Tag Archives: Movie Review

Cinema Dispatch: Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

If I was reviewing films back when the first Hotel Transylvania film came out, it would have easily been in the top five films of that year.  Avengers?  Whatever!  Flight?  Forget about it!  21 Jump Street, Prometheus, Skyfall, Chronicle?  Okay, SOME of those might have made it on the list, but Hotel Transylvania was an absolute surprise that I don’t think anyone has really managed to top in regards to its animation and flat out hilarity.  Now that’s not to say that films like Coco, Wreck-It Ralph, and The LEGO Movie aren’t great in their own way, but what Tartakovsky did with Hotel Transylvania was sheer brilliance and just hasn’t been replicated since.  Except for MAYBE The Peanuts Movie which ingeniously recreated the art style in CG, no other film has felt so AUTHENTICALLY cartoonish as this series, and that certainly earns it a massive amount of respect from me even if the sequel was FINE but not up to the first one.  Now that we’re at the third film though with Tartakovsky STILL directing these (wasn’t he supposed to make a film called Can You Imagine, or that new Popeye movie?), so with this film has the spark FINALLY gone out for this franchise or did they fix the mistakes of the sequel to bring something just as fantastic as the first film?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Part 2, the titular Hotel Transylvania has been doing well with Count Dracula (Adam Sandler), his daughter Mavis (Selina Gomez), and his son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg), keeping down the fort as the place becomes a popular tourist attractions for both humans and monsters, and ESPECIALLY for monster wedding; presumably both in terms of scale and as a description of those tying the knot.  However, all this lovey-dovey stuff has made it more clear than ever that Drac himself has been alone for at least a hundred years since his wife (and Mavis’s mom) died at the hands of a torch wielding mob of humans, so maybe it’s time to get him back in the saddle.  At least you’d THINK that’s what everyone is thinking, but Mavis thinks he just needs a vacation and takes him on a cruise along with all his buddies (Kevin James as Frankenstein, David Spade as The Invisible Man, Steve Buscemi as The Werewolf, and Keegan-Michael Key as The Mummy) along with THEIR significant others (Fran Drescher, Chrissy Teigen, and Molly Shannon), as well all the monsters who have ever stayed at the Hotel so you can see them do their classic bits, and of course we cannot forget Drac’s dad Vlad (Mel Brooks)!  Oh, and don’t forget the kids Dennis and Winnie (Asher Blinkoff and Sadie Sandler) who are on this trip as well but are doing their own thing with Dennis’s giant pet dog Tinkles.  Said vacation by the way is being hosted by the adventurous and very much human Captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn) who’s not just whisking these monsters on a fabulous journey; she’s also managed to immediately steal the heart of Drac who ZINGED the moment he caught sight of her!  Now Drac has to find a way to confess his feelings for Captain Ericka while also keeping it from Mavis who he worries might not accept him dating again after the death of her mother all those years ago.  Can Drac find love out on the open sea, or will his duties as a loving father (and grandfather!) keep him from finding love once again?  Is Captain Ericka as wonderful as she seems and the perfect match for good ol’ Drac, or is there more to her than meets the eye?  If this movie is a hit, can we finally get Tartakovsky to do that Popeye movie?  PLEASE!?

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“We’ve made Sony a BILLION dollars!  You’d think they’d throw him a bone at some point!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Skyscraper

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

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

I for one will NEVER turn down a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson flick even if it looks as freaking ridiculous as this Die Hard knockoff looks to be!  The guy is an unstoppable force in Hollywood and the fact that almost all of his movies are least SOMEWHAT enjoyable is a good indication of why that’s the case.  This one looks to be no different in any significant way, but hey!  More of what we love from the guy can’t possibly be a bad thing… right?  Does this manage to be fun despite its silly premise and unbelievable set pieces, or is there a limit to what even THE ROCK is capable of carrying?  Let’s find out!!

