Category Archives: Cinema Dispatch

Cinema Dispatch: Brittany Runs a Marathon

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Brittany Runs a Marathon and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo

Me and Amazon Studios?  We have an understanding.  Well… not so much an understanding as me having an opinion about them that the multi-billion dollar Mega Corporation doesn’t know or care about.  Their movies that come to theaters are often mid-range fare that almost affects the impression of a small studio like STX or a less ambitious NEON, but other than outright disasters like Gringo, they are reliably enjoyable if not particularly stunning achievements.  Does their latest outing that will surely be on a streaming box near you measure up to those ho-hum standards, or are we in for another feature more unbearable than their anti-union practices!?  Let’s find out!!

Brittany Forglar (Jillian Bell) is your typical millennial washout.  She’s living in New York City… somehow supporting herself with a part time job as an usher at a theater I think, but she’s not happy with herself and uses drugs, meaningless sex, and comedy to get her through the days.  However, after a visit from the doctor where she tries to get a prescription for uppers, the doctor delivers the harsh truth that her health isn’t all that great and she should probably lose a few pounds; not that weight loss in and of itself is healthy, but a lot of her REAL symptoms instead of the fake ones she’s trying to use to get the drugs can be alleviated or even eliminated entirely if she ate better and exercised more.  After some trepidation she does manage to start losing weight which builds up her confidence and she starts improving other aspects of her life including her relationships, her career path, and even plans on running the New York City Marathon as a benchmark for her achievement.  However, all this change is coming with a fair bit of resistance; not just form her but her friends as well as she has to look at the reality of her situation and come to terms that maybe some people in her life aren’t good for her and she’ll have to move on to greener pastures no matter how hard it may be.  Can Brittany get her life back on track and fulfill her newfound dream of finishing the marathon?  What pitfalls will she run into as she starts to make weight loss itself the goal instead of it being a side effect of taking care of herself?  Is her ultimate goal to hone her skills like a ninja and become Batman?  I mean… that’s the reason we ALL try to get in shape, right?

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“First question; do you have a tragic backstory?”     “I mean… the US economy?”     “Okay, that’s a good start.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Joker

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

Directed by Todd Phillips

Are we ready to do this?  Alright, let’s do this.  So Joker always seemed like an odd choice for a movie as his defining moments have always been in relation to Batman.  Take him away, and what are you left with?  Well if the trailers are any indication, you get something akin to Travis Bickel in Taxi Driver by way of Krusty the Clown.  I mean I was at least interested to see where they were GOING with it since the trailers did a solid job of obscuring what the actual plot was, but the last few weeks of bad press have really drained any enthusiasm I could muster for what was already seeming to be a novelty at best.  Does this manage to rise above the controversy surrounding it, especially the controversies cynically generated by those who have an active stake in the film’s success, or will this all be for a movie that ultimately isn’t worth the time and effort?  Let’s find out!!

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is one of many residents in the city of Gotham who is barely getting by and can feels that life has given him a rather crappy lot.  All he wanted to do was be a comedian and make people smile, but street punks keep beating him up at his job, the rich politicians and lobbyist keep cutting social services that he needs, and on top of all that he has to take care of his elderly mother Frances Conroy) who’s unshaking belief that Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) will help her and her son has only become more and more obnoxious as the years have gone by.  Why… it’s almost enough to drive someone MAD isn’t it!?  Like say… if someone got so tired of this that they started wearing clown makeup and robbed banks!  Well leave those fantasies at home as this is the REAL Joker for the modern age in that he’s really angry all the time but doesn’t do a heck of a whole lot about it and what he DOES do about it isn’t as… let’s say FLAMBOYANT as his comic book persona would have you believe.  Still, the walls are closing in more and more as Arthur’s life goes further and further into chaos to the point that he may just be forced to fight back in a way that no one could possibly expect; least of all himself.  Will Arthur’s miserable life come to some sort of hilarious denouement that gets all the squares to pop their monocles?  What effect will his actions have on the rest of the city, and is he really so different from all the normal people out there?  Seriously, is this REALLY the guy Warner Bros wants to be spouting his manifesto on the big screen right when they’re getting the DCCU back on track?

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“I call it… MY JOKE BOOK!”     “…”     “Seriously?  Nothing?”     “Oh, uh… no, that’s clever!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Ad Astra

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

Directed by James Gray

We already sent Matt Damon into space and couldn’t get rid of him, so I guess its Brad Pitt’s turn on the intergalactic chopping block.  Space movies, especially ones that try to reflect our current understanding of outer space and an approximation of our current technology have been a great way to explore our own humanity as well as the stars themselves with 2001: A Space Odyssey still being the gold standard that these kinds of films try to aspire to.  Does this newest sci-fi drama about Brad Pitt IN SPACE prove to be a worthy contemporary of the genre, or will the only favorable comparisons be to Plan 9 From Outer Space?  Let’s find out!!

Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an astronaut in the near future where that’s back to being a viable career and NASA has morphed into the SpaceCom which has put bases on the moon, on Mars, and they even sent a space ship out to Neptune to look for life beyond what they can see back on Earth.  That space ship was part of the “Lima Project” which was launched sixteen years ago with Roy’s dad Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones) and hasn’t been heard from in years and is presumed lost forever.  That is until weird electrical pulses start to reach Earth that knock out power in a lot of places and even causes a giant space antenna to come crashing down that Roy just so happened to be working on at the time, and SpaceCom thinks that it might be the… super science generator (something to do with dark matter maybe?) that they stuck on Clifford’s ship all those years ago.  On the off chance that this is the case, they want Roy to get his butt to Mars and use their super science broadcasting antenna (basically pirate radio IN SPACE) to get a message out to Neptune and hopefully to his dad.  Things get complicated right away however as there seems to be more going on than SpaceCom is telling him, and on top of that he’s got some unresolved issues with the old man, what with him leaving his family to never return, that may or may not complicate things even if they DO get a message to him.  Will Roy come to terms with the decisions his father made as well as finally get the closure he’s looking for?  What challenges will he face and what secrets will he uncover during the rather long voyage from Earth to Mars?  How do you pack for kind of trip anyway?  A lot of protein bars I guess?

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“Really wish we could find a Starbucks out here.”

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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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