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

HUSTLERS marketing is very misleading…as it should be. Unfortunately, everything shown to you via trailers and TV spots is how it has to be to get your butt into the theater. For women, you go into this thinking its going to be just a zany girls comedy about strippers ripping off rich assholes. For men, you probably put on some oversized pants and hope to see just some trashy comedy and maybe Jennifer Lopez in a g-string or two, thinking that this is your Magic Mike. And while it is both those things to both genders, it is also so much more. All the stripper sleaze and comedic stuff is really only about 10% of this picture. The other 90% you get a character drama with incredible acting that does realistic justice to the “Inspired By A True Story” title card shown in the opening moments. All of it is nicely put together and packaged for anybody 17 or over to enjoy, and when unwrapping this oddity, you not only get the best film about strippers ever made, you get one of the most surprisingly entertaining films of the year and one of the very best films of 2019, period.

I am just as surprised as you are reading this. When I first saw the trailer for this thing, it was a complete pass from me. “Oh, this is probably like Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL, but still somehow for women because of the conning of male assholes angle…only catering to men by possibly promising a little skin from Lopez, but none from the other main leads, yet a lot of naked stripper background extras. But then I heard some rumblings out of the Toronto International Film festival, and some friends that pre-screened it at my local theater, that said it was actually quite good. So after deciding to give it a chance, and once the really funny credits with the announcer voice started to roll, I realized I was right on the skin part, but very wrong on who this movie is for. Anyone, old enough in age, will enjoy this film. You don’t have to be a certain gender to see it, it has something for everyone, and it tells a realistic story. The problem with films like Magic Mike, it’s sequel XXL, and Striptease with Demi Moore is that all those felt like fantastical stories. Striptease went wayyyyy over the top with its tale, and while Magic Mike and it’s sequel was (kind of) based off Channing Tatum’s stint as a stripper, the really lame love story combinedwith an absolutely awful performance by the love interest, Cody Horn, and the over the top sequences in the sequel, with another abysmal performance by Amber Heard, makes all of those films abysmal and unbearable to watch. Hustlers feels like it’s trying to entertain you, but also be much more down to Earth. It’s what Goodfellas and Casino did for the mafia tale. Hustlers is the Goodfellas of stripper movies you might say.

And much more than just the idea, but also stylistically wise. When any movie nerd thinks about Goodfellas, they think about that films aesthetic choices by Scorcese, for example like camera work/shot choices, music selection, etc, etc. When watching Hustlers, (but remember, I watch films probably a shit ton deeper than the casual film-goer) all of these storytelling devices/choices by the writer and director of this film, Lorene Scafaria, came off the screen to me in spades, making me appreciate that this movie wasn’t just a shot by shot process, but contained the aura of a true film auteur. The music selection here is absolutely brilliant (best use of Lorde’s Royals I have ever witnesses), some auditory narrative cues are top notch (such as when Constance Wu shuts off Julia Stiles voice recorder), and the camera is steady when it needs to be, but also guerrilla style when the tone calls for it. When looking at all of this, and combine it with fantastic performances and an entertaining story, you actually have a near masterpiece here. This is only Scafari’s third picture (the other two are The Meddler and Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, she also directed some episodes of New Girl) and is easily her best, with possibly the promise of being a serious Oscar contender some day.

I mean, do I really need to get into the story? It’s about strippers that were used to a certain lifestyle before the big financial crisis of 2008, where after a couple of years wanting that glamorous living back, several of them devised a scheme to rip off the rich elite by drugging them and running their credit card when inebriated. The movie’s marketing makes it seem like it is a little out of this world, aka Ocean’s 11 style, but like I said, the marketing is misleading. The cons these girls pull off are actually quite real, serious, and sometimes scary. The film does a great job in blurring that line between cheering for the girls to “get dat money” from these rich snobs, and then horrified when they rip off the wrong person (one who doesn’t deserve it), and wonder if they should be really sorry for what they have done. And the film doesn’t get into all that conning right away. The beauty of it is that it takes its time, letting us get to know our characters so that way, when this shady shit does start happening, we actually start to ponder the morality of it all. In fact, I don’t think the true conning starts until a little over halfway into the film.

And the acting? What would you think if I told you this is Jennifer Lopez’s show…and that it is easily her best performance…ever? Well it is. And was as surprised as you will be to witness it. I personally didn’t think Jennifer Lopez can act. She was decent in Out of Sight, but then she was in all those awful rom-coms (too many to list, none of them good) and while U-Turn and Anaconda were decent little fun flicks, she was abysmal in them. I’m not going to even mention Gigli. Now, I haven’t seen Selena, but after hearing how good she is in that film and then seeing her in this, I’m beginning to think she’s of the Nicholas Cage, Adam Sandler, and Seth Rogen variety. They are fantastic when they have those 1 in a billion roles they are perfect for (Cage: Leaving Las Vegas, Sandler: Punch Drunk Love, Rogen: 50/50). This is her 1 in a billion role that just makes her seem absolutely brilliant. Even though she’s more of a supporting player in Hustlers, this is her film, and she electrifies every time she is on screen. She displays absolute confidence in her role and presence on screen, and in another world, I could see her nominated for a Supporting Oscar, no fucking joke.

Constance Wu is the main, main character, and while I didn’t appreciate her real life attitude over Fresh Off The Boat not getting cancelled, she is pretty great here too, completely separating herself from that sitcom and her “oh shucks” performance in Crazy Rich Asians. She plays a real person here and I totally believed that she was a stripper. And before I get ahead of myself with the other acting, here’s a good question” does me having actually gone to strip clubs make a difference with how I felt with the movie? Yes and no. Yes acting wise because for everyone other than one of the actresses, they completely looked and acted the part of strippers that I have seen going to one of those places only a handful of times in my life. No, because even if I hadn’t ever been to a strip club, I would’ve still found the story enjoyable, fascinating and realistic. Cardi B, who once was a real stripper, fortunately is barely in this (maybe less than 3 minutes, as is Lizzo), as I could barely understand her one or two jokes or half the things she was saying other than “run out the clock, but don’t run out the cock.” She was definitely a believable stripper though…take that for what you will.

KeKe Palmer is also one of the main leads, and while I found her annoying and brash in things like Scream Queens and Scream Season 3, here, she is very tolerable and actually quite believable in her role. Julia Stiles is listed in the main cast, but isn’t a stripper, she has the nice cushy job in only being in the film for two or three scenes, mainly sitting in a chair as a journalist recording Constance Wu’s character’s story. I’ve always like Julia Stiles, and while I didn’t really believe her as a journalist, she gets a pass from me from her past stuff. The true weak link here is unfortunately Lili Reinhart, who plays one of the four main strippers. Basically, she plays her character as just another version of Riverdale’s Betty Cooper…who just happens to be an exotic dancer. Reinhart is just too pretty to be a believable stripper here. Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t terrible in this at all, it just felt she was cast because of her emerging success from that CW show, to get more teenagers to flock to the theater. She does have a good throw up joke throughout the movie that just gets funnier and funnier the more it is brought up though.

But yeah, I enjoyed the hell out of Hustlers. When the movie was over, I couldn’t believe the hour and 50 minutes was up. Time flew as fast as an 85-90 minute film it was that entertaining to watch. Maybe I’m hyping this thing too much because of my low low expectations going into it, but I’m writing this review with my heart, and in my heart I know I could watch this movie several times over, one of those you could catch on TV in the middle of, and either watch it to the end, or put on your own copy to start from the beginning and watch it all the way through. This movie made me rethink by top twenty of the year list, and have went back and tweaked it a little bit, bringing some movies back from the dead and then kicking some to the curb. That re-examination happens with very few films…which is saying something. If you have any interest in Hustlers at all, go see it, especially with friends. If you don’t have any interest, maybe my review could hustle your ass into the theater.

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON

If there is only one reason to go see BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON is that it easily contains Jillian Bell’s best performance to date. I’ve always liked her, from the few times I’ve actually caught an episode of Workaholics to all the other crude, crass, drug, dick & fart joke comedies, where she effortlessly can elevate any lazy material into sounding funny and fresh. Here, she combines that quick wit and mixes in a little bit of a dramatic performance to bring the audience something we’ve never seen before from her: becoming an actual multi-dimensional character. She’s really brilliant in this and hope she maybe can stay away from those lame brain comedies and do something more to this nature from now on (although paychecks say otherwise). She is really that charismatic and charming. Another reason is that this movie, instead of resorting to the dated and aged fat shaming to get a bigger person to start to lose weight (see: Just Friends), uses superior and smarter ways to promote not only healthy reasons and goals to want to stay in shape, but also manages to achieve degrees of good mental health. Hell, this movie happily made me want to take my fat ass on a walk when I returned home.

The movie is inspired by a true story (although Jillian Bell and the real Brittany look almost nothing alike) and it is about a woman, who after a doctor’s visit realizes she isn’t healthy and needs to lose some weight. So she decides to train for New York City’s Annual Marathon and along the way she discovers friends, love, and positive mental health. Yes, the movie is by the books predictable and (almost) ends on the exact note you’d predict it would, but the laughs are there and quite frequent, the positive energy and messages are constant, and Jillian Bell’s performance is worth the price of admission alone. I love the friendships she ends up having with a homosexual, out-of -shape father that just wants to have his son proud of him, and the downstairs older woman neighbor who Brittany finds annoying at first. And the weird, possible more than friendship-ship she finds when house sitting a rich couples dog.

The only thing that maybe felt a little too cliched for me was the deteriorating friendship she has with her former roommate. The bickering during those scenes felt a little too old and tired and you could tell by Jillian Bell’s face that should couldn’t do much with the stale dialogue and messages in those parts. But those parts are quickly redeemed by other scenes, such as when she sees a bigger woman being in a relationship with a skinnier handsome looking gentleman. I also saw that Jillian Bell worked very hard physically on the film, as you can see a wonderful and gradual healthy transformation scene by scene right in front of your eyes. I’ve always found Jillian Bell attractive, but in this film, combined with her fantastic personality, she is absolutely and stunningly gorgeous.

I want this to be one of my shorter reviews so this will be a concluding paragraph. Sorry to be blunt, but I’ve been writing too much lately. The direction, shots, and cinematography don’t really do much in terms of style, but this film is all substance, so bland style is automatically forgivable. This films has a huge heart and a large positive energy vibe, promoting mental and physical health in a way that transitions itself comfortably to the politically correct era that we are living in currently. I think entertainment has come a long way from Fat Monica on Friends and Fat Ryan Reynolds on Just Friends. This film is also a good motivator for those that are looking to pick themselves up and make themselves healthier both physically and mentally. Heck, it has me wanting to try and do better myself…this movie might’ve been the push I needed!

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: IT CHATPER 2 (spoilers)

I’m going to go with the casual moviegoer on this one (vs the critics) and say that I actually loved IT: CHAPTER 2 quite a bit. But while I also agree that it does not exactly capture the magic of the first film, mainly due to the incredible child performances, I just can’t see why critics and some others aren’t taking to this movie so well. Especially when one person I know said it is one of the top ten worst films he has ever seen in his life. My only guess is that they are walking into this movie completely blind, and haven’t read the source material to sort of know what to expect going in. They had their own expectations, and those expectations weren’t met….kind of like Last Jedi (sorry, I had to). I’ve read the book twice, so I more or less knew what was going to float up on screen and other than a couple of issues, the filmmakers actually nailed it pretty well. With book adaptations, you are usually screwed if you do, and screwed if you don’t when it comes to changing aspects of the book to have it play well and make sense on screen. People that haven’t read the book won’t know that, yeah, basically the adults going back to find and kill Pennywise once and for all is just more of the same from when they were kids (albeit slightly tweaked). For me, personally, it all came together fantastically, and I thought they improved on the so-so ending in Stephen King’s novel. So well in fact it will probably stay in my top ten films of 2019 by the end of the year.

