Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

It takes two to tango…

[THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS OR MAJOR PLOT DETAILS IN THIS REVIEW, ONLY WHAT WAS REVEALED IN TRAILERS AND INTERVIEWS]

If anyone has any suggestions for how to survive 8 whole months without an MCU movie, I’m open to ideas. Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good…

Ant-Man and the Wasp is the 20th installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is a direct sequel to Ant-Man (2015), both movies being directed by Peyton Reed. It also serves as a nice catch-up with Scott Lang himself after the last time we see him in Captain America: Civil War (2016). We pick up with Scott on a house-arrest as punishment for being involved in Captain America’s crusade that violated the Sokovia Accords. Not only does this lead to a fallout between him, Hank Pym, and Hope Van Dyne, it also complicates his situation of wanting to be a better father to his own daughter.

Just like the previous Ant-Man movie, this one feels like a huge breath of fresh air after the MCU just came off of a much more intense movie, and it also does what I liked about the last one where it touches on how the drama of such larger than life figures like the Avengers can affect regular people like Scott who are just trying to do better. Its why I appreciate that the MCU went with Scott Lang instead of Hank Pym as their designated Ant-Man, as I feel Hank would’ve just been “science bros” with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, or be too similar of a character.

So how does the actual movie stack up in a year where Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War already have made their impact on audiences and the box office? Admittedly, it is tough to keep up the momentum from two groundbreaking films such as those, but Ant-Man and the Wasp succeeds in giving us a positive, fun, and real look into its themes of family, partnership, and friendship. There no other way to put it: This has probably been the most successful year for Marvel Studios creatively and financially.

To get some criticisms out of the way first, the movie follows multiple “antagonists” (not to be confused with henchmen, they actually had their own agendas) to go along with the main one, which fell a little flat for me in a year where we got such focused villains as Killmonger and Thanos. Its not that having multiple is a bad thing, but the movie had Hannah John-Kamen acting incredibly well alongside Laurence Fishburne, only to spend time with Walton Goggins playing a throwaway “bad guy” with poor motivation. I would’ve rather spent that time exploring the dynamic between the other two or giving the time to Randall Park’s FBI character, who knocked it out of the park for the comedic aspect of the movie. The best thing done by Goggins’ character was the set-up for Luis (Micheal Pena) to go on one of his signature monologues, which was even funnier than the ones he does in the previous Ant-Man.

Piggybacking off of that point, I think most of the actors disappeared into their characters in this one and that really made the movie keep its positive and up-beat momentum. Paul Rudd is fantastic as always, but I have to give major props to Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays Scott’s daughter Cassie. All of her scenes with Paul Rudd made the audience feel like their father-daughter dynamic was real. Evangeline Lily played Hope with less of a “faux-intense” feel and seemed more present as a character. I also liked Scott’s “crew” of Luis, Kurt, and Dave more so than the last time we saw them. Not only are their lines and delivery just better, but the humor feels organic in the sense that I can actually believe that these are three friends hanging out and joking with each other. The humor also didn’t undercut emotional moments as badly as it did in the previous Ant-Man, and there’s one scene in particular (no spoilers obviously) where there is a nice character moment that is being supplemented with humor due to the situation, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out at first…and it ended up being one of my favorite scenes after it was over because the choice of the humor made actually worked.

I guess my only big thing is that the third act did the “MCU thing” in the sense that there was a lot happening, it got a bit messy, and it was only carried onward through the elements of fun and some surprise. Compared to what we’ve seen recently too, this one felt a bit inconsequential. That’s me nit-picking, because this still genuinely was such a blast in theaters and I actually look forward to another Ant-Man/Wasp movie later on in phase 4 or something to give us breathing room after the dramatic closing of the Infinity Saga that is sure to follow. If that’s the role that these characters are going to serve in the MCU, I don’t really have a complaint with that. It’s nice to take a break from super-geniuses, Demigods, sorcerers, and assassins to follow some very human characters.

Ant-Man and the Wasp gets an 8.5/10

Guest Post: Movie Review – Incredibles 2

Jack-Jack vs Raccoon was the best fight scene of the year

GUEST ALERT! This piece was written and contributed by Nick Curl, who had the following to say:

“Soggz wants me to plug myself but I’m not sure what to plug. I do wedding and portrait photography, so you can check me out on The Knot at https://tinyurl.com/ybe4ltg4. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram @nickcurl.”

Nick is an amazing person and I loved this review, be sure to check out his photography. Spoiler: He’s pretty incredible at that too!

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With a film title of Incredibles, you’ve already put a fair amount of pressure on yourself to live up to that word. And not only did writer/director Brad Bird do that with his 2004 groundbreaking Pixar Animation film The Incredibles, he has seemingly done the impossible fourteen years later: create a seamless transition to a part two, a film that is just as subversive, sharp, insightful, and gorgeous as the original.

I saw The Incredibles when I was eight-years-old with my dad, and I honestly don’t know who enjoyed the movie more. It was everything I could possibly want in a movie, and I proceeded to watch it about twenty more times when it was released on DVD. I patiently waited for a sequel for years, wanting to know if the Parr family successfully took down the Underminer, how Violet’s date with Tony Rydinger went, if Dash became a track and field superstar, and what was going to happen with Jack-Jack, the baby with multiple powers. Now, after fourteen years, I’ve gotten the answers (and so much more) that eight-year-old me was dying to know.

The film picks up immediately where we left off: the Parrs, having successfully defeated Syndrome, are beginning to live a “normal” life, watching Dash decide where to place in his 200 meter sprint, when the Underminer begins his rampage on Municiberg. Following their (somewhat) successful attempt at stopping the Underminer, the government decides that it’s time, once and for all, to retire the Supers. Defeated and living in a motel, the Parrs are approached by communications mogul, Winston Deavor (the fantastic Bob Odenkirk), and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener; truly top-notch voice work across the board), who promise Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson, who steps into the role like he never left) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, who steals every scene with just her voice) — and all supers – the opportunity to come out of hiding.

From there, the film takes off and exponentially gains momentum to a thrilling climax reminiscent of Speed 2 (but infinitely better, I promise). The film’s A-plot, centered around Helen/Elastigirl vs an enigmatic villain, the Screenslaver, is the movie’s only disappointing aspect due to its predictability and the sense that Bird was phoning-in this aspect of the film. Without spoiling anything, the Screenslaver starts out as a truly creepy, well-motivated villain (he has a speech in the second act which felt straight out of USA’s Mr. Robot), but quickly becomes a generic character who, most disappointingly, acts against the rules that Bird had so expertly established in the first film. In The Incredibles, Lucius/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson, thankfully with a much larger role this time around) and Bob/Mr. Incredible have a hilarious conversation which jabs at one of the superhero-genre’s most irritating tropes: villains monologuing when they, realistically, should just get on with their plan and/or kill the Superhero they have prisoner. It was a phenomenal moment of genre-subverting self-awareness which made the original so iconic. Now, in an identical situation as the one Frozone described in the first film, our villain “monologues” for no reason other than to explain to the audience exactly what their motivation is. It was a disappointing moment in an otherwise spectacular film which goes out of its way to treat the superhero-genre with a realism and relatability that is rarely, if ever, seen from Marvel or DC.

So, despite the film’s weak A-plot, literally every other moment had a smile glued on my face like I was eight-years-old again. With Helen off being the face of the Supers’ Return, Bob takes up the role of stay-at-home-dad. This is where the film truly shines. Watching Bob learn the ins-and-outs of parenting his three vastly different children with vastly different issues is both hilarious and rings true for just about everyone. Violet, with her teen angst over Tony Rydinger, Dash’s homework (which produces possibly the film’s greatest line, “I don’t know that way! Why would they change math?”), and Jack-Jack’s burgeoning superpowers. Each relationship is handled with such care and joy that it’s evident if Brad Bird could’ve made a three-hour film centered around the everyday lives of our Super-family, he would’ve. And, of course, everyone’s favorite designer returns to the fun as well. Tasked with babysitting Jack-Jack overnight, Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird himself) is initially reluctant (“I’m an artist”), but is soon more than willing to not only watch Jack-Jack, but take him on as an apprentice of sorts (which leads to the film’s second-best gag).

