[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.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilyn Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers

Screenplay: Anthony McCarten

134 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language.

IMDb Top 250: #136 (as of 1/11/2019)

 

There’s two major schools of thought one can go down with a biopic. The filmmaker can choose to hit all the major notes on the subject’s timeline, capturing important milestones from the life, or there’s the biopic event film, where one major event is focused on. When it comes to Freddie Mercury, a man larger than life, you really have to hit all the notes, or as many as you can fit.

Bohemian Rhapsody is the story of Queen, but in many ways, it’s the story of Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek, Papillon, TV’s Mr. Robot), an artist lost too soon. Freddie did not come from an artistic upbringing, and he found himself in the right place at the right time when Smile, a band he’d been interested in, needed to replace a lead singer. Brian May (Gwilyn Lee, The Tourist, The Last Witness) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy, Only the Brave, Mary Shelley), the remaining members of Smile, joined up with Mercury and, alongside John Deacon (Joe Mazzello, Jurassic Park, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), became Queen.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a more stylized, less historically accurate version of the Freddie Mercury and Queen story, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It’s led by an unstoppable turn from Malek, an actor who positively embodies Mercury’s many mannerisms with elegance, grace, and without parody. It’s a tough role to disappear in, and Malek proves to be up to the task.

It is Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton, Sing Street, Apostle) which proves to the most important of the film. Freddie is an eccentric man, to put it lightly, and he perhaps wants more than he can have, but he finds as the story progresses that he is unable to make up for his wants, and Mary’s emotional needs are struggling to be met. It’s a complex relationship brought forth quite nicely in the film.

The Queen portion of the film is undoubtedly the most fun, even if it isn’t 100% accurate. Seeing some of the craziness that went into some of the best music ever put to record is a wonder, and it doesn’t hurt that the film has a kickass soundtrack.

The major problem of the film is its direction, which sometimes feels a little VH1 and without some of the style that you might associate with a band like Queen. There’s something dated about the film, and I’m not referring to the actual events of the film.

Bohemian Rhapsody succeeds as entertainment, and that’s its Number 1 goal. I was smiling from ear to ear for most of the film, and that stayed with me for days afterward. It’s a hell of a fun film with a heart, but it’s made for Queen fans. Those of you that aren’t (and I imagine there’s at least three of you out there) will find little to enjoy outside the incredible performances.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Deadpool (2016)

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Director: Tim Miller

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand

Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

108 mins. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.

IMDb Top 250: #86 (as of 3/17/2016)

 

I’m almost in shock that I’m writing a review to Deadpool. I honestly never thought this film would even get off the ground, and many times, it actually didn’t, but due to the nerd-filled world we now live in, we somehow have been blessed with a Deadpool, and not only that, but the Deadpool that we deserve.

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Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds, Green Lantern, Self/Less) is a mercenary and an asshole, or perhaps a Merc with a Mouth, who falls for the beautiful and damaged Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, TV’s Homeland, Batman: Bad Blood) after literally boning for a year. Their love has been sealed, until fate, in the form of cancer, begins knocking on Wade’s door. He enters into a secretive and risky program run by Ajax (Ed Skrein, The Transporter Refuled, The Model), a mutant scientist weird guy. Soon, Wade is bestowed mutagen powers in the form of regeneration which gives him some terrible side effects. He pursues Ajax, the mutant responsible, by killing all of his henchmen, and dons the moniker Deadpool. Also, there are X-Men in the movie.

Oftentimes, when I review a film, I ask myself, what should this film be? How should it feel? How should it look? How should I leave it? Deadpool has the distinction of being almost exactly how this movie should be, a veritable knock-out of a film. Ryan Reynolds is the perfect embodiment of the Merc in just about every way, and what’s better, he cares about the source material, which matters.

Morena Baccarin is hot. She is portrayed as hot. And her chemistry with Reynolds is wonderful. Add to that the perfect casting of T.J. Miller (Cloverfield, How to Train Your Dragon 2) as Weasel, essentially the comic relief sidekick no one asked for but everyone is glad to have.

I also enjoyed the cameo-like appearance of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) as members of the X-Men, though in future installments, I feel like the connective tissue between Deadpool and the X-Men can be deeper (this will require great care as the two have very different styles). I was disappointed to find that there was no mention of Wolverine’s DNA and its connection to Wade. One of the few problems I had with the film was that it felt like it was trying to distance itself from the X-Men universe while also sending up references to the MCU. Being a general nerd here, I can ascertain that these are two different franchises, but I don’t think the general movie audience can completely separate the two.

The screenplay, from duo Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) is mostly solid, with the exception being that without the interesting flashback structure, the “origin” story is rather one-dimensional, very much a paint-by-the-numbers tale. Thankfully, structure and style had this fact, but they can’t entirely hide the fact that the villain is rather one-dimensional (Ed Skrein really should’ve thought harder about leaving Game of Thrones).

Lastly, I feel compelled to point out the success of the fourth-wall breaks (they work really well), and note that the Stan Lee cameo in Deadpool is perhaps the best he’s ever had.

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Deadpool: the little Marvel property that could. It survived horrible butchering in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and made it all the way to success in a new timeline thanks to X-Men: Days of Future Past, and it was all worth it. Deadpool is loads of fun, really cool, and it elevates itself above the level of a normal superhero movie. Why haven’t you seen it yet?

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United, click here.

For my review of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

For my review of James Mangold’s The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

Furious 7 (2015)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

137 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.

 

And here we are, after six films, we arrive here at Furious 7, the latest installment in the high-octane series of car action films started with The Fast and the Furious some many years back.

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In the newest adventure, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Saving Private Ryan, Guardians of the Galaxy) and his family have returned to the United States after gaining amnesty for their previous offences. As new parent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) adjusts to the simple life with wife Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Home Sweet Hell), he and Dom discover that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, The Transporter, Spy) is seeking vengeance on them for his comatose brother. When Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, WrestleMania) is dispatched, the group realize that they need help. In comes a mysterious government agent (played by Kurt Russell, The Thing, Poseidon) who need them to find a piece of high-tech gadgetry that has been stolen by the villainous Jakande (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator, Seventh Son). The deal is simple: retrieve the tech in exchange for cart blanche to defeat Shaw.

I really enjoyed Furious 7. Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious: Chapter 2), known for his abilities as a horror director, supplies the film with much-needed cheese with an incredibly exhilarating experience. The returning cast has grown so close that the chemistry here is great. Diesel’s journey of reintroduction with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar, Machete Kills) is one of the better stories to come out of this series, and it ties into the franchise well. I had a lot of fun watching the banter between Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers, Black Nativity) and Tej (Chris Bridges, New Year’s Eve, No Strings Attached). Newcomers Kurt Russell and Jason Statham provide a lot of fun to the equation. Russell’s Mr. Nobody is an interesting new character I’m excited to see further fleshed out. Statham’s Shaw comes off a bit on the cheesy side, especially with his introduction, but overall it works.

Now onto what most people are interested in hearing about: dealing with the death of Paul Walker. Did it work? Suprisingly well, actually. I expected Walker’s role to be relegated to a glorified cameo, but I was wrong. With brothers Cody and Caleb, alongside some terrific digital effects, helped to provide some resolution to Brian’s story in an appealing way. The finale of the film definitely pays tribute well with a closing musical number with a montage of Walker’s role in the franchise served to button up his story and send him off to the next place without coming off as a wasted opportunity. Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” works well here, too.

I like that Furious 7 helps tie the franchise back together with references to Toretto’s relationship with Letty before her “death” and the rarely-seen Race Wars from the original film. The best thing about this franchise is that the crew learns from previous mistakes to make the best film possible.

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Furious 7 isn’t the greatest film in the series (that honor lies with Fast Five), but it definitely takes a step in the right direction after a few missteps with Fast & Furious 6. It serves to provide closure to Paul Walker’s character and career well without sacrificing plot and sets the series up for further adventures which will continue with the upcoming Furious 8 (yeah, it’s happening).

 

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.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

 

You can follow Kyle A. Goethe on Twitter @AlmightyGoatman

Brick Mansions (2014)

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Director: Camille Delamarre

Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA

Screenplay: Luc Besson

90 mins. Rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material.

 

Remakes are really not worth it.

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Brick Mansions is a remake of the earlier film District 13, and suffers from being just like everything else. It stars the late Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) in his final finished role as Damien Collier, an undercover detective in future Detroit who wishes to take down criminal kingpin Tremaine Alexander (RZA, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, G.I. Joe: Retaliation). Along the way, he meets Lino (David Belle, District 13, The Family), whose girlfriend has been taken by Alexander. The two form an unlikely partnership to take down the notorious crime boss. Also there is parkour. So yeah.

The thing that made District 13 so great was that it has a unique visual style and some great action. Brick Mansions has neither. It has a badly derived plot that seems to get lost in itself before realizing that nobody is really paying attention to it. It has Paul Walker as a lead, who can’t do much with this poorly outlined character. His dialogue wouldn’t be realistic no matter what Walker had done. David Belle just plain can’t act. Yes, he can parkour, but should that mean sacrificing a lead performer for some action? Then there is RZA. I actually like RZA for the most part, but not in this movie. He isn’t likable. He isn’t menacing. He just isn’t anything.

I know a lot of people see a movie like Brick Mansions for the action, and the fact that most of the action here is without CGI is pretty cool. What doesn’t help is constantly playing with the edit and slowing down or speeding up the action and fights so that it seems less real than it actually is. All director Camille Delamarre (The Transporter Legacy) needed to do was capture it on film, but he fiddled. He fiddled hardcore.

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This film just feels uninspired. The ending to it was so laughably stupid that I actually had to rewatch it to make sure that I didn’t miss something really grand that made the whole thing worth it. It didn’t. I didn’t have much fun watching it at all. I know it is perhaps wrong to think on an actor’s last films after they die, but you hope an actor can leave this life with something strong to cap it off. Brick Mansions was a disappointing fare, and I really hope that Furious 7 will be a strong finale to Walker’s legacy, because I liked him. I just didn’t like this.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Camille Delamarre’s Brick Mansions? Did you leap in or drop out? Let me know.

 

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