The LEGO Batman Movie

A new review from The Movie Snob

The LEGO® Batman Movie  (C). I thought The LEGO Movie was kind of cute, but this sequel really didn’t do it for me.  The animation was kind of cool, but as usual in modern action movies everything moved so fast during the action sequences that I couldn’t even keep up with what was happening, much less appreciate the artistry.  The movie was crammed with references to all the previous incarnations of Batman, including the campy Adam West TV series, and I have to admit I did laugh out loud a few times at some of the off-the-wall references.  And it was kind of fun when the Joker managed to unleash a vast array of bad guys from The Phantom Zone, including Godzilla, King Kong, The Wicked Witch of the West, Voldemort, and even Sauron himself.  But the movie felt overly long, and the plot about Batman’s learning to work with others and to open himself up to a new family was pedestrian.  There was plenty of star power behind the voicework, though: Will Arnett (Blades of Glory) as Batman, Michael Cera (This Is the End) as Robin, Rosario Dawson (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) as Commissioner Gordon, Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I) as Alfred the Butler (rather than Voldemort, for some reason), Siri herself as the computer, and Zach Galifianakis (Birdman) as The Joker, just to name the main ones.

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A Bigger Splash

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

A Bigger Splash  (C-).  Or perhaps more aptly, Lifestyles of the Rich and Decadent.  Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive) stars as Marianne Lane, a big rock-n-roll star who is vacationing on a remote Italian island with her lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts, Black Book) after surgery on her vocal cords.  Their quiet interlude is shattered by the unexpected arrival of Marianne’s former lover, manic record producer Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes, Hail, Caesar!) and his 22-year-old daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson, How to Be Single).  Sexual tension runs in all sorts of directions as the quartet drink in the Mediterranean sunshine and, of course, large amounts of alcohol.  Watchable, but it didn’t really seem to add up to much.

Hail, Caesar!

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Hail, Caesar!  (B-).  With the glaring and painful exception of Barton Fink, I have yet to see a Coen brothers movie I didn’t like.  (Granted, I haven’t seen them all.)  True Grit, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother Where Art Thou? are all classics in my book.  Their current release has its pleasures, but I think it is definitely a lesser entry in the Coen canon.  It’s a pure comedy and a tribute to the movies of the 1940s and 1950s.  (Apparently there are a gazillion references to movies and Hollywood scandals of that era.  They went over my head, but I think I did catch an homage to Fargo.)  Josh Brolin (Sicario) stars as Eddie Mannix, a honcho for Capital Studios who is pulled in a million directions at once as he tries to keep his movies and his movie stars out of trouble.  George Clooney (Intolerable Cruelty) costars as Baird Whitlock, a matinee idol who is supposed to be starring in a big Ben Hur-like production but who has been kidnaped by a mysterious group called The Future.  And there are scads of other stars on hand, including Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as a fey director of costume dramas, Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation) as a pregnant movie star in a mermaid suit, and Channing Tatum (She’s the Man) as the star of a South Pacific-like musical.  I enjoyed the energy of the picture, but it didn’t really seem to add up to much—except maybe to say gee, isn’t show biz crazy?

Schindler’s List

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Schindler’s List  (A-).  I did not get around to seeing the winner of the 1994 Oscar for Best Picture until last night — I had bought the DVD years ago, but could never bring myself to watch it.  It is, of course, as good and as powerful as I had expected it to be.  A young Liam Neeson (Clash of the Titans) plays Oskar Schindler, an amoral, womanizing entrepreneur who moves to Krakow, Poland, and hatches a very successful plan to profit from WWII by using cheap Jewish laborers to manufacture things for the German army.  Gradually, his eyes are opened to the Nazi horror, and by the end of the movie he has spent his entire fortune on the bribes necessary to save the lives of some 1,100 Jews.  Neeson turns in a fine performance (Tom Hanks beat him out for the Best Actor Oscar for Philadelphia), as does a young Ralph Fiennes (Wrath of the Titans) as Amon Goeth, the psychotic Nazi commandant of the labor camp outside Krakow.  (Tommy Lee Jones beat Fiennes for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Fugitive.)  Ebert included Schindler’s List in his first book The Great Movies, and with good reason.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

