Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SPACE JAM – A NEW LEGACY (Spoilers Ahoy, Mateys!)

READY PLAYER SPACE JAM….errrr, I mean CYBERSPACE JAM…errr, I mean SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY is going to do to your kids in 2021, exactly what the original did to you as a child in 1996. They will see one of the most legendary sports players of all time going toe to toe with their favorite Looney Tunes characters to play the ultimate game of basketball with sight gags and cartoonish violence aplenty. They will instantly develop memberberries and claim that this film was their childhood in a bottle. But then in 25 years, that will be the year…2046? FUCK. In 2046, they will realize the movie doesn’t hold up, at all. And they will start to question not only their childhood sanity, but their current one.

Just to set things up, I watched the original Space Jam last week in preparation for today. I thought I remembered 1996 just like it was yesterday: seeing this film in the theater, in awe of how Michael Jordan reacted to cartoon drawings, loving all the zany antics & hilarity. Not knowing that Bill Murray’s 5 minute cameo would be what I would ultimately only remember vividly about the film. Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages…SPACE JAM DOES NOT HOLD UP. It has a bittersweet beginning with Michael Jordan and his father…it was emotional and sweet then in 1996 but it is now a bit bitter knowing that Jordan’s father was tragically murdered three years prior (our parents rightfully kept this sad shit from us when we were young).

But after that well done little opening, the film is all over the place. It’s not a terrible film by any means. When the film gets to Toon Town and the ‘ultimate game’, the entertainment ramps up to a watchable little romp. The new character of Lola Bunny was too cool for school and didn’t take any shit from bugs. The villain MonStars had a actual character arc. It pokes a little fun at Jordan wanting to play baseball. It has some other memorable scenes here and there (mainly Bill Murray). But…

  1. Michael Jordan can’t act his way out of a paper bag. He shows a little charm in some scenes but ultimately he looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, having a hard time interacting with what amounts to a green screen and tennis balls.
  2. The opening credits shamelessly put Jordan on a pedestal (small nitpick but I started rolling my eyes as a 35 year old adult when I re-watched it last week)
  3. There isn’t that much character development with anybody: Jordan realizes…teamwork? And maybe not to play baseball? The Tunes learn to…believe in themselves? I guess? Even though they believe in themselves in the old cartoons that they previously did?
  4. When compared to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which came out 8 years earlier, the animation and live action isn’t very impressive, especially on the court at the final game.
  5. Any scene with Newman from Seinfeld is unfunny, annoying, and you just want to punch him in the face.
  6. It needed more Danny DeVito voice work. And it needed more Looney Tunes focus & action (but is a masterpiece of focus when compared to this sequel)

I’m sure there is more but I’m trying to do a review of the sequel, so let’s get into it. To be fair, let’s just list the few positives this film has:

POSITIVES

  1. Don Cheadle
  2. The animation and live action blending here looks decent and uses modern technology to its fullest advantage.
  3. A Michael Jordan cameo that subverted expectations made me chuckle.
  4. A Rick and Morty 10 second cameo elicited the biggest laugh of the whole movie for me (I’m a huge fan)
  5. The film does have a couple of set ups and pay offs that worked, specifically dealing with an initial glitch in the son’s game he is designing at the beginning of the film.
  6. A couple of Looney Tunes sight gags here and there made me chuckle (one with the big red hairy Looney Tunes character and one with Wild E. Coyote made me laugh out loud).
  7. Don Cheadle

And that’s about it. I listed Don Cheadle twice because he looks like the only human participant in this picture that looks like they want to be there. He hams it up in every single frame he’s in and he looks like he’s having a grand old time. If he’s not, someone please give him a supporting Oscar nomination, because he could’ve fooled me. He’s also the only actor in the film that looks like an absolute pro talking to what is essentially a green screen and tennis balls.

Now, let’s list off the many, MANY negatives this film has:

