[Early Review] Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)

or “Dora Jones and the Last Crusade”

Director: James Bobin

Cast: Isabella Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo

Screenplay: Matthew Robinson, Nicholas Stoller

102 mins. Rated PG for action and some mild impolite humor.

 

Yes, I braved the long lines at an early screening and sat in front of a kid who kept kicking my seat, but I did it. I saw Dora and the Lost City of Gold. I’m not really sure what I expected going into it. I mostly like James Bobin (The Muppets, Alice Through the Looking Glass) as a director. I’ve really enjoyed actress Isabella Moner’s (Transformers: The Last Knight, Instant Family) work as she develops her skills. But Dora? A live-action Dora? How would that even work? Upon seeing the film, I can honestly say I’m still not sure how it works.

Dora has spent her whole life in the jungle with her parents and her monkey Boots, exploring and adventuring and learning. But when she becomes a teenager, her parents want her to experience normal life in a normal school with other kids while they adventure out to find Parapata, the Lost City of Gold, a quest they have spent years trying to complete. They send her to stay with her cousin Diego. Dora has trouble making friends until a school field trip ends with her, Diego, and a few other students getting kidnapped by treasure hunters who want to use her to find Parapata. The students team up with a professor who knows Dora’s parents, Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez, Instructions Not Included, Overboard), to escape the treasure hunters and find the Lost City of Gold first.

The way the film starts, I expected it to be a very self-aware comedic approach to the silliness of the property without completely lampooning it, much in the same way Land of the Lost and 21 Jump Street went about adapting their properties. Sadly, most of that attitude and humor are swept away early on in the film and it becomes a very simple adventure movie that borrows 98% of its journey from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Seriously, you can nail down large chunks of the plot and characters as being ripped from the Last Crusade. I kept waiting for one of the characters to exclaim “No ticket.”

Isabella Moner is a fabulous actress, and I think she understood what this version of Dora the Explorer needed to be. I think she’s someone who we will be talking about a lot more in years to come. I liked what she did in the Transformers film she was in, even if she didn’t have much to do, and I really liked her performance in Instant Family.

Director James Bobin should have steered more into a tone like The Muppets, but I don’t think he achieved it here, sticking too far into the family-friendly tone and losing some of the flavor that I think he’s capable of hitting. As the film went on (and it went on about 20 minutes too long), I found it becoming far too formulaic and far less fun as it hit all the necessary bits required in an adventure movie. The students that join her and Diego on the adventure could have been eliminated because they provide virtually nothing to the film.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold has some fun elements to it. It isn’t the dumpster fire that one might expect it to be. It makes fun of itself at times and if I had my niece or nephews ask me to watch it, I wouldn’t be upset. It’s just that the film could have been so much more. There’s an aspect of missed potential to it when you see the way Isabella Moner has fun with the character and some of the inherently silly attitude is at times. It’s a fine movie, but it could have been a great one.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Teaser Trailer for Baywatch is Here; Sink or Swim?

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Hey folks,

With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to start getting excited for the upcoming blockbusters that are starting to drop trailers. Today, we get Baywatch.

Baywatch’s fresh new teaser had some elements to love and a few things I’m worried about…let’s start with the good.

First of all, Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron have great chemistry. Secondly, the teaser provides the opportunity to do to eschew the 90s in the same way 21 Jump Street did the 80s. There’s a real chance for Baywatch to be that kind of sendup in the way Starsky and Hutch was a decade ago.

As far as cons go, I wanted to see more comedy from the female cast. I really hope that the movie doesn’t underplay the ladies. I’m also extremely concerned with the visual effects, which look unfinished. That being said, perhaps they are, but this is no way to release a teaser.

My excitement level has not wavered for Baywatch, but I have some concerns to voice about this initial teaser. What did you think? And it you like this news, please click like or comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 1 – This is the End (2013)

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Director: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson

Screenplay: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

107 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.

 

Here we are yet again. Another year has gone by and we arrive at my favorite month: October. I love celebrating my favorite genre with you all and I’m so excited to continue the tradition. This year, I thought we’d start off a with a lighter fare and take a look at the horror-comedy This is the End.

L-r, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen in Columbia Pictures' "This Is The End," also starring Jonah Hill.

In this film from directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (The Interview), each actor portrays a fictionalized version of himself, so know that going in.

Seth Rogen is very excited to see his best friend, Jay Baruchel (TV’s Man Seeking Woman, Million Dollar Baby), who has just flown in for the weekend. As the two trade stories, get high, and play video games, Seth suggests a party over at James Franco’s (TV’s 11.22.63, 127 Hours) house. There they meet up with Seth’s other acting partners Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Danny McBride (Your Highness, Aloha), Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express, Hot Tub Time Machine 2), and Michael Cera (TV’s Childrens Hospital, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). As they party away inside, outside a cataclysmic event begins as the world ends all around them and they are forced to survive in the house as demons and death surround them, attempting to kill them all.

What a strange setup for a film, and surprisingly enough, it works better than most comedies that dip their toes into the supernatural. The film playfully uses elements and staples of a film like this such as possession, cannibalism, sin, forgiveness, insanity, paranoia, and death so carelessly (in a good way) that I can see why this offensively hilarious look at the end of days doesn’t garner as much love as other films from this cast.

I love that the cast here is able to poke fun at themselves, either playing against type (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) or playing exaggerations of themselves (Danny McBride and James Franco). The most important part is that they respect the conceit and the material and embrace it for the comedy.

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Directors Rogen and Goldberg take some big risks in the film and it pays off gloriously. It isn’t a slight on the these kinds of movies but an homage to them and a critique of fame in today’s society. And it’s really freaking funny. The cameos alone make this film a worthy comedic gem, but the way the movie is structured give it something wholly unique: a style like no other. See this movie before the apocalypse actually happens.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview, click here.

Mission: Impossible (1996)

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Director: Brian DePalma

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave

Screenplay: David Koepp, Robert Towne

110 mins. Rated PG-13 for some intense action violence.

 

Adaptations of popular television series are really tough. How do you condense the best parts of a multi-season run into 90 minutes? How can it be done? Some successful versions, like 21 Jump Street, poke fun at the silliness of the source material. Others, like Mission: Impossible, drastically change the series direction while holding up its most important rules.

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Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow) has run into a bit of trouble on his newest mission to recover the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) non-official cover, or NOC, list. His entire team has been attacked and Ethan has become framed for the attack. Without long-time team leader Jim Phelps (Jon Voight, TV’s Ray Donovan, Heat) to help protect him, Ethan is now the target of a manhunt set in motion by Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny, TV’s Revenge, The A-Team), and now, with the help of two disavowed IMF agents, Franz Krieger (Jean Reno, Leon: The Professional, Hector and the Search for Happiness) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction, Jamesy Boy), Ethan is out to discover who wants him dead and who has the NOC list.

Mission: Impossible has a somewhat confusing plotline. There is a lot happening all at once, mostly due to the fact that the film went into production without a finished screenplay. Screenwriters David Koepp and Robert Towne were disappointed in the finished product. The original cast of the TV show (of which the film is a sequel) chose not to reprise their roles because they felt that the film was a bastardizing of their beloved property.

I personally found the finished product to be one of the more enjoyable espionage films of the 1990s. Tom Cruise solidified himself as a bona fide action star in a role where he doesn’t fire a gun the entire film. Jon Voight is a great man to take over the role of Jim Phelps from original television actor Peter Graves, who disliked Phelps’ portrayal in the story. I also really liked Reno, Rhames (who would become a staple of the series much like Cruise himself) and Czerny.

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Mission: Impossible contains some truly iconic moments both for the franchise and the action genre in general. The only part of the film that truly irks me is the opening credits (to be fair, I love the opening credits, but the decision to montage important plot points throughout the now-iconic score and opening bothers the hell out of me, but it continues throughout the entire franchise). This is one Tom Cruise property that I can’t wait to see every time there is new installment (except for the second film, but we’ll get to that later).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

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Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden

Screenplay: Kelly Marcel

125 mins. Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language.

 

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my review of the highest grossing adaptation of a rip-off of a bad book series…of all time perhaps, Fifty Shades of Grey. No contracts to sign for this one, folks, so let’s jump in.

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson, 21 Jump Street, Cymbeline) has been tasked with interviewing the mysterious entrepreneur Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, TV’s The Fall, Marie Antoinette) for her friend’s school newspaper. When Grey starts to follow Ana and takes an extreme interest in her personal life, she begins to see that he has wants for more than she may be able to give. As Christian’s sexual fantasies take flight with Ana as a passenger, she questions what or who she really wants in the film from director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy).

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Let’s discuss our leads here. Dakota Johnson acts to the character well enough, but the character isn’t any good. She doesn’t give her character a path or any catharsis to lead to. Then there’s Jamie Dornan, who is absolutely dreadful as the billionaire playboy. Not only is the character completely unlikable, but Dornan plays him as a whiny baby. His character is a selfish prick, he doesn’t give anything to Ana in terms of her relationship needs. It is all take-take-take. Who would find him an enjoyable character to follow?

The only thing worse than the leads here is the chemistry between them. It is a shame to have some of my favorite character actors given so little screen time to bolster this film as they are squandered in the background. I’m referring specifically about Marcia Gay Harden (TV’s The Newsroom, Into the Wild), Andrew Airlie, and one of absolute favorite people Callum Keith Rennie. Our leads are incapable of driving this story forward, and it really doesn’t end.

So how good is the rest of the film? It isn’t particularly well shot, especially the poorly-shot initial love scene. It is almost as if the director didn’t watch the dailies, because the scene breaks even the simplest of guidelines around how to shoot a scene (I can hear my filmmaker friends telling me that there are no guidelines to shooting a scene, but I even they would agree with me). The film has a tonally broken look to it, similar to the book itself.

Then there is the sound and music editing. There are scenes with Anastasia typing on her new computer and she finishes typing before the sound stops. It is blaringly noticeable. Not to mention Danny Elfman trying his best to not be Danny Elfman, and he fails. The best decision made in this film is not using his score for the sex scenes and opting for some more sensual tracks from major artists. Can you imagine the Beetlejuice soundtrack during the lovin’?

Another great decision by the filmmakers is to avoid using the phrase “inner goddess” which E.L. James’ novel put into the triple digits. They still get away with the wretched “laters, babe” which made my breakfast churn in my stomach.

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Eventually, Fifty Shades of Grey makes its way into classic romantic cliché and shtick with a side order of complete boredom. The film is somewhat slightly better than the original tome it is based on, but that doesn’t make it any good. Perhaps the adaptation that Bret Easton Ellis wanted to write would have been better. As too with less input by the dreck that is E.L. James. It takes a special kind of bad for me to wish for Twilight over this fan-fiction slop.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So have you seen Fifty Shades of Grey? What did you think? Was it so “Crazy Right Now” or did it reach your hard limits? Let me know!

 

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

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Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth

Screenplay: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

127 mins. Rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity.

 

I have been a fan of The Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) since the original Matrix film (it took three viewings for me to properly enjoy it, but it matters not). I loved the entire Matrix trilogy, and I count Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas as two of my all-time favorite films (even if the rest of the population would rather the two films not exist), but when I saw the trailer for Jupiter Ascending, I was so excited to have the sibling directors release a new film that would draw the audience back in. For some reason, moviegoers just haven’t embraced these filmmakers since their breakthrough with The Matrix, and I was hoping for Jupiter Ascending to change that.

And then it was pushed back. Whether or not a film is good or bad, pushing it back, especially to the graveyard of the late winter months, is a death sentence. When it came out, fans gave it that death sentence. I was nervous to see the film as it has so much riding on it.

