Category Archives: Superhero

“Batman Begins” Movie Review

Why did the Batman franchise fall? So that it could learn to pick itself up. Or at least when a competent filmmaker is given the reigns of it all. This superhero thriller drama debuted in June of 2005, going on to earn just under $375 million at the worldwide box office and helped propel this comic book property to critical heights. After nearly a decade of dropped directors, budget deficits, and scrapped ideas, (Including an early version of Batman v Superman) Warner Bros. finally hired director Christopher Nolan to reinvent the DC character, who at that point had only been known for Memento. The PG-13 rated plot ultimately takes the origin story of Batman, one of the most iconic fictional characters in American pop culture, in a dark and gritty direction. After billionaire Bruce Wayne witnesses his parents get murdered, he leaves to join the mysterious League of Shadows to learn the ways of justice. Years later, he returns to Gotham City and uses his money and resources to fight crime on the streets as the masked night-time vigilante known as Batman. After the disaster that was 1997’s Batman and Robin, so many comic book fans were skeptical that a relatively unknown director could bring one of their favorite characters back to life. At this point he had become a joke of a hero, what with plastic nipples and Bat-Credit Cards. But Nolan not only accomplished this goal with flying colors, he also made a great movie in general. Future Oscar-winner Christian Bale plays Bruce Wayne/Batman and is absolutely perfect in the lead. He essentially plays a triple role; the real Bruce Wayne around his butler when he’s being himself, the vigilante caped and cowled in the night, and the facade of Bruce Wayne that most of Gotham’s people see him as- which is a drunken billionaire playboy who cares about nothing except money and women. And watching this man carelessly bringing European girlfriends to a hotel that he immediately buys out for a new swimming pool is rather funny. Speaking of funny, Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth brought both a fatherly figure and a great sense of comic relief without it feeling forced. He often offers our hero some great advice before he dons the outfit to fight more crime, but isn’t afraid to say what’s really on his mind. Liam Neeson shines as Bruce’s temporary mentor, Henry Ducard, in a role right before the man became a flat-out action star. Other veterans in strong supporting roles include Morgan Freeman as the technologically helpful Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as the one honest cop in Gotham James Gordon, Tom Wilkinson as the arrogant mob boss running the streets of Gotham City, and Cillian Murphy as an ironically insane mental doctor. Meanwhile, Katie Holmes as the main love interest feels like a shoehorned afterthought and would be better established in the nest installment. The action, like the rest of the movie, feels very gritty and grounded in reality. The character’s background in ninja expertise lends itself well, even if sometimes it looks a bit uncomfortable. This being only Nolan’s second big-studio film, his first foray into action scenes leaves a bit to be desired. But watching the Caped Crusader eliminating a gang of street thugs never gets old. In the first film of their long-running collaboration, Hans Zimmer composes the musical score in epic fashion. However, he brings on some professional help with fellow industry titan James Newton Howard. One of the more memorable superhero scores of recent times, the centerpiece consists of fast-moving strings building up to a horn sound off. Also worth noting are the pulsating electric drums in action scenes that help establish the tension. Batman Begins is also a fantastic film filled with thematic statements consistent with Christopher Nolan’s filmography. The most obvious of these is facing your fears, no matter how frightening it may be. Bruce Wayne as a kid is terrified of bats and still is as an adult. But he embraces his phobia and turns his dread onto his enemies. Proof positive that Batman is no laughing matter who sports plastic nipples and suits that can’t let him rotate his head. Joking aside, the titular character also seems to be looking for a father figure to mentor him in the realities of the corrupt world around him. Since his real father was murdered in cold blood when he was a child, Bruce has looked to both Alfred and Ducard for that hole in his personal life. This opens up an interesting philosophical dichotomy for the hero, with one side teaching him to counter a ruthless world with more ruthlessness and the other encouraging him to fight against corruption without excessive violence. While this film and The Dark Knight Rises were arguably overshadowed by the sequel to come, Batman Begins is a greatly realized and super satisfying start to a trilogy that’s among the proudest in its genre. Each time I watch it makes it better and remains a fine superhero movie. And Bruce Wayne doesn’t even do his cape and cowl until over an hour into the experience. That’s the craft and dedication they poured into it.

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“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” Movie Review

Now I know for a fact that I need to own a walkman. In fact, if anyone would be so kind as to send me one for Christmas this year, I will be the happiest man on Earth. This science-fiction comic book superhero movie was released worldwide on May 5th, 2017, officially becoming the 15th installment of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following in the footsteps of its predecessors getting released on the first week of May, the film opened to about $440 million worldwide at the box office. Taking just a few months after the vents of the first installment, the titular team have become a renowned intergalactic mercenary group. The leader of the group, Peter “Starlord” Quill, unearths some new discoveries about his ancestry and sets out to find his father, Ego. All the while, the company of mercenaries called the Ravagers, led by Yondu, are hot on their trail for glory and gold. Now way back in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the very first movies I ever did a review of on my blog. It was hilarious, heartfelt, and perhaps the most ambitious production ever taken up by Marvel Studios, as these were previously characters whom very few people were familiar with. And now we get to see a sequel written and directed by James Gunn, and how is it? To be honest, it was a bit of a letdown in some regards, but still really enjoyable and entertaining. Right off the bat, Chris Pratt leads the big ensemble cast with his traditional likability and overall sense of humor. Previously a “nobody” just a few years ago, this man has been taking over Hollywood one blockbuster after another. Zoe Saldana returns as his green-skinned love interest Gamora, who is kicks a lot of ass and looks sexy while doing it. Former wrestler Dave Bautista may not be given much to say or do for a majority of the 136 minute-long film, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t make me laugh a lot. His great sense of timing and wicked physical comedy makes him probably the funniest member of the titular group of misfits. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel reprise their voice roles as the genetically modified Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot, both of whom were just adorable in their own twisted ways. Big names like Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Chris Sullivan, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michael Rooker round out the impressive supporting cast. Rooker and Russell were both particularly noteworthy in their roles as Yondu and Ego, respectively, bringing a sort of human element to this otherwise otherworldly tale. Most everyone else seems like they were there just to say that they were part of the Marvel franchise. One of the distinguishing factors of the first movie was the astonishing, if somewhat overused visual effects. These effects continue to dazzle in the second installment, with a beautiful use of bright and vibrant colors for the ships, planets, and even the characters. The makeup design of several aliens is pretty impressive, especially of the gold-skinned Sovereign race, an arrogant people whose stoicism makes for some unexpected laughs. Though by the second half, it becomes pretty easy to tell when there’s a green screen in the background because some locations just look too fantastical to build with real sets or shoot on-location. And yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is really funny just like the last one, albeit not quite as much. Often, the humor comes out from the awkward dialogue among the characters, such as Starlord referring to his semi-romantic relationship with Gamora as “this unspoken thing.” One notable standout is when the Sovereign race tries to attack the Guardians after screwing them over on a deal, and send spaceships out to fight. But all of these ships are remotely controlled from their home planet and emulate something of a video game. One has to wonder how long it will be before any real-life military will start using this system to virtually train its soldiers for combat. Tyler Bates returns from the first film to provide the original score. But like many other Marvel productions, the main theme and other tracks are forgettable and sub-par, only standing out in moments where it all intensifies. However, Gunn attempts to make up for this with yet another soundtrack of old tunes. Mostly consisting of pop songs from the late 70’s and the early 80’s, my personal favorite was “Father and Son” by the controversial Cat Stevens. It evoked the right amount of emotion for the overall theme of the lost bond between father and son found in the relationship Starlord and his mysterious patriarch. Aside from this, and a brilliant addition of “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah in the opening sequence- which was all shown on a single, uninterrupted shot -this soundtrack, I feel, is not worth buying as a whole. Most of them did fit in with the story, but others felt somewhat gratuitous. In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a solid, if a little disappointing, space romp that just doesn’t quite hit the heights of the original. Excellent visuals and a bevy of characters that we love keep this superhero story aloft in memory and enjoyment.

