Category Archives: Cinema Dispatch

Cinema Dispatch: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by David Yates

There are a lot of ways that you can mess up a sequel, but the most disappointing is when the film doesn’t just IGNORE the problems of the first film but actively builds off of them as if they were what we came there to see in the first place.  It happened to The last Exorcism (no one cared about the Satanic Cult!), it happened with… well basically EVERY Hellraiser movie (the Cenobites shouldn’t be the main characters!), and it looks like that’s what’s happening with this film; a sequel to a film I enjoyed the heck out of but ended on… that note, and that’s the direction we’re going with.  Sigh… I don’t know, maybe there’ll still be enough of the first movie’s cast to keep this form being utterly sunk by the presence of… that guy, but then again I can’t imagine how good the judgement of anyone involved with this could be if this is the guy they want to star in their lynchpin movie to an entire Harry Potter universe.  Does this manage to eke out a bit of fun despite being in such poor taste right out the gate, or is it time for someone else to take a crack at the Wizarding World before the original creators cause even MORE damage to the franchise?  Let’s find out!!

After the events of the last film, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has been under in a magical US detention center and the Ministry of Magic in… I guess the UK (did they ever establish if the ministry in the books was just London, the United Kingdom, or something equivalent to the European Union?) has decided to move him back to London so he can stand trial.  Of course they have a very convoluted and whimsical way of transporting this suspected murderer and terrorist which means that he ends up escaping and fleeing to France to I guess gather power and execute the next step in his overly convoluted scheme.  If only there was someone powerful enough to hunt him down and bring him to justice!  Sadly there isn’t, but Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is still bumming around England after the first movie, so I guess he’ll have to do!  He’s been having trouble with his work since the Ministry put a travel ban on him after the events in New York (for reasons I guess?) and his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) is trying to help him within his power as an Auror, but Newt’s not much for shady deals and compromises, so he rejects any offer that they give him to… I think join the Ministry or something.  Anyway, all this bureaucratic nonsense won’t keep Newt from starring in this movie, especially since Dumbledore (Jude Law) is giving him Main Character Tips and explicitly wants him to fix everything!  I think the plan is that if Newt could somehow get to France then he can find Credence (Ezra Miller) from the first movie who by the way is still alive and important for some reason, and only Newt can do this because… reasons.  Oh, but Newt needs more than just saving the world from tyranny as a motivation!  Maybe if we could throw in some of the characters from the previous movies, we could get this ball rolling.  Oh look!  Jacob and Queenie (Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol) are back together and he knows about magic again, but Tina (Katherine Waterston) is in France to try and find Credence for the US Ministry, and now Newt’s super into her which is something I really didn’t get from the first movie, but whatever.  Newt heads to France to find Tina and I guess Credence, Queenie fights with Jacob and tries to find Tina, and Jacob goes with Newt to find Queenie.  There are also subplots involving Newt’s ex-girlfriend and Theseus’s current fiancée Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), Dumbledore being under strict watch by… someone at the Ministry, Credence and his new buddy Nagini (Claudia Kim) who gets maybe three lines trying to find his birth mother, and probably a few other things that just whizzed past me as I was watching this.  Can Newt find Tina and Queenie and Credence and Grendlewald and maybe a few Fantastic Beasts before the running time threatens to suck up every remaining moment of my life!?  Why the heck did they get Jude Law to play Dumbledore just to lock him in a castle for two hours!?  WHO THE HECK THOUGHT ANY OF THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA!?

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“ACCIO A SCREENWRITER AND SIX BOTTLES OF WHISKY!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Creed II

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Creed II and all the images you see in this review are owned by MGM Pictures

Directed by Steven Caple Jr

Back when I reviewed the first movie, I made a note that my conception of Rocky for the longest time was just the first three films, so the whole Ivan Drago thing always felt like an afterthought despite it being so iconic for many fans of the franchise.  That said, when the first one came out and was about the son of Apollo, yeah there was NO WAY that a sequel could exist without bringing Dolph Lundgren back into the mix which thankfully they managed to do here with what is probably the last necessary sequel to Rocky we’ll ever need (unless we want to bring back Clubber Lang) and they can either continue the franchise without the baggage of the original films or let this series finally lay to rest.  Do they manage to do justice to the story of Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed in this tale about their sons settling a decade’s long rivalry, or should the franchise have stopped while it was ahead?  Admittedly if they HAD stopped while they were ahead we probably wouldn’t have gotten the first Creed, but in any case LET’S FIND OUT!!

