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Feature Presentation: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

lego_movie_2The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnet, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell, Jadon Sand, and Brooklynn Prince

Warner Brothers/Warner Animation Group, 2019. Rated PG

Synopsis: When Lego Duplo invaders from outer space decimate the world as they know it, Emmet, Lucy, Batman, and their friends find themselves surviving in a Post-Apocalyptic wasteland with little hope of rebuilding. When Lucy, Batman, Unikitty, Spaceman, and MetalBeard are kidnapped and taken to the Systar System, Emmet must once again summon his courage and rescue his friends before the 5:15 wedding that will usher in the “Ourmamageddon”.

Filled with tongue-in-cheek humor, catchy songs that will get stuck in your head, and lots of movie homages, The Lego Movie 2 is a well-rounded sequel with a surprising amount of heart. On its surface, yes, this is a kid’s movie, but the range of the jokes and the message it sends about working and playing together hits home with more than just its target audience. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is still as optimistically naïve as ever, spreading the notion of awesomeness all around Apocalypseburg (a nod to the Mad Max universe and Planet of the Apes) as the movie opens. Lucy/Wyldestyle wishes Emmet were not so optimistic; but when she is carried away by invaders, changes her tune and comes to realize that his somewhat childish approach to things has its benefits. There is an amusing moment in which Maya Rudolph’s character steps on a Lego when trying to break up a fight between her children to which most viewers – especially parents – will be able to relate. The film seems to focus in on a theme of working together and showing kindness instead of acting out, which was well-executed, even if it did take its time getting there. Fans of the first film and even those who did not will find something to love about this fun and creative brick-built world. Now, if I could just find a way to get this catchy song out of my head…

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Feature Presentation: Peter Rabbit

peter_rabbitPeter Rabbit starring James Corden, Rose Byrne, Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley, Fayssal Bazzi, Domnhall Gleeson, Sia, Colin Moody, Sam Neill, Elizabeth Debicki, Christian Gazal, and Ewen Leslie

Sony Pictures Entertainment/2.0 Entertainment/Animal Logic Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Peter Rabbit (James Corden) his three sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), and Cotton Tail (Daisy Ridley) and their cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody) enjoy their days harassing old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) in his vegetable garden. After old McGregor’s death, his great-nephew (Domnhall Gleeson) inherits the house and seems to share his late uncle’s views about rabbits invading the garden. But when he starts to fall in love with the animal lover next door, Bea (Rose Byrne), his feelings towards Peter and the others begins to change. But is it too late?

I wasn’t quite sure what to think about this movie, but I ended up really enjoying it. The characters are endearing and charming, though sometimes the comedy can get a little crass (likely for the adult audience rather than the kiddies). My only real qualm with the movie is that it is supposed to be based on ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. While the movie shares some of its source material with the beloved children’s books by Beatrix Potter (namely, the characters and the basic plotline of Peter repeatedly sneaking into the garden), I don’t think it is a true adaptation (The World of Peter Rabbit and Tales of Beatrix Potter more closely follow the books). That said though, I liked the different angle the writers took to make it a little more relatable to modern audiences. There is a running joke about the contrast in Bea’s paintings (her ‘real work’ is abstract at best while her drawings of the local wildlife (a side project) are much more captivating) that seems to hold up over the running time. The extermination methods McGregor uses go a little bit over the top and the ridiculousness just made me bored after a while. The back and forth between the rabbits and McGregor also have moments where the jokes fall a little flat, but for the most part, the exchanges are clever and engaging. The message about learning to understand others and to ask for forgiveness is important to instill in younger and adult viewers alike. It’s a cute family film that will be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

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Feature Presentation: The Incredibles 2

incredibles_2The Incredibles 2 starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Bird, Sophia Bush, and Brad Bird

Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios, 2018. Rated PG

WARNING: There are VERY intense strobe effects in this movie. Be careful, this could cause an epileptic seizure or affect those with seizure disorders!!!

Synopsis: Having heard about the superheroes’ illegal antics to save their city, a high-powered executive at Devtech offers Elastigirl/Helen Parr a chance to help bring supers back into the light by showcasing crimefighting from her point of view. But while she’s off saving the world, Bob must figure out a way to care for their children without losing his mind.

