Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LET HIM GO

I lied about no reviews this weekend it seems and yes, this is a real review. I’m not telling Republicans to LET HIM GO because of their loss today, I’m talking about the new drama/semi western starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, both giving their best performances since whenever they were both nominated for Academy Awards last. I initially wasn’t going to see this, because I can’t remember the last half way decent Kevin Costner starring movie since Open Range back in 2003, but some non spoiler reviews persuaded me to give it a shot. Since I was basically alone in the theater because most of you are too scared to come out of your bubbles and/or refuse to wear a mask out in public, I got to almost basically yell at the screen at moments. I was THAT into this film. Not just the “fuck you bitch!” characters that you can’t stand or the “fuck you bitch!” cheering moments when an antagonist get their just deserts, but this film also had some emotionally powerful quieter moments where I was almost sobbing and wish I had brought tissues with me into the theater. I am so happy that I’m giving these smaller films a shot that decided to just give it a shot during the pandemic because they knew they’d be lost in a sea of streaming right now. I was worried during the disaster that was Honest Thief, but after this, Come Play, and Synchronic, I almost feel like I’m back to the movies normal again, even without big blockbusters like No Time To Die and Wonder Woman 1984. Sometimes big things come from small beginnings.

Per IMDB, they describe Let Him Go with the following: “Following the loss of their son, a retired sheriff and his wife leave their Montana ranch to rescue their young grandson from the clutches of a dangerous family living off the grid in the Dakotas.” The film takes place in the mid 1960’s, but the cinematography and beautiful landscape makes it look and feel like an old fashioned western. While the movie is quite predictable in the path that it ends up taking and has a few familiar revenge story beats, the rest of the film overcomes those few shortcomings in spades. And not just the bloody satisfying climax, but more the quieter moments of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane acting their asses off, especially Diane Lane. Good lord did she almost make me tear up every scene she was in. The movie I’ll admit anchors me a little biased as Costner and Lane’s characters love their small little three year old grandson so much, that it just reminded me how much my own parents love their little three year old grandson (my son) so much. I didn’t like the movie based on just that though. The acting was good, the cinematography was gorgeous, the direction was top notch, the climax and other smaller moments were intense, the ending was satisfying, I was entertained for an hour and fifty four minutes. This movie had the works. I vote Lesley Manville’s character the most evil and vile movie villain of 2020. I love westerns, and the fact that this felt like one just made me want to go home and re watch Open Range or Unforgiven or The Outlaw Josey Whales or 3:10 To Yuma or Hostiles, or one of the other dozens I hold dear to my heart. Just something about that genre that resonates with me. Simpler times perhaps?

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SYNCHRONIC

How am I supposed to talk about a movie so great, that’s only in theaters right now, when I can’t really talk about it? If I talk about it at all, I’ll ruin the psychedelic trip, and I’ll ruin all the surprises. I guess I could talk about how well the story is told combined with some neat visuals that were done on a relatively small budget, but I just said it, and if I elaborated on it more, yet again, I would just ruin everything. The poster to this movie is beautiful, for some unbelievable reason the trailer doesn’t give anything away, and neither does the description of the film on IMDB: “Two New Orleans paramedics’ lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.” It stars The Falcon from the MCU himself Anthony Mackie and Fifty Shades of Grey’s Jamie Dornan, the former giving his best performance since The Hurt Locker, and the latter giving his best performance ever for me, even though I have never watched that critically acclaimed TV series he’s in called The Fall. It’s one of my favorite films of the year so far and while I’m glad I just went, took a chance on it, and saw it, I’m kind of depressed it was released during a pandemic. I don’t think it made shit last weekend and is likely to be out of the theaters next week if not the week after. I am just hoping upon hope that this is discovered when it hits video, ends up as something like the movie Equilibrium with Christian Bale. That film was in the theater for a week before it was pulled, but became a massive hit on home video. Maybe Synchronic’s fate will end up in sync with that.

