Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE LEGO MOVIE 2 – THE SECOND PART

I remember a couple of years ago when the marketing came out for the first Lego Movie, it was all in your face, trying to get you or you and friends or you and family members to get to the theaters to see this zany animated film that throw jokes at you a mile a minute. It had a hugely successful box office weekend and now we have the inevitable sequel. He’s the grub though, I didn’t see much marketing for THE LEGO MOVIE 2 – THE SECOND PART. I’ve seen one trailer or two, but the online and TV spot marketing has been ‘mum’s the word’ for awhile and I had no idea what was going on? Did Warner Bros. try and save money, knowing people would go see this on the name alone? Or worse, did they not have any confidence in the film? I have a feeling it might be the latter. It’s not to say this sequel is bad, however the title is kind of ironic, because the second part of the film is really entertaining and totally sticks the landing. But the first part of the film, the first half if you will, was totally not awesome.

I have a feeling that Warner Bros did not want to do this film without Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, so instead of waiting on them to complete Solo: A Star Wars Story and their involvement in Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse they downgraded their status to the film as just the writers of this sequel, giving directing duties to the guy that directed…Trolls…and Shred Forever After….and, and….Alving and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked… To be frank though, if Warner Bros. had waiting for Lord and Miller for all the duties, they might still be waiting, and you know the Hollywood system, time is money. So they made this compromise. Well, we know how Solo turned out (Lord and Miller were fired in case you really live under a rock) and they really then honed in on Spider-Verse (which is winning so many awards Lord and Miller are laughing in Kathleen Kennedy’s face right now). So with all that, they still managed to write the script to this movie?

I bet the differ. I think maybe the director had a hand in it…especially the first part of the film. I have a feeling the latter half of the movie was all Lord and Miller because it stuck the landing really well. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but this movie feels like two different films. The first part, about 10 minutes in, I thought to myself, “oh shit…” The jokes were flying a mile a minute, but none of them were sticking, and it gave no time for the room to breathe. The film for some reason felt like it had to start off right where the last one ended. Which I highly disagree with. The movie should’ve really started 20 minutes into the movie that we got. With the first 20 minutes minutes being chopped up into tiny little bits, that would’ve made more sense as flashbacks near the end reveals. It’s like nobody knew what to do with the film, so they just started writing, thinking they’d find their groove.

And the film eventually does. Especially after a certain Bruce Willis/Vent/Die Harde joke. I’m not going to explain the plot of the movie at all to keep from ruining the surprises. All I’ll say is that it starts off right where the first one left off, and the Lego city that Emmett and WyldStyle eventually turns into an apocalyptic wasteland. Also, remember the first film’s ending? Well, this ending is very, very similar, but it works so well and lands perfectly, that I didn’t really mind the whole repetitiveness and predictability of it all. Oh, and if you thought “Everything is Awesome” was an annoying yet delightful fucking song, there is a song in this that tells that song to holds its beer.

Actually, this films benefits a little from the other one in the song department. The first films only had “Everything is Awesome” going for it. This sequel has about 4 songs (one though a play on Everything Is Awesome but just replacing Is with Not) and they were all quite delightful, with one of them involving Will Arnett’s Batman (steals the whole show yet again) and the ‘bad guy’ Tiffany Haddish, I think it was called “I Don’t Date Gotham City Guys?” I don’t know, something like that, I’m too lazy right now to look up what the song was actually called. Just know that I liked the songs in this one more than the only one song in the first film.

The animation is top notch and it is a well made film, but it by no means even gets to the height of what the first film achieved, and it is all because of the pesky, pesky, first half of the film. It could be that I’m insane and it just didn’t click with me for some reason, but I’ve just been reading other critic reviews and they happen to feel the same way. If they do happen to make a third I really hope that Miller & Lord come back to direct, and they put their all into writing the screenplay. Unfortunately, like a lot of sequels, this felt like a rushed product, and while it achieve some heights of awesome, it feels like a tiny bit of a disappointment. Still recommending it, especially as a kids film, but man, next time, focus more on everything to be awesome, and not just kind of awesome, some of the time.

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: COLD PURSUIT

If you clicked on this review to read about my comments on the whole recent Liam Neeson controversy, click elsewhere, because they won’t be on here. I’m here to review a movie Neeson happened to be and star in called COLD PURSUIT. And I loved this movie. I loved the thriller aspect of it. I loved its dark and weird humor. I loved the pacing, the direction, the action, all of it. Even the very weird, hilarious last shot of the film. It’s probably Liam Neeson’s best film since Taken for me. Which is kind of ironic, as my friend Don described this movie best when he says that it was basically, “Taken meets Fargo.”

A very accurate description. The plot starts out simple. Liam Neeson’s son is killed by someone injecting a whole bunch of heroin in him. Doctors tell Liam Neeson that it was just a drug overdose. Liam Neeson doesn’t believe this. Liam Neeson goes out to find who is responsible. I thought the rest of the film would be just a simple tale of Neeson going to person after person who was directly or indirectly responsible for his son’s death and just killing them in the most Neeson ways possible. But no, a little of the way into it, the bad guys think that other bad guys are really killing them off, and Neeson indirectly starts a turf war between the white drug lords and the Indian drug lords. No hold barred.

Because the plot was not so simple than Liam Neeson trying to find people, I liked it a lot more than I usually do. Ever since Taken, we’ve gotten two very shitty sequels, a half way decent A Walk Among The Tombstones, Non Stop, Unknown, Run All Night, The Commuter, so on and so forth. This, with all of its extreme dark humor thriller violence, stood out among the pack and was a breath of fresh air. This is actually a remake of some foreign film called In Order of Disappearance. Usually I can’t stand remakes, however, I hadn’t seen that one, and the same writer and director of that one did the American remake. And then when watching the trailer to the other one the other day, its looks like a shot by shot retelling with a signature American Hollywood flavor. So I give this remake an absolute pass.

This also feels like Liam Neeson actually cared about this film and wasn’t phoning anything in. It shows. Despite the recent controversy, I think he is still one hell of an action hero. Laura Dern and Emmy Rossum are both in this as well, and even though both are good, especially Rossum as a newish cop in the small town Neeson lives in, eager to get a big case, they both are a little wasted. Dern (who plays Neeson’s wife) but much than Rossum. But then again, I think the film took a No Country For Old Men approach, and nothing happens the way you think it will, which is how life is supposed to be. So those lose and seemingly meaningless threads are actually meaningful in the game of life.

One last thing, the main American villain in this is one of the best villains in a action thriller in awhile. He is totally cliched as all get out, but the actor, Tom Bateman, knows exactly what kind of movie he is in, chews the scenery like a motherfucker, and looks like he is having a boat load of fun playing the guy, which made the villain stand out. Anyway, Cold Pursuit is definitely worth checking out. If you are shying away from it because of Liam Neeson’s recent comments, then I feel kind of sorry for you as you are missing some great entertainment. I love these kinds of snow movies, like Ice Harvest, Fargo, and this. Darkly comic as hell, and fun to boot. Sometimes you just want to have a good time at the movies, this one fits the bill, so pursue it if you get a chance.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: All 5 of the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts (Oscar Catch Up Part 7)

Okay, I went to a theater this weekend to cross 5 more nominated things off my list. Since my wife and I are having our last Oscar party this year, I’m trying to see the most nominations I ever have, in case any guests have any questions. I will definitely never do this again, as all 5 of the Live Action Shorts were depressing as fuck (they were all well told though and well made). Was there really no happy shorts? So let’s do one or two quick paragraphs on each shall we?

DETAINMENT

The longest and depressing of them all, let’s rip it like a band-aid. This is based of the true 1993 England tragedy of two year old James Bulger, who was tortured and murdered by two ten year old boys, the youngest convicted murderers in the history of the world. This 30 minute short basically covers the initial taped interviews when they were first brought in for questioning. I read about this haunting case about a year ago, and it has haunted me ever since. Do everyone a favor and don’t look up this case anywhere on Wikipedia or other news sites, as if you do, you might end up depressed for hours/days, and this whole ordeal haunting your nightmares, especially if you have a little toddler in your life right now.

