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!

A Girl Like That (Hardcover) by Tanaz Bhathena

Summary: A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.

 

Jen’s Review-  This is a disturbing and heartbreaking debut that will make you ponder life in other places.  Zarin’s risks in this books are things that are socially ok in America… but in Saudi Arabia not so much.   From the moment you read the first chapter you know this book is going to end in tragedy, but how did it get to that point?  How did too beautiful lives end so violently… it builds an anticipation that I was not expecting.  You know it is going to end bad… but why?

This book received a lot of hate saying that it did not portray Saudi Arabia accurately.  So when I originally went into the book I told myself to throw any stereotypes I might have out the window and enjoy the book.

I enjoyed this book.  A lot.   Here is the thing, I don’t know what life in Saudi Arabia is like.  I was not born there and I have not visited.  I only know what I can read and see on the news and let’s be honest it is not the most flattering representation.    I can tell you that this book was heartbreaking and if it is accurate… well… you will have to read the book and form your own opinions.

The characters are rich with complexity and I fell for the characters, even the ones that made you cringe.  They are all just trying to live life to the best of their life circumstance.  This book touches so many complex issues that I really feel it is a must read books.  Especially if ever in your life you walked by someone and they whispered “a girl like that”

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (no spoilers)

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE is a masterpiece to me. It doesn’t have to be to you. It has beat out Mission Impossible Fallout as my favorite/best film of the year. Everything in the movie flowed perfectly for me, the story, characters, acting, tone, etc. Although it is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes a lot of the mainstream critics are complaining that it doesn’t have a big genre bending twist like Drew Goddard’s previous film The Cabin In The Woods and it kind of a Tarantino rip off in some places. The critics are just basing that on that the film cuts back and forth between what is presently happening and each of the tenant’s stories before they entered the hotel with old fashioned title cards. But this movie isn’t a Tarantino rip off at all. This has a mind of its own. Tarantino’s films all sort of wink wink at the camera at every opportune moment, have dialogue that toes the line of being too over-the-top yet being genius at the same time, and none of them can be taken too seriously and are always playful. This films tone has director Drew Goddard’s own sense of style. He is a unique visionary that is trying to bring an individual palette into the Hollywood game and isn’t trying to simply just copy other films and directors. And those are just some of the reasons I love this film, but mainly because I found this to be an original piece in a flood of other pics that are either sequels, franchise reboots, remakes, etc, etc, etc.

If you’ve seen the trailer, and if you try to explain it to someone, it sounds like the onset of a joke: a priest, a singer, a rebel, and a salesman walk into a hotel in 1969. Each have something to hide or are more than what they seem. They’re lives happen to interconnect on this fateful night where some of the guests won’t make it out alive. And if you’ve seen the trailer you know there’s a young man that runs the hotel and Chris Hemsworth as a hippie Charles Manson type shows up at one point. That’s all you need to know. The whole experience of this film is the journey itself. And the journey is incredible. The story itself has some minor twists and turns with the characters, but do not go into this film expecting something shocking like the entire second half of The Cabin In The Woods. I know that the trailer, maybe, makes it seem like something huge is going to upend your world, but no, Drew Goddard doesn’t just want to be like M. Night Shyamalan where the audience expects something huge in the middle/end of the film that will drop your jaw to the ground. He testing each of these cinematic waters, putting his toe in different genres to get the feel of what he wants to do and say next.

I think Drew Goddard is a very talented individual. He wrote the best episodes of Buffy, Angel, Alias, and Lost. He was the showrunner on the first season of Daredevil. He wrote Cloverfield. He produces The Good Place. He was nominated for an Academy Award for adapting The Martian. And he co-wrote and directed the amazing The Cabin In The Woods. And he’s just as amazing here, both writing and directing. There is this very long tracking shot in the film where Jon Hamm is in the back of the hotel, finding out that the guests may or may not be spied on, and the sets and intricacies of the movement of everything right on time is phenomenal. The whole film is. There is a perfect balance of likable colorful characters, good old fashioned antagonists, and some in grey areas. Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, and Jon Hamm do fantastic jobs in their roles. Lewis Pullman is the stand out in the scenes where he is heavily featured. Chris Hemsworth gives us his best acting to date as a bad boy hippie named Billy Lee. And Dakota Johnson proves that she isn’t just some sex symbol in the Fifty Shades film, bringing some attitude and charisma to her shady character.

I just loved this film. This review would be longer if I could spoil some sequences but I don’t want to in favor of you going out and checking this movie out. It is entertaining, nail biting, visually pleasing to the eye, and fun all at the same time. The use of oldies music in this doesn’t feel forced and weight heavily on what is going on in the scene. It’s a very, very well made film. It’s one of those you find on a movie channel on a lazy afternoon and can just start watching it wherever you are and not stop until the end. Or if you find it playing on a commercial station, you pop in the blu-ray and continue on from where it was to avoid the commercials and the censorship. Bad things happen to people in this film, but you will have good times at the movies if you seek this film out. Go check in.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FIRST MAN (no spoilers really, if you don’t know that Neil Armstrong made it to the moon something is wrong with you)

FIRST MAN made me realize that any notion as a child I had of ever exploring space and becoming an astronaut, should never have come to pass. If I showed this film to my younger self, I’d immediately say, “fuck that, I’d rather flip burgers.” But saying that with this movie, is not a negative. This film makes you appreciate what these men and women tried and accomplished all that much more. It is easily the best space biopic since Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, but I dare say this one is probably more intense and harrowing, fingers nails dug deeply into that soft luxury loungers (if you are lucky enough to have theaters like that around you). Listen, I don’t know anything about space exploration or any historic inaccuracies when watching this film. I just know that extraordinary filmmaker Damien Chazzelle, screenwriter Josh Singer, and actor Ryan Gosling has spoken passionately about this project in interviews I have seen in print and on television, and trust that what they brought to the screen was as close as they could get to the true story, without using the “Based” words you see on every promotional material stretched out wide narratively. I’ve never been this tense in a biopic film when I knew exactly what the ultimate outcome was. First Man is that engaging.

The film has three long sequences of Neil doing spectacular things all surrounded by his personal and family life, as well as the NASA talks in between. At the beginning we see Neil piloting and almost have grave consequences with X-15 craft, toward the middle of the film we get Neil and the Gemini 8, trying to test dock with the Agena, and then of course at the end of the film, the infamous moon landing. Also there is a small sequence of Neil almost getting killed test flying the landing craft. All of these sequences are tense as any good fictional thriller could give you, only I has holding my breath with how extreme it all felt, considering all of this really happened. The Gemini 8 sequence is easily the best in the film. I have never been as clastraphobic in a theater since Ryan Reynolds in Buried. In other Hollywood space films, the fictional ones, and even somewhat in the biopic Apollo 13, the camera and the sets seem to give a lot of room for the cameras and actors to breath, making it feel not as authentic as it should. Not this film. Director Damien Chazzelle takes the camera in what seems to be construction accurate authentic space craft and modules, the shots very close up to show the audience how little room these brave individuals had when out in space, their very lives hanging in the balance at points. At one point during the Gemini 8 sequence, the craft starts to spin at over 200 miles per hour, and once the scene was over my hands hurt from my fists being balled up pretty tight during the shots. If the movie wins anything during the Academy Awards, they should have sound editing and mixing in the bag, they were both incredible and added all the tension necessary to get the intensity to that scene to the audience in their seats.

That brings me to my next point of why director Damien Chazelle should easily get an Oscar nomination for this. Everything felt completely real. When I mentioned that the Gemini 8 goes into a very violent spin, the camera doesn’t go outside the spacecraft to show the audience a blatant special effects shot of the craft and how fast it was spinning. We stay inside with Armstrong and his one other man crew, of how he had to handle it quickly before both of them passed out and they were as sure as dead. In fact, there are very few shows of the various crafts these individuals flew in space, and the shots that are given to the audience I swore had to be expertly shot models, some stock footage, or very detailed almost perfect SFX. It was mind boggling how real everything felt. And one of the last sequences where Armstrong finally gets to the moon, it isn’t bombastically shot like something epic, some fictionalized view of what the moon landing would be in an filmmakers melodramatic or over-the-top climatic eyes. Space is silent, nothing on the moon except some craters and moon rocks/dust. Armstrong looks out and sees a vast darkness beyond of the simple empty white surface in front of him. He isn’t shooting space aliens or jumping happily and screaming out that he made it. Just silent recognition of triumph. And some scenes dealing with loss of family and friends earlier in the film, felt like an emotional journey earned. I nearly choked up near the end.

There really isn’t more to say about the film except that everything in the movie was a close to perfect as you can get for a biopic. The pacing was fantastic, Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy both did excellent jobs acting, Damien Chazzelle knocks it out of the park 3 for 3 with me here. The emotional journey was just as great as the technical one. Everything was earned, nothing forced. If you love space, space exploration, love NASA, want to work for NASA, some kind of mechanical or electric engineer, or basically anyone that loves a good true story biopic, I couldn’t find you a better one in 2018. Masterful and one of the year’s best films for me.

Just escape the cubicle already

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