Category Archives: Movies The Ultimate Escape

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LADY BIRD

Well, the Cubicle Escapee website is down so I would like to review LADY BIRD while it is still fresh in my mind. I will post reviews on here until website is back up and then re post them. Anyway, what intrigued me about Lady Bird was it’s 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. What intrigued me even further was the fact that Greta Gerwig wrote and directed it, and while this is her first time writing and directing a feature, she has co-written some together with Noah Baumbach such as Frances Ha and Mistress America. If you are familiar with my reviews I’m not too huge of a fan of Noah Baumbach films (I didn’t like the recent Netflix Meyerowitz Stories), and I didn’t like Frances Ha and Mistress America. So I’m probably guessing that Noah Baumbach is the main reason for those failures because I really liked Lady Bird and completely agree with all the praise it is getting.

It is a really weird and realistic film about a girl getting out of high school in Sacramento, that is always at odds with her mother, she calls herself Lady Bird because she doesn’t want to be recognized by her real name, and she is trying to apply to college far away to escape her doomed Sacramento life. Lady Bird is played to perfection by Saoirse Ronan, who you might know from when she was nominated rightfully so for the movie Brooklyn, but you may mainly know her as the little girl that fucked things up for James McAvoy and Keira Knightly in Atonement (she was nominated for that too). And she should be nominated for this. Saoirse Ronan plays Lady Bird as a rebellious, quirky, teenager that isn’t afraid to admit her own faults. She’s not the Hollywood rebellious teen either, as she doesn’t do over the top things to do so. Her rebelliousness is realistic and relatable.

Laurie Metcalf I think also deserves a nomination playing Lady Bird’s mother, as I’ve never seen her better in anything else. If she doesn’t win you over earlier in the film, she will in the final car airport scene. The acting all around is fantastic. Lucas Hedges (who was nominated for Manchester By The Sea) plays one of Lady Bird’s boyfriends that has his own demons in his closet and Tracy Letts plays her maybe too understanding father.

Greta Gerwig also comes into her own as a director, having a certain camera and visual style I was able to pick up on. Kind of like Wes Anderson, but without everything looking like a god damn symmetrical diorama school project (sorry but Anderson has over done that to death). Her films has nice contract colors and a visual palette that is very easy on the eyes. If she can stay away from her boyfriend Noah Baumbach and do things on her own, I think she could go places, as this film is a fantastic individual endeavor.

If you like quirky films, then you don’t want to miss this. I would say see it just for Saoirse Ronan, as everything she does is worth the price of admission alone (except for Atonement which other than her performance I thought was God awful). But it has good lessons of feminism, individuality, and relationships to booth. I love movies that feel real, that feel like they are situations any normal human being can get into. Films like that tap into the audience’s soul, making a more worthwhile film going experience. This is one of those.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: WONDER

When I get out of seeing a really great movie, like WONDER, and I noticed I was the only one in the theater (granted it was a 10 pm showing on weeknight), I start to feel really bad for it, especially when a certain superhero movie is going to kill it at the box office. And I had a more enjoyable time with this movie than I did during that other one I saw just a few hours earlier. It’s a movie meant to tug at your heartstrings, but unlike a lot of duds that tried to do that this past year, this one earns it your lump in your throat and the tears in your eyes. It has a great realistic anti-bullying message, the acting is top notch, and the story went places I didn’t expect it to go. If you are looking for a movie to see other than two superhero films that are out in the theater right now, please go to this and give it a chance. I’ll guarantee you’ll be happy crying by the end credits.

The film, at 1 hour and 50 minutes, swims by at a very brisk pace. The trailer makes it seems like the film is going to be entirely on Auggie Pullman’s point of view, a kid born with Treacher Collins syndrome which is a rare facial deformity, that at once was home schooled by his mother, played by Julia Roberts, is now thrust into middle school life. Having the whole movie being in Auggie’s point of view would have been very generic and the film might not have come together as well. About a third of the way in, the movie switches to several other points of views, such as Auggie’s sister Via, Via’s former best friend Miranda, his best friend Jack Will, and even the bully Julian. While I would’ve loved to see his parents having their own points of view (unfortunately Julia Roberts and especially Owen Wilson are relegated to background characters that only pop up once or twice), I fear that might’ve been too many. The inclusions of all these different points of view was perfect.

