Thursday, February 28, 2019

Fighting with My Family Review

I've mentioned in most of my reviews recently that it's been an interesting year so far. The box office has suffered quite a bit and the quality of movies hasn't quite been up to par, which is why I was hoping to end the month of February on a positive note with this little wrestling movie that had positive buzz coming out of Sundance last month capped off with excellent reviews from normal critics and film fans alike. Given that I'm a big fan of sports, I always love myself a good sports movie. Thus when one comes around with positive buzz following it, it doesn't take much convincing to get me on board. I will say that wrestling is not really my forte as far as sports that I like to watch, especially when you get to the WWE. I want to make sure I use the appropriate f-word here because calling it "fake" really upsets pro wrestling fans, even though that's often what I've called it for most of my life. But "fixed" is the appropriate term here that they prefer in the movie, so I'll go with that and say that I have a hard time watching sports where the outcome is fixed. It's just not that fun watching people pretend to get hurt and fall down, then be perfectly fine 30 seconds later, as it's all just a show that requires more acting skills than it does actual wrestling ability. Take that for what it's worth.

Thus I can say I'm a sports fan, but I'm not really a wrestling fan. So if you think you need to be a wrestling fan in order to enjoy this movie, I'd say that's not true. But even when it comes to sports movies, I can often be a little overly critical because there's only a few possible outcomes that a sports movie can have. For example, when you watch a movie about a football team, you can almost guarantee that said team is going to the title game and either miraculously winning or losing the game while learning a positive lesson. You usually don't get a movie about a team who went 8-8 or even had a losing record because those aren't stories worth turning into movies. It's only the incredible and miraculous stories that get turned into movies. Thus when you know the end of the story before you start the movie, you're going down a tricky path because it's all about the execution of the journey itself. Oftentimes the fun of a movie is not knowing how it's all going to turn out. With that element of surprise gone, it better be a dang good journey in getting there. When it comes to "Fighting with My Family," this is a true story about Paige, a two-time WWE Diva champion. That sentence there puts a lot of pressure on the journey of the movie itself to succeed, knowing the final result.

Granted, I didn't know exactly how the movie was going to end. I didn't know if the final scene was going to be her winning her first title or if she was going to lose the actual match, but be accepted into the WWE community with the end credits telling us what she went onto win. But it was going to be one of those two. Thus our options were this movie being like "Rocky" or "Rocky II." Because, well, spoiler alert, Rocky loses to Apollo Creed in "Rocky," but gets his revenge and wins in "Rocky II." That means that "Fighting with My Family" had a disadvantage going in. Not helping its cause is that the trailers had to tell us a bit more story than your average sports movie in order to actually get people in seats, thus I knew the whole first act of the film. If you haven't seen any trailers and want to be surprised, feel free to close this review right now and go see it because I'm about to spoil said first act as well because that's a requirement to properly explaining why this movie works so well. The drama there comes with the title of the movie being a two-part title. First, her father and mother were both wrestlers while her and her brother are aspiring wrestlers. Second, she makes it into a tryout for the WWE while her brother doesn't, which provides a lot of contention with the family.

Yes, sure, there's some fun wrestling sequences in this movie, but it's that family dynamic that makes this movie work. Both of the kids have a dream and they both want to do it together, but it sparks a lot of jealousy with the brother when his sister makes the cut and he doesn't. He feels that he's been working hard at this his whole life and has a stronger desire, but he has to sit back home while his sister gets to go to America. When she gets there, she feels lost and alone, so she wants to call her brother for help and support, but he's too busy being angry and jealous, thus he won't even talk to her. Then she has to question if this is really the dream she wants or if its her parents' dream that she's falling because this is a much different ball game, so to speak, than she was expecting. This is where the movie gives you a level of respect for the WWE that you may not have had otherwise. If you are going to put on a show, you need to know how to put on a show. This requires the correct personality, the ability to win over the audience, and the proper athleticism. Sure, you can say this is fixed, but it still requires one to be in top notch shape, so there's a lot of obstacles that Paige has to overcome and she doesn't know if she has the heart or the spirit in order to succeed.

Because of this, I really felt for her. I bought into her journey. And the movie did a great job of not making it an easy one. As I said before, I knew that she would eventually succeed. But I had no idea how she was going to do it. Along this journey, there were a lot of moments that made me cringe. And I mean that in a good way. For those of you who saw last year's "Eighth Grade," this made me cringe in the way that it did when Elsie Fisher's character went to that pool party. It was tough to watch, but doing so properly built up the emotion of the film, making for a more rewarding climax. That's the same story here. There's a lot of decisions that Paige makes in this movie that made me cower in my chair. In retrospect, I'm glad she made them because it showed the difficulty that she experienced in trying to transition from wrestling with her family in the U.K. to trying out for the WWE in America. If the movie would've made this look like an easy transition or breezed over it really quickly, it would've compromised the experience and made the finale less satisfying. So major props to the writers of this film for coming up with a really good script that was able to sell me on the emotion of the journey, making it was more than just your typical underdog sports movie.

Along these lines, I made a strong connection here to "Rocky" and "Creed." Both of those movies are boxing movies. But it's not the boxing that's front and center. Perhaps some of the sequels get into that, but in the original "Rocky" and "Creed," it's all about the character development and figuring out who you are as a human being. There was even a pretty sweet training montage in "Fighting with My Family" once everything connected with Paige that reminded me of "Rocky" and "Creed." Helping boost the excellent script of the movie was our performance by Florence Pugh as Paige. I hear she looks and acts a lot like the real Paige, so props for that, but most of all I give her props for giving an excellent lead performance. I was invested in her story for the very beginning and that's because Florence Pugh did such a great job of making me care for her. Just like you need a Sylvester Stallone or a Michael B. Jordan for a "Rocky" or "Creed" movie to truly work, this movie needed a strong lead character to pull this off and Florence Pugh perfectly steps into that role. She also had a lot of great help around her, especially with Jack Lowden as the brother, Nick Frost and Lena Headey as the parents, and Vince Vaughn as the coach. It was a great cast all around.

On that note, is the movie perfectly accurate? Well, from what I can gather, it mostly is. The real Paige saw the movie and said that they nailed it. Reading over the real story, the middle section of the film might be a bit streamlined to make for a better flowing film. Vince Vaughan's character is more of a combination of characters and there's a few extra steps in the story that are avoided in order for it to make it work better as a movie. Then there's the curious case of Dwayne Johnson. When she first made her WWE appearance, he was the one that announced it to her, which was also the same conversation that he told her they were going to make a movie about her and her family. His other appearances are fictional, though, and mostly brief. He just makes a few appearances in the movie so that they could put him on the poster and advertise him as being in the movie. That might be a bit misleading if you're expecting this to be a Dwayne Johnson movie, but outside that I didn't have a problem with it. He wasn't distracting. I was just more amused by that. But yeah, props to the movie for a doing a good job at telling the real story. Even if it was more fictional, I had my defenses ready as to why I enjoyed it anyways, but I suppose we don't need to go down that route here.

So yeah, overall I think this is a really solid sports movie. I made a lot of comparisons to "Rocky" and "Creed" in this review and although "Fighting with My Family" isn't quite on the same level as those two movies, it deserves to be in the same conversation. And if the movie had played its cards right in terms of the release date, I think we'd be talking about Oscar potential nominations for Vince Vaughan or Nick Frost in supporting actor or maybe Florence Pugh or Jack Lowden in the lead actress/actor categories. In fact, I went over the best picture nominees in my head and I enjoyed this movie more than most of them. I'd put this as the third best. But anyways, that's just me still coming off my Oscar buzz from Sunday. Despite the great reviews, a sports drama debuting to $7.8 million domestically in its late February nationwide expansion won't even be on the Oscar radar at the end of the year. And that's alright. It provided me with some good relief that good movies still exist. And not that there's much competition at the moment, but it's my current favorite movie of the year and one I'm sure that I'll bring up in the future when it comes to how to properly make a good sports movie. Because of this, I'll confidently give "Fighting with My Family" a 9/10.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Review

It's been a strange year at the box office so far with a lot of movies that seemed like surefire hits surprisingly underperforming. The three big examples so far include "Glass," "The LEGO Movie 2" and "Happy Death Day 2U." So it's about time that we finally have an anticipated movie actually live up to expectations as "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" opened to a hair above $55 million. For perspective, "How to Train Your Dragon" opened to $43.7 million in 2010 while "How to Train Your Dragon 2" opened to $49.5 million in 2014. That gives "The Hidden World" the best opening in the franchise. Whether or not that translates into the best overall total for the franchise remains to be seen as "How to Train Your Dragon 2" ended up being a lot more front-loaded than its predecessor, winding up with $177 million domestically whereas the original finished with $217.6 million. If hidden world were to follow a similar path as the second movie, that would mean a final domestic total of $196 million, which means it has a legit chance of being the first DreamWorks Animation film to cross the $200 million domestic mark since "Madagascar 3" in 2012. Of course this will be determined by how well it holds up against the crowded market in the next few months.