Our hero is Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) who’s a former FBI… SWAT… Solider… something, who’s spent the last ten years working as a private security consultant.  See, he had to retire after… the incident, which may have taken one of his legs also led to him meeting his wife (Neve Campbell) who he then married and had two kids with (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell) so six of one half a dozen of the other!  Anyway, he’s landed his biggest job yet as a third party verifier of the security and safety systems that are put in place at THE PEARL.  What is THE PEARL you may ask?  Well it’s the largest skyscraper IN THE WORLD (it sure would suck if someone had to climb it later in the movie) that was built by Chinese billionaire Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) and is about to open its upper floors to renters; provided of course they pass Will’s safety check which will secure them a reasonable insurance policy!  Well as exciting as all that sounds, things start to go south as a crew of well-trained criminals (led by Roland Møller) not only infiltrate THE PEARL but also get total control of their security system, and they set fire to the upper floors in an attempt to smoke Zhao out of his penthouse and get whatever it is he’s hiding up there.  There’s just one problem!  Okay, actually two problems.  Will’s family was STAYING on one of those floors they just so happened to set on fire, and Will himself was outside THE PEARL as part of his security check and now needs to find a way inside.  So not only did you piss him off by putting his family in danger, you’re gonna force him to face heights, smoke, and absurdly high temperatures as well which is just gonna get him THAT much more angry at you!  Can Will somehow infilitrate the burning building and save his family before it’s too late?  What exactly is Zhao hiding, and is worth all the destruction these bad guys are causing?  Wait, is he SERIOUSLY gonna try to jump that!?

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FLAP YOUR GIANT MUSCULAR ARMS, DWAYNE!!

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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: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

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Sicario: Day of the Soldado and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures

Directed by Stefano Sollima

You know what I thought when I got out of the first movie?  This is PRIME material for a franchise!  Yeah, the first Sicario was a dark journey through the worst aspects of the War on Drugs which felt REALLY complete as a story, but after it made a boat load at the box office the studio couldn’t help itself from squeezing as much money out of this cash cow as they could which HOPEFULLY means we’ll get a crossover with The Fast and the Furious franchise, but until then we’ll have to get stuck with more straightforward entries of vastly diminishing returns.  Okay, that’s a little unfair.  After all, it’s not like you COULDN’T make another movie with this cast, and the premise seems like a great starting point to bring up issues surrounding immigration and border patrol that have only become more exacerbated since the last film came out!  Wishful thinking I suppose, but you’ve gotta have SOME amount of hope, right!?  Will this be a great and topical sequel to an already fantastic movie, or was this project doomed long before it had a chance to say something important about our current political climate?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the first film, Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick (Josh Brolin and Bencio del Toro) seem to have parted ways at least for the time being as the former is still running operations at the border while the latter is waiting for another chance to hit hard against the Cartel.  The good news is that such an opportunity has presented itself and will lead to their most drastic and bloody mission yet!  The bad news though is that said chance only happened because terrorist blew up a grocery store in Kansas City where at least one of them seems to have gotten into the country illegally from the border (ugh…) and might have even gotten a bit of help from the Cartel.  With a blank check from the government to mess things up in Mexico, Matt decides to kidnap the daughter of one of the Cartel bosses down there (Isabela Moner)  and then blame it on one of the other Cartel bosses; causing a civil war within the country that will decimate their stranglehold on the area.  Things SORT of go off without a hitch, but once it’s time for them to return the girl under the guise of “finding her” across the border, things go sideways as Matt and Alejandro’s crew is ambushed and the girl runs off into the desert.  Alejandro goes for the girl while Matt and the rest head back to base in Texas, but all is well as the ambush has made things more complicated than they should be and it’ll be that much harder for Matt and Alejandro to find a way to resolve this without stabbing each other, the US government, or anyone else, directly in the back.  Can Alejandro not only find this girl but find a way to keep her safe from those who wish her harm?  Just how far will Matt go for Alejandro, and will he be forced to choose between his friend and his duty?  Wait, how are we supposed to be rooting for these guys now!?  You SAW what they did in the last film, right!?

