The LEGO Batman Movie is a lot of fun. The film strikes a nice balance between the Batman in-jokes and a wider-appealing comedy and narrative.
Batman has an enviable life on the surface. Yet Alfred, his butler, suggests that he lives a solitary life. Bruce Wayne must look after the orphan he has adopted, as well as dealing with Gotham’s criminals…
Following the success of 2014’s The LEGO Movie, it was almost inevitable that a spin-off would appear. Especially so, given that Batman was one of the film’s most memorable and entertaining characters. The LEGO Batman Movie does not seek to do a retread of the superhero origin story. Instead the film concentrates on the protagonist’s relationship with those around him.
The first quarter of The LEGO Batman Movie, is very, very funny. This section will thrill fans of the Batman franchise (in its various guises), and entertain those with just a passing interest. Director Chris McKay gently ribs previous incarnations of the character, but this is always done with affection. This reference to the comic book characters continues throughout, although not quite to the same degree.
After the fizz of the first segment, the film settles to a slower pace of movement and comedy. Jokes later in the film do not match the rapid-fire nature of the first quarter. Nevertheless, they usually hit the mark. The middle section of the film is more thoughtful, concentrating on Batman’s relationship with those he is closest to. Although this works as a narrative strand overall, at times it does feel a little over-egged.
A big part of the film’s appeal is its inclusion of many well-known characters. Like The LEGO Movie, these are depicted with a healthy dose of amusement. The LEGO Batman Movie goes beyond the Batman universe to include other DC characters and even those from other Warner Bros films. These appearances are very welcome, and are just long enough not to detract from the central character.
Animation in the film is excellent. The soundtrack, with its original songs, is fantastic in its ability to set the tone. Will Arnett reprises his role as the voice of Batman with alomb. He has good support from Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, and Michael Cera. Batman fans will raise a wry smile at Billy Dee Williams’ inclusion.
The LEGO Batman Movie does not quite encapsulate the same level of fun and energy as its progenitor, but it comes close. A very entertaining watch.
2016 has been a remarkable year in current affairs, and a sad one for the untimely deaths of so many beloved celebrities. But let us turn our attention to something more comforting – film. As the year draws to a close, it’s time to review the 2016 Hollywood trends. Rather than a countdown of the best films, this article looks at the key trends in mainstream cinema of the year. It has been a year that harks back to Golden Age-Hollywood, whilst superheroes met head to head. Disney have dominated once again, whilst the Summer was lacklustre blockbuster season…
2016 Hollywood Trends: Superheroes Assemble
Although big superheroes appearing together in the same film is not a new phenomenon (2012’s Avengers Assemble and even 2014’s The LEGO Movie attest to this), in 2016 it became a noticeable trend. whilst February’s Deadpool only featured lesser-known X-Men with the title character, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice brought together three of DC’s biggest heroes in one film (paving the way for 2017’s Justice League). Released in April, Captain America: Civil War functioned like ‘Avengers 3’ with the inclusion of Iron Man, Ant-Man and other secondary Avengers. Pivotally, the film boasted the addition of Spider-Man (who had previously appeared only in Sony films). In August, the hotly-anticipated Suicide Squad hit the big screen. The film featured many of Batman’s nemeses together, including the Joker, and Harley Quinn in her first live-action film appearance.
2016 Hollywood Trends: Golden-Age Revival
2016 has been the year for Golden-Age Hollywood nostalgia. The Coen Brother’s comedy Hail, Caesar! focussed on the day in the life of a studio fixer in 1950s Hollywood. As well as all the backstage activity Mannix has to keep under wraps, the film features some great musical sequences harking back to classic Hollywood features. Albeit, with tongue firmly in cheek. Woody Allen’s Café Society focuses on the assistant to a Hollywood producer working in the 1930s. With the action taking place between Hollywood and New York, the film offers wonderful costumes and a salubrious soundtrack. Although it is set in contemporary Los Angeles, La La Land (opening at UK cinemas on 12th January 2017) is brimming with Golden Age nostalgia. The opening sequence, and indeed others later in the musical, are reminiscent of the best technicolor musicals of the 1950s. Continuing this trend, Warren Beatty’s 1950s Hollywood-set Rules Don’t Apply arrives on UK screens in March 2017.