  1. This movie is basically a giant Warner Bros. IP ploy. It just bukake’s everything under the WB logo and sun with every pop culture movie and tv character/property their banner owns. They show up EVERYWHERE. AND IT GETS VERY DISTRACTING. The attention is supposed to be on ‘the big game’, full of life and death stakes, but instead, character’s from The Mask, IT, Game of Thrones, Batman & Robin, Hanna Barbera, etc, etc, etc, show up and are clearly visible in the background that I ended up pointing them out to myself so much that I had to rewind the movie on HBO Max and make myself focus on what was happening on the court. How bad does it get? EVEN FUCKING RICK AND MORTY SHOW UP IN THIS FILM! At least the original film only had one pop culture reference that I didn’t get at the time, and that was to what is now my favorite movie of all time: Pulp Fiction. If you weren’t a fan of Ready Player One, the book and/or movie, because of the constant callbacks to other properties, prepare to REALLY, REALLY loathe this film.
  2. That being said, most of the movie relies on the Looney Tunes incorporating themselves into famous scenes and situations from Warner Bros. movies and tv shows like 8 Mile (the rap battle here is so fucking stupid), The Matrix, Casablanca, FUCKING MAD MAX FURY ROAD, the hard R rated film from George Miller, The Cartoon DC Universe etc. etc. etc. Not a spec of originality comes from the Tunes until the big game and even that was drowned out by all the sploodging of WB IP all over my fucking face.
  3. LeBron might have been one of the standouts of the Amy Schumer film Trainwreck, but here, he’s a literal trainwreck. He can’t act his way out of a smaller paper bag than Michael Jordan’s, and he doesn’t really seem like he wanted to be doing this. It screams paycheck. I know Michael Jordan can’t act but some charm at least seeped through in the original that showed he wanted to be in a movie that put him up on a pedestal. LeBron seems like he could care less as long as more money shows up in his hand at the end of it all.
  4. The opening credits, yet fucking again, puts LeBron up on a pedestal. I rolled my eyes twice as much as I did in the original Michael Jordan pedestal opening credits.
  5. There is literally no fucking character development here. What little there is, is just, “I need to pay attention to my son more, a son who doesn’t really want to play basketball. I also need to let him do his dream which is designing video games and not be such a hard ass.” And even that little message is muddled with all the Ready Player One bullshit that was going on around it.
  6. At least the MonStars in the original movie had an arc. They each had distinct personalities and realized they were being controlled by cartoon Danny DeVito too much and needed to branch out as toons on their own. Here the ‘Goon Squad villians’ have no story, no arc, they just show up for the final game with their God like special powers and say a few quips. That’s it. The villains in this, other than Don Cheadle, are completely ignored. And I understand that the villain players are basically just made up on the spot videogame entities created by LeBron James’ fictional son, but come on, some more humanity and back story go a long way. One of the few charms of the original film is that the MonStars steal the talent of real NBA players. And while the NBA players go on stupid hospital/therapy antics when they lose their talent in that movie, at least that was something. Here, it’s completely nothing.
  7. I like Zendaya as a person, actress, and celebrity but her voice does not match the character of Lola Bunny at all here. And it makes me enraged to think that the original voice actress for her (the one that voiced Lola in 1996) had recorded all of the dialogue as this film was being made, only to be dumped post production last minute and replaced by an A-List celebrity. For shame, Warner Bros. Let Zendaya do her Spider-Man and Euphoria thing and have ACTUAL VOICE TALENT VOICE YOUR FUCKING CARTOON CHARACTERS. You didn’t learn your lesson with last year’s SCOOB! and you certainly didn’t learn it here. They don’t need to be well known, they just need to be right for the part. Zendaya is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the right voice for the right character.
  8. Why the fuck is this movie even called Space Jam? At least the first movie they fucking played in FUCKING SPACE against SPACE ALIENS!!! Is it still called Space Jam because it’s supposed to be how much God damn server space that Warner Bros. has on all their IP properties? Why didn’t they just call it CYBERSPACE JAM?!? Either way, fuck that, I’d rather watch blood in my stool.
  9. Our lovable Looney Tunes are mostly in the background in this movie, in the deep deep shadow of Lebron James’ ego. In the original movie, all the main characters had a scene or two to shine. Not here. They are all amusing at times background screensavers as Lebron James doesn’t act right in front of our eyeballs.
  10. As one review on twitter put it: “Some of the reviews of SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY are missing the point. This movie wasn’t made for grown ups, it was made for kids. And if there’s one thing that kids today love, it’s references to Casablanca and A Clockwork Orange.” The reason why I see that a lot of kids might not like this film is the references that will go way over their head like the one above. I understand you can’t put in anything that references Disney but surely you could mention something more updated in these times for the younger crowd…
  11. Ummm…the movie gets very close to saying some naughty words that wouldn’t really fit the rating of this movie. Terms like “son of a glitch” is uttered (when uttered by Daffy Duck I honestly thought he said bitch for two seconds there). And there is one part where Don Cheadle is bleeped as he curses but I could almost clearly read his lips…And this was supposed to be a kids movie?
  12. Speaking of MonStars, they have a 2 second cameo that ruins their character development from the first movie, as they sigh and look depressed when the villains start to lose.
  13. LeBron James’ heartfelt climax speech to his son about his acceptance of his kid wanting to do other things other than basketball and also realizing he’s a shitty father is so cringe worthy it is sure to earn him a Razzie Nomination by the end of the year.
  14. There’s a “death”, “sacrifice”, what have you, that one of the main Looney Tunes characters make in order to win the big basketball game. Basically they risk deletion from the WB Server’s for good. At the beginning of the movie, a son does a specific basketball move with one of his players he created in the videogame he is making, and that move causes the game to crash and the character gets deleted. That is a set up for a pay off at the end of the movie to have a different character do that same move to win the game, but then get deleted. They set it up like LeBron James is going to sacrifice himself, but I knew one of the toons were going to take over and do it and I was seriously hoping it was going to be Pepe Le Pew. You didn’t see him the whole movie and then for him to just pop in the middle of the game would’ve been BOLD. That would’ve been a FUCKING BRILLIANT commentary on cancel culture and a smart and unique way to get rid of that character for good. But no, it’s another main toon. And that “death”, that “sacrifice” is completely null and void not 5 minutes later. You have this emotional scene with a character sacrificing sacrificing him/herself for his/her family (no, it’s not Dominic Toretto) and then act like it is permanent, only for the character to show up two scenes later and just shrug it off spouting, “I’m a cartoon, there’s no getting rid of me!” PATHETIC.

This review has gotten way too long, so let me end it with the following: If you are just a casual moviegoer that doesn’t get bothered by petty things, maybe one with a couple of young children to watch this with, or if you are still a no shame fan of the original, or if you suck down memberberries like Daniel Day Lewis does a hypothetical milkshake in There Will Be Blood, you might find some enjoyment out of Space Jam: A New Legacy.

But if you hated the constant memberberries ejaculating on your face in Ready Player One (novel or movie), if you hate LeBron James, if you didn’t care for the original film back in 1996 and/or don’t care for it present day when you finally grew a brain and learned better, if you are wanting just a bunch of fun and entertaining Looney Tunes antics like you’ve been getting with the charming HBO Max television reboot that has two seasons thus far on the streaming service (please watch that instead)…then you are going to want to avoid this like the Delta variant of COVID-19.

Grades for Both Films:

Space Jam – A New Legacy: 3 out of 10

Space Jam: 9 out of 10 (in 1996), 6 out of 10 (on a re watch in 2021)

ZACH’S ZANY TV SPECIAL REVIEWS: FRIENDS – THE REUNION (HBO MAX)

If you are a die hard Friends fan like I am, and you can’t really see through the glitz and glamour of what the producers of this special have given you…if wool is constantly covering your eyes and you don’t nitpick shit to death just so that your vision of “crystal clear” is happening while you are watching something you were eagerly anticipating, well then, feel lucky, because FRIENDS: THE REUNION is right up your alley. And if you aren’t fans of the show, well, you already know this isn’t for you.

