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

CRAWL is better than it probably had any right to be. I guarantee you that this film was projected for a straight to VOD release. But then they probably test screened it for audiences, which let them know that they had something a little more special than originally intended, and at the last minute got theatrical distribution. This is the exact opposite of what should’ve happened with Stuber, but if you want my critique on that film, read my previous review I just posted a couple of hours ago. Crawl is easily the best alligator/crocodile attack film ever made, outing Lake Placid, which really wasn’t even all that great to begin with. In fact, they probably could’ve changed the title to this to Deep Blue Quarry and made it a real official sequel to Deep Blue Sea and gotten away with it, minus the chemicals that was supposed to cure Alzheimer’s and of course, the sharks. In any case, it definitely can be added to your awesome creature feature marathon you got brewing in your blu-ray case or digital collection at home.

Crawl’s premise is simple but effective. In Florida, during a large hurricane, a swimmer goes to check on her father at their old home when he doesn’t answer any of his phone calls. She finds him unconscious in the giant crawl space (after writing this sentence I finally get why they titled the movie this, I still find the title mediocre though) under the house, behind some low hanging pipes. Turns out he was attacked and was hiding from some vicious alligators that have come out of the storm to play and going behind the pipes was the only thing keeping him alive as they were too low for the alligators to crawl under and get him. But again, huge problem, there are numerous alligators everywhere, not a definite number, and could be lurking anywhere in the shadows. Not to mention, because of the hurricane, things are flooding fast, and they might not have enough room in that crawl space to breathe much longer. Obviously, the father and daughter (and their dog) need to outmaneuver them all and somehow get to oxygen and safety.

Crawl works because it is so simple. It doesn’t try to think it is smarter than its audience and bring something to its screenplay that tries to make you think, such as experimenting with sharks and their brains to make some kind of cure for Alzheimer’s. These are just regular vicious alligators in a storm, and they are either defending their territory and/or hungry, and the humans have got to escape my any means necessary. Point A straight to point C. No filler. Exactly as it should be. It also gets points but not numbering the amount of alligators in this mess. In Deep Blue Sea, there were three sharks, and the characters even counting down after each was killed, you know, just to remind the audience for some reason not to expect a random shark to come out of nowhere. But that problem is no problem in Crawl. It lets you know early on that there are plenty of alligators to go around and killing them off one by one ain’t going to do jack shit.

The film has jump scares that are actually earned, and a couple of gruesome alligator bites and kills. There are a couple of other things that makes this film stand out and save it from VOD hell. The cinematography. The cinematography in this film is absolutely gorgeous, from the dark blue and black outside shots of the storm, to the gritty darkness of giant crawl space under the house. The sets are nice and realistic, only adding that impending doom that the audience needs to feel for the characters in their predicament. Any scene in that crawl space is masterfully shot and there is one awesome scene dealing with the eye of the storm that I dare not reveal any details on here. What I am trying to say with all this is that, the film earns its scares and tense scenes, from the filmmakers paying very close attention to detail. Director Alexandre Aja has easily made his best film here, along with his classics such as High Tension and one of the only horror remakes I approved of, The Hills Have Eyes.

Oh the acting, I forgot to mention the acting. It is basically a two person show, Barry Pepper playing the father, and Kaya Scodelario as the daughter (there are others in this but they are all basically just alligator fodder). Barry Pepper is the best he has ever been here, easily. I didn’t think he could pull off playing a father, not because of his acting, but because I still think he looks young for his age, but then I looked on IMDB of the years between Pepper and Scodelario and smacked my head realizing that the filmmakers knew what they were doing. But he plays the sage father role very, very well. But the real star is Kaya Scodelario, her convincing us of the terror with her yells, shrieks, facial expressions, and determination to get out of danger. In any horror film/thriller you have got to have actors/actresses that can pull that off, and Kaya does in spades.

My only real complaint is the CGI with the alligators. While better than the SFX for Deep Blue Sea, there were only a handful of times where the alligators actually looked real and weren’t just cheesy computer generated creations. But I forgive this for three reasons. 1. Sometimes you just gotta have some cheese to have fun, that’s why Deep Blue Sea still works so well. 2. The budget, no way did they have enough money to perfect those creations. 3. There is no fucking way in hell you could train alligators to do what they do here, absolutely can’t be done. I would’ve maybe liked a few just establishing shots of real alligators in the film though, just to have that, but I realize nowadays it probably costs to do something like that and you might have your hands full with a bunch of unnecessary PETA complaints.

