Cinema Dispatch: Godzilla vs. Kong

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Godzilla vs. Kong and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Adam Wingard

It’s no secret that I was not a fan of King of the Monsters which was particularly surprising to me as I always get a kick out of seeing giant monster movies!  There was just too much pretention and import without enough depth or butt kicking fight scenes to justify how lethargic much of it was, but if there was anything about the movie that caught my interest (aside from them using the Blue Oyster Cult song for the credits), it was the promise of seeing Godzilla and the King Kong from Kong: Skull Island lace up the gloves and duke it out in a battle to end all battles!  Well the one thing that giant monsters were not able to overcome was the Pandemic as this got pushed back for several months, but the day has finally arrived and they even put it on HBO Max to boot!  Is this the titanic clash between two legendary movie monsters we’ve all been waiting for, or is this a bigger letdown than Batman v Superman?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Monarch has decided that instead of leaving Kong alone on his mysterious island that is probably not even on Godzilla’s radar, they’ll capture him, chain him up, and put him in a fake jungle so that… I guess he and Godzilla don’t have a punch up.  It seems that Kong himself wasn’t consulted on this as he’s constantly wrecking up his cage and has to be restrained whenever he’s out of it, but in any case, along with that there’s a new Super Science company in town named Apex run by some dude named Walter (Demián Bichir) who believes that there’s some sort of Unobtanium-like SUPER OIL that requires drilling even deeper into the Earth to get.  How deep?  Well so deep that apparently you empty out into a whole new world which is where the monsters they’ve been dealing with are actually from.  A rag tag team of scientists are assembled to try and prove this Hollow Earth theory and since they’ve already got a giant monster under lock and key, they can use his… something something science babble to help them find the entrance to the Hollow Earth and make perhaps the greatest discovery in all of human history!  Said team is made up of some geologist dude (Alexander Skarsgård), Kong’s caretaker (Rebecca Hall), her adopted daughter (Kaylee Hottle), and Walter’s very annoyed daughter (Eiza González) along with like five or six nameless army dudes. Now all this however assumes that Godzilla, the supposed protector of Earth, doesn’t come in and wreck Apex/Monarch’s plans, but hey I guess if they’ve got Kong on hand anyway, why not let him punch the giant lizard a few times along the way?  Oh, and Millie Bobby Brown is back on a Goonies adventure to discover the secrets of Apex along with a nerd (Julian Dennison) and a conspiracy theorist (Brian Tyree Henry) who has no problem dragged teenagers along on a life threatening adventure.  Then again, Rebecca Hall has someone even younger tagging along with her, so either way there seems to be way too many irresponsible grown-ups running around here.  Will Apex and Monarch be able to find the hidden entrance to the Hollow Earth and perhaps find some answers about Kong as well?  What does Apex want with this new energy source, and could Godzilla’s recent aggression towards them be somehow connected?  Am I the only one picturing a better movie where the giant ape and the giant lizard just say SCREW this and work together to destroy everyone involved with this ridiculous venture!?

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“Join me, brother! These humans care NOTHING for our kind!” “I would, but… your face… is so… PUNCHABLE!!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Nobody

Nobody and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Ilya Naishuller

I recently got around to catching up on Better Call Saul (at least the seasons on Netflix), so Bob Odenkirk has been on my mind lately and is definitely one of those underrated actors that should be getting more mainstream roles.  Of course there are plenty of mid-tier TV actors like that, most of which were also on Breaking Bad, but Odenkirk is one of those fun cases of a guy who started out in comedy and found a way to effectively bridge that into more dramatic roles; and the fact that he discovered Tim & Eric and even works on most of their shows landed him a soft spot with me!  Hearing that he was in a movie about getting the crap kicked out of him definitely perked my interest as it means he’ll be taking another step outside of his established comfort zone into the realm of Dad Action Heroes, but can he find success hoping genres once again, or is Bob more comfortable playing characters who talk the talk instead of walk the walk?  Let’s find out!!

