Zach’s Zany Movie Review: LITTLE WOMEN

I think I’m going to have to start out this review of LITTLE WOMEN by defending myself in regards to my mediocre review of Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born last year. I complained that A Star Is Born’s praise was unwarranted because it was the 3rd remake, 4th adaptation of that story line, and didn’t really do much different than the three films before it. This is the 9th, that’s right, NINTH adaptation of Little Women, and getting about as much praise as A Star Is Born did last year. However, I am very much recommending Little Women as I enjoyed the entire 2 hour and 15 minute run time (didn’t feel that long at all) and in some parts thought it was absolutely wonderful. My defense of Little Women is three fold: 1. I have never read the novel. 2. I have never seen any of the previous 8 adaptations, even the Winona Ryder one. 3. The only knowledge I had of Little Women was when Joey reads it and gets emotional when Rachel gives him spoilers on the television show Friends. Had I still really liked this version if I had either A. read the book or B. watch any of or all of the previous adaptations? I still think so, and it is all probably in thanks to writer/director Greta Gerwig.

Most of you know how the story goes, so those of you that don’t, here’s my zany way of explaining things. The movie is about 4 girls, Jo (Saoirse Ronan) wants what women don’t get in that time period (American Civil War) which is women being successful and independent from men. Although she’s in love with the boy next door Laurie (Timothee Chalamet), she wants to do well on her own as a great writer. Then you got Meg (Emma Watson) who is fine with women’s roles at that time and just wants to get married to a rich dude and have a family. Then you have Amy (Florence Pugh) who wants the best of both worlds. To be in love and be successful on her own. Finally you have, Beth (Eliza Scanlen), who keeps to herself and she loves music and well…if you’ve seen that Friends episode or have seen any other adaptation of this film, you know how that ends. Yeah so, you know, without going into spoilers, even if four score, a book, and 8 adaptations ago, the women’s lives get complicated with life opportunities presented elsewhere, love, sister loyalties & betrayals, all mixed in with a father that has gone off to war, and a very pessimistic Aunt.

If anything I can probably guess that I could be spot on with, even though I haven’t read the book or seen any of the bazillion adaptations is the reason why this movie works is that writer/director Greta Gerwig makes this movie her own with out drastically changing anything, except for an expanded ending that actually toys with the audiences’ mind a little (I always enjoy that when it is done correctly, as it is here). When seeing previews for this, I was afraid it was going to be one of THOSE movies, like The Favorite, where the film takes place a long time ago, but it is mostly modern day Juno like dialogue. Thankfully, there are only one or two moments of that (involving Jo and Laurie) but they fit within the context of the film. From what I’ve been told, the main difference between this film and the others is that this movie plays with the concept of time. It goes back and forth where as the novel and other film adaptations are straight forward. I actually quite enjoyed the movies’ play on time, and Greta Gerwig uses parts already established in the book to let you know what point in time the film is. I had no trouble figuring out where the film took place with each scene and each time change. I don’t think the film playing straight forward would’ve worked as well on screen. Maybe would’ve been labeled as just “one of those” multiple copycat adaptations.

I don’t know how the dialogue is in the book, but in the movie it is very fluid and connective; quirky, but at the same time it felt real, as though they were really sisters spending a lot of time together and how they manage when they are apart. Gerwig does a tremendous job writing. Greta Gerwig also manages to flex her directing muscles after her first solo directing gig with Lady Bird two years ago. Greta Gerwig has already established herself as an actor’s director, but with this film, she shows she also has the chops to have a special eye behind the camera. Constantly the camera moves gracefully and uniquely from one room of the house to the other, where ever the sisters may be. Her outside shots, whether it be on a hilly plain or on the beach, has a nice expansive scope to take in all of the environment and make it fit within each and every frame. Before doing Lady Bird by herself, she usually co-wrote movies with Noah Baumbach, and then would let him directed while she starred in those film. Like Greenberg or Frances Ha. I do not care for her earlier work with him. I understand that they are still “together” (not married) and that they might compete with each other for Best Director at this year’s Oscars, but if I met her I would encourage her to keep doing these solo projects. I already think she is a better filmmaker after two films than her partner, who has made a shit ton of movies and who I only finally gave some props recently to his writing style and substance with this years Marriage Story. Never cared for any of his other movies. Greta, you can still love him and be with him, just maybe keep separation between that and work. Oh, and also, might’ve want to think about giving up acting. You are fine as an actress, but you are incredible with film making. Come on, show up Ben Affleck, who can’t fucking decide.

