Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

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.

Previews: Rings Trailer, Coco, More!

The first of this year’s previews of coming attractions include the Rings trailer, a new Blade Runner 2049 image, A Cure for Wellness, and more…

Rings Trailer

Here is the latest Rings trailer. The film is a new chapter in the horror franchise. From the synopsis, Rings does not appear to be directly linked to the characters from 2002’s The Ring, or its sequel. The cast includes Matilda Lutz, Jonathan Galecki, and Vincent D’Onofrio. Rings will hit UK screens on 3rd February 2017.

Blade Runner 2049 Image

Above is a new Blade Runner 2049 image. Not much has been revealed about the characters yet – is Ana de Armas’ character a replicant? Is Ryan Gosing’s? Who knows. Also starring Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, and Jared Leto, Blade Runner 2049 is due open in UK cinemas on 6th October 2017.

A Cure for Wellness Trailer

A Cure for Wellness has to be one of this year’s most anticipated movies. This trailer reveals a little more about the plot, which concerns a young executive who is sent to retrieve his CEO from a mysterious “wellness” centre. Directed by Gore Verbinski, the film stars Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, and Jason Isaacs. A Cure for Wellness is due for release in UK cinemas in early 2017.

Mute Image

Here is a brand new image from Netflix’s upcoming Mute. Directed by Duncan Jones, the film stars Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux. Set in the near future, the film is about a mute bartender and his search for his missing girlfriend. Mute will be released by Netflix in all their territories later this year.

Beauty and the Beast Video

Here is a short video featuring the leads from the upcoming Beauty and the Beast movie. If follows the clip of Emma Watson singing ‘Something There’, which was released a few days ago. Beauty and the Beast also stars Dan Stevens, and features the voices of Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The film is out in UK cinemas on 17th March 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie Poster

I am thrilled to see that the upcoming LEGO Batman Movie features Harley Quinn. The film also sees appearances from Robin, The Joker, and Batgirl. Featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Jenny Slate, The LEGO Batman Movie will hit UK screens on 10th February 2017.

Patriots Day Trailer

Patriots Day is the latest film from director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Battleship). The film concentrates on the immediate aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Mark Wahlberg heads up a cast that includes John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, and J.K. Simmons. Patriots Day will be released in cinemas on 23rd February 2017.

Coco Image

Here is the first look at Coco, the latest animated film from Disney Pixar. The movie is about  a young boy who sets of a chain of events relating to a centuries-old mystery. Coco is directed by Pixar stalwart Lee Unkrick and Adrian Molina, who also wrote the film. Featuring the voices of Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt, Coco is due to be released in UK cinemas in December 2017.

Previews: Pete’s Dragon Trailer, The Accountant and More!

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.

Ben-Hur Trailer

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 Clip

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 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.

Film Review: Trance

Trance

With abundant twists and turns, Danny Boyle’s psychological thriller Trance is absorbing and unpredictable.

Auctioneer Simon is taught the protocol in case of a heist at the prestigious auction house where he works. When an attempt is made to steal a valuable painting, Simon follows the routine. A run in with the criminals leaves him unable to remember what happened, and leaves the criminals demanding a painting…

Trance is a thriller which makes the viewer increasingly question everything they see as the film progresses. Director Danny Boyle plays with the audience’s perception, and keeps them guessing over the authenticity of what is being projected. The narrative blurs the line between actuality and the imagined. Trance has a number of layers which makes it unpredictable. It is this aspect that grips the viewer’s attention.

It is difficult to decipher the characters in Boyle’s film. This confusion enters the plot within the first twenty minutes or so. Viewers are never quite sure whether to take scenes or perceived motivations at face value. As elements of the narrative shift frequently and rapidly, it is difficult to know who to root for, particularly given the criminal nature of the activities.

The cinematography in Trance is a highlight. Use of lighting, particularly artificial lighting, really sets the mood. A number of the effects used in the film are also great. Boyle’s film uses music to good effect. Set in London, the depiction of the city has a level of authenticity often missing from other London-centred movies.

Performances from James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel are excellent. Given the ambiguous nature of the characters in the film, the actors do well to render their performances believable.

If you are looking for a film to switch off to, then Trance will not be for you. For everyone else, it is certainly recommended.

Trailer Round-Up

While the Oscar-nominated films may already be out or due for imminent release, there are plenty of films still to look forward to this year…

Trance

Following 2010’s immensely tense 127 Hours, Danny Boyle returns with Trance. The film is a psychological thriller featuring an art auctioneer, a missing painting, a hypnotherapist and a criminal gang. Starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson, Trance is released in UK cinemas on 27th March 2013.

To The Wonder

As the above trailer exhibits, To The Wonder is teeming with the kind of beautiful images we have come to expect from director Terrence Malick. Starring Ben Affleck as a man torn between Olga Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams, To The Wonder is released on 22nd February 2013.

Sammy’s Great Escape

Sammy does not seem to have aged a day! Sammy’s Great Escape appears to be the sequel to A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures. The first film had a definite environmentalist angle, so it will be interesting to see the spin of this new film. Sammy’s Great Escape is in UK cinemas from 15th February 2013.

The Place Beyond The Pines

Ryan Gosling reunites with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance in The Place Beyond The Pines. The crime drama features an all-star cast including Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper and Ray Liotta. The Place Beyond The Pines is released in UK cinemas on 12th April 2013.

Film Review: Zookeeper

Zookeeper is pretty much what you would you would expect from a film starring Kevin James and produced by Adam Sandler. It is mildly entertaining fare, and not as funny as it should be.

Griffin is a zookeeper at Franklin Park Zoo. Five years ago, he had his heart broken by Stephanie when she turned down his marriage proposal. She is back on the scene in the run up to Griffin’s brother’s wedding, but Griffin is clueless about how to act. His beloved animals see this, and reveal a crucial secret: they can speak. The animals make it their duty to help Griffin with his love life…

Zookeeper follows a strict formula, which makes it predictable. Director Frank Coraci relies on stock archetypes to populate his film. Both the humans and the animals are very stereotypical, offering little in terms of innovation. Zookeeper is very much by the numbers, which would not be much of a problem if the film was funnier.

As it stands, the film lacks consistent humour. There are a few fairly amusing moments, but the film can never be described as hilarious. Many of the jokes rely upon the personalities of the animals. If you do not find these characters amusing, you are unlikely to find the humour funny.

Despite the presence of talking animals, perhaps what is most difficult to believe is that two very attractive women would be in a love triangle with Kevin James. This may seem like a shallow contention, but the women are both very attractive. Moreover, Griffin is not a particularly charming character. He is a nice guy, but he does not have a fantastic personality. And, for the misfortune of the two female characters and the entire audience, Griffin is not funny.

The casting in Zookeeper is hit and miss. Sylvester Stallone and Cher are most appropriate as the lions Joe and Janet. Nick Nolte brings some presence to the film as Bernie the gorilla. Adam Sandler, however, is abominable as Donald the monkey. The character has some of the best lines, which are ruined by Sandler’s sub-par delivery. Kevin James delivers his usual routine as Griffin, while Leslie Bibb is suitably one-dimensional as Stephanie. Rosario Dawson is decent, but restricted by her underdeveloped role.

Zookeeper does offer good special effects as well as some great animal actors. Nevertheless, it lacks the humour really required in a film such as this.

Film Review: Unstoppable

Inspired by actual events, Tony Scott’s Unstoppable is a white-knuckle ride almost from the offset. There are, of course, the inevitable Hollywood clichés, but for the most part the movie is thrilling entertainment.

After an engineer’s error, an unmanned freight train speeds toward densely populated areas in Pennsylvania. As the rail company scramble to prevent widespread damage, a veteran engineer and a rookie conductor race against time to try and stop the train…

Unstoppable effectively builds pace following some necessary expository scenes. Giving the film its heart is the background of the two engineers. Their interactions with their families is borderline schmaltz, but understandable given the precariousness of the situation. Elsewhere, Hollywood conventions dictate that the train of schoolchildren is never in any real danger; it is hard to imagine they would be killed off so mercilessly.

These minor qualms aside, Unstoppable is a highly enjoyable thriller. The film excels in building anxiety, gripping viewers until its electrifying climax. The tension generated in Unstoppable is largely thanks to Scott’s directorial style and Chris Lebenzon and Robert Duffy’s superlative editing. Scott combines wide-angle shots with extreme close-ups, handheld footage with the television crew footage in a frenetic style that is at times dizzying, but wholly effective. The editing adds to this atmosphere, with a high cutting rate ensuring heightened anxiety.

Harry Gregson-Williams’ score combines well with the visuals, perfectly setting the tone. The colours are muted, and shots of the rail track and equipment give the film a gritty effect. This contrasts strikingly with the polished television footage from Fox, who incidentally produced the film. The onscreen captions that inform of the locations drive home the proximity of the danger. For the majority of viewers who will be unfamiliar with the geography, it is a useful tool in gauging the peril. Mark Bomback’s script allows for technical talk without losing the audience. There are a few cracks, but the intention is clearly to thrill viewers rather than making them laugh.

Denzel Washington gives a good performance, as ever, as veteran engineer Frank. He portrays the character as levelheaded and cool despite the immense pressure. As Will, Chris Pine makes a convincing rookie. Rosario Dawson meanwhile exudes a feisty attitude as Connie. Lew Temple brings some lightness as Ned, particularly at the very end of the film.

Unstoppable is an exciting film that is made all the more surprising by the fact that it is based on true events. For those wishing to partake in a 98-minute thrill ride – all aboard.