Zach's Zany Movie Reviews: STAR WARS EPISODE IX THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (spoilers, spoilers, spoilers, ho ho ho)

Merry Christmas (well…Eve) everyone! As present to my faithful readers and since I haven’t had any backlash on what I’ve said about STAR WARS EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER so far, my present to you is a full review, albeit some spoilers in this here stocking stuffer. So, if you haven’t seen it, I’d steer clear until after you have, so you don’t blame Zach Claus and put him on your own naughty list. I don’t go into detail with every single thing that happens in the film mind you, but I do go into some specifics about what I liked and didn’t like about the film. The only way to really do that is to spoil some major shit that goes down. So if you have seen the film, gather your family around by the computer, maybe start a fire in your fireplace, or put a fake one on your big screen television, and bundle up to get warm, as this sleigh review ride might be downright bumpy to you and yours from the get go.

Why is that? Because The Rise Of Skywalker is NOT my favorite/best film of 2019. Yep. Did I just shove some shocking coal down your stocking? If you’ve read my shit for awhile, you would know that The Force Awakens was my top film of 2015 and The Last Jedi was my top film of 2017 (and still are, no shame here). And if I could go back and tweak my 2016 and 2018 lists, I would take Rogue One completely out of the spot (I think #3, how insane was I? was probably bias) I put it on and it wouldn’t even be on that list at all, and Solo would reappear near the bottom twenty of the year of its release. I’ve learned that you can’t just rank a new Star Wars film on your best of list without several repeat viewings of said new adventure. The Rise of Skywalker, while I ultimately had a lot of fun watching it and it kept me entertained the entire 2 hr and 22 minute run time, I thought was too rushed, a little too convoluted at times, was too rushed, had way too much material that felt just shoved in and didn’t have a lot of room to breathe, was too rushed, had a little too much fan service for my liking, and was just too rushed. Did I happen to mention it just felt too rushed?

But I can’t blame J.J. Abrams for this, he was doing the best he could with what he had to work with. The main problem with The Rise Of Skywalker is three fold.

  1. The Passing of Carrie Fisher – Abrams did the best with the archival footage he had of Carrie to work with. Someone telling you they should’ve just killed her off in between films or just had her character absent is a dumb fuck. If someone tells you that shit, they have absolutely no idea what a cohesive and rewarding narrative feels like. Leia HAD to be in that film, her character had to have some kind of resolution with her son Ben, and I think Abrams and company did the best job they could. Is some of her footage and dialogue jarring? Yeah…but it could’ve been much, much worse. The jarring parts are completely worth it when it comes down to Leia’s emotional last act.
  2. They didn’t plan out the trilogy – whoever is in charge of Lucasfilm in the coming months, whether Kathleen Kennedy steps down and Jon Favreau and/or Dave Filoni take her place, this sequel trilogy (and the two solo ((pun intended)) films) are solid arguments about what NOT to do with planning out your franchise. Back whenever Abrams was hired, there should’ve been a stipulation that he had to direct and write and/or co-write all three episode films, and stick with it for about a decade (he didn’t do shit between Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker btw). There also needed to be at least 3 years between the Episode films, what Lucas had (but didn’t utilize) with the prequel trilogy. While I still love The Last Jedi, and am one of its few defenders, Rian Johnson’s film at the end of the day feels very insignificant when put into the confines of this trilogy. Everybody in that film ended up in the same place by the end in terms of where they were at the beginning, with no threads leading to any kind of a hint of where the last film was going to go. When The Rise of Skywalker picks up, its quite jarring, as it seems that Abrams just let a bunch of new ideas fall onto paper and he just started grabbing at some of them to put them together to make something cohesive. It’s cohesive at times, but not enough. Maybe this is a lesson learned for any future expansion of the brand.
  3. Rise of Skywalker feels like a film that catered to the fans wishes and especially to those that hated The Last Jedi. DON’T EVER DO THIS. You can’t make everyone happy, so you need to throw those notions out of your brain and make a film that feels completely cohesive, a strong and structured narrative, no matter if it pisses those angry fan boys off or not. That’s what Rian Johnson did with The Last Jedi, even if his film did kind of trip the other one a bit to the finish line. The Rise of Skywalker feels like a bunch of fan explanations and theories put to paper and then jumbled up and then reassembled quickly . So much shit happens in this film, it completely felt like Abrams tried to cater to everyone. You can’t do that with movies. You just fucking can’t and anybody that tries to do that from now on is going to look like an absolute moron and giant asshole.

I’m saying all this and you’ll probably look down at my ranking of all the Star Wars films that were released in theaters and be shocked to see that Rise of Skywalker is still above the middle of the list. So what did I enjoy about the film exactly? I enjoyed Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver’s performances as Rey and Kylo respectively. I really really enjoyed Harrison Ford’s emotional cameo. I enjoyed the special effects, as always with this new trilogy (anything to prevent my eyes from being burned by the forever glowing green screen madness of the prequels). I enjoyed C-3P0’s arc, even though I thought everything was kind of negated when he got his memory back at the end. I still enjoyed Rey and Finn’s chemistry, even though that romantic story line that was started in The Force Awakens didn’t seem to go anywhere in this film (I don’t fucking buy Abrams explanation that Finn was going to tell Rey that he was Force-sensitive. That’s stupid to say to someone when you are about to die. I love you is the only thing that needs to be said at a time like that). I loved the new character of Babu Frick (the little guy that fucks with C-3P0’s mechanics), and even though they were hardly in the film, I enjoyed the new character played by Keri Russell named Zorii Bliss, and I enjoyed Billy Dee Williams small return as Lando.

I also really loved Ian McDiarmid’s hamming it up as Emperor Palpatine once again, even though his return isn’t really explained very well. I don’t care if it is going to be explained in canon off shoot novels and comics, that needed an explanation then and now. Was he a clone or was that his dead body from the destruction of the second Death Star? I loved the whole Rey Skywalker thing at the end, so fucking sue me. I got that message and it touched me in the feels, so fuck off. I liked Ben Solo’s redemption and his little nod for the Knights of Ren’s ultimate demise when Rey force connects herself to Ben and she passes the light saber to him. I liked that Rey was revealed to be a Palpatine (his granddaughter), even though that brings up the question of who would’ve fucked that wrinkly old sack of shit in the first place to produce offspring to eventually produce her (again, probably something that will be expanded upon in future comics/novels). The thing I probably enjoyed the most more than Harrison Ford’s cameo was the unique force connection thread that Abrams thankfully brought back from The Last Jedi, and expanded upon it (even though I think at the end of The Last Jedi, Rey closing the door to the Falcon was symbolizing her cutting off the connection, but whatever). There is just so much in this film to deconstruct, I really can’t do it all in one review. Hit me up on messenger if you want to talk long and talk specifics. That being said, let’s get to the stuff I didn’t really like:

  1. Unfortunately my prediction of the Knight of Ren hardly being in the film and ultimately being a wasted MacGuffin came true. They are completely useless in this film, and even though they are being expanded upon in the novels and comics, they’re ultimately so easily defeated by Ben Solo that I don’t really care to know much more about them. They are the Captain Phasma/Boba Fett of this film.
  2. While Abrams embraced and acknowledged some of the events of The Last Jedi, I didn’t like the little subtle one liners of taking some events back from that film and taken them for granted. I didn’t like the line explaining Holdo’s kamikaze lightspeed maneuver in the last film being chalked up to a 1 in a million shot. I didn’t like when Luke’s force ghost just catches the lightsaber Rey tries to throw away after learning about her lineage near the end of the film and Luke says he was wrong for his actions in the last movie. I didn’t like the explanation of Snoke was just a patsy that was made from Palpatine and I almost laughed when I saw a vat of Snoke bodies in that liquid container on Exogol.
  3. The fake out with Chewie’s death was kind of dumb.
  4. Huge mistake was not giving Rose Tico/Kelly Marie Tran anything to do, it just made those complaints about her character from angry fan boys valid, as if saying, “they were right.” I feel really bad for her, I really do. I really think Tran is a nice, humble, and fantastic human being in real life. Hope she excels in other, better roles.
  5. Why are we introducing new characters at the end of a nine part saga story? I mean Zorii Bliss was kind of cool and everything, but did we really need Naomie Ackle’s character? Or Richard E. Grant’s General Pryde character? I have a feeling they might be Disney Plus’d soon to have an explanation for their appearances. Abrams should’ve focused on the characters already established, for more well rounded and fitting ends. Because I think Finn and Poe, even though they had great chemistry together, ended up being an afterthought in this film. Take out the new characters, put back Kelly Marie Tran, and work on just those, and they could’ve had something special.
  6. The awesome looking Sith Troopers and the Final Order was wasted.
  7. Maz Kanata…what was the point of her ultimately?
  8. I didn’t like that J.J. Abrams didn’t pay close attention to the shit that has been established in canon novels and comic books. There was literally no time for Poe to have once been a spice runner, something new about him that was just revealed in this film, and the fact it was revealed in a comic book that Chewie had his own medal from the Battle of Yavin, just so Abrams could punch you in the feels with his own Chewie getting a medal scene. Him not taking that canon to heart, and me reading about that canon, made those scenes make not much sense in the long wrong.
  9. The whole film just felt rushed, there was way too much packed into it, and some of it felt convoluted. Abrams needs to get his head out of story lines that involves maps and finding a thing that leads to another thing, that leads you to another thing that eventually gets you to a hidden location. It’s like maps are his Star Wars porn that he jerks off to.