The sequel literally picks up where the first movie left off with the Underminer’s attack and the Parr family donning their super suits to save the day – turns out, this does not go according to plan and the family is left cut off from their government protection program. When Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone are approached by the Deavor siblings of Devtech, it appears that there is an apparent solution to their problem. The parallel plotlines deal with Elastigirl’s efforts to save the city from a new villain Screenslaver and Bob/Mr. Incredible’s struggles with being a stay-at-home dad. One particularly amusing scene involves Bob attempting to help Dash with his math homework; Dash criticizes his father for not doing it correctly and Bob throwing up his hands in frustration that they have apparently “changed math”. Bob also has some further trouble when he discovers Jack-Jack DOES have powers – multiple powers, in fact – that make the baby difficult to manage. Screenslaver’s use of hypnosis to control people on an individual level and on a mass level has some definite meat to it in terms of how it relates to the amount of screen time the movie characters and the audience experiences. It seems to send an underlying message about how attached we are to our computers, phones, and televisions and that the art of having a face-to-face conversation seems to be all but lost – a commentary the audience has no doubt heard before. Sadly, the villain reveal for me was not all that surprising, then again, it was hard to tell if it was meant to be a surprise since there were a fair amount of hints dropped in the first half of the film. The humor will be enjoyed by both kids and adults, though most of the humor seems to be aimed at adult-ish issues. There are sequences in which Violet and Dash experiment with being able to control and track their baby brother’s powers that are very much kid humor, along with a scene in which Jack-Jack has a battle with a raccoon that is raiding the Parr’s garbage cans. Overall, it was a solid sequel that will be enjoyed by viewers of all ages, though expect there to be varying reviews among adults.

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Feature Presentation: Love, Simon

love-simon-114713l-600x0-w-1e95bb68Love, Simon starring Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, Talitha Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Tony Hale, Natasha Rothwell, Miles Heizer, Joey Pollari, Clark Moore, and Drew Starkey

Fox 2000 Pictures/Temple Hill Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG-13

Synopsis: Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his friends, family, and all of his classmates: he’s gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity. – from IMDB

As a book worm, I’m understandably skeptical when it comes to movie adaptations of novels, but I appreciated the depth of the plot and that it conveys the same main premise of the novel without diverging off in a completely different direction. I’ll refrain from waxing poetic about the differences between the book and the movie, but I will say that some of the truncated events made the story somewhat easier to follow. I liked that the movie shows how Simon and Blue’s email exchange begins and some of their earlier emails to each other, the latter of which isn’t included in the earlier editions of the book. I was a little disappointed that the talent show at the end of the book wasn’t included in the movie, but I appreciated the alternative ending since it takes you to the same climactic moment. I also had to have a little bit of a laugh at the fact that the high school musical was ‘Cabaret’ since the story deals with issues of racism and sexism and is really quite dark in contrast to Simon. I was a little confused by the addition of Mr. Worth (even though I love Tony Hale), but I suppose they needed another adult to fill out the screenplay. The cast themselves is nothing short of fun and I liked seeing the new faces of other up and coming thespians. Robinson is a delightful mix of confident and awkward as the titular Simon, and for me, perfectly conveyed the excitement of being in a new relationship and having an inner battle with who he really wants to be. The movie stand alone well on its own, so if you haven’t read the book before seeing the movie, you needn’t worry. It’s a high school drama love story about coming out that will be enjoyed by romantics and non-romantics alike.

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Feature Presentation: A Wrinkle in Time

a_wrinkle_in_timeA Wrinkle in Time starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifinakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, and Rowan Blanchard

Walt Disney Pictures/Whitaker Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Following the discovery of a new form of space travel as well as Meg’s father’s disappearance, she, her brother, and her friend must join three magical beings – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which – to travel across the universe to rescue him from a terrible evil. – from IMDB

I’ll be honest, I wanted to be excited about this movie. The novel has several stunning visual elements that I felt would have transitioned nicely to the screen. Sadly, that was not the case. Fans of the book will notice that there are some characters missing from the movie: her twin brothers Sandy and Dennys, and Aunt Beast (who is mentioned in passing, but does not play a role in the film). The Happy Medium is male rather than being female; Calvin is no longer a 14-year-old high school junior with a large family and a cantankerous mother; in the film, Mr. Murry has been gone for four years as opposed to months; Mrs. Whatsit is actually a centaur-like creature (as are the other Missus). It became more apparent to when I was watching the movie just how whiny and unlikable Meg is as a protagonist and a heroine. I understand the theme of learning to understand our faults and embrace them rather than conforming to an idea of what society thinks we should be, but it feels poorly executed. There is a scene in which the Missus show the children the effects of the Darkness on Earth – hate, jealousy, fear, and the like – that conveys humanity’s struggle with their own mortality and that we all fall prey to societal expectations. It’s wonderful, but the director fails to tie it into the rest of the plot. Yes, Meg could use a lesson in compassion, but it doesn’t seem to propel the story forward as it should. The relationships are somewhat awkward as well. Calvin and Meg’s crush on each other was more stilted that it needed to be, Calvin being portrayed as more of a doe-eyed love interest due to his popularity at school rather than the diplomat that will help the group navigate through the web of IT’s lies (for lack of a better phrase). The one bit I did like was that the Drs Murry adopted their children and gives support to the notion of belonging and love being the strongest of emotions. While the film is visually stimulating, the plot fails to hold the viewer’s interest and tell an engaging story, resulting in a movie that left me bored more than entertained.

