Diane’s Delightful Movie Reviews: LAST CHRISTMAS (no spoilers)(with Ebenezer Zach’s two cents)

‘Tis the season to be jolly…I guess. To me though…LAST CHRISTMAS wasn’t very jolly at all. So instead of six paragraphs bashing a very lame rom-com dramedy that wasn’t meant for the likes of me, I am going to have my wife, who enjoyed the movie much more than I did, talk very briefly about why she liked it. She is definitely the Tiny Tim in this situation. If you want to know what my crotchety Krampus old self thought, stay tuned at the bottom for some lumps of coal in your merry stocking!!!

Diane’s thoughts:

Zach is such crap. This movie was sweet and heartfelt. The characters were real and relatable. All of the actor’s chemistry together was great. Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding were meant to be together. The twist is easy to spot and that’s OK. You don’t always need to be surprised at every go around. All the right things are there, family love and conflict, personal self growth and realization, with a bit of romance to make you happy. What the movie does leave you wanting is more romantic comedies with Emilia Clarke, she is so delightful and charming you just want to eat her up with a spoon. In the end, it was a lovely Christmas movie with all the things you expect and love to see happen on screen. If that is not what you want then don’t see it … (cough) Zach.

Ebenezer Zach’s thoughts:

Bah Humbug MOTHERFUCKERS!!! It’s Ebenezer Zach here to chime in with his scathing two cents. I thought Last Christmas was boring, unfunny, and just very dull. I almost fell asleep multiple times. In fact, I think the lame obvious twist that treats its audience as if they were idiots is the least harmful statistic about it. To keep this bag full of dislike I have short, let me go through the list. The script is uninspired. Cliched ho ho ho sappy dialogue about living your best life and doing better that has been done to better effect in a bunch of other movies you’ve seen before. I did not laugh once throughout the movie, and some of the jokes were really….odd, like they kept going on because they thought if they kept hammering in the joke that you’d eventually get it and laugh. I didn’t and I didn’t.

The movie is about this down on her luck girl that had a heart problem and, last Christmas, got a heart transplant. As she is trying to navigate the world and the holiday season one year later, a mysterious man randomly shows up in her life to try and teach her the correct way of living it. Saying the film was based off George Michael’s music was the first mistake this film made, because if you take every lyric about the song “Last Christmas” literally, the twist is so damn easy to figure out. I figured it out months ago without knowing every single line of that song. There were other ways to still have that twist that would’ve felt a little more earned and unique. Instead it just reminds you of a bunch of other movies that have that twist, all as lame as this movie (if you want me to list those movies, just message me so I don’t spoil it for others). What is also very insulting is that it was co-written by Emma Thompson, who has actually won an Academy Award for screenplay writing. She’s in this a little too as Clarke’s character’s mother, but she was kind of over-the-top yet still dull.

My wife was right on though with one thing, the only compliment I am going to give the movie: Emilia Clarke needs to be in more but better romantic comedies. This was easily her best performance in a film. She’s always been a bit weird to me in dramas, I never really bought her as Khaleesi in Game of Thrones (she was just hot to me), and she was a terrible Sarah Conner. But in this film, she plays her lovable self that you can see throughout interviews and social media, and she is just delightful. And Henry Golding, always proving his worth since Crazy Rich Asians, was good in this as well, and their chemistry together were the only bright spots in this dark hole of a film. But yeah, put this Emilia Clarke performance and add it to a better rom-com or even a rude and crude sexual humor one and she would be utterly fantastic.

Paul Feig is literally a hit and miss director. It seems that when one film is good, his next is always not so much. And I can prove it. Bridesmaids: great. The Heat: shit. Spy: Great. Ghostbusters 2016: fucking garbage. A Simple Favor: Good. And now this: crap. At least I can look forward to his next film, almost guaranteeing it to be at least half way decent. My last review was of Let It Snow, a Christmas film on Netflix, and instead of going out to see this cliched utter mess, I suggest staying inside with family and loved ones and watching that instead, even though that film wasn’t the best either. I wish it were Last Christmas, as that way this movie didn’t exist then and I wouldn’t have had to suffer through it.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LET IT SNOW (Netflix)

I didn’t know how to describe LET IT SNOW while watching it, so something my wife said that I thought was pretty accurate I got permission to use, and it’s “cute meh.” I would say it’s a more romantic, more serious, really loose remake of Nickelodeon’s Snow Day. With all the dumb rom-com dramedy cliches that come with it. Fortunately sprinkled with flakes of decent acting. Basically, you could watch much much much much worse than it, but you could watch so much better. It’s only one step above those crappy Christmas/Winter Hallmark Channel movies. Or that stupid Prince and the Pauper Netflix holiday remake film. Or those dumb Rose McIver Prince and Me Christmas themed rip offs. It’s definitely better than that Netflix summer version of this film conveniently titled, The Last Summer. But it’s definitely the kind of movie that Netflix should seriously think about not buying if they want to actually compete with the other streaming platforms in the future.

IMDB.com describes this movie best: In a small town on Christmas Eve, a snowstorm brings together a group of young people. Like I said, it’s a more serious version of Snow Day, but dealing with kids about to head off to college instead of middle school kids wanting an extra day off school. There is no Chevy Chase dumb weather reporter, and instead of an evil Chris Elliot snow plowman, there is Joan Cusack, who is a nice yet weird tow truck lady that spouts off life advice. And then add more cliches on top of the cliches that I’ve already spouted out. You have the small town girl who doesn’t know if she is going off to college because she wants to take care of her sick mother and ends up falling in love with a famous guy that just happened to be traveling through town. You have the guy and girl friend that have been best friends for the longest time but then they realize they might want something more. You have the wanna be DJ that wants to throw a giant party so maybe his career can take off. You have the girl obsessed with social media and keeps investigating to see if her boyfriend is going to break up with her. And then you have the lesbian in love with a girl that hasn’t come out to anyone and has a whole bunch of straight friends. You. Have. Heard. And. Seen. It. All. Before. Including the cheesy dialogue that comes with it.

It only works because of the acting. The people you might know it in is the girl that plays the new live action Dora The Explorer. The girl that plays Sabrina The Teenage Witch is in it. The guy that voices Miles Morales in Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse is in it. The daughter in Santa Clarita Diet is in it. And Peter Parker’s Asian friend from the new Spider-Man movies is in it. And like I mentioned earlier, Joan Cusack (she also needlessly narrates the beginning and ending of the film). Oh and Janet from The Good Place is briefly in it. They all do a decent job with the shit cheesy dialogue that they have to work with. Not surprising that the screenwriter of all the Pitch Perfect movies is behind it. But more 2 and 3 quality instead of the really great original. You just go into it expecting all the predictability in the world and you won’t come out disappointed. And I’ll give the movie one more compliment, it looks like they actually shot on location, with real snow and shit, instead of it being fake snow on sets and set in California.

Am I recommending it? Slightly. It kept my attention enough and when I think about all the other shit that was released by Netflix this year such as: Sextuplets, The Last Laugh, The Last Summer, Someone Great, Murder Mystery, and The Silence, I really I would watch this a million times more than watching even five minutes of those others. My wife recommends it way more than I do. Like she just told me sitting next to me, “if you are looking for a halfway decent Christmas movie and you are bored, there is worse ways to spend your time. It’s cute meh.” Meh, I guess I’ll agree with her. But if I watched it by myself you could’ve expected a much more scathing review. You were lucky she was with me.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN

With MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, actor Edward Norton gets his first credited writing project, and his second directorial feature since the so-so Keeping The Faith, which was almost two decades ago. With his writing/adapting skills (this is based on a novel) I give him some strong applause, but with his directing and egotistical necessity of putting himself as the lead actor in his project…I say better luck next time. There are several problems with the movie, off the top of my head the film was a little bit too light, corny, and cartoon-y to really represent one of those detective “gum shoe” serial noirs of the 30s – 70s. Another problem is that Norton’s performance as a detective that happens to have OCD and tourette’s crosses the line several times of being too over the top for me. And the last major complaint is that the movie is way too long, there were several scenes that could’ve been shortened or cut out altogether to make a tighter two hour movie (it did not need to be almost two and a half hours). But the movie’s dialogue is quite good for me to say that this is a very decent rental, and if you love those “gum shoe” detective noirs of the past and need something to scratch that itch (I can’t remember the last one in theaters), this is right up your alley.

So am I recommending this? Slightly. People have asked me through messenger recently to start giving my movies letter grades, but I don’t want to do that because a lot of you will just start scrolling to the bottom and not really listen to what I have to say. But with this one I’ll make an exception, but I’m going to say it here so you have to find it like you’d try and find Waldo. I’d say a very solid C plus. I think if Norton stuck to just the writing, ditched the directing, and maybe honed his performance a little bit (because I still think Edward Norton is a hell of a great actor), this could’ve been something great. But we all know that Norton has an ego (see his MCU history) and he just couldn’t get out of his own way direction wise. His direction here isn’t one to write home about. He also directed himself in Keeping The Faith. In order to see if Norton really has unique directing chops, I’d like next time for him to maybe write and direct, and NOT be in his movie at all. But with the only two movies of his he has directed and starred in, and both of those being okay (this one is definitely better than his first), I really don’t have much to go on.

What is the movie about? To not spoil anything, Norton plays a associate detective named Lionel Essrog, or “Motherless Brooklyn” to his detective boss Frank Minna, plays by Bruce Willis. Lionel and another guy back up Minna during a meeting of several people, that meeting takes a huge turn and **spoiler alert**, Frank Minna is killed less than 15 minutes into the movie starting (not so spoilery though if you’ve watched the trailer). The rest of the movie has Lionel try to find out what happened to his boss based on what he saw and heard when the meeting went down and Frank’s incoherent last dying words. He gets wrapped up in a conspiracy involving a powerful man played by Alec Baldwin and his unstoppable determination to control and build a better community in 1950s Brooklyn. He also runs into a very lovely lady played fantastically by Gugu Mbatha-Raw who may or may not be wrapped up into this layered conspiracy as well. Lionel has to navigate the evidence to find out exactly what is going on his revenge quest while trying not to get killed himself.

The dialogue in this film is great. I would love Norton to maybe get out of the limelight a little bit and adapt novels for other, more establish directors to direct. He’s got a knack for it. His direction here is only a tiny bit more than just point and shoot. But that’s because he’s directing himself, which is probably no easy task, but then again, maybe he should’ve let someone else take the reins so he could concentrate on his performance. His performance isn’t too over the top, I don’t want my words to make you think you have to suspend belief to take his tourette’s OCD personality seriously. About an hour into the film I ended up not puckering up my butt hole so much and got used to it better. In fact, there is one part where his tourette’s made me laugh the hardest I’ve laughed in a theater this year (it involves the F word that isn’t fuck), so I can thank the movie for that. The performance just came off as a little corny and cartoon-y, a little out of place and out of tone with the rest of the noir detective type film. Like trying to mix oil and water. The rest of the cast is great though. Bruce Willis, even though hardly in the film, actually looked like he took the time out of not caring on his many direct to video adventures to give Norton a believable little gig. Alec Baldwin makes for a good “sleezy” Trump type business man (who knew right?! **cue the SNL sarcasm**) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw steals every scene she is in she is so serene and lovely.

The end result (story resolution) though also felt a little too “Chinatown”y, with it being in almost the same “twist and turn” vein as the climax of that film, but with more of a racial overtone and less of an incest one. You’ll see. The film had me guessing though and I didn’t see the ending coming. I just wish it were a little more complicated. There are also several scenes that go on way too long, especially one where Norton has tourette’s in a nightclub, that should’ve been cut way way down. If the movie were edited a little more, it could’ve been a better and more solid two hours. I got bored several times with its uneven pace. But the movie is more original than a lot of the shit we get these days, and it is nice to see something different with the detective “gum shoe” noir being brought back for 2019, so there is that, I ultimately just don’t think the too light of tone worked for me, combined with Norton’s uneven performance and uneven, kind of lazy, direction. But the dialogue is incredible. So if you like films like this, I would recommend that you seek it out. For me, there was just too much evidence that was too light on clues, if that pun makes any sense to you.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: DOCTOR SLEEP

DOCTOR SLEEP joins the rare list of Stephen King adaptations, such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, 1408, and The Green Mile as films that are far far far far far superior to their respective novels. Let me give you a little shocking revelation from my own mind of thinking: Like Stephen King, I am not a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. And that was before I even read the book, which of itself, is a masterpiece. I will get to the problems of Kubrick’s film in a minute, but needless to say, Doctor Sleep makes it a better film. To support King’s recent quote, “It redeems Kubrick’s film.” While some may be put off by the films run time, two and a half hours, what writer/director Mike Flanagan does is takes an okay but very flawed book sequel, put the parts in it that worked, and improves and changes the parts that didn’t to make a very emotional and narratively satisfying film experience. I don’t know how many Stephen King adaptations there were this year, but Doctor Sleep is easily the best. Yes, better than IT Chapter 2. Again, I love Stephen King, I have read every book he has ever written, and don’t usually prefer the movies over the books, so consider this high praise.

