Cinema Dispatch: Scoob!

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Scoob! and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Tony Cervone

With releases being what they are and LIFE being what it is, I’ve certainly fallen into a bit of a funk lately which is perhaps the biggest reason I was really looking forward to this movie; something that I can put on my calendar and look forward to instead of just the endless pile of stuff that’s already here but I couldn’t muster up the energy to work on.  Now Warner Bros’ recent output of the Hanna-Barbara licenses has certainly been interesting to see, particularly those comic books they released a few years back, and so bringing Scooby-Doo back to the big screen in the midst of all this… shall we say CREATIVITY, does have a certain amount of appeal.  I don’t know how popular it is right now, but the Scooby franchise has proven to be remarkably resilient and is in constant flux with new and drastically different series coming out every few years, so perhaps with such a rock-solid property to work with, Warner Bros can do something truly unique!  Is this the start of Scooby-Doo’s resurgence to the peak of popular culture, or will the concepts prove to outdated for modern audiences to latch onto outside of Saturday morning cartoon reruns?  Let’s find out!!

Shaggy Rogers (Iain Armitage and Will Forte) is a lonely kid with no friends… for some reason, until he finds a stray dog who can talk but no one seems to have much of a problem with.  He names the dog Scooby (Frank Welker) and eventually meets three other kids named Fred, Daphne, and Velma (Pierce Gagnon and Zac Efron, Mckenna Grace and Amanda Seyfried, and Ariana Greenblatt and Gina Rodriguez) who by happenstance they end up solving a mystery with.  And thus the origin story has been told, in less than ten minutes!  What do they fill the remaining eighty with?  Well it turns out that The Blue Falcon, or at least his son Brian (Mark Wahlberg) is trying to stop the evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) from doing… something, and it somehow involves Scooby (presumably because he’s SUCH a good boy) which means he snatches Shaggy and Scooby away from whatever it was they were doing and are now sidekicks on a superhero adventure!  Blue Falcon is helped by his female pilot Dee Dee (Kiersey Clemons) and his dad’s robot dog Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) who are basically the two keeping this operation afloat while Brian stumbles his way through the adventure, and with the help of Scooby being… so very important I guess, they will race Dick Dastardly across the globe from collecting the Magical MacGuffins that will spell doom for the world!  Meanwhile, Fred, Daphne, and Velma are wondering why they aren’t a part of this movie and so try to “solve the mystery” of where Scooby and Shaggy went, only to wind up in a larger than life adventure far beyond investigating a ghost who’ll end up being a guy in a Halloween mask!  Will our heroes overcome the pure malevolent evil of a man named Dick with a beautiful mustache?  Will Scooby’s new status as BEST DOG EVER make Shaggy into a jealous jerk for half the movie for extremely petty reasons?  If we’re gonna do this cinematic universe stuff with Hanna-Barbera, can we at least put Harvey Birdman into it?  Better yet, Phil Ken Sebben!  At least that would be SOMETHING about this movie worth talking about!

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“He’s my best friend Scooby, and he likes fried Scooby snacks on a stick!”     “HA HA!  Treats on dowels…”     “Was… was that a joke or something?”     “You’ll understand when you’re older, sport.”     “Okay, boomer.”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Into the Light)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Lou Diamond Phillips

