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Cinema Dispatch: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

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Professor Marston and the Wonder Women and all the images you see in this review are owned by Annapurna Pictures

Directed by Angela Robinson

You know, if we’re gonna get biopics like that upcoming one about Charles Dickens that looks like a Monty Python sketch, we might as well start doing them about comic book creators too!  The early years of Marvel with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, watching Batman evolve from comic book hero to Hollywood star through the eyes of Bob Kane, heck The Alan Moore story could be a freaking twelve hour Netflix series considering how much comic book controversy he’s managed to find himself in over his career!  What we’ve got NOW though is probably the most interesting story of them all which is about Wonder Woman creator Professor William Marston and his unorthodox relationship with his wife Elizabeth Holloway and a former student of his Olive Byrne.  Heck, it’s not only a great story to tell about queer women (though there is some contention of that) in a time where that wasn’t even legal, it also has incorporates radical feminism, BDSM, and comic book scare mongering that eventually led to the Comics Code Authority in the 1950s.  With such fascinating material to work with, can it be turned into an engaging and interesting biopic, or is this a whole lot of scintillating window dressing for yet another rote history lesson?  Let’s find out!!

Our story begins in Radcliffe University (a women’s only branch of Harvard) where the brilliant psychology professor William Marston (Luke Evans) and his much more brilliant wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) are teaching psychology while working together on some other projects such as a lie detecting machine which is actually true.  They did invent the polygraph which is a significant event in this film.  Anyway, William is teaching a course on DISC theory (Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance) when one of the students catches his eye.  Her name is Olive Byrne and soon becomes a TA for the Marstons; helping them with their legitimate experiments and some that may just be for fun.  Eventually, this precarious situation between the three of them has to come to a head at some point and… well that’s where things get kind of awesome but also REALLY stressful.  Oh, and at some point the dude creates Wonder Woman off based on the experiences and he has with the two women in his life as well as his own theories on feminism and even some of his sexual hang-ups which are REALLY noticeable if you read the earliest issues of the book.  Will this trio of likeminded misfits find a place in the world that is openly hostile to them and their way of life?  What will happen when puritanical busy bodies get start to understand the radical subtext within the pages of the comic book that are becoming more and more popular with children across the country?  Wait, is THAT why Wonder Woman has a lasso!?

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“The safe word is Themyscira.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Happy Death Day

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Happy Death Day and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Christopher B. Landon

There are very few premises that will get more on board with a film than “like Groundhog’s Day, but…” and honestly I’m not even sure why.  That movie is certainly a phenomenally crafted comedy that I revisit from time to time, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s one of my favorite films of all time.  I guess it really is just how great of an idea that premise really is as I see it as basically THE perfect interpretation of a Bottle Film (it allows limitless possibilities while also having an enormous constraint) and its one of the few ideas that gets me to eagerly start putting together scenarios of what I would do in that situation.  Throw a murder mystery in the middle of it, and you have something that could be not just a GREAT film, but an absolute classic for the genre!  Can this movie POSSIBLY reach the lofty goals that it sets for itself, or will this be a bigger waste of time than Before I Fall?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Tree (Jessica Rothe) waking up in an unknown dorm room with a guy she doesn’t really know named Carter (Israel Broussard) and heads back to her sorority so she can ignore the fact that today is her birthday.  She ignores calls from her dad (Jason Bayle), brushes off her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) who’s at least making an attempt to make her birthday a little bit nicer, and just goes through her usual routine as if there’s nothing special about today; even going to see the married professor she’s sleeping with (Charles Aitken).  At the end of the day, when she’s heading to her own surprise party, it turns out today is NOT going to be a normal day because someone in a crappy baby mask (the school’s mascot… for some reason) stabs her and she… wakes up in the same dorm room she did that morning.  Same guy, same day, same ignored phone calls from dad.  Oh, and also the same murder.  Clearly she’s doomed to repeat the same day over and over again until she finds out just who it is that’s killing her each night which may not be an easy thing to do considering how many people she manages to piss off on a regular basis, though murder DOES seem to be a bit extreme to be just anyone she knows so she’ll need to narrow down the suspects as each night (and each death) brings her closer to the truth.  Will Tree be able to put an end to this endless cycle of misery and stabbings by unmasking the one person on campus who wants her dead?  Is every day TRULY a repeat of the last, or does something linger every time the clock goes backwards?  Just how many absurd and hilarious ways will Tree have to experience the ice cold hand of death before this is all over!?

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“OH MY GOD!  THEY KILLED TREE!!”     “YOU BASTARDS!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Battle of the Sexes

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Battle of the Sexes and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Well THIS is certainly a pleasant surprise!  I may not know all the details, but I’m certainly aware of the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Robbie Riggs which has always stuck with me despite only knowing about it by watching the back half of a TV documentary around fifteen years ago.  I’ve always liked tennis as a sport and the build up to the phenomenal match was ridiculous and felt like a flash in the pan moment in history which did end up having a big impact on everything simply for how much confident men were that she was gonna lose and then had that whole perception shattered on live television around the world.  Is there any way that a film can do justice to this once in a lifetime event and remind us all of how important this was in the first place?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is about the infamous match between world renowned tennis player Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and world renowned FORMER tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) which was played up in the media as THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES and the match that would once and for all prove that women have no business competing in MAN PLACES like tennis; something that wasn’t helped by Riggs’s absurdly derogatory and over the top chauvinistic stunts.  Of course, there was a lot more to the story than the over the top theatrics leading up to it which includes the establishment of the Women’s Tennis Association, Billie Jean’s romantic relationship with another woman Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), and even Bobby Riggs’s financial woes that may have been the driving force for setting up this match in the first place.  So much was on the line for Billie Jean to succeed, yet with so much working against her, it was quickly becoming a task that seemed impossible to overcome.  Would she be able to find the strength to overcome the odds and prove herself once and for all?  How will she be able to maintain a relationship with another woman in a time when that was much more frowned upon and life destroying than it is today?  How can one person navigate all this nonsense being constantly thrown at them and STILL manage to keep from knocking all these jerkwads upside the head!?

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“I must break you…”     “Are you sure you won’t break a nail?”     “… I’m gonna enjoy this.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Blade Runner 2049

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Blade Runner 2049 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures and Sony Pictures

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Yup!  Blade Runner sure was a movie, wasn’t it?  I mean I was always more into eighties Carpenter than eighties Scott, but it’s clearly a movie that’s impact can still be felt to this day from science fiction films like The Matrix and Dark City to anime like Ghost in the Shell and Akira.  Heck, even the live action Ghost in the Shell looks as much like the original Blade Runner as it does the source material!  Many of us have been living in this film’s shadow for as long as we’ve been alive, and so the prospect of a sequel seems rather quixotic considering how hard it would be to not only live up to that movie’s actual merits but to also live up to the sense of scope and impact that it ended up leaving in its wake.  Does the director of that one movie where Jake Gyllenhaal meets a giant spider have what it takes to stand with one of the titans of the genre, or will this project collapse faster than Rutger Hauer’s plan to not die at the age of four?  Let’s find out!!

One more thing!  Some people may consider a pertinent detail that we learn five minutes into the movie to be a spoiler.  I don’t REALLY see it as a spoiler considering how early it is in the movie, but I figure I’ll just put up a SPOILER WARNING here just in case you want to go in completely blind.  TURN BACK NOW IF YOU MUST!!

We good?  Okay, so the year is 2049 and the movie begins with Agent K (Ryan Gosling) who we learn within the first five minutes of the movie is a replicant which is an artificially created human but ALSO a cop for the LAPD.  A Blade Runner in fact which is a cop that specifically hunts replicants!  Hence the title… though I’m still not sure WHY they’re called that considering he uses a gun and tends to leisurely stroll from place to place.  Anyway, replicants haven’t been a problem for a while now as the CURRENT big bad organization Wallace Corp has fixed all the kinks that were in the Nexus 6 models from the first film (they had a tendency to rebel and kill humans) but K still has to hunt down these old timers whenever one crosses their path and we see him at the start of one of these missions as the movie begins.  Once the deed is done (in GRUESOME detail), he ALSO discovers something else that’s on the replicant’s property that shouldn’t be there but holds secrets that could turn this world on its head.  Oh, and in case you were wondering OF COURSE Deckard (Harrison Ford) is somehow involved, so K has to not only find answers as to what exactly they found but where it came from and who else knows about it.  While on this super-secret assignment that I’m not gonna spoil, he also has to contend with Wallace Corp head honcho Niander (Jared Leto) as well as his replicant assistant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) who seem to know exactly what’s going on and are keeping tabs on him just in case he either discovers too much or finds something that they’re looking for as well.  Will K unlock the mysteries that are so mysterious that they can’t be discussed here?  Will they in some way deal with his mysterious past which is a mystery even to him?  JUST HOW MANY SECRETS CAN ONE MOVIE HAVE!?

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“This is GREAT!  What’s your secret?”     “I’M NOT TELLING YOU!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: My Little Pony: The Movie

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My Little Pony: The Movie and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate and Hasbro

Directed by Jayson Thiessen

It took them seven years to do this?  We’ve had at least four equestrian girl movies, not to mention a slew of Hasbro properties making it to the big screen, but one of the most successful reboots of all time was put on the back burner until now!?  Well better late than never I guess, though the trailers leading up to its release have certainly strained my credulity on that expression.  Still, trailers aren’t always accurate and I’m certainly a big enough fan of this series that it wouldn’t be THAT hard to keep me at least mildly entertained.  Can the team behind such a successful television series make a successful leap to the big screen, or was this as ill-fated a project as… well pretty much all the OTHER Hasbro films that we’ve gotten so far?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with yet another friendship festival that’s hosted by the Princess of Friendship (how much of Canterlot’s tax revenue is straight up pork for Twilight’s pet projects?) and they’ve even managed to get the one and only Sapphire Shores… I mean Countess Coloratura… I mean Songbird Serenade (Sia), to make an appearance!  Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) along with her assistant Spike (Cathy Weseluck) and her friends Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack (Tabitha St Germain, Andrea Libman, and Ashleigh Ball), seem to have everything under control and are ready to set everything in motion, but then a fleet of very intimidating airships descend upon the capital of Equestria and start demanding their complete and utter surrender!  It turns out that this is the opening salvo for a maniacal dictator known as The Storm King (Live Schreiber) and is being led by a mysterious pegasus with a broken horn named Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt) who somehow manages to take out the three other princesses, Celestia, Luna, and Cadence (Nicole Oliver, Tabitha St Germain (again), and Britt McKillip) without the slightest bit of resistance!  Either this is one bad mother of a pony or the Princesses need better security!  In any case, the Twilight and her friends manage to escape but don’t have much to go on other than a mysterious message that Celestia shouted out before she was defeated and captured by Tempest Shadow; seek the queen of the hippos who lives beyond the badlands.  Not sure how hippos will help in this situation unless you dropped them on Tempest, but with nothing else to go on they begin their journey outside of The Shire… I mean Equestria, hoping to find a way to stop The Storm King and Tempest before it’s too late.  What will our little ponies find outside of the comforting boarders of Equestria, and will they know how to deal with such strange and frightening environments?  What is Tempest REALLY after in all this, and what does the Storm King have in store for all of them once he arrives in Canterlot?  Is the answer to all these questions Friendship?  I bet it’s gonna be Friendship.

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“See, THIS place could use a WHOLE lot of friendship!”

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Cinema Dispatch: American Made

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

Directed by Doug Liman

Hollywood?  We need to talk.  I know that you love to make movies about people (usually white dudes) who catch a lucky break or have one useful skill that pays off which launches them into fame, fortune, and eventual ruin, but I think it’s time to stop.  Look, Wolf of Wall Street was wonderful and so was that Nicolas Cage movie from 2005, but these are starting to get stale and repetitive; especially with this film that looks so paint by numbers and generic that even Tom Cruise can barely seem to bring anything to the material.  Still, bad trailers and a tired premise don’t ALWAYS spell doom for a movie, and Tom Cruise can really be THAT good in a movie so as to keep it engaging even if everything else is working against it.  Does this film manage to avoid the pitfalls that so many films before it have fallen into, or are we scraping the bottom of the barrel to find just ONE more interesting story about a dude who found an odd way to strike it rich?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is supposedly based on the real life story of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) who was your run of the mill airline pilot who was making some extra cash by smuggling in Cuban Cigars.  His actions don’t go unnoticed by the mysterious Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who is a CIA agent looking to make his mark and believes he has found it in this pilot that he easily convinces to quit his job and start working for the US Government.  His patriotic duty turns out to be driving a plane with a camera on it so he can take pictures of Central American communist freedom fighters that the US has an interest in repressing and these pictures prove to be invaluable to that cause.  Eventually he gets bigger missions such as delivering intel to Manuel Noriega, running guns to the Contra fighters in Nicaragua, and even running cocaine for the cartel which isn’t QUITE what the CIA had in mind but they certainly aren’t gonna stop him from doing it.  Of course, with the CIA apparently doing all this on the down low, Barry not only starts catching the ire of other government organizations like the FBI and DEA, but also runs the risk of losing his sweetheart deals with the Cartel which is led up by Pablo Escobar (Maunicio Mejia).  Throw in some family drama with his wife (Sarah Wright) who is kept in the dark for a lot of this and his brother in law (Caleb Landry Jones) who’s a total fuck up that knows too much and you’re looking at a powder keg ready to explode right in Barry’s handsome face!  Will Barry find a way to keep the balancing act going indefinitely?  How far will the US Government under Reagan go to get what it wants and what will that eventually mean for Barry?  Wait, is this what the Top Gun sequel will be about!?

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“Without Goose, things just kinda went downhill for me…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Flatliners

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Flatliners and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

There are several movies a year that for whatever reason has trailers that will not stop playing in front of EVERYTHING I go to see.  I remember Our Brand is Crisis being one of them, The Fate of the Furious played pretty constantly, even Snatched was one that was hard to avoid!  This movie is certainly the latest to have that problem as I swear it was in front of every movie I’ve seen for the past three months and I’m finally happy for it to be released for no other reason than to stop seeing that trailer.  I’d never seen the original film until very recently, and while the premise itself seems strong enough to support at least too movies, the trailers didn’t fill me with much hope; not just because they played them ALL THE TIME, but because I couldn’t really wrap my head around what exactly it was that they were being haunted by.  I mean… I get it NOW since I watched the original, but with lines like “I did not know that the side effects would show up and start hunting us down”… yeah, it just felt like I was in for an uphill battle.  Still, remakes are a great opportunity to try something new (*cough* IT *cough*), so maybe there’s a chance that this will turn out just fine!  Will this manage to be just as good if not better than the original, or was this film… dead on arrival!?

Sorry.  Let’s uh… let’s find out.

The titular Flatliners of the film are a group of medical students who doing some messed up experiments in the basement in the hope of finding out the secrets of the afterlife.  The procedure which was concocted by Dr Courtney Holmes (Ellen Page) involves stopping someone’s heart (i.e. a flatline on an EKG machine) and letting them stay dead for a few minutes before reviving them.  Initially with the uncertain help of Sophia and Jamie (Kiersey Clemons and James Norton) the group eventually grows to include Marlo and Ray (Nina Dobrev and Diego Luna) and most of them end up doing it themselves as well.  At first it seems awesome as coming back from the dead apparently makes your brain SUPER strong, but eventually the SIDE EFFECTS start to kick in which complicates things for them.  They start to see things that aren’t really there (OR ARE THEY!?) and it eventually becomes nearly impossible to separate fantasy from reality.  Will the Flatliners find a way to stop whatever it is that’s haunting them?  Is there something in their past that is the key to doing so?  Seriously, why are they making it THIS easy for everyone to do the “dead on arrival” joke!?

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