Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: I AM MOTHER (Netflix) (No Spoilers)

Holy shit, a Netflix original film that is actually pretty great! What is the ratio now, 15 to 1? Give it the benefit of the doubt with 10 to 1? Either way, it’s rare. And I don’t mean good film, I mean great. The good film ratio is probably more 7 to 1 or 5 to 1. But sometimes it is tough to weed through all the shit on the streaming platform before getting a gem like this one. I AM MOTHER is a little post-apocalyptic scenario film combining the plots of several films along the way but providing enough little twists to make it effectively unique. It’s all the end of the world films you’ve seen combined with the tight space enclosure that was Ex Machina. It’s just an impressive movie I think if possibly they got some up and comers and cast someone other than Hilary Swank (who used to be a Oscar champion but has since relegated herself to small independent projects), it could’ve been a huge hit at the theater. In one of those rare moments, I’m actually thanking Netflix for picking up and streaming this film to begin with. And no, this isn’t a sequel to I Am Legend, although at some part of the film I was convinced it was going to tie itself into another well known franchise (it obviously doesn’t but you can completely guess which franchise I’m thinking of halfway thru).

The film mostly takes place in this bunker like facility. At the beginning of the film, the audience is let known that an extinction level event has just taken place (it doesn’t show it, one of the films many strengths). All we heard is a bunch of nuclear like explosions going on outside and rattling said bunker. A life sized robot named Mother awakens, and takes a human embryo out in this facility because it has the capability to quickly make a little human being (24 hrs or your money back! jk, jk). Some years later, that child has grown up into a teenage girl (doesn’t say her age), which Mother cares for, feeds, teaches school and life lessons, etc. Really only one main rule, never go outside the bunker and anything that happens to maybe come in, needs to be incinerated immediately for safety’s sake of the nuclear fallout. Mother ‘sleeps’ at night and recharges her batteries. One night the girl hears some sounds coming from the front entry lock of the facility, and it is an older adult woman, played by Hilary Swank (none of these characters that we actually see have names and the ones we do hear of but never see have biblical ones). The older woman is shot and in desperate need of help. And all I’ll say next is, when these three unite, nothing is as it seems.

And that’s literally all I can say about the plot. The whole thing has little twists and turns every couple of minutes where eventually I didn’t know who to really trust until the end credits, and even after that I was questioning myself. I Am Mother also has one of the best looking robots in recent cinematic memory and also praise it for using practical means to make it come alive (male in a very elaborate suit) and only noticing a tiny amount of CGI when Mother was running ((and even that I’m not positive was CGI)). The mother is voiced by the wonderful Rose Byrne. And I understand why it was an American accent, but with this and now Modern Family, I just wish some movies would let her go back to letting her use her wonderful Aussie one. We all know Hilary Swank can act, she’s won two Oscars for God’s sake, but how does she fare here? Well, she has a lot more screen time than I thought she would, given that she is the ‘And’ celebrity on the poster and other promotional materials. There is a mystery about her character and she plays off of that very well without being too mysterious…if what I just said makes any fucking sense. She’s good is what I’m trying to say. Swank usually doesn’t phone shit in and here is no different.

The teenage girl, played by Clara Rugaard, really 21 in real life, does a great job too. The whole film is on her shoulders and she pulls off every emotion that she needs to give off in every pain staking situation she is pulled into. If her performance failed, the whole movie would’ve, but she’s tremendous here. And I won’t say whether or not you ever see outside the bunker, but I just wanted to commend the great CGI work here. It isn’t the best CGI in the world that I’ve seen, but they managed to have pretty great visuals for a film I’m assuming that was on a small budget. And I think that practical robot effects for Mother was what would make or break the film for anyone. If it was a CGI creation, I don’t know if I could’ve gotten into the film as much as I did. It makes me wonder if ‘practical effects on Mother only’ was written into the script.

I’ve never heard of the director, Grant Sputore, so I’m assuming this might be his first movie. I haven’t heard of the screenplay writer, Michael Lloyd Green, either. But what a tremendous debut if this was their first big gig and I look forward to more projects from them in the future, I just hope it is something I can watch on a big screen. Anyway, I just went into this film without seeing a trailer, because the description intrigued me, and I still haven’t watched the trailer. I suggest you do the same. I’m afraid to watch it still because I have a feeling that it will give away some of the neat little reveals in the film, I hope it doesn’t. But if the premise intrigues you, I encourage you to check it out whenever you can on Netflix. This is one of their great original films that shouldn’t be missed, especially with all the other bullshit more than half of you watch on their and consider it ‘good entertainment.’ That thought frightens me.

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LATE NIGHT (no spoilers)

FYI, I can’t stand Mindy Kaling as an actress. It’s not that I think she’s ugly or anything, I just can’t stand her high pitched whiny voice, her personality and demeanor, and that she plays basically the same character no matter which program she is on. That being said, I think she’s an incredible writer. She’s written some of the best episodes of the office, the best episodes of The Mindy Project, and LATE NIGHT is her first screenplay for a feature film, and I kind of loved it. It makes me look forward to her future projects for the big screen, and I will actively seek them out, unless she keeps acting in her writing projects. Unless she can change her acting style, I really would prefer that she took more of a role behind the scenes and less in front of the camera. Maybe even try her hand at directing, but definitely not direct herself.

Not only does her dialogue, story, and some unconventional little twists to her story make Late Night a nice bright spot in this June gloom summer month, but once again, Emma Thompson completely steals the show as late night host Katherine Newbury, who is about to lose her show even though she’s been on the air since forever, because the past decade her material and jokes have been stale and on auto pilot. No ‘umph’ whatsoever. To change this, she fires a male writer and asks that the show hire a female writer to spice things up. Kaling’s character, even though she works at a chemical factory plant, is the only woman that applies for the job so she just gets it. But with Katherine’s very uptight personality, things of course get off to a rocky start before they get better, and Kaling has a hard time adjusting to a writer’s room where she is the only woman, but once the two set aside their differences and work together, they just might be able to save the show.

Other than the acting from Thompson and the cute quippy dialogue, I actually liked the overall main story, even though in some parts I knew where it was going to go. However, Mindy Kaling threw me a couple of curve balls in several of the subplots that I didn’t see coming. There is one subplot with Katherine’s husband played by John Lithgow that I didn’t see coming, and he had one of the best speeches in the movie. And there is another minor subplot of Kaling getting a love interest in the movie whose conclusion I didn’t see coming as well. It’s the little unique changes in narratives in screenplays that I don’t see coming that I love coming out of movies. Mostly you get them in the big epic tent pole films, but these days, you kind of expect that. When they come out of these little workplace comedies, you end up appreciating them a lot more when they suddenly just show their faces every now and then. Next time though I would suggest to Mindy Kaling to not act in her own screenplays. They could’ve hired someone like Tessa Thompson (who stole the show in Men In Black International even though it sucked), or maybe even a complete no-name to fill in her role. If someone else had played Kaling’s part, I think the movie could’ve even been better than it was.

This review is going to be one of my shorter ones and end with this paragraph, because anything else I say would probably spoil the journey of the movie. What I really liked about the film is that it felt like everyone was working for and on a real late night talk show. There are a lot of movies that, with smaller budgets like these, make everything feel too fictional and visually under-bearing. When watching this film, I felt like ‘Tonight With Katherine Newbury’ had been on for years and I just couldn’t bring myself to ever sit down and watch another episode. And while the film was mostly a point and shoot affair, director Nisha Ganatra did a tremendous job with the performances and slight unique touches with framing at those big pivotal emotional scenes, that I would love to see more projects from her in the future. And Emma Thompson, I’m glad when I looked her up she’s won not only a Oscar for acting but for writing. She is one of the best actresses of this generation. Late Night is just a good time at the movies. And in the summer month of June Gloom, it is nice to have a little savior film to get you out of inevitable doom.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL (no spoilers)

And the June Gloom continues. For the past decade summer blockbuster have been getting a bad rap, mainly the ones that come out in June, hence the Gloom. June summer movies are basically now considered the January dump month movies. Summer blockbusters that studios don’t have a lot of confidence in. I’m not saying ALL of June movies are like that, but some. Other than probably Toy Story 4, look at the films that are coming out: yet another reboot of Shaft that didn’t get good reviews, The Dead Don’t Die which didn’t get good reviews, Dark Phoenix sucked ass, Secret Life of Pets did not get good reviews, the remake of Child’s Play which probably won’t be good, Anna (the poor man’s John Wick), and Annabelle Comes Home. You literally just have Toy Story 4 and Yesterday. Which brings us to MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL, from where I said the “June Gloom continues” you can probably put 2 and 2 together on my thoughts. This new soft reboot (it’s very obviously a sequel but only has an Emma Thompson cameo as a continuation, she obviously walked across the street from the Late Night set, also new out this week), isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either. It has a strong first 30-45 minutes and then struggles enormously with its story, pacing, climax, and overall entertainment value.

During the first act of this I was wondering what the fuck critics were talking about. If there is one strong thing in this film that remains constant it is the wonderful, joyful performance from Tessa Thompson. She completely steals the show from everyone and makes me wish that a. she was in more things and b. made them fix the script before actually signing on to star in it. The first 30-45 minutes is mostly all her story, with her trying to track down the MIB all her life after she saw her mom and dad get neuralized after they see an alien in a house and she doesn’t. An alien which she sees, interacts with well and then lets go out into the wild, which you know will be brought back later in the movie at a crucial life saving time. She finally tracks them down, lets them know she has no attachments to life left, and she gets hired on a probationary basis at headquarters. Right off the bat she gets her first mission and that there might be something fishy going on in London near their other headquarters there. When she finally teams up with Chris Hemsworth is when everything falls off the rails.

And the problem isn’t with Hemsworth at all. While their chemistry in Thor 3 was better, they still work pretty well here where the script switches it up as she’s the rule following rookie and he’s the senior slacker. I liked that. It’s the story that I didn’t give a shit about. At the beginning I thought it would finally bring a main villain to the series (aka their Voldemort) with an alien race called “The Hive,” where this alien race can transform into anyone can manipulate the form of non-living things, but nothing really cool or interesting is done with it. Basically there are these twins at the forefront that can do all this and, it mentions this right at the beginning, they aren’t really Hive they just have their DNA in them or something like that. That part was a little confusing. Anyway, they are after this handheld Death Star like weapon and the whole journey to get it is bland and boring save for this one sequence out in the desert where they meet an ex-alien four armed girlfriend of Hemsworth, played by the great Rebecca Ferguson. She breaths a little life into the ho-hum dragging pacing of the story.

And the climax really isn’t all that great either. I was constantly being reminded of the ending of the much much much much superior first film, and it kind of felt like a bit of a rip off. Also, if you’ve seen the trailers, and you were one of the ones to point at the screen at one of the new characters and said, “whatever bad thing is happening in this film is probably this person’s fault or they’re behind it all,” you are probably right. Right when the first teaser trailer came out for this thing, I guessed the ending, and I was correct, and when it was revealed that I was correct, I got really bummed out. I thought of several other different options they could’ve done, several different paths I was praying they’d take, and they took the most boring option and made it more boring believe it or not. And while I liked Kumail Nanjiani’s voice little small pawn chess piece alien character, he honestly didn’t do much other than being in one of our main MIB pockets for the rest of the movie, and Liam Neeson’s talent is completely wasted here.

The action is bland, boring, and not exciting at all, but I’m not going to blame director F. Gary Gray. He has proven that he is a pretty solid director and can even bring some excitement to the most bland of sequel scripts (see Fate of the Furious). The blame completely falls on Sony Executives and the script. It feels like they went with a first draft just to get it into production. And even though you might look up the screenwriters and see that they co-wrote the first Iron Man, the rest of their filmography is one giant pile of shit, as they also wrote Punisher: War Zone and Transformers: The Last Knight. So yeah, no wonder this movie felt uninspired. When you write action scenes where two protagonist characters are standing on one part of a set, and the bad guys are standing on the other, and our two heroes are just blasting away at them with different guns, going to the next one when one of the weapons doesn’t work, and nothing else happens in that action sequence, THE STUDIOS NEED TO MAN UP AND HIRE OTHER WRITERS TO PUNCH UP THE FUCKING SCRIPT.

And again, the movie isn’t terrible, it’s just bland. And it makes me not want another Men In Black film for quite some time, if ever. The best thing I can say about this movie, is at least it was better than Men In Black II. You want to talk about horrid… Tessa Thompson, Christ Hemsworth, and all the big names attached to this movie, it isn’t going to ruin any of their careers. In fact, any movie makers that do see this will see the spark in Thompson and maybe attach her to a fantastic script where she can do multiple wonders and even get nominated for an Oscar one day. It’s just a minor speed bump in the road of failing franchises. But hopefully its a noticeable speed bump in that maybe studios will take a closer look than just try and rush things into production. But you know Hollywood. The same or some other studio will make the same mistakes in just a few years, and then be like the MIB using their memory wiping Neuralizers, and then try and use those devices multiple times to make you forget that these ho-hum projects exist.

Rank of Men In Black Movies:

  1. Men In Black
  2. Men In Black 3
  3. Men In Black International
  4. Men In Black 2

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: WINE COUNTRY (Netflix) (no spoilers)

When I say no spoilers with WINE COUNTRY, I have to ask myself this question: are there really spoilers in a film about women around the age of 50 just drinking wine, making jokes that land completely flat on their face, and bitching about their youth and current lives for an hour and 40 minutes? No, there really isn’t. As a critic, and as a male, I try to find the value in all movies of all genres. There are chick flicks that I enjoy, and there are action films that I hate, so other than Star Wars, Spielberg, and Tarantino, I don’t feel that I am that biased when it comes to reviewing movies (you can argue with me in a private chat). In my reviews, I always try to say “this movie is for you because of this, this, and this” or “stay away because of this, this, and so and so” but what I truly hate doing is putting a specific movie into two very easy, yet distinct (and possibly controversial) categories: “only if you are a male you are going to love/hate this movie” or “only if you are a women are you going to love/hate this movie.”

If I’ve “triggered” you with that statement, I truly am sorry, but follow along with me in that I do have a point to all this. We can debate the whole gender/sex issue another time. I generally like anyone as long as their heart and attitude are in the right place. No biases or preconceived notions from me. If you are a good person, then I have the up most respect for you, no matter the age, race, gender, sex, etc. etc. etc. The point I’m trying to make is this: you are probably only going to like Wine Country if you are a woman. And I hate saying that. But to me, it feels true and right when I replay this awful film in my mind. Because I truly did not get one minute of it. Throughout the whole hour and 40 minutes of this absolute abysmal slog fest, I did not once laugh out loud, I rolled my eyes about 100 times, and I was wondering how and couldn’t fucking believe that this script was green-lit for the cameras in the first place. The answer I came up with was simple, “I probably would’ve loved this if I was a woman.”

And I am going to stand by that statement, for several reasons. I am going to give two examples from two recent Netflix films where one could say that you would only enjoy them if you were a woman. I almost thought that the recent Netflix film Someone Great (which is currently on my worst of list but I don’t suspect it will be there by the end of the year) was one of those movies, but then the movie got better with a strong third act that contained a really moving dialogue rich speech from Gina Rodriguez that made me ponder life in general. Even though I didn’t ultimately like the film, I, as a man, still got something out of it. Same goes for Unicorn Store (which, thanks to Wine Country, just got kicked off my top ten worst list of the year), halfway through the movie I thought the movie was a little too weird and quirky for my taste, but then Brie Larson’s budding relationship with Mamoudou Athie’s character came in half way thru the film, and the acting in general and Brie Larson’s eye for the camera, made me get a little something out of it even though I ended up not liking it all too much and would probably never watch it again.

I did not get one thing out of Wine Country. I did not get laughter. I did not get insight. I was bored to tears. I did not care about any of the characters. The one male character in the movie, played by Jason Schwartzman, literally had no usefulness , was there for only for a paycheck and his comedic talents were wasted as when he was on screen he was just slapping a raw squid more than half the film (you’ll see). And I started to think about if me and a group of my male friends were to watch this movie alone and then maybe my wife and a group of her friends watched the movie alone, which target group would the filmmakers and Netflix want to talk to to get the best feedback possible. The answer is easy. After the film was done, I went back to a couple of parts of memorable bad jokes that I just didn’t laugh at and wondered, would I have laughed at this if I was a woman and if I was a woman of older age would I relate to the joke better? The answer to all my questions are basically yes at this point.

I’m not trying to be controversial at all. I’m not trying to stir up shit. I’m not trying to be an asshole. I’m trying to prove not just to you, but to myself that when I say this movie is only meant for women and would only be liked by women, that I know I’m telling the truth. I think about every single male friend that I know, and I can’t imagine one of them liking this. I imagine them all the same as me: bored to tears, not laughing, thinking about other female centric films, like Bridesmaids, or a better wine centric movie, like the masterful Sideways, that they would rather be watching. And I think of my wife and her female friends, and I can imagine every single one of them eating this up. Maybe the jokes would be smart to them, maybe they would relate to those jokes and to the characters more. I don’t know. I can’t imagine a woman hating this film, and if you are reading this, saw Wine Country, and hated it, please let me know and let me know in detail why you hated it. Because I really want to prove my notion/theory wrong. This movie is Rated R and while I do appreciate crude humor and good dick and fart jokes as long as they are smartly written, none of the jokes are just smartly written. The women in this movie just blurt out curse words and talk about their vaginas and how they queef or need phallus love, all of the jokes completely missing their witty target. It’s just being crude for shock value, which never works.

This review is already painstakingly long, so real quick, what can I say about the movie specifically? It’s basically a bunch of alum Saturday Night Live women celebrating the birthday of one of them, while drinking wine out at a nice place out in the country, trying drugs they haven’t done before, getting buck wild and talking about life’s quandaries. Some of them get mad at each other at some point but you know how the movie is going to end. And let me check, was the movie written by SNL writers? Yep, it was. Writers that wrote for the show right when it started not being funny anymore and while it is currently not funny anymore. Should I change my opinion to you will only like the movie if you are a woman and if you still somehow think SNL is painstakingly hilarious? Eh. The actresses are all fine in it though, and try to do the best with the shitty script they were given. This film doesn’t tarnish my review of the likes of Amy Poehler, or Ana Gasteyer, or Rachel Dratch. Maybe a little bit of Tina Fey though, she’s annoying and awful in this even though she is barely in it. I think they are all funny women in general and have all shined in some rare funny moments on SNL but especially their non-SNL projects.

But not this. And was there really even a script? Or did a bunch of SNL women stars and writers make up something real quick to get an all expenses paid wine vacation to spend time together and they just happened to bring a camera along so they could honor their part of the film making contract? Basically, if you read my last review, did they fucking Adam Sandler it? Very possible. The only difference is that it looked like the women wanted to be there and tried where Sandler looks like he wants to kill himself after every scene. But I literally got nothing out of this movie, and will never, ever, ever, ever, ever want to watch it again. I guess Netflix is getting the last laugh on me, as I thought their film that went on the streaming service in January, would be sole contender for worst film of 2019. Nope, Wine Country came out of left field and has now taken that title. So in summation: if you are a man, you are going to fucking hate this movie, and if you are a woman, you are going to love it. I decided that the hard maybe of this film catering to SNL apologists turned into a no. Sorry.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MURDER MYSTERY (Netflix) (No Spoilers)

MURDER MYSTERY is Adam Sandler’s best Netflix film. But it’s still a piece of shit and one of the worst films of the year. Other than the wonderful Chris Farley tribute song Sandler’s has been doing with his stand up tour and just redid on a recent episode of SNL (the whole episode wasn’t bad either), he has been on autopilot ever since after Funny People bombed at the box office. So when you think hard about his filmography, what is Adam Sandler’s last best film? I myself unfortunately couldn’t come up with just one answer but instead three different films in three different categories: 1. Sandler’s last film where he wasn’t on autopilot but the film wasn’t all that good – Funny People. 2. Sandler’s last film that was good fun but not great and he wasn’t on autopilot – Click. 3. Sandler’s last great best film – 50 First Dates. So if you want to go with option 3, that means Sandler hasn’t made a good film since 2004….Holy….Shit….a decade and a half. Abbie Doobie!!!

