“Life Is About More Than Just Survival. We Were A Family. Dysfunctional, Sure, But What Family Isn’t…”
How a lot can change in the world of cinema in just one decade. Since the release of the first Zombieland back in 2009, Emma Stone has picked up a much deserved Academy Award, Woody Harrelson stunned audiences with a career-best performance in the first season of True Detective and Jesse Eisenberg has become more and more of a sanctimonious asshole after winning plaudits for his central role in the outstanding, The Social Network and then bombing any chances of redemption after delivering one of the worst villainous performances in the history of cinema in the awfully misguided, Batman Vs. Superman. Forever placing itself in the hearts of cult movie fanatics since its’ initial release, the world of Zombieland returns with Double Tap, a movie which finally hits the big screen after years of development hell and one helmed once again by returning director, Ruben Fleischer, whose exploits since the original movie have included the vacuous and noisy double bill of Gangster Squad and Venom. With jokes aplenty, some juicy comic violence and an erratic, lightning-fast pacing, Fleischer’s movie is exactly the movie you think it is, and an enjoyable one at that.
Whilst there is some degree of a central narrative at the heart of the movie, one involving our four horsemen (and ladies) of the apocalypse splitting off from each other in search of individual life decisions, Double Tap is without doubt more interested in set pieces, set pieces involving smart, sarcastic and well timed comedic gags during the heat of the battle against the hordes of the undead who make their way into the storyline when absolutely needed. With particular gags from the original being repeated, including the well-versed “zombie rules” utilised as a recurring flashpoint and the mighty Metallica returning to boost the soundtrack’s awesomeness, Double Tap is far from original, and whereas the original was essentially America’s answer to Edgar Wright’s superior zombie classic, Shaun of the Dead, Double Tap concludes with the most Americanised and overly ridiculous climax ever seen in a zombie flick. With the cast being supported by excellent supporting cameos including the scene stealing, Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!) and a weird post-credits sequence involving Bill Murray (Groundhog Day), Double Tap is perfect Friday night nonsense, with emphasis on the nonsense.
Overall Score: 6/10
“We Are Going Out With A Show People Will Never Forget…”
Remember when the BBC had Hustle? Yeah, that’s right, that show about a gang of street-wise tricksters who would con rich bad guys out of a lot of dollar in order to give credence to their own illegal activities starring Marc Warren and that other guy who I haven’t seen since. Picture Hustle but made by Channel 5 and mixed in with a large percentage of post-2000 Scooby Doo and that is pretty much a solid summary of events that take place in Now You See Me 2, the sequel to the 2013 magic-come-crime drama which not one person wanted aside from the Hollywood machine who saw it as yet another chance to make a quick buck starring an unbelievable rafter of A-List stars such as Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and a whole lot more who are more than willing to pick up the cheque and walk out of the door, leaving behind a script in which I can guarantee not one person thought would be the next Citizen Kane and instead is the pinnacle of CGI-fuelled vileness in which Hollywood decides to keeps on churning out year after year. Seem harsh? I haven’t even started yet.
Carrying straight on from the first film, Now You See Me 2 gives us another chance to witness our beloved thieves get up to no good whilst accomplishing feats of magic which look so out of this world and over the top you wouldn’t be surprised to find out that after all this time The Horseman are actually a band of Avenger-like vigilantes, each with their own special ability to enhance the ridiculousness of their acts. I mean come on, if the film wanted to embrace a sense of authenticity, then surely the unbelievable acts of so called magic in which CGI plays a major part of, should have been replaced for magic tricks that were kept in the realms of plausibility? Not only are the magic stunts ridiculous but so is the plot, with it one, not making any sense whatsoever (Just look at Morgan Freeman’s bipolar character swings), two, having the cheesiest of cheesy acting (Daniel Radcliffe, I’m looking at you) and three, taking home the award for most annoying screen character of the year in the form of Woody Harrelson’s twin baddie who is simply awful, awful, awful. Did I mention he was awful?
