Friday, February 7, 2014

The Lego Movie

I saw this on opening day (February 6th, 2014 in Malaysia). I'm going to be honest here. I don't think I can give an impartial review of this movie. I love Lego. I've loved them since I was old enough to walk. Maybe even before that. And I continue to love them to this day.

Some people use Lego to build things for display. Others use it for storytelling. Others do both. I take pictures of Lego and use them to write stories. Others make stop-motion films. And this movie is the the blockbuster version of Lego stop motion films. Perhaps it is the Citizen Kane of Lego stop motion films too.

I was expecting a standard by the numbers animated movie employing the standard tropes. I was wrong. They went above and beyond with this. It's not perfect, but it's certainly one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in a while.

Minor spoilers follow, so if you haven't seen it stop reading now and go see it. I mean, seriously. Go. Right now.

The premise is familiar : An everyday nobody is really the chosen one to save the universe, and he has to make a hero's journey to fulfill his destiny. The execution however, is brilliant. The story has a frantic, almost chaotic energy to it, and near the end we get a Big Reveal that will make you go "Of course! It had to be that all along!". If you go in cynically thinking it's yet another cliched animated movie, you'd be wrong.

I'm going to take a page out of's reviewing style and break the rest of the review down by aspects of the movie I am judging.

Originality : I don't think anyone's ever done a full length animated Lego movie before. The story starts out following standard tropes and then turns it on its head in a unique way. 5 out of 6.

Effects: This movie is a combination of CG and stop motion, and CG that looks like stop motion. It's a very loving tribute to stop-motion Lego films. That may be lost on the folks that have never seen Lego stop motion films before, but they'll certainly notice the quirky charm to it. They could have easily made this entirely in smooth 3D, but they didn't; it's just one of the many examples of attention to detail in the film. 6 out of 6.

Story: The story is chaotic, yet it makes perfect sense, especially after the Big Reveal. There are a lot of themes buried in the colourful, kinetic action. It's packed to the brim with jokes and more jokes both slapsticky and subtle. 6 out of 6.

Acting : The voice cast was almost pitch-perfect. Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman and Will Arnett deliver their characters with earnest charm. Will Arnett pretty much steals the show with his rendition of Batman, which feels like he was taken right out of How It Should Have Ended's superhero cafe. 6 out of 6.

Production : I don't even know where to begin with this. Everything in this movie looks amazing. The attention to detail is staggeringly good. Example: Classic spaceman's helmet has the bottom part broken in exactly the same way they tend to break over time. The references to Lego part names like the "macaroni". Every single effect such as flame or water is rendered in Lego. I'll need multiple viewings just to appreciate it all. 6 out of 6.

Emotional response : I was laughing out loud at the jokes, and the Big Reveal was especially touching. 6 out of 6.

Overall: A perfect Lego movie. 6 out of 6.

Score : 41 out of 42.

High points:

1. It's true because it rhymes!
2. The Lego "builder-vision": the action sequences where the Master Builders just slap together vehicles by a quick scan of the available parts in their surroundings. It's like MacGuyver meets the Matrix meets Robot Chicken.
3. Middle Zealand.
4. Seeing your favourite minifigs on the big screen!
6. Will Arnett's Batman. And his hilarious song.
7. Surprise cameos!
8. The Big Reveal.

The summer releases of this year will have a hard time topping this one.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Albums I Enjoyed In 2013

Looking back at the music released in 2013, I've compiled a list of albums I loved this year. I am partial to instrumental/folk/Celtic music, so you're going to see a recurring theme in this list. There's still a ton of stuff released this year that I want to listen to but haven't had time or opportunity yet, so here's what I have had playing very frequently on my computer, in no particular order:

Hanneke Cassel - Dot The Dragon's Eyes

I first found out about this album from Hanneke Cassel's Indiegogo campaign, to which I contributed and got a CD as a reward. The record opens with the title track, a high-energy fiddle song that hooks you, and the energy continues right through the entire album. I got the album after Thanksgiving this year in Boston, and I am sure this record will be providing much of the soundtrack of my 2014.

Eleanor McEvoy - If You Leave

There's a lot of gentle relaxing sounds on this album, the 10th by Eleanor McEvoy, Irish legend. As someone who has moved around a lot in his life, the title track strikes a chord with me. Her rendition of Cindi Lauper's "True Colours" is probably my favourite version of the song I've heard. The upbeat, accordion-driven collaboration song "Secret of Living", with Sharon Shannon, Gemma Hayes, Mary Coughlan and Hermione Hennessy lightens up any gloomy day.

Gregory Alan Isakov - The Weatherman

This is the first album of Gregory Alan Isakov's that I've actually listened to, having discovered him only last year. Another record on this list that's beautiful and relaxing, it's great for unwinding in the evening, or listening to while walking along the seaside.

Laura Cortese - Into The Dark

I've called this album the "soundtrack of my year". I've been excited about this record ever since I heard Laura Cortese perform many of the songs here live, at Passim in Cambridge. Therefore this is yet another CD I supported via crowdfunding, and when I heard it I was blown away by the studio versions of those songs I was dying to hear again. The songwriting is superb, thoughtful and inspired. As usual for Laura Cortese, strings feature prominently on this record.

Aoife O'Donovan - Fossils

This is Aoife O'Donovan's first full-length solo album; previously she was the lead singer for Crooked Still. This is another recent discovery for me; the first track I listened to was a single from this record titled "Red & White & Blue & Gold", which intrigued me enough to check out the entire album. I enjoyed Crooked Still and I enjoy Aoife's solo outing too, which sounds familiar yet fresh.

Hugh Laurie - Didn't It Rain

Last I thought I'd mention here is Hugh Laurie's blues album "Didn't It Rain". It's a departure from my usual listening, and I have yet to listen to it in its entirety but I've always enjoyed his music from his Fry and Laurie sketches. Therefore, I thought I'd give it a try on Spotify, and it's quite interesting. I'm not sure if it makes an exceptional blues album, but a few tracks are growing on me and I think it warrants an iTunes purchase soon.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hello World

Hi, I'm Nur. I live in Malaysia (but I travel often), poke at computers, marvel at wildlife, rescue cats and take photos.

It's been an eternity since I wrote blogs. I quit writing around 2010. I had much too much to do. I had started travelling, and having adventures. I wasn't writing any of it down. There was just too much happening.

Since then life's slowed down a bit. I've got a bit of time to exercise my writing skills, so why not start another one?

My old blog had all kinds of things on it. Computer stuff. Bird-watching stuff. Travel stuff. I'm no good at separating them as I do them all, and I don't expect this blog to be any different. I also don't really expect anyone to be reading it, I just write for the hell of it.

So, welcome dear imaginary readers!