Perhaps me bringing that up will intrigue you enough for you to not be too mad at me for what I'm about to say next. I really wasn't a huge fan of this movie. Before I tell you why, it might be helpful to explain that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with DreamWorks as a whole. They were one of the animation studios that came into existence shortly after Pixar completely transformed the animation game with "Toy Story" in 1995. The first DreamWorks film was "Antz" in 1998, which oddly enough came out a month before Pixar's "A Bug's Life." Pixar most definitely won that battle in terms of quality bug movies, but after that, DreamWorks started to get on a roll with their movies. That until they completely crashed and burned in the early 2010's when they started to get a little obsessed with quantity over quality. Ever since then, they've been trying to do their best to course-correct, but it's been a bit of a bumpy ride as they've been all over the place in terms of quality. In fact, they didn't even release a movie last year, which was the first time since 1999 that the world didn't have another DreamWorks movie to go to. And now they've even shifted hands from Fox to Universal after switching from Paramount to Fox starting with "The Croods" in 2013.

And yes, if you noticed that timeline there, each "How to Train Your Dragon" has had a different distributor. The first movie with Paramount, the second movie with Fox and now the third movie with Universal. That's a fun fact for you. Now before I get crucified by this fan base, I'll let you know that I adore the first "How to Train Your Dragon." It's such a powerful film that teaches kids that it's OK to be different. In fact, you can help change the world by being true to yourself rather than becoming the person your family and friends expects you to be. In this Viking world, Hiccup is expected to grow up to be like his father and become this strong, angry, blood-thirsty dragon hunter. And he tries initially, but he just doesn't have the skill set or the self-confidence to pull it off. As he's wandering around one day, he runs into the Night Fury Toothless. Knowing very well that he'd be seen as a legend if he were to be known as the Viking who hunts and kills a Night Fury, he ends up doing the exact opposite by befriending it. Thus gives us to one of the best onscreen relationships with human and creature that leads to Hiccup completely changing the culture in his Viking city as they learn that dragons and Vikings can work much better as friends and allies rather than enemies.

I think that movie stands on its own as a fantastic movie that didn't need any sequels. It got the point across rather simply and profoundly that, even if you seem small and insignificant, you can do great things if you stay true to who you are and learn what your individual talents are. Yes, I know this is a series of now 12 children books by author Cressida Cowell, so there's plenty of material to do sequels, but I think the only reason we got a sequel is that whenever DreamWorks makes money on a film, they try to squeeze every penny they can out of the franchise, thus showing that they care more about the dollar bills in their bank accounts rather than bringing stories that the world needs. That's why we have about 9,000 "Shrek" movies as well as more "Madagascar" stuff than anyone ever needed. Thus is why we also have one of the more pointless and forgettable DreamWorks sequels in "How to Train Your Dragon 2," a movie whose quality of story depended solely on the shock value of certain reveals, which made the viewing experience completely pointless because they spoiled every single big moment in all of their advertising. It goes down in history as one of the worst trailers ever put together in my book because it totally ruined the movie for me.

Even if I try to look past the trailers ruining the movie experience for me, I just wasn't all that interested in the movie itself. I wasn't a fan of the mother's motivations for disappearing for 20 years nor do I even remember whoever the villain of the movie was. The reunion of the mother and father could've been a great moment, but I'd also seen that a hundred times in all the trailers. I don't feel like spoiling the one thing the movie didn't spoil, but I do remember that there came a point in the movie where I thought if they ended it right there, this would've been a bold and daring film, but then the movie had an ending that felt completely tacked on and rushed because we can't have a cliffhanger ending in a kids movie, right? I didn't finish the movie hating life, but it's also never a movie that I've had any desire to return to. It's just a movie that exists. And speaking of the book series, the second book is actually titled "How to Be a Pirate" and after reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia just now, I'm convinced that the story in that book would've made for a much more interesting movie. The other titles also sound quite intriguing and make a lot more sense since their ain't no more dragon training after the first film, so why didn't we follow the books and come up with better titles?

Yet the most baffling thing about this movie is that I've met so many people who feel that this is the greatest animated movie ever made. And I'm not even joking. I do remember seeing this is a drive-in theater in Tooele (which was a cool experience) and maybe they just put in the wrong film. That's the only thing that would make sense. I mean, I've heard the arguments about why its so great and I can't even understand them. Sometimes I see where people are coming from, even if I disagree. This one I've never been able to get on board with even relating to people. And it seems like we're going to get a repeat performance with "The Hidden World" because everyone who loved the second movie is also loving the third movie, and thus this is now being proclaimed as one of the best animated trilogies ever made, one that rivals the "Toy Story" trilogy. Yet I don't think either of these movies deserve to exist, nor am I really going to remember than any more than I remember the likes of "Shrek 3" or "Madagascar 2." Granted, they're not bottom-of-the-barrel DreamWorks films. That belongs to the likes of "Penguins of Madagascar," "The Boss Baby," "Shark Tale" and "Bee Movie," but they just belong in the realm of DreamWorks movies that I'll forget existed.

So let's talk about "The Hidden World" specifically, since, you know, that's the title of this review. Like the previous movie's trailers, the trailers for "Hidden World" also gave away a whole lot of the plot. Although perhaps a huge difference is that "The Hidden World" doesn't rely on shock value. There's no major twists and turns to spoil. It just looked like a generic movie without much depth or substance. Evil villain who hates Night Furies attacks the village, thus leading Hiccup and gang to seek out this Hidden World, which is where all the dragons live, so that they can escape evil dude. Meanwhile, Toothless finds a girlfriend with the white Night Fury that shows up, which they call a Light Fury, and there's a giant battle at the end with dragons vs. the evil dragon hater. And, of course, they're going to find the Hidden World at some point because, well, that's the title of the movie, and them wandering through it is also in the trailers. I wish there was more to this story than what was presented in the trailers because this description I gave you was exactly what I thought going in based on what was being advertised to me. It just seemed like it was going to be a boring, fairly lifeless movie that didn't even have close to the amount of heart and power of the original film.

Unfortunately for me, the boring movie I anticipated going in was exactly what I got. But I will give credit where credit is due. The animation itself is stellar. It's one of the best looking animated films I've seen recently and may be the best animation that DreamWorks has ever put together. I was also rather charmed by the adventures of Toothless and the Light Fury. I would've actually loved a no dialogue, spin-off film with just those two dragons. That would've been great. I also enjoyed the continued relationship development between Hiccup and Astrid, although you know exactly where that story is going the second a certain comment is made towards the beginning of the film, possibly within the first 10-15 minutes. So yeah, those individual pieces worked well, they just didn't fully connect to a competent film for me. Perhaps the biggest issue here is the villain of the film. His name is Grimmel and he hates dragons. Specifically he's out to hunt and kill every Night Fury. When the trailers introduced him as someone who looked like a boring, generic villain, I was hoping there was more substance to him. Why does he hate dragons? What is it about Night Furies specifically that makes him want to hunt them? What is his backstory? What are his motivations?

Maybe it's too much to ask for a kids film to flesh out a really good villain, but I was at least hoping for something that would make me buy him as a legit presence that gave weight to the film. But no. We get nothing. We're just supposed to buy the fact that he's an evil dude who hates dragons without even getting a hint as to why or any sort of clue as to what this guy's backstory is. And it gets even more absurd that one small attack from him on the town causes Hiccup to decide to completely abandon their home and take the whole village to go find the Hidden World because now it's too dangerous. Even though he singlehandedly stopped a much bigger threat at the end of the last movie with just the help of Toothless. Why not use your giant army of Vikings and dragons to defend your home instead of playing a dumb game of chicken? But nope. That's our story. Evil dude attacks the city so now we're running away from home. And apparently Hiccup's character development has taken a complete backwards turn from the last two movies because the second Toothless temporarily leaves with the Light Fury, Hiccup is suddenly this incompetent loser with no brains or sense of identity, making us have to retread the same exact character arc as the previous two films.

There's also another element to this film that really had me upset, but I'm not going to talk much about it since it's the resolution to the film that I'm talking about. Many of you have probably already seen this movie by now, so you'll know exactly what I'm referring to. Feel free to message me or talk to me about it in private and I'll unleash on you how I think this betrays the first two films. Until then, I'll leave you in the dark as I've already said more than I should. But yeah, in summary, this movie had good elements to it. I liked Hiccup and Astrid. Mostly. I liked Toothless and the Light Fury. I loved the animation. But the story of the movie? Nope. It was boring. All the side characters? Yuck. In fact, there was a lot of attempted humor that not only fell flat, but was super annoying, like Jonah Hill's character hitting on Hiccup's mom the entire movie. The villain? I've already almost completely forgot he exists? The themes? Uninspired and generic. The character arcs? Predictable and repetitive. Again, this is not an awful movie. But it's also not a good movie. It's just one that kind of exists for me and if I don't get endless flack for this review, it's a movie that I'll completely forget about. I'm hoping that I can just post this and quickly move on with life. My grade for "The Hidden World" is a 6/10.

P.S. - Here's the full list of titles for the book series. Just by going through this, most of these already look like better stories than what we got with "The Hidden World":

1- "How to Train Your Dragon"
2- "How to Be a Pirate"
3- "How to Speak Dragonese"
4- "How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse"
5- "How to Twist a Dragon's Tale"
6- "A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons"
7- "How to Ride a Dragon's Storm"
8- "How to Break a Dragon's Heart"
9- "How to Steal a Dragon's Sword"
10- "How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel"
11- "How to Betray a Dragon's Hero"
12- "How to Fight a Dragon's Fury"

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The 91st Academy Awards: Predictions

It's been a bit of a wild season for the Oscars with so much instability around the ceremony. They added a best popular movie category until the internet peer-pressured them to take it down. Good. They hired Kevin Hart as host, who then stepped down because someone on the internet has no life and dug up ages old tweets. This resulted in the Oscars deciding to have no host? Then they announced that they were going to give out several of the awards during the commercial break until the internet peer-pressured them into giving out all the awards live. Good. But who knows what's going on with all of them. All of this might make the Oscars more irrelevant this year than ever before, be we still have some predicting to do. As has been tradition, this post is two-fold. First, I make a prediction as to who I think will win. Then I make my own personal pick as if I was an Oscar voter with a ballot in hand. Last year I actually did really well with my predictions, going 20 for 24. I'm not expecting a repeat performance. In fact, my predictions are more of a gauge of what I'm expecting. If I do awful, it just means the night was more eventful and unpredictable, which can sometimes be more exciting than a super predictable night. So let's dive in and throw out some predictions!

