Tag Archives: Focus Features

Cinema Dispatch: BlacKkKlansman

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BlacKkKlansman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Spike Lee

There’s a lot going on right now and as much as I’d honestly like to take a step back from the heavier subject matter to focus on terrible horror films and laughable thrillers, well… there’s a bigger story that needs to be told and at the very least I can try to stay engaged with the films that are being made because of it.  Fortunately the films this year that faced issues of racism, white supremacy, privilege, and state sponsored oppression have been pretty great so far with The First Purge being a worth addition to one of the best film series we have today, Sorry to Bother You feeling like the kind of gonzo shot in the arm film making that will inspire others to think outside the standard feature film model, and Blindspotting being a supremely empathetic examination that’s palatable and poignant for any audience member.  However, it’s time for the king to return to his throne as Spike Lee has spent his entire career (barring Oldboy) speaking on these very issues that the rest of Hollywood is just catching up to and is now throwing their weight behind these artists.  Did Spike Lee make the definitive film of our turbulent times, or has his style gotten tiresome in the face of newer voices in his political circle?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the strange yet true story of Detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who joined the Colorado Springs police force in the seventies and not long after joining the force started a sting operation against the KKK in the area.  With the help of a fellow cop Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) he managed to impersonate a white supremacists over the phone while Flip would pretend to be him in person; a plan that was so successful that they even managed to dupe KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) who had several conversations with Ron never realizing he was in fact black.  As the investigation goes along though, things start to get complicated as certain members of the Colorado chapter of the KKK start to suspect their newest recruit, and Ron start to find it hard to live not only a double life as a fake white man, but also the dichotomy of being a black man and a police officer in that period of time; especially when he starts falling for the President of the Black Student Union Patrice (Laura Harrier) who is just as militant against white systems of power as Ron is determined to use his position in said system to take the KKK down a peg.  Will Ron and Flip manage to stop the KKK from whatever it is they’re planning without getting caught in the crossfire themselves?  How far will the KKK members go to assert themselves as a threat to be taken seriously, and who do they plan to hurt in the process?  Just how many white people jokes can Ron get away with before David Duke becomes suspicious!?

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“Let me ask you this, my pure white brethren!  How many KKK members does it take to screw in a light bulb?”     “I don’t think we covered that in the manual…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Tully

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Tully and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Jason Reitman

So hey!  Remember when Jason Reitman was the big rising star in Hollywood?  It doesn’t seem like THAT long ago, and yet here we are with a film that has gotten very little buzz despite being directed by him as well as being written by Diablo Cody and starring Charlize Theron.  You’d think there’d be a LITTLE more buzz considering how much talent is behind it, but for some reason it was left to languish in the wake of Avengers: Infinity Wars where it will surely remain in obscurity until it’s dumped on Netflix or Amazon Prime.   Still, a lot of really excellent films have suffered similar fates against the might of big blockbusters, and since when has box office success been in any way an indicator of a film’s overall worth?  Does this manage to be a great film to cleanse the palate after the latest Marvel feature, or are you better off rewatching that in hopes of getting a better ending?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the day to day life of Marlo (Charlize Theron) who’s just about to have a third child and is honestly not handling things as well as she claims to be.  Sure her other two kids Jonah and Sarah (Asher Miles Fallica and Lia Frankland) are doing… fine, and her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is doing… fine, but things are only gonna get more difficult with a third mouth to feed; especially one that’s gonna be screaming and pooping itself for at least a couple of years.  That’s why Marlo’s brother (Mark Duplass) and his wive (Elaine Tan) have gotten her a PERFECT baby shower gift which is the services of a Night Nanny.  What’s a Night Nanny you may ask?  Well she’s a nanny, and follow me here… who comes at night.  Basically, she’ll take care of the baby when you’re trying to get some sleep so that you can start the day fully rested and ready to be the best mom you can be!  Well to me that sounds like a brilliant idea, but Marlo is skeptical at first.  Let’s see how long it takes… okay about two weeks before she gets desperate on a particularly bad day and calls them in.  Said nanny is named Tully (Mackenzie Davis) who is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT!  She’s brilliant, she’s loving, and sure she MAY be a little over eager, but she’s everything Marlo needs to get her life back on track which has been noticeably hollow since she became a mother.  She’s got no interests of her own, no particular hobbies, and doesn’t even seem to have the energy to stick up for herself which is PROBABLY some red flags to much deeper issues, but Tully manages to be at least a good influence if not an outright cure for her woes.  Will Marlo find her zest for life again now that she can rely on someone else to help her out?  Where did this MYSTERIOUS Tully come from, and how can one person be so awesome at taking care of babies?  Is parenthood the one challenge that ultra-badass Charlize Theron is incapable of overcoming!?

