On movies I want: I saw THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

24f6204e7a529a196605512d65a151e9.jpgLast night I reviewed a movie that I consider sort of unreviewable because the act of discussing it will make it impossible to properly enjoy it.  Tonight my wife and son and I went to a movie that doesn’t need a review: the Lego Batman movie.  You already know what you’ll think of the Lego Batman movie.  You already know whether you’re going to see it.  Chances are you know what thought of the Lego Batman movie, and could write this review for me.  And chances are you’re right about all those things.

After leaving the movie, I was thinking about what I’m always thinking about when I leave a Batman movie, which is that I will never get the Batman movie that I want.  Batman has been the star of a comic book called Detective Comics since nineteen thirty goddamn nine.  That was a really long time ago.  There have been approximately three hundred Hollywood films with the word “Batman” or some variant thereof in the title since then, and some of them actually had Batman in them.

Can we get a damn mystery Batman movie, please?  One where he has to actually solve a crime and act like a detective?  I mean, hell, they’re basically making one of these things every two or three years and seem likely to be planning to continue that until I die.  Can I get one of those to be a detective movie?  Bonus points (this will never ever happen) if it’s a noirish piece and actually set in the 1930s or 1940s.  You can still end the movie with a slam-bang action sequence, just make all the stuff before that be quieter and give me a Batman who uses his brains and not his gadgets and ninja skills.  Yes, Batman Begins, the movie about black-wearing-ninja-sword-fighting-not-Batman-angry-guy, I’m looking at you.

Don’t take this as a criticism of Lego Batman, by the way.  There’s nothing wrong with it; as I said, it’s exactly the movie I thought it would be (perhaps a bit more clever) and is probably exactly the movie you think it’ll be.  But gimme just one dark, shadowy, film-noir Batman crime movie where he has to slink around and detect some shit and doesn’t do a lot of punching.  I promise it’ll still make money.  Please?

On mostly unreviewable movies: I saw SPLIT

split_ver2.jpgSo, I’d call myself an M. Night Shyamalan fan, right?  I’ve seen most of his movies, or at least his adult thrillers (I haven’t seen The Happening or The Visit, and from what I’ve seen that’s at least 50% good news) and I’ve liked damn near all of what I’ve seen.  I will defend Signs to the death, for example, and I remember really liking Lady in the Water although if I’m being honest I can’t tell you a damn thing about it now.

(There’s gonna be some minor spoilers about a paragraph down.  Don’t panic, no big deal.  But just FYI.)

Here’s the thing about Split.  You should see this movie if you’ve ever liked anything by Shyamalan.  All of the things that he’s good at are on full display in this film, along with an incredible performance– set of performances, maybe?– by James McAvoy.

There is– brace yourself for this– not a twist ending on this one.  Sort of.  I guess.  But what’s getting frustrating about Shyamalan is that he’s done the twist ending so many times at this point that his movies have this weird metatextual thing going on that rather than watching the movie you’re trying to figure out the twist.  There is a thing at the end of this movie, and the more of a Shyamalan fan you are, the more likely you are to walk out of the theater with a huge smile on your face.  If you are not a Shyamalan fan than the ending of the film– which is more of a Marvel-style stinger than anything else– will likely leave you more than a little bit confused.  But there’s not a twist, so don’t go looking for it.  Bask in the good performances and the creepiness and enjoy the film.  Because the performances are great and the film’s excellently creepy and Shyamalan’s directing skills are used to their fullest effect.

All that said:

I feel like I ought to warn you that this film is going to be triggery as fuck for a lot of people, and there are about to be a couple more spoilers.  It’s about three high-school aged girls getting kidnapped by a maniac with MPD, right?  Which is a problem on a couple of levels: one, you spend the whole movie playing the “when are they gonna get raped?” game, which is always horrible.  The answer: there is one scene of implied molestation in this film and it will come at you sideways and not the way you expect it to be.   There is a lot of implied child abuse.  There is not actually any sexual violence between the kidnapper and his victims.  There are also a lot of angry disability advocates out there who are upset that once again dissociative identity disorder is being used as a crutch for a villain.  I’m… a little more sympathetic toward the folks who will be triggered by the film than the disability advocates, if only because McAvoy’s character’s therapist is also part of the film and she has some very interesting comic-booky theories about DID that… well, probably won’t make anything better for those bothered by the disorder being featured in the film but it certainly makes it more interesting for the rest of us.  That’s probably not entirely fair of me but it’s how I’ve reacted.

Spoiler #REVIEW: Rogue One

Okay.  You may remember my review of The Force Awakens, which basically went through the entire movie point-by-point and dissected the entire thing.  I liked TFA, but it hasn’t held up for me as well as I wanted it to.  In fact, as you can tell from the review, it started falling apart almost as soon as I got home.

