Cinema Dispatch: Coming 2 America

Coming 2 America and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Craig Brewer

Coming to America is not a movie I have much nostalgia for.  I didn’t see it until I was well into my twenties and while I found it amusing it wasn’t exactly an all-time classic for me, so while I’m not giddy with anticipation to see where Prince Akeem ended up thirty years later, I shouldn’t be particularly bummed if it doesn’t live up to the original.  Frankly, the Eddie Murphy from my childhood peaked with Dr. Doolittle as I didn’t see any of his classic movies until I was much older, and it’s only been in the last few years that he’s buckled down and tried to be more discerning with his roles so perhaps this will take to heart the harsh lessons he learned over the last few decades and will actually be something true to the spirit of the original and to the comedy legend that he was at the time!  Yeah okay, I don’t think that’s going to be the case either (especially with them putting a 2 in the title), but let’s find out!!

Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy), the soon to be king of Zamunda, has been living the last thirty years in luxury and bliss with his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) and their three daughters (KiKi Layne, Bella Murphy, and Akiley Love) in the beautiful palace that I’m sure is not an opulent eyesore and a constant reminder of wealth inequality in the region!  Surely not when they are being menaced by the neighboring warlord General izzi (Wesley Snipes) who wants his own son to be married to Akeem’s oldest.  After all, the law says No Chicks Allowed and therefore a woman can’t be the leader, so perhaps Akeem’s happy little life is about to get quite complicated.  As luck would have it however, the King (James Earl Jones) has been keeping a secret from Akeem as it turns out he has a son living in Queens that he conceived during his trip there thirty odd years ago.  Must have happened when we weren’t looking I guess.  We were probably all getting more popcorn.  So Akeem, with the help of his loyal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) must return to the United States and bring his son back to be groomed as the next Prince and eventual heir to the throne; something that doesn’t sit right with his eldest daughter who was hoping to find a way to ascend to the throne as well as his wife who’s a bit perturbed that he conceived a child about a week before they started dating.  His son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) has his own reservations as it’s a pretty sweet deal to be plucked out of obscurity to become a big shot, but being a Prince isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be even if it means the easy life for his mother (Leslie Jones) and his uncle (Tracy Morgan).  Will Prince Akeem be able to ascend to the throne as King with a competent heir by his side, or will the culture shock for Lavelle be too great for him and his family to handle? What will General Izzi do now that his master scheme is about to be unraveled, and will Lavelle suffer the consequences of his newly found father’s machinations?  Or will it be about none of that and everyone will spend most of the movie spouting lines from the first one?

“I’m getting too old for this spit.”     “Wrong movie.  And wrong line.”     “Oh who cares?  It’s a PG-13 sequel; you get what you pay for.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Bliss

Bliss and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Mike Cahill

So hey!  Either studios are getting bolder in 2021 and are actually releasing stuff, or I’m finally paying attention and now have about two months’ worth of releases to look forward to across my various streaming services!  I’m definitely ready to get back on that movie reviewing horse (even though this review is coming out almost a week after the movie did), and what better film to herald this renewed vigor than a movie literally named after a word for happiness!  So does Amazon’s sci-fi take on a less action heavy Matrix (or a less dreamlike Eternal Sunshine) prove to be as good as the title promises, or is the true bliss the moment you decide to turn the movie off?  Let’s find out!!

Gregg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is your typical upper middle class miserable white dude.  He’s recently divorced, he hates his job, and while he loves his kids they’re pretty much grown now and there seems to be some issues there he doesn’t feel like confronting.  Instead, he spends his time drawing pictures of a better life which may be cathartic for him but because that’s ALL he does at work he ends up getting fired.  Just as well, I mean the place is a dismal office building with all life and personality scrubbed out of it, but in the real world you can’t just get fired and let everything fall to the wayside.  Or can you!?  Drinking his misery away, Gregg meets a woman named Isabel Clemens (Salma Hayek) who recognizes him as someone special and whisks him away on an adventure of homelessness and telekinetic powers!  Why?  Well according to Isabella, this is a fake reality that she built and that nothing here matters!  The people are fake, the boredom is fake, the lousy jobs are all fake, and she’s here to show Mr. Wittle that’s he’s not so Wittle after all!  Seems like an enticing proposition and there is certainly some evidence to support this, but there are also many questions as well that Isabel either has a convenient technobabble excuse for or is outright hesitant to confront, so does Greg dare to hope that his boring meaningless life can be changed in an instant by this benevolent benefactor?  If everything is a simulation though, doesn’t that mean his kids aren’t real either?  How would you even define if they are real if the feelings are genuinely there?  Can we call Morpheus in to explain this?  He’s pretty good at this kind thing.s

