Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: GREENLAND

GREENLAND, a movie that was supposed to release in theaters just several weeks after Tenet in the United States back in September, ended up being pulled because of Tenet’s poor box office performance in this country. Instead, it going to be available to rent for $19.99 Premium Video On Demand on December 18th, with it hitting HBO Max for free several months later at the beginning of Spring 2021. I’m here to tell you that if you are really interested in this movie, and have HBO Max, to just wait it out. Don’t spend $19.99 on this for 48 hrs, don’t buy it, either wait for HBO Max or get one of your tech friends to download it so you can somehow watch it for free. Disaster and survival movies haven’t been the same since the 90s. Films like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and this either try to be too serious or end up being too cheesy, and never sustain the balance of both tones that movies like the first Independence Day, Deep Impact, Titanic, Dante’s Peak, Daylight, Volcano, Hard Rain, Twister or Armageddon did back in the day. Greenland is the former. It is way too depressingly serious, and is basically a 2 hour survival movie with it’s main message that says, in the end, no matter who is running the government, they are all probably a bunch of uncaring, devious, and unsympathetic assholes. I don’t want to ruin any of the decisions/actions that our government makes when they realize a giant ass comet that was thought to just closely pass us by instead decides to drop in for a more permanent visit, but needless to say, in the state of the world we are in, I thought, “yep, seems about right.” Disaster movies are supposed to be fun little escapes for a couple of hours time, not depressing tales that hit too close to home that still manage to use too many eye rolling cliches that have already been done before. Of course Gerard Butler’s kid in the movie has diabetes!

IMDB describes this movie quite simply, it’s a simple disaster movie: “A family struggles for survival in the face of a cataclysmic natural disaster.” Nothing more, nothing less, other than showing us how shitty people can be when the chips are down. The acting’s not the problem. Gerard Butler plays the strong everyday family man well like he has in a bunch of other movies. Morena Beccarin has unfortunately been typecast as the damsel and/or mom in distress, and she’s solid as she’s been playing the same role all these years. The problem isn’t even the special effects. The extinction level event depicted in the film is realistic and when the spaced out comet hitting ground action does occur, it’s draw dropping and realistic (even though that the way it keeps happening to just this family you’ll have to really suspend your belief). Which brings us to my problem with the film. It is too deadly serious. That would be okay if it was ORIGINAL, while being too deadly serious. But disaster movie cliches piled on even more disaster movie cliches took me out of the film every five minutes. Whether it was using Butler’s son’s diabetes and insulin numerous eye rolling times just to move the plot forward to genuine nice good samaritans that suddenly become as evil as Hitler to that one old family member that is content with dying in a few short hours to other civilians doing stupid shit to stop the main characters from getting to certain destinations, nothing original happens. Except for the ways our government would end up handling a crisis like this. That’s not to say that this is a bad movie. It’s watchable and entertaining at points, and the destruction of some parts of the world were a bewildering sight to see. It just added nothing new, and the cliched stuff that was there kept taking me out of the movie. It’s just okay, and if that just okay with you, then Greenland is your comet ride away from our Earth for two hours.

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: RUN (Hulu)

RUN is yet another film that was supposed to debut in theaters earlier this year but got postponed because of you know what, Hulu ended up buying the rights back in August, and now here we are. It was originally supposed to come out Mother’s Day weekend in May, which if it would have made that release date, without revealing anything it would’ve been quite fitting and ironic. Let me start off by saying that Run is a good movie. It is tension filled with some incredible white knuckle suspense sequences and masterful acting from both veteran Sarah Paulson and newcomer Kiera Allen. What prevents it from becoming a great film is the fact that the twists and reveals were way too predictable. I know that I’m a good guesser, but if my wife comes into the living room near the beginning of a movie, watches only two minutes, and ends up going, “well this is obviously that and also that is obviously this,” then YOUR MOVIE IS WAY TOO PREDICTABLE. My wife doesn’t really like horror films or thrillers of this nature and if she can come in and guess the reveals to something she can’t stand and doesn’t have a whole lot of knowledge of (even putting into consideration she has learned from the best for 11 years now), that doesn’t bode too well. And she wasn’t even present when the movie got to the reveals an hour later to get the credit she so well deserved (this review is about to be published sweetie, to give you credit where it is due). But, the movie is still too good with every other aspect in its film making to not give it a recommendation. This is one of Hulu’s better originals to be sure.

