A LEGO Brickumentary

This interesting documentary from Denmark is narrated by Jason Bateman and co-directed by Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson. You can expect humor throughout the 95 minutes of this G-rated film but even more, you can expect some mind-boggling information about this seemingly simple little toy.

Interviews with geeks who proudly claim the title, teach us that they hold conventions, compete on many levels in many different formats and generally hold this modest creation in very high esteem. Little known fact: The factory where this toy was first built, burned down not once, not twice, but THREE times! Each time it was rebuilt to larger specs and went right on making Legos®. Today they make 100,000 pieces per MINUTE and there now exist over 100,000 pieces for every man, woman and child on earth.

Applications abound:
  • A therapist named "Dr Legoff" (no kidding!) successfully treats children with Autism. They learn how to work as a three-person team and it is remarkable!
  • People from rock stars to basketball heroes play with Legos® to relax.
  • We see an artist (a former lawyer) create an amazing show that draws not only adult aficionados and children, but legitimate art critics!
  • We see interviews at MIT, in Japan, Denmark, the Prague, plus countless other cities, where children and adults express their admiration and love for their favorite pastime.
  • Legos® are used by movie makers, Master Builders, NASA, architects, city planners, and hobbyists, to name just a few. 
  • A mathematician at a chalkboard is still working on the "infinite possibilities" offered in the Legos® world.
One of the officials at Lego® recalled when the company almost had to close its doors in the late 1990s because their market tanked. To quote this unusual official, "It was great because we had no one to blame but ourselves!"

Enter the creative people who had been merrily building things all along, their only limitation was their own imagination. When the company realized what a gold mine they represented, they promptly joined forces and nothing has ever been the same. At Mattell, Barbie® rules, at Hasbro, it's GI Joe®, in the Lego® world, the customers shape their future.

I found this lively piece to be interesting from beginning to end. Others in our 2014 Seattle International Film Festival weren't quite so enthralled. I was impressed by how international the staff is and how ubiquitous the toy is. I haven't begun to cover all the fun facts and faces; you'll have to see it yourself.
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Please see this sample clip:
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Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Another impossible mission (is there any other kind?) for Ethan Hunt and his crew.  There are always many good reasons why this international franchise continues to print money: They are exciting and FUN, we enjoy the exotic locations, and there is action aplenty. Check out that opening sequence!

Writer/director Christopher McQuarie ("Edge of Tomorrow") never misses a beat; he's been thrilling us since "The Usual Suspects," so we know we are in very capable hands and we're ready for slam-bang action from the first frame! McQuarie includes several critical scenes which include a suspenseful time element: an airplane taking off, a ticking bomb, or a drowning. We respond to the tension even though we know these MI movies have happy endings!

