Army of the Dead

Viewed – 25 May 2021 Netflix

Following a zombie outbreak on Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries are hired to venture into the quarantine zone to retrieve a stash of money hidden in an underground vault. Zack Snyder (Justice League) returns to the zombie genre he pretty much reinvented with his well received Dawn of the Dead remake, this time under the guise of a heist movie.

With the director’s brand of stylish visuals and frenetic action, whilst not breaking the mould … this proved a fun experience. Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista heads a mostly unknown cast in this action horror, and proves a likeable lead. A subplot revolving around Bautista’s daughter, who tags along on the heist to rescue the mother of two children … felt a bit forced just to create a father/daughter bonding angle which only complicates an already dangerous mission. Also a sequence involving an army convoy at the beginning, is left unexplained. At 2 and a half hours, this also felt padded out, with needless sequences such as a long bit inside a building sneaking past sleeping zombies.

However the movie does deliver great action, the zombie tiger seen in the trailer is awesome, and as for gore, whilst infrequent, there’s some stand-out moments. The band of mercenaries are also entertaining and have good banter. Overall, not quite the evolution of the zombie flick it’s marketed as, and it does get very silly – but I still came away entertained.

Verdict: Good

Last Vegas

Viewed – 05 March 2015  Netflix

I like how Hollywood occasionally dusts off some of our older veteran actors and throws them together in one movie.  When it works it can work well (Bucket List, The Heist) and when it doesn’t it can be uncomfortable (The Expendables).  Thankfully this is the former.  Marketed as kind of a senior citizen version of The Hangover we have Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as life long friends who come together to go on Michael Douglas’s bachelor party in Vegas.  You see much like Douglas in real life, he has a young girlfriend who he plans on marrying, but at the same time there’s some unresolved issues between him and DeNiro that a weekend together may just bring up again.

last vegas

This is enjoyable stuff.  It has some good observations of getting older, life and love and is actually rather heart-warming.  It sensibly avoids the toilet humour adult comedy of the aforementioned Hangover, and as these guys are a bit fish out of water, they naturally look awkward attending clubs and chatting up the scantily clad girls…but then that’s kind of the point.  This does have some good jokes (most at Douglas’ expense) and several great sight gags, and works best when the four seasoned actors are sparring off against each other.  Mary Steenburgen appears as a love interest and helps this movie develop a bit more meaning and depth than it might have.  Director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) has played his cards well, and treats the actors with respect whilst still poking a little fun at the situation.  DeNiro is especially good as the grumpier of the foursome yet each actor gets a moment in the spotlight and goes on a bit of a journey.

It’s predictable in places and rather cringy at times, but never out stays it’s welcome.  I’d have swapped the casting of Kline for someone on the same level as the others (sorry) … yet overall, this still worked very well.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Hangover

Viewed – 12 March 2010  Blu-ray

Heard some good things about this one, and the trailer was great… a group of friends wake up after a bachelor party in Las Vegas only to discover they can’t remember anything from the previous night, and to top it all, they have lost the groom.  So begins a frantic quest to retrace their steps and figure out just what happened before it’s too late.  With the clock ticking, a wedding to turn up to in one piece, the three friends discover alarming event after alarming event and this viewer was smiling and laughing all the way through.

Bradley Cooper leads the band of merry idiots, one a straight-laced dentist, the other a nerdy guy with a beard, and himself a school teacher, and despite some outrageous situations, I found myself totally believing in these likable characters.  The comedy is not laid on too thick (and thankfully doesn’t rely on tiolet humour), and it isn’t laugh out loud funny, but it remains very entertaining, vibrant stuff, even if at some points I was left wondering exactly how they got into particular situations in the first place which isn’t fully explained.  Heather Graham is woefully under-used as a stripper who gets caught up in proceedings, and support characters are reduced to stereotypes such as the asian gangsters –  yet we also have some spot on movie referrences and a concept that does at least keep you guessing.  As ever with movies set in sin city, this is a treat for the eyes, especially on Blu-ray where the HD visuals really jump out of the screen, and the soundtrack is fun if not particularly memorable.  I must also say a cameo from Mike Tyson is priceless.

So if you’re after a fun, undemanding but likable comedy – this will do the job perfectly.

Verdict:  4 /5