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It’s about as magical and wondrous a movie as I’ve seen with more laughs per minute than any movie in recent memory. The LEGO Movie is an absolute delight.
-Josh Hylton, Dark Horizons

A film every bit as imaginative, colourful and cleverly constructed as their plastic inspiration
-Tyler Hanley, Radio Times

O.K., I’m just going to come right out and say I have no idea what’s going on.

The Lego Movie is hilarious, exceptionally animated, completely original, and delivers a great message regarding creativity vs conformity. It is jam-packed with so many funny moments and lines, it’s impossible to catch everything with just one viewing. This film expertly walks the fine comedic line that provides equal entertainment for both children and adults. If you are looking for negatives, you won’t find them in this film.

Trust your instincts…Unless your instincts are terrible.

This film is an absolute blast to watch from beginning to end, but it isn’t just full of hollow laughs and throwaway gags. That a movie ostensibly made for children has any plot to speak of is impressive in and of itself, but the storyline that is constructed throughout The Lego Movie actually leads to a very well executed emotional payoff. It ends in a very heartfelt and genuine place while keeping you laughing from start to finish.

The Lego Movie incorporates the best mix of stop motion and cgi visuals you will see. So much is going on at any given time it almost becomes sensory overload, but in a good way. There are hidden easter eggs, site gags and jokes in the background of just about every scene. The rewatchability factor is bound to be sky high. Even better, the filmmakers take no shortcuts here as the entire world is made of up lego bricks of some kind (including water, fire and smoke).

SPACESHIP!!!

A tribute to Lego made by enthusiasts, not an ad for Lego made by hacks.
-Tim Brayton

Any movie exculsively about a toy line should probably end in disaster. The fact that this film didn’t become a 90 minute glorified Lego commercial is a real tribute to directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who have become known for successfully adapting curious properties to film (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street). The Lego Movie is no exception. No one was exactly demanding a film based on a system of interlocking bricks, but they did it and they did it their way. To great success.

Great. I think I got it. But just in case… tell me the whole thing again, I wasn’t listening.

Go see The Lego Movie 100 times in the theater. It’s fantastic fun and you won’t regret it. “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME” about this film!

FilmFire review:
4.75/5 forms


It’s Oscar time again, and that means its time for my top ten movies of the year.
2013:

  • 10. The Place Beyond the Pines
  • An epic sprawling story of how bad decisions have consequences that can affect future generations.

  • 9. The Way, Way Back
  • My favorite of the slew of the indie comedies that came out this summer. Sam Rockwell steals the show and it’s great to see Jim Rash pop up in a few scenes.

  • 8. Inside Llewyn Davis
  • A fun and quirky story of just how much rejection one can take. Great acting all around and another notch in the Cohen Brothers belt.

  • 7. Rush
  • My surprise film of the year. Manages to create suspense out of cars racing in circles while staying away from all the cliches of the sports genre.

  • 6. All is Lost
  • Robert Redford gives a great nuanced performance of a man going through absolute hell to survive when his situation continues to go from bad to worse.

  • 5. Gravity
  • An intimate story of love and loss set in the most beautifully horrific setting one can imagine: space. An absolute visual spectable and unmatched technical achievement. Believe the hype.

  • 4. The Wind Rises
  • A beautiful tale of the sacrifices it takes to achieve your dreams. My favorite Miyazaki film since Spirited Away in 2001.

  • 3. The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Scorsese’s ballsiest directing gig also features DiCaprio’s best performance yet. The funniest scene of 2013 involves Leonardo crawling down a flight of stairs in a half paralyzed state. Raunchy and hilarious.

  • 2. Captain Phillips
  • Tom Hanks gives my favorite acting performance this year in the most intense film of 2013. Hanks puts on a pure acting showcase as he delivers a gut wrenchingly exposed performance in the final scene.

  • 1. Short Term 12
  • A heartbreaking and superbly acted account of the inner workings of a foster care facility. Far better written and acted than all of the over exposed Oscar-bait this year *cough 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Nebraska* , Short Term 12 is my favorite movie of 2013.


Although it falls short of the best Pixar has brought to the screen over its long association with Disney, it’s nevertheless worth a trip to the theater, especially for kids.
-James Berardinelli, ReelViews

Very, very late in these 106 minutes, we get a startling blast of meaningful Pixar storytelling that reminds us of what this team can do when they bring their A game.
-Jeffery Overstreet, Looking Closer

Just reach deep down and let the scary out!
Pixar, the once invincible animation house that could do no wrong, has really let us down with their last 2 efforts. After essentially a perfect run of 11 straight great films, (the original Cars possibly being the only exception) they went for a cash grab with Cars 2 and put out a very mediocre take on fairy tales with Brave.

What’s interesting is that their streak of below average work all comes after the Disney acquisition. Could an upstanding company like Disney be so bold to put financial gain ahead of artistic integrity? With yet another sequel to a franchise with unlimited merchandising potential a la Cars, does Pixar get back on track with their unique brand of emotionally driven story telling? Or do we see more evidence of their recent films being influenced by the money grubbing paws at Disney?


A monster road trip?
Fortunately for us, Monsters University is VERY good. It’s obviously not going to reach the heights of the glory days of Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up and Toy Story 3, but it’s no throwaway cash grab either. It perfectly stands on it’s own as a film, but also enhances the characters and story of Monsters Inc. Although not as emotionally moving as the original, or most of the recent offerings from Pixar, this might be their laugh-out-loud funniest film to date. Monsters University never lets up on the one liners and slapstick and is more or less hilarious because of it.

Technically, Monsters University looks absolutely fantastic. Despite the decline of their recent scripts, Pixar always put out a gorgeous looking movie and this is no exception. There are dozens of intricate and complex monster character designs on screen at the same time, it’s hard to imagine the hours it took to animate this. Down to the finest detail (you can see every last strand of hair on the furry characters), it is an incredible achievement and needs to be seen.

Wanna join Oozma Kappa? We have cake.
One complaint I do have is how inconsequential Monsters University seems compared to the original. Because of how sweet and heartbreaking Monsters Inc. was, matching those same emotional heights in a prequel with the same characters again is tough task and University never quite gets there. It does have a fantastic third act that reverses some roles and ratchets up the stakes but still just doesn’t hold quite the same weight.

Monster College – obviously a rite of passage for all young monsters
MUCH more satisfying than the Cars films and Brave, Pixar seems like they’re back on the right track with Monsters University. It’s a little less consequential and “deep” than their best, but it is definitely a worthy successor to the original Monsters Inc. Visually outstanding and hilarious, Monsters University is a must see.
If you’re not scary, what kind of a monster are you?

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms


A superhero in film is only as good as his villain. And that’s a critical problem for Iron Man 3.
-Kirk Baird, Toledo Blade

At times reaches “Avengers” level of intensity, fun and exhilaration, which makes it all the more frustrating that a few missteps result in it simply being a good movie and not the post-Avengers game changer it could have been.
-Jeffrey Lyles, Lyles’ Movie Files

This movie isn’t very good. As the highly anticipated follow-up to director Shane Black’s first film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 is pretty hollow. It promises a look into the life of Tony Stark after the events of The Avengers. Iron Man with panic attacks and PTSD: not that interesting. Sometimes, comic book movies should just remain cartoonish and fun. This is one of those times.

Things are different now, I have to protect the one thing that I can’t live without. That’s you.

5 Major Issues I had with Iron Man 3

1. This entire film is just a series of disconnected set pieces. First, Tony’s in Switzerland, then back at his house in Malibu where he is attacked. He flies to Tennessee for a while then investigates a lead in Miami. Finally, the film ends with an enormous oil rig set piece off of some coast who knows where. It’s all very disjointed.

2. The villains in this movie are disappointing to say the least. Iron Man 3 absolutely ruins The Mandarin. Ben Kinglsey does his usual great work with the character but the choices the screenwriters make kill off all the momentum built in the first act of the movie. Guy Pearce does an ok job with an evil scientist type but just becomes silly towards the end of the film. The most important aspect of a comic book movie is the villain and Iron Man 3 swings and misses.


This guy? Not as scary as you might think

3. The effects of Extremis look really stupid. A popular story arc from the comics, Exremis is a “super soldier solution that hacks the brain, rewriting the blueprint of it’s repair center to heal injuries.” Obviously. Probably a cool concept in the comics, it doesn’t translate to the screen here at all. Glowing red and breathing fire makes for lame evil powers.

4. Gwyneth Paltrow is terrible. It’s clear she has never seen a comic book in her life and has no idea how to play this character without being a one dimensional target for Tony to interact with and occassioanlly hinder plot advancement. There was actually a scene at the end of the movie involving Pepper Potts that made me cheer, but unfortunately didn’t play out as I wanted.

Gwyneth Paltrow, trying to act in a comic book movie

5. This film really tries to shoehorn how the events from the Avengers are affecting Tony. He has random panic attacks at the mere mention of the words “New York” and complains about his psyche and his sleeplessness. Hey Tony? Not a great time for some post traumatic stress disorder. This is a comic book movie, it shouldn’t be necessary to convey realistic psychological shortcomings on a hero who flies around in a super charged iron suit.


Tony’s suit, as empty as his heart

I had a fun enough time with the movie, but I didn’t care for a lot of the creative choices. There are some funny moments and some decent enough action sequences, but the film as a whole is a pretty big disappointment.

I’m Tony Stark. I build neat stuff, got a great girl, occasionally save the world. So why can’t I sleep?

FilmFire review:
2.75/5 forms


Full of great performances, and, sometimes, is amazingly compelling.
-Willie Waffle, WaffleMovies.com

an R-rated, steroid-fueled Looney Tunes cartoon
-Pete Hammond, 7M Pictures

This is the first movie directed by Michael Bay to not feature giant killer robots since 2005’s The Island. In fact, Pain & Gain is so different from Bay’s recent work that it has a total of just one explosion. Even though it still suffers from the disease of Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions, it’s probably a new personal record for him.

My name is Daniel Lugo, and I believe in fitness. All this began because it was time to push myself harder, otherwise I was looking at another forty years wearing sweatpants to work

If we are to believe the tagline, Pain & Gain isn’t just based on a true story, it IS a true story. That’s most likely a huge exaggeration but the movie is a lot of fun regardless. Castoonishly violent and mean-spirited, none of the brutality is taken too seriously here. It’s essentially a really slick and dark comedy about bad people doing bad things to other bad people in Miami.

No, man! We snatch him, we grab him, forge his signature, and our profit’s set! He won’t even know it happened! I’ve watched a lot of movies, I know what I’m doing…

Easily the smallest-scale film of Bay’s career, Pain & Gain doesn’t lack his typical sleazy style and expensive film-making technique. Still enamored with slow motion, Bay uses it to great comedic effect here, often hovering uncomfortably long on gnarled facial expressions or random scenes of brutal violence. Another one of Bay’s signature moves is to let the camera linger on pretty things like the excesses of luxury or beautifully toned bodies. As one can imagine, he has an absolute field day with a movie about body builders set on Miami Beach.

Nothing too consequential, Pain & Gain offers quite a few laughs and some decent action sequences. Michael Bay has a great eye for these types of films and it’s good to see him temporarily move on from the Transformers franchise. With a runtime of 2 hours and 10 minutes, it is on the long side and eventually becomes tiresome but if action movies are your thing, it’s worth a watch.

I’m hot! I’m big! Oh no! NO!

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms


Here’s a bunch of random mini reviews of films that have come out this holiday season…

  • Seemingly marketed as an Anne Hathaway vehicle, she doesn’t have nearly enough screen time
  • Has Russell Crowe had a good performance since Gladiator ? Terrible acting and worse singing from him here
  • Weird “wide angle lens” shots of characters faces during musical numbers
  • None of the songs were pre-recorded which lessens the quality; the actors vocal imperfections are really noticeable
  • Difficult to become invested in all of the side characters

FilmFire review:
2.75/5 forms


  • Astounding lead performance by John Hawkes, undeniably deserves this years Best Actor Oscar
  • The story here isn’t particularly engaging and it does start to drag at a certain point
  • The chemistry and supposed romance just do not exist between the 2 leads, which is the main failing of this movie
  • The subject matter isn’t particularly fun or entertaining to watch play out
  • Despite the grimness of the subject matter, the film can be very funny and light

FilmFire review:
3/5 forms


  • Great acting from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence
  • Robert DeNiro’s return to his Meet the Parents style comedic chops
  • The set up for the final act of the film is a bit too convenient
  • Cliche cliche cliche……………
  • It may be an unconventional romantic comedy, but it ends in the most conventional possible place it could have

FilmFire review:
3.25/5 forms


  • An interesting twist on mobster films, playing on the themes of “America is a Business” and “Every Man for Himself”
  • Great colorful side characters played by James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta and Vincent Curatola
  • Intense scenes of brutal violence may turn some away
  • Incredibly stylish, entertaining and not subtle at all
  • The message is pounded home so often, it ends up being much too heavy handed

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms


  • Incredible opening sequence/hook that sets the pace of the film
  • Very intriguing and mysterious plot that is fun to figure out along with the character
  • Tom Cruise doing his best Tom Cruise performance (essentially a flawless and magnetic hero with great one-liners)
  • Best car chase sequence of the year
  • A nice little down-to-earth and workmanlike action film

FilmFire review:
3.75/5 forms


  • A heartwrenching and devastating story
  • Mesmerizingly raw performances from the leads, Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts
  • Intense and brutal with plenty of touching and tender moments to balance the tone
  • Beautifully shot with incredible seamless special effects
  • A powerful and triumphant look at the survival instinct of human nature

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms


  • Charming, sweet and funny. The best “John Hughes-esque” film to come out in years
  • So many great character moments really help put the audience in the mind of the introverted teenager at the center of the film
  • Fun cameos by Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Mae Whitman, Melanie Lynskey, Joan Cusack & Kate Walsh
  • Terrific performances by the 3 young stars – Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller
  • An expertly crafted coming of age story; surprisingly refreshing and heartfelt

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms


  • Opens up conversations about many important topics, most notably the success of using torture as a practice to obtain information
  • There is a pace and urgency present in many scenes that, with a lesser director, could come across trivial or boring; really showcases Kathryn Bigelow as one of our best working directors
  • Maintains such an incredible level of suspense despite knowing exactly how the film ends
  • Jessica Chastain’s lead performance is the best you’ll see this year from an actress
  • The last 45 minutes of the film are truly mesmerizing

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms


The movie’s subversive sensibility and old-school/new-school feel are a total kick.
-Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

It’s impossible not to feel a strong sense of nostalgic amusement, if not sheer delight, at the comings and goings of all these characters.
-Dave McGinn, Globe and Mail

Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of how one video game villain became fed up with being the bad guy and quit his job. Fix-It Felix Jr. (presumably a take on the retro Donkey Kong Jr. arcade game) is the game that Ralph calls home, where his job is to “wreck” a skyscraper whenever a quarter is played in the machine. When Ralph realizes the characters of the game don’t like or appreciate him, he decides to quit and embarks on an unfamiliar journey.

Having the potential to be a truly different kind of animated film, after this initial setup, there isn’t a whole lot of new ground broken. A very unique beginning to the story kind of turns into a series of sugar coated (literally) takes on bullying, greed, acceptance, jealousy and other tropes that we have become somewhat accustomed to in animation from everyone not named Pixar.

Ralph: It’s hard to love your job, when no one else seems to like you for doing it…

Although gorgeously animated with top-notch voice acting (John C. Reilly was born to play the voice of Ralph), Wreck-It Ralph fails to break out and live up to it’s potential, instead relying on playing it safe after the first act and sticking to a very traditional story line.

There isn’t a whole lot more I have to say about Wreck-It Ralph, it’s an above average animated movie but really doesn’t hold a candle to the recent offerings of Pixar. It’s worth checking out if only for the beautiful job on the animation as well as the gallery of really cool retro video game characters (see above) that make appearances throughout.

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms