Movie Review: Zombieland: Double Tap

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Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Wichita (Emma Stone), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) are back to kill more zombies in the sequel to 2009’s surprise hit Zombieland. (Source: Salon)

2009’s sleeper hit Zombieland was one gory, hilarious road trip. It was a clever spin on the now borderline tiresome zombie subgenre featuring one of the funniest cameos by one of the funniest actors. There is great chemistry between the main cast who have perfect comedic timing. After years of being in production hell, Ruben Fleischer returns as director after several misfires (including the uneven Gangster Squad and the dismal Venom), as well as the four leads–Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin–to give us familiar gags and nostalgia as well as some fresh ideas in the long-awaited sequel Zombieland: Double Tap. In most cases, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.

After the events of its predecessor, America is still overrun by zombies. Columbus (Eisenberg) has never been happier in his life; living in an abandoned White House with the three other survivors–the gunslinging, Twinkie-loving Tallahassee (Harrelson), the sarcastic Wichita (Stone), and the rebellious Little Rock (Breslin)–who came together as a family near the end of the first film. Columbus decides to take his relationship with Wichita to the next level. When she learns about Little Rock going on the road with hippie Berkeley (Avan Jogia), she joins with Columbus and Tallahassee, which means they encounter more zombies and other survivors including a dumb blonde named Madison (Zoey Deutch).

Before any of you get worried, this sequel is a nonstop blast. It recycles the same gags and it’s not ashamed of poking fun at its predecessor. There is more rule-making and rule-breaking, more gore, more special effects, and more zombies with personalities (ranging from dumb to semi-intelligent). The action set pieces are just as fun as ever (of course, the movie would play a Metallica song during the opening credits). Although it isn’t laugh-out-loud hilarious as its predecessor, it has plenty of laughs to have audiences in stitches.

It’s great to see the four leads mature over the years. Eisenberg’s Columbus is still the offbeat, fast-talking geek adding more rules to survive the zombie apocalypse. Along with Harrelson’s Tallahassee (who makes this movie as worthwhile as before), they go back on the road again. The movie also has memorable additions to the cast including Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch as two guys who are similar to Tallahassee and Columbus. Deutch is a hoot-and-a-half as Madison, whose stupid decision-making might get her and others into trouble. Rosario Dawson is straight-up awesome as Nevada, the owner of an Elvis Presley-themed motel near Graceland, who bonds with Tallahassee over the late singer. Tallahassee’s anecdote about him singing and dancing to “Hound Dog” like Elvis on top of a cafeteria table will have you smiling.

Zombieland: Double Tap is a sequel that didn’t need to happen, but it’s great to see the actors back in action. Make sure you stick around during the end credits. Trust me, you will not regret it.

8/10

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

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Belle (Emma Watson) gives her father (Kevin Kline) a hand in the latest remake of Beauty and the Beast. (Source: Digital Spy)

How can a fairy tale about a girl with Stockholm syndrome become an instant Disney animated classic? The 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast has memorable songs, characters, and gorgeous animation is more than enough reasons why generations of people watch it over and over again. Unlike Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, the recent remakes of Cinderella and The Jungle Book stick to their traditional Disney roots while modernizing it at the same time. The new live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is certainly no exception.

Everybody knows the story. Belle (Emma Watson) is a booksmart, independent young woman living in the village of Villeneuve whose father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is a brilliant artist and tinkerer. While walking into town, war veteran Gaston (Lee Evans) tries everything he can to marry Belle, in spite of his arrogance. One day, Maurice is kidnapped by the Beast (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey) and seeks refuge in a beautiful castle. Hearing the news, Belle flees to castle and encounters the staff—including Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Cadenza (Stanley Tucci) Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) and Chip (Nathan Mack)—who have been transformed into various objects due to a spell that, if all the rose pedals fall, the Beast will forever be a Beast, and…you know the rest.