The animation on display is spectacular and visually arresting. We’re still in the same world we know and love, but with finer detail everywhere you look. The cinematography is some of the best Pixar has ever produced (I’m not sure anything will top 2015’s The Good Dinosaur), and it makes for an even more immersive experience than the first film. Standout scenes include the Underminer battle, the train sequence with Elastigirl (a fantastic parallel to the first film), and the first battle with the Screenslaver (if you’re epileptic, be ready to turn away for about a minute). Brad Bird’s skill as a visually storyteller has never been clearer, and neither has his love for the Parrs.

In a market over-saturated with superheroes, whether they’re Avengers, X-Men, or the Justice League, Brad Bird has proven, once again, that finding the truth in your characters and their relationships is more important than any superpowers on display. But the powers are fun too.

Movie Review – Avengers: Infinity War

#ThanosDemandsYourSilence

[THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS OR MAJOR PLOT DETAILS IN THIS REVIEW, ONLY WHAT WAS REVEALED IN TRAILERS AND INTERVIEWS]

[It is not required, but is highly recommended that you read this piece before continuing on]

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Avengers: Infinity War is the 19th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and is the beginning of the end of the era informally known as the “Infinity Saga”. For those who don’t know by now, the past 10 years and 18 movies have all been pointing towards this. Each one has been building to the plot for this particular film and the untitled Avengers follow up film to be released in May 2019. As I’m writing this review, the movie has already broken all records for “biggest opening weekend”, surpassing the previous record-holder, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It is safe to say that this is one of those movies that are more of a cinematic event and cultural phenomenon than a simple blockbuster. Its obvious that so many people wanted to see every MCU hero all in one place, but it was also common to speculate if such a balancing act could even be done properly. So how does it stack up as a movie?

Much like the MCU, let’s start with the smaller things and build up. First off, writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War) have delivered once again. This script is compact, and almost every line accomplishes something to drive forward either the plot or a character’s motivation/feelings. With a movie so huge in runtime it would’ve been easy to feel like some time would be wasted, but I didn’t feel like any part was a drag. The movie follows different groups of characters on different locations, and will then bring them together or separate them with a sense of fluidity. The structure of the film is of course supplemented by the beautiful visual effects with one or two shots that were absolutely breathtaking. However, the structure was also tied together by very specific theming that was prominent throughout the film, although being more specific about this would be a spoiler so I’ll move on.

Perhaps some of the best parts of this movie are directing choices by the Russo Brothers (also from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War). As you may have read in some of my pieces before, I’m very big on directors and executives actually handling these famous and iconic characters with a sense of care. I was pleased to see that the directors let the moments between these characters sit and sink in. What makes comic books so fun is that you have an assortment of characters, so many that are larger than life, all interacting with each other. It was understood by the Russo brothers that these interactions and moments were important to making this film happen.

Aside from good moments with our heroes, a project of this size also needed the villain to have a sense of grandeur and to be threatening enough, and I’m very happy to say that the Mad Titan Thanos fully delivered on this expectation. This version of Thanos is much more understandable and grounded than his comic counterpart, making him more concerned with real issues than with his love for Mistress Death (seriously, look it up). While being clearly insane and menacing, an audience can still feel sympathy for him during certain scenes where his arc is depicted. As mentioned up above, the Russo brothers take their time to make sure viewers understand what Thanos actually is.

