Before I Fall Movie Review

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth).  He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity.  Through the classical influence on modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as Sisyphean.  Why is this English lesson pertinent to this review?  It’s not but it’ll help you better understand why it’s used in the movie and will help you grasp the intent behind the yarn.

Before I Fall starts with a voice of a young woman, Sam (Deutch), explaining that, ‘people may have a lifetime of days to waste but…’ and then throws some wisdom out that anyone only truly has today and warns that wasting time isn’t how one should see any moment they’re in.  I try not watching the trailers of, or read too much about, movies before I screen them for review so that I don’t have any preconceived notions of what I’m about to see but it was obvious very quickly that I was in for the teenage dramatic version of Ground Hogs Day with this one.  That being the case and not minding the idea, I got comfy and watched the story unfold.

Alarm clock belonging to Sam goes off and we meet Sam.  Sam loves her friends Lindsay (Sage), Ally (Wu) and Elody (Rahimi).  She is always with them and them her.  They’re rich, spoiled and have no respect for anyone, including one another, but outside of sleeping, they’re pretty inseparable.  Like any group, there is a pecking order and though rather high in position, Sam isn’t at the top.  That honor goes to Lindsay who is anything but a likable person.  She’s mean-spirited, loves to watch people squirm as she puts them in their place and enjoys gossiping behind their backs the moment they turn around.  Unaware it happens to them, the pack ignores yet allows Lindsay to say and do as she pleases, as long as she’s nice to them.  As she does every morning, Lindsay picks Sam and the others up one by one and off to school they go.  However, this day is special; it’s different.  It’s Cupid’s Day and they can’t wait to see who receives the most roses throughout the day as this determines who is the most popular.

They go through their day as they usually do, being petty to parents and being mean to students.  Sam gets an invite to a party being thrown by her old friend, and the films nice guy, Kent (Miller) and the girls decide to attend.  At the party, Sam plans to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Rob.  While there, however, she watches Rob get horribly drunk and act like a fool and decides not to go through with it.  Before leaving, the foursome drinks, do their usual teasing of a favorite victim named Juliet (Kampouris) and get in the car and go home.  An accident occurs and then; cut to alarm clock… and the day starts over.  Knowing the things that had happened throughout the day, you see where this is leading.  Sam isn’t Lindsay.  She isn’t mean at her core.  She’s more of an obliging witness where she may play a hand on occasion but would rather not.  If she isn’t dreaming, can she change things about her life?

The movie continues in this fashion for the rest of it.  Sam learns a little each time she wakes up to the same ugly day that awaits her.  Is she in hell?  Can she do the right thing and be redeemed?  Eventually, you notice one situation that she hasn’t necessarily made a big effort at correcting.  A slight attempt at a stand but not the true attack it needs.  Why?  Could be because she’d see where she was at fault for having created it in the first place.  Well, why is she on this day to begin with?  By the end of the film, she gets it but is it too late?  Are the answers in the actions she herself has made or in those of other people?  Will she now pay a price for not being a virtuous soul?  Will she have to sacrifice something herself to correct the course she’s now on? 

I like that you don’t know these answers and that’s why I enjoyed the movie.  I would hate to categorize it as a chick flick but I think I have to.  The length of time spent with the teenage girls in the car, listening to music, hating on people and talking about boys makes it abundantly clear that the film wasn’t made for adult males.  The audience it was made for, the teenagers will absolutely love it.  Zoey Deutch is a good choice to play the sweet-faced martyr and Halston Sage does a good job of reminding us what we hated about high school more than even the homework.  If you’re a fan of dramas packed with mystery and wouldn’t mind the Mean Girls vibe, check out Before I Fall and look for all of the answers to the questions above.  Is she dead?  You tell me.

Before I Fall movie review by Shari K. Green

Logan Movie Review

LOGAN MOVIE REVIEW BY JMCNAUGHTON


“Logan” proves out the old adage from the Bible: “Those who live by the adamantium blade will die by the adamantium blade”, or something like that. Logan being the X-Man called Wolverine who has been enhanced with the indestructible metal called adamantium; this movie shows the difficult end times of the former superhero. His strength and powers of regeneration are almost gone, and the years have not been kind.

