Film Review: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Also known as: Zombieland 2 (working title, unofficial title)
Release Date: October 9th, 2019 (Taiwan)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Dave Callaham
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Avan Jogia, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Bill Murray (cameo), Al Roaker (cameo)

2.0 Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, Pariah, 99 Minutes

Review:

“[first lines] Welcome to Zombieland. Back for seconds? After all this time? Well, what can I say, but thank you. You have a lot of choices when it comes to zombie entertainment, and we appreciate you picking us.” – Columbus

Being that my fairly recent rewatch of the original film showed me that it didn’t age well, I wasn’t super gung ho to see its sequel, ten years later.

However, after being somewhat annoyed by the opening narration, which itself felt dated, I was at least pleasantly surprised to discover that I mostly liked this movie, even though it didn’t need to exist and didn’t do much to justify it being made.

I’ll admit, I liked all these characters from the first movie and it was cool checking in on them a decade later. You’re quickly filled in on what has happened in the time that’s passed but there isn’t really anything unexpected other than Little Rock being college aged and having the feeling that she needs to leave the nest and have her own experiences. This of course leads to the adventure in this film, as the other three set out to find her, after she takes off.

There are other new characters introduced and they’re all pretty decent, except for the douche from Berkeley but then again, you’re supposed to hate him.

At its core, this is really just more of the same with some weird subplot about a hippie commune full of pacifists that have somehow survived more than a decade into a zombie apocalypse, living in an unsafe high-rise with loud music, firework shows and no weapons. But hey, this is comedy, so whatever, right?

I liked the addition of Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch to the cast. I don’t like that they left Zoey behind with the dumb hippies though, as she’s probably just going to die.

Anyway, I’d probably say that this is fairly consistent with the first movie and rate it the same. It didn’t blow my socks off but it was a decent escape from the very real COVID-19 drama for 99 minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the first Zombieland film and possibly the series, but I haven’t watched it yet.

Film Review: Bottle Rocket (1996)

Release Date: February 21st, 1996
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, James Caan, Andrew Wilson, Lumi Cavazos, Donny Caicedo, Jim Ponds, Tak Kubota, Kumar Pallana

Gracie Films, Columbia Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Here are just a few of the key ingredients: dynamite, pole vaulting, laughing gas, choppers – can you see how incredible this is going to be? – hang gliding, come on!” – Dignan

A commercial failure upon release, Bottle Rocket would go on to wow a lot of the top critics and still became a launching pad for the careers of Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers.

While not my favorite Anderson picture, I still love Bottle Rocket and the fact that it shows that Anderson wit and style yet is still pretty straightforward and not as stylized as his films would become after this one, starting with 1998’s RushmoreBottle Rocket feels like a Wes Anderson movie in spirit and substance but greatly differs in how it feels more grounded in reality.

At its core, this is a comedic heist picture. While that is a major plot point, the film is more about relationships and self discovery. While you get the feeling that this trio of bandits are going to fail miserably with the big heist, you can’t not be taken in by Owen Wilson’s goofy plan and charisma. His antics are hilarious and his schemes are even more amusing. The carelessness of how he handles his business and openly talks about his schemes in public make you wonder how these guys didn’t get arrested before the big job. But it all just adds to the brilliant absurdity of this entertaining movie.

The vast majority of the film was shot around Hillsboro, Texas – a small town midway between Dallas and Waco. The landscapes and environment have a really simplistic yet majestic feel to them. All the outdoor bits are shot really well and it is a real contrast to Anderson’s work after this picture, where he shoots a lot within the confines of very opulent and stylized interiors.

This is a 90s indie comedy of the best kind. It feels very indie and very 90s but still has an original appeal that very much makes it its own thing. Both Wilson’s are great, as is their buddy Bob, played by Robert Musgrave, a guy who should be in more movies. He pairs well with the Wilsons and matches their comedic timing and delivery quite well.

Bottle Rocket is a fun and amusing picture. It has a visual allure and is kind of sweet. It is a hard film not to like.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Bottle Rocket (1994)

Release Date: January, 1994 (Sundance)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson
Cast: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave

Gracie Films, Columbia Pictures, 13 Minutes

Review:

“Man, that was a great driving. Seriously, that was a really good driving. Okay? 183 dollars, pretty god rob. Good driving.” – Dignan

This is not a review of the feature length 1996 film Bottle Rocket, this is a review of the original short film made by Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers that would go on to give birth to the feature length version a few years later.

