The LEGO Ninjago Movie
Unassuming Teen Morphs Into Formidable Ninja In Latest LEGO Episode
Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco) must be the least liked student at Ninjago High. The unassuming 16-year-old is so unpopular that no kids will even sit on the same side of the bus with him on the ride to school.
What they don’t know, however, is that he has a superhero alter ego, namely, the Green Ninja. In that capacity, he serves as the leader of the Secret Ninja Force, a team of five teens and an android under the tutelage of Lloyd’s wise and wisecracking uncle, Master Wu (Jackie Chan).
In lieu of weapons, he’s trained each of his protégés to harness a different force of nature contained in his magical treasure chest: the hot-headed Red Ninja (Michael Pena) controls fire, the music-loving Black Ninja (Fred Armisen) has mastered earth, the Blue Ninja (Kumail Nanjiani), lightning, and the Gray Ninja (Abbi Jacobson), water, while the robotic White Ninja’s (Zach Woods) domain is ice.
Their appointed mission is to prevent Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) from conquering Ninjago City. Complicating matters is the fact that the evil villain also happens to be Lloyd’s long-lost father. He abandoned his wife (Olivia Munn) and baby when she resisted his embrace of the dark side.
So, all the boy knows about his dad is the little he’s been told by his mother and uncle. Consequently, Lloyd is as eager to meet as to defeat the diabolical warlord with the well-earned reputation as the world’s “Worst Guy Ever.”
If you’ve seen either LEGO or LEGO Batman, then you have a decent idea of what to expect from the third installment of the inspired, animated franchise. Directed by Charlie Bean, the frenetically-paced, action film features not only another visually-captivating adventure, but more of the pithy asides and clever allusions to screen classics which make the movie interesting to adults not necessarily in the target demo.
Ninjago ultimately proves to be the best episode yet because of the profusion of positive messages delivered by the picture’s end. An alternately high-octane, hilarious and heartwarming treat that’s hard to beat!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Running time: 101 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Brit And Yankee Spies Join Forces To Fight Drug Queen-Pin In Higher-Octane Sequel
Kingsman: The Secret Service was a surprise hit which probably wouldn’t have been released in the dead of winter of 2015, if Fox had realized exactly what it had on its hands. After all, most movie studios see the season as a dumping ground for pictures with low expectations, given the attention paid Oscar hopefuls, the risk of bad weather hurting attendance, and that many folks have less discretionary income due to Christmas season spending.
Nevertheless, Kingsman bucked the odds, netting over $400 million at the box office, worldwide. Furthermore, the picture made such an impression on this critic that it earned the No. 1 spot on my annual Top 100 list of the best films of the year.
So, excuse me for eagerly-anticipating this sequel, especially since Matthew Vaughn was directing again, and Academy Award-winner Colin Firth (for The King’s Speech) would be reprising the title role, despite the fact that his character was killed off in the original. In Kingsman: The Golden Circle‘s stellar cast features three other Oscar-winners: Julianne Moore (for Still Alice), Halle Berry (for Monster’s Ball) and Jeff Bridges (for Crazy Heart), as well as Taron Egerton, Channing Tatum, Emily Watson, Michael Gambon and Sir Elton John.
Besides adding a number of A-listers to the ensemble, the movie ostensibly adhered to the unwritten rules for mounting a successful, action flick sequel. Basically, that involves raising the stakes at every turn. Thus, the second Kingsman boasts more bombastic special effects, a bigger body count, and bloodier death scenes.
The film’s jaw-dropping opening scene alone is worth the price admission. At the point of departure, we find Eggsy (Egerton) being ambushed by an army of assassins led by Charlie (Edward Holcroft), a fellow Kingsman gone rogue. Now, Charlie’s doing the bidding of Poppy Adams (Moore), a formidable drug queen-pin bent on cornering the narcotics market globally.
