Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE GREAT SEASON 1 (Hulu)

HUZZAH!!! Get used to that word, you are going to be hearing a lot of it if you check out the great new television show on Hulu called…well…THE GREAT. If you are a constant reader of my reviews, you know I’m not too fond of period piece movies, any kind of that kind of content in general…I hated history class in school. But The Great, very much a period piece, is different in many, many ways, one of which is that when the title card comes up on each episode, it has an asterisk above the t, and then below it says “an occasionally true story.” Very much a fictionalized true story then, because this television show has all the characters almost talking, and especially cursing at each other, like we do today. There’s even loads of dick and fart jokes for me to enjoy! The Great stars Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning in what IMDB.com and Wikipedia describes as “A royal woman living in rural Prussia during the 18th century is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor. It is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. The series is fictionalized and portrays her youth and marriage with Emperor Peter and focus on the plot to kill her depraved and dangerous husband.” That woman is Catherine The Great (hadn’t heard of this historical figure until now), but whatever category it decides to enter when Emmy nominations come about (either drama or comedy) both Hoult and Fanning much deserve to be in the lead actor and actress categories. They have never been better, their performances alone worth checking out the show. I have a feeling though that it will enter the drama category, kind of like Better Call Saul does, even though I found myself laughing much more than being shocked or awed or sad at either of these two shows. If you are still in quarantine and not one of the fucking idiots heading out to un-social distancing like beaches and parties this past Memorial Day weekend, I highly suggest checking this one out, you will have a shit load of fun while also sort of semi-experiencing a nice, yet very fictional, history lesson.

This review is probably not going to be that long, as I don’t know much about the history of Catherine the Great to do a comparison, but then again, if something is as entertaining as this, you shouldn’t really care and just take in the overall jist of what happens as semi-true and about the other 90% with a grain of salt. If you are a stickler as a history buff, this might not be for you. While there is some drama, in this there is tons of sex, sex jokes, fart jokes, dick jokes, squabbles that will remind you of a lot of the bullshit millenials fight over these days, etc. etc. etc. That’s about 40% of why you should watch this, the overarching story of the attempted coup of Peter (Hoult) is 10% of why you should watch this, and then the last 50% are the performances, especially from leads Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult. They are hilarious and have never been better, and hopefully the Emmy’s recognize that come eventual award season. This series I think is what the film The Favourite tried to set out and accomplish but ultimately failed. I know that film was critically lauded, but I just didn’t care for it. When going to the theater, I was expecting a modern take on the period piece movie formula. I got some of that, but mostly weirdness and dread that I couldn’t explain the basis for that overshadowed it. This show, which coincidentally Nicholas Hoult has roles in both, succeeds 100% of the time and then some. And I just did some more research before finishing up this review, and come to find out that the screenplay writer Tony McNamara, who had a direct hand in all 10 episodes of the series, also co-wrote The Favourite. Maybe he did The Great because he was unsatisfied with how that turned out personally? Maybe the weirdness from The Favourite came from the other co-writer or director Yorgos Lanthimos? Who knows? It doesn’t matter, the fact of the matter is that I would watch period piece films every day if they were like this. However, I do know not to expect that, as most want an accurate depiction of the times. This was just set out to capture audiences’ attention with a fun and different take on it all. And in that regards, it is great. Huzzah!!!

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: EXTRA ORDINARY

EXTRA ORDINARY is a fun little horror comedy that came to US Theaters on March 6th, literally a week or two before the giant pandemic shut down. It has an extremely good score on Rotten Tomatoes and I’ve just been biding my time before it was a little cheaper to rent so that I could have something new to watch and review that came out in 2020 before I really start to run out of things to watch and review in the next couple of weeks (I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I really am!). When it finally went down in price this week, I knew I had to jump in. And I’m glad I did. While not quite enough horror in this film than I would’ve hoped for, it has a tone similar to Ghostbusters. In fact, you could say a lot of the beats in this match that exactly of that film, but instead of a team of four guys literal ghost busting with electronic proton packs, it’s a man and a woman doing it with their own charm and wits, exorcism style. I chuckled throughout this whole film and laughed out loud several parts as well, but never once did I jump in fright, like I did when I first watched Ghostbusters, which is really the only complaint I can give this film. One big credit to give it, without spoiling anything, is that it has a very funny sequence where it completely flips the standard car chase on its head. Brilliantly done, I was almost on the floor by the time that scene completed. The movie has a very tight and nicely knit story line, even though all of it is pretty damn predictable, even the minor twist at the end. But as far as satires go with horror films, you could have a marathon with this, Ghostbusters, and Shaun of the Dead and be none the wiser.

