Film Review: Cooties (2014)

Release Date: January 18th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Written by: Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan
Music by: Kreng
Cast: Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, Nasim Pedrad, Jorge Garcia

SpectreVision, Glacier Films, Lionsgate Premiere, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Nap time, motherfuckers.” – Wade

*Written in 2015.

If you ever wanted to see Dwight Schrute team up with Frodo Baggins and fight zombie children in an elementary school, then this movie is for you! For those who never thought about that scenario, it is still a pretty sweet film.

Cooties takes place over the course of a day. Elijah Wood plays a struggling writer who comes to the school for the first time as a substitute teacher. He immediately butts heads with Rainn Wilson, who is essentially Dwight Schrute as an elementary P.E. teacher with a great mustache.

Allison Pill, probably most known for her part in Goon, plays Wilson’s girlfriend and creates tension between Wood and Wilson’s characters.

The film kicks off pretty quickly, as a zombie-like affliction spreads throughout the school but only effects those who haven’t yet gone through puberty.

We get awesome scenes of these teachers murdering zombie children. It is pretty great for those of us who have ever had run-ins with smart ass kids.

While the story isn’t all that great and the film isn’t, by any means, a classic, it is still a good way to waste 90 minutes of your time. The movie is predictable, the humor is passable but all in all, this is a fun ride. And who doesn’t enjoy Rainn Wilson? Let alone, Rainn Wilson as a badass?

The film’s final sequence takes place in a Discovery Zone type of environment, where the adults and a few of the surviving kids traverse through the child-safe maze in an effort to get out alive.

I liked this movie. I don’t know if I will ever watch it again but it was certainly a good way to waste some time on a Saturday morning between breakfast and lunch.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Zombieland.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Infestation

Published: 2011
Written by: Mike Raicht
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 54 Pages

Review:

I heard good things about IDW’s big crossover event Infestation, so I thought I’d check out the G.I. Joe portion of the event with plans to certainly read the TransformersStar Trek and Ghostbusters books as well.

However, I was really underwhelmed by this story. Two issues was just two short for this arc and maybe it needs to be read within the context of the larger arc spread between six different titles. Regardless, this just didn’t do much for me.

This just seemed like a weak and gimmicky attempt at throwing the G.I. Joe franchise into a zombie storyline and to be frank, the zombie shtick has been milked so hard in the last decade that the undead cow’s utters have already rotted off. And I’m a guy that used to eat up zombie fiction like brains at a living dead smorgasbord.

The story also only showcases less than a handful of Joes and very briefly. The only other known character in this story is the Baroness, who you know will survive, so the story loses all of its suspense and tension. Everyone else in this tale is just a random scientist you’ve never seen before or either a Cobra Viper or Eel a.k.a. fodder for the monsters.

Also, the zombie element is just really weird and nonsensical. The “virus” comes aboard this secret installation through technology. It takes over the B.A.T.S. (Battle Android Troopers for those unaware). Then it zombifies cyborg animals in the lab. So you get zombie cyborg monkeys, a zombie cyborg falcon and some other stuff.

The plot feels weird and random and just sort of feels thrown together in a cheap attempt for IDW to create their own version of the uber successful Marvel Zombies stories.

I’m more interested in the second Infestation event, as that one takes some cool franchises and mixes them with H.P. Lovecraft horror stories. That’s definitely a cooler idea than throwing zombies into a story for the sake of just throwing zombies into a story.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other releases in IDW’s multi-franchise Infestation and Infestation 2 crossovers.

Video Game Review: Castlevania (NES)

Every kid in the ‘8os played Castlevania. Well, if they didn’t, they missed out on one of the greatest experiences of their generation. Sure, it wasn’t as massive as Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda but it is just as much a classic and has had a similar level of staying power, as sequels are still made and it even has an anime show on Netflix that is currently running.

The game sort of takes the Universal Monsters and throws them into a 2D side scrolling adventure of badass proportions. The big boss is Dracula but you also face Frankenstein’s monster, a hunchback, a mummy, several gillmen, as well as other classic monsters that weren’t in the Universal Monsters canon like the Grim Reaper and Medusa. There are also zombies, giant wolves, giant bats and dismembered Medusa heads that fly at you. There are deadly traps, pits and water that is instant death. The game throws a lot at you and pulls no punches.

Seriously, this really pulls no punches. The game is hard as hell. And maybe the difficulty level is it’s only real negative. It isn’t an unbeatable game, as I have conquered it. But man, it is an incredible challenge that takes hours upon hours of mastery before one can actually beat it. But that was what the best old school NES games were about: mastery.

Another slight negative is the mechanics. Sometimes the jumping is wonky and it’s easy to get overzealous and screw up. Also, the stairs can be a total pain in the ass but eventually you’ll get it.

