Cinema Dispatch: The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time and all the images you see in this review are owned by Netflix

Directed by Antonio Campos

It looks like Warner Bros non-stop protestations that movies and movie theaters are back has failed to materialize as the world is still ravaged by a pandemic and studios are still shy about putting anything out to overwhelmingly empty theaters.  I guess it means we’re going back to the Netflix well once again which is perfectly fine as we ALL need to do our part to keep people safe, and they’ve been putting out a steady stream of original movies so I’m pretty much spoiled for choice until the world decides to reopen again.  So with the breadth of Netflix’s catalog in front of me, which one do I choose?  Well it was either Cuties or the new movie with Robert Pattinson, and as much as I hear good things about Cuties (and hear bad things from the absolute WORST people about it), I had to stick with my main man Robbie P and see what he’s up to!  Does this movie satiate the listless masses for another week of perpetual lockdown, or does the dour tone of this movie hit a bit TOO close to home right now?  Let’s find out!!

Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) is your typical sweet kid from the country with a definite chip on his shoulder.  He has a strong sense of right and wrong, but given enough of a push he can be convinced to take serious action against those who slighted him and his family.  Perhaps he got that mean streak in him when he was a kid (Michael Banks) and his father (Bill Skarsgård) used to do the same thing.  Perhaps it has to do with his mother (Haley Bennett) who died of cancer when he was young and the… interesting actions his father took during that time.  Still, he doesn’t have much to complain about considering he lives with his loving grandma (Kristin Griffith) and… let’s go with half-sister Lenora (Eliza Scanlen) and leave it at that.  To get into the specifics there is something I’ll leave the movie to explain, but needless to say that things are pretty good for him, and as long as they aren’t surrounded by a bunch of terrible people to set Arvin off, things will go just fine for them!  Well I hate to break it to you, but there are some bad people in this little town and Arvin is stuck right in the middle; between the devils all around him and the devils within himself.  Does the world push Arvin to take drastic measures to restore order in the face of injustice, and can one man survive in a world full of bad people?  What will Arvin lose of himself in this story of pain, loss, and vengeance, and is there any sort of light at the end of the tunnel once he’s found the justice he seeks?  This sounds like a superhero origin story, though PROBABLY not the one that Holland usually plays.

“I’M BATMAN!!”     “Wait, I thought I was Batman?”
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Cinema Dispatch: Mulan

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

Directed by Niki Caro

I’ll be honest, the animated Mulan wasn’t exactly one of my go to films when I was a kid.  I was more of an Aladdin/Pixar fan and while I remember Mulan being GOOD, it never really stuck with me like a lot of other films did.  But hey!  That’s why Disney is doing all these remakes in the first place, right?  To not only cash in on Nostalgia dollars for people who DO remember the original but to try and get the people who didn’t care for it the first time to invest in the property and maybe build a new theme park ride around it.  Does this remake of the 1998 classic hold up to and even SURPASS the original, or is this another live action remake from Disney that fails to bring anything new or interesting to the table?  Let’s find out!!

China is being attacked by the… Not Huns (Let’s get down to business!  To defeat… the Rouran Khaganate!) and it seems they have a witch on their side (Gong Li) that’s wreaking havoc on their outposts along the Silk Road.  In order to stop these invaders, the Emperor (Jet Li) orders the conscription of one man from every family in the country, and one of the villages they arrive at (which looks quite a bit like the slums from Kung Fu Hustle) is the home of Hua Mulan (Yifei Liu) and her family.  Her father (Tzi Ma) having no sons of his own volunteers to go despite having fought in a previous war and has a disabled leg because of it, but as you know this doesn’t sit well with Mulan and so she goes in her father’s stead; leaving the village in the dead of night and donning the identity of a man.  Mulan under the guise of Hua Jun must make it through the intense training of Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) while also keeping her identity as well as her overwhelming strength a secret; lest she bring shame on her family or even be executed by the very country she’s here to defend.  Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and the awesome witch lady might have the right idea, but Mulan is not about to let a little thing like impending death keep her from protecting her family and her homeland!  Will Mulan be able to successfully navigate the men’s world of warfare without her secret being discovered?  Who are these villainous rouges attacking China, and what’s driving them on their quest to conquer the country?  If they make a sequel to this, will it ALSO be about a feminist revolution in China or will they go in a different direction with it?