My complaints with this one are pretty minimal, and they’re mostly understandable with how insanely difficult this whole thing was. There were some details or one-liners that were included that I felt were unnecessary, mostly because I wanted those precious minutes to go towards some other aspects that didn’t get as much attention. I’m keeping this review short because there really isn’t a lot I can say without giving away important things about the movie.

All I really can say is that this movie is equally a cinematic spectacle and a real story about something. It’s well balanced and accomplishes everything it sets out to do by keeping things simple and elegant at the same time. Anyone who’s seen even a few of the MCU movies will find something to appreciate here, and it overwhelms you in a way that only a few films can.

Knowing that I’ve fully ousted myself as an MCU fanboy, and knowing that my review can be taken from a very particular point of view, I’m still going to give Avengers: Infinity War a 9.5/10

 

 

Movie Review: Isle of Dogs

You really emBARK on a journey!…..shut up.

[THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS OR MAJOR PLOT DETAILS IN THIS REVIEW, ONLY WHAT WAS REVEALED IN TRAILERS/INTERVIEWS]

“Isle of Dogs” is a stop-motion animated film written/produced/directed by the famous Wes Anderson, and it stars some big names like Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and Jeff Goldblum as some very good boys (dogs). Set in a futuristic Japan, the conflict involves young Atari Kobayashi, nephew and ward of the corrupt Mayor Kobayashi, searching for his dog on the isolated Trash Island, where all dogs have been exiled to due to a dog-virus that causes everyone to be scared of their own pets.

Personally, I’ve actually never seen a Wes Anderson film before (that might surprise some of you, but anyone who grew up in the area that I did could vouch that none of us were really talking about that style of film when we were in high school) but I do love stop-motion animation and I do understand Anderson’s credibility as an artistic filmmaker. Upon seeing trailers I was also interested due to the setting being in Japan, especially since I enjoyed Laika Animation’s “Kubo and the Two Strings” (2016), a stop-motion film having a Feudal-Japanese setting. Besides, despite me being a “cat person” (because you apparently have to pick one), who doesn’t love good dogs?

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The film follows characters in two settings, Megasaki City and Trash Island. Starting with the latter, Atari crash lands on the island and is found by the five dogs who roam in their own pack. All are enthusiastic about helping Atari except Chief (Bryan Cranston), but he reluctantly accepts the task anyway and the crew travels deeper into Trash Island to find Atari’s old bodyguard dog. Meanwhile in the city, we see the political side of the decision to outlaw dogs with dictator-like policy from Kobayashi, opposed by a “Science Party” that is making strides to cure the dog viruses and bring the pets back. The film also spends time on a foreign exchange student named Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) who is the only student vocalizing concerns over the Kobayashi dynasty.

Throughout these different sub-plots and stories we get, I personally enjoyed the moments with Atari and the dogs. Anderson takes the time to give these dogs different personalities and backgrounds and the interactions they have with the boy Atari make this a very charming film. For example, Chief tends not to get along with the other dogs or always has a different opinion because he’s a stray. Anderson makes sure that the audience’s immersion is through the dogs themselves by giving them very human characteristics. The animation itself is precisely executed and ended up being very visually appealing and a contributing factor to the movie’s adventurous feel.

Anderson makes an artistic decision to have mostly all the human characters only speak Japanese, and I liked this for two reasons. One being what I mentioned earlier, the audience’s perspective is further drawn towards that of the dogs. Secondly, it gives the animation more time to shine because you start to look for visual storytelling rather than exposition. I also think the film is structured very well with a relatively short runtime of 1 hour and 41 minutes, because there are elements to unpack and I didn’t feel dissatisfied with any sub-plot being ignored or incomplete. Everything does seem to tie up in the end and I’ve gotta give it to Anderson for that one.

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While I did enjoy this film and don’t think this movie had any malicious intent or should cause any rioting, I do have to point out what I thought was a little problematic with the use of the Japanese setting. After the movie was done and my brain went into “what was wrong with it?” mode, I ended up asking myself one big question: “Why Japan?”

