Tag Archives: Michael Pena

Cinema Dispatch: Jexi

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Jexi and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

We are still VERY much in catch up mode right now and it’s starting to get a bit distressing as more and more movies I wanted to see close to leaving theaters, but at least I managed to catch THIS one which somehow got to my second run theater a good three to four weeks before I would have expected it to!  You know how I found out that they had it?  I USED MY PHONE!!  It all connects if you look hard enough!  Anyway, does this story about a phone with a heart of gold and the mouth of a sailor manage to be a biting and hilarious critique of how we interact and even bond with our electronic devices, or is it just a silly movie about the kids these days and their addition to screens?  Let’s find out!!

This is the story of a man named Phil (Adam DeVine) who spends all his time on his phone and has no connections with anyone else; especially at his job where he writes top ten lists for a website run by the maniacal Kai (Michael Peña).  I’m not sure why he has to go to an office to do that, especially since he doesn’t seem to get anything out of being around other people like his coworkers Craig and Elaine (Ron Funches and Charlyne Yi), but that’s his life and he seems to be content with it.  Until of course his phone breaks after a run in with a local bike shop owner named Cate (Alexndra Shipp) and he has to go buy a new one which seems simple enough but turns into madcap hilarity when the AI assistant turns out to be a wise cracking, truth telling, emotionally berating, hard ass named Jexi who doesn’t put up with ANY of Phil’s crap and tries to get his life in order if for no other reason than how embarrassing it is to be around him.  At first it seems to work as her tough love advice leads to him making friends at work, expanding his horizons a bit, and even landing a date with Cate, but once the job of fixing him comes closer and closer to being finished what is left for Jexi to do?  Can Phil put his life back on track and learn to be the kind of person those MILLENNIALS ARE RUINING EVERYTHING articles wants us to be?  What will Jexi do once she’s no longer needed and Cate starts to horn in on her territory?  Is this what the AI in HER would have acted like if she was the star of that Joker movie?

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“You wanna know how I got these scars?  YOU DROPPED ME WHILE EATING THAT CANDY BAR!!“     “Oh come on baby!  I got you that protective case, didn’t I?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Dora and the Lost City of Gold

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Dora and the Lost City of Gold and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by James Bobin

You know that they already did an aged up Dora series?  Sure she was only ten years old in that one instead of going to high school, but she moved to the city and made some human friends instead of talking to a monkey all day.  That’s… about all I know about Dora the Explorer outside of it being… a thing for a while there.  Well that’s a bit dismissive; it was actually a HUGE success for Nickelodeon and was broadcast worldwide in various languages, so I guess there HAS to be a market out there for more Dora stuff which is why we’re getting this film in the first place; though not as a straight up adaptation of the material but instead as a reimagining of the concept.  Less Spanish lessons and more Bowie knives if the trailer is anything to go by, which at least caught my and many others’ attention a few months ago.  Can this spin on the beloved children’s character become a cross generational hit that will keep Dora in the public consciousness for decades to come, or will this be as bad a miscalculation as that M Night version of The Last Airbender?  Let’s find out!!

Dora (Isabela Moner), whose last name has been lost to time, is your typical teenaged jungle explorer.  She has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything that could kill her in there, she’s made friends with the native animals including a monkey named Boots, and she can apparently fall from great heights without breaking any of her bones!  Truly a Lara Croft in the making as long as she gets her gun permit, but her parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) have other plans for her.  See, they’re about to go on a trip to find THE LOST CITY OF PARAPATA (which is apparently full of gold), but instead of taking their highly competent and well trained daughter with them, they’re gonna send her to “the city” to stay with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and attend the most fearsome jungle of them all; HIGH SCHOOL!!  Like most cartoon characters brought to life, her biggest problem is that she’s just too earnest for this cynical world which wants to sap all the idealism right out of her, but darn it she won’t be deterred!  She does end up being a bit of a laughing stock though for… being nice I think, and she’s ends up hanging out with the other nobodies at the school; her cousin Diego for some reason, the class president (Madeleine Madden) for some reason, and the local nerd (Nicholas Coombe) for pretty obvious reasons.  If only there was a way for her to show everyone that she’s ACTUALLY an awesome Indiana Jones knock off instead of some geek who likes to carry water purifies wherever she goes.  Well she gets her monkey’s paw wish when during a field trip she and her “not friends” all get captured by mercenaries who take her back to “The Jungle” and demand she help them find her parents who have gone missing in search of that city full of gold.  Fortunately a friend of her parents Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez) springs them free and wants to help them find her parents, so now it’s a race against time as Dora and her not so enthusiastic explorers have to track down her parents before the team of mercenaries (including Swiper the Fox for some reason) can hunt them down, take the gold, and gut them all like fish.  Can Dora teach her friends to survive in such a harsh environment and gain their respect in the process?  Why did her parents go missing in the first place, and is the lost city gold so hard to find for a very good reason?  I wonder if this adventure will look good on their college applications…