Let me explain to you, without getting into book spoilers, why I don’t really care for the novel Doctor Sleep. Doctor Sleep has a great concept, but very poor and forced execution. Every pay off to every set up in the book feels very unearned, specifically the location of the climax and a certain family revelation/twist, that wasn’t needed and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Also the ultimate fates of all the characters seemed a bit wonky. The movie fixes EVERYTHING. They completely remove that family revelation twist, the ultimate fate of the characters make sense to the events leading up to the end, and the location and climax of the film is earned and doesn’t bog down into fan service. While one big change (character fate) from the novel may get on some King fans nerves, I thought it should’ve happened originally when reading it for the first time, and was glad it was rectified here. In fact, the climax made me have the biggest smile on my face, because I realized how right Stephen King is when says “it redeems Kubrick’s film” and that many of you won’t understand it unless you have actually read The Shining or looked up what happens at the end of that novel.

What is the movie about? The movie serves as a direct sequel to The Shining as the beginning of the film takes place right after/during the end of that film. In fact, it takes a little bit to even get to adult Danny Torrence and find out how exactly those traumatizing events effected him as an adult. Does he still have his “shining” powers?And if so, what is he doing with them? How is he handling everything? Concurrently with Danny’s characterization/redemption journey, we are introduced to a set of villains who call themselves the “True Knot” and they are a vicious little group who go out hunting and killing young children who’s “shine” radiates brighter than most. The leader of that group, Rose The Hat, senses a young girl, named Abra Stone, and her “shine” is the most powerful she has seen in ages. But little does Rose The Hat know that Danny has been secretly talking with Abra for years and they will both need to team up to take her and the “True Knot” down once and for all.

Sounds unique and different from the concept of The Shining doesn’t it? It is, but like I said, the book is very uneven and muddles the execution of that concept. Thankfully, the movie fixes everything. While not a very scary movie, the film is shot beautifully, has great set ups and pay offs, the acting is top notch, and everything is emotionally satisfying, leading to a sequel film that I prefer over Kubrick’s film. Now, you are probably wondering why I don’t consider Kubrick’s film a “horror classic” while so many of you probably do. Read the book. Even before reading the book, the main problem with Kubrick’s film isn’t the completely different WTF ending, but mainly that everything happens way too fast for a 2 hr and 20 minute horror epic. The novel is a slow burn pot boiler, and takes its time to get to the bonkers and awesome climax/ending (probably the best ending King has ever written). The movie left me with a resounding “meh”. I didn’t much care for the hedge maze.

The character of Jack Torrence is abysmally mishandled in Kubrick’s film as well, his descent into madness and the hotel taking over his mind comes completely out of nowhere where the book beautifully makes him a more sympathetic and nicer person, his ultimate murderous temper tantrum tragically earned. The Kubrick film does have some great masterful visuals, but unfortunately the sum of those parts aren’t greater than the mishandled narrative. Jack Nicholson didn’t have much to work with, he just seems like crazy Jack Nicholson in the movie, Wendy, even though acted expertly by Shelley Duvall, felt like a forced weak and pathetic character, completely doing a 180 on her strong sense of worth in the novel, and Danny Torrence is aggressive underused in Kubrick’s film. Sorry, but even before reading the masterpiece of the novel I had a problem with the film. Reading The Shining just confirmed and contextualized those feelings.

The acting here is fantastic all across the board. Ewan McGregor is great as an adult Danny Torrence and displays great emotional “umph” when trying to deal with his “Shining” mind force (enter Star Wars joke here) powers. Newcomer Kyliegh Curran makes Abra Stone is much more detailed rich character than she was in the novel, but the scene stealer here is Rebecca Ferguson as Rose The Hat. Rose The Hat is honestly kind of a shitty villain in the novel. It seems that she is easily tricked and defeated in certain scenes in the novel and for me, she never displayed any emotions or actions that would make it seem like she could pull the rug out from under Danny and Abra’s feet. Same goes for her group, “the True Knot.” I never felt like any of them were a threat worth worrying over. Here, combined with Ferguson’s menacing and harrowing acting, Rose The Hat and “the True knot” are more of a forced to be reckoned with, even though one scene might make you feel differently. But when you realize the stipulations and who exactly is involved in that scene, you’ll figure out that it makes a lot of sense. Not to mention that scene has great tension and emotional stakes, so it cancels out my minor complaint altogether.

Also, one HUGE compliment I almost forgot to mention. As you know this is a direct sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining while being a sequel to the novel in general, so you get to see some old characters from the old movies. THANKFULLY the movie uses old school movie magic, and just cast new actors to play the old roles that look like the original actors, instead of shelling out a bunch of money to make people look like wonky CGI younger versions of Jack Nicholson, Shelley Long, or Scatman Cruthers. Loved that they did this, not a huge proponent of the de-aging tech, even though it looked pretty great in Terminator: Dark Fate, although that was only for like 30 seconds compared to the multiple minutes the characters are on screen in this film. Then again it isn’t surprising considering Mike Flanagan wrote and directed this little gem. I still need to check out The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix as I heard that is excellent as well. Not surprised of the praise, just haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.

Now, if you’ve seen any marketing for this movie, you’ll know that the spooky ooky and scary Overlook Hotel is brought back. The climax from the novel has a similar location, but if you’ve ever read The Shining and/or Doctor Sleep, you’ll know a HUGE difference from novel to film. All of that is rectified here, with an emotionally great and satisfying climax that doesn’t bog down in too much fan service, something I was dreading that was going to happen before the movie started. Writer/Director Mike Flanagan did a tremendous job with this film. This isn’t his first foray into Stephen King adaptations, he actually made a great version of Stephen King’s novel Gerald’s Game that debuted on Netflix one or two years ago, and everyone felt that that book was completely un-film-able, but he managed to do it. He does it again here. And while Doctor Sleep was easily film-able, he managed to do something rare, make the movie better than the sequel novel, and a movie that I felt was better than the original film. Very good work. And all work and all play make Zach a happy boy.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JOJO RABBIT

If you are starting to read this asking what the fuck JOJO RABBIT is, you’ve probably seen some marketing of the film regarding a small boy that has childish version of Adolf Hitler as an imaginary friend. Have an inkling now? Okay, here we go. The movie is absolutely delightful, funny, yet devastating and smart. Just as the advertising will tell you, it is an anti-hate satire, and while I was afraid it was going to nail those messages on the head without the audience letting them figure out for itself, I’m thankful that it only had a little of that, and didn’t treat people as if they were idiots. It is considered to be an Oscar contender, and I’d say deservedly so, especially for writing based on another medium, and for Scarlett Johansson for a best supporting actress nomination, heck I’d even support a Best Picture nod at this moment . While the film deals mainly with a big even in human beings checkered pasts (the Holocaust), it is something we can then relate to the events of today. It tries to get into the viewers head with not just straight up messages and information, but also providing genuine laughs and well earned heart to earn your respect.

Jojo Rabbit’s plot is pretty simple. Along with the imaginary Adolf Hitler angle presented before, this movie starts out with the little boy going to a Hitler Youth Nazi training camp, run by an oafish Captain, played spot-on by Sam Rockwell. The little boy’s mother, played by Scarlett Johansson, is secretly anti Nazi, wishing that her boy would view the world through her eyes. One day while the mother is away, the boy hears noises upstairs and inside the walls of his home. There he finds a Jewish girl, who his mother is secretly hiding. While they each can’t really tell on each other for reasons that will lead everyone to certain death, he starts to tolerate the older Jewish girl in his life and home, and well, you can probably see where the film goes character arc wise from there. The boy wrestles with his feelings for Jewish people throughout the whole film, all the while World War II comes dwindling to an end.

The satire here completely works. Writer/director Taika Waititi (Thor 3, What We Do In The Shadows, Hunt For The Wilderpeople) has crafted an amazing tale, easily making it his best film thus far. He also plays the goofy, cartoon like childish Adolf Hitler in the film, and provides most of the films huge laughs. Now, I have to warn you, the humor may not be for everyone, but seeing how I am reviewing it on a personal level, I think if you step back to look at the bigger picture and not get offended at every single damn thing there is to get offended about, you will realize the jokes are witty, precise, and all land on their feet. The movie has some hilariously amazing sequences and visuals. If you want a little insight on how Taika Waititi’s vision works, think of Wes Anderson films, but a little less symmetrical and definitely more fluid (don’t worry, I still think of Anderson as a very good filmmaker). Although I was worried at the very beginning as it kind of copies Edgar Wright’s fast “getting ready” sequences. You’ll see. Thankfully it was more of an homage and only does it that once. The best sequence in the film comes 2/3rds of the way into the movie, involving Stephen Merchant and a bunch of other Nazi’s invading the little boys home to do a search. The scene is artfully, masterfully, hilariously perfect. It provides laughs mixed with just the right amount of tension to keep you on the edge of your seat. I have a feeling that Waititi, when shooting this, knew that this was the centerpiece of his movie.

Now mind you, the movie isn’t all laughs. There are a couple of sad sequences, including a devastating punch in the gut sequence that I saw coming from a mile away but still hit me hard enough to the point where I had a giant lump in my throat. It visually kicks you in the nut feels and I don’t know how people are going to respond to it. The scene is set up from the beginning with several visual cues. Remember the age old film saying, “if you show something of importance in act one, it must come back at the end of act two, or somewhere in act three.” To be honest, I’m paraphrasing, as that saying is really supposed to be about showing a gun or weapon, but when you see the movie you’ll get what I mean. My point is that the movie mixes everything you could want in a movie (drama, action, laughter, etc) pretty damn near perfectly. And the film is exceptionally entertaining, never leaving the viewer a chance to doze off into boredom.

The acting here is also what elevates the impact of the movie. Playing the boy is a young actor named Roman Griffin Davis, his first role, and he nails every character beat that he needs to. I look forward to his work in the future. Sam Rockwell plays the Captain of the Hitler Youth Nazi Camp, and as we all know Sam Rockwell is good at playing a really bad racist, there is more to his character here that meets the eye, and the film does a fine job of hinting what that “more” is without completely peeling back the entire curtain for the audience. Rebel Wilson has never been better and Taiki Waiti steals a couple of huge laugh scenes as the cartoonish imaginary Adolf Hitler, but the two women that completely steal the movie from everyone involved would be Scarlett Johansson and Thomasin McKenzie, the latter playing the hidden Jewish girl in the boys home. Thomasin plays the girl with bravado, combining strength with uncertainty and vulnerability, scared that she might not be hidden for long, facing certain death, but also trying to change the hateful, racist thinking of this young boy.

But the one who is truly probably going to get a supporting nomination in the end is Scarlett Johansson as the boy’s mother. She is the true heart of the movie, her anti-hate speeches and talks with her son are the witty, yet serious highlights of the film. Scarlett Johansson nails the accent and visual comedy cues that is integral in making her character unique. And she is surprisingly in the film more than I thought she’d be, considering she is the “and” on the poster, which was delightful because she shined in every scene. But yeah, if you are an awards season obsessed honcho like myself, Jojo Rabbit is a must see for the awards season to come. It provides almost everything you look for in a movie, but instead of being just a copy cat of satire you’ve probably seen in many film before it, this has its own unique voice, separating itself from the pack and shining triumphant.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: TERMINATOR – DARK FATE

TERMINATOR: THE MACHINES AWAKEN….wait a minute, whoops, wrong assumed title there. Let’s start over…TERMINATOR: DARK FATE is okay. But it is not okay enough to consider it canon, and will have most fans just claiming that the first two films are the only ones that really, truly happened. While the movie was entertaining enough to get me through its 2 hr run time, none of it is really anything you haven’t seen before, it’s the same ol’ shit. It’s basically a soft reboot that takes just enough elements from the first two films to get out of being called a straight up remake. However, Star Wars: The Force Awakens did it much better and had a lot more different elements to disguise the fact that it had a lot of the same beats as A New Hope. Dark Fate’s disguise wouldn’t even get past Mr. Magoo. That’s not to say its a terrible film, it is at least better than Terminator Salvation and Terminator (what the fuck were they even thinking?) Genisys, but I’m still on the fence whether or not it was better than Rise of The Machines. One thing is for certain, the franchise should’ve been terminated back in 1991.

