Zach's Zany Movie Reviews: HONEY BOY

You probably haven’t heard of the movie HONEY BOY, or if you have then you probably know it’s the one that Shia LeBeouf wrote based around a younger version of him and his father. It takes place over a couple of days of them living in a ramshackle hotel sort of place while Shia, or in this case Otis, completes all of his child career Hollywood gigs. It also flash forwards to an older Otis to see how his PTSD of having to deal with his asshole father has effected his young adult life. Oh, and Shia LeBeouf plays his own father. And probably gives the best performance of his career, even though I have already said that about 3 times already with Lawless, Fury, and The Peanut Butter Falcon. Lucas Hedges of course delivers as the adult version of Shia/Otis, but the scene stealer (when LeBeouf isn’t on screen) is the kid that plays the younger version, the kid that you might’ve just seen playing Christian Bale’s son in Ford V Ferrari, Noah Jupe. Hopefully he isn’t having a stressful and sad childhood like Shia did. The whole point of this very short Thanksgiving review is: is the movie as sweet as honey, or more of a pie in the face?

Not really either. It’s half way decent but a lot of parts are really hard to watch because of the awful way Shia’s father behaved. I’d probably never watch this movie again, but I have a feeling writing this film, and then starring as his own abusive father was really therapeutic for Shia to finally let himself heal and focus on the positives of the rest of his life and career. Also, it turns out Shia is a very decent writer as well as an actor and I look forward to seeing other projects that he happens to write a screenplay for, as I see fantastic future potential. I did like the vagueness of some of the screenplay, going out of its way to avoid saying what projects that Shia is working on both young and older where he’s having these drinking, drug, and behavior problems, but little robot noises and an explosion set, a set where he’s in old prohibition clothes, and a fantasy sequence talking to a television dad actor obviously points to his time during Transformers, Lawless, and Even Stevens.

This movie is basically in existence to explain his weird past behavior and a very solid warning to those that think fame is everything, it isn’t. I feel really really really bad for what Shia had to go through and can only hope that getting all this out gives him some peace. He’s fantastic in it. Absolutely fantastic. Everybody is. The younger Otis/Shia has some really remarkable scenes with this much older young adult that lives in the same shanty hotel (I didn’t know if she was some kind of prostitute but it was hinting she was) that is borderline romantic and almost goes into statutory rape territory, but it stays platonic. They just really need each other to get through life. The film is directed Alma Ha’rel, her first feature length, and instead of going all independent shaky cam, she combines it with some truly remarkable static shots proving that she is a force to look out for in future projects. Honey Boy is a decent little movie that isn’t just therapeutic for Shia, but a word of warning for people that have too many fantastical thoughts about fame, but even at a short 93 minutes, it may be too hard for some to experience more than once.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: DARK WATERS (no spoilers)

I’m going to try and limit this review to three paragraphs as there isn’t a whole lot to say about DARK WATERS (not to be confused with Dark Water, a very shitty 2005 horror film that starred Jennifer Connolly). That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as the movie itself is horrifyingly good and any other year where the competition wouldn’t be so stacked this would have easily nabbed a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. The movie is based on a 2016 article entitled “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” Wikipedia.com has a great log line for it, to which I will borrow because it is the only way to talk about it without getting into the fun of unraveling these real life shockers: “An attorney (played by Mark Ruffalo) links a number of unexplained deaths to one of the world’s largest corporations, DuPont. In the process, he risks everything – his future, his family, and his own life – to expose the truth.” And the truth might make you sick, quite literally. When the movie was done I had a bad taste in my mouth and my stomach was very upset. This movie is not for the faint of heart, any extreme germ-phobic people out there, or anyone who gets sick very easily. As I said though, that doesn’t make the movie bad.

In fact the movie is quite engaging, and that is in thanks to a very tight screenplay that the producers of Spotlight decided to make into a movie, and even had one of Spotlight’s stars Mark Ruffalo, to produce and star in it as well. The movie is a bit mis-marketed as a somewhat paranoia thriller even though the movie only really has a 3 minute scene of Mark Ruffalo thinking that people are out to get him from the truth being exposed. That truth? I won’t reveal it on here, but I’ll give you a hint, you might be looking at kitchen appliances a little bit different after the movie and doing some major chemical research. It’s not only shocking with what goes down but how long, as the movie takes place from 1998 and ends around 2015, revealing that this kind and good natured lawyer is still fighting the good fight today. Watching this movie will make you hate corporations and greedy human beings more, that much I can tell you. Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins also star in the film as Ruffalo’s wife and boss respectively, and while they are good, they aren’t really given all that much to do besides a speech or two about family, honor, and fighting the big guns. Ruffalo is good as well, but nothing great or any quirky like his fantastic performance in Spotlight. The scene stealer goes to Bill Camp, who you probably don’t know but he plays a bunch of supporting roles in a bunch of movies you seen. Here he plays a farmer that brings to light all these problems on his farm, and with a heavy accent, breaks your damn heart.

