Category Archives: Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: PHANTOM THREAD

Finally, a Paul Thomas Anderson film that I can actually tolerate and actually enjoyed and mostly thought was very good. I don’t think I’ve liked a Paul Thomas Anderson film since Punch-Drunk Love and this is his best film since Boogie Nights. To let you know if you can stand to read the rest of this review, especially those Paul Thomas Anderson fanatics out there, I can’t stand Magnolia, The Master, There Will Be Blood, and Inherent Vice (I haven’t seen Hard Eight). And it’s not that his films are terrible. I know I can be accused of calling his previous films ‘beautiful garbage,’ but I think now I can tell you that I can’t stand his films because I just honestly don’t get him. Well, with PHANTOM THREAD, I think I kind of understand him now, other than that I really didn’t care for the 3rd act of this film, especially the last 15 minutes.

But the rest of the film is near note perfect. The acting, the cinematography, the music (oh God yes the music), the fashion, most of the story, everything is really beautiful, and not beautiful garbage, genuinely beautiful. I might need to watch it again to really figure out why the last 15 minutes didn’t work for me, but they didn’t work for me  enough to make me hate or not stand the film (if you check my top 50 list this film is in there, while most of his other films have been on my worst list the year they have come out). I just don’t think the last 15 minutes matched the rest of the film. It tries to pull a kind of a Woody Allen’s Match Point sort of ending, and it trips and stumbles instead of sticks the landing.

Ok, ok, most of you that aren’t cinephiles are probably asking, “what is this movie Phantom Thread?” Well, first of all, it is supposed to be the great actor Daniel Day Lewis’ final film, because he is retiring from acting (we will see how long that lasts, anyone that says that misses it, and ends up coming back in 5 to 7 years). And the movie takes place in the 1950’s, and he plays a OCD dressmaker named Reynold Woodcock, where anyone that is anyone with money comes to him and his sister for them to make a dress for a requested occasion. He goes through women like Tic Tacs, loving and obsessed with them so much at first and then dump them at the first sign of annoyance. But then he meets a waitress named Alma, a woman that tries to permanently disrupt his perfectly tailored life and be the one woman he just can’t get rid of.

That’s about all I am going to say, because if I say any more, I would ruin the last crucial 30 minutes of the film. And like I said, really only the last fifteen minutes I didn’t care for. Paul Thomas Anderson does something that is actually pretty intriguing at first, and the story gets even more interesting than it already was. But then that thing is brought up again and the reactions, decisions, and ultimate climax motivations of the characters take another turn that I didn’t necessarily think matched with the rest of the film. But that’s probably just me. I think it could’ve went a lot of interesting ways, but instead told a too convenient easy, weird, and disturbing way out. Oh well. Like I said, it might work for you. *shrugs*

But the rest of the film is great. The actress that plays Alma (Vicky Krieps) is absolutely sensational, and I don’t understand why she isn’t getting any Oscar buzz this year. Every facial expression, look, and body movement is precisely calculated and she is extraordinary to watch. And of course, if this is Daniel Day Lewis’ final film, he goes out on a high note. He plays the OCD Reynolds Woodcock to perfection. Daniel Day Lewis absolutely sinks into this role, just like he does every other role, and while he did win the Oscar for Lincoln and My Left Foot, I think his performance here is even better. In fact, even though I didn’t like There Will Be Blood, his performance here is on par with that. Masterful. A class act. If this is his final film, he will e truly missed.

