Tag Archives: Universal Pictures

Cinema Dispatch: The Secret Life of Pets 2

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The Secret Life of Pets 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures and Illumination

Directed by Chris Renaud

I remember the first movie having one of the most aggressive ad campaigns I’d seen since I started reviewing movies, and yet this one was much more subdued.  I only saw the trailer a few times leading up to its release, but while that certainly kept me from being ANNOYED by the movie it didn’t really do much to improve my expectations.  The first one was a C grade knock off of Toy Story, and while it wasn’t ALL bad it didn’t leave much of an impression outside of Jenny Slate’s performance and a few seconds of Andrew WK music to liven things up.  Can the sequel manage to improve where the last one came up short, or will this be a lazy cash grab on the success of the first one with similarly mediocre results?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the first film, Max and Duke (Patton Oswalt and Eric Stonestreet) have been getting along with their owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) in their peaceful New York life.  However, things change once Katie meets the man of her dreams Chuck (Peter Holmes), and cut to about five years later where Katie and Chuck have a kid named Liam (Henry Lynch) who Max is at first hesitant about but becomes quickly attached to.  The added stress of watching over a child however is starting to give Max some unhealthy habits, but maybe an upcoming vacation in the country with Chuck’s family and their dog Rooster (Harrison Ford) will be just what Max needs to relax!  While he’s off on his trip, Gidget (Jenny Slate) has been entrusted to watch his favorite toy which she loses almost immediately, and Snowball the bunny (Kevin Hart) has become some sort of animal saving super hero who’s latest mission is to help a Shih Tzu named Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) save a tiger who’s being abused by a VERY evil looking circus run by a bunch of dudes with Russian accents and permanent sneers; one of whom is played by Nick Kroll.  Will Max get over his nervous tendencies now that he’s around nature and the stern advice of Rooster?  Can the other pets shore up their subplots before the running time exceeds ninety minutes?  Is Illumination trying to sell us four episodes of an unaired TV series as a full length movie!?

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“WHY, NETFLIX!?  WHY WOULDN’T YOU HAVE US!?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Ma

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Ma and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions

Directed by Tate Taylor

The only reason this movie has gotten on anyone’s radar is because of Octavia Spencer, and frankly it did its job quite well.  Sure, sometimes a horror film will pick up some serious talent like the new IT movie coming up or when Helen Mirren was in that crappy Winchester movie, but somehow this feels even MORE of a surprise and a genuine selling point.  IT’s gonna sell itself no matter what, but by having one of the most popular actors of the moment (and in the prime of their career) showing up and starring in your crappy horror movie is a coup that very few films can boast, and yet somehow there she is; on all the posters, in all the trailers, and even having an Executive Producer credit to boot! What was it about this movie that convinced such a great actor to whole heartedly come on board, and was worth her immense talent and valuable time to do so?  Let’s find out!!

Sue Ann Ellington (Octavia Spencer) is just your typical small town citizen.  She works as a vet, she walks her dog, and on occasion it seems that she can be convinced to buy alcohol for the local high school kids.  At least that’s what Maggie (Diana Silvers) finds out when she asks her to do it as she walks by the liquor store, and being the new kid in town she needs to deliver on the goods if she wants to get in with the popular kids.  One of the popular kids is Andy (Corey Fogelmanis) who Sue Ann seems to recognize, and after a moment’s consideration decides to get them the booze they need.  Not only that, she ends up opening her basement to them and other kids in the neighborhood as a safe and secluded area to drink where they won’t have to worry about cops and where Sue Ann will make sure no one gets their keys back if they can’t drive.  In fact, everyone seems to be so enamored with her that they start to call her Ma and everyone wants to hang out at her house!  However, things are not as rosy as they seem which Maggie picks up on after a while and she seems to have a dark side to her that’s just barely hidden beneath the surface.  Perhaps it has to do with Andy’s dad (Luke Evans) who she knows from years ago?  Maybe even Maggie’s mom (Juliette Lewis) who used to live here but moved away many years ago before returning?  Well they’re all gonna find out eventually because Ma’s house seems to slowly turned from party central to a house of horrors!  Will these kids learn of the terrible secrets lurking in Ma’s house as well as her tragic backstory?  What is Ma planning now that she has the children of this town wrapped around her finger, and can she somehow realize what she’s doing is wrong before it’s too late?  Okay, seriously.  Did Octavia Spencer lose a bet or something to be in this movie?

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“RELEASE ME!!”     “Not until we make thirty million on opening weekend.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Little

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

Directed by Tina Gordon

I don’t know about this one.  I got this trailer a few times and while it did have a few funny gags here and there, it seemed like only a step or two above Night School which I would conclusively say is damning with faint praise considering how I’m guessing only half of you even remember what that was.  Still!  It’s always a good idea to give a comedy NOT from a straight male perspective a chance because if nothing else it’s unlikely to be as toxic and mean spirited as say Daddy’s Home 2 or Fist Fight, and the LAST time we got a female centered update on a well-known comedy (this being a clear inversion of Tom Hank’s Big) was the eminently enjoyable What Men Want, so perhaps there’s something here that’s not shining through in the trailers!  Could this be a comedy classic in the making, or am I expecting too much from yet another cash grab to soak up a few bucks between Shazam and Avengers?  Let’s find out!!

Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) is a hard as nails (i.e. abusive) owner of a tech company that believes time not spent crunching is time wasted, and no one at the office likes her; least of all her assistant April (Issa Rae) who puts up with it because… well that’s what we ALL have to do when we have crappy jobs.  Jordan however messes with the wrong person one day as a young girl at the office calls her out for her attitude and uses her magic wand to put a curse on her.  Now I’d have preferred if she went up to her face and whispered the word “littler” to her, but in any case the magic seems to have taken effect as she wakes up the next day as her thirteen year old self (Marsai Martin).  Now fortunately for Jordan, April takes this whole situation rather well and agrees to help cover for her at work until they can get this fixed, but through a rather convoluted set of circumstances, Jordan has to be enrolled in school THAT VERY DAY OR ELSE APRIL WILL GET ARRESTED… for reasons.  Oh, and on top of that there’s a big pitch scheduled at the office in two days to try and keep the company’s most valuable client and April is SO not ready for that which means she has to learn to be a leader as Jordan learns to be… less of a jerk I guess?  Anyway, will Jordan find a way to return to her normal self before and even learn a valuable less at the same time?  Will April become the active go getter who can get things done in an economy that will otherwise chew her up and spit her out?  Wait, why does she need glasses when she’s little but not when she’s an adult?  Does she have contacts that no longer fit, or did the laser eye surgery somehow reverse itself?  DID HER BABY TEETH GROW BACK!?

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I mean there’s no reason this CAN’T also be a live action Detective Conan movie, right?

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Cinema Dispatch: Us

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

Directed by Jordan Peele

After Get Out, it was almost a certainty that Jordan Peele would become one of the predominate voices in the industry, but as is the case with any director who comes out the gate that strongly there’s always the question of how they’re gonna follow it up; hence the term Sophomore Slump.  Michael Cimino, Richard Kelly, Joe Cornish, they’ve all had underwhelming second films and it’s not that hard to see why.  Bigger budgets and more creative freedom means that a lot of filmmakers will pursue their passion project which may or may not appeal to as many people (or let’s be honest, aren’t as good ideas as they think they are) which rubs up against the very high expectations to follow up their first film with something even better.  Will that be the fate of Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out, or is he destined to buck the trend and give us a new experience that’s just as fantastic?  Let’s find out!!

Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) is your average middle class woman with the perfect family consisting of her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and her children Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright and Evan Alex) who head to their summer home for a much needed vacation.  Said vacation however is somewhat bittersweet as it used to belong to Adelaide’s mother before she died and on top of that Adelaide has some less than perfect memories of the place.  You see, back when she was a child she and her parents took a visit to the boardwalk where she wandered off and ran into a little girl who looked EXACTLY like her.  What happened next is something of a mystery, but the point is that it was a very traumatizing moment and the memory of it has put her on edge the entire time they’re there.  It turns out she was RIGHT to be fearful however because in the middle of the night a family of four who look just like them (played by the same actors) and refer to themselves as THE TETHERED break in and start being SUPER creepy around the family with some sort of deadly scheme in mind.  I think it goes Step 1: Murder, Step 2: … , and Step 3: Profit, but whatever the end goal may be the Wilson family is gonna need to find a way to fight back and survive this horrid night by any means necessary.  Can Adelaide and face her greatest fear in the form of the doppelganger she saw so long ago?  What exactly are THE TETHERED after, and do their ambitions extend beyond just torturing this one family for funsies?  What if Thanos’s plan wasn’t just to wipe out half of humanity, but to replace them with evil versions of the other half!?  JORDAN PEELE IS NOW CONFIRMED FOR THE MCU!!

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“I didn’t survive the attack on Wakanda just for this crap!  Wait, did I survive?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Happy Death Day 2U

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Happy Death Day 2U and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Christopher Landon

Man, I’ve been sitting on this one for almost two weeks.  I don’t know what happened!  Even though I saw it right when it was released a bunch of movies came out and this went on the back burner!  It certainly had a lot to live up to considering that the first movie was one of my favorite films of 2017; not to mention that a sequel seemed like the worst idea ever as the first movie felt so complete in its story.  Bill Murray never made Groundhog’s Day 2, and probably for the same reason he never did a Ghostbusters 3; it would have been a terrible idea!  ANYWAY, before I say something that’ll REALLY tick people off, does this pointless sequel manage to justify its own existence, or are we doomed to yet another brilliant movie made to churn out sequels until you forgot why you liked the darn thing in the first place!?  Let’s find out!!

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) having discovered who it was that was trying to kill her and closing the time loop that put her in a Groundhog’s day scenario is living the good life!  She woke up and it was a different day, and that guy Carter (Israel Boussard) who helped her out all those times but has no memory of it is making out with her!  Yup, it looks like easy street for Ol’ Gelbman!  Oh wait!  Carter’s roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) seems to be stuck in a time loop of his own!  How did THAT happen?  Hm… maybe it has to do with quantum reactor that Ryan and his two classmates (Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin) have been working on!  Wait, what?  So all this time, it was a giant science thingy in the basement that somehow made Tree relive that day over and over again?  Huh.  Well okay then!  So that mystery that didn’t need solving is now solved, but what ISN’T solved is why things are still acting up in the space time continuum after she managed to close the loop?  Well before she can find out, things get a LITTLE bit out of control and the quantum thingy… explodes I guess, and puts Tree back into her original loop.  OR DID IT!?  It turns out that she’s not just back reliving Monday the eighteenth over and over again; she’s doing it in a parallel universe where things are significantly different in ways that Tree is gonna have to discover the hard way!  Can Tree and the science squad manage to figure out how to work the darn machine and send her back to her own universe?  Will this universe actually have something in it that Tree desperately needs, and will she give up her old life to live here?  If the killer from the first movie isn’t the killer in THIS universe, then who IS the killer!?

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“OLD MAN BLUMHOUSE!?”     “That’s right!  I wanted to make horror movies even cheaper so I just started stabbing teenagers myself!  And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for SAG-AFTRA regulations!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Glass

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

Directed by M Night Shyamalan

Isn’t it nice that every time an M Night movie comes out we don’t automatically know that it’s terrible?  I mean sure, there are PLENTY of critics of his more recent films, but unlike the bad old days of the mid to late 2000s, it’s not something that’s an unfailing certainty.  I actually like this phase of his career quite a bit with Split being a rather intense and enjoyable thriller, so seeing him make a full on sequel to one of his great works is at the very least something that will grab people’s attention.  It’s been almost twenty years since Unbreakable which came out before the super hero boom in film, so perhaps this is a good time to take a look back and see what’s changed since then from one of the first big attempts at dissecting the genre.  Is this film a continuation of Shyamalan’s rise to prominence and acclaim after such a dismal spate of films, or was the greatest twist of all the one where he convinced us that maybe he was going to make better movies again?  Let’s find out!!