We’re back with another episode of everyone’s third (okay fine, fourth) favorite version of this series!  The lack of impact behind some of these episodes has been a major stumbling block as very few of them seem to resonate as well as even the middling episodes of the original series, but I think they might have swung too hard in the other direction with this one in what seems to be a less than ideal way to redress the issue.  Is this a case of a good idea with a few sour notes in it, or are we sailing right past that into the realm of really bad taste?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with a very dingy looking high school classroom (the windows are really tiny, way high up, and I’m pretty sure they have steel bars on them) where a bunch of disinterested looking teenagers are taking a written test on Romeo and Juliet.  One kid named Ben just turns in a blank sheet of paper which is pretty bad considering it’s worth a third of his grade, and when the teacher picks up the test of an unnamed kid, she reads aloud “Romeo and Juliet killed themselves because they were asshats”.  Now if that was the ONLY sentence perhaps I’d be as dejected as the teacher feels, but frankly, I’ve heard worse opening arguments for a critical analysis of a creative work; just look at this site for examples of that!  Anyway, the teacher in question is Rachel Stark (Samantha Mathis who played Princess Daisy in the Super Mario Bros movie) who’s had just about enough of this nonsense and is planning on quitting her job next week but sadly she’s in an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE which means those plans are going to get derailed.  This is another example of an episode that LIBERALLY lifts from an episode of the original series, but I’ll give them credit because the premise is much more malleable and can fit into all sorts of interesting contexts.  The episode in question is The Purple Testament where a GI in the Pacific theater started seeing a glow across the faces of men who were going to die soon, and this episode follows the same basic idea; she sees a screaming man on the bus light up like he’s about to tell a ghost story, and then he drops dead of a heart attack then and there.  Aside from the fact that she just saws someone die right in front of her, this revelation has put her on edge a bit as she saw a similar light on the face of one of her students who was riding a skateboard.  Her boyfriend the school gym coach (Reed Diamond) thinks it’s some sort of latent guilt she’s feeling for planning to quit her job and essentially giving up on the kids, but when she learns the next morning that the skateboarder had died… well, it seems like there’s more at stake than an unfulfilled work life.

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“Oh my gosh, what happened!?”     He was trying to grind the rail right next to Dead Man’s Gulch.”     “And?”     “A mugger ran up and stabbed him.”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Rewind)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Kevin Bray

The episode follows Jonah Beach (Eddie Kaye Thomas who played Finch in the American Pie films and the titular Freddy in Freddy Got Fingered); an obsessive gambler who may have a decent amount of skill but squanders it on his single minded pursuit of “beating the house” which in this case means beating this dude named Trevor (Ben Bass) who owns the place.  Jonah’s girlfriend April (Marisa Coughlan who was… also in Freddy Got Fingered oddly enough) works as a waitress at the casino where he spends most of his time and is either overwhelmingly empathetic to his plight or completely in denial of his gambling problem.  They have a nest egg set up for a restaurant in Florida which Jonah wants to raid for one last chance at the card table and thankfully April tells him no which is certainly the RIGHT decision but puts poor Jonah in a funk as he leaves the casino with nothing more than three bucks to his name.  A homeless with a mysterious shopping cart challenges him to a coin toss for the three bucks in his pocket, and after Jonah wins the toss he’s gracious enough to give the man the three bucks anyway.  See?  He’s not such a bad guy even if he WAS in a Tom Green movie!  The homeless man is so moved by Jonah’s generosity that he pulls a tape recorder out from his cart and gives him to him as a gift which Jonah ruefully accepts as the alternative could possibly upset the guy.  He starts fiddling with the thing at the bus stop, and wouldn’t you know it; the darn thing is MAGIC!

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“Oh crap, this thing is covered in LSD isn’t it?”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Another Life)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Risa Bramon Garcia

