Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: VAMPIRES VS. THE BRONX (Netflix)

Yes, VAMPIRES VS. THE BRONX is a real Netflix original movie, but no, the movie isn’t as fun and schlocky as it sounds, and that is part of its problem. With a title like this one, or Snakes On A Plane, or Sharknado, you either go full fun, non-scary, dumb yet entertaining schlock, or you go home. This movie tries to be too The Lost Boys or Blade, and in doing so, doesn’t even get close to replicating their classic magic, and so this films title doesn’t live up to what is seemingly promised. This movie is too tonally in the middle of all those movies I just mentioned, which in turn makes it a cookie cutter, run of the mill, PG-13, bloodless, ho-hum, lame, by the numbers, assembly line product you’ve already seen and rejected before. I should’ve expected it though. The marketing for it, which little there was, only started the week before this film premiered, the trailer was bland, and the poster for it is one of the worst photo shopped shitty pieces of art that I’ve ever seen in my life. However, after watching the whole thing, it is not one of the worst films of the year. It’s just…there…and in about a week will be lost with all the other standard stuff that Netflix keeps rolling out each and every week. It’s frustrating because this film does show a lot of promise as I laughed out loud at some of the jokes, the film even has some familiar faces in it and everybody involved seemed like they wanted to be there. But it didn’t go where it needed to go to be a memorable schlocky romp that I was hoping it was going to be. It’s as if you opened up a coffin in a scary castle, saw the most vicious looking vampire you have ever seen in your life and they suddenly open their eyes. Yet it somehow isn’t intimidating to you, so you yawn, close the coffin, walk away and the son of a bitch doesn’t even have the audacity to try and chase you down and drink your blood.

Per IMDB, it describes this movie as: “A group of young friends from the Bronx fight to save their neighborhood from gentrification…and vampires.” It’s a simple description, yet reading between the lines it teases something that could be quite special. I was expecting it say something about race, gentrification, and middle-class. In a nutshell, I was expecting it to poke fun at white people. I mean, not that this really is a spoiler, but the heroes and good guys in this are African-American kids, their parents, and the community around them…and the vampires are all white for goodness sake. Surely the film would play with that and say several somethings about that scenario to its advantage, but other than one gangster pulling out a gun and calling one of the vampire’s ‘Hamilton’ because of its git-up, there are no really no other solid or smart jokes that cater to what the film might be trying to get at. In the end, there wasn’t enough tonal focus for me to even say with any complete confidence if the film even truly had a message buried deep down inside it, because it was all over the place tonally. There is a small fun scene, that only lasts less than 20 seconds, of our heroes stocking up on vampire hunting gear that was interesting, such as filling water balloons with holy water, but that kind of goofy fun (it reminded me of writer/director Edgar Wright and his ‘getting ready close up quick shots’) was short lived nor was it done as often as it should have. And there is only one funny vampire kill. That just cannot be in a film titled Vampires Vs. The Bronx. Not to mention all the kills are bloodless, off camera, and if a vampire does get killed we get that shitty disintegrating CGI that makes Blade’s seem as though it should’ve been nominated for an Oscar in special effects.

I hardly blame the direction, it’s completely the screenplay. The movie looks and feels like a movie, as director Osmany Rodriguez keeps shots somewhat dark in tone, and even in the daylight there was a gritty feel to the cinematography. I kind of dug the look of everything. The screenplay is co-written by him, but the other writer is a white guy. Remember how some of you felt that Antebellum or Green Book was inauthentic because a writer/co-writer/director was white? Same thing here, and I think that this Blaise Hemingway…who co-wrote Uglydolls and the awful Playmobile: The Movie mind you, should’ve taken a story by credit and handed the script fully to Osmany or another writer for a full rewrite. The familiar faces, Sarah Gadon, Shea Whigham, Method Man, and a glorified cameo from Zoe Saldana, look like they are having fun and want to be there, and the 4 hero kids definitely look like they want to be there and are having fun, but the final product doesn’t match their enthusiasm. The vampires come off as really stupid, and not in a fun, smart and jokingly way either. The action is tepid, there are no scares, tension, or any build up, and there is definitely not that much character development. I would even go to say that there were way too many characters for that given that it clocks in at only an hour and 25 minutes. Not really any plot arcs for any of them other than them telling the adults “told you so.” This film should’ve been about half an hour longer and taken its time getting to its revelations. The kids find out about the vampires not more than 15 minutes into this. In the end though, the most offensive thing about this movie is it’s title. It should’ve been titled something such as Bronx Nights or Blood Of The Bronx or it could have even sort of stolen Wes Craven’s shitty, mid-90s Eddie Murphy film and have it be called Vampires In The Bronx. Sorry, this movie does not earn the v or the s.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AMERICAN MURDER – THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR (Netflix)

AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is a chilling documentary that has no voice overs, no interviews filmed specifically for the doc, it is an hour and 23 minutes of perfectly edited footage from Shanann Watts Facebook posts, texts between her and her friends, and footage we’ve seen on You Tube coming from police body cams and the Chris Watts interrogation cameras at the station. It was just released on Netflix a couple of days ago and it rushed to the #1 spot on Netflix’s Top Ten List immediately. Per IMDB: “In 2018, 38-year-old Shanann Watts and her two youngest daughters disappeared in Colorado. With the heartbreaking details emerging, the family’s story made headlines around the world.” If you live under a bridge, and weren’t watching the news at the time (it was everywhere btw) I’m about to give a big hefty spoiler ending with what happened because I have to explain the outcome of the case to effectively review this documentary. In the end, it reveals that the husband, Chris Watts, killed all three of them (Shanann was also pregnant at the time, so really 4 people) for absolutely no reason other than he was cheating on her and wanted a new life. There is footage of him blatantly lying to police when they are asking him questions and searching his house and he even has the gall to take a fucking lie detector test to try and prove his innocence. Chris Watts is a fucking monster and how he thought he could get away with it, I don’t think we’ll ever know. The fact that this documentary is as haunting as it is and is able to display the facts without any voice overs or new interview footage shot specifically for this film is unbelievable.

This is one of the hardest documentaries I have ever had to watch, as anger seeped through me, especially when it kept coming back to the fact that he killed is two very lovely young daughters and didn’t shed a tear for them until he got caught. In all the footage he looks like he’s a empty shell of a human being. The point of the documentary was to basically show the naysayers that kept victim blaming and saying that maybe Shanann drove Chris over the edge really are that stupid. She did nothing wrong. I know a lot of people have two different personalities, one on social media, and one in person, but all of her posts, texts, what have you in this doc, showed her as a deeply compassionate, loving and caring mother. And that this asshole son of a bitch deserved the three life sentences that eventually get sentenced upon him. The documentary is not too long, it is crisp and tight in what it is trying to say. It doesn’t show any bodies or anything but this is definitely not for the faint of heart or those that get their blood pumping easily from awful tragedies such as this. This is going to be a short review, as all I can comment on is how awful this story is but how well made the documentary is. If I went into specifics, it would just depress and anger me further. However, I haven’t seen director Jenny Popplewell’s other docs, but after this I might search for a couple to see if they are expertly made as this one was. So if you are strong minded, I recommend giving this a watch, as it is a different type of documentary that will have your eyes glued to the screen, and not falling asleep and losing interest like those Unsolved Mystery documentaries that have bland narration and are on the same streaming platform.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MOST DANGEROUS GAME (Quibi)

Unlike the shit show last night during the debate, Quibi’s MOST DANGEROUS GAME is certainly not a shit show. In fact, it takes The Stranger’s place as being my favorite thing I’ve watched on this quirky little app to date. I’m starting to come around on Quibi as I’m finding more and more things on there that peak my interest. Thank God it’s free or I never would’ve discovered it. And no, I’m not a fucking shill, it’s just that all three webisode series I’ve watched, I’ve been constantly entertained, even when the content was only okay (The Fugitive). Sometimes much more entertaining than a lot of the stuff Netflix just sputters out every day. Yes, yet again I’m reviewing this as a movie than a webisode TV series. Especially Most Dangerous Game, as it is easily the best shot, best looking, best acted, and most cinematic of the three that I’ve blazed through. It has a fantastic performance by Christoph Waltz, who was nominated for a supporting Emmy for this (when doesn’t he get nominated though?), and probably the best performance of Liam Hemsworth’s career, yes, he can do more than just look wooden during The Hunger Games (even though this is similar to those movies, kind of, he even cries in this and is believable!). I was unbelievably entertained by this and would even watch it again down the line, presuming that Quibi is still here in six months and my free subscription doesn’t completely go to waste.

