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 “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 and Rotten, 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

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE CALL OF THE WILD (2020)

God damn the CGI dog in this is so fucking distracting. More than all the other CGI animals, lakes, scenery, what have you. This would’ve been a pretty damn decent adaptation of the beloved novel if they had just used a real dog for the rest of the scenes that didn’t put the animal in any danger. I get that you have to use a CGI dog after the fiasco that A Dog’s Purpose (don’t worry Sarah Sides, you could easily handle this film with your crying bullshit) got when behind the scenes video showed a terrified real dog just being dropped into a mildly fast studio made river, but the CGI should just be used in those dangerous scenes. In this film for example, completely fine to use the technology to show a dog surviving being trapped under the ice of a frozen lake, jumping off the roof of a cabin that is on fire, etc. But to keep that CGI dog doing simple things that a trick dog could do alongside Harrison Ford just looks so fucking odd and it takes away from the otherwise entertaining movie. You get even more flabbergasted when you realize the CGI dog is basically just a human in a tight green screen suit with balls whose model was scanned after an adopted dog (they couldn’t have taught that dog tricks?!), handing something to Harrison Ford that was in his mouth. So fucking distracting.

But the rest of the movie is fine. Entertaining a bit actually. Yet a little cliched from a lot of other dog movies you’ve seen, but this is forgivable because this is an adaptation of a really old novel (1903 to be exact), which set the standard for future movies and novels to basically just copy it, thus cliches being born. The film follows a giant St. Bernard named Buck as he is stolen from his home in California and sent to the Yukon to be a sled mail service dog, where he eventually befriends Han Solo and begins a life-altering adventure. You always have to admire a film in which Harrison Ford actually looks as if he’s giving a damn. He is in one quick scene near the beginning but really doesn’t come into play until the 40 minute mark, and is there the rest of the film. Despite cringe worthy narration from Ford that reminded me of the one he reluctantly did for Blade Runner’s theatrical release, his acting overall is pretty good. Seemed like he didn’t mind being in an adaptation of the story. But this is Buck’s story mostly, so the CGI dog is in almost every frame of the movie…and I just couldn’t get over it until Ford shows up for the rest of the film, and even then it was all still blantantly in my peripheral vision. At least the film was free for me (I used all my Disney points to get a free digital copy of it).

There are other known actors in the films, but with very, very small roles that I didn’t understand why they couldn’t have just cast unknowns that could done the same job but for less money, kick start their careers so to speak. You have Omar Sy as one of the bob sled mail service guys that buys Buck after he is stolen, you have Dan Stevens hamming it up as the bad guy that doesn’t care about animals and is just looking for gold, and then Karen Gillan even shows up in a blink and you’ll miss her part as Dan Steven’s characters’ girlfriend. It’s very very weird. But the rest of the film, like I said, is fine. Surprised me a bit actually that it didn’t really lose my attention (it couldn’t though really with that “I can’t look away” awful CGI dog). I mean seriously, this is animal CGI almost as bad in the Twilight movies, where the wolves looked utterly fake as fuck. They seriously should’ve just used a dog that could do cool little tricks for the very easy scenes and then just relied heavily on CGI in the dangerous ones and not let the real dog get anywhere near that situation. It would’ve been much more forgivable. At first when watching the marketing I thought that maybe Harrison asked that he not act alongside a real dog. I don’t believe that anymore. I bet we would’ve gotten an even better performance out of him if the dog was real, and he fucking knows it. It all has to do with animal rights, and I get it, but there could’ve been better workarounds. But my tiny 2 and a half year old was pointing at all the animals, getting all excited, and enjoyed the parts of the movie that he watched, so what the fuck do I know?

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: STAR GIRL (Disney+)

“Where were you when amateur critic Zach Alexander put the first Disney+ original film in his worst list of the year?” is what you might be asking yourselves years from now…even amid this pandemic. Just kidding, no one gives a shit what I think, but eveb among this COVID-19 shit, I will remember that STAR GIRL is the first Disney + original film that I didn’t much care for. For people like me…you…you always remember your first. Here’s the thing, well…two fold: first, the movie isn’t that bad, I’m about to write a review after this one of a movie called Lost Girls on Netflix, which was way worse than this. Secondly, A lot of you will like this anyway, especially if you’ve read the beloved book, and at the same time, I’ve just seen this kind of movie too many times to care at this point. It’s another weird, awkward, yet very nice and inspiring person being accepted at a school in a small town movie. She says her name is Star Girl, and at first the school thinks she’s odd (except for a boy, who is our narrator and has a crush on her the entire time) and keeps her at a distance, some of her actions (like singing nice songs) makes the school conform and the school at one point after she starts going there breaks down social barriers where everyone is accepted by everyone and no one dislikes each other, get bullied etc. But that’s the middle of the movie, and you know there has got to be some kind of conflict for this thing to stretch out into an hour and 47 minutes (really only an hour and 37, fucking Disney+ is still stretching out their credits to no man’s land), so other stuff happens, but I won’t be that spoilery type person. Suffice to say, her star shines bright, but then it doesn’t.