Only in the last third of the film did everything slow down a bit and was allowed room to breathe. I liked the final semi-space battle. The “ground” battle on top of one of the Star Destroyers was cool and something I hadn’t seen in Star Wars before, I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed the look of Exogol even though Rey’s final confrontation with the Emperor was a tad disappointing as it basically ripped off Harry Potter and Voldemort’s final match in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I enjoyed all the voices from Star Wars past, including television characters that haven’t been put to live action film yet. I enjoyed the desert chase, the lightsaber battle on the ruins of Death Star II and I even liked the new force additions like Force healing. If you tallied up everything, you can see that I enjoyed more of the film than what I didn’t enjoy.

Thankfully, on my second viewing, I put all my criticisms to the side and tried to enjoy the film for what it was. And while I still think the whole story is rushed as fuck, I enjoyed the The Rise of Skywalker even more the second viewing. And I have a feeling that with even more future viewings, I’ll eventually chalk it down to that this film was my generation’s Return of the Jedi. An underwhelming, yet entertaining final chapter. By the way, you might be surprised where Return of the Jedi is on my list below. I really don’t like large portions of that film (Boba Fett going out like a bitch, didn’t care for Jabba, and I hate Ewoks. Solo and Leia don’t get much to do. I do enjoy Luke’s final confrontation with Vader and the Emperor and I’m always exhilarated by the speeder bike chase.) At least we know we aren’t getting a new Star Wars film for at least 3 or 4 years, so there is some optimism to be had that maybe everyone at Lucasfilm can breathe and actually plan things out for once. At the end of the day, for every Star Wars fans, everybody is going to have a different opinion. There is so much in the Star Wars universe that your different opinion will be unique, your own special one. And that is perfectly okay, just don’t have it be an angry fan boy toxic opinion. Don’t hate, try to appreciate everything you have been given by being lucky enough to live in a time where you actually HAVE Star Wars. Try to find that balance of optimism in the forest of all that negativity. If you don’t, you are going to force yourself down a long dark hole of hate, a feeling that will ultimately make you feel like shit, maybe even depressed. You will regret feeling that way, but by then it will be too late, there is no turning back from that path to the dark side. Pun intended on everything with those last couple of sentences, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…and of course…May The Force Be With You!

My ranking of all the Star Wars films that were released in theaters:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. A New Hope
  3. The Force Awakens
  4. The Last Jedi
  5. The Rise of Skywalker
  6. Return of the Jedi
  7. Solo
  8. Revenge of the Sith
  9. Rogue One
  10. The Phantom Menace
  11. Attack of the Clones
  12. The Clone Wars Movie

Zach's Zany Movie Reviews: BOMBSHELL

BOMBSHELL is like a bomb in itself: messy and all over the place with no centralized focus and is too loud and muddled in its message to really be saying anything at all. It doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. It tries to be tongue in cheek, but it tries so hard that it doesn’t ever become tongue in cheek, it becomes a film with way too many tones that don’t mix well. Is it a comedy? I don’t think so, I maybe laughed once. Is it a political bashing film? No…not really as it had a couple of Trump moments but didn’t bash or talk about politics enough to warrant that genre. Is it a drama? It only really gets emotional the last ten minutes, but it isn’t earned as the rest of the film is too light, bright, and fluffy to have that drama totally make sense. Sure, the film is about the female personnel at the Fox News location in Manhattan and the harassment allegations that eventually come to fruition against the founder, Roger Ailes, but it tries too much and too hard to be about a dozen other things and loses its voice very, very fast.

