“The Lego Batman Movie,” Perfect for All Ages


DC and Warner Bros. have always struggled with superhero movies. They spend big money, hire the best of actors, and offer the best special effects. Together, they should make for a memorable cinematic experience. But, when you make a list of their joint projects, you are almost always left disappointed. This is particularly true for the Batman movies. Be it the 1966, 1992 or 1997, DC and Warner Bros. have never been able to do ‘justice’ to this character. For once, Christopher Nolan did an exemplary job with The Dark Knight series. Although Batman’s next reincarnation in Batman v Superman was great, the movie itself suffered from many issues, including overly gritty theme, dense story, and inconsistency. With Suicide Squad, it appeared that DC and Warner Bros. committed the Hollywood’s equivalent of suicide. Against the backdrop of all of this pain filled history, The Lego Batman Movie comes as a breath of fresh air.

The Lego Batman Movie is not just another superhero movie; nor is it another somber Warner Bros + DC production. It is everything that you wanted from a Batman movie. Hell, it is everything you wanted from a superhero movie. It is funny, deep, never gets boring, imaginative, and self-aware. The movie is full of humor. In fact, every dialogue, every scene has at least one joke, sometimes many. It is the best thing to ever come out of a Lego factory.

The movie begins with a typical action scene in Gotham, where Batman is again trying to foil one of Joker’s latest terrorist attacks. This incident becomes the backdrop for the hell that is soon going to be unleashed on Gotham. And, you will be hard put to answer the question – is Joker alone responsible for all this chaos? The one thing that will make you ask this question to yourself is the one thing that you won’t expect – Batman.

Joker feels that he is the arch nemesis to Batman, and that they both push each other to be the best at what they do. On the other

hand, Batman does not think that the two of them share a codependent relationship. This makes the Joker angry, very angry. And, anyone who has followed the decades’ worth of history between Batman and Joker knows that nobody wants to make Joker angry, which Batman will soon find out the hard way.

Can we really blame Batman for not acknowledging the bromance (or whatever you call that superhero-supervillain relationship between these two) between himself and the Joker? Batman aka Bruce Wayne is a recluse. The billionaire businessman builds sci-fi toys and practices martial arts during daytime, which he promptly uses in the night to beat the bad guys to a pulp. When he does have bad guys to beat, he sulks in the darkness of his Batmobile, while looking at the pictures of his dead parents. Any semblance of romance in his life comes with its own set of complications. *cough Talia al Ghul*. *cough Bat Girl*. His only companion in life is his butler, Alfred. He doesn’t need anyone in his life. At least that’s what he thinks. So, when a self-proclaimed arch nemesis comes to Batman seeking acknowledgement of his special status in Batman’s life, well, he had another thing coming.


To exact his revenge on Batman, Joker hatches a diabolical plan. He empties out the entire Arkham Asylum. Fans need no introduction regarding what evils and pathos Arkham Asylum is home to. But, that’s just the beginning. Joker, then goes ahead and opens up the gates of the super-prison, Phantom Zone. Superman fans might recall Phantom Zone as the ultra-maximum security prison created by the Kryptonians to hold their prisoners, and from which there is no escape. So, you can imagine if something was too much for Kryptonians, then it definitely is too much for the beings of earth, super or not. If this gets too gritty for you, don’t worry. The innocent, cute voice of young Dick (future Robin) will keep you plenty happy with where Batman is going with his life.

Although the movie follows a serious theme, it is done in a more comedic style. In fact, there is a particularly satirical tone to the movie. Much of the satire is focused on its own past. It is very rare to see DC movies being self-aware of their own history. The Lego Batman Movie indicates that it is aware of the existence of previous versions of Batman. There are some references, and everything is part of the same universe. This is one of the things that make the movie a great watch for the adults. Those who have followed Batman’s long history since their childhood, will love the jokes that many others will simply miss. But, if you are not updated on Batman’s history, there is nothing to worry. There are so many jokes, and so closely placed that by the time you will be laughing at one, you will have missed the next one. You will never feel that you are missing anything on this hilarious rollercoaster of a laughing marathon.

Finally, there is the cast. Will Arnett resumes his role as Batman, and is as exceptional as always. A special nod to Ralph Fiennes for giving his voice to Batman’s butler Alfred. He has simply nailed the performance. Hector Elizondo’s Commissioner Gordon, Rosario Dawson’s Barbara Gordon, and Michael Cera’s Dick have all managed to pull off their roles perfectly. Although Zach Galifianakis’ Joker is a welcome performance, he dwarfs when put against the legends like Mark Hamill, John DiMaggio, and others who have come before him.

Perhaps, the best thing that works in favor of this movie is its unassuming nature. It is not targeted at any specific age. The quality of humor is good for all ages, the story gripping for every type of crowd, and there are enough references to keep the hardcore Batman fans satiated as well. This is everything that everyone wanted out of a superhero movie. Short of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, this is easily the best Batman movie in the recent years.


