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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS (no spoilers)

THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS starts out pretty hilariously but when the end credits hit, you realize that the entire product is like a puppet with no puppeteer: all felt and fluff, yet no soul. The only truly amazing thing in this film is the puppet work, which you get a peek of how they did certain scenes during the end credits (honestly I would’ve rather watched a 90 minute feature on some of the amazing puppet effects throughout history). During the first 15 minutes of the film, I was laughing my fucking ass off, wondering why the critics were being so cruel to this, but after the first little bit, I realized exactly what was happening. The laughs were substituted for a story that is so lame brain and dull I was wishing for the worst possible thing you could wish for out of a comedy, that they would toss the story out the window and just have the puppets to more crude and crass shit. Instead they tried to get a little too serious with a joke here or there, and everything just falls completely flat on its face. Meet The Feebles, this is not.

I just mentioned a film called Meet The Feebles. Unless you are a huge film geek, you probably don’t know that this isn’t the first raunchy film about puppets to ever hit the big screen. What is funny is that if you are a Lord of the Rings uber fan, then you might know what it is. Meet The Feebles is a 1989 crude as hell puppet flick co-written and directed by none other than Peter Jackson. Instead of checking out The Happytime Murders, see if you can find Feebles instead, I guarantee you are likely to have a better time. This movie has been in development hell as far back as 2008. If you look at some of the promotional material, you’ll see some really cool act that depicts a much more darker and interesting police noir type film. With a film being in production for the past 10 years, and the very cool promotional material for the film, why the hell didn’t we get something better and akin to a new puppet classic, but for adults?

I have a theory. For starters, they probably shouldn’t have hired a guy (Jim Henson’s son no less, Brian Henson) who hasn’t directed a God damn film since Muppet Treasure Island back in 1996. While he has actually proven himself with children puppet movies in the past, clearly this film was way out of his league. If he was going for a police noir type puppet crude and sexual humor comedy, the overall tone should’ve been much darker. Everything in this movie is too bright and cheery, including the cinematography. If you are going to make a R rated puppet flick, don’t direct it like you think children are going to see the movie. What they should’ve done is hire another director, and a different cinematographer, to help Brian Henson with the movie. Brian Henson could’ve been the sole person in charge of the puppetry, while the director got the tone and everything else right.

But like I said in the first paragraph, it is mainly the story that is extremely mediocre. It has a good set up, in a world where puppets and humans co-exist, someone is killing puppets that were on a popular show called The Happytime Gang, and no a disgraced puppet ex-cop and his old human partner, played by Melissa McCarthy, but now solve these murders before all the fluff hits the fan. The beginning is really good and funny, especially at the beginning where you have the first words out of a puppets mouth be “fuck you” and some hilarious hijinks in a puppet adult themed porn shop, but the rest of the film and the execution is sloppy and boring. I didn’t care who was murdering puppets or why. I didn’t even try to think hard to try and figure out the mystery, because I didn’t care, because the movie didn’t have me engaged enough.

The puppets are the stars of this film, and the guy that is the puppeteer and voices the main character, Bill Barretta, does a great job as Phil Phillips (no wonder though, he also does my favorite Muppet of all time, The Swedish Chef). There are too many other puppets to mention on here, and some of the jokes I consider spoilers, but just know that all the puppeteers do fantastic puppetry and voice work. The human characters are all blah. Melissa McCarthy does her same old blah schtik. Elizabeth Banks and Joel McHale look like they are just there for their blah paychecks. Completely blah human characters all around (Maya Rudolph is even wasted here). If you still really want to see this film (still see it, don’t let any of my reviews stop you from seeing what you want to see), the only way I can recommend it is for the hilarious first 15 minutes, a couple of jokes between that and the end, and the masterful puppet work (especially the end credits). This was extremely disappointing, and just makes me want to watch Meet The Feebles or Sausage Party again to brighten up my vulgar non-kids “kids” movie fix. I can also watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit to watch something that did both the noir feel and the masterful storytelling perfectly (that isn’t near as vulgar).

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE (NETFLIX) (no spoilers)

Netflix keeps spewing out these “original” movies week by week by week. I don’t have time to watch them all, so if I do watch it and review it for you here it is because of one of three things: 1. I happened upon the trailer and it peaked my interest, 2. Word of Mouth a week or two after its release, 3. Another Cloverfield Sequel. For TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, it is definitely reason #3. I’m kidding obviously, it is a combination of the first two. I’ve been hearing that girls love this movie to death the past week on Screen Rant and a bunch of other click bait websites, and that some males have even been into it too. So I went to trailer, was intrigued, and decided to watch. My verdict? Pretty damn good little Netflix original. And it all has to do with the believability of the dialogue, script in general, and all the actors and actresses involved, especially the lead played by Lana Condor (she played Jubilee in X-Men:Apolcolypse, but didn’t really have much to do).