I’ll admit that when I first saw this episode ALL those years ago, I didn’t get it.  It wasn’t like Tagged (an episode we’ll get to soon enough) which covered similar ground but ACTUALLY HAD a supernatural twist to it; from what I remember it was just a dude having flashbacks which feels a bit low key for a TWILIGHT ZONE episode.  Thinking back on it as I sit here ready to rewatch this story after so long, I may have been too naïve or ignorant to really understand what we was really going on under the hood, so let’s take a look with fresh eyes and see if there’s something to learn from all of this!  Is this a classic episode that just failed to connect with me, or will I learn that I was right to be nonplussed by it all along?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Marvin Gardens (Wood Harris who’s been in a lot of stuff recently including Dredd, Ant-Man, and the show Empire) who is out on his morning jog when police sirens start to blare behind him.  Nervously, he starts to turn around and even begins to put his hands up… but the patrol car just speeds by him.  We find out that Marvin is a successful rapper living out his dreams after escaping a life of poverty.  He’s got a great and supportive wife (Kimberly Elise), a loving son who he’s a great father too, and he’s even working on an album that will make him even richer than he already is now!  Everything is looking great for Marvin… except that he keeps having these hallucinations of a police interrogation where he was beaten mercilessly and told to confess to a crime he didn’t commit and being called Dwayne; a name he doesn’t recognize.  Now already, this has got some great ideas that are being conveyed with nuance even if the performances and the LAVISH RAPPER LIFESTYLE comes off a bit cheesy.  It appears that Marvin has some past trauma with the police that’s left him with some serious scars which are now manifesting as full on delusions despite the fact that he escaped from all that and he has everything he could ever want.  Well maybe another controller for his son’s Nintendo GameCube, but other than that…

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“Hey can I have a turn?”     “No!”     “Well what about two player mode?”     “MOM!  DAD’S BEING MEAN!”     “Hey!  I’m the one who bought this for you!”     “AND HE’S SWEARING!!”     “Fine!  I can take a hint!”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (The Path)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Jerry Levine

This series claims to have two remakes of classic Twilight Zone episodes which we’ll get to soon enough, but I’m calling bull pucky on that because this episode we’re discussing today is ABSOLUTELY based on one of the classics from that original series.  Now that’s not necessarily a BAD thing as the whole reason this show exists is because of how good the original series was, and using some of those ideas in a modern context can certainly produce some interesting results!  Heck, the Jordan Peele version of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet was a BRILLIANT reworking of the fear and paranoia that was the true essence of that original episode even WITHOUT the creepy (and yet somehow adorable) gremlin dude!  Is this a similarly great remix of a classic episode, or is this a worse cover than Limp Bizkit’s version of Faith?  Let’s find out!!

The episode follows Ali (Linda Cardellini); a writer for a lousy knock off Enquirer rag where she writes stories about dying celebrities or hobbits living in Jersey, and while it’s certainly fun to write about that kind of nonsense it’s not the most noble or fulfilling career you could have as a writer.  While getting her caffeine fix at a local coffee shop, she overhears a man giving a woman advice regarding “her path” and some vague platitudes on how she should follow it.  Her interest piqued, Ali goes over to meet the man named Kanayo (played here by Method Man) and finds out that an opportunity awaits her, but she must seek it out first.  Sounds like your standard Cold Reading nonsense, but she goes back to the office and decides to call about a resume she submitted and as it turns out they were having trouble reaching her!  Her coworker and best friend Seth (Colin Cunningham of Falling Skies fame) thinks it’s all a big coincidence, but Ali is not so sure and she goes back to Kanayo several times hoping to get more advice and perhaps find the clearest way to follower her “path”.  Now if you’re ever seen more than a handful of episodes of the original Twilight Zone, this should all sound very familiar as it’s more or less a remake of the Nick of Time; a story where William Shatner and Patricia Breslin have to contend with a fortune telling napkin holder that seems to accurately predict the future.  Now the thing is, the more I think about this episode the closer I think it gets to working… without ever actually getting there.  It’s SO close and it has a few ideas that work for an update to this story, but where Nick of Time was tight and well thought out, this one fumbles with its weighty topics and never finds the right balance.

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“You’ll be in a few Avengers movies.”     “That’s good!”     “But only playing Hawkeye’s wife.”     “Oh, that’s bad.”     “But you’ll be in A Simple Favor!”     “That’s good!”     “After being in both Daddy’s Home movies and before starring in The Curse of La Llorona.”     “I don’t like this game anymore.”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Fair Warning)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by John Kretchmer

It has certainly been a while, but we are BACK with another episode of everyone’s least favorite Twilight Zone series!  Considering that I’m somehow spending even MORE time cooped up inside, it seemed like the perfect time to stop procrastinating on this series and give you the details you’ve been waiting for on a show that hasn’t been on the air for over fifteen years!  Is this a fantastic episode to return to, or were we all better off leaving this series in the dustbin of history?  Let’s find out!!

