All posts by Zach A.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: PHOENIX FORGOTTEN

I think this movie did such little business this past weekend that theaters are likely to forget they even had this and toss it out in a week or two. Which is a shame because it is actually one of the better found footage movies out there to exist. Why? Because PHOENIX FORGOTTEN changes the formula a bit to make things more interesting than just similar like Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch or Cloverfield. And while it isn’t scary (I didn’t watch a trailer because at being only 85 minutes I thought a trailer would spoil it, so maybe it’s just supposed to be sci-fi), it is very entertaining and contains better than average acting for your typical found footage film.

So how does this found footage film change the formula a little you may ask? Because it is only half a found footage film. Half of the film is shot steady documentary, clip, news footage style, and the other half of the film is a found footage film. The whole film uses the 1997 Phoenix Lights real phenomenon that happened and adds a lot of fiction to the proceedings to turn it into a movie. The documentary half of the film follows a sister of one of the three lost people that disappeared shortly after the Phoenix Lights phenomenon happened, and she’s doing a documentary on the whole incident and trying to piece clues to her brother’s disappearance as well.

This part of the film is shot mostly steady style, with clips, and some found footage woven in between to make the film have a documentary type atmosphere. Add the better than average acting and the audience gets something that feels like an actual real documentary. This found footage movie feels real, more real than anything that has come before it. The found footage part of the film comes from tapes her brother left behind in a car that was found on the side of the road, and a “secret lost camera” (you “pffted” didn’t you? So did I but I swear that is really the only laughable idiotic thing in the film) that shows what happened after the tapes that were already in police evidence.

And you know the main problem with found footage movies? They are too fucking clean. Cloverfield is too clean, Blair Witch is too clean (even the original), the Paranormal Activity movies, some of them taking place in the 70s, 80s, whatnot, are WAY too clean. The found footage supposedly filmed in 1997? It actually feels like it was shot in 1997. Grainy sometimes as fuck, and sometimes blurry, it felt like I was watching found footage, and that was the kicker to take this film out of “only another found footage movie territory.” Even some of the CGI added in the 1997 found footage looks amazingly genuine. I was really invested in this entire thing.

It is too bad that the found footage movie genre is almost basically dead. The last several Paranormal movies didn’t do shit at the box office and neither did Blair Witch. And this didn’t make that much money although it should easily retain it’s small 4 million dollar budget. If this had come out at the height of those movies, like around the 1st or 2nd Paranormal pictures, this would’ve done really really well. Maybe it will develop a cult following once it is released on home video. I encourage you to check it out at least once, it is interesting, and might be the cure to your found footage movie fatigue.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: COLOSSAL

YES!! Finally! A great (dare I say really great) movie out of all the good or subpar ones this weekend! COLOSSAL is what Hollywood should do when it runs out of ideas. Instead of simple remakes, reboots, and what not, take a concept that has been done a million times before but wrap it around an entirely new engaging, thought provoking story, filled with great twists and turns and spectacular performances. And then release a trailer for the film that while it still makes the film look unique and fun, hide all of the secrets in the marketing to completely shock people.

Yes, I’ll repeat that. The trailer from this film holds so much back from you it’s not even funny. When some of the stuff I hadn’t seen yet hit the screen, I couldn’t believe the marketing people for this kept it out of everything including a lot of reviews. Don’t worry! I will not spoil it’s richness here. I’ll just talk about the non-spoilery basic fluff to try and convince you to go and see this film as soon as possible. If you still don’t know what this film is by the title I’ll remind you. It’s that weird Kaiju (probably spelling that wrong) movie with Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudiekis where Hathaway somehow controls a Kaiju monster that is attacking Seoul, South Korea all the way from the states.

And the reasons why are some of the fun parts that I dare not spoil. I’ll start out by saying that this is my favorite Anne Hathaway performance, much better than her 15 minute Oscar gold one from Les Miserables, but a fantastic display of a 2 hour full-fledged fleshed out character. And this is also Jason Sudiekis’ best performance as well as he gets to stretch out some of his acting chops as well.

GOD, it is really hard to not spoil this thing without telling you why it is so great. Just trust me, as more of the story unfolds, the more original and fresh it becomes. By the end I would’ve stood up and applauded if the filmmakers were in the room watching it with me. It is that fantastic. My wife saw it with me, and again, without getting too much into it, she wondered if some of the actions from some of the characters were warranted, saying that “it didn’t explain why well enough.” I told her it didn’t have to explain it, it did the best thing in the cinematic world by “showing and not telling” and after I explained some of the visual cues she landed on my side of things.

