Cinema Dispatch: Bullet Train, Elvis, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

We’re back with a few more movie reviews, and I’ve got to say that I’m starting to enjoy this format! I still get to watch the movies I want to, but now I can watch them on my own schedule and I keep things nice and succinct. The only problem is that I’m not getting these out in a timely manner, but relevance is overrated, am I right!? Anyway, let’s take a look at three movies that I’m sure you saw a while ago but are still interested to hear what some guy on the internet has to say about them! Let’s get started!!

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Bullet Train

Bullet Train is owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by David Leitch

A hapless assassin given the codename Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is on a very simple mission to retrieve a briefcase on a train heading to Kyoto. Naturally, these kinds of things never are that easy and he laments his bad luck while dodging other assassins on the train, and is haphazardly embroiled in a plot that is bigger than he could possibly imagine and seems to be heading in one very bloody direction.

I’m not a guy who will turn his nose up at over-the-top action spectacles or something that is intentionally cheesy and a movie like this should have been my jam by default, but even the best ingredients will go to waste if given to an untalented chef, and I just found this whole thing to be insufferable. It’s convoluted without being clever, smarmy without the charm to make up for it, and artificial to the point that nothing seems to actually matter. The only part of the movie that resonated with me was the relationship between Lemon and Tangerine as Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson had great chemistry and added some genuine heart to an otherwise insincere story, and while I feel like this is one of the most Monkeys’ Paw wishes imaginable, I’d kind of like to see what could be done with a spinoff focusing on them specifically. Andrew Koji also stands out from everything else with a very angry and desperate performance that’s still about as one-note as everything else in the movie, but at least it’s a different note being played and does a great job playing it. Everything else though is just laden with insufferable dialogue and compounding coincidences that just drain any investment you can have in the characters or the plot itself; especially our protagonist who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. For that kind of story to work, it has to ultimately circle back around to them actually being the right person to be there, but that would require a level of emotional investment that this movie is just unwilling to extend and so Brad Pitt feels like as distant to the story as those of us sitting in the theater watching him awkwardly stumble his way through a place he doesn’t belong; like an uninvited party guest asking everyone where the bathroom is. With the threadbare story, the quip-tastic dialogue, and the general lack of impact or weight from any of the narrative beats, it falls somewhere between a Rick and Morty episode and one of those award show skits with a bunch of celebrities are comically inserted into another movie. If we take it on these terms, as little more than entertainment fluff with a bunch of famous people in it, does it manage to work? Sort of, I guess. It’s competent in its action and the actors are fine for what they’re asked to do, but it’s also not that inspiring or clever in its shallowness and I had my fill of everything it had to offer well before it got to its big cameos at the end. At best it’s a misguided attempt from Hollywood to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle magic of early Tarantino as well as the director’s own early success with John Wick, and at worst it’s the cinematic equivalent of Steve Buscemi in a backwards baseball cap asking his fellow kids how they are doing. It’s not without its charms, but why settle for the smoothed-over corporate version of stylized action shlock when the genuine article is easier to find than ever?

2 out of 5

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Cinema Dispatch: Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by David Gordon Green

It looks like the only thing that could stop Michael Myers was a global Pandemic as this was supposed to come out last Halloween, but I guess any October is a good time to release a new installment of this series.  The 2018 film was a breath of fresh air in a franchise that went off the rails in several different ways, but the ending left me rather cold as it was clearly there to make room for a sequel instead of giving us a definitive end to the story.  Now that sequel is here so it’s time to find out if it was worth undercutting the dramatic conclusion to the last film to get one more story out of this new continuity.  Is this the proper conclusion we were hoping to get in the last movie, or should they have ended the series then and there?  Lets’ find out!!

Continuing where the last movie left off, Laurie Strode along with her daughter and granddaughter Karen and Allyson (Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak) are speeding away from her burning house with Michael Myers (James Judy Courtney and Nick Castle) trapped inside; a plan that seemed dubious when we saw it three years ago and now we can see exactly why as Michael manages to survive the fire and kills a bunch of firefighters in the process.  Over the course of the evening, it becomes clear to the whole town of Haddonfield that Michael Myers is still on the loose and wreaking havoc wherever he goes, so it’s up to the people of that town including a fully grown Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) to lead the charge and put an end to this murder once and for all!  While all this is going on, Laurie is in the hospital recovering from Michael’s attack and Karen is doing what she can to keep her family together despite Allyson being in the throes of grief and seeking revenge wherever she can find it.  Can this town put an end to this shadow that has been hanging over them since that fateful night in 1978?  What will it take to put Michael down once and for all, and is it something that can be done without losing more lives and perhaps even the soul of this town?  Seriously, Laurie.  You couldn’t put two in the head for good measure before lighting the house on fire?  Heck, you could have at least thrown a bit of gasoline on him!

