Category Archives: Cinema Dispatch

Cinema Dispatch: The Secret Life of Pets 2

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The Secret Life of Pets 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures and Illumination

Directed by Chris Renaud

I remember the first movie having one of the most aggressive ad campaigns I’d seen since I started reviewing movies, and yet this one was much more subdued.  I only saw the trailer a few times leading up to its release, but while that certainly kept me from being ANNOYED by the movie it didn’t really do much to improve my expectations.  The first one was a C grade knock off of Toy Story, and while it wasn’t ALL bad it didn’t leave much of an impression outside of Jenny Slate’s performance and a few seconds of Andrew WK music to liven things up.  Can the sequel manage to improve where the last one came up short, or will this be a lazy cash grab on the success of the first one with similarly mediocre results?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the first film, Max and Duke (Patton Oswalt and Eric Stonestreet) have been getting along with their owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) in their peaceful New York life.  However, things change once Katie meets the man of her dreams Chuck (Peter Holmes), and cut to about five years later where Katie and Chuck have a kid named Liam (Henry Lynch) who Max is at first hesitant about but becomes quickly attached to.  The added stress of watching over a child however is starting to give Max some unhealthy habits, but maybe an upcoming vacation in the country with Chuck’s family and their dog Rooster (Harrison Ford) will be just what Max needs to relax!  While he’s off on his trip, Gidget (Jenny Slate) has been entrusted to watch his favorite toy which she loses almost immediately, and Snowball the bunny (Kevin Hart) has become some sort of animal saving super hero who’s latest mission is to help a Shih Tzu named Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) save a tiger who’s being abused by a VERY evil looking circus run by a bunch of dudes with Russian accents and permanent sneers; one of whom is played by Nick Kroll.  Will Max get over his nervous tendencies now that he’s around nature and the stern advice of Rooster?  Can the other pets shore up their subplots before the running time exceeds ninety minutes?  Is Illumination trying to sell us four episodes of an unaired TV series as a full length movie!?

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“WHY, NETFLIX!?  WHY WOULDN’T YOU HAVE US!?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Dark Phoenix

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Dark Phoenix and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Simon Kinberg

I’ve probably been nicer than most about the X-Men franchise, going so far as to be somewhat positive about Apocalypse, and even I can’t be bothered to muster any enthusiasm for The Last Stand: Remastered.  I mean I GUESS I can see why Fox would want to prove that it was the other guy’s fault and not their own, and it certainly worked well enough for Dexter Fletcher, but with this franchise being so easily overshadowed by Deadpool, the MCU, and even some of the better DC films, it’s starting to feel more Quixotic than artistically advisable.  Still, I have been surprised by  movies I didn’t expect much out of before, and it’s not like they have much to lose considering this franchise is more or less done whether they make this movie or not, so hey!  Let’s see if Fox can pull it off one more time for old time’s sake!

It’s the radical nineties for the X-Men with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his crew of charismatic comrades more popular than ever; much like the ACTUAL nineties.  Newcomers Jean Grey, Scott Summers, Ororo Munroe, and Kurt Wagner (Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Kodi Smit-McPhee) are fitting in well enough, Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) barely contained annoyance with all of this is about as same as usual which is greatly contrasted with Beast (Nicholas Hoult) who looks like he couldn’t be happier to be there, and Quicksilver (Even Peters) is… around.  ANYWAY!  The big difference in this film that I alluded to just now which I don’t BELIEVE was the case last time is that The X-Men have become household names and everyone wants to be them!  No more mutant discrimination, at least not outright, and all the jerk mutants went with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to some island somewhere to keep things nice and peaceful.  Why, the only thing that could ruin this perfect existence is if one of the high profile mutants on Xavier’s team went off and started blowing stuff up, but what are the odds of THAT happening!?  Yeah, so Jean Grey gets hit by some sort of cosmic ray in the beginning of the film during an astronaut rescue, and it seems to have overcharged her system to the point that she can barely control her powers as well as her emotions; the latter of which is exacerbated by some dark secrets she’s made keenly aware of and have made things rather awkward at the academy.  With one big public relations nightmare that could lead to Mutant internment AGAIN, Xavier and his crew have to find out what’s happening to Jean and if there’s any way to save her from whatever it is that will either destroy her from the inside or give her enough power to destroy us all from the outside.  Oh, and Jessica Chastain is in this somewhere in the background.  I’m sure she can’t be up to any good though!  Will Jean Grey succumb to the power she’s been granted and become the worst enemy the X-Men have ever faced?  Will Xavier finally learn that despite his idealistic rhetoric that he’s made huge mistakes in the past that could bring the world closer to destruction than anything his more militant counterpart ever came up with?  If this is worse than X3, does Fox get like a Lifetime Achievement award for how badly they can ruin a franchise?  I mean they should have already gotten one for their Fantastic Four movies, but you know the Academy!  Give it to them when convenient; not when they deserve it!