“Real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain, and guess who’s got a Taser!” “Whoa.” “Heck YEAH, whoa!”
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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: Brittany Runs a Marathon

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

Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo

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

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

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

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Cinema Dispatch: Late Night

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Late Night and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Nisha Ganatra

I’m fairly certain that my usual theater had a poster for this and then just decided not to actually screen it so this is yet another trip to the far away theater (i.e. thirty minutes away) which honestly is usually a good sign.  Not always, in fact this is the exact same story that preceded The Green Inferno, but the movies that aren’t wide enough for my local theater to get are usually have a lot more going for them; for good or ill.  I hadn’t heard much about this movie and only have a vague idea of the premise, but the cast is very talented and I’m always intrigued by entertainment that’s ABOUT the making of entertainment which is always a journey in its own right.  Does this glimpse into the world of late night television give us a funny and insightful look at the behind the scenes action, or will this end up being as boring as… I don’t know whichever one of those shows is the worst?  Let’s find out!!

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is the host of a late night show that has been running for over twenty years, yet despite such a phenomenal legacy and a small army of Emmy awards behind her, the new network President Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan) tells her that the show will be cancelled in a few months and that she’ll be replaced with a hip young talent that gets those pesky millennials!  With basically nothing left to lose, she starts to do the one thing she has come to fear in the last ten years; actually try.  I know, truly a fate worse than death.  Part of her initiate to revitalize the show includes hiring someone in the writers room whose only qualification is to NOT BE A WHITE GUY, and as luck would have it Molly (Mindy Kaling) is interviewing that day and meets those very stringent qualifications!  Sure, she’s never written for a comedy show ever, but why should that stop her from filling up space and shielding the show from further criticisms of being too old and too white?  AH HA!  It’s not as simple as that however!  For you see, Molly is not JUST a blatant diversity hire!  She actually has good ideas, some decent writing chops, and may just be what this crusty old talk show needs in order to genuinely appeal to today’s audience instead of whatever crap Katherine and the other writers were gonna try to fake their way into relevance!  Can Molly learn to thrive in this dinosaur of a work place and find the right balance between respecting its legacy and changing it for the better?  Will Katherine realize what she’s been doing wrong all this time and genuinely change for the better before losing the best thing she has in her life?  Well I mean she has her husband (John Lithgow), but is he paying the bills around here!?  I DON’T THINK SO!!

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Not EVERYONE can go to TBS, alright!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Suspiria

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Suspiria and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Look if the choice is between an Argento film getting a remake or Argento making another movie, let’s just say I know better than to ask for the latter. Yes, in our never ending quest to make sure every movie gets remade every thirty years (*cough* Pet Sematary *cough*), the Dario Argento classic is getting its chance at nice and shiny new version that if nothing else seems to have some serious talent backing it; not just with actors Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton as the leads, but the guy who directed Call Me By Your Name (a film I still haven’t gotten around to seeing) heading up this reinterpretation. Will this be even HALF as scary as the original film’s trailer with that super creepy skull reveal, or will all the talent in the world fail to capture what Argento did all those years ago? Let’s find out!!

The movie for the most part follows Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) who is a rather gifted dancer from the far off lands of the US Midwest and has moved to the Markos Dance Academy in 1977 West Berlin. It was rather fortuitous by the way that there was even an opening for her because one of the other dancers (Chloë Grace Moretz) JUST SO HAPPENED to “leave” the school and has “gone back home” despite none of her friends having no idea that she was doing that or even getting a phone number to reach her at. Yeah, it doesn’t take long to realize that suspicious things are going on behind the scenes, and while the movie is coy with details and specifics it definitely seems to be a bunch of witches running this school; not figuratively even though some of them can be quite unbearable, but in a very literal sense. It seems that the coven is in need of… a sacrifice I think and that Susie might just be the one they’re looking for; assuming they can manage not to screw this whole scheme up before she’s ready. Easier said than done I’m afraid because despite the presumed head witch Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) knowing just what is at stake if they act recklessly, the rest of them seem to have their own agendas that might just conflict with Blanc’s as well as the secretive Miss Markos (Tilda Swinton again) who we hear is quite eager to get this sacrifice ready to go. None of this is helped by the missing girl’s therapist Dr. Josef Klemperer (wait, that’s Tilda Swinton too!?) who is looking into the school to see if any of the girl’s claims about secret cults and magic powers might prove to have at least a shred of truth to them and if there was some foul play involved with her disappearance. Will Susie uncover the horrifying plot against her and find a way to escape such an unfortunate fate? Just what are the witches hoping to achieve with her, and is it in all of their best interests to play along with the scheme? No seriously, that’s Tilda Swinton as the old guy!? Why didn’t anyone tell me before I saw the movie!?

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“Am I late for the Cloud Atlas audition?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Gringo

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Gringo and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios and STX Entertainment

Directed by Nash Edgerton

Hey, if Netflix is gonna try to produce feature films, then why not Amazon too!?  Heck, they’ve had a pretty good track record with distributing films like The Handmaiden and The Big Sick, and some of the original programming on their video service has been pretty decent too!  Hopefully they can translate that success into this wacky comedy which has a PRETTY good trailer but not a whole lot of buzz, though it’s not entirely their fault considering how much Black Panther and even A Wrinkle in Time have dominated the national discussion around film; leaving films like this to just kinda slink in wherever they can.  Does Amazon have a great film on their hands that’s unjustly falling under the radar, or should they have sent this straight to their storefront where no one will ever actually buy it?  Let’s find out!!

Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) is a well to do middle management corporate drone who is incredibly content with his current life living with his wife Bonnie (Thandie Newton) and working for Richard and Elaine (Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron) at a pharmaceutical company he very much likes.  The problem is that at every turn, the people in his life continually disrespect him and see him less as a valuable asset and friend, and more of an errand boy that also functions as a doormat.  Eventually Harold gets wise to this during a trip that he along with Richard and Elaine take to Mexico in order to inspect one of the facilities, and the straw that breaks the camel’s back comes when Bonnie decides to divorce him; something that she tells him over skype.  Having something of a nervous breakdown, Harold takes a bus to a small town in Mexico and fakes his own kidnapping once Richard and Elaine are back in Chicago.  Little does Harold know however that the Cartel is after him due to his connection to the pharmaceutical company, so his little ruse might turn out to be more of a prophecy!  On top of that, we’ve got a couple trying to sneak drugs from Mexico back to the US (Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway), a mercenary who may be able to get Harold out of the jam he’s in (Sharlto Copley), and like four other subplots that are going on at the same time as Harold’s misadventures in Mexico.  Will Harold be able to bilk his employers out of a crap load of money before he gets captured by the Cartel?  What was Richard and Elaine doing that got the eye of the Cartel in the first place, and what will they do to get Harold out of the mess he’s in?  Most importantly, HOW DID THEY MANAGE TO MAKE A STORY LIKE THIS SO BORING!?

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“Hello?  Has anyone seen the plot?  I can’t find it anywhere!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Big Sick

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The Big Sick and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate

Directed by Michael Showalter

I try to keep up with who the big up and coming comedians are, but I often find myself under a giant rock when something like this comes out starring a guy who I’ve CERTAINLY seen in other movies like Fist Fight and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but wasn’t aware of his output beyond that.  I’ve never seen Silicon Valley which seems to be Kumail Nanjiani’s biggest role to date (though he DID play Prismo in Adventure Time) so this is gonna be the first time that I’ve seen him in a starring role as opposed to a funny secondary character in REALLY mediocre or outright awful comedies, and apparently it’s somewhat autobiographical which makes it even MORE representative of what this guy is all about.  Does Kumail’s big debut as a leading man in his own life story manage to hit the mark and hopefully launch him into super stardom, or is this just a failed vanity project whose only purpose will be as a piece of trivia for Silicon Valley fans?  Let’s find out!

The movie is based on the real story about Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with Emily V Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan but Emily V Gordon is the co-writer here) and the hardships they had to endure along the way.  Kumail is living the Stand-Up Comedy dream of a crappy apartment and shitty comedy club gigs while Emily is working towards her masters in Psychology when the two of them meet and quickly fall for each other.   Sadly, life keeps getting in the way of their happiness as Kumail’s mother and father (Zenobia Shroff and Anupam Kher) still expect him to marry a Pakistani woman and he doesn’t have the heart to either confront his parents about this or to tell Emily about their plans for him.  Things eventually come to a head, I won’t spoil too much here, but there’s a tragedy that happens where Emily is in the hospital and Kumail has no idea what to do; especially when her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) enter the picture and are immediately skeptical of Kumail.  Now Kumail is stuck in the worst of all cases; trying to coddle two sets of parents who are looking out for their kids and making terrible mistakes, and also trying to figure out exactly what he wants and how hard he’s willing to fight for it.  Will Emily overcome whatever illness has struck her so severely?  Will the two of them manage to overcome whatever issues they may have and properly fight for each other’s happiness?   Does anyone else think this might be a new benchmark for romantic comedies!?  Maybe not one of the BEST, but it sure feels like it’s gonna have an impact, right!?

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“This is a lot like Annie Hall!”     “Hmm… let’s not.”     “Yeah, you’re right.  Uh… Groundhog Day?”

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