Tag Archives: Sony

Cinema Dispatch: Miss Bala

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

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

I somehow managed to survive January, but that month was so bad I’m ready to just write off February and maybe even March if I get the slightest bit saltier.  What can I say?  Getting sick twice, watching dreck like Escape Room, and even trying to justify my enjoyment of movies that EVERYONE ELSE seems to have deemed to be terrible has done little to improve my mood over the last thirty days, but who knows!  Maybe things have FINALLY turned a corner and I’ll regret being this despondent at the start of February when I go see… whatever this movie is!  Seriously, I didn’t even know this movie was coming out until three days before I went to see it, and I couldn’t gleam the slightest thing from the title or the poster.  At least with The Kid Who Would Be King which is another movie I knew nothing about until right before its release, you can kind of get a grasp on the general idea from the overly descriptive title and the poster having a bunch of kids wielding swords and makeshift shields!  ANYWAY!  Does this mysterious feature turn out to be a hidden gem waiting to be discovered, or will it turn out that ignorance was truly bliss after seeing this movie?  Let’s find out!!

Gloria Fuentes (Gina Rodriguez) is a makeup artist in California who frequently travels to Tijuana so she can see her friend Suzu Ramós (Cristina Rodlo) and her little brother Chava (Sebastián Cano).  This time however she comes with purpose as Suzu plans on entering the Miss Baja California pageant and could use Gloria’s expert makeup skills to make her truly shine in the competition!  Sadly things don’t go quite as planned when Gloria and Suzu go to a nightclub that ends up getting attacked by the Las Estrellas gang led up by Lino Esparza (Ismael Cruz Córdova).  Once the dust has settled, Suzu has completely disappeared and Gloria is kidnapped by Lino’s men as she saw too much and could now be a threat to them.  Under the threat of death, she becomes an unwitting participant in further gang violence and is headed for a life of nonstop coercion if she cannot find a way out and hopefully find Suzu in the process.  The best chance she seems to have is a couple of DA agents led by Agent Reich (Matt Lauria) who want to bring her up on terrorism charges due to her involvement in those unwitting crimes, but give her an out if she can plant a bug on Lino which will hopefully be enough to keep THEM from destroying her life before Lino does it first.  Can Gloria find a way to escape these overwhelming forces that can utterly destroy her at the slightest of whims?  Whatever happened to Suzu, and is Gloria simply chasing her tail by trying to find her in between coming up with a plan to escape and simply surviving this horrific situation she’s been forced into?  Why is it that bad guys ALWAYS mess with the wrong person?  You’d think just once they’d find the right person to mess with!

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“I could have just spent the rest of my life being a makeup artist, but NOOOOO!  You just HAD to tick me off!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Escape Room

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

Directed by Adam Robitel

Oh boy!  Is it January already!?  We all know that this is the BEST month for movies, am I right!? Okay, so the conventional wisdom has been that movies released in January are in a sort of deadzone where there’s next to no chance for an awards worthy movie to get recognition (especially when we’re still talking about awards for movies last year) and it’s far too early to start releasing the blockbusters since the box office is still densely packed with what came out at the tail end of last year.  Whatever is coming out right now didn’t is usually doing so because there wasn’t much hope that a more valuable timeslot would have amount to much, but then that’s not necessarily the same as a movie being BAD; just not particularly marketable.  After all, Proud Mary was pretty good and came out in January!  Okay, so did The Commuter, but the point is that it can go either way!  Will this be the rare exception of not just a good movie in January but a good HORROR movie in January!?  Let’s find out!!

Six people, Zoey, Ben, Amanda, Mike, Jason, and Danny (Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, and Nik Dodani) are given invitations for this super awesome Escape Room with the added incentive that if they manage to solve it they’ll get a ten grand prize!  Well that sounds so good that you CAN’T pass it up, right!?  Sure enough it turns out to be an elaborate trap where they have to solve the riddle of each room or die horrible deaths.  Well that sounds like a poor way to spend your weekend (I’d certainly give this Escape Room Company a bad review on Yelp!) and it’s not like they have any idea why this is happening in the first place which is admittedly sort of a moot point if they can’t manage to find a way out before it’s too late.  Can these six strangers work together in order to solve each room’s puzzle and make it to the very end of the game?  What is it that connects these people together, and what does the Escape Room Company expect to get out of this in the first place?  Who the heck is in charge here, anyway!?

