Cruella and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Now I’m sure that 101 Dalmatians is a classic and that Cruella is a great villain in it, but the fact is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I just don’t have any attachment or fondness for it. What I DO have attachment and fondness for however is Maleficent which was a brilliant deconstruction of the fairy tale mythos and made an otherwise one note villain into a complex character with depth and pathos. It’s clear that this is the template that Disney is using for this reimagining of Cruella De Vil with a sprinkling of Joker throw in for good measure, and frankly that’s what got me interested in this movie more than whatever connection it has to the Disney classic. Does it manage to be another outside the box interpretation of the Disney formula, or are they scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find anything else that people want to see again? Let’s find out!!
There once was a girl named Estella Miller who had really awesome black and white hair and she knew that one day she would become a world famous fashion designer! That or a professional MMA fighter because every day in school she was getting in fights with the boys and telling teachers off for being fools which eventually forced her beleaguered mother (Emily Beecham) to take her out of the countryside and to the town of London where she may find her place. Along the way however, her mother makes a stop at an old friend’s house, and… well this IS a Disney movie, so it’s not long before things spiral out of control there and Estella is left an orphan through rather ludicrous means. Without anywhere else to go, she heads to London and meets up with two street punks who take her in and as they survive the means streets of London by pick-pocketing for their bread; and this is BEFORE Thatcher’s Britain! As is wont to happen, Estelle does grow up into a bright young woman (Emma Stone) who gets a job working for the biggest fashion designer in the city simply known as The Baroness (Emma Thompson) and for reasons that I shan’t spoil here, Estelle gets VERY cross with The Baroness and decides to assume an alter ego as the Fashionista Cruella who will take London by storm at the expense of her current employer! With the help of her two ruffian friends Jasper and Horace (Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser), will she become the fashion icon that she always dreamed of with getting back at The Baroness as a fun bonus? Is this Estelle just lashing out at the unfairness of the world around her, or perhaps is Estelle the mask that Cruella has been forced to wear this whole time? Perhaps there’s a little Cruella in all of us; just yearning to tell the collective bosses of the world where to shove it!
Dolittle and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Stephen Gaghan
My GOODNESS have studios been putting out some high priced nonsense recently! We are definitely stuck in the Billion Dollar Blockbuster Bubble where every studio wants nothing but the most expensive movies to maximize their profits, but as is the nature with bubbles all the money Is usually dried up by the time everyone else tries to get in on it which is why Disney is still sitting pretty on their mountain of gold and everyone else is making stuff like Cats and that awful Tarzan movie. With this being the current trend, someone making an overpriced adventure film about Dr. Doolittle feels almost inevitable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be bad! I LOVE me some overpriced entertainment like Jupiter Ascending and Final Fantasy XIII, so maybe Dr. Doolittle being played by Iron Man and co-starring a wrestler as a CGI polar bear is just what I need to cleanse the palate and finally kick off the GOOD parts of 2020 which so far has been pretty plodding at the multiplex! Is this retelling of the classic story the start of another beloved blockbuster franchise, or are we in for a disaster to rival even that of Cats!? Let’s find out!!
Taking place AFTER what I presume is the actual Dr. Dolittle story, we find that the intrepid physician who can talk to animals (Robert Downey Jr) has gone fully Will Wonka and is holed up inside his giant wildlife preserve; refusing to see any visitors, human or otherwise. That all changes when one day, out of PURE LUCK, he gets TWO visitors who insist on seeing him! The first is Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) who is on assignment from the Queen despite being all of twelve years old, and Tommy (Harry Collett) who shot a squirrel and has brought the wounded creature to Dolittle because he feels bad. Lady Rose is there to inform him that the Queen is dying and requires his help which he reluctantly agrees to, and determines that she’s dying of McGuffin’s Disease which can only be cured by a fabled fruit on an uncharted island, so he takes some of his animals friends (Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, and Octavia Spencer just to name a few) on a boat to get the fruit and save the Queen; hoping that once this is finished he can go back to brooding in his house all day. Oh, and Tommy is coming along too because… he loves animals too I guess? Will the Dolittle Crew get to the magic fruit in time to save the Queen? What challenges will they face along the way, and will some of it be intentional sabotage? If one of the cats from Cats was in this movie, would Dolittle be the only one who could talk to it!?
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!!
