Cinema Dispatch: Mary Poppins Returns

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

Directed by Rob Marshall

Well this one has certainly been a long time coming, hasn’t it?  I mean with the pace at which Disney is cannibalizing its older properties to make billions at the box office, it was only a matter of time before one of their most iconic features gets a shiny coat of HD paint!  Just over the horizon, we still have The Lion King, Dumbo, Mulan, Aladdin, and the list will certainly keep growing from there.  Still, this isn’t quite a Beauty and the Beast shameless shot for shot retelling of an animated feature since this is an ACTUAL sequel that continues from the original film!  It’s been so long since I’ve seen the first Mary Poppins that I’m not sure what to expect here, but the cast is strong and Rob Marshall is made for this kind of material.  Will it be a fun and engaging experience for audiences of all ages who need a little bit of nonsense and silliness in their lives, or has modern Disney failed to understand what made that classic film so memorable for so many people?  Let’s find out!!

The movie picks up about twenty years after the first one where the Banks Children are now the Banks Adults.  Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) has had a particularly rough go of it as his wife had just died a year ago and he had to give up his dreams of being an artist to get a job at the bank, but he’s still go the house he grew up in and three perfect children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson); not to mention his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) who helps around the house between labor protests, and their housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters) who’s still cleaning up after them all these years later.  They’ve weathered a storm so things can only be looking up, right?  Well as it turns out, Michael took out a big loan at the bank to cover expenses this last year and now they’re gonna repossess the house unless he can pay the loan back in full within five days.  Well shoot!  If only they had a magical nanny who could make all this better with songs and animation!  Well it turns out that the Banks family is in luck because whatever mystical force is watching over them has sent Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) to once again fix their problems and watch the kids while Michael and Jane try to scramble to find their father’s old bank stock they could use to possibly pay off the loan.  With the help of a friendly lamplighter named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and various colorful characters including her cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep), Mary Poppins is on a divine mission to introduce a bit of whimsy and discipline into these children’s lives, and maybe help Michael and Jane rediscover their childhoods along the way!  Will Michael and Jane find what they need to save their childhood home?  What can the kids do to help the situation, and can Mary Poppins be the key to it all?  Why the heck didn’t I get a flying magical nanny when I was a kid?  I don’t even think they had to pay her!

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“The price for my services is either two hundred dollars a week or you can just hand over your soul to empower the dark forces tucked away within me.”     “Well I’m already paying my student loans each month…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Holmes & Watson

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Holmes & Watson and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Etan Cohen

Oh goody!  Will Ferrell and John C Reilly are teaming up once again to make a silly comedy!  That’s gonna be GREAT, right!?  RIGHT!?  Okay fine, they don’t have THE BEST track record out there, but I still don’t want to dismiss this out of hand!  I mean… I probably SHOULD, considering how… not very good the trailer was, but those don’t always faithfully represent the full movie, and they wouldn’t just dump this right in the middle of a VERY busy time of the year just to die a quiet death, right!?  Well I guess we’re gonna have to see if that’s the case, though for both of their sakes as box office draws, I hope they put quite a bit of effort into this one.  Does this send up of Sherlock Holmes manage to capture the spirit of the books while also making a laugh out loud comedy, or is this a joke that’s way too late to the party and would have been an utter embarrassment even if it WAS timely?  Let’s find out!!

Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) is somehow England’s greatest detective despite being an utter fool who makes obvious mistakes over and over again, but I guess he’s got a good hype man in his partner John Watson (John C Reilly) who seems to be keeping at least some of his worst tendencies in check while also pumping him up to the general public through his novels about their various crime solving adventures.  However, this latest caper involving a murder at Buckingham Palace and the threat of death upon The Queen (Pam Ferris) if Sherlock doesn’t find the killer first is just the kind of mystery that will put his mind and their friendship through the ultimate test!  Complicating matters is the fact that Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) is still at large but may have fled to the Americas as well as a new doctor in town Rose Hudson (Kelly MacDonald) as well as her… assistant I guess, Millie (Lauren Lapkus), who have both captured the hearts of our dynamic duo.  Will Sherlock be able to crack the case before this mystery tears him AND his straining friendship with Watson apart at the seams?  Will Watson finally get the nerve to demand more respect and an equal title as co-detective with Sherlock who is notoriously egotistical and not one to share the spotlight?  Is it even possible for THE GREATEST DETECTIVE ALIVE to get to the bottom of how this utter fiasco made it into theaters!?

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Hey, at least YOU didn’t pay money to see this!

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Cinema Dispatch: Bumblebee

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

Directed by Travis Knight

The thing about Transformers, at least for me, is that it’s only ever existed as the Michael Bay movies.  I never watched the original series, any of its spin-offs, and I’ve only played one of the games, so if nothing else this movie has a rather low bar to clear if it wants to be considered “good”.  Now that said, it’s got some heavy competition right now what with the new Spider-Man movie not just being GOOD but PHENOMENAL, and there are plenty of others out right now that this isn’t gonna stack favorably against if it’s ONLY trying to be better than what Bay was putting out.  Still, it’s got a lot going for it what with Hailee Steinfeld AND the recently launched into the mainstream John Cena filling out the cast along with the Laika animation guy stepping in for Bay this time around.  Does this prequel manage to take this tired and overblown franchise in a fresh new direction, or is the engine underneath it still the same despite the shiny new coat of paint?  Let’s find out!!

Back in the long ago days of the late eighties (when Sony Walkmans walked the Earth), the war for Cybertron was reaching its peak as the Decepticons had pushed the Autobot rebels off the planet with little hope of taking it back.  The leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), has tasked B-127 (Dylan O’Brien) with scouting a far off planet that may serve as their new base of operations so they can regroup and finally stop the Decepticons once and for all; a desperate plan to be sure, but its not like anyone else is coming up wit ha better one.  So B-127 speeds off to Earth but was followed by a Decepticon warrior!  Oh no!  The ensuing battle leaves the Decepticon dead, but it leaves a few humans worse for wear including Super Solider from Sector 7 Jack Burns (John Cena) as well as B-127 ending up heavily damaged (even losing his voice in the process) and… I guess robo-hibernates for some time to recharge his batteries.  Some time passes (not sure if it’s months or years) and B-127 is found in a junkyard by Charlie Watson (Haille Steinfeld) who takes him home and manages to get him running again.  He wakes up, shows himself to be a robot to Charlie albeit it with no memories which were all damaged in the fight, and… I think he accidentally sets off some sort of tracking beacon that two Decepticons (Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux) a few planets away seem to have heard which conveniently gives us antagonists to fight against in the third act.  Until then, Charlie names B-127 Bumblebee and tries to teach him how to blend in the human world while also taking him for joy rides, prank wars, and emotional character arcs for both her and her new robot buddy who’s not sure who he is or what his place in this strange world is.  Will Charlie and Bumblebee learn to deal with their traumas and find a new lease on life by beating up robots and taking bullies down a peg?  What will John Cena do when he finds out the robot that nearly killed him is still functional, and will it involve the Five Knuckle Shuffle?  Wait a minute… finding a robot in a junkyard that was meant to fight off a hostile alien force but got lost along the way… isn’t this the plot to Megas XLR?

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“Chicks dig giant Bumblebees!”     “Some of us do, Bee.  Some of us do.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Mortal Engines

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Mortal Engines and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Christian Rivers

There are always WAY too many movies coming out this time of year which means that I can fall a bit behind or forget to see movies altogether.  HOPEFULLY that won’t be a big issue this year; especially if I can still find time to go out and see THIS film!  Yes, it’s another movie adapted from a Young Adult novel that’s the first in a series, but unlike recent attempts like The Darkest Minds (ugh…), it looks like someone put some real effort into this thing with just how absurd the premise is and how much money looks to have been spent trying to realize it!  Can this big budgeted world saving extravaganza be the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games, or is this yet another example of Hollywood having no idea how to adapt these kinds of books to the big screen?  Let’s find out!!

In the far off future, after the bombs dropped and presumably after the Fallout games, humanity has decided that the best way to live in the ravaged hellscape of post-apocalypse Europe is to build cities on top of their cars and race them around looking for resources.  I’m not quite sure how this is more efficient than say using airplanes and smaller vehicles to find stuff and bring it back to stationary cities, but then I guess I’m from the BOMBED INTO OBLIVION part of history, so what do I know?  The biggest and baddest of these cities is London (which STILL waves the Union Jack a thousand years later) run by the nefarious Thaddeus Valentine who you KNOW is bad because he’s played by Hugo Weaving, and when they capture one of the smaller roaming cities he learns that there’s at least one person out there who’s quite cross with him.  Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) was one of the captured city’s refugees, but it was all a ploy to get her that much closer to Valentine who she takes a stab at but only causes minor damage because some dude named Tom (Robert Sheehan) sees the attack coming and stops her from finishing the job.  Through an elaborate chase scene, Tom chases her down to… I guess the city’s trash hole where she tells him that Valentine killed her mother before escaping the city through said trash hole.  Valentine, realizing that one of his loyal peons has heard the ravings of an attempted murder decides that the rational thing to do here is not to convince him that she was lying or even to outright murder him, rather he throws him down the trash hole as well; very much alive and at least a little bit peeved by the whole experience.  From there he finds Hester again and they tentatively team up to find a new city for him and a new assassination plot for her.  Along the way they’ll run into raiders, slavers, some robot dude named Shrike (Stephen Lang), and even an Anti-London resistance movement head up by Anna Fang (Jihae) of which Hester is apparently the key to their success and not just one of many people who have a legitimate grievance against Valentine.  Speaking of whom, he also has some sort of plan to make a Doomsday Weapon out of old technology which he will use to… conquer the world I guess?  In any case, will Hester and Tom learn to become friends over the course of their ridiculously convoluted journey?  Why DID Valentine kill Hester’s mother, and what other secrets is she hiding from everyone around her?  For all the stuff these cities have scavenged, did any of them manage to find the plot?