And I’ll repeat it again, the rest of the film is quite beautiful and sometimes even mesmerizing and hilarious. England in the 50s is shot to perfection. There is this scene where Reynolds and Alma try to get one of his dresses back from this debutante who is being a bit of a ditsy drunk at her own wedding and is disrespecting the dress. It is my favorite scene in the film and that and a handful of other scenes are just that great to watch. It is just a shame those last 15 minutes didn’t work. Otherwise it could’ve been higher and maybe even hit my top ten list. But I think the real breakthrough here is that I didn’t hate another Paul Thomas Anderson film. I don’t know what it is to you, but to me its a miracle among modern science. It is almost like me not thinking a Uwe Boll is terrible. BAHAHAHAHAHAHA, sorry about that will never happen.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE COMMUTER

At this point, could we all just say that Liam Neeson is the higher quality Chuck Norris? I’m frankly surprised their are not as many Neeson jokes/memes/gifs as there are Norris by now. Not counting A Walk Among The Tombstones, Mark Felt, and The Grey, you pretty much know what to expect when walking into a Liam Neeson high-octane action pic. You have your high end ones, like Taken, you have your low end ones, like the Taken sequels, and then you have your very enjoyable turn off your brain middle fare, such as Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. Thankfully, THE COMMUTER is in that latter category.  What is a little funny about this movie pun wise, is that the movie is actually two thirds really really strong before….derailing into lunacy in its final act. But even the derailment is fun and combined with the entire journey, I had a pretty good Neeson of a time.

This honestly could’ve been a sequel to Non-Stop, and I don’t understand why it wasn’t. If you don’t know what Non-Stop was, it was basically Liam Neeson as a air marshal trying to find a potential terrorist on a airplane. The entire movie took place on said airplane, and spoiler alert, Neeson survives the movie. In The Commuter he plays an ex-cop that just got fired from his insurance sales gig he had for ten years, only to be offered by a mystery woman (played by Bates Hotel’s Vera Farmiga) who offers him $100,000 to find a person on a train before a certain stop and tag his/her luggage with a GPS device. So why couldn’t they have said he was an ex-air marshal and just make this a cool little sequel to Non-Stop, ten years later? Who knows, and I guess who cares? I mean, with Liam Neeson’s good but very typecast acting, he basically plays the same character in all these movies (with the except of the three non-actioner movies I mentioned in the first paragraph).

But the movie is fun. It’s fun to watch Neeson using his authority cop like special skills to try and find this specific passenger and I did enjoy several of the mid act twists that I didn’t see coming. The acting and some of the situations with the other passengers get to be a little on the ridiculous side with some of the “secrets” they are hiding, especially in the third act, but all is forgiven because the movie is a solid entertaining 1 hr and 44 minutes that doesn’t let up. And the third act does get a little Looney Tune-y action wise and a couple of more plot twists are thrown at you that I saw coming from minute one, but as that stuff usually bothers me with other films, there is just something about a Liam Neeson actioner where I just put my hands behind my head, relax, and just say, “I’m smiling, I’m having fun, I just don’t give a fuck.”

I mentioned that Vera Farmiga is in this movie above, but if you are going to see the movie because you are a fan of her, word of warning. She is only physically present in two scenes and then is a voice on the phone the rest of the movie. It screams paycheck and that she was on a lot filming something else close by. Sam Neil is relegated to a shock cameo status and Patrick Wilson has a bit more to do but seems like he was on autopilot, phoning it in. But Liam Neeson actually looks like he wants to be there this time. He does his Neeson thing but everything about his performance, while typecast, was enjoyable and believable.

So if you want a good time at the movies for a January, which is usually a dump month studio movie ground for shitty films (except for the ones released limited in December and expand in January), this film is for you. For its bug fuck nuts craziness and fun factor, I would compare this film to the third XXX feature with Vin Diesel that we got last January. To enjoy these kinds of films, you just have to turn your brain off and try not to decipher and pick apart everything for one time out of the year. 2017 was XXX The Return of Xander Cage, 2018 is The Commuter.

 

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HOSTILES

HOSTILES is easily the best Western since Dances With Wolves. It also ranks as one of my favorite westerns of all time, including other films such as 3:10 To Yuma (the remake), True Grit (the remake & original), The Outlaw Josey Wales, Django Unchained, The Quick and The Dead and Unforgiven. While there are hundreds of movies of what is right and what is wrong, this film takes it to the next level by also exploring the deep darkness of grey in between. Christian Bale also gives his best performance since The Figher and may I even say it is up there as maybe his best performance ever for me. This western tale is gritty, its unpredictable, its journey is dark and takes you places you didn’t think you would go, it tugs at your heart strings and won’t let go, and the final shot left me with some choked back tears. It not just making me have to revise my top ten of 2017 list yet again, but it is also making me revise my western masterpiece list.

