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Butch and Fabienne make spoons

Although Pulp Fiction is my favourite movie of all time, this is my least favourite scene. I feel this derails the movies momentum, I could’ve bought into the couples romance even still. I trust that Quentin felt that this scene was necessary and it establishes both the characters’ affinity for one another on a deeper level, but I don’t think it adds all the much in the end.

The Boss Baby Review

I’m of the opinion that children are getting wiser with each generation. They’re telling parents what to do, they dress like adults these days etc.

Whether The Boss Baby acknowledges this is another conversation but what it does teach is how many of us have had that fear of being loved less by our parents because of new brothers and sisters threatening the attention they feel they deserve.

I can’t say I was pumped for this at all. The concept seems intriguing enough; what comes as a sibling rivalry between an overly imaginative 7 year old and his suit wearing, corporate minded little brother turns into an effort to thwart a scheming CEO of a puppy company who’s plan is to somewhat discourage reproduction.

I was pretty sure the demographic this would be going for is children, under the ages of 7 I’d imagine. Given the madcap, slapstick energy, it’ll surely keep the young ones engaged to stop being bored.

Alec Baldwin seems an almost uninspired choice given much of the self congratulatory, confident nature is derived from his role in 30 Rock, but he seems to be having so much fun with the voice work that it’s hardly that distracting. We also get supporting turns from Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow (both of which I had no idea was in this) and Steve Buscemi, all seeming to be having a blast.

I could see this being turned into a cartoon series, there are moments of clever wit and cheeky humour but other times the imagination seems to run a little too wild and too many…butt shots and doody jokes.

Some critics have been struggling to even explain the plot. You could argue that it’s for kids so what do the adults care. That’d be unfair as if there are pop culture references and adult humor from the like of Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Glengarry Glen Ross (one of my all time favourites and which Baldwin was in) then the adults should be able to follow through the plot easily.

It’s also a little confusing as to what time period it takes place. Director Tom Mcgrath explains how he wanted to remind people of animation from the 60’s/70’s, a world of enchantment, a feeling of the old school. Some of the animation harkens back to that era but the movie never really gives any clue as to where we are exactly.

Also there’s a plot hole right at the end that involves someone returning and I’ll go as far as saying the parents in this movie are a little dim-witted.

I chuckled a few times maybe but I left feeling underwhelmed overall. It’s harmless at least and for some it’s decent family fun, not really something I’d want to read into too much anyway.

It Comes At Night Review

A24 films have offered some indie gems of the last few years, here are a few I’ve either admired or just plain loved; Locke, Ex Machina, A Most Violent Year, Room, The Witch, Green Room, The Lobster and the Best Picture winning Moonlight.

The Witch was a critical darling but didn’t impress general audiences due to it’s slow building tension and lack of jump scare factor. It still managed to do modestly at the box office, recouping it’s budget 10 times over. It was marketed as the conventional horror we’re used to nowadays and because the trailers tried to sell it as such, many left disappointed or just plain unimpressed.

It Comes At Night seems to follow a similar fate as the audience I watched it with was generally unsatisfied with the moody atmosphere and how open ended it was. There isn’t much excitement to be had per say. I’ve become comfortable with the fact that a horror flick or this case a psychological terror thriller should at the very least unsettle you if not scare you.

A straightforward narrative, we follow a family of 3, Joel Edgerton’s Paul, Carmen Ejogo’s Sarah and Kelvin Harrison Jr’s Travis as they reside in a woodlands home in the midst of an apocalypse of an unnamed plague. They themselves probably don’t know the origin of this disease. It’s assumed they’ve been living like this for a while as they’ve made a system of sorts to ensure a peaceful and sustainable future for themselves. They wear gas masks and wield shotguns/rifles to arm themselves for anyone or anything. They seem to get by, until an intruder comes into their home who seemingly just wants to gather resources for himself and his family without malice towards Paul’s. Eventually both family’s meet and manage to build a routine where everyone is comfortable in each others company.

