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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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Movie Review: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”

Starring
Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Laura Linney, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee, Gary Anthony Williams, Sheamus, Brad Garrett
Director
Dave Green

Contrary to the harshly negative reviews that it received, Jonathan Liebesman’s 2014 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” wasn’t that bad. The product of a misguided adaptation that was course-corrected with extensive reshoots, the film doesn’t hold up as well on repeat viewings, but it’s still a better-than-average franchise-starter that got enough things right to warrant a sequel. Though “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” isn’t necessarily better or worse, you have to hand it to the filmmakers for actually listening to the fans, because the new movie is such a nostalgia-fueled throwback to the original animated series (the holy grail for adult fans) that it atones for many of the first film’s blunders.

One year after stopping The Shredder from unleashing a deadly virus on New York City – an achievement that news cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) has gladly taken credit for to protect the real heroes’ identities – Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) continue to watch over the city from the shadows. But when Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes police custody and teams up with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to open a portal to Dimension X, thereby allowing the nefarious, brain-like alien General Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) to invade Earth with his world-destroying war machine the Technodrome, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) calls in the Turtles for help. This time around, however, Shredder has enlisted a pair of dimwitted mutant henchmen named Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and WWE wrestler Sheamus, respectively) to do his dirty work for him.

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Movie Review: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

Starring
Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Tony Shaloub
Director
Jonathan Liebesman

Jonathan Liebesman’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot has been the subject of much debate ever since it was announced, with fake script leaks and silly rumors inducing panic among the property’s fanbase (not to mention providing ammunition to a legion of snarky Internet commenters), most of which proved to be patently untrue. That’s not to say that the finished product is going to make everyone happy, but it also isn’t nearly the disaster that many feared it would be with Michael Bay involved. In fact, it’s actually quite entertaining at times provided you check your brain at the door and don’t mind that the film is basically feeding off the fumes of your childhood. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” delivers a slightly different take on the series – something that’s occurred with every rendition – and though it gets some things wrong along the way, it gets just as much right.

The general plot is pretty much the same. New York City is being terrorized by a criminal organization called the Foot Clan under the command of a shadowy figure known only as The Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). But there’s a group of vigilantes silently serving as the city’s protectors, and ambitious news reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is determined to uncover their identities… only to find that the mystery men aren’t men at all, but rather oversized mutant turtles skilled in the art of ninjitsu. Raised by their sensei Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), the four turtles – Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) – were created in a test lab by a pair of scientists, Eric Sachs (William Fichtner) and April’s late father, who believed that they perished in a fire before the mutagen they were injected with transformed them. But when Sachs, now a powerful businessman secretly working alongside The Shredder, learns of their existence, the Turtles’ sewer home is attacked, forcing them to come out of hiding and take the fight to the bad guys.

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Weekly Web Series Review: Smart Girls at the Party

Described by host Amy Poehler as “a celebration of real friendship, real fellowship, and a kind of community with other girls,” the web series “Smart Girls at the Party” is a kind-hearted, fun and educational program for kids and their parents alike, but especially for young girls. Often specifically focusing on girls who enjoy activities traditionally thought of as being more for boys, the series enjoyed a significant viewership boost in its first season when it introduced its youngest interviewee, seven-year-old Ruby, who speaks precociously about feminism. Its most-viewed episode to date features a 14-year-old boxer named Precela, and another highlight features a young robotics engineer named Rachel.

These are the “girls who are changing the world by being themselves,” in the words of Poehler, who hosts the show with the tongue-in-cheek seriousness of a news anchor before ending each episode with a dance party. Along with producer Meredith Walker and musical director Amy Miles, Poehler explores the special talents and interests of each girl – or in a few episodes, groups of girls – and interviews them, always ending on a “very serious question,” such as “pizza or cotton candy?” or “which is cuter, a baby panda or a baby monkey?” However, despite poking fun at self-serious interview questions, the series never makes fun of the girls or treats them or their interests with cynicism or irony. Instead, it clearly aims to imbue its young audience with a sense of self-worth and individuality, without being boring or preachy.

Now in its second season, the series has markedly improved from its first few episodes, adding a “World Famous 20 Second Song” segment for Miles and boasting higher production values. There are also some familiar faces in the dance parties that parents will enjoy spotting, including Poehler’s husband Will Arnett (who returns from the first season), as well as her “Parks and Recreation co-stars Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza. Look closely and you’ll also spot folks like Jon Hamm, David Cross and Jack McBrayer in later episodes. With its own new channel on YouTube, “Smart Girls at the Party” is slicker and more fun than ever, and is highly recommended for viewing with children, especially daughters, between the ages of five and fifteen.

  

What are your grooming habits?

Grooming habits have been evolving for both men and women, and it’s definitely something we all keep in mind now when it comes to dating and relationships. Any guy whose been dating since the 80s or 90s knows that many women today will eliminate every hair from their bodies. While they don’t expect quite he same for guys, the idea of manscaping is something every guy at least needs to think about. You should at least start by considering that back hair if that’s an issue for you . . .

On a less private matter, facial hair is making a comeback in some circles, as it’s been mostly out of fashion for years. In this area opinions vary wildly as you might expect.

All of this is covered in a new film called “Mansome” from Morgan Spurlock, with appearances by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Adam Carolla, Judd Apatow, Zach Galifianakis along with others. From metrosexuals to more extreme cases, Spurlock takes a humorous look at the subject.

If you’re looking to improve your game with women, you should definitely consider your appearance and grooming habits. You don’t have to do anything radical, but paying attention to it can help you with your confidence and improve your chances. Find a look that works for you, and subtle changes can go a long way.

For more ideas in this area, check out our men’s grooming channel and our dating tips page.