IMDB describes Run with the following: “A homeschooled teenager begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her.” To give you a bit more background on the movie, without you having to watch a trailer (trust me, don’t watch the trailer), the teenager can’t walk or run, she’s in a wheelchair, and has a bunch of other medical problems, basically preventing her from being on her own outside the house, if at all. Surely you are putting two and two together? If not, watch the very first scene in the movie, which is about 2 to 3 minutes long (the movie is a tight and short hour and 30), and the full puzzle should be glued and/or cemented together for you. It isn’t hard. I was hoping that I was wrong and that the movie was trying to successfully pull a double red herring on me, alas, it wasn’t. What you end up thinking is going on, you’re probably right. Let’s not go too deep into this criticism of predictability anymore, let’s talk about the good stuff. Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen could teach a master class of acting with this one movie alone. Both are incredible, Paulson proving that she deserves to be put on that pedestal so many of her fans put her on, and Kiera Allen proving that she deserves to be put in more projects. This is set in stone especially after the reveals if you weren’t already convinced. Other than their acting, the real reason to watch this movie is some of the incredible, white-knuckle, emotional, tension-filled “action” scenes. To not spoil anything, I won’t give you much context, let’s just say there is a scene where a character scales a roof that is perfect in its execution, and the climax in general was also perfect in its execution along with the character arc conclusion. That’s all I’ll say. The co-writer/director Aneesh Chaganty, who directed the laptop thriller Searching, proves with Run that he has the skills to direct more Hitchcockian thriller things like this and someday even become a household name. While Run on the whole isn’t a blast off, story wise, start in a race against other thrillers with less predictability, it’s a huge head start in terms of effectively executing tension and thrills.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: COME PLAY

COME PLAY really works because it isn’t just a cheap jump scare horror movie. It is one of the rare ones that has a deeper emotional core at its center than others in the genre and the jump scares aren’t cheap at all, they are well shot, well choreographed, and well earned. This movie is also rated PG-13 surprisingly…I can’t remember one in quite awhile that worked, especially this shitty year. And this film is surprisingly really entertaining from start to finish. Interested? Wondering how you can watch it? Well, you are going to have to not be a pussy and go to a theater right now unless you wait several months for it to hit video. And this movie does deserve to be watched on the biggest screen possible. Doing so makes the scares that much more effective and the movie is so well shot that you are probably going to have a hard time appreciating it on a device that you can hide in your bra and/or shove up your ass. The emotional core and really good message in this film’s heart I really want to talk about, but in doing so ruins much of the film, so instead I’ll just mention that I appreciated what ideas Come Play tried and successfully, to me anyway, brought up, and leave it at that. What’s even more bewildering is that it did it all in just an hour and thirty six minutes. Usually films tend to be a bit longer when it is more than just trying to scare tweens the dumbest and stupidest way possible. IMDB describes Come Play with the following, “A long-limbed monster named Larry targets Oliver, a┬ánon-verbal autistic young boy along with his family, friends, and classmates by manifesting through their smart phones, computers, television screens and other electronic devices.” Well…based on that description the jig is probably up on the message I was trying to leave vague huh?

