Cinema Dispatch: No Time to Die

No Time to Die and all the images you see in this review are owned by United Artists Releasing

Directed by Cary Fukunaga

Even without the year-long delay caused by a global Pandemic, there was a pretty long wait between this film and the last one which didn’t exactly fill me with confidence as Spectre turned out to be rather disappointing, and this coupled with Craig’s public comments about continuing to play the part made it hard to assume anything other than a troubled production as a studio scrambled to find out where they went wrong after Skyfall was such an overwhelming success.  That, and the Bond franchise is not exactly known for quality swansongs for their stars.  I mean I liked Diamonds Are Forever quite a bit, but that’s still a ludicrous movie to end the Connery era, and A View to A Kill is only saved from being the worst of the Moore era by Octopussy being such a disaster right before it.  Heck, even Pierce Bronson’s final film is so off the wall that some speculate it’s all just a dream sequence!  So yeah, with a disappointment preceding it, a wonky track record for the franchise, and a five-year production cycle when the Craig films usually only needed three, there were a lot of auspicious signs even without COVID coming to upend the entire film industry!  Still, you can never count James Bond out as every failure inevitably leads to another success down the road, and the Craig era has been a definite standout in the franchise’s fifty-year history.  Does Craig’s final film buck the conventions and become a standout in an already impressive run, or will we need to wait for another Bond to bring this series back to life?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Spectre, James Bond and Madeline Swann (Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux) are enjoying their hard-fought victory over Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Chrstoph Waltz), but as with any Spy story, paranoia starts to creep in and an attack from Spectre leads James to believe that once again he has been betrayed by the woman he loves.  With little ceremony and huge amounts of salt, James cuts Madeline out of his life and spends the next five years bumming around on a beach until an MI6 scientist (David Dencik) is kidnapped with a secret weapon that MI6 VERY much doesn’t want to get out into the world, but even more so wants to keep it under wraps.  M, Moneypenny, Q, and the new 00 Agent Nomi (Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, and Lashana Lynch) are doing what they can but Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) of the CIA is well aware of what’s going on and convinces Bond to come back for one more mission and perhaps show the new recruits Logan and Paloma (Billy Magnussen and Ana de Armas) a thing or two about this line of work.  All is not as straightforward as it seems however as the kidnapped scientist is just the smallest tip of the ice burg for a mysterious plot devised by an even more mysterious man (Rami Malek) that is in some way connected to Madeline.  Can James Bond return to the life he left behind for one last mission, or has the years of hard drinking and heartbreak taken their toll?  Was Madeline a deep agent the whole time for whomever this mysterious man is and Bond was right to mistrust her?  Never mind the NEW bad guy; what’s Blofeld up to these days?  Has he gotten that eye looked at?

“Well, James… have the lambs stopped screaming?” “Have you gotten tired of telling that joke?”
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Cinema Dispatch: Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Venom: Let There Be Carnage and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Andy Serkis

The first Venom movie wasn’t exactly a cult classic, but it did have a lot more fun with the formula and with the characters than I expected it to.  Still, trying to figure out what to do with the character for a second movie, especially since we’re STILL keeping it away from anything Spider-Man related, could easily upset the balance and stretch the joke further than it can go.  The trailers definitely seem to be having a lot of fun with the formula which may be the right way to try and make lightning strike twice, and Andy Serkis is definitely an interesting choice for director, so who knows?  Is this a campy and fun romp that captures the Venom magic for a second time, or did our luck run out when the first movie turned out to be not-terrible?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the first film, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) has settled into a routine with the symbiotic space goo that resides in his body and the two are trying to get his journalism career up and running again with this big story of captured serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) who for whatever reason has taken an interest in the reporter.  After a particularly heated discussion between the two of them that ends in a small amount of bloodshed, Kasady somehow gets a bit of the symbiote in him as well and to his utter surprise, it saves him from the death penalty so that he can roam the streets of San Francisco; leaving untold CARNAGE wherever he goes!  Oh, but this is no mindless murderer with a one track mind as Kasady has bigger plans involving a friend from childhood who JUST SO HAPPENS to have super powers (Naomie Harris) and has been locked in a secret super-prison that would normally be impenetrable but Kasady’s new powers intend to put that to the test.  All while this is going on, Eddie and Venom are going through some growing pains in their relationship as Venom wants to be free to save the world and eat people in spite of Brock’s attempts to keep him safe and hidden; all of which comes to ahead once they learn that Eddie’s ex Anne (Michelle Williams) is engaged which brings whole new dimensions of stress between them.  Can Eddie and Venom put aside their differences long enough to stop Kasady from wreaking havoc on the city?  What exactly does Kasady have planned after reuniting with his childhood love, and does the symbiote in his body have anything to say about it?  You’d think it wouldn’t be THAT hard to keep a space parasite happy when all it really needs is food and validation, but I guess that’s the troublesome nature of relationships and a square peg just won’t fit in a round hole no matter how hard you try.

