances to meet and make some music with. But don’t get the soundtrack. I did and regretted it. Just see the movie.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

DVD review by The Movie Snob

Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby (A-). I think my family has discovered a new Christmas tradition, and that is to watch this movie every Christmas Eve. I intended to see this movie when it was in the theaters but never got around to it, and then my sister said we just had to watch it with our parents. I was skeptical because my parents do not like cussing or raunch of any sort in their movies. Although there is a fair amount of cussing in this movie, even they were guffawing throughout this send-up of NASCAR and the Tom Cruise vehicle Days of Thunder. Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction) is hilarious as dim-bulb NASCAR champ Ricky Bobby, whose winning ways are threatened by a menacing French driver (Sacha Baron Cohen, Les Misérables) and a crash that may keep him from ever racing competitively again. John C. Reilly (Chicago) is great as the best friend and sidekick who steals Bobby’s sponsor, wife, and house. To me, this movie approaches the greatness of Airplane! and This is Spinal Tap.