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, just go see it, or see it when it hits your bubble. I won’t make fun of you scaredy cats this time as long as you discover and gives this a chance when you have a chance to watch it at home. The storytelling in this is perfect, it doesn’t overstay its welcome at a lean one hour and forty minutes, the visuals complement the storytelling and are even more impressive considering the budget wasn’t all that big. I’m not familiar with writer/directors Justin Benson and Aaron Morehead, but apparently they got their visual and storytelling flair with a 2017 movie called The Endless, which I’m going to try to find on streaming and give a chance soon. The movie has several deep layered messages within it that were fun and moving to discover. AAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNDDDD…shit. I’m done with my review. I mean, what more is there to say other than these two writer/directors need to make more movies, Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan need to be given more movie roles like this, and the fact that original movies are still being made and released such as this, even though its in the middle of a butt fucking shitty year, makes me happy. I wish I was hyped up on this more before hand like I was Tenet, then again, I am very happy that Synchronic took me by surprise. Let’s hope the world gets more in sync soon with regular movie releases so we can start to all get back to normal as Synchronic was a masterful trip while 2020 has been the nightmare trip of a lifetime.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ON THE ROCKS (Apple TV+)

ON THE ROCKS is writer/director Sofia Coppola’s only second movie that I’ve liked and enjoyed, the rest of her filmography, I either haven’t seen, like The Virgin Suicides, or outright loathe, such as the remake of The Beguiled, Somewhere, Marie Antoinette, The Bling Ring, and A Very Murray Christmas. I think Lost In Translation is her true masterpiece that will never be beaten for me, although On The Rocks is still a very decent film with Bill Murray’s best performance since that 2003 gem. The reason why On The Rocks is the only other one of Sofia’s movies that I’ve enjoyed is probably because it is its most mainstream and relatable, her other films being too abstract, boring pieces of artsy fartsy garbage that were made just for the sake of being artsy fartsy and not having any true underlying meanings. IMDB describes this film with the following: “A young mother named Laura, reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father, named Felix, on an adventure through New York.” That adventure is following her husband, played nice and straight laced for once by overrated comedian Marlon Wayans, because both her and her father think he is cheating on her. During this journey they talk about how Laura used to be fun and not so insecure, how Felix is too secure, why the relationship and marriage with Laura’s mother failed, and how there is still very much love within the family. The movie is very predictable, including the conclusion of whether said husband is cheating on Laura or not, but the chemistry and charm of Jones and Murray is what got me through a quick ninety six minute runtime. Especially the genius of Bill Murray.

Murray will definitely get a nomination, or at least get close to one, for best supporting actor here. He is still Bill Murray, with his improv, dry wit humor, but he does play an actual character here: a concerned and loving father that is too secure with himself leading to his own social issues with women. I wouldn’t be too surprised if most of this movie isn’t scripted, because Murray’s performance always makes it feels like it IS scripted. Trust me, I know that that sentence contradicts itself but that sentence makes more sense than you know if you know Murray’s filmography. He is just really good with words and knows what to say on the fly. Plus his facial expressions are first rate. He made the first Ghostbusters movie what it was. He is and he isn’t playing himself here, and if you give the film a chance you will know exactly what I mean. He’s THAT much in top form here. Even though this movie is ‘The Bill Murray Show’, Rahsida Jones also gives the best performance of her career. So does Marlon Wayans believe it or not, I wish that he would quite writing, directing, and starring in bullshit that makes him look like a attention craving and starving assholes, like A Haunted House or Netflix’s Sextuplets. He’s better than that, and this movie proves it. Combine these performances with some of the best Sofia Coppola dialogue since Lost In Translation and you got yourself a good movie here, although it won’t be nominated for much else Award Season wise beyond Murray and it won’t be on my top twenty films of 2020 list. But I’d watch it again soon, along with Lost In Translation, just to hold me over until next summer where Bill Murray finally returns to the franchise (canon wise, that cameo in the 2016 piece of garbage doesn’t count) that permanently stuck him to the map that Saturday Night Live put him on. Sofia Coppola’s career isn’t so rocky for me anymore, hope she keeps it up from here.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CHARM CITY KINGS (HBO Max)

Out of three original movies since their launch (American Pickle and Unpregnant, I count Class Action Park as more of a documentary than movie) CHARM CITY KINGS is easily HBO Max’s best. And most of you, including me, probably haven’t heard of it. For me to describe it easily to you, it’s a 2 hr youngster, gangsters with dirt bikes, redemption drama. IMDB describes it with the following: “Fourteen-year-old Mouse desperately wants to join the Midnight Clique, an infamous group of Baltimore dirt-bike riders who rule the summertime streets.” This Midnight Clique, what you can garner from my description, they rule the streets both physically AND metaphorically. And while the movie does relegate to gangster group and youngsters trying to avoid a life of crime cliches during its runtime, and the movie drags just a tiny bit in the second half, the movie keenly kept my attention the entire run time, I thought it was very entertaining, the acting is top notch and the direction is visually striking. I haven’t heard of actor Jahi Di’Allo Winston, apparently he is great in a television series called Everything Sucks! but he’s fantastic here as Mouse, and I’ve heard of Meek Mill, I’m not too familiar with his regular music except when it’s in movies like Creed or Spring Breakers, but he’s a pretty damn good actor as well. However if you are looking for mainly dirt bike action sequences & stunts, other than a pretty neat chase at the beginning where the camera glides across the inner city effortlessly and the end credits, it was lacking just a little bit. Director Angel Manuel Soto, who I’m not familiar with, does a remarkable job with the rest of the film, there is neat camera work even in the tightest of spots, and I look forward to his future career.

