Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CHEMICAL HEARTS (Amazon Prime)

Good lord I can’t wait to go back to the theater tomorrow. If Unhinged is only half a percent better than Amazon Prime’s new original movie, CHEMICAL HEARTS, I’ll be relieved. This film is the definition of sappy depressing teen angst for the sake of being sappy depressing teen angst. It’s a simple story that doesn’t have any new real revelations and it has been done a ton of times in better, older films. It brings absolutely nothing new to the table. The acting is fine, yet when your movie’s best feature is the score and musical choices, you might have a problem. This is a teen romance drama that is adapted from a novel, of which I can guarantee you the novel has something deeper and more to say than this movie did. The film also has a few interesting things to say about the chemicals in our brain and body and the movie didn’t end the way I thought it was going to, but that was it. Everything else is just standard: boy is a virgin that hasn’t had anything exciting happen in his life; beautiful girl with a walking cane obviously has a damaged past and a couple of emotional secrets; she is resistant at first, they fall in love, yada yada yada, shit happens, some light at the end of the tunnel, the end. You. Have. Seen. It. All. Before. This film makes A Walk To Remember look like a masterpiece. Could the movie had been better if the novelist actually wrote a screenplay off her novel? Probably, but the director took a stab at it, and it feels like his heart wasn’t into it, the creative chemicals in his imagination on autopilot.

Does it mean anything when I say this is Riverdale’s Lili Reinhart’s best performance? Not really. She’s an okay actress, but she is too old to be still playing these high school characters. Especially after I saw her in Hustlers last year. Her and Austin Abrams, who plays the male protagonist, are the same age, but while he looks like he still has a year or two left of pulling off high school roles, she’s about two years too late. Per IMDB, it describes Chemical Hearts as: “A high school transfer student finds a new passion when she begins to work on the school’s newspaper.” That log line is a bit misleading as it is more about the boy’s story finding out her story than the whole movie being from her point of view. Either way, it is all just teen angst bullshit with cliched dialogue, other than the few lines about chemicals in our system, that you’ve seen and heard all before. It’s nothing new, so if you eat up that shit with each and every viewing, you are probably going to like this movie. Out of two movies about teen angst that release this weekend, the other, Words On Bathroom Walls, is much more worth your time. And the studio that is producing that movie knows that, as Words On Bathroom Walls is actually getting a theatrical release (even though it would’ve worked as a perfect video on demand release as well), while Chemical Hearts is just being dumped on Amazon Prime. This movie deserves that fate, as it wouldn’t have had any type of reaction if it had released theatrically like it originally intended to. It’s a poor man’s “insert another better romance drama here.” The thing is, I don’t know if it’s going to even have a good chemical reaction on Amazon’s streaming platform, as it is just a beaker of water really, with the burner set on low.

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE LOST HUSBAND

Good…God…what the actual fucking fuck am I watching? Okay, so we all know that Netflix does their top ten streaming offerings per day right? The only reason why I knew that this new straight to streaming movie, THE LOST HUSBAND, even fucking existed is because of that list, which this film has it has been all over the place the past couple of weeks, #3 yesterday when I actually had the gall to press play. What is wrong with you people? Seeing what has been on there ever since that list came to pass, I now know that at least 50 to 75% of those picks are bullshit. I mean, for fuck’s sake, this was fucking awful. So so so so so slow and boring and if my 3 year old son suddenly asked me if he could deck me to put me out of my misery from watching any more of it, I would’ve gladly let his little fist knock me the fuck out. The only reason, I repeat, the ONLY reason I am not putting this in my top ten worst films list, is because the little 1% of my brain that isn’t mad at me for giving this film a try is making me realize this film isn’t for me. I’m not the target audience. Then who is? People that love those Lifetime movie schmaltzy lovey-dovey bullshit. And the fact that all involved could act, including leads Leslie Bibb, Nora Dunn, and Josh Duhamel. But lord, this has every cliche in the book. There is even a scene of a main character hearing gossip outside of the bathroom stall that she’s in to some bitches that just treated her nice 5 minutes earlier. HOW MANY TIMES HAS THAT BEEN DONE BEFORE?!?!?