Why “10 Things I Hate About You” Is Still the Best Rom-Com


It’s been nearly two decades since “10 Things I Hate About You” was released on the big screen, but it’s still the best-ever romantic comedy after all this time. The film combines a great cast, a spirited musical soundtrack and a timeless story of unrequited love of literally Shakespearean dimensions (the film itself was a modernized production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”).

Let’s take a closer look at what has made the film such a timeless rom-com hit…

#1: The amazing ensemble cast

Looking back at those glorious days at the end of the twentieth century, it may not have been obvious, but we were having a good look in this film at some of the most famous actors of a generation: Heath Ledger (as Patrick Verona), Julia Stiles (as Kat Stratford), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Cameron James) and Larisa Oleynik (as Bianca Stratford). Heath Ledger grew up to become a cult Hollywood hero before his untimely death, Julia Stiles has been delighting us in all the recent Jason Bourne movies, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been in films like “Inception” and “The Dark Knight.”

Is it possible to think of two people we’d rather fall in love with than Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles? Despite being the unpopular outsiders in the film, they were ultimately the type of people we’d fall in love with if we could back in high school.

#2: The story of teenage angst and high school rebellion

The core of any great teen movie is rebellion against the system. In this case, we have the rebellious characters of Kat (who seems to hate all boys and isn’t adapting well to teenage life) and Patrick (who’s the classic “bad boy”). We also have the rebellious character of Bianca, who desperately wants to date boys, but can’t because her father (played by Larry Miller) has set a family rule that she can’t date until her older sister has a suitor. On top of that, you have all the classic elements of teenage angst. This show was set in a high school, of course, and so you have all the hidden cliques and social games that go on with young adolescents.

#3: The elements of classic Shakespeare

There are so many subtle nods to Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” Let’s start with the names of the characters – there’s Patrick Verona (a nod to the Italian town of Verona, where the play takes place); the Stratford family name (a nod to Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-on-Avon) and the name of the high school – Padua High School (a nod to the Italian town of Padua). The characters of Kat (Shakespeare’s “Katherina”) and Bianca are directly named for characters from the play.

There’s also a classic line from the film – “I burn, I pine, I perish” – that’s a direct quote from Shakespeare’s classic play. In “10 Things I Hate About You,” it’s the line spoken by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, as he alludes to the deeply burning love that’s consuming him.

Finally, there’s the name of the movie itself – it’s essentially a parody of the famous sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” (You can think of the parody as “How do I loathe thee?”) In the movie, it’s a line adapted by Julia Stiles, who’s reciting a poem that she’s made about Heath Ledger. She ends up breaking into tears as she reads the poem: “But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.”


#4: The great soundtrack

It’s impossible to think about the film without thinking about the final scene of the movie, where the band is playing Cheap Trick’s classic song, “I Want You to Want Me” on the roof of the school. And it wasn’t just that one song – there’s also the great Nick Lowe song “Cruel To Be Kind.” Both songs are crucial to driving forward the narrative of the story, and both are so great because they feel like they’ve been crafted specifically for this one romantic comedy. Back in 1999, reviewers specifically pointed out the soundtrack to the film, with many songs performed by Letters to Cleo. This is just great music for a rom-com.

#5: Classic teen fare that’s pure of heart

“10 Things I Hate About You” was light teen fare that, 17 years later, is fun to watch for adults. It’s not the sickly sweet romantic comedy we see in cinemas today, and it’s not the teen gross-out movie that we’ve come to expect. It featured great acting and makes us nostalgic for the 1990s.

This film still feels like it’s safe enough to take your teens to without cringing in your seat. Remember Larry Miller, who played the father of Kat and Bianca? He had some of the best lines of movie. (Except, of course, for perhaps the best line ever – “Kat. Meow.”)

#6: Unrequited love in all its forms

But mostly, the real reason why “10 Things I Hate About You” is such a great romantic comedy is because it’s all about the story of unrequited love. Actually, it’s two stories of unrequited love – there’s the story of Patrick and Kat, and there’s also the story of Bianca and Cameron. We can’t wait to see how Patrick will win over Kat, and how Cameron will use every trick in the book to woo Bianca. It’s never straightforward, but always fun, even when we know the ending.


For all these reasons, it’s clear that “10 Things I Hate About You” is still the best rom-com. It was romantic and funny before we even thought of combining the two of them into a single category. It’s a modernized Shakespeare production that made us feel grown up and smart for loving “The Taming of the Shrew,” but not so bookish that we couldn’t wait to see the teenage couples make out behind the school. And the stellar music soundtrack is just the best way of enjoying a romantic comedy  – the songs are from the heart, pure and fun, and not at all contrived. There’s nothing to hate about this film, and everything to love.


What You Need to Know About the Hulu Live Streaming Service


The anticipation continues to build for the new Hulu Live Streaming Service, which is still expected to launch in early 2017. Ever since November, Hulu has been releasing more and more details of the service, so that it’s possible to put together a rough outline of what the service will include, as well as how much it might cost.