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is your typical suburban dad.  He goes to work each day, forgets to take out the garbage before the truck arrives, and has kids who could take or leave his presence.  In and out, it’s always the same and while he’s not exactly HAPPY he seems at least content enough to let this routine keep going until it runs its course.  That is until his house is broken into one night and he just lets the thieves go instead of even TRYING to take them down.  His son (Gage Munroe) is pretty upset that he didn’t do anything during the robbery (especially since he himself took a punch to the face), but he heeds them no mind as he returns to his very normal life.  That is until it turns out they stole something that belonged to his daughter, and something finally clicks within him as he seems to have a lot more anger in his heart and skills in his head than he was leading on about, and he needs to find a way to get back at them for what they did.  In the course of doing this, he crosses someone who has some VERY high connections and so becomes a target of a city wide manhunt, and so can’t just put the genie back in the bottle after his little rage relapse.  He now has to contend with the Russian mafia who are not just after him but after his family as well, and so now has to dig up all the guns, pull all the skeletons out of his closet, and perhaps give up this comfortable life the he had set up for himself.  What exactly did Hutch do in his past that made him such a formidable butt kicker, and how did he wind up in the suburbs?  Will he still have a family to go back to once this is all over, or will this be the last hurrah for a man who just couldn’t make the simple life work for him?  Is it just me, or would he have made a MUCH better Joker than the one we got in Joker?  Or even Justice League for that matter…

“You wanna know how I got these scars?  Ask Mr. Whiskers over there, the testy bastard.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Justice League v Justice League – Dawn of Judgement

Justice League 2017 & Justice League 2021 as well as all the images you see are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Both films directed by Zack Snyder

I can’t say I was ever looking forward to this day as I was one of the people who actually LIKED the original cut of Justice League and then spent the last four years seeing people opine (and worse) for a movie that they already got; not to mention the awful news that broke about how the reshoots went for Ray Fisher.  Still, Warner Bros is looking for ANY sort of cash cow to make their HBO Max service a success, so they threw a bunch of money at Zack Snyder and company to make an extended version of the movie they already made and feed into the LOST SNYDER CUT narrative that has been stuck with us for so long.  Now that the movie is finally out, was it worth all the hype and can it possibly justify the ridiculous over the top actions its most ardent supporters took?  Well obviously not, but instead of just doing a straight up review as the films are very similar in a lot of ways, I think it’d be much more interesting to take a look at what this new version gets right as well as where it falls short of the original cut.  Let’s get started, and beware of Spoilers ahead!!

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Something Good: The colors make more sense

The drastic change in pallets between the early trailers and the later ones was a definite sign that things were changing significantly and a lot of scenes in the movie ended up suffering for it.  Batman in particular always looked like an overstuffed sausage in bat-pants stuffed with pudding (which isn’t COMPLETELY gone but is much less prominent now), and there was a garishness to certain scenes where they pushed the colors up just a little bit too high.  The corrections here definitely fit more with what was being filmed and the pallet fits well with the new tone of the movie.

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Something Bad: The colors are more boring

And yet I just couldn’t get behind it.  Sure the colors didn’t always WORK, but for the most part they were bright and colorful which added a much needed cheeriness to a franchise that until then was stuck in its own morose grander.  Thankfully later movies like Shazam, Aquaman, and arguably even Wonder Woman 1984 built a brighter look from the ground up and the aesthetic fits better with those movies, but going back to this kind of look after those films is just deflating; even if it’s more competently done.  And I’m also going to throw this in here, I just don’t get why they insisted on using an IMAX aspect ratio for a moving going to a streaming service.  It’s distracting the whole way through and I never felt like it added anything.

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Cinema Dispatch: Coming 2 America

Coming 2 America and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Craig Brewer

Coming to America is not a movie I have much nostalgia for.  I didn’t see it until I was well into my twenties and while I found it amusing it wasn’t exactly an all-time classic for me, so while I’m not giddy with anticipation to see where Prince Akeem ended up thirty years later, I shouldn’t be particularly bummed if it doesn’t live up to the original.  Frankly, the Eddie Murphy from my childhood peaked with Dr. Doolittle as I didn’t see any of his classic movies until I was much older, and it’s only been in the last few years that he’s buckled down and tried to be more discerning with his roles so perhaps this will take to heart the harsh lessons he learned over the last few decades and will actually be something true to the spirit of the original and to the comedy legend that he was at the time!  Yeah okay, I don’t think that’s going to be the case either (especially with them putting a 2 in the title), but let’s find out!!

Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy), the soon to be king of Zamunda, has been living the last thirty years in luxury and bliss with his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) and their three daughters (KiKi Layne, Bella Murphy, and Akiley Love) in the beautiful palace that I’m sure is not an opulent eyesore and a constant reminder of wealth inequality in the region!  Surely not when they are being menaced by the neighboring warlord General izzi (Wesley Snipes) who wants his own son to be married to Akeem’s oldest.  After all, the law says No Chicks Allowed and therefore a woman can’t be the leader, so perhaps Akeem’s happy little life is about to get quite complicated.  As luck would have it however, the King (James Earl Jones) has been keeping a secret from Akeem as it turns out he has a son living in Queens that he conceived during his trip there thirty odd years ago.  Must have happened when we weren’t looking I guess.  We were probably all getting more popcorn.  So Akeem, with the help of his loyal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) must return to the United States and bring his son back to be groomed as the next Prince and eventual heir to the throne; something that doesn’t sit right with his eldest daughter who was hoping to find a way to ascend to the throne as well as his wife who’s a bit perturbed that he conceived a child about a week before they started dating.  His son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) has his own reservations as it’s a pretty sweet deal to be plucked out of obscurity to become a big shot, but being a Prince isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be even if it means the easy life for his mother (Leslie Jones) and his uncle (Tracy Morgan).  Will Prince Akeem be able to ascend to the throne as King with a competent heir by his side, or will the culture shock for Lavelle be too great for him and his family to handle? What will General Izzi do now that his master scheme is about to be unraveled, and will Lavelle suffer the consequences of his newly found father’s machinations?  Or will it be about none of that and everyone will spend most of the movie spouting lines from the first one?

“I’m getting too old for this spit.”     “Wrong movie.  And wrong line.”     “Oh who cares?  It’s a PG-13 sequel; you get what you pay for.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Tom & Jerry

Tom & Jerry and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Tim Story

The pandemic has been awful for everyone, but I have no doubt that a few movies were relieved to avoid having to release in theaters and have dismal box office returns; particularly the movies that were already being pushed further and further back looking for the least competitive window possible to MAYBE scrape by at number three on slow weekend.  My Spy certainly springs to mind, as does this movie which didn’t exactly light the world on fire with its trailer and frankly I was not looking forward to sitting through it when Warner Bros put it on their HBO Max slate.  Still, even if it looks a bit cheap and cheesy for the big screen, perhaps it plays a bit better on the smaller one and will find its niche in the streaming market.  Is this a fun little romp for the kids that captures the spirit of these classic characters, or is it yet another lousy cash-in that’ll come and go faster than the LAST time they tried to bring these characters to the big screen all the way back in 1992?  Let’s find out!!

Thomas D Cat and Jerome A Mouse are two critters roaming the streets of New York City; one looking for a place to stay that has lots of cheese and the other hoping to be the world’s most famous keyboard playing feline right after Keyboard Cat.  Their paths cross when Jerry interrupts his concert in the park and after a series of convoluted antics; one ends up in a fancy hotel chomping holes into walls and stealing food while the other is left homeless and with a broken keyboard.  Try to guess which one is which!  Said hotel by the way has a new employee named Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) who faked her way into the position and is trying to prove herself by fixing the hotel’s mouse problem in preparation for an upcoming celebrity wedding that will take place in the hotel’s banquet hall.  The current supervisor (Michael Peña) is skeptical of Kayla and is looking for any excuse to get rid of her, so she has to bring in a mouse catching ringer and decides to hire this cartoon cat that clearly has it out for the little mouse.  Will Tom be able to stop Jerry’s antics and earn a decent salary to fund his hopes and dreams?  Will the wedding go off without a hitch, or is there more going on with the celebrity couple that can only come to light via cartoon animal violence?  I know the movie is out and I’ve sat through it already… but are we sure this is even a real movie? 