If you like edge of your seat creature features, Crawl easily fits the bill. It’s tense, scary, fun, and entertaining as hell. It runs a brisk 88 minutes, with no unnecessary scenes, even the ending, which I thought was going to be stretched out to hell, subverts expectations and ends when it needs to. You know what the perfect little creature feature trilogy marathon for you to watch if you have the time? Deep Blue Sea, Snakes On A Plane, and now, Crawl. Definitely going to do that once I have the chance to own it. Well done.


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

Unfortunately I don’t think anything else can be done with the buddy cop formula after the mediocrity that is the movie STUBER. I even groan thinking about the possibility Rush Hour 4. In fact I would go so far as to say that the first Rush Hour is the last great buddy cop film (please correct me if I’m wrong, I’m not thinking too hard on this). And while Stuber tries to do something different, although you could argue its a reverse Collateral, it ultimately fails because it doesn’t do the one thing it needed to do in order to work: be funny. I maybe chuckled twice during the film, but there was in no way any hearty belly hurting laughs. And it certainly isn’t the actors fault, in fact, the only decent part of the film was that Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani did the best they could with the script they were given and maintained a decent chemistry. The fault is entirely upon the director but more so, the screenwriters. This film felt like it should’ve been released as a Netflix original. Not terrible, but not near theatrical experience worthy.

If you haven’t heard of Stuber, although I don’t understand why you wouldn’t have, they are marketing the shit out of this movie. But it stars Kumail Nanjiani as a guy named Stu about to go into a cycling business with the woman he’s desperately in love with but who doesn’t share the same sentiment. To get enough money to be an investor, he works two jobs, one at a sporting goods store, and the rest of his time is spent as an Uber driver. Hence his name Stu, mixed with Uber, is Stuber, the title of the film, the film makes sure you get it about a thousand times with character interactions. On the other side of the coin you have Dave Bautista, a cop named Vic trying to bust a drug dealer named Oka, who once killed his partner, and is about to execute a giant drug deal worth millions. So Vic can drive, so why does he need an Uber? What the marketing doesn’t tell you is one of the only other interesting things about the film: Vic just underwent laser eye surgery and is told that it is going to take 24 hours before he can really see again. And he gets a call that the bust is going to go down during this time period, and he doesn’t want the Feds to have the case. So he essentially makes Stu his permanent Uber driver until the case is closed.

Hi-jinks ensue, action beat, action beat, action beat, they argue and yell at each other every two minutes, male penis in the background that is supposed to bring a big laugh, betrayals, to sum it up, the film is as predictable as you can imagine. Other than Vic and Stu just yelling mean insults at each other and overdone physical comedy to try and get a rise out of the audience, the film tries to have an action set piece every couple of minutes to keep moviegoers eyes open. Unfortunately, this director is definitely not an action director, because when the movie switches to bullets and explosions on the drop of a dime, the movie also switches from steady cam, to some of the worst shaky cam I’ve seen in a film since Captain Phillips. You can’t tell what the fuck is going on its so bad. Shaky cam is often used when a director knows he can’t frame and set up an action shot well, so that maneuver combined with some lightning fast editing is supposed to make everything look cool and too smart for the viewer, when it is actually trying to hide the mediocrity.

Like I said, the film isn’t the fault of Dave Bautists and Kumail Nanjiani, they actually make some of the really stiff dialogue when they are getting onto each other work and play off their comedic strengths. They are meant to be the shaky cam that covers up the mediocre directing and screenplay. It might work for modern audience, but it doesn’t work for this reviewer that goes through everything with a fine tooth comb. Also, there is a lot of talent wasted here. Karen Gillan is in this film for less the 5 minutes (I really believe they brought her over at the last minute because she was filming Jumanji 3 near by and they wanted to cash in on a wink wink Guardians of the Galaxy team up) , I thought she would pop up again at the end, but once her scene is done at the beginning, you don’t even see a picture of her the rest of the film. Betty Gilpin is wasted being on the other end of a Facetime call for the whole picture. Natalie Morales tries her best to give her role as the daughter of Vic some kind of levity (although the end squashes it), Iko Uwais martial arts ability is again completely wasted because of the shaky cam bullshit, just like it was wasted in Mile 22, and Mira Sorvino is abysmal in her handful of predictable scenes as Vic’s Captain Boss.

