Tag Archives: Universal Pictures

Cinema Dispatch: Dolittle

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

Directed by Stephen Gaghan

My GOODNESS have studios been putting out some high priced nonsense recently!  We are definitely stuck in the Billion Dollar Blockbuster Bubble where every studio wants nothing but the most expensive movies to maximize their profits, but as is the nature with bubbles all the money Is usually dried up by the time everyone else tries to get in on it which is why Disney is still sitting pretty on their mountain of gold and everyone else is making stuff like Cats and that awful Tarzan movie.  With this being the current trend, someone making an overpriced adventure film about Dr. Doolittle feels almost inevitable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be bad!  I LOVE me some overpriced entertainment like Jupiter Ascending and Final Fantasy XIII, so maybe Dr. Doolittle being played by Iron Man and co-starring a wrestler as a CGI polar bear is just what I need to cleanse the palate and finally kick off the GOOD parts of 2020 which so far has been pretty plodding at the multiplex!  Is this retelling of the classic story the start of another beloved blockbuster franchise, or are we in for a disaster to rival even that of Cats!?  Let’s find out!!

Taking place AFTER what I presume is the actual Dr. Dolittle story, we find that the intrepid physician who can talk to animals (Robert Downey Jr) has gone fully Will Wonka and is holed up inside his giant wildlife preserve; refusing to see any visitors, human or otherwise.  That all changes when one day, out of PURE LUCK, he gets TWO visitors who insist on seeing him!  The first is Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) who is on assignment from the Queen despite being all of twelve years old, and Tommy (Harry Collett) who shot a squirrel and has brought the wounded creature to Dolittle because he feels bad.  Lady Rose is there to inform him that the Queen is dying and requires his help which he reluctantly agrees to, and determines that she’s dying of McGuffin’s Disease which can only be cured by a fabled fruit on an uncharted island, so he takes some of his animals friends (Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, and Octavia Spencer just to name a few) on a boat to get the fruit and save the Queen; hoping that once this is finished he can go back to brooding in his house all day.  Oh, and Tommy is coming along too because… he loves animals too I guess?  Will the Dolittle Crew get to the magic fruit in time to save the Queen?  What challenges will they face along the way, and will some of it be intentional sabotage?  If one of the cats from Cats was in this movie, would Dolittle be the only one who could talk to it!?

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“So what you’re saying is that never was there ever a cat as clever as Magical Mister Mistoffelees?”     …     “What is that it?  I mean sure, throwing your voice is a skill but I wouldn’t call it MAGICAL.”

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Cinema Dispatch: 1917

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1917 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Sam Mendes

Is it a 2019 movie or a 2020 movie?  I mean I guess it’s the former as I doubt Universal wants to wait until NEXT February for it to win a bunch of Oscars, but while some critics may have gotten to see it back in December I only have the chance to see it now right alongside other sterling January releases like The Grudge and the upcoming Dolittle.  Well now that they finally let the general public see this, does it live up to the hype it’s been building up over the last few weeks, or is there a reason they held it off until the dumping ground month despite the pedigree behind it?  Let’s find out!!

Will Schofield and Tom Blake (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) are just two dudes in the British Army milling around France during World War I with the rest of their unit as they try to wait out the German army who are on the other side of No Man’s Land on whatever battlefield they’re on.  That’s all about to change however as the general Colin Firth has given them a critical mission to deliver new battlefield orders to a company several miles away that as it turns out has Blake’s brother serving in it.  It seems that recent changes in the German Army’s movements have given the impression that the company can secure victory with one final push that they’ve scheduled for the morning, but new information has confirmed this to be a trap that will no doubt lead to most if not all of the sixteen hundred men in that company to their untimely deaths.  If these two can get this information to the commanding officer in time, the attack will be stooped and all those men will be saved (or at least die a much more timely death), but it is not an easy undertaking as German soldiers are still scattered across the region; not to mention the environmental hazards like traps, rain, mud, and both sunlight AND darkness coming with their own troubles as well.  Can they makes it in time so that these soldiers can live to fight another day?  What hardships will they encounter on this journey, and are both of them ultimately up to the task?  Did Sam Mendes actually make a 007 prequel without telling us!?  I mean they’re making a Kingsman prequel, so why not?

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Considering how much this dude runs, maybe it’s a Mission Impossible prequel.

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Cinema Dispatch: Cats

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

Directed by Tom Hooper

I know next to nothing about Cats the stage show or the TS Eliot book it’s based on.  I know it ends with a sad song that earns the cat another life and I know the band Mungo Jerry took its name after a character in it, but other than I don’t have the first clue; not to the narrative, what the famous songs are, or why it’s so popular that a studio sunk a bajillion dollars into making good actors look like creatures from The Island of Dr. Moreau to bring it to the big screen.  Yeah, those trailers weren’t doing this film a lot of favors as the odd cat suits were all anyone was talking about and it certainly wasn’t selling a newbie like me on the CATS experience.  Still, even if the effects are strange there could be an engaging and heartfelt story beating underneath that’ll make up for all tht which if nothing else will explain why the stage show is still popular after all this time.  Is this the cinematic dance party of 2019 that The Greatest Showman was for 2018, or will this sit right alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber’s other missteps like Love Never Dies and Gerard Butler?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Victoria (Francesca Hayward) being dumped in an alley by her human owner (a very disturbing sight by the way coupled with these shrunken cat humanoids) and she is greeted by the Jellicle Cats.  What’s a Jellicle Cat?  I have no idea, but I think it involves three years of ballet and two years of tap.  The Jellicle Cats led by Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild) take Victoria through the streets of London to meet other Jellicle Cats like Jennyanydots, Bustopher Jones, and Rum Tum Tugger (Rebel Wilson, James Cordon, and Jason Derulo), and eventually to the Jellicle Ball which is some sort of talent show where even MORE cats show up to strut their stuff in the hopes of winning a new life.  I’m not sure if this is some reincarnation deal or if they get a tenth life tacked to the end of their ninth, but regardless there are a lot of cats trying to impress the leader of the Jellicle Cats, Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), who is the one that will ultimately make the decision.  Some cats like Gus and Skimbleshanks (Ian McKellen and Steven McRae) will simply try to do their best, while others like Macavity (Idris Elba) will use underhanded means to try and while, and others still like Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) are excluded entirely, for… reasons.  Will Victoria find a place among the Jellicle Cats now that she no longer has a home with the humans?  Who will be chosen to receive the ultimate prize this night, and how far will Macavity go to try and secure it?  Does anyone know if this is all one big joke?  Who looked at those faces and thought, YUP!  THAT’S WHAT WE WANT TO SPEND OUR MONEY ON!!

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What an un-fur-tunate turn of events.  I am not kitten you when I say this is an utter cat-astrophe.  Quite A-paw-ling when you get right down to it.  An in-fur-ior interpretation of the stage show and a slap in the face, meta-fur-kitty speaking.

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Cinema Dispatch: Hobbs & Shaw

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Hobbs & Shaw and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by David Leitch

You know what movie I’ve recently watched again?  Face/Off!  Seriously, isn’t that like THE BEST MOVIE EVER MADE!?  Great performances, over the top action, doves, it’s got it all!  I’ve always had a soft spot for action movies like that where two awesome actors are either working together or fighting one another while ludicrous action is going on around them.  It’s my excuse for still liking Central Intelligence, and it’s also why I found myself really excited to see this movie.  That trailer with the goofy song choice, the laughable premise, and Idris Elba being the most awesome Terminator imaginable hit all the right buttons for me, and throwing in John “THE DWAYNE” Rockson together with America’s favorite British dude Jason Statham was just the icing on the cake!  Can this spin-off of the most absurd action franchise of all time manage to excel past what came before it, or was moving the focus away from the main cast as bad an idea now as it was when they did it in Tokyo Drift?  Let’s find out!!

After the events of Fate of the Furious, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are no longer in jail because… I guess saving the world gives you a free pass, and are going about their daily lives as the most interesting men in the universe; living in nice houses, driving nice cars, and kicking random bad guy butts whenever the need arises.  The best part is that neither one of them has to see the other one since they live in entirely different countries working for entirely different bosses, and can just leave each other in peace, because I guess they don’t like each other anymore for some reason.  Well too bad for them!  Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) gets swept up in some global crisis involving a deadly robo-virus and is being hunted down by deadly robo-MAN Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), so Hobbs and Shaw have to put aside their differences and work together to keep the virus Hattie selflessly injected into herself from falling into the wrong hands, and to find some way to cure her before her insides turn to mush.  Can these three action heroes with coolness to spare but baggage for days outsmart the perfect cyborg human and whatever EVIL organization he works for?  Will they find the cure for this virus inside of a fast moving car or at the end of a gun barrel!?  I wonder if the next one will be Hobbs & Shaw vs. The Fast and the Furious…

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“Looks like I’ve got to take you in again, Dom.”     “And I’m the bad guy still.”     “And I’m here as well!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Yesterday

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

Directed by Danny Boyle

This may be a movie about music from fifty years ago, yet the premise is even older than that as the idea of a hapless someone getting a shortcut to fame and fortune is one of the most basic cornerstones of literature.  When you take that premise and make it about something other than say measurable wealth and status (i.e. Aladdin) to instead focus on some sort of perceived skill or art form (i.e. music), you can run into a few issues; namely that you have to sell the audience on the perceived greatness of something that is rather subjective.  You either have to play into the impossibility of someone ACTUALLY making the greatest music ever like with Tenacious D’s Tribute or even Fish Story, or your stuck trying to write it yourself and just ignore the disconnect (*cough* Harsh Mistress *cough*).  The workaround for all that though is what we’ve got here which is a jukebox musical of sorts where the songs being played are widely considered (at least somewhat) to be the greatest of all time, and in this era where Musical Biopics are now in vogue, it was probably the best way for yet another Beatles tribute to stand out among the crowd.  So then!  Does this movie manage to capture the magic of that one band from Liverpool, or will this be a bigger stain on their legacy than Magical Mystery Tour THE MOVIE?  Let’s find out!!

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is the typical struggling artist who spends his time stocking store shelves between gigs that no one bothers to see.  His manager and best friend Ellie (Lily James) still believes in him and his amazing songwriting skills, but if it hasn’t happened yet then it probably isn’t going to happen and so he decides that now is the time to hang it up.  The universe on the other hand has other plans for him because as he’s riding home on his bike that night, there’s a global power outage that no one ever finds an explanation for but did lead to Jack getting hit with a bus; breaking his guitar, his front teeth, and his spirit even more.  After a lengthy recovery though, he soon realizes that no one remembers who The Beatles or any of their amazing songs.  You know, songs like Yesterday, A Hard Day’s Night, and… others.  Okay, so there were A LOT of songs, but Jack can surely remember enough of them to finally have a chance to be the musical star he’s always wanted to be!  I mean these songs are culturally important and should exist in some form for the betterment of mankind, so Jack is practically doing a public service here, right!?  So that’s what Jack does as he starts recording classic tracks like I Want to Hold Your Hand and Let it Be (seemingly unconcerned with the arc the band took in their music) as well as songs like Back in the USSR which sounds a bit retro now, but still jams!  It takes a bit of time, but he does eventually start to get a following and it seems like all that success is just around the corner if he can just stick it out through the hardships and machinations of the music industry, but with so much changing so quickly and his loved ones seeming to get further and further away from him, is this truly what Jack wants now?  On top of that, if HE remembers who The Beatles are then there has to be other’s out there too, right?  Can he keep up the lies before this house of cards comes crumbling down, or will everyone be cool with it since no one knows who the fudge John Paul George and Ringo are anyway?  Most importantly, is he gonna get a mediocre Hanna-Barbera cartoon as well!?

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“Thank you everyone, and make sure to watch my web series!  We are sponsored by Audible!!”

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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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