THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE quick review

The LEGO legacy continues. I’m not complaining. Are you?

I can’t say that I’m familiar with the straight to TV movies or shows that have come from LEGO before THE LEGO MOVIE (2014), but if both I can guess they’re bad, and a little girl telling me that they’re bad, then it’s a safe bet that they’re bad outings. Thankfully, everything cinematic has been golden. I loved LEGO BATMAN (2017), and since this latest installment is by the same creators, I’m more than happy to visit this in theaters.

Having said that, I have a particular fear that this is where the films will find themselves in a decline. Why do I think that? Consider this for a moment. The LEGO movies have one common theme: family relationships. The whole point of the first film was a kid trying to have fun and connect with his father, and LEGO BATMAN is about Batman learning to get over his parents and embracing his new family. This movie looks like it’s about a son connecting with his father again, except far less subtle. Of course, the concept of family problems being addressed and resolved isn’t inherently bad, but how many times can you tackle the same subject before it gets tired? The first movie had the advantage of having a great story, some great jokes, and wonderful visuals. LEGO BATMAN got by on being a loving satire of every Batman film that has ever come out. Plus, everyone knows and loves Batman. But what does this one really have? In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t be so worried. If nothing else, there’s a reason the creators picked this source material and knew how to make it both marketable, funny, and endearing. So I’ll still go in with high expectations.

Here’s the voice talent. Starring, we have Dave Franco (THE LITTLE HOURS [2017], 21 JUMP STREET [2012], SUPERBAD [2007], and the upcoming THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017]), Justin Theroux (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN [2016], MIAMI VICE [2006], AMERICAN PSYCHO [2000], and THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME [2018]), and Jackie Chan (THE NUT JOB 2 [2017], RUSH HOUR 3 [2007], THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER [1994], and the upcoming THE FOREIGNER [2017]). In support, we have Michael Peña (CHIPS [2017], BATTLE LOS ANGELES [2011], CRASH [2004], and upcoming films MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE [2017] and A WRINKLE IN TIME [2018]), Abbi Jacobson (PERSON TO PERSON [2017], NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY ROW [2016], and TV show BROAD CITY [2014 – ongoing]), Kumail Nanjiani (THE BIG SICK [2017], FIST FIGHT [2017], video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA [2017], and the upcoming video game MIDDLE-EARTH: SHADOW OF WAR [2017]), Olivia Munn (OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], MAGIC MIKE [2012], BIG STAN [2007], and upcoming films THE PREDATOR [2018] and X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX [2018]), and Fred Armisen (THE LITTLE HOURS, BAND AID [2017], and TV show PORTLANDIA [2011 – ongoing]).

Now for the crew. There are a grand total of three directors. Two of them co-wrote the movie: Paul Fisher and Bob Logan, both making their directorial and writing debuts (Congrats, gentlemen). The other didn’t: Charlie Bean, known for TV show TRON: UPRISING (2012 – 2013). As for the other writers, RED FLAGS!!! Four additional writers, making a grand total of six working on this movie: William Wheeler (GHOST IN THE SHELL [2017], QUEEN OF KATWE [2016], and THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST [2012]), Tom Wheeler (PUSS IN BOOTS [2011], TV show THE CAPE [2011], and the upcoming B.O.O.: BUREAU OF OTHERWORLDLY OPERATIONS, no release date announced), Jared Stern (LEGO BATMAN, THE INTERNSHIP [2013], and MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS [2011]), and John Whittington (LEGO BATMAN). Finally, composing the score is Mark Mothersbaugh, known for BEATRIZ AT DINNER (2017), NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST (2008), video game CRASH BANDICOOT 2: CORTEX STRIKES BACK (1997), and upcoming films BRAD’S STATUS (2017) and THOR: RAGNAROK (2017).

Overall, I was excited until I saw six writers on this movie. Oh dear lord. Well, LEGO BATMAN had five writers and that turned out wonderfully… maybe this will be too. Fingers crossed.

This is my honest opinion of: THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE

(SUMMARY)

The city of Ninjago is constantly under attack by the evil warlord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux). But his efforts are constantly thwarted by a group of young ninja students, one of them being Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), his own son, and doesn’t even know it. But one day, Garmadon unleashes his greatest weapon, a giant cat, and after failing to stop, Lloyd, his fellow ninjas, and their master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan) must venture out to seek the ultimate Ultimate weapon and stop Garmadon once and for all.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Aww man… I really wanted this to be good, but it wasn’t. Oh okay, it wasn’t bad, but… man, kind of disappointing.

I think first and foremost, it’s not really all that funny. I mean, it’s not devoid of comedy, but where LEGO MOVIE and LEGO BATMAN has me rolling in the aisles, this only offered chuckles, and not very many. Michael Strahan and Robin Roberts cameos are humorous one offs, but when the movie hammers in the jokes without having them say or do anything all that funny, it gets a little grating. The characters also didn’t feel particularly. All I remembered was Lloyd, the girl, and the timid one. I don’t remember names. defined and it still kind of confuses me why there was a robot ninja in the group. The story also hits a few too many clichés. The father and son bonding by playing catch in a weird quirky way (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY PART 2 [2017]), weird plot points that basically tell you not to be invested, but still treat it like you should, and it’s not even a very good joke, if that’s what it was going for, and much of the film doesn’t have the cool machines that the advertising showcased. They’re only in the first twenty minutes or so. Also, the giant cat got old, and the live-action stuff felt unnecessary. I’m also not entirely sure what the point was in making Garmadon and Wu brothers. They don’t really act like it, and Wu doesn’t really act like Lloyd’s uncle. Just another student. So as much as family looks like it’d be a central theme, the family doesn’t much interact like one outside of the obvious.

But it’s not all bad. Chan is humorous as always and makes for a welcomed appearance. Theroux is surprisingly humorous as Garmadon, even though his voice is obviously a Batman rip-off. The characters, as unmemorable as they are, are at the very least likable. The visuals are still pretty nice and as much as the live-action cat got overused, it’s integrated well enough.

I can’t honestly find too many good things to say. It’s a pretty heavy letdown from how good the previous movies are. But I guess Warner Animation Group’s feet are indeed made of clay. And for all intents and purposes, the movie’s not awful. If your kids are bugging you to go see it, it’s harmless. But if you’re an adult who liked the previous films… viewer beware. Save it for a discount day at the theaters, or a rental. But I don’t recommend full price.

My honest rating for THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE: 3/5

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BATTLE OF THE SEXES review

I can’t claim to know anything about the the real events that this movie is portraying, but based on my dollar tree-worth of research, Billie Jean King, whose husband is famed talk-show host Larry King, is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. I’m guessing it’s no accident that she’s not considered one of the greatest “female” tennis players of all time, a testament to her talent, no doubt. Bobby Riggs was also a heavy-weight for his time and the two essentially get into a tennis match. Riggs taunts King into it, he was in his fifties, and she was almost thirty. Summed up, she won, but even that victory had its controversies, citing that it was King’s age that won the match.

As for the movie itself, yes, I’m looking forward to this one the most this week. I’m always down for a good feminist flick and who doesn’t love an ass-kicking woman humbling a sexist jack-off?

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Emma Stone (LA LA LAND [2016], THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN [2012], SUPERBAD [2007], and the upcoming CRUELLA [2018]), and Steve Carell (DESPICABLE ME 3 [2017], DATE NIGHT [2010], BRUCE ALMIGHTY [2003], and the upcoming MINECRAFT: THE MOVIE [2019]). In support, we have Bill Pullman (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE [2016], SCARY MOVIE 4 [2006], CASPER [1995], and the upcoming THE EQUALIZER 2 [2018]), Elisabeth Shue (HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET [2012], PIRANHA 3D [2010], THE KARATE KID [1984], and the upcoming DEATH WISH [2017]), Sarah Silverman (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], THE MUPPETS [2011], THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY [1998], and the upcoming RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]), Natalie Morales (TV shows TROPHY WIFE [2013 – 2014] and PARKS AND REC [2009 – 2015]), and Alan Cummings (STRANGE MAGIC [2015], X2: X-MEN UNITED [2003], and GOLDENEYE [1995]).

Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, both known for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) and a bunch of music videos. Penning the screenplay is Simon Beaufoy, known for EVEREST (2015), THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013), and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008). Composing the score is Nicholas Britell, known for MOONLIGHT (2016), A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS (2016), FREE STATE OF JONES (2016), and the upcoming OCEAN’S EIGHT (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Linus Sandgren, known for LA LA LAND, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (2014), PROMISED LAND (2013), and upcoming films FIRST MAN (2018) and THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS (2018).

Overall, I’m super stoked for this. I can’t wait.

This is my honest opinion of: BATTLE OF THE SEXES

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1973. Billy Jean King (Emma Stone) has just been marked as the most successful women’s tennis player in the world. However, despite the great strides that women have been making in the world of sports, the higher ups believe that men are more marketable, despite evidence suggesting that women are just as popular a draw. Repulsed by the lack of equality, she founded the Women’s Tennis Association with some other great female tennis players. Billy Jean’s success eventually catches the eye of former great tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), who is eager to join the bandwagon in proving that men are superior to women in sports and challenges Billy Jean to a Battle of the Sexes match.

(REVIEW)

I like it. I’m really happy I got to see this.

Okay, I think if there’s anything that should be mentioned is that this isn’t exactly a sports biopic. At least, not all the way through. Much of the marketing strictly revolves around the match between Billy Jean and Bobby. And while that is a central and integral element to the story, people should be aware that it gets pretty personal for both people. We’re shown how Bobby is an addicted gambler and shows his failing marriage to his wife. We’re also shown Billie Jean’s homosexual awakening and her affair with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). In fact, a lot of time is devoted to that and how it affected her marriage to Larry King (Austin Stowell). In fact, a lot of time is dedicated to this, which might throw a few people off wondering what this has to do with the famous tennis match. Truth is, probably not much. But that’s not to say that it’s not effective. Stone’s performance as a sexually confused Billy Jean is very engaging and perfectly acted. On the one hand, she’s utterly guilty with how it would affect her marriage to Larry, and due to the 70s, would give a bad name to her new organization. On the other hand, it’s a new side of herself that she wants to explore and understand better and despite her cheating on Larry, we want her to be happy. She’s a feminist, a supportive friend, an iron-clad determination, and an all-around down to Earth gal. There’s real stakes in this story and no matter what Billy Jean does, she’s sacrificing something for what she believes is the greater good.

Even the stuff with Bobby isn’t short-changed. We see a man who is a loving husband and father, just trying to find his way in the world post-tennis greatness, but sadly fell into gambling and can’t give it up. He lies to his wife Priscilla (Elizabeth Shue) about it, which deteriorates their marriage understandably, but believes himself to be changed when he gets back into tennis. He loves his family dearly, and even when he’s playing up the Chauvinist Pig persona in the media, you never really get the sense that he’s one-hundred percent sincere about it. He’s doing it for the publicity and sponsorships, so it’s hard to see him as the villain. Easy to root against, he’s an egotistical jack-off, but not so easy to hate.

The performances are really what holds the movie up. This is arguably my favorite live-action performance by Silverman, who is so much fun watch here, Pullman’s a delicious asshole, Shue is incredibly sympathetic as Rigg’s wife, it all carries the film incredibly well.

I suppose if I had any real complaints, it’s the numerous creative liberties that were taken. But to be clear, I’m only going off of what I’ve read off of Wikipedia, which has a nasty habit of getting facts wrong, so if anything I mention is either false or not entirely true because you read some book that Billie Jean wrote, feel free to comment. I’ll post the link below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Sexes_(tennis)

First, the discrepancies. Billie Jean and Marilyn didn’t meet in 1973 as depicted in the film, they met in 1971. And unless “secretary” has an incredibly generalized definition, Marilyn wasn’t a hairdresser, she was Billie Jean’s personal secretary. During the match itself, Billie Jean was getting her ass handed to her early on, but the film depicted it as pretty even split.

