Opening this week is the globally successful The Lego Movie, Fifty Shades of Darker and Moonlighting. Pete Tromp gives you all the details you need to know each week.
FILM: THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
CAST: WILL ARNETT, ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, MICHAEL CERA, ROSARIO DAWSON, RALPH FIENNES
DIRECTOR: CHRIS McKAY
In the irreverent spirit of fun that made ‘The LEGO Movie’ a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble – LEGO Batman—stars in his own big-screen adventure.
But there are big changes brewing in Gotham City, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker’s hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.
Bringing together the energy, imagination and memorable characters from both the LEGO world and DC universe, ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ welcomes audiences of all ages into a world of DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains uniquely realized for the big screen. With plenty of action, fun, and laughs, plus Batman’s amazing arsenal of gadgets and vehicles and the Batcave as it’s never been built before – brick by LEGO brick – this brand-new adventure also asks the question, can Batman just get over himself and be happy?
The film’s star is LEGO Batman, the coolest, handsomest, buff-est, and most awesome leading man of all time….even if he does say so himself. And he does. Frequently.
“The ‘LEGO Movie’ version of Batman was such a favourite, breakout character, and I’m sure he would agree that he deserves to be the focus of his own movie and not some third banana. He feels he’s definitely a first-banana kind of guy,” says Christopher Miller, who, along with Phil Lord, wrote and directed ‘The LEGO Movie’ in 2014. Keeping the creative collaboration both fresh and familiar, the duo returns as producers on ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’, directed by Chris McKay, their filmmaking partner who served as animation director and editor on the first film.
Joining Batman this time is the super-positive and freakishly agile young Dick Grayson, on his way to becoming Robin; Batman’s loyal and deceptively reserved butler, Alfred; Gotham City’s new police commissioner Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, who wields major girl power; and The Joker, who desperately wants the recognition he deserves – in a story that not only showcases Batman’s sick skills and enviable abs but also takes a searching look into his personality. Specifically, this lone wolf’s need to work alone, to brood alone on his dark past and generally distance himself from everyone to a degree that is starting to make him seem, well, a little bit dysfunctional.
“Batman is beloved the world over and for good reason, yet no one could really behave the way he does and get away with it, which is what we’re exploring in the movie,” says lifelong fan McKay, who nevertheless feels that even at the character’s most extreme, “he’s still very sympathetic.”
“What was so special about Batman in the first movie is that he was selfish and egotistical, but still loveable in his own way,” is the assessment of returning producer Dan Lin. “He had no self-awareness and it was a new twist on the character, someone who often said the most outrageous things. It’s a subversion of the Super Hero genre, but with a joyous heart and told in a family-friendly LEGO way.”
FILM: FIFTY SHADES DARKER
CAST: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote, Kim Basinger
DIRECTOR: James Foley
When a wounded Christian Grey tries to entice a cautious Ana Steele back into his life, she demands a new arrangement before she will give him another chance. As the two begin to build trust and find stability, shadowy figures from Christian’s past start to circle them, determined to destroy their hopes for a future together.
CAST: Naomi Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe
DIRECTOR: BARRY JENKINS
Featuring a trio of actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) inhabiting a single character during three phases of his life, ‘Moonlight’ tells the story of one young man’s coming of age in a tough Miami neighborhood. As Chiron grows from an uncertain and tentative boy into a bullied teenager grappling with his sexuality and finally into a grown man, Writer-director Barry Jenkins Jenkins skillfully shows through three distinct chapters of a life in full, revealing how the powerful moments in each of our lives coalesce to shape our identities and define our fates.
‘Moonlight’ also features a stunning supporting ensemble, including Naomie Harris (‘Spectre’, ‘Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’) — playing with tough, impassioned grace a crack-addicted single mother trying to raise her young son amid tempestuous personal struggles — and a trio of soulful performances from Janelle Monáe (making her feature debut), André Holland (‘Selma’, ‘42’, ‘The Knick’) and Mahershala Ali (a recent Emmy nominee for ‘House of Cards’ and one of the stars of Netflix’s ‘MARVEL’S Luke Cage’), embodying the indelible mentors who help love and nurture Chiron across the turbulent years.
‘Moonlight’ was conceived in drama school as a class project by the esteemed playwright and Miami native Tarell Alvin McCraney, a MacArthur genius grant recipient in 2013 and a member of the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago, whose ‘Brother/Sister’ trilogy of plays set in a Louisiana housing project placed him in the front rank of playwrights writing on the African American experience. He submitted the short work — titled ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ — to the Borscht Film Festival in Miami, dedicated to showcasing works by regional artists forging the cinematic identity of Miami through stories that “go beyond the typical portrayal of a beautiful, but vapid party town.” Heading off to London for a writing residency with the Royal Shakespeare Company, McCraney all but forgot about the piece.
In 2013, producer Adele Romanski was helping Jenkins sift through feature film projects for his eagerly anticipated follow-up to ‘Medicine For Melancholy’. The duo, friends since college, began holding bi-weekly meetings where they volleyed ideas back and forth until a dozen solid ideas took shape. One of them was McCraney’s evocation of his own Miami youth, which had fallen into Jenkins’ hands through a Borscht collective member. “Tarell did a great job of capturing what it felt like to be a poor black kid growing up in the Miami projects,” Jenkins explains. “I saw it as an opportunity to get some of my own childhood memories out of my head and onto the screen, filtered through Tarell’s wonderful voice. The root of his experience was also the root of my experience — it was the perfect marriage.”
By coincidence Jenkins came of age in the same rough and tumble Liberty City housing projects where McCraney grew up, and where much of ‘Moonlight’ the film unfolds. Jenkins and McCraney did not know each other as children but their formative years were remarkably similar. They attended the same elementary and middle schools (despite a difference in age) and both went on to become artists, treating subjects and themes close to their own experiences, including themes of identity and masculinity. Most notably, both grew up in households in which their mothers grappled with severe drug addiction. Jenkins’ mother survived her battle and has remained HIV positive for 24 years, while McCraney’s mother ultimately succumbed from AIDS as a result of her struggles.