Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992)

After the first (successful) movie surrounding shrinkage, and being heavily influenced by some classic sci-fi flicks of the 50’s, it was inevitable that we’d see this. Again heavily influenced by some classic black and white sci-fi movies of the 50’s, we now find the Szalinskis’ with a bigger problem. Yep its basically ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Baby’ or another ‘King Kong’ clone/homage.

The plot: Well the title says it all really. Oh OK, set five years after the tiny events of the first movie, the Szalinskis’ now live in Nevada. They have a new two year old son called Adam, Nick is now a teenager and Amy has gone to college. Funnily enough Wayne (Rick Moranis) is now working on a ray gun that will increase the size of objects. On a routine trip to his work space at Sterling Labs, little Adam is accidentally zapped with the ray but nothing seems to happen. Later on at home Adam is exposed to electrical waves from the microwave which appear to trigger the enlargement process. Slowly Adam begins to gradually grow bigger and bigger; Wayne and Nick must now try to reverse the process before Adam becomes a danger to himself and others.

So again the main draw here are the effects, the big breezy colourful effects. How do they stand up? Well not too well really. OK lets start positive, there are numerous sequences where it appears that they used someone in a large bodysuit. In some scenes we see live action shots Moranis with a live action giant toddler, but if you look closely this does appear to be a very good bodysuit on an obviously tall person. These shots are always from behind the large toddler so as not to give the game away but they are very effective. This showcases the innovation of the effects crew which unfortunately could only go so far. Other than the usual oversized and undersized props, which are always highly effective if sometimes a bit rubbery looking, much of this movie has to rely on bluescreen and rear projection.

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And this is where the movie really falls down, the terrible terrible bluescreen/rear projection effects. The bulk of the effects are unfortunately reliant on these techniques and alas it all stands out like a sore thumb. There are clear brightness differences between the live action in the foreground and projected background. Thick black lines outline much of the effects and the colours are faded throughout. Overall the effect is just way too obvious and really takes you out of the movie. Heck even some of the large sets are bad looking, when Nick and his young female counterpart are riding in Adams oversized pocket, it just looks poor. There are some nice touches of forced perspective in a few shots but again you can see right through them. Don’t get me wrong I give them an A for effort but clearly the effects team needed more money or skills, many movies came out before this and looked way better.

Other than the effects there isn’t a great deal on offer here frankly. The plot sees a cliched company villain (John Shea) going after the oversized Adam for his own nefarious dastardly deeds (still not entirely sure why he gets fired by Sterling, for being mean?). This inevitably brings about the inevitable ‘King Kong’ homages as they use helicopters to try and tranquilise Adam. Lloyd Bridges pops up as Clifford Sterling, president of the Sterling company, a company that does…scientific type stuff. Obviously Bridges brings his own brand of spoof-esque humour which is fine but a bit childish, yeah I know its a kids flick but still. Moranis brings home his lovable nerdy Louis Tulley-esque character again; complete with more outrageous inventions which are admittedly pleasing to the eye. Nothing new really, they reverse or mirror some scenes and dialog from the first movie.

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The movie ends in Vegas which generally looks horrendous from start to finish effects wise. The movie also becomes very stupid as they apparently evacuate the Las Vegas strip in around five minutes. They also manage to coordinate getting all the lights switched off down the strip in five minutes, like all of them! No one gets hurt, nothing gets damaged, and the way they placate Adam is vomit inducing. I guess its all understandable seeing as its essentially a kids movie but its still very lame, lazy and dull.

Doesn’t help that the kid they use for the role of Adam is just kinda annoying, but that’s just me. I think the problem here is the over use of an idea, the Kong sized threat. Add to that the fact its a giant toddler which isn’t particularly interesting or threatening, and of course the fact the first movie used a less common theme which was executed way better. Overall its all adds up to a relatively fun movie with the odd decent moment. Its just fails to capture the magic of the first movie; in this case miniature things are more fun I think.