Let this review come with a warning. Not only are my wife and I die hard Friends fans, but we could kick any of your asses in a trivia contest of the show. We have watched the entire series maybe 6 to 7 times over and can quote lines that don’t come up for another couple of scenes. We have the Lego sets of Central Perk and the recently new released one of the Apartments. We have Funko pops of them, we have trivia games on the show that are so tedious and boring because it doesn’t challenge us. So needless to say, if you tried to one up us on your knowledge of the show, you better bring your A plus game.

But I digress, I’m back to one of my rare longer reviews today (the last one I did was maybe the best & worst films of 2020 5 months ago), but hopefully not too long, to tell you that I didn’t think the Friends Reunion was all that special. And it wasn’t because of our six famous friends, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, & Matthew Perry. They were great, and whenever they were all on screen, just telling stories & reminiscing, it was wonderful. That alone is why I’m giving the whole thing a passing grade, because those parts (and the interviews with the shows creators, behind the scenes footage, and the tales of how they got cast for the roles in the first place) are wonderful. It’s the bullshit filler, it’s fucking annoying James Corden as the host, it’s the blink and you’ll miss them cameos from recurring guests like Maggie Wheeler, Tom Selleck & Elliot Gould (they are literally there for less than a minute), it’s the random celebrity cameos WHO HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FUCKING SHOW WHEN IT AIRED & it’s the complete absence of PAUL RUDD EVEN BEING MENTION LET ALONE NOT SHOWING UP…that made this thing an only one time watch for me.

This could’ve been 5 to 6 hours of just the cast (& special guests and recurring cast members that were on/had to do with the show) on the set of Central Perk, or in their apartment sets, or even the fountain location, or a mix match of them all, just talking and reminiscing, and it would’ve been better than what we got here. Sure, there are highlights like the cast actually playing the game again from the episode “The One With The Embryos” (my personal favorite episode), but it is short lived and doesn’t go on for very long. Instead, there were was too much filler. There was too many old clips of the show that I’ve seen a dozen times before. Now don’t get me wrong, showing takes that didn’t make it (for example, Matt LeBlanc’s arm coming out of his socket in the episode “The One Where No One’s Ready) and seeing them react to old bloopers was great, I’m talking about the parts where they are re-doing scenes from classic episodes in a new round table. Instead of just letting the cast do their thing and watching them try to become these characters again on their own (but much older), they inter splice their new performances w/old clips from the show. Hey dumbass producers, any Friends uber fan would know how they performed it back then, we just want to see them solely perform it again now. We don’t need those old clips spliced in as member berries, it ruins their performance that they are trying to complete now. (By the way, Lisa Kudrow was the best of them all, able to slip into character with the high pitch noises so easily even though she’s 57 years old now).

But what was most annoying was the bullshit filler. I’m talking about either:

A. Celebrities like David Beckham or Mindy Kaling, who were never on the show and had nothing to do with its production, telling us what the show meant to them

B. Random fucking people around the world who were never on the show and had nothing to do with its production, telling us what the show meant to them

C. Dumb fucking cameos from Cara Delevigne, Cindy Crawford, or Justin Fucking Beiber (WHO AGAIN HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SHOW! The only extended interview cameo they got right was Reese Witherspoon)

When put together, all those stupid interviews and footage probably consisted of 20 to 30 minutes of the 1 hr 40 minute special…where instead we should’ve just got another 20 to 30 minutes of the core cast just shooting the shit. Listen, I DO NOT GIVE TOO SHITS OF WHAT DAVID BECKHAM, MINDY KALING, OR SOME RANDOM WOMAN FROM CHINA THINK ABOUT THE SHOW OR HOW IT IMPACTED THEIR LIVES. I care about the fucking core cast and how they all got along so well without any drama for 10 straight years. You don’t hear about that shit happening anymore…well that’s not true, I heard The Office pulled off that feat too, and the Seinfeld cast did it, and the It’s Always Sunny gang are still going strong…but still. We still have all 6 core cast alive, and you have them in a room together again? And for the last time? STICK WITH ONLY THEM!

And why fucking James Corden as host? Hasn’t he been controversial as shit lately with his choice of roles and outside fame behavior? Why him? You know what would’ve been the icing on the cake? Fucking Paul Rudd being the host. I guarantee you if the producers would’ve paid him the same amount of $ that they paid the core cast to come back here one last time, he would’ve fucking done it. And you don’t have Janice, Richard, Gunther, Mr. Heckles, or Monica’s parents just to show up for two seconds to say hi. You bring them in for about 10 minutes each to discuss what they love so much about being on the show and share stories as well. I do not care about someone that is currently fucking Posh Spice to say why he rewatches the series every now and then. I DON’T GIVE A FUCK. It should’ve been Paul Rudd as host and the just core cast, recurring special guests and creators in a multi set sit down, just reminiscing. God damn it that would’ve been something spectacular.

And I know some of you were wanting a true reunion special. What I mean is a scripted hour or two hour long episode, with a story line that updates their characters and where they are at (although the reunion briefly touches upon what the cast think their characters would be up to now, which was brief but nice). But we don’t need an episode like that, because the Friends ending was perfect. And to those Gen Z’ers that said that Rachel gave up her dream job for a man, go fucking fuck yourself. She gave up her dream job for HER FAMILY to be together. Not just her, Emma and Ross, but Monica, Chandler, Phoebe & Joey as well (let’s pretend that Joey didn’t move to California and have a shitty two season abysmal spin off series). Rachel, as a character, truly transcended those 10 seasons where she could’ve gotten any big job she wanted back in New York. Fuck your whiny ass woke shit. I’m tired of it.