There are many instances to support the films level of ambiguity. For starters, we know as much as the characters do, it’s very scarce on exposition, there are subtle shifts between nightmares and reality and a tight run time that rings true to its obscure nature.

What I admire about indie cinema is that a filmmakers style can truly blossom, small movies with big ideas and making the best with what little you have. Since Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, I’ve been fascinated with how a filmmaker, young filmmakers especially can sooner realise their artistic vision and the writing process can prove as much a journey for them as well as their characters. In doing so, the emotion they try to evoke through their characters can prove authentic and relatable for the audience.

Writer/Director Trey Shults drew the experiences from the relationship with his father and childhood, particularly in a scene where Sarah is bidding farewell to her much infected father who is ready to be put out of his misery. He was interested in people’s anxiety rather than the monster or entity afoot. I was desperate for clues and Shults leaves hardly anything in the foreground for us to latch onto. The cinematography is restrained and static much of the time. The movie preys on our fear of knowing next to nothing, centre framing is used to avert our eyes nowhere else but the characters and the sound design ought to leave us in a perpetual state of anxiety. The jump scares are scarce as well as the violence as the overwhelming sense of dread is something Shults looks to capitalize on.

The jump scares that did come, I laughed at. Not because they were empty or unnecessary fright but I could see how those less susceptible to being frightened may consider it startling.

Like the title suggests, it keeps us in the dark. we expect that whatever sinister schemes are afoot are sure to come at the dead of night. This proved to be frustrating or wasted for my audience however as one couple walked out moments before the movies climax. When it ended, some cheered “YES!” or “What was that?” or “Thank god”.

There doesn’t seem to be anything inherently evil afoot, much of the films power lies in the hallucinatory atmosphere, amplified by an eerie, somewhat dreamlike score from Brain McOmber. These are essentially good people but more and more the tension between the families is strained as they begin to rationalize on how best to maintain unison and not allow the impending paranoia cloud their best judgement.

Edgerton seems to be making a pattern in his work for portraying characters that are not innately devious like in Black Mass. He has a sorrowful, almost wounded demeanour that works in contrast to the seemingly menacing proceedings. The men are best characterized as the women are pretty much underwritten. The relationship between Edgertons Paul and Christopher Abbot’s Will goes through much of an arc than anyone else. Travis is the most disturbed and disturbing out of everyone, the director himself has related much of the fears he’d been encountered through Travis.

The climax was pretty devastating but the ending was pretty abrupt. In the end though, I didn’t feel as much an urge to revisit those unanswered questions. Certainly something I’d recommend overall I didn’t quite feel anchored by the emotional weight as I’d wanted it to. Hopefully my arm will be twisted by genre enthusiasts in the future and more discussion will arouse further reading into the full insidiousness of this terror flick.

Shults asks  in an interview that intrigued me however ,”can we retain our humanity in the worst places in the worst times?”

 

Spiderman: Homecoming Review

I’ve always liked Spiderman. Sam Raimi’s take on the web slinger some 15 years ago was a well realised and exciting adventure that was at the boom of the superhero genre making its mark on dominating the box office. For the most part, it was a well told story with such charm and sentiment that never down played the stakes and heart of arguably the most relatable superhero there is.

Andrew Garfield’s Spidey was a somewhat twitchy but very much appealing take whose exploits were slightly more sinister than of Tobey Maguire’s. All in all, both his movies were somewhat forgettable and wasn’t that long after Sam Raimi’s trilogy closed in 2007.

Now we have Tom Holland’s interpretation and while many would roll their eyes at the idea of yet another Spidey over a course of over a decade, many can actually take a resounding sigh at what just might be the best Spiderman movie since 2004’s Spiderman 2.

Very much at home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is a much more fresh faced, idealistic Peter Parker who’s aspirations to become a do-gooder/Avenger is carried by Holland’s infusion of boundless enthusiasm and winning charm. He’s fantastic in the role, emphasis on the word ‘fan’ by the way, Holland is as excited to be Spiderman as Peter Parker is as excited to be Spiderman. Holland’s brings the similar gentle nature Garfield and Maguire brought to their roles and like Parker, he’s still fairly new to the game.

