Cinema Dispatch: Malignant

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

Directed by James Wan

I’m pretty sure I saw exactly one trailer for this before it was dropped on HBO Max, so I guess we’re getting to the point where Warner Bros isn’t pushing their SAME DAY RELEASE stunt as hard; at least until Dune finally comes out.  Still, I’ll take almost any chance Warner Bros wants to give me to not spend fifteen bucks to see one of their movies and James Wan has a pretty good track record across several different genres (ESPECIALLY horror), so hey!  It’s right in my wheelhouse… and I guess technically my ACTUAL house as well.  Is it a fun horror film to pad out HBO Max’s already impressive library of movies, or are they just doing a favor for the guy who brought over a BILLION dollars to the studio with a DC movie NOT starring Batman?  Let’s find out!!

Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis) is not in a particularly good place right now with her abusive husband (Jake Abel) who is constantly belittling her despite going through a rough pregnancy and even smashes her head against the wall after an argument over nothing.  She locks herself in the room to deal with her splitting headache and her unborn child, but something goes bump in the night and she dreams of a dark figure that has killed her husband and chases her up the stairs.  It turns out a lot more of that was real than she expected as she wakes up in the hospital to find her husband dead and sadly suffering from the after effects of a miscarriage.  Her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) tries to help her though this, but Madison prefers to be alone to deal with her grief.  A few days after returning home however, she starts to see visions of a mysterious figure killing people, and every vision turns out to be true which catches the attention of the officers assigned to investigate her husband’s death (George Young and Regina Moss), and questions just keep piling up as to where these visions are coming from and what connection Madison may have to the dark figure committing these crimes.  Is there something (or someone) in Madison’s past that connects her to the recent string of victims?  Just what is this dark figure that Madison is seeing, and does it have a terrifying plan for her as well?  Do those terrifying plans involve a make-over; because whatever it is, its idea of fashion died in the late nineties.

Nice duster, dork.
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Cinema Dispatch: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and all the images you see in this review are owned by Disney

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Things are starting to get a bit dicey out there with the latest COVID variant, so we’ll see how many more of the big movies are gonna come to theaters this year or get pushed back once again, so that COULD mean that this movie is the last big tent pole we’ll get for some time; almost fitting that the brief window between the “end of COVID” and “the rise of the Delta” is bookended by Marvel movies.  In any case, Shang-Chi is probably the most obscure Marvel character that’s gotten a big release like this since Guardians of the Galaxy, but the mix of old school martial arts flavor to a franchise that’s mostly focused on Super Hero Romps and Space Adventures certainly gives this a unique place in the canon.  Does this manage to break the Marvel mold in bold and exciting ways, or is it more of the same from the world’s most dependable film studio?  Let’s find out!!

A long time ago in China, a warlord known as Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung) discovers ten magical rings that not only make him a badass warrior but also give him eternal life, so like any conquer with a lot of time on his hands he creates a secret organization of warriors who are always in the background of major global events and are consolidating more and more power.  One particular power that Wenwu wishes to get control of is the magic found within the lost city of Ta Lo, and while he doesn’t manage to get through the door he DOES meet the bouncer who tells him to go away.  Said bouncer is Ying Li who never allows Wenwu into the city but does fall in love with him and choses to leave it behind to be a part of his world and he, in turn, gives up the life of crime to raise a family.  How did that all work out?  Well we cut to twenty or so years later where Xu Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), the son of Wenwu and Li is living under an assumed name in San Francisco, so things may not have gone too well on that front.  Mom is out of the picture, dad is back to his warlording ways, and his sister Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) is off doing her own thing somewhere else.  Shang-Chi is more than happy to while away his boring life with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) but when a bunch of his dad’s thugs attack him on a bus and take the necklace his mother gave him, he knows that he can’t hide any longer and that his sister must be next since she also has a necklace from their mother.  Can Shang-Chi and Katy protect his sister from whatever scheme his father is setting into motion and perhaps finally confront the problems that have torn this family apart?  What happened in the intervening years that has scattered them across the globe, and does it have anything to do with what Wenwu is planning now?  Seriously, why did he take Awkwafina along?  Her quick wit and excellent sense of humor are always fun, but there are ninjas all over the place!

