It doesn’t seem like too long ago now that the idea of major motion pictures based on fairly abstract toys and games seemed like the next big cannonball poised to sink the good ship SS My Last Remaining Faith in Hollywood. Battleship was speeding towards us, looking just as unimaginably awful as it turned out to be, Adam Sandler was set to star in a Candyland movie, and sinister rumblings were being heard about a LEGO movie. Not a movie based on a previous property like Indiana Jones or Star Wars as filtered through LEGO, mind you, a movie about LEGO the construction toy as a whole.

“How the fuck do you make a movie just about LEGO?” asked I, and everyone with enough sense not to get their dick caught in their shoelaces every morning. Now, several years later, and having seen the film, I can safely point to it and say “That. That is how you make a movie about LEGO. And what’s more, that’s how you make it amazing”.

the-lego-movie-poster-full-photoBut really, once you subtract the admittedly easy cynicism that comes when considering a film based solely on a construction system, it isn’t hard to see why The LEGO Movie turned out as well as it did. It’s directed and co-written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo who made 21 Jump Street also surprisingly enjoyable, and features a ton of talented actors lending voices, including Chris Pratt in the lead, supported by Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrel, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, and a ton of smaller cameos. There’s talent behind this one, and while that doesn’t always guarantee success, it can often foreshadow it.

Pratt voices Emmett, an ordinary construction worker and affable idiot who is told he’s the legendary “Special”, the one destined to overthrow the evil Lord Business (voiced by Ferrell), the only problem being the whole affable idiot thing. But with help from Freeman’s sage Vitruvius, Banks’ action girl Wyldstyle and Arnett’s Goddamn Batman, Emmett embarks on the usual epic quest to discover his true potential and defeat Lord Business.

Practically from frame one, The LEGO Movie has a pace that can only be described as hyperactive, rushing from exposition to character introductions to action scenes and back again with enough speed that most of the audience will probably have whiplash before the half hour mark. This is really the one bad mark I can level against the film, that most of its first half is delivered in a breathless staccato that almost had me begging for it to take a breath and slow down for a Goddamn minute. Of course, I can’t totally hold this against the movie, for reasons I’ll explain later.

As fans of Lord and Miller have come to expect, the jokes come fast and hard, mixing pop cultural references, sly meta-humor and absurdity in equal measure, and rarely giving us enough time to get a chuckle out before moving on to the next gag.

A ton of the humor though comes from the film’s creativity, which is so staggering as to be occasionally overwhelming. It’s clear that Lord, Miller and their co-writers thought long and hard about the possibilities of a world made entirely of LEGO bricks, and that care shows. The eventual reveal of the true nature of Lord Business’ all-powerful mcguffin and the equally important one stuck to Emmett’s back is a work of demented genius, and one that foreshadows later revelations in the film in the best ways. And for every obvious clever sight gag or bit of writing, odds are there’s two or three you missed. This is the kind of movie where years from now people will still be spotting tiny sight gags and clever touches.

The film also makes thorough use of LEGO’s countless tie-in properties, with DC comic heroes, Ninja Turtles, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter characters, and even a damn Bionicle reference, though it literally lasts half a second. Part of me has to wonder at what kind of legal nightmare wrangling all the appearances was, given that many of the characters appearing are owned by Warner Bros’ direct competitors, and visions of a room of lawyers fighting it out like wolverines in heat probably aren’t far from the truth.


There’s really nothing that elevates The LEGO Movie that far beyond the status of “above average kids movie”. The gags are clever and the visuals are stunning, sure, but it isn’t on the level of something by Pixar or Laika……until the twist.

Yes, as you have heard, there is a twist, one some internet critics have been spoiling, a crime for a public flogging should really be the only acceptable punishment. The twist in The LEGO Movie is what all movie twists should be, one that suddenly changes the entire dynamic of the movie into something you didn’t expect, and forces you to re-evaluate everything you’ve seen before the moment of the reveal with new eyes and even greater appreciation. Hell, it even makes the manic tone of much of the movie not only make perfect sense but be totally and completely excusable.

The twist doesn’t make the movie, the talents of the actors, writers, visual designers and directors is what makes it, what keeps it entertaining and fun; but the twist is what makes it great. What gives it more emotional resonance and depth than I think any single human going in expected from a movie based around interlocking plastic bricks.

The LEGO Movie is a perfect example of the idea that you can make a good movie, even a great movie, out of anything. Granted, the hope that movie producers will take a cue from Lord, Miller and co and approach their big budget adaptations of toylines and games (a trend whose longevity the film’s success will only prolong, for better or worse) with more care and insight is probably futile. But if nothing else, The LEGO Movie shows us that there is always hope, that a movie based on a toy line, and subsequently as up to its neck in commercialism, can still actually -mean- something beyond “buy our shit”, and have actual artistic merit and emotional depth.