The acting in this movie is great. Soairse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, and Eliza Scanlan all get their moments to shine even though the latter two needed maybe just a little more screentime for me to care more about their characters, especially in regards to what happens with Beth. But don’t worry, I still felt all the feels you have to feel at the end of the movie if you are an actual human fucking being. There was only ONE moment that took me out of the film for two seconds, and this is my own personal shit, so don’t take this to heart, but when Bob Odenkirk shows up as the girls’ father, I was like, “oh he’s alive! It’s Saul Goodman.” I think Bob Odenkirk is an incredible actor and comedian, I just can’t see him in anything else without me thinking of Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. Not saying he should’ve get these opportunities for more serious roles, but unless his character does anything dramatically different, my brain will go straight to two of the greatest television shows of all time and that one character he’s been playing for so long, and it will take me out of anything else he happens to be in. Sorry, but it’s true. He’s fine here, but I was just waiting in the wings for him to deceive someone or screw over another character. **shrugs**

Anyway, yeah, I’m not going to get into the whole “men Academy Awards voters aren’t seeing this movie because it’s a girlie girl film and aren’t giving it fair attention” nonsense that the media is trying to conjure up. If that were the case (I guess I am getting into it), there would be a movie every year like that (there is always at least one or two “female” films nominated for Best Picture) and we’d hear the same song and dance at the end of each and every December. But we don’t hear that song and dance (we do with the “Oscars So White” though, which I’m sick of seeing). It’s all just fake controversy to get your ass into the theater. Look at Rotten Tomatoes, it’s in the 90s and if you look more than half of the reviews are coming from males. And I call bullshit, because I am male, and I have a penis, and I was really wanting to see this movie and was looking forward to it based on the cast and Greta Gerwig. So poop on that shit. It’s a very, very good movie that ANYONE can and probably will enjoy. This shitting on female empowerment films is honestly the work of trolls that have nothing else better to do with their days other than sit by their computers all day and jerk off to each and every negative comment or idea they post for all to see. Go and see Little Women. Whether man or woman, girl or boy, little man or little woman, it is a really well acted, well crafted, delightful and wonderful little film. Which means it ain’t so little after all.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (now on video, so some spoilers)

Now for a couple of reviews that will be focused upon film that were released earlier this year but I didn’t get a chance (or skipped it thinking it would be terrible) to see in theaters. While I knew that FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY got pretty damn good reviews, it currently sits at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, I didn’t see it really as a theatrical experience. I was right to make myself wait for video. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid movie showcasing the rise to stardom of WWE’s Paige, I figured that I probably wouldn’t have gotten anything more out of it from seeing it on a giant screen (I confess, I watched this on my phone…but on an official HD Streaming Platform). I think it is the best movie about wrestling there is….wait, I mean, are there really many? The only other one I can think of is Ready 2 Rumble with David Arquette, which is a guilty pleasure for me. But the movie did what it set out to do, where as the whole who wins, who loses, choreography, script, etc, etc in wrestling is fake, it in actuality is a lot of work (both mentally and physically) on an individual, and really hard to get into professionally.

Paige actually doesn’t star in this herself (kind of surprising since she is only 3 years older than the actress who plays her and doesn’t she act anyway in the WWE?), so they got a sort of not really familiar face in Florence Pugh. You probably have no idea who this actress is, but I do, and I know she’s been having a helluva 2019 so far. She has this, Midsommar, and the upcoming Oscar bait Little Women, last year she had numerous roles in things as well such as Netflix’s Outlaw King, The Commuter with Liam Neeson, that Little Drummer Girl limited series with Alexander Skaarsgaard. And there’s a good reason why she’s getting so much work. She’s a helluva fucking actress. Everything I see her in she keeps getting better and better (one reason to see Midsommar is that it’s literally her best performance ever). And here, she completely embodies Paige (from the very small real footage I’ve seen of the wrestler), and manages to convince me that she was the underdog her overcame all obstacles thrown at her.