We already know the plot (an unexpected threat to the future wellbeing of the world), the characters (our usual team and some outstanding new folks) and the exciting effects (chases by car, foot and motorcycle, with very little CGI or blowie uppie stuff). These always have minor tweaks, so this time I'm going to talk a bit more about the actors, particularly the ones we've already seen in these roles.:
  • Tom Cruise ("M.I.") Ethan and his team have been disavowed. There have been too many international incidents which took place while they were in the vicinity. Cruise allows his character to be beaten up, need to be rescued, want reassurance, and there are times he is not all-seeing and all-knowing. I was pleasantly surprised.
  • Simon Pegg ("M.I.") Benji is loyal to a fault. He refuses to go back to London where he is safe, but instead insists on staying in Vienna and then going to Morocco with his fugitive friend. Pegg is the go-to guy for big action-filled franchises that need a friendly (and funny) face. See "Star Trek," as well!
  • Jeremy Renner ("M.I.") Brandt reports directly to the CIA now that the Impossible Mission Force has been disbanded; he finds it very challenging. Renner always brings a solid sense of security when he arrives on the scene.
  • Ving Rhames ("M.I.") Luther is NOT loyal to the IMF team. He is loyal to Ethan ONLY; everyone else is dispensable. We are glad to know that! This actor seems to play characters we always want in our corner.
  • Rebecca Ferguson ("The White Queen") Ilsa is Ethan's worthy opponent. She's smart, strong, creative and resourceful. Even when she does what she does, we still want to LIKE her! Ferguson was a big surprise to me, I wasn't aware of her before and she is terrific, maybe she has just had ordinary roles in the past. Ilsa is NOT an ordinary role!
  • Alec Baldwin ("Blue Jasmine") Hunley is the CIA director who insists that there is no such thing as "The Syndicate," as he fires Ethan and his team. Baldwin specializes in morally compromised characters, so we are skeptical about his motivations.
  • Tom Hollander ("About Time") The British Prime Minister surprised me because he knew more than I expected. Hollander's familiar face is in everything from "Pirates of the Caribbean" to "About Time" and "The Lost Prince." He works ALL the time!
  • Sean Harris ("Prometheus") Harris plays one of the spookiest villains I have seen recently because the man rarely smiles, he is a cold-blooded killer and he is ruthlessly determined to make the world a better place, i.e., the way HE wants it.
The most unique element I could see in this entertaining behemoth was the motorcycle chase, although Ethan's underwater struggle and the backstage shenanigans at Puccini's opera "Turandot" are also worthy of note. Another plus is Cruise's abiding dislike for green-screen work, so his movies have very little Computer Generated Imaging. And finally, I was impressed that they could convey that much excitement without a single solitary F-bomb! Remarkable!
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Here is a preview:
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A happy audience member said while exiting this screening, "I LOVE stupid movies!" Okaaaayy... This is not only stupid, it is stomach-churningly icky; even the title sequence is gross. (Watch the preview below.) Listening to the audience in the lobby later, I realized that MANY people enjoy stupid movies, so this one should make money.

Was the National Lampoon's Vacation this profane? (I didn't see it.) Well, I guess once was not enough. Walley World: Brace yourself! Twenty-two years later, the Griswolds are coming back! This R rating is richly deserved with disgustingly anatomical humor and F-bombs by the score.

The cast:
  • Ed Helms ("We're the Millers") is Rusty Griswold; he was a kid the first time he visited this theme park and the happy memory still lingers. He is certain that this cross-country road trip (in a Tartan Prancer from Albania) will bond his family again. This well-meaning character is the most socially tone-deaf doofus I have ever had the misfortune to watch.
  • Christina Applegate ("Anchorman") is his wife Debbie. She is patient when Rusty changes the voice in the GPS to Korean and she remains the voice of reason until they stop by her old sorority on their road trip. Yikes!
  • Skyler Gisondo ("The Amazing Spider-Man") James is the only "normal" member of this goofy family. He is bullied by his younger brother and totally misunderstood by his father, so my heart went out to him!
  • Steele Stebbins ("A Haunted House 2") Aren't there laws that prevent youngsters from talking like Kevin? This kid is cruel and borderline homicidal. And his parents are oblivious. As a target of childhood bullies, I fail to see the humor. Aarghhh!
  • Leslie Mann ("The Other Woman") Audrey Griswold can't forget what a good time she had when she and Rusty were children. Of course now she has the marriage right out of Central Casting, so she must be blissfully happy...Right?
  • Chris Hemsworth ("Thor") plays Stone Crandall. the insanely conceited TV weatherman Audrey married. Hemsworth has an absolute blast sending up this character!
  • Catherine Missal ("Law & Order") Adena never suspects that the pedophile who talked with them by the pool is actually Rusty, James' inept father trying to be his wingman.
  • Chevy Chase ("Community") Did you think Clark Griswold was forgotten? Of course not!
  • Beverly D'Angelo ("Mom") Wherever Clark can be found, his devoted Ellen is close at hand.
"Horrible Bosses" collaborators Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley wrote and directed this latest Ed Helms' outing (they must like him) so there is no one else to blame. I can only say this: If you are a fan of stupid movies (and you know who you are), this one is for you!
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See what I mean about icky:
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Aarghhh! I can't stress enough how much violent sports disgust me. This includes boxing, wrestling, rugby and (American) football. With this in mind, please understand that I sat through 123 minutes of this blood sport so you wouldn't have to...unless of course, you are a fan. Fans must exist, sports like this make pots of money!