“My name is Hua Mulan.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Bill & Ted Face the Music

Bill & Ted Face the Music and all the images you see in this review are owned by United Artists Releasing

Directed by Dean Parisot

There haven’t been many rays of sunshine during the last few months of lock-down, but one of them was the first trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music.  I remember hearing that Reeves and Winter were trying to make this movie back when I was in COLLEGE which at this point that was a depressingly long time ago, but after years of starts and stops, hype and silence, and Keanu Reeves regaining his A-List star clout (as well as becoming everyone’s Favorite Person Ever), the duo have finally returned to give us one more adventure with the Wyld Stallyns.  Is it a beautiful trip down memory lane for all the fans that loved this franchise, or is it too little too late for all the years of anticipation?  Let’s find out!!

Bill S Preston Esq and Ted Theodore Logan (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) have spent their entire lives trying to write the song that unites the world which apparently was NOT God Gave Rock And Roll To You.  Apparently someone else wrote that song and the Wyld Stallyns haven’t come up with a better one since then despite releasing several albums over the years; some of which were decent but they fell off the charts pretty quickly and have been scraping by for some time now.  At least they have loving families that support them as Bill is still married to Princess Joanna (Jayma Mays) and they have a daughter Thea (Samara Weaving) while Ted is still married to Princess Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes) and they have a daughter Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine), but the strain is starting to get to them and they might just give up music altogether.  Right as they’re discussing the end of their career, a time machine shows up in the driveway and out steps Kelly (Kristen Schaal) who is the daughter of Rufus from the previous films, and she takes them to the future where they high council of… I guess the ENTIRE EARTH informs them that their song to save the world is not only to usher in an enlightened age but to fix some horrific distortion in space and time that if they DON’T fix will end all of reality as they know it.  Oh, and they have less than two hours to do it, starting… now!  Without much time left to get their act together, Bill & Ted figure the best way to get the song that saves the future is to go INTO the future and the song after it’s already written by their future selves, and while that’s going on Billie & Thea are given a time machine from Kelly to try and muster up a band who will be talented enough to play the song once Bill & Ted get it.  Will these two loveable has-beens find a way to save the future before time and reality folds in on itself?  Will Billie & Thea turn out to be as good at traveling through space and time as their fathers were, and discover what destiny has in store for them as well?  You know, we could really use a Bill & Ted miracle right now, so what are the chances that this is the MOVIE that will unite the world and save reality as we know it?

“We humbly accept these seven Oscars, the Noble Peace Prize, and the Grammy for Best New Artist!”     “We had to go all the way back to 1977, but we got it!”     “Take THAT, Starland Vocal Band!”
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Cinema Dispatch: The New Mutants

The New Mutants and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Studios

Directed by Josh Boone

I was going to the movies multiple times a week for YEARS before this pandemic hit, and one of the things I kept seeing over and again was trailers for this movie. Every few months there’d be another one but with a different release date on it, and it got so ridiculously long that I vowed to be there opening day to see what kind of nonsense they were trying to cover up in post-production. Then the world came to an end and wouldn’t you know it? One of the first movies to go to theaters AND NOWHERE ELSE happened to be this one. All was not lost however as it turns out there’s a drive in theater nearby (the ONLY place I’ll go to see a movie right now) and they actually had this movie on their schedule, and so I was able to go out and keep that promise I made to myself all those years ago without having to take an unnecessary risk of CATCHING A POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING DISEASE in the process! So with all that buildup, with all the shakeups at the studio, and with all the world events that have broken the world between the first teaser trailer to now, does the movie manage to be any good? Did all the extra time working on it prove to be a fruitful endeavor, or are they hoping that the threat of getting sick would be enough for them to sneak this out without anybody noticing? Let’s find out!!

Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) finds herself stuck inside of a hospital of some sorts with a bunch of other young people under the watchful eyes of Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) who informs her that her family is dead and that she’s here because she PROBABLY caused it. Why? Well because she’s a mutant of course, and so is everyone else here! We’ve got Sam (Charlie Heaton) who can go fast and make things explode, Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy) who… has some sort of teleportation and sword fighting powers, Roberto (Henry Zaga) who’s the most dudebro dude ever and also might have fire powers, and Rahne (Massie Williams) who is… well she’s just a werewolf. I didn’t realize that fell under MUTANT powers, but I guess you can call anything a mutant power if you try hard enough. In any case, they’re all stuck in here with the discount Nurse Ratched who’s trying to get them to learn to control their powers through… group therapy sessions I guess, and clearly has some sinister motivations for keeping them all there that they’re vaguely aware of but none too concerned about. Dani, still trying to figure out exactly what happened to her father and not even knowing what her own super power is, tries to make the most of this very bizarre situation which only gets more disturbing once everyone starts having terrifying dreams or something relating to their past traumas which is certainly not making the overall dingy atmosphere of this place any more cheery. What exactly are Dani’s powers and are they in any way connected to the strange goings on at the hospital? What does Dr. Reyes have planned for them once she’s deemed them to be “better”, and is it somehow worse than having stay here? Are they actually stuck in some sort of Groundhog’s Day time loop which is why it feels like this movie’s been around for a hundred years!?

Nope. Nope. There we go!
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Cinema Dispatch: An American Pickle

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

Directed by Brandon Trost

For weeks I’ve been grumbling about the slow drip of releases the last few months, but now I find myself spoiled for choice as I’ve not only got Black is King to still watch on Disney+, I find out there’s a Seth Rogen movie on HBO Max as well!  Even with his performance in Long Shot coming off as obnoxious and juvenile, I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy ever since I saw Knocked Up which is a movie I love and have seen so many times that I’d probably put in my top ten comedies ever made.  He’s never really reached THAT level of brilliance since then (especially working without Judd Apatow), but I’m always interested to see what he does and he’ll surprise you every once in a while something great like The Night Before and Sausage Party.  Does this latest outing from the guy end up being one of his best performances yet, or is there a reason they’re not saving this one until theaters open back up?  Let’s find out!!

Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) is a simple man from the Eastern European village of Schlupsk who moves to America with his loving wife Sarah (Sarah Snook) to start a new life and establish himself and his family as part of the American Dream.  He gets a job bashing rats with a stick at a Pickle Factory which certainly pays more than his ditch-digging job back in Schlupsk, and despite the massive xenophobia against Jewish people in this country, things couldn’t be looking any brighter!  That is until Herschel falls into a pickle vat mere moments before the factory is closed down and his body is left forgotten for a hundred years until some kids stumble into the factory and open the vat; freeing Herschel who was perfectly preserved in the pickle brine and therefore hasn’t aged a day because of SCIENCE!  On the plus side, he now lives in a world with better food, less Polio, and better sticks to bash rats with.  On the other hand, everyone he knows and loves is dead.  Six of one, half a dozen of the other I suppose, but what might just tip the scales into this being a net positive is that he has one living relative that has agreed to take him in; his great-grandson Ben Greenbaum (also Seth Rogen).  With his great-grandson being the last connection he has to the life he had before, will Herschel be able to move forward with his life and find fulfillment in this strange new world?  Can Ben help his great grandfather through this challenging time, and are there perhaps challenges of his own that he will now be forced to confront?  Does this movie get utterly derailed for no good reason after a while!?  You tell me; does a pickle taste good on a hamburger!?