What streaming content will Hulu Live include?

As it stands now, Hulu Live has inked deals with four major content partners: Time Warner, Fox, Disney and CBS. In addition, Hulu executives have hinted that a deal with NBC Universal might be coming soon. As of now, viewers will get 35-40 different cable networks, all of them available as live streams, much as you’d get with traditional cable TV.

There’s a lot of great content here, primarily in three major areas: sports, entertainment and news. These are, essentially, the three reasons why you need a live streaming service and it looks like Hulu Live is trying to cover as many bases as possible here by partnering with the biggest and best content providers.

For sports content, Hulu Live viewers will get the following TV networks:

  • Fox Sports
  • All the ESPN networks (including ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPN3)
  • All of Fox’s regional sports programming
  • CBS Sports

For entertainment content, Hulu Live viewers will get the following TV networks:

  • CBS
  • TNT
  • TBS
  • Cartoon Network
  • Turner Classic Movies
  • Adult Swim
  • Freeform
  • National Geographic
  • NatGEO Wild
  • Disney
  • Disney Junior

And for news content, Hulu Live viewers will receive the following TV networks:

  • CNN
  • FOX News
  • FOX Business

Moreover, it looks like Hulu Live is trying to expand the partnership with CBS to include the CW Network and Showtime. As of now, Hulu Live won’t get the full current season of every series like “NCIS,” which is basically a way for CBS to carve out some exclusive content that it can include as part of its own streaming options. So there should probably be an asterisk next to “CBS” – Hulu Live viewers will get almost all of the current CBS content, but not all of it.

How much will it cost?

There are so many streaming services out there right now that cost is a very important consideration. For that reason, Hulu executives have been careful about tossing an exact dollar figure our there. Right now, the consensus appears to be that Hulu Live will cost about $40 per month.

For that price, you would get access to Hulu’s video on demand library, which current Hulu subscribers pay either $7.99 or $11.99 per month (depending on whether or not they get commercials with the content). It’s not clear yet whether that $40 price will include the ad-free content, or whether there might be a price bump to get rid of all the commercials. So a little basic math tells you that you’re essentially paying $10 for archived content and another $30 for streaming content.


Which streaming service is most similar to Hulu Live?

In many ways, then, Hulu Live looks like it will a prized option for cable cord-cutters. You’re essentially getting all the best live streaming channels that you’d get on cable, for a lower price. Moreover, you’re also getting access to all of Hulu’s movies and TV shows, which was always the major allure of getting Hulu.

Thus, the streaming service that is most similar to Hulu Live is Sling TV, which for awhile was the only live streaming service with top cable networks like ESPN. The big question will be about price. Right now, Hulu Live is expected to be priced at $40 per month, but the current cost of Sling TV is just $20 per month. So that’s nearly double the price.

Who should get Hulu Live?

The core audience for Hulu Live will be people who enjoy watching the current seasons of hit TV shows, but who also want to watch the shows on their own schedule without having to tune in to the programming schedules of the major TV networks.

And that has always been one of the major selling points of Hulu – getting access to all the hit TV show episodes almost as soon as they air on the networks. Unlike Netflix, which has a very long wait before shows appear in its archive, Hulu was always about delivering episodes within a day of them airing on networks. So, if you missed your favorite TV show on a Tuesday night, you’d still be able to watch it later in the week.

How will Hulu Live differentiate itself from the competition?

Right now, Hulu executives are banking on the fact that its new streaming service can carve out a niche in the competitive streaming market. Unlike Netflix, it will have live streaming content and a huge library of TV shows. Unlike Sling TV, it will have a growing library of original content series, including “Casual” (nominated for a Golden Globe), “The Mindy Project” and “11.22.63.” And unlike any of the competing cable or satellite providers, which are starting to roll out their own streaming services, Hulu Live will be cheaper.

And the competitive differentiation goes beyond just content and price. One advantage that Hulu has been talking up is “The New Hulu Experience,” a new user interface for finding content more easily. This new interface will be easier to navigate and use, and possibly be as good as the Netflix user interface.

Moreover, there’s also the question of how many concurrent streams the new service will allow, as well as how many different platforms the service will support. These are all important questions, especially as more people than ever before consume streaming content on multiple devices. Will it be possible, then, for kids to watch Hulu TV in the living room while parents watch their shows in the bedroom?

The one big advantage that Hulu Live has over the competition is the built-in user base for Hulu, which is estimated to have 12 million subscribers. Presumably, Hulu will attempt to up-sell some of the people paying $11.99 per month to now pay $40 a month for the full streaming experience in addition to the rich archive of TV shows.

The good news for TV fans is that all this competition in the streaming space has opened up a number of great opportunities. Hulu Live, in many ways, is what cable TV should look like, but doesn’t: great live content, a great archive of current TV shows for viewing on demand, and just enough extras – like original programming – to keep things interesting.