Adding to the elite awfulness of the movie is a sense of sanctimonious film-making, with the scriptwriters seemingly believing they are in fact the 21st century incarnations of Hitchcock himself, but when deciphering the movie’s twists and turns throughout the painfully long two hour plus running time, Now You See Me 2 really doesn’t make one bit of sense whatsoever. For example, if the world believes Daniel Radcliffe’s character is dead, how has no-one not seen him in his enormous, luxury ridden flat-pad in the middle of a thriving city? How does a key card that supposedly rips into the heart of every single computer system look so flimsy and easily mistaken for a fake? Why does Morgan Freeman’s character seemingly take a 180 degree turn towards the end of the movie? I surely can’t be alone in my criticism’s towards Now You See Me 2, a vacuous slum of a movie which will indeed test your patience from the first minute and leave you with a sense of injustice when you leave. The only magic trick accomplished in going to see Now You See Me 2 was when I paid money to see it but hey, at least it isn’t Gods of Egypt.
Overall Score: 3/10
After the ridiculous amount of cash Marvel’s Deadpool has taken since it’s release date all the way back in February, the world’s fixation on live-action comic book blockbusters clearly has hit an all-time high with it being only a mere month before the release of the latest superhero cash-cow, DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film which not only has a hell lot of future investment riding on it, with it essentially being a stepping stone for the creation of the DC Universe in which films like Wonder Woman and Justice League can exist, but also suffers fundamentally from an extreme amount of hype and expectation deriding not only from hardcore fans but from the head executives at Warner who know if Dawn of Justice goes down the pan, the optimistic future, one in which is obviously a frivolous attempt at rivalling the overly addictive and highly successful Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, may start to look as dark and murky as the colour palette that embraces Zak Snyder’s behemoth of a blockbuster. With The Dark Knight trilogy’s Christopher Nolan to help him out, Snyder clearly had the blueprint of Man of Steel to follow on from with Dawn of Justice yet the sad and underlying truth of Dawn of Justice brings with it a deep sense of disappointment, with Batman v Superman being a incoherent and bloated CGI-fuelled mess, something of which doesn’t come across as the tent-pole of the future it was indeed meant to become.
Let’s start with the good shall we? The set-up of the underlying plot behind Dawn of Justice, one in which the ambiguity of Superman’s capabilities forces Batman to engage in means to stop him, urged by the Iago-esque doings of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and the chaos that occurred during the final act of Man of Steel in which Metropolis was well and truly given a hammering by our Krypton visitors, is definitely an interesting concept, one which gets to introduce the newest incarnation of Batman, with Ben Affleck’s take on the caped crusader being a riveting success. Where Affleck succeeds is unfortunately where Cavill fails, with his performance as Clark Kent being one of dire and utter dullness. Wet fish anyone? Cavill aside, Dawn of Justice only lessens in quality throughout it’s 150 minute run-time, a run-time which in itself results in a film bloated with extreme plot lines, plot lines that either make no sense whatsoever, with endless dream sequences set to leave many scratching their heads, or plot lines that seem to be there only for dramatic effect rather than any real purpose or meaning, with the scene in which Lois Lane discards and then attempts to get back the Kryptonite spear being rife with utter stupidity to say the least.
Where Man of Steel eventually began to lose steam was indeed during it’s final climactic act, one in which attempted to use as much CGI as possible in order to come across as epic but ultimately resulted in a 40 minute period of intense boredom and brain-melting digital effects. Well if Man of Steel was painful to watch at times, that has nothing on Dawn of Justice, a film so reliant on CGI effects to portray its’ action, you simply beg for for George Miller to come in and beg for proper real-life thrills, thrills that were evident within Nolan’s The Dark Night trilogy yet remain completely absent throughout the entirety of Snyder’s snooze-fest. When we finally arrive at the titular battle at around the two-hour mark, its’ sheer laziness and sleep-inducing reliance on CGI is just poor and wholly underwhelming. Oh yeah, and we then have an extra 30 minute fight scene featuring a CGI monster. Wow. What else is poor? Wonder Woman is on-screen for all of 5 minutes, whilst both Jeremy Irons and Diane Lane are criminally underused, yet the real crime is the sense of Nolan having no say on this film whatsoever as producer and the film being controlled completely by the effects ridden mind of Snyder, a man who simply cannot continue as the spearhead of DC’s project of the future. Batman v Superman is not exactly Fantastic Four, it just seems like it is for now, with the heavy sense of disappointment leaving me with a strange sense of pessimism regarding the future of live-action DC movies, a genre which still has the credence to declare The Dark Knight as the best of the best. As for Marvel, they are most definitely still in control. Let’s see what Captain America: Civil War brings. Excellence, I can only hope.
Dan’s Score: 4/10
So we know Dan hated it. I however felt it lived up to my very minimal expectations. I really enjoyed Man of Steel but Zak Snyder is as constant as a broken clock and he really did a number on this one. So let’s rattle off what is good about BvS. Firstly, Batfleck. His structure, costume and general portrayal was one of the more true to life Batmen that I’ve personally seen and he doesn’t sound like he needs a lozenge and some honey tea (Apart from the laughable bat scene). Gal Gadot was a brilliant Wonder Woman, albeit for only a short period, and she really did kick ass with her costume really being on point, unlike her back story, which wasn’t so much whilst, as we are all aware, Doomsday makes an appearance, one that is once again fantastic one that looked pretty damn good. I could sit here and rattle off a few more characters and names of those I’ve enjoyed as there is very little else that really made the movie. Sure, the action was good but the story was a mess of comic book Meta with events that are left unexplained and severely confusing for those out of the loop.
For instance (COMIC BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD), we know that Robin is dead, killed by the Joker. Or so we thought. The reality is that the recent Arkham Knight game reveals all and its’ main villain is actually Robin himself who felt betrayed by Batman and seeks revenge. So his appearance bursting out of a screen in a dream sequence in a costume that looks like Red Hood/Arkham Knight was jarring to say the least (Turns out it was The Flash for some fucking bizarre and ridiculous reason but I preferred my view). Everyone knows of the Joker and a lot may know of the Injustice series. The fighting game illustrates this series well as the Joker blows up Metropolis with a nuclear bomb killing many of the Justice League and Lois Lane. Superman goes ape shit and takes over the world and puts it under martial law while Batman leads a resistance against him, thus explaining the desert scene and all of the crazy costumes and military tech. Without rattling on more, you see that Zack isn’t looking at the typical consumer. He was targeting the followers of the comics which in a way is great but financially, is not viable and still requires prior knowledge to a film that is launching a new series.
As a general consumer, what else are the issues? My biggest gripe sits with Hans Zimmer. A fantastic composer who has done some astonishing pieces of work but his work on BvS was awful. It felt like cheese was leaking from the speakers, with a corny guitar rift ruining the atmosphere of what should have been an incredibly tense and violent action sequence. Visually, the movie was alright, Doomsday looked bad-ass and his special effects were pretty good but Batman’s movements didn’t look human in the slightest and looked more like Spider-man with a permanent blur across him whenever he had to make any semblance of haste. Also, why does have to approach people in desperate need of help in an overly dramatic and incredibly slow fashion? Alright, Clark. Pack it in you prick. This house is about to float down the river. I can’t quite understand the need to constantly portray yourself as a god but complain when people see you as just that. But Clarky boy has nothing on the particularly annoying Lex Luthor. Sure, it may have been a decent performance but I’d like to clarify that I don’t ever remember seeing Lex Luthor act so bizarre. Perhaps he was doing his best impression of the Riddler and was trying to reinvent himself as a clown without make-up. The sharp, slick and calculated psychopath that I remember has become a crazy Joker goon with incoherent babbling at the top of his agenda.