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“ZZZ… stop… or I’ll shoot…  ZZZ… where’s the guzzolene?… ZZZ…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Thoroughbreds

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Thoroughbreds and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Cory Finley

Well they haven’t announced a sequel to Ingrid Goes West yet which is PROBABLY a good thing all things considered, but it also means that I’ll have to start looking to the imitators if I want to re-experience that magic that made that film so special.  Not EXACTLY the case with this film as it was actually made BEFORE Ingrid Goes west (back in 2016), but considering both films are about emotionally unstable young women (this time there’s TWO of them!) and the ways that society can exacerbate their worst tendencies, it seems like a good place to start if I want to find another great movie that’s right up my alley.  Does this manage to succeed not just in terms of being LIKE a movie I really loved but as its own unique story?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Amanda (Olivia Cooke) who feels nothing being tutored by Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) who feels everything, and the two of them are sort of rekindling their friendship after certain life events (the death of Lily’s father as well as some really disturbing activities Amanda got up to) had driven them apart.  Now normally this would be a cause for celebration as two friends getting back together is usually a recipe for good times and wholesome nostalgia, but when it becomes clear that Lily REALLY hates her new step-father (Paul Sparks), Amanda floats the idea of just murdering the dude… because that’s what people who don’t feel anything naturally jump to… I guess?  Lily is skeptical at first, but it doesn’t take long for her to warm up to the idea which they start hastily putting together in between watching old movies on TV and sitting around in Lily’s fancy house.  Clearly they aren’t criminal masterminds, but it does seem that they know enough to try and get someone who’s ACTUALLY a criminal (not necessarily a mastermind) to try and help them with this plan, so the duo enlists Tim (Anton Yelchin) who Lily saw selling drugs at a party once, and things start to spiral out of control from there.  Will Lily and Amanda come up with the PERFECT plan to kill the douchebag step dad without getting caught themselves?  What can Tim really bring to the table now that he’s sucked into these girls’ outlandish scheme, and how far will he go to find a way out of it?  Is it just me, or do these girls watch just as much TV as I do?

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“So you want to start picking locations to dump the body?”     “Shh.  After this episode.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Phantom Thread

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Phantom Thread and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Is this it?  Are we done playing catch up with 2017?  I just absolutely LOVE IT when studios hold back on releasing Oscar Caliber Films to the general public until weeks after they’ve already been reviewed, examined, and voted on!  VERY helpful for the small time outlets who don’t get critic screenings or screener discs sent to us!  Oh well.  It’s certainly too late for films like this and I, Tonya to be considered for my best of 2017 list (which I’m SURE Neon and Focus Features absolutely CRUSHED about, but I must stay firm!), but that doesn’t keep them from potentially being good movies that you should check out!  Better late than never I suppose, though it’d be nice if Hollywood would stop releasing EVERYTHING awards worthy in a two month period to only VERY selective markets; ESPECIALLY when half the time they don’t even get the awards they’re looking for!  Does this movie deserve the countless accolades it has accrued in the tail end of Oscar Season, or is this the latest victim of a hype machine that severely overestimates its actual quality as a film?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the story of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) who unfortunately shares the name of a crappy Billy Bob Thornton comedy, but aside from that he’s a meticulously detail oriented dress maker who extends his obsession with perfection to his personal wife as well as his work life.  His schedule is quite regimented, his appearance is consistently maintained, and his relationships to others are carefully filtered through his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) who’s basically the only person keeping him on track and able to focus his eccentricities on something that’ll keep the lights on.  One day, Reynolds goes off to the countryside and finds a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) that he is immediately smitten with.  He asks her on a date, they have a lovely dinner, and by the end she’s half naked while he’s dictating measurements to his sister who’s writing them all down for future reference.  Whether or not Reynolds is TRULY attracted to Alma rather than the shape of her body is not entirely clear, but she goes away with him back to the big city to be his protégé of sorts and to help him model the dresses he makes.  However, because neither one of them are all that great at communicating, the expectations they put on each other that neither of them are able to meet start to put a strain on the relationship and could potential be volatile enough to destroy his life, her life, and even his sister’s life as everything could come crashing down upon them if they can’t sit the hell down and decide what they really mean to one another.  Will these two act like grownups and get their issues resolved before they explode in a fiery maelstrom of passive aggressive horror?  Will either one of them start contemplating drastic actions that will certainly not solve their underlying issues?  Wait, isn’t this the plot to like… every romantic comedy ever?

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Look!  There’s a beach!  This is TOTALLY a Nicholas Sparks movie!

