Category Archives: The Cubicle Escapee

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: A SIMPLE FAVOR (no spoilers)

A SIMPLE FAVOR is a pretty good movie that could’ve been fantastic if it didn’t stumble in its landing the last five minutes of the film. But it could’ve fell flat on its face, so I’ll be that glass half full film reviewer today. It’s Paul Feig’s third best film, right behind Bridesmaids and Spy, and definitely makes up for the bullshit that was the Ghostbusters remake/reboot a couple of years ago. Almost the whole time during the movie I was like, “Holy shit, Feig has actually stepped up his game as a director” and was really really really into it, but those last five minutes, his Ghostbusters attempt at physical and dreadful one liner humor peaks out with a very unnecessary pre credits summary of what the characters (that survived) are doing currently. But I’m willing to forgive it, because what came before had a almost pitch perfect tone and the dark humor was devilishly, deliciously funny. Oh, and Blake Lively finally showed that she can actually muster up some kind of performance if need be.

See, I like Blake Lively as a human being (I think her relationship ((so far)) with Ryan Reynolds is perfect and they are a truly happily married Hollywood couple), but I can’t stand her as an actress. The closest she has ever become to actually doing something of note was her small bit in The Town, which even then I didn’t believe her so much a drug addicted stripper/prostitute/whatever the fuck her character was supposed to be in that. But here, she sinks into an abnormally prideful spoiled rich housewife that befriends a quirky widowed Anna Kendrick so that their sons can have play dates. To not spoil the rest of the movie, I’ll just say that Blake Lively goes missing and Anna Kendrick tries to find out what happened to her new found friend, while trying to make sure Lively’s son and husband are okay in the process. Anybody that ruins this movie for you is a monster. It has revelation upon revelation until the end credits roll. There are double crosses, triple crosses, and I think maybe even a quadruple cross? The movie keeps you guessing, which I appreciated. I could compare this movie to another movie and that movies book that it is based on, but if I reveal the title, I reveal all. I don’t think it rips off that book/movie per say, especially with the multiple different revelations, but some of the plotting is very, VERY similar. You’ll know exactly which book/movie I’m talking about when you see it, but if you don’t, just message me and I’ll give you a “ah-ha!” kind of moment.

What makes the movie really work first and foremost is Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. Oh, and I can’t get away with not mentioning Henry Golding either(he plays Lively’s husband in this and he was just one of the leads in a breakout film, you might’ve heard of it: Crazy Rich Asians). But this is Kendrick and Lively’s show, and their chemistry is palpable, they just play off each other like a perfect acting pair that every director and screenwriter probably dreams of. This is Anna Kendrick’s best work since Up In The Air and Pitch Perfect. Kendrick, while fantastic, her role is a little familiar to people that like her and watch all of her filmography. She’s still that overly quirky and awkward character that you can’t help but adore, however this film really uses that aspect of her to its advantage, and turns it into something a little different and definitely more delightful. Blake Lively is in command here, where whenever she’s on screen you can’t help by being fascinated with what comes out of her mouth and what she is going to do or say next. All three of them turn what are already well rounded written characters into something you can’t take your eyes or ears off of.

And the tone is brilliant too for the most part. The first half of this film is near perfect. It’s a dark comedy that walks that fine line but is smart enough know to not cross over too much on either side. The film has bright, vibrant cinematography and that feel any director or screenwriter wants of a eerie suburbia is gloriously executed here, and never tries to be what it isn’t. Many films have gotten it wrong in the past, most recently the awfully executed Surburbicon from George Clooney. Now in the last five minutes, that fine line the film was walking must’ve tripped on a shoe lace that had impeccable timing to be untied right when the film was about to end. It stumbled into a straight comedy with none of that pinch of darkness that we got throughout the other 1 and 50 minutes. But I don’t know, I may need to do some research, because if the book ends exactly like that, with a physical moment and a stupid lame one liner that is played for forced laughs, then I won’t blame Feig. But it just felt like 2016 Ghostbusters Feig, and if true, he should’ve known better than to try and lighten the tone at near the very last moment of the film. And like I said, those title cards of what the characters were doing after the events that took fold before the end credits hit was unnecessary and should’ve been cut or re written as something else. And while I did like some of the revelations, there is one that I wish it would’ve stuck to, it would’ve been ingenious to end on that note and made for a savory little treat that you could talk with people at the water cooler, but the movie took it further, and I’m willing to be the book did too, so I can’t nit pick too much.

