Cinema Dispatch: IT Chapter 2

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IT Chapter 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Andy Muschietti

Alright, so we’re all in agreement that the first film was amazing, right?  I mean it had a few issues here and there, but dang it if Chapter One wasn’t a horror masterpiece with great performances, a terrifying villain, and the brilliant idea of taking the GOOD parts of a Stephen King book and leaving out all the stuff that doesn’t work.  Heck, I’m pretty sure the last time that happened was when Kubrick made The Shining which Stephen King really doesn’t like for some reason.  Now we’ve got the sequel which has the neigh impossible task of capturing lightening in a bottle twice; especially since most of what made the first one so memorable will necessarily have to be either absent or pushed to the side.  Can the filmmakers pull off the impossible by making the notoriously unworkable ending to the book into something not just comprehensible but just as good as the film that came before it?  Let’s find out!!

The movie picks up twenty seven years after the events of the first film where the mysterious murders in Derry have started up once again and Michael (Isaiah Mustafa) as the only member of the Losers Club left in town has to bring the gang back together to fight the evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) once again.  Bill, Richie, Beverly, Ben, Eddie, and Stanley (James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean) have all gone their separate ways and can’t even seem to remember their time in Derry or the monster they fought all those years ago, but after a phone call from Mike they all start to remember (some take the news harder than others) and travel back home to take care of what IT is once and for all.  In the process they will have to confront their pasts, face their fears, and do all sorts of weird stuff in the vein attempt of trying to destroy a monster that has lived for hundreds of years while they’re a bunch of middle aged writers, comedians, and risk analysists, who might be able to throw a punch but not much else.  Can the monster known alternatively as IT, Pennywise, and WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING!? be defeated by these friends brought together once again by the pact they made long ago?  What is the clown planning for them as revenge for the defeat that he suffered back in the eighties?  Maybe he can defeat them by trying to explain the ending of the book and just wait until their brains explode.

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“I WANT A FIVE HUNDRED WORD ESSAY ABOUT THE ENDING ON MY DESK TOMORROW MORNING!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Banana Splits Movie

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The Banana Splits Movie and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Home Entertainment

Directed by Danishka Esterhazy

Well… I guess we’re finally here.  After months of speculation and a couple of pieces by yours truly, we finally find out if this horror themed Banana Splits movie can justify its ludicrous premise.  I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’m not looking forward to this, especially when it’s so blatantly trying to jump on the Five Nights at Freddy’s bandwagon with a property that isn’t even REMOTELY applicable (a Country Bear Jamboree horror film would make WAY more sense), but maybe the filmmakers know something I don’t and have found an angle to tell this story from that will make it an interesting examination of these characters and their place in popular culture instead of just a cheap attention grabbing cash in.  Yeah, it’s probably the latter but let’s find out!!

The Williams Family wanted nothing more than for little Harley’s birthday (Finlay Wotjak-Hissong) to go perfectly and the best way to do that would be to take him to see a live taping of his FAVORITE show; The Banana Splits; a quartet of singing animals made up of Fleegle the beagle, Bingo the ape, Drooper the lion, and Snorky the elephant (voiced by Eric Bauza).  In this universe however, I guess the Banana Splits are the entire half hour instead of the bumper between cartoons and they use a retro-sixties aesthetic… ironically maybe?  Well whatever the case may be, his mother Beth (Dani Kind) managed to score five tickets to take the both of them along with his dad Mitch (Steve Lund) and his step brother Austin (Romeo Carere) along with a friend from school Zoe (Maria Nash) who’s too cool for the Splits but has to go anyway.  Once they get to the studio where it’s filmed which is located WAY in the back of the lot, we learn that The Banana Splits, while successful (somehow) is a production of many frustrations.  The stage manager Rebecca (Sara Canning) has to manage the incompetent staff as well as the overly dramatic Stevie (Richard White) who’s the only human in the cast and drinks his sorrows away on a daily basis.  Fortunately The Splits themselves aren’t as troublesome as they are LITERALLY ADVANCED ROBOTIC ENTERTAINERS that this studio can somehow afford and are regularly maintained by the overly enthusiastic programmer Karl (Lionel Newton), and most everything else is managed by the page Paige (Naledi Majola) who is way sicker of that joke than you are.  Well in case you weren’t sure what movie we were watching, the robotic Splits end up getting a crappy firmware update and start to go on a murdering rampage as soon as the taping is over and the only ones left in the studio are a few employees and the lucky few who were chosen to meet The Splits in person; including the Williams family.  Will anyone be left alive after The Splits enact whatever horrifying machinations they are dead set on enacting?  Are the true Splits still somewhere within those cold metal shells, and is there a way that Harley can reach them?   Even if he could though, who would WANT to reach them?  Bunch of dead eyed Chuck-E-Cheese rejects.  Back in my day, The Banana Splits had life and personality; not circuits and microchips con-sarn-it!