And in my eyes, it is completely fine if you didn’t like It: Chapter 2. I get it, and I’m not going to argue with anyone on the merits of why the film irritated them, especially if they loved Chapter 1. If you are reading this, and hated the film, I can guarantee that you thought the Losers coming back to Derry to kill Pennywise would be more elaborate, epic, and weird. You didn’t think you’d get a remake of the first part (right down to the ending), just with different tweaked scares. That’s okay. Just don’t pick a fight with me on why I loved it. I do recognize its faults, which we will get to in a second, but the long 2 hr and 50 minutes run time did not faze me, entertained the hell out of me, and I loved the look and visuals of the film (minus some awkward CGI moments). When the film was over, I couldn’t believe it had been that long, and I was transfixed with everything that I probably could’ve done another 30 minutes and still not have felt it (and I know exactly what should have been added to take up that run time.)

I thought the acting all around was stellar. Even though some of the characters get short changed with their arcs from the book to the screen, everybody brought their A game. I thought the adult actors really represented their kid counterparts almost perfectly. My favorite of all of them would probably have to be James Ransone as Eddie and Bill Hader as Ritchie. I have to disagree with one aspect everyone is talking of Hader’s performance, mainly that he should get a supporting Oscar nomination for his work. Bill Hader is great in this, but it is in no way an Oscar worthy role, but it could be the gateway to a trophy in the future. Just to see Bill Hader go from SNL to this and Barry, and showing so much more range than previously thought, is just a privilege to be able to experience. The bigger, more A-list stars in this, such as Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are good, but I feel like some of their character arcs were sacrificed to make the overall story more accessible to audiences. And of course, Bill Skarsgard kills it as Pennywise.

Another complaint that a lot of moviegoers seem to have is that Pennywise isn’t in the film that much. To me, that point is moot. Because if he was in this anymore than he was, or if he was in Chapter 1 anymore than he was, everybody would say that there was just way too much of him. Either too little or too much, filmmakers are always trying to fight an uphill battle when it comes to how much screen time these classic antagonists should receive (fun fact, did you know that Heath Ledger is in the Dark Knight for only about 16-18 minutes of the 2 and a half hour runtime? To me that was and still is perfect). Most of the time, filmmakers are probably going to lose. To me, Pennywise is in this the PERFECT amount. Not too little to end up being disappointed and wanting more and not too much to the point of rolling my eyes every time he showed up on screen. The screen time hits a bullseye here. Having Skarsgard in it anymore would’ve lessened the impact of his presence and he would’ve felt less and less like a true threat. Granted, just like Chapter 1, Chapter 2 isn’t really that scary in the first place. But Pennywise has always been creepy. Too much of him, and that creep factor will easily go away. But if you can get the amount of ingredients just right, you get that chilling but welcome uneasiness feeling in every bite, and thankfully this movie is flavorful till the last bite.

Let’s go into the critics complaints versus my complaints for the movie. I realize it has its flaws, but some critics are going so far as saying the editing, the tone, the pacing, all combined with too many flashbacks of the kids is jarring. Other than one awkwardly placed musical choice/moment (when the leper throws up in Adult Eddie’s mouth) and an added joke in ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement, this happens right after a character has been stabbed in the cheek no less), I thought everything mentioned above was quite even. In fact, I’d go far as to say that the studio, the screenwriter Gary Dauberman, and the director, Andy Muschietti did some things that improved upon the adult part of the novel. They managed to make the “Ritual Of Chud” (the way to get rid of Pennywise once and for all) actually make some sense, and then, to try not and ruin anything, they tweak the final form of Pennywise a bit so that we can not only get more of Skarsgard’s fantastic performance, but also have at least some sort of dialogue exchange between the protagonist and antagonist for the audience to understand what is exactly going on story wise. If you’ve read the book, you know that Pennywise’s final form doesn’t really talk all that much, if at all. And while the kids flashbacks are a little more than a cameo, I thought they were fit into the story very well, and it didn’t take me out of the movie for one second. Even though with these flashbacks one could argue that they ret-con some of the events of Chapter 1. For example: the losers have a clubhouse in this we didn’t see at all in the first film, and it is revealed that some of the Losers still saw each other and had more individual Pennywise frights even after they all fought near the end of the second act and the group broke up. But it was all forgivable to me. I loved the look of the film, I loved the tone, to me, almost everything worked.

My complaints are a bit different, one being very minor, one being pretty major. For the minor ones, first off, there are some awkward CGI moments. Surprisingly, none of these are from Pennywise himself, just some of the monsters he conjures up or completely turns into. One of the biggest problems I had with Chapter 1 is that Muschietti (or by the studios orders/demands) added some CGI to Pennywise’s main clown performance, instead of just letting Skarsgard’s performance shine thru to make it creepy all his own. Thankfully, I think they got the message not to do that in this chapter. Instead, they used up all their focus with that and neglected to make some of the CGI monster creations and infestations of Pennywise seem real. For example, I’m talking about the final form of the old lady that Chastain encounters, the obvious ‘The Thing’ homage, and the little bugs and other tiny creatures in the Chinese Restaurant Fortune Cookie scene. I do understand the limitations and shit of CGI, even nowadays, but I have the feeling they could’ve just shelled out some more dough to get some really neat practical effects. Apparently no one there actually watched Krampus from a few years back to know that some practical effects are still fantastic and that incorporating that could’ve put some real haunting imagery and more legitimate scares into the picture.

My one real main complaint is the story arc of Henry Bowers, Bill’s wife Audra, and Beverly’s husband Tom. It seemed like the filmmakers killed Henry off in Chapter 1, with no intention of bringing him back, but shortly into this film, you realize that is not the case, as it has a scene of Henry as a kid, surviving his giant fall in the tunnel near the end of the first movie, only to be washed up on shore at the creek, arrested for the murder of his father, and then incarcerated into the loony bin until present day. In the novel, Henry Bowers is a huge antagonist and looming presence being controlled by Pennywise in order to try and stop the Losers from getting together to perform the Ritual of Chud. He is somewhat of a presence in this, but never feels like a genuine threat, and is dispatched kind of awkwardly. Bill’s wife and Beverly’s husband Tom have pretty big arcs in the novel compared to the one scene each of them have in the movie. Audra actually chasing Bill to Derry looking for him, because she actually loves and cares for him a lot, where she is kidnapped by Marsh’s husband Tom, because he too ends up controlled by Pennywise. I think that if maybe 15-30 minutes were added into the film, more of a presence from them and their arcs could’ve been added to bring more challenges needing to be overcome by main characters of the story, while also fleshing out Beverly and Bill as adults. Like I said, these are only my minor complaints. I do understand why they didn’t do these, it would’ve not only cost more, but it would’ve made the movie unbearably long for people to sit and not have to pee in the theater.