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“I know I should be acclimating myself to the modern world and all the complicated nuances involved, but what about… pickles?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Tread

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Tread and all the images you see in this review are owned by Netflix

Directed by Paul Solet

Another week, another bout of isolation, restlessness, and binge-watching coupled with a release calendar with more holes than our government’s COVID-19 response strategy.  It’s funny because it’s relevant AND devastating!  So without much to talk about other than that Beyoncé movie that I haven’t gotten around to, I decided to try my hand at something I’ve never done for this site before, and that’s review a DOCUMENTARY!  Well okay, I SAY a documentary, but let’s be honest; this is just as much a narrative adaptation as it is that, with the copious amounts of reenactments and the spectacle of its final act, but nonetheless, I’m still gonna count this as uncharted waters for me!  Is this a fun, informative, and at times heartbreaking portrayal of a man pushed to his limits, or does this fail to make its too wacky to be fake premise all that interesting?  Let’s find out!!

Marvin Heemeyer lived in Granby Colorado for over a decade; running a successful muffler shop, driving his snowmobile on the weekends, and all-around getting along with his friends and neighbors.  What no one seemed to know, or only suspected without confirming, is that underneath his pleasant exterior stowed a rage that would fuel him to do something drastic on June 4, 2004.  If you’re not familiar with the story like me then I won’t give it ALL away here, but let’s just say that it involved heavy machinery, a lot of property damage, and a design aesthetic somewhere between Mad Max and the Wacky Races.  The documentary takes us from the start of his time in Granby to the day of THE INCIDENT with interviews of people who were there at the time and, perhaps most enlightening, the words of Marvin Heemeyer himself who left an audio manifesto of sorts to tell his own side of the story of how he got to where he ultimately ended up.  Just how far will one man go to rectify the slights and misfortunes that he believes the world has handed him?  Is there more to the story than one man’s out of control persecution complex that led to this horrifying yet bizarre event?  Heck, maybe everything was just fine but this guy saw Falling Down on cable one too many times!

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“Hey, Marv!  What-cha doing in there?”     “NOTHING!  JUST BUILDING… BIRD FEEDERS!”     “Well that’s just swell!  Let us know how we can help as you are a loved and cherished member of this community!”     “JUST GO AWAY!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Fatal Affair

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Fatal Affair and all the images you see in this review are owned by Netflix

Directed by Peter Sullivan

I’ve seen my fair share of Black Romance Thrillers in my time, even Tyler Perry’s… interesting take on the genre, and if nothing else they tend to be ENGAGING if not always GOOD.  Well… maybe not The Perfect Guy which I recall being rather dull on top of being not especially well made, but in any case, as soon as I learned that Netflix was releasing one of these under a suspect title (if The Asylum hasn’t already made a knock-off thrill with this same name, I will be VERY disappointed) and starring Omar Epps, I was there ready to see it unfold!  Heck, one of my biggest regrets from last year is that his theatrical film Traffik came and went before I got a chance to see it, so perhaps this is my chance to redeem myself and give this man the credit he so rightfully deserves!  Does Netflix have yet another hit to brag about in this era where streaming is king, or is this just another mediocre outing that’s sole purpose is to bolster Netflix’s catalog?  Let’s find out!!

The life of Ellie Warren (Nia Long) has turned a corner and there’s nothing but blue skies ahead!  Her husband (Stephen Bishop) was hurt recently but is finally recovering, they got the big beautiful beach house they’ve always wanted, and as soon as this big case is over at the law firm, she’s going to start her own practice so she can finally be a literal Girl Boss instead of just being the figurative one at the office!  Heck, things get even better when an old college friend of hers named David Hammond (Omar Epps) is hired by the law firm and they get to catch up on old times!  Boy, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  It’s like a whole lot of life has slipped away between her carefree college days and her grown-up life where her own daughter (Aubrey Cleland) is the one in college now.  In fact, things are getting kind of stale, aren’t they; especially with her husband who’s kind of a mope ever since the accident.  Maybe David has something to offer Ellie… IS WHAT I WOULD BE SAYING IF SHE WASN’T A PERSON OF SUCH HIGH VIRTUE!!  Sure, she makes out with him at a dance club, but she regrets it immediately and cuts all contact with David just to make it clear that she’s NOT INTERESTED!  That’s not good enough for David though who’s got a chip on his shoulder and a degree in Information Security, so for the next few weeks, he makes her life a living hell; calling her constantly, finding ways to ingratiate himself into her social circle, and even making fake screenshots of text conversations that apparently everyone would be willing to believe in a heartbeat.  Will Ellie be able to escape from the tightening grip of David’s obsession?  Why has he chosen now to make his big move on her, and is there something in his past that’s even darker than what we’re seeing now?  Who wants to bet this dude’s Twitter feed has more red flags than a MGTOW forum?