So yeah, if you like legal thrillers/dramas, Dark Waters is a must see. It is extremely engaging in its two hour run time, and the screenplay manages to make the audience make sense of all of what this DuPont corporation did and the compounds and consequences of these chemicals they talk about without spoon feeding it to everyone. This movie would make a great double feature with any of your favorite legal thrillers/dramas out there, but I would say this could be looked at as a spiritual successor to the great Spotlight (one of my favorite films the year it came out, it also won Best Picture that year) itself. But be forewarned again, you will be shocked to your core of what was gotten away with for so long, and while I know this is a “based on a true story/article type thing” where the based on part should probably have a bunch of asterisks after it, I have a feeling there is a bunch of truth to what happened, and even a shred of it is enough to make you sick to your stomach. I hope every single individual that went along with the charade and causing or hiding the truth is either burning hell, jail, or out of their own fucking mind with guilt. Please don’t read anything about it before you go into it, the impact of it will be that much harder for you. By the end credits you’ll feel like you’ve been doused with a bunch of this dirty water, and will be itching to get home to clean yourself off.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: KNIVES OUT (ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS)

What can I say about KNIVES OUT, easily 2019’s best film of the year for me so far, without giving away anything? Because with this very special movie written and directed by Rian Johnson, just like I said about Parasite a month ago, it is best to go into the theater completely dark. So, like my review of Parasite, my review of Knives Out is going to be very short, and bullet pointed. I’m going to have one short vague sentence about it, list my vague likes and dislikes of it, and just overall be vague, vague, vague. There are no clues or any mystery to my review, I’m saving every entertaining moment for your experience in the theater, letting you decipher the greatness of this film on its own. Here we go:

What is Knives Out about?

The head of a rich family patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and a detective named Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig) is on the case.

Why did I like Knives Out so much to make it my #1 film of 2019 so far?

  1. You won’t see another movie as entertaining as this one all year. 2 hrs and 10 minutes goes by without one hiccup and you must pay attention to every second of the movie to experience the perfection of Rian Johnson’s screenplay.
  2. There are little set ups and little pay offs, and big set ups and big pay offs, all of them land perfectly on their feet.
  3. I did not guess or predict any of the twists or turns that this movie had. Completely shocked by every reveal and revelation.
  4. Replay value, I could watch this film over and over and over and over and over again.
  5. Best fun mystery whodunit film since Clue, except this one is more grounded and a little more serious, but even more fun and funny than the classic 80s film.
  6. The performances are all incredible, but Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana De Armas completely steal the show. Daniel Craig’s Alabama accent in here is deliciously borderline over the top and hilarious, Chris Evans gives us his best performance ever, and Ana De Armas’s character is the most I have rooted for a protagonist since Rey in The Force Awakens. In fact, any Last Jedi haters out there can now go fuck themselves because of this movie.
  7. The dialogue is crisp, clever, and comedic. Very delightful. The movie could’ve gone on another hour and I wouldn’t have noticed.
  8. Camera angles, placement, and movement when it needed to were on point with the scenes that they accompanied.
  9. Go see it.
  10. What are you doing still reading this? Go fucking see it now.

What did I not like about the movie?

  1. One very minor bullshit nitpick. This movie has a shit ton of A-listers, and while they all get one or two moments to shine, I wish some of them were in the film more as they were just so delightful to watch. But them being in the film any more might’ve made the story too bloated, and the movie is as perfect as a movie could be. So strike this complaint for the record.

I loved KNIVES OUT. If I didn’t have a child I’d probably see it two or three more times in the theater. I can’t wait to own it. It’s incredible. Get a clue from this review, go out and seek it before I start to boo you.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FROZEN II

Have any of you watched any ‘making of’ docs or featurettes on Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom? If you have, after seeing FROZEN II, you might be already getting the point I’m about to make, but if you haven’t, let me clue you in a little on the big reveal from those little insights into the darkest chapter of the Indiana Jones franchise. It is revealed from Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, and even Lucas himself that most of Temple of Doom is just jumbled up unused ideas, themes, and scenes left on the cutting room floor from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The beginning at Club Obi-Wan through the jumping out of an airplane on an inflatable raft scene to the fast and furious mine cart chase near the climax of the film, all little unused ideas. Probably the reason why I don’t re-watch that film quite as much as the others (don’t worry, I still think Crystal Skull is still the worst of the four). What I’m trying to get at is that FROZEN II felt the exact same way for me, a bunch of unused messages, themes, and ideas that they probably had for the first movie but had to not include due to it not working with the flow of the first film. This film only feels like a half realized idea. In my opinion, the film is also way too dark and depressing for children, the songs aren’t memorable at all, the adults won’t get into the story and may even be bored by it, and they should’ve just left everything about the first movie alone. This didn’t need a sequel.

The film isn’t terrible, I just found it boring and unnecessary. After watching it and being ultimately disappointed by what I saw, and then went and did some research about when the first one came out (6 years ago) and how long they took to make it (a year and a half to come up with the story, much longer to create each and every animated frame), I came up with a personal (yet arguable conclusion): Disney forced the filmmakers to make this sequel when they didn’t have any solid story ideas or any justifiable reason for doing another adventure other than Disney just wanted more box office bucks and licensing to sell more toys. I bet you anything that the filmmakers had other original ideas up their sleeves, but when brought to Disney, they didn’t even take a look, they just shook their heads, tapped their watches, and asked when they would develop a sequel to one of their most successful animated films of all time. The creators probably didn’t want to do it, but Disney kept adding those 0s to their contracts, and after the last and final no, Disney exclaimed, “okay, if you won’t make it, someone else will.” It is then that the filmmakers didn’t want anybody else in control of their “baby,” and finally said yes, even though their hearts weren’t truly into it like they were with the first one. Not only truly into it, but they felt rushed to get a completed project out into the world by a certain date. Now keep in mind that this is just my heavy duty conjecture just to give the creators an excuse of why I was personally let down by this sequel. Because if none of that is true, and their hearts were completely into it and they had more than enough time with their songs and ideas and didn’t feel rushed at all…then that just makes this film worse in my mind.

I know a lot of people find the first film overrated, but that is because they didn’t watch until long after the crazed hype it received right after it was released. I personally still love the first movie, not just because I saw it the first night it came out before the casual moviegoer obsession began but also because I’ve watched it a thousand times with my young one, who gives his undivided attention to each and every viewing, and points and shouts with glee every time he sees one of the characters outside of home. To give a point of reference to my screening that I had over the weekend, I took my young one with my wife to a Camp Cinemark showing of the sequel, which kids are allowed to talk a little and move around a little (or a lot with both in some cases); a screening that die hard fans and non interrupted folk should stay far away from. With my son, I’ve learned to tolerate the distractions, and wasn’t really upset with my screening, and was confident coming out of it that I didn’t miss any of the movie. My son was the perfect little moviegoer during his screening, making me wish we had just went to a regular one as he leaned his head on my arm and paid attention to most of the entire thing. But I’m glad I ended up going to that show in the long run, because with my new found powers of heightened peripheral vision, hearing and side attention techniques I developed having having my first child, I was able to read the room with what they thought of the sequel as well, and it wasn’t good.

Kids barely paid attention to it, several of them saying out loud that they were bored or wanted to watch the original again, others screamed or cried during the really dark or sad parts of the movie, I heard adults whispering to themselves that they weren’t enjoying the sequel at all and that the songs weren’t very good, looking at their phone clocks to see how much time they had left in that miserable experience. When the film was over, there was not a clap of enjoyment, not even from my 2 year old son who claps when the credits roll on ANYTHING, and only a handful of people stayed for the songs during the credits or to even witness a half way decent after credits scene. To summarize: children and adults, at least in my screening, weren’t having it. And please believe me, I TRIED to give this sequel a chance, but after the first song I was like…”uh oh.” During the first movie, I had each and every song already stuck in my head before the next one played across the screen, already knowing and humming the words as I left the theater into the many days and weeks and years after to present day. I know the whole damn first movie by heart because of my son’s love for the film (not a bad thing.) I knew that there was no way a sequel could top or maybe even getting close to the magic of the first film, but I was hoping upon hope that I could be proven wrong. Alas, 3/4ths into the film, into the incredibly dark and depressing third act, I had given my hopes up.

Telling you any of the story would probably be considered spoilers, but I’m going to try so I can get my point of disappointment across. The first thing you should know is that the grand adventure advertised in the trailers and tv spots is nowhere to be found. Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven find this small, magical, closed off place in the forest and spend some time in there dealing with past shit, all the while Kristoff is trying to find a time and place to propose marriage to Anna. Not much happens, but that’s all I can really say without spoiling the film. The “not much happens “parts, to be very vague, are just messages and themes already explored in the first film that just felt repetitive all combined in the giant melting pot of a ‘reparations’ story line we’ve seen time and again from other and much, much better films. There are new characters in the film, but none of them get much screen time, leading to each and every single one of them feeling one note, the characterization all surface level, nothing deep. They only learn and change their attitudes instantly with several lines of dialogue the main characters give them at the drop of a hat. The center and arguably single stage only allows Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf to have character development, but instead of learning more about their inner selves like the script should’ve done, they only learn more about their untold surrounding history. All of this leads to revelations and fates they already experienced or should have experienced in the first film. The very, very ending fate of one of the main characters that happens in this sequel I had predicted would happen at the end of the first film while watching it for the first time, but was wrong. It happening in this film is part of the feeling I had about recycled or unused ideas I mentioned in my first paragraph.

None of the songs are memorable except for Kristoff’s funny love ballad, but that is mostly due to the visuals and the reindeer. But even with that song I wasn’t humming it nor was it stuck in my had afterward. None of them were, I can’t only remember the title of the song ‘Into The Unknown,’ because those three words were repeating over and over and over and over and over again for most of the song. To go even one step further with my complaints, some of the songs seems to borrow too much not only visually, but narratively from the first film. One song, ‘Show Yourself,’ copies almost verbatim visually from when Elsa belted out ‘Let It Go’ from the first one, all the way down to when she makes herself a new outfit using her powers. Then something happens to her that was narratively verbatim to what happened to a different character in the first film. It all just felt like unused or recycled shit, but in new gift wrapping, with a new pretty bow. Make no mistake, this film is visually, very, very well done. Everything looks gorgeous, some parts even breathtakingly beautiful. But special effects do not make a film. You should know that already because of Michael Bay and Transformers. Or James Cameron’s Avatar.

And the voice acting of course is still great. Everybody involved, Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, and even with little to do, Sterling K. Brown, Even Rachel Wood, and Alfred Molina, all do a fantastic job. The singing, sound mixing, sound editing, score, all perfect, it’s just packaged in a story I could never quite get invested in. And since I didn’t care about the story, or the songs, I didn’t care about the characters, which made me just not really care for the entire product. And if their heart wasn’t it in, they didn’t try hard enough, but if their heart was, then they tried way too hard. Sometimes with sequels, even though you want to do something drastically different, if its a kids movie, you can still do it, but you have to keep it simple. The story, themes, and sad parts in this film I feel are wayyyy too dark and depressing for the target audience that Disney was intending. They shouldn’t be making a movie for the ones that enjoyed the original film six years ago, they needed to make it for the ages of what all of us were (young and older) back then. A sequel to bring in a new audience but still fun, light, and bright like the original. It tried to mature way too much. Disney has always been able to ride that fine line (tightrope) between a kid movie and an adult movie, so precise in fact that it gives a film for everyone to enjoy. This film tripped over itself too much into the adult category, much like Ralph Breaks The Internet did (although I enjoyed that sequel so much more than this one, the story and character development were very strong and kept my undivided attention.)

All of this ends with someone asking me, “did you like Frozen 2?” and I answer with a crunched up meh face, a shake of my head and a shrug of my shoulders. It’s not something I’m going to get upset over if people really like it and think I’m wrong (I’m already tapped out of that after Joker). And if your kids like it, wonderful, I hope it brings them hours of repeat joy in the future. I have one more nitpick about the movie, but it goes vastly into spoiler territory, and it also just happens to be some bullshit I’m probably pulling out of my ass because it’s politically related, and I’m just tired of seeing that influence in films that don’t need to have those kinds of messages in them. Scroll way down for me just running my mouth. I just personally didn’t really like the movie, I think its a very mediocre sequel, and I think once the people that really like it give it enough time, the flaws will start to seep through the cracks. Especially when what happens when the second one hits home video and you’ve watched the first one a thousand times, put the sequel in, only get about halfway through it only to eject and put the first one on a thousand more times. There is way too much hardship in this movie. Ultimately, Frozen II tries too hard to be what The Empire Strikes Back did for Star Wars and instead it should’ve been something more akin to the Ewok sequences in Return of the Jedi.

