Category Archives: Cinema Dispatch

Cinema Dispatch: A Total Breakdown in COMMUTER-cation

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The Commuter is owned by Lionsgate

Sometimes you see a movie that will just not leave your brain as questions keep running through your head about what it all meant and what it was trying to say.  I guess this is TECHNICALLY one of those movies, but certainly not for the reasons the filmmakers hoped for because I have nothing but contempt for the asinine questions that I’m left with after watching the damn thing which is made even worse because there ARE no answers.  This was just a super sloppy movie PRETENDING it knew what the hell it was doing and it utterly failed to convince me otherwise.  Since keeping things bottled up is not a particularly healthy way to deal with something, I decided to let YOU all know what questions I was pondering while watching this silly film and how the movie fails to address them in any adequate or satisfying way!  Before that though, let’s have a full rundown of the plot so that you all have a better idea of where I’m coming from if you haven’t seen the movie.  Trust me, I’d rather spend my time recounting it here than make ANYONE feel like they’d have to sit through this drivel just to understand what the heck I’m talking about!  FULL SPOILERS AHEAD!!

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Cinema Dispatch: The Commuter

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The Commuter and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Now that the end of year hold overs are finishing up their rounds at the box office, it’s time for the TRUE January releases to show themselves which are becoming less associated with absolutely dreadful movies with each successive year, but can still be considered a dumping ground for stuff the studios felt couldn’t hack it in more competitive months.  I guess a Liam Neeson action flick isn’t the WORST way to herald in the New Year, but then I’m pretty sure there are people who still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about Taken 3 and the infamous fourteen cut fence jump.  Will this movie be another strike against the increasingly fragile belief that January films tend to be terrible, or will this only reinforce those notions for yet another year?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with exceedingly average older white dude Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) going about his daily routine and living the exceedingly average older white dude life.  That is until he gets fired from his exceedingly average older white dude job for lousy capitalist reasons, and is now facing the prospect of financial ruin; right before his son heads off to college too!  Things seem rather for the guy as he boards the train with nothing to look forward to other than telling his family the devastating news, but fortune seems to be in his favor as a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) offers him twenty-five grand now and seventy-five grand later if he can just do one small insignificant thing.  Find a person on this train that has something of value in their bag, is traveling to Cold Spring, and goes by the name “Prynne”.  The woman gets off at the next stop and while Michael is more than happy to hold onto that twenty-five grand she gave him up front, he feels a bit hesitant about finding this person to claim the other seventy-five.  Fortunately for THE BAD GUYSTM that the mysterious woman is forking for, as well as the audience I guess, they kidnapped his family anyway so he has no choice but to find the passenger known as “Prynne” before anything happens to them!  Will Michael not only find “Prynne” but figure out what THE BAD GUYSTM are planning to do once they find them?  What can Michael do when every move he makes is being watched by THE BAD GUYSTM… somehow?  How many non-Taken Taken movies is Liam Neeson gonna have to make before they give him one that doesn’t suck!?

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“I have a particular set of skills, but stopping a freaking train isn’t one of them!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Proud Mary

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Proud Mary and all the images you see in this review are owned by Screen Gems

