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Cinema Dispatch: Overlord

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

Directed by Julius Avery

I know World War II movies are pretty common during Oscar Season, but I still don’t think the Academy is gonna be looking towards this movie once voting begins.  One of these days there’ll be a zombie movie that takes home the gold, but until then we’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got which in this case actually looks pretty darn good!  I mean sure I’m not the BIGGEST JJ Abrams fan, even when it comes to stuff that he’s only producing and not directing, but he managed to turn Star Wars and Star Trek into sold movies for contemporary audiences, so maybe his outfit can do the same for World War II occult movies of which there’s actually a lot more than you’d think!  Will this be the movie exceed everyone’s expectations despite its seemingly low brow premise, or is this another example of a great idea failing to live up to its absurd potential?  Let’s find out!!

Private Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) is not what you’d call a happy camper.  He was just some guy living his life in peace, presumably doing his part for the war effort, and then one day Uncle Sam tells him to stop buying War Bonds because he’s going to stab some Nazi bastards himself!  At least he MIGHT get to do that if the plane he’s on doesn’t get shot down before they even get to where they’re going, but what are the chances of THAT happening?  Actually a lot higher than you think which leads to him and a few other stragglers including Ford, Tibbet, and Chase (Wyatt Russell, John Magaro, and Iain De Caestecker) to complete their mission all on their own.  Said mission is to get to a French church that’s been overtaken by Nazis and destroy the radio tower that’s been constructed there which is causing problems for the Allies, and they need to do it on the double!  Along the way they meet a civilian named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) who lives in the occupied village next to the church wants to scalp Nazis as much as most of them do, and so they must work together if they are to not only shut down that tower but free her village from the bastards who just love to kidnap the villagers when they aren’t outright shooting them dead in the streets.  If that wasn’t bad enough however, rumors have been flying about what else the Nazis might be up to in that Church and it’s surely something these soldiers are not the least bit prepared to deal with on top of the neigh impossible mission they’ve been saddled with.  Can our heroes take down that tower and stop whatever is going on in that Church (*cough* zombies *cough*) before it’s too late?  Is Private Boyce prepared to do what’s necessary to complete the mission, or will he buckle under the pressure of what he’s being asked to do for his country?  Is JJ Abrams STILL trying to pull that whole “mystery box” shtick even when the premise is THIS obvious and telegraphed!?

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“Those aren’t zombies!  Those are Killer Klowns from outer space!  Welcome to the Killer Klown Extended Universe!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Grinch

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

Directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney

Is it already time for the holiday season?  Can’t we postpone it for another three months or something?  No, of course not.  The only thing as certain in life as Death and Taxes is the ever expanding period of time known as THE HOLIDAY SEASON where good will and cheer are sold to us in gift baskets and wrapping paper.  If you couldn’t tell already I’m not the biggest fan of the season’s greatest excesses even if I do take some joy in trying to find the perfect gifts for people and buying the shiny wrapping paper to put it in.  Still, it’d be nice if we could contain it to the month of December, but no; were stuck with Holiday Music, Holiday Sales, and of course… Holiday Movies.  With Illumination having already turned The Lorax into a rather detestable piece of confused anti-corporate nonsense, they’re back to the Dr. Seuss well to turn the man’s most beloved creation into yet another big screen adaptation just in time for theaters to start hanging up the tinsel.  Will this be an improvement on the studio’s previous output, or are we in for yet more Illumination mediocrity?  Let’s find out!!

You see, every Who down in Whoville likes Christmas a lot which is good for keeping the economy strong and red hot!  But the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) who lives just north of Whoville does not seem pleased.  Perhaps a trip to the store will put him at ease.  With his dog Max in tow, he treks through the snow, to the city of Whoville to where all he can think is NO.  No to the consumerism, no to the cheer, just get him to the grocery store to buy provisions and beer.  Along the way he meets Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), who seems nice enough, but has nothing to do in this rather thin plot.  There’s a story I guess about her finding Santa, but really she’s on hand to be cute and her likeness used on promotional bottles of Fanta.  Anyway, The Grinch takes a while to get properly pissed, but he eventually decides that something is amiss.  This lousy holiday just makes him way too stressed, so perhaps he’ll steal Christmas and you know the rest!  Will he find happiness in ruining this day for others, or is there a way for him to live peacefully with his Who brothers?  Will Cindy Lou Who find the answers she needs, or will her tale be lost in the script weeds?  The question of course on everyone’s mind is why should I see this when Netflix is only $13.95!?  No wait, it’s $13.99.  DANG IT!!