Documentary Short Subject:

Nominations:

- "Black Sheep" - Ed Perkins & Jonathan Chinn
- "End Game" - Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
- "Lifeboat" - Skye Fitzgerald & Bryn Booser
- "A Night at the Garden" - Marshall Curry
- "Period. End of Sentence." - Rayka Zehtabchi & Melissa Berton

Will Win:

- "Period. End of Sentence." - Rayka Zehtabchi & Melissa Berton

Should Win:

- "Period. End of Sentence." - Rayka Zehtabchi & Melissa Berton

Trying to predict the short categories is often like picking a name out of a hat. I have no idea where the Oscars are going to go with this. My best guess this time around is that it might come down to "End Game" vs. "Period. End of Sentence." simply because those are the two movies that are on Netflix, so they're most accessible to voters. And of those, I think I've seen more advertising for "Period. End of Sentence." on Netflix, so I'm closing my eyes, throwing that dart at the wall, and seeing if that works out. Personally this is a category I love. I think the shorts often get super overlooked when it comes to the Oscars. I've seen all five of these. The other three not on Netflix are on YouTube. Go search them and give them a watch. Personally I was most weary about "Period. End of Sentence." because the subject matter is a bit awkward, but I love it most because it left me feeling the happiest.

Animated Short Film:

Nominations:

- "Animal Behavior" - Alison Snowden & David Fine
- "Bao" - Domee Shi & Becky Neiman-Cobb
- "Late Afternoon" - Louise Bagnall & Nuria Gonzalez Blanco
- "One Small Step" - Andrew Chesworth & Bobby Pontillas
- "Weekends" - Trevor Jimenez

Will Win:

- "Bao" - Domee Shi & Becky Neiman-Cobb

Should Win:

- "Bao" - Domee Shi & Becky Neiman-Cobb

"Bao" is the Pixar short that played in front of "Incredibles 2." I'm not going to lie, that was one of the best Pixar shorts I've seen because it presented every emotion from happiness to sadness to laughter to huge shock value. In fact, I'd almost dare to say that it was more memorable than the ensuing Pixar feature length film that came after it. The Pixar or Disney shorts don't always win, but when they were this memorable, they're hard to pick against. This is also a category where I believe all of the other short films outside the Pixar one were on YouTube at one point, but got taken down, so it's hard to make a perfect judgment. I did manage to find "One Small Step," which was excellent, and "Late Afternoon," which was solid. "Weekends" and "Animal Behavior" I watched the trailers for and they look interesting. But I still comfortably am saying that none of them would come as close as "Bao" for me. If they're a spoiler for the win, I think "One Small Step" might've pulled at enough heartstrings to take votes away from "Bao," so I wouldn't be surprised to see it win.

Live Action Short Film:

Nominations:

- "Detainment" - Vincent Lambe & Darren Mahon
- "Fauve" - Jeremy Comte & Maria Gracia Turgeon
- "Marguerite" - Marianne Farley & Marie-Helene Panisset
- "Mother" - Rodgrigo Sorogoyen &Maria del Puy Alvarado
- "Skin" - Guy Nattiv & Jaime Ray Newman

Will Win:

- "Skin" - Guy Nattiv & Jaime Ray Newman

Should Win:

- "Marguerite" - Marianne Farley & Marie-Helene Panisset

I've only seen one of these and that was "Fauve." The others weren't available anywhere. So normally this is a situation where'd I'd put "n/a" in the should win section and throw a dart at the wall on the will win. But I'm putting "Marguerite" as my personal pick because the other four are all super depressing shorts about young kids. Spoiler alert, but "Fauve" is about a kid who watches his friend drown in quicksand. It was either that or cement, I'm actually not sure which one. It was well acted and well put together, but I'm not sure what the point of it was. And watching the trailers or looking up the premises for the others, they're all like that. Except "Marguerite," which is the only happy one and has nothing to do with young kids. So because of that, I want it to win. Yet my very unscientific way of predicting this one is looking at the IMDb scores and seeing "Skin" having a much higher score than the other four. So maybe that's the one people are responding to most? 

Foreign Language Film:

Nominations:

- "Capernaum" - Lebanon
- "Cold War" - Poland
- "Never Look Away" - Germany
- "Roma" - Mexico
- "Shoplifters" - Japan

Will Win:

- "Roma" - Mexico

Should Win:

- n/a

I love the foreign films category. They're usually always extremely well-made films that fly under everyone's radars. I like seeking out the hidden gems like that. The problem with them in pertaining to this post is that they usually don't become available until several months AFTER the Oscars, making it impossible for me to make my pick as to what I want to win. I will say after watching the trailers that I am most excited about "Cold War." I have a strong feeling that would end up being my personal favorite, but I can't say at this point. However, as far as a prediction goes, it would be one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history if "Roma" were to lose this category. It's the front runner for best picture and got nominated for 10 Oscars. 

Documentary Feature:

Nominations:

- "Free Solo" - Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes & Shannon Dill
- "Hale County This Morning, This Evening" - RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes & Su Kim
- "Minding the Gap" - Bing Liu & Diane Quon
- "Of Fathers and Sons" - Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme & Tobias N. Siebert
- "RBG" - Betsy West & Julie Cohen

Will Win:

- "Free Solo" - Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes & Shannon Dill


Should Win:


- "Free Solo" - Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes & Shannon Dill

This category makes me upset because of the fact that "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" got snubbed. I have no idea where to find "Of Fathers and Sons," but the others I have all seen and none of them are even that close to as good as our Mr. Rodgers documentary, which was also the highest grossing documentary of the year. So why did we leave it out? Oh well. Nothing we can do moving forward. We've just gotta look at the next two, "Free Solo" and "RBG." The two PBS documentaries, "Hale County" and "Minding the Gap" I thought were quite boring. But "Free Solo" and "RBG" were both excellent for very different reasons. "Free Solo" is an documentary about a crazy dude who did a crazy thing while "RBG" explores the life of an American hero. So how do I pick between those two? I think Oscar voters are having the same challenge, which is why I can see either of these winning. But "Free Solo" has been taking home most of the precursors when it comes to the documentary awards, so I think the theatrical experience of "Free Solo" is swaying people a bit more and I'm thinking that I'm being swayed for the same reasons. "Free Solo" gives you quite the insane rush of adrenaline and is surprisingly emotional, making it unique. So that's my pick.

Original Song:

Nominations:

- "All the Stars" - Kendrick Lamar & SZA ("Black Panther")
- "I'll Fight" - Jennifer Hudson ("RBG")
- "The Place Where Lost Things Go" - Emily Blunt ("Mary Poppins Returns")
- "Shallow" - Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper ("A Star is Born")
- "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings" - Willie Watson & Tim Blake Nelson ("The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Will Win:

- "Shallow" - Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper ("A Star is Born")


Should Win:


- "Shallow" - Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper ("A Star is Born")

Solid category here. Five great songs. However, when it comes to "A Star is Born" and "Mary Poppins Returns," in both cases I personally prefer the other songs that weren't nominated, namely "Always Remember Us This Way" and "Trip a Little Light Fantastic." So the fact that the Oscars got it wrong in both cases makes me extremely tempted to split the difference and choose "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings," which is an absolutely hilarious song. But then I have to come back down to Earth and also consider the impact that each of these songs had on their individual movie and on that note it's not even close. "Shallow" is a huge part of "A Star is Born." And yeah, even though I personally prefer "Always Remember Us This Way," both songs made my list of favorite songs of 2018. So I'm not complaining too much. The spoiler here as far as what could win is "All the Stars" from "Black Panther." Even though that's a great song, that has no impact on the movie itself, so I'd be disappointed if it wins. Especially since if "A Star is Born" loses this category, it could go home completely empty.

Original Score:

Nominations:

- "Black Panther" - Ludwig Goransson
- "BlacKkKlansman" - Terence Blanchard
- "If Beale Street Could Talk" - Nicholas Britell
- "Isle of Dogs" - Alexandre Desplat
- "Mary Poppins Returns" - Marc Shaiman

Will Win:

- "Black Panther" - Ludwig Goransson

Should Win:

- "Isle of Dogs" - Alexandre Desplat

I re-listened to all of these scores in preparation for this post and there's five great scores here, so this is an excellent category. As far as my personal pick, "Mary Poppins Returns," "BlacKkKlansman" and "If Beale Street Could Talk" are all traditional film scores while "Black Panther" and "Isle of Dogs" were super unique, so they stood above the others. Picking between the two was really tough. With "Black Panther," a big part of the movie was introducing us to Wakanda and the score does an excellent job at that as it is filled with traditional African themes that makes this far superior when compared to your average superhero movie score. But Desplat's score in "Isle of Dogs" IS the movie. Out of these five movies, this is the one score where I walked out specifically thinking of how amazing the score was and how it set the tone for the whole film, so that's why I'm giving it the very slight edge. As far as who's going to win, this usually goes to a best picture nominee, which makes me believe that it's "Black Panther" vs. "BlacKkKlansman." I'm giving the edge here to "Black Panther" because I have a hard time believing that it goes home empty. If it doesn't get this win, that's exactly what could happen. The MCU has never won an Oscar. Does that continue?