After miraculously surviving the onslaught, the only hope for humanity rests in Kingsman joining forces with the Statesman spy organization, its American counterpart. What ensues is a bodaciously-flamboyant splatterfest periodically punctuated by pithy asides reminding you not to take any of it too seriously. The picture’s only flaw is that it wears out its welcome after a couple of hours, which means the last 20 minutes could have been left on the cutting room floor.
Otherwise, Kingsman is a visually-captivating, higher-octane sequel that ups the ante in terms of everything from star power to fight scenes to eye-popping special effects!
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for graphic violence, drug use, sexuality and pervasive profanity
Running time: 141 minutes
Production Studio: 20th Century Fox / Marv Films / Shangri-La Entertainment
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening September 29, 2017
BIG BUDGET FILMS
American Made (R for sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity) Tom Cruise stars in this warts-and-all biopic recounting the exploits of Barry Seal (1939-1986), the commercial airline pilot-turned-drug smuggler for Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia), the ruthless kingpin of Colombia’s infamous Medellin cartel. With Domnhall Gleeson, Sarah Wright and Jesse Plemons. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
Flatliners (PG-13 for violence, terror, sexuality, mature themes and drug use) Sci-fi thriller revolving around five, adventurous med students who participate in a dangerous, near-death experiment briefly stopping their own hearts in order to experience the after-life. Ensemble cast includes Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons and Kiefer Sutherland.
A Question of Faith (PG for mature themes) Faith-based film revolving around three families whose fates become serendipitously linked by a tragic accident. Co-starring Kim Fields, Richard T. Jones, Jaci Velasquez, Karen Valero, C. Thomas Howell and Renee O’Connor.
‘Til Death Do Us Part (PG-13 for mature themes, sexuality, violence, domestic abuse and profanity) Psychological thriller about a newlywed (Annie Ilonzeh) who flees an abusive marriage, adopts a new identity, and falls in love with another man (Taye Diggs), only to have her vindictive, jealous ex (Stephen Bishop) track her down. With Malik Yoba, Robinne Lee and Suzanne Whang.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
Gerald’s Game (Unrated) Adaptation of the Stephen King best seller of the same name, about a lawyer’s (Bruce Greenwood) wife’s (Carla Gugino) struggle to survive when he suddenly dies right after tying her to a bed during kinky sex play. Supporting cast includes Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel and Chiara Aurelia.
I Am Another You (Unrated) Road documentary highlighting the unorthodox lifestyle of Dylan, a free-spirited drifter who has rejected cultural conformity in favor of roaming around America as a hobo.
Judwaa 2 (Unrated) Action-oriented sequel about twins separated at birth (both played by Varun Dhawan) and reunited as adults by a twist of fate who try to save their threatened family business from ruthless mobsters. With Salman Khan, Anupam Kher and Jacqueline Fernandez. (In Hindi with subtitles)
Lucky (Unrated) Introspective meditation on mortality chronicling a 90-year-old atheist’s (Harry Dean Stanton) quest for enlightenment while living off the grid in a desolate desert town. With Ron Livingston, Ed Begley, Jr. and Barry Shabaka Henley.
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (PG-13 for profanity) Liam Neeson plays the title character in this biopic about “Deep Throat,” the infamous FBI Agent-turned anonymous informant who toppled the Nixon administration during the Watergate investigation by feeding incriminating evidence to the Washington Post. Cast includes Diane Lane, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Josh Lucas and Eddie Marsan.
Our Souls at Night (Unrated) Romance drama set in a tiny Colorado town where a couple of longtime neighbors (Jane Fonda and Robert Redford) unexpectedly fall in love in the wake of both being widowed. With Bruce Dern, Judy Greer and Iain Armitage.
Signature Move (Unrated) Out-of-the-closet dramedy, set in Chicago, about a lesbian Pakistani (Fawzia Mirza) who falls in love with a Mexican gym-rat (Sari Sanchez) she meets in the ring after taking up Lucha-style wrestling. Featuring Shabana Azmi, Audrey Francis and Mark Hood. (In English, Spanish and Urdu)
Take Every Wave (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the legendary career of Laird Hamilton, a fearless, big-wave surfer whose daring exploits changed the sport forever.