This movie is about a psuedo-facist leader outlawing a largely innocent group and getting away with it by brainwashing the public that doesn’t seem to know any better. To be completely honest, this sounds a lot more like America than Japan. While Anderson used things in the culture like taiko drums, haikus, cherry blossoms, etc…all of this seemed to serve no real purpose other than to be an aesthetic. Think of it like when you have this amazing picture ready to upload to instagram, and while searching for the right filter there was one called “Japanese” and that’s the one you decide to go with. Again, I highly doubt any of this was intentional, but using the “Japan implies that a foreign setting was required to make us believe an outrageous policy like fear-mongering the public to dislike dogs…and unfortunately Japan took the fall on this one for a story that I could have very much believed happening in the Western world (apparently Anderson has done a similar thing with India in “The Darjeeling Limited”…guess I should check that one out).

I’m all for having an homage to another culture and for having more movies be international, but the culture or its members didn’t play the significant role in the movie that I was led to believe…it just coexisted while we focused on the Dogs. This is so odd to me because I commended Anderson for being more focused and humanizing the dogs, and having the humans speak only Japanese up above…but at the same time it feels a little gross because you dehumanize the people of the culture but still use the culture as a setting for the film.

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Truthfully, I could’ve ignored ALL of this if it weren’t for one thing that tipped me over the often blurred line between appreciation and appropriation…and that is the use of Greta Gerwig’s character, Tracy Walker. The fact that a character from Ohio (because Lord knows OHIO is the most woke place on the planet) is the only one amongst the masses that can see the corruption of the Kobayashi dynasty really leaves a sour taste in my mouth, similar to when I see the “White Savior” trope. Sure, Atari is the hero to the dogs…but he spends most of the movie with them on Trash Island being out of the spotlight to the rest of the characters while Tracy is over in Megasaki City actually getting people to rally behind the cause. By doing this, the film really does show that the use of Japanese culture is poorly thought-out despite the use of Japanese actors and imagery, because at the end of the day they could’ve done this with ANY foreign culture and it wouldn’t have made a difference. This belittles everyone into this one bubble of “Eastern” rather than showing what is unique about the hundreds of cultures that aren’t in the West.

While definitely being a little problematic, “Isle of Dogs” still manages to be a technically impressive and positive story with its own unique charisma. With all things considered, “Isle of Dogs” gets a 7/10.

 

Guest Post – Movie Review: Ready Player One

Don’t Think Too Hard, “Ready Player One” is Just a Video Game

[THIS IS A GUEST POST BROUGHT TO YOU BY MY GOOD FRIEND (and my co-host of the “Overrated Podcast”) UDAY MEHTA. SHOW HIM SOME LOVE AND FIND HIS COLUMN, HIS SOLO PODCAST, AND OUR PODCAST AT HIS WEBSITE]

I remember seeing the trailer for Ready Player One. I was in theaters, absentmindedly on my phone waiting for the actual movie to start. It was upon hearing one word that my eyes flickered to the screen. Parzival. An alternate spelling of Percival, Parzival is the titular character in the story of the Holy Grail, and one of the Knights of the Round Table. It was a strange tidbit to recall in that moment, but it was enough to pique my curiosity. A sci-fi movie that made semi-obscure historical reference?

 I promptly forgot about the entire thing until a few weeks later when I found out it was a Steven Spielberg-directed movie. Yes, Steven Spielberg, best known this decade for his work on films such as The Post, Lincoln, and War Horse, was directing an adventure role playing movie. Now that was enough to get me to the theater.

The Plot

 The movie follows a lonesome teenager with an alliterative made-for-film white-dude name (Wade Watts) and his avatar (the aforementioned Parzival) in the Oasis, a virtual world whose creator James Halladay has since passed. Halladay is revered in a Jobs/Musk-like fashion, where his followers pore over every aspect of his life. By participating in fights and other competitions, you can earn coins, make customizations to your avatar, and purchase weapons. There’s one catch – if your avatar dies in the Oasis, you lose everything. Your money, your weapons, your upgrades, all of it. You’d respawn as a bare-bones character and have to work your way back up.