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“If we can make it through this cave, we’ll finally be in Paraparta!”     “Good.  At least I’ll finally be able to afford Harvard after this.”     “We really shouldn’t take the gold.”     “And I really shouldn’t be paying fifty grand a semester, yet here we are!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Ant-Man and the Wasp and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Peyton Reed

The first Ant-Man is easily one of my favorite Marvel films and has always felt like an outlier in the MCU because (incoming pun VERY much intended) it knew the value of going small.  The fate of the world wasn’t at stake, it didn’t involve Gods, Kings, or vast armies of convenient cannon fodder; rather it was a heist film about a guy who basically just needed a job and got wrapped up in a while bunch of sci-fi nonsense!  It was fun, it was light, and it didn’t have the weight of a dozen other films dragging it down which, given my lukewarm reception to the more recent BIG TEAM UP MOVIES, is just the kind of Marvel film I could really use right about now.  Seriously, I couldn’t IMAGINE a better time to make a goofy palate cleanser than in the wake of Infinity Bore which I’m STILL feeling rather grumpy about and could certainly use something like this to take my mind off of it.  Does this manage to be the perfect antidote to the overly serious and bombastic Avengers film that preceded it, or does the specter of that film loom large enough over the MCU that even THIS series cannot escape from its massive shadow?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins in that period between Civil War and Infinity War where The Avengers are basically split up but no one is all that freaked out about it.  Spider-Man is doing his thing on the East Coast, Black Panther is dealing with his kingly duties in Wakanda, and it turns out that Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been doing… nothing.  Yeah, it turns out that after helping Captain America in Civil War and taking a plea deal with the US government, he’s under house arrest and hasn’t been doing his Ant-Man thing in a while; especially since the Sokovia Accords (ugh…) have an odd stipulation that the people who MADE the tech he used are JUST as responsible as he is and need to face similar punishments.  Well jeez, I kinda wish we ACTUALLY had that with gun manufacturers, but what it means here is that Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) are on the run and decidedly not talking to Scott for putting them in this situation in the first place… not that they could considering he’s under house arrest.  Jeez, kind of a downer way to start the movie, BUT things get better once Scott starts having night terrors about the Quantum Realm and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is the mother of Hope and the wife of Hank, and manages to get this message to those two who swiftly kidnap him MERE DAYS BEFORE HIS HOUSE ARREST IS UP!  It turns out that the two of them have been continuing their research while running from the law (pretty easy to do when you have the ability to shrink) and they’re VERY close to making a tunnel to the Quantum Realm (that place you go to if you shrink TOO SMALL and where Janet ended up after doing so on a mission) but apparently Scott has some connection to it and potentially to Janet due to him somehow escaping it in the first film.  Okay, so Scott helps them with the Tunnel and with any clues he may have about Janet from his dreams, and then they just drop him off at his house before the cops realize he’s gone!  Easy enough, right!?  Well… not exactly.  Throw in some wannabe gangsters looking to snag their research for profit (led by professional scumbag Walton Goggins), a mysterious woman who has bad ass phasing powers (Hanna John-Kamen) trying to steal their research for reasons OTHER than profit, and all of a sudden it looks like Scott might end up going to jail for twenty years because he got caught up in some giant caper yet again and could get caught out of the house at any moment by FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) who is just itching to put him away for good!  Can Scott, Hope, and Hank find out what happened to Janet and maybe save her from the Quantum Realm?  What exactly is the mystery phasing lady after, and just how far will she go to get her hands on their research?  When they get that glove away from Thanos, can we use the Time Stone to go back and make EVERY Marvel movie about Ant-Man and The Wasp?

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“Captain Ant-merica!  Guardians of the Colony!  Thor; Ragna-wasp!”     “Yeah, I’m sure Paul Feig is gonna put those on a marque.”     “Well you won’t know until you ask him!”

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Cinema Dispatch: A Wrinkle in Time

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A Wrinkle in Time and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Ava DuVernay

I actually have read the book that this movie is based on, and what I remember about it is… that I read the book.  Yeah, the big concern that I had with this film after seeing the trailers is that this material is NOT gonna be easy to adapt as the source material is pretty abstract and kinda confusing from what I recall which can work for a book that you’re supposed to sit there and absorb at your own pace, but is less likely to come together as well when put on the big screen.  Still, while the trailers were very vague and didn’t give much of an indication of what the story would be about, the imagery was striking and the director behind it is someone who is coming up in a big way in Hollywood, so maybe there’s a chance to pull this adaptation off given the resources behind it.  Will this be the next touchstone for all ages cinema like ET, The Neverending Story, or about eighty percent of Pixar’s output, or is this one of those films that goes big and then fails hard?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the story of Meg Murry (Storm Reid) who is the daughter of Dr. Kate Murray and Dr. Alex Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine); the latter of whom just up and disappeared four years ago and leaving his family to wonder what the heck happened to him and if he will ever return.  Naturally this doesn’t sit well with Meg who’s been having trouble in school lately due to bullying from kids who… I guess think it’s funny to make fun of a girl for her dad disappearing, and really only confides in her little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) who’s surprisingly smart for his age and has started making friends with three mysterious women who just randomly show up every once in a while.  After a particularly rough stretch at school where Meg bashes a girl’s face in with a basketball (TOTALLY deserved by the way), she makes a new friend in the form of Calvin (Levi Miller) who seems to be at least a tertiary part of the three mysterious women’s plans, and said mystery women finally confirm for Meg that her dad is STILL alive somewhere.  The only catch is that he’s halfway across the universe, BUT that won’t prove to be much of a problem because it turns out that humans can ACTUALLY travel across time and space using only the power of their minds; something that the three mystery ladies demonstrate by taking her, Calvin, and Christopher Wallace to the last known location of their dad which is some planet very far away.  We learn that the three mystery ladies are in fact Miss Who, Miss Whatsit, and Miss Which (Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey) and they’re some sort of cosmic entities that exist to help people across space and time fight injustices across the universe; and THEY manage to do it WITHOUT a blue police box!  So now that Meg and Christopher Wallace have a solid lead on where to find their dad, what will they (along with Calvin) have to face in order to find him?  Well, PROBABLY the black mystery ooze floating through space known as The Darkness as well as The It (no, not THAT It) which is growing and expanding at an alarming rate and will surely make it to Earth before too long.  Will Meg, Charles Wallace manage to save their father from whatever it is that has kept him under lock and key for the last four years?  What can The Misses teach this trio of children about the universe that will prepare them for the fight ahead?  Did Ava DuVernay manage to make a more psychedelic and drug fueled film on Disney’s dime than Doctor Strange!?  One SPECIFICALLY aimed at young kids!?

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“I AM INTERFACED!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: My Little Pony: The Movie

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My Little Pony: The Movie and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate and Hasbro

Directed by Jayson Thiessen

It took them seven years to do this?  We’ve had at least four equestrian girl movies, not to mention a slew of Hasbro properties making it to the big screen, but one of the most successful reboots of all time was put on the back burner until now!?  Well better late than never I guess, though the trailers leading up to its release have certainly strained my credulity on that expression.  Still, trailers aren’t always accurate and I’m certainly a big enough fan of this series that it wouldn’t be THAT hard to keep me at least mildly entertained.  Can the team behind such a successful television series make a successful leap to the big screen, or was this as ill-fated a project as… well pretty much all the OTHER Hasbro films that we’ve gotten so far?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with yet another friendship festival that’s hosted by the Princess of Friendship (how much of Canterlot’s tax revenue is straight up pork for Twilight’s pet projects?) and they’ve even managed to get the one and only Sapphire Shores… I mean Countess Coloratura… I mean Songbird Serenade (Sia), to make an appearance!  Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) along with her assistant Spike (Cathy Weseluck) and her friends Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack (Tabitha St Germain, Andrea Libman, and Ashleigh Ball), seem to have everything under control and are ready to set everything in motion, but then a fleet of very intimidating airships descend upon the capital of Equestria and start demanding their complete and utter surrender!  It turns out that this is the opening salvo for a maniacal dictator known as The Storm King (Live Schreiber) and is being led by a mysterious pegasus with a broken horn named Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt) who somehow manages to take out the three other princesses, Celestia, Luna, and Cadence (Nicole Oliver, Tabitha St Germain (again), and Britt McKillip) without the slightest bit of resistance!  Either this is one bad mother of a pony or the Princesses need better security!  In any case, the Twilight and her friends manage to escape but don’t have much to go on other than a mysterious message that Celestia shouted out before she was defeated and captured by Tempest Shadow; seek the queen of the hippos who lives beyond the badlands.  Not sure how hippos will help in this situation unless you dropped them on Tempest, but with nothing else to go on they begin their journey outside of The Shire… I mean Equestria, hoping to find a way to stop The Storm King and Tempest before it’s too late.  What will our little ponies find outside of the comforting boarders of Equestria, and will they know how to deal with such strange and frightening environments?  What is Tempest REALLY after in all this, and what does the Storm King have in store for all of them once he arrives in Canterlot?  Is the answer to all these questions Friendship?  I bet it’s gonna be Friendship.