My short, spoiler-free review of Rogue One is that it is a much better movie than The Force Awakens was, but– alarmingly– the places where it is bad, it is bad in exactly the same way as TFA.  Which is not a good sign for future films.

I am going to spoil the shit out of this movie.  I’m giving you a picture and then an actual jump screen so that you don’t get caught up accidentally.  But you will Know All the Things when you’re done.  Okay?  No whining.  SPOILERS!

rogueone_logo-0-0 Continue reading “Spoiler #REVIEW: Rogue One”

#REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE

…because I’m not ready to talk about the election just yet.

Screen_Shot_2016-07-15_at_3.40.37_AM_3.png

Here’s the deal about this movie, guys:  when I walked out, my wife said to me that she had no complaints about it at all.  And I agreed with her.  You will enjoy watching Doctor Strange, and you will see some shit you haven’t seen on screen before, and you’ll see a movie where the good guy wins not by winning a big fight but by outsmarting the bad guy at the end.  This movie is fun to watch.  But now, six days later, I’m finding that while it’s not the worst Marvel movie (that would be Iron Man 2) it’s definitely held up more poorly than any of them.  I knew IM2 had problems when I saw it.

In no particular order, a list of complaints:

  • Okay, I get why this sorta had to be an origin movie.  But goddammit it’s damn near the same origin movie that Iron Man had, only Iron Man’s transition to heroism stretched out over a few movies and Bangledoof Climberbunch’s takes like ten minutes.  Is there any reason, really, that we couldn’t have had a movie where Doctor Strange is already the Sorcerer Supreme and we just do like a five-minute flashback to his origin, a la every Batman appearance in the last twenty years?
  • Speaking of Binglethump Clammerplatch, I spent the whole movie wanting him to say “Carl.”  His American accent is basically exactly the same as Hugh Laurie’s.  He certainly looks the part, though.
  • Although, that said, there’s no reason a white guy had to play this part.  None at all.  There was supposedly going to be a story-based reason why the Ancient One was a white woman; that boiled down to Baron Mordo saying “She’s Celtic” at one point.  Not that she sounded Irish or anything either, mind you.
  • The fight scenes are kind of cool because of the reality-folding stuff and gravity-bending that happens, only it’s not really entirely clear why reality-folding and gravity-bending follows from the rest of the stuff that magic can do, which mostly involves generating weird glowy things out of one’s hands.  Magic is boring in the Marvel universe.
  • Also boring: learning magic.  If we’re going to waste a big chunk of the movie on Bufflepuff Cummerdammerung training to use magic and not being a big old dumb empiricist anymore, maybe we could have seen the moment where he first succeeds at something?  Maybe.  It really seems like doing magic in the Marvel Universe basically just involves waving your hands around, and sometimes wearing a weird two-finger ring for some reason.  I have a few years’ worth of Doctor Strange comics, by the way, and the ring has made no appearance.  We spent a lot of time watching him train, but never saw him learn.  There’s no Word and the Way conversation here, no indication at all of how magic actually works, or why him waving his hands in a way does something but me waving my hands the same way in front of my computer wouldn’t.
  • Oh, and he also learns karate, because of course he does.
  • This isn’t a complaint: Kaecilius, the villain, makes more sense than any other Marvel villain so far.  His role is criminally underwritten, but his evil plan makes sense.  Especially this fucking week.  This movie was loaded with acting talent– it may have the best cast of any Marvel movie, with the possible exception of Thor.  It just wasn’t interesting.
  • The Female Love Interest had no reason to be there, at all.  None.  They shoulda had Strange working out of Night Nurse’s hospital and brought Rosario Dawson in.

There’s probably more, but I think you get the idea.  I’m not actually recommending not seeing this; my wife liked it a lot, and again, all these problems came up later, not while I was watching it.  But the ultimate assessment?  Meh.  If I write much more, it’ll just be so I can find more ways to say Blimpledimp Clinkypunch’s name, and that’s gonna get old eventually.

(No it won’t.  Bumplemump Carrybrinks.  Buzzawump Clubberpick.  Bonklesnuzz Clippersmell.  It will never get old.)

A brief note on Gene Wilder

I know I’m a couple of days late, but: while I am not the world’s biggest Gene Wilder fan, and in fact I’m pretty sure I have never seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in its entirety, and in additional fact am suddenly not even entirely sure that’s the proper name of the film, I will always, always, always be grateful to him for this fucking sublime moment from Blazing Saddles:

I would kill to know how many takes this took.  Cleavon Little is trying so hard to keep his shit together and Wilder is just torturing him.  It’s the best moment in an entirely brilliant movie.  RIP, Gene.  And fuck you, 2016.