Tag Archives: Focus Features

Cinema Dispatch: The Dead Don’t Die

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The Dead Don’t Die and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Two things I’m not particularly well versed in are zombie movies and Jim Jarmusch movies; the former because I find many entries in the genre to be tedious and the latter because I haven’t gotten around to them yet.  Good thing I get to kill two birds with one stone here as I guess even he couldn’t resist the allure of big box office gold with yet another zombie film!  Then again, we’re kind of on the other side of the whole zombie craze, so maybe this is the PERFECT time for his indie sensibilities and surprisingly extensive connections to make the ultimate commentary on the modern interpretation of the genre!  Or maybe it’s just a goofy comedy with the dude from Star Wars and Selena Gomez.  The point is that you can never pin this guy down to just one thing, so it’s probably both at the same time.  The REAL question though is whatever it ends up being, is it any good?  Let’s find out!!

Police Chief Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) are living out their lives patrolling the small town of Centerville without much to worry about other than Hermit Bob (Tom Wait’s) possibly stealing chickens and the dead body in their police station that someone from the big city promises to pick up real soon.  The town is filled with lots of colorful characters like Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) who’s a racist jerk, Hank Thompson (Danny Glover) who’s clearly getting too old for whatever it is that he does, and Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones) who runs a really cool gas station filled with old school horror movie merchandise, and all of them certainly have their concerns about reports of the Earth being pushed off its orbit due to arctic fracking, but it’s not something they have much control over so they just keep doing what they’re doing.  Sadly for the citizens of Centerville (except for Farmer Miller because screw that guy), the grave environmental catastrophes thousands of miles away seem to be having a global effect and the dead start to rise from their graves.  Chief Robertson and Officer Peterson, along with the third and final cop in the town Officer Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) have to figure out the best course of action for dealing with this nonsense and they could use a little help from the new undertaker in town Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) who seems to know her way around bladed weapons and might just have a plan for dealing with the undead rising from their graves.  Can the cops as well as the rest of the citizens of Centerville survive this literal night of the living dead?  What can be done even if they do survive it now that the Earth has changed its orbit and the moon is now glowing for some reason?  What even was the last zombie movie I saw?  Does Overlord count?

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“Look, all I’m saying is that Nazi Zombies are technically zombies if you want to get pedantic about it, but they never follow the traditional zombie formula.”     “What about Dead Snow?”     “That was INTENTIONALLY tongue in cheek about its premise!  It doesn’t count!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Captive State

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

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

I still haven’t seen those Planet of the Apes movies, but I hear they’re pretty good; especially that first one which I recall being a rather big surprise for people.  The guy’s only done a few other things since then, none of which I’ve seen, but hey!  If you’re gonna go in without context, try to go all the way!  I mean seriously, I hadn’t seen a trailer or even heard about this movie until I was trying to figure out what I was going to see after Captain Marvel, so this is one big question mark for me which is USUALLY a good thing in trying to get the most out of that initial experience, but it also means that I can easily get smacked up the head by something bafflingly awful which is its own special kind of torment.  Will this movie I know nothing about live up to the expectations I don’t have for it, or will I be utterly disappointed by how bad this completely out of the blue failed to be as good as I envisioned it to be?  Let’s find out!!

The movie takes place after aliens have already come down, kicked our butts, and have taken over everything; not so much to destroy the planet, but more like colonization where they keep us in line and plunder our natural resources.  In Chicago, Gabriel (Ashton Sanders) is eking out an okay existence along with everyone else, but his late brother Rafe (Jonathan Majors) was part of a resistance movement that tried to attack the aliens and now he’s trying to do the same thing.  However, there are a few roadblocks that are in his way.  For one, there’s already a resistance movement making headway towards destroying the alien’s base in Chicago (some underground facility) which makes his paltry efforts seem inconsequential, and on top of that his late dad’s best friend William (John Goodman) is a cop that’s keeping an eye on him and also keeping an eye on anyone who maybe planning further terrorist attacks against their alien overlords.  This has been made somewhat easy because for some reason everyone now has a bug (it’s unclear if its literally or figuratively) implanted in their necks to keep track of their movements at all time, and of course the authorities have gone all police state to keep people in line.  Can this resistance group actually make a serious blow against their oppressors, and will Gabriel somehow be a key part to their plan without him even knowing it?  What will William do when push comes to shove and he has to take decisive action against those who he’s sworn to stop from inciting more violence and angering the aliens?  Is the twist gonna be that the aliens are actually Krypotnians, because this looks A LOT like Man of Steel.