It just takes a long time to get to some kind of plot. Over the half of the movie it is just this boy, telling the audience about his crush and admiration for this really weird chick that dresses different and acts different and doesn’t give a shit. And he wishes he could still be that way, because he used to be weird with his clothing choices (really only his dead father’s really large tie). And I kept wondering where the fuck the movie was going. And instead of showing it’s hand card by card, it just lays them out on the table right after halfway through the film, and it didn’t feel like any of the hard hitting social lessons were earned very well. Especially when it reveals that in Star Girls good deeds, she does two things accidentally wrong (only one I really understood, the other seemed like really not a big deal at all, and something that the entire student body wouldn’t get upset over in real life). And the ending seems abrupt and not earned either with how depressing it is. The ending doesn’t make that much sense, and I’d get into it more but if you have any interest in this movie, and want to watch it, I don’t want to ruin it, especially if you are quarantined in your house and have nothing to do.

The acting all around is pretty good, even though the great Giancarlo Esposito’s (Gus Fring in Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul) character in this is completely pointless. Also, it LITERALLY looks like he stepped off the Better Call Saul set to shoot less than 10 minutes of this film. It had me laughing, the just dishevel his hair and point and shoot. Star Girl is played by Grace VanderWaal, who was a giant sensation on America’s Got Talent, musically speaking. Or so I heard, never watch that show. But she sings and plays a guitar/ukele in this and is really quite good. Who knew she could act? While I didn’t care much for the movie, I enjoyed her performance and could see her doing better films in the future. All in all, the movie has good messages about social conformity (kind of ironic since we are practicing social distancing right now because of the virus) but it just didn’t work for me. I was interested in the movie for the first ten minutes when the boy was explaining his chool life, but quickly got bored, and basically never recovered. However, I will always remember that this is the first Disney+ film that I didn’t really care for too much. Noelle and Timmy Failure were barely passable though, Togo and Lady & The Tramp being its highlights. So this is only the fifth film, take that for what you will. I’m sure there will be something worse down the line, in fact, I’m 150% positive there will be, I just wish at this point that Disney+ maybe would’ve debut with more original shit under its sleeve. All it really has original masterful content wise is The Mandalorian and the last season of Clone Wars. And no, that isn’t enough to earn this streaming service a star on the classroom board for me yet.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: DISNEY/PIXAR’S ONWARD (no spoilers)

Wow, with Disney/Pixar’s ONWARD, I have not cried that hard in a movie theater since the beginning of Pixar’s Up. Not a bad cry, like the movie sucked, but a beautiful, fantastic, sinus relieving Niagra Falls of emotion. And I probably haven’t cried that hard at an ending since the end of Spielberg’s E.T. I was literally bawling like a baby needing its bottle, and I’m not afraid to admit it. This movie has the most emotional ending to a movie since, I mean I can’t even think right now my eyes are so tired from crying. And to think because of the low box office this weekend, and all you dumb motherfuckers afraid to crawl out of your panties and do anything because of the coronavirus, that will end up being all that ONWARD will be known for. Released on the wrong weekend, because of mass hysteria, known as one of Pixar’s failures alongside The Good Dinosaur. THIS IS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BALLPARK MEDIOCRE QUALITY THAT THE GOOD DINOSAUR WAS! NOT EVEN CLOSE. This was a solid, SOLID, cool, mystical, fantasy road trip adventure from the good ol’ folks at the almost always reliable Pixar studio. It was way better than Toy Story 4, way better than Incredibles 2…probably its best since Inside Out. Just another reason why Pixar needs to stop with sequels, and give us good ol’ fashioned original content such as this. This was a real treat to watch, and is now my favorite film of 2020 so far.

When thinking upon it, this is technically not Pixar’s first “road trip” movie. You can technically, TECHNICALLY, count the two Finding Nemo/Dory films as those. However, you could say that this is the first…”road quest” movie that actually involves an actual road. I say quest, because the movie is set in a fantasy world where unicorns, elves, fairies, minotaurs, what have you, enrich this planet like we do ours, and while they used to do all the magic, spell conjuring, castle adventure type stuff of yore that we read in novels and play in Dungeon & Dragon role playing table games, they now live life, like we do, and all of them have forgotten the ways of the past. Instead of using their wings, fairies and others with wings have gotten lazy and use cars and motorcycles. Instead of creating light with wands, they invented electricity. I could go all day, but you get the gist, especially if you’ve seen any marketing for it either. The movie is about two elf brothers who set out on a quest to find a spell that will bring back their deceased father and to discover if there is still magic out there. That’s all I’m going to say plot wise. If you’ve seen the trailers or tv spots, you’ll know there is more to it, like half being legs traveling with the brothers, but the less you know, the better. The movie plays on all of the tropes you’ve read and seen in other movies and television shows with hilarious effect. There are cute jokes for kids, there are huge belly aching laughs for adults. It is a great family film, but if you are a kid reading this, just to warn you, you might see mommy or daddy cry.

All of the foreshadowing is there, but I didn’t end up guessing what was going to happen in this movie because, frankly, I didn’t want to. I was enjoying the movie too much and didn’t want to think hard and ruin it. So when in that mindset, I didn’t find it predictable, and a couple of twists had me going, “oh wow, didn’t see that coming but maybe I should have because of this and this at the beginning.” The animation? Perfect, as usual. At this point, commenting on how good Pixar animation is like going to Philadelphia and going to an off the wall cheese steak place and commenting on how good the cheese steak is. It’s the story and voice acting that goes a long way. Tom Holland does a great job as one of the brothers named Ian Lightfoot. He doesn’t sound like Peter Parker and manages to even sound different than his last and very recent voice work in Spies In Disguise. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great as their Mom. Didn’t detect any Elaine Benis or Selena Myers in there at all. But the real standout is Chris Pratt as the older brother Barley. He really gets into the character, creating something unique that won’t remind you of Owen Grady or Peter Quill. All of the “road trip” pits stops of any road trip movie are here, but all the stops subvert your expectations, especially the final one, which finds a better way of going the full circle route than a recent road trip movie ten years ago tried to do. If I reveal the movie, you’ll guess the ending so I think I’ll stop there.

The guy that wrote and directed this Pixar movie wrote and directed Monsters University, a fine but mostly unnecessary prequel to one of Pixar’s other great originals. Needless to say this was a vast improvement over that one. Especially the ending. The ending to this is probably the most perfect ending to a Pixar film other than the first Incredibles, Ratatouille or Wall-E. My wife and I were needing more popcorn napkins to wipe up all the tears. Like I said, it’s a shame it didn’t make all that much this weekend. Who knows, maybe it could be…infectious, and end up having long legs at the box office once all this fear and paranoia over the coronavirus subsides over the next month. I hope so, but in the meantime, I’m not afraid to call this Disney/Pixar box office bomb one of my favorite films of 2020, even by the end of the year it is likely to stay in my top ten if not top twenty. Magical in in nature, magic literally comes out of the screen and into the audience. I also love how they incorporate the title into the movie, it was subtle yet cute, when in most movies if they bring up the title in dialogue it gets an eye roll from me. If you are reading this review, and really want to see this, yet are afraid to leave your house in fear of what you shouldn’t really be afraid of right now, go out to the theater and give this a shot. See it with your family, you’ll have a wonderful, emotionally satisfying time, I guarantee it. We can’t keep checking CNN to see how many people this dumb fucking virus has infected every ten minutes. We need to look to the future. We need to move onward.

P.S. Forgot to mention that there is a wonderful The Simpsons short before the movie with a story about Maggie which was absolutely delightful. It was basically announcing that The Simpsons is joining the Disney family since they bough out 20th Century Fox, and it also lets you know that The Simpsons humor we all know and love won’t be messed with and will be in tact. Simpson/Disney jokes galore where the Duff beer cans making an appearance as a wink wink to the audience that the buy out won’t fuck with out favorite dysfunctional cartoon family. Made me smile.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: TIMMY FAILURE – MISTAKES WERE MADE (Disney+)

TIMMY FAILURE: MISTAKES WERE MADE, the new original film that debuted on Disney+ that past week, is in the same vein as Troop Zero that debuted on Amazon Prime last month (oh hey they both start with a T too!). What that means is that it is a cute, passable, one time watch kid film that will make you pine and ache for the better kids films you grew up with back in the 90s/early 2000s (and arguably Big Fat Lair being the last of the greats). Seeing that you are my age reading this, you might now even have a little tyke the same age when you starting watching all that garbage decades ago, and if so, take comfort knowing that he or she will enjoy this much more than you ever will. It’s quirky, it’s weird, it has a life lesson in there about growing up that will go over kids heads, and you know what? That’s okay. I’m giving it a mild recommendation because it doesn’t treat the audience (both big and small) as if they were idiots, something I am afraid will happen to me when I see Sonic The Hedgehog tomorrow (place your bets!). I think the oddest thing about this whole endeavor is that it was written and directed by Tom McCarthy, who has won a damn Oscar for writing Spotlight, and whose other films (such as Win Win, The Station Agent, has received critical acclaim. But then again, he’s also written and directed one of Adam Sandler’s worst films, The Cobbler and is responsible for the so-so screenplay of the recent Christopher Robin. Timmy Failure is more in the Robin camp than the Cobbler thank Christ.

The movie is about, and I’m just going to borrow from on this one, “An 11-year-old boy who believes that he is the best detective in town runs the agency Total Failures with his best friend, an imaginary 1,200-pound polar bear.” It isn’t as zany as it sounds, and I feel like if it went full zany, it would’ve been The Cobbler disaster like proportions. In fact, the treatment of the imaginary polar bear is done quite well and looks quite good considering it is a straight to Disney+ feature (about as good as the effects of the live action Lady and The Tramp). The film ultimately works well because of the quirky of the character of Timmy, and his weird verbal exchanges with his real human friends, his angry teacher (played by the great Wallace Shawn), the school counselor (played by the great Craig Robinson in a role that showcases more of his talents than just weird comedy like The Office), his mom (Ophelia Lovibond, Elementary) and the meter maid man his mom is dating (Kyle Bornheimer, Casual). The only thing that kind of bums me out is that I was hoping for more kid like detective adventures than the one we got. Like real smart yet kooky detective work from the boy. It started out fine when he took the case of a stolen back pack, but then the movie mixes in too much of the boy outlandish imagination involving Russians and a Chinese classmate and several times it crossed the lines of silliness. Thank goodness for those little doses of reality when he snaps out of it than more than made up for the too much silliness at hand. When doing research on this film, there are like 7 books in this series, and maybe this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the first one, here’s to assuming that there is more actual detective work in the other books and if those get made for Disney+ in the future, that they are adapted correctly.

