Category Archives: Movies The Ultimate Escape

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LAST FLAG FLYING

LAST FLAG FLYING is a pretty good film that drags in a couple of spots and goes on a little too long, preventing it from being a great film. The premise is good, and I also liked the fact that the film wasn’t anti-war or pro-war but about honor, doing what you feel is right, and how to cope. Cranston, Carrell, and Fishbourne are still three some of the best actors working today, and they shine in this too, keeping the film watchable even in the parts that drag. And just like Thank You For Your Service, it comes with a message that we really do need to start treating our troops better, maybe even a little more subtle than Service, but still with an emotional impact.

If you haven’t seen any trailers, the film is about three Vietnam vets in 2003 who haven’t seen each other in a long time and one of which (Carrell) just lost a son in Afganistan, and he asked the other two to accompany him to the funeral. The film plays like a somber, but with some humor, road trip film, as the three reminisce about the past, present, future, and the lies and mistakes in between. The conversations in this movie feel a little bit more real than normal. There is no giant speech or confrontation at the end where one gets mad at the other and the other has to make it up to him or apologize. There are some heated arguments, but quick and peaceful resolutions. It felt a little more real than most films dealing with that subject matter and I appreciate the way Director Richard Linklater didn’t try to Hollywood ham it up.

Steve Carrell’s sad yet poignant performance is being treated as an Academy Award contender, and while it is good, I happen to disagree on the contender part (if you want his best performance that got the nomination it deserved see: Foxcatcher). His role is a little more down key than usual, and he doesn’t have that many lines as well, and to me it doesn’t take a lot of effort to sit there and look sad. The moments he speaks are the better parts, and I wish there were more of those. It is Cranston and Fishbourne that steal every scene they are in. Cranston’s character is a wise cracking vet that almost has no filter and Fishbourne is a priest trying to forget his former dark life. When these two have scenes together, and there are many, they both steal the show. Especially when Cranston’s character gets cell phones for all of them for the first time.

The movie is a little over two hours, and I think that if the movie was trimmed by about 15 minutes, it could’ve been much tighter. Some parts seemed really unnecessary and made the film drag at little intervals, although still completely watchable. I appreciated Richard Linklater’s direction here too as he always gets good performances from his actors. In this case, if the performances weren’t there, this film wouldn’t have worked at all. Even though it does drag, the movie certainly sticks the landing very well, and I completely recommend this film to any veterans or active military out there. There is something in it for everyone, even though it is Rated R (just for language to be sure).

So I do recommend Last Flag Flying, even though there is a tighter film that doesn’t drag at all somewhere in there. If I had to describe it, it is a more depressing Plains, Trains, and Automobiles with a good message, but still retaining some of the humor to get it out of it completely being bleak. Good job to all those involved with this film.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews – THOR: RAGNAROK

THOR: RAGNAROK is easily the best Thor film out of the three, no question. Let’s get my rank of them out of the way: 3, 1, 2. Let’s also call out the elephant in the room: Thor The Dark World Sucks, in fact, I can’t decide whether that or Iron Man 2 is the worst Marvel MCU film. But that doesn’t mean that Thor Ragnorak even ranks close to that low. It’s wonderful. Wonderfully fun, and is in the top tier of Marvel movies such as the first Avengers, the first Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Civil War, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s the funniest MCU film since Guardians of the Galaxy. It is just an ingenious soft reboot of a character that even Chris Hemsworth admitted was starting to get scale. In this film, Hemsworth finally gets to release his inner charm and comedian, and it works wonders.

Here’s the thing we all know about MCU movies, they usually all fall under a consistent formula, I mean, why stop what is working? And they still have a minor villain problem. The villains this year, including Michael Keaton, the secret villain in Guardians 2, and Cate Blanchett are a step in the right direction. Since we have those two minor faults with MCU movies, it is the journey and execution that MUST matter. With Thor: Ragnorak, the journey is so incredible that you forget the formula and the fact that Cate Blanchett (has she aged in the past 15 years? I don’t think so, she still looks incredible) should’ve been in the movie much more than she actually is. Everybody in this movie looked like they had a lot of fun, and that probably had to do with the director.

