[Early Review] [31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 17 – Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson

Screenplay: Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

99 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content.

 

It’s been a crazy ten years, and we are finally arriving, once again, back in Zombieland.

Zombieland: Double Tap picks up some years after the first film, and our favorite zombie killers have arrived at a comfortable life in a luxurious new home. They are not without their struggles, though. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Wichita (Emma Stone, La La Land, The Croods) have gotten past the honeymoon phase of their relationship, and Wichita especially is having a lot of trouble with the idea of settling down with Columbus. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, The Highwaymen, TV’s True Detective) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine, Freak Show) have developed a father-daughter regard for one another, but Little Rock pines to interact with someone new, to begin dating boys, whereas Tallahassee would prefer the solitude of Zombieland life. So when Little Rock runs away with a cute boy, the others must band together to save  her.

I’ll make this one super-simple. If you liked Zombieland, I think you’ll enjoy this one. It isn’t as good as the original film, but it’s very self-reflective on the time that has passed culturally and a lot of the humor comes from the idea that these characters really haven’t changed much in that time. It’s regularly poking fun at itself.

The cast does a fine job again, especially Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee. Harrelson really matures as an actor in this role, and his is the one character that seems to really evolve to something new. All that being said, though, the best parts of this film are the new additions of Zoey Deutch (Set It Up, TV’s The Politician) and Rosario Dawson (Rent, Reign of the Supermen) to the cast. Deutch’s Madison steals every scene as a clueless woo girl that’s supremely ditzy and made me question how she could even survive this long in the apocalypse. Dawson joins up as the tough-as-nails Nevada, who lives in a bar that gets a visit from the gang. Both add a lot of flavor to the film.

The film is a little too convenient at times, and the additions of new zombies (very Left 4 Dead), new rules (not just by Columbus), and new zombie kills, while fun, don’t add a level of newness to the film. If this had come out right after the first film, I think it would not be as noticeable, but given that ten-year gap, I think the similarities stand out. Still better than the Amazon pilot, though.

Zombieland: Double Tap is fun for fans of the original film, and even though it’s just more of the same, I ended up having some good laughs and entertainment. This won’t bring in a lot of new fans, and it may not win over old fans at the same rate that the first film did, but I think it’s a worthy addition to the zombie genre, and I would really like this see this team come back together for a third installment. Just make it sooner.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland, click here.

[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.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy

Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds

119 mins. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material.

 

When Deadpool hit cinemas back in 2016, it was something of a surprise juggernaut, claiming a ton of box office and terrific critical reviews in the process, something that I think shocked just about everyone from the cast, crew and studio as well as fans and filmgoers everywhere. That’s not to say that they didn’t work hard to get the film as right as possible, but the original Deadpool ends up on many lists of Best Superhero Films of all Time just two years after coming out. People loved it.

So Deadpool 2 had a lot to live up to. With the loss of original director Tim Miller, David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) stepped in and took over. With all that, how did the movie end up?

Rest assured that Deadpool 2, despite horrific deplorable violence and naughty words, is a family movie. Kind of. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds, Buried, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) has been busy taking out the baddies every day and spending his nights with the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, Serenity, TV’s Gotham). But when Wade’s life drastically changes, he is forced to search for meaning. A time-traveling soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men, Avengers: Infinity War) comes back from the future to kill a kid who calls himself Firefist (Julian Dennison, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Paper Planes), Wade assembles a team of heroes, the X-Force, to stop him.

There’s so much happening in Deadpool 2 that its pacing slows down at times and not every sequence works, but the biggest problem of the film comes from its inciting incident. There’s a lot of time in the original Deadpool devoted to Wade’s driving force and motivation. In fact, it’s one of the areas where the original film even avoids lampooning itself. There’s some events early on in Deadpool 2 that essentially throw the whole first film out in some ways, cheapening it. Now, without getting spoilery, it’s tough to dive too much in. What I will say is that these issues lessen on multiple viewings, especially so in the Super-Duper Cut of the film, but on initial viewing, it’s a little rockier of a film.

The new additions to the cast, especially Brolin’s Cable and Zazie Beetz (Geostorm, Slice) as the lucky mutant Domino, steal a lot of scenes. Cable gets to drive the mythology really well, and I was someone who wasn’t really for Brolin in the role. Don’t get me wrong, I thought he’d be fine, but he wasn’t my first choice. I’m happy to say that I was wrong and Brolin was perfect for both the role and the chemistry he has with the others in the film.

Domino is another character that I didn’t really know would work until I saw the film. From the moment she appears, though, Beetz’s portrayal as an almost sisterly ball-breaking of Wade is phenomenal. Her action sequences are so much fun to watch as well, way better than I had anticipated.

We should talk about the X-Force stuff. I went into this movie knowing that the next adventure for Deadpool (not counting Once Upon a Deadpool) would be X-Force, and there was probably going to be some buildup in this film for it, but the way X-Force is used is amazing and unexpected. Wade even hires a normal man named Peter who has no special powers but he does have a damned good LinkedIn page (which actually exists, by the way) is really funny.

The style of the film is a little less-restrained than the original (if the first film could be called restrained) but the usage of little bits like bringing in Celine Dion to sing the theme song “Ashes” and treating the opening of the film like a James Bond film is really special and memorable. The most important aspect of the Deadpool films has been the laughter and comedy and these are areas where Leitch and Reynolds pull the most out of the screenplay.

I think Deadpool 2 has more flaws than the first film. There’s some story choices and some tonal choices that don’t work as well as I would have liked. The ending is a little underwhelming and predictable. That’s true, but the rest of the film is exemplary. The way it subverts expectations is a lot of fun, and the chemistry between Reynolds, Brolin, and Beetz is the central win of the film. If you missed Deadpool 2 earlier this year, give it a go. It’s a worthy sequel.

 

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.

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

For my review of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, click here.

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

For my review of David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] Life (2017)

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

103 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and horror.

 

Yeah, I’ve seen Life. I saw it last night, and I really want to talk about it, but don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it, and count yourself lucky for that.

Life has a similar premise to many before it. A group of astronauts aboard the International Space Station come across irrefutable proof of existence beyond Earth when they discover a microscopic being on a Mars probe. The crew mistakes the lifeform of being friendly when they soon discover it will do anything to survive and grow.

Let’s talk about all the good in this movie because the good outweighs the bad. First of all, hats off to the marketing department for not ruining all the exciting twists and turns of the film in the marketing and trailers. I still saw some of it coming a mile away, but it helped to not have it flat-out ruined for me.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Nocturnal Animals) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Criminal) absolutely steal the show in this ensemble piece but all the performances are above par here. I particularly found myself intrigued by Ariyon Bakare (TV’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Hugh, a paraplegic charged with studying the lifeform, coyly nicknamed Calvin.

Props to director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Child 44) for the pacing and getting as much as possible from the premise and the set. He allows the confined set to breathe and flourish. There’s some gorgeous camerawork similar to 2013’s Gravity, but it is impressive nonetheless.

And I would be disappointed in myself for not recognizing the excellent score from Jon Ekstrand. His music jumps between grandiose space epic and claustrophobic horror film, and it works really well.

Okay, so let’s talk negatives, because there are two. The biggest, and most disappointing, is the screenplay. I can’t even believe I’m saying this, because I love the writing of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), but the screenplay hopped between exciting and completely stupid. There are things that characters, and we’re talking NASA-trained astronauts, do in this film that are so shockingly stupid that it’s hard to ignore. Then, there are moments that are meant to come across as genuine and heartfelt that would be difficult for anyone to glean. For example, Gyllenhaal’s David Jordan reads from Goodnight Moon, and it doesn’t work at all. I can’t blame for Gyllenhaal for trying, because the scene just doesn’t work. And the ending. The ending is just plain wrong. A big copout poorly written that comes off as expected and uninteresting.

The other issue with the film is the release date. This film is coming out too close to Alien: Covenant in a world where we’ve already seen Prometheus and Gravity, and Life comes off as a carbon copy because of it. Simple mistakes like the way the title is displayed hearken back to Alien, and it makes Life look bad by comparison. It’s just bad timing.

Life has more wins than losses, but it just doesn’t excel where better films have. Still, 2017 hasn’t had the best start, so it’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year. This movie is worth checking out in theaters, preferably as soon as possible to avoid spoilers for the most shocking moments.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Life? What did you think? And what’s your favorite first contact moment from film? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

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.

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