Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AMERICAN MURDER – THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR (Netflix)

AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is a chilling documentary that has no voice overs, no interviews filmed specifically for the doc, it is an hour and 23 minutes of perfectly edited footage from Shanann Watts Facebook posts, texts between her and her friends, and footage we’ve seen on You Tube coming from police body cams and the Chris Watts interrogation cameras at the station. It was just released on Netflix a couple of days ago and it rushed to the #1 spot on Netflix’s Top Ten List immediately. Per IMDB: “In 2018, 38-year-old Shanann Watts and her two youngest daughters disappeared in Colorado. With the heartbreaking details emerging, the family’s story made headlines around the world.” If you live under a bridge, and weren’t watching the news at the time (it was everywhere btw) I’m about to give a big hefty spoiler ending with what happened because I have to explain the outcome of the case to effectively review this documentary. In the end, it reveals that the husband, Chris Watts, killed all three of them (Shanann was also pregnant at the time, so really 4 people) for absolutely no reason other than he was cheating on her and wanted a new life. There is footage of him blatantly lying to police when they are asking him questions and searching his house and he even has the gall to take a fucking lie detector test to try and prove his innocence. Chris Watts is a fucking monster and how he thought he could get away with it, I don’t think we’ll ever know. The fact that this documentary is as haunting as it is and is able to display the facts without any voice overs or new interview footage shot specifically for this film is unbelievable.

This is one of the hardest documentaries I have ever had to watch, as anger seeped through me, especially when it kept coming back to the fact that he killed is two very lovely young daughters and didn’t shed a tear for them until he got caught. In all the footage he looks like he’s a empty shell of a human being. The point of the documentary was to basically show the naysayers that kept victim blaming and saying that maybe Shanann drove Chris over the edge really are that stupid. She did nothing wrong. I know a lot of people have two different personalities, one on social media, and one in person, but all of her posts, texts, what have you in this doc, showed her as a deeply compassionate, loving and caring mother. And that this asshole son of a bitch deserved the three life sentences that eventually get sentenced upon him. The documentary is not too long, it is crisp and tight in what it is trying to say. It doesn’t show any bodies or anything but this is definitely not for the faint of heart or those that get their blood pumping easily from awful tragedies such as this. This is going to be a short review, as all I can comment on is how awful this story is but how well made the documentary is. If I went into specifics, it would just depress and anger me further. However, I haven’t seen director Jenny Popplewell’s other docs, but after this I might search for a couple to see if they are expertly made as this one was. So if you are strong minded, I recommend giving this a watch, as it is a different type of documentary that will have your eyes glued to the screen, and not falling asleep and losing interest like those Unsolved Mystery documentaries that have bland narration and are on the same streaming platform.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE SOCIAL DILEMMA (Netflix)

Believe it or not, some people have been clamoring for a sequel to The Social Network for years. There have been rumblings of a direct sequel for about a decade now and also talks of film ‘spiritual’ successors based on the creations of Snapchat, Google, Instagram, Twitter, and even Pinterest. Alas, we still don’t have a true companion piece to the masterful David Fincher film, probably due to the fact that the creation of all those other social media accounts I listed probably don’t have as interesting as an origin as Facebook did. Until now. And while THE SOCIAL DILEMMA is a documentary first and foremost, combined with about 10 to 15 minutes of stupid and hammy fictitious drama footage, the cause and effect correlation between The Social Network and this film is extraordinarily impactful. Those of you on the edge of going off the grid and deleting all of your social media accounts but were looking for a real good reason to do so, watch this film immediately. All others, like myself, while it might not get you deleting all of you presence, you might consider changing the way you behave on all your platforms, so you don’t succumb to the depression and anxiety a lot of people experience on the internet today. Per IMDB, it describes this film as such: “In a new documentary-drama hybrid, The Social Dilemma exxplores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.” To answer your first question, no, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t one of the people interviewed and sounding the alarm…but definitely expect him to show up and be talked about at some point during the movie.

This documentary would’ve been a masterpiece if it weren’t for the stupid, god awful, hammy drama portion of the hybrid. The drama portion of the film stars The Binge’s, Vacation, and Santa Clarita Diet’s Skylar Gisondo and his fictitious family navigating the impact of social media in their lives. The mom realizes what it is doing to her family, and when she tries to take phones away or make deals with her children to keep off their phones, one of Skylar’s sister’s does something to get her phone back that I don’t think even the nastiest young kid would do in front of their family. While Skylar’s part in this is a little bit more realistic than that of his sister, the ending of his story and obsession is so god awful you will want to ask the filmmakers why they even put those parts in it in the first place. The drama portion also stars Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser as a “social media data researcher and manipulator.” It’s stupid too, and if you are confused what I mean by that, you’ll know it when you see it. We didn’t need dramatic fictitious reenacments played out, just the facts. You are going to want to fast forward through them just so we can get back to listening to these real social media creators explain how they should’ve seen this dystopia coming from a long way away while they were trying to create a utopia of digital connections. The documentary portion of this is perfect, not only does it state the facts, and prove beyond a reasonable doubt what it is doing to our society, but it gives you a shit ton of solutions of how we can get out of it. And yes, it even talks about both sides of the “fake news” debate coin. We should’ve gotten 15 to 20 minutes more of that and cut out the dramatic fat. I won’t talk about the movie anymore, as you should just seek it out and find it on Netflix and watch it when you can, as it is required viewing…except for what I already recommended that you fast forward through. Doing that won’t cause any kind of dilemma.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CLASS ACTION PARK (HBO Max)

CLASS ACTION PARK is a perfect little documentary that just premiered on HBO Max yesterday. Perfect in its construction and execution. The doc grabs you at first with “holy shit, I can’t believe this was real” laughs and then mid way through the film, keeps your attention by doing a 180 and presenting the cold hard facts of the corruptness and tragedy of it all. It’s not too long and it’s not too short (1 hr and 30 minutes exactly). It makes you want more by the end of it, yet it doesn’t over present its case. Instead it sticks with you long enough after you’ve finished the film where you end up doing the rest of the research on your own. Research that ends up going into too many details, just backing up the docs claims. If this information here to be added onto the movie, say about thirty minutes, making the doc two hours, it would’ve put the casual movie goer to sleep. Per IMDB, it describes Class Action Park as “a documentary that focuses on a dangerously legendary water park and its slew of injuries and crimes along with child safety concerns.” The 2018 Jackass movie Action Point was based on this park. The very much real Action Park was in New Jersey, built in the late 70s, but ended up being more notorious in the early to mid 80s. The first half of the movie presents the park’s origin, and detailed information on specific rides and how dangerous they were. It’s hilarious, “what the fuck”, kind of awful. The documentary is cut and interspersed with actual footage and ads from the park, some not well known celebrities such as Chris Gethard and Alison Becker with their memories of going to the park when they were young (Gethard’s tales are especially hilarious with the way he describes things), and then tales of recollection from the son of the creator of the park and some of the parks employees, high and low.

It’s a very interesting documentary. It makes you laugh, but then it makes you hate everyone involved with the creation of the park, and the upkeep of it. There are rides described (and some shown, either with archive footage or this zany crude original animation) in this film that will make your jaw drop straight to the ground. You don’t know how many times during the film my wife and I said out loud, “how in the fuck did they get away with this?” Luckily, the film answers that question, and even with the political corruptness happening to the United States today, those answers were still shocking to hear. You want to know how bad this park was? I can quickly give you a brief snippet from the doc that will answer that question easily: even Donald motherfucking Trump was about to invest it in back in the 80s before he backed out, deeming that the park was, and I quote, “too nuts.” Donald Trump didn’t even invest in that craziness, let that sink in. And then the documentary makes you sad while angry, as it goes into detail about the 5 deaths that occurred at the park, really focusing on one of those families, the tragedy, and its aftermath. The perfect ending stinger. It brings you in with laughs but then sucker punches you with sadness and anger over the dumb asses that let it all happen. If you aren’t riveted or floored by the end of this doc, then I’m sorry to say that probably no documentary is worth your time, energy and investment. Class Action Park probably won’t win any awards, as this documentary isn’t about poverty, or racism, or injustice, or anything akin to those that do win Oscars at years end, but it is quite effective with the subject matter it presents to its target audience, and at the end of the day, isn’t that a ride worth visiting?

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE SPEED CUBERS (Netflix)

Since it is just a tad past forty minutes, the new documentary on Netflix, called THE SPEED CUBERS, counts as a feature length film, so here I am bringing you a really, really short review to highly recommend this very quick watch to you. The Speed Cubers is about Rubik’s Cube World Competitions to see how fast young individuals can solve one of those puzzles, mainly the 3X3, although they have competitions for the bigger ones as well. Yes, you read that right. Rubik’s Cube solving competitions. The documentary focuses on two of the best if not THE best speed cubers in the world, one normal young adult from Germany (Feliks Zemdegs), and then a little younger adult autistic Chinese kid from the United States (Max Park). I pressed play mainly to see how fast these guys and girls could solve a Rubik’s Cube, and I just couldn’t believe my eyes with what I saw, faster than a fucking bullet it seemed. Absolutely astounding. But with this short feature length documentary, you get more than that, you get a story of two competitors that aren’t rivals at all, in fact they are close friends and both support each other even when one beats multiple world records of the other.

It’s true friendship. And the documentary also dives into the Max’s parents and how they raised him where Max ended up overcoming a lot of the obstacles that come with autism. If this documentary doesn’t put a lump in your throat and one or two tears in your eyes, then you aren’t really a compassionate human being. This documentary is the perfect length, not too short and it doesn’t over stay its welcome. It does warrant maybe a sequel or two where we follow other individuals that compete. I still can’t believe there are competitions with how fast you can solve one of those things, and these guys can solve a 3×3 Rubik’s cube in about 6 to 7 seconds. You literally won’t believe your eyes. Makes me want to get a Rubik’s cube and go on YouTube to figure out the formula for solving one of those. In no way does it want to make me practice over and over and over and over again to solve it in mere seconds. And this skill isn’t pointless, it focuses your mind and harnesses it to be able to solve patterns and strengthen your hand and eye coordination. But I’m 34 God damn years old and although I can still type pretty fast for someone my age, there is no chance in hell these flimsy things could even come remotely close to keep up with these youngsters. Fuck. I’d probably get so frustrated I’d throw the thing out the damn window!

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: TIGER KING – MURDER, MAYHEM, AND MADNESS (Netflix)

This is it. The review you’ve all been waiting for. I did it. I managed to watch all seven episodes of this dumpster fire in the middle of this giant trainwreck with endless gasoline being poured over the entire scene of the crime. Who do I blame for sitting down and actually not being able to look away from TIGER KING: MURDER, MAYHEM, AND MADNESS? I blame the endless string of hilarious gifs and memes I didn’t quite understand. I blame some of you that kept fucking messaging me to watch the show and write this review. I blame COVID-19 for me running out of shit quickly to review. I blame a whole bunch of God damn things. But I did it, so the least you can do is read this whole review, especially if you were one of the ones that specifically asked this from me. This won’t be a long review, I’m not going to jump in and dive into every single detail and frame of all seven episodes. This is going to be a broad review, crossing some t’s, dotting some i’s, and figuring out some WTF’s. Basically, I am going to review this as if I was watching a feature length documentary, in a movie theater. I’m going to review it on several levels: is it well made? does it get its point across? is this a story that was worth being told? Did it entertain? Did I laugh my ass off? Did I come out of it respecting the human race better than I did before? And probably the most important question in your minds: did Carole Baskin kill her first husband? The answers, before I go into detail on them is: Not really, Sort Of, Yes, Yes, Hell Yes, Fuck No, and bitch did that shit.

Is this documentary well made? Not really. Out of the seven episodes, the three best are easily the third, fourth, and fifth episodes. Why? Because they don’t lose focus with the points of Joe Exotic’s story that they wanted to tell. They focus on one or two specific things and stick with it. The first two episodes are all over the place in terms of narrative story telling. We are introduced to characters at random without really being introduced to them. It jumps to too many points in time just making sure it gets every single ounce of crazy into the viewers brains. I had to rewind several times just to make sure I was getting the entire picture and sometimes I just gave up after several rewinds and just went with it, hoping I’d understand it later. The sixth and seventh episodes, while still having a bit of focus, more than the first two, feel like they are stretching out the story too much, and it could’ve condensed the information into a tighter 6 episode arc. I personally think it all could’ve been a really tight tale in just 3 or 4 complete hour long episodes. We didn’t need seven (5 hrs, 17 minutes total). Way too much. What I’m trying to say is that even with some focus the sixth and seventh episodes are redundant and quite boring (yes, I didn’t find the murder for hire part all that interesting). This entire limited series, if you think about it, is a lopsided burger. The first two episodes represent a small top bun with a bunch of condiments thrown together and mixed up too much, nothing nice and layered. Episodes 3, 4, and 5 is the nice juicy meat of the story, really good angus beef that satisfies with its bombastic yet tightly focused story and shocking revelations. Episode 6 and 7 are the little tiny spray of ketchup or mustard on the underside of the meat patty with a giant un-flavorful bottom bun that’s teetering at the edge of falling off your picnic table.

Does it get its point across? Sort of. The point of this cautionary tale is buried under a shit ton of information, but it is there, you just have to dig deeper into the situation, past what the documentary provides, in order to completely understand it. I constantly had to do Google research after this to put several more pieces of the giant endless puzzle together. I get that this documentary is going to make you do research anyway, mostly for the best memes or gifs, but you shouldn’t have to do that much research afterward to piece everything together in order to “get” it. It’s a bit of a mess, but I was able to eventually see a complete picture. There is just tons and tons and tons of information and footage, each almost outlandish than the last. The whole thing just needed more focus. Do I really need to tell you what it’s about? Probably not, because if I do, it will just get me into spoilers, so I’ll “borrow”’s log line : “A rivalry between big cat eccentrics takes a dark turn when Joe Exotic, a controversial animal park boss, is caught in a murder-for-hire plot.” That’s all you need to know, except one thing: the murder-for-hire plot is the LEAST interesting thing about this show. Which answers the next question: is it a story worth being told? Abso-fucking-lutely. Just like the poster says, it is such a ridiculous story, if you told someone about it in words, no one would fucking believe your ass. But with all this footage, they have that gateway to prove that story true, even if all the information cobbled together is a bit of a mess.

Did it entertain? Yes. There are a couple of boring parts, really only in the last two episodes, but even with the first two episodes being an unfocused, giant pile of crazy info, this documentary completely entertains. I’ve never heard of this guy, Joe Exotic, till now and what shocks me is I probably never would have if not for this documentary. He’s just absolutely bat shit crazy. Did I laugh my ass off? Hell yes. I laughed my ass off more times than I could count, and combine it with the gifs and memes I had seen before starting the show, I was in tears on the floor, my voice cracking with all my uncontrollable laughter. Not to get into any spoilers that will ruin your laughs but Joe Exotic’s mannerisms, internet shows, feud with Carole Baskin, a euology at a funeral, some really weird photos and weddings, and the worst tattoo ever is just some of the things you are in for. Did I come out of it respecting the human race better than I did before? Fuck no. There aren’t really any likable characters in this. When at times Joe Exotic is somewhat sympathetic he just goes off and does something shady and monstrous to make you hate him. Even his husbands, apparently straight and with meth teeth, don’t come out looking too great on the other side of things, one part of their story will shock you to the point of your draw dropping on the floor and going into the Earth. Even the other rival tiger, big cat “rescue” operations owners are unlikable, scummy, and weird. Multiple wives, sex cults, and what not. Which brings us to my final paragraph: Carole Baskin.

That bitch killed her husband. I’m not surprised to learn that the disappearance case of her first husband has been reopened after this documentary aired. There is enough evidence alone in this documentary that she really was the only one that could’ve had something to do with it, or that son of a bitch just really was that sneaky and is sipping a Pina Colada on some remote island some where, having finally gotten rid of the cunt. Maybe he as even since died on that remote island with a completely new identity so no one would ever know. Carole Baskin is an awful bitch. She has resting bitch face, a couple of “sympathetic” qualities, but with all of her mannerisms and her behind the scenes actions, you know she’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. No doubt about it in my mind. And if she ends up going to jail because of the documentary, that would make me respect this whole seven episodes of craziness even more. So, in conclusion: you should definitely check this thing out. While I would say that the hype of this limited docu-series is bigger than the actual product, it is still an interesting as hell story. And even though the series is a little unfocused and gives the viewer too much information and then just keeps throwing in multiple kitchen sinks to add to the run time, it is still entertaining. Plus, in the end you will secretly want to be in on all the gifs and memes you’ve seen out there and will want to start making some of your own after all is said and done. While not the best (I still think the long OJ Simpson and Aaron Hernandez documentaries and some of Michael Moore’s stuff is much, much better ((and organized)) than this), it certainly earns the throne of king of crazy ass documentaries. Enter at your own risk.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: COLD WAR and OF FATHERS AND SONS (2 Film Review) Oscar Catch Up Part 5

Yes, I know, how many parts is this Oscar catch up? I’m thinking its possible it might get to 8, 9, or 10, so just bare with me. Here is another two quick reviews on movies I needed to watch to cross a couple of more nominees off my list:

COLD WAR (Nominated for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film)

COLD WAR was wayyyyyyy too short. I know right? You thought I was going to say long there for a second, but no, at 90 minutes, this movie is too short and not fleshed out enough. That’s not to say it was bad at all. Far from it. The direction is great, the cinematography (of which it is nominated and I wouldn’t mind it winning) is stunningly gorgeous and beautiful to look at, the acting is good. It’s a very well made film. But with a tacked on WTF really? ending and not enough screen time for the destructive romance to blossom and blow up between the two leads, it’s just short of becoming great or even a masterpiece.

The movie mainly takes place in the 1950s (it goes a little before and a little after), and it is about a music director that casts poverty people that have talent and does a musical roadshow in and around Poland. He casts a younger singer, falls in love with her, and tries to persuade her to run away with him to France, but the love between them is not so simple. With the acting between Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Knot, their romance is actually a little believable and they have good chemistry. But oh man, add 30 to 45 minutes onto this film, show us some of the grittier things that happened to them in between all their get-togethers and delete and re write that ending, wouldn’t been something truly something.

But all you people that love cinematography out there, this one is a must see for that reason alone. Every fucking shot of this movie is gorgeously detailed and beautiful. The film is in black and white, and thankfully so, I don’t think it wouldn’t worked as well in color. The three nominations for this film are well deserved, director Pawel Pawlikowski did a fine job. But it if were longer, it could’ve beaten Roma for me, and I am a little disappointed that it didn’t.

OF FATHERS AND SONS (Nominated for Best Documentary Feature)

Damn, if you ever want to see how truly hatful, awful, and shitty it is in the radical parts of Syria, watch OF FATHERS AND SONS. It is a documentary feature made by Talal Derki, and he goes back to his homeland of when he was a small child, and realized it has changed into a nightmare. The filmmaker gains the trust of this Islamic family and stays with them for two years it’s about radical jihadism and has terrorist training in the documentary. How this guy escaped from there alive and not once being suspected of not being someone like them, I have no clue how he pulled off.

It really is terrible over there, a very harrowing documentary that capture my attention for the entire short 98 minute run time. The radical Islamists are just awful human beings. They beat and yell at their wives, for which they have multiple. They let their kids to mean things to the other little girls around their area, make dangerous bombs that could seriously hurt them. And one of them even goes off to terrorist training for several years. Some of it is really hard to watch. The father of the family gets his foot blown off mine tracking (it doesn’t show this), and sacrificing a ram because their religious dictates it (it doesn’t show the actual neck slicing, but it shows blood going everywhere and the father chopping off its feet).

There is little narration but at the beginning and the end from the director, which was very appropriate. All the images and shots spoke for themselves, I didn’t need to be explained what was going on (its subtitled BTW). If people ever tell me their live is absolute shit, I am going to tell them to watch this documentary, to see how much of an actual living nightmare over there. I get the shivers just thinking about this documentary. Definitely deserves its nomination.