Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Lego Batman movieWhile the wife and daughter were away in North Carolina, doing good deeds, I was home alone, except for the cats. I went into a movie-viewing frenzy, seeing four movies in four days, and The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) was the fourth.

A free movie on a Tuesday afternoon at the Palace Theater in Albany. What could be the downside? Well, there were well over 1000 kids and their parents, and they were LOUD, making the subtle dialogue in the beginning rather hard to hear, that “Black. All important movies start with a black screen… And music… Edgy, scary music that would make a parent or studio executive nervous… And logos…” bit. But as the movie ramped up, this became less of a problem.

I saw the first LEGO movie on my birthday in 2014, also for free. I enjoyed it. But Batman was there for comic relief, and it really didn’t delve into the character. Now the guy in the newer movie, HE was Batman.

David Sims, the reviewer for The Atlantic, nailed it: It “works precisely because it knows audiences are sick of its hero. It’s a reassessment, an intervention, an effort to try and remember what’s fun about him.” Because Batman can be a real drag, such as Ben Affleck in Justice League, and doesn’t always play well with others.

The film is filled with witty references from many phases of the character, from the Adam West TV/movie character (shark repellent) to “You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” from Batman (1989 -Michael Keaton). My favorite line may have been from Alfred about Batman going through “similar phases” in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2005, 1997, 1995, 1992, 1989, and a “weird one” in 1966, a reference to every year in which a major Batman film was released.

Will Arnett was absolutely dead-on as the voice of Batman / Bruce Wayne, though that guttural snarl must have done damage to his vocal chords. Michael Cera was earnest as Robin / Dick Grayson. Rosario Dawson was great as Batgirl / Barbara Gordon. I learned Ralph Fiennes is the third Academy Award-nominated British actor to play Alfred Pennyworth, after Michael Caine and Jeremy Irons. Zach Galifianakis showed the various shadings of The Joker.

I was glad I went to The LEGO Batman Movie, though it got better as kids exited well before the end of the film.

My wife left me. So did my daughter. But they came back. They went, with other church people, to an Intergenerational Work Camp in Kinston, NC. They left on Saturday, July 21.

While the others started their return on the 28th, my family went instead to visit my “baby” sister Marcia and her daughter Alex in Charlotte. Then they visited my wife’s brother’s family in southeast Pennsylvania before returning to Albany Augudst 1.

This meant that I fed the cats, cleaned out the litter box, watered the plants, plus the usual stuff, such as taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn.

And shoveling the dirt off the sidewalk, which only happens after the sidewalk floods, and them the water recedes. Ever since the city “Fixed” the sidewalk a few years ago, this, along with patches of ice, has been a regular occurrence.

When we had severe weather on Friday, July 27, I was at work in the middle of the day. But except for one rumble of thunder, I was largely oblivious to the storm. I did note the massive tree branch, at least five meters long, that fell from our oak tree and somehow wedged onto the fence; I need a neighbor’s help to dislodge it.

In the next couple days I noted a number of other tree branches down in and around Washington Park, at the UU church, at our local police precinct, and elsewhere. Street lights only three blocks from me were out, though not the ones nearer to me.

No wonder people were calling and emailing to see if I ere all right. I was fine, really, though I got soaked riding my bike from the Colonie movie theater to the bus stop.

I was surprised to find that being home alone is not as fun as I remembered it from my single days. I did like going out with my friend Uthaclena one weekday evening, and seeing Janet Jackson at SPAC another night.

Still, I went out to five movies in eight days, four of them on weekends. I SUPPOSE it could mean that I missed my family, at least just a little.

I spent much of the Monday before their return picking up stuff. Who left that water bottle on the floor? Hmm, no one else to blame.

At least thrice so far this year, I have donated platelets at the Red Cross Center on Everett Road in Albany. Since it takes a couple hours, and I can’t do anything that uses my arms, such as reading, I’ve opted to watch movies that I had never seen before.

The late Roger Ebert said of Stripes (1981): “An anarchic slob movie, a celebration of all that is irreverent, reckless, foolhardy, undisciplined, and occasionally scatological. It’s a lot of fun.”

That’s largely true, though it also seems a bit dated. It works in large part because of the established relation between the Bill Murray and Harold Ramis characters before they join the army. I also especially liked seeing the late John Candy.

Whereas Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is oddly, even uncomfortably, relevant. It epitomized the military-derived acronym, SNAFU.

It stars George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, James Earl Jones, and of course, Slim Pickens, whose famous last scene was almost all I knew of the film. Oh, yeah, and Peter Sellers in several roles, including the title character, in a a war room trying avoid a nuclear holocaust.

