Cinema Dispatch: An American Pickle

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An American Pickle and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Brandon Trost

For weeks I’ve been grumbling about the slow drip of releases the last few months, but now I find myself spoiled for choice as I’ve not only got Black is King to still watch on Disney+, I find out there’s a Seth Rogen movie on HBO Max as well!  Even with his performance in Long Shot coming off as obnoxious and juvenile, I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy ever since I saw Knocked Up which is a movie I love and have seen so many times that I’d probably put in my top ten comedies ever made.  He’s never really reached THAT level of brilliance since then (especially working without Judd Apatow), but I’m always interested to see what he does and he’ll surprise you every once in a while something great like The Night Before and Sausage Party.  Does this latest outing from the guy end up being one of his best performances yet, or is there a reason they’re not saving this one until theaters open back up?  Let’s find out!!

Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) is a simple man from the Eastern European village of Schlupsk who moves to America with his loving wife Sarah (Sarah Snook) to start a new life and establish himself and his family as part of the American Dream.  He gets a job bashing rats with a stick at a Pickle Factory which certainly pays more than his ditch-digging job back in Schlupsk, and despite the massive xenophobia against Jewish people in this country, things couldn’t be looking any brighter!  That is until Herschel falls into a pickle vat mere moments before the factory is closed down and his body is left forgotten for a hundred years until some kids stumble into the factory and open the vat; freeing Herschel who was perfectly preserved in the pickle brine and therefore hasn’t aged a day because of SCIENCE!  On the plus side, he now lives in a world with better food, less Polio, and better sticks to bash rats with.  On the other hand, everyone he knows and loves is dead.  Six of one, half a dozen of the other I suppose, but what might just tip the scales into this being a net positive is that he has one living relative that has agreed to take him in; his great-grandson Ben Greenbaum (also Seth Rogen).  With his great-grandson being the last connection he has to the life he had before, will Herschel be able to move forward with his life and find fulfillment in this strange new world?  Can Ben help his great grandfather through this challenging time, and are there perhaps challenges of his own that he will now be forced to confront?  Does this movie get utterly derailed for no good reason after a while!?  You tell me; does a pickle taste good on a hamburger!?

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“I know I should be acclimating myself to the modern world and all the complicated nuances involved, but what about… pickles?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Winchester

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Winchester and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate and CBS Films

Directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig

SERIOUSLY!?  We managed to go through ALL of January without a single notable horror movie!?  Okay, I mean there was that INSIDIOUS movie but that one doesn’t count because… I didn’t see the other films.  MY POINT IS that it’s been PRETTY light so far for a month known almost EXCLUSIVELY for terrible horror films, and for me this is the first one of the new year so I’m STILL gonna consider it a January horror film!  Besides, that’s not even a particularly hard rule of thumb considering last year’s worst horror abomination Rings didn’t make it out the gate until the first week of February either.  Will this be another entry in the never ending list of terrible first of the year horror movies, or are the people behind this just too darn talented to make the same mistakes that everyone else did?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the story of Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) who is the widow of William Winchester; the man who started the Winchester Repeating Arms company and got SUPER rich doing so.  Now she has all this money, but she’s been using it to build and rebuild and rebuild and add on and then do some MORE rebuilding on here house.  Why is she doing this?  Well she believes that the ghosts of the victims of Winchester rifles, instead of haunting say… their murderers, are haunting her house and I guess the multiple rooms and weird architecture confuses them or something.  Anyway, Dr. Price (Jason Clarke) has been sent by the Winchester Repeating Arms company to assess the mental fitness of Sarah in an attempt to oust her from the company, but he’s not interested in being their lap dog and seems to genuinely want to help her; not like he’d get away with being so duplicitous what with her niece Marion (Sarah Snook) watching his every move.  Of course, things start to get strange almost immediately as Eric starts to see creepy things of his own and Marian’s son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey) is “sleepwalking” all over the place.  Is Miss Winchester correct in believing that there are ghosts in her house and that they’re after her for what her company’s weapons did to them?  Does Dr. Price have a much deeper connection to this place than either he or Sarah initially thought?  Why does it matter if the house is a confusing maze of dead ends and random staircases!?  GHOSTS ARE NON-CORPOREAL!!

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“BOO!!”     …     “What?  Ah, damn it!  She’s not in this room either.  WHERE THE HECK IS SHE!?”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Glass Castle

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The Glass Castle and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Based… on a True Story.  Ugh… is there any other phrase in the English language (other than Starring Jai Courtney) that sends a bigger chill down my spine?  Trying to parse out which decisions a film makes that are due to the source material is not an easy task (especially when you don’t KNOW the true story to begin with) and it makes judging a movie with a well-rounded opinion THAT much harder to pull off since it works on different levels.  Sure, ANY adaptation is gonna have some changes when going from one medium to another, but adapting something that ACTUALLY happened by its very nature practically begs to be judged on merits that are different from any other movie.  So does this family drama manage to be enjoyable in its own right, or am I gonna have to read the book and do a whole bunch of research after the fact to TRULY understand what it’s going for?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is an adaptation of Jeannette Wall’s memoir of the same name and we follow her as an adult (Brie Larson) as well as a child (Ella Anderson and Chandler Head); discovering how the latter is informing the former and learning about the pleasant as well as not so pleasant aspects of growing up with an abusive alcoholic father Rex (Woody Harrelson) with big ideas but too many personal demons to follow through on any of them.  Along for the ride are her siblings Lori, Brian, and Bridgette (Sarah Snook, Olivia Kate Rice, Sadie Sink, Josh Caras, Iain Armitage, Charlie Stowell, Bridgette Lundy-Paine, Eden Grace Redfield, and Shree Crooks) as well as their mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) who all deal with their father in their own ways; though none of them come out of their life with him unscathed.  Still, they all turned out well enough I guess, especially Jeannette who’s working for a big New York magazine and is engaged to a super-rich guy!  Everything’s going great, right!?  Well… maybe not, especially when Mom and Dad show up in New York and start squatting in an abandoned building.  Will Jeannette be able to make peace with the way her father behaved when she was growing up?  What exactly are her parents even doing in New York in the first place?  Is Woody Harrelson able to NOT be likable, even when playing a total jerk!?  Heck, he managed to stay at least SOMEWHAT charming in Natural Born Killers!

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“The demon lives in here.  It feeds on your hate.”     “Oh daddy!  You’re so funny!!”

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