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Feature Presentation: Trolls

Trolls_(film)_logoTrolls starring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Funches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, and Quvenzhane Wallis

DreamWorks Animation/Hurwitz Creative, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: When the ghoulish Bergens invade the Troll Village to steal its citizens for their annual Trollstice Feast, Princess Poppy recruits fellow villager/hermit/doomsday prepper Branch to journey to Bergen Town to rescue her friends.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this movie, but it was definitely girlier than I anticipated. Maybe it was something about the metallic trolls farting glitter or the hugging/singing/dancing nature of the trolls themselves. Sadly, even Branch’s depressed mood and color scheme didn’t do much in the way of making it less girly. Nonetheless, the film’s upbeat energy and the character’s happy-go-lucky attitude is truly infectious even in the most dire of circumstances. Poppy’s self-confidence and positivity sharply contrasts with Branch’s curmudgeonly demeanor, even when he agrees to help Poppy save her friends from certain doom. The Bergens themselves are just as depressed: their only true joy comes from the consumption of Trolls once a year and, as King Gristle Sr. tells his son, there is no other way to be happy. In their own ways, both the Trolls and the Bergens are searching for happiness, but it seems that only one truly knows how to achieve it. While there are part of the movie that seem trite and overly optimistic, the message of perseverance is one that resonates with viewers of all ages and encourages us to see the bright side of life.

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Feature Presentation: Sing

Sing_(2016_film)_posterSing starring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, and Nick Offerman

Illumination Entertainment, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Buster Moon’s greatest ambition has been to run a theater ever since he was a young Koala. So when the Moon Theater’s ledger goes deeply in the red, Buster decides to host a singing competition in an effort to save the institution he loves. Little does he realize that the contestants will not only change his life, but their own lives a well.

While the film centers around humanoid animals in a fictional city, the characters each touch on the different ways that one can go about pursuing their dreams. Ash, a porcupine, was just dumped by her boyfriend because he didn’t like that she wanted to sing lead and write her own songs. Meena is a shy elephant with a beautiful voice and a severe case of stage fright. Rosita is a stay-at-home pig mom who yerns to do something beyond taking care of her 25 offspring. Johnny isa gorilla with a natural born talent for singing that is being talked into helping out with the shady doings of his father’s gang. Mouse Mike is a street musician with a big ego in search of some recognition for his hard honed talents. Their ability to keep going in spite of the many setbacks the group endures while prepping for the big performance shows the audience that our ability to dream big dreams and fulfill them is only limited by our own discouragement. We find ourselves cheering for each of these contestants, hoping that they are able to break out of their shells and show the city and the rest of the world what they are made of. The film is largely formulaic in terms of its plotline, but the soundtrack and the eclectic nature of the cast make it worth the hour and forty-five minute runtime. Like with most family films, there is a broad range to the humor that will appeal to viewers of all ages. Younger viewers will be espeically amused by Buster using his own body as a sponge to wash cars in one particular sequence while older viewers will connect with Donnie’s fear of his grandmother Nana, a famous opera singer back in the Moon Theater’s heyday. Overall, a cute and inspiring film about following your dreams and unleashing your inner animal.

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Feature Presentation: How To Train Your Dragon 2

dragon_2How To Train Your Dragon 2 starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kirsten Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harrington, Kieron Elliot, Phillip McGrade, Andrew Ableson, and Gideon Emery

Dreamworks Animation/Mad Hatter Entertainment, 2014. Rated PG.

Synopsis: It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons. – from Twentieth Century Fox

Dragon 2 has everything we loved about the first film and then some. I’m willing to admit that it isn’t better than the original, but I appreciated that it expanded the world and the characters that were established in How To Train Your Dragon. The world has gotten a lot bigger now that the Vikings have the dragons to travel around and beyond the boundaries of the island, and with a larger knowledge of the world comes new discoveries and complications. Hiccup is still struggling with the notion of doing the right thing, this time in regard to whether he will become the chief his father Stoic wants him to be and if he can solve a conflict without it resulting in an all out war between tribes. Hiccup is more of a man of words while his father is heavier on the action, resulting in a clash between the father and son that helps fuel the plot. He has enough daring and tenacity to go again what Stoic wants, and yet Hiccup knows that he can rely on his father to have his back when things start to get rough. We are introduced to a host of new dragons in this film of varying shapes, sizes, and colors that seem to lighten up a lot of the dramatic elements. I loved the bits with the baby dragons – sure, they don’t listen as Hiccup points out, but they are cute and their introduction becomes important toward the end of the movie. The bond of friendship is showcased once again between Toothless and Hiccup as well as between the other dragons and their riders. It makes us feel good to see such a strong connection between the Vikings and these potentially dangerous creatures and reminds us with the bond we have with our own friends and pets. It’s a fun family film with a heartwarming message and a well-balanced story.

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Feature Presentation: The BFG

The_BFG_posterThe BFG starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa, and Jonathan Holmes

Amblin Entertainment/Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: When Sophie witnesses the appearance of a Giant roaming the streets from the window of the orphanage, she is snatched from her bed and whisked away to Giant Country – lest she be telling anyone about what she has seen. But the Giant who kidnapped her turns out to be friendly, despite his size, and the two begin a friendship that will lead them to an adventure neither of them could have ever dreamed of.

I tend to be a purist when it comes to the book versus movie debate – I’m more apt to choose the book over the movie because I feel like the story becomes warped in its journey from page to screen. I perhaps wrongly anticipated that this would not be the case with The BFG; but then again, look at what happened with James and the Giant Peach (which had absolutely no resemblance to its source material after about 15 minutes). The BFG thankfully kept a grand majority of the main plot points: Sophie is an orphan who is kidnapped by the BFG, who lives in Giant Country in the company of some rather more unsavory child eating Giants and the two enlist the help of the Queen of England to help stop the child-snatching once and for all. The screenwriters inserted a bit in which the BFG had another child companion before Sophie that I suppose was meant to better flesh out the BFG as a character, but it made him more of a tragic hero than an unwitting hero. The BFG is meant to be a fun-loving but misunderstood character that overcomes bullies and becomes a functioning member of society; it doesn’t feel like the same story or character when he’s given a tragic past. I liked Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, but I spent a lot of the movie irked by the fact that she was trying to be Mara Wilson. True, she’s a girl who exhibits wisdom beyond her young age, but the movie makes her out to be more of a caretaker – she picks up the mail the matron forgets off the front mat, locks the door, and turns out the lights after everyone else is gone to bed. She seems to lack the child-like, earnest nature that was so endearing in the book. Even though I felt like the film fell short, there are still a lot of entertaining moments that will no doubt get younger viewers to giggle, most notably the scenes involving Frobscottle – a beverage that fizzes down and produces flatulence of epic proportions. So, if you were hoping for a great film version of our favorite childhood book, you’re going to be disappointed. If you are searching for a great family film with a positive message, then this is going to be right up your alley.

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Feature Presentation: Moana

uk_moanaMoana starring the voices of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel Hall, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk

Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Moana Waialiki is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island’s fishermen can’t catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti’s heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology. – from IMDB

I’m always a fan of ancient cultures and myths being woven into our more modern tapestry. In a lot of ways, I feel like this puts us more in touch with the world at large and gives insight into where we came from, and perhaps more importantly, where we will go. There’s also something to be said about the message that while it might be uncomfortable to leave home/safe spaces/the familiar, we can achieve even more both personally and culturally when we stray off a beaten path. I’m reminded of the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”. In many respects, Moana is a well-behaved young lady: she desires to do what is best for her people and to follow the path that has been determined for her. And yet, she is still plagued by the classic dilemma of doing what is right by her family and doing what she feels is right for her, to help her become the woman she wants to be. Clearly her desire to get in touch with her voyager roots and venture beyond the island reef wins out, or this would have been a short movie. And like the Disney heroines before her, there’s a couple of musical numbers that assert her confidence in her decision to venture out on the ocean and the uncertainty of the success her journey may or may not bring. She still has moments of despair, but it is her stubbornness and quick wit that help her push through the obstacles that hinder her voyage. Despite the range of reactions to Moana, I feel like the film did a credit to the Polynesian culture and made it come even more alive for the viewer. I liked that native dialects were used in some of the songs and that the animators made trips through the islands in the South Pacific to do their research. It’s a coming-of-age story that encourages us once again to discover who we are inside and how we can share our purpose and passions with the world around us.

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