All posts by Zach A.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (no spoilers)

I’m just going to go on record first and foremost and state that RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET is totally superior to its predecessor, in each and every way: storytelling, voice acting, jokes, progression of plot…you name it…its better than the first. The first Wreck It Ralph (2012) was Disney coy sly yet obvious response to the whole everything needs to be “meta” phase that started around 2010 in the entertainment industry. Fuck, we even got a Scream 4. Remember that? The first movie was quite decent, cute, some good “meta” jokes, but the plot was very standard Disney fair and suffered a little from its predictability. When first seeing that movie 6 years ago, I walked out thinking, “Obviously if there is a sequel they are probably going to up the ante and do something with the Internet and whatever craze those darn kids are up to now on the web. I really underestimated my guess. Ralph Breaks The Internet throws in everything including the kitchen sink in this one, so much that I have no idea where they are going to go with a third one, and right now don’t think a third one could possibly exist, unless they waited another 7 to 10 years and have Ralph “wreck” whatever stupid shit people are doing then.

But what surprised me most about Ralph Breaks The Internet, even though I was sort of right on my guess, I was very wrong with what it was going to be. I thought it was going to be the exact same film at the first, just with new jokes and other family fun bullshit. I think this film is smarter than it thinks it is. The story and plot progression is almost perfect. All these little seeds planted at the very beginning of the film have huge and satisfying payoffs at the end. And the beats in between the story were completely unpredictable. I thought I knew where the film was going to go after so and so did this or whatever thing happened next but then the film would introduce something else that completely destroyed my expectations. At parts I was like, “oh, this is where the entirety of the film is going to end up isn’t it.” Five minutes later, “oh whoops, nope, out of that plot device and into this one, I bet this is where we’ll stay for the majority of the film.” Nope. The film switched gears constantly in the best way possible.

I’m guessing 6 years give you a lot of time to write a solid story and create jokes that don’t seem old and actually hold up over time? If so, please don’t release Wreck It Ralph 3 until I’m in my early 40s. The animation to me seemed a lot more focused, colorful, and really easy on the eyes. Especially the big, grand finale that you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. The film has plenty of internet jokes that had me laughing out loud multiple times throughout the movie. And if the jokes didn’t get a physical laugh out of me, I chuckled in my head thinking it was quite clever. If you liked the Disney Princess scene in the short previews you’ve seen marketing Ralph Breaks The Internet and feared that those were the only jokes involving them. Fear not. The princesses have more to say and more to do, with a studio joke near the end of their first sequence almost had me laughing in tears. (In fact, when I did some research, the joke is even more funny, considering that the princess used in that joke is in the movie that beat out Wreck It Ralph in the 2012 Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, going back I’d much rather watch Ralph 1 than this particular film that ended up winning).

There isn’t much more to say about the movie, because if I revealing any plot progression whatsoever, I would ruin some of the fun of the movie and I don’t want to do that. But definitely go see it with a loved one or with the entire family. It is a heck of a lot of fun. I guess I could talk about voice acting, with John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman knocking it out of the park once again. New addition is Gal Gadot as this racer chick in an internet game, and she is pretty amazing here too. Part 2 is so so good, that if they release it sooner than the break between the first one and this, I’m going to be bracing myself for a Return of the Jedi type situation. Finale was satisfying but a little underwhelming. I think they should take their time and see where technology takes us in the next decade before they even start talking about green lighting the project. I just know I was very impressed by a sequel this year. And every time I’m impressed by a sequel, I feel like an angel gets its wings, because it happens less and less often every year.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES (NETFLIX)

THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES would not have worked at all if Kurt Russell wasn’t in it. He completely carries the movie on his back and it the little cute one time watch that it is. Everything about it feels ripped off from other movies, it is basically if the last 15 minutes of Elf, fucked the last 15 minutes of The Santa Clause, and they had a baby that was stretch to an hour and 40 some odd minutes. It’s cheesy, has terrible CGI reindeer and elves, and the story is ho ho ho hum to the cliched degree. It barely makes it out alive, and again, it is all because of Kurt.

Kurt Russell is this generation’s John Wayne. He just oozes cool and you simply can’t take it away from him. He’s Snake Plissken dammit. And if you’ve read anything about him and his personal life, he is just an all around really good really nice person. And he actually seems like he is having fun making this movie. He’s now one of my favorite Santa’s, and if Netflix does end up making a sequel to this, that hopefully they get new writer and have a better story that matches his talents.

Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar: A young girl and her older brother are missing their firefighter dad as this is their first Christmas without him, after it is revealed he died trying to save people in a burning building (I understand its supposed to be a family movie, but they could’ve tastefully shown him going to rescue people aka going to his death). The two siblings don’t get along anymore, but to try and have a little pretend fun (and the fact the girl saw a fast hand leaving a present on their couch a previous year of looking over Christmas Eve home movies), they set up a camera and hide to see if they can catch Santa Claus in the act. They do, and they somehow crash and fuck up his sleigh. For the world not to lose Christmas spirit, they have to find Santa’s missing hat that powers the sled, find the missing reindeer, and find Santa’s toy bag, bring it all together so Santa can get presents to all the good kids of the world, while also teaching the kids life lessons and helping them out after the loss of their father.

That just oozes cliche doesn’t it? The first works at first. Kurt Russell trying to convince adults and normal folk that he’s the real Santa Claus is fun and kind of funny, with Russell just completely chewing the scenery. But then the movie does something that is a huge no no. Without getting into too many spoilers, the movie splits the kids and Santa up, and Santa ends up more than half the movie in one particular set, when he should’ve been with the kids the entire time. Kurt Russell still hams it up even though he is still on this one set, and he even has a musical number, but I can’t forgive the screenwriters for doing this. Again, if there is a sequel, and their are kids involved in the story, Santa needs to tag along the entire time.

The film is 150% predictable and falls into almost every screen writing no no imaginable. But like I said, Kurt Russell made it one time watchable. He makes a very charming Santa Claus, and a surprise cameo that will surprise no one at the end put a little cherry on top of his performance for me. So yeah, if it is getting near Christmas on the weekend and your whole family is there with nothing to do, this might make a decent watch on the couch, everybody trying to get warm and snug, but as a re watchable over and over again Christmas classic, or even a short and sweet second visit, you might need to find a different chimney to jump into.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (NETFLIX)

I will probably be in the minority on this but, I thought the new Coen Brothers movie, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, was only okay. The Coen Brothers have never really truly made what you would call a bad film in my opinion. For me there is two sides to the Coen brother spectrum/coin for me. Really truly fantastic great Coen Brothers movies like Fargo or No Country For Old Men or Inside Llewyn Davis or Blood Simple or Miller’s Crossing or the redo of True Grit or Raising Arizona or Intolerable Cruelty…yes, yes, I’m getting to it in a dramatic fashion…The Big Lebowski. And then you have okay, mediocre Coen Brothers whose movies are still better than half the shit Hollywood still puts out nowadays but not good enough to watch again. Those films for me include: A Simple Man, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Ladykillers, Burn After Reading, Hail Caesar…and now this.

It’s hard to review the movie as a whole, since its really an anthology movie, with six different segments about stories in the whole West. So, without spoilers mind you, I’m going to quickly review all six, and review why this film showed signs of Coen brothers greatness, but was ultimately a good natured, good try, shrug from me.

1. The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs – the first segment is easily the best. A funny, yet dark Looney Tune homage. Campy and violent and crazy over the top, right down to characters dying and being shown going to heaven while playing the harp while having CGI wings taking them there. Tim Blake Nelson sings and is perfectly fantastic as Buster Scruggs. I wanted this segment to be the entire movie. Alas, for what it was, it was a good length, and I had a shit load of fun.

And then everything goes a little down hill in a roller coaster type dynamic, high and lows, but never getting near the highs of that first awesome drop.

2. Near Algodones – this second story had some good Coen brother moments, especially Stephen Root as a crazed bank manager/owner, and the moral of the tale was a little dark, sad, and funny, but this second segment was too short. I didn’t feel as though the message was earned in the end. I wish it had taken James Franco on a couple of more weird karma journeys before getting to the end. It just felt rushed.

3. Meal Ticket – I get the dark aspects of the story, but everything just didn’t work for me on this one. Honestly thought it was the worst segment of the 6, and it stars Liam Neeson for God’s sake. Again, I thought this segment was too short for the ending to be earned. I didn’t care for the no armed-no legged kid that was being dragged by Neeson from town to town, trying to get money from the town folk from the kid reciting famous literature.

4. All Gold Canyon – This was the second best segment. The cinematography, like in the first segment, was amazing. It told a perfectly short story about a gold digger. Wasn’t too short, didn’t overstay its welcome. Tom Waits was great in this.

5. The Gal Who Got Rattled – while the ending was great and nicely done, I didn’t care for what led up to it. I like Zoe Kazan as an actress, but her character didn’t make me care for her plight at all. And while Bill Heck did he best to show the light side of man in a somber tale about the consequences of your actions and not paying attention, nothing worked to make me feel for anyone, the only thing nice to look at again, was the cinematography

6. The Mortal Remains – Probably the third best segment, really great imagery, and allegory, and symbolism…I just wish the dialogue were better on this, and again, the segment should’ve been longer. I can’t really dish out any details for fear of spoiling reveals, but there needed to be more interesting dialogue if your segment is just five people talking in a stage coach the whole time.

Anyway, I really loved one segment, really liked one, really hated one, and thought two were meh. So I guess the laws of averages state that this film was only okay. If you want to watch a Coen brother near perfect Western, watch the remake of True Grit, it’s fantastic, or even watch No Country For Old Men, I consider that a western as well. This could’ve been so much better…perhaps they knew it wasn’t their best material and that is why its being released on Netflix? Who knows, I just expected more out of them and out of the segments. Each should’ve been at least pretty good, but its such an up and down and at points un engaging hill that I can only recommend it as a one time watch for Coen Brothers enthusiasts like me.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CREED II (no spoilers)

When CREED II was announced, I admit I got worried. The first film’s director and co-writer Ryan Coogler was up in his own butt for Marvel making Black Panther. So Sylvester Stallone announced he was going to co-write the sequel and direct. Oh shit…(Stallone has not been a great screenplay writer as of late and an even worse director. But then Stallone decided to set his ego aside and let a different director, Steven Caple Jr. (known mostly for short films), take the reigns, yet still was a little weary that his hands was on the screenplay. But I needn’t worry, I should realize that Stallone knows he can’t just ham it up like he does his Expendables screenplays, he loves and cares about this franchise, and knows that love needed to be put into this sequel of a highly successful semi reboot of the franchise. While Creed II isn’t as great as the original, it gets pretty damn close, a very worthy sequel, and probably the third best in the Rocky franchise.

You have to hand it to a 8th movie in a franchise that makes the 4th movie look better than it actually was. When the first Creed came out in theaters, I was trying to think of ways the story could continue. And my first thought was that Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago could come back, and he could have a son that Adonis would fight, and that him and Bianca would either get engaged, find out she’s pregnant, or both, and he would have to balance that responsibility of staying alive to watch his daughter grow up while trying to find a way to beat Viktor Drago to secure his legacy and get semi-revenge on the death of his father. Whelp, I was right, and that is the plot of this movie.

You’d figure that if I could correctly guess the plot of the movie that I wouldn’t like it right? Wrong. While the movie’s journey is quite predictable (aren’t all the Rocky movies though?), the journey itself was nice, grounded, and realistic, and doesn’t go to one of the cheesier routes the later Rocky series took. This film is nice, gritty, and dark enough for audiences to take seriously. Also, I was really surprised by the arc that Stallone and co-writer Juel Taylor gave to Viktor and Ivan Drago. It’s very short yet very sweet, and added a little humanity in what would’ve just been another throw away role for Dolph Lundgren.

The acting is top notch as always. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson rule. Sylvester Stallone kind of takes more of a back seat in this film than he did the last, not wanting Adonis to potentially get himself killed by fighting Viktor, so trying to stay out of it altogether by not being in Adonis’ corner. In Creed, Stallone’s arc was huge as Rocky was battling his worst nemesis yet, cancer. In this he is in the shadows, giving sage advice until he needs to get himself more involved. He is still good in the role, and I’m glad that Stallone’s ego didn’t make him write a meatier role. He realized that Adonis is the story now, and he just needed to be a supporting guiding hand.

The boxing fight scenes are great and pack a punch, but while the first Creed you felt like you were actually in an arena with a giant audience, the background outside the ring this time seemed a little too green screened in, and it didn’t feel at all like I was in the stadium with everyone, and that was a bummer. But then two cameos from two people (other than Dolph) from previous entries in the series put a smile to my face and made me completely forgive some of the green screen tactics.

It’s a good story, and very entertaining. It was never going to be better than Creed, but we have to give it credit for coming mighty close to being as good. But the real problem here, if its successful, is that I don’t see what Creed 3 could be about. And while the fight/boxing formula worked this 2nd time around, I don’t know if third time would be a charm. The series now needs to take a different route, and I don’t know if Stallone is up to the challenge. Maybe Ryan Coogler could have an idea, but Disney owns his ass now. In a sane world, I would say Creed II is the perfect way to end this franchise. But you know that Hollywood will beat a dead boxer as long as it would a dead horse…

Rocky Franchise Order (IMO)

1. Rocky
2. Creed
3. Creed II
4. Rocky Balboa
5. Rocky II
6. Rocky III
7. Rocky IV
8. Rocky V