Castlevania is one of the best games of its era. It had to be to create a franchise as strong as it did. It is a true product of the ’80s and a real blast for old school horror fans.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The other NES Castlevania games: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, also PlayStation’s epic sequel Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Comic Review: Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood

Published: December 4th, 2016
Written by: Will Penny
Art by: Nik Poliwko

Sex and Monsters, 40 Pages

Review:

What a unique comic! I kind of wish there were more of these but since this also serves as a cocktail recipe book, a lot of preparation and drunk nights would probably have to happen before any other issues could be created.

If you are into Tiki culture and love Tiki drinks, this is a must own. Especially if you love comics too.

The art and the story are hokey yet fantastic and feel like an authentic work of pop culture from a bygone era. The art is incredibly Tiki-esque but also has the feel of old Tales From the Crypt comics.

Two surfer dudes fly their seaplane to Diablo Island, a supposedly cursed place, but old fisherman tales and boogeymen aren’t going to keep these two guys from surfing the most killer waves on Earth.

When they do arrive, they are greeted by talking shrunken heads. Then they find themselves surrounded by topless island women who are surprisingly hot, look like white girls and know English. They decide to party with the girls and drink their potions, which are magical Tiki drinks. They soon discover that they are to be sacrificed to some powerful island god. However, the two girls that like the surfer dudes must concoct something to appease the god’s appetite and save their new surfer boyfriends.

The story is written as a way to drop in Tiki drink recipes. Every time the surfers encounter some new and bizarre twist, there is a drink to go along with it.

This comic is a rare and uncommon find and I really wish there was more stuff like this out there. Kudos to Will Penny and Nik Poliwko, the two guys behind this cool, bizarre and spectacular experience.

Now I need to go buy some rum and get to work.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: This is pretty unique but if you’re into Tiki culture, this goes good with B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series.

Film Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

Release Date: March 2nd, 2018 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: Roar Uthaug
Written by: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons, Evan Daugherty
Based on: Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics
Music by: Junkie XL
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Nick Frost

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, GK Films, Square Enix, Warner Bros., 118 Minutes

Review:

“All myths are foundations of reality.” – Lord Richard Croft

I wasn’t super enthused to rush out and see this, as I have never been a huge fan of the video game series. I certainly didn’t dislike the series, it was fun and entertaining enough, but I gravitated more towards the Uncharted video games, once they started.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the original Tomb Raider movies. I mean, they were okay for what they were but they certainly weren’t classics and really just existed to take advantage of Angelina Jolie’s good looks during her peak in popularity.

This remake or reboot or whatever, is much more grounded in reality but even then, it still comes with a certain degree of ridiculousness. It tries to be the dark, gritty reboot that is so cliche by this point and really, it is more like a reinvention of the series, as the modern Tomb Raider video games have been.

Overall, this just isn’t very good. There’s not a lot to sink your teeth into. The story is thin, boring and this entire movie just feels like the opening mission of an adventure game that happens before you even get credits.

There actually isn’t a lot of treasure hunting and “tomb raiding”. Sure, they raid a tomb but it takes forever to get there and it’s not all that exciting. The tomb is actually dull and uninspiring. It’s nothing like what you would see in an Indiana Jones movie or one of the Uncharted games.

Most of the film is about Lara searching for her dad instead of treasure. I get that you need a “selfless” reason to get this “heroic” character to the island with the treasure but the film was sold as a high adventure, treasure hunting movie and not what it should have actually been titled Lost Daddy Island.

I wanted lots of solid “tomb raiding”. Lara Croft should have been searching dungeons, solving puzzles, opening doors and getting cave dirty. Instead, she ran around an island for well over an hour doing jungle parkour.

Granted, I really like Alicia Vikander. She was better than Jolie as the character of Lara Croft, although Jolie looked more the part. I’ve never been high up on Jolie though. Vikander has the right attitude and right edge and she could do great things with this role in future movies if any more actually get made and if she works off of a better script than this one.

The biggest highlight for me should have been Walton Goggins, who I love in everything – even that third Major League movie. However, he wasn’t exciting and just sort of a poorly written, cookie cutter baddie. He didn’t give the role that Goggins charisma or really, any of his personality. I felt like anyone could have played the part the same. Goggins is best when his roles allow him to put himself into the part. I’m not sure if he just dialed it in, the director was too controlling or if the script was just so boring that he couldn’t salvage his part.

I guess the actual biggest highlight was seeing Nick Frost in a cameo. Well, he appears in two scenes, so I guess that’s bigger than a cameo.

Tomb Raider is pretty uninspiring. But there is actually a foundation to something that can be much better. Fire the director, fire the writer, keep the cast, move forward.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The older Tomb Raider films and the more recent video games.

Video Game Review: Red Dead Redemption (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2015.

As I have been watching through a lot of spaghetti westerns lately, I have felt the urge to revisit Red Dead Redemption.

This game may be almost six years old but I still play it for an afternoon every few months. In fact, out of the PS3/Xbox 360 era, it is the game I have played the most after Bethesda’s titles. It is also one of the top five video game experiences I have ever had, playing through it the first time.

Rockstar, most known for their Grand Theft Auto series of games, took that same formula and applied it to the Old West. Now this isn’t their first attempt, as they did it a few years earlier with Red Dead Revolver. Redemption however, exists on a completely different level and far exceeds Revolver and the Grand Theft Auto games.

The game mechanics and controls are phenomenal. Everything is perfectly fine-tuned and once you get the hang of it, you are an Old West badass ready to fight scum and villainy with an unrelenting intensity.

The map is massive, the locations are fantastic and there are a ton of missions that are unique and exciting. You pretty much get to do everything you would ever want to do as a cowboy.

The only downside, is that after the main story is over, there isn’t much to do other than ride your horse around and cause trouble. As I played through the story, I played it as a hero on the right side of the law. After the ending and after I became a new character with nothing really to do, I became a total bastard.

The game’s soundtrack is also one of the best ever produced. The music is as vast and exciting as the game itself and certain points in the plot trigger some amazing tunes as you ride off into a new act of the game.

There are few games that are absolute perfection, this is one of those games. Although, it would be nice to have a bit more to do after the end, like hunt down bounties or create a gang to wreak havoc. I also wish more buildings in the wilderness were accessible.

But then there is also the Undead Nightmare add-on, which was a fun experience, all on its own. Because who doesn’t want to take a great world like the one created for Red Dead Redemption and then fill it with zombie hordes?

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Not much really, as it is truly a game that is one its own level and exists in its own space. But there are films that this borrows from such as the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns and some of Clint Eastwood’s ’60s and ’70s westerns: Hang ‘Em High, High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales specifically come to mind.

Film Review: Zombieland (2009)

Release Date: September 25th, 2009 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray, Amber Heard

Relativity Media, Pariah, Columbia Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Are you fucking with me?” – Tallahassee, “Uh, no. You should actually limber up as well. Especially if we’re going down that hill. It is very important.” – Columbus, “I don’t believe in it. You ever see a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?” – Tallahassee

I know that a lot of people absolutely love this film. I like it too but I wouldn’t say that I love it. In fact, I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters. I just never really felt like watching it again until now.

To start, the cast is great and I like the chemistry between all of them. But let’s be honest, Woody Harrelson is the scene stealer and the real star of the picture, even though this boasts the talents of three young stars who would all have great careers beyond this movie: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. But even when the legendary Bill Murray shows up for a cameo, Harrelson steals that scene as well.

But it is the characters that make this movie work so well. They all just gel and you genuinely care about them, even though you just get to scratch the surface with this quartet at only an 88 minute running time.

I guess the only really big negative about this film is the finale. The girls decide to go to an amusement park for fun, albeit when it’s dark out in a world that is plagued by zombies and no security guards. Somehow, the park has power, the girls turn all the lights and rides on and are suddenly shocked when they are immediately overwhelmed by zombies.

Before this idiotic outing, the film spent an hour showing that these girls were smart and cunning con artists. So their complete stupidity to set up the big final battle is just baffling as all hell. And while I can suspend disbelief, I can’t ignore blatant and colossal idiocy.

And how the hell did they control the rides while riding them? Carnival rides aren’t automated, they have operators that hit buttons on a control panel to start and stop the ride. In the real world, one would have to ride while the other one had to hit the buttons on the control panel. I mean, despite the cool fact that we got to see zombie mayhem in a theme park, the set up and reasoning behind the sequence is asinine and ludicrous.

But the movie is supposed to be fun and I get that but I can never accept the rampant stupidity of the characters in the last twenty minutes.

All that being said, there isn’t a whole lot here that’s unique. There are zombies and you have to survive. There really isn’t anything about this movie to make it special and there isn’t an original twist that allows it to be its own thing in a genre that ran its course a long, long time ago. I mean, you could say that comedy is the twist but this is far from being the first zombie comedy.

I guess the only thing that works is that I like the characters and the actors. Well, I’m not a big Eisenberg fan but he was fine in this role, as it’s sort of the type of character I imagine him being. Woody Harrelson is, by far, the real highlight and the Bill Murray cameo is a lot of fun.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Shaun of the DeadCoootiesScouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse