Construction is booming! LEGO Palace Cinema arrives (quick review)

Everything in the box

Everything in the box

Finally got around to putting together the Palace Cinema like I said I was going to do about three weeks ago. I found this build to be more fun than the Town Hall. I found the Town Hall to be quite tedious for not a lot of payoff in terms of cool features (not saying it’s not a great set), but the Palace Cinema was definitely a better experience.

PROS:
-Looks great. The outside details are fantastic.
-Details details details! I love how the ticket windows have an open slot beneath them for sliding the money and tickets through like in real life. The movie posters covering the full size of the windows are a great touch, and the snack bar is fabulous. The rows of seats in the theater are great, as well as the projector piece.
-Love the marquee. Almost wish it really lit up!

CONS:
-Red. Good god red. The baseplate for the set is red, instead of a grey or green like previous. Which really isn’t a big deal per say – having the carpet inside the theater be red is a great detail, but it’s kind of overpowering on the inside. It’s not a huge con, more of an observation for the detail oriented.
-Plain faces. I’m at the point where if I paid $150 for an ‘expert’ set, I want some customized minifig heads – not the plain eyes and smile from the 70’s.
-The back of the spire at the top of the building is incomplete making it look like a fake cardboard movie set instead of a complete building.
-The car looks dumb.

It looks like I’ve got more cons than pros, but those are just little details that bug me. Overall, it’s a fantastic building and I’m super happy they made it. It’s a perfect addition to a town street.

Click any of the pics to make them larger.

The first level

The first level

the ticket window

the ticket window

snack bar!

snack bar!

the ticket window, inside

the ticket window, inside

inside the theater

inside the theater

projector

projector

image image

with the other buildings

with the other buildings

 

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy is probably the best Marvel movie yet. Seriously.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-poster-3Yeah yeah, The Avengers was awesome. I loved it. It was my favorite of Marvel’s movies. Was. Until yesterday. It’s been dethroned by Guardians of the Galaxy. (Watch the trailer). I can’t remember the last time I had as much fun at the movies as while watching this. Alright, I can, it was The LEGO Movie, clearly. But for the sake of how awesome Guardians is, let’s just forget about that for the moment.

Now, I’m not a comics guy – I have nothing against them, in fact I think they are pretty great – I just never got into reading them and now it’s pretty much too late. But I do my best to read up on the plots of the comics and the movies and how they differ or are the same or what the comic fans are super excited about being included. But there was a lot of buzz surrounding this project, and once the first trailer hit I was all-in. (It’s the trailer I linked to above.)

Many saw this movie as a risk for Marvel for a few reasons: a) it’s Marvel’s first venture outside the Avengers-centric hero characters, and b) it’s Marvel’s first venture into it’s non-Earth-centric universe. Think about it. All the previous Phase 1 and 2 movies center around the most well-known and established characters (Ironman, Thor, Captain America) but this is the first one where literally every character is an unknown. That is, of course unless you read the comics. But we also know Marvel doesn’t believe only die-hard comic readers are attending their movies. No, most average Joes out there know who Captain America is, or have heard of Ironman. And chances are they’ll see the movies. (They did.) But Guardians was a gamble; full of virtually new characters.

WARNING: The rest of this review will probably contain very minor spoilers. (If you choose not to read on, remember to stay until the end of the credits when you go  see this!)

guardians-of-the-galaxy-zoe-saldana-chris-pratt

© 2014 Marvel

So, yeah, this movie kicked ass. In every way. It had great action. It had phenomenal effects. It had heart, and it was hilarious. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments that got the whole theater in a roar you missed some of the following lines (a good reason to see it again!). Oh, and for the first time Marvel laid some of its petty cash on the table to get the rights to a bunch of songs that fit so perfectly it’s obvious they are a driving force behind the story.

While the story is typical enough you look past it because of everything else going on. The characters/actors have such great chemistry, and the action and laughs keep coming by the minute. In all honestly, Guardians is more of a setup movie than anything – laying the groundwork for future sequels and the eventual meet up of the Guardians and the Avengers. But who cares? It’s a wild, fun ride. Other reviewers can probably give you a more concise review with many more specifics and what they all mean in the comic world and blah blah blah. But if you read my blog you know I’m not really that guy – unless it’s something I truly know a lot about. And like I said, I don’t know my comic books. Anyway, moving on…

BTW: the movie should be OK for younger kids. If they saw the other Marvel movies up until now, there’s no reason to stop.

Chris Pratt’s character, Peter Quill; a.k.a. Star Lord, is the only from Earth. But the beauty of the character is he brings the best parts of Earth with him. Aside from the list of 70’s tunes, he brings all kinds of 80’s nostalgia and injects it into his cosmic surroundings (and hilariously so). If anything it serves as an anchor for those on the fence about being completely out of their known Marvel context. Anyone can laugh at a well-timed Footloose joke – it doesn’t matter what movie it’s in. Also, Pratt is fabulous in his turn as a major Marvel hero. I give credit to Peter Gunn’s direction and the way Pratt played the character, giving Star Lord a penchant for perfect timing and the gift of perfectly timed one liners. “They got my dick message!”

guardians-galaxy-movie-trailer-humor

© 2014 Marvel

Zoe Saldana fits well with the cast, but needs no detailed review. Hats off to Bradley Cooper for sounding nothing like Bradley Cooper. Cooper voices the scrappy gun-toting raccoon, Rocket. And despite its serious lack of vocab, Vin Diesel does a great job voicing Groot (think Ents from Lord of the Rings – only less old and wise, mixed with Hodor from Game of Thrones). Much of Guardians’ heart, and laughs, come from our tree-man friend.

But most of the high marks go to WWE and MMA star Dave Bautista. Most would count someone with his history in ‘acting’ as down and out, but he ends up making Drax one of the best parts of the film. Out for revenge after the murder of his family he earns the nickname “The Destroyer.” His single-mindedness is only outdone by how flawlessly the delivery of his dialogue is. Gotta hand it to Bautista, you did great, man. Pay close attention to his lines because his people speak in completely literal terms. Mix it with Quill’s quips, and ‘I am Groot;’ hilarity ensues.

‘Nothing goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.’

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Ronan-and-Nebula

© 2014 Marvel

Keep an eye out for Lee Pace, John C. Reilly, and Glenn Close. Yes, that’s right, Glenn Close is in Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh, and Benicio del Torro (who we’ll be seeing more of in next Guardians movie – it’s already been green-lit).

For those following the overall arc of the Marvel movies we actually get to spend some time with Thanos here. Don’t quote me on it but as far as I know we won’t see the resolution of the Thanos storyline until Avengers 3.

All I know is I can’t wait a) for Guardians 2, and b) to see Quill, Rocket, Gamora, Drax, and Groot on screen with Cap, Thor, Ironman, and Hulk. That is going to be some epic movie-ing.

But we’ve still got Avengers 2: Age of Ultron coming before we get to any of that. So until then, GO SEE Guardians of the Galaxy. Have a great time.

Thanos demands it.

© 2014 Marvel

© 2014 Marvel

Go Go Godzilla!

Official trailer for the new Godzilla movie was just released today! Check it out…

The 8-13 year old kid in me is ecstatic as always because I grew up watching the old-school Godzilla movies. Oh how I long for that goofy rubber suit looking Godzilla. He battled other giant monsters. The movies were fantastically cheesy. I miss that Godzilla. The last remotely worthy version was Godzilla 2000, which at least had a Godzilla closely representing the classic Toho Movies Studio’s version. We won’t bring up that movie from the late 90’s with Matthew Broderick because it starts a Hulk rage.

Godzilla:

Not Godzilla:

ENDER’S GAME. [B+]

o-ENDERS-GAME-POSTER-900Last night I went to see Ender’s Game, in IMAX. [Sidenote: I’m super happy it was not IMAX 3D because I’m so sick of 3D crap.]

The novel came out way back in 1985. I’d never heard of it. Of course I was also only four years old. But the science fiction bug bit me around 6th grade, probably when my love of dinosaurs ran headlong into the 1993 movie version of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. All of a sudden I launched myself from reading Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of Nimh to engrossing myself in Crichton’s world of Sci-fi. To this day, Congo, and Sphere remain two of my most favorite books, with Timeline not too far behind. And that’s only one author. [It should be noted all the movies made from these beloved books sucked so hard it hurt.] I read a lot of those books in middle school, along with discovering other fantastic authors like Tom Clancy, and Alistair MacLean. I didn’t read much in high school because of jobs, homework, friends, and a general distaste for existence in general.

Admittedly I didn’t have a lot of time to read in college, but I did find time to read Ender’s Game. I’d still never heard of it, but was made aware of its existence during an interview with a guy who worked for Electronic Arts (EA) building video games. This was around 2003, when I was getting my Masters degree in educational technology. So we were like nerdy tech brothers, talking bits and bytes, graphics, UIs, and sci-fi. He told me I should read Ender’s Game. He’d read it a long time ago when he was much younger. So I did.

The first time through I know I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I really got it. It was much different than other sci-fi books I had read. I kept waiting for the action. I kept waiting for the space fights. I didn’t realize that Ender’s Game was so much more than that. I’ve since re-read it a few times and being older, I’ve come to realize how awesome it really is. It didn’t affect me emotionally as I didn’t have that sort of connection with it. I was really short and small all through my child years – still am, only 5’5″ – but I had good friends and good surroundings and thankfully wasn’t a target for bullies. But I can definitely see how those that were could connect to Ender Wiggin. In the end, the book is remarkably written, and older more experienced readers will realize it’s not about the war with the buggers, it’s about Ender’s war with himself and his peers. And the way he fights those wars in the Battle Room, and finally as the commander of the fleet is really the most exciting and interesting part of the book.

You may have heard some controversy surrounding the author, Orson Scott Card. He has some pretty strong religious and personal views. He’s endervehemently against same-sex marriage, and homosexuality in general. This means I’m vehemently against Orson Scott Card. But, thankfully, his bigotry does not really permeate Ender’s Game. And sometimes we have to remember, as many have said,  the artist does not always define the art. While I’m not willing to look past Card’s views and write him off, I’m willing to realize his books can also stand on their own as works of fiction alone. I hope you can too because the movie is worth it.

So, the movie. [Here’s where some minor spoilers are]
I’m still turning it over in my head from last night, but I think I really loved it. In this instance, I feel the movie really did the book justice. In the book, Ender goes to Battle School when he is only six years old, and about six more years are covered through the story – and Ender aging is an important part of the story. But in movies you can’t do that unless you hire a lot of different aged actors that look alike, and have more time to tell significant story parts. So they crammed six years of development into about an hour with one actor in a single unknown amount of time. And they did all right. Many of the important details where still there: Bean’s rope, Ender’s conquering of the various armies of other students, and most importantly his run-ins with Bonzo.

If I had one complaint, it’s the movie should have been about 30-40 minutes longer, with the majority of that time spent in Battle School, in the Battle Room, watching Ender learn how to think outside the box. Discovering how to use bodies as shields, move fluidly in zero-G, and develop that state of mind of “the enemy’s gate is down.” To watch Ender realize that to fight and succeed – like in real life – your perception of situations needs to change from what everyone else perceives as normal.

For those who have read the book, you’ll be glad to know they left out the parts of Peter and Val’s conquering the world through internet personalities.

Lastly, I was wondering how they were going to incorporate the video game Ender played at Battle School. It was such an integral part of his emotional development I knew they couldn’t leave it out. What was there in the movie was about as good a job as could be done I think. It served enough of a purpose to hint at how Ender’s mind and demeanor were changing, but definitely lacked the depth and emotional results apparent in the book.

The special effects were fantastic. The battle sequences at the end were great, and the zero gravity fights in the Battle Room were excellently coordinated and filmed. The only fake looking floating I saw was in the beginning where Harrison Ford’s character was in the shuttle with the launchies right after take-off.

Oh, and shot out to Mr. Ford – I thought he was an excellent Hyrum Graff. Actually, I’d compliment all the young actors in the movie, they all did a fantastic job with their characters. Bean was great – wish we could have had more of him.

Overall, I give it a B+. A solid adaptation of the book.

Go see it. And read the book, too.

The LEGO Movie [Official Trailer]

So for those of you who followed my LEGO blog, you’d know that this is a fitting first post for my new, catch-all blog.
I first found out there was going to an official LEGO movie a few months ago. There was a trailer released a while back that actually looked pretty promising. Now, with the official trailer released, I must say I’m both excited, amused, and horrified.

Why I am excited:
Well it should be so surprise given how much I love LEGO. And everyone loves it when movies get made out of their favorite things, right? I mean, the movies are always fantastic! Just look at the majority of the movies based of my favorite Michael Crichton novels: Congo – disgraceful, Sphere – just terrible, The Lost World – they based that on the book?, Timeline – so dumbed down it contained Paul Walker.

Why I am amused:
If a LEGO movie is going to be made, they have to do it right. From what I can glean from the trailer, it looks like they are making the little things count. The spinning two faced heads, the traffic patrol spinning his arms around and around to direct traffic, and using memorable minifigs and sets. I’ll be very happy if they keep ‘LEGO physics’ consistent throughout the movie. It should add a whole other layer of humor.

Why I am horrified:
Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long. Since the late 90’s/early 2000’s, LEGO has seen a huge resurgence in the toy market. Yes, they were big in the 80’s but the popularity kind of slacked off for quite a while. I think when LEGO Star Wars became a thing, it introduced a whole new generation to the magic of LEGO, and reintroduced people like me to the glorious things you can do with simple LEGO bricks. Why does this horrify me? Well, that part doesn’t. What does is its capacity to be an ungodly terrible movie. We all know when things become incredibly popular, industries just can’t wait to cash in. Given how long it takes to create and render a fully animated movie like this, I’m sure it’s been in the pipeline for years. But when things are made for money, little else goes into them. Just from the trailer alone, it looks like the movie is going to need those little extra bits of detail and fun (like the physical movement constraints of minifigures) because the story is nothing new. Regular chum thrust into greatness because he’s the chosen one. Neo did it. About 64 different Jet Li movies did it. Arthur Dent did it – despite his penchant for panicking even when advise not to.

Am I overreacting? Probably. After all, it’s just a trailer. Who knows what the movie will be like. I, for one, hope it’s almost as good as the original Toy Story. I say almost because there’s no way it can be. Toy Story is awesome.

For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer: