Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: UNDER THE SILVER LAKE (no spoilers)

WARNING: If you are a casual film goer, you are going to hate this movie. But if you look at the deeper meaning of things, and you love artistic movies that aren’t trying to be artsy fartsy for artsy fartsy sake, you might actually love it. If you are a constant reader of my blog or other opinions, you already know what side I am on. UNDER THE SILVER LAKE is an A24 property that, when it got mixed and polarizing reviews at a festival back in early 2018, kept getting delayed and delayed until it was finally quietly dumped on VOD back in April of this year. I hadn’t heard much about this movie beforehand, let alone had watched a trailer, all I knew was that it starred Andrew Garfield and was from writer/director David Robert Mitchell, whose first film back from 2014 I absolutely loved, It Follows. While that movie had a clear cut narrative, this 2 hr and 20 minute weird Hollywood epic has multiple plot threads (some that go places, some that don’t…or do they?) all with the same underlying message. It’s a very unique piece of work.

But whether you think that unique piece of work is brilliant or shitty is completely up to you. I’m not trying to tell you how to feel about this movie. If you watch this and don’t understand what the fuck I was talking about and thought it was boring and pointless, that’s fine, but you better be able to back it up on a film scholar level with me. This movie will require several viewings for some to fully understand it. I got it on the first try, but you know me. This film was a $3 blind buy for me on VUDU (having $3 credit on there made it basically free) and I was told to give it a chance by my favorite film reviewers Mike & Jay on http://www.redlettermedia.com. I watched the first part of their review before they got into spoilers (I recently watched the rest of it and they saw the film the same as I did). Boy, was that the best $3 credit purchase ever, because I kind of love this film. The best things about it is the underlying messages and theme of the movie, the AMAZING cinematography and the AMAZING score by Disasterpiece (who also had an amazing score with It Follows). Oh and uh, I don’t know what attracted Andrew Garfield to this project, but the dude gives it is all in his best performance since Hacksaw Ridge and The Social Network.

It’s going to be really hard to describe this film to you without giving any spoilers, but I’m going to do my best. Andrew Garfield is literally in almost every scene as a young man named Sam who, after a brief yet impactful encounter one night with a new neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough), goes out and investigates her sudden disappearance, only to stumble upon hidden messages that may or may not lead him to an elusive and dangerous giant Hollywood conspiracy. And there happens to be a dog killer lurking about. Whew, I think I got the gist of it. Obviously there is so much more to what is going on that my statement pertaining to watching it multiple times to actually get it might come true to you. It is a very maze-like wicked tangled web of a film. So much subtext, so much allegory, so many layers. But that’s what I love about the film. It makes you think, where as 90% of the films that come out nowadays are just spoon feeding everything to you, where you can just sit there like a zombie and literally do nothing and these studios and filmmakers expect you to just get a kick out of it…

I think the reason why I probably like this film so much as well is that it comes off the heels of just seeing Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. I don’t know if Mr. Tarantino has seen Under The Silver Lake yet, but if he ever does, I wonder if he thinks both of these movies would go nicely in a whole afternoon long double feature. I sure did. Where as Mr. Tarantino’s film describes the last days of an old, innocent Hollywood system, Under The Silver Lake is inspired by the dirty, gross, seedy underbelly of the New Hollywood system, clearly coming more into light recently because of the #MeToo Movement. This film is more of a transition from old Hollywood to New Hollywood and I expect that there maybe somewhere down the line will be a third film only focused on New Hollywood that combined with these two will make some kind of unofficial trilogy. While representing more New Hollywood, this film shows the transition pretty well with a great musical score by Disasterpiece that is inspired by classic mystery/thriller films. Hitchcockian, if you will. While being set in the present day that old school essence is still there, with a lot of imagery and homages to classic movie industry actors and actresses. Hell, there are even nods to classic philosophers and astronomers in this film to tie everything together!

Some might leave this film wondering if it was sexist or misogynist, clearly missing the point of the entire message, and I feel bad for those that do so. It isn’t weird and elaborate just for the sake of being weird and elaborate. None of this film is just surface level shit and if you don’t want to use your brain to figure out different symbols, messages, and meanings in this, don’t bother ever trying to seek this out, because this film is clearly not for you. If 20 minutes you think the film is too slow, turn it off because you aren’t going to enjoy the rest of it. But if you want your cinematic experience to take you on a WTF journey of long and epic proportions, then I can’t recommend this enough. I have a feeling that in the future this film is going to be studied by film students, especially avante garde and/or expressionistic and experimental ones. Just like Midsommar, I can’t clearly see that and this as masterpieces yet, but I have I feeling on repeat viewings that it might take me in that direction. If you have the bravery to form your own opinion and actually pay attention when watching Under The Silver Lake, I really do hope you enjoy it.