The special effects are great and what little action there is is effective and only pertains to the story, not trying to Michael Bayalize everything. This film is smart, charming, daring, brilliant, funny, shocking, every reason why people go to the movies in the first place. It weaves a perfect yarn and this is one I would like to show to friends who haven’t seen it, study it as a filmmaker, and watch it over and over again for pure enjoyment. Great, great film.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FREE FIRE

Man, the trailer to FREE FIRE has been playing for quite some time now. The film was supposed to come out a couple of months ago but they delayed it I think for festivals. Just seems like forever ago since I saw it. But I’m sure you have. It’s that movie with the weapons deal gone wrong where everyone is shooting and trying to kill each other in a warehouse for 90 minutes. It has stars such as Brie Larson, Shartlo Copley, Armie Hammer, and Cillian Murphy.

And Free Fire is an excellent one time watch with good acting, a couple of good shooting sequences with a cool little twist at the end, but their isn’t much more substance than that. From the production value you can completely tell it is a independent shoot-em-up film which is basically the last 10-15 minutes of Resevoir Dogs but stretched out into 90 minutes.

It takes place in the 70’s and the look and feel of the film is genuine. And I also like the fact that the trailer hides why they really end up shooting at each other. Yes, the gun deal goes kind of wrong, but not in the way the trailer makes it out to be, which I found a little refreshing. But even at 90 minutes, the film feels like a stretch. More than 3/4th of the movie everyone is laying down, crouched, crawling, moving around, and bleeding. And that’s cool but it only lasts so long, and even though I know it’s a movie I found a bunch of opportunities where all these people could stop shooting at each other and talk it out like civilized people.

The acting, especially from Armie Hammer, makes it half way decently entertaining, and like I said, there is a cool little twist at the very end I didn’t really see coming, but then the film ends abruptly and was a little bit of a disappointment. But I will say that who lives, who dies, and who gets away is a little surprising. Some characters that I thought would bite it in the beginning end up lasting the whole way through. And there is a car sequence at the end with John Denver music playing that I thought was expertly shot and edited.

When seeing this at the Alamo Drafthouse, the pre shows showed film influences that inspired director Ben Wheatly to write and direct this film, all of which those film influences are better films than this. But the film shows that he does have talent and could make a much better film in the future. But as of now, it’s a cool one time watch rentable 90 minute mild thriller that could pass the time if you are really bored. Just don’t go in expecting a masterpiece and you should be okay.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THEIR FINEST

The ending basically ruined this movie for me. There is something that occurs near the end of THEIR FINEST that really almost came out of nowhere and was really stupid and happens just due to the fact to have some drama and something interesting come out of the film. It betrays all what happens before and just pissed me off just as much as the ending of La La Land pissed off a bunch of people. That being said, the movie was only okay to begin with. Another kind of period piece with some good acting but a story that wasn’t all that interesting, and the story was about a woman screenplay writer!

You probably haven’t heard of this film, but it stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Caflin, and Bill Nighy as some screenwriters and actors trying to put together a film about Dunkirk and World War II to gain the masses while the Blitz is going on around them. It is also a tale of how women were treated as unequals at that time as well. And it wasn’t a terrible film at all, in fact some parts were interesting, and the dialogue was good, I just found the film to be unnecessary and a bit boring. You would think a screenplay about screenplay writers would have a little bit more oompf.

That being said, that’s why I think the ending happened as it happened, trying to give the film a bit more oompf, but it was oompf at a cost. The logic was kind of dumb in the twist and ruined pretty much basically everything that came before it. Have any of you seen Up Close & Personal and THAT ending? Well this ending is sort of similar in a way and out of left field. Just to raise emotions, and the only emotion it raised in me was anger at having to sit through 2 hours to see just that and then 10 more minutes of wrapping things up.

The movie is shot well, and dives a little bit into the movie making process, but perhaps not enough. All three actors mentioned above along with some good supporting performances couldn’t really save the snore fest I was about to have with the film in general. I have a feeling though maybe Gemma Arterton and Sam Caflin might get more and better things to do after this, because they are the only things in the film that mattered.

I guess this giant movie weekend I am having is a weekend full of one time watches. I am about to review Free Fire and even though I liked it liked the bunch, it wasn’t great and I will probably never need to see it again. Maybe Colossal tomrrow will change that. Their Finest is fine, but not the finest thing about that time period you are more than likely to see. I’m pulling for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk myself.