Zombieland Double Tap Review

The first Zombieland was great fun and came out of nowhere. I remember seeing it and being completely surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It was quirky, funny, and had the 4 main characters had great chemistry. It was also 2009, and by 2014 I had just naturally assumed there wasn’t going to be a sequel. However, 10 years later, we have the next part of the story and once again I am going in with absolutely no idea of what to expect. 

The core cast are all back, with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, who has noticeably grown up over the last 10 years while the other 3 look remarkably like how they did in the first one. It’s like they haven’t aged a day, but then Woody Harrelson has looked like he does now for as long as I have known of him, so I guess it makes sense. He’s one of those ageless people like Keanu Reeves.

Anyway, those four returns and seem to have not missed a beat. Their chemistry is once again the engine that keeps this film going. The banter back and forth between them all really does feel like a group that has been together for a long time so I would guess these four are friends outside of the camera as well. The newcomers to the cast add some new dimensions, and top of that list is Zoey Deutch who plays a ditzy, oblivious girl who has somehow survived this long. At first, I thought the character would become annoying very fast, but she does develop a little and is not just the idiot she first seems.

Rosario Dawson is the other newcomer and as always, she is great. She is immediately on the same wavelength as the rest of the group and her chemistry with Woody Harrelson adds a new dynamic to his character. I’ve talked about the cast so much because really, they’re the best thing about Zombieland Double Tap. Beyond them and some funny “Zombie Kill of the Year” bits, there isn’t much else here beyond some zombie killing.

The plot is fine, the action scenes are fine, and the special effects are great. That could kind of sum up this film unfortunately. There is no clever plot here, it’s basic and it serves its purpose of giving the characters a reason to go somewhere. Beyond that there is no intrigue or “what’s going to happen”. There is rarely a moment when you worry about any characters and when you do, it’s never for too long. The new Zombie types are fun, and the cleverly named T-800 (Zombieland’s main box office competition is the new Terminator) is an interesting idea, but they quickly become just another part of the horde.

The action scenes do have some fun moments, but there are only so many times a zombie being shot in the head is that entertaining. The film sets up a more interesting fight at the end, but then the finale happens a bit too quickly and there is no time for any cool action scenes. The last fight is practical, rather than entertaining, and even if there are some fun visuals a couple of times, my highlight of the films action was a cutaway skit to a guy murdering zombie in Italy.

What is odd about Zombieland Double Tap is that it doesn’t bring much new to the table, but still feels fun, fresh and enjoyable. It’s a movie we have had before, but the 10-year gap makes the reunion feel like more fun than if we had a sequel a couple of years later. It’s rare that comedy sequels made 10 years later work (see Zoolander 2) but somehow the formula of the first film still holds up in 2019. As much as I enjoyed watching this film, I can’t say I need another Zombieland anytime soon, so perhaps revisiting in another 10 years wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

It’s one of those films where your expectations need to be in the right place when you go in. Don’t expect a stunning sequel that surpasses the first, it doesn’t even try to be that. It’s an update on what’s happened to the characters you enjoyed first time. Like a postcard from someone you lost contact with, you will probably smile, laugh a little, and then forget about it all over again.

Good: Great chemistry between the cast with some laughs. Some laugh out loud moments that got me good.

Bad: Unambitious, very little original content, and unadventurous action scenes.

7/10 – Zombieland is Fine, and I think that’s what they were aiming for. 

 

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Between Two Ferns Review

I don’t know how I had never heard of the Between Two Ferns show on YouTube before. If you don’t know what it is, it’s an interview show hosted by Zach Galifianakis, and he ask’s some of Hollywood’s biggest names some very insulting questions to hilarious effect. I discovered this all by watching the mockumentary about the making of the show “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” which is now on Netflix. 

I can honestly say I do not remember laughing as hard as this watching anything since maybe the Pink Panther movies when I was a child. Something about it just hit me exactly in the right way and I was laughing for most of the brisk hour and 22-minute run time. Zach is so good in this role, his ability to say the most absurd things and keep a completely straight face leads to some amazingly funny moments. He’s so good in the role, because he is playing himself. There is a lot of him in the role, but it’s just all dialled up to 11.

