Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: GUNS AKIMBO (no spoilers)

I think that there really needs to be a discussion soon, one that extends globally and also lengthy in nature, when it is appropriate to separate the “art” from the “artist” especially in those cases where there are other “artists” that are involved in the same project, that literally had nothing to do with the other “artists'” crimes, awful tweets, awful behavior, what have you. I mean, am I going to stop watching SE7EN, one of my all time favorite films, just because Kevin Spacey is in it? No, because even though he did some pretty awful stuff, his performance in the film is still fantastic, one of the greatest twists of all time layered in his scenes, and Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman and David Fincher did absolutely nothing wrong. I think it is safe to say I definitely can separate the “art” from the “artist” in that way. Then you’ll ask me if you can separate Michael Jackson and what he allegedly did, from his music. When his music comes on the radio, I do jam out to it, I’m not going to lie, but I’m also not going to lie and say that I wish that he didn’t allegedly do those things that he’s been accused of every time one of his masterful songs comes on the air. It also isn’t just his music if you look at it a different way. There are mixers, producers, songwriters, etc. etc. etc. that had absolutely NOTHING to do with the awful shit that Jackson allegedly did that don’t want their work on it wiped out from existence. Now while I’m not a sports fan, over the past several weeks after Kobe’s death, I’ve been able to understand how a lot of Sports fans have been able to separate what he “allegedly” did with his performance on the basketball court, helping lend a hand to his team that won several championships. What I’m trying to say is that there is always someone else involved in this “art” that doesn’t deserve to have you wipe it away from existence just because one guy or gal seriously fucked up (murder is another issue entirely). I mean, are you going to ban ALL Miramax films because Harvey Weinstein was a producer on all of them? Fuck no you are not.

So that lengthy paragraph leads us to GUNS AKIMBO, whose writer and director named Jason Lei Howden has got into hot water lately for some racist tweets and also accusing innocent people of crimes, I don’t know, I kind of glossed over the info because all the articles on him and what he did recently are long and I can’t devote my time to reading article after article on why I should be disgusted with this guy and not see his movie. From what I read, yeah, he tweeted awful shit and accused innocent people of awful shit. But I still wanted to see this film, not only because the premise was kind of cool, but because of the two main actors involved, Harry Potter himself Daniel Radcliffe, and awesome bad ass in every role she gets Samara Weaving, whose been on a roll with great roles such as her star stealing turns in The Babysitter and Ready Or Not. I’m not going to boycott a film just because the director is an asshole. Now if everyone involved in the film was an asshole, yes, not seeing it was probably a huge probability. Now going out of your way to try and persuade people boycott the film is an entirely different story, one that I’m not going to get into here. My point is this: I was able to go into this film and separate the “main artist” from the “art” and in doing so I had a fun time with two great performances by Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving. And to be fair, even though I had a fun time with this film, I think Jason Lei Howden is a very mediocre director. The first 15 minutes of this film are almost unbearable editing and loud noise wise. Also, way too much CGI blood splatter throughout the entire thing. Imagine Michael Bay with a second dose of acid added on to the first. Granted after the first 15 minutes the camera slows way the fuck down to be enjoyable, and there are some good and clear shots, but Howden has a long way to go (don’t know how much longer after the crap he’s pulled) if he wants to be even considered a half way decent director. Luckily it is Radcliffe and Weaving that make the movie and them alone.

The premise is that the movie takes place a little info the future and there is this underground, videogame like, real murder club called Schizm that pits two opponents against each other while the world watches via live stream and whoever murders the other first, wins. Daniel Radcliffe stars as Miles, an unsuccessful programmer for this awfully dumb game app that spends his night trolling the trolls on the internet. One wrong comment though gets him a visit from this bald tattooed asshole, who knocks Radcliffe out, bolts a gun in each of his hands, and pits him against Schizm’s ultimate bad ass, Nix, played by the fantastic Samara Weaving. He has a limited amount of time to figure out how to kill Nix before she kills him, because with the world watching and almost every movement from him tracked, there is no hiding. That’s the best description I can come up with. There are some twists and plot developments along the way, and there are more stakes for Miles to survive for that I don’t want to spoil here, but you get the gist. And I bet you can guess the outcome to everything, it is very, very predictable. If the writing and directing duties were given to a more capable director, this thing could’ve been fantastic, but with all the manic editing and sometimes just being too loud, the mediocre film is only elevated, again, by the performances of Radcliffe and Weaving.

Daniel Radcliffe needs better and larger roles where he can use his American accent. He is a much better actor when he has to don an American accent, and the reason being because if any English comes out of his mouth, I just unfortunately can’t get his Harry Potter typecast image out of my head. Thankfully, he is American in this, and his whole Harry Potter persona is completely washed away. And even though the film is fun yet only okay, it is easily his best performance, outside of Harry Potter, to date. Samara Weaving, playing a cocaine fulled kick ass female that blows away the competition, is another fantastic performance to add to her resume. She is definitely a character actor, and is chameleon like with any role she takes on. I laughed along with her character constantly here. In fact, the dialogue in this movie is very basic and sometimes a little too over the top, but Radcliffe and Weaving actually make it all work and somewhat elevate everything from page to screen. Everything else about the script and some aspects on screen are lacking, including but not limited to: the editing, the CGI bullet wounds and blood shots, the balance of tone, some good shots, but then some quick manic ones where editing was used to cover up the lack of coverage. The aspects of mediocrity of the film, fortunately this time, can be blamed on writer/director Jason Lei Howden. If this film was masterful in regards to the aspects just listed, my little way of boycotting him because of his actions would be to not give him fine praise. Thankfully, all the faults showing through the film are his and his alone. Karma.

Anyway, I used my wife’s free birthday ticket at Alamo Drafthouse to see this, but you can now rent this movie on any on demand service and watch it in the comfort of your own home. Based on the performances alone, I recommend giving it a looksie. If you read up about the writer and director, maybe you can find it within yourself to separate the “art” from the “artist,” but I do understand if you can’t. Realize though, that there are more things that make up a film than just being the writer and director on it. I simply cannot punish those who had nothing to do with whatever the asshole is being accused of. It is just not right. Like I said, there needs to be a conversation about this, rules to be established as well how we can separate all of it. Maybe the film should’ve been delayed and they did a couple of re shoots to stick someone else’s name on it? Maybe not give the writer/director credit at all and just put the Alan Smithee title up there instead as a way of separation? Who knows, but we need to figure out something soon or it’s just eventually going to get to boycott this and boycott that for really small and stupid things (not saying this thing was small and stupid, just saying that it might get to that point). Anyway, I’m not going to put what the writer/director did for those that are curious, you can easily Google the son of a bitch to figure out what he did. I’m not doing your homework buddy.

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.