Movie Reviews: Lady Bird was so _______



I appreciate indie film. For the most apart, it is only through this medium that you can watch art imitating life. There are no super powers. Space Aliens are not getting revenge on Earth. There are no stunts from tough guys that would kill an ordinary human being. Robots from another planet are not randomly picking Earth as a battleground.

I’ve been a fan of the indie scene sine the mid 1990s, when I was an early teen. I watched all sort of indie movies, clever and shitty. I’ve endured pretentiousness up the wazoo and witnessed work that predicted masterpieces to come. When I first saw Memento, I was like “Wow. Just wait until this Christopher Nolan guy gets a budget.”

When I watched Lady Bird, it couldn’t have been more boring to me. It began with a jump outside a moving vehicle, which made me go “okay, maybe we got a story here.” But what follows is basically ordinary coming of age life tale. The music was so off-2002 that it could have been a story for anyone from 1996 to 2004. The Catholic school setting didn’t matter whatsoever, because much of it was a basic rich vs poor plot, a story told for thousands of years, with much of the time spent on drama club.

We watch Lady Bird, a neurotic teen with wit far beyond her age, navigate the waters of her senior year in a town she doesn’t like while pursuing (shocking) boys.

I was incredibly bored throughout. I related to the poverty and needing a plan to get the hell out of town (who doesn’t) but everything else I’ve seen before over and over and over again. Boys and sex and college admissions. An ending ripped from Paper towns.

There seems to be an Oscar tradition of so many films getting nominated now that there is an indie quota of movies artists want to make more of and movies the general public will never see. Last year, Moonlight is a prime example. It might be a fine film, but it is probably one of the least relatable films I could choose to watch, so I don’t.

With Lady Bird, make your choice. It isn’t for everyone, and you’ve seen the movie before under different packaging.

Movie Rating: 5/10 Waitlisted Schools

Movie Reviews: Valerian


One of my favorite movies when I was in High School was The Fifth Element. Luc Besson directed a far fetched movie of the future with a distinct sense of over-the-top style and visuals where a love story was front and center. Valerian was supposed to be the spiritual follow up. The visuals were certainly there. The love story was there. The costumes looked pretty similar.

But something was missing.

I don’t know. Valerian was based on source material, but the Sci-Fi mystical mystery simply lacked charisma, weight, and a counterbalance. Simply put, it doesn’t have a crusty Bruce Willis, known for his trope roles, playing things over-the-top. It didn’t have Chris Tucker playing the second greatest role of his career. It doesn’t have Mila Jovovich with her orange hair and non-sensical dialect and, lets face it, over-the-top hotness to propel the film. In High School, I wanted to marry the girl in orange hair. That is the type of personality I had. I was so introverted and too stuck in friend-zones that Mila was the most fascinating woman I’d ever seen. I was entranced. In fact, I saw The Fifth Element twice. For a broke kid, this rarely happened. On top of this, I think The Matrix, The Phantom Menace, and *Titanic were the only movies I saw twice in the theater.

*for various reasons 

Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan certainly do their best. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in the spiritual follow up to The Fifth Element? And to be frank, despite a nonsensical and uninspiring CGI opening, which made be bored and disconnected, Cara and Dane’s opening scene was actually pretty great. I dug the whole thing. The playful back and forth. The teasing and flirting while responding to the mission on hand while getting through backstory exposition as they interacted with the set and post-production CGI that needed to happen. This is complicated stuff, and the opening scene between them needed to establish the stakes. I dug it. I liked it.

But then we got back to the plot. The non-sense that nobody cared about. The gimmicks few understood or cared to understand. The mystery that nobody wanted to see. The species nobody wanted to save. The betrayal (and wasted Clive Owen role) that everyone saw coming but nobody cared because the costume was so laughably bad, it was hard to take seriously. At least Gary Oldman had a metal head, cool gun, weird creature beneath desk, and was over-the-top crazy. Clive Owen is just boring … like the entire movie.

Even really inventive speed chases with really cool visuals really don’t mean much. All I really wanted to see was Cara and Dane get together again. It’s not that I’m a damn sap for a love story (Note: Titanic was watched for various reasons, not related to the doomed romance between Leo and Kate, from two classes of society, two countries, and a doomed fate against a bittersweet James Horner soundtrack)

It really was the only interesting thing about the film. They were not as dull as other reviewers allude to. I would have rather watched them do a normal mission together. If an asteroid or say … iceberg hit their spaceship on the way, it would have made more sense than whatever the plot of Valerian was.