“Dang! You sent him flying like his butt grew wings!” “That burn… hurts more… than the punch…”
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Cinema Dispatch: Candyman

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

Directed by Nia DaCosta

Candyman is an interesting franchise to be sure; Starting off as yet another Clive Barker adaptation but given enough changes when translated to film that it took on a lot of different meanings and ended up speaking to an often underserved audience.  Because of this place it holds in popular culture, who Candyman is and what he represents for a lot of people is something that I cannot truly opine on.  I’ve only seen the first movie which was a very solid horror film, but it’s in a genre that’s full of great works so it never stood out to me as much as other films in the genre have.  I AM however a pretty big fan of Jordan Peele’s work in the genre and while this isn’t directed by him, he did produce and write it which is a pretty good sign in my book!  Will this be another classic horror film that Jordan Peele had a hand in, or is trying to bring this franchise back ultimately a doomed prospect like so many other horror rebotos?  Let’s find out!!

Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an artist in Chicago who got some popularity early on but has struggled to find success since then; not just because he’s seemingly out of inspiration but due to the limited spaces that the ART WORLD wish to see his work exist in.  After hearing a ghost story from his girlfriend’s brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) about a mysterious string of murders back in the nineties, he decides to investigate the area and runs across William (Colman Domingo) who gives him the story of Candyman (Tony Todd); a menacing figure covered in bees with a hook for a hand who will appear and kill you if you say his name five times in a mirror.  With this, Anthony has finally found an idea with exploring despite his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) not seeing much there, and her suspicions only get worse when Anthony becomes more and more obsessed with the legend and the case that happened in the nineties.  With Anthony doing the work of spreading the story of Candyman, is he inadvertently bringing him back to resume his reign of terror?  With such a dangerous legend that could lead to so much death, why did William even tell Anthony about it, and will learning more about the history of Candyman uncover disturbing answers to that question?  If you only say his name four times, how long do you have to say it a fifth time before it counts?

“Candyman.  Candyman.  Candyman.  Candyman…”     “OH COME ON!”     “Ha-ha!  You’re trapped now!”     “What if I gave you some candy?”     “What candy, man?  I don’t see any.  OH CRAP-”     *SMASH*
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Cinema Dispatch: Free Guy

Free Guy and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Studios

Directed by Shawn Levy

When the Pandemic started over a year ago, this was one of the movies that got pushed back to try and court a big audience once things had settled down, and sadly it seems to have waited JUST long enough to catch the brunt of the Delta variant that has people gun-shy about going back to theaters once again. Still, even when the trailers for this were coming out in the pre-pandemic work, it was not something I was looking forward to as it looked like a cash grab from Ryan Reynolds; using his post-Deadpool clout to score a HUGE payday with something that KINDA resembles his usual shtick. Then again, Reynolds isn’t a guy who takes on roles lightly, especially SINCE Deadpool, and his other big cash grab movie Detective Pikachu turned out to be one of the best video game movies ever made! Can he make lightening strike twice with this send up of the AAA Game Industry, or is the video game curse one that even Ryan Reynolds can’t overcome more than once?

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is an NPC going about his day to day life in an online sandbox game known as Free City; basically if Grand Theft Auto 5’s online mode was smashed together with a not-so-self-aware version of the Saints Row series. Guy is no one of particular note in the game, he isn’t giving people quests or running in-app purchase storefront; instead he’s just a banker who’s daily routine involves getting stuck up by criminals multiple times a day as players complete the Bank Heist mission for XP. All of this is way over Guy’s head who along with his fellow NPCs doesn’t even know they are in a video game; they are just living their lives day to day and this is what it looks like! That is until Guy runs into a player named Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer) who seems familiar in some way and makes him start to think differently than before; so much so that he decides to take the glasses that these robbers are always wearing and discovers the user interface that’s hidden from all the NPCs. With this new world opening up to him, Guy goes after Molotov and even tries to make Free City a better place to live by stopping crime and being a Good Guy which gets him XP of his own and catches the attention of streamers out there; confused by this character (who they mistake as an actual player) trying to do GOOD things in the game. This attention however does not go unnoticed by the developers and the studio head Antwan (Taika Waititi) who is none too happy with someone trying to break their profitable game loop; especially right before the release of their sequel that will make Guy and his world obsolete. Will Guy’s quest for self-determination and heroism ultimately spell doom for himself and everything he holds dear? Who is this mysterious woman that he has fallen for, and what is her connection to the developers of the game itself? How can Ryan Reynolds be so dorky AND so cool at the same time!?