Directed by Babak Najafi

The big story around this film is that Sony (Screen Gems’s parent company) has basically buried this movie before it came out due to a severe lack of advertisement and promotion despite being everything that studios claim they want in films nowadays; i.e. a strong female lead and something that will appeal to black audiences.  I mean it’s POSSIBLE that this film is utterly terrible which is WHY the promotion has been so low key, but even for a January release this seems to have been under represented; especially when stuff like The Bye Bye Man and Rings managed to get a decent amount of commercials and trailers prior to their releases.  The trailer at looked good to me at least, but so did plenty of other trailers for movies that ended up being terrible, so who knows how this will turn out.  Will this be another classic film that the studios were fools to have very little faith in, or are we in for a classic that will unfairly fall right below everyone’s radar?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Mary Goodwin (Taraji P Henson) performing a hit on some dude for reasons that I’m SURE are quite justified, but in the process he finds out that *GASP* he had a little boy!  I’m… sure she’s never dealt with that before, being a hired killer and all… so she decides to spend the next year afterwards looking for this kid named Danny (Jahi Di’Allo) and where he ended up after the sudden death by brain splatter, and she eventually finds him working for a Fagin knock off named Uncle (Xander Berkeley) who naturally treats the kid like shit and barely feeds him.  SURELY the best way to inspire hope in your under aged workers!  That whole “catch more flies with honey” thing is bullshit anyway!  Mary though doesn’t seem to like the current situation so she goes and blows the dudes brains out and takes the kid home with her.  Sadly for her though, he wasn’t just some schmuck using kids to sell cocaine; he was connected to the Russian Mob which is in an uproar and believes that the crime family Mary is a part of that’s led up by Benny (Danny Glover) as well as his son Tom (Billy Brown) are responsible.  I mean… they’re RIGHT considering Mary was the one who did it, but she’s not exactly telling everyone THAT pertinent detail, so the three of them have to find a way to keep the peace between the two families or prepare for an all-out war that could destroy them both.  While this is going on, Danny is trying to figure out just who this mysterious lady is that not only saved him from a crappy boss, but is also letting him stay in her apartment free of charge.  Will Danny find out the terrible secret that Mary is keeping that motivated her to seek him out in the first place?  Will Benny and Tom figure out who’s REALLY responsible for the chaos this one death has caused, and will Mary be considered expendable if they do?  Can Taraji P Henson kick enough ass in this to be the NEXT big action movie revelation!?  Hey, if Brendan Fraser pulled it off, why not her!?

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“This is what you get for snubbing Hidden Figures at the Oscars!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Post

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The Post and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Oh good!  Now that it’s officially 2018, the rest of us can FINALLY see the best movies of 2017!  Because THAT doesn’t seem like a backwards approach to releasing critically acclaimed films; ESPECIALLY ONES BY THE MOST FAMOUS DIRECTOR OF ALL TIME!  Sigh… whatever.  My feelings about theatrical release schedules aside, there’s been a lot of buzz about this movie being yet another Awards Darling what with the big name cast, the legendary director, and the timely subject matter given the political climate we are currently and TORTUROUSLY living under.  That said, I’m not always the biggest fan of movies that seem so perfectly designed to soak up Oscars (*cough* The King’s Speech *cough*) and while I didn’t give it the most GLOWING review at the time, I do think that Spotlight is an unreasonably high bar for any film to try and reach which certainly seems to be the goal here given the topic at hand at hand the pedigree behind it.  Then again, how can you go wrong with Spielberg?  If your answer to that question is Hook by the way, you’re just flat out wrong.  HOOK IS AWESOME!!  Anyway, does Spielberg manage to eke out yet and another cinematic masterpiece to add to his collection, or is this simply relying on his name to sell it both at the box office and with critics?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows The Washing Post during the time The Pentagon Papers (a study of the likelihood of victory in Vietnam that indicated that the government knew there was no chance of winning yet still committed forces there anyway) were being released by The New York Times and Nixon’s Justice Department was doing what they could to stop it.  Now The Washington Post wasn’t doing so well as its owner Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) is seen as an ineffective leader for reasons that CLEARLY have very little to do with her actual abilities (I WONDER WHAT ELSE IT COULD BE!?) and was in the middle of trying to find outside investment when this all started to unfold.  The editor in chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is itching to get his hands on some of the papers that The Times had gotten and were forced to stop publishing due to a federal court injunction (COMPLETELY unprecedented in American history), but even if he WERE to find the it’d be a huge risk for everyone involved; especially Miss Graham who has the most invested in the company.  Eventually though, one of the assistant editors Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) manages to get his hands on not just the parts The Times obtained, but more or less the WHOLE damn report straight from the source itself Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys).  With Ben having EXACTLY what he wants and a staff of likeminded reporters to back him up, it all comes down to Miss Graham to decide whether or not the risk of publishing these documents in her paper outweigh the potential good that having such documents out there will do for journalism and first amendment rights.  Even then though, if they jump the gun and the Nixon Administration wins whatever court battle would certainly lie ahead, that could lead to an even WORSE seizure of unchecked executive power.  Will Kay find a way to get the truth out there without losing everything else in the process?  What can The Justice Department and Nixon do to this newspaper and its staff if these documents are released in spite of the injunction placed on The Times?  The REAL question is, will this movie win MOST of the awards or ALL of the awards?

