Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: GEMINI MAN (seen in XD, 3D, High Frame Rate, 2K)(no spoilers)

GEMINI MAN is one of the best action films of 1997. 22 years later though…it doesn’t hold up. At all. Now that statement might confuse you. Because there are a lot of great action films in the late 90s that still hold up today. Face/Off, Broken Arrow, Con Air to name a few, but what I was really trying to say is that this film feels like it should’ve come out twenty something years ago. Not surprising when you learn that this script has been in development hell for precisely that long. Even then it probably would’ve only just been half way decent but ultimately forgettable. And while the fight scenes between Will Smith and his younger self might’ve been praised as something revolutionary back then, I doubt that they could’ve been done as effectively. For the most part, they only did it half well in this (more on that later). And seeing as though they only got it half right in 2019…it leads one to think that the movie might’ve been a disaster back then too. Ultimately, in present day, Gemini Man is a huge disappointment save for a couple of small bright spots, as the movie itself has some of the worst acting, dialogue, jarring action sequences and visuals from a format that should’ve died with The Hobbit Trilogy, and a cliched dull plot that has been cloned one too many times to care anymore.

Now I did try and see Gemini Man as close as director Ang Lee intended. Going to Cinemark West Plano, I saw the film in XD, 3D, and high frame rate. The only thing stopping me from seeing it exactly how he wanted, is that the version I saw was in 2K, and not 4. That being said, I’m telling you right now, if you see this on a plain ‘ol movie screen, you are going to think this is the dullest thing since un-buttered stale popcorn. If you see it as close as possible to how the director intended, you might get some small bright spots of really great technical wizardry. The 3D in this movie is utterly fucking fantastic, easily the best since Avatar, since this was actually shot in 3D and not converted. The best scenes with 3D are easily whenever there is an action sequence (particularly the cycle chase), anytime the film is a water level or below water, and where there is a lot of space and large depth of field. Basically, the 3D is near perfect, and if it were a masterpiece of a movie, it might even get 3D to have another spike in popularity. Unfortunately we will have to wait for Avatar 2 for that possibility. The large screen is nice because that combined with some great sound makes the film at least watchable. The real problem is some sequences with the stupid High Frame Rate format that needs to fucking die a quick and painless death.

I’m not going to explain what the whole High Frame Rate thing is, you can find plenty of articles online discussing it in this and more detailed in anybody that saw any of The Hobbit trilogy with it. Needless to say, some, emphasis on SOME sequences it feels nice and fluid and it is supposed to make you feel like you are actually there with all the action and characters, a sense of realism if you will. The parts that are really fucking jarring are some of the action beats in the action sequences. For example, some parts of the cycle chase are really nice to look and and very fluid with high frame rate, combine it with the 3D and I felt I was there in some shots. But then when the younger Will Smith is trying to kill the older one by punching, kicking, or trying to crush him with a bike, the action is too fast, making them look like Wilde E. Coyote and the Road Runner going at it. Then they fist fight later, and the action is so jarring it’s like taking a real boxing match on television and just hitting the fast forward button and watching it that way. When the camera is static and the scenes take their time, the High Frame Rate works. But what works isn’t near enough to keep the format. The one positive thing to come out of this movie is that I hope filmmakers never ever try to bring it out of hibernation again, it is truly overrated.

Here’s the synopsis for the very lame ass plot, which is basically if Looper and The 6th Day fucked and had a baby. Old assassin decides to retire, some of his former colleagues don’t want that happening while also finding out this old assassin has stumbled onto a conspiracy they are a part of, these associates send some other assassins to kill him, one of which is a cloned younger version of himself. That’s it, that’s all you need to know. And maybe that the older assassin discovers this clone oddly quickly after the first attempt to kill him by said clone and doesn’t want him dead because he knows there is a good and decent person somewhere inside him. Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda, you can guess the outcome from just the few sentences I’ve given you. Let’s quickly talk about the only two really good things about the movie: Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Now while Will Smith is now 0 for 2 with movies he’s been in 2019, his acting was at least the best parts of each. You can tell that Smith is enjoying the work, and really wants to be there, which is admirable. Mary Elizabeth Winstead REALLY wants to be there, as she is the best performance in the whole movie, and is a real bad ass in it. I would like a regular action film with just her character, not relating to the events in this film, but with how poorly this film is doing at the box office, we’ll never get it.

Now let’s welcome the rest of the suck. Clive Owen is a Jason Garrett robot in this film, and looked like he wanted to kill himself during filming. One of the worst villains of 2019, if not the worst. The dialogue is really, really, really, really fucking bad.You could even make a checklist of the shittiest cliched dialogue you have ever heard in an action movie and it would probably check every single box. And the entire story and narrative is just playyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyed. So played. That’s not surprising though when you look at the screenwriting credits. David Benioff co-wrote the film. Ring any bells? It should, he is one of the two men that are responsible for ruining the last season and the end of Game of Thrones to a lot of people. Whenever he can’t write scripts based off previous material, he just completely falters with coming up with anything half way coherent. Here, he was asked to spruce up a script that was put together in the 90s. If you give a mediocre writer a mediocre script to spruce up, you aren’t going to change anything. Honestly, the whole thing should’ve just been shredded and the file deleted off the computer and started from scratch. This thing should’ve never been made. Speaking of never been made, there is this really really really really stupid little last minute eye rolling twist that was almost vomit inducing.

It’s not one of the worst films of the year, but it is one of the most forgettable. And if you really, really, really don’t give a shit about my review and want to see it anyway, might I suggest shelling out the extra few bucks to try and see it as close as director Ang Lee intended. I know telling you to spend more money on a lame film is weird but if you just see this in a plain old theater, your just going to end up truly wasting your time. Make it at least mean something with some extra visual flair. Ever since Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s career has been in a sharp decline, with this and that other piece of shit that is actually worse than this, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Maybe he’ll be smarter with his next project and pick up the pieces, we shall see. He doesn’t have some talent with some of his older films, I will give him that. Real quick comment on the de-aging of Will Smith into a younger clone. In the dark, the visual effects look freaking fantastic. But when this clone is in the light, especially the very last time you see him, it is so jarring I was rubbing my eyes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinated. Especially the last time you see the clone, fucking God damn awful. Maybe they ran out of money. 2019 is not the year for a Will Smith comeback. He’s got one more film left, an animated film called Spies In Disguise, but even if it is a masterpiece (it looks only okay), it will in no way make up for this or the shitty live action remake of Aladdin. Maybe 2020 will be more his speed, where we get to see the third and hopefully final Bad Boys movie. But oh shit, it’s being released in dump month January…yet…it is more likely to be better than this film as cloning his chemistry with Martin Lawrence is probably much, much easier.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JEXI (no spoilers)

JEXI is basically a shorter, foul mouthed semi-parody of the film Her. And for some reason, it semi-worked for me. I went into this movie having really low expectations. I had heard nothing about it and it wasn’t screened for critics (a dismal 8% on Rotten Tomatoes right now, but you know you can only trust that site as far as you can throw it). And I knew it was from the guys (Jon Lucas, Scott Moore) that wrote The Hangover and Bad Moms (their only hits) and countless other forgettable raunchy crude humor films like Office Christmas Party. They are definitely more of a miss duo than a hit one. However, I had a slight interest in it due to the fact I find Adam DeVine charming for some reason and that the beautiful and gorgeous and underused actress Rose Byrne plays the voice of Jexi, the main character’s phone operating system (think Siri and Alexa). I have to admit though, that even with everything against it, and also due to that fact that it is predictable to a tee and are very few surprising outcomes by the end of the very short 84 minute film, I did laugh my ass off quite a bit. It’s the crude humor loser in me, I know.

I mean, does this sound familiar? A guy that has a plain old job that’s not his dream job and doesn’t really have a great connection with any human beings, only his phone, gets a new phone with a new operating system after bumping into a cutie that owns a bike shop. The new operating system is named Jexi, and she is erratic and self aware right from the get go. Jexi wants to make this guy’s life better by cursing at him, humiliating him, and yelling at him to do the things he wouldn’t normally do. But then when he gets a little too friendly with that cutie bike store owner, Jexi starts to get jealous, and with an operating system that can almost do anything and be anywhere, there’s not telling how dangerous she could end up really being. Adam DeVine is just Adam DeVine in this, but his awkward oh shucks comedic schtick still works, even if he never really shows any range. Young Storm, aka Alexandra Shipp is actually very likable as the cutie bike store owner and brings out some interesting chemistry between her and DeVine that would might’ve been plain and by the books with any other actress cast into the role. But the true star of Jexi, is none other than the great Rose Byrne.

I love Rose Byrne. You know who she is even if you don’t know who she is. She’s the wife in the Neighbors movies with Seth Rogen. She was the prissy pants in Bridesmaids. She was the bad girl in Spy with Melissa McCarthy. And she was excellent in last year’s Instant Family. She can do all ranges, I just wish that Hollywood would give her more of a central individual role in larger productions. Hell, maybe Marvel might give her a chance. Granted, she’s just a voice in this, but her voice, cursing, saying dirty shit, what have you, takes what would’ve been a God awful fucking stupid movie, and making it watchable with providing some very big laughs along the way. If there is anything in this movie to get you through the cliched and predictable short 84 minute run time, it is easily every scene where Jexi decides to open her mouth and say some heinous shit.

