Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: TENET (Spoiler Free!)

WARNING: If you like to leave your brain at the door before you watch a theatrical movie…I can guarantee you that you probably will not like TENET. You will have to use all of your brain and then some to decipher the many layers of puzzles and enigma’s that this movie has in store for you, so if you are not up to the task, I wouldn’t even bother seeing it if I were you. While I understood most (if not all) of the movie, it is definitely going to require several more viewings before I can put the last pieces of the puzzle in place and enjoy this for the masterpiece of a film that it is. I love deciphering intricate movies and love it when they don’t spoon feed any of it to its audience. It challenges you, which is what some films SHOULD do. Another WARNING: the sound mixing in my IMAX theater in Dallas was terrible, but I’ve heard this isn’t a one off problem. I’ve also been told to see a digital print of it at a NEWER theater to be able to hear ALL of the dialogue that isn’t drowned out by the bass and Ludwig Goransson’s masterful (and future Oscar winning) score. Nolan has had sound mixing issues before, with Interstellar, Dunkirk, and The Dark Knight Rises, so like those, it will probably be fixed once it comes to disc, and even if fixed, will probably watch it once with subtitles on. If you think you can handle those warnings, well then, boy are you in for a treat. I’ll just be blunt now if that’s okay with you: Tenet is my absolute favorite film of 2020, it’s the best film (IMO) of 2020, and I hope it wins most of the technical awards (not sound mixing though) at next year’s Oscars. Is it in my top ten favorite films of all time, did it dethrone Inception at #1? More viewings will have to be required to determine the first question (but probably not even though I still think it’s a masterpiece), and definitely no to the second, but really, are you surprised by any of this?

I’ve been hyping this film for months, even a year, since a cryptic teaser for it was played in front of Hobbs & Shaw, and writer/director Christopher Nolan had barely begun filming the damn movie. I’ve been wanting to see this movie so badly you are probably sick and tired of me talking about it. But to be honest, now that I’ve seen the film and this review will be one of my final written words on the matter, I don’t want to reveal any of the surprises that this has in store for you. I can now only hope that this review won’t be too long (I always say that but you never know), and you won’t get bored by it. I can for sure say that on a visual and technical level, there is no better film making. This film, confirmed by Nolan himself, has less than 300 visual effects shots. That’s lower than the average romantic comedy. That’s insane. And the more practical effects any film has, the better it is going to be, because it is going to look and feel realistic. The score by Ludwig Goransson, who is stepping in for Hans Zimmer because he couldn’t due to Dune obligations, is amazing and I want to own it and listen to it by itself right now. It’s right up there alongside Inception, Interstellar, and Dark Knight (all fucking directed by Nolan) for me as one of the best cinematic scores of all time. The acting is also incredible. John David Washington, son of Denzel, completely sets himself apart from his father in his roles, whether it be this or BlackKklansman. Here, he is charismatic, funny, and almost brought a tear to my eye in the second to last scene. Robert Pattinson, who I was fine with even during Twilight, is fantastic here too. He steals all of his scenes with his accent, dialogue and charisma. and with this and Good Time, I cannot wait to see his eventual portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman and his scene chewing role in this month’s Netflix original film, The Devil All The Time. Kenneth Branagh shows why his film Artemis Fowl sucked so much ass (his concentration must’ve been in this role) as he is a fantastic villain in this, one that combines several James Bond bad guys into something totally unique, hateful, and frightening. But the emotional core of the movie belongs to the great Elizabeth Debicki, who’s soulful performance completes the few details we actually get about her character’s background.

If you were looking for a plot summary in my review, look elsewhere, as I have said this review is spoiler free, but for something quite vague, just look at IMDB’s perfect log line: “Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.” If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know that there is something up with inverted like time travel in this movie…but you should really just watch the movie instead of trying to solve things during my review. Speaking of espionage, this is basically Christopher Nolan’s James Bond film he’s always wanted to make, but on time and science fiction steroids. I loved every minute of it…except for the sound mixing of course. Let me change course really quickly here; I want to address some critic’s people’s problems they are having with this movie. Those that are saying its humorless? Get the fuck out of here. This movie has quite a bit of humor, as my friend and I laughed at all the stress reducing one-liners this film constantly had every five minutes. You must be out of your fucking mind if you didn’t think it had humor. “But Zach, the character’s didn’t have any back stories!” Yes, yes they absolutely did, you just weren’t paying attention and/or didn’t get why some of them didn’t seem to. One character is a CIA agent, he probably doesn’t have any family and being recruited into a top secret organization during the movie cements that, he don’t need much back story or family problems with him. Another character’s backstory, if explained to anyone that hasn’t seen this movie, would ruin the entire fucking thing. This character’s backstory is slowly revealed during the movie, which made things really interesting. The main girl protagonist had a tiny but powerful backstory motivation, and so did the fucking villain, so I don’t know what the fuck critics are talking about. They must’ve been too busy trying to follow the “convoluted” plot. Convoluted, by the way, is a word that 75% of film critics use when they can’t figure out the narrative on their own and wish they were spoon fed the plot. I’ve seen reviews for this film use that word way too often, which means that those critics probably need to watch the film several more times in order to understand that they are using the wrong adjective. Also, I think this movie had less expository dialogue and explained much less than Inception did, so why are those that loved Inception but didn’t like this even complaining? In fact, I am inclined to only agree with only one of their harsh critiques…which I don’t need to repeat what that is, as I’ve already mentioned it two to three times.

No matter if you see this film in theaters or eventually watch it when it comes out on home media, if you like intricate puzzles, fantastic visuals, a booming masterful score, pitch perfect direction, excellent performances, and you want to feel like you are on an adventure that you can just escape into (but still not turn your brain off) completely, look no further than Tenet. I loved every single solitary second and backwards second (you’ll see) of it and will definitely be making a couple of trips to the theater to put all of its pieces in place, and then several more times when it hits home media just to enjoy it by myself or with loved ones that are up to the challenge. My wife thought this movie was better than Inception…which was weird for me to hear, but whatever. My friend Josh, who I also saw this with, loved it as much as I did. I would definitely see this in the biggest yet NEWEST theater out there that there is, not necessarily in IMAX as Nolan intended it. If the sound mixing was perfect I would be recommending that format 100%. The visuals are something else, because they feel real and there is not one second of CGI that makes you cringe with how fake it looks, because there is hardly any it in general, and I honestly couldn’t tell where it was implemented. The movie is so much fun, it will take your breath away, and it will make you think about its implications long after the end title card comes up. But if you are one of those that thought Inception was hard to keep up with…uh, that’s like a walk in the park compared to this movie. Christopher Nolan has once again taken us to school, and has shown us there are still lessons to be learned in narrative storytelling, visuals, and almost all other technical film making aspects. Tenet may not be his grand opus (that still belongs to Inception in my mind), but he has made a perfect giant encore, one that you will be talking about more and more for years to come. Tenet is one of the reasons why I love going to the movies.

My ranking of Christopher Nolan films:

  1. Inception
  2. The Dark Knight
  3. The Prestige
  4. Tenet
  5. Batman Begins
  6. Interstellar
  7. Dunkirk
  8. Memento
  9. The Dark Knight Rises
  10. Insomnia
  11. Following

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ARTEMIS FOWL (Disney+)

Wow… after this & Cats…Judi Dench really needs to fire her agent. Let’s make one thing absolutely clear before I start this review. I have not read one page of any of the ARTEMIS FOWL young adult series. So this review is going to be based solely on if it did or didn’t work for me as a film. Also, originally my wife was going to write a review and the title to it was already set to ‘Diane’s Delightful Movie Reviews’ until I just changed it. Unlike me, she has read all the Artemis Fowl books and when the end credits rolled, she told me just to write one of my reviews and just tell people what she thought. She didn’t want to write hers because, “It would take too long. My review would just list the ways that the book differs from the film, and it would be one long endless complaint.” Eh, I kind of lied just there. That was paraphrasing. What actually came out of her mouth was, “It was meh, I don’t want to write the review anymore.” And then she explained to me how they were different. Well, after watching the movie and after hearing all the differences between the two, I do actually want to go and read all the books, but that statement doesn’t bode well for the movie. While I didn’t hate it as much as critics or lovers of the novel did, it did not work for me as a film, to say the least. It really was just, “meh.” And that is ultimately disappointing, because there are some elements in the film that hint of a world full of magical and interesting possibilities. But that’s just what they are, hints. No execution of actual magic whatsoever.

Doing a tiny bit of research, this movie was supposed to come out theatrically last August, as it was filmed back in 2018. But then in May of 2019, it was delayed to May 29th, 2020, without any reasoning behind the move other than marketing for the film was not ready besides a very generic teaser poster. Then on April 3rd, 2020, the film was delayed yet again, because of…you guessed it, fucking COVID-19. It didn’t have a release date after that for a little bit, but then Disney announced that it was just going to dump the film on their streaming service Disney+ instead of just delaying it theatrically any further. Which wasn’t a good sign for the quality of the film at all. According to “Disney moving the film straight to streaming was viewed as “”the death knell for Artemis as a film franchise”” by industry insiders, because “the platform’s subscription revenues are incapable of generating a return on investment that would justify the movie’s $125 million price tag.” Combine that with everything else sent to PVOD because of the pandemic, save for The Wretched and The King of Staten Island, have all been mediocre at best, I knew that when pressing the play button on the movie late yesterday evening, that I probably wasn’t going to like the film. I was correct, but the bar was set so low that I probably didn’t hate it as much as you book lovers think I probably should have. But don’t twist my words, the movie is not good.

Per and Rotten, the movie is “Based on the first two books in author Eoin Colfer wildly popular children’s fantasy series, Walt Disney Studios’ Artemis Fowl tells the story of adolescent criminal genius Artemis, who captures a vicious fairy, and attempts to harness her magical powers in a bid to rescue his family.” See how even that description is kind of vague? That is how thin the plot is. Most of the movie, I didn’t know what the fuck what going on until I paused it a couple of times and my wife Diane explained it to me. After the explanation, it was still a very thin plot to me, the description above is a little deceiving, with only hints of giant world building that the movie neglects to expand upon. Add to all that an extra helping of no character development and awful acting by the title character who played Artemis and…Judi Dench. The plot is, in a ho-hum nutshell, finding a MacGuffin Fairy Skeleton Key to find Artemis Fowl’s kidnapped father, played by Colin Farrell, obviously there for just a paycheck. Was the overarching villain named Opal is way underdeveloped and hidden in shadows so they could’ve hired a more famous person to portray her in later movies? Not the best idea. Just because it worked in Harry Potter, doesn’t mean that it’s going to work here. The only character to have some kind of development, even being razor thin itself, is Mulch Diggums, played surprisingly not annoyingly by Josh Gad, who is the only actor in this that looks like they want to be there.

Judi Dench is awful in this. When she shows up on screen, her voice is gravelly and nasally, she looks bored and also like she doesn’t have a clue what was going on. Same with the audience. In fact, I probably didn’t place all the pieces together until about an hour into the film, and by then, with only a half hour left, the movie climaxes on just one action set piece that took place inside a house, that wasn’t interesting in the least. Half of it was swinging back and forth on a chandelier with quick cuts and a CGI Troll villain, whose design was so fake and embarrassing it made Steppenwolf from Justice League face palm himself. This whole world was underdeveloped. You cannot take a novel, even at a shorter 280 pages, and condense it into only a 95 minutes film. But the fact that it is supposed to be an adaptation of the first two novels is even more head scratching. What is also confusing is that the CGI and visuals, with the exception of the awful looking troll, are actually a little striking. I liked the look of the underground lair of the fairies and the look of most of the technology, especially the Time Freeze device. There is something magical here, its just really difficult to see what that is, unless I eventually pick up the novel. But after I read that, I have a feeling I’m going to truly despise this film. And for some reason, I don’t blame Kenneth Branaugh, who has directed some truly great looking pictures such as Marvel’s Thor and one of Disney’s few, great, live action remakes, Cinderella. He has an eye for the camera, and some of his shots are steady and gorgeous to look at. If he had a tighter script that was a faithful adaptation of the novel with more flair, world building, and character development…a film that actually took its time to introduce the viewer, especially non fans, to this fantastical environment, there could’ve been something Harry Potter level great here.

But alas, just like the two Percy Jackson movies, this fails on all levels. Both movies have the same faults of not adapting the material to the best of their abilities. And the studios and scripts are to blame. Artemis Fowl’s script, was co-written by a guy used to doing just stage plays and the other guy wrote…fucking Johnny English Reborn and fucking…Mr. Beans Holiday. Yeah, you need veterans in Hollywood that know their shit, in fact, Disney, why the fuck didn’t you just get Harry Potter’s Steve Kloves??? I’m sure he had time in his schedule to give you something solid. But instead, you get a hazy, blurry, jumbled mess of a world that was supposed to introduce fairies, trolls, & other mythical beings in a cool twist on the espionage adventure film. To me, just basing this film on its own merits, taking that it was a novel first out of the equation, everything we got was just a giant fucking misfire. Nothing was interesting, nothing was exciting, I didn’t understand most of it, everything was boring. Just a few little hints here and there of potential. Potential that was ignored to just put a mediocre product out on the market. How does this happen? Why wasn’t more care brought to this property? Just like author Rick Riordan came out and said that he hates the Percy Jackson films, I bet you author Eion Colfer eventually does the same thing. Maybe Disney will extend the chance they are giving to Riordan to come up with his own mini series, that adapts the source material faithfully and with more flair. I bet you that ends up happening if the Percy Jackson Disney+ series is a success both commercially and critically. But for right now, this film is what it is: an adaptation that will put casual movie goers and critics like me into a confused sleep, and one that will most likely put fans of the novels into a foul…foul mood.