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“Your Oscars.  Give them to me.”     “You better do what she says.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Top 10 Worst Movies of 2017

Alright everyone!  Now that we’ve had our fun with the GOOD list, it’s time to put on some work pants as we start wading through the unimaginable dreck that was yet another “fun” aspect of the abysmal year that we all had to suffer through.  You know what though?  Most of us made it through to the other side, so if looking back at the year that couldn’t beat us and having a laugh (or one last bitter tirade) at the pathetic excuses for entertainment that made daily life just a little bit worse, well I think we all deserved it, don’t you?

Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer!  WE’RE DIVING RIGHT IN!!

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Dishonorable Mentions: Death Note & Bright

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Since I didn’t even bother trying to watch another Adam Sandler movie this year, this dubious distinction goes to two OTHER Netflix features; albeit it for very different reasons.  The truth of the matter is, I didn’t particularly mind either of these films as I think they had some good ideas buried within their mediocre (and cheap looking) execution with Death Note having an interestingly different take on its main character (a whiny little punk with issues of inadequacy instead a megalomaniacal genius) and Bright having an ALRIGHT set up for what is essentially a weaker version of 16 Blocks.  That said… yeah, these films are REALLY flawed and in glaringly offensive ways.  As much as I like the idea of taking some of the pomp and circumstance out of Death Note and reframing Light Yagami to be a less foreboding figure, I don’t see why that necessitated him to be white since they never play with that change in his identity within the text of the film.  There could have been a component of White Privilege to the story (especially with L being black), but that seems to have never been the intent on the part of the filmmakers who simply seemed to associate AMERICAN REMAKE with WHITE AS DEFAULT.  Similarly, the half-baked and ham fisted social commentary in the script for Bright creates one of the most cringe inducing screenplays of the year which has Orcs standing in for Black People in a world that still has Black People, and it even finds an excuse to get Will Smith to say “Fairy Lives Don’t Matter” before beating said fairy to death.  Sure, the movie picks up once it gets away from its proudly ignorant views on race and becomes a straight up chase film with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (who’s under a decent enough make up job), but that’s hardly enough to excuse everything that it gets wrong in the process.  Now I don’t want this to come across as Netflix bashing because they DO put out quite a bit of decent content as I’ve heard good things about First They Killed My Father, Beast of No Nation, even The Babysitter, and while it wasn’t my favorite King Adaptation this year I thought Gerald’s Game was pretty good too.  That said, they’ve had quite a few stumbles over the years, pretty much starting with their awful Adam Sandler deal, and these two movies are just further examples of their awkward steps towards becoming a media empire of their own; something they’ll need to keep working on now that Disney is gonna own everything else in the world and will eventually come out with their own streaming service to try and crush them.  If Netflix wants a chance to survive the Disney/Fox merger, they’ll need to avoid having clunkers like this clogging up their service.

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Cinema Dispatch: Top 10 Best Movies of 2017

Hark!  Is it that time of year again!?  Yes, it is time for the film critics to have their yearly ritual of ranking the films we saw in order of how much (or how little) venom we can summon up for it, and while I would love NOTHING more than to get this crap-tastic year over with and race towards the future, we can at least afford one more look in the rear view mirror before leaving it all behind.  Also, it’s worth pointing out that I didn’t get a chance to see all the movies that came out this year like The Florida Project, and there were films that I couldn’t have seen even if I wanted to like The Post, Phantom Thread, and I, Tonya, due to them getting extremely limited releases in the last weeks of the year.  If the studios can’t be bothered to let me see the movie, then I can’t be bothered to wait several weeks to finish up this list.  This is a 2017 list, so I’m finishing it in 2017!

So without further ado, ON WITH THE LIST!!