There has been controversy prior to the release of Beauty and the Beast concerning the portrayal of LeFou as a gay character. A movie theater in Alabama went as far as banning it altogether. While in Malaysia and Russia, the certification boards suggested young kids are not allowed to see the movie because of the “gay moment”. LeFou always had a thing for Gaston (not to mention the original having homosexual undertones as well). That said moment is very brief and does not hurt the quality of the film.

Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) feels right at home here. He, along with screenwriter Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflowers, the upcoming Wonder), keeps the tone the same as the original featuring gorgeous sets and costumes, Alan Menken’s beautiful music (providing the classic songs we know and love and new, original songs), and colorful visuals. While everyone remembers the iconic song “Beauty and the Beast”, my favorite has always been “Be Our Guest”. Before I had doubts whether the visuals would come across as creepy, but I am surprised how the entire movie turned out. This particular music number improves upon the original (it oozes with color)!

I cannot imagine a better cast! Emma Watson has come a long way from her years of playing Hermione Granger in the beloved Harry Potter series. Here, she is the perfect actress to play Belle! While her singing is not out-of-this-world amazing (but not entirely awful), she breathes a lot of life into her performance. This movie gives more of a backstory of where she has come from. She knows a lot about books. She could easily get lost in the castle’s massive library. Stevens brings a lot of life in Beast (especially through the motion capture). He cannot be anywhere without her, particularly in one scene where he sings his heart out about his affections for her (“Evermore”—one of the movie’s original songs). McGregor and McKellen provide a lot of laughs, while Lee Evans and Josh Gad steal the show.

Beauty and the Beast has strong messages about what is on the inside rather than the outside. Families will certainly have a ball (no pun intended) laughing and being blown away by the looks of the movie. This is what magic is made of.

3/4

Movie Review: Noah (2014)

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Russell Crowe encounters the Flood in Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”

As a Christian, I became very fond with the book of Genesis. It introduces God, and how he created the heavens and the Earth, Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Cain killing Abel, and much more. But there is one story that is my favorite throughout the Bible. It’s about how God wants to sweep most of humanity because of how the Earth is so corrupt with violence. He calls upon Noah, a righteous man, to build an ark for him, his family, and all the animals (two of each species – male and female) so they can all be safe from the Flood.

Now, in 2014, we have a movie based on this magnificent tale. Noah received a lot of controversy before the movie came out (like The Passion of the Christ ten years ago). Darren Aronofsky, a self-described atheist, the director of The Wrestler and Black Swan (two movies I have yet to see), describes this movie as the “least biblical biblical movie ever made”.

Even though I had high hopes for Noah, I went in with an open mind and tried to ignore people who say the movie doesn’t follow the original source material at all. What did I get? Although different from the actual story, I appreciated Aronofsky’s fantasy that is visually breathtaking, well-acted, and takes the religious themes very seriously.

Noah (Russell Crowe) is portrayed as a flawed protagonist. At six hundred years of age, he begins to have nightmares of the future, saving humans and protecting Earth the best he could. His grandfather Methusaleh (the great Anthony Hopkins) gives him a seed from the Garden of Eden as the only hope to save the innocent. Not only does he work hard to save himself and the animals, but also his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), his three sons (Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll), and the orphan Ila (Emma Watson). His enemies involve Tubal-Cain (the evil Ray Winstone) and his 200 men who prepare to take over the ark once the rain begins to pour. This leads to an action sequence between them and the fallen angels known as the Watchers in the form of rock giants (reminiscent to Treebeard and the Ents from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).

Aronofsky and his co-writer Ira Handel create something flawed yet visually breathtaking. It involves themes including sin, caring for creation, and how justice can bring to the good and wicked. Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, and among others deliver really good performances. The backdrops of Iceland, the special effects (a mix of CGI animation and some stop-motion), and the production values are exquisite. I couldn’t ask for a better film score by no other than Clint Mansell. Noah may divide audiences, I would suggest everybody to see the movie for themselves.

3.5/4