By: Kevin Jordan
A PSA or Parental Service Announcement.
Before we get to my son’s insights on The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, we need to review proper theater etiquette. I am a huge Lego nerd and my enjoyment of the film was significantly diminished by people who have apparently never been to a movie before. The theater experience for a movie rated higher than PG is slightly different than a movie aimed at kids, because you adjust your tolerance for misbehaving audience members. Kids are usually going to laugh harder and more frequently than adults and may even ask their parents multiple questions during the film, including about the food and drinks they have or want. Please, parents, answer them. If you don’t, they will just keep asking. We are all okay with this. We will not give you nasty looks. Probably. Here are some other guidelines for remembering that you and your children are not the only people walking the Earth (or watching a movie).
- Do not turn your cell phone on during the movie ever, ever, ever, everevereverever.
Every single advanced screening I attend features an agency representative warning us about pulling out our cell phones. So, what the hell was so important during the Lego Movie 2 that a woman near me needed to turn her phone on during the climax of the film? The kicker is she is a member of the press, a movie critic, like I am. Are you kidding me? Were you bored by the exceedingly entertaining movie you got to watch for free? Do you hate Legos? Were you secretly testing theater security to see if they follow through on their warnings to evict cell phone jerks? If anyone should know better, it is the press. Act like you’ve been there before.
- If your kid is not watching the movie, leave.
Let’s be honest: when you bring kids with you to an animated film, you are not attending it for yourself. And if, halfway through the movie, your kid does not want to be there, forcing them to remain is only going to cause misery for you and everyone around you. There will not be an empty space in your soul if you do not get to see how the colorful pixels resolve their conflict. You are not teaching them some valuable life lesson. This goes for the zoo, ice-capades, Disney World, sporting events, and certain family members’ houses (this is not a complete list). The little girl behind me in the theater spent much of the movie roaming back and forth in front of her family’s seats, kicking my seat, using my seat as a crutch, jumping up and down, and babbling about things. After several angry glares on my part at her mother, they still didn’t leave the theater. I love kids, but I was thiiiis close to explaining to a four-year-old how her mommy secretly hated her.
It is hard to nerd out over this film when your kid is assaulting my seat.
- If your kid is doing anything you would scold them for in church or a restaurant, leave the theater (if only temporarily) and apologize to everyone on your way out.
The apology is the most important part. If you let everyone know how sorry you are, we know you are a good parent and decent person and your kid is probably just having a bad day or is just being a normal kid. We forgive both of you and, please, drive home safe. If you do not apologize, you are forever marked as a bad parent and terrible human. We forgive the kid (though he/she might now be on our watch list), but not you, and, please, drive home safe (we’re not monsters). Though, we are hoping your kid decides to empty the remaining gallon and a half of their Coke on the floor of your car.
- Laugh at a reasonable volume.
This is a little more of a personal pet peeve, but it still applies. If your laugh sounds like someone is tickling a donkey, nobody (including you) can hear the dialogue immediately following the joke. Especially not the dozens of little kids in the theater (and adjacent theater). I am talking to you, lady near me with an inhuman laugh. Your daughter sitting next to you just missed ten seconds of the movie (at least a dozen times) as you brayed like a jet fighter. What’s that? You can’t hear me? I rest my case.
I am sure there are more rules, but these are the ones that were violated on this particular occasion. Otherwise, I thought the movie was great, it should keep both parents and kids entertained, and will have you saying you might have just seen a great sequel. Now, here is what a six-year-old thought.
What’s the movie we saw?
The Lego Movie 2.
Is that the whole title?
The Second Part.
Do you think it’s funny that they called it The Second Part after the 2?
Who was in the movie from the last movie?
Batman. Green Lantern. WyldStyle. Emmett.
Who was new this time?
The raptors. And Rex.
What were the raptors doing?
What were they all doing in the movie? What was queen Whatevra doing?
Why did she want to marry Batman, and not Emmett?
Because Batman had a shiny shirt on, and Emmett just has a work shirt on. And that’s not so interesting.
What was Emmett trying to do?
Be like Rex.
What was your favorite part of the movie?
Um, I dunno. It was so funny.
Okay, what was the funniest part of the movie?
The song that gets stuck in your head. [singing]
This song’s gonna get stuck inside your this song’s gonna get stuck inside your heeeeeeeaaaaaaaad
Do you think parents will like the move?
What do you think parents will like the most about the movie?
The weights and the stuff that the raptors did.
Was the movie funny all the way through?
Yes. ….but I remember that Green lantern has a great singing voice. And the house ship.
Where did Emmett fly his house ships to?
The meteor asteroids.