I don’t understand why this film wasn’t just released on Netflix. Who in their right mind thought this was theatrical material? Somebody should’ve second guessed themselves. My next review after this I’m going to talk about a film who is really think was meant to go straight to VOD, however test audiences pulled it from that shallow grave and gave it a theatrical distribution, and it actually worked. This…Stuber…I just don’t understand. It’s not one of the worst films of the year due to the chemistry of Nanjian and Bautista, it just reeks of mediocrity. And it’s entertaining enough to be a one time watch thing, but more of a background film on Netflix while you are cleaning the house or paying your taxes. The film isn’t funny, and it tries too hard to be. It brings absolutely nothing else to the buddy cop formula other than the Uber driver story premise, and that is proof right there that the whole genre just needs to be a sweet memory. You can bring back that sweet memory with visits to films from the 80s and 90s every couple of years, but any new ideas need to be Lyfted away and never given the green light.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE (no spoilers)

If sometimes like your comedies like you like your coffee, dark but refreshing, then THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE is one beverage that must be tried. Without giving anything away it has one of the funniest, darkest, bold, and unique climax’s of any comedy I have seen in quite sometime. Jesse Eisenberg completely shines in what is probably his best performance since The Social Network. I think it also makes up for Dawn of Justice. Be warned though, this film has some really dry and dark humor in it, and if you like your comedy all nice, cheery, and fluffy, this film is definitely not for you. Oh, and definitely not for animal lovers either. But what makes The Art of Self Defense really stand out, is that in a year filled with endless superhero film or franchise sequels, it is nice to get something as engaging while being totally original. It’s unfortunate it is getting a limited release this weekend and then an expansion next week, but I have a feeling it will gain some cult status down the line.

The film’s premise is simple. A weird, always nervous, weak accountant (Jesse Eisenberg) named Casey is mugged and beaten one night while he is on the way home getting his dog some dog food. His immediate reaction is to buy a gun but on his way home stumbles into a small (almost abandoned looking) building complex that holds day and night karate classes. The Sensei (Alessandro Nivola) takes a liking to him at once, trying to make him more masculine and turn him into the intimidating person that Casey wants to be. But within this dojo, filled with odd behavior and feisty tempers, something is lurking beneath the surface, and it is only a matter of time before Casey learns that not all is as it seems, and that these classes may be more than he bargained for.

That’s about all I’m going to say about the plot film, because to say literally anything else, ruins all the weird, hilarious, dark and fun surprises. And it all works thanks to the screenplay by writer/director Riley Steams, who has done one other film that I had never even heard of or seen. The whole movie, with a brisk pace of 104 minutes, holds no punches, and none of it is filler. If I had to compare it to any movies, I’d say take Napoleon Dynamite and have it make a baby with School For Scoundrels, except that this film is a whole lot better than those two combined, and a whole lot more sadistic. The movie is completely filled with dry and awkward humor, so if you’ve never been one to have an acquired taste for those kind of movies, this probably won’t break you into the fold.

The only thing keeping this film from being masterful is of some of predictability. Early on the film gives away a couple too many clues as to what is going on that I picked up on almost immediately, even without having watched a full trailer for this. Those scenes though are evened out by the unpredictability of other things, such as the balls to the wall funniest climax I have seen in quite some time. Even with some of the predictability, the movie has a bunch of set ups earlier in the film that pay off beautifully toward the end. The other reason why this movie work is the incredible acting from all those involved. Like I said above, Jesse Eisenberg hasn’t been this good since The Social Network. Alessandra Nivola as just named The Sensei (a brilliant end pay off as well) is masterful and Imogen Poots, while not a love interest, has an interesting character arc, as her being the only girl in the dojo, The Sensei thinking that girls are weak in general (the film has a lot to say under the surface about sexism).

Other little things like not knowing but getting little subtle clues on when exactly the film takes place make this film a nice treat for movie goers after the pretty sad sack of shit film month we had in June. It’s films like this that should be keeping the movie industry alive and original, but instead we are now just getting Disney Live Action remakes like the abysmal Aladdin and the not so well received Lion King, which hasn’t even come out yet. Films like this show that there is a lot of original talent out there begging for their voices to be heard. If you find a theater playing this, and this sounds like something right up your alley, go see it immediately. It’s good weird and it takes you places that these types of comedies normally don’t go. I have a feeling if we listened a little more often and Hollywood took a little more risk, we would stop complaining about un-originality and we wouldn’t have to defend ourselves by pointing at franchise films and saying, “but…but look at all the money that movie made!”