If you laughed at those last two jibberish words you probably could’ve once called yourself an Adam Sandler fan. At least when he was doing his jibberish routine in Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and The Waterboy, he actually made us laugh and was trying to bring the funny. Every film he does now he is either doing it for the paycheck, the ability to take his real family on vacation while he works….or both. And it seems like every time the director yells action in a Sandler film now, Adam pops a Xanax right before he mumbles his first line. Murder Mystery is no different. I don’t want to even explain the plot so I’m just going to give credit to IMDB.com and just copy and paste their one line summary: “A New York cop and his wife go on a European vacation to reinvigorate the spark in their marriage, but end up getting framed and on the run for the death of an elderly billionaire.” See the key word there? Vacation? If you like films that struggle to find endless jokes about Claritin Vs. Allegra, random goats in the road, and aged ham combined with really dumb physical comedy that has absolutely no point, this film is for you. And unfortunately you are also to blame for these types of movies being made.

Unless you are living under a rock you probably know that Jennifer Aniston is in this movie too. And with this and Dumplin’ now under her belt, are we to assume she’s going to be the next once big celebrity stuck in this endless loop of Netflix assembly lined manufactured bullshit? Probably. In my opinion, I don’t think Jennifer Anison has ever been that great of an actress. She showed some potential in the movie Cake, but in everything else she seems like the same character. Again, in Murder Mystery, it is no different. She plays a bumbling wife on autopilot. So you are probably asking yourself if I hate Adam Sandler’s recent movies so much, why in the fuck did I bother even watching this? Gemma Arterton. Probably one of the most gorgeous women on the planet and was the only one in this that felt like they actually wanted to be there and actually tried. I will literally watch everything she does. And in the back of my mind did I have an alterior motive where I wanted another film to add onto my worst list of 2019? Abso-fucking-lutely.

Now I said in my opening that this was Adam Sandler’s best Netflix film, which is true, I wasn’t lying. I will give it two commendations. One, I did not guess who the killer was correctly. I had two theories, both were proven wrong. Two, Adam Sandler’s dumb friends don’t show up in this movie to ruin it. Well, to be fair, one of them makes a cameo as a disgruntled tourist, but the person has two lines, is far off, and I couldn’t tell at all it was Allen Covert until I looked it up, and those lines weren’t memorable for being stupid. So we’ll still count number two as a commendation. The rest of the movie is just filth. Adam Sandler’s arc is that he’s a cop (Sergeant) that has failed his detective exam three times, so I assumed that the movie would use his detective skills to prove he should actually be one in the end. WRONG. Sandler does maybe real detective work in only one scene and that is at the climax in a room where all the survivors are gathered. And that’s a HARD maybe. The rest of the movie characters just come to him and spout off bullshit and in another scene him and Aniston are making up dumb questions to ask the suspects in order for them to possibly confess. There is no real detective work done throughout the entire movie (save for the climax where he is literally putting two lines of dialogue/information together) , and in fact, if I was Sandler’s boss in that fictional world, I would fire his ass for being the most inept lazy cop in existence.

The whole time while watching the movie I was thinking of different and better ways the film could’ve gone, and obviously it didn’t go with any of those options. This entire film was an excuse for Sandler to go on vacation while he does some work on Xanax, while the director gets some gorgeous shots of a foreign city and country side. So other than Sandler, who is to blame? When looking this movie up I was surprised to find out that Sandler didn’t even write the fucking screenplay. But I wasn’t shocked by who it was, James Vanderbilt. He is responsible for Amazing Spider-Man 2, Independence Day 2, Darkness Falls, Basic, and White House Down. Literally the only film he has written that was great was Zodiac, but I have a feeling that was more because of David Fincher’s direction than it was the actual script. So in the end, with Netflix and Sandler, if you have the choice of watching Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over, Sandy Wexler, The Week Of, or Murder Mystery, which one should you choose? Always know that there is the option of not watching any of them at all. Think outside the box, something that Sandler hasn’t done in 15 years.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: DARK PHOENIX (Major Spoilers)

Answer the question, which is worse? Retelling a story (film wise) that was great to begin with and it results in so-so to terrible results? Or retelling a story (film wise) that was shit to begin with and it results in being even shittier than the first outing? Need more information? The first question for example would be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and Star Trek Into Darkness and the second question for example would be X-Men The Last Stand and Dark Phoenix. When given those options, I would say the latter question is definitely, definitely worse. Other than this first paragraph and the last paragraph, my review will contain major, major, major spoilers. Like I will talk about the 20th Century Fox X-Men Franchise as a whole, how the timeline is fucked up, the ending to this movie, the entire outcome of this movie and so on. So if you still want to read my review having not seen this movie, you’ve been warned. But if you want to stop but you want to ultimately know what I think, only read this and the last paragraph, but I’ll leave you with this: DARK PHOENIX is easily the worst X-Men film and one of the most boring experiences I’ve ever had with a superhero comic book movie in general.

