Friday, June 23, 2023

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)


Streaming Service: STARZ
Movie Name/Year: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Genre: Action, Horror, Comedy
Length:  1h 39min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Columbia Pictures, Pariah, Columbia Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Pictures Filmverleih, Sony Pictures Releasing, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Actors: Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Bill Murray, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Thomas Middleditch, Dan Aykroyd, Jesse Eisenberg, Luke Wilson, Avan Jogia, Victor Rivera, Victoria Hall
IMDb Blurb: Columbus, Tallahasse, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of the snarky makeshift family.
Cat’s Point of View:
I absolutely loved Zombieland (2009). Everything about it was glorious. It was one of those rare blends of horror comedy that just worked. It also had a little of the feeling that it was a graphic novel come to life. It took a whole decade for the sequel to release, but it was well worth the wait.  When we put together our Top 20 article for October 2019, this movie was near or at the top of the list for both Selina and I. 

Zombieland: Double Tap is one of the good examples of what a sequel should strive to be. It honored the original and expanded the story without being redundant or phoning it in order to cash out. 

We got to see all of the primary characters again with their roles reprised by Woody Harrelson (True Detective, Midway, The Man from Toronto), Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, American Ultra, Vivarium), Emma Stone (The Croods, La La Land, Cruella), and Abigail Breslin (Final Girl, Scream Queens, Stillwater). This is, in fact, my favorite of Harrelson’s. 

Zombieland: Double Tap also introduced new characters played by Zoey Deutch (Why Him?, Rebel in the Rye, The Outfit), Avan Jogia (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shaft, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City), and the kickass Rosario Dawson (Luke Cage, The Mandalorian, Clerks III) among others. 

There were callbacks to the first movie that fans would definitely appreciate and get a kick out of, and the story stayed true to the themes established in the first Zombieland. Though, it brought a fresh perspective with more information on the zombies and insight into the characters. It gave us a what came next perspective that everyone craves from a sequel. 

I was also glad to see that Zombieland: Double Tap retained its devil-may-care attitude about how the characters moved through the apocalyptic landscape. The dark and twisted hilarity laced throughout and it didn’t take itself too seriously. I also really appreciated the little homages here and there to other staples of zombie cinema. Zombieland was inspired by Shaun of the Dead (2004), after all. 

This is exactly the sort of movie that probably makes critics pull out their hair and roll their eyes. However, from an audience fan perspective, Zombieland: Double Tap was just a fun ride from beginning to end. It was one of the few movies where I barely even noticed the passing of time and wasn’t even tempted to fidget on my phone while I was watching. 

I would recommend Zombieland: Double Tap to anyone who enjoyed the first movie. If you haven’t watched the first one yet - my suggestion would be to do that first. These 2 films would make a great double-feature movie event with friends. I know I’ll enjoy watching these movies for years to come. My family and I have already watched them both several times. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 68%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 88%
Metascore – 55%
Metacritic User Score – 6.5/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5

P.S. - There is a special modification to the Columbia Pictures intro to the movie as well as a post-credits scene.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Unwelcome (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Unwelcome (2022)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 1h 44min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Tempo Productions Limited, Ingenious Media, Rococo Films, Warner Bros. Pictures, Well Go USA Entertainment, Shudder
Director: Jon Wright
Writers: Mark Stay, Jon Wright
Actors: Hannah John-Kamen, Colm Meaney, Douglas Booth, Jon Wright, Kristian Nairn, Niamh Cusack, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Finbar Lynch, Rick Warden, Lalor Roddy, Paul Blackwell, Caskey Brown, Mark Desvaux, Sarah Madigan, Ania Marson, Bradley Turner, Paul Warren, Richard Cave, Duncan Moyse
IMDb Blurb: Married couple Maya and Jamie escape their urban nightmare to the tranquility of rural Ireland only to discover malevolent and murderous goblins lurking in the gnarled, ancient wood at the foot of their new garden.
Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been looking forward to watching Unwelcome ever since its limited theater run in March 2023 brought it up for contention for our Top 20 article for that month. It was, in fact, my #9 pick. 

Unwelcome had several things going for it including an infrequently explored creature from Celtic mythology, the gorgeous setting of Ireland, a recognizable cast, and an intriguing story exploring the titular theme from dual fronts. 