But if there were an episode, pray tell me, how would it work? They all moved out of their respective apartments, save for Ross and Joey (if you don’t count the spin off series), so you couldn’t really have them in Monica’s Purple apartment again. I don’t know, I’m just glad they left well enough alone. I had an idea if they did do a true reunion special, and I’ll go ahead and share it since I’m just blabbing at this point. If they did a true reunion show, it should’ve went “Bo Peep, Toy Story 4 style”, and maybe had given the character of Joey a proper ending. Although the episode couldn’t have happened now, but instead maybe 7 years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the show ending. It could’ve have Joey still in show business but just getting these odds and ends supporting roles that didn’t really give him anything to do. But suddenly, he’s offered the role of a lifetime that could use his acting talents to his advantage for once, there is only one problem. The movie script is about an older male going through a mid life crisis, and Joey still feels like he has enough youth left in him that he doesn’t want to leave younger roles behind & be type cast as an older actor. So the Friends get together in New York to push Joey to just accept the role and move on from the past. He accepts the movie, and he gets nominated for a bunch of awards & finally gets taken seriously as an actor, even though he hasn’t lost any of his charm. And without ruining any of the other characters, you could have had minor side stories with the other core cast. You could have Monica & Chandler try to visit whoever is living in her purple apartment now, and when they get a look inside, it is messy as fuck and Monica, Chandler, and their 10 year old kids clean it up but they remodel it to basically look like it did before. You could have Mike and Phoebe with a couple of kids of their own, and maybe he or she has some kind of a job offer where they would move out of New York. Maybe the same for Ross & Rachel, but instead where maybe Carol, Susan & Ben are going to move across the country and whether or not they should keep their whole family together. It all has to do with letting go of the past to move onto something new. Something simple, and nothing that completely alters the ending of the original series, but to just give Joey a proper ending, and some other side characters too like Carol, Susan & Ben.

But I digress, that was a pipe dream of mine and it will never happen. I’m here reviewing the reunion special we got and will just conclude my rant by saying that while I was disappointed in it (quite a bit at certain points), I still enjoyed watching it for the most part…but I just wish it was better planned out. I mean, the whole thing was fucking delayed a year by the God damn fucking pandemic…you are telling me they couldn’t have looked at what they had planned and made a couple of changes? This seemed a little last minute put together. Oh well. The special didn’t ruin the original show, it just made me want to watch it all over again for the 7th or 8th time and isn’t that what truly matters?

6.5 out of 10

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: GREENLAND

GREENLAND, a movie that was supposed to release in theaters just several weeks after Tenet in the United States back in September, ended up being pulled because of Tenet’s poor box office performance in this country. Instead, it going to be available to rent for $19.99 Premium Video On Demand on December 18th, with it hitting HBO Max for free several months later at the beginning of Spring 2021. I’m here to tell you that if you are really interested in this movie, and have HBO Max, to just wait it out. Don’t spend $19.99 on this for 48 hrs, don’t buy it, either wait for HBO Max or get one of your tech friends to download it so you can somehow watch it for free. Disaster and survival movies haven’t been the same since the 90s. Films like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and this either try to be too serious or end up being too cheesy, and never sustain the balance of both tones that movies like the first Independence Day, Deep Impact, Titanic, Dante’s Peak, Daylight, Volcano, Hard Rain, Twister or Armageddon did back in the day. Greenland is the former. It is way too depressingly serious, and is basically a 2 hour survival movie with it’s main message that says, in the end, no matter who is running the government, they are all probably a bunch of uncaring, devious, and unsympathetic assholes. I don’t want to ruin any of the decisions/actions that our government makes when they realize a giant ass comet that was thought to just closely pass us by instead decides to drop in for a more permanent visit, but needless to say, in the state of the world we are in, I thought, “yep, seems about right.” Disaster movies are supposed to be fun little escapes for a couple of hours time, not depressing tales that hit too close to home that still manage to use too many eye rolling cliches that have already been done before. Of course Gerard Butler’s kid in the movie has diabetes!

IMDB describes this movie quite simply, it’s a simple disaster movie: “A family struggles for survival in the face of a cataclysmic natural disaster.” Nothing more, nothing less, other than showing us how shitty people can be when the chips are down. The acting’s not the problem. Gerard Butler plays the strong everyday family man well like he has in a bunch of other movies. Morena Beccarin has unfortunately been typecast as the damsel and/or mom in distress, and she’s solid as she’s been playing the same role all these years. The problem isn’t even the special effects. The extinction level event depicted in the film is realistic and when the spaced out comet hitting ground action does occur, it’s draw dropping and realistic (even though that the way it keeps happening to just this family you’ll have to really suspend your belief). Which brings us to my problem with the film. It is too deadly serious. That would be okay if it was ORIGINAL, while being too deadly serious. But disaster movie cliches piled on even more disaster movie cliches took me out of the film every five minutes. Whether it was using Butler’s son’s diabetes and insulin numerous eye rolling times just to move the plot forward to genuine nice good samaritans that suddenly become as evil as Hitler to that one old family member that is content with dying in a few short hours to other civilians doing stupid shit to stop the main characters from getting to certain destinations, nothing original happens. Except for the ways our government would end up handling a crisis like this. That’s not to say that this is a bad movie. It’s watchable and entertaining at points, and the destruction of some parts of the world were a bewildering sight to see. It just added nothing new, and the cliched stuff that was there kept taking me out of the movie. It’s just okay, and if that just okay with you, then Greenland is your comet ride away from our Earth for two hours.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE WITCHES (2020 remake, HBO MAX)

I know the exact moment I uttered “Stick to the original” while watching the new Roald Dahl’s The Witches remake. It was about 30 minutes in when Anne Hathaway opened her mouth to speak for the first time and she was too over-the-top and sounded like Russian Borat. I know the exact moment I moaned “oh…no…” twice, once when it showed how jarringly awful the CGI animals and rodents looked and then when the witches reveal themselves for the first time in their overabundance of CGI glory and none of the practical effects from the 1990 classic. But…at least it wasn’t as offensive to me as watching the Rebecca remake that debuted on Netflix yesterday, certainly making everybody involved in that 1940 classic rolling over in their graves, Hitchcock probably a dozen times on repeat. Still, there are plenty of eye rolls to be had in this forgettable adaptation. This remake was originally supposed to come out this holiday season in theaters before being delayed to April 2021, but then HBO Max just last month, since they really don’t have that many original movies or new content in general, surprised announced that they were dumping it onto their streaming platform today so families could enjoy something in the comfort of their own homes. But again, why are we even remaking a film that is considered a classic by many in the first place? This film is completely unnecessary. And why did they get Robert Zemeckis to direct it? He adds literally none of his stylistic visual flare to this movie (it’s so standard point and shoot anyone could’ve directed it), and instead puts together a film that feels like it is just Tim Burton doing the same monotonous remake/adaptation crap on autopilot. Unfortunately this movie just proves my theory…that everything that was supposed to be released in theaters during the pandemic, if put on a streaming service for no extra charge (or an overcharge in the case of Mulan), is a giant waste of space and the studio didn’t have any confidence in the movie in the first place. I want to coin a two or three word phrase that explains exactly what I just said without having to spell it out in a run-on sentence everytime…maybe P.M.F? Pandemic Movie Formula.