I’ve listened to the tapes awhile ago in real life (they don’t replay the real ones here, it is re-enacted by actors and actresses) and everything here is dead on. The child acting is phenomenal, and seeing the two boys abduct James in the mall and walk him to his death was very hard to watch for me. This short is controversial out of the whole bunch because the mother of James Bulger has tried to get this film boycotted because she feels like the movie humanizes the two monster. Quite the contrary, it made me hate the little fuckers more and wish that I could kill them both myself. Especially if you read how their lives have basically moved on after they turned 21 years old and the whole anonymity bullshit. I really hope this short doesn’t win, as I do agree that the filmmaker not getting permission from Bulger’s mother beforehand makes me think he really is trying to get ahead by creating art out of tragedy. I’ll tell you one last thing, if I had a time machine, this would be the first thing I would stop.

MADRE

This shortest of the shorts is a one take depressing wonder. Basically this mother receives a phone call from her six-year-old son, who is on a beach in France waiting on his father to get back with something (why the father left him alone? No clue, this doesn’t answer it. Marta quickly realizes that something is very wrong and that she has almost no time to solve the problem as her son’s cell phone battery is low.

The one take thing was pretty genius. The acting from both the mother, her son’s voice, and then the grandmother are excellent (I wonder how many whole takes it took to get the thing in the can). You might be asking if this is more of a thriller and how the hell is it depressing. Well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I bet you could probably guess how this thing ends. Anyway, the short, while depressing, was short and well made.

FAUVE

On the Quebec countryside, two young boys are playing around in abandoned areas and objects. They keep challenging each other to certain tasks, and one of these tasks will change their lives forever. Yep, this one is still depressing, and very haunting to the point where you don’t want to ever lose sight of your young child. It’s not as bad as having them abducted and murdered, but it’s still very bad.

The child acting is great, and the short isn’t that long. So yeah, that’s all I have to say about that. Great camera work in this one as well.

SKIN

A racist red neck asshole beats up a black man outside a grocery store in front of both their families. The black man did absolutely nothing wrong, in fact, he was just playing with the boy with an action figure from a distance. Then this racist red neck asshole gets abducted by some people as revenge from the encounter. Anyway, where it goes from there, I will not say. As the revenge is pretty genius, and the depressing part is the initial racism beat up scene and then the ending.

The acting here is excellent. It actually have people you may know such as Jonathan Tucker (in a bunch of shit) or Danielle McDonald (the girl in Patti Cakes and Bird Box). And like I said, the revenge part is pretty genius. You’ll see.

MAGUERITE

Last, but certainly not least. This is the one posed to win the Oscar, and it deserves it. It is the least depressing of the bunch, more of a bittersweet depressant. A very old sick elderly woman, who needs dialysis but refuses to get it, is taken care of by a nice younger woman, and the two become friends.

When the elderly woman finds out things about the younger woman’s life style, she reminesces about her past and then shares some things with the younger one that she didn’t think she could tell anyone. I won’t giveaway what these things are, but they are depressing in that what the elderly woman’s dreams when she was younger was considered a mortal sin back then, and she just didn’t live in the right time. Great acting, great short, hope it wins, and that’s it, I’m tired of talking about depressing films.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: VELVET BUZZSAW (Netflix)

VELVET BUZZSAW just came out on Netflix this past weekend and I watched it in two sittings, so since its technically a movie that came out in 2019, I’m here to review it. And I’m not saying it is technically a movie just because its on Netflix, I’m saying its technically a movie because it has actors, characters, a plot, a beginning, middle, and end, and it is feature length. However, this movie lacks that one thing that I constantly bitch about if you are a constant reader of my reviews: focus. It lacks focus. And the infuriating part of it is that it has two central focal points, however they don’t really mesh together here very well. One of the focal points (we’ll get to what they are in a second) is pretty damn fantastic the first half of the film, then the second focal point doesn’t really deliver at all, and when meshing with the first one, makes a back half that drags and delivers a ho-hum of an ending. I’m actually a bit disappointed, seeing that this was from Dan Gilroy, writer and director of the fantastic film Nightcrawler.

