movies: the lego ninjago movie

the lego ninjago movie: find your inner piece
I will freely admit that when I first heard that there was going to be a Lego Ninjago Movie I scoffed and said "yeah, so not seeing that".

Even after the amazingness that was The Lego Movie, I wasn't particularly sold... then came The Lego Batman Movie, which was also great. Somewhere along the way I relented, because, really, these movies have a good track record so far.

And The Lego Ninjago Movie is... okay. I mean it's not bad. It's gorgeous to look at, but it just doesn't feel like it lives up to the level of the previous two movies.

Starting with the good stuff though...

This movie looks sensational. Everything that made the previous two movies look good, this movie ramps up to about 300. I will say that I do miss the "everything is made of Lego" aesthetic from the first movie though... where water and smoke and cloud and just about everything else is made of Lego.

However I get why that doesn't always feel practical, or always make sense for the movie. And there's very little about the visuals of this movie that don't feel refined and polished. The water effects alone... amazing. There are literally scenes where I would swear that they filmed practically, even though I know they couldn't have. Even the (mild, if you haven't seen the commercials for the movie this may be news to you, spoilers) giant cat that appears about halfway through feels organic and real, and I really don't know how much of it is practical versus CGI, but my thought it that all those scenes are about 50/50.

The voice acting is solid too... there's no particular stand-outs, but by the same token, nobody's voice really sticks out as "hey it's that person from that thing"... well, except Jackie Chan, but I'll get to that in a minute.

I also loved the way they did the opening titles, in that old Kung-Fu movie style... it sets up the world nicely and throws you into mindset of the world right away. And while the closing song is no "Everything is Awesome", it is nicely bizarre.

The opening and closing of the movie are a little... m'eh to be honest. I know what they were going for, setting up a Lego Movie/Neverending Story/Karate Kid kind of vibe, but honestly the two parts of the story (the kid feeling excluded from his friends in the real world and Lloyd's story within the movie) don't really interlock in the way that they probably should. Also, frontloading the idea of the real world into the movie just feels weird for some reason.

Maybe it will go over great with their actual target audience, pre-teen boys, but personally I think the movie would have been stronger without it. I also feel like it may have just been that since they had Jackie Chan in their movie they wanted him to do real life Jackie Chan stuff, so that gets crammed into the front of the movie (my suspicion for this stems mostly from the fact that they use outtakes of that one quick scene at the end of the movie, so clearly it was important to them). Also speaking of their target audience, this is much more a property that they will be aware of and care about, as it's relatively new in the Lego timeline and doesn't have a lot of nostalgia attached to it.

Overall, story is really not this movie's strongest asset. Compared to the other two it just feels a bit lackluster... it doesn't seem as funny, or as moving, or any of that. Which, again, doesn't mean that it's bad, it's enjoyable and has the odd laugh at times, it just doesn't compare favourably when you put it up against its predecessors.

It also did what a lot of "superhero team" movies tend to do, fail to give anybody but the "lead" character anything resembling a personality or any kind of backstory/development. Yes, we get a little bit about each of them, but they're more background to Lloyd and his story. If you were to compare it to something like Big Hero 6 for example, which is possibly the closest tonally, that team each have something unique and ongoing about their character and they each get moments later in the movie to shine. Ninjago gives each character half a line of character and an element and leaves it at that. And they don't even seem to have very much of a relationship to either each other or to Lloyd. There is literally a moment towards the end of the second act where all of the other characters are essentially shoved offscreen so the two leads can have a conversation.

Yes, the fact that Garmadon, the bad guy, and Lloyd are father and son and have a complicated relationship that isn't the typical "good guy stops the bad guy" storyline from this style of movie is to be applauded, as is the fact that they team up in a fairly friction-less way. It's just disappointing that it lacks the emotional impact it really needed to go from okay to great.

It's clear that while the previous two Lego movies were catering to a much wider audience, this one seems to know exactly who it's audience is and has tailored a movie for them. Which is fine, it's just disappointing given that previous outings did all of that and then more.

yani's rating: 3 ninja mechs out of 5

photo saturday: think pink

ufo in the pinkcandy stripe beach hut

daisy's dress from gatsbyshiny pink beak
This week was about average... with one aberration, but we'll get to that...

I made a decent tomato soup this week... although by the end of the week I was mostly over it. Not that it wasn't good, I just couldn't be bothered.

Otherwise it was back to the usual three games of D&D, which were all pretty chill.

The wheels kind of fell off the bus a little on Thursday. I was sitting here, looking at things on the internets, as you do, when the modem stopped connecting to the internet. I did the on/off thing, I even left it off while I had a shower... nothing. So I called my ISP, which resulted in fun and games but no actual results. In fact between the woman at the support desk and me we may have made the problem worse, meaning that I could no longer get access to the modem itself through my browser.

Which meant a new modem... and I've only had this one for, what less than a year I think. But on the plus side, the woman at the ISP said she could send me out a new one, but who has time to wait 3-5 days for that to happen, and when I said that she said she'd credit my account with $90, the price of that modem. Which then meant I got a brand new modem that will ultimately only cost me $10. And seems to function a lot better than the one I bought that cost a lot more... at least so far.

Of course I could have lived without the general level of stress and trauma that the whole exercise managed to imbue in me.

Today was again a return to the Old Times. And the fact that I didn't need to stick to a specific timeframe on Saturday mornings caught up with me, so I wasn't quite ready when Ma arrived.

The shopping itself was fine, although I don't feel like I really bought all that much stuff. I'm also seeing the end of soup season fast approaching, which is going to be painful if only because I'm going to end up having to cook more, which is annoying.

Neither of us really had any plans for the day, but we also haven't seen a movie in a while, so we decided to head on over to Marion to have a wander and see something.

We decided on the Lego Ninjago Movie (more on that later) and I think we made a good choice seeing it today and early since there weren't all that many other people in the cinema, which was good.

After it was over we just did our usual wander from one end of Marion to the other and back again. Nothing terribly exciting, but it's something that we haven't done in quite a while.

And that was about it really... we grabbed some food before we left and then called it a day.

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photo saturday: blue and white

blue sky operabobbing blue surf

blue sky pointercloudy pipe beast

white pipe on bluesilver nest
It has been a very long week.

Not bad you understand, just long.

So long in fact that I don't even remember what I did last week, so we won't even worry about that, suffice to say that making a soup that was half pea and ham and half potato and leek worked out very well.

The reason there wasn't a Saturday post last week is that I spent the whole day playing Dungeons and Dragons, and then all of Sunday night. In fact I played a total of about 16 hours across the two days (11 on Saturday, 5 on Sunday), and it was a lot of fun, even though I was starting to come down with a cold and I lost a bunch of my voice over the weekend. And when I got home on Saturday my ears were acting as though I had been at a concert and listening to loud music, due to the noise in the room the whole time.

But a good time was has by all, even taking into account the fact that I died a somewhat low-key but spectacular death due to a chest of cursed treasure.

There were also the usual three games of D&D through the week, plus an extra game on Tuesday because it was Talk Like A Pirate Day (which I'll admit I haven't really paid any attention to for the last few years).... so there was a LOT of stuff going on this week.

Due to excessive amounts of gaming I also didn't get a chance to make soup until Monday afternoon, and because I was feeling sick, I went with chicken noodle soup. Actually more of a chicken noodle stew if I'm being honest, but not bad.

I also had my chiro appointment on Friday, so with one thing and another I never spent a whole day at home this week.

Today was a return to The Before Times. For the first time since last November, Ma came down to me first thing this morning and we went shopping together. Huzzah. Okay, so it took longer and I didn't get to just listen to podcasts the whole time, but it's a step forward.

The shopping itself was fairly standard... I decided to make tomato soup this week, so that should be simple enough.