5/10

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Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

Could there be anything more cliched and corny than the idea of a weedy, crazy haired, spectacled, crazy inventor type nerd who’s wacky creation gets out of hand? Probably not, but that didn’t stop this idea becoming something of a monster hit back in the late 80’s. I remember the time well, this movie was almost like the Jurassic Park of the day with everyone going nuts over the special effects and innovation of the story (despite the fact the idea had been explored thoroughly during the 50’s). And who better to portray this lovable geeky inventor than Rick Moranis, the man who made a career out of playing lovable geeks.

The plot: Its pretty simple really. Eccentric inventor Wayne Szalinski (Moranis) manages to construct a large ray gun that is capable of shrinking objects in size. Unfortunately he is unable to perfect his machine resulting in much frustration and him being mocked at a conference. Its during said conference that Wayne’s kids (and the neighbours kids) are accidentally shrunk by the ray gun which had previously been accidentally switched on by a lone baseball. Eventually Wayne and his wife Diane realise what happened and start to hunt for the shrunken kids. In the meantime the kids are in a life and death situation after being ejected into the garden and are trying to reach the safety of the house (whilst trying to grab the adults attention).

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The movie does start off slow as we get introduced to all the various characters; indicators for the pending adventure. Nick Szalinski is obviously much like his father, looks a bit of a nerd, scrawny, spectacles, but has brains. Amy Szalinski is the attractive, older level-headed sister of Nick. Ron is one of the Thompson kids from next door, he is a bit chunky and a bit of bully. And lastly there is Russ Thompson, older brother of Ron and again like Amy he is more level-headed and has some looks. In fact he has a crush on Amy that flourishes over the course of the movie. And of course both sets of kid have issues with their folks that cause friction at early points; which of course get addressed and ironed out during the adventure. So overall its a stereotypical little gang, no real surprises.

As with many other fantasy movies the real core interest was in the adventure and how the special effects came across. I remember at the time it was hard to escape the media attention this movie got for its shrinking effects, there was a lot of hype. Looking back now its very amusing how quaint these effects look, I’m not being negative but you can’t help but smirk when harking back. In general this movie was definitely a case of, certain shots and sequences would look really great…even now. But then on the other hand certain shots and sequences would look really bad…even worse now.

The best moments are easily when we see the kids on oversized sets against large props; these are the classic shots that obviously hark back to certain golden oldies of the 50’s. Its these shots that really sell the idea that the kids are truly microscopic. Just simple things like the texture of the wooden floor in the attic, giant toys, Cheerios, nails, screws, dust, cookies (which served as a food source) etc…Its also other small details such as a little trickle of water in the garden being a gushing river, and the odd dead insect floating around. The fact that the garden becomes a dense dangerous jungle for of all manner of hazards. It doesn’t sound overly amazing or anything but its these tiny details that really sell it. I also liked how they didn’t shy away from gross things like dead and scary bugs.

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Not all the bugs were scary though. At one point Nick accidentally rides a very obvious rubbery bumblebee after falling into a very rubbery looking nectar patch on a flower. The kids also befriend a very rubbery and limited animatronic puppet baby ant (which to them was a giant rideable creature). The ant doesn’t really do much for the kids until it is called on to defend them from a scorpion (would there be scorpions in this type of garden environment?). Alas the baby ant is easily killed by the scorpion and we are presented with one of the most tear jerking moments for kids since Optimus Prime died, maybe. Yes the ant was blatantly fake looking and could hardly move…but God damn it hits you hard when the little blighter dies (sniff!).

Indeed I mention rubbery items there, that is one factor that stands out a lot when looking back (probably even at the time). There are a lot of things that do look terribly rubbery or plastic. Some things look great, some things do not. The giant insects do suffer in this way I’m afraid, the giants plants also suffer in the same way. It doesn’t ruin the movie but I’m just saying it does stand out. Unfortunately it doesn’t help when rubbery things are accompanied with horribly dated bluescreen effects (greenscreen now). Again the bumblebee ride really suffers here as does various shots/sequences of the kids against live action actors or pets. The now famous sequence of the kids running off the dogs snout onto a table is a terrific idea but boy does it look fake in motion. When Wayne is about to eat Nick in his bowl of Cheerios, great idea, looks pretty awful now. Although the close up shots of Nick in an actual bowl of milk with giant Cheerios looks sweet.