But yes, I did enjoy Paul Feig’s new movie, until the movie started playing I was mainly shrugging it off because of that disaster of a Ghostbusters reboot. But Feig shows here he might have some untapped talent in that weird noggin of his, maybe someday it will bring us something that can be considered a masterpiece. This is a very good film with a couple of problems that keep it from achieving that benchmark.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE PREDATOR (very minor spoilers)

THE PREDATOR is exactly what I wanted earlier this summer’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to be: A big, dumb, fun, fast-paced action movie that didn’t put me to sleep. And by dumb, I don’t mean insulting to my intelligence like doing yet another fucking hybrid dinosaur. And by fun and not putting me to sleep, I don’t mean selling dinosaurs and trying to turn a monster franchise into a haunted house movie. Those of you going in there expecting the grittiness or seriousness of the first one, you are going to be disappointed. Tone wise it is somewhere around Predators, but maybe a little more lighthearted and with a pinch of that Shane Black dialogue and humor we know so well. This was definitely more fun than Predators, and it didn’t try to rip off the first movie like Predator 2 basically did. Let’s not even talk about the abysmal pile of shit that are the AVP movies.

And it could be that I just had a weird and exhausting day beforehand and needed an escape out of reality. And it could be that I read a lot of critics abysmal reviews (nothing spoilery) and I was expecting a train wreck of epic proportions. But I had a lot of fun to be honest and was very entertained for the tight 1 hr and 40 minute film. And I see what Shane Black was trying to do. He was trying to create an original story that would expand the Predator mythos a little bit, while also not trying to create just a fan service film with too many references to the past films (there are a couple but it isn’t Force Awakens ridiculous). He and fellow co-screenwriter Fred Dekker also tried to actually create characters with personalities in this as well. The two standouts are definitely Treante Rhodes and Sterling K. Brown. I also liked Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane, and Keegan-Michael Key. I actually cared when some of them are eventually offed.

The story develops as you go, but it starts out with the same title font letters and same music as the original, a crash, a soldier getting some alien tech and sending it to a PO Box to keep out of government hands, which somehow his son gets a hold of, with that predator, and another, bigger predator want back, because they both have alternate agendas. That’s as vague as I’m going to get. The film has a MacGuffin, and has an interesting idea of where the sequels can go, but the last three minutes of the film, including the shaky CGI, I’m not so sure it could work but who knows. Anyway, the story cares about the characters while also trying to move the action and story along.

Now the film does have its problems. And some of the problems are bigger than others. Olivia Munn has to be the most unbelievable scientist since Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough, and when she is firing weapons and spouting off Shane Black dialogue, she is definitely out of her league. The Preddogs, yes you read that right, are in theory a good idea, but in execution are a complete CGI mess. So is the giant ultimate Predator you have seen in the movie. There is a lot of good CGI work as well though, and the good stuff does outweigh the bad.

The semi-finale in the woods has a couple of problems. The editing is extremely chopping and some characters that I thought had died, hadn’t, and I was trying to keep up who was where and what they were doing. Needless to say the first half of the film is infinitely better than the second. And that scene Olivia Munn had cut because of that sexual deviant guy that was in the scene with her, I wish they would’ve re-filmed that with someone else because Olivia Munn kind of just shows up in the film with no real introduction.

But the action is 80s/early 90s B movie solid. The Predator kills are some of the best of the series. I enjoyed the fact that Shane Black acknowledges that the other films exist and didn’t try to do a straight up remake or sequel. He was trying to do something different. He actually cared about the story and where it could go. And while the final 3 minutes are CGI shoddy as fuck, I could see where they could take it if the effects get a little bit better. At first I thought this MacGuffin, I promise I won’t spoil what it is, was going to reveal to be something else. Something bigger, more WTF, more throwback cameo, and more shocking. If you’ve seen the movie message me privately and I’ll tell you what I thought. If what I thought came to fruition, I think it would’ve been much better than what came out. Still, I give it points for trying.

This is the perfect movie this weekend to just shut off your brain and get lost into. I had a lot of fun. The film is action packed, it’s humor works, mostly, and I enjoyed the Predator kills, technology, and weaponry. Next time, Black should focus on really polishing the script and he could give us something really, truly special. But for now, we have this, and hey, I know it’s not saying much, but it is the best since the first, and at least it won’t make you want to Predator laser cannon your own head to never have to experience AVP again…

My Rank of Predator Films:
1. Predator
2. The Predator
3. Predator 2
4. Predators
5. Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem
6. Aliens Vs. Predator

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE NUN (minor spoilers)

I’ve already done all of my THE NUN puns on social media (aka “How many scares did this movie have? Nun. And I was nun too pleased with this movie”) so I think I’m going to lead in with this: If you are laughing hysterically at a scene that is supposed to be tense and frightening because you thought the Hocus Pocus candle made a cameo in the movie (and it is near the end of the film), you know that your attention in not invested in it. So far, The Conjuring cinematic universe has really been a hit and miss, by my own personal ratio it is still 3 to 2, so it’s still in the win column, but if they keep going on as they are, it will ultimately be a shaky foundation where you might not want to visit it as often as you might think. I was not scared of this flick at all. I never once grabbed on to my seat, or tensed up when I knew a jump scare was coming. I yawned and I kept picking apart the movie beat by beat, because I had nothing else better to do.

The main problem is with the characters, albeit at least one of the actors looked like they actually wanted to be there. Demian Bichir and Taissa Farmiga play Father Burke and Sister Irene, who, after a guy just named “Frenchie” played by Jonas Bloquet, finds a dead nun in Romania that seems to have hung hung herself outside an old church, are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Needless to say, all isn’t what it seems as all of them encounter a demonic presence in the form of a nun. Maybe it is just me, but I’m kind of sick of the whole “demon” causing havoc horror film. The last film to do it correctly (in fact it didn’t really reveal anything demon-ish until the very last 5 minutes) was Hereditary. Had Hereditary brought the whole “demon” explanation/entity earlier in the film, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much. Demons are now the vampires, zombies, and found footage horror films of this decade…meaning it is SOOOO PLAYED out to the point of exhaustion. But I guess what else is there? (I have a feeling the slasher film is going to come back with an untold menace and vengeance this Halloween…if you catch my drift). Anyway, horror movies need a new ace up its sleeve, because everybody at the table wants to boot the demon asshole out of there.

There have also been too many movies this past decade and a half relying on religion to be scary. I’m not really a religious person, but to me trying to making it scary is tiring as hell, as I’m not too big a fan of exorcism movies either. If exploring the dark themes of religion is scary to you, then this film might be right up your alley. But let’s talk about the real problems of the film. The acting is downright terrible and I suspect that it is because the actors didn’t have much to work with as all the characters are two dimensional and are way past boredom. We’ve seen great things come out of Demian Bichir, but playing Father Burke seemed like he was doing the studio a favor. A solemn expression the whole time, he doesn’t really shred of tear of true emotion here (especially during a sticky situation I would have been crying my eyes out over), and is waiting for the shoot to be over. Taissa Farmiga I think was hired based on the fact that she can open here eyes extremely wide for insurmountable passages of time and the producers thought that shocked look was good enough for that character. And Jonas Bloquet, the guys who plays “Frenchie,” I think was the only one that was flattered that he won the role, as he is the one that has the most charisma and has the most emotion, even though his character is gone a good chunk of the film, and until the end, doesn’t have all that much to do. Plus, in the finale, they have him holding a shotgun, wearing old suspenders, and going down dark tunnels that I thought for a moment we were watching dailies from The Mummy with Brendan Fraser.

The movie doesn’t have that much of a story. It’s a demonic presence that got out of hell and took the form of a nun. That is it. It tries to bring about story beats like a crack in the ground and Jesus Christ’s blood at some point in the plot but I think it was just stretching a story to the brink of collapse…because they really had nothing but the scary nun idea in the first place. The movie also has no balls. There was a part where I thought a character was gone not even half way through the movie, and gone in a cool frightening way, but the character is saved in the most bizarre and ridiculous fashion. The movie starts out pretty well, it has one of those nice slow burn quality feels to it. I was thinking about 20 minutes into it that if it kept this up the whole way through we’d have a nice little horror treat on our hands. But nope, once things start halfway through, they try to throw every cookie cutter, cheap jump scare plus the kitchen sink with every 5 seconds that passed with no room to breathe. The finale is what I just described on steroids.

Is there something else I can actually compliment about this film? While there are a couple of shaky CGI issues throughout the film, there are mostly really well done make up and special effects, and some of the scenery, cinematography, and tone is handled really well. But the rest of it just plummets into mediocre (almost disaster level) oblivion. You have already made up your mind before this review if you are going to see this, and most of you already have, considering the excellent box office opening weekend it just had. But I have a feeling that the attendance ratio is going to plummet on this fast once audiences truly understand the mediocrity before their eyes. Understand the cover up that is taking place with the cheap factory floor produced scares. At first there were many, but then a short time passes, and then there were nun.

Ranking of The Conjuring Universe Films:
1. The Conjuring
2. The Conjuring 2
3. Annabelle Creation
4. The Nun
5. Annabelle

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SEARCHING (no spoilers)

SEARCHING is, now don’t quote me on this, the 4th Desktop Thriller/Horror film to come out in the past couple of years, and maybe the third this year? Unfriended came out several years ago, the sequel Dark Web, came out this year, there is this, and I believe another one called Profile came out this year too, but it wasn’t a wide release so I have yet to catch it. I don’t have internet right now and am working off a word document, so I’m not going to check my facts, I’m just going to copy and paste when my works internet comes back up and you can look up those facts for me yourself. Anyway, I am really enjoying these Desktop thrillers for some reason, and would like to see a couple of more (hopefully more spread out in the coming years) and my statement is especially true in that Searching is easily the best of them so far.

With Unfriended and Unfriended Dark Web, I always felt like I was watching a computer screen and never felt myself completely lost in the narrative, no matter how entertaining. That changed with Searching. Halfway through the film, I completely forgot that I was watching a movie told entirely through a laptop screen, completely immersed. This is the biggest movie of its genre to get the biggest marketing, it’s like they new they had a little something special up their sleeve. Unlike the unknown actors in the other laptop thrillers, you have the very recognizable John Cho and Debra Messing in this, and the story is always at a breakneck pace. The movie is about a father, played by Cho, who hasn’t heard from his daughter Margot for a day and a half and realizes something must be wrong after he figures out through getting into several of her daughter’s social media accounts that she hasn’t been going to her piano lessons for the past six months and sent $2,500 to an individual through her Venmo account, of which that individuals account just says Username with some numbers and shows to have been deactivated. He gets the police involved, and with a detective assigned to the case, played by Messing, scours through the internet and the rest of her daughter’s social accounts to see what exactly happened to her, whether she ran away, or something else deeply sinister.

The ways that John Cho discovers revelations about what exactly happened to his daughter through the internet were both interesting and logical. There was maybe one big one near the very end that might’ve been a little too convenient and a little bit of a stretch, but I was willing to forgive all that came before it. There are several twists and turns in this thing and you don’t know if a suspect is going to end up a red herring or not. The movie also, through the father’s computer and social media, strongly establishes his family and what has happened to them since Margot’s birth to present. In fact, it gets a little emotional, and the filmmakers knew to tug at the audiences heartstrings just enough so that it didn’t cross the line and step into melodrama. The acting also lends a hand in getting this film a little more credibility when it comes to desktop thrillers in general. John Cho is excellent here. I’ve always thought he was good, from Harold and Kumar to Star Trek, but here he is fantastically good and proves he could be a leading man in other things. I never liked Debra Messing all that much as an actress (either that or I really don’t like her character in Will & Grace all that much), but here, she gives her best performance as a police detective trying to help Cho’s character solve all the mystery about her daughter.

I also liked that the film didn’t just stay on one desktop/laptop the entire time. A couple of moments in the film it goes to a giant Iphone screen or switches to a believable news cast of what is going on. I liked that they did that because the father just re watching the newscast because the film wanted to stay on just his laptop, really wouldn’t have been all that believable. This was a really well made film and completely redefines what the desktop thriller can do. Unfortunately, since this is getting great reviews and seems to be doing well, Hollywood is going to over saturate the shit out of this genre, and will give us too many movies and get fatigue quickly, just like what happened with the found footage thrillers and the Paranormal Activity films. But if you want to check out just one of these genre films, please do this one. It is very well made and great entertainment.