Thus we come to the story; A convoluted mess with links so frail, a fart from the most petite of butterflies would send them careening through the museum of very expensive, fragile artefacts of a long lost world with the discretion of Russia in the Ukraine. Think of it as an origin movie. Something to whet the appetite for the future stories within the universe and yes, it does set that ground well but for 150 minutes, it sure did drag on. I look forward to seeing Jason Mamoa tackle Aquaman and finally (hopefully) give the character justice for the years of ridicule and watching Gal Gadot’s take on Wonder Women in what will be a very important milestone in her career. Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, it was a fun movie and hopefully it’s just a minor hiccup that will give the next instalment a bump in motivation to produce a better, more flowing piece. But this is Snyder, so piss in a bucket and call it Granny’s peach tea for all he cares.
PS – If anyone has that damn sexy note the Batmobile makes I want it now. Kthxbye.
Pete’s Score: 6.5/10
Overall Score: 5.25/10
Natural Bored Killers
So here we are with our 250th blog on Black Ribbon Reviews and instead of having a mind-blowing, totally amazing, triple whammy style review to craft out, we have a singular, rather timid and overly anti-climactic take on American Ultra. a film so strung up on its’ stoner/b-movie conventions that the only advice I can give is to watch the trailer and embrace in its’ rather lovely 120 second runtime instead of watching a rather drawn out, overly stupid, and senselessly violent forgettable mess which, I assume, will quickly be transferred to a discount DVD bucket near you. Although American Ultra does boast a significantly impressive cast, with Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart and The Social Network‘s Jesse Eisenberg being the film’s lead roles, the wide range of flaws that encompass the movie throughout prevent it from being the complete stoner action flick writer Max Landis must have originally wanted it to be.
Not only is the level of senseless violence completely off the chart, but the film is ridden with cliches, from the script to the characters, whilst the constant need for the characters to interject the already meaningless lines of dialogue with tiresome swear words made the film a painful experience in a similar vein to this years’ Spy, with both seemingly forgetting the power of a well-written speech and instead flooding our characters with the vocabulary of a 14 year old who has just realised how naughty such words are when used. Within all the negativity is a power couple comprising of the leading stars with Steward and Eisenberg obviously making the most of their dire script which makes their on-screen relationship the only positive aspect of the film, something of which doesn’t save American Ultra from what it overly is; a forgettable mess.
Overall Score: 4/10
Now You See Me is the story of 4 street magicians who are brought together by an unknown source of power to rob banks like Robin Hood. With a large cast of well known actors, it was safe to say that a lot of money had been spent on the project. Yet it is safe to say that I was disappointed. The US received this movie just over a month before us here in the UK. A movie which I had to avoid all sort of news about it for a month and its safe to say that I was a little peeved on the exit.
The actual story is incredibly simple, with a few plot twists which aim too catch you out but are very easy to see through. I have to admit that there was one incident which I felt too be a good twist, but it doesn’t wow you. This is what I felt for the majority of the story, nothing got my blood pumping, nothing engaged me with the plot and the predictability of it made it tedious to watch.
As you may already know from my “This Is The End Review“, I do not like James Franco and I harbour much of the same dislikes for him as Dave making his character a spare wheel. As the story rolls on, he disappears for a portion of it and can be easily ignored with his predictable exit. I do have to give him credit for his fight scene between him and Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk). His acting was fluid and fight scenes were done with precision and an element of style involved. Speaking of The Hulk, it turns out that he is our main character. We follow the action from his point and the process he goes through to investigate the bank robberies and the workings of the 4 Horseman’s magic. When looking back at Mark’s performance, its obvious that it isn’t his best work. For someone who played the Hulk, you would assume that he could show true anger or despair, yet his face can appear somewhat still throughout.
The actors I did get along with were, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and of course Mr Freeman! Harrelson was the most interesting of the characters. A man with the ability to hypnotise the public and get them to do as he chooses. His talent is quite interesting but its his humour that sets him apart from the rest, while Eisenberg is the brains of the group, he is the focal point in the group and seems like the leader of the four. So, with a huge cast, a few good scenes and general entertainment, I feel the movie deserves a 7/10. It’s lack of grip and the generic story can bore some and the way the story was wrapped up was very cheesy. I would have liked a lot more darkness to it with a bit more aggression to build the excitement.