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“Iron Fist” T.V. Show Review

This was bound to happen. I knew it, you knew it, we all knew it was coming- we just weren’t sure it would be this far. Marvel Entertainment has finally released their first true stinker. This supernatural comic-book superhero television series released all 13 episodes of its first season on March 17th, 2017. The final solo series in the lead up to the Marvel/Netflix crossover event The Defenders, it thus far remains one of the online network’s most-watched original series., if not critically successful. Set against the backdrop of Upper Manhattan, the show focuses on Danny Rand, a young billionaire who returns after being presumed dead for about 15 years to reclaim his parents’ enormous company. What did he do that entire time, many characters ask? He was adopted by Buddhist monks who taught him the ways of kung-fu and how to use the power of an ancient force known as the Iron Fist to fight against the evil organization known as The Hand. Now he has come back to New York to reunite with his childhood friends, the Meachums, and hopefully continue his campaign of defending his people. Alright, let’s get this out of the way right now before you make a decision to watch it: Iron Fist is not a good show. Firstly, the main character of Danny Rand is not very compelling or interesting. Contrary to popular belief, he was not actually whitewashed with the casting of Finn Jones, as he was a white man in the comics, to begin with. But even if that were a problem, then that would be the absolute last thing wrong with the show. No, Finn Jones is just unfit to carry this show on his shoulders, coming off as annoying and bland as the titular hero. Previously, he had been excellent in his small but memorable role as the Prince of Flowers in Game of Thrones, so what happened? I don’t blame him, considering the fact that his backstory is super lame. In all fairness, though, I will give it to both Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing and Tom Pelphrey as Edward Meachum. They were clearly the most interesting characters all season, and really did the best they could with the limited material that was given. Henwick elevated herself above the stereotypical superhero love interest as a badass martial arts teacher, while Pelphrey was an unpredictable billionaire with a bad drug habit. Meanwhile, Rosario Dawson, Wai Ching Ho and Carrie Anne Moss reprise their roles as Claire Temple, Madam Gao and Jeri Hogarth, respectively, from the previous Marvel/Netflix shows. The three of them did a respectable job, despite their criminally limited screen-time. Other cast members include Jessica Stroup, Ramon Rodriguez, Sacha Dhawan, and Lord of the Rings alumni David Wenham. No matter how much they all try, none of them are able to escape the character archetypes you expect them to be. Leading into my next point, Iron Fist is absurdly predictable at every turn. One of the things that made shows like Jessica Jones and Daredevil so compelling was the fact that the storylines were extremely well-written and smart. I couldn’t have predicted many things that played out over the seasons. But here, I called out every single major plot point and piece of character development from the first two episodes alone, and I was right on all counts. Speaking of the first two episodes, they’re just awful. The time it takes to set up the whole story of the season is dreadfully pompous and frustratingly boring. None of the main characters are likable at the beginning, when you’re supposed to start caring about them and getting invested in them. However, to the show’s credit, the next couple of episodes were entertaining. Especially in the sixth, when we’re getting an idea of the threat that Danny Rand is facing off against: The Hand. And as soon as they came into the picture, this show picked the fuck up, and I started having some fun. It was at this point that I was starting to get won over after all my initial complaints… but then the last three episodes came. That’s when the writers lost themselves and just slapped together an ending that feels like a completely different show than what started out. In fact, easily the largest flaw with this show is that it’s completely confused in the tone and genre. You’d think that with the Marvel name slapped in front, it’d be an exciting superhero action story. But the fights are often underwhelming and it instead focuses on the melodrama of a rich family in Manhattan. So then, it’s got to be an engaging soap opera, right? But then, it also focuses a lot of the story on board meetings and business litigation in Rand Enterprise. So it tries to be some sort of socially relevant commentary on corporate greed and corruption, even though our hero is the heir to a billion-dollar company. This series has no idea on what it actually wants to be about that it compromises everything else in the process. Here’s the main purpose of Iron Fist: It can’t stand on its own because it’s too weak. It establishes the big picture and what the problem is, and what they’re fighting in The Defenders. It pains me to say, but Iron Fist is a frustrating hodgepodge of conflicting ideas. Though they do come together to occasionally provide some fleeting enjoyment, this is not a show worth more than one marathon, as I finished it in two days.