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“That spaceship crashed SIX YEARS AGO, and Superman STILL hasn’t cleaned it up.”     “Dude just cares about Metropolis.  He’s got no time for the little guys out here.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Greta

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

Directed by Neil Jordan

Is it just me, or are we about to get a tidal wave of horror movies?  Sure, we’ve already had stuff like Escape Room and The Prodigy wasting space at the multiplex, but we’re just coming off of Happy Death Day 2U before getting this film, and we’ve still got Us and Pet Semetary coming out soon, not to mention that EVIL Superman movie and the one where Octavia Spencer kills a bunch of bratty teenagers just over the horizon!  Can this movie about the perils of making friends with Isabelle Huppert prove to be the standout horror movie in an already crowded field, or will this be lost in the shuffle like so many other movies trying to grab onto this popular (and affordable) genre?  Let’s find out!!

Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) is your typical millennial living in the city with her roommate Erica (Maik Monroe) and one day she finds a purse all by its lonesome that she decides to return it to its owner because she’s such a nice person!  Said purse is owned by Great (Isabelle Huppert) who lives alone and spends her time playing the piano to drown out the neighbors who always seem to be banging on her walls, and the two become quick friends.  Maybe they have genuine interests or maybe their using each other to fill a hole they have in their lives (Frances’s mother recently died and Great’s daughter is supposedly off in France), but whatever the case may be they both seem to be much more happy now that they’ve got each other as friends!  Now that sounds like a fun movie on its own, but as it turns out Greta is hiding something as Frances finds a half dozen of the same purse in her one of Greta’s cupboards which means she DIDN’T lose her purse and intentionally left it for someone to find!  Why would she do that!?  Well the correct answer is WHO CARES because the answer is probably not a good one and so Frances decides to bail and cut all contact with Greta.  Not an easy task as it turns out as she won’t stop calling her apartment, leaving lengthy voicemails, and even showing up at her place of work to try and stay in touch with her.  With the police unable (or possibly unwilling) to help Frances out, she decides to take matters into her own hands and find out more about Greta which leads to even more mysteries and even a few answers she may not like.  Can Frances find a way to extract Greta from her life without putting herself or her loved ones in danger?  What is Greta really after, and just how far will she go to get it?  Did you know Isabelle Huppert was supposed to be in the Suspiria remake back when David Gordon Green was supposed to direct it?  Maybe THAT’S what this is all about!!

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“Did you put in a good word for me, Chloë?”     “Yeah… of course!”     “YOU LIAR!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: On the Basis of Sex

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On the Basis of Sex and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Mimi Leder

Wait, didn’t we get this movie last year?  Oh right!  That was a documentary!  Well I guess since we got that we need a fictionalized version of the story to make a double feature out of, but at the very least this IS an individual whose story is worth getting the BIG HOLLYWOOD treatment and it’s not like we couldn’t use a GOOD biopic to balance the scales after last year’s big mistake.  Look, it was a pretty rough start to the year and the movies haven’t been doing much for me, so maybe the inspirational story of one of America’s most celebrated judicial figures could help me get out of this poor mood!  Or it could be another disappointment in a year that seems all too willing to hand those out left and right; especially since this was originally screened in 2018 but got pushed back into the 2109 dead zone for the rest of us.  In any case, let’s find out!!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) has had to deal with quite a lot in her life!  She managed to go to Harvard at a time when few women were able to, and got her law degree there as well as at Columbia; all the while taking care of her daughter as well as her husband Martin Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) who had some serious health issues while they were in school.  It was all worth it though because now they both have their law degrees and they can live out their dreams of being lawyers!  At least that’s the plan as Ruth, who managed to navigate the harsh male dominated world of academia, still hasn’t managed to land a job in the harsh male dominated world of law firms.  Oh well.  At least she got a teaching job which she excelled at for quite a few years, but one day Martin comes across a case that may just be the one the two of them have been looking for.  You see, they became lawyers because they wanted to do good in this world and fight for equality, and one of the things that has always a bugbear of theirs is how Men and Women are defined differently under the law and are therefore treated differently like in regards to workers’ rights and inherence.  The case that Martin found though is an instance where the laws negatively affect a man because Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey) cannot claim a tax credit despite meeting all the qualifications for it… except for the fact that he is a male bachelor.  I know, it sounds UTTERLY RIVETING to hear people talk about tax laws, but this is the kind of thing that can really take a pickaxe to the existing status quo and a ruling in Charles’s favor could be the rallying point for other similar laws to be overturned!  With the case of a lifetime in their laps, the Ginsburgs begin to work the case with the help of the ACLU run by Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux) as well as a personal hero of Ruth’s Dorothy Kenyon (Kathy Bates) who’s resistant at first due to a lifetime of learned cynicism, but might just be willing to give them the push they need to be taken seriously.  Can Ruth and Martin successfully overturn this law and get Charles that sought after tax credit?  What kind of resistance will they face from the government that has a vested interest in keeping things the way they are?   FOOLISH MORTALS!  NO ONE CAN STOP THE RBG!!

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Really Badass Gal?  YOU DECIDE!!

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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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