Category Archives: The Cubicle Escapee

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE FIRST PURGE (no spoilers bc the trailer spoils everything anyway)

The Purge movies always had an interesting concept. What if the entire country had 12 hours once a year to do whatever they wanted and no consequences? The first movie, the one with Ethan Hawke and Game of Thrones Lena Headey, disappointingly took that concept and turned it into a sort of lame home invasion thriller that lacked any real substance. However, the second and third movies (Anarchy and Election Year) raised the bar several levels and actually took the concept to where it needed to be, open world, and it starred Frank Grillo, who just sweats badassness, and both films had enough substance in them to warrant the franchises existence. The movies increasingly got better, with the third one being the best. Three years, three different purges. With all that world building and increased rate of destruction and violence, shouldn’t THE FIRST PURGE be the most interesting, seeing how everything got to where it was in the three previous movies? You would think wouldn’t you? Instead you get the worst installment in the franchise, even worse than the first installment, which was no small feat to beat, and you get the feeling that maybe this entire series is finally on its last leg.

For those that still want to see this movie, I won’t spoil how the first purge comes together, the rules, or the circumstances (I’m surprised the trailer doesn’t reveal it all, because it reveals the “twist” that happens in the middle of the movie), but suffice to say, it’s all very poorly constructed on a storytelling level. I was kind of bored and eye rolling with everything they came up with. I thought, that like Election Year, the franchise would turn even more political than it ever has been before. But the political themes and motifs are half conceptualized and executed. All cliche with very little imagination. I thought the movie would actually have more jokes or themes geared toward the Trump presidency, but all we get is a quick “pussy grabbing” joke that comes nearly out of nowhere and without much resonance to the rest of the film.

And I didn’t care about one single character. I cared about Frank Grillo and some of the other characters in the second and third, and I cared about the young family members in even the first film. I didn’t care for one person in this. There was nobody to root for. Obviously I wasn’t rooting for the government. But am I supposed to root for the drug king gang lord? Or any of his workers? Or his churchy ex girlfriend that makes some really dumb decisions in the throughout the entire film or her brother that deals drugs that somehow makes even dumb ones? There is absolutely no character development in this film. They even set up a big main purge baddie, called Skeletor, and while he is menacing and downright scary and evil he disappears for over half the film and shows up just when the film needs him to and completely wastes his arc. Marisa Tomei is the most recognizable name in the movie, and even she is wasted. To not go into spoilers as much as I can, her character obviously has an ultimate fate, and it is the most mismanaged and full assed thing in the entire film, and it looked like Tomei didn’t even half to be there for it to happen. And like her character’s ultimate fate, it just seems this entire film was just tossed into the wind with no care of how the end product turned up as long as it stayed on the very small budget it has, and that it gets into theaters to make as much of a profit as possible.

And none of the kills or violence had any sort of uniqueness to them whatsoever. In fact you could tell that a lot of the blood and effects were completely CGI and quickly made on a cheap computer with no extra touch ups. It was pretty pathetic. And you think that Incredibles 2 had a weird flashing light epilepsy scene? This film should have warnings before you enter the theater as well. Part of the last third of the film takes place in a apartment complex tower and the power quickly goes out, and for about 10 to 15 minutes, the lights quickly go in and out. Not only was it annoying and damaging to my eyes, it distracted from the rest of the movie, whatever left of it there was to focus on.

And the story’s twist? About how at first the purge isn’t racking up the bodies it needs to so the government sends mercenaries to up the body count? You know how that is in the trailer? Yeah, well that is just the filmmakers showing all of its cards. If they would’ve kept that from marketing, it might’ve added a little something in a unsavable film, however, since I was expecting it because of the trailers and tv spots, it didn’t shock and awe me as a viewer and I just didn’t care. Needless to say, this purge was the worst and a big utter disappointment, since every installment was increasingly getting better. But with this lame shit show, the franchise is finally starting to show its wear and tear, and one day, may have to purge itself from our cinematic world.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FLOWER (currently on disc and VOD)

So a little earlier this year I won…several signed posters of this movie FLOWER, signed and starring the incredible hot Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy, Set It Up, Why Him?, Before I Fall) and signed and directed by Fonzie’s son Winkler. At the time Flower was a very independent independent movie still in theaters, and it never broke out enough to warrant a Cinemark, AMC, or Alamo Drafthouse theatrical release, and instead stayed at the Angelika and so forth, and wasn’t really there long (psst, your independent film probably won’t get far if it is 53% on Rotten Tomatoes). Anyway, I really wanted the poster because I really wanted Zoey Deutch signature, but wasn’t going to make any real effort to see it in theaters unless I could get a visit credit or points for it at my local theater. Well, it came straight to VOD pretty fast, and since I had some credit on VUDU and the film was extremely cheap, I just bought it for about $3 bucks out of my pocket.

The result? Not bad. I don’t think it deserves in the 50’s on Rotten Tomatoes, but definitely somewhere mid 60s. The movie is a short 95 minutes, but I feel like maybe some of the relationships weren’t fully developed and the payoff at the end didn’t exactly well, pay off. Let me try to describe to you what it is about without getting into a late in the game last act dark twist that makes the film worth watching at least once. 17 year old Erica (Zoey Deutch) loves giving blowjobs. Yep, and she loves it so much that she gives them to way over-aged males, has her friends film the aftermath, and then extorts them for money/drugs so she won’t tell on them. Her dad is currently in jail and her mom has had many boyfriends, but it looks like this new one will stick, and along with him comes a mentally unstable future 18 year old stepbrother that is about an inch away from a complete and total meltdown. He reveals that he was sexually molested by a teacher in middle school and reveals that person to be a man named Will, a older man that Erica happens to have a crush on and sees at the bowling alley with her friends every time she goes.

And that is where I will stop. What the movie tries to do, which involves the payoff, makes the story seems like it is going to be about the relationship between Erica and her stepbrother. And some of it is, but I didn’t feel there was enough of a development for the ending that we get. Instead, I think the story focuses a little too much on Will and the molestation thing with the stepbrother. Especially when the dark twist hits, it completely takes away from Erica and the Stepbrother’s relationship for 10 minutes, and then realizes it got off track and just forces it and rams it down our throats in the last 15 minutes of the film. The dark twist was good, but there were too many distractions from plot point A. Part of the distractions is her friends that film the blowjob stuff and then try to join in on the plot point B storyline involving Will. I think that if you had cut those characters out early, and just had Erica and her stepbrother go on that little adventure, the payoff would’ve actually sense. I’m not saying that it completely doesn’t. It does. And that maybe have more to do with the fact that Zoey Deutch is great and bat shit crazy in this and Joey Morgan, who plays the stepbrother, plays a damaged teen very well. And their chemistry is good together, I just didn’t think there was enough of it.

Also, the plot involving Will the teacher, played by a too straight laced Adam Scott in this, kind of has an ending I didn’t really care for. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but his arc ends by something that is told to us, rather than shown to us, to have everything in the film that happens justified, and it really doesn’t work. His character shows a little behavior that warrants some things, but no scene is given to us to make the stuff that happens down the line any plausible. You’ll know it when you see it and when it is told to you. There is a story told at. Adam Scott doesn’t bring much to the role unfortunately, and I really like him in a lot of what he does. Kathryn Hahn plays Erica’s mom and even though she’s really only in a handful of scenes, she is great as always.

Anyway, if you can find this for free, I’d recommend a one time watch. But other than that, don’t go out of your way.

The food in Chengdu… ya’ll.

Guys as you know I am not a food person.   I often joke if there was a way to stay healthy and not eat I would likely be that way… in fact I am the worst to travel with because I rarely budget in food breaks.  hahaha.   People who travel me are often like “Yo Jen, can we please eat?”

I am also one that doesn’t venture out and eat anything other than fruits and veggies when I travel.

Except in Chengdu.

Guys the freaking food in Chengdu is by far the best food I have ever had.   In fact, I am still trying to master Dan Dan noodles.   I have dreams about those noodles ya’ll.     The best I had were in a random restaurant in Leshan.   Check out my insta for all the food photos I can share this week!   This is just a small sampling of the food in Chengdu… every corner has 6 restaurants all offering amazing food that will make your food dreams come true.   I was really worried it would be over the top hot but I was truly able to handle it!  So delicious and I can’t wait to get back!

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SICARIO – DAY OF THE SOLDADO (no spoilers on this or the first movie)

It’s going to be a little tough reviewing this movie since I’m not going to give away any important revelations from the first film. Needless to say I’ll be speaking in code and if you’ve seen the first movie and are reading this you’ll know what I am talking about. If you haven’t seen the first movie, stop what you are doing right this very instant and find it somewhere streaming, because it is an excellent film. And so is this one. SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is a masterful sequel, as good as the original, well, hold up. I’ll issue my minor complaint right now. It is 99% as good as the original. The only 1% of this movie I didn’t like was how obvious they set this movie up for a part three, to complete the Sicario trilogy, since writer Taylor Sheridan has said in countless interviews he sees this one big story as three films. This movie is fantastic on its own but the last 3 mins had to be stupid bridge building like they do in other part 2 films. But other than that, this movie is enthralling, tense, bat shit crazy at times, incredibly acting, incredibly entertaining even though it is a slow burn thriller, incredible cinematography, and incredible direction. Which if you think about it, it’s actually an amazing feat considering you DON’T have the same masterful director as you did in the first one with Denis Villenueve, and you DON’T have your masterful cinematography this time around with Roger Deakins. It just makes this sequel much more legit in my eyes, because if the same behind the camera people were involved, you could just chalk it up to “figures.”

Ok, so the word Sicario, if you look it up, means hitman. And the first movie is about the CIA, with help from a mysterious agenda Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro, bringing Emily Blunt’s character along, tracking down people from cartels that are responsible for dozens of bodies found in this home near the border, and a bomb goes off there killing several police/government officials. There is more to the story than that, especially the end game for Alejandro, but if you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t want to waste any reveals, because they are extremely good. The first movie was Emily Blunt’s characters point of view and her story. She is not back for the sequel, and I love how writer Taylor Sheridan didn’t try to make up some excuse to cram her in this one. Instead, the point of view shifts to Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro and Josh Brolin’s Matt Craver, who is a leader of the Department of Justice’s special task force. They both have ample screen time in the first film, but with this, crank that notch to 11. Just like the first film, there is also one small point of view from the drug/trafficking side of the story. In the first one it was a male security guard, in this one it is a young boy. Their stories both start off separate, and how they merge into the main one are both a treat to watch. The only thing I’ll tell you about this plot is that the film starts with a brutal hard to watch terrorist attack in Kansas, people from Mexican cartels are identified as responsible and Brolin and Del Toro set up a mission of revenge. Of course, there is more too it than that, but the beauty of it is going along for the ride.

Not to forewarn you, this is not an action movie. It is a slow burn thriller with action beats throughout only when necessary. The story is with the characters, locations, and dialogue, it isn’t with bullets or explosions, so if you want that kind of movie, go find Michael Bay and give him a reach around. Everything in this film worked for me up until the last 3 minutes of the film, and even that was a minor nitpick. The score is fantastic, there was no fat in this film, I was eagerly awaiting to see where this story would go, I tried to predict it, but I was wrong on every level. Benicio Del Toro is amazing once again as Alejandro, he was born to play this character. Josh Brolin is usually always good and always brings his A game, and here is no different. A lot of his dialogue had me chuckling in my seat. And as I said earlier, there are a couple of bat shit crazy moments in this film, but one is particular was ballsy (you’ll know it when you see it). And while you might have to suspend some belief, the brutality of the aftermath of said scene was enough to believe it was plausible.

Anyway, the fun of the movie is discovering for yourself. If you are looking for an action movie, go somewhere else. There is action, and what little of it is strong and brutal, but not enough if you are expecting a rough ’em up and shoot ’em up movie. But if you love those slow burning plot pot boilers and love great storytelling and fantastic acting, with action beats only when necessary, look no further. But make sure you watch the fucking first movie before seeing this. You won’t have a clue of what really is going on and seeing the first film is critical to enjoying the plot and the character arcs. Bring on Sicario 3.