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“Power Rangers” Movie Review

There’s not a person alive who saw a trailer for the new Power Rangers movie and didn’t think of Chronicle meets The Breakfast Club. Furthermore, there’s not a person alive who saw the new Power Rangers movie and didn’t think of Chronicle meets The Breakfast Club. This is how the world is made, and it shall continue as such. This science-fiction superhero action film was released by franchise creator Haim Saban on March 24th, 2017. Despite generally positive reactions from the audience, the movie has yet to recoup its staggering $100 million budget and wasn’t even the highest grossing film of its opening weekend. A reboot of the highly lucrative Japanese media franchise, the plot follows five teenagers with attitude- Jason, Kimberly, Trini, Billy, and Zack -in the small town of Angel Grove after bonding in detention. They stumble upon an ancient artifact that leads them to Zordon, a being who informs them of their new position as the new Power Rangers. Now they’re tasked with defending life on Earth from the newly awoken threat, Rita Repulsa. As a child, I grew up with the Power Rangers, from the original Mighty Morphin’ series up to S.P.D. Looking back on it now, however, it’s clear that not only am I not in the demographic anymore, but the shows simply don’t hold up today. So I walked into the theater with some trepidation. And for much of the film, I was sitting on the razor’s edge of liking it and loathing it. However, by the end, I left having surprisingly liked it more than I thought I would. Are there flaws? Absolutely. But right now, let’s divulge the good things about this picture. Getting it right off the bat, the five main actors do a surprisingly great job with their respective characters. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Becky G, Ludi Lin, and RJ Cyler have bright careers ahead in their future thanks to their commitment and chemistry with one another. Cyler, in particular, was excellent as the Blue Ranger. Though he’s a bit annoying at first, he (and consequently the audience) grows more comfortable with his role with a sense of heart and keeping his wits about. Aside from the newcomer leads, the supporting cast is filled with some rather large players in key side roles. The most notable one is Bryan Cranston as Zordon, marking his return to the franchise after voicing some of the creatures in the pilot episode of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers television series. His role as an almost ethereal mentor to a generation of new potential Rangers is a welcome relief from his villainous performances in T.V. like Sneaky Pete and his iconic character in Breaking Bad. Comedian Bill Hader brings his signature awkwardness to the voice of Alpha 5, a bumbling and precarious robot with good intentions. It’s clear that he loves his role. However, Elizabeth Banks’ portrayal of the villain Rita Repulsa didn’t feel believable or interesting. She spent the majority of her screen time over exaggerating her evil voice and stroking her long fingernails over new technology. Her character has always been an over-the-top intergalactic zealot, but it didn’t seem to flow with the tone of the movie. In fact, the areas this movie struggled the most in were in the tone and pacing. Much of the film’s marketing painted it as a darker, grittier reimagining of this kid-oriented franchise. Bryan Cranston, by his own word, even compared it to The Dark Knight. I would never go as far as to say the film has that much substance, but its influence is evident. While it does have moments of fun and humor, Power Rangers relies heavily on gritty story elements and visuals. Even their armor, as cool and practical as it looks, feels like an edgy Iron Man knockoff. The thing that made the original show so appealing is that it knew what it was, regardless of the cheese factor- and there was a lot of it. This one felt as if it suffered from an identity crisis at times. Also, the pacing of the movie was very wonky and inconsistent. In fact, the main characters don’t even get suited up until nearly 80% percent of the way through the 2 hours and 4 minute-long runtime. While they do take on a few threats before then, much of the time is spent examining these individuals’ personal lives. And in some ways, this is an interesting venture. In one particular scene, which was probably my favorite, all five of them sit by a campfire and discuss their deep personal troubles. It just made it feel a bit more human. Especially considering this is the first big-budget superhero movie to feature characters on the LGBT and autism spectrum- even if it felt a bit like tokenism. Known for extravagant action films, Brian Tyler’s score is a diverse one. Switching back and forth with intricate electronic tracks and big orchestral battle tunes is neat, if unmemorable. the best accomplishment from the soundtrack, however, has to be the inclusion of the theme song, “Go,Go, Power Rangers!” from the original show. Hearing that play as the Zords fought it out with giant monsters brought a warm feeling of nostalgia back, as if I were watching the old episodes in front of my old T.V. while acting out the fight moves. Nothing with a lot of substance or rewatch value, Power Rangers delivers great acting and nostalgia-inducing moments, especially for longtime fans. If you’re a newcomer to this franchise, you mayn’t be interested in trying this film out. You could wait a little while until it comes out on DVD or Blu-Ray, especially because this is the first in a planned six-movie story arc. Brace yourselves.