Our story begins with Tina Bishop (Taryn Manning who was one of Britney Spears’s best friend in Crossroads a year prior to this and would later go on to portray Tiffany in Orange is the New Black) who’s the owner of a humble little flower shop that she runs with her friend Gwen (Kandyse McClure) and she spends her evenings with her boyfriend Ryan (Preston Cook) who looks like the drummer in a Papa Roach cover band, but seems to be a decent guy otherwise.  Someone who DOESN’T seem to be a decent guy however is her next customer; some dude in a blue shirt with George on his nametag and MURDER in his eyes!  Creepy George then begins to relay a timeless story of love at true sight between a man and a woman at a laundromat where the saintly princess bequeathed a cup of detergent to the lowly white knight, and it was then that George knew that she was THE ONE!  The one he will love, and the one he has to protect… from himself.  He begs Tina to stop him from killing here which I don’t know about you but seems like a particularly BRIGHT red flag, and so Tina runs to the phone to call the cops… but when she looks up, George has disappeared!

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“No, no!  Not me!  I’m just here to do the spooky intro.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

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Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Cathy Yan

I was probably on the kinder end of things than most people when it came to Suicide Squad; the DCCU’s attempt to be fun and wacky that ended up having all the edge of a limited edition holo-foil issue of Spawn from 1994.  In its own tacky cobbled together way it did manage to eek out a bit of charm, but what people mostly remember from the movie was the performances; namely one Harley Quinn played with gusto by the phenomenal Margot Robbie.  Now that we’re more or less in DCCU 2.0, it makes sense for this character to be given another shot away from the baggage of the movie that came before; even from the studio itself as Robbie basically put this thing together with Warner Bros maintaining a mostly hands off approach.  Is this the breakout hit that Warner Bros has been hoping for yet could never make themselves, or is this a desperate Hail Mary that misses by a mile?  Let’s find out!!

Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie) has had a rough go of it lately.  She grew up with scary nuns, she had a string of bad relationships, she did at least get her college degree and became a psychiatrist but even THAT didn’t work out when she met some dude in clown makeup, and on top of that she had to fight a an ancient demon witch person or else have a bomb explode in her neck!  Fortunately she’s out of prison and she even dumped the clown dude so she’s ready to start her life anew!  A new pet, roller derby, and COPIOUS amounts of alcohol to deal with the unresolved feelings that she’s left with now that she’s single and away from the clown that made her life miserable.  BUT ENOUGH ABOUT DAVID AYER (Ba-dum-tiss!), with the Joker in her rearview mirror it has given her a lot more freedom but also the ire of ALL the people they screwed over in the past, and as the one on the short end of this breakup some of them are ready to take their vengeance!  One such vengeance taker is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) who’s a mid-range mob boss with a hot temper, enough toxic masculinity to smother ALL the adorable baby ducklings of the world, and an alter ego just one step below Taser Face; BLACK MASK!  Complete with second rate Die Hardman cosplay!  Him and his associate Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) are not only after Harley but ALSO after a diamond that somehow ended up in the hands of a young street hustler named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) and so perhaps there’s a way to kill two birds with one stone there, and on top of ALL that we also have a singer at Victor’s club named Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who’s looking for a way out of the life, a mysterious crossbow killer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who’s hunting down gangsters, Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) who’s stuck trying to untangle all these messy knots.  Will Harley Quinn escape the payback that’s owed to her after working with the Joker for so long?  Why is Roman so intent on getting this diamond, and who else may be gunning for it?  Why DO they end up calling themselves the Birds of Prey anyway?