It may not be immediately obvious when looking back at 2016 films, but Michael Shannon has appeared in a plethora of films this year. The actor has no fewer than ten credits for 2016. These range from leading roles in films such as Midnight Special and Frank & Lola, to a supporting role in Loving (released in UK cinemas on 3rd February 2017), and even in a brief flashback in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Shannon delivered a scene-stealing performance in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, released in November. Expect to see more of Shannon next year, with Wener Herzog’s Salt and Fire, among others.
2016 Hollywood Trends: Lacklustre Summer Blockbusters
There were plenty of Summer blockbusters in 2016 (as has been the case for years), but this year’s tentpoles seemed to lack something. July’s The Legend of Tarzan may have delivered somewhat decent worldwide box office grosses, but reviews were less than sparkling. Ghostbusters‘ domestic gross did not get near its reported production budget, and Independence Day: Resurgence received poor reviews. Meanwhile, Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, and Suicide Squad failed to make the impacted expected at the box office. At the tale-end of the Summer, sword and sandals epic Ben-Hur flopped at the box office. If 2016 is anything to go by, 2017’s Summer blockbusters will need to beat family animation and Spring superhero films to take the crown.
Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Pete’s Dragon trailer, The Accountant, Wonder Woman and more…
Pete’s Dragon Trailer
Here is the new Pete’s Dragon trailer. The film is a live-action remake of the animated classic. Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and Wes Bentley are joined by Oakes Fegley as the title character. Pete’s Dragon will be released in UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.
The Accountant Trailer
Here is the latest trailer for The Accountant. The film stars Ben Affleck as a maths savant who works on the books for criminal organisations. Also starring Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons, The Accountant is out in the UK on 4th November 2016.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Featurette
Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson and others discuss the upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Directed by Tim Burton, Jane Goldman wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits UK screens on 30th September 2016.
Office Christmas Party Trailer
Office Christmas Party is a new comedy from Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the directors of The Switch and Blades of Glory. The film is about staff who host an epic Christmas party to impress a potential client. With an ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and Courtney B. Vance, Office Christmas Party makes its way onto UK screens on 9th December 2016.
Here is the second trailer for Ben-Hur. The film is an adaptation of the 1880 Christian novel, like the three film versions that have come before. This version stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, and Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur hits UK screens on 7th September 2016.
T2 Teaser Trailer
This feels like it has come from nowhere. A belated sequel to Trainspotting, T2 reunites director Danny Boyle with the original cast, including Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller. T2 is set for release on 27th January 2016.
Blair Witch Trailer
Another unexpected sequel to a 1990s film. Horror movie The Woods was revealed to be Blair Witch, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch is directed by Adam Winged, who has had recent successes with You’re Next and The Guest. Blair Witch hits UK screens on 16th September 2016.
Nerve seems to the correct name for this film, is the above clip is anything to go by. The film is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who rose to fame through their film Catfish. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, Nerve is out in UK cinemas on 11th August 2016.
Kong: Skull Island Poster
Kong: Skull Island is a reimagining of the cinema stalwart King Kong. The film has a more contemporary setting than the last version of the monster movie. Kong: Skull Island stars Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John Goodman. The film is set for release in 2017.
Wonder Woman Trailer
The film many comic book fans have been waiting decades for is almost here. After her appearance in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman finally gets her own film. Gal Gadot is joined by Chris Pine, Connie Nielson, and Robin Wright. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman will hit cinemas 2nd June 2017.
The LEGO Batman Movie Trailer
After the character was such a big hit in The LEGO Movie, it is no surprise that Batman gets his own film. The LEGO Batman Movie looks like it will be as amusing as its predecessor, if the trailer is anything to go by. With the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera and Rosario Dawson, The LEGO Batman Movie launches on to UK screens in February 2017.
Suicide Squad Video
This Suicide Squad video concentrates on Harley Quinn from the upcoming movie. The film features a roster of villains who are tasked with completing a mission for a US agent. Starring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Viola Davis, Suicide Squad hits UK cinemas on 5th August 2016.
Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has the look and feel of an epic blockbuster, even if the reality does not quite match the expectation.
Following the devastation in Metropolis a year and a half ago, Bruce Wayne is angered that Superman’s power is going unchecked. As Clark Kent and Wayne clash, Lex Luthor puts his plans into motion…
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film many comic book fans would have been waiting for. And yet it isn’t; Man of Steel will never welcome the adoration of 1978’s Superman and there is yet another Batman following the success of the Christopher Nolan trilogy. With expectations readjusted, then, director Zack Snyder’s film is a different beast than the superhero movie to end all superhero movies.
