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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Rocketman Review

Last year we got Queen, this year we get Elton John. Taron Egerton takes on the role, allegedly handpicked by Elton John himself. Could he follow in the footsteps of Remi Malek and smash this out of the park. Dexter Fletcher, the uncredited director of parts of Bohemian Rhapsody, and after what he did with that film, I was excited to see what he could do with this story. 

That is the end of the Bo-Rap comparisons for now, as I don’t want to discredit the film by just comparing it to another movie. Elton John’s story is one I knew of vaguely, but none of the details were clear to me. The film shows the pure talent of the musician, but also dives in deep to the core of the man. We see the highs and the lows, and it doesn’t pull any punches.

Getting the right actor to be Elton was always going to be the element that would make or break this film, and I have to say that Taron Egerton absolutely smashes this role. He becomes Elton for the duration of the film, and he shows he can carry a film and deliver on the emotional moments that are scattered through the film. On top of that, he has the voice and physical ability to carry off all the singing and dancing this film throws at him.

That brings me to the most fun element of Rocketman, the music. I went in expecting some of the biggest hits and a few concert recreations, but that is not what Rocketman delivers. This is a full-on musical, just with world famous songs that are positioned at the perfect times to fit the story. If you watched the film with no idea of Elton John or his music, you could easily think the music was created originally for this film. “Saturday Night Alright for Fighting” to “Your Song”, a big handful of Elton’s best-known music is served up.

The music punctuates key scenes, and for me worked at its best when it functioned as the exclamation point on key scenes. The other interesting use that may not work for everyone, is the use of his songs to stop the audience dwelling on any of the lower moments. We see Elton hit rock bottom, the lowest he could go, and it leads into a rendition of the title song. The way the song is filmed and performed, it worked perfectly for me and kept the movie from feeling too heavy at any time.

So far, it’s all been about Elton in this review, but whilst he is of course the main character, we do get some really good work from the supporting cast. His mum played by Bryce Dallas Howard is excellent as is his co-writer and best friend Bernie, played by Jamie Bell. Both have key roles in the film and share the stage with Egerton without ever outshining him, although I am not sure that would have been possible in this film.

The other major character in the film is John Reid, Elton’s manager and lover. He is played by Richard Madden, who does well in the role but the character itself is the main flaw in the film for me. Whilst the music numbers are fantastical and dreamlike, all the character moments between them felt real. As the film progresses John Reid goes from slightly manipulative to being full on moustache twirling evil. I felt he became a bit too cartoonish by the end of the film and that is a real shame as that is pretty much the only element of this film I didn’t enjoy.

Rocketman delivers on the potential the story has and is an incredibly fun time in the cinema. A brilliant performance by Egerton, that for me outdoes even Remi Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, is one of many reasons to go and see this film. Unless you hate Elton John’s music, you will have a great time watching this.

Good:  Taron Egerton’s performance may be the best in 2019, Musical numbers that will have your feet tapping and a smile on your face and will leave you with a new appreciation for Elton John.

Bad: I found one character a bit too over the top evil, and that is the only real knock I can have. Oh and no Circle of Life. Come on.

9.5/10 – Leaves you feeling like a little kid. 

 

 

Triple Frontier Review

Netflix have been putting more and more money into the production of its own content. They’ve found a lot of success with the series they have produced, but their own movies have struggled to be consistent. They tend to be predictable stories with A list talent, and the net results has to date have been inconsistent. Triple Frontier brings Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam and Pedro Pascal. 

They are all very talents actors, capable of carrying the movie on their own shoulders. The film does a good job is a good sense of camaraderie between the entire group when they’re together and the character moments between them are what the filmmakers attempt to use to take Triple Frontier to another level. The group face a lot of challenges through the film, and each actor has a moment to deliver something great. Oscar Isaac is top of the bill for me, but Affleck and Hunnam come to play as well. Pedro Pascal and Garrett Hedlund are given less to do, kind of playing “the other guys” for me but the group all knit together well.

They are all playing ex military servicemen, with different skills and a past we get a hint of without any real details. What you can tell is that they have a bond, and when it comes to it they would lay their lives on the line to save one another. That isn’t often required though, as we learn throughout that these are all very capable soldiers, to the point where they seem almost invincible at some points in the film. They aren’t and the way the tension builds through the film is excellent. Credit has to go to the director for putting together these intense, slow, methodical action scenes that burst into life with gunfire then return to the quiet tension that preceded the moment of explosive action.

One of the reasons this tension is created is by excellent use of the camera. Long tracking shot, slow sweeping one shot sequences, and only cutting when necessary. No action scene is hidden behind chopping between 15 camera angles, something I hate in films. Everything that happens is clear, well shot and feels real. The sound design is excellent, every gunshot pops, and the slow speed of the engagements makes for some of the best military style action I’ve seen in a while.

If the action and the group dynamic are what makes Triple Frontier worth watching, the plot is what might make it a little less enjoyable. The plot is generic, which is fine in itself, but the payoff at the end of the film feels very light and fluffy for what is an intense ride for the majority of the 2 hour 5 minute run time. That run time does feel a little heavy, which I judge based on whether I have looked at the time or checked how long is left during the film. I checked in this film and nearly groaned that there was 45 minutes left. The lack of an engaging premise is what makes the film feel long, and although the third act does pick up the pace a little, it kind of loses its way a little. The finale of the film was a bit odd, and the storytelling choices the make didn’t really make sense with me, given everything that happens in the film.

Triple Frontier has an excellent cast, playing an intriguing group of characters. At times its like the film can’t decide if they are good or bad people, and the meandering between the two leads to a bit of an unsatisfying ending. The action delivers in a big way, just like the cast, but I can’t help but feel this film delivers less than the sum of its parts in a weird way. The potential with a cast this strong and action put together this well is sky-high, and although it’s a good film, it didn’t quite reach greatness.

Good: Great cast and performances all round, and it has some of the most intense and realistic action scenes of the year so far.

Bad:  Generic and unengaging plot doesn’t give the audience the hook to keep engaged for the entire run time, unfulfilling ending.

6/10 – Much like Affleck’s Batman, this is good, but it could have been great.