The 3 crew members he works with are a solid supporting cast and have moments to show they can deliver some great laughs too. They are never front and centre long enough for us to feel any real connection and even in the scenes when it seems like we are starting to build to that we get another joke that stops it developing. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean the entire film rests on the audience being fans of Zach and his style.

The premise is that they must make ten episodes of the show on the road, and that leads to where the movie is at its best, the interviews. Zach’s deadpan face and the generally great job by the actors and actresses who play it straight as well really made me laugh. It’s juvenile at times but there is enough gold in these moments to warrant spending the time to watch the film.

The film’s structure is like a lot of similar sketches stitched together. Sewing together the interviews is the challenge the film faces, and it has moments where it struggles. The humour can be hit and miss in these sections. Whilst the highs don’t reach the same level as the interviews, the jokes that missed don’t really grind the film to a halt either. There is always another moment just around the corner. The film doesn’t let you dwell on an unfunny moment because you’re into the next moment, and this scatter gun approach works for the most part.

It’s only when I have stopped to really think about those moment in between the laughs that I’ve realised there are chunks of the movie where we are just waiting for the next laugh, it doesn’t have a narrative thread that is keeping you hooked that other mockumentaries like “American Vandal” have.

That would be a bigger problem were this a series of hour-long episodes like that is, but the shorter run time allows it to just be what it needs to be. A vehicle for Zach Galifianakis to make you laugh for a bit and remember not to take everything so seriously. I personally enjoyed it a lot, and I think a lot of my friends would love it. It’s not perfect but it does have some very good highs that make Between Two Ferns the Movie worth watching.

Good: If you like Zach’s comedic style, this will crack you up. I laughed throughout and the interviews are gold.

Bad: Scatter gun approach may not hit enough for some to think it’s worth the watch, but it really does depend on your sense of humour.

7/10 – Great fun and doesn’t overstay its welcome. 

 

Martin Scorsese’s Theme Park Ride

“Marvel films are not cinema” says Martin Scorsese. A director who is releasing his newest film on streaming services with a limited release in cinema’s, confusing what his actual definition of cinema is. Martin Scorsese has earned the right to say whatever he wants in Hollywood, and it appears he has a bee in his bonnet about the superhero movie craze.

In a way, I understand what he means. In particular, the Marvel Cinematic (awkward) Universe is unlike anything we have ever seen in cinema’s before. Scorsese didn’t mean this, but it’s closer to a long running TV show with episodes released every 4-6 months over the last 11 years. It’s been an incredible ride; one I have very much enjoyed, and I feel lucky to have experienced it happen.

What I think Scorsese was trying to get at is that he doesn’t feel like the films are narrative storytelling with complex characters like the films he enjoys watching and making. I do not agree per say, but this is just a result of the nature of films, and there is no law that says every film must be for everyone. To me, the characters have developed so much over the course of their movies that they’re extremely complex and the newer characters are on the same journey.

I rate movies on this site, a process I find difficult because of the intangible nature of what divides a seven from an eight out of ten. I grade it based on a gut feeling at the time of writing. I have given some high marks to a few Marvel films, but at the same time I would not argue Avengers Endgame is a rival for Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour long Mob drama The Irishman. They’re two different genres of film, and that diversity is one of the things I love about films.

Clearly Scorsese does not enjoy the diversity of films, and his comment referring to movie theatres becoming more like Theme Parks is odd to me. Not because I disagree, but because that’s what they have always been. When you walk around a theme park, every ride is a little different from the last, but they’re all rides. They all have some of the same elements, but they all do things a little differently. Films are the exact same in that sense. Every film poster you walk past in a movie theatre is a different ride. It might be an emotional romantic comedy roller coaster or a gut-wrenching horror log flume.

Marvel Films are the Teacups or the Ferris Wheel. They’re always around, every theme park has one throughout most of the year and in general, people really enjoy them, and they know what they’re getting. Occasionally Marvel give you Teacups on a Ferris wheel, like Endgame, but it all still fits.