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“Logan” Movie Review

Franchisees should end more often these days. This comic book superhero drama was released on March 3rd, 2017, following its critically successful debut at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in late February. It has since grossed over $250 million worldwide against its $97 million budget, becoming the 2nd biggest opening for an R-rated film screened in IMAX theaters. And I’ll touch on that in a second, but let’s get to the plot. Set in the dystopian-like future 2029, most of the mutants, including the X-Men have been wiped out for some amount of time. The superhero the Wolverine, who now goes by Logan, (or James Howlett, as he tells several humans) is living in a desperate state of old age and financial strain. His quiet life is interrupted when a little girl named Laura comes knocking at his door, begging for protection from a group of shadowy corporate lackeys wanting her for medical experiments. I want to make this clear from the get-go: Logan is not just a superhero movie. This is the fist film of the genre I’ve seen in many years that actually compares with The Dark Knight. With that one, it was a fantastic epic crime saga and psychological dissection of intriguing characters that just happened to have comic book names in it. It’s almost the same case with Logan. This one feels more like an old Western tale, specifically that of George Stevens’ 1953 Technicolor classic, Shane. In fact, director James Mangold borrows some of the same aspects of that film- a gruff cowboy trying to hang up his guns who keeps getting pursued by trouble -in this movie’s narrative to great effect. In the title role, Hugh Jackman is absolutely stunning as Logan/Wolverine. His “I’m-no-hero” demeanor is perfect for the bleak and desolate environment of this future setting he’s in. Laying beside him in his electric wheelchair is Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, who is nothing short of marvelous here. Allow me to put some minds at ease: for those of you who saw him drop the F-bomb in the red band trailer, it’s okay. It totally works for the context of everything in the story’s progression. Meanwhile, Boyd Holbrook, star of the acclaimed Netflix drama Narcos, is convincing as the main villain Donald Pierce. A cyborg security director, he sets himself apart from other supervillains due to his refusal to become over-the-top evil and wry sense of humor. He’s a mutant-hating mercenary, for sure, but he just has a fun personality that makes you both like him and long for Logan to murder him when the opportunity presents itself. Other supporting players include Eriq La Salle and Elise Neal are nurturing parents on a farm, Elizabeth Rodriguez as a fearful surrogate mother and medical doctor, Richard E. Grant was methodical and calculating as the head of a shadowy corporation, and Stephen Merchant as the senile yet endearing albino Caliban. They’re all given enough to say and do to add something different to the film as a whole. But in terms of scene-stealing talent, newcomer Dafne Keen is positively brilliant as Laura. Even though she’s barely a teenager, she proves that she can hold her own against older acting veterans. This is especially impressive considering her character has very few lines of spoken dialogue; most of her screentime is spent scowling at either the enemies or her mutant guardians. Technically speaking, it’s very impressive. The sound design is well mixed in every scene, even during the quieter moments. From the crunching of bones to the gushing of blood to the sound of nature, the audience can hear damn near everything that happens. Meanwhile, the camera work from John Mathieson is equally visceral. The contrast in colors like red and green feels like a perfect opponent to the grim reality of the world built within. And while yes, it does move into the cliches of comic book film with shaky movements and quick action cuts, these moments are thankfully sparse throughout the 137 minute-long runtime. Marco Beltrami, who previously collaborated with Mangold on 3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine, composes the film’s score. It foregoes the bombastic, orchestral battle tracks of previous films, and instead uses influences of horror and Western movies. Various motifs and minimalist instruments are used throughout and fit perfectly for the tone and story. And now we get to the much-hyped  R-rating. Dear God, isn’t it completely warranted and justified? It had been apparently clear from minute-2 alone that this was going to be a very different kind of superhero movie. One that is brimming with chopped limbs, excessive swearing, gushing blood, and disturbing skin/body damage. I urge you not to take your little kids or your grandparents to see Logan, as they will probably walk out when it all goes down. Even without all that, the story is still very dark, grim, mature, and not very uplifting. Just look at Jackman and Stewart for further proof. You’d think after playing these roles for 17 years, they’d be exactly what you expected them to be. But they are old, weathered down, exhausted, and rather pessimistic on life. Even Wolverine is like a 60-year-old man, because of something I have to tell you. It’s a very minor spoiler and isn’t THE THING in the movie. With his constant drinking, his adamantium bone structure is deteriorating, poisoning his healing factor. That really makes the audience think, “Dude… give it up man. It’s okay.” But that just demands further praise for Jackman’s acting, which many speculate could earn him nominations in the coming award season. Logan is not only, the best Xmen movie to date, but it’s also one of the best superhero films ever made. This is the most perfect, poignant, and beautiful sendoff Hugh Jackman could have possibly gotten. It sounds like I’m being a fanboy, but the fact remains- I kid not -Logan almost made me cry.