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“See, THIS place could use a WHOLE lot of friendship!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The LEGO Ninjago Movie

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The LEGO Ninjago Movie and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan

What, another one of these already?  Didn’t we JUST see the one with Batman a few months ago!?  Clearly Warner Bros has hit on something big with the success of both The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, and I can only assume it’s what will keep them afloat while this DCCU thing burns itself out.  Still, they seem to be moving at quite a quick pace with these and to top it off, this is based off of their Ninjago line of toys which is something that a lot of movie going audiences might not be familiar with.  Can The LEGO Formula succeed for a third time in surpassing audiences expectations, or will this be the LEGO straw to break the LEGO camel’s back and shatter it into a million pieces that’ll be really annoying to clean up?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is set in the world of Ninjago; a land full of anime nerds who have surrounded themselves in Asian culture; to the point that they have a bad guy named Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) with robots who is in constant need of walloping by a bunch of ninjas with robots.  Seems simple enough, right?  Well you’re WRONG, because this is a LEGO movie and if there’s ONE thing LEGO movies are known for, it’s daddy issues.  It turns out the Green Ninja’s secret Identity is Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco); the son of the bad guy who’s always wrecking things and is therefore rather unpopular at school despite his alter ego being one of the beloved protectors of the town.  With his fellow ninja friends Kai, Jay, Nya, Zane, and Cole (Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, and Fred Armisen), they’ve managed to maintain peace in this town despite there being much unrest within Lloyd himself who REALLY doesn’t like his dad, and rightfully so!  Still, things can’t go on like this forever and he eventually screws up badly enough that not only has Lord Garmadon taken over the city, but he ALSO unleashed a horrifying monster as well which is wreaking havoc all over the place!  His only option now is to go on a Ninja Quest with his Ninja Master Wu (Jackie Chan) and his Ninja Buddies to find the ULTIMATE ULTIMATE weapon that will stop the monster and free the town.  Can Lloyd manage to redeem himself for his failure to protect the town while ALSO finding a way to get past his daddy issues?  Will Lord Garmadon realize the error of his ways and reconnect with his neglected son?  How can they be stealthy when they don’t even have proper articulation!?

 

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Oh, well there you go!  Just put them in giant robots!

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Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (My Little Pony: The Movie)

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My Little Pony: The Movie and all the images you see in this trailer talk are owned by Lionsgate and Hasbro

Directed by Jayson Thiessen

Despite being such a popular series with a fan base that is heavily invested in the creative side of the process as much as it is in the show itself, there really hasn’t been much said about the My Little Pony movie that’s been in production.  Heck, it honestly feels like Equestria Girls, which was a spin off that only got a limited theatrical release, had MUCH more fanfare and anticipation surrounding it than something Hasbro is actually risking quite a bit of money on.  Okay, there’s no way we’re talking Transformers money here, but there’s no way a feature length animated feature with celebrity voices THIS famous was less than what they invested in freaking Jem and the Holograms which had its first trailer out five months before its release compared to four months for this film.  Still, an uneven marketing campaign doesn’t always spell doom for a film (*cough* Wonder Woman *cough*), and even if it’s a sign that the studio doesn’t have faith in the final product… well go ask Newmarket Films how that worked out with Donnie Darko.  Either way, let’s find out!!

Okay, so there’s no getting around it.  The movie looks PRETTY terrible based on this trailer.  The first thing you’ll notice is that the art style is quite different from the series which isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing (watching it for the first time, I was somewhat reminded of the changes made for the Spongebob Squarepants movie), but it doesn’t come off as an IMPROVEMENT and there are clearly areas where they were cutting corners; most notably with the copious use of CG for the buildings and backgrounds.

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WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL THE TEXTURES!?  Did they just forget to render them!?

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