Tag Archives: Rosario Dawson

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

In all honesty, I thought The Lego Movie would suck. Instead, it turned out to be one of the craziest, funnest and funniest movies of 2014. A big part of that is the character of Batman, voiced by Will Arnett, and so it was no surprise that the first spin-off film Warner Bros decided on was The Lego Batman Movie.

Given how funny The Lego Movie was, I went into Lego Batman with heightened expectations, but also wary that it could turn out to be another Minions situation (ie, good in small doses as a side character, annoying and incapable of sustaining its own film). I shouldn’t have been worried.

Lego Batman is, like its predecessor, loads of irreverent, stupid fun, It again delivers relentless, rapid-fire jokes from all directions, some misses but mostly hits, and this time, with the added bonus of many inside jokes poking fun at not just the Batman franchise throughout its long history but also the entire DC universe — including the current cinematic universe. Actually it goes even beyond that and borrows characters from other franchises too (that’s the great thing about Lego), but I’m not going to spoil the surprises here. All I’ll say is that at least one real-life counterpart of one of the characters from another franchise voices a different character in the film.  I’m sure I missed a whole bunch of the jokes, references and characters, and I wouldn’t mind checking out the film again when it comes out on DVD to catch all the Easter eggs.

Conversely, as it centres around Batman, Lego Batman is more limited in scope than The Lego Movie, and as a result, most of the jokes are more confined in subject matter. Accordingly, I have to say I did laugh less this time around, though another reason could also be because I was on the ONLY person in the theatre watching the movie (it was a Thursday matinee session)!

I would say it’s both good and bad — if crazy, silly laughs are all you’re after, Lego Batman is arguably a step down from The Lego Movie, but if you prefer a more structured story (yes, there is actually a story and character development and all that), then Lego Batman might be more up your alley.

As you would expect, the action is fun and inventive and the visuals are bright and colourful.  I would say the quality all the non-humour elements are on par with The Lego Movie. The idea of rapidly “building” things with Lego pieces on the run is still pretty cool to watch every time.

Will Arnett is perfect as Lego Batman. He pretty much speaks in a Batman voice as Job on Arrested Development anyway, so this performance came naturally for him. Joining Arnett is his nephew from AR, Michael Cera, who plays Robin with the same wide-eyed innocent as George Michael (by the way, there might be a George Michael joke or two in there — and you can interpret that however you want). Ralph Fiennes is also terrific as Alfred the butler, while Zach Galifianakis is a solid Joker and Rosario Dawson is cool as Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Commissioner Gordon. There are loads of other big names on the cast list, including some familiar returning names from The Lego Movie such as Channing Tatum as Superman and Jonah Hill as the Green Lantern. Billy Dee Williams, Mariah Carey, Chris Hardwick, Zoe Kravitz, Adam DeVine, Conan O’Brien — the list goes on and on.

On the whole, I personally preferred The Lego Movie just because of the sheer range of the jokes and because it was fresher and more surprising, but Lego Batman is not very far behind. I would say there were less laugh-out-loud jokes but more witty bits and pieces that will keep you smiling and giggling. Anyway, if you enjoyed one you will absolutely enjoy the other. I’ve said countless times that I’m not usually a fan of animated films, so when I am this positive it usually means it’s pretty, pretty good.

3.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

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It’s hard to believe, but Sin City, the mini masterpiece based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, was released back in 2005. It was stylistic, brutal, violent, lurid, sexual, and unlike anything we had seen before. It was obvious that a sequel was forthcoming, though no one expected that it would be another nine years before Sin City: A Dame to Kill For would take hit the big screen.

A lot has happened over the last nine years, including the release of several comparable movies, most of which have not been very memorable. As a result, much of the anticipation that would have come from a Sin City sequel had it been made immediately after the original has dissipated. Without the advantages of surprise, novelty and unique visuals, Sin City 2 never really had a chance to live up to its predecessor. The fact that it was a box office flop confirmed my suspicions.

That said, I still had quite a good time with this one. I only remember bits and pieces of the original, and I am glad to say it did not matter all that much. Again, it’s more about the style than the substance, the titillation than the emotion. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sin City 2 brings back some old faces and introduces some new ones in essentially two separate stories of revenge. The first one revolves around Josh Brolin’s character Dwight,  a tough guy still smitten with the woman who broke his heart. The woman, Ava, is played by the smoking Eva Green, who does an excellent job of making audiences believe that she is indeed a dame who can make a man kill for her. Other characters in this story are played by Rosario Dawson, Jamie King, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Dennis Haysbert (President David Palmer from 24!) and Jamie Chung.

The second story focuses on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a cocky young gambler who seems to always have luck on his side — that is until he runs into ruthless crime boss Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), the father of the Yellow Bastard from the first film. Bruce Willis returns in what is essentially a cameo, and Jessica Alba does slightly more this time than just dance without stripping, though not much more.

Both stories are interesting in their own way, but they don’t have much of a connection other than Mickey Rourke’s character Marv, who appears throughout as a bridge between the different acts. I think that the scattered narrative was also the approach in the original, but for some reason I remember it to be darker, more violent and more captivating.

The sequel’s still a very stylish film that emulates a lot of what made the original successful, including visuals featuring animation, black and white spliced with an eye-catching primary colour, and loads of bone-crunching violence to go with the squishy sound effects. The characters are comic book caricatures, but they’re very intriguing caricatures played by great actors. Despite possessing so many of the same elements as its predecessor, however, the impact this time around is just not the same.