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Honorable Mentions: The Big Sick & Kidnap

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The Big Sick Review; Kidnap Review

Sure!  Let’s start this off with a pairing so disparate that it’s likely to cause whiplash!  Then again, it’s a probably a good indication of what to expect from the rest of the list as I try to find room for a little bit of everything… and by everything I mean legitimately good movies that everyone likes and amazing B movies that only I seem to like.  The Big Sick was one of the better comedies of the year as I’m sure it’s been mentioned on several best of the year lists other than this one, and rightfully so!  It didn’t quite make my top ten due to a bit of shaky structuring (time is a bit elusive in it) and the fact that it’s hard to overlook how much of this story is coming from only one viewpoint within it (being written by Nanjiani and Gordon who DID end up working out, it feels a BIT antagonist towards his parents who are drawn more broadly than hers are in the telling of this story), but there’s genuine heart in the way that Nanjiani is trying to navigate such an awkward situation where the right thing to do is kind of murky and his feelings about it all are even more so.  It’s a situation, like many in life, that could have ended VERY badly for everyone involved but Nanjiani and Gordon’s script is smart enough to walk that line between genuinely trying to express one’s feelings for someone and having a character realize when that’s not enough and when they need to walk away.  It ended up working out for these two but only after Nanjiani left her to live her life and to make her own choices which is certainly a worthwhile lesson for many of us to learn and for Hollywood to pick up on considering how much the BIG ROMANTIC GESTURE is still a staple in so many so called romance films.  Kidnap on the other hand… look, I just really had a lot of fun in it, alright!?  I know it’s not going to be to EVERYONE’S taste (hence why it didn’t make the list) but it’s damn near perfect in being exactly what it wants to be.  Calling something a NON-STOP ACTION THRILLER is about the most hack bit of marketing imaginable, but in this case it’s quite literally true and the film’s greatest asset.  Halle Berry is chasing after the people who have kidnapped her son and she can’t stop moving.  She can’t lose focus, can’t lose momentum, otherwise she’ll lose everything; and she knows that.  Yes it’s over the top and barely makes any sense (there’s maybe three cops in the ENTIRE state) but the tension is there and if you’re willing to get behind its rather ludicrous concept you’ll surely stay engaged all the way to the bloody end of her bloody quest to save her son.  Yeah, it’s goofy and has a few less than stellar editing shortcuts (why do they keep reminding us how low on gas she is when she NEVER RUNS OUT OF GAS!?), but they did a lot with what they had to work with which is often the sign of a great film more so than a film with many more resources not taking full advantage of them.  Not a bad double feature if you ask me!

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Cinema Dispatch: The Shape of Water

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The Shape of Water and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Did it REALLY have to take this long for the darn film to show up in a theater remotely close to me!?  While EVERY OTHER film critic in the world got to check this out a few weeks ago, I’ve been sitting here on pins and needles; waiting for the studio to begrudgingly bring this film to the wider masses.  There have been a few movies that I’ve been looking forward to quite a bit as we were heading into Award Season, and at the top of the list was this freaky looking cross between Beauty and the Beast and The Creature from the Black Lagoon from one of the best genre filmmakers out there.  With only slightly waned excitement due to its slow rollout to general audiences, does this manage to live up to the high expectations set up not only by the wonderful looking trailers but by the ceaseless buzz from every other film critic on the planet BESIDES me, or was this a huge misstep that we’re all gonna look back on with less than favorable feelings once the hype has settled down?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who’s one of many janitors in a SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY that’s somewhere in Baltimore which presumably has REALLY specific NDA agreements as the place has been known to house strange and unusual specimens.  The latest of said specimens turns out to be some sort of Freaky Fish Guy (Doug Jones) who was captured and dragged out of the Amazon Forest by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).  Said Colonel is now head of security in the SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY, at least until the government can figure out what to do with the Freaky Fish Guy, and both Eliza and her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are stuck cleaning the room that the creature is housed in.  Eliza immediately takes a liking to said creature and the two of them begin an unlikely friendship as Eliza’s mastery of American Sign Language (which she learned due to her being mute) as well as her awesome record collection give the two of them a way to communicate and something to bond over.  Colonel Strickland on the other hand is less inclined to get friendly with the Freaky Fish Guy, preferring to use a cattle prod to get the creature in line, and eventually is dead set on dissecting it before it gets any funny ideas.  Eliza, along with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) hatch a plan to try and save him as does the mysterious Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) who has his own reasons for wanting the creature to be kept alive.  Will Elisa be able to protect the Freaky Fish Guy from having his internal organs removed and put into labeled jars?  What is Dr Hoffstetler REALLY up to, and how will Colonel Strickland react once he finds out that his own staff is working against him?  Seriously, who can look at that Freaky Fish Guy and NOT immediately fall in love with him!?

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