Tag: Fred Armisen

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

I had absolutely no intentions of watching The LEGO Ninjago Movie earlier in the year. When this and The LEGO Batman Movie were announced, I honestly wasn’t too fond of either idea, but this idea less so because I don’t know what the fuck a Ninjago is. It is one of their brands, but never anything I touched, so who cares.

I just wanted a real sequel to The LEGO Movie more than anything, so these off shoot films were very “whatever” on my radar.

And then I ended up being so disappointed in the Batman film and animated films in general that I needed to give Ninjago a chance. I needed to check every crook and nanny to see if all the animated films were bad. And you know what? I think this one was hated right out of the gate, with people who had very similar thoughts to mind.

No one wanted to give Ninjago a chance, which is why there hasn’t been a lot of hype for the film. And yet it, in my mind, is the better LEGO film of 2017.

Group\
Featuring so many members of Silicon Valley also had to be intentional.

In the city of Ninjago, normal city things occur, bakers, bread buyers, bread eaters, you name it. There is a giant volcano near by across the bay, and in it lives Garmadon (Justin Theroux), a four armed evil ninja mad man who wants to take over the city, become its mayor, and rule it with his man evil fists. He is a big pain, always destroying things, bu he never wins thanks to a group of young teenagers with attitude.

You see, there is a protective ninja force in town! They have Mechs that can help them stop Garmadon every time. They all have cool elements too: The Fire Ninja (Michael Peña), The Lightning Ninja (Kumail Nanjiani), The Water Ninja (Abbi Jacobson), The Ice Ninja (Zach Woods), The Earth Ninja (Fred Armisen), and The Green Ninja (Dave Franco). Yes, the power of Green. Sucks even more for The Green Ninja, besides his lame element, because his dad actually is Garmadon.

Despite Garmadon being out of his and his mom’s (Olivia Munn) life since he was a baby, everyone knows he is the son of Garmadon and teases him non stop, because his Ninja identity is a secret. This enrages him of course, along with his anger at his dad and the fact that they never truly win. Despite the warnings of their master (Jackie Chan), the Green Ninja tries to use the ultimate weapon against Garmadon, which ends up putting the city at an even bigger risk without hurting Garmadon.

Fuck.

Now the Ninjas are going to have to find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon, and discover how to be real ninjas without relying on Mech technology, in order to save the city, defeat Garmadon, and you know, be better people.

Bad
The story about his extra pair of arms is actually a funny one, you see….

Does the Ninjago movie have a lot of ninja stereotypes? You betcha. Does it focus on only one main plot point of the lost father/son relationship? Of course. Does it rely heavily on jokes about this relationship, bringing them up again and again? That’s another affirmative.

I believe those would be the reasons it is getting some pretty sad reviews overall. And yes, relying on one line of jokes through the majority of the film is a problem. But the good news is, it is more than just that line of jokes, they are just mostly pushed to the side or hidden in the background. In all of these LEGO movies there is a shit ton going on at all times, including quips from various characters, some without real names. And they carried the film for me.

I could have done without what felt like a long montage about learning how to throw. But the conversation about not knowing how to throw early on was amazing. And so on and so on. I found a lot of the characters to be quite amusing and thought they did well as a martial arts parody film.

But more importantly, the size and scale of this movie was appreciated. This movie is probably better to me because of comparing it to Batman. But Batman was too big. It had its own world that was unfortunately overstuffed, intentionally, so much that the had to bring in 20 or more characters to make the joke. But in Ninjago we have a handful of important characters dealing with issues in their city and not relying on outside pop culture references to tell this story.

In fact, this is one of the few reviews where I didn’t have to end my middle section with “Also starring!” and a huge list of people I couldn’t easily fit in to the plot description. It is a nice, self contained story, that amused me over the small run time. And that is why I can put it above so many other animated films this year.

3 out of 4.

Battle of the Sexes

The phrase “battle of the sexes” always feels cringey nowadays, and it has for years. There was a board game with that name recently, and it is just one that is based on poor stereotypes and no one should really ever want to play. And yeah, that is the point of the phrase. To talk about the differences between the most common genders and fuel masculine and feminine behaviors.

But the movie Battle of the Sexes is beyond all of that. First of all, the title is given due to the real event that announcers decided to call it at the time. So they are just highlighting history here, not their fault.

And second, it is a sports film that is also about gender equality and sameness, not stereotypical differences. This is the clincher here, this is why I want to see the movie.

Battle
Maybe the actors involved was another important factor, but don’t tell them. They have big egos.

In the early 1970’s, Billy Jean King (Emma Stone) was on top of the female tennis players world. She was the first female player to ever each $100,000 in a year from prizes, and people really made a big deal about it. Things were on the up and up for the women’s movement too! Except when it came time to sign a new contract with her fellow ladies for the main American tournament. The prize support for the women’s players was significantly lower than the men players, despite sharing the same arenas, drawing the same crowds and all of that. So they decided to just up and leave. They started the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), had Virginia Slim cigarettes as their sponsor, and now had funding to play for real money!

This pissed off a lot of people. But King and a lot of her fellow players were riding high. King also started a relationship with her hairdressed (Andrea Riseborough) while on tour with a husband (Austin Stowell) at home!

This story is also about Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), an older retired tennis pro who used to be number 1. He is a bit of a dick and likes to parade around like a fool to earn money. And he is a gambler. At the lowest points of his life, he decides to challenge Margarat Court (Jessica McNamee) to a tennis match, really playing up the male chauvinist angle. It seems like he is around just to ruin the modern women’s rights movement! The prize amount gets even bigger when he is finally able to challenge King, and it becomes one of the biggest spectacles of the decade, where apparently the question would be settled by the end of who is greater, man or woman.

Also starring Sarah Silverman, Natalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Eric Christian Olsen, Fred Armisen, Martha MacIsaac, and John C. McGinley.

Love
Courting in this film holds two different definitions.

Battle of the Sexes is one of those movie trailers you will see and you just know you will have a good time during the film. It is a period piece, so we get to see people we recognize fondly looking, from our current standards, ridiculous. Always a plus.

Stone and Carell have been in films together before, namely Crazy, Stupid, Love, where they played daughter and father, and now they get to play pseudo rivals! Because the reality of this situation is they are not, at all, in any way, real rivals. They would never play each other in a tournament, they both were not at their primes at the same time, they only played the one game together. But their lives are now forever entwined in history due to this moment, this festival, this, well, publicity stunt.

Because in all reality, it seems like it was just all about the money. King may have had other reasons for agreeing to the game (women’s rights in sports and all), but all the people pulling the strings from behind the scenes just wanted to get rich. The events of this film are almost unbelievable, this is a time when reality if it was written as a screenplay would be lauded as ridiculous. But hey, what’s the point of life if not to get really ridiculous every once in awhile?

I like that this story told much more than the game. A lot of the film is NOT tennis, but about tennis players. Finding out about King’s husband and other relationships felt realistic and sad. Riggs himself was in a sad state in his life and he wasn’t even a bad guy, he just played it up for publicity. And in all honesty, I didn’t know who won going into the movie, so I am glad I never looked it up. It is interesting that the game was held in Houston though, in the now defunct Astrodome.

That last sentence is meant to appeal to the locals.

3 out of 4

The Little Hours

Finally the talk of the summer is here. People have had 7/7/17 circled on their calendar, just waiting for the movie that everyone everywhere has wanted.

No not goddamn Spider-man. I’m talking about The Little Hours?

Oh you haven’t heard about The Little Hours? My bad! Surprisingly very little advertising, but it was directed by Jeff Baena who gave us Life After Beth. Which was decent, and also had very little advertising. Guess that is his indie theme.

Either way, the number of people you would recognize in this film is actually quite staggering, so that alone one would have warranted an advertising budget, but what do I know.

Girls
Oh, and I know every single girl in this picture too.

Picture this! A nice quaint nunnery, the medieval ages, pious and chaste women just doing their thing, trying to love Jesus.

This nunnery is run by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) and the head nun is Sister Marea (Molly Shannon). At this point, this nunnery might seem a bit more odd already.

Our main nuns that we are looking at are all relatively young and unsure about their lives. Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie) is just there temporarily, waiting for her father to set her up with a husband, and she does cross stitch to help make some cash for the convent. Sister Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) is quick to temper and often misses events looking for animals that keep breaking out. Sister Genevra (Kate Micucci) wants to be a good nun, but is getting caught up in other nun-anigans and also questioning her sexuality.

And they are all mean to this one poor gardener. So eventually, he is fed up and leaves, putting the convent in a pickle. But no worries, a young chap Massetto (Dave Franco) is on the run from his kingdom, for being a little shithead, and he can take the place. He just has to pretend to be deaf and mute so he doesn’t get on the nerves of the nuns.

But he is young and cute and that causes even more issues.

Also starring Lauren Weedman, Nick Offerman, Jemima Kirke, Fred Armisen, and Adam Pally.

Scream
Yelling “Hey Fuckface!” at deaf people is the only way to know if they are really deaf.

I had no idea what to expect of this movie going into it. I wondered if it would be a serious film, with comedic actors, just to be weird. But as soon as Plaza started laying down the f-bombs, it became obvious that this was just going to be a very odd period piece film. I quickly then switched my mind to Your Highness, which was mostly improv and also quite strange.

And then something else happened. It got sexy. Not sexy like Natalie Portman in a medieval thong, but sexy erotic. Because those girls are young and curious, Franco is young and desperate, and there is a lot of sexual activity in the movie. Like, a whole lot. And the scenes aren’t super quick jokes, they kind of go on for a bit, and include sexy music.

What I am saying is, this movie sort of turns into a softcore porno. Or at least a skinamax-esque picture. And it came out of nowhere and kept happening. Add on the very naked ending bit, with lots of floppy bits, this is just a surprise from start to finish.

And most of the points come from being a surprise. I laughed a few times, but it was never a film that really captured my interest. It was also intentionally slow (and brooding?), but at least it is original. And for some people out there, this might be the type of film they have been waiting for, for a long time.

2 out of 4.

Zoolander 2

Zoolander Zoolander Zoolander!

Fifteen years ish ago, I remember being a young impressionable teenager watching it for the first time. I laughed so much, so long. I quoted it so far for the rest of my life. It is probably one of my favorite comedies of all time and I am always in the mood for it. Hell, I remember putting in the DVD just to watch the Special Features Menu, because it was also hilarious. THE MENU!

The idea of a sequel has been kicked around for a long, long time. And yes, it has been delayed. But in this case, I am glad. If they forced a sequel, it would probably be shit. I expect they waited for a good script. I hope they waited for a good script.

Because it is clear that Dumb and Dumber To wasn’t waiting for the right script. They just got the idea, ran with it, and gave us a pile of shit. Please Zoolander 2, don’t be a pile of shit. Pleaaaase.

All
Bamblesport Cunnilingus was in it, so it can’t be completely shit!

Fifteen years ago, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) saved the Prime Minister of Malaysia with his Magnum look and changed the world of fashion forever. Mugatu (Will Ferrell), Katinka Ingabogovinanana (Milla Jovovich), and Evil DJ (Justin Theroux) went to jail! But bad stuff started to happen almost immediately.

Without spoilers, Zoolander soon found himself without his wife (Christine Taylor) and son (Cyrus Arnold), with Hansel (Owen Wilson) refusing to speak to him, and a laughing stock again in the world. So he left to become a Hermit, living alone in a cabin on a mountain.

Now, in 2016, he receives an invitation to Rome, by Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig), the new big fashion person. Derek, along with Hansal, are to star in a new campaign and revitalize their careers. Derek wants to do it to get his family back. Hansal wants to do it to run away from his problems, from being part of a family.

Also, a whole bunch of celebrities are being killed. Including Justin Bieber! When they die, they seem to have Zoolander’s classic look on their face. This investigation is being led by Interpol’s Fashion Police division, Valentina (Penelope Cruz).

And featuring Kyle Mooney as a fashion designer, Sting, Kiefer Sutherland and Susan Sarandon as themselves, Fred Armisen as an 11 year old boy, and the return of Billy Zane and Nathan Lee Graham as Todd.

Boobs
Zoolander’s hands are being played by Jerry Stiller.

Sure enough, Zoolander 2 is not as good as the first film, but in reality that was impossible. Humor was a different beast in the last 90’s and early 2000’s. If they went for a film with the exact same tone, it would most likely feel just dated.

But damn it, this sequel gave me Zoolander and Hansel back, and they are acting like they never went away. These felt like the characters, the movie was true to them, and they didn’t become warped caricatures. Well, maybe a little warped. But not terrible. I believed everything they did and said.

The film had a few unique laugh moments that had me in stitches. They rehash a lot of the old jokes, but it thankfully isn’t a majority of the film like how it felt for Anchorman 2. They come and go, sometimes they stick, some time they don’t. For instance, the Hansel being so hot joke? It was poorly placed and made it completely shit.

I would probably have given this a higher grade, for enjoyability and nostalgia, but the plot is almost incomprehensible. Looking back on it, trying to figure out character actions, none of it seems to make sense. I can’t even tell if Billy Zane is supposed to be a bad guy. It has a large conspiracy element like the first film, but this one is so badly done I can’t imagine how they thought it was a good idea.

And for the most part, the cameos were disappointing. The only two that had a large presence were Bieber and Sutherland. Everyone else was one joke and done, quite a shame.

Overall, you should definitely watch the film if you want more Zoolander. But you might not have to see it in theater.

2 out of 4.

7 Days In Hell

Something must be in the water, because this is my second “made for TV” movie in a few weeks. Not to spoil the surprise, but I have a third one next week as well.

To give 7 Days In Hell some credit, it is at least an HBO movie, so it won’t be restricted by what stay at home moms want to call the network to complain about if it gets too violent, sexy, grotesque, or angry. They can do what they want!

The release of the film of course is due to Wimbledon about to finish, so why not have a quick mockumentary about a game that never happened. This film is of course inspired by the Isner-Mahut Wimbledon match up in 2010, that went for over 11 hours over 3 days, and was the real game that would never end. It is not based on the Wimbledon romantic comedy from 2004, which (screw you haters!) is actually one of my favorites of the year.

promo
Paul Bettany just needed better hair, like these folks.

This historic match took place in the early 2000s, but before one can find out why they battled hard enough to play tennis for 7 days straight, one has to see where the men involved came from.

Aaron Williams (Andy Samberg) had a reverse Blind Side situation, where he was a white kid on the streets and he got adopted into a black family. Note the last name, yes, he was the adopted brother of the Williams sisters. So it is no wonder he too became great at tennis. Never great enough unfortunately. Because after a huge accident one serve away from winning Wimbledon in the 90’s, Aaron has never been the same. His game was off, he had to turn to other careers and eventually wound up in prison. His hot head personality is missed on the court for many years until he gets out of jail.

On the other side, we have Charles Poole (Kit Harington), a child prodigy, starting to play tennis at the age of three. Some say his maybe abusive mom (Mary Steenburgen) forced him to be the star he is, but it worked and he became the youngest pro ever. He is also the best chance of a British person actually winning Wimbledon in a long time, coming into the tournament at the 2nd overall seed. He is also close to retarded, having no real schooling outside of tennis and graduating from a truck driving school.

Needless to say, due to (plot), these two gentlemen find themselves playing each other in the first round, Aaron to get back to the top, and Charles for his country and to be the very best.

But then rain delays were just the beginning of the issue, in this back and forth match where a player could rarely hold an upper hand, until, you know, it finally ends and stuff.

Any documentary of course has people to tell the story, so we got a few of those! Including a few tennis historians (Will Forte, Fred Armisen), a Jordache Executive (Lena Dunham), the girlfriend of Charles’ at the time (Karen Gillan), and a creepy TV interview host (Michael Sheen). But that isn’t it, the story is also told by David Copperfield, John McEnroe, and Serena Williams!

press
This is bullshit, they should be playing overnight as well. Who gave them breaks?

I tend to try and have some sort of time criteria for a review. If a movie isn’t an hour long, is it really a movie? Or is it a strange television episode? This in particular has made documentary watching harder, because there are a lot of made for TV documentaries that include commercials leaving the viewer with 40-45 minutes of material. Most notably in this group would be the ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries, which this mockumentary is actually styled after. So it makes sense for the movie to only be about 43 minutes in length, and hey, I will let it pass, because the teaser for it made me giggle. Damn it.

I was surprised at how many jokes it could cram into one tiny documentary. A lot goes on with their lives and with the game, and it feels good not really spoiling any of it. In particular, after Samberg, Forte and Armisen provide the most laughs as the historians.

This is a tiny project and it definitely works for what it is. If anything, Harington is actually the most disappointing aspect. I don’t think it is him, but they gave him a lame character to play. Either way, I hope they do more movies in this style in the future, as they can provide easy entertainment probably relatively cheaply for the channel.

3 out of 4.

The Rocker

The Rocker is definitely a movie I heard about when it was coming out, and then practically never again. Honestly. The only reason I really can remember this movie at all is because a song from it is a free download on Rock Band. Gotta love that advertising. It is just one of those that once you see the cover or something you go, “Oh. Oh yeah. Okay. I think I recollect that title at one point.” Just no one really saw it.

But now that I have, I can tell you I will make zero geology puns. Not actually about geology, but about music. Whoops.

ADD
And the band brings a new face to a short attent – Hey look Emma Stone!