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“Where do we go now?”     “I don’t know, wait for something to explode.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman

Honestly this whole “Oscar Season” thing has felt rather muted this year as I really haven’t seen that many movies that would fit the archetype we often associate with them.  Other than Welcome to Marwen, the holiday season has been just an extension of summer with huge blockbusters coming out back to back with three presumed major money makers (Bumblebee, Mary Poppins Returns, and Aquaman) fighting over a single weekend right before Christmas.  However out of all those movies that we’re getting right now, the one that really caught my attention was this film; not because I had any particular reason to think it would be great (though I do certainly hope that’s the case!) but because it looked so much different than everything else.  An animated film with a unique art style about Spider-Man characters other than Spider-Man?  Heck, that’s PRACTICALLY Venom considering how much CG they used, and that wasn’t TOO bad!  Can the cinematic debut of Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, and… others I guess, manage to be up there with the best that Disney can put out, or is this only gonna look good in comparison to Sony’s other recent Spider-Man efforts?  Let’s find out!!

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is your typical Marvel nobody; slightly smarter than everyone else, painfully insecure, and doesn’t realize how good his life is until some tragedy will inevitably strike it after they get super powers!  For now though, he’s just bummed about having to go to a fancy new school that his parents (Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez) want him to attend while all he wants to do is be with his friends and hang out with his uncle (Mahershala Ali) who understands him a heck of a lot more than his parents do.  During one such hang out session where he and his uncle tag a wall in an abandoned subway tunnel, Miles gets bit by a radioactive spider and goes through the typical Spider-Man first day of school; make a fool of yourself, stick to things, and eventually realize how awesome these powers are!  Then again, there’s already a Spider-Man roaming the streets (Chris Pine) so it’s not like he needs to get himself involved in Super Hero shenanigans, right?  Oh wait, Spider-Man’s dead.  Huh.  Didn’t see that coming (especially if you don’t know anything about Miles Morales already) and not only that, the big Super Villain plot he failed to stop is some sort of interdimensional portal gun thingy that The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) is making and is merging alternate realties into this one.  It makes a lot more sense when you see in the movie.  Trust me on that.  ANYWAY!  One of the alternate dimensions has spout out Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson) who is like this universe’s Peter only a lot less dead and a lot less competent, and he and Miles end up crossing paths through even more convoluted shenanigans.  So now that we’re up to TWO only somewhat competent Spider-People, they can do what the actually GOOD Spider-Man couldn’t, right?  Eh… maybe, but let’s see if we can find a few more Else Worlds Spiders like Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Bot (Kimiko Gleen), and Spider-Pig (John Mulaney) before storming The Kingpin’s castle.  I’m sure they’re around here somewhere!  Will Miles learn how to use his powers for good and accept the responsibility that comes with them?  Can the other Spider-People not only show him what it means to be a hero, but stop The Kingpin before their universe’s become endangered as well?  Can we somehow find a way to go to an alternate dimension where this film is ALSO part of the MCU!?

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“In our universe Venom was released in 2007.”     “WOW!  Your world really IS superior!”

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In Defense of How The Grinch Stole Christmas – A Reviewers Unite Video Essay

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and all related materials are the property of Universal Pictures. All copyrighted material in this video essay are protected under fair used and are used for critical analysis and educational purposes.

WW-DE-cember: Santa’s Little Helper

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Santa’s Little Helper and all the images you see in this review are owned by WWE Studios and    20th Century Fox

Directed by Gil Junger

We’re back with another Christmas Tale brought to us by the WWE and oddly enough it not only stars The Miz once again but has the same director from Christmas Bounty!  Apparently someone saw that first movie and thought that these two should ABSOLUTELY work together again which is certainly not the call that I would have made (mine would have involved an iron maiden to start with), but I guess that’s why I’m not making creative decisions for everyone’s favorite supporter of the Saudi Arabian Royal Family!  Will they be able to pull off something halfway decent this time around, or was Christmas Bounty just the warning shot for something even far worse to come!?  Let’s find out!!

Right off the bat, this movie is LEAGUES better than Christmas Bounty, and not just because they have a slightly improved font!  First, The Miz is the star and not playing a supporting part which means we get to see him right away and all throughout the movie.  Second, he is ACTUALLY really good in the role here which is basically yet another riff on the Scrooge archetype and fits in perfectly with his in-ring persona as a guy so smug you want to punch him in the face.  He’s some dude who I GUESS works at a mortgage company and is working on this Rec Center the company wants to foreclose on for… reasons.   Apparently the director of the Rec Center ran off with all their money and The Miz, who is called Dax Hardwick in this, is personally visiting the place to rub it in everyone’s faces that they’re gonna take it out from under them and bulldoze it to the ground!  Damn!  We’re up to Grinch levels of evil already!

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“There’s certainly no termites in THAT smile!

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