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Zach’s Zany Top 20 Films of 2018 (FINAL)

I’ve already posted the list on my Facebook Cover Photo, but I figured I would write a little blurb on each as to why I picked these particular movies to be in my top 20 list of 2018. So let’s dig right in:

BUT FIRST! Let me just tell you what won my coveted spot for worst film of the year:

WORST FILM OF THE YEAR: THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE

A Wrinkle In Time had this spot for most of the year, from April until the end of November, but then I saw this disaster. Complete crap from the first minute to the final cut to black. Completely unnecessary scenes such as Shay Mitchell showering with side boob, and a chopped up confusing ending. Nothing in the movie makes any sense whatsoever, especially how a person that looks like Shay Mitchell could be a ex-cop.

Okay, now for the Top 20:

20. Ben Is Back

This movie is one of the ones that knocked both Solo: A Star Wars Story and Incredibles 2 from the final list right before my final decision. While Solo gets better with each viewing (I still don’t understand why the movie exists though, we didn’t need an origin story for a wonderful character), but Incredibles 2 doesn’t hold up with repeated viewings (it’s just an epilogue of the first film, with some good parts, but way too predictable altogether, especially the villain). Ben Is Back knocked one of them out because the whole story stuck with me. I don’t like Julia Roberts as an actress, but she was pretty good in this. Lucas Hedges was incredible. A cautionary drug tale that earns your emotions and feels realistic.

19. Overlord

A Nazi Zombie movie that manages to be two movies, both that take itself seriously and completely working. Wonder how it would’ve been if it would’ve embraced the schlockyness of its premise, but I’ll take this and leave a SyFy television original to tale that tale.

18. Hereditary

Originally much higher on my list, the film didn’t hold up as well on a couple of repeat viewings. But the movie is still very very good. A scary movie without cheap jump scares and some very disturbing imagery. I don’t think it sticks the landing, if it had, it would’ve been much higher on my list. I’m tired of the whole demon/possession element in movies (see my worst film of the year entry above).

17. Black Panther

Completely overrated, but I still enjoy it when I watch it. Nothing really needs to be said other than that. There are better Marvel films which should’ve gotten this much attention. It is sad this will be the first one to be nominated for best picture.

16. Blackkklansman

Best Spike Lee film in a long long time, and quite possibly my favorite, although I do admit I need to go back and re watch some of his older stuff to make that a definite conclusion. Great acting, great story, great message, funny, and a great watch.

15. Annihilation

This original science fiction film I have a feeling will be greatly appreciated with age, maybe in about 10 years. People have yet to discover it. A great film, with basically an all female cast, and some really neat visuals, imagery, and ideas. But we all know that writer/director Alex Garland is a secret genius so…

14. Game Night

Just a great time at the movies. Very funny, especially the performances from Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons.

13. First Man

This film confirmed why I didn’t want to be an astronaut growing up. Probably one of the most realistic and harrowing real life NASA/space tales. This and Apollo 13 would make a great double feature. This should pick up all the sound awards at the Oscars.

12. Assassination Nation

Originally much much higher on my list, I kicked it down a bit out of not wanting the pressure of seeming like a nutcase. But I still love this film. Very original, and very eerily foreshadowing what our technological future and behavior are leading toward. The last sentence of this film is so harrowing yet accurate…

11. Widows

Just got kicked out of the top ten by Vice. I still love this film, but when looking back I realize that there might have been a few scenes missing to make all the pieces fit into a crime/heist masterpiece. Still, this has some major repeating viewing power in my future

10. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Best animated film of the year, and one of the top three best Spider-Man movies. There is no way this could’ve been shot live action and worked as well as this does. Everything works harmonically and I really hope they make sequels to this but separating and still making sequels to the Tom Holland stuff

9. A Quiet Place

One movie that has been in my top ten list the longest time and without dropping and coming back. John Krasinski not just crafted the best PG-13 horror film we’ve seen in a long time, but it is a horror film with heart.

