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Movie Review – The Lego Batman Movie

Grade: A-

I liked this better than the original Lego Movie – this one is skewed a little more sophisticated for the grownups – but still has lots of color and spectacle for the kiddos. It’s a very charming film, with a surprisingly good storyline. Things move quickly, and there is a lot to see, making you want to go back and view it again – just to catch all the little jokes, asides, and throw-away lines. I loved the humor. Be aware this Lego flick focuses on Batman’s crew, and not the characters from the first Lego outing.

Cameos abound, and you will be amused at who is included: we briefly see the entire Justice League at a party, and then such famous baddies as Sauron, Voldemort, Jaws, the Gremlins, a Velociraptor, King Kong, Godzilla, the creature from the Black Lagoon, Agent Smith clones, Dracula, Medusa, Flying Monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West…and even several Daleks from Dr. Who (EXTERMINATE!) make an appearance. I think Warner Brothers had a great time producing this sweet little film.

There are actually a few poignant, moving scenes, with a decent villain plot, and super cute background moments. I rate this as one of the top Batman movies in the entire Bat oeuvre.

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This film has recently shown up again at the AMC theaters we see our films at. So, it’s back. We’re not sure why. If you missed it before, you can catch it now.

Movie Review – Ghost in the Shell

Grade: A-

This is a really, really pretty movie. It’s also a seamless use of CGI, and I’m normally really hard on films that rely extensively on computer animation. It totally works in this one.

Ghost in the Shell is an origin story for a comic book character called Major, and apparently this isn’t a case of ‘Asian whitewashing’ if you are an established fan. Johannson does a good job carrying the film, giving us a stoic, understated hero, struggling to understand whether she has any humanity left. Don’t expect a lot of humor – the main lighthearted moments are reserved for her friend and coworker Bantou, who really is the best part of the film. I smiled whenever he entered a scene.

Everyone else is deadly serious. I’m not a huge fan of deadly serious stories, but understand how the themes in GitS are relatively mature – presenting the nature of man, and the ethics of cybernetic enhancements. Where exactly do we draw the line in upgrading one’s given body, in pursuit of perfect health, upgraded skills…or frivolity (for example, getting an implant that lets you drink too much, so you don’t get hung over)? If you like the works of Philip K Dick, you’ll relate to this story. I do wish it had been a bit lighter in tone, however.

It’s a relatively short origin superhero tale (at one hour and 47 minutes), with an efficient pace. The action is exciting, reliable, and easy to follow. There’s a tremendous amount of dialog though, making it tough to find Peetimes. If I had to relate this movie to others, I’d say it has elements of Blade Runner, Minority Report, and a bit of The Matrix. Ghost in the Shell doesn’t achieve any of the bars set by those films, but is a respectable offering for what I expect to be a new franchise. I wasn’t disappointed, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Movie Review – Logan

    Grade: A+
    Dan writes: I just watched the movie, so I’ll think about it some more before I write a full review. Until then, I can easily say that this is by far the best X-Man movie. (Not that that is a high bar to clear.) The story, dialog, acting, pacing, and fighting were all extraordinary.
    You can probably tell from the credits that this is an emotional movie. I’m man enough to admit that I cried more than once. And the ending… Yeah, I’m getting misty just thinking about it.
    Jill, RunPee Wife here: With Dan in Hong Kong, I’ll expand on the Logan review.
    So. The X-Man franchise has been wildly inconsistent. Some of the films in the series were dreadful (hey there, Last Stand and Apocalypse). And some were extremely competent and enjoyable (X-Man 2, plus First Class and Days of Future Past). The original X-Man movie was genre-defining, giving us a live-action superhero ensemble with real storytelling. It provided a mold for future superhero films to follow. There was nothing really like it before. And, we got our first taste of Wolverine, and the world fell instantly in love with the brutal, endearing character.
    …And then…there were the Wolverine stand-alone films, which were problematic. The first one was stricken from cannon. Not sure if the second was similarly disowned. But Hugh Jackman so owned the iconic role that really, no one should be surprised they went in for thirds.
    The difference this time is astounding. Logan is a perfect movie. It’s character-driven, a drama. The stakes are thankfully small, and so is the focus. It doesn’t even feel like a superhero flick – it takes more cues from Westerns (Unforgiven springs to mind, and Lonesome Dove; Shane is specifically homaged). It’s also a traveling buddy film, with Jackman and the always fantastic Patrick Stewart playing brilliantly off each other. Lastly, it is a movie about family – even with such three damaged individuals as Wolverine, Professor X, and newcomer Laura. I completely bought into Laura: she embodies the feral child we would expect on learning her background. Her fierceness was bold and exciting – violently gleeful – and also deeply realized. Kudos to this young actress  – she completely holds her own against the two grizzled veterans.
    Where Logan succeeds the most is in execution of a sunset arc for a really broken character – a man who has sometimes been a hero, and sometimes just a wild thing. You feel the real emotional weight of this movie, from the first three minutes, to the final moments; nothing that ultimately happens here should come as a shock to fans.
Amazingly though, even non-fans can jump right in, with no prior X-Man knowledge. That is a rare thing. Try taking a newbie to an Avengers film (and I love the Avengers). I saw Logan with a Muggle, and she cried right along with me. Which is also to say: bring tissues. There’s humor here, and some very cute moments, but this isn’t a happy film. It is an ending. And I don’t know where this will fit into X-Man cannon – since they established time-travel is a thing, anything can be changed – but neither do I care. Logan is just right, where and as it is.
    Thank you, Hugh Jackman, for providing the universe with an unforgettable character, and having the integrity to not sell your arc short in the end. And thank you, too, for publicly admitting you love the RunPee app. We love you right back.

Deadpool – movie review

deadpoolGrade: A

Not only is Deadpool a hilarious movie, it also works as and amazingly accurate barometer for gauging relationships. For instance, it can be scientifically proven that the number of times a married man laughs during this movie is inversely proportional to how much their mother-in-law likes them.

Conversely, married women will find that the number of times they laugh during this movie is directly proportional to how much their husbands love them.

And of course if you have impressionable children you can base your parenting skills on whether or not you took them with you to see this movie. In a word: DON’T. However, if you do then please make a video of the questions they ask you when it’s over and post that to YouTube. That could be as funny as the movie itself.

Now, this is a very subjective comment, but I didn’t find the movie to be gratuitously violent or gross. Of course there are the obligatory slow motion head shots, a slight dismemberment, and a few beheadings, but they are all tastefully done. All in all I’d say it’s no more graphic than your average violent movie from the 80’s. I’m not saying the violence doesn’t deserve an R-rating–it does–but violence or not, the language would warrant an R-rating and then some.

I thought the acting was… Who cares? This is Deadpool. It’s funny. That’s all you need to know.

For those Firefly fans out there, it was awesome to see Morena Baccarin get a really nice role. She was wonderful, but I couldn’t help but think somewhere Malcolm Reynolds is watching this saying, “Inara, please. If you’re going to talk like that I’m going to ask Niska to cut both ears off next time.”