BACK IN THE 1980S, a little band called Vesuvius was getting pretty popular with a song. Although just the drummer, Fish (Rainn Wilson) Was the heart and soul of the band. Even came up with the name, brought the energy. The other members had rock names too, like Trash (Bradley Cooper), Kerr (Fred Armisen), and front man Lex (Will Arnett). They are your typical glam rock band of the 80s, and when they get word that they can sign a deal and tour with Whitesnake they go ballistic. Just have to drop Fish and bring in a new drummer, son of a record exec.

Well the money is right.

20-30 years later, Fish is at a dead job and has no worries. Except for all the rage. Vesuvius is STILL a big deal, new albums, everyone loves them. Fuck.

He ends up leaving his wife, and losing his house, so he goes to move in with his sister (Jane Lynch) and her family, including his nephew Matt (Josh Gad). I know, a non rocker name. Lame. But turns out he is in a band too, called A.D.D. and they just lost their drummer, and a school dance concert is coming up. Too bad Fish is their only chance, which he begrudgingly accepts. Singer/guitarist is Curtis (Teddy Geiger) and bassist Amelia (Emma Stone).

Needless to say, some shit happens. Eventually they get famous from a youtube video where Fish is practicing naked, and even get signed (by Jason Sudeikis) and go on a tour! I’m sure Vesuvius wont pop up and ruin anything. Or like, Curtis’ mom (Christina Applegate).

Vesuvias
As a geology/history major in college, the band Vesuvius really does mean a lot to me.

Straight talk time. I thought this movie had a pretty good beginning but got a bit boring as the story went on. It happens all the time, and I just felt this was another example of it. Once I pretty much figured out where all the storylines would go, just didn’t care. Dicks are dicks, good guys are good, etc.

To be fair to Rainn Wilson, he was on as that character the whole movie and it seemed like he put work into the persona. It was if Dwight was a little less full of himself, and merged with Jack Black. Kind of.

Everything else? Well, ehh, most people could have probably pulled it off. So I mean, the movie isn’t necessarily horrible, but easily a one and done affair.

2 out of 4.

The Smurfs

A live action movie about The Smurfs? How can that smurfin’ work? That doesn’t make any smurf sense. But, by the end, it was definitely pretty smurfy.

Smurfs
Oh don’t worry, I am done doing that.

I won’t explain the back story of Smurfs. Should be pretty public knowledge. But in their magical world, before the Blue Moon festival, a few of the smurfs accidentally get transported, along with Azrael and Gargamel (Hank Azaria)! They must figure out how to return, and you know, not turn into magic juice.

Also! Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays are expecting a baby, while NPH has to make a new ad design for the cosmetics company he works for and his boss Sofia Vergara (from Modern Family).

Which smurfs made the cut into reality? Of course Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) and Smurfette (Katy Perry). Without them, who would watch? We also got Brainy Smurf (Fred Armisen) for “problem solving”, Grumpy Smurf (George Lopez) for “lols”, and Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin) for conflict building. I think Gutso Smurf (Alan Cumming) was created for the movie, but they needed a more kick ass smurf I guess. A lot more famous people for other smurfs, but those smurfs aren’t as smurf important.

This movie (or at least NPH) ask a lot of questions normal people wonder. Like if they are named after their major personality, do they get a name later in life, or born with that name. The movie answers the question, kinda.

In terms of CGI, it is pretty good. They fit the smurfs into the real world very well. Nothing (too) cheesy, and I was able to believe it.

Cheesyy
What was pretty weird was the Guitar Hero scene, though. Guitar Hero is dead.

NPH and Jayma were fine. Azaria made a GREAT Gargamel. I was hoping for Danny DeVito to be him personally, just on looks. But Azaria just had it all going for him. Also, super cheesy. But you could hear the Moe Sizlack in his voice. Also interesting.

Story line was also interesting. I was entertained throughout, which is really all you can ask from a family centric movie. There was enough subtle jokes in there too for adults to enjoy as well.

I was going to watch this with “Smurf-O-Vision” too, as it was advertised. With an iPad/iPhone, you could download an app to go with the movie. It made it seem like if Smurfs would fly off of of screen, they’d fly onto the iPad, and other weird things. A new dimension of fun! But what really happens (I tried this for 5~ minutes, app took forever to load too) is a bunch of stupid things. Also it ruins the movie. In this version of the movie, the main smurf cast are also watching, and often the screen will shrink and you will see their reactions too. I was like “okay, as long as it doesn’t ruin the movie”. But then once it shrunk again and the director appeared and talked over dialogue, I was immediately done and calling it a failure. Just meant as a way to distract kids more so, I think.

Besides that, the movie is smurfy.

2 out of 4.