8. The Hate U Give

How this film is not getting more Academy Awards attention I will never understand. Look this one up and check it out. It is so so so so so good. In a sane world Amandla Stenberg would be getting a Best Actress nomination.

7. Vice

The other film to help kick both Solo: A Star Wars Story and Incredibles 2 off the list. Adam McKay’s brilliant follow up to The Big Short is jaw dropping from minute one. How Dick Cheney and other parts of the government got away with the things they did…and this movie completely makes the comedy and fourth wall breaking work 150%

6. Deadpool 2

Much better than the original. Funnier, better action sequences, better story, completely better in every way possible. I think Deadpool 2 has been #6 on my list and stayed there the entire time since the day it was released in theaters…

5. Ready Player One

Spielberg. Based on one of my favorite books. Need I say any more? Just watched it again the other day, and it is still just as entertaining and still holds up

4. Avengers: Infinity War

The real Marvel film that should be getting Academy Awards attention. The fact that this film balances so many super heroes, and doing it masterfully, while giving us a CGI villain that actually poses a threat. Blank Panther has the 2nd best villain with Killmonger, but Thanos easily takes the top spot MCU wise, in my opinion of course.

3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Just like Infinity War, when I put this at the top of my list, I thought it was going to stay there. Every single action sequence has stakes and has a point in this film. And it is even more amazing considering that this was a film that started into production without a completed script. Easily the best action film of the year.

2. Bad Times At The El Royale

Not a Tarantino rip off. It’s own thing. It’s own style. It’s own fun. I think since Drew Goddard did The Cable In The Woods they expected some kind of genre flipping itself on its head here, but to go into the theater thinking that will only disappoint you. Go in almost knowing nothing about it, and you will love it as much as I did.

BEST FILM OF THE YEAR #1:

Green Book

It’s still in theaters. Go see it. A road trip buddy movie with a racial subtext and a moral compass with fantastic performances by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Nothing more to say other than that it has tremendous re watch value and a ton of heart.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BEN IS BACK (no spoilers)

Now I’m going to tell you right off the bat that I’m not the biggest fan of Julia Roberts and that (other than Erin Brockovich and Steel Magnolias) I think she is a pretty one dimensional actress. So when I say that I really enjoyed BEN IS BACK and I think that it is her best performance in quite a long time and it might even be my favorite performance of hers, you know that I’m telling the truth. Ben Is Back is what Beautiful Boy should have been. A cautionary tale about drugs that actually elicits emotions from the audience, emotions that are well written, earned, and acted. And that fact that everything takes place during Christmas was just the cherry on top.

Ben Is Back is about a son (played by the incredible Lucas Hedges) that comes home to see his family after spending months in a rehab center. His sister and stepfather think it is way too soon, his half siblings are just glad to see him, but his mother (played by Julia Roberts) is so thrilled to see him that she doesn’t start questioning things until other family members tell her she should. What is he doing home so soon? Does he have ulterior motives? What is going to happen if he relapses at the house? What happens if someone sees that is back that shouldn’t? All good questions. Instead of taking him back to rehab, they let him stay 24 hours during Christmas, going back to rehab the same time the next day. Will they regret their decision? What I like about the film that even though it takes place all in the span of about 24 hours, everything that happens feels natural, and it doesn’t take it to over the top places that any other schlocky film could take it. I very was surprised on how tame the whole movie was. I was expecting each twist and turn to evolve into something completely outlandish, and it didn’t. It subverted my expectations, and everything had more of a “well, I could actually see this happening in this situation” type feel, and that is what I appreciated most.

I also love how the film didn’t have all these revelations about Ben, and how most of his shady past is merely hinted at. Sure, there are a couple of revelations, but even those are still limited to broader information, with the specifics and really terrible shit left for the audience’s imagination. Sure, there might be a moment or two that are set up conveniently to reveal a little info on the origin of Ben’s drug habits, for example how Hedges and Roberts run into his old doctor in the mall, but those couple of things are easily forgivable with the other tidbits of information we get. The movie also does a great job of playing with Ben’s intentions during the whole film. You think he’s doing one thing, but just several minutes later the movie subverts that theory a bit, and it just keeps going back and forth. You will literally be guessing what happens and being wrong up until the very end.