Its kinda ironic that this movie actually feels way more like a Disney theme park experience than an actual movie. The whole visual escapade seems so perfect for their theme parks it makes you wonder how no one thought of it earlier. The array of big chunky colourful props and sets, and the brilliantly geeky inventions of Szalinski such as the shrink ray gun or the ‘keep off the grass’ robot, all marvellously visualised by Joe Johnston and his crew. So yes this is clearly a very visual movie experience (perfect for 3D). On the flip side if we’re honest, the plot is pretty shallow and the characters are simplistic and cliched. This isn’t a big problem here but I think Rick Moranis saves the rather drab casting. This is just one of those roles where you can’t really picture anyone else in it, hmmm…maybe Christopher Lloyd. Anyway to sum up, not quite as epic as you might recall, but certainly a good all round family romp.

7/10

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Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Or, curiously, as it was known in the UK ‘A Night on the Town’. Funnily enough I can’t seem to find out why this change was implemented in the UK. I know the UK version was cut by about 8 seconds for profanity and since then the movie was released with those cuts back in and the original title restored. I guess the title change could have been down to possible confusion with some other movie, I guess. That being said, the plot is essentially a kids version of Martin Scorsese’s 1985 movie ‘After Hours’.

Not only that, this movie always seemed like a bit of an oddity to me. Its most definitely a classic 80’s movie yet somehow…I always felt like it should of had a more classic cast. Its the strangest thing, every time I think about this movie I keep putting other classic actors of the era in it, knowing full well they weren’t in it. I guess what I’m saying is this movie really needed some A-list talent in it. The movie really does yearn for a standout comedic performance to add some punch, the best bet being the villains (‘Home Alone’ being a good example). To me this always felt like a huge missed opportunity.

The other main issue I had with this movie is the plot. Basically Chris Parker (Elizabeth Shue) has taken on a babysitting gig after her boyfriend blows her off. Her job for the evening now is to look after teenager Brad (Keith Coogan), 8 year old Sara (Maia Brewton) and next door neighbour Daryl who gate crashes the situation. Now the entire backbone of the story hinges on one thing, Chris Parker’s friend Brenda running away from home and getting stuck at the city bus station. Brenda uses up all her money to run away to the bus station, changes her mind and wants Chris to come pick her up. To me this was always really weak and really annoying too, I’d be like…not my problem, ring your parents. So Chris feels obliged to help her idiotic friend, but to make matters worse the kids blackmail her into taking them along, cue the nightmare.

The movie moves from one set piece to another introducing more and more problems for Chris as her night becomes more and more convoluted. The whole scenario is one long chain reaction of events intertwined. Its also one of those scenarios in a film where you sit there, at times feeling uncomfortable because you just know the characters shouldn’t be doing this that or the other. You find yourself saying things out loud because you know what’s gonna happen. One of the first major setbacks for Chris and co is when their car gets a flat and after a string of events they end up losing it. This is something that I found to be a constant worry while watching the kids get deeper and deeper. Will they find the car? Where is the car? Is it in one piece? Obviously you know everything will be OK; but you know the movie is working when you’re thinking about it.

Of course everything that does happen is pretty cliched, kids being trapped in the city (Chicago) at night you know what to expect. Nothing horrendous obviously as the movie was for kids but the usual stereotypical 80’s stuff. Lots of bums, hookers, weirdos, criminals that are generally black or mafia-like, some classic 80’s street gangs in some attire to die for, and of course frat boys. Because what 80’s flick is complete without frat boys, required or not. But the main crux surrounds the kids being continuously chased by some criminals because they accidentally picked up a Playboy magazine with some important criminal details written inside.

