Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LOVE AND MONSTERS

LOVE AND MONSTERS was just the fun, smarter than it looks, adventurous action flick that I needed this shitty year. It has wonderful creature design and special effects, a new and unique reason why the world turned into an apocalyptic landscape that felt refreshing the entire one hour and 50 minute runtime, sympathetic and likable characters, a fantastic performance by NOT Logan Lerman, but Maze Runner’s Dylan O’ Brien…just the works. It has the works, I don’t know what else to say about it other than this one complaint. And it’s the stupidest complaint in the world. Why in the fuck…are you available to buy the film from Amazon, Google, or Apple for $24.99 or you can rent it for $19.99, and you can only rent it on VUDU and FandangoNow for $19.99 and not buy? Why? Why the exclusivity bullshit in being able to purchase the film? Streaming services, DO NOT START THIS! Either you all offer just rent or you all offer rent and buy, this picking and choosing what services get what is the stupidest fucking thing to do to your customers in the middle of a fucking pandemic. Makes me sick to my stomach. I wanted to blind buy this film but I wanted it on the streaming app that I have the most movies on, which is VUDU. So you know what? Fuck you, I got a friend to pirate it so I could watch it for free. Granted, I loved this movie so much that I’m going to buy it in a couple of months when you guys finally get the nerve to get the regular purchasing rights, but what I had to do this weekend could’ve been avoided. Not offering both the option to rent or buy is going to really effect your sales numbers in the long run. Might want to think about that. Anyway, that is my only complaint about this movie and it isn’t of the content in the movie itself. That’s saying something.

IMDB describes Love and Monsters with the following: “In a monster-infested world, Joel (Dylan O’Brien) learns his girlfriend is just 80 miles away. To make the dangerous journey, Joel discovers his inner hero to be with the girl of his dreams.” The most lovely thing about this movie is that it takes place in a post apocalyptic world that is nice to look at. Since Joel reveals what happened to the world at the very beginning of the movie, I guess I can reveal it without it being too much of a spoiler, that way I can describe the way I liked this world in better detail. What happened was a giant meteor was about to hit and destroy Earth and everyone got together and shot a bunch of nukes at it and successfully blew it up. But all the radiation and chemicals from those nukes rained back down on Earth and mutated bugs, amphibians, plants, some sea creatures, you get the drift. So the world is overgrown with lush flora and fauna with bright colors and and pleasing topography. One of the better looking post apocalyptic movies that I can remember as of recently. The creatures are cool looking and menacing. To put it into perspective, Love amd Monsters is a more realistic Zombieland, but with no zombies and more natural, non-juvenile humor. It has some perfect, for the long haul, set ups, that have perfect payoffs, my favorite being this long running “did you get kicked out of your colony for stealing food?” gag that wasn’t overused with has a delicious climax payoff. While the movie does have some of the nervous wimp turned smart hero end of the world cliches (O’Brien plays a more likable version of Jesse Eisenberg’s character from Zombieland here), it is made up with some unpredictable character beats and fates, such as the dog that ends up tagging along with him, and two character’s that O’Brien runs into, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Michael Rooker, and a little girl played pitch perfect sarcastic by Ariana Greenblatt…who coincidentally played Young Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War.

It’s amazing that screenplay writer Brian Duffield is two for two for me in just a couple of weeks in 2020, as he also wrote one of my favorite films this year called Spontaneous that I reviewed about a week ago. He has a way with story details and dialogue which boggles my mind how they are so good, he needs to be given a lot more stuff to do. I think that with this, Spontaneous, and the first Babysitter movie on Netflix, he has more than proven his worth. I am not familiar with the director, Michael Matthews, as he’s only directed one other indie feature of which I haven’t seen, but his direction is good here, able to film the action beats without resorting to mindless shaky cam. I always appreciate no shaky cam. Dylan O’Brien is a hell of an actor, and while everybody does a good job here including Rooker and Jessica Henwick who plays the girlfriend that he’s traveling over 80 miles in a dangerous landscape for, this whole movie is the O’Brien show. He does not have one ounce of his character from Maze Runner here, and when he goes through the motions of his wimp turned into a determined but unlikely hero character arc, he doesn’t ever get too macho for his own good where it feels out place. Near the end of the film, not to ruin anything, but he is still plays it as a bit of a wimp, but one that just received a week’s worth of built up courage and confidence. You’ll see what I mean if you study his performance from the get go. If you are reading my review, you should watch this movie whenever you can. But don’t give into Paramount Pictures studio greed and only rent the damn thing for 48 hours for $19.99. It is definitely worth a $24.99 buy or a much cheaper rental in a couple of months, but only on the streaming platform you prefer. Don’t give into this exclusivity shit. I love this film and will eventually buy it when it comes to VUDU, but the studios doing this pick and choose platform option is a monstrosity within itself.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SPUTNIK

SPUTNIK is one of the best films of 2020 so far, and statistics say that about 95% of Americans won’t give it a try at all. Why? Because it is a Russian made film with subtitles. But I implore you, just like 2019’s Oscar Best Picture Winner Parasite, look past the subtitles and different language and just try to enjoy yourselves. Like with most subtitle films, I forget I am even reading them only 10 to 15 minutes into the movie, especially if the movie is fantastically entertaining. If you actually do give this a chance, you might be scratching your head at the beginning and would want to say to me, “Zach, have you gone nuts, this is basically an Alien like clone and/or a spiritual sequel to it or Life.” Keep watching, it isn’t and it becomes its own thing. It also has several backstories to characters that have tremendous emotional payoffs in the last 5-10 minutes of the movie. This is one of those sci-fi films that actually cares about its characters and aren’t just fodder for some kind of extra terrestrial entity to kill and up the movies’ body count. Combined with an incredible score, probably the best I’ve heard all year so far as well, a solid story, several well execute and earned scares, great gory CGI, and a fantastic central performance from lead actress Oksana Akinshina, Sputnik is a must see. If you don’t want to because of actually having to read, I hope your subtitle guilt eats you up inside (pun intended, you’ll see) as you are really missing out.

Per IMDB, Sputnik is described as follows: “The lone survivor of an enigmatic spaceship incident hasn’t returned back home alone-hiding inside his body is a dangerous creature.” After watching the movie, I was wondering why the movie was titled that as Sputnik it was the name of the first artificial satellite put in orbit around the earth. However, doing some more research I found out that it is also the Russian word for ‘companion’ or ‘fellow traveler’, alluding to the companion the commander brings along. Brilliant. And no, the alien doesn’t just burst out of the guys chest like alien, it is a bit more complicated than that. I want to explain the brilliance of why it inhabits this astronauts body, but that would ruin some of the fun, suffice to say, the film quickly becomes it’s own thing and your fears should be quickly eradicated that it is a direct rip off of Alien. This is going to be a pretty short review because I don’t know any of the writers, directors, or main players, but suffice to say the film is written very well, shot very well, the CGI is used sparingly and looks realistic, and actress Oksana Akinshina gives a fantastic performance, and thankfully wasn’t just a Ellen Ripley rip off, she’s her own strong female force. I appreciate the little things. I also appreciated that while the motivations of the ‘villains’ could be looked at as ‘cookie cutter’ in some places, in other places they weren’t and were actually kind of unique. You’ll see if you watch and actually pay attention. While the recently watched Archive was smart sci-fi up until the last 5 minutes of the movie, Sputnik is smart sci-fi for the entire hour and 53 minutes, never a dull moment, no tricks or facades, it knows its audience can think for once. Please comrades, I’d like some more.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ARCHIVE

Nothing can ruin a solid, solid movie other than its last act. Plenty of movies have been absolutely destroyed by them, whether it be Repo Men, Knowing, The Village, to name a few. I’m sure if you thought hard enough you’d come up with a list of 10 to 20 in the next couple of minutes. I being a huge movie buff, these kinds of films manage to break my heart all the time. Some more than others. In the case of the new direct to video title ARCHIVE, starring Divergent’s Theo James and Nymphomaniac’s Stacy Martin, it’s only the movie’s very, very last minute reveal (last 3-4 minutes of 1 hr 49 minute run time) that made me groan a little bit. I don’t want to give anything away, but it has an ending similar to one of the three movies I’ve mentioned above. It did a better job of hiding this so called “twist” (even though I knew it was coming and was praying only 10 minutes into it for me to be wrong), but I could still think of a handful of other ways it could’ve ended and been much more satisfactory in a storytelling stand point. The rest of the film is so so good though, and I have a feeling that upon a re-watch this twist might make you see everything in a different kind of light, that I’m ultimately going to give it a decent recommendation. It is a sci-fi drama sort of thriller in the vein of those you might’ve seen before like Moon or I Am Mother, but with much more meaningful undertones. The movie runs along as such a brisk pace even though it intentionally only slowly gives you bits and pieces of information throughout to put together what is going on and doesn’t just spoon feed it to you all at once. It’s very well made, shot, acted, etc. But I don’t think I can ever forgive the last 3-4 minute ending, it’s unfortunately permanently archived in my brain.

Per IMDB, it describes Archive as such: “2038: George Almore (Theo James) is working on a true human-equivalent AI. His latest prototype is almost ready. This sensitive phase is also the riskiest. Especially as he has a goal that must be hidden at all costs: being reunited with his dead wife (Stacy Martin).” For this being a low budget movie, the special effects are top notch. They kept it simple, which is always the healthiest way to go if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a film project. The robots (humans inside of them obviously) look and act realistic, the inside and outside of the lab where George is working on his AI is the perfect display of futuristic dystopian imagery. The make up on the more human looking of these artificial intelligent beings are extremely well done. Theo James easily gives a career best performance (not too hard considering the other bullshit that is on his resume, but still appreciated), Stacy Martin is great, and the direction is crisp, fluid, and engaging. The themes, motifs, and messages are dramatically poignant, especially in this time of our real life isolation because of COVID-19. Everything in this film is near perfect. If it just wasn’t for that damned ending. Fuck, I really want to spoil it so I can vent my frustrations better. But I know that I can figure out a way to relay my true feelings without ruining things if you have any interest whatsoever in discovering what I’m bitching about. The film’s ending unfortunately breaks the Screenplay/Storytelling 101 of what not to do with an ending, because better movies have already done it with much better results.

It is too similar to the ending of a 2 word movie whose last word rhymes with Madder. If you’ve seen the movie I’m alluding to, you know what I’m talking about. That film did it so much better, really the blueprint of what this movie tries to do but kind of fails at the last minute because of how invested we are in everything that came before. But I’m ultimately giving this a solid recommendation, because the 1 hr and 44 minutes before the ending were just too damn good to ignore. It made me think a lot of the movie Moon, by Duncan Jones, and when doing a little more research on Archive, low and behold, its similarity isn’t that surprising. Archive’s director, Gavin Rothery, was part of the art department for Moon. He doesn’t blatantly rip it off, it’s more of an homage, so I’m not going to bitch about how similar they are. Rothery does make it is own and since he has never written or directed anything at all before, I’m absolutely shocked with how much he learned in that department to become as skilled as he is here. Maybe if he can direct a film with a better ending, he could wind up being a masterful sci-fi director like Ridley Scott or Denis Villenueve. He just needs to hone in on his screenplay writing skills, but hey, this is a start and shows lots of potential. This movie is better than 9/10ths of the straight to video shit we are getting because of the pandemic (that 1/10th being Palm Springs), and that ain’t bad. It’s just every time I think about the ending I cringe, just a little bit. It makes me curious if this had any alternate endings, as I would’ve loved to see how other conclusions had worked with the rest of the solid 9/10ths of this film. If there were none, some should’ve been conceived and archived.