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.

The Big Sick

Earlier this summer, if you have friends in the 20’s, you probably know of someone who was talking about The Big Sick. They would have recommended that you see it RIGHT AWAY in theaters, because hey, it is an indie movie and they need to make their money back to produce more good films!

I know I was hounded, but that is because people know I watch movies and made sure I went out and saw this one.

And then I decided to wait a few months before dropping this review, just to see how many more times would people tell me to watch and review The Big Sick. The total count was 7, quite a large number, larger than any other film that has ever been requested. You know, because most of the times I just go and review the movie and not wait on it.

I just think it is interesting that basically everyone who saw it, made sure other people would go and see it too. It is like it was a guerrilla marketing ad campaign or something.

Store
“Oh you are buying pasta? Will you eat it after you go see The Big Sick?”

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, yes playing himself), is a stand up comic living in the Windy City and generally he is poor and happy. His best friends are all stand up comics (Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant), and he lives with another one (Kurt Braunohler), but he isn’t as funny. Kumail is also an Uber driver! Good times for mad cash.

At some point after a show, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) in the bar. He tries to flirt with her, it goes okay, and they have a one night fling. But it is nothing serious. Won’t continue. Until it does! It keeps happening, despite her busy graduate school schedule, they just cannot stop doing the sexy and the dating.

Kumail has commitment issues though. You see, his parents (Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff) are traditional, and want to set him up with a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. He doesn’t want it, but he plays along, because he loves his family, and if he dates a white woman he will be ostracized. So he is afraid of getting too close to Emily. So he doesn’t want to even meet her parents (Ray Romano, Holly Hunter) when they are in town!

This leads to issues. This leads to fights! But most importantly is the title of this movie. The Big Sick. Because throughout all of this, Emily gets sick. Really sick. A sickness that no one understands and is life threatening. The type of thing that can really bring people closer together. Well, not the sick person, but everyone around the sick person.

Also starring Adeel Akhtar!

Table
If I had to have celebrities play my parents, this would be an ideal pairing.

This is a very personal story for Nanjiani, which shows. He clearly has passion in this movie and he wants people to know about the struggles that his wife went through and what began their relationship. After all, the best comedians drawn upon their own lives to help relate their work to other people, building a connection and having a good old laugh about it all. Even though it can be scary, even though it can be intense.

Romano and Hunter were FANTASTIC as the parents of Emily. They, too, felt wonderfully real and open about everything. I imagined them as a real couple quite easily, wearing the fear of concern on their face, while dealing with the awkward situation of a pseudo-boyfriend. It was great acting from those three.

What I really didn’t connect with at all was Kazan as Emily. After the fact, I realized that I recognized Kazan from other films (like the wonderful Ruby Sparks!) but forgot about them all in this movie. I just naturally assumed that maybe she wasn’t an actress and was also playing herself, as the love interest of Nanjiani. That makes sense. If he casts himself, he would cast the other main character of the story.

But it wasn’t. And the only reason I assumed this is because I did not think she did a great job in the first half of the film at all. It seemed like someone uncomfortable with acting. It is hard to explain, but she just didn’t work for me at all.

The movie is charming, it feels realistic, and it is overall wonderful. But at times it really did just feel like a regular RomCom and not something that elevated the genre. It was definitely a good entry in the genre, just not one I loved a lot. Although the 9/11 joke had me rolling, which is why I was sad to see it as part of the main advertising after the fact.

3 out of 4.

Fist Fight

Fist Fight is an interesting term, because well, most people when they think of the word “fight” they assume fists were already involved. Fists are the default in a fight. That is why we have to specify other types of fights, like gun fights, sword fights, or cat fights. So fist fight doesn’t even need to exist as a term, a little bit of an unnecessary word play here.

Although, at the same time, would you watch a movie called just Fight? Would you assume a movie called Fight is actually a comedy film? No way a film just called Fight could work. After all, we already had the movie Fighting and it didn’t work either.

