Everything Is Awesome! The Lego Movie Is Still Great!


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Have you ever rewatched a film that you remembered as being pretty great just to then be totally shocked to discover that it really wasn’t even that good?

It’s happened to me more times than I care to count.  Often times, it seems like the films that have the most immediate impact on us are the same films that, in a matter of weeks, we often end up forgetting.  My personal theory is that these films are so designed to make an immediate impact that there’s often little room for the subtext that would be necessary for a movie to actually linger in the mind.  These are the type of films that we remember enjoying but it’s often a struggle for us to explain why we thought it was great.  (“Oh my God,” we say, “it was such a great movie!” and then we leave it at that.)  When we do get around to watching the film for a second time, we’re often left slightly disappointed.  Now that we know what’s coming, the film no longer has as much of an impact.

It happens all the time and I hate it.  That is why, often times, I find myself dreading the second viewing.  Will the film still work the second time or will it turn out that the film only truly works when viewed with virgin eyes?

That’s one reason why I was feeling a bit of trepidation about rewatching The Lego Movie when it showed up on HBO this month.  After all, I loved the Lego Movie when it was originally released earlier this year.  As soon as I got home from seeing it at the Alamo Drafthouse, I jumped on twitter and tweeted out, “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!”  For the past few months, I’ve been telling everyone that the Lego Movie was great.

But was it really?

Of course, everyone knows what The Lego Movie was about.  President Business (Will Ferrell) is seen by the residents of the Lego Universe as being a benevolent ruler but actually, he’s an insecure control freak who enforces strict conformity and who is planning to use a mysterious weapon known as the Kragle to rob everyone of free will and imagination.  A group of rebels — known as the Master Builders and led by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) — hope to stop him.  According to Vitruvius, a chosen one will defeat President Business and, to everyone’s surprise, the Chosen One turns out to be a cheerfully ordinary construction worker named Emmett (Chris Pratt).

There were so many things that I remembered loving about the Lego Movie.

I loved the voice work done by the film’s talented cast.  Along with the perfectly selected Ferrell, Freeman, and Pratt, the cast also includes: Will Arnett as a hilariously pretentious Lego Batman, Elizabeth Banks as the rebellious Wyldstyle, Liam Neeson as Bad Cop, the always brilliant Nick Offerman as a pirate called Metal Beard, Charlie Day as a “space guy,” and Alison Brie as my favorite character, Unikitty (a unicorn/kitty hybrid, and who wouldn’t want to own one of those?).  And, of course, there were also cameos from Channing Tatum as Superman and Jonah Hill as a hilariously obsequious Green Lantern.  I remembered that all of these actors had done great work, bringing very vivid life to their characters.

And I remembered that all of the actors were aided by a script that was full of funny lines and clever bits of satire.  I remembered loving the enthusiastic way that Charlie Day talked about making a spaceship.  I loved Will Arnett’s pretentious hipster posturing.  I loved the way that Chris Pratt could deliver a line like, “I understand what you’re saying but could you repeat it again because I wasn’t listening?”  I loved Liam Neeson switching back and forth from being the ruthless Bad Cop and the painfully nice Good Cop.  And most of all, I loved Morgan Freeman.  Freeman, of course, is known for having the most God-like voice in the movies and, in this movie, he delivers even the most over-the-top dialogue with a calm and soothing authority.

And I loved the song Everything Is Awesome, an earworm if there ever was one!

And finally, I remembered that — as funny as The Lego Movie was — it also made me cry.  The theme of being yourself and going your own way is a common one but the Lego Movie expressed it with such sincerity that it was impossible for me not to be moved as if I was hearing it for the very first time.

So, as I lay down to rewatch the Lego Movie, I asked myself if the movie would live up to my memories.

Well, guess what?

EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

The Lego Movie is just as good on subsequent viewings than on the first!  So, if you somehow haven’t watched it, then watch it now.  And if you have watched it, watch it again!

27 Days of Old School: #21 “One” (by Metallica)


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“Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me”

Yeah, my taste in music see-sawed back and forth from one end of the spectrum to the other. Yesterday, I reminisced about one of the best R&B ballads from my time as a teenager in high school during the late 80′s. Today, I focus on one of the songs on metal end which remains (in my opinion) one of the best metal songs ever put out there.

“One” was the final single released from Metallica’s fourth album, …And Justice For All.

The song also had the distinction of being the first ever Metallica song which was accompanied by a music video shot for it. Metallica had avoided making music videos of their songs for years. Their success as a band never needed the assistance that MTV could provide. They saw it as a badge of honor that they’ve never made a music video, but that change in January 1989 when the single for “One” was released and a music video followed soon after.

A music video that combined elements from the 1971 anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun and the band playing inside a warehouse. It was an effective video that more than convinced many skeptics that when done properly a metal music video was possible. This wasn’t a video using garish colors, over-the-top imagery of hair metal music videos. It was a video that was just as heavy and through-provoking as the song it was made for.

Trailer: Pitch Perfect 2


Pitch Perfect came out in the fall of 2012 and to say that it surprised many would be an understatement.

A film about acapella singing and battling wasn’t something that should’ve appealed to many. It sounded too much like the singing version of the Step Up series. From the day of it’s release the film garnered such a collection of positive reviews from critics that the public quickly came around to wanting to see this little film that could.

So, with the success of the first film it was just a matter of time (not much dilly-dallying) before a sequel was green-lit and this week we see the first trailer for Pitch Perfect 2.