 Parzival’s crew is a bunch of lovable misfits, including the beefy mechanic Aech, steely swordsman Daito, and some dude named Sho (they don’t really spend a lot of time on him). The primary driver is the presence of an Easter egg – depicted as an actual Egg in the Oasis – hidden somewhere in the game by Halladay before his passing. Accessing the egg requires the successful completion of three challenges blah blah blah. There isn’t much overall depth to the plot, as we collectively proceed from challenge to challenge, with one of our heroes finding a way to complete each one. The crew is opposed by a faceless corporation “Innovative Online Industries” (IOI) headed by generic boss Nolan Sorrento. IOI has access to plenty of money and weaponry, but they naturally lack the innocence and spirit that make Parzival and co special.

Parzival – and by extension, Wade – is your average guy, no cool upgrades or abilities, just someone looking to find an escape from his life of poverty and bad family dynamics. Pretty relatable, right? Oh, and there’s a love interest, Art3mis (the Greek goddess of hunting), who Parzival falls in love with by virtue of healthily cyber-stalking everything she does. He’s a really nice guy, you just have to get to know him! She warns him that he’d be “repulsed” if he saw her in real life, which is slightly disingenuous because they cast an attractive actress with… a birthmark?

The Verdict

Despite its predictability, even with the tired tropes, it’s still an incredibly fun ride. The movie is relatively self-aware of the stereotypes it’s playing out – from the wise wizard avatar Anorak that represents Halladay, to the guy in a suit that represents CEO Sorrento, to the random-person-you-encounter-on-your-quest-that-turns-out-to-be-an-important-ally. It’s good for what it is, a dystopian action film which focuses on the enduring importance of friendship and its triumph over greed. Like with any book-to-film adaptation, there are facets of the story on which they didn’t have time to spend (the loyalty centers, the death of Wade’s family, Ogden Morrow’s background), but elements that are definitively improved (hacking Sorrento’s headset, the use of TJ Miller’s I-R0k). It’s not a set of puzzles where you as a viewer are trying to figure out what’s coming next, but rather a relaxing journey through the furthest reaches of a virtual world. You may not care about the “war for control of the future”, but you want to find the Easter Egg just as much as Parzival does.

 This is the movie that Adam Sandler’s 2015 shithole ‘Pixels’ should have been.

Pacman, Galaga, Centipede, Tetris, Duck Hunt, Frogger – all these classic arcade games were built into the film as characters, which just might have worked if some other minor details (plot, dialogue, character development) were better. But Ready Player One incorporates the nostalgia trips in an inconspicuous, blink-and-you-miss-it fashion. While Pixels sets up Donkey Kong as Sandler’s final villain behind a ‘We Will Rock You’ soundtrack and a weirdly placed dick joke, Ready Player One flashes through its homages, from a Tron motorcycle during a race, to the magic spell from Excalibur, to a brief costume change into Clark Kent. Avoiding using these references as plot devices – apart from an extended sequence from The Shining – is what helps this film invoke the desired amount of hazy nostalgia.

The Memory

To me, the basic construct of the movie was evocative of a reference they didn’t even mention (or didn’t have the rights to) – Megaman. In the mid-2000s, it aired as a TV show (Megaman NT Warrior) and was released as a long series of video games (Megaman Battle Network). The main construct of the show is a virtual ‘net’ that humans can log into with their ‘net navi’ (short for navigator), where humans interface with their navis by uploading battle chips and weapons. A later season has an arc where humans can fully synchronize with their net navis . The show’s antagonists were textbook villains that wanted to take over and/or destroy the net, headlined by Dr. Wily, an original creator of the net. There’s even a reddish-pink love interest and a big buff friend! Vaguely familiar, isn’t it?

Movie Review – The Lego Ninjago Movie

All cats involved in the production in this movie were all great pets that I’m sure were misunderstood.