By partnering with CBS, Time Warner, Fox and Disney, Hulu Live has just about completed that goal. If a few more partnerships – such as the rumored one with NBC Universal – fall into place, Hulu Live could emerge as the dominant live streaming service with tens of millions of subscribers. It’s easy to see why the big cable companies must be concerned.


What Fans Thought of the “Stranger Things” Teaser Trailer


The first Netflix teaser trailer that came out for Season 2 of “Stranger Things” in August 2016 immediately had fans scrambling to make sense of what might happen over the next 10 episodes in 2017. The teaser just listed the names of the episodes, announced that Season 2 would take place in 1984 and played more of that synth theme music from the show that we’ve all learned to love.

But when you combine those tantalizing clues with recent announcements, it’s possible to create some truly epic fan theories. The Duffer Brothers have already hinted that Season 2 would be “bigger, badder and darker” than Season 1, and that’s led to even more speculation. And then fans really started to put together some theories after the “Stranger Things” Super Bowl commercial in February. So here’s what fans are thinking right now.

#1: They continue to create theories about Will’s time in the Upside Down

Not surprisingly, fans looked carefully for any clues as to what will happen to Will in Season 2. In the Season 1 finale, he vomited up a slug, and that had people suspecting that the monster in the Upside Down may have been trying to use him as part of a new plot to breed new monsters. At the very end of Season 1, we see the world around him briefly transformed into the Upside Down world, so we know that he’s somehow created new doorways into that alternate dimension.

There are different episodes announced in the teaser trailer, and there are two big clues hidden there about Will. One is the name of Episode 2 (“The Boy Who Came Back to Life”), which is the exact title of a newspaper clipping we saw at the end of Season 1. It’s a reference to the disappearance of Will and how the townspeople in Hawkins, Indiana are starting to piece together all the strange supernatural and paranormal occurrences. What actually happened, and what are the implications?

Fans also spent a lot of time theorizing about the meaning of the title of Episode 6 (“The Polly Wog”). That name happens to be a name of a special kind of tadpole, and that would seem to hint at a bigger explanation of what the slug means. It’s obvious now what Will’s time in the Upside Down has left him with PTSD-like symptoms, and some have even speculated that he might be becoming some kind of monster himself.

#2: “The Gang” is back together

All of the clips from the Netflix Super Bowl commercial seem to hint that the whole gang – Eleven, Mike, Will, Lucas, Dustin, Nancy, Steve and Jonathan – will be back in Season 2. We’re shown images of the kids wearing Ghostbusters suits, which makes perfect sense since the initial teaser trailer said that Season 2 would be based in 1984. And the Ghostbusters suits have another, more metaphorical meaning as well — the kids are going to try to get to the bottom of the “ghosts” that inhabit the Upside Down world.


#3: The Newcomers

The teaser trailer didn’t show any of the faces of the new cast members, but since the trailer was released in August 2016, we’ve had a lot more hints about what’s going to be new in 2017. First of all, there are the two new children characters – Billy and Max. The common consensus among fans is that Billy is going to be some kind of destabilizing influence on the group of friends while Max is going to fit right in and become friends.

There are also going to be two important adult newcomers – 80s star Sean Astin (“The Goonies”), who is going to play Bob Newby, a “kind-hearted former nerd” who went to high school with Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper, and Paul Reiser (“Aliens”), who is going to play some kind of evil scientist (Dr. Owens) at the Department of Energy. The consensus among fans is that the Dr. Owens character will be involved in some kind of cover-up of the all supernatural and paranormal events happening in the town.

#4: Eleven’s Back Story

One of the most important characters of Season 1 was Eleven, the young girl who is the subject of all kinds of tests and experiments by Dr. Brenner and the team at the Hawkins National Laboratory. What’s not so certain, though, is her full back story. We only see a close-up of her face in the Netflix Super Bowl ad, but there is one clue embedded in the teaser trailer. That’s the title of Episode 7 – “The Secret Cabin.” According to fan theories, this “secret cabin” is actually a reference to Eleven and the place where she is hiding out after her fight with the demogorgon.

There’s one other question on everybody’s minds: What exactly, is her connection with Sheriff Jim Hopper? In the season finale of Season 1, we see Sheriff Hopper leaving Eggos and food in a box for her in the woods. And in the still photos that Netflix has released for Season 2, we see Sheriff Hopper (if ever so briefly) reacting to an explosion and also doing some digging with a big shovel while carrying a flashlight. What exactly is he trying to find?

#5: More 1980s pop culture references

Part of what made Season 1 so engaging for fans were all the hidden references and “Easter eggs” related to 1980s pop culture. Everywhere, it seemed, there were references to films by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Stephen King, Wes Craven and John Carpenter. Since know that the action picks up in 1984 (and not at some later date in the future), it’s a guarantee that we’ll see even more of these 1980s references to films like “Aliens.” Moreover, the Duff Brothers have hinted that the outfits and haircuts (mullets and perms!) will be true 1980s vintage, so that’s going to be exciting. And Kellogg’s has gotten in on the game, offering Netflix access to its vintage 1980s Eggo commercials for that Super Bowl ad.

