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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Black Panther Review

The Marvel Machine chugs onwards with Black Panther, the first Superhero film based on an african character. Being the final film before Avengers Infinity War, Black Panther aims to teach us more about the intriguing character introduced in Captain America Civil War, ready for him to be a main part of the team in this May’s blockbuster team up.

Black Panther boasts one of the most talent stacked casts of any marvel film to date. From Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, to Forest Whitaker as a troubled priest Zuri, to Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, there is a talented actor in every role in the film. Almost all of them are performers you will recognise from somewhere, whether its Daniel Kaluuya from Get Out, or Andy Serkis in a rare non-motion capture role. Each of them brings something to the table and it contributes towards a brilliantly performed film that director Ryan Coogler weaves together to create an entertaining and unexpectedly thoughtful film. All those characters mentioned, special praise goes to the women playing T’Challa’s bodyguards the awesome Dora Milaje.

That thoughtfulness comes from the themes and social commentary attempted by the film. Characters are forced to realise the mistakes of the past, and confronted with the question of how they are going to go forward to make things better in the future. It’s a question that I believe everyone faces in their lives in some way at some point, and one which several characters have differing opinions on. This led to me feeling much more sympathetic to both sides of the main conflict in the film.

The country of Wakanda is such an incredibly cool idea, a hidden african nation decades ahead of the rest of the world technologically. Bringing the world to life in such an impressive way is a great achievement, and its futuristic elements melded in with the tribal nature of the characters is something unique to this film. The world itself also contributes towards the conflict and main themes of the film. I found myself longing to learn more about the country, and its history which is a great thing for a film to be able to do in terms of world building.

They say the best villains are the ones who are the heroes of their own story, and that could be said for antagonist Erik Killmonger, played by the charismatic Michael B Jordan, who steals several scenes in the film. The scene in which we are introduced to the character is one of my favourites from the entire film, and the threat he poses to our hero feels very real. Marvel have once again gone for a bad guy that is a mirror of the films good guy trope, as Iron man 1, Doctor Strange, and the hulk all fought a very similar character to themselves, and that’s just off the top of my head. What separates Killmonger from the rest of the MCU villains to date is that we are given a clear and understandable reason for why he is doing what he is doing, even if we don’t agree with the methods he employs.

This far into a superhero movie review and I haven’t mentioned the fight scenes or action yet, of which there is plenty in the film. Disappointingly, i thought this is the weakest part of Black Panther. There are some great one to one duels in the film, but the big set pieces fell a bit flat for me. Considering Ryan Coogler’s work in Creed, which features a truly magnificent boxing scene, i expected the action in Black Panther to be clear and easy to follow. The reality is at times you get lost in the colours flashing around on-screen as the action is filmed using a lot of cuts and close-ups in some set pieces. The car chase scene stands out as something that we should be discussing as one of the moments of the film, but I don’t think that will prove to be the case.

There is a fair bit of obvious computer effects throughout the film, but the points where you really notice is the fight scenes. Characters at times resemble something off a Playstation and not up to the standard that we have come to expect from these big Marvel films. They are victims of their own success here, but I think a little bit more attention to details in those moments would have made a big difference.

This is a different superhero film to what we have gotten used to from Marvel, and the thought-provoking nature of the film is really something to be applauded. The film may struggle to match some of Marvel’s other efforts when it comes to being an action packed superhero film but, much in the same way the character himself isn’t just another person to add to the roster, Black Panther isn’t just another superhero film, it succeeds at being more than that.

Good: By all accounts this film means a lot for representation around the world, featuring the first Black comic character in a film since Blade, and the first African superhero ever. On top of that, it’s an intelligent, clever film that will leave you feeling positive.

Bad: The slightly too hectic action didn’t hit for me, and the noticeable CGI always distracts me, the fact i still rate it so highly is a testament to the storytelling though.

8/10 – Wakanda Forever.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard Review

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a film that, on paper, is perfect for me. Two charismatic actors with good chemistry in an action movie with lots of quips and jokes throughout. Going in I was hoping to be entertained but was curious about the plot and the rest of the film. 

The first thing you have to say about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is that the chemistry you hope for between Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds is there. They bounce off each other brilliantly and they are easily the best part of the film. Ryan Reynolds keeps his character grounded enough to stop it becoming a Deadpool copycat which to be honest I wouldn’t have minded too much considering how much I loved him in that role. He is so good at the quick one liners and comedic elements he can make anything watchable.

It’s a very good job him and an on form Sam Jackson are in this as the rest of the film really struggles. The only other part that holds up at all is the action, which considering the director’s last movie is one of the Expendables franchise you would expect no less. Some slightly iffy special effects can be forgiven for what is a smaller budget film and the action is fun to watch when it happens.

That is all the good that the Hitman’s Bodyguard has to offer, and whilst it is entertaining the film has a number of issues. First of all the plot is anything but compelling, with a Belarusian dictator played by Gary Oldman (more on him in a second) on trial for war crimes and the Hitman played by Sam Jackson has a file that is needed for this trial to convict him. Of course, being an eastern european dictator, Gary Oldman has a number of his own hitmen out to stop Jackson reaching the court in Holland. The plot is laid out early on, then largely forgotten for long periods of the film. It serves as a reason for Jackson and Reynolds to be on their crazy road trip but it lacks any degree of subtlety.

Now I love thoroughly appreciate him Gary Oldman’s work, from his role in Harry Potter as Sirius Black, to his picture perfect Jim Gordon in the Dark Knight. He is rumoured to be in with a shout at an oscar win this year, and im glad because he is a fine actor. That all being said, he is terrible in this film. The accent he put on disappears when he raises his voice above a certain level, there is no motivations behind why he appears to be doing these terrible things. I do not understand why you would get a talent like him and tell him to play the most generic bad guy you could imagine with no depth for him to explore. This goes down as one where he was just cashing his cheque.

The other supporting cast are scattered through the film, with only really Salma Hayek being memorable in any way. Despite her being fun to watch, her character has literally no reason to be in the movie. Elodie Yung is a thousand times better in Daredevil and the Defenders than her character here allows her to be, although she does do well with what is another poorly fleshed out character.

Verdict

The strangest thing about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is that despite its obvious flaws and knowing it is not a good movie, I still had quite a laugh watching it. This is a testament to the chemistry and charisma of Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds. Without them, this would be a terrible film. With them, it’s just below average with some fun moments scattered throughout.

4/10 – 2 points each for Jackson and Reynolds.

 

Girls Trip Review

Girls trip looked pretty funny from the trailers, but not one I was expecting to see. However, I have banned myself from saying no to any movie, so I ended up going to see this chick flick that’s targeted very obviously at women. I was the only male in the cinema, and I saw trailers for films I had no idea existed. I basically spent two hours having a girls night at the cinema.

Considering director Malcolm D. Lee has Scary Movie 5 on his resume, I was expecting a lot of over the top, dumb humour. There is some of that here, but it doesn’t feel as jarring and frankly unfunny as the Scary Movie franchise did. The over the top moments actually worked for me, and made me laugh out loud at points.

Once the movie gets going you quickly realise that this film is reliant on the chemistry between the 4 main girls. Thankfully Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish bounce off each other well and are actually believable as a group of old friends.

Each member of the group may well remind women of one of their actual friends, and as a guy I think i may have missed some of the subtle jokes between women. The humour did work 99% of the time for me, so don’t worry if you’re a guy who is going to be dragged to this by your partner, you will still have a lot of laughs. There is also Mike Coulter from Luke Cage, and he is so incredibly manly most men will feel considerably more feminine than usual. One of the best things about Girls Trip is how the laughs are spread around the group, with the crazy moments equally spread to avoid making one of the characters the “wacky” one.

I don’t see a lot of chick flicks, but the few I have tend to try to shoot for a bigger, more serious point in the film that is supposed to make you think about a deeper meaning. It has never been successful in any film for me, and always feel too preachy and cheesy to take seriously. Girls Trip is no different, and there is a speech made by one of the characters and to me personally, it felt like it lasted roughly 7 hours. I appreciate the filmmakers trying to make things a little deeper overall, just im yet to see it work.

Verdict

I have to be honest, I had no intention of seeing Girls Trip and my expectations were pretty low, but I was pleasantly surprised and had a lot of laughs. From a guy’s point of view, there are definitely worse films you could be dragged to. For girls, I think this film will really make you laugh, as long as you can handle the crude moments (Grapefruit, that’s all i will say).

8/10 – I feel a lot more feminine now…

War for the Planet of the Apes Review

War for the Planet of the Apes is the finale of the prequel trilogy that has been named incorrectly. First we had Rise of the Planet of the Apes,  then came Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. So technically it rose before it started. This final chapter is named war, because it’s about Apes escaping from a prison. There’s some explosions as well so I guess War is the most accurate title so far. 

None of that actually matters of course, the title of a film doesn’t affect the quality of a film, only the box office, just ask “John Carter”, which is a good film nobody saw because it sounds like a film about an accountant. It even did worse than “The Accountant” in the US, which is a film based on an Accountant (who is also a badass, some say it’s based on me, I cannot confirm or deny these reports).

War had the unenviable task of following up on the fantastic second film Dawn, and whilst it never reaches the heights of its predecessor, it delivers a fitting end to this story and the journey we have seen these apes go on.

Andy Serkis reprises his role as King of the Apes Caesar, and once again he is fantastic in the role. The man has become one of the most consistently excellent performers in the movie industry regardless of whether he’s doing motion capture or otherwise. He is the driving force behind this movie and his dynamic with Woody Harrelson provide the crux of the movie.

As I mentioned earlier, “War” is a slightly misleading title as although the film does have some solid action scenes, the focus of the film is much more personal and surprised me that they went for this angle. Without spoiling too much, a major part of the film is set in a prison camp situation and the film is more “Great Escape” than “Saving Private Ryan”.

The action scenes we do get are shot clearly, and you never lose track of what’s happening. there was nothing quite up to the level of the Tank panning shot from Dawn, but the camerawork throughout the hectic battles is solid, and the use of wide shots let you get a real sense of scale towards the end of the film.

Like i hinted at earlier, Woody Harrelson provides an excellent antagonist, and his character seems like a bit of a one-dimensional guy at first but his motivations are revealed and i personally found myself understanding his point of view. Considering he is technically representing the Human Race in this film, its strange that the guy fighting for us is the one we see as the villain. This is a testament to the work done over the 3 movies to get us to relate to the apes in this trilogy.

Verdict

War for the Planet of the Apes never reaches the incredibly heights of Dawn, but I think that would be an unrealistic expectation. What we have here is a good end to a magnificent trilogy of films, that can stand toe to toe some of the greatest movie trilogies we have ever had. If only they named them correctly. Even a monkey could have done a better job.

8/10 – Fitting end to fantastic trilogy. 

Spiderman Homecoming Review

Marvel and Sony collaborate to bring Spiderman to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in his own movie after the cameo he had in Civil War last year. Considering he is my all time favourite Marvel character my excitement for this film was through the roof. The trailers looked a little Ironman heavy, but the glimpse of Tom Holland we had in Civil War gave me so much hope.

Hope that was in good hands, as Spiderman Homecoming gave me everything i wanted from a Spiderman film. Tom Holland is so perfect as 15 year old Peter Parker, and he carries the film effortlessly with Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark/Iron Man being featured very little in comparison to what the trailers implied. This is very much a Spiderman movie and not Iron Man 4.

Tom Hollands school friends are an interesting bunch of characters with Zendaya’s Michelle and Jacob Batalon’s Ned being the most entertaining of the group. I felt there was a genuine friendship growing between those 3 in particular, and hopefully it can continue in any sequel we see as the dynamic is different to anything we have seen in the Spiderman world before.

The entire cast is pretty impressive in Homecoming, and none more so than the antagonist for this film Michael Keaton. In what is easily the most memorable Marvel villain since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Keaton brings an intensity to the role of the Vulture unlike what we have seen in Marvel villains to date. He is probably the first genuinely interesting villain from  a psychological perspective as the film sets up his motivations straight away, and you understand what he sees his role as in this world and why he is doing what he is doing.

The combination of the best Spiderman put to film to date and a rare great marvel villain blend in perfectly with the marvel movie fun tone we are used to. This films tongue in cheek, self aware humour make it one of the funniest films around, with the comedy blended very well into the movie to where it all feels like a natural progression throughout the film which is a credit to director Jon Watts who handles the young cast terrifically, guiding them through the transitions from light-hearted fun to dramatic and tense scenes.

The one area I felt Homecoming could improve is the action. Whilst it does have a terrific scene on a boat, the majority of the fighting is pretty cut heavy, chopping from angle to angle in a style that didn’t quite work for me. It isn’t transformers level bad by any means, but it could use a little cleaning up and maybe pulling back the camera a touch so we can see everything happening with less cuts.

Verdict

Spiderman Homecoming is one of my favourite MCU movies ever, I love the characterisation of the webslinger they have gone with and Tom Holland is so engaging in this role I could watch him quipping and swinging around for hours on end. The slightly choppy action hurt my score a little, but Spiderman Homecoming is still a great film.

9/10 – THEY PLAY THE TUNE AT THE START.