Who is your favorite character?
Because she’s awesome. [singing] everything is not awesome…..
Did they sing a song that everything is NOT awesome?
They’re in a band with all the Legos that they built in the house. And actually my favorite part – my real favorite part – was when their mom steps on the Legos and was like EEEEEEEk!
Why should people go watch the Lego movie?
I bet they’d love it.
Was it better than the first, the same, or not as good?
Better. Because it’s more funny.
When you leave the theater, do you think it’s worth the money you paid?
Would you spend your own money on it?
No? Whose money would you spend?
Rating: Don’t ask for any of your mom’s money back.
By: Kevin Jordan
Art has nothing to do with it.
(It’s award consideration season and I’m playing catch-up. As I tear through them, I thought I’d try mini-reviews. Enjoy!)
On my Movie Fixers podcast, we covered a movie called The Room from 2003. It is easily one of the worst movies ever put to film (think bad Lifetime channel movie meets bad porno) and has gained a cult following in the vein of Rocky Horror Picture Show (also one of the worst movies ever made). The Disaster Artist is a movie about the making of The Room and is exactly the opposite of The Room. The big question I had coming out of The Disaster Artist is how the film goes over for someone who has never seen or heard of The Room. Those people might miss some of the small things the film focuses on (like how Tommy Wiseau throws a football the same way a microwave might throw one) and they might be put off by how weird and eccentric a person is Wiseau (brilliantly portrayed by James Franco) in the same way that Sasha Baron Cohen characters do. But, The Disaster Artist is so well-written and directed that anyone watching it without knowing the source material will still get the point by the end of the film. That point being that enough money and dedication can’t change the fact that Tommy Wiseau’s filmmaking skills are the same as a third-grader who is on the back side of the curve. And don’t let anyone convince you that The Room is any kind of deliberate genius because not even The Disaster Artist is saying that. Like any bad movie, people like it ironically and in groups because it is really fun to make fun of. Through sheer circumstance, dumb luck, and the extreme weirdness of Tommy Wiseau, The Room touched enough people to carve out a tiny niche in pop culture. Hopefully, people recognize The Disaster Artist with the same enthusiasm.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back and if you must watch The Room, do it with a group.
By: Kevin Jordan
I’ve tried to keep politics out of my reviews, with the exception of an occasional swipe or two. I have very strong opinions, especially in our current situation, but I know that’s not why you come here. You just want to know how a movie was and, hopefully, laugh at my jokes and nod in agreement. With The Post, that won’t be possible because the entire movie is literally about politics and news media. So, you have a choice – buckle up or jump out of the car because we’re going off-roading with this one.
The Post is about the decision by the Washington Post to publish the Pentagon Papers. What are the Pentagon Papers? Glad you asked. During the height of the Vietnam War, the Pentagon commissioned a Top Secret study of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam covering 1945 to 1967. You read that right – we were screwing around with Vietnam practically before the ink had dried on the Japanese articles of surrender ending WWII. The study documented all of the activities, including all of the secret missions into neighboring countries and the true rationale for fighting the war. The report demonstrated that four administrations (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson) were lying to the public regarding their intentions. If you want to know more, the entire report has been declassified and you can read the 3,000+ pages at your leisure.
Read all about it.
The report was completed in 1969 and Daniel Ellsberg, who worked on the study, leaked it to the New York Times and Washington Post. The film takes place in 1971 and kicks off with Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) making his decision after hearing Secretary of State Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) lie his ass off to a gaggle of reporters about the war progress. Ellsberg meets with some people to make copies of the classified text, then we cut away to Kate Graham (Meryl Streep) and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), the publisher and editor of the Washington Post, respectively, discussing newspaper stuff, including always being two steps behind the New York Times. The first half of the film does a great job of building up the Post as a local paper trying to get called up the big leagues. They are also grappling with being on President Nixon’s bad side for an unflattering piece about his family and having a female publisher (owner of the paper) in 1971, so you really get a sense that they need a big win and you will root for them to succeed because you’re not a chauvinist or right-wing nut-job screaming “fake news.”
Can you believe these assholes?
The tension builds as Bradlee suspects the Times is about to publish something huge, eventually proven correct. Bradlee is desperate to get his hands on a copy of the report and the second act of the film covers their search while trying not to cry over the New York Times spanking them every day. Luckily for them, Nixon and his appointees were various levels of horrible and the Justice Department filed injunctions to stop the Times from publishing any more of the report, citing national security and classified documents, etc. At this point, arguably the best scene of the film occurs, featuring Ben Bakdikian (Bob Odenkirk). Bakdikian meets with Ellsberg and the look on his face as he is hit with the reality of the situation is gold. But that’s nothing compared to the flight home (which I won’t spoil for you). Up to this point, the entire movie has been meticulously building to an all-night session at Bradlee’s house where Bradlee and a bunch of reporters pour through documents to find pieces to publish before the printing deadline. The tension climaxes as a bunch of suits try to pressure Graham not to approve publishing in light of the lawsuit against the Times.
