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Weekly Review 48: BATMAN, RYAN, SPANGLISH, LIFE

Weekly Review

Since I’ve been on vacation the past few weeks, I’ve had no opportunity to turn to the theater for new screenings. I did however have a chance to finally catch up with Neighbors, which Chris Bunker reviewed upon release but I kept missing. Though I found more to like than he did – I was quite fond of Seth Rogen and Rose Bryne and their considerable comic chemistry – the supporting cast leaves much to be desired and I’m just very much over Zac Efron being a thing. The guy has never proven an ability to act so can we just collectively get over putting him in movies? Thanks.

Additionally, I caught a showing of Deliver Us From Evil which was a thoroughly moody and appropriately tense horror film – and a second watch of 22 Jump Street, this time with some friends.

At home, I caught up with a few releases from 2014, an old classic and a movie on Netflix that I sounded agreeable to my mom. So join me as we plow through this latest installment of the internet’s most inconsistent weekly segment: Weekly Review.

Batman (1989)

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Tim Burton‘s Batman is likely the movie that you could trace all this superhero mania back to, and for good reason. Michael Keaton‘s Caped Crusader might not growl like Bale but he’s got the aloof playboy of Bruce Wayne down pat and makes for a charmed if not entirely complex iteration of the best comic book hero out there. And no matter how brightly Heath Ledger’s star shined as the Joker, it will always be Jack Nicholson who did it first and a re-watch of Burton’s Bat proves why so many thought ol’ Jack couldn’t be topped. His maniacal strange may not reach the heights of Jack Torrence but he’s tapped into something equally primal and outlandishly, devilishly haywire. Burton’s scenery and set design look as gothic and ruthless as a Hollywood set could be (even though they stand out as props more than ever) regardless of whether they appear a bit silly in the eyes of 2014. Nonetheless, this original take on the Dark Knight is still the best outside Nolan’s oeuvre. (B-)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

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Jack Ryan is perhaps Tom Clancy’s most lasting icon; his pencil-pushing Jason Bourne, his analytical Indiana, his American James Bond. He’s been played by the likes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, making Chris Pine‘s portrayal Ryan’s fifth outing on the silver screen. But instead of reigniting a franchise that’s always had a knack for fits and starts, Shadow Recruit puts the kabbash on our desire to see further iterations like a pail of sea water over already dying coals. Pine is fine as Ryan but does little to add depth or layers to a character that we already have a strong sense of. Instead of deepening our involvement with Clancy’s superhero, Kenneth Branagh (who inexplicably doubles as the film’s Russian villain) has merely presented another one-and-done action hero ready to be whisked under the mat and forgotten about. There’s nothing new here, nothing exciting and worse yet, Shadow Recruit features one of the worst performances of the year courtesy of Keira Knightley, who has just as much trouble keeping an accent straight as she does keeping a straight face. For shame. (D+)

Spanglish (2004)

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Overwrought, sentimental and told in voice over, Spanglish is a perfect example of a strong concept undone by a sappy hand. Nevertheless, a strong trickle of feminist ideals populate this mostly family-friendly outing that sees a Spanish nanny adapt to upper-class Americana with all their private schools and Xanax whilst trying to maintain an identity as a Hispanic woman. With a second round of editing and some thoughtful script touch ups, Spanglish could have been a lot stronger but it tends towards melodrama in all the wrong places, overshadowing the strong message at the film’s core. Adam Sandler does ditch his usual shtick to try to act, but if you’re really looking for proof of his thespian ability, you ought to look elsewhere – Punch Drunk Love being your best bet. (C)

Life Itself (2014)

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Steve JamesLife Itself is a stirring documentary about the man behind the most famous film critic in the world: Roger Ebert. Documenting Ebert’s final months, we see a man who was challenged by his own ambition, who saw road blocks as doorways and would never back down from a fight – especially if it was about a movie he was passionate about. Old friends and colleagues come out to pass along stories of Ebert as do consummate directors – most notable a starry eyed Martin Scorsese – and the result paints a picture of a man fully passionate and fully human. If there is one film to reaffirm the meaning of film criticism, that seeks to define the inimitable bliss of true cinema, that holds a mirror at the world and asks us to seek out foreign – even dissenting – opinions, this is it. (B)

