Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JUST MERCY

Because of what is going on out there in the world right now, JUST MERCY, which came out wide in early January of this year in theaters, Warner Brothers made available to rent for free for all of June. Technically, it is really considered a 2019 film since it came out in NY and LA in December, and was eligible for Academy Awards consideration, but didn’t get any nominations. Because the movie didn’t receive any nominations, I skipped it when it came to my local movie house to focus on checking off those I hadn’t seen that did. Since it is a very important time in our nations, no….world’s history, and since the release date is kind of blurred when it comes to reward season, I decided to go ahead and do a review, even though this one was likely not to make either my best of year list. That doesn’t mean anything bad, it is a very solid film, and one that should definitely be watched by every one that has a little time to watch it right now. Be forewarned, if you are a decent human being inside and out, it is a very hard movie to watch because of the awful extreme racism, brutality, and false convictions toward black people. I cringed at the horrible ways they are treated, and most likely you will to. Films like this make you wonder that if you gathered up all the racists in the world, and showed them movies about or real footage of racism for a year straight, would they change their ways? As you can see on my Facebook page, I try and keep it strictly to movies. As I white person, I feel like I want to say something meaningful, but I’m afraid that I might say the wrong thing or someone else could twist my words. So let this review be my ultimate thoughts on what is going on right now. So to end this introductory paragraph before I get into the movie, here is my whole stance on the matter: #BLACKLIVESMATTER .

Like I said above, the movie is solid and really the only reason why it wouldn’t end up in my top movies of the year for either 2019 and 2020 is because, in terms of how many movies I have seen during my life time, it really offers nothing new film wise in terms of black oppression, racial injustice & unforgivable police brutality. Everything that happens in this movie, which plays sort of like another one of those court room investigative drama movies, you’ve seen it all before in much more powerful films. But you SHOULD STILL watch this movie. It is filled with fantastic performances from Jamie Foxx & Michael B. Jordan and the message of #BlackLivesMatter is paced perfectly and is precise in what it is trying to say. Just Mercy tells the true story of Walter McMillian¬†who is wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit because of racist bigots, but with the help of young defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, they try and appeal his murder conviction and get him out of jail before time runs out and they set a date for his execution on death row. Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan have always been incredible actors, see anything they’ve done, they’ve always brought their A game. Here is no different, their facial expressions complementing their dialogue, to make you feel in your heart the hurt and pain that they feel.

The only one that gets a bit of a shaft with their performance is Brie Larson, who looks like she just put a wig on and walked on set to do her scenes while filming something for Captain Marvel. Not to say she isn’t good, but it seems like they could’ve left out her portrayal of her real character from the movie and its message would’ve remained the same. That or just cast an unknown actress and have her small time to shine. She’s the ‘and’ on the end credits, which makes a lot of sense, as she feels more like an extended cameo than a true supporting performance. She has only one long scene with some lengthy dialogue and some quick handful of 30 second investigative reporting, but the filmmakers could’ve just cast someone else not as well known and it would’ve gotten the same job done. I know they wanted to put Eva Ansley, a real life white woman that worked closely with Bryan Stevenson. in the film, but they just didn’t put that character into enough scenes for it to be warranted. It’s all forgivable anyway, because it is supposed to be the Foxx and Jordan show, and she doesn’t take away from their contributions at all. Tim Blake Nelson plays an inmate that initially testified against McMillian who might or might not have a chance of heart, and he gives a very solid supporting performance that should’ve been the true ‘and’ on the credits, and Brie Larson maybe sticking to an uncredited cameo. In the end, I don’t think there is anything writer director Destin Daniel Cretton could’ve done to make this racial injustice film stand out from the pack. He told the story as it happened, with incredible acting and symbolism to get the message across. It is a very solid, albeit familiar film. Might I recommend maybe watching Malcolm X and BlacKkKlansman as a perfect triple feature if you are wanting to learn more about the issues going on right now? Any films you would recommend watching with this one? Please do make an effort if you have time if you haven’t seen it. This film needs to be seen right now.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: UNICORN STORE (Netflix)

Let’s set the record straight here. For those of you that think Brie Larson got this Netflix deal to direct and star in this movie, UNICORN STORE, because of Captain Marvel, you are sorely mistaken. She was offered this after she won her Oscar several years ago for Room, and it actually had its premiere at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) back in 2017. So it’s been in the can for awhile…and you know how Netflix will pick up stuff even if its the last player on a team to be picked. Unicorn Store relies on its colorful whimsical premise and off beat humor. It relies a lot of suspension of belief and performances to get you through the short 90 minute run time. And I guess the end result is…okay?

I honestly don’t know what to think of this film. I haven’t even really let it sink in due to the fact that I just finished it 20 minutes ago on my phone on my lunch at work. It was a watchable film. It had a plot, it had characters, and it had an overlaying arc. But did it have purpose? I guess you could say its sole purpose was to be another one of those films with the “hit you over the head” message: It’s never too late to discover yourself and you can discover yourself by failing at things as much as you can achieving them. How many movies have had this message? I’d be dead by the time I finished if I started doing research and starting to count. If you need to know the premise, it’s about a woman that has an early life crisis after being kicked out of art school…I guess for being too experimental and zany? Anyway, she finds a temp job really quickly at this PR firm where it doubles as an ad agency…I guess? Why am I asking these questions? When watching this film I guarantee you are going to be constantly asking yourself…”wait, what?” She then gets a card on the stoop of her house (but she misses seeing it) and then she gets a card at her work telling her to come to some store, the store that has everything she needs. It is run by a whimsical and weird Samuel L. Jackson (hence why I think this was film around the exact same time as Marvel). He has a minor afro and colorful strings and glitter in his hair and he offers her what she has wanted her whole life. A unicorn. There are stipulations to get this unicorn, aka build it a stable, be financial stable, etc. And she wants this unicorn, and goes to make her life right to be able to own one…maybe?

Basically its like a weird Garden State vibe kind of whimsical weirdly-toned dramedy. Brie Larson’s character, Kit, hires a guy to build this unicorn stable and they eventually bond, and that’s the best part of the movie, were their scenes together. The man is played by Mamoudou Athie, who was a stand out in the movie Patti Cakes. The only part of Unicorn Store I believed in was their budding friendship and romance. Unfortunately the movie was too short to show more of that, as all of its focus was Kit discovering herself and whether or not she would get a unicorn and whether or not her ad for a vacuum would be picked up by a really creepy #Metoo type weirdo boss. I’ll give it one other thing: Brie Larson is a better actor in this than she was in Captain Marvel. And honestly, that is probably because the character of Captain Marvel was written a little wooden and directed by two people way in over their head that hadn’t directed a big feature before.

Brie Larson directed this. And for the most part it is good. She knows how to direct people. She knows how to direct herself. She knows how to frame a scene (the standout being her pitch to the vacuum ad), the only thing I didn’t like is that some parts of the film had an unnecessary shaky cam like presence that had no point. Thankfully it didn’t do that the whole time. She moves back in with her parents at the beginning of the film, played in small roles by Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack, but their characters are ones we’ve seen too many times before. Weirdos, with weirdo jobs (they go on hikes with damaged teens/young adults with truth circles), and they invade her space but eventually show that they are actually sane and know a thing or two about life.

I just…like I said, I don’t know what to think of this film. Would I ever watch it again? Probably not. Would I recommend it? Only maybe to people that have a high tolerance for weird ass tales in kin with movies like Garden State (a much better film). Did I feel like I wasted my time? No, I mean, I like Brie Larson as an actress a lot (although she has been foot in mouth recently with her interviews and press tour for Captain Marvel), and I really think if she was given a chance to direct more and better projects she could be a pretty decent director overall. The ultimate problem is: who is this movie really for? Who is it marketed toward? What is this movies audience? The answer is: I have no fucking idea. Maybe that is the reason why Netflix picked it up?

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CAPTAIN MARVEL (no spoilers)

DISCLAIMER: (because I have to do this with the butthurters nowadays with a film like this) Any criticisms I give to the following film CAPTAIN MARVEL in my review, are in no way, shape, or form, have to do with the fact in that this is the MCU’s first female superhero led film. In fact, I think we should get more female driven superhero films, as long as they are made correctly. I am not a misogynist, I am married and have a loving and awesome wife, and ANY CRITICISMS WHATSOEVER I HAVE WITH THIS FILM HAVE TO DO WITH A STORYTELLING OR SCRIPT LEVEL AND DOES NOT HAVE TO DO WITH BRIE LARSON OR ANY FEMALE LED SUPERHERO FILM. Jesus Christ, it’s sad that I have to do that eh? Let’s get down to brass taxes and first go with my summary of Captain Marvel as a whole: I quite enjoyed it, however, in the whole spectrum of all 21 MCU films we have gotten to date, it is not one of the higher tier ones, like the first Iron Man, the first Avengers, the first Guardians, or Infinity War, yet it is not one of the lower tier ones like Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, or The Incredible Hulk. It is somewhere in the middle, resting its good not great addition to the universe head along with its buddies such as Black Panther, Ant-Man, Guardians 2, or Doctor Strange.

I will star this off by saying that contrary to reports that Brie Larson is wooden in the Captain Marvel role (I think some people are just trolling and saying it even when they haven’t seen it yet), I assure you, she is not. She is very likable in this and in fact I think she knew that the script itself had some problems (there are 3 screenwriters, and 5 people get a story by credit) and she added her own cute little quirks and mannerisms to the role. I think with the right script and a more focused characterization Brie Larson could be a masterful superhero. But she is quite good with what she was given. In fact, everyone is good. Jude Law is good. Samuel L. Jackson is the man. Ben Mendelsohn nearly steals the movie. The very lackluster trailers and tv spots don’t showcase the good film that Disney/Marvel have on their hands here. In fact, if you look at all the other trailers, they don’t really sell their films anymore. They might need to hire better people that can cut a decent marketing campaign.

I was never once bored and looked at my cell phone clock with this movie, I was entertained throughout the whole thing. But the movie does have several issues and it all boils down to one notion, something that I knew was coming a long time ago, but is finally starting to seek through the cracks: Marvel’s Origin Story formula is starting to shake and if they aren’t careful, will soon crumble and fall like half of the DCEU’s slate. The entire movie is 200% predictable. It’s “twists” are 200% predictable (it does one “oh it was really this/him/her the whole time gimmick we’ve seen done in 100,000 movies before it). You can probably even fucking guess what the mid and end credits scenes are, that’s how predictable this thing is. Here’s a true, in my opinion, fact: Captain Marvel should’ve been introduced in Phase 1 or 2 of the MCU, should’ve already had one sequel by now with that story showing what happened with what she does at the end of this movie, and it wouldn’t have felt like this was shoe horned in right before Avengers: Endgame.

Because it is. Because you can feel it. Because everything feels rushed. Obviously you’ve seen from the trailers that Brie Larson has amnesia and is starting to remember things of where she may have had a life on Earth before becoming a Kree. The film feels too fast paced that, when she eventually remembers some stuff and comes face to face with some long lost family and friends, I didn’t feel anything. Like the confrontations that she is thrust into should’ve had more power, brevity, and levity. And it didn’t. It’s just like, “oh hi, don’t know you much, I know that I used to and we used to be two peas in a pod, well, I’m back, nice to meet ya.” Films need to have a giant emotional impact. If the film had focused on her amnesia stuff maybe just a few minutes longer, like 10 to 15, those scenes would’ve felt earned, not forced. The main issue is that there is just wayyy too much story stuffed into a medium box of 2 hrs, just in service to quickly get an origin story out of the way so she can be a bad ass motherfucker in Avengers: Endgame.

The movies got the Kree, old characters you saw in Guardians 1, a strange cat named Goose, amnesia problems, long gestating wars, witty banter, reunions, betrayals, double crosses, triple crosses, just too much that the script is a little shaky on its foundation and bounced off the wall too much at times. And near the end, kind of like the problem Black Panther had, its CGI is a little troublesome. And while the action is fun, but not that memorable. Oh, and one more AND to the million I have said already, the movie has still has got the Marvel villain problem (you’ll see). While the movie was wayyyy too late in the making, its just fortunate that it wasn’t a disaster, is watchable, and is enjoyable. The real star of the movie is the de-ageing effects on one Samuel L. Jackson. Fucking seemless, I couldn’t believe it, he actually looks like he just stepped out of his role in the 90s film The Negotiator (from which they based his de-ageing on) and hasn’t skipped a beat.

So anyway, in summation, Captain Marvel is a solid, good, yet not great addition to the MCU. I did enjoy myself sitting in the theater experiencing it. And none of it has to do with the fact that it is a female driven superhero film. All the problems are in the script, the story, and two directors who have directed a handful of episodes of Billions and The Affair, and two indie features films (Half Nelson and It’s Kind of A Funny Story) that I thought were way out of their element here. If we could get a solid script and better directors, and a focused pace, we could get a sequel that is truly special. A true sequel, not just Avengers: Endgame. Oh, btw, if the opening Marvel logo/credits don’t make you tear up and want to applaud, you aren’t human.