The situations feel realistic as well. We don’t get over dramatized actions of bullying that seem like they came straight from the minds of dull Hollywood screenwriters playing everything too over the top and by the book. The characters speak to each other like real people would and because of all this, it develops real audience emotional sympathy, which is hard to do nowadays. Plus, the film is extremely entertaining to the point where I knew that I wanted to watch it again, and soon. Julia Roberts is the best she’s been since August: Osage County, and even though he is barely in it, seeing Owen Wilson in something a little more serious was a nice surprise. All of the kid actors, including the bullies and friends and family members of Auggie were fantastic.

But it is Jacob Trembley playing Auggie that completely steals the show and our hearts. If you don’t know who Jacob Trembley is, he is that exceptional kid that did a hell of a job acting alongside Brie Larson in Room. He was also one of the only decent things about this year’s The Book of Henry as well. This is honestly his best performance thus far and will be a child actor to be reckoned with. Hopefully it transitions him into adulthood just as well. Right away, we sympathize with Auggie, and not just because his face is a tad deformed, but because he has a heart of gold, and just wants to be accepted by people other than his family members. Jacob Trembley brings charm and wit to the role, making Auggie a real person and not just a two dimension, “oh woe is me” type of character that a lot of these Hollywood heart string movies try to do to its audience.

But I loved this movie. Wonder is wonderful. I don’t care about the stupid pun. It’s a movie that made me have a lump in my throat, and I was completely invested from minute one all the way to the end credits. It is a nice PG rating, and honestly anyone can watch it. And should. I think this movie should be played at every school, every year, as a huge anti-bullying message as well as a just be kind in general type of moralistic journey for our younger generation. It’s not some sappy after school special, it’s a film that feels as real as the tears on your cheek. And that is rare in the cinematic world today.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JUSTICE LEAGUE (mild spoilers)

We all need to first off admit that Warner Bros. is doing too much of a rush job to try and have DC “catch” up to Marvel. I mean, we’ve only had four films, and one of those films featured just two small cameos by two of the JUSTICE LEAGUE members so really we’ve only had 3. When The Avenger’s came out, every character was introduced and given some kind of arc exposition in a previous film. Here, three of the 5 just had very small cameos in previous adventures, and that is it. Literally no time to fully develop them. So if you go into Justice League thinking it is going to be the end all be all of superhero team ups, you are sorely mistaken. But if you go in there and realize that Warner Bros. is playing catch up, accept that fact, turn off your brain for two hours, and just try to have a fun time, like I did, then you’ll come out of Justice League thinking that it was pretty good, not great, but pretty good, and that the critics are being once again too harsh on a DC film. (I am an avid fan of the Batman V Superman Ultimate Edition cut so take that for what you will with my review here.)

If you are expecting a film better than the first Avengers, you are out of your God forsaken mind, but I did enjoy this more than the really average Age of Ultron. And Justice League has plenty of problems. For one, if you are used to the dark ass tone of Man of Steel, BVS, and Suicide Squad, you are going to have a strong wake up call here. I think what is throwing critics off mostly is the tone of this film. Almost all the darkness of the previous films are gone, and this one is even lighter and more campy than Wonder Woman. (I think Wonder Woman is the be all end all of DCEU films thus far, and think it created the perfect tone all other DC films should use as a blueprint). It’s a very jarring change that if you don’t know that it’s coming, it could throw you for a loop. And it’s all because Zack Snyder is trying to cater to not just the fans that are complaining about too dark of a tone for our DC characters, but also to the studio trying its best to force a artists hands to cater to the masses.

I honestly think that Snyder wanted to make a very different film here than the one presented. And Joss Whedon was brought in to polish things off a bit (also the sad tragedy of Snyder’s daughter killing herself and Snyder’s heart not being really into the movie anymore), but I think with the release date looming and Henry Cavill’s mustache curflaffle (you could definitely tell the parts where Cavill’s mustache for Mission Impossible 6 was CGI’d out, to the point where I almost said out loud, “hey, this is a Joss Whedon directed scene!”), that he couldn’t really do all that much to fix it. If Warner Bros. has told the two men, okay, you each get the cast for 6 months, and you get 6 months to write a script before that, and we won’t interfere with you at all, you would have two completely different, and maybe even better films than this.