Snyder builds momentum to big moments in the film at a leisurely pace. There are short sequences in Batman V Superman that could easily have been cut – the training sequence serves little purpose, for example. The building of tension is successful to a certain extent, although the film relies on an invested viewer who will wait for the pay off. At times it feels as if Snyder does not have a tight grip on the narrative. Part of the problem is that this film is not a stand-alone picture; it is used to set up the DC franchise of superhero films. This is evident in sequences throughout the film, as if the picture is laying the groundwork for something more.
When the action does arrive, it is well executed for the most part. The use of CGI, although well executed, is too prominent. Nevertheless, action sequences do generate excitement. With Bruce Wayne overwhelmed with anger and stress and Clark Kent given little to play with, the real highlight of the film is the introduction of Wonder Woman. If her spin-off movie has a decent script, no doubt it will be excellent. Visuals in Batman V Superman are highly stylised, and the score is one of the best elements of the film. The dialogue is not fantastic, and there is a lack of care given to the plotting. For all its bluster, the film suffers because the narrative does not match the production values.
Ben Affleck makes a decent Batman, ably assisted by Jeremy Irons’ Alfred. Amy Adams reprises her role as Lois Lane with gusto, but Henry Cavill is given little meat in the script. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor will not be to everyone’s tastes, but his depiction is more palatable than Kevin Spacey’s in Superman Returns. Gal Gadot is well cast as Wonder Woman.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a classic superhero movie, but it does have redeeming qualities. DC fans should enjoy the more serious tone of the film, even if it is not exactly what they were hoping for.
With the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron last week, superhero movie season has just begun.Back in the late 1970-mid-1990s era, audiences were lucky to get one big comic book adaptation a year. Now, this is the tentpole genre, with several new superhero movies being released each year. Both Marvel and DC Movies have revealed a busy slate for the coming years. The reality is, however, that the new superhero hero movies are unlikely to be ‘new’ at all, with the plethora of remakes, spin-offs and reboots that are due to come out in the next few years.
New Superhero Movies
There are in fact some new superhero movies set for release – that is to say films that feature characters or concepts that have not been depicted on the big screen before. These include…
Marvel’s next cinematic release is Ant-Man, which hits the big screen on 17th July 2015. Despite not being one of Marvel’s better-known superheroes, Ant-Man first appeared in comics in the early 1960s. Not carrying the same exposure in other media as some other Marvel title characters, it will be interesting to see how Ant-Man fairs with audiences. Nevertheless, Guardians of the Galaxywas not harmed by a lack of mainstream audience consciousness.
Director David Ayer has been teasing fans will glimpses of the film on his Twitter account. Although some of the characters have appeared in feature films before (notably the Joker and Lex Luthor), Suicide Squad is classed as one of the new superhero movies because the story of this group has not previously been depicted on the big screen.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays the lead role in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. The sorcerer first appeared in marvel comics in 1963. The film, which is set for release on 28th October 2016 in the UK, appears to be an origins story. Which is just as well, given that the superhero is not one of Marvel’s most popular characters.
Although there has been a television film (aired in 1974), as well as the famous television series, Wonder Woman has never starred in her own feature film. Perhaps the most iconic of all female superheroes, Wonder Woman will finally take centre stage in her own cinematic release on 23rd June 2017.
This category occupies the majority of forthcoming releases in the comic book adaptation genre. Many of the new superhero movies are sequels to films released in the last few years, including…
Ryan Reynolds reprises his role (from 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as the Marvel antihero in Deadpool. It is unclear how much of a crossover there will be with the X-Men series of films. But with the star power of Reynolds and the lure of a R-rating in the US, Deadpool is sure to bring in audiences when it is released on 12th February 2016.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
One of the most anticipated movies of 2016, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a follow-up to 2013’s Man of Steel and seemingly a precursor to DC’s forthcoming The Justice League Part 1 and 2. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will offer viewers their first look at Ben Affleck as Batman when it is released on 25th March 2016.
Captain America: Civil War
2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of the best Marvel films thus far, so expectations are high for its sequel. The film will feature a host of Avengers’ characters, including Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye. It seems to be the closest fix to an Avengers movie until 2018, when Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 is released. Captain America: Civil War will hit the big screen on 29th April 2016.