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“NOT PROGRAMMED FOR AFFECTION!  HUG PROTOCOLS ARE IN BETA!!”     “Aww… I love you to Bingo!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Crawl

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Crawl and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Alexandre Aja

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an alligator (or crocodile movie) before.  Heck, we can probably throw snakes in there too now that I think about it.  Not even Snakes on a plane!  It’s an entire sub genre of horror that just kind of passed me by, but I guess now is as good a time as any; especially considering how lackluster my year for horror has been.  What; were expecting a review from ANOTHER film by the guy who made Hereditary?  Yeah, I’m good actually!  Don’t need any more of… whatever that is in my life, but you all enjoy!  I’ve got a movie about a crocodile in a basement to watch instead!  Does this horror film manage to bring the scares and the fun with its nifty little premise while ALSO giving me a valid excuse to avoid Midsommar?  Let’s find out!!

Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is a swimmer in college who’s been having trouble outperforming here peers which is bad news for her scholarship, but even WORSE is the fact that she now has to drive to the south of Florida to check on her dad (Barry Pepper) who for whatever reason isn’t answering his phone and is right in the path of a category 5 hurricane.  She just barely manages to get to her childhood home before the storm kicks into high gear and also manages to find her father, but it turns out that he’s stuck in the basement with a bite mark on his leg and at least one alligator that’s feeling rather smug about it.  So now they’re BOTH stuck in the basement in a small area where the pipes make it impossible for the gators to get to them, but the rain keeps on pouring and the basement keeps on filling which means they have to find a way out before they both drown; and even THEN they’re in the middle of a hurricane that could knock the house over given enough time so they have to find a way to make it through that as well!  Can Haley save her dad and use her amazing swimming skills to outsmart these vicious predators who seem particularly cross with them for some reason?  Why are there alligators in the basement in the first place, and could this basement situation just be the tip of the ice burg?  Is this all just an elaborate adaptation of that app game Where’s My Water!?

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Darn you, Swampy!  You have all the water now, what more do you want!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Child’s Play

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Child’s Play and all the images you see in this review are owned by United Artists Releasing

Directed by Lars Klevberg

I’m gonna say it right now.  Even though the movie gets quite a bit of praise, Child’s Play is still underrated.  It’s one of those series where the later films defined the look and tone that stuck in the popular consciousness to the point that the merits of the original can still be somewhat overlooked.  It’s a lot like with the first Friday the 13th which is mostly known for the non-Jason killer and the sorta-Jason jump scare.  The first Child’s Play really does have a lot going for it even if the more recognizable elements like the campiness and Jennifer Tilly’s Tiffany are absent.  In a way that kind of makes it perfect for a remake as the finer points of the original can feel fresh to newer audiences who only know of the franchise in the broadest of terms.  Then again, turning Chucky from a possessed doll to a bad robot doesn’t feel particularly inspired, but I guess we can’t begrudge a remake for trying something new, right?  Does this manage to capture the spirit of the original film while telling it in a new and interesting way, or is this yet another mess of a movie to throw on the pile with The Nightmare on Elm Street remake, The Black Christmas remake, and whatever the heck that Rings movie was supposed to be?  Let’s find out!!

Andy Barclay and his mother Karen (Gabriel Bateman and Aubrey Plaza) have just moved to the city and are trying to start fresh with a new life, yet neither one of them seem to be doing a great job of it.  Karen is in a relationship with a huge jerk named Shane (David Lewis), Andy isn’t making any friends with the kids in his building, and to make matters worse Karen has to work the return desk at a department store which means she has to deal with angry jerks ALL day long.  You’d think she’d recognize the jerk-gene in her boyfriend considering how many of them visit her on a daily basis, but regardless of that, Andy’s birthday is coming up and she’s got nothing for him.  I mean I guess she COULD buy him a Cabbage Patch knockoff doll, but considering it’s not the late eighties and he’s thirteen, it doesn’t seem like a good fit.  Maybe she’ll “procure” one of those Buddi Dolls that one of the customers returned which I GUESS is supposed to be an A.I. assistant only MORE anthropomorphic since it’s housed inside a creepy looking robot doll.  Hey, it’s cheaper than a new phone!  Karen takes it home and Andy, while initially resistant, ends up finding a soft spot for the little bugger named Chucky (Mark Hamill), but not everything is as it should be because Chucky is not just an A.I.; it’s a LEARNING A.I. who observes things around it and jumps to the conclusion that murder might just might be the best way to solve Andy’s problems, and unfortunately for Andy this isn’t a problem that can be solved by turning it off and turning it back on again.  Can Andy teach Chucky the ways of peace before he starts leaving a lot of bloody messes in his wake?  Just how far will Chucky’s programming go to ensure Andy’s “happiness” at the exclusion of everything else?  Couldn’t we let Mark Hamill use his Joker voice and just say Andy downloaded a custom speech pack from the cloud!?

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“I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”     “Do you have to say that EVERY time we start a new game?”

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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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Jumping the Soapbox: A Banana Splitting Headache and Hanna-Barbera’s Confusing Existence

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The Banana Splits is owned by Warner Bros

All other copyrights are the property of their respective owners.

Do any of you even know who The Banana Splits are?  Of course not!  They were on the lower tier of Hanna-Barbera creations and because they were live action characters they never got that extra bump of popularity that many of their other creations did when they started randomly pairing them up on shows like Yogi’s Gang where they flew around in a giant flying ark.  Yeah, Hanna-Barbera is weird like that, but the thing about The Banana Splits is… I actually really like them!  I remember watching a marathon of episode back when you had to actually watch TV on a TV, and I thought it was a fun little slice of sixties nonsense!  A bunch of dudes in animal costumes playing bubblegum pop and doing slapstick?  What’s not to like!?  And guess what?  THEY’RE MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT THEM!!  OH BOY!  It looks like someone has finally realized how groovy these cats (and dogs and monkeys and elephants) are and are giving them the big screen treatment they deserve, right?  RIGHT!?

Sigh…

So it turns out that SOMEONE thought it would be brilliant and edgy to take lovable characters aimed at children… and turn them into monsters in a horror movie; straight up.  I mean yeah, they’re clearly playing up the absurdity of it but it just looks like a miserable experience outside of how senseless its UNIQUE SELLING POINT is.  Actually, even more blatant than the simple “shock” value of taking character aimed at kids and making them creepy (congratulations; you’re where Creepy Pasta was twenty years ago) is that they are only doing this to beat the Five Nights at Freddy movie to the punch.  I mean they weren’t robots in the original series either within the fiction of the show (they were anthropomorphic animals in a band) or the reality of its production which was done by people in costumes which is CLEARLY the case here as well.

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“WHAT IS MY PRIMARY DIRECTIVE!?”     “Okay, try to be like this video game, but NOT like this video game at the same time.”     “DOES NOT COMPUTE!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Ma

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Ma and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions

Directed by Tate Taylor

The only reason this movie has gotten on anyone’s radar is because of Octavia Spencer, and frankly it did its job quite well.  Sure, sometimes a horror film will pick up some serious talent like the new IT movie coming up or when Helen Mirren was in that crappy Winchester movie, but somehow this feels even MORE of a surprise and a genuine selling point.  IT’s gonna sell itself no matter what, but by having one of the most popular actors of the moment (and in the prime of their career) showing up and starring in your crappy horror movie is a coup that very few films can boast, and yet somehow there she is; on all the posters, in all the trailers, and even having an Executive Producer credit to boot! What was it about this movie that convinced such a great actor to whole heartedly come on board, and was worth her immense talent and valuable time to do so?  Let’s find out!!

Sue Ann Ellington (Octavia Spencer) is just your typical small town citizen.  She works as a vet, she walks her dog, and on occasion it seems that she can be convinced to buy alcohol for the local high school kids.  At least that’s what Maggie (Diana Silvers) finds out when she asks her to do it as she walks by the liquor store, and being the new kid in town she needs to deliver on the goods if she wants to get in with the popular kids.  One of the popular kids is Andy (Corey Fogelmanis) who Sue Ann seems to recognize, and after a moment’s consideration decides to get them the booze they need.  Not only that, she ends up opening her basement to them and other kids in the neighborhood as a safe and secluded area to drink where they won’t have to worry about cops and where Sue Ann will make sure no one gets their keys back if they can’t drive.  In fact, everyone seems to be so enamored with her that they start to call her Ma and everyone wants to hang out at her house!  However, things are not as rosy as they seem which Maggie picks up on after a while and she seems to have a dark side to her that’s just barely hidden beneath the surface.  Perhaps it has to do with Andy’s dad (Luke Evans) who she knows from years ago?  Maybe even Maggie’s mom (Juliette Lewis) who used to live here but moved away many years ago before returning?  Well they’re all gonna find out eventually because Ma’s house seems to slowly turned from party central to a house of horrors!  Will these kids learn of the terrible secrets lurking in Ma’s house as well as her tragic backstory?  What is Ma planning now that she has the children of this town wrapped around her finger, and can she somehow realize what she’s doing is wrong before it’s too late?  Okay, seriously.  Did Octavia Spencer lose a bet or something to be in this movie?

