Monthly Archives: February 2017

Review: The Batman Lego Movie

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Perhaps the most interesting credit for The Batman Lego Movie is that the Executive Producer is Steve Mnuchin, our brand new Secretary of Treasury in the Trump administration. That makes some sense, because this iteration of Batman makes the caped crusader seem just like a certain orange-hued billionaire president.

As I guessed last March, The Batman Lego Movie is far better than Batman v. Superman, but it isn’t as charming as The Lego Movie. I mean, you can’t go wrong when one of the first gags in the movie is that a plane belongs to McGuffin Airways (a McGuffin being a term Alfred Hitchcock used), but at times it is so busy that I felt a bit overwhelmed (I misread the times for my theater and ended up watching the 3-D version, which might not have helped).

Batman was an amusing supporting player in The Lego Movie, and Will Arnett is back in his own adventure. He is solipsistic, narcissistic, thin-skinned, and a bit power mad, and doesn’t learn from his own mistakes, just like a certain president. He also has trouble saying he’s sorry. In short, he’s a basket case.

The message of the film is that everyone has to work together to make things happen, with the new Gotham City Police Commissioner, Barbara Gordon (voiced by Rosario Dawson) emphasizing cooperation with Batman instead of just calling for his help. Meanwhile Batman’s arch villain, The Joker (Zach Galifinakis) is upset when Batman tells him he doesn’t need him. Batman zaps him to something called the Phantom Zone, where the worst villains are kept, crossing genres with King Kong, Sauron, and Voldemort. The Joker frees them all, creating mayhem in Gotham City.

Other DC characters are on board, most specifically Robin (Michael Cera) and loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes, who does not voice Voldemort, even though he played him in the films. Weird). There are also brief appearances by the Flash, Green Lantern, and other DC characters such as Condiment King, who really is a DC villain. The Joker tells us to Google him.

With Arnett’s growling voice, there is much humor mined from Batman’s loneliness. He eats re-heated lobster thermidore, then retires to a private screeing room to watch Jerry Maguire, at which he howls with laughter. Everything about this Batman is so silly and childish, but it is in line with the Batman mythos, as there is a meta sensibility, going back to the ’60s TV show and even the serials of the ’40s.

I would have liked it more if it had dialed down the sappy message, made the action scenes a little less seizure-inducing, and concentrated on the comedy.

HAGEBOC 2016 – THE FINAL RESULTS: JACKRABBIT SLIM WINS!

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Jackrabbit Slim enjoyed a commanding lead throughout this contest with an unprecedented series of wins (I’d wager the most six pointers of any ‘BOC we’ve ever done) so this is a well-earned victory! Congrats to Marco for killing it on a regular basis as well.

AGEBOC will kick off the weekend of May 5th.

SCORES:
Jackrabbit Slim – 86
James – 70
Marco – 44
Joe Webb – 30
Juan – 26
Rob – 11
Nick – 4

Movies Opening in New Haven – Weekend of February 10th, 2017

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Three sequels hit Connecticut multiplexes this weekend.  Two have been well-received by critics and one…not so much:

The Lego Batman Movie: You’d hope that the folks behind Warner Brothers’ floundering live-action franchise might look at this wonderful Batman-centric spin-off of 2014’s The Lego Movie (featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson and Michael Cera) and find inspiration, but that’s doubtful. As it stands: it’s easily the best Batman movie this decade.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Metacritic:75%

Personal interest factor: 10 (yes, a rare 10!)

John Wick: Chapter 2: Keanu Reeves returns in the sequel to his 2014 action hit.  I didn’t get into the original the way most did, probably should revisit it at some point.

Rotten Tomatoes:: 90%, Metacritic: 75%

Personal interest factor: 5

Fifty Shades Darker: Hell, no.

Rotten Tomatoes: 8%, Metacritic: 32%

Personal interest factor: 0

Review: Nocturnal Animals

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Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford’s second feature, is the cinematic equivalent of gilding the lily. It is a film within a film, and the film within is a nice, tough desert noir, as if adapted from a pulp novel by Jim Thompson. If left to stand alone, it would have been powerful and satisfying. But, not leaving well enough alone, that film is wrapped with another, far less interesting film that mostly features Amy Adams staring into space.

The premise is that Adams, a gallery owner, receives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), who had always been a struggling writer. As she reads the book, it is acted out for us, with Gyllenhaal playing a second role as the father of a family accosted by hoodlums on a Texas highway. They kidnap and murder his wife and daughter (the wife is played by Adams look-alike Isla Fisher), and the crime is investigated by Michael Shannon (Oscar-nominated).

Every so often, when something dramatic happens in the book, Adams looks up, shocked (perhaps because her look-alike is brutally murdered in the book). We see flashbacks of how the couple met, wed, and divorced. She basically gave up on him and his supposed weakness (her mother, Laura Linney, warns her of it) and ends up with a rich man (Armie Hammer). As the shell of the film progresses, it becomes clear that Gyllenhaal has written the book as a giant fuck-you to Adams.

But all of that melodrama detracts from the terrific core of the movie. Shannon is terrific, as is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays the lead scumbag. This part of the film crackles with intensity, and is expertly shot and designed (the “killing” trailer certainly looks the part). There are interesting questions about justice, and the ending is as brutal as I’ve seen in a while.

But that’s not the end of all of Nocturnal Animals, because there is the “real life” coda that kind of lets the air out of the tires. The book that it is based on, I presume, had the same structure, but Ford would have better off just shooting the noir part. In fact, I think it might do everyone well to re-release it at some point doing just that.

HAGEBOC 2016 – Week Twelve: THE END IS NEAR, FINALLY.

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After three months (!) “Hage”boc is finally at an end with this week’s contest. Thanks for playing, looking forward to picking things up in May!

SCORES:
Jackrabbit Slim – 78
James – 70
Marco – 40
Juan – 26
Joe Webb – 24
Rob – 11
Nick – 4

HAGEBOC – WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 10TH, 2017.  

What will The Lego Batman Movie earn from Friday to Sunday?  (Closest wins 4 points, second closest 2 points. 2 bonus points for being within 250k)

Bonus #1
What will Fifty Shades Darker earn from Friday to Sunday?  (Closest wins 4 points, second closest 2 points. 2 bonus points for being within 250k)

Bonus #2
What will John Wick: Chapter 2 earn from Friday to Sunday?  (Closest wins 4 points, second closest 2 points. 2 bonus points for being within 250k)

Answers are due on Friday, February 10th by noon EST.  Good luck!

Movies Opening in New Haven – Weekend of February 3rd, 2017

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A long delayed horror sequel and a B-list tearjerker are Connecticut’s only new releases this weekend.

Rings: Shot in early 2015, culturally relevant in 2006.  A rare case where a remake would have made a lot more sense than a sequel.  Beyond asking themselves “does the target audience even know what a videotape is?” the studio should have asked “does the target audience even know what The Ring is?”

No Naomi Watts in this one, obviously.

Rotten Tomatoes:: 5%, Metacritic:24%

Personal interest factor: 0

The Space Between Us: Silly, but harmless-looking teen romance picture about a human boy raised on Mars who falls for an Earthling. Asa Butterfield and Brit Robertson play the “star crossed” pair and Gary Oldman plays a scientist or something.  And he yells a lot.

Peter Chelsom (Serendipity, Hector and the Search for Happiness) directs.

Rotten Tomatoes:: 18%, Metacritic: 33%

Personal interest factor: 1

Random Thread for February, 2017

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I’ve had my copy of Film Comment for a while but just leafed through it for the first time. Here is the results of their annual poll of the best films of the year (2016, of course).

  1. Toni Erdmann
  2. Moonlight
  3. Elle
  4. Cemetery of Splendor
  5. Certain Women
  6. Paterson
  7. Manchester by the Sea
  8. Aquarius
  9. Things to Come
  10. No Home Movie
  11. The Lobster
  12. Right Now, Wrong Then
  13. Love & Friendship
  14. Cameraperson
  15. Kaili Blues
  16. The Handmaiden
  17. Everybody Wants Some!!
  18. The Fits
  19. Neruda
  20. The Other Side

Of all the movies I see each year, both in theaters and other ways, I’ve only seen six of these. I disagree about Elle, which I didn’t care for. My Netflix queue is already to capacity so it may be awhile until I get to these. Anyone seen any of the more obscure ones?