Have you ever been the only childless adult in a theater full of parents and kids? Then laugh uncontrollably when the “My Little Pony Movie” trailer comes on and some kid yells “I WANNA SEE THAT DADDY”? Would highly recommend if you’re feeling like a mad lad.

“The Lego Ninjago Movie” is the third Lego movie and stars Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, Justin Theroux, and others. I remember seeing the trailer for this one while watching “The Lego Batman Movie” and thinking to myself that I definitely wanted to see it, because I’ve had so much fun with these past two Lego movies. Not only do I absolutely love Legos, but the animation style is still pretty darn cool and impressive and it made for a new “sub-genre” in the genre of animated movies. Let me explain:

 

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If you think about the last two Lego movies, they were fresh because it felt like animation that was not only family friendly, but with messages and fun for adults. There was self-aware humor for the franchises they parodied, a lot of sarcasm, a lot of poking fun at the genre as well (especially in the case of “The Lego Batman Movie”). Throw in some A-list celebrities (Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, and SO many more) and you have yourself a great movie.

Whereas “The Lego Batman Movie” had a lot of similarities in theme and structure to “The Lego Movie”, it still felt fresh due to the focus on a character that’s been around for 75 years and making fun of everything that happened in those 75 years (you can peep my review for that back in February here). Unfortunately I have to say that trying to do the same with the Ninjago franchise just didn’t work as well, and caused the formula to be exposed.

Before I get into that, I should note some good things. I think the animation is getting even better (Ninjago city looked better than Gotham did in the last movie) and while the star-studded celebrities may not be entirely present, there’s still some great voice acting from funny people like Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, and Kumail Nanjiani. I laughed a few times, but you also have to remember I have the sense of humor of a toddler sometimes. Regardless, there are one or two small punchlines that kids won’t get, and the action scenes are also pretty sweet. Now that I got that out of the way…

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This movie just felt really predictable and unoriginal. Keep in mind if you know how I roll, you know I think “Its formulaic so I don’t like it” is one of the laziest movie criticisms anyone can say, and most people sound so pompous when they talk about it (and it turns out they haven’t even seen the installment of the franchise they’re bashing 9 out of 10 times). So for me to say that this movie followed a formula is kind of a big deal to me. What bothered me the most is that I always associate the Lego movies with parody and satire…and this plot-line was so generic that it was begging to be parodied? Kid that no one likes, is secretly a super cool hero, Dad is evil, and Uncle is good? I feel like I’ve seen this kind of movie so many times and that a sarcastic interpretation of it with the Lego medium would’ve been a great opportunity…but this was the first time I felt like a Lego movie was exactly what everyone assumed the first one was going to be: A kid’s movie that parents would be dragged to only to be dragged to their local Lego store right after.

Admittedly I might be sounding too harsh, especially if the intention was just to make a family friendly movie. But honestly, my stance on “kids” movies is that they can be powerful and fun for everyone, and we all know that there are so many examples of this. Yeah, you can make a movie that’s just meant for kids, but if you get me into the theater by marketing to me, I’m going to expect something in it for me (especially given your track record with previous movies). So because of that, my opinion on this one isn’t that it’s “bad”…but it’s just kind of there to kill time.

“The Lego Ninjago Movie” gets a 6/10.

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Movie Review – Ingrid Goes West

#Blessed #Ootd #TheWorldIsANightmare

[THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS OF MAJOR PLOT DETAILS IN THIS REVIEW]

Hello again after a long time! Apologies for those of you who’ve been awaiting the return of Soggz-Blogs (an estimated ~2 people out there), but I took a break from the theater and reviews to keep my mind fresh and actually watch some TV for once! Regardless, I am back doing what I love: going to movies and bringing you my thoughts!