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“When you look at me, what do you see?”     “A collection of molecules arranged in such a way that you arbitrary get more rights than I do as a man.”     “Uh…huh.”     “Want to subscribe to my YouTube channel?”     “I’m gonna pass on that.”

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Cinema Dispatch: My Spy

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My Spy and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios & STXfilms

Directed by Peter Segal

The New Mutants is STILL the reigning champ of movies repeatedly missing their release dates (perhaps only being outdone by Amityville: The Awakening), but this film just kept getting pushed further and further back, so much so that I remember seeing posters for this in probably APRIL of last year; back when movie theaters were still open and the world only had a hundred things bringing us to the brink of destruction instead of a hundred and one.  As much as I love Dave Bautista as a character actor (GO SEE HOTEL ARTEMIS ALREADY), he hasn’t quite found his groove as far as starring roles with him threatening to make the same KID-FRIENDLY mistakes The Rock did early on in his career and that John Cena is already kicking butt at right now.  Is this a surprisingly fun take on a tired formula fueled by another great performance from Dave Bautista, or will this be yet another movie to put on WORST MOVIES STARRING A WRESTLER lists that I’m sure are all over YouTube already?  Let’s find out!!

JJ (Dave Bautista) is a hotshot young (I guess?) CIA agent who has the kind of special forces background they’re looking for but doesn’t have the finesse or spycraft to make the most out of his role there.  When a mission in Russia goes bad where JJ has to kill everyone in a very clichéd action scene, his boss (Ken Jeong) sends him and one of the techies Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) on a do-nothing assignment as his last chance to prove that he’s cut out for this.  All they need to do is keep an eye on A young girl named Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and her mother Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) who recently moved to the States after Sophie’s father was murdered under suspicious circumstances that could be connected to an arms dealer in the region, but no sooner have they set up shop do they get found out by the girl and so to keep his job JJ has to do whatever the girl wants him to do so she’ll keep quiet about all this; including teaching her how to be a spy which seems like a dubious prospect considering how bad JJ clearly is at it.  Can JJ keep this house of cards from falling over by keeping Sophie entertained and keeping an eye on the family?  Will JJ be the kind of spy his government needs him to be, or will he get to close to the targets and endanger their lives in the process?  If you got made by a nine-year-old, shouldn’t that be a sign that you should be looking for a new career path?

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“I was thinking about becoming a wrestler.”     “They won’t pay for your health insurance.”     “Dang.  You’re right.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Da 5 Bloods

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Da 5 Bloods and all the images you see in this review are owned by Netflix

Directed by Spike Lee

It’s not often that a film gets released at the EXACT moment it should be, but leave it to Spike Lee to make a movie worth talking about at a time when its message couldn’t be more relevant.  I’ve certainly liked more of Spike Lee’s movie’s than I haven’t with Chi-Raq being a downright masterpiece and it’s like movie studios are giving us anything else worth watching at this period of time (including Disney who thought putting Artemis Fowl on Disney+ was a better idea than just chucking it in a garbage can), so consider me pumped to see something important instead of just spending another evening watching reruns and staring at the ceiling!  Is Spike Lee’s timely examination of Black people’s relationship to the Vietnam War and by extension the systems created it which are still in place to this day, or is Lee like the rest of us and finds himself missing a step in these unusual times?  Let’s find out!!

