Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: COME PLAY

COME PLAY really works because it isn’t just a cheap jump scare horror movie. It is one of the rare ones that has a deeper emotional core at its center than others in the genre and the jump scares aren’t cheap at all, they are well shot, well choreographed, and well earned. This movie is also rated PG-13 surprisingly…I can’t remember one in quite awhile that worked, especially this shitty year. And this film is surprisingly really entertaining from start to finish. Interested? Wondering how you can watch it? Well, you are going to have to not be a pussy and go to a theater right now unless you wait several months for it to hit video. And this movie does deserve to be watched on the biggest screen possible. Doing so makes the scares that much more effective and the movie is so well shot that you are probably going to have a hard time appreciating it on a device that you can hide in your bra and/or shove up your ass. The emotional core and really good message in this film’s heart I really want to talk about, but in doing so ruins much of the film, so instead I’ll just mention that I appreciated what ideas Come Play tried and successfully, to me anyway, brought up, and leave it at that. What’s even more bewildering is that it did it all in just an hour and thirty six minutes. Usually films tend to be a bit longer when it is more than just trying to scare tweens the dumbest and stupidest way possible. IMDB describes Come Play with the following, “A long-limbed monster named Larry targets Oliver, a┬ánon-verbal autistic young boy along with his family, friends, and classmates by manifesting through their smart phones, computers, television screens and other electronic devices.” Well…based on that description the jig is probably up on the message I was trying to leave vague huh?

Horror/Scary films are made or broken by their scares. Plain and simple. If a horror movie doesn’t scare you, bother you a little, or doesn’t make you feel dread a bit when thinking about it afterward, it isn’t doing its job. I’m kind of numb to horror movies after so many years of watching so many of them, so for me, these films need to have that little extra something if they don’t manage to scare me at all. Which is why I was surprised when Come Play caught me off guard by not only making me jump in my seat, but tear up with its deeper meanings near the end of the film. The acting in this also works, especially when it relies mostly on young child actors reacting to things that definitely aren’t there in the real world. Azhy Robertson as the protagonist autistic Oliver is fantastic here and so is Winslow Fegley as Bryon, his old friend/new bully whose complicated friendship is part of the films special core I’ve been talking about. The two main adults in the film, Community’s Gillian Jacobs and 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher Jr. also do a pretty good job, especially the former, who shed her Britta Perry vibes from the moment she comes on screen. I do wish they would’ve given her more screen time and maybe fleshed out Gallagher’s character more, they play Oliver’s mother and father going through a divorce. Their emotional arcs were still earned but just barely. This is writer/director Jacob Chase’s first foray into a theatrical spooky feature. I hope his career gains traction and he keeps getting better like Ari Aster, James Wan or Jordan Peele. He could end up being a master in the genre. If it wasn’t for this stupid fucking year and stupid fucking virus. Anyway, need something spooky to watch today on Halloween or possibly as soon as you have time and you are willing to come to a movie theater right now (especially when going to the gym and/or grocery store is a hundred times worse), then you’ll definitely want to come and play with Come Play.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MAGIC CAMP (Disney+)

How is this movie half way decent? No seriously, how? Because MAGIC CAMP literally had its first trailer a week ago, was just dumped on Disney+ yesterday, and the trailer sucked major ass. It doesn’t market or promote the film well at all. Although predictable, goofy at times, and even though it doesn’t challenge its audience, Magic Camp is better than it has any right to be because of its heartwarming core story, decent performances from everyone involved, and the fact that other than a very few couple of CGI shots, almost all of the magic tricks done in this film were performed without any computer trickery. When finding out that fact in the middle of watching it, it made me respect the film’s craft that much more. The movie is basically Heavyweights without all the poop jokes, body humor, no Ben Stiller like villain, combined with any Disney Channel movie you might have seen but with a bigger budget, combined with the entertainment value of any high school movie that’s worth its weight in silver, specifically I’m thinking of something like Mean Girls. Which is funny, because this film is directed by Mark Waters, who also directed that classic. While Magic Camp is definitely no classic, it is a guilty pleasure that is sure to get several more viewings from me, whether I need something light heartening to cheer me up, or something for Grayson to enjoy when he gets a little older.

It really is a perfect little family film. Yeah, the film is wacky and rips off a bunch of story/plot beats that I’ve complained about before in recent films like Feel The Beat and Work It, but it doesn’t do it in an eye rolling and “treating its audience as if they were morons” kind of way like those films did. Per IMDB, Magic Camp is described as such: “Andy, at the urging of his former mentor and Magic Camp owner Roy Preston, returns as a counselor to the camp of his youth hoping to reignite his career.” Andy is played by Adam Devine, and yes, even though he plays the exact same character in absolutely everything you have seen him in, just less crude and crass here, his limited acting range works well in this environment, especially when interacting with the group of kids he’s assigned to train and compete with against the other groups within the camp. This movie was shot back in 2017 and I was wondering why it took this long to release it. Well, I can tell you with 100% certainty it wouldn’t have made any money in a theater and its a little too good for the Disney Channel. Right when a certain actor appeared on screen that wasn’t in the trailer, it told me all it needed to know. Actor Jeffrey Tambor is a pretty big presence in this film, and it was shot before he was accused of sexual harassment and became part of the wrong side of #MeToo. But since that has died down and he wasn’t one of the major players, Disney knew they could just quietly put it on their new platform without any muss or fuss, which was honestly the best move they could’ve made with it.

The magic tricks were quite cool to watch, Gillian Jacobs is in this and it was fun to watch her be a little wacky and not just play Britta Perry from Community. I wish she was in it a little more but I loved her role which could’ve been cliche but instead subverts your expectations. But those two things don’t hold a candle to one of the central parts of the story. The movie is really about a young kid named Theo and his journey to become a great magician. He also just recently lost his father, and his father was the one to get him into magic. Now while the script and movie could’ve just had a throwaway line that is supposed to hit you in the feels, instead it actually cast a decent actor, Aldis Hodge, to play the now deceased dad in a couple of flashbacks that EARNS those feels it is trying to elicit from the audience. Combined with a little subplot with his Mom, I actually teared up a little near the end of the film, as it had a very heartwarming climax. Combine that with some fun sequences, some witty one liners that made me laugh out loud, and some wholesome family fun, this is a perfect little kid/family film. I just wish Disney would’ve made a little bit of an effort with promoting it, maybe starting a month ago, bringing some looked forward to fun in the middle of these shitty, shitty times. We all wish that coronavirus would just go away as fast as we could say “Abra Cadabra”, but the reality is we are in this for a little while longer, and if we can find some decent means of escape like Magic Camp, maybe we can look forward more to being put back together soon after 2020 has sawed us in half.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: I USED TO GO HERE

Ah, the awkward nostalgia trip “hang out” movie. We’ve gotten a lot of those the past decade haven’t we? There aren’t that many that have not been done before: lost loves, old party houses, old school mates, drugs, diners, drive-ins, and dives (yes, pun intended on that last one). I USED TO GO HERE is not an exception to the rule. So when you aren’t an exception, you gotta make the movie at least entertaining when you are surrounded by predictable elements, and in that, it succeeded for me. But it might not be very memorable down the line. Produced by The Lonely Island guys, I Used To Go Here stars Community’s Gillian Jacobs and per IMDB, “Following the launch of her new novel, 35-year-old writer Kate is invited to speak at her alma mater by her former professor. After accepting the invitation, Kate finds herself deeply enmeshed in the lives of a group of college students.” The movie does go down the familiar path of where the protagonists work is not that successful and most of the jokes surround her taking the criticism in a different dumber of ways, but thankfully Gillian Jacobs innate ability to turn those predictable narrative threads and react to them in her own unique way make them a little bit fresher than normal, is what is part of this film’s small charm. Jacobs thankfully isn’t just playing Britta from Community here, and more of an “aw shucks I just take everything in stride and am just along for the ride” type character.

The movie really succeeds starting in the last half hour, where she goes spying on one of her old professors, played by an almost unrecognizable and more clean cut Jermaine Clement, with some college kids she just met that are staying at her old college house. This film works on entertainment value alone, but don’t expect anything too deep in terms of allegory or theme. It’s just a simple hang out movie, where the story takes place over a night or two, one where the characters share a little heartache, a little remembrance, some passion and laughter, they learn a couple of lessons, but their experience might be hazy or not remembered at all in several years down the line in their lives. Which is exactly how I’ll be with this movie in time. If it ever comes up in conversation or I ever happen to remember it again, I’ll remember it for Gillian Jacob’s aw shucks cute as a button performance, yet not much else. I am not familiar with writer/director Kris Rey’s work, but she is definitely an actor’s director, getting realistic performances form all. I just wish there was a little something more from the movie. It felt just like a much more likable Holden Caulfield type hanging around his old school for a couple of days and maybe learning a lesson or two. But this worked for a one time watch, but in about a decade I’ll probably be saying, “oh yeah, I used to remember that movie, from what I can recollected, it was fine.”