The movie really is a hit and miss type of affair, because you get really well constructed and funny scenes involving Timmy and his friend entering a bank with fencing masks on but then you get a weird damn dam school field trip adventure after, that while having a couple of pretty funny sight gags (especially the last one), it didn’t really work for me in the context of what was going on. The movie truly shines in its last act, the last 30 minutes, when Timmy goes on a little adventure with the meter maid man his mom is dating. The exchanges between the two are light heartened, convincing, and fun and I look back on the entire film and wish that the whole hr and 40 minutes was devoted to those two just solves little insignificant kids cases. Oh well, maybe in the sequels? The newcomer that plays Timmy, Winslow Fegley, is actually quite good. He rides that fine line of being a cute kid with quirks that feels realistic than getting into over-the-top unbelievable territory. He’ll have you chuckling every time he uses the phrase, “Mistakes were made.” I think I’ve said what I needed to say about this film, other than that Disney+ is the perfect platform for it, because it wouldn’t have been seen by anybody in the theaters other than the fans of the novels, and it is better than a lot of the ‘original movies’ that Netflix has to offer. Somewhere right in the middle. Ultimately passable, a mild recommendation, but completely forgettable.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: STAR WARS EPISODE IX THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (spoilers, spoilers, spoilers, ho ho ho)

Merry Christmas (well…Eve) everyone! As present to my faithful readers and since I haven’t had any backlash on what I’ve said about STAR WARS EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER so far, my present to you is a full review, albeit some spoilers in this here stocking stuffer. So, if you haven’t seen it, I’d steer clear until after you have, so you don’t blame Zach Claus and put him on your own naughty list. I don’t go into detail with every single thing that happens in the film mind you, but I do go into some specifics about what I liked and didn’t like about the film. The only way to really do that is to spoil some major shit that goes down. So if you have seen the film, gather your family around by the computer, maybe start a fire in your fireplace, or put a fake one on your big screen television, and bundle up to get warm, as this sleigh review ride might be downright bumpy to you and yours from the get go.

Why is that? Because The Rise Of Skywalker is NOT my favorite/best film of 2019. Yep. Did I just shove some shocking coal down your stocking? If you’ve read my shit for awhile, you would know that The Force Awakens was my top film of 2015 and The Last Jedi was my top film of 2017 (and still are, no shame here). And if I could go back and tweak my 2016 and 2018 lists, I would take Rogue One completely out of the spot (I think #3, how insane was I? was probably bias) I put it on and it wouldn’t even be on that list at all, and Solo would reappear near the bottom twenty of the year of its release. I’ve learned that you can’t just rank a new Star Wars film on your best of list without several repeat viewings of said new adventure. The Rise of Skywalker, while I ultimately had a lot of fun watching it and it kept me entertained the entire 2 hr and 22 minute run time, I thought was too rushed, a little too convoluted at times, was too rushed, had way too much material that felt just shoved in and didn’t have a lot of room to breathe, was too rushed, had a little too much fan service for my liking, and was just too rushed. Did I happen to mention it just felt too rushed?

But I can’t blame J.J. Abrams for this, he was doing the best he could with what he had to work with. The main problem with The Rise Of Skywalker is three fold.

  1. The Passing of Carrie Fisher – Abrams did the best with the archival footage he had of Carrie to work with. Someone telling you they should’ve just killed her off in between films or just had her character absent is a dumb fuck. If someone tells you that shit, they have absolutely no idea what a cohesive and rewarding narrative feels like. Leia HAD to be in that film, her character had to have some kind of resolution with her son Ben, and I think Abrams and company did the best job they could. Is some of her footage and dialogue jarring? Yeah…but it could’ve been much, much worse. The jarring parts are completely worth it when it comes down to Leia’s emotional last act.
  2. They didn’t plan out the trilogy – whoever is in charge of Lucasfilm in the coming months, whether Kathleen Kennedy steps down and Jon Favreau and/or Dave Filoni take her place, this sequel trilogy (and the two solo ((pun intended)) films) are solid arguments about what NOT to do with planning out your franchise. Back whenever Abrams was hired, there should’ve been a stipulation that he had to direct and write and/or co-write all three episode films, and stick with it for about a decade (he didn’t do shit between Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker btw). There also needed to be at least 3 years between the Episode films, what Lucas had (but didn’t utilize) with the prequel trilogy. While I still love The Last Jedi, and am one of its few defenders, Rian Johnson’s film at the end of the day feels very insignificant when put into the confines of this trilogy. Everybody in that film ended up in the same place by the end in terms of where they were at the beginning, with no threads leading to any kind of a hint of where the last film was going to go. When The Rise of Skywalker picks up, its quite jarring, as it seems that Abrams just let a bunch of new ideas fall onto paper and he just started grabbing at some of them to put them together to make something cohesive. It’s cohesive at times, but not enough. Maybe this is a lesson learned for any future expansion of the brand.
  3. Rise of Skywalker feels like a film that catered to the fans wishes and especially to those that hated The Last Jedi. DON’T EVER DO THIS. You can’t make everyone happy, so you need to throw those notions out of your brain and make a film that feels completely cohesive, a strong and structured narrative, no matter if it pisses those angry fan boys off or not. That’s what Rian Johnson did with The Last Jedi, even if his film did kind of trip the other one a bit to the finish line. The Rise of Skywalker feels like a bunch of fan explanations and theories put to paper and then jumbled up and then reassembled quickly . So much shit happens in this film, it completely felt like Abrams tried to cater to everyone. You can’t do that with movies. You just fucking can’t and anybody that tries to do that from now on is going to look like an absolute moron and giant asshole.

I’m saying all this and you’ll probably look down at my ranking of all the Star Wars films that were released in theaters and be shocked to see that Rise of Skywalker is still above the middle of the list. So what did I enjoy about the film exactly? I enjoyed Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver’s performances as Rey and Kylo respectively. I really really enjoyed Harrison Ford’s emotional cameo. I enjoyed the special effects, as always with this new trilogy (anything to prevent my eyes from being burned by the forever glowing green screen madness of the prequels). I enjoyed C-3P0’s arc, even though I thought everything was kind of negated when he got his memory back at the end. I still enjoyed Rey and Finn’s chemistry, even though that romantic story line that was started in The Force Awakens didn’t seem to go anywhere in this film (I don’t fucking buy Abrams explanation that Finn was going to tell Rey that he was Force-sensitive. That’s stupid to say to someone when you are about to die. I love you is the only thing that needs to be said at a time like that). I loved the new character of Babu Frick (the little guy that fucks with C-3P0’s mechanics), and even though they were hardly in the film, I enjoyed the new character played by Keri Russell named Zorii Bliss, and I enjoyed Billy Dee Williams small return as Lando.

I also really loved Ian McDiarmid’s hamming it up as Emperor Palpatine once again, even though his return isn’t really explained very well. I don’t care if it is going to be explained in canon off shoot novels and comics, that needed an explanation then and now. Was he a clone or was that his dead body from the destruction of the second Death Star? I loved the whole Rey Skywalker thing at the end, so fucking sue me. I got that message and it touched me in the feels, so fuck off. I liked Ben Solo’s redemption and his little nod for the Knights of Ren’s ultimate demise when Rey force connects herself to Ben and she passes the light saber to him. I liked that Rey was revealed to be a Palpatine (his granddaughter), even though that brings up the question of who would’ve fucked that wrinkly old sack of shit in the first place to produce offspring to eventually produce her (again, probably something that will be expanded upon in future comics/novels). The thing I probably enjoyed the most more than Harrison Ford’s cameo was the unique force connection thread that Abrams thankfully brought back from The Last Jedi, and expanded upon it (even though I think at the end of The Last Jedi, Rey closing the door to the Falcon was symbolizing her cutting off the connection, but whatever). There is just so much in this film to deconstruct, I really can’t do it all in one review. Hit me up on messenger if you want to talk long and talk specifics. That being said, let’s get to the stuff I didn’t really like:

  1. Unfortunately my prediction of the Knight of Ren hardly being in the film and ultimately being a wasted MacGuffin came true. They are completely useless in this film, and even though they are being expanded upon in the novels and comics, they’re ultimately so easily defeated by Ben Solo that I don’t really care to know much more about them. They are the Captain Phasma/Boba Fett of this film.
  2. While Abrams embraced and acknowledged some of the events of The Last Jedi, I didn’t like the little subtle one liners of taking some events back from that film and taken them for granted. I didn’t like the line explaining Holdo’s kamikaze lightspeed maneuver in the last film being chalked up to a 1 in a million shot. I didn’t like when Luke’s force ghost just catches the lightsaber Rey tries to throw away after learning about her lineage near the end of the film and Luke says he was wrong for his actions in the last movie. I didn’t like the explanation of Snoke was just a patsy that was made from Palpatine and I almost laughed when I saw a vat of Snoke bodies in that liquid container on Exogol.
  3. The fake out with Chewie’s death was kind of dumb.
  4. Huge mistake was not giving Rose Tico/Kelly Marie Tran anything to do, it just made those complaints about her character from angry fan boys valid, as if saying, “they were right.” I feel really bad for her, I really do. I really think Tran is a nice, humble, and fantastic human being in real life. Hope she excels in other, better roles.
  5. Why are we introducing new characters at the end of a nine part saga story? I mean Zorii Bliss was kind of cool and everything, but did we really need Naomie Ackle’s character? Or Richard E. Grant’s General Pryde character? I have a feeling they might be Disney Plus’d soon to have an explanation for their appearances. Abrams should’ve focused on the characters already established, for more well rounded and fitting ends. Because I think Finn and Poe, even though they had great chemistry together, ended up being an afterthought in this film. Take out the new characters, put back Kelly Marie Tran, and work on just those, and they could’ve had something special.
  6. The awesome looking Sith Troopers and the Final Order was wasted.
  7. Maz Kanata…what was the point of her ultimately?
  8. I didn’t like that J.J. Abrams didn’t pay close attention to the shit that has been established in canon novels and comic books. There was literally no time for Poe to have once been a spice runner, something new about him that was just revealed in this film, and the fact it was revealed in a comic book that Chewie had his own medal from the Battle of Yavin, just so Abrams could punch you in the feels with his own Chewie getting a medal scene. Him not taking that canon to heart, and me reading about that canon, made those scenes make not much sense in the long wrong.
  9. The whole film just felt rushed, there was way too much packed into it, and some of it felt convoluted. Abrams needs to get his head out of story lines that involves maps and finding a thing that leads to another thing, that leads you to another thing that eventually gets you to a hidden location. It’s like maps are his Star Wars porn that he jerks off to.

Only in the last third of the film did everything slow down a bit and was allowed room to breathe. I liked the final semi-space battle. The “ground” battle on top of one of the Star Destroyers was cool and something I hadn’t seen in Star Wars before, I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed the look of Exogol even though Rey’s final confrontation with the Emperor was a tad disappointing as it basically ripped off Harry Potter and Voldemort’s final match in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I enjoyed all the voices from Star Wars past, including television characters that haven’t been put to live action film yet. I enjoyed the desert chase, the lightsaber battle on the ruins of Death Star II and I even liked the new force additions like Force healing. If you tallied up everything, you can see that I enjoyed more of the film than what I didn’t enjoy.

Thankfully, on my second viewing, I put all my criticisms to the side and tried to enjoy the film for what it was. And while I still think the whole story is rushed as fuck, I enjoyed the The Rise of Skywalker even more the second viewing. And I have a feeling that with even more future viewings, I’ll eventually chalk it down to that this film was my generation’s Return of the Jedi. An underwhelming, yet entertaining final chapter. By the way, you might be surprised where Return of the Jedi is on my list below. I really don’t like large portions of that film (Boba Fett going out like a bitch, didn’t care for Jabba, and I hate Ewoks. Solo and Leia don’t get much to do. I do enjoy Luke’s final confrontation with Vader and the Emperor and I’m always exhilarated by the speeder bike chase.) At least we know we aren’t getting a new Star Wars film for at least 3 or 4 years, so there is some optimism to be had that maybe everyone at Lucasfilm can breathe and actually plan things out for once. At the end of the day, for every Star Wars fans, everybody is going to have a different opinion. There is so much in the Star Wars universe that your different opinion will be unique, your own special one. And that is perfectly okay, just don’t have it be an angry fan boy toxic opinion. Don’t hate, try to appreciate everything you have been given by being lucky enough to live in a time where you actually HAVE Star Wars. Try to find that balance of optimism in the forest of all that negativity. If you don’t, you are going to force yourself down a long dark hole of hate, a feeling that will ultimately make you feel like shit, maybe even depressed. You will regret feeling that way, but by then it will be too late, there is no turning back from that path to the dark side. Pun intended on everything with those last couple of sentences, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…and of course…May The Force Be With You!

My ranking of all the Star Wars films that were released in theaters:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. A New Hope
  3. The Force Awakens
  4. The Last Jedi
  5. The Rise of Skywalker
  6. Return of the Jedi
  7. Solo
  8. Revenge of the Sith
  9. Rogue One
  10. The Phantom Menace
  11. Attack of the Clones
  12. The Clone Wars Movie

Zach’s Zany Movies Reviews: TOGO (Disney +)(spoilers if you’ve seen Balto)

When first watching TOGO, the new original movie on Disney +, 30 minutes in, I was like, “what the fuck this is just a rip off of Balto.” And that’s because I didn’t watch one trailer for this film, or research it at all, just heard that it was Disney +’s next original movie that happened to star a great actor, Willem Dafoe, so I just hit play. Turns out, Balto is just the dog that gets way too much credit for 1925 serum run, where diphtheria antitoxin was transported to Achorage, Alaska to very sick children during a giant fucking storm. Togo, at 12 years old, is the one that ran the most miles like a motherfucker to save all those innocents. The owner just didn’t really care much about credit, he cared about the dog’s well being. As for the film itself, it’s not bad, it’s just a more dramatic, no animation at all live action version of….well, Balto. But since Balto was originally distributed by Universal Pictures, you can’t point the finger at Disney this time and say this was simply a mere live-action remake cash grab. There is a more deeper point to this film than just the main dog getting the serum to the sick children. This is a personal story of owner and dog.

And it’s a good story, because we learn that Togo wasn’t always obedient, and the owner didn’t think much of him at first. The film switches from present day (starting with the news of a storm coming and the sick children to going out to save them in the storm), to 12 years earlier, when Togo was a pup. Eventually owner and Togo share more positive experiences with each other and he learned to respect and love the dog. What I appreciated most about this film, is that the film used REAL DOGS, REAL LOCATIONS that did REAL STUNTS/MOVEMENT, and everything about it felt authentic, even when the film obviously switches gears having to use a green screen CGI studio to film the parts with the real dogs running across a frozen lake, with the ice breaking apart and melting. They could’ve went full CGI with the dogs too, but they didn’t, somehow it completely comes together and works. Thankfully the movie doesn’t just focus on just getting the serum to the children, because we saw that with Balto, this focuses on the relationship between Togo, the owner and his wife, and it is quite moving.

Especially because it used a real dog. I keep going on about the real dog thing but have you seen the trailer for the new The Call Of The Wild film with Harrison Ford? Looks awful because it is a completely CGI rendered dog, not even a real dog with a CGI face that they used in the new live action Lady in the Tramp. It looks terrible. Are you meaning to tell me they couldn’t have gotten a real dog to do scenes with Harrison Ford? They got real dogs for the entirety of this thing and managed to not piss off PETA. Whatever, I’m not seeing that horrific CGI ridden trash. I learned my lesson from the new Cats (2019) film (review on that later. Anyway, you can’t go wrong with Togo on Disney +. It’s a pretty solid movie with a solid performance by Willem Dafoe but an even more solid performance by the dogs that played Togo. My only complaint would be, and I checked on my phone to make sure it wasn’t just my television, but a weird sheen to the film with this semi dark like substance on the all sides of the wide screen bar. I don’t know what that was about but it was a tad distracting. Let me know if you see it to. All I have left to say is well done Disney, you managed to sort of make a live action remake without it really being a live action remake. Do that and stop with this Aladdin, Lion King, and Dumbo nonsense. You’ve still got a little magic that can get to people’s hearts, and Togo is that proof.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FROZEN II