Did they actually get her to be in this, or is that just a cardboard cutout!?
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Cinema Dispatch: Willy’s Wonderland

Willy’s Wonderland and all the images you see in this review are owned by Screen Media Films

Directed by Kevin Lewis

You know, Nicolas cage may not be in big Hollywood movies anymore but he’s got a decent eye for the VOD and Indie markets.  He’s worked with guys like Panos Cosmatos, he was in probably the best HP Lovecraft movie in I don’t know how long, and that Brian Taylor movie Parents was an absolute trip and frankly should have gotten much more attention than it did.  Now he’s starring in an unofficial Five Nights at Freddy’s movie which would otherwise looks like an Asylum knock off.  Say what you will about Cage, at least he hasn’t gotten to Carmen Electra, C Thomas Howell, and Danny Trejo levels yet!  Does Nicolas Cage prove once again prove his savviness at picking low budget projects, or was this just an easy paycheck for all involved?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with a mysterious stranger (Nicolas Cage) getting the tires on his car ripped apart on a random country road near a dead end country town.  How much of a dead end is this town?  They don’t just lack any sort of internet service here, they don’t even have the infrastructure to support ATMs which means that Cage can’t just pay for the tires; he has to do this the old fashioned way with a favor and a handshake.  The town Business Guy (Ric Reitz) offers to pay for Cage’s new tires if he spends the night cleaning his janky as heck pizza place called Willy’s Wonderland; a children’s pizzeria with a cast of animatronic characters that love nothing more than to sing their happy songs for the children.  Unfortunately the little pizza shop has a VERY sordid past but that’s about to change as our local Business Guy is hoping to fix it up and get it running again which is all going to start with a little bit of elbow grease and a lots of window cleaner!  Cage silently agrees and is locked inside for some reason, but he doesn’t mind because he’s got a job to do and a bag full of PUNCH COLA to keep him nice and hydrated!  All is not as it seems however as some local kids led by Liv Hawthorne (Emily Tosta) are trying to burn the place to the ground but decide to try and convince Cage to come out first before they do it.  And why would they want to do that?  Well if the creepy animatronics and shady deal with the Business Guy wasn’t enough of a clue, it turns out this place is haunted for some reason and that she has some very grisly experiences with the place, so turning it to ashes will bring some degree of closure for her.  Still, seems like a bad idea to just run into the pizzeria full of haunted and murderous robots no matter how fluffy their fur is and it turns into a fight for survival as the teens try to escape the death trap and Cage continues to clean up stains wherever he finds them!  Will the horrors of this place finally be put to bed with the help of our mysterious stranger?  What exactly is keeping this place standing all these years, and why is Business Guy so gung ho to reopen in the first place?  Will Nicolas Cage clean the floors so well that you could eat off of them!?

“Is there an ostrich behind me?”     “Yes.”     “Is he tracking in mud?”     “Uh… maybe?”     “I hate it when they do that…”
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Cinema Dispatch: Bliss

Bliss and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Mike Cahill

So hey!  Either studios are getting bolder in 2021 and are actually releasing stuff, or I’m finally paying attention and now have about two months’ worth of releases to look forward to across my various streaming services!  I’m definitely ready to get back on that movie reviewing horse (even though this review is coming out almost a week after the movie did), and what better film to herald this renewed vigor than a movie literally named after a word for happiness!  So does Amazon’s sci-fi take on a less action heavy Matrix (or a less dreamlike Eternal Sunshine) prove to be as good as the title promises, or is the true bliss the moment you decide to turn the movie off?  Let’s find out!!

Gregg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is your typical upper middle class miserable white dude.  He’s recently divorced, he hates his job, and while he loves his kids they’re pretty much grown now and there seems to be some issues there he doesn’t feel like confronting.  Instead, he spends his time drawing pictures of a better life which may be cathartic for him but because that’s ALL he does at work he ends up getting fired.  Just as well, I mean the place is a dismal office building with all life and personality scrubbed out of it, but in the real world you can’t just get fired and let everything fall to the wayside.  Or can you!?  Drinking his misery away, Gregg meets a woman named Isabel Clemens (Salma Hayek) who recognizes him as someone special and whisks him away on an adventure of homelessness and telekinetic powers!  Why?  Well according to Isabella, this is a fake reality that she built and that nothing here matters!  The people are fake, the boredom is fake, the lousy jobs are all fake, and she’s here to show Mr. Wittle that’s he’s not so Wittle after all!  Seems like an enticing proposition and there is certainly some evidence to support this, but there are also many questions as well that Isabel either has a convenient technobabble excuse for or is outright hesitant to confront, so does Greg dare to hope that his boring meaningless life can be changed in an instant by this benevolent benefactor?  If everything is a simulation though, doesn’t that mean his kids aren’t real either?  How would you even define if they are real if the feelings are genuinely there?  Can we call Morpheus in to explain this?  He’s pretty good at this kind thing.s

“Real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain, and guess who’s got a Taser!” “Whoa.” “Heck YEAH, whoa!”
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Cinema Dispatch: The Little Things

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

Directed by John Lee Hancock

Say what you will about HBO Max’s plan on releasing movies on their service the same day as theaters, it’s done a heck of a lot more to get me excited about watching movies again than anything else has in the past year.  Sure the movies never STOPPED coming out whether it was on other streaming services or on VOD, but HBO giving us a list of first run movies that we can expect to see this year gives me something to build a schedule around which very few things have been able to do since this whole pandemic started.  Heck, it’s half the reason I started my Halo Retrospective so that I’d have something to work towards every single week!  So with all that being said, is this movie the start of a renewed sense of vigor for my aspirations of becoming a film critic, or has Warner Bros gotten me all hyped up for even more drivel that wasn’t going to hack it at the theater anyway?  Let’s find out!!

Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) is your typical washed up patrol man.  He works in a dead end nowhere town and is happy to write parking tickets and scarf down doughnuts until his retirement, but he is forced to go to Los Angeles to pick up some evidence in a relevant case, and as soon as he gets there it’s clear that he has a bad history with this particular precinct.  There’s at least one detective however who doesn’t seem to care that he’s back in town, and he’s the new hot shot Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) who’s working on a solving a series of murders that definitely look to be connected but he’s unable to finger a suspect on them.  With Joe being back in his old town and Jim having to deal with the disappearance of Rhonda Rathburn (Maya Kazan) who could very well be the serial killer’s next victim, they begrudging start working together as Joe seems to be trying to redeem himself for something bad in his past and Jim is starting to wonder if he’s good enough to find this killer in the first place.  Through some sly investigation they manage to find some dude with the unfortunate name of Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who seems to be their guy, but they are just having a heck of a time trying to find conclusive evidence that’ll put this guy away for good.  Will Joe and Jim learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and faults to become best buddies as they spend all their time following this weirdo around?  What exactly is Sparma up to, and is he playing games with everyone without them realizing it?  Is there any way we could just cut to the chase on this or will we spend half this movie sitting in a car as bored out of our minds as these two?

