Tag Archives: Movie Review

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: DISNEY/PIXAR’S COCO

At first what I thought was going to be a complete rip off of 2014’s The Book of Life, but instead of bullfighting it was replaced with musicians (spoiler alert: it’s not), DISNEY/PIXAR’S COCO surprised me. Not only is it easily the best animated film of 2017 (with some of the only other movies like Cars 3, Boss Baby, Lego Ninjago, was this really that hard of a category to win?) but it is also another Pixar masterpiece. I absolutely loved it and even had a lump in my throat at the end, which rarely happens to me anymore (yeah I know I mentioned it happened as well last week during Wonder, fuck you). It is the perfect family film that blends tradition, forgiveness, heritage, family, identity, and dreams into a story with heart that contains rich and vibrant animation. You can tell this movie was made with love and care, and it shows throughout the entire hour and 49 minutes.

The reason you might think this is a complete rip off of The Book of Life at first is because both movies deal with the Mexican holiday of Dia De Muertos (Day of the Dead) and while that one was bullfighting, this one deals with musicians. The Book of Life was ultimately a ho-hum affair, not even using original music (they sang recent hit songs) and the story completely diverts from the one Coco tries to tell and The Book of Life didn’t really earn my emotions, I found it to be quite…boring. But thankfully, Coco is the exact opposite. Really great original music, not boring in the slightest, earned laughs and earned heart. It tells the story of Miguel, who was born into a family of shoemakers because Miguel’s great great grandfather left the family to pursue a music career (guitarist, song writer and singer) and never came back. Well, Miguel has that talent, and wants to show it to the world despite his family not wanting any of the members having anything to do with music because of the asshole great great grandfather.

Miguel wants to play at a talent show contest on Dia De Muertos, and after his grandmother finds out his secret and bashes his guitar, he finds and tries to “borrow” a famous other one in the masoleum of a late great famous musician named Ernesto De La Cruz. When he strums the guitar though, he is literally taken to the Land of the Dead. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot to ruin it, other than he has until sunrise to find some sort of way out of the Land of the Dead or become a permanent resident. The last thing I’ll say is that he meets some old dead family members and a drifter named Hector. Trust me, there is much more to the story and a big twist I didn’t see coming (although I should have) until my wife whispered her hypothesis really quickly to me in my ear about halfway through the movie.

What I ultimately liked about this film, I read up on the history a little bit before watching it, is that one of the films writers, Adrian Molina, was upgraded to co-director because he knew a lot about Mexican traditions, Dia De Muertos, and other cultural things, and even did more research while making the movie, trying to perfect everything and not have made up things flying out of his ass. It shows here. Everything about this film shows that it was handled with extreme care. I looked up some of the Mexican traditions, and the traditions of Dia De Muertos after seeing the movie, and everything is dead on accurate. I appreciate that level of detail. Also, this movie is completely made up of Mexican actors and actresses for the voice talent, bringing even more of an authenticity to the project (unlike The Book of Life, who had um…Channing Tatum do a voice).

Another winning part of this film is the animation. The animation is top notch, making Cars 3 look like it was designed by monkeys with Windows ’95 (or was John Lasseter too busy to make the animation stand out and using his time trying to get “friendly hugs from women”? Too soon?). Wonderful vibrant colors, and an excellent attention to detail make this one of the Pixar films where you could watch it a million times and always discover something new. This is the perfect Thanksgiving/holiday movie. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a film for everyone, and not meant to be seen alone. Take your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, kids, friends, I guarantee they will all enjoy it. I myself cannot wait to watch it again.

Mini Review of the animated short before Coco: OLAF’S FROZEN ADVENTURE

If you are one of those people that thought Frozen was highly overrated, this short probably will not change your mind. It is a longer short, running at about 10-15 minutes, and has Olaf running his snowy ass around town trying to find traditions for Elsa and Anna to celebrate on Christmas. I myself loved Frozen, and loved this little short, where the songs again are quite memorable and didn’t seem just thrown together. Would’ve preferred an original Pixar short though, but I’ll take what I can get.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.

ROMAN J. ISRAEL ESQ. is more of a character study than it is an actual movie. The same could be said for Dan Gilroy’s previous directorial effort Nightcrawler, although Nightcrawler had much more of a plot than this movie does. Deznel Washington lights up the screen (let’s face it, like he always does, this is one of the greatest actors of any generation) with such a quirky and memorable character, I just wish it was in a more plot driven vehicle. Not to say the movie is bad, the character study had me fascinated the entire two hours, but when I look back at the movie, I realized that not much really happened.

