Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE CRAFT LEGACY

THE CRAFT: LEGACY is a solid 20 minutes surrounded by a cauldron full of black cat shit. It starts out as an eye rolling almost shot by shot remake, then does a 180 and turns into an interesting direct sequel to the far superior first film, but then crashes and burns with a terrible stand-off climax very similar to the ending of 2015’s awful Fantastic Four reboot. And then a “of course they did that” very last obligatory sequel shot. It’s mind boggling how much of a craptastic roller coaster ride this film is. There are so many plot holes and dangling threads in this movie I thought that the ride was going to fall to the ground long before it did. I mean…did we really need a sequel to The Craft let alone a soft/hard reboot? Rebootquel, as it were? If they were going to make a sequel to that movie, it should’ve been only a couple of years after the first one, which was released in 1996. Was Neve Campbell really that busy after Scream 2? I do know why a sequel wasn’t made then, it’s because the movie didn’t become really popular until years after it had been released. Then many years after that, Blumhouse comes along and gives small budgets to every talentless hack and their mom so that they can make a movie, no matter how shitty it is. And since the budgets are so low and tweens are that on the spectrum to eat that shit up, all of these shitty movies end up making a profit. So fans probably wrote or contacted Jason Blum at some point a couple of years ago about making a small budget sequel to a popular 90s film…and here we are. Except that this is one brew that didn’t even need to start being churned in the first place.

IMDB describes The Craft: Legacy with the following: “A group of high school students form a coven of witches. A sequel to the 1996 film, “The Craft”.” Jesus Christ, how generic was that? I’ll go a bit further this time myself for my constant readers. It starts out almost just like the first film, with a new girl named Lily with untapped powers moving into a new town and her future stepfather’s home (played by X-Files’ David Duchovny) with her mother (played by Michelle Monaghan). The future stepfather has three boys of his own and they are quick to mostly ignore her and make her an outcast of the new found family. In her new school, after a boy bully makes fun of Lily having a heavy period, in a scene more ripped off from Carrie rather than an homage, three other girls, who are witches looking for a fourth to complete their power circle, recruit her and together they discover their coven potential. Doesn’t that sound like a remake and not a sequel to you? And for the first forty five minutes out of a one hour and 36 minute movie which includes ten minutes of credits, that’s exactly what it is, an eye rolling, frustrating remake. One in which one of the witches, played by Gideon Adlon, is annoying and over acts in every scene she is in, David Duchovny looks like he’s depressed about where his career has ended up and wants to kill himself, with only the performance of Lily, played by Cailee Spaeny, barely holding everything together from being a giant dumpster fire. Then around the 45 minute mark, after a confession from one of the step brother’s friends from school (easily the best scene in the film and powerfully acted) the movie turns into something halfway decent, while also turning into a direct sequel that expands upon the mythology of the first film…but only for twenty minutes.

That expansion of the mythology is very short lived and is followed by a terrible CGI revelation, a terrible CGI stand off fight climax where the antagonist literally just stands in one spot the entire time while fighting other people with shitty CGI mystical powers…powers we really hadn’t seen these others do previously in the movie. Combine what I just described with terrible and choppy direction and editing. Then once that is over, the movie completely forgets about a dozen other characters that the antagonist was in cahoots with and turns it into an “everything’s fine now” giant plot hole. Even if it were meant to be a dangling thread, where these other characters went wasn’t explained at all. The fight is over, so let’s take the main character and shove her into a tacked on obligatory laughable sequel scene that had to be a last minute re shoot. Sorry if this is all very vague but I don’t want to spoil the movie for those still interested to watch it. My experience during this sequel sure wasn’t helped by the fact that I re watched the original just a week before. Then again, in this day and age, it isn’t too surprising for a 1996 movie to hold up better than a new rebootquel, isn’t it? Other than those 20 minutes of mythology expansion, the fact that it didn’t end up being a shot by shot remake after the halfway mark, and main protagonist Cailee Spaeny’s acting, this movie was DOA for me. Stick to the original, as I and they say. This is another one of those premium video on demand titles that was supposed to hit theaters around this time, but due to the pandemic, the studio decided to cut its losses and just dump it onto streaming, because they didn’t have any confidence in the movie. To give writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones the benefit of the doubt, this movie certainly isn’t trying to be lazy, it just comes across that way because of the budget and the editing…maybe a director’s cut is lurking somewhere in the shadows? If not, may this film mount a broomstick and fly into the moonlight, never to be seen again.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: YES, GOD, YES

YES, GOD, YES is a very, very short feature length film, without credits it’s only an hour and 11 minutes long, and IMDB describes it with the following: “After an innocent AOL chat turns racy, a Catholic teenager in the early 00s discovers masturbating and struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of eternal damnation.” It stars Natalie Dyer, who you may know more as Nancy on Stranger Things, Alisha Boe, who you may know more as Jessica on 13 Reasons Why, and Timothy Simons, who you may know more as Jonah Ryan on the political and fictional HBO TV series Veep. You’ve probably already guessed the message behind the movie, which is religions may take sexual awakenings a little too seriously and the more you try and suppress these feelings the more negative repercussions they may have later in life. These religions rules on sex also makes a shit ton of hypocrites. It’s a simple tale that isn’t particularly memorable, no more than a one time watch, has solid performances, especially from Ms. Dyer, says what it needs to say in two climax (pun intended…sort of) scenes, and then it just ends. Oh…right before it ends it has this great Titanic car sex scene joke, but it’s more of an inside one, as the main character reminds me of a friend that is obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio, so you might not find the scene as funny as I did. I’m at a loss for words as the movie wasn’t that long, I am not religious at all (I’m an Athiest) and I do believe that some religious sects put too much emphasis on sex being bad.

Yes, God, Yes combines perspectives on institutional hypocrisy and personal maturing, and does a fair job, although the film could’ve been a bit longer to hammer some of those points home. Far from a preachy or even aggressive attack on those it discredits, it’s a movie that’s heartfelt and tempered in its approach. The two scenes I talked about previously involved Dyer’s character escaping from this weekend church retreat she’s on, going to a bar and meeting a much older woman that was in a similar situation of hers years ago, and then a final “what did I learn on this retreat” speech that was subtle enough not to cause a ridiculous over the top comedic scene that a bunch of other straight laced comedies would’ve been lazy and just went for. The film is written and directed by Karen Maine from her 2017 short film of the same name. I never saw the short film, but I’m guessing that it probably didn’t need to be made into a feature length one, and it was probably just get distributed to a wider audience. The movie does set the mood and tone of the 2000’s perfectly, right down to the old Nokia cell phones where the only thing you could really do on them other than call people is to play the Snake game. It’s a fast watch, but I think this movie is geared more toward those kinds of individuals that dealt with something similar. For me it was only okay, I barely went to church growing up, and now when someone brings up going to an establishment, I speak of my believes, firmly planting my foot on the ground and say: No, God, No.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ALONE

ALONE is probably as generic as a generic horror/thriller film can get. It has a halfway decent white knuckle first thirty minutes, and then a decent last five minutes, but then the other hour in between is filled with characters making stupid decisions (we’ll get to the biggest blunder I’ve seen yet in 2020 in a bit), cliched run ins with other potential help, and a bunch of other plot conveniences you’ve seen in every horror/thriller film where a woman is kidnapped by a sadistic psychopath male. When do we get a movie that’s the other way around for once? IMDB describes Alone with the following: “A recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her.” Those elements the log line describes are a little bit of rain, a knocked down tree, a raging river of which the conclusion to is anti-climatic, and a stick in the foot. Not much of a battle if you ask me, especially when the traveler is constantly making dumb choices about what to do next after she escapes hand and foot. But don’t worry, the bad guy constantly makes worse decisions allowing for even more convenient plot contrivances. I’m writing this review to say that I need to stop the “I’m calling these the dumbest characters written in 2020” angle I have been doing recently in my reviews, because every subsequent, only okay to abysmal, film I watch keeps taking the trophy away from the other. Honest Thief this weekend took the trophy away from Amazon Prime’s The Lie, and now Alone ironically just stole it away from Honest Thief with the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen a kidnapper do in any movie about kidnapping ever. Don’t worry, I will spoil that moment because it would be a stupid decision on my part not to.