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“The Lego Batman Movie” Movie Review

There is a common belief in the world of cinema that if you put Batman into anything, then it’s bound to be good. That is a completely correct statement, and movies like this are why. This animated superhero action-comedy was released on February 10th, 2017, grossing over $90 million in the first weekend alone. With the unexpected success of 2014’s The Lego Movie, Waner Bros. quickly announced its plans for an expanded franchise of films set in this buildable universe, including The Lego Ninjago Movie, which is set for a release in September. Set 3 years after the adventures of Emmet Brickowsky wrapped up, the titular hero returns to Gotham City. After their latest battle against one another, his greatest enemy The Joker is heartbroken when he realizes that Batman doesn’t think much of him- or anyone, for that matter. So he formulates a plan to take the Dark Knight, and his sidekick Robin the Boy Wonder, down in a blaze of glory. When I first saw the trailer for The Lego Batman Movie, I didn’t know what to think of it, primarily because spin-offs that focus on supporting characters have had a bad track record.. However, that fear was completely gone during the first 5-10 minutes of this movie, when I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so hard. It set the tone for the rest of the movie, and for the remainder of its 104 minute-long runtime, it’s line after line and quip after quip of Batman spoof comedy. I’m telling you, it was exhausting. Though it does take a slight dip about halfway through, finally giving audience members time to catch a breath. It’s at that point when we start to see the family dynamic flourish, which really works for the title character’s nature. And in the lead role, Will Arnett is brilliant and hilarious in his voice role. Mimicking the rough, throat cancer-laden voice of Christian Bale from the Dark Knight trilogy, this is perhaps my second favorite on-screen portrayal of the character. Let’s be honest: There was a point where Batman could not be taken seriously anymore. *cough Save Martha cough cough* And considering the extensive lore from both the comic books and movies, there’s a lot of material to draw from and parody regarding this character. Opposite him, Zach Galifianakis brings his awkward nature to The Joker. He’s not up in the annals with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, but he is a perfect villain for what they were going for. It’s just so fun to watch him unfold his master plan, regardless of what media he’s in, and The Lego Batman Movie is no exception. He takes the help from a multitude of villains from the Batman rogues gallery. From Harvey Two-Face and Bane to Z-List villains like The Condiment Man and Mr. Pokadot, (Who, to my everlasting shame, do actually exist) chances are every Batman bad guy you can imagine is here. In the supporting cast, all the actors and actresses seem to indulge themselves in their roles. Ralph Fiennes as a wise, loyal and somewhat sarcastic butler father figure in Alfred Pennyworth, Michael Cerra reunites with his Arrested Development co-star as orphan Robin/Dick Grayson, Rosario Dawson is the strong-willed Barabara Gordon, Channing Tatum as Kryptonian goody two-shoes Superman, and Jonah Hill as the impeccably dumb guardian Green Lantern/Hal Jordan. Even without a microphone, there are still probably a dozen cameos in this film. Not just limited other DC properties like the Justice League, The Lego Batman Movie incorporates characters