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“BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The First Purge

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The First Purge and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Gerard McMurray

Do you realize that it’s ONLY been two years since the last Purge movie?  It feels like an ETERNITY since then, and that’s mostly due to the way that reality deviated in much worse way than Election Year had predicted, and we’re gonna be suffering through this waking nightmare for quite a bit longer; especially with the inevitable ideological shift of the Supreme Court.  Now the last movie managed to be my favorite movie of 2016 which puts me in a rather exclusive category of people who liked it more than La La Land, Arrival, and Moonlight, and I still stand by that decision no matter WHAT Rotten Tomatoes gave it!  The franchise has only gotten better with each movie, a feat that I a franchise has rarely if EVER pulled off, and the reason why is because the filmmakers BELIEVE in their premise and build upon it each time; expanding the lore, coming up with creative ways to murder, and most importantly hammering down and fine tuning its message that is stronger than most “respectable” movies that try to do the same thing.  With this one though, they’re not only going for their most radically political yet, but also make it a successful prequel which is rarely a good idea for ANY horror franchise.  Heck, do you even REMEMBER they did a prequel to The Thing or that Leatherface prequel from last year?  If there’s one franchise that has a chance of pulling it off though, it’s this one.  Does this movie manage to elevate the bar once again for smart and brazen horror films, or have they finally managed to bite off more than they can chew in a political climate that may be too hot for even THIS series to handle?  Let’s find out!!

With unemployment on the rise and an ineffective response from the government to fix it, the United States is breaking out in protests across the country which may SOUND like a reflection of our own time, but hold your horses!  We haven’t gotten to the takeover of the government by a Fascist political party!  Yes, in all this turmoil (much of it I assume is manufactured as a way to justify racist, classist, and nationalist policies), the New Founding Fathers of America gain enough popularity as a political party that they win the White House and presumably the other branches of government; paving the way for them to come up with a plan to fix everything by which I mean killing off poor people.  No wait!  We can’t be THAT blatant right away.  Let’s just call it… an experiment!  Yeah, that’ll work!  Using some rather sketchy science from a doctor of… something (Marisa Tomei), the NFFA has sectioned off Staten Island as the site of a sociological test to see if it’ll be the solution to increased crime rates which is, you guessed it, THE PURGE.  For twelve hours, paid volunteers who offered to stay on the island (and those who couldn’t afford to get off) will be able to commit ANY crime they wish, up to and including murder, and our tour guides for this night of horror Nya (Lex Scott Davis) who’s been organizing protests for this event from the beginning, her brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade) who’s considering partaking in the violence, and a local gangster named Dmitri (Y’Lan Noel) who has a history with Nya and is just as skeptical as she is of what’s REALLY gonna happen on this fateful night.  Will our heroes survive a night of unmitigated horrors doled out by fascist politicians and easy led fools?  Just how far will the government go to make this experiment the new law of the land, and will justice ever find its way back to them?  How is it that THIS franchise has never gotten an Oscar nomination, but everyone tripped over themselves to heap praise on Three Billboards when it’s message was a weak sauce version of the one in these films!?

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Now if Frances McDormand was IN the movie, THEN it might have a shot!

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Cinema Dispatch: Uncle Drew

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

Directed by Charles Stone III

Has anyone been looking forward to this movie?  I’m not the only one who thought this was going to be a very mediocre cash grab from that awful trailer with the bobble heads and the Sugarhill Gang song, right?  Then again, I’m one of those darn Millennials who thinks that Space Jam is the height of basketball comedies, so maybe the lack of Warner Bros characters was throwing me off here but I still got a real bad feeling from this as it checks off a lot of bad comedy tropes.  Old age makeup, retro soundtrack, goofy sports premise (“There’s no rule that says a dog can’t play basketball!”), all the favorites from movies that you may have liked as a kid but really doesn’t hold up now… except for Space Jam.  Will this be a nostalgic throwback to the era of silly sports movies, or will this be more painful than if Tyler Perry did a Madea basketball movie?  Well I’m pretty sure NOTHING would be worse than seeing Tyler Perry’s A Medea March Madness, but let’s find out!!

