Zach’s Zany SPECIAL Reviews: THE LEGO STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL (Disney+)

Obviously the first thing I did after watching Disney+’s THE LEGO STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL was search the net to see if Lucasfilm would consider this special canon. Well, apparently anything that is an officially licensed product, i.e. Lego, is NOT considered canon, although some of the ideas represented in them could become canon down the line as long as they are not in this kind of format. It is and it isn’t a bit of a let down, considering this special takes place AFTER the events of The Rise Of Skywalker, the last film in the franchise and the last established Star Wars linear timeline, and starts with Rey training Finn to become a Jedi. The filmmakers are kind of ‘wink-winking’ to the audience, them knowing we were sort of let down by Rise as a whole, and them trying to wrap up that stupid side plot of Finn never finishing his sentence of, “Rey, I’ve always wanted to tell you…” before he thought they were going to die in that sand pit. They took John Boyega’s answer of, “Well, J.J. told me he was going to tell Rey that he was Force Sensitive, it just never took fruition in the movie,” and made it come true (personally I think they should’ve had a Rey/Finn romance that was hinted at in The Force Awakens, but whatever). Whoa, I’ve gotten way off track, but that’s the Star Wars canon nerd in me. This special is basically the same as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, where a bunch of time traveling shenanigans happen but in the end no event in the Star Wars timeline has ultimately been changed. So it could be goofy canon I guess. IMDB describes it with the following, “Rey leaves her friends to prepare for Life Day as she sets off on an adventure to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure. Will she make it back in time for Life Day?” But overall, it’s just supposed to be a fun and funny little adventure that pokes fun at some of the most eye-rolling scenes in the franchise, and with that in mind, it exceeds expectations.

If you take it in as canon, you will be disappointed. And even though I did enjoy this special, I was a bit disappointed that they couldn’t REALLY make up for that shitty Star Wars Special in the 70s and get the new cast together for one last mini-canonical adventure (written by The Mandalorian’s Jon Favreau of course), but who am I kidding? That new cast is DONE right now with Star Wars, and I don’t blame them, after 5 years of toxic fan harassment, I would be too. But this Lego special suffices. It’s a nice and tight 45 minutes with no filler, excellent pacing, fun scenarios, with a sweet and kind message, something we need right now for sure. The only people from the new cast to come back were Billy Dee Williams as Lando and Kelly Marie Tran as Rose (the latter they asked back probably as the first part of Disney’s two part apology of how her character was handled in Rise of Skywalker, the 2nd part being making Tran the lead voice actor in next years Raya and the Last Dragon). Even with a handful of people coming back to voice their animated counterparts, they still only have a handful of lines and do nothing worth writing home about save for a Lando cape/It’s A Trap zinger. The other voice actors they pick and chose from people that were both in the Clone Wars and Rebels animated series and all the voice acting works for what it is. This is just a goofy, action packed, joke a minute special that is trying to make up for the shitty 70’s one that George Lucas had no involvement in that was also about their universe celebration known as Life Day. It also tries to make up a little bit the mild disappointment a lot of us had the way J.J. Abrams and writer Chris Terrio ended the saga. But here’s the rub, I think even George Lucas would approve of this one and wouldn’t even both trying to destroy every copy of it that exists out there.

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

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

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

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SECRET SOCIETY OF SECOND BORN ROYALS (Disney+)

Congratulations Disney, you have managed to make a film that even the Disney Channel would’ve probably rejected back in the day, which in turn, makes this the worst Disney+ original movie yet. SECRET SOCIETY OF SECOND BORN ROYALS is offensively abysmal. It is literally a movie for no one. It treats kids as if they were idiots, it basically gives the bird to film critics everywhere, and adults that still enjoy some of the Disney Channel Original magic from the 90s/early 2000s will be scoffing at the screen, asking why this was even green lit to begin with. The CGI is laughably straight to video 1990s bad, you can guess the entire plot minute 5, and the movie doesn’t even have the audacity to give you an obligatory after credits sequence. It is just another poor man’s Avengers superhero rip off tale after all. Per IMDB, it describes this film with the following log line: “It follows Sam’s adventures at a top-secret training program for a new class of second-born royals tasked with saving the world.” What that little description doesn’t tell you is that these second-born royals, for some reason or another, gain superpowers when they become of age just because plot convenience. And some of these powers, while being original, are either laughably useless or laughably too powerful. One of the kids can make insects do what he wants yet can’t go small and have super strength like Ant Man in that size? One of them has just her senses heightened but can’t do much else, an adult can just hold their breath underwater for a bit, and one can just duplicate himself yet doesn’t create enough copies when in a pinch. Then the others go straight to laziness screenplay writing 101 by having unoriginal and boring invisibility powers, The Force, the power of persuasion, and then of course one of them can just touch all the others and steal their powers for a brief period. Is it possible I’m a second born royal and have the power to fall asleep whenever I detect bullshit?