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Chris and co manage to stumble into a jazz club where they are forced to sing the blues. This whole sequence was certainly silly and embarrassing that’s for sure. I know this is a movie but who would have time for a sing song in this situation?? But this sequence did also remind me very much of ‘The Blues Brothers’ especially with Albert Collins on show. Later on in the movie the kids wind up at a frat boy party (because…80’s) where we see the usual beer chugging tomfoolery along with high school sluts. But we also see another musical cameo from Southside Johnny Lyon which again gave me those Blues Brothers vibes. The soundtrack for the movie is very good overall, some nice soul and blues going down.

As the adventure progresses the kids meet up with various folk who either help them or don’t quite simply. All the while annoying Brenda is having a nervous breakdown in the bus station over not very much really. The whole deal with Brenda felt really out of place, just too stupid. I understand she’s a teen but Jesus Christ get a fucking grip girl! Gotta say, Maia Brewton who plays little Sara was annoying too with her Thor obsession (yes Thor). This all plays into the sequence where the kids meet up with Dawson (Vincent D’Onofrio), the mechanic who has their car towards the end. This guy has long blonde hair (a terrible wig on D’Onofrio) and carries a sledgehammer that looks like Thor’s hammer, so Sara thinks its Thor (ugh!). They owe Dawson $50 for a tyre (only 50! how times have changed), but only have 45, so Dawson refuses. But then little Sara offers him her kids Thor helmet (cos she’s dressed as Thor the entire movie), and Dawson suddenly changes his mind, just like that. Deus ex machina Thor helmet moment.

Hell in the finale the kids end up at the top of a skyscraper and Sara flippin’ climbs out of the window and shimmies down the glass onto a ledge! She’s being chased by one of the bad guys yes but my God! Its at this point I started to question director Chris Columbus’s motives. Clearly he did this just to raise the stakes, make things more thrilling, but its essentially really stupid because no kid would do that. Also the carjacker that initially helps the kids, knocks out his criminal boss to help them finally escape. But what happens to him? Does he wind up getting whacked for punching his boss? Or does he give up his life of crime and start over? Who knows.

Naturally everything works out in the end with a Ferris Bueller-esque finish that is reasonably enjoyable. Even though I was engaged in the unfolding events I was never worried about things not working out, obviously. Even though (as I’ve said) this is a classic 80’s flick, in all honesty there are better ones out there in my humble little opinion. This movie is fun but lacks some real talent of the time. There are so many characters that could have easily been cameos for big name comedians of the era. The movie tries to be funny, witty and at times edgy but it tends to fall a bit flat. The music is a highlight as are the glorious retro inner city visuals; but the main characters are kinda irritating and can’t hold a candle to other 80’s movie casts. In the end its still hard to believe that this entire chain of events happened simply because of one ditzy girlfriend and her own foolishness.

6/10

Power Rangers (2017)

Or is it Saban’s Power Rangers now? I understand the title comes from the creator of the Power Rangers, Haim Saban, but why?? Why not just ‘Power Rangers’?

So in short, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a science fiction/martial arts TV show that appeared in the early 90’s; it was adapted from a similar Japanese series. Despite being clearly aimed at kids the show still managed to court much controversy for its supposed violence. Nevertheless the show was a massive hit across the world…for some reason. I myself was too old for the MMPR franchise and never saw any of it, nor did I see the previous movies. So I entered into this movie completely blind, only knowing what I’ve picked up over the years.

The plot is the standard origins reboot affair really. The Power Rangers have always been around it seems, the suits are passed on from group to group. So in this case the previous group of Rangers (who were aliens) died to save the Earth from Rita Repulsa (yeah because Rita is what you call your villainess) by hiding the power coins (the suits power source). With his last dying breath the red ranger orders a meteor strike (from their ship) to try and kill Repulsa but instead sends her to the bottom of the ocean. Back in the present day a new group of high school kids eventually find the power coins and the ancient alien spaceship. Whilst at the same time Rita Repulsa is found and comes back to life, the timing huh. The Asian chap is the first Ranger to find a coin near these caves, embedded in rock. But what was he doing there in the first place??