Men in Black: International and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by F Gary Gray
As tacky as it may seem, I kind of want to see MORE studios blatantly try to pick at the MCU’s carcass by snatching up its major talent and putting them in new scenarios with similar dynamics. It’s kind of like the cinematic equivalent of an Elseworld’s tale or maybe even one of those bizarre crossover comics where the X-Men are on the Enterprise or Doctor Who has to fight the Cenobites or whatever. Picking up both Chris Hemsworth in full on Thor Swagger mode and Tessa Thompson at the height of her popularity is probably the best thing this film has going for it because it certainly isn’t the name brand recognition. The first Men in Black movie was good but is older than the target audience of this film, the sequel was utter dreck despite having my beloved Johnny Knoxville in a fun supporting role, and I never even bothered with the third movie that this thankfully doesn’t seem to be a direct sequel to. Still, the concept is at least unique enough that you could still salvage it given the right talent which looks to be the case with its cast as well as being directed by F Gary Gray. Can the MIB be brought back from the dead to be the next big cinematic franchise, or are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the late nineties and early 2000s over and over again
Molly (Tessa Thompson) has spent the last twenty years looking for the mysterious Men in Black organization which tried to capture an alien in her childhood home but failed to do so and also failed to neuralyse her like they did her parents. It was a pretty serendipitous event as well because Molly is a bit of a loner and cares more about unlocking the mysteries of the universe than having friends or forming genuine human relationships; a trait prided in members of the MIB! Because of this as well as her ability to eventually find them, the current head of the New York branch Agent O (Emma Thompson) gives her a shot with the new moniker Agent M and sends her to London for training where she runs into Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) who is a big shot hero from a few years ago but seems to be in a bit of a slump. He and the head of the London branch High T (Liam Neeson) once stopped an alien invasion with nothing but a couple of weapons and their wits, but when a protection operation H takes M along on goes completely awry, it could spell the end of not just their careers but the Earth itself. They must solve the mystery of who wanted to kill H’s alien buddy Vungus the Ugly (Kayvan Novak) and whether or not there’s some greater conspiracy happening with the MIB that this is just a small part of. Oh yeah, and there’s a comic relief alien (Kumail Nanjiani) that does cute things and spouts sarcasm. Can M and H learn to work together and solve the mystery before MIB or something more dangerous catches up to them? Will the organization that prides itself on being secretive collapse into ruin due to the duplicitous nature of one of its own? Is it just me, or is it becoming increasingly hard to believe that THIS many people and THIS much equipment are STILL a complete mystery to the undiscerning masses; all of whom have smart phones and social media accounts?
Missing Link and all the images you see in this review are owned by Laika and United Artists Releasing
Directed by Chris Butler
I feel like I should be a hundred times more supportive of Laika and their filmography; especially considering how they can use all the help they can get. It’s not that I’ve disliked any of the movies I’ve seen (Coraline, Kubo, and now this), just that despite every they get right they’ve never quite managed to be the best animated films of their respective years and end up feeling like a second tier studio when they are clearly aspiring for the very best; kind of like a Studio Ghibli where they aren’t as prolific or well known as the Disneys and Dreamworks of the world, but have garnered massive respect and influence. Perhaps they will get there one and (some would say that they are already there) and their latest movie might just be what they need to make that dream that much more within their reach. Is this yet another masterpiece from one of the most creative animation studios working today or is this a misfire for a studio that can’t afford to have one of those right now? Let’s find out!!
The movie is set in the late nineteenth century and Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is the world’s premiere Cryptozoologist before that was a thing as he hunts down mythical creatures like The Loch Ness monster and fails to take decent pictures of them every single time. It’s a shame because the guy is a certifiable badass, but his deeds fall on less than enthusiastic ears as none believe his wild tales of mythical creatures; least of all the members of the Great Men society who snub his work and laugh behind his back. Frost is not one to give up however and after receiving a letter telling him that he can find the mysterious Sasquatch in the woods of Washington, he makes a bet with the society’s stuff leader Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) that he will gain acceptance into the organization if he can bring back proof of the creature! Sure enough, he does manage to find the legendary beast, but the plot starts to thicken as it turns out that Sasquatch can not only talk (Zack Galifianakis) but was also the one who wrote the letter. You see, he’s the last of his species up here in the Washington forest (I guess the others were all killed in some sort of massacre?) and wants to find safe passage to the Himalayas where he hears that similar creatures known as Yetis have lived for thousands of years, and he can definitely use a few more friends. Frost agrees to exchange evidence of the creature’s existence in exchange for taking him to his family and dubs him Mr. Link for the rest of the journey, and first mission is that Frost needs a map that is currently being held by an old friend of his Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) and she’s not about to give it up unless she gets to go on the journey too. However, Lord Piggot-Dunceby is getting REAL sick of Frost’s buffoonery and decides to hire a hitman (Timothy Olyphant) to kill him whether or not he finds the beast, so that’s something ELSE they’ll have to deal with on top of Mr. Link’s awkward and clumsy behavior as well as the treachery of traveling that far in this day and age. Will Mr. Link finally be reunited with his own kind and will Frost get the recognition he so desperately craves? What further challenges await them on their way to the Himalayas, and can their budding friendship endure such hardships? Seriously, this proper English explorer is traveling with this guy for weeks and he couldn’t spend an hour getting him a PROPER fitted suit!?