Since you most likely haven’t seen any promotional material for this film since it was picked up by a distributor so late and at the last minute to qualify for this year’s Academy Awards, let me give you a non spoiler-y run down: All you need to know is that its about a Army captain (Christian Bale) in 1892, that has had the job for the last little while, tracking down rogue Native Americans and jailing them in some fort stronghold.  One of these is a Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) that has been jailed for 7 years and by the decree of the President of the United States, as a sort of public relations good faith sort of gesture, orders his release, and for Bale’s Army captain to escort him back to his original native land. Bale is reluctant to do it because this certain Cheyenne war chief and his tribe has killed many of his friends, but for the sake of his pension and future retirement, he does it anyway. He leads a group of troops to get the chief and his family back to his land and along the way picks up a woman who’s family was just slaughter by a rogue batch of Native Americans that show no mercy.

The movie is called Hostiles because mainly the dark path it takes is to show that hostility can come from anyone. Christian Bale’s character, although a good man, is deeply flawed, and his arc in this 2 hour and 15 minute film is not as predictable and you might imagine. Not everything is clear cut. His feelings for certain aspects of what is is doing changes, but he still remembers and respects his original intuitions. It’s not a full 180 character moral flip. His character is fully enveloped in that dark grey between right and wrong and Bale’s way of portraying this character as one trying to sort that grey out into something coherent is astonishingly masterful. Rosamund Pike also delivers one of her career best performances right alongside Gone Girl as that woman with PTSD the entire film of seeing her entire family slaughtered right before her eyes. All of her actions and reactions are painstakingly realistic.

This film is actually a pretty star studded affair. Ben Foster plays another devilish role that basically flashes a “HEY LOOK EVERYONE, WE WERE BOTH IN THAT AWESOME REMAKE 3:10 TO YUMA!” sign but not really as his role, while brief, is a little more complicated than that role in that other fantastic western. Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Rory Chochran, Call Me By Your Name’s and Lady Bird’s Timothy Chalamet, Scott Wilson, and Stephen Lang round up the cast. And they all give fantastic performances. The cinematography in this western is amazing as well. The valleys, the mountains, the forests, the landscapes, all captured perfectly on camera to give you that feel you are out in the wilderness in 1892. Every single shot is breathtakingly beautiful to look at.

I love that this film is not just one plot, but multiple B, C, and even D plots as it goes. All of them tie in together quite harmoniously and bring the film to a brutal, calculated, yet unpredictable journey. The film is brutal when it needs to be and doesn’t over complicate or over saturate the plot with needless shots of blood, guts, or other cheap ways to make your stomach churn. Writer and Director Scott Cooper does a fantastic job to relay the right message about humanity without any cheap one-two punches that feel inauthentic to the audience. For example, there is some scalping in the film, but unlike Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds where it does a long close up take of the scalping to try and for a wince like emotion, here it is fast, to the point, and on to the next scene to show you why some men are savages and hostile.

I just love Hostiles. I was in love with it about 10 minutes in and was crossing my fingers that nothing else let me down. Thank goodness it didn’t. It’s unpredictability floored me to no end. Even though it is a slow boiler it kept my attention aptly for the entire run time. One think to know about me is I love Westerns. LOVE Westerns. Just something about that old time, with cowboys, native americans, shootouts, the vast valley of endless land, the setting that just keeps my attention and absorbs everything it has to offer. I know a lot of people out there that don’t like Westerns, and that is fine. But I encourage you to let go of your hostility and maybe give it a chance even though it isn’t your taste. But if you are like me and appreciate the once in a blue moon fantastic one like this, you are in for a treat.

 

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: INSIDIOUS – THE LAST KEY (aka Insidious 4)

Writer/directors James Wan and Leigh Whannell are responsible for creating two key horror franchises in the past decade: the Saw series, and the Insidious series. While the Saw series I could honestly watch endlessly, where every new installment I graciously look forward to, the Insidious series unfortunately goes the opposite way, along the likes of the Paranormal Activity series, in that I kind of wish it were to stop now before it really really overstays its welcome. It’s not that INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY is horrible. No, it’s actually not bad for a January release and there are some general frightening moments, it more than likely that for me all the tension is taken out of the film, due to the fact that it is a prequel and I know certain characters will make it out alive so when they are in danger I really don’t give a shit.

What is this trend that we are getting into with horror movies? We have one or two original films, the sequel taking place after the first one, but then we get into prequel territory (sometimes right away with installment 2) because the filmmakers think the audience will give them several pats on the back if they completely connect to the original film in the end. While it was cool for Ouija 2, then shrug worthy with Annabelle 2, it has now become groan inducing. We get it, “ohhhhhhhhhh this shit is so cool it literally picks up where the first one starts!!!” Ummmm….to quote myself, “who fucking cares?” I don’t like prequels in general. Prequels take all the fun out of everything because there are literally no stakes; with the plot or the characters, etc.  We know what eventually happens to the characters. There is the one in ten film prequel journey that makes up for the lost tension, but it is very, very rare.

Ouija: Origin of Evil is one of those. Ouija 2 (but really a prequel) only worked because that it was so good it made the shitty first film look like Gigli. Annabelle kind of works because again, the first film was really shitty and the 2nd film is a minor improvement. Insidious The Last Key is not even close to an improvement over any of the previous films. In fact, after the first film, all the films deteriorate one after the other in terms of quality. Yes, we know that Lin Shaye is usually a good actress, and she was the highlight of the first movie and the only thing redeemable about #3, but in this one, to see her origin story, ehhhh…I didn’t really care. Her origin story is unfortunately relegated to the fact that her daddy is an abusive asshole and doesn’t believe in ghosts so he beats his daughter whenever she says she sees them or talks about her gift or whatever. Certainly writer Leigh Whannell could come up with something better than that.

The film does manage to come up with a couple of twists that I didn’t quite see coming although many of you probably could. And I did jump several times…although I am getting sick of that spirit villain that looks like the arch nemesis of the Powerpuff Girls. And another part of the movie I don’t like is that I just don’t care about The Further anymore. Although the Further came first, it is basically just a rich man’s Stranger Things’ Upside Down with rooms. And while the Upside Down in Stranger Things has established rules, it seems like anything can happen in The Further if it is a plot convenience to get the characters from point A to point B and then they think they are safe at point C. So to some up everything I’m saying in a nice little bow here, the movie is okay, not terrible, not great, I’m just sick of the prequel story nonsense, want a sequel and want more genuine scares.

I still do kind of like Lin Shaye’s sidekicks in the film, played by Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell himself, they are given more to do here, but a lot of their jokes fall completely flat, their charm being the only thing that keeps them memorable. If they make a 5th movie, if the charm goes away, so does my affection for the characters. And the probably will make a 5th movie, seeing that this new one, in one weekend, made back 3 to 5 times it’s budget already. The only way I would care about a 5th movie, is if it is a sequel to part 2. I’m tired of the prequels. I know what Lin Shaye’s character can do, I now know how she started the Spectral Sightings business with her two sidekicks and now I know her origin story as a child. That is enough. Lin Shaye’s story is over, let’s go further into the dark side of The Further and bring about true nightmares again. We should all go by the wise recent words of Kylo Ren, “Let the past die, kill it if you have to.” Time to kill the prequels to Insidious and movie on to true sequels. Otherwise I will not longer go into The Further with the rest of you.

Rank of Insidious Movies:

  1. Insidious
  2. Insidious Chapter 2
  3. Insidious Chapter 3
  4. Insidious The Last Key

Timeline wise how to watch them:

Insidious Chapter 3

Insidious The Last Key

Insidious

Insidious Chapter 2

(stupid right?)