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: REBECCA (2020 remake, Netflix)

If you ever see me review a new film which is a remake from an established classic or even a decent enough original film, 99.999999999% of the time you might as well skip my review and just heed these words: “Stick to the original.” And with the new REBECCA movie, that just debuted today on Netflix, that is a remake of the 1940 Alfred Hithcock classic (which happened to win Best Picture that year), to which I have indeed seen, no surprise here but I’m also going to just say “Stick to the original.” And to just get my next review out of the way, tomorrow’s remake of The Witches on HBO Max, I’m betting I will be saying “Stick to the original” a third time, so why even read my reviews? I guess if you want to know in depth details of why the remake doesn’t even hold a candle to Hitchcock’s, then keep reading, as that is what I will mostly be doing in what is hopefully a short review. IMDB describes the Ben Wheatley, 2020 Rebecca with the following: “A young newlywed arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death.” What confuses me is that in interviews with movie sites that I frequently visit, director Ben Wheatley has said that this is not a remake or retelling of Hitchcock’s Rebecca and that it is a different story that will stand out on its own. Ummmm…I hate to use any words that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth but my viewing of this film warrants it…that’s fake news. This movie is almost a shot by shot remake, even having close to the same runtime as Hitchcock’s (two hours and 10 minutes.) Why you would go around touting in interviews that your film isn’t a remake of another movie with the same story and title, when surely you know that once critics watch it they are going to be calling you a liar? That is indeed a head scratcher. I’m guessing Netflix maybe put him up to it?

This film looks beautiful to be sure and is very well acted by everyone in it, but the mystery that is supposed to be the foundation of Rebecca is hardly there, and when it does come to light, the viewer will not care, as emphasis on what exactly is going on seems to be downplayed so that you only notice just how much money was spent on it’s glorious production design. When the movie ends the next image you will have in your mind is Hitchcock rolling over in his fucking grave. There isn’t an urgency to anything in this movie, wait, that’s not true, Lily James meets and gets married to Armie Hammer all in the span of ten minutes after he plays one game of “hiding his rich white penis in her poor white vagina” on the beach. Who cares about the mystery when you don’t even care that these two characters are together? The original 1940 Hitchcock film is one of the most romantic movies of all time. You completely buy the fact that Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine love each other. Every second of every minute here I believed Hammer was just after banging her and was simply keeping her as a sex trophy wife. The romance is where the film should’ve taken its time but instead, after the rushed meet and greet, the time is taken where it doesn’t need to be, in her wide eyed, amazed look at how rich he is and how her life is going to be so much better while being naive at the fact that the main family caretaker, played by Kirsten Scott Thomas, doesn’t care at all for her. It also spends so much time with Hammer being a complete asshole, we are left in bewilderment why the new missus doesn’t just pack up and leave the bullshit behind her.

The solution to the mystery and what exactly is going on? A little bit different but still ended up going back around to the same path to get to the same resolution as the original. And also in the end, both sides of the audience, those that have and have not seen the Hitchcock film, don’t care, because the rest of the movie didn’t care about its characters or any realism in the romance. It was too busy trying to nab award nominations in costumes, cinematography, and production design. Which begs the question? Why remake Rebecca? Unless you are going to update it to modern times with modern characters and call the film something generic as Becky and try to do what 10 Things I Hate About You did with Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew…Why. Remake. A. Classic. Movie. That. Won. An. Oscar. For. Best. Picture? Shouldn’t we be remaking films that sucked in the first place? Kind of like what You’ve Got Mail did with The Shop Around The Corner, or John Carptenter’s The Thing did with The Thing From Another World and the short story Who Goes There? Why are we remaking films that are already beloved by so many? It doesn’t even make sense, as the 1940 film STILL FUCKING HOLDS UP!!! Alfred Hitchcock paid attention to EVERYTHING in that movie. There is emphasis on the romance, there is emphasis on the mystery of Rebecca, there is emphasis on the tension where it needed to be. We cared about the characters and we cared what their ultimate fates were. I don’t want to watch a film where it’s trying to persuade me to take off my pants and start jerking off because of how great it looks. Go call Michael Bay, because I can’t be persuaded by that shit. Everything has to work in a movie, or at least almost everything, or nothing works. Nothing usually works when you try and re make a classic film…just ask (insert remake here).

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (Netflix)

Two words. One noun. Aaron. Sorkin. Along with Quentin Tarantino, I consider him one of the masters of dialogue. His dialogue alone makes THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, which was supposed to debut in theaters before coronavirus, but then Paramount sold it to Netflix because the filmmakers wanted it released before the election, the #2 film of 2020 for me, right behind Tenet. The dialogue in this, combined with the incredible cast that make the line deliveries seem effortless, is nothing sort of spectacular. When you also combine it with an inspirational but devastating story that is reminiscent to not only our current racial tensions in the world but also the political bullshit we are dealing with in our current major election, this film is masterful. To me, this is what pure, ingenious filmmaking is all about. Movies like this and Tenet are the reason why people like myself go to the theaters. And because of this asinine virus, I had to watch it at home, but the fact that I did not pick up my phone or get distracted once during the two hour and nine minute run time, says more than you will ever know. This is also required viewing. If you watch and do not like this movie, just stop watching movies and go back to your fucking on the spectrum sports that keeps on disappointing you week in and week out. And even though this is Aaron Sorkin’s only second time directing, he directs as if he was Spielberg, having already been doing it for years. Oh, and someone please give Bruno and Borat a Oscar nomination this awards season.

IMDB describes The Trial Of The Chicago 7 with the following, “The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.” To add more emphasis to that log line, prosecutors were trying to make an example of individuals and groups trying to rightfully and peacefully protest the Vietnam War by grouping them together in a conspiracy like domestic terrorism charge. It was bullshit. The things that the justice system tries to get away with during this event is going to make you fucking angry, I guarantee it, and again, if what happens doesn’t make you angry, you are probably a fucking Trump supporter. The incompetence of the judge, here played perfectly by veteran Frank Langella, and what he does to Black Panther Bobby Seale, played expertly by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, will make your jaw drop, face red for days after you’ve finished the movie. If you don’t know anything about the trial of the Chicago 7, I encourage you to not do any real research on it until AFTER you have watched this movie. You would think a film like this could get messy with the details, but Sorkin’s dialogue yet again gives the audience a master class in understanding what is going on, not getting confused in the slightest, while still entertaining you with witty words than just boringly stating the facts. Most of the movie takes place inside the court room, but the runtime still goes by in a flash, and in fact I could’ve watched an hour or two more of it.

There are a lot of well known A-list actors in this movie, so I’m not going to go one by one and rate their performances. I mentioned two highlights above, and others such as Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton, Mark Rylance, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt give solid performances, but the two that steal the movie completely out from everyone are Borat/Bruno’s Sasha Baron Cohen, and Succession’s Jeremy Strong, as two hippie leaders of students in the college system that want the Vietnam War to end. I could see either of these two guys getting an Oscar nomination in either lead or supporting for this film, more likely Cohen than Strong though. Cohen completely sheds his usual goofy character persona here to give his real life interpretation of Abbie Hoffman some bluster yet fragility that I never believed the actor could pull off until now. His performance is an amazing achievement and deserves to get him a serious career boost and not be overshadowed to his return to Borat next week in the Amazon Prime exclusive sequel. His relationship and rapport with Jeremy Strong’s Jerry Rubin is the best part of this film, one that will surely leave an impression on you once the movie is over, especially when you find out their ultimate fates in a title card sequence right before the end credits. There’s nothing more to say about this movie than has already been said in countless glowingly positive reviews from other more professional critics than I, leaving this film somewhere in the 90s on Rotten Tomatoes. This film will receive a whole bunch of nominations come Oscar award season (if that even happens because of this stupid fucking climate we are living in) and I will be rooting for it to win Best Picture, since a lot of dumbasses didn’t take to Tenet because it debuted in theaters at an “inappropriate time.” Fuck you who think that. Just go watch this movie. It’s an automatic ‘if you put money into a Vegas slot machine you get all 7’s the first time’ winner.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LOVE AND MONSTERS

LOVE AND MONSTERS was just the fun, smarter than it looks, adventurous action flick that I needed this shitty year. It has wonderful creature design and special effects, a new and unique reason why the world turned into an apocalyptic landscape that felt refreshing the entire one hour and 50 minute runtime, sympathetic and likable characters, a fantastic performance by NOT Logan Lerman, but Maze Runner’s Dylan O’ Brien…just the works. It has the works, I don’t know what else to say about it other than this one complaint. And it’s the stupidest complaint in the world. Why in the fuck…are you available to buy the film from Amazon, Google, or Apple for $24.99 or you can rent it for $19.99, and you can only rent it on VUDU and FandangoNow for $19.99 and not buy? Why? Why the exclusivity bullshit in being able to purchase the film? Streaming services, DO NOT START THIS! Either you all offer just rent or you all offer rent and buy, this picking and choosing what services get what is the stupidest fucking thing to do to your customers in the middle of a fucking pandemic. Makes me sick to my stomach. I wanted to blind buy this film but I wanted it on the streaming app that I have the most movies on, which is VUDU. So you know what? Fuck you, I got a friend to pirate it so I could watch it for free. Granted, I loved this movie so much that I’m going to buy it in a couple of months when you guys finally get the nerve to get the regular purchasing rights, but what I had to do this weekend could’ve been avoided. Not offering both the option to rent or buy is going to really effect your sales numbers in the long run. Might want to think about that. Anyway, that is my only complaint about this movie and it isn’t of the content in the movie itself. That’s saying something.

IMDB describes Love and Monsters with the following: “In a monster-infested world, Joel (Dylan O’Brien) learns his girlfriend is just 80 miles away. To make the dangerous journey, Joel discovers his inner hero to be with the girl of his dreams.” The most lovely thing about this movie is that it takes place in a post apocalyptic world that is nice to look at. Since Joel reveals what happened to the world at the very beginning of the movie, I guess I can reveal it without it being too much of a spoiler, that way I can describe the way I liked this world in better detail. What happened was a giant meteor was about to hit and destroy Earth and everyone got together and shot a bunch of nukes at it and successfully blew it up. But all the radiation and chemicals from those nukes rained back down on Earth and mutated bugs, amphibians, plants, some sea creatures, you get the drift. So the world is overgrown with lush flora and fauna with bright colors and and pleasing topography. One of the better looking post apocalyptic movies that I can remember as of recently. The creatures are cool looking and menacing. To put it into perspective, Love amd Monsters is a more realistic Zombieland, but with no zombies and more natural, non-juvenile humor. It has some perfect, for the long haul, set ups, that have perfect payoffs, my favorite being this long running “did you get kicked out of your colony for stealing food?” gag that wasn’t overused with has a delicious climax payoff. While the movie does have some of the nervous wimp turned smart hero end of the world cliches (O’Brien plays a more likable version of Jesse Eisenberg’s character from Zombieland here), it is made up with some unpredictable character beats and fates, such as the dog that ends up tagging along with him, and two character’s that O’Brien runs into, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Michael Rooker, and a little girl played pitch perfect sarcastic by Ariana Greenblatt…who coincidentally played Young Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War.

It’s amazing that screenplay writer Brian Duffield is two for two for me in just a couple of weeks in 2020, as he also wrote one of my favorite films this year called Spontaneous that I reviewed about a week ago. He has a way with story details and dialogue which boggles my mind how they are so good, he needs to be given a lot more stuff to do. I think that with this, Spontaneous, and the first Babysitter movie on Netflix, he has more than proven his worth. I am not familiar with the director, Michael Matthews, as he’s only directed one other indie feature of which I haven’t seen, but his direction is good here, able to film the action beats without resorting to mindless shaky cam. I always appreciate no shaky cam. Dylan O’Brien is a hell of an actor, and while everybody does a good job here including Rooker and Jessica Henwick who plays the girlfriend that he’s traveling over 80 miles in a dangerous landscape for, this whole movie is the O’Brien show. He does not have one ounce of his character from Maze Runner here, and when he goes through the motions of his wimp turned into a determined but unlikely hero character arc, he doesn’t ever get too macho for his own good where it feels out place. Near the end of the film, not to ruin anything, but he is still plays it as a bit of a wimp, but one that just received a week’s worth of built up courage and confidence. You’ll see what I mean if you study his performance from the get go. If you are reading my review, you should watch this movie whenever you can. But don’t give into Paramount Pictures studio greed and only rent the damn thing for 48 hours for $19.99. It is definitely worth a $24.99 buy or a much cheaper rental in a couple of months, but only on the streaming platform you prefer. Don’t give into this exclusivity shit. I love this film and will eventually buy it when it comes to VUDU, but the studios doing this pick and choose platform option is a monstrosity within itself.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CLOUDS (Disney+)

I’m surprised that with CLOUDS, Disney didn’t send a box of tissues to every Plus subscriber with the instructions on the box reading, “Open, then stick directly to face before pressing play.” Good lord that son of a bitch mouse has rarely tickled any of our balls to make us laugh until we cry but he sure has punched us in the gut a shit ton for the same effect. Here’s the good thing though with this movie, the acting and story EARNS those tears instead of going for forced and cliched feels that have tricked many a young millennial time and time again. Every studio is guilty of this, even Disney, but every studio is also capable and has made films that are worthy of your sobs. Like this one, as Clouds is easily Disney+’s best original film to date, not that it has had that much competition. But be forewarned, YOU WILL BE CRYING NIAGARA FALLS BY THE END OF THIS FILM. If you don’t, then you are probably a Trump supporter. IMDB describes Cloud, which is based on a real story, with the following log line, “Young musician Zach Sobiech discovers his cancer has spread, leaving him just a few months to live. With limited time, he follows his dream and makes an album, unaware that it will soon be a viral music phenomenon.” The movie doesn’t try to make you cry right off the bat, absolutely not, as that Zach knew the severity of his situation and just tried to live a normal life anyway. He also seemed to have a very earnest and winning personality, as he seemed to inspire a lot of people in regular life before he went viral. He wasn’t all ‘woe is me and give me attention’ because I’m in pain, he was inspired by the power of music, happened to just think up of a song, recorded it, uploaded it to YouTube, and his story just spread fast, in a good way.

And the acting in this movie reflects that greatly. You probably don’t know him, but actor Fin Argus is phenomenal here. He brings something to Zach that feels unique and genuine, which makes you root for his character to ultimately live even though you probably know the end fate. He isn’t the only great acting job here. Sabrina Carpenter, who plays his musical as well best friend, completely makes up for Netflix’s piece of cliched film Work It that came out a couple of months ago, and proves again why she was too good for Girl Meets World. Lil Rel Howery, who plays the TSA agent friend in Get Out tones down his Kevin Hart persona and brings some heartfelt personality to his inspirational teacher to Zach role. Tom Everett Scott, who was the go to good guy role in the mid 90s, gives us his best performance since That Thing You Do! Madison Iseman made up for the recent Welcome To Blumhouse Amazon Prime film Nocturne that came out earlier this week, playing the girlfriend with the heart of gold here. But the truly impressive performance here, is surprisingly Sydney Prescott herself, Neve Campbell, giving us her best performance ever, and completely shedding her horror ‘Scream’ Queen role. She plays Zach’s mother, and while the role could’ve ended up being very cliched and typical ‘mother’-esque from another actress, she transcends those preconceived character beats and makes the mother a different kind of sympathetic character. It’s hard to explain what I mean, but I guarantee you that by the end of this film that you won’t see an ounce of Sydney Prescott in her performance. GUARANTEE IT. The film is also based off of Zach’s mother’s book ‘Fly A Little Higher’ and I don’t think the person that wrote the screenplay, Kara Holden, or the person that directed it, Justin Baldoni, have done much else but they both did a pretty good job here, Holden trying to write past the cliches and giving the audience something that feels a little more real and inspirational, and Baldoni matching that script with filming fantastic performances. I loved a little moment in the movie where Sabrina Carpenter’s character reads a shitty comment that some asshole left on their YouTube video. Zach’s dialogue and response to it were perfect. Clouds is the perfect tearjerker right now that has nothing to do with COVID-19. Will probably even make you forget about it for two hours, and you’ll download the film’s song the title came from immediately afterward.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: A BABYSITTER’S GUIDE TO MONSTER HUNTING (Netflix)

Whoa, Harry Potter is going to sue somebody! Well…probably just the opening credits at least (the way they come at you, the actual font might be where Tim Burton enters the lawsuit), but then again, this movie does have similar beats to Sorcerer’s Stone, but then yet again, an unrecognizable Tom Felton is in this (he played Draco Malfoy), so maybe he got the okay from Rowling and Warner Bros.? I’m just kidding, I just thought that would be an interesting review starter to get you to read my critique on Netflix’s new original family film that just released today. A BABYSITTER’S GUIDE TO MONSTER HUNTING is what Hubie Halloween should’ve been: a fun and adventurous yet spooky Halloween family film that could end up being something you watch every year with your loved ones alongside Hocus Pocus and the Harry Potter films. Or is Harry Potter a more Thanksgiving and/or Christmas time series? Doesn’t matter, this is Netflix’s closest thing it will ever get to trying to recreate the feeling of what we all feel while watching Hocus Pocus 27 years later. Go in completely dark, don’t even watch a trailer to this, as I didn’t, and my expectations were so so low due to the title and the fact that it is a Netflix original, but I was slapping myself for being a precognitive Negative Nancy by minute twenty. This movie is just delightful, with top notch child performances, Tom Felton’s best performance to date (but who are we kidding, how hard was that?), and decent creature feature CGI effects that make whatever was in Disney+’s Secret Society Of Second Born Royals look like it was created by Woody Woodpecker using computers. This is the Halloween film getaway treat you were looking for, so please, don’t even start Hubie Halloween or if you are in the middle of it, abandon it completely, and knock on this other door, I promise you it is no trick.

IMDB describes A Babysitter’s Guide To monster Hunting with the following: “A babysitter embarks on a mission to save a child who’s been abducted by monsters.” What that premise doesn’t tell you is that this movie is Harry Potter-esque, as there is a coven, legion, group, what have you of babysitter’s that fight these said monsters all the time. They have a meet up laboratory with monster fighting gadgets and gizmos, a giant book filled with information on all the different creatures within this world, and even apprentices looking to join said group. Tom Felton plays a boogey man named Grand Guigol that wants to make a legion of nightmares and monsters come to life to overtake our world so he can rule it. The child he kidnaps is the key to making this happen, and his babysitter named Kelly, who had a run in with Guigol when she was young, must stop it before it is too late. This movie thankfully isn’t convoluted, does the “keep it simple, stupid” film making mindset, yet also incorporates some brilliant set ups and pay offs required so that both adults and their kids can enjoy it, without either getting bored or falling asleep. Tamara Smart plays Kelly (she was also in this year’s straight to streaming on Disney+’s Artemis Fowl, which should’ve been something like this movie but was too dumb downed and convoluted) and Oona Laurence plays the veteran babysitter already in the legion trying to help Kelly out. They both do a fantastic acting job in regards to mostly reacting to CGI special effects to make you think they are real. There is a couple of shaky CGI moments, such as the little different colored minion monsters and such but anything involving Tom Felton or Shadow Tentacle Monsters in the dark are quite realistic and spooky at times.

Just like Hocus Pocus, this movie rides the line of being too scary for younger children, but thankfully it rides that line well, where they won’t be hiding under the covers, but may sit next to you and lean their head on mommy or daddy’s head, still with their eyes glued to the screen, until the next scene comes along. I haven’t read the book that this movie is based off of, but I have a feeling the reason why it is so good is because the author wrote the screenplay, making sure he got the essence of his beloved novel just right. The director Rachel Talalay, is no stranger to spooky kooky films, as she’s directed episodes of Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, BBC’s Sherlock, and her first feature film was even Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. She does an adequate job here, the action plain as day to see with no shaky came and shots that make the monsters scarier than they were probably meant to be. She seems like she had fun directing it (and Ghostbuster’s director Ivan Reitman even produced this, he must’ve saw something in it). The best thing about this film is surprisingly Tom Felton as boogeyman Grand Guigol, as they made him look like a zombie Sirius Black and acts like an evil Jack Sparrow with Voldemort motivations. I had a fun time watching his performance. Other than a couple of weird moments, obligatory sequel set ups and pacing issues in the finale, this new movie should be a fun little addition to your Halloween queue. Stop the hunting for something good and new Halloween feature wise. You’ve found it.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE OUTPOST

It’s pretty easy to declare THE OUTPOST as the best direct to demand action war film ever made, but I’ll go one further: this is probably my favorite since either American Sniper or Black Hawk Down. The main question I post to the filmmakers and studio behind it…how the hell did this not get a theatrical debut? And I do understand COVID-19 and all that mess but in doing my research I think this was always meant to be straight to demand. Then my second guess of an answer would be that there aren’t too many recognizable faces in this, and the main one that is isn’t in the film too long. Director Rod Lurie needs to flex his muscles, get out of his mostly television work, and maybe take on some big budget action films because some of the shots, especially the one take shots, and action in this movie are mesmerizing. IMDB describes the movie with the following: “A small team of U.S. soldiers battle against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.” To explain it a little bit better in my own words, The Outpost tells the gripping real story of Camp Keating, which was one of several outposts placed to control the Taliban movement and their supply chain during the war in Afghanistan. The camp was situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, and for the 400 Taliban that rallied for a surprise attack that takes place during the entire last hour of this two hour film, for them it seemed like it was shooting fish in a barrel. It was up to these soldiers to leverage their poor defenses, lack of ammo and manpower they had, to ultimately survive and go back to their loved ones. The film is a fantastic tribute to military heroes, even if one of my complaints about the film is that you don’t really get to know them specifically and only catch fleeting glimpses of personalities. This movie is a direct to demand technical feat.

If you are a war film buff, this is essential viewing. You may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about with the first hour, as it showed what military life was like at Camp Keating, stories that have been depicted many times before in other war films and do it with about the same level of authenticity, but when you get to that hour mark, hold on to your butts, because you are in for a non stop action packed ride the all the way to the end credits. I would say to see this in a theater, but since you technically can’t, try to see this on the biggest screen you can with the best sound, possibly someone that has a nice movie theater living room. The movie stars Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, and Orlando Bloom and they all do an adequate jobs, even though the former just acts like the tough guy he’s been in all of his previous films, the latter is barely even in the film to really critique his performance, and Landry Jones plays the cliched scared guy out of his element, working up the courage to show what he’s really made of. While most of the camera work is masterful, there are one or two shots that gave away that something really bad was about to happen, would’ve rather it been more subtle for more shock value. But you aren’t here to read my nit picky hard critiques I judge films for, you just want to know if the action in this war film is worth your time. Abso-fucking-lutely. The last hour of this film is a sight to behold and is worth the cliched military life hour set up, and even though the lingo and dialogue seems legit, like I said, it’s just been done a little too many times before for me to get into it. That last hour man…DO. NOT. WATCH. THIS. MOVIE. ON. YOUR. FUCKING. PHONE. It is currently on Netflix if you have the service and don’t want to pony up the dough to rent it. But I’d say a rental is worth it. In fact I could see me revisiting this specific outpost in the future and constantly point to it when someone is in the mood for a good war film that they haven’t seen before, especially one this adequately made for direct to streaming.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: EVIL EYE (Amazon Prime)

Well, we have come to the end of the first month of 4 “Welcome To The Blumhouse” films exclusively for Amazon Prime, and to be honest, each one was worse than the last. Enough where I’m going to do something rare at the end of this review and give them all letter grades. Just cheap mass produced potato chips that we’ve tasted all before. Not stale, such as Blumhouse’s Into The Dark Hulu exclusive movies, but a taste we start to get bored and tired of quickly after only a few chips. EVIL EYE is easily the worst because just like Nocturne, it is a rip off of another movie. Namely, it’s a spiritual, supernatural, reincarnation, Indian male rip off of Fatal Attraction. Not only that, but the two lead female protagonists talk on the phone and think it is ‘acting’ for over half the short 90 minute run time and then only have two scenes physically together at the end where we are supposed to care what happens to them due to said phone conversations, especially because they are mother and daughter. Due to the cheapness of the film I doubt that those two actresses were really talking to each other and their scenes were of course filmed separately, causing me not to get invested in them. And yes, I know that there is a pretty good screenplay reason for why they only talk on the phone, the daughter lives in the States and the mother lives somewhere in India, but what the movie needed to do was have all the actors and actresses near the same location, I don’t care where, it just needed to happen. That way there could’ve been more physically there scenes with both the protagonists and the male antagonist, where more tension would’ve been built, more suspense, which would’ve made me invested in not only the story, but everything about it.

I guess you could say that my evil ‘film’ eye was being too harsh on the film and my attention waned. IMDB describes Evil Eye with the following: “A superstitious mother is convinced that her daughter’s new boyfriend is the reincarnation of a man who tried to kill her 30 years ago.” What the movie fails at considerably is the execution of whether or not said new boyfriend of the daughter is really the reincarnation of the mother’s abusive ex-fiancee. Kind of spoiler alert, but you know that he really is, because if he wasn’t, there wouldn’t be a fucking movie. The story then goes about the cliched route of everybody thinking that the mother is crazy and that she should see a doctor to get her paranoia and superstitious nature put to rest. And of course, just as she agrees to get help, is when the “big reveal” happens. Now I liked the reveal/revelation, especially what happens right after the mother likes a picture on her daughter’s Instagram before she discovers the half way decent McGuffin object in the photo. The reason why I wasn’t into what was happening when the movie wanted me to be is that all the mother’s interactions with the daughter and the antagonist fiancee were over the phone (and only one brief use of a split screen), and all those moments, all that dialogue and ‘acting’, which again, were half the movies run time, felt “phoned in.” Yes, pun intended.

When the mother, played by Sarita Choudhury, was off the phone and talking to her husband or others, her acting was quite solid, especially when she seemed to be going off the rails mentally and didn’t have a phone to her ear. The daughter, Sunita Mani, less so, as she seemed just a little too ignorant for what was happening all around her. And you just know there is going to be a scene where the daughter finds out who her fiancee really is, but the way it is handled is kind of awkward, as the male antagonist was very careful and precise up until then, and his slip ups to his discovery ended up feeling forced and a bit out of character. The movie is extremely predictable, chunks of dialogue from screenplay writer Madhuri Shekar, who hasn’t done much else (this movie was based off an Audible original, it probably should’ve been kept that way), felt clunky and inauthentic (especially the parts over the phone) and there was no visual flair from directors Elan Dassani and Rajeev Dassani, who I’m not familiar with either, as they have mostly done shorts. It felt like it should’ve been a Blumhouse Lifetime movie, not something exclusive to prime. It all felt fake. I also think I’m being extra super hard on this movie because Netflix already tried to rip off and do a reverse gender and race Fatal Attraction earlier this year with Fatal Affair, which currently is in my top twenty worst of the year list. This movie is much better than that one, due to that the movie did have something to say about Indian culture, love and marriage expectations, and what the ‘evil eye’ is to their people, but it was still disappointing because even with those factors, it was just another beat by beat rip off of other and better movies with no sense of unique style. I don’t know if my eye will be able to take more “Welcome To The Blumhouse” movies in the near future…will have to probably wait and see what other eyes think of them first before proceeding to give them a chance.

Amazon Prime’s “Blumhouse Presents” Film Ratings:

  1. The Lie: C+
  2. Black Box: C
  3. Nocturne: C-
  4. Evil Eye: D+

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: NOCTURNE (Amazon Prime)

NOCTURNE is just a rip off of Black Swan, just replace the ballerina horror aspects of the latter film with piano playing and you get the former. Blumhouse productions is very frustrating in general. Only one in twenty of their films produced by mastermind Jason Blum is worth anything to write home about, and that one in twenty usually debuts in a theater. The other nineteen are usually direct to streaming (with one or two somehow getting theatrical distribution), cheap little projects, and it shows. Most of these Blumhouse produced films range from being only okay to down right fucking abysmal. The Amazon Prime exclusive ones, these newly introduced ‘Welcome To The Blumhouse’ ones, where they will put out 4 films in one month every several months, are the only okay ones. The Hulu exclusive ones, the one film per month going on two years now, labeled the “Into The Dark’ series, are the abysmal ones. So it is really not that all surprising that Nocturne is in the only okay category. However, while it might be in the only okay category when talking about its overall execution, the thought of it being beat by beat (literally, even the ending) of a much superior film makes you want to fit it right next to the abysmal file. Don’t get me wrong, it is very admirable if you are able to green light and make a motion picture on a small budget, but if you are a production company that mass produces them to no end, kind of like how author James Patterson is able to release 10 books all in the span of a year (I stopped reading his schlock awhile ago), then most of your content is just going to be bland, no excitement or surprises. IMDB describes Nocturne with the following: “An incredibly gifted pianist makes a Faustian bargain to overtake her older sister at a prestigious institution for classical musicians.” Don’t get me wrong, the movie is certainly watchable, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre table.