Beauty and the Beast and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios
Directed by Bill Condon
So Maleficent was good, as were the two Alice in Wonderland movies (WHAT!? THEY ARE!!), but what exactly is Disney’s end goal in trying to burn through their entire catalog in search of reigniting nostalgic fans to spend money on these stories once again? Sure, Mulan seems like a good idea, but they’ve got plans for live action adaptations of The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and even a Dumbo movie that’s been in development for almost three years now! Before all that though, we’ve got this remake of the classic 1991 film which seems to be the most… shall we say FAITHFUL, of the bunch so far as the trailers seem to imply that it’s basically shot for shot. Then again, they did bring Bill Condon on hand to direct who’s work includes Dream Girls and Chicago, as well as the ONE decent Twilight movie (*cough* Breaking Dawn Part 2 *cough*), so maybe there’s a bit more inspiration and creative flourish on hand than what we’ve been lead to believe from the marketing. Is this the yet another success for the Mouse House and the new direction they’re taking with their non-Marvel and Non-Star Wars films, or is this just a lazy cash grab for a studio that can do much better? Let’s find out!!
The movie is… well it’s Beauty and the Beast. Do you NEED me to tell you what it’s about? Ugh… fine. There once was a prince (Dan Stevens) who was total jerk. He rejected a beggar woman at his door which seems to be standard protocol in the Aristocracy, but this beggar was the one in ten thousand that you do not mess with as she turns out to be an Enchantress who puts a curse on the prince, his castle, and all of his servants. The prince, who is now a furry, has to find true love before time runs out which is determined by a magic rose slowly dying in his room or else the curse will be permanent and he will have to live as his fursona for all time! Now I wouldn’t think that would be TOO bad of an outcome (buff as all hell, no summer heat because the castle is in a perpetual winter, you don’t have to pay your servants anymore), but I guess it’ll do for a redemption arc. More important than that though is the story of Belle (Emma Watson) herself who is a bright young woman from the local village that can’t wait to live a life of excitement, adventure, and proper bathing habits; none of which she can find as long as she stays there. The village thinks she’s strange because she can read and stuff which makes her a bit of an outcast, but that doesn’t avert the local hottie Gaston (Luke Evans) from pursuing her with all his M’lady charms; backed up of course by his friend LeFou (Josh Gad) who’s just happy to be spending time with the big lug the same way Smithers finds working with Mr. Burns to be so rewarding! When disaster strikes and Belle’s father (Kevin Kline) is locked up by The Beast for trespassing on his land, Belle agrees to take his place and stay in the castle… FOREVER!! Admittedly not the BEST way to start a relationship, but maybe he can learn to stop acting like an uncouth animal from her example and maybe she can finally experience some of that adventure and wonder that has eluded her for so long. I mean… she’s STILL a prisoner, but it is at least a really nice prison! Will The Beast learn his lesson about giving poor people food (or was it finding love?) before it’s too late? What will Belle do now that she’s trapped in a magical castle with talking furniture, and will she find a way to escape her captor? Does anyone else think Ron Perlman should have been cast in this? Thirty years later, and he can STILL pull it off!
Burnt and all the images you see in this review are owned by The Weinstein Company
Directed by John Wells
Is Bradley Cooper going to be the next Leonardo DiCaprio? Seriously, the guy has been nominated THRICE for best actor, and lost it every time! Well after the overwhelming success that was American Sniper, the man is back to star in a movie about a guy who’s probably just as intense! Will Mr. Cooper’s foray into food porn and Gordon Ramsey mimicry be just what he needs to clench that Oscar gold that he has been denied for the last three years, or is this yet another missed opportunity for one of Hollywood’s most prominent actors? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the world renowned chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) who is getting back into the game after completely flaming out a couple of years back. The movie isn’t too specific about how he lost everything other than it involved drugs, but he’s been clean for quite some time now and is ready to claw his way back up the ladder. Well… by climb his way up, I mean he bullies a friend of his Tony (Daniel Bruhl) into making him head chef of his already prestigious restaurant, but that’s beside the point! He’s getting back some old friends like Michel (Omar Sy) who he screwed over in the past and wants to make amends with and Max (Riccardo Scamarcio) who just got out of jail for… something. It probably involved beating someone up over food. On top of his old friends who he’s getting to work in his new kitchen, he also has some new talent like David (Sam Keeley) who’s about as naïve as he is talented and Helene (Sienna Miller) who’s as stubborn as she is talented. With this ragtag group of super chefs, Adam plans to prove himself as one of the world’s greatest chefs by winning a prestigious award (three stars in the Michelin Guide book) which has already been won by his rival Reece (Matthew Rhys). Will Adam achieve his goal and finally find redemption for his past transgressions, or has he made too many mistakes that he needs to make up for first? What else must he struggle to learn on the road to recovery? Will Bradley Cooper finally get that Oscar he’s been looking for!?