If we don’t learn that Michael is actually a Highlander, I’m gonna start questioning the seriousness of this series!
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Halloween Kills”

Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (Halloween Kills)

Halloween Kills is owned by Universal Pictures and all the images you see in this trailer talk are the property of their respective owners

The Halloween sequel from 2018 (which was actually the THIRD sequel to the original  movie; fourth if you count the sequel to the Rob Zombie reboot) had a VERY clear path to a sequel which I thought was to its detriment.  For me, finishing off the series, at least as far as Jamie Lee Curtis’s involvement with it, in one final definitive perfect movie would have been preferable to… well pretty much what they did the LAST time they brought Jamie Lee Curtis back.  In H20, she definitively killed Michael Myers and ended the nightmare, but then they made a sequel to bring him back and it was the worst Halloween film; yes, even worse than either cut of Curse.  Well despite my protestations, Universal and Blum House are going ahead with the sequel and we have our first trailer to check out.  Let’s see what they’ve got for us aside from a very awkward title!

Now it’s hard to say how any of it will work until we see the movie, but what’s interesting is that they are pretty much following the ORIGINAL sequel formula which is to have it take place on the same night after Laurie is taken to the hospital and have most of the action take place there.  They sort of did that at the start of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II as a misdirection before jumping ahead to several months later, but here they seem to be playing it fairly straight which COULD work I suppose, but so much of this trailer feels like retreading what we saw in the last movie.  Laurie is determined to kill Michael Myers, the cops are completely ineffectual, and somehow Michael manages to find the rest of Laurie’s family.  There also seems to be a shift in Laurie’s character based on the dialogue in this trailer which is raising some red flags for me as well.  In the last movie she was the only one who REALLY understood Michael, not as a fascinating glimpse into the human psyche like the podcasters or Dr. Sartain and not as a mere annoyance to be dealt with like the Sherriff, but as a mere mortal who is capable of great evil.  Her references to him being THE BOOGEYMAN as a coy put down of the myth people want to build up around him is also a defense mechanism to try and keep herself above everyone else and therefore justify her survivalist lifestyle.  Here, she’s talking about how each kill makes Michael grow stronger; like he’s a freaking Highlander.  Perhaps the lines are worded differently in the final film, but it feels like we’re going down the same road that the latter sequels did in making Michael more than he actually is.

“You ever see his eyes? They’re black eyes… soulless eyes, like a doll’s eyes…” “I mean he does wear a mask.” “THAT’S NOT THE POINT!!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Halloween

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

Directed by David Gordon Green

It’s finally judgement day for the movie that certainly has a lot of hype behind it, but has left me rather skeptical.  I mean look, I love the franchise but the last three movies were two wild as heck romps through the mind of Rob Zombie and a karate match with Busta Rhymes, so even if this isn’t all that great it still has a PRETTY low bar to clear as far as making a faithful return to the original formual.  That’s not what we want though, right?  That’s not what’s been promised to us!  John Carpenter is producing, Jamie Lee Curtis is back, and they even managed to get one of the original Michael Myers actors to return to the role!  This isn’t just A Halloween sequel, this is going to be THE Halloween sequel; even more so than the one Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote!  The expectations surrounding this movie is absurdly high which means we’re either gonna see something just as great as everyone promised it would be… or we’ll have another Texas Chainsaw 3D situation where it was all hype and zero payoff.  Can Jamie Lee Curtis and company give this franchise the proper sendoff it deserves, or were we better off just letting H20 be the final entry in her story and just pretending that Resurrection didn’t exist?  Let’s find out!!

Nearly forty years after that fateful Halloween night where Michael Myers (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) escaped and murdered five teenagers, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is still dealing with the scars that Michael left and has spent her whole life preparing for his return.  She got a place out in the woods to turn into a survivalist fortress, learned how to use all sorts of weapons, and just sat there waiting which she proceeded to do for four decades.  Admittedly a good idea if we want to see a badass battle to the death, but not so much when it comes to her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) who spent a good chunk of her childhood with Alternate Sarah Connor and just like John she got her ass hauled off by the state to be left with parents who will help her with her homework instead of teaching her thirty ways to sever a juggler.  All that’s in the past though, right?  Well Karen is certainly STILL in Haddonfield, but despite living within a short commute of her mother she still refuses to get involved with her, and now her own daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) is in high school… just like Laurie was when Michael Myers came to town!  Well that CAN’T just be a coincidence, now can it!?  Sure enough, Michael escapes from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium just like he did in the first one and it just so happens to be Halloween night.  You’d think that if they were gonna transport him to another sanitarium that they wouldn’t do it on the anniversary of his TWO murder sprees (remember, he killed his sister on Halloween night when he was just a little boy), but I guess that wouldn’t fit in with their schedule and there was no room in the budget for another trip!  Now with Michael out in the streets of Haddonfield one more time, Laurie is determined to see him put in the ground once and for all and can finally rid herself of this nightmare that has plagued her for the last forty years!  Will Laurie be able to survive one more night against the silent killer in a goofy mask?  Was all this preparation worth the effort, or has she already lost more trying to protect everyone than she may lose tonight?  How many bad ass one liners do you think she came up with while training for this night?

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“Merry Christmas, Michael.  Wait… DAMN IT!  Forty years of practice and I STILL screwed it up!”

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Halloween”

Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (Halloween)

HALLOWEENTTCD0Halloween is owned by Universal Pictures and all the images you see in this trailer talk are the property of their respective owners

Directed by David Gordon Green

So it’s no surprise that we were gonna get another Halloween movie at some point.  In fact, last time I heard at least, it was going to be a sequel with Michael in jail on the day of his execution and running wild in the prison which would have been an INTERESTING idea I guess, it was eventually scrapped once Dimension lost the rights to the franchise in 2015.  Instead, we’re going back to basics with one last tale of Michael and Laurie resolving their differences with extreme acts of violence, and they even got Jamie Lee Curtis to take up the mantle one last time.  So now that we have a trailer, what do I think of it?  I guess I LIKE it, but I’m not in love with it.  Jamie Lee Curtis is always great, and David Gordon Green is an… interesting choice for director (this is the dude who did the stoner trifecta of Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and The Sitter), and yet it doesn’t seems suspiciously safe for a movie about a guy who commits vicious knife murders.

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“Hey, how’s it going?  Having a fun Halloween?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Our Brand Is Crisis

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Our Brand Is Crisis and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by David Gordon Green

I’m pretty sure I saw a trailer for this before every single movie in the last four or five months.  Now that we finally get a chance to see this political dramedy about campaign management, does it actually turn out to be any good?  Well this is basically a hodgepodge of people we like but who don’t always make the best career choices, such as Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, David Gordon Green as the director, and even George Clooney who’s producing this and will sometimes have a misstep.  Will this be another great film from people we know can make great movies, or is this gonna be one big disaster that we only sometimes expect from them?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows Sandra Bullock as Jane (colloquially known as Calamity Jane) who was at one time the best campaign manager in the United States.  She won many elections in her career but along the way she developed a drug habit and became an alcoholic to the point that she started to become a laughing stock in her field and eventually checked into the Betty Ford clinic.  The movie picks up several years later and she’s spent the intervening time alone in the woods in exile or something until two campaign managers Ben and Nell (Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd) who are working on a campaign in Bolivia and are so far behind that they’re desperate enough to try and call Jane out of retirement.  When she finds out that their opponent is being managed by her rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) she agrees to go there and help out, but is quickly unimpressed by what she finds.  A candidate who seems checked out and disinterested, a staff composed of idiots who can’t even speak Spanish, and polls that put the guy over twenty points behind their opposition.  Can Jane get back into the swing of things and whip this campaign into shape, or will she end up losing herself again throughout this whole ordeal!?

“What do you think our chances are?”     “Honestly?  I think Rick Santorum had a better chance of winning the presidency.”     “2012 Santorum, or 2016 Santorum?”     “Does it matter?”     “I guess not.”
“What do you think our chances are?”     “Honestly?  I think Rick Santorum had a better chance of winning the presidency.”     “2012 Santorum, or 2016 Santorum?”     “Does it matter?”     “I guess not.”

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Our Brand Is Crisis”