Also that a LEGO Charlie Day screaming “SPACESHIP!” the funniest thing ever.

Well, shit. Just a few days ago we were frolicking like cherubs in the Elysian fields of late autumn with wild, pumpkin-spice fueled abandon. But now the cold spectre of winter has sidled up and stuck its clammy, cold hand down our collective pants like an overzealous prom date. Winter, it seems, is here, and summer seems like a distant hope. All we have to nurture ourselves for the next few months in between hunting down our fellow man for nourishment and burning down the public library for warmth is the slew of movie trailers for next year that studios are already pumping onto the internet like a morphine drip. So in this, the first week of another cruel Montreal winter, let’s take a look and get bloody well goofy.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2013 was actually something of a disappointing year for me for superhero movies. Oh sure, there were ones I kinda liked, and only a couple I plan to ritualistically burn in effigy on the anniversary of their release. But the trailer for the next Captain America movie gives me some hope, promising lots of things blowing up in slow-motion and Robert Redford TOTALLY not turning out to be a badguy in the end.

The trailer indicates the movie will mostly focus on SHIELD (fuck if I’m gonna type all those periods) extending its power and unleashing a fleet of Helicarriers, presumably to hover over major cities terrifying people into good behavior like giant impractical nannies. Cap objects to this, because Cap is contractually obligated to remind us every few years that he’s actually pretty center-left for someone who wears the American flag.

Not that he really does anymore, his costume’s changed to a mostly blue affair reminiscent of something he was wearing for that time he was actually in charge of SHIELD in the comics. Wonder if that’s a coincidence…..

Excitement Level: 6 Crashing Helicarriers out of 10


grand-budapest-hotel-posterThe Grand Budapest Hotel

If there’s one thing guaranteed to give film nerds a raging film nerd stiffy (which is like a normal stiffy but talks your ear off for hours on end about the hidden meaning behind the can of baking soda in the background of that one scene in The Shining) it’s the release of a new Wes Anderson trailer, and ye GODS this is the most Wes Anderson-y thing ever.

It doesn’t even matter what The Grand Budapest Hotel is about, just look at the cast for God’s sake. Literally every name on the front page of the film’s IMDB entry is a recognizable name. Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, it goes on. And of course Bill Murray’s in it, because OF COURSE Bill Murray’s in it. Between Anderson and Jim Jarmusch the guy’ll never be–


Wes Anderson, you son of a bitch, did you shoot this thing in the Academy Ratio? Oh wait no, you shot this thing in multiple aspect ratios to indicate the time period it takes place in. It took me like four viewings to even notice that most of the trailer isn’t even widescreen. Good God, man, if you’re not careful you’re gonna have a whole lot of film nerds punching holes in their ceilings if you catch my drift.

Excitement Level: No I’m not going to explain Aspect Ratios, I haven’t got all day!


the-boxtrolls-posterThe Boxtrolls

And speaking of things that give nerds raging hardons, how about a trailer for The Boxtrolls, the latest installment in Laika studios’ plan to become the Jesus of stop-motion animation. And the teaser really does put the animation, and the love and work that goes into it, in the forefront, being partially made up of shots of the hands of animators assembling and posing figures and sets.

The cynic in me, the tenacious bastard that he is, wants to see this as a lazy way to crank out a teaser when you’ve finished only a couple of shots of animation. But the well-rounded, optimistic person in me, who spends most of his time shut in a small room in my mind like Harry Potter, sees this as something else: an indicator that what’s coming out is made with the love and attention that we’ve come to expect from Laika.

There’s also this trailer, which both endorses same-sex parents and features the voice of Catbug from Bravest Warriors, so we might as well crown this film “King of All Things Good and Wonderful” right now.

Excitement Level: Sugar peas!!!

The Lego Movie


Nobody was expecting this to look surprisingly good less than me, I mean for crap’s sake it’s The Lego Movie, but damn if I don’t actually want to see this. Part of it’s because it comes courtesy of the masters of “Surprisingly good”, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo that brought us Clone High, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street.

But what took me aback more is the animation, which is apparently a blend of stop-motion and CGI, meant to make everything look as realistically like actual Lego figures as possible. All the textures and light effects look dead-on, if you’re the kind of absolute hopeless nerd who’s impressed by that kind of thing, right down to those stiff cloth capes that never, ever look right. There’s so much wonderful attention to detail on display just in the short trailer, like how when one character is supposed to be dramatically flipping her hair, it just swivels in place because it’s still a solid plastic piece, or how explosions and other effects are still made out of Lego bricks if you look closely.

Plus it has Nick Offerman in it, and it doesn’t matter what something is, the promise of Nick Offerman will have me running like Nick Offerman himself to a film role circa 2004

Excitement Level: It has Batman too, so pretty high