Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: GREENLAND

GREENLAND, a movie that was supposed to release in theaters just several weeks after Tenet in the United States back in September, ended up being pulled because of Tenet’s poor box office performance in this country. Instead, it going to be available to rent for $19.99 Premium Video On Demand on December 18th, with it hitting HBO Max for free several months later at the beginning of Spring 2021. I’m here to tell you that if you are really interested in this movie, and have HBO Max, to just wait it out. Don’t spend $19.99 on this for 48 hrs, don’t buy it, either wait for HBO Max or get one of your tech friends to download it so you can somehow watch it for free. Disaster and survival movies haven’t been the same since the 90s. Films like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and this either try to be too serious or end up being too cheesy, and never sustain the balance of both tones that movies like the first Independence Day, Deep Impact, Titanic, Dante’s Peak, Daylight, Volcano, Hard Rain, Twister or Armageddon did back in the day. Greenland is the former. It is way too depressingly serious, and is basically a 2 hour survival movie with it’s main message that says, in the end, no matter who is running the government, they are all probably a bunch of uncaring, devious, and unsympathetic assholes. I don’t want to ruin any of the decisions/actions that our government makes when they realize a giant ass comet that was thought to just closely pass us by instead decides to drop in for a more permanent visit, but needless to say, in the state of the world we are in, I thought, “yep, seems about right.” Disaster movies are supposed to be fun little escapes for a couple of hours time, not depressing tales that hit too close to home that still manage to use too many eye rolling cliches that have already been done before. Of course Gerard Butler’s kid in the movie has diabetes!

IMDB describes this movie quite simply, it’s a simple disaster movie: “A family struggles for survival in the face of a cataclysmic natural disaster.” Nothing more, nothing less, other than showing us how shitty people can be when the chips are down. The acting’s not the problem. Gerard Butler plays the strong everyday family man well like he has in a bunch of other movies. Morena Beccarin has unfortunately been typecast as the damsel and/or mom in distress, and she’s solid as she’s been playing the same role all these years. The problem isn’t even the special effects. The extinction level event depicted in the film is realistic and when the spaced out comet hitting ground action does occur, it’s draw dropping and realistic (even though that the way it keeps happening to just this family you’ll have to really suspend your belief). Which brings us to my problem with the film. It is too deadly serious. That would be okay if it was ORIGINAL, while being too deadly serious. But disaster movie cliches piled on even more disaster movie cliches took me out of the film every five minutes. Whether it was using Butler’s son’s diabetes and insulin numerous eye rolling times just to move the plot forward to genuine nice good samaritans that suddenly become as evil as Hitler to that one old family member that is content with dying in a few short hours to other civilians doing stupid shit to stop the main characters from getting to certain destinations, nothing original happens. Except for the ways our government would end up handling a crisis like this. That’s not to say that this is a bad movie. It’s watchable and entertaining at points, and the destruction of some parts of the world were a bewildering sight to see. It just added nothing new, and the cliched stuff that was there kept taking me out of the movie. It’s just okay, and if that just okay with you, then Greenland is your comet ride away from our Earth for two hours.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE WITCHES (2020 remake, HBO MAX)

I know the exact moment I uttered “Stick to the original” while watching the new Roald Dahl’s The Witches remake. It was about 30 minutes in when Anne Hathaway opened her mouth to speak for the first time and she was too over-the-top and sounded like Russian Borat. I know the exact moment I moaned “oh…no…” twice, once when it showed how jarringly awful the CGI animals and rodents looked and then when the witches reveal themselves for the first time in their overabundance of CGI glory and none of the practical effects from the 1990 classic. But…at least it wasn’t as offensive to me as watching the Rebecca remake that debuted on Netflix yesterday, certainly making everybody involved in that 1940 classic rolling over in their graves, Hitchcock probably a dozen times on repeat. Still, there are plenty of eye rolls to be had in this forgettable adaptation. This remake was originally supposed to come out this holiday season in theaters before being delayed to April 2021, but then HBO Max just last month, since they really don’t have that many original movies or new content in general, surprised announced that they were dumping it onto their streaming platform today so families could enjoy something in the comfort of their own homes. But again, why are we even remaking a film that is considered a classic by many in the first place? This film is completely unnecessary. And why did they get Robert Zemeckis to direct it? He adds literally none of his stylistic visual flare to this movie (it’s so standard point and shoot anyone could’ve directed it), and instead puts together a film that feels like it is just Tim Burton doing the same monotonous remake/adaptation crap on autopilot. Unfortunately this movie just proves my theory…that everything that was supposed to be released in theaters during the pandemic, if put on a streaming service for no extra charge (or an overcharge in the case of Mulan), is a giant waste of space and the studio didn’t have any confidence in the movie in the first place. I want to coin a two or three word phrase that explains exactly what I just said without having to spell it out in a run-on sentence everytime…maybe P.M.F? Pandemic Movie Formula.

Instead of candy that Hathaway and her coven offer to children in this movie, you’ll instead be craving three things by the end credits: 1. Angelica Huston 2. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Special Effects 3. The witches claws coming through your television screen, gouging your eyes out so you don’t have to ever endure watching this again. Almost forgot to give IMDB’s description of the film in case those of you living in your dumb pandemic bubbles have never heard of any iterations of this story: “Based on Roald Dahl’s 1983 classic book ‘The Witches’, the story tells the scary, funny and imaginative tale set in 1960s Alabama, an orphaned young boy stumbles across a conference of witches, while staying with his grandmother at a hotel, and gets transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch.” The descriptive words scary, funny, and imaginative I would use to describe the original novel (which I’ve read) and the 1990 film (which I’ve seen), but not this film. The three words I would use to describe are unimaginative, unnecessary, and uninspired. This is just another almost shot by shot remake with a couple of added things here and there to make it a small piece of cheese crumb worth of a difference. Roald Dahl has famously said that he doesn’t like the 1990 version of the film because they completely botch his darker and more bittersweet book ending (which they did, I’m not going to lie). One of the differences here is yet again the ending, but I don’t think Roald Dahl would be pleased with this one either. In fact, he’d probably would think it’s worse than 30 years ago. After watching the movie I’ve read a couple of the reviews of major well known critics and they keep repeating one after the other that this movie is too dark and scary for children. Pfffft, this wasn’t even close. The novel and 1990 film easily tell this film to hold their beers. This was laughably silly, and not in a fun or charming way either.

