Lego’s second has less charm, Paterson enthralls and John Wick just goes on shooting
You have more choice than you can handle this week. Two programs of Oscar-nominated shorts include some wonderful films. Elsewhere, Lego Batman and John Wick have strong critical support but less so here. I’m stronger on two documentaries, Dancer and the scary police essay Do Not Resist. The offerings for your Valentine’s Day are a bit unusual. Below her Mouth has lesbians and Fifty Shades Darker has S&M. That one I didn’t see because it conflicted with another preview.
These I did see:
Paterson: 4 stars
The Lego Batman Movie: 2 ½
John Wick Chapter 2: 3
The Oscar Shorts: various
Do Not Resist: 4 ½
Below Her Mouth: 2 ½
PATERSON: Alert: like most films by Jim Jarmusch, this one is languid. Slow, if you want to be uncharitable. But give it a chance because it’s a lovely and very droll portrait of ordinary people reaching for something better. And they’re doing it in a place that seems the most ordinary of cities and yet when you look closer reveals a rich history. People who were born or lived in Paterson, New Jersey include Alan Ginsburg, “Hurricane” Carter, Lou Costello of Abbott and Costello, an anarchist who killed an Italian king, and, most notably, the poet William Carlos Williams.
The film references them all as it takes us along for seven days in the life of a bus driver also named Paterson and played by Adam Driver. He too writes poetry like Williams, one of whose key works is called Paterson. The film is full of these internal connections that play like poetry themselves and shape a portrait of anyday life.
The driver’s is humdrum and repetitive and he’s passive, just an observer, while his wife (Golshifteh Farahani ) is eternally dreaming . She wants to learn the guitar and become a country music star. She wins accolades as “the cupcake queen” at a farmer’s market. He regularly witnesses or overhears scenes on his bus and in the tavern he frequents and then writes his poems. There’s no story arc as such but the film is always absorbing anyway. And Driver’s low-key acting is superb. (International Village) 4 out of 5
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE: Don’t go in expecting another great one like the first movie three years ago. I say that despite the raves mounting up on the websites that collect reviews. This film is lively and full of laughs but compared to what came before, it feels deliberate and manufactured. Several writers were dispatched to write another one; they did and crammed in lots of jokes and the almost mandatory theme of family but missed the heart. This is just a Batman action-comedy that happens to be played out with Lego figures and famous voices including Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson and two Canadians at the top: Will Arnett as Batman and Michael Cera as his adopted-son sidekick.
The film is crammed with injokes and meta humor that will delight comic book fans. Batman’s password is “Iron Man Sucks”. His continuing rival and butt of his sneers is Superman and he does a mock imitation of Adam West’s TV Batman. But when a new commissioner takes charge in Gotham City, calls him an ineffective crime fighter and demands “accountability,” he’s in trouble. He’s a morose loner, now pressured to work in a team. He fights to avoid that just as The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is conspiring to take over the city with an army of supervillains (one called The Condiment King). It’s fun at times and working together is a laudable theme but where’s the emotional connection? The first movie had lots. This one gives us lots of frantic action instead. (Dunbar, International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5