If the trailers confused you on what this movie is about or how it plays out, you aren’t the only one. From the trailers you glean that this is a quirky, good, and smart lawyer that “breaks bad” and gets into a dangerous situation by taking a clients whereabouts of a fellow criminal, and getting the reward money to himself to make his life easier. Eh, not really. While that does kinda, sorta happen, there is much more going on to that situation, and that situation doesn’t really happen until a little more than halfway through the film, and the resolution is predictable, dull, and doesn’t have any intensity or other progression to warrant it being an actual plot point.

The movie is really about a lawyer that works with a small firm (really only a receptionist and one other lawyer). Roman is the lawyer behind the curtain so to speak, where he deals with the law, and gives everything he knows to the other lawyer, the one who makes actual court appearances to protect clients that have hired them. Well, that lawyer gets a heart attack and goes into a vegetative state, and Roman has to pick up the pieces. Not much long after, a relative of the heart attack lawyer dismantles the firm that hasn’t made a profit in years and he’s basically out on the street looking for money. Reluctant at first, because he is a good, nice, fair lawyer that hates the system because not many people see a trial, just take a plea bargain in fear of a greater punishment, eventually takes a job with a pupil (Colin Farrell) of the heart attack lawyer, who is a lawyer whose ethics Roman despises, because it is about the money, not the people. Afraid he is about to get fired at one point, he does take the clients info and gets the reward money, and he befriends a woman at a non profit organization that wasn’t too important to remember for me.

But all this is really background noise. It’s a character study of a man struggling with his identity, and when he strays a little bit from it, gets into some major trouble that lasts about 5 minutes of screen time. Denzel Washington is absolutely captivating in this movie though, and while the movie could’ve been much, much, much better, I would mind if Washington was again nominated for this film. His speech pattern and speeches are amazing to watch and after this movie I could completely watch Washington sit in a chair for 3 hours and talk about random shit and it would still be enthralling (see: Fences). Colin Farrell is actually much more in the film than the trailer shows and has a good little character arc himself. Carmen Ejogo, who has been in a shit ton of supporting roles over the years, has always been a good actress, but her character here just complains and cries to Roman about the system, and it does get a bit tiring.

If writer/director Dan Gilroy could’ve taken this character, and put it in a different movie, hell, maybe even a legal procedural, this could’ve been something really special. But the lack of a plot of the predictability of what the films tries to conjure up as a plot make this a movie that is ultimately forgettable other than Washington’s performance. It is ultimately a tad disappointing since Dan Gilroy’s last film, Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaul, was so freaking good that I put it in my top ten list of 2014 films. But I can’t say the movie was that bad either, because I was neither bored or completely put off by it. And I would probably recommend it, just not in a theater, but in a courtroom with some of your peers in your living room.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: LADY BIRD

Well, the Cubicle Escapee website is down so I would like to review LADY BIRD while it is still fresh in my mind. I will post reviews on here until website is back up and then re post them. Anyway, what intrigued me about Lady Bird was it’s 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. What intrigued me even further was the fact that Greta Gerwig wrote and directed it, and while this is her first time writing and directing a feature, she has co-written some together with Noah Baumbach such as Frances Ha and Mistress America. If you are familiar with my reviews I’m not too huge of a fan of Noah Baumbach films (I didn’t like the recent Netflix Meyerowitz Stories), and I didn’t like Frances Ha and Mistress America. So I’m probably guessing that Noah Baumbach is the main reason for those failures because I really liked Lady Bird and completely agree with all the praise it is getting.

It is a really weird and realistic film about a girl getting out of high school in Sacramento, that is always at odds with her mother, she calls herself Lady Bird because she doesn’t want to be recognized by her real name, and she is trying to apply to college far away to escape her doomed Sacramento life. Lady Bird is played to perfection by Saoirse Ronan, who you might know from when she was nominated rightfully so for the movie Brooklyn, but you may mainly know her as the little girl that fucked things up for James McAvoy and Keira Knightly in Atonement (she was nominated for that too). And she should be nominated for this. Saoirse Ronan plays Lady Bird as a rebellious, quirky, teenager that isn’t afraid to admit her own faults. She’s not the Hollywood rebellious teen either, as she doesn’t do over the top things to do so. Her rebelliousness is realistic and relatable.

Laurie Metcalf I think also deserves a nomination playing Lady Bird’s mother, as I’ve never seen her better in anything else. If she doesn’t win you over earlier in the film, she will in the final car airport scene. The acting all around is fantastic. Lucas Hedges (who was nominated for Manchester By The Sea) plays one of Lady Bird’s boyfriends that has his own demons in his closet and Tracy Letts plays her maybe too understanding father.

Greta Gerwig also comes into her own as a director, having a certain camera and visual style I was able to pick up on. Kind of like Wes Anderson, but without everything looking like a god damn symmetrical diorama school project (sorry but Anderson has over done that to death). Her films has nice contract colors and a visual palette that is very easy on the eyes. If she can stay away from her boyfriend Noah Baumbach and do things on her own, I think she could go places, as this film is a fantastic individual endeavor.

If you like quirky films, then you don’t want to miss this. I would say see it just for Saoirse Ronan, as everything she does is worth the price of admission alone (except for Atonement which other than her performance I thought was God awful). But it has good lessons of feminism, individuality, and relationships to booth. I love movies that feel real, that feel like they are situations any normal human being can get into. Films like that tap into the audience’s soul, making a more worthwhile film going experience. This is one of those.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: WONDER

When I get out of seeing a really great movie, like WONDER, and I noticed I was the only one in the theater (granted it was a 10 pm showing on weeknight), I start to feel really bad for it, especially when a certain superhero movie is going to kill it at the box office. And I had a more enjoyable time with this movie than I did during that other one I saw just a few hours earlier. It’s a movie meant to tug at your heartstrings, but unlike a lot of duds that tried to do that this past year, this one earns it your lump in your throat and the tears in your eyes. It has a great realistic anti-bullying message, the acting is top notch, and the story went places I didn’t expect it to go. If you are looking for a movie to see other than two superhero films that are out in the theater right now, please go to this and give it a chance. I’ll guarantee you’ll be happy crying by the end credits.

The film, at 1 hour and 50 minutes, swims by at a very brisk pace. The trailer makes it seems like the film is going to be entirely on Auggie Pullman’s point of view, a kid born with Treacher Collins syndrome which is a rare facial deformity, that at once was home schooled by his mother, played by Julia Roberts, is now thrust into middle school life. Having the whole movie being in Auggie’s point of view would have been very generic and the film might not have come together as well. About a third of the way in, the movie switches to several other points of views, such as Auggie’s sister Via, Via’s former best friend Miranda, his best friend Jack Will, and even the bully Julian. While I would’ve loved to see his parents having their own points of view (unfortunately Julia Roberts and especially Owen Wilson are relegated to background characters that only pop up once or twice), I fear that might’ve been too many. The inclusions of all these different points of view was perfect.

The situations feel realistic as well. We don’t get over dramatized actions of bullying that seem like they came straight from the minds of dull Hollywood screenwriters playing everything too over the top and by the book. The characters speak to each other like real people would and because of all this, it develops real audience emotional sympathy, which is hard to do nowadays. Plus, the film is extremely entertaining to the point where I knew that I wanted to watch it again, and soon. Julia Roberts is the best she’s been since August: Osage County, and even though he is barely in it, seeing Owen Wilson in something a little more serious was a nice surprise. All of the kid actors, including the bullies and friends and family members of Auggie were fantastic.

But it is Jacob Trembley playing Auggie that completely steals the show and our hearts. If you don’t know who Jacob Trembley is, he is that exceptional kid that did a hell of a job acting alongside Brie Larson in Room. He was also one of the only decent things about this year’s The Book of Henry as well. This is honestly his best performance thus far and will be a child actor to be reckoned with. Hopefully it transitions him into adulthood just as well. Right away, we sympathize with Auggie, and not just because his face is a tad deformed, but because he has a heart of gold, and just wants to be accepted by people other than his family members. Jacob Trembley brings charm and wit to the role, making Auggie a real person and not just a two dimension, “oh woe is me” type of character that a lot of these Hollywood heart string movies try to do to its audience.

But I loved this movie. Wonder is wonderful. I don’t care about the stupid pun. It’s a movie that made me have a lump in my throat, and I was completely invested from minute one all the way to the end credits. It is a nice PG rating, and honestly anyone can watch it. And should. I think this movie should be played at every school, every year, as a huge anti-bullying message as well as a just be kind in general type of moralistic journey for our younger generation. It’s not some sappy after school special, it’s a film that feels as real as the tears on your cheek. And that is rare in the cinematic world today.