Its within the ancient spaceship that the youngsters discover the consciousness of Zordon (the dead red alien ranger) who explains to them all about the suits and Repulsa. The teens can only morph into their suits when their emotions run high? And when they can then control their emotions or whatever; so this entails lots of training. Basically they only have eleven days before Repulsa gains her full powers back. She then intends to find the Zeo crystal to destroy Earth, because reasons. Oh and there is also a small robot called Alpha 5 that helps Zordon. Think the robot from Lost in Space but smaller, and he does nothing.

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It was only a matter of time before the Power Rangers got a new gritty movie reboot, twas inevitable. Now I fully admit I don’t know much about this franchise, but I do know of the franchises light-hearted tone, and boy is that gone for a Burton! So long to the brightly coloured lycra and plastic Ranger suits. Goodbye to the acrobatic fight sequences with hokey dubbing over the top, and cheerio to the men in rubber suit monsters. This new reboot is all about teen angst folks, lots of teen angst and of course questions about ones sexuality, because 2017.

In that the entire movie mainly focuses on these teens and them trying to find themselves, or find the power within themselves so they can morph, I dunno. The actors playing these characters aren’t bad per say, they just aren’t interesting, at all (maybe its because I’m too old). I mean the yellow Ranger Trini was just annoying, again I realise her character is supposed to be moody but ugh christ! The rest are your basic carbon copy America teens with their newfangled hipster talk and whatnot. The red Ranger looks way older than the rest. Also I realise the original show had a diverse cast, that being its thing, but its just too manufactured for me, too much box ticking. Oh and they switched up the suit colours, so now the Asian bloke isn’t in the yellow suit etc…Glad they pointed out and avoided that iffy microaggression, phew!

Old Rita is quite scary I thought considering what this was adapted from. Look at her in the original series and its hilariously embarrassing; look at her here and she looks like a flesh-eating zombie. Although her outfit is still ridiculous looking. The sequence where her body is trawled up by fishermen is pretty dark Jesus! Yet the fishermen didn’t seem overly concerned, I’d be freaking out. But end of the day what’s her motivation here? What is she really wanting to achieve by destroying the Earth? She used to be a Ranger apparently and now she wants to wipe them out, someone must have really pissed her off! But where did she get her powers? I presume she’s an alien?

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Yeah so its basically a glum teen angst flick right up until the last act of the movie…and then we get to see some Power Ranger action. Finally we see the new Iron Man inspired suits doing stuff, and by that I mean a bit of leaping around before jumping into their big transformer zoid thingies (which they can all pilot perfectly first time). All this in time to fight Rita’s large monster made out of gold, called Goldar (fuck me). Yeah so its a whole load of pretty average CGI fighting robots and a large liquid gold humanoid. Oh and there are these CGI rock creature henchmen things that just get destroyed easily by the Rangers. So the Rangers eventually win relatively easily all things considered, and Rita gets bitch slapped into space, K. This movie actually gets worse when the Power Ranger action kicks in!

Is this a serious action fantasy? Or is this a jokey light-hearted movie for kids? Come on movie make your mind up here will ya. The visuals are clearly in the serious zone but the tone is all over the show. One minute the actors are acting as if their lives depended on it; the next a huge lumbering gold monster awkwardly walks across the screen with this Voltron looking transformer hot on its ass. I understand the plot is taken from the original source material, but I can’t help but feel they should of put some more thought into it. So yeah, I wasn’t a fan before I saw this movie, aaand I can’t see myself becoming a fan now. I’m willing to bet the original cheesy TV show was probably far better than this because it knew what it was and embraced that. This movie takes itself so seriously I’m not even sure if MMPR fanboys will like it.

5/10

The Boss Baby (2017)

Holy crap another movie adaptation of a children’s book, picture book. This has to be one of the most bizarre premises I’ve come across for a children’s book in some time, well at least until the end where all is somewhat explained.

So basically you’ve got this family of three, mum dad and their little boy Tim. Tim is as happy as can be with his life because he gets lots of love and attention from his parents. But things take a turn for the worst when his mum and dad have a baby. Much to Tim’s amazement the baby arrives in a taxi, wears a suit, and he can talk. Almost straight away the baby throws Tim’s life into disarray without his parents noticing.

It turns out that the baby (called ‘the boss’) is actually a baby but works for a mysterious company called Baby Corp. Here all babies have the minds of adults and work to keep infant love at a good level. Basically when people are born some are sent to their families but others that show a different state of mind are held back to work for Baby Corp, or something like that. These adult minded babies have to drink a special formula that keeps them as babies forever, if they stop they will grow old. Meanwhile, all other babies that go to their families, do retain memories of Baby Corp though their pacifier (dummy). But when that pacifier is eventually taken away (by the parents) they lose those memories. Utterly bizarre I know.

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This premise raises many questions though. Does this mean that all the babies in Baby Corp are immortal? Surely it does because if they never stop drinking the formula they never grow older. Where is Baby Corp suppose to be exactly? When a baby is held back to work for Baby Corp, what happens with the family expecting that baby? Its also mentioned at one point by Tim that his parents told him where babies come from. But as Boss baby points out that is incorrect, so how come adults have never noticed the fact that no one gives birth? I guess you could say I’m reading into this too much, but these questions do kinda spring out at you.

Lets look at the villain. This guy used to be one of Baby Corps top babies, but apparently he was lactose intolerant so the special formula didn’t work properly on him and he grew up. OK fair enough, but how come he can still remember Baby Corps? I thought babies lose that memory without their pacifier. Was it different for him because he used to be a CEO of Baby Corp or because he had been using the special formula or something??

I must admit the plot behind this movie was way more convoluted than I ever imagined. I just assumed it would be about a baby that acts like an adult behind its parents backs, kinda like an animated ‘Look Who’s Talking’ type thing. I mean the casting of Alec Baldwin was a good move that’s for sure. If there’s anyone who has the perfect temperament for being a suit trapped in a babies body, its Alec Baldwin. Hell Baldwin is intimidating enough just by looking at his face, he constantly has that angry dad expression on his face, the scary boss with a short fuse. So spot on voice casting there.

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Visually the movie is a treat but that’s nothing new these days. But what I did find more interesting were the short imagination sequences that Tim has when he’s playing. These sequences had a different, more simplified artistic style (kinda reminiscent of some old WB cartoons) with a much more vibrant, almost neon, colour palette. It was these sequences that I found to be way more intriguing and enjoyable than the rest of the actual movie. I especially liked the artistic style and colours used, really bold and striking. Other positive moments I can mention, a nice little ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ homage, and even more bizarrely a homage to the old classic kids board game Mouse Trap (80’s kids will know of this). Where on earth did that come from??

So yeah, its pretty to look at, the voice acting is solid and its amusing in places. I liked it when Tim was battling with the baby, from his parents point of view its seeing the duo merely playing, but its actually a battle. The sequence in the back garden with the pedal car is the perfect example of that. In general its a very average outing really (with a peculiar plot). A standard modern CGI kids flick with all the right boxes ticked.

6/10

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The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

What am I gonna do, get a bunch of criminals together to fight the criminals? That’s a stupid idea

So in the Lego universe, an unknown distance (at this point) away from what we witnessed in the first Lego movie, the city of Gotham exists. Within this city Batman and his allies battle the forces of evil on a regular basis, except on Sundays maybe. The forces of good have gotta have a day off right?

Well as usual it looks like the Joker is at it again with his criminal cohorts and their naughty antics. Whilst trying to detonate a bomb under Gotham City, Batman and Joker face-off. Unwittingly Batman appears to destroy the Joker’s delicate feelings when he starkly informs the Joker he isn’t his arch nemesis. In fact he doesn’t even need the Joker, the criminal isn’t as important in Batman’s life as he thinks. This hurts the Joker more than anything that has come before and causes him to review his strategies. The Joker plans to show how important he is to Batman, how vital he is in Batman’s life, and this will require a cunning plan of deception.

What I really loved about this movie was the raw exposure of Batman’s life, his true existence. And by that I mean the fact he’s essentially a bit of a loser, a loner, clearly narcissistic, a manic depressive, has maybe a touch of OCD and is quite possibly a bit unhinged. Bottom line we see right away that Batman does indeed need his enemies to survive, he does indeed need the Joker to give his life purpose. This is highlighted fantastically with the sequences in the Batcave where we see vast open spaces filled with technology and gadgets that could be used by a team of superheroes. Then again in Wayne Manor where we see Batman rattling around in large echo filled rooms all by his lonesome, except for the aging Alfred.