I can’t remember the last DC comics movie I saw, but it was not in this century. I managed to miss Wonder Woman, alas.

At the start of Justice League (2017), Superman is dead, I gathered. This event took place, I discovered later, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2017). Yet, Henry Cavil, who has played the Man of Steel, appears in the opening credits; make of that what you will.

Amy Adams is crying. Diane Lane is too. I wonder if they’re Lois Lane and Martha Kent; thy are. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) are trying get other metahumans to fight an existential threat to the planet.

As my blogger buddy SamuraiFrog put it: “It’s…in the DC movie house style with all of the attendant weaknesses (lots of subtext-as-text where the characters literally talk about what they all represent, tension-killing slow motion, single characters getting multiple introductions, feeling like it takes place in an under-populated dome)…”

Justice League featured THREE origin stories; well, not exactly, since they all appeared in Batman v Superman. Jason Momoa played Arthur Curry / Aquaman, but basically Thor, as Frog noted. He WAS fun. Victor Stone / Cyborg (Ray Fisher) was also enjoyable. The verdict’s out on Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash.

I don’t regret seeing it, but it probably won’t inspire me to catch more DCU pics.

The family saw Ocean’s Eight (or Ocean’s 8) at the Spectrum in Albany without any of us having seen any of the previous Ocean’s Eleven George Clooney/Brad Pitt trilogy (2001/2004/2007). Nor did I see Ocean’s 11 (1960) with Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.

The first few minutes, I wondered whether a foreknowledge of the Clooney films was necessary, as Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is at the tomb of her late brother Danny, who died in 2018. The chatter with her old friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) is a bit tedious.

But then they recruit the team, and they are mostly a lot more interesting. Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) is a 1990s clothes designer considered washed-up by the fashion media; thirty years ago, she would have been played by the late, great Carol Kane.

Rihanna plays Nine Ball, who knows electronics. New motion picture academy member Mindy Kaling’s Amita knows jewels. Sarah Paulson is Tammy, the conflicted suburban mom, who knows how to move product.

Lou and Debbie see potential in Constance (Awkwafina), a street hustler. Not incidentally, Awkwafina, appears on the cover of the Spring 2017 edition of UAlbany, the University at Albany Magazine; the woman a/k/a Nora Lum received at B.A. from there in 2011.

But it’s Anne Hathaway who steals the film as the seemingly vacuous Daphne Kluger. Part of the movie feels like a clever takedown of celebrity culture and the fashion world. There are many cameos by people such as Heidi Klum, Common, Serena Williams, and various Kardashian/Jenner types.

The revenge angle of the film, involving Richard Armitage as Claude Becker, Debbie Ocean’s former flame, never really held my interest.

Yet the heist itself, and the twist at the end, was rather clever. To the degree the movie works, it’s based on the star power, including James Corden as insurance inspector John Frazier. He almost always looks like James Corden, yet I bought into him in the role.

Ocean’s Eight is not a great film, and probably not a good heist flick, but it’s an amicable one, and the less you know beforehand, the better you may enjoy it.

Leave No TraceLeave No Trace, which I saw by myself at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, is Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini’s screen adaptation of Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment, directed by Granik, and produced by Rosellini.

Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) live in the forests near Portland, OR. They are extremely resourceful, collecting rainwater to drink, using tools efficiently, and hiding away their presence when necessary. Chess is their game of preference.

When their life choice is crushed, they are put into social services system separately. Eventually, they are reunited and put into their new surroundings, but it is a challenge. Fitting into this iteration of the world seems beyond reach.

Leave No Trace is a beautiful, poignant American film. It is, I am told, quite different from Winter’s Bone (2010), Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout role in another Granik/ Rosellini collaboration. Thomasin McKenzie, who is being compared to Lawrence by critics, is an 18-year-old from an acting family in Wellington, New Zealand. Her real voice is very Kiwi, but there’s no evidence of that accent in the performance.

There is very good use of music in this movie, most notably Michael Hurley and Marisa Anderson singing O My Stars. And animals, at pivotal points in the story. Nothing in this seems extraneous. Every choice, including the lack of dialogue early on, seem deliberate methods of advancing the plot.

The film may lead the viewer to questions the nature of society and where the line is between the rights of the individual and the presumed common good. This is largely a gentle, non-violent, yet heartbreaking film which should be experienced, preferably in a theater rather than on a small screen.

Odd, but this is the second father-and-daughter saga I’ve seen this summer, after Hearts Go Loud, and I’m looking forward to yet another one very soon, Eighth Grade, the trailer for which I almost know by heart.

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