Cinema Dispatch: 2022 June Catch Up

With an out-of-state trip followed by a hellacious cold, it has not been the most productive week for me and I sadly could not get this done by the end of last month. Still, it’s been a rather slow month of releases as only three or four big movies have come out in the last few weeks with everything else presumably scared off by Top Gun, so taking things a bit easy and reviewing them on my schedule may not have put me as far back as you’d think. In any case, we’ve got three movies that I saw in June, and I’m finally ready to talk about them! Let’s get started!!

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Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe

Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by John Rice & Albert Calleros

Beavis and Butt-Head (Mike Judge) are living their pointless teenage lives in the early nineties when they get into trouble and are rewarded with tickets to Space Camp. Through a convoluted series of misunderstandings and poor adult supervision, the duo is launched into space and find their way into a wormhole that sends them all the way to 2022; a revelation that is awe-inspiring to them as seeing the numbers 69 on a billboard. With nothing else to do and still barely comprehending the situation, the duo tries to make it back to their house so they can score with a hot astronaut lady and watch some more TV. Said astronaut lady (Andrea Savage) is now running for reelection as Governor of Texas and doesn’t want these two bringing up questions about that botched space mission, so she’s hunting them down with the help of her Lieutenant Governor and hapless lackey (Nat Faxon), while the Pentagon is following their movements believing them to be extra-terrestrials. Can Beavis and Butt-Head avoid death and dissection on their quest to score and eat nachos, or will the universe itself be torn to shreds in their quest for food and babes?

If Disney spewing their entire retro catalog at us in Chip & Dale didn’t make things clear enough, we are firmly in the throes of a nineties comeback which meant it was only a matter of time before Mike Judge and co dusted off this franchise for one last ride. Unlike other revivals, however, that try to remind you of the nineties with rose-tinted glasses, Judge and co are more interested in making two characters that were inextricably tied to that decade work as a modern property. To their credit, they mostly succeed as this movie is funny and a solid entry in the franchise, but even with the best of intentions it still feels a bit mired in the past. Transplanting them to modern-day with a very modern conceit (multiverses are the hot new thing these days) was a wise move and it does give Judge some room to air his grievances with modern life, though as is his style he tries not to get too preachy about it and lets his characters react to it rather than say much about it himself. They also flesh out the duo in ways that we hadn’t seen before which is certainly rewarding for fans, and I like that Beavis gets to open up a bit more and shows some genuine heart in this. It also puts into stark relief how much Butt-Head is the Moe Howard of this duo and he has some pretty nasty moments in here that almost make him the villain of the story which is honestly a lot more plot and drama than these two are used to. It’s pretty much what you’d want from a modern Beavis and Butt-Head as it’s solidly funny but is not breaking any new ground. As fun as all this is, however, there’s a point where they completely run out of steam and what is supposed to be the subtext of the entire franchise becomes laid bare in a way that is just not funny or interesting. The thing about Beavis and Butthead is that they may be foolish and ignorant teenagers, but they are able to move through life with little consequence because the rest of the world is just as foolish and ignorant as they are. Where Beavis and Butthead are driven by simplistic desires for food, sex, and cheap thrills, the rest of the world is consumed by ego, comfort, and minimizing their shame, and while they do get a good amount of mileage out of that in this movie, it feels like they wrote themselves into a corner and gave up on trying to make this a clever punchline and instead use it as a plot device. Once that happens, the movie never truly recovers and the final thirty minutes are somewhat of a slog as no one seems to know what to do anymore and are just jabbering back and forth to pad out the running time. There are plenty of franchises that go on long after they’ve run out of ideas and I commend Judge and co for picking their moments to bring these characters back. Still, there’s a bit too much of this that’s stuck in the nineties and the few jabs at modern society are not quite enough to pull it into the twenty-first century.

3 out of 5
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Cinema Dispatch: Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead and all the images you see in this review are owned by Netflix

Directed by Zack Snyder

Considering everything that the guy has gone through in the last few years, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he took several years off instead of going back to making movies.  Still, it does seem to be his passion as Zack Snyder certainly makes film with an enthusiasm and gusto you don’t often see from big budget filmmakers, an d what better way to get back into the swing of things than to go back to his roots and make another zombie flick?  I’m certainly rooting for him, but is this the triumphant return that we’ve all been waiting for, or is he still a bit rusty from working on tent pole superhero movies for so long?  Let’s find out!!

Following a botched military transport, the ZOMBIE VIRUS infects the city of Las Vegas AND NOWHERE ELSE which is convenient because it means the US government can just build a giant wall around the city and leave the zombies to their own devices while also ensuring all the survivors are free from the zombie virus.  The state of things is tenuous at best however as the survivors are kept in camps near the city run by NOT-ICE-AGENTS, and since we’re living in a Capitalists hellscape even in our fantastical zombie films, people are sneaking in and out to try and scrounge up a bit of cash from the many casinos to perhaps make their lives better.  Because of this the US government has decided to nuke the city to kill off all the zombies which means it’s the PERFECT time to pull off the biggest heist of them all as a casino owner (Hiroyuki Sanada) hires a group of mercenaries, many of whom were part of the efforts to save survivors, to go into the city and take ALL the money from his vault mere days before the nuke is launched; money that would have probably would just burn to ashes anyway so it’s practically there BEGGING to be collected!  Our heroes are the ultimate Dad Guy named Scott (Dave Bautista), his friends Maria and Vanderohe (Ana de la Reguera and Omari Hardwick), a safe cracker named Ludwig (Matthias Schweighöfer), some dude who posts zombie shooting videos on YouTube as well as one of his cohorts (Raúl Castillo and Samantha Win), a pilot to get them out of there (Tig Notaro), and a Coyote who helps people get in and out of the city (Nora Arnezeder).  On top of that, Scott’s daughter (Ella Purnell) finds a way to tag along as she is searching for someone who got lost in the city during one of those casino runs, and there’s one dude hired by the casino owner (Garret Dillahunt) to keep an eye on things and perhaps has an agenda of his own.  With this rag tag group of bad asses and scumbags, can they pull off the ultimate heist without getting bit by a zombie or getting a face full of nuclear fallout?  Is this plan as straightforward as they were led to believe, and what have the zombies themselves been up to since being locked up in the city?  Do trained mercenaries just not watch movies, or do they assume that this is the ONE plan that won’t go wrong?

“If things get spicy in there, I’m just gonna call an Uber and get the heck out of there.”     “Yeah, I think the zombie blighted wasteland is outside their service area.”     “Sheesh.  So much for being a market disruptor.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Widows

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

Directed by Steve McQueen

Is it time for another cinematic confession?  Alright, so I’ve never actually seen a Steve McQueen movie all the way through.  I’ve seen bits and pieces of Shame and I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave, but based on those films and what we’ve been shown of this one I get the feeling that I’m not gonna be the biggest fan of his work.  What can I say?  I’m not the biggest fan of overly oppressive mood pieces even if the subject matter justifies that tone, but unlike other kinds of movies of filmmakers that I’m not too fond of I’m rather open to what this guy has to say here because even if I don’t like what I see on screen at least I’m fairly confident that the director is trying to ENGAGE with their audience instead of completely alienating them (*cough* Eli Roth *cough*).  Will this film be the perfect introduction to the director’s body of work, or did he already reach his peak and nothing else will quite measure up to it?  Let’s find out!!

Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) is just having a TERRIBLE week!  Not only did her husband (Liam Neeson) die in a horrible fiery explosion, two million dollars went completely up in smoke which she is now being held responsible for since said two million was STOLEN by Liam Neeson and his crew of crooks (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Jon Bernthal, and Coburn Goss) from a local gangster who’s the slightest bit miffed about all this.  It’s made especially bad because said gangster Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) is also running for local office against the golden boy Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and could have used all that ill-gotten gain to fund his campaign; presumably through shady 501(c) groups considering where the money came from.  Thanks, Citizens United!  Anyway, him and his brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) have given Veronica a week to pay him back which is PROBABLY not all that feasible, but as luck would have it her husband left her a notebook that had detailed plans for their next heist; one that could not only pay back Jamal but will give her a nice payday to keep her afloat while she figures out what to do next with her life.  She enlists the help of two of the widows, Linda and Alice (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) as well as Bell who is another person in need of some fast cash (Cynthia Erivo) to hopefully pull off this heist, though without any actual experience committing crimes, pulling guns, and breaking into places, their success seems dubious at best.  Will Veronica and her slapdash crew of desperate widows manage to pull off such a dangerous heist?  What exactly happened the night their husbands died, and could it have had anything to do with this plan that was left behind?  Is it just me, or could this easily be an Amanda Waller prequel?

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“If I can get these women to pull off this heist, imagine what I can do with super villains!”     “I don’t know, that STILL seems like a bad idea.”

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