The sequel brings back the entire cast with some new notable additions in Hailee Steinfeld and Katey Sagal.

Pitch Perfect 2 is set for a May 15, 2015 release date.

27 Days of Old School: #20 “Whip Appeal” (by Babyface)


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“‘Cause you’ve got that whip appeal
So work it on me”

It would be impossible not to include one of the most popular old school ballads from my era.

“Whip Appeal” was the third single off of singer-producer Babyface’s second R&B album, Tender Lover. The single released in early 1990 just in time for the song to put it’s melodic hooks into everyone who heard it for the first time. I can confirm that this was a staple of all high school dances and proms from 1990 and onwards. It was one of the go-to ballads that would get couples and potential ones to get on the dance floor and just sway to the song.

Ballads like this are truly old school. When I say they don’t make them like this anymore there’s some truth in that. The lyrics themselves are quite risque, but definitely more subtle than what R&B artists nowadays put into their own form of ballads. There’s a classic soulful sound to the music that harkens back to the Motown sounds of the 60′s that have been lacking in most R&B today.

A song that’s 25 years old and yet still planting it’s soulful hooks into old and new listeners alike.

Trailer: The Peanuts Movie


When I first heard that there was going to be a new Peanuts movie, I was excited but worried.  As someone who grew up watching and loving the Charlie Brown holiday specials, I worried that the new movie would try too hard to update the characters and the humor for a new audience.  I was worried that the movie would ruin all of my childhood memories of watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

However, the first two trailers have stayed true to the spirit of Peanuts.  In the second trailer, Snoopy fights the Red Baron while Woodstock decorates for Christmas and Charlie Brown spills popcorn on himself.  You can watch it below.

The Peanuts Movie comes out next year.

27 Days of Old School: #19 “You’ll See” (by Madonna)


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“I have truth on my side,
You only have deceit”

For #18 on the KTSL Old School charts I had Madonna’s “Take A Bow” and what better way to follow it up but with it’s sequel which arrived as a single for her 1995 compilation album, Something to Remember.

“You’ll See” is another ballad that brings to conclusion the story of the mistress (Madonna) from “Take A Bow” and the Spanish bullfighter (Emilio Muñoz) with the tables now turned as the former takes control of her life and moves on while the latter sees his mistakes though too late.

This song has a Spanish musical influence to it’s production from the use of a Spanish guitar that begins the track and returns throughout the length of the song. While “Take A Bow” strained Madonna’s vocal skills to their limits it is the opposite for “You’ll See” where the song’s composition works to take advantage of Madonna’s vocal range and not trying to go beyond what she’s capable of.

Film Review: Anna (dir by Jorge Dorado)


AnnaI just finished watching Anna, a Spanish thriller that was briefly given an American release way back in June.  Anna (which was produced under the title Mindscape) got fairly bad reviews, with many critics dismissing it as being a weak imitation of Inception.

Having now seen the film, I can say that, once again, the critics were wrong.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  It’s obvious that without Inception, there never would have been an Anna.  But, as any fan of old school Italian horror can tell you, imitation is not necessarily a bad thing.  Anna may start out as a low-budget take on Inception but, by the end of the film, it has established its own unique identity.

Anna tells the story of John (Mark Strong), a “memory detective.”  John has the power to enter into people’s memories, where he can search for clues to help people deal with psychological trauma and to occasionally help the police solve crimes.  At the start of the film, John is recovering from a trauma of his own.  After their son dies, his wife — who is also a memory detective — retreats so deeply into her memories that she can’t come back.  (Yes, I know.  It’s exactly like Inception.  Just be patient…)  While exploring the memories of an assault victim, John’s own memories start to intrude on the victim’s memories, leading to John having a stroke.

After John recovers from the stroke, he finds himself both financially destitute and emotionally unstable.  His boss (Brian Cox) takes sympathy on John and assigns him to what should be an easy case.  16 year-old Anna (Taissa Farmiga) is refusing to eat and her extremely wealthy parents want to know why.

John meets Anna and discovers that she’s a sarcastic, intelligent, and withdrawn teenager.  When John enters into her mind, he discovers memories of neglect and abuse.  The night after John first enters Anna’s memories, her nurse is pushed down a flight of stairs.  The nurse claims that Anna pushed her while Anna swears that she’s being framed.  Anna’s parents, meanwhile, have signed papers to have her committed, giving John just a few days to determine what’s behind Anna’s behavior.

Convinced that she’s innocent, John enters into Anna’s memories and searches for clues that will answer the question of whether Anna is a victim or a sociopath.  As he does so, he finds more and more evidence that Anna was abused.  However, he also starts to discover hints that there may be more to Anna’s memories than he originally realized.

Anna is a good and entertaining mystery of a film, one that takes its time telling its multi-layered story.  Jorge Dorado makes his directorial debut with Anna and he wisely emphasizes characterization and atmosphere above all else.  There’s a dream-like sense of menace that fills every frame of the film, casting a palpable feeling of unease over both John and the audience.  As a result of his work here, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Dorado does in the future.

Mark Strong is a talented and intelligent actor who has gotten typecast as a villain.  As such, it’s nice to see him actually get a chance to be the star for once.  Strong gives a sympathetic performance while adding just enough instability that the audience is never totally at ease with John.  The same can also be said of Taissa Farmiga, who gives a wonderfully ambiguous performance that makes Anna both innocent and destructive at the same time.  Anna keeps both John and the audience guessing until the very end of the film.

Anna is currently making the rounds on cable.  I would recommend keeping an eye out for it.

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