For me though, not having that many dirt bike action sequences worked, because it easily could’ve been a movie that was all stunts, action and no substance. This has plenty of substance. The screenplay was written by Sherman Payne, who apparently has written the worst episodes of both Shameless and Season 3 of Scream The TV Series (yikes). Charm City Kings stretches his craft for sure, but that probably had something to do with the story was thought up by Barry Jenkins, whose film Moonlight won best picture at the Oscars several years ago (deservedly so although I would’ve loved for La La Land to have one) and even though I didn’t much care for If Beale Street Could Talk, it was written and directed well for what it was. Now Barry Jenkins is doing a live action CGI sequel to Jon Favreau’s terrible shot by shot CGI live action remake of The Lion King and all I have to say is…good luck with that. Anyway, the film is really really good for something straight to streaming. It’s not masterful or even great, but it’s very good. The movie even made me choke up a bit. Mouse has a side job as a veterinarian before he gets involved with the clique, so you can see everything that is coming from a mile away, but at least they didn’t totally abandon his vet skills like so many movies have done before, hoping you forget about a character’s gifts so that they can bring it back in an emotional climax. I also would’ve liked to see a bit more with the female love interest for Mouse, but at least it had a completed arc. But it’s the Winston and Mill show here and their chemistry and their scenes together make Charm City Kings for what it is, not so much the king of streaming movies, but a worthwhile charm.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE LIE (Amazon Prime)

THE LIE’s twist ending, which I predicted a mile away, might make or break your opinion of the whole film, and that ending will unfortunately overshadow how many stupid actions the characters make during the course of it. There are many idiotic mistakes and decisions that A. don’t make any logical sense and B. cause too many plot holes. For me, even though I predicted the ending, it was still frustrating because some of the scenes earlier in the film contradicted the reveal when revealed. The movie was written and directed by Veena Sud, who I just gave great praise to in Quibi’s The Stranger and I loved her television show The Killing, and while the way the film is shot, the desperate tone, the dark mood, atmosphere, and acting are all top notch, the screenplay for me was a giant problem here. You will constantly be screaming at the screen the correct decisions the characters needed to make and then wondering if anyone is legitimately that idiotic in real life (spoiler alert: there is, anybody deeply involved in politics). There are no politics in this however, only moral dilemmas, but the characters are so horribly underwritten that their moral decisions are unfocused, blurry, confusing, and make no sense in contrast to scenes that have just played out for the audience. This was filmed in 2018 and has been sitting on Blumhouse’s shelf for a couple of years, nobody really knowing what to do with it. Nothing like a pandemic delaying the blockbusters to just dump stuff like this on streaming services to give lazy pussies something to watch, am I right???

IMDB describes THE LIE, originally titled ‘Between Earth and Sky’ (WTAF?!?), with the following: “A father and daughter are on their way to dance camp when they spot the girl’s best friend on the side of the road. When they stop to offer the friend a ride, their good intentions soon result in terrible consequences.” Since the inciting incident happens no longer than ten minutes in, I’m just going to tell you what happens so you can gain some context into my review and the stupid decisions and things that happen afterward. The daughter and friend get the father to stop the car to go off to pee in the middle of a snowy forest and bridge that happens to be on the side of the road of the route they are taking, and the daughter, after a minor argument in the car moments earlier, pushes said friend into the chilly river and lake below. The rest of the movie is the father (played by Peter Sarsgaard) and the mother (Mireille Enos) trying to cover up what happened so that way their daughter (played by Joey King) won’t go to jail for murder and ruin her future. The stupid decisions literally start right after you hear a scream from the forest and the father comes upon his daughter on the bridge alone (he was respecting their privacy and waiting by the car for them to do their business, so he doesn’t see what happened). From there you get dumb decisions and actions such as:

1. When one character runs away from another in their neighborhood and seemingly gets away, the character that ran off immediately afterward starts walking slowly down the middle of the road in their neighborhood.

2. A character doesn’t answer the front door from a other angry character and thinks he/she can’t be seen in the house even though the windows behind he/she are all open for the world to see. Any sane person, if wanting to see if anyone is home combined with being really angry, can and WILL just go around to the back of the house to see if anyone is hiding.

3. The parents constantly tell their daughter to stay put, not to show herself, don’t come outside, etc etc other smart things that the daughter constantly disobeys not two seconds later.

4. Possible evidence at the crime scene is not only left and not looked for stupidly but the evidence that hasn’t been disturbed and needs to stay there is moronically taken back home by one of the characters.

5. The parents don’t interrogate the daughter correctly and ask the right questions, and the police are really really really dumb and their investigation is borderline malpractice here.

There are many more than just those five listed, and I don’t want to go into spoiler territory, but you should catch my drift. There are a few good things about this film, as I have mentioned earlier. It’s filmed really well. The mood, atmosphere, and tone is dark and dreary. The situation that would present a huge sense of dread among those involved in the real world is perfectly replicated here I think. All three key players, Sarsgaard, Enos, and King are all top notch here and their acting is great as always. The movie is certainly watchable, because even though I had a problem with it I can’t deny I was entertained for 95 minutes and wanted to see everything play out. And in a film that could’ve been written and handled much better than this was, the twist probably would’ve worked for me (I bet you can guess what the twist is already, I’ve provided enough clues as to what it is). But alas, it didn’t because of the contradictions to what came before combined with some pretty big plot holes. What it all really bogs down to is whether or not I give this a recommendation. While I was entertained, I really just can’t give it one, because when I try and think back fondly on it, the stupid character decisions and the loose screenplay keeps sinking into my brain to the point where I can no longer lie to myself. The truth is that it’s a frustrating miss and mess, plain and simple.

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: UNPREGNANT (HBO Max)

UNPREGNANT, just released today on HBO Max, is the exact opposite of Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a heavy, heavy drama that came out earlier this year that is eyeing Oscar gold come 2021. However, they will both are still gonna have their detractors. They are both about a woman getting an abortion. While NRSA is a sad road trip movie to the point of depression, Unpregnant is a comedy road trip movie that that will elicit a chuckle or two. Both are only one time watches for me, and both of them will be complained about, NRSA for being too damn depressing while Unpregnant will have complaints pertaining something to the kin that you can’t make a comedy when the subject matter is abortion. So either movie, neither are going to win over everyone. At least Unpregnant’s laughs are much more sweet than they are raunchy and it focuses on the relationship between the two girls that are making the trip. The reason why it was a one time watch for me is that everything that happens in it I’ve seen in comedy road trip movies before. Literally nothing new. And it doesn’t really have all that much to say about abortion either believe it or not, no matter how much the film thinks it does. It isn’t all pro choice or all pro life, it briskly rides the line between the two, which I don’t necessarily know if that was the right call. Especially some of the narrative decisions of the actions of a specific supporting character, which I’ll get to later. Unpregnant isn’t unwatchable, but it definitely leaves me uninterested to give it another go.

Per IMDB, it describes Unpregnant as: “A 17-year old Missouri teen named Veronica discovers she has gotten pregnant, a development that threatens to end her dreams of matriculating at an Ivy League college, and the career that will follow.” To expand upon that weird log line that doesn’t really say amuch about the movie, Veronica decides to get an abortion and drive almost 1000 to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she doesn’t need the consent of her mother because she’s only 17 (the actress, Haley Lu Richardson, by the way, is 25-26, and this is about the last time she’s going to be able to pull off playing a high schooler). She manages to snag an estranged and almost forgotten close friend named Bailey to drive her there and keep her company, but little does she realize that their strained friendship will hit a few more bumps in the road along the way before it has the chance to be as strong as it once was. Will Veronica make it to New Mexico and back over a weekend before her mother finds out what she’s doing and if she does make it, will she even go through with the abortion? And will she and Bailey be able to mend the friendship that once was inseparable? Where the movie should’ve had more debatable dialogue and discussions pertaining to the first question, one would argue that the movie didn’t do that because it didn’t want to offend anyone. Really? That’s their excuse?

Also, did they really have to make the supposed father of the pregnancy an asshole douche bag just to write around having to make the movie morally ambiguous? I would’ve like to see the would be dad be a nice and caring young man that really wants to have the child, therefore making the viewer question the actions of the protagonist. But nope, they make him seem like a creep-o stalker that didn’t tell her that the condom broke when they were having sex a month ago. It was a cop out, screenplay wise. The girls also run into some religious pro life nut jobs about half way in, and even though that situation was handled a bit better than the protagonist’s boyfriend was, the story didn’t go where it needed to for any of the messages or morals of that altercation to have a deeper meaning. The main thing that makes the movie watchable and worth an hour and 48 minutes of your time is the chemistry between the two leads, Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira, specifically the latter with her hilarious facial expressions and one liners. Their relationship journey completely makes the movie, even though every situation they run into, whether trying to hide out from the cops or meeting possible love interests along the way, came from the ‘Idiots Guide To Road Trip Comedy Screenwriting.’ I would’ve liked the movie to dig into the issue of abortion a bit more. I think if the writers, one of them being Jenni Hendriks, whose novel this movie is based on, sat down and really took their time to craft some smart jokes while trying to educate people about the moral implications of an abortion, this movie could’ve been something special. But it’s just another road trip comedy, an anti Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a forgettable sweet afternoon snack.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (Netflix)

I’m thinking I did not like I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS. Not one bit. In fact, this has now replaced Relic as the most critically overrated film of 2020 so far for me. And it’s not that I didn’t “get” it. I got it all right. In fact, I suspected what was really going on almost only 10 minutes into the movie (and I was right, and I hated that I was right because it’s one of those endings that has been done to DEATH). I just couldn’t get invested in any of it. The acting was good, but I didn’t any of the characters and didn’t feel for any of their plight (that fact becomes even more so when the movie reveals its entire hand). The dialogue seemed like it was trying to sound smart, fast, and quippy, when in fact it came off as pretentious and it resulted in scenes that just dragged on and on and on and on. At 2 hours and 14 minutes, this film was WAY too long. This film reminds me of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, where it just kept screaming in your face the phrase “DO YOU GET IT?!?” the entire run time and doesn’t go much in depth or really have much to say in terms of getting old, depression, Alzheimer’s, etc. etc. etc. It’s artistic trash, and I don’t really care for those types of films. Fans of Aronofsky, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Charlie Kaufman (who wrote and directed this) will just eat this film up. And maybe you are, and if so, perfectly fine. I get the fans of their films, I really do, my tastes just refuse to accept a lot of the allegorical nonsense. In fact, I think I might only be a fan of one of each of their movies, Kaufman’s being Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. I don’t know, if you are a fan of Kaufman’s and these types of movies, you be the ultimate judge if its premise intrigues you enough to watch it. Don’t listen to what I have to say. But I have a feeling that a lot of modern audiences won’t get past the first hour on Netflix, and soon many will just be thinking of ending things by deleting it from their ‘continue watching’ list.

IMDB’s description of the film is pretty vague: “Full of misgivings, a young woman travels with her new boyfriend to his parents’ secluded farm. Upon arriving, she comes to question everything she thought she knew about him, and herself.” The films stars Jesee Plemons, Jessie Buckley, David Thewlis, and Toni Collette. And their acting is great in this, there is no doubt, especially Jesse Buckley, who was fantastic in 2018’s Wild Rose, but I don’t see any of them nominated come Oscar time, especially when the Academy finds films like this hard to swallow as much as I do. I was completely and utterly bored the entire film. I couldn’t get invested in the philosophical dialogue, which made me not get invested with or make me care about any of the characters, which made me feel like I couldn’t care less of what was going on. Anyone that says the movie was too confusing, like Tenet, is just kidding themselves. The movie gives you all the evidence you need to piece together all the strange shit that is happening/going on, in fact, I would say it does too much of it too soon, even during the 20 minute long car ride at the beginning of the film. It reveals its cards so early to the point where I was hoping and praying that where it was going wasn’t going to be the ultimate route the film took, but alas, it did. And anybody saying that a film hasn’t done that cliched and tired ending in that way before are making excuses for why they think the movie is “brilliant.” It’s been done like that before, you just haven’t heard of or seen any of the better films that it has been included in.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is just artsy fartsy for the sake of being artsy fartsy. It thinks it is smarter than it is, which to me feels like Charlie Kaufman likes to pat himself on the back too much. I’ll give him these things and these things only to pat himself on the back for: the shots and cinematography in this are gorgeous. That’s it. And sometimes the dialogue gets in the way of the beautiful scenery. It’s like you are watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon while someone is yelling right in your face and trying to sell you something you’ve said no to about a dozen times. It’s annoying, beautiful, frustrating trash. One of the worst films of the year for me. I’m sorry, that’s just how I feel. My wife came in near the end of the film, watched about ten minutes, and guessed what was going on and even said, “this seems weird and pretentious, have fun watching the rest of it.” Yeah, I didn’t have much fun at all. There is no way this movie would’ve made any money at the theater and I bet you a million dollars that Netflix executives watched it and said, “boy, we don’t really get or like this movie but hey, let’s buy it anyway to try and win Oscars, Oscars, Oscars! It’s Charlie Kaufman for Christ’s sake!!!” Yeah well, that’s where you went wrong. This film might be critically acclaimed right now, but come Oscar time, many people will have not even seen this let alone have finished it for it to be remembered for any awards next Spring. By this time next year, I’m thinking that it will be mostly forgotten.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ALL TOGETHER NOW (Netflix)