The performances in this are amazing, everyone does a great job, but the standouts are obviously Roberts and Hedges, and any other year, Hedges would get an Oscar nomination. The movie is written and directed by Peter Hedges, who wrote films you may know such as both the novel and screenplay to What is Eating Gilbert Grape, co-writer on About A Boy, Dan in Real Life, and did some script doctoring on Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. I do like What Is Eating Gilbert Grape, but I think this is easily his finest work. And yes, he is Lucas Hedges father. Sometimes spouse or sibling or parental collaborations can easily crash and burn, but here it totally works. It seems like Peter let Lucas just do his thing, and the performance is that much better for it.

Anyway, I said earlier that this taking place during Christmas puts the cherry on top of the whole thing and it really does. The setting completely works here. If it is ever Christmas time and you happen to feel like a drug cautionary tale, but also want to watch a Christmas movie, this would easily fit the bill. The atmosphere of Christmas is all over the place, such as going to the mall with this mom, church festivities, and the cold and the snow play big parts in the film. The scene in the graveyard with Hedges and Roberts where she asks him where does he want her to bury him when he’s gone, the snow on the grave stones, the imagery is fantastic here and just elevates the whole scene. This review is getting too long, so as a Christmas present to you all, I’ll just end it by saying I really really liked this film, and it will probably be in my top 20 list when I finalize it soon.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MARY POPPINS RETURNS (mild spoilers, because it’s a remake)

I forget which exact episode of Friends it is, but there is a scene where Ross, Chandler, and Joey are having a Die Hard Marathon in Ross’s new apartment, and they just finished Die Hard and it’s time to put in the sequel. Here is the exact dialogue as follows:

Chandler: Die Hard, still great!
Joey: Hey, what do you say we make a double feature?
Ross: What else did you rent?
Joey: Die Hard 2!
Chandler: Joe, this is Die Hard 1 again.
Joey: Ohh..well if we watch it a second time then it’s Die Hard 2!
Ross: Joey we just saw it.
Joey: And?
Ross: And it would be cool to see it again!

I just summed up for you MARY POPPINS RETURNS in a nutshell. While I am still mildly recommending the movie as a whole for a couple of things I’ll get to in a bit, Disney just pulled “The Force Awakens Effect” yet again. “The Force Awakens Effect” for those of you not in the know, is basically claiming a that movie is a sequel, when it is almost beat by beat the same exact story and plot of the original film. But seriously…if you had complaints that The Force Awakens was beat by beat too close to A New Hope, Mary Poppins Returns is tapping your shoulder right now and asking you to hold its spoon full of sugar to make the medicine go down. Mary Poppins returns to help out the children of the children she helped in the first movie, and instead of trying to make the now older Michael realize not to neglect his kids like his father was taught, she tries to make older Michael realize that home is wherever you make it if you have your family by your side, and to appreciate his kids more. Wait…what? It’s essentially the same thing, with a minor twist. Just like everything else is in this movie. It’s the closest thing that Disney can make a remake without calling it a remake.

Instead of a picture that Mary Poppins and the kids go into full of brilliant animation, it is now a ceramic bowl. Instead of a spoon full of sugar and Mary Poppins helping the kids tidy of their room, it is now just a different non memorable song with them taking a bath tidying up themselves. Instead of a chimney chim chim cha roo with some very talented chimney sweepers, it’s a new song called “Trip A Little Light Fantastic” and instead of chimney sweepers, its now lamp lighters, but it’s the same dark cinematography and matte imagery and intricate dance choreography. All of this is surrounded by Colin Firth trying his best to act like an asshole and the family has to find this certificate of shares that the children’s father left them or they lose the old house we know and love so well.

This movie is beat by beat by beat by plot point by plot point by plot point the exact same film as the original, with just some minor tweaks here and there from it being a shot by shot remake. It’s just Disney being safe. They know that safe works (see Force Awakens) and they know that going outside the box may not (see The Star Wars Prequels and I guess see some dumb fan boys’ view of The Last Jedi). They know that just bringing in an older version of the children from the first film, but now focuses on their children will give audience enough sweet sweet memberberries to chew on while watching the movie. It’s kind of sad that you could’ve even done something similar yet different of all new kids, in a all new setting, with a different plot, more attune with The Force Awakens, and yet they still didn’t go that route. And while the movie was entertaining and held my attention, I just felt kind of eh through the whole thing because I know I had seen it all before.