Per IMDB, it describes The Lost Husband as such: “Trying to put her life back together after the death of her husband, Libby (Leslie Bibb) and her children move to her estranged Aunt’s (Nora Dunn) goat farm in central Texas.” Not only does the movie throw into the ring the cliche of Libby finding out some secrets about her family, but do you or do you not think she’s going to end up with the sexy ranch hand that up keeps the farm, played by Josh Duhamel? And do you think this ranch hand has some sappy and sad baggage of his own? Spoiler alert: does a goat shit on a farm? This movie seems to be so dramatic, lifetime-y, and sob-festy, that I can’t decide if it’s sincere or if it’s treating its target audience as if they were idiots? Everything about it is just lazy screenplay writing 101. The kids adjust to new life on the farm, but of course not at school, where of course they get cliched bullied, of which their new school has a no physical altercation policy, “only use your words,” but if you use a bad word then you are fucked anyway. The writer/director Vicky Wright hasn’t done much else in her career, so suffice to say not much thought was put into this story or project is a no brainer. It seemed like Josh Duhamel’s character’s baggage might actually be pretty hefty, something to make me sit up and pay attention, but when I hit the pause button, and found out there was only 18 minutes of the film left, I knew that it would be solved in his mind off screen and everything would be okay in the end without much or if any explanation. Was I right? Spoiler alert: does a cow shit on a farm?

There is even A GOD DAMN SEANCE IN THIS MOVIE. I SHIT YOU NOT. At least the seance didn’t step into “jump the shark” territory, like the woman having a vision of her dead husband’s ghost, but it was a scene that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Just forced characterization, such as of course the young woman at the feed store that is close with Libby’s aunt happens to read palm lines and perform seances. OF COURSE SHE DOES! At least all the actors seemed like they wanted to be there and weren’t just reading their lines for a paycheck, I’ve got to at least give them that credit. But like, did Leslie Bibb show her partner Sam Rockwell this screenplay and did he approve? Or was she just so desperate for work that she’ll say yes to about anything nowadays. Leslie Bibb, you are better than this movie. Remember how you stole all of your scenes in Talladega Nights? What happened to that Leslie Bibb? Josh Duhamel, come on, what are you doing man? You were great as the dad in Love, Simon. You are better than this. If any of you that read my reviews watches this and likes it, do me a favor and just stop watching movies. Because you have SHIT taste. Oh my God am I glad theaters are finally starting to open up and show new shit. I am about to be done trying to scour all the streaming sites looking for anything, no matter how great or how shitty, to review. I’m lost in what good can be found in this giant pile of shit. I’m so tired of these shitty direct to streaming streamers. I’m just tired and I’m just lost in general. Hopefully this weekend, with Inception’s re release and Unhinged, my mind can be found again.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CLEMENCY

Let’s get another two quick reviews out today shall we? Next up is CLEMENCY, which is probably the last film that toed the December 2019/January 2020 release date line that I will give my critique on (and it’s also the last one I truly know about). It was released very limited wise, in just two theaters (NY & LA) on December 27th 2019 to try and get a campaign going for Alfre Woodard for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. I don’t think it had much of a wider expansion, it definitely didn’t play at a theater near me around January, and I think it was just dumped on VOD a month or two ago. While this movie is in the 90 percentile on Rotten Tomatoes and there is giant praise of Alfre Woodard’s performance, I myself am going to say, in my own opinion of course, all of that is a bit exaggerated. Clemency is one of those one time watch factors for me, not because it is a bad film (although it has some major flaws), it is half way decent to be sure, but it was just too God damn depressing for me. And while Alfre Woodard’s performance was good, I didn’t think it was Oscar worthy (she for sure though made up for her weird performance in the Luke Cage Netflix TV series here, IMO). And while the story is supposed to show how an extreme career, specifically this one being a warden to a prison that also carries out executions, effects not only your outside life but also wrecks havoc on your personal demons, a lot of the examples used have been done before. You’ve seen them before too: getting drunk to temporarily make the pain go away, fighting with your spouse, crying at moments when you are supposed to show remorselessness and/or strength. It’s because of all this familiarity why I didn’t like it as much as I probably should have.

That’s not to say I didn’t like it. It’s a very well made film with very good acting, it’s just that I felt like it could’ve dug deeper into the personal demons motifs more. Per IMDB’s log line, it describes Clemency as: “As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.” The main problem with this film being able to dig deeper into those issues is the problem with its focus. At first, it focuses solely on Alfre Woodward character, as it should, she is the lead, but juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust after it seems like it gets past all the personal demons we’ve seen before in better films and will go even further…it shifts focus to the inmate that is soon going to be executed. Which is completely fine by the way, but when I say it shifts focus, it COMPLETELY SHIFTS focus. At that point into the film, if it wanted to more accurately and more emotionally portray both Woodard and the inmate’s inner demons, they needed to interact with each other more than they ultimately ended up doing. They have only a couple of brief interactions with each other, all of which have him refusing to talk to her. Most of his interactions don’t involve her, and is just the inmate, played wonderfully by The Invisible Man’s Aldis Hodge by the way, interacting with a lost love, his lawyer, etc. But in order for the movie to have earned MY emotional investment, Woodard and Hodge needed more scenes and scenarios together. And when it failed to bring me that, it failed to garner the same praise from me that it had other critics.

This feels like two movies cobbled and edited into an hour and 50 minute movie. One movie where a prison warden starts to get too emotionally attached to those inmates being executed and another movie where an innocent inmate is on death row, hoping upon hope that the governor’s office will either grant him clemency at the last moment or his appeal goes through. That’s another thing I didn’t like a little about the movie. I think the movie should’ve challenged the viewer more, playing with the audience of whether this “cop killer” truly did the crime or not. However, there is one scene of the warden driving to work, and the inmate’s lawyer is doing some kind of radio interview, and the lawyer lays out all the evidence out of why he’s innocent. Why they gave all that info in a compacted two minutes instead of spread throughout the entire film is beyond me. And if all of that evidence was there in real life, it is really hard to believe that he would’ve been denied an appeal and not given a retrial. I don’t know, I can’t say anything about it because I’m white, and the character was black, and there is some awful racial injustice happening around the world right now that I couldn’t even begin to explain let alone comprehend. My point is I think the movie should’ve made it unclear whether he did it or not, to try to have the audience just invest with the character because he is being put to death against his will. If you can make a human being care and feel for a person being put to death, even if it is unclear whether the inmate did do the crime or not, that is some powerful, powerful cinema. On the other hand if you are going to go the route of, “this person is being denied appeals and put to death just because he’s black and he really is innocent,” you need to MAKE the movie about racial injustice. This movie wasn’t about that at all, hence why this whole film felt very unfocused for me.

Wow, this review is longer than I meant it to be as it feels like I’m trying to defend myself from calling this film “only okay.” I guess I am. But here’s the thing, two movies about inmate’s being put to death came out around the exact same time, and I would definitely recommend Just Mercy over this because that film had fantastic focus. It focused on two things: racial injustice and the relationship between Michael B. Jordan, and the inmate on death row played by Jamie Foxx. If that film, halfway through, had completely shifted focus to Brie Larson’s characters efforts, or another inmate perhaps, and then eventually got back to Jordan and Foxx, I would’ve said the exact same thing about that film as I am this one. It has all the ingredients there, writer and director Chinonye Chukwu just needed to punch up and strengthen the script. Moved some things around a little, added a little here and there, or taken a couple of things out. That’s all. The atmosphere in this film is perfect, the camera work is perfect, and the acting would’ve been perfect if it hadn’t had shifted attention to detail mid way through the film. It’s just frustrating for me, because right now and certainly while watching it, I could imagine the perfect film that Clemency could have been. But in the end, I have to stick to my movie loving instincts and I just can’t grant it clemency from being “only okay.”