After we were done with shopping, someone Ma knew was doing a thing at a car related thing, so we stopped in there for not very long as all thankfully. Long enough for Ma to see the woman she knew and to get a sausage sizzle and a cupcake.

Obligations taken care of, we didn't do all that much of anything else, we just took a brief trip to Big W, then off to Kmart, mostly just to run a couple of errands. and that was about it. Nothing spectacular or dramatic, but at least it was a return to the old ways.

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state theatre company's macbeth

Imagine, if you will, a combination of The Scottish Play, a suspense/horror video game set in an insane asylum and a post apocalyptic world at war.

That's probably the best jumping off point to start talking about the State Theatre Company's production of Macbeth. As always, my history with Macbeth is long and varied, but I will say that every time I watch a new version I'm always collecting details to add to the one that I would make (if that ever just randomly happened). And this production, directed by Geordie Brookman, had a number of those details.

Starting with the set design by Victoria Lamb and the lighting design by Geoff Cobham, you feel the weight of the play right from the moment you step into the theatre. As I mentioned before, the set feels very, very much like a run down, broken space, and the first thought I had was of an old insane asylum, but then the moment when the table first appeared absolutely wowed me and made me look at everything with fresh eyes. And there were other unexpected moments like that throughout the play that surprised and amazed me.

Likewise the lighting was amazing throughout. From the barely lit pre-play moments though to the very end, the lighting added another level to the characters and the setting, particularly the varied uses of the high up windows within the set. And because a lot of the lighting was very, very bright, the moments when the stage was plunged into darkness were totally black which is always what you want from a play like this. I think my favourite lighting moment was when Macbeth speaks with the assassins, just the way he's lit partially in green versus them under downlights, gorgeous.

Lamb also designed the costumes, which really went for the post apocalyptic/warrior vibe, not flashy, but perfect for the characters and the world they enhabit. A particular standout was the witch, partially due to the choice to dress her in colours that were much closer to those of the set than anybody else so at various points she disappears slightly, but also the decision to mask off her eyes. That definitely contributed to the suspense/horror vibe, as did the decision to have her drool, spit or pour blood on other characters throughout the play.

Speaking of which, this is by far the bloodiest version of the play I've ever seen. By the end the majority of the cast is slathered with varying degrees of gore, and the play even starts on a scene of blood, leaning into the idea (as I've seen in a number of other productions) that Lady Macbeth was pregnant and lost a child, in this case seemingly to miscarriage.

If I have any complaint from the production standpoint, it's relatively minor and concerns the music. DJ Trip has put together a unique electronic score for the production, but, at least at the beginning, I found the music slightly drowned out a couple of the performers. As the show progressed they either addressed that if it was an unintentional technical issue or I grew accustomed to it, because I'll admit that by the end I barely noticed the music on a conscious level.

As the titular Lord and Lady, Nathan O'Keefe and Anna Steen are incredibly strong. O'Keefe has moments of genuine madness towards the end that can sometimes be lacking and is at other times truly frightening. Steen has some brilliant moments, not least of all the traditional "out damn spot" scene, which was heightened in this production by using the witch and the fact of Lady Macbeth's eventual suicide and combining all three elements together, which is both acted beautifully, but also a brilliant choice for the story. I will say that their chemistry as a couple wasn't perhaps as strong as it could have been. There were moments, but in this production I really thought of them as two independent characters rather than as a malevolent duo most of the time.

While I've mentioned her a couple of times already, Rachel Burke as the singular witch was phenomenal. She never leaves the stage and will often drift behind the characters, moving incredibly slowly, only to lurk or drool blood on a murdered character or otherwise interact with them in an otherworldly fashion. Add to that the fact that she also fills in as both Fleance and Macduff Jr and masterfully transforms her personality for both of the characters, while still keeping her witchly appearance.

Her turn as junior Macduff also lead to one of many, many brilliant small directorial details that were littered throughout the play. As she is both the witch and Macduff Jr, when Macbeth appears and stabs the child, it is Lady Macduff who receives the wound, even though she hasn't been touched.

I also totally appreciated that as the play progresses the people that Macbeth has murdered appear as parts of a dead chorus, and in the final pre-battle madness they fill in as guards and stewards and the doctor, leaving you never completely sure whether or not Macbeth is just talking to the voices in his head or to actual people or to projections by the witch.

Another stand-out for me was Elena Carapetis in a very small role as Lady Macduff (as well as being part of the dead chorus and one of the murderers), and while I'm incredibly glad that they gave her that role because she's excellent, I really, really wished we'd seen more of her throughout.

All in all this is definitely a very strong outing for The Scottish Play with some incredibly strong directorial choices and beautiful performances thoughout.

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photo saturday: metalwork

art cagearts frame

caged birdiron shapes
Hmmm... let's see...
  • Monday was Haircut Night... not the usual night obviously, but the last time I would squeeze in before Tink and Co moved house. In every other respect, it was much the same as a usual Haircut Night.
  • That meant that there was only time for 2 D&D games this week, Wednesday and Thursday. And weirdly on Thursday I was the only one of the usual crew who showed up. Not sure if it was because of the Sportsball or the (as somebody described it to me) Moneysuck that is the Royal Show, but yeah, myself and the DM were the only two from that group who were there. We still had enough people for a game though, so that was fine.
  • This week I made a minestrone soup that kicked the ass of all other minestrone soups I've made (or, I'll be honest, almost all the minestrone soups I've ever tasted)... the one flaw was the fact that I added a tin of mixed beans right at the end, and they could have done with a little actual cooking time.
Today was the most atypical Saturday we've had in a long while.

I still did the usual shopping thing in the morning, but then I essentially pottered around the house and did my own thing until early afternoon when Ma came to me! Yes boys and girls, mostly inspired by the fact we have a show to go to tonight, Ma got in her little car and tootled all the way down the road to my house.

We have re-entered the Before Times. Kind of.

However it wasn't a very exciting day.

australian geographic nature photographer of the year
We did head into the city to check out the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year exhibit at the museum though.

I will say that the arrangement of both the gallery itself and the photos was probably the best it's ever been. The photos themselves were actually pretty good, some of my favourites are over on the right.

Otherwise we really just had a bit of a wander, the city was pretty damn busy given the combination of the Royal Show and whatever sportsball game was on tonight, so we didn't stick around for all that long.

We came back to my place, hung around for a bit then headed out for dinner before the show.

You know what's weird... when you think about something and then later that day that very thing happens. While we were out and about earlier, I was thinking about the fact that I haven't really run into anybody from the D&D sessions outside of those sessions.

And then when I went up to order dinner, of the the guys who runs the games was there waiting to order. Weird.

Otherwise we had dinner, found a park closer to the theatre and headed down, then afterwards we drove back here and Ma headed home. I will say that it was nice not to have to drive all the way to Ma's place and then all the way back here after a show.

So yeah, that's about it really.

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photo saturday: man singular, men plural

boogie boybatting duo

tradie triobridge bike

back alley bustedsandstone group
This week featured:
  • the perfect beef and barley soup... literally one of the best soups I've made ever
  • the usual three games of D&D
  • the announcement of the closure of my favourite online D&D character creation website (dammit)
  • drinks with The Nuthouse crew to celebrate OwlGirl's new job somewhere that's not The Nuthouse.
It was good to see those folks that actually showed up for drinks... but also just weird somehow. Partially because we were celebrating someone getting a job, partially because it's like no actual fucking time has passed since I last saw everyone, partially because I really don't have any news to share.

But at the same time I don't miss the place like I have done in previous instances. Like not even a little bit.

Weird.

Today was... [copy and paste from the last several weeks]...

I did forget my phone when I went off to the supermarket this morning, so that was both a total #firstworldproblem and also annoying.

And I didn't actually need to do any shopping for Ma this week (much like last week), so that was a bonus.

Otherwise nothing of note to report.

And when I went down to Ma's place it was the same old same old yet again.

Blah, blah, blah... all done.

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