Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE OLD GUARD (Netflix)

Why does every movie have to have a “new recruit” type story line? That’s where the universe is very much already established and they bring in a new character (someone casual moviegoers can relate to) to learn the ropes. Is it so that the story/screenplay writer can easily and without any kind of effort spoon feed all the information/rules to the audience in multiple uninteresting monologues? Is it so they don’t have to think hard of a new and unique approach where little things are hinted at here and there where movie goers would have to grow a brain and piece everything together on their own? The “new recruit” type story is EVERYWHERE. Men In Black, The Matrix, 6 Underground, Kingsman, Inception, is just a very small list of the thousands of movies out there that do it. However, those movies get past that cliched premise because they have other, much bigger elements that come into play that are interesting enough and overshadow that “same old, same old.” Inception is a HUGE example of that. Anyway, the thing that makes the new Netflix original film, THE OLD GUARD, just a one time half-way decent watch is that the bigger elements presented in this movie…is just more shit that has been done before, namely the “Immortality Old Warrior” type angle. Another problem with it would be that Charlize Theron and company just explain the rules to the “new recruit” in a bunch of uninteresting ways and have “standing close to each other for 5 to 10 minute” monologues. And yet another problem would be that I guessed everything that was going to happen way before they happened and even guessed what the mid credits scene would be only a half an hour into the 2 hour run time. The film only gets a barely passable slight recommendation from me because it has a action packed last 30 minutes, the movie looked good and was well shot, and of course…Charlize Theron is always fantastic in whatever project she takes on.

Still think I’m nuts? Look at the IMDB log line for this: “A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered.” New member. I guarantee you that two word phrase is in the log line of thousand of films that you have seen before. Is there really no way that this movie, and the graphic novel its based on as well, could’ve just had this “Old Guard” be on their own to present a story that hinted at and then gradually revealed the rules while the movie progressed without having one character explain all of it to a new one in a mundane monologue? There had to have been a way, HAD to. I myself can even think of several ways the movie could’ve avoided all those trappings and had been a unique ride. Alas, it doesn’t, it takes the easy way out for you to quickly understand and relate to the story. I’m just tired of it is all. Also, for an action movie, there is not a lot of action, save for the last 30 minutes. It’s really just a bunch of characters getting all the history out of the way so that the sequel doesn’t have to explain everything and just be completely action packed. I’m sorry but you do not want your first movie in a franchise to be just a dialogue bridge film for better sequels. You are already setting yourself up for failure doing that. Which, judging by the mid credits scene, is EXACTLY what this film is doing. Plus, let’s list the cliches shall we? We get another bad guy just wanting to make money off of or harness the groups abilities, betrayals and double crossings, plot points that the group are afraid will happen that they point out at the very beginning of the film that DO happen later on, the works. If you watch closely, this film is BEAT BY BEAT ripping off The Matrix.

Okay, enough with my bitching, it is getting old. Let me get to some of the good stuff. Like I said, Charlize Theron is excellent in this, that there is no doubt. The new recruit, played by KiKi Layne, is good as well. All the acting is top notch, even though Chiwetel Ejiofor is completely wasted with his talents here and should not have been cast in a role that small. I even loved that two of the Old Guard were homosexual lovers. That was a nice dynamic that had some great pay off scenes. The whole movie looks nice and is shot well by director Gina Prince-Bythewood. Give her a better story and screenplay to work with and she could do wonders. The only big fault with this movie is the story/screenplay. This screenplay was written by the actual creator of the graphic novel it is based on Greg Rucka, who is known for the many graphic novels he’s written. I wish he would have more original ideas is all and wouldn’t fall into the trappings of all the cliches he writes himself into. It just takes that one idea to be extraordinary. The real problem is that there is nothing new with this movie. Every element is taken from many other different films that have done those elements better. When you can’t take those elements and even put a small unique twist on them to make them better and new again, what’s the point of even writing those kinds of stories in the first place? Even though it has been happening for years, it has been starting to get old lately just recently for me. Fuck…maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit?

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BOMBSHELL

BOMBSHELL is like a bomb in itself: messy and all over the place with no centralized focus and is too loud and muddled in its message to really be saying anything at all. It doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. It tries to be tongue in cheek, but it tries so hard that it doesn’t ever become tongue in cheek, it becomes a film with way too many tones that don’t mix well. Is it a comedy? I don’t think so, I maybe laughed once. Is it a political bashing film? No…not really as it had a couple of Trump moments but didn’t bash or talk about politics enough to warrant that genre. Is it a drama? It only really gets emotional the last ten minutes, but it isn’t earned as the rest of the film is too light, bright, and fluffy to have that drama totally make sense. Sure, the film is about the female personnel at the Fox News location in Manhattan and the harassment allegations that eventually come to fruition against the founder, Roger Ailes, but it tries too much and too hard to be about a dozen other things and loses its voice very, very fast.

Part of the problem with this film is that instead of just focusing on the three female leads (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, & Margot Robbie) and then Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) as well, they introduce dozens and dozens of more characters throughout the course of the 1 hr and 50 minute film, and I guess we are supposed to care about them too as each one has an in-scene title text that gives us their real name and how they are associated with the modern world. Seriously, it’s a lot of them, so I’d put the ones just introduced to me in my memory bank in case they came back later. But then just more and more piled on and I started to lose track, so that when some of them did come back later, I had no idea where they were in reference to the story. Way too much information, and what this film needed was a sharp focus it was never near reaching. When the movie focused on Theron, Kidman & Robbie, it was somewhat elevated from its mediocre status, but then the focus is taken away just as quickly. The one that fairs the best out of all of them is definitely Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly. She’s always been an incredible actress, and here it is no different, getting all of Kelly’s mannerisms right, and even having on incredible make up that makes her look exactly like the journalist. If there was one nomination and possible Oscar win I will agree upon, is when this movie will pick up its award for make up & hair styling. Easily the best looking part of the film.

What I don’t get is all the praise for Nicole Kidman & Margot Robbie. They are getting serious supporting actress consideration, but their characters aren’t really all that interesting and it doesn’t seem like a stretch for either of the actresses to play these real life counterparts. Nicole Kidman has had plenty of (and better) supporting roles playing a strong female leader willing to do something to create change and her range here doesn’t really even get close to even meeting the caliber of those other great roles. I would say not even in the parking lot of the same ballpark. Margot Robbie’s character is just sort of a ditz that is in over her head and suddenly smarts up by the end of the movie. She has one break down scene that I guess everybody is giving her Oscar buzz over, but the fact that it doesn’t even come close to touching her great supporting role in The Wolf Of Wall Street, something she didn’t even get (but should’ve) nominated for, is baffling to me. Even her portrayal of Harley Quinn was more interesting than this wannabe journalist who is one of Roger Ailes victims. Charlize Theron is really the only one getting praise where it is due, but even then, I have at least a dozen of other better performances this year from actresses that could easily take her nomination spot and be arguably warranted.

But going back to the film’s main fault: it just doesn’t know what it wants to be, and tries too hard to be tongue in cheek and comes out as a mish-mash of genres that doesn’t really work well. It wasn’t comedy, nor drama, nor was it really all that political, and it just said things that have all been said before. All of the sexual allegation stuff seemed to be only surface level, and not digging deep into the problem and maybe having something to say other than just the usual, “speak up” if something to that nature happens to you or support from other victims. All of this just boils down to: THERE. WAS. NO. FOCUS. AT. ALL. The had the story right there, and it seems like there were 7 different writers on it that all gave the script a go, and the end result is some kind of Frankenstein monster that somehow inhabits all of their ideas. Would it surprise you to know that this was done by only one writer though? It doesn’t if you know who he is like I do, Charles Randolph. Yes, he co wrote the fantastic The Big Short, but he had some major help with how that film turned out, and the rest of his filmography, ranging from The Interpreter to The Live of David Gale to Love and Other Drugs, is just not that impressive.

To be honest, I don’t think this is director Jay Roach’s fault. Jay Roach has, I think, a great eye and brings some flair to what the camera captures and onto the frame (look how colorful and stylistic all three Austin Powers movies look like), and here is no different, but his style is completely trampled by a substance that is just too much and too little at the same time. His film and world within that film is bright, colorful, and imaginative, but the screenplay makes it feel like none of that vision is appropriate for the story being told. It says nothing by trying to say too much. This is just a performance movie without a clear message, and it saddens me to say that because I was really looking forward to Bombshell. I was expecting something to the kin of The Big Short, something with a central message and a pin pointed focus to drive home that message without being too preachy. This film wants to be too preachy but instead of preaching a direct message, preaches about a hundred other different things. It went on and on until the point where I just gave up and nodded off because none of it seemed like it was going to drop any kind of true bombshell any time soon.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LONG SHOT (comes out May 3rd)

When I say that LONG SHOT is Seth Rogen’s best comedy since Knocked Up (best performance since 50/50), please know that I am telling the truth. In fact, I’m willing to go far as saying that I don’t think another Rom-Com will beat it this year for me, it’s just that sweet. It is just that funny. It is just that enjoyable. Without Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, I don’t think this movie could’ve worked. In two hours, this movie completely convinced me that a woman as beautiful, strong, and independent as she is could fall for a guy so goofy, nerdy, weird, yet lovable such as he. It’s all thanks to their chemistry and for the movie not just trying to force a relationship upon the audience without any real merit. It avoids all the pit traps that most romantic comedies fall into to make them mediocre nowadays.

That’s not to say it isn’t predictable. You know exactly how this movie is going to end. But the journey is just so damn good that you kick that notion to the curb with very little effort. If you haven’t seen a trailer or TV spot for this, the plot is pretty simple. Charlotte Field (Theron), the Secretary of State, is going to make a run to become the first female President of the United States as the barely in the middle of his first term male one just announces that he doesn’t want to seek re-election in another year and a half. She bumps into journalist Fred Flarsky (Rogen) at a Boyz II Men banquet, and after reading his former published articles, hires him after he just quit is job to help her punch up her speeches and launch this new effort into saving the environment. She doesn’t just bump into him though, back when she was 16 and he was 13, she babysat him, and she was Fred’s first real crush. Anyway, they get to know each other and a romance starts to blossom. But can she really run for President with a goofy, nerdy, weird looking, pot smoking guy like him by her side?

Like I said, if you think you know how this all plays out, you are definitely right. But stay for Rogen and Theron, as their chemistry is unreal (in the good sense). This movie is completely funny from beginning to end without any lag in laughs. Rogen hasn’t been this funny since Knocked Up and has never been this charismatic. Theron, as always, is at her best here. There is this one ten minute scene where she is on drugs, where in a sane world, she would be nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars for a comedy role. She completely steals every scene she is in. Speaking of scene stealing roles, give it up to Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., to steal every scene he is in as well. After this and Straight Outta Compton and Ingrid Goes West, I have a feeling he is going to become more famous and a better actor than his father. I would love this movie to spin off into another just about his character. His character introduction provides one of the biggest laughs of the entire film. Also be on the lookout for an underused yet funny Alexander Skarsgaard and a unrecognizable Andy Serkis in strange roles. They get their moments to shine as well.

Be warned, this movie is very very crude, but unlike the recent Netflix film Someone Great, this one is actually smartly written and the jokes all land and land hard. They don’t feel forced. It is plainly obvious that there was a lot of ad-lib here, but Rogen and Theron are pros, and it all feels natural, like it was written in the first place. It’s literally a perfect date movie for 2019. Do not see this by yourself as you will wish someone was with you to share the laughs with. Charlize Theron is definitely an actress of our generation, as even if the movie I see her in isn’t good (Tully), I still loved her in it. Also forgot to mention this one was directed by Jonathan Levine that also directed Seth Rogen in 50/50, which was my favorite film of the year the time it came out. I can’t wait for this to come out on home video as I already want to see it again and know it has fantastic repeat watch value. Oh boy did I love this movie.