“I go through ALL this trouble to make you breakfast, and you won’t even eat it!?” “You’ve got like six thousand calories and eight hundred carbs here!” “VENOM CARES NOT FOR YOUR DIET!” “But-” “EVERY DAY IS A CHEAT DAY TO VENOM!!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Rampage

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

Directed by Brad Peyton

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

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

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

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Cinema Dispatch: Collateral Beauty

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

Directed by David Frankel

Is it that time again for Will Smith to try and win that Oscar he’s been so desperately seeking for some time now!?  Hey, since DiCaprio got his we need another underdog to root for, and Will Smith is as good a candidate as any.  Well… except that HIS Oscar bait films tend to be stuff like Concussion where he’s a boring scientist while Leo jumped off mountains and did massive amounts of drugs trying to get his.  This movie, just from the awkward title, doesn’t inspire much hope that The Fresh Prince is ready to put himself out there in something fun and risky to win his Academy Award, but then maybe this movie doesn’t need any of that and is a truly moving film in its own right.  We can only hope…

The movie begins with Howard (Will Smith) and Whit (Edward Norton) as two best buddies as the heads of some advertising company that seems to get motivational Howard Speeches on a daily basis.  That is… until the tragedy.  We jump straight to three years later where Howard has gone from The Fresh to Hancock (well… Hancock without the fun) and is now spending his days building up elaborate domino sets instead of working.  Not only that, but he’s so preoccupied with the grief of what happened (it doesn’t take long before we find out his daughter died) that he’s letting the company gone down the tubes financially and can’t even be bothered to sign the company over to Whit as well as Simon (Michael Peña) and Claire (Kate Winslet) who could save the company if Howard would just give them the authority to do so, though I’m not sure what the law is about letting someone literally sit on his ass all day while all his employees are left to watch things crumble.  Eventually, our trio of good buddies decide that Howard needs to either lose his fucking mind or get better (it’s never quite clear which one they’re going for) and decide to Christmas Carol his ass using actors (Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, and Helen Mirren) who will play Love, Time, and Death; all three of which are concepts that Howard has been writing letters to as a way of expressing his internal frustration and rage.  Will this strange plan to convince Howard he’s seeing his delusions come to life make him deal with his problems, or drive him further into his unhealthy state of mind?  Will he eventually seek help from a local support group led by Madeleine (Naomie Harris) which seems like a less risky way for him to deal with his daughter’s death?  Seriously, isn’t there like a MILLION ways this plan could go horribly wrong!?

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“Without love in your life, you couldn’t even appreciate the time you had with her, and-”     “Oh!  I see you have a guest!  What will she have?”     “Wait, you can see her!?  She can see you!?”     “Uh…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Moonlight

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Moonlight and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24