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Cinema Dispatch: Atomic Blonde

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Atomic Blonde and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by David Leitch

Holy crap!  The day has FINALLY come, hasn’t it!?  There are usually a handful of movies that I genuinely look forward to each year and for most of 2017 the big one was this Charlize Theron spy thriller with a lot of bloodshed and a lot more attitude!  The trailers looked phenomenal with Theron putting her heart into this John Wick knock off (it even has one of that movie’s directors) and James McAvoy being… well James McAvoy, but that’s why we go to see him in movies!  Still, a trailer isn’t always true to what a movie will ultimately be about and while I certainly have high hopes for this, I should PROBABLY temper them lest my expectations get too astronomical and I end up setting myself up for disappointment.  But still!  CHARLIZE THERON PUNCHING DUDES IN THE FACE!  How COULD it go wrong!?  Well if it does, we’ll certainly find out!!

The movie begins with the death of an MI6 agent (Sam Hargrave) in East Germany right at the tail end of the Cold War, and the British Government are in desperate need of someone to clean up the mess the poor bastard left behind.  Enter Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) who given two objectives to complete once she gets there; find THE LIST that the MI6 agent had secured before getting a bullet in the head (you know, that list of EVERY SPY EVER that’s in EVERY SPY MOVIE EVER) and find a double agent known simple as Satchel who is more than likely responsible for this whole mess.  Her only contact in the country is MI6 agent David Percival (James McAvoy) who’s gone DEEP undercover in the Berlin punk scene but has more knowledge of the country’s inner workings than anyone else.  Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems as there’s a French agent rather conspicuously following them around (Sofia Boutella), there’s like five different German/Nazi dudes who hate punk music trying to find her, and she keeps getting stymied at every turn presumably to the machinations of that darn double agent!  Will Lorraine find this list that could CHANGE THE TIDE OF THE WAR before it falls into the wrong hands?  Who is this mysterious double agent, and could they be closer than she dares to believe?  How is it that all the hired goons keep finding her so easily!?  Is it the hair?  It’s probably the hair.

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“All natural.”     “Oh you are SO full of crap!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Kubo and the Two Strings

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Kubo and the Two Strings and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Travis Knight

While Disney and Dreamworks are constantly fighting over dominance for CG animated features, studios like Aardman and Laika are still making an argument for more traditional forms of animation with films like Paranorman and The Pirates.  Now we’ve got this movie which hopes to stand alongside some of the bigger hits this summer like Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets while also finding a spot in theaters just as the latter is starting to leave and Pete’s Dragon is under performing.  Can the latest Laika creation not only manage to be an excellent film but be the big hit to end the summer with, or is this movie all style and no substance?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows young Kubo (Art Parkinson) who’s living with his mother in a cave that’s within walking distance of a nearby village.  Why are they living there?  Well apparently Kubo’s mother is the daughter of some super powerful dude known as the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) who can do… stuff.  Okay, I’m not sure what his powers are, but he ripped out one of Kubo’s eyes when he was an infant, and his mother just barely managed to get away with him; though at a severe price as she was injured during the escape and now suffers from memory loss.  That only leaves Kubo to take care of her (though I’m not sure how they survived long enough for him to be able to do that) and he makes money by using his magic powers to put on fantastic origami shows for the people of the village.  Seriously, Kubo’s got some badass magic powers that he’s able to conjure up with his Shamisen which can put on very elaborate stop-motion performances by Origami dolls, and you’d think that powers like this would either earn him enough to move his mom into a nice home or would brand him as a witch.  Still, things seems to be going well as Kubo goes about his day to day life busking for coins on the sidewalk, when he stays out too late one night which gives the Moon King a chance to find him (I guess that guy can see everything at night) and sends out his daughters, who are also Kubo’s aunts (Rooney Mara), to find him.  Kubo’s mother however manages to find him first and uses her remaining magic to send him off somewhere else while also bringing a charm to life in the form of a monkey (Charlize Theron) because apparently Kubo’s mother can do that.  From there, we’ve got a whole lot more exposition as apparently the monkey knows what Kubo needs to do next and the end up finding a Beetle Samurai (Matthew McConaughey) to tag along on their adventure.  Can Kubo stop his evil grandfather and save his mother?  How exactly does this monkey know all this stuff if it’s only been alive for like a day or so? Most importantly, how many MacGuffins do they plan to stick in this movie!?

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“We have to find the sacred armor that was created by your father that can protect you from the Moon King so that-“     “YOU’RE A TALKING MONKEY!!”     “…yes.  Did you hear what I said?”     “We need to find some stuff?”     “Good enough.  Let’s go.”

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