#6: Speculation about the monsters and horrors from the Upside Down

Nobody quite knows what to make of the monsters from the Upside Down. The current theory among fans is that the demogorgon has been breeding and using humans as part of this strategy. We’ve seen hatched eggs in the Upside Down and we’ve also seen the giant slug-like creature attached to Will’s face, which might be the reason why we vomited up that slug in Season 1.

But it looks like there’s going to be more than just that one monster. There are going to be multiple “tulip heads.” And, based on that epic Netflix Super Bowl commercial, it looks like there’s going to be gigantic spiders as well. We see a spider twice in that commercial. The really scary spider appears when there’s a flash of lightning and we see what appears to be a giant arachnid straddling the town of Hawkins.


The clues in the initial teaser trailer were limited at best – a listing of the episodes of Season 2, a note that the action would pick up during Halloween 1984 and more of that cool (but creepy) synth theme music from Season 1. But with everything we know from Season 1, the new Netflix Super Bowl ad, and interviews and stories that have appeared in the media, there’s a lot to work with now in trying to guess what’s going to happen in 2017. One thing is certain, though – Season 2 of “Stranger Things” just looks awesome!


Is “A Dog’s Purpose” Worth the Watch?


If you love wonderful scenes of cute dogs doing heroic deeds and playing with boys and girls, you’ll love “A Dog’s Purpose,’ the new film by director Lasse Hallstrom. The film will warm your heart and may even convince you to go out and buy a dog (if you don’t already have one). Yes, the film goes a bit too far with all the sentimentality. And, yes, as a piece of cinematic fare, you can do better. But the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Let’s start off with the storyline of “A Dog’s Purpose,” which is based on a novel by W. Bruce Cameron. It’s the story of a devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who discovers the meaning of its own existence – to make humans happy – after living, dying and then being reincarnated as another canine. And so the cycle continues over the course of five decades. Each time, the dog comes back as a different breed, and sometimes even a new gender. But each time, there is one constant: the dog is just so lovable and cute.

This is where the film starts to veer off course with all kinds of dog clichés. You see, the problem is that we’re given a deliriously stereotypical view of the world, in which dogs do everything they’re supposed to do – they play games with kids, they fetch items for you, and they comfort you when you’re feeling blue. And then, they do all the super-hero feats that have been ascribed to them for centuries – in this film, the dog rescues a child from a raging river and tries to save people from a burning home. It’s completely acceptable for one or two dog clichés to make their way into a film. But when you’re presented story after story, and the clichés just won’t go away, that’s when you literally start to cringe in your movie seat.

At times, it seems like the key goal of the film is to help you dredge up your sentimental childhood memories. The filmmaker, Lasse Hallstrom, knows how to tug at your heartstrings, and that’s why the film can be so difficult to watch at times – you know what’s going to happen next, and yet, you’re powerless to stop it. You feel the tears welling up in your eyes, and you want to hold them back, but you won’t be able to stop. You just want that dog to do the right thing every time.

The main story that will have you crying at the end is that this one dog – Bailey – stays true to the one child (Ethan, played by Bryce Gheisar) who owned him first. Decades later, we meet up with this child and now he’s a man (played by Dennis Quaid). He sees a dog that acts just like his beloved Bailey that he had as a kid. But it can’t be, can it? Oh, but of course, you know the answer to that! It’s been five decades, but the special love between boy and dog has been kept alive in the heart, and now they are reunited in the end. Cue the sappy music.


In short, the film is not bad filmmaking, it’s just that it’s so emotionally manipulative. But there’s something great and wonderful about the film – and that’s how unabashed it is about showing us life in America as it once was. Back in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s, America was picture postcard beautiful. Neighborhoods were family-friendly, everyone owned a pet, and the future seemed bright. It wasn’t yet a tired cliché to talk about a dog as “man’s best friend.” You could take a pet dog with you on a date with a cute girl, and nobody would think twice.

And then reality happened. If you think about American pop culture today, everything has to be dark and twisted or sarcastic and ironic – even the cartoons. There’s no such thing as “baseball and apple pie” America anymore. Kids aren’t eating apple pie –they’re off smoking (legalized) pot, and nobody watches baseball anymore because all the athletes are cheaters who use steroids.

Thus, for all the critics who have unanimously panned “A Dog’s Purpose,” here’s a message: the film is perfectly OK, but the filter has changed. It’s no longer allowed for a critic to love a film that’s essentially G-rated without any irony. There always has to be a “dark and twisted” version of America nostalgia, or some epic plot to save the world. There’s nothing particularly epic here, unless you count the act of being reincarnated over and over again as something that meets the definition of epic.

