Black and white

Black and white

And you thought meeting the Fockers was rough: Daniel Kaluuya before the s*** really gets weird in "Get Out."

Willie Krischke - 03/09/2017

If “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” took a wrong turn, passed through Stepford, and found itself in a really dark place, you’d have Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, “Get Out.” Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) are at the meet-the-parents stage of their relationship, and what do you know, Rose’s parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford; Keener is especially good) are having a shin-dig at their place in the countryside. Chris is nervous, because Rose says he’s the first black man she’s ever dated, but Rose says don’t worry, my dad would have voted for Obama a third time, if possible.

And thus we’re launched into a carefully observed, tightly written, wryly satiric exploration of what it’s like to be black in white America. And bywhite America, I don’t mean Trump’s America – it would be easy to put a black man in a dangerous situation there. Instead, he finds himself in a bastion of white liberals who continually assure him they’re on his side, and he has nothing to worry about. Which makes him all the more nervous.

(Side note: It’s amusing to me that audiences for this movie are mostly likely to be fans of Key & Peele’s comedy – that is to say, young blacks and affluent white liberals. They’re likely to have really different experiences in the theater, but the white liberals will pretend they’re having the same experience as the young blacks – that they “get it,” they’re in on the joke, and they just love this movie.)

“Get Out” is at its best adding one slightly odd, slightly uncomfortable circumstance to another as Chris wonders: “Is there some-thing sinister going on here or am I just being paranoid?” We, the audience, know the answer, because we saw the prologue, but it is compelling to watch Chris try to relax while the White People Alarm keeps going off.

A lot of movies labor to make one or two political/social points; “Get Out” effortlessly tosses off observations at a stunning pace. It is always sobering to a white guy like me to remember that the places I would consider perfectly safe – like an upscale lakeside estate – feel dangerous to some black folks, and the places I feel nervous – like an inner city neighborhood – feel perfectly safe to them.

As “Get Out” changes gears from social satire to horror, it loses a lot of energy. It’s not the kind of movie you’d expect a lot of plausibility from, but some of the plot holes are big enough to drive a truck through. It definitely works better when you’re still wondering what the heck is going on; once you find out, it’s pretty disappointing. As a film, “Get Out” is a fantastic race satire, but it’s a pretty ridiculous horror flick.

By my count, there have been 8 Batman movies since Michael Keaton donned the cowl in 1989. In addition to Keaton, we’ve had George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, and now Ben Affleck have all played the dark knight. Do we really need another Batman movie?

If the new movie stars Will Arnett as the caped crusader, Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, and is made entirely of tiny plastic bricks, the answer is resoundingly “yes!” That’s because it sends up all those other movies, as well as a million comic books (DC hardly has a title these days that isn’t in some way connected to the world’s greatest detective) and that campy TV show in the ’60s (which also produced a movie.) Along the way, LEGO
Batman pokes fun at just about every entry in our current super-hero cinematic craze, especially the tendency of certain directors to think the grimmer the characters and the darker the movie, the better. (Anyone seen Old Man
Logan yet?) This particular bubble really  needed to be burst.
The plot revolves, of course, around the relationship between the Joker and Batman. After yet another defeat, the Joker is crestfallen to learn that Batman doesn’t consider him his arch enemy – Batman likes to fight around, he’s not ready for that kind of commitment. Sure, he doesn’t like the Joker, but he wouldn’t go so far as to say he HATES him. So Joker launches a nefarious plan to round up all of Batman’s various and sundry supervillains (including Calendar Man, Condiment King and Cat ... Man?) and turn them in to commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson,) thus eliminating Batman’s reason to exist.

Along the way, Batman (well, Bruce Wayne) sort of accidentally adopts Dick Grayson, but then thinks he might be useful as a sidekick/sacrificial lamb to send into dangerous situations ahead of him. But over the course of two hours and three acts, a makeshift family starts to form around Batman, who has been a loner (and a jerk) since the tragic death of his parents. It’s a testament to director Chris McKay’s skill that he’s able to give this plot emotional weight amid all the silliness without giving his audience whiplash.

“LEGO Batman” doesn’t quite measure up to the insane brilliance of “The LEGO Movie,” but that’s a really high bar. Both movies toss off jokes so fast you can barely keep up, but this time around, the pace feels frenetic and occasionally forced. It wears you out, partly because not as many jokes land solidly. Nonetheless, it’s fun, entertaining, exciting and even a little tear-jerky. And it’s a welcome tonic after all the doom and gloom that has dominated superhero movies for so long. I’ll tell you one thing, it’s a hell of a lot better than the last Batman movie.

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