In 2029, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is visibly aged. We is emotionally and mentally drained. All other ‘mutant’ being are thought to be long dead. But Logan is hiding a frail Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is up into his nineties. Xavier’s mind is fading and starting to fail, and at times he seizes up and sends telepathic waves that will cause a state of paralysis. One other mutant exists, called Caliban, who helps tend to the disabled Xavier.

Logan meets a woman who begs him to take a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota. Logan is driving a limo in El Paso to make money, but the woman offers a large amount to protect the child. There are evil forces from a government-run research industry. The security team headed by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) finds and kills the woman, and then comes for Logan and the girl.

 

Soon there is a wild fight at Logan’s Mexico hideout, but he escapes with Xavier and Laura. The girl is shown to be a super-powered Wolverine Junior, with the retractable blades and such. Her fighting skills are as sharp as her weapons. Logan finds out that the research company was raising many children in Mexico and they were turning them into miniature weaponized mutants. Pierce and his crew of bounty hunters, called Reavers, will stop at nothing to get them all.

Before you can ‘road trip’, the group are heading across country to get to a special ‘safe place’ that Laura read about in the X-Men comic books. Logan is mortified that any of his past exploits were put into a comic book. Prof X has another seizure and it causes a lot of grief for everyone around them. They barely escape, and they are running low on medicine for Prof X. Pierce and the head of the research place named Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) are closing in.

After stopping to help a farmer with some wild horses, Logan, Prof X and Laura are invited to take a break. But things do not work out well for anyone, and more death and mayhem occur. Logan and Laura get back out on the road to find the safe zone, where Laura hopes to find the other mutant offspring who escaped with her from the research facility. If she can make it there, they can all cross the border to Canada, eh!

But every time he fights and every bad guy killed by Logan keeps draining him of his powers to heal and rejuvenate. He is looking all the worse for wear, and the days have been rough. As Indiana Jones would say “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage”. Logan is feeling every little ache and pain that was inflicted on him for all those years/miles.

You may have heard that this is Hugh Jackman’s last performance as the Wolverine (or Logan). He has intended to make this final movie the most bad-ass swan song ever.  He has made sure that the movie cuts to the core of Wolverine. It is brutal, violent and profane. The movie is rated R, and for very good reason. The language is very rough; the fighting is bloody and sometimes gory. It perfectly suits a character like Wolverine.

 

Jackman worked with director James Mangold to get everything just right. The theme resembles an old Western in which the heroes are being chased over the frontier hills and valleys. The tone of regret and despair falls over everyone. All the super powers are nearly gone, and days of a quick recovery turn into weeks of pain and agony. Will there be any redemption for Logan?

Hugh Jackman has taken this character over seventeen years of X-Men movies to this one as the final conclusion. His performance is distinct and precise, and evokes a great deal of inner pain and mental anguish. He plays it all to the letter, and does not hit any false notes. Patrick Stewart is also terrific as a mentally diminished Professor X. He is pained by the fact that is losing control of his mind. He lapses into a seizure and the world around him gets a taste of his telepathic skills gone very wrong.

Dafne Keen gives a masterful performance as a little girl who has been raised to be a brutal killing machine. She has a physical presence that can give you chills when you see her become angry. You know that something very, very bad is about to happen. But she can do that with her stance and the glare in her eyes. It is quite an impressive feat for this young actress. All the rest of cast are also well-cast in their roles, but main three are the ones that count.

 

Is this the end of X-Men, and the end of Wolverine? It is for Hugh Jackman, and he has done well by having a long phase of his career playing the super-hero. If you can stand the harsh language and the bloody violence, then you can see that Jackman has gone out on his own terms. He ends it with a brilliant performance surrounded by a talented cast.

Logan movie review by JMcNaughton


Fist Fight Movie Review

Fist Fight Movie Review By Shari K. Green

On the last day of the school year, all hell is breaking loose on school grounds.  Students, especially those in the senior class, are playing pranks on all the members of the staff.  They’re hiding things from their teachers, gluing items to their desks and getting down and dirty in an attempt to no doubt make their final high school day memorable… and possibly one-up the class that came before them.  They’re especially cruel to Principal Tyler, Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, even going so far as to disassembling his car and putting it back together again inside the school.  There’s a lot going on in the background so don’t forget to pay close attention to what these wild youngsters have committed themselves to doing.  Director Richie Keen, (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) spent the time looking up ways to make this realistic by researching pranks done by real students in the past.  You’ll appreciate this attention to detail. If you’re a fan of silly comedies, a fan of Charlie Day especially, you’ll want to check this movie review out.  He does an exceptional job portraying the kind and fair English teacher, Andy Campbell.  When he rats on another teacher who loses his cool during class, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), he is challenged to a fist fight and is now a man on the edge of a meltdown.  This is a comedy, right?  Well, the anger that comes from Strickland is so intense that you end up more or less feeling extremely sorry for Campbell which makes it hard to laugh to a large degree.  Some may think this doesn’t work well for a comedy.  Also, as far as character development goes, we never see any redeeming qualities coming from Strickland which may have helped you not dislike his character so much but unfortunately, as hard as you dig to find out where this anger is coming from, there’s simply nothing there.

Fist Fight Movie Review by Shari K. Green from tmc.io

Most eggs in Keen’s comedy basket relied on Day’s comedic abilities to hatch, both in a physical sense and how he conducts himself when he’s under pressure.

His strained voice is always worth a chuckle and it’s a blast observing him try to save his butt.  It’s also heartbreaking watching him; knowing the reason why the poor thing is running all over the place.  He goes to teacher after teacher and even calls 911, looking for a helping hand.  Some teachers he approaches are comedy gold.  Allow me to first mention one character that shouldn’t have existed at all and that’s Christina Hendricks’, Ms. Monet.  She comes out of nowhere and should have stayed there.  She really only served one purpose and not very well at that.  Keen did bring on Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) to be the stereotypical, simpleminded coach whose work here you’ll dig.  He also cast the witty Jillian Bell (Brides Maids) as Holly, the guidance counselor who can’t wait until certain students she’s been ogling from afar become legal and Kumail Nanjiani as a security guard who’s afraid of his own shadow.  These faculty members may have special talents in their own right but are of no use when it comes to advising someone on how to take a butt-whoopin’ or especially how to avoid it from happening.  Campbell must solve this mystery on his own.

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A charming piece of the story is by way of the lesson Campbell learns.  I’m not speaking only of Andy but also of his daughter Ally (Alexa Nisenson).  In the same way that he is dealing with a bully at work, we are introduced to this character who is discovering life to be miserable at her own school.  When she finds the willpower to face her demons, by using a mic and the song I Don’t Give a F*ck by Big Sean, in a way you won’t soon forget, the movie finds the reason to be and is far better for it.  When Campbell finally musters the strength to confront Strickland, Keen presents a fist fight that will allow you to forgive most of the jokes you saw coming and some of the unnecessary gags that didn’t work.  When you see this, you’ll have fun picking out the obvious nods to films Keen must have liked, as well as his use of certain shots from them you may recognize.  All of this notwithstanding I can’t promote this movie review for you to pay to see this opening weekend at the theatre unless you make it a matinee.  Ultimately, the film has a good message regarding Campbells’ predicament.  He was always walked on and treated as though his opinion didn’t matter but standing up to this challenge makes him a better man and, at long last, a better teacher.

Subsequently, whether he wins the fight or he loses doesn’t matter it’s all about the journey that he takes.  By the way, stay for the outtakes at the end. Fist Fight movie review by Shari K. Green.

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A Cure For Wellness

This movie is abnormally intriguing.  It has a lot going on, much more than what is playing out visually.  If you put some time into the movie mentally, after the flicker is done dancing on the screen, the examination will be well worth it.  Your first impression will depend on what sort of audience member you are.  If you assess your films by what you immediately see on the surface, you’ll see this cryptic yarn as a promised thriller that doesn’t quite get you where you were hoping it would.  It provides the creepy elements that one would expect to see but doesn’t follow through with its promise to be a good intense, if I may, grabber. 

The term psychological thriller does apply, however, and in the style of something you’d see straight from a legendary 70’s film.  A list to compare its vibe to could be Chinatown, The Conversation, Play Misty for Me and Magic; all superbly shot, well thought out and their impact on cinema… ever lasting. 

In A Cure for Wellness, Gore Verbinski, who helped write the story with screenwriter Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road, The Clearing) digs deep into the essential nature of a person to live, care, love and to aid.  His protagonist, Lockhart (DeHaan), is sent by the financial institution he works for to bring back the CEO, Pembroke (Groener) who is nestled in the Swiss Alps at a mysterious wellness center.  He goes to retrieve Pembroke, knowing full well that the true desire of the board members is to pin its problems on him and use him as a fall guy. 
On his way to the center, which uses hydrotherapy from an aquifer with unique purities, he learns of the center’s history and of the castle its inside.  As he speaks to the chauffeur who is taking him to the castle, they’re in an accident and Lockhart ends up a patient himself, waking three days after a crash that had sent the car tumbling.  Continually being urged to drink the water to better heal his broken leg, he finally grabs some crutches and wanders around the place, not only looking for Pembroke but looking around this odd establishment.  From what he recalls the chauffeur saying, his suddenly odd and dark dreams and the behavior of the people around him he begins to feel more like an inmate in an insane asylum than as a willing patient. 

When Lockhart meets someone by the name of Hannah (Goth), a special patient who has been there all her life, the story of the institution unravels more and more and Lockhart’s questions get larger and larger.  Becoming suspicious that all is not well and obsessed with finding out more he suggests it’s bad for business for people to get well.  This does not go well with Volmer (Isaacs) who insists Lockhart needs to be submerged in water and the toxins in his body be removed.  This is a macabre scene as memories of Lockhart’s childhood and eels, yes eels, assault him. 

So, my final take is there are a few disturbing scenes that play out and some I may never purge but for crazy good, alluring cinema, see A Cure for Wellness.  It may not be Oscar worthy, but cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (King of New York, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Ring), couldn’t have shot this film more methodically and used his lens more perfectly to concentrate on the beauty of the set and the locations and also to create the feeling of anxiety and stress.  It’s a masterpiece cinematically.  What might have otherwise been seen as a clichéd tale by the end is made infinitely more interesting by camera angles, shots sizes and expressions he creates as well as the overall tone he designs.  Again, by the time you finish watching it, you could be somewhat disappointed but don’t be.  Yes, Verbinski could have decided on an ending before two hours had expired but enjoy the fact that there is a much deeper theme going on than first thought and you’ll get there, too.  You’ll contemplate whether this person is alive, is this a dream, it that person in a coma?  Decide for yourself and let me know what YOU thought!      

A United Kingdom

Your first thought upon walking out of A United Kingdom very well may be one of bewilderment at the story itself.  Not that it could happen, of course, (look at today’s headlines, this type of forbidden love is still happening) but that a King was questioned and almost denied his wish.  Anyway, you might next have the inclination to Google this to learn more about these individuals.  It could also be, as it was mine, to gather all of the performances of David Oyelowo to date and, find out what he’s up to next so that you can see all of this man’s work. 

Not to disparage the other performances in the production but he delivered the story of a man choosing love over country beautifully.  He never waivered in his ability to sell us on the saga that deep within him, he believed the people of his county would, in due time, not require him to make that sacrifice and did so with the strength and compassion you rarely see with such balance.

It would be impossible not to be impressed with this entire cast and it would be nearly pointless to try and look beyond director Amma Asante’s (Belle) achievements with the film.  She does an exceptional job with this labored piece and with only five directing credits under her belt, quite a feat, she handles the very difficult true life events like a master. 

A United Kingdom was a hefty project to take on.  It’s about Seretse Khama (Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Pike) and the political climate of their countries at the time they met in the 1940’s.  He’s heir to the kingdom of Botswana and she’s a white woman from London and despite what their families feel about their union, they insist on being together and will be, even though they’ll be under great scrutiny.  Her father has disowned her for being with a black man and his people, especially members of his own family, would prefer their leader be with his own kind.  Not considering others feelings and only listening to their hearts, they marry and move to South Africa where, unfortunately for all, apartheid is starting to grow.  Their union becomes widely known and a topic of great discussion.  Ruth is a likable person and does her best to be friendly, learn the language and fit in as his family members do their best to make her want to leave.  Oyelowo is outstanding when he addresses his tribe with a moving speech and speaks of Ruth with tears in his eyes, asking to see who would truly deny him his love.  It’s a stirring confrontation and a memorable scene. 

What ultimately doesn’t really work, but may have been better with a seasoned director, is the setup.  This story is a pure and true love so strong that this couple defies all rules, family and country to be with one another should have had you cheering their achievements.  However, as it’s told, you don’t really care.  The reason for this is that we meet Ruth and Khama when they first meet and almost immediately they’re in love and getting married.  There isn’t time for you to feel for these people or for the plight in which they find themselves.  Asante does a wonderful job of keeping the rest of the story flowing, especially the focus on the British government wanting the diamonds and minerals on his land, but sadly, missing this crucial step of giving the audience time to identifying with what the couple is going through or to feel compassion for them, hurts her very efforts.  It’s the single most important goal before telling the rest of the narrative for it to have worked as a well-structured and cohesive piece.  It is a good drama about pressures put on them both and his overcoming his uncle asking him to renounce his birthright to the throne for marrying a white woman, but it isn’t as romantic as it claims to be.  Keep in mind it is a true story… life doesn’t always come out as we plan. 

I do recommend A United Kingdom but I’d say wait for VOD or DVD instead of paying to see this at the theatre.

John Wick: Chapter 2

 

If you like muscle cars, chase scenes, incredible fight sequences and beautiful sets and locations, this movie is going to sizzle your cerebral cortex.  It has everything I mentioned and has them in spades.  All that you liked about the first film is here so you won’t be disappointed.  As you most assuredly know, John Wick was as high octane as they come… what will be your delight is, Chapter 2 is just as powerful and as potent as the first.  John Wick (Reeves), the ghostly and stealthy killer you met in Chapter 1, is the same bad ass, with the same reputation of reigning terror without breaking a sweat but unlike before, he wants out  He wants to retire and live out his life in peace.  Well, he may want out but someone comes knocking to remind him that he’s duty bound to do something first and that is to fulfill a blood marker.  A marker is a blood oath.  Once it’s given to a member of the criminal conclave Wick belongs to, one with strict rules for the professional help and perks they receive, it must be honored.   

He’s forced to be true to his pledge which is to assassinate Santino D’Antonio’s (Scamarcio) sister so that he could have her seat at the high table, a highly coveted place within the criminal federation.  An ingenious scene of him shopping for accessories is priceless.  He gears up and gets to work.  When he completes his task or she does for him, rather, not only are members of her security team after for him, (especially Cassian, played by Common, whose role adds a special element of regalement to the film), but so is Santino.  He decides to close loose ends.  The choreographed action sequences such as rolling down steps mid fight, running on stage and through a concert’s audience while shooting at one another and all death and destruction delivered by clever cinematography more than makes up for the few times that Reeves, unfortunately, has speaking lines.  I know that’s hard to swallow but it’s more than accurate.     

Centrally, this is an astonishingly action packed film and with a good narrative.  It’s the story of a character you can’t help root for, even though he’s a ruthless, emotionless and heartless killer.  You want him to win, despite his willingness to murder, because, after all, they’re the bad guys, right?  Again, luckily for us, it’s more action driven with focus on the deadly encounters rather than on dialogue.  Every performance outside of Reeves was adequate, McShane and Common’s especially, but the only delivery Reeves is capable of giving is dry and detached and that’s a shame.  Yes, it isn’t terrible with this sort of role but had he been able to give some passion to the lines that he did have, it would have been that much better. 
I have to suggest you go see it if you’re an action fan.  I’ll go on record now and say you’re going to absolutely love it.  It starts with a punch and never stops going; it’s solid all around.  Also, it ends with a clear set up for Chapter 3.  After all hes been through and has done, he decides to break a rule anyway, for which you cannot do as long as you’re in the league.  Now that he has, he is banished and… well, I’ll let you discover that on your own. 

Fifty Shades Darker

In the beginning, there was the “Twilight” series of novels. And thus was begotten the “Twilight” movies, and verily so, there was created “Twilight” fan fiction. And thus is was that “Twilight” fan fiction hath created a series of “Fifty Shades” novels, and from that loin was born the “Fifty Shades” movie series. And some people say that fine literature and art is dead…

“Fifty Shades of Grey” brought you the plain little virgin of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) who meets high-powered and filthy rich Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Their relationship was a bit troubled, to say the least. Grey is into sadistic bondage and domination, and he needed Steele as a willing partner, a submissive. But there was stupid contract negotiations getting in the way of the soft-core booty calls. Steele got disgusted and left Grey, so now on to “Fifty Shades Darker”.

Steele has a job at a place called Seattle Independent Press, where she works for Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). Grey promptly buys up the SIP, with no thought of irony in the name. In fact, Grey spends so much time pursuing and attempting to win back Steele, it is amazing that his company can run at all. Jack Hyde and Grey do not see eye-to-eye, even though they both treat Steele basically like garbage. Jack makes an aggressive pass on Steele, and he soon is looking for a job.