“I walk a higher path, son.”     “Yeah, haven’t heard that one before…”
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Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (Godzilla vs Kong)

Godzilla vs Kong and all the images you see in this trailer talk are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Adam Wingard

Warner Bros’ bold move to release their movies on streaming the same day as theaters is going to be one of the more interesting stories of 2021, and this film is probably going to be the one indicate its direction.  Sure they gave us Wonder Woman 1984, but that had been delayed so long and theaters were still staying closed for the foreseeable future that it almost felt like WB throwing the world a bone or perhaps even a Christmas present.  A present that was pretty wonky and not nearly as its predecessor, but I guess it’s the thought that counts.  This one is a bit different because the vaccine means that people are going to try and get back to a normal life; some faster than others while the responsibility of such actions remains… dubious at best.  I’m HOPING things get fixed before the Summer, but I’m guessing there’s going to be more than enough people out there saying it’s already fixed today.  So with that said, this movie is one that COULD conceivably be delayed for a full theater release without waiting too long, but WB is committed to this strategy and we’ll have to see how it pays off for them; if releasing these big blockbusters on streaming will build up HBO Max enough to offset the costs, or if they are just throwing money down the drain because they couldn’t wait for a safer time to release.  As interesting as all that is though, we’re here to talk about the trailer that they released so let’s take a look at it!

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My biggest fear going into this is that I was NOT a fan of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and that this would be a continuation of that.  I found the whole thing rather insufferable with just how much the overwrought drama weighed down the monster fighting action of which there was already a dearth of.  Oh sure, you can go back to the Japanese Godzilla films and point out how much human drama was in THOSE, but first I wouldn’t say they were SPECTACULAR either, and second they didn’t have a bloated runtime dragging things down even more.  Twenty minutes of Kaiju action in a ninety minute movie is better than twenty-five minutes of Kaiju action in a hundred and thirty minute movie; especially when the action itself is obscured by so much bad weather.  Frankly the giant dudes in costumes brawling in full day light may not have looked the best but had a lot more charm than King of the Monsters. 

TEAM KONG, ALL THE WAY!!
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Cinema Dispatch: Sightless

Sightless and all the images you see in this review are owned by MarVista Entertainment
Directed by Cooper Karl

Alright, look.  As much as I would LOVE to do nothing more than watch wrestling and play Halo until the world gets back to normal, I need to get back into some regular routines and that’s going to start with reviewing some movies.  Yes, this movie was released last year and I could have watched it on digital, but it just got its Netflix release and frankly I never even HEARD of it until I was looking for something to watch.  Warner Bros is going to do its best to keep me relevant in the coming months with their movies coming straight to HBO Max the same time as they hit theaters, but I’ll be filling the cracks with whatever catches my eye and, perhaps most importantly, whatever I can watch with the BAJILLION streaming services I’m already paying for.  So then!  Does this thriller deserve a second chance at relevance now that it’s graced the front page of Netflix, or is this just more filler for an already bloated catalog of films that no one has heard of?  Let’s find out!!

Ellen Ashland (Madelaine Petsch) is having a rough go of it.  Not only was she attacked by a masked stranger, they sprayed her in the eyes with a chemical that has left her permanently blind and now she has to move to a new apartment to adjust to living a life without vision.  Thankfully she comes from money and her brother not only covers the apartment but also pays for a nurse named Clayton (Alexander Koch) to take care of her and ease the transition.  Ellen is certainly not taking this turn of events with good humor and spends a lot of her time feeling miserable for herself despite the constant efforts by Clayton to get her to open up and embrace her new life, but as the days stretch on she starts to notice strange things around her.  There’s a couple next door that seem to be hiding some awful secrets, she starts to feel and hear things that may or may not be there, and you’d think she’d get at least one Get Well card!  I know that forwarding mail can be a pain, but still!  All of these strange things quickly add up and she finds herself in a situation where she can’t trust anything; least of all her own sense.  Is Ellen stuck with a bad case of paranoia after such a terrible attack and a life changing event?  Is there something in her past that’s coming back to bite her now that she’s in a much more vulnerable situation?  Is it just me, or does this dude look like five hot guys mashed into one; from Tom Welling circa 2003 to that Philosophy Tube guy.

“You can’t see me, so imagine me however you’d like.”     “Okay, I’m picturing Nicolas Cage.”     “I… don’t think I have that acting range.”
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