Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ABOMINABLE (no spoilers) + mini review of CAMP CINEMARK!!!

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR YETI…..errrr, I mean ABOMINABLE will forever now be lodged in my mind as my son Grayson’s first movie (he just turned two) in the theater. I remember that he was mostly very, very respectful during it, only really ooooing and ahhhhing at the really cool magical moments, the only movement was when he was just wanting to sit in mommy or daddy’s lap from his own seat. He was an excellent movie theater patron, even though he was in a kid friendly theater, and made this movie nerd very proud. A movie nerd that sometimes wants to fucking snap people’s God damn necks if you talk or text during a regular, more adult movie. Or play with those stupid God damn Apple watches (you know who you are). The movie itself? Eh…it was alright. And cute. I am obviously going to recommend this movie to families, because I did find it charming and even laughed during some moments, and my kid basically paid full attention to it the full 95 minutes, but it’s no Toy Story 4. And definitely no How To Train Your Dragon (both Dragon and this was made by Dreamworks Animation). The movie is…acceptable.

The plot is simple. Big abominable snowman escapes from science facility and ends up on the apartment roof of a sad girl named Yi. Yi is a young girl, a violin player that is stuck in the past, not playing anymore because she misses her dad, who died, who she played for and who taught her how to play, and not giving her mother and grandmother the time of day. The big snowman happens to see a giant Everest advertisement from their roof and Yi and two of her younger boy family friends named Peng and Jin decide to go return them to his home. However, the assholes from the science experiment place that imprisoned him are right on their tale and want them back. With everything I just gave you, you can connects the dots from act one, to act two, to act three pretty easily, and can guess what will ultimately happen. This little road trip kid movie does have its charms though throughout the way and is able to entertain even though it brings absolutely nothing new to the kid movie drama. In fact you could say it borrows too much from other films, and felt really close to ripping off How To Train Your Dragon, with the whole being afraid of giant animals but then learning to love and work with them. Also takes a little bit from Kubo and the Two Strings with the whole violin playing thing (you’ll see).

There is a whooping snake gag that works in the movies favor, bringing it back just when you thought the movie forgot about it. There are also some cute little sight gags involving blueberries and an iphone flashlight that had me chuckling. I also liked the little bait and switch with the whole “who is the real bad guy?” little plot line the movie manages to pull off gracefully. And finally, the movie does have a couple of warm fuzzy feeling “Pixar” moments as well, as the whole adventure is just to get Yi to let go of her deceased father and have her give her mother and grandmother more attention. And even though all of it is generic, it all gets a slight recommendation for me, mainly because it kept my toddler’s attention throughout the whole thing and I was able to enjoy it with him. I also enjoyed some of the chance sequences that involved a dandelion and a fun trip though a flower field using the Yeti (who they name Everest btw) magical powers. That right, can’t go through the film without this special creature having magical powers.

The voice acting isn’t one to cry home about except for Chloe Bennett (Quake on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) who plays Yi, and Sarah Paulson, who plays one of the scientists trying to get the Yeti back. Chloe Bennett completely strips away everything about her voice from the Marvel show and brings humanity and Grace to Yi, and it seemed like Sarah Paulson had fun getting a break from all that drama and horror on television she’s so accustomed to play. The writers and directors of these haven’t done too much theatrically, one of them coming up with the story idea for Monster’s Inc. and both of them involved with Open Season. I think if they had time to perfect and screenplay geared toward a child and combined with their already fine direction, they could have a masterpiece on their hands someday. This obviously isn’t it, but it is a solid effort. If I would’ve saw this by myself, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much, so like I said, go with younger ones or with your family, and you’ll at least have a nice experience with a passable film.

CAMP CINEMARK (the one in Allen, Texas) basically consists of taking one of the many screens that Cinemark usually offers patrons and making it kid friendly. The inside consists of different kinds of comfy seats and loungers and the floor has several decently sized puffy mats for those that want to lay back and watch the movie up close. There are twinkly lights at the top (obviously dimmed way down once the movie starts) to imitate stars in the night sky and decorative plastic trees that try and make it feel like you are watching a movie at a mini camp out. Obviously kids can talk and make minor noises during the movie without being shushed or bitched at but phones are still to be on silent and not taken out during the movie. If your child can’t sit still there is a small room right outside the theater for them to get there energy out or to get them to calm down before you bring them back inside. This room is supposed to have an interactive wall but this wall wasn’t working at the time we got to the theater. Didn’t really matter anyway as our son didn’t have to go in that room during the screening.

My family and friends didn’t thing I’d be able to handle a kid friendly screening, where kids could talk and make minor noises while the movie was playing. But anyone that told me that, I scoff at your asses and give you all the middle finger, because the theater was filled up pretty decently and most of the kids acted better than the bullshit I have to put up with with teens and even grown ups in a regular screening. Yeah, one or two kids pointed at the screen and babbled some shit, but it didn’t bother me because I knew where I was at and where my place was. Even with my kid there and me worrying about him a little bit, I was still able to easily pay attention to the entire movie. I would gladly take my kid there to something he would like to see in the future between the ages of now and 6-7.

I would only give Camp Cinemark 4 out of 5 stars. Two reasons why I would take away a star. First off, I really would’ve liked to see that interactive wall work in the calm down room. The fact that it wasn’t working the first showing in the morning was a little bit ridiculous. Whoever manages that Cinemark in Allen, Texas, and if they just so happen to read this, probably needs to get that shit fixed. Now here is something that corporate needs to fix. There are WAY TOO MANY GOD DAMN TRAILERS BEFORE THE MOVIE and THE NOOVIE (spelled correctly) SPONSORED ENTERTAINMENT BEFORE THE TRAILERS CONTENT WASN’T GEARED TOWARDS KIDS.

For kids with severe ADD, unless you bring your kids in right before the movie starts, are going to have some problems staying calm and staying in there seat. Instead of watching and hearing what Maria Menounous introducing regular content and then talking about how she almost died of a brain tumor earlier in life (I shit you not), why not get some licensed cartoons that they kids could watch before the previews and switch them out every couple of months. And the kids and especially the adults don’t need 20 minutes of previews. Cut that shit in half or even 3/4ths and keep the previews kid friendly. They don’t give a shit about a PG-13 sequel to Jumanji. Stick to cartoons. Also there are two Cinemark beginnings, the regular one with the popcorn and the soda that makes you hungry and need to take a piss at the same time, and then the Camp Cinemark opening. CUT OUT THE FIRST ONE. Those are my recommendations to make CAMP CINEMARK nearly perfect. Even without those fixes, I’d still take Grayson there again.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AD ASTRA (no spoilers)

While I don’t think AD ASTRA is a masterpiece like some are saying it is, I really, really liked it, and in some parts I even felt love. It is going to be a little hard and a little weird to explain my feelings with this movie, but I hope you can bear with me in my next couple of zany paragraphs. Because, even with the most stupid, inane, and inept space films out there, I always manage to get something out of them. I really do enjoy science fiction films, especially when they give me a sense of claustrophobia without feeling claustrophobic. See? Told you I wouldn’t make any sense with this one. But from the opening scenes to the end credits, I was perfectly enthralled with this, entertained and enjoyed almost every minute of it. There are some glaring faults that prevent me from considering this a true space/science fiction masterpiece, but the movie had a precise narrative flow to it even though some of the subtext and themes get a little lost (or a little too found) in translation.

Even though I would consider this one of the more realistic space/science fiction films in recent memory (especially Interstellar, I mean, come on…that ending), Ad Astra I feel borrows from one too many films to be its own completely unique creation. It’s basically parts Interstellar, parts Apocalypse Now/Heart Of Darkness, parts Alien, parts 2001 A Space Odyssey, parts The Martian, parts Contact all rolled into one adventure that contains heaps of daddy issues. Brad Pitt though is once again excellent as an astronaut given a classified mission after a giant energy surge catastrophe on Earth kills people in the tens of thousands. It turns out this surge’s origin might’ve been on a top secret government/NASA project near Neptune that has been going on for almost three decades the leader of which, is Pitt’s father, played by Tommy Lee Jones. The government sends Brad Pitt to Mars to send a message to his dad to see if their project, which includes searching for extra terrestrial life, is indeed the cause of the incident and could end up eventually destroying all life in the galaxy. But as Pitt goes along in his mission, there is of course more to it than meets the eye, as Pitt struggles with his priorities of seeing/speaking his father again after twenty some odd years, and potentially saving the universe.

From my description, you can probably piece together where all those themes and context from all those different films I listed come into play. Well, maybe except a little for Alien, you’ll get what I mean after you get freaked out with a fantastic tension filled small horror sequence the movie has to offer. The film does feel unique, although it just feels a little too familiar to say it is the “end all be all of space epics.” But I would happily revisit this film again and again, that’s how much it has stuck with me since leaving the theater. The special effects in this film are incredible, with several sequences dazzling my eyes to the tune of wonderment. Specifically, there is a sequence at the beginning with Pitt on a giant space satellite needle that was very vertigo inducing, and there is also a sort of pirate chase sequence involving rovers on the surface of the moon near the beginning of the second act that was pretty stunning to experience. All of the science as well seemed to have added up, except for one sequence near the very end of the film that involves propelling off something while also using a small part of a space station as a shield (you’ll know it when you see it).

The main issue I feel that people are going to have with this movie are the themes and context of it all. For a large part of the movie, the filmmakers spoon feed all of what is happening on screen to audience members that they don’t think would “get it.” Give us credit, we are smarter than we look. Some of this spoon fed stuff comes in the form of Brad Pitt’s narration, which, even though he didn’t seem like he was phoning it in, like the original theatrical cut of Blade Runner, I felt was completely unnecessary. We could’ve figured out everything the film was meaning to tell us on our own, without the narration. The visuals are key in this and were more than enough to clue us in. Another problem is mainly with the daddy issues thing that controls basically the whole narrative. It’s not that the payoff is disappointing, it is that none of the set ups make the ending truly satisfying. It is hard to explain much without going into true spoilers, but the beginning of the film makes it as though Pitt is following his fathers footsteps at being disconnected too much with society. I got that, but I didn’t feel as if that notion were earned. The movie clocks in at around two hours, but to make it a tight film, I feel like they needed to maybe add one or two more scenes with Pitt and Liv Tyler, along with completely taking out the narration.

This is Pitt’s movie, with everyone playing a far, far, far, far second fiddle. Tommy Lee Jones is in it a little, and is good at the parts he is in. That’s all I’ll say on that front. Ruth Negga is also in a couple of scenes, and I enjoyed her presence as well. The ‘and’ in the credits and on the poster is Donald Sutherland and he sort of earns that title, being in the film for only a handful of scenes (good in this as well). I thought his arc would end much earlier than it ended up. The person who is really short changed is Liv Tyler. She’s probably in the film for about 2-3 minutes total, and it is all mostly flashbacks or quick ‘blink or you miss her’ visual cuts. Even though she’s playing basically the same role that she had in Armageddon (staying on Earth while her love is out in space), I think she has matured as an actress (see: The Leftovers) where I would’ve liked to see her blossom a little bit with more of an on-screen role. It honestly could’ve been an unknown playing her character and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference in this case.

And while others are complaining that all the subtext, context, what have you, is all easily displayed on screen, with nothing left to make you think, I for one don’t think that is necessarily true. Again, not to get into spoilers, but I picked some things out of my viewing that I don’t think others would likely get unless the he/she viewed the film several more times. I saw a couple of hidden themes and such that when put together with the rest of the movie, told a more layered and complex narrative than initial believed. I don’t want to go into spoilers, and saying what I think would be doing so, so if you see this and want to discuss, I am available as I would like to see what you gathered from this film as well. See if our minds connected somehow.

Anyway, I really liked this film a lot. Loved some sequences. Yes, I wish it were tighter so it would’ve been a unique masterpiece, but just glad it wasn’t a disaster and that it entertained me the entire time and kept my attention. It really is a beautiful film. Beautifully claustrophobic if that makes any sense to you. This is easily writer/director James Gray’s best film, although I don’t know if that is saying much, considering I only really like this and his last film The Lost City of Z, out of his filmography (never saw The Yards). It really didn’t make all that much in the theater this past weekend, but I have a feeling more people will discover it on video. I mean come on people, it’s Brad Pitt, he usually pics and chooses his projects pretty well. I would definitely recommend you take this visit “to the stars.” (what the term Ad Astra actually means)

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: RAMBO – LAST BLOOD

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD is such a clotty mess that it really is a shame that such an iconic character had to go out this way. The last Rambo movie, the 4th one, just titled…well, Rambo, had him killing the shit out of bad guys in the jungle but in the end going home, to a ranch, maybe to live the rest of his life with some kind of peace. And even though that movie was only okay, I liked that ending. It was a solid bookend and it gave a sense of hope. But then again so was Rocky Balboa, and then they scratch out that ending with Creed, and then yet again with Creed II, which thankfully, even though the entire universe odds were riding against it, was a fine ending to that character until the studio system decides to fuck it up again. Sylvester Stallone took that nice, hopeful Rambo IV ending…and ass raped it several times over with the sharpest machete one could find with this. The story is absolutely terrible. And cliche. And whatever negative thing you could say about it narrative wise. Even though the last 20 minutes are an action aficionados wet dream, the other hour and ten minutes are, and I know I use this term a lot, abysmal. ADRIANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!

At the start of the film, John Rambo is still at that ranch that he came to at the end of Rambo IV, and manages it with an old friend, Maria, and her granddaughter Gabrielle. Gabrielle graduated high school and is about to go off to college, when a shady friend that is right across the near border of Mexico, has found her dad that abandoned her and her mom when Gabrielle’s mom got cancer. Even though Rambo and her grandmother tell her not to, she goes anyway, and is kidnapped and sold into sex slavery, and John Rambo has to go find her and save her. All of it is cliched up the wazoo, except for one little plot point right before the 20-25 minutes of pure carnage I didn’t see coming, and normally I praise this kind of thing, but the twist was so fucking depressing that any hope the movie had left to give me completely flushed everything down the toilet. I mean, John Rambo can’t get the shaft his entire life, can he? Doesn’t he deserve some kind of happiness?

I can’t count the number of times I checked my watch during this film, I was so bored. This film makes Rambo III look like the best action film of all time. If you don’t know what I mean, I’m trying to say that this film is easily the worst of the five. The first two are really good and quite decent, the third is over-the-top looney tunes garbage, the 4th tries too hard to redeem itself, and this one is as disappointing a concluding chapter like the recent last season of Game of Thrones. I mean, the acting is fine, Sylvester Stallone still seems as if he’s taking all of his trips back to his iconic characters very seriously. Paz Vega is good here but wasted, but the grandmother and the girl who plays Gabriella do a fine job. It’s just that I didn’t care about the story. There has got to be some way that they could’ve taken a longer and more focused job trying to find the perfect story and script for Rambo’s swan song…right? I have a feeling the studio offered him money off the success of Creed and Creed II to come back to this character, but told him to hurry it the fuck up. It shows. Where is Cobra when you need him? Hell, where is Gabriel Walker when you need him?

Another terrible thing the film gets wrong is the villains. Once again, they are completely unmemorable and are just fodder for Rambo to maim and kill later. The do some heinous shit in this (the bad guys are brothers), but they barely have enough screen time to truly earn the audiences genuine disgust. The only thing the film gets right is the last 20 minutes when the brothers and their army go and raid Rambo’s ranch that is now set up with booby traps. Stallone gets to let that testosterone loss and just brutally kill people the most horrific and grab your own privates because it hurts to watch way possible. This would’ve been the perfect short film, just those 20 minutes, and should’ve maybe just been filmed initially for like a Rambo IV Special Blu-ray extra. I know that a lot of reviews are complaining about the film mainly because of the Mexican bad guy stereotypes. In this day and age of butthurt and cancel culture, those complaints should be the last things on everyone’s mind. I’m offended that the entire script was just garbage as a whole.

The guy that directed this? Adrian Grunberg, I think this was his first major thing, he directed Get The Gringo (never saw it) which was straight to video, and was assistant directed on a couple of things, but this was his first major theatrical release. Probably will be his last. And while I hope that, if in the off chance this does make a lot of money, and they still do one more, that maybe they take a little longer to get it right. But I say let’s have this all turn into one giant blood clot and that be the end of it. No more. We’ve now officially gotten to John McClane, A Good Day To Die Hard territory where they are one more film away from completely destroying the legacy of such a iconic character. If we ever want to remember Rambo fondly, let’s just watch the first two films and then maybe sneak in the 4th every once in awhile. Just to take the pain away. In Rambo: Last Blood, the pain isn’t just brought to the villains on screen…the audience also feels every hazardous blunt stab.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BETWEEN TWO FERNS – THE MOVIE (Netflix)

The only way any of you should watch BETWEEN TWO FERNS: THE MOVIE on Netflix is fast forward to the staged awkward celebrity interviews, and then maybe play the Chrissy Teigan non interview part as well because that has to do with an interview that takes place shortly there after (halfway thru the film), and then watch the hilarious outtakes during the end credits, and you’ll be done in about 15-20 mins. I’m telling you this to try and save an hour of your life, because the other hour is absolute garbage and I think foreshadows Netflix’s ultimate doom. To be clear, this is not one of the worst films of the year. I can’t manage to say it, because the very few bright bits that are in this thing, made me lose it in laughter (especially the end credit outtakes). This movie is utterly pointless. This is the same thing that Saturday Night Live did with stretching some of their really funny skits into movies in the 90s (excluding Wayne’s World and A Night At The Roxbury), and then making them not funny anymore. It should’ve just stuck to the couple of minutes that would give it every one in awhile.

Or if Netflix really wanted something feature length so badly to have to do with that fake show, they should’ve had Zach Galifianakis just shoot 85 minutes worth of just those awkward staged interviews. Instead, they tried to write some sort of fucking meandering abysmal plot where not one second of it is actually even chuckle worthy. Basically because of a plumbing problem, an interview with Matthew McConaughey goes haywire and destroys the set on the cable access program. Will Ferrell as a asshole diva version of himself (painfully unfunny to watch) then gives Zack an ultimatum: Give Ferrell ten new interviews within a couple of weeks and not only will he be able to keep his job but he’ll let him have his own late night national talk show. Zack then takes his show on the road to get any celebrity willing to be “interviewed.” The hour that is absolute garbage is pretty much everything but the staged interviews. Zach Galifianakis co-wrote this film with its director Scott Aukerman, clearly focusing on the hilarious fake interview questions and not knowing what to do with the forced plot around it all.

I mean, it’s as though they didn’t even fucking try. Like there is this small bit where his secretary keeps not taking care of the original ferns so she just keeps going out and buying new ones, trying to make the audience laugh by him measuring the length of each and calculating its moisture and then asking if those ferns are the same plants as the interview before. None of it works. He develops friendships with his co-workers on the road trip that is unfunny and feels forced, then the movie does that “nothing to lose” bit where the character is about to give up but ultimately doesn’t, all correlating in a climax you’ve seen in about a million different other films, and they can’t even manage the satire on that shit correctly. Other than the awkward staged interviews, this film is a giant fucking mess.

There are a shit ton of cameos from A-list celebrities in l here, and I’m not going to list all of them as it would ruin the fun. I did though particularly laugh at questions asked to Chance The Rapper, Hailee Steinfeld, Paul Rudd, Keanu Reeves, and a few others, with Chance and Rudd really making me have a laughing fit for about a minute. And then there are the outtakes during the end credits, which had me in tears with laughter. Honestly you could probably just get away with watching those and come out feeling you got a decent 2-3 minutes out of the program. But for the love of God, don’t watch the whole thing, I’m begging you. It really is dreadfully, painfully, egotistically unfunny. Someone filming me getting kicked in the nuts is funnier than the majority of this movie. Here is one of the only funny bits, and if you don’t laugh at this, then this movie is DEFINITELY not for you:

(Zack is interviewing Chance The Rapper):

Zach: “Why did your parents name you Chance The Rapper?”

Chance: “My parents didn’t name me that.”

Zach: “Do you have any siblings?”

Chance: I have a brother.

Zach: “And what does he do?”

Chance: “He also raps.”

Zach: “Did your parents name him Community Chest The Rapper?”

This is just another example of why I think that, in two to three years, once all these other streaming services are up and running, that Netflix will be kaput, unless they lower their prices to compete with the others and also stop trying to buy every single thing out there that is available. We need more stuff like Triple Fronteir, I Am Mother, The Irishman (I haven’t seen it I’m just assuming since it is Scorcese it’s going to be great) and Roma, and not crap like Sextuplets, The Last Laugh, The Silence, this movie, and the countless other shit films I haven’t even bothered with giving a chance. Television show wise all they’ve really got is Stranger Things. I mean, they did fuck up House of Cards, and while I still like it, there is a shit ton of people who hate 13 Reasons Why. This is the perfect opportunity for Netflix to create new jobs. They hire people with an actual brain to scan and research the content presented to them before they buy and air it. Don’t just throw money at people and take these mystery boxes. Cut the fucking fat. This movie was basically only had one or two good bites, the rest too tough to chew.

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

HUSTLERS marketing is very misleading…as it should be. Unfortunately, everything shown to you via trailers and TV spots is how it has to be to get your butt into the theater. For women, you go into this thinking its going to be just a zany girls comedy about strippers ripping off rich assholes. For men, you probably put on some oversized pants and hope to see just some trashy comedy and maybe Jennifer Lopez in a g-string or two, thinking that this is your Magic Mike. And while it is both those things to both genders, it is also so much more. All the stripper sleaze and comedic stuff is really only about 10% of this picture. The other 90% you get a character drama with incredible acting that does realistic justice to the “Inspired By A True Story” title card shown in the opening moments. All of it is nicely put together and packaged for anybody 17 or over to enjoy, and when unwrapping this oddity, you not only get the best film about strippers ever made, you get one of the most surprisingly entertaining films of the year and one of the very best films of 2019, period.

I am just as surprised as you are reading this. When I first saw the trailer for this thing, it was a complete pass from me. “Oh, this is probably like Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL, but still somehow for women because of the conning of male assholes angle…only catering to men by possibly promising a little skin from Lopez, but none from the other main leads, yet a lot of naked stripper background extras. But then I heard some rumblings out of the Toronto International Film festival, and some friends that pre-screened it at my local theater, that said it was actually quite good. So after deciding to give it a chance, and once the really funny credits with the announcer voice started to roll, I realized I was right on the skin part, but very wrong on who this movie is for. Anyone, old enough in age, will enjoy this film. You don’t have to be a certain gender to see it, it has something for everyone, and it tells a realistic story. The problem with films like Magic Mike, it’s sequel XXL, and Striptease with Demi Moore is that all those felt like fantastical stories. Striptease went wayyyyy over the top with its tale, and while Magic Mike and it’s sequel was (kind of) based off Channing Tatum’s stint as a stripper, the really lame love story combinedwith an absolutely awful performance by the love interest, Cody Horn, and the over the top sequences in the sequel, with another abysmal performance by Amber Heard, makes all of those films abysmal and unbearable to watch. Hustlers feels like it’s trying to entertain you, but also be much more down to Earth. It’s what Goodfellas and Casino did for the mafia tale. Hustlers is the Goodfellas of stripper movies you might say.

And much more than just the idea, but also stylistically wise. When any movie nerd thinks about Goodfellas, they think about that films aesthetic choices by Scorcese, for example like camera work/shot choices, music selection, etc, etc. When watching Hustlers, (but remember, I watch films probably a shit ton deeper than the casual film-goer) all of these storytelling devices/choices by the writer and director of this film, Lorene Scafaria, came off the screen to me in spades, making me appreciate that this movie wasn’t just a shot by shot process, but contained the aura of a true film auteur. The music selection here is absolutely brilliant (best use of Lorde’s Royals I have ever witnesses), some auditory narrative cues are top notch (such as when Constance Wu shuts off Julia Stiles voice recorder), and the camera is steady when it needs to be, but also guerrilla style when the tone calls for it. When looking at all of this, and combine it with fantastic performances and an entertaining story, you actually have a near masterpiece here. This is only Scafari’s third picture (the other two are The Meddler and Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, she also directed some episodes of New Girl) and is easily her best, with possibly the promise of being a serious Oscar contender some day.

I mean, do I really need to get into the story? It’s about strippers that were used to a certain lifestyle before the big financial crisis of 2008, where after a couple of years wanting that glamorous living back, several of them devised a scheme to rip off the rich elite by drugging them and running their credit card when inebriated. The movie’s marketing makes it seem like it is a little out of this world, aka Ocean’s 11 style, but like I said, the marketing is misleading. The cons these girls pull off are actually quite real, serious, and sometimes scary. The film does a great job in blurring that line between cheering for the girls to “get dat money” from these rich snobs, and then horrified when they rip off the wrong person (one who doesn’t deserve it), and wonder if they should be really sorry for what they have done. And the film doesn’t get into all that conning right away. The beauty of it is that it takes its time, letting us get to know our characters so that way, when this shady shit does start happening, we actually start to ponder the morality of it all. In fact, I don’t think the true conning starts until a little over halfway into the film.

And the acting? What would you think if I told you this is Jennifer Lopez’s show…and that it is easily her best performance…ever? Well it is. And was as surprised as you will be to witness it. I personally didn’t think Jennifer Lopez can act. She was decent in Out of Sight, but then she was in all those awful rom-coms (too many to list, none of them good) and while U-Turn and Anaconda were decent little fun flicks, she was abysmal in them. I’m not going to even mention Gigli. Now, I haven’t seen Selena, but after hearing how good she is in that film and then seeing her in this, I’m beginning to think she’s of the Nicholas Cage, Adam Sandler, and Seth Rogen variety. They are fantastic when they have those 1 in a billion roles they are perfect for (Cage: Leaving Las Vegas, Sandler: Punch Drunk Love, Rogen: 50/50). This is her 1 in a billion role that just makes her seem absolutely brilliant. Even though she’s more of a supporting player in Hustlers, this is her film, and she electrifies every time she is on screen. She displays absolute confidence in her role and presence on screen, and in another world, I could see her nominated for a Supporting Oscar, no fucking joke.

Constance Wu is the main, main character, and while I didn’t appreciate her real life attitude over Fresh Off The Boat not getting cancelled, she is pretty great here too, completely separating herself from that sitcom and her “oh shucks” performance in Crazy Rich Asians. She plays a real person here and I totally believed that she was a stripper. And before I get ahead of myself with the other acting, here’s a good question” does me having actually gone to strip clubs make a difference with how I felt with the movie? Yes and no. Yes acting wise because for everyone other than one of the actresses, they completely looked and acted the part of strippers that I have seen going to one of those places only a handful of times in my life. No, because even if I hadn’t ever been to a strip club, I would’ve still found the story enjoyable, fascinating and realistic. Cardi B, who once was a real stripper, fortunately is barely in this (maybe less than 3 minutes, as is Lizzo), as I could barely understand her one or two jokes or half the things she was saying other than “run out the clock, but don’t run out the cock.” She was definitely a believable stripper though…take that for what you will.

KeKe Palmer is also one of the main leads, and while I found her annoying and brash in things like Scream Queens and Scream Season 3, here, she is very tolerable and actually quite believable in her role. Julia Stiles is listed in the main cast, but isn’t a stripper, she has the nice cushy job in only being in the film for two or three scenes, mainly sitting in a chair as a journalist recording Constance Wu’s character’s story. I’ve always like Julia Stiles, and while I didn’t really believe her as a journalist, she gets a pass from me from her past stuff. The true weak link here is unfortunately Lili Reinhart, who plays one of the four main strippers. Basically, she plays her character as just another version of Riverdale’s Betty Cooper…who just happens to be an exotic dancer. Reinhart is just too pretty to be a believable stripper here. Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t terrible in this at all, it just felt she was cast because of her emerging success from that CW show, to get more teenagers to flock to the theater. She does have a good throw up joke throughout the movie that just gets funnier and funnier the more it is brought up though.

But yeah, I enjoyed the hell out of Hustlers. When the movie was over, I couldn’t believe the hour and 50 minutes was up. Time flew as fast as an 85-90 minute film it was that entertaining to watch. Maybe I’m hyping this thing too much because of my low low expectations going into it, but I’m writing this review with my heart, and in my heart I know I could watch this movie several times over, one of those you could catch on TV in the middle of, and either watch it to the end, or put on your own copy to start from the beginning and watch it all the way through. This movie made me rethink by top twenty of the year list, and have went back and tweaked it a little bit, bringing some movies back from the dead and then kicking some to the curb. That re-examination happens with very few films…which is saying something. If you have any interest in Hustlers at all, go see it, especially with friends. If you don’t have any interest, maybe my review could hustle your ass into the theater.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON

If there is only one reason to go see BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON is that it easily contains Jillian Bell’s best performance to date. I’ve always liked her, from the few times I’ve actually caught an episode of Workaholics to all the other crude, crass, drug, dick & fart joke comedies, where she effortlessly can elevate any lazy material into sounding funny and fresh. Here, she combines that quick wit and mixes in a little bit of a dramatic performance to bring the audience something we’ve never seen before from her: becoming an actual multi-dimensional character. She’s really brilliant in this and hope she maybe can stay away from those lame brain comedies and do something more to this nature from now on (although paychecks say otherwise). She is really that charismatic and charming. Another reason is that this movie, instead of resorting to the dated and aged fat shaming to get a bigger person to start to lose weight (see: Just Friends), uses superior and smarter ways to promote not only healthy reasons and goals to want to stay in shape, but also manages to achieve degrees of good mental health. Hell, this movie happily made me want to take my fat ass on a walk when I returned home.

The movie is inspired by a true story (although Jillian Bell and the real Brittany look almost nothing alike) and it is about a woman, who after a doctor’s visit realizes she isn’t healthy and needs to lose some weight. So she decides to train for New York City’s Annual Marathon and along the way she discovers friends, love, and positive mental health. Yes, the movie is by the books predictable and (almost) ends on the exact note you’d predict it would, but the laughs are there and quite frequent, the positive energy and messages are constant, and Jillian Bell’s performance is worth the price of admission alone. I love the friendships she ends up having with a homosexual, out-of -shape father that just wants to have his son proud of him, and the downstairs older woman neighbor who Brittany finds annoying at first. And the weird, possible more than friendship-ship she finds when house sitting a rich couples dog.

The only thing that maybe felt a little too cliched for me was the deteriorating friendship she has with her former roommate. The bickering during those scenes felt a little too old and tired and you could tell by Jillian Bell’s face that should couldn’t do much with the stale dialogue and messages in those parts. But those parts are quickly redeemed by other scenes, such as when she sees a bigger woman being in a relationship with a skinnier handsome looking gentleman. I also saw that Jillian Bell worked very hard physically on the film, as you can see a wonderful and gradual healthy transformation scene by scene right in front of your eyes. I’ve always found Jillian Bell attractive, but in this film, combined with her fantastic personality, she is absolutely and stunningly gorgeous.

I want this to be one of my shorter reviews so this will be a concluding paragraph. Sorry to be blunt, but I’ve been writing too much lately. The direction, shots, and cinematography don’t really do much in terms of style, but this film is all substance, so bland style is automatically forgivable. This films has a huge heart and a large positive energy vibe, promoting mental and physical health in a way that transitions itself comfortably to the politically correct era that we are living in currently. I think entertainment has come a long way from Fat Monica on Friends and Fat Ryan Reynolds on Just Friends. This film is also a good motivator for those that are looking to pick themselves up and make themselves healthier both physically and mentally. Heck, it has me wanting to try and do better myself…this movie might’ve been the push I needed!

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: IT CHATPER 2 (spoilers)

I’m going to go with the casual moviegoer on this one (vs the critics) and say that I actually loved IT: CHAPTER 2 quite a bit. But while I also agree that it does not exactly capture the magic of the first film, mainly due to the incredible child performances, I just can’t see why critics and some others aren’t taking to this movie so well. Especially when one person I know said it is one of the top ten worst films he has ever seen in his life. My only guess is that they are walking into this movie completely blind, and haven’t read the source material to sort of know what to expect going in. They had their own expectations, and those expectations weren’t met….kind of like Last Jedi (sorry, I had to). I’ve read the book twice, so I more or less knew what was going to float up on screen and other than a couple of issues, the filmmakers actually nailed it pretty well. With book adaptations, you are usually screwed if you do, and screwed if you don’t when it comes to changing aspects of the book to have it play well and make sense on screen. People that haven’t read the book won’t know that, yeah, basically the adults going back to find and kill Pennywise once and for all is just more of the same from when they were kids (albeit slightly tweaked). For me, personally, it all came together fantastically, and I thought they improved on the so-so ending in Stephen King’s novel. So well in fact it will probably stay in my top ten films of 2019 by the end of the year.

And in my eyes, it is completely fine if you didn’t like It: Chapter 2. I get it, and I’m not going to argue with anyone on the merits of why the film irritated them, especially if they loved Chapter 1. If you are reading this, and hated the film, I can guarantee that you thought the Losers coming back to Derry to kill Pennywise would be more elaborate, epic, and weird. You didn’t think you’d get a remake of the first part (right down to the ending), just with different tweaked scares. That’s okay. Just don’t pick a fight with me on why I loved it. I do recognize its faults, which we will get to in a second, but the long 2 hr and 50 minutes run time did not faze me, entertained the hell out of me, and I loved the look and visuals of the film (minus some awkward CGI moments). When the film was over, I couldn’t believe it had been that long, and I was transfixed with everything that I probably could’ve done another 30 minutes and still not have felt it (and I know exactly what should have been added to take up that run time.)

I thought the acting all around was stellar. Even though some of the characters get short changed with their arcs from the book to the screen, everybody brought their A game. I thought the adult actors really represented their kid counterparts almost perfectly. My favorite of all of them would probably have to be James Ransone as Eddie and Bill Hader as Ritchie. I have to disagree with one aspect everyone is talking of Hader’s performance, mainly that he should get a supporting Oscar nomination for his work. Bill Hader is great in this, but it is in no way an Oscar worthy role, but it could be the gateway to a trophy in the future. Just to see Bill Hader go from SNL to this and Barry, and showing so much more range than previously thought, is just a privilege to be able to experience. The bigger, more A-list stars in this, such as Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are good, but I feel like some of their character arcs were sacrificed to make the overall story more accessible to audiences. And of course, Bill Skarsgard kills it as Pennywise.

Another complaint that a lot of moviegoers seem to have is that Pennywise isn’t in the film that much. To me, that point is moot. Because if he was in this anymore than he was, or if he was in Chapter 1 anymore than he was, everybody would say that there was just way too much of him. Either too little or too much, filmmakers are always trying to fight an uphill battle when it comes to how much screen time these classic antagonists should receive (fun fact, did you know that Heath Ledger is in the Dark Knight for only about 16-18 minutes of the 2 and a half hour runtime? To me that was and still is perfect). Most of the time, filmmakers are probably going to lose. To me, Pennywise is in this the PERFECT amount. Not too little to end up being disappointed and wanting more and not too much to the point of rolling my eyes every time he showed up on screen. The screen time hits a bullseye here. Having Skarsgard in it anymore would’ve lessened the impact of his presence and he would’ve felt less and less like a true threat. Granted, just like Chapter 1, Chapter 2 isn’t really that scary in the first place. But Pennywise has always been creepy. Too much of him, and that creep factor will easily go away. But if you can get the amount of ingredients just right, you get that chilling but welcome uneasiness feeling in every bite, and thankfully this movie is flavorful till the last bite.

Let’s go into the critics complaints versus my complaints for the movie. I realize it has its flaws, but some critics are going so far as saying the editing, the tone, the pacing, all combined with too many flashbacks of the kids is jarring. Other than one awkwardly placed musical choice/moment (when the leper throws up in Adult Eddie’s mouth) and an added joke in ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement, this happens right after a character has been stabbed in the cheek no less), I thought everything mentioned above was quite even. In fact, I’d go far as to say that the studio, the screenwriter Gary Dauberman, and the director, Andy Muschietti did some things that improved upon the adult part of the novel. They managed to make the “Ritual Of Chud” (the way to get rid of Pennywise once and for all) actually make some sense, and then, to try not and ruin anything, they tweak the final form of Pennywise a bit so that we can not only get more of Skarsgard’s fantastic performance, but also have at least some sort of dialogue exchange between the protagonist and antagonist for the audience to understand what is exactly going on story wise. If you’ve read the book, you know that Pennywise’s final form doesn’t really talk all that much, if at all. And while the kids flashbacks are a little more than a cameo, I thought they were fit into the story very well, and it didn’t take me out of the movie for one second. Even though with these flashbacks one could argue that they ret-con some of the events of Chapter 1. For example: the losers have a clubhouse in this we didn’t see at all in the first film, and it is revealed that some of the Losers still saw each other and had more individual Pennywise frights even after they all fought near the end of the second act and the group broke up. But it was all forgivable to me. I loved the look of the film, I loved the tone, to me, almost everything worked.