Scorsese’s films are like the haunted houses with real actors in them. They’re slower walks that will make you think about different things whilst still giving you the same adrenaline rush, just in a different way. It’s still a part of the same theme park though. Scorsese doesn’t enjoy them, and that is fine. If you do, more power to you and nobody can take that enjoyment away.

One thing I think Scorsese has not realised, is that he’s creating more hype for Marvel films than he is his own movie. I haven’t seen a quote from him about The Irishman, and that should be the film he is talking about. Disney has already earned billions this year and they still have a Star Wars film to come, they do not need the free advertising but I am sure they’re grateful for Martin Scorsese reminding everyone that Marvel films are a thing, slap bang in the middle of the biggest gap between films Marvel has had for years.

I haven’t dived into the reaction online, I am sure it’s the usual mix of diehard fans cursing Scorsese, a couple of people saying he’s right and Marvel sucks, and then a few reasonable people reacting sensibly. If you feel wronged by Scorsese’s comments, get over it. When you break it down, it’s a man who hasn’t seen a lot of these films, commenting on why he feels they’re not for him. Perhaps he would enjoy them if he watched all of them, but he hasn’t, and he’s told us why he won’t be any time soon.

I still love Martin Scorsese’s films, and I love Marvel films, and most of all I am grateful that there is room for both in the theme park.

‘Til tomorrow

ChAzJS

 

 

El Camino Review

If you’re one of the few people who has not treated themselves to watching through Breaking Bad, I envy you more than most people in the world. The show is a stunning blend of excellent writing, great performances and twists that leave you desperate for more. Just over 6 years on from the end of the series, we are heading back to the moments after the series with Netflix’s El Camino.

It’s impossible to talk about this show without spoiling Breaking Bad massively, so please do yourself a favour and do not read on if you haven’t seen the show. Make the time for the 60 odd hours of Breaking Bad and enjoy the incredible ride before watching El Camino.

Onto El Camino itself, it’s a film that sneaked up on me and I am grateful for that. It was a nice treat to find it had dropped on Netflix over the weekend and I sat down to find out what exactly happened to Jesse after the events of the Breaking Bad Finale. The idea of dropping back into that world is tantalising, although I must confess, I was not sure we really needed any more to explain the aftermath.

El Camino picks up from the last time we saw Jesse in Breaking Bad, driving off from his captors and finally free. From there we see the events of the next day or so, interspersed with flashbacks to the previous times and the events of his captivity. It’s an interesting choice to go with for the film, but it fits very well with the style we grew to love with the original series. In fact, calling El Camino a film is a bit odd for me, as it does not feel like one.

This feels like its two bonus episodes of Breaking Bad showing what happened next. As such, I found it to be a bit of an odd experience watching along, as the first hour of the film crawls by at a snail’s pace. I know it’s a bad sign whenever I check a film run time, and when I saw I was only 45 minutes in, I was questioning whether it was worth me sticking with it.

I completely understand why Jesse is how he is, and what the motivations are for him. I just felt like this film was going to give me something a little bit new, whereas this feels very much like a couple of mid-season Breaking Bad episodes. The second half of the film was more enjoyable, and the outcome, even though it was telegraphed from the beginning of the film, feels like a satisfying place to end this story.

Perhaps this is a case of my expectations and what I wanted being too far from what we got, but by the end of El Camino I was very much done with the film. I love Aaron Paul in this role, and he is as great as he was in every episode of the show. Of course, seeing Jesse Pinkman and all the characters we see pop up through the film was fun, but one of the biggest feelings I had watching El Camino was that I now want to watch Breaking Bad again. Not because I loved El Camino, but because I of what I think it’s missing.

It’s not really a criticism, but the film falls apart when you analyse it as a standalone film. This is very much Breaking Bad season six condensed down to two hours, and for me that just didn’t work. At the same time as explaining what happened next, the film also goes into the past and shows Jesse’s time as a prisoner and his day out with his captor Todd. This extra leg work was all very breaking bad, and if this was an episode of the show, I would have eaten it up with no complaints. This isn’t supposed to be just another couple of episodes though, and that is where El Camino falls.