Shot in 1992 in black and white and only 13 minutes long, this version of Bottle Rocket debuted at Sundance in 1994. It got a good amount of buzz and provided Anderson and the Wilsons with the opportunity to shop the idea around, raise money, produce a longer version and get Columbia Pictures to distribute it. They were also able to attract the legendary James Caan to the picture, where he stars alongside the Wilsons in the final act of that film.

This early version of the Bottle Rocket story is a condensed version of what would become the first act of the larger movie. Some of the dialogue and the scenes are almost exactly the same but lacking the visual refinement of the later version. Still, the look of this film is more gritty and feels more authentic and real when compared to its bigger budget followup.

This version is superbly shot and the Wilson brothers already deliver their lines like seasoned veterans. As a fan of the 1996 Bottle Rocket, seeing this now is a real treat.

Wes Anderson showed here, that he had talent and knew what he was doing, even if his work wasn’t as fine tuned as it would become just a few years later with his breakout film Rushmore.

Where I usually leave trailers at the bottom of my reviews, I figured that I would post the short film in its entirety, as it really is worth 13 minutes of your time, if you are a fan of Anderson and the Wilsons.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: The ‘Scream’ Film Series (1996-2011)

*written in 2015.

I was a senior in high school when the first Scream came out. It was huge, especially due to kids my age. Well, mostly kids who were never really into horror or girls who were too terrified to watch something actually scary. This isn’t me taking shots at the film, it is just the reality of it.

Scream changed the horror genre forever. The problem, is that it essentially ruined it. I’ll explain more as I go on but let me get to my thoughts on each film.

Scream (1996):

Release Date: December 18th, 1996 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore, W. Earl Brown

Woods Entertainment, Dimension Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” – Ghostface

I didn’t like this film the first time I saw it when it came out. I thought it was cheesy, not scary and full of too many recognizable stars. Although, everyone else in the theater seemed to be terrified when Drew Barrymore got murdered in the beginning. But then, the audience for Scream is not the real horror fan audience. At least not by 70s, 80s and 90s standards.

The problem with having recognizable stars in horror, as well as a decent budget, is that it feels less real and authentic. It is similar to the use of bad CGI for blood splatter and monster effects in horror now. It separates you from the film by constantly reminding you that you are watching a production. I’m going to feel more for some girl I’ve never seen before, who I have only witnessed going through the horror on screen, than I will some girl that was whiny and moody on Party of Five for several years before this movie came out. Or a cast member of Friends who I would’ve loved to see killed off, yet somehow she survived to be in all four films.

Ghostface, the slasher in these films, is not scary. Maybe he was to the teen audience of 1996 but being a teen at that time, I thought he was shit. The mask is goofy, the cloak looks like it was stolen from the Spencer’s Halloween display and the wavy knife looked like something gimmicky that came with a 80s G.I. Joe toy.

The film was too polished, and just looked too Hollywood. Craven, before this, had been known for his grittiness.

The slasher genre and horror, in general, were pretty much ruined when the characters started discussing the rules of slasher films. The film parodied the genre it was in and put on blast the unspoken rules of horror. Maybe perceived as smart and cool at the time, and maybe it was just Craven’s way of saying “fuck you” to his competition, this approach killed horror going forward. Yes, Wes Craven, a guy who modernized horror in the 70s and 80s, killed it in the 90s.

Due to its success, Scream went on to kill horror even further. It was mimicked by every studio, horror was now free of sex, gore was minimal, it became PG-13 to pull in more teens, known stars were cast, budgets swelled and the rest is history.

Today, I don’t hate Scream. Even with how it altered everything, it is better than the modern horror films we’re stuck with. While Scream was the start of something bad, year after year, that bad has gotten worse. And that wasn’t Craven’s intention. I think he was really just focused on an idea and a concept. That concept ended up bringing an end to his own career, other than pumping out Scream sequels that got worse as time went on.

Rating: 7/10

Scream 2 (1997):

Release Date: December 10th, 1997 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Laurie Metcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Jada Pinkett, Liev Schreiber, Rebecca Gayheart, David Warner, Omar Epps, Portia de Rossi, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, Joshua Jackson

Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 120 Minutes

Review:

Scream 2 was a step down from the original but I like that Liev Schreiber got to be a bigger character. I was also glad they killed off Jamie Kennedy. And Aunt Jackie from Roseanne is in it.

The problem with Scream 2, which is made more than obvious in the opening scene, is that it feels like it has to compensate for its lack of black actors in the first film. In fact, the first film really featured no black actors and was thus, accused of being another “whitewashed” slasher picture.

Some people have criticized Jada Pinkett’s monologue about race in slasher films but I enjoyed it. She wasn’t wrong. And at least Craven put it in there to address some of these issues that were brought up after the success of the original film. Although, it did feel like overcompensation.

The film isn’t as good as the first. The reveal of who the killer is this time, is pretty underwhelming. The formula ran it’s course in the first movie and we were stuck with a picture where we were treading the same water without any new scenery. The ending brings with it a twist but it is more of a head-scratcher than a shocking reveal. It also starts the trend of building up a bigger backstory that isn’t necessary.

Neve Campbell’s mom was a slut and her sluttiness is a key factor into why her daughter and her friends have to suffer. And in the third film, her legacy of sluttiness goes back even further.

Rating: 5/10

Scream 3 (2000):

Release Date: February 3rd, 2000 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Ehren Kruger
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Patrick Warburton

Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 117 Minutes

Review:

The third film ended the trilogy. Well, it was supposed to be a trilogy, where the fourth film years later, was to be the start of a second trilogy. The second trilogy never happened, so we ended up with a single quadrilogy. But, at the time, this was treated as the third and final act.

This was also, by far, the worst movie in the series. It takes the parodying itself shtick to the max. It takes place mostly on a Hollywood set where it gives you a movie within the movie, which is a tactic that is more annoying than clever.

Scream 3 adds the awful Jenny McCarthy to the cast, the typically cool Patrick Dempsey and the indy sweetheart Parker Posey. I almost feel bad seeing Posey plying her trade in this shit picture.

The killer reveal is stupid. It fleshes out the backstory more than anyone needs in a slasher film and the bad guy’s motivations are recycled horror trope schlock. There is nothing imaginative or original about any of this.

This film also loses sight of its whole purpose. In trying to be a clever series in constantly referring to the rules of horror, this one breaks its own rules – or it just doesn’t truly understand them. Especially in regards to what they say about the final film in trilogies, Scream 3 proves that these films have no balls. This is obvious when characters establish that “all bets are off” and “no one is safe”, yet for the third consecutive film, every major character survives. Additionally, the horror gore factor it tries to sell in the film is minimal, the sex factor in horror that this film constantly makes reference to, is nonexistent and everyone who understands the rules, continues to make the same dumb mistakes.

And the sole black character is reduced to a caricature but at least they didn’t “whitewash” this one after meeting their quota in part two.

Rating: 3/10

Scream 4 (2011):

Release Date: April 11th, 2011 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell

Corvus Corax Productions, Outerbanks Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes

Review:

Oh, there’s Emma Roberts! Why’s she in every thing horror-esque, lately? I don’t dislike her but I’m getting tired of seeing her play the same roles again and again. She’s actually okay and I’m certainly not as sick of her as I am of her Aunt Julia.

Anyway, here we go, years later. The main cast is still alive. Surprise, they live through the end because again, the Scream franchise has no balls.

There’s a bunch of false curveball beginnings to the film, all movies within the movie, which has gotten tiresome with the Scream series. I mean, fuck, has Wes Craven completely run out of ideas? Hire new writers, bro.

This film tries to establish the “new” rules of horror, as it takes place a decade after the previous film. Except, everyone knows that the new rules post-Scream are horrible and the genre has gotten awful.

The killers are predictable. More so than previous films, actually. The two killer formula has been used to death in this series and was only somewhat effective the first time around.

Also, from what I remember, no black people in this one. But there is the reference to gay people surviving horror movies and then a bad in-movie joke where a character being stabbed to death, claims he’s gay in hopes of getting a free pass. I’m not standing on a politically correct soapbox here but Craven isn’t doing himself any favors trying to branch out beyond his audience of straight white teens. I get the attempt at humor but it was juvenile and not that funny.

I’m getting tired of talking about these movies now.

In the end, this film sucks. Although it doesn’t suck as bad as Scream 3.

Rating: 4/10