ALL TOGETHER NOW has a very generic first half but the move is saved with its emotional 2nd half and a strong performance by Disney’s Moana…err, I mean Auli’i Cravahlo. And when I say a generic first half, I mean generic. Per IMDB’s log line of the film: “An optimistic high schooler with musical aspirations must learn to accept help from her friends to overcome her personal hardships and fulfill her dreams.” I mean…in the words of Chandler Bing…could that description BE any more generic? Let’s try Wikpedia’s description…shit, it doesn’t have one…well what about Rotten Tomatoes?: “An optimistic, talented teen clings to a huge secret: She’s homeless and living on a bus. When tragedy strikes, can she learn to accept a helping hand?” There we go, a little better. IMDB’s log line and All Together Now’s generic poster of Moana and her friends together and laughing in the back of a van is very misleading. Those friends, other than the male love interest, are hardly even in the film. To go a bit further with the description of the film, she’s homeless with her mother and she’s lives in a bus because that is the mother’s job, a school bus driver, and they come back late at night when no one is at the lot and fall asleep in the seats. There are plenty of things that the movie gets wrong in the first half. It’s all very cliched dialogue of how Moana is a good person, doesn’t ever accept help and can hide her secret by distracting people from conversations; of course her mom wants them to move back in with her drunk and abusive boyfriend, and you know the scene where they are supposed to get caught sleeping on the bus to advance the plot further? Nope, not there. Apparently it just happens to the mom off screen and she just tells her daughter they can’t stay there anymore because she was caught and fired. There are also several narratives of a school talent show that Moana was organizing to get the school band a new tuba and then her cliched relationship with a stubborn old white lady (played at least to perfection by the great Carol Brunett) in a retirement home that seemed like it is going through the standard cliched motions. But then the movie sucker punches you, hard. Very hard. Something happens that you don’t see coming.

And I’m not going to reveal it here. You’ll will know what I mean if you decide to take a chance on it. After that low blow punch in the feels, the movie completely pivots, and even though is still a tad predictable where it ends up going, there were still some surprises in store I didn’t see coming, the narrative earns your emotions, and the dialogue and acting from others start to match Moana’s and bring everything together to a solid close. Part of the movie reveals that Moana is a really talented musician (no shit?), and even though she is poor, she gets invited to audition for a top tier music college and she has to fly to Philadelphia for it. And while I guessed correctly some of the threads that were going to end up happening with that trip, I made a grand prediction what would happen to the climax with it, and I was dead wrong. I’m glad the narrative proved to me that I was going a bit too fast with it. All in all, this is actually a half way decent one time watch from Netflix, and if the plot and narrative don’t end up winning you over, Auli’i Cravahlo’s performance definitely will. She is more than just a voice actress, and I’m glad she has proven herself. Looking forward to more (and hopefully better) live action projects in the future. Speaking of performances, Fred Armisen has a bit part in this as one of Moana’s teachers. It is the most straight laced I’ve ever seen in a performance from him, as he’s a weird human being in general. However…some of that weirdness still seeped through and I wish they had cast someone else in that small role. This movie happens to be based off a novel (and he co-wrote this screenplay) by Matthew Quick, who also wrote the novel which was turned into a masterful movie called Silver Linings Playbook. The novel also has a better title than this movie, “Sorta Like A Rock Star,” which makes more sense in the long run the further the movie chugs along. Silver Linings Playbook this is not, but I guess the silver lining to that is maybe it just didn’t need to be. It’s fine on its own.

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

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

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

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