So without further ado, “Ingrid Goes West” is a film that first premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January, and later got a limited release in August. The story follows Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) as a social media stalker who just found her new obsession in Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), and moves to LA with the sole purpose of befriending Taylor. The movie also stars O’shea Jackson Jr, who I absolutely loved in “Straight Outta Compton”, and overall I was pretty excited to see this movie due to the potential for topical humor. I’ve got to say, I was definitely not prepared for what I got.

This movie ended up being an extremely dark comedy that touches on mental health, the toxicity of social media, and how ridiculous the world is in general. What was insane to me was that despite the fact that all the characters were just really bad people in their own rights, I was actually sympathizing with them and the themes that director Matt Spicer chose to explore. By the end, I was pretty much floored in a similar manner to when I watched “Get Out”, scared but oddly accepting of it.

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In terms of getting the “typical movie stuff” out of the way first, the acting performances were fantastic and really helped sell the characters. Aubrey and Elizabeth were great, and a huge shout-out goes to my man O’Shea…I really hope this guy gets bigger roles in the future because he’s definitely killin’ it. It helps that he had some of the funniest lines in the movie, so props to the writers there. While the plot may have gotten a little predictable and the movie seems like it can put itself in a box sometimes, I do think Spicer made some great directing choices. Specifically, the color scheme in this movie is very bright and vibrant, which directly conflicts with the darker tone of the comedy and plot. This works so well due to the theme of social-media and fake personalities; what you see is vaguely positive vs what is actually going on is super screwed up. This brings me to my next point of something I really appreciated.

Remember “La La Land” and how beautiful it made Los Angeles look? One critic I believe described that whole movie as “A love letter to the city of LA”. So, I’m an LA native and definitely feel that whenever a movie comes out about how great Hollywood and sunny Los Angeles is. This movie did the complete opposite and chose to highlight just how crappy LA can be sometimes and I admired that. Seriously, as much as we all like to think that LA is this magical “City of Stars”, any of us that work/live in LA can point to multiple days where we’ve felt miserable because of the city, people, culture, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I can only think of 2-3 other places I’d want to live at some point in my life…and if I do end up never leaving LA county I wouldn’t really complain, but man it SUCKS sometimes. “Ingrid Goes West” captured that and I found it funny and relatable. Hell, these characters themselves are all just crappy people, but in the moment I found myself not thinking that because they were just doing what stereotypical LA people do.

I usually stay away from plot details except for what is already revealed in trailers, but I REALLY don’t want to go over any plot this time because I want people to see this movie and enjoy the ride. If you’ve read my “What is Soggz Blogs?” section, you know I do this because the theater/cinematic experience means a lot to me and I love it when my readers see a movie because of one of my reviews. With “Ingrid Goes West”, I’m not recommending that people see it to be entertained…I’m recommending it because of how sad it is that these ridiculous antics and crazy things that happen to these characters are very much a problem in the modern world.

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I know it can be an incredibly cliche “pseudo-intellectual” thing to complain about social media. I know that social media has its huge perks and I think the intention behind creating various platforms was good initially. That being said, it has gotten to a point of being extremely dangerous and “Ingrid Goes West” really gets that message across, sacrificing subtlety in the plot to do so. In the same way that you would see a movie character in a crime-thriller deal with a drug addiction, the character of Ingrid Thorburn’s “drug” is her instagram account. It messes with her life, people shame her for it without understanding her, others glorify it, and every time something bigger is happening, the only thing that makes her happy is her phone. The movie perfectly portrayed an exaggerated, but entirely plausible, look into society’s obsession with “likes”, social media icons, and a false sense of security.

Before even knowing how hefty this movie would be, I actually took a 2 month break off of instagram myself this summer…and when I came back I found myself caring about a lot of stupid things that I didn’t care about when I wasn’t constantly looking and scrolling. The drama this movie used to make a point wasn’t even that far off from the obscurity found in reality, and that’s what made “Ingrid Goes West” such a hidden gem for me.

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While being simple and even a little flawed sometimes, “Ingrid Goes West” gets an 8.5/10 for being very thought provoking and unique.