Shit, I’m dragging this down aren’t I? And I actually liked the film. I’m just trying to explain the tone problem. It’s not two different tone’s like some of the critics are saying. It’s just a conflicting tone to previous films and studio interference. Would I have liked to see a darker Justice League film a la BVS? I know I’ll get a lot of flack for this but, yes, I really would.

And the tone isn’t even that much of a problem, because I knew it was going to be lighter going in. I’m just giving my thesis on why the Rotten Tomato score is so low.  There are MUCH bigger problems in this film. The CGI is fucking terrible at times, especially when it comes to Superman, his resurrection, and the final last battle. It looked and felt like Star Wars Episode II and III, with the actors just in front of a giant big screen inside a studio with few props. The villain sucks hard as well, and now DC officially has a villain problem a la Marvel. Steppenwolf is a CGI creation that has literally no other purpose than to look and sound menacing while trying to control the world. Completely one dimensional, not even scary, and I didn’t even think he was that much of a threat. He was basically a bigger version of the main bad guy in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1. The motherbox plot was kind of a let down as well. Why do these villains always need artifacts to destroy shit?

Also, let me get to critics complaints that Ben Affleck doesn’t want to be there anymore and looks bored the entire movie. I don’t think that is necessarily true. I think Affleck signed on to play Batman as a dark, brooding character that has seen his fare shit over 20 years and lost his faith in humanity. He gave his performance his all in BVS, and he was honestly the best part about the film. He even looked like he liked being in his very small role in Suicide Squad. Then the reviews for BVS came in. The whole sad Affleck video happened. He looked crushed. And then comes Justice League, where Affleck is told he needs to loosen up his performance and be lighter. In Justice League Affleck shows not a disinterest of a performance, but a confused one. He knew what to do in BVS but now the director and studio are telling him different, and he doesn’t know really what to do, and it isn’t what he signed up for. You can tell this when he makes one liners in Justice League. Affleck doesn’t pull off these one liners because he doesn’t believe that the character should be saying shit like that, and he’s right. Batman shouldn’t. So in my humble opinion, this is the last time we probably see Affleck as the Dark Knight. Not because of disinterest, but because of confusion.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK, let me get to the good stuff and why I enjoyed the movie. Wonder Woman and The Flash are awesome and steal every scene they are in. Gal Gadot was born to play Wonder Woman and she is really the best part of this movie, and I can’t wait for Wonder Woman 2. Ezra Miller was nice and refreshing as The Flash, with awesome zany one liners, a great Stephen King reference, and a whole lot of positive energy brought into the project. I can’t wait to see the Flashpoint film. Jason Mamoa is also a fresh take on Aquaman that I enjoyed and am interested in the solo film he has coming up. People are casting Ray Fisher as the odd man out in this, but I am one to disagree. Even though I didn’t like Cyborg’s CGI, I liked Ray Fisher’s portrayal, and I believe we would be more invested with his character if he would just get his own solo film. The whole team had great chemistry together, and that is main reason why the movie doesn’t falter and is actually enjoyable. Hell, they even course correct Superman in this. Instead of the brewing depressing being he was in BVS, he is more the Superman in the comics in this, looking for justice, not vengeance, and actually thinking about civilians. I also did like that his resurrection didn’t involve the black suit or long hair, that would’ve been too damn obvious and too many throwbacks to the comics for no apparent reason.

The Batman and Wonder Woman scenes at the beginning of the film were fantastic. I did like the midway through the film battle that was without Superman in that factory like place. The action is very entertaining, even though we don’t really get a masterpiece of a scene like we did with Batman and the warehouse in BVS. We get some nods to some other heroes I thought were pretty cool as well (look for them in the flashback first apocalyptic battle with Steppenwolf). And also, be sure to stay for two post credit scenes. One is funny and fun, and the other was really really freaking cool. It introduces a brand new character. Also, it almost course corrects an annoying as fuck character in one of the previous DCEU movies. Maybe, we’ll have to see more of the tweaked performance.

So I liked Justice League for what it was. If this is just a stepping stone to a greater Justice League 2, then I am glad this movie exists. I can see myself watching it several more times, it is really enjoyable, even with its flaws and narrative plot. But I think it is time to let Zack Snyder go. Bring in some fresh faces and try and let Warner Bros not be so fucking involved. I would love Joss Whedon to do is own, awesome, artistic, uninterrupted Justice League 2. I have a feeling that would be epic. (Age of Ultron sucked I believe because of studio hands as well). I know he has a Batgirl movie, which I’m looking forward to, coming up but, give him the keys to the League. So unlike the critics, which seem to point to this being a Frankenstein monster collaboration of a movie, I would more describe it as Captain America with amnesia, obeying the Socovia Act in Civil War instead of disobeying it. He might not be all quite there in his head, but he still gets the job done.

Rank of DCEU Movies:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. Man of Steel
  3. Justice League
  4. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Cut
  5. Suicide Squad

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LBJ

Do you think we could stop with the movies depicting/describing/detailing events around and during the assassination of JFK? There are only so many ways and so many points of view to tell the tale. Unless you have something unique to give to the situation, like Stephen King’s 11/22/1963 novel, enough already. In the past decade I’ve seen JFK assassinated 10 times, all with different camera angles, and different points of view. It’s very tiring and Hollywood has managed to make a national tragedy boring. You are probably asking, “Zach, your review says this is supposed to be on the film LBJ.” It is, trust me. The film depicts the events a little bit before, during, and after the JFK assassination about the president that followed him, what he did both before, during and after. But with All The Way, which really just depicts the events after the JFK assassination, which has the last 25 minutes of this film covered, did we really need another movie on LBJ?

No we didn’t. I don’t know where we are getting these scripts from. It’s like we are getting them from college students. The professor says, “write a movie during or around a significant period of time and make it as factual as possible.” The students go, “well, 9/11 is too soon ((even though it also has been done to death already and I doubt we’ve seen the last of those films)), so what can I do, that requires minimal effort, where I don’t have to research all that much into what happened? Oh I know! I’ll do a story surrounding JFK’s assassination, but in the point of view of LBJ, or RFK, or Natalie Portman.”

I can’t tell you how sick of these movies I am. And this movie I know is about much more than that, it’s about LBJ’s point of view, and mostly on his career before and after, even though it takes almost the whole movie flashes back to that fateful day in Dallas to see his reaction when JFK gets terrible green screen background and CGI’d shot in the head treatment. I’m sad to say I’ve become numb to seeing a president being shot in the head. It’s terrible.

The movie is directed by Rob Reiner, who hasn’t had a good film since the kid movie Flipped, and before that, The American President. He has made some huge clunkers in his career, including North, and while what I described above isn’t so much a clunker as I make it out to be, any director could’ve made this movie. It has none of Reiner’s trademark direction/shots/etc. whatsoever, it is a complete point and shoot affair. I’m guessing since his career is so downhill this was the only thing he was offered.

The only saving grace of this film is none other than Woody Harrelson. And the acting in general. While the make up on Woody looks awful (should’ve hired someone else) he is terrific as LBJ. Even though this movie conflicts with some of LBJ’s character with the movie All The Way with Bryan Cranston, Woody does a remarkable job as the forced President to be, trying to make his own legacy. Jeffrey Donovan and Michael Sahl-David do really good work here too as JFK and RFK, and Jennifer Jason Leigh does good with the few scenes she has as Lady Bird. But Richard Jenkins is pretty powerful here too, playing a racist senator at odds with what LBJ is doing.

But yeah, if you’ve seen the movie All the Way with Bryan Cranston, there really is nothing new here, and watch that one, it is a better film. The only reason why you should watch this at all is if you like Woody Harrelson and are a Woody Harrelson performance completest. And I guess maybe if in some insane world you are a Rob Reiner completest as well. This movie is hopefully a nail in the coffin for movies surrounding the JFK assassination, but as with most things, I’m probably wrong.