Horror/Scary films are made or broken by their scares. Plain and simple. If a horror movie doesn’t scare you, bother you a little, or doesn’t make you feel dread a bit when thinking about it afterward, it isn’t doing its job. I’m kind of numb to horror movies after so many years of watching so many of them, so for me, these films need to have that little extra something if they don’t manage to scare me at all. Which is why I was surprised when Come Play caught me off guard by not only making me jump in my seat, but tear up with its deeper meanings near the end of the film. The acting in this also works, especially when it relies mostly on young child actors reacting to things that definitely aren’t there in the real world. Azhy Robertson as the protagonist autistic Oliver is fantastic here and so is Winslow Fegley as Bryon, his old friend/new bully whose complicated friendship is part of the films special core I’ve been talking about. The two main adults in the film, Community’s Gillian Jacobs and 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher Jr. also do a pretty good job, especially the former, who shed her Britta Perry vibes from the moment she comes on screen. I do wish they would’ve given her more screen time and maybe fleshed out Gallagher’s character more, they play Oliver’s mother and father going through a divorce. Their emotional arcs were still earned but just barely. This is writer/director Jacob Chase’s first foray into a theatrical spooky feature. I hope his career gains traction and he keeps getting better like Ari Aster, James Wan or Jordan Peele. He could end up being a master in the genre. If it wasn’t for this stupid fucking year and stupid fucking virus. Anyway, need something spooky to watch today on Halloween or possibly as soon as you have time and you are willing to come to a movie theater right now (especially when going to the gym and/or grocery store is a hundred times worse), then you’ll definitely want to come and play with Come Play.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ALONE

ALONE is probably as generic as a generic horror/thriller film can get. It has a halfway decent white knuckle first thirty minutes, and then a decent last five minutes, but then the other hour in between is filled with characters making stupid decisions (we’ll get to the biggest blunder I’ve seen yet in 2020 in a bit), cliched run ins with other potential help, and a bunch of other plot conveniences you’ve seen in every horror/thriller film where a woman is kidnapped by a sadistic psychopath male. When do we get a movie that’s the other way around for once? IMDB describes Alone with the following: “A recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her.” Those elements the log line describes are a little bit of rain, a knocked down tree, a raging river of which the conclusion to is anti-climatic, and a stick in the foot. Not much of a battle if you ask me, especially when the traveler is constantly making dumb choices about what to do next after she escapes hand and foot. But don’t worry, the bad guy constantly makes worse decisions allowing for even more convenient plot contrivances. I’m writing this review to say that I need to stop the “I’m calling these the dumbest characters written in 2020” angle I have been doing recently in my reviews, because every subsequent, only okay to abysmal, film I watch keeps taking the trophy away from the other. Honest Thief this weekend took the trophy away from Amazon Prime’s The Lie, and now Alone ironically just stole it away from Honest Thief with the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen a kidnapper do in any movie about kidnapping ever. Don’t worry, I will spoil that moment because it would be a stupid decision on my part not to.

In fact, why don’t I just do it right now? So the killer kidnaps the woman and takes her to a cliched cabin in the middle of the woods (I can hear your cliched laughing) and has her locked in a room. He torments her once, giving us the only interesting character trait about this woman, in that she’s not only widowed but her husband killed himself for some unknown reason. When he closes the door and locks it…HE LEAVES THE FUCKING KEY IN THE KEYHOLE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR! She manages to get a nail out of a piece of wall in her room, takes an article of her clothing and shoves it halfway out the other side, pokes the key through the keyhole with the nail, the key falls onto her clothing and then she slides her piece of clothing back under with the key on top, and fucking escapes. Yes…did that sound just as dumb to you as it did to me while experiencing it with my own two eyes? I didn’t even fucking laugh even though it would’ve made me chuckle if played out the same way in a horror spoof movie. Alone asks you to take it seriously from the get go, but then it constantly slaps you in the face, making you feel dumb for doing so. She then proceeds to run into a dumb hunter willing to help her in the middle of the woods (you can probably guess how that plays out), phones are conveniently smashed and/or no/weak signal, and characters won’t shut their fucking mouths and keep giving away their locations. It’s absurd. I don’t know the writer or director, but needless to say, the screenplay needed some work, and the director should’ve waited to shoot the film until said work was done. The camera work is good, but its negated by the generic and stupid screenplay. The only good thing about this film is the beginning before she gets kidnapped, the final confrontation between kidnapper and victim and the acting all around from actor’s and actresses of who you would maybe recognize but not really care who they are after you got a look at them. If any of you watch this movie, I hope I am not alone in thinking how utterly stupid, boring and generic it was.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE LIE (Amazon Prime)

