All posts by Zach A.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: STAR WARS EPISODE VIII THE LAST JEDI (COMPLETELY 200% SPOILER FREE!)

“This isn’t going to go the way you think.” Wow. You can definitely say that again Luke Skywalker. STAR WARS EPISODE VIII THE LAST JEDI absolutely did not go the way I thought it was going to, and thwarting my expectations might be the greatest thing to happen to me at the movies all year. The Last Jedi is a masterpiece, plain and simple. Yes, it is better than Rogue One. Way better. And yes, it is better than The Force Awakens, which was number one on my top 15 list two years ago. And I’m going to try to sneak this one past you but I can’t because I am going to list it at the bottom, it is better than A New Hope. The Empire Strikes Back is still my #1 Star Wars film, and probably always will be. But The Last Jedi will be the closest ever to try and almost topple its lead. The Last Jedi is the best film of 2017 for me, but that probably doesn’t surprise you.

But I 150% guarantee this movie will. Especially if you are smart enough to avoid spoilers. There WILL BE ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS AT ALL in this review. In fact, I am going to write a separate no holds barred in depth review sometime Sunday, describing to you what I thought of certain events, plot threads, character choices, battles, twists, turns, etc. But for right here and right now, this review is just going to hark on the fact that you need to see this in a theater as soon as you can. With the best picture quality and the best sound you can possibly find. The film has the best space battles/action of the entire saga, and seeing all those ships, stars, proton torpedoes, bombs, lasers…you need to see the entire shot and hear the enormous sounds with crystal clear quality.

Have you seen the trailers to The Last Jedi and have a certain movie playing itself out in your head? Of course you do. Now I suggest you get rid of it. Because that movie is not going to happen. The trailers, tv spots, minor clips you have seen do not even begin to describe how the marketing of the film has misled you. It’s like if they made a trailer to James Cameron’s Titanic and got you to think it would be a horror movie. Within the first 20 minutes the film slaps you on your ass and tells you to get into your corner, and to only come out when all of your expectations are put aside.

But I can tell you one thing that will make you breathe a sigh of relief. Remember when anyone can argue that The Force Awakens is a soft reboot/remake of A New Hope? This is NOT a soft reboot/remake of The Empire Strikes Back. Not even the battle on the white/red planet Crait that you’ve seen in the trailers made me think of Hoth, at all. Because even that battle does not go the way you think it will. Sure, the movie has a couple of callbacks to the original trilogy, mainly Empire and Return of the Jedi, but this film is its own. It is a true, true, sequel. Rian Johnson knew that he couldn’t just bring us more of the same. So he successfully did what George Lucas failed miserably at in the prequels. Bringing us something completely different while still feeling like a Star Wars movie. The problem with the prequels wasn’t that George Lucas wasn’t trying to give us something different, he was, it was just bogged down with lazy politics, bad acting, too many pointless over long choreographed lightsaber battles, and fucking Jar Jar Binks.

Just like in the Force Awakens and the original trilogy, the lightsaber battles here are not over long, feel real, and are extremely dangerous and deadly. The acting here is still top notch as well, with Mark Hamill giving his best performance not only as Luke Skywalker, but his best performance ever. Carrie Fisher also gives a commanding powerful performance. And all the new comers from the last movie, like Poe, Finn, and Rey, all still continue to give powerful performances, especially Oscar Isaac who got something to do in this movie and really upped his game here. But the new comers are where it is at. I really loved Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, she was one of the best parts of the movie. I really liked Benicio Del Toro’s mystery character named DJ. And Laura Dern kind of floored me as Vice Admiral Amelia Holdo. Her arc here was powerful and Dern did a mesmerizing job, especially in the latter half of the film. Oh, and Gleeson as General Hux is still viciously grand.

And you’ve seen this in the preview, but yes, you get to see Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke in the flesh, and the CGI on him is amazing, and probably one of the best fully CGI characters I have seen in the past decade, along with Caesar, which coincidentally Serkis also plays. The special effects all around here are top notch, especially the grand use of practical effects as well. BB-8 proves that as much as he is a cool practical effect, he has now become my favorite droid. The Porgs, thankfully, weren’t that annoying and actually kind of cute during some parts. Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 weren’t overused and I appreciated that. You could tell that writer/director Rian Johnson took his time with the screenplay, it really shows.

If I had to complain about one thing, just one major thing about the film is that there is a little too much humor. Not to say that I wanted a completely dark and non humorous film like Empire Strikes Back, but Star Wars humor has usually always been pretty subtle. The humor here kind of winks at the camera a couple of two many times. Wasn’t enough to be completely jarring, but it might’ve taken me out of the movie for a second or two. And surprisingly, that humor doesn’t involve the Porgs. I also need to say that the last 45 minutes of this movie are near perfect. The editing, pacing, action, everything was just top notch and didn’t skip a beat. It’s the best uninterrupted 45 minutes in a Star Wars movie. While the middle slogs just a tiny, tiny bit, especially on Canto Bight, the last 45 minutes is just so good to overlook the tiny stretch of what came before.

Well, that is about all I can say before I start getting into spoilers, and I promise a 200% spoiler free review. I didn’t even get into plot mechanics here. Even describing some of the plot ruins the surprises and I cannot and will not do that to you. Like I said, a no holds barred review will come Sunday, but I will post spoiler warnings all over that motherfucker, don’t you worry. In conclusion, The Last Jedi is a masterpiece. At 2 hours and 30 minutes, the time just flew by, it didn’t even feel like it was close to that long. If you are a Star Wars fan at all, or even kind of remotely like the movies, you need to see this in a grand theater. Immediately. This weekend. Don’t wait too long or spoilers will eventually find their way to you. This is a movie where every surprise with make you gasp, scream, or squeal with delight. The Force was definitely with this movie. And may the Force be with you as well.

Rank of Star Wars Films For Me:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. The Last Jedi
  3.  A New Hope
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. Return of the Jedi
  6. Revenge of the Sith
  7. Rogue One
  8. The Phantom Menace
  9. Attack of the Clones

And if you count this I would put that shitty animated Clone Wars movie #10.

 

 

Zach’s Zany Star Wars: The Last Jedi Theories!!! 20 Predictions!!!

Hello there! Oh yes, that’s right, Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi comes out tomorrow. And while I wasn’t a writer for movies on this site two years ago, on my Facebook page I did have several theories for The Force Awakens, a lot of which happened to come true. Now, I am going to do it again for The Last Jedi. Now the different of my knowledge from The Force Awakens to The Last Jedi is this: while I read a lot of rumors about story ideas, behind the scenes, and news regarding The Force Awakens, I have been virtually in the dark for The Last Jedi, other than seeing the two trailers and reading and watching every single canon Star Wars book,keeping up with Rebels, etc. So without further ado, I am going to make 20 predictions for The Last Jedi, which I am seeing tomorrow, which you will get a giant non-spoiler review for Friday, and then a spoiler filled one Monday. Now, these 20 predictions I have no inkling or clue if they are going to happen or not, so don’t be mad at me if they end up coming true. I am merely taking context clues from what I’ve seen of the trailers to what I have read in the canon novels.

  1. Rey is probably going to abandon Luke on Ach-To (that’s the island they ended on The Force Awakens), a la Luke abandoning Yoda on Degobah to go rescue his friend on cloud city, but instead of rescuing friends, she is going to try and bring Ben (Kylo Ren) to the light side of the force. (God knows why)
  2. I think almost nothing will be revealed on Snoke’s origins at all, and in a cool 2nd film twist, Snoke will be killed (instead of being killed a la Emperor in the third movie), probably by Luke, and we will have to learn Snoke’s origins a la the next movie, or through Star Wars canonical novels. After Snoke is killed, I think Ben will  completely ditch coming to the light side and go full dark, becoming the new leader of The First Order.
  3. I think there will be a Luke and Leia 3rd act reunion, and I think both with survive this movie, while Leia will probably get killed off screen between the movies, with a heart attack like she did in real life.
  4. Rey, Finn, and Poe will obviously survive this movie.
  5. Finn will be victorious in his battle with Phasma and Phasma will be killed in this film in a awesome death rather than being a Boba Fett bitch and dying stupidly in the third film.
  6. I do think that the new character Rose and Benecio Del Toro’s DJ character will die, based solely on the fact that you only see Finn fighting Phasma at the end. I bet Phasma kills Rose and makes Finn go fucking ballistic.
  7. We will probably see a famous force ghost! Doubt it will be Obi-Wan because we’ve already seen Alec Guinness as a old Obi-Wan Force Ghost so seeing Ewan McGregor would make no fucking sense unless they tried to do shitty make up on him. It will probably be either Hayden Christensen as Anakin (since they use him as a Force Ghost in an altered Return of the Jedi cut) or Yoda. Maybe even both. My money is on Yoda because Frank Oz is still alive and we want to see the realistic puppet again.
  8. The battle on Crait will be cool but will probably remind people too much of the Battle of Hoth.
  9. I think much more will be revealed about the Force. I don’t know if we are going to get Grey Jedi, or something of more of a balance to it, but we will learn more, although I doubt the word midichlorians will be mentioned. I am basing this on the fact that Luke said the Jedi must end and that it hints to an ultimate balance in the Star Wars Canonical novels.
  10. General Hux will probably die too. Don’t know how or why.
  11. The Porgs will be cute and everybody will want a fluffy one once they leave the theater. Chewy will probably eat at least one of them.
  12. Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 will all survive.
  13. Here’s a wild ass theory. Laura Dern’s character is a new character named Amelia Holdo. She is briefly in the Leia, Princess of Alderaan book that came out a couple of months ago. She seems weird but friendly then. But I ultimately think that she will be the First Order traitor in the Resistance’s mist.
  14. We will probably not see Jakku or Takodana again. All new planets except for maybe Q-Dar, the resistance base in the last movie
  15. Maz Kanata will have one scene, and still won’t reveal how she got Luke Skywalker’s old saber.
  16. There will probably be less of a cliffhanger in this movie, and you’ll probably know more where they are going to take it in the 9th and final movie of the skywalker trilogy, than you did from Force Awakens to Last Jedi
  17. Leia will somehow use a bit of Force power other than feeling what is happening to a character in this one, revealing that Luke might have taught her a thing or two before he left.
  18. I don’t think the Knights of Ren will be explained in this one. Either Episode 9 or canonical novels. I don’t think they are as important as they seemed in Rey’s flashbacks.
  19. I don’t think Rey’s lineage will be revealed either, I think Rian Johnson is letting Abrams decide what he wants to do with it.
  20. I will probably like this film either right under The Empire Strikes Back, or it will be my favorite Star Wars movie ever.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: WONDER WHEEL

There is something very wrong about Woody Allen’s WONDER WHEEL, and I can’t place my finger on why I didn’t really like the film other than the gorgeous cinematography that should be nominated for an Oscar. Maybe it’s the subplot of Kate Winslet’s child from another marriage starting random fires in places that doesn’t go anywhere. Or maybe it’s the over acting from everyone except Juno Temple. Or maybe it’s because story structure and plot wise it’s just not very interesting and it is very predictable. Or maybe I just hated all the characters. Woody Allen is very hit and miss, and mostly over the years its been a giant miss, other than Match Point and Midnight in Paris. Maybe he should start titling all of his films with the letter M at some point and he’ll have more luck?

Sexual allegations aside, I do think Woody Allen is talented, but his one movie a year bullshit is spreading quite thin. And I understand the man is in his 80’s, and if he doesn’t do one film a year we might not even see a next film from him. But the guy needs more planning in every aspect in his film making sometimes. He needs to think: is this story interesting? Are there any likable characters? Am I just doing this movie to film Coney Island in a special way? Maybe I should think about just doing a psudo-documentary on Coney Island and film it the way I want to? That’s where I have the feeling his idea for a movie came from: “I want to film Coney Island in its prime, with special cinematography….now what kind of cockamamie story could I come up with to fit in with it?

Oh I know! I’ll have a groggy housewife (Kate Winslet) that has an abusive husband (Jim Belushi), that stars an affair with a young lifeguard (Justin Timberlake), that also has eyes on the abusive husband’s young daughter (Juno Temple) that came into town where her ex-husband, who is a gangster, is looking for her and is going to kill her if they find her. Doesn’t that just sound absolutely original? I hope you are sensing my sarcasm of the written word. Because it is not original, and it is very predictable. Think hard for a second, where do you see this story going? 90% of you could probably predict this down pat. It’s very easy. The film tries to be clever by being a tiny bit ambiguious at the end and just having the film end after some accusations are made, but the audience knows better and knows that it is just a cheap trick because Woody Allen had nothing else up his sleeve.

The movie is just constant bickering dialogue scene after constant bickering dialogue scene with every shot being absolutely fucking gorgeous. If it is nominated for an Oscar for that, that’s fine, but anything else is just blasphemy. Everybody overacts in this film to the 10th degree, except for Juno Temple, who only seemed sincere because she couldn’t believe that she gets to star in a Woody Allen film. Woody Allen usually has a great ear for dialogue, but the bickering in it just seems force fed and a little too over the top. And the kid setting fires? Was that supposed to be some kind of a metaphor or did he not know how to wrap up that story?

Wonder Wheel is a huge disappointment. I wouldn’t call myself a Woody Allen fan, but if there are any Woody Allen fans out there, consider this a huge misfire and disappointing except for the cinematography. What is really funny is that the film is quite watchable if you just hit the mute button. It could’ve even worked as a color silent film. But with sound, this film is a disaster, and one that I would never revisit again, unless some of the shots were cobbled together to form a collage on the background on my laptop.

 

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JUMANJI – WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

I wrote this review last since this movie doesn’t come out for another week (Dec. 20th) and also because this was the movie I enjoyed the most out of all the ones I saw this weekend. Weird, right? Let’s get this out of the way JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE is not a remake of Jumanji, it is most definitely a sequel and there are two instances in the film where they prove that it is indeed so and not a remake (you can still consider it a very minor reboot considering it’s been over 20 years since the last one.) I knew it was a sequel going in. What I didn’t know was how much fun I was going to have with it. I came out of it really admiring and enjoying most of the film and while it doesn’t touch the brilliance of the original, the films fortunately is somewhat of its own animal and has just enough stamina to watch them both back to back for many years to come.

Also, did I mention this is Jack Black’s best role since School of Rock? He completely steals the movie, but we’ll get back to that in a bit. The movie starts with four wildly different classes of teenagers all sent to detention. When they are cleaning out a school storage room they find an old video game system with a Jumanji videogame cartridge stuck inside (don’t worry, they show how it transformed from a board game into a video game, the movie knows not to try and pull a fast one, although it can be argued that board games are now back in style). They each pick and avatar and get sucked into the game, where they are still themselves, only in their avatars body. The avatars look a lot like Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillen, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black. Together they must not only try to find a way out of the game, but play by the games rules and save Jumanji from a vicious overlord.

I’ll get more out of the way here, the story isn’t really too deep when it involves saving Jumanji, but then again, when you think back on it, did the original have much of a story other than making it to the end of the game? The first film relied on Robin Williams’ performance, the relationship between him and his own flame, and his relationship with the kids that helped him escape from the game in the first place, and a nasty ass hunter coming after him to kill him. This one is more about the relationships between the four kids that have drastically different social backgrounds and how they can overcome their differences and work together. All the while trying to reach the end of the game. While the movie adds in a baddie overlord played by Bobby Cannavale, that wants to rule the jungle in the form of a green crystal that has powers that needs to be restored to a lion’s eye carving at the top of the mountain…those two aspects are the stalest/weakest thing about the film. I didn’t care about the villain and he wasn’t that scary or vicious to me, and I certainly didn’t give two shits about the crystal.

The movie hinges on the relationship between the four kids/avatar’s, and that is what made the most enjoyable and outstanding. Again, as I’ve said before, it is the journey that matters here, not the ultimate end game. The chemistry between Johnson, Gillen, Hart, and Black is so fantastic here that I could’ve watched them in the jungle a lot longer than the hour and 50 minute runtime. Dwayne Johnson shows a little bit more range here than he does in his past several macho guy roles, Kevin Hart is actually tolerable in this film (and that’s praise considering I don’t like his comedy all that much), Karen Gillen proves that she is so much more than Nebula and Amy Pond, but it is Jack Black that steals the show.

See, two of the four kids that get sucked into the game are girls, and there are three boy avatars and one girl one. So the pretty popular girls becomes Jack Black, and although you could’ve gotten a lot of cheap laughs (don’t worry you still do) of Jack Black playing a woman, the way he does it and they way he looks really into it made the movie just a little more special than it should. Every time he came on screen and opened his mouth I just had a huge smile on my face and couldn’t wait to see what happened with him next.

The film also plays on videogame rules and tropes such as how many lives you get, strengths and weaknesses, objectives, tasks, so on and so forth, which were highly enjoyable to watch. While the action scenes aren’t phenomenal, it was nice to see that they actually filmed on location for a lot of the scenes rather than have everything and anything being shot green screen and inside a studio. Yes, there are a couple of awkward CGI moments, but they are few and far between, and considering what kind of film this is, it makes the CGI in Justice League look that much worse.

I had a lot of fun with Jumanji 2. It isn’t going to win any awards this holiday season, its a film where you are just meant to go in, shut your brain off, and have some fun. There is several different kinds of fun. There is, dumb fun, bad fun, smart fun, dumb bad fun, and dumb smart fun. I would definitely put this film in the latter. And while this is a PG-13 movie, I would say it is okay for the whole family, and I definitely recommend it to those cautioned people that hold the original too closely to their hearts to warrant even caring about this one. It is actually very good, and very fun, and that’s the most we should expect from movies like this. I can’t wait to visit this jungle again when it hits disc in a couple of months.