Do I need to list every cliche this film has in store for you? Probably not, but you’ll need two sheets of paper when watching this if you were wanting to list it on your own. The movie even tries to make you forget the main villain has an accomplice half way through the movie once he gets captured, and then tries to surprise you by their identity, even though I guessed right off the bat in the ballpark of who it was. This film has excuses galore for how to write around kids with too powerful of superpowers, it’s insulting. The only really recognizable face in this is Pitch Perfect’s Skylar Astin, as the kids mentor and instructor, and honestly, it just seems like it was a paycheck for him, just enough effort to be invited back for possible sequel for an even bigger pay day. There’s a dumb McGuffin device at the end that makes absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever and was written just to preserve anything deathly shocking from happening that would make small kids ponder life’s ultimate questions. The identity of the writers of this giant polished turd is shocking when you look up their past filmography. Well, one shocking and one not so shocking. One of them wrote for Hanna Montana…which this film is almost an exact cheesy blueprint from that show and the other wrote the screenplays for…Robert Rodriguez’s Predators and Paul W.S. Anderson’s shitty Three Musketeers remake? How the fuck did he get roped into this? Add terrible performances from all the kids involved, a butterfly catching a human sequence that made me produce tears from laughter, and terrible direction and you easily have only the second worst thing that the Disney+ platform offers. The first is paying $30 for Mulan.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MULAN (2020)

Any of you that actually paid $30 for this on Disney Plus’s Premier Access…especially when you could’ve waited three months to watch it for free…what were you smoking? And to those that did and actually enjoyed this movie…seriously, what were you smoking? Was it expensive? Were you eating Member Berries during it? You had to be, because MULAN (2020) is a disaster on almost every level of film making I can think of. Put aside the fact that the cartoon in the 90s is a cinematic classic and is still likely to make you feel good to this day. Put aside the classic songs from it. Put aside all the controversies of the making of this live action remake, from some of the controversial locations it was filmed at, to the unauthentic filmmakers behind the camera (pssst, they’re white!), to the lead actress supporting police brutality in Hong Kong. Put ALL that aside. Judge Mulan as if it were this brand new toy you can play with. No prior notions…and it still fails on almost every level of film making I can think of. I couldn’t relate to the character of Mulan because from the get go, as a small child, she has chi like strength and abilities, making her training scenes seem trite and unnecessary. The main villain male is hardly in the movie and what little he is in is a cookie cutter, plain Jane, cardboard cut out of a character. The film, even though it has an over $200-$300 million budget, looks cheap. It looks like most of the film was shot inside a studio, with props here and there, and terrible, terrible green screen everywhere that joins the Star Wars prequels in how out of place it looks to everything else. The female empowerment message is watered down and not earned, especially when it is basically resolved only half way through the film. I’ll get into more in a minute, but all of this is just the tip of the spear of how poorly made and executed this film is.

To quote a friend on Facebook, “remember Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? Well this is like that but way worse.” To quote another friend on Facebook, “It’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Disney.” You can both say that again and again and again. Not only does Mulan rip off a lot of the flying martial arts from that movie throughout the entirety of this one, but it cheaply rips off a symbolic scene from the final season of Game of Thrones, a season that has been critically slammed by all as being lazy and pretentious (I’ll give you a hint at the scene: the wings but not a dragon). That’s how I would describe this film if only given two words: lazy and pretentious. I promised myself that I would try my best to not compare this to the animated version, but to prove a giant point, I’ve got to. In the cartoon, Mulan EARNS her female empowerment arc. She trains, and she trains hard, to become the great warrior she was destined to be. In this live action remake, she’s basically Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. People complained that Rey was too strong in the force without any training and at such an older age. Well here, Mulan mastered the forc…errr I mean these flying chi martial arts abilities with absolutely no training. There is a beginning scene where she masters a fall as a young child that literally was so bad I laughed out loud hard. Hence, all this proves is that SHE HAS NO ARC IN THIS MOVIE. The female empowerment message that is as bright as day and so good in the classic animated film is lost here and nowhere to be found. Her training scenes here are a joke as she masters everything like a walk in the park. She’s like Anakin Skywalker too, already the chosen one without really having to do shit to prove herself. She leaps through mid air twice in this movie to effortlessly kick a giant spear and a small arrow into an enemy’s chest (I laughed inappropriately both times). And both times does it look goofy, unrealistic, and dumb.

Was Jet Li, who plays the Emperor, dubbed over in this film? From what I’ve researched he wasn’t but his words never quite matched his lips and he looked like he really didn’t want to be there. I think he accepted the role as a wish from his daughter, but isn’t he sick and has since removed himself from private life? Doing research he has hyperthyroidism, which causes fatigue and weight loss. He should’ve stayed home. All of the backgrounds in this movie, except for when characters are inside buildings, look awfully fake. Everything looks as if it was surrounded by green screen…are you meaning to tell me that they couldn’t have just shot at real locations? If the reason why they tried but couldn’t because the filmmakers were predominately white, including the writers and director Niki Caro, I wouldn’t be too surprised. This whole film watered down and feels unauthentic. You are meaning to tell me that Disney couldn’t have hired Chinese filmmakers that knew a lot about their history, lore and culture to film and show us something really special? I’m not saying do the whole thing with subtitles or something like that, but surely there were more talented filmmakers out there that could’ve done a better job than Niki Caro (she has arguably only directed one decent film, Whale Rider) and company did? I’m surprised the Chinese government hasn’t out right banned this film from screening in their country it feels so fake. Fuck they should’ve just got Ang Lee to write and direct this (he actually did direct Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, his best film) and even with his rocky track record of late, he could’ve done a much, much better job and had it be more realistic and emotional than this.

Not one emotion here is earned. When she sheds her boy image, only about halfway through the film, while riding her horse through computer animated back drops, I didn’t feel a fucking thing. her “romance” with one of the male warriors is rushed and barely there. There is a avalanche action sequence that is blurry, a CGI mess, and laughably bad. The acting is downright atrocious except for Tzi Ma, who plays Mulan’s father, as he seems like he’s the only one that wants to be there. The film is edited poorly and some of it looks like it was filmed for a class in college. It is just a poorly made film. If anybody that would try to argue with me on why it is a good film, I would argue that clearly 2020 isn’t making you think clearly, as you are eating tons and tons of Member Berries without even thinking of doing so. If you enjoyed this film, you are blind. The best thing about this film was the end credits with Christina Aguilera’s rendition of Reflection, which was not half bad. Go back and watch the animated version and then watch this one again and still tell me this was a well made film in its own right. I will literally laugh in your face. Did you automatically like it because you got lazy, privileged, and selfish during quarantine and would bow down to Disney just because they gave you something to watch at home and not “risk” going to a theater and getting coronavirus? You paid $30 dollars for this garbage for goodness sake (I didn’t, thankfully). Some of you sound like you will like anything, no matter how poorly made it is, if you get it at home and don’t have to leave your houses. You know what that is called? It’s called having a lazy, bias, and skewed film critique. I can see small children not knowing any better, but the adults that are loving this film should be. Those of you who recommend this version of Mulan, I hope that by the end of 2020, or by the end of this pandemic, when the dust settles, maybe you can re-watch this without nostalgia goggles, and change your poor critique reflection. You need to look past the glitz and glamour, be true to your heart, and not have Disney make a turd out of you.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE NEW MUTANTS

Prepare yourselves for one of the only few slightly positive reviews for THE NEW MUTANTS you are likely to ever get. That’s because A. it wasn’t screened for critics, which in turn B. pissed them off, whining about not getting screeners so that they instead just wrote articles on how they won’t review it because they refuse to go to a theater during COVID-19, C. Hardly any reviews at all, and D. Those that did go to a theater to review it were probably biased to write a bad review because of the film’s history and are still pissed off that they didn’t get a screener. So who ya gonna trust? Regular people like me that aren’t quite professional critics that can and will brave a trip to the theaters. And ones that will judge a movie fairly and don’t have an agenda de-testing theaters and trying to essentially destroy their day jobs. So what do regular people think of the movie? Eh, we think it’s okay. In parts it is actually quite good. But it isn’t as bad as real critics are making it out to be, calling it “the worst X-Men film ever,” or “dumb dumb, so fucking dumb.” No, for us that easily goes to Origins: Wolverine or the abysmal, abysmal Dark Phoenix. This movie will unfortunately be known for its history more than the final product: being filmed back in 2017, 20th Century Fox at the time and producer Simon Kinberg at odds with the director, them almost scrapping the movie altogether and starting from scratch, setting up reshoots that never happened, endless delays in its release date, 20th Century Fox being bought by Disney, Kinberg’s awful Dark Phoenix receiving terrible reviews and hardly any money, and then Disney having the original director come back and edit and finish up the film, supposed to have come out in April, COVID-19 fucked things up again, and then just finally dumping the film out when theaters decided to re open even though the pandemic isn’t over.

At the end of the day, The New Mutants slightly works for me because of the characters, the acting, and the 2nd half with the action and special effects was actually quite thrilling. However the story, unfocused tone, and lack of scares really didn’t do it any favors.Per IMDB, it describes The New Mutants as: “Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves.” The real big problem with the movie is the story. There isn’t much of one except the relationship journey of the characters as they’re escaping the facility. There are demons haunting them in this “asylum” like place, but there weren’t any demons until this new young patient came along. So it’s pretty easy to figure out the film’s “secrets” and what happens during the rest of it only ten minutes in. After a really awful looking and blurry beginning, and once all the new, young mutants meet, it’s all their about their personalities eventually learning to accept each other and work as a team. The personality angle absolutely works and along with their acting, makes up for what doesn’t work, which is quite a bit. This movie was marketed from the get-go as being a “scary movie” X-Men Universe film. There are some horror aspects in this film, and one or two things work well, such as the tall and lanky Smiley Men (you’ll see), but other than that, there are absolutely no scares in this movie, not even cheap jump ones. It’s the Breakfast Club stuff that works. Since we all know that Disney will now transition the X-Men to the MCU since they own the characters now, this is going to be the last film in this universe.

And even though there are only a few small references to the past films, there aren’t any big cameos from anyone you know, but fortunately the movie’s story ends and doesn’t really set up any sequels. I’m thankful Disney won’t play with and fuck up the timeline anymore than its already been fucked up by pedophile Singer and co. Brand new slate. There is even a nice LGBTQ love story in this, between Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt’s characters that was well fleshed out and felt realistic. And Anya-Taylor Joy is bad ass in this as Magik, with her dead on perfect Russian accent. I also enjoyed Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton’s southern twang drawl. Their interactions with each other and their dialogue are the best parts of the film, and kept me interested the whole way through. Alice Braga, as this asylum’s doctor, is kind of ho-hum until near the end of the film. Wish it would’ve given her a little more to do other than just inject the kids with syringes. And again, the 2nd half is much better than the first. The first takes awhile to get going, but once it does it chugs along at a decent pace, and then once the 2nd half hits it was smooth sailing till end credits. The 2nd half had pretty damn good special effects too. Although I’ve heard of conflicting reports about writer/director Josh Boone’s personality, I think I can safely say that I’m happy he got to complete his vision without it ultimately being tarnished by the studio…other than it’s dumped release. It’s not top tier X-Men, it isn’t even middle tier X-Men (see my ranking of all 20th Century Fox X-Men Universe films below), but it was better than a handful of the lower tier…which really ain’t half bad when you think about it. But then again, how hard is it to be better than fucking Dark Phoenix?

My ranking of all the 20th Century Fox X-Men Films:

  1. Logan
  2. X2
  3. Days of Future Past
  4. First Class
  5. Deadpool 2
  6. The Wolverine
  7. X-Men
  8. Deadpool
  9. The New Mutants
  10. Apocalypse
  11. The Last Stand
  12. Origins: Wolverine
  13. Dark Phoenix

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (Disney+)

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, that just premiered today on Disney+, is just another standard talking animal movie. Designed to hit you in the feels with a couple of moments while watching it, but those feelings lost in time almost immediately afterward. Kids will enjoy it more than adults, but some of the younger ones might be cuddling up with their parents during the sadder and darker moments. Not that there’s a lot of those moments, because it really is just a harmless kids film but I doubt neither you or your kids are going to be singing its praises for a re-watch or two. Ivan is filled with excellent voice acting, particularly from Sam Rockwell and Brooklynn Prince, and a solid live action performance from Bryan Cranston, but did you expect anything less with the latter, as this is Heisenberg we are talking about here? I don’t think Cranston has the heart to ever phone it in. At the start of the movie, I was afraid it was going to go down certain predictable story paths we’ve seen before. You see, I have heard about this film very little, have seen only a screenshot or two online and didn’t watch the trailer. Almost went in completely blind. At first I thought it was going to be another “save the **insert business here** movie,” then it switched direction and I thought it was going to be another “jealousy between old and new talent” movie but in the end it (thankfully) became a “captivity” movie, although it didn’t have much to say as I felt like a lot was held back. Disney style.

That “captivity” conversation is held back mainly due to the fact that the film really didn’t have a centralized villain, such as a greedy animal tamer, unless you count depression and death as the villain. Which maybe it did? If it did that wasn’t quite clear. Bryan Cranston’s character is a kind-hearted but clueless mini mall circus owner, so do you really think that near the end of the film he is going to have a sudden mean streak, be an asshole and not let his animals go back out into the wild? Yeah…no. That doesn’t happen and if it did, that’s where the movie would have lost me. IMDB describes THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN as such: “A gorilla named Ivan tries to piece together his past with the help of an elephant named Stella as they hatch a plan to escape from captivity.” The log line is a little misleading as there is nothing to piece together from his past, he remembers all of it and knows he eventually wants freedom. It’s more just “telling his tale” than piecing together anything. And the “hatching a plan to escape part” is only in 5 to 7 minutes of the film, ends even more quickly and is used more as a comic relief scene than it does trying to be something meaningful. Screenplay writer Mike White, who has written such gems as School of Rock, The Good Girl, and Orange county seems to be on a weird and calm autopilot here, not really putting much “inspiration” into the Inspired By A True Story title card the film puts on the screen before the movie starts.

The movie isn’t bad, it’s just okay…it’s just there. Certainly not the worst thing Disney+ has given us thus far, but if you have nothing even half way challenging The Mandalorian’s throne, what good are you really? But…you and yours might like this film a lot more than I did. Sam Rockwell as Ivan and Brooklynn Prince as Ruby did tremendous jobs with their voice acting and those two’s work might be worth a one time watch alone. The CGI of the animals was also pretty tame and not jarring in the least, and the faces of the animals talking actually looked like they had personalities, kind of like Disney+’s recent live action adaptation of The Lady and The Tramp, and thankfully unlike an audience overrated “live-action” remake last year where the lions…errr, all the animals looked like bored talking robots. I just want something more from these original movies on these streaming platforms. Everything seems to be on autopilot with these originals, using some blueprint that has a bunch of wear and tear because it has been used too many times in too many things. Surely there is something more that these originals can bring to the table? But I have a feeling The House of Mouse is holding some of these projects back if it doesn’t fit their family-friendly “brand.” There are other darker and sadder places this movie could have and probably should have gone to make its messages and themes hit home more, but that doesn’t fit in with Disney’s brand, so out that goes. Are we really going to keep shielding adults and children that can obviously handle the truth? **gets handed a cease and desist order** Goofy: “Gosh, Zach, shut up, you’re making us look bad…HYUK!”

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MAGIC CAMP (Disney+)

How is this movie half way decent? No seriously, how? Because MAGIC CAMP literally had its first trailer a week ago, was just dumped on Disney+ yesterday, and the trailer sucked major ass. It doesn’t market or promote the film well at all. Although predictable, goofy at times, and even though it doesn’t challenge its audience, Magic Camp is better than it has any right to be because of its heartwarming core story, decent performances from everyone involved, and the fact that other than a very few couple of CGI shots, almost all of the magic tricks done in this film were performed without any computer trickery. When finding out that fact in the middle of watching it, it made me respect the film’s craft that much more. The movie is basically Heavyweights without all the poop jokes, body humor, no Ben Stiller like villain, combined with any Disney Channel movie you might have seen but with a bigger budget, combined with the entertainment value of any high school movie that’s worth its weight in silver, specifically I’m thinking of something like Mean Girls. Which is funny, because this film is directed by Mark Waters, who also directed that classic. While Magic Camp is definitely no classic, it is a guilty pleasure that is sure to get several more viewings from me, whether I need something light heartening to cheer me up, or something for Grayson to enjoy when he gets a little older.

It really is a perfect little family film. Yeah, the film is wacky and rips off a bunch of story/plot beats that I’ve complained about before in recent films like Feel The Beat and Work It, but it doesn’t do it in an eye rolling and “treating its audience as if they were morons” kind of way like those films did. Per IMDB, Magic Camp is described as such: “Andy, at the urging of his former mentor and Magic Camp owner Roy Preston, returns as a counselor to the camp of his youth hoping to reignite his career.” Andy is played by Adam Devine, and yes, even though he plays the exact same character in absolutely everything you have seen him in, just less crude and crass here, his limited acting range works well in this environment, especially when interacting with the group of kids he’s assigned to train and compete with against the other groups within the camp. This movie was shot back in 2017 and I was wondering why it took this long to release it. Well, I can tell you with 100% certainty it wouldn’t have made any money in a theater and its a little too good for the Disney Channel. Right when a certain actor appeared on screen that wasn’t in the trailer, it told me all it needed to know. Actor Jeffrey Tambor is a pretty big presence in this film, and it was shot before he was accused of sexual harassment and became part of the wrong side of #MeToo. But since that has died down and he wasn’t one of the major players, Disney knew they could just quietly put it on their new platform without any muss or fuss, which was honestly the best move they could’ve made with it.

The magic tricks were quite cool to watch, Gillian Jacobs is in this and it was fun to watch her be a little wacky and not just play Britta Perry from Community. I wish she was in it a little more but I loved her role which could’ve been cliche but instead subverts your expectations. But those two things don’t hold a candle to one of the central parts of the story. The movie is really about a young kid named Theo and his journey to become a great magician. He also just recently lost his father, and his father was the one to get him into magic. Now while the script and movie could’ve just had a throwaway line that is supposed to hit you in the feels, instead it actually cast a decent actor, Aldis Hodge, to play the now deceased dad in a couple of flashbacks that EARNS those feels it is trying to elicit from the audience. Combined with a little subplot with his Mom, I actually teared up a little near the end of the film, as it had a very heartwarming climax. Combine that with some fun sequences, some witty one liners that made me laugh out loud, and some wholesome family fun, this is a perfect little kid/family film. I just wish Disney would’ve made a little bit of an effort with promoting it, maybe starting a month ago, bringing some looked forward to fun in the middle of these shitty, shitty times. We all wish that coronavirus would just go away as fast as we could say “Abra Cadabra”, but the reality is we are in this for a little while longer, and if we can find some decent means of escape like Magic Camp, maybe we can look forward more to being put back together soon after 2020 has sawed us in half.

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

So a little disclaimer about this review, I’ve technically seen and reviewed the stage play musical, HAMILTON, when it came to Dallas a little bit ago. Posted it right here on this blog in fact. So this first paragraph is just going to be me saying how the experience was while watching it on Disney+ and then I’m copying and pasting my old review of the content of the stage play. So if you already read that part of it way back when, other than this intro, you aren’t getting anything new. HOWEVER, if you’ve seen Hamilton on stage, and were on the fence about watching it again on your screen at home, mainly because you didn’t think it could re create the same magic, think again. This is the first required viewing, in my opinion, of something on Disney+ since The Mandalorian debuted last year. You get the original Broadway cast here, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, the works. Their acting and showmanship are different than the off Broadway cast (not better or worse), and it feels fresh seeing different faces for sure. It’s still the same amazing play, but up close and personal. They didn’t just set a camera in front of the stage and film a live original performance. There’s different camera angles, close ups, fade in and outs, dissolves, putting you right smack dab in the middle of their performance as if you were standing with them on stage. So even if you’ve seen THE ORIGINAL MUSICAL WITH THE ORIGINAL CAST, this is still worth checking out. It’s a completely different experience, fresh even if you’ve listened to everything so much you can rap out lyric by lyric, word by word. This is one of the best musicals of all time. So you know Hollywood will one day, when it’s back up and running, try to make an epic of it on decorated sound stages and location shootings, and they could either knock it out of the park, or it could end up being another…Cats **shiver**. Let’s not think about that right now. The only really complaint I have is I wished they had filmed it without an audience…but then again maybe it wouldn’t have been as good of a performance? To be fair, it wasn’t as distracting as actually being there with a live audience, they never show the audience and the cheering was really short and cut off between small breaks into the next scene. Without further ado, my older review of Hamilton when I saw it with the off Broadway cast in Dallas not too long ago:

So the Broadway touring of HAMILTON is in Texas, and since it is the most buzzed about play since The Book of Mormon, obviously it peaked my interest (the next one to do that might be Harry Potter and The Cursed Child). And since I’m seeing less movies in the theaters nowadays, I thought I could write a short review on my thoughts. Is it worth the hype and all the awards it has won? Absolutely. And now other than The Book of Mormon, it would definitely be a play I could see multiple times and neither feel bored and I’d also feel like I got my money’s worth. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a masterpiece. Nothing short of greatness.

Hamilton is about the life of Alexander Hamilton. But everything is either sung or rapped, incorporates R&B, pop, soul, hip hop, show tunes, and also casts color-consciously of non-white actors as historical figures. The play starts out with his early life as an orphan throughout just the intro song and then we go into straight into adulthood to his tragic death. The play is in two acts, and I don’t think there is a word spoken that isn’t sung. But everything works so perfectly well. Apparently it took Miranda years to write it and do perfect the songs, perfect every single note, and it shows. It is one of the most intricate things I’ve ever heard, so much so that, like Book of Mormon, might be finding and buying the CD to it. Every song is great and catchy, and there are absolutely no lag moments in the play. My favorite part? Probably like a lot of people, I do enjoy when King George III takes the stage.

The stage itself is pretty standard. It consists of a lot of wood and stairs and rope, and then some fake brick to look like old buildings. And it doesn’t change. Not that its a bad thing at all, in fact, I would’ve be shocked if it had been any more intricate because it would’ve taken even longer to get the product out to audiences around the world. One thing that is a little unique about the stage is that it rotates in the middle constantly to convey movement, and is very impressive when mixed in with the choreography to song and dance numbers. As for the acting? It is all impressive. I didn’t take a Playbill from the April 28th, 2019 showing, but if you were one of the actors/dancers in the play, you did a tremendous job. Especially the leads like Hamilton and Burr, the way they could memorize all those songs, movements, and words and make it look like another walk in the part is nothing short of masterful.

So if you are on the fence about seeing this, why? Don’t be. It’s amazing and truly a thing that should be on your bucket list. Whether you are a history buff or even scoff at history, there is something in this play for everyone to enjoy. The play is 2 hours and 55 minutes (including a 15 minute intermission) but you could’ve fooled me, the time just whizzes by extremely fast. If this is the one thing that Lin Manuel-Miranda is remembered by, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. If there is real magic on the planet, this Broadway play is the closest that it gets to seeing is believing.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ARTEMIS FOWL (Disney+)

Wow… after this & Cats…Judi Dench really needs to fire her agent. Let’s make one thing absolutely clear before I start this review. I have not read one page of any of the ARTEMIS FOWL young adult series. So this review is going to be based solely on if it did or didn’t work for me as a film. Also, originally my wife was going to write a review and the title to it was already set to ‘Diane’s Delightful Movie Reviews’ until I just changed it. Unlike me, she has read all the Artemis Fowl books and when the end credits rolled, she told me just to write one of my reviews and just tell people what she thought. She didn’t want to write hers because, “It would take too long. My review would just list the ways that the book differs from the film, and it would be one long endless complaint.” Eh, I kind of lied just there. That was paraphrasing. What actually came out of her mouth was, “It was meh, I don’t want to write the review anymore.” And then she explained to me how they were different. Well, after watching the movie and after hearing all the differences between the two, I do actually want to go and read all the books, but that statement doesn’t bode well for the movie. While I didn’t hate it as much as critics or lovers of the novel did, it did not work for me as a film, to say the least. It really was just, “meh.” And that is ultimately disappointing, because there are some elements in the film that hint of a world full of magical and interesting possibilities. But that’s just what they are, hints. No execution of actual magic whatsoever.

Doing a tiny bit of research, this movie was supposed to come out theatrically last August, as it was filmed back in 2018. But then in May of 2019, it was delayed to May 29th, 2020, without any reasoning behind the move other than marketing for the film was not ready besides a very generic teaser poster. Then on April 3rd, 2020, the film was delayed yet again, because of…you guessed it, fucking COVID-19. It didn’t have a release date after that for a little bit, but then Disney announced that it was just going to dump the film on their streaming service Disney+ instead of just delaying it theatrically any further. Which wasn’t a good sign for the quality of the film at all. According to Vulture.com: “Disney moving the film straight to streaming was viewed as “”the death knell for Artemis as a film franchise”” by industry insiders, because “the platform’s subscription revenues are incapable of generating a return on investment that would justify the movie’s $125 million price tag.” Combine that with everything else sent to PVOD because of the pandemic, save for The Wretched and The King of Staten Island, have all been mediocre at best, I knew that when pressing the play button on the movie late yesterday evening, that I probably wasn’t going to like the film. I was correct, but the bar was set so low that I probably didn’t hate it as much as you book lovers think I probably should have. But don’t twist my words, the movie is not good.

Per IMDB.com and Rotten Tomatoes.com, the movie is “Based on the first two books in author Eoin Colfer wildly popular children’s fantasy series, Walt Disney Studios’ Artemis Fowl tells the story of adolescent criminal genius Artemis, who captures a vicious fairy, and attempts to harness her magical powers in a bid to rescue his family.” See how even that description is kind of vague? That is how thin the plot is. Most of the movie, I didn’t know what the fuck what going on until I paused it a couple of times and my wife Diane explained it to me. After the explanation, it was still a very thin plot to me, the description above is a little deceiving, with only hints of giant world building that the movie neglects to expand upon. Add to all that an extra helping of no character development and awful acting by the title character who played Artemis and…Judi Dench. The plot is, in a ho-hum nutshell, finding a MacGuffin Fairy Skeleton Key to find Artemis Fowl’s kidnapped father, played by Colin Farrell, obviously there for just a paycheck. Was the overarching villain named Opal is way underdeveloped and hidden in shadows so they could’ve hired a more famous person to portray her in later movies? Not the best idea. Just because it worked in Harry Potter, doesn’t mean that it’s going to work here. The only character to have some kind of development, even being razor thin itself, is Mulch Diggums, played surprisingly not annoyingly by Josh Gad, who is the only actor in this that looks like they want to be there.

Judi Dench is awful in this. When she shows up on screen, her voice is gravelly and nasally, she looks bored and also like she doesn’t have a clue what was going on. Same with the audience. In fact, I probably didn’t place all the pieces together until about an hour into the film, and by then, with only a half hour left, the movie climaxes on just one action set piece that took place inside a house, that wasn’t interesting in the least. Half of it was swinging back and forth on a chandelier with quick cuts and a CGI Troll villain, whose design was so fake and embarrassing it made Steppenwolf from Justice League face palm himself. This whole world was underdeveloped. You cannot take a novel, even at a shorter 280 pages, and condense it into only a 95 minutes film. But the fact that it is supposed to be an adaptation of the first two novels is even more head scratching. What is also confusing is that the CGI and visuals, with the exception of the awful looking troll, are actually a little striking. I liked the look of the underground lair of the fairies and the look of most of the technology, especially the Time Freeze device. There is something magical here, its just really difficult to see what that is, unless I eventually pick up the novel. But after I read that, I have a feeling I’m going to truly despise this film. And for some reason, I don’t blame Kenneth Branaugh, who has directed some truly great looking pictures such as Marvel’s Thor and one of Disney’s few, great, live action remakes, Cinderella. He has an eye for the camera, and some of his shots are steady and gorgeous to look at. If he had a tighter script that was a faithful adaptation of the novel with more flair, world building, and character development…a film that actually took its time to introduce the viewer, especially non fans, to this fantastical environment, there could’ve been something Harry Potter level great here.

But alas, just like the two Percy Jackson movies, this fails on all levels. Both movies have the same faults of not adapting the material to the best of their abilities. And the studios and scripts are to blame. Artemis Fowl’s script, was co-written by a guy used to doing just stage plays and the other guy wrote…fucking Johnny English Reborn and fucking…Mr. Beans Holiday. Yeah, you need veterans in Hollywood that know their shit, in fact, Disney, why the fuck didn’t you just get Harry Potter’s Steve Kloves??? I’m sure he had time in his schedule to give you something solid. But instead, you get a hazy, blurry, jumbled mess of a world that was supposed to introduce fairies, trolls, & other mythical beings in a cool twist on the espionage adventure film. To me, just basing this film on its own merits, taking that it was a novel first out of the equation, everything we got was just a giant fucking misfire. Nothing was interesting, nothing was exciting, I didn’t understand most of it, everything was boring. Just a few little hints here and there of potential. Potential that was ignored to just put a mediocre product out on the market. How does this happen? Why wasn’t more care brought to this property? Just like author Rick Riordan came out and said that he hates the Percy Jackson films, I bet you author Eion Colfer eventually does the same thing. Maybe Disney will extend the chance they are giving to Riordan to come up with his own mini series, that adapts the source material faithfully and with more flair. I bet you that ends up happening if the Percy Jackson Disney+ series is a success both commercially and critically. But for right now, this film is what it is: an adaptation that will put casual movie goers and critics like me into a confused sleep, and one that will most likely put fans of the novels into a foul…foul mood.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: STAR WARS – THE CLONE WARS FINAL 7th SEASON (Ranking The Series As A Whole)

Happy May The 4th Everyone! This morning before heading to work I watched the 12th and final episode of Season 7 of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, which happens to be the final episode of the show…ever. If you are out of the loop, The Clone Wars began with an awful animated feature film in August 2008, proceeding by the actual television series which ran for 5 seasons between 2008 and 2013. Then the Disney merger happened and Clone Wars was cancelled, which led to a shortened Season 6 being released all at once on Netflix in 2014 (these were episodes that were finished before The Clone Wars was announced as being cancelled). Then somewhere in between all of this we got the animated Star Wars Rebels for four fabulous seasons, two awful animated seasons of Star Wars Resistance, we got comics, books, and other small releases trying to tie up some of the stories that The Clone Wars couldn’t finish, and then finally the announcement that Disney was letting creator Dave Filoni go back and do 12 more and final episodes of Clone Wars. They wanted to give the fans a wrap up to all the stories and go out on its own terms. They announced it I think a little over a year ago and that it would all debut on a weekly basis on Disney+. The season started back in February, and now here we are. The end. Was it a fantastic last season? No, but it had a perfect final four episodes, a perfect series finale, which more than made up for the so-so 8 episodes that came before (I’ll get to reasons why they were a little meh in a minute). I still prefer Rebels, but in the end, The Clone Wars animated television series was a billion times better than what the prequel movies had to offer and they actually made the prequel movies better if you can believe that. And the last four episodes made me want to go back and check out Revenge Of The Sith again. They are THAT epic.

Let’s get talking about the entirety of the series out of the way. Every Star Wars fan knows that the animated Clone Wars feature film and Season 1 are a slog to get through (they suck Jar Jar’s Balls to be precise), and those I would say are the only terrible things in all of the Clone Wars series. If we are talking all of animated Star Wars though…Resistance is definitely the worst thing ever. You could have a gun to my head and I’d pick the Clone Wars feature film every time than having to watch a even a minute of that “really” made for kids series. Even worse than the prequels. Just…just don’t ever watch that show. Starting with Season 2, the Clone Wars just keeps getting better and better in a roller coaster ride type fashion. The main interconnected stories that brought new characters, new mythology, and other new things we didn’t know about our favorite galaxy are masterful…and then there are the single episodes spread out here and there, that most likely either involved Jar Jar, Padme, C-3P0 and R2-D2, that were meant to cleanse the palate…they just being ho-hum forgettable side adventures. Your attention may linger a bit, but trust me, you only have to go through a handful of those spaced out in order to get to the juicy parts. You’ll know it when you see it, and you’ll feel it when you see it, but there is a “The Chosen One Prophecy” 3 episode arc in Season Three that is truly masterful storytelling (reason why season 3 is ranked low is because there isn’t that much that masterful in that season other than that arc). There really is no way to describe some of the fantastic and epic story telling, especially in 4, 5, and 6, (those will explain why Darth Maul just shows up in Solo: A Star Wars Story alive, so will Rebels) you just have to experience it for yourself in order to prove my stance that it makes the prequel movies better.

Now let’s get to season 7. In the latter half of its run, Clone Wars dedicated 3 to 5 episodes on one continuous main storytelling arc, which is why the latter seasons are ranked so high, is because they mostly got rid of the ridiculous one offs. If you look at my ranking after my review, the reason why Season 7 in kind of in the middle and not higher up, is because a. Anakin and especially Obi-Wan, are barely in any of the 12 episodes, b. The first 4 episodes tell the story of a “Bad Batch” of clones (not meaning they are bad guys, but defects that have some roguish type personalities and behaviors) and while the story is entertaining and well paced, if you are a true Star Wars fan, you’ve already seen all four episodes. Because at the time when Dave Filona and company didn’t think they were going to finish the series, these were the next batch of episodes that were going to be completely finished, animated, and aired, but they didn’t get time to finish them before they were shoved away from their work spaces. Thus on the blu-ray extras (and released on YouTube), those unpolished four episodes were already released. Granted these new ones are more watchable now that they have updated animation and special effects, are the story beats and dialogue are the same. Which kind of leads me to my hypothesis was that Dave Filoni pitched he really only needs to completely make 8 new episodes to wrap up the series, and save a whole shit load of money just by polishing these almost finished ones and releasing those into official canon. I mean, come one, there had to have been one catch as to why Disney granted them one last season. Cost cutting is always on the Mouse’s agenda.

The next batch of four episodes were original but they focused entirely on Ahsoka and what she did right after she left the Jedi order. Even though a novel that was released several years ago puts into perspective what she did with her time leading to her surprise appearance on Rebels. And while the story was at a break neck pace, and interesting as it ultimately had some ties to Solo: A Star Wars Story, it was ultimately a disappointed because I feel like we’ve seen that kind of story before. You know, the one where a loner befriends a group of people that don’t like her kind (Jedi) but they all come out alright in the end, even after figuring out her identity? Yeah, so not entirely original. But those 4 episodes are set up to the last 4, which are also Ahsoka centric, but also Darth Maul centric (finishing his unfinished storyline from Season 5 + the Son of Dathromir comics that tie that season and 7 together), and it also does the unthinkably bold. When everyone thought that when Clone Wars ended, it would end right up to the events of Revenge of the Sith, so that you can just pop in that movie to continue the adventure when you were done…nope, these last four episodes, EPIC, EPIC, episodes take place at the same time as Revenge of the Sith. I won’t reveal more much than that, but it fits in seamless with that movie, and the Ahsoka/Maul final duel in the second of the last four episodes are masterful. And the final episode’s final five minutes, with no dialogue, and a chilling yet required cameo, close out the series in epic style. So if you are a Star Wars fan, or you consider yourself to be one of high order, and you haven’t watched this series, then you really aren’t one of high order. But you could be. Anyway, the last season was pretty good, with a perfect final four episodes, and if the other 8 weren’t just recycled stories and had a little more umph to them the whole season would be higher, but I think you’ll agree in the middle is where it belongs. So if you haven’t started this series, but plan to, well…I hope you have some mythological discovery fun…and of course…May The Force Be With You.

All of Clone Wars Ranked:

  1. Season 5
  2. Season 6
  3. Season 4
  4. Season 7
  5. Season 2
  6. Season 3
  7. Season 1
  8. The Feature Film