Cinema Dispatch: 2021 Catch Up (Part 2)

January is still proving to be a rough month across the board, so we’re gonna continue our look back 2021 with a few more movies that I missed!  Will some of them be contenders for the end of the year lists I’ll be putting together very soon?  Let’s find out!!

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Being the Ricardos

Being the Ricardos is owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Aaron Sorkin

Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are about to have a rough week making their show I Love Lucy when a local news station accuses Lucille of having ties to the Communist Party.  Couple that with tabloids about Desi’s behavior, fights with the network over content, and a director that really gets under Lucille’s skin, and there may not be a show to put on by the time it goes to air!  Can Lucy and Desi smooth through all of these problems without alienating the people who help them make the show, and is there more at stake than their careers if things go badly?

Aaron Sorkin has always been fascinated with the inner workings of organizations that carry a lot of public weight; places where hiding the turmoil behind the scenes is just as important as anything else they are doing.  It seems almost natural that he’d turn that fascination even more inward with a movie about the field he’s most familiar with, television productions, and while there are some Sorkin-esque flaws in this movie, I think the material has steered him into making one of his best works.  Lucy and Desi, at least as they are portrayed in this movie, are fascinating characters with deeply compelling inner lives, and the movie makes no bones about singing their praises throughout.  Whenever they clash with the network over their creative vision for the show, it’s played with reverence as these victories did end up revolutionizing television and American culture, and Sorkin definitely uses this story to indulge in his favorite topics.  Strong men and women with sharp tongues and even sharper wits sticking it to the old guard to make way for the next generation is well-worn territory for him, but the fact that he’s drawing from real things that other people did tempers that enthusiasm and so it comes off as genuinely important rather than mere wish fulfillment.  Now that’s not to say he doesn’t exaggerate in places as the film does lack a certain sense of authenticity.  Clothing, technology, and even a lot of the attitudes do fit in with the time period, but it never quite feels like a period piece with Sorkin’s dialogue being what it is, and the overall look and feel of the show just feels too modern.  I don’t know if there are HD transfers of I Love Lucy, but I’m guessing they don’t look this crisp and they certainly weren’t shot in widescreen.  Still, even if it’s a bit showy in places where it probably wasn’t in the real-life story, Sorkin’s overly enthusiastic style fits with themes of the movie and his specific brand of dialogue creates a clear delineation between the deep and flawed people who make the show and the more modest caricatures they bring to life in front of cameras.  This is where the movie shines brightest, where these two people are darn near Herculean in their ability to solve problems, fight for what’s important, and smooth talk their way to getting what they want, but at the end of the day, when the cameras stop rolling and the lights turn out, they are still flawed people barreling towards an ending they are too scared to face.  Desi is madly in love with Lucille and Lucille is just as passionate about him, but Desi also can’t help but hurt her in ways that she cannot ignore.  This tension between the genuine love they feel and their uncontrollable selfishness (admittedly much more so with Desi than Lucille) is where the tragedy of this story ultimately lies and where the story is at its strongest.  This ends up being a double-edged sword however as the movie feels the need to be about more than just that and so it feels a bit scattershot and overstuffed with subplots and characters that don’t have the impact you would expect them to given the prominence of certain scenes.  The big red elephant in the room is the Communist allegations which are what kicks off the movie and you assume it’s what the whole thing is going to be about, but that ends up fading into the background as the network stuff and the relationship between Lucy and Desi end up pushing it to the background. It ends up being relevant only to the start and the end of the movie which is a bit of a shame as the fervor surrounding communism in the mid-twentieth century is certainly a frightening chapter in television history, but it at least ends on a very strong note and sets us up for a pretty big gut punch right at the end of the movie.  It’s certainly a flawed movie throughout, but it’s entertaining from the first frame to the final curtain call, and frankly, something that walks with confidence is more interesting to me than something safe; even if the former trips over itself a few times along the way.

4 out of 5
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Cinema Dispatch: Rampage

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Rampage and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Brad Peyton

Does anyone remember that Tomb Raider movie that came out?  Yeah, it was like a month ago but I kind of just forgot all about it already, though I guess my blissful ignorance won’t last for long considering that movie made a HUGE amount of money overseas which will inevitably lead to a sequel, but until then it looks like we’ve got another crack at the genre with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s second attempt at a video game adaptation.  Despite being buff enough to topple buildings, he is not the one RAMPAGING in this movie as it’s instead an adaptation of the classic arcade game where three giant monsters (who are TOTALLY not Godzilla, King Kong, and The Wolf Man) destroy buildings and… well that’s pretty much it.  Seems like a decent enough premise to throw a bunch of money at to make CGI mayhem, but can they manage to make this more than another monotonous action blockbuster starring the world’s most jacked teddy bear?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with a mission in space going HORRIFICALLY wrong (seriously, it’s about as terrifying as the end of Life) which leads to a bunch of canisters holding some sort of RAMPAGE GAS landing at various places across the US.  One lands on top of an alligator, another crashes into a wolf pack, and the last one craters into an animal sanctuary which is subsequently found by George; an albino gorilla who can speak sign language and is total bros with Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson).  Davis JUST SO HAPPENS to not only be a primate expert working at the sanctuary, but he ALSO used to hunt down poachers and even saved George from a terrible fate which led to them being buddies ever since!  If only it wasn’t for that DAMNED Science Gas made by some company led up by brothers Claire and Brett (Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy), we could have had a movie about these two hanging out, but NO!  Instead, the Science Gas makes George grow SUPER BIG (even bigger than The Rock!!) and gives him a serious mean streak on top of that which makes it hard for even Davis’s glistening bulging muscles to contain which forces the some secret agency within the US government led by Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to capture the ape and take him to Washington for experiments before putting it to sleep.  Things don’t go as planned however as Claire and Brett have even MORE sinister plots for George as well as the two other creatures roaming the countryside, and if they succeed it could spell doom for millions of people!  Will Davis along with A SCIENTISTTM (Naomie Harris) find some way to save his gorilla buddy before Claire and Brett destroy whatever is left of George and turning him into a TRUE monster?  What untold destruction will the monsters unleash upon the city, and will it look totally bad ass?  Why didn’t they just make this an Ultraman movie so that they could make The Rock into a giant!?  I’d pay to see him the size of a skyscraper doing Rock Bottoms on monsters!!

