Monthly Archives: September 2019

Cinema Dispatch: Remembering Rambo – Do the Movies Hold Up?

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Rambo Last Blood is such a b movie that the writer of the original book David Morrell has called it degrading embarrassment, and if you’ve read my review you’ll know that I share the same sentiment.  Still, the movie may have done one thing right which is make me reflect on the other Rambo films and wonder if this latest movie is truly as much of a departure from them as my rose tinted nostalgia believes them to be.  For this reason I’ve decided to rewatch the other four Rambo films and approach them from as much of a fresh perspective as I can manage and see if the good ones still hold up and if the bad ones are even worse than I remember.  This is probably gonna be a rough one.  Let’s get started!!

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First Blood (1982)

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Yeah, this one still holds up.  Right off the bat, the movie does a great job of setting up the world in which Rambo lives which frankly I kind of have a hard time believing was really the case.  I mean considering where we are NOW I might be a bit naïve saying that, but the fact that a cop is profiling a white dude with an American flag on his jacket, well that just seems really odd to me as someone for whom adulation and thanks are the bare requirement when interacting with a veteran.  That said, patriotism and worship of the troops has ALWAYS had a two-faced nature to it where the same people screaming about respecting the troops and waving flags are the usually the first ones to trample human rights and backstab veterans who are in desperate need of help, so a small town sheriff using his outsized sense of power to quietly shuffle this guy along isn’t the MOST unrealistic thing, and like I said the movie does a great job of setting up the world in such a quick amount of time.  Stallone has a quiet intensity to his performance that belies the rage burning just beneath the surface, and after only three minutes with Brian Dennehy you’d want to torch the town too.  This movie excels at the way it escalates tension and how the situation just snowballs as one slight leads to a definite act leads to another sleight and so on.  And sure, it does have its cheesy moments.  Every time he flashes back to Vietnam it’s only a notch below the ridiculous flashbacks in Meet the Feebles (made even more so by his AMAZING mustache) and some of Stallone’s shouty faces come off as comical, but all those extremes really add to the utter desperation of this character and how despite all his muscles, his movie star good looks, and his unmatched skills at whooping ass, he’s still a complete mess as a person; exemplified by the speech at the end which is both heart breaking to listen to and a little bit funny to watch.  What was really solidified for me on this latest watch is that while Rambo himself is an interesting character, he’s more of a symbolic force of nature whom the drama and political commentary revolve around.  Heck, I’d wager that in overall screen time we get more of Brian Dennehy than we do of Rambo as it’s his movie first and foremost even if Rambo does eventually take center stage once we get to the aforementioned finale and the rather blunt coda of the movie.  First Blood is ultimately a movie more about the time it takes place in than about the characters within it; the man pushed too far by an uncaring system and the ghosts of his past, the cops who abuse their authority under the guise of keeping law and order, even the dipshit gun toting National Guardsmen which may or may not be an accurate or fair portrayal (weekend warriors versus the REAL soldiers), but is definitely there to make a point.  With the latest movie, it felt like the incoherent ramblings of a perpetually terrified racist who couldn’t even see the humanity of those who are perceived to be the enemy.  To a certain extent, I can see where that sort of extreme flailing of emotions originated in this film with how much of its heart is on its sleeve, but where Last Blood wants to fuel the fires of discord, this movie is trying to draw out some kind of understanding from all of its characters and from the audience who watches it.  It’s a bit tone oblivious at points and has some drastic tonal shifts throughout (the comic relief National Guardsmen REALLY stood out for me), but it has genuine heart behind it which is why it holds up so well.  Now the only thing I know about the book this is based on is how it ends which greatly diverges from the movie.  At the end of the book, Trautman ends up killing Rambo at the police station, and while the filmmakers did shoot a version of this for the movie they ultimately decided to go with the happier one where Rambo lives and goes quietly with the faint hope that maybe he’ll get the help he needs and that the country can do better by others like him.  Well that, or they’ll just make a series of increasingly ludicrous and jingoistic movies, but what are the odds of THAT happening!?

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Cinema Dispatch: The Goldfinch

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The Goldfinch and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by John Crowley

So based on the trailers, this has to do with a heist gone wrong to steal a painting?  Or maybe the kid knocked it off the wall which triggered a series of Rube Goldberg zaniness that led to the museum exploding?  Okay, it’s probably not going to be THAT wacky considering the solemnity with which the trailers show the main character struggling with his guilt for… something, but apparently this is based on a book and I haven’t read it yet.  Thankfully BASED ON THE BEST SELLING NOVEL doesn’t send a chill of dread down my spine the same way BASED ON A TRUE STORY does since a book is already supposed to have a beginning, middle, and end unlike someone’s life normally does, but I might be a bit out of my depth here because I hadn’t even HEARD of the freaking thing before the trailers started to come out and it clearly looks to be pure Oscar Bait, but I’ve seen enough of these kind of movies by now to hopefully tell a good one from a bad one.  Then again, I was bored senseless in The Phantom Thread, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about in the first place.  Is this the kind of awards contender that’ll appeal to all audiences instead of the very few who will be voting on said awards this year, or is all the pretense simply there to prop up a mediocre slog?  Let’s find out!!