The follow-up to 201’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse sees the return of director Bryan Singer. The film reintroduces a number of characters viewers of the first film series will be familiar with. This time they appear as younger versions, including Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler (pictured above). X-Men: Apocalypse will be released on 19th May 2016.
Another off-shoot of the X-Men franchise, the character is the subject of his own film when Gambit is released on 7th October 2016. This time around, the character is played by Channing Tatum, following Taylor Kitsch’s turn in the role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It has been reported this week that the character may not make an appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse, making it unclear whether Gambit is a sequel that relates to this world, or is a reboot of the character from the 2009 film.
The third-standalone Wolverine film is set for release on 2nd March 2017. Star Hugh Jackman indicated on his Instagram account that this would be the last time he would play the role. Little is known about the plot of the film; it does not yet have an official title. Perhaps the three X-Men film released before Wolverine 3 will have some impact in shaping the film.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
A cinematic adaption one of Marvel’s less-popular franchises, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge worldwide hit. The sequel, when it is released on 28th April 2017, has a lot to live up to. At the moment, it is unclear whether there’ll be any crossover with the Avengers universe, although one of Guardians of the Galaxy 2‘s stars hopes this will be the case.
There are two clear superhero reboots scheduled for release in the next two years, although some of the above films may fall into this category. Audiences can look forward to seeing new versions of…
The 2005 film Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel were hardly great fan favourites, so there does not seem to be a great deal of upset at the reboot of the Marvel franchise. What is promising about this new version is the cast, which includes Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan. With a 2017 sequel already planned, Fantastic Four hits the big screen on 6th August 2015.
Yes a Spider-Man reboot has already been done, with the sequel to that reboot only being released last year. However a new reboot is scheduled for release in 2017, with a number of actors being discussed for the lead role. Although not much is known about this new film at the moment, Spider-Man will appear in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.
This is not the last of this swath of new superhero movies, with both Marvel and DC planning a slate that will continue until at least 2020. These include standalone films for Aquaman and Black Panther, sequels for Thor and others, and reboots such as Green Lantern. After Marvel’s recent dominance of the superhero genre, it will be interesting to see whether DC can regain some of their earlier magic. Despite the apocalyptic action depicted in the films, this is where the real battle lies.
Last week, the cast and crew gathered in London for the Interstellar press conference. Here is what cast members Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy, plus director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas had to say about the film…
On making Interstellar…
Christopher Nolan: My interest in Interstellar was a couple of key things. First was the relationship between the father and the children. I am a father myself and I related to it quite a lot; I found it very powerful. And I liked the idea of combining that with this story that speculates about a potential moment in human evolution where mankind would have to reckon with its place in the wider universe.
Emma Thomas: The thing I love about this film is that it is many things rolled into one. So whilst we were doing the more intimate character stuff, we also had these massive, disparate locations to shoot in. Iceland is an amazing place but a lot of the places that we were in were incredibly remote and incredibly challenging. But I think it really paid off; it’s a lot more fun to watch it than it was to be there in some cases!
On science fiction cinema…
Christopher Nolan: I grew up and what was really a golden age of blockbusters. If you look at Close Encounters [of the Third Kind] and they way it addressed that idea of this inevitable moment where humans would meet aliens, and address it from a family perspective. I really liked the idea of giving today’s audiences some sense of that… One of my earliest movie-going memories is going to Leicester Square to see 2001 [A Space Odyssey] when I was seven years old, and I have never forgotten the scale of that. I saw my first IMAX film when I was fifteen, and immediately I wanted to make features that way at the point. Really for me working on this scale, it’s a long-held dream of mine.
On working with Christopher Nolan…
Matthew McConaughey: It is a compliment to the process that even though this went on for five months, and there was a much larger scope and scale, when you are acting in a Christopher Nolan film it feels just as intimate and just as raw and natural as most independent films are forced to feel because you don’t have the time. But we had the time and the money on Interstellar, but when you are actually shooting, it is very intimate, and very raw and natural.
Jessica Chastain: I don’t normally do big movies, I’m kind of new to this world. I had always been afraid that jumping on a big budget film, you would lose the relationships in favour of special effects. But the great thing about working with Chris is that it is all practical sets, so you actually have things to react to as an actor, which is awesome. We would do three or four takes, and it’s so incredible because he would let me get it out of my system, try what I wanted to without trying to impose on me something that wasn’t natural. With a very delicate hand, he would come over and just say one sentence… and with that tiny, exquisite note, he would open up my performance in a way I would never have imagined.
