Monthly Archives: November 2017

Cinema Dispatch: A Bad Moms Christmas

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A Bad Moms Christmas and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Entertainment

Directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas

As glad as I was that the first film didn’t end up being an unbearable slog to sit through, I can’t say that the prospect of seeing another one fills me with much joy as I have serious doubts that STX can squeeze out another competent movie from this premise; especially when their go to idea for a sequel is to make it a freaking Christmas movie.  Seriously, aside from Christmas Vacation and A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, has there been a holiday themed sequel that WASN’T an absolute waste of time?  Well I guess we’re about to put that theory to the test as we get ready to spend some more time with everyone’s favorite quote-unquote BAD MOMS who are actually not so bad moms.  Does this manage to rise above the low expectations set for it being both a sequel and a Christmas film in one unfortunate package?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Amy (Mila Kunis) beginning her Christmas rituals of working way too hard and being utterly miserable in the process; not that anyone is REALLY asking her to do it as her two kids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony) as well as her boyfriend Jesse (Jay Hernandez) and his daughter (Ariana Greenblatt) seem perfectly cool with a less intensive holiday experience.  Now Amy would like nothing more than to just sit back and actually enjoy the season, but her plans to let go of the pointless and time consuming rituals that encompass the month of December are utterly destroyed once her mother Ruth comes to visit (Christine Baranski) who’s super judgmental, extremely demanding, and wants this to be the PERFECT Christmas for everyone!  Sounds like a nightmare, right?  Well it’s not much better with Kiki and Carla (Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) who ALSO have their mothers coming into town (Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon) and all the baggage that comes with them; the former being overbearing and invasive and the latter being… well just like her daughter.  Will the titular Bad MomsTM find a way to fight back against these unwelcome invaders and make this the best holiday ever?  Is there more to the rather sudden appearance of their mothers than what they’re claiming to be a merely innocent interest in spending time with their family?  Just how raunchy are they willing to get to stand out in the surprisingly crowded market of naughty Christmas movies!?

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Santa and his ho ho hos!     …     WHAT!?  You can’t just set me up like that and expect me NOT to go there!

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Cinema Dispatch: Murder on the Orient Express

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Murder on the Orient Express and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

I’m hardly what you’d call “well read” as most of my cultural education comes from television and movies followed by people TALKING about television and movies, so while I’m aware that there’s a book out there called Murder on the Orient Express written by someone whose work I should really get around to reading, I don’t actually know what the story is about nor who the killer is which I GUESS would make me the target audience for a slick Hollywood retelling of the story starring some of the most beloved character actors out there… and Johnny Depp.  I’m certainly excited to see this as I do love me a good mystery, and seeing a movie is ALMOST as good as reading a book… right?  Anyway, does Kenneth Branagh manage to successfully bring the Agatha Christie classic to the silver screen once again, or does the brilliance of her work get lost in the midst of his vision for the material?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with the famed detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) solving yet another world class mystery in the heart of Jerusalem and is now ready to take a much deserved vacation to recharge his mystery solving batteries!  As luck would have it, he runs into an old friend named Bouc (Tom Bateman) who gets him a ticket on the one and only Orient Express which Bouc is the director of.  Sadly for Poirot’s plans of leisure, not only does the train get stuck in an avalanche but one of the passengers (Johnny Depp) comes down with a bad case of MURDER!  With only some minor cajoling from Bouc, Poirot begins to investigate The Case of the Stabbed Dude by looking into the pasts of all the other passengers (Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin, and Miranda Raison) to see if there’s anything to connect one of them to the guy sleeping in a pool of his own blood.  Will Poirot uncover the criminal mastermind who was unfortunately enough to be sharing a train ride with the world’s greatest detective?  Just who was the man who got viciously murdered, and what could have motivated someone to commit such an act?  Wait… isn’t it a bit TOO convenient that the train JUST SO HAPPENED to get stuck after a murder is committed!?

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LOOK OUT, POIROT!  IT WAS THE TRAIN ALL ALONG!!