The Grand Budapest Hotel  (B).  I hardly know what grade to give the latest movie from writer-director Wes Anderson.  He is known (to me, anyway), as director of whimsical movies, some of which I have liked (Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox) and some of which I haven’t (The Royal Tenenbaums, Bottle Rocket).  The Grand Budapest Hotel is a very watchable film, with a madcap story that barely pauses to let you catch your breath.  Although the movie is imaginative and occasionally amusing, it is so suffused with nostalgia and deeply felt loss that I left feeling pretty sad.  The cast is a who’s who of working actors, but Ralph Fiennes (Wrath of the Titans) is the star and really steals the show.  He plays M. Gustave, a concierge at a fabulous resort hotel somewhere in eastern Europe just before World War II.  He takes a young refugee (from the Middle East, I think?) under his wing as the hotel’s new lobby boy, and the two have quite a series of adventures.  Among the many familiar faces who turn up are the lovely Saoirse Ronan (The Host), F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Jeff Goldblum (Nashville), Jude Law (Side Effects), and Edward Norton (Fight Club).  If you like Wes Anderson, I think you will almost certainly like this movie.  But don’t go expecting a straight comedy.

Skyfall

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Skyfall  (C-).  I barely caught the latest James Bond flick before it disappeared from the theaters, and I have to say I am glad I saw it in the dollar theater because it just wasn’t that good.  Mainly, it is too darned long–almost two and half hours–and it just kind of sags and drags along for a lot of that running time.  Do we really need to see Ralph Fiennes (Wrath of the Titans) arguing with Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents) about how the nature of spying has changed, blah blah blah?  It’s nice that we get filled in on some backstory for M and even for 007 himself, but a little of that kind of stuff goes a long way.  Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) was decent as the villain, but the beautiful Berenice Marlohe has like three minutes of screen time as the “Bond girl” of this installment.  In short, I don’t really get the hype that Skyfall garnered, and it has made me start to wonder about the Bond franchise in general.  Aren’t most of them overly long, overly complicated, and really just not that good?  Hmmm.

Wrath of the Titans

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Wrath of the Titans  (F).  Wow.  How could this movie go so wrong?  Okay, granted it’s a sequel to a remake of a 1981 movie that wasn’t very good in the first place.  Nevertheless, the original Clash of the Titans holds a very special place in my heart.  Thirteen-year-old me thrilled to the sight of ancient Greek hero Perseus (Harry Hamlin, TV’s L.A. Law) slaying Medusa, battling giant scorpions, and saving Princess Andromeda from a giant sea monster.  The bloated 2010 remake didn’t recapture the magic of the original, and it inexplicably introduced a second female character to distract Perseus from Andromeda, but it was not totally bereft of charm.  This movie, however, was quite bereft of charm — and logic, editing, and everything else that makes a movie good.  Well, with one exception; it does feature the lovely Rosamund Pike (Pride & Prejudice), who replaces the original actress as Andromeda.  But unfortunately, Pike has nothing to do in this movie except follow Perseus around, get tossed like a rag doll in the occasional ancient Greek explosion or earthquake, and look gorgeous through the photogenic streaks of dirt and blood that appear on and disappear from her face at random.  And how much money did they have to dangle in front of Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) and Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List) to get them to appear in this stinkbomb?  Anyhoo, the plot, such as it is, is something about Hades and Ares scheming against Zeus and the rest of the gods in order to release the ancient Greek titan Kronos, so Perseus has to pad out the film, er, I mean go on a mythical quest, to find out how to stop Kronos from destroying the universe.  Oog.  The stupidity was palpable.