After serial killer Kevin Wendell (James McAvoy) managed to escape custody at the end of the last film, he has been linked to a series of similar murders throughout Philadelphia and has cemented himself as THE HORDE in the minds of the general public.  In doing so however, he has painted quite a large target on his back for David Dunn (Bruce Willis) who has a security shop that he runs with his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) while also moonlighting as a vigilante that the media has dubbed THE OVERSEER.  Eventually the two cross paths as David finds his latest victims before they get eaten by Kevin but the super hero battle is cut short when the police show up and throw them into a mental institution under the care of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) who specializes in treating those who believe themselves to have super powers.  Along with these two, she’s also working with Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson) who has been at this mental institution since the end of Unbreakable, though he seems to be more of a side project since he spends most of his time in a catatonic state due to the amount of sedatives he’s provided on a daily basis.  Now that she’s got these three stooges under one roof, can she solve their mistaken beliefs that they are actually super powered beings?  Alternatively, will they finally show not just her but the world at large that people like them exist?  Will I sound TOO insufferable if I declare this movie to be better than Avengers: Infinity War?

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“I can’t say that I’m too impressed with The Philadelphia Avengers.”     “Look, we’re trying, alright?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Welcome to Marwen

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Mary Poppins Returns and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

This is one of the weirder cases of nostalgia I’ve had because I don’t have nostalgia about this story or the documentary from 2010.  I have nostalgia for a review of it.  Around that time I had just learned about Spill.com (which is now more or less split between Double Toasted and One Of Us) and one of the earliest podcasts I had heard from them was a series of reviews about films they saw at SXSW 2010 which included a review of the documentary.  So when they announced this movie, I actually was rather interested to see it because I had never gotten around to the documentary but that review for whatever reason always stuck with me and so seeing a big budget studio adaptation of something I had THAT tertiary of knowledge for would be interesting; not to mention seeing what those same critics thought of this movie as well.  Does this story of a man who found a way to cope with his trauma through the use of imaginative and painstakingly detailed art pieces manage to convey the raw emotional power of this man’s life and work, or are we stuck with another treacly adaptation that fails to live up to the material it’s based on; including the critically acclaimed documentary?  Let’s find out!!

Loosely based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carrell), this movie follows the story of Mark who was nearly beaten to death by five Neo-Nazi monsters who did so after they learned that Mark enjoyed wearing women’s shoes.  Fortunately Mark survived and the men were caught, but sadly he lost his memories, a lot of his motor skills (making it nearly impossible for him to write or draw), and has been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since.  In order to cope with what has happened, he created a World War II village named Marwen in his yard and stages elaborate action scenes and character moments using dolls that represent him, the Nazis who beat him up, and the women in his life who helped him afterwards.  This includes Anna (Gwendoline Christie) a nurse who visits him once a month to bring him medication and check on his physical health, Julie (Janelle Monáe) a physical therapist with one leg who helped him walk again and has since been traveling the world and running in marathons, Caralala (Eiza González) who is Mark’s coworker at his part time job, Roberta (Merritt Wever) who works at the town’s hobby shop and has helped Mark get the parts he needs to bring this made up town to life, and Suzette (Leslie Zemeckis) who he may not know in person but has starred in some of his FAVORITE films!  Sadly, the one doll that is based on Wendy (Stefanie von Pftetten) who the town is partially named after (Marwen is short for Mark and Wendy) has been permanently removed and put into the RIP bin for reasons that aren’t made explicitly clear but can be somewhat inferred as we learn more about Mark’s life as well as the struggles and demons he’s had to work through.  One such demon is the Belgian Witch Deja Thoris (Diane Kruger) who is the cause of many of Marwen’s woes and has a very distinct counterpart in the real world that you’ll have to keep an eye out for while watching them movie.  Things seem to have been going along like this for some time now, but when Mark gets a new neighbor across the street named Nicol (Leslie Mann), well it looks like Marwen’s about to get a new resident which will certainly add a few more stories to the town’s ever expanding lore, but maybe this is the point where he takes things too far with his work; not to mention the overwhelming stress he’s feeling about the attack now that the men responsible are going to finally be sentenced for their crimes.  Will Mark be able to face his attackers in court and put the incident behind him once and for all?  Will Nicol understand what Mark is going through or will his behavior cross some very clear lines that he seems completely oblivious to when dealing with women outside of his fantasy world?  Is it just me, or should they start making Marwen merchandise at some point?  I want that Deja Thoris doll!

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“Alright, Mark.  If things go bad then chuck me at their head and make a break for it!  FOR FREEDOM!!”

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