The other “problem” with the film, according to the critics, is that the humor is just so ridiculously childish. The film uses humor to explain all the unexplained actions of dogs – why they love to eat food in the trash, what they’re really thinking when they stare up at you with their big puppy dog eyes (you’ll cringe when you hear the answer), and why they love to play with humans. Some critics have called the humor “insipid.” Ok, but we can still enjoy some jokes about dogs and bacon, right?

So here’s the final answer to the question if “A Dog’s Purpose” is worth the watch: if you have young kids and want them to have a moment to explore America as it once was, and to enjoy lots of scenes with dogs, then by all means, take them. You don’t get many chances like this. This is pure Americana. The answer is yes – it’s worth a watch but only under these conditions – don’t go on a date with a cute girl to this film and don’t go with your drinking buddies.

So what if the film is sugary, sentimental and clichéd? The film is great as a way for a family to spend some time together. It’s a different type of “escape” – not an escape to intergalactic space empires, but an escape to a time and a place in America that no longer exists. Forget the haters. They probably own cats, anyway. Do yourself a favor – go to a cheap matinee and see “A Dog’s Purpose” with someone very young. It could change your life and it will most certainly change theirs.


Movie Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split”


It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for M. Night Shyamalan to return to form, back when he was delighting us with movies like “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable.” His new film “Split” is as good as we’ve seen him. He’s eschewed some of the big-budget special effects of some of his more recent films, and instead, focused on writing a taut, suspenseful horror-thriller.

If you don’t already know the basic storyline from the movie trailer, it’s basically this: a deranged man (played by James McAvoy) suffering from multiple personality disorder abducts three teenage girls, and subjects them to various torments as he struggles with his 23 different personalities.

The problem, of course, is that there’s one more personality that has not yet fully surfaced, and when it does, it will seek to dominate all 23 of his other personalities. It’s safe to say that this 24th personality is going to be the most dangerous one, certainly more so than some of the other personalities – an LGBT fashion designer, a deranged church lady, a 9-year-old child and a clean freak.

In many ways, “Split” marks a split from other films – like “Psycho” or “Dressed to Kill” – that used the existence of a hidden personality as a major plot twist. Indeed, from the very outset, we’re told that “Kevin” has 23 different personalities vying for control. On a regular basis, he visits his therapist, Dr. Fletcher (played by Betty Buckley), who has a chance to explain to both Kevin and the audience what the heck is going on here.

Unlike other people suffering from multiple personality disorder, Kevin actually has a rare and dangerous form of it known as dissociative identity disorder, which means that he assumes the specific physical attributes for each personality.

That leads to a star tour de force role for James McAvoy, who is absolutely brilliant in being able to use his body language, his facial expressions and even his accents and dialects to show viewers which personality he’s currently experiencing. (Oh, and don’t forget the tiger-like teeth!) The unique aspect of his disorder is that only one can “come out to play” at a time. Thus, we see McAvoy transforming himself almost effortlessly into a mix of different “alters,” all of them are, presumably, almost an entirely different person with different physical and mental attributes.

Since this is a Shyamalan film, you know there are going to be plot twists and subtle turns in the narrative. And it’s here that the director is a master of mood, pacing and perspective, showing us just enough to hint at what might come next, but keeping enough out of view to keep us grasping for more. We’re like the three teenage girls, held behind a dungeon-like door, and only able to see bits and pieces of all the craziness happening around them at any time.

In many ways, though, Shyamalan may be trying too hard to keep us on the edge of our seats. At times, what happens is just preposterous, and there’s no way to put it any other way. And some of the characterizations from McAvoy are so overwrought and over-the-top that we wonder if Shyamalan is toying with us, letting us know that he knows exactly what we must be thinking about his films.


While it’s hard to argue with the prodigious artistic output of M. Night Shyamalan – “The Sixth Sense, “Unbreakable,” “Signs, “The Happening,” “The Village,” “Lady in the Lake” – it’s also clear that he’s never going to achieve his enormous promise of a decade ago. Remember when Newsweek anointed him as “the next Spielberg”?

Unfortunately, there’s a lot in “Split” that’s derivative of many of the top horror franchises today. “Saw” comes to mind, because that film also features the story of someone who wakes up in an unrecognized chamber of horrors, confronting a villain of unimagined evil. But, to Shyamalan’s credit, his film is literally a PG-13 take on the “R” horror film genre. The film is not especially bloody, gruesome or horrible, even if it is sinister and more than a little creepy. You will be creeped out, but not grossed out. And, certainly, the abuse of children theme is something that maybe we’d rather not see on camera, even if it’s something certain to add a layer of creepiness to the film.

While a lot of credit for the box office success of the film has to go to the name brand recognition of M. Night Shyamalan and the main star, James McAvoy, credit also has to go Betty Buckley, who’s a key part of making sense of the plot, as well as the three girls – Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula – who are abducted by McAvoy’s character.

Of these, Anya Taylor-Joy is deserving of especial notice. Other critics have described her as a “brooding outsider”, and that’s a good description of her. She’s really the key to the three girls making sense of their situation and escaping. As it turns out, though, she’s more than a little bit damaged herself. She’s carrying a lot of emotional baggage, in the form of some childhood traumas that she would rather not relive.

