The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

After the success of 2014’s The Lego Movie, Warner Brothers decided to continue along the same lines, and created 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie, using the Batman character they had in that film. Batman was voiced by Will Arnett, and he returns for this film.

Batman is awesome. Everyone loves him, and thinks he’s the greatest, but, we find out his biggest fan is himself. The film starts with Joker (Zach Galifianakis) attacking the city’s power generation station, demanding that the mayor cede control of the city to him or else he’ll destroy it. Of course, Batman comes to the rescue, but not before meeting pretty much every villain that he’s ever fought, even ones I barely remember. He saves the day, yet again, but the villains avoid capture.

After this latest victory, Police Commissioner Gordon decides it’s time to retire. His successor is his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson). Joker returns to interrupt the celebration, and tries out a new method to mess with The Bat. It’s pretty effective.

That’s just the first 10-15 minutes of the film. I’ll spoil nothing further. The movie is fast-paced, and never slows down. Something’s always happening, or about to happen.

The Lego Batman Movie is first and foremost a comedy. There’s a lot of humor to be had, in all aspects of Batman-dom, from parodying previous iterations of the character, to making fun of the ridiculousness of some of the things he does. Almost all of it is clever and funny, a tough combination to pull off.

It’s definitely worth seeing. I highly recommend it. It’s rated PG, and all the kids in the theater really liked it, including me.



Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures is a movie whose title has a double meaning. This movie is about specialized mathematicians who work at NASA, before the launch of the first Spaceships. The “Figures” refers to both the numbers in the calculations, but also the people who performed that work.

View the trailer here.

In the 1950s qnd 1960s, Americans were working on their space program, initially under the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). In 1958, President Eisenhower essentially created the NASA as we know it today. Back then everything was new. Computers, as we know them today, were in their infancy, and the term computers referred to actual people who performed the calculations that modern computers do today. There were pools of computers who were given the task of verifying scientist’s work, and also calculating the numbers that literally got the space program off the ground.

The movie focuses on three African-American women, friends who are a part of the ‘colored’ pool of computers for NASA, at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. Segregation was still going on, and the women in the pool were loaned out for specific projects.  Each one has to overcome the biases inherent in the job, as well as the underlying  racism.

Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson) is assigned to the Space Task Group, the ones who are making the final calculations for launching and landing the actual spaceships. Given the stress of the job, no computer has lasted with the group for more than a short time. Katherine is determined to succeed, despite the situation. Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) is an arrogant scientist who doesn’t make things easy for her.

Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) gets assigned to the engineers who are trying to get the space capsule working. She encounters less bias on the job, but still has huge hurdles to face.

Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) has become the de-facto manager of the computer pool. We find early on that she’s a tinkerer, and knows how to get things done when it’s needed. Her supervisor, Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst), is more of a roadblock to everything Dorothy tries to accomplish.

This is an excellent movie. It walks you through many of the things that had to be in place before space flight was achievable. They really took the time and effort to get the feel of it right. Speaking as The Man, I could gloss over the racism that shows up throughout the film, but I am totally unqualified to comment any further. It’s a big part of what is accomplished in the movie, but not the only part. This movie is based on real events, and real people, and it needs to stand on its own, and it does that extremely well. As a movie, it’s one of the best I’ve seen in years. I cannot recommend it enough.

Once you’ve seen the film, and you really should, come back and visit this link, which explains the truth behind the film. In order to make Hidden Figures, some of the timeline has been rearranged, and some other facts that would get in the way of making the film are combined and/or adjusted, but their impact is definitely felt.