Movie Review: ‘The Lego Movie 2’ Has Some More Valuable Lessons to Teach Us With Bright Colors and Peppy Songs

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CREDIT: Warner Bros.

Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman

Director: Mike Mitchell

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG for Traumatizing Lego Destruction

Release Date: February 8, 2019

Where does a sequel go after the original makes such a definitive statement? This is the conundrum facing The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. (That subtitle is infinitely unnecessary, but not indicative of the movie’s humor as a whole, and also this title would have looked rather naked without a subtitle.) 2015’s first part summed up in cinematic form the whole ethos of the iconic Danish building blocks: in a world that often favors rigidity and conformity, you cannot give up on your individuality, because everyone can be and is special. Childlike imagination and wonder are what fueled The Lego Movie to be as successful as it was. Those values will get you pretty far in life. So why do any more statements need to be made?

It turns out that while The Lego Movie offers a philosophy with wide-ranging applicability, it is not quite a grand unified theory that covers absolutely everything. It spoke to the power of a singular creative vision, but The Second Part demonstrates how collaboration is equally vital. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and his Lego friends are now living in the wasteland Apocalypseburg, because in the human world that is controlling them, a little sister has invaded the playspace of her big brother. So Emmet, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), and company head out to broker a peace with some differently designed block-creatures. This leads to permanent bachelor Batman becoming engaged to a sparkly shape-shifter voiced by Tiffany Haddish, while Superman (Channing Tatum) lives happily alongside General Zod in a Stepford-esque perfect suburb.

Sizing up the situation, Emmet believes that his mission is to free his friends from the brainwashing of strangers. But while it may seem that all is not what it seems, it turns out that that particular mystery trope is not being played as straight as you might expect. The Lego Movie taught us to be skeptical about a constantly smiling world insisting that everything is awesome, but it also taught us that awesomeness sometimes really is awesome if it has genuine feeling behind it. The candy-coated invading milieu of The Second Part initially appears to be fundamentally suspicious. But sometimes a bright, peppy outer layer is only covering a bright and rewarding core. Sometimes a catchy song that jams itself right in your head is so buoyant that you’re happy it’s stuck there. Belief in yourself is important, but don’t forget to be open-minded about everyone else.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is Recommended If You Like: The Lego Movie and its spin-offs, Playing with your siblings

Grade: 4 out of 5 Catchy Songs

This Is a Movie Review: Hotel Artemis

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CREDIT: Matt Kennedy/Global Road Entertainment

I give Hotel Artemis 2.5 out of 5 Rules: https://uinterview.com/reviews/movies/hotel-artemis-movie-review-an-intriguing-premise-can-only-carry-this-thriller-so-far/

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ Has a Few Interesting Moments Buried Within an Indifferently Presented Spectacle

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CREDIT: Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures

This review was originally posted on News Cult in March 2018.

Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Jing Tian

Director: Steven S. DeKnight

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Kaiju Guts, Tech Sparks, and Human Cuts and Bruises

Release Date: March 23, 2018

Pacific Rim: Uprising does not offer much in the way of a new paradigm in the annals of giant mecha or giant monsters. Honestly, the first Pacific Rim did not really offer that either. To be fair, this series’ purpose in terms of concept and design has never really been about establishing something groundbreaking (to my eyes, anyway). It has been more about the distillation of the gigantic tech and creature genres into something approaching an ideal form. That approach is all well and good as an academic exercise, but it does not have enough inherent oomph to ensure a fully entertaining feature-length film.

It is ten years since humans won the war against the interdimensional beings known as the Kaiju. There has been no hint of another breach by these creatures into Earth, but the training programs designed to fight against them are still operating. There is a weird mix between a sense of security that the threat has been permanently neutralized and an ever-present emphasis on defense. This seeming paradox is never commented upon, which gives the sense that this film has an ill-defined understanding of its own world. But it doesn’t really matter, because sure enough the Kaiju do return, and it is a good thing that the Jaeger program never folded.

The Jaegers were the one great concept of the first Pacific Rim, but in Uprising, their usage is rather perfunctory. As the mental stress is so great, these metallic war machines must be simultaneously operated by two pilots. They are neurally connected to each other, creating a partnership so intimate that they share not just responsibilities but memories and physiology as well, for a connection that lies somewhere between artificial and chemical. The main partnership this time is that between Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of a hero from the first film who gets his personality across mostly through his ice cream eating habits, and Amara (Cailee Spaeny), who gets cool points for building her own Jaeger but mostly comes across as the thinnest of archetypes. These two have only one notable memory-sharing moment, and it registers as little more than just hitting a necessary story beat.