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3 (major spoilers)

It’s my birthday, and lately I’ve been getting a lot of notifications on messenger asking me about my in depth thoughts for STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3 (other than my short little tiny paragraph of my summation earlier this week), so here is an in depth review! A present from me to you…on my own fuckin’ birthday. Jk, jk, I love writing these things. But be warned, I’m just going to start running my mouth, and since a lot of people have finished the entire short 8 episode season by now, there’s no telling what I’ll start spouting out, so major spoiler warning from here on out. The third season of Stranger Things is a vast, vast, vast improvement on the very kind of….I don’t know….just there second season which felt like just a retread of Season 1 (even though I still liked it). It doesn’t however beat the glorious first season, and there are reasons for that, which I’ll get to in a bit. But needless to say, I really really really enjoyed Season 3, I just wished that it didn’t have any minor problems where it could’ve completely blown the first season out of the water.

I loved the whole Starcourt Mall, The Meat Monster, Scoops Ahoy, the Russian Commie Thread, Alexei, Billy being possessed, all the new elements that were brought to the table. When Will started getting goosebumps at the back of his neck again when they snuck into see Day of the Dead I was rolling my eyes, hoping that they weren’t going to do him possessed thing all over again a la season 2. Thankfully he just has a ‘sense’ now since he was in the Upside Down for so long and is not the actual entity. Making Billy that entity (who was already established as an asshole last season) and then having a minor little arc of redemption felt a little refreshing. The whole thing is like a giant 8 hour summer, retro horror/thriller, fun for the whole family movie where the first 2 episodes are all set up and the last 6 are fast paced pay offs. The only problem with this is that the whole thing feels a little rushed (although I’d rather it be rushed than strung out into 13 episodes with a bunch of needless filler) and that character development is sacrificed for plot the majority of the time. Let me explain.

Remember the scene in the last episode where Dustin is trying to get that number from his girlfriend Suzie (the joke is that she might not be real), this mathmatical number that will unlock the place where Hopper and Joyce need to get into to turn those keys and close the gate the Russians kept trying to keep open, probably hoping to weaponize the creatures and attack America? Where Dustin had to prove his loyalty to Suzie before she would give him this number by singing with her the theme song to The NeverEnding Story? Made you get all goosebumpy and all memberberry inside right? THAT SCENE IS A GOD DAMN JOKE AND COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS. It was a waste of time for all characters involved and if she would’ve just given him the number and then they could’ve sang it to each other, the gate could’ve been closed much faster, it could’ve served both story and character development at the same time, and Hopper might not have ‘died.’ I’m putting ‘died’ like that because, like everyone with a brain, I don’t think they would kill off one of their best and complicated characters. David Harbour is a master in the role, and like I always say, “no body, not dead.” Unfortunately I’m afraid they are just going to resolve the situation like they did with Eleven in season 1 and 2 where she ‘died’ but really just ended up back in the Upside Down place.

Other character development problems: Max and Lucas, who got together near the end of season 2, have virtually no character development between the two this season, they are together the whole time, barely an argument. She has a small arc with her brother Billy but it is completely rushed and half-assed. Eleven and Mike break up for the stupidest reasons other than to get some funny scenes between her and Max. All he had to say was, “Hopper told me to spend less time with you,” and everything would’ve been solved. The relationship between Eleven and Hopper, the father/daughter angle, is good in the first two episodes, and then they are separated the rest of the time, everything meaning to tie together in a sappy yet sweet letter at the end. If there was anything that season 2 got completely right, it was the relationship with those two. The Jonathan/Nancy lover thing, that was again, done better in Season Two, is kind of like the Max and Lucas thing here, they have a couple of arguments, but ultimately love each other and everything is okay. Thank goodness the acting all around, especially from Millie Bobby Brown, is top notch, other wise all these problems would’ve bothered me more.

Fortunately, there are some very, very good character moments that about evens everything up developmental wise. Hopper and Joyce’s relationship is the best it has ever been this season and has a pretty solid arc. And remember that last minute Steve and Dustin friendship near the end of season 2? Here, it is full blown brilliant and is even combined with a great arc between Steven and a new character named Robin (played by Maya Hawke, who looks just like her mom, Uma Thurman) that works with him at Scoops Ahoy (I want to work there). Even though they are in the mall (and the secret Russian underground base) basically the entire 8 episodes, every scene with all of them together work perfectly, including when Lucas’ sister joins the fray later in the season. Also that weird conspiracy theorist dude from season 2 that helped Nancy and Jonathan get together gets a cute, little, but strong and effective arc with a Russian turncoat, a scientist nerd by the name of Alexei, who loves Cherry Slurpees and Burger King but is empathetic with the American’s plight. Also, the CGI and special effects this season are amazing. The Meat Monster is the greatest horror to come out of this series, even more enjoyable than the original Demogorgan.

So basically because of some character development problems and that the 8 episodes went by way too fast, it did not beat Season 1 for me, but at times it came incredibly close. Blew Season Two out of the water, but to be fair, I still do like that season, and love this series. With Season 3, The Duffer Brothers have finally found their groove with the series, relying less on just nostalgia references and more on story and group dynamics. And when there are references, it isn’t just to say, “hey look! Remember this!” anymore, but is often introduced to be a foreshadowing plot point or a joke that hits hard and is immersed in the overall story. And it’s just fucking fun as hell. The 8 episodes went by fast because I completely gave myself to that world and everything in it. I would complain about that long wait times between seasons (it was almost two years! Oct 2017 – July 2019) but if that’s how long it takes to tinker it, and give us a great, almost greatest, season like this one, everyone involved can take all the time they need. Now all they need to do is just end it all next season, or at the most, Season 5, so the whole thing doesn’t become stale. *coughlikeHouseOfCardscough*

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: YESTERDAY

I saw YESTERDAY about 2 hrs after I had gotten out of the utter filth that was the live action Aladdin remake, so needless to say, you can already tell that I’m probably going to recommend it even if its only a fraction better than the latter. It’s definitely above a fraction better, but it still wasn’t the film it needed to be, because of a few distracting narrative choices the screenplay decided to take, and also by the fact that the whole premise wasn’t as fleshed out as it needed to be either. The movie is definitely a crowd pleaser, as this is the 2nd week it is out and my screening was nearly full on a Sunday afternoon. It just seemed all too…by the books. Not in a terrible way like Aladdin managed to shit out, but in a finished product just to cater to only modern audiences type of way. Which is a little bit disappointing, considering the film was directed by the great Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, the great Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire).

For those not actually in the know as I am, this is the film that delayed Danny Boyle from directing Bond 25…even though he eventually left the project because of “creative differences.” Which is actually really funny considering that NONE of Danny Boyle’s trademark eye for the camera shots or artistry is even remotely in this movie. ANYONE could’ve directed this, it was literally a point and shoot affair from the first frame to the end credits. This is definitely a movie where I’d like to sit with Danny Boyle for an hour or two and ask him his directorial choices for this and why he even agreed to make this film to begin with. Did the studio own his head in every step of making this movie, perhaps the real catalyst for why he left directing Bond 25? It’d be really interesting to find out.

If you haven’t heard of this movie, the premise is simple, but could’ve been so much more. A failing and struggling musician, with a cute and lovable manager he’s known for 20 years but doesn’t know she’s in love with him (the most unbelievable aspect of this story), gets hit by a bus on his way home from a terrible gig. When he comes to, he finds more missing than just two of his front teeth: that he’s the only one who remember The Beatles and several other things (don’t want to spoil too much of the fun) such as cigarettes and Oasis. He finds this out for when he is given a new guitar after the one he had was damaged permanently by the accident, he plays one of the Beatles greatest songs ‘Yesterday,” and everyone who he plays it for has never heard it and thinks that he came up with it. A short time later, he is remembering all of the Beatles songs, acting like he came up with them and singing them for people, and then bam!…he is an instant sensation.

My main problem with the film is that there should’ve been more conflict. He just becomes and overnight sensation, but there aren’t that many obstacles in his way on his way to fame. I would be spoiling anything by divulging anything more, but I will say that it looks like an obstacle might be thrown in his way really late into the movie, but that obstacle is quickly blown off as something that wasn’t even an obstacle to begin with. The film reveals there is a bunch of other stuff missing from the world, but instead of maybe fleshing some of that out along with The Beatles revelation, they are just made as quick reference ha-ha jokes. And I understand the movie is focusing on a world where The Beatles never existed, but to just play some of these other revelations off seems like a cheap grab at some jokes when they could’ve complimented the film, with some subplots that could’ve made everything tighter. I mean think about it, what if you woke up one day to a world where something you loved and remember fondly, pop culture or something of that nature wise, and you had the chance to give it to the world. Certainly there is more of an interesting take on it in some screenwriters brain than what we got here. The implications didn’t seem all that risky, when they really should have been.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still a good film and I’m still going to recommend it. The film does have some pacing issues, and it is due to the fact that the cute and great Lily James, his manager that is head over heels in love with him even though he can’t see it, doesn’t go with him on his way to fame. She stays home since she is really a school teacher by day, which feels like a cheap screenplay trick for them to just have easy conflict between them because they are miles apart. James’ character should’ve been every step of the way with him, as their chemistry was undeniably good, the scenes of them together being the highlight of the film. In his debut film role, Himesh Patel plays the main protagonist Jack, and he does a really great job singing and acting alongside his peers. I would like to see him in more things in the future. I have a feeling he could absolutely crush it in a very dramatic role. One thing that took me out of the film a little was a small role by Kate McKinnon as his new manager when he starts to get famous. Thankfully she gets a little serious as the film goes along and doesn’t go all weird SNL McKinnon on our asses.

Even though I wasn’t fond of some of the narrative choices, I did like several of them, part of the ending being one. I promise not to give too much away, but I thought the movie was going to do something that most Hollywood films always do, in that everything about this new world where several things don’t exist anymore and his rise to fame was all in his head as I thought it was going to reveal that he was a coma after his accident. Something of that nature. Now while I won’t reveal what actually happens, I’m happy to report that the film doesn’t go that route. While it does combine this good narrative choice with a predictable sappy one, the fact that it didn’t go where I thought it would covers up and makes me forgive some of the faults I thought were present in the screenplay. I do recommend Yesterday though, especially if you are one of those modern audience members reading my reviews and need a quick and cheap romantic pick me up. Just don’t expect anything as grand as Love Actually (both were written by the same screenwriter).

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ALADDIN (2019) (I’m going to spoil the $#!^ out of this piece of $#!^)

I think that other than O Brother Where Art Thou?, this is the latest I’ve ever seen a movie in its first run in theaters. And now I wish I hadn’t gone at all. **opens eyes** Shit, well I must not have a genie if I’m still writing this review. ALADDIN (2019) is the most abysmal live action remake since Mr. Magoo with Leslie Nielsen. It feels like a half-assed Disney Channel adaptation they would’ve made for the station in the late 90s. Except for two people involved in this production, everything about it offends me as a movie lover. It breaks almost every rule of Film Making 101 and everything about it screams lazy three times over. How could Disney have even dared to released such a product? Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I get it. Disney was distracted. You see, it was so preoccupied sucking its dick while counting its cash it didn’t know what giant turd it was releasing upon the world. This is easily one of the worst films of 2019.

Do I ever need to explain the story to you? No. Because if you are reading this, have seen the new Aladdin but never saw the classic cartoon with Robin Williams, I hate to break it to you, but you are a fucking idiot. I’m guessing you are here because you have seen both, maybe wondering and maybe even confused about what exactly you thought you saw when watching this travesty and maybe I can break it down to have a more clear understanding of everything. Well, I guess that is what I’m here for. Here is the main problem with the new Aladdin. This film is 28 minutes longer than the cartoon, and yet all of it feels so rushed. Even the cartoon, with it’s short 90 minute run time, took a minute or two to let the characters just breathe. Here, they abandoned characterization entirely on some minor characters to make way for Will Smith’s ego. Eh, that’s being a little too harsh. I mentioned in the first paragraph there was only two people involved in this production that actually fared well in the movie, and one of them is Will Smith.

Let’s face it, no one will ever ever ever ever ever ever ever come close to even matching the genius of Robin Williams’ Genie. In fact, if they had given Oscar’s out for voice acting back in 1992, he surely would’ve won one. Will Smith at least tries to make Genie is own (even with all the same old songs and shit) and he at least looks like he wants to be there. Iago isn’t a character in this. He says maybe 4 complete sentences, with Alan Tudyk replacing the great Gilbert Gottfried, and is only there to turn into a giant evil parrot at the end to try and make a really out of left field last act magic carpet chase scene work. The fat old chubby but lovable Sultan is replaced by some random guy with a beard that looks like he wants to hang himself from the palace balcony for even agreeing to be in the movie. Even Abu I feel was short changed except for one or two “aw shucks” looks into the camera and don’t even get started on the magic carpet. 5 seconds in the old cartoon gave more characterization to that fabric than this whole film did.

But who’s the worst culprit? You thought I was going to say Aladdin didn’t you? But no. While I think Mena Massoud looks the part, and has one or two charming moments, I honestly think he’s rather dull. But that I don’t blame on his acting, I blame on the direction given to him and the hackneyed screenplay he had to read from. No, the worst character in here is Jafar. Jafar in the cartoon was the bad ass of bad assery. He was pure evil and when he walked into the room, everyone knew it. For a drawing, it was one of the most confident villains I have ever seen in any kind of animated film. Here….Jafar who? Like, who was he? If I could describe him best, he felt like a whinier Anakin Skywalker from Attack of the Clones. He got high pitched and just cried and scream to people about power and shit. He wasn’t intimidating at all, and I was wondering why most of the film someone didn’t just walk up to him and kick him straight in the nuts to shut the fuck up. He seemed THAT fragile.

Other than characterization, the screenplay is a giant mess. For some reason they decided to combine Aladdin’s ‘One Jump’ song ALONG with meeting Jasmine. They took two separate character moments that set up who these people were and tried to combine it just to get to the Genie a little bit faster. In all the scenes that everything needed to take a breather, it felt rushed, and all the scenes that needed to be cut for dragging, was dragged out as long as possible. There were two scenes of Jafar and the Sultan where I was looking at my watch, clocking how much longer that scene would go on. It was insulting as a film goer. And the awesome climax in the original cartoon, where the stakes were raised and Jafar turns into a giant bad ass snake? Completely gone. The climax to this feels like the climax to the novel version of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, where opposing characters are just one opposite sides of the room from one another trying to out talk and maneuver the other one.

The only other person that walked away from this garbage that was actually really good and look like she wanted to be there was Naomi Scott as Jasmine. She was the confident, brave, bold, and smart heroine that she needed to be. I never considered in the cartoon her to be a damsel in distress (even though there were a couple of scenes to argue that notion) and in this film, THE ONLY THING IT DOES RIGHT, is too completely strip away that stereotype and make her the bad ass princess that we know and love. Naomi Scott is a good singer, and her voice is lovely to hear on screen, but that new solo song they gave her, ‘Speechless,’ felt wayyyyy out of place and didn’t match the rest of the film, and in fact, slowed it down. In the climax, where things are supposed to amp up, she breaks out to the rest of the song she started earlier in the film, and it just felt sloppy. The whole controversial thing of the film making her Sultan at the end that’s getting a lot of flack for Disney trying to be ‘woke’ or whatever it is called? Probably the LEAST controversial thing about the film, and in fact, was one of the few changes that worked.

Oh, I guess two more points I could say that I liked, but they are just fleeting praises, like finding a tiny speck of gold in a pile of shit. I think the “Whole New World” sequence was done well and I liked that they kind of gave the Genie more of a definitive sweet and sappy ending (although Nasim Pedrad, who was a part of that ending, was wayyy under used). And that’s it. The Cave of Wonders scenes, including the journey to the lamp and trying to escape were rushed, boring, and editing poorly. The CGI in almost every frame looked like shit, including the Blue Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Agrabah just looks like every film that has a old boring palace in the middle of a desert location. I could go on and on, but it’s too tiring too. Director Guy Ritchie should be ashamed of himself. He obviously didn’t have any of his trademark directing in the film, because The Mouse was busy forcing his hand to do its bidding. This film opened up a whole new can of worms to seriously getting me to start hating live action remakes. Disney will never have a friend like me if they continue churning out this assembly lined bantha poo doo.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MIDSOMMAR (no spoilers, because the Pagan God would kill me)

A lot of people are going to hate MIDSOMMAR. Correction: Modern audiences are probably going to hate Midsommar. They are going to think it’s too weird, too depressing, too unsettling, too gory, not enough jump scares, too weird, not fast paced enough, too long, too weird, not understand what is going on, too weird, too weird, too weird, and too weird. That’s exactly why I kind of loved it though. This is Ari Aster’s second film after the very unsettling and disturbing Hereditary. And while I still prefer that film more right now, the more I think about this film, and the more research I do on ancient Pagan tradition and ways, that could change in the future. Mr. Aster definitely did his God damn homework. There is no denying that the man is talented. For one, he is trying to do something different and more interesting than mainstream horror. Both films he has done look absolutely gorgeous cinematography wise, and he is definitely an actor’s director, getting commanding performances from everyone involved. But the man needs to see a therapist.

Seriously. The opening before the intro starts to roll is very, very, very, very fucked up and deeply unsettling, with disturbing images I haven’t been able to get out of my head and I swear I had nightmares last night about them. The movie then takes a breather, and then becomes a very, very, very, very slow burn, but one that becomes more clastrophobic and more depressing each minute that ticks by. The movie is about a girl named Dani, who after a very recent horrible family tragedy, decides to join her very distant boyfriend and his friends as they travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs every 90 years, unaware they are in the middle of a deeply sadistic Pagan cult. I mention that the boyfriend is very distant for a very specific reason as their relationship is the ultimate catalyst for what happens in the film and the ultimate outcome. See, he was about to break up with her before Dani’s family tragedy occurred, and he feels like he has to stay with her to not look like the asshole.

Where the film goes from there, I dare not reveal, as I feel like the Pagan Gods would set me blaze this very minute revealing anything else, as part of the satisfying and gratifying weirdness is the journey itself. Let’s just say that things get very complicated and more weird than you could possibly imagine. And more gory. If you are not a fan of gory movies, or you are a deeply depressed and unsettling individual, for the love of God DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. It might kick you over the edge. Imagine if Paul Thomas Anderson made a horror movie (while on acid), and you’d get pretty close to the final product of this. Just like Hereditary, the film is a nightmare minute after minute, with all the characters being put into weird Pagan traditions and not being able to do anything but follow along. If you want any last minute clues from me before you decide to take this journey, and not get into spoiler territory, I will just say this: if Midsommar weren’t the title, I have the feeling an alternate could’ve been PAGAN HOSTEL.

The cinematography is spectacular, like I’ve mentioned above. Because of the solstice, it doesn’t get dark much right when they get there, looking like the middle of a normal day when it is really 9 pm at night. The main characters take drugs at certain points in the film, and their good/bad trips light up the screen as if we are on that trip right along with them. The weird cult that they run into do some really weird traditional shit, and it’s lit very well, everything all bright and cheery, but combined with the excellent musical score it is really telling audiences that something truly unsettling lies beneath the surface. The only maybe downside to the movie is that while Hereditary was completely unpredictable (especially what happens right before the second act of that film), this film kind of is predictable a bit. After the beginning credits were done, I guessed what was ultimately going to happen, and I was right on the money. Now the film still gave me plenty of visual surprises and some of the arcs and characters went into different subplots I didn’t see coming, but I guessed the ultimate outcome, which if any other outcome was written, I don’t think it would’ve been as satisfying, so the predictability is completely forgiven.

And the acting definitely takes this film to another level. You get the comic relief in Will Poulter, for some reason you get the actual Chidi from The Good Place looking like he’s visiting the actual Good Place, Jack Reynor as the distant but commanding presence boyfriend, and the fantastic Florence Pugh as Dani. She’s been having quite a year, with this and her praised performance in Fighting With My Family. In here, she basically has to portray different instances of grief the entire 2 hour and 30 minute run time. I believed every second of it. Like Toni Collette in Hereditary, if the Academy actually recognized horror films, she would get an Academy Award nomination at the end of the year. But alas, I don’t think the Academy would touch this film with a ten thousand foot long pole. The long run time will drag for many butts in their seats, but it flew by for me because I was so caught up in what was going on.

If you are a individual that hated Hereditary, or just didn’t get it, and like more modern horror films but not the cheap shit, you might want to just stick to Jordan Peele type things and stay far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far away from this. But if you are looking to experiment and want something different than your cheap jump scare “unsettling” cliched bullshit horror, I can’t recommend this film enough. This is a break up horror in the daylight comedy. There are no cheap jump scares at all if that is what you are looking for. If Jordan Peele is calculus, then Ari Aster is Advanced Calculus taken in a abandoned warehouse’s basement. I mean seriously, I’m worried about the guy, does he dream of this shit up every night in his sleep? I do applaud him for doing something different and just hope he has all of these emotions in check and is just really, really good at giving audiences something different to be scared of on the big screen. Right now I really like the film (the other two people I saw this with didn’t care for it all that much). Someday I might think it is a masterpiece, if I can only have the courage to actually watch it again.