Let’s start with the familiar faces among the cast. Colm Meaney (Pixie, Save the Cinema, Marlowe) just excels at playing a villainous curmudgeon. He’s one of the best-known Irish actors and you can always count on him for a solid performance. Unwanted was no exception. His character just made me uncomfortable. Kristian Nairn (Mythica: The Godslayer, Robin Hood: The Rebellion, Our Flag Means Death) added his own creepy element to the story, and thankfully got more lines than playing poor Hodor in Game of Thrones (2011-2019). Well…whole sentences at least. 

Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Killjoys, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City) and Douglas Booth (The Limehouse Golem, Loving Vincent, The Dirt) worked well as an on-screen couple. I believed their chemistry and found it easy to empathize with their story. 

I was also generally impressed by how Unwelcome brought the redcaps to life on the screen. I was surprised to learn that the effects were primarily practical with the only CGI elements focused on motion-captured facial movements. I think they did a decent job bringing the little goblin-like critters to life. My only nitpicking note was that their well-known titular red caps weren’t always shown. 

The redcaps mythology originated in Scotland, lurking in castle ruins and preying on the wayward traveler. They’re not unheard of in Ireland, however, so their appearance in an Irish horror based on faerie folklore was still within the realm of belief, at least. 

Unwelcome could have benefited from a little tighter editing to streamline the story. There was at least one scene that could have been cut entirely or at least heavily modified. It felt like it was added to either toss in a political point or at the very least give John-Kamen’s character something controversial in her background. Other than that, the story was fine and generally delivered what was promised - with a little twist. 

The only other element that took away from my overall experience was the ending. On one hand, I get it. At least, I think I understand what the story was going for. I just felt like it didn’t quite gel with the rest so the ending feeling was a little disjointed. By that point, however, I’d already been on the pulse-pounding rollercoaster ride that led up to those final moments and I enjoyed everything else the narrative had to offer. 

If you enjoy horror based on folklore, Unwelcome is a decent offering in that category. There’s even a little levity worked in here and there, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s a horror-comedy. 

Unwelcome lands on Shudder starting Friday, June 23rd, 2023.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 41%
Metascore – 64%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.1/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, June 19, 2023

Honor Society (2022)

Streaming Service: Paramount +
Movie Name/Year: Honor Society (2022)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Length: 1h 38min
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Awesomeness Films, Guardian Pictures, Paramount +, Viacom International
Director: Oran Zegman
Writer: David A. Goodman
Actors: Angourie Rice, Gaten Matarazzo, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Armani Jackson, Amy Keum, Kelcey Mawema, Avery Konrad, Michael P. Northey, Kerry Butler, Andres Collantes, Danny Wattley
Blurb from IMDb: Honor's sole focus is getting into Harvard. Willing to do whatever it takes, Honor concocts a plan to take down her top three competitors, until things take a turn when she unexpectedly falls for her biggest competition.

Selina’s Point of View:
Every time I thought I had Honor Society pegged, it hit a left turn.
Starting out, Honor Society had a recognizable formula. Viewers are shown a teen girl with ‘too much’ ambition. She’s willing to take down anyone in her path on the way to her goals. It’s a tried-and-true teen movie trope. There are about a million films out there that hit on the exact same thing.
I knew exactly what to expect and Honor Society used that against me.
Writer David A. Goodman (The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, The Pavilion, The Orville) must have seen every single one of those movies, because he knew exactly how to write a script that would throw people off. At about three quarters of the way through, I wound up confused because there seemed to be a full resolution with very few places to go. At which point he threw in a punch to the gut that took me a couple of minutes to fully digest.
I had two minor issues with Honor Society.
First of all, the super creepy guidance counselor never quite gets the come-uppance he deserves.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Promising Young Woman, The Disaster Artist, Trolls) was so upsetting as Mr. Calvin I found myself leaning away from the TV as if my body was trying to get as far away as possible. He played the part well, but that was roughly the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen in a teen comedy.
I have no issues including the triggering content, just that it feels like the character never gets what he deserves.
The other issue is that the narration gets a bit tedious.
Honor Rose, the main character played by Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Ladies in Black), consistently talks to the camera. Now, I don’t have a problem with that in general. My favorite movie of all time utilizes a similar framing. That said, in Honor Society it came across as if the movie was telling me a lot without showing me. It was as if the otherwise well-told story was served up alongside a gnat buzzing in my ear. It became fine as the movie went on, but up until about 25-minutes in I found myself rolling my eyes a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, Rice was perfect for the role she played. My issue was the way the narration was utilized, not with her delivery.
Despite the minor concerns, I would absolutely recommend Honor Society.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 85%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 79%
Metascore – 66%
Metacritic User Score – 6.5
IMDB Score – 6.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4.5/5
Movie Trailer: