I Know You're Sick Of Hearing About Marvel, But I Need More Ant-Man.

By Zach Smith-Michaels

Before there was Is It Really, the only way I could get my opinion out was by reviewing films on Medium. I go to the movie theater at least once a week. No lie. I used to review everything that I saw, and very rarely did people read these reviews. The only articles that had any traction were my reviews for Marvel films. I’m not kidding. Maybe that’s why I write about Marvel so much on this web page, but today’s article is more than click bait. This one comes from the heart.

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I love Ant-Man. I’m aware that this is not the most popular opinion, but I absolutely love the Ant-Man films. They’re smaller in scale, funny, and in my opinion they contain emotion is more genuine than most Marvel films. When the first Ant-Man was theatrically released, people enjoyed it enough. When Ant-Man and the Wasp was released, the reception seemed to be a little more lukewarm. People didn’t hate it, but they felt that the film was a little light compared to Infinity War. Here’s my response to that criticism:

ISN’T THAT THE POINT?

Ant-Man and the Wasp might be my favorite Marvel movie. I love the characters, the family themes, the wacky science, the Ex-Con team, I even love how goofy Walton Goggins is. I thought that we’d see the end of Ant-Man’s story with Endgame, but Endgame made me want something that I wasn’t expecting: I want a third Ant-Man movie. There was no other character that I was more interested in. Why? I’ve made a list:

  1. Scott’s friends in Ex-Con. What if they didn’t “blip” away? What if (similar to Tony Stark) the blip took out a large number of their competitors, making their company very successful? How does a security company respond to an event like the blip? How is Scott dealing with not being the leader anymore? We may even get some interesting conflict within the Ex-Con team!

  2. Cassie’s mom and step dad. Where were they in all of this? Has Cassie been just living on her own? Has she been living with friends? I have so many questions!

  3. Did Woo (Randall Park) blip out? If so, what does he think of Scott being the guy who got the Avengers to save the world? That is such a fun story element to play with!

  4. How’s Janet van Dyne doing? How is she dealing with being out of the quantum realm? Does she like Scott? Maybe Scott and Hope are engaged, but Hank doesn’t quite approve. Maybe Janet loves Scott and she has playful conflict with Hank.

  5. Most importantly, how are Scott and Cassie? This is the most interesting part of the story. When Scott entered the quantum realm, Cassie was a child and now she’s almost an adult. What is the dynamic of that relationship? There are endless possibilities and I would love to see what happens.

Guys, I really love Ant-Man, and I want more. I feel like Endgame sets up a third Ant-Man to be the best Marvel movie ever. I don’t even think you’d need a villain! I really hope that Marvel can see the potential that is available, and they that utilize the opportunity.

It: Chapter 2 review

by Zach Smith-Michaels

I was never a fan of horror films growing up. Quite frankly, I didn’t understand why someone would want to go to the movies and be scared for an hour or two. That being said, I used to love roller coasters. I loved the thrill, the adrenaline, the terror, the...well...fun. As I’ve gotten older, I guess you could say that I’ve noticed a bit of a shift in my thrill seeking. Roller coasters are too much for me now as I get motion sick, and as a result no longer enjoy the thrill of riding. However, I now enjoy horror films...not every horror film, but a quite a few. Carrie, The Shining, and Evil Dead 2 rank among my favorites.

I was still pretty new to the horror genre when 2017 gave us It. I heard the announcements about the film and I was uninterested, but then I saw the trailer. This film looked big and cinematic. Then the reviews were in and people were saying that this film was an instant classic. I just had to see for myself. I walked into It expected the scariest movie ever, and that’s not what I got. What I saw was a coming of age story that wasn’t afraid to take it’s time. A film that was willing to slow down and take a deep breath before scaring the audience. I was expecting two hours of terror, instead I got a movie that the whole family can watch and enjoy. Family fun for everyone! Okay, clearly I’m joking. This is not a family film. Don’t say “Zach said my kids should watch this!“ I can’t believe it! I’m joking here.

So in 2017 when the credits rolled and I saw “IT Chapter One” I thought “Sign me up for round two!” It Chapter 2 couldn’t lose! People loved the first, and they wanted more. They announced the cast they dropped that trailer, and the general consensus was that this film was bound to be a grand slam! Was It Chapter 2 a grand slam? No. Was it a home run? Maybe. Should I stop making analogies about baseball and write my review? Probably.

It Chapter 2 has enough to enjoy. For one thing, this film has a stellar cast. Everyone is talking about Bill Hader’s excellent portrayal of Richie...and with good reason. He’s great! He brings the laughs, but he also brings the terror. I would go see this movie in theaters again just for his performance. I’m actually thinking about doing that. I’m not hearing a lot of people talk about McAvoy, but I thought that he gave a very well rounded performance. The best part of this movie is when you get the entire “Loser’s Club” together. This movie is almost unstoppable when you get this cast in the same room. I was really enjoying the first act of this film, but then the filmmakers made an interesting choice: They split everyone up. I’m sure this happens in the book, but I’m judging this as a film, and by the faithfulness of it’s adaptation.

When the Losers went their own ways this movie became quite stale, even though the horror was trying to ramp up. Speaking of, let’s talk about horror. When I left the theater, I thought “Man. That was a lot scarier than Chapter One.” After thinking about the scares, I realized something; I knew when every scare was coming. I kept holding my breath and anticipating the scares, and there are a lot of scares, but you can see all of them coming...because the film spends ten minutes with each individual Loser doing the EXACT SAME THING! Not ten minutes for all of them. Ten minutes PER LOSER! I would guess that this took up almost an hour! No spoilers, but we see each Loser go on their own journey, and the same thing happens to every single one of them! Beat for beat, the same formula each time, and it gets a little dry after a while! I’m not saying that this film didn’t scare me, but I called it every time during the second act. That being said, the first act had a truly terrifying scene in a Chinese restaurant, which is worth noting. 

This film found footing again in the third act. The third act was everything that I wanted the movie to be. Non-stop thrills, action, horror, crazy stuff, maybe one too many 80’s references, but still a great ride. I also like the message of this movie which is driven home in the third act. When you stop being afraid of it, (whatever that it in your life is) it can no longer torment you. That’s a powerful message, and one worth sharing in 2019. 

All of that being said, this film doesn’t quite stick the landing. This movie had a really solid ending, but then it went on for ten more minutes, and added nothing else. I also found the ending quite problematic which, if you see the movie, please send us a message because I would love to have a discussion about this. I’ll address this in a spoiler section below.

At the end of the day, if you like Chapter One, I think you’ll enjoy Chapter Two. IT: Chapter Two is well directed, filled with very good performances, and contains a good first and third act. I think that I enjoyed this film more than most, but I don’t think that this film will disappoint you too much. I doubt that anyone will like this more than the first, but that’s why we have discussions about film. I think that It: Chapter Two is pretty good. Not great, not awful, but pretty good. I encourage you to judge for yourself.


SPOILERS!!!

The ending of this film contains Stanley’s suicide note, but it was read as inspirational. I thought that this was a very poor decision. Stanley claims that he was too afraid to face his fears and so he took his life. I found this to be tragic in the context of the film, but when they read his suicide note at the end of the movie as the moral of the story...I don’t know. That really rubbed me the wrong way! I didn’t like that they chose to make Stanley’s final words before taking his life the uplifting message that everyone needed to hear. That really bothered me. Maybe you don’t agree, and that’s why I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


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Once Upon A Time...In The Mind Of Tarantino

by Zach Smith-Michaels

Quick story:

When I was a senior in high school, I realized that watching at least two movies a day was not the norm. I learned that I was, in fact, a film fanatic. Upon making this discovery, I began to seek out “the great” movies. At the top of most lists was Tarantino’s 1994 Cult-Classic “Pulp Fiction.” This movie really clicked with me. I loved the dialogue, the characters, the whole package. I began to recommend this film to my seventeen year old peers, and my mind was blown when one of them asked:
”What’s it about.”

I couldn’t believe it. My mind was blown. Did my new favorite movie not have a plot? Could I make movies based solely on sexy dialogue and cool characters? Well, I tried. I bought a camera, learned how to use windows movie maker, and started to create. Thank you, Tarantino.

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Tarantino’s most recent cinematic endeavor is confusing. More so, the reaction to the film is confusing. The highest praise seems to be that, “This doesn’t feel like a Tarantino film.” The accolade of a film feeling different from it’s similar body of work has always confused me. Let’s say you loved steak and went to your favorite restaurant once a year for your favorite sirloin. Now let’s say that the restaurant served you a burger instead. Would that be good? Would you consider that their best steak yet?

I guess that’s how Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” felt to me upon first watch. I quite enjoyed the film after a Sunday evening screening, but I knew that I had a lot to think about. After pondering the film for a few days, I think I figured this movie out. This may feel the least Tarantino-y of his filmography…but this film might actually be Tarantino.

And just a fair warning, this review will contain SPOILERS.

“Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” tells the story of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Dalton is a nearly washed up A-list actor, who is making his way to supporting roles on television Westerns. Booth is Dalton’s humble stunt double. Dalton’s impending fall from grace stresses him out terribly, while Booth is just happy feeding his dog, watching television, and driving around L.A. Meanwhile, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate buy the house next door to Dalton.

Early on in the film Dalton exclaims that if he can just meet his new neighbors, that his career will be saved. In the following scene Booth goes home to his trailer, watches television, and feeds his dog.

What I think we have here are two sides of Tarantino:

One is the celebrated director who wants people to love him, and the other is film admirer Quentin Tarantino.

I’d like to look at two aspects of Tarantino’s career: “The Hateful Eight” and his involvement with “Star Trek.”

After the release of “The Hateful Eight”, audiences enjoyed the movie enough, but across the board we kind of all agreed that the film was too Tarantino-y. The film was overly long, slow, very dialogue heavy, violent, and filled with racial epithets. You know, typical Tarantino…but a little too much for some loyal fans.

Cliff Booth is simple, but he also won’t back down from confrontation. Booth likes what he likes, and tries to enjoy those pleasures to the full extent. There is a scene where a member of the Manson family punctures a tire on Booth’s car, and Booth casually gives the man a severe beating. Have you ever seen Tarantino defend his use of violence or racial slurs in his movies? I think that Cliff Booth represents who Tarantino is at his core.

Rick Dalton wants everyone to love him. He struggles with his acting through a scene (whilst under the influence of alcohol) and returns a few days later, turning in what an 8 year old actress refers to as “the best acting she’s ever seen.”

Tarantino is rumored to write and direct the next “Star Trek” movie. “Star Trek” is a huge franchise with an adoring fan-base. Tarantino has only made one sequel, and that was “Kill Bill Vol. 2.” He was displeased with “Star Wars” shoving “The Hateful Eight” out of cinemas, and you won’t see his name in the credits of any Marvel movie. So why “Star Trek?”

In “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate are wildly popular, and Dalton is desperate to get on their radar. A pregnant Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski are housing guests (who we know end up being murdered by the Manson Family) and the film concludes with Dalton finally stepping into their home…seemingly stepping to his death. Or at least, that’s how I interpret the ending.

Does Tarantino want to be a member of “the club?” does he want that MCU level of popularity? Does he want to be a franchise hero? Does he want to step inside the house? Maybe, but he seems to know better. See, while Tarantino may act like Dalton, desire like Dalton, and maybe even hurt like Dalton…at the end of the day Tarantino is Cliff Booth. He likes what HE likes, and he likes himself enough to keep on doing what he does best: Whatever he wants.

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”-William Shakespeare.


Zach's Top Ten Movies of 2018

2019 in almost here! As you’re making your resolutions, and thinking about Avengers: Endgame, why don’t we take a look at some of my favorite films from last year!

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