Another one of the differences from this adaptation to the rest is a race switch of the young boy and his grandmother (white to black), which explains why Black-ish creator Kenya Barris has a screenplay credit. But if you are going to do that, which I didn’t mind (in fact it’s the only part of this remake that works, I enjoyed the young actor and Octavia Spencer’s performances), why not have also something to say with it…even subtly, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT TAKES PLACE IN 1960s ALABAMA!!! But there are absolutely no racial identity messages in this and the movie has absolutely nothing to say about racism and how bad it is. This is where the movie could’ve stood out from the rest of the pack! If you are going to do a remake to something and hire someone like Kenya Barris to co-write the damn screenplay…YOU. MAKE. IT. DIFFERENT. ENOUGH. TO. REMEMBER. I’m not saying to bonk the audience on the head with “DO YOU GET IT?!” racial morals every five seconds, but I mean you got the creator of Black-ish to do a draft, where he created and once was the show runner to a television comedy, that in its prime, was filled with racial wit and subtlety (I’ve only seen a couple of early episodes). But no, it seems like he just re-wrote some of the dialogue and that’s about it. And how the fuck did Guillermo Del Toro get a screenplay credit in this? I’m betting he was simply attached to direct at some point, stepped down, and was just given a credit for his two second involvement before the production started filming. The third and last screenplay credit goes to director Robert Zemeckis himself, and based on his dull directing here, probably took the dull way out screenplay wise as well and just had a copy of the book and of the first adaptation’s screenplay and copied it almost word for word.

I hate to repeat another conclusive paragraph with another “I told you so” statement, but yet, my reviews wouldn’t be zany if I didn’t. Remakes, especially of classics or other beloved films, DO…NOT…WORK. Not only do they not work, they are unnecessary and the studios’ obvious cash grab intentions are exposed in direct sunlight. They already don’t look good right now, keep on keepin’ on delaying major theatrical releases, saying that their true intentions are to release them when they are “safe,” when we all fucking know that it’s because they are greedy and selfish. (**RANT WARNING** Someone needs to get it into their heads that if they keep delaying the releases, that there won’t be any theaters left to play their movies on when the dust settles. WE HAVE GOT TO START LIVING OUR LIVES, ALBEIT SAFELY. We can do it. It’s called compromise. At some point some movie, a more established franchise or series, MUST BE THE GUINEA PIG to see how they can get butts back in seats. It couldn’t be Tenet, an original film that makes modern movie audiences scratch their heads because they are too fucking on the spectrum to follow along. It’s gotta be something simple and easy going such as Wonder Woman or James Bond or Black Widow or Ghostbusters 3. ADAPT OR DIE movie studios, ADAPT OR DIE. **END OF RANT**) Instead these studios, letting some of their flicks go direct to streaming, avoiding theaters and thinking that they are doing us all a favor watching it at home…what they are really doing is just slapping us in the face even harder because their movies are mediocre or abysmal. But to try and bewitch us and “surprise” release forgettable, inferior REMAKES of all things, is more of a sledgehammer to the face than it is a hard slap.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CHARM CITY KINGS (HBO Max)

Out of three original movies since their launch (American Pickle and Unpregnant, I count Class Action Park as more of a documentary than movie) CHARM CITY KINGS is easily HBO Max’s best. And most of you, including me, probably haven’t heard of it. For me to describe it easily to you, it’s a 2 hr youngster, gangsters with dirt bikes, redemption drama. IMDB describes it with the following: “Fourteen-year-old Mouse desperately wants to join the Midnight Clique, an infamous group of Baltimore dirt-bike riders who rule the summertime streets.” This Midnight Clique, what you can garner from my description, they rule the streets both physically AND metaphorically. And while the movie does relegate to gangster group and youngsters trying to avoid a life of crime cliches during its runtime, and the movie drags just a tiny bit in the second half, the movie keenly kept my attention the entire run time, I thought it was very entertaining, the acting is top notch and the direction is visually striking. I haven’t heard of actor Jahi Di’Allo Winston, apparently he is great in a television series called Everything Sucks! but he’s fantastic here as Mouse, and I’ve heard of Meek Mill, I’m not too familiar with his regular music except when it’s in movies like Creed or Spring Breakers, but he’s a pretty damn good actor as well. However if you are looking for mainly dirt bike action sequences & stunts, other than a pretty neat chase at the beginning where the camera glides across the inner city effortlessly and the end credits, it was lacking just a little bit. Director Angel Manuel Soto, who I’m not familiar with, does a remarkable job with the rest of the film, there is neat camera work even in the tightest of spots, and I look forward to his future career.

