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.

The Bigger They Come Part 14 (Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, 2019)

Godzilla_King_of_the_Monsters_PosterReturning to the present after Kong Skull Island’s 70’s setting, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is our chance for some giant monster against monster action.

With a quick revisit to the destruction of the end of 2014’s Godzilla by Gareth Edwards, we meet the Russell family who are searching for their son while Godzilla fights the MUTOs.

Jumping to the present, Mark and Emma Russell are estranged, with Emma continuing her scientific work with Monarch. When Emma and their daughter Maddie are kidnapped by Echo-Terrorists, along with a weapon that allows for some communication with the titans, Mark is recruited by Monarch to help get them back.

It turns out to be more complex than that, some believe that the Titans are the key to healing the planet.  But their confidence lacks important data that could doom the planet and humanity.

So… One of my complaints with Edward’s Godzilla was it’s slow drawn out reveal of Godzilla. This was the umpteenth version of Godzilla and the slow reveal was unnecessary and pretty annoying. Here, we get to start seeing the titans very quickly and dramatically.  Director Michael Dougherty knows that a movie called Godzilla: King of the Monsters will need to deliver on the monsters.

And boy does he.  The film has several exciting sequences as Godzilla fights the new renditions of classic ToHo monsters. The designs of the creatures are great, they have a sense of life and threat.

I also liked the human characters in this film. It was nice to see Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins return from the previous film. Chandler is solid as a character who would just as soon see the titans all dead, but is forced to confront his anger and bitterness to save his family and the world. Vera Farmiga is both sympathetic and frustrating as Emma, who loves her family, but seems to skirt the line of ethics in her choices.  And Stranger Thing’s Millie Bobby Brown is very good as the surviving child who really wants to do what is right and also honor her lost brother.  The film has a fun supporting cast as well.

I really enjoyed this film.  The myth building, the action and the characters came together for crazy monster bashing fun.

 

Down to the Last One (The Final Girls, 2015)

the_final_girls_posterYou can go one of two ways with a horror comedy.  Either you can show your disdain for the genre by mocking it…or you can pay a generous homage to it.  Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls goes the second route, and it pays off.

The film tells the story of Max (Taissa Farmiga) whose mother Nancy (Malin Ackerman) is a struggling actress whose biggest claim to fame was a slasher film from 20 years ago.  Upon losing her mother in a car wreck, Max has quietly moved on as best she can.  She is begged by Duncan (Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley) to attend a special screening of the first two films in the franchise that made her mother famous.

In a freak accident Max, her friends Gertie (Alia Shawkat, Arrested Development), Vicki (Nina Dobrev, the Vampire Diaries), Chris (Alexander Ludwig, the Hunger Games and oddly enough a completely different film called Final Girl) and Duncan find themselves trapped within the original Camp Bloodbath.  As they try to survive the film, Max finds an opportunity to reconnect with her mother through her character Amanda.  This is a lot more effective than I expected.  Farmiga and Ackerman connect quite well.

The film manages to have fun with the tropes of the genre and earn their laughs.  Rather than go for Scary Movie Parody, the jokes are smarter and more fun.  Also, while acknowledging the exploitation elements of slasher films, the film itself tends to avoid cheap nudity.  There is a gag where a way to attract the killer of the film, Billy, a woman needs to just start stripping.  Plenty of directors would have used this as a cheap excuse for gratuitous nudity, yet the nudity is all off-screen.

The Final Girls is a horror comedy worth seeing.

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