Category Archives: Movies The Ultimate Escape

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE SHAPE OF WATER

THE SHAPE OF WATER might be the most gorgeous film of 2017 (other than Blade Runner 2049 and I haven’t seen Last Jedi yet). Certainly, not might, this ranks as one of writer/director Guillermo Del Toro’s best films alongside Hellboy II, Blade, Pan’s Labryinth and Mimic. It has a solid structure, there doesn’t seem to be a scene wasted, it’s well acted and it’s very entertaining…so why can’t I put it on my Top 15 Film List of 2017 like so many other critics are doing? Because while the story has a very solid structure, it is unfortunately way too predictable to be taken as a wholly original film. It is still a great film, and I am recommending it to see it in a theater to experience the wonderful cinematography on the biggest screen that you can, but the story, including the journey, was an ingredient that was vital to the masterpiece of this dish, and they didn’t put enough in.

Maybe my expectations were too high after all the praise this film was getting, calling it “one of the best of the year.” I agree it is Oscar worthy in every sense of the form. Especially it should win cinematography if Blade Runner doesn’t and I think Sally Hawkins is likely to win Best Actress (and rightly so, she is freaking incredible in this, her best performance to date). Just something for the story for me was off. Beat by beat, plot progression by plot progression, I was guessing everything that was going to happen at every turn. Sitting in almost an empty theater at 10 p.m., I was saying out loud scenes to myself (but quietly, wasn’t near a soul) that were going to happen 10 to 15 minutes down the line, and I was correct. There wasn’t a moment where something absolutely shocked me into what was going on. The only minor thing that was unpredictable was a subplot with Russians that revealed its hand a little too early and had a conclusion I guessed since moment one.

Not to say the movie isn’t boring at all. It’s not, its quite entertaining, and people are sure to love this exquisitely shot love story. The character arcs all go full circle. Other than Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, and Octavia Spencer are all incredible here and if any of them got Oscar nominations as well they are well deserved. I shall be crushed though if this gets nominated for Best Original Screenplay, because it is so riddled with some cliches and predictability it would take amnesia to not notice them. I’m only trying to explain myself why I am not putting this on my top list so people aren’t shocked beyond belief. They might be shocked that I am not putting Disaster Artist in my top 15 either even though I thought it was incredible,¬† but I have reasons for that as well.

Now let’s get to the creature, played by Doug Jones. I was surprised how much of a practical effect the creature was, other than the eyes. I thought it would be a CG creation a la Beast from this year’s Beauty and The Beast, but boy was I wrong. This thing is real, looks real, feels real, so the chemistry because him and Sally Hawkin’s mute character is believable, inspiring, yet heartbreaking when it needed to be. In fact, this creature and the two’s chemistry¬† make whatever Belle and the Beast had in this year’s earlier adaptation seem like it was done on a computer with a tech on autopilot.

The end is a little anti climatic as well, but effective. And on the whole I still think it is a pretty great film. It’s beautiful and a true work of art: visually. If Guillermo Del Toro, on his next film, could take that art, and turn it into something not just visually appetizing, but bring us a dessert of a truly sweetly written and unpredictable word, by God what a masterpiece that would be. And I was starting to give up hope on Del Toro, after the painstakingly numbing experience of Crimson Peak, and the good but not fantastic Pacific Rim. But this is a giant step in the right direction across the street of cinematic heaven. Just a few more steps Del Toro, you’ve made it there several times before being sent back to the drawing board, you’ll make it again.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: NETFLIX’S MUDBOUND

Well, I think Netflix may have just officially entered the Academy Awards race with MUDBOUND. This movie is incredible. Punches you in the stomach multiple times for one hell of an emotional wallop. It is also one of the best films on race and class relations I’ve seen in the past decade, along with Detroit earlier this year. The film is a 2 hour and 15 minute slow burn yet it is still extremely entertaining (the fact that I couldn’t take my eyes away from it sitting on my couch at home says something) and it gives its audience a well-earned and incredible final act. This movie is required viewing I think by any movie lover. And you really don’t have any excuse not to see it. You can sit on your lazy ass and watch it at home. Don’t have Netflix? Borrow it from a friend weirdo.

MUDBOUND tells several stories but at the heart of all of it is two families, one white and one black, both living in the same region in the south. The husband of the white family has a younger brother off fighting in the sky in World War II, and the black family has a son that is fighting on the ground in tanks in World War II. Once the boys come home, the white soldier coming back with extreme PTSD, they strike up a unlikely friendship, much to the chagrin of the racist town folks and the racist father of the white soldier. The white husband also had a wife that may or may not have feelings for the younger brother as well. And the black soldier holds a secret from the war, something that would not be tolerated at all in the town that they live in.

This movie has perfect plot progression/storytelling/etc. You think the movie is about the husband and wife white family, then the movie switches on you and you think it is about the black family, and then it switches again and it is the relationship between the white younger brother and the black son, and then it switches again to the town and white father dealing with that relationship, all while being consistent and solid with tone and structure. It’s perfectly plotted and the transitions are masterful. The best part of the movie are obviously the conversations and friendship between the white younger brother and the black son, talking about their war experiences, and the shit they are having to go through when they come back from war. It’s very heartfelt, and comes to a conclusion you might not see coming.

It deals with race, class, bigotry, and family with a strong iron fist, not sugar coating anything for the sake of the audience. At the center of all the conflicts and hatred is a good message that doesn’t try and tack you on the head a thousand times with a hammer to try and get its point across. The acting here is also amazing, but if I had to pinpoint anyone, it would be Garrett Hedlund as the white younger brother soldier. This is his most shining role to date and I would be disappointed if he didn’t get a best supporting nomination out of this. Everyone else is fantastic here too, including Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, and even Jonathan Banks, but Hedlund shines every scene he is in. You feel his PTSD, his love for his friend, his heartache. Every time he is on screen is an experience.

The end of the film is what truly got me. Didn’t see what was coming and it hit me in the…how do people say it nowadays…the feels? It’s a fantastic ending, culminated in a near perfect picture that will definitely be re watched in the future. That is what I liked about this film. It isn’t too unwatchable and doesn’t play with your emotions with over the top torture and bloodshed that films like Detroit and 12 Years A Slave do. While it still doesn’t sugarcoat anything, it is a film that transcends¬† that uneasiness with a scene like that and structurally puts it into the film where you aren’t wincing and can’t wait for the scene to be over (even though there is one part like that, it actually doesn’t show too much, which I appreciated).

Conclusion: It’s simple, if you have Netflix or can get access to it, Mudbound is required viewing. It is one of the years best films and has to be seen to be believed how near perfect it is. The test for me with watching a film at home is if I’m distracted with other things on the internet or something else happening around the house. I just held my kid, he slept the entire time, and the 2 hours and 15 minutes completely blew by me. It is a experience that has to be seen to be believed, and one of the most important films of 2017. Steam it now damn it!

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is not only one of the year’s best films, it deserves all the Oscar buzz and attention it is getting. It is an incredibly original film that makes you think, feel, and completely enthralling to watch. This feature film is Martin McDonough’s third (his other two are the incredible In Bruges, and the pretty good Seven Psychopaths) and he is still on a role. He takes his time writing and directing another film, and it is a tactic that a lot of filmmakers should follow (Tarantino does and we all knows how great his films are too). This is a movie that any film buff is required to see, as it is that rare form of art that gives so many messages across while doing it in a very unique way. I loved this film, and can’t wait to watch it again.

This movie has been marketed to hell, so if you haven’t seen a trailer you probably don’t go to the movies all that often. It is about a woman, played to perfection by the incredible Frances McDormand, who puts up three billboards that ask the local police why they haven’t done more to locate the perpetrator of her daughter’s rape and murder seven months prior. The billboards mainly out the town’s local sheriff, played by Woody Harrelson, who should have won an Academy Award by now, and the police department he works for. The town itself and everyone’s lives go into a tailspin after she puts up these billboards, with people dealing with racism, sexism, inner turmoil, and redemption. And I loved the films ending, as it doesn’t go the Hollywood route, and is the perfect amount of ambigiousness that motion pictures need more of nowadays.

I’ve already pinpointed Frances McDormand’s performance, but the other standout performance that is likely to also get a Oscar nomination is from the very underrated Sam Rockwell, who plays one of the police department’s racist cops. He is the most layered character in the film and his arc goes to places that not even the most qualified movie buff could predict. His performance and story will surprise you.

Although the trailer is comedic in tone, make no mistake, this is mainly a drama with moments of comedy (you don’t see all the comedy in the trailer thank God). And I love how the film really isn’t a who dun it as much as it is a character study of complicated people and why they do certain things. It is incredible. The films is about two hours and it flies by the seat of your pants, and you wish you could stay in these character’s lives just a little bit longer. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are certainly my top choices to win Academy Awards this year, and if Dunkirk doesn’t win Best Picture, I wouldn’t mind if this one instead.

I’ve told you all to go see Coco this weekend and I remain true to that. Families should go see Coco, and more families that are in adult age that love movies should go see Three Billboards, especially if you are really into awards season as this will be nominated for a shit ton of things. In Bruges is still my favorite film of Martin McDonough even though this is more of a reward darling than that one was, but Three Billboards is still solid as a rock and a masterpiece of its own. I love original tales, and this movie is the reason why I still haven’t given up on originality in Hollywood. A spectacular film.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS is a very noble effort in trying to do something with A Christmas Carol that isn’t straight up remaking it, but still kind of is, and the result is okay…but still kind of boring. The mad rush energy you see in the marketing of this film, if you’ve watched the trailer, doesn’t translate to the screen, instead it is kind of a slow burn with a few little dashes of energy that are unfortunately short lived.

Although it is a little bit interesting how Dicken’s real life woe’s translated to him writing A Christmas Carol so well. And the acting by Dan Stevens (who ladies still swoon over) is quite good. For me though, like any other adaptation of A Christmas Carol (except for Scrooge, Bill Murray makes it completely re-watchable), this is a one and done affair, never to watch it again, but it doesn’t mean it was truly terrible.

I don’t need to explain much of the plot of this film. Charles Dickens has had a couple of flops and needs money fast. It is mid October and he thinks he can come up with a story about Christmas in 6 weeks to print and distribute. Trying to sort through his woes of past and present, he uses real life experiences to create the classic A Christmas Carol. And that’s about it, you get a retelling of A Christmas Carol in the process just in case the entire story isn’t already seeped into your head.

Dan Stevens (the Beast in the new live action Beauty and the Beast) saves this film from being a complete and entire bore. He is invested in playing Dickens and it shows that he wanted the role and knew that he was good at it. The acting is good all around, including Christopher Plummer, who probably should’ve played Scrooge instead of Jim Carrey in Robert Zemekick’s retelling motion capture film we got about a decade ago.

The direction is good and the screenplay is tight, I was just bored. It was just boring to me I think because I know the story like the back of my hand, and it didn’t add anything to make me perk up and stay awake. I would only recommend this movie if you are a die hard A Christmas Carol enthusiast and can’t wait to read it each and every Christmas. I’ve read a little background work on Dickens and it seemed like they didn’t pull any of his real life woe’s out of their ass, which is commendable, but I’m just tired of all the adaptations, I’m getting to the point where I’m about to say ba-humbug.