For me though, not having that many dirt bike action sequences worked, because it easily could’ve been a movie that was all stunts, action and no substance. This has plenty of substance. The screenplay was written by Sherman Payne, who apparently has written the worst episodes of both Shameless and Season 3 of Scream The TV Series (yikes). Charm City Kings stretches his craft for sure, but that probably had something to do with the story was thought up by Barry Jenkins, whose film Moonlight won best picture at the Oscars several years ago (deservedly so although I would’ve loved for La La Land to have one) and even though I didn’t much care for If Beale Street Could Talk, it was written and directed well for what it was. Now Barry Jenkins is doing a live action CGI sequel to Jon Favreau’s terrible shot by shot CGI live action remake of The Lion King and all I have to say is…good luck with that. Anyway, the film is really really good for something straight to streaming. It’s not masterful or even great, but it’s very good. The movie even made me choke up a bit. Mouse has a side job as a veterinarian before he gets involved with the clique, so you can see everything that is coming from a mile away, but at least they didn’t totally abandon his vet skills like so many movies have done before, hoping you forget about a character’s gifts so that they can bring it back in an emotional climax. I also would’ve liked to see a bit more with the female love interest for Mouse, but at least it had a completed arc. But it’s the Winston and Mill show here and their chemistry and their scenes together make Charm City Kings for what it is, not so much the king of streaming movies, but a worthwhile charm.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: UNPREGNANT (HBO Max)

UNPREGNANT, just released today on HBO Max, is the exact opposite of Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a heavy, heavy drama that came out earlier this year that is eyeing Oscar gold come 2021. However, they will both are still gonna have their detractors. They are both about a woman getting an abortion. While NRSA is a sad road trip movie to the point of depression, Unpregnant is a comedy road trip movie that that will elicit a chuckle or two. Both are only one time watches for me, and both of them will be complained about, NRSA for being too damn depressing while Unpregnant will have complaints pertaining something to the kin that you can’t make a comedy when the subject matter is abortion. So either movie, neither are going to win over everyone. At least Unpregnant’s laughs are much more sweet than they are raunchy and it focuses on the relationship between the two girls that are making the trip. The reason why it was a one time watch for me is that everything that happens in it I’ve seen in comedy road trip movies before. Literally nothing new. And it doesn’t really have all that much to say about abortion either believe it or not, no matter how much the film thinks it does. It isn’t all pro choice or all pro life, it briskly rides the line between the two, which I don’t necessarily know if that was the right call. Especially some of the narrative decisions of the actions of a specific supporting character, which I’ll get to later. Unpregnant isn’t unwatchable, but it definitely leaves me uninterested to give it another go.

Per IMDB, it describes Unpregnant as: “A 17-year old Missouri teen named Veronica discovers she has gotten pregnant, a development that threatens to end her dreams of matriculating at an Ivy League college, and the career that will follow.” To expand upon that weird log line that doesn’t really say amuch about the movie, Veronica decides to get an abortion and drive almost 1000 to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she doesn’t need the consent of her mother because she’s only 17 (the actress, Haley Lu Richardson, by the way, is 25-26, and this is about the last time she’s going to be able to pull off playing a high schooler). She manages to snag an estranged and almost forgotten close friend named Bailey to drive her there and keep her company, but little does she realize that their strained friendship will hit a few more bumps in the road along the way before it has the chance to be as strong as it once was. Will Veronica make it to New Mexico and back over a weekend before her mother finds out what she’s doing and if she does make it, will she even go through with the abortion? And will she and Bailey be able to mend the friendship that once was inseparable? Where the movie should’ve had more debatable dialogue and discussions pertaining to the first question, one would argue that the movie didn’t do that because it didn’t want to offend anyone. Really? That’s their excuse?

Also, did they really have to make the supposed father of the pregnancy an asshole douche bag just to write around having to make the movie morally ambiguous? I would’ve like to see the would be dad be a nice and caring young man that really wants to have the child, therefore making the viewer question the actions of the protagonist. But nope, they make him seem like a creep-o stalker that didn’t tell her that the condom broke when they were having sex a month ago. It was a cop out, screenplay wise. The girls also run into some religious pro life nut jobs about half way in, and even though that situation was handled a bit better than the protagonist’s boyfriend was, the story didn’t go where it needed to for any of the messages or morals of that altercation to have a deeper meaning. The main thing that makes the movie watchable and worth an hour and 48 minutes of your time is the chemistry between the two leads, Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira, specifically the latter with her hilarious facial expressions and one liners. Their relationship journey completely makes the movie, even though every situation they run into, whether trying to hide out from the cops or meeting possible love interests along the way, came from the ‘Idiots Guide To Road Trip Comedy Screenwriting.’ I would’ve liked the movie to dig into the issue of abortion a bit more. I think if the writers, one of them being Jenni Hendriks, whose novel this movie is based on, sat down and really took their time to craft some smart jokes while trying to educate people about the moral implications of an abortion, this movie could’ve been something special. But it’s just another road trip comedy, an anti Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a forgettable sweet afternoon snack.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CLASS ACTION PARK (HBO Max)

CLASS ACTION PARK is a perfect little documentary that just premiered on HBO Max yesterday. Perfect in its construction and execution. The doc grabs you at first with “holy shit, I can’t believe this was real” laughs and then mid way through the film, keeps your attention by doing a 180 and presenting the cold hard facts of the corruptness and tragedy of it all. It’s not too long and it’s not too short (1 hr and 30 minutes exactly). It makes you want more by the end of it, yet it doesn’t over present its case. Instead it sticks with you long enough after you’ve finished the film where you end up doing the rest of the research on your own. Research that ends up going into too many details, just backing up the docs claims. If this information here to be added onto the movie, say about thirty minutes, making the doc two hours, it would’ve put the casual movie goer to sleep. Per IMDB, it describes Class Action Park as “a documentary that focuses on a dangerously legendary water park and its slew of injuries and crimes along with child safety concerns.” The 2018 Jackass movie Action Point was based on this park. The very much real Action Park was in New Jersey, built in the late 70s, but ended up being more notorious in the early to mid 80s. The first half of the movie presents the park’s origin, and detailed information on specific rides and how dangerous they were. It’s hilarious, “what the fuck”, kind of awful. The documentary is cut and interspersed with actual footage and ads from the park, some not well known celebrities such as Chris Gethard and Alison Becker with their memories of going to the park when they were young (Gethard’s tales are especially hilarious with the way he describes things), and then tales of recollection from the son of the creator of the park and some of the parks employees, high and low.