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“She may not be the most helpful, but at least she’s here nights and weekends.”

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Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2018 (Part 1)

Now that we’ve got the movies of 2018 out of the way, it’s time to tackle a subject I very much enjoy but have much less experience in.  Very rarely will I talk about video games on this site as my focus is almost exclusively on movies and television, but I do play a lot of games throughout the year and as a critic I can’t help but have opinions on them, so what I do is I save up ALL those thoughts and put them right here for you to enjoy!  Well, either enjoy or utterly detest me for.  I’ll take either one!  Let’s get started!!

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Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC)

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Developed by Techland

Man, was THIS a fun little surprise!  The only thing I know about the Call of Juarez series is that it was as series of ho-hum cowboy shooters that eventually jumped the shark when they went to modern day and made it SUPER racist.  This game on the other hand, while admitting that there is a level where you track down a Native American, seems to have been a total course correction or at least something of a soft reboot; a la when they did that 2D Blood Rayne Side Scroller or when Sonic the Hedgehog took a brief respite from being awful in Sonic Mania.  From what I saw of the other Juarez games, they were mostly drag and went for an authentic aesthetic where this game is all about charm, wit, and stylistic excess.  The character designs are bright and colorful which is not only more appealing but a practical improve since it makes them stand out more prominently against the landscapes, and the overall feel is that of an over the top spaghetti western; encouraging you to make the big moves and go in guns-a-blazing just to see if it’ll work.  That’s actually something I think game developers should explore a bit more; how aesthetics and style can change the way that players make decisions in the game which may be a more powerful incentive than more straightforward gameplay design incentives.  In something less fantastical and more serious I probably wouldn’t have even bothered dual wielding pistols and unloading them into a group of enemies when my trusty rifle can do the job with fewer bullets and at a safer distance.  With the visual design, the UI interface, and ESPECIALLY the story which is a series of flashbacks conveying a story that your player character is narrating as you play through it made me feel more inclined to try and be the BIG HEROTM than play practically.  It can be a bit buggy at times as I’m pretty sure I ran into one enemy who was shooting me through a wall, but despite its modest scale it’s still one of the most enjoyable First Person shooters I’ve played in a while!

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Cinema Dispatch: Holmes & Watson

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Holmes & Watson and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Etan Cohen

Oh goody!  Will Ferrell and John C Reilly are teaming up once again to make a silly comedy!  That’s gonna be GREAT, right!?  RIGHT!?  Okay fine, they don’t have THE BEST track record out there, but I still don’t want to dismiss this out of hand!  I mean… I probably SHOULD, considering how… not very good the trailer was, but those don’t always faithfully represent the full movie, and they wouldn’t just dump this right in the middle of a VERY busy time of the year just to die a quiet death, right!?  Well I guess we’re gonna have to see if that’s the case, though for both of their sakes as box office draws, I hope they put quite a bit of effort into this one.  Does this send up of Sherlock Holmes manage to capture the spirit of the books while also making a laugh out loud comedy, or is this a joke that’s way too late to the party and would have been an utter embarrassment even if it WAS timely?  Let’s find out!!

Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) is somehow England’s greatest detective despite being an utter fool who makes obvious mistakes over and over again, but I guess he’s got a good hype man in his partner John Watson (John C Reilly) who seems to be keeping at least some of his worst tendencies in check while also pumping him up to the general public through his novels about their various crime solving adventures.  However, this latest caper involving a murder at Buckingham Palace and the threat of death upon The Queen (Pam Ferris) if Sherlock doesn’t find the killer first is just the kind of mystery that will put his mind and their friendship through the ultimate test!  Complicating matters is the fact that Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) is still at large but may have fled to the Americas as well as a new doctor in town Rose Hudson (Kelly MacDonald) as well as her… assistant I guess, Millie (Lauren Lapkus), who have both captured the hearts of our dynamic duo.  Will Sherlock be able to crack the case before this mystery tears him AND his straining friendship with Watson apart at the seams?  Will Watson finally get the nerve to demand more respect and an equal title as co-detective with Sherlock who is notoriously egotistical and not one to share the spotlight?  Is it even possible for THE GREATEST DETECTIVE ALIVE to get to the bottom of how this utter fiasco made it into theaters!?

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Hey, at least YOU didn’t pay money to see this!

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Cinema Dispatch: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman

Honestly this whole “Oscar Season” thing has felt rather muted this year as I really haven’t seen that many movies that would fit the archetype we often associate with them.  Other than Welcome to Marwen, the holiday season has been just an extension of summer with huge blockbusters coming out back to back with three presumed major money makers (Bumblebee, Mary Poppins Returns, and Aquaman) fighting over a single weekend right before Christmas.  However out of all those movies that we’re getting right now, the one that really caught my attention was this film; not because I had any particular reason to think it would be great (though I do certainly hope that’s the case!) but because it looked so much different than everything else.  An animated film with a unique art style about Spider-Man characters other than Spider-Man?  Heck, that’s PRACTICALLY Venom considering how much CG they used, and that wasn’t TOO bad!  Can the cinematic debut of Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, and… others I guess, manage to be up there with the best that Disney can put out, or is this only gonna look good in comparison to Sony’s other recent Spider-Man efforts?  Let’s find out!!

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is your typical Marvel nobody; slightly smarter than everyone else, painfully insecure, and doesn’t realize how good his life is until some tragedy will inevitably strike it after they get super powers!  For now though, he’s just bummed about having to go to a fancy new school that his parents (Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez) want him to attend while all he wants to do is be with his friends and hang out with his uncle (Mahershala Ali) who understands him a heck of a lot more than his parents do.  During one such hang out session where he and his uncle tag a wall in an abandoned subway tunnel, Miles gets bit by a radioactive spider and goes through the typical Spider-Man first day of school; make a fool of yourself, stick to things, and eventually realize how awesome these powers are!  Then again, there’s already a Spider-Man roaming the streets (Chris Pine) so it’s not like he needs to get himself involved in Super Hero shenanigans, right?  Oh wait, Spider-Man’s dead.  Huh.  Didn’t see that coming (especially if you don’t know anything about Miles Morales already) and not only that, the big Super Villain plot he failed to stop is some sort of interdimensional portal gun thingy that The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) is making and is merging alternate realties into this one.  It makes a lot more sense when you see in the movie.  Trust me on that.  ANYWAY!  One of the alternate dimensions has spout out Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson) who is like this universe’s Peter only a lot less dead and a lot less competent, and he and Miles end up crossing paths through even more convoluted shenanigans.  So now that we’re up to TWO only somewhat competent Spider-People, they can do what the actually GOOD Spider-Man couldn’t, right?  Eh… maybe, but let’s see if we can find a few more Else Worlds Spiders like Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Bot (Kimiko Gleen), and Spider-Pig (John Mulaney) before storming The Kingpin’s castle.  I’m sure they’re around here somewhere!  Will Miles learn how to use his powers for good and accept the responsibility that comes with them?  Can the other Spider-People not only show him what it means to be a hero, but stop The Kingpin before their universe’s become endangered as well?  Can we somehow find a way to go to an alternate dimension where this film is ALSO part of the MCU!?

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“In our universe Venom was released in 2007.”     “WOW!  Your world really IS superior!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

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The Girl in the Spider’s Web and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Fede Álvarez

A bit of context is perhaps in order before we get started.  I haven’t seen the Fincher film or the Swedish films, but I have read the first book and got a bit through the second one and enjoyed them both.  I don’t actually KNOW if this is based on one of the books or the post-humus stuff that Stieg Larsson had written down somewhere (probably could have looked that up before going to see this) and where exactly this is supposed to “exist” as far as some sort of continuity, so the phrase of the day is CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC.  I do think that Lisbeth Salander is an interesting character and the idea of making more or less standalone movies with her is a solid idea.  However, this still seems like a pretty big gamble across the board, what with David Fincher no longer being involved, this more or less being the third iteration of the franchise in a decade, and frankly I don’t know if anyone is really still talking about Stieg Larsson’s books anymore to warrant another film about this character.  However, all that is kind of outside my wheelhouse as a critic since I’m here to tell you if the movie is good and not how much money it’s gonna make.  What’s REALLY important is if this version of the movie (with a heavily slashed budget) can capture what made these books and this character so compelling in the first place, or if this is just a brazen attempt to squeeze a few more bucks out of an obviously dead horse.  Let’s find out!!

Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is a computer hacker in Sweden who’s gone through some TERRIBLE abuse in her life that may or may not have been covered in the books (it at least takes place after the first one but I have no idea if it incorporates the other two), but there’s really no need to go into it in detail.  She’s a vigilante hacker, she helped the reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) solve at least one mystery in the recent past, and she occasionally takes on jobs that pique her interest.  One such job comes to her from SUPER COMPUTER PROGRAMMER Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) who worked for the NSA and begs her to steal a program he wrote for them which would allow the user to more or less take control of all the world’s satellites and therefore take control of all the nukes… I think.  I mean it sure SOUNDS scary enough, so Lisbeth agrees to steal it and manages to do so with very little effort and at the consternation of Frans’s successor at the NSA Edwin Needham (LaKeith Stanfield) who travels to Sweden to try and get it back.  He’s not the only one after the program however because very soon after she steals it her SUPER HACKER WAREHOUSE is attacked by dudes in masks who work for a very illusive crime organization that may or may not have some connection to Lisbeth’s past.  With total nuclear annihilation now on the table, Lisbeth is adamant to get the program back which involves finding where Frans and his young son August (Christopher Convery) have run off to in the ensuing chaos, avoid the attention of Swedish Secret Service agent Gabriella Grane (Synnøve Macody Lund), and get Mikael involved once again to see if his SUPER JOURNALISM SKILLS can make sense of all this.  Will Lisbeth Salander save the world from nuclear devastation and stop whatever EVIL organization has their eyes set on using it?  Can she protect everyone she cares about from whatever is that seems to be targeting her, or will she lose whatever few connections she still has left to the rest of the world?  How does she manage to look so bad ass even with that Moe Howard haircut!?

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“Why I oughta!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

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Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Ari Sandel

Was anyone asking for this!?  Look, we got off pretty easy with the first one, but the prospect of sitting through one of these WITHOUT Jack Black sounds just utterly miserable; especially since they’re still calling this a “sequel” and slapping that number two at the end of it.  You’d think that at the VERY least they’d try to distance themselves the tiniest bit from the movie they can’t even properly be a continuation of, but then I guess I’m not a Sony executive looking for something to fill an empty spot in October without spending more than a weekend allowance on it.  BUT WHO KNOWS!?  Maybe axing your most bankable star and replacing them with… nothing, is SOMEHOW a winning strategy!  Yeah… probably not, but let’s find out!!

After the events of the first film but in no way connected to them, some kids in some other city, Sonny and Sam (Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris), are middle school students who run a trash collection service hoping to find “good junk” that they can… I don’t know, sell?  I mean it’s not the WORST idea I’ve heard of as it’s more direct and a lot cheaper than combing through flea markets, but this also runs the risk of going into a haunted house and finding a demonic book that will awaken an evil dummy that will try to destroy you and the town, BUT WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF THAT HAPPENING!?  Well sure enough, they get a mysterious call (the movie NEVER explains who called them by the way) to clean out an abandoned house that JUST SO HAPPENED to be owned by RL Stine many years ago which just so happens to contain his VERY FIRST STORY in a hidden compartment behind the fireplace.  They open it up, say some magic words from it, and good ol’ Slappy (Mick Wingert) pops into existence and wants to be a part of the family!  I don’t know about you, but an evil puppet with telekinetic powers is a PRETTY good card to have in your back pocket when the bully comes by (Peyton Wich), but I guess they way too Lawful Good to strike a bargain with him and so the two of them along with Sonny’s older sister Sarah (Madison Iseman) dispose of the dummy.  Of course they didn’t use FIRE to do it or something as equally lethal for a little wooden boy (I’d have gone with a metal crate full of termites) so NOW he’s gonna have to destroy the whole town and kidnap their mother (Wendi McLendon-Covey) just to teach them a lesson!  With Tesla’s Giant MacGuffin, Slappy uses his magic to bring all the Halloween decorations to life (i.e. NOT monsters from the Goosebumps books) and so the trio have to go to Tesla’s Giant MacGuffin to stop him; all the while fighting Styrofoam skeletons, balloon animals, and gummy bears.  Can these three youngsters do what the cops and rescue services CAN’T do by stopping a puppet with a bad attitude?  What is Slappy TRULY after, and can this all be resolved with a big discussion of each other’s feelings instead of total annihilation?  What the heck are we even doing here!?  WHY IS THIS HAPPENING!?

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“Look, we either get another movie or you let us sweep the floors for minimum wage plus benefits.  At this point we’ll take either.”

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