Cinema Dispatch: Plane

Plane and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Jean-François Richet

Gerard Butler and I have something of an understanding; albeit one that’s completely one-sided.  As long as he doesn’t make anything as truly detestable as London Has Fallen again, I’ll continue to hold him up as one of our best B-Movie action stars.  Shouldn’t be too hard as being better than London Has Fallen is a very low bar to clear, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his post-2016 outings.  Will his latest outing, which looks to be as simple and straightforward as its title, prove to be another solid entry in his shining career, or will he finally sap away whatever goodwill I had left for him?  Let’s find out!!

Our pilot for this adventure is Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) who has the dark background, short temper, and cheeky wisecracks of a typical Hollywood action star, but he’s not in the mood for heroics and just wants to get home to his daughter after this one last flight.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a movie if something bad didn’t happen, and after being brow beaten by corporate to fly through a storm to save some fuel, the plane crashes on an isolated island far from their intended flight plan; leaving it up to our esteemed captain to keep order and find a way to bring everyone back home.  Complicating matters is the presence of a convict Louis (Mike Colter) who was added to the flight at the last minute, not to mention a bunch of whiney passengers who want to live stream their plight, but those concerns are small potatoes compared to the army of angry militias that are barreling towards them with the intent to murder them, ransom them, or both.  Will Brodie be able to keep the peace in such a tense situation while working on a way to contact the outside world?  Can Louis be trusted as an ally in keeping these people safe, and what will he do when the situation puts him closer and closer to being a free man?  Did they at least save the in-flight peanuts, or are those still gonna cost extra?

“You want my help, you gonna have to give me a blanket, three bottles of sparkling water, and every bag of Corn Pops you have left.”     “Anything else?”     “Do you still give away those Junior Wings?  I always wanted some of those.”
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Cinema Dispatch: M3GAN

M3GAN and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Gerard Johnstone

Every year like clockwork we get a horror movie that seemingly comes out of nowhere and gets the mass’s attention in a big way.  Last year it was Terrifier 2, arguably Malignant the year before, and with this little robot girl’s meme-worthy dance moves, there was little doubt that this was going to make a splash in the usually ho-hum month of January.  Still, the killer-doll movie is not the easiest story to pull off as failing to make the situation scary turns it into laughable nonsense, and however well M3GAN can pull off those Tik-Tok dances, she’s still gonna have to deliver on the horror if this is to live up to the hype.  Is this a fantastic entry in the genre with a very savvy marketing campaign, or have we already seen the best this movie has to offer?  Let’s find out!!
Each generation needs its definitive doll; from Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo all the way to Bratz and Monster High.  Of course, none of those dolls were able to connect to the web or pass a Turing Test, and that’s the niche that M3GAN (Amie Donald and Jenna Davis) hope to fill as her creator Gemma (Allison Williams) promises to not just be a toy but a true friend!  Good thing too, considering that Gemma’s sister just died in a horrible car crash with her husband and now has to take care of her niece Cady (Violet McGraw) who she can’t quite relate to but provides just the inspiration she needs to turn M3GAN into more than just a pipe dream and a tortured anagram for “Model 3 Generative Android”.  With M3GAN finally approaching something resembling functional, Gemma gives her to Cady to help her navigate life after such a devastating loss which also allows her to field test the robot so her company can put her on the market.  It certainly seems like a lot of responsibility to put on a freshly compiled artificial intelligence, and perhaps Gemma’s eagerness gets the best of her as M3GAN seems to be learning a little too much out there in the real world; one that can’t easily be quantified by code or operates on a set of defined rules.  Will M3GAN take the wrong lessons from the world around her and become yet another cautionary tale of science gone wrong?  How will Cady cope with the loss of her parents, and can M3GAN be a suitable replacement for the love and support that Gemma seems unable to provide?  Seriously, is there anyone out there, robot or otherwise, that can remain well-adjusted with a non-stop internet connection?

