Category Archives: Cinema Dispatch

Cinema Dispatch: American Assassin

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

Directed by Michael Cuesta

I don’t know about you, but I’m just happy that we’re not gonna be seeing any more trailers for this now that the movie has finally come out as its second only to Flatliners as far as obnoxiously overplayed teasers whenever I go to the cinema.  Still, just because they overdid it with the marketing for this (at least for the movies I went to see) doesn’t mean it’ll be a bad film, and if nothing else it at least has the Birdman himself to lend a bit of charm to this!  Does this manage to be a decent enough spy thriller that I forget just how annoying it was seeing the trailers over and over again, or are we in for the worst spy film since Cars 2?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) and his girlfriend Katrina (charlotte Vega) enjoying a vacation in Spain that is capped off with Mitch proposing to her and Katrina saying yes!  Okay, ACTUALLY it gets capped off with a bunch of terrorist dudes start fucking shit up and one of them (Shahid Ahmed) fires a few rounds right through Katrina’s chest.  Mitch then spends the next eighteen months training his ass off and embedding himself into the same terrorist cell that launched the beach attack, and this somehow works as he ends up face to face with the man who shot his wife under the guise of joining his cell.  Before he can stick a knife in his throat however, AMERICA bursts through the front door and drills FREEDOM right into the heads of each and every terrorist there; luckily sparing Mitch but also taking out his target before he could.  Now you’d think this would be the end of Mitch’s story as he’d either go to jail for trying to join terrorists or at the very least be pointed to a decent counselor to help deal with his grief, but that’s not what Deputy CIA Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) has in mind!!  She decides to recruit this lone wolf for OFFICIAL assignments and sends him to Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) to put a bit of discipline in him and see if he can be an effective weapon for the CIA.  Well I guess they’ll have to find out sooner than they thought as some nuclear material is stolen out of Russia and seems to be heading to Iran by way of a MYSTERIOUS mercenary known as GHOST, and clearly Mitch, along with Stan, a red shirt (Scott Adkins) and another spy named Annika (Shiva Negar), are the ONLY ONES WHO CAN STOP HIM!  Will Dylan find a way to satisfy his bloodlust now that the target of his revenge was prematurely terminated?  Who is this MYSTERIOUS Ghost and why does he have the most generic mercenary name imaginable?  Was this SERIOUSLY a book first?  Someone wrote this shit down!?

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And then he shot all the terrorists, and then he punched out the zombified corpse of Saddam Hussain, and then he made out with a robotic clone of Marilyn Monroe…

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Cinema Dispatch: Holy MOTHER of Pearl!

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Mother! is owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

So I guess we’re gonna have to talk about this one again, huh?  It certainly seems that everyone else is getting in on the action with various think pieces about what the movie actually means and how audiences are reacting to it, which… I guess I can’t criticize because I’m currently doing the exact same thing, but I’m still feeling a bit irksome about how much publicity this movie is getting when what I saw really didn’t merit all the hoopla.  Making matters worse is the fact that CinemaScore (a poll of general audience moviegoers) have given the film a rating of F; bringing back the tired argument about how art films are just too GOOD for mainstream audiences to understand.  I mean… sure, I’ve certainly held firmly on one side of that debate in the past (I bring up Michael Bay as often as possible), but after seeing the film itself, I just don’t think this is the one for some of the more snobby among us to lord over the undiscerning masses, because… well if you read my review, you’d know that I am rather close to absolutely hating this film; stopping just short of that due to the technical acumen, the finely tuned tension curve that’s constantly raising the stakes, and Aronfosky’s undoubtedly strong command of cinematic storytelling.  Make no mistake; this isn’t an amateur hour shit show like God’s Not Dead 2 or Incarnate.  This is a phenomenal filmmaker who tried to do something great but I feel has failed in spectacular fashion, and while I do understand the reasoning behind for softening ones opinions about a movie that genuinely tries THAT hard (the story of Icarus is usually seen to be a tragic one), I just… couldn’t.  Too much about this movie is misguided for me to want to give it much of a pass, at least as far as my own feelings on it as I think it’s STILL probably a movie worth seeing at some point even if you ultimately hate it the same way I did.  So I guess that begs the question, what is it that everyone seems to be getting out of this movie, and why do I feel it was done so poorly?

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Cinema Dispatch: Mother!

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

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

I’ve never really been a fan of David Fincher, yet I’ve very much appreciated Aronofsky despite them sharing quite a few similarities; mostly in regards to just how dark and cynical they can be when it comes to their subject matter.  I guess Aronofsky still manages to CARE about his characters even when they’re terrible people or getting mercilessly destroyed which is something that feels absent from a lot of Fincher’s work like Fight Club or Gone Girl; both are about terrible people but never seem to get past simply PRESENTING us with their unpleasantness.  Aronofsky’s different, especially with movies like The Wrestler and Black Swan which are straight up tragedies about broken people trying desperately to get their lives together and failing miserably in the process.  Now we have Mother! which, aside from the gratuitous punctuation, seems to be in the same vein though leaning much more on horror tropes and absurd excess than a more focused psychological horror narrative and seems to be in the same vein as Noah (another one of his movies that I like) at least as far as just how far he’s willing to take the strangeness of it all.  Is this another classic to add to his already impressive catalogue, or has he made his biggest misstep since The Fountain?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with a HUGE spoiler, but AFTER that we follow around a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives with her husband (Javier Bardem) in a REALLY nice house that is in desperate need of repair, but at least it gives Jennifer Lawrence something to do while FAMED POET JAVIER BARDEM putters around not writing anything.  Still, she seems perfectly content with her day to day life of fixing the place up and making it look more hospitable… but everything changes once some guy and his wife (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up at their doorstep and Bardem is MORE than happy to offer their house, their food, and their personal space to the couple with no consultation from Jennifer Lawrence.  Things escalate from there, but in ways I’d rather not spoil as the movie goes place you really couldn’t imagine from the trailers which sell this as a much different film.  Does Jennifer Lawrence find a way to assert herself and regain control of what is hers?  What is Javier Bardem’s deal with letting these people come in in the first place, and what ulterior motives do they have?  No seriously, Aronfosky.  What the fuck did you do here?

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Do I need to rub your nose in it!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Tulip Fever

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Tulip Fever and all the images you see in this review are owned by The Weinstein Company

Directed by Justin Chadwick

Now THESE are the movies I live for!  What makes a good or bad movie even better is if there’s a good story behind it, and this looks like a disaster waiting to happen; what with its troubled production (it’s earliest incarnation was supposed to be filmed in 2004) and the fact that it’s been sitting on Harvey Weinstein’s shelf for almost three years now.  Not only that, the premise itself sounds completely absurd (a steamy period romance AND ALSO the explosion of the Dutch tulip market) and the trailers made it look like a muddled mess; probably due to that whole “sitting around for three years” thing.  Sometimes a film can rise above a nightmarish film shoot with films like Apocalypse now and even The Shining being great examples of that (even if Shelly Duvall’s treatment on set was pretty freaking grotesque), but other times we get stuff like Waterworld, The Super Mario Bros Movie, or even Food Fight.  Does this film manage to come out of all this turmoil as an intact and extremely entertaining film, or should they have never bothered dusting this off in the first place?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows Sophia (Alicia Vikander) who’s agreed to marry Cornellis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz) in exchange for her younger sister getting a free trip to American and her getting out of the orphanage.  All she has to do is sire him an heir and live a happy domesticated life; provided the dude who more or less bought her doesn’t get bored and throw her out on the streets.  Still, even if a baby would have kept him from doing such a thing (at least not right away) she seems completely unable to get pregnant which puts a strain on their “relationship” which I guess you can call it.  In walks Jan van Loos (Dane DeHaan) who is painting a portrait for them but manages to fall madly in love with Sophia who eventually reciprocates his feelings.  After more than a few bangings behind Sandvoort’s back, trouble starts to brew when Sophia’s maid Maria (Holiday Grainger) gets married and the father (Jack O’Connell) disappears due to some contrived misunderstanding.  Now her being pregnant and unmarried is a problem while Sophia being NOT pregnant is a problem as well.  I wonder if the two things could somehow come together to come up with a solution!  Oh and there’s a Tulip Market bubble that’s going on in the background that I’m sure means something important.  Will Sophia be able to give Sandvoort what he wants while also finding a way to escape his clutches?  What will happen to their brilliant plan if the REAL father comes back at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME?  Are we SURE that Dane Dehaan isn’t just playing Valerian again and this is one of his Time Travel stories?

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I don’t think this is EXACTLY how Laureline entered the series…

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Cinema Dispatch: IT

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

Directed by Andy Muschietti

MAN this one takes me back!  I still have my grandfather’s copy of the book that I read in middle school; torn to shreds naturally considering how much I carried it around.  I’ve read a few Stephen King books here and there and I tend to like his style overall, but his movies are some of the most hit and miss films you could imagine; ranging from critically acclaimed masterpieces like The Shining to garbage you’ve never even heard of like Riding the Bullet.  IT is one of the weird ones as its one of the most definitive King books out there (not just in popularity but in terms of content as well) but it’s honestly… a little bit… weak.  Not saying it’s BAD, but there’ just SO much going on in there that it feels like several novels fighting for control of the narrative.  Heck, if The Dark Tower didn’t LITERALLY do this, I’d say it’s almost akin to mashup of everything King had done up to that point only without a single shred of restraint to keep the whole thing manageable; hence why the damn thing is so thick you could beat a man to death with it.  Still, we already got one adaptation of this story that everyone seems to like which means that someone EVENTUALLY had to take another crack at it for BRAND NAME RECOGNITION, but they at least had the foresight to make it a hard R movie instead of a PG-13 which works for SOME movies, but not for a story like IT.  Will this be the new standard for Stephen King adaptations, or will this be like The Dark Tower where I’m the only one out there who actually enjoyed it?  Let’s find out!!

The story of IT is set in the town of Derry (zero points if you can guess what state it’s in) where there’s been an unusual uptick in missing kid reports which has most of the town on edge; especially the kids themselves who fear they’ll be next.  We know what’s up though!  The first thing we see in the movie is little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) falling victim to the supernatural menace that has been picking off kids left and right while taking the form of a really creepy looking clown known simply as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård).  Everyone believes little Georgie to be dead, but his brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is convinced that he’s still out there and plans to find him by any means possible; including going into the spooky sewers that may be full of waste but could ALSO be full of answers!  His friends Richie, Stan, and Eddie (Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, and Jack Dylan Grazer) are helping him despite their better judgement and this circle of friends increases to include Mike, Ben and Beverly (Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray, and Sophia Lillis); all of whom are outcasts in one way or another and seem to be the only ones even TRYING to figure out what’s going on in their small town.  Will they find the answers they seek the further they delve into the town’s cryptic history?  What will Pennywise the clown do once he realizes these kids are onto him, and is there more to him than meets the eye?  How the heck are they gonna do in two hours what a TV movie couldn’t do in less than three!?  AND THEY HAD TIM CURRY TO HELP WITH THAT ONE!!

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“We’ll be right back after these messages…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Good Time

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Good Time and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24

Directed by Ben Safdie and Josh Safdie

Oh boy!  Is this another movie that I walked into with no idea what it’s about or even what kind of movie it is?  IT SURE IS!  It’s called Good Time, so how could it be anything but a barrel of laughs!?  Then again Robert Pattinson isn’t known for his comedy work, unless we’re talking UNINTENTIONAL ones.  Who knows?  It’s certainly been getting a lot of praise and was even one of the big hits from Cannes this year, so maybe it’s at least worth a shot!  Is this the kind of film that we’ll be talking about at the end of the year come award season, or is this yet another example of a festival darling being overhyped and underperforming once it takes a shot at mainstream audiences?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Brothers Connie and Nick (Robert Pattinson and Ben Safdie) leaving the office where Nick sees a social worker that is assisting with his situation (he has a mental disability) and going to rob a crappy bank in Queens.  Sadly their skills at robbing the bank are even crappier and Nick ends up getting pinched by the cops while Connie just barely escapes with very little money to show for it.  From there it’s a series of blunders as Connie tries to find a way to get Nick out of jail; either through scrounging up enough money to post bail or through more creative means.  Each plan he comes up with is somehow worse than the last and the number of victims he leaves in his wake starts to build up as his methods become more and more desperate the longer he goes on without a legitimate solution to his problem.  Can Connie survive this night long enough to get his brother out of the big house, and will his freedom be enough to justify the ever increasing cost Connie is paying to get it?  What colorful and wacky characters will he meet along the way, and will any of them turn out to be the answer he’s been seeking?  Is there a chance that he can LITERALLY run away from his problems!?  Hey, when all else fails it’s worth a shot!

 

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“Running, Running, Running, RUNNING!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Birth of the Dragon

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Birth of the Dragon and all the images you see in this review are owned by BH Tilt and WWE Studios

Directed by George Nolfi

Now I’ve always been more of a Jackie Chan guy myself (sorry, but the guy has a much larger filmography and basically reinvented the genre by incorporating vaudevillian slapstick into the martial arts) but Bruce Lee is a dude who earned all the respect that he gets by being the first big Asian star in cinema and defining a genre of film for generations to come.  There have been plenty of Bruce Lee films since his death in 1973, almost all of which were in pretty poor taste, but there hasn’t been one in quite some time so maybe now is the time to remind everyone just how awesome and badass he was with a brand new and super slick Hollywood production… or at least something approaching that.  Can this film bring the man back to the forefront of action filmmaking one more time, or is this yet another example of how to pay tribute to him in the worst way possible?  Let’s find out!!

The story begins in 1960s San Francisco where Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) hasn’t quite made it as a star but is certainly building up a following as the country’s greatest martial artist and a potential star of the silver screen.  Of course, with this brazen attitude and willingness to teach anyone of any race the secrets of Eastern martial arts had gotten the ire of some of the more traditional masters back in China; including Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia) who’s come to San Francisco as some sort of journey of self-discovery and repentance for his own misdeeds.  One of Lee’s students Steve McKee (Billy Magnussen) goes to greet Wong Jack Man at the port and they soon form something resembling a friendship with the latter still not happy with what Lee has been teaching to people like Steve which has always been a sacred practice as well as Chinese one.  Eventually Lee’s pride and arrogance (and to a certain extent Wong Jack Man’s as well) leads the two to eventually meet and have a rather public standoff that may someday lead to the fight to end all fights.  Oh, and there are Chinese gangsters in this movie somewhere because what kind of martial arts movie would this be if there WEREN’T Chinese gangsters hanging around?  Will Bruce and Wong find a way to hash out their differences, even if they have to face each other in combat to do so?  Will Steve be able to save his girlfriend from those Chinese Gangsters we were talking about because OF COURSE that subplot has to be in here somewhere?  Is it just me, or does the guy in this movie look more like Moe Howard than Bruce Lee?

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“Why I outta!  COME HERE, YOU!!”

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