Visual Effects:

Nominations:

- "Avengers: Infinity War" - Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl & Dan Sudick
- "Christopher Robin" - Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones & Chris Corbould
- "First Man" - Paul Lambert, Grady Cofer, Matthew Butler & David Shirk
- "Ready Player One" - Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew Butler & David Shirk
- "Solo: A Star Wars Story" - Bob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan & Dominic Tuohy

Will Win:

- "Avengers: Infinity War" - Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl & Dan Sudick

Should Win:

- "Avengers: Infinity War" - Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl & Dan Sudick

I mentioned in the most recent category that the MCU has not won an Oscar. I think this could be the perfect opportunity for the Academy to redeem that by finally giving them an Oscar. It's going in as the front runner, so that's why I'm picking. But this also means this is far from being set in stone as I could see them giving this to "Ready Player One" or "First Man." I remember a few years back that "Ex Machina" came out of nowhere to win best visual effects, which proves that the Academy kinda does their own thing here, so I'm not even counting out a surprise win from "Christopher Robin" or "Solo." But come on. "Avengers: Infinity War" was one of the most monumental movie events in the history of cinema. The least the Oscars could do is give it a visual effects win, right? 

Sound Editing:

Nominations:

- "Black Panther" - Benjamin A. Burtt & Steve Boeddeker
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" - John Warhurst & Nina Hartstone
- "First Man" - Ai-Ling Lee & Mildred Latrou Morgan
- "A Quiet Place" - Ethan Van der Ryn & Erik Aadahl
- "Roma" - Sergio Diaz & Skip Lievsay

Will Win:

- "Bohemian Rhapsody" - John Warhurst & Nina Hartstone


Should Win:

- "A Quiet Place" - Ethan Van der Ryn & Erik Aadahl

My gut is saying that "Black Panther" could have a great night and sneak in a bunch of wins in the technical categories, but my brain is saying "Bohemian Rhapsody" based on the momentum from previous awards ceremonies. Specifically in regards to sound editing, the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) recently gave "Bohemian Rhapsody" two awards, one for best sound editing in a musical feature and one for best dialogue/ADR in a dramatic feature. It's also been sneaking in other sound awards in various places, so I'm going to trust in that and predict "Bohemian Rhapsody" for the win. But as far as my personal pick, I mean come on. The sound editing is what MADE "A Quiet Place" the horror phenomenon that it is. Unless you're a huge cinephile, you rarely walk out praising the sound design in a movie. But everyone praises the sound design in "A Quiet Place." That IS the movie.   

Sound Mixing:

Nominations:

- "Black Panther" - Stevee Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor & Peter Devlin
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin & John Casali
- "First Man" - Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montano, Ai-Ling Lee & Mary H. Ellis
- "Roma" - Skup Lievsay, Craig Henighan & Jose Antonio Garcia
- "A Star is Born" - Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Rudeer & Steve Marrow

Will Win:


- "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin & John Casali

Should Win:

- "A Star is Born" - Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Rudeer & Steve Marrow

Again with "Bohemian Rhapsody," like in the sound editing category, the Cinema Audio Society gave it their top award for outstanding sound mixing. Recently the Oscars have giving both of the sound awards to the same movie, so it seems like the safe thing to do here is bet that "Bohemian Rhapsody" wins both. If they do split, at least I got one of them right. Also, if there is a split, I'm hearing buzz that sound mixing is the safest bet for "Bohemian Rhapsody." So "Black Panther" could win editing while "Bohemian Rhapsody" wins mixing. Or "Black Panther" could surprise and win both. Now I'm the least qualified person to actually judge this category, but in my little brain it does make sense to give this to a concert movie. I imagine there's a lot of mixing to make sure all the sound is balanced from the singing to the band to the crowd, and what not. Which is why I felt like giving this to "A Star is Born" because if a concert movie has to win, I'd rather see that one win than "Bohemian Rhapsody." 

Makeup and Hairstyling:

Nominations:

- "Border" - Goran Lundstrom & Pamela Goldammer
- "Mary Queen of Scots" - Jenny Shicore, Marc Pilcher & Jessica Brooks
- "Vice" - Greg Cannom, Kate Bisco & Patricia Dehaney

Will Win:

- "Vice" - Greg Cannom, Kate Bisco & Patricia Dehaney

Should Win:


- "Mary Queen of Scots" - Jenny Shicore, Marc Pilcher & Jessica Brooks

I haven't seen "Mary Queen of Scots" or "Border." In fact, I don't think I had even heard of "Border" before Oscar nomination morning as it was a foreign film that didn't even make the foreign film category. But do I need to see the movies to judge the makeup and hairstyling? It was a difficult choice for me to make, both in terms of predicting and what I think is best. With my personal pick, if you look at side by side photos of the political figures that were portrayed in "Vice," they did a great job of making them look as close to the real people as possible. But if you watch the trailer for "Mary Queen of Scots," there are a lot of human beings in that movie and they all had to look authentic to the time period, so I feel that there was a lot more work done there as opposed to just getting a handful of people in "Vice" looking accurate. So that's why I'm picking "Mary Queen of Scots" as my personal pick. As far as my prediction, I do think they'll go with the best picture nominee here, especially since the Academy seems to love "Vice" a lot more than they should. But hey, Margot Robbie has pulled an upset here before with the Academy Award winning "Suicide Squad," so could she do it again?

Film Editing:

Nominations:

- "BlacKkKlansman" - Barry Alexander Brown
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" - John Ottman
- "The Favourite" - Yorgos Mavropsaridis
- "Green Book" - Patrick J. Don Vito
- "Vice" - Hank Corwin

Will Win:

- "Bohemian Rhapsody" - John Ottman

Should Win:

- "Vice" - Hank Corwin

If "Bohemian Rhapsody" is going to win in all of the technical categories that it's nominated for, it could easily come and and sweep away this one, too. And to back that up, the American Cinema Editors (ACE) gave it their Eddie award for best film editing, so it's looking like a good bet. However, the BAFTAs gave it to "Vice," so I don't think it's as quite as cut and dry. And given the eight Oscar nominees that "Vice" has, the Academy does seem to love "Vice" more than others, so they could easily give "Vice" this award, too. And as much as I don't want to see "Vice" win any awards because I have serious problems with that movie, its one saving grace was Adam McKay's quirky editing style, so I'll give it props for that, especially since the other four don't stand out to me in regards to editing. Which probably means they did their job perfectly. The best editing is the editing you don't notice, which makes it hard to judge.  

Costume Design:

Nominations:

- "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" - Mary Zophres
- "Black Panther" - Ruth Carter
- "The Favourite" - Sandy Powell
- "Mary Poppins Returns" - Sandy Powell
- "Mary Queen of Scots" - Alexandra Byrne

Will Win:

- "The Favourite" - Sandy Powell


Should Win:

- "Black Panther" - Ruth Carter

When it doubt, give costume design to a period piece, right? It's certainly not a bad philosophy and we've got two of them here with "The Favourite" and "Mary Queen of Scots." We also have "Mary Poppins Returns" taking us back to the 1930's and an interesting nomination with "Buster Scruggs" being a Western with six different short films to provide costumes for. But I mean, have y'all seen Wakanda? I may have problems with "Black Panther" as a film, but those problems are in regards to story, not the design. And the Wakandians look awesome. So that's my personal pick. But I do think the Academy will give this to Sandy Powell again. Counting the two this year, she's been nominated 14 times for her costume design work, winning three of those. Plus, "The Favourite" is a movie that comes into the night with 10 nominations, so this seems like an easy win for it. And it'll certainly be a deserved win. 

Cinematography:

Nominations:

- "Cold War" - Luzask Zal
- "The Favourite" - Robbie Ryan
- "Never Look Away" - Caleb Deschanel
- "Roma" - Alfonso Cuaron
- "A Star is Born" - Matthew Libatque

Will Win:

- "Roma" - Alfonso Cuaron

Should Win:

- "Roma" - Alfonso Cuaron

How often do we have a cinematography lineup that includes three foreign films? That means I haven't seen "Cold War" or "Never Look Away." Again with "Cold War," had I even had the opportunity to watch that, it looks the the type of movie that I would pick. Based on the trailers alone, the cinematography looks gorgeous and it's also a black and white film, just like "Roma." But I haven't seen it, so I can't pick it. Thus between "The Favourite," "A Star is Born" and "Roma," the first two in that don't have cinematography that jumps out to me. I may have felt a disconnect to "Roma" as a whole, but I can't deny that the movie was beautifully shot and I'm impressed that Alfonso Cuaron did the cinematography himself, so I'm giving it to him. And he's going to win. This feels like one of the easiest categories to pick on the night. 

Production Design:

Nominations:

- "Black Panther" - Hannah Bleachler, Jay Hart
- "The Favourite" - Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
- "First Man" - Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
- "Mary Poppins Returns" - John Myhre, Gordon Sim
- "Roma" - Eugenio Caballero, Barbara Enriquez

Will Win:

- "The Favourite" - Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton

Should Win:

- "The Favourite" - Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton

I think this is another category that "The Favourite" is going to run away with. And if you pay attention to all of the set designs in the queen's palace, or wherever this takes place, it's well deserved. I was tempted again to go with "Black Panther" on this one because this is specifically giving an award to Wakanda. However, I shied away from that a bit simply because I don't know how much of Wakanda was visual effects work vs. set design, so that's why I defaulted to "The Favourite" instead. But the other sets are pretty interesting, too. "Roma" took us to Mexico, "Mary Poppins Returns" took us to the 1930's and "First Man" took us to the moon. But out of all that, I still think "The Favourite" had the best set designs. 

Animated Feature Film:

Nominations:

- "Incredibles 2" - Pixar Animation Studio
- "Isle of Dogs" - American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush & Studio Babelsberg
- "Mirai" - Studio Chizu
- "Ralph Breaks the Internet" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
- "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" - Sony Pictures Animation

Will Win:

- "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" - Sony Pictures Animation

Should Win:

- "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" - Sony Pictures Animation

This one was really hard for me to decide when it comes to which I think is best. But not for this post. I decided this last month when I did my end of year list. I gave the edge to "Spider-Verse" over "Isle of Dogs," but only by one spot, so the two of them are pretty dead even in terms of how much I enjoyed them. Both are very excellent films for very different reasons. Both also have excellent animation with "Spider-Verse" implementing several different animation styles and "Isle of Dogs" being a rather complex stop motion film. Leading up to this award, "Spider-Verse" has literally been winning everything that has an animated film category, so it seems like an easy pick to make. But I can't help but thinking that the Oscars are going to somehow screw this one up because they have an anti-superhero bias. Imagine how awful it would be if "Infinity War," "Black Panther" and "Spider-Verse" ALL went home blank? I mean, "Incredibles 2" is a solid choice. But not when it's up against "Spider-Verse" or "Isle of Dogs." Also, I should mention that I have every intention of watch "Mirai" when it comes to my corner of the world, which it has yet to do. 

Adapted Screenplay:

Nominations:

- "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" - Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
- "BlacKkKlansman" - Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
- "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" - Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty
- "If Beale Street Could Talk" - Barry Jenkins
- "A Star is Born" - Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

Will Win:

- "BlacKkKlansman" - Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee

Should Win:

- "BlacKkKlansman" - Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee

Recently the screenplay categories have been an opportunity for the Academy to reward a best picture nominee that's not necessarily one of the top contenders to actually win best picture, which is certainly the case in this adapted screenplay category this year since the biggest three contenders are in the original screenplay category, so the door is wide open for them to give Spike Lee his Oscar win for "BlacKkKlansman." The thing that's throwing me off is that the Writer's Guild gave this to "Can You Ever Forgive Me?," so I'm not 100 percent locked in. But "BlacKkKlansman" did win the BAFTA, so that gives me more confidence. As far as my personal pick, if I'm trying to analyze the screenplay itself and not the movie as a whole, it comes down to "A Star is Born" vs. "BlacKkKlansman." I'm thinking "A Star is Born" was an easier screenplay to come up with since the movie had been made three times previously. The execution was what sold me, not necessarily the screenplay itself. So that's why I'm going "BlacKkKlansman" for my personal choice. It's a fascinating story that translated very well to the screen, so let's go ahead and give Spike Lee his Oscar!

Original Screenplay:

Nominations:

- "The Favourite" - Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara
- "First Reformed" - Paul Schrader
- "Green Book" - Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie & Peter Farrelly
- "Roma" - Alfonso Cuaron
- "Vice" - Adam McKay

Will Win:

- "The Favourite" - Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara

Should Win:

- "The Favourite" - Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara

This one is a bit trickier to predict since I think our best picture race will come down to "Green Book," "Roma" and "The Favourite," all of which are here in this category. So what direction will they go in this category? Honestly I'm thinking its "Green Book" vs. "Roma" for best picture with "The Favourite" having an outside chance at winning. And that's why I think "The Favourite" will take home original screenplay. For my personal pick, as long as "Vice" doesn't win I'll be happy. Adam McKay didn't even try to tell the true story of Dick Cheney. He even admitted it in the opening credits, with the excuse being that he was such a secretive man, which is total B.S. and everyone knows it. So why should he get any love for not trying? That rant out of the way, it's between "The Favourite" and "Green Book" for me since I found "Roma" a bit boring and I haven't seen "First Reformed." I think "Green Book" is a better film, but that's due to the acting from Vigo and Mahershala. I think "The Favourite" has a screenplay that is so creative and wild that I have to give it all the love here. 

Actress in a Supporting Role:

Nominations:

- Amy Adams - "Vice"
- Marina De Tavira - "Roma"
- Regina King - "If Beale Street Could Talk"
- Emma Stone - "The Favourite"
- Rachel Weisz - "The Favourite"

Will Win:

- Rachel Weisz - "The Favourite"

Should Win:

- Emma Stone - "The Favourite"

This is where I'm being a bit bold with my prediction. Regina King is the favorite to win, but out of all four of the acting categories, I think she's the one that's been the most vulnerable this awards season as she's completely missed out on a nomination in some of the categories. Added to that, "Beale Street" missed a best picture nomination, so I don't think the Academy is as wild about it as a whole. So I think this is an opportunity for Rachel Weisz to sneak in an Oscar win here. As far as my personal favorite, I don't think Marina, Amy or Regina gave outstanding Oscar-worthy performances, so I've debated in my head between Rachel and Emma, our two girls from "The Favourite." Honestly I think both of them gave excellent performances, but I think Emma Stone's character left a bit more of a lasting impression for me. She was also the one actress of the trio who had to convince us that she actually belonged in the movie since she's American and not British. But I think she gave a perfect British performance. Granted, that's from an American perspective, so if I have any British friends reading this that want to dispute that, feel free to fire away at me.

Actor in a Supporting Role:

Nominations:

- Mahershala Ali - "Green Book"
- Adam Driver - "BlacKkKlansman"
- Sam Elliott - "A Star is Born"
- Richard E. Grant - "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"
- Sam Rockwell - "Vice"

Will Win:

- Mahershala Ali - "Green Book"


Should Win:

- Richard E. Grant - "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

Predicting a winner in this category is super easy. Mahershala is taking home his second Oscar win. He's been winning everything so far, so it seems to be written in stone. And I certainly won't be angry with it. His performance was outstanding. For my personal pick, it was a really tough choice between the four that actually deserved to be there. I'm not sure why Sam Rockwell giving a Saturday Night Live impression of George Bush in "Vice" got him a nomination. That's a complete joke and an embarrassment to the many other actors who actually deserved to be here. But the other four gave great performances. Sam Elliott was fantastic in "A Star is Born," but didn't have that much screen time. I already mentioned that I loved Mahershala's performance, but admittedly its a very Oscar-baity role that we've seen a bunch. Adam Driver quietly pulled off a difficult performance as he had to act as a police offer who had to act racist for half the movie. I almost gave it to him. But in the end, I think Richard E. Grant gave the most memorable performance of the bunch. He played such a crazy, loud character who was easy to love with his brain and his wit, but who was also a complex individual who had quite the arc. He totally stole the show in his movie.

Actress in a Leading Role:

Nominations:

- Yalitza Aparicio - "Roma"
- Glenn Close - "The Wife"
- Olivia Colman - "The Favourite"
- Lady Gaga - "A Star is Born"
- Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Will Win:

- Glenn Close - "The Wife"

Should Win:

- Olivia Colman - "The Favourite"

This is also really easy to predict. Glenn Close is finally taking home an Oscar after losing six previous times, five of which came in the 80's. But this is a lifetime achievement award for her. No one is going to say "The Wife" is her best work, nor are many going to say that the movie is all that good. In fact, I would say that Jonathan Pryce and Max Irons out-acted her for most of the movie until we got to the final act, but you don't see them getting nominations. The Academy just feels bad that they rejected her for all these years, so they're making it up to her. I can't get too mad at that, but if I was casting a ballot, I don't give out lifetime achievement awards. I think Olivia Colman easily gave the most memorable performance of the bunch. That's not to say the others were bad. You can say Lady Gaga had an easy time as she is a musician playing a musician, but her character in the movie has a much different style than Gaga in real life, so I give her credit. I just think Bradley cooper was the shining star from "A Star is Born." And I thought hard about Yalitza since she's the best part of "Roma." But Olivia Colman is just so darn memorable that I can't pick against her. Melissa McCarthy is also good, but I would've loved for Emily Blunt to be here instead... for SOMETHING. She was deserving with both "A Quiet Place" AND "Mary Poppins Returns." 

Actor in a Leading Role:

Nominations:

- Christian Bale - "Vice"
- Bradley Cooper - "A Star is Born"
- Willem Dafoe - "At Eternity's Gate"
- Rami Malek - "Bohemian Rhapsody"
- Viggo Mortensen - "Green Book"

Will Win:

- Rami Malek - "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Should Win:

- Bradley Cooper - "A Star is Born"

I thought long and hard about this one. Not about who's going to win. That's Rami Malek, hands done. The spoiler is Christian Bale, but I don't think he's getting it. But what I did think long and hard about is who I would personally pick between Rami Malek and Bradley Cooper. The other three were fine, but just not on the same tier as these two. I have a lot of issues with "Bohemian Rhapsody" as a film, but Rami Malek is not one of them. In fact, I have a lot of respect for actors who can brilliantly pull off a historical character and Rami Malek became Freddie Mercury. That's usually who I go for. But Bradley Cooper's work in "A Star is Born" is timeless. He took a character that we've seen three times before and managed to make it his own in what arguably might be the best male lead performance from any "A Star is Born" movie. Certainly no disrespect to James Mason or Fredric March there. Just high praise for Bradley Cooper. The 2018 version of "A Star is Born" is his movie, whereas the 1937 and 1954 versions belonged to Janet Gaynor and Judy Garland, respectively. And if you've noticed a trend with my personal picks, I've been going for the performance that I personally found most memorable, even if someone like Malek had a bigger undertaking in front of him.