It’s a very interesting documentary. It makes you laugh, but then it makes you hate everyone involved with the creation of the park, and the upkeep of it. There are rides described (and some shown, either with archive footage or this zany crude original animation) in this film that will make your jaw drop straight to the ground. You don’t know how many times during the film my wife and I said out loud, “how in the fuck did they get away with this?” Luckily, the film answers that question, and even with the political corruptness happening to the United States today, those answers were still shocking to hear. You want to know how bad this park was? I can quickly give you a brief snippet from the doc that will answer that question easily: even Donald motherfucking Trump was about to invest it in back in the 80s before he backed out, deeming that the park was, and I quote, “too nuts.” Donald Trump didn’t even invest in that craziness, let that sink in. And then the documentary makes you sad while angry, as it goes into detail about the 5 deaths that occurred at the park, really focusing on one of those families, the tragedy, and its aftermath. The perfect ending stinger. It brings you in with laughs but then sucker punches you with sadness and anger over the dumb asses that let it all happen. If you aren’t riveted or floored by the end of this doc, then I’m sorry to say that probably no documentary is worth your time, energy and investment. Class Action Park probably won’t win any awards, as this documentary isn’t about poverty, or racism, or injustice, or anything akin to those that do win Oscars at years end, but it is quite effective with the subject matter it presents to its target audience, and at the end of the day, isn’t that a ride worth visiting?

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: PERRY MASON SEASON 1 (HBO)

Before you ask, no, I have not seen one episode of your great-grandfather’s or just grandfather’s old Perry Mason series that starred Raymond Burr. And I know that PERRY MASON SEASON 1 on HBO isn’t your great-grandfather’s/grandfather’s Perry Mason, as this one has a shit ton of adult content that couldn’t air on network television, even at this more forgiving time let alone back in the 1950’s. All I know, is that this is supposed to be a soft reboot/prequel series of the old show, but giving everything a very hard and dark edge. Per IMDB.com, HBO’s new Perry Mason is described as: “In booming 1932 Los Angeles, a down-and-out defense attorney takes on the case of a lifetime.” The original series is described as such on IMDB: “The cases of a master criminal defense attorney, handling the most difficult of cases in the aid of the innocent.” So needless to say, this is about what happened right before he became a criminal defense attorney, where he is a private investigator. This new series has the detective noir time period look and feel down. This series looks and feels amazing. The thing that is disappointing though is that half of the seasons 8 episodes are very mediocre in terms of story telling and character development. Very, very basic writing that doesn’t challenge the audience. Especially the awful, awful, awful, awful subplot involving the usually great Tatiana Maslany’s church leader character (and the subplot ends anti-climatic as well). But whenever the show focuses on Matthew Rhys and him alone, it shines brilliantly. Knowing that Maslany won’t be a part of next season, I might give it a chance, but I’m extremely on the fence about it.

It just seems like it the whole thing wasn’t conceived very well or at least half of it wasn’t. Episodes 1, 6, 7, & 8 really focus on Perry Mason as a character…and since the show is named after the titular character, he should be the main presence in every single episode. However, in episodes 2, 3, 4, and 5, the show treats him like a 4th or 5th fucking background character, focusing way too much on a crazy church lady and her mommy subplot that is so poorly written that I almost wanted to plug my ears either time Maslany or Lili Taylor opened their mouths. The season’s story goes like this, a couple’s child is kidnapped and killed, and the mysterious events around it lead to such a big conspiracy that the child’s mother ends up being put on trial of the crime, where Perry Mason is convinced she had nothing to do with it, with not only the evidence provided, but with some of it even tampered. A subplot involving high up church leaders trying to not only lend a hand to the mother on trial, but promising that her dead child will somehow be resurrected in the coming days…yeah, the first part sounded interesting didn’t it, and it almost lost you there at the end, huh? The church arc was absolutely pointless (except for a little detail that ties it in a different way to the kidnapping & murder), and the ending of those characters was rather…odd to say the least, you’ll see what I mean if you check this out. And the last episode was great in terms of Perry Mason’s arc, and his closing speech to the ladies and gentleman of the jury was powerful, well written, and well acted, but the conclusion to those events, and the fates of some of the characters that were perpetrators to the kidnapping and murders, felt out of place and kind of cliched to other, better tv shows & movies that have done it before. Especially when it came to certain karma.

Another problem I had with the program, is that the central story didn’t really have a mystery. We know who the perpetrator of the kidnapping and murder is from the very beginning. And knowing who it was, I was able to put two and two together on what exactly took place. It was kind of disappointing. On a lighter note, the television show though gets the look and feel of the 1930s detective noir time period though, and other than Maslany and Taylor, every one gives a fantastic performance. You feel really sorry for John Lithgow’s character, you want to strangle Stephen Root’s, Chris Chalk as a black police officer could score him a supporting nomination, but the man of the hour is easily Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason. He plays the character to perfection and completely melted away any fear I had of him just copying his masterful performance that won him an Emmy for The Americans. Every time Rhys showed up on screen, the show started to get a little bit better. I do have a suggestion for next season though, and instead of just focusing on one case, Perry Mason should focus on 3 or 4 at the same time, challenging the writers to make a compelling story/mystery without convoluted cliches or coincidences. Get them to write a perfect weave that doesn’t get confusing or sluggish. Write an actual mystery, and have the reveals saved for late in the season. Don’t just show your cards right from the beginning, it leaves absolutely no tension for the rest of your season. With a story like this, you gotta have tension and the fear of the unknown or you’ve completely failed as a narrative. The only way I will consider watching Season Two is if the trailer blows me away like Season One’s did, but if Season Two has a typical sophomore slump, with an already ‘only okay’ season one, Perry Mason will not have me joining him on another case.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AN AMERICAN PICKLE (HBO Max)

Well I’m certainly not in a pickle, I easily can tell you that I very much enjoyed the new Seth Rogen original movie, AN AMERICAN PICKLE, that just premiered today on HBO Max. There are a lot of critics and normal folk out there thinking that this movie is just mediocre or okay at best, but I have a feeling that they might just be sour (pun intended) about no new great and big blockbuster movies being available in theaters for awhile, the pandemic finally getting the best of their opinions. Sure, it is another “fish out of water” story, a plot thread we’ve seen in many a film, including one of my favorites, the original Rush Hour, but this movie has a something bit more to say than just “that’s not how we do it where I’m from.” Instead it turns it into “that’s not something we can say, do, or think about because of the times.” Sure I would’ve liked the movie to be longer as the things it says feel a little cut off too quickly because the films’ length, but since the pacing was near perfect, it is easier to ignore my minor complaint. It is a tightly woven, no filler, one hour and 29 minute cute little PG-13 comedy that uses the often used recurring plot thread to say a little somethin’-somethin’ different about immigration, religious beliefs, sexism, social media, and cancel culture that I haven’t seen done in a film of its genre as of yet. Combine that with Seth Rogen easily giving the best performance of his career since ’50/50′ and you have something that is a little more special than just okay or mediocre. You have something a little more kosher. Again, pun intended.

Per IMDB, it describes AN AMERICAN PICKLE as: “An immigrant worker at a pickle factory is accidentally preserved for 100 years and wakes up in modern day Brooklyn.” To expand upon that description, he is preserved for 100 years in pickle brine, a ridiculous and impossible concept, one that the movie manages to make a rather clever joke about. I found myself either chuckling or laughing out loud every couple of minutes in this movie. Maybe I just appreciated something a little simpler from Seth Rogen instead of the R-rated, boob, dick, curse, weed, and fart jokes I’m accustomed to watch in every one of his films. This movie contains smart, well written jokes that make you think a little bit. It makes fun of Twitter and it makes fun of cancel culture in a series of ridiculously funny gags that don’t take one side or the other. It comments and pokes fun at sexism and the immigration process while also saying something heartfelt yet funny about genes, family, and religion. After you watch the movie, if you think about it, it toes a pretty perfect line. I don’t know, if you end up hating the movie, you could probably just say that I was in a desperate state of wanting anything to even be 50% better than most the drivel we have gotten since late March. But I encourage you to have an open mind when watching this movie. Dig a little deeper than just thinking its another Seth Rogen comedy at the surface. Read between the lines into what it is trying to say.

If anything, watch the movie for Seth Rogen’s performance. Or shall I say performances’s. Seth Rogen plays two roles in the movie, Herschel Greenbaum, the guy that falls into and is preserved in the pickle brine for 100 years, and he also plays his great grandson Ben Greenbaum, who reluctantly takes Herschel in as the only family he has left in his generation. While Rogen’s performance as Ben is somewhat familiar as a more quiet and subtle Seth that we’ve seen in other films, it’s his accent and mannerisms as Herschel that makes his performance soar. I was constantly laughing at Rogen’s facial expressions and anything blasphemous flying out of that character’s mouth. And while the movie is quite predictable plot structure wise, I still had fun with the journey. Writer Simon Rich, who has written for Saturday Night Live and did some additional story treatment for Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out, has written here a heartfelt story that has a little more to say than most in this comedy category. When watching the trailer, it looked very standard, but thankfully they saved all the good stuff for the actual film. This is director Brandon Trost’s first big directing gig, as he has been a cinematographer on several Seth Rogen films, and his direction is crisp and clean, with no tonal problems whatsoever. That’s another thing, critics complained about drastic changes in tone, which I very adamantly have to disagree with. Usually I feel those, and if I did miss any, it was probably because I was enjoying this enough to ignore it. I kind of relish this movie. To me, there was never a dill moment.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: LOONEY TUNES CARTOONS Season 1 (HBO MAX)

This will be a really quick two paragraph review of LOONEY TUNES CARTOONS Season 1 that just premiered along with the streaming service HBO Max. Because what is there to really say about Looney Tunes? This is your Dad’s Looney Tunes, not some revamp that might as well take the word Looney right out of it. Now this isn’t the entire old Looney Tunes library that you remember watching when we are kids, but NEW ORIGINAL cartoons featuring your favorite characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Coyote & Road Runner etc. There are 10 episodes but they are only 10 to 12 minutes each (and split into 2-3 shorts that don’t over stay their welcome, you know, like the old days). It’s basically one big 2 hour movie full of shorts. And it’s great! Not only does my young almost 3 year old son Grayson pay attention to it, but he laughs right along with all the hijinks. Not only that, but I find myself laughing along too while thinking, “they didn’t change a thing, and that’s the best thing about it.” HBO Max and whoever wrote and animated for this new original series could’ve went the opposite wrong way for sure. And in this day and age, it’s shocking they didn’t.

In this you will see absolutely no jokes that try to modernize the cartoon. They don’t even utter any terms such as yolo, millenial, or even say the dreaded hashtag in front of other words. It’s literally new of more of the same from way back when. All the violence where all the cartoon characters are okay, but would literally die in real life, is all here in all its glory…along with your favorite dynamite sticks! All the characters still sound the same, you still get Daffy vs. Elmer Fudd, Daffy and Porky Pig messy mix ups, Bugs Bunny gaining the upper hand on every single obnoxious villain he comes across, and the damn Coyote still can’t catch the Road Runner. Giant rocks fall on characters, countless explosions, slapstick humor, all in tact. Nothing changed. I’m surprised that helicopter moms weren’t screaming from the rooftops from the beginning to make this project more accessible to younger viewers. It is all a hard TV-PG for sure. The only thing disappointing about it, is that it is only 2 hours of content right now. But seeing as this, and then that child like Elmo late show are the only things people are watching on the new streaming service right now, and that animation shows aren’t being affected so much by COVID-19, I think we can expect a season 2 sooner rather than later. Back in the day, this was a zany Saturday morning cartoon that the whole family could enjoy. It still is, just now with no commercials. Finally, something that feels fresh by still remaining the same. How looney is that?

