Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The LEGO Batman Movie

The action-packed “John Wick: Chapter 2” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Many a writer has pointed out how Batman and Joker are two sides of the same coin, and in a weird symbiotic way, each one feeds off of the other. This theme was of course most famously explored in Alan Moore’s legendary 1988 comic “The Killing Joke.” But that comic stopped short at actually exploring the relationship between the hero and the villain.

Thank goodness we have “The LEGO Batman Movie” to fill in the gap. It may be animated using LEGO blocks, but that doesn’t mean its story should be dismissed. After an inventive, high-flying opening sequence in which Joker (voice of Zach Galifianakis) and his cohorts hijack a plane full of a ridiculous amount of explosives and threaten to blow up Gotham for the umpteenth time, the citizenry of Gotham remain unfazed. This is because they know that Batman (voice of Will Arnett) will show up and save the day (or night, as it were). They’re right. In a high octane, slam bang action sequence – complete with some pretty funny gravel-voiced singing by the Caped Crusader himself—he plows through Joker’s minions like they’re made from plastic bricks.

Then Batman has a choice: Capture Joker and bring him to justice or defuse the bomb and save Gotham. He can’t do both. In this discussion, Joker lets his feelings out a bit more than usual and tells Batman, in his own way, that he thinks of them as a couple. The relationship is based on hate, but they need each other nonetheless. Batman is repulsed by this, and after telling Joker that he doesn’t need him—or anybody—he lets a teary-eyed and heartbroken Joker go free so he can save the city. It’s as close as I’ve come to ever feeling sorry for Joker. He thought he was in a deeply committed relationship only to find out that the person he regarded as the “one” doesn’t feel the same way. It’s devastating news.

Batman’s tendency toward being a loner lends itself to a lot of the laughs in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” His only true human contact is his faithful butler Alfred (voice of Ralph Fiennes), who narrates a hilarious montage of the phases Batman/Bruce Wayne has gone through, starting in 2016 and going back to 1966. This is only rivaled by an equally hilarious slide show by newly appointed police commissioner (and future Batgirl) Barbara Gordon (voice of Rosario Dawson), who notes that Batman has been saving Gotham for almost 90 years.

Batman’s life is turned upside down when orphan (and future sidekick Robin) Dick Grayson (voice of Michael Cera) comes into his life. Grayson is an excited Batman fan, who notes that Batman is the greatest orphan ever. Hmm…in order to know this, he would need to know that Batman is Bruce Wayne, who was orphaned as a child, but he is not supposed to know that. Best to not dwell on these minor details. Equally puzzling is that Batman tells a group of orphans to take care of their abs (and abs play a role in the climax of the movie), but then he goes home and eats lobster thermidor—not the most waistline conscious food for someone who cares about their nine pack (Batman has an extra ab, dontcha know?). But again, minor details.

It would be a mistake to harp on the minor details in “The LEGO Batman Movie,” and it would be missing the point. We’re talking about animated, talking LEGO blocks who build vehicles out of pieces of other destroyed LEGO objects and actually say “pew pew pew” when firing weapons. It’s energetic, good-natured, light-hearted, tongue in cheek fun that very affectionately points out some of the sillier aspects of the Bat-verse. There are enough humorous jabs at previous Batman movies to give adults and Bat-fans a good laugh, plus it’s kid-friendly with a good message about the importance of friends and letting people into your life. It you’re looking for a good movie for family night, or are just plain in the mood for something fun, this is your movie. Buy it on Amazon: Lego Batman Movie, The (2017) BD [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week

John Wick: Chapter 2

Now that we’re into “John Wick: Chapter 2,” it’s clear that these movies center very heavily around guns. Displaying guns, procuring guns, testing guns, loading guns, firing guns—pretty much anything having to do with guns is done in the “John Wick” movies. He does everything except sleep with his favorite gun on the pillow next to him, but this is “John Wick,” not ‘80s TV show “Sledge Hammer,” so I get why the movie makers stopped short.

But is John Wick (Keanu Reeves) a good gun owner? Let’s take a look at the four cardinal rules of gun safety and see how he stacks up:

1.    Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
Every gun in “John Wick: Chapter 2” is loaded—sometimes with more bullets than it should have, by my count—so this one is a bit of a given.

2.    Never point your gun at anything you don’t want to shoot.
Wick does good here. He has very precise aim, and only shoots the bad guys. He’s aided in the fact that most of the bad guys he faces down are dumbasses who are running straight at him, but nonetheless he follows the rule pretty well. The only exceptions are fellow professional hitman Cassian (Common) and mute hitwoman Ares (Ruby Rose), who actually pose a challenge for Wick. His interactions with these two give the movie some of its best moments and it’s clear that physically Cassian and Wick are evenly matched. There is a fight between these two men that is one of the best knock down, drag out fights I’ve seen in a long time. The shootouts with the endless parade of bad guys getting double-tapped wears thin pretty quick, but there is enough involvement from Ares and, especially, Cassian, to keep the movie entertaining.

3.    Be sure of your target—and what’s behind it.
This one’s a fail. Wick is an expert marksman, to be sure, but I take exception with his firing at bad guys in a crowd of innocent bystanders. What if a bullet goes through one of them and strikes someone else who was just standing there? Not good. There is also a very entertaining scene in which Wick and Cassian subtly take pot shots at each other with silenced pistols while walking parallel to each other in a subway station. It’s a refreshing change of pace to have a shootout be more subdued, and not be loud and destructive, but I have to question the decision to fire bullets at each other with so many commuters walking around.

4.    Keep your finger off of the trigger until your target is in sight.
Given that this movie is glorified target practice, except with human targets instead of paper or wood, Wick always seems to have a target in his sight, and therefore his finger is constantly on the trigger. Again, this one is a bit of a given.

Judging strictly on his adherence to the four cardinal rules of gun safety, John Wick gets a 75%. Not bad, but since these are cardinal rules they should all be carefully followed. John Wick needs to take a gun safety course to brush up on number three.

The movie evokes a similar reaction. While “John Wick: Chapter 2” has a good, simple, straightforward story and expands on the universe seen in the first “John Wick” movie, the action gets very repetitive, very quickly. It’s saved by the aforementioned supporting performances, as well as the wise and calming return of hotel for hitmen owner Winston (Ian McShane). Points can also be given for some well-written plot escalation on the theme of how violence only begets more violence. But given that this movie is mostly about guns, that is what I will judge it on. Rent it.

More New Releases: “Mine,” starring Armie Hammer as a stranded soldier who has to survive in the desert; “Anomaly,” about a family who experiences demonic possession after moving into a house plagued by evil spirits; and “Navy Seals v. Demons,” one of those movies in which the title says it all.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.