The movie picks up a few years after the first film where Adonis Creed () has risen in the ranks of the boxing world with the help of his wise mentor Rocky Balboa () and the loving support of his girlfriend () ().  After winning the WBC World Heavyweight Championship, he has FINALLY reached his dream of reclaiming the belt that his father lost those many years ago!  Well that’s great!  So now what?  He decides to marry Bianca for one, but even with a loving wife and a sterling career, something feels… missing.  Despite being the best of the best, he can’t seem to find the joy in it and pretty much immediately starts looking for a new challenge.  Fortunately a very helpful fight promoter (Russell Hornsby) saw this coming a mile away and knew that once Adonis became champ that there was only one challenge left for him to face, and by challenge I mean one BIG spectacle of a fight to rake in millions of dollars!  We are of course referring to, a rematch with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren); the man who killed his father.  Or at the very least, Ivan Drago’s SON (Florian Munteanu) who as far as I know hasn’t killed anyone, but that might change if Adonis takes the bait and faces him again in the ring.  If you’ve seen a Rocky movie, you know the basics of what happens next (i.e. Adonis loses the fight at the halfway point), but what does it mean for him to have his first taste of true defeat, and will he be able to face him once again, as well as all his fears and insecurities that have held him back from reaching his true potential?  What will the strain of this lose put on his marriage to Bianca, and will she be able to live the life of a boxer’s wife; something that she’s never had to face since Adonis has never truly lost a fight on his own terms?  Perhaps most importantly, DOES ADONIS COME OUT TO LIVING IN AMERICA!?

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It’s hand to HAND across the nation; not hand to FACE!

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Cinema Dispatch: Ralph Breaks the Internet

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

Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston

I remember when the first Wreck-It-Ralph movie came out that I couldn’t wait for there to be a sequel!  However, as the years went on and the marketing pivoted from video games to him being ON THE INTERNET, I started to lose interest because the sequel that I would have wanted didn’t seem like it was going to manifest.  Now that’s not to say I thought it would be a BAD movie, but what I was seeing wasn’t getting me as excited as say a Disney version of Super Smash Bros or whatever where we got even MORE nostalgic characters (maybe even ones from Nintendo!?) that Ralph and crew could go on adventures with.  Now clearly NOTHING could have competed with the fan fiction I made up in my brain so even if the lead up to this movie wasn’t filling me with fanboy joy I wasn’t about to dismiss it out of hand for those reasons.  Does this manage to live up to maybe not quite MY expectations but REASONABLE ones for a sequel to a modern Disney class, or should they have gone with my idea of having Mario and Sonic fight zombies together while Ralph and Boswer play Yu-Gi-Oh… or something like that?  Let’s find out!!

It’s been several years since the events of the first film where Ralph and Vanellope (John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman) uncovered Turbo’s evil plan, and things have been going pretty well since then.  Vanellope has been racing, Ralph has been wrecking, and Fix-it Felix Jr and Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun (Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch) have been the most adorable couple ever six years running!  Still, things might be settling down a bit TOO much for Vanellope who’s time in the spotlight has turned a bit monotonous, but soon things go all Monkey’s Paw on her as her game breaks down and she and Ralph have to go online to see if they can find a replacement part before the kindly arcade owner (Ed O’Neill) sells the machine for scrap.  Once online using the arcade owner’s recently purchased modem, they discover all the fantabulous things THE INTERNET has to offer, including the part they need on eBay.  However, they don’t have any ACTUAL money and so need to find a way to score some cash through shady loot hunting in an online game with a bad ass NPC named Shank (Gal Gadot) and slightly less shady viral marketing through a trending video website run by an algorithm called Yesss (Taraji P Henson).  Oh, and they visit Disney’s website at one point just to make sure you remember things like Star Wars, Zootopia, and their ever expanding stable of princesses.  Will Ralph and Vanellope be able to buy the part and save her game before it’s too late?  What will Vanellope learn about herself by seeing all these new and exciting places, and will Ralph be able to adapt to these new experiences?  Where exactly did they manage to find such a clean and efficient version of THE INTERNET, and is there any way I can get on there!?

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“Wow!  Look at all this cool stuff!”     “I know, right!?”     “Wait, what’s that over there?  Did someone just call it a Pepe?”     “Yeah… maybe we should avoid that area.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Robin Hood

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Robin Hood and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Otto Bathurst

Oh BOY is this gonna be a good one!  Can’t you just feel it!?  The trailers have looked awful, no one is talking about this and if they are it’s not in a positive light, and they’re just dumping this against a huge nostalgic franchise on Thanksgiving!  Lionsgate clearly believes they have a bomb on their hands here and from everything they’ve deigned to show us I can’t entirely disagree, but  then there are a lot of movies that didn’t have the full confidence of their studio yet still turned out great, from my beloved Jupiter Ascending to even the cult classic Donnie Darko!  Will this be another example of a good movie stuck with bad marketing and a poorly timed release date?  Yeah, probably not, but let’s find out!!

Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) is some rich punk in the town of Nottingham who meets her true love Marion (Eve Hewson) trying to steal a horse from him.  Eh, he’s rich.  Possessions are utterly meaningless to him anyway.  They’re have a whirlwind romance through montage which is abruptly brought to an end when it turns out that the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) has drafted him to join the crusades.  Okay… I thought the armies retaking the Holy Land were volunteers, but I guess if the Sheriff of Nottingham wanted Robin out of the city that he could pull some strings and force him into service.  Wait, why does the Sheriff of Nottingham want him gone?  Oh whatever.  During his military service he manages to be THE BEST SOLIDER EVER but also TOO SWEET to survive in such a place, so after trying to save a captured POW from being executed, he’s non-fatally shot by his CO and sent back to England.  Surprise for Robin though, the father of the POW who he tried to save stowed away and wants to use him to take down the oppressive system in Nottingham, and after a pretty racist joke about foreigners having WACKY names, he starts going by the name John (Jamie Foxx).  It doesn’t take much to convince Robin to join this fight since The Sheriff literally stripped away every last valuable from his home (including his parents I assume) as well as punched a bunch of holes in the walls, and on top of that Marion was told that he had died and is now married to some dude named Will (Jamie Dornan).  With all this rich white boy angst, Robin begins to steal from the rich and give to the poor which soon earns his alter ego a nickname; THE HOOD!  Will Robin and John manage to smash Medieval Capitalism (which I guess is Serfdom here?) and create a socialist Utopia in the heart of thirteenth century England!?  What is The Sheriff’s REAL beef with him and the people of this town, and is he planning something more sinister than just taking all their stuff?  Is it just me, or is a lot of this sounding very familiar!?

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“OH MY GOD!  ARE YOU GREEN ARROW!?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Widows

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

Directed by Steve McQueen

Is it time for another cinematic confession?  Alright, so I’ve never actually seen a Steve McQueen movie all the way through.  I’ve seen bits and pieces of Shame and I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave, but based on those films and what we’ve been shown of this one I get the feeling that I’m not gonna be the biggest fan of his work.  What can I say?  I’m not the biggest fan of overly oppressive mood pieces even if the subject matter justifies that tone, but unlike other kinds of movies of filmmakers that I’m not too fond of I’m rather open to what this guy has to say here because even if I don’t like what I see on screen at least I’m fairly confident that the director is trying to ENGAGE with their audience instead of completely alienating them (*cough* Eli Roth *cough*).  Will this film be the perfect introduction to the director’s body of work, or did he already reach his peak and nothing else will quite measure up to it?  Let’s find out!!

Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) is just having a TERRIBLE week!  Not only did her husband (Liam Neeson) die in a horrible fiery explosion, two million dollars went completely up in smoke which she is now being held responsible for since said two million was STOLEN by Liam Neeson and his crew of crooks (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Jon Bernthal, and Coburn Goss) from a local gangster who’s the slightest bit miffed about all this.  It’s made especially bad because said gangster Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) is also running for local office against the golden boy Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and could have used all that ill-gotten gain to fund his campaign; presumably through shady 501(c) groups considering where the money came from.  Thanks, Citizens United!  Anyway, him and his brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) have given Veronica a week to pay him back which is PROBABLY not all that feasible, but as luck would have it her husband left her a notebook that had detailed plans for their next heist; one that could not only pay back Jamal but will give her a nice payday to keep her afloat while she figures out what to do next with her life.  She enlists the help of two of the widows, Linda and Alice (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) as well as Bell who is another person in need of some fast cash (Cynthia Erivo) to hopefully pull off this heist, though without any actual experience committing crimes, pulling guns, and breaking into places, their success seems dubious at best.  Will Veronica and her slapdash crew of desperate widows manage to pull off such a dangerous heist?  What exactly happened the night their husbands died, and could it have had anything to do with this plan that was left behind?  Is it just me, or could this easily be an Amanda Waller prequel?

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“If I can get these women to pull off this heist, imagine what I can do with super villains!”     “I don’t know, that STILL seems like a bad idea.”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

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The Girl in the Spider’s Web and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Fede Álvarez

A bit of context is perhaps in order before we get started.  I haven’t seen the Fincher film or the Swedish films, but I have read the first book and got a bit through the second one and enjoyed them both.  I don’t actually KNOW if this is based on one of the books or the post-humus stuff that Stieg Larsson had written down somewhere (probably could have looked that up before going to see this) and where exactly this is supposed to “exist” as far as some sort of continuity, so the phrase of the day is CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC.  I do think that Lisbeth Salander is an interesting character and the idea of making more or less standalone movies with her is a solid idea.  However, this still seems like a pretty big gamble across the board, what with David Fincher no longer being involved, this more or less being the third iteration of the franchise in a decade, and frankly I don’t know if anyone is really still talking about Stieg Larsson’s books anymore to warrant another film about this character.  However, all that is kind of outside my wheelhouse as a critic since I’m here to tell you if the movie is good and not how much money it’s gonna make.  What’s REALLY important is if this version of the movie (with a heavily slashed budget) can capture what made these books and this character so compelling in the first place, or if this is just a brazen attempt to squeeze a few more bucks out of an obviously dead horse.  Let’s find out!!

Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is a computer hacker in Sweden who’s gone through some TERRIBLE abuse in her life that may or may not have been covered in the books (it at least takes place after the first one but I have no idea if it incorporates the other two), but there’s really no need to go into it in detail.  She’s a vigilante hacker, she helped the reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) solve at least one mystery in the recent past, and she occasionally takes on jobs that pique her interest.  One such job comes to her from SUPER COMPUTER PROGRAMMER Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) who worked for the NSA and begs her to steal a program he wrote for them which would allow the user to more or less take control of all the world’s satellites and therefore take control of all the nukes… I think.  I mean it sure SOUNDS scary enough, so Lisbeth agrees to steal it and manages to do so with very little effort and at the consternation of Frans’s successor at the NSA Edwin Needham (LaKeith Stanfield) who travels to Sweden to try and get it back.  He’s not the only one after the program however because very soon after she steals it her SUPER HACKER WAREHOUSE is attacked by dudes in masks who work for a very illusive crime organization that may or may not have some connection to Lisbeth’s past.  With total nuclear annihilation now on the table, Lisbeth is adamant to get the program back which involves finding where Frans and his young son August (Christopher Convery) have run off to in the ensuing chaos, avoid the attention of Swedish Secret Service agent Gabriella Grane (Synnøve Macody Lund), and get Mikael involved once again to see if his SUPER JOURNALISM SKILLS can make sense of all this.  Will Lisbeth Salander save the world from nuclear devastation and stop whatever EVIL organization has their eyes set on using it?  Can she protect everyone she cares about from whatever is that seems to be targeting her, or will she lose whatever few connections she still has left to the rest of the world?  How does she manage to look so bad ass even with that Moe Howard haircut!?

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“Why I oughta!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Can You Ever Forgive Me? and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Marielle Heller

Have I mentioned that I really like Melissa McCarthy?  Because I REALLY like Melissa McCarthy.  The Ghostbusters reboot was one of the best movies the year it came out, The Happytime Murders is one of the best films of this year, and I even liked Life of the Party which may not have gotten QUITE as much negativity as the puppet cop movie, but makes up for it in just how quickly everyone seems to have forgotten about it.  Now she gets to star in a nice juicy biopic that doesn’t seem to have the over the top comedic tone of her usual output and is instead a much quieter and more character driven film.  Hey, it may not be what she’s known for but I have no doubt that she has the acting chops to pull off something much more serious and it’d be even MORE hilarious if she makes a movie that critics fawn over in the same year that they’ve quite harshly rejected everything else she’s done.  Does this biopic capture the importance of its subject matter along with giving Melissa McCarthy an interesting role to work with, or will this be a bigger disappointment than Bohemian Rhapsody?  Okay, chances are NOTHING could be as disappointing as that, but let’s find out!!

Back in the long ago time of the early nineties, biographer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) was struggling to make ends meet with whatever profits she made from her earlier books drying up completely and her bitter attitude and sardonic wit making her not very popular in office environments.  This is made especially bad because she’s experiencing a rather lengthy bout of writers block and is being stonewalled by her agent (Jane Curtain), so with nothing else to fall back on a sick cat to take care of she starts to pawn off whatever memorabilia she has; including a letter she got from Katherine Hepburn.  It seems that letters like this can fetch a nice price from book stores and collectors, though when she just so happens to find two more letters from someone else who is famous she learns that they need to be… spicy as it were to fetch more than a few bucks.  Well hold on!  She’s a writer, isn’t she?  And she writes about famous people already, right?  Why, it wouldn’t be THAT hard to just make up some letters in the voice of those famous individuals and use old typewriters with old paper to more or less print money!  That will give her enough money to help her sick cat AND keep her drinking habit alive!  So she begins her life of crime which not only keeps a roof over her head but gives her a passion for writing that she hasn’t experienced for some time; not to mention giving her a little cash to spoil herself and her friend Jack Hock (Richard E Grant) who eventually joins her to help cover her tracks.  How long though can these two keep this scheme of their going before collectors and the authorities start to take a closer look?  Even if they can get away with it, will it help Lee understand and maybe even resolve the issues that have been plaguing her life and her writing up to this point?  Is it too early to start filling out my Award Card yet?  I know we’ve got another two months and I’m NOTORIOUSLY bad at picking winners, but this time I’m feeling lucky!

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What!?  Since she didn’t win for Bridesmaids, it means she’s due!

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