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: AVENUE 5 (HBO)

I watched the first episode of AVENUE 5 on HBO when it premiered after a new episode of what I will always keep continuing watching if there are any more new seasons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I couldn’t even finish the pilot episode. It was unfunny and seemed like it tried to rip off the look and feel of The Orville, with more crude, crass, dick and fart joke humor combined with a Gilligan’s Island like overarching plot structure/device. I heard though, that the show is like the beginning of VEEP, and that you have to give the whole season a chance before you decide whether or not to give up on it. I gave Veep a chance, and ended up loving it to the point where I stuck with the whole show through the series finale. With Avenue 5, I’m glad I ended up going back and finishing all 9 really quick episodes, as I ended up really liking it (not loving though) and think it is ripe full of potential for us to receive a much, much better season 2, to the point where I could end up loving it. The reason I was interested in Avenue 5 to begin with was because creator Armando Iannucci had also created Veep, which I ended up loving mainly due to the excellent ensemble cast and that it played with both sides of the political coin and wasn’t as biased as I thought it was going to be. Avenue 5 is political in a different kind of way, and found it’s footing about halfway through the season, with some hilarious sight gags, plot threads, and incredibly funny and well written one liners. It does though has a way to go for me to say that it has an excellent ensemble cast (mainly due to my annoyance with one particular actor). I also wanted to watch it because I’m a big fan of Hugh Laurie, but I also didn’t want to watch it because of a previously mentioned actor who I will reveal and complain about more in detail a little later on in the review. Suffice to say in the end, I’m glad I went back and gave this quirky space comedy a chance.

IMDB.com’s synopsis nails the whole thing right on the head: “The troubled crew of Avenue 5, a space cruise ship filled with spoiled, rich, snotty space tourists, must try and keep everyone calm after their ship gets thrown off course into space and ends up needing three years to return to Earth.” Three years? Three hour tour? You can start to see where my Gilligan’s Island like structure/plot device I described above comes into play. But Gilligan’s Island was, to me anyway, more focused on character development while trying to find a way out of their plight. Finding a way out of their plight was plot B, with a focus on character being plot A. Avenue 5 is the exact reverse of that. Every episode deals with different ways that the crew can get home sooner, say 6 months, and they try to execute said plans only for giant fuck ups to happen where they end up might even extending their time in space to a full 8 years. With all this, there is a giant sacrifice to character development here, in which there essentially isn’t anyway. Almost every character is unlikable and only Hugh Laurie (as Captain Ryan Clark) & Lenora Crichlow (as Billie McEvoy) showing very small shimmers of maybe moving past their selfishness in a future season. This lack of character development helps yet hurts the series, as it is in very close proximity to the characters of Veep, and at the end of that series, *spoiler alert* NO ONE FUCKING CHANGES. But they are all so despicably hilarious that the lack of learning lessons is forgivable. Compare Avenue 5 and Veep to Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia for a point of reference, where no character learns any lessons at the end of any of the episodes or seasons. It remains to be seen if Avenue 5 can successfully continue on that trend quite yet, but I really would like to see this show expand and have characters learn and be changed by lessons, even if it is only in a character or two. Doing this would separate itself a little bit from the pack of the others where NO ONE changes, and not end up being just another copycat full of despicable yet hilarious human beings.

Let’s get to the elephant in the room (not a pun, not referencing a body type, just a big problem with the series) and that is Josh Gad. There is no doubt that Josh Gad is talented. He was one of the main players when Book of Mormon first went to broad way, he is beloved as Olaf in Frozen, etc. etc. But EVERYTHING else I have seen him in, he just comes off as unlikable, loud, and annoying. To be fair, he is just being cast in these already annoyingly written roles, it’s not his writing at all, and if Mr. Gad were ever to read this, I would beg him to reconsider what scripts he chooses, don’t become a stereotype! In Avenue 5, he’s the one character who you don’t even love to hate, you just want to reach through the screen and choke that character to death so you don’t have to see him anymore. He plays the character named Judd, the character that made this space travel luxury thing happen. He is also a massive egotistical maniac, and also dumb as a sack of bricks. If the series wants to do any character development at all, I would suggest that Judd would be the way to go. But considering what happens in the first season, it just seems to me that Gad will get more annoying by the episode. And that is a shame. Everybody else though, while their characters you won’t like, they do a good job acting as them, and convincingly make you laugh at them as well. Zach Woods, who you know from Silicon Valley and Gabe on The Office, has some of the best faces and one liners you will see and hear on television all year. Basically, once you get past the first set up episode that doesn’t contain one real laugh, if you want to see a bunch of despicable characters bitch at each other for 9 episodes, HOWEVER that whole premise is combined with delightfully funny ways of all of them trying to get out of their awful predicament, I completely recommend Avenue 5 during our own kind of quarantine like hell we are going through. Very reminiscent of the times for sure. Will definitely make this a part of my television watching universe whenever season 2 set sails.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: Finishing Out Some TV Seasons & Series (10 different one paragraph reviews)