Directing:

Nominations:

- Spike Lee - "BlacKkKlansman"
- Pawel Pawlikowski - "Cold War"
- Yorgos Lanthimos - "The Favourite"
- Alfonso Cuaron - "Roma"
- Adam McKay - "Vice"

Will Win:

- Alfonso Cuaron - "Roma"

Should Win:


- Alfonso Cuaron - "Roma"

Directing has always been the hardest category for me to judge. There's just so much behind the scenes work that goes into directing and it's often hard for me to determine how much credit goes to the cast or crew for the movie vs. how much credit should be going to the director for pulling it all together. But when it comes to this category, "Roma" was such a personal project for Alfonso Cuaron and that seeps out into every frame of the movie. The fact that he also wrote, produced, edited and did the cinematography for the film mostly by himself only adds to his case. I also imagine that it took a lot of effort and instruction on his part to be able to get the whole cast, young and old, to perform exactly how he wanted them to in order to get the perfect picture painted whereas I think Yorgos and Spike Lee had an all-star cast who helped do a lot of the heavy lifting, making their job perhaps slightly easier than Cuaron's, so that's why I've chosen Cuaron for my pick here even though it's not my overall favorite movie of the bunch. And yeah, he's winning the award. That's easy. The final thing I'd like to say that is I'm borderline offended that Adam McKay got in instead of Bradley Cooper. That's an absolute travesty that makes the Academy look even more like a joke.

Best Picture:

Nominations:

- "Black Panther" - Walt Disney
- "BlacKkKlansman" - Focus Features
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" - 20th Century Fox
- "The Favourite" - Fox Searchlight
- "Green Book" - Universal
- "Roma" - Netflix
- "A Star is Born" - Warner Bros.
- "Vice" - Annapurna

Will Win:

- "Roma" - Netflix

Should Win:

- "BlacKkKlansman" - Focus Features

And last but not least, we have best picture. As long as I've been predicting the Oscars, my personal favorite film has never won best picture. And that's continuing this year because "Avengers: Infinity War" was not nominated. I wasn't expecting it to be, but still. The streak continues. Regarding who will win, the safe pick here is "Roma." It has all the momentum right now, so I'm playing it safe and predicting it to win. However, what I always get caught up on is the idea of preferential voting, something that none of the precursors do. If you don't know what that is, do a quick Google search because I don't want to spend too much time. But in short, a movie needs to win 50 percent of the vote to win best picture. If that doesn't happen on the first ballot, the movie with the least amount of votes will be removed and any ballot with that movie as the No. 1 choice will revert to the No. 2 movie for the next round of votes. This means that the winner is not necessarily the most liked film, but often the least hated. That leads the door wide open for "Green Book" or even "The Favourite" to sneak in a win since "Roma" is not necessarily the most broadly-appealing film. We even have some voters still hesitant to give a Netflix film best picture, so I'm conflicted here.

Regarding my personal choice, it was more of a rough year for me in regards to the best picture candidates. I didn't like "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Vice." I didn't connect with "Roma" and I thought "Black Panther" was extremely overrated. While I was quite amused by "The Favourite," I'm also not sure that it really belongs in the best picture category over some of the other films that got snubbed. That leaves us with three movie. "BlacKkKlansman," "Green Book" and "A Star is Born" as the only three nominees this year that I think deserve to be nominees. Of those three, only "BlacKkKlansman" and "A Star is Born" made my top 10 favorite movies of 2018 list. Of those two, I give "BlacKkKlansman" the edge. "A Star is Born" is great, but it suffers slightly from not having quite as much emotional weight as the 1937 and 1954 versions of the movie. Meanwhile, "BlacKkKlansman" is the most important movie of the year, in my opinion. Spike Lee not only shows us how awful the KKK was back then, but also how those same issues are the exact same issues that we still have in today's world. If you haven't seen it yet, I'm calling it necessary viewing, so give it a chance. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Alita: Battle Angel Review

We're only a month and a half into 2019, but already it's been a bit of an interesting year. In terms of the box office, the year has come up completely empty. There seems to be duds left and right, which have been led by "Glass" and "The LEGO Movie 2" vastly underperforming when compared to expectations. And those are the two movies that seemed to be surefire hits in the first two months of the year. All of this means that this most recent Presidents Day weekend was the worst Presidents Day weekend in the last 15 years. And quality also seems to be all over the place. You can go take a look at my yearly preview that I posted at the beginning of the year and already you can probably laugh at some of the choices I made on that. Leading the pack there is this current movie we are about to dive into, the curious case of "Alita: Battle Angel." I was confident that this movie was going to be a disaster. Not only did it look super generic and unoriginal, but it didn't seem Fox had any confidence in it as they kept postponing the movie until eventually settling for a February release. They seemed ready to cut their losses and get this disaster over with. So if that was the case, why should I be excited for a movie that the studio distributing it seemed to have no hope for?

The answer to that question is that, despite Fox's seemingly lack of interest, audiences are gravitating towards the film. The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is at a shockingly high 93 percent with the movie also earning an A- Cinemascore. This has led to another strong wave of "don't trust the critics on this one," which has given me a big headache. Sure, the movie's 60 percent score with the critics is a lot lower than the 93 percent from audiences. But a 60 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't mean that the critics hated it. In fact, that literally means that 60 percent of critics gave the movie a passing grade. That's the majority of critics claiming they liked the movie. I hate this black and white world we live in where every critic has to praise a movie to the high heavens or else it means they all hated it. I mean, to heck with a middle ground or a gray area, right? A movie can't have mixed reviews. It's only good reviews or bad reviews. And how about the hypocrisy of hating on the critics when you happen to be on the opposite side of their consensus, then praising them to the high heavens when you do agree? "The critics suck," people say... but only when they disagree with you. If you liked a movie they all liked, then the critics suddenly become your first line of defense.

Anyways, with that tangent out of the way, how about we talk about this movie? The movie that audiences seem to be loving, while critics are MIXED on. Because of all this, I wasn't sure what to think going in, which refreshingly left me with a blank slate. I was open to being pleased, but I also had my initial worries in the back of my mind, so things kinda cancelled themselves. What I will say is that I purposely waited until $5 Tuesday for this one because that's when IMAX is only $5 instead of $15-20. Even with various reactions, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the special effects on this are great, so why not go see an IMAX showing for just $5? And right off the bat, I can tell you that that was a great choice on my part. Sure, I could've had my review out four or five days earlier, but I would've missed out on a rather special treat. I want to talk about the budget of this movie here in a bit, but for now I'll just say it was large and the crew of this movie took full advantage of that massive budget to craft quite the visual spectacle. I was rather impressed at how much care was put into making this movie look as good as they could get it. I'm trying to think of the best comparisons here and honestly I think that this movie might be the most visually stunning film I've seen since "Blade Runner 2049" and that was an October 2017 release.

This is something that I don't want to just brush over because it's the type of theatrical experience that can make for a good escapism movie. Sometimes movies are very much social events, but they can also be very good at helping you escape the real world by diving into a completely new universe. "Alita" absolutely succeeds at that. For reasons that I'll completely avoid, I felt a strong desire to disappear from the world for a few hours and "Alita" provided me that opportunity. The year is somewhere in the 26th century. That was easy to remember because the Fox logo at the beginning switched to 26th Century Fox right before the movie started, which was clever. Apparently we're 300 years after "The Fall." Whatever that is. But it puts us into a very futuristic society and the world had a very sleek design that again reminded me of "Blade Runner 2049." Also like "2049," there's a lot of half-human, half-cyborg things running around, while our main character, much like "Ghost in the Shell," is mostly cyborg female without a strong knowledge of who she is. But with this setup, there's a lot of fancy cyborg designs that I found to be awesome. And give that Alita is secretly a super soldier, there's a lot of action sequences between all of them.

These action sequences were easily the best part of these films. I wasn't always sure why they were happening, but every time one of these fights broke out, I was completely immersed. First of all, Alita was a very charming, charismatic character brilliantly played by Rosa Salazar, so I became emotionally invested in her journey. When such an innocent looking girl all of sudden started kicking the trash out of these giant, scary, evil cyborgs that were brilliantly designed, I was richly rewarded. And the IMAX experience made it even better. It was a world with stunning visual effects, great character designs and beautiful fight choreography that was elevated with a brilliant score that fit IMAX so well that I could feel the movie at certain points. And I mean that literally because there were times that the theater shook. It reminded me of one of those Hans Zimmer scores that fits the action sequences so perfectly that the theater rumbles. And every time we got some blade on blade action, the sound design felt so sharp that I almost felt like the action was happening around me, like I needed to go hide around the corner while Alita takes care of these random baddies. In this case, the IMAX experience also came with 3D, which didn't add anything. But the IMAX was well used.