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I loved the small bits where we see Batman preparing his lobster dinner, then eating it on his own. He then proceeds to his own personal cinema to watch his favourite Tom Cruise movie (‘Jerry Maguire’) on his own. His laughter again echoes around the empty room exposing his self-imposed solitary confinement. Its also during these sequences we start to see some of the sweet references to all the previous Batman movies. Admittedly they did kinda look the same (unavoidable) but I simply couldn’t help but smile as I saw the brief visual flashbacks from every Batman movie in Lego form (except the 1966 movie which was live action).

Its these references to other movies, TV shows, modern pop culture and the humour that, for me, made this movie so enjoyable. Essentially the plot wasn’t important, it didn’t really need to be, and besides, it was always gonna be the same spiel anyway. This movie was basically a chance to look for easter eggs and have a laugh, and with that I wasn’t disappointed. This movie is loaded with obvious and not so obvious nods to so many things. I liked how in between some scenes we saw the classic spinning Batman logo from the 1966-68 Batman TV series.

The legendary shark repellent makes an appearance (again from the 66 Batman movie). There are naturally many recognisable Batman suits to be seen in the background at various stages. At one point we see the Burton Batmobile and Nolan Tumbler. The classic John Williams 1978 ‘Superman’ score is used very very briefly and we also get visual nods to Jor-El (in Brando form) and Zod (in Terence Stamp form). There are many lines of dialog from previous Batman movies used here such as ‘where does he get all those wonderful toys?’. There are also many many tiny nods with names being used, visual appearances, links to comics and the animated series etc…I could go on.

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Another thing that I really loved was the inclusion of so many supervillain characters. Something that could normally be seen as a bad sign and set off alarm bells, works just fine here. Why? because the plot is daft and meaningless and its all about the comedy and visual recognition. Yes we see a shit load of villains who have literally nothing to do but be seen in the background or say one line or complete one task. Who cares! in this movie it just doesn’t matter because its literally like watching a child play with his toys (ala the first Lego movie). The fun part is firstly just seeing all these wacky characters in Lego form, secondly then Googling their Wiki to find out more about them. Zebra-Man? Kite Man? Clock King? Condiment King? Calendar Man?? Seriously??? I love it!!

One little niggle though, something I didn’t really get or like. All the villains in the Phantom Zone were villains/baddies (dinosaurs?) from other movies such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Gremlins’, ‘Harry Potter’ and the old Universal monster movies of the 20’s – 50’s. Why? I don’t get why they used these characters because it kinda took me out of the whole superhero vibe of it all. Of course I know its because Lego covers virtually everything and if they can use the license they will, but I just didn’t like that idea. Why couldn’t they just use more from the huge catalog of DC characters? And why wasn’t Zod, Ursa or Non used as main villains? They show Zod but don’t utilise him which was an odd choice frankly. I’d much rather see him used than Dracula for heavens sake. Also, why does the Joker look more like a demon? He has pointed teeth and again an odd choice in hairstyle.

This did all lead me to ask myself one thing though, seeing as the first Lego movie established this Lego universe as merely a young boys imagination (I believe that’s how it went if I remember correctly). Does this mean that everything in this movie is also merely a young child’s imagination? Would it be the same child? Seeing as this is a spin-off and linked to said original movie, I must assume its all a child’s imagination at playtime.

Anyway that aside, I did enjoy this movie, more so than the first Lego movie methinks. The voice work from the multitude of actors was again spot on (just like the first movie). Obviously Will Arnett as Batman wins hands down because its just so damn amusing to hear Batman talk about regular everyday stuff in that gravelly macho voice. It all looks sharp, colourful and gorgeous. That Lego stop motion animation is so endearing although a tad frenetic at times, and the comedy overall is pretty much pitch perfect. There’s stuff for the kids, stuff for the adults and plenty of stuff for the fanboys and nerds. Normally I’m not the greatest fan of modern pop culture references and trendy in-film songs, especially on overload. But this movie shows how it can be done well without being annoying.