The story begins in the aftermath of the fight that took place in New York when the Avengers fended off against the Chitauri fleet. Michael Keaton’s Adrain Toomes is part of a salvage company to clean up the mess when Tony Stark’s Damage Control swoops in uninvited and takes over, putting Adrian and his colleagues out of business. Ticked off, he vies to use the technology left behind to build and sell their own weaponry.

Thankfully this isn’t an origin story as we’ve been burdened with that twice already, instead this is some months after Peter is afflicted with superpowers and the giddy wonderment of defending his neighbourhood. Marvel Studio’s president Kevin Feige assures us that there’s still more to Spiderman and that no superhero is more relatable. That’s probably why this take on the web slinger is younger and more identifiable to the millennials of today.

This is a blockbuster disguised as a coming of age story as Peter’s internal struggle lies in his dependence on Spiderman making him cooler or more self sufficient. You feel his pressure in becoming a responsible young adult as well as being a worthy superhero.

The MCU has long been troubled in delivering complex and intriguing villains, with a few exceptions like Loki, Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave. Homecoming gives us one of the MCU’s more sympathetic and well-rounded villains as this is someone who has been hard done by Stark and has a family depending on him. There’s motive in his menace. Keaton is understated yet menacing and considering the comeback streak he’s been on since his Oscar nominated turn in Birdman, I’d expect nothing less at this point.

The dynamic between Toomes and Parker is pretty palpable and personal. It perfectly compliments the personal dilemmas shrouding Peter’s journey, it also speaks to how relatable he truly is. Taking much inspiration from the coming of age teen dramas of yester year (Watts got his young cast to do a John Hughes marathon), Peter is

Marisa Tomei (who plays a rather attractive Aunt May) describes Homecoming as a ‘big movie with an independent spirit’. I’d have to agree, director Jon Watts enables Homecoming to be fairly small scale and stand apart from the rest of the MCU. It of course makes references to earlier efforts in the franchise like ‘Civil War’ but the danger with that threatens the movie’s identity as a Spiderman movie first and foremost, fortunately that’s treated with care. The set pieces are thrilling but much of the danger threatens Spidey’s hometown in Queens rather than the entire world. 

One of the most sought after composers in the industry, Michael Giachinno crafts a score that supports light hearted, whimsical nature Watts is going for that I found reminiscent of his Oscar winning work on Pixar’s Up.

The suit given to Peter by Stark is pretty great, there’s one sequence that has Peter using ‘interrogation mode’ on Donald Glover’s Aaron Davis that’s pretty hilarious. Glover’s presence is welcoming considering many speculating on appearing as the African American counterpart; Mile Morales which given how young Morales is, Glover is now in his mid 30’s but does mention his interaction with Peter about a possibility in seeing Morales in the future.

Two aspects that are highlight among the entire MCU involves Stan Lee’s cameo and a post credits sequence that directly addresses the audience in a way that speaks on the tradition of us waiting till the very end to see what bookend sequences serve the over arching narrative. They’re both comic gold.

Homecoming is a really good Marvel movie and a delightful and mature Spiderman movie, one that offers promising potential in the next 2 instalments of this generations Spiderman in the MCU.

 

 

All Eyez On Me Review

On the way to seeing ‘All Eyez On Me’, I heard ‘Ambitions as a ridah’ playing from someone’s car stereo. It put me in a mode of thinking of how to this day, this man’s music is still revered and beloved to this day, it sure as hell put me on a hype. It was part of what I was looking for in the much anticipated Benny Boom helmed biopic, I wanted to feel the genius and drive 2pac imbued in his craft.

Originally this was to be directed by John Singleton who’s responsible for the likes of 2 Fast 2 Furious and Boyz N Tha Hood (one of my all time favourites). Instead it gets passed down to music video director, Benny Boom who’s direction is as Glenn Kenny from The New York Times describes as ‘uniformly uninspired’. Boom stated that he wanted to reveal to people the 2pac they hadn’t seen before, before Death Row. I could pretty much guess what song and what pivotal moment in his life was to happen next, and I don’t mind predicting things. But when you can predict throughout the movie what happens next, it leaves little surprise and feels like you’re ahead of the movie itself.

The highlight by far is newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr’s performance as Pac who not only strikes an uncanny physical resemblance to the man but also manages to sell Pac’s audacity, sense of urgency and confident swagger. Demetrius method acting approach included reading the books Pac read, learned Shakespeare and almost every night before he went to sleep, he watched his Pac’s interviews.

Danai Gurira (Michonne from The Walking Dead) does fine work as Afeni Shakur who gives us a strong, fierce, defiant woman who clearly is Pac’s biggest influence on his life. Herself and her Pac’s stepfather Mutulu Shakur were members of the Black Panthers, Mutulu exclaims “I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees”. Words that would register with 2pac for the rest of his life. Pac carried with him a sense of honour and unwavered sense of responsibility to be a voice for the people, showcased particularly on songs like ‘Brenda’s got a baby’ and ‘Keep yah head up’.

Yet the movie never really does anything interesting in conveying those traits, Demetrius is doing much of the work really. If anything this feel like it could’ve been broadcast through Lifetime TV. Much of the film’s score is rather cheesy.

Much of Benny’s style derives from his work from music videos such as many shots of women’s assets and Pac’s songs over sequences that just make it feel like….well a music video. That’s something F.Gary Grey’s Straight Outta Compton did well, was that it didn’t just play their music for the sake of it, it was played at moments when the characters were playing it. I can’t deny, I was silently chanting back the music being played but shortly before that I predicted which song was going to play next, it’s fan service I guess but that’s part of the movie’s problem, it’s predictably.

There’s a key scene involving Pac while he’s in incarceration and a reporter when Pac is challenged with the conflict of personas he carries, something I’ve always had issue with Pac. His recognition of a woman’s worth in this world with songs like Keep Yah Head Up’ is contradicted by his whole ‘Thug Life’ bravado, Pac simply replies with ‘Just because you don’t understand it, it don’t mean there’s something wrong with me’, yet the movie doesn’t seem to defend that view. It just seems like it’s saying “ok, here’s what happened next”. Even if it is a biopic, the director still needs to find means of surprising the audience and to deliver an interpretation of sorts as to how they think things went down and more so leave things fairly open ended for the audience to interpret.

The most unforgivable aspect is when the actor who portrays Snoop Dogg has Snoop’s actual voice played over his and is lip synching. It’s so cheap and distracting, what’s more he’s the only one they do that to.

One of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time was taken away, the investigation of which is still to this day is frustratingly unresolved.  Unfortunately what we get is a by the numbers biopic that never really investigates Pac’s mind-set, what led to September 7th 1996. You could be the biggest super fan and you could walk away from this still not feeling that inspired and enlightened by his legacy.

Baby Driver Review

The much anticipated and newly celebrated Edgar Wright vehicle is rife with high octane, thrilling sequences that give The Fast and Furious franchise a serious run for their money. It’s funky, pop orientated soundtrack is delightfully infectious that rivals that of the mixtapes from Guardians Of The Galaxy and a solid, charismatic cast that all sink their teeth into a script that would make Quentin Tarantino blush, Baby Driver has established Edgar Wright as an auteur of his craft.

Through his filmography thus far, Wright as ventured into many genres, from Zom-Rom-Com to alien invasion. His signature, frenetic energy is pretty much always welcome because of his understanding of visual comedy, he takes the mundanities in everyday life and makes them somehow hilarious. His flair is similar to that of Matthew Vaughn or Guy Ritchie in their fast paced, exuberant attitude.

The genesis of Baby Driver came about when he was listening to ‘Bellbottoms’ by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and pondered on how effective it would be in a car chase. This idea stayed with him for many years and was further entertained when he directed the music video for Mint Royale’s ‘Blue Song’, the plot of which is similar to Baby Driver; a getaway driver who drives for bank robbers who listens to music through earphones.

Ansel Elgort’s Baby (that really is his name) is a cool but insular 20 something year old who is inseparable from his IPod. If this were set in the 80’s, he’d probably have a boom box instead.

When he isn’t doing dangerous but highly profitable jobs for Kevin Spacey’s Doc, he tends to his foster father who like him is deaf, only not quite to the same degree. Baby is crippled with tinnitus, a symptom that renders a person partially deaf through a ringing in the ears. He was forced into this way of life as he has to pay off a debt to Doc, although it doesn’t help when he is as gifted a driver as he is and Doc sees him as his ‘good luck charm’, he can pretty much do anything behind the wheel. Out of all the getaway drivers in cinema history like Ryan Gosling’s driver from ‘Drive’ or Nicolas Cage’s Memphis from ‘Gone in 60 seconds’, Baby is youngest of the bunch. During his getaways, his music library is a vital tool as a means of focus, as well as timing certain driving manouveres to stay in rhthym of the music both him and we the audience listen to.  

In a diner that bears a childhood connection of sorts, Baby sits quietly listening to music that ranges from The Beach Boys to The Incredible Bongo Band. He’s stricken by Lily James’ Deborah and it isn’t long before she’s enticed by Baby’s mysterious but charming demeanour. With her sugary exterior and dreamy smile, she longs to ‘head west on 20, in a car she can’t afford with a plan she doesn’t have’. This stays with Baby and from then on in, we’re swept in their romance which could prove both Baby’s escape from his criminal activities but also his foil.

Thanks to a broad and creative stunt team and Wright’s assured direction, Baby Driver helms some of the greatest and most visceral car chases of recent memory. Much of it was thankfully built from practical effects which Wright himself as said has hardly any rigs, wires or green screen. There is some CGI as some of the stunts are a little ridiculous but thankfully its seamless and kept to a minimum.

The editing has much a part to play as the music and Wright’s use of editing has become a defining trait of his craft. Much of the sounds and actions are in sync with the music that is technically proficient, the sound mixing is top notch and only amplifies the movie’s relentless thrills and grooviness.

The cast across the board are fantastic, Kevin Spacey is his usual commanding self who I couldn’t help but feel he ought to wink at the camera because of his recent presence as Frank Underwood from ‘House of Cards’. Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx chew the scenery as Buddy and Bats respectively. 

Foxx describes Bats as someone who ‘doesn’t respect consequences’ and is a constant compromise to the gang’s activities, he’s often the scariest one in the room. Elgort has a star making turn here, he lends a certain lean physicality and sweet charm to the role. He convinces us that Baby doesn’t really suit this lifestyle, as evidenced when he’s surrounded by those who indulge in violence.

The movie doesn’t have much thematic depth going on, or if there is, it’s not that recognisable because of the sheer enthusiasm and wild drive the movie has. In terms of what the movie could offer us for the long term, it reminds us that we need something or someone to care for, no matter how grim or dull things get.

I saw this in D-BOX and it’s by far the best time I’ve had using it. it made the experience all the more immersive. The first and third act are the film’s most heart pounding, even with the second act where it fleshes out the characters more, it never feels like it’s foot’s off the pedal, we listen to what Baby listens to.

I mentioned earlier how this film (if his earlier work hasn’t already), established Wright as an auteur. Like Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, I sensed Wright’s control over virtually every aspect from the cinematography, editing, music, stunts etc. Some the sequences feel music video-esque, it made the songs cool again, just like Tarantino did with ‘Pulp Fiction’.

This is the first film this year I can proudly call one of my favourites and has cult classic potential, it may even be Wright’s magnum opus. It was funny, intense, cool, sly and briskly paced that all factor in it’s rewatchability.

Like my buddy Rick mentioned in his analysis, go see this baby.

 

 

The Founder Review

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One way or another McDonalds has been a part of your life whether or not you’ve even eaten at one. I’m not particularly fond of it myself but I was intrigued by how it got started to become the phenomenon it is today.