Directed by Barry Jenkins

I don’t get to see a lot of independent films where I live, and the few chances that I do get to see them usually involve a long drive to a faraway theater with exorbitant prices.  Such is the case with this film which has been getting a whole lot of buzz recently, especially with Hollywood’s recent push to diversify itself (and with Birth of Nation having more baggage than they expected).  My knowledge of LGBTQ+ cinema is somewhat limited, though even then I’m not even sure the best way to define that.  I’m pretty sure that saying John Waters or Gus Van Sant are “gay filmmakers” is right on the money as their work often centers around LGBTQ+ characters and their struggles, but what about directors like Lee Daniels or Rob Marshall?  Sure, you can point to most of their movies and point out themes and messages that can be relatable to those in the LGBTQ+ community, but would you put The Butler or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides along alongside Gus Van Sant’s films?  Hell, what about movies that are explicitly about LGBTQ+ issues but are directed by those who aren’t in the community such as Brokeback Mountain, To Wong Foo, or even this film which was written by a gay man (Tarell Alvin McCraney) but directed by a straight one?  Look, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who can give you a better answer to that question than I can, so I’ll just stick to what I at least PRETEND to know best; namely talking about the movies while making snarky comments.  Is this the film that truly lives up to the ideals that Hollywood has failed to live up to and will get all the credit it deserves, or is this a mediocre endeavor that the cynics in the Academy will glom onto just to make themselves look better?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the life of Chiron and is presented to us in three distinct segments.  We see him when he’s small and is known as Little (Alex Hibbert), when he’s a teenager and the nickname has been dropped (Ashton Sanders), and as an adult when he starts using another nickname Black (Trevante Rhodes), and in each one they show a little bit more of his struggle.  What struggle is that exactly?  Well it doesn’t take long to figure out that he’s gay which everyone around him seems to pick up on and, for the most part, use it against him.  His mother (Naomie Harris) is dealing with her own problems with addiction so this just seems like an unbearable inconvenience for her and plenty of kids in school just bully him because he seems different.  Now it’s not like the whole world is against him as a local couple, Juan and Teresa (Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe), try to give him some guidance in his life, and he has a friend named Kevin (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and André Holland) who tries to keep his spirits up even though he’s got his own growing pains to work through and his own share of bad choices to make.  Will Chiron ever feel accepted in a world that seems tailor made to keep him down?  How will decisions that he and his family make at certain points in his life affect him later on?  Most importantly, WILL YOU JUST KISS HIM ALREADY!?  YOU BELONG TOGETHER!!

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“Just a kiss?”     “What was that?”     “By Lady Antebellum.  I’ve got it on my phone.  Do you want to listen to it?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Spectre

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Spectre and all the images you see in this review are owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Directed by Sam Mendes

Has it really been three years since Skyfall!?  That movie was absolutely fantastic, wasn’t it?  Well now the same crew (minus Roger Deakins) is back to give us the next entry in the James Bond franchise!  Will they be able to make another fantastic entry in the long running franchise, or will this fail to live up to the massive expectations that Skyfall left us with?  Let’s find out!!

As expected, the movie is about the lovable spy James Bond (Daniel Craig) and his latest efforts to find the mysterious organization that’s been hunting him and causing chaos from behind the shadows!  I though they already figured out it was Quantum, but whatever.  After a VERY explosive mission in Mexico, he’s one step closer to finding this evil organization but problems arise when it turns out he went out on his own without MI6 approval.  This is particularly troubling for the organization (and M played by Ralph Fiennes) due to the government still wanting to shut them down which you may recall being a subplot in the previous film.  In its place, the government wants to establish a worldwide surveillance program that’s being headed up by Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) who seems just a bit too eager to get Bond out the way.  Bond once again goes out on his own (has he listened to anyone since maybe Casino Royale?) to follow up on his leads to find whoever it is that’s pulling the strings behind recent events and is probably controlling Quantum, though that’s still a bit unclear.  Will Bond discover what this organization is that they spoil in the title?  Will he find the mastermind behind this (Christoph Waltz) who we’ve been told is NOT Blowfeld but who the hell else would be the head of Spectre?  Will James Bond finally get to the bottom of something without having to kill every lead he has!?  It’s probably gonna be a no on that last one.

“RUNNING!  RUNNING!  RUNNING!  RUNNING!!!!!!!!”
“RUNNING!  RUNNING!  RUNNING!  RUNNING!!!!!!!!”

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