Cinema Dispatch: 2022 May Catch Up

So how’s everyone else enjoying their Spring? Lots of sunshine and pretty flowers? Well for me it’s been nonstop rain, a tornado warning, and a broken toilet that cost a bunch of money to fix, so things have been just a tiny bit hectic over here. That’s certainly a reason why my movie reviews have been a little late recently, but thanks to streaming services and studios becoming less confident about their theatrical releases, it’s now easier than ever to catch up on stuff in a timely fashion! To wit, I have three movie reviews for your enjoyment and to hopefully distract from the fact that I haven’t seen the new Top Gun movie yet!

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Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is owned by Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Akiva Schaffer

The former stars of the nineties animated show Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers have gone through a lot since its cancellation all those years ago with Chip (John Mulaney) selling out and going corporate while Dale (Andy Samberg) trying to make it work all these years later; banking on the nostalgia adults have for his glory days and selling signed photos at conventions to keep himself afloat. To make matters worse, they ended the show on pretty bad terms so they’ve hardly spoken to each other since then, but fate brings them back together as one of the cast members of that show Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) is in deep with the cartoon mafia and gets kidnapped right after calling both of them for help. With their friend’s life in the balance, Chip & Dale must put aside their differences and work together to scourge the LA Underworld (or at least the nostalgic cartoon version of it) to save their friend and perhaps even come back together after being apart for so long.

I’m either gonna be too harsh on this movie because I’m a giant sourpuss or I’m gonna be too nice to this for fear of looking like a giant sourpuss. It occupies a very strange place for me as I do genuinely enjoy a lot about this movie, but I still can’t quite get behind it for reasons that… well probably make me look like a giant sourpuss. Before we get into that, let me just say that I got a decent amount of laughs in this and I was genuinely tickled by a lot of the imagination on display. There are some deep-cut references that certainly appealed to me, and concepts like the putty captain and the puppet chef were well-realized and fun to watch on screen. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that the inclusion of Ugly Sonic has me convinced that he should get his own spin-off series because they were just that funny! It’s almost like the nineties kids finally got the Roger Rabbit sequel we always wanted to see as the movie’s use of nostalgia, however cynical it may be, is at least cleverly realized with some very funny premises throughout. I love the idea of turning the objects of nostalgia that are the lifeblood of the convention scene and making them the literal guests trying to make a few bucks at rickety card tables with tri-fold boards of merch. It’s clear that the creative behind this are of my particular generation, both with the nostalgia for all this nineties crap and the subsequent decades of nostalgia baiting entertainment, so it gets more than a few points for some level of authenticity even if the movie leans far too heavily on it which I guess brings us to what’s wrong with the movie. The thing is that you can only rely on sight gags and nostalgia for so long before the movie has to start standing on its story and this is where the movie just doesn’t work for me. I didn’t find Chip or Dale particularly endearing as characters, nor did I find the plot all that interesting with the mystery being pretty threadbare. Now I could avoid being a giant sourpuss here and chalk this up to being a kid’s movie where a swift pace and lighthearted tone can carry an otherwise simplistic storyline, but I feel the age and density of so many of the references means that it’s aiming a bit higher than it wants to admit. Do kids even know who the Rescue Rangers are? Heck, are kids gonna get any of the Disney Afternoon jokes in here; let alone the references to more adult-oriented stuff like South Park or the general concept of bootleg movies? It’s a movie that clearly wants to have its cake and eat it; setting its targets squarely on a Millennial audience while hiding behind the Gen Z for its immature and simplistic storytelling. Perhaps it splits the difference evenly enough that both groups will get at least something out of this and I can’t deny the moments I enjoyed throughout, so it gets a little bit of a pass from me but this trick isn’t gonna work indefinitely. Millennials will get sick of 90s-stalgia just as everyone got sick of 80s-stalgia about a decade ago, and what is that gonna leave us with? 2000s-stalgia? I mean it’d be nice if I got my Megas XLR reboot, but still…

3 out of 5
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: 2022 May Catch Up”

Cinema Dispatch: Uncharted

Uncharted and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

The quest for the truly great video game movie has felt like a moot point for years now; especially since people are rediscovering some of those old nineties films and realizing that they were actually pretty good. Mortal Kombat is well regarded for its fun action and interesting aesthetic (certainly more so than its 2021 counterpart) and I still maintain that the Super Mario Bros movie is an unsung classic of the dystopian sci-fi genre. Heck, even with the more recent films like Detective Pikachu, a good chunk of the Resident Evil movies, and arguably Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s hard to say with a straight face that we’re still waiting for someone to “get it right” when there are plenty of examples we can point to that are more than watchable. Now it’s time for Sony’s big cinematic money maker for the PlayStation to try and prove that it can be a good movie in its own right instead of just mimicking big-budget adventure films. Will it be another feather in the game industry’s cap as far as film adaptations, or will this be as quickly forgotten as that Tomb Raider movie from a few years ago? Let’s find out!!

Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is a lovable crook in the heart of New York as he steals his way through a meager life because how else are you going to afford rent there? He has aspirations of… I guess being Indiana Jones at one point, but it’s not until some shady guy named Sully (Mark Wahlberg) offers him a job that his career as an adventurer finally gets off the ground. With promises of an impossibly large treasure as well as clues to what happened to his missing brother Sam, Nathan jet sets around the world to solve the mystery of Magellan’s lost gold! With the help of an associate of Sully’s named Chloe (Sophia Ali), can this unlikely team manage to find the treasure before ruthless businessman Santiago (Antonio Banderas) and his crew of even more ruthless mercenaries led by Jo (Tati Gabrielle) can take it for themselves? Who is this Sully guy anyway, and is he being forthright with everything he knows about Sam? Does Nathan have any idea what he set himself up for? I mean there are at least four games I could have shown him to give him a clue before he agreed to this ridiculous adventure.

“We’re falling to our deaths AND everything is on fire!?”
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Cinema Dispatch: Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Jon Watts

It’s been a rather underwhelming year for the superhero genre which once towered over the world.  The Pandemic has pushed the release schedule around several times which means we’re waiting longer for these movies, and to me, the MCU is having trouble finding their voice after Endgame put a pretty definitive end to the original story arc.  Frankly, the best we’ve gotten from the MCU in the last two years have been the Disney+ shows that may not always hit their marks but definitely have a lot of interesting ideas that probably wouldn’t work as a movie; even with these things being overly long for the most part.  Still, it’s hard not to get excited about another Spider-Man film; especially one as specifically targeted to my generation as this one is.  Does it manage to pull us out of the MCU funk and deliver on all the ludicrous promises the trailers have made, or is this going to be as convoluted and pointless as the Clone Saga; or even worse, One More Day?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been revealed to the world as their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and this newfound celebrity (and infamy) has thrown his life into chaos.  Investigations from the government, a bunch of weirdos throwing bricks through his windows, and a very awkward school environment where half of them want to see him become their mascot and the other are hurling conspiracy-laden insults at him.  See, this is why you need to be rich or a soldier to do the Superhero thing; either commit to it full time or pay people to go outside for you!  It gets to be such a burden that Peter begs the MCU’s cool uncle Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to use his wizard magic to erase his identity from the mind of everyone in the universe.  Let’s just say that it had mixed results as the world doesn’t forget his identity, but there are now a bunch of villains running around who seem to know him; including Doctor Otto Octavius who has four robot arms (Alfred Molina), Max Dillon who has electricity powers (Jamie Foxx), Dr. Curt Connors who’s a lizard man (Rhys Ifans) Flint Marko who spends most of the movie as a human-shaped sandcastle for whatever reason (Thomas Haden Church), and of course Norman Osborne who still suffers from pretty severe mood swings (Willem Dafoe).  Now if you’ve kept up with the Spider-Man films for the last twenty years, those names should seem pretty familiar.  Sadly the Spider-Man of this universe didn’t get to see those movies, so he has to discover who all these people are, why they became villains in the first place, and if this confluence of inter-dimensional fan service can actually turn into a good thing for all involved.  Will Peter Parker, with the help of his friends, his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and his sorta-bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau), be able to stop these guys from tearing apart this universe and perhaps even get past their overwhelming hatred of wall-crawling superheroes?  Who else may have found their way into this universe, and what can they do to either help or hamper Peter’s attempts to fix everything?  So is J Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons) also an inter-dimensional buzzkill, or is there no universe that can escape his ludicrous conspiracy theories and get-rich-quick schemes?

“Looks like they already turned you into an NFT.”     “Seriously?”     “Yup.  And it sold for five-hundred grand.”     “See THAT’S the kind of evil-doer I should be fighting.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Johannes Roberts

Say what you will about the Paul WS Anderson Resident Evil movies, they were popular, there were at least a few good entries in it, and Milla Jovovich carried them; an impressive feat as I believe she was the first woman to be the lead of a billion-dollar film franchise.  It was kind of the MCU before the MCU was really a thing; a series that came out almost every year and made a boatload of cash based on a property that most in the mainstream had dismissed as juvenile and (cheap?).  Now that Jovovich has finished her run as Alice and Anderson is stepping back to a producing role, it’s time to see if the franchise can be brought back to life so that Sony doesn’t have to rely on Spider-Man movies to stay profitable!  Does this capture the essence of the games in a way the Anderson films never quite did, or will we be begging him to come back to the series by the time someone does a Jill Sandwich joke? Let’s find out!!

Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) left Raccoon City a long time ago and it’s the last place she ever wanted to return to, but she has some information from the INTER-WEB that is compelling her to return and see her brother.  Of course, since this is a more faithful adaptation, the whole thing is set in the nineties which means she can’t just text him to get out of the city; instead he has to hitch a ride there and show him a VHS tape of someone who claims that the Umbrella Corporation has poisoned the city’s water supply and that something big is going to happen very soon!  Her brother Chris (Robbie Amell) is not impressed and has to go to work on the dreariest and rainiest night imaginable which of course is also the night that all heck breaks loose in the city!  There are officers at the nearby Spencer Mansion who haven’t reported in so Chris, Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), Albert Wesker (Tom Hooper), and a guy who ISN’T Barry (Chad Rook) head there to find out what’s going on, which leaves the new guy Leon Kennedy (Avan Jogia) alone to watch the police station with the crotchety captain (Donald Logue).  It probably doesn’t come as a shock to you that both groups find zombies roaming around, and the city is put on lockdown by Umbrella soldiers who intend to keep this all a secret while one of their scientists (Neal McDonough) collects whatever research he can before extracting him and his family from this nightmare.  Will the Redfields and all their buddies find a way to escape the city that is slowly rotting away around them?  How does Umbrella plan to sweep this catastrophe under the rug, and is there someone among the survivors who knows more than they’re letting on?  They set the movie in the nineties, but can they truly recreate the feeling of playing the original game for the first time all over again?  Well not if they’re shooting this with HD cameras!

“It looks a lot smaller than I remember.” “That’s nostalgia goggles for you!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters: Afterlife and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Jason Reitman

I was a pretty big fan of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot and am still a bit salty that we never got a sequel to it, so seeing the trailers and just how much the studio was backtracking to safe and familiar nostalgia was pretty demoralizing to see and left me with a bad feeling about this.  A Stranger Things knockoff that revels in the legacy of the first two films while grabbing a mostly indie director who just so happens to be the son of the original films’ director just felt like too many ideas on how to make this a MARKETABLE Ghostbusters movie instead of a GOOD one.  Still, Reitman is a good director and the buzz so far has been good for the movie, so perhaps I’m being a bit overly critical before even seeing the darn thing.  Did my low expectations set me up for a pleasant surprise that finds the balance between mining nostalgia and finding new ideas, or is this a cynical paycheck from a guy whose complicated history with this franchise landed him in the director’s chair long before he ever picked up a camera?  Let’s find out!!

Many years after the events of the first movie (and the second presumably), Egon Spengler has made a new life of sorts in a total nothing town somewhere in the Midwest, and while it’s probably not much of a spoiler considering that the actor is no longer with us, he has recently died under mysterious circumstances, and his estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) has come to settle his affairs as well as start a new life for her and her two kids Phoebe and Trevor (Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard).  While packing up his things though, Phoebe finds the PKE Meter as well as Egon’s ghostbusting Batcave, and Trevor starts to see some strange things around town; especially while hanging out with Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) at the nearby mine, which is… a thing kids do I guess?  In any case, Phoebe starts to investigate the strange occurrences in the town with her paranormal podcasting friend named Podcast (Logan Kim), but more importantly starts to learn more about her grandfather and, by extension, herself.  That, and her Summer School teacher (Paul Rudd) is a total nerd who was obsessed with the Ghostbusters when he was a kid, and so the stage is set for the next generation to take up the mantel once these strange things around town turn into STRANGER things!  What was Egon doing in this Podunk town in the first place, and is there more than just his old eighties crap that he’s left behind for his family?  How will Phoebe and Trevor deal with their newly discovered legacy, and why was their mother hiding it from them all this time?  Do you think in thirty years someone will try to do one of these for the 2016 Ghostbusters movie?  I mean how ELSE are we supposed to get a sequel!?

“Is this thing environmentally friendly?” “I don’t know, maybe we should check with the EPA.” “Yeah, they may not be perfect but it’s not like they’re full petty jerks who just want to disrupt small businesses.” “Hashtag Green New Deal!!”
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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: Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Adam Robitel

I have next to no memories of the first movie other than a general sense of loathing and contempt for its central premise and absurd ending. The whole thing just got memory-holed like so many bad horror movies I saw in theaters which I guess is an interesting position to be in when watching a sequel as the lack of concrete feelings definitely gives it a lot of leeway as far as trying new things; not to mention that the overall low opinion going into it only makes the bar that much easier to clear.  It’s certainly possible that whatever negativity I felt for the first film has burned itself out and I’ll be more open for whatever this Saw Knockoff franchise wants to throw at me, but then again the trailers weren’t exactly selling me on anything beyond elaborate traps and people yelling which certainly sounds familiar to what I didn’t like last time around. Besides, we don’t NEED a Saw Knockoff anymore now that they’ve brought the series back and aimed it in a new and interesting direction!  In any case, does this latest entry in the ESCAPE ROOM UNIVERSE expand upon the original and actually give us something interesting, or will this movie double down on everything that didn’t work the first time?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the first film (which are helpfully summarized in a sequence that might as well have started with PREVIOUSLY ON ESCAPE ROOM), Zoey and Ben (Taylor Russell and Logan Miller) are still looking for the mysterious Minos corporation that set up the elaborate game from the first film and have seemingly set up games like this all over the place.  After some cajoling from Zoey, the two of them travel to New York which seems to be their base of operations but find nothing there except an empty alley and a purse snatcher.  Said purse snatcher grabs Zoey’s compass which I THINK was given to her by one of the characters in the first movie, and after an overly long chase through the streets of New York, they wind up on a subway car while the thief jumps out at the last second.  For reasons that are never properly explained, this subway car JUST SO HAPPENS to have four other passengers on it and they all get directed into another one of those deadly escape rooms.  ALSO as it turns out, the four other people are previous winners of one of Minos’s games which makes this (as one character helpfully says out loud) a tournament of champions.  Our previous winners are Rachel, Brianna, Nathan, and Theo (Holland Roden, Indya Moore, Thomas Cocquere, and Carlito Olivero), and all six of them have to go from room to room solving deadly puzzles for some nebulous goal and the chance to maybe not get murdered, though with Zoey and Ben hot on Minos’s heels it seems unlikely that this game is just gonna swing open the doors for them even if they manage to find the right number of keys in a fish tank or whatever.  Will Minos finally be brought down by the very champions that they’ve created, or will everyone be out for themselves in a desperate bid for survival?  Is there more to this game than they first realize, or are the Shyamalan twists in this thing easy to spot from a mile away?  Does any of it even matter when the game is apparently being run by money wizards that can literally do anything at any time with these nonsensical traps? 

“I KNOW THIS ONE! It’s a selfie challenge!” *CLICK* “Okay, maybe not.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Superfly

SUPERFLYCD0

Superfly and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Director X

Look, the only thing I know about this movie going in is that I’ll FINALLY stop seeing ten seconds ads for this every time I watch a video on YouTube.  That seriously got annoying really quick, but I guess I can’t blame them for YouTube’s crappy algorithms that somehow targeted me to play this same commercial over and over again, and I’m at least glad it meant I didn’t see those homophobic advertisements they got busted for (seriously YouTube, what the hell is going on with you!?), but I digress.  I know nothing about the original other than that it’s pretty well regarded as a cult classic from the seventies (but then how many movies from the seventies AREN’T considered cult classics at this point?) and the trailers for this new film, while repetitive and obnoxious to sit through all the time, didn’t look all that bad!  Does this movie redeem itself for annoying the hell out of me for a month straight, or was YouTube trying to warn me to stay far away from yet another subpar remake?  Let’s find out!!

On the mean streets of Atlanta, a man named Priest (Trevor Jackson) is working his way up the CRIME LADDERTM and has certainly earned the respect of many of his peers.  Why?  Well he knows how to use google for one!  And… I think he knows Kung-Fu?  In any case, he always manages to have the upper hand on whoever he’s dealing with, and he can get himself out of a tricky situation if the occasion arises which is good for staying alive but not so good for those around you.  Case in point, when some brash newbie on a local gang known as The Snow Patrol (yes, they’re being serious) starts bucking up to Priest, it ends with an innocent woman getting shot with a bullet intended for him and he realizes he needs to get out of the game before it takes away whatever’s still left of his soul.  With the support of his two ladies Georgia and Cynthia (Lex Scott Davis and Andrea Londo) as well as his best friend and partner in crime Eddie (Jason Mitchell), Priest will have to come up with a plan so big that it will set him and his family up for life so he can finally leave this all behind him.  I mean, he could use his considerable skills to make an honest (or honest-ish) living, and it’s not like he’s hurting for THAT much cash as it is, but I guess one more big score couldn’t hurt, right? Well when it involves your former mentor (Michael Kenneth Williams), the leader of a drug cartel (Esai Morales), and even the corrupt police right around the corner (Jennifer Morrison and Brian F Durkin) all wanting to take a piece of you for themselves, things can get pretty complicated pretty fast.  Will Priest be able to get his and get out before he gets got?  What exactly is THE SNOW PATROL planning, and will it be as laughable as their ridiculous name?  Is he super hood, super high, and a super dude?  He’s more than that!  HE’S SUPER FLY!!

SUPERFLYCD1
That is hair so good, it requires its own insurance plan.

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Superfly”