No one, absolutely no one, could have ever suspected that TheLego Movie would be as good as it was. Boasting a stop-motion inspired, completely-made-out-of-bricks animation style, countless different franchises and IPs, and a loud, catchy pop song in “Everything is Awesome,” it was evident that it would look and sound the part at the very least. In a Hollywood landscape where it seemed that just about every movie was a reboot, a sequel, or an adaptation of some obscure toy, imagine how audiences and critics alike were caught off guard when The Lego Movie itself directly knew all of our anxieties and used them to its advantage. Stealthily, we got a movie that used one of the biggest toy brands and some of the biggest franchises to create a narrative about the beauty of individuality and creative self-expression, a heartwarming tale about a father and son reconnecting, and the dangers of conformity under a capitalist society (no, seriously).
In short, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors of the first film (and most recently Into the Spider-Verse), know what the hell they’re doing. There have been a few Lego spin-offs in the meantime since 2014, but here we finally are with a sequel to the original The Lego Movie. This time around, Lord and Miller have producing credits, with director Mike Mitchell (Trolls) taking the reigns. But, rest assured, their under-99-layers-of-irony-but-still-as-genuine-as-can-be essence is still everywhere. The result is a sequel that is a lot less subtle about its meta-narratives and has fewer moving parts in its plot structure, but still understands everything that made the original great while excelling at being just as emotionally satisfying.
January is a quiet month, so how about we use this time to highlight some lesser known, quiet dramas that we love? This is Vol. 1, as this is a great concept to revisit with some feedback when I return to it. Enjoy the relaxing, personal video set to Nicholas Britell’s amazing score from If Beale Street Could Talk!
If you follow me on Twitter, then you’re probably familiar with my weekly “THE GOOD PLACE [Sad Reaction Image]” tweet formula that pops up on Thursday nights. I started the show during the summer of 2018 and devoured the first two seasons in less than three days, which is extremely uncharacteristic of my uncultured-with-television self. I knew from the first few episodes, however, that The Good Place was no ordinary network sitcom. It’s been dubbed by many of its creators as the “smartest, dumbest show on TV”, which perfectly describes the show’s juggling of complex interrogations of morality, deep character studies, humane themes of life and death, emotional trauma, and self-improvement, all while maintaining a Spongebob-Esque absurdist but genuine sense of humor. It’s such a personal show to me that seemed to come at the right time. The first two seasons are masterfully written, and it would not be inappropriate to study the story beats and structure in a screenwriting class as the perfect model of set-up, pay-off, character development and everything in-between.
So of course, Season Three of The Good Place had a lot to live up to. Our starting point takes off where Season Two ended; an arrangement with the Judge (Maya Rudolph) had been made to give our rag-tag group a second chance to prove themselves as “better people” by preventing their deaths back on Earth. Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), fully understanding of the gang’s positive group dynamic, decide to meddle further and reunite the humans together via a study on near-death experiences led by Chidi in Australia. I emphasize that this is only the starting point of the season – as you already might know, The Good Place is no stranger to the tradition of gigantic plot twists.
When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko released “Amazing Fantasy #15” back in 1962, they created a superhero that truly belonged to the people. In a comic scene full of gods and god-like beings enters Peter Parker, a lower-middle-class, adolescent high school nerd with a big heart and a passion for the same superheroes comic readers know and love, taking on the persona of Spider-Man after getting bit by a radioactive—yeah, you know the story, and for good reason. Spider-Man has essentially been the face of Marvel since comics have entered our mainstream popular culture, and after 16 years of cinematic legacy, he’s in no position of slowing down.
What better way to send off November than to give your soul to the dance? As you know, we’re big fans of Suspiria here at Much Ado, so I decided to make a compilation dedicated to the beauty of dance throughout cinema. Thom Yorke’s hypnotic song always brings up these images in my head of big ensembles, lavish costumes, and thrilling body movements, so it was simply wonderful to portray that in one of my edits.
Only two questions were running through my mind as I watched J.K. Rowling’s new Potter Tale, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: “Who the hell is that?” and “What the hell is happening?” After two hours, I find myself still asking those exact questions. Truthfully, I was never on board with this new iteration of the Wizarding World franchise from the start. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them remains one of the biggest disappointments in my nerdy little life. It’s a movie that used the world I know and love, but deeply misunderstood why I fell in love with it in the first place. Out with the lovable, rich characters from Harry’s world and in with the stereotypical stock of Newt’s that populate a film with only scraps of world building on its mind. Unfortunately, if you are reading this, I can only inform you that no lessons have been learned since 2016.
The Crimes of Grindelwald is not just bad. It’s not even a cohesive film. There is no basic understanding of narrative form; no three-act structure, no character development, no sense of conflict, no tension, no focus, no protagonist, but more importantly— there’s no clear message. This is not a story; this is a collection of different ideas and Pottermore footnotes that Rowling has mashed together into something resembling a story. This is a vehicle in which she is able to retcon her way through the lore of her own beloved work through a series of contrivances and poor attempts at some spectacle. Worst of all, none of it makes any absolute sense. The “twists” that this film uses to shock you are lazy afterthoughts that make Rey parentage theories from Reddit seem like they were written by Charlie Kaufman.
The Freddie Mercury biopic has been cooking up since 2010. Originally meant to be a Sacha Baron Cohen and David Fincher collaboration, the biopic’s direction had shifted into the hands of the remaining members of Queen. This led to Baron Cohen leaving the project due to artistic disagreements, envisioning a much more adult version of Bohemian Rhapsody. Eventually, Anthony McCarten’s screenplay was green-lit with Bryan Singer (ugh) attached to direct. Soon they found Mercury in Rami Malek, as well as some reforms after Singer was fired from the project, some backlash for the lack of inclusion of the AIDs crisis, and accusations of “de-queering” Mercury’s depiction the film (more ugh)! It’s almost impressive that a project with such an infamously-controversial development stage could amount to a film this dull.
But here we are. Bohemian Rhapsody, despite a mixed critical reception, hit the #1 spot of the box office, making an estimated $50 million dollar earning. Somehow, this has only sparked more controversy as a quite irritating critics-versus-audiences conversation has formed once again. I think we have bigger things to worry about, considering the director credit has gone to an accused pedophile (he is currently being campaigned for by Fox for best director as part of the upcoming awards season). Simply put, this film already gave me a headache before I even got the chance to see it. Dubbed the “unseasoned chicken” of cinema by our editor-in-chief, Dilara, and writer, Iana, Bohemian Rhapsody is not only the blandest on-screen version of Mercury’s extravagant life possible, but it also does a major disservice to the gay and bi men who have looked up to the idol since the 80s. While the “de-queering” criticism may be slightly hyperbolic as Mercury’s sexuality is a large thread within the film, it is not handled with the amount of care to be worthy of high praise.