Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FATMAN

After all the controversial things that Mel Gibson has been up to between the years of 2000 to 2010, ranging from that infamous 2006 anti-Semitic rant after being pulled over by a cop for a DUI to screaming at his then girlfriend back in 2010 using racist remarks and even the n-word to homophobic comments, how does this Academy Award winner still have a career after multiple falls from grace? Even after the 2017 #MeToo movement? Well, first of all, his talent is undeniable, he’s an Oscar winning director and he’s an actor that can more than exceptionally pull off any character in any genre. Secondly, he still has a deep bench of Hollywood supporters, ranging from people still in the industry such as Jodie Foster, Robert Downey, Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg. Finally, current Hollywood producers attribute his past misdeeds mostly due to alcoholism, pointing out that he has never been accused of sexual assault, alcoholism is a disease, and that he’s not the person he is made out to be in the headlines. In a 2016 and recent interview, Mel Gibson has stated that he is currently many years sober and finds it annoying that people keep bringing up his past shit, not willing to give him a second chance…or would that really be a 4th or 5th chance Mel? Anyway, Mr. Gibson is still in the movie making game, still attached to direct the big remake of The Wild Bunch, and still starring in some movies, albeit low budget ones, like Force Of Nature, Last Looks, Dragged Across Concrete, Boss Level, and a semi-budgeted one…bet you didn’t remember that he was in Daddy’s Home 2, did you? This leads us to FATMAN…one of 2020’s best little surprises of the year, where Gibson plays Santa Claus and per IMDB, “must contend with a hitman sent from a disappointed child.” Yes, I assure you that this is a real movie.

When I heard of FATMAN only several months ago, I thought it was a joke. Turns out it wasn’t, as just several days later, to my surprise, I found out that the movie had already been filmed and a trailer dropped. I watched the trailer, and was immediately intrigued. This wasn’t just a schlocky bullshit turn like his roles in The Expendables 3 and Machete Kills. This was a movie meant to be taken very seriously (even though the film has genuine and earned humor). He plays Santa Claus straight, as a very old, tired and weary man still doing his job even though the world has gotten dark around him. It turns out, every year there is less and less good kids to deliver toys to and it’s gotten so bad, to make up for lost money from the government (that’s right, the government pays him to do his thing once every year because it is a giant money maker), he accepts a military contract that has his elves make something…a little bit different than children’s toys. Currently, most of the kids in this cinematic Earth (could be argued that it’s truer to our world than you might imagine) are naughty little assholes that get their just desserts by receiving lumps of coal from him. One particular little shit (one of the movies expertly crafted jokes has this little shit listed as “Little Shit” in the hitman’s list of contacts on his iPhone), is a sociopath son of a bitch, manipulating school science contests, stealing money from his grandmother and of course, sending said hitman after Santa’s head once he gets a lump of coal for Christmas. What I love about the movie is that it tries to bring the audience a down to Earth type Santa Claus. You know how Man of Steel was supposed to be a tale of Superman but in today’s time? A more realistic Superman? Whether or not you think Zack Snyder and co. pulled it off is a different story. Basically, Fatman asks the question: what if Santa were really real? In today’s world? And I think this film pulls off that idea in spades.

And the reason it does that so successfully, in my opinion, is probably because of the low budget and what little it shows the viewers on screen. We don’t get Mel Gibson walking around in a red Santa suit and travelling the world. We don’t see the sleigh or reindeer fly. We almost don’t see any magic whatsoever where you’d have to suspend your belief for the world that the movie takes place in. It only hints at all of that stuff, which I thought was the right direction to go, and was quite fucking brilliant. The acting here is top notch, the little bastard that plays the “Little Shit” is pitch perfect by not going too over the top, just enough to make him a character you love to hate. Justified and The Unicorn’s Walton Goggins plays the hitman, with his own anger and obsession with the big red fatman. It’s also a great role that has more meat to it than you might think in a movie like this. But the movie is the Mel Gibson show, and he shows that he wants to be there. He acts HIS ASS off. He has tears in his eyes convincingly when he needs to, the chemistry between him and Mrs. Claus, played perfectly by Marianne Jean-Baptiste is undeniably great, and the silent moments where he is by himself looking at something are convincingly masterful. He is so serious, that near the final showdown with the hitman, which is one of the best Mel Gibson final 1-on-1 show downs in quite a long time, where he is shirtless and getting his guns and weapons ready to go outside, I just laughed out of pure joy to what was transpiring on screen. I am not familiar with the films writers/directors/brothers, Ian Nelms and Eshom Nelms, but they sure do know how to make a high, yet low concept movie. I hope they make more stuff in a similar vein. If I had any complaints is that I wish they would’ve shown blood and other stuff, shown more of the violence in the scenes before the final big showdown at the military compound. They cut away when a bullet fires or Goggins kills someone before that, and I think the movie would’ve had more of an impact if it didn’t cut away. But boy does that bloody showdown make up for it. Anyway, if you like demented adult Christmas movies such as Bad Santa, Better Watch Out, Gremlins, the original Black Christmas, Christmas Vacation, then you are going to LOVE Fatman.


Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE UNICORN SEASON 1

My wife Diane and I just happened to come upon THE UNICORN SEASON 1 while perusing Netflix a week or two ago. This show is originally on CBS, and we do not have cable nor are we signed up for CBS All Access, although my father had mentioned that he and my mother watched and enjoyed it when they had CBS’s streaming service for free for a month back in June. We ended up pressing play based on that recommendation and also due to the fact that my wife and I are huge fans of anything Walton Goggins. If you don’t know who he is, it’s a real shame, but I’m sure that you do. He was one of Vic Mackey’s crew in the series The Shield, and he was also the main antagonist throughout the series of Justified and Vice Principals. He’s also been a supporting player in movies such as Shanghai Noon, The Hateful Eight, Tomb Raider, Ant-Man And The Wasp, Predators, Maze Runner, Words On Bathroom Walls, the list goes on and on, as he’s had a hell of a lucrative career. And to me, he’s an incredible actor that needs to win an Emmy or Oscar sometime in his career. He has yet to be the leading man in a movie though, but at least CBS is finally taking a chance with him as one on The Unicorn. And while this show is a typical sitcom that IMDB describes with the following, “A widower is eager to move on from the most difficult year of his life, only to realize he’s utterly unprepared to raise his two daughters on his own and equally unprepared for the dating world where he’s suddenly a hot commodity,” he makes the show rise above it’s done before premise and churns out very funny and endearing half hour episodes. The first season just ended a couple of months ago and it has been renewed for a second, which is due to film and premiere who knows when because of the asshole that is this country and COVID-19. But I very much am looking forward to it, and maybe we even wait for the episodes to hit a streaming service I do have, as this is a fantastic binge-able series.

A unicorn to a lot of women are men who are straight, attractive, single, monogamous, funny, employed, communicative, caring and interested in her. Walton Goggins character, Wade Felton, is the perfect example of one. He’s even more sought after because he is a widower and not a divorcee. The sitcom has a great supporting cast of characters, two other families that all became friends awhile ago because of Wade’s wife. They consist of known faces such as Rob Corddry, Maya Lynn Robinson, Michaela Watkins, and Omar Benson Miller, and in each episode they each have their side B and C plots that correlate and sometimes intertwine with Wade’s A plot. Thankfully, the show isn’t a multi camera sitcom and doesn’t have a laugh track, which proves that it is confident in its ability to make its audience laugh, which it does. Walton Goggins and co. provide a lot of laughs throughout the first seasons’s 18 episode run. The only thing I was disappointed in involving the show was a stronger season ender (I did my research and am pretty sure they got done filming before coronavirus hit). Yeah, they do a full circle character arc wise and they all reflect on how they have done the past year with the anniversary of Wade’s wife’s death and they all deal with Grace’s, one of Wade’s two kids, dance and there is a potential mystery woman that Wade meets up with and hopes to see again, but usually sitcom’s pack more of a punch with a bigger cliffhanger, especially in a premiere season. But that’s just me trying to find something to complain about as no television show is ever perfect or has the perfect season (Except maybe Breaking Bad). The creators of the show are also the creators of such classics like 3rd Rock From The Sun and Grounded For Life, so they know they’re comedy shit, even if they had misfires such as Cavemen. If you are reading this, don’t have anything to watch, and wanted something light and very funny to pass some time binge-ing wise, then you definitely should not miss The Unicorn. Can’t wait for Season 2 and hopefully it doesn’t get a renewal reversal because of Cunt Covid.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS

So, because you probably don’t know, WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS actually hits theaters this Friday. That’s right, theaters. Why this little movie didn’t take the video on demand path in the middle of nothing several months ago, I can’t explain nor do I know its history. I’m guessing the movie had a theatrical contract that it couldn’t get out of or something, otherwise we all would’ve had the opportunity to watch this in June or July. Speaking of history, so if theaters don’t open up until two days from now, the question you are probably asking yourself is, how the heck am I already writing a review of it? To give you a little insight into my past, before I had this blog, before I had a child, a wife, and a life, I used to go to all these advance screenings of films mostly held by this company Don’t worry, they are a legit business. You go there, you would type in your zip code, and it would tell you where advanced and FREE movie screenings at theaters were being held around your area. So before I had any child depending on me, I would go to these advanced screenings…ALL THE TIME. One year I did an excel spread sheet of how much money I saved going to these free screenings, and needless to say, it was a boatload. But there is no such thing as a free screenings, as you were not guaranteed to get in, so you had to wait in line 2 to 4 hours, just to get a good seat, and depending on how early you got there, a decent seat in adjacent to the screen. It was only one show of it, at a specific time. You couldn’t choose. So while the screening was free, I would be at the theater double or even triple the time once the movie let out than I would have spent at a regular paid showing. Basically, all my evenings were giant time wasters to see a free movie. How dumb was I, right?

Anyway, so what does this company, GoFoBo, do, in the middle of a pandemic? Where there are no advance screenings, there are no new movies, there are no theaters open? They have mostly been promoting video on demand stuff, and I didn’t know this until just this week, but they have been doing VIRTUAL ADVANCE SCREENINGS. Most of these virtual advance screenings, however, were for Amazon, Hulu, or Netflix films that I would eventually get to see a couple of days later, because I subscribe to a lot of streaming services. So needless to say I wasn’t really missing out. In these virtual advance screenings, you have to click the link fast enough to reserve an online spot an hour before your screening, the movie starts on time, and you have a little window, a couple of minutes, where you can hit play. Wait too long, and the link expires. You can pause the movie for a tiny bit, but if you pause it for a prolonged period, the link expires. I happened to win a, virtual seat, if you will, from a website on Twitter. I still had to go and register and click the link one hour before Words On Bathroom Walls started, and when the clock hit 6:00 pm yesterday, a link that says ‘Watch Movie’ appears and you are supposed to click it almost immediately. Needless to say, it wasn’t that smooth. In fact, it was 6:05 and the link was still timing out on me. I was about to give up and maybe watch it when it came out on video. But finally, lo and behold, I wasn’t late, after the 10th to 11th click, a play button appeared and after a brief quarantine introduction by one of the films’ stars, I got to watch a movie that will hit theaters on Friday…on my phone. My phone (with earbuds) was a compromise as I was watching this while keeping an eye on my son watching his own kid stuff on TV and playing. So no more delays, let’s get to the thick of it shall we? How was the actual movie?

It’s was actually pretty decent, I even choked up a few times with it being a drama, but there was one or two things keeping it from being masterfully great, and I’ll get to those in a second. Per, Words On Bathroom Walls is described as such: “Diagnosed with a mental illness halfway through his senior year of high school, a witty, introspective teen struggles to keep it a secret while falling in love with a brilliant classmate who inspires him to not be defined by his condition.” That mental illness is schizophrenia, by the way, and his illness isn’t set up to be a mystery, the trailer and the beginning of the film tell you exactly what it is. The movie follows a very commonly used narrative outline, too common, which is one of the reasons why it fell short of being fantastic. You know the narrative, it’s like a movie about an alcoholic/drug user overcoming his addiction. **start of spoilers, skip to next paragraph** The movie starts out recognizing something is wrong with the young man, he gets expelled from school, but a new opportunity and a new experimental drug try to help him get his life together so he can be sane enough to go to culinary school, he also meets a girl there that inspires him. But eventually, it wouldn’t be a movie if everything was quaint and charming the rest of the hour and 50 minute run time, so this experimental drug, while working really well at first, actually hinders a lot of his thoughts and abilities, and he has a relapse, a really bad one, but then just as the lowest point in his life seemingly might be the end of it, a new glimmer of hope helps the kid come out of the rubble. So in essence, it follows the same roller coaster narrative on any rise and fall or addiction movie you’ve seen before. Nothing new here in terms of where the plot takes you. **end of spoilers**

What did work well, extremely well, were the performances. Everybody here, even Andy Garcia as the school’s main priest, brought their A game, especially the two leads. Charlie Plummer plays the titular character named Adam, and Taylor Russell plays the love interest Maya. Taylor Russell has been killing it lately in terms of acting. Her acting is always better than the movies she is in. She was the bright spot in Escape Room several years ago, and she made a huge splash (pun intended) last year, playing the main character in the second half of a film called Waves. If you haven’t seen Waves, do so immediately. Both actors take their characters to another level, adding layers where some would just try their best to recite their lines and move on. Their performances are worth one watch of this film alone. Walton Goggins even has a small supporting role as Adam’s step dad, a performance the comes more and more into the light the more screen time Goggins gets in the end. The scenes with Adam interacting Goggins or Adam interacting Garcia’s characters are the best moments in the film. Other than the love story, which I also enjoyed. Adam and Maya don’t just fall in love right off the bat. Their friendship into courtship felt very realistic here. The movie took it’s time, thank God, because if it hadn’t, and they would’ve been together minute 10 or 15, it probably wouldn’t taken me out of the experience a little too much.

I’ve gone on a little too long, so let’s wrap this up in this paragraph shall we? The other thing I didn’t like about the movie was the colorful characters that Adam sees as part of his schizophrenia. Now I’m not an expert of schizophrenia by any means, but I know that it is quite serious, and the lighthearted and sometimes funny parts of Adam’s mental illness didn’t seem realistic enough and the tone was a bit off with the rest of the movie. Are there any schizophrenics out there that can chime in with any lighthearted and funny moments of their mental illness? I highly doubt it. There is a weird hippy girl, played great by AnnaSophia Robb though, a weird sex pervert dude, and then a bald headed body guard with a bat. Their scenes were mostly comic relief, which I didn’t care for. I wanted something more serious, such as there is also this dark, figureless voice in Adam’s head that wants to torment Adam at every turn. That dark figureless voice with other insane and crazy visions, should have been it in the movie, the comic relief visions left on the cutting room floor. I don’t know, I’m not a psychiatrist or doctor, so I don’t know if there are bright spots in this mental illness, and if there are, I do apologize, but they just didn’t work in this movie for me. The film is a little out of his league for director Thor Freudenthal, as he has only directed kids movies like Percy Jackson 2 and Hotel For Dogs in his career, but maybe this is a stepping stone to get it out typecast. The film is shot well, and he is clearly an actor’s director, getting fantastic performances out of everyone. I enjoyed reading the words on this wall, I only wish there were more words that I hadn’t seen before and more serious words at that.