You don’t know him, or if you are a film geek like me, you might actually know him quite a bit, with this, he is going to be thrust in to the big leagues. Taika Waititi, he has done movies such as The Hunt For The Wilderpeople and What We Do In The Shadows, brings his unique weirdness, quirkiness, and charm to Thor, and boy did it need it. The Thor movies were taking themselves too seriously. The first movie was colorful if really stale in terms of plot. The second movie was dark and super stale, but with this third film, everything is bright, energetic, a giant needle filled with adrenaline kicked up to the max. The jokes, action, story beats, are a mile a minute, and it doesn’t even stop until the end credits roll. The movie basically takes Thor versus his sister Hela who is trying to take over Asgard and then starting to rule everything in the universe that she doesn’t. Pretty simple.

But then we add multiple worlds, some great A-lister cameos (including some that aren’t just other Avengers), Jeff Goldblum going ultimate Jeff Goldblum, a cool trash world, some excellent action, great soundtrack and really great special effects. Chris Hemsworth has completely, I guess you can say retooled Thor, where he isn’t all serious and brooding the whole time, he has some, pun intended, major spark, and charismatically comes into the forefront of Marvel superheroes. Hulk is awesome here too. Tessa Thompson steals every scene she is in as Valkyrie, Tom Hiddleston does his thing to melt women’s hearts everywhere, and Jeff Goldblum was basically told by the director to just be himself. If you love Jeff Goldblum going bull Jeff Goldblum, look no further. I think he was having the most fun with this film. Anthony Hopkins is the only person in this that screams paycheck. And Cate Blanchett is a great villain in this, unfortunately a little halfway into the films she disappears for a little too long. Would’ve liked to see more of her, because she was menacing in this. Karl Urban is almost unrecognizable and Idris Elba, while not in this much, makes his presence known.

If there is one thing I didn’t like is that the movie does kill off several minor characters we have seen before like it is no thing, and I didn’t really appreciate that much. Granted those characters were not too much in the other MCU movies, but  it’s like the writer of this film was just trying to find a way to never have to worry about them again. You’ll know it when you see it. Just a little disheartening.

Anyway, you know you are going to see it. Especially if you are a Marvel MCU completist. If you are on the fence…I can see why. You didn’t care for the first two. This one will completely change your mind, I promise you. Everything about it is great, and so much fun that this is one of the Marvel films you could watch over and over again without ever getting tired of it. Thor: Ragnarok rocks. ‘Nuff said.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watching Reviews: STRANGER THINGS SEASON 2 (NO SPOILERS!)

I love STRANGER THINGS. I love the fact that I binged watch all 8 episodes of the first season the day it came out, and discovered it before it got really big. I could explain how I love it a million different ways, but the plain and simple truth is that this series is magic. Magical. Magically perfect. Magically beautiful. Magically acted. It just gives off that aroma that it is something special when you are watching it, because you are completely engrossed is what is happening, and when the episode ends, you just want more. You could watch it for hours, even if it overstays its welcome (which thankfully it doesn’t). And you think I’m just talking about Season 1. Oh no no my friends, I’m talking about all the episodes released thus far. I think Season 2 is on par and in some ways I like it even more than season one, and it made me fall in love with the entire series even more than I already am.

Why? Because it doesn’t have that sophomore slump that we normally associate with television series. Don’t know exactly what a sophomore slump is? Try watching Heroes Season 2, Mr. Robot Season 2, Lost Season 2, The Walking Dead Season 2, etc, etc, etc and you’ll get what I am saying. Not only does Stranger Things Season 2 up the ante, it does so in a way that fixes whatever problems the first season had, without getting too big for its britches a la (Star Wars Episode 1). What exact problems did the first season had? It really only had one, in that it relied wayyyy too much on nostalgia for not only the time period, but copied a lot of film/television/pop culture beats of the 80s. I mean if you didn’t think of E.T. when Eleven was on the bike with Mike escaping from the government, I don’t know where your head was at.

Now, while there is some nostalgia this season, such as the the Pollywog reminding me of Gremlins a little bit, this season doesn’t hit you over the frying pan with it. Stranger Things did something a little strange, it has now become its own thing with homages to things that inspired it instead of completely ripping them off. It also vastly improved on characterization, even though the characterization was one of the reasons why the first season is so magical. Let’s be clear, the child acting in this as a whole is incredible. But that acting can go to waste if you don’t have characters that you come to know and care about. And the characters have to grow. In this season, they very much do. All of them. In fact, if you felt spurned by season one and felt that some of the kids (mostly Mike’s friends) got the short stick when it came to characterization/storytelling, it is completely fixed here.

I don’t know how they did it in 9 episode, but everyone gets their own full rounded, well developed storyline and equal screentime. I can’t believe they juggled all that but they did. You get Caleb and newcomer Max, you get Dustin with his Pollywog, you get Mike and his longing for Eleven and trying to reestablish his friendship with Will, you get Will trying to wrestle with the Upside Down demons still living inside of him. You get Hopper wrestling with secrets (those exact secrets are spoilerific) and you get Joyce with a new love in her life, Bob. And hell, you get Jonathan and Nancy trying to get Justice for Barb! All with equal screen time, it was incredible.

In fact, the only person that you could argue gets the short stick of storytelling this time is shockingly Eleven herself. Even though her journey gets its own episode (#7), most of the time, even though she is onscreen an equal amount just like everyone else, she mostly isn’t doing anything. But thankfully, episode 5 changes all that and even though we don’t get much, I have a feeling it is setting something up even bigger for season 3. Plus, I liked the fact that they didn’t forcefully just shove her into the action. They tried a slower organic way to do it, and even though it takes its time and its a little frustrating, it works. Another character, who plays newcomers Max (a girl) older stepbrother seems to not get much development, there is a big scene near the ends that plants something that could be truly cool yet sinister in season 3, we will see how and if that plays out.

The truly great episodes in this are 6, 8, and 9.  The pretty good episodes are 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, with episode 7 being sort of the weakest link. HOWEVER, episode 7, just like Max’s step brother, sets up several seeds that could pay off in a later season, so we’ll just have to see if episode 7 gets more attention and love the farther into the series that we do get. But everything here is magical. I even think Winona Ryder managed to get better this time around. There is this one scene she has with Will that almost had me teary eyed, so again, I say give her a nomination this year please. And give David Harbour and Millie Bobbie Brown another nomination while you are at it. Even though Eleven didn’t really have all that much to do, Brown still knocked it out of the park.

And I loved the way the season uped the ante a little bit without going overboard. Yes, the upside down is back, but it is expanded upon and really is given great context in episodes 6, 8, and 9. And I loved the fact that the CGI in this was so, so, so, so, so much better than Season 1. I guess since their success they got a bigger budget? But yeah, great visuals that actually had a story to go with them.

But yeah, in conclusion, if you loved Stranger Things Season 1, you are more than likely to love Season 2 the same if not more in some areas. It still has its magic, and certainly is not fading at all from what I can see. I love the fact that there are only 8 or 9 episodes each season, keeping everything tight and not bloated at all. Hopefully they continue this trend and not add any more episodes to each order. It might’ve been a strange thing, seeing about 90% of the country binge watch Stranger Things Season 2 this weekend, but if you are part of the 10% that didn’t, or has never even seen a single episode of this series, well, that might actually be stranger.

 

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SUBURBICON

I haven’t the faintest fucking clue what SUBURBICON was trying to be/accomplish/etc. It is not only one of the worst films of the year but I fail to see if it even had a point. It is also horribly mis-marketed. I know that George Clooney a month or so ago was quoted in an article saying that the trailer makes it look like a comedy but that it is only a soft couple of comedic beats and it is mostly dead serious. I kind of want to tell Clooney that the reason why it was marketed the way it was is that your movie sucks and that it was the only way to possibly get any asses in the theater. If the movie was sold to the audiences the way it is in the final cut, no one would’ve had a clue what they were supposed to make of the movie, and no one would’ve seen it. I don’t think the movie is getting bad reviews because it was sold to audiences as one movie and in actuality it is quite different. I think it is getting bad reviews because the movie is fucking terrible.

Suburbicon is horribly structured, horribly paced, horribly plotted, completely tone-deaf, and doesn’t have one likable character outside of the kid who plays Matt Damon’s son in the movie and the African-American family that lives next door (we’ll get to the problem with their story line in a second. Characters do things in this movie that makes absolutely zero sense. It is hard to explain without getting into spoilers so just trust me on that. The movie is marketed as a film that has a dark tone that slightly parodies suburbia life in the 50’s/60’s. Yeah, I didn’t even get a hint of that here. It’s like the movie couldn’t settle on a tone and didn’t know what it wanted to do, so it comes off as the most confusing tone-deaf experience I have ever probably had in the theater. There is one critic whose review on the Suburbicon poster said, “You’ll laugh till it hurts.” I don’t know what fucking movie he was watching, but I didn’t even chuckle, and from what the movie was trying to sell me, I don’t think I was supposed to either.

I know it seems like it is really hard to pin point who is to blame for this disaster but I’m probably going to have to put it all on Clooney. I know that the script said it was co written by him, Grant Heslov (who are both responsible for their trainwreck The Momuments Men) and the Coen brothers, but honestly, I think the Joel and Ethan’s name is just on it for show to get Coen fanatics into the theater (that’s how I was duped). I am willing to bet my life savings that their script was completely different, unfinished, and that Clooney and Heslov completely changed almost every aspect of it. I am willing to bet that the Coen’s script really did have a good Coen-y parody on life in suburbia and that it had a clear and concise tone. I don’t know what Clooney and Heslov were smoking when they were writing this.

I really can’t even describe the plot to you. I guess I could say that Matt Damon plays a business man in the 50s/60s who owes a lot of money to people with mob ties. Goons kill his wife by accident, and leave his sister-in-law (whose a twin so Julianne Moore plays two roles for some reason other than the fact that it is a meager plot device to be able to explain why Damon eventually fucks his sister-in-law mid movie) and son alive to pick up the pieces of the family tragedy. And there is a very underused subplot where an African American family moves in next door and racial tensions are high and most of the neighborhood wants them out. But then after that, the movie just takes some weird directions where I started to suspect they really didn’t have much of a story after all.

If any of the Coen’s script is in this, I have a feeling it is the only two good parts in the film, which is Oscar Isaac’s seedy insurance agent, and the African American family that lives next door. Now, Oscar Isaac is brilliant and gives his A+ game in everything he does, just like Tom Cruise, and this film is no exception. Even though his agent is an unlikable character, Isaac gives a quirky quality to his small role where we are actually invested in the movie for about 10 minutes. And while the subplot of the African American’s movie in is interesting and heartfelt whenever it is on screen, it is so underused and on screen for only about 15 minutes, it is criminal. In fact, I would’ve just liked to see a movie about that family mixed with a parody of suburban life. Now that actually sounds like it resembles a movie.

The characters here are completely unlikable. The acting is fine, but everyone is so murky and evil and vain that I just ended up hating Matt Damon and Julianne Moore in this. I know it isn’t their fault but the movie is just written that terrible. As for the direction from Clooney? What direction? Without a clear and concise tone the movie just ends up being a point and shoot kind of affair. Nothing whatsoever is artistic about this movie. And since I’m so tired of talking about this movie, I’m abruptly stopping this review. Sorry.