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.

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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.