The Lego Ninjago Movie (Full Review)

Like most, I was skeptical when a movie franchise based off of LEGOs was announced. Then I saw the Lego Movie. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough to be seen as something more than a soulless cash grab. Lego Batman came along in 2016 and set the bar even higher with a witty and fun film for all ages. Now comes Lego Ninjago, a big screen version of the popular line of toys that also happens to be a TV show.

The_Lego_Ninjago_MovieTaking place on the island of Ninjago, this story revolves around six “ninjas” who use giant robots called Mechs to defend the city from the Evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Under the tutelage of ninja master Woo (Jackie Chan), the team consists of macho earth ninja Kai (Michael Pena), humanoid ice wielding robot Zane (Zach Woods), panicky lightning ninja Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), feisty water ninja Nya (Abbi Jacobson) and her obnoxious fire ninja brother Cole (Fred Armison). Leading the team is Lloyd (Dave Franco), a teenage outcast who lives with his mother (Olivia Munn) and just happens to be the son of their arch nemesis.

In many ways, this movie is the epitome of my fears when I first heard about the LEGO movie franchise. Kids who play with LEGOs have a ton of imagination, but that imagination can concoct a ton of random, scatter brained adventures that just don’t translate to a cohesive story. The father/son dynamic between Garmadon and Lloyd that dominates most of the narrative is fine, but all of the sequences that surround them are noisily uncoordinated. From the goofy start, the action in the movie moves like it’s being made up as it goes along. And that may be fine for children, but it’s just annoying to anyone who stopped playing with LEGOs years ago.

There’s no point in most of the characters even being ninjas, as they’re more like members of Voltron or Captain Planet’s Planateers than Power Rangers. Many of the jokes are forced too, with the few comedic moments coming from the villain. By the end, if you haven’t gotten bored, you’ll just be hoping that the creators of this mess can scale it back a bit for the next installment.

FINAL GRADE: D

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The Girl on The Train (Full Review)

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? And when there’s infidelity involved, it makes it all the better. A good mystery always keeps you guessing. The Girl on the Train is the latest mystery-thriller novel to get the film treatment, and my hopes were high that it could deliver the same jaw dropping feeling I had when I saw 2014’s Gone Girl.

the_girl_on_the_trainEmily Blunt stars as Rachel, an alcoholic whose ex-husband (Justin Theroux) is now married to his former mistress (Rebecca Ferguson). The two live a happy life with their newborn baby, while Rachel spends her days riding the train to and from New York City in a drunken depression. While peeping from her usual train seat, Rachel becomes entranced with the life of a young woman named Megan (Haley Bennett), who she believes is cheating on her husband (Luke Evans) with her psychiatrist (Edgar Ramirez). When Megan goes missing on the same day Rachel follows her in a drunken stupor, a detective (Allison Janney) begins questioning whether Rachel is responsible for Megan’s sudden disappearance.

Emily Blunt carries the film with a wonderful performance as the pitifully broken lead character. She elicits genuine sorrow for Rachel that makes you never really feel like she’s guilty even when the evidence is stacked against her. Unfortunately, her performance is really the only one that stands out and some performances, like most of the men, seem rigid.

I never read the book, so I can only comment on the structuring of the film. And for the film, it falls a bit flat. Certain clues and instances are often poorly placed making them feel like obvious miscues meant only to distract. As a result, the ending revelation isn’t remotely as surprising as I wanted it to be, or as surprising as it wants to be. And while I hate to compare this movie to Gone Girl, since none of the same pieces are involved, the two films are of the same genre. Gone Girl was so fantastic because just when you think you have things figured out, a new wrinkle is added to the narrative to make you second guess your hypothesis. Here, I was able to pin the culprit and motive down to one of two people as soon as all of the major players were introduced.

This coupled with weaker supporting performances makes the film suffer a bit. Maybe it was my own lofty expectations after watching the movie’s riveting trailer, but The Girl on The Train never feels as mysterious as it markets itself to be. By the end, the strength of Blunt’s emotional portrayal is the only thing keeping this from being a complete letdown.

FINAL GRADE: C+, Red Box it