My complaints are a bit different, one being very minor, one being pretty major. For the minor ones, first off, there are some awkward CGI moments. Surprisingly, none of these are from Pennywise himself, just some of the monsters he conjures up or completely turns into. One of the biggest problems I had with Chapter 1 is that Muschietti (or by the studios orders/demands) added some CGI to Pennywise’s main clown performance, instead of just letting Skarsgard’s performance shine thru to make it creepy all his own. Thankfully, I think they got the message not to do that in this chapter. Instead, they used up all their focus with that and neglected to make some of the CGI monster creations and infestations of Pennywise seem real. For example, I’m talking about the final form of the old lady that Chastain encounters, the obvious ‘The Thing’ homage, and the little bugs and other tiny creatures in the Chinese Restaurant Fortune Cookie scene. I do understand the limitations and shit of CGI, even nowadays, but I have the feeling they could’ve just shelled out some more dough to get some really neat practical effects. Apparently no one there actually watched Krampus from a few years back to know that some practical effects are still fantastic and that incorporating that could’ve put some real haunting imagery and more legitimate scares into the picture.

My one real main complaint is the story arc of Henry Bowers, Bill’s wife Audra, and Beverly’s husband Tom. It seemed like the filmmakers killed Henry off in Chapter 1, with no intention of bringing him back, but shortly into this film, you realize that is not the case, as it has a scene of Henry as a kid, surviving his giant fall in the tunnel near the end of the first movie, only to be washed up on shore at the creek, arrested for the murder of his father, and then incarcerated into the loony bin until present day. In the novel, Henry Bowers is a huge antagonist and looming presence being controlled by Pennywise in order to try and stop the Losers from getting together to perform the Ritual of Chud. He is somewhat of a presence in this, but never feels like a genuine threat, and is dispatched kind of awkwardly. Bill’s wife and Beverly’s husband Tom have pretty big arcs in the novel compared to the one scene each of them have in the movie. Audra actually chasing Bill to Derry looking for him, because she actually loves and cares for him a lot, where she is kidnapped by Marsh’s husband Tom, because he too ends up controlled by Pennywise. I think that if maybe 15-30 minutes were added into the film, more of a presence from them and their arcs could’ve been added to bring more challenges needing to be overcome by main characters of the story, while also fleshing out Beverly and Bill as adults. Like I said, these are only my minor complaints. I do understand why they didn’t do these, it would’ve not only cost more, but it would’ve made the movie unbearably long for people to sit and not have to pee in the theater.

My major complaint: just like Chapter 1, the character of Mike Hanlon gets kind of short changed in Chapter 2. In the movie, all of the characters have to go out find their “tokens” to perform the Ritual of Chud to get rid of Pennywise, and they show everyone’s journey to get those tokens, except for Mike’s. He just shows his token at one point near the end of the film and explains what it is. I have a feeling his quest was also filmed but just cut for time, considering that there is a scene in the trailers that wasn’t in the movie (where Pennywise jumps out a window and stands sideways on a building while Mike looks up in horror). I understand if they had to cut the characters of Tom and Audra for time, but I don’t think I will understand or ever forgive why they had to cut out Mike’s journey. I think his journey also included his mental redemption for him feeling guilty of being the only survivor of that burning building that took the life of his parents when he was a kid. Because of his quest not being in there, all of his story beats come up half empty and at points end up being really murky with trying to understand what all is going on with him as a character. All of it is wrapped up near the end with Mike just looking at a newspaper clipping showing him as the sole survivor of that fire, and then combines that with an “I’m over it” expression on his face. That resolution just felt very cheap, I just hope that maybe an extended cut can be released expanding it and tying everything together a bit more nicely.

Like all my other reviews, this one has run a little long and it is time to wrap it up. In conclusion, while I didn’t love it as much as Chapter 1, I still loved It: Chapter 2 quite a bit. Hell, in some of the scenes, the film even managed to match the greatness of the first one (such as the girl finding Pennywise in the back of the bleachers and the very beginning of the film’s hate crime sequence). I do understand why a lot of people would end up not liking this film. It basically is almost the exact same story and resolution of the first chapter. But having read the book twice and loving every single page (and yes, I do realize that the origin of the novel itself is a cocaine/alcohol infused hybrid mess of ideas, even King has admitted this), I feel like I got more out of this film than most. In fact, I think that the adult version of the story follows the novel more closely than the first chapter did with the kids. And the filmmakers made some very careful choices about what to change from the novel, that most of the time worked out for the better for me (the ending), with only one or two major missteps (Mike Hanlon’s character). So I can’t say say whether or not if you liked Chapter 1 that you’ll definitely liked Chapter 2. That isn’t the case for a lot of people. I can only tell and defend to you why I still loved this movie. I think I have, which will make me float in peace.