In fact, why don’t I just do it right now? So the killer kidnaps the woman and takes her to a cliched cabin in the middle of the woods (I can hear your cliched laughing) and has her locked in a room. He torments her once, giving us the only interesting character trait about this woman, in that she’s not only widowed but her husband killed himself for some unknown reason. When he closes the door and locks it…HE LEAVES THE FUCKING KEY IN THE KEYHOLE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR! She manages to get a nail out of a piece of wall in her room, takes an article of her clothing and shoves it halfway out the other side, pokes the key through the keyhole with the nail, the key falls onto her clothing and then she slides her piece of clothing back under with the key on top, and fucking escapes. Yes…did that sound just as dumb to you as it did to me while experiencing it with my own two eyes? I didn’t even fucking laugh even though it would’ve made me chuckle if played out the same way in a horror spoof movie. Alone asks you to take it seriously from the get go, but then it constantly slaps you in the face, making you feel dumb for doing so. She then proceeds to run into a dumb hunter willing to help her in the middle of the woods (you can probably guess how that plays out), phones are conveniently smashed and/or no/weak signal, and characters won’t shut their fucking mouths and keep giving away their locations. It’s absurd. I don’t know the writer or director, but needless to say, the screenplay needed some work, and the director should’ve waited to shoot the film until said work was done. The camera work is good, but its negated by the generic and stupid screenplay. The only good thing about this film is the beginning before she gets kidnapped, the final confrontation between kidnapper and victim and the acting all around from actor’s and actresses of who you would maybe recognize but not really care who they are after you got a look at them. If any of you watch this movie, I hope I am not alone in thinking how utterly stupid, boring and generic it was.

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: 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: THE SWING OF THINGS

If 2020 is a giant dumpster fire, then THE SWING OF THINGS is a mini dumpster fire inside said dumpster fire. HOLY. FUCKING. SHIT. I was laughing throughout this whole movie so hard… and not because of the movie itself, but by how awful it was. This film is one of worst sound edited, worst acted, one of the worst edited in general and one of the worst directorial efforts of ALL time. The only reason why I watched the whole damn thing was because…it was a literal dumpster fire and I wanted to watch the entire thing burn to the ground. I’m not listing this as my worst film of the year list because I wanted a title or two you all probably knew at the top, as this is a film I guarantee would elicit a few, “what the fuck is The Swing Of Things?” if it happened to come up in conversation. This is not even a so bad it’s good movie, like Anaconda or Snakes On A Plane, this is a bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad fucking movie that the guys at Red Letter Media would be watching and putting up in competition with other bad movies in one of their ‘Best Of The Worst’ segments. If you happen to catch this movie where it is playing on Hulu, or God forbid, be a giant dumb fuck and spend money to rent the mother fucking thing, it’ll probably remind you of really really bad late 90s/early 00’s gross out comedies such as Freddy Got Fingered, Tom Cats, Say It Isn’t So and Slackers. But those films and my worst film of the year so far, The Wrong Missy, are masterpieces compared to this abortion.

IMDB describes The Swing Of Things with the following: “A groom-to-be accidentally books his destination wedding and honeymoon at a swingers resort in Jamaica.” What is even more embarrassing than that awful film premise is some of the names that they actually got to be in this thing. Supermodel Olivia Culpo, Adelaide Kane, Jon Lovitz, and even fucking Luke Wilson are in this, albeit Lovitz for probably an hour of work and Luke Wilson looks drugged out of his mind just to get through the shoot to get that nice paycheck at the end of the day. I wonder if he joined as part of a lost bet? This is one of those “Sandler Vacation” films, meaning that all involved probably jumped on board because a free vacation was in the cards along with the shoot. The jig is up if you go to Olivia Culpo’s Instagram and scroll down to right before COVID-19 hit, as you can see exactly when the shoot took place. One of her stories has her in the same white bikini she wears in the film, talking about vacationing with her real life football player fiancee. By the way, her and and Adelaide Kane were completely hired only for their looks and scantly clad swim wear and other outfits. I’m surprised that neither one of them filed a sexual harassment suit against any of the other cast or crew. The story is really just a back drop to watch how poorly made this movie is. The only way to describe all the bullshit to you is to give you a list of bullet points of the beats that go down in the film:

  1. A seagull has a cigarette in its mouth and says “God Damn!” as a woman in a yellow bikini runs in Baywatch slow motion type fashion across the beach. Remember how I said the sound editing was terrible? They couldn’t even match the “God Damn!” to when the bird opened it’s beak twice.
  2. A flock of regular little birds, instead of chirps, keep repeating “TITS TITS TITS TITS TITS TITS TITS TITS TITS N ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS” in two scenes for what seems like forever.
  3. Dolphins rape people on this island. I shit you not.
  4. For this movie having a premise of accidentally holding a wedding at a swingers resort, there is little to no sex in this movie. No smart sexual humor either.
  5. The sexual humor that is in this movie has been done before, is cheap, ans is resorted to small dildos and little whips being strapped to pens when signing up for activities on the island. One of the older women in the wedding party can’t decide what she wants to do, so instead of tapping just a pen to her cheek to simulate that she’s thinking, she’s tapping the dildo and/or whip on her cheek. Ha…Ha.
  6. For what little nudity there is in this movie (I’m surprised Culpo or Kane didn’t show anything), the camera obnoxiously zooms in on naked body parts of extras. That joke is about 21 years old, first done in Road Trip…no originality.
  7. Does anyone remember Jack Black’s awfully annoying and racist character, Jamaican White Guy, in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer? There is one here too, but add on about 1000% annoyance.
  8. The audio has an echo and/or tries to readjust itself several times in several scenes. If the movie needed any additional ADR, which it did, Luke Wilson obviously said no, as there seems to be someone impersonating his voice in parts that were probably hard to hear audio wise and needed several more takes.
  9. It’s just a bunch of incoherent scenes strung together, and when a possible plot is brought into the mix, whether or not the male fiancee cheated on Olivia Culpo, it’s solved in less than 5 minutes flat.
  10. A girl character loathes this other male asshole character the whole movie and then has sex with him and blows him underwater to get some secretive info out of him and then for no reason is in love with said asshole at the end of the film.

See what I mean? This movie is COMPLETE BULLSHIT. And very misogynistic and degrading to women. How director Matt Shapira, who replaces Uwe Boll as the worst director of all time for me as this movie compared to ANY of Boll’s make them look like masterpieces, got financing for this thing is anyone’s idea. I honestly think everyone knew each other in some way shape or form, and wanted a vacation, and Shapira got Culpo and Kane because he is a giant fucking pervert flashing dollars bills and a fun time in the sun in their eyes. The screenplay was written by five people…let me repeat that…FIVE PEOPLE. It’s like they were on pot and wrote it together over dinner one night, passing the screenplay to the left and instead of trying to fix and expand upon the previous ones work, just added on to it without reading the scenes that came before. Then once shooting began, everything was shot in one take and the editor had absolutely nothing to work with but the bare bones of dailies. The framing is bad, the actors seem as though they tried to memorize their lines 2 minutes before “Action!” was yelled…it’s basically a feature length porn movie with no sex scenes…and even some of those are better than this trash. When you are on Hulu or if you are wanting to rent a comedy on another streaming site and come upon this abysmal disaster, swing the other way. Swing FAR the other way.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SPONTANEOUS

SPONTANEOUS not only easily enters one of my top 5 films of the year so far, but it is easily the best blind buy I have ever made on VUDU. Ever. It also joins Palm Springs and The Devil All The Time as two of the best straight to streaming movies I have ever seen. And…you’ve probably never heard of this film. That’s okay, that’s what I’m here for. It stars 13 Reason’s Why Katherine Langford (she played Hannah Baker) and IMDB describes it with the following: “Get ready for the outrageous coming-of-age love story about growing up…and blowing up. When students in their school begin exploding (literally), seniors Mara and Dylan struggle to survive in a world where each moment may be their last.” It sounds sort of like schlocky fun right? WRONG. This movie takes itself as seriously as it should, blending a pitch perfect trifecta of tone, romance, and dramedy (mostly drama). I was enthralled the entire hour and 41 minute run time and I couldn’t believe how invested I was in the story, characters, the atmosphere of the movie, everything about it. It was also very eerie, because when you watch it you can easily make sound parallels with what is happening in the movie to the bullshit year we’ve been having because of COVID-19. The movie is bloody fun, but it is also very moving, tense, and I was choked up with moments by the end credits. It breaks the 4th wall a couple of times, but not enough to be annoying, and I’m a breaking the 4th wall connoisseur. This movie is better than it had any right to be. It’s a horror film, a sci-fi film, a romance film, a teenage angst film, a quarantine film, a riveting drama, it’s an almost everything film, definitely not for young kids. It’s as if David Cronenberg’s Scanners fucked and had a baby with any John Hughes film you happen to have in your video library.

Any other year, if this movie had played in theaters, and I was a member of the Academy or a producer of this film, I would try and get Katherine Langford an Academy Award nomination. She completely sheds Hannah Baker from her persona…fuck, she sheds any other character she has ever played in other films and completely gives in to Mara’s weird yet lovable teen angst phase. I loved her in this movie. Charlie Plummer, who plays Dylan, is very solid, although I couldn’t tell much of a difference from his performance in this and another film I saw recently where he was also one of the main protagonists, Words On Bathroom Walls. I want to describe why this movie is so great and why it resonated with me so well, but to do that, I would have to divulge a lot of the surprises this movie has in store for you, so this is going to be one of my rare two paragraph reviews, even though I want to scream its praises. Let’s just say if you don’t like this movie, then it’s probably hard to please you with most movies, and you should stick with mind numbing cheap fare like that new American Pie Girls’ Rules movie, which I just reviewed earlier today. This movie was adapted from a novel I now want to read and directed by Brian Duffield, who has been more miss than hit in his career. He wrote the one time watch Underwater earlier this year and he also wrote Insurgent…the second shit film in the Divergent Series (which didn’t even finish the 4 film plan it had)…but he also wrote Netflix’s fun The Babysitter film. Spontaneous is easily his best and another film he wrote comes out next week that I’m definitely going to check out because of this, called Love and Monsters (he didn’t direct it though). He’s a great director here and wish he would try his hand at more. The spontaneous combustion is quite scary and serious, and he films it in a way where it looks real and not schlocky. I spontaneously wanted to watch this movie when I saw a trailer, but I encourage you to skip that and check it out after you spontaneously read just this review.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AMERICAN PIE – GIRLS’ RULES

Is it wrong of me to not think this movie was THAT terrible? I mean, yes, it’s very inauthentic when you consider that it is supposed to be a girl centric version of an American Pie story and it is written by two guys. The film did keep my interest the whole way through…and I chuckled throughout it… so to me it was just…harmless? And better than all the other 4 straight to video American Pie Presents films? So am I recommending AMERICAN PIE – GIRLS’ RULES? The only answer I can come up with is ‘sort of’, as I appreciated more for what it was trying to do than Adam Sandler’s new bullshit Netflix Halloween film. It tried to gender swap the American Pie movie because of today’s overly ridiculous political correctness debacle, and it did it…politically correct…and to be fair, I think teenager girls will get a kick out of it, even though there is no way that they talk to each other likes the characters talked to each other in this movie. And if you are much older than a teenager, I guess if you have nothing else to watch and need something to quickly kill and hour and a half. It certainly isn’t boring, just don’t go in expecting any greatness spawned from the original four films. The only aspect that makes this an American Pie Presents movie is that one of the 4 main girls’ last name happens to be Stifler. Out of the five direct to video films, which I’ve only now seen this and Band Camp, I think there has been a new Stifler(s) in each one, and I couldn’t tell you how the fuck they all relate to each other. Maybe that’s the joke, each movie becomes so much more convoluted involving the Stifler family tree that it wants viewers to take the Tenet approach, “Don’t try to understand it, just feel it.”

IMDB describes this film with the following: “It’s Senior year at East Great Falls. Annie, Kayla, Michelle, and Stephanie decide to harness their girl power and band together to get what they want their last year of high school.” That harnessing their girl power turns into a way too coincidental plot of them accidentally falling for and going after the same guy. And since this new guy at school happens to be cool and not an asshole, us viewers know that he isn’t going to try and end up with all four girls. The plot is so ridiculous and convoluted that you know exactly what girl he ends up with when they meet on screen for the first time, and you know what other guys the other three girls end up with as soon as they first show up to share the screen as well. For me, the movie was all about the crude and sexual humor jokes surrounding the outlandish plot. They involve the girls saying weird stuff about their bodies, sex toys including vibrating underwear, randomly screaming obscenities, and I’ll admit it, I chuckled, so sue me. The movie isn’t just dirty humor the whole way through at least, it knows when to lay it’s sweet and charming chips on the table and actually bring some humanity into the mix. The acting is decent for a direct to video debut as well, as it seems like more of a real movie than the other spin offs brought us. Sara Rue plays the school’s new principal and her scenes were probably the best of the bunch with that picture perfect blend of crude humor and charm. And Danny Trejo seems to have filmed his scenes maybe after production was done as a silent Janitor, but those didn’t work for me as it felt like an excuse to have one recognizable face in the credits. There’s nothing more to say about this film other than that if you go in expecting a harmless crude and sexual humor romp that in no way masters the greatness of the original four American Pie films, you maybe won’t be disappointed. Who knows, my brain might be a pie chart right now whose sanity is just a tiny, incoherent, sliver of a piece.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BLACK BOX (Amazon Prime)

You ever watched one of those movies where you guess what is going on and what will happen the rest of the movie about a third of the way into it? And then once ALL of your predictions start coming true, one by one, even though the movie is still a half way decent one time watch, you kind of zone out a bit and you emotionally lose investment in the characters and what is happening on screen? That’s BLACK BOX, which is basically just Get Out (funny, because it’s from Blumhouse, the producers of that movie too) but on a much smaller, more personal scale and absolutely no racial undertones (in fact I think there was only one white character in this and she has about two lines). Yeah, I probably just gave a clue to many twists and turns within this film, but there is really no way to describe how I feel without hinting to you why I lost interest, even though there was nothing wrong with the execution of the story, what was wrong is that it didn’t go anywhere that other movies haven’t been to before. SSDD, Same Shit, Different Day. Black Box is part of a Blumhouse set of four ‘Welcome To The Blumhouse’ movies that the first two, where this and The Lie (reviewed it yesterday) came out Tuesday, and then Nocturne and Evil Eye come out next Tuesday. IMDB describes the movie with the following: “After losing his wife and his memory in a car accident, a single father undergoes an agonizing experimental treatment that causes him to question who he really is.” What really kind of irks me about the whole thing is that it stars one of my top ten favorite rising actors, Mamoudou Athie, and he’s just not getting the more than solid projects that he is capable of being masterful in. I mean…maybe in another two years, as he apparently has a substantial role in Jurassic World: Dominion?

And you know you always got to get into a blockbuster movie before you are offered other and better roles I guess nowadays. He has starred in much more smaller fare throughout his whole career. He was in Underwater that came out in January of this year, but he was in the film no more than 10 minutes before getting killed off. I know him from and started gaining keen interest into his career from one of his first independent feature debuts, called Patti Cakes, where he plays the weird love interest. He was also the only good thing about Brie Larson’s directorial debut Unicorn Store, and his best film so far, was earlier this year on Netflix, called Uncorked. Highly recommend you check either the latter out or Patti Cakes. He’s good in Black Box too, probably the best thing about the movie as it does stretch his range as an actor, it’s just the script and story around him is very plain and dry, so much so that the plot could be used in a beat by beat example in a Screenwriting For Dummies 101 book. The movie basically slaps you in the face early on of what is going on before it is revealed midway through, and the clues definitely could’ve been more subtle. I hate it when movies scream in your face in order for you to “get it” once it shows you it’s hand after the river card. Then once all is revealed, I pointed at the screen and said, “okay now this character is going to do this and this and this and this, and this other character is eventually going to come into the fray and do this and this and this and this, and then redemption story arc complete, obligatory sequel scene, end credits.” And I was 100% on the mark.

The film also stars Clarie Huxtable herself, Phylicia Rashad, and as the doctor trying to help this man gain his memories back she was adequate, but then once some things come into the light, she seemed a little too low key and under qualified for the role. Though maybe it’s just me on that one. The acting is good all around other than that, and when he enters the black box, his memory like sequences that come back to the protagonist are nice and creepy like any Blumhouse movie should be, there just wasn’t enough of them. There are only two, when there should’ve been 4 or 5, and the movie also should’ve been a bit longer than an hr and 40 minutes, where they could’ve saved the big reveal a little bit more than just halfway into it. They hired that dude that can contort his body all around to be an evil entity in the memory sequences, Troy James (used him better in the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark movie), there just wasn’t enough of him to make a creepy enough impact like he’s been in other movies. In summation, you’ve seen different iterations of this movie done plenty of times before, and done much better, which is probably why this film went straight to streaming instead of into theaters, regardless of the pandemic, in my opinion, it is where it needs to be. The film very much lags in the second half of the film when the protagonist goes to visit one of the people he sees in his unearthed memories. It was a 15 minute scene that needed to be about only half that. When you have a movie about trying to conjure up lost memories, you need just more than two for the audience to get emotionally invested with what is happening. Only two feels like a budgetary and screenwriting cop out, and for a movie titled Black Box, it was a little disappointing to open up and discover no surprises.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE LIE (Amazon Prime)

THE LIE’s twist ending, which I predicted a mile away, might make or break your opinion of the whole film, and that ending will unfortunately overshadow how many stupid actions the characters make during the course of it. There are many idiotic mistakes and decisions that A. don’t make any logical sense and B. cause too many plot holes. For me, even though I predicted the ending, it was still frustrating because some of the scenes earlier in the film contradicted the reveal when revealed. The movie was written and directed by Veena Sud, who I just gave great praise to in Quibi’s The Stranger and I loved her television show The Killing, and while the way the film is shot, the desperate tone, the dark mood, atmosphere, and acting are all top notch, the screenplay for me was a giant problem here. You will constantly be screaming at the screen the correct decisions the characters needed to make and then wondering if anyone is legitimately that idiotic in real life (spoiler alert: there is, anybody deeply involved in politics). There are no politics in this however, only moral dilemmas, but the characters are so horribly underwritten that their moral decisions are unfocused, blurry, confusing, and make no sense in contrast to scenes that have just played out for the audience. This was filmed in 2018 and has been sitting on Blumhouse’s shelf for a couple of years, nobody really knowing what to do with it. Nothing like a pandemic delaying the blockbusters to just dump stuff like this on streaming services to give lazy pussies something to watch, am I right???

IMDB describes THE LIE, originally titled ‘Between Earth and Sky’ (WTAF?!?), with the following: “A father and daughter are on their way to dance camp when they spot the girl’s best friend on the side of the road. When they stop to offer the friend a ride, their good intentions soon result in terrible consequences.” Since the inciting incident happens no longer than ten minutes in, I’m just going to tell you what happens so you can gain some context into my review and the stupid decisions and things that happen afterward. The daughter and friend get the father to stop the car to go off to pee in the middle of a snowy forest and bridge that happens to be on the side of the road of the route they are taking, and the daughter, after a minor argument in the car moments earlier, pushes said friend into the chilly river and lake below. The rest of the movie is the father (played by Peter Sarsgaard) and the mother (Mireille Enos) trying to cover up what happened so that way their daughter (played by Joey King) won’t go to jail for murder and ruin her future. The stupid decisions literally start right after you hear a scream from the forest and the father comes upon his daughter on the bridge alone (he was respecting their privacy and waiting by the car for them to do their business, so he doesn’t see what happened). From there you get dumb decisions and actions such as:

1. When one character runs away from another in their neighborhood and seemingly gets away, the character that ran off immediately afterward starts walking slowly down the middle of the road in their neighborhood.

2. A character doesn’t answer the front door from a other angry character and thinks he/she can’t be seen in the house even though the windows behind he/she are all open for the world to see. Any sane person, if wanting to see if anyone is home combined with being really angry, can and WILL just go around to the back of the house to see if anyone is hiding.

3. The parents constantly tell their daughter to stay put, not to show herself, don’t come outside, etc etc other smart things that the daughter constantly disobeys not two seconds later.

4. Possible evidence at the crime scene is not only left and not looked for stupidly but the evidence that hasn’t been disturbed and needs to stay there is moronically taken back home by one of the characters.

5. The parents don’t interrogate the daughter correctly and ask the right questions, and the police are really really really dumb and their investigation is borderline malpractice here.

There are many more than just those five listed, and I don’t want to go into spoiler territory, but you should catch my drift. There are a few good things about this film, as I have mentioned earlier. It’s filmed really well. The mood, atmosphere, and tone is dark and dreary. The situation that would present a huge sense of dread among those involved in the real world is perfectly replicated here I think. All three key players, Sarsgaard, Enos, and King are all top notch here and their acting is great as always. The movie is certainly watchable, because even though I had a problem with it I can’t deny I was entertained for 95 minutes and wanted to see everything play out. And in a film that could’ve been written and handled much better than this was, the twist probably would’ve worked for me (I bet you can guess what the twist is already, I’ve provided enough clues as to what it is). But alas, it didn’t because of the contradictions to what came before combined with some pretty big plot holes. What it all really bogs down to is whether or not I give this a recommendation. While I was entertained, I really just can’t give it one, because when I try and think back fondly on it, the stupid character decisions and the loose screenplay keeps sinking into my brain to the point where I can no longer lie to myself. The truth is that it’s a frustrating miss and mess, plain and simple.