Lego Movie 2 Is A Solidly Built Sequel

The Lego Movie was a surprise hit in 2014. Lord and Miller somehow managed to make a likable and moving film, while celebrating what makes Lego Bricks so much fun. The Lego Batman Movie continued the first movie’s success. Diving deep in to Batman lore while never taking itself too seriously. Then The Lego Ninjago Movie came out. The humor and creativity that the franchise was known for seemingly fell off a cliff. Thankfully, the magic is mostly back for The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part takes place five years after first movie. The residents of Bricksburg have become hardened after years of repelling the invaders from planet Duplo. Except for Emmet, he is his happy self. His happy attitude grates on the people around him. One day a ship comes from the Systar System. It is not Duplo, but a more advanced ship, and it captures all Emmet’s friends. Can he become serious enough to save his friends, or will his happy go lucky attitude let them down?

If the first movie was about a son teaching his father to be creative again, you can probably guess what The Lego Movie 2 is about. It doesn’t really try and hide it, but there are also some other good lessons in this movie about trying to change people, or what growing up really means. It is very clever. It isn’t the breath of fresh air that The Lego Movie was five years ago, but it still compares favorably to first one and Lego Batman. I would say it is the third best of the franchise, and it is miles better than Lego Ninjago. A movie, based off the box-office data, that may have done irreparable harm to this franchise.

Most of the voice actors have reprised their roles and are still funny. Tiffany Haddish was a good addition as Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, and Margo Robbie who voices several roles does a good job as well. I don’t think there was one bad voiceover. With the success of Aquaman, I am guessing they are happy they got Jason Momoa to reprise his role for a couple of great gags.

The Lego Movie 2 is not as awesome as the first film, but it is a solid follow up. Not counting The Lego Ninjago Movie, it is impressive how good this franchise has been. If you liked the first movie, I am guessing you will like The Second Part as well. I enjoyed myself, and Little Miss Shmee thought it was great too.

Shmee Takes A Ride With Bumblebee!

The Transformers movies have a record that could be kindly described as ‘spotty’. Most would probably just say terrible. Finally sensing audience dissatisfaction, Paramount and the multitude of production companies providing financial input in to the franchise decided to do a soft reboot of the property focusing on one Transformer’s origin, Bumblebee. It turns out this was a good decision. Bumblebee is easily the best live action Transformers movie.

Bumblebee starts out on Cybertron. Showing the vicious war that causes the Autobots to flee their home world. Things do not go well for Bumblebee (Dylan O’Brien) when he lands on Earth. He is almost instantly hunted by Colonel Jack Burns (John Cena), so he goes in to hiding as a VW Bug, and ends up the car of a teenage girl, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). You can guess where things go from there.

While this movie shares a lot in common with the first Transformers film, it never feels like a retread. The core relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee is sweet, and you get the feeling that they both really need each other. It also manages to make a lot of 80’s adventure movie callouts without feeling stale or cheap. It is Spielbergian without feeling like a knockoff.

I would like to applaud two people behind the cameras for Bumblebee: First, Travis Knight. Bumblebee is his first live action directing gig, and only his second turn as a director. With the first being Kubo and the Two Strings (he is usually a producer for stop motion). His attention to detail that he must have developed for stop motion really paid off with Bumblebee. The story and the special effects really came together well, and that only works if you know how they will all fit together in post-production. Second, Christina Hodson. This is her first major screenplay, and she got a solo writing credit, which is almost unheard of in these days of large writing rooms. Given all that, it was a great script, and I expect big things from her. I hope her next screenplay, DC’s Birds of Prey, is equally entertaining.

Of course, all that good work behind the scenes would have been for not if Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena didn’t pull off their roles, but thankfully they were great. Steinfeld is a believable as a mourning teenager, and she and Bumblebee are cute (not a word I ever thought I would use in a modern Transformers movie review) in their scenes together. John Cena was given the job to be an over the top 80’s villain, and he rolled around in it like catnip. He was clearly having fun. Obviously, the special effects team that brought Bumblebee to life deserves a ton of credit as well because he was the most lifelike Robot in Disguise yet and displayed a lot of emotion considering he can’t talk for most of the movie.

Bumblebee is not a life changing movie. It is simply a fun popcorn movie made in the style of an 80’s Spielberg film, and that is more than enough to recommend this movie. It is almost worth a watch to prove that Transformers movies don’t need to be three hours of teenager ogling and explosions. They can be just as good as any other movie out there. By now you must know that I liked this movie, and that I think you will like it too. I am eagerly awaiting its follow-up, Prime.