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“Here’s to the end of an era!”     “Here’s to the end of my liver functioning properly…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Rocket Man

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

Directed by Dexter Fletcher

As much as I enjoy the music of Elton John, this movie has some serious hurdles to overcome, that has left me less than confident about it up to this point.  Primarily, the film feels from top to bottom like a cash-in following the success of the truly awful Bohemian Rhapsody; not just because it’s another biopic about a musician from roughly the same time period, but because they even got the pickup director of that film to make this one in its entirety.  Maybe that’s overstating things a bit as Dexter Fletcher does have a few other films under his belt, and it’s not like it’ll be THAT hard to be better than one of the worst movies of 2018, but let’s just say my expectations are firmly set to MEH right up until the very last minute.  Does this manage to stand out as the better of the two rock biopics from the Oldies station, or will the faults of Bohemian Rhapsody look downright quaint after seeing this movie?  Let’s find out!!

Elton John (Taron Egerton), also known as Reginald Dwight, is a rock and roll superstar with hit song after hit song over the last five decades, yet how many of us REALLY know about the man behind the music?  Well after storming his way into a substance abuse support group (decked out in full on Maleficent regalia in case you thought this was going to be subtle), he’s more than willing to tell us all about it!  Our story begins in the suburbs of Britain with him as a little boy starved for affection from his mother and father (Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh), when one day it turns out he’s a born piano player who can play songs from ear and hones his skills for many, many, years!  After a few stints playing back-up for a bunch of soul bands, he finally finds his break in the form of Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) who is a song writer in need of a musician which is just in luck because Mr. John over here needs a song writer to give meaning to his great music!  From there it’s a never ending thrill ride of overnight success, burgeoning sexuality, and the inevitable crash and burn when living the high life becomes indistinguishable from being an addict!  Will Elton John get his life back on track after losing so much to booze, pills, and drugs?  Can a musician of his immense popularity live his life openly as a gay man without shattering everything he’s worked so hard to build up?  Will we get answers to burning questions like who IS the Tiny Dancer, and why were those Crocodiles rocking?

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Wait, are the Jets in Bennie and the Jets actually JET PACKS!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures and Toho

Directed by Michael Dougherty

I may have been a bit cold about the first Godzilla film (no not the one from 1954 and no not the FIRST Hollywood version) which had a tendency to favor human drama over monster punching action, but with Kong: Skull Island being a phenomenal bit of bloody adventure action and the trailers for this film looking absolutely gorgeous, it looks like things may finally be kicking into high gear for the once and future king!  Shoot, they managed to get MOTHRA in this!  What more could you possibly ask for!?  Does the latest Godzilla movie live up to its title as King of the Monsters, or is this further evidence that the big green guy’s day in the spotlight has come to an end?  Well probably not the latter since Shin Godzilla was pretty awesome and Toho isn’t about to give up this cash cow anytime soon, but let’s find out!!