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“RELEASE ME!!”     “Not until we make thirty million on opening weekend.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Us

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

Directed by Jordan Peele

After Get Out, it was almost a certainty that Jordan Peele would become one of the predominate voices in the industry, but as is the case with any director who comes out the gate that strongly there’s always the question of how they’re gonna follow it up; hence the term Sophomore Slump.  Michael Cimino, Richard Kelly, Joe Cornish, they’ve all had underwhelming second films and it’s not that hard to see why.  Bigger budgets and more creative freedom means that a lot of filmmakers will pursue their passion project which may or may not appeal to as many people (or let’s be honest, aren’t as good ideas as they think they are) which rubs up against the very high expectations to follow up their first film with something even better.  Will that be the fate of Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out, or is he destined to buck the trend and give us a new experience that’s just as fantastic?  Let’s find out!!

Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) is your average middle class woman with the perfect family consisting of her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and her children Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright and Evan Alex) who head to their summer home for a much needed vacation.  Said vacation however is somewhat bittersweet as it used to belong to Adelaide’s mother before she died and on top of that Adelaide has some less than perfect memories of the place.  You see, back when she was a child she and her parents took a visit to the boardwalk where she wandered off and ran into a little girl who looked EXACTLY like her.  What happened next is something of a mystery, but the point is that it was a very traumatizing moment and the memory of it has put her on edge the entire time they’re there.  It turns out she was RIGHT to be fearful however because in the middle of the night a family of four who look just like them (played by the same actors) and refer to themselves as THE TETHERED break in and start being SUPER creepy around the family with some sort of deadly scheme in mind.  I think it goes Step 1: Murder, Step 2: … , and Step 3: Profit, but whatever the end goal may be the Wilson family is gonna need to find a way to fight back and survive this horrid night by any means necessary.  Can Adelaide and face her greatest fear in the form of the doppelganger she saw so long ago?  What exactly are THE TETHERED after, and do their ambitions extend beyond just torturing this one family for funsies?  What if Thanos’s plan wasn’t just to wipe out half of humanity, but to replace them with evil versions of the other half!?  JORDAN PEELE IS NOW CONFIRMED FOR THE MCU!!

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“I didn’t survive the attack on Wakanda just for this crap!  Wait, did I survive?”

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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: Happy Death Day 2U

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Happy Death Day 2U and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Christopher Landon

Man, I’ve been sitting on this one for almost two weeks.  I don’t know what happened!  Even though I saw it right when it was released a bunch of movies came out and this went on the back burner!  It certainly had a lot to live up to considering that the first movie was one of my favorite films of 2017; not to mention that a sequel seemed like the worst idea ever as the first movie felt so complete in its story.  Bill Murray never made Groundhog’s Day 2, and probably for the same reason he never did a Ghostbusters 3; it would have been a terrible idea!  ANYWAY, before I say something that’ll REALLY tick people off, does this pointless sequel manage to justify its own existence, or are we doomed to yet another brilliant movie made to churn out sequels until you forgot why you liked the darn thing in the first place!?  Let’s find out!!

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) having discovered who it was that was trying to kill her and closing the time loop that put her in a Groundhog’s day scenario is living the good life!  She woke up and it was a different day, and that guy Carter (Israel Boussard) who helped her out all those times but has no memory of it is making out with her!  Yup, it looks like easy street for Ol’ Gelbman!  Oh wait!  Carter’s roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) seems to be stuck in a time loop of his own!  How did THAT happen?  Hm… maybe it has to do with quantum reactor that Ryan and his two classmates (Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin) have been working on!  Wait, what?  So all this time, it was a giant science thingy in the basement that somehow made Tree relive that day over and over again?  Huh.  Well okay then!  So that mystery that didn’t need solving is now solved, but what ISN’T solved is why things are still acting up in the space time continuum after she managed to close the loop?  Well before she can find out, things get a LITTLE bit out of control and the quantum thingy… explodes I guess, and puts Tree back into her original loop.  OR DID IT!?  It turns out that she’s not just back reliving Monday the eighteenth over and over again; she’s doing it in a parallel universe where things are significantly different in ways that Tree is gonna have to discover the hard way!  Can Tree and the science squad manage to figure out how to work the darn machine and send her back to her own universe?  Will this universe actually have something in it that Tree desperately needs, and will she give up her old life to live here?  If the killer from the first movie isn’t the killer in THIS universe, then who IS the killer!?

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“OLD MAN BLUMHOUSE!?”     “That’s right!  I wanted to make horror movies even cheaper so I just started stabbing teenagers myself!  And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for SAG-AFTRA regulations!!”

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