The movie deals with her entire rise to the beginning of her WWE stardom, and also deals with her mom and dad (who run a small Wrestling little Federation in England) being proud of her, but then dealing with her brother, who doesn’t even pass the first stage of getting even remotely close to the WWE. The reason why this wasn’t much of a theatrical experience is that all of these story lines play out exactly as you think. When Paige wants to quit, her parents try to convince her not to, and while her brother is at first jealous of her, he eventually finds his footing and gets mad at her when she wants to give up when she’s so close to both of their dreams. And if you want to see this because you are hoping for several real fun matches of Paige on the WWE, prepare to be disappointed, it’s mostly all just training montages with a couple of short matches in the small England Federation her Mom and Dad own, and then literally her first match on WWE. That’s it. But if you come for the inspiring story, like I do, then you are in for a half way decent treat. Note that when it says, “Based on a true story,” that what it shows you probably didn’t happen exactly as it shows (especially the clamming up during Paige’s first WWE appearance, I don’t think that happened) but the heart of it is plainly there to see. I liked that the movie also had these other women trying out for the WWE and even though they were former models or pin up bikini models, they were actually smart and had actual lives outside of wrestling. It’s a very woman empowering film.

Those wanting to watch it because the are Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson completists, I know that they advertised the shit out of him in the marketing campaign, but he is just a glorified cameo. He is literally in only two scenes, one which is completely spoiled in the trailer to the film. Honestly, whenever any celebrity is on the “and” tail end of a movie poster, I know to not expect them in the film all that much (aka Drew Barrymore in Scream and Bryan Cranston in Godzilla, except Dwayne obviously doesn’t die here). But even in the scenes he is in, he reeks his hard yet gentle charisma and shows why he is getting a lot of work in the film business today. The film is written and directed by Stephen Merchant, and anybody whose anybody knows that he’s a good friend of Simon Pegg’s, Nick Frost (who’s really funny in the limited screen time in this as Paige’s dad), and Ricky Gervais. He’s co-written and co directed several other things, but I think this is his solo debut, and even though it seems like it is a point and shoot affair (even the wrestling scenes are just static shots), he seems like he is a good actor’s director as he gets I feel like were the best performances out of all those involved.

Vince Vaughn seemed to actually give a shit for once since Wedding Crashers and Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Leny Headey (Cersei in Game of Thrones) was charming for the limited screen time she was in, even though it seemed like she walked across the studio lot and just put on a wig for them after a day’s work on the HBO series. What I liked most about the film is the way that shows, even though that some aspects of wrestling are fake, the work to get there and even once there is a lot of physical and mental hard work. These wrestlers and entertainers are challenging themselves mentally and physically all just to put on a good show for those that are willing to watch. Hell, I even had a 3 to 5 year period when I was younger where I loved the shit out of wrestling, even getting free yet shit signals to the pay per view matches that my parents (and when thinking back on it, nor I) didn’t want to pay for. They were enjoyable even though I knew they were fake. If I would’ve known then what I do now, of how hard on a person it can be, I think I would’ve appreciated it more. This is a movie for old or new fans of wrestling that reshapes it all into one giant respect bubble.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MIDSOMMAR (no spoilers, because the Pagan God would kill me)

A lot of people are going to hate MIDSOMMAR. Correction: Modern audiences are probably going to hate Midsommar. They are going to think it’s too weird, too depressing, too unsettling, too gory, not enough jump scares, too weird, not fast paced enough, too long, too weird, not understand what is going on, too weird, too weird, too weird, and too weird. That’s exactly why I kind of loved it though. This is Ari Aster’s second film after the very unsettling and disturbing Hereditary. And while I still prefer that film more right now, the more I think about this film, and the more research I do on ancient Pagan tradition and ways, that could change in the future. Mr. Aster definitely did his God damn homework. There is no denying that the man is talented. For one, he is trying to do something different and more interesting than mainstream horror. Both films he has done look absolutely gorgeous cinematography wise, and he is definitely an actor’s director, getting commanding performances from everyone involved. But the man needs to see a therapist.