Movie Rating: 4/10 space station capsules

Special Guest: Sarah “Tin Foil” Zant (Went on 2.5 dates in 2004, so not quite a ex-girlfriend, but she still texts me twice a week, in fact, for 10 years I thought her last name was Zon, which really was the only reason I said yes to her as she rang me up at Blockbuster video because anyone with Zon as their surname was automatically destined to be a mastermind of some sort)

Did you know Cara and Dane are actually delivering an Oscar worthy performance? Few know the true backstory, but Cara actually began researching for this role when she played Margo in Paper Towns. Luc Besson had already secretly sent her a red envelope with an invitation to star in Valerian. You see, Margo is actually Sgt. Laureline. Hold on … take some deep breaths. If you watch carefully, there  is a clear reason why the movie begins during the same time as Paper Towns. She was specially selected and pulled forward in space time to save the future. Margo was always a flirty, mysterious wanderer and there is no better job for that in the galaxy than the special police division. This is why she had to ditch High School and leave town. It was time for her time teleportation. In Paper Towns, Nate Wolff plays Quentin Jacobsen, also a boy with zero personality and appears to lack acting skills. People immediately confuse Dane DeHaan’s performance as also lacking all characteristics of quality acting, except, when you carefully consider Dane is merely replicating what Margo would want subconciously, the boy across the street who she left hanging with shitty clues, you understand the mastery at work. This is a subtle and thoughtful performance. There is deep psychology against the impact of space-time we are working with. If you watch the moment, scene, and style in which the final proposal happens, and you actually put together the clues, you’ll get it and you might shit your pants. Only charlatans would think Valerian is a spiritual sequel to The Fifth Element when its actually a sequel to Paper Towns, but Luc Besson isn’t going to dumb it down for everyone. He wants his masterwork to be watched in the year 3001. 

The Zant Rating from The Zant Files: 100/100, simply a masterpiece

Movie Reviews: Mad Max Fury Road


Mad Max Fury Road directed by George Miller

When I first heard that they were making a new Mad Max film, I honestly rolled my eyes. Hollywood is obsessed with sequels and franchise reboots and reimaginings of old stories and the first thought that came to mind was that the only way I would be interested is if they stayed true to the old movies and brought back Mel Gibson. Yes, I know what you are thinking, but come on, let’s move on. They are actors and I can separate a role and a personal life. What I wanted was something after Beyond Thunderdome because that was the movie I liked growing up.

Then I heard Mel Gibson wasn’t going to be in it. What?

I didn’t know what to expect, but part of me was a bit childish in protest. Recasting an iconic movie character from my childhood should be second nature these days, but I dismissed George Miller and his vision in protest.

Then I heard Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy were starring. Hmm … okay, this was interesting.

Then I caught the trailer for it … and it took 30 minutes to pick my jaw up from the floor. Holy damn shit. I was back on the George Miller bandwagon. The uncompromising art. The vision. The practical effects. He was going to blow away one of the greatest live action car chases ever done in the original Mad Max.

I was excited and pumped.

When I finally saw it, the first 30 minutes blew me away. This was a director who had enough creative control to make whatever he wanted. Fast forward shots. No narration or dumb-ass prologue. Keep the audience as confused as Tom Hardy was. Make the villain one ugly ass motherfucker with henchman looking weird as fuck. Then give him a harem of beautiful women and imagine what the hell he was doing. Demographics be damned, George Miller showed us what good storytelling is. Movies are a cross between stunning visuals movements, special effects, sound, scores, acting, costume design, cinematography, and writing. Could you imagine the storyboards for this movie?

George Miller looking over to his set designer, “Yeah mate, I’m gonna need you to make an air guitar flamethrower.”

Set Designer slowly raises his eyes, “Say what George?”

George wiggles his round spectacles and smiles. “And I need a red onesie and solid straps to mount Coma the Doof Warrior on the hood, since the vehicle will be moving, of course.”

Thank you to the studios that financed the film. Thank you to the actors for starring in it and putting up with what must have been a difficult shoot. (Lots of fighting on set in the desert between actors and the director) Thank you or Charlize Theron for shaving your head and showing what a strong woman can do on screen. This is a strong role. Not Sandra Bullock in The Blindside, not Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, and not Brie Larson in Room. Charlize Theron should have won another Oscar. She owned this role. Furiosa is iconic and will be remembered in 20 years while nobody will remember any of the weak roles women get nominated for.

Do you want to know how to empower women in film? When there is a big box office film directed by a legend, and the woman is the moral ground and action hero, constantly tries to sacrifice herself saving other women, and wins the day and the movie audience supports it by buying a shit ton of tickets, then nominate her for an Academy Award, because she did the impossible. It’ll help other actresses demand similar roles and producers wanting to greenlight real empowering films for women.

Movie Rating: 10/10 Sexy Women locked up in a chamber