The definition of nocturne is “is a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night.” Night equals dark. A dark movie usually doesn’t have a happy ending. Remember how I said this movie is a rip off of Black Swan? Has the dawn of light risen in your thoughts in what I’m trying to get you to see? Yeah, thought so. The movie is way too predictable and even if Black Swan hadn’t come before it, the very beginning of the film shows the entire story’s hand. There are several chances the film has to surprise viewers and flip all preconceived notions on their heads, but the film doesn’t take any of them. There are two things that are good in the movie, and only two: 1. The cinematography and shots are impressive and 2. The leads Sydney Sweeney and Madison Iseman give impressive performances. Although I would’ve like to see Sweeney play the sister and Iseman play the gifted pianist that made a Faustian bargain. Sydney Sweeney hasn’t really ever played (from what I’ve seen) the wholesome good girl, and while she is fine here, her transformation from a righteous yet shy girl into a jealous sort holding contempt for everyone wasn’t quite as day and night as I would’ve liked it to be. Madison Iseman has played both the good and bad girl (The Fuck It List/Jumanji) in different projects and I think maybe if they had switched roles, their character arcs would’ve been more clear. And don’t go in expecting a full on horror movie. There are absolutely no jump scares or tension, and it is definitely less artsy fartsy (the good kind for me) than Black Swan was. It’s more psychological. But due to the fact that there are no surprises in writer/director Zu Quirke‘s screenplay (she should maybe only stick to directing next time), the only deep rooted question you should be asking your id is why you decided to press play on this title in the first place.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION (Netflix)

THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION, that just premiered on Netflix this past weekend, is thankfully another solid original from the streaming platform, and yet another movie you probably haven’t heard of. Why is it always the good ones that no one hears about or watches, yet you guys kept jerking off to Hubie Halloween this past weekend? Seriously, has this pandemic gotten you all on the spectrum? HOW HAS HUBIE HALLOWEEN BEEN #1 ON NETFLIX SINCE FRIDAY YOU FUCKING HACKS?!?!? **cools down** Anyway, for every Hubie there is something like this that maybe people will discover weeks, months, or years down the line, especially if it gets an Oscar nomination or two this year. I don’t know if this will, haven’t done much research on it other than that it’s 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. IMDB describes this film with the following: “Radha is a down-on-her-luck NY playwright, who is desperate for a breakthrough before 40. Reinventing herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime, she vacillates between the worlds of Hip Hop and theater in order to find her true voice.” Although the movie bogs down in some cliches, such as her embarrassing herself the first time she is on stage, the best friend agent, and the unlikely love interest, those aspects are quickly forgiven when you realize this is an excellently told gentrification movie about gentrification and overcoming those odds. This isn’t only surface level in your face gentrification themes like the ho-hum Vampires Vs. The Bronx that came out a couple of weeks ago on the same streaming platform. This gentrification is much more subtle, and it goes deep down under the surface, where it should be.

There are not any recognizable faces in this movie, so try to go in with an open mind, and this movie is also in black and white, which I think added a unique look and layer to the film other than if it had just been in color. There are a few snippets of color, but they are used in the right places to strap down the themes the movie has in store for you. With all of that, and even a tad bit over a two hour run time, the movie is very entertaining and well acted. Radha Black has not only crafted an important screenplay that opens the window a little into her biographical life while hitting home important racial and sex themes, but she even has some solid acting chops and a nice eye behind the camera. I don’t know what made her film this in black and white, but it was definitely a nice touch and makes it stand out from other films in that genre. She also frames shots very well, and moves the camera to character point of view with perfect flow and grace. The freestyle rapping was actually decent, didn’t feel staged or fake and had some nice beats. The film also took its time to get to familiar story beats which made them not so familiar, even when you know what is going to happen at the end of the opening night of her play that was taken over by pretentious white douche bags. The subtle themes relating to Radha’s mother was a nice little footnote in the story as well, very emotional. There is nothing much more to say other than to give this movie a chance if you are looking for a pleasing drama that is smart if you need a vacation from the dumb stupid idiotic same old same old bullshit from Adam Sandler. Come on guys, let’s either get him to do better or cancel his ass altogether. Grow some brains during this fucking shit year.