Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 – SUMMER VACATION (no spoilers)

If there is one thing you have to give HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 and the entire series in general, is that at least it combines several ideas and storylines that could’ve been stretched out into two or three more films and just gets it out of the way with only 3 quick and harmless 90 minute films. If you are in love with the series, and your children is in love with this series, then my review isn’t going to do really anything for you. To catch you up, I thought the first one was mildly amusing and harmless, I thought the second one was less mildly amusing and harmless, and I think the third is even less amusing and borderline annoying, yet still harmless. All three movies are completely harmless. There aren’t any questionable jokes for children (there is one fart joke in this, and yet while it is cute, it is very tame), and the gags are literally a handful a minute. The voice cast doesn’t seem to be phoning it in, and the filmmakers try their best to bring entertainment to children.

Basically while I am saying I didn’t like the film too much, I’m recommend it for those that find some enjoyment in it, but more importantly, love watching it with their kids. My son isn’t old enough to watch and enjoy stuff like this quite yet, but when he gets there, I’m sure I’ll enjoy movies like this a little bit more. Right now, I’m reviewing it based on a screening I saw with my wife, who loves the screenings. To give you her opinion, I think she’s in the same league as me (comment if I am correct if you read this Diane), where each film is considerably not as good as the last, however, she likes them a boatload more than me. Except for this one, where we both agree that the handful of gags each minute got kind of exhausting this go around. We had just watch the previous two in the last two days to kind of catch up before this, and the gags weren’t as frequent and in your face. It seems like the filmmakers were trying way too hard this time around to make sure kids aren’t bored for a straight 5 seconds. This movie is the ultimate cure if you have a kid suffering from ADHD.

What else is there to say about the voice cast other than that they are still good and don’t phone it in, which is saying something considering that these movies are co-produced by Happy Madison (I think every single freaking one of Sandler’s friends voices someone who it or whatever in this), whose films on Netflix right now suck more than anything that has ever sucked before. Adam Sandler actually seems alive in these films than the ones where he is actually physically on camera. And that is probably because he already got the giant check from the giant contract from Netflix that gives to him for his giant foray into mediocrity, so he shows that he doesn’t give a shit.

While the first film dealt with Dracula’s daughter falling in love with a human and Dracula trying to hide that human while also dealing with the relationship with humans and monsters, and the second one deals with Dracula’s daughter having a kid with that human, Dracula trying to have the kid turn into a monster before he is five, while also dealing with his really old father played my Mel Brooks trying to accept the human and monster integration…………..*lets out long breath* Hold on, I’ll finish in a sec, but do you see where you have to hand it to this film for several stories that normally would’ve been played out in several direct to video sequels just getting them out of the way? Points for something, am I right? This one deals with Dracula finding love on his own, while on vacation, with the daughter of Van Helsing, who is still alive, both plotting to kill him. I think they are finally out of ideas, because it wraps everything up here nicely, but with sequelitis and everybody wanting more now, I wouldn’t put it past them there being a 4th one. Oh dear me, I hope they try harder next time, because the series is finally showing its age.

Anyway, while I don’t recommend this as a personal view, with your kids, you can find worse things in theaters and on television. And with your kids you might even have some fun.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (no spoilers)

While ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is definitely a better film than the first, it certainly is not Marvel’s best. It’s right there in the middle with Doctor Strange and GOTG Vol. 2 meaning, “good, but maybe not as memorable down the line.” It’s a good, half way decent little treat and a fun summer escapist adventure that is pretty funny at times and isn’t as dark and serious like recent fare we’ve gotten with Avengers Infinity War and most of Black Panther. Have you ever been to one of those taste tasting experiences? Where they have the cracker and water to cleanse your palette before the next food item? While it’s a little refreshing, you definitely won’t remember that cracker and water later? That is this film. It’s a more personal story and the stakes aren’t that high, probably because they can’t be considering the stakes at the end of Infinity War. But that’s okay, because I didn’t need the stakes to be that high to enjoy this film. I mean, it looks like Citizen Kane next to The First Purge and Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. I don’t think I could’ve asked or considered getting much more than that.

I’m not going to get into the plot of the film other than to say the reason why Scott Lang isn’t with the Avengers in Infinity War is that he’s been under house arrest for two years for violating the Socovia Accords. He only has a few days left and is trying to have those days come and go peacefully, but a couple of weird visions he has and the return of Hope and Hank might make things a bit complicated for him. While I am recommending this film wholeheartedly, it does have some problems, so let me get those out of the way before I get to the praising parts. While the film is very funny at times, there were about a handful of joke beats and some humor that really didn’t work, like they were trying to force a couple of laughs. It didn’t come off too well and you will know the humor when it comes, because you’ll be making that half smile face you make when a friend makes a lame joke and you just want them to move on. Next, while Marvel was beginning to solve its villain problem with their past couple of films, this definitely felt like a step backward. I didn’t expect this Ghost to be more intriguing or elegant than Thanos or Erik Killmonger, but I expected a little more of the villains’ plight and a bit more screen time that didn’t involve fighting or trying to kick Ant-Man and the Wasps ass. And I know that while you see that Walton Goggins is part of the cast, and while he is sort of a villain and Goggins always brings his A game, he’s more of a side ordinary human villain that really isn’t going to be memorable that down the line. Come on Marvel, if you get Walton Goggins, use him for something fantastic where he can bring his ultimately A+ game in scene chewery! Also, you might see Michelle Phieffer in the promotional material for the film but she is more of a MacGuffin than a character and it is really just a glorified cameo. Even though I did say this movie is better than the original, the only thing the original did better was its villain in Yellowjacket.

Phew, ok, got my criticisms out of the way. Let’s get to the good and fun stuff for why I really do like and recommend this film. I mentioned some of the humor not working earlier, however, when it does work, it works like gold. You can thank Paul Rudd and Michael Pena for that. Michael Pena completely steals every scene he is in. He has another one of those “stories” like in the original where it flashes back and his voice takes over all of the other characters. The one in this was definitely the funniest and the best. I’ve always loved Michael Pena, and we always need more of him. Paul Rudd does his Paul Rudd funny schtick most of the film, and he is as hilarious and heartwarming here as in every other comedy you’ve seen him in. I really like that he loves being in the Marvel Universe and loves being Scott Lang. It shows. Michael Douglas gets a shit load of more screen time in this film than the last one, and it is certainly a welcome addition of minutes as he adds to the emotional story a great deal more than you would think. But the real hero of this film is easily Evangeline Lilly. I always loved her on Lost, and I really liked the limited amount of screen time she had in the first film, but in here, she rocks the socks off everything she does. She’s finally free reign to combine her acting chops with her action skills, and she’s absolutely incredible. Now, in the previous paragraph I did complain about the Marvel villain problem taking a step back. However, the praise I do want to give Ghost is that her motivations aren’t just another grab at having too much power, taking over the world, or destroying it. It was more of a personal physical gain and I appreciated that the film, while certainly giving her more screen time would’ve helped, didn’t just give her another stupid eye rolling “not again” motivation we have gotten in previous Marvel and DC films.

Also, the action and special effects in this film are very good. The last 30 minutes of the film is this rock and sock ’em sort of chase scene that thrills, excites, and keeps your attention. All in all, the entire film shines when it uses the whole superpower idea of dramatic size change and abilities. It makes for intriguing action and some very funny sight gags. Scott Lang visiting his daughter at school is a huge sight gag laugh that worked tremendously well. Director Payton Reed is not an action director, and in the first film it kind of showed a lot, but in this, he seems to have honed in his skills a little bit and is getting better, even though there is always room for improvement.

While we shall see if this installment is ultimately really more memorable down the line in several years and Marvel films to come, for right now, it gets the job done. Marvel thankfully usually always gets the job done, they have a proven movie making formula working and they just keep on keepin’ on. If you are groaning because I said it is better than the original but still is in the middle of the pack with all these other Marvel Universe films, just remember, while it may not reach the heights of Civil War, Infinity War, the first Avengers, Black Panther, or even the first Guardians films…at least it is no where near the fire ant bite or poisonous wasp sting that was Thor The Dark World or Iron Man 2. And for that, we should be grateful. OH, WAIT! ONE MORE THING! STAY THRU AT LEAST THE MID CREDITS SCENE (if you’ve seen the trailers you’ve partly seen the very end credits scene and it doesn’t much matter). The Mid Credits scene had one of the best reactions I’ve ever seen from an audience. And while you can predict what it is, it still doesn’t make it that less astonishing to see.

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.

Just escape the cubicle already

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