Hey everyone, Zach here, instead of giving you one to two reviews a day and dragging out all my thoughts and opinions through the whole COVID-19 piece of shit summer we are going to have, making you eventually sick of reading my shit, I’ve decided to write one big segment that consists of short and quick one paragraph opinions on a bunch of television seasons (and sometimes series) that ended in 2020. These were mostly not binge-able until now because most of these were episodes that were released on the old fashioned weekly basis (with the exception of Mythic Quest, that came out when I don’t normally do many TV Binge watchin’ reviews and where COVID-19 wasn’t then an issue.) So here are 9 quick reviews on 9 series that ended in 2020 that I didn’t get a chance to chime in on:

THE GOOD PLACE SEASON 4 (SERIES ENDING) (NBC)

THE GOOD PLACE had a great first two seasons (especially the incredible twist at the end of the first season, that I will not ruin here at all) but the last two struggled to find enough storytelling worth a whole two last seasons (although they both had some great moments). The series finale was damn near perfect though. With only 50 episodes, great characters, and a fantastic performance from Ted Danson, this is easily binge-able and enjoyable. Just expect every season after the first to decline a tad in terms of originality and quality. At least it didn’t quite overstay its welcome.

THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 10 (AMC)

The Walking Dead in general has been a roller coaster of entertainment value. The first season is masterful, I did not like the farm based second season, but everything picked back up and was excellent for seasons 3, 4, 5, and 6. Then when Negan, one of the best villains ever to come across our television screens, and one of the best redemption arcs so far on the show, kills two main characters in an over hyped season 7 premiere, the show lost it’s touch for that and season 8 where it killed off Carl for no damn reason. Total snooze fest. Season 9 and 10, mainly dealing with a whole new world, Rick leaving the series and the whisperers has been getting a tad better (just a tad though), but nothing as fantastic as 3, 4, 5, and 6. Unfortunately if you want to binge this you’d have to pay attention to everything that is going on, and in the later seasons you might start to nod off. Might I suggest watching until Rick leaves the show? It was a perfect send off and you don’t need to watch the rest. I just don’t want to quit it now while I’m this far in, especially when I have the sneaking suspicion that 11 or 12 might be its last ride. Oh, and Walking Dead didn’t even finish the season finale post production in time before COVID-19 fucked us all, so it kind of ended right in the middle of a giant cliff hanger. Hopefully the last episode, set to be released later this year, makes up for the absence (although I doubt it). And no, I don’t watch the spin off shows. Fear’s first season was the worst spin off season I’ve ever seen for a television series. So no, not gonna do that.

MODERN FAMILY SEASON 11 (SERIES ENDING) (ABC)

Modern Family had a fantastic 6 or 7 seasons since the premiere but then the last four have just really been going through the motions to get to the pretty damn decent series finale. SEASON 11, like 8, 9, and 10 before it, also goes through the motions until the last couple of episodes. Perfect binge for the first 6 to 7 seasons if you are want to actually pay attention, the last four can be played in the background though and then attention should be picked back up for the finale.

MYTHIC QUEST: RAVEN’S BANQUET SEASON 1 (Apple TV +)

If you bought and only if you bought a new Apple product recently and got a free Apple TV+ subscription for a year would I recommend binge watching this series. Not to say it isn’t good, I really enjoyed it. It’s like a work place office comedy (kind of like The Office) except it isn’t documentary style, there are no confessions to the cameras, but add in more crude humor and language and there you have it. The pilot is okay, but then episode 2 is hilarious and each episode only gets better until the very end. With only ten episodes, its a quick and very easy enjoyable binge watch. It’s from the creators of It’s Always Sunny In Philedelphia, with Mac and Rickety Cricket, except they play entirely different, more sympathetic characters, and some of the episodes are even co written by Mac and Charlie. It’s about the launch of an expansion to a popular MMORPG game, and the crazy shit that happens behind the scenes. I loved it a little to be honest. The only reason why I’m saying only watch it is if you have free Apple TV+ is because it isn’t worth getting a paid subscription to only watch this show. Well…I guess if you can pay for a month and get through all 10 episodes in good time, and then find something else maybe exclusive to watch, like The Morning Show, it may be worth it for just a month. Not for me though, fuck all this streaming subscription shit, it is getting very tiresome.

SUPERSTORE SEASON 5 (NBC)

Superstore had a great first three seasons. Season 4 was meh, and season 5 was meh. The funniest parts of the show is when it deals with weird customer stuff we sometimes see in big department chain stores like Wal-Mart and Target all the time. It stops being funny when the show gets too bogged down in its relationships and the talks of organizing a union for Cloud 9 get very tiresome. Binge the first three seasons and pay attention, the 4th and this current one (that also had to end early because of COVID-Buttfucking-19) can be aired in the background and you wouldn’t miss much. Colton Dunn as Garrett has been the MVP for every season thus far though.

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE SEASON 7 (NBC)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always been solid. Every season. You can actually pay attention to it and laugh or have it on in the background and still laugh. It’s always been a zany fun series that hits about 90-95% of its jokes every time. Every cast member on there is brilliant (although Andy Samberg is still Andy Samberg, he uses his one note goofy talents to his advantage in this series), but Andre Braugher has been robbed of an Emmy multiple times for his supporting role as Captain Holt. Maybe this is his year as he’s had multiple spotlight stealing moments this year, more than the past couple of seasons combined? Season 7 is fantastic. And while I will say it was better than last season (I would probably argue that Season 6 might be my least favorite even though they are all solid to me), when it transitions from Fox to NBC because Fox didn’t want to give it another chance, the show found it’s footing yet again and is still masterfully smart and funny. It was a smart move keeping it to only 13 episodes a season now. Always keep them wanting more. They are renewed for Season 8, and I’m figuring it’s probably its last due to its ratings, but man if they can keep this momentum and go out on top, we’re in for a truly special final season (if cancelled).

FAMILY GUY SEASON 18 (FOX)

Family Guy has always been 50% hit jokes and 50% miss jokes. Those figures fluctuate a little each season but not by much. Season 18 is no different. Some of the ones that hit can make or break the episode. This is the perfect binge series since there are a shit ton of episodes, but more of a “on in the background” binge than actually paying attention to it. It’s always nice though hearing all of Seth McFarlane’s voice acting. There’s just something about him…

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM SEASON 10 (HBO)

You never know when you are going to get a new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Season 8 ended in 2011 and then Season 9 premiered in 2017, and then Season 10 just ended 2020. Until Season 8 there had never been more than a two year gap in between seasons. Honestly it is just whenever creator Larry David feels like he has some material that he can do a full ten episodes with. Season 9 was funny but stumbled a bit in its execution, but I’m happy to say that Season 10 was a giant step forward back to the fantastic early seasons of yore (3 and 4 to be exact). I laughed hard every single episode this season. To me, Curb Your Enthusiasm makes it seem like Seinfeld never ever left the air. It’s an extension because Larry David, creator of both shows, explores similar things of being a show about “nothing” and complaining about the little things in life all the way through. If you are a Seinfeld fan and haven’t watched one episode of this series shame on you. Do it immediately, if you’ve never watched either, binge Seinfeld first and then binge this. An excellent one two binge punch for what will probably be a very boring COVID-19 fear summer.

THE OUTSIDER SEASON 1 (HBO)

The reason I decided to watch The Outsider because a couple of years ago Stephen King’s novel was first release, and I read it very fast and mostly loved it, except for the anti-climatic ending. The series is okay, but unfortunately it stretches all the material in the book, and adds a few other things, for far too long. This was a ten episode first season (for people that are saying it couldn’t have a second season, if you read the Holly Gibney short 200 page story in King’s new collection of novellas, If It Bleeds, then you can see how they could milk this show for all its worth). This really should’ve been only 6 to 8 episodes. Some of the material is stretched wayyyy too thin. This honestly could’ve been an incredible 2 hr and 15 minute movie. And just like the ending to the book, the ending to the show is a bit anti-climatic as well. Will watch if there is a second season, but kind of hoping there isn’t one. I would recommend reading the novel and skipping the series altogether. And the fact that it doesn’t connect Holly Gibney to her previous adventures with Bill Hodges in the Hodges trilogy of Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch was a damn shame. Not even a hint. Again, just read the book.

PARKS AND RECREATION CHARITY SPECIAL

Finaly a couple of quick thoughts of that special charity PARKS AND RECREATION episode that aired last week. If there was no COVID-19, we never would’ve gotten this episode, which honestly, it could’ve gone either way. All the actors in real life are sheltering in place, so the story line (that thankfully doesn’t break any canon the show established in its main series run) deals with COVID-19 becoming canon for that television universe and Leslie Knope is a little sad and depressed trying to keep in contact with her co-workers and friends throughout this very tough time. I liked that everyone that were main players on the series show up. It would’ve been glaringly obvious if there was a major no show. And the story line was, I guess fine, it had its charming moments (mainly callback to better moments in the main series) but the parts that really stole the quick 22 minute special were the fake commercials with Jean Ralphio and Counselman Jamm and Dennis Feinstein. Especially the Dennis Feinstein cologne commercial. That was fucking brilliant. So while it was nice we got one more adventure with Knope and co. and the episode didn’t manage to tarnish the main series, it wasn’t really necessary to revisit the characters in the end and I hope they don’t try and reboot the series. But hey, it raised $3 million dollars for charity during this virus crisis so what the fuck do I know, right?

Special #11 (I basically forgot and updated this post…): RAY DONOVAN SEASON 7 (SERIES ENDING?)

The reason why I put a question mark on Series Ending for Ray Donovan Season 7 is that even though it was just recently cancelled on Showtime (resulting in the series ending on a very frustrating and depressing cliffhanger), there have been talks by the show runner doing a final season or TV movie to wrap up everything on Showtime or shop it to a different Network. The first four seasons of Ray Donovan are incredibly great. Season 5 is easily the worst for spoiler-y reasons I won’t divulge, season 6 is a little better but then the last season was kind of ho-hum, especially after that downer ending. I recommend binge watching the first four seasons, stop there, and pretend that the end of season 4 was the end of the show. Kind of like how I recommend you stop watching Showtime’s Dexter after season 5 and pretend it ended there. It pretty much has an ending at that point so no harm and no foul not completing the rest. Liev Schrieber is amazing to watch a a fixer for the Hollywood elite. But this is one show that definitely overstayed its welcome, and it was do to the fact that Ray’s family got away clean too much.

Extra Special #12 (again, I can’t believe I forgot this one): MCMILLION$ (HBO)

If you haven’t watched this documentary yet on the “detailed account of the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam during the 1990s as told by the participants in the case, including the prizewinners and the FBI agents involved” per IMDB yet, you don’t know what you are missing. It was absolutely astonishing that these people stealing the Monopoly game pieces were able to get away with it for that long and that just a memo on some FBI agents desk unraveled the whole thing. A lot of the people involved in the scam are interviewed and their stories are astonishing. It saves how the main perpetrator was able to steal the game pieces in the last episode of the 6 episode docu-series, and rightfully so, as your jaw with already be agape with what all came after, then once you find out, through the floor and into the Earth. There is one colorful FBI agent you are going to laugh along with and maybe even feel sorry for some of the people reluctantly brought into the scam, but it is a fantastic little one off series that should be turned into a feature length movie. There is enough material that can be condensed to easily do it, a two hour kind of thing. My only complaint: the series was a little too long and got a little tedious by the end, it could’ve been easily chopped down to 3 to 4 episodes. But still a wild ride that might make you want to actually eat McDonald’s while you watch. I know I did.