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Guns! Bondage! Legos! That’s Valentine’s at the Movies

Hope Madden Hope Madden Guns! Bondage! Legos! That’s Valentine’s at the Movies
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Oscar is approaching! One sure way to know – Gateway’s screening all the nominated short films. Check out each set – live action, animated and documentary – this weekend. Unrelated to Oscar in any conceivable way, John Wick 2 is also available and God help me, it’s not bad. It’s not LEGO Batman good, but it’s not Fifty Shades bad, either.

John Wick: Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves is a cyborg. He’s seen human behavior – he just can’t replicate it very believably. It’s a reasonable theory, isn’t it?

But every once in a while he lands on a role where acting like an actual human just doesn’t matter – like the surprise 2014 hit John Wick.

The Keyser Soze of international hitmen, Wick was brought out of retirement, you’ll remember, when a half-assed Russian mobster stole his dog and his car. And if you could make it through the maudlin, sentimental crap and focus just on that kickass hotel shit, it was a mildly entertaining film despite Reeves’s absence of talent.

Once out of retirement, though, Wick has a tough time getting back out of the biz – hence, Chapter 2.

Director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad return, both improving on their previous effort by streamlining the story, limiting sentimentality and spending more time exploring what was cool the first time.

Sure, there are problems – besides the dialog. Why are the bad guys all such bad shots? Where are all the witnesses? Eye-rolling contrivance follows ludicrous convenience, but these guys brought their shootin’ boots.

It’s not like you don’t know what you’re in for here.

Grade: B-

The LEGO Batman Movie

This year’s spin-off of 2014’s The LEGO Movie centers on Batman—the brooding, solitary vigilante with the wonderful toys and the nine-pack abs. We catch up with him doing the usual thing—saving Gotham City from a supervillain. But when he gets home after a long day, who does he have to share his life with? Apparently Batman’s greatest fear is intimacy.

The Bat can’t even commit to his “bad guy”—breaking Joker’s heart when he decides to “fight around.”

Faced with demands on his emotional intelligence and without purpose, Batman begins to crack. Sure that Joker is up to something, Batman inadvertently places Joker in a position where he can destroy all of Gotham for good.

Only one thing can stop this nefarious plan…teamwork.

LEGO Batman is a PG-rated movie that is probably even more fun for adults than for kiddos. Those responsible for paying the tab will get to enjoy spotting the references to other Batman movies, identifying terrible Batman TV show villains (like the Condiment King), and wondering how the administrative folks at the studio acquired permission for all the outside intellectual property required for the climax.

The movie also has a remarkable depth of voice talent. Will Arnett handles the gravel-voiced protagonist, but Michael Cera steals scenes as the endearingly twee Robin. Not only do we get Rosario Dawson as Gordon, we get Ralph Fiennes as Alfred and Zach Galifianakis as the Joker. But even characters that have minute amounts of screen time get good coverage. Billy Dee Williams, for example, briefly reprises his 1989 role as Harvey Dent.

And, in the end, we learn everything is cool when you’re part of a team.

Grade: A-

Fifty Shades Darker

The latest installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy, to its credit, could very well be an ingenious meta-joke on the audience regarding punishment and masochism.

The sequel has a new director (James Foley) and new hastily sketched roadblocks—er, characters—on the path to bound-up bliss, but in nearly every other way the film doubles down on everything torturous about the first one.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are back as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. They brought some new toys this time around (pro tip: don’t Google “spreader” at work), but there is no amount of light bondage that can distract from the obvious lack of chemistry between the two leads.

Johnson makes the best of a bad situation, and at times her portrayal of Ana flirts with acknowledging how absurd the entire enterprise is. Dornan, however, is impenetrable. Although in his defense, Grey only has three modes to choose from: having sex, being tortured by a mysterious past or impersonating a brick.

A boring relationship between the two leads of an erotic romance series should be a glaring red flag, but just in case the movie also outdoes the original when it comes to mind-blowingly bizarre plotting and pacing.

The film kicks off as a creepy thriller, and tries to wind things up the same way, save the 90 minutes in between that have nothing to do with the main story.

The script was written by Niall Leonard, who is E. L. James’s husband. This helps the film only insofar as it means Christian and Ana no longer deserve to be the most loathed couple involved in the production.

Grade: F

Also opening in Columbus:

  • 2017 Oscar Shorts – Animated (NR)
  • 2017Oscar Shorts – Documentary (NR)
  • 2017 Oscar Shorts – Live Action (NR)
  • The Axe Murders of Villisca (NR)
  • Don’t Hang Up (R)
  • Duckweed (NR)

Reviews with help from Christie Robb and Matt Weiner.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly horror movie podcast, FRIGHT CLUB.

Looking for more film events in Columbus? CLICK HERE to visit our Events Calendar.

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The Urban Living Tour returns (with strict safety guidelines) on Aug 30!

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