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HE LOOKS SO TINY NOW!  HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Miss Sloane

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Miss Sloane and all the images you see in this review are owned by EuropaCorp

Directed by John Madden

If you really take a look at Jessica Chastain’s acting career, it becomes clear that she’s truly one of the most versatile actors working today.  Not only has she been in high caliber Oscar fare of multiple genres including The Martian, Zero Dark Thirty, and Tree of Life, but she’s also been fantastic in other places like The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Crimson Peak, and Lawless.  Now she’s headlining a political thriller at right about the time that EVERYONE is not in the mood to even be thinking about politics.  Well, I guess we can’t blame her or the director for that, and just because the world is going straight to hell doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy movies like this anymore, right?  Can this new vehicle for Jessica Chastain turn out to be another high point in her illustrious career, or will her role in that Frozen knockoff with Chris Hemsworth turn out to be her highlight this year?  I mean… that WAS a really solid movie that no one but me seems to appreciate, but even so!  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the greatest lobbyist ever, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) who’s faced with a crisis of… conscious maybe?  Either conscious or competitive zeal; one of those two.  Anyway, the crisis is that the lobbying firm she works for wants her to campaign against a bill that would restrict gun sales to criminals, those on the terror watch list, etc, and her boss (Sam Waterson) is being a REAL overbearing jerk about it.  Not one to suffer fools lightly, Miss Sloane packs up her desks, grabs the best millennial interns under her command, and goes to work for Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong) who is heading the Pro-Gun restriction effort.  Of course, when you bargain with the devil (or in this case someone know what it takes to win) you get exactly what you pay for and Miss Sloane proves to be INCREDIBLY effective despite how uneasy some of her methods make some of her allies, particularly Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who experiences firsthand just how far Miss Sloane is willing to go to get what she needs.  Will the best of the best be able to stand up against the most funded lobby to ever exist?  What can all these starry-eyed liberal babies learn by watching Miss Sloane in action?  What exactly led her to being like this?  Personal tragedy?  A drive to succeed?  Rich relatives that changed her life for the better?

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“Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Love the Coopers

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Love the Coopers and all the images you see in this review are owned by CBS Films and Lionsgate

Directed by Jessie Nelson

‘Tis the season for the bold and foolhardy to try and make films that will enter into the catalog of class Christmas movies!  Probably the last one to make the leap to big leagues in regard to enduring Christmas Classics is Love Actually from 2003, but that hasn’t stopped film makers from trying to break into that market which brings us to today’s feature.  Will this movie face this challenge head on and make it through the neigh impossible glass ceiling of beloved Christmas films, or will this be yet another failed attempt to recreate that Christmas magic and will be doomed to the same fate as Four Christmases, Deck the Halls, or god forbid Christmas with the Cranks?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the misadventures of several members of the Cooper family on Christmas Eve as everyone is trying to get ready for the family dinner that is to take place later that night.  At the head of the family is Sam and Charlotte Cooper (John Goodman and Diane Keaton) who are trying to keep it together long enough for them to have a happy holiday with the family despite the fact that they plan to get divorced soon after the season ends.  We also have Charlotte’s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) who’s just a bitter jerk during the holidays (think Marie Schrader from Breaking Bad) and gets caught shoplifting which means she has to get out of it while being driven to the police station by a cop played by Anthony Mackie.  Charlotte and Sam’s kids  are Hank and Eleanor (Ed Helms and Olivia Wilde) who have their own problems to deal with as the former just recently got divorced and then fired from his job while the later… just doesn’t like coming home for the holidays and is procrastinating in an airport with a solider she just met (Jake Lacy).  There are other members of the family such as, Bucky Cooper (Alan Arkin) who’s hanging around the fringe of everyone’s story but also has his own thing going on with a waitress in a diner played by Amanda Seyfried, and Aunt Fishy (June Squibb) who’s basically playing a female version of Grandpa Simpson.  With all these characters dealing with their problems during the most stressful time of the year, will they somehow manage to have a happy Christmas, or will this end in total disaster?  Can this movie manage to juggle all these subplots without feeling like a poorly paced mess?  Okay, seriously.  Can’t we just watch Love Actually instead?

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“We’re gonna get through this. Just grin and bear it for a little bit longer.”

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