Tag Archives: Stephen Merchant

Cinema Dispatch: Jojo Rabbit

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Jojo Rabbit and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Taika Waititi

I don’t know if I’d classify this as Oscar Bait even though it’s set in World War II which is like half the criteria right there, but it’s certainly a film that’s been on everyone’s radars for months now; somewhat due to the controversial subject matter, but mostly because of the filmmaker behind it who’s really blown up in the last few years and for good reason.  Thor: Ragnarok was one of the most exciting films in that Phase of the Marvel franchise, and everything we’ve seen of him since then has only increased his status in the public eye.  Now we have his first directorial film since Ragnarok which is a satire of Fascism at a time that couldn’t be more relevant, so you can’t say that the guy doesn’t swing for the fences!  Is this a brutal and necessary take down of the ideology that’s been infecting global politics for a few years now, or is the film just not equipped to tackle such a heavy subject matter no matter how much talent there is behind it?  Let’s find out!!

Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany who wants nothing more than to become a true fighter for the cause and even has Hitler as his imaginary friend that gives him pep talks and dubious advice.  He hopes that the camp he’s about to attend for the Hitler Youth will be the turning point in his life as he becomes a TRUE man and uses the skills he will learn to not only fight for the Aryan race, but become Hitler’s right hand man as they exterminate the dastardly Jews off the face of the Earth!  Yeah… Jojo is kind of a messed up kid all things considered, but he’s also seemingly too sensitive to REALLY become the monster that the rest of the Nazis around him have become, and he gets the nickname Jojo Rabbit when he refuses to kill a rabbit to prove his manhood.  Instead he tries to throw a grenade which goes horribly wrong and leaves him with a bunch of scars on his face and a leg that doesn’t work as well as it used to.  Because of this he has to spend more time at home with his mother (Scarlett Johansson) who he suspects may not be fully on board with this whole “Nazi” thing; a suspicion confirmed when he finds out that she’s been protecting a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) who’s been living in a secret room within the walls of the house; specifically the walls in the room of Jojo’s sister who seems to have died at some point during the war.  With his own family seeming to turn against the ideology he loves and the man he believes to be a hero, will Jojo come to terms with the failings of the Nazi ideology and join his mother in resisting their influences?  The allied powers seem to be advancing on his village, so will he have to fight against them at some point despite his bad leg and lack of a killer instinct?  If Hitler is such a good leader, then why hasn’t he fixed all this kid’s problems and made him a true blue Nazi solider?  Checkmate, ten year old kid!!

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“Jojo, it’s just not gonna work out.”     “What are you saying?”     “Look, it’s not you; it’s me!  We can still be pen pals though!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Good Boys

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

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky

Okay, hear me out.  What if we took a movie… but remade it with kids!?  WHY HASN’T ANYONE THOUGHT OF THIS BEFORE!?  Heck, let’s go ahead and add a baby to a sitcom!  THAT’LL blow some people’s minds, I tell you what!  Okay, so a bunch of kids doing things they shouldn’t be doing on screen isn’t the MOST unique premise out there, but then neither is the whole COMING OF AGE narrative that this film along with plenty of other films I love revolve their entire plot around.  Plus, it’s being produced by Seth Rogen which is a good sign in my book as he has a good eye for comedy even when he doesn’t star in the films themselves.  Is this yet another fun raunchy comedy from a creative team that has turned the genre into an art form, or is this a worse idea than Another Bad Creation?  Let’s find out!!

The Beanbag Boys consisting of Max, Thor, and Lucas (Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, and Keith L Williams) are a trio of friends who are about to enter the scary world of… MIDDLE SCHOOL!  BUM-BUM-BUUUUUUUMM!  Truly the testing ground for all men who will either face the challenge head on or crash and burn in spectacular fashion ; becoming a pariah for all time.  Well at least that’s what they think as their plan is to get in with the COOL kids by sipping beer, NOT auditioning for the school play which Thor was really looking forward to, and going to the KISSING PARTY.  They get the invite at least, but none of them ACTUALLY know how to kiss so they decide the BEST option would to take Max’s dad’s drone and use it to spy on the neighbors Hannah and Lilly (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis) who are college kids and therefore must be making out all the time.  Well circumstances get out of control very quickly as the kids lose the drone which gets destroyed, they end up stealing Hannah and Lilly’s drugs, and they have to make it to the mall to buy a new drone before Max’s dad gets home; all the while STILL not prepared for the KISSING PARTY happening that night!  Can the Beanbag Boys put their heads together and get everything fixed before bedtime?  What toll will this adventure take on them, and can their friendship survive it?  Will they unlock the mysteries of the universe on this treacherous journey!?

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“Oh!  I know this one!  If it bleeds, we can kill it!”     “If WHAT bleeds?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Fighting with My Family

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Fighting with My Family and all the images you see in this review are owned by United Artists Releasing

Directed by Stephen Merchant

There really should be more wrestling movies!  Not movies starring wrestlers because… well after forty years we’ve managed about three good actors out of it, but movies ABOUT wrestling!  Beyond the Mat?  Good documentary!  The Wrestler?  Great movie!  With those two examples, I rest my case!  In the hopes of rectifying this situation, we’ve got WWE Studios along with Dwayne THE ROCK Johnson producing a biopic of sorts that tells the life story of one of its more recent superstars Saraya-Jade Bevis, known by her ring name Paige!  Can the combined efforts of The WWE, Dwayneson The Rockson Johnson, and even the talents of Stephen Merchant who they roped in to write and direct this thing, bring us an entertaining and heartfelt movie about one of the world’s most popular sports, or are we in for another low rent outing from the studio known for mediocre horror movies, straight to DVD action flicks, and Hannah-Barbara crossovers?  Let’s find out!!

Saraya (Florence Pugh) is your typical teenager girl in your typical wrestling family.  Her parents (Nick Frost and Lena Headey) have trained her to be an in-ring superstar and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) is training to be a superstar in his own right.  The family owns a rather notable indie wrestling promotion in England known as the World Association of Wrestling, but even with their comparatively high profile as a company they’re still struggling in a country that doesn’t seem to care much for independent wrestling promotions.  That’s why Saraya and Zak have been training in the hopes of getting the attention of the WWE which will not only propel them to the levels of fame and adulation that they’ve always wanted but will also give them a few bucks to send back home whenever WAW ticket sales fall short.  Their chance does eventually come when the WWE and NXT (the training program for potential wrestlers) visit England to put on a show and field some new talent; all of whom will be tested by one of their most seasoned trainers (Vince Vaughn) to see if they have what it takes.  The good news is that Saraya does indeed have what it takes!  The bad news is that Zak does not and so she has to leave her family behind to pursue her dreams while has to stay behind and fail to live out his.  Can Saraya survive the harsh challenges of the NXT boot camp and keep her head on straight despite being so far from home?  What will Zak do now that he’s failed at the one thing he’s been training his whole life for?  How intense do family dinners get when you know everyone there can power bomb you into the mashed potatoes?

 

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“All I’m saying is that Halloween Havoc isn’t as bad as people say it is.”     “What about the flash paper!?”     “WHAT IF I STAB THESE CHOPSTICKS IN YOUR EYES AND SHOVE EGGROLLS DOWN YOUR THROAT!?”     “Honey, I think we should probably have this discussion elsewhere.  THE LIVING ROOM IN FIVE MINUTES!!  IT’LL ALL BE SETTLED ONCE AND FOR ALL!!”

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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: Table 19

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Table 19 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Jeffrey Blitz

Table what now?  Has anyone heard of this movie before like a week ago?  Hell, did anyone see a trailer of this or is its target audience people who couldn’t see Beauty and the Beast because it was sold out but made the effort to get out of the damn house anyway so are going to see something else?  I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty niche market to go after!  Well just because no one has heard of the damn thing doesn’t mean it’s a BAD movie.  Hell, Shawshank Redemption was a HUGE flop and now it’s one of the most beloved and overexposed films of all time!  Okay, so this probably isn’t gonna be THAT good, but maybe it’ll still manage to be rather enjoyable.  Let’s find out!!

The table in question refers to a table at the wedding reception, and the nineteenth one is the LAST table in the hierarchy of wedding guests.  While all the important people are at the first few tables and all the REAL guests are in the latter ones, the ones who were invited but weren’t expected to show up were placed at the TABLE OF INFINITE SHAME!!  The guest list includes the brides former babysitter (June Squibb) which seems kinda mean spirited, a couple who worked with the one of the dads of the married couple many years ago (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a family member who screwed someone out of A LOT of money (Stephen Merchant), and… some teenager (Tony Revolori).  Honestly, I don’t remember why he’s even there in the first place, but his shtick is that he’s horny all the time so maybe he’s on hand to fill a cliché quota.  ANYWAY!  There’s still one more person at the table.  The best friend of the bride (Anna Kendrick)!?  SAY WHAT!?  She’s ALSO the former Maid of Honor and is personally responsible for the seating arrangements!?  As it turns out, there was a major falling out, particularly in regards to the brother of the bride (Wyatt Russel), and while she ultimately decided to still go, she’s stuck with the losers and rejects who probably resent being considered losers and rejects.  Will shenanigans inevitably ensue now that a Molotov cocktail of resentment has landed at the table with people who pretty much have nothing to lose here?   Just what exactly happened between our heroine of sorts and the happy couple’s family?  WHAT ARE THEY GONNA DO TO THE WEDDING CAKE!?

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“We’re all in agreement.  The cake had it coming, and we will never speak of this again…”

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Cinema Dispatch: Logan

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Logan and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by James Mangold

Dude has been playing this character since the turn of the millennium.  It’s no wonder he looks so damn tired in this!  For many people, the first X-Men (as well as Blade in 1998) can be pointed to as the start of the modern superhero genre as a mainstream endeavor instead of the one off success stories like Batman and Superman.  Sure, Superheroes have ALWAYS been a part of the film industry (There only maybe a dozen or so fewer superhero movies made in the nineties as in the decade that followed) but with X-Men it proved that more modern and varied superheroes had a shot at connecting with a wider audience; especially with powerhouse actors like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Hugh Jackman on hand to sell it to them.  I mean say what you will for the X-Men film franchise in general, it’s managed to have a decent amount of staying power with a solid decade lead on the MCU.  For all its ups and downs, it’s stayed pretty popular to this day and that’s double true for Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine.  However, all good things inevitably come to an end, and this movie is here to remind us all of that fact as Hugh Jackman swears this is the last time we will see him in this role.  So is it a proper send off for the role that started a global phenomenon, or has all semblances of life and effort left his franchise a long time ago like it has to the main character in this movie?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Old Man Logan (Hugh Jackman) barely scraping by as a limo driver who ALWAYS seems to run into assholes wherever he goes.  Maybe those Adamantium claws of his are magnetized to attract douche bags or maybe it’s because he parks his fancy ass car in gang territory.  Either way, he’s living the Max Payne dream of self-loathing, self-medication, and self-assurance that nothing is going to get better no matter what.  At the very least, he IS managing to take care of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who’s stuck with him after some incident about a year ago that no one is too keen to bring up and to make matters worse he seems to have a degenerative brain disease that is making his powers unstable as well as his memories.  With a stable job and the responsibilities of taking care of Charles, somewhat helped by a new friend of theirs named Caliban (Stephen Merchant), he’s at least managing to put off putting an Adamantium bullet in his head from the time being, though I’m pretty sure the OTHER X-Men movie confirmed it WOULDN’T kill him if he did that.  However, if everyone else is still okay with pretending that one didn’t exist, then so am I.  Of course, things can’t stay that way for long as a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) enters the mix and throws all their lives into chaos.  See, apparently mutants stopped being born a few decades ago, and most of the ones who are still alive have died off for one reason or another.  Laura though is herself a mutant, and not just any mutant to boot.  Her powers are almost exactly that of Logan’s and there are a lot of people that want her dead.  And so the chase is on with Logan reluctantly dragging both Laura and Xavier (Caliban isn’t so lucky) through the United States to find some sort of refuge in Canada from the evil organization hunting them down and to possibly find some shred of redemption for the life that he led.  Can Logan complete this one last mission before finally finding the peace that has eluded him for so long?  Where exactly did this girl come from, and how is she a mutant in a world where they are effectively extinct?  Seriously, does every Dad FigureTM nowadays have to have those beards!?

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It’s not even like he needs to find a razor to shave it!  Even if he cuts himself with his Adamantium claws, it’s not like he wouldn’t heal right away!

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Cinema Dispatch: Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie

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Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie and all the images you see in this review are owned by Funny or Die

Directed by Jeremy Konner

If we’re gonna keep getting subpar dreck like Dirty Grandpa, The Fifth Wave, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we might as well turn to the Internet for all our movie viewing needs… at least until Deadpool comes out, but AFTER that we can probably just hide away until March.  So Funny or Die (the premiere site for famous comedians to post YouTube videos not on YouTube) has been secretly working on a Donald Trump movie and finally released it to the masses starring none other than Johnny Depp (the star of such classics as The Lone Ranger and A Nightmare on Elm Street) as the prominent business man in this adaptation of his most notorious literary contribution, The Art of the Deal.  Does it manage to give us a satirical yet poignant look at the man who has taken over the public spotlight, or is this just a chance for even more people to jump on the Trump bandwagon before he flames out in the next couple of months?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is presented to us as a Made for TV special (found by Ron Howard in a yard sale) that Donald Trump (Johnny Depp) directed, edit, and starred in among other duties he takes credit for that is a somewhat autobiographical tale based on his best-selling book The Art of the Deal (second only to the Bible in number of sales apparently).  The framing device for Trump to espouse his philosophy on business as well as tales of his prior accomplishments is a kid who steals a copy of his book from a display and just so happens to evade the security guard by ducking into Trump’s office who takes this opportunity to mentor the boy for an afternoon.  It just so happens to also be Trump’s fortieth birthday and his one goal in life (at least according to this movie) is the purchase of the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City from Merv Griffin (Patton Oswalt) who’s not too keen to sell to the big blowhard… I mean brilliant business man.  As Donald continues to try and goad Merv into selling, he goes on and on about his accomplishments with accompanying flashbacks and even gets his lawyer (Alfred Molina) to chime in every once in a while to reassure the kid of just how awesome of a life the orange demi-god standing before him has led.  Will Donald get his hands on the Taj Mahal before the day is over?  Will the kid learn a valuable lesson about business and negotiations along the way?  Could anyone imagine a better time to release this than THE DAY that Trump won the New Hampshire primary!?

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“You see this man?  This is the greatest real estate mogul of all time.”     “You don’t really look like you do on the cover.”     “Don’t worry about that kid.”

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