Down on his luck Dax (Lil Rel Howery) has been training his whole life to be a basketball player but decided to go into coaching after… the incident, and has a team that might just win a basketball tournament in Harlem known as the Rucker Classic and win a boat load of money which he’ll use to… I don’t know; pay his rent I guess.  It all depends on his star player Casper (Aaron Gordon) who is PHENOMENAL on the court but kind of a douche in real life, and he’s been making eyes at fellow douche Mookie (Nick Kroll) who’s Dax’s big rival (especially after… the incident) and coached the last five teams to win the Rucker Classic.  Sure enough, after draining Dax of all his money, Casper goes to join Mookie and the rest of the team just kind of goes away as well.  Not only that but his girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish) kicks him out of the house because she was banking on that prize money and has no use for the shmuck now that he doesn’t have a chance to win it.  Left with absolutely nothing but the clothes on his back and a spot in the tournament, Dax starts scouring the area for unaffiliated ball players but has no luck and is about to give up when he sees an old man school one of the young dudes in basketball; showing him the value of fundamentals over being able to show off.  The old man turns out to be Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) who was a legendary basketball player in Harlem that disappeared forty years ago under dubious circumstances, and he might just be the man Dax needs to avoid living on a park bench!  Uncle Drew agrees to play for him, but only if they find the rest of his old team (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, and Nate Robinson) to play as well.  And so they’re off on a road trip to find Uncle Drew’s old friends, mend some bridges, learn some lessons, and play basketball against dudes a quarter their age!  Will Uncle Drew be able to show these youngsters what it means to be a TRUE player of the game while also making up for the mistakes he made all those years ago?  What chances do these older gentlemen have against Mookie’s team, and will Dax be able to get past… the incident?  Did you know there’s a new Shaq Fu game?  I wonder if this is some sort of crossover…

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Heck, you can make a convincing argument that this is a sequel to that Super Globetrotters cartoon!

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Cinema Dispatch: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by J A Bayona

The first Jurassic World was one of my earliest reviews once I starting writing about films in theaters instead of just ones that were within arm’s reach, and I remember really liking a lot of it even if it did have some really bad moments throughout and a rather oblivious tone with the way it treats a lot of its cast.  After seeing Trevorrow’s follow up, The Book of Henry, it seems clear that he may not be the best at balancing disparate elements together; especially when compared to how seamlessly Spielberg combined the wonder of dinosaurs with their capacity for pure terror in the original Jurassic Park.  For this one though he’s taken a step back for a new director to try and get this goofy idea work once again even if the trailers make it look a LOT like The Lost World.  Can this franchise hold onto relevance for one more outing, or is finally time for this franchise to go extinct?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the last film, we find ourselves a few years out from the Jurassic World incident where everyone who’s still alive has moved on to something new and the dinosaurs on the island are simply left to their own devices.  However, it turns out that the island where a GIGANTIC THEME PART WAS OPERATING ONLY A HANDFUL OF YEARS AGO is sitting on top of an active volcano, so I guess that means the park was doomed either way.  This is a problem however because the island is the only place on Earth that is home to these magnificent killing machines, and several people around the world including a dinosaur protection organization led up by Calire Dearing from part one (Bryce Dallas Howard) are intent on finding them a new home before the volcano explodes.  She ends up getting the attention of Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) who I don’t THINK was in the original Jurassic Park but was apparently John Hammond’s business partner the whole time, and he has the resources to get those dinosaurs to safety.  Well that’s great, but why does he as well as his right hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) need her?  So apparently, since she was an employee back then, she STILL has access to the security system (apparently that’s STILL up and running) and once she logs in, she can track the remaining dinosaurs on the island through GPS chips in their skin.  Even with that though, there’s still one creature that will surely elude them which JUST SO HAPPENS to be Blue the Veloceraptor from part one.  If only they knew some hunky bro who trained Blue and could potentially cox them to get in a cage and off the island.  Oh wait!  They DO know such a hunky bro!  Claire drafts Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to join them on this wild expedition along with two volunteers at the organization she works for; Franklin Webb to HACK INTO THE MAINFRAME or whatever and Dr Zia Rodriguez who’s a dinosaur vet (Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda).  With such a crack team as well as a paramilitary group to back them up led by a hard ass solider (Ted Levine), they’re ready to face anything on the island, but they better do it fast because that volcano can blow at ANY minute!  Why they couldn’t assemble this team together a month ago I have no idea, but I guess even SUPER rich guys like Mr. Lockwood can only do so much in a limited amount of time.  Can this unlikely rag tag of activists and bros manage to save these dinosaurs as well as locate Blue?  Why exactly are Lockwood and Eli ready to entrust all of this in their hands, and do they have plans that they’re keeping close to the chest?  Just what the hell do they mean by Fallen Kingdom anyway?  Could it be… the Kingdom of MAN!?

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The next one should be called Dawn of the Planet of the Dinosaurs!  T-REX WITH MACHINE GUNS!!

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