Following the events of Godzilla 2014 (and technically Kong: Skull Island as well), the world is now hyper aware of Kaiju being a “thing” they just have to deal with now, and ever since Godzilla kicked those monsters’ butts the last time more and more seem to be popping up all over the place.  Fortunately Monarch, the secret organization that studies Kajiu, has been keeping them either asleep or in cages so as not to cause further catastrophe, though I do wonder exactly where they get their funding if the government is constantly calling them in for hearings to tell them how bad they are at their job.  Ah, it probably doesn’t matter!  What DOES matter is that one of the Monarch scientist Dr. Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) have been KIDNAPPED by… anti-Kaiju terrorists I guess (led by Charles Dance) and are planning something NEFARIOUS with her research which involves communicating with Kaiju.  Good thing she’s got a self-pitying ex-husband named Mark (Kyle Chandler) who’s off somewhere still brooding about his son who died during the first movie, and Monarch calls him in to… help I guess.  I mean they’ve already got Dr. Serizawa from the last film (Ken Watanabe) as well as Dr. Chen and Dr. Chen (Zhang Ziyi) who are Kaiju experts, Dr. Stanton (Bradley Whitford) who cracks jokes and does science stuff, and even a couple of army people including Jackson Barnes (O’Shea Jackson Jr) who cracks jokes as well, so why are they throwing in a guy who explicitly wants all the Kaiju killed into the pro-Kaiju organization?  I guess to try and figure out how those kidnapping Kaiju-haters think?  So now this rag tag group of scientists and random dudes are off to stop the anti-Kaiju terrorists from waking up all the monsters which I guess will show people that the monsters are bad… or something.  Hey, isn’t Godzilla supposed to be in this movie at some point?

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“I’m only here for one day, so make it count!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Ma

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Ma and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions

Directed by Tate Taylor

The only reason this movie has gotten on anyone’s radar is because of Octavia Spencer, and frankly it did its job quite well.  Sure, sometimes a horror film will pick up some serious talent like the new IT movie coming up or when Helen Mirren was in that crappy Winchester movie, but somehow this feels even MORE of a surprise and a genuine selling point.  IT’s gonna sell itself no matter what, but by having one of the most popular actors of the moment (and in the prime of their career) showing up and starring in your crappy horror movie is a coup that very few films can boast, and yet somehow there she is; on all the posters, in all the trailers, and even having an Executive Producer credit to boot! What was it about this movie that convinced such a great actor to whole heartedly come on board, and was worth her immense talent and valuable time to do so?  Let’s find out!!

Sue Ann Ellington (Octavia Spencer) is just your typical small town citizen.  She works as a vet, she walks her dog, and on occasion it seems that she can be convinced to buy alcohol for the local high school kids.  At least that’s what Maggie (Diana Silvers) finds out when she asks her to do it as she walks by the liquor store, and being the new kid in town she needs to deliver on the goods if she wants to get in with the popular kids.  One of the popular kids is Andy (Corey Fogelmanis) who Sue Ann seems to recognize, and after a moment’s consideration decides to get them the booze they need.  Not only that, she ends up opening her basement to them and other kids in the neighborhood as a safe and secluded area to drink where they won’t have to worry about cops and where Sue Ann will make sure no one gets their keys back if they can’t drive.  In fact, everyone seems to be so enamored with her that they start to call her Ma and everyone wants to hang out at her house!  However, things are not as rosy as they seem which Maggie picks up on after a while and she seems to have a dark side to her that’s just barely hidden beneath the surface.  Perhaps it has to do with Andy’s dad (Luke Evans) who she knows from years ago?  Maybe even Maggie’s mom (Juliette Lewis) who used to live here but moved away many years ago before returning?  Well they’re all gonna find out eventually because Ma’s house seems to slowly turned from party central to a house of horrors!  Will these kids learn of the terrible secrets lurking in Ma’s house as well as her tragic backstory?  What is Ma planning now that she has the children of this town wrapped around her finger, and can she somehow realize what she’s doing is wrong before it’s too late?  Okay, seriously.  Did Octavia Spencer lose a bet or something to be in this movie?

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“RELEASE ME!!”     “Not until we make thirty million on opening weekend.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Booksmart

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Booksmart and all the images you see in this review are owned by United Artists Releasing and Annapurna Pictures

Directed by Olivia Wilde

I probably should keep tabs on some of the more interesting films being made, particularly those by studios other than Disney, because this one flew COMPLETELY under my radar and I’ve only just now started hearing about it despite getting rave reviews and being directed by an actor I actually like!  I watched every season of house, yet I didn’t know that Thirteen had directed a movie!?  I mean at least it means that I can go into a movie with few preconceptions on what it will be, but it also means that unless it comes to the big local theater I’m likely to miss it; particularly this year where I can barely keep up with the big releases, let alone the smaller stuff.  Thankfully this one is getting enough buzz that even my regular theater has screenings of it, but will it manage to live up to the hype or will I once again have to be rather nonplussed about a critical darling?  Let’s find out!!

Molly and Amy (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) are the best of friends who are about to graduate from high school as the Valedictorian and Salutatorian and have big plans for the future which include both of them going to Standford, graduating first in their classes, and probably being President and Vice President one day.  Who knows!?  THE SKY’S THE LIMIT!  Sure, being such bookworms and ONLY focusing on getting good grades and doing activities that will look good on a college resume has left them as something of outsiders (which I found a bit odd considering the top kids in MY class at least were the popular ones as well, but whatever), and as their last day of high school approaches, they come to realize that MAYBE all that studying left them with no real life experience to carry with them to college and that they should break loose on the night before graduation by going to Nick’s party (Mason Gooding) where all the popular kids are having fun!  Well okay, it’s MOSTLY Molly saying this, but Amy wants to be supportive and hesitantly agrees to go along with this and might even talk to the cute girl she’s had a crush on for some time (Victoria Ruesga).  Sadly, no one bothered to give them the address before this huge revelation since… well they’ve never gone to one of their parties before so why would they now, and this means that they have to find someone who knows where it is and get the information out of them by whatever means necessary!  Can Molly and Amy find the party of their dreams and survive whatever wacky hijinks are waiting for them out in the real world?  Will this experience challenge their friendship like never before; possibly revealing longstanding issues that they’ve never allowed to bubble to the surface?  Is it just me, or do movies like this make you realize how much you wasted your own high school years?  And college years?

And most of your twenties?  Okay, maybe it’s just me.

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“Wow… Tonight, we really ARE young!  Thanks fun.!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Aladdin

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

Directed by Guy Ritchie

The Disney money train just keeps on rolling, doesn’t it!?  With nowhere else to go but back to the well, they’ve been pumping out remakes, reboots, and even sequels for some time now with… let’s say MIXED results.  In fact, Dumbo might have been the last straw to finally knocking these into MOSTLY BAD territory; and I’m not liking the way that Lion King movie is shaping up despite its solid casting!  Still, Aladdin is probably the film BEST suited for the big budgeted live action retelling considering how cinematic and adventurous it is, and the fact that the story’s already been done in live action in the past!  Can Disney pull off another remake of a beloved nineties property, or are we gonna have to wait for Maleficent 2 for things to get back on track?  Let’s find out!!

In the wondrous city of Agrabah, there once lived a thief known as Aladdin (Mena Massoud) who spent most of his days stealing apples and talking to his monkey Abu; presumably because he gave up on forming attachments to other humans and find that monkeys are less likely to stab you in the back.  I mean they COULD what with apposable thumbs, but that’s beside the point!  What’s important is that one day he meets a woman in the local bazar who doesn’t seem to understand how money works which you’d think she WOULD considering she’s Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the one and only daughter to the Sultan (Navid Negahban), but I guess when you’re THAT rich possessions and currency don’t hold much value.  Thankfully Aladdin is there to smooth things over, and by smooth things over I mean help her run away, and the two hit it off almost immediately which would normally be good news if it weren’t for the fact that she can only marry a prince.  That’s where the Sultan’s Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) comes in who sees something in this street rat and wants to use him to get his hands on the Magic Lamp for clearly nefarious purposes, and so spins him a tall tale of how doing this one job for him will get him all the riches he could dream of and become a prince in his own right!  Well Aladdin at least holds his end of the bargain up, but things inevitably go wrong and he’s stuck there with nothing but his monkey, a magic carpet and oh yeah THE MAGIC LAMP which houses a TERRIFYING Genie (Will Smith) that promises him three wishes for finding his lamp!  What will Aladdin wish for, and will it be enough to win the heart of the Princess?  How long can he keep up the ruse he concocts, and will he be able to fool the sharp witted Vizier; even WITH the Genie’s magic?  More importantly, who needs a Genie when you can capitalize on people’s nostalgia?  That ALREADY gets you all the riches in the world!!

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“Do you trust me?  To tastefully pay homage to an animated classic?”     “Well…”

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