Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: STRANGERS PREY AT NIGHT (some major spoilers)

STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT should be the poster boy of what NOT to do when you make a horror movie sequel to a beloved original film. The first Strangers film is bleak, horrifying, and pretty damn scary because it has a eerily realistic tone and feel to it. Strangers 2 throws all of that garbage out the window and, except for a really well done pool fight scene with the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” playing in the background, is a fucking disaster. The film is completely unrealistic, it’s eerie factor from the first film is gone replaced by cheap jump scares and bizarre chase tactics, and all the characters constantly contradict their previous characterization choices. It is mind numbing, dull, and very annoying.

The one really good scare the film had going for it, the movie trailer and all the television spots out there ruin it. It takes place where a character, played by Bailee Madison, is in sort of this construction concrete/maybe plastic circle, with good lighting and camera work. Ruined… because they decided its all they really had and put it in the fucking marketing. Whatever, it isn’t the main problem with this film. The main, main, main, main problem, is that the took the realistic, scary Strangers that stalk and kill for absolutely no reason at all, and turned them into superhuman horror movie like monsters such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. One of the characters takes a such gun blast point blank to the chest, and survives long enough to be able to say “why not?” when one character asks, “why are you doing this?” I understand that THOSE characters don’t know why they are doing this, but the audience already does if they’ve more than likely seen the first film, so we didn’t really need that dialogue to begin with.

Oh, and another one of the Strangers not only survives a car explosion, but after falling to the ground after taking a giant piece of glass out of his chest, is able to, two minutes, later, catch up to the running teen he was stalking and be able to hand on to a moving vehicle while still swinging his stupid ax. It is insulting not only to the vicious killers as characters, but it is insulting to the audience, hoping for a realistic follow up to a pretty damn good first film. I do understand that the filmmakers were trying to give the audience what they wanted, by making most of the Strangers finally get a comeuppance of sorts for their murderous psychopathic behavior, but I feel as if they could’ve still done it in a more down to Earth way like the first. Turning your killers into walking entities that almost can’t be killed takes away any and all tension your film had in the first place.

Oh, if you needed to know, this movie is about a family that is on their way to take their daughter to a boarding school because she is a hot mess in real life (gee, we’ve seen that one before haven’t we?), and stop by their Aunt and Uncle’s trailer park getaway place to spend the night, only to be stalked and killed by The Strangers. Stupid and un-creative set up huh? Surely everyone involved could’ve come up with something better than cliche upon cliche upon utter cliche of shit done thousands of times in the 80s and 90s right? I understand that horror films don’t care anymore and just need a basic set up to get to the killing because the film is a short 85 minutes long, but I mean, I feel that everyone coughing up their money to see your movie should maybe get little better nuggets of realism than what this film did.

Other than the pool scene mentioned above, everything about this movie is just rushed and lazy. Did I forget to mention that after his mom and dad are seemingly just killed, and he has one of The Strangers dead to right with a working loaded gun pointed right at her face, he doesn’t pull the trigger? Are you fucking kidding me? I don’t think anyone in their right mind would’ve hesitated and shot the full clip into that bitch. Especially when ten minutes later he’s stabbing one of them like his life depended on it, and because he didn’t kill the other a cop gets his throat slit. It’s stupid and insulting. All of it. Even the acting, the parents are stupid and non believable and Bailee Madison is there to just scream and run. Not too intricate.