Part of the problem with this film is that instead of just focusing on the three female leads (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, & Margot Robbie) and then Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) as well, they introduce dozens and dozens of more characters throughout the course of the 1 hr and 50 minute film, and I guess we are supposed to care about them too as each one has an in-scene title text that gives us their real name and how they are associated with the modern world. Seriously, it’s a lot of them, so I’d put the ones just introduced to me in my memory bank in case they came back later. But then just more and more piled on and I started to lose track, so that when some of them did come back later, I had no idea where they were in reference to the story. Way too much information, and what this film needed was a sharp focus it was never near reaching. When the movie focused on Theron, Kidman & Robbie, it was somewhat elevated from its mediocre status, but then the focus is taken away just as quickly. The one that fairs the best out of all of them is definitely Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly. She’s always been an incredible actress, and here it is no different, getting all of Kelly’s mannerisms right, and even having on incredible make up that makes her look exactly like the journalist. If there was one nomination and possible Oscar win I will agree upon, is when this movie will pick up its award for make up & hair styling. Easily the best looking part of the film.

What I don’t get is all the praise for Nicole Kidman & Margot Robbie. They are getting serious supporting actress consideration, but their characters aren’t really all that interesting and it doesn’t seem like a stretch for either of the actresses to play these real life counterparts. Nicole Kidman has had plenty of (and better) supporting roles playing a strong female leader willing to do something to create change and her range here doesn’t really even get close to even meeting the caliber of those other great roles. I would say not even in the parking lot of the same ballpark. Margot Robbie’s character is just sort of a ditz that is in over her head and suddenly smarts up by the end of the movie. She has one break down scene that I guess everybody is giving her Oscar buzz over, but the fact that it doesn’t even come close to touching her great supporting role in The Wolf Of Wall Street, something she didn’t even get (but should’ve) nominated for, is baffling to me. Even her portrayal of Harley Quinn was more interesting than this wannabe journalist who is one of Roger Ailes victims. Charlize Theron is really the only one getting praise where it is due, but even then, I have at least a dozen of other better performances this year from actresses that could easily take her nomination spot and be arguably warranted.

But going back to the film’s main fault: it just doesn’t know what it wants to be, and tries too hard to be tongue in cheek and comes out as a mish-mash of genres that doesn’t really work well. It wasn’t comedy, nor drama, nor was it really all that political, and it just said things that have all been said before. All of the sexual allegation stuff seemed to be only surface level, and not digging deep into the problem and maybe having something to say other than just the usual, “speak up” if something to that nature happens to you or support from other victims. All of this just boils down to: THERE. WAS. NO. FOCUS. AT. ALL. The had the story right there, and it seems like there were 7 different writers on it that all gave the script a go, and the end result is some kind of Frankenstein monster that somehow inhabits all of their ideas. Would it surprise you to know that this was done by only one writer though? It doesn’t if you know who he is like I do, Charles Randolph. Yes, he co wrote the fantastic The Big Short, but he had some major help with how that film turned out, and the rest of his filmography, ranging from The Interpreter to The Live of David Gale to Love and Other Drugs, is just not that impressive.

To be honest, I don’t think this is director Jay Roach’s fault. Jay Roach has, I think, a great eye and brings some flair to what the camera captures and onto the frame (look how colorful and stylistic all three Austin Powers movies look like), and here is no different, but his style is completely trampled by a substance that is just too much and too little at the same time. His film and world within that film is bright, colorful, and imaginative, but the screenplay makes it feel like none of that vision is appropriate for the story being told. It says nothing by trying to say too much. This is just a performance movie without a clear message, and it saddens me to say that because I was really looking forward to Bombshell. I was expecting something to the kin of The Big Short, something with a central message and a pin pointed focus to drive home that message without being too preachy. This film wants to be too preachy but instead of preaching a direct message, preaches about a hundred other different things. It went on and on until the point where I just gave up and nodded off because none of it seemed like it was going to drop any kind of true bombshell any time soon.