Ultimately, “Split” is a worthy take on the psycho-slasher movie, if only because the “psycho” element is so clearly announced up front (and the title of the film should tell you as much, as well). It is, as Variety has suggested, “an unhinged new mind bender.” We know the plot twists are coming, but we are still largely powerless to predict them (although more than a few “Split” fans have said that it’s possible to piece together a number of clues that prepared them for the film’s final “blow your mind” plot twist.)

Hollywood’s horror-thriller has been in need of a reboot, after the whole “Saw” genre gave it a boost for so long. And so this is what we could be looking forward to – films that focus more on star power and PG-13-level terror.

We won’t be seeing a “Split, Part 2” yet but the film clearly aims to be taken seriously. It was released under the Universal Blumhouse label, which is the same label that gave us “Insidious,” “Paranormal Activity” and “The Purge.” The film “Split” may have split personalities of its own at times, but it’s certainly a compelling two-hour romp through the mind of a lunatic.


The 5 Most Anticipated Films of 2017


It’s shaping up to be a tremendous year for new movies in 2017. Buzz is already starting to build for many new movies – including a few that will be hitting cinema screens as early as March. Based on what fans are saying on the Internet’s top movie sites, these are the 5 most anticipated films of 2017 (listed in the order they will be released).

#1: “Beauty and the Beast”

This film is going to be full-on Disney goodness, with Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. Unlike the Disney animated classic, this will be a live-action cinematic drama. So get ready for some gorgeous castle scenes and some really cool special effects for the Beast and his castle.

Even kids will know the basic storyline – Belle is taken prisoner by the Beast in an enchanted castle, but learns to look beyond his external hideousness. This is a romantic dark fantasy filled with all kinds of enchanted special effects – like teacups and clocks that sing and dance. Similar to the 2015 live-action remake of “Cinderella,” this might be the type of movie that even adults will want to see again and again.

Release date: March 17

#2: “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2”


If you worried that “Guardians of the Galaxy” would be a one-hit wonder, no worries now. Marvel Entertainment is releasing “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2” at the very start of this summer, and it looks like a real winner. The film, directed by James Gunn, stars Chris Pratt (as Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (as Gamora), Dave Bautista (as Drax) and Kurt Russell (as Peter Quill’s father, Ego). And there are two great actors who will voice the roles of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel).

We already know this is going to be an action blockbuster with all kinds of glorious special effects – what remains to be seen are all the unique plot twists that are going to happen. For example, one of the plotline will involve the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. And, based on the trailers already available on YouTube, there might be a romantic angle involving Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana (yes, please!).

Release date: May 5

#3: “Wonder Woman”


You can never have too many blockbuster superhero movies, especially ones featuring strong, charismatic heroines like Wonder Woman. 2016 may have been an off-year for DC Comics (e.g. “Batman Vs. Superman” and “Suicide Squad”), but 2017 is going to be absolutely wonderful. “Wonder Woman” introduces us to the super stylish and super sexy Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot), an Amazon princess who discovers her true powers as Woman Woman.

Based on trailers that are out for “Wonder Woman” (due to hit screens on June 2), we known that Diana has been living on an Amazonian remote paradise before a U.S. air force pilot mistakenly crashes there. What unfolds then is a story set during World War I, in which Wonder Woman must use her superhero abilities to stop the war. This is going to be a delirious mash-up of superhero powers set amidst wartime. Oh, and did we mention that Wonder Woman just looks dreamy divine in her outfit?

Release date: June 2

#4: “Spider-Man: Homecoming”


Mark down July 7 on your calendars. That’s when “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is going to hit the cinematic big screen. It has the potential to be the biggest superhero blockbuster of the year, and that’s really saying something, given the competition from “Wonder Woman” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” Unlike other Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire, this one stars a young Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland), as he begins to learn more about his super powers and his unique destiny.

So it’s really a coming-of-age story as much as a superhero story, and that’s what makes this such an intriguing film. Especially when you add in the supposed love interest of young Spider-Man — the beautiful Michelle, played by Zendaya. And there are plenty of supporting characters who also bring their Hollywood A-game to this movie: Marisa Tomei (as Aunt May) and Spider-Man’s new mentor Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.). Tony Stark, of course, is Iron Man, so you can see all kinds of delicious Marvel Entertainment tie-ins here. The only question, really, is how Spider-Man going to take on the villain Vulture (played by Michael Keaton).

Release date: July 7

#5: “Star Wars: Episode VIII”


It’s hard to keep track of which “Star Wars” movies are prequels or sequels, and which part belongs to which “Star Wars” trilogy, but here’s all that you have to know: the new “Star Wars” is going to drop in December 2017 and it’s going to be huge. We’ve already seen how big “Rogue One” was during the holiday 2016 season, and there’s no reason not to expect that the “Star Wars” movie won’t be just as big. In fact, the buzz online is that the other major Hollywood films scheduled for release in December 2017 are now scrambling to move around their distribution times, so that they won’t have to compete head-to-head with “Star Wars: Episode VIII.”