This is a horror series that didn’t need a sequel. When saying it is “based/inspired on true events,” they are stretching those true events to dimensions wayyyy beyond fiction. Doing some research, there aren’t really Strangers out there, the filmmaker based the first film on that Manson-Tate murders and a couple of non violent break ins in his neighborhood when he was a kid. But the first film still worked due to its realism, so why couldn’t they have just stuck with that for the second film? Why up the ante in all the wrong ways? Let’s hope they make this franchise a real stranger, one that we never have to see ever again.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: A WRINKLE IN TIME (spoiler free)

A WRINKLE IN TIME sucks my 31 year old wrinkly balls. Sorry to be so inhumane with my first sentence, but it is the most boring movie of 2018 so far, and I couldn’t think of anything wittier to say other than I want my time back and straightened or some Back To The Future reference I’ve already done a million times before. I saw this film yesterday, and while I haven’t been reading the reviews online of the film, I just saw that it was sitting between 30 and 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t good, and I had read a summary from a audience who saw an advance screening that said it was a misfire. I can now confirm those reports. But I’m going to go one better and say it was a HUGE misfire. Constantly I was muttering under my breath during the movie asking myself, “what the fuck is this?” and “this is the most absurd world building I have ever seen.” Add to that I almost fell asleep a few times.

So a girl and her adopted brother go searching for their father, who has been missing for four years but is believed to maybe have crossed time and space using frequencies of the mind. A kid friend from school also comes along and they run into three, I guess, spiritual light guides played by Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, and then they cross time and space to find the girl and young son’s father. They of course run into obstacles and a faceless darkness is after them as well. This sounds like it could’ve been an ultra uber cool trippy science fiction film for Disney, but it turns out it is about as bad as their recent renditions to do live action Alice In Wonderland films. I have asked several of my friends who have read the book and also have seen the movie what they thought, and they said while adaptation is pretty close, the book, with its words, descriptions and more depth to its characters, is so so so much better.

I hope so, because this movie does not make me want to read the book at all. Everything about it, including the visuals are just bland. No wonder Disney has been pushing the hell out of this for months, because they realized the end product wasn’t so good but that they have a fantastic marketing team. I really wanted to see this film, the trailers intrigued me, so did the cast, and the fact that Ava DuVernay was just coming off the really great film Selma a couple of years ago, everything pointed to success. But it sucked. All of it. The acting, the way everything was represented. I don’t know if it was everyone being lazy, trying to hard, a bit of both, or that Ava’s vision was just not in the right place of her mind, body, or heart.

It really is that boring. My wife was really wanting to see this film, and even she was almost bored to tears. The film has a great message, don’t get me wrong. But the message is muddled in really crappy visuals and really weird uneven world building. The world and mythological building is so weird in this I kind of want to read the book just to make sure that I understand it and that it actually makes sense when explained written down on paper. In the movie, since it isn’t the book, it has to visually and mentally connect with you to understand what is going on. DuVernay doesn’t do a good job of it at all. She has pieces here and there, but none of the pieces do a good job of explaining anything or adding up to anything, nothing fits. Here are these three supernatural beings of light that can transcend space and time, deal with it or go home. I wish I would’ve got up out of my seat before half way thru and done the latter.

The acting sucks too. Oprah seems bored, and the way her character is framed and is certain sizes and does certain things, she doesn’t seem to be with the rest of the cast the entire time (even though she is near), and green screened almost all of her scenes in. Is she really that busy and not have enough time to join the cast on set that it resorted to that? Reese Witherspoon plays just a variation on Elle from Legally Blonde and Mindy Kaling is well…Mindy. The child actors fare no better, as Storm Reid has one constant facial expression the entire film, Zach Gilifinakis is hardly in there but is still just playing his weird self, and Levi Miller seems to be just reading his lines because he isn’t given much to do and is just standing there (and I know Levi Miller can act, just watch Better Watch Out. That’s right, I’m plugging a great Christmas horror movie that is much better than this piece of crap Disney film).

