Sequel to the over-the-top zombie movie spoof about four survivors of a zombie apocalypse.
WHO SHOULD GO:
ABSOLUTELY NO CHILDREN! And only for adults who have a taste for gory macabre humor that pushes the envelope – like Shaun of the Dead, Cabin in the Woods, and the Evil Dead franchise. No sexual content of note aside from seeing two unmarried people in bed talking, but there is a lot of profanity.
Let me make this simple: if you liked Zombieland then you will like Zombieland: Double Tap. There is nothing deep or philosophical about either of these movies. They are just plain old gory fun.
The premise of Zombieland: Double Tap answers that most pressing of all questions: Where are our intrepid heroes from the original Zombieland 10 years later?
The original cast returns as four survivors of a zombie apocalypse who form an ersatz family, fighting the undead with as much joie de vivre as possible. Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missourisee review HERE, Now You See Me 1 and 2, 2012 AND lest anyone forgot, broke out as the sweet Woody Boyd assistant bartender in Cheers) is Tallahassee again, the leader of the group and the one who attacks zombies with the most creative and gleeful enthusiasm. Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network, Batman v Superman) reprises Columbus, Tallahassee’s sidekick. Columbus’ official romantic interest is Wichita, (Emma Stone – La La Land see review HERE), older sister of Little Rock (Abigail Breslin – Signs, Raising Helen).
To tell more than these bare bones would be to give away too much. Suffice it to say, ZDT is as clever and as campy as its predecessor, playfully turning the zombie genre on its head. Instead of characters cringing in fear and running in fright from the brain hungry mobs, this crew embraces the challenge of zombie killing the way others in a non-zombie world might embrace an extreme sport like skydiving into a shallow pool without a parachute or Safari hunting lions with a crossbow.
I must say zombie killing has been good to these guys. Zombieland was the first thing I ever really liked Woody Harrelson in, Jesse Eisenberg makes a far better Columbus than Lex Luthor, none of the actors, except Abigail Breslin appear to have aged a day and Little Rock couldn’t help it because she went from teen to young adult, and all of them seem to be having the best time of their lives.
Adding to the merry mayhem of people they meet along the way are: Zoey Deutch as Madison, Avan Jogia as Berkley, Rosario Dawson as Nevada, Luke Wilson (brother of Owen and Andrew) as Alberquerque, and Thomas Middleditch (Godzilla see review HERE, Tag see review HERE) as Flag Staff.
The music is at turns perky folk Americana, upbeat, creepy, and sometimes all of the above at once, incorporating songs from Caddyshack‘s “I’m Alright” to Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”. (You’ll understand why each of them are included when you see the movie.)
The characters are self-aware, make fun of themselves, the genre, their characters and do not just break the fourth wall but don’t really seem to care if there is one or not.
Had the actors, writers (David Callaham, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick) or director (Ruben Fleischer) stepped back even an inch from the full steam ahead, break through the guard rails approach, Zombieland would not have worked.
As it is, this ultimate camp of the year zombie movie, for the demographic of those who prefer goofy in their gore, camp in their carnage, and do not mind more than a bit of grotesque with their humoresque, Zombieland: Double Tap is, in its own special and unique way, a delight. But please oh please, leave the kids at home unless you want to start the therapy fund early.
AUDIO PODCAST OPTION FOR REVIEW OF GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
If you are a fan of Godzilla then you will love this contribution to the now 65 year old franchise.
WHO SHOULD GO:
At youngest, younger teens, for: frightening and extensively violent images of city-wide destruction, human peril and cataclysmic fight scenes with other monsters. There is also some language including one “f” word and blasphemy. And while there is no sexuality shown, there are a small handful of sexual innuendos spoken, which will probably go over the head of most younger teens. There is also a confusing mish mash of paganism and Christian religious symbols and references which could confuse a spiritually immature child.
In 1954 Godzilla inexplicably and emphatically became a cult hit. A rubber suited man emitting a now iconic shriek (created by Akira Ifukube rubbing a resin coated leather glove across the strings of a double bass) wrecks havoc, clumping awkwardly as he lazer-breathes his way through towns and countrysides behind fleeing crowds of (mostly) Japanese victims.
35 films later (all but 3 made by Toho, a Japanese-based film company), the franchise is still going strong. The latest, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, is a loose sequel to the 2014 Hollywood film which firmly established Godzilla to mainstream American audiences as a “good guy” ally to humanity. In point of fact, some Japanese philosophies even see Godzilla as an indifferent “god” of destruction in a cycle of death and rebirth.
At one point a scientist, upon seeing the monster in full, interjects the name of the Lord, to which Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford – Get Out, Saving Mr. Banks, Cabin in the Woods) punnily follows up with “zilla”. In fact the name Godzilla was never meant to refer to our Creator. It was actually a Europeanized mispronunciation of the Japanese, Gojira, which, in turn refers to an animal which is akin to both a whale and a gorilla.
SPOILERS – but, I mean, come on, this is Godzilla and there’s not that much plot to spoil.
In this outing, Godzilla is a bit of both ally and destructo-machine, as he tromps over the Earth with 16 other “Titans”. The human subplot, which is supposed to keep us grounded to the big critters, involves scientists Mark and Emma Russell, (Kyle Chandler – Game Night, Argo, King Kong and Vera Farmiga – The Nun, Conjuring 2) who lost their son in the first Godzilla movie, (flashback) then divorced. Emma is now brainwashing, I mean raising, their remaining child Madison (the clearly talented Millie Bobby Brown who is the amazing “11” from Stranger Things) to follow in her tunnel vision footsteps, putting her research of the Titans above everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) else.
Rounding out the cast is Ken Watanabe (Inception, Last Samurai, previous Godzilla, Pokémon Detective Pickachu), Charles Dance (staple in film and TV for 45 years, bringing a wicked class and style to everything from Game of Thrones to Shakespeare and a villain in the James Bond franchise), Sally Hawkins (in both the offensively awful Shape of Water and the extremely delightful Paddington movies), and Joe Morton, (whose career dates all the way back to 1951 including the innovative cult sci fi Brother From Another Planet and the classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day).
The rest of the run time is spent watching CGI monsters destroy each other in admittedly spectacular fashion, although a lot of cheating is done in the details by holding all the fights at night, under water or in a Cat 6 (???) hurricane manufactured by one of the “bad guy” Titans.
It occurred to me as I perused a Youtube which did a quick survey of all the Godzilla movies, that the phenomenon of Godzilla has much in common with the Lego movies. Aside from the 1998 Matthew Broderick contribution, which envisioned Godzilla as a more “realistic” mountain-sized Komodo Dragon, Godzilla reminds me of an action figure. Despite all the CGI available, the director, Michael Doughtery, (Superman Returns and a couple of X-Men movies) chose to stick with the stilted, squat, awkwardly moving Godzilla instead of the 1998 lithe, quick and sinuous monster which chased Matthew Broderick through New York City. Similarly to the Lego Movie, which sees the world from the point of view of the toys, Godzilla strikes me as inspired by the imaginations of every child who had a monster toy with which they liked to terrorize their surroundings. The traditional Godzilla MOVES like an action figure with an inverted triangle body, whippy tail with which to bludgeon objects, and tiny useless arms, clumping from side to side as it stomps forward crushing everything under foot in its path – except the “important” actors. The end credits even camp it up, featuring a cover by Bear McCreary of the 1977 Blue Oyster Cult novelty song “Godzilla”.
This is a pulp funny book brought to full Technicolor life with all of the shallowness of plot, disjointed explanations, magic-style “science”, inconsistent character motivations, and single note personalities of a comic book and its denizens. Even so, this is not meant as a criticism or failure of the movie. I suspect this is what the film makers were after. And it succeeds, as such, admirably, throwing in a little wry humor dialogue now and again just to keep things “real”.
As a matter of fact, there is one special reason why I, personally, like this movie. In a delightfully refreshing turn of events, a truth is demonstrated. The monsters have been deliberately set forth to destroy mankind by a recognizably legitimate force for evil, one which wrecks havoc on us in the real world on a daily basis – the Environmental Wacko. The bad guys here boldly state that humans are a “virus” on the Earth which must be scoured off, in their way of thinking, to allow the world to return to its “natural” state. But, of course, in true and honestly portrayed, narcissistic liberal hypocritical fashion, the villain, after murdering tens of thousand of men, women and children with these behemoths, she willing puts all her plans on hold when it is her child at risk. No one else’s child is important though, only hers and hers alone.
Her insane scheme to find and release the Titans upon the Earth is understood by the rest of the characters in the movie as: ridiculous, evil, short sighted, cruel, and – ultimately, flat out wrong. This, of course, can sum up the entire mentality of the extreme environmentalist movement, which wants to put animals above people, prefers human suffering for OTHERS (who are not members of their extreme club) to widespread use of modern inventions, ignores common sense science (like the fact that carbon dioxide is GOOD for the environment as plants LOVE it), proposes hoaxes which further their agenda with NO verifiable evidence (like human caused climate change) but continue to jet around the world using up fossil fuels at a rate the rest of us can only dream about. It’s nice to see the blame placed at the feet of those to which it really belongs for a change.
Godzilla also leans heavily on paganism, reverencing and even calling to some worship of the monsters. That being said there is also some comparisons of Godzilla to Christian motifs – that he died trying to save us, descended to the depths of the Earth and was reborn to arise and defeat an evil monster (well two if you count the environmental wacko). While this has been done appropriately and respectfully in stories like Narnia (NOT that Godzilla even belongs in the same solar system with Aslan), it is a fair point to say not all of Godzilla is pagan, but that there are at least some superficial nods to a Christ-like theology, though it is obvious that the writers neither understand it nor fully embrace it.
So if you are familiar with and are a fan of the mythos of Godzilla then you will not be disappointed in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. But while you should be advised of the heavily pagan-favored worldview, it will at least provide a breath of politically incorrect but common sense-accurate fresh air.
The sequel to Pacific Rim – not intellectually challenging but lots of fun.
WHO SHOULD GO:
Anybody old enough to watch a Godzilla movie and not get nightmares.
Some meals are meant to be savored – a great steak, shrimp bisque followed by a chocolate mousse. Some meals are simple and filling but more memorable for the people you had them with than the food itself. Some meals, like breakfast right out of the Easter Bunny basket, are meant to be completely just for fun. And then there are those days when, using a G rated version of Joel Goodson’s catch phrase from Risky Business: "Sometimes you just have to say what the heck," and you serve yourself a big helping of whipped cream and toppings.
Movies are like that too. And fittingly there is even a scene where the lead character in Pacific Rim: Uprising serves himself a huge Bowl of Reddi-whip and sprinkles while talking to his friend.
SPOILERS BUT I WILL TRY TO KEEP THEM TO A MINIMUM
The premise to Pacific Rim: Uprising is the sequel to Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim is the story of the titanic battle between Godzilla-sized monsters who come out of a crack in the ocean’s floor from another dimension to wreck havoc on the Earth (mostly Tokyo) and the Jaegers – Godzilla-sized robots which humans built to combat them. Never mind the illogic or the physics, it’s an excuse to watch grown men like writer/director Steven DeKnight spend millions of dollars recreating "lifesized" versions of the sand box action figure matchups from when they were kids.
Pacific Rim: Uprising picks up 10 years after the Kaiju have been defeated — or have they? The first Pacific Rim was quite straight forward – bad monsters come out of ocean – must beat them up until they go away. This one has a plot which is a bit more complicated and has a few more twists and turns than you might expect. Not so tricky though that you can’t still make sense of it even if you need a designated driver to get you home, but it did have a few unexpected surprises.
John Boyega (most notably Finn from the recent Star Wars installments) plays Jake Pentacost, son of the late Spencer Pentecost (Idris Elba) from the first movie. Jake is introduced as not quite the hero his father was, but who must grow into those shoes quickly. Nate (Scott Eastwood who has been paying his dues with small parts in Fate of the Furious, Suicide Squad and Texas Chain Saw Massacre 3D) plays his former best friend and comrade in arms. Cailee Spaeny, a newcomer, plays Amara, a street kid and Jaegers/technical prodigy who is drafted into the Jaeger cadets. Burn Gorman (formerly of the Dr. Who spin off Torchwood) and Charlie Day (mostly from goofy comedies and voice work in cartoons and video games) return as the Frick and Frack scientists Gottlieb and Geiszler whose creativity helped defeat the Kaiju last turn.
Much like the Thor franchise, the Pacific Rim series wisely incorporates bits of humor into their action packed sequences which help underscore the film makers' acceptance of the fact that what they are making is Godzilla meets Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and have fun with it.
And for those of us old enough to remember when Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots first came out, watch for Clint Eastwood’s son Scott – playing the above mentioned Nate. Not remembering he was in the cast, I thought the actor looked SO familiar, and then when I realized who he was it was like when you finally "see" the picture buried in the pixels – you cannot UNsee it. His Dad’s voice, mannerisms, profile and body language will jump out at you from the screen. Not that that is a bad thing but it is an amusing anachronism seeing a close variation of the inveterate Western and Dirty Harry hero I grew up with in a goofy sci fi- action adventure.
This is not the Venus de Milo but a fireworks display at the start of a Carnival and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Pacific Rim is mostly good clean fun — well the critters all make quite a mess but there’s NO hankie pankie, (who has TIME when you’re dodging 50 story Kaiju) and a little profanity. Younger audiences might get scared – I’m talking nightmare scared – by the giant monsters screaming and tearing up buildings. But any kid old enough to understand it is all make believe should have a great time.
It's also nice to watch a global disaster type movie and not be burdened under the weight of the human-created-climate-change-global-warming believer cultists' propaganda digs that so often end up littering otherwise enjoyable flicks.
ONE PROVISO to that is there IS a scene where a little girl’s family is swept away as they are trying to reunite with her right in front of her eyes. So be aware if that might upset even an older child.
If you liked Pacific Rim, you’ll love Pacific Rim: Uprising as long as you’re happy with Cool Whip and don’t expect a rib eye steak.