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“The Lego Movie”  3.5stars

Could this toy story movie possibly rise to "Toy Story" level?

Why, yes.

"The Lego Movie," directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller ("Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," "21 Jump Street"), is a hilarious thrill ride, relentlessly funny and clever, from the minute we meet Emmet (Chris Pratt), a Lego construction worker who lives and works strictly by the (instruction) book.

That's how President Business (Will Ferrell) wants it, and he keeps the citizens of Bricksburg pacified with a steady diet of inane TV shows ("Where Are My Pants?"), inane pop songs ("Everything Is Awesome") and Taco Tuesdays.

President Business is actually Lord Business and along with Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) he plans to reign terror upon Lego city with the chemical weapon Kragle. Emmet's manual goes out the window when he stumbles upon a beautiful rebel, Master Builder Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and becomes attached (literally) to a prophesied Piece of Resistance that is the only hope for Bricksburg.

The creators didn't attract such A-list talent as Mr. Freeman, Mr. Neeson and Mr. Ferrell without a good script. This one generates laughs all the way through and could hold up as one of the better comedies of the year, animated or otherwise.

Rated PG for mild action and rude humor. Extras include commentary, several featurettes, an "Everything Is Awesome" singalong, outtakes and deleted scenes.

-- Post-Gazette

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”  3.5stars

"The Grand Budapest Hotel," from king of quirk director-writer Wes Anderson, is grander, merrier and more madcap than any of his previous movies.

It opens in 1985 and spins the clock back to 1968 and then again to 1932, when most of the action takes place. It radiates from a luxurious hotel, before its slide into shabbiness, in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka.

Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is the impeccably dressed concierge and perfumed gigolo who has a penchant for romancing some of the ladies who have been visiting the resort for years.

When one of them, 84-year-old countess Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), is found dead at her palatial home, Gustave and a new hotel lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), head for her estate. But when it turns out the widow bequeathed a priceless object to Gustave, her bad-seed son (Adrien Brody) lets invective, fists and death threats fly. And the chase is on, with Gustave and Zero tipping enough dominos to march down one of the nearby mountains.

Part of the delight is watching familiar faces pop up in small roles, including Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law and Tom Wilkinson.

The look of the movie, thanks to the Adam Stockhausen ("12 Years a Slave") production design and costumes from three-time Oscar winner Milena Canonero, is charming and fanciful.

Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence. Extras include a four-part making-of short and "Bill Murray Tours the Town" featurette.

-- Post-Gazette

ALSO THIS WEEK: 

• “Joe”: Ex-con with a hair-trigger temper is trying to stay out of trouble.

“House of Cards: The Complete Second Season”: Kevin Spacey plays the newly appointed vice president of the United States.

“Walk of Shame”: Reporter’s dream job is threatened by a one-night stand.

“The Monkey’s Paw”: Three wishes cause nothing but trouble.

“DCI Banks: Season One”: Series based on the books by Peter Robinson.

“Transformers Beast Wars: Chain of Command”: Optimus Primal and Maximals must stop Predacons.

“Death in Paradise: Season One”: British detective (Ben Miller) goes to a Caribbean Island to investigate a murder.

“The Escape Artist”: David Tennant (“Doctor Who”) stars in the legal cliff-hanger.

“Scott & Bailey: Season One”: Two detectives work for the Major Incident Team in Manchester.

“The Machine”: Computer programmers fall in love as they create the first-ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence.

“The Good Witch’s Gift”: Romance between Cassie Nightingale (Catherine Bell) and Police Chief Jake Russell (Chris Potter) blossoms.

“The Attorney”: Shady lawyer takes on an important case involving government brutality.

“Power Rangers Megaforce: Ultra Defenders”: Megaforce team looks to the sixth Ranger to help fend off major destruction.

— Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee


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