My major complaint: just like Chapter 1, the character of Mike Hanlon gets kind of short changed in Chapter 2. In the movie, all of the characters have to go out find their “tokens” to perform the Ritual of Chud to get rid of Pennywise, and they show everyone’s journey to get those tokens, except for Mike’s. He just shows his token at one point near the end of the film and explains what it is. I have a feeling his quest was also filmed but just cut for time, considering that there is a scene in the trailers that wasn’t in the movie (where Pennywise jumps out a window and stands sideways on a building while Mike looks up in horror). I understand if they had to cut the characters of Tom and Audra for time, but I don’t think I will understand or ever forgive why they had to cut out Mike’s journey. I think his journey also included his mental redemption for him feeling guilty of being the only survivor of that burning building that took the life of his parents when he was a kid. Because of his quest not being in there, all of his story beats come up half empty and at points end up being really murky with trying to understand what all is going on with him as a character. All of it is wrapped up near the end with Mike just looking at a newspaper clipping showing him as the sole survivor of that fire, and then combines that with an “I’m over it” expression on his face. That resolution just felt very cheap, I just hope that maybe an extended cut can be released expanding it and tying everything together a bit more nicely.

Like all my other reviews, this one has run a little long and it is time to wrap it up. In conclusion, while I didn’t love it as much as Chapter 1, I still loved It: Chapter 2 quite a bit. Hell, in some of the scenes, the film even managed to match the greatness of the first one (such as the girl finding Pennywise in the back of the bleachers and the very beginning of the film’s hate crime sequence). I do understand why a lot of people would end up not liking this film. It basically is almost the exact same story and resolution of the first chapter. But having read the book twice and loving every single page (and yes, I do realize that the origin of the novel itself is a cocaine/alcohol infused hybrid mess of ideas, even King has admitted this), I feel like I got more out of this film than most. In fact, I think that the adult version of the story follows the novel more closely than the first chapter did with the kids. And the filmmakers made some very careful choices about what to change from the novel, that most of the time worked out for the better for me (the ending), with only one or two major missteps (Mike Hanlon’s character). So I can’t say say whether or not if you liked Chapter 1 that you’ll definitely liked Chapter 2. That isn’t the case for a lot of people. I can only tell and defend to you why I still loved this movie. I think I have, which will make me float in peace.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 3 (MAJOR SPOILERS!!!)

Before I start reviewing and getting down to the nitty gritty on 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 3, I’m going to warn you of two things. First of all, I am going to go into major spoilers, and yes, I’m going to reveal who killed Bryce Walker, so if you just want a summation, just finish this paragraph and then read the concluding paragraph. I promise not to spoil anything in those. Secondly, I will NOT be diving into my opinions and/or experiences with suicide and what I really think of this whole controversy with some individuals thinking that this show “glorifies suicide.” I will only be delving into what I think the show did to improve upon its image. That being said: 13 Reasons Why Season 3 does the rare “Daredevil Netflix” thing and is the best season of the show thus far. Those put off by the first two seasons, especially the mediocre 2nd one, will be pleased to know that by turning the show into a who-dun-it and tackling more issues in better ways that it completely redeems itself. I say that those naysayers may want to give it one more chance (you don’t have to though, I understand, truly).

And this is coming from someone who thought the first season was masterful (didn’t like the 2nd one that much). I don’t want this to be a terribly long review, so where should I start? Ah, yes. The main focus of the season. As you know, Season 1 dealt with Hannah Baker and her 13 tapes to people on why she committed suicide. Season 2 dealt with the fallout of those people receiving those tapes, and the trial of rapist Bryce Walker. Like both previous seasons, Season 3 plays with time. It starts with taking place 8 months after Season 2, but then switches back and forth between the present, after what happened with Tyler and how he almost shot up Liberty High School at Spring Fling and something that went wrong during Homecoming (revealed much later in the season) and…the murder of Bryce Walker. Yes, one of the worst villains in television history is killed off almost immediately in the first couple of episodes of the season (he’s missing almost right at the beginning).

Changing the show from being a look into why someone committed suicide and the aftermath of a rapist on trial, to a who-dun-it murder mystery, yyet filled with teen angst, issues, and hardship, was definitely the right AND ONLY direction the show could’ve taken (although I do support those that said it should’ve only been a one off miniseries, I can agree with some points of view on that). When Bryce only got 3 months probation this past season for his rape crimes, I didn’t know if I wanted to see what kind of story a Season 3 could tell. But then when I heard that Katherine Langford and co. were done with the character Hannah Baker (she is only referenced several times, there is no past footage of her really, and her mother is only in one episode, Season 2 stretched out her character wayyyyy too much) and then just several weeks ago when the trailer dropped with the tagline: “Who Killed Bryce Walker?” the show immediately caught my interest again. I thought, “oh shit, are they trying to make up for all the anger and frustration of season 2 and they are probably giving this asshole his just desserts, right? Well, yes, and maybe/maybe not.

When I say yes, I mean that yes, they completely make up for their past narrative flaws for season two, and they also make up for the controversial aspects of season 1 by being really careful and handling all the solutions to all the teen problems that are presented throughout this season. The maybe is a bit trickier. With Bryce’s death, they present a question that is asked throughout all the episodes that they resolve by thankfully not having a definitive answer: can people change for the better? When we get to all of these flashbacks of Bryce throughout the season, some of the flashbacks revert to him and his shitty attitude towards life and women, but then, in many instances, it shows that before he died, he might’ve really tried to change for the better…but that the world wouldn’t let him change. It’s a very tricky topic for the writers to put into this season, but then again, if they would’ve had a definitive answer, “did Bryce get his just desserts?”, people would’ve gotten angry at either a yes or a no. They got smart, and instead answered, maybe…but maybe not. It’s up to you.

Now, when starting the season, I immediately noticed that, during the opening credits, there is a separate piece of evidence of Bryce Walker’s murder for each of the thirteen episodes. And then boom!, holy shit, Clay Jensen isn’t the voice of reason this season! Instead, everything is told from the perspective of Amorowat Anysia Achola, or “Ani’ for short, a new student at Liberty High that quickly befriends Clay. Her and her mother also happen care for Bryce Walker’s asshole grandfather, who is sick and mostly resides in bed. So yeah, Ani kind of lives with Bryce. Now some people have had a huge problem with her, especially when you get to episode 7 and it reveals that she slept with Bryce Walker, several times, by not judging him by his past and also revealing the fact that he was actually nice to her. People also love Clay Jensen’s narration as he is the voice of reason for the series and maybe the only almost flawless character.

I’m going to go on the defensive for Ani here, for several reasons. First of all, we need a new voice. I love Clay, in fact I see a lot of myself in him, but in order for him to be a main main suspect in Bryce Walker’s murder, we can’t have him as the narrator this season (I have a feeling they are going to switch back to him for the final season anyway) as it would ruin a lot of the mystery. Also, in order to give some people reason to doubt that Bryce Walker deserved to be murdered, Ani’s point of view is absolutely essential, because without those scenes, the question is answered definitively, and definitely solving some hard questions has been the knife to the throat for the series in the past. But don’t worry, Clay is still a bigger presence than most and has the most screen time. I wasn’t liking what the writers were doing on episode 7 with him, but then episode 8 and 9, they show us their reasons for doing so, and I was completely satisfied with their choices. Clay not being the narrator I feel made him grow as a character this season as well.

The one thing that has been completely constant throughout all three seasons is the incredible acting by the entire cast. Three seasons in and every single person on the show, no matter how part big or small, have all made their character multi-layered, not just one dimensional, to the point where it feels like you might know them in real life. The two standouts though are of course Dylan Minnette, who plays Clay, and surprisingly David Druid, who plays Tyler. As you know, Tyler almost went on a school shooting spree at the end of season 2, and I was surprised how carefully the fallout of that was handled (except for one of the final scenes of the season, where everything could come back to bite him in the ass anyway). Obviously, they hinted that they were going to help him out and intervened before he started shooting up people, but the resolution on how no one found out and how they handle his behavior going forward was pretty realistic and inspirational.

That surprised me because I thought I might have to suspend some belief at the beginning of the explanation but as time went on, that route taken proved to be more than efficient storytelling. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but there is a scene between Clay and Tyler toward the latter half of the season that almost made me tear up. You’ll know which one it is, and in any other dimension, both Dylan and David would get Emmy nominations. Also, I know people don’t like Ani, but newcomer Grace Saif I thought did an adequate job in being our new narrator, and I think she’ll get the chance to maker her character more well rounded and likable next season. And I know everyone loves to hate Bryce, but Justin Prentice gives us his best performance this season, showing a side to Bryce we didn’t even know was there.

Going back to answering questions and having resolutions on many of the trials and tribulations of these teens, this season manages to provide some kind of exploration of a solution instead of definitive answers, which completely works in the shows advantage. There is great tension building with multiple extravagant payoffs that just strengthen the season and series as a whole. I could get into it one by one, but there is even a moment of looking at suicide a way the show hasn’t presented before, with two characters that manage to overcome it and try to get help to make their lives seem better. If there are a couple of episodes that are going to incite controversy this time around those would be episode 2, 7, and the finale, 13. Episode 2 because it tackles abortion, episode 7 I already mentioned that Ani sleeps with Bryce Walker, knowing full well what he had done in life to be the person he is today, and the last episode, maybe, because of how they wrap up “Who Killed Bryce Walker?”

Okay, now is that paragraph where I’m going to reveal the who, what, where, when, and why and how the situation seems to be handled right now (I have a feeling there will be lingering ramifications in Season 4 before the kids graduate), so if you’ve been reading and haven’t gotten to the reveal of who murdered Bryce Walker, and don’t want that spoiled, stop reading and go to the last paragraph. The season tries to trick you multiple times, as everyone has multiple reasons for wanting Bryce dead. In fact, Zach reveals that he beat the shit out of Bryce on the pier, and turns himself in because he doesn’t want Clay, who is innocent btw, taking the rap. Turns out though, after Zach beat the shit out of him, he left him conscious, and records show that Bryce got water in his lungs before he died, and someone comes to the scene right after Zach leaves. Who is it? Alex…with Jessica in tow. Bryce had told Jessica initially that he wanted to meet her on the pier because he had something to give her, and Alex came for back up. Bryce wanted to give her a tape, confessing all his rapes and apologizing for everything, and he wanted to tell her that she could use the tape as she saw fit.

He was claiming he was trying to get better, but as Alex tried to help him up (both of Bryce’s legs were broken by Zach), Bryce unfortunately screamed out that he was going to kill Zach for what he done. Alex took this as meaning Bryce was never going to change, and pushed him over the bridge and watched him drown, as one arm and both legs were broken so he couldn’t swim. And the resolution to all this? Alex gets away with it. The students banded together to frame Monty (the sadistic fuck character that sadomized Tyler with a broom stick last season, the reason Tyler was about to do a mass shooting) after Monty was arrested because Tyler finally went to the police about what Monty did to him. Monty is conveniently killed in prison (I was afraid they were going to show that scene, stirring up more controversy, but again, wise decision by the writers, they didn’t). Alex’s dad is a cop, and put two and two together and knew his son really did it, but accepts the Monty evidence as true. So basically it’s all resolved as a “dead bury the dead” (the title of the last episode ) kind of thing, and cased closed.

Even though there are little hints and clues where the frame up of Monty might not hold up and likely Alex gets his penance for killing Bryce in season 4, I actually really loved the resolutions. Even though it showed a little more of where Monty was coming from with his monster of an attitude in every season (hence asking the question if Monty deserved it, but not giving a concrete resolution), I think the sadistic fuck deserved what was coming him. In many ways, he was worse than Bryce and probably would’ve caused much more harm in the future than Bryce, who was possibly trying to get better. And Monty technically didn’t get killed because of the frame up, he went into prison because of what he did to Tyler, and while we weren’t told what he did to get himself killed, it infers that he probably had an attitude with one of the inmates who didn’t take shit.

Yes, what Alex did was wrong, and he’ll probably end up not getting totally away with it by the time the final season comes to pass, but that’s the whole message the season is trying to ask, “what do we ultimately deserve for our actions?” It also tries to prove that not everything can be tied up in a pretty bow, and I ultimately loved where they went with it. I do want to know what happens in the last season and will eagerly await its release probably about a year or more from now. As Clay says in one of the final scenes, they all maybe deserve some bit of happiness in the future, as the past year or so has been grim and dark as fuck. I really do hope the writers find some way, some logical way, to bring the series to a close with each of the characters, some more than others, finding their happiness. Some of them truly deserve it, I believe. Anyway, discuss with me via FB messenger or in person if you’d like to talk about it further as I just looked to see how fucking long this review was and realize I need to wrap it the fuck up.

In short, I loved 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 3 and could talk all day about why I think it is the best season of the three and how the show has redeemed itself from the awkward storytelling and decisions of season 2 and some of the controversial moments of season one. You can tell I really like a season/series if I’m reviewing it literally the weekend after it was released. It really did strike a great chord with me, and I hope the momentum that writers seemed to have possessed this year just keeps on going and we get a fantastic 4th and final season. I was ultimately surprised on how they managed to not let the story drag, it being still thirteen episodes and not a shorter season like other series have recently done. I’m guessing we will still get thirteen episodes the final season, being that 13 is in the series title for crying out loud, I just hope that these characters find that state of melancholy, they’ve been through some traumatizing shit.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ANGEL HAS FALLEN (no spoilers)

The “Has Fallen/Mike Banning” trilogy, most of you must admit, is just a poor man’s Die Hard/John McClane. You take all the aspects of what made the Die Hard trilogy great, you half ass them, and boom, there you have it. ANGEL HAS FALLEN is no different, it is really just the poor man’s Die Hard With A Vengeance. You see, when just comparing the John McClane films to themselves, as a trilogy (forget Live Free and Good Day exist for a second), I would literally rank them in quality as: the original, then With A Vengeance, and finally Die Harder. Olympus Has Fallen is actually kind of great if you think about it, especially when that abysmal White House Down released later that same year. Olympus had that cheesy, one-man take down charm. Yet it is still no Die Hard. London Has Fallen is…strange. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t terrible, it’s kind of just there. Yet it is still no Die Harder. Angel Has Fallen almost put me to sleep, but then when Nick Nolte showed up on screen, everything just got better and better till the movie ended, and it wound up being better than London. Yet, it is still no With A Vengeance.

In summation, the movie is better than what the critics would have you believe, but it is only a half way decent end to a half way decent trilogy. I could watch Olympus all day long, but I never have the urge to go back and check out London, and might only give Angel a couple of more views if I’m bored, and even then I would only start the film when Nick Nolte (who play’s Banning’s father) shows up. I say that, because the action scene that follows is one of the most laugh out loud hilarious ones since John Wick 3, and those 5 minutes are worth the price of admission alone. And then thankfully the film doesn’t let up until the credits roll. But then…that awkward comedic mid credit scene that caps off a trilogy…(don’t really want to talk about that because spoilers but…you’ll see…it doesn’t belong in that film). Anyway, I enjoy these movies mainly because of Gerard Butler, an action hero who’s the poor man’s Bruce Willis, Liam Neeson, what have you. Butler has that sarcastic charm that for some reason makes his movies better than they would be without him. Can you see anyone else as Leonidas in 300? That is no different with Angel, he definitely elevates all the mediocre storytelling that this narrative provides with snarky sarcastic one-liners (wish there was more of them though, like in Olympus).

I didn’t watch the full trailer to this film ever, I just saw the news that the film was greenlit, saw when they went into production, and then just saw a couple of TV spots that didn’t show much, and in the end, I never sought out any other trailers or clips. It wasn’t like I was trying to be completely surprised by all the “twists and turns” the movie had to provide. When I heard they were making a third one, and then saw mini advertisements for it, I just shrugged. London literally made me not care to see a trilogy finished. I remember caring for London when it was announced, because I liked Olympus a lot, and I guess the mediocrity of the 2nd one drowned out any excitement I had for a third. What I’m trying to say is, it is probably good I didn’t seek out any marketing or get ultra hyped about the movie, because I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the 2nd half as much. Also, the trailers (I ended up watching them after the movie last night) reveal almost the entire film. All I have to say is lower your expectations, and you’ll probably enjoy the ride.

The plot? Mike Banning saves President Alan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman, taking over duties from Aaron Eckhart, because Eckhart was probably tired from the franchise more than anyone) from a traitorous drone strike. They are knocked unconscious, and Mike Banning wakes up first to discover that someone has set him up to look like he was the one behind the assassination attempt. Of course, Banning escapes and has to find out who did this to him and clear his name. Yeah, yeah, I know, we’ve seen this plot before. One major problem with the film is that it is entirely 200% predictable. Since I didn’t really see much marketing for this, I didn’t know it reveals who one of the main villains are in the movie that are trying to set Banning up, but it didn’t matter that I didn’t know before hand, because I guessed it within two seconds, and then I guessed who was really behind it all in another two seconds. Sometimes unpredictability in action movies is key, and the film might’ve been better if it had a little more of it.

The acting? It was mostly acceptable but with a couple of cringe worthy moments. Like I said Butler always elevates his movies as he seems to have a good time making them. Oh and hey, him and Morgan Freeman actually share a couple of scenes together instead of them being shot separate and then edited together weird like their scenes in London Has Fallen. Although Morgan Freeman, who is fine in these, still just screams paycheck, no more so apparent than in this installment where he is either fishing or gets to lie down in a comfy hospital bed for the majority of the film. Though, John Huston and Tim Blake Nelson looked like they tried. Radha Mitchell also knew to bail on the franchise and so Banning’s wife is replaced by Piper Perabo, hotter and only three years younger! Does she have much to do in the film? Nope. Didn’t make a lick of difference who was cast. The main problem/cringe worthy-ness was Jada Pinkett Smith’s FBI agent. Jada Pinkett Smith is a one note actress, meaning that she has absolutely almost no range. In comedic roles, she is too serious and…well, in everything else she is too serious. No exception here. Although her character is involved in one of the things I didn’t see coming in the back half of the movie, still, she is wildly out of her element, even for a cheesy film like this.

The action, mostly all taking place in the second half of the film, is adequate enough, especially the grand finale. The first half though is filled with wayyyyyyy too much shaky cam and horrendous editing that I couldn’t tell what the fuck was going on. I don’t know if the director started calming the fuck down, or they “replaced” him half way through filming, but at least it got better. The grand finale was close to being awesome, and even had a shot at beating the Nick Nolte action sequence, but then some really really bad green screen and CGI came about when a building was falling down and that took me out of the film. I am not familiar with the director, Ric Roman Waugh, but if he directs future action films he needs to calm down and set up sequences more fluidly like he did with the second half. At the beginning, he was almost worse than Paul Greengrass. That’s all that really needs to be said about Angel Has Fallen. If you’ve enjoyed these half ass attempts at another Die Hard Trilogy, you are more than likely going to enjoy this one. If you didn’t or haven’t watched the other two films, you should probably stay far away. At least it was better than the second installment. But for the love of God I hope this trilogy is done and that they don’t green light a 4th installment. If they do, they need to title it Interest Has Fallen.

P.S. Do yourself a giant favor and go Ready Or Not this weekend instead. You will have a much better time.

My ranking of the “Has Fallen” Trilogy:

  1. Olympus Has Fallen
  2. Angel Has Fallen
  3. London Has Fallen

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: READY OR NOT (not spoilers)

You do not want to miss READY OR NOT in theaters. Go with a large group of people, or with a large group of your friends. Hell, seeing it by yourself it okay too. It is that entertainingly fun. I saw it by myself, but with a kid and a limited schedule, that’s just my usual movie going jam nowadays, and still had a helluva good time. It is a very tight yet mythological heavy 95 minutes that any thriller or horror fan will truly eat up. I literally couldn’t believe how good it was. I’ve seen marketing for it only in the past couple of months, very limited marketing, so going into it, I expected something fun yet forgettable. It is far from forgettable. I love it so much that I hope that it makes decent money to warrant some kind of sequel (oh shit, it is run by Fox Indpendent pictures, so now its Disney, and Disney is being a total bitch right now so I guess scratch that thought) and it can explore that little amount of mythology we received further. What’s really, really, funny is that Universal and Blumhouse cancelled their people getting hunted film called The Hunt, yet this is quite similar and yet there were no rumblings of cancelling it. Thank God, because Ready Or Not is one of the best films of the year for me.

The film has a hilarious take on the rich and in-laws that gets all the parody and jokes right more than a lot of plain comedies have tried to do in film’s past. Maybe because it’s also a horror/thriller was why it worked: it was the one last ingredient needed to get those jokes to land. The set up is this: Grace is getting married to Alex Le Domas. The Le Domas’ are a wealthy family that got rich off of producing different types of board and family games. On their wedding night, Alex tells Grace that as tradition for her to be accepted into the family, they all have to play a game with each other. In order to pick exactly which game they are supposed to play, Grace takes a card out of this mysterious box, and all it says is Hide & Seek. When she picks that card though, Alex suddenly looks distraught and doesn’t seem to want to play yet but doesn’t say a word. The family gives her 100 seconds to hide, and tell her in order to win, she has to stay hidden till dawn. Grace at first isn’t taking the game very seriously, but when she learns that once any member of the family finds her, they have to kill her, and then she’ll have to be dead serious in order to survive the night.

There is so much more to the story, but I am not going to say anymore, as following the plot, the characters, and the tiny pieces by tiny pieces of mythological information as the film moves along is part of the sadistic fun. Even though the film is a short 95 minutes, it is a completely nice and tight time length; in that there is no filler, and everything moves at a breakneck pace, but not so much to where you can’t follow along anymore. The beginning is quick but we establish all of the characters pretty well. Some of them, like Andi MacDowell’s and Henry Czerny’s characters, are a little bit one-dimensional, but they act the hell out of those roles and end up bringing a little something more to the table then you’d initially expect. Surpringly, it is Adam Brody as Daniel, Alex’s brother, that actually gets the most meat and scenes to chew, as you don’t really know where his allegiances truly lie. All of the characters are memorable, whether it is Emilie as the coke snorting member of the family that doesn’t know how to use a weapon properly, to Stevens, the family butler that simply doesn’t know when to quit.

However, non Margot Robbie, aka Samara Weaving, who plays Grace, is the real star of the show. She gets the killer dialogue, she gets the killer kills, every moment she is on screen, she shines. This is no surprise as she was the best thing about Netflix’s killer fun and campy thriller from 2017, The Babysitter. Although I hadn’t seen Showtime’s MILF, I heard she was great on that show as well, and she was also hilarious in her small but memorable role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Weaving’s character constantly has to go through bout of sadistic trauma throughout the film, and the realistic way she acts while hilariously spitting out those one liners that scream parody is just amazing to see on screen. SHE NEEDS TO BE IN MORE THINGS, I DON’T CARE THAT SHE LOOKS TOO MUCH LIKE MARGOT ROBBIE.

The movie’s violence is fun, gory, and top tier level excellent, being off screen where it needs to be and being on screen when it just can’t help itself. If I have one minor complaint about the movie, it would be there is just a tiny bit too much shaky cam, some scenes could’ve breathed better without it. Thankfully though, the entire movie isn’t like that, so it didn’t bother me all that much. The directors are two guys that I haven’t heard of, Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and this is their first big wide theatrical release. They have mostly done shorts and did a segment in the well known horror anthology series, but one I haven’t seen, called V/H/S. Their direction is great here, getting great performances from actors that mostly have one-dimensional roles. But that is okay here, as the movie just wants you to have fun and not be overly complicated.

And the ending, the ending is utterly fantastic. Probably one of the best horror/thriller endings I’ve seen all year. Is it weird to say that this is a feel good film? I thought it was. Every second that went by I found I was enjoying the movie more and more and that feeling didn’t let up until it the end credits rolled and I realized I wanted more. I loved the vastness of the large mansion Grace had to hide in, I loved when we got outside the house (for reasons I can’t spoil), I loved the overall journey. This is one of those movies that if it came on at 1 am and I was still watching television at the time I would watch it all the way through, 3:35 am be damned. It doesn’t matter what kind of movies you are into, I think you’ll really enjoy this film. Even if you are like my wife, who doesn’t like horror or anything gory, like I told her, I think you’ll still dig the film. The only expectation you need before going into the theater is to have a good time. Because ready or not, you will.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BLINDED BY THE LIGHT

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, just like my previous comparison of Goosebumps to Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, is exactly what the recent film Yesterday should of been: a much more entertaining story that got its inspiration from a musical source. While Yesterday was about The Beatles, Blinded By The Light is based on the true story of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor (the character here is named Javed Khan) and how the influence of Bruce Springsteen and his music changed Sarfraz’s outlook on life living as a British-Pakistani Muslim in the late 1980’s. Yesterday, in my opinion, kind of looks at the music of the Beatles as an afterthought, not really digging deep into the meaning and inspiration of the lyrics and instead uses it as just a mere gimmick as an answer to a “what if” question. Bruce Springsteen’s influence is all over the screen here, really supporting the narrative and bringing something unique to a true life success story we’ve seen plenty of times throughout the history of cinema.

The story features a teenager named Javed Khan and his family living in Luton, England, in the 1980s, at a time where the National Front did not appreciate Pakistani’s immigrating to Britian because of terrorist rule and suppression on Pakistani’s homeland at that time. Javed’s father Malik, has just been laid off at his job, forcing the rest of the family to find jobs or do more with their current ones to feed everyone and pay the bills. Not to mention, Javed is one of only two South Asian students at his school and he is having difficulty coming out of his shell and sharing his writings and poems anyone outside of himself even though he has his English teacher Ms. Clay, played by the beautiful Hayley Atwell, keeping an eye on him as she sees his potential. Javed eventually bumps into the other South Asian student, named Roops, a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, who gives Javed several of his cassettes for him to listen to, as he feels that Bruce’s music and lyrics describe the very hardships they are going through currently. After a night of listening to both tapes straight, Javed is hooked and obsessed with Springsteen, whose melodies and messages gives Javed the inner strength he needs to overcome his obstacles and suppression and make a difference with his life.

The main focus of the story of Javed, other than getting his writing career a jump start kick to the pants, is his relationship with his father Malik. You’ve seen it in many movies before, the rocky relationship between father and son, where the son wants to be accepted by his father/parents for what he wants to do as a career in life, his sexuality, etc. A lot of those movies lose that focus about halfway through the film and then try to wrap it up in a nice and neat little bow in the last ten minutes of the film. Not this movie though, as it has that perfect balance narrative wise needed between Javed getting inspired by Springsteen’s music, getting a foot in the door with his writing career, and trying to be accepted by his father in a household where the father’s wishes and expectations are normally always met 100%. The film is a solid 2 hours of based on a true life storytelling, managing to even squeeze it Javed’s relationship with his child hood friend and getting to date and kiss a girl for the first time, without any of it feeling like filler or being overstuffed.

And I really, really, really, really, really love how they handle Bruce Springsteen and his music and lyrics here. We constantly see what Javed sees and hear what Javed hears while listening to Springsteen while in some of the scenes Springsteens words appear on screen to highlight the exact inspiration that Javed is feeling at the moment. You would think the filmmakers would accidentally use these tactics in the narrative too much to hit its point over the head, but thankfully the movie manages to sidestep that pitfall and only doing it sporadically and also feature moments where the audience needs to listen to the lyrics themselves to understand the feelings that Javed is having at that moment. It’s really quite clever when you see it. The director of this film mostly directs Bollywood films but you may have heard of another little great movie from 2002 that was all the rage at the time, Bend It Like Beckham.

Her name is Gurinder Chadha and not only is she a terrific actor’s director, getting fantastic performances out of everyone involved, but visually this film is terrific as well. Her shots combined with the gritty at times yet uplifting cinematography, fashion, and sets made me feel as though I was right smack dab in the middle of late 80’s Britain. Getting to the acting sides of things, everyone but Hayley Atwell is an unknown, with the incredible Viveik Kalra playing Javed with just the right amount of suppressed angst turned into influence without making the character feel overly sappy or sympathetic. He makes Javed a true hero of his story. Another strong and central performance is Javed’s father Malik played by Kulvinder Ghir, who at first you think is just going to be that hard-ass two-dimensional performance, but a break down scene to his wife in the middle of the film changes all that, bringing a bit of uniqueness to an other wise cliched role that audiences have seen one too many times.

If you had a choice between Blinded By The Light or Yesterday, I would pick Blinded each and every time. What is kind of funny is that the latter was directed by Danny Boyle, usually a really superb visionary director, shot that film plain Jane, where Chadha runs circles around him professionally with this film. It is a feel good and very funny movie that actually earns that feel goodness and laughs instead of trying to force feed you it like Yesterday kind of did (I know I’m ripping on Yesterday a little bit, even though I did recommend that film, this one is similar yet way better). Obviously I am going to recommend it to any Bruce Springsteen fan out there, but this movie transcends from just catering to die hard fans by bringing a film that, even if you aren’t that familiar with his music, you could still enjoy just the same amount as anyone. It is certainly a surprise to see this movie released in August, as usually this is the summer dump period of blockbuster rejects. Glad to see there is a speck of light in this blinded by dumb teenager shark sequels and action three-quels no one really asked for month.