Mackenzie Foy: Christopher Nolan is awesome! I want to be a director when I get older, and just to be able to watch him work is amazing and it meant a lot to me.
Michael Caine: You spend your life as an actor making a picture saying “is it going to be going to be a hit? Is it going to be a miss?”. I’ve had six pictures working with Christopher, and every one has been a hit. So whenever he says “do you want to do a movie?”, I say “yes”! He said “do you want to read the script?” and I said “no”! It’s quite extraordinary working with him because he also writes it, and nothing is what it seems. I remember the first time he came to me with a script, he came to my house in the country, he said “I’ve got a movie”. I said; “what is it?” and he said “Batman”, and I thought to myself “well I’m too old to play Batman, what does he want me to play?”. He said; “I want you to play the butler” and I thought about the type of dialogue I would have, what do I say; “dinner is served”? And of course I read the script; it wasn’t the butler, it was the foster father.
On favourite science fiction characters…
Christopher Nolan: It’s got to be Darth Vader…
Emma Thomas: I would have to say Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien.
Mackenzie Foy: Either Darth Vader or Spock.
Matthew McConaughey: Chewbacca and Murph [from Interstellar].
Anne Hathaway: R2D2 and Ripley.
Michael Caine: Sandy Bullock in Gravity.
Jessica Chastain: Mine would be Princess Leia and HAL.
Anne Hathaway: Can I add a science fiction character? Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. But I am speaking specifically of the new version.
On saving the environment…
Jessica Chastain: I’m vegan, and I don’t think everyone should be vegan, but I do believe that something like meatless Mondays. If everyone in the world gave up meat for one day it would make a huge difference in terms of the carbon footprint.
Michael Caine: I was so poor for so long that I didn’t use anything, I didn’t eat very much, I figured the world owed me a debt so… I am eating very well and have had a big car for a long time!
Anne Hathaway: I try to do a lot of little things in the hope that they are going to add up. I time my showers, I try not to overly consume things, or blindly consume things…
Christopher Nolan: Communal resources, like gathering people in one place, like a movie theatre. So if you go and see Interstellar every evening, you’ll save an enormous amount of energy!
A bumper edition this week, with plenty of releases for 2013…
Man of Steel
I have always been more of a Batman child than a Superman one, but I did love the Christopher Reeve movies (maybe not the last one). After 2006’s underwhelming Superman Returns, this new version looks more appealing. Henry Cavil stars as the title character in the first full trailer for Man of Steel, due for release in June 2013.
Ageless Tom Cruise has been getting action-heavy recently, with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,Jack Reacher and now Oblivion. This futuristic thriller sees Cruise’s character Jack Harper battle to save mankind. Also starring Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion will be released in UK cinemas on 12 April 2013.
The follow-up to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine is due for release in July 2013. The film sees Hugh Jackman reprise his role from the X-Men franchise. This adventure is set in Japan, as the above poster suggests. I’m sure a trailer for The Wolverine will be released shortly.
The Lone Ranger
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter together again, but not in a Tim Burton film? The emphasis in the above trailer is on the fact that it is the same team behind Pirates of the Caribbean. If executed correctly, The Lone Ranger should be a lot of fun, like the first film of that earlier franchise. The Lone Ranger is due for release next year.
The latest animation from DreamWorks is The Croods, a prehistoric adventure film. The Croods features the voices of Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone. From the above trailer, I am liking the monkey. The Croods will be released in UK cinemas on 22nd March 2013.
Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in Broken City, a crime thriller set in New York. My first thought on viewing this was ‘Russell Crowe’s weave!’. That aside, this tale of corruption could be quite good. Broken City is out on 1st March 2013.
The Last Stand
What is The Last Stand, you ask? Well it is Arnold Schwarzengger’s return to lead roles on the big screen. Schwarzenegger plays the sheriff of a small town where a notorious drug baron is trying to make his escape. The Last Stand, which also stars Forest Whitaker and Rodrigo Santoro, is out on 24th January 2012.
Everyone loves a bit of Alfred Hitchcock, don’t they? The eagerly anticipated Hitchcock tells the story behind the making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins stars as Alfred Hitchcock in the film which also features Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson. Hitchcock is released in UK cinemas on 8th February 2013.