Per IMDB, Extra Ordinary is about a character named “Rose, a mostly sweet and lonely Irish driving instructor, must use her supernatural talents to save the daughter of Martin (also mostly sweet and lonely) from a washed-up rock star who is using her in a Satanic pact to reignite his fame.” Said rock star is played to perfection by Will Forte, the only person you will recognize from this movie. If you are tired of Will Forte’s schtick, fret not, this movie uses his comedic talents to the best of his abilities, and distinguishes himself as an actual unique character, not just Forte being well…quirky Will Forte. But while he’s front and center on the poster due to his recognizable name to fame, it is really the Rose and Martin show. But the movie actually fleshes out all of its characters, big and small. The film is an extremely tight 94 minutes with absolutely no filler. It has great sight gags, some funny one liners, witty dialogue, and pretty fun visuals even for how low budget it is. While a lot of it is British dry comedy humor, there is a couple of crude and crass bits in there to satisfy even the perverted of American minds. I’m not very familiar with the writers/directors, but needless to say, if they kept going with this horror comedy genre, maybe they could make enough of a name for themselves where I can just go back and reference this first fun film of theirs.

The film is indeed rated R for some language and the film does have a few surprisingly disgusting gore moments. But if you want to already start barfing with those, just wait until ectoplasm comes out of Martin’s mouth. That’ll get you dry heaving quick. Other than not a lot of horror elements, if I had one other complaint about the film it would be the character of Claudia Winter, played by the woman that plays Birdie on Netflix’s Love. She seems as though as if she’s an obnoxious character that came out of a Happy Madison production. Just really obnoxious and dumb to be partnered alongside Forte as the villain. Fortunately, her ending arc in the movie justified the means to have this character be that annoying, so that complaint was quickly brushed aside. Anyway, I completely recommend this movie for those of you that don’t like straight up horror, but enjoy them mixed in as a comedy, a la Shaun of the Dead. It’s a perfect little movie to get you through this quarantine. I think it might even get better with age. While it isn’t extraordinary right now, it is a tiny bit more than ordinary, and it definitely is nowhere near being boring or a waste of your time, that I can guarantee…that it will exorcise the boredom right outta ya!

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CAPONE

CAPONE is an odd duck of a movie. If you eventually ever watch it, you’ll understand that I meant that statement to be taken multiple ways. It isn’t a good movie, but it isn’t necessarily a bad one either. The most commendable attribute about it is that writer/director Josh Trank complete vision. He wrote the screenplay, he directed the entire thing, he even fucking edited it himself. No studio meddling, complete control. And if you know the history of filmmaker Josh Trank, you’ll think that this movie must’ve been relaxing and cathartic for him. This is Josh Trank’s third film. He directed the incredible Chronicle back in 2012…and he directed the 2015 re do of Fantastic Four and if you’ve ever happen to watch that…yeah. Look it up the latter, is is less than 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. The whole Fantastic Four story is a bit of an extraordinary tale if you ever want to do any research. For a crash course on it from yours truly, know that there was so much studio meddling with that film that only really the first half of the movie is his, while the entire 2nd and 3rd act was 20th Century Fox executives and Simon Kinberg fault. They didn’t trust Trank with what they were seeing and they thought they knew better. They were wrong, as the first half of that movie works beautifully and it was the studio meddling that made the whole thing a studio disaster. That ending, directed by Kinberg, is one of the worst finales to ever grace the silver screen. The meddling caused Trank to get depressed and display erratic & dangerous behavior on set, which led to him quitting (some say he was fired) directing the solo Boba Fett movie from Lucasfilm that we never got. Anyway, Capone is his first film since, and while it is TONS better than that Marvel Frankenstein monster we got 5 years ago, the film itself is…odd? That’s really the best way I can describe it. Odd place in time in Al Capone’s life for a movie for audiences. Odd (yet a little mesmerizing) lead performance from Tom Hardy. And odd visuals from Mr. Trank. The only way I think I can recommend this film is if you are obsessed with gangster films, obsessed with Al Capone’s life, and wanted a sort of, but not really, semi unneeded sequel to The Untouchables. I however, will probably never watch it again.