Either way, in this movie we get two main things. We get Charlie Day getting some leading man role time, which just…never happens. And we have Ice Cube, trying to get rid of the family friendly nature that has come upon him and turn himself more into a badass again.

Point
Oh shit, did Cube turn his fist into a gun? What kind of fight is this again? Man, what a badass.

Mr. Campbell (Day) is an English teacher at a school in Los Angeles and the students are pretty damn wild. He teaches seniors, it is the last day, and no fucks are given. The kids rarely respect their teachers in this school, especially not today. The only teacher they sort of respect is Mr. Strickland (Cube), but because they are afraid of him. But even today some kids want to mess with him.

While Campbell is in his classroom to fix an issue, Strickland ends up threatening a student with an Ax, destroying his desk, due to his prank. That is a big deal, even at this school. Turns out the school is also looking to take cuts out of every department due to low scores. Campbell has a wife and kid (JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Alexa Nisenson), and the wife is pregnant with number two. Even if his job sucks, he cannot lose it right now. So when pressured by the principal (Dean Norris), Campbell caves and admits that Strickland did the deed. This angers Strickland. So Strickland says he is going to kick Campbell’s ass. He is going to challenge him to a fight after school that day, and they are going to throw down. He spreads the word. He is pissed at the world and he doesn’t care about his actions.

Now Campbell has to spend the rest of his day worried. He was already panicking over his wife close to birth, and the possibility of losing his job. Now he also might get his ass kicked? I guess he has to try and fix all these issues during the course of a school day, or else he might die of a heart attack before it is through.

Also starring Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks, Kumail Nanjiani, and Dennis Haysbert.

Bat
Shit. Now there is a bat involved. Just what kind of fight is this!?

Fist Fight is one of those films that doesn’t make sense to have been made in this day and age. It is just so slapstick in a bad way, negative, and bland it is a wonder it got made. Well, it is obvious how it got made. It would have been cheap as fuck to make, outside of actor salaries. Probably didn’t even take many days to shoot.

A quick no risk comedy film, that can earn its money back at least through the DVD sales.

The whole time I am wondering “Well, will this film end in a fight?” Because if it just ends in a fight, then it just feels childish. I hate that with animated or kids films, and there really isn’t a reason for this film not really in the action genre. But on the other hand, what if there is no fist fight? Then this movie is titled poorly and it would anger people.

So there has to be a fight, but a movie psyched up over a fictional brawl in a parking lot? Hard pass. It isn’t funny, it isn’t original, and it isn’t worthy of your time.

0 out of 4.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Mike. Daveeeeeee. Two pretty bro names. Played by two people who can be pretty bro-like. Maybe a match made in Heaven.

For the most part I tend to miss new comedies that come out because they normally screen against films that seem more important. Not necessarily better films, because they could go against worst movies, just more “important”. Like the first biographical movie of some famous person, or literally any musical, or a blockbuster, etc.

But hey, I got to see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates! Aka Zac Efron‘s third comedy released this year and it is only halfway done, holy crap. When did Efron become such a comedic working star? Was it…Oh yes. It was with That Awkward Moment when he posed almost completely naked on top of a toilet. That was probably the moment.

Girls
“This movie is sexist! It should have been called Lady1 and Lady2 Need To Get Their Free Vacation On!”

Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are brothers who like to party. They finished school, but have made their adult living selling liquor to bars, which sounded cool, and is cool! But also unfulfilling. Blah blah blah, family drama, Dave is actually a good artist but he just wants to hang out with his older brother and chill hardcore. And their younger sister, Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) is getting married! To Erik (Sam Richardson), yes a black man, and their wedding is in the wonderful Hawaii. However, there are concerns over Mike and Dave’s party behavior from Jeanie and their parents (Stephen Root, Stephanie Faracy). Every time they get drunk and hitting on women, disasters strike and they ruin the party.

So they give them the task that they have to bring wedding dates. Some nice girls, so they will flirt with them and not hit on everyone else and ruin things. They post an ad on craigslist, this gets them pseudo famous, and it gets Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) interested. Free vacation! Alice is down in the dumps, what, with getting left at the alter and all.

