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More dapper action in Kingsman The Golden Circle, an inspiring Stronger and a third-rate Lego movie

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THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE: They tried way too hard with this one. They left out any charm it might have had and made it hyper, noisy and illogical. They, by the way, are three directors and six writers who adapted the children’s TV series for the big screen and left us with a film that feels and sounds just like a TV cartoon show.  With all new voices, oddly enough. You don’t connect with the characters and the weak jokes outnumber the good ones.  Don’t expect anything as clever as the first Lego movie.

Six high school students double as ninja warriors to protect their city, Ninjago, from repeated attacks by the arch villain Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), who lives in a volcano. The lead ninja (Dave Franco) is Garmadon’s own son which sets up a daddy issues sub-plot; you know the father who was never around to teach his son baseball or how to drive or shave. There’s an illogical resolution to that one. There’s also one bright twist involving an “ultimate weapon.” The son uses it and thereby causes even more damage (think a kiddie-level Godzilla), and then has to go find the ultimate “ultimate weapon.” All this is told to a little boy in a curio shop by Jackie Chan, who is not Japanese but teaches the young ninjas as Master Wu, who he voices. The TV show was designed to sell toy construction sets, you see, not worry about cultural accuracy. The film is energetic but mostly humdrum. (Dunbar, International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

BRAD’S STATUS: A lot of people find Ben Stiller annoying in the movies. Too bad for them. They’ll miss a very good performance by him in a film that I’m sure most anybody can relate to. I mean who hasn’t  sometimes compared what they’ve achieved to the success of their friends . Stiller’s character Brad does, often. More than he should but it takes him a whole movie to realize that. Mike White writes and directs his discomfort with a sharp precision and quite a few chuckles of recognition.

 

Brad has a nice life running a non-profit in Sacramento, with a supportive wife (Jenna Fischer) and a musical prodigy son (Austin Abrams) who is ready for college. He takes him to Boston for an interview at Harvard but has these nagging visions of his old college buddies: a swinging movie director (Mike White), a hedge-fund tycoon (Luke Wilson), a tech billionaire (Jemaine Clement), and a political pundit and best-selling author (Michael Sheen) and can’t feel anything but inferior. The film is very clever with scenes in which he imagines their exciting lives and his failures. “I feel like we’re running out of time,” he tells his wife. The film is obvious in how it brings him around and not at all deep but it is thoughtful and amusing. Sheen’s smiling, self-satisfied condescension helps a lot with that and a concert with Dvorak’s Humoresque brings on a classic feel good ending.  (5th Avenue) 3  out of 5    

THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES:  Maybe it should be “That Time…” because this is a comedy about old age and about trying to reclaim an earlier life. Don’t except another Marigold Hotel, though. Its pleasures are far more shallow than that. And early on there’s humor that verges on ageism. Once it gets on the road though it sparkles quite a bit. The road is a trip from England to a seaside resort in France taken by two senior women and then spiced up by a veteran Italian.

 

Joan Collins plays a forgotten movie star (no stretch there) and Pauline plays a meek British housewife. That’s not a stretch either. She played Shirley Valentine almost 40 years ago. Here she’s swept up in an accidental adventure, first on a bus of seniors and then in various conveyances with Joan who is trying to get to the funeral of a director she worked with years before. She’s not going to mourn, but to hit up some of the guests for work. The two women need help at one point and get it from a rich Italian artist (Franco Nero) who lets them stay the night at his mansion. He romances the British housewife, not the aging movie star. Joan gives fine displays of irritation, haughtiness and disdain. The two bicker and confront each other and eventually reveal a secret each that brings a touch of poignancy to their friendship. Nothing feels particularly real in this film but the three stars make it work anyway. (International Village) 2 ½ out of 5

 

Also just arrived …

FRIEND REQUEST:  This horror film from Germany slinks into town without fanfare or previews for the critics. Odd that, because it would seem timely since it’s about social media. A college student unfriends someone on line and thereby stirs up a demonic presence who does some real  unfriending. It gets revenge by killing her friends. I said timely, not rational. 

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