Lego Batman Movie Review

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Summary

Batman  lives alone and does it well (lobster!). He beats up bad-guys and consults with Alfred, his butler, when he wants another human opinion. His computer is his only other companion. This leads to connections with an orphan, the new police commissioner, and a few other surprising beings.

Review

Quips and clever quibbles with his pals are the most notable moments in The Lego Batman Movie. The visuals were as stunning as The Lego Movie, but felt even more busy as cool action sequence after cool action sequence unfolds. Witticisms, visuals, and references to previous Batmans were the pulse of this movie. The plot was simple to the point of being almost unnoticeable at times. Also, as the last act of the movie reached its climax, it felt as though someone had been repeatedly shouting “Family! Family! Family!” in the theater. This slight jaunt into making its values known should not decrease a family’s enjoyment of this fun film.

Rating

PG. Many action sequences. Lego lower half nudity.

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The Painted Veil Review

Author’s note: This post was inspired by Netflix removing this movie from it’s watchlist this January. Some spoilerish material has been included since the movie was released over ten years ago.

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Summary

In the 1920s, a English socialite, Kitty, agrees to marry a bacteriologist, Walter Fane, whom she doesn’t love and barely knows in order to escape her disinterested family. After an adulterous affair,  Kitty is taken by her husband into the Chinese countryside to fight a cholera epidemic.Through the influence and friendship of the British deputy commissioner, an order of sisters, and the Chinese, the couple struggle to heal their past.

Review

Detailing the wilds of the Chinese countryside, The Painted Veil films the lush beauty of China with affection. Even when depicting less than desirable situations, the cinematography never fails to charm. This is important since the dialogue is sparse, so the movie depends heavily on the camera work, direction, and actors. All are excellent with Toby Jones, as always, an excellent player who gives a standout performance.

Even before Kitty’s rebellious affair, she is shown to be a selfish, vapid, bored woman with no sense of purpose. Walter’s treatment of her is violent, though not in a typical wife beating fashion, and it shakes her out of her complacency about their marriage. At first, he seems determined to do everything in his power to discomfort her without being obvious enough to be caught. Kitty realizes this and while she initially refuses to reflect on what she has done, ultimately her experiences in China along with Walter’s disdain lead her to reflect on her sordid past.

The movie does not dwell overlong on her guilt, though. There is much to be done in the little Chinese village and the Fanes both end up working ceaselessly for the Chinese people they didn’t initially understand. They also come to a point where they can look honestly at themselves as people and at their marriage. In one powerful scene, Kitty explains to Walter that human beings are more complex then he believes them to be and that from the beginning she was not who he thought she was. In another telling scene, the camera pans to Walter and then back to Kitty who, while in conversation with the commissioner, murmurs her wonder that a woman could be drawn into a romance because of the goodness of a man. Eventually this is shown and more as The Painted Veil unfolds. A marriage is formed, torn down, built and finished. Most strikingly, the power of forgiveness is revealed. While brief dramatic apology scenes are familiar to film audiences, the transformative effect forgiveness can have when it becomes a lifestyle, particularly in marriage, is not so familiar. The Painted Veil is a masterpiece not just because its characters are exceptionally complex and realistic, but because it shows how one foolish marriage can change lives and transform the world with forgiving love.

Rating

PG-13. Young adults and up. Several love scenes and deaths by cholera. It is recommended that for a better understanding of the sister’s philosophy and some of the mother superior’s soliloquies that the reader peruse the book the movie was based on by Somerset Maugham. With this understanding, the movie’s ambiguous stance on the sisters can be clarified which would be useful to a younger audience.

Arrival Review

Summary

Twelve alien ships come to earth and a linguistics professor, theoretical physicist, and the American military must piece together an answer to the fundamental question “Why are you here?” The answer, pieced together with much human ingenuity and great heart, will provide some other unexpected answers along the way including how “unstoppable” we humans really are.

Review

Affecting. Thought provoking. Dignified. Mesmerizing with its simple score, smooth cinematography, and lovely locations. Simply the best movie of 2016.

Arrival asks questions and gently provides several of the important answers. Too often film has turned into a case of bemoaning present state of humanity and then ending abruptly. These two act movies, typically coming of age stories, would be better off grounded in some sort of real philosophy which, while not answering the meaning of all life, offers a suggestion by presenting the experiences of the characters to the viewer. After all, there is a conflict in every story and every conflict deserves some semblance of resolution however imperfect. Frequently this occurs by the choices the characters make.

It is clear by the last shot of Arrival that the movie was economically filmed in order to reveal to the audience a choice Dr. Banks must make. While the decision is heartbreaking, she does not waver, but embraces reality, life, and human dignity. In fact, the character of Dr. Bank does not waver throughout the movie. She carries on with her work during an alien invasion, fights for a position she knows should be hers, lends her expertise in an unrespected field to men who are pushing her for impossible answers, and allows herself to be defined by motherhood and by the love of family. We need more women like Dr. Banks.

Arrival understands human suffering. It also understands the unique dignity of every human person, how an unselfish gift is a segue to love, and how life is worth living to the fullest extent, despite its pain, since it can be lived with meaning.

Rating

PG-13 is accurate. The violence is there, but understated. A hospital deathbed scene and tension throughout.

The Phantom Menace. Menace or Memorable?

Since Rogue One has just hit the theaters and audiences are once again being reminded how much they love the Star Wars universe, I had a few thoughts on Episode I. This was prompted my remembering a few words my dad had said about Anakin and Padme’s relationship. His viewpoint was that however  annoying their relationship was, Padme was very good. Very virtuous. This is attractive and so it is no surprise that Anakin falls for her. What is frustrating is that she gives into her emotions and falls for him. This relationship make Episodes II and III more difficult for me to connect with since I demand more from Star Wars then lightsabers.

So what about Episode I? I have heard many of the fans complain about this movie for various reasons, the obvious one being that gungan. Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars film which I saw in the theaters and so there is definitely some nostalgia going on here. While there are certainly problems, I would like to point out:

  • The podrace. Amazing. My favorite version of Star Tours.
  • Queen Amidala is fierce and clever, keeping that secret the whole movie.
  • The Duel of Fates music. I believe that using this piece again in Attack of the Clones was a mistake. It belongs to Qui Gon Jinn, Obi Wan Kenobi, and their nemesis and to their individual fight scene. I came down hard on lightsaber fights earlier in this post. I love them when they are done like this.
  • The final fight scene. I have heard some commentary stating that the final fight scene in Rogue One hearkens back to a time when the editing for the final battle was special. Phantom Menace might possibly be my favorite fight scene edit. Each of the battles on Naboo, in space, with the gungans, and with the Jedi are unique and spellbinding. The Dual of Fates music, as said previously, is everything and certainly the use of the double bladed lightsaber was a statement of power not previously seen in the Star Wars universe. It’s trivial, however, I think the images that stay in your mind are important, but I love how the grass waves before the droid ships become visible. The rising tension as the army prepares for action will always be a thrill.