They decide to dress up, look nice and make up jobs and meet Mike and Dave to convince them to take them to Hawaii! And hey, it works. As you knew.

Of course, they are “hot messes” and only help riley up Mike and Dave more. Hooray destination wedding!

Also featuring Chloe Bridges as the Maid of Honor, Lavell Crawford as the Best Man, Alice Wetterlund as the bisexual cousin, and Kumail Nanjiani as the very foreign massage artist.

Props
Hell, I’d be willing to go to Hawaii as their dates as well.

After watching MaDNWD (that’s the beautiful acronym of this movie title), my first thought is that I really wanted to see Wedding Crashers again. However, I had no desire to ever see MaDNWD again.

I don’t think this is a bad movie, I just think it had a lot of decent potential and it was wasted on more immature comedy elements. Devine is the “Extreme” brother, so everything he does is at the highest levels to garner a reaction. It is just over the top, but for the most part no one else reaches his level. Efron tries at times, but his character is given a lot more of the more natural humor and Devin is playing just the exact opposite.

I liked Efron and Kendrick in this one (barely with Kendrick), but mostly just hated the Plaza and Devine characters. Devine is meant to be annoying, and hey, it works. Plaza is still going hardcore into these extremely crude characters, briefly starting with The To-Do List and hardcore into Dirty Grandpa. Neither were super funny and that is half of their dang cast.

The funniest scenes were the ones that weren’t spoiled by the trailer. They shouldn’t have shown the ATV scene, such a waste. The massage scene was my favorite, along with the “boring” scene. But for the most part, the plot went almost exactly the way you’d expect it to go.

No surprises here. Occasional laughs. Some full frontal female nudity and a whole lot of butts.

I do wonder though, where the hell was the Bocce competition? I was really excited to see Bocce in a popular big release film. But that shit got trailer mentions and no actual screen time. Booooo.

2 out of 4.

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Hello, My Name Is Doris first premiered at the Austin, TX SXSW festival in 2015. And it took a whole damn year to come out. Literally, the 2016 SXSW is closing as this film is starting to get its nationwide release.

Some film companies really like to take their time I guess.

I didn’t know a whole lot about the movie going into it. I just knew it had Sally Field, who has barely been in anything lately. Outside of a TV show, she had three recent movies, a couple Spider-Man films and Lincoln. Her last movie before that was all the way in 2006. I have to assume she is getting close to retirement, or she doesn’t need the money and only wants to work on things that look interesting to her. Not Spider-Man though, because she apparently only did it for a friend and didn’t for the films that much.

But hey, at least she isn’t going the Robert De Niro route and starring in every shit film known to man.

Love
Love can do strange things to a little girl.

Doris Miller (Sally Field) is in her mid-60’s and she has just lost her mom. She has lived with her mom her whole life in the same house on Staten Island. It is a bit inconvenient, as she has to take a ferry to work because of it. According to her brother (Stephen Root) and his wife (Wendi McLendon-Covey), their mom was a hoarder and it makes Doris a hoarder too. They also want her to move out of the house, the one she has lived at for over 60 years taking care of their sick mother on her own, so that the junk and house can be sold. She can get a cheaper smaller place in the city and not have a huge commute to work! Well fuck that.

Speaking of work, she is an accountant/data processor type person, in a fresh hip magazine company thanks to some mergers and acquisitions. On the stuffed elevator, she meets John (Max Greenfield), a friendly person who happens to be squished up against her, and sure enough he is a new art director in their company! And he is so dreamy. She starts to day dream about him, despite the serious age difference. She wants him.

And after meeting a self help guru (Peter Gallagher), with her best friends Roz (Tyne Daly) and Val (Caroline Aaron), she decides that anything is possible and she should work for it. She deserves love after all this time, and she deserves John.

Smaller roles are played by Natasha Lyonne, Beth Behrs, Isabella Acres, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Wisocky, Don Stark, Rich Sommer, and Elizabeth Reaser.

