Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MANDY

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Damn, I would love to see Nic Cage go full Nic Cage and have a chainsaw battle with someone!” Then guess, what? This movie is right up your alley. This is a very simple revenge tale that is very complicated and beautiful visually. But be warned, this is a very slow burn movie. It is two hours long and you really don’t get into the thick of it until the last 45 minutes of the movie. But the wait is realistic in nature, and so so worth it. Nicholas Cage is a very interesting actor. The question has been pondered whether he is a genius in his craft, or an outright lunatic that is just lucky, or a giant fraud, or a combination of the three or hell…maybe all of them. I think its Nicholas Cage’s best performance in years, and a nice unique revenge tale in the seas and oceans of all other revenge tales that will float on the surface and not get lost in the deep.

Like I said, the film is simple. A weird, demonic, psychotic, religious cult takes Nicholas Cage, who plays a de-forester named Red, and his wife, Mandy, hostage, and when she refuses the sexual advance of the cult leader, they kill her and leave him for dead. Big mistake. Nicholas Cage then crafts the most bad ass fucking axe/scythe you have ever seen with an awesome crossbow and goes after the motherfuckers. That’s all you need to know. Where the movie distinguishes itself from other revenge tales is all in the visuals. The movie is a visual masterpiece to the eyes. The dark pinks/red/other hues are amazing. And the film even uses some animation in some of its sequences, giving it it’s own stamp of individuality.

The film is a very slow burn, it’s not like everything happens in the first 15 minutes and then you get to see Nic Cage go fucking bat shit nuts for an hour and 45 minutes. The film takes its sweet and deserved time, giving you insane religious monologues from the cultist psychopaths and some excellent Nic Cage one liners while he is talking his plan of revenge with the welcome return of Bill Duke, you know, the guy that gets his head blasted off near the end of the very first Predator movie. But when the movie gets going, it’s a full Nic Cage bloody spectacle. The kills are fucking awesome and brilliant, and I dare you to stop yourself from being transfixed and hypnotized by Cage’s psychotic and vengeful eyes.

That’s all I really have to say. The movie is fucking weird too, so be prepared for that. Some people will be scratching their heads, wondering how in the fuck I could possibly like a movie like this. It’s just one of those films that is pure sadistic art that I can’t keep myself from liking and just really enjoying the ride. Any Nic Cage fans out there, if you miss this, you’re missing everything.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SUSPIRIA (2018)

Disclaimer: I have seen Dario Aregento’s original film, so keep that in mind when reading my review. With all the remakes, reboots, re-dos…what have you, it’s honestly starting to get tiring. It’s tiring with all these different reactions from people that have never studied film, or haven’t seen the originals to these, and then coming out of the theater proclaiming, “It’s the best fucking original thing they have ever seen.” And then you chime into the conversation and ask them if they’ve seen one of the other three versions of the film (if you don’t know by now I’m talking about the overrated A Star Is Born, I can’t help you), they are like, “holy shit, this is a remake?” And then they shrug it off. A Star Is Born may be a little different with the songs and music but it is beat by beat the exact same movie has the other three versions. If you still like it even though you’ve seen maybe one or all of the other versions, then congrats, but don’t say it’s original.

The point is, this new SUSPIRIA, I’m going to give a good recommendation, because it actually tries to do something different with the material. It is not the same, beat for beat, of the original. Especially the third act. The third act is likely to make or break you, kind of like earlier this year’s Annihilation, but we’ll get to the third act in a bit and what I thought of it. But this version of Suspiria was new, bold, and unpredictable. There are some really, really great scenes in this, and some of them you will hauntingly never forget. The scene where we really get to see what happens with the first victim in the film where she can’t/refuses to play the part of the ballet protagonist. Extravagantly fantastic and gruesome and scary.

Sort of got ahead of myself, with some of you reading this not even realizing this is a remake and not knowing what it is about. Basically, and I guess *minor spoilers* on this, it’s about a coven of witches that recruit young women with this famous prestigious ballet dance studio. *end of spoilers* That is all I’m going to say because the less you know going into it, the better. But do me a favor and watch the fantastic original before you watch this. It is a very nice companion piece without you having felt like you watched the same thing for 4 hours. Oh, by the way, this movie is wayyy longer than the original. The original I believe is an hour and 40 minutes long, this one was two and a half hours.

Which is where I’m going to get into the problems with this movie that make me exclaim that the original is way better, however, please don’t take my word for it, because some people (especially some famous horror “officionados” have said this is better. So if you are a true and deep fan of the original, please go see this, you will at least appreciate it for what it is trying to do. Like I do. Yes, the movie is too long, there are scenes I can think of now they could’ve completely trimmed out and made a much tighter film. Tilda Swinton plays three parts in this movie, she plays Madame Blanc, one of the head ballet/witch instructors, and she plays the male psychologist that is looking into the disappearance of one of the students there, who is played by Chloe Grace Moretz (who is barely in the film). She also has a third role as well, but I’m not going to reveal who that is, suffice to say you’ll know it when you see it. Tilda Swinton is amazing as the head ballet character, and really god damn awesomely creepy in the secret role, but as the male psychologist, not so much. In fact every time this Dr. Josef Klemperer came out screen, it completely took me out of the movie. The make up effects on her to play him look awful and she couldn’t get her voice deep enough for me to accept this character as male and as a real person. Huge problem as this character has a shit load of screen time and one of the main plots in the film.

Also, the third act, which is bat shit crazy, and which might make or break you, is a little unfocused direction and camera work wise. The ending, writing and story wise, completely works for me. The way it was shot almost ruins it. There are important character arcs that are wrapped up in this finale, and the camera is so far away at times, especially with Mia Goth’s/Sara’s arc, that the great acting that we have seen on screen thus far through, the camera work completely tumbles and doesn’t make the landing stick. Instead of close ups, the camera is far enough to make the viewer see what is going on around the main characters, but we already have seen what is going on that if the film took 20 seconds and did some close ups, the ending would’ve been masterful. I know I went to film school and ended up becoming an accountant of sorts and never really made a film, but even I know that the emotional impact of your ending is important, and sometimes that means some close up shots. But everything is at a distance so you can see the whole room, and to me, it wasn’t the right decision.

And the editing in some parts is a little wonky, but it might’ve been deliberate so ignore me as I’m just being nit picky at this point. Everything else is solid. Dakota Johnson here tries to be more than Mrs. Christian Grey, and it completely works. Tilda Swinton is good in the other two roles I mentioned above even though I didn’t buy her male role at all. The real MVP is Mia Goth, who was in those Lars Von Trier Nymphomanic films and the recent A Cure For Wellness. She knocks it out of the park as Sara, a student who is at first delusional as to what is happening at the ballet school but soon finds that one layer to peel back that reveals the darkness underneath. Her performance is completely convincing, but her arc is sort of ruined in that third act I just talked about. The point of view switches several times from Johnson to her and there is a good reason for that which I won’t spoil here. But I thought the switching of the point of views made the impact of a huge reveal that much more juicy.

The film was directed by Luca Guadaginino, the guy that just got all the praise last year for Call Me By Your Name, and he does a great job here. His vision is definitely different from Argento’s original, as Argento went full colorful, strikingly bright horror, Luca’s vision is bleak and monotone. But each works in it’s own way. So I will definitely recommend this for two kinds of people. Those that have seen the original, and those that are into artsy fartsy horror films. This is the vein of The Witch or It Comes At Night or Hereditary than it does mainstream horror. If you are too into mainstream horror, stay far away from this. But if you really can appreciate film as art, and recognizes it when it is done pretty decently, and appreciate when a remakes does a complete 180 from the original, then see this new Suspiria when you have the time.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MID90s (no spoilers)

I’ll be up front: I didn’t care for MID90s. But that doesn’t mean I thought it was a terrible or poorly made film. Far from it. This is Jonah Hill’s directorial debut and I think he shows great potential in being a fantastic non-actors/actors director, giving us some great debut performances or great performances from those individuals we already know and love. It is just that his narrow view in this film didn’t really resonate with me. Going into this, I thought it would be another great hangout film or film that really defines the times it is trying to portray; For Example: Dazed and Confused, Diner, Can’t Hardly Wait, Clueless, the recent Eighth Grade, Swingers, Everybody Wants Some, Boyhood, and/or American Graffiti. Instead it focused on just the aspect of some skater kids, poor family life, and the notion of acceptance; the poor family life/acceptance aspect I’ve seen done a lot better in a lot of other films, and personally I never resonated with the skater kids because I wasn’t one in the 90s. And this isn’t Jonah Hill’s fault. I personally had nothing to latch onto in the movie.

It’s okay to have narrow views in film, it does work in a lot of them (especially if what is told gives that individual a personal attachment), but for me, with narrow views (especially if the story doesn’t resonate with you), having multiple relatable or sympathetic characters is a must. In this film, I only really liked one character, and it wasn’t even the main protagonist. While everyone did a fantastic job acting, especially considering that, other than Lucas Hedges and Katherine Waterston, everyone else was a complete non-actor/unknown, I couldn’t stand their characters. Stevie, who is the main protagonist trying to find acceptance with a group of shady skater friends because his mom goes through men like clothes in her closet and the brother is a narcissistic asshole, I found to be a complete brat. He doesn’t even win over your sympathy in the end. It doesn’t seem like he learned anything. The film has one scene of Stevie buying a CD for his brother he thinks he doesn’t have, but then he doesn’t respect his brothers wishes by going into his room anyway when he is told not to. Stevie is a huge hypocrite in this film, and I just didn’t feel anything but resentment toward him. The skater friends are basically one dimensional beings. There is a character nicknamed Fourth Grade I thought was the most interesting in the film, because he was kind of socially dumb and just wanted to make movies in his future, but we never really get to know his character other than those two aspects. We learn nothing of his family life or why he acts the way he does, which is why I didn’t end up caring for his character.

Which brings me to while I think Jonah Hill has the potential to be a great director, his writing needs some work. All the characters, except for the main black kid Ray, are very poorly written and narrowly constructed. You could say that most of them or only one or at best two dimensional. I already mentioned the kid nicknamed Fourth Grade, and I already mentioned the protagonist Stevie, so let’s look at the others. All I know about Stevie’s older brother (played well with what he had by Manchester By The Sea’s Lucas Hedges) is that he’s an asshole that likes to hit and bully on his brother a shit ton, talk the talk but not walk the walk, and may or may not be gay. But it is never told or even shown why this is (not saying there needs to be a why in him being gay, talking about the other two things). He looks like he really does maybe care for his brother at the end, but no good reason is given to why he acts the way he does. If the movie wants to try and earn his sympathy at the end, it needs to do more than just show him screaming in one scene because he is frustrated, giving us none of his back story and just handing his kid brother a orange juice at the end of the film. You have this other skater nicknamed FuckShit who just likes to get drunk and fuck bitches…that’s all you get to know about him. You also have a kid that kind of gets Stevie into their group of friends, Reuben, but he ends up being a two dimensional character that does the “cliched” thing and gets jealous of Stevie, and the film tells us that his mom beats him and his sister, but never shows it or any other aspect of his life. Then you have Stevie’s mom, who is in like three and a half short scenes, that basically shows her confront the skater kids trying to be a “concerned” mom, gets onto the older brother for stealing money from her drawer, and then talks briefly how she was pregnant when she turned 18 at the brother’s 18th birthday. And there is a quick scene of a man leaving her room, zipping himself up. But we don’t see anything else or truly get to know her, and her actions don’t make that much sense. Maybe that was the point?

The only truly great character that Jonah Hill wrote was that of Ray, the black teenager that is the leader of this group of skater friends. We get a great scene of him telling Stevie how life is and a deep view of his own life and how a tragedy shook up his world. We get other many scenes of Ray with different layers to his complicated character. Ray doesn’t want to give a shit about life, but starts giving a shit when he feels like he is grasping onto a thin ray of hope that might get himself into a better version of his reality. It is quite a great performance by newcomer Na-kel Smith and in a better film, I think he could’ve even gotten nominated for a supporting actor award. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t measure up to his character or his performance. And I think a problem with all of this is that the film was too short; only 84 minutes and that is including credits. When the film ended, I literally said out loud to myself, “that’s it?” I think if 20 to 25 minutes were added onto the film, giving all the other characters more meat to their roles, with some added individual scenes to people other than Stevie (especially of his brother and mother), this film could’ve been a straight up masterpiece. I could say I don’t think the movie got the 90s right, but I’m not going to, because it might have with a certain small group of people. If you are in that category, please let me know.

Alas, I was very disappointed. And notice how I didn’t complain about there being not much of a story or plot. I would be a hypocrite saying so on this. There are a many great coming of age films, like Dazed and Confused, where there really is no plot, just a bunch of memorable scenes of different, colorful character hanging out. My complaint is that there weren’t all that many different characters, and they certainly weren’t that colorful. And the scenes, other than Ray having a one on one with Stevie, definitely were not memorable. There are going to be many people that completely disagree with me on this film. And that is okay and I understand why. Those people probably got more emotionally and personally invested in its very narrow view. Ultimateily, I completely and totally recommend this film is you are a skater kid, or were a skater kid in the 90s, and I can slightly recommend it for people that always seem to be looking for acceptance. Other than that very limited scope recommendation, if what I said doesn’t interest you or you don’t feel like you could personally connect with a film like this, look elsewhere.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HALLOWEEN (2018, no spoilers)

Before I start with my glowing review for the new HALLOWEEN, I think I need to acknowledge something with a disclaimer: Yes, I realize that if you look deep down into this movies soul, it is the horror version of The Force Awakens, where it is a soft reboot of the original film, with certain scenes echoing and rhyming with everything that came before, and characters show up that are now older and wiser. But guess what? A. I think this was not only necessary, but can you really see a Michael Myers slasher film go anywhere outside the box, into weird, yet coherent and effective unfamiliar territory? And B. I really don’t care, because I enjoyed the hell out of this film. It was just the dark, gritty, gory, somewhat depressing horror film that I personally needed it to be. It hit all the right beats and notes, and there were times in the film where it was horrifying what I was watching, and I jumped and almost closed my eyes at parts. If my kid grows up and gets into the horror genre, and wants to know which path to take, I’ll tell him to watch the Original, the Original sequel, and H20, and stop there, completely skip the rest. Or watch the original, and now watch this…however, it remains to be seen if I’ll recommend more of this path, we’ll just have to see if there is anymore tricks up Blumhouse’s sleeve.

This movie completely disregards every single sequel to Halloween, yes, even Halloween II. And it thankfully doesn’t even acknowledge Rob Zombie’s horrible efforts to the franchise either. It is resetting the clock if you will, a new canon of events. Trying its best to seem familiar but also bring something grand and shocking to a new generation of movie goers that weren’t even born when the first one came out in theaters (like me). And I love that they did that, because if you even try to explain to anyone the psychic connections that Myers had with his niece or that III isn’t even really a part of the Myers canon…or dare I say it, Halloween Resurrection, it would make their head spin. Instead, we get a new take/performances on Laurie Strode, having had major 40 year PTSD after the first events of the film, having to have a showdown with Myers one final time, while also protecting her estranged family. Estranged because her daughter was taken away from her when she was 12 because she was loopy about serial killer over protection. I’ve read complaints that there is no way anyone would get that loopy about a individual who almost killed you and has been (until this film) locked up in a criminal psychiatric facility. But I know some real people that will have PTSD for the rest of their lives that don’t necessarily involve being killed by a serial killer, so I can completely see why Danny McBride and David Gordon Green wrote Laurie Strode this way. Not only was it logical and believable, but it was also to give Jamie Lee Curtis some new range in her acting career to play with. Something different. A victim, but a survivor, a very strong and vengeful survivor.

And Jamie Lee Curtis knocks it out of the fucking park. I loved her performance in this film which made me love everything overall that much more. The only thing I have to complain about this film is that I was the ending was more definite (like the end of Halloween H20, until Resurrection fucked up everything). There are two ways to take it (don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin anything): one way being if this movie was a flop at the box office and they were finally going to stop making these movies, the other way, it’s a huge hit and because greedy Hollywood producers bc money bc why not. And guess what? I’m writing this review after already knowing that this film was a huge hit this past weekend. So you can now probably take the ending the second way of how it is supposed to be when you eventually view the film if you are interested. And if you are a fan of any of these kinds of horror slashers, or maybe just Michael Myers, I completely recommend this film. Michael kills people pretty God damn brutally, I’d say the most brutal I’ve seen in any of the Halloween films. The film is dark, some bits of humor here and there, but nothing to take you out of the film. It’s gritty, filled with some great character moments (especially from Will Patton, Judy Greer and newcomer Andi Matichak) and even has a twist midway through the film that I did not see coming at all, one that I accepted immediately, and thought it brought some much needed depth to the franchise.

The film expertly makes use of practical effects and dead bodies/people getting killed. I think I maybe saw just one CGI knife blood splatter. In showing some of the aftermath of Michael Myers kills, director David Gordon Green goes for a kind of homage to David Cronenberg body horror. That is to say that there is body place here or there on a dead body that is wickedly out of proportion in an almost cartoon like realistic way to show the brutality of Michael Myers’ killings. It was actually quite genius, the make-up effects here are extremely well done to the fact that most of what you see were probably realistic enough movie dummies, covered up in a way that you are supposed to think it is the real thing on screen. Way too much CGI in horror these days to where when you see Michael Myers slam his foot on a characters face mid way through the film, and you can tell it was a hollow dummy head filled with fake brain guts, fake bits of shattered skull, and real fake movie blood, that you can’t help but thank the makers for putting a big giant smile on your face.

And most importantly, Michael Myers is back. He is dark, brooding, vicious, everything you could’ve ever hoped for in this film. The most deadly silent killer. This was easily the best take on the character since the first. Everything in the film flowed together perfectly and neatly for me. There are going to be some die hard Halloween fans that dislike or absolutely hate this film for what it does. And that is perfectly okay. We all have our tastes, dreams, and desires for what we would like to see in a film like this. Fortunately for me, this film checked all those off multiple times. I thought it was masterful. I know all of you will scoff at that word, but I did think that word when leaving the theater. It was exactly the kind of horror film I needed this Halloween, and one of the best, if not complete best, sequels to any gritty horror film franchise (yes, I know about Evil Dead 2, Aliens, Dawn of the Dead, etc., etc. but I’m talking more gritty, completely dark horror films, not parody horror, comedic horror, or action sci-fi sequels). So I loved this new Halloween. Granted, I really want them to stop right here and leave Michael Myers on a high note, but we all know that is not going to happen. So until we finally get that shitty sequel you know is down the line, let us bask in the glory of what we got this weekend. Happy Halloween everyone!

Just escape the cubicle already

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