So, having said that, let me talk about this particular role. In my opinion, Jake Gyllenhaal must be attracted to movies that are bleak, bloody and (to me) boring, e.g., Donnie Darko, Zodiac, Nightcrawler, and Enemy. He is a fine actor and has been recognized as such in the industry, but he obviously wants an Oscar. Think John Garfield nominated for Body and Soul; Kirk Douglas nominated for Champion; Robert De Niro won for Raging Bull; Sylvester Stallone nominated for Rocky. Director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") might have pulled it off for Gyllenhaal this time.

The cast (the little girl was my favorite):
  • Jake Gyllenhaal ("Brokeback Mountain") Orphan Billy Hope has come through "the system" and has landed on both feet. He is a prize-winning boxer and has all the trappings of wealth and fame. He is NOT very well equipped for a setback. 
  • Rachel McAdams ("About Time") His loving wife Maureen came through the same system with him. She is his rock!
  • Oona Laurence ("Penny Dreadful") Leila is their adored daughter. She has to develop her own coping skills.
  • 50 Cent ("Last Vegas") This may be a spoiler, but I came to loathe Jordan Mains. Maybe he was just that convincing, huh?
  • Forest Whitaker ("Two Men in Town") Tick Wills trained a boxer at his gym who nearly won a bout with Billy; this means Tick is a good coach. His gym is run with NO flexibility. There will be NO profanity, NO striking out in anger, and NO drugs or alcohol. This is a guy I could respect!
As I watched, I was reminded that every toehold to success won by every boxer, is purchased with his or her own blood; unfortunately many of them are surrounded by bloodsuckers!

This is R-rated, so expect profanity, blood, tattoos, blood, sweat, blood, violence and blood. I admire the acting but not the cliché-ridden script. By the way, no one enunciates, so if you go to something like this for the dialog, you'd better have top-notch hearing or use closed captions. Just so you know....
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This trailer has spoilers:
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In the beginning, Atari (Pac-Man) and Nintendo (Donkey Kong), created video arcades, which spawned gamers who in turn procreated and, one generation later, staffed the world with the current crop of gaming whizzes. Director Chris Columbus ("Harry Potter") is playing to all three generations. In fact, the fellow next to me kept making happy little chirping noises all through the classic game sequences, which also included Centipede, Asteroids, Space Invaders and Galaxian. Video games are a HUGE industry in today's digital world.

In 1977, Carl Sagan spearheaded the launch of a Voyager time capsule to outer space which contained samples of life as we knew it. For our story, aliens find video games on board and mistake them for reality, consequently they launch a "defensive" strike using the patterns they find in the samples. Obviously humans who excelled at those arcade games in years gone by are best suited to defend Earth today.

We see:
  • Adam Sandler ("Grown Ups") Brenner is a former arcade contender who now installs digital devices in homes for a living. Sandler continues to use the same whiny voice and deadpan delivery that made him a multimillionaire. "If it ain't broke..."
  • Kevin James ("Hitch") Cooper surprises us with his success story, but he is still a loyal friend and with the future of the world at stake, he reminds Brenner of his old skills.
  • Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones") Eddie "The Fire Blaster" Plant beat Brenner for the world championship when they were boys. This egotistical braggart provides some of the best laughs near the end of the movie.
  • Josh Gad (Olaf's voice in "Frozen") Ludlow was another successful arcade player but his personality has kept him at his grand- mother's house all these years.
  • Michelle Monaghan ("Eagle Eye") is nursing a broken heart and a bottle of wine, but her son is having some digital devices installed in their home...Brenner tells her she has already married the wrong guy so the worst part is over...enter her instant dislike for that nerdy installer (nudge, nudge, wink, wink...).
  • Brian Cox ("RED") Admiral Porter is the proud military fellow our civilians humble with their unique skills.
The screening audience enjoyed this one, while those four pastel-colored Mini Coopers made me smile. This Sci-Fi outing is a PG-13 comedy with a painfully contrived plot, juvenile humor and one mild kiss, but it's loaded to the gills with blowie uppie stuff and Computer Generated Imaging! Video games constitute all of the action, most of the plot and all of the visuals. Sigh... Am I the only one getting tired of this? In my opinion, Sandler's cash cow has gone dry.
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See what I mean:
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Gemma Bovery

This delightful offering to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival was submitted by France (captions when appropriate). This review had limited distribution May 1, 2015. Directed by Anne Fontaine ("The Girl From Monaco") we see a fairly wealthy, semi-retired Parisian move his wife and son to a quiet country village in Normandy where he decides to become the local baker.

They live not too far from where Gustave Flaubert placed his tragic heroine Madame Bovary to play out her ill-fated romances.

When an English couple moves to the neighborhood, our hero is intrigued to learn that their last name is Bovery. His restless imagination quickly shifts into overdrive!

We watch:
  • Fabrice Luchini ("Intimate Strangers" and "The Girl From Monaco") is Martin, our gentleman baker. He keeps an eye on this couple because he can see that the wife is considerably younger than the husband. As Martin becomes jealous of her attractions for other men, he confides in his faithful dog!
  • Gemma Arterton ("Pirate Radio") is Gemma, whose light sprinkle of freckles on her nose makes her irresistible to men, young and old.
  • Jason Flemyng ("Snatch") is her husband Charlie, underemployed but very much in love with her.
  • Niels Schneider ("Atomic Age") is Hervé de Bressigny, her young, handsome neighbor.
  • Mel Raido (Lots of TV) is Patrick, a famous fellow who shares a history with our heroine.
The camera loves Luchini's face and we laugh as we watch his fixation grow. There are many side notes: arsenic, a Sevres porcelain sculpture, Gemma's curiosity about various French breads, the rain, etc., etc., etc.... But his son gets the last laugh.

We giggled when we shouldn't have, then exited to the bus stop eager to discuss our favorite parts.
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English captions when appropriate
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There is no end to Marvel Comics' characters. This PG-13 actioner is unique in a very special way and its crossover plan is firmly in place by the final (final, final) curtain. Of course the movie consists of a steady stream of special effects, hung on a fairly flimsy story punctuated by Daddy Issues, but I LIKE Paul Rudd, and the "Avengers" link is fun. (You have to watch for it, I'm not telling...smile...)

Director Peyton Reed (Lots of TV) has all he needs to make a blockbuster. My impression was that he cooked up a cinematic Chinese dinner: Tasty, but it didn't stick to my ribs. Instead, to my delight I found much of my attention focused on the humor to be found in our hero's "support" team.

The cast:
  • Paul Rudd ("Parks and Recreation") Con-man Scott Lang becomes Ant-Man in an unusual way...well, maybe not for a Marvel character...but... His first official job as Ant-Man is to burgle Tony Stark's warehouse. I liked the back story about his crime that landed him in prison in the first place.
  • Michael Douglas ("Beyond the Candelabra") Dr. Hank Pym is either evil or brilliant depending on how his Ant-Man suit is used. He still grieves the loss of his wife and fears for his daughter's future.
  • Evangeline Lilly ("The Hobbit") Hope van Dyne seems to be confronting her father with her choice of profession.
  • Corey Stoll ("The Good Lie") Darren Cross is a former colleague of Dr. Pym's. His creation, Yellowjacket, is a villain to (try to) avoid!
  • Michael Peña ("The Martian") Peña almost steals this movie. To me, Luis is the most consistently funny character on the screen and Director Reed uses him extremely well.
  • T.I. ("Get Hard") Dave is one of Lang's accomplices. He too, is very funny as a would-be thief and Luis wouldn't be as funny without Dave to help: "back up...back up...back up..."
  • Judy Greer ("Archer") Maggie Lang took her little girl Cassie and has moved on with her life after her husband went to prison. Cassie misses him, though.
  • Bobby Cannavale ("Danny Collins") Paxton is a flummoxed cop determined to put Lang back in jail.
  • Garrett Morris ("Two Broke Girls") This cabdriver doesn't have much to do, but I wanted to acknowledge Mr. Morris's very long, very productive career.
The Computer Generated Imaging is so overwhelming during the many action scenes, I was rarely sure what was going on; however, watch for the unique lip sync scenes when Luis relates what just happened. Even Stan Lee gets in on the act as a bartender! We always watch for him!

