[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 10 – Zombieland (2009)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

88 mins. Rated R.

 

It’s been a bit since I’ve watched Zombieland. I was utterly addicted to it back in 2009, but it’s been a long time. It’s been ten years since it released, so it is time to officially talk about the film that was envisioned as a TV show, then reworked into a film that was adapted into an Amazon pilot before eventually getting a sequel. Did you follow all that?

It’s been some time since the world ended, and zombies have overtaken the landscape. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, The Art of Self-Defense) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, The Highwaymen, TV’s True Detective) have formed a shaky truce and teamed up to pursue their goals, and along the way, they befriend two young women who go by Wichita (Emma Stone, La La Land, The Croods) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine, Freak Show). Together, four of the last humans in America make an effort to get to Pacific Playland, a famous theme park that Little Rock has always wanted to see. It’s just another day in Zombieland.

Zombieland fires on all cylinders. Every element of this film works exactly as is intended. The cast is absolutely incredible. There’s a reason all four leads have been nominated for Academy Awards (Stone going as far as to win as well). Woody Harrelson finds that perfect balance of dickery and sweetness. Jesse Eisenberg could very easily become boring, but he tows the line just right. Emma Stone displays a subtlety in her distrust of the others and her love for Little Rock with such ease. Even Abigail Breslin, who has to shoulder the responsibility of being a kid growing up in a zombie wasteland. The secondary cast is terrific in what they need to accomplish.

The screenplay is smartly-written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) and features solid world-building, very funny dialogue, and an elegant mix of horror in suspense in all the right doses. Their collaboration with Ruben Fleischer (Venom, Gangster Squad) creates a unique, authentic, and fun reinvention of the living dead mythos.

If there’s a flaw to Zombieland, it’s maybe that the film hasn’t aged perfectly, and it’s the realization that we should’ve gotten a sequel sooner. This is a tightly-constructed narrative, coming in under 90 minutes but bursting with flavor. If you missed Zombieland back in 2009, I highly recommend you give it a go, and if it’s been some time since you last watched, go back and revisit it. It’s a remarkable little horror/comedy.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 12 – Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009)

Director: Ti West

Cast: Rider Strong, Noah Segan, Alexi Wasser, Rusty Kelley, Regan Deal, Marc Senter, Michael Bowen, Larry Fessenden, Mark Borchardt, Lindsey Axelsson, Judah Friedlander, Giuseppe Andrews

Screenplay: Joshua Malkin

86 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, disturbing gross content, sexuality/nudity, and pervasive language.

 

So some of you will remember that I’ve never thought very highly of Cabin Fever, even though I stand by Eli Roth as a filmmaker. I just think Cabin Fever isn’t very good, but it is a stepping stone for a now very interesting career. So when one of my readers reached out to review the sequel, I had to assume that I would at least like the sequel more than the original. I mean, I enjoy Ti West (The Innkeepers, In a Valley of Violence) to an extent, but he had to at the very least provide a serviceable sequel to the original, right?

When Paul (Rider Strong, Too Late, Darkening Star) tries to find help for the horrific flesh-eating virus he contracted in the previous film, he is accidentally killed by a school bus. The creek he fell in is connected to a bottled-water distributor that supplies to a local high school about to take part in prom. As you can guess, hi-jinks ensue at prom when many of the students fall prey to the virus. So on…and so forth.

I cannot begin to describe how much worse Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever is than its predecessor. It is one of the worst films ever made. I cannot fault director West for that when, upon looking into the film’s production, I found out how much studio interference took place. West even tried to remove his name from the finished film. No matter who gets fault for this, I cannot believe how much I hated this movie. I just didn’t think it was possible to be that bad. Give me Birdemic. Hell, give me Birdemic 2.

I…have to cut this review short. There is nothing of merit to this movie and to further discuss it would lead me down a dark path…

Please. Do. Not. Watch. This. Movie…

 

0/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ti West’s The House of the Devil, click here.

For my review of Ti West’s The Innkeepers, click here.

For the anthology film The ABCs of Death, click here.

For my review of Ti West’s The Sacrament, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 4 – The Final Destination (2009)

Director: David R. Ellis

Cast: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Mykelti Williamson, Nick Zano, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella

Screenplay: Eric Bress

82 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality.

 

Four films in and the Final Destination franchise appears to be going strong into their first 3D entry. I was excited, even though the fourth film welcomed back director David R. Ellis (Snakes on a Plane, Cellular), who I felt gave less than stellar work with the second film. I would have much rather had James Wong continue as director, but I still gave it a shot.

The Final Destination is the last in the final destination franchise (until this installment made enough money to trigger Final Destination 5 a few years later), and it features Bobby Campo (Sharing Christmas, My Christmas Love) as Nick, a nice youth who is sharing a day at the races with his friends when he has a premonition of a horrible accident about to take place that will kill all his friends and dozens of others at the track. Nick is able to save himself a several others from the tragedy, but now, the survivors are dying in really strange accidents. Nick’s premonitions are giving him clues to stop them, but only if he can solve the mystery in time.

The Final Destination follows the very same plot design that the previous installments worked well with, but this film’s tone is its biggest enemy. It’s sloppily put together with a notion that these unlikable characters are being picked off with a real fun attitude about it. We get it, the message is clear that these films are watched for the crazy Rube Goldberg-esque manner in which its characters are picked off, but there should be some level of care for them as human beings so that we actually hope for their survival. I didn’t like anyone in the film except for security guard George (Mykelti Williamson, Forrest Gump, Fences), and he’s still a little one-note.

Nick Zano (10 Years, TV’s Legends of Tomorrow) might be one of my most-hated characters in existence. It isn’t even a level of respectful hatred, like the one I have for Trent in the Friday the 13th remake. I didn’t want him getting out of the track at the beginning purely because he annoyed the hell out of me. Zano was given creativity with improvisation from director Ellis, one of the many issues that plagues this movie.

On the plus side, I do love the titles and how they pay homage to the franchise so far, especially considering that this was the last film originally. It was nice to see where we’d gone with the franchise, and it was one of the better elements of the 3D presentation.

Overall, I moderately enjoy parts of this film but as a whole, it’s a lengthy 82 minutes of piss poor filmmaking. This is the worst film of this franchise thus far and was thankfully saved by the fifth installment which would drop just a few years later.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s Final Destination 2, click here.

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination 3, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 13 – [Friday the 13th] Friday the 13th (2009)

Director: Marcus Nispel

Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Amanda Righetti, Travis van Winkle, Derek Mears

Screenplay: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift

97 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug material.

 

Hey all, I figured that we could talk about the 2009 iteration of Friday the 13th today in honor of this holiday. I watched the entire Friday the 13th franchise several times this year and felt that I haven’t visited this reboot in some time, and no time better than the present.

Now, describing the film may be a spoiler in some ways, so I’m going to keep this thing real tight. A bunch of youths visit Camp Crystal Lake, the sight of a horrific killing spree that took place back in the 80s involving the mother of a boy who drowned in the lake. The youths are interested in drinking, drugs, and fornicating, as they should be. Then, Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore) shows up and starts picking them off one by one as vengeance for the death of his mother. Who will survive, who will get laid, and who will get slayed?

I actually really like this reboot. I say reboot because this is, in the truest sense of the word, a restart to the franchise as it takes elements from the first four films and then forges a new path. I think Jared Padalecki (Phantom Boy, TV’s Supernatural) is a great lead with a motive and a likeable personality. I think Travis van Winkle (Bound & Babysitting, TV’s The Last Ship) is a monster-asshole and I prayed that he get his.

I think what Friday the 13th gets right is that it is a reboot of a franchise that pays homage to the entire series rather than just a carbon copy of replica of the original. This is something A Nightmare on Elm Street just couldn’t crack. Director Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Exeter) and screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Baywatch) melded together a brand new layer or two to the mythology while respecting what came before. Fans were pissed at some of the decisions regarding this reboot to which I always point out that Godzilla has been rebooted numerous times, not always the same way, and fans rejoice at every opportunity for more.

The film faults when it takes its humor further than its frights, and it has some hiccups because of it. I would say 90% of Kyle Davis’s scenes should have been cut as well as some of the more disgusting humor that took me out of the experience as it just wasn’t funny.

I would tell you to give this film a try again. I think Friday the 13th is a pretty solid reboot to the franchise that we all know and love, and it saddens me that we are about to pass the longest waiting period for a new installment. Sadness. Please, Jason. Please.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 7 – Offspring (2009)

 

Director: Andrew van den Houten

Cast: Amy Hargreaves, Ahna Tessler, Pollyanna McIntosh

Screenplay: Jack Ketchum

79 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, disturbing situations, language, nudity and some sexuality.

 

I accidentally watched The Woman a few years back not knowing that it was in fact a sequel to Offspring. I didn’t really like The Woman all that much, but I decided to go back anyway and check out Offspring to see how I felt about it.

Offspring is the story of a family who is terrorized by a clan of cannibal inbred killers who have remained unnoticed in the Northeast since the 1850s. It’s about that…for 80 minutes. And it’s a long 80 minutes.

Seriously, I’m going to try and remain positive, but this thing was awful. Okay…good things: I like the concept. It would be really interesting to dive into what makes this group stay together and how they were created. Instead, they terrorize a bunch of people for over an hour. People we don’t really get enough time to know. People that we aren’t all that interested in.

The flaws are plenty. The villains feel like mindless monsters and aren’t strong enough to make me not mind that the leads are so bland. There’s no plot for the entirety of the film. There’s the attempt at a subplot with an ex-husband who is apparently a monster, but it’s overplayed and uninteresting.

Offspring is just rather bland. There’s nothing here that I’ll truly take away, and this time next year, I’d be hard-pressed to be able to relate any of the plot details. Except that it has a sequel. One that isn’t so great.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Lucky McKee’s The Woman, click here.

Fast & Furious (2009)

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Director: Justin Lin

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references.

 

After the serviceable but ultimately disappointing The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Universal had two choices: kill the franchise or put everything you have into it. They chose the latter and brought back what made the series such a powerhouse. The entire principal cast of the original film was back, and with an entertaining story and the work from director Justin Lin (Finishing the Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee, Annapolis) and screenwriter Chris Morgan (47 Ronin, Wanted), it was a formula that actually worked.

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When fugitive Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) loses everything that matters to him, he returns home to his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) and crosses paths with Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours), who has earned his life back as a federal agent. The two are forced to join together to take down an elusive new villain never seen and only known as Braga.

Before we get too deep here, I would like to point out that this film is more of an interquel as opposed to a straight sequel. It takes place between 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. It features a character, Han, who we see biting the dust in the previous film. I’m not entirely sure why this choice was made, but I like the idea of Han sticking around. He is a likable hero.

Having Diesel and Walker together again is action gold. These two worked very closely in crafting this sequel with the crew to make it not only worthwhile but also help build a gigantic franchise out of the fledgling series, and it works so well. There are elements of this franchise that owe a lot to this entry. The races and chases are incredible yet simple, the characters actually develop as the film progresses, and I could tell everyone is having fun here.

Director Lin and screenwriter Morgan have learned a lot about crafting a sequel and it shows. Lin’s directing has improved, giving equal time to emotional beats and car-bashing crazy, and Morgan’s screenplay is formulated to transform the franchise and its characters.

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Fast & Furious is the sequel fans deserved and it’s the one they finally got. It proved that a series can learn from previous mistakes and evolve, and it gives viewers some of the coolest action on the screen. It still holds onto the grindhousian insanity that made the first one enjoyable and continues the tradition onward.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

[Short Film Sunday] Los Bandoleros (2009)

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Director: Vin Diesel

Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Sung Kang, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Mirtha Michelle

Screenplay: Vin Diesel, T.J. Mancini

20 mins. Not Rated.

In Los Bandoleros, we see where Dominic Toretto’s life after he escapes police hands. As he ends up in the Dominican Republic, he takes a break from his life of crime to share time with some old friends as well as his love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar, Machete Kills) before embarking on a new job: hijacking a gas tanker in the short film leading up to the events of Fast & Furious and directed by star Vin Diesel (Strays).

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I wanted to like this short a lot more than I did. I still enjoyed it more than the Turbo Charged Prelude. I think that Diesel really cares about this character and this material, so I respect that he wants to stop the action and just take a character beat to learn more about his character’s sensibilities and personality before jumping headlong into Fast & Furious. The short just didn’t do it for me. It felt a bit too much like the opposite of the preceding short film, but rather than giving too much info, it gives too little. It’s an exercise in what is needed in a franchise.

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I would have enjoyed a much-shortened version of this slice of life in the actual film as opposed to this short. Diesel has the capabilities to do something as a director, but it isn’t here.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

200 Posts! Many thanks!

Hey everyone!

Earlier this week, I crossed the 200 post mark, and I just wanted to take a minute to thank all my faithful readers for tuning in for all the craziness as I get used to this again. Below, you will see links to my Top 10 Posts of the last 200 posts. Thanks again! Keep reading and I’ll keep writing!

  1. No Xenomorphs in Prometheus 2? What has all this been for?
  2. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  3. Horrible Bosses (2011)
  4. Leprechaun (1993)
  5. 2012 (2009)
  6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
  7. Monkey Shines (1988)
  8. The Lego Movie (2014)
  9. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

 

Lastly, I want to hear some feedback from my readers. Let me know what you want to see. I’m always looking for new ways to spark discussion!

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

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Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Robin Williams

Screenplay: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

105 mins. Rated PG for mild action and brief language.

I avoided the sequel to Night at the Museum like the plague. I enjoyed the original film but thought to myself that a sequel can only harm that. There couldn’t be any possible way for the sequel to be anything new. Literally, the title says it all. It’s just another night at the museum, right?

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Not exactly.

Sure, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is more of the same, but it takes the original premise and expands immensely on it, providing a little of the repetition, but a lot of new fun that makes it comparable to the original.

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller, Zoolander, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) has taken his inventing career to the next level, creating all manner of As Seen On TV that you see on the endcaps in stores across the nation. He has essentially put his past in the Museum of Natural History behind him, but that changes when he gets a call from Jedediah (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, Inherent Vice) telling him that Dexter the Capuchin Monkey had stolen the Tablet that brings the exhibits to life at night and it has been moved to the Smithsonian Museum where all heck has run loose, and it’s now up to Larry and his cadre of walking talking exhibits including Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s Society) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams, Man of Steel, Big Eyes) to take on the evil and now alive again Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria, TV’s The Simpsons, The Smurfs 2) who thinks the Tablet belongs to him.

I loved all the ways that Battle of the Smithsonian expanded the universe created by the first film. From the talking bobbleheaded Einsteins in the gift shop to the paintings that Larry and Amelia get caught up in, this is a well-thought sequel with several new avenues for adventures. It does tread some of the same waters as the original, but does so with enough flair that it’s more forgivable. Director Shawn Levy (Real Steel, This is Where I Leave You) continues to stylishly supply action/comedy at full-tilt and it seems like the new characters like Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest, This is Spinal Tap, The Invention of Lying) have great chemistry with our returning players.

As always, the cinematography isn’t anything to sing to the mountaintops, and the film might run on a little too long for its own good, but Levy’s work behind the camera keep the film light-hearted and moving along.

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As far as sequels go, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian could have been better (I’m still a little curious about where Carla Gugino went) but it stands up as a lot of fun that adds some new fun and sends up its predecessor nicely.

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Night at the Museum, click here.

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