8/10

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Little Giants (1994)

Ah the old cliched sports movie, a veritable treasure trove of…cliches. I mean what can I possibly say here that everyone doesn’t already know about? It doesn’t matter that this is a kids movie, in fact that makes it even worse for the cringeworthy cliches.

So the little all American town of Urbania (sounds like a small eastern European country) has a pee-wee football team called the Cowboys. Said team is coached by the local hero Kevin O’Shea (Ed O’Niell). After try outs for the team various useless kids are cut including local girl Becky who is daughter of Kevin’s brother Danny (Rick Moranis). Upset by being cut Becky convinces her dad to create another team for all the kids who didn’t make the grade for the Cowboys. Unfortunately this goes against the rules of one town, one team which is pointed out with much glee from Kevin. So Danny and his ragtag team of inept kids challenge Kevin and his well oiled machine of kids, to a playoff. Which team will represent the town Valkenvania…Castlevania…Transylvania…Urbania!!

Yeah so you should know what to expect here, we’ve seen this type of thing a million times in various movies for kids. The bumbling cack-handed kids of the Little Giants team are a stereotypical bunch. You’ve got the fat kid who’s funny because he’s fat, clearly very unfit and unhealthy…funny huh! The scrawny weedy kid who’s half the size of everyone else, wears glasses, has a basin haircut and is a mummy’s boy. The token black kid…who also can’t catch. The token Asian kid…who’s also mega fat and wears glasses. One kid who cries all the time, one kid who gets injured all the time, and of course the one good looking blonde kid who’s kinda good.

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On the other hand the fitter and better trained kids of the Cowboys team are also a stereotypical bunch. Stereotypical in the sense that they all look pretty uniform in appearance from physique to haircuts. One team is an uncouth messy mishmash of nerds; the other a highly organised, well trained team of young jocks. Each teams coach also represents those stereotypes in the sense that Danny (Moranis) is more of a laid back, spectacle wearing academic type who wants the kids to just have fun. Where as Kevin (O’Niell) is more of a no nonsense coach with a slick haircut, fancy sports car and likes (has) to win big. Danny coaches his unruly Giants with creative methods that involve no funds. Kevin has his own assistant, the team have expensive proper kits and equipment, and they use pro training methods within proper facilities.

The movie certainly does seem to push the old negative stereotype that anyone who wears spectacles must be some sort of weedy nerd who is more academic than sporty. Vice versa it also pushes the daft stereotype that anyone who is sporty must be large, muscular and have a buzz cut. The thing is the movie never really addresses those stereotypes. I mean yeah sure the Giants win in the end (unsurprising spoiler alert!) and the Cowboys do recognise and applaud their opponents, but the stereotypes are still there, the movie doesn’t really attempt to rectify them.

Being a sports movie about American (pee-wee) football mixed with elements from ‘Home Alone’ does offer up some nice ideas, but its still a by the numbers movie really. Lots of silly training montages from both teams, lots of silliness from the kids, heartfelt moments from the adults yadda yadda yadda. There is a painfully slow car chase sequence in the movie which was so obviously staged I dunno why they kept it in. I do like Ed O’Niell but yet again he’s basically giving us Al Bundy with his performance, he seems completely unable to break away from that persona. Where as Rick Moranis just does what he’s always done really, play a spectacle wearing geek with a heart. As for the kid actors, well they do OK. They all do a good job in playing disgusting or wimpy nerds that’s for sure, they all looked their parts.

Obviously this movie is the typical underdog tale, unashamedly so, and that’s not a bad thing because it is supposed to be for young kids. And while the movie is a feel good flick which kids I’m sure will enjoy, I can’t help but feel the overall message is somewhat mixed (if you wear glasses you’re a nerd!). Its definitely a well made movie, very colourful, cheerful and chock full of cheekiness, just don’t expect anything original. But I think we all know and expect this.

7/10

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