Does it follow every single romantic comedy beat known to mankind? Absolutely. The movie has a classic rom-com set up (I know it is based on a trilogy of novels I just haven’t read it): Lara Jean, a 16 year old, who’s mom passed away when she was young, lives with her father and two sisters, the older which is about to go off to college. She is kind of a loner at school, but she has one best girl friend, she is good friends with her older sister’s boyfriend, and she has the classic “used to be best friend but lost her sometime after middle school because of popularity” rom com enemy. Anyway, she is really shy, and over the years have written (and addressed) 5 love notes to five guys she has fallen for her whole life, even though they all had no idea. The letters end up going missing from a box in her room, and suddenly the guys she wrote to in the past are confronting her about her letters. Who ended up sending the letters, but more importantly, what is going to come of all this, as Lara Jean’s life is suddenly upturned and she is the center of attention to everyone.

I’ve said this a million times in my reviews, I could go into more of the plot, like how one of the letters is to the most popular guy in school (and happens to be dating her rom com enemy) and another to her sister’s boyfriend, but the less I say the better. I have to admit, I should’ve seen the ultimate outcome of the story coming, but some aspects through me for a loop, and I know the reason why. I was basing my guesses on what would in the climax on the classic rom-com formula. The reason why the movie was so enjoyable is that it ended up not going down several of those paths and decided to take a more realistic approach to how this kind of situation would happen in real life. I kept guessing. And then I kept changing my guesses. I eventually got it, but by then the movie was almost over anyway, so it doesn’t really count.

The performances are wait makes the movie really, really stand out. John Corbett shows up as the lovable dad, Israel Broussard follows up his charming performance in Happy Death Day with another here, Noah Centineo from The Fosters plays a really down to Earth most popular guy in school performance, and Janel Parrish from Pretty Little Liars is good in her limited screen time as Lara’s sister. But it is Lana Condor, who plays Lara, the makes takes the movie to a more enjoyable and believable level. She hits just the right marks playing a girl that is on that borderline from being a loner and shy to starting to be the center of attention in everyone’s eyes. Her performance really brings out the character devlopment in Lana, and if played by any other actress, it could’ve completely felt two dimensional.

I could get into the whole SJW thing with the fact that all the studios that wanted this film only wanted it if the main character was changed to be white instead of Asian and all that sensitive mess, and that Netflix was the only studio that agreed to keep the ethnicity of the character the way it is, but I’m not going to get into it. The only thing I’ll say is that I believe that Netflix did the right thing of keeping the ethnicity the same and then casting Lana Condor in the role, because she is phenomenal. If this and Crazy Rich Asians shows America anything is that people are willing to seek out and give money to movies that aren’t whitewashed if they are great storytelling devices such as these two possess. If you haven’t already, go check out Crazy Rich Asians in theaters for a scrumptious cinematic meal, then go home and watch this for a very sweet and savory dessert.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MILE 22 (no spoilers)

MILE 22 could’ve been a pretty decent flick if it would’ve just slowed the fuck down and added about 20 minutes to its runtime. That way each camera shot/cut/edit what have you could’ve been more than the max of 3.5 seconds a piece (probably averages around 2 seconds for the whole film). This movie is basically 16 Blocks on cocaine. The film literally has no room to breath thus everything (story, action shots, characterization) suffers. The movie isn’t as bad as the critics are making it out to be, the film is watchable, and the first ten minute raid is actually pretty damn good, but the rest of the film seemed super rushed, as if they had a short window to shoot because everybody else was doing different things. This is definitely Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg’s worst collaboration yet, and after the poor box office results, maybe they should stick to what they are good at: adaptations of real life events instead of a jumbled up ass fictional script.

What is so frustrating about all of this is that all the ingredients were there to make a pretty good film, instead of a confusing okay one. Mark Wahlberg’s Silva character is very interesting but you only get to know about him through a quick introductory credits sequence, and the fact that he yells almost every single line while annoyingly pulling and slapping a rubber ban on his wrist to keep himself calm. Lauren Cohen’s character has a decent family (why in the fuck would you work for a cover ops branch of the government if you want to see your daughter) dynamic, but it too is rushed with a quick video call with the daughter and ex that lasts 20 seconds? The character that is explored the most in this is The Raid’s Iko Uwais, and even his dynamic of being a pretty bad ass martial artist is rushed with the camera never just settling on him so we can see those sweet fighting movies. His moves are cut off quicker than a Michael Bay or Paul Greengrass film. Peter Berg knows how to direct, especially with his last three collaborations with Wahlberg, so I don’t get the unnecessary shaky cam/quick cut stuff with this film. A director uses this method when they know that they aren’t a very good action director, and those cuts will make it seem like it is ‘bad ass fury fighting’ when in actuality if the camera stayed still it would look pretty tame and fake. It really doesn’t make sense with Iko Uwais fight scenes, because if you’ve seen The Raid, you know the guy is a bad ass martial artist. My thinking? The whole shoot was rushed and the editing person only had a few rough takes to edit together and not much to work with.

When I compared the movie to 16 Blocks, I wasn’t kidding. The story deals with this covert ops ghost government team led by Wahlberg and John Malkovich, and this man named Li Noor has some important information to give them that involved chemicals that can be used to build bombs that are worse than anything that has come before, including Hiroshima. He will give the government the information, as long as he is on a plane to the United States that is 22 miles away. Those 22 miles are supposed to seem like forever since they get bombarded with people trying to kill Noor. The movie has some good action beats, and the movie is a short 94 minutes, but it goes by way too fast and feels way too rushed. Also, the movie abruptly ends, and I get why it does (because they believe they were going to make a trilogy of films, this weekend box office says otherwise), but it still leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. The movie even has a interesting twist, that if explored more, could’ve been a nice treat instead of a shrug.

Anyway, this is a Netflix watch or Redbox rental at best. There are definitely worse films out there right now, like Mamma Mia 2 or The Spy Who Dumped me, but there are better ones, like Mission Impossible Fallout and BlacKkKlansman that deserve your box office bucks more. The film wasn’t terrible, it’s just frustratingly okay. I would like to try it out again if some extended cut with like 15 to 20 extra minutes were released, because it feels like an unfinished film. I want to blame director Peter Berg, but in the end, I always blame Hollywood, the production company, and the producers. They should always…ALWAYS…know better.

Diane’s Delightful Movie Reviews: CRAZY RICH ASIANS (no spoilers)

Like I’ve told you before, for all of you, my wife Diane likes doing a quick review of the movies that are geared more toward the opposite sex so that I don’t always rip my claws into them all the time. So I proudly present my wife’s review of CRAZY RICH ASIANS:

Crazy Rich Asians is crazy awesome! It’s a great romantic comedy the likes of which they do not make any more. Not since the days of Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey has there been a more classic romantic comedy. It covers all bases, from the silly best friend with good advice, to the ex- that wants to get back together, and the cliché wardrobe closet montage scene where the characters play dress up.

The guys are nice to look at. The performances are great. And the characters are relateable so that you root for them. The tone is lighthearted so it does not leave you emotionally drained. All around, it’s a good time that keeps your attention and make you want to watch it again and again and again.

ZACH’S TWO CENTS: Diane is right, this is a really good movie, and they really don’t make these old classic rom-coms like they use to anymore. Everything that we get now is all millenial-ized and too over the top with completely unbelievable situations, overacting performances, with bombastic climaxes. This movie keeps it very simple. Sure, it is a tried and true formula that has been done a thousand times before, but when the new formula is an unwanted pest that just won’t leave, sometimes something old is something new again. The set up is clear and cliche: a crazy rich Asian man that currently resides in New York takes his long time Asian girlfriend, a regular college theory professor, to Singapore because he is the best man at a friends wedding there and he wants her to meet his parents. Does he plan on popping the question afterwards? Does a bear shit in the woods? So yes, you’ve heard it all before, and that set up would be in both the old classic rom com formula and the newer one, but there is a huge difference. Here is an example: the new millenial-lized rom com would have the main character crashing into a cake, which crashes into two people holding an ice sculpture that crashes into the wedding DJ’s set, that crashes all over the food and completely ruins the in-laws outfits or something to that unrealistic nature. This movie? Nope, not that kind of scene here, in fact the girl, played to note perfection by Contance Wu, does almost all the right things, except for one little case of mistaken identity that lasts only 3 seconds and she spills wine on her boyfriends shirt at another point in the film. Everything that happens is completely predictable, only this time it is refreshing to not roll your eyes to the ridiculousness of it all. Think of classic rom-coms in the 80s and 90s. If you miss those and are sick of the new shit, Crazy Rich Asians is the cure.