The PR:U trailers position Boyega as the star, and while he does lead the way in screen time, the only notable degree of star power among the cast comes from Charlie Day, returning as the eccentric Dr. Newt Geiszler. He is emblematic of how this film has no idea what to do with its best assets. Newt has been in a bit of a mind-meld relationship with a Kaiju specimen, which might just have something to do with why they have returned. So to a certain extent, he is the main villain this time around. But inexplicably, he spends the entire climax just overlooking the action and not participating in it at all. This is a film that has its toys lined up but little in the way of a plan (or an interesting plan, that is) for how to deploy them.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is Recommended If You Like: Kaiju Fever, John Boyega Making Himself a Sundae, Charlie Day Given Plenty of Space (But Not Enough) to Go Crazy

Grade: 2 out of 5 Kaiju Wives

‘I Love You, Daddy’ Was Already Creepy Before the Louis C.K. Allegations Broke. Now It’s Totally Inexplicable

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

This essay was originally posted on News Cult in November 2017.

After multiple women came forward with stories of sexual misconduct perpetrated against them by Louis C.K., The Orchard pulled his film I Love You, Daddy (written, directed by, and starring C.K.) from its release schedule, just a week before it was set to come out. Considering the nature of the accusations, C.K. confessing to their truth, and the subject matter of the film, there was really no other choice for The Orchard to make, despite having paid $5 million for the distribution rights. Whenever entertainers get caught up in scandal, the viability of their projects is called into question, both financially and ethically. In this case, that is especially true, as I Love You, Daddy is astoundingly reflective of C.K.’s own experiences.

I Love You, Daddy will likely never see the light of a full theatrical release, but it was screening for press up until just a few days before it was pulled from the schedule. It offers plenty that is worth discussing, but I cannot imagine it is something that any potential viewer could ever unabashedly enjoy, even if C.K. had never masturbated in front of women without their consent. The premise reads like the worst possible idea that can be conceived in light of this story coming out. C.K. plays Glen Topher, a TV writer/producer (he’s pretty much basically playing himself) who tries to prevent his 17-year-old daughter China (Chloë Grace-Moretz) from dating 68-year-old filmmaker Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), who is infamous for his predilection for younger women and has been dogged for years by rumors of sexual abuse.

Did C.K. mean for I Love You, Daddy to be some sort of elaborate confession/apology? (At one point, Glen literally says, “I’m sorry, women.”) Or is he just baiting us, as The Huffington Post’s Matthew Jacobs suggests, into thinking it is something more substantial than it actually is? I can only speculate at his motivation. Perhaps he will speak to that publicly at some point. I often make a point when discussing controversial films to emphasize that portrayal does not equal endorsement, but in this case, that maxim falls short. I can describe for you the specific events that happen in I Love You, Daddy (like one character aggressively miming masturbation in front of others), but I am struggling to figure out what message, if any, it is portraying or endorsing. But considering the subject matter and the real-life context, that ambiguity cannot be defended.

Even if C.K. were not guilty of sexual misconduct, I Love You, Daddy would still be a dicey proposition. Leslie is clearly a stand-in for Woody Allen, who started his relationship with his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, when she was still a teenager and he was in his fifties and who has been accused of sexual abuse by his own children. The film is also a clear homage to Allen’s Manhattan, in which he plays a 42-year-old dating a 17-year-old. Let’s suppose a hypothetical in which Allen and C.K. are both free of controversy, rendering Glen and Leslie both wholly fictional creations. Even in that case, I Love You, Daddy is still creepy and misguided. In its best possible version, it could have seriously grappled with whether or not human beings’ most socially unacceptable urges can ever be morally defended. But that would require a delicate touch that this film simply does not have.

SNL Recap November 5, 2011: Charlie Day/Maroon 5

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Still phrazy after all these years!

Cold Opening – A Message from the Ghost of Muammar Gaddafi
This is one of those Fred-centric sketches in which the humor is generally derived from Fred’s goofy mannerisms and conversational tone of voice, juxtaposed with the fact  that he is playing an unsavory character.  There weren’t any particular funny lines, but it is amusing to think that the real (ghost of) Gaddafi would talk like that. B-

Charlie Day’s Monologue
I imagine that this monologue was more amusing for fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, who would actually recognize how similar this was to Charlie and Danny DeVito’s interactions on Always Sunny.  It would also have helped if one has been a fan of SNL long enough to know that DeVito has hosted himself six times and that it made sense that he would could serve as mentor to Charlie.  Since I met both of these requirements, this worked for me. B

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