from all sorts of different media franchises, mostly those owned or distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. This includes Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Godzilla, and The Matrix references any fan is sure to have a field day watching. So seeing Batman and Robin throw down with multiple clones of Agent Smith while the Eye of Sauron tracks their every move is one of many scenes that is impossible not to smile at. I have to give the studio credit because it just feels like something special when they can be willing to let filmmakers make fun of their franchises, especially with all the rewrites, reshoots, and other things we’re dealing with in the DC Extended Universe. Although I probably won’t be clamoring to Best Buy to purchase the soundtrack, Lorne Balfe’s musical score is exciting and matches perfectly for the action sequences. Like The Lego Movie, the soundtrack also contains at least one original song that will keep infecting your brain and keep your foot tapping fo a while. They’re not as political as “Everything is Awesome,” but they’re definitely memorable. Overall, while it may not be as surprising or ambitious as the original, The Lego Batman Movie is still a wicked-fast and hilarious superhero romp that the genre needed like last year’s Deadpool. Like it’s predecessor, it’s beautiful and original style of computer animation, matched with a top-notch voice cast and awesome action, make it a family-friendly blockbuster adventure for all ages- something that seems too rare these days. The fact that this had a stronger opening than Fifty Shades Darker restores my faith in humanity just a little bit.

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Retrospective: Best Films of 2016

The year has drawn to a close, and there were lots of movies to see. 2016 was perhaps the most divisive and unique year so far this decade, in terms of cinema. To select the singular best movie of the year is no easy task for a reviewer such as myself. I could have easily made a list of the Top 20 or Top 15 movies of 2016, but in the end, I had to cut it down to just 10 feature films. As I always remind my Followers, only films I actually did see this year are in the running. There were probably at least 20 movies I wanted to see that came out, but this is what I have. So here’s a list of honorable mentions of films I really wanted to see this year, or just didn’t quite make the final cut. Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Movies of 2016.

Honorable Mentions:

Hacksaw Ridge, Doctor Strange, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, The Jungle Book, Lion, Captain America: Civil War, The Edge of Seventeen, Moana, Zootopia, Finding Dory, Fences, Manchester by the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Paterson, Green Room, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Sing Street, The Witch, The Conjuring 2, Lights Out, Don’t Breathe, Sausage Party, Star Trek Beyond 

10. “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Thought that Disney would get a spot on this list? Well, they’ll have their obligatory place soon enough, but no animation was quite as incredible as this Laika production. Beautiful animation mixed with a bravely original and melancholy story bring this to new heights. Not only that, but the world-building brilliantly establishes a mountain’s worth of rich lore to get invested in. Plus, Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron’s voice performances add a sense of sincerity and humanity to animals. That says something.

9. “10 Cloverfield Lane”

My goodness, wasn’t this an intense film? Dan Trachtenberg’s directorial debut stayed completely secret and unknown until just 2 months before release. May Elizabeth Winestead shines as the beautiful, yet determined and intelligent protagonist. But John Goodman totally steals the show from right under her, as he’s the one thing scarier than anything outside the bunker. Though it virtually has nothing to do with the original Cloverfield, the story and characters will keep you up at night for a few days afterward. Proof that excellent movies can indeed take place in one place for 2 hours.

8. “Jackie”

A fascinating portrait of one of the 20th century’s most scrutinized figures, Jackie serves as a brilliant reminder of the short yet memorable term of JFK. The first of 2 movies on this list that almost made me cry, at the forefront is Natalie Portman’s powerful performance as the titular First Lady. And given the recent happenings in the United States, this story seems very timely. A strong tour-de-force for acting, this is a heartbreaking biopic worth watching at least once.

7. “Hell or High Water”

One of the more overlooked films of the year, Hell or High Water concerns the dilemma of 2 brothers who begin robbing a string of banks and the Texas Ranger hot on their trail. The original screenplay flows along with complete confidence in the pacing of director David Mackenzie. While the 2 brothers are fabulous in their roles, it’s Jeff Bridges’ scene-stealing turn as the Ranger that makes this story so satisfying to watch. Hell or High Water is truly a neo-Western in every sense of the word.

6. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

No “Best of the Year” list would be complete without an entry in the Star Wars franchise. The first entry in the newly planned Anthology series, Rogue One concerns a group of Rebels who have to steal valuable information in order to defeat the Galactic Empire. Aside, from the great performances and stunning visual effects from ILM, this movie also helped clear up one of the biggest plot holes from the original Star Wars movie in 1977. A rare spin-off that stands on its own while tying previous elements together.

5. “Silence”

This has to be Martin Scorsese’s best film he’s made since Goodfellas, 26 years ago. A passion project that took decades to get off the ground, Silence follows a group of Jesuit priests who go to 17th century Japan to save their disgraced mentor. While some people may find this film frustrating and unsatisfying, the themes of holding onto your beliefs and what truly constitutes faith can resonate with damn near anyone. A beautifully filmed and acted movie, Silence may fly under your radar, but at least give it a shot.

4. “Deadpool”

We moviegoers had a bevy of comic book superhero movies to salivate over in 2016. But none of them made me laugh my ass off harder than Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds was born to play a foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed costumed crime-fighter, in a role that completely washes the bad taste from Green Lantern and Xmen Origins: Wolverine from our mouths as early as the opening credits. It may not be one to watch with your children, but damn if it isn’t so fun and hilarious.

3. “The Nice Guys”

Writer-director proves to us that buddy-action comedy mysteries are far from dead with The Nice Guys. Lost in the superhero shuffle of mid-May, this sharply written story about an enforcer and a private investigator is deliciously funny and intriguing. The two leads, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, are endlessly watchable in their banter and interactions. It’s a bummer not many people saw this picture, but that just adds even more reason as to why you should watch it.

2. “La La Land”

The most important thing we take away from this movie? Musicals can still be made in this day and age. Damien Chazelle channels his passion for jazz and classic Gene Kelly productions with La La Land. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as 2 aspiring stars in modern-day Los Angeles, every musical number is catchy and keeps your foot tapping throughout. The gorgeous costumes and seamless cinematography help pull together La La Land into a heartwarming story about following your dreams, no matter what. A colorful, poignant masterpiece paying tribute to a bygone genre.

1. “Arrival”

After well-deserved acclaim for Prisoners and Sicario, Denis Villeneuve rounds out this list with a breathtaking piece of science-fiction. After UFOs land on Earth, a linguist played by Amy Adams is recruited to communicate with the aliens. Not only is it a showcase of beautiful visual effects and haunting performances, but what truly sets Arrival apart from other counterparts is the concept of how language is so important to human culture. There are many layered metaphors that are best seen in the theater. Heavy on speculative ideas, and a poetic “what-if” story, Arrival is not only the best movie of the year, but also arguably one of the best movies of the decade so far.

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