And then he made Roman J. Israel Esq. which I think I enjoyed more than most people (story/plot wise), especially Denzel Washington’s Academy Award nominated performance, even though it never even closely reached the heights of Nightcrawler. Velvet Buzzsaw never reaches the heights of either movie, save for Jake Gyllenhaall’s performance. The film is about a supernatural presence in artworks that kills artists, gallery owners, art critics, etc. after a woman (played by Zawe Ashton) ‘steals’ a bunch of exquisite paintings by an unknown artist. When I say ‘steals’, she actually happens to find his dead body on the stairwell in her apartment complex, find out he has no next of kin, and just goes searching in his apartment after the super says they are going to throw everything out.

Suffice to say that the movie tries to blend art world parody and horror, and while it gets the former correct, the latter is done so lazily and uninteresting that I found myself pausing the movie after every couple of minutes just to see how much I actually had left to watch. The horror isn’t even scary, and if not scary, it needs to be funny in a farce kind of way, and it doesn’t do either. And when the film focuses on the horror, it completely ignores that art world parody that came before it, leading to the scenes in the back half of the film being an unfocused, lazy, boring, terrible mess. Also another problem with the film is that there are absolutely no likable characters, I guess save for one, played by Stranger Thing’s Natalia Dyer, but then her character is just regulated to her spouting off a couple of sentences about needing a job and finding all the dead body’s this supernatural presence is stacking up.

Jake Gyllenhaul is excellent here, and seems to always bring his A game when investing in a role, however his character doesn’t really have an arc until the very end of the film, and it seems rushed and wasted. Plus, I didn’t like his character. Rene Russo seems like she’s bored, Toni Collette as well. Daveed Diggs looks like he is there doing someone a favor, and Zawe Ashton, who should have the most rounded arc of anyone in the cast, is terribly unlikable and the ending to her story was infinite degrees of dumb. John Malkovich is also terribly wasted here too. It seems like the characters motivations and action were traded in for story, which upends the film. When looking back at it, it seems Dan Gilroy had a great half a film, in which it completely parodies the art world and the people involved in it. The other half wasn’t realized and spruced up enough screenplay wise, making a film that goes together like oil and water.

None of the horror or death scenes are inventive or scary. Dan Gilroy doesn’t even do the modern audience a favor and bring in cheap jump scares to just liven the film up a bit. The characters just die in really lazy ways, with either terrible CGI spray blood or even fucking off screen (you don’t do this if you have a R/TV-MA rating). When watching the trailer to this, I was quite intrigued to see the new ride that Gilroy was going to give us. But now that his films clearly having a pattern of being not as good as the last one, I am a little shaken thinking of how his fourth feature could be worse than this. Is he a one-two trick pony going the way of Shyamalan? We’ll see…

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CAPERNAUM and LIFEBOAT (Two Film Review) OSCAR Catch Up Part 6

CAPERNAUM (nominated for Best Foreign Language Film)

Unless Never Look Away or Shoplifters absolutely blows me away when I watch them before the Oscars on Feb 24th, I think I can safely say that CAPERNAUM is my favorite foreign language movie of the ones nominated, that’s right, better than Roma. This film might not have the gorgeous cinematography that Roma or Cold War has, but it has a much better story, much better pace, a perfect run time, better acting, better characters. A really really powerful film. In fact the only complaint I have about it is I maybe wanted the ending a little more clear cut in what happened, how certain characters got back to certain places, but I feel that some of it was supposed to be “just because” or “ambigious” and I really enjoyed the movie so much I let it slide.

The film is about a 12 year old Lebanese boy named Zain who is in jail at the start of the film for stabbing a person and is in court suing his parents. It then cuts back to Zain’s journey and what events exactly led him to prison, which includes trying to protect one of his older sisters, running away from home, and staying with a deportee named Rahil, and taking care of her small one year old child. I won’t tell you much more of the journey as that is what made the film so captivating. The film has a nice clear cut message on ones identity and the life that was force upon him.

And again, while the cinematography is a bit lacking in some areas, everything else about it technically is pretty great; the shots, the camera work. But its the story, acting, and characters that plunge the audiences’ deep involvement into the film. Zain, who in real life is played by a complete novice, also named Zain, is phenomenal. Can’t believe he was just a novice by the end of the film. The woman that plays Rahil is mesmerizing as well, and how they got certain great emotional shots with that one year old, boggles my mind. Yes, it’s subtitled, and yes its a foreign film, but if you read this review I highly, highly recommend that you check it out. If it weren’t for Roma, I would stake that this could easily win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. If somehow it does, I will be smiling ear to ear.

LIFEBOAT (nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject)

Lifeboat is a short 34 minute Documentary (available on YouTube) about refugees crowded to the brim on multiple makeshift shaky rafts that are trying to flee the harsh life of Libya and escape to Europe. A non-profit German operation called Sea-Watch brave the dangerous journey and try to intercept these boats and rescue these refugees at all costs. Once they are rescued, these people tell stories of being beaten, raped, being part of sexual trafficking and how poverty in general lead them to flee their homes and risk their lives.

The documentary tells and shows this giant rescue operation and gives some haunting details about these lifeboat trips to flee Libya. This doc let’s us know that 1 in 18 people drown and they find 200 to 300 dead bodies on the coast of Northern Africa each year. They piss and shit in these boats and remark about having to stand in it, how these conditions effect the fleeing children. The documentary is short and precise, not over staying its welcome or repeating any information already given to us. The captain of one of the rescue operations tells us that he lends a hand because he knows how easily he or any of his loved ones could’ve had one of the refugees lives and feels that he is obligated to save as many as he can.

This documentary will make you appreciate the life you have, no matter how shitty you think it may be. The images will make your draw drop, some of it is daunting and hard to watch. It’ll give you some perspective. There are thousands upon thousands of people suffering out there that literally almost can’t do anything about it. When they get this one shot at escape, even if the escape could mean death, they will take it no matter the cost. Definitely see why this was nominated for an Academy Award.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: COLD WAR and OF FATHERS AND SONS (2 Film Review) Oscar Catch Up Part 5

Yes, I know, how many parts is this Oscar catch up? I’m thinking its possible it might get to 8, 9, or 10, so just bare with me. Here is another two quick reviews on movies I needed to watch to cross a couple of more nominees off my list:

COLD WAR (Nominated for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film)

COLD WAR was wayyyyyyy too short. I know right? You thought I was going to say long there for a second, but no, at 90 minutes, this movie is too short and not fleshed out enough. That’s not to say it was bad at all. Far from it. The direction is great, the cinematography (of which it is nominated and I wouldn’t mind it winning) is stunningly gorgeous and beautiful to look at, the acting is good. It’s a very well made film. But with a tacked on WTF really? ending and not enough screen time for the destructive romance to blossom and blow up between the two leads, it’s just short of becoming great or even a masterpiece.

The movie mainly takes place in the 1950s (it goes a little before and a little after), and it is about a music director that casts poverty people that have talent and does a musical roadshow in and around Poland. He casts a younger singer, falls in love with her, and tries to persuade her to run away with him to France, but the love between them is not so simple. With the acting between Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Knot, their romance is actually a little believable and they have good chemistry. But oh man, add 30 to 45 minutes onto this film, show us some of the grittier things that happened to them in between all their get-togethers and delete and re write that ending, wouldn’t been something truly something.

But all you people that love cinematography out there, this one is a must see for that reason alone. Every fucking shot of this movie is gorgeously detailed and beautiful. The film is in black and white, and thankfully so, I don’t think it wouldn’t worked as well in color. The three nominations for this film are well deserved, director Pawel Pawlikowski did a fine job. But it if were longer, it could’ve beaten Roma for me, and I am a little disappointed that it didn’t.

OF FATHERS AND SONS (Nominated for Best Documentary Feature)

Damn, if you ever want to see how truly hatful, awful, and shitty it is in the radical parts of Syria, watch OF FATHERS AND SONS. It is a documentary feature made by Talal Derki, and he goes back to his homeland of when he was a small child, and realized it has changed into a nightmare. The filmmaker gains the trust of this Islamic family and stays with them for two years it’s about radical jihadism and has terrorist training in the documentary. How this guy escaped from there alive and not once being suspected of not being someone like them, I have no clue how he pulled off.

It really is terrible over there, a very harrowing documentary that capture my attention for the entire short 98 minute run time. The radical Islamists are just awful human beings. They beat and yell at their wives, for which they have multiple. They let their kids to mean things to the other little girls around their area, make dangerous bombs that could seriously hurt them. And one of them even goes off to terrorist training for several years. Some of it is really hard to watch. The father of the family gets his foot blown off mine tracking (it doesn’t show this), and sacrificing a ram because their religious dictates it (it doesn’t show the actual neck slicing, but it shows blood going everywhere and the father chopping off its feet).

There is little narration but at the beginning and the end from the director, which was very appropriate. All the images and shots spoke for themselves, I didn’t need to be explained what was going on (its subtitled BTW). If people ever tell me their live is absolute shit, I am going to tell them to watch this documentary, to see how much of an actual living nightmare over there. I get the shivers just thinking about this documentary. Definitely deserves its nomination.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: Three of the Five Documentary Short Subject Academy Award Nominees (Oscar Catch Up Part 4)

Alright, here are three quick reviews of the two Documentary Short Subject Academy Award Nominees that were available to watch

BLACK SHEEP

This one is available for free if you have Amazon Prime. A mother of Nigerian descent moves her children from London to Essex after a killing of a 10 year old boy also of Nigerian descent (but unrelated to the family). The story is told from a point of view of one of the boys grown up. He talks up close to the camera and it goes from his face to a re enactment of events of what happened when they moved to Essex. You will realize why it is called BLACK SHEEP by the end of the short 26 minute run time.

Basically this man describes how racist Essex was when he moved there. He got beaten up badly by white teenagers that would call him the C and N word. After he got beaten up, he saved up his money to buy more expensive clothes, got blue fake cataracts for his eyes, and tries to bleach his skin white. The white people end up accepting him, but then still terrorizes other black teenagers and such. It’s a pretty harrowing documentary of the man describing why he did the things that he did and didn’t try to go into another direction. I’ll ruin anything else in the short run time but, basically, I definitely see why it was nominated.

END GAME

END GAME is a short 40 something minute doc that is available on Netflix if you have it. Like Black Sheep, this one is hard to watch without getting a little depressed. It’s about sick people in a hospital and/or hospice where social workers and counselors work with the families of those sick to make sure that their end of life care is comfortable to the best of their abilities. It has about 5 to 6 patients that it focuses on, and goes extensively into one or two of them, specifically with an Arabic women in her 40s that is dying of cancer who will leave behind a husband and child.

*Spoiler alert* There are no happy endings in this short documentary. If you are hoping for a miracle, don’t. End Game means End Game. But the doc does show you that a place of people that deal with this can be very compassionate and helpful till the end. So combining that with these people dying of their illnesses makes sort of a bittersweet affair by the end of the documentary. I can see why this one was nominated as well, but don’t recommend it to those that get very upset easily. I’ll leave that choice up to you.

A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN

How an individual is nominated for an Oscar for the 7 minute bit (that’s available for free on YouTube, I will never understand. There is no narrator dialogue, and just ominous music, and old footage restored and edited. It’s footage of an American Nazi rally of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden in 1939, shortly before the beginning of World War II. If 15 – 20 minutes would’ve been added on to this thing and gave us a little insight into the event or the events surrounding it, instead of just an end title card describing what was going on, they may have had something. Other than that, I really hope this doesn’t win, because there is no way it deserve an Oscar. Sure the footage is haunting, but he didn’t shoot the God damn haunting footage…

If I happen to find a place to watch the other two for free I will update this blog.