Batman vs. Superman (2016)

Pfft. The movie was just one huge, holy mess of CGI action scenes.

Also, how the heck are Metropolis and Gotham like just across the bay from each other? Gotham is undeniably New York City, and I always thought Metropolis was Chicago. Surely they can’t BOTH be New York?

Also, I’m tired of plots built on the idea that the public has turned the tables on heroes and has started criticizing them for their actions. The first few times you could argue that it’s necessary and interesting, but does every superhero movie have to be like that now?

Also, The Lego Batman Movie handles pretty much all the same themes that this one does, but it’s fun to watch—and this one wasn’t.

I’m glad I watched it, because I watched the movie before it (Man of Steel) and after it (Wonder Woman), and there was a kind of gap in the overall story, and now there isn’t. Wait, that’s not true… I still haven’t watched Suicide Squad. I didn’t realize that was part of the DCEU timeline.

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Silly? Absolutely, but it’s also clever, amusing, and deep.

Why deep? Lego Batman is successful and proud, but isolated, lonely, and feeling more and more rejected as he realizes that his time has passed. It’s no longer cool to be a vigilante; justice has to be dispensed democratically. Lone heroes are old hat; today’s heroes need to leverage teamwork. No man is an island, not even Lego Batman, who lives on one.

Seriously, this cartoon beats Dawn of Justice hands down.

Heidi (2015)

In this German-language tale based on a bestselling work of Swiss children’s literature, orphan girl Heidi is left at the mountain hut of her grouchy grandfather when her money-grubbing aunt finds a job in the city. Heidi befriends her grandfather and a goatherd named Peter and is enjoying mountain life when her aunt returns, insisting she leave the Alps to become the companion of a crippled city girl, at least temporarily…

The story of Heidi bears a resemblance to the English children’s classic The Secret Garden. In both works, you have an isolated wealthy child who is transformed with the help of nature and a kind of wild child.

The story of Heidi also has religious overtones; the movie incorporates the parable of the shepherd who (presumably) leaves his flock to find the lost lamb.

On the surface, the story is beautiful and uplifting, but I can’t help thinking that nature is overly romanticized. I think it’s all too easy for city people suffering from urban ennui to dream of going “back” to nature, even though they’ve never been there. It’s my understanding that the author of the book (Johanna Spyri) lived a city life.

The rejection of civilization is not complete, however, because Heidi learns to read. Reading, her friend Peter argues, is not a skill a goatherd needs; nevertheless, it is a skill Heidi finds she wants. Therefore, overall I approve of the movie and the messages it has about family, friendship, identity, and pursuit of happiness.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Newt Scamander, British wizard zoologist and a fish out of water in backwards America, is an awkward person’s awkward person, and charming in spite of himself.

The CGI beasts, however, are the real stars; the movie’s purpose, though it also deals with the consequences of abuse and repression, seems to be to drum up support for the environmentalist idea that we should learn more about animals, respect them, and protect them at all costs.

Okay, I guess… I mean, give me a four-winged gryphon—better yet, an iridescent blue snake with wings—and I will protect the heck out of it, for sure. If I’m honest, the pyrogenic rhino, the kleptomaniac platypus, and even the friendly twig, are way less appealing. There’s a reason the WWF logo is a panda and not the Pacific lamprey: the latter looks like a mini version of a sandworm from Dune. In other words, not all endangered animals are cute.

Some of the plot points seemed weak, but overall I enjoyed the movie more than I expected to. Future films are planned; now that the world-building has been done, I hope and expect there will be better plot and less eye-candy.

Buddies in India (2017)

This is a “buddy movie”. The word is right there in the (sub)title! In English! In a font that looks like but isn’t Hindi!

The spoiled and lonely heir to a wealthy and successful real estate development company must travel to India to fetch his deceased father’s will, but his father’s last wishes were for him to travel there with a bodyguard, specifically, a monkey trainer—actually an incarnation of the monkey king—who, by refusing to leave his home, is thwarting the company’s plans to develop a valuable piece of property. Can they get along until they reach their destination?

“A martial art master must protect the heir of the Bao Tang Company from imminent danger or face having his house torn down. (This is a Mandarin film shown with English subtitles)”

The movie had a couple of scenes with bizarrely costumed Taoist deities, and also had the developer’s heir riding atop a hoverboard, wearing what looked like a Power Ranger’s costume, fighting the kung fu master. There was also a fight scene in a sari factory, and a chili pepper eating contest. Strange movie.

Want to learn about “nail houses”? See below.

Continue reading Buddies in India (2017)

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Thankfully, the minions were relegated to the second subplot, and the plot and first subplot had interesting things to say about brotherhood and motherhood, respectively.

Despicable Me 3 was silly, very silly, but fun. The villain was a grown-up 80s child star resentful of his fall from favor in his teen years, and still embodied the fads and styles of his best years. I’m an old millennial, and I buy movie tickets… bring on more of this 80s nostalgia, I say!