Steele and Grey get back together, but she thinks that it must be at a mutual, common level – out of respect and love. Grey has been weird for so long that this might be difficult for him, so he gets Steele to draw lines on his chest with lipstick. What? Oh, yeah, he still has problems. There is a prior ‘sub’ from Grey’s past named Leila (Bella Heathcote). She was once submissive to Grey, but she left. But now she is unhinged and gunning for Steele.

Grace (Marcia Gay Harden) is Grey’s adoptive mother, and she feels that Steele has made a positive change. Elena (Kim Basinger) is Grey’s very early lover and got him into the freaky stuff. But now she owns a salon and they are business partners. Damn good thing that Grey Conglomerated United Holdings, Ltd can just about run itself! Grey is the wealthiest man who never seems to do any work.

So Steele moves in, and Grey and Steele get several kinky booty calls. Grey says he has changed and asks Steele to marry him.  There is the Leila stalker situation, and the Jack Hyde is planning revenge situation, and the Grey flies a corporate helicopter and maybe it goes down in the forest event. Along with the costume ball shindig, and the tool around the Seattle bay in a huge yacht affair, and the Steele gets mad and walks around by herself for hours sequence.

Could this movie be any more boring and inconsequential? Doubt it. Are there any redeeming factors? Yes, the scenery is beautiful and locations look amazing and the production values are top notch. But there is no actual story to tell and no character development. It is more like 15 or 20 minutes of insipid dialog and waiting around for the next “make sexy times”. It is not possible to fault the actors for failing in the roles and having no chemistry. The story gives them nothing to work with.

However, there is no doubt that middle-aged women who loved the “Twilight” series are also gonna eat this up. It will make a yacht-load of money, but not like the previous movie. The rest of the people seeing this might think they are in for an exotic, romantic and erotic adventure. But more than likely they will feel as if they are the ones getting screwed…

The LEGO Batman Movie

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you LEGOs, then make a full length animated comedy movie that centers on an iconic DC Comics superhero. Yes, make “The LEGO Batman Movie”. This will cause great delight in young children and comic book nerds everywhere.

Based as a spin-off from the 2014 animated hit “The LEGO Movie”, this follow-up features the adventures of Batman (Will Arnett) who serves as the dark knight and the protector of Gotham City. When the city is threatened by a massive horde of villains led by the Joker (Zach Galifianakis), Batman saves the day. The commissioner retires, and his daughter Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) takes over.

Batman is helped in his other identity as Bruce Wayne by his loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). When Alfred tries to make Bruce/Batman be a little bit more caring and empathetic, he gets him to visit an orphanage. Bruce was once an orphan, too. Of course, being an orphan worth multi-millions is not the same as the ones that he visits.

Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) is an orphan who contacts Bruce and gets his OK to be adopted. Bruce was not paying attention when he said yes to Dick, but he decides that Batman needs a new partner. The Joker has been acting suspicious because he surrendered his whole crew to the new Commissioner Gordon. Joker does have some new tricks, but they involve getting even bigger baddies from a far-off prison.

Batman is obsessed with being a loner, a hero who does not need anyone for help. This new situation requires him to work with Dick, who now has a secret identity of Robin, and with Barbara Gordon, who creates a secret identity of Batgirl, and even butler Alfred, who, well, is still the butler, but he also dresses up in a costume. Batbutler?

The movie’s quick pacing of jokes and gags keeps you watching every part of the screen and listening to every word, and sometimes every background noise or musical cue. There are insider jokes about DC Comics, and pop culture reference that brings out laughs, snickers and guffaws. Even the basic first minutes of the movie, fading in from black, is done with a Batman voice-over that is totally on target. It is very funny and very true at the same time, and it will forever change how you see the very beginning of a movie.

Every voice actor in this movie is right up to speed with the comedy and pacing. But the best one is the self-centered, self-absorbed Batman, played by Will Arnett. His take on the Batman character in “The LEGO Movie” was outstanding. And here he takes it to even a greater place. It is enjoyable to hear him growl in his deep, self-important voice about how important Batman is to Gotham.

Ralph Fiennes has his usual great performance. Playing Alfred, he becomes a parental figure to Bruce Wayne/Batman, yet he is always ready to help out. Zach Galifianakis plays the Joker as a figure who needs to hate Batman as much as Batman needs to hate him. They both have a unique thing going on.  Michael Cera is perfect as Grayson/Robin, all young and enthusiastic. And Rosario Dawson has a fun time playing Gordon/Batgirl, and she gives Batman a run for the money.

All in all, the movie could be called BAT-tastic. It is very well written in terms of jokes and comedy bits, and the story never lags. It will occasionally ramble here and there, but it stays on track. The visual scenes are chock-full of bright colors and incredible details, with many scenes a visual gag or a silent comedy bit. It is enjoyable to watch, and will all the small items that you want to catch, it would be just as fun on a second viewing.

Should you see this movie you will agree: it’s “The LEGO Batman” movie the World deserves, but also it is the one it needs right now!

The Comedian

The idea of an aging comedian going on a nostalgia tour is painful for the comedian; throwing in a May-December relationship between the two stars is painful for the audience.  Robert DeNiro plays Jackie Burke, a former television sitcom star whose show “Eddie’s Home” was a huge success.  His star burned so brightly that everyone he passes knows him by the character name they shout back to him his famous catchphrase… which gets on your nerves about halfway through the film.  Though still beloved, Jackie is miserable facing the fact that he’s no longer a draw and his agent, Miller (Falco), is doing her best to get him work.  

She gets him a stand-up gig at a club an while doing his routine a member of the audience starts recording as he also heckles him to illicit a response.  As the heckler intended, he angers Jackie to fisticuffs, or hitting with microphone in this case, and Jackie gets into trouble.  He’s arrested and ends up with community service where he meets Harmony (Mann) a woman with daddy and anger issues of her own.  You won’t feel the connection but they seem to like one another and agree to be one another’s wing-man at two upcoming family functions.  Harmony has to meet her father, Mac (Keitel), whom she’s estranged, for his birthday.  She more or less takes Jackie, one of Mac’s favorites, for her dads gift… which doesn’t go over so well as instantly the alpha males spar.  Jackie’s brother, played by DeVito, has a daughter getting married and would like for Jackie to attend the wedding with him.  They are disrespectful by showing up late which doesn’t isn’t missed by the family… and things get worse from there.

After they’ve carry out the duties the friendship is based on and as Jackie’s video hits skyrockets, he develops an interest in Harmony.  He seems somewhat happy that he might be on the rise again, as well as his ego which is, throughout the film, both inflated and torn down.  Out of nowhere and just when all seems well and after one special night, Harmony is checking out.  What keeps you from doing the same is the tone the score sets, Hackford’s style and his casting choices, (though oddly placed) and a lot of the comedians who pop in and out. 

However, there are clear and present issues with the script.  Several screenwriters had a hand in writing this which is always a bad sign.  You can see several times in the storyline where they start one direction and completely go in another which doesn’t help build a strong cohesive arc.  The story was written by Art Linson, known more for his producing of films such as Fast Times as Ridgemont High, This Boy’s Life, Heat, Fight Club and The Runaways.  He was joined by a writing team of considerable talent.  They are Jeffrey Ross, Lewis Friedman (whose works are mostly on television) and Richard LaGravenese who wrote many celebrated films including The Fisher King, The Ref, The Mirror Has Two Faces and The Bridges of Madison County so what could go wrong? 

To be honest, I liked it overall, Mann’s performance especially.  She has already proven she knows funny but her unbalanced and unhinged Harmony is an interesting character study.  Another thing I appreciated was the honesty of it and how it captured raw human emotion.  People hate.  People love.  People stay.  People leave.  They aren’t successful, are successful and they’re jealous when others are, too.  Taylor Hackford did a brilliant job of showing us this. 

Jackie performs a nasty routine at a retirement community and I saw it as being a truthful and humorous look at what they’re facing.  Making fun of people for everything that goes on in their life isn’t just enjoyed by the young.  It’s okay to give elderly people the laughs they want and most likely need, rather than treat and talk to them like they’re fragile children.  With all of that said, I didn’t love it.  The writers came up with some good material to watch but the story doesn’t have the structure it needs to work as one great piece.  It changes its mind too often so, is it worth watching at the theatre? 

If you like the setting, jazz, the players and all the comics who are playing in this film, giving them your support wouldn’t hurt but this is better to save for the smaller screen where the bad moments don’t seem quite so large.