For all the good performances and the satisfaction of seeing where Jesse Pinkman ends up, El Camino just feels unnecessary. I am a huge Breaking Bad fan, but this just felt like filler episodes with a few fun scenes and a nice farewell. Watching this 6 years ago would have felt good, like a nice epilogue to the finale of the show. That epilogue has come 6 years too late for me, and whether that’s a fair criticism or not, that’s how I felt watching this film.

Good: Great performances, some incredible cinematography, trip back to the world of Breaking Bad.

Bad: Six years too late and it feels unnecessary because of it. Answers questions I didn’t care about anymore.

6/10 – Its more Breaking Bad so it’s not terrible. That’s all it is though.  

Joker Review

The Joker is a character I have been fascinated with for as long as I can remember. I loved the Mark Hamill version in the animated show and Jack Nicholson in Batman 89 was terrifying when I was a child. Jared Leto showed an example of how different the character can be and of course Heath Ledger delivered the most incredible performance we have seen in any comic book movie role. That is until now. 

Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck and it’s 99% him. He is front and centre very much like the films that very clearly inspired this one. Phoenix uses the opportunity to display just how incredible one man’s performance can be, and he transforms into the character of Arthur Fleck. When you have an actor with this talent in a role with this much complexity to it you always have a chance for something special.

Hangover director Todd Phillips is at the helm for this one, and it seems he and all the rest of the people involved in this production realised what they had. Phoenix is given the film and carries it completely on his shoulders. Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Brett Cullen and Frances Conroy play the other characters and are all good, but they are all there to add to the journey Arthur Fleck is experiencing.

There will be inevitable comparisons with Heath Ledger, and I fully understand that’s going to happen. I have said consistently, and it remains true even after this film, that The Dark Knight is my favourite movie. That is almost entirely down to Heath Ledgers Joker.

Part of the appeal of the Joker is that he doesn’t have a clear origin, it’s always a little unclear. This film tries to tackle how a character like the joker could be created in a real world. The 70’s setting not only allows for some great style and production design touches, but also gives the film the same style as the films of that decade. I have recently watched Taxi Driver, and Joker takes a lot of inspiration in a very unsubtle way. The comparisons with past eras of movies doesn’t end there with Falling Down and King of Comedy also being clear heavy influences.

As I have not seen those two films, I didn’t suffer from what I have seen a few people complain about with regards to the films handling of the references and inspirations it takes from those films. I have heard that a lot of this film isn’t particularly original, but I think the originality comes from this being a comic book film unlike any other we have seen before. Yes, we have seen films about terrible people before, but never have we seen a realistic depiction of someone’s slide into becoming the Joker.

How the film handles that transformation is particularly interesting to me, and some of the dialogue in the final act. Mental illness has had a stigma attached to it forever, and even today it’s often misunderstood by society. This film is brash with its messaging, and it makes a clear statement about how important it is to support people with mental illnesses. Arthur Fleck is completely detached from the reality the rest of the world lives in, and its reflected particularly well during the stand-up comedy scenes in the film.

There’s been a lot of controversy around the film in terms of how violent it is, and frankly I find that all to be ridiculous. I have seen more gratuitous violence in every single Tarantino movie, both Deadpool films, and endless amounts of horror films. The violence in this movie is impactful, and it’s all in the context of the film. At no point is any statement made about guns, it’s not the focus in any way. The focus is on the mental illness, and how letting it go unchecked can lead to terrible consequences. It’s highlighting how the downtrodden can feel neglected and unimportant to the people with power and status.

My biggest criticism of the film is it’s handling of the messaging. I personally don’t find The Hangover movies to be that funny because they’re brash and the jokes fall flat for me, and that same brush is being used here but this time it’s being used to paint a different type of story. Joker provokes a lot of thought, it’s a film that stays with you and it forces you to think about uncomfortable, difficult subjects. I suppose in a way, a more subtle approach wouldn’t have the conversation going quite so ferociously in my own mind as this film has managed to do.

In all honestly, Joker is not an entertaining film. It’s a slow burn to start with, and it has a lot of scenes that will make you squirm uncomfortably and begin to make you think you’re being sympathetic to the character of Arthur Fleck. The film shows how tragic events can affect someone’s life and spins that into an origin for an extremely twisted and dark character, and it achieves that goal very well. If you prefer your movies to have redemption or light-hearted fun, steer well clear of Joker. This is the furthest thing you could get from a Marvel film, and yet there were moments which made the geeky side of me just as gleeful as the ThunderCap moment in Avengers Endgame.

Joker is a rare film that will start a conversation about topics that are very rarely brought up in everyday life, but ones that perhaps should be. That ability to start a conversation is a sign of a very good film in my opinion.

Good: Joaquin Phoenix should win the Oscar this year, I will be astounded if anyone can top this performance. Production design, the score and soundtrack are all top notch as well.

Bad: Even if the messages it’s trying to convey are important topics for us to think about, the film has all the subtlety of a brick to the face.

9/10 – I never thought I’d say this after Heath Ledger, but this is the best Joker ever. 

 

 

Three Trailers, Two Action Films, and an Irishman

The title sounds like the start of a terrible joke.

Anyway, I have been out of the cinema loop for about 8 weeks, there just hasn’t been time. Or rather, I haven’t been willing to make the time for the films that have been out. That is changing this weekend with the release of Joker. What it also means is I haven’t watched nearly as many trailers as I normally would, just because the films releasing them haven’t enticed me enough to even watch a trailer. That all changed this week.

First off, I will start with a trailer for a film I forgot was being made; The Kings Man. The Kingsman world is one rife for more stories, although a huge part of the first films success was down to Taron Edgerton, Colin Firth and Mark Strong among other cast members. This one is a prequel and looks like it goes back to the formation of the Kingsman organisation.

Ralph Fiennes is an excellent actor and he looks like he is all in for the role just like Colin Firth was in the first film. The rest of the cast is just as talented as the previous films, so the potential is certainly there. These films are defined by their Director’s flair than any other franchise currently running, with Matthew Vaughn’s style evident all over the trailer. He has a knack for making everything look and feel awesome, especially action sequences, and this appears to be no exception to that. It looks a little like a World War II movie but in his style, which is something I didn’t know I wanted to see. It comes out on Valentine’s Day next year, so it’s closer than I expected, and I am looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.

The biggest trailer this week in my opinion was for the upcoming DC film Birds of Prey. It’s called Birds of Prey, hinting at a team up with other female characters, but this trailer is heavily focused on the biggest marketable asset it has, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. I think she’s one of the rare cases where fan casting and real casting came together and got it right. Her commitment to the role and to recreating the character from the Animated show really adds to the character, although I did think this trailer leaned on her a little too much. It would have been nice to see a little more of the other members of the cast. Ewan McGregor as the “Villain” looks great, but there is very little insight into any of the other characters. This is the first trailer, and to be honest it looks a lot more fun than I expected, but we won’t know what to expect until we see a bit more of the surrounding cast.

Birds of Prey comes out on the 7th February, just a week before The Kings Man and as two very stylised looking action movies they may be fighting over the same audience. I think there is room for both, but they might eat each other’s box office a bit which might work out worse for one of them. They’re both coming out weeks before The Last of Us Part II, so whatever happens they won’t be the best piece of entertainment that month.

Last week ended with the trailer for a Martin Scorsese directed Gangster film with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci among others in the cast. The Irishman is going to be excellent; you can tell just by reading the names I just listed off. De Niro hasn’t worked this hard in a role for years, but you just know he is going to be giving it his best when he is working with a master like Scorsese.

This film is much closer than the previous 2, with its cinematic release scheduled for 1st November in theatres, before hitting Netflix a few weeks later the 27th. The limited run in cinema’s is a new thing, but one I can see becoming a much more regular occurrence. With the rise of Netflix and other streaming platforms, the way entertainment is made and distributed has changed and now people want to watch things at home on their 60-inch 4k TV screens rather than going to a cinema. I understand that but for me nothing beats a cinema when it comes to watching a movie.

There have been other trailers dropping, for example a new Ryan Reynolds led action film called 6 Underground that looks like Ryan Reynolds being Ryan Reynolds. Now who doesn’t enjoy Ryan Reynolds being all Ryan Reynolds like, I certainly do, but is Ryan Reynolds in danger of being type cast as Ryan Reynolds? I am always happy to watch Ryan Reynolds be Ryan Reynolds, but occasionally I wonder if Ryan Reynolds is happy being Ryan Reynolds in every role or if he wants to branch out and be a Bryan Reynolds for a change or something.

I have confused myself. Thanks for reading!

ChAzJS

 

Alexa is everywhere & Marvel man to make a Star Wars

Amazon held an event in Seattle yesterday to unveil a whole slew of new technology they are bringing out and it seems like the future is all about Alexa. She’s branching out from your Echo and Echo Dot into headphones, a microwave, Glasses and even a Ring. As someone who doesn’t really use any of the virtual assistants, it’s all a little bit odd.

I get the use of it, being able to ask a question about anything to a speaker and hear the correct answer in seconds is cool and feels very sci-fi to me, but even when I had access to it I would always find myself googling the question anyway. Now I know not everyone is as good as googling as others, I have learnt that through my job, but asking out loud gives you an answer once, and then you must ask again for it to be repeated. Googling on your phone just seems so much easier.

All the tech they have shown off is cool, but some of it is just solving problems I don’t think need answers. The smart microwave for example reads the packaging and sets itself up. Meaning you will no longer have to press 3 or 4 buttons to get your food cooked. Was there a big outcry for this? Are people yelling at their microwaves because they have had to press buttons on it?

That and the ring are the only really odd items they are selling, the rest of it I can see a use for. New glasses with Alexa built in seem more useful and bring us one step closer to the heads up display I have always wanted for real life. I can’t wait until I can walk around with a display telling me useful information or mapping out my route for me as I stroll. I don’t think there will quite have this, now it seems like it’s just normal prescription lenses with a directional speaker to answer your questions. If they can get a camera in there to see what I see and display functionality in the lens we will be really in the future.

I did notice that they are introducing some new tech to make the voice of Alexa sound a little more human, and that they are planning to bring out the first celebrity voice, and it’s going to be Samuel L Jackson. I can’t wait to change my mums Alexa voice to him and see the shock on her face when she asks Alexa to play Beautiful South and she gets a “Damn Mother Fucker all you had to do was ask”.

In movie news, yes there is finally some big movie news I care about, Disney have been making some interesting moves. The architect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and current Head of Marvel Kevin Feige is rumoured to have been given the keys to a Star Wars movie. Feige has found unprecedented success with the MCU and has kind of earned the respect of the world for what he has built. All reports are suggesting he is a huge Star Wars fan and this decision does make sense from a business perspective.

Disney have two of the biggest producers in the business running their two biggest franchises. One of them is a complete success and the other is Star Wars. Regardless of your views on The Last Jedi, it cannot be argued that it united the fan base. Quite the opposite in fact and that seems to have led to a rethink at Disney. Now they have paired Feige with Star Wars lead producer Kathleen Kennedy to try and start the new wave of content in the Star Wars universe.

It’s not all necessarily good news though. Marvel is currently in a state of rebuild, and as I wrote a little while ago Feige’s job now is to try and do it again. Repeat the success he had building Iron Man and Captain America into the faces of a huge connected series of films. They recently had their break up with Sony and lost the next biggest thing in the MCU in Spiderman, and a part of that was attributed to Feige just being too busy to help out on a Sony made movie so they wanted a bigger cut to make it worthwhile for them.

If a part of the reason Feige is too busy is because he is being drafted over to help with Star Wars, it feels like they’re possibly meddling with some dangerous waters. Marvel needs Feige and if he can help with the Spiderman issues, they should let him focus on that. The MCU is a feat of organisation and forward thinking that’s unrivalled in Hollywood. Star Wars is one of the few things that could be a huge distraction to the main man at Marvel and if he takes his eye off the ball at this crucial time for the MCU it could end badly.

Of course, it might all work out, and maybe Kevin Feige is just looking for something a bit different to the Superhero blockbusters he has been helping mass produce over the last 11 years. You could understand if he is a bit fatigued from the same universe of films being all he has been involved with for so long. It looks like Disney are leaning a bit heavier on their golden goose and hoping it can carry on producing the goods even in other franchises.

Knowing my luck this will all be debunked by the time this publishes.

Thanks for reading!

ChAzJS