Cinema Dispatch: Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Jon Watts

It’s been a rather underwhelming year for the superhero genre which once towered over the world.  The Pandemic has pushed the release schedule around several times which means we’re waiting longer for these movies, and to me, the MCU is having trouble finding their voice after Endgame put a pretty definitive end to the original story arc.  Frankly, the best we’ve gotten from the MCU in the last two years have been the Disney+ shows that may not always hit their marks but definitely have a lot of interesting ideas that probably wouldn’t work as a movie; even with these things being overly long for the most part.  Still, it’s hard not to get excited about another Spider-Man film; especially one as specifically targeted to my generation as this one is.  Does it manage to pull us out of the MCU funk and deliver on all the ludicrous promises the trailers have made, or is this going to be as convoluted and pointless as the Clone Saga; or even worse, One More Day?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been revealed to the world as their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and this newfound celebrity (and infamy) has thrown his life into chaos.  Investigations from the government, a bunch of weirdos throwing bricks through his windows, and a very awkward school environment where half of them want to see him become their mascot and the other are hurling conspiracy-laden insults at him.  See, this is why you need to be rich or a soldier to do the Superhero thing; either commit to it full time or pay people to go outside for you!  It gets to be such a burden that Peter begs the MCU’s cool uncle Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to use his wizard magic to erase his identity from the mind of everyone in the universe.  Let’s just say that it had mixed results as the world doesn’t forget his identity, but there are now a bunch of villains running around who seem to know him; including Doctor Otto Octavius who has four robot arms (Alfred Molina), Max Dillon who has electricity powers (Jamie Foxx), Dr. Curt Connors who’s a lizard man (Rhys Ifans) Flint Marko who spends most of the movie as a human-shaped sandcastle for whatever reason (Thomas Haden Church), and of course Norman Osborne who still suffers from pretty severe mood swings (Willem Dafoe).  Now if you’ve kept up with the Spider-Man films for the last twenty years, those names should seem pretty familiar.  Sadly the Spider-Man of this universe didn’t get to see those movies, so he has to discover who all these people are, why they became villains in the first place, and if this confluence of inter-dimensional fan service can actually turn into a good thing for all involved.  Will Peter Parker, with the help of his friends, his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and his sorta-bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau), be able to stop these guys from tearing apart this universe and perhaps even get past their overwhelming hatred of wall-crawling superheroes?  Who else may have found their way into this universe, and what can they do to either help or hamper Peter’s attempts to fix everything?  So is J Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons) also an inter-dimensional buzzkill, or is there no universe that can escape his ludicrous conspiracy theories and get-rich-quick schemes?

“Looks like they already turned you into an NFT.”     “Seriously?”     “Yup.  And it sold for five-hundred grand.”     “See THAT’S the kind of evil-doer I should be fighting.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Dune

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

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Dune is just one of those things that I’ve only ever known from the outside looking in; like modern art trends or Homestuck.  I never read the book but I have seen the David Lynch movie which is… well it’s certainly in the ballpark of what I’d imagine a David Lynch space opera to be, but it still took me two or three viewings before I could even grasp what was going on; especially when the second half just sped through years of its plot in a few quick montages.   Eventually though, I got the gist of it and there are things about the world that I did like even if I found quite a bit of it to be rather flawed and overly convoluted.  Perhaps Warner Bros had the same idea when they greenlit this remake as I doubt they’d put as much money as they did into a project as esoteric as David Lynch’s weird little sci-fi epic.  Then again, with the way Warner Bros has been acting recently, it’s hard to tell where their head is at and what we can expect from anything they put out anymore.  Is this a worthwhile adaptation of one of Science Fiction’s most esoteric classics?  Let’s find out!!

If you’re still in the dark as to what this whole DUNE thing is about, then brace yourselves as this will be a bit much to take in and yet still only scratching the surface!  At its core, it’s the story of two great houses IN SPACE; The Harkonnens and the Atreides.  The Harkonnens have been running a Spice plant on the planet Arrakis for generations on behalf of the Galactic Empire, but since Galactic Empires can’t help themselves from stirring the pot now and again, they’ve decreed that the Harkonnens will no longer run Arrakis and that Atreides will run the Spice plant instead; a task that involves managing very tense relationships with the native people of the planet known as the Fremen.  Spice by the way is… a lot to get into; just imagine that it’s Space Oil and also Peyote as it allows ships to fly across the galaxy while ALSO getting you super high!  What it ultimately serves as is for the plot is a resource that the two families are fighting over that they only partially understand, and the young prince of the Atreides family Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is your typical sci-fi and Fantasy hero who bears the burden of his family’s name and has a greater destiny that he is not truly aware of yet.  To go much further than that would be getting into the second half of Dune while this movie only covers the first half, so essentially it’s a power dispute between two great houses over control of this planet that ends up being the starting point for a greater journey that Paul has to take that could shake the Galactic Empire to its core!  Will the Atreides, led by Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), be able to fill in the shoes left by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) and produce enough Spice on the harsh desert planet of Arrakis?  What threats must they face on the planet, and are some of them coming from much closer than they expect?  I know it’s a different sci-fi universe, but do you think we can just call Paul a Jedi and be done with it?  I mean we can beat around the bush with names like Kwisatz Haderach and groups like the Bene Gesserit, but frankly, I’m giving Lucas a point here for keeping his sci-fi buzzwords short and punchy.

“Kwisatz Haderach.” “The Quiz-art Hader-act?” “Kwisatz Haderach.” “The Quick-sat Hatter-axe?” “Kwisatz Haderach!” “The Knick-knack Paddy-wack?” “Okay, close enough.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Space Jam: A New Legacy

Space Jam: A New Legacy and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros

Directed by Malcolm D Lee

Nostalgia is a heck of a drug, isn’t it?  The original Space Jam is certainly a fondly remembered time capsule and it has some highlights to it like its strong animation and some bizarre asides that gave it a bit of flavor despite being such an obvious marketing tool.  It’s been over twenty years though and what worked for us back then may not capture the imagination of the “Youth” today, and frankly I couldn’t tell you if any of them have seen or even HEARD of that first movie unless it was shoved on them by their Millennial parents.  It seems the question that this movie seeks to answer (along with how to make your budget back with a simultaneous streaming and theater release) is whether you can both reheat old nostalgia while giving something new for next generation to attach themselves to.  Does this succeed in giving us the best of both worlds, or will spreading itself too thin leave nobody happy?  Let’s find out!!

LeBron James may be a worldwide superstar and really good basketball player, but his parenting skills leave something to be desired as his son Dom (Cedric Joe) isn’t really into basketball despite his dad insisting that he go to Basketball Camp this summer.  He’d much rather go to Video Game Camp which I think is what people started calling Computer Camp to trick youngsters into going, but he’s worried about telling his dad that he’d rather make games than play ball.  While all this tension is in the air, Warner Bros has called LeBron James over so that their algorithm named Al-G-Rhythm (Don Cheadle) can pitch… some sort of multimedia deal?  LeBron seems as confused as I am so he turns it down which OF COURSE makes good ol’ Al go full on Skynet and kidnap him and his son, and drag them both into cyberspace.  Since Al-G-Rhythm is a WB program, I guess he’s aware of what a success the original Space Jam movie was and so challenges him to a basketball game while he mentors Dom and nourishes his desire to make video games.  It’s up to LeBron to find the most suitable characters owned by WB to join his basketball team, or failing that the Looney Tunes characters led by Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman), and get his son back by winning a game of basketball!  Can LeBron bring the Toons back together who’ve long been separated while also bridging the gap between him and his son?  What is Al-G-Rhythm’s plans for Dom once he’s done making his game, and will it spell doom for his family?  Wait, why do they call it Space Jam when no one in this is from Space?  Shouldn’t it be Cyber Jam?

“This is it?  What, were the Loonatics busy?”     “I RESENT THAT, GOOD SIR!”
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Cinema Dispatch: Spider-Man: Far From Home

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Spider-Man: Far From Home and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Jon Watts

Well now that we’re FINALLY done with Thanos (and James Gunn is back on Guardians 3), we can finally get things back on track, right? I mean sure, we needed a nice big climatic sendoff for the big stars that helped bring this franchise to life, but now that the party’s over things have got to keep going without them and the MCU, if they’ve done NOTHING else, have managed to create something that can go on even after closing the book on some of its biggest characters. Still, there’s a big ol’ elephant in the room (or perhaps SPIDER-PIG in the room!) called Into the Spider-Verse that came out between the last Tom Holland film and this one which frankly blew Homecoming out of the water. Homecoming is still great, but Into the Spider-Verse? Woo boy is that a hard act to follow! Can this Post Thanos and Post Spider-Verse entry into the MCU cement itself as the first step to the future of this franchise, or have we already seen the best this version of the hero has to offer and will be left wanting for something more? Let’s find out!!

So hey! That whole… dead for five years thing was pretty rough, wasn’t it? Well the world keeps on turning I suppose and that’s definitely true for Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as well as the entire cast from the first Spider-Man movie who JUST SO HAPPENED to be blinked out of existence as well which makes sense to me because this is a movie and everyone liked the cast from the first film. This includes Ned (Jacob Batalon), Mary Jane (Zendaya), and even Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori); all of whom as well as a couple of other students from Peter’s school are going on a European field trip. Frankly, Peter could use the time off considering how much he’s had to go through in the past… I guess it’s only been a few months for him, and after… well ENDGAME SPOILERS WILL BE IN THE REST OF THIS REVIEW SO LOOK AWAY NOW, Tony died saving the universe, he’s been having trouble coping with this whole “superhero” thing which has gotten a lot more real than just being a dude doing back flips on roofs and stopping two bit muggers. Of course nothing can be that easy for good ol’ Peter Parker because Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) along with Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are trying to pull him into this “save the world” situation where elemental monsters from another dimension are tearing up cities all over the world, and with the Avengers kinda doing their own thing (the ones who aren’t dead at least) all they’ve got to work with is this kid and some dude named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) who claims to have come from the same alternate dimension as the elementals and wants to help us stop them. Oh, and at some point people start calling him “Mysterio” for some reason, but I’m sure that’s fine. This is all WAY more than Peter was ready to handle so soon, but then again if he’s not ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and save the world, was he ever truly worth of being Tony’s protégé and a possible future Avenger? Can the world possibly get along fine with the new guys out there like the square jawed and overly capable Mysterio fellow to let Peter just be a kid for once? Seriously, considering where he ends up in Into the Spider-Verse, he might as well quit now. Yes, EITHER version of Peter in that movie!

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“So what’s it like having already done this already? When you look back on what you’ve accomplished, was it worth the years of sacrifice?” “What? No, that wasn’t… I’M NOT TOBEY MAGUIRE!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Spider-Man: Homecoming

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

Directed by Jon Watts

So after a decade of crappy reboots and custody battles, Spider-Man is finally gonna start living with BOTH his parents; sticking with Sony but being able to visit Disney on the weekends.  To celebrate these two studios begrudgingly working together to make a lot of money, we have the third reboot of the Spider-Man franchise getting a whole move all its own with a little from column Sony and a little from column MCU.  Considering how bad things had gotten for the character with the two Amazing Spider-Man movies and how reliable the MCU is when it comes to making above average blockbusters, it’s unlikely that this will end up a disappointment for anyone who’s been hoping to see a Spider-Man movie with the official Marvel stamp of approval, but if it can ONLY manage to be better than the previous iteration… well I can hardly think of a more textbook definition of Damning with Faint Praise.  Does this manage to stand on its own as a great film, or has Marvel finally met its match by having to work with another studio for once!?  Let’s find out!!

The movie picks up right after Civil War where Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is spending his day doing his Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man thing, but is getting antsy over the fact that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) won’t return his calls.  Neither will Happy (Jon Favreau) who’s supposed to be keeping an eye on him and is clearly doing a poor job of it since even a LITTLE bit of attention might have kept him from doing something stupid!  Said stupid thing is when he starts tracking down a group of alien gun smuggles head up by Adrian Toomes who played by Michael Keaton (Oh hey!  I guess he DID live long enough to become the villain!) and soon finds himself in over his head.  Not only does he have to deal with REAL tough guys instead of street thugs, he also has to deal with the problems of being a teenager such as having a crush on a senior named Liz (Laura Harrier) trying to sneak around Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and having to deal with his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) who accidently found out his secret identity.  Can Spider-Man stop the bad guys AND get his math homework done?  Will Tony Stark eventually notice him once he takes down such a dangerous criminal, or will that only make things worse between them?  Oh I’m sure he can handle all this!  He’s a super hero, right!?

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SYMBOLISM!!

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