Tag Archives: Movie Reviews

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: WONDER WHEEL

There is something very wrong about Woody Allen’s WONDER WHEEL, and I can’t place my finger on why I didn’t really like the film other than the gorgeous cinematography that should be nominated for an Oscar. Maybe it’s the subplot of Kate Winslet’s child from another marriage starting random fires in places that doesn’t go anywhere. Or maybe it’s the over acting from everyone except Juno Temple. Or maybe it’s because story structure and plot wise it’s just not very interesting and it is very predictable. Or maybe I just hated all the characters. Woody Allen is very hit and miss, and mostly over the years its been a giant miss, other than Match Point and Midnight in Paris. Maybe he should start titling all of his films with the letter M at some point and he’ll have more luck?

Sexual allegations aside, I do think Woody Allen is talented, but his one movie a year bullshit is spreading quite thin. And I understand the man is in his 80’s, and if he doesn’t do one film a year we might not even see a next film from him. But the guy needs more planning in every aspect in his film making sometimes. He needs to think: is this story interesting? Are there any likable characters? Am I just doing this movie to film Coney Island in a special way? Maybe I should think about just doing a psudo-documentary on Coney Island and film it the way I want to? That’s where I have the feeling his idea for a movie came from: “I want to film Coney Island in its prime, with special cinematography….now what kind of cockamamie story could I come up with to fit in with it?

Oh I know! I’ll have a groggy housewife (Kate Winslet) that has an abusive husband (Jim Belushi), that stars an affair with a young lifeguard (Justin Timberlake), that also has eyes on the abusive husband’s young daughter (Juno Temple) that came into town where her ex-husband, who is a gangster, is looking for her and is going to kill her if they find her. Doesn’t that just sound absolutely original? I hope you are sensing my sarcasm of the written word. Because it is not original, and it is very predictable. Think hard for a second, where do you see this story going? 90% of you could probably predict this down pat. It’s very easy. The film tries to be clever by being a tiny bit ambiguious at the end and just having the film end after some accusations are made, but the audience knows better and knows that it is just a cheap trick because Woody Allen had nothing else up his sleeve.

The movie is just constant bickering dialogue scene after constant bickering dialogue scene with every shot being absolutely fucking gorgeous. If it is nominated for an Oscar for that, that’s fine, but anything else is just blasphemy. Everybody overacts in this film to the 10th degree, except for Juno Temple, who only seemed sincere because she couldn’t believe that she gets to star in a Woody Allen film. Woody Allen usually has a great ear for dialogue, but the bickering in it just seems force fed and a little too over the top. And the kid setting fires? Was that supposed to be some kind of a metaphor or did he not know how to wrap up that story?

Wonder Wheel is a huge disappointment. I wouldn’t call myself a Woody Allen fan, but if there are any Woody Allen fans out there, consider this a huge misfire and disappointing except for the cinematography. What is really funny is that the film is quite watchable if you just hit the mute button. It could’ve even worked as a color silent film. But with sound, this film is a disaster, and one that I would never revisit again, unless some of the shots were cobbled together to form a collage on the background on my laptop.

 

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JUMANJI – WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

I wrote this review last since this movie doesn’t come out for another week (Dec. 20th) and also because this was the movie I enjoyed the most out of all the ones I saw this weekend. Weird, right? Let’s get this out of the way JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE is not a remake of Jumanji, it is most definitely a sequel and there are two instances in the film where they prove that it is indeed so and not a remake (you can still consider it a very minor reboot considering it’s been over 20 years since the last one.) I knew it was a sequel going in. What I didn’t know was how much fun I was going to have with it. I came out of it really admiring and enjoying most of the film and while it doesn’t touch the brilliance of the original, the films fortunately is somewhat of its own animal and has just enough stamina to watch them both back to back for many years to come.

Also, did I mention this is Jack Black’s best role since School of Rock? He completely steals the movie, but we’ll get back to that in a bit. The movie starts with four wildly different classes of teenagers all sent to detention. When they are cleaning out a school storage room they find an old video game system with a Jumanji videogame cartridge stuck inside (don’t worry, they show how it transformed from a board game into a video game, the movie knows not to try and pull a fast one, although it can be argued that board games are now back in style). They each pick and avatar and get sucked into the game, where they are still themselves, only in their avatars body. The avatars look a lot like Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillen, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black. Together they must not only try to find a way out of the game, but play by the games rules and save Jumanji from a vicious overlord.

I’ll get more out of the way here, the story isn’t really too deep when it involves saving Jumanji, but then again, when you think back on it, did the original have much of a story other than making it to the end of the game? The first film relied on Robin Williams’ performance, the relationship between him and his own flame, and his relationship with the kids that helped him escape from the game in the first place, and a nasty ass hunter coming after him to kill him. This one is more about the relationships between the four kids that have drastically different social backgrounds and how they can overcome their differences and work together. All the while trying to reach the end of the game. While the movie adds in a baddie overlord played by Bobby Cannavale, that wants to rule the jungle in the form of a green crystal that has powers that needs to be restored to a lion’s eye carving at the top of the mountain…those two aspects are the stalest/weakest thing about the film. I didn’t care about the villain and he wasn’t that scary or vicious to me, and I certainly didn’t give two shits about the crystal.

The movie hinges on the relationship between the four kids/avatar’s, and that is what made the most enjoyable and outstanding. Again, as I’ve said before, it is the journey that matters here, not the ultimate end game. The chemistry between Johnson, Gillen, Hart, and Black is so fantastic here that I could’ve watched them in the jungle a lot longer than the hour and 50 minute runtime. Dwayne Johnson shows a little bit more range here than he does in his past several macho guy roles, Kevin Hart is actually tolerable in this film (and that’s praise considering I don’t like his comedy all that much), Karen Gillen proves that she is so much more than Nebula and Amy Pond, but it is Jack Black that steals the show.

See, two of the four kids that get sucked into the game are girls, and there are three boy avatars and one girl one. So the pretty popular girls becomes Jack Black, and although you could’ve gotten a lot of cheap laughs (don’t worry you still do) of Jack Black playing a woman, the way he does it and they way he looks really into it made the movie just a little more special than it should. Every time he came on screen and opened his mouth I just had a huge smile on my face and couldn’t wait to see what happened with him next.

The film also plays on videogame rules and tropes such as how many lives you get, strengths and weaknesses, objectives, tasks, so on and so forth, which were highly enjoyable to watch. While the action scenes aren’t phenomenal, it was nice to see that they actually filmed on location for a lot of the scenes rather than have everything and anything being shot green screen and inside a studio. Yes, there are a couple of awkward CGI moments, but they are few and far between, and considering what kind of film this is, it makes the CGI in Justice League look that much worse.

I had a lot of fun with Jumanji 2. It isn’t going to win any awards this holiday season, its a film where you are just meant to go in, shut your brain off, and have some fun. There is several different kinds of fun. There is, dumb fun, bad fun, smart fun, dumb bad fun, and dumb smart fun. I would definitely put this film in the latter. And while this is a PG-13 movie, I would say it is okay for the whole family, and I definitely recommend it to those cautioned people that hold the original too closely to their hearts to warrant even caring about this one. It is actually very good, and very fun, and that’s the most we should expect from movies like this. I can’t wait to visit this jungle again when it hits disc in a couple of months.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: DARKEST HOUR

Somebody just please hand Gary Oldman his Oscar right now. Because he has basically won it in his turn as Winston Churchill in DARKEST HOUR, one of the better political autobiographies we have seen in the last decade. What is really funny is that there was another movie earlier this year entitled Churchill that showed Brian Cox as the infamous Prime Minister, and it even dealt with some of the same moments as this film did, that film was ultimately inferior. Brian Cox was good, but not Gary Oldman good, and the film was kind of boring, while this one is perfectly paced considering its two hours, and the stylistic choices of director Joe Wright in how he wanted to tell this story makes for a more interesting dynamic than the other film did. Darkest Hour, while very very good, won’t be making my top 15 list this year, Gary Oldman definitely makes my top favorite performance of the year, easily.

Darkest Hour basically takes place during early World War II and the time where Neville Chamberlain resigns as Prime Minister due to the fact that his country doesn’t feel like he is doing anything to stop Hitler from invading all of Europe. They appoint Winston Churchill, who instead of peace talks with Hitler and Germany wants to use the full force of Britain’s army and completely take down Hitler’s reign despite incredible odds.. The other politicians favor the peace talks and have to constantly bite their tongue¬† more and more often the longer that Churchill is Prime Minister and acts on his conscience. Eventually that tongue biting stops and they have to get forceful with him and his views.

Like I said, Gary Oldman is incredible here. His make up does help (it’s the best age/appearance transformation make up I’ve seen since Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor) but it is his acting that is truly masterful. He has Churchill’s speech patterns down, his manurisms, he is completely transformed where you don’t see Gary Oldman at all during the 2 hours run time. Absolutely incredible. The acting on all sides is good too. Kirsten Scott Thomas as his wife, Ben Mendolsohn as King George VI and especially Lily James as his assistant Elizabeth Layton, all provide great supporting performances to give the film that added weight.

But also most importantly, it is a pretty dang good movie. A lot of political biographical films like this almost put me to sleep, but something about Joe Wright’s direction completely had my eyes do a 180. I was completely entertained and kept asking myself, “what happens next?” when the title cards of each day goes by. If you are looking for a war film, you’ve looked in the wrong place. There is basically no action in this film other than a couple of above air explosions and you see some aftermath of soldiers that have been injured in battle.

But this is Gary Oldman’s show, and he makes the movie completely watchable and entertaining with his performance. Gary Oldman is long overdue for his Oscar and unless he has some creepy sexual harassment shit in his past that is about to come to light,¬† the Oscar is his. Easily. I will be shocked if they don’t give it to him. This will only be his 2nd nomination overall, but it feels like he has already been in a Leonardo DiCaprio situation for all these years he has been in the business. I would recommend seeing this film for his performance alone, but if you are also into that history political autobiographical type stuff, this is right up your alley too.

Zach’s Zany Binge Watchin’ Reviews: Amazon’s THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL

With every man show, like the Punisher out there, I gotta keep my reviews in check, so it is only fair that I watch more of a woman’s show, that way there is a balance not only to what I watch, but the reviews my audience reads. Therefore, I decided to check out THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL on Amazon for several reasons. One: my wife was interested in watching the show. Two: I was interested because they people that wrote and directed all 8 of these episode happened to have created another favorite show of mine, Gilmore Girls (don’t judge, fuck you, it’s a good show). And three, the story intrigued me a lot. Needless to say, with all of these ingredients, I highly enjoyed and highly recommend The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as it is another Amazon series winner, and my favorite since Bosch.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is about a housewife (played to perfection by Rachel Brosnahan) whose husband leaves her for his secretary and so she decides to become and we see her progress into a masterful stand up comedian. Her husband was a stand up comedian and basically only leaves her when she figures out that he steals his act from Bob Newhart and when he tries to do his own stuff he is actually pretty terrible. She gets a manager in Susie Meyerson (played by Alex Borstein who gives the performance of her career) from a local place called The Gaslight after she just goes up to a mike there and starts ranting after her husband leaves (her husband did his stealing acts there). Then her story takes her to dealing with her parents in the midst of a possible divorce, her living situations, trying to find the right balance in her act, dealing with her kids time with her husband, and running into her husband when he is still seeing his secretary. All in the midst of trying to get into stand-up stardom. It’s a very meaty, fast paced, and wonderful 8 episodes.

Just like Gilmore Girls, the dialogue is quick witted, and very fast paced. And it feels real, which is the most important thing. I like how she just doesn’t get to stardom immediately either. Season 1 (I really hope there is a 2) takes its very sweet time, and you may be be surprised where she actually is by the end of the 8 episodes. The acting in this also takes the series to another level. Brosnahan and Borstein is what make this show so good. Their banters to each other and other people are memorable and will have you laughing harder than a lot of comedies that are on the air right now. Tony Shaloub also makes a nice turn as Maisel’s father. I was kind of getting sick of him as Monk and his turn here as a nervous over bearing Jewish father is quite unique and refreshing.

And the stand up acts here are the best. Brosnahan flows through them so naturally, you would think she is an actual stand up comedian and not just a terrific actress. The style,mood, and cinematography of the 50s time period this is in is right on point as well. If I had any complaints it is the fact that they really don’t focus on the relationship ship between her children and her that much and them being flung from parent to parent. Maybe that is a dynamic they could explore and beef up more in Season 2.

I called this a woman’s show earlier. It is and it isn’t. This show could be enjoyed by all sexes and any age from 16 and up. Especially if you like great acting and terrific dialogue. The fact that it is only 8 episode too makes everything very tight and everything flows perfectly structurally. I haven’t seen Transparent at all, but with this, Transparent, and Bosch, Amazon is become quite the contender when it comes to original television programming. This is a must watch if you have the time as well.