**one spoiler paragraph warning** Okay, so this nitpick I’m pulling out of my ass as I probably read too much into films these days as seeing all these articles about movies containing references to today’s political climate or supporting social justice warrior’s agendas and all that crap. So take what I theorize with a grain of salt. It reveals in the film that this small place in the forest cut off from everyone so long ago has two group of people trapped within its magical borders: old Arendelle soldiers and magic Nomad people. t\They all hate each other because of Anna and Elsa’s grandfather, who basically was a fucking asshole bigot (Trump anyone?). For the two groups of people to get out of this purgatory-like place and break the magic spell trapping all of them there not able to leave, not only do they have to like and respect each other, but there is a dam that, if destroyed, will break the spell and let everyone escape. But also to destroy this dam would also completely flood and destroy Arendelle in the process. As Anna finds out that her parents were basically the Romeo and Juliet of these two groups, Anna also realizes the dam must be destroyed as a reparation of sorts for the sins of their grandfather and what he did to these spiritual magical nomads long ago (killed them). She gets these magic rock giant beings to throw giant boulders at it to break open the dam, but Elsa comes in on a horse (quite literally) and saves Arendelle from being destroyed anyway. The whole time I was just thinking, “Oh God, is this an anti-Trump, anti-Trump border wall movie? Are you fucking kidding me?” I don’t like Trump as much as the next person, don’t get me wrong, I’m just tired of seeing these type of messages taken from our political climate put inside a kids movie. They need to not do that. Now if that wasn’t the intention of the filmmakers, I apologize for trying to tie threads together that don’t exist and instead of trying to read too hard for these kinds of messages in these movies, I need to just….let it go. But if our politics today influenced this story at all in any way, and I’m right about some of my theories, shame on you filmmakers, come up with something more original and less preachy next time please. Thanks. **end of spoiler paragraph and the real end of the review**

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

If Tom Hanks doesn’t at least get nominated for supporting actor for his portrayal of Fred Rogers in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD this year, I would definitely say the Academy doesn’t really care about him anymore. I get why he didn’t get nominated for his last two pretty good performance, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, but not giving him recognition for this one would be inexcusable. He doesn’t just portray Fred Rogers in this, he embodies him. Sometimes I completely forgot it was Hanks in the role, it was incredible. But the real question? Is the movie any good, because I’ve said it a billion times, a great performance does not make a movie. Well the good new neighbor, is that yes, the movie is thankfully pretty solid too. It’s about learning to forgive and how to deal with your feelings that culminates in something heartful yet heartbreaking. So much so that a lot of you will like it, but only be able to watch it once.

Now if you are interested in seeing it, know going into it that this isn’t a biography on Fred Rogers. If you want something like that I would recommend last years fantastic documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which was completely snubbed at the Oscars and for no good reason. This film is a “inspired by true events” type of affair which should have a lot more quotation marks and asterisks around the word “inspired.” This all connects together for you know as you were probably wondering why I said Tom Hanks should get a supporting nomination instead of lead even though he is the first name on all the marketing and promotional materials. This film is about a man named Lloyd Vogel (very far off from the real person’s name that inspired this story) that is writing a piece on Fred Rogers for Esquire. We get to know this man much much much more than Fred Rogers. We learn that he’s trying to be there for his wife and his newborn son. More than his father ever was, and we learn that he can’t forgive his father for some pretty big and arguably unforgiving reasons that to tell you any of them would ruin most of the movie. The man basically learns through his interviews for his piece of Fred Rogers the power of feelings, how to control them, and how to forgive.

The film starts off ingeniously though, where it seems like they are going to do a whole entire reenactment of one of the episodes of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and a little of the ways into it, sets up the story of Vogel. Everything about recreating Mr. Rogers Neighborhood is absolutely uncanny. It changes aspect ratio when it goes back to the show, with that grainy television feel, and Tom Hanks doesn’t just do an impersonation of Fred Rogers, he embodies him to the point where I couldn’t even tell it was Tom Hanks during much of the run time. Matthew Rhys plays Vogel, the tormented man with an inability to forgive, and I’ve never seen Rhys on his most famous and praise worthy role, that on The Americans, I just know that here he was fantastic as well, and his performance makes me actually want to check out the finished show on Netflix, whenever I can find the time. Chris Cooper plays the father, a tormented soul himself, trying not only to make amends with his son, but trying to forgive himself for his sins of the past. Cooper is usually reliable in any role he takes, even The Muppets, so it is no surprise here that he brings his A game to Neighborhood as well. Enrico Colantoni has a small but quirky role as a manager of Fred Rogers, and his small moments give the film the comic relief that it needs.

For those of you disappointed that the film isn’t really about Fred Rogers, fear not, as Hanks and some of the aspects of the show are in the film quite a bit. It shows the making of some of the segments, Hanks embodying even the puppets that Fred Rogers used to control and voice for the program. The movie also delves a little bit into Rogers private life, such as his relationship with his wife and his sons, tidbits that you would maybe want to follow up on, which in that case, again, I’d recommend watching the documentary, as it gives you more of the whole picture. Watching this film and that film makes for the perfect double feature. This is a more fictionalized account of Fred Rogers helping out a journalist that “saved his life.” The article this movie is based on is real, the inspiration the journalist got out of Rogers is real, and Rogers is real, but I have a feeling that a lot of the conversations and situations they showed on screen were highly fictionalized, hence the “inspired” part of the true story that you see flash on screen during the opening credits. But that’s okay, as the whole movie packs an emotional wallop with these aspects, and could even inspire the coldest of hearts out there who actually find the time to give this film a chance. The movie certainly isn’t a re-watchable kind of thing, as some will find it maybe a little too depressing and emotional to keep recollecting over and over again, but it is a very solid one time viewing. It has a solid message we should all learn and seeing Hanks extraordinary performance is a requirement.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: 21 BRIDGES (no spoilers)

Four score…actually just half my life ago, sometimes very late on Friday or Saturday night, knowing that no school or any major activity would require my attention the next day, I would watch a movie or two on a decent sized tube television (remember those?). Before streaming and apps mind you, cable networks (USA, TNT, TBS, etc.) would play movies all the way up till 4 or 5 am on the weekends. All kinds of movies, old ones, really old ones, sort of 2 to 3 year old newer ones, cheesy ones; I’d call these my ‘up all night’ movies. I’d have a slice or two of cold pizza or a Lunchable combined with mild Taco Bell hot sauce and watch them the whole way through, WITH COMMERCIALS, and wouldn’t go to bed until the credits rolled. My favorite ones to watch were movies I hadn’t seen yet before, but more specifically the cheesy cop drama/actioners that usually took place at night and told the tale within the span of that one night. They weren’t fantastic or perfect films mind you, but they hold a dear place in the heart of my childhood, and 21 BRIDGES managed to bring back those memberberries.

I am in no way going to put this film on my top twenty of 2019 list, but if I’m ever up again that late (very rare, considering I consider myself an old fart and get tired way too quickly for that shit anymore) I would probably queue this film on a streaming platform. Taking place in the span of one night, 21 BRIDGES is about a very determined cop (yet very closely follows the rules of his job) hunting down a pair of thieves that robbed a joint and happened to kill about 7-8 cops on their way out, a ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ situation that unfortunately played out. As the hunt for the two men progresses, the cop has an ingenious plan: it’s 1 a.m. not too many people out on the streets, so let’s box the cop killers in, and close Manhattan, all 21 bridges, the subways, river boats, everything. He is given until the sun comes up before they have no choice but to open the city back up before riots start taking place. Also, as the hunt goes on, he has to grapple with the fact that a lot of these cops counting on him to catch the killers want him to kill them so they don’t get their due process. Also, and of cliched course, nothing is as it seems, but what kind of movie like that wouldn’t have that plot point as there would really be no movie without it? Straight up cat and mouse thrillers don’t work anymore.

Of course, and unfortunately, this is a case of where if you’ve seen the trailers to this movie, it probably gives a little too much away, as you can piece together what is going on by the end of the first act. It tries to even itself out of its predictability by having the fates of some characters come to a close sooner than you’d think, but it doesn’t quite steer clear of the familiarity. Also, at being only 99 minutes, some of the characters stand around and talk a little bit too much, a couple of shots held on too long by just a few seconds, which sort of adds to the cheesiness vibe I was talking about when describing my favorite ‘up all night’ films. But it’s all okay. The point is that even with all the familiarity, predictability and some dialogue scene pacing issues, the movie is quite entertaining. Part of that entertaining quality is that the action scenes are spread out, have a grounded feel to them, and guess what? No fucking shaky cam or any weird editing issues. I knew what was playing out on screen, who was where, who was shot and/or dying, where the car was going while chasing someone, etc. All crystal clear, and I have to commend any action film that can do that nowadays, seeing as we get way too much shit like Charlie’s Angels and Black and Blue. It’s nice to have a movie like this come along every so often and bring some kind of balance to the way films are shot, edited, and directed.

There was another big little thing I noticed that definitely put a smile on my face as well. No noticeable stupid fake CGI blood when people were getting shot and killed. This movie uses those timed blood special effect explosive bags throughout the whole thing, and made me realized how much I truly miss that level of technical film making, ESPECIALLY in cheesy cop drama/actioners. They even use old school make up for those close ups of deceased people’s head shots, eye shots, body shots, any kind of shot. I really appreciate that kind of attention to detail. The film also has detectives doing actual detective work instead of just coming upon things by happenstance. The movie of course also wouldn’t work without Chadwick Boseman, aka Black Panther, who brings a level of acting gravitas needed to not have the movie go full out cheesy and stay a little bit grounded. Anyone else in the role, and I probably wouldn’t be recommending this film. The robbers/cop killers played by Taylor Kitsch and Stephen James are a close second, their backstories and playing up those personalities elevated what could’ve been just one dimensional bone headed villain fodder. Sienna Miller and J.K. Simmons unfortunately get the one-dimensional predictable cop arcs, where it’s mostly just cursing and screaming and cliched cop dialogue. But I don’t blame them as they have proven time and again they are incredible actors. That falls all on the script.

Like I said, it isn’t the greatest ‘up all night’ cheesy yet serious cop thriller/drama/actioner I’ve ever seen, but I have to admit I was plenty entertained throughout the whole thing, with the little nice technical touches and Boseman’s acting that elevated the flaws with the dialogue, characters, and some of the predictability of the story. The only thing I regret is not seeing this film as late as possible at a theater with something to eat in order to try and replicate the feelings and experience I used to have when I was a kid. I guess that is what home video is for, and technically, I’m getting the film (and two others) for free on digital anyway, because of a Cinemark offer of seeing this, Hustlers, and Countdown. I guarantee you my enjoyment of this film has nothing to do with the fact that I would be receiving a free digital copy of it down the line when it releases to purchase at home. I just wish the movie would’ve been titled something cheesier, such as Manhattan Closed or New York Morning or Manhattan Siege or Cop Killer Takedown or Early Morning Manhattan, or Island Escape or a hundred of other titles that could’ve added to some of that sweet sweet nostalgic over-the-top-ness. 21 Bridges is just a very generic title. Thank God the movie wasn’t so much so.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CHARLIE’S ANGELS (2019) (one spoiler paragraph)

With all these reboots and remakes one is more than likely to get lost in the fog, acceptance wise, when taking into effect Hollywood’s recent mantra: “Everything that was old is new again.” For me, I just take it one film at a time, and try not to mix these retooled franchises with my like or dislike of other ones. Some work, and some don’t. That simple. Unfortunately nowadays, if something doesn’t work for and individual, that reviewer has to then walk on eggshells while summarizing their thoughts through the spoken or written word. That is because so much hatred for films these days leads to people accepting or writing off these opinions with varying degrees of negative excuses such as: toxic masculinity, studio interference, feminism, toxic fandom, dude bro hatin’, etc. When really, 99% of one’s like or dislike of a film has nothing to do with any of that. It is simply that the film didn’t work on an entertaining level and/or didn’t work for them on a technical level. CHARLIE’S ANGELS (2019) worked for me minimally on an entertaining level, yet didn’t work for me at all on a technical one. While watchable, and good camaraderie between the 3 leads, there were so many things that didn’t work story, script, editing, direction, that it is too hard for me to even give this a slight recommendation.

CHARLIE’S ANGELS (2019) is definitely a women-centric film. Directed by a woman, produced by women, scripted by women, starring women. Know that even though I didn’t like this film that much, I have absolutely no problem at all with it being women-centric. There are plenty of fantastic films out there that are mostly women-centric, such as Widows, Wonder Woman, Booksmart, etc, etc, etc. And while I may dislike this movie and maybe just a handful of other ones, especially Ghostbusters (2016), my reason for disliking them HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT BEING WOMEN-CENTRIC. The problem with Ghostbusters (2016) is that the story and script had multiple problems such as not making any narrative sense, the story itself left a lot to be desired, And director Paul Feig can’t direct action very well, and had way too much improv going on and needed to learn to say “cut!” Even though the four women leads are very talented in other aspects of their career, not having a well written and fully fleshed out script, served them absolutely no favors in regards to their performance in that movie. The only difference between that film and the reboot sequel of Charlie’s Angels is that the leads were actually able to elevate the bland script and make the finish product watchable with their performance and their chemistry together. When I look back on how dull and bland the story and script were, that had to have been no easy feat.

And while I really enjoy a lot of the projects Elizabeth Banks is in acting wise and her performance in them, I don’t think she’s a very good screenplay writer or director. This is her second big gig directing, and part of the reason why she probably got it was because Pitch Perfect 2 did so well at the box office. Studios always look at those numbers first, turning a blind eye to mixed reviews. And let’s face it, the first Pitch Perfect is the only good one. The 2nd film is essentially a remake of the first, and it is all point and shoot directing. As you know, Charlie’s Angels relies on some action sequences because the story is about female off the grid spies, kicking ass and defeating the bad guys. None of the action sequences in this film stood out, and it is because they weren’t shot or edited well. Everything is shaky cam, and the editing is so bad and at such a frantic pace at the start of every action scene, that it ends up being a dead giveaway that the editor really did have any great static footage to work with. It was either shot weird or it was too slow, the editing serving to hide all the inconsistencies. Elizabeth Banks if you ever read this, which I doubt you will, if that wasn’t the problem, the editor on your film should be fired. I am willing to forgive her writing wise as this was Banks’ first big screenplay. While the concept of this movie being a reboot yet also a sequel (we will get to the spoiler paragraph in a minute) was quite clever and cool, the execution was piss poor drivel. It’s the same story you’ve seen a thousand times before: a device that is supposed to be used to help people can also be weaponized, a person working on it is targeted for death because she knows of the flaws and will ruin the bad guys plan, so she is saved from assassination and brought in to work with the Angel’s to take all involved down. If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, you must not have seen a movie in three decades.