Ah…what to say, what to say. Kind of hard with a film that without credits is less than an hour and 20 minutes. It’s a brisk comedy that doesn’t overstay its welcome that isn’t as bad as the critics are saying it is. If you like really crude sexual and poo poo and pee pee and fart fart jokes, and like your comedy to be R rated, you’ll probably love this. The direction is kind of weird, with a lot of steady shots that turn shaky and zoom in on the actors suddenly real fast, but I guess that the directors were wanting to do a little more than just point and shoot something? I don’t know. To end this connection, here is my bottom line: if you want to watch a smart and unique film that deals with consequences of having self-aware A.I. and has a relationship with a man that has the voice of Scarlett Johansson, go watch Her. If you laugh at the thought of Rose Byrne saying to not put your phone in your back pocket because she doesn’t want to deal with your farts, while also dealing with a really cliched yet semi-passable quick romantic comedy…then Jexi is for you. Basically, a movie for your current mood. Don’t watch either with the wrong one, otherwise you might end up hating both.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: EL CAMINO – A BREAKING BAD MOVIE (infinity% NO SPOILERS)

The first thing that probably popped into Breaking Bad fans’ head when there were rumblings of a follow up movie possibly being made is: “Oh God, why in the fuck would they mess with perfection?” Breaking Bad is one of the best television shows ever made. Hell, one could argue, probably the best. My youngest brother got me to watch it, and I finally decided to do so really late to the party. I binge watched the shit out of it on Netflix and got caught up to watch the final six episodes live. And I got to watch that oh so perfect finale live. How many television shows can you name that had a perfect, or shit, even near perfect finale? I can’t even count on one hand. Seinfeld, nope. The X-Files? Yeah, hell no. Lost? Don’t make me or anyone else laugh. Not even one of my other favorite series, 24, had that great of a finale. Shit, they even brought it back for another round of episodes and that finale wasn’t that fantastic either. I heard The Americans is perfect, near perfect, but I can’t say anything as I haven’t watched that show. And even though I didn’t watch The Sopranos, we all know what kind of divisive finale that had. I really only thought the series finale of Friends was near perfect, but for the life of me I can’t really name another. The point I’m trying to get across is, if you have a perfect finale like Breaking Bad did, why would you gamble to possibly fuck it all up?

But what you don’t realize is that Breaking Bad already made that gamble four years ago (BB has been off the air for six). They gambled making a prequel show that focused on Saul Goodman, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s criminal lawyer. But guess what? Better Call Saul is at times almost as perfect as Breaking Bad was. The final verdict has yet to be written on that show, because it’s last episode has yet to air. That prequel show at the time was a huge risk, because Breaking Bad was still fresh from being considered one of the greatest television shows and finales ever made, and many were wondering if Vince Gilligan and co. were just making this prequel series to try and keep the money train a movin’. But looking at it now, it seems like it wasn’t the money train they wanted to keep chuggin along, but the creative thinking train. So in essence, this movie really is ANOTHER huge gamble. They went to Vegas, won against the house, bet it all on black, won again, and with this movie, it’s like they are going back again and betting it all on white now, so to speak, pun intended. When it was confirmed that Vince Gilligan and co. filmed a Breaking Bad Movie in secret, and that it was going to air on Netflix and some theaters, later aired on AMC, I was still a bit skeptical (I mean, who wouldn’t be right), but since Better Call Saul didn’t lose a beat, I couldn’t help but be cautiously optimistic. The trailers and tv spots made me even more optimistic. So ladies and gentlemen, did they beat the house a third time? EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE is not only Netflix’s easily best film released to date, it is one of the best films of 2019 in general. It does not ruin any of what Breaking Bad brought to television, nor Better Call Saul. It is a perfectly crafted epilogue for Jesse Pinkman. Bravo, Vince Gilligan. Bravo.

Sorry for the two paragraph introduction, but as I have promised not to reveal anything spoiler-rific, and make this seem like an actual thought out review and not just me rambling incoherent bullshit for 5 to 6 paragraphs, I thought it was necessary. First thing I can plainly tell you without giving anything away is if you haven’t watched ALL of Breaking Bad (you could take or leave Better Call Saul with this, however, I still highly recommend watching it at one point), then DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE. While Netflix gives the briefest of brief recaps (you have the option to hit skip recap), the movie just goes right into it, assuming you are already a fan and know everything there is to know about the beloved show, and for the rest of you, it gives you a giant middle finger. If you’ve watched any of the brief trailers or tv spots that don’t give anything away really at all, you probably can tell by context clues is that the movie starts off right after Jesse drives off into the night, right after Walter White ‘saved’ him from the White Supremacist gang that had him tied up for some time, making Jesse cook that sweet baby blue meth for them to sell.

The movie answers the question: what happened after Jesse just drove off into the night, screaming to the hilltops how happy he was to finally be free? Did he get caught? Where did he go if he didn’t? Because it seemed like the police arrived pretty damn fast to the White Supremacists complex, making viewers wonder if Jesse really had enough time to get away. How it answers that question is just wonderfully and surprisingly, tense, twisty, and felt real to the Breaking Bad world we already know and love. You know how Harry Potter and the Cursed Child didn’t really ruin anything the 7 books and 8 movies established for it in that universe? Basically like a fun little epilogue that didn’t say “fuck you.” El Camino is the Cursed Child of the Breaking Bad story. A better Toy Story 4 if you will. This movie is not unnecessary, not in the slightest. It is one of the first thing’s on Netflix that I have watched all the way through, no pausing, no bathroom breaks, no rewinds, no looking at my phone and/or laptop. It captivated me every single second of its nice and tight two hour run time. And it actually looks and feels like a movie, and not a television movie, thank the fucking universe.

