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Cinema Dispatch: Slender Man

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Slender Man and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Sylvain White

I mean we’re already getting a Five Nights at Freddy’s movie with Christopher Columbus of all people putting their weight behind it.  Why WOULDN’T there be even more horror movies based on memes?  I fully expect someone to announce an Until Dawn or a Layers of Fear television series by the end of this week if this movie manages to make its budget back, but dubious starting points aside there are PLENTY of horror movies out there that have ridiculous premises yet still manage to be either genuinely chilling or a lot of fun to sit through.  Can the Slender Man mythos manage to make for an entertaining feature film, or was this story best left on the internet to fade into further obscurity?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with a group of friends Wren, Hallie, Chloe, and Katie (Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, and Annalise Basso) who have a sleepover one night and decide to look up this whole “Slender Man” thing, whatever that is!  They manage to find their way to a video (presumably right next to the one from The Ring) where they follow the instructions in it and then… nothing happens.  Well nothing happens at first, but they start to have nightmares about the dapper monster and Katie even seems to be engaging with the mythos on their own until they eventually disappear during a school field trip.  Wren, Hallie, and Chloe, eventually find her laptop and see all the Slender Man related things she was looking into including some sort of ritual that should supposedly bring her back if they follow the steps correctly.  Of course they mess it up and under Demon/Human contract law, if you make a mistake, that’s your ass!  And so the three of them are slowly but surely either driven mad by the creature or just taken away as he seems to have the ability to do whatever he wants with no real way for them to stop him, and he even starts to look towards some new victims that only makes it that much more urgent that they find a way to either stop him or at least appease him enough to have him decide to stop on his own.  Can the girls survive this onslaught of psychological horror and monster attacks to discover the secrets of what this creature really is?  What is it that Slender Man is after, and is there a way to give him what he wants before he takes everything from him?  Did anyone check to see if he was just mad about the script?  If I was him, I’d be doing this just because of how awful the script is.

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“WHO THE HECK TOOK ALL OF MY SCREEN TIME!?”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Darkest Minds

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The Darkest Minds and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Can we just take a moment and remind ourselves that YA adaptations (and even movies aimed at a YA audience) are NOT the worst thing to happen to the world of cinema?  That would be Eli Roth, but in any case, I think we’re well past the days of Twilight Hate (at least we SHOULD be and anyone still carrying that torch would be kind of sad) and we even got some bug critical success stories like The Hunger Games; none of which I’ve ever seen but I hear are supposed to be good!  In the last few years though, things haven’t really looked great for the genre as they still make money, but none of them have had much critical success or frankly leave much of an impact despite earning so much money.  Even GOOD ones like A Wrinkle in Time still languished with critics and didn’t really find the audience it needed to.  Now we have this movie which stepping up to the plate to take its swing at the box office.  Does this manage to be another high point for a genre that should get a bit more respect, or is this the kind of poorly made tripe that (along with misogyny if we’re being frank) made these films such an easy target in the first place?  Let’s find out!!

Ruby Daly (Lidya Jewett) is your typical elementary school student in a run of the mill suburb living her normal life when tragedy strikes as the world basically turns into an even MORE proactive version of Children of Men.  Not only are people not having babies anymore, but children start to drop like flies from some mysterious disease, and worse yet the ones who survive get super powers.  Now sure there’s a certain amount of… let’s say VOLATILITY in kids having the ability to move things with their mind and conduct electricity (as well as have super smarts and fire bending powers because… reasons), but things go a BIT further than some updated Health and PE classes to straight up generational genocide as ANY child exhibiting any sort of powers (I couldn’t quite tell if it was ALL children or just some of them) are brought to military run internment camps for classification, separation, and manual labor.  Ruby ends up getting sent to one of them as she apparently has the ability to read minds I think which makes her the MOST DANGEROUS AND SPECIAL ONE EVER, but she manages to somehow keep it under wraps by mind wiping the doctor (you’d think they’d check for that) and getting classified as a lower tiered super person.  Years go by and Ruby goes from a young girl to a teenager (Amandla Stenberg) but things come to a head as she seemingly gets discovered as one of the SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME kids and subsequently whisked away from the camp by a mysterious freedom fighter of sorts (Mandy Moore) who then wants her to join her group known as the Children’s League which seems like a good idea considering she’s got nowhere else to go and they’re for the liberation of children from government persecution… but then she gets a weird vibe from the dude she’s with (Mark O’Brien) and she manages to run away from them to find a van full of super powered teens (Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks, and Miya Cech) who agree to take her in as they travel to some sort of children haven known as East River where they can… I guess live free?  Of course it won’t be an easy trip as there are children hunting bounty hunters (Gwendoline Christie) roaming the streets as well as the military who aren’t about to let one of their kids go; especially if they’re one of the SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME kids!  Will Ruby find a new home with her fellow super powered misfits?  Just what does the Children League want from her, and are they truly fighting to save these persecuted children?  Okay, seriously Fox?  Did you just dust off an old X-Men script to make this movie?

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#MagnetoWasRight

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Cinema Dispatch: BlacKkKlansman

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BlacKkKlansman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Spike Lee

There’s a lot going on right now and as much as I’d honestly like to take a step back from the heavier subject matter to focus on terrible horror films and laughable thrillers, well… there’s a bigger story that needs to be told and at the very least I can try to stay engaged with the films that are being made because of it.  Fortunately the films this year that faced issues of racism, white supremacy, privilege, and state sponsored oppression have been pretty great so far with The First Purge being a worth addition to one of the best film series we have today, Sorry to Bother You feeling like the kind of gonzo shot in the arm film making that will inspire others to think outside the standard feature film model, and Blindspotting being a supremely empathetic examination that’s palatable and poignant for any audience member.  However, it’s time for the king to return to his throne as Spike Lee has spent his entire career (barring Oldboy) speaking on these very issues that the rest of Hollywood is just catching up to and is now throwing their weight behind these artists.  Did Spike Lee make the definitive film of our turbulent times, or has his style gotten tiresome in the face of newer voices in his political circle?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the strange yet true story of Detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who joined the Colorado Springs police force in the seventies and not long after joining the force started a sting operation against the KKK in the area.  With the help of a fellow cop Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) he managed to impersonate a white supremacists over the phone while Flip would pretend to be him in person; a plan that was so successful that they even managed to dupe KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) who had several conversations with Ron never realizing he was in fact black.  As the investigation goes along though, things start to get complicated as certain members of the Colorado chapter of the KKK start to suspect their newest recruit, and Ron start to find it hard to live not only a double life as a fake white man, but also the dichotomy of being a black man and a police officer in that period of time; especially when he starts falling for the President of the Black Student Union Patrice (Laura Harrier) who is just as militant against white systems of power as Ron is determined to use his position in said system to take the KKK down a peg.  Will Ron and Flip manage to stop the KKK from whatever it is they’re planning without getting caught in the crossfire themselves?  How far will the KKK members go to assert themselves as a threat to be taken seriously, and who do they plan to hurt in the process?  Just how many white people jokes can Ron get away with before David Duke becomes suspicious!?

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“Let me ask you this, my pure white brethren!  How many KKK members does it take to screw in a light bulb?”     “I don’t think we covered that in the manual…”

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Super Recaps: Tom Goes to the Mayor (The Layover)

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Tom Goes to the Mayor and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros and Adult Swim

Created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

We’re back with another episode of Big Fish Freezers, and BOY are we in for a doozy toady!  This is the episode where everything about Tom starts to make sense as we finally get to meet his dad!  Sure it probably won’t be as emotionally draining as seeing what Clay Puppington had to deal with as a kid, but Tim & Eric are not ones to half-ass an opportunity like this (despite their intentionally tacky style) and I’m sure we’ll get lots of very revealing insights today!  The episode begins with Tom waiting at the Jefferton Airport (because Jefferton can afford one of those apparently) and holding up a sign for his father who is arriving any minute now!  Well speak of the Devil (no not The Mayor, although we’ll get to him soon enough) there he is!  Tom is so overwhelmed with happiness that he can’t help but embrace his father (Bob Balaban) in a beautiful display of affection!  One that his father rebuffs without hesitation.  Well then!  I think one giant piece in the Tom Peters puzzle just fell into place!  It’s clear that his father is emotionally distant to his son so he has to seek that affection in other male role models like The Mayor!  Do you SEE what you did, Mr. Tom’s Dad!?  All those deaths are because you couldn’t give him a few more hugs!!  Then again, I’m not about to let Tom off the hook just yet considering he’s a grown ass man and STILL manages to act like a fool.  Case in point, his father is a Fish Freezer Salesman who is here on a layover for a big Seafood Convention where he’ll make the majority of his sales for the fiscal year and his next flight leaves in eleven minutes (Oh hey!  That’s how long an episode of the show is!), but instead of simply greeting him there and maybe getting a cup of coffee, Tom has this ridiculous itinerary all planned out where his father will somehow visit several Jefferton locations in a brief window of time and even have a meal with Joy and the kids for exactly one minute.  Don’t worry though!  Tom will keep of all of this with his trusty stop watch and he even factored in explaining the itinerary into the itinerary!  Tom’s dad Mr. Walt Pickle (if you recall in Surprise Party, Joy’s last name is Peters which Tom took when he married her) may have a lot of explaining to do, but he surely can’t be held responsible for ALL of this!

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“And as you can see, we’ll be back here with seven seconds to spare!”     “How did you even come up with this?  Did I forget to teach you how to tell TIME!?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Christopher Robin

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Christopher Robin and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Marc Forster

Disney’s recent attempts to cannibalize its previous properties into live action features have been decidedly mixed, and more so with me than with other critics it seems.  Maleficent was one of the best movies that came out that year, but with The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast following it up… well let’s just say that this latest outing isn’t coming out with the highest of expectations from me.  Still, there’s a lot of talent involved and like Maleficent it’s not a simple remake of another film; rather it’s a reimagining of the material to fit with modern sensibilities and current societal issues.  That may sound pretentious, but kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for and if Disney wants to make something that’s at least SOMEWHAT challenging for its core demographics, I’m sure not gonna stop them from trying!  Does this story about a grown Christopher Robin manage to get us to the heart of what made Winnie the Pooh such a timeless classic, or is this movie just as cynical and jaded as the man they’re telling the story of?  Let’s find out!!

Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is a young boy who spends many afternoons playing the Hundred Acre woods with his friends Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, and Owl (Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Sara Sheen, and Toby Jones) and of course, Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings as well).  However, these idyllic summer days must ultimately come to an end as life has a way of pushing you away from childish things and he heads off to live his life; going to boarding school, dealing with loss, fighting in World War 2, and eventually marrying the love of his life Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and having a child they name Madeline (Bronte Carmichael).  All this time however, The Hundred Acre Woods has managed to go on with him; albeit a bit more gloomy from time to time with Pooh still waiting to see if his best friend will ever come back.  Well he might have to wait a bit longer as Christopher has to deal with problems at work and with his sniveling boss (Mark Gatiss) who’s forcing him to make ridiculous cuts which could include the jobs of a lot of people if he doesn’t find places to make them elsewhere.  Things come to a head as he’s forced to work over the weekend that he had already scheduled to spend with his family in his childhood home and after even more stress and heartache he finds himself in a small park outside his house… where a familiar bear managed to somehow wander into.  Will Winnie the Pooh manage to help Christopher Robin find a modicum of peace in his life?  Can Christopher learn what’s REALLY important in life before he loses everything?  Just how much honey does Pooh need to eat!?  He doesn’t even have a digestive system!!

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“I can read your mind.”     “You can!?”     “Yes.  You’re thinking of giving me more honey.”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Spy Who Dumped Me

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The Spy Who Dumped Me and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Susanna Fogel

Another Spy Comedy, huh?  Well I guess there are genres with even worse track records than that, but there’s clearly an uphill battle to be fought considering how bad a lot of these movies turn out; not to mention the fact that the trailer was kind of meh despite the film starring two of my favorite actors working today.  I’d rather they be doing OTHER stuff like say a Ghostbusters sequel, but until everyone realizes just how wrong they were about that movie, I guess this will do just fine.  Hopefully!  Does this movie manage to be a shining example of a genre that is notorious for underwhelming films, or will this succumb to whatever curse has made it so hard to make good Spy Comedies?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) who are two best friends living their normal early thirties lives without a whole lot going for them; particularly Audrey who just got dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux).  BY TEXT!  What a jerk!  I sure hope something bad happens to him!  Well… just wait fifteen minutes.  It turns out that he’s an INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY which comes as news to Audrey and left some Spy MacGuffin in her apartment which he tries to get but is… indisposed in the process, and it’s up to her delver whatever the heck it is to someone somewhere at a specific time!  Easy enough, especially with her best friend by her side!  Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people looking for whatever this is, including Sebastian and Duffer (Sam Heughan and Hasan Minhaj) who are working for at some sort of spy agency, a Super Assassin named Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno) who’s been hired by someone MYSTERIOUS to take them out, and a bunch of motorcycle henchmen who are more than willing to fire live ammunition in busy streets to try and take out these two nobodies when a less blunt approach would PROBABLY work on these two.  They’re not the best when it comes to detecting threats, nor should they considering neither one of them have even used a gun, let alone protected very important MacGuffins!  Can Audrey and Morgan deliver this package before getting themselves murdered?  Will they be able to save the world by taking this where it needs to go and will there a few double crosses along the way?  Will this mission be even more impossible than making a good spy comedy!?  Even Tom Cruise isn’t necessarily gonna get THAT right all the time!

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“This mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stop a bomb.  A BOX OFFICE BOMB THAT IS!!”     “I see what you did there.”

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Super Recaps: Tom Goes to the Mayor (Zoo Trouble)

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Tom Goes to the Mayor and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros and Adult Swim

Created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

Welcome back to another episode of Tom Goes to the Mayor Nights!  While we may not have THE HOFF to lead us on this adventure, there’s still a wacky and frankly unbelievable mystery to be solved by our two hapless heroes!  The episode begins with Good ol’ Tom Peters actually doing something constructive for the city of Jefferton as he’s volunteering at the city zoo; doing tour guides for the undiscerning masses about the fabulous creatures on display!  There’s a squirrel… and that’s about it.  Oh, and for some reason they have a gorilla named Michael Davidson with a really fancy state of the art cage, but he doesn’t come out much so the tour guide moves to the visitors center which is basically a tube TV in a shack that everyone needs to crowd around.  You know, Zoos are already an ethical minefield (helping endangered species while also providing educational experiences is all well and good, but exploitation and mistreatment of animals is always at risk of happening) and Jefferton isn’t’ really making a good case for them when the darn thing is so underfunded that they can’t afford more than a few animals and have to rely on guys like Tom Peters to keep it running.  Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on where this will go), The Mayor was part of that recent tour and even HE has noticed just how awful this place is.  Seriously, as much of a monster as he can be, he’s usually VERY good at being diplomatic and propping up his city even when he’s corroding it from within, and het even HE can’t hold his tongue on this crap hole; and hey, if THAT’S not enough to convince you… TOM AGREES WITH HIM!  If the incarnation of Pure Evil as well as the most mealy-mouthed loser in the world can’t muster any enthusiasm, you KNOW this place is in trouble!

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“This place is a total dump.”     “Well you’re The Mayor.  Shouldn’t YOU do something about it?”     “Don’t you sass me, young man!”

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