Seriously. The opening before the intro starts to roll is very, very, very, very fucked up and deeply unsettling, with disturbing images I haven’t been able to get out of my head and I swear I had nightmares last night about them. The movie then takes a breather, and then becomes a very, very, very, very slow burn, but one that becomes more clastrophobic and more depressing each minute that ticks by. The movie is about a girl named Dani, who after a very recent horrible family tragedy, decides to join her very distant boyfriend and his friends as they travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs every 90 years, unaware they are in the middle of a deeply sadistic Pagan cult. I mention that the boyfriend is very distant for a very specific reason as their relationship is the ultimate catalyst for what happens in the film and the ultimate outcome. See, he was about to break up with her before Dani’s family tragedy occurred, and he feels like he has to stay with her to not look like the asshole.

Where the film goes from there, I dare not reveal, as I feel like the Pagan Gods would set me blaze this very minute revealing anything else, as part of the satisfying and gratifying weirdness is the journey itself. Let’s just say that things get very complicated and more weird than you could possibly imagine. And more gory. If you are not a fan of gory movies, or you are a deeply depressed and unsettling individual, for the love of God DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. It might kick you over the edge. Imagine if Paul Thomas Anderson made a horror movie (while on acid), and you’d get pretty close to the final product of this. Just like Hereditary, the film is a nightmare minute after minute, with all the characters being put into weird Pagan traditions and not being able to do anything but follow along. If you want any last minute clues from me before you decide to take this journey, and not get into spoiler territory, I will just say this: if Midsommar weren’t the title, I have the feeling an alternate could’ve been PAGAN HOSTEL.

The cinematography is spectacular, like I’ve mentioned above. Because of the solstice, it doesn’t get dark much right when they get there, looking like the middle of a normal day when it is really 9 pm at night. The main characters take drugs at certain points in the film, and their good/bad trips light up the screen as if we are on that trip right along with them. The weird cult that they run into do some really weird traditional shit, and it’s lit very well, everything all bright and cheery, but combined with the excellent musical score it is really telling audiences that something truly unsettling lies beneath the surface. The only maybe downside to the movie is that while Hereditary was completely unpredictable (especially what happens right before the second act of that film), this film kind of is predictable a bit. After the beginning credits were done, I guessed what was ultimately going to happen, and I was right on the money. Now the film still gave me plenty of visual surprises and some of the arcs and characters went into different subplots I didn’t see coming, but I guessed the ultimate outcome, which if any other outcome was written, I don’t think it would’ve been as satisfying, so the predictability is completely forgiven.

And the acting definitely takes this film to another level. You get the comic relief in Will Poulter, for some reason you get the actual Chidi from The Good Place looking like he’s visiting the actual Good Place, Jack Reynor as the distant but commanding presence boyfriend, and the fantastic Florence Pugh as Dani. She’s been having quite a year, with this and her praised performance in Fighting With My Family. In here, she basically has to portray different instances of grief the entire 2 hour and 30 minute run time. I believed every second of it. Like Toni Collette in Hereditary, if the Academy actually recognized horror films, she would get an Academy Award nomination at the end of the year. But alas, I don’t think the Academy would touch this film with a ten thousand foot long pole. The long run time will drag for many butts in their seats, but it flew by for me because I was so caught up in what was going on.

If you are a individual that hated Hereditary, or just didn’t get it, and like more modern horror films but not the cheap shit, you might want to just stick to Jordan Peele type things and stay far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far away from this. But if you are looking to experiment and want something different than your cheap jump scare “unsettling” cliched bullshit horror, I can’t recommend this film enough. This is a break up horror in the daylight comedy. There are no cheap jump scares at all if that is what you are looking for. If Jordan Peele is calculus, then Ari Aster is Advanced Calculus taken in a abandoned warehouse’s basement. I mean seriously, I’m worried about the guy, does he dream of this shit up every night in his sleep? I do applaud him for doing something different and just hope he has all of these emotions in check and is just really, really good at giving audiences something different to be scared of on the big screen. Right now I really like the film (the other two people I saw this with didn’t care for it all that much). Someday I might think it is a masterpiece, if I can only have the courage to actually watch it again.