Zombieland: Double Tap review

For F*** Magazine

ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast : Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Avan Jogia, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch
Genre : Horror/Comedy
Run Time : 99 mins
Opens : 31 October 2019
Rating : M18

Ten years ago, a scrappy zombie-comedy called Zombieland was released. The film’s tongue-in-cheek tone, likeable characters and creative world-building won it fans, and ever since then, a sequel has been in various stages of development. Said sequel has finally arrived.

Just as in real life, ten years have elapsed since the events of the first film. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have settled into the abandoned White House. The makeshift family grows apart, with Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) running away with hippie Berklee (Avan Jogia) and Wichita feeling too tied down by Columbus. Tallahassee and Columbus meet the ditzy Madison (Zoey Deutch), who has been living in a mall. Tallahassee pursues his lifelong dream of visiting Elvis’ home Graceland and encounters the tough-as-nails Nevada (Rosario Dawson) along the way. In the meantime, a new breed of faster, more vicious and more impervious zombies dubbed the “T-800s” menaces our heroes.

Zombieland: Double Tap is frequently funny. There’s a comforting sense of familiarity in seeing the gang all back together, even though the four stars have gone on to varied, successful careers in the intervening decade. It’s a high school reunion attended by people you want to see, even those whom you didn’t expect would come. Director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have also returned, meaning that Double Tap retains much of the tone of the original. Fans of the first movie will already be invested in the characters, and the developments and changes they undergo in this movie stay true to what was established in the first go-round. There’s a very comfort food-esque quality to the movie, and while its humour is largely sardonic and cynical, there is heart here too.

Much of the novelty of the original Zombieland has been diluted because the formula of fourth wall-breaking narration, an overall smart-alecky tone and graphic violence was done in Deadpool, which reached a wide audience. Reese and Wernick also wrote the two Deadpool movies.

The film’s romantic subplots are hit-and-miss: while the rocky relationship between Columbus and Wichita was already set up, the relationship between Tallahassee and new character Nevada feels kind of tacked on.

There is a bit of the feeling of this being too little too late, because plot-wise, this is a slight, insubstantial film that mostly coasts along on the personality of its characters and its joke-laden script. The intensity of the feeling of “we’ve waited ten years for this?” will vary based on how charitable one is feeling.

Harrelson seems to be enjoying himself and Eisenberg is on his “charmingly neurotic” setting rather than his “aggressively obnoxious” one. While Stone doesn’t seem as into this as her other co-stars, she is still very watchable. Breslin doesn’t get a lot to do, but the surrogate father-daughter relationship between Tallahassee and Little Rock does give the movie a degree of emotion. Zoey Deutch is a hoot as the airheaded Madison – it pretty much is just one long dumb blonde joke, but she is so capable a performer that Madison becomes endearing rather than merely annoying.

Summary: One of the key elements of the Zombieland mythos is Columbus’ rules. Zombieland: Double Tap largely plays by the rules, delivering more of the same. It is fun hanging out with this cast of characters and plenty of jokes land, which mitigates the feeling of this being a re-tread. The movie works if you’re a fan of the original and want something that’s entertaining but not necessarily memorable. Stick around for a hilarious mid-credits scene which pays off the setup of a peculiar film poster glimpsed in a mall earlier in the film.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

 

Venom review

VENOM

Director : Ruben Fleischer
Cast : Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze
Genre : Comics/Action/Sci-fi
Run Time : 112 mins
Opens : 4 October 2018
Rating : PG13

Tom Hardy is his own worst enemy and maybe also his own best friend in this Marvel Comics adaptation. Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a journalist engaged to successful lawyer Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Brock has trained his sights on Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), an industrialist and inventor who has privately funded space exploration missions. As the head of the Life Foundation, Drake portrays himself as a benevolent force for good, but Brock suspects that Drake is secretly conducting unethical, illegal activities which have resulted in civilian deaths.

A Life Foundation spacecraft crashes on earth, and its cargo, an alien life form, escapes. This is a symbiote, which needs to bond to a host to survive. When Dr Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), a scientist working for the Life Foundation, approaches Brock as a whistle-blower, Brock investigates and another symbiote bonds to him. This is the entity known as Venom, which manifests as a voice in Brock’s head and takes over his body, giving him enhanced strength and healing and causes him to emanate tendrils. Brock must make sense of this new unwelcome guest while uncovering the extent of Drake’s misdeeds, eventually learning to coexist with Venom and use his newfound abilities to his advantage.

There have been multiple attempts at a Venom movie, including one in the late 90s that was reportedly slated to star Dolph Lundgren, and another attempt that would have taken place within the continuity of the Amazing Spider-Man movies. Then of course there was the iteration played by Topher Grace in Spider-Man 3, which left many fans unsatisfied.

Venom was created by Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie, and is arguably Spider-Man’s best-known, most visually striking nemesis. The character’s origin directly involves Spider-Man – in the comics, the symbiote is a discarded alien suit worn by the web-slinging hero. As such, a Venom movie that is completely removed from Spider-Man feels like a tricky prospect. This reviewer had to remind himself that at least the symbiote’s host is still called “Eddie Brock”, unlike the Catwoman movie which starred a character named Patience Phillips, who was nothing like the Catwoman of the comics, Selina Kyle.

Venom-symbiote-Tom-Hardy-1

The film’s somewhat tormented production process has led to an odd beast. Venom is tonally weird. One would be forgiven for expecting a dark, disturbing movie – after all, the title character is a slimy alien parasite with pointy teeth and a long, icky tongue. However, what Venom most resembles is a buddy comedy. The symbiote seems characterised as the friend who’s a bad influence, pushing Eddie to do things he would rather not do. The symbiote is an obvious metaphor for the darkness deep within a person being brought to the surface, so it is somewhat baffling that the film does practically nothing with this concept.

The action sequences are moderately entertaining but not especially memorable. There’s a motorcycle chase and a sequence in which Venom takes on an entire SWAT team in a smoke-filled apartment building lobby, but any time the full-on creature takes over the action, things feel distinctly synthetic. The climactic fight is a battle between one thing made of CGI and another thing made of CGI, set against a mostly CGI backdrop.

Then, there is the PG-13 rating. A movie doesn’t have to be R-rated to be good, it doesn’t even have to be R-rated to be effectively disturbing. However, this is a movie in which the title character bites people’s heads off and impales his enemies through the torso. It’s a bit difficult to sell the viciousness when it must happen off-screen or obscured while something else is going on. That said, this movie could’ve been R-rated and still turned out limp.

Hardy is perfectly watchable in the role and tries to make something interesting out of the material. He ends up performing quite a bit of physical comedy, which seems out of place, but which he commits to. There is the sense that Hardy could have brought so much more to the table had the script allowed him to dig into the inherently unsettling nature of the bond between the Venom symbiote and its human host, but it seems the film is more interested in back-and-forth banter.

Michelle Williams is wasted as a character who isn’t too much more than the designated girlfriend, even though there is a nice nod to her character in the comics. Riz Ahmed plays a ruthless Elon Musk-type, who is at once a cartoony villain while also bland and barely menacing. Jenny Slate’s mousey scientist who might just be the one to bring the villain down seems like she might be interesting, but similarly gets little to do. While some comic book movies suffer from far too many characters, there are almost too few interesting characters at all in Venom.

The casual viewer might find Venom a passable diversion, but anyone who is particularly attached to the comics will be sorely dissatisfied. The film attempts to translate the character’s sarcasm to the screen, but lacks the acid-drenched wickedness which must accompany said sarcasm. The result is a relatively safe movie about a character who should always feel at least a little dangerous. Director Ruben Fleischer’s best film remains Zombieland, so perhaps comedy is where he should focus his efforts. There is a goofiness to Venom that is strongly reminiscent of comic book movies made when the filmmakers making them hadn’t fully figured things out yet: a bit of Spawn here, a bit of the 2002 Hulk movie there.

Stick around for a mid-credits tag which hints as sequel – as mediocre as this outing is, we’d be darned if we didn’t want to see a sequel make good on what this scene promises. There’s also a sneak peek at a forthcoming movie at the very end of the credits.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong