The Lego Movie (2014)

Let’s not pretend with each other. When it was first announced that there was going to be a movie based on those multicolored building blocks, we all thought it was going to turn out to turn out to be a 90 minute advert for their back catalogue. Whilst there’s no denying that The Lego Movie is sure to shift a unit or two at Toys R Us, parents can rest easy knowing that there’s more to it than that.

Emmett Brickowzki (Chris Pratt) is the happiest man in the happiest city ever. Diligently following the instructions given out by the President of the world, Lord Business (Will Ferrell), he’s a nondescript yellow face amongst a sea of yellow faces. When happenstance leads to Emmett meeting the sage like, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and rebellious WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks), he discovers that he may be the savior of all the known Lego universes.

Along his journey, Emmett interacts with various ‘master builders’, who – and again parents, you really shouldn’t let this worry you – all happen to be popular spinoffs of the Lego brand. Anyone who has played the Lego computer games – Star Wars, Batman, etc – will know the slight irreverence they have towards their licenses. And those ideals bleed into the movie itself, with Batman (Will Arnett) writing epic goth poetry about being Batman.

Wildly funny and imaginative, the biggest surprise of The Lego Movie is how layered it is. Starting with the checklist that is the Hero’s Journey, the film goes on to take on big business and during the third act manages to upturn the whole thing; turning the conclusion into an emotional finale that makes you reevaluate everything you’ve been watching.

The Lego Movie; A film so brilliant, so – ahem – awesome, we don’t actually want a sequel for fear it will dilute the overall effect. It’s that good.


Early Bird Film Society’s Films O’ 2013!

Good evening and welcome to the EBFS review of the year (in film). Ahhhh…. 2013…. It seems a different, more innocent time. A time when the Academy saw fit to award Argo its highest honour at their annual, low-key shindig, despite their apparent belief that the film just popped into existence from nothing without any help from a director or anything. Cannes dropped to its knees over three hours of emotionally wrought, sapphic love in Blue Is The Warmest Colour, just to prove how stereotypically bloody French they are. Toronto, in a shameless attempt to hold onto it’s spot as “hot Oscar predictor”, hedged its bets and threw The People’s Choice Award at 12 Years a Slave, which is basically cheating. Venice and Berlin foisted their respective golden animal statues at Sacro GRA and Child’s Pose respectively. Two films so art-house and (eurgh) European that they have yet to see a release in either of the countries EBFS wanders around in. However, all of that backpatting, black tie dinnering, gladhanding was just window dressing compared to the (fanfare/family fortunes incorrect answer noise) annual verbal fist fight that has become the Early Bird Film Society’s Collection of Top Five Films And Some Bad Ones Of The Year! The title will be worked on.

Anyway, all four of us here at the global EBFS offices (Melbourne/Manchester Divisions) have picked our top five films that we saw at the cinema in 2013 based on a less than comprehensive release date schedule spanning two countries and poor recollection skills. It’s our list though, so don’t judge us and you’re welcome:

Top Five @DonDubrow


Joss Whedon threw this Shakespeare adaptation together using his house, his wife, his friends and his deft ear for fast, witty dialogue. Delightfully playful, completely faithful and a little breath of fresh air amongst the towering mega franchises.


Tarantino’s best film since Jackie Brown, completely ignoring any political subtext and a more brutal depiction of slavery for that reason. Great performances from Foxx and SLJ but Christophe Waltz’s warmth and DiCaprio’s gleeful evil earned them the plaudits. Extra points for surviving Tarantino’s inexplicable Australian accent which he’ll have to be brought to account for at some point.


Divisive doesn’t even cover it. Nicolas Winding Refn’s desire to “violate” the audience came true with this lurid, neo fable of oedipal urges in Bangkok. Ryan Gosling’s easiest day at the office is a bleak and uncompromising, neon drenched nightmare set within the lowest parts of the human psyche. Maybe.


Despite Spock’s presence, this embarrassingly colon free sequel was almost totally bereft of logic. Insane pacing and set pieces (and lens flare) and the worst kept secret of the year still made for a rip-roaring dash through a thousand tropes of the Star Trek universe all coated with JJ Abrams’ clever script reverses and cinema savvy. Best line delivery of the year too. Altogether now….”KHAAAAANNNNN!!”.


Harmony Korine aims for the mainstream and thankfully misses with his visceral tale of hedonism and excess where the youth of America stop trying to be the best they can be and realise they no longer live in a country where anything is possible. Warning, contains James Franco saying “blue Kool-Aid” over and over and singing a Britney Spears song. Not for everyone.

Worst Film

After Earth (2013)

Will Smith “thinks” up an idea where he doesn’t play Will Smith but seventies Robert Duvall, his son convinces us that emoting is hard and M Night Shawaddywaddy directs? Ooh, it took a round of drawing straws to get one of EBFS into the cinema to begin with to gape open mouthed at a film with as much warmth, wit and charm as someone who bangs on a van at a sex trial. If this ruins Will Smith’s career (which it won’t), karmic film balance would at least creep back into the black….

Top 5 @stuartnbaillie

IRON MAN 3 (2013)

The award for best rug pull/slap in the fan boys faces goes to Shane Black’s exceptionally funny take on the superhero. RDJ nails it yet again as Tony Stark but the star of the show was Sir Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin/Trevor Slattery. Brilliant fun from start to finish.

GRAVITY (2013)

Adored by critics and loved by the public. Alfonso Cuaron’s marvelous film may have taken some fantastic scientific leaps in logic (seriously, look into it) but who cares, it was brilliant. Innovative and thoughtful this was on most critics top 5 lists. Ghost Clooney is my hero.


The funniest film I’ve seen in ages. Steve Coogan inhibits a character better than any other actor of his ilk, (take note of how it’s done Mr. Ferrell) and does it to consistently hilarious effect. The lip synch to Roachford’s ‘Cuddly Toy’ and ‘the man fanny’ were two of my highlights. Excellent work from everybody involved.


Tom Hanks is as good as he’s been since he made me cry over losing  a chuffing volleyball. Special mention to debutant Barkhad Abdi who held his own against a hollywood legend, his turn as Somali pirate Muse was almost as good as Hanks’ titular hero. Intense,thrilling, fast paced and superbly directed (well-played Paul Greengrass) this was edge of the seat viewing. Worth it for the heartbreaking final scenes.

FROZEN (2013)

I’m a 35 year old man who likes boxing, MMA, rugby, NFL, horror movies and the 80’s back catalogue of ‘The Austrian Oak’ and Sly Stallone and yes….a Disney musical made my top 5. The music in this is as good as anything from the 90’s golden era. I’ll put ‘Let it Go’ up against ‘A Whole New World’ or ‘Be Our Guest’. It’s very funny thanks to a brilliant talking snowman and the message that you don’t need a man to feel loved plays totally against Disney’s apparent ethos.

Loved. Every. Second.

Worst Film

Only God Forgives (2013)

I thought long and ard about this. I nearly gave it to Anchorman 2 but as awful as that was it just didn’t make my blood boil as much as OGF. As beautifully shot and scored as this was it felt deliberately obtuse at times and constantly frustrating. I hate this film with a passion that burns with the fire of a thousand suns.

Top 5 by @noonanjohnc

-MANIAC (2012)

Elijah Wood is a maniac, maniac on the floor and he’s dancing like he’s never danced before. D’oh! He is NOT a maniac, maniac on the floor, dancing like he’s never danced before. He’s the puppy eyed, mumbling owner of a mannequin store, with an oedipal love for his dead mother. Oh and he likes to scalp women. Franck Khalfoun’s remake of the 1981 greasy cult classic, has the morals of American Psycho and the sheen of Drive. Shot from Wood’s POV, the film makes you an unwilling accomplice in his apologetic rampage (‘I won’t hurt you.’ He cries to one of his victims, before doing exactly that). Haunting, vicious and with a superb soundtrack, Maniac will stay with you for a long time. I suggest showering in Swafeger afterwards.


This tale of three lads building a house in the forest to escape their respective parents took me completely by surprise. Equal parts Stand by Me and The Hangover (Seriously), The Kings of Summer is brilliantly shot and hilarious. I’ve watched this several times now and it never fails to cheer me up. Pretty much every highlight includes either Nick Offerman’s grumpy sonuvabich father who continually fights with the local Chinese restaurant or Moises Arias as the alien-esque Biaggio; a boy who mistakes Cystic Fibrosis for being gay.


Another coming of age film. This time from the writers of The Descendants, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who also direct. Duncan is a boy forced on a summer break with his mum and her somewhat dominant boyfriend. Whilst trying to find something fun to do, Duncan ends up working at Sam Rockwell’s rundown waterpark. Everyone is on fire in this film. Patriculalty Rockwell who has never been better as the lethargic Lothario with *all together now* a heart of gold.


I’ve got two Aussie films in my top ten. Ivan Sen’s noirish police procedural Mystery Road and this from documentarian Kim Mordaunt. I’ve gone with The Rocket simply because it’s probably the most accessible. A film that is both heartbreaking and joyful, The Rocket tells the story of a young boy just trying to prove his worth to his family when all those around him consider him to be bad look. I’ve told people it’s like a children’s story for grown-ups, and I think it’s the most succinct way I can put it.

GRAVITY (2013)

What can I say that hasn’t already been said on this page. I’m not going to waste your time. If you’ve seen it and loved it, you know why it’s on my list. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and see if you can find a cinema that’s still showing it. I’ll wait.

Worst Film


I’ve seen a lot of tosh in 2013. Hell, I saw three Dolph Lundgren films alone. However, absolutely none of them, not even Diana, could be considered the worst of 2013 when you have I Spit on Your Grave 2 vying for your attention. This shitpile of a movie is everything that’s wrong with most horror films today. Replacing subtly and scares with vicious and nasty, the film tries to justify the brutal hour long rape and abuse of its protagonist by letting her have the final third of the film to exact her revenge. No movie has ever made me as angry as this Fanta bottle full of piss.

Top 5 by @noonanhannah

– STOKER (2013)

I must confess to having mixed feelings about Park Chan-wook’s English language debut upon first viewing. But Stoker is one of those films whose utter dedication to atmosphere stays with you months after viewing until you begrudgingly admit that actually, that was rather brilliant. Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode all put in stellar performances and Chung Chung-hoon’s cinematography is positively lush. But the real star of Stoker is Wentworth Miller’s haunting script, a brilliant love letter to the twisted family shenanigans of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.


Flawed? Yes. Overlong? Absolutely. But Derek Cianfrance’s follow up to Blue Valentine is a brooding character piece that asks for a gamut of emotional responses from its audience, most of which it successfully achieves. Plus, it threatened to melt the internet by giving us a scene where Ryan Gosling dances with a dog to Bruce Springsteen, and if that’s not what you want out of a film, then we could never be friends.


Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s ode to coming-of-age films is beautifully judged, wonderfully directed and supremely enjoyable. Allison Janney puts in a brilliant performance as a fabulously awful drunk, and Sam Rockwell becomes the best friend any kid could want. There’s really not much else to say about the Descendants pair’s summer outing that I didn’t cover in my original review.

FROZEN (2013)

Disney’s wintery delight is a strong step forward for the house of mouse, and a beautifully woven tale of sisterly love, sassy reindeers and singing snowmen. But more to the point, the songs are fabulous and if you’re not singing ‘Let It Go’ by the end then you have a heart of ice.


The second of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek outings is a two-hour exercise in fan wankery at its absolute finest and, forgive me, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Benedict Cumberbatch e-nun-ci-aaaates his way into the British bad guy canon of Hollywood, and anyone who says it isn’t entertaining watching just how far those nostrils flare is frankly a liar. Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that fiercely says no to logic, and yes to “LOOK! SHINY THINGS!” so excuse me for being a magpie.

Worst film


Most likely not the ACTUAL worst film of the year (I never got round to that Shyamalan affair with Will Smith and his young clone) but certainly the most souless and tedious film I spent money on. James Franco is sleepy and disengaged in this needless and saccharine A list pantomime. There’s a terrible CGI monkey sidekick, a creepy porcelain girl I swear I met in a nightmare in my youth, and the dullest of Bruce Campbell cameos. I love The Wizard of Oz, I love Sam Raimi, but this was such a disappointment.

So there you have it. Did you think any of us were blisteringly right? Howling wrong? Let us know.

Frozen (2013)

In the mythical kingdom of Arendelle, princess sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are raised in isolation due to the latter’s incontrollable icy powers. When the time comes for Elsa to take on the crown of the kingdom, her anxieties accidentally trigger a snowy magical outburst which sends her into a self-imposed isolation, and the whole of Arendelle into an eternal winter. The younger, excitable Anna vows to retrieve her sister and journeys into the mountains on a quest which sees her joined by magical snowman Olaf, and mountain man Kristoff.

With Frozen, Wreck It Ralph co-writer Jennifer Lee provides a sparkling screenplay which eschews and subverts traditional Disney focus on princes and ‘true love’, and turns its spotlight instead on to family, with the sisters’ dynamic driving the emotional forces of the film. When their parents decide to raise Anna and Elsa as relative shut ins (clearly having never watched how well that worked out for Mother Gothel in Tangled), it turns the girls into completely different people. Anna becomes a restless and jumpy romantic who longs for human interaction, whilst Elsa remains an introverted and anxious Edward Scissorhands-like figure, fearful that she may hurt others with her magical affliction. The filmmakers’ decision to make Elsa a second protagonist with flaws and vulnerabilities rather than a villain is a commendable shift in tone for Disney, and it’s certainly refreshing to see two sympathetic and strong female characters carrying the film. Elsewhere, in the grand tradition of animated films, the enchanted character, in this case Olaf, is an absolute scene stealer, one which judging by the children’s reactions in our screening, will dominate the film’s merchandising output this Christmas.

Musically, Frozen is arguably Disney’s strongest film since the 1990s. The centre piece song, “Let It Go” is Elsa’s rallying cry of liberation and the one you will rightfully hear Oscar buzz about, thanks in part to Idina Menzel’s blistering delivery. Equally beautiful is Anna’s “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” showcasing the character’s desperate desire for sisterly bonding. Husband and wife Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez ought to be strongly commended for providing Disney with several memorable new songs for the sing-a-long canon. The strength of the music is equally matched by the stunning animation which sweeps from great wintery landscapes of snowy fjords and the magical creation of a beautiful ice castle, to the quietly nuanced emotion of the sisters.

Ultimately Frozen is a glittering triumph, and a wonderfully strong step for Disney to prove they don’t necessarily always need to rely on Pixar’s help to provide tales of equally heartbreaking and amusing magnitude.

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

2010’s Despicable Me was a bit of a sleeper hit. Going toe to toe with Megamind – the other evil genius cartoon that shot itself in the foot with its numerous trailers spoiling its one and only twist – it invariably won audiences over with its gentle humour, its Looney Toons-esque plot, and lots and lots of those little yellow nuggets we now know as Minions. With so much going for it, the arrival of a sequel should only have come as a surprise to rocks and even then, really dumb rocks.

Former evil genius Gru (Steve Carrell) has officially hung up his plans for world domination and is focussing all his energy into raising his three adopted daughters and producing a range of mouth-watering jams. Left in the lurch by his lab partner Dr Nefario (Russell Brand), who wants more evil out of life, Gru finds himself pining for a bit of a break from parenthood. Enter secret agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), who enlists Gru’s help in tracking down a stolen mutating chemical compound.

Despicable Me 2, like most sequels, cranks everything up to 11. However, unlike most sequels, it manages to hit every target it aims for. We very rarely use the term perfect, but the only issue we really had came in the form of a neutered performance by  Kim Jeong as the diminutive wig guru, Floyd Eagle-san. Speaking of Jeong, Despicable Me 2 manages to show the excruciating Hangover Part III how you beef up your franchise’s minor characters without crushing the life out the film like a python.

A large part of the film sees the Minions pushed to the front in a plot concerning their kidnapping, and the film’s success is largely down to this. Never managing to outstay their welcome, like a certain man-child, they bring the biggest laughs and the greatest joy of the film. Whether this will translate to the upcoming Minions movie remains to be seen, but for now let’s not worry. Despicable Me 2 is a wonderful, anarchic, slab of joy.