I am not going to reveal if the movie has any great cameos and/or if those cameos feel unnecessarily unnecessary. Just know that NONE of this movie felt forced. There are great set ups and there are great pay offs. That’s all I can really say. I can tell you that it is sometimes tense as fuck. And I can also tell you that it only took me about a minute to get adjusted to what I was watching and relax, knowing that I was in good hands, feeling like I was apart of the Breaking Bad universe once again. Vince Gilligan had a finely crafted and tuned tale that he wanted to bring to the world. Again, none of them are doing this for a quick cash grab. I think if Aaron Paul read the script, and he thought it was going to fuck everything up, that he wouldn’t have agreed to be a part of it. But he must’ve read it, liked what he read, and combined with envisioning what Gilligan was going to do with it cinematic wise, knew no doubt that the journey didn’t need to be stopped before it started. With performances, EVERYONE does a great job, but to not spoil anything, I’ll just talk about Paul’s performance. Again, Aaron Paul brings a humanity to Jesse Pinkman that I don’t think any actor could’ve done as well if given the chance. Vince Gilligan knew he had something special when casting him originally in Breaking Bad, and then deciding not to kill his character at the end of season one to see where Paul took him. One of the wisest decision’s Gilligan ever made. Paul continues to deliver not just for fans of the show, but for Gilligan as well, for this excellent, excellent, excellent epilogue.

Do I have any complaints with the movie? A little thing here or there, mainly to do with the physical appearance of a character, but with six years after Breaking Bad ended, what are you gonna do, ya know? Any complaint I have with this film is very minor. The real question you might ask me is: do I think this movie is unnecessary? Yes and no. Yes because Breaking Bad ended so perfectly. Now no because of how much I liked dipping my toe back into this world, even though we do each year anyway because Better Call Saul is still going on. I think any die hard Breaking Bad fan will absolutely love this film, while a minor portion of them might have some minor issues. Nobody is going to outright hate this film though, because even if you aren’t a fan of the show, and watch it without context, it is still a well made pot boiler. What I love most about the movie is that you don’t know quite where it is going to go. I tried to guess several times where the movie would go to next, but then literally 3 seconds after my guess the writing subverted my expectations and I kept being getting surprised. After mid way through the movie (arguably the best parts in the film) I just learned to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Well, that’s all I can really say other than that if you are a huge fan and are caught up with Breaking Bad (and also love Better Call Saul), you are in for a huge treat. Honestly I can’t really see any fan of Breaking Bad not loving this movie. It’s a perfect slow burn, not a pointless shitty surface level one that Joker brought to naive idiots last week in theaters. This film earns every payoff that it ingeniously sets up. You know how both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul take their time with episodes and well…time in general. How it lingers on moments and locations, even it it might take up close to half the episodes run time. Same thing here. The movie beautifully takes its time, not one second too rushed or wasted. It makes you feel at home again, at home again, eating one of your favorite dishes your mom or dad used to make you as a child. And for that, all I have left to say, is “Yeah, bitch!”

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JOKER (some minor spoilers)

The real joke is on us, the audience. For weeks now, ever since the Venice Film Festival, where it won the top prize or whatever the fuck, JOKER has been all over the news. People saying it is controversial, people saying it glorifies violence, people afraid of going to the movies in fear of another mass shooting a la Dark Knight Rises, people saying that Joaquin Phoenix is going to win the Best Actor Oscar and that it is the best interpretation of the villain yet. Overall they’ve been saying it is a great movie and might even have a chance at winning best picture. After reading all of what it won at that festival, after reading all of the initial reactions, and then after actually sitting down last night to watch this movie, I’m laughing my ass off. Not because all those people were right, but because they are dead wrong. Joker is absolutely NONE of those things. It’s all unwarranted hype. In actuality, Joker is bland, unoriginal, has nothing to say, is not the best interpretation of the Joker let alone not being Joaquin Phoenix’s best performance, in fact, I think Jared Leto was better.

I’ll get shit for those last six words but I really don’t care, as I thought that Joaquin Phoenix borrowed from his Oscar nominated performance from The Master, at times almost verbatim. Here’s the rub, if you’ve seen American Psycho, Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, basically any movie with a mentally ill outcast that turns into a villain and starts committing heinous crimes, you’ve seen Joker. This movie adds absolutely NOTHING to the table with the issues that are brought up in the movie. Nothing new. In fact, it almost rips off THAT scene off right out of Taxi Driver. And that fact that the movie is a slow burn makes it even worse. I was completely bored throughout the whole film save for the last 15-20 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I usually LOVE slow burn movies, in fact, those are some of the best out there, but if you are a slow burn that includes cooking up ingredients used one too many times in other and better films, you end up with an under-cooked meal. And the last 15-20 minutes are only watchable because of the instant adrenaline pumped into your system once the only great scene in the film comes along, yet if you look closely you realized the adrenaline wasn’t anything new as well.

The only truly great scene in the film doesn’t even involve Robert DeNiro, in fact, that scene has already been done in the comics. The only shining greatness bright spot in this film is when two of Arthur Fleck’s former associates goes to his apartment to see how it is holding up. Even though everything is dialed the fuck up after that, that scene had wonderful acting, and an aura of a truly sick sense of dark violence that felt like it had something to say. The rest of the movie is shallow, empty, and has nothing new to say. And all of the blame can be put on writer/director Todd Phillips. I know he doesn’t want to do crude dark comedies anymore, but the thing is, that is the only thing he is good at. He has no peripheral vision as a screenwriter or director. Sure, the movie is nice to look at at times, but you can credit the cinematographer on that. Todd Phillips two best films are The Hangover and War Dogs. His future projects should maybe fall within that spectrum, especially if he isn’t going to bring anything new to any genre.

Look, I’m not saying that Joker is terrible, it is not even close to being one of my top ten worst films of the year. To me, it was just meh. And I’m not saying Joaquin Phoenix was bad either. On the contrary, he actually look like he tried really hard and had a couple of moments where he felt like he was bringing a new and exciting interpretation of the character. But those moments were very fleeting (mostly contained in that one great scene I was talking about) and this isn’t close to his best theatrical performance. If you haven’t seen The Master, you are going to think I’m crazy and wonder what the fuck I am talking about. But if you have, I’m sure on some level you’ll agree with me that a lot of his performance of Arthur Fleck was borrowed from his performance of Freddie Quell. We’ve seen the mentally ill outsider with parental issues one too many times before, and we’ve seen the climax of all those feelings coming to a similar final outcome before. In essence, you could probably say that the reason I wasn’t impressed by Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is basically I wasn’t impressed by the overall screenplay. It’s not good when the Joker’s laugh starts to get really annoying. Too much here.

As for the other actors? None of them have that much screen time to really warrant any kind of conversation. Well, that’s not true, but in a negative way. Let me back up a bit. Robert DeNiro is fine in the few scenes he is in, but I didn’t really buy him as a Talk Show Host. Maybe I could’ve gotten into the movie more with more scenes of Frances Conroy’s delusional mother character, and the ultimate “trickery” story with her feels like a pretty big letdown. It is like they were going to be controversial with a controversial revelation, but then that rug is pulled out from under you, and then the film just caters to those fan boys that would’ve been mad with that choice in the first place. But the real problem with the film is Zazie Beetz’s character (she played Domino in Deadpool 2, she was fantastic in that). Not a problem with Beetz but with her character. I don’t want to get into heavy spoilers, but let’s just say things aren’t what they seem, and the ultimate revelation to me has been done before and is a giant big no-no/red flag in my opinion when they do it in movies today. The first rule of that red flag is that YOU STOP doing that red flag.

And then there is another big scene that is kind of expected toward the end, that again, we as DC Comic fans, have seen one too many times to really care. And that dancing stairwell scene that is shown in the trailers and tv spots too much? It uses an overused sports song that felt extremely out of place in the film. This movie was completely all just over-hyped and turned out to be extremely OVERRATED. This movie shouldn’t have people worried to actually go out and see it. It isn’t controversial in the slightest, it’s all just been massively built up to get you out of the house and spend your hard earned box office cash. I encourage you to wait for a rental, is that is all that it is really good for. The worst thing that people will do is compare it to Heath Ledger’s performance. Don’t do that. Keep them as separate pieces of work, and just know that Ledger’s will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever be beaten. Now that I think about it, I think I am having the last laugh with this movie. I just realized that since it isn’t part of the DCEU, and is its own entity, that I don’t ever have to own it. That definitely puts a smile on my face.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JUDY (some real life spoilers, duh)

The most ironic thing I thought about while watching JUDY is that with the current state of our “cancel culture,” why are people still holding the film The Wizard Of Oz up so high on a fucking pedestal? Shit, if more people saw this movie, and the horrific way Judy Garland was treated during it, I have a feeling more people would be up in arms about this film being a beloved classic. But anyway, I’m not part of that cancel culture and I still love that movie, but I digress. We all know that Judy Garland is one of the very sad victims of Hollywood. Fame killed her, there is no question. This new movie about her, just stacks that evidence higher and higher, and everything about her life becomes sadder and sadder. I’m totally recommending this movie, don’t get me wrong, but once I left the theater, I was very, very depressed thinking about her life and connecting all of her tragic threads. The number one reason to watch this movie, is that you are hopefully watching what will be the Oscar winning performance of 2019 by Renee Zellweger. She is absolutely fucking unbelievable in this movie. Might as well send it to her in advance in the mail.

So much so, that at points throughout the film, I thought I was watching a documentary on Judy Garland. Zellweger’s performance isn’t just a mere impression or basic imitation of Garland. Zellweger BECOMES Garland. Like from second one, I didn’t see Zellweger there at all. It was absolutely fucking uncanny and just became more so as the film went on, all leading to one of the most tear inducing finales I’ve witnessed in quite some time. I think what I appreciated most about this film is that while it is sort of a biopic, it really isn’t. The whole thing takes place within 5 weeks of her life (about six months before she dies), as she flies to London to do a five week stint in this concernt hall so that she can get a lot of money in order to be able to retain custody and take great care of her two kids (not Liza Minelli, as she was already an adult at this time). See, London, at that time, still saw her as sort of an idol, more than America did for sure. Within these five weeks we get a couple of flashback to win Dorothy was much younger, between takes shooting The Wizard of Oz.

I was appalled with how Garland was treated during Oz. They would hardly let her eat, wouldn’t let her be that social, wouldn’t let her have any fun, she couldn’t get any sleep and it even seems like she might’ve even been sexually harassed (that part in the film is a little vague but I think I got the picture). All of that was shown to have had a nasty effect on her life to the point it could be argued that she never really had one. The film does any excellent job of cause and effect. All the little tidbits of shit she had to go through when she was younger, they come out bright as day in Zellweger’s performance. Her personal struggles and inner mentality is very, very tragic, she didn’t deserve any of it one bit. She was a loving individual in real life, her only fault may be that she loved a little bit too much. There is this one scene near the end where Garland is backstage looking at the giant crowd before her, and with her expression, you can tell that she knows her career will ultimately kill her, but she can’t help but bring millions of smiles to her endearing fans.

This film is filled a bunch of little scenes that made the film a little special. My favorite though would have to be her spontaneous late night dinner and social outing with this male gay couple. It showed how much she was idolized yet still tried desperately relate to more common folk so she could feel like she had a normal life. The film focuses just the right amount on her actually performing some of those stints at the concern hall in London, which thankfully wasn’t too much. But when it did, it had a huge impact. Some of the times Renee Zellweger got to show off her vocal chops (again, amazing), and then some of the times she was so inebriated that she couldn’t even perform and got booed at and some stuff was even thrown at her. We also get to see the origin of her last marriage to her last husband, and her dealing with custody (sort of) of her two youngest kids by her previous husband. All of it shows a tragic life that was always taken for granted and never given a second thought.

I could talk about the other acting in the film, but why bother, as the only other recognizable face is Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in most of the Harry Potter films) and he barely has any lines as the owner of the London Concert Hall that Judy is performing at. This is Renee Zellweger’s show and she completely fucking nails every single frame. The direction is adequate by Rupert Goold, but I have to admit I have never seen any of his work to compare it to. I can agree that he must be a decent actor’s director, as he magnifies Zellweger’s already electric performance on the screen. The film is based off play I have not seen called “End of the Rainbow.” The only thing I’ll say about it is that should’ve been the title to this movie, as I found this just being called “Judy” kind of lazy and generic. I did really enjoy this movie, but I found it a little too depressing to consider it for my top twenty of the year. I know, what am I thinking, right? But I would watch this movie a time or two again, because Renee Zellweger’s performance is just that damn good. It made that gloomy rainbow shine.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ABOMINABLE (no spoilers) + mini review of CAMP CINEMARK!!!

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR YETI…..errrr, I mean ABOMINABLE will forever now be lodged in my mind as my son Grayson’s first movie (he just turned two) in the theater. I remember that he was mostly very, very respectful during it, only really ooooing and ahhhhing at the really cool magical moments, the only movement was when he was just wanting to sit in mommy or daddy’s lap from his own seat. He was an excellent movie theater patron, even though he was in a kid friendly theater, and made this movie nerd very proud. A movie nerd that sometimes wants to fucking snap people’s God damn necks if you talk or text during a regular, more adult movie. Or play with those stupid God damn Apple watches (you know who you are). The movie itself? Eh…it was alright. And cute. I am obviously going to recommend this movie to families, because I did find it charming and even laughed during some moments, and my kid basically paid full attention to it the full 95 minutes, but it’s no Toy Story 4. And definitely no How To Train Your Dragon (both Dragon and this was made by Dreamworks Animation). The movie is…acceptable.

The plot is simple. Big abominable snowman escapes from science facility and ends up on the apartment roof of a sad girl named Yi. Yi is a young girl, a violin player that is stuck in the past, not playing anymore because she misses her dad, who died, who she played for and who taught her how to play, and not giving her mother and grandmother the time of day. The big snowman happens to see a giant Everest advertisement from their roof and Yi and two of her younger boy family friends named Peng and Jin decide to go return them to his home. However, the assholes from the science experiment place that imprisoned him are right on their tale and want them back. With everything I just gave you, you can connects the dots from act one, to act two, to act three pretty easily, and can guess what will ultimately happen. This little road trip kid movie does have its charms though throughout the way and is able to entertain even though it brings absolutely nothing new to the kid movie drama. In fact you could say it borrows too much from other films, and felt really close to ripping off How To Train Your Dragon, with the whole being afraid of giant animals but then learning to love and work with them. Also takes a little bit from Kubo and the Two Strings with the whole violin playing thing (you’ll see).

There is a whooping snake gag that works in the movies favor, bringing it back just when you thought the movie forgot about it. There are also some cute little sight gags involving blueberries and an iphone flashlight that had me chuckling. I also liked the little bait and switch with the whole “who is the real bad guy?” little plot line the movie manages to pull off gracefully. And finally, the movie does have a couple of warm fuzzy feeling “Pixar” moments as well, as the whole adventure is just to get Yi to let go of her deceased father and have her give her mother and grandmother more attention. And even though all of it is generic, it all gets a slight recommendation for me, mainly because it kept my toddler’s attention throughout the whole thing and I was able to enjoy it with him. I also enjoyed some of the chance sequences that involved a dandelion and a fun trip though a flower field using the Yeti (who they name Everest btw) magical powers. That right, can’t go through the film without this special creature having magical powers.

The voice acting isn’t one to cry home about except for Chloe Bennett (Quake on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) who plays Yi, and Sarah Paulson, who plays one of the scientists trying to get the Yeti back. Chloe Bennett completely strips away everything about her voice from the Marvel show and brings humanity and Grace to Yi, and it seemed like Sarah Paulson had fun getting a break from all that drama and horror on television she’s so accustomed to play. The writers and directors of these haven’t done too much theatrically, one of them coming up with the story idea for Monster’s Inc. and both of them involved with Open Season. I think if they had time to perfect and screenplay geared toward a child and combined with their already fine direction, they could have a masterpiece on their hands someday. This obviously isn’t it, but it is a solid effort. If I would’ve saw this by myself, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much, so like I said, go with younger ones or with your family, and you’ll at least have a nice experience with a passable film.

CAMP CINEMARK (the one in Allen, Texas) basically consists of taking one of the many screens that Cinemark usually offers patrons and making it kid friendly. The inside consists of different kinds of comfy seats and loungers and the floor has several decently sized puffy mats for those that want to lay back and watch the movie up close. There are twinkly lights at the top (obviously dimmed way down once the movie starts) to imitate stars in the night sky and decorative plastic trees that try and make it feel like you are watching a movie at a mini camp out. Obviously kids can talk and make minor noises during the movie without being shushed or bitched at but phones are still to be on silent and not taken out during the movie. If your child can’t sit still there is a small room right outside the theater for them to get there energy out or to get them to calm down before you bring them back inside. This room is supposed to have an interactive wall but this wall wasn’t working at the time we got to the theater. Didn’t really matter anyway as our son didn’t have to go in that room during the screening.

My family and friends didn’t thing I’d be able to handle a kid friendly screening, where kids could talk and make minor noises while the movie was playing. But anyone that told me that, I scoff at your asses and give you all the middle finger, because the theater was filled up pretty decently and most of the kids acted better than the bullshit I have to put up with with teens and even grown ups in a regular screening. Yeah, one or two kids pointed at the screen and babbled some shit, but it didn’t bother me because I knew where I was at and where my place was. Even with my kid there and me worrying about him a little bit, I was still able to easily pay attention to the entire movie. I would gladly take my kid there to something he would like to see in the future between the ages of now and 6-7.

I would only give Camp Cinemark 4 out of 5 stars. Two reasons why I would take away a star. First off, I really would’ve liked to see that interactive wall work in the calm down room. The fact that it wasn’t working the first showing in the morning was a little bit ridiculous. Whoever manages that Cinemark in Allen, Texas, and if they just so happen to read this, probably needs to get that shit fixed. Now here is something that corporate needs to fix. There are WAY TOO MANY GOD DAMN TRAILERS BEFORE THE MOVIE and THE NOOVIE (spelled correctly) SPONSORED ENTERTAINMENT BEFORE THE TRAILERS CONTENT WASN’T GEARED TOWARDS KIDS.

For kids with severe ADD, unless you bring your kids in right before the movie starts, are going to have some problems staying calm and staying in there seat. Instead of watching and hearing what Maria Menounous introducing regular content and then talking about how she almost died of a brain tumor earlier in life (I shit you not), why not get some licensed cartoons that they kids could watch before the previews and switch them out every couple of months. And the kids and especially the adults don’t need 20 minutes of previews. Cut that shit in half or even 3/4ths and keep the previews kid friendly. They don’t give a shit about a PG-13 sequel to Jumanji. Stick to cartoons. Also there are two Cinemark beginnings, the regular one with the popcorn and the soda that makes you hungry and need to take a piss at the same time, and then the Camp Cinemark opening. CUT OUT THE FIRST ONE. Those are my recommendations to make CAMP CINEMARK nearly perfect. Even without those fixes, I’d still take Grayson there again.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AD ASTRA (no spoilers)

While I don’t think AD ASTRA is a masterpiece like some are saying it is, I really, really liked it, and in some parts I even felt love. It is going to be a little hard and a little weird to explain my feelings with this movie, but I hope you can bear with me in my next couple of zany paragraphs. Because, even with the most stupid, inane, and inept space films out there, I always manage to get something out of them. I really do enjoy science fiction films, especially when they give me a sense of claustrophobia without feeling claustrophobic. See? Told you I wouldn’t make any sense with this one. But from the opening scenes to the end credits, I was perfectly enthralled with this, entertained and enjoyed almost every minute of it. There are some glaring faults that prevent me from considering this a true space/science fiction masterpiece, but the movie had a precise narrative flow to it even though some of the subtext and themes get a little lost (or a little too found) in translation.

Even though I would consider this one of the more realistic space/science fiction films in recent memory (especially Interstellar, I mean, come on…that ending), Ad Astra I feel borrows from one too many films to be its own completely unique creation. It’s basically parts Interstellar, parts Apocalypse Now/Heart Of Darkness, parts Alien, parts 2001 A Space Odyssey, parts The Martian, parts Contact all rolled into one adventure that contains heaps of daddy issues. Brad Pitt though is once again excellent as an astronaut given a classified mission after a giant energy surge catastrophe on Earth kills people in the tens of thousands. It turns out this surge’s origin might’ve been on a top secret government/NASA project near Neptune that has been going on for almost three decades the leader of which, is Pitt’s father, played by Tommy Lee Jones. The government sends Brad Pitt to Mars to send a message to his dad to see if their project, which includes searching for extra terrestrial life, is indeed the cause of the incident and could end up eventually destroying all life in the galaxy. But as Pitt goes along in his mission, there is of course more to it than meets the eye, as Pitt struggles with his priorities of seeing/speaking his father again after twenty some odd years, and potentially saving the universe.

From my description, you can probably piece together where all those themes and context from all those different films I listed come into play. Well, maybe except a little for Alien, you’ll get what I mean after you get freaked out with a fantastic tension filled small horror sequence the movie has to offer. The film does feel unique, although it just feels a little too familiar to say it is the “end all be all of space epics.” But I would happily revisit this film again and again, that’s how much it has stuck with me since leaving the theater. The special effects in this film are incredible, with several sequences dazzling my eyes to the tune of wonderment. Specifically, there is a sequence at the beginning with Pitt on a giant space satellite needle that was very vertigo inducing, and there is also a sort of pirate chase sequence involving rovers on the surface of the moon near the beginning of the second act that was pretty stunning to experience. All of the science as well seemed to have added up, except for one sequence near the very end of the film that involves propelling off something while also using a small part of a space station as a shield (you’ll know it when you see it).

The main issue I feel that people are going to have with this movie are the themes and context of it all. For a large part of the movie, the filmmakers spoon feed all of what is happening on screen to audience members that they don’t think would “get it.” Give us credit, we are smarter than we look. Some of this spoon fed stuff comes in the form of Brad Pitt’s narration, which, even though he didn’t seem like he was phoning it in, like the original theatrical cut of Blade Runner, I felt was completely unnecessary. We could’ve figured out everything the film was meaning to tell us on our own, without the narration. The visuals are key in this and were more than enough to clue us in. Another problem is mainly with the daddy issues thing that controls basically the whole narrative. It’s not that the payoff is disappointing, it is that none of the set ups make the ending truly satisfying. It is hard to explain much without going into true spoilers, but the beginning of the film makes it as though Pitt is following his fathers footsteps at being disconnected too much with society. I got that, but I didn’t feel as if that notion were earned. The movie clocks in at around two hours, but to make it a tight film, I feel like they needed to maybe add one or two more scenes with Pitt and Liv Tyler, along with completely taking out the narration.

This is Pitt’s movie, with everyone playing a far, far, far, far second fiddle. Tommy Lee Jones is in it a little, and is good at the parts he is in. That’s all I’ll say on that front. Ruth Negga is also in a couple of scenes, and I enjoyed her presence as well. The ‘and’ in the credits and on the poster is Donald Sutherland and he sort of earns that title, being in the film for only a handful of scenes (good in this as well). I thought his arc would end much earlier than it ended up. The person who is really short changed is Liv Tyler. She’s probably in the film for about 2-3 minutes total, and it is all mostly flashbacks or quick ‘blink or you miss her’ visual cuts. Even though she’s playing basically the same role that she had in Armageddon (staying on Earth while her love is out in space), I think she has matured as an actress (see: The Leftovers) where I would’ve liked to see her blossom a little bit with more of an on-screen role. It honestly could’ve been an unknown playing her character and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference in this case.

And while others are complaining that all the subtext, context, what have you, is all easily displayed on screen, with nothing left to make you think, I for one don’t think that is necessarily true. Again, not to get into spoilers, but I picked some things out of my viewing that I don’t think others would likely get unless the he/she viewed the film several more times. I saw a couple of hidden themes and such that when put together with the rest of the movie, told a more layered and complex narrative than initial believed. I don’t want to go into spoilers, and saying what I think would be doing so, so if you see this and want to discuss, I am available as I would like to see what you gathered from this film as well. See if our minds connected somehow.

Anyway, I really liked this film a lot. Loved some sequences. Yes, I wish it were tighter so it would’ve been a unique masterpiece, but just glad it wasn’t a disaster and that it entertained me the entire time and kept my attention. It really is a beautiful film. Beautifully claustrophobic if that makes any sense to you. This is easily writer/director James Gray’s best film, although I don’t know if that is saying much, considering I only really like this and his last film The Lost City of Z, out of his filmography (never saw The Yards). It really didn’t make all that much in the theater this past weekend, but I have a feeling more people will discover it on video. I mean come on people, it’s Brad Pitt, he usually pics and chooses his projects pretty well. I would definitely recommend you take this visit “to the stars.” (what the term Ad Astra actually means)