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“What, you don’t think it sounds cool and intimidating?”     “Hey, as long as you don’t put a bomb in my neck, I’m fine with anything!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Doctor Sleep

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Doctor Sleep and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Now that we’re a good few years into the Stephen King revival that was kicked off by IT (actually Stranger Things if we’re being honest) it was about time we start calling back to OTHER Stephen King adaptations, and not just that brief shot of the original Pennywise in IT or the numerous random callbacks in The Dark Tower.  This is a sequel not only to Stephen King’s original Shining novel, but is the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation, so describing the making of this movie as Quixotic is not that much of a stretch.  Then again, there’s no reason not to swing for the fences if you’ve got the chance, and the director has proven time and time again with films like Gerald’s Game and Ouija: Origin of Evil that he’s capable of making very good horror films, so perhaps the untouchable triumph that was The Shining is not so out of reach after all!  Is this a worthy sequel to the original film and a great movie in its own right?  Let’s find out!!

Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) has had a rough time of it since he and his mother managed to escape from the Overlook Hotel where his dad tried to murder the two of them before dying in the snow.  It seems that he took after his father in the second worst way possible as he may not be an axe murderer, but he is an alcoholic who’s using his addiction to avoid dealing with his own problems as well as the powers that seem to have done nothing but cause him trouble as the ghosts from the Overlook Hotel try to haunt him to this day.  He manages to find a bit of stability though in the town of True Knot where he meets a friend named Billy (Cliff Curtis), manages to give up the booze, and even gets a job as an orderly in a hospice care facility where he uses his power to sooth those who are about to die with those gifts that have given him nothing but heartache for the past thirty years.  He also seems to have made a connection with another psychic user as they communicate with each other anonymously, but circumstances are about to change that will force them to finally meet one another.  It turns out that there is a cult of other psychic users who have found out that eating the souls of psychically powerful people will give them everlasting life and so they roam the country looking for people to eat (mostly children as they are the most potent) and are ostensibly led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who’s powers are among the strongest out there.  Our mysterious pen pal to Dan whose a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) catches psychic wind of these monsters as they feast upon a child, and Rose the Hat catches a glimpse of her as well, so now that both parties know of the other’s existence there will surely be some serious X-Men like conflict coming soon and Abra could use all the help she can get to bring these fiends to justice.  Will Dan be willing to help his friend Abra with her little problem of cannibal psychics trying to hunt her down?  Who exactly are these murderous psychics, and why is one of them wearing such a distinctive hat?  Will they find an excuse for going back to the Outlook Hotel so they can sell this movie on Shining nostalgia?  Well of course they will, but will it be a GOOD excuse!?

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“Look, I know it’s haunted as well as the birthplace of most of my trauma, but I’ve got a forty percent discount from Hotels.com and it’s the ONLY place in the area it applies to.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Joker

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Joker and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Todd Phillips

Are we ready to do this?  Alright, let’s do this.  So Joker always seemed like an odd choice for a movie as his defining moments have always been in relation to Batman.  Take him away, and what are you left with?  Well if the trailers are any indication, you get something akin to Travis Bickel in Taxi Driver by way of Krusty the Clown.  I mean I was at least interested to see where they were GOING with it since the trailers did a solid job of obscuring what the actual plot was, but the last few weeks of bad press have really drained any enthusiasm I could muster for what was already seeming to be a novelty at best.  Does this manage to rise above the controversy surrounding it, especially the controversies cynically generated by those who have an active stake in the film’s success, or will this all be for a movie that ultimately isn’t worth the time and effort?  Let’s find out!!

