REVIEW: The Lego Movie

31 07 2014

Back in 2012, “Zero Dark Thirty” gave audiences a pulse-pounding conclusions as it showed SEAL Team 6’s bold mission to kill Osama bin Laden in stunning detail.  Yet even as gripping as that was, I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit when I saw who they cast as the finger behind the trigger: Chris Pratt, who I knew and loved as Andy Dwyer (and his FBI alter ego Burt Macklin) on the TV comedy “Parks & Recreation.”

Well, as it turns out, Kathryn Bigelow was as right about Pratt as an action star as she was about Jeremy Renner as a fine dramatic actor.  And now it’s Pratt who’s laughing all the way to the bank.  “The Lego Movie” proves that Pratt doesn’t even have to be present in the flesh to lead a movie towards some very fun adventure.

Pratt is like the world’s oldest 7-year-old, a lovable, innocent kid that you can’t help but root for because he reminds you of all the naive optimism of a simpler state of mind.  When his plastic Lego teddy bear of a character, Emmet Brickowoski, chants the film’s theme “Everything Is Awesome,” it’s hard not to smile a little bit.  He’s not just singing from a place of pure naïveté like Selena Gomez on “Barney,” but also from a position of contagious optimism that makes Emmet quite irresistible.

Thankfully, the writing/directing dynamic duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (they who blessed us with the gift of “21 Jump Street“) matches Pratt’s enthusiasm throughout “The Lego Movie.”  They bring a boundless imagination to the project, resembling the kind of creativity that Legos themselves spark in children all over the world.  What they ultimately construct is wild, wacky, and quite inspired. Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: Zero Dark Thirty

20 12 2012

If you asked me to do word associations for the subgenre procedural, I’d probably start with long, tedious, cold, and other such synonyms.  But I gladly say that none of these apply to director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” the story of the ten-year hunt for Osama bin Laden.  Spoiler alert … he dies at the end.

Though I’m sure the pursuit was a lot messier than what we saw on the screen (and plenty took place in the shadows that we will never know), Boal makes the chase relatively easy to follow given all the leads and locations the CIA follows.  He perfectly strikes the delicate balance between capturing the fine details of the operation while also keeping the big picture squarely in focus.

And Bigelow matches his careful dance every step of the way.  Essentially, she takes the unbelievable suspense she was able to create in “The Hurt Locker” and puts it on a macro scale.  It’s not just Sgt. James anymore; it’s the United States of America.  It’s a goose chase so wild and riveting that the two and a half hours will feel like twenty minutes.

In the opening scenes of the film when the detainee program is yielding little to track down Bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty” had me at a distance, interested but not fully engaged.  Yet two hours later as Seal Team Six embarked on the raid that would ultimately take out the most wanted terrorist, I found myself on the edge of my seat with my heart racing at a million miles per hour.  And keep in mind, I knew what was going to happen!  Bigelow’s thriller is tightly constructed with not a moment wasted as it builds towards the inevitable payoff.

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: The Five-Year Engagement

3 12 2012

Almost every comedy features a supporting cast of hilarious actors who can always be wheeled in front a camera to produce laughs.  Unlike the romantic leads, who have to undergo a journey and serve plot functions, these characters can literally be poorly developed and have little motivations of their own – and no one minds as long as they make us chortle in delight.

The Five-Year Engagement” does a very peculiar thing with its characters.  Tom and Violet, the betrothed played by Jason Segel and Emily Blunt doomed to suffer the titular delay, are the ones who suffer from the pratfalls of the supporting characters.  Sure, the two have chemistry and are fun to watch.  But it’s Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, both of whom could charm a dishwasher into marrying them!

I definitely enjoyed the two of them in their playful engagement bliss and when they got into tough arguments; however, they got upstaged, outdrawn, and outshown in a major way by the couple that was supposed to be a comic relief and foil.  Guess that means directors need to think twice before they cast the uproarious Chris Pratt (who steals every “Parks and Recreation” episode these days) and dynamic Alison Brie (who I’ve heard is just as good on “Community”).

Pratt plays Tom’s best friend Alex, who is of course the usual Pratt goofball (unless we are talking “Moneyball“).  At the engagement party, he meets Brie’s sharp-tongued Suzie … who also happens to be Violet’s sister.  The two have quite a night, and very quickly, a very different kind of wedding is on the horizon.  A shotgun wedding.

Alex and Suzie provide most of the humor for Nicholas Stoller’s “The Five-Year Engagement” because of Pratt and Brie’s immense comedic capabilities.  Yet they also carry most of the heart of the film, too.  As Stoller’s running commentary on how hard marriage really is no matter how long and hard you’ve worked on it, I started rooting for them and becoming more emotionally invested in the two of them.  Perhaps it’s because the marathon length of the film left me craving Alex or Suzie to get back on screen, but I think it was really just me wishing someone would make one of these movies with Chris Pratt as the leading man.  B