Movie Review: “The LEGO Batman Movie”

Starring
Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate
Director
Chris McKay

When “The LEGO Movie” was first announced, it was met with a fair amount of skepticism that it was going to be a cynical promotional tool to sell toys. And it may have been that in a way, but it was also smart, funny and far better than it had the right to be. “The LEGO Batman Movie,” meanwhile, is absolutely a tool designed to promote the “LEGO Dimensions” platform system, working no less than seven of their licensed intellectual properties into the story. Fortunately, it manages to be a highly entertaining film despite the shameless sales pitch. The absence of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the writing and directing chairs is noticeable (they are executive producers only this time around), but this is a very fun, if a bit more predictable, ride.

Batman, a.k.a. billionaire Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett), has gotten used to fighting crime on his own, but his world is shattered when Jim Gordon steps down as police commissioner and his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) assumes the helm. Barbara would like Batman to work together with the police, rather than as a vigilante, but Batman, with his litany of attachment issues, resists. Worse, the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is hurt when Batman tells him that he means nothing to him, so the Joker hatches an unusual plan, which begins with his surrender. Batman cannot stand that he wasn’t responsible for the Joker’s capture, so he devises a scheme to steal a weapon from Superman (Channing Tatum) in order to send the Joker to the Phantom Zone, the same place where Superman dispatched General Zod. The plan works, but with disastrous consequences.

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Blu Tuesday: Vice Principals and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Vice Principals: The Complete First Season”

The newest show from Danny McBride and Jody Hill, the team behind the HBO cult comedy series “Eastbound & Down,” probably won’t win over too many new fans, but it’s a decidedly more mature piece of storytelling that only gets better over the course of its first season. While McBride plays another boorish man-child in the same vein as Kenny Powers, the character isn’t nearly as annoying or unsympathetic; in fact, he really starts to grow on you. Walton Goggins’ nasty rival turned collaborator doesn’t fare quite as well, but the two actors strike up a good partnership that results in many of the show’s best moments. Though “Vice Principals” suffers from the same unevenness that plagued McBride and Hill’s last project, it does just enough to keep you invested.

Extras include Extras include cast and crew audio commentaries on all nine episodes, deleted scenes and a blooper reel. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Blu Tuesday: Jack Reacher 2 and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

The first Jack Reacher movie may have underperformed at the box office, but it would’ve been a shame if that had marked the end of the character’s cinematic adventures. Granted, “Never Go Back” isn’t as much fun as its 2012 predecessor, but the film still succeeds thanks to Tom Cruise’s charismatic turn as the badass ex-military man. Though the family dynamic between Reacher, Cobie Smulders’ framed army major and Danika Yarosh’s feisty teenager allows Cruise to explore the character’s emotional side, this particular story would have been better saved for a future installment. After all, Jack Reacher is at his best when he’s working alone, and while “Never Go Back” features some great Reacher moments, it fails to make a strong enough case for continuing the series.

Extras include six featurettes that cover topics like shooting on location in Louisiana, filming the rooftop battle, on-set photography and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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The 17 Most Anticipated Films of 2017

2017_films

Despite all of its many faults and shortcomings, 2016 had at least one bright spot: it was a very good time for some excellent films. From blockbusters to indies, almost every genre had at least one stellar example that will stand the test of time in the minds of viewers and the hearts of cinephiles. As the dust settles on 2016 and awards are given out to the year’s best films, it’s time to look forward. While 2017 is shaping up to be another rough 12 months for all sorts of reasons, what will it hold for moviegoers? Below is a list of the most hotly anticipated films of the new year broken down by release date. These are the movies we are most looking forward to in 2017, and hopefully, they will continue the trend of a good time at the movie theater.

“The Girl with All the Gifts” (January 26)

While the U.K. and a few other countries have already gotten a look at director Colm McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic zombie film, U.S. viewers will soon get a chance of their own to see this amazing film. Having caught it at Fantastic Fest in 2016, as well as being familiar with the original book by M.R. Carey, I can vouch that it is an incredibly original takes on the zombie subgenre that dares to ask tough questions and provide even tougher answers. It’s beautiful, impressive, tense, and it feels like something both oddly familiar yet utterly new.

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Movie Review: “Gold”

Starring
Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll
Director
Stephen Gaghan

Former Hollywood golden boy Stephen Gaghan was at the top of his game when he seemingly vanished from the industry following 2005’s “Syriana,” so it’s easy to see why his latest project (which he directed but didn’t write) has been met with guarded enthusiasm. After actually watching the film, however, it’s not surprising that it was shut out of this year’s awards race. Although the movie is loosely based on incredible true events and features a committed performance from Matthew McConaughey, “Gold” fails to capitalize on its intriguing premise. The potential was certainly there, but despite the similarities to other recent films about greed and the American Dream like “The Big Short” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Gaghan’s sophomore effort lacks the energy and wit that made those movies so enjoyable.

The film opens in 1981 with Reno-based prospector Kenny Wells (McConaughey) working for his family’s successful mining company. Fast-forward seven years later and the business has fallen on hard times due to a crumbling economy and the death of Kenny’s father. He’s barely keeping the company afloat, working out of a bar to save on expenses. But just when it seems like Kenny has finally hit rock bottom, he has a dream about discovering gold in the uncharted jungles of Indonesia and decides to make one last gamble, pawning his jewelry and jetting off to Southeast Asia in order to convince geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez) – who has a theory about untapped mineral reserves in the country – to partner with him. Though they initially have zero luck finding anything, the pair eventually strikes gold in a big way, attracting the attention of Wall Street banker Brian Woolf (Corey Stoll). But as everyone fights to get a piece of Kenny and Michael’s success, the whole thing threatens to come crashing down around them.

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