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Untitled Superman Vs. Batman Film Gets List of Tentative Titles, MAN OF STEEL: BATTLE THE KNIGHT Amongst the Running

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Odds are you could probably care less what DC decides to title their Man of Steel sequel, which is set to pit the near invisible Superman again a PTSD-suffering billionaire who dresses like a bat and wears a lot of black makeup, but the latest list of possible titles is sure to induce the slightest of gags from the masses still with the truffley taste of Christopher Nolan‘s Battrilogy still lingering in our mouths. I’m of course not accounting for of bottom-tier puns (here all focused on swapping knight in for night, GET IT?!) who this batch of title treatments seems custom tailored for. The rest of us though can collectively sigh at the rampant stupidity taking place over at Warner Bros and the world of superhero sequel namers at large.

The runt of the new name litter is probably Man of Steel: Battle the Knight which sounds like the name of an animated title intended for 5-year olds yet to learn the idiosyncrasies of the language. Yank that colon out for Man of Steel Battles the Knight, or just go the next step for Man of Steel Battles the Dark Knight, and there’s at least something of interest that also reads like a normal sentence. As is, it sounds like the juvenile attempt of someone who secured an unflattering C in high school English.

Since the dawn of the Silver Surfer, the colon has become so overused in the blockbuster films that it’s essentially become a required part of a name for anything with a hundred million dollar plus budget. Even more important than the colon is the need to tack the word ‘dark’ somewhere in there (it’s just a no-brainer amiright?). This year’s Star Trek: Into Darkness is the best example of a misused colon couple with the useless inclusion of the word ‘dark’ (why not just Star Trek into Darkness or, more appropriately, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan: Part Deux). Thor: The Dark World is another great example of just throwing a colon and the word ‘dark’ at a title and expecting oohs and ahhs from wide-eyed fanboys.

As for this super DC conglomerate, there’s not much to this list of titles that catches my interest but, who knows, maybe people will just eat ’em up. What do you think of the following?

  • Man of Steel: Battle the Knight
  • Man of Steel: Beyond Darkness
  • Man of Steel: Black of Knight
  • Man of Steel: Darkness Falls
  • Man of Steel: Knight Falls
  • Man of Steel: Shadow of the Night
  • Man of Steel: The Blackest Hour
  • Man of Steel: The Darkness Within

At this point why don’t they just go with Man of Steel: Night of the Knight…oh wait. That actually has a nice ring to it. I think I’ve officially just spitballed a better title than WB’s collection of caffeine-slobbering goons jammed in a conference room somewhere, feeding from their 100k salaries.

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LEGO Movie Builds Excitement with Second Trailer

LEGO seems to have had a bit of resurgence lately. There are LEGO stores in every mall (where were these when I was a kid?), and several LEGO video games, including Lego Star Wars and Lego Lord of the Rings. Now 21 Jump Street directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, are bringing the bane of all bare-footed parents to the big screen, with The LEGO Movie. Does this mean toy stores will start carrying The LEGO Movie the LEGO set? It turns out Spaceballs was more prescient than we all thought. Merchandising!

All jokes aside, though, the trailer looks funny. It really does. While the plot doesn’t seem to extend much beyond your typical hero’s journey, it doesn’t really need to, as long as it sets itself up for good, LEGO-themed jokes. Lord and Miller’s film looks to be self-aware, as we are shown by a humorous scene of our everyman protagonist trying to use jumping jacks, which are impossible for him. Set to make appearances are LEGO Batman (Will Arnett), LEGO Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), and LEGO Han Solo (Michael Daingerfield), among others.

Our dumb, lovable, protagonist looks to be dragged to hell and back, without really knowing why, reminiscent of Futurama’s Fry. He’s dumb as a stump. The LEGO Movie won’t be laying any new bricks, when it comes to storytelling. However, it looks to be a kid’s movie that won’t be torture for the parents in the audience. And that is commendable. 

The LEGO Movie is directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller and stars Chris Pratt, Will Arenett, Alison Brie, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill, Nick Offerman, Channing Tatum, and Will Ferrell. It hits theaters Febuary 7th, 2014

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