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 Tries To Become An Apex Legend!

If you were wondering if games were going to be slowing down on the Battle Royal craze, I think it is safe to say the game mode is here to stay. Yesterday, Respawn, of Titanfall fame, released a F2P Battle Royal game called Apex Legends. So far it is best described as Call of Duty: Blackout meets Overwatch. Where the speed and weapons make the game feel like Call of Duty’s offering, but the hero Legend abilities give it an Overwatch flare.

Let’s start with the good. It runs at a silky-smooth framerate. I never saw a hitch or a jitter while playing this game, and if there is screen tearing, it is minimal to the point where I haven’t noticed it. The game is also faster than most Battle Royal games. The sprint feels good and the slide system makes for a fun way to mix up traversal. If you like the weapons from the Titanfall universe, you will be happy. They are all here and accounted for, with battlefield upgrades to attach while playing. Because Apex Legends forces you to play in three-person squads it has created a “Ping” system that allows you to easily mark areas of interest and enemy players. It isn’t quite as good as talking to people, but it allows for some decent mic-less communication. The heroes Legends are far from original, but their mix of powers is good, and it gives you a role to play in the squad.

Now on to the not so good. I am not sure Titanfall’s weapons are right for this type of game. Titanfall is all about fast-paced up close action, while Battle Royal games focus on picking engagements in the middle to far distance. In other words, all Titanfall’s great up close and personal weapons feel wasted. You end up looking for Assault and Sniper rifles like every other Battle Royal game and leaving all of the Titanfall Universe’s best guns behind. Wall running also got lost in the mix, and I know they got rid of it because it was ruining the group dynamic of Apex Legends, but the free movement double jumping and wall running would have added to the genre would have been exciting. Also, while EA and Respawn have said only cosmetic items are for sale, that isn’t completely true. You also can buy new heroes Legends, and heroes Legends have unique powers, so if you are not ponying up, you are missing out on some different play styles. Not cool.

Yes, you can technically earn in-game currency to buy the heroes Legends, but it is quite the grind. Personally, I would like to see a hero Legend pass or something. Where instead of getting extra skins and whatnot, you just get the heroes Legends as they come out. That way there is a real and upfront cost for owning and playing Apex Legends.

After one day and over a million players Apex Legends makes a great first impression. It just works. The “Ping” system is truly revolutionary, and the heroes Legends are fun. If they can mix up the gun balance and find some way to bring back at least some of the wall running or double jumping Apex Legends would get even better. As for now, it is free and well worth a download. If you don’t like it, so be it, but it is nice to see there are still original ways to play around in the Battle Royal genre. Apex Legends will probably be in my rotation for at least the short term, we will see if they can keep me interested a few months from now.

I Was Not Sold Or Dissuaded By The Anthem Demo

The Anthem demo happened this Super Bowl weekend, and at least it was better than the most boring Super Bowl in years. However, that is not a yardstick for success, only for mediocrity. I played the three included main missions with random people. Apparently, I had a lot of friends play it too, but we did not play together. Though it is probably a better gauge of the game without friends since they make most experiences better. In the end it was fine. The Anthem Demo was The Division with more story and you can fly.

I believe the demo starts off just a short while in to the game, so you are getting a thing for a guy you don’t know. You get the thing, it does something bad, and then you get some stuff and kill a big thing, and then you chase down a guy and kill several big things. Essentially in Anthem you fly to a spot and then shoot stuff with all your stuff that you got while out shooting stuff. Then fly back and then talk to some people and then attach your new stuff. It is a familiar loop. Not a bad one, but one we are all well used to at this point.

There were a few issues. The framerate is terrible. I don’t have a framerate counter, but it was hitching all over the place. Which for a shooter is problematic. I hope they can figure that out by launch. Even if they have to drop the resolution down a bit it needs to get smoothed out. Also, Anthem crashed on me about 50% of the time while loading during matchmaking. Not a great impression to making on a perspective buyer.

Though it was not all bad. I enjoyed the flying. I liked the mechanic that you need to cool down, so if you fly through waterfalls or skim the water you can fly longer. It forces you to get better at flying. The shooting was satisfying, and the different weapons were cool. I enjoyed all the particle effects while people were doing all their superpowers and grenades and whatnot. It gave the game some visual flare. Speaking of visual flare, Anthem, like most Frostbite Engine games, is gorgeous. The world is lush, and the hub area is cool looking, if too static.

The demo had its high points and its low points, but it didn’t do its job of selling me on the game. Which is what it was intended to do. Anthem’s combat is good, and that is a great start, but we will see if the rest of the game can come together around it, but since it comes out in just eighteen days, that might be a tall order. I will be keeping my eye on it, but for now my wallet is staying in my pocket.

The Kids Are Not All Right In Titans (But That Is Alright With Me)!

Titans probably had one of the worst advertising campaigns around, and I had no real interest in it, but then something strange started happening. People on the internet started saying that it was not that bad, and its RottenTomatoes.com score pulled out of a nose dive and pulled itself up to an 84%. Which for TV these days isn’t too far out of the norm because there is soooo much good TV, but considering the reviews started off negative, it is quite the feet, so when DC Universe had a sale on subscriptions I decided to give it a try. Titans was well worth the price of admission.

In Titans, Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) has given up being Robin. The violence is taking its toll on him, so instead he decides to put his detective training to use and join the Detroit Police Department. Just when he thinks he has given up the cape and the leggings for good, he gets mixed up with a young girl who has strange and dangerous powers named Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft/Raven). She is on the run from her father who wants to use her for her powers. As they run and try to figure out what is going on they will also meet up with Kory (Anna Diop/Starfire) and Gar Logan (Ryan Potter/Beast Boy). Not to mention a few other superheroes.

What is great about Titans is that it takes its time. There aren’t like two intro episodes then they move to Jump City and are now chillin’ in Titan Tower. After eleven episodes they are still nowhere near the superhero team comics lovers know they will be. Dick is trying understand what his life is supposed to be ‘post Robin’, Kory is trying to recover her past, Gar is just now exploring the outside world, and poor Rachel just wants to get a handle on the actual darkness inside her, so the whole first season is just these people trying to deal with their issues while also trying to deal with each other. Which are problems that you just can’t superpunch away.

What I also love about this first season of Titans is that it has taken on a horror vibe, and given Rachel’s powerset, it is a smart choice. There are so many weird and creepy moments in this show. It is not something a lot of other superhero shows, or movies for that matter, have tried, but Titans really goes for it. I will say that it starts off poorly. It doesn’t really get good until about episode three or so, but it is great once it gets going. I also don’t like that they ended the show on a cliffhanger. I like it better when shows have a complete arc for a season, and I guess that season one did, but once they got picked up for a second season they moved episode twelve to be episode one of season two.

Slow starts and cliffhangers are forgivable sins. Titans is not that first show to suffer from them and probably will not be the last. Thankfully everything else about the show works. From the creepy atmosphere to the talented young cast. If you are in the US and can spare eight bucks for a month of DC Universe to watch this show, you should. Outside the US it is even easier because it is on Netflix, so just queue it up. Then wonder with me what will happen when Titans returns this October.

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.