crap i have watched recently #27

clean old manSPOILERS!!!:  The building blocks of any successful review!

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A Hard Day’s Night (1964):  My parents were born in a difficult time.  Old enough to be comfortable in the 1950s but young enough to fit into the strange, mad, destabilizing 60s if they so chose.  They chose the 50s; they married, had kids, listened to Elvis and Sinatra and Martin, and watched in confusion as the world blew up around them.  I grew up wanting to be a hippy, jonesing for a pair of white go-go boots, and absolutely forbidden to listen to the Beatles.  They loved us, you know, and in their own way they understood that the Beatles were in some sense responsible for everything that had happened to their world.  So, as it turns out, I didn’t see A Hard Day’s Night for the first time until I was in college, probably close to 20 years after it first came out.  By then, of course, I’d listened to everything the Beatles had ever put on vinyl (those were the days, yeah?), but the Beatles themselves were long since past, broken up, gone their separate ways into other bands, retirement, self-actualization, whatever.   Odd thing though.  The Beatles might have been gone but they never stopped looming over everything and this is one of those odd precious movies that is so totally dated that it is utterly timeless.

There isn’t much in the way of plot but there doesn’t need to be.  The lads are in London to appear on a TV show.  They run away from fans a lot, chase after Paul’s very clean, trouble-making grandfather a lot, and play a few songs now and then.  They are boyish, snarky, naive, and worldly at the same time.   Their manager and road manager are like bickering parents, one wanting to be stern and the other wanting to join in the fun.  The lads smile, smirk, plot, get crazy, focus on their music, and just… be.  Their teeth are unstraightened, their hair is unkempt (and how funny it is now to think how revolutionary the mop top was…), their manners are irreverent.  None of them are good enough actors to have pulled off anything short of what they actually felt and they seem to be having a lot of fun.  Yes, everywhere they go they have to dodge screaming girls and deal with fatuous hangers-on but they never seem put out by it.  One of the things that strikes me now, seeing it for the umpteenth time, is how kind they are to their fans.  They make fun of everyone else: their managers, the police, the movie people, the hoi polloi who want to be seen hobnobbing with the latest thing.  But they are never less than respectful of their fans, from the train scene where they let a bunch of school girls (one of whom was the future Mrs. Harrison) watch them play cards and mess around on their instruments, to the TV show taping where they show their fans in various stages of rapture.

Nothing like the Beatles will ever happen again and that is because there will never be a world like the one they lived in again.  The movie, released in 1964, sits poised on a moment in time when idealism and cynicism existed together almost in balance.  In a few short years the world would change drastically (for the better, I would argue) and my parents were right, the Beatles did in fact have a big hand in that.  Not perhaps in the actual events but in providing the soundtrack, the backdrop, even the context for what we experienced.  It was a messy, scary, beautiful time and I will never forget it.

Say what you want about them (you snarky bastards) but I know for a fact that I and everyone else alive today will be cold and in our graves for a hundred years before anyone lives who can honestly claim they weren’t influenced by the Beatles.  Watch this film and you may get some idea why.

Score:  W00t!

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The Lego Movie (2014):  Legos were not a seminal part of my childhood.  My building materials were Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs; if I recall correctly “Legos were for boys”.  I have no nostalgia for them nor any real interest in building things with them, and I’ve been bemused in recent years as their popularity has soared way past anything reasonable and they’ve become one of the weirder toy-based phenomena.  Suddenly it seems that everyone played with Legos as a kid and everyone loves them and Lego wasted no time in capitalizing on that nostalgia.  Not only are there official Lego kits for everything these days (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel and DC superheroes, Frozen, Minecraft (!), etc.), there are amusement parks and “discovery centers” worldwide, Lego-themed hotels, video games, phone apps, stuff for teachers, and god knows what else.  On top of that, there are the many truly amazing things that random builders come up with in their apparently copious free time.  But still, you know, the whole thing is little more than a fad that has rescued a cheap plastic toy from going the way of the dinosaurs.

This cute little film, which I assumed would amount to little more than a feature-length commercial, puts all of this into perspective.   At the start of the movie a wizard (voiced by Morgan Freeman) attempts to keep the Evil Lord Business from getting his hands on the ultimate weapon, called The Kragle.  He fails but issues a  prophecy:  someone called “The Special” will find the magical Piece of Resistance that can stop the scary WMD.   Some time later a construction worker named Emmett follows a shadowy figure into his construction site after hours.  He stumbles into a hole and finds a strange object that causes him to hallucinate and pass out.   He wakes up in the custody of (now) President Business  and discovers the evil lord’s plans to use The Kragle to freeze the world in place.  He’s rescued by the same shadowy figure from his work place, who turns out to be the lovely Wyldstyle, an agent of the Master Builders, who seek to to stop Business’ plans.  They believe Emmett is The Special and are deeply disappointed to learn that not only is he not a Master Builder, he’s really sort of a doofus.  Still, he’s all they’ve got, so off they go.

This is one of those movies where the outcome is never really in doubt but the journey is quite a bit of fun.  From the beginning, when Emmett begins his scripted day to the ironic song “Everything is Awesome“, through all his adventures in various parts of the Lego Universe (a wild west town, pirates, a bizarre anything-goes realm in the clouds), to the final battle with Lord Business, the movies thrives on inventiveness.  It is all CGI but every once in a while it seems like stop-motion (which I was really hoping it would be).  The voice acting is superb.  There are cameos by Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, various Star Wars characters, pirates, classic Lego spacemen, and Shaq.  There are in-jokes galore, mostly having to do with Lego itself, but there is also some fun playing with other cultural icons.   The film may in fact be nothing but a gigantic commercial for the upcoming movie tie-in play sets, but so what?  It’s still a lot of fun and it has a surprisingly touching ending.

When it’s all over the movie provides a not so gentle poke at people who buy kids’ toys but no longer have the imagination to actually play with them and at people who collect things but who don’t see their true value.  It is a kid’s film but it is also aimed squarely at grownups, surprisingly enough at their hearts and not (entirely) at their pocketbooks.  This is essentially a movie made by a company that puts out really expensive kits for building really specific things.  And they are telling you to throw the instructions away and build whatever the hell you want because that’s what Legos are all about.  As it turns out, everything really is awesome.

Score:  Meh

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~ by gun street girl on August 17, 2014.

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