**one spoiler paragraph warning** I have to get into a major spoiler to provide some evidence that I really didn’t much care for how the film forced itself into being part of the whole Charlie’s Angels canon, so if you want to avoid any spoilers, just skip this paragraph for more of my non-spoiler likes and dislikes about the film. So this film Ret-cons itself into being a sequel to the whole Charlie’s Angels mythos by changing up one major character, the original Bosley. With this film, everything is in its own universe, the main television series that aired a long, long time ago, and the two McG movies that starred Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore (who is an executive producer on this film). Bosley, portrayed by David Doyle in the original series, and then by Bill Murray in the first McG film, is played by Patrick Stewart here. Then the movie does the unthinkable and the most eye-rolling imaginable. It recons Patrick Stewart’s image in old photos of the original series and the McG films, stating that this is the constant one constant Bosley in this entire universe. Well, here’s the first problem, Patrick Stewart is English, and other than not even closely resembling the likeness of Bill Murray or David Doyle, speaks a British accent in the film. Basically they Cumberbatch/Kahn it. I’m okay with that, but then the ending of this film reveals that Bosley is the true bad guy mastermind, basically what they did with the character of Jim Phelps and the first Mission:Impossible movie. Changing that character like that doesn’t make sense on a narrative level, because if all the other Charlie Angel’s project are now canon, we know that someone with that statue isn’t just going to turn into an evil mastermind asshole. It just seems like a shock and awe you twist that was just thought up of to shock and awe you and tricking you into thinking its clever. Sorry, it’s not. **end spoiler paragraph**

Elizabeth Banks actually makes a great female Bosely in this movie (all the heads of all these Charlie’s Angels organizations around the world are just code named Bosely) but the aspect that makes this film unwatchable to watchable are the three leads: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska. Kristen Stewart has never been better. She acts like she wants to be in this movie, gets some fun and quirky stuff to do and almost steals every scene she is in. Naomi Scott, the one aspect of the remake of Aladdin that I liked, is good here to as the creator of said object that can be weaponized and the “new recuit”. Her freak out scenes of seeing all this action, espionage with not knowing what to do with gizmos and gadgets was hilarious and effective. Ella Balinska, who I am not familiar with at all, gets the bulk of the action fighting sequences, and she definitely picks up some of the slack that the editing and directing left to be desired. Her flirting scene with Netflix chick flick movie hunk Noah Centineo is easily the best sequence in the film. Characterization screenplay issue wise the trio thankfully happen to overcome with their excellent chemistry with one another. Now while Naomi Scott gets a decent if awfully familiar origin story, Kristen Stewart’s characters gets one of those one line of dialogue explanations of not shown events that made her the person she is today, and almost the same thing happens to Ella, although we meet one of her old contacts of her former employer, which I guess maybe possibly helped beefed up her character a little bit.

Here’s how this movie could’ve worked: Elizabeth Banks should’ve gave the directing reigns to a director that knows how to shoot action sequences, such as the likes of Patty Jenkins, Kathryn Bigelow, and other undiscovered female director talent. She should’ve completely thrown out the story by two guys that aren’t really great storytellers and wrote such trash as The Girl In The Park, the Beauty and the Beast remake with Emma Watson, and the failed Snow White sequel The Huntsman that Kristen Stewart wasn’t fucking even in. Banks should’ve then brought in some other, better storytellers like Kathryn Bigelow or Gillian Flynn, and work on the screenplay with them together. Then keep everything else, including the three leads and Banks as a female Bosely. With all those ingredients, we could’ve gotten a spy romp that really could’ve worked and could’ve really been something special. I can’t be the only one thinking this, as I am writing this review it was revealed the movie made less than $10 million at the box office this past opening weekend and even Elizabeth Banks has recognized it as a major box office bomb. These studios need to actually look at these ideas & screenplays to these re-tooled, remade, or rebooted franchises before just fucking green lighting the project. They just look at the saying, “Everything that was old is new again,” they shrug, and they think it will be a major hit because of all the other similar reboot successes. They are just all incompetent Charlie’s, all voice only, never to be seen, never to read the file, issuing commands without any rhyme or reason. That is how you get fallen angels my dear readers.