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@zola (Blu-ray Review)

Perhaps because I’m a little older and not hip to everything, I had no idea about @zola until I returned to theaters after being fully vaccinated. Spiral: From The Book Of Saw was my first film back and it had a trailer attached to it that caught my attention and stuck in my brain plenty after. I’m pretty sure @zola didn’t play near me, but I really wanted to see it. So when a review copy was offered my way, I quickly snatched it up. The Twitter/Reddit thread turned motion picture was released on Blu-ray on September 14th. It includes a commentary as well as deleted scenes and a making-of featurette. The film can be yours to own by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review.

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Film

Zola, a Detroit waitress, is seduced into a weekend of stripping in Florida for some quick cash — but the trip becomes a sleepless 48-hour odyssey involving a nefarious friend, her pimp and her idiot boyfriend.

If you haven’t read the Tweeted/Reddited source material for which the film is based, I almost don’t want to tell you a single thing about @zola and only highly recommend you trust me and check it out. Truthful, exaggerated, embellished or whatever doesn’t really matter. These events and characters make for a really entertaining 87 minute film. And one of the films from 2021 that you’ll surely never be forgetting any time soon.

Director Janicza Bravo launches right out the gate with the film, showing a flourish of style, pop and mood. Her voice and aesthetic as matured and clear as day for you to plunge into this madness. There’s a crazy way in which this film feels quite grounded and down to the Earth as well. I’m assuming the film is naturally lit, while also having a handheld feel to things giving us a sense of sort of being in the room or watching someone’s actual account. These touches are not only impressive, but gives the film, characters and place even more a sense of identity.

Additionally, @zola has some wonderful, innovative editing, scoring and on screen graphics that push things cinematically to a different level. Its a film that successfully takes socially media influenced things and translates them into effective filmmaking. Its not just beyond the clever iPhone time and date stamps on the screen. There are looks, the way the actors behave and cuts that feel like they were grown out of Twitter or Instagram. There’s a nice groovy score here that almost feels out of time and place and could fit with a horror movie or an indie drama like this one. Editing proves another way of delivering identity as many a punchline or emotional effect gets delivered to you in how it can cut from one frame or scene to another.

 All of the performers in this thing are game as well. From some of the disturbing males in the film to our four leads. They are as real they are over the top. Genuine and characature. Its a fine line to balance, but they all commit, but into the material and manage to tow said line to where its just a well rounded person. Sure, there are scene stealers it would be easy to highlight around her, but Taylour Paige has to play it straight despite the insanity surrounding her and she absolutely crushes it to be an emotional center and inviting us as an audience in to experience it with her.

@zola is an incredible fresh, energetic and blast of a movie that I can’t wait for more and more people to experience. I would wager to say if you liked 2012’s Spring Breakers, then this should be an easy sell. Its also a quick movie and rather flies by really fast with such a good pacing and is a “glued to your seat” type watch. Janicza Bravo has landed a heck of a film here, and I am very excited to see what kind of stories she’ll be telling us in the future.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: @zola has a strong, distinct appearance thanks to it being shot on 16mm film. It was finished with a 2K digital intermediate. There’s a really strong sense of style and natural lighting in the film. There’s a solid layer of natural grain on display and it helps add to depth, texture and detail. Colors are pretty well saturated as are the blacks. This is quite a terrific image and keeps strong its film stock source.

Depth:  Solid depth of field work on display here as you get some good pushback. Back set perspective and some of the exteriors can supply a decent sense of scale. Movements are natural and smooth.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich. With the more natural lit shots, it can be a little more grainy. Minimal information is lost that maybe isn’t intended to be by nature of how it was filmed. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors give a pretty nice pop to them. Mainly clothing articles and make-up give a solid burst. Golds, purples, greens and blues are all strong. Signs, car lights, digital displays and onscreen graphics have a really nice glow to them.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are a hair washed out due to the stylistic filmmaking on display. Facial features and textures are decently discernible from any medium or close up shot.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: @zola rocks onto Blu-ray with a pretty awesome 5.1 track. This one has a good weave and wind of vocals, music and sound effects that all get their time to shine but never step on one another’s toes. The balance is done very well. Its an effective mix that constantly keeps you engaged and has you admirably feeling apart of every environment.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Some solid punch comes from the subwoofer with club music beats, engines roaring, guns firing or skirmishes that occur in the film.

Surround Sound Presentation: The mix is quite jovial in having all of its speakers present. They add club music, added interior or exterior atmosphere and help keep track of things going on offscreen when angles switch. Sound travel is pretty accurate and feels present when jumping from rear to front or vice versa.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear and crisp. Voice overs a well woven into the mix to wear it isn’t a jolted change when one swoops in for a read.

Extras

@zola comes with a redeemable digital code.

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Director Janicza Bravo and Editor Joi McMillon

Ya’ll Wanna Hear A Story: Making @zola (HD, 12:37) – While brief, this is a pretty informative little making of with director Janicza Bravo, the cast and the actual real life Zola herself.

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (HD, 5:37)

Summary

@zola was everything I had hoped it be and then some. Its a movie I’d argue that is in the “must see/don’t miss” category for 2021. Lionsgate brings it to Blu-ray with a pretty solid package given the kind of more indie production the film is. Some solid extras with a great presentation is really all one can ask for with non-tentpole movies these days. Super fans go for it day 1, but others I’d say pick it up on the sure to come solid deal that on it that could be around the corner.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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