Zach's Zany Movie Reviews: THE AERONAUTS (Amazon Prime)

Boring. Meh. A couple of tense moments that would’ve been fantastic in a half hour short film. Historically inaccurate, but may have been helped by that more than hurt. Good acting from two stars that are known for their good acting. All of that describes THE AERONAUTS, which was an original Amazon Prime film that was just released this past weekend. To quote my wife (she felt the same way I did about this movie), “this is such a niche film, probably why it went direct to streaming and not into theaters.” 100% agree with her. If this film was released in theaters, it would’ve bombed, badly. And it also probably would’ve been more controversial in the main stream media. While I’ve seem some advertising, this film seemed very quietly just released to get rid of. And it shows, other than a couple of cool special effects hot air balloon life threatening moments, this movie is a snooze fest. Probably would’ve made a decent historically accurate 25-30 minute short film. Feature length, all of it is very ho hum indeed.

Since I’m lazy as fuck right now and still several reviews behind to bring to you all, I’m going to just borrow from IMDB.com and Wikipedia.com and give them credit: The Aeronauts is about “a pilot, Amelia Rennes (Felicity Jones), and scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne), find themselves in an epic fight for survival while attempting to make discoveries in a gas balloon.” It is based on the “Richard Holmes book ‘Falling Upwards: How We Took To The Air.” Although 1/2 of the film is very historically inaccurate, and I have a feeling some of the death defying gravity shit probably was more embellished for theatrical reasons. Why is the movie so historically inaccurate you might ask? Felicity Jones’s character doesn’t even exist. Completely fictional for this movie. It was two males that made that trip, James Glaisher really being one of them, but then another by the name of Henry Coxwell, who is nowhere to be found in the movie, or even fucking mentioned. Poor guy. Anyway, that’s the controversy that surrounds this film, as when doing some research they figured that SJW’s would be pissed off it was a film just based around two males, so the filmmakers really went out of history’s way to make a compromise, but then toxic masculinity is review dumping this film because of the woman addiction making the whole thing extremely fictional.

Me? And my wife? We personally didn’t give a shit. In fact, we thought that the exclusion of the other male character and the addition of a female perspective, combined with Felicity Jones’ excellent acting, actually probably made the film more interesting and saved it from being completely unwatchable. They give her a proper backstory and motivations, and the film worked better narrative wise with all that was added in. Trust me, if a movie was really made around those two males exploits, it would’ve been boring and might as well have been made into an hour National Geographic documentary that no one but hard core fans of that program or meteorologists would’ve watched. Anyway, that’s my take, controversy be damned. But in the end, it didn’t really matter, as my wife and I thought the film was very boring, save for the couple of tense death defying sequences (again, probably beefed up fictionally) the characters had to go through to break the 23,000 feet in the air barrier, but also while escaping with their lives. We both cared about the characters just enough to make it through the movie without turning it off. If that makes any sense to you.

Why did Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones do this picture? Probably a paycheck, but they bring their acting chops into the foray enough to earn it. And the pitch was probably easy, “look, for half the movie, it’s just you and the other person in a basket wired in the air in a studio surrounded by a giant green screen. The rest of the film is just in one or two locations, also shot in this studio, you should be out of here in no time!” Fuck, I’d take an acting job like that. Needless to say, this movie was completely unnecessary. It could’ve been a fantastic short film that could’ve maybe been up for a best short live action film or best documentary or best documentary short subject. We didn’t need this fictionalized boring bantha poo doo. The only people that are going to get into this film, are people really obsessed with hot air balloons enough that they jerk off to the thought of them, or meteorologists. And then even then they’ll have to be able to swallow major historical inaccuracies. For those wanting to watch another good Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones picture, I would suggest just putting in and watching The Theory of Everything again, a far superior film. My theory is that Amazon probably won’t gamble on a project like this again. I have a feeling viewing numbers on this film won’t get even close to sky high.

Zach's Zany Movie Reviews: THE TWO POPES (Netflix)

If you don’t know what THE TWO POPES is, I don’t blame ya. If you do know what this movie is and what it is about, my guess is that you are either extremely religious or knew about the shake up of Popes at the Vatican back in 2013 (me? no fuckin’ clue). In Layman’s Terms for everyone to understand: it is pure Oscar bait, specifically for Best Picture and a Best Actor nod for co-star Jonathan Pryce. For me, the movie is a one and done. I watch it once, I think it is decent, but will never have any desire to watch it again. Not because it isn’t a good film or is boring or that I’m not at all religious or anything. I just got all out of it that I could in this one viewing and don’t think another would benefit me down the line. The main reason to watch this is not for Anthony Hopkins performance, but for Jonathan Pryce, a more background character film actor, who was that main religious honcho on Game of Thrones a couple of seasons ago…I know him more as the Bond villain from Tomorrow Never Dies and the guy that played Glenn Close’s husband in last year’s The Wife. It is a pure performance film, as the way it is shot at times can make you woozy, as there was way too much shaky cam. Come for the performances, stay for them and the story, and try and tolerate the messy camera work.

The whole film is conversations between Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, where Bergoglio is going to see Benedict to ask for a early retirement, and Benedict wants to tell Bergoglio something he is about to do that could shake up the whole foundation of the Church. The two express their different ways of looking at service to God and his people but in their talks with each other they are able to put aside their differences and warm up to each others beliefs. Then, several times throughout the conversations, we get flashbacks of Bergoglio’s earlier years and the guilt he has over not doing enough to prevent the deaths of close ones during the time known as the “Dirty War” and the rest of his time as a collaborator with the Argentine military dictatorship and the consequences some of his inaction caused. Anthony Hopkins is basically just Anthony Hopkins in this. All of his mannerisms are there, as he’s just going through the motions collecting his paycheck. His best phoned in performance since Transformers The Last Knight. But Jonathan Pryce is the performance to watch. He’s incredible here, his emotions showing deeper meaning to everything his character has to say.

It’s just two hours of conversations, a couple of laughs, and two people with differences that are able to set them aside and get along. With a couple of flashbacks to explain why one of them wants to retire early, and news reports of why the other one is a controversial figure at that moment. I think the more religious **coughCatholicspecificallycough** you are the more you will get out of this film. The only thing that confuses me is the amount of shaky cam that is in the film. It is unneeded, as the cinematography is bright and clear enough to give off the giant majesty of the Vatican, Italy, and the other cities of Rome. It’s like director Fernando Meirelles wanted to add something so it wouldn’t just be a complete “point and shoot” affair. I just don’t see how he didn’t just his cinematographer to make the movie rise above that mediocrity. The shaky came brought it back to mediocrity. Anyway, if you are a Oscar hound like I am, this is required viewing, and if you are Catholic and really religious, you might want to check this out and will definitely get more out of it than I did. Half way decent one time watch is all it is, and it wouldn’t bother me at all of Pryce won Best Actor in February.

Zach's Zany Movie Reviews: CATS (2019) – A Purrfect Poem

CATS is the worst film of the year, was there really any doubt?

Horrifying CGI human felines, the filmmakers should’ve bowed out,

As nothing else in this film works, not a good performance, song or note hit,

How could Universal not think this film was going to be a giant piece of dog shit?

Oh God, my eyes, my ears, my jellicle butthole,

Was a trip to the Oscars really director Tom Hooper’s goal?

That motherfucker already has an Oscar over Inception,

The overrated King’s Speech gave the Academy voters an unwelcome erection,

After this disaster I wouldn’t be surprised if they took his award back,

With his guidance, nobody should’ve cut him any slack,

As the camera can’t even capture the choreography correctly,

The frame too close, too far away, or too off center, all abjectly,

This fur CGI technology was the one thing truly revolting,

It was like watching a video game with serious lagging, truly jolting,

Jarringly bad, it took me completely out of the movie,

And it never recovered, my jaw permanently dropped, feeling quite woozy,

The film is about a bunch of joyless pussies wanting a new life,

So they hold a jellicle ball competition, the cats trying to sing with strife,

Judi Dench is the decider, that holds everyone’s fate,

And Idria Elbis kidnaps the ones in his way, using them as bait,

But who really cares, as the end result is kind of dark,

The chosen cat being sent to a “Heaviside Layer”, aka a death check mark,

That’s what I took it to mean anyway, the whole play is kind of fucked up weird,

Didn’t understand it at all, have no intention to do research or have my mind cleared,

Ian McKellen acting as a cat is the most disturbing thing I’ve seen in Twenty Nineteen,

He licks out of a bowl, hisses, and gives himself a cat bath to make his fur clean,

I’ve seen some fucked up shit this year, but nothing as boring or asinine as this,

Those looking for some Taylor Swift solace, she’s only in it 5 minutes, so dismiss,

None of the songs are interesting or fun, no one comes out of this as the next new star,

In fact, Rebel Wilson and James Corden’s characters seem like the new Jar Jar,

Just like the play’s most famous song, I hope my memories of this cease to exist,

This made me not want to check out the Broadway play, I walked out quite pissed,

My final word: like a tick on your pet, it’ll make you sick,

Cats Twenty Nineteen can suck my….

Zach's Zany Movies Reviews: TOGO (Disney +)(spoilers if you've seen Balto)

When first watching TOGO, the new original movie on Disney +, 30 minutes in, I was like, “what the fuck this is just a rip off of Balto.” And that’s because I didn’t watch one trailer for this film, or research it at all, just heard that it was Disney +’s next original movie that happened to star a great actor, Willem Dafoe, so I just hit play. Turns out, Balto is just the dog that gets way too much credit for 1925 serum run, where diphtheria antitoxin was transported to Achorage, Alaska to very sick children during a giant fucking storm. Togo, at 12 years old, is the one that ran the most miles like a motherfucker to save all those innocents. The owner just didn’t really care much about credit, he cared about the dog’s well being. As for the film itself, it’s not bad, it’s just a more dramatic, no animation at all live action version of….well, Balto. But since Balto was originally distributed by Universal Pictures, you can’t point the finger at Disney this time and say this was simply a mere live-action remake cash grab. There is a more deeper point to this film than just the main dog getting the serum to the sick children. This is a personal story of owner and dog.

And it’s a good story, because we learn that Togo wasn’t always obedient, and the owner didn’t think much of him at first. The film switches from present day (starting with the news of a storm coming and the sick children to going out to save them in the storm), to 12 years earlier, when Togo was a pup. Eventually owner and Togo share more positive experiences with each other and he learned to respect and love the dog. What I appreciated most about this film, is that the film used REAL DOGS, REAL LOCATIONS that did REAL STUNTS/MOVEMENT, and everything about it felt authentic, even when the film obviously switches gears having to use a green screen CGI studio to film the parts with the real dogs running across a frozen lake, with the ice breaking apart and melting. They could’ve went full CGI with the dogs too, but they didn’t, somehow it completely comes together and works. Thankfully the movie doesn’t just focus on just getting the serum to the children, because we saw that with Balto, this focuses on the relationship between Togo, the owner and his wife, and it is quite moving.

Especially because it used a real dog. I keep going on about the real dog thing but have you seen the trailer for the new The Call Of The Wild film with Harrison Ford? Looks awful because it is a completely CGI rendered dog, not even a real dog with a CGI face that they used in the new live action Lady in the Tramp. It looks terrible. Are you meaning to tell me they couldn’t have gotten a real dog to do scenes with Harrison Ford? They got real dogs for the entirety of this thing and managed to not piss off PETA. Whatever, I’m not seeing that horrific CGI ridden trash. I learned my lesson from the new Cats (2019) film (review on that later. Anyway, you can’t go wrong with Togo on Disney +. It’s a pretty solid movie with a solid performance by Willem Dafoe but an even more solid performance by the dogs that played Togo. My only complaint would be, and I checked on my phone to make sure it wasn’t just my television, but a weird sheen to the film with this semi dark like substance on the all sides of the wide screen bar. I don’t know what that was about but it was a tad distracting. Let me know if you see it to. All I have left to say is well done Disney, you managed to sort of make a live action remake without it really being a live action remake. Do that and stop with this Aladdin, Lion King, and Dumbo nonsense. You’ve still got a little magic that can get to people’s hearts, and Togo is that proof.

Zach's Zany Movie Reviews: 1917 (no spoilers, opens wide January 10th)

Well, well, well, nice to know I got one of the big Oscar hopefuls out of the way and got to see it even before the Golden Globes premiered. Thank you to Cinemark Movie Rewards for the free advance tickets. Needless to say 1917 is a triumph. It’s not just another war film, this one is special because the whole movie is designed to look like one (really two though) continuous takes. Some will say it is just a gimmick. A gimmick is only a gimmick when it doesn’t work, IMO. This absolutely works. The continuous take isn’t just a technical marvel, but it brings passion, tension, and stakes to the plot, acting somewhat as a ticking time bomb for our characters and their mission (sort of what the musical score did for Dunkirk). It isn’t a perfect movie, there are a couple of slower than usual parts, as a lot of the movie is characters walking from point A to point B and telling something about themselves (a la Lord of the Rings). But it is one that will have a lot of people like me talking, especially when it steals every single technical award it is nominated for. If 1917 doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins (who has been nominated countless times and finally one a few years ago with Blade Runner 2049), something is seriously wrong with the Academy.

I suspect a direction nomination should at least be in the cards for Sam Mendes (Skyfall), because what is on the screen is absolutely phenomenal. For me, there will have to be multiple viewings of this as there is just so much going on. It is almost impossible to study the flow of the fantastic steady camera work, to what is going on in the background, and what is lurking behind the shadows. It is just a fantastic piece of technical work. The only hindrance from this being a masterpiece is that the story is a little too straight forward, yes, some twist and turns and a shit ton of obstacles stand in the way, but it is just a “get from point a to point b” in a certain amount of time kind of affair or a shit ton of lives will be lost (on repeat viewings it could get to masterpiece for me however). Two British soldiers are given what seems like an impossible task to deliver a message which will warn of an ambush during one of the skirmishes soon after the German retreat. That the group there is basically running into a trap when they think that the German’s are really on the run. These two soldiers are on there own, into the unknown, going into enemy lines, avoid traps, pitfalls and unseen enemies in the shadows, just to save over 1,600 men, one of them being the brother of one of the two soldiers.

You’ve heard of the movie being just one continuous take, but it really is two, and you’ll blatantly see why without me having to go into spoilers. But the two takes are phenomenally fantastic. Yes, I could tell with some of the editing where exactly they pieced together scenes to make it look like one continuous take (i.e. going into the dark for a quick second or a soldiers backpack taking up the entire frame) but if you don’t look as closely as I do, it is all perfectly seamless. And the acting is pretty solid too. You have two unknowns at the forefront, doing their best acting when their lives are very much at the forefront of danger. And then you have several celebrity cameos spread throughout to stitch the whole thing together. Everybody does a great job. And I was on edge almost the entire time in my seat. The movie also did well at subverting expectations somewhat with the two soldiers on the mission. I won’t say much, but shit goes down I didn’t expect to go down and so soon. The 2 hr film is just one big panic attack giant obstacle course. In the end, it will go down as one of the best technical achievements not only of this decade but of all time. It is some of the best camera work every put to film. Like I said above, taking it all in on just one viewing will not be enough.

1917 will be required Oscar viewing, and I think the buzz is only going to kick up more once this film is released everywhere January 10th (December 25th to New York & L.A.). I think they are pretty confident with this film with these advance screenings to get the word of mouth moving before the New Year hits, I think that is very, very smart. While being Rated R for language and some war violence, I do think this is a film that older families should go together to get the most out of this breathtaking experience. Almost forgot to mention, the most breathtaking visuals are not during the day, but at night, when one of the characters wakes up, and looks out a window, while flares are fired up into the air. Absolutely fucking beautiful. I could watch that scene a billion times. Also, seeing it on the largest screen and with the best sound possible. I think it is even IMAX worthy. My theater, Legacy in Plano, the screen wasn’t the biggest, and the sound wasn’t the best, but it was the only advance showing that I knew of at the time, and wanted to get a check mark on my Oscar list earlier than I thought I would. If I see it again, in a better theater, I think I might rank it higher on my list at the end of the year, we’ll see. Ultimately, I think 1917 will go down as the most talked about war film since Saving Private Ryan. And it’s all deserved.