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.



October Quick Reviews (Fury, The Judge, Dracula Untold)

Fury_2014_posterBrad Pitt plays a more serious version of Lt. Aldo Raine in this film that follows a platoon of tank operators in the final days of World War II. David Ayer (End of Watch) directs a phenomenal cast led by Logan Lerman who stars as a young typist offhandedly thrust into battle. Shia LeBeouf gives arguably his best performance ever as the tank’s religiously grounded gunner. The other crewmen, played by Jon Bernthal and Michael Peña are equally as captivating.

The film goes through several war film clichés. Because of that, you won’t miss anything groundbreaking if you manage to never see this film. But along with a strong cast and solid pacing, the action sequences are striking and vivid. More gruesome than many war films, it undoubtedly earns it’s ‘R’ rating, but all of the horrifying imagery is necessary in conveying it’s dog eat dog theme. FINAL GRADE: B+


The_Judge_2014_film_posterEver since Iron Man, it has been admittedly difficult for me to see Robert Downey Jr. as anything other than Tony Stark. But here, RDJ does his best to give new direction to his trademark narcissism in the form of snarky lawyer Hank Palmer. The film, directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) has the backdrop of a court drama, but it is moreso about the rigid relationship between father and son.

Robert Duvall stars as Joseph Palmer, a stubborn, elderly judge in a small town in Indiana who is forced to seek the help of his estranged son after he is charged with a hit and run. The courtroom elements can get a bit cartoony, especially when Billy Bob Thornton’s prosecuting Dwight Dickham comes into the picture, but the film is nonetheless solid. The family drama will tug at your heartstrings and Duvall and RDJ are both naturally brilliant. FINAL GRADE: B


Dracula_Untold_posterLuke Evans stars as Vlad the Impaler in a reinterpretation of the classic vampire tale that mixes myth with the factual inspiration for Count Dracula. Ruler of Transylvania after escaping a lifetime of being a brutal soldier for the Turkish army, Vlad is forced to seek the help of a nearby vampire (Charles Dance) after the power hungry Turkish sultan (Dominic Cooper) requests his son and the rest of the kingdom’s young boys for his new army. After drinking the blood of the vampire, Vlad is endowed with all of its powers, with only one catch; he must resist drinking human blood for three days or risk being a vampire for eternity.

A film like this isn’t meant to have groundbreaking plot, but it would’ve been nice if the script didn’t seem razor-thin. Playing out like a super hero origin story, this movie feels more like Ghost Rider than Blade. While Evans is a solid actor, the story seems to clunk along from one action sequence to the next without much explanation or purpose. None of the characters are developed other than the Impaler himself, and even the action sequences are reduced to the same old tricks each time. After a while, even turning into a swarm of bats gets old when we’ve seen it throughout the trailer. In the end, this film is a clear case of wasted potential. FINAL GRADE: C-