Keaton has been on a roll as of late, from being in 2 back to back Best Picture winners (Birdman and Spotlight) to becoming a villain within the Marvel cinematic universe, he’s quite sought after now and I’m now intrigued by what project he’s involved with next. His role as business tycoon Ray Croc is quite complex; he’s brash, inspired, crooked, opportunistic and somewhat greedy. But as Michael Douglas said in 1987’s ‘Wall Street’, ‘Greed is good’. He’s driven; half of it for selfish reasons mind as prior to building this dynasty for himself, he was down on his luck selling milkshake machines to clients who weren’t really that interested.

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That is until Nick Offerman’s Dick Mcdonald is on the phone with him as Dick and his brother Mac (John Carroll Lynch) ordered a rather large number of milkshake makers. Before Ray even makes his way over to their establishment you can hear through the phone just how hectic it is there. When Ray gets there he is in awe of the satisfaction on the customers’ faces. The people back in 1954 were awful friendly, when Ray is enjoying his McDonald’s meal a woman with her children asks in the most pleasant fashion she can sit next to him on a bench he’s sat on. For a burger, fries and a shake by the way was only 35 cense back then, pretty dirt cheap. I was as amazed as what Ray was.

People back then said ‘What the heck’ or ‘beeswax’, you believe these are things the people of that time would actually say and that’s down to how the cast fits into the era that’s being depicted very suitably. The mannerisms of American society back then mirrors to an extent the overall tone of the movie, its delightful and warm. The music is the biggest giveaway where that’s concerned and the colour scheme is of a variety of soft colours like brown, bright yellow, beige and soft orange. It’s almost always sunny in the movie too, being in an environment  like that ought to make anyone want to strive for greatness.

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The brothers are proud enough to showcase the system they’ve implemented in the kitchen which is described by Dick as “a symphony of efficiency”, it’s really quite amazing. The story of how the brothers themselves started this establishment is a fascinating one in and of itself. They’re both played wonderfully by Lynch and Offerman, who by the way is near unrecognisable without his moustache. I really bought them as brothers. You get the sense that they’re very supportive of one another, and it shows in their values for what they want their restaurant to represent, Family. They’re somewhat inseparable too, every time a phone call takes place between Croc and Dick, Mac is right there. They’re neighbourly, humble but also traditionalists, they prefer to play things safe. Ray raises the prospect of taking their establishment even further by franchising it but the brothers are concerned about the integrity of their restaurant as they’re made a previous attempt and it didn’t go down so well. Dick figures they’d much better control if they just have the one stand but Ray argues that he’ll do the leg work and expand their brand on the condition that any and all changes goes through the brothers’ seal of approval. From then on in, Ray searches far and wide for investors to see the potential of this future, game-changing enterprise.

Laura Dern’s Ethel Croc (Ray’s wife) is rendered housebound and for a veteran such as Dern, that could be considered unfair in terms of what she has to work with for her character. Actually that brings to mind the idea that her character is treated somewhat insignificant. She’s trapped; useless to Ray and slowly but surely their marriage is anything but fruitful. Ray isn’t the waiting kind, his persistence is exemplified by the excitement he channels to the two brothers as he describes McDonalds as the ‘new American church’. He says to a customer while enticing him with a milkshake maker “Are you familiar with the story of the chicken and the egg?”, he’s the kind to put all his eggs in one basket and just run with it. He’s outward, doesn’t keep things to himself. He looks forward, never backwards which it isn’t that surprising to learn that he comes off as somewhat cold in the end to his partners.

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Robert Siegels script is quite snappy which goes hand in hand with Robert Frazen’s sharp editing. You never feel the weight of the film’s running time. It also mirrors the energy of Ray, he wants to be ahead of everyone else. His Ethel says to him “When’s enough gonna be enough for you?” to which he replies “Why should I settle when other men won’t?”. Keaton says in an interview that we’re a fast moving society, Ray’s ‘professional leech’ of a prospector is somewhat lost on director John Lee Hancock who helmed The Blindside and Saving Mr Banks. He approached this project ambivalently on the depiction of Ray Croc, He was fond of using Keaton’s magnetism to explore the quiet and dark corners of Ray’s mind. There’s a scene towards the end that is illusioned to look like Ray’s breaking the 4th wall when he’s in fact talking to himself. It’s that self gratification that Ray embodies someone who shifty as he maybe, he’s always inspired.

