Movie Review: “Fist Fight”

Starring
Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert
Director
Richie Keen

The first two-thirds of “Fist Fight” play like a Ben Stiller movie from the early 2000s. Our hero is kind but doesn’t assert himself and is perceived to be a loser by everyone around him, including the ones he loves (and supposedly love him). This part of the movie is less fun, because from a filmmaking standpoint (and in life), picking on the 98-pound weakling doesn’t take any courage or risks. When our hero finally sticks up for himself, the movie feeds off his adrenaline and begins to soar, culminating in a rather spectacular finish. The path to the ending is littered with dick jokes, but “Fist Fight” makes the early hardships worthwhile. Just barely, though.

It is the last day of the school year and Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is a high school English teacher just trying to get through the day so he can help out his daughter at her talent contest. Andy tries to help Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube) get a video started, and when Andy discovers that a student is responsible for the repeated malfunctions, Mr. Strickland loses it, grabbing a weapon from the hallway and terrorizing the students. Andy and Strickland go before the principal, who lays an impossible ultimatum on the two: either one of them confesses or tattles, or they’re both fired. Andy’s wife has already missed her delivery date with their second child, so Andy rats out Strickland to keep his job. Strickland tells Andy that he’s going to fight him after school is out. Andy knows he’s going to get clobbered, so he tries everything he can to back out of it, failing miserably in the process.

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Blu Tuesday: Arrival 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.

“Arrival”

Denis Villeneuve has quietly assembled an impressive body of work over the past few years, and although “Sicario” remains his finest movie to date, “Arrival” isn’t far behind. A deeply cerebral and emotional sci-fi film about the way we communicate with each other, “Arrival” takes a simple, well-worn premise and creates a captivating moviegoing experience led by a terrific Amy Adams. Focusing more on the science of language (and how it can be used to bring people together) rather than the aliens themselves, Villeneuve has produced an incredibly timely movie with real-world significance. Though its slow-boil pacing may test your patience, “Arrival” is a really good film that becomes a great one in the final minutes, leading to some pretty heavy, soul-searching questions that will stick with you long after it’s over.

Extras include Extras include a behind-the-scenes look at making the movie, as well as four additional featurettes on sound design, the score, editing and the film’s scientific concepts. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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Rom-Coms That Won’t Make You Vom

vday_rom_coms

The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of movies aren’t very good. There are always sterling examples of great films that emerge every year, and some years have a better crop of movies than others, but the reality of the situation is that it’s easy to indict a genre based on its worst examples, especially when there are so many. Perhaps no subgenre has been more maligned than the romantic comedy, as there’s been a plethora of clichéd, subpar and outright terrible entries in the form. But it isn’t the case across the board. Beyond just the classics – like “It Happened One Night,” “The Apartment,” “Splash” and others – there are other prime examples of filmmakers doing interesting and innovative things within the genre.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, here is a list of great romantic comedies that people who aren’t too into the subgenre should check out. Some are classics and some are overlooked gems, but they all make clever decisions that bring out the best in romance and comedy and produce something that has lasted the test of time.

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Movie Review: “John Wick: Chapter 2”

Starring
Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laurence Fishburne, Common, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick
Director
Chad Stahelski

The first “John Wick” was a pleasant surprise that seemed to come out of nowhere in late 2014, simultaneously reviving the B-movie action flick and Keanu Reeves’ faltering career with its stylized, no-holds-barred violence. Though the film was admittedly flawed, it knew exactly what it wanted to be and made no apologies for it, and that’s an attitude that its sequel, helmed by one half of the original directing team, Chad Stahelski, proudly embraces again. Opening with not one but two action sequences to let you know that it means business, “John Wick: Chapter 2” doubles down on everything that made the first movie so enjoyable – including a higher body count and headshots galore – resulting in the rare sequel that’s bigger and better as well.

After settling his score with the Russian mobsters who killed his puppy and stole his car, John Wick (Reeves) wants nothing more than to return to his quiet, peaceful life of retirement alongside his new canine companion. However, it doesn’t take long before he’s once again dragged back into the baroque underground world of assassins by an old acquaintance named Santino Marchesi (Riccardo Scamarcio), a bratty Italian crime boss who’s come to collect a blood debt from Wick that he’s honor-bound to obey or be marked for death. Santino wants him to eliminate his sister so that he can take over her seat on the assassins guild’s high council, but after Wick is caught in the act and a $7 million bounty is placed on his head, every hitman in town – including a pair of bodyguards (Common and Ruby Rose) who work for opposing sides of the Marchesi family – comes gunning for him.

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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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