Instead of candy that Hathaway and her coven offer to children in this movie, you’ll instead be craving three things by the end credits: 1. Angelica Huston 2. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Special Effects 3. The witches claws coming through your television screen, gouging your eyes out so you don’t have to ever endure watching this again. Almost forgot to give IMDB’s description of the film in case those of you living in your dumb pandemic bubbles have never heard of any iterations of this story: “Based on Roald Dahl’s 1983 classic book ‘The Witches’, the story tells the scary, funny and imaginative tale set in 1960s Alabama, an orphaned young boy stumbles across a conference of witches, while staying with his grandmother at a hotel, and gets transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch.” The descriptive words scary, funny, and imaginative I would use to describe the original novel (which I’ve read) and the 1990 film (which I’ve seen), but not this film. The three words I would use to describe are unimaginative, unnecessary, and uninspired. This is just another almost shot by shot remake with a couple of added things here and there to make it a small piece of cheese crumb worth of a difference. Roald Dahl has famously said that he doesn’t like the 1990 version of the film because they completely botch his darker and more bittersweet book ending (which they did, I’m not going to lie). One of the differences here is yet again the ending, but I don’t think Roald Dahl would be pleased with this one either. In fact, he’d probably would think it’s worse than 30 years ago. After watching the movie I’ve read a couple of the reviews of major well known critics and they keep repeating one after the other that this movie is too dark and scary for children. Pfffft, this wasn’t even close. The novel and 1990 film easily tell this film to hold their beers. This was laughably silly, and not in a fun or charming way either.

Another one of the differences from this adaptation to the rest is a race switch of the young boy and his grandmother (white to black), which explains why Black-ish creator Kenya Barris has a screenplay credit. But if you are going to do that, which I didn’t mind (in fact it’s the only part of this remake that works, I enjoyed the young actor and Octavia Spencer’s performances), why not have also something to say with it…even subtly, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT TAKES PLACE IN 1960s ALABAMA!!! But there are absolutely no racial identity messages in this and the movie has absolutely nothing to say about racism and how bad it is. This is where the movie could’ve stood out from the rest of the pack! If you are going to do a remake to something and hire someone like Kenya Barris to co-write the damn screenplay…YOU. MAKE. IT. DIFFERENT. ENOUGH. TO. REMEMBER. I’m not saying to bonk the audience on the head with “DO YOU GET IT?!” racial morals every five seconds, but I mean you got the creator of Black-ish to do a draft, where he created and once was the show runner to a television comedy, that in its prime, was filled with racial wit and subtlety (I’ve only seen a couple of early episodes). But no, it seems like he just re-wrote some of the dialogue and that’s about it. And how the fuck did Guillermo Del Toro get a screenplay credit in this? I’m betting he was simply attached to direct at some point, stepped down, and was just given a credit for his two second involvement before the production started filming. The third and last screenplay credit goes to director Robert Zemeckis himself, and based on his dull directing here, probably took the dull way out screenplay wise as well and just had a copy of the book and of the first adaptation’s screenplay and copied it almost word for word.

I hate to repeat another conclusive paragraph with another “I told you so” statement, but yet, my reviews wouldn’t be zany if I didn’t. Remakes, especially of classics or other beloved films, DO…NOT…WORK. Not only do they not work, they are unnecessary and the studios’ obvious cash grab intentions are exposed in direct sunlight. They already don’t look good right now, keep on keepin’ on delaying major theatrical releases, saying that their true intentions are to release them when they are “safe,” when we all fucking know that it’s because they are greedy and selfish. (**RANT WARNING** Someone needs to get it into their heads that if they keep delaying the releases, that there won’t be any theaters left to play their movies on when the dust settles. WE HAVE GOT TO START LIVING OUR LIVES, ALBEIT SAFELY. We can do it. It’s called compromise. At some point some movie, a more established franchise or series, MUST BE THE GUINEA PIG to see how they can get butts back in seats. It couldn’t be Tenet, an original film that makes modern movie audiences scratch their heads because they are too fucking on the spectrum to follow along. It’s gotta be something simple and easy going such as Wonder Woman or James Bond or Black Widow or Ghostbusters 3. ADAPT OR DIE movie studios, ADAPT OR DIE. **END OF RANT**) Instead these studios, letting some of their flicks go direct to streaming, avoiding theaters and thinking that they are doing us all a favor watching it at home…what they are really doing is just slapping us in the face even harder because their movies are mediocre or abysmal. But to try and bewitch us and “surprise” release forgettable, inferior REMAKES of all things, is more of a sledgehammer to the face than it is a hard slap.

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: FILMS I COULDN’T FINISH IN BUTTFUCKING 2020

UPDATED 10/6/2020. If you are seeing this, congratulations, you are one of the few that liked my page on Facebook that gives a damn about reading these. Or you follow this blog on WordPress. From now on they are going to be all different. No hashtags. No tags. No shares. Nothing. If you don’t see it on the Zach’s Zany Movie Review page on Facebook or if you aren’t following my blog on WordPress, then I don’t give a fuck, because you obviously don’t. 2020 has been the worst year of my life, and I blame it entirely on three things: 1. Movie Studios For Delaying Films 2. The Governors of States such as New York, California, and New Mexico that have opened gyms, restaurants and indoor dining, but not movie theaters and 3. CUNT BUTTFUCKING ASSHOLE COVID-19. But there is a secret fourth thing I blame this shitty year on: you. Yes, that’s right…YOU. Well some of you. The pussies and cowards out there that won’t go to a theater because they don’t think it is “safe” right now. Even though there HAS NOT BEEN ONE FUCKING POSITIVE CASE OF COVID-19 TO COME OUT OF A FUCKING MOVIE THEATER SINCE THEY REOPENED IN LATE JUNE.

I’m past the point of caring how some of you feel. The lot of you that didn’t go to a theater and see something like Tenet, Broken Hearts Gallery, Unhinged, or even New Mutants, you are partly to blame why theaters are shutting back down and why we are getting these stupid fucking piece of shit straight to streaming/PVOD movies that I can’t get an acquired taste for. So fuck you, pussy. But alas, I’ve calmed down just a little bit to keep doing these reviews how & where I see fit. So with nothing to really review until Adam Sandler’s shitty new Netflix original movie Hubie Halloween on Wednesday, I came up with something a little…zanier. I’m going to briefly talk about three movies I couldn’t even fucking finish they were so terrible that came out this year 2020. And for the rest of the year, I will just keep adding on to this list if I can’t finish anything else, so check back I’d say once a week, just in case. These will not be on my Top 10 Shittiest Films of the year list. My rule is, if I can’t finish a movie/TV series, I can’t review it fully or put it on a list at years end. That’s the tea, bitch. So let’s just get to it shall we before I start to go off into another rant.

  1. SCARE PACKAGE

SCARE PACKAGE is about to be available to regular rent & buy in a week or two, after premiering on the Shudder app months ago. When I signed up for the 7 day free trial to specifically watch Host (which was half way decent) I didn’t want my free trial to go to waste, so I saw that Scare Package had released this year, and clicked the play button because the description seemed interesting in that it was basically a mini horror movie anthology wrapped around a centralized plot. Kind of like V/H/S or even the Twilight Zone movie. IMDB describes Scare Package with the following: “Chad, the owner of Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, recounts a series of bone-chilling, blood-splattered tales to illustrate the rules of the horror genre to his newest employee.”

GOD AWFUL. I think I shut it off around minute 30-35, can’t exactly remember as it was a couple of months ago. The tales were stupid, too over-the-top, not scary, not realistic, just dumb dumb dumb fucking schlock. I think at the time I stopped it at, I got through maybe 3 to 4 tales? There was no way it was going to get any better. One of Rian Johnson’s right hand mans, Noah Segan, is in one of these and I think even wrote/directed his segment, but maybe he should just stick to do little side gigs in Johnson’s movies, because he didn’t cut it even close here quality wise (Rian’s other right hand man is Joseph Gordon-Levitt). But yeah. There isn’t much to say because I couldn’t even make it half way to the 1 hr and 47 minute run time. There was one tale with potential with trapped teenagers in a basement where the killer just won’t die and has everybody turn on one another, but the execution of it is botched horribly. I don’t even think this is one of those so bad its good films that you can make fun of during and have a good time with friends with. It was THAT bad.

2. IMPRACTICAL JOKERS: THE MOVIE

Absolutely unwatchable unless you suck the regular show’s dick on TruTV for some reason. IMPRACTICAL JOKERS: THE MOVIE should’ve been a television special film for TruTV, there is no way this should’ve been released in theaters right before COVID-19 fucked up this world. I got through about 20-25 minutes of this drivel with a short run time of an 1 hr and 32 minutes. Usually comedies are really funny at the beginning but start to peter off a little bit after the half way point. This was crickets minute one. Per IMDB, it describes this film with the following: “The story of a humiliating high school mishap from 1992 that sends the Impractical Jokers on the road competing in hidden-camera challenges for the chance to turn back the clock and redeem three of the four Jokers.”

As you can probably tell, this is like a really, really shitty, dumbed down, PG-13 version of any of the Jackass Movies or hell, even Jackass: Bad Grandpa, the former that tried to tie some kind of fake plot with the real jokes and shenanigans. With this IJ movie, I only got to one hidden-camera segment, and a third of the movie was already almost up. One of them dressed like Santa in a mall, they had an ear piece in his ear, telling him to say a bunch of goofy and weird stuff to the kids, all of it lame, none of it controversial or trying to push any boundaries, and there were absolutely no chuckles out of me. And the real life “plot” that is supposed to intersect all of these real camera jokes and shenanigans is so fucking dumb and boring, something to do with Paula Abdul and going back stage to one of her new concerts, giving them another chance after they ruined her concert in 1992? And it’s been 28 years later and she looks the exact same, no computer enhancements? Please. This was ‘shoot myself in the head to make it end’ boring and awful.

3. DOWNHILL

Was there even a script to this remake of a very popular international film that I never saw called Force Majeure? DOWNHILL is the perfect title for this film. Because even from minute one, the comedy, plot, and characters started going downhill, and kept going before I finally turned it off minute 25 out of a very short hour and 26 minute runtime. IMDB describes the film with the following: “Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other.” This is supposed to be a dark comedy…sort of…and even though I only got through the first third of the movie, I did not laugh or chuckle once, I hated the characters, the inciting incident made no sense, and it just seemed like it was all improv comedy, with no script, just an outline of scenes of what is supposed to happen, and I usually hate shit like that.

If you couldn’t stand Will Ferrell is Eurovision this year, he should probably get an Oscar for that performance as here he is unbearable, bad and boring. Just a dumb, boring, and stupid character. Julia Louis-Dreyfus isn’t any better. She looks exhausted from finishing Veep and just did this for the paycheck. She looks bored as hell here and I usually think she’s a comedic genius. Will Ferrell used to be good back in the 90s/early 2000s. The real problem with what I saw was the “script” by ACADEMY AWARD WINNERS Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, which just goes to show you that the Oscar probably should’ve went solely to Alexander Payne for The Descendants, with the other two just getting a participation pat on the back. Anybody who actually finished this movie, I feel sympathy for you.

4. BLACK IS KING

We have a record low for how long I put up with something before completely abandoning it: 8 minutes. I lasted through Beyonce’s Disney+ exclusive Black Is King for 8 excruciating minutes. IMDB’s description for this is very simple: “Visual album from BeyoncĂ© inspired by ‘The Lion King’.” I would probably add the words self indulgent and self fulfilling before the words visual here. For the 8 weird minutes that I saw it seemed to be random colorful images of different landscapes, people, and of course, her and it was all a very off key (not singing, film wise), off plot, off centered (not the frame, the message), horribly too expressionistic and a horribly too experimental take on The Lion King. It’s so unfocused, confusing, and awkward that if you were to put someone in front of their tv to watch this and didn’t tell them shit about it, they probably wouldn’t even figure out that it was inspired by The Lion King. Instead when her husband Jay-Z shows up (I didn’t see this part, just read about it) the person watching would probably just roll their eyes and tell Beyonce to just stick to writing and singing original songs and quit this garbage. I’m doing two paragraphs with each review but with only 8 minutes, I can no longer talk about it. Nor do I want to talk about it anymore anyway.

5. SCARE ME

Oh look at what we have here, yet another Shudder original film. I think after this last 7 day free trial go around (this is my 4th), I think I’m done with Shudder. If anything were to ever be critically acclaimed and there is talk about a project possibly getting big award nominations at the end of the year, I know that after 6 months it will be rent-able and not just exclusive to the app. I stopped this right at minute 35 and what frustrates me so much is that it had so much potential in it. IMDB describes the film with the following: “During a power outage, two strangers tell scary stories. The more Fred and Fanny commit to their tales, the more the stories come to life in their Catskills cabin. The horrors of reality manifest when Fred confronts his ultimate fear.” It stars Aya Cash, who many of you know as Stormfront in Season 2 of the boys, writer/director (who’s to blame here) Josh Ruben from You’re The Worst (Aya Cash was also in that series, so I see how he probably easily roped her into this), and Chris Redd from Saturday Night Live (I did not get to Chris Redd entering the frame, but apparently he shows up an hour in). What sucks is that the stories really don’t come to life. “But Zach, how would you know this seeing as you only watched 35 minutes of the hour and 42 minute movie?” It’s because I went to an ‘Endings Explained’ website and I read what happened from when I stopped watching all the way to the end credits.

Nothing really happens until the last 20 minutes of the movie and what does happen is just slasher film cliched bullshit wrapped around and obscuring an interesting message about feminism vs. masculinity. The whole film is either Fred telling un-scary tales to Fanny, while she’s just looking at him making facial expressions and interjecting how his stories don’t make any sense and he is up on his feet doing motions and making some cool sound effects. Then when she’s telling her tales, it’s just vice versa. What the movie really needed was A. A MUCH Bigger Budget and B. Scenes that SHOW the tales the characters are telling. Again, this is a tell and no show problem. Always show, not tell, and when your budget is limited to telling, maybe turn your screenplay into a short story or novel instead. Sure, when he’s telling his werewolf story it shows a cool and creepy werewolf hand outstretched in the shadows (that’s about it visually with showing any of the monsters in their stories) and the film’s sound effects are tight. And sure, Aya Cash tries to liven up her tales with her lively personality (she is absolutely not at fault here), but without scenes edited into their narration showing what they are telling, actually making a scary anthology movie type thing…the interesting message that lay at the heart of the movie (which again, I didn’t get to it, I just read about it) isn’t earned in the slightest.

P.S. I saw all of these at home, but if I were to pay to watch them in a theater, I would’ve probably walked out, these were THAT bad. I hardly ever stop watching or walk out of anything…I guess 2020 has changed me in that regard with all the bullshit we’ve gotten this year. Anyway, I’ll add to the list if there are anymore. Check back, but I wouldn’t say check back often.

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: 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 TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: PERRY MASON SEASON 1 (HBO)

Before you ask, no, I have not seen one episode of your great-grandfather’s or just grandfather’s old Perry Mason series that starred Raymond Burr. And I know that PERRY MASON SEASON 1 on HBO isn’t your great-grandfather’s/grandfather’s Perry Mason, as this one has a shit ton of adult content that couldn’t air on network television, even at this more forgiving time let alone back in the 1950’s. All I know, is that this is supposed to be a soft reboot/prequel series of the old show, but giving everything a very hard and dark edge. Per IMDB.com, HBO’s new Perry Mason is described as: “In booming 1932 Los Angeles, a down-and-out defense attorney takes on the case of a lifetime.” The original series is described as such on IMDB: “The cases of a master criminal defense attorney, handling the most difficult of cases in the aid of the innocent.” So needless to say, this is about what happened right before he became a criminal defense attorney, where he is a private investigator. This new series has the detective noir time period look and feel down. This series looks and feels amazing. The thing that is disappointing though is that half of the seasons 8 episodes are very mediocre in terms of story telling and character development. Very, very basic writing that doesn’t challenge the audience. Especially the awful, awful, awful, awful subplot involving the usually great Tatiana Maslany’s church leader character (and the subplot ends anti-climatic as well). But whenever the show focuses on Matthew Rhys and him alone, it shines brilliantly. Knowing that Maslany won’t be a part of next season, I might give it a chance, but I’m extremely on the fence about it.

It just seems like it the whole thing wasn’t conceived very well or at least half of it wasn’t. Episodes 1, 6, 7, & 8 really focus on Perry Mason as a character…and since the show is named after the titular character, he should be the main presence in every single episode. However, in episodes 2, 3, 4, and 5, the show treats him like a 4th or 5th fucking background character, focusing way too much on a crazy church lady and her mommy subplot that is so poorly written that I almost wanted to plug my ears either time Maslany or Lili Taylor opened their mouths. The season’s story goes like this, a couple’s child is kidnapped and killed, and the mysterious events around it lead to such a big conspiracy that the child’s mother ends up being put on trial of the crime, where Perry Mason is convinced she had nothing to do with it, with not only the evidence provided, but with some of it even tampered. A subplot involving high up church leaders trying to not only lend a hand to the mother on trial, but promising that her dead child will somehow be resurrected in the coming days…yeah, the first part sounded interesting didn’t it, and it almost lost you there at the end, huh? The church arc was absolutely pointless (except for a little detail that ties it in a different way to the kidnapping & murder), and the ending of those characters was rather…odd to say the least, you’ll see what I mean if you check this out. And the last episode was great in terms of Perry Mason’s arc, and his closing speech to the ladies and gentleman of the jury was powerful, well written, and well acted, but the conclusion to those events, and the fates of some of the characters that were perpetrators to the kidnapping and murders, felt out of place and kind of cliched to other, better tv shows & movies that have done it before. Especially when it came to certain karma.

Another problem I had with the program, is that the central story didn’t really have a mystery. We know who the perpetrator of the kidnapping and murder is from the very beginning. And knowing who it was, I was able to put two and two together on what exactly took place. It was kind of disappointing. On a lighter note, the television show though gets the look and feel of the 1930s detective noir time period though, and other than Maslany and Taylor, every one gives a fantastic performance. You feel really sorry for John Lithgow’s character, you want to strangle Stephen Root’s, Chris Chalk as a black police officer could score him a supporting nomination, but the man of the hour is easily Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason. He plays the character to perfection and completely melted away any fear I had of him just copying his masterful performance that won him an Emmy for The Americans. Every time Rhys showed up on screen, the show started to get a little bit better. I do have a suggestion for next season though, and instead of just focusing on one case, Perry Mason should focus on 3 or 4 at the same time, challenging the writers to make a compelling story/mystery without convoluted cliches or coincidences. Get them to write a perfect weave that doesn’t get confusing or sluggish. Write an actual mystery, and have the reveals saved for late in the season. Don’t just show your cards right from the beginning, it leaves absolutely no tension for the rest of your season. With a story like this, you gotta have tension and the fear of the unknown or you’ve completely failed as a narrative. The only way I will consider watching Season Two is if the trailer blows me away like Season One’s did, but if Season Two has a typical sophomore slump, with an already ‘only okay’ season one, Perry Mason will not have me joining him on another case.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AN AMERICAN PICKLE (HBO Max)

Well I’m certainly not in a pickle, I easily can tell you that I very much enjoyed the new Seth Rogen original movie, AN AMERICAN PICKLE, that just premiered today on HBO Max. There are a lot of critics and normal folk out there thinking that this movie is just mediocre or okay at best, but I have a feeling that they might just be sour (pun intended) about no new great and big blockbuster movies being available in theaters for awhile, the pandemic finally getting the best of their opinions. Sure, it is another “fish out of water” story, a plot thread we’ve seen in many a film, including one of my favorites, the original Rush Hour, but this movie has a something bit more to say than just “that’s not how we do it where I’m from.” Instead it turns it into “that’s not something we can say, do, or think about because of the times.” Sure I would’ve liked the movie to be longer as the things it says feel a little cut off too quickly because the films’ length, but since the pacing was near perfect, it is easier to ignore my minor complaint. It is a tightly woven, no filler, one hour and 29 minute cute little PG-13 comedy that uses the often used recurring plot thread to say a little somethin’-somethin’ different about immigration, religious beliefs, sexism, social media, and cancel culture that I haven’t seen done in a film of its genre as of yet. Combine that with Seth Rogen easily giving the best performance of his career since ’50/50′ and you have something that is a little more special than just okay or mediocre. You have something a little more kosher. Again, pun intended.

Per IMDB, it describes AN AMERICAN PICKLE as: “An immigrant worker at a pickle factory is accidentally preserved for 100 years and wakes up in modern day Brooklyn.” To expand upon that description, he is preserved for 100 years in pickle brine, a ridiculous and impossible concept, one that the movie manages to make a rather clever joke about. I found myself either chuckling or laughing out loud every couple of minutes in this movie. Maybe I just appreciated something a little simpler from Seth Rogen instead of the R-rated, boob, dick, curse, weed, and fart jokes I’m accustomed to watch in every one of his films. This movie contains smart, well written jokes that make you think a little bit. It makes fun of Twitter and it makes fun of cancel culture in a series of ridiculously funny gags that don’t take one side or the other. It comments and pokes fun at sexism and the immigration process while also saying something heartfelt yet funny about genes, family, and religion. After you watch the movie, if you think about it, it toes a pretty perfect line. I don’t know, if you end up hating the movie, you could probably just say that I was in a desperate state of wanting anything to even be 50% better than most the drivel we have gotten since late March. But I encourage you to have an open mind when watching this movie. Dig a little deeper than just thinking its another Seth Rogen comedy at the surface. Read between the lines into what it is trying to say.

If anything, watch the movie for Seth Rogen’s performance. Or shall I say performances’s. Seth Rogen plays two roles in the movie, Herschel Greenbaum, the guy that falls into and is preserved in the pickle brine for 100 years, and he also plays his great grandson Ben Greenbaum, who reluctantly takes Herschel in as the only family he has left in his generation. While Rogen’s performance as Ben is somewhat familiar as a more quiet and subtle Seth that we’ve seen in other films, it’s his accent and mannerisms as Herschel that makes his performance soar. I was constantly laughing at Rogen’s facial expressions and anything blasphemous flying out of that character’s mouth. And while the movie is quite predictable plot structure wise, I still had fun with the journey. Writer Simon Rich, who has written for Saturday Night Live and did some additional story treatment for Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out, has written here a heartfelt story that has a little more to say than most in this comedy category. When watching the trailer, it looked very standard, but thankfully they saved all the good stuff for the actual film. This is director Brandon Trost’s first big directing gig, as he has been a cinematographer on several Seth Rogen films, and his direction is crisp and clean, with no tonal problems whatsoever. That’s another thing, critics complained about drastic changes in tone, which I very adamantly have to disagree with. Usually I feel those, and if I did miss any, it was probably because I was enjoying this enough to ignore it. I kind of relish this movie. To me, there was never a dill moment.