Okay, now let’s get to the good stuff where I’m actually giving this film a minor “thumbs up.” Emily Blunt is always amazing in my eyes, and here she is no different. She steals every scene. She is the only other person in my eyes I deem fit to play Mary Poppins other than Julie Andrews (Andrews was in her early 20s playing the role and Blunt is 35, yes, they do have an age joke or two). She can sing, dance, and do anything. She’ll win an Academy Award one day, but not for this. Let the Oscar be still with Julie Andrews for this character. And Lin Manuel Miranda (yes, he kind of raps at one point in this as expected) is great too here. Every since Hamilton he’s been on this rise, and even with this things will just keep getting better for him. Yes, Dick Van Dyke is in this for about 3 to 5 minutes, has a minor little dance number where my jaw was on the floor considering he is 93 years old.

I also appreciated when they went into that animated world we all knew she was going to take the kids into that they didn’t just cop out and try to make them interact with Pixar like animated characters. No, they go back to home grown, home spun 2D animation, and it was brilliant enough for me to crave a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? even though I hope they never make one and if they do that it isn’t just another soft reboot/remake like this one is. And yes, Meryl Streep is in this (she’s got to be in everything, ugh), however, she’s only in one scene, one musical number, and then she’s out for the rest of the picture, and she wasn’t annoying, and she was quite good).

Unfortunately, as I remember the kids quite fondly in the original movie, the kids in this aren’t memorable at all in the fact that I’ve already forgotten what they look like. And while this film is a musical, and there is a song and dance thing every ten minutes, they in no way even touch the classic songs of the original. In fact, I can only remember two songs being fantastic, “A Cover Is Not The Book” and “Nowhere To Go But Up” and the latter isn’t until the very very end of the film.

But the film is harmless, is entertaining, and in some parts even fun, even though it’s just a melting pot of the original film. I completely recommend this to people who haven’t even seen the first one or haven’t seen the first one in a long time. For God’s sake, don’t watch the original right before you go and see this or you are going to regret it. It’s a decent family film, what more could you ask around the holidays? Well, I could ask that Bumblebee never existed, but that’s like asking for a billion dollars…

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (spoilers, because her life, real life inaccuracies)

MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS is the most mis-marketed, bait and switch movie of 2018. Hands fucking down. It advertises in the trailers and tv spots that the film will portray “the ultimate rivalry” for rule between her and Queen Elizabeth, and that the movie is going to be about one giant power struggle. Nope. Wrong…Not. Even. Close. I made sure to brush up on some of the real history of Mary Stuart, and of all of her life they could’ve made the movie about (in fact, it could’ve just been one giant biography with 20 added minutes, with a lot of the fat trimmed out), they decided to make the movie about the least interesting part in her life, where she returns to Scotland. It is there the movie turns into a #MeToo type entity, where every single man character in the film is apparently a sadistic, mean, psychotic, asshole son of a bitch with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. This “rivalry” in the movie is barely even there. A couple of letters written between Mary and Elizabeth when Mary returns to Scotland, trying to make a deal with inheritance to eventually have one ruler over England and Scotland, and then only one final confrontation at the end of the movie. In a meeting that apparently is pure fiction and never takes place, they speak to each other for only 5 minutes, and then years of imprisonment/protection pass (which we do not see, nor do we hear about some of her cool escapes and escape attempts) and then Mary is sentenced to death for some letter Elizabeth has that we never see or hear anything about, other than that it might’ve been written in Mary’s hand about a plot to kill Elizabeth. Instead we are treated to 2 hours of Mary just dealing with dumb, mean men that completely ruin her life. Margot Robbie is in the movie for only about 10 to 12 minutes by the way, and in no way does she deserve a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

Saoirse Ronan on the other hand is utterly fantastic as Mary, and it would be well deserved if she was nominated, but at how much I completely dislike this film, I don’t care to see it get any nominations, as to send a message to the filmmakers this was the wrong way to go with the years and years of story that they could’ve told. What’s funny is that Saoirse doesn’t look a day over 18, (which is where we see her at the start of the film) and then she hasn’t aged a day, they didn’t even bother trying to do make up or use CGI, and is supposedly 44 when she gets executed. I know my movie review is all over the place, but if you think about it, I’m paying homage to the movie itself, which was the exact same thing. I currently have a couple of web pages next to the one I’m writing on and I’m scanning over the history of Mary and Elizabeth and I’m shocked at what is not in the film. There is some really juicy stuff such as Mary’s rule when she was younger before where the film starts, or some of her escape attempts and apparent plots to kill Queen Elizabeth, or they could’ve went full Rated R and actually shown how awful her execution was instead of it copping out with a fake to black end credits bullshit text update on what happened to the other characters kind of conclusion. Plus, even telling the story of Mary’s return to Scotland is riddled with inaccuracies, such as her marriage to Lord Darnley being a sham because he was gay and fucked her catholic private secretary Rizzio, when in actuality she was actually fucking him, or that she saw her son for the last time when he was clearly older than 1 or 2, when in actuality he was only 10 months, and again, if her and Elizabeth actually ever met. Also the conclusion of Lord Darnley’s character is very fictionalized and not at all how it really happened. If you are going to make an historical inaccurate film, and there have been many, they might as well have went full fiction and actually made the rivalry movie that was promised and marketed.