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Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, TV’s Family Guy, Black Swan) is an illegal alien working as a janitor with her widowed mother. She lives an unlikable life. That is, until she is swept off her feet by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street, The Book of Life), a hybrid humanoid creature made by splicing human DNA with wolf DNA. Caine informs Jupiter that she is the inheritor of the Earth which is currently being held by the Abrasax family who each want the Earth for themselves and want Jupiter out of the picture. They seek out help from Stinger Apini (Sean Bean, TV’s Legends, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), another hybrid, who recognizes Jupiter’s importance, and the three set out to lay claim to the young woman’s planet.

Channing Tatum has really grown as a performer in the years since bursting onto the scene, and his physicality and charismatic approach to Caine really give us a unique character to connect. His chemistry with Mila Kunis’ Jupiter is pretty strong as well. Kunis is a great everywoman, even if I wasn’t quite convinced that she was a janitor.

On the other side of those performances, I wasn’t all that content with Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, Les Miserables) as the eldest Abrasax, Balem. His delivery came off in shouts and whispers but never in a cohesive way. I also absolutely hated Douglas Booth (Noah, Romeo & Juliet) phoning his performance in as the youngest Abrasax, Titus, a sensual and foolish child.

I felt the notion of water throughout this entire film. From the cinematography, where the shots all flow in such a cyclical way, like liquid through the inside of a pipe, to the action sequences, played out like the spinning of a top, everything was just gorgeously mapped out.

Michael Giacchino’s score is another win here, with elements from Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz (two major influences on the film) in his score.

Now, the pacing is a bit off, some sequences rocketing from beginning to end, while others hitting a wall and staying there, but it could’ve been a lot worse.

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The Wachowski siblings are known from creating worlds, especially worlds that cause the audience to think and interpret, and many don’t like that. Nowadays, we as an audience ask for original content and then choose not to embrace it. Audiences and critics complained about a lot of the things in this film that don’t work (the bee scene with Kunis was rather strange, I’ll admit) that they forget about all the things that work so well here. The film is not perfect, and it doesn’t stand as the toppest of tiers for these filmmakers, which is sad, because Jupiter Ascending may serve as a death knell for these original artists, especially if their upcoming Netflix series Sense8 doesn’t work as well. I hope you see this film, I hope you embrace it, and I hope you like as much as I did, or more.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Foxcatcher (2014)

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Director: Bennett Miller

Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller

Screenplay: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

134 mins. Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Steve Carell)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Ruffalo)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

 

I knew nothing about the actual events of Foxcatcher until Foxcatcher.

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Foxcatcher tells the story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street, Jupiter Ascending) and his relationship with millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell, TV’s The Office, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day). The true story of these two men, as well as Mark’s brother David (Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers, The Normal Heart), is a powerhouse tale of manipulation, love, and neglect at the infamous Foxcatcher Farms as du Pont plays the brothers for what they can give him as he furthers himself in the world of professional wrestling in the latest film from director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote).

I’m going to bring up my big beef with this movie right now, because there are so few. I don’t like that we spend so little time in du Pont’s head. Carell’s performance is unbelievably incredible, but we don’t get to delve into the man’s psychosis. I also have some trouble with the runtime, which has some definite places to cut.

That being said, these performances are at a level so incredibly powerful that you forget you are watching a film. I already mentioned Carell, but Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo turn in near-perfect work as well, not to mention their amazing chemistry as brothers. Don’t let me forget Sienna Miller (Stardust, Unfinished Business) as Nancy Schultz, David’s wife.

Bennett creates a world in this film, and he has the ability to really get the best work out of his actors. His vision always gives something completely fresh.

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The editing and screenplay could have used a little more development, but Foxcatcher is an intense film that shows a shocking set of events that I didn’t know all that much about. The impact will not wear off soon, that much I can promise.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Neighbors (2014)

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Director: Nicholas Stoller

Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco

Screenplay: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien

97 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout.

 

I thought the trailer for Neighbors was too good to be true, and while in some ways, it did feature a lot of the best material, the movie itself was a laugh riot. It’s my review next.

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Neighbors features Seth Rogen (This is the End, The Interview) as Mac Radner, who along with wife Kelly (Rose Byrne, X-Men: First Class, Annie), have just settled in at home with their new daughter. Unfortunately for them, they have new neighbors, as a fraternity has just set up shop next door, and leader Teddy (Zac Efron, 17 Again, That Awkward Moment) is about to seriously complicate Mac and Kelly’s lives in his quest to create the biggest party ever and end up on the fraternity wall of fame in this new film from director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, The Five-Year Engagement).

This film immediately appealed to me with a somewhat unique take on the feuding neighbors concept, and with two complete opposites as Rogen and Efron, as well as the comedic additions of Byrne and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie), I thought this movie might actually have something to it. To my satisfaction, I was right. The film, featuring increasingly absurd acts of war upon each other, features some of the funniest lines and gags of 2014. I had a few moments of complete laugh attacks.

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Stoller has nearly mastered the type of films he makes, and Neighbors is no exception, with a tight plot structure and the envelope-pushing battles of old versus young, it has the laughs to become a repeat-viewing film. I know fans of Seth Rogen’s films will find a lot to like here.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

(Seriously, that whole condom thing. Yuck.)

Let’s Be Cops (2014)

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Director: Luke Greenfield

Cast: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr., Nina Dobrev, Rob Riggle, Keegan-Michael Key

Screenplay: Luke Greenfield, Nicholas Thomas

104 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use.

 

When an actor tries to make that jump from television to film, it’s a big deal. The transition can go three different ways. 1) Success: the actor creates a film career practically overnight, or 2) Failure: the actor can lose all chances of a film career, but will at least exist on the small screen, 3) Super Failure: the actor loses his television career in the process. I’m hoping Jake Johnson (TV’s New Girl, Neighbors) is only #2.

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Let’s Be Cops stars Johnson as Ryan, a guy who had all the chances after high school, but who never really took off the way he thought. The same is true of his friend Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr., TV’s Happy Endings, Big Hero 6). Yeah, seriously the same character practically. When the two come across some truly lifelike cop costumes for what they think is a costume party, they decide to just pretend they are cops, which gets them into deep doo-doo when they get involved in a major drug crime in this new film from director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door, Something Borrowed).

This film’s tone is all over the place. It tries too hard to be a comedy when it should be serious, and it comes off as too serious when it tries to be a comedy. These main characters are all so flat and similar that I wasn’t interested at all. I liked Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street, Dumb and Dumber To) as fellow real cop Segars. He was a nice infusion of actual comedy.

Johnson and Wayans are both funny when they get the chance to shine, but Greenfield’s script with Nicholas Thomas is riddled with unfunny moments throughout.

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I started out liking Let’s Be Cops, but soon it became a film with somewhat unlikable and terribly underwritten characters just kind of doing things in front of the camera. It’s a shame because I really like Jake Johnson and I want to see his career continue. Fingers crossed that everyone else finds this film as forgettable as I did.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Have you seen Let’s Be Cops? What did you think? Was it an undercover success or a Super Failure? Let me know!

Greatest American Hero will fly again! Classic Series Reboot on the way!

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I grew up watching old reruns of Greatest American Hero which told the story of Ralph Hinkley, played by William Katt, a teacher who gets a suit that bestows superpowers. The show was camp, but it was also a lot of fun and full of kookiness. It sounds like we will be seeing the suit making a return to the small screen courtesy of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, directors of this year’s 22 Jump Street and The Lego Movie.

Personally, I think that, if anyone can get this project off the ground, it is these two. I have been a fan of their work, which pleases all kinds of fans. 21 and 22 Jump Street should not have been good. Neither should The Lego Movie have been. But they were.

The two were also behind the immensely popular Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

As much as I believe that this show should return, I would like to see it as a reboot, with ties to the original, much like the new Dallas. I think the best way to show respect to a previous installment is not to ignore it, but that’s just me.

So, goat herd, what do you think of Greatest American Hero returning, walking on air, and all that? Let me know.

For now, though, enjoy these…

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