Tag Archives: Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE HATE U GIVE (no spoilers)

Go see THE HATE U GIVE. It’s only in 37 theaters right now across the country (those of you that live near me its playing at Cinemark West Plano), it expands in two weeks wide, but I don’t care when you do, just see it. You want to know when you can tell a movie is really that good, that it hit everyone in the room emotionally and you can tell everyone thought it was something special. When you look to your left and your right, see some individuals that might interrupt your movie going experience by talking too much to their neighbor, the crackling of something brought from home, the light up of a screen for a text, but when the movie starts: dead fucking silence. No screen brought up, not even the sound of a pin dropping. And when the movie ends, applause and endless talking to each other afterwards. Even though I was by myself (the screening was sold out though), this was my experience watching The Hate U Give.

It’s a movie that while, yes, it is adapted from a YA novel, it is really something that anyone at any age can get into. I haven’t seen that many films this year that has done it, but this film perfectly balances all of its A plots, B plots, C plots, etc. evenly where they all culminate at the end organically. I cared about and emphathized with all of the protagonists and I like some of the twists they threw at some of the characters. I thought some of their actions down the line would stack up to cliches, and while one or two do, there are a couple of characters where I had no idea that they would travel down unique paths in their story.

Not to get too much into plot, but the movie is about a girl named Starr that while she lives in the bad part of town, her and her brother are sent to this predominately white prep school, because most of the kids that go to the regular high school don’t end up down a good path in life. She tells us and shows us that she has one life with her family and friends living in that bad neighborhood, and one at the school where she is actually dating a white student that really cares about her. Anyway, at this party, she meets up with a old friend from her childhood that she shares a deep tragedy with (and was her first crush). She goes down at the party and he offers to drive her home. A white police officer pulls them over, and the friend shows some resistance because he got pulled over for no reason, and when trying to impress Starr with his cool demeanor and making sure she’s ok, while he’s outside the car he is shot to death by the officer, thinking he had a weapon, but just shooting first before even saying anything. Anyway, he dies and the town goes into an uproar, as not only that Starr has to deal with her inner turmoil after the event, but new racial tensions that stretch from her neighborhood to the school. She also has to decide whether she wants to reveal herself as the witness and testify to try and get the officer indicted with a grand jury, but to do that, she might have to reveal that her friend was a drug dealer for a local gang, that used to have close ties to her father.

Sounds really interesting right? It is. It really is. Every minute of this film captivated me on screen. The film is 2 hours and 12 minutes long, but only feels like it is 90 minutes. During the movie I was looking for places that the movie could trim, but I couldn’t find any. The movie EARNS its very, very important message. It doesn’t tell you what the message is and then tries to knock it into your brain over and over again. It shows and presents that message, and then carefully peels layer after layer, viewing all aspects of racial tension and how maybe as a country we can get better. And before you go all gung ho on the movie and say the movie doesn’t bring up how hard a cops job is and what it entails to read a situation, don’t worry, the movie gets into that too with a great dialogue between Starr and her cop uncle that is played by Common.

Starr is played by Amandla Stenberg, who you will primarily know her from playing Rue in the original Hunger Games. She was also in last year’s ok EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, and for some reason decided to do that mutant YA disaster THE DARKEST MINDS that went quickly in and out of theaters two months ago. Well here, she is masterful. If I had my way, she would be a shoo in for a nomination come Oscar season. Unfortunately the Oscars are mostly blind to movies and performances like these, it’s a shame, but maybe this film will have legs and the Academy will have no choice other than to take a look. I haven’t read the book, but I would also give a nomination to screenwriter Audrey Wells, who tragically just died Thursday, a day before the movie came out limited. The dialogue is fantastic, the characterization is perfect, and I’m sure if I read the screenplay page by page, it would be tighter than (insert someone’s asshole here joke).

I loved the little things the film did to subert my expectations. I could’ve sworn that the white boyfriend was going to be the one to turn out to be racist or something or be completely ignorant to racial tension, but no, this kid was actually smart, kind, and willing to do anything for Starr, I was really impressed. The racial ignorance went to another character that I sort of saw coming. I know Anthony Mackie is in this, but his role is kind of limited to playing the kingpin drug dealer, and he only has a few scenes, but those moments reminded me of the supporting actor nomination he should’ve gotten for The Hurt Locker so long ago. Props should be given to Russell Hornsby, who plays Starr’s dad. His moments are tear inducingly great, and he gave the film even more of a truer heart than it already had.

