“The Lego Batman Movie”

I hope Zack Snyder took notes on “The Lego Batman Movie.” Unlike last year’s “Batman vs. Superman,” “The Lego Batman Movie” explores Batman’s greatest fears and flaws! It’s also hilarious.

Batman (Will Arnett) has once again thwarted The Joker’s (Zach Galifianakis) plans to destroy Gotham. He’s done more harm than good because now Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) has outlawed vigilantism and The Joker has an even greater plan to destroy Gotham. It’s more psychologically dangerous for Batman because he must accept he needs help to win.

Much like 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” “The Lego Batman Movie” is fast-paced, packed with meta humor, and has the energy of an action movie. The laughs are consistent from the opening logo alone.

The writers did their homework because “The Lego Batman Movie” is packed with several Easter eggs and references to previous comic books and films. Between referencing The Joker’s “plan with the two boats” (“The Dark Knight”) or featuring the mutant gang (from “The Dark Knight Returns” comic), “The Lego Batman Movie” caters to Batman fans.

In terms of voice acting, Arnett is the perfect voice actor for Batman. He not only makes fun of Batman with his dry humor, but also acts with vulnerability, similar to his work in “Bojack Horseman.” Galifianakis delivers one of his best performances as The Joker. Between these two, they brilliantly depict why Batman and Joker need each other. Michael Cera once again delivers a great voice performance and has a bright future as a voice actor. His voice his perfect for Robin’s enthusiasm and naivety.

The film gets sweet when exploring Batman’s flaws and shows why he lives an isolated lifestyle. He wants to have a family, but is afraid of letting people in after what happened to his parents. This is a refreshing spin on an overdone story arc.

DC has struggled since “Man of Steel,” “Batman vs. Superman,” and “Suicide Squad” were all dark, angsty, loud, and overly violent films that favored destruction over storytelling. “The Lego Batman Movie” might be mildly fast-paced, but at least the narrative knows when to focus on its characters.

Grade: A-

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017

 

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Happy New Year! Did you have fun? Are you tired of countdowns? Well, bare with me because I have one. I’ve chosen my top 10 most anticipated Movies of 2017. Let the countdown begin!

10) Wonder Woman (in theaters 6/2) – The DC Cinematic Universe has been rather tame since Man of Steel was released in 2013. With Gal Gadot arguably being the strongest part of Batman vs. Superman, and a trailer demonstrating the titular character’s humanity and positive attributes, Wonder Woman has the potential of being the first great DC-CU movie.

9) Split (in theaters 1/20) – I never thought I’d say again that I’m excited for an M. Night Shymalan movie. The trailer for Split features some of M. Night’s flaws (overly intelligent kids, exposition-fueled dialogue), but in terms of direction and acting, Split looks like a bone-chiller. James McAvoy showed his sinister side in Trance and he appears to embrace it again with Split.

8) Power Rangers (in theaters 3/24) – This one’s on my list out of nostalgia. Plus being a sucker for superhero movies and John Hughes movies, Power Rangers looks like a solid combination of the two. Here’s to hoping it’s not just a generic origin movie.

7) The Lego Batman Movie (in theaters 2/10) – The Lego Movie was the biggest surprise of 2014, and Will Arnett’s satirical performance as Batman was one of my favorite parts. Two hours of Will Arnett as Batman, Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, and Michael Cera as Robin? I’m sold.

6) Star Wars: Episode VIII (in theaters 12/15) – If The Force Awakens followed A New Hope, then we can expect Episode VIII to be as dark and epic as Empire Strikes Back. With the underrated Rian Johnson (Looper) writing and directing, he can potentially satisfy the disappointed Force Awakens viewers.

5) Kingsman: the Golden Circle (in theaters 10/6) – For the first time, Matthew Vaughn isn’t flaking out on a sequel to his own movie! Kick-Ass 2 was watered down lackluster compared to his mayhem-fueled Kick-Ass, and X-Men: Days of Future Past wasn’t as imaginative as X-Men: First Class. Can The Golden Circle be as good as The Secret Service? With Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Julianne Moore cast, here’s to hoping!

4) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – The Guardians are back in what appears to be another visually arresting and hilarious space opera. Plus we get a little Tango and Cash reunion with Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone being cast in key roles? I’m in.

3) Dunkirk (in theaters 7/21) – I’ve been a fan of Christopher Nolan’s work since Batman Begins (the first film I saw of his), and Dunkirk looks like Nolan is branching out of his comfort zone. Instead of science or psychology, Nolan explores history. We have an ensemble cast, so we’ll see various perspectives in Dunkirk, giving us a potentially epic and powerful journey.

2) Alien: Covenant (in theaters 5/19) – Alien and Aliens both excited and terrified me simultaneously when I saw them as a kid. The red band trailer for Alien: Covenant gave me that same reaction. Besides the nostalgia, I’m happy to hear that all of Prometheus’s questions will be answered and Covenant will be a full transition into the Alien franchise.

1) Blade Runner: 2049 (in theaters 10/6) – Harrison Ford is rumored to be in Blade Runner: 2049 for a short amount of time, but that’s okay. Ryan Gosling is our new lead and his acting style suits the psychological and ambiguous tones of Blade Runner. Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners, Arrival) is now director and with his trademark cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) and composer Johan Johansson, Blade Runner: 2049 will be a dark, artistic experience that suits our world.

“Suicide Squad”

Props to the trailer editors of “Suicide Squad” for getting me pumped enough to see it on opening weekend. Props to the producers for screwing up “Suicide Squad” with their interference.

“Suicide Squad” takes place in the DC universe and government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a group of criminal meta-humans together for Black Ops missions. She enlists expert hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), The Joker’s (Jared Leto) main squeeze Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a hooligan-type thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a crocodile/human hybrid named Killer Croc (Adwele Akinnuoye-Agbaje), master climber Slipknot (Adam Beach), and a fire-powered gangster named El Diablo (Jay Hernandez).

They’re led by a hot shot special forces operative named Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) and his swordswoman body guard, Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Meanwhile, The Joker has his own plan, and there’s a witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) who wants world domination!

When writer/director David Ayer (“End of Watch,” “Fury”) announced he was directing “Suicide Squad,” I was excited because Ayer writes compelling anti-heroes and directs visceral action sequences. His writing flare is present in the first 20 minutes with some entertaining character introductions and solid development for Deadshot. Then it fades away once the characters are recruited.

There are moments throughout “Suicide Squad” where Ayer wants to make a hardcore violent dark comedy, but then there are overly serious and formulaic scenes that lack Ayer’s passion. I don’t blame Ayer, specifically. I blame the producers’ interference.

“Suicide Squad” underwent serious reshoots/re-edits six months before the film’s release to make it “more fun” after fans responded positively to the “Bohemian Rhapsody” trailer. The reshoots aren’t well-covered because certain scenes don’t flow well together.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

In the first act, Waller and Flagg recruit their team and Flagg seems willing to go along with the plan. After recruiting Deadshot, the next scene shows Flagg arguing with Waller over recruiting the Suicide Squad. The argument scene should have either been before the recruitments or not in it at all.

In the bar scene from the trailer where the team drinks together, this scene is no longer the charmingly funny scene. It’s instead a dramatic self-reflection; none of the humorous moments are present in this scene. In fact, the movie is nearly humorless *after* the first act.

The film’s tone is wildly uneven, and presents itself at times as a dark comedy, and a mindless Michael Bay-style action movie at other times. The action is lackluster and features CGI on par with Sci-Fi channel movies, and last year’s “Fant4stic.” With the exception of the first battle, the action is underwhelming.

Ayer also seems too focused on Deadshot and didn’t bother developing his other characters. Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang are comic relief, Enchantress has no development to make her a compelling villain, and sadly, neither does The Joker.

The Joker is primarily in “Suicide Squad” as part of Harley’s arc. She has to choose between him and helping the Suicide Squad. That’s fine, but it would have been far more compelling if Joker was the main villain and not just a secondary antagonist.

Acting wise, everyone is fine. Will Smith is charismatic and fun as always, Margot Robbie is a blast to watch as Harley Quinn (even if her story is redundant), Viola Davis is a badass, Jai Courtney is surprisingly fun as Captain Boomerang, and Leto is fun as The Joker. The actors are the best part of “Suicide Squad.”

I was hating on “Batman v. Superman” hardcore last March, but “Suicide Squad” makes that look like a masterpiece. I may have not agreed with the dark tone, but I at least knew what it was trying to be. “Suicide Squad” was simply lost in translation due to an overstuffed script and a lack of vision.

Grade: D+