“Excelsior, Mo-Fos.”
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Cinema Dispatch: The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros

Directed by James Gunn

I was more positive than not about the first Suicide Squad movie, but there was absolutely a ceiling to how much I could appreciate it and frankly, I don’t think David Ayers getting his own AYERS CUT would end up improving things.  It was a lot of good ideas and solid performances wrapped up in a script that felt half-baked at best and an editing job that struggled mightily to wrangle it all into something coherent.  Fortunately, Warner Bros and the DCEU are in a much better position now as they’ve toned down the excessive budgets and improved the overall quality and tone of the films.  Best of all, they got James Gunn to direct it who’s made some of the best movies in the genre with his Guardians of the Galaxy films!  Sounds like the makings of a darn good movie to me, but are we looking at a perfect storm of awesomeness or are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment?  Let’s find out!!

Task Force X is a secret government program that is the brainchild of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and uses dangerous criminals to take on missions that are too dangerous for anyone else.  When there’s a regime change in a South American country to a government that is not so US friendly, Waller needs a crack team of weirdos to go in there and destroy a secret project known only as Starfish that is hidden below a research facility in the center of the country’s capital, and while some of them like Bloodsport Peacemaker, and arguably even Harley Quinn (Idris Elba, John Cena, and Margot Robbie), some of the others just seem to be there to either be cannon fodder or to just get them out of the prison system’s hair.  I mean seriously what are you supposed to do with a guy like King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and some dude named THE POLKA-DOT MAN (Davis Dastmalchian)?  There are several others assigned to this mission such as Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and the always dependable Rick Flag as the leader (Joel Kinnaman), but it doesn’t take long for things to go sideways and for the team to have to more or less wing it as they try to find a way into the city undetected so they can kidnap the country’s super-scientist known as The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) to get them inside the research base and just figure it out from there.  Can this rag-tag group of super-losers save America from whatever this Project Starfish is and secure their freedom in the process?  What isn’t Amanda Waller telling them about the mission and just how much is at stake if they end up failing?  I mean whatever happens it can’t be as bad as having one of your own team members take over a city and turn everyone into her zombie servants.  Sure it’s a low bar to clear, but you’ve got to start somewhere!

“Honestly, I think we can write this off as a learning experience.”     “Hungry.”     “See?  The shark guy gets it!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Robert Schwentke

How many people have seriously sat down and watched that GI Joe movie in the last few years?  Heck, I’m pretty sure Obama was barely into his second term the last time this franchise was the least bit relevant!  GI Joe is just not a franchise I ever had any affection for even if the more ludicrous aspects of it seem right up my alley, and roping a guy like Henry Golding into the franchise when even The Rock couldn’t salvage it seemed like a lot of wasted time and effort.  Still, it was a movie that Paramount had enough faith in to move out of its original October timeslot to wait until crowds can enjoy it on the big screen which is either true confidence in a unique vision or panicked desperation to try and turn a profit on a hundred million dollar ninja movie.  Does this manage to elevate the franchise and generate enough good will to get a few more sequels out, or (much like the movie’s namesake) this was a really bad bet to go all in on?  Let’s find out!!

A lone drifter known only by his fighting name Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) is searching for his father’s killer but hasn’t had much luck of it and spends most of his time punching things and being alone.  He’s eventually recruited by the Yakuza with promises of finding the man he’s been hunting, but it doesn’t take long for that to go sideways as the boss Kenta (Takehiro Hira) wants him to prove his loyalty by killing a traitor.  Now Snake Eyes is a lot of things, most notably a guy with a silly name, but he is not a killer so he and the supposed traitor fight their way out and escape; only for Snake Eyes to learn that he hit the motherlode as the traitor Tommy (Andrew Koji) is actually the heir to the most powerful ninja family in Japan and is offering Snake Eyes a place among them.  This decision doesn’t sit well with everyone in Tommy’s clan, especially their head of security Akiko (Haruka Abe), but with the bad blood between Tommy and Kenta as well as the ever rising tide of terrorism and weapons in Japan (no doubt provided by an organization that likes to brand everything with snakes), Snake Eyes may just be the man they need to save the clan from the ever encroaching threats that wish to bring them to their knees.  Is Snake Eyes really willing to dedicate himself to such a cause; especially with his father’s murderer still out there?  What does Tommy see in this guy that has convinced him to make such a bold move, and is this a decision he will end up regretting once all the dice have been rolled?  Is it just me or is this WAY more interesting than it has any right to be?