Nearly fifty years after their tour in Vietnam, the remaining members of The Bloods return to Vietnam to reconnect, remember the good times, and find their fallen comrade Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman) who died during the war and whose body is still out there.  Our surviving members are Paul, Otis, Eddie, and Melvin (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr) as well as an unexpected fifth member David (Jonathan Majors) who’s the son of Paul and wants to keep an eye on him during this trip.  Now that’s all MOSTLY true, but there are some details missing such as the fact that The Bloods buried a whole bunch of gold back then and are out here to find it along with Stormin’ Norman to secure their retirements, though saying that to the US government who’s gold it is they’re digging up (it was supposed to be delivered to the Vietnamese government that was declared a loss after the plane crashed), so they omitted that part when they appealed to both countries’ governments to explore the area.  And so the journey begins, with our heroes telling stories of their time in the war, confronting the demons of their past, and hopefully leaving the country far richer than they entered it.  Will The Bloods find what they are looking for in this country they left long ago, and will it be what they came to find in the first place?  What hardships will they face along the way, and will their struggles ultimately be in vain?  How the heck is it that the ONE dude to die in the war was Black Panther!?  Isn’t he bulletproof!?

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“Did you find any vibranium yet?”     “That joke wasn’t funny the first time you made it, and it sure as heck isn’t funny the FIFTIETH time you made!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Artemis Fowl

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

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

I don’t think I’ve seen a GOOD new movie since the theaters closed up which is probably no coincidence as any studio who thinks their film will earn MONEY will probably want to wait until theaters are open again to take their chances on a strong weekend box office.  It certainly hasn’t improved my general outlook in this very challenging time, but Disney has a chance to lift the spirits of the world by giving us a fantastic adventure film that the whole family can enjoy!  Is this the YA cash cow that Disney’s been looking for!?  Let’s find out!!

Artemis Fowl Jr (Ferdia Shaw) is the son of famed… artifact collector or something, Artemis Fowl Sr (Clin Farrell); both of whom live a happy little life in a giant coastal mansion with their not-butler Domovi Butler (Nonso Anozie).  The only problem is that dear old dad has a habit of jetting off to another adventure in artifact “collecting” which leaves little Artite with little more to do than win dozens of awards at school and be a pompous jerk about it because on top of being super-rich he’s also a super-genius with a bad attitude.  Everything changes however when one of his father’s trips ends with his yacht sinking in the ocean and somehow it also comes out that he’s actually a master thief.  In reality, he’s been captured by an EVIL fairy and tells little Artie to give them the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY, or else his dad is going to die.  Oh yeah, fairies and other magical stuff are in this movie which comes in about as abruptly as that sentence did and little Artie gets over the shocking revelation just as quickly.  It turns out the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY is some artifact from the land of the fairies which is located underground (glad we never ran into any of THOSE cities amongst all the fracking, am I right?) and Magic Cop Julius Root (Judi Dench) is adamant about finding it.  One of her subordinates Officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) has a personal stake in finding this artifact so she goes rogue and gets… let’s say ENTANGLED with Little Artie’s situation and through further complications, the ENTIRE Magic Army is on Artie Jr’s doorstop and are looking to drag him out of there with the help of a giant dwarf named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) who they need for… reasons I suppose.  Using only his wits, the help of his non-butler, and even the help of his non-butler’s niece who is ALSO a super genius and kung-fu expert, he must find a way to locate the artifact, get the Magic po-po off his lawn, and try to wrangle an entire novel’s worth of world-building and character development into less than ninety minutes of screen time.  Can Artie Jr outsmart the Magic Cops with this heightened intellect and penchant for slick suits?  What is the mysterious evil fairy planning, and what will happen if the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY were to fall into their hands?  Is this grab bag of every other fantasy movie even CLOSE to the sum of its blatantly lifted parts!?

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“We are NOT gonna win the group costume contest if we aren’t all on the same page!”     “Why are you looking at ME?  SHE’S the one who came as The Wasp!”

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