Monsters University (2013)

Open your books and turn to chapter one; it’s time for Monsters University, Pixar’s prequel to their 2001 hit. Rewinding the clock, we follow Mike and Sully as they take their first tentative steps into art of scaring. Mike’s rotund spherical shape and booksmarts have made him the target of ridicule as no one finds him the least bit scary, whilst Sully is coasting off the reputation of his successful father and failing to take college seriously. Neither is particularly fond of the other. When they’re both kicked off their course by Dean Abigail Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), they must work together to get re-enrolled. Along the way they will join the least successful fraternity and enter the annual Scare Games against the most popular fraternity on campus, Roar Omega Roar.

Yes, this is pretty much every college movie you’ve seen, from Animal House to Revenge of the Nerds, boiled down to a palatable child-friendly nugget. Whilst the initial idea of a children’s film set in a college may seem at odds with the cuddly nature of Pixar, it’s a credit to their talent how quickly these doubts are washed away as Mike literally takes his first step onto university soil. We only wish our days at uni were like this.

Cameos from Monsters Inc rub shoulders with some lovely little set pieces. A showcase of Sully and Mike’s scaring abilities is a particular stand out, as the young monsters learn to harness their abilities against a foe they’ve never studied for. There’s also a lot to be said for a film whose take-home message appears to be at odds with other Pixar movies, such as Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Whereas those seemed to instil a sense of limitless possibilities into the minds of their impressionable viewers, Monsters University goes for a more grown up message which appears to be restrictive and balances the hash realties of life with a can do spirit that would make Buzz and Woody proud.

Whilst not as eye-opening or wonderful as Monsters Inc, there is enough here to leave a mile wide smile on your face.

The Croods (2013)

When a family of cavemen, The Croods, are uprooted from their cave by seismic activity, they become involved in the machinations of Guy (Ryan Reynolds), the supposedly next stage of evolution who wants to climb to the highest point he can find, so he can ride the Sun to land in tomorrow before the apocalypse arrives.

The Croods feels like a human edition of the Ice Age movies, as our protagnists face off against the natural disaster we know will wipe them out at some point in history. Sounds depressing when we say it like that, doesn’t it? Well, thank heavens, we’re not making a kids film any time soon.

Whereas Ice Age was a victim of diminishing returns where jokes about the time period gave way to fucking pirates, The Croods tries to keep the humour about the charcters rather than any potential Flintstones – oh look the bird is a cement mixer – kind of shenanigans. When it does dip its toe into modern humour, it doesn’t feel too out of place.

Whereas most kids films promote the message that you should stay true to yourself and everything will be fine, The Croods bucks the trend with a heartwarming message of ideas are great, thinking is brilliant, always keep striving forward or you’ll just end up burning alive in lava. Again, we’ve made it sound more depressing than we meant to!

Overall, The Croods is a simple tale that isn’t going to threaten the likes of Pixar, but it provides solid laughs and maybe even the odd tear jerking scene. Good family fun.

Wreck It Ralph (2012)

Wreck It Ralph (John C Reilly) is your everyday Joe with everyday problems. He wants more from his job and his life in general. Ralph just happens to be the titular bad guy in the cult Donkey Kong clone, Fix It Felix Jnr. When the arcade closes for the night, Ralph decides to forgo what’s usually expected of him and seek a better life in another game. Along the way, he crosses paths with a computer game glitch, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), who is also trying to find her place in this crazy ol’ virtual world.

With its drum and bass soundtrack, Skrillex cameos, references to the next-gen consoles, Wreck It Ralph is a film that will date very quickly. And that’s about the worse thing we can say about it. With its storyline of games coming to life when the humans are away, this feels like a companion piece to Toy Story. Genuinely, Wreck It Ralph is one of the best Pixar pictures not to come out of Pixar.

The script bubbles with humour that won’t alienate the everyday noob, whilst background jokes will appeal to the most hardcore gamer (Aerith LIVES!!).  Whether it’s worthy of an Oscar is debatable. Even with John Lasseter on the production team, it is up against the lush beauty of Pixar’s Brave. However, whatever the outcome, this charming film deserves respect for the time and attention that’s gone into it.