To be fair, the films visuals are probably the best thing about it. Josh Trank certainly has an eye for the camera. The movie is about a 47-year old Al Capone, who, after about a decade in prison, starts suffering from dementia and comes to be haunted by his violent past. The whole hour and 40 is him losing his mind and having very vivid dementia. He just goes back to several points in his past, like a party for him or him killing a close friend for betrayal, and living those moments with huge regret. During this giant dementia trip, the FBI are listening in to see if he happens to re remember the location of where he buried 10 million dollars on his property. If you’ve done your research on the man, you’ll know how that turns out. Some of the problem with the movie is that some scenes are supposed to be very dramatic, but the finished elements of the scene makes it all unintentionally laughable. For example, Al Capone, near the end of the film, has a golden tommy gun, shooting at things while running around in an adult diaper. It is supposed to be sad because the guy was suffering from paresis and had the mind of a 12 year old near the end of his life, yet watching Tom Hardy ham it up while running around an adult diaper made me laugh. And with the dramatic music and heavy violence coming out of the screen, it made the whole affair surreal, and not in a good kind of way. Like I said, an odd duck indeed. There are several good sequences in it though, such as Capone in his dementia, remembering and old party and then going out on the street where his men were being shot, had great visuals, music, and acting by Tom Hardy. But the rest of it, came off kind of…well…boring.

The main problem with doing an Al Capone film at the end of his life where he’s losing his mind is that…no one wants to see a movie using the real life character in that way. Or if we are treated to that part of his life, it needs to be in a grand 2 and a half hour to 3 hour epic bio pic in the vein of The Irishman that really digs into his massive crimes back in the day during prohibition. Seeing a real life figure losing his mind is probably supposed to be more of a trip than it was. And definitely shouldn’t be unintentionally funny in parts. Which brings us to Tom Hardy, who I usually consider a phenomenal actor. He is in a different movie here. He feels like he should be in something else entirely on the other end of the spectrum, like a bad henchman in a new Dick Tracy movie or a main villain in a Bond film. More so than a serious non fiction bio pic where you are supposed to feel sorry for the guy even though he killed a bunch of people. He hams it up the entire time, he’s way too over the top, and sometimes he is unintelligible, even more so than when he had a mask over his face in The Dark Knight Rises. He should’ve taken his performance and put it in a new DCEU film and he would’ve fit right along with the tone and atmosphere. Here, and in my opinion, he was very, very miscast. Sorry Mr. Trank, I know it must be an honor to work with someone like Tom Hardy but he just picked the wrong performance to do for your film. His performance might not have been so jarring if everyone wasn’t playing it straight around him, and it was supposed to be some kind of a satire. But Linda Cardellini and Matt Dillon act circles around him, and they are barely in the movie. Like I said, Capone isn’t a good or a bad film. It’s just unnecessarily there. I would never watch it again. However, if Mr. Trank would like to make another film where he has complete control again, I would not hesitate to check it out. Hell he should maybe do a redo of this and do a whole bio pic on Mr. Capone, I would definitely love to see that. I just didn’t really care about his dementia years. Though I would suggest that maybe, whatever film he does next, that he not only hire a lead actor whose performance matches the tone of his film, that he still sticks to editing and directing, and even having a hand in the story, but maybe give screenplay duties to someone else, make everything a little tighter. The tone is this needed much more balancing. A noble effort, but an odd one. I am glad that he is happy with his film no matter what anyone says. That’s what really counts.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE LOVEBIRDS (Netflix)

THE LOVEBIRDS, which was supposed to come out in theaters April 3rd, instead dropped on Netflix today because of…well, you know, I’ve said it a thousand times. Here’s the thing: everybody thinks all these movie studios that are releasing these films for people to enjoy at home during these troubling times are doing a great public service. Well they aren’t. Here’s why: First everyone got access to Trolls World Tour, which a lot of people I’ve talked to didn’t really like (at least their kids did though). But what did Universal really expect with a sequel to a movie based on real toys whose popularity peak ended in 1994? A lot of people didn’t like Bloodshot (I thought it was decently entertaining), but that was in theaters just a week before the pandemic and then you were able to buy it at home once everything shut down. And then Scoob! and Capone came out last week and while a lot of people rented or bought those, their Rotten Tomatoes scores showed that audiences didn’t care for those either. If you’ve read my Scoob! review, you already knew I was in that camp, and with Capone…well…my review on that odd train wreck is coming later this weekend! So are the studios really being nice by releasing these for people bored out of their mind at home…or did they not have much faith in these films anyway? They thought they’d charge up the wazoo for rentals and purchases to see if we were that stupid and would do anything just to see new content with these hefty stay at home orders didn’t they? With none of these movies being even close to good or even decent…I think the joke is on us. And that brings us to The Lovebirds, which Paramount ultimately sold it to Netflix so they could dump it on their platform. This is not solely because of COVID-19, but because they realized that with so much that is going to be crammed together in the theaters whenever things start to go back to normal that it might not make much money, combined with the fact that they didn’t really have much faith in the movie, they just ended up sayig “fuck it,” and cut their losses. If you calculate it, the math adds up. Seriously, R rated comedies, hell most comedies in general no matter the rating, don’t make blockbuster like numbers any more. They just don’t. If The Lovebirds ended up being released in theaters, if there was no COVID-19, how much do you think it would’ve made at the end of its run? I think less than about $40 million total, especially with blockbusters just about to be released around the corner combined with competing against A Quiet Place Part 2’s second released weekend, after the first would’ve made ungodly amounts of money for John Krasinsky. I changed my ind, it probably would’ve made less than $30 million in the end (with a less than $10 million opening weekend). If you’ve read the articles, you would know that Paramount ended up selling The Lovebirds to Netflix for $60 to $70 million. Jot all this down, do the math. Did you come up with what I came up with? Yes…They. cut. their. losses. Paramount easily won, because the movie isn’t even that good. It’s an okay, one time watch, silly, over the top, situational rom com, where the two leads have undeniable chemistry but the bland story is filled with plot holes. The plot holes evolve into an improv argumentative comedy just keeps going on and on and grows tiresome fast. So much so where you are almost shutting your eyes and plugging your ears only 15 minutes into the movie because you feel like it’s been going on already for several hours.

The official movie synopsis is as follows: “A couple (Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani) experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery.” Here’s the problem: the murder mystery isn’t so much of a mystery and when all is revealed it feels very generic and underwhelming. Also, it is filled with plot holes. There are a lot of forced, convenient cause and effect moments that happen just to get the characters from point A to point B. And they feel so forced that while the movie was still playing, I was thinking of a dozen other ways the couple could’ve gotten out of the whole situation by taking less than a second more to just stop and think. If any audience member to your movie ends up doing that, it is what we like to call bad screenplay writing. For example: if you’ve seen the trailers, you know the film starts off by a guy claiming that he is a police officer, taking over the couples car, and chases a guy on a bike. Off topic, but to emphasize the nature of the forced improve argumentative comedy, Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani annoyingly scream directions and random other shit at the guy just to be the center of attention on the screen and to get the audience to force laugh. That is the moment I knew the whole movie would do this every chance that it got and that I’d eventually want to plug my ears. Back on track: the ‘police officer’ eventually catches up to the guy on the bike, runs him over, and then backs up, runs him over again, then three-peats, clearly showing the characters and the audience that he is not who he says he is. Once he is done, he runs off before the police get there yet the couple takes the phone off the cyclist at the crime scene. And then two white hipsters show up and think the couple murdered the cyclist, so Rae and Nanjiani argumentative improv with the hipsters for several minutes too long to try to explain the situation, get nowhere with them, and then run off with the phone and just leave their car there. Here’s the thing, if the couple didn’t take the phone, there would be no movie, because there is literally nothing else tying them together with the murderer to advance the plot. It’s was a little too convenient for me. Also…why the fuck didn’t they just wait for the police to show up and give them the phone to maybe help prove their innocence? You want to know why? So the movie could make a cheap stab at a police racial profiling joke that so many other movies have done, and have done better. There’s more of that forced plot convenience, but for those of you still wanting to watch the movie, I dare not spoil anymore, but here is one more little example. It reveals Kumail Nanjiani has his phone the entire length of the film and a detective keeps calling him…you are telling me that the police couldn’t have just tracked their phone to try to intercept and capture them? After you watch the entire thing and go back and think on several of the scenes , a lot doesn’t add up.

With this being a situational comedy, every little scenario that the couple runs into needs to be amped-up to the extreme by the end of that particular scene. If you’ve seen the trailers, the scene with the bacon grease and the horse is the only scene in the movie that accomplishes what the movie wants to set out and do. Every other scene never quite gets there. In fact, there is this scene near the end that involves, to not spoil anything, a cult, and the cult does something extreme during one of their meetings. Usually at that point in a script, the main characters would be accidentally involved to join this extreme act and not just be witnessing bystanders. But in this movie, they don’t have the characters go to that extreme and they just end up being witnessing bystanders. During all this playing out, I turned to my wife and asked her, “wouldn’t it have been funnier if they were directly involved in this?” And she agreed. It was quite odd. Then the scene kind of just ends and then a small eye rolling twist is revealed making the entire movie basically pointless anyway. It’s exhausting. Not as exhausting as trying to force a smile during a scene where the couple shows up late at an engagement party and makes up an over the top lie to explain where they were. And they just keep explaining, almost unnecessarily yelling to get their point across to the hosts for several minutes too long. Director Michael Showalter, mainly known for directing the wonderful ‘The Big Sick’, which also starred Mr. Nanjiani, is hardly at fault for this movie. In fact, he might be one of the only saving graces as he, with ‘The Big Sick’ and now this, shows he’s clearly an actor’s director, as Nanjiani and Rae’s chemistry is the only thing keeping this barely floating boat watchable. It’s an easy point and shoot film, the only thing he does wrong is let some of the improv scenes go on too long.

The real problem is the script. The movie was written by two guys that have written episodes of The Blindspot and The Blacklist on television. No comedies whatsoever. And that’s the only things they have written. I stopped watching both shows in their early seasons because of the contrived forced plot writing, and unfortunately they brought their half-assed skills to this movie and almost completely ruined it. I have a feeling the script was half a movie long and there were big blank pages that just said, “IMPROV, LET THE ACTORS ARGUE AND YELL RANDOM SHIT AT EACH OTHER TO FORCE AUDIENCE TO LAUGH”, secretly hoping that would tie everything together. It doesn’t. It’s amazing that Nanjiani and Rae kept their chemistry while trying to figure out what to yell at each other randomly next. There is only one scene where this works, it’s the first ten minutes of the film, and it is at the beginning right after the title card, 4 YEARS LATER, that comes up right after we see the characters do a ‘morning after, after having sex for the first time, falling in love bit.’ They cut to them arguing about every day life. And it is funny only because it is relatable arguments that all couples go through when they’ve been together for awhile. This movie could’ve been about them having those conversations for an hour and a half, retitled ‘The Real Break Up’, and that would’ve been a better movie than what we got. Once that realistic conversation scene is out of the way, it is just improv ridiculous over-the-top yelling random shit for the rest of the film because studios and storytellers thinks that what dumb audience members come to see and laugh at (unfortunately this kind of fuckery actually does sometimes work with dumb ass audiences). But for me, it just didn’t work here. At least the movie was short, but at 1 hr and 27 minutes, it still felt about half an hour too long. This film feels right at home at Netflix, its nest resting comfortably on a mediocre branch the streaming platform is known for growing. It didn’t feel theatrical at all and it is hard to believe that audiences would fly to the theaters just to experience this mediocrity.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: AVENUE 5 (HBO)

I watched the first episode of AVENUE 5 on HBO when it premiered after a new episode of what I will always keep continuing watching if there are any more new seasons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I couldn’t even finish the pilot episode. It was unfunny and seemed like it tried to rip off the look and feel of The Orville, with more crude, crass, dick and fart joke humor combined with a Gilligan’s Island like overarching plot structure/device. I heard though, that the show is like the beginning of VEEP, and that you have to give the whole season a chance before you decide whether or not to give up on it. I gave Veep a chance, and ended up loving it to the point where I stuck with the whole show through the series finale. With Avenue 5, I’m glad I ended up going back and finishing all 9 really quick episodes, as I ended up really liking it (not loving though) and think it is ripe full of potential for us to receive a much, much better season 2, to the point where I could end up loving it. The reason I was interested in Avenue 5 to begin with was because creator Armando Iannucci had also created Veep, which I ended up loving mainly due to the excellent ensemble cast and that it played with both sides of the political coin and wasn’t as biased as I thought it was going to be. Avenue 5 is political in a different kind of way, and found it’s footing about halfway through the season, with some hilarious sight gags, plot threads, and incredibly funny and well written one liners. It does though has a way to go for me to say that it has an excellent ensemble cast (mainly due to my annoyance with one particular actor). I also wanted to watch it because I’m a big fan of Hugh Laurie, but I also didn’t want to watch it because of a previously mentioned actor who I will reveal and complain about more in detail a little later on in the review. Suffice to say in the end, I’m glad I went back and gave this quirky space comedy a chance.

IMDB.com’s synopsis nails the whole thing right on the head: “The troubled crew of Avenue 5, a space cruise ship filled with spoiled, rich, snotty space tourists, must try and keep everyone calm after their ship gets thrown off course into space and ends up needing three years to return to Earth.” Three years? Three hour tour? You can start to see where my Gilligan’s Island like structure/plot device I described above comes into play. But Gilligan’s Island was, to me anyway, more focused on character development while trying to find a way out of their plight. Finding a way out of their plight was plot B, with a focus on character being plot A. Avenue 5 is the exact reverse of that. Every episode deals with different ways that the crew can get home sooner, say 6 months, and they try to execute said plans only for giant fuck ups to happen where they end up might even extending their time in space to a full 8 years. With all this, there is a giant sacrifice to character development here, in which there essentially isn’t anyway. Almost every character is unlikable and only Hugh Laurie (as Captain Ryan Clark) & Lenora Crichlow (as Billie McEvoy) showing very small shimmers of maybe moving past their selfishness in a future season. This lack of character development helps yet hurts the series, as it is in very close proximity to the characters of Veep, and at the end of that series, *spoiler alert* NO ONE FUCKING CHANGES. But they are all so despicably hilarious that the lack of learning lessons is forgivable. Compare Avenue 5 and Veep to Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia for a point of reference, where no character learns any lessons at the end of any of the episodes or seasons. It remains to be seen if Avenue 5 can successfully continue on that trend quite yet, but I really would like to see this show expand and have characters learn and be changed by lessons, even if it is only in a character or two. Doing this would separate itself a little bit from the pack of the others where NO ONE changes, and not end up being just another copycat full of despicable yet hilarious human beings.

Let’s get to the elephant in the room (not a pun, not referencing a body type, just a big problem with the series) and that is Josh Gad. There is no doubt that Josh Gad is talented. He was one of the main players when Book of Mormon first went to broad way, he is beloved as Olaf in Frozen, etc. etc. But EVERYTHING else I have seen him in, he just comes off as unlikable, loud, and annoying. To be fair, he is just being cast in these already annoyingly written roles, it’s not his writing at all, and if Mr. Gad were ever to read this, I would beg him to reconsider what scripts he chooses, don’t become a stereotype! In Avenue 5, he’s the one character who you don’t even love to hate, you just want to reach through the screen and choke that character to death so you don’t have to see him anymore. He plays the character named Judd, the character that made this space travel luxury thing happen. He is also a massive egotistical maniac, and also dumb as a sack of bricks. If the series wants to do any character development at all, I would suggest that Judd would be the way to go. But considering what happens in the first season, it just seems to me that Gad will get more annoying by the episode. And that is a shame. Everybody else though, while their characters you won’t like, they do a good job acting as them, and convincingly make you laugh at them as well. Zach Woods, who you know from Silicon Valley and Gabe on The Office, has some of the best faces and one liners you will see and hear on television all year. Basically, once you get past the first set up episode that doesn’t contain one real laugh, if you want to see a bunch of despicable characters bitch at each other for 9 episodes, HOWEVER that whole premise is combined with delightfully funny ways of all of them trying to get out of their awful predicament, I completely recommend Avenue 5 during our own kind of quarantine like hell we are going through. Very reminiscent of the times for sure. Will definitely make this a part of my television watching universe whenever season 2 set sails.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: #BLACKAF (Netflix)

#BLACKAF is basically just a combination of Modern Family’s format combined with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s premise of a middle aged man complaining about almost everything anyone does…but focusing on a black family instead of white, and unfortunately nowhere near as funny as the other two, and also nowhere near as smartly executed as the other two shows. Not to say that’s its bad or terrible, I just don’t think the execution of it lived up to its concept. Instead it feels like it is kind of cheaply ripping off the other two shows at times and just putting a spin on story lines that have been done plenty of times beforehand. It all feels just a little stale. But again, it isn’t awful, but as I’m trying to keep television only having between 10 to 15 shows I watch that are still new on the air total, I don’t think #blackAFd is going to make the cut, and I’m just going to say this is the end of my journey, no season 2 for me. But instead of this being the only paragraph on my review of this, instead of me kindly saying, “I get it, but no thank you, not for me,” I do want to say I appreciate what writer/creator Kenya Barris is trying to do. I haven’t watched any of it, but I heard Black-ish is excellent and that I might want to give that a try if I didn’t care for this show too much. But looking at the man’s career, it is pretty impressive, even though there are a couple of speed bumps along the way, including that new Shaft movie disaster that came out last year (didn’t see it) and yeah, this show was kind of another speed bump. The man is unarguably a very unique talent with a lot of things to say. #blackAF is a noble way to try and say these things, but since the show’s formula copies too much of other shows’ past, and with only a handful of really good one liners but conversations that go on wayyy too long, this was just not the best medium for those messages.

IMDB.com and Wikipedia describes #blackAF as: “A father takes an irreverent and honest approach to parenting and relationships” and “the series stars Barris as a fictionalized version of himself and uncovers the messy, unfiltered, and often hilarious world of what it means to be a ‘new money’ black family trying to ‘get it right’ in a modern world where ‘right’ is no longer a fixed concept.” To add to these descriptions, this whole situational comedy is presented in documentary form, created by her daughter, who is trying to make this documentary of her family to get into college. It’s a noble format to be sure, it just feels too much like Modern Family, and Barris’ constant complaining and just not getting it feels too much like Larry David’s complaints. Listen, I’m a white guy, I know it, and anyone reading this should just write this off as me not being the target audience for this show. But I think I know a little bit about the ways jokes, stories and screenplays are written, so I feel like I have something to say in that area. There is one fantastic, excellent, excellent episode in this series, and it is episode 5, and the episode has Barris and his family going to a sneak preview movie screening of a movie, and everyone in the audience is eating it up except for Barris and his documentary filmmaking daughter. But they are afraid to let anyone know that they didn’t care for the movie, because the filmmaker was black and they wanted didn’t want to disrespect the cause. Fantastic episode, and it happened to be the longest of the eight. But listen closely to the conversations and jokes in that episode, they are ridiculously paid off well while also getting the point across without any filler whatsoever. I just wished the rest of the episode were as well developed, because the rest just float, have too much filler, and to me didn’t have a general purpose.

I wanted to watch this series mainly for one reason from the get go: Rashida Jones. Just like I think she’s an excellent actress in whatever she does, here is no different, in fact, I say she even gets to cut loose a little bit because it seems like, again using Curb Your Enthusiasm’s format, there is a lot of improve. I’ve always liked Rashida Jones, from her early days on Chappelle’s Show, to The Office, to especially Parks and Rec, to the dozen or so movies she’s done, I’ve always enjoyed watching her work. If I were to check out a possible season 2, it would only be to watch her work some more. Everybody here is actually quite decent, with Barris himself eventually coming into his own by the 8th episode, but then again, it’s all forgivable since Larry David took several seasons to not act like he was in a television show. But Rashida Jones is the true star here, and even though I didn’t laugh much at the jokes or cared for the story (family squabbles) I’ve seen a billion times before, she kept my eyes glued to the screen when she was on. Take her character Joya here, and put her in any other, better written show, and she would easily have her Emmy that she deserves. Basically, to sum everything up, I just didn’t care for the show, because to me, it brought nothing new. I’ve seen all the family squabble bits before, I’ve seen all their resolutions, there really are no more ways for shows to put a twist on the same thing, without copycatting and putting together different formats from other shows. This show just wasn’t for me, pure and simple. It might be for you, so don’t take my word #seriousAF.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SCOOB!

Viewing SCOOB! at home was very bittersweet as I pressed play to watch my $24.99 BOUGHT copy of the film and not the dumb $19.99 RENT option. This movie was supposed to arrive in theaters this weekend, before COVID-19 raped all of our lives, Shawshank style. This would’ve been a movie I’d have taken my young son to, as he had expressed interest in this new Mystery Machine gang outing, having seen some of the old cartoon and yelling “Scooby!” whenever the clever talking canine appeared on-screen, and also briefly seeing some of the marketing online, on television, and even the teaser trailer to the new film when we saw Spies In Disguise, his last movie in a theater. I have to say though, not having to buy the $10 each movie tickets for the three of us, and then eventually buy the movie anyway when it would’ve normally came out on digital three months later, and instead just paying one upfront price now & getting to watch it in the comfort of your own home was…kinda nice. No asshole teens on their phones, none of that crinkling of movie snacks, and no chatty Kathy’s (or is it Karen’s now?). So the bitter part was not being able to go to the theaters but the sweet part was watching it together as a family at home when it was supposed to come out anyway, right? Well…the latter part is true. I’m actually glad we didn’t spend tons of money at our local multiplex because the bitter part of all this is that SCOOB! really wasn’t that great.

Say what you want to about the two critically and audience panned live action theatrical Scooby-Doo movies that were written by none other than James Gunn (yes, you read that right), but at least they stuck to the core idea of the gang solving one central mystery. And even though it broke the old television series rules of that “anything supernatural ended up having a natural explanation” to it, narrative wise it kept it’s focus completely on Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma, and it never strayed. Plus, a screenplay that had the balls to make Scrappy-Doo the ultimate bad guy in the first film has to be given some kind of bold credit. The main problem with this new Scoob! movie is that it isn’t so much of a Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine gang solo adventure than it is a Hanna-Barbera Universe Avengers film. It’s like if the DCEU started off with Justice League and not Man of Steel or the MCU with Avengers and not Iron Man 1. It doesn’t work & feels bloated here. There are a shit ton of other Hanna-Barbera characters that make either quick cameos, or are wayyy too much in the story, taking the focus off our core gang. This whole thing…just too many characters. I have a feeling that in the coming weeks this film is going to be given alternate titles to make fun of it, but the first that comes to mind is either: Hanna-Barbera Civil War or Scooby-Doo: Hanna-Barbera War. With the DCEU almost stumbling over itself right out of the gate, and now this misfire (I’ll give it credit for being better than the live action films at least), there is now enough factual evidence to prove that Warner Bros. has no fucking clue what to do with its intellectual properties.

The synopsis of the films is as follows, taken from IMDB.com: “Scooby and the gang face their most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this dogpocalypse, the gang discovers that Scooby has an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.” And there in lies the problem. The movie tries to add some convoluted mythology to Scooby-Doo’s ancestral origins, and none of it coherently worked for me. The movie has no central mystery to it, the gang isn’t trying to uncover an answer to a problem, or a haunting, or a crime, etc.. If you start to watch this, and wonder within the first 20 minutes what the fuck I’m talking about, that it seems like the same Scooby-Doo you knew from your childhood, you are right. It is. The first 20 minutes of this film are absolutely fantastic. It completely goes off the rails right then afterwards when it turns into a superhero film with crazy superhero film like action and explosions and shit when Blue Falcon & Dynomutt show up and pits all of them against Dick Distardly. If those names sounds familiar, it is because they are Hanna-Barbera characters that had their own shows and who I think didn’t need to be in this film at all. I have mostly tried to stay away from the marketing as I didn’t want to be spoiled by anything. But the marketing at the beginning I did see, was a giant misdirection. The teaser trailer made it seem like it was going to be the younger adventures of the Mystery Machine gang, but then later marketing showed that the film does feature them as adults and features voice talents of famous adult actors and actresses. That’s when I thought the film would’ve been a half and half thing. The first half brings up a mystery they weren’t able to solve as kids but get to finish as adults (the route the film should’ve taken). And that is when the final theatrical poster was released (before COVID-19), with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt on it and that is when I thought, “ohhhh noooooooo, I really hope they aren’t going to do what I think they are going to do.” They did.

Here’s the thing, my kid, and your kids, are probably going to love it, so you in turn might love it as well. And that is exactly why I watched this first without Grayson by my side, so that my opinion wouldn’t be biased based on his joyous face throughout the 93 minute run time. To be fair, the film has a good message about togetherness and friendship, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, and even though I would’ve rather had voice actors that while not the original people, have been doing other things as the characters for years, Zac Efron, Will Forte, Amanda Seyfried, & Gina Rodriguez do an adequate job, and Mark Wahlberg even steals the show as Blue Falcon. But plot, narrative, adventure, story-wise, what have you, the film is severely lacking. Oh, and early 2000s called, they want their Simon Cowell/American Idol references back. The Scooby-Doo original cartoon series was a sort of grounded detective-mystery series first, a slapstick hijinks movie second and an adventure series a distant third. There is no mystery here, it isn’t grounded at all, the hijinks are set to overload and it’s all covered as an outlandish adventure I didn’t really care for. And that’s because there were too many characters. That made it too stuffed which in turn made it too convoluted. Keep it simple, stupid. It should’ve been a cool mystery solo adventure with tiny hints that other Hanna-Barbera characters could eventually join the party down the road and then some solo films of those characters before all of them team up in the ultimate universe movie. But no, it’s a Hanna-Barbera Universe movie just trying to trick you by wearing a Scooby-Doo movie skin. And they would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for the over ambitious, meddling script.