Dreamy
He is so god damn charming in this movie. The opposite of his New Girl character.

Squeee, what a cute and cringey movie. Doris is the best character Sally Field has played in YEARS, and no just because she has barely had any roles over the last decade. It has been so long that I have forgotten that Field has won Best Actress twice in her life (in the 70’s and 80’s) and just now associate her as a once great actress who shows up every now and again. But she wasn’t just a great actress in the past, she is still a great actress now. Doris is an amazing character and she is brought to life by Field in an almost magical way. Her performance was funny and sad at the same time. Not super realistic for the most part, but the situations she was in and how they were handled were realistic. It would be impossible for a viewer to not join her on the roller coaster of emotions and feel the way she feels.

Hell, the film even did a good job at subtly letting the viewer really see how hoarding takes place. She says at one point that every item has emotional value and a story, but we are allowed to see that play out naturally with just a single broken pencil. One woman’s junk is another woman’s purpose.

The supporting cast was also noteworthy. Greenfield showed that he can play non-douchey roles and can be a multi dimensional character. But even more of a stand out was Daly as Doris’ best friend. She was about as unique as Doris with her own weird quirks, but together they made an incredibly believable performance of two women who have been best friends for over half a century. You could tell they both cared about each other and it was an exciting side arc to see along side the main story.

Field was great in this film. She deserves an acting nomination most definitely, despite coming out so far away from the awards ceremonies. You will laugh, you will almost cry, and you will cringe from all of her mistakes.

4 out of 4.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Hot Tub Time Machine came out in 2010, a time before I went to theaters a lot. I remember a lot of my friends liking it, telling me it was as good as The Hangover! Oh man!

And then I remember it being one of the first Blu-Rays I had ever bought.

This was pre-site, so I don’t have any review to point you towards to get my thoughts on it. So I can tell you that I no longer own that movie. I sold it or gave it away. I don’t remember. That should say everything about how I liked or disliked that movie.

But then they made a sequel. Hot Tub Time Machine 2. A super cheap, no John Cusack having sequel. Oh well. As long as it doesn’t look like it was made on a handheld camera, it might still be okay.

Dance
But cheesy hand held camera music video parodies are definitely okay.

After the first movie, our main characters are wildly successful. This is five years later of course. Lou (Rob Corddry) is a tech billionaire, not having any smarts, but having ideas early on and he had people make them. You know, exploiting the past. His son, Jacob (Clark Duke) is now his butler or whatever. I didn’t really catch why. And Nick (Craig Robinson) has sang all of his favorite songs that he could remember and is running out of material. Overall, they are all a bit sad too, thinking their lives would feel better.

Well, at a big ass party that Lou is holding, he gets shot in the dick. Not the best way to start to die in front of a bunch of “Friends” and coworkers and rich people.

So they have the quick thinking idea to go back in time again. Just a day, to find out who is going to shoot him and put a stop to it. But instead of going back a day, it instead goes forward ten years to the future. Ten years! That is weird. And Lou has his dick in the future. What zany alternative time line, multiple universe shenanigans is this?

And who fired the gun? Was it one of these three people (Kumail Nanjiani, Adam Scott, Gillian Jacobs)? Maybe it was even John Cusack pissed he was even in the first movie? Who knows.

Future
I can only hope I have a combination of their good looks in ten years time.

Turns out I got to see an unrated version of this film, not the theatrical version of the film. Take from that what you will. There are only a few changes I heard from the two, but basically one notable one at the end. And hey, it is kind of funny!

Yet that was basically the only funny moment in the movie for me. 🙁

That’s right. Sad emoticon. That is the easiest way I can describe this movie. Because the humor isn’t there. It is like a bunch of side kick characters got together to make a movie and didn’t have a lot of funnier people writing it. It was obviously done on a super low budget, and was obviously done because the actors involved wanted to do it.

And that is fine. I assume they would also be fine knowing a lot of people might now have liked it. A crass boring comedy in my eyes. And if there is another, I might watch it and hate it too.

1 out of 4.