Have any of you watched any ‘making of’ docs or featurettes on Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom? If you have, after seeing FROZEN II, you might be already getting the point I’m about to make, but if you haven’t, let me clue you in a little on the big reveal from those little insights into the darkest chapter of the Indiana Jones franchise. It is revealed from Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, and even Lucas himself that most of Temple of Doom is just jumbled up unused ideas, themes, and scenes left on the cutting room floor from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The beginning at Club Obi-Wan through the jumping out of an airplane on an inflatable raft scene to the fast and furious mine cart chase near the climax of the film, all little unused ideas. Probably the reason why I don’t re-watch that film quite as much as the others (don’t worry, I still think Crystal Skull is still the worst of the four). What I’m trying to get at is that FROZEN II felt the exact same way for me, a bunch of unused messages, themes, and ideas that they probably had for the first movie but had to not include due to it not working with the flow of the first film. This film only feels like a half realized idea. In my opinion, the film is also way too dark and depressing for children, the songs aren’t memorable at all, the adults won’t get into the story and may even be bored by it, and they should’ve just left everything about the first movie alone. This didn’t need a sequel.

The film isn’t terrible, I just found it boring and unnecessary. After watching it and being ultimately disappointed by what I saw, and then went and did some research about when the first one came out (6 years ago) and how long they took to make it (a year and a half to come up with the story, much longer to create each and every animated frame), I came up with a personal (yet arguable conclusion): Disney forced the filmmakers to make this sequel when they didn’t have any solid story ideas or any justifiable reason for doing another adventure other than Disney just wanted more box office bucks and licensing to sell more toys. I bet you anything that the filmmakers had other original ideas up their sleeves, but when brought to Disney, they didn’t even take a look, they just shook their heads, tapped their watches, and asked when they would develop a sequel to one of their most successful animated films of all time. The creators probably didn’t want to do it, but Disney kept adding those 0s to their contracts, and after the last and final no, Disney exclaimed, “okay, if you won’t make it, someone else will.” It is then that the filmmakers didn’t want anybody else in control of their “baby,” and finally said yes, even though their hearts weren’t truly into it like they were with the first one. Not only truly into it, but they felt rushed to get a completed project out into the world by a certain date. Now keep in mind that this is just my heavy duty conjecture just to give the creators an excuse of why I was personally let down by this sequel. Because if none of that is true, and their hearts were completely into it and they had more than enough time with their songs and ideas and didn’t feel rushed at all…then that just makes this film worse in my mind.

I know a lot of people find the first film overrated, but that is because they didn’t watch until long after the crazed hype it received right after it was released. I personally still love the first movie, not just because I saw it the first night it came out before the casual moviegoer obsession began but also because I’ve watched it a thousand times with my young one, who gives his undivided attention to each and every viewing, and points and shouts with glee every time he sees one of the characters outside of home. To give a point of reference to my screening that I had over the weekend, I took my young one with my wife to a Camp Cinemark showing of the sequel, which kids are allowed to talk a little and move around a little (or a lot with both in some cases); a screening that die hard fans and non interrupted folk should stay far away from. With my son, I’ve learned to tolerate the distractions, and wasn’t really upset with my screening, and was confident coming out of it that I didn’t miss any of the movie. My son was the perfect little moviegoer during his screening, making me wish we had just went to a regular one as he leaned his head on my arm and paid attention to most of the entire thing. But I’m glad I ended up going to that show in the long run, because with my new found powers of heightened peripheral vision, hearing and side attention techniques I developed having having my first child, I was able to read the room with what they thought of the sequel as well, and it wasn’t good.

Kids barely paid attention to it, several of them saying out loud that they were bored or wanted to watch the original again, others screamed or cried during the really dark or sad parts of the movie, I heard adults whispering to themselves that they weren’t enjoying the sequel at all and that the songs weren’t very good, looking at their phone clocks to see how much time they had left in that miserable experience. When the film was over, there was not a clap of enjoyment, not even from my 2 year old son who claps when the credits roll on ANYTHING, and only a handful of people stayed for the songs during the credits or to even witness a half way decent after credits scene. To summarize: children and adults, at least in my screening, weren’t having it. And please believe me, I TRIED to give this sequel a chance, but after the first song I was like…”uh oh.” During the first movie, I had each and every song already stuck in my head before the next one played across the screen, already knowing and humming the words as I left the theater into the many days and weeks and years after to present day. I know the whole damn first movie by heart because of my son’s love for the film (not a bad thing.) I knew that there was no way a sequel could top or maybe even getting close to the magic of the first film, but I was hoping upon hope that I could be proven wrong. Alas, 3/4ths into the film, into the incredibly dark and depressing third act, I had given my hopes up.

Telling you any of the story would probably be considered spoilers, but I’m going to try so I can get my point of disappointment across. The first thing you should know is that the grand adventure advertised in the trailers and tv spots is nowhere to be found. Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven find this small, magical, closed off place in the forest and spend some time in there dealing with past shit, all the while Kristoff is trying to find a time and place to propose marriage to Anna. Not much happens, but that’s all I can really say without spoiling the film. The “not much happens “parts, to be very vague, are just messages and themes already explored in the first film that just felt repetitive all combined in the giant melting pot of a ‘reparations’ story line we’ve seen time and again from other and much, much better films. There are new characters in the film, but none of them get much screen time, leading to each and every single one of them feeling one note, the characterization all surface level, nothing deep. They only learn and change their attitudes instantly with several lines of dialogue the main characters give them at the drop of a hat. The center and arguably single stage only allows Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf to have character development, but instead of learning more about their inner selves like the script should’ve done, they only learn more about their untold surrounding history. All of this leads to revelations and fates they already experienced or should have experienced in the first film. The very, very ending fate of one of the main characters that happens in this sequel I had predicted would happen at the end of the first film while watching it for the first time, but was wrong. It happening in this film is part of the feeling I had about recycled or unused ideas I mentioned in my first paragraph.

None of the songs are memorable except for Kristoff’s funny love ballad, but that is mostly due to the visuals and the reindeer. But even with that song I wasn’t humming it nor was it stuck in my had afterward. None of them were, I can’t only remember the title of the song ‘Into The Unknown,’ because those three words were repeating over and over and over and over and over again for most of the song. To go even one step further with my complaints, some of the songs seems to borrow too much not only visually, but narratively from the first film. One song, ‘Show Yourself,’ copies almost verbatim visually from when Elsa belted out ‘Let It Go’ from the first one, all the way down to when she makes herself a new outfit using her powers. Then something happens to her that was narratively verbatim to what happened to a different character in the first film. It all just felt like unused or recycled shit, but in new gift wrapping, with a new pretty bow. Make no mistake, this film is visually, very, very well done. Everything looks gorgeous, some parts even breathtakingly beautiful. But special effects do not make a film. You should know that already because of Michael Bay and Transformers. Or James Cameron’s Avatar.

And the voice acting of course is still great. Everybody involved, Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, and even with little to do, Sterling K. Brown, Even Rachel Wood, and Alfred Molina, all do a fantastic job. The singing, sound mixing, sound editing, score, all perfect, it’s just packaged in a story I could never quite get invested in. And since I didn’t care about the story, or the songs, I didn’t care about the characters, which made me just not really care for the entire product. And if their heart wasn’t it in, they didn’t try hard enough, but if their heart was, then they tried way too hard. Sometimes with sequels, even though you want to do something drastically different, if its a kids movie, you can still do it, but you have to keep it simple. The story, themes, and sad parts in this film I feel are wayyyy too dark and depressing for the target audience that Disney was intending. They shouldn’t be making a movie for the ones that enjoyed the original film six years ago, they needed to make it for the ages of what all of us were (young and older) back then. A sequel to bring in a new audience but still fun, light, and bright like the original. It tried to mature way too much. Disney has always been able to ride that fine line (tightrope) between a kid movie and an adult movie, so precise in fact that it gives a film for everyone to enjoy. This film tripped over itself too much into the adult category, much like Ralph Breaks The Internet did (although I enjoyed that sequel so much more than this one, the story and character development were very strong and kept my undivided attention.)

All of this ends with someone asking me, “did you like Frozen 2?” and I answer with a crunched up meh face, a shake of my head and a shrug of my shoulders. It’s not something I’m going to get upset over if people really like it and think I’m wrong (I’m already tapped out of that after Joker). And if your kids like it, wonderful, I hope it brings them hours of repeat joy in the future. I have one more nitpick about the movie, but it goes vastly into spoiler territory, and it also just happens to be some bullshit I’m probably pulling out of my ass because it’s politically related, and I’m just tired of seeing that influence in films that don’t need to have those kinds of messages in them. Scroll way down for me just running my mouth. I just personally didn’t really like the movie, I think its a very mediocre sequel, and I think once the people that really like it give it enough time, the flaws will start to seep through the cracks. Especially when what happens when the second one hits home video and you’ve watched the first one a thousand times, put the sequel in, only get about halfway through it only to eject and put the first one on a thousand more times. There is way too much hardship in this movie. Ultimately, Frozen II tries too hard to be what The Empire Strikes Back did for Star Wars and instead it should’ve been something more akin to the Ewok sequences in Return of the Jedi.

**one spoiler paragraph warning** Okay, so this nitpick I’m pulling out of my ass as I probably read too much into films these days as seeing all these articles about movies containing references to today’s political climate or supporting social justice warrior’s agendas and all that crap. So take what I theorize with a grain of salt. It reveals in the film that this small place in the forest cut off from everyone so long ago has two group of people trapped within its magical borders: old Arendelle soldiers and magic Nomad people. t\They all hate each other because of Anna and Elsa’s grandfather, who basically was a fucking asshole bigot (Trump anyone?). For the two groups of people to get out of this purgatory-like place and break the magic spell trapping all of them there not able to leave, not only do they have to like and respect each other, but there is a dam that, if destroyed, will break the spell and let everyone escape. But also to destroy this dam would also completely flood and destroy Arendelle in the process. As Anna finds out that her parents were basically the Romeo and Juliet of these two groups, Anna also realizes the dam must be destroyed as a reparation of sorts for the sins of their grandfather and what he did to these spiritual magical nomads long ago (killed them). She gets these magic rock giant beings to throw giant boulders at it to break open the dam, but Elsa comes in on a horse (quite literally) and saves Arendelle from being destroyed anyway. The whole time I was just thinking, “Oh God, is this an anti-Trump, anti-Trump border wall movie? Are you fucking kidding me?” I don’t like Trump as much as the next person, don’t get me wrong, I’m just tired of seeing these type of messages taken from our political climate put inside a kids movie. They need to not do that. Now if that wasn’t the intention of the filmmakers, I apologize for trying to tie threads together that don’t exist and instead of trying to read too hard for these kinds of messages in these movies, I need to just….let it go. But if our politics today influenced this story at all in any way, and I’m right about some of my theories, shame on you filmmakers, come up with something more original and less preachy next time please. Thanks. **end of spoiler paragraph and the real end of the review**