To be honest I think the film would have worked much better had it be turned into a late-night TV series, with each act representing one 30-minute episode. As a 102-minute feature it just felt like they were forcing several unrelated stories into an uncomfortable package that doesn’t even try to live up the the hype and anticipation built up over the last nine years. Still, as someone who really enjoyed the original I must say I didn’t mind the sequel at all, as un-epic as it was. All style and very little substance rarely works, but in the case of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For it’s about as good as it can get.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Captive (2014)

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Atom Egoyan has made some terrific films about loss and grief throughout his career. His latest effort, The Captive, starring Ryan Reynolds, Mireille Enos, Rosario Dawson, Scott Speedman and Kevin Durand, has been panned by critics, earning just a 24% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes. Sure, it’s not nearly as good as his earlier movies or recent abduction films like Prisoner, but I think everyone’s being way too harsh.

Ryan Reynolds plays a father whose daughter is kidnapped under his watch. With no witnesses, he is considered the prime suspect by police detectives (Dawson and Speedman), while his wife (Enos) quietly blames him for allowing the abduction to happen.

The story jumps back and forth between the time of the abduction and eight years later, when the daughter is still yet to be found and the lives of the parents are left in tatters. But new clues arise, and it appears their daughter might still be alive and living under the control of a child sex ring.

It’s nightmarish stuff, and the film is often difficult to watch as a result. As a parent myself, I can only imagine the pain and anguish from losing a child under such circumstances. I had never thought much of Ryan Reynolds as an actor, but he is very good here, especially as he has to deal with the suspicions of the police on top of his guilt.

It seems most people who did not enjoy the film had a problem with its preposterous plot. I admit that some of the things that occur in the film are a little fanciful, though thanks to the unsensationalized approach of Egoyan I did not have to suspend my disbelief. In fact, I don’t think anyone would have any qualms about the film’s realism if Egoyan slapped a true story tagline on it (and no, it is not a true story).

My major problem with the film was its unnecessary shift back and forth in time, which were occasionally confusing. Notwithstanding that, however, I think the captive is a flawed but solid thriller worth checking out.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Trance (2013)

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I had heard lots of amazing things about Danny Boyle’s latest film, Trance, months before it hit my local cinema. Judging from the title, I suspected it was about hypnotism, a subject that feels strangely under-targeted by Hollywood, though I wasn’t sure that’s what it was about because I avoided the trailers religiously.

Well, I was right about the hypnotism slant, though I must admit I was a little disappointed in the end despite everything Trance had to offer, most probably because I had been expecting too much after just everyone called the film “amazing.”

James McAvoy plays a guy called Simon, who works as security at auctions for high-priced artworks. A robbery, naturally, takes place, and Simon is forced by the robbers (headed by Mr Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel) to work with a hypnotist played by Rosario Dawson to retrieve his memory. It sounds simple enough, but as you would expect, Trance is full of twists and turns that will keep the audience guessing. What is real? Who is manipulating? Who is being manipulated? Just what the heck is really going on?

The mystery is the driving force of the film and kept me fascinated for the perfect 101-minute running time, but the revelations that are slowly delivered to the viewer, piece by piece, didn’t “wow” me as much as I thought they would. It was clever but not that clever — at least not clever enough to the point that it would astonish most viewers (or at least I think).  There was ambiguity to allow interpretation but the room for the imagination to roam was more limited than films like say Inception or Shutter Island.

That said, the film was still exciting (especially the first half — it began to sag in the second act), intriguing because of its subject matter, and powered by excellent performances from a strong cast. I wouldn’t have paired McAvoy with Dawson myself, but the casting somehow worked. And Cassell is of course excellent as a sleazy criminal, the kind of role he could play with minimal effort. I would have liked to have cared more for the characters, especially McAvoy’s and Dawson’s, but I suppose that is more the fault of the script than the actors.

Danny Boyle’s stylish direction and a ripping soundtrack also elevate Trance above your average psychological (not to mention sexually charged) thriller, but it falls short of becoming a classic or even one of the more memorable films of the genre in recent years.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Unstoppable (2010)

I had no idea what Unstoppable was about when I went to see it.  My mother told me it had Denzel Washington and the guy from Star Trek (Chris Pine) and that it was good — and I took her word for it.

Well, my mother told me the truth, because Unstoppable was awesome.

When I heard that it was called Unstoppable and that it had Denzel in it, I imagined a sequel to Man on Fire and that Denzel would be, um, “unstoppable” in it.  But when the film started and I saw that it was about trains, I almost yawned, fearing that I would get something closer to The Taking of Pelham 123 (please, no more!).

Fortunately, Unstoppable was nothing like either film.  “Unstoppable” is a reference to a runaway train, and Denzel and Chris Pine are the two ordinary railway workers who are caught up in the mayhem.  It also has a very “regular” looking Rosario Dawson and a dickish Kevin Dunn (the dad from the Transformers movies), and is directed by Tony Scott, who, coincidentally, directed both Man on Fire and The Taking of Pelham 123.

I don’t want to give away too much, but what I will say is that Unstoppable is probably the best Tony Scott film since Enemy of the State.  It’s extremely solid from a technical perspective, with a strong plot anchored by its two likable stars, seamless special effects and an unlikely sense of realism for a popcorn movie.

But what I loved most about it was the the pace, which is absolutely frenetic.  After an initial build-up, the film races along at break-neck speed right down to the very end, with one nerve-wracking event after another.  Just when you thought things would be okay, another incident comes and “derails” (pardon the pun) everything.

Of course, not everything will make perfect sense because otherwise the film won’t be quite as exciting — but I can live with that.  As far as action movies go, Unstoppable is definitely one of the better ones you can see this year.

4 stars out of 5!