Expect non-stop action, a chaste kiss and no nudity or F-bombs, but lots and lots of gunfire, fisticuffs and special effects. Whew! Remember, this is a Marvel movie but this time wait for TWO little teasers during and after the closing credits scroll. As a rule, we expect only one little snippet to give us a hint about an upcoming film.
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Here is a sample:
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Batkid Begins

A little boy from the tiny farming community of Tulelake, California wishes that he could be Batman. He has just completed a round of chemo in his three-year battle with leukemia; his wish reaches the ears of a local Make-a-Wish organizer.

This PG-rated documentary illustrates the jaw-dropping power of social media as it follows this 5-year-old cancer patient as he gets his wish courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in San Francisco. The idea caught fire on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. (the statistics are astounding), and resulted in a phenomenal day in his life, the lives of Make-a-Wish personnel and the happy citizens of San Francisco. In addition, this excellent documentary became a film festival favorite.

We see:
  • Miles Scott is our central character who has been battling leukemia. This was very much on my mind when our little guy had to climb that daunting flight of stairs near the end of his long, long day....
  • Patricia Wilson is the Make-a-Wish spark-plug behind the event. She was hoping for "maybe 20 people to pretend to be a crowd."
  • Ama Daetz is the television newscaster who broadcast an appeal for help and asked Batkid to watch for a message from the Chief of Police.
  • Eric Johnston is the creative genius who designed the tools and choreographed the "rescues." He taught Batkid the secret handshake and also filled in as Batman.
  • Sue Graham Johnston is the Damsel in Distress strapped to a bomb on the trolley tracks who must be saved by Batkid. Watch what happens to her leather jacket and purse.
  • Mike Jutan works for Industrial Light and Magic. He is The Penguin. Hear what happens when he goes to China.
The awesome effect of one small boy's wish reverberates through the Police Department, the Mayor's Office, the costume department of the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Cable Cars, AT&T (baseball) Park and countless other local participants. It also generated national and international interest, with cards, letters, emails, etc., from well-wishers around the world, plus all of the actors who had portrayed Batman and greetings from both President and Mrs. Obama.

I'm just naming some of the participants, you have to watch the movie to see what they do! Just the astonishing size of the crowd alone and its amazing behavior is worth the price of admission. There are times it's an honor to be a human being. This is one of them....
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Take a look:
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It didn't take many focus groups to figure out that the Minions were the most appealing thing in the "Despicable Me" franchise, so now they star in their own movie!

We begin in a primordial setting with the evolution of the species and quickly learn that the creatures who become Minions need, above all, a BOSS! The next bit shows their unending quest to find one. In 1968 (enjoy the fashions and cultural bits), three of them courageously set out to explore the world and find true meaning in their lives (plus, of course, a boss).

Voiced by:
  • Pierre Coffin ("Despicable Me") gives us Kevin, Stuart and Bob, our three intrepid heroes.
  • Sandra Bullock ("Gravity") Scarlet Overkill is sorta the Cruella de Ville of this one. She recruits our three adoring heroes for her own nefarious purpose: She wants the crown that belongs to the Queen of England. Boo.... Hiss.....
  • Jon Hamm ("Million-Dollar Arm") is her doting husband...who also mans her torture chamber.
  • Michael Keaton ("Birdman") Enthusiastic Walter Nelson is taking his family to the Villain Con, Orlando's answer to San Diego's Comic Con.
  • Allison Janney ("Spy") Madge, Walter's wife, is his supportive helpmate who also assists in the family business (wait'll you see...)
  • Jennifer Saunders ("Absolutely Fabulous") is The Queen (who might be mistaken for another queen we all know and love).
This PG-rated animated comedy, co-directed by Kyle Balda ("Monsters, Inc.") and Pierre Coffin ("Despicable Me"), is based on a screenplay by Brian Lynch ("Puss in Boots"). It offers kid-friendly activities, like sliding down banisters and jumping on the bed, but also has some fairly intense chase scenes complete with gunfire and lots of blowie uppie stuff.

Be ready for a few fart jokes (this is as racy as a PG-rated movie can get), some characters in jeopardy, and lots of harmless, silly fun. This is another animated feature that includes generous helpings of scenery and situations adults will recognize (e.g., the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, still under construction in 1968, and Ayers Rock) with a script which often works on two levels. Our screening audience clearly enjoyed it. Me too....
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Take a look:
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