[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 20 – Final Destination 5 (2011)

Director: Steven Quale

Cast: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Tony Todd

Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

92 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, and some language.

 

After The Final Destination (intended to be the last film), I wasn’t quite sure how the Final Destination franchise could keep things interesting and exciting going into a fifth film. Personally, I was so disappointed in how the fourth film went, I didn’t even really know if I wanted it to continue. So when Final Destination 5 popped up, I was skeptical as to what, if anything, it could bring to the table. This one swung for the fences, though.

Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto, From Prada to Nada, TV’s Masters of Sex) is embarking on a company retreat with several other employees when he has a vision of the suspension bridge the bus is on collapsing, killing hundreds. Concerned, he gets off the bus and runs to safety, followed by a handful of his employees, and the suspension bridge indeed collapses. Blessed but also shaken, Sam and the others notice that the survivors are dying in the exact they would have died on the bridge, and they learn that in order to save their own lives, they may have to take another’s.

Final Destination 5 does not reinvent the wheel, but it’s probably the best entry in the series. It has interesting characters with real motivations, strong set pieces, an overall sense of dread, and it teams with mythology. I’m not entirely on board with the “take another life to save yours” notion that is legitimately brought into this film (something that’s been toyed with before), but it does add another layer to the film.

Nicholas D’Agosto and Emma Bell (Plus One, Different Flowers) are both strong leads, and the film has some fun performances like David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, TV’s American Dad!) as Dennis, Sam’s boss. Koechner is always fun and he’s restrained enough here to fit in nicely within the horror while still getting to do his own thing. The absolute win of the film, though, is the return of Tony Todd (Candyman, Reign of the Supermen) as the coroner Bludworth, who is given little screen time and just does so much with it. I’ve been saying for some time that Todd’s Bludworth needs to be expanded upon, especially how he seemingly knows so much about Death’s design and plan, and while we don’t get that in this film, his reintroduction is a step in the right direction.

Outside of the main story, I am happy to say that Final Destination 5 gets back to the horror roots of the series after the almost-silly fourth installment. It’s also the film that feels the most like it’s connecting a saga, with little references to other films in the series and an overarching mythology that’s been cleaned up and streamlined. This is one that you kind of want to watch again after unlocking the big reveals of the film and how it all comes together.

Final Destination 5 wins it with the ending though, a doozy of a revelation that makes it the most fun installment of the entire series. How this franchise seemingly stalled out after the fifth film is beyond me, but this is definitely one worth seeing. It’s gruesome and bloody and filled with atmospheric flavor. Go check it out.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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

[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.

Reign of the Supermen (2019)

Director: Sam Liu

Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Cress Williams, Patrick Fabian, Cameron Monaghan, Jason O’Mara, Rosario Dawson

Screenplay: James Krieg, Tim Sheridan

87 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, DC is killing it with their animated universe. While their live-action work has struggled finding its footing (though I believe they have it now), their animated cinematic universe is chugging along quite well. They took their time in killing Superman, something that the live-action series did not do, and it paid off well for The Death of Superman, a really strong adaptation of the famous comic book arc. So what happens next?

Following the death of Superman (Jerry O’Connell, Stand By Me, Boy Band), the world has been in mourning for six months until four very different new heroes arrive on Earth, each one laying claim to the title of Superman. There’s Superboy (Cameron Monaghan, Amityville: The Awakening, TV’s Shameless), a young and arrogant teen with Superman’s abilities is seemingly backed by LexCorp and Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson, The Meg, TV’s The Office). There’s also a hero named Steel (Cress Williams, Never Been Kissed, Lowriders), a Cyborg Superman, and a protector called The Eradicator. Needless to say, these multiple possible iterations of Superman are not playing nicely, and it is up to Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn, X-Men, TV’s The Librarians) and the Justice League to make sense of it all.

Reign of the Supermen gets a little more convoluted than its predecessor. There’s a lot going on and I wish the film had more time to explore these different Supermen. It would make some of the more interesting developments all the more impactful. The story does get a little lost while building up its central plot.

The voice work again is spectacular in this film, with the exception of course being a woefully miscast Rainn Wilson. I like Wilson, but he does not exude the presence of Lex Luthor. Cameron Monaghan gives Superboy an injection of snobbiness that permeates the realism of a teenager with angst and superpowers.

The ending, though, is where the film’s impact is at its strongest, allowing all the buildup of two films to be resolved. It’s a well-edited, well-paced finale that makes up for some of the earlier plot problems. It doesn’t feel like a setup for future films but a culmination of much of what has come before.

Reign of the Supermen is an enjoyable superhero adventure is mostly successful in translating this popular Superman run into the feature film format. I would have liked more time given to the different Supermen, but overall, handing a larger portion of the screen time to Lois Lane has its benefits. If you liked The Death of Superman last year, you won’t be disappointed with this conclusion.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jake Castorena and Sam Liu’s The Death of Superman, click here.

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