The LEGO Batman Movie
Warner Brothers Pictures
Rated PG for action and rude humor
It’s The Caped Crusader Vs. The Joker In A Madcap Animated Adventure
Not since the campy TV-sitcom back in the ’60s has Batman been so successfully lampooned. Now, the much-beloved superhero again proves perfect fodder for parody in a madcap, animated adventure with a terribly-short attention span.
More concerned with jokes than plot development, this irreverent spoof is relentless in its rush to find the next punch line. Fortunately, the picture never disappoints in that endeavor, whether the laughs be generated by clever quips, silly sight gags or allusions to earlier incarnations of the enduring franchise.
For example, right before confronting a couple of villains, Batman (Will Arnett) informs Robin (Michael Cera) that, “We’re going to punch these guys so hard that words are going to magically appear out of thin air.” That’s a thinly-veiled reference to the cartoon bubbles (a la “Crack!” and “Pow!”) that would appear on the screen during fist fights on the old television series.
And it’s not just the TV Batman that gets knocked off a pedestal, here. For, every big screen version of The Caped Crusader is fair game in the eyes of Chris McKay, who makes a remarkable feature film directorial debut with this frenetically-paced farce.
The picture does have a premise, though it does read like a stock Batman storyline. At the point of departure, we learn that The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is hatching a plan to level Gotham City with the help of a host of infamous supervillains. In turn, Batman enlists the assistance of Robin (Michael Cera), Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) and his loyal manservant, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes).
However, before the typical tussle between these long-standing archenemies, we’re treated to an emotionally-charged exchange in which The Joker demands Batman finally commit to their adversarial relationship of 78 years by uttering, “I hate you.” When that phrase isn’t forthcoming, The Clown Prince of Crime vindictively responds with, “I’m done, and on the way out I’m going to blow up Gotham City.”
The ensuing mix of mirth and mayhem is so mesmerizing, it’s easy to forget you’re watching LEGO figures. More fun than a barrel of monkeys, not that anybody still gets a kick out of watching primates at play.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 90 minutes
I Am Not Your Negro
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, violent images and brief nudity`
Oscar-Nominated Documentary Inspired By James Baldwin’s Unfinished Manuscript
When novelist/social critic James Baldwin passed away in 1987, he left behind an unfinished opus entitled Remember This House. The 30-page manuscript assessed the plight of African-Americans in the United States while specifically reflecting upon the assassinations of three civil rights icons: Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
With I Am Not Your Negro, director Raoul Peck (Lumumba) fleshes out Baldwin’s musings, cinematically, into a searing indictment of the United States as an unapologetically-racist nation. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the movie has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary category.
The focus of the film never strays far from Baldwin, nimbly alternating between archival footage of the fiery figure challenging the status quo and Jackson’s readings from Remember This House and his other writings. Again and again, we hear him question the depth of the country’s commitment to reverse the damage inflicted upon the black community by generations of slavery, lynchings and Jim Crow segregation.
For example, he asserts that most Caucasians are perfectly comfortable relegating African-Americans to a second-class status. He even goes so far as to refer to them as morally-blind monsters for seeing blacks as sub-human. Until that attitude is eradicated, whites will never recognize that “I am flesh of their flesh.”
Baldwin concludes that “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America.” Therefore, with black and white fates inextricably linked, “It’s not a question of what happens to the Negro. The real question is what is going to happen to this country.”
Given the precarious state of race relations, the late visionary’s prescient insights perhaps prove more timely, posthumously, than in their own day.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening February 10, 2017
Fifty Shades Darker (R for profanity, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) Steamy sequel to Fifty Shades Of Grey finds Ana (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) resuming their erotic relationship, but on her terms. Supporting cast includes Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden and Jennifer Ehle.
John Wick: Chapter Two (R for profanity, brief nudity and pervasive violence) Keanu Reeves reprises the title role in this high-body count thriller which finds the former hitman forced out of retirement to take on some of the world’s deadliest assassins. Featuring Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan and Lance Reddick.
Adventure Club (Unrated) Sci-fi fantasy about a trio of 10-year-old BFFs (Dalila Bella, Jakob Davies and Sam Ashe Arnold) who end up on the run from several shady characters after finding an ancient artifact capable of granting wishes. Cast includes Kim Coates, Gabrielle Miller and Robin Dunne.
God Bless The Broken Road (PG for mature themes and military combat) Modern morality play about a grief-stricken widow’s (Lindsay Pulsipher) crisis in faith while struggling to raise a young daughter (Makenzie Moss) alone after her soldier husband (Liam Matthews) perishes on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Support cast includes Jordin Sparks, LaDainian Tomlinson, Robin Givens and Kim Delaney.
Havenhurst (Unrated) Haunted house horror flick about a young alcoholic (Julie Benz) fresh out of rehab who continues to battle her own and other demons after moving into an apartment from which the previous tenant (Danielle Harris) disappeared without a trace. With Belle Shouse, Fionnula Flanagan and Josh Stamberg.
I Am Jane Doe (Unrated) Jessica Chastain narrates this expose chronicling the frustrations encountered by mothers determined to rescue their adolescent daughters kidnapped by sex traffickers.
Jolly LLB 2 (Unrated) Akshay Kumar replaces Arshad Warsi as the title lawyer in this courtroom drama revolving around a high-stakes legal case that could make or break his career. With Annu Kapoor, Huma Qureshi and Saurabh Shukla. (In Hindi with subtitles)
Kedi (Unrated) Feline plague documentary about the millions of cats who have been allowed to roam free around the city of Istanbul for thousands of years. (In Turkish with subtitles)
Keep Quiet (Unrated) Skeletons-in-the-closet documentary about an anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying, Hungarian politician’s stunning transformation after finding out not only that he’s Jewish but that his maternal grandmother was an Auschwitz survivor. (In English, Hungarian and German with subtitles)
Speed Sisters (Unrated) Pedal to the metal documentary highlighting the high-octane exploits of the five Palestinian females composing the Middle East’s first, all-women race car team. (In Arabic with subtitles)
Stray Bullets (Unrated) Crime caper, set in upstate New York, about a couple of teenage siblings’ (Jack Fessenden and Asa Spurlock) taken hostage by three fugitives from justice (Larry Fessenden, James Le Gros and John Speredakos) hiding out in their family’s abandoned mobile. Featuring Kevin Corrigan, Robert Burke Warren and Erik Kraus.
A United Kingdom (PG-13 for sensuality, profanity and ethnic slurs) Fact-based docudrama, set in 1948, recounting the international scandal ignited by the interracial romance shared by an African prince (David Oyelowo) and a lowly white Londoner (Rosamund Pike). With Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael and Jessica Oyelowo.