The thing that I’m on the fence about whether this is better than Rise of the Machines or not, is the tone of the two films. Rise of the Machines has a very weird, zany, looney tunes light tone, but the non stop action and that dark as fuck ending more than makes up for it. The tone with Dark Fate is much, much better here, but the problem with the movie is that the action is kind of repetitive, jarringly edited, and there were no scenes that made me go, “OH SHIT YEAH!” Let’s face it, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the best action sequels ever made. A lot of people, including me, think it is one of those rare sequels that completely demolishes and is better than the original film. There is no fucking way in hell any Terminator movie after Judgment Day could even be on par unless James Cameron came back and FULLY committed to it (maybe not even then, since his dick wants to always be inside a Nav’i on Pandora these days). And while James Cameron came back to produce and has a “story” credit, I don’t feel like he had much of a hand in actually contributing all that much to this final product.

**beginning of major spoiler paragraph** Another glaringly huge problem is that the very beginning of the movie flips Terminator 2 on its head and kind of shits all over it in a way. Kind of like what Alien 3 did to Aliens (Remember that this film completely ignores the events of 3, Salvation, and Genisys). Now in this paragraph I’m just going to say what the film does so if you don’t want to know, skip to the next paragraph and we’ll get out of spoilers. At the very beginning of Dark Fate, using incredible de-aging and digital effects, it is revealed that another Terminator than just Robert Patrick was sent during the events of the 2nd film before Skynet’s ultimate demise, and a couple of years later, after Sarah and John Connor changed their fate, that second sent Terminator finds them, and just fucking kills John Connor right in front of Sarah, and there is nothing she can do about it. I know that Edward Furlong probably sucks as an actor now, but was there not a way to not fuck up the events of the masterful second film, and maybe somehow include John, hell, maybe even get Nick Stahl to come back and reprise his Rise of the Machines role? I think that killing John Connor was a major misstep in trying to revitalize the franchise, and it will have a lot of fans screaming and tearing their hair out. And yes, it bothered me too, but I got past it though mainly because of Linda Hamilton’s performance. **ending of major spoiler paragraph**

The acting in this does save a lot of the film from mediocre and ridiculous Salvation and Genisys type levels. The scene stealers of course are Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor, and Mackenzie Davis as the new human/robot hybrid Grace. Everybody saying that having Linda Hamilton back makes us all realize how vital she was to the first two Terminators and that she is more of what the franchise needed to come back than Arnold, are completely right here. I loved watching Linda Hamilton back in action, she is one tough bad-ass in this film and I think she really kept this movie from being a true snooze fest. But let me be clear, everybody in this is good. With Davis’ Grace character, I really I haven’t cheered this much for a great protector since Arnold in T2. By smartly making her a human hybrid combined with her acting skills, I actually cared about this character, instead of wanting them to just shut up and die like Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke in Genisys. Looking back I think I gave Genisys a somewhat favorable review. What the fuck was I thinking? I think I wrote that review literally the second I got out of the theater several years ago, with this, I’ve had a little more time to get my bearings straight.

Gabriel Luna is good as the new bad Terminator model Rev-9. Rev-9 is like a combination of all the Terminators you’ve seen before, but this one can split itself into two successfully. And Natalia Reyes plays Dani, the regular human being protected this time for some reason (don’t worry, the film eventually reveals the reason, which end up being better than what you think it might be, although I saw it coming from a mile away) and her arc transitioning from strong yet innocent woman to strong and bad ass fighter was very realistic. And then there is Arnold, who doesn’t even show up until more than half of the movie is over. I’m glad they didn’t just force him in at the beginning of the story on this. His character’s arc I enjoyed the best. I will not reveal who he is, but when his character Carl shows up on screen, the movie definitely elevated itself a little bit from what it was for me at that moment. In Genisys, it looked like Arnold was sleeping through his role, and in Rise of the Machines, it seemed like he was sort of into it, but was there for the pay check. Here, he fully commits to his performance, and is at his best since Judgment day.

While some of the CGI is shaky, yet forgivable, and while the action scenes are good in concept, in execution, they are a little jarring. Except for the late in the film airplane crashing sequence, that one was actually pretty great. But the rest of the action sequences, particularly the beginning one (the highway one you’ve seen in marketing with the initial return of Sarah Connor), the border detention center one, and the one at the very very end just seemed edited a little weird. Like the filmmakers and director Tim Miller were trying to fast cut shit so they could hide any discrepancies and hide the fact that maybe, just maybe, Tim Miller can’t film action scenes very well. This is his first film after his very first film, Deadpool, and if you really look closely at that movie (admit it, Deadpool 2 is better), you’d realize it only has two action scenes: the highway one, which went on too long and extended, and the very end sequence, which was very tame by comparison, blocked kind of weird, and editing wise is kind of wonky and too fast paced too. Action scenes need to breathe better, like in films like The Force Awakens, where you can tell what is going on with everything. Trying to do shit like Michael Bay and Paul Greengrass just doesn’t get you anywhere anymore. We know all the tricks of the trade to hide the fact that you can’t shoot action and just try to hid it up with shaky cam. It’s all a “tsk-tsk” affair now.

So while writing my review, I think I am going to give the edge to Dark Fate over Rise of the Machines, the goofiness and too light hearted tone of the latter being the deciding factor. Unfortunately, I’m still going to go back and only consider the first two films of being the only ones that truly happened. To me, Dark Fate is just fan fiction, but at least it is stronger fan faction than what we received the past three films. This is just a franchise that has far surpassed its expiration date. It literally is just the same ol’ shit. Same story of Terminators being sent back into the past, one to protect, and one to try and destroy something vital to the future. Same ending. The only difference being a couple of small arcs here and there, all playing it safe though and taking no risks that should’ve been taken. It’s like painting a fresh coat onto a house but you do nothing else to the foundation to try to change and make it better. And like a T-800 in action, that paint, or synthetic skin if you will, starts to peel and chip away very fast, revealing that same exoskeleton underneath, one that you have grown tired of seeing.

My ranking of Terminator Films:

  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  2. The Terminator
  3. Terminator: Dark Fate
  4. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
  5. Terminator: Salvation
  6. Terminator: Genisys

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: PARASITE (NO SPOILERS, GO IN DARK!!!)

PARASITE is easily the best foreign language film I have ever seen and one of the top films of 2019 in general. Easily takes the top spot over my previous favorite, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. All of the hype and praise you’ve heard of this film, it’s true. All of it. If you have any inkling whatsoever to want to see this movie, go in completely 100% dark. Even though I don’t reveal basically anything about the plot, stop reading this review right now and just go and see it. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Don’t even watch the fucking trailer (my co-worker hadn’t heard a damn thing about this film and saw it with some friends and it is one of her favorite films of all time now). Even though the trailer doesn’t really give anything away either. I was debating even writing a review on this, but I figured I gotta do something small. For those of you that actually read my dumb long reviews, maybe my short influence here could push some of you on the right side of the fence to end up giving it a shot. So the rest of my review, I’m just going to make a numbered list (in no particular order) if what I liked and what I didn’t like about the movie. And again, I do not give away anything. This film won the Cannes 2019 Palm D’Or over everything nominated, including Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. And even though I have Hollywood a bit higher on my list than this film, it deserves all the awards and all the praise, even if it ends up competing with Tarantino by year’s end. So anyway, here is my list, I’ll start with my likes, and then dislikes. No concluding paragraph:

LIKES:

  1. The Story
  2. The Acting
  3. The Perfect Ending
  4. The Many Twists and Turns
  5. The Unpredictability
  6. The Cinematography (simply gorgeous in every scene, but one scene near the end is just beautiful ((message me on what that scene is if you are truly curious))
  7. The Direction by Bong Joon-Ho is masterful, easily his best since Snowpiercer
  8. Five minutes in, and you have completely forgotten that you are reading subtitles
  9. The Score
  10. How It Makes You Think
  11. All the messages of family, best laid plans, upper vs. lower class, values, etc. etc. etc.
  12. The Pacing, The Editing, All of IT

DISLIKES:

  1. I did not dislike one damn thing about this movie, it’s basically as perfect as can be.

Review done, go and see it. It’s expanded so it’s probably playing at a theater near you. This movie is just like a Parasite, attaching onto you and effecting you…but in a good way.