Are we sure Paramount didn’t just sneak a Takashi Miike movie into theaters and slap the GI Joe name on it?  I mean it worked for Power Rangers, right?
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Cinema Dispatch: Old

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

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

M Night Shyamalan is far from my favorite filmmaker, but I’m always interested to see whatever it is he’s made whenever his name flashes by on a trailer with this film being no exception!  The conceit seemed decent enough in a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits sort of way which is definitely in his wheelhouse, but there was A LOT going on here that made this look both laughable and disturbing.  I guess that’s why we all keep giving him more and more chances as no matter how bad he burns us with movies like The Happening, Last Airbender, and After Earth, there’s always something to his thrillers that makes them unique among everything else that makes it to theaters.  Does he manage to knock it out of the park once again with this ghastly tale of time gone haywire, or will this tank so bad that he’ll have to make another low budget found footage movie as penance?  Let’s find out!!

A family of four with parents Guy and Prisca (Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps) as well as the young kids Trent and Maddox (Emun Elliott and Embeth Davidtz) are vacationing at a resort THAT THEY JUST SO HAPPENED TO FIND ON THE INTERNET where they cater to your every need in the most beautiful tropical paradise you’ve ever seen!  Not only that, they have a secret beach that is PERFECT for spending a day at, so the four of them head out there along with another family of four (Rufus Sewell, Abbey Lee, Kathleen Chalfant, and Kyle Bailey) as well as a nice couple (Ken Leung and Nikki Amuka-Bird) to enjoy the day swimming relaxing!  Things go sideways fairly soon however as Trent finds a dead body which some mysterious guy who was already there (Aaron Pierre) seems to recognize, and not long after that the oldest among them start to get sick.  They try to leave but something is causing them to black out as soon as they try to step through the cavern that led them here, and to make matters worse the three kids all start to age rapidly.  Trent and Maddox (now played by Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie) and reaching adulthood within hours and everyone who has a medical condition is getting worse and worse as the seemingly fast passage of time is leaving their conditions untreated to rampage through their bodies.  With only hours to go before the adults grow old enough to die from age alone, can they find a way to escape this beach before losing all the time they have left?  What possible reason could there be for the beach being this way, and why were they put there in the first place?  If they get out of this alive, do the kids get like twenty birthday presents in a day?

“I want a car.”     “CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS LATER!?”
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Cinema Dispatch: Space Jam: A New Legacy

Space Jam: A New Legacy and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros

Directed by Malcolm D Lee

Nostalgia is a heck of a drug, isn’t it?  The original Space Jam is certainly a fondly remembered time capsule and it has some highlights to it like its strong animation and some bizarre asides that gave it a bit of flavor despite being such an obvious marketing tool.  It’s been over twenty years though and what worked for us back then may not capture the imagination of the “Youth” today, and frankly I couldn’t tell you if any of them have seen or even HEARD of that first movie unless it was shoved on them by their Millennial parents.  It seems the question that this movie seeks to answer (along with how to make your budget back with a simultaneous streaming and theater release) is whether you can both reheat old nostalgia while giving something new for next generation to attach themselves to.  Does this succeed in giving us the best of both worlds, or will spreading itself too thin leave nobody happy?  Let’s find out!!

LeBron James may be a worldwide superstar and really good basketball player, but his parenting skills leave something to be desired as his son Dom (Cedric Joe) isn’t really into basketball despite his dad insisting that he go to Basketball Camp this summer.  He’d much rather go to Video Game Camp which I think is what people started calling Computer Camp to trick youngsters into going, but he’s worried about telling his dad that he’d rather make games than play ball.  While all this tension is in the air, Warner Bros has called LeBron James over so that their algorithm named Al-G-Rhythm (Don Cheadle) can pitch… some sort of multimedia deal?  LeBron seems as confused as I am so he turns it down which OF COURSE makes good ol’ Al go full on Skynet and kidnap him and his son, and drag them both into cyberspace.  Since Al-G-Rhythm is a WB program, I guess he’s aware of what a success the original Space Jam movie was and so challenges him to a basketball game while he mentors Dom and nourishes his desire to make video games.  It’s up to LeBron to find the most suitable characters owned by WB to join his basketball team, or failing that the Looney Tunes characters led by Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman), and get his son back by winning a game of basketball!  Can LeBron bring the Toons back together who’ve long been separated while also bridging the gap between him and his son?  What is Al-G-Rhythm’s plans for Dom once he’s done making his game, and will it spell doom for his family?  Wait, why do they call it Space Jam when no one in this is from Space?  Shouldn’t it be Cyber Jam?