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is one of many residents in the city of Gotham who is barely getting by and can feels that life has given him a rather crappy lot.  All he wanted to do was be a comedian and make people smile, but street punks keep beating him up at his job, the rich politicians and lobbyist keep cutting social services that he needs, and on top of all that he has to take care of his elderly mother Frances Conroy) who’s unshaking belief that Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) will help her and her son has only become more and more obnoxious as the years have gone by.  Why… it’s almost enough to drive someone MAD isn’t it!?  Like say… if someone got so tired of this that they started wearing clown makeup and robbed banks!  Well leave those fantasies at home as this is the REAL Joker for the modern age in that he’s really angry all the time but doesn’t do a heck of a whole lot about it and what he DOES do about it isn’t as… let’s say FLAMBOYANT as his comic book persona would have you believe.  Still, the walls are closing in more and more as Arthur’s life goes further and further into chaos to the point that he may just be forced to fight back in a way that no one could possibly expect; least of all himself.  Will Arthur’s miserable life come to some sort of hilarious denouement that gets all the squares to pop their monocles?  What effect will his actions have on the rest of the city, and is he really so different from all the normal people out there?  Seriously, is this REALLY the guy Warner Bros wants to be spouting his manifesto on the big screen right when they’re getting the DCCU back on track?

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“I call it… MY JOKE BOOK!”     “…”     “Seriously?  Nothing?”     “Oh, uh… no, that’s clever!”

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Cinema Dispatch: The Goldfinch

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The Goldfinch and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by John Crowley

So based on the trailers, this has to do with a heist gone wrong to steal a painting?  Or maybe the kid knocked it off the wall which triggered a series of Rube Goldberg zaniness that led to the museum exploding?  Okay, it’s probably not going to be THAT wacky considering the solemnity with which the trailers show the main character struggling with his guilt for… something, but apparently this is based on a book and I haven’t read it yet.  Thankfully BASED ON THE BEST SELLING NOVEL doesn’t send a chill of dread down my spine the same way BASED ON A TRUE STORY does since a book is already supposed to have a beginning, middle, and end unlike someone’s life normally does, but I might be a bit out of my depth here because I hadn’t even HEARD of the freaking thing before the trailers started to come out and it clearly looks to be pure Oscar Bait, but I’ve seen enough of these kind of movies by now to hopefully tell a good one from a bad one.  Then again, I was bored senseless in The Phantom Thread, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about in the first place.  Is this the kind of awards contender that’ll appeal to all audiences instead of the very few who will be voting on said awards this year, or is all the pretense simply there to prop up a mediocre slog?  Let’s find out!!

Theo Decker (Ansel Elgort and Oakes Fegley) hasn’t had the best like in his short thirteen years so far.  He got blamed for smoking at school, his dad left his mom several months ago, and oh yeah his mother died in some sort of terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He manages to survive somehow, but with nowhere else to go he ends up living with a school friend’s family which is led by the regal Samantha Barbour (Nicole Kidman) who seems sympathy towards Theo but not much more than that.  He eventually finds someone to open up to about the incident when he finds the partner of a man who died in the explosion along with the man’s granddaughter Pippa (Ashleigh Cummings and Aimee Laurence) who DID survive the explosion but suffered some serious trauma because of it.  Theo and his new friend Hobie (Jeffrey Wright) do manage to lean on each other somewhat to deal with their grief, but at some point Theo’s crappy dad Larry (Luke Wilson) comes back to take him away to Arizona with his younger girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) where he meets a kid named Boris (Aneurin Barnard and Finn Wolfhard) who he soon becomes friends with as well.  The movie goes between flashbacks to his childhood and the life he has today which seems to be rather miserable and it becomes clearer and clearer why as we learn more about his past; the continued trauma he had to go through even after his mother’s death as well as the brief moments of joy he managed to find despite his lousy circumstances.  Oh, and there was this painting that Theo took from the museum for some reason after the explosion, but I’m sure that’s not too important.  It had a bird on it I think.  Will Theo find peace in his life after having to suffer so much?  Is there anything in his fractured past that will hold the answer to him coming to terms with what happened to him and maybe some serendipitous turn of events will finally bring him the closure he needs?  Seriously, what does he need that bird picture for in the first place?  I mean it’s fine, but it’s no Rembrandt or Jim Davis.

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“Oh Garfield!  You truly capture the pain in my soul with your utter loathing of Mondays!”

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