Theo Decker (Ansel Elgort and Oakes Fegley) hasn’t had the best like in his short thirteen years so far.  He got blamed for smoking at school, his dad left his mom several months ago, and oh yeah his mother died in some sort of terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He manages to survive somehow, but with nowhere else to go he ends up living with a school friend’s family which is led by the regal Samantha Barbour (Nicole Kidman) who seems sympathy towards Theo but not much more than that.  He eventually finds someone to open up to about the incident when he finds the partner of a man who died in the explosion along with the man’s granddaughter Pippa (Ashleigh Cummings and Aimee Laurence) who DID survive the explosion but suffered some serious trauma because of it.  Theo and his new friend Hobie (Jeffrey Wright) do manage to lean on each other somewhat to deal with their grief, but at some point Theo’s crappy dad Larry (Luke Wilson) comes back to take him away to Arizona with his younger girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) where he meets a kid named Boris (Aneurin Barnard and Finn Wolfhard) who he soon becomes friends with as well.  The movie goes between flashbacks to his childhood and the life he has today which seems to be rather miserable and it becomes clearer and clearer why as we learn more about his past; the continued trauma he had to go through even after his mother’s death as well as the brief moments of joy he managed to find despite his lousy circumstances.  Oh, and there was this painting that Theo took from the museum for some reason after the explosion, but I’m sure that’s not too important.  It had a bird on it I think.  Will Theo find peace in his life after having to suffer so much?  Is there anything in his fractured past that will hold the answer to him coming to terms with what happened to him and maybe some serendipitous turn of events will finally bring him the closure he needs?  Seriously, what does he need that bird picture for in the first place?  I mean it’s fine, but it’s no Rembrandt or Jim Davis.

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“Oh Garfield!  You truly capture the pain in my soul with your utter loathing of Mondays!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Rambo: Last Blood

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Rambo: Last Blood and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Adrian Grunberg

Not sure if this counts as a hot take, but I’ve always felt that of the two major Stallone franchises (the other being Rocky), Rambo was the lesser of the two.  First Blood wasn’t quite as good as the first Rocky, Rocky had better sequels, and even when it came to deconstructing the franchise I thought that Rocky Balboa was better than Rambo 2008.  Now that we’ve gotten to the post-deconstruction continuation for Rocky which did a phenomenal job with both Creed movies, I guess it’s time for Stallone to give good ol’ John one last adventure on the silver screen.  Does this latest and possibly last Rambo adventure measure up to the better films of the series, or will this be the movie that finally makes us all realize that Rambo 3 wasn’t ALL bad?  Let’s find out!!

Not long after the events of Rambo 2008, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) moved back to his family ranch and is living with what little family he has left; his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) and her grandmother Maria (Adriana Barraza).  It’s now the present and young Gabrielle has grown up while John has started to settle down and has diverted a lot of his negative energy towards building a complex series of tunnels underneath his ranch which if nothing else is better than getting into fist fights in Thailand.  As great as this peaceful existence has been, something terrible is about to happen that will change their lives forever!!  Gabrielle… is going on a trip!  TO MEXICO!!  Yes, apparently a friend of hers who lives there (Fenessa Pineda) has found Gabrielle’s estranged father and is inviting her down there to meet him.  Rambo however knows that… I don’t know, Mexico is full of bad guys or something, and is about as skeptical of her going to Mexico as Liam Neeson was of his daughter going to Europe.  Sure enough, the exact same thing more or less happens as Gabrielle gets taken by bad guys the same day she gets there and Rambo has to save her; presumably without rubbing her nose in it TOO much that he was right to not trust THE ENTIRE COUNTRY OF MEXICO.  Can Rambo make it in time to save Gabrielle from whatever horrific fate awaits her on the other side of the border?  Will Rambo unleash the beast that has been brewing inside of him for all these years, and is it enough to get him out of one last battle?  Can someone please tell me why I’m watching a Rambo movie that’s absolutely NOTHING like a Rambo movie?  Can someone point me to who’s responsible for whatever this is!?

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“Geez… I’m gonna have to do five more Creed films to make up for this one…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Hustlers

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Hustlers and all the images you see in this review are owned by STXfilms

Directed by Lorene Scafaria

Have I mentioned before that BASED ON A TRUE STORY is a tagline that fills me with dread and anxiety?  Yeah, it’s never fun having to be historian of sorts (or even just read a few articles) to make sure that you aren’t being unfair to a movie because you don’t know everything around it, and frankly they tend to have rather unimpressive endings because life rarely ends on a BANG.  Still, the premise looks interesting enough and I don’t need much of a reason to enjoy seeing rich people get screwed over, so maybe this will turn out to be a fun time even with the FACTS OF THE STORY hanging around its neck like an albatross!  Maybe it’s a NICE albatross!  You ever think of that!?  Anyway, is this piece of late stage capitalism bashing yet another cathartic bit of enjoyable escapism, or is the only good thing that’ll come out of this movie the awesome dance moves that Jennifer Lopez learned while making it?  Let’s find out!!

Dorothy, AKA Destiny (Constance Wu), is a stripper who has just started working at a big club in New York City, but despite the promises of big money she finds that she’s not quite fitting in with the clientele and that management is taking out HUGE chunks of her paycheck for various “services” that let her keep working there.  If only there was an extremely talented stripper there who can show her the ropes and make her into a star, but what are the chances of THAT, am I right!?  Oh wait, what about Ramona (Jennifer Lopez)?  Yeah, she makes a bunch of money and makes it look totally effortless in the process!  With her tutelage, Dorothy does manage to find her niche there and makes more money than she ever had before, but the plot twist here is that this is all ACTUALLY taking place in 2007 and the big financial crash that wiped out this entire country is about to hit their industry hard; especially since their big paying clients are Wall Street guys who are now broke.  Well not BROKE broke like everyone else, but they’ve become rather stingy with their dollars and now no one can make money in this business which is particularly bad for Dorothy who has an elderly grandmother to take care of as well as a kid she’s raising by herself.  Once the dust settles from the crash, Dorothy eventually goes in on a scheme that Ramona has set up along with fellow co-workers Mercedes and Annabelle (Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart) to drug these rich penny pinching punks with stuff that’ll make them happy, pliable, and forgetful so they can then run up their credit cards on all sorts of services that they get a kickback on.  Sounds like a great plan if you ask me, especially since none of these jerks went to jail for tanking the housing market, but a good thing can never seem to last and so things start to unravel over time as Dorothy starts to question whether Ramona is truly looking out for all of them or just for herself.  Can Dorothy get enough money to take care of her biological family while ALSO keeping her new family safe and away from inquiring eyes?  Just how much do they plan on getting away with before someone will eventually catch on, or are they hoping to steal back every penny these investment firm jerkwads took from the American public?  Does anyone else think these ladies should be in line for the next Captain America?  Taking money from these guys seems to me about as patriotic as apple pie and The Cheesecake Factory!

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Jennifer Lopez 2020

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Cinema Dispatch: IT Chapter 2

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IT Chapter 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Andy Muschietti

Alright, so we’re all in agreement that the first film was amazing, right?  I mean it had a few issues here and there, but dang it if Chapter One wasn’t a horror masterpiece with great performances, a terrifying villain, and the brilliant idea of taking the GOOD parts of a Stephen King book and leaving out all the stuff that doesn’t work.  Heck, I’m pretty sure the last time that happened was when Kubrick made The Shining which Stephen King really doesn’t like for some reason.  Now we’ve got the sequel which has the neigh impossible task of capturing lightening in a bottle twice; especially since most of what made the first one so memorable will necessarily have to be either absent or pushed to the side.  Can the filmmakers pull off the impossible by making the notoriously unworkable ending to the book into something not just comprehensible but just as good as the film that came before it?  Let’s find out!!

The movie picks up twenty seven years after the events of the first film where the mysterious murders in Derry have started up once again and Michael (Isaiah Mustafa) as the only member of the Losers Club left in town has to bring the gang back together to fight the evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) once again.  Bill, Richie, Beverly, Ben, Eddie, and Stanley (James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean) have all gone their separate ways and can’t even seem to remember their time in Derry or the monster they fought all those years ago, but after a phone call from Mike they all start to remember (some take the news harder than others) and travel back home to take care of what IT is once and for all.  In the process they will have to confront their pasts, face their fears, and do all sorts of weird stuff in the vein attempt of trying to destroy a monster that has lived for hundreds of years while they’re a bunch of middle aged writers, comedians, and risk analysists, who might be able to throw a punch but not much else.  Can the monster known alternatively as IT, Pennywise, and WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING!? be defeated by these friends brought together once again by the pact they made long ago?  What is the clown planning for them as revenge for the defeat that he suffered back in the eighties?  Maybe he can defeat them by trying to explain the ending of the book and just wait until their brains explode.

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“I WANT A FIVE HUNDRED WORD ESSAY ABOUT THE ENDING ON MY DESK TOMORROW MORNING!!”

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Super Comics: Tangle & Whisper – #2

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

Well now that we’ve got the rather meh Sonic book out of the way, let’s get back to the NEW series that is already quite promising!  As I’m sure you don’t need me to say once again, Whisper is perhaps the best thing the new Sonic book has going for it and so making this mini-series about something in her DARK AND MYSTERIOUS PAST sounds like a total slam dunk to me!  Do they keep up the momentum from the first issue and continue to outdo the ACTUAL Sonic book?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Tangle & Whisper sneaking up on an abandoned Eggman facility because OF COURSE they’re at an abandoned Eggman facility.  I’m pretty sure there are more empty houses owned by Eggman than there are homeless furries in the streets which is yet another reason to eat the rich aside from how tasty someone named Eggman would inevitably be.  ANYWAY!  If you weren’t aware already (and for SOME REASON hadn’t read my recap of the first issue), these two are here to hunt down a mischievous knife wielding bad guy named Mimic who can count all the prime numbers from one to nine-thousand nine-hundred and seventy three.  No, I’m kidding; they can shapeshift and impersonate other people which makes something like an abandoned facility with lots of doors, hallways, and storerooms filed with empty boxes not the most ideal of hunting grounds for our heroes.  Despite the disadvantage however, Whisper has more than enough angst to say screw the danger and Tangle has more than enough pep in her step to assume she’s gonna come out of this the big dang hero!

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“I am vengeance!  I am the NIGHT!  I!  AM!  LEMUR WOMAN!!”     “Stop talking to yourself!  We’re trying to be inconspicuous!”     “STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!!”

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Super Wrestling: AEW – All Out

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All Out and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling and Shahid Khan

Well here it is!  After months of trial and error, big announcements, and no real response from WWE, it’s the last show before the AEW experiment goes to prime time television!  Starting in October we will be getting a weekly show from them on TBS and while I doubt they could IMMEDIATELY crash and burn considering how much money there is behind them, it’s still something of a risky venture to go into Vince’s backyard and try to claim a piece for yourself.  WCW failed, TNA failed, and the other guys just kept off of TV altogether.  It’s kind of a big deal, but we’re not really here to talk about all that!  We’re here to find out if this show had any good wrestling on it and if it’s worth your time and money to see it!  Can AEW end their PPV run on a high note as they head to the big leagues, or will this end up as a foreboding vision of things to come?  Let’s find out, and we’ll start with the pre-show!!

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Casino Battle Royale

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We start the night off with another Casino Battle Royale, but unlike the one in Double or Nothing this one is with the women’s division.  What IS like last time however are the overly complicated rules for how the groups are populated and ordered which amount to absolutely nothing because we don’t end up seeing the process; just the result.  With WWE’s Royal Rumble, they don’t make a big deal out of it and just make it a simple lottery system which is easy enough to get across to an audience but also allows for a bit of drama and tension as well; especially if someone tries to cheat it.  The wrestlers here have to draw from a “special deck” but we don’t see the drawing which determines their group, and apparently the don’t determine the group order prior to the match; they shuffle the deck right when the timer goes off and whatever suit is selected goes next.  Again, we don’t actually SEE anyone draw a card to determine the next group, but I like to imagine Cody’s in the back after having called 2 suits and has to pick the third one, but he keeps getting the first two suits over and over and over again until half the deck is on the floor before a new one comes up.  See, THAT might have justified this nonsense!  Anyway, that’s all rather immaterial as it basically boils down to a staggered Battle Royale match, so how is it?  Well I think the problem here is that it’s a Battle Royale that FEELS like it should be paced like a Royal Rumble because of those staggered entrances which are the defining feature of a Royal Rumble.  Sure a Royal Rumble can go on for a rather long time which is whole PPVs are built around them, but the benefit is that the pacing allows for multiple storylines to play out in the ring.  Contrast that with a Battle Royale which are MUCH better for pre-shows where everyone is in the ring at the start and it usually devolves into chaos until the last five or so competitors are left.  The latter is basically what happens here; it’s not until everyone has made it to the ring that it stops being about random spots and constant eliminations to play out into something more substantive; all of which is fine, but the fact they stagger the entrances makes it feel like more should be happening throughout.  It also isn’t helped by the camera work which missed a few eliminations, and while I would normally cut them some slack considering how chaotic this was (some of the more prominent wrestlers got thrown out with little fanfare during other team’s entrances), this is a problem that ended up persisting throughout the entire show and I’ll make sure to point it out when it happened during other matches.

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Look!  They brought in ODB!  See in the corner there?  Yeah, she’s already eliminated, but she still showed up!

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