The movie also touches on McDonald’s legacy by just simply looking at the name, it’s inviting and genuine. Ray understood the appeal of the name better than the brother’s did, now I admire it all the better. The Founder is a fascinating tale held together by a wickedly entertaining turn by Michael Keaton that highlights the rise of one of America’s most successful industries that’s affected our lives one way or another.

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The Lego Batman Movie Review

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I enjoyed this more than Suicide Squad and Batman Vs Superman combined. A minute into it I was laughing, by the end my face hurt from the length of time I was smiling at this fantastic entry in the Lego franchise.

Will Arnett’s uber macho caped crusader really enjoys his own company, for a while at least. He’s hard on crime but easy on the eye. He’s adamant that he works best solo, he cares about his legacy, he’s very much stuck in his ways. The movie makes batman face the ultimate question, ‘what happens when there’s no more crime?’, it’s the kind of question fan’s of the DC legend would talk amongst themselves in the ‘what if?’ conversation. Batman is forced to look at his own relevance to his troubled city of Gotham,  as much as he’s beloved as both Bruce Wayne and as the dark knight, he’s made surprisingly complex here. There’s an arc of him I didn’t expect which made it all the more refreshing towards the end. He also likes Jerry Maguire…..yeah that’s right, Batman likes romantic movies, not quite the way you’d expect however.

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The animation is consistently superb with such a wild, fast paced energy that you’re bound to miss the many references and jokes which in turn could add to it’s replay quality.

The voice cast is pretty stacked, Michael Cera’s Dick Grayson or Robin has the kind of excitement and enthusiasm that can barely be contained, he may just split in two of his own glee and affinity for Batman. Ralph Fiennes’ Alfred is the companion as we’ve always known him to be but done with such dry humour. Barbara Gordon is pretty much what Rosario Dawson does with many of her characters; strong willed, bad ass and the voice of reason. We also get Mariah Carey, Conan O’Brien, Zoe Kravitz, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and plenty others.

The relationship between Batman and The Joker (voiced with menacing delight by Zach Galifianakis) is lampooned in a way that’s so melodramatic that veers dangerously close to homoeroticism, something in which I’m hoping people don’t pick up on too much. For a while I was rooting for The Joker as he was made to be tenderised and underestimated more often than not. Batman makes him less significant at the fact that it’s inevitable that his plans will be foiled no matter what, even if he always gets away.

lego-batman-movie-image-2The movie has no shortage of references of the Batman universe, spoofing that of the 1966 version with Adam West, The Tim Burton flicks and The Dark Knight trilogy. Comic book aficionados can appreciate this as well as the whole family, even with the rude humour and very mild bad language afoot. It’s not confined to comic book culture either, we get those from Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and even King Kong. By the way, whoever voiced Bane in this movie, great job!

The movie is quite cute too, even when there’s guns or lasers being fired they all make ‘pew, pew’ sounds. It’s also heartfelt that unexpectedly almost brought me to tears, tears I somehow fought off. Even the horn in Batman’s batmobile is the theme tune, you know that na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na song. The closing song called ‘Friends are Family’ that has a very ‘Everything is awesome’ vibe going on that’s in it’s own right quite infectious.

After seeing this I’m officially a fan of Phil Lord and Chris Miller who directed 2014’s The Lego Movie (Chris Mckay was the animation co-director on The Lego Movie directs this feature) Even though they serve as executive producers this time round, their irresistible, light-hearted charm is certainly felt.

John Wick 2 Review

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I’m just gonna come right out and say it, John Wick 2 and it’s predecessor are two of the most accomplished and game changing action flicks of the last decade.