And the movie is quite boring. I was actually into it a little bit until it hit the 45 minute mark and I figured that the movie marketed to me and everyone else on Earth was a sham and it was something completely different. I kept looking at my watch, wondering when this rivalry/power struggle film was to begin, and it never did. I guess you could say the power struggle was within her own group of politicians that were supposed to be “loyal” to her but even that was uninteresting and too repetitive. It was basically males that seemed to just slap her around, control her and betray her, trying to turn a historical film into a platform that modern audiences can relate to, aka the #MeToo movement. I don’t know what really happened back then and couldn’t tell you anything unless I was standing there watching it all happen, but the movie seemed to make Mary too strong of a character, where when all this bad shit was happening to her, she should’ve just ordered the deaths of people around her to regain ultimate control, instead of just taking blow after blow without being able to do anything about it.

I’m just mad that I was scammed out of what could’ve been a very powerful movie about Mary Stuart, with a breathtaking performance from Saoirse Ronan. I had a similar complaint with Bohemian Rhapsody, in that they could’ve made a much better film than they did, with Rami Malek giving us a better powerful performance (don’t worry, he still owns the movie we got, but still) with elevated material. Is it possible someone could write something else in the next few years, maybe something about Mary’s entire interesting life and still get Saoirse back into the role? Now that I would give a chance and see. The look of the film was fine, the direction fine, some of the visuals fantastic, but the boredom, inaccuracies, and misdirection the movie ultimately told was too much of a distraction for me to even closely give some kind of recommendation. I guess if you love Saoirse Ronan, watch it for her performance, but that is about it. If you are going for Margot Robbie, be prepared to be overwhelmingly let down. It’s not one of the worst films of the year, but it is one of the worst disappointments.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AQUAMAN (no spoilers)

I have to assume that when Warner Bros. and other fans of the very unstable foundation the DCEU was built on looks back and decides which movie was the make or break point of the franchise, they are going to look back to AQUAMAN. Shazam and Wonder Woman 1984 are still in development and will still release in theaters regardless of what this film does, but whether they put the breaks on everything I think will depend on how this well this film does both critically and financially. Critically, right now, the movie is doing better than most of the others, casual moviegoers an even more positive reaction. We’ll have to wait a month to see what it makes during the busy box office holiday season to whether the DCEU is truly going to be okay. For me? I went in with medium expectations. The last movie in the DCEU, Justice League, was not what it should have been, being more of a mix of really good scenes, with really bad scenes, all wrapped around stupid mother boxes and one of the worst CGI villains in cinematic history. But after the credits rolled on Aquaman (and be sure to just stay for one mid credits scene), I was surprised about how much I enjoyed it, how much it kept my attention the whole way through, and admired how the DCEU is trying to course correct itself.

Tone wise the movie is closer to Wonder Woman more than anything, with just a dash or two of more weirdness thrown in (and no, not copying Guardians of the Galaxy weirdness, this is its own thing). And I am proud to also report that this is in no way is a rip off of Black Panther that many were assuming it was when people watched the trailer. Aquaman is its own tone, its own product, its own entity, its own existence, its own thing. It isn’t really trying to set up other future DCEU movies (other than maybe a sequel to itself) and only connection to the other films is a quick throwaway line to Justice League and the fact that Amber Heard comes back for her 2 minute part in Justice League to play a much bigger, and better role.

Getting into plot details won’t help any one with this review. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the plot. Arthur Curry doesn’t really want to be king, he is more of a “land dweller” and just fights for what’s right. When Mera (Heard), comes to him, telling him that his half brother who he has never met before, is going to force all the sea kingdoms to unite and start a war with everyone on land, and the fate of all kind is in the balance, he reluctantly goes, eager to come back when all is said and done and not rule.

