Zombieland: Double Tap


Viewed – 25 February 2020. Online rental

I really liked the first Zombieland. It felt like America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead,, and although it wasn’t quite as clever as that Simon Pegg vehicle, it had tons of personality and a great cast. This sequel, which I’d never expected but was hyped for none the less reunites us with our American-state-named survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) etc. during the zombie apocalypse following the discovery of a mutated, even deadlier version of the creatures they’ve become a little too relaxed with despatching.

The gang’s back together…

Clearly the story is a fairly basic excuse to do another Zombieland and although this fails to further build on what came before or flesh out the setting, with barely any exploration of the zombie threat … just being in the company of these chatacters again was good enough. Harrelson, Stone and Eisenberg still have great chemistry and their frequently comical banter is pure joy. Honestly, I dont think i could ever get bored of these characters. Harrelson is especially on brilliant form and steals many of the best scenes. Although, less said about a tiresomely pouty Abigail Breslin as Little Rock and that incrdibly annoying millenial bimbo that turns up, the better.

A shortage of new ideas makes this sequel a bit lazy, but the comedy, some decent zombie killing action and just plain fun characters all sparking off each other, made for solid entertainment regardless – and yeah, I’d welcome a part three with open arms.

Verdict: Good

Project A


Viewed – 23 February 2020. Blu-ray

For some reason in the nineties when I was heavily into Hong Kong Cinema and the movies of Jackie Chan, this famed 1983 outing passed me by, even though I caught the sequel. Sitting down to this now, in pristine HD on a great Blu-ray from the fine folks at Eureka … I was both impressed at the action and stunt work but left cold by a rather messy plot. Chan plays Dragon Ma, a coast guard captain during the turn of the century, who gets embroiled in a series of weapons thefts by invading pirates. Along with a police lieutenant (Yeun Biao) and a petty crook (Sammo Hung) Chan turns out to be the best choice to save the day.

The story is a bit naff, disjointed and complicated by Chan’s usual brand of bumbling, squabbling and slapstick, although it’s a treat to see him teamed with fellow kung-fu stars Hung & Biao. The stunt work is at times wince-inducing crazy (especially the famous clock tower fall) and the fights frantic and brilliantly choreographed … but when the structure and plotting is this poor, it can spoil the fun. Thankfully then production values, set design and costumes are all top-notch. Chan also proves likeable as is much of the colourful cast, and when the villain is revealed he’s also quite formidable. As ever there’s also plenty of often silent-comedy influenced comedy and although quaint is more hit than miss.

For fans this is certainly one to check out, and the action still impressed even if it’s not Chan’s best.

The blu-ray from Eureka boasts great image quality sourced from a new 2k restoration. It’s generally sharp and colours really pop. We get the soundtrack presented in its original mono Cantonese as well as 5.1 Dts HD Master Audio which proves effective even if surrounds are not really showcased. The movie is similarly available in dubbed English. Extras consist mainly of talking-head interviews with cast and crew, but Chan is absent although we do get Yeun Biao. There’s also outtakes (a highlight with any Jackie Chan movie) and deleted scenes. We also get a detailed booklet. No commentary is a disappointment but overall this is great treatment for one of Chan’s most famous if in my opinion slightly overrated movies.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Birds of Prey


Viewed – 18 February 2019

… and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Some of my favourite movies are pleasant surprises. I went into this with not very high expectations and you know what? I really enjoyed it. It’s a simple movie at heart; a diamond falls into the wrong hands, a pick pocket kid steals it causing bad guys to go hunting for her, whilst at the same time anti-hero Harley Quinn fresh off a break up with former boyfriend The Joker finds herself the target of cops and crooks.

The alternative Avengers?

Yeah I wasn’t here for the story either, but when you consider Margot Robbie’s Quinn was the only redeeming aspect of the mostly forgettable Suicide Squad, another crack of the whip with this off-kilter character I was certainly up for. She doesn’t disappoint, narrating and carrying the movie in a whirlwind showcase of the actress’s screen magnetism and comic timing. Add to this decent support from Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an avenging assassin and especially Ewan McGregor having a ball as villain Black Mask, and with several stand out fights and action scenes … I was thoroughly entertained. For a mostly female lead vehicle it didn’t shove some feminist agenda down one’s throat either.

It’s plot and structure are a little messy, but the movie wisely plays with this as a representation of how Harley Quinn thinks. Rosie Perez seems a bit out of place though, and characterisation other than the lead is fairly basic. Yet with enjoyable dialogue, a goofy sense of humour and a memorable villain, this was far from the disaster some critics (and that disappointing box office) would have you believe.

Verdict: Recommended

Ready Or Not


Viewed – 15 February 2020. Online rental

Marriage is meant to be a happy time when two people tie the not in hope of spending the rest of their lives together. However, new bride Grace doesn’t quite realise what she’s getting into when introduced to her new hubby Alex’s eccentric, wealthy family on their wedding day. As it turns out each new member to the ‘family’ must undergo an initiation before they can be truly accepted. So sets forth a wedding night quite unlike any other.

Here comes the bride…

Margot Robbie look-alike (and fellow Ozzy it transpires) Samara Weaving proves a plucky lead surrounded by colourful characters in this energetic ‘romp’, that plays out kind of like an even more macabre version of Cluedo. The idea however just doesn’t make much sense and when you find out exactly what’s going on it fires up more questions than the movie has any chance of answering. Yet a decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone helps carry the movie, aided immeasurably by its cast who all look like they’re having a riot, and there’s some shocks and surprises along the way, as well as a solid punch-line ending.

The directors have delivered a brash, often cartoonishly violent ride, and that’s almost good enough. However it’s all let down by a poorly thought-out concept that feels like a stretched out segment of an anthology piece than its own movie. Fun, in a purely popcorn entertainment kind of way.

Verdict: Good

Bad Boys For Life


Viewed – 28 January 2020 Cinema

I can’t say the prospect of a third Bad Boys movie filled me with excitement. I’d lost interest in Will Smith as an actor a while back, and who had seen much of Martin Lawrence? Also it felt like a concept that was relegated to the past. However on seeing the positive buzz surrounding this I thought I’d give it a go. Smith and Lawrence return as the streetwise Miami detectives who following the escape of a dangerous Mexican cartel woman from prison, learn of a hit list targeting various cops and officials, including Smith’s Mike Lowrey.

Initially some of the dialogue and humour, that focuses on growing older and family commitments, felt a bit forced … but once the narrative hit its stride this observational humour began to gel better. The focus like previous movies, on Smith and Lawrence’s buddy chemistry was again the star and even 17 years later they still work great together. Smith proves heroic, reckless and layered rekindling my liking of the actor all over again. Also Lawrence proves at times hilarious with some perfectly timed one-liners – and that motorbike side car sequence is just gold.

Although series director Michael Bay isn’t behind the camera this time (but appears in a brief cameo) the visuals are stylish and the action particularly slick and visceral making this equal parts funny and exciting whilst not shying away from the violence. It feels very much like the older movies but brings it up to date with some genuine emotion and pathos amidst the pyrotechnics. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended