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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: It Comes at Night

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It Comes at Night and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24

Directed by Trey Edward Shults

I have to see movies ALL the time which means I see a lot of trailers over and over again, and while it doesn’t really affect my opinion of a film once I see it, it does make the movie going experience a bit more tiresome.  That’s why I love it when there’s a trailer that genuinely intrigues me and does something different from everything else I have to sit through when waiting for the movie to start.  That was the case with this film which was very minimal in its approach and yet EXTREMELY effective as it was mostly a long slow shot as we got closer and closer to a red door.  WHAT’S BEHIND THE DOOR!?  Well the day has come for us all to find out!  Will this be a new benchmark for the horror genre, or was it a REALLY great trailer for a mediocre movie?  Let’s find out!!

We start the movie with someone clearly dying of a horrific disease and their family surrounding them; wearing gas masks and saying their final goodbyes.  The head of the household Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) take the sick man who turns out to be Travis’s grandfather (David Pendleton) out into the woods, put him out of his misery with a bullet to the head, and set the body on fire before burying it.  Clearly something bad has happened to the world and this family which also includes Travi’s mother Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) is trying to survive.  The modicum of stability they built up however is disrupted when a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks into their house looking for food for his family, and after an intense interrogation scene Paul decides to let him and his family which includes his wife Kim and their little son Stanley (Riley Keough and a child actor known simply as Mikey with no other acting credits) stay in the house that’s been fortified to withstand… whatever it is that’s out there.  Of course, this being a post-apocalyptic film, things start to go wrong rather quickly as the greatest threat is not the virus, or zombies, or whatever could possibly be happening… its MAN HIMSELF!  Will everyone in this house learn to chillax and survive with one another, or are they all too paranoid to let the other’s live?  What is Travis hiding from everyone else and what is the cause of these dreams he keeps having that are keeping him up at night?  Is this gonna turn out to be a sequel to The Village!?

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Honestly, that would have been a MUCH better movie…

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Cinema Dispatch: Alien: Covenant

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

Directed by Ridley Scott

Before I get into the review proper, I feel it might be worth discussing my thoughts on the series as a whole in order to provide the proper context for everything else I’m about to say.  Ridley Scott’s original film from 1979 probably holds up the best; even more so than James Cameron’s Aliens from 1986 which is still a VERY fun action film and one of the few BIGGER IS BETTER sequels out there (matched only by his own Terminator 2 in 1991).  I give the edge to the original because it’s a straight up horror film and those tend to hold up better than shoot-em-action flicks (the quality of special effects changes rather quickly while what scares us transcends generations), but both are damn near the pinnacles of their respective genres.  Alien 3… not so much.  Oh sure, there’s PLENTY of aspects in it that are outright brilliant and awe inspiring (as well as bone chilling and utterly haunting), but they’re all wasted on a portentous and sluggish script that’s too impressed with its own sense of self-importance to pace itself properly, and yes I’m referring to the Assembly Cut which has most of the stuff that David Fincher wanted in it.  The one thing this movie DIDN’T need was to be over two freaking hours (also, killing the most interesting new character off halfway through didn’t help things either).  That said I would watch that movie TWICE if it meant I never had to watch Resurrection again.  Good GRIEF is that a monstrous product of its time!  I don’t think I’ve seen a franchise so thoroughly 90s-ified in the worst ways imaginable outside of that Roland Emmerich Godzilla movie!  Needless to say that the franchise needed a fresh start in order to get things back on track; and it wasn’t gonna be with those FREAKING Alien vs Predator movies!  I REALLY enjoyed Prometheus which seems to be a minority opinion for some reason, and I’m not sure why.  No matter how “scientifically minded” you are, there is always gonna be things you didn’t expect when traveling to ANOTHER FREAKING PLANET and people are gonna make mistakes!  Honestly, it seems less like a true critical consensus (film stands at a solid 72% on Rotten Tomatoes) than some inexplicable backlash due to it… not being completely scientifically accurate I guess?  What was your first clue?  Was it the giant humanoid albino dudes or the baby alien growing in that one person’s stomach?  Now I didn’t know ANYTHING about Alien: Covenant walking into it other than it was Ridley Scott directing and that it will indeed have Xenomorphs throughout, but considering how much I liked Prometheus I was hopeful that some of the cool stuff Ridley was working with in that movie would find its way into this seemingly straightforward Alien creature feature.  Does Ridley Scott succeed in his true return to the franchise he started all those years ago, or it time to end this bug hunt once and for all?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with the crew of the Covenant, a spaceship with thousands of cryogenically frozen humans and almost as many frozen embryos, being violently woken up due to some sort of science catastrophe.  Now normally the crew is left to sleep with the passengers, all of whom are headed to a new planet to colonize it, while their Synthetic buddy Walter (Michael Fassbender) takes care of everything, but with this… solar flare or something?  I don’t know, let’s just go with that.  With this solar flare causing havoc on the ship, all of them need to be woken up and at their posts to avert disaster.  Most of them are fine, but sadly enough the captain (James Franco in a very brief and crispy cameo) gets burned alive in the chaos; leaving the second in command Chris Oram (Billy Crudup) in charge.  So already things are going pear shaped on this trip that’s gonna take another seven years to complete, but they just so happen to pick up a strange signal that might be the answer to their problems.  The signal traces back to a rather close planet which they scan and find to be very hospitable to their needs, even more so than the planet they were heading to in the first place!  Despite the protestations of one the scientists Danny Branson (Katherine Waterston), Chris decides to at least investigate the place and see if they can locate the source of the strange signal as well as check if the planet really is as good as their scans indicate it to be.  Of course it’s not.  You KNOW it’s not.  This movie isn’t called Pleasant Space Cruise; it’s called ALIEN COVENANT!  The question isn’t IF they’re gonna get killed by monsters; it’s HOW MANY of them will!  Aside from the obvious revelations, does the crew of the Covenant find something unexpected on this seemingly perfect planet?  What was the source of that strange signal to begin with?  Maybe it’s someone from one of the other films who’s playing someone new in this movie!?

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My multiple lips are sealed!

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Cinema Dispatch: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by David Yates

Well DC certainly isn’t about to keep Warner Bros solvent for years to come, so it’s time to dip back into the Harry Potter well and Accio them some of that sweet franchise cash!  Now despite the somewhat desperate circumstances surrounding the studio behind this film, there is a lot of potential here as JK Rowling wrote the script for it and David Yates has returned once again to direct.  Then again… neither one of them has had much luck with their creative endeavors since the last Potter film, particular David Yates whose Legend of Tarzan earlier this year is one of the many domestic flops Warner Bros has had to deal with in the last few years.  Huh.  Well I’m SURE none of that is important when it comes to this film which promises to get us all back to waving overpriced wands and repurchasing the book sets once again!  Does this latest entry in the Potter Franchise manage to inject some new life to build a new slate of films from, or is this a desperate cash grab form a lot of people who haven’t found a way to move on from this series?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arriving in New York City with nothing more than the clothes on his back and his TARDIS like suitcase full of magical creatures.  He’s come to the US in search of yet another magical creature to further his research, yet things start to go sideways once his suitcase’s latch starts malfunctioning which gives some of the more rascally creatures a chance to escape.  You’d think that tying a belt around it would solve the issue, but maybe he would need a MAGIC belt and simply didn’t have one available at the time.  Anyway, one of the creatures does get loose which is quickly retrieved, but not before a No-maj (the American word for Muggle) named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) sees too much as well as Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) who seems to work for the US Ministry of Magic  and wants to bring Newt in for questioning.  Sadly for all involved, shenanigans ensue and Newt’s suitcase is broken wide open for even MORE creatures to escape which means that he must roam the streets of New York looking for them with Tina and Jacob in tow in an attempt to keep things nice and quiet as well as avoid jail time for all three of them.  Of course, that’s not ALL that’s going on here as there seem to be some deeper intrigue involving a REALLY on the nose religious group known as the New Salem Church (subtle) being led by some zealot (Samantha Morton) and there might even be some traitorous players in the US Ministry of Magic that are helping them in their goals of hunting down magic users.  Will Newt manage to get his creatures back before animal control either kills them or gets eaten themselves?  What exactly is the New Salem church after, as well as those inside the wizarding world who are VERY closely looking at their activities?  How the hell did Newt even get mixed up in all this!?  HE JUST WANTED TO BUY SOMETHING!!

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“I know what you all are thinking, but I can ABSOLUTELY explain.”

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