Really the only problem I had with this movie was some of the CGI, but I do realize the fact with a film that takes place underwater with real human beings talking, and interacting with sea creatures and other weird entities under the sea, the people involved did do the best job they could with the technology they had. So some of the very shaky CGI is forgivable if you think about it. But some of the CGI is pretty bad ass, especially the big battle near the end of the film, and a big action fight sequence with Aquaman, Mera, and Black Manta in Italy.

Jason Mamoa is a fantastic Aquaman. I know he really looks nothing like what he does in the comics, but Mamoa brings a cool slacker charm to the role, and can actually act when he needs to. Plus, you can tell he had so much fun making the film, and when you actually want to be there, your performance comes natural. And he’s a natural in this. What I was most surprised by was Amber Heard. Amber Heard has mostly been just eye candy in films that I’ve seen her in, but in this, she actually shines and shows she is so much more than that. Patrick Wilson actually makes for a pretty good villain as Ocean Master, just wish they’d develop his character a little bit more, Willem Dafoe as Vulko is good for the short amount of screen time he has, Nicole Kidman is fine but de-aged/under the knife as fuck, and Dolph Lundgren gives his best performance in the 10 minutes he’s in as Mera’s father. I know that Black Manta is in the film as well, and while I initially thought that his introduction and part was going to be wasted, in the end I was pleasantly surprised by his origin and his ultimate role in the film. Don’t want to give too much away on that.

Some of the dialogue is cringe-worthy, but I mean, have you ever read a comic book recently? And the actors saying that dialogue are good enough to make it work. The story beats are fast and furious, are all there and well managed, and click together perfectly. Director James Wan, who is known more for the Saw movies, the Conjuring films, and only directed Furious 7 in terms of not being stuck in the horror genre, does a good job here. He didn’t half ass anything and his vision went all in, which I appreciated. Just so you know, I don’t think I have ever read a solo Aquaman comic. I read some Justice League when I was younger, and from what I remember, Aquaman was kind of shoved to the side. But maybe the DCEU can finally give the character his due and bring him to the forefront as a serious, bad ass hero. As long as Warner Bros. isn’t stupid and signs Jason Mamoa to a bazillion more films.

Rank of DCEU Films:

1. Wonder Woman
2. Man of Steel
3. Aquaman
4. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
5. Justice League
6. Suicide Squad

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ROMA (Netflix, no spoilers)

If you are a casual movie goer yet still keep up with the reward circuit, you might be wondering what this ROMA movie is that is being nominated for all these awards and how to watch it. If you have Netflix, well I have some good news for you, it just premiered on the service yesterday! And if you are a dummy and already knew that, yet spend the amount on one ticket to see it in a theater that would pay for one whole month for Netflix, well…I already called you a dummy didn’t I? Roma is a pretty good movie, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who has directed some great films such as Gravity, Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and Y Tu Mama Tambien.

Apparently this movie has been a passion project for him for years and years. And you can tell that every bit of love from his heart went into making this. The movie is set in 1970 and shows the year in the life of a live in housekeeper that works for this middle class family with a bunch of kids that have a mother that is oblivious to her husband not wanting to be around anymore. It is called Roma because it is referring to the Colonia Roma district of the city. The film is subtitled and black and white, and it is one of the most gorgeous films of 2018.

The cinematogrphy and shots are crisp, vibrant, and sharp. Definitely wouldn’t have looked as great if it were in color. Cuaron uses real locations to pull the viewer into the movie with his visuals. A lot of the shots consist of the camera panning from left to right or right to left, with careful choreography that feels natural. All of the actresses/actors are complete unknowns, but even with kids playing a big part in it, everything feels real with real emotions. Cleo, the films protagonist, especially great, with parts of her journey I don’t want spoil here, emotional enough to make me almost shed a couple of tears.

IF you are an award watcher completest, Roma is a must see. It is a lengthy 2 hrs and 15 minutes, but it kept my attention throughout the whole thing, mainly because of the visuals. The best sequence has to be Cleo shopping in the middle of the Corpus Christi Massacre, the camera work alone should get Alfonso Cuaron some kind of Oscar this year. If you don’t like reading subtitles or don’t like black and white films (how could you), this might not be your cup of tea. I enjoyed it though, always enjoy great film making.