This is definitely a “trust me” pick. Because, well, we don’t know that much about the movie. It was originally scheduled for release in May 2017, but was pushed back to December. All that we know is that it will feature Rey (played by Daisey Ridley) and Finn (played by John Boyega) from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Episode VII). (And there might be a romantic sub-plot!)

There haven’t even been any official studio trailers released for the new film – although there are plenty of fan tribute trailers already all over YouTube. We’ll surely have more intergalactic adventures, and learn more about the force and the Jedi code. We might even seen Mark Hamill as an old Luke Skywalker (and Carrie Fisher as well!). Right now, even the uncertainty about the exact casting and plot line hasn’t stopped the buzz from building around the film franchise — “Star Wars: Episode VIII” is now the #1 most anticipated film on Fandango while “Rogue One” is the #1 pre-ordered film on Apple iTunes as well as the #1 film at theaters.

Release date: December 15, 2017


So, those are the top 5 most anticipated films of the year, but that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of other great films scheduled for release throughout 2017. One film trailer that’s going viral right now is the one promoting the follow-up (“50 Shades Darker”) to the “50 Shades of Grey” film that captivated movie audiences in 2015.

And we’re also going to be treated to new installments in the “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Fast and the Furious” and “Transformers” franchises, so that’s good news for movie fans everywhere. And as we get through the summer, we’ll get a better idea of all the films that the major studios are placing their Oscar bets on, so there’s really a lot to look forward to in 2017.

How “New Girl” Keeps Its Charm After 6 Seasons


New Girl is an American television series which premiered on Fox on September 20, 2011. New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel, is one of most popular shows on television today; it combines drama and comedy all in one.

Everyone is wondering how New Girl has maintained its charm even after six seasons. Most TV series lose their charm in the third season or so, but viewers are still watching New Girl even after 6 seasons! The show is aimed at a general comedy audience, and it is about an offbeat teacher (Jess) who moves to LA and into a loft with three men: Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. All these characters are in their early thirties, and they are struggling to deal with mature relationships and their career choices.

New Girl first got really interesting once Jess and Nick just decided to be in a relationship. Remember: the show was built around the four characters that were brought together by fate, but the connection between Nick and Jess quickly became so real for anyone to ignore. This was so captivating to the viewers because it was like a parody. The show had come from being a regular comedy to incorporating relationships, comedy, and drama all in one. By Jess and Nick getting in a relationship, the show changed its direction and made the relationship the key concept of the show. Nick and Jess are two likable, favorable characters, but the relationship gets even more interesting when conflict arises. The kind of conflict created by the comedy is so fascinating because it did not make either of the two parties look like a villain.

Because of Nick and Jess’ relationship and their conflict, it led to Schmidt moving out of the group’s loft and into a polarizing storyline that led to him dating two women, Cece and Elizabeth, at the same time. It was funny to see one guy legitimately in love with two women at the same time. It was not portrayed as cheating, but it clearly was.


New Girl’s storyline is a bit complicated, and it has developed over the years according to the feedback of the audience. It started off as a comedy-drama of three guys moving into a loft together with one woman, which led to one of the guys falling in love with the woman. This was interesting enough because their chemistry was too much for anyone to ignore. The show was bound to be successful due to its nature of production and inclusion of the famous Zooey Deschanel. According to its producers, New Girl made some time creating some logistical developments when it tapped Prince to guest star in the comedy. This kind of development is a huge one, and it didn’t make things any easier for the producers. It took three months to complete that episode, and it was so tiring. It was like trying to put an entire show within another show, and it took a lot of energy to put together.

To make things more interesting, the show featured the return of Damon Wayans. He played the coach in the show’s pilot episode, but he was unable to continue on the show once “Happy Endings” was renewed by ABC. Wayans was brought back to New Girl for a one episode guest spot in season three, and eventually became a full time cast member shortly afterward. Nobody anticipated his return, which created excitement for viewers. However, it was challenging for the producers to come up with a good storyline to keep the audience captivated; they had to incorporate a new member back into the loft and come up with a good catch up storyline.

New Girl has received its share of criticism and praise, but all in all, the comedy was named one of the best new comedies of 2011 fall season. The comedy had the highest rated fall debut for a Fox scripted show since 2001. The pilot episode drew approximately 10.28 million viewers in the US, and it received a 4.8 rating from adults 18-49. The show has managed to keep its charm, and it is still interesting even now in season six. Most people thought it was losing its charm in season three where the stories became a bit complicated, and the Nick-Jess relationship became a fallout. However, this changed with the return of Wayans and when they bring the fun back.

This show has been nominated for several awards including five Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards. The comedy still maintains its humor in addition to the drama. New Girl is a show that will keep its audience captivated until the very end!