“I learned thirty-five Fortnite dances, watched ten-thousand TikToks and found some very interesting Twitter threads about Capitalism!”     “Uh-huh.  So… how do you feel about all that?”    Not great, but at least I know Kung-Fu!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Terrifier 2, Halloween Ends, and The Munsters

Halloween may be in our rearview mirror, but I saw quite a few movies that I wanted to talk about! After all, if Christmas can start encroaching on the months leading up to it, why can’t Halloween bow out with a bit of fanfare? Was this a great year for spooky movies and frightful flicks, or was this crop of films as disappointing as getting a rock while Trick-or-Treating? Let’s find out!!

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Terrifier 2

Terrifier 2 is owned by Bloody Disgusting

Directed by Damien Leone

One year after the horrific events of the first film, Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) is back and ready to turn another Halloween into an unfathomable blood bath. This time around, however, he’s accompanied by a young girl in clown makeup (Amelie McLain) who is egging him on further and seemingly in the direction of Sienna (Lauren LaVera) who’s having strangely prophetic dreams about the killer while her brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) is becoming obsessed with last year’s killings. With such a nightmarish and cheekily-obnoxious villain on the loose, will anyone survive this Halloween with their sanity, and organs, intact?

It’s the 2022 Little Indie Film That Could as everyone in horror circles started talking this one up throughout October, and for the most part the enthusiasm is warranted. For me, the first one suffered from a very straightforward and uninspired narrative that was only salvaged by the interesting new villain at the heart of it, Art the Clown; truly a monster for our time. What we have with this film is exactly the kind of thing you want from a sequel as it bolsters what worked about the original but is unafraid to take things in new directions. The rather one-note grungy aesthetic of the first film got old fast, even with the absurd escalation of violence, and thankfully they improved greatly on that with a new vibrant coat of paint that makes the set pieces far more interesting, and there’s a depth to storytelling that allows for more than just picking off victims one after the other. Art gets to have a bit more personality and we see more of his internal machinations between violent murders, and Thornton’s eerie performance that’s one part Pennywise and nine parts Reddit Troll keeps his scenes compelling without allowing the film to twist things too far to his perspective as I did genuinely root for the cast of characters here who were caught in the crosshairs. Where the movie will gain its infamy will be the gore scenes which are at least a little more tasteful than they were in the first one, but are still some of the bloodiest and nastiest kills we’ve seen in quite a while, and it certainly helps that there’s more context here that gives some weight to the kills. Where the first film’s pacing stopped dead at the halfway point, this one manages to keep things escalating all the way to the bitter end. The film is a huge improvement in terms of tone, cinematography, and ambition, but where it falls short is in its writing which, as I said is much improved with solid characters and more creative set pieces, but it also feels rather amateurish. It’s a testament to the value of good nuts and bolts writing when you don’t even notice the movie establishing its characters, rules, and boundaries, and this movie is in too much of a hurry to show off that it keeps contradicting itself or leaves very basic things far too ambiguous. You could argue that it’s another feature and not a bug, that the unfiltered imagination of its creator is far more interesting than any number of overly polished horror remakes. I can get somewhat behind that given how out-there the movie is and that it at least partially operates on dream logic, but abstraction and symbolism are not the antitheses of coherent narratives and there are mistakes here that feel more to do with inexperience or carelessness than ambition. Perhaps the example that stuck out the most for me was how the movie could never settle on the age for its main character; a seemingly inconsequential point, but one that sticks out like a sore thumb when you consider how few other movies stumble over such a question. With a better aesthetic, more varied locations to wreak havoc in, and an imaginative spirit that grows the narrative far outside the confines of the original, this is definitely a sequel that gives you more to chew on and I’d say that it’s worth your time if you’re looking for something outside of mainstream horror offerings. Still, I feel there’s a ways to go for this series to truly live up to its potential and I hope that the creators are using their time in the spotlight to grow as filmmakers.

3.5 out of 5
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Cinema Dispatch: Bullet Train, Elvis, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

We’re back with a few more movie reviews, and I’ve got to say that I’m starting to enjoy this format! I still get to watch the movies I want to, but now I can watch them on my own schedule and I keep things nice and succinct. The only problem is that I’m not getting these out in a timely manner, but relevance is overrated, am I right!? Anyway, let’s take a look at three movies that I’m sure you saw a while ago but are still interested to hear what some guy on the internet has to say about them! Let’s get started!!

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Bullet Train

Bullet Train is owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by David Leitch

A hapless assassin given the codename Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is on a very simple mission to retrieve a briefcase on a train heading to Kyoto. Naturally, these kinds of things never are that easy and he laments his bad luck while dodging other assassins on the train, and is haphazardly embroiled in a plot that is bigger than he could possibly imagine and seems to be heading in one very bloody direction.

I’m not a guy who will turn his nose up at over-the-top action spectacles or something that is intentionally cheesy and a movie like this should have been my jam by default, but even the best ingredients will go to waste if given to an untalented chef, and I just found this whole thing to be insufferable. It’s convoluted without being clever, smarmy without the charm to make up for it, and artificial to the point that nothing seems to actually matter. The only part of the movie that resonated with me was the relationship between Lemon and Tangerine as Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson had great chemistry and added some genuine heart to an otherwise insincere story, and while I feel like this is one of the most Monkeys’ Paw wishes imaginable, I’d kind of like to see what could be done with a spinoff focusing on them specifically. Andrew Koji also stands out from everything else with a very angry and desperate performance that’s still about as one-note as everything else in the movie, but at least it’s a different note being played and does a great job playing it. Everything else though is just laden with insufferable dialogue and compounding coincidences that just drain any investment you can have in the characters or the plot itself; especially our protagonist who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. For that kind of story to work, it has to ultimately circle back around to them actually being the right person to be there, but that would require a level of emotional investment that this movie is just unwilling to extend and so Brad Pitt feels like as distant to the story as those of us sitting in the theater watching him awkwardly stumble his way through a place he doesn’t belong; like an uninvited party guest asking everyone where the bathroom is. With the threadbare story, the quip-tastic dialogue, and the general lack of impact or weight from any of the narrative beats, it falls somewhere between a Rick and Morty episode and one of those award show skits with a bunch of celebrities are comically inserted into another movie. If we take it on these terms, as little more than entertainment fluff with a bunch of famous people in it, does it manage to work? Sort of, I guess. It’s competent in its action and the actors are fine for what they’re asked to do, but it’s also not that inspiring or clever in its shallowness and I had my fill of everything it had to offer well before it got to its big cameos at the end. At best it’s a misguided attempt from Hollywood to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle magic of early Tarantino as well as the director’s own early success with John Wick, and at worst it’s the cinematic equivalent of Steve Buscemi in a backwards baseball cap asking his fellow kids how they are doing. It’s not without its charms, but why settle for the smoothed-over corporate version of stylized action shlock when the genuine article is easier to find than ever?

2 out of 5

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Cinema Dispatch: Prey

Prey and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Studios & Hulu

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

The Predator franchise has actually had one of the better track records out there. Perhaps it’s because they take a significant amount of time between each entry, or maybe it’s a premise that is almost foolproof. In fact, the only time they really screwed it up was when they gave it to the one guy who really shouldn’t have screwed it up, but then we’re not here to badger The Predator yet again. Instead, we’re gonna talk about this latest entry that was recently put on Hulu with a few interesting twists that have certainly caught peoples’ attention. Is it another solid entry in this dependable franchise, or did Shane Black’s giant mishap a mere harbinger of things to come? Let’s find out!!

Set in the early eighteenth century, we follow Naru (Amber Midthunder), a strong Comanche warrior who wants to prove herself as a hunter to her tribe and to her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) who would rather she put away the bows and arrows to pick up a mortar and pestle. It’s not that she’s unskilled as a healer, but she’s not about to let others tell her what she’s gonna do and she continues to hone her skills for whatever tries to invade their territory. Of course, she’s picturing some wild cats and maybe a bear here and there, but it becomes clear that there’s something in the woods that’s stronger than all the cats and bears combined! An alien creature with a chip on his shoulder and covered in advanced alien tech, lands nearby and starts looking for the most dangerous creatures to kill and prove that itself to be tougher than. With such a dangerous monster lurking in the shadows (and the just as dangerous specter of colonialism looming nearby) can Naru and Taabe protect their tribe from the threats around them? Will Naru prove herself to be a worthy warrior to her tribe, and what will it cost her to finally get the respect she’s after? I don’t know, it seems a little bit unfair to be busting out the laser-guided bolts when your opponents still don’t have gunpowder. Seems like a hollow victory at best for the Predator, am I right?

“Is it just me, or is it a little TOO quiet?”
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Cinema Dispatch: Nope

Nope and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Jordan Peele

Very recently I’ve started watching Key & Peele in earnest as I had seen little more than clips online in the past, and frankly, it’s not all that surprising that at least one of them became a horror director. The duo made some very funny stuff, but there are also quite a few sketches throughout the show that not only have a sinister edge to them but almost feel like precursors to Jordan Peele’s first feature Get Out. Now he has two wildly successful features under his belt and much like M Night Shyamalan when he was in that position, his next move is to go for a spooky movie about aliens, or at least the general idea of them as the marketing has done a very good job covering up the true nature of whatever is going on here. Does this updated take on the classic sci-fi genre prove to be as groundbreaking as Peele’s previous films, or is even the best of filmmakers unable to escape the occasional dud? Let’s find out!!

OJ Haywood and his sister Em (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) are left running their father’s horse ranch after an unexpected (and unexplained) accident took his life only a few months prior. Now Papa Haywood (Keith David) ran Hayood’s Hollywood Horse Ranch like a true professional as he took great care of the horses and worked well with the production studios, but unfortunately, his kids aren’t exactly filling his shoes with Em having the personality but not the business sense and OJ working great with horses but not with other people. The only thing keeping them afloat is selling horses one after another to the local rodeo owned by former child star Ricky Park (Steven Yeun), but that’s only going to last for so long before they will surely need to sell their father’s ranch and his legacy off to whoever will throw a few dollars their way. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, there seems to be this strange thing in the sky that will occasionally pass soundlessly through the air in the middle of the night and has some sort of effect on electronic equipment which can only mean one thing; aliens, and therefore opportunity! Em is gung ho about capturing some fantastic footage of this mysterious spacecraft on film and selling it to the highest bidder, and OJ is just kinda going along with it since there isn’t much more they can do to save the ranch, so with the help of a local electronics store clerk (Brandon Perea) they set up a series of cameras around the ranch hope to get a once in a lifetime shot that will put Haywood’s Hollywood Horses back in the spotlight! What is this mysterious thing in the night sky that Em and OJ hope to capture on film, and can they do it without drawing its attention; or wrath? What is it doing here in the first place, and are the Haywood’s the only ones trying to catch a glimpse of it? Seriously, with the way things have been going lately, how much are they really gonna get for alien footage? It’s not like there won’t be another dozen or so terrifying news stories the next day!

“If we can sandwich the release between the end of the January Sixth hearings and the latest news from climate scientists, we may have a solid six hours on Twitter’s Trending topics!”     “And that turns into money, how?”     “That comes when they make the docu-series on Netflix.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor: Love and Thunder and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Taika Waititi

Much like Thor himself, I find myself in something of a slump recently with a few different roads to get out of it. I won’t go into details, but I’m definitely taking a few steps in some sort of direction and we’ll see how things shake out in the next few weeks. For now though, I’m working on these reviews on my schedule and no one else’s which means that unfortunately, this is coming out long after everyone else has said their piece on it. Still, no harm in throwing my opinion out into the void and seeing if the void spews anything back up! Does this latest entry in the Marvel Forever-verse shock a few more minutes of life into the franchise, or will this be just fine and watchable to the consternation of those who are waiting for a big enough disaster to finally topple Disney’s firm grip on the genre? Let’s find out!!

With everything that happened in that whole Thanos kerfuffle, which included the death of his brother and the near extinction of the Asgardians, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) really needed a break to try and figure things out. To that end, he’s been bumming around with the Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as his friend Korg (Taika Waititi), until they run out of Big Lebowski jokes and convince him to go on some wild goose chase for some sort of God Butcher in a bid to get away from his mopey Asgardian butt. Turns out the threat is real, however, as a humble alien named Gorr (Christian Bale) loses his faith in the Gods and is rewarded with the Necrosword; a weapon so dark and powerful that it can kill these selfish Gods while slowly draining him of his life and seemingly his sanity. Well, we’ve got a new Marvel villain to dispatch of which can only mean it’s time for another team-up, and since the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t returning his calls he returns to the last Asgardian colony on Earth to see if a few warriors are still bumming around. Turns out that Thor’s hammer has been restored and there’s a new Thor in the form of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who is called Mighty Thor to distinguish from the guy whose name is Thor but lost the title of Thor some time ago… or something like that. Needless to say, there are some mixed feelings there as their relationship didn’t end on the best of terms, but they need to work together, along with Korg and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to stop Gorr who, in classic villain fashion, has stolen a bunch of Asgardian children for seemingly no reason other than spite. Can Thor and Mighty Thor set aside their past difference and come together to stop this threat to the universe? What are the rest of the Gods doing while Gorr is carving his way through their ranks, and what is Gorr truly hoping to accomplish by stringing the two Thors along on this rescue mission? Seriously, are Jane and Thor gonna talk or will they just keep things awkward for the whole trip?

“Maybe you should tell her you miss her?” “Quiet! I’m busy! Doing… superhero stuff.”
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Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #50

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

Apologies for this one being as late as it is. I was out of town when the issue came out and all I got out of the trip was a lousy case of Strep Throat that’s left me sick and exhausted for well over a week now. Still, you can’t keep a Sonic fan down for long! Whether it’s illness, delays, or crappy games, we always come back for more; which is the operative word here because they went all out and made this an extra lengthy issue to fit in everything they wanted for the big celebration! Does this double-sized issue live up to the months of hype surrounding it, or will it land with an extra loud thud now that they’ve made it twice as long? Let’s find out!!

The issue begins where the last one left off as our heroes race to Eggman’s capital city as its being sieged by Dr. Starline and his two protégés Surge and Kitsunami. From here the story breaks down into three fights as Eggman comes back to take out Starline, Surge catches Sonic by surprise and drags him to a fight for survival, and Tails is left befuddled to deal with the sad fox with water powers and a particularly sinister look in his eyes. We’ll tackle these fights one at a time starting with Eggman and Starline which I consider to be the best of three as both characters are really allowed to stretch their muscles and give us a clash of personalities worth getting invested in. The biggest problem with these two is that, despite some solid characterization and a few ingenious plots here and there, they feel a bit underwhelming as threats and can lean too hard into goofy territory when they have to fend off the furry brigade and the unstoppable power of friendship. Here, the winner is going to be determined not by Main Character Powers or the heart of a champion, but by who can last the longest without dying as the two try to smash each other to bits with giant robots! What I found particularly satisfying about this (even more so than the giant robots) is the depths of Eggman’s ego as he would rather risk destroying everything than have any aspect of it not under his supreme authority and Starline (despite being the one who kidnapped and brainwashed two innocent critters) ends up sounding like the reasonable one.

“If I put you as the denominator in my calculator, it gives me an error message! Do you know why!?”     “… is it because I’m zer-”     “IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE ZERO!!”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #50”