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Cinema Dispatch: Thor: Ragnarok

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

Directed by Taika Waititi

After the rather disappointing Thor: The Dark World (HOW DO YOU WASTE THE BEST DOCTOR WHO IN SUCH A BLAND VILLAIN ROLE!?) I wasn’t really looking forward to what they’d do with this character in his solo films and was more interested to see if he’d show up in a bunch of the other movies instead.  Once those initial trailers hit with the heavy emphasis on fantastical Jack Kirby inspired designs and the rocking Led Zeppelin soundtrack, there seemed to be hope in this franchise digging itself out of the pit the sequel left it in.  At the very least, it LOOKED a lot pretty with much more vibrant colors, and it even manages to drag Jeff Goldblum into the MCU which in and of itself would make this movie worthy of existing even if everything else ends up being awful.  Does Thor’s third chance at the plate end up being one of the best films in the entire MCU, or did they just throw a lot of flash and money at a franchise that is just unable to find its place after telling the origin story?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trying to find out what the heck Ragnarok is which was hinted at ALL the way back in Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Remember when he left the team to take a bath and saw some visions?  Yeah, apparently it was all foreshadowing of the destruction of Asgard in a calamity known as Ragnarok, so Thor is basically trying to find a way to stop it… whatever it may be.  In the meantime though, he manages to find out that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has taken the place of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who is actually alright as Loki basically stuck his ass in a retirement home on Earth, but when Thor goes down there to bring him back to the throne it turns out that he’s all out of time and disappears in a cloud of energy or something.  If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that one of the things he was doing when he was alive was keeping a hereto unknown daughter of his named Hela (Cate Blanchett) in some sort of magic prison which breaks as soon as he’s dead and so she’s come back for revenge against her family and all of Asgard.  Both Loki and Thor are dealt with rather quickly with the latter losing his famed hammer Mjolnir and landing on some mystery planet where he is captured by a mysterious woman (Tessa Thompson) and dragged to the planet’s ruler known as THE GRANDMASTER (Jeff Goldblum).  The once mighty God of Thunder and son of Odin is now put in chains and is forced to fight in gladiatorial matches in order to somehow earn his freedom and eventually find his way back home before Hela puts it inextricably under her vengeful thumb.  Can Thor find a way to escape the barbaric society run by the most fabulous of dictators?  What familiar faces will he find on this planet that can hopefully help him on his journey home?  How the heck is Thor gonna get around now that he doesn’t have his magic propeller hammer!?

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“THE GOD OF THUNDER DOESN’T NEED A HAMMER!  I JUST NEED TO FLAP MY ARMS REALLY FAST!!”     “Okay… well good luck with that!”

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Cinema Dispatch: See Saw – A Franchise Retrospective

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The Saw films and all the images you see in this retrospective are owned by Lionsgate Films

As mentioned in my Jigsaw review, I’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with Saw franchise as I’m sure is the case with a lot of fans who somehow stuck with this series to the bloody end despite it inarguably getting worse and worse as it went along.  Now this is hardly new for horror franchises (just look at the startling sharp drop the Halloween movies took) but to me Saw wasn’t just a series that got BAD or CHEESY as it went along; it got actively toxic.  What do I mean by that?  Well if you read the review I’ve now referenced twice already (SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!!) you probably already know what that is, but let’s go ahead and take a look at this series from the beginning to see just how it managed to change and pervert its core concepts over time.  Oh, and we’re going into TOTAL SPOILERS on these films, so only read if you’ve already binged watched them on Netflix or cannot be bothered to ever do so.  Let’s get started!!

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Saw (2004)

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Two men (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell) find themselves locked in a room and chained to opposite sides of it with a dead guy right in the middle; presumably having shot his brains out given the blood on the floor and the gun in his hand.  Eventually they find a few tapes left for them by the serial killer who locked them up there in the first place known only as Jigsaw.  They only have so much time to get out of this trap before the killer starts looking towards their loved ones, and this means they may have to make some really tough decisions; ones that involve the titular saw of the movie.

I haven’t watched this movie in about a decade so going back to where it all started, ESPECIALLY after seeing what the series would ultimately turn into, was quite a shock as the original film has much more in common with Se7en than any of the other movies.  To a certain extent it’s a bit unfair to compare this initial entry to the rest of the series as it ends up feeling like an outlier (similar to how the first Friday the 13th doesn’t even have Jason as the killer) but there are qualities to this that are sorely missed in the sequels.  For one, Jigsaw isn’t the overwhelming and unstoppable force that he would become in later films and is also a downright sadistic mother fucker with no redeeming qualities.  Later films went all in on the cult of Jigsaw which is one of the biggest failings of the entire series; not only because it puts forth a reprehensible world view, but it takes so much menace and danger away from Jigsaw as a character.  The Jigsaw in this film (working through a character named Zep) isn’t given a platform to spout his faux-populist agenda and the film takes time to show just how horrific and unjustifiable his actions are; mostly through the extended sequences of Zep having to terrorize a mother and child while the game is going on.  Compare this to the later films where even the INNOCENT victims barely get a semblance of humanity before becoming props in a giant shit show of moving parts and sharp metal, and you can see why things got so monotonous and smug as the series went along.  Now I’m not about to tell you that this is a perfect movie by any stretch as the editing is rather poor and the performance by Danny Glover is surprisingly awful, but you can see why this first film managed to garner the reputation it did and why Lionsgate was so eager to turn it into a franchise.  The only question is, now that we know who the killer is (the guy on the floor played by Tobin Bell was playing dead the whole time) where else could they really go?

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The Cartoon Physicist’s Noughtie List: Toolbox Murders

Physicist returns from wherever the hell she’s been to do a (late) Halloween review in honour of the late Tobe Hooper.

(It was very much intended to be released on Halloween when it was filmed, sorry that it’s late.)

Cinema Dispatch: Jigsaw

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

Directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig

I have a… complicated relationship with the Saw films as a few of them are ACTUALLY pretty solid thrillers, but ALL of them suffer from some fundamental problems that dogged this series throughout its seven film run; not to mention accruing brand new problems along the way that only made it harder and harder to take seriously.  I guess that’s not unusual for a series like this as the downfall of horror favorites like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers are about as stark, but at least with THOSE films I found something to like even in the bad ones as the very loose commitment to continuity allowed for new voices and interesting ideas to permeate the series even when they were in a slump.  Saw is one of the few franchise that took its continuity VERY seriously which is one of the many reasons the films became such a train wreck but is also why I’m genuinely interested to see where this one goes.  Does this new iteration in the franchise right the course and set the stage for a whole new series of much better films, or should they have just let well enough alone?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins as most Saw movies do with someone dying in a horrible way.  Okay, maybe not THAT horrible as he simply gets shot by the cops, but what appears to be just a car chase gone badly soon reveals itself to be the start of a new Jigsaw game which Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) is itching to solve along with his partner Detective Hunt (Clé Bennett) and forensic pathologists back at the station (Matt Passmore and Hannah Emily Anderson).  As the game goes through the usual Saw paces of picking off its victims (Laura Vandervoort, Mandela Van Peebles, Paul Braunstein, and Brittany Allen) the bodies start showing up around town to mock the detectives’ lack of progress and to give them subtle clues that will lead them to solving this mystery.  The biggest mystery though is how exactly these games are going on as John Kramer (Tobin Bell) who was the original Jigsaw killer has been dead for over a decade and as far as we know all his protégées have bit the dust by now.  Okay, maybe not Dr Gordon, but if this movie wants to ignore what happened in THE FINAL CHAPTER, I’m perfectly fine with that.  Who is REALLY behind this latest round of murders and could it somehow be John Kramer coming back from beyond the grave?  What do the latest victims of the Jigsaw Killer have in common, and what will they need to sacrifice in order get out of these deadly traps?  Seriously, how many of those freaking puppets did he make anyway!?

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Seems like a lot of effort to go through; especially when he uses his real voice anyway…

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Cinema Dispatch: Suburbicon

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Suburbicon and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by George Clooney

Now this film kind of came out of nowhere for me as I’ve only been seeing the trailers for maybe a month leading up to its release.  I guess that’s not too surprising as George Clooney films, good or bad, rarely make a whole lot of money so there’s not much point in advertising it to the movie going masses; especially when the film in question looks pretty dark and super weird.  I mean that makes sense considering it’s from a script The Coen Brothers wrote back in the eighties, but that little factoid not only explains why this movie has been rather low key despite its wide release, it also raises some red flags.  Is this a cinematic masterpiece that was just too good to be made in its time, or did the Coen Brother put this in a draw for so long for a really good reason?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is basically split into two stories; the first being about Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) who’s family suffers a horrible tragedy, and The Mayers (Karimah Westbrook, Leith M Burke, and Tony Espinosa) who have just moved into the idyllic neighborhood known as Suburbia and have the dubious honor of being the first black family in town.  With The Mayers moving into town and bringing out the worst in the neighborhood just for simply being there, there isn’t a whole lot of attention paid to Gardner and what seems to be some very shady stuff going on with him.  For starters, the death of his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) by some bad men who broke into the house seems to have not been as random an act of violence as it appears to be on the surface, yet no one is picking up on this than Gardner’s son Nicky (Noah Jupe) who’s the only one really looking for answers.  Throw in some possible mob connections, Nicky’s aunt Margaret (Julianne Moore as well) who’s working a bit too hard to fill in the motherly figure role, and a suspicious insurance claims adjuster (Oscar Isaac), and you have the makings for a classic noir thriller set against the backdrop of the super repressed and overtly racist fifties!  Will Nicky find the answers he’s looking for and will he be happy with what he finds?  What is Gardner have up his sleeve that’s making him act so inexplicably after the murder?  Does anyone in this movie REALLY have any idea what they’re doing!?

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“NO NO NO NO NO!!  THIS ISN’T HOW IT ALWAYS WORKS OUT IN THE MOVIES!!”

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