No More Orphans In Zombieland (Zombieland: Double Tap, 2019)

Zombieland_Double_Tap_PosterSo, I loved 2009’s Zombieland. I found it largely a clever and hilarious take on Zombie movies with a terrific cast.  Amazon tried to do a series based on the film, recasting the characters with lesser known performers and a rather blah pilot episode.  I eventually gave up on the idea of ever getting a sequel…and then last year, on the heels of director Ruben Fleisher’s successful but critically maligned Venom, it was announced that a sequel was in the works…and that it would have the central cast returning. But revisiting Zombieland ten years later feels like a risky proposition.

Probably one of the original’s most notable flaws is how it feels like a lot of ideas strung together without a central story. lots of really entertaining sketches.  The film still works, just maybe could have used a more centralizing story.

However, while the film begins feeling a bit the same, a cohesive tale and goal for the group comes together.  The film adds some very fun new characters, and the jokes really land a good 90% of the time.

I appreciate that they kept a lot of the first film’s visual identity and this film feels like a surprisingly natural follow up to the first. If you enjoyed the first Zombieland, I feel confident you will have a great time with Double Tap.

Love of Santa Clause Pt 3 (The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, 2006)

santa-clause_3_posterDisney decided to make the series a Trilogy.  Well, at least until they come up with a Santa Clause 4 or maybe a series reboot with Chris Hemsworth as Scott Calvin.  In this film, we are introduced to Jack Frost, who feels like the most under appreciated of the Legendary Figures.  He schemes to find a way to be famous and sets his site on the throne of Santa Clause.

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Clause are bringing Mrs. Claus’ parents to the North Pole.  Of course, they have no idea Scott is Santa Claus, only knowing he is a toy maker and they never see their daughter.  The In-Laws both take digs at Scott, though in different ways.  While his father-in-law Bud is direct, his mother-in-law Sylvia is passive aggressive.  Yet again, the film relies on a deception themed plot.  Scott and the elves try and convince the In-Laws that they are in Canada.  All the while, Jack Frost is busy trying to undermine everything so he can convince Scott to take the Escape Clause.

Frost is successful, taking over a Santa.  This results in an “It’s a Wonderful Life” sequence.  It is, frankly not very successful, because Scott finding how life is super different without him as Santa is highly compressed into about five minutes.  It just does not give us enough time for emotional resonance.  The resolution comes quickly, almost to easily.

While there is a good cast here (Short, Anne-Margaret and Alan Arkin are all entertaining), the film feels like there is still a missing element.  One of those elements is Bernard.  Krumholtz and Allen had a fun chemistry, and while Spencer Breslin’s Curtis is a likable character, his ascension to the main elf is not quite the same.

While not a absolute failure, this is not a strong ending for the series.  It feels rushed and has a somewhat unsatisfying resolution.

Everybody’s An Orphan in Zombieland (Zombieland, 2009)

zombieland_posterI cannot be objective about this film.

The main reason is that I had way to much fun.  Visually, the movie has a great style.  The humor is spot on.  The performances are terrific.  I had a terrific time.

The first thing that stands out is that the credits are as inspired as Watchman’s opening credits.  As we see slow motion zombie carnage, the credits are appearing on the screen, they get knocked off the screen by the zombies and their victims all to Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.  It really sets the tone for the film.  Wait, no, it is the sequence in which Jesse Eisenberg explains his rules, which pop up on the screen.  His main for rules are Cardio.  You better be able to run.  I am going to give them a pass on the fat joke here.  Because I don’t care how you cut it…we fat people can run quickly in short bursts, but we would likely be the first to get picked off in a zombie apocalypse.

Then, avoid bathrooms (demonstrated humorously in a bit featuring Mike White).  Next is seatbelts.  Always wear your seatbelt.  Finally, there is the double tap.  This means you do not want to be stingy with the bullets. If you shoot a zombie-take em out in the head to be safe.   Technically, Eisenberg’s list is comprised of 32 rules.  The recurring of the rules popping up on the screen is both funny and a helpful reminder.

A great bit is the film’s emphasis on how people have survived by not forming new attachments and how this has actually been damaging.  Nobody knows the names of the characters.  They are referred to by where they are from.  So Woody Harrelson is Tallahassee, while Emma Stone is Wichita, Eisenberg is Columbus and Breslin is Little Rock.

The cast really sells the movie.  Personally I really like Emma Stone, who has been entertaining in even crappy films like the House Bunny.  And Abigail Breslin is great as her younger sister.  I cannot say too much about these two, because it will spoil some great moments in the film.  Eisenberg is a self described shut in who has survived because he really had no earthly attachments before the zombie apocalypse.  He gets joined by Tallahassee, a rather anti-social guy with a morbid sense of humor and a real hatred of zombies.  And a Twinkie fetish.

This is a strong horror comedy, not unlike Shaun of the Dead, although Shaun of the Dead was much  gorier.  This surprised me, I mean, Zombieland is not…bloodless.  But outside of the very beginning, there is not a lot of grizzly, gory deaths, since it is pretty much all zombies being taken down.  The humor on tap here is at times morbid, but it works in the context of the film.   Trying to describe the jokes just won’t work outside of seeing them in context.  But if you liked Shaun of the Dead?  You will more than likely enjoy Zombieland.

The soundtrack is a fun mix of heavy metal, alternative and country and it works.

I think my only real criticism?  Jesse Eisenberg.  Don’t get me wrong, within the movie, his character is effective.  But there isn’t that much difference between, say, Columbus and James from Adventureland.  Or Jimmy from Cursed.  Eisenberg seems to be playing slight variations on the quirky loner who seeks love persona over and over.  Schwarzenegger has had more range than this.  But all in all?  Zombieland is a keeper.

A Father’s Love (Maggie, 2015)

maggie1First time film Director Henry Hobson offers up a film very different than one might expect from a guy who came out of the video game industry.  Maggie is not a flashy film.  It is a quiet tale of a family dealing with the fact that their daughter is becoming a zombie.

Set in a world where becoming a zombie is just an expected possibility in life, Maggie is focused on a young woman (Abigail Breslin) who is suffering from the early stages of, uh, “zombie-ism”.    Her father Wade (Arnold Schwarzeneggar) and mother Caroline (Joely Richardson) are struggling to come to terms with what this means.  Do they send their daughter off to Quarantine?  Do they break the law and keep her until she is to far gone?

Wade struggles especially hard with the idea of what the future holds.  He is continuously trying to keep Maggie connected to the living world, whenever she starts to be consumed by aggression and hunger.

You probably see Schwarzeneggar’s name and assume there must be at least one ridiculous fight scene…but Arnold really does well in this role of heartbroken father at a loss for how to help his daughter.  He barely raises his voice.  He is not an action hero barreling through this film.  He is not a super hero.  He is a good hearted and gentle guy.  The connection between father and daughter is evident throughout the film…both of them knowing the path they are going down.

Maggie-590-02As I said, this is a quiet film, and moves at a fairly mellow pace.  This is not a zombie apocalypse about the world falling apart.  It would not be right to call it a horror movie.  This is a father and daughter drama set within a zombie movie.  Change Maggie’s situation to cancer and you have a heartbreaking family drama.

There are moments where the film seems to wander, but the overall film was effective as a slow burn drama.  It will, not be for everyone, but if you have enjoyed a film like, say, Moon?  This may be right up your alley.

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