Still with me? How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. Needless to say, Dark Phoenix should never have been made in the first place. X-Men Days Of Future Past was supposed to basically restart the entire timeline and essentially get X-Men The Last Stand and X-Men Origins Wolverine completely erased from canon (and unfortunately erasing from canon the original X-Men, X2, and The Wolverine but that’s another topic for another day). DOFP is a near perfect X-Men Film, with an interesting ending where Mystique supposedly fishes Wolverine out of a body of water instead of William Stryker, hinting that the franchise could go anywhere and tell new stories. Then came the so-so X-Men Apocalypse, co-written by Simon Kinberg who is now the sole person to blame for fucking up this franchise, that while it gave us a new villain with the younger cast of X-Men characters, said “Fuck DOFP’s ending because we don’t know any interesting way to write ourselves out of it,” had Stryker ending up for some reason still getting the Wolverine in their possession because cool cameo because they couldn’t come up with anything new or interesting because lazy.

X-Men Apocalypse isn’t that bad of a movie though. It has some interesting sequences, some good action and a climax that while it has an epic scale feel to it, it is basically everybody standing in one place trying to kill the villain, and ends up feeling anti-climatic. The ending to that film also has a weird thing of Jean Grey getting her Phoenix powers quite early but being able to control them very quickly because reasons, but I digress. My point is that if you want the franchise to end on good terms, after having watched Apocalypse, you could watch Logan (it being the film that has the furthest alternate timeline with events affected by DOFP) and then be done with it. But no, they are ending it with this. And the reason this makes me upset is that they could’ve done any story they wanted to. Bring in different villains, different threats we haven’t seen before and these different threats. That’s what an alternate timeline is supposed to do in movies! But writer/director Simon Kinberg felt bad about his part with the Dark Phoenix plotline in The Last Stand that he felt redoing that story for this was his “apology.” His “apology” is really a “gotcha” moment of Lucy taking away the football right at the last second so Charlie Brown can’t kick it.

So basically, yet again, we are getting a Star Trek Into Darkness type situation. The writer couldn’t come up with anything different, and decided to redo something that didn’t need to be redone. The only difference between Into Darkness and Dark Phoenix is that Into Darkness was at least half way decently entertaining. Dark Phoenix is the most bored I’ve ever been in a superhero comic book film. Yes, that even includes Ang Lee’s Hulk, Elecktra, and the reboot of Fantastic Four (another fault of Simon Kinberg, did 20th Century Fox not learn from that shit?!) At least X-Men Origins and The Last Stand had some entertainment value and they also had Hugh Jackman bringing his A game to very lackluster scripts. Dark Phoenix doesn’t have Hugh Jackman at all and doesn’t pick up at all until the very last re shot third act on the train, and yet even that sequence ends in the ultimate whimper. Sorry, this review is so long, but there is so much more to talk about. Side note: Hans Zimmer so called score that all these critics are saying is the really only good part of the movie, is “meh” at best. It isn’t memorable AT ALL.

Everybody in this movie sucks except for Michael Fassbender as Magneto (who doesn’t show up until the movie is half over and is the least he’s ever been in an X-Men film, YOU DON’T WASTE FASSBENDER…EVER!!!), Tye Sheridan as Cyclops (the movies still don’t know what to do with his character, but at least Sheridan is charismatic and does what he can in the role), and surprisingly Sophie Turner (who was terrible in X-Men Apocalypse but in defense her character wasn’t given much to do). Jennifer Lawrence looks like she wants to shoot herself (like she did in Apocalypse) for even agreeing to be in this movie, and phones it completely in again, making you wish she had the intensity she brought in First Class and DOFP. Thankfully, as the trailers basically spelled out, it kills her 30 minutes into the movie. James McAvoy seems like he is completely somewhere else and is on a lot of painkillers just to get through shooting this thing. Same for Nicholas Hoult. But the one truly wasted actor here is the villain, played by Jessica Chastain. She phones it in as well, not knowing who her character is supposed to be, because frankly, I don’t even think the script knew. It has the least developed villains I have ever seen in a superhero motion picture, and that includes Steppenwolf from Justice League and Drax the Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy. They have a two sentence dialogue of their back story, which completely went over my head, as I just didn’t give a shit.

The plot? All over the fucking place. At the beginning of the film the X-Men go off into space with just a few lines of dialogue as to how their jet can make it combined with some duct tape for make shift astronaut suits so they can breathe (I shit you not) to rescue some astronauts whose shuttle has come into contact with some solar flare mass pink thing. Anyway, Jean Grey gets stuck in the doomed shuttle and ends up absorbing this solar flare thing and she just becomes Dark Phoenix. Oh, and some alien villains we never get to know were monitoring this mass this entire time because it destroyed their home world yet they want to absorb it and keep its power as well. Then some shit goes down, Mystique is killed kind of by accident, and character motivations go completely out the window. Magneto is basically living in peace on this secluded piece of land with other mutants with no modern technology, but completely changes his tune and becomes an asshole again with a snap of the fingers just because Mystique is killed, because he “loves” her even though he really just banged her once. At least Fassbender tries and does his best with pulling off that too quick emotional transition fast.

The movie ruins most of all the other characters that were cool well acted in the past films as well. Xavier is painted as a egotistical bad guy for most of the movie, Mystique doesn’t do any awesome physical fighting in this and Lawrence tries to get out of the blue paint again as much as possible, they ruin Beast by having him turn bad with not that much motivation other than Magneto’s. They manage to completely waste Quicksilver. Writer Kinberg knew that Quicksilver was too powerful (just like the writers knew that Captain Marvel was too powerful and she was hardly in Endgame) so instead of doing another shocking moment and killing him off he is just disabled after his brief fight with Jean Grey. His moment at the beginning trying to rescue the astronauts from space was okay but no where near the heights of his sequences in DOFP and Apocalypse. Storm says like 5 lines and just does her lightning thing which all felt wasted. Nightcrawler has a couple of cool action beats but his characterization…wait, what characterization? The only two characters that get a bump up from previous films characterization wise are Cyclops and Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix. Sophie Turner actually does an excellent job here with her acting skills (and one would argue she is better in this than she was in her entire run on Game of Thrones). It was the only time I felt like an actual character was trying to illicit genuine emotions from the audience, even though in the end it ultimately didn’t work because the story completely fell flat.

At the end of the film you have Jean Grey taking Jessica Chastain into space, destroying her, and then just going off into parts unknown as a fiery phoenix symbol. Xavier leaves the school and meets up with Magneto, who offers to take him to a place where he will be accepted and they play another game of chess in France. Beast is now the headmaster of the school and the school’s name is changed from Xavier’s School For Gifted Children into Jean Grey’s School For Gifted Children because even though she killed a bunch of people as the Phoenix, why the hell not for forced story’s emotion sake right? I guess the ending does co-align with what we saw in the changed future in Days of Future Past, but since Disney now has the X-Men you will just have to fill in the gaps instead of getting another story with a proper ending with this cast. In your mind you will have to imagine that Jean Grey comes back to the school and still ends up with Cyclops. Xavier at one point comes back to head the school. The only person we didn’t see in DOFP changed future was Mystique, which was probably why Simon Kinberg killed her off, feeling that it would be “shocking,” even though he couldn’t literally kill anyone else. I don’t know, the whole aging timeline thing was fucked up when Apocalypse was a decade later than DOFP and literally Dark Phoenix’s ending is supposed to be hopeful, but the rest of the movie is a dark, depressing, and damaged mess that you can’t help but feel ultimately let down from a franchise you have been with for 19 years. That’s where my solution of just ignoring this films events and going straight from Apocalypse to Logan comes in. Logan is dark and depressing as well with a very hopeful ending, but at least it was all packaged into a masterpiece of a movie.

And I’ve already said it several times throughout this film. The film is very, very boring. I almost fell asleep several times as my eyes were the heaviest they have been in a long time while watching a movie. There are really only two to three minor action sequences before the big linear train climax and those action sequences were directed and shot really poorly by Simon Kinberg. The worst one being the mid film mini street battle outside a townhouse that Jessica Chastain’s alien character and Jean Grey are staying at. I couldn’t tell what the fuck was going on action wise. The one thing that the final act train sequence does correctly is that it lets Cyclops use the fuck out of his laser blast eyes and it shows Magneto finally going full Wolverine “bezerker” mode and killing a bunch of aliens in the most bad ass way possible that we haven’t seen in other films. Those 5 minutes can easily be watched in a future clip on YouTube.

Before I get to my last concluding paragraph, because I’m tired of being disappointed by this movie, let’s get to whose fault this really is: Simon Kinberg. Sure, he co-wrote Days of Future Past and the first Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr., but you are meaning to tell me that 20th Century Fox was putting their full faith in the guy to redo the Phoenix story that also wrote/co-wrote Jumper, XXX: State of the Union, This Means War, the FANTASTIC FOUR REBOOT AND FUCKED UP THE STORY ONCE ALREADY WITH THE LAST STAND?!? Come on, this guy was showing ALL the warning signs. I guess you can blame the Fox executives as well but I’m just going to write that off as ignorance at trying to polish a turd. A turd that has already avoided being polished a dozen times previously.

Why is my longest review yet at 11 paragraphs long and it is a negative review? Shouldn’t long spoiler filled reviews be about films that you love and just can’t stop talking about? You would think so. But alas, no. It’s just the culmination of the 19 years and 12 films we’ve had in this franchise all coming to an end. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster. When the franchise hit its highs, it REALLY hit its highs, and when it his those mediocre bumps and those terrible terrible lows, well…it really shit the bed didn’t it. It is just kind of depressing to end things this way. I know, I know. We still have one last Fox one when The New Mutants finally decides to do their re-shoots and edited it all into something coherent for April 2020, but given how long that film has been delayed, do you really think it is going to make much of a difference. Also, it doesn’t really contain any sort of continuity with the other X-Men films at all, and in the end I just have a feeling the 13th and final film containing X-Men is going to be at the bottom of the barrel with the worst of them. If 20th Century Fox (now owned by Disney) wanted to recoup some of its money on these disasters it should’ve just released the initial watchable cut of The New Mutants on Hulu this very weekend. Whoever didn’t think of that should be fired. While on the one side it sucks that this series ended with a shitty whimper, on the bright side maybe it is now something that Disney can actually reboot and do something special with WHILE incorporating it into the MCU. My suggestion? Make it have the spirit and panache of the X-Men Animated Series. Oh shit, I just realized, with The New Mutants, they really are ending on 13 films. Really? They are going to end the entire series on an unlucky number? Even if you take away the two Deadpool films, that would make it ending on 11, as in filing a CHAPTER 11. Pffft, figures.

My Ranking of X-Men Films (including Deadpool)

  1. X2
  2. Logan
  3. Days Of Future Past
  4. First Class
  5. Deadpool 2
  6. Deadpool
  7. X-Men
  8. The Wolverine
  9. Apocalypse
  10. The Last Stand
  11. Origins Wolverine
  12. Dark Phoenix

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ROCKETMAN

ROCKETMAN is a zany, guilty pleasure, new Disney classic for me. It stars Harland Williams as this idiot geek who actually gets his dream comes true and becomes an astronaut and gets to go on the first mission to Mars. Wait a minute, oh shit, wrong movie. Sorry, suddenly I was having good ol’ flashbacks to 1997. No, THIS Rocketman is a hard Rated R musical look at the crazy life of one of the best musicians to ever grace the world, Elton John. As you probably know because its been reported a dozen times, the director of this, Dexter Fletcher, directed the last two weeks of shoots on Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer went AWOL, so Rocketman is being compared, both fairly and unfairly, to that film. The question on everyone’s mind is, is it better than Bohemian Rhapsody, as reviews on Rotten Tomato, CinemaScore, etc. would allow you to believe? It is, but not by much. However, if you are one of those people that said “fuck the critics” and enjoyed the hell out of Bohemian Rhapsody, then you can basically tell me to fuck off, because you’ll probably love this.

And it’s not like I hated Bohemian Rhapsody. I just thought it was okay, elevated more than it should have been by Rami Malek’s incredible Oscar winning (and well deserved) performance. But just like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman is your standard bio pic fare, only elevated by the fact that it is more of a musical than Rhapsody was, Taron Egerton gives an award worthy performance, and this also dives deeper into the sexuality of Elton John than Rhapsody did with Mercury. But that’s about it. If you seen one rock star/musician/singer bio pic, you’ve seen them all. Even with earlier this year’s The Dirt on Netflix, all of them are Rise To Stardom, Fall From Stardom because of drugs, sex, alcohol or a combination of the three, and then usually Rise Back To Stardom and in the end either that person dies of a tragedy, or they overcome their demons and lived and long and happy rest of their lives. Well, since most of us know that Elton John is still alive, how do you think the ending to this one plays out?

When the movie isn’t a musical, it drags considerably. It starts out well enough, in that it has a bunch of musical song and dance numbers at the beginning, but somewhere in the middle of the film I think the filmmakers forgot it was a musical and tried to turn it into a hardcore drama, and the musical numbers were few and far between, IMO of course. It just didn’t have that balance to make it a great film, and if you are telling a rock bio pic story that has been told a billion times before, you HAVE to be different and you HAVE to have that balance if you are trying to tell a story a different way but at the same time still having that same point A to point B narrative. And the movie has balance, but not enough for me to consider it a great film. The movie does do a good job of putting Elton John’s demons in the forefront of the film, and it explores his homosexuality a great deal more and a great deal better than the PG-13 Bohemian Rhapsody did. However, at one point in his life Elton John got married to a woman, and I thought the film would be a bit longer and delve into that relationship more, but alas, it was over in two seconds, with it just skipping about 5 years later, and not explaining the conflicting details. The movie was only about 2 hours, it could’ve went a little longer in that area to make it tighter.

I promise though, the movie isn’t terrible at all. I liked it well enough and that’s because I love Elton John’s music. They go through most of all of his hits and it was a joy to hear them on screen, much as it was a joy to hear Queen’s music on screen in Bohemian Rhapsody. Taron Egerton also gives a hell of a performance and it is elevated by the fact that he sings all the songs and actually sounds and moves like Elton John. If there is only one reason to see this movie, it is for Taron. While I hope that the movie doesn’t get a best picture nomination at the end of the year, I will be a little sad if Taron is forgotten and not recognized. And when the movie is a musical, all the song and dance numbers are fun and directed very well by Fletcher. It’s the quiet moments that needed a lot more work.

But anyway, seriously, if you loved Bohemian Rhapsody, fuck my luke-warm review. You’ll love Rocketman. It’s definitely better than Rhapsody in that it actually tries to do something a bit different. Uneven, but different. You’ll especially love this film if you love Elton John and his music. Oh shit, I forgot to mention the supporting cast. Richard Madden completely shed his Robb Stark image and was harrowing as Elton John’s dick manager/lover. Bryce Dallas Howard was good, and much better than the Jurassic World movies, as Elton’s mom, but the true standout with Jamie Bell as Elton’s song writing partner Bernie Taupin. Jamie Bell needs to be in more things and if he was possibly nominated for supporting at the end of the year I can see why. Anyway, now that we got three rock biopics within the span of half a year, it’s probably going to be a long long time before we see another one. And you could do worse than this film.