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“I’m ready to call this day a total loss.  How about you?”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston

It’s not often that Disney just let’s something slide under the radar like this.  Every Marvel movie and Star Wars episode gets a HUGE marketing push (even the comparatively small Solo got more coverage than a lot of other movies), their animated films are almost always guaranteed to be at the top of the box office, even something as out there as A Wrinkle In Time was pretty omnipresent prior to its release.  With this film though it’s like they want to sneak it out as fast as possible which, given what we saw in the trailers, is probably a good call and even more reason for critics like me to make sure it gets it’s turn in the spotlight!  We may love Disney for a lot of things, but they’ve had their share of horrible mistakes and I’m not in a lenient mood this year!  Does this retelling of the classic tale turn out to be a Disney Blunder on the scale of Treasure Planet, or did they simply not know what to do with the greatness they had in front of them?  Let’s find out!!

Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy) is the daughter of a wealthy English family who is not having a very good Christmas, mostly due to her mother (Anna Madeley) having died the previous year, and her father (Matthew Macfadyen) is insisting they at least put up appearances and go the Christmas ball as tradition dictates.  Oh and she has a brother and sister (Tom Sweet and Ellie Bamber), but who cares about them.  ANYWAY, Clara goes to the party in a rather dour mood and sees her kindly godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) who makes clockwork novelties and presumably lost one of his eyes when a cuckoo clock got too close, but more importantly he seems to be the only one who understands Clara as she too has an affinity for mechanical devices.  However, there’s one that still eludes her which is a locked mechanical egg that she got as the last gift from her mother, and when Drosselmeyer sees it it’s clear that SOMETHING must be done!  Okay, see if you can follow me on this.  First, he sets up an elaborate gift giving system for the kids where very long strings are tied to a pole in the courtyard with each child’s name on one of the strings, and they have to follow said string to the gift.  Clara’s string apparently winds all through the house which leads to a… magic door I guess that takes her to the fantasy world of THE FOUR REALMS that’s populated by nutcrackers, fairies, and mice.  Well it’s certainly a good thing that none of the other kids mistook her string for theirs, though even if I was dutifully following a string with my name on it, I’d AT LEAST start to question something when it starts snowing and we’re no longer in the middle of the city, but I guess I’m not young enough to get the whimsy of being out in the cold without a jacket.  The string by the way leads to a key which could be the one needed to unlock Clara’s mechanical egg thingy, but alas it is taken by a mouse that runs off into THE FOURTH REALM which is a place of fog, dead trees, and clowns.  After meeting up with a nutcracker solider (Jayden Fowora-Knight) and making a valiant effort to chase after the mouse who took her key, she eventually retreats back to the big castle just outside THE FOURTH REALM where all the rich people are partying, the guardians of the GOOD realms are residing (Keira Knightley, Eugenio Derbez, and Richard E. Grant), and Clara’s mom is apparently still crowned as queen despite being dead for over a year which we soon learn is even LONGER in Fantasy World Time!  So with that, Clara is given the royal treatment but has to take on great responsibility in her mother’s absence to… I guess eradicate THE FOURTH REALM which is so obviously evil while also getting that key back and finally uncovering whatever secrets her mother left in that egg!  Will Clara be able to overcome whatever challenges face her once she goes back into THE FOURTH REALM?  What are the rulers of the other realms planning to do once Clara fulfils her duty, and will she be able to return to her old life?  Is it just me, or did almost NONE of that have to do with The Nutcracker!?

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“And THEN we signed the peace treaty with the dragons of marshmallow mountain which allowed trade ships to travel down the chocolate milk river.”     “uh huh.  That’s nice…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Bohemian Rhapsody

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

Directed by Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher

The day has finally come, hasn’t it?  Over thirty years since his death, several failed attempts, and this one being mired in controversy because of who Fox decided to helm the damn thing, we FINALLY have ourselves a Queen and Freddie Mercury biopic.  Like I said in my trailer talk, I’m probably in the majority of Queen fans in that I know the songs and see them as one of the biggest and most influential bands out there, but know very little about them outside of that.  I know a little bit about Freddie and that they did the soundtracks for Flash Gordon and Highlander, but anything else (including who the other bandmates are) is a total mystery to me.  Therefore, this is the kind of movie that’s PERFECT for me as well as millions of other people!  Hook us with the great music and the solid performances, and then tell us all the details we should know about them and let us leave the theater a little bit smarter and with a renewed interest to buy any number of those CD collections or to splurge on iTunes!  However, with a rather ho-hum trailer followed by similarly ho-hum reviews, is this truly the Queen biopic we’ve been waiting for, or was something missing (other than the director) to make this a true masterpiece?  Let’s find out!!

If you don’t know already, Farrokh Bulsara, i.e. Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) was your typical young adult in the seventies.  Work a crappy job, write a few songs on the bus, and drink the night away listening to the local talent.  One night however, he manages to convince one of the bands into letting him join and soon enough they form the band Queen; composed of Mercury, Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello).  From there, we watch Mercury’s relationship to Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), fights with record executives (Mike Myers), and his burgeoning bisexuality as well as relationship with his handler Paul Prenter (Allen Leech).  However, with individual egos, crushing discrimination against homosexuality, and the looming AIDS crisis, will Freddy manage to keep it all together or will he succumb to his worst tendencies to find some measure of fulfillment and happiness?  Oh, and I’m sure the other guys have their own thing going on.

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“Play it again, uh… you!”     “What the heck!?”     “No time for talking!  Just keep playing… Buddy?  Is it Buddy?  No wait, Steve!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Hunter Killer

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Hunter Killer and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment

Directed by Donovan Marsh

Ugh… you know what’s worse than being sick for two weeks?  Being sick for two weeks and then getting better JUST IN TIME to see Hunter Killer.  I didn’t get to catch Can You Ever Forgive Me while it was at the nearby theater!  Oh no, I have to drive out of town to see it now if I’m lucky, but the latest Gerard Butler vehicle?  Why that’s just a hop skip and a jump away!  I’m sure I’ll be cursing my recent good heath by the time this is over, but I guess you never know until you see the movie itself, do you!?  I mean sure it LOOKS like a generic submarine thriller starring America’s Fifth Favorite Action Figure, but… I guess it could be a FUN version of that!  Let’s find out!!

As the movie begins we see an American sub is following a Russian sub before getting blown away by a third sub, and so The Pentagon needs to send a second sub of their own to find out what happened.  Not just anyone can pull this mission off however!  Oh no, they need a PROFESSIONAL hard ass with a heart of gold and a bladder of titanium!  They need… JOE GLASS (Gerard Butler)!  Joe takes the USS Arkansas along with a crew of very professional character actors to see if they can find the original US sub, and after a rather intense skirmish with a Russian sub (presumably the one that shot down the first American sub), they manage to find our sub… as well as their sub.  Yes, it seems that the original Russian sub had been sunk somehow and JOE GLASS needs some answers!  While all this is going on, Admieral Donnegan (Gary Oldman), Rear Admiral Fisk (Common), and NSA analyst Norquist (Linda Cardellini) are coordinating an effort to get a squad of US soliders on Russian soil to find out if President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) is up to no good!  Said team is led by Lieutenant Beaman (Toby Stephens) along with the rookie Martinelli (Zane Holtz) and two other guys who find that things may not be as simple as we initially thought and that Zarkarin might be in danger himself.  Will JOE GLASS find the answers he’s looking for on that mysteriously sunk submarine?  What can Lieutenant Beaman and his crew do now that they know that something is up and they are the only ones in position to do anything about it?  With so much danger under the sea, will this sub sink faster than Gerard Butler’s career!?

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“THIS!  IS!  THE NAVY!!”

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HalloWWEen: See No Evil

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See No Evil and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate Films and WWE Studios

Directed by Gregory Dark

We’re back with another SPOOKY movie that only exists because of Vince McMahon’s absurd little empire, and in this case the connection is much more direct than with DOOM.  See, even though DOOM starred Dwayne “We’re still only crediting him as The Rock” Johnson it TECHNICALLY wasn’t a WWE film as that particular offshoot of the brand had barely come into existence at the time having only been second or third tier production house on bigger studio’s films and Big Boy Vince didn’t even have a hand in producing it.  DOOM was a Hollywood movie through and through, but the landscape was about to change as the very next year WWE Studios (then known as WWE Films) were set to release their first three feature films under their banner with this being one of them.  Seems like a simple enough premise to be sure, stick one of your monster men in a slasher film, and they certainly knew what the hell they were doing when they made The Marine the same year which is one of the most gloriously over the top action films ever made, so will this be an underrated gem in the genre or are we in for the cinematic equivalent of Halloween Havoc 1998; i.e. one long string of mediocrity followed by a jaw dropping botched shit show at the end!?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with a prologue where two cops enter a rundown house presumably on some sort of tip or a report of a disturbance.  Needless to say that what they find inside is more than just a mere disturbance as the place has clearly been modeled after the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and they find a woman who is still alive, but has had her eyeballs plucked out.  The mother plucker by the way is in the other room and manages to take out one of the cops but can only manage to take an arm off the cop who kind of looks like Aaron Eckhart.  Like Chris Hemseworth, our rather inefficient slasher learns that you should REALLY go for the head as the cop manages to pop off a shot at HIS head with his good arm.

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“The Undertaker sends his regards.”     *BANG*

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Cinema Dispatch: Halloween

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

Directed by David Gordon Green

It’s finally judgement day for the movie that certainly has a lot of hype behind it, but has left me rather skeptical.  I mean look, I love the franchise but the last three movies were two wild as heck romps through the mind of Rob Zombie and a karate match with Busta Rhymes, so even if this isn’t all that great it still has a PRETTY low bar to clear as far as making a faithful return to the original formual.  That’s not what we want though, right?  That’s not what’s been promised to us!  John Carpenter is producing, Jamie Lee Curtis is back, and they even managed to get one of the original Michael Myers actors to return to the role!  This isn’t just A Halloween sequel, this is going to be THE Halloween sequel; even more so than the one Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote!  The expectations surrounding this movie is absurdly high which means we’re either gonna see something just as great as everyone promised it would be… or we’ll have another Texas Chainsaw 3D situation where it was all hype and zero payoff.  Can Jamie Lee Curtis and company give this franchise the proper sendoff it deserves, or were we better off just letting H20 be the final entry in her story and just pretending that Resurrection didn’t exist?  Let’s find out!!

Nearly forty years after that fateful Halloween night where Michael Myers (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) escaped and murdered five teenagers, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is still dealing with the scars that Michael left and has spent her whole life preparing for his return.  She got a place out in the woods to turn into a survivalist fortress, learned how to use all sorts of weapons, and just sat there waiting which she proceeded to do for four decades.  Admittedly a good idea if we want to see a badass battle to the death, but not so much when it comes to her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) who spent a good chunk of her childhood with Alternate Sarah Connor and just like John she got her ass hauled off by the state to be left with parents who will help her with her homework instead of teaching her thirty ways to sever a juggler.  All that’s in the past though, right?  Well Karen is certainly STILL in Haddonfield, but despite living within a short commute of her mother she still refuses to get involved with her, and now her own daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) is in high school… just like Laurie was when Michael Myers came to town!  Well that CAN’T just be a coincidence, now can it!?  Sure enough, Michael escapes from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium just like he did in the first one and it just so happens to be Halloween night.  You’d think that if they were gonna transport him to another sanitarium that they wouldn’t do it on the anniversary of his TWO murder sprees (remember, he killed his sister on Halloween night when he was just a little boy), but I guess that wouldn’t fit in with their schedule and there was no room in the budget for another trip!  Now with Michael out in the streets of Haddonfield one more time, Laurie is determined to see him put in the ground once and for all and can finally rid herself of this nightmare that has plagued her for the last forty years!  Will Laurie be able to survive one more night against the silent killer in a goofy mask?  Was all this preparation worth the effort, or has she already lost more trying to protect everyone than she may lose tonight?  How many bad ass one liners do you think she came up with while training for this night?

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“Merry Christmas, Michael.  Wait… DAMN IT!  Forty years of practice and I STILL screwed it up!”

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