“This is it?  What, were the Loonatics busy?”     “I RESENT THAT, GOOD SIR!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Fast & Furious 9

Fast & Furious 9 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Justin Lin

It looks like movies are back (at least for those who can safely vaccinate, which if you haven’t and are able to then do it please!) and what a better way to kick off the summer season than with another Fast & Furious movie!?  Gotta admit, I was not on the F&F train for over a decade and it wasn’t until Fate of the Furious that I finally gave the franchise a chance.  It’s a mixed bag to be sure, but the latter half of the franchise has been quite impressive as big budget spectacles though and the more professional wrestlers they throw into the mix the more I look forward to seeing them!  So after a year of global misery and despair, is this action blockbuster we need to celebrate our slow but sure recovery, or has the Fast Franchise gassed out right when we needed it the most?  Let’s find out!!

Dominic Toretto and Letty Ortiz (Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) have been living the quiet life with Dom’s son Bryan out in the country, but this peace is not meant to last as Roman, Tej, and Ramsey (Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Nathalie Emmanuel) show up with a distress message from the mysterious Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and they are forced to come out of retirement to find him and find what he was trying to protect.  Sadly they don’t find the former, but the latter is a piece of some sort of doomsday device that is pretty much the SAME doomsday device these last few movies have had, and it gets taken right from under their noses by a mysterious jacked dude (John Cena) who also drives cars, has a cross necklace, and keeps staring menacingly at Dom.  Turns out that this is none other than Jakob; Dom’s long lost brother!  Not only must Dom and the crew stop Jakob and who he’s working for from getting the other pieces of the Doomsday Device, Dom must confront his past and perhaps even realize his own mistakes before they threaten to throw the world into utter chaos!  Will Dom be able to face his brother and bring an end to his maniacal schemes?  Who else has a stake in this Doomsday Device, and will they prove to be an ally or a hindrance to the Fast & Furious family?  Speaking of family, are we sure Dom and Jakob aren’t actually cousins, or were their parents’ genes an ethnic roulette wheel?

Come on, Cena! Do the U CAN’T SEE ME! You know you want to!!
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Cinema Dispatch: In The Heights

In The Heights and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Jon M Chu

Things are finally opening back up and I’m so glad that we finally get to see movies in theaters again (remember to get vaccinated before you go!), but I’ll admit that I’m also still glad that Warner Bros is still releasing movies on HBO Max the same day as theaters.  I don’t know if I’ll ever truly return to my old routine of going to the theater two to three times a week, but if I’m going to get ANYWHERE close to that I’ll need to make the transition slowly, so being able to sit on my couch and catch up on the latest releases without having to worry about show times or theater prices is a genuine relief to me.  Perhaps a big lavish musical like this is something that SHOULD be seen in the theater, but I saw Hamilton for the first time on a TV and it blew me away then so hopefully Lin-Manuel Miranda’s earlier musical can hit home the same way whether it’s seen in the most ideal conditions or not.  Is this adaptation of the Broadway show as magical as you would hope from the names behind it, or was it a stretch to hope that Hamilton’s success would mean all of Miranda’s works were worth bringing into people’s homes?  Let’s find out!!

Washington Heights is a predominantly Latino community in New York City where Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) whiles away the days working in his bodega and fondly remembering of his childhood in the Dominican Republic.  He has always dreamed of returning there one day and when an opportunity to leave all of this behind and return to his home country, he seizes upon it and plans to leave the community in just a few days’ time.  While trying to tie up his loose ends, we learn more about the people of Washington Heights, their struggles, and the many characters who fill out the rest of the story including Nina (Leslie Grace) who’s back from her first year at Stanford but may not be able to return, Melissa (Vanessa Morales) an aspiring fashion designer who can’t catch a break, Claudia (Olga Merediz) who everyone in the community loves but has some deep pain that she’s pushing deep down to try and be the matriarch of the community that everyone needs, and even good ol’ Benny (Corey Hawkins) who dreams of pulling himself up by his boot straps and making something of himself in the world of business.  As these stories interweave and Usnavi’s flight out of the country gets closer and closer, more secrets are revealed, more heartbreak is had, and more than enough excuses to dance are made to make the days go by with a smile on everyone’s faces and joy in their hearts!  Will Usnavi’s final days in Washington Heights change the way he sees himself, his dreams, and the people around him?  What hardships will the people in this community face, and will they be able to overcome them with strength and pride?  Is there any other neighborhood with THIS density of amazing dancers, because I’m pretty sure Time Square’s got NOTHING on this!

You can’t sign a lease in Washington Heights without two years of contemporary dance, MINIMUM!
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