I Guess Spider-Man Is Fine, So Fine He Got Two New Trailers Today!

You know Tony Stark mourning the world? Forget that. Everything is fine. As a matter of fact here are not one but two trailers featuring the lost in space and snapped Spider-Man:

That is for the US, here is the one for International Audiences:

There are some slight differences, but the biggest change for me is that they censored the joke at the end for the international teaser. Not sure why. But hey, Mysterio looks cool. Anyway, I guess we don’t need to watch Endgame now because it all turns out alright for the characters we love. Though I am guessing we still do loose a couple.

Aquaman’s Success Shouldn’t Have Been A Surprise!

If you follow movie industry sites, one of the biggest stories is how well Warner Bros./DC’s Aquaman is doing. How the film is going to bank $1 Billion even though the lead character is often a joke, but you know what, this shouldn’t be that surprising. While indeed Aquaman has been the butt of a few jokes, you never need to explain the joke to anyone because Aquaman is a household name.

Aquaman came out in 1941, and he has been one of the most well-known heroes since. My Grandfather understands who Aquaman is and what he can do. He is the strong guy from Atlantis who can control/talk to fish. With every Marvel hero that hits the scene I have to prepare myself for all the questions, “Where did they come from? What are their powers? What other heroes do they hang out with? Why is there villain bad?” Now Marvel has been on such an amazing run that none of those questions stop most people from going to the movie, but not one person asked me about Aquaman. They just asked if I was going to see the movie opening night or wait a couple of weekends.

The other overriding theme you will hear is that all the DCEU films were such failures that Aquaman’s success is some sort of anomaly, but guess what? Except for China, Aquaman is doing almost the same amount of business worldwide as the rest of the DCEU movies. The average DCEU film, not counting Aquaman, did $750 Million worldwide, and that is with Justice League pulling the average down. Plus, Suicide Squad couldn’t be screened in China because it featured villains as the main characters, so it broke the moral media code of China Film Co. (the Chinese media importer), and it made $750 Million anyway. In other words, except for a movie that was visibly and aggressively orange, people have been turning out for the DCEU movies, so it should be no surprise that when one comes out un-tinted and fun looking with a hunky man as the lead, people showed up again. Add to that, China has a thing for mermaid movies (look it up), Aquaman looks more like the norm, than an outlier.

Considering the disappointment of Justice League, it was easy to get carried away with all the DCEU is doomed talk, but it turns out maybe people just don’t like orange unfinished movies. If proper care is taken, ‘A’ list superheroes will perform like ‘A’ list superheroes and make tons of cash. Which is to say, when Shazam only makes $600 Million the DCEU world is not ending, because ‘B’ list superheroes will perform like ‘B’ list superheroes and make slightly less cash. Just ask Ant-Man.

Will Bumblebee Be The Next Batman Begins?

Amid Aquaman‘s box office domination there are two movies trying to do their best ‘Little Engine that Could’ impressions, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Bumblebee. Spider-Man is doing better, and earning all the geek-cred, but Bumblebee is making it work too. While $168 Million worldwide (all financial data for this post was sourced from The-Numbers.com) after twelve days of release isn’t a lot, especially since past Transformers movies earned that in their opening weekend, if not more, it is earning favor with critics and audiences.

Bumblebee has a 93% from critics and an audience rating of 79% on RottenTomatoes.com. Over on Metacritic.com, it has a 67 from critics and a 7.5 from users, and to top it all off it got an A- from CinemaScore. Which means, most people would recommend it to their friends. All of which is miles better than the last Transformers movie. In other words, it is not lighting the world on fire box-office wise, but people dig it. Which should sound familiar to Batman fans.

Batman Begins only did $375 Million off a $150 Million budget , and while that is above the minimum return for a movie to eek out a profit at some point (2/1 box-office to budget), it probably didn’t cover advertising or distribution costs. Meaning it would have to get all that money back during home sales and selling movie rights to TV. Not to mention merchandising. Regardless of its box-office struggles, fans loved it. It was a Batman movie that treated Batman with some dignity. It told a grand story. It was everything Batfans had been wanting, and with the fans’ faith restored, the next two movies in the Dark Knight trilogy did over a billion worldwide each.

I am not saying the next solo Transformers movie will make a billion because people liked Bumblebee, but I am saying that Bumblebee is earning a lot goodwill, and that has a history of being rewarded. Not to mention Bumblebee was made with a very modest $100 Million budget, so it doesn’t even have as much to make back as Batman Begins did. Meaning, I think Paramount has a lot to be optimistic about going forward with the Transformers franchise. Provided that they continue to make quality movies.