So why are all of you on Facebook falsely singing A Star Is Born’s praises? Yes, it is still a good film, but you all are acting like it is the Titanic of 2018. No, A Star Is Born is not that original, this is the third remake for fuck’s sake!! Instead, get your ignorant movie watching ass out to see The Hate U Give whenever it comes to a theater near you. It is deservedly one of the year’s best films.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: VENOM (no spoilers)

My review is going to make no difference to you even if you are on the fence about seeing VENOM. Either you see every comic book movie eventually or you don’t. It’s that simple. You have also probably already seen much of the critic analysis on this film saying that it is a giant mess but some have been giving it the minor benefit of the doubt only if you turn off your brain and admire Tom Hardy’s performance. So, being that I see a shit ton of movies, and I usually tend to go with most critics (although there is a time or two where I completely disagree with them), where do you think I end up on the movie review spectrum?

Venom is a mess. But it isn’t as bad as some critics are saying it is. It is a B-movie that should’ve been released in the mid-2000s (think Jessica Alba Fantastic Four or PG-13 Ben Affleck Daredevil) and might’ve been even considered great back in 1994 if it were released a couple of weeks before or after The Mask (I don’t know why that movie comes to mind, maybe the split personality and tonal similarities). It isn’t as bad as say the new Miles Teller Fantastic Four movie and it is certainly better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And yes, it is a much better Venom than Topher fucking Grace gave us back in Spider-Man 3.

But why is Venom a mess? People are complaining that the first half of the film is too slow, and when Venom merges with Eddie Brock, it finally gets things going and doesn’t slow down until the end credits. I’m going to have to strongly disagree. I think the first half of the film is the better half, where the movie gives plenty of time to have Tom Hardy actually make Eddie Brock an interesting character. And it does. I wouldn’t consider it slow at all, especially when Tom Hardy’s performance is so great. He is the best Eddie Brock so far and after this film I couldn’t really seeing anyone else doing a superior job. Tom Hardy is the only reason this film isn’t a giant rushed turd that is rolling way too fast in the wind. He makes Eddie a delight to watch and even though the second half is rushed to the point of a headache, when the movie gets that millisecond to breathe, Tom Hardy brings a bright spot into the rushed mess.

While the film gives time to Tom Hardy to make Brock an actual character, it sacrifices everything else, including Michelle Williams in a completely wasted role, Riz Ahmed’s weird subdued bad guy performance, and not making Venom himself enough of a character. One point in the movie Venom just seems to change his mind about something within the drop of the hat, and the movie doesn’t give the character enough screen time by that point for that decision to really make an emotional impact toward me or any other movie going audience.

And the CGI, oh my God, some of it is really laughable. Every single action sequence in the entire second half of the film has really bad choppy editing and it tries to use really distracting CGI to cover it up. The most memorable action sequence is definitely Tom Hardy driving away from the bad guys on the motor cycle, but even at times you can tell it is the stunt double and they try to do shaky CGI on the other side of the screen to distract you. The final battle is a giant WTF am I watching mess of bad editing and CGI bukake where at points I couldn’t even tell what the fuck was going on.

But…I would like to see a sequel, especially if the filmmakers can take their time and make a much better film using the mid-credits scene with a surprising cameo by a pretty big A-B list actor. Especially if they really are going to go with THAT villain this time around. But bring Tom Hardy back, or your movie is completely going to suck. Here’s the thing? Would an R rating have made a difference in this? Probably not. You still would have the exact same script but with just more CGI blood and guts that probably look as bad some of the rest of the effects in the film. If they would’ve completely overhauled the script, started from scratch with more focus on making it super dark comic book horror, they might’ve had something. But Sony probably said no, try to make something enjoyable and that we can share with Disney if our studio is really going down the shitter.

At least Tom Hardy looked like he wanted to be there, and wanted to do something fun instead of trying to win some kind of award. And the movie is watchable, if you turn off your brain, just go with the flow, and admire the brilliance of Hardy. If you are looking for more in your Venom comic book film, you are going to walk out really, really disappointed. But hey, this movie made $80 million domestically and broke October records not just here in the U.S. but internationally too, so what do I know? So instead of saying this is bad, or it’s so bad it’s good, or this sucks, I’m just going to say, it’s okay, it’s meh, it’s eh, or just give you a simple shrug. To each his own, Eddie.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: A STAR IS BORN (no spoilers)

Say you have a movie you hold dear to your heart, and older movie…maybe not so much older…and you find out that they are remaking it. How does that make you feel? Now how does it make you feel if I told you that movie was going to be remade 3 more times, and you would more than likely live to see all three of those? While I don’t hold any version of A STAR IS BORN dear to my heart, the thought of a movie being remade for the 3rd time, and I’ve seen all three iterations before going into this new one, you can maybe have an inkling of what I was feeling. Basically, I was not looking forward to the story, yet again, but I was looking forward to the performances and mainly the music, because I heard it was sung and recorded live. I do think that this version of A Star Is Born is the most watchable and enjoyable with the Judy Garland version being a very close second, however I am not screaming from the hilltops for this movie to get nominated and win every single award from every single award ceremony that recognizes it so. I think it is a solid, good first time directorial debut from Bradley Cooper, with plenty of room for improvement. Think of Ben Affleck and Gone Baby Gone and you might see what I am talking about. Or Clint Eastwood and Play Misty For Me.

The story is simple, a really famous musician stumbles into a drag singing bar drunk on the way home from a concert on his tour, and he meets and falls hard for the one woman that the drag queens let sing because she has a beautiful voice and a sparkling personality. He takes her on some of his gigs and lets her sing and suddenly, she gets famous. As she gets famous, his alcohol an drug addiction gets the better of him and his career starts to plummet, and since he is with her, starts to be an inconvenience for hers too. Can they stay together with both of them being famous? Well, that questions is obviously answered in each of the four A Star Is Born, and basically each answer is the same, albeit tweaked one way or another. The first A Star is Born back in 1937 deals primarily with the acting organization, the 1954 Judy Garland version still deals with acting and movies but she is an aspiring singer in the movie as well. The God awful third movie with Barbara Streisand deals only with musicians, and then this one does too, although this one is more modern, showing how fame can really really really make or break you, when we live in a time where social media and fast spreading news rules all. And that’s one of the problems I had with this movie. At the beginning, Bradley Cooper has a couple of scenes that deal with his character’s fame and people snapping pics without his permission, trying to force him to take selfies, etc. and I really liked what he was trying to say. However, those examples in the second half of the film are few and far between, mainly glossed over, with not enough emphasis on social media showing his career’s downward spiral. With some of the things that happen, it is shocking he didn’t completely go with what he brought the audience before. He could’ve made an even bigger statement.

If you’ve seen any iteration of A Star Is Born, it has most of the same beats as the original, just tweaked here and there. If you know the ending to any of them, you know the ending to this one as well, although it is changed up just a little bit too. And that is the second problem I had with the movie. I wish I had never seen any other iteration of A Star Is Born, because I think going into this fresh, everything would’ve had more of an impact. With everything that does happen in this, I didn’t have a lump in my throat, or was really shocked with what happened with any of the characters. I sort of just, pointed at the screen and was like “yep, there it is.” Which, don’t you think any filmmaker in his right mind, with remaking a film that has been done three other times, maybe try and pull something off drastically different. To me this movie seemed a little too safe for Cooper to make his directorial debut in. Ben Affleck went all out where his first film was just based off a book and he had no previous iterations of that movie to go on. His directorial debut seemed a lot more original. Did we really need another remake of this film? If he would’ve done something completely drastically different with the story and stayed with the social media fame aspect, I think it could’ve warranted another remake, but instead this movie goes through all the same motions, and all the same beats, with just different dialogue, actors, and some scenes in between. Also, and I am just nitpicking at this point, Bradley Cooper does this one glaring foreshadowing shot in the movie that is wayyyy too in your face. It’s a foreshadowing shot of the ending, and it is with him and Lady Gaga in the car near the beginning of the movie. If you know what happens in the movie and know all the other films ending, this shot gives too much away, and I thought it could’ve been cut or done differently. But like I said, that is just me being a brat and a minor nitpick.

I recommended the movie didn’t I? In the first paragraph? Yes, and I’m sorry it sounds like I’m completely trashing this film. It is probably what I like to call the ‘Frozen” effect, where I hear a movie is getting so much praise and power before I see it and am a little disappointed in what I watch. So let’s get to the really good stuff in this movie and why it is worth watching: the music. The original songs, who knows who wrote them, probably both Cooper and Gaga, are amazing. And the fact that they were sung live and included those takes plus audio into the final cut makes it that much more beautiful. I could seriously never watch this movie again, but own the soundtrack and listen to it until my earbuds pop out of my skull. If ‘Shallow’ doesn’t win best song at the Academy Awards, something is seriously wrong with voters. In fact, most of these songs could get nominated and in the end, A Star Is Born could only be competing with itself come award season in that category, and Cooper and Gaga could be winning an Oscar no matter what. And Cooper does a nice job directing, he doesn’t just point and shoot, the concert scenes up on stage have a lavish quality to them where it feels like you are standing on stage with him, his band, and Gaga. Also, he knows how to shoot performances. It’s a great debut, and he can only improve from here. And to say that he can direct performances well is an understatement, because everybody’s acting in this is grand, including his own. Lady Gaga is great here too (especially since we know we can actual sing and doesn’t ever need auto tune). Now while I don’t think it is necessarily Oscar worthy, I think it is a great start, and she could improve in the future to actually win an Oscar in a different role (I actually think Cooper is the better actor here of the two and acts circles around her in some scenes). I actually like the supporting performances better, especially from Sam Elliot (who plays Cooper’s brother and manager), Dave Chappelle (who plays Cooper’s friend and hints that he was a bit famous but gave it up for family), and Andrew Dice Clay (who plays Gaga’s father). There is this one scene with Elliot and Cooper near the end of the film which ALMOST brought a lump to my throat, and any scene with him and Chappelle was nice and fresh and different.

Anyway, the point is, if you haven’t seen any version and want to this this new A Star Is Born, I absolutely recommend it. You will love it and will probably walk out of the theater in tears, talking about how much you loved it and want to own it when it comes out, the ultimate romantic drama musical (people are calling it a musical, it really isn’t, just a lot of songs inbetween actually characterization, but whatever) for you. You will own the soundtrack and listen to all the songs a million, gazillion times. Walk into this as fresh as possible. If you are like me, obsessed with movies, have seen any of the iterations, if not all of them, or know the entire story, you might find yourself a little disappointed that couldn’t do anything different with the story, but you sure as hell will love the live music. I think all this giant Oscar talk on this film is a little premature and over amplified, I think the only nominations it deserves is for any of the songs, but it is a solid remake, and considering all the remakes we get that are ultimate trash these days, why don’t we just accept the good ones we are given. One last thing, props to Bradley Cooper for giving his own props to his ‘Alias’ television show roots with two little cameos. Made me smile.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HELL FEST (major spoilers)

When walking through one of those Six Flags Fright Fest Haunted Houses/Mazes looks better and is scarier than the shit show that is HELL FEST, you know your film has a problem. Hell Fest is a giant step backward in the slasher genre, which honestly could be redeemed and saved in a couple of weeks when the “true sequel” to the original Halloween comes out. This is direct to video schlock at best. How it even managed to get a theatrical release I will never know. Now to be fair, the movie does three things right, but it does about a thousand wrong. And in order to explain why this movie doesn’t work, I have no choice other than to spoil basically the entire movie. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, just know that this slasher movie sucks, isn’t scary, the production design is awful, the kills are not that interesting, there is absolutely no character development, it is mostly bloodless, and the blood we do get is CGI splotches. If I had went to that traveling horror maze road show in real life, I would’ve asked for my money back.

***major spoilers from here on***

Okay, let’s dive in. I want to first start out by describing what the 3 things the film does right:
1. The movie isn’t a mystery who dun it. Don’t start suspecting any of the friends, because it reveals very early that this guy is just a murdering wanderer. We never see the killer’s face throughout the whole film. He is an unknown deadly faceless psychopath, and that makes him more menacing in scarier. Even though his mask looks like the mask from Scream, and Michael Myer’s mask from Halloween, fucked, had a baby, and then that baby was set on fire, I loved that they never reveal who exactly he is, even though they give you a tiny little hint at the end of the movie that made him even scarier.
2. The first death of our core friend group was actually a bit surprising. Once all the friends get together in the film, I had it picked out in my mind which would go first and then so on. Surely the female leads possible love interest would survive the film or up until the very very end trying to save her? Nope, he is the first one offed with a giant hammer you use on those strength test games. At that point I was starting to get into the movie, but then unfortunately my list went back in order, the killer ends up just killing two of the friends in a matter of seconds with knife blows with CGI blood and then the third and the first person end up surviving, when I had predicted all three would. Man, if the film would’ve subverted expectations and really fucked up that order, that would’ve been a lot of fun, instead it shocks you, but then seems satisfied and it is business as normal.
3. The guillotine scene. If you’ve seen the trailers you know that Bex Taylor-Klaus looks like she is going to be killed where she is set to get her head chopped off by a guillotine. The scene goes the way you think it will, but then it doesn’t (basically, it is confirmed to be a fake out with a fake head, part of the show, the curtains are closed, they are alone, the killer actually tried to chop her head off, but the blade isn’t sharp enough, so it hardly goes through , but she manages to escape). I thought that subverting of expectations was good, but then the killer kills her and another part of the group in a matter of seconds about 30 seconds later, so everything goes to shit.

See how all three praises are basically back handed compliments? That’s basically what the movie did the entire time, it set you up thinking it was going to be a smarter film than it actually should be, but then kick you in the balls, says fuck you, and does the cliche anyway. The climax is basically just a chase scene through a maze (called Hell, pffft) that is supposed to be one of the scariest walking haunted houses/mazes in the entire country but is actually the dullest thing I’ve ever seen. Six Flags always does it better. There is no tension, and every cliche imaginable is thrown at you. There is a couple of instances where the movie is extremely utterly unbelievably ridiculous. After the main girl’s love interest is killed, the killer takes his phone and is posing as him for a bit. She is texting him in the bathroom (after he hasn’t been seen by them for an unbelievably laughable period of time), and then his phone of course pings in the bathroom and the killer starts attacking her. She tries to call for help immediately but the phone says her call to 911 failed and no signal. Really? After she was just texting her love interest with no problem two seconds earlier? Fucking please.

Also, this whole maze is supposed to look and feel real, even though there aren’t really supposed to be major weapons that can hurt or kill people in the park. The guillotine blade would’ve been completely fake in a real park and the fact that it is real, but just dull and only cuts through a little bit of Bex Taylor-Klaus next was unbelievably unrealistic, it would’ve just bounced off. In the climatic scene, the main girl and her main girl best friend are searching for weapons in the maze but can’t find really anything to slash or stab the killer with, but the killer managers to pull a real sharp ax out of one the dummies in the maze…fucking PLEASE. Oh, and at one point in the movie they are taking shots with those you know drink shot things that look like syringes, but the killer manager to find a real syringe with a really sharp needle just lying somewhere behind the scenes. Yeah…RIGHT. I forgot to mention the girls do manage to find like a big fake bone and a long torch thing, and hit the killer with it. In a real thing like that, those most likely would’ve been foam and fake. Trust me, I know, I’ve been to these things earlier and my life and everything is fake so you don’t get hurt. The movie took wayyyy too many liberties.

The movie hangs on the premise that it would be easier to randomly kill people in a place like this and people would just think it is part of the show, but the movie doesn’t really execute or rather say go with that premise very well. The film only a couple of times kills somebody right in front of somebody or leaves a body on a stack of dead bodies, but the movie doesn’t hone in on where it should. If it would’ve had more focus, it could’ve been a lot more clever. The movie makes the fatal mistake of trying to scare you on the screen by a third of the time just watching these characters go through these mazes and they themselves being scared by carnival cheap ass jump scares. Yeah, that doesn’t work. Everything in it looks like the cheapest ass traveling horror road show I have ever seen. Again, this movie should never have been released into theaters. I’m quite curious to watch this other movie called Blood Fest that was released into theater for a day, and then is available to rent or buy like several weeks after ward. It kind of deals with the whole festival thing too, but it got better reviews, and I’m curious to see if the execution is better. But hey you know what? Since the film paused several times in the climax because of technical difficulties, this movie ended up being free anyway. So there’s that…