THE LIE’s twist ending, which I predicted a mile away, might make or break your opinion of the whole film, and that ending will unfortunately overshadow how many stupid actions the characters make during the course of it. There are many idiotic mistakes and decisions that A. don’t make any logical sense and B. cause too many plot holes. For me, even though I predicted the ending, it was still frustrating because some of the scenes earlier in the film contradicted the reveal when revealed. The movie was written and directed by Veena Sud, who I just gave great praise to in Quibi’s The Stranger and I loved her television show The Killing, and while the way the film is shot, the desperate tone, the dark mood, atmosphere, and acting are all top notch, the screenplay for me was a giant problem here. You will constantly be screaming at the screen the correct decisions the characters needed to make and then wondering if anyone is legitimately that idiotic in real life (spoiler alert: there is, anybody deeply involved in politics). There are no politics in this however, only moral dilemmas, but the characters are so horribly underwritten that their moral decisions are unfocused, blurry, confusing, and make no sense in contrast to scenes that have just played out for the audience. This was filmed in 2018 and has been sitting on Blumhouse’s shelf for a couple of years, nobody really knowing what to do with it. Nothing like a pandemic delaying the blockbusters to just dump stuff like this on streaming services to give lazy pussies something to watch, am I right???

IMDB describes THE LIE, originally titled ‘Between Earth and Sky’ (WTAF?!?), with the following: “A father and daughter are on their way to dance camp when they spot the girl’s best friend on the side of the road. When they stop to offer the friend a ride, their good intentions soon result in terrible consequences.” Since the inciting incident happens no longer than ten minutes in, I’m just going to tell you what happens so you can gain some context into my review and the stupid decisions and things that happen afterward. The daughter and friend get the father to stop the car to go off to pee in the middle of a snowy forest and bridge that happens to be on the side of the road of the route they are taking, and the daughter, after a minor argument in the car moments earlier, pushes said friend into the chilly river and lake below. The rest of the movie is the father (played by Peter Sarsgaard) and the mother (Mireille Enos) trying to cover up what happened so that way their daughter (played by Joey King) won’t go to jail for murder and ruin her future. The stupid decisions literally start right after you hear a scream from the forest and the father comes upon his daughter on the bridge alone (he was respecting their privacy and waiting by the car for them to do their business, so he doesn’t see what happened). From there you get dumb decisions and actions such as:

1. When one character runs away from another in their neighborhood and seemingly gets away, the character that ran off immediately afterward starts walking slowly down the middle of the road in their neighborhood.

2. A character doesn’t answer the front door from a other angry character and thinks he/she can’t be seen in the house even though the windows behind he/she are all open for the world to see. Any sane person, if wanting to see if anyone is home combined with being really angry, can and WILL just go around to the back of the house to see if anyone is hiding.

3. The parents constantly tell their daughter to stay put, not to show herself, don’t come outside, etc etc other smart things that the daughter constantly disobeys not two seconds later.

4. Possible evidence at the crime scene is not only left and not looked for stupidly but the evidence that hasn’t been disturbed and needs to stay there is moronically taken back home by one of the characters.

5. The parents don’t interrogate the daughter correctly and ask the right questions, and the police are really really really dumb and their investigation is borderline malpractice here.

There are many more than just those five listed, and I don’t want to go into spoiler territory, but you should catch my drift. There are a few good things about this film, as I have mentioned earlier. It’s filmed really well. The mood, atmosphere, and tone is dark and dreary. The situation that would present a huge sense of dread among those involved in the real world is perfectly replicated here I think. All three key players, Sarsgaard, Enos, and King are all top notch here and their acting is great as always. The movie is certainly watchable, because even though I had a problem with it I can’t deny I was entertained for 95 minutes and wanted to see everything play out. And in a film that could’ve been written and handled much better than this was, the twist probably would’ve worked for me (I bet you can guess what the twist is already, I’ve provided enough clues as to what it is). But alas, it didn’t because of the contradictions to what came before combined with some pretty big plot holes. What it all really bogs down to is whether or not I give this a recommendation. While I was entertained, I really just can’t give it one, because when I try and think back fondly on it, the stupid character decisions and the loose screenplay keeps sinking into my brain to the point where I can no longer lie to myself. The truth is that it’s a frustrating miss and mess, plain and simple.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (Shudder)

Probably the last thing I’ll ever watch on the Shudder streaming service (yet you know me, don’t quote me on that), RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE had at least somewhat of an interesting well rounded idea, some awesome gory, disturbing special effects, and a solid ending. Too bad most of the execution leading to said ending was botched to shit by co-writer/director/co-star Jay Baruchel. I don’t get why this project wasn’t handed to someone with better experience. It’s a short (1 hr and 21 minutes) and watchable film, but I don’t have any desire to ever watch it again because the execution of everything wasn’t very memorable. IMDB describes the film with the following: “A pair of comic book writers begin to notice scary similarities between the character they created and horrific real-life events.” The entire film’s message is about the glorification of violence and criticizes how the depiction of it and the glamorization of serial killers in media can often negatively impact an audience when in reality they are just twisted people driven by no logical motives. That message is very unfocused, blurry yet somehow ham-fisted until the film’s last ten minutes. The other hour and ten minutes is filled with underdeveloped and unlikable characters, and some cringe worthy dialogue. Whoever was responsible for all the blood, guts, and glorious practical effects in this movie deserves a raise and better projects to work on, as some of those images were some of the most realistically disturbing I have seen since last year’s Midsommar.

Recognizable faces Jessie Williams, Jordana Brewster, and Jay Baruchel star in this movie and while Jessie Williams does a decent job with his underdeveloped protagonist, unfortunately for Jordana Brewster, who has always been nice on the eyes and always seems like she wants to be in the movies she’s in, her dialogue makes her performance hammy and too unrealistic, and Jay Baruchel is completely wasted here, playing yet another just depiction of himself. I’m sorry, but other than having a great voice for the lead in the How To Train Your Dragon series, Baruchel is not a great actor, and after this, Goon, and Goon 2, he isn’t a very good writer or director either. I would only want to recommend this movie to you if practical effects and some realistic disturbing images and violence are your jam. One guy gets stabbed about thirty times during the movie and it actually showed each and every jab of the knife into his torso and I cringed every time before impact. I’ll even recommend it to you if you want a decent ending with a decent message of the glorification of violence, but other than that, you are better off watching something else on the streaming service, such as Host or Spiral (NOT Saw 9). This movie is based on a graphic novel, but I have a feeling if a complete rewrite of the script were to have happened, maybe a bit longer with more developed and likable characters, and a bigger yet subtle focus on the film’s messages, there could’ve been something great here. I have a feeling though that Baruchel was just out of his league with this one, throwing random shit on the wall just to see what would stick.

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 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.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: AVA

Huh, what? Looking up AVA online, you’ll notice that this movie has some big name stars in it, such as Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Geena Davis, Common, and Colin Farrell in it. So why haven’t you heard of it? Because as of right now, until September 25th, it is a Direct TV PVOD Exclusive rental for $12.00 (that I thankfully didn’t pay for either as well as Mulan). And then I think it hits limited theaters and other streaming platforms for rent at the date I listed above. Why such a narrow promotion? Why is it exclusive to just this platform right now? Because the movie SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Oh boy is it bad.

Ava is a film that screams pay check and producer’s credit, as there is no fucking way that any of these actors and actresses accepted the role based off of reading the script. It doesn’t seem like there was a script as the story, plot and characters are riddled with cliches and are so paper thin. Per IMDB, it describes Ava as such: “Ava is a deadly assassin who works for a black ops organization, traveling the globe specializing in high profile hits. When a job goes dangerously wrong she is forced to fight for her own survival.” You might be asking, does the job that goes dangerously wrong, go wrong on purpose? Spoiler alert: Does a bear shit in the woods? Colin Farrell’s character is a high ranking leader in the same assassin organization that Ava and John Malkovich work for, Malkovich being slightly higher on that ranking list and why Farrell arranges the job to go wrong on purpose and him wanting Ava dead is the stupidest fucking reason I have ever heard of: simply because she talks to her victims before they are killed. Even though she never gives away any pertinent information, she just talks them basically asking if they know why people are paying her to kill them. It’s so so so fucking dumb, especially when she is a fucking lethal machine and is fantastic at her job. And that’s all the movie is, a job going wrong, assassination revenge plot story we’ve seen a billion times before.

But wait, there’s more bullshit side b and c plots of Ava still having family members that are alive: her sister, who is dating Ava’s ex (**eye roll**), and then her mother, played by Geena Davis, in the hospital because of a heart attack and eventually revealing to Ava that she knows that a certain incident that happened in an earlier time in their lives wasn’t their fault (**facepalm**). Oh and Ava has to take care of an $80K gambling debt her ex has (**slams head on table**). And all of it is resolved the way you think it would tacked on with a dumb ending scene that hints at a sequel that will never see the light of day. Take all of that horseshit, and combine it with lazy and terrible direction, awful smoke and gunfire CGI in some scenes, and awful, awful fucking sound effects. You know how assassins know some different forms of martial arts? Well they do that here, but the effects department must’ve had no budget at all, as it is the same loud and overly obnoxious “whoosing” sound effect used on every leg sweep, two-handed throw, and arm jab. I laughed it happened so often. Jessica Chastain is the only one that acts like they want to be there, as her performance is the only thing that is watchable in this. And I suspect she is the only one acting accordingly because she has a producer’s credit to her name on this one. The action isn’t, the story certainly isn’t, and the editing and pacing are sluggish even with a short 96 minute run time.

Colin Ferrell you can tell had the filmmakers cater to his wishes, as most of his role is inside and outside a cabin by the lake, probably one of his real life vacation spots. “Alright, I’ll do this other interior scene and another outside scene as long as they are filmed near by, and I can shoot most of my stuff around my cabin.” That other interior scene was obviously a set on a studio, as if you look out the windows of the hotel he is fighting with Jessica Chastain in, the background outside the window looks like a fast and last minute digital photography job, hastily edited so the background looks jarringly fake as they are moving about the room at different angles. And to make matters more head scratching, this movie is directed by Tate Taylor, who directed the great films The Help and Get On Up, but then also directed only okay ones such as The Girl On The Train adaptation and Ma. Ava is easily his most lazy and worst film. Like the bar is so low he’d have to resort to doing student films if he wanted to make a film worse than this one. Hell, some student films I’ve seen are better than this. So, if you just want to see Jessica Chastain looking gorgeous, acting bad ass, and a couple of scenes she’s either in a red dress or white tank top that reveals some amazing cleavage, that’s the only way I’ll recommend Ava to you. For the rest of you, I highly recommend that you skip this at all possible costs. All. Possible. Costs.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME (Netflix)

“Some people are just born to be buried.”

That quote is one of the best lines of dialogue from a movie I’ve heard in long, long time. And thankfully, it is coming from one of 2020 very best films for me, #4 under Tenet, Palm Springs, and Onward. THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is a tour de force of a motion picture. It’s a very dark and depressing film with interconnected characters and stories that will remind you of other great ones that are similar (in a way) such as A Place Beyond The Pines, Sleepers, and Pulp Fiction. It’s a slow burn disturbing thriller that doesn’t really feel like a slow burn, even at 2 hours and 18 minutes long. The film is also filled with fantastic performances from an A list cast including: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Eliza Scanlan, Riley Keough, Haley Bennett, Bill Skarsgard, Mia Wasikowska, and Jason Clarke. The standouts from this list are easily Holland and Pattinson, with the latter maybe just possibly getting his first Oscar nomination for his creepy as fuck demented preacher role (Although Holland is great too, and him and Pattinson share the best scene in the film together). The only complaint I can think of with this movie is that one of the characters escapes death multiple times rather fluidly in a matter of minutes. But I was holding my breath in anticipation, dread, and tension with those minutes, so why am I really complaining? Could you say that The Devil All The Time might be my favorite Netflix original film of ALL time? Right now, abso-fucking-lutely. Everything about it is great: the camera work, the tone, the tension, the dialogue, the acting, the direction, the acting, the interconnected stories that keep you engaged, the acting, the tension, the interconnected stories, the tone, the dialogue, and the acting. I want to watch it again immediately to study it more. I literally can’t believe how good it was.

You know how sometimes films have narration from a famous actor or actress and that person is usually a character in said movie? Not here. This movie has the balls to cast the author himself (I forgot to mention this is based off a novel I haven’t read but now want to) to narrate parts of this film, just a bystander telling the audience of the inner thoughts of some of the characters during certain scenes, and it completely works. It was a wonderful breath of fresh air not to just hear Tom Holland or someone else from the cast narrate the entire thing. Oh shit…right…what’s it about you might be asking? Per IMDB: “Sinister characters converge around a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality.” That is literally the perfect summary without giving anything away. And when I say the film takes its beautiful time, it really does, as Tom Holland, who is billed first and the lead in this movie, doesn’t show up for possibly about 45-50 minutes in. It gives you ample detail of the history of his character and other characters around him that he may or may not cross paths with later. The film also manages to still be engaging even though some would argue that Holland is the only likable character in this movie (I disagree, Mia Wasikowska and Eliza Scanlan were likable to me). The movie balances the unlikable characters’ darkness and despair with incredible acting from all those that don’t make their roles at all sympathetic. Especially Pattinson. If you are still on the hate train because of the Twilight movies, this movie WILL change your mind on him if you haven’t seen Tenet or Good Time. I guarantee you that. And if not, you need to stop watching movies altogether.

This film has multiple wonderful set ups that in turn are earned with multiple incredible pay offs. The movie plots the characters actions so closely that when they do happen to meet up at one time or another, it seems more like fate than it does just a coincidence. I am not familiar at all with writer/director Antonio Campos’ work, but needless to say, I’ll be on the lookout for future projects from him whenever they do happen to cross my path. Knowing the average movie goer, 75% chance that it is you, you have probably looked at my review and then looked at Rotten Tomatoes to see what other critics have thought. You might see it’s 66% right now. I beg you to look at the audience score instead, which is 93% as of this writing. If you took your time to read some of the critic reviews, some of them have the fucking gall to complain that there is no humor in the movie. GOOD GOD PEOPLE, NOT EVERY DARK AND DEPRESSING FILM IS GOING TO HAVE HUMOR. In fact, it would be completely out of place in a tale like this one. These are the same critics that complained there was no humor in Tenet, even though there was, so they are either blind and deaf, or they are literally are that stupid. I cannot recommend The Devil All The Time any more than I already have to you. It is entirely engaging the entire time, my attention was dead set on it when I was watching and it never wavered, I soaked up all of its greatness and then some. Other than that quote at the top of this review, I’m sure on multiple viewings that I’ll catch and memorize a few more. With people being lazy and privileged and cowardly at home and not going to theaters, spending all the time in the world with this devil of a direct to streaming film is the only one I’d recommend (and Palm Springs) to those afraid to step outside their homes.