With the release of 'The Lego Batman Movie' this week, it may come as a surprise to some that Lego have in fact been producing films and television series for a good number of years now. Lego officially broke into the movie making business back in 2003 with a series of films based on their 'Bionicle' range at first in conjunction with Miramax for the initial trilogy, and then with Universal for a reboot. After four films in the 'Bionicle' franchise between 2003 and 2009, Lego followed this up with their first feature length CGI animated adventure comedy 'Lego : The Adventures of Clutch Powers' which spawned a mini-sequel and a short film. In 2005 Lego capitalised upon their tie in with the Star Wars franchise with a number of short films and television specials, which has so far yielded ten such stories right up to 2016. Since 2013 there have also been a range of seven Lego Superhero films based on the DC Universe mostly featuring Batman, and the Justice League, with two short 22 minute films featuring our friends from the Marvel Universe too. The Lego Ninjago series has been hugely popular in its television series format running for six years so far over 64 episodes to date with a full length feature offering due later in 2017. In the meantime there has also been 'The Hero Factory' series, 'Lego Scooby-Doo' series and the 'Lego Friends' series and other one offs based on popular films and television series including Monty Python's Holy Grail, Indiana Jones, Jurassic World, Atlantis, and The Simpsons. In collaboration with Warner Animation Group Lego have so far released the hugely successful 'The Lego Movie' in 2014, 'The Lego Batman Movie' this year and as Previewed below, with 'The Lego Ninjago Movie' due in November, and with 'The Lego Movie Sequel' and 'The Billion Brick Race' both in development for 2019.
Turning form CGI driven animated interlocking bricks to the coming week, we have five new cinematic releases that offer a high octane Sci-Fi actioner set in a Japan of the near future and based on a cyber manga franchise now approaching thirty years old. We then have a small interconnecting bricks DC character inspired film about Gotham City's finest Superhero going head to head and brick to brick with his arch nemesis and just about every other arch criminal from popular culture you care to remember; before moving onto two critically acclaimed Foreign Language Film offerings that were both up for the Best Foreign Language Film at the recent Oscar Awards Ceremony - one from Denmark and a true account of young German POW forced to clean up their own mess in a small corner of Denmark immediately following the end of the war, and the second from Sweden about a grumpy old man. We then wrap up with an animated reboot of little blue and white critters who have been going strong for fifty years or so and whose latest adventure takes them on a journey of discovery, secrets and danger.
When you have sat through any one of these films as Previewed below, or those as Reviewed and Previewed amongst these previous Blog pages, be sure to leave your valued, constructive and relevant feedback, by leaving your movie going thoughts and opinions in the Comments section below this or any other Post. We'd love to hear from you, and meanwhile, enjoy your film in the coming week.
'GHOST IN THE SHELL' (Rated M) - is a Japanese media franchise that had it origins way back in 1989, having been published as a series of comics aimed squarely at the youth and more mature male market written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow which is the pen name for manga artist Masanori Ota whose works under this title have subsequently led to two theatrical anime movies, two anime television series, an anime television movie, a theatrical live action movie, and several video games. The original premise told of the fictional counter-cyberterrorist organisation Public Security Section 9 (a special-operations task-force made up of former military officers and police detectives) led by protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi in mid-21st Century Japan. Here, computer technology has advanced to the point where many members of the public possess cyberbrains, technology that allows them to interface their biological brain with a variety of networks. The level of cyberization varies from basic minimal interfaces to almost complete replacement of the brain with cybernetic components, in cases of severe trauma. This can also be combined with various levels of prostheses, with a fully prosthetic body enabling a person to become a cyborg. Major Motoko Kusanagi, is such a cyborg, having had a terrible accident as a child that ultimately required her to use a full-body prosthesis to house her cyberbrain.
With that lesson over, this live action version finally hits our screens this week after some time of dazzling Previews. Directed by Rupert Sanders in only his second feature film outing after 2012's 'Snow White and the Huntsman', this film adaptation centres around Major (Scarlett Johansson) - the first of a kind cyber-enhanced human who has been perfectly engineered to be the prefect soldier who exists only to stop the world's most dangerous notorious criminals. With technology reaching new heights that allows terrorists to hack into the minds of the people and ultimately take control of them, the Major is best qualified to stop them. As Major steps up to the plate to vanquish her dastardly foe, she learns that she has been lied to and everything about her life is not as she was led to believe - that she was not saved and made in to what she is today, but rather her life was stolen! She will stop at nothing therefore to recover her past and stop those responsible before others befall the same fate. Also starring Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano and Pilou Asbaek.
'THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE' (Rated PG) - featuring an all star voice cast this film is a spin off from the hugely successful 2014 'The Lego Movie' which took a cool US$470M from its US$60M production budget. This instalment is Directed by Chris McKay on a budget of US$80M and has so far grossed US$293M since its US release in early February. Here the story centres around Bruce Wayne (aka Batman, aka the voice of Will Arnett) who is living the reclusive life in his mansion with his Butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). When he's not fighting crime, his arch nemesis The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) musters up all the super crims he can possibly round up to thwart Gotham City's Batman once and for all. Meanwhile new Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) suggests to the Batman that he should take on a closer working relationship with the local city law enforcement authorities. Following some sort of misunderstanding Wayne inadvertently adopts orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) and so it boils down to Wayne, Grayson, Alfred and Gordon to save Gotham from the Joker and his army of super villains. Also starring the voice talents of Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Zoe Kravitz, Mariah Carey, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Adam DeVine and Billy Dee Williams amongst others. 'The Lego Ninjago Movie' is due for release at the back end of 2017, with a sequel to this film already announced for an early 2019 release.
'LAND OF MINE' (Rated MA15+) - this Danish/German Co-production had its Premier at TIFF in September 2015, and was released in its native Denmark in early December 2015. Only now does this highly acclaimed foreign language offering arrive into Australian cinema's off the back of 26 award wins and nineteen further nominations including a Best Foreign Language Film nod at this years recent Academy Awards. Telling the true WWII story of the days immediately after the surrender of Germany in May 1945 when a group of about 2,000 German Prisoners of War were handed over to Danish authorities and sent out to the west coast where they were forced to clear up to two million land mines buried in the sand along the coastal beaches there by the Germans when they occupied the country. Many were teenagers and all were ill equipped to get down on their hands and knees and carry out such dangerous work. One such group under the unscrupulous supervision of Sergeant Carl Leopold Rasmussen (Roland Moller) did it tough with his unrelenting unsympathetic views towards his former occupiers. Many lost their lives in doing so. As the days and weeks pass by, Rasmussen however, grows more and more conflicted in his feelings towards the young lads under his charge - especially, one, the protective and natural leader of the group Sebastian Schumann (Louis Hofmann). A tale of tragedy, tension, compassion and the human spirit as Directed and Written by Martin Zandvliet, this film cost US$5.2M to make and has so far grossed US$2.2M.
'A MAN CALLED OVE' (Rated M) - another Best Foreign Language Film nominee at this years Academy Awards was this Swedish comedy drama film Written and Directed by Hannes Holm and based on the 2012 book of the same name by Fredrik Backman. Released in its native Sweden at Christmas time 2015, this film only now too has a limited release in Australia, but being the recipient of thirteen award wins and another 22 nominations, may be well worth hunting out. Telling the story of Ove (Rolf Lassgard), a grumpy, ill tempered, opinionated and isolated retiree who spends his time enforcing the rules and regulations around the residential estate where he lives, and visiting the graveyard of his dearly beloved wife. When he finally decides to check out by his own hand, he quickly comes to realise that suicide is not a easy as he thought, and to make matters worse when new neighbours move in next door, an unlikely friendship unfolds that gives the grumpy old man a different perspective on life. The film has so far taken US$26M at the Box Office.
'SMURFS : THE LOST VILLAGE' (Rated G) - the Smurfs date back to the late 1950's in French/Belgian comics, and in the last sixty of so years the Smurfs have evolved to take in animated feature films, television series, video games, music recordings, merchandise, theme park rides, and even 'Smurfs on Ice' (not the illicit type either, although . . . !) As recently as 2011 there have been what was originally said to be a trilogy of films from Sony Pictures Animation launching with the live action/CGI offering 'The Smurfs' which grossed a cool US$564M. In 2013 along came 'The Smurfs 2' which grossed US$348M. Now in 2017, Directed by Kelly Asbury we have this rendition that is not a sequel to the 2013 Smurf outing but a fully animated reboot of the franchise and is unrelated to the earlier two movies. Here we find Smurfette (Demi Lovato) trying to find her place in the village. She comes across a mysterious map in the Forbidden Forest which prompts her, and her friends Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) to locate a lost village where SmurfStorm (Michelle Rodriguez), SmurfLily (Ariel Winter), SmurfWillow (Julia Roberts) and SmurfBlossom (Ellie Kemper), SmurfMelody (Meghan Trainor) and others live, and in so doing discover the biggest secret in all of Smurfdom. Along the way their journey is full of action, adventure, surprise, danger and discovery, but the clock is ticking too, and the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) is on the hunt and on their tails! Also starring the voice talents of Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf and Gordon Ramsay (yes, the Celebrity Chef!) as Baker Smurf and others, of course.
Five new movie offerings this week to drag you out kicking and screaming to your nearby cinema that offers something for the kids, something for the family, something for the Sci-fi action geeks and something for the lovers of foreign language independent fare. Share your movie going thoughts with us here, and in the meantime, I'll see you somewhere, sometime at your local Odeon.
-Steve, at Odeon Online-