While the story isn’t as emotionally investing as the original, John Wick’s latest foray is a total blast. The screening I went too was pretty packed, quite few of the people there were couples as I saw it on valentines day as a preview screening. They enjoyed it as much as I did I’m sure, proven by it’s box office numbers which currently sits at over 91 million worldwide against a 40 million production budget, outdoing it’s predecessor which was at over 80 million.   

The action outdoes its predecessor by being both inventive and somehow funny, despite the grimness of the violence as John dispatches his enemies with malicious efficiency. What’s to be praised however is that director Chad Stalhelski (who was not only one of the directors of the first film, but also a stuntman on The Matrix) doesn’t cheat the audience through frantic editing in the fight scenes.

He refers to the current landscape in action filmmaking by saying that he noticed that the “editing and camerawork was more about hiding things than showing things”. It’s a response to fan’s who embraced the first film that they wanted even better action.  Stahelski recognises the demand for better action these days as he said in an interview that he wanted to make the character of John Wick better by making Reeves better, by making his training even more intense and sophisticated than before by taking him as far as he can go. 

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Reeves is pretty dedicated to his involvement in the choreography, much of it if not all of it is him and you totally buy that he can do this stuff in real life in fact. Wick’s engagement with his enemies is almost an artform, to a degree of it being almost an honor to be killed by him. 

What I really dug as well was that the goons John faces off aren’t inept, they give him a run for his money and they don’t go down easy. The time span is pretty short, no more than 2 days I’d say. There’s consistency throughout the film the damage he’s inflicted, his bruises and cuts after a while start to look like his tattoos. Speaking of the violence, you also get a real sense pain, some of it is cringe inducing actually and not done in an unnecessary manner where it doesn’t seem to fit the world that’s been depicted. 

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From the opening sequence we get the sense that there’s a one ups manship (pretty sure that word doesn’t exist) in the stuntwork as for a brief moment there’s a homage to Buster Keaton who is recognized as cinema’s greatest stuntsman. Not just Keaton, there’s a sequence in the climax that nods to Bruce Lee’s iconic ‘Enter The Dragon’. The set pieces are a mix between dark and hellish to bright and glitzy. There’s one battle in the middle that’s amongst the best I’ve seen so far this decade, it’s glorious. Our troubled hitman has risen to a mythic level, we see him at first only in silhouettes, shadows or in blurred vision. Peter Stormare’s Abram Tasarov explains the mythos and endurance of John and you see plainly the fright on his face, he’s the boogeyman after all.

John isn’t a bad guy as such, he’s just a good guy who’s done a lot of bad things. He just wants to be left alone, there’s a parallel of sorts to Michael Corleone’s “They pull me back in” scene from The Godfather III. A man of his reputation can’t possibly live a normal life when he’s lived through many extraordinary circumstances. He’s a man of a few words; he’s secluded, mysterious and somewhat warm too. He has a passive aggressive nature that makes him somewhat endearing. Can’t feel too sorry for him however, the mayhem and destruction he lays waste to his opposition is pretty brutal. The goons drop almost as quick as the bullets do. 

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Laurence Fishburne is a hoot as The Bowery King, an underground crime lord who admires John but there is certainly tension afoot between the two. I’d very much like to see Fishburne as a villain sometime soon, and if he has been in the past, it can’t of been that memorable. Not surprisingly there are references to The Matrix, done in a way thankfully that doesn’t feel forced, it’s more coincidental than anything.

Not to be overlooked is Dan Laustsen’s cinematography, it’s visually sleek with much of it’s colours being purple and black to really give an underworld kind of vibe. It shouldn’t be long till this franchise spawns a video game, especially instances of John’s cover system and proficiency with pretty much any weapon he can get his hands on.

Something my good buddy Rick mentioned was the repetitive nature of the combat. It can be exhaustive after a while seeing John subdue his enemies by flipping them over him multiple times. Still for the most part it’s enthralling to watch and it’s pretty grounded in reality even if the nature is over the top. By the end, John makes a decision that is to the point of no return and can only mean even bigger stakes for his third outing, one in which I’m pretty excited for. You ought to be to, whether you’re an action movie junkie or a dog lover, see it in a theatre near you.