So yeah, I have to give this movie some legitimate top-notch praise for what they were able to pull off. It was one of those experiences that stunned me with how entertained and immersed I was. However, you may have picked up on my vague descriptions on whatever the heck was going on with the plot, because yeah, I don't know. There's a lot of exposition and a lot of context thrown at you and I had a hard time keeping track of it all. Bad things happened 300 years ago. Scary people are running around. We have a big baddie hiding in the shadows somewhere, using people on the ground as his puppets. Alita was trying to figure out who she was and I was just about as lost as she was. The movie is based on the Japanese manga titled "Gunnm" that began in 1990 and I think I was at a disadvantage at knowing absolutely nothing about that. I think James Cameron got a little ahead of himself while writing the screenplay as I think he assumed that everyone watching would be familiar with the manga and thus not need any explanation. Given the fact fact that this isn't just one story, but a manga series, I think that maybe James Cameron shoved a bit too much of the series into one movie. There's a lot of movie here with a lot of plot shoved into two hours.

Maybe this next point might sound a bit contradictory, but I also think James Cameron got a little ahead of himself by assuming this movie would be such a huge hit that he didn't need to explain everything that he shoved into this movie because he could include that in the three or four sequels that I'm sure he wanted to get done. It seemed like a huge portion of this plot was setting up this world and setting up the sequel, with not enough focus on making one individually great movie. Given that James Cameron is the director of the world's two highest grossing movies, "Avatar" and "Titanic," I think he was somehow able to con Fox into giving him a ginormous budget for this. The initial price tag for the production budget stands at $170 million. Add in all of the marketing costs that have been going on for the last two years and whatever other troubles or costs they've had, and Fox is reporting that the break-even point for this movie is a global total of $350-400 million. Other reports online are claiming that it could be even higher with a break-even point that is as high as $500-550 million. Yeah, sure, you make $2.7 billion like "Avatar" and that's nothing. But that ain't happen. Early reports say that Fox might take a $200 million loss on this film.

That's where things get frustrating. I think everyone is looking at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and are rushing into making their own cinematic universes or major franchises. What they forget is that the MCU is so successful because of the fact that they made several individually solid movies with character we cared about. We all cared about Iron Man, Thor and Captain America as characters before they all got together in "The Avengers." That's why "The Avengers" was such a special event. The universe built itself naturally. When you try to rush into starting a franchise, there's a legit chance of failing if you don't slow down and try to simply make a good first movie. Dumping all of that money into a first film is also a dumb idea because there's no guarantee for success. "Alita" actually over-performed based on expectations, earning $28.5 million on the three-day weekend when it was thought it would only get $15-17 million. In its first five days, it's gotten all the way to $42.2 million domestically as it enjoyed a Valentine's Day release on Thursday as well as the additional Presidents Day boost on Monday. But with "Captain Marvel" about to obliterate it come early March, it might be lucky to even cross $100 million domestically, which is unfortunate.

Knowing all of that going in, it was frustrating for me to watch the movie try so hard to set up a sequel when I knew that a sequel probably wasn't going to happen. Then things get worse when the movie leaves you on a cliffhanger, making me go crazy that I now have to live the rest of my life with this unresolved story in my head that wasn't completed because James Cameron got a serious case of overconfidence. It's like diving into a TV show after knowing that it already got canceled. That makes the finale really frustrating. Sure, in this case I have the option of going and checking out the original manga, but I don't know if I really care enough to do so. I haven't read a lot of Japanese mangas in my life and if I ever decide to change that, I'm not sure this is the one I'd start with. I'm hoping that this is a situation where James Cameron can learn from. But I'm afraid it may be too late as he's spent the last decade doing nothing but "Avatar" sequels. FOUR of them to be exact. They all have dates right now. "Avatar 2" is December 2020. "Avatar 3" is December 2021. "Avatar 4" is December 2024. "Avatar 5" is December 2025. Yet there's no guarantee that "Avatar 2" will even make any money because I don't think enough people even care about that franchise.

Now I've been giving a lot of credit to James Cameron for "Alita: Battle Angel" as if he's the one who directed the movie. He didn't. Robert Rodriguez is the director here. But this is James Cameron's movie. He's been wanting to make this since 2002, but never got around to it because he's been doing nothing but "Avatar" for the last 20 years as it took him forever to get the first "Avatar" out as well. So eventually he gave "Avatar" over to Robert Rodriguez, but Cameron still wrote the script and stayed on as producer. Robert Rodriguez has had an interesting career as he's directed everything from "Spy Kids" to "Sin City." It seems like this was a project where he dedicated himself to fulfilling James Cameron's vision. And on that level he did a great job. But that fact almost emphasizes the fact that this is still James Cameron's movie and so I'm giving the blame on this one to James Cameron for getting too overly confident. If this movie wasn't so focused on setting up the next movie, I think this movie could've legitimately been great. But that's where it falls short. And that same over-confidence led to a way-too-huge production budget that will result in now "Alita" sequels. But this is still a visual masterpiece and based on those merits, I'm going to give "Alita" a 7/10.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Happy Death Day 2U Review

It's the week of Valentine's Day. Depending on when you're reading this, it might even be Valentine's Day. Thus there's nothing more romantic than watching Jessica Rothe get stuck yet another time loop, where she has to face off against another baby face killer, right? OK, I tease. But "Happy Death Day" was a surprise hit in October 2017 that I rather enjoyed. Yeah, sure, if you did an in depth analysis of it, it's kind of a dumb movie with a lot of plot holes that doesn't necessarily make sense. And if you're looking for an actual horror movie, it's not particularly scary. But I found it to be a lot of fun because it's a very self-aware film that doesn't take itself seriously at all, so I was able to kick back, relax, and enjoy a silly time loop horror film. I'm not sure if "Groundhog Day" was the movie that started the time loop thing, but at the very least it certainly popularized it and now it's a trope that's been copied time and time again. By this point, you would think it was a trope that I was sick of. But for some strange reason that hasn't happened to me yet. Thus when "Happy Death Day 2U" was announcement, instead of rolling my eyes at another horror sequel done for a quick cash grab, I was totally down for this. It may be another dumb movie, but that was OK with me.

Describing this as a movie where Jessica Rothe getting stuck in another time loop is a bit of an oversimplification. They actually do set up more of a lore for this phenomenon. A simple way of explaining why this is happening. However, I don't know if I want to get too deep into that, even though said explanation takes place within the first 20 minutes of the movie. So I'll just say for now that the time loop phenomenon, instead of completely going away, gets passed onto their friend Ryan. When Ryan explains this to Tree (Jessica Rothe's character), she can immediately relate and they set out to figure out how to get Ryan out. Well, one thing leads to another and certain things go kaboom, and suddenly the time loop gets passed back to Tree, who completely loses her mind when she wakes up on her birthday again. Given that she's already cracked the code on how to solve this, she immediately approaches the perpetrator... only to realize that she hasn't just been sent back into the previous time loop. She's been sent back into an alternate dimension where everything's different and things have happened that she doesn't even remember. So now the challenge of this film is for her to figure out how to get back to her proper dimension where she belongs.

The first thing that comes to my mind as to why this movie worked for me is the performance of Jessica Rothe. She totally owns this role. I think the thing that some of these cheaply-made horror films forget is that if you're going to make an effective horror film, you need to have characters for the audience to care about. Being chased around by a serial killer or being haunted by an evil demon ultimately has no effect on me personally if I have no emotional investment in the main characters who are in trouble. It's even worse when some horror movies are so bad that you start cheering for the villain to quickly kill everyone off so you don't have to worry about these annoying main characters anymore. Luckily this movie doesn't have this problem and that's because of Jessica Rothe. She just has so much fun with this role that you can't help but cheer for her. And she has a surprisingly good character arc over the course of both of these films. In the first movie she goes from being confused at what's going on to putting on her detective hat to figure things out. In this movie she's flat out angry, thus making it a bad idea to get in her way. But then she runs into some surprising obstacles that forces her to show some emotion, and she does great at that, too.

Because of this, the movie went from being a silly horror film to a surprisingly emotional drama that had me caring quite a bit. There were some decisions that had to be made that caused me to feel for this girl. And, yeah, there's also plenty of fun to be had on top of all this. The movie becomes a bit sciency in parts, which was a major departure from the first film. I thought that was an interesting choice, but I ended up being fine with that. Because of that, instead of Tree deciding to get killed by the new baby face killer every night to figure things out, she comes up with some clever ways to kill herself when a reset is needed for reasons that I won't get too deep into. That leads us to our mandatory time loop montage that the trailers focused heavily on with Tree doing things like jumping off a plane in a bikini to drinking some sort of poisonous fluid in an auto parts store and a whole bunch of stuff like that. It might sound a bit morbid to be entertained by that, but this movie is meant to be a lot of fun. In fact, it goes to the point where the movie often forgets that it's a horror film. There's a large portion of this movie where the baby face killer is missing in action. I'm not sure if some will have a problem with that or not, but I didn't care. 

The other thing that I really appreciated about this movie is that the filmmakers here made an honest effort to separate this movie from the first film while also keeping the heart and soul in tact. There's a lot of horror franchises out there that get really lazy with their sequels. They manage to come up with a creative idea that a lot of people gravitate towards with their first film, but when they crack the code and make a lot of money, all the creativity gets thrown out the window in favor of a cash grab. Given that horror films are often the cheapest genre of movie to make, it's really easy to make a quick profit. Point in case, "Happy Death Day" was made on a budget of just $4.8 million. Thus a $55.7 million domestic total was a huge return on their investment that got even better when they ended with $125.5 million worldwide. If all they wanted to do was to make money, they didn't need to put much effort into this sequel all. They doubled their production budget to $9 million with "Happy Death Day 2U," thus a phoned-in, poorly-written retread would've easily given them a quick profit. But instead of doing that, it honestly felt like they cared about this property enough to build on the first movie and create a fun franchise rather than just scamming a bunch of teenagers.

Because of that, I look forward to more "Happy Death Day" movies. And yes, that's going to happen. The movie is currently projected to earn about $25 million through its first six days of release over this extended Valentine's Day and Presidents Day weekend. That right there is already makes this movie a success given the aforementioned $9 million production budget. Compare that to "Alita: Battle Angel," which is looking to take in around the same total this weekend, but is instead in a lot of trouble thanks to a $170 million production budget. That's why the business of the box office is a fascinating one to explore, in my opinion. Two movies can make the exact same total, but said total will make one studio throw a celebration while making the other studio spend the weekend hiding in their corners crying. Barring a Chinese miracle, don't expect an "Alita" sequel. But do expect a "Happy Death Day 3." They even have a mid-credits scene that sets it up. And you better believe I'm on board. Had "Happy Death Day 2U" been a lazy retread that bored me, I may have felt differently, but because they made a real effort to build on the first movie, giving us a fun follow-up that still feels fresh, I'm open to getting more out of this franchise as long as they maintain their creativity.

Yes, there's a lot that could be nitpicked about this movie. Same thing goes with the first one. Said first movie ended up with a 71 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes with a 65 percent audience score. I listened to a lot of the complaints and I totally understood the negativity. It was by no means a masterpiece of a film. But I didn't really care. I had fun with it. It was one of those movies where I was able to turn off my brain and enjoy. "Happy Death Day 2U" seems to be about on the same level. At the time of me typing this, there's still a lot of reviews yet to come in as they held those back until last night. But with 81 reviews counted, the score was at a 65 percent with the critics. Although it surprisingly has a much higher audience score compared to its predecessor with 83 percent right now, which is encouraging for me. But nevertheless, I've read through a lot of the negative reaction and I understand. In fact, I'm not going to rush to this movie's defense because I think there's a lot of solid points from the people not liking this. But ultimately said complaints didn't bother me. I just wanted to go have fun and I did. If you're on board with me in regards to the first film, then go check this sequel out. I'm going to give "Happy Death Day 2U" an 8/10.   

Friday, February 8, 2019

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part Review

Can you believe it's been five years since "The LEGO Movie" hit theaters? To this day, I still think that "The LEGO Movie" is one of the most genius animated movies ever made. Not only was it a really fun adventure with laugh-out-loud humor and great character development, but the twist at the end that the whole movie was just a kid playing with LEGOs completely blew my mind. It was one of those twists that completely changed the viewing experience the second time around. It's also a movie that totally holds up five years later as a movie that's simply a blast to watch and re-watch on whatever the occasion. If you haven't seen it, sorry for spoiling the ending, but I don't feel too bad because if you haven't seen "The LEGO Movie" yet, were you really planning on doing so anytime soon? Plus, I need to talk about this idea of the movie being about kids playing with LEGOs because that's this whole second movie. They don't even hide it. They flip back and forth to live action all the time. In fact, they start with live action as the ending of last movie is the intro to this movie. So yeah, sorry, not sorry. But we'll get to all of that. Given how much I loved the first movie, of course I was excited to see this sequel. I think there's a lot of potential with this LEGO franchise moving forward.

However, I will say that my official excitement level walking into the theater was cautiously optimistic. It's one of those movies where I wanted to be super excited based on goodwill from the first one, but I watched the trailers and just wasn't able to get myself there. And as far as the LEGO franchise goes, while "The LEGO Batman Movie" was equally as fun and genius as "The LEGO Movie," there is this thing called "The LEGO Ninjago Movie," which was a complete dud in my opinion. So it hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies thus far. Topping this all off, Lord and Miller aren't back as directors for this movie. That job went to Mike Mitchell, director of "Shrek Forever After," "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" and "Trolls." Neither of those are particularly bad, but nor are they particularly great. So that didn't inspire a ton of confidence in me. I know, fans of "Trolls" are going to now come after me with their torches and pitchforks. But so be it. What did inspire a little confidence is that Lord and Miller did write the screenplay for "The LEGO Movie 2" and were also on board as one of the 5,000 producers of the film. So they still had their stamp on the movie, even if they didn't have quite as much control as they did in the first movie.

And yeah, I'll say right off the bat that this doesn't have the magic of the first movie, so if you're like me and are still madly in love with "The LEGO Movie," I'd recommend going into this one with slightly tempered expectations. That said, this is also not bad at all. If I had to describe this movie in one word, I'd go with "cute." As far as the plot goes, it kinda does exactly what you expected it to do. At the end of the first movie, Will Ferrell tells his boy that if he's going to play with all of daddy's LEGOs, then his sister gets to play, too. The movie ends with some LEGO monsters designed by a very young girl invading the town. As I said before, that's exactly where this movie begins. It's that exact ending, but extended a bit before we then lead into the opening title. After that intro, we then jump five years into the future where Bricksburg has become transformed into a Mad Max style wasteland that you saw advertised in all of the trailers, which they now call Apocalypseburg. Occasionally the little aliens from the young girl still still come and invade the area, destroying any signs of life. In one of these instances, Lucy, Batman and a few other main characters from the first movie get captured, causing Emmet to go on a rescue mission to save them.

When watching the first movie, it took me until the very end of the movie to figure out what was going on. This time around, I caught on right away. And I don't feel the movie made any attempt to hide what was happening. They took the philosophy that since the cat is now out of the bag, let's just take it and run with it rather than try to be secretive about it. And it works just fine. The general idea here is that the young boy, named Finn, has all of his stuff downstairs and his sister Bianca has her stuff in her room upstairs. They both love LEGOs, but like a typical brother and sister, they don't always get along or play well with each other. The movie cleverly incorporates this into the animated universe as it jumps back and forth from live action to animation. Lucy and the gang getting captured and taken to the unknown is equal to the little sister taking the toys and running up to her room. Then you can see the conflict represented in the sister's room being the "evil lair." But is it evil or is it just a stubborn older brother not wanting to play along? I'm not exactly sure how old the kids in the movie are supposed to be, but the child actors who play them are 15 years old and 8 years old respectively. That's Jadon Sand as Finn and Brooklyn Prince as Bianca, both of whom do great.

So there are a lot of clever themes in the movie and a strong message about getting along with your siblings, but I couldn't help but think that this is a movie that is specifically targeted at kids, which is slightly disappointing considering how clever and funny the first movie was. It managed to hit the Pixar balance of being perfectly enjoyable and fun for younger kids while being equally as entertaining and memorable for adults. A group of college students can sit down and watch "The LEGO Movie" as a movie night and no one will even bat an eye or question why a kids movie was decided on for them to watch. "The LEGO Movie 2," on the other hand, doesn't seem interested in finding this balance. They just made a movie for kids. Yes, there are plenty of jokes that I laughed at, but there were a lot more chuckles than laugh-out-loud moments. And the movie didn't try very hard to be clever and witty with all the Warner Bros. references. In fact, as I think about it, "The LEGO Movie" seemed determined to throw in as many Warner Bros. references as they could, with several references from other properties as well. This movie abandoned that. There's a few cameos from characters we saw in the last movie, but they seemed like more of an afterthought.

At the same time, though, while I was disappointed on a personal level that the movie was as clever and as deep for adults as the first movie was, I couldn't get too mad because it was really adorable and cute. If their goal was to make this a movie for kids, they did a really good job at it. I may have not laughed as hard at the jokes as I wanted and I may have been disappointed at the lack of endless movie references, but I can envision this as the type of movie that kids of all ages are going to be super invested in. I almost wish that I had waited to see this at a matinee showing instead of going to the late night preview so I could see the reaction from the target audience, but I have no doubt that the young kids are going to be laughing like crazy the whole movie and will be singing the songs so much that it might drive their parents mad. Because, yeah, this movie is practically a musical. The first movie had "Everything is Awesome" and everyone loves that song. Right? Well this movie has a few different versions of that song while also having a whole lot more. They're all pretty dumb, but are also extremely amusing. There's a specific song that I'll let you discover that I spent the whole night singing, for better or for worse. You'll know what I mean when you hear it. The end credits song is also hilarious, so make sure you stick around.

Also in regards to this being primarily a kids movie, I really appreciated the fact that the humor is clean and appropriate. There's so many kids movies that will resort to poop and fart jokes to make kids laugh. This movie completely avoids that trope, providing humor that will make your kids laugh equally as hard without resorting to all that juvenile toilet humor. It's legitimately cute and charming. And it terms of the message, it drives home the idea of playing nicely with your siblings to the point where I think that message will stick into kids' heads and thus make parents really happy. So I can't be too mad or grumpy at this. Do I personally have a desire to buy this and watch it over and over, like I have done with "The LEGO Movie" and "The LEGO Batman Movie"? No, I don't. This one viewing is probably perfectly satisfactory. Granted, if someone else decides to watch it and I happen to be in the room, I'm not going to run away and hide. But I'm also not going to be the one to seek it out or suggest it for a movie night, if that makes sense. It's not a must see. Unless you're a parent with young kids. In which case, see it asap. It's perfect. And it might be the type of movie that becomes a timeless classic for your kids. And I appreciate it for that. So I'll give "The LEGO Movie 2" an 8/10.