What I love about this movie is that director Steven Spielberg and writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer convince you that Graham might not allow publishing, even though we live in 2017 and you could easily Google what happened. It’s filmmaking at its finest and I couldn’t have been more pleased. In addition to the tension, the actors all crush their roles to the point that you see their characters and not Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. As weak as I am at judging performances, when actors of that stature make you forget they are them, I know I’m seeing great performances. I also just love historical biopics teaching me about things I didn’t know before. The decision to focus on the journalism instead of the report itself meant filling in a facet of the story that doesn’t get much focus. The final note regarding that was the Supreme Court sided with the Times, reaffirming that the first amendment is important, the American public’s awareness of such important matters is doubly important, and classifying something because it contains embarrassing information and details illegal acts violates the very trust we place in our government officials. Which brings us to our current President and today’s Republican Party.
The first amendment is first for a reason.
As we were giving our opinions after the film, one gentlemen expressed that the timing of this film is a little suspicious. That is a strange way to ding a film, considering that Hollywood always tried to incorporate relevant current events. Like Nixon (the film is sprinkled with Nixon fuming at the press), Donald Trump has a special hatred for anyone in the media (really, just anyone) that doesn’t want to ram their heads up his ass like Fox News. Rarely a day goes by that the right isn’t shrieking about the “biased, liberal, main-stream media” because that same “liberal” media has the audacity to report on facts about the horrible people occupying the right and the horrific things they are doing, trying to do, or have already done. The entire point of this film is to remind us that the first amendment is the most important freedom we have and that the press has an obligation to hold elected officials accountable to keep them from making decisions that are not in the best interests of the country (you know, like their current tax cuts for millionaires and trying to wreck the entire healthcare system). Fox News forgot that obligation a long time ago when they decided to be nothing more than a paranoid mouthpiece for rich Republican donors and peddle conspiracy theories and bullshit to their ignorant audience. Yes, there are left-leaning outlets that should also be ignored (sorry Occupy Democrats and Mother Jones), but if you are listening to Trump and which news outlets he says should be trusted, just do the opposite. Trump’s constant attacks on the media are exactly what Nixon did because both of them are world-class narcissists. Now I’ll take a breath.
If there’s anything you should take away from this film it is that we need media scrutiny of the government as much now (if not more) than 45 years ago. The Washington Post and the New York Times are not the enemy of the right (there’s that shrieking again), they are the defenders of the people of this country. The Post tells us that story and reminds us that the worst case scenario of a discarded free press are your children dead in some shitty country on the other side of the world because some asshole(s) think being President makes them king.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back because we all just got tax breaks. Just kidding, you didn’t because you’re not rich.
By: Kevin Jordan
Jerking us around.
Like last year’s Love the Coopers, How to be Single is an ensemble movie featuring many characters and several stories that kinda, sorta, intertwine. Also, almost all of both movies’ characters are jerks. I don’t know why screenwriters have veered in this direction with their romantic comedy characters lately, but it’s a little hard to hope for a happy ending for people who suck. My initial reaction to this movie was meh, which was also the initial reaction of my sister-in-law, who was gracious enough to accompany me to this film. She also reminded me that How to be Single is a lot like 2009’s He’s Just Not That Into You, but not nearly as good. For the record, He’s Just Not That Into You wasn’t very good either.
How to be Single’s main character is Alice (Dakota Johnson). We first meet Alice as a college freshman who is rescued from an embarrassing situation – in which she is standing naked in a dorm hallway – by Josh (Nicholas Braun), also a college freshman who quickly covers up Alice while ending up naked himself. Sadly, this is the full extent of nudity in a rated-R movie about single people. Yeah, I know – buckle up.
(Here is where the SPOILERS start.)
Fast-forward four years to our young, graduating-from-college couple (of course they became a couple) and we witness Alice pulling a traditional dude move – she wants to take a break from their relationship to discover who she really is. Of course, if she were a dude, this would be code for “I want to have a whole lot of sex with people who aren’t you.” Finishing off the role reversal, Josh is broken and weepy, though does manage to lament about missing her boobs the most, so we know he isn’t completely neutered. Alice moves to New York City, gets a job as a paralegal, crashes at her sister Meg’s (Leslie Mann) place, and meets Robin (Rebel Wilson), who takes it upon herself to teach Alice how to be single. Now, you might think that the hijinks start from there because you saw the trailer and it sure seemed like it would be a funny movie. Remember what I just told you about the nudity, or lack thereof? Lather, rinse, repeat for the hijinks.
Even though Robin is a drunken slut for the entire film, she manages to make herself seem worse by taking Alice out on the town after her first day of work and causing her to be three and a half hours late on her second day. Before we get to see more partying, we are quickly introduced to Tom (Anders Holm), a bar owner who doubles as a man-slut, and Lucy (Alison Brie), a down-on-her-dating-luck woman who thinks she can write an algorithm to find the perfect guy on dating websites. Also, she mooches off the free wifi at Tom’s bar. There is an obvious chemistry between the two of them, but don’t hold your breath because this story resolves itself in just about the worst way possible. Notice how Josh seems to be the only non-jerk so far.
The other side story happening in parallel with Alice is that Meg decides she wants to have a child. No, she is not married. Or dating. Or in any real position to have a child at all considering her devotion to her job as an OBGYN. But, apparently, all women turn to mush when holding a baby, even those who tell us they delivered 3,000 babies and never wanted to have kids. I guess 3,001 is the magic number and it’s off to the sperm bank for Meg. But don’t worry – Meg meets Ken (Jake Lacy) during her first trimester and he attaches to her like a leech. And, that’s before he finds out about the baby. Meg reveals her inner jerk by pushing him away for no reason at all, but that puppy dog returns before the end credits to hold that baby and profess his undying love. Kids.
Anyway, getting back to our main jerk, Alice takes a cue from Robin and bangs one out with Tom. After a few more nights of finding herself – being drunk, or hungover, or walking with shame – she decides she’s figured it out and goes back to Josh. Unfortunately, Josh has moved on (in what seems to be a couple of weeks at most) and, proving that he does in fact have testicles, tells Alice off and leaves her alone. This is actually the closest this movie ever comes to the truth with regards to being single, but this happens at roughly the thirty-minute mark. I know.
At this point in the film, I was thoroughly bored and trying to guess what was going to happen next. I thought Lucy’s algorithm would lead her to Josh, that Alice and Robin would befriend Lucy (they all frequent Tom’s bar nearly every night), but then find out about Josh and Lucy and have the big misunderstanding. This would have tied their stories together nicely, but the movie never even tries to tie the women together. Instead, Tom realizes he has fallen for Lucy and the closest Alice and Lucy’s stories come to mixing is that they both know who Tom is. Wait, it gets worse.
Our last jerk comes in the form of David (Damon Wayans Jr.). His comedic talent is completely wasted, as he plays a widower with a young daughter. He and Alice strike up a relationship that we barely see, consisting of David starting out wildly charming, then, three months later, yelling at Alice for singing a song to his daughter. He breaks up with her on the spot and I can’t believe I remember this much of such a drab movie. And, just to show you how much of a jerk David truly is, he doesn’t even redeem himself by the end of the movie, even when he has a chance to. I think “gachhh” is the word you are looking for.
Finally, back to Josh. For Hollywood reasons, Josh and Alice keep running into each other. It’s awkward every time, and Josh’s relationship has progressed with each run-in. He even invites Alice over for his Christmas party to make sure she isn’t alone on Christmas. I know it seems like Josh isn’t a jerk, but he blows that one before the credits role (and if you don’t see it coming, it’s because you fell asleep).
I realize that I just told you a whole lot of what happens in this movie, but I really wanted to make sure you took two things away from it. One – every person not named Ken in this movie sucks and only Ken is worthy of any sympathy. On top of that, many of the stories in the film are underdeveloped because there are simply too many characters and things going on to devote any time on them. I nearly choked laughing when the mostly under-twenty-five female audience went “AWWWWWW” when Ken showed back up at the end. Don’t they know they were tricked into believing that there was love between two characters whose entire shown interaction consisted of copy-room sex, arguing about a Christmas tree, and fighting in a baby store? Those girls are in for a rude awakening.
The second thing is that the movie wasn’t very funny. Yes, there are a handful of funny parts – mostly in the form of crude, British-accented one-liners from Robin – but the movie seemed far too concerned with thinking of as many different versions of single people as it could, rather than focusing on teaching its main character how to actually be single and having fun with that. When a movie’s most notable gag is showing Alice unable to unzip her own clothes (if she can’t unzip them, how did she get them zipped in the first place?!), you know the com part of rom-com was just someone jerking you around.
Rating: Ask for nine dollars back because at least Rebel Wilson was trying to make you laugh.