Now, here’s my issues with these. While I can’t claim to know how long Billie Jean’s affair was with Marilyn, maybe it lasted a very brief amount of time, maybe it lasted from ’71 to ’73 throughout the Battle of the Sexes match, but it seems strange that they threw it in like that. If it didn’t last two years, then this relationship was used as an excuse to throw in more sympathy for the lesbian community. Not that this is bad, of course, Billie Jean was a champion of women’s rights, but the subject matter in itself does a fine job of that, promoting fair and equal pay for women in sports. Who’s not down for that? Adding a lesbian sideplot almost seems contrived. But then again, this is a biopic of Billie Jean’s life and her affair with Marilyn is a part of her life, and I think the writer was trying to make this movie a little more all-encompassing of her life. After all, a two year separation from the real events and the events depicted in the film really isn’t that big of a deal, especially since the film does place an importance on their relationship, which was a big deal in Billie Jean’s life.

But seriously, why is she a hairdresser and not a secretary? Isn’t that distinction kind of necessary? If Marilyn was Billy Jean’s secretary, the relationship might have felt a little more organic instead of a single encounter in a hair salon. Having her as a secretary, depending on how long they’d known each other before the affair and how long they’d known each other in general, would have shown that there was history and chemistry, which would create that sexual tension and just make more sense. A one off encounter in a hair salon just seems a little too “love at first sight” to me, and making it lesbians doesn’t make it okay. I have a problem with it even it when it involves heterosexual people. Gays don’t get a free pass in this.

Swinging back around to Billy Jean’s personal life, she did had an abortion in 1971. If gay rights are a hot button topic in 2017, despite the legal advances that have been made in recent years, then you sure as shit better believe that abortion is a hot button topic as well, which remains just as controversial today as it’s ever been. . Why wasn’t this something added to the movie? I have my theories. One, if they did add it, they risk both making the movie longer and more unfocused. Or two, they made a choice. Talk about a subject matter that lights fires under countless asses, or showcase Emma Stone making out with a chick. Well… sex does sell… and boom, we have this. I think a better, smarter writer could have used the abortion angle and made a really impactful film. But then again… maybe that’s why it wasn’t used because the writer wouldn’t have known what to say about it and or didn’t have anything smart to add, so it was decided to leave it out. Either way, it’s a shame.

And for the match itself, making it a little too even split at the beginning, wouldn’t it have been more dramatic to see Billy Jean losing while Bobby taunts her? And when she makes her comeback, that’s when Bobby takes his jacket off and stops his clowning around? I feel like it would have served the film much better, but what do I know?

To be fair, I can’t claim to know why these creative liberties were taken. Maybe Billie Jean herself requested certain elements not be included. But regardless, as much as I ragged on the liberties, it’s a solid film and I do recommend it. I don’t think it’s the must-see movie of the year or anything, but if you’re a fan of the cast, enjoy a good feminist movie, or even sports films, then this is worth your time.

My honest rating for BATTLE OF THE SEXES: 4/5

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THE LITTLE HOURS review

Well, hello to you too, random-ass movie.

So as I’m writing my initial impressions of this movie, I just saw the trailer a few seconds ago. It’s definitely one of those movies that’s a period piece, but with a modern sense of humor and way of talking. Kind of a wonder why this doesn’t take place in the modern day, but fine, whatever, middle ages with “fuck” as your main word, who am I to argue with what Hollywood wants to let get made. At a glance, the movie isn’t really that interesting, but some jokes do stand out in my head that make me laugh. In retrospect though, this is a raunchy comedy, and they don’t always agree with my sense of humor. But don’t knock it ’till you’ve seen it, right?

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Dave Franco (NERVE [2016], UNFINISHED BUSINESS [2015], 21 JUMP STREET [2012], and upcoming animated film THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE [2017] and THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017]), Alison Brie (GET HARD [2015], SCREAM [2011], Netflix TV show GLOW, and the upcoming THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017]), Kate Micucci (THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE [2017], DON’T THINK TWICE [2016], and TV show GARFUNKEL AND OATES), Aubrey Plaza (MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES [2016], TV shows LEGION and PARKS AND REC, and the upcoming film INGRID GOES WEST [2017]), who also produced this movie, and John C. Reilly (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], THE LOBSTER [2016], STEP BROTHERS [2008], and upcoming films the animated RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018] and HOLMES AND WATSON [2018]). In support, we have Fred Armisen (BAND AID [2017], THE SMURFS 2 [2013], TV show PORTLANDIA, and the upcoming LEGO NINJAGO), Molly Shannon (HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 [2015], SERENDIPITY [2001], and HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS [2000]), and Nick Offerman (THE HERO [2017], MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI [2016], and TV show PARKS AND REC)

Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Jeff Baena, known for I HEART HUCKABEES (2004). Composing the score is Dan Romer, known for BEASTS OF NO NATION (2015) and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012). Finally the cinematographer is Quyen Tran, known for a ton of short films.

Overall, I might enjoy this, I might not… I’m seeing this at a pretty damn expensive theater, so I’d really like to like it.

This is my honest opinion of: THE LITTLE HOURS

(SUMMARY)

Set in the Middle Ages. Massetto (Dave Franco) is a slave to Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman). He is also having an affair with his wife, to which the affair is discovered and Messetto is forced to flee the castle for his life. Soon after, he meets the kindly, but drunken Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly). He offers the young man a place of solace in his convent as a deaf and mute helper… which poses its own set of unique problems as Massetto learns that the convent is full of mentally and emotionally unstable, and sexually repressed nuns who take a liking to him.

(REVIEW)

DISCLAIMER: Apparently, this is a parody of “The Decameron” by Giovanni Boccaccio. But… as anyone who knows me really well, I haven’t the faintest idea of what that is, so… yeah, I can’t judge this movie as a parody. But I can judge it as a raunchy period comedy.

Yeah, it’s about what I expected. Raunchy for no reason other than for the sake of it. But as far as raunchy comedies go, this wasn’t awful.

I guess if you really think about it, the concept itself lends itself to some solid possibilities that the movie does admittedly utilize. Deaf and mute, young and attractive man in a convent full of sexually repressed women, it starts out and goes exactly where you might expect it to go. They start spilling their secrets and desires and eventually attempt to take advantage of Massetto’s “disabilities” and he being unable to say anything lest the truth come out and he gets sent back to his master for execution. There is a plot here with legit obstacles. I suppose the biggest problem is that this movie doesn’t really try to go all that far with its own ideas. It’s basically just sex jokes. Granted, there’s a witch joke that comes out of nowhere that’s mildly amusing, but that’s pretty much it. No one thought to themselves to really flesh out the conflict and opted for the bare minimum in both humor and plot.

The characters suffer in much the same way. The performances are… fine, for what it’s worth. Plaza’s signature deadpan “fuck you” line deliveries and Brie and Micucci’s highly expressive faces make you want to laugh at them, but they’re not given any good lines. Again, this script is composed of swearing, and swearing isn’t automatically funny. Yet, they’re characters are pretty well-defined. Alessandra doesn’t want to be a nun. She wants a normal life and to one day find romance. But she’s forced into this position because… her father donates a lot of money to the convent…? Hey, I said the characters were well-defined, not their backstories. And much of the plots central conflict comes from her inability to keep legs closed, desperation and opportunity set in when Massetto enters the picture. Fernanda is completely apathetic to the nun ways, often drinking and caring little about expressing herself sexually and Genevra is sexually confused, idolizing Fernanda and her certainty, developing feelings for her that become almost obsessive. All of this, it’s ripe with hilarious possibilities. To be fair, Genevra is probably the funniest character that you care most about, but even that gets pushed to the wayside depending how tolerable you are of her borderline cartoonish personality later on.

There are three characters that stand out. Franco as Massetto, Reilly as Father Tommasso, and Armisen as the Bishop. Franco’s dilemma certainly made for the most hilarious reactions, considering how disinterested he is in the psychotic women at first, but then sort of gives in to the novelty of fucking a nun. Good-natured, but hardly a saint in retrospect. Usually, I don’t like Reilly, mostly because I associated him as another unfunny Will Ferrell since the two used to work together a lot, but ever since he made a real name for himself out of Ferrell’s shadow, he’s been damn funny, or at the very least, enjoyable to watch. Him as the drunken Father Tommasso is no exception. And Armisen, though briefly appearing in the film, led to a pretty long string of hilarious scenes when the transgressions of the three women came to his knowledge. “Eating blood? Do you think I’ve ever written down ‘eating blood’ before? Where am I?” Yeah, the line is in the trailer, but that’s still not old.

Beyond that, the film isn’t all that much to write home about. I have a feeling this will pass over quite a few radars and it’s not hard to see why. Perhaps this movie will appeal to those who are more familiar with the source material it’s satirizing, but for me, it’s just a raunchy comedy. The acting is great, there’s some hilarious ideas, and impressively distinct characters that will definitely make this a more memorable comedy this year. But it uses foul language as its main source of comedy, which, unless you like that sort of thing, then you’ll find this movie’s comedy pretty scarce. It’s not bad, but it’s lack of clever comedy drags it down hard. I’m not upset that I saw it, in fact, some scenes I would love to revisit, but I don’t see myself sitting through this movie again. I can only recommend this to those who know the Boccaccio stories, or if you love raunchy comedies. Beyond that, I say, don’t spend your money on this at the theater. I recommend this as a light rental. Netflix, Redbox, any of those.

My honest rating for THE LITTLE HOURS: 3/5

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BAND AID review

Oh man, if I missed out on this movie, I would have been pissed.

So, a little bit of background. To my understanding, not only is movie Zoe Lister-Jones starring in this movie, but she’s also directing it. Her debut, no less. I first became a fan of Lister-Jones on the TV show WHITNEY, the critically panned an unpopular Whitney Cummings sitcom that only ran two seasons. Personally, I kind of liked the show mostly because of the female talent, which included Lister-Jones, whom I thought was hilarious. Today, she’s part of the much more popular sitcom LIFE IN PIECES among an ensemble cast. I wish I watched more of that show, but I’m here to say that this movie is arguably one of the more anticipated movies of the week for me. Why? Again, kind of a fan of Lister-Jones and had no idea that she had a directing bone in her body. Goes to show what I know, right?

Anyway, the story looks like it’s about this married couple who can’t seem to stop fighting. They go to counseling and they decide to go through unconventional means to repair their relationship by turning their fights into song lyrics. They start a band using that platform and get some help with a neighbor. I have to admit, there does seem to be a special charm about it and, in case I haven’t said it a million and one times, I’m really excited for this project.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Lister-Jones (TV shows LIFE IN PIECES, NEW GIRL, and WHITNEY), Adam Pally (MIDDLE SCHOOL [2016], DON’T THINK TWICE [2016], and TV show THE MINDY PROJECT), and Fred Armisen (TV shows UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, PORTLANDIA. and SNL, and the upcoming THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE [2017]). In support… and possible cameos, we have Brooklyn Decker (BATTLESHIP [2012], JUST GO WITH IT [2011], and TV show FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES), Jamie Chung (OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], SUCKER PUNCH [2011], and TV show ONCE UPON A TIME), Colin Hanks (ELVIS & NIXON [2016], THE HOUSE BUNNY [2008], and TV show LIFE IN PIECES), Retta (MIDDLE SCHOOL and TV show PARKS AND REC), and Chris D’Elia (TV shows UNDATEABLE and WHITNEY).

Now for the crew. Directing AND writing this movie (new information) is, of course, Lister-Jones, making her directorial debut (congrats, miss), but has written for movies before, including CONSUMED (2015), LOLA VERSUS (2012), and BREAKING UPWARDS (2009), none of which I’ve heard of. Composing the score is Lucius, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Finally, the cinematographer is Hillary Spera, known for a bunch of stuff I’ve never heard of.

Overall, pretty excited with this one and really want to show support for Lister-Jones. Let’s see how she does as this triple threat.

This is my honest opinion of: BAND AID

(SUMMARY)

Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are a married couple that can’t stop fighting. Even therapy doesn’t seem to quite help. But, in a last ditch effort to save their marriage, they decide to turn their fights into song lyrics, which leads them to starting a garage band.

(REVIEW)

This was about to be a “Quick Review” but I enjoyed this movie so much that I wanted to give it the full treatment.

This is almost this year’s SING STREET (2016). Okay, maybe the music isn’t quite as good, but this is one of the best romance dramedies of the year.

First of all, woman of the damn hour, Lister-Jones knocks it out of the park. I feel like nearly everything she did was pitch perfect. Every emotion was nailed. If a scene was meant to be funny, it was hilarious. If it was meant to be serious, it was thought-provoking, or tear-jerking, and feels absolutely raw and real, thanks in no small part to the wonderful chemistry between Lister-Jones and Pally. The opening scene alone has perfectly intertwined smart comedy and intense drama, all because of dirty dishes. I think one of my favorite aspects of this movie is that the depiction isn’t constantly the two of them acting bitter and resentful. There’s a scene with Anna at her god-son’s birthday party and she and Ben are miserable with all the kids that are crowded around them. They escape to a bathroom in the house and share a joint where the two of them are calm and collected around each other. There’s another scene where they’ve already started their garage band and before even coming up with a song, they’re already fighting. I feel like in a lesser film, as soon as the idea for turning the fights into music would instantly have them getting along and only have one or two minor fights thrown in that last two seconds. But it’s written in a way that even though they do connect on a bizarre level doing this, they do still find reasons to argue. It feels like a very realistic portrayal of a dysfunctional couple, but at no point did I want to see them break up.

Now for the music. While I doubt they’ll find themselves among the piles of Oscar considerations next year, I did enjoy it. They’re incredibly simple and not always well played, but they’re amusing and the lack of professional play-style is certainly part of the charm. To be fair, Lister-Jones and Pally aren’t bad singers and their voices do blend well together, especially Lister-Jones’ song at the end of the movie. Damn, woman. I hope a soundtrack of sorts comes out for this because I can see myself turning on their songs to pass the time when I’m walking to work.

I’d also be lying if I said the cameos didn’t tickle me a bit. Hanks is a douche who is obnoxious while he’s talking on his phone and D’Elia flirts with Anna. Hannah Simone from NEW GIRL as the best friend, Retta from PARKS AND REC as their therapist, Angelique Cabral making a pretty fun LIFE IN PIECES reunion of sorts, and Brooklyn Decker from FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES, it was a lot of fun to see these faces.

With all the praise that I can dish out about this film, I do have a couple of problems.

The movie does succumb to that lame cliché where the characters are finally happy and find some semblance of peace, but then at the end of the second act, something contrived happens to cause them to have a gargantuan explosion of an argument that ruins everything until it’s resolution at the end. Granted, I feel like this movie does that cliché a lot better and makes a little more sense than most movies do, but it’s still distracting that it exists within the story.

And I think Lister-Jones’ history on sitcoms shines through a little too obviously. What do I mean? Weird Dave (Fred Armisen). Don’t get me wrong, Armisen is funny, sometimes downright hilarious, and even has some pretty dramatic scenes of his own. But the majority of his presence on screen is a little too goofy and out of place. You have several scenes with Anna and Ben fighting. Some of that drama gets heavy, especially when the root of their fighting is realized, creating some of the most heartbreaking scenes in the film where Lister-Jones ought to be considered for an Oscar nom. But then you have scenes where Dave will stare off blankly into space before saying something that’s either random nonsense or just outright weird. A character like Dave would work in an over-the-top comedy like MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES (2016), but in a movie that deals with such harsh realities, it doesn’t fit into this story. Lister-Jones clearly knows comedy and drama, and proves that she can blend the two almost seamlessly, but this was a weird choice that I didn’t always agree with.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable film. Great comedy and drama, fantastic acting, enjoyable music, and a story that keeps you engaged and invested in the characters. Certainly not perfect, Lister-Jones can definitely improve in some areas, but this is a really good movie that I am so happy I got to see and hope to see more movies directed and written by her. It’s likely that most won’t be able to find this movie in theaters anymore, but if you get a chance to rent it, I highly recommend.

My honest rating for BAND AID: 4/5

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