I’m not telling you to get Quibi to watch this shit, I’m just saying if you happen to have it, you might want to give these webisodes a shot. Most Dangerous Game is basically a modern version of The Most Dangerous Game with several twists. Per IMDB, it describes these webisodes as: “Desperate to take care of his pregnant wife before a terminal illness can take his life, Dodge Maynard accepts an offer to participate in a deadly game where he soon discovers that he’s not the hunter – but the prey.” He has to survive a full 24 hours, stay in Detroit, and follow a whole list of rules that could get him disqualified. Money is deposited into his bank account every hour, and if he survives the whole night, he gets 24.5 million. If this were a movie that actually debuted in theaters, it would’ve been a wonderful little treat. And not that expensive as well. For as low budget as these Quibi webisodes are…they are wonderfully cinematic in scope sometimes (not so much The Fugitive). They all play out like a very enjoyable 90 minute to 2 hr film when put all together. Maybe if Quibi is sold whoever buys it up will release them as films? That remains to be seen. But this one was a true winner. It was tense as fuck, the action was half way decent, the acting was serious yet fun, and it was also fun trying to identify the 5 hunters after Hemsworth, even though they were easily identifiable.

Christoph Waltz is in this much more than you would think and while we’ve seen him excellently play a villain and excellently play a sympathetic character (he won Oscars for both), here we get to see him play a morally grey one, which he of course pulls off in spades. Everybody here seemed like they wanted to be in this, and not just for a paycheck. The 5 hunters, who I won’t spoil who they are but one or two of them might have a recognizable face to you, are quirky yet dangerous. I really enjoyed the big warehouse climax yet also enjoyed the smaller and more intimate moments. Sarah Gadon, who plays Hemsworth’s wife in this, isn’t just a ignorant character, but actually goes about to try and find her husband in the correct ways once he disappears. It’s just a well made tight thriller, the only thing hampering it from its true potential are ad breaks and the cuts to black after each ‘webisode.’ This one was also created by Nick Santora, who did The Fugitive (review was posted yesterday), but you could tell his heart was more into this one, as it shows in the meticulous quality of the production. I would like to see more of these “hunt” games with Christoph Waltz coming back to play the host, but let’s face it, Quibi’s in trouble and there probably won’t be any follow ups to this. But maybe that is a good thing as more of the same could screw up the charm that this one has. It’s sad that the most dangerous game for Quibi is getting more subscribers…but you can’t win them all. At least it has a winner or two on the inside.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE FUGITIVE (Quibi)

Yet another Quibi mini webisode television series that if put all together would be a 90 minute to 2 hr movie (closer to 1 hr 45 here). So that means yet another review from me treating it as a movie and not a webisode series. I didn’t think I’d watch anything else on my free 6 month subscription, however I forgot about this little remake that stars Kiefer Sutherland basically playing a toned down Jack Bauer with an in and out southern accent. Which is kind of funny because most of this plays out in real time. It’s like Quibi almost got the rights to 24, but then it slipped through their fingers at the last minute (evidence of this later)? But the real question should be: Do we honestly need yet ANOTHER iteration of The Fugitive? I mean, if you popped the Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones classic into your media player nowadays it still holds up tremendously (it was rightfully nominated for Best Picture as well back in 1993). And didn’t we have a remake tv series not too long ago that stumbled and fell right out of the gate? So why again? Because Quibi needed some kind of content and everyone is out of original ideas? That’s probably always going to be my go to answer for the rest of 2020: that everyone is out of original ideas but when Christopher Nolan comes along and makes a unique blockbuster spy adventure everyone is scared to go to a theater because of a dumb virus that 99% of the world’s population survives even if exposed to said virus. Pfffft. This remake remake remake shit is all on some of you cowards (ranting again I know, I’m just passionate about movie theaters).

Anyway, is this reiteration of The Fugitive any good? Kind of. Yes and no. Do the mini webisodes with constant ads, starts and stops, stop it from being decently good? Absolutely. Does calling this ‘The Fugitive also stop it from being decently good? Abso-fucking-lutely. If this were a movie with no stops and recurring ads of any kind, it would be a very decent one time watch. Other than that it is entirely forgettable, The Stranger on the same service being more worth your time (I reviewed that last week). I guess you could call this go around more relatable to our times as both Kiefer Sutherland’s police squad and the news rush to conclusions and put out ‘fake’ news about our main protagonists character, instead of taking a breather to analyse all the facts. Per IMDB, it describes this The Fugitive iteration as: “With the city in a state of panic and misinformation traveling at the speed of social media, Mike’s life and family hang in the balance as he becomes – The Fugitive.” The city of Los Angeles is in a state of panic because a bomb just exploded in the rail system, and cameras happened to record this Mike character on his phone in a black hoodie while exiting (the real bomber is wearing a black hoodie just like his coincidentally). The reason they jump to this Mike so fast is because he got out of jail 6 months ago because he was involved in a DUI accident that left two people dead…but of course the movie reveals all is not what it seems. This was just so that Mike can be a very, very innocent character everyone can relate to. You can’t have any dark spots character guy, it’s either you are completely innocent after 2017 #MeToo or you are guilty for life! Boyd Holbrook (Logan, The Predator) does his best as Mike, the totally innocent man on the run, but I mean, how hard is it to look exasperated and talk in frantic tones while you are running?

What we really need to talk about here is my theory that this was supposed to be a 24 sequel/prequel but Quibi couldn’t get the rights. Kiefer Sutherland’s character works for the CTB here, Counter Terrorist Bureau, instead of the Counter Terrorist Unit, which was what it was called on the program he is most famous for. He yells the way Jack Bauer does when stressed here, but add on more realistic curse words and a comes-and-goes southern accent just so that Fox/Disney wouldn’t sue. Most of the events play out in real time. His wife in this is said to have been killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11…Teri Bauer was killed at the end of season one of 24 by a terrorist, which coincidentally, the show premiered in 2001. The director of this entire series, Stephen Hopkins, was executive producer and even directed episodes of…you guessed it…24. The numbers add up. I just ended up pretending he was Jack Bauer and that he had somehow escaped his capture from Russia, headed back to the US under a different guise or went into witness protection and somehow still got a job working for the new organization CTB that rose from the ashes of CTU. The only thing that was really missing here was a mole, ha! (inside TV series joke). If they had gotten the right this could’ve been called 24: Fugitive or something like that. Anyway, the acting is fine for what it is, and this movie/webisode show somehow didn’t just keep hitting you over the head with fake news/police incompetence messages, it was more subtle than just yelling in your face of how and why this show is timely. And anything that has Glenn Howerton, Dennis from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, in it gets a pass in my book, especially if he isn’t playing his character from his show. Which he wasn’t.

You get your cheese-y one liners here, Jack Bauer…err I mean, Kiefer’s characters has this whole dorky thing of getting his fellow officers below him to say, “Copy, sir!” which in turn, too many times to be honest, he replies with, “Music to my ears.” The action and running are fine for what it is, the direction is adequate, and to be honest, I was entertained for the short 14, 7 to 9 minute, “webisodes.” This would’ve worked better as a television movie no doubt. Other than calling this show The Fugitive, my one other complaint is that it seems like the real villain comes off as really stupid all at once, as Mike puts together what he saw when trying to help victims after the bombing before he was chased off by the police, combined with the fact that the villain stupidly reveals himself to Mike when if he would’ve just stayed silent it he would’ve gotten away with it. And then at one point Mike leads the cops to the real villain’s house and the evidence of the bombing is just laid out all on the table. A little too many plot conveniences just to move the story along wouldn’t you say? But hey, people get caught all the time for stupid shit that they do in the real world so who am I to say? None of this surprises me seeing as the main writer and creator of this revitalization is Nick Santora, who is executive producer and writer on other plot convenience shows (yet I still watched them and love them still to this day) such as Prison Break, Vegas, Law & Order, and Breakout Kings. He’s just going by formula and when a paycheck comes your way once you get that formula still going like clockwork, can you really blame the guy? So, before I’m caught ranting again, I’ll run out of this review by saying this is a half way decent entertaining one time watch, but forgettable as convicted small time con artists.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SECRET SOCIETY OF SECOND BORN ROYALS (Disney+)

Congratulations Disney, you have managed to make a film that even the Disney Channel would’ve probably rejected back in the day, which in turn, makes this the worst Disney+ original movie yet. SECRET SOCIETY OF SECOND BORN ROYALS is offensively abysmal. It is literally a movie for no one. It treats kids as if they were idiots, it basically gives the bird to film critics everywhere, and adults that still enjoy some of the Disney Channel Original magic from the 90s/early 2000s will be scoffing at the screen, asking why this was even green lit to begin with. The CGI is laughably straight to video 1990s bad, you can guess the entire plot minute 5, and the movie doesn’t even have the audacity to give you an obligatory after credits sequence. It is just another poor man’s Avengers superhero rip off tale after all. Per IMDB, it describes this film with the following log line: “It follows Sam’s adventures at a top-secret training program for a new class of second-born royals tasked with saving the world.” What that little description doesn’t tell you is that these second-born royals, for some reason or another, gain superpowers when they become of age just because plot convenience. And some of these powers, while being original, are either laughably useless or laughably too powerful. One of the kids can make insects do what he wants yet can’t go small and have super strength like Ant Man in that size? One of them has just her senses heightened but can’t do much else, an adult can just hold their breath underwater for a bit, and one can just duplicate himself yet doesn’t create enough copies when in a pinch. Then the others go straight to laziness screenplay writing 101 by having unoriginal and boring invisibility powers, The Force, the power of persuasion, and then of course one of them can just touch all the others and steal their powers for a brief period. Is it possible I’m a second born royal and have the power to fall asleep whenever I detect bullshit?

Do I need to list every cliche this film has in store for you? Probably not, but you’ll need two sheets of paper when watching this if you were wanting to list it on your own. The movie even tries to make you forget the main villain has an accomplice half way through the movie once he gets captured, and then tries to surprise you by their identity, even though I guessed right off the bat in the ballpark of who it was. This film has excuses galore for how to write around kids with too powerful of superpowers, it’s insulting. The only really recognizable face in this is Pitch Perfect’s Skylar Astin, as the kids mentor and instructor, and honestly, it just seems like it was a paycheck for him, just enough effort to be invited back for possible sequel for an even bigger pay day. There’s a dumb McGuffin device at the end that makes absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever and was written just to preserve anything deathly shocking from happening that would make small kids ponder life’s ultimate questions. The identity of the writers of this giant polished turd is shocking when you look up their past filmography. Well, one shocking and one not so shocking. One of them wrote for Hanna Montana…which this film is almost an exact cheesy blueprint from that show and the other wrote the screenplays for…Robert Rodriguez’s Predators and Paul W.S. Anderson’s shitty Three Musketeers remake? How the fuck did he get roped into this? Add terrible performances from all the kids involved, a butterfly catching a human sequence that made me produce tears from laughter, and terrible direction and you easily have only the second worst thing that the Disney+ platform offers. The first is paying $30 for Mulan.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BABYTEETH

BABYTEETH, a drama with a few comedic bits that you can stream on Hulu for free today (otherwise you can rent it streaming), was a nice refresher of mild quirky-ness after the overload of garbage that was my previous movie I just reviewed, Kajillionaire. Babyteeth is still not a perfect or great movie by any means, I think out of 1 hr and 57 minutes about 15 to 20 could’ve been shaved off, the movie has a very strong beginning, very strong ending, and very strong performances. It does lag a bit toward the end of the beginning of the film and the middle of the film, but it makes up for it in the other qualities I just shared. It stars Eliza Scanlen, who has been in a ton of things recently such as HBO’s Sharp Objects, Little Women, and Netflix’s The Devil All The Time and IMDB describes the movie as: “Milla, a seriously ill teenager falls in love with a drug dealer, Moses, her parents worst nightmare.” She is pitch perfect here as a girl that just wants to live her life to the fullest in case she dies. Her parents are played perfectly by Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn, the latter of which is becoming one of my favorite actors of all time. He plays it quirky and weird when his character calls for it, but serious yet calm when those scenes come along. It’s because the honest script and dialogue helps the performances, written by first timer Rita Kalnejais, and she doesn’t force the characters to be too abstract and weird. While the characters and situations have their quirks, it is grounded in a sense of dramatic realism where you feel like all of them make true to life decisions and actions.

The movie is directed by Shannon Murphy, who I’m not familiar with, although she directed two episodes of the hit tv series Killing Eve, and she is definitely an actor’s director and has a spark of visual flare, something I hope she can translate to future projects. Unlike Kajillionaire, there isn’t one unlikable character in this, as even though Moses has his fare share of problems, his good heart ultimately prevails. He is played by Toby Wallace who apparently is really good in Netflix’s most recently cancelled beloved series The Society. I’ve seen a few clips of him in that, and needless to say, he’s a damn fine actor when you compare that with this role. My only complaints for this film come before the living situations of all involved are permanently set in stone (that’s all I can say without giving anything away). Milla trying to get Moses interested in her as more than just friends (when they are the only two onscreen) are the scenes that didn’t really have any emotional weight or context for me, compared to the scenes where Milla’s parents are also involved. I think that maybe point A, point B, & point C were the structure of the screenplay, the solid ideas of the story that were cemented in stone before the screenplay was even written, before the connections were made by filling out the tiny details. While getting from point B to point C was fleshed out and solidly told, more time was needed on how to get from point A to point B, as those scenes dragged on too long and didn’t really work for me. But, Babyteeth is still a decent one time watch, if not for the strong ending and beginning, and for all the performances. You won’t be grinding your teeth, wishing for this movie to end, but I suggest to bring some tissues so that tears won’t be hitting them constantly throughout.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: KAJILLIONAIRE

KAJILLIONAIRE gave me (an my wife) a kajillion headaches. Not because it was confusing but it was a slog and a half (considering the 1 hr and 47 minute run time) to get through. A quirky film just for the sake of being quirky, which made it overwhelmingly quirky and unbearable. And a really annoying and bizarre performance with an annoyingly bizarre low tone of voice by Even Rachel Wood. There are only really two scenes of actual levity and earnestness in the film, one that doesn’t happen until the last 10 minutes of the movie, and one in the middle that lasts only about 10 seconds before it goes back to being monotonous. This comes out in theaters today (only really Alamo Drafthouse and other independent theaters), and then streaming VOD in about a month, and I am here to tell you to save your fucking money and your fucking time no matter how it’s available to watch to you (even if free). I won a free digital 72 hour screening from Focus Features and decided just to get it out of the way last night. This is supposed to be a comedy (really a dramedy) yet neither my wife nor I laughed once. And when I put on a 2005 comedy that definitely couldn’t be made today (Waiting) and laughed more in the first minute than the atrocity to cinema I just watched…then something is truly wrong. You may go on Rotten Tomatoes and see the critic score to this is in the low 90s, which is a really good score, but I no longer ever trust Rotten Tomatoes, because I think most critics are high off of being able to stay home and avoid COVID-19, so they are giving anything a good review based on that bias.

And you may be saying, “Zach, maybe you just don’t like quirky movies?” Not true, I’m going to review another film later today that just came to Hulu but was released earlier in the year called Babyteeth, where its quirky-ness was in contribution to the story and wasn’t just there to be there. It’s all about context people. Me, movies, and context. If you haven’t gotten that by now with all of my reviews that I write then I don’t know what to tell you. I even warn you whenever I throw context and my brain out the window and just enjoyed what I was watching, so I can’t be any more blunt with you than I usually am. To put this all in another way you’ll understand, Kajillionaire sucked to me. Per IMDB, it describes the movie as: “A woman’s life is turned upside down when her criminal parents invite an outsider to join them on a major heist they’re planning.” This whole family is filled with terrible, terrible con people. Terrible not jut morally, but that they also execute all of these “cons” terribly. What was really offensive about this film to me isn’t just its fake, unearned quirky-ness, it’s also it feels like a cheap knock off of a very good international film that came out a couple of years ago called Shoplifters. That movie even got nominated for an Academy Award. I’ll scoff if this does and protest. Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger are completely wasted as Evan Rachel Wood’s (who is the main protagonist by the way) parents, and they are completely unlikable characters from the get go. Evan Rachel Wood is supposed to be likable but her bizarre bat shit performance made her extremely unlikable to me.

The actress that sort of saves this from being a complete clusterfuck (even though this film right now is in my top 20 worst of the year list) is Gina Rodriguez. She plays the stranger in IMDB’s description of the film above. Her quirky-ness in this film almost works, and she saves a little bit of the movie by being the focus of the two only earnest moments in the movie (These moments are technically spoilers, but you’ll know them when you see them). She is the only one unscathed in this production. I have never seen writer/director Miranda July’s other “quirky” movies or short films, and this movie definitely will not have me search any of them out, any time soon. I mean, this film is just weird to be weird without any context. They live in a cheap little place that overflows with bubbles (they clean this place constantly that’s why the rent is so cheap) from the ceiling because it’s an attachment to a bubble factory called Bubble, Inc. No explanation to what they do other than make bubbles apparently. I understand the films message about family and human attachment, it just went about it in a very awkward, non pleasing, and off putting way. It is very slow pace, with a major heist that in all honesty didn’t make a lick of sense to me. If you watch this movie and end up enjoying it like the critics did, I won’t hark on you. Clearly this movie just wasn’t meant for me. I didn’t connect with it on any emotional level, and the only emotion I shed during it were the kajillion tears of joy that I wept once the movie finally got to the end credits.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ENOLA HOLMES (Netflix)

There are a lot of critics and other film people out there that hate it when movies break the fourth wall, i.e. the characters talk to the audience if they were right there along on the adventure. Not me. I love that shit, makes films like Deadpool, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Wayne’s World that much more enjoyable. And unique. Which is why I very much enjoyed Netflix’s new original film, ENOLA HOLMES, which flips the old Sherlock Holmes detective adventures that we’ve seen a billion times before on its head with Enola being the main protagonist and her constantly breaking the fourth wall to talk to us. It also works so well because Millie Bobby Brown pulls it off with a fantastic performance. Even though the movie also has a good old fashioned mystery that I was into as well, I think if the movie had played it completely straight, it wouldn’t have been as much fun, interesting, and engaging as it was. It would’ve been just another Sherlock adventure, but this time gender flipped. And I know a lot of men out there eye roll when it comes to gender flipped movies (especially after the travesty that was Ghostbusters 2016), because for some reason it enrages them because they think its trying to push some feminist agenda. Yet they aren’t so opposed when studios come up with original material and characters for women to inhabit and possibly make memorable and classic? Jesus, some of us are rude and weird aren’t we? I love gender flipped movies and stories, as long as they work on their own.

Ghostbusters 2016 didn’t work NOT because of the women involved but because of director Paul Feig, his terrible non-screenplay with 99% ad-libbing and no story, and him not knowing when to yell “cut” and move on. Everyone one in the cast there did the best they could with the garbage material they were given. Not their fault. Enola Holmes, and other gender flipped movies that came out this year such as Birds of Prey, work because EVERY part of the film making process of those projects are fleshed out, not rushed, and pay attention to detail . The performances are great, the story, dialogue, and screenplay are solid, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the direction is tight. Per IMDB, it describes Enola Holmes as: “When Enola Holmes-Sherlock’s teen sister-discovers her mother missing, she sets off to find her, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right as she outwits her famous brother and unravels a dangerous conspiracy around a mysterious young Lord.” This movie is mostly getting positive reviews out there, but the ones that are negative either complain that it’s just a gender flipped Sherlock Holmes movie and/or that it caters to younger audiences too much. Who fucking cares? Seriously? As long as it is a good, solid movie, with a good, solid story, why the fuck would you care about things like that? And I don’t think the movie caters to younger audiences too hard, as there is plenty of action sequences and some jarringly frightening almost death scenes and blunt force trauma within the 2 hour runtime, but my point is, it shouldn’t matter. It only matters if you are entertained. Which this movie did, for not just me, but my wife as well. She said that this and The Broken Hearts Gallery are two of the better movies she’s seen in quite awhile. While I wouldn’t say they are masterful by any means, I tend to agree with her a bit.

While the movie is about 10 to 15 minutes too long and drags a bit in the middle, the story felt fun and fresh, the movie looked nice as it felt like there was high production value to make everything within it look like it really took place way back when, and the performances were strong and charming. Millie Bobby Brown steals the show out from everyone, and now she can say that she has another iconic character in her career portfolio other than just being Eleven on Stranger Things. Helena Bonham Carter and Sam Claflin as Enola’s mother and brother are solid even though they aren’t in the film terribly much, but the other scene stealer in this is obviously Henry Cavill, playing Enola’s other brother, Sherlock. He’s in the movie much more than I thought he’d be, for being the ‘with’ in the movies credits, and I liked that his rendition of Sherlock wasn’t so over the top and much more subtle, showing us a side of that character we hadn’t seen before. I would love for him to come back in possible sequels to this, yet he doesn’t need more screen time, just as much as this please to not make it seem like the filmmakers are desperate to cash in on Cavill’s hunky/handsome face and physique for the ladies. I’m just happy that this seemed like an original movie that could’ve played in theaters and not just a cheap mediocre “grand” Netflix production. *coughTheOldGuardcough*. With this and The Devil All The Time, maybe Netflix is actually going to start trying? *looks at calendar* Well, fuck…nevermind, Adam Sandler’s terrible looking Netflix original film Hubie Halloween comes out in two weeks…so no, the game is not afoot.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SPIRAL (Shudder)

First of all, no, this is not Saw 9. This new movie exclusively streaming on Shudder just happens to have the same title of Saw 9, that was supposed to come out in May but due to COVID-19 got delayed till NEXT May 2021. If I were to describe this SPIRAL, it would be Get Out, but with homosexual couples (the title should’ve been Get Out Of The Closet). And a much different story and third act. You’ll see. I promised myself I wouldn’t do another free trial of Shudder on one of my many different e-mails, but this film has gained so much traction in my neck of the woods the past several weeks that I just had to do another 7 day-er and check this out. And I’m glad I did, as out of the three whole Shudder exclusive movies I’ve watched, this is by far the best one, even though the more I think about Host, the more I respect it (both definitely better than the mind-numbing Beach House movie on the app). Per IMDB, it describes Spiral as: “A same-sex couple move to a small town so they can enjoy a better quality of life and raise their 16 year-old daughter with the best social values. But nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood. And when Malik sees the folks next door throwing a very strange party, something shocking has got to give.” The movie takes place in the year 1995, so it’s kind of at the height of the 90s gay panic if you think about it. The movie works with only a few well earned jump scares because it’s mostly a psychological horror film, filled more with dread and unease than it is meant to be just cheap jump scare plus a lot of gore schlock (although there is one pretty gruesome and emotional earned shot/scene here).

There isn’t really a recognizable face here except for Loclyn Munro, you’ll basically just point him out in the movie and say, “that’s the dude from Scary Movie/Freddy Vs. Jason/etc. The main protagonist here, played by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (Unreal) is fantastic here. He plays one part of the male gay couple and the film focuses primarily on him. He gets the paranoia, fear, and anger down pat and needed in order to sell the story. I’m not familiar with the writers or director of this, but needless to say the movie works very well within the parameters of what it’s trying to say about fear. There is an exchange of dialogue inside a jail cell near the end of the film that was haunting to think about even after the last word was spoken. Also, this is a movie with an epilogue that actually made the whole movie even better than it already was. Wow, I am at a loss for words and don’t know much more to say about this film to make it a meaty second conclusive paragraph do I? Anything I really say about the story is a spoiler in itself so I can’t get into too much detail. If I had a complaint about the movie is that the male protagonist probably shouldn’t have hid the hatred they receive from the get go, should’ve revealed all and maybe there would’ve been a different conclusion. But if the protagonist didn’t hold things back, there might not have been a movie, so my complaint is moot. So if you have the Shudder app, definitely check this out. Or if you want to do a 7 day free trail thing, check out this and Host, but make sure to cancel before it charges you for a whole month. To me the app isn’t worth it, just like Quibi.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE STRANGER (Quibi)

Well, today’s news explains a lot. My cellular service is T-Mobile and on their T-Mobile Tuesday App, every…you guessed it, Tuesday, has some cool little deals that you can tap and get, just for being a T-Mobile customer. Last Tuesday, a FREE 6 Month Subscription to Quibi was offered. Right when I saw that, I chuckled and predicted, “wow, they really must be desperate.” And yesterday, Quibi announced that they don’t have many subscribers at all, around only 77,000, and are looking to “explore strategic options” including a possible sale. Yikes. Anyway, I did take T-Mobile Tuesday up on their offer knowing that I can cancel before it renews, but let’s face it, it sounds like my free subscription won’t even last six months at this point. But I took it knowing that there was one, just one Quibi “show” that I wanted to check out ever since I saw who the filmmaker was that was making it, the two stars of it, and the subject matter: THE STRANGER. Now, the reason why I’m counting this as a movie review and not a “webisodes” one is that if you put all of these 13 episodes together, each being about 6 to 9 minutes long, you have yourself a feature length film, somewhere between an hour and 15 minutes and an hour an 47 minutes (I’d guess this is around 90-95 minutes). Since the whole story takes place over one night and all the events string together, no matter how long or short the episode, if you were to cut out the cut to black parts, you’d have a movie. And I really wish this was a movie, one that played in theaters, because I quite enjoyed it.

It’s tense, it doesn’t waste anyone’s time, it’s very enjoyable, well directed, shot, and the performances are top notch. Maika Monroe (always underrated to me even since her star turning performance in It Follows), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, unfortunately Amazing Spider-Man 2 probably botched his career a bit), and Avan Jogia (Zombieland 2) star in what IMDB describes as: “An unassuming young rideshare driver (Monroe) is thrown into her worst nightmare when a mysterious Hollywood Hills passenger (DeHaan) enters her car.” The movie doesn’t waste any time getting into what is essentially a cat and mouse chase movie intertwined with a strong message about how our online presence make us very vulnerable. (this, The Social Network, and The Social Dilemma would make for a very interesting triple feature). Veena Sud wrote and directed all of these “webisodes” and when seeing a small preview for this I recognized her name immediately because she was the show runner on a great show that lasted several of seasons on AMC before being uncanceled twice and the last season being bought and aired on Netflix: The Killing. After that and this, I consider her already a great master of tone in dark realistic tales, because The Killing was depressing and somber as fuck, and The Stranger has a pitch perfect dreadful tension to it.

Somehow the tension never lets up and you gradually get to know about the characters back stories in realistic and unforced ways. The only complaint I have that keeps this movie/these “webisodes” from being perfect is that it has kind of the hammy, unrealistic, awkward ending. Even though some of it was set up near midway through, “they” probably shouldn’t have been brought back at the end even though it was brutal karma for one of the characters. That’s all I’ll say without getting into spoilers. The rest of it, is very solid. The film doesn’t hold any punches as no one in the cast is safe, there are some fantastic bait and switches, solid set ups with some solid pay offs, and the despair never lets up until it cuts to black on webisode 13. Maika Monroe is fantastic as the mouse and Dane DeHaan is masterful as the cat in this very tight and brisk chase. I’ve always liked both of them as actors and I wish that they’d get more projects that would showcase their talents and not have one smudge spot on their careers (Monroe’s is Independence Day 2). But the true star of this, again, is writer/director Veena Sud. I wish she’d get some big theatrical dark noir type project. She’s an incredible storyteller and filmmaker. The Stranger might be the only thing I watch with my six month free subscription to Quibi…and if it is…that’s not too shabby.