The only three that do half way decent is Chris Pine (who is hardly in the film), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who is hardly in the film and really only has one scene to sort of shine), and the adopted brother played by Deric McCabe. A little more of him would’ve been better. But this whole movie just, blows. I’m sorry it does. It seems as though Prequel George Lucas directed it, with some uninspired green screen visuals, lack of characterization, and utter nonsense. This is one of Disney’s biggest misfires in recent memory other than the Alice In Wonderland live action films. It is a huge disappointment, and right now stands as my most personal biggest disappointment of the year and the worst film of 2018 so far. That’s right, worse than Winchester, The 15:17 to Paris, Fifty Shades Freed, or my next review, Strangers 2.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: GRINGO

Riddle: What do you get when you have a dark comedy, but it isn’t really that dark and you don’t laugh a lot? Stumped? Of course you are because the only answer is disappointment. GRINGO is one of those dark comedies that think its smarter than everyone else in the room, when it actually is the jealous kid in the corner at a party not talking to anybody and sipping his fucking cranberry juice. It tries so hard to be something like In Bruges or this weekend’s much much better Thoroughbreds, but instead comes off as just another Rock The Kazbah with Bill Murray. Oh, you haven’t heard of that movie? Then you win in life, don’t look it up. Gringo is even more disappointing considering everyone involved. It literally doesn’t work on any level.

How doesn’t it work? Let me count the ways. Let’s start with reason number 1. Not one character is likable, even the protagonist that is the real innocent in all this, Harold, played by the great David Oyelowo. He’s just too much of a pussy the entire movie to be likable and even his 180 turn in attitude near the end doesn’t feel deserved. The usually always great Charlize Theron plays a over the line racist bitch boss of Harold and Joel Edgerton plays a over the line sexist pig other boss of Harold. Thandie Newton and Amanda Seyfried play the two most worthless throwaway characters I haven’t seen. At least Thandie Newton plays a sort of semi part of Harold’s wife but Amanda Seyfried is completely worthless to the plot. They should’ve just hired a new up and coming actress. What was she even doing accepting this role? She’s in three scenes and literally has one small speech and does NOTHING. The only character close enough to like is Sharlto Copley, who kind of has a 2 dimensional arc, but then his character’s resolution is so anti-climatic it just made me not even care.

I should probably explain what the movie is about really quickly before I keep going on with what is wrong with it. It’s about a business man named Harold who because of his two sleazy awful bosses finds himself in trouble in Mexico with the authorities and drug lords because all of them think he holds the key to a new marijuana pill that is going to kill it in the medical marijuana market. That’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers. The movie goes exactly where you think it will and the ending is too easy and lame. If you are going to do the dark comedy genre, you have to do the unexpected. Not once was I shocked to where this movie went, which is problem number 2, it is 150% predictable on ever level. And even with the predictability the movie isn’t fun.

Problem #3? The humor is way too mean. There is mean spirited humor in movies that work a lot, but that’s because we usually like the characters that are saying or doing those jokes, and we know they don’t really mean harm to anyone. In this, the jokes are just too real, too mean, and not funny. Charlize Theron spits out really just off the wall racial stuff and even makes fun of a deaf person at one point. It’s cringe walk-out-of-the-theater worthy. Not one joke is smart. It isn’t necessarily potty humor, it’s just mean spirited, cruel, or too easy. They were all written in haste and didn’t take too long to think of.

The final problem is that every character resolution is anti climatic. You think all these characters are going to get huge momentous moments, with some getting pure triumph or some getting pure demise…but no. Maybe one character gets that, and its predictable and boring. Everybody else’s resolution just comes really quickly after they’ve been off screen for 25 minutes. They pop back up just to go, oh, here I am and here is the really easy and stupid thing that ended up happening to me, and my story is over! Character’s resolutions are supposed to have rhyme and reason and poetic justice. The writers literally wrote all the characters into corners where each of their endings are the most boring outcomes that could’ve ever been written.

Gringo is just not good. All the funny parts, or really the “chuckle” (at least for me) parts are all in the trailer and the actual film doesn’t offer anything better. The story is stupid and has been done before, the movie thinks it is dark when it really isn’t, and there isn’t one likable character. This movie could’ve had 25 minutes shaved from it, completely cut out Thandie Newton and Amanda Seyfried, and you could’ve had maybe something a little tighter and a little bit more watchable, but not by much. The director, Nash Edgerton, who is Joel’s brother, wasn’t the problem here. The actors are all good in this and everything is shot very well. The problem was completely the script. It should’ve been thrown out, and rewritten from the top. This will be in the Walmart $5 dollar bin in four months, and no one will remember this movie even exists in five.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THOROUGHBREDS

What Anton Yelchin does in THOROUGHBREDS is amazing. In what is probably going to be his last theatrical release (he died in Summer 2016), he managed to take a very cookie cutter one dimensional character that was written a little half hazard on the script, and turn him into a full fledged supporting 3rd co-lead with multiple layers on the screen in the handful of scenes that he’s in. RIP Anton, your acting in this just proves that we truly lost a great talent not even in your prime. Anyway, for the rest of you reading this, there are 5 new movies coming out this weekend, including the high profile A Wrinkle In Time, which I’ll review Sunday, and this film is the ONLY film out of those getting good reviews, and it’s probably the film you are least likely to see because it is in limited theaters. That’s a shame. Because along with Date Night, Black Panther, and Annihilation, it’s one of the best of the year so far and is probably going to become a cult classic. Try as you might, unless you see this in theaters, you can’t say you were with it from the beginning if you don’t see it.

I loved this movie. It is basically, “what if Wes Anderson went really really fucking dark in one of his comedies, like darker than he’s ever been…although obviously not really directed by Wes Anderson.” It’s weird, it has those symmetrical shots (but not annoying so as Anderson always does it), it has witty dialogue, quirky characters, and insanely good acting. I can’t believe this was shot in 2016 right before Anton Yelchin died. Why did they hold it back so long? I understand maybe holding it because of Yelchin’s real life death however holding it for almost two years seems a bit overkill. It is really good and the studio should have more faith in it. If you have no idea what it is about, without spoiling anything, it involves two teen girls, one who doesn’t feel much of anything and has to fake her ways with emotions, played by Olivia Cooke, and one who feels everything and is trying to be friends with the other one, played by Ana Taylor Joy, plotting to kill Ana Taylor Joy’s stepdad. Anton Yelchin plays an older drug dealer that may or may not be part of the girls plans.

That’s all I’ll tell you. The genius of the film and of the script is how little it tell you till almost the very end of the film. Instead, it gives you context clues about the girls’ past to make you piece together what had happened before the events in the film take place. It was quite brilliant. My only complaint is that they shouldn’t have gave it to the audience near the end who couldn’t piece it together themselves, it really isn’t that difficult. The film is very witty, in that you have no idea and cannot predict how everything is going to turn out. You think it is going to go one way, it goes another, and then it does even another detour. I love the climax in this. LOVE it, I love the shots of it, the brilliance of the timing, the acting, the shock value, etc. I won’t obviously reveal what ultimately takes place, but everything about it is beautiful and perfect.

What more can I say about the dialogue in that although it feels true and sophisticated, it’s still witty and fun and it doesn’t try and play Juno on you. The acting in this already bumps it up a notch. Anton Yelchin isn’t in this as much as the two girls are, but whenever he is on screen, he is electrifying. He completely turns his drug dealer into a 3 dimensional character with his dialogue delivery and his facial ticks and body expressions. It was amazing. While I was listening to him give his dialogue, I was thinking, “damn, anyone else playing the role probably would’ve played it too straight for us to even get into the character.” He’s just that brilliant. But Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are fantastic in this as well, especially Cooke. I always liked Cooke from Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl and can’t wait to see what she does as Parcival’s love interest in Ready Player One. The first time I aw Anya Taylor-Joy in anything was The Witch, which I didn’t particularly like. But after Split and this, she is really, really growing on me as an actress to look out for come awards time one day. Both of them.

You need to find the closest theater to you and see Thoroughbreds if you can. It’s a quirky cult classic in the making, reminding you of excellent ones such as Ghost World or Heathers while having a mind of its own and not being a copy cat. I really enjoyed my time with this one and I think with a little patience you will too. At least see it for Anton.

Just escape the cubicle already

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