Train to Busan (2016)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Remember that movie, Snakes on a Plane, where there were snakes on a plane? Well this is kinda like that only it’s zombies on a train. Okay, so it’s not exactly like Snakes on a Plane, but hang with me for a moment.

Much like Snakes, Train to Busan focuses on a cast of roughly ten characters out of the thousands of passengers on the train. You got the business man and his daughter who he’s never made time for till now. You got the husband and his pregnant wife. You got the high school baseball team, which devolves into the team captain and his girlfriend. You got the two elderly sisters. You got the homeless dude who sneaked on the train because he had foreknowledge of the zombies. And you have the back of dicks business guy who’s only looking out for himself. All you need is Sam Jackson and some bro in need of witness protecting.

What’s interesting to note here is that all these characters are paired off, save for the asshole who, yeah spoiler, tries to fuck over everyone else on the train to stay alive. It’s clearly a commentary on how the business world leaves you soulless and alone, while true strength comes from other. A pretty strong message to fall out of zombie flick if you ask me. I know what you’re gonna say, “Oh, the homeless dude was alone too.” Yes, yes he was. He’s what is known in the story telling world as “the herald”. He brings word to the rest of the cast of what is going down. He outlives his purpose, but not his usefulness. And some others of you are gonna be all like “That dad who never had time for his daughter is a business man too, but you’re not calling him an asshole.” Yeah, because he’s the foil to the asshole. He’s the one who changes and grows. He goes from being that asshole looking out for only number one, to being one of the guys trying his damnest to save the people around him. Character development. Boom!

As far as zombie movies go, this one ranks up there. The zombies act differently then those in other movies, so it keeps you interested in parts that would normally be situations of either straight up bloodshed or hopeless posturing. The characters are rich, the action is engaging, and the zombies are nigh endless. All together, a damn fine movie.

The Battery (2012)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve seen a lot of zombie movies in my day. This is one of the better ones there. (That is until my new novel “The Night of the Freaks” available on inkitt.com gets a movie deal.) Seriously, this film has so much going for it, it’s unreal.

The film follows Ben (writer/director Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), a pair of baseball players who were on the road the summer the zombie outbreak hit. The pitcher, catcher duo (that’s why it’s called The Battery) have only baseball in common. That, and the want to survive. Both are broken people in their own ways. Ben seems to take pleasure in survival process; staying on the move, fishing, gathering supplies, and killing zombies. Mickey, on the other hand wants only normality. He misses his girlfriend to the point of sexual deviance (he jerks it to a zombie, an image that once seen, can not be unseen).

What really sets this film apart from other zombie movies is that it plays almost entirely off the personalities of these two guys and nothing else. The zombies are just the set piece for which these two can showcase who they really are: Ben the realist, Mickey the hopeless romantic. I say hopeless romantic because, aside from the whole zombie baitin’ thing, the only driving action presented in this movie comes in the way of a mysterious conversation heard over a walkie talkie. They two find out that there are other survivors out there living at what is known as “the orchard”. And there’s a girl there named Annie (Alana O’Brien) who, of course, Mickey can’t stop thinking about.

I really can’t say enough nice things about this movie. This was Jeremy Gardner’s first outing as writer/director (he’s since directed another movie, Tex Montana Will Survive!) and damn did he knock it out of the park. He raised the mirco budget of $6,000 by asking ten of his friends for $600 each. I really hope he keeps making movies, so long as he doesn’t lose touch with what made this film work.

Just trust me here people, watch this one. Totally worth your 90 minutes of life.

The Rezort (2015)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 2.9 out of 5 stars

This movie wasn’t a complete waste of my time (much like my new novel, “The Night of the Freaks”, available on inkitt.com for free). The setup for it is interesting, but that’s basically all it has to offer (unlike my new novel which offers much more than an interesting setup).

The Rezort, is set after a near apocalypses level zombie outbreak. Mankind have the zombies in check to the point where they have build a theme park around going out and shooting zombies on a game preserve. Of course, the park malfunctions and the zombies run a muck. The whole thing actually sorta reminded me of Jurassic Park to that end.

As far as character development goes, there really wasn’t much. Jessica De Gouw’s character is the only one who really evolves, and not in a completely unpredictable way. Like I said earlier, beyond the premise, not a whole lot going on here. Still a fun ride though.

Man, this is a short review.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Here we go, ladies and gentlemen. The first of a week of shameless plug movie reviews to get you pumped about my new novel, “The Night of the Freaks”, available now for free on Inkitt.com. I figured I’d start at the beginning of modern zombie cinema, the granddaddy, Night of the Living Dead. Eagle-eyed readers might say to themselves, “Boy, your book title has a lot of the same words as the movie you’re reviewing,” to which I say…yeah…that’s true. Almost like my book title is an allusion or something.

In all honesty, this is one of those movies I could talk about for hours without ever touching on plot points just because the behind the scene stuff is so interesting. Hell, it’s so interesting they made a documentary about it, “Birth of the Living Dead”, which, if that were more prolific, I’d be writing about that. Yet here we are.

One of the things I find most fascinating about this classic is that at no point are the zombies referred to as zombies; they’re mostly called “those things” or “ghouls”, but damn it all if this isn’t the birth of the modern zombie film. This film pioneered the whole zombies eating flesh and death by head shot thing. You know, Zombie 101.

The movie tells the story of poor shell shocked and useless Barbara (Judith O’Dea), who after seeing her dick-head brother Johnny die at the hands of a zombie, flees to a farm house where she meets Ben, played by Duane Jones.

Now, real quick, 1968 was a different time. Duane Jones, as everyone who’s seen the movie knows, is African American. This one piece of casting added an entire social commentary to the movie because of the way the plot plays out. All that’s unintentional. Duane Jones was just the best actor to show up to the casting call. That’s way, if you note, the fact that he’s black is never brought up. In 1968, in a room full of white people put in mortal danger who are at ideological odds with Jones’ character, you better believe there would have been some unsavory comments sent his way. Those comments aren’t made because, well, they weren’t in the script. That almost plays into the social commentary of the film in a way; the fact that race isn’t at any point an issue. Either way, for the time it was a bold casting choice that added layers to the movie that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.

Anywho.

Barbara and Ben (but mostly Ben) barricade themselves in this farm house only to find more people barricaded in the basement. Then the great debate starts. Team basement, which as Brad Pitt will tell you is a terrible tactical nightmare, and Team Ben aka Team anywhere but the basement.

This movie isn’t exactly a thrill a minute, I’ll give you that. The four stars it wears is mostly for it importance in history. Seriously. This movie cost $114,000 to make, and it grossed $30 million. It made over 263 times its budget from the box office. Holy fucking shit, that is impressive. The first time I saw this, twelve year old me was transfixed. Twenty-seven year old me wonders how much the extras playing zombies hated their lives. According to that documentary, everybody on set had a blast. Kinda makes you wish you were a zombie for George A. Romero.

But in all seriousness, being a zombie would totally blow. Being stuck in a zombie apocalypses would blow. But you know what would even suck more? If the apocalypses was all psychosomatic and it was up to you and a merry band of misfits to convince a city full of cannibals that they are living out a lie. Such are the events of my new book being shamelessly plugged, “The Night of the Freaks”. You can find it on Inkitt.com for the low low price of free. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the longest thing I’ve ever written is being given away for the same price as air. Don’t be caught dead without it. Muhahahaha.

Office Christmas Party (2016)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I’ve never held an office job, so there’s no way for me to know exactly how life in an office goes down. But, I have seen every episode of The Office, so, you know, I got that going for me. This movie makes working in an office seem fun.

With the very real threat of having their office branch close, T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman, and Olivia Munn throw a hail Mary Christmas party to attract a big client who can save their jobs. Think Project X level party, but with everyone over thirty. I’m talkin’ copy machines being thrown out of a twenty story window level party. Bards would tell tales of this party, you know, if bards were still things. I guess rappers and country music singers are the 21st century bards…sorta.

The major thing this movie has going for it is the cast. Basically everyone is recognizable from one thing or another and, on top of that, most of them manage to be funny. It’s not like pee your pants level funny throughout, but the funny bits are staggered enough to keep you watching.

I would say this movie is totally worth the watch if you’re in the mood for a good laugh and a movie you don’t need to give your complete attention to.

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Did you see Suicide Squad and think to yourself “well this movie could be better”? Well this is that better movie. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t high-jack the plot of this animated feature and make it live action. I wouldn’t have held it against them. In fact I would have preferred it.

For a movie titled Batman: Assault on Arkham, The Dark Knight manages to take a back seat, letting the Suicide Squad take the reins for the majority of the flick. Like in the live action Squad movie, the team includes a roster of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang. Instead of Killer Croc, this iteration has King Shark and instead of El Diablo we get Killer Frost. Also, instead of the kinda racist SlipKnot, we get the kinda racist KGBeast as the totally expendable, under developed character.

This movie is leaps and bounds smarter than its live action counter part. It works in Batman in a much slicker way that not only fits his character, but also for the team, again, to do the lions share of the “suiciding”.

The voice acting is golden, boasting a stacked cast including Kevin Conroy as Batman (a role he’s been playing for over twenty years) Neal McDonough, Hynden Walch, and Joe DiMaggio. The only thing I don’t really like about this movie is the music they choose to play in the background. Most of the time, it sounds like a late ’90’s techno rave. Not exactly the coolest thing in the world to listen to…not even in the late ’90’s.

But in all seriousness, if you saw Suicide Squad and thought it was mediocre at best, check this one out. Give the team a little redemption.

The Watcher (2016)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 2.7 out of 5 stars

Let me start by saying that there are a couple movies out there called “The Watcher”. This one does not stand out. From it’s predictable plot, to it’s standard at best acting, this movie doesn’t really do much at all aside from captive time passing.

The story centers around a couple (Edi Gathegi, who played Darwin in X-Men First Class and Erin Cahil, who was in one of the iterations of Power Rangers) who after winning a much fought over bid on a house, are stalked by a mysterious figure that calls itself “the raven”. If you choose to watch this movie, the rest of the plot sort of fills itself in, which in this case is a bad sign. It’s a mystery that is so fucking obvious, I’m surprised the people who comprise this universe aren’t constantly killing themselves in freak toaster/dishwater accidents. If the twist surprised you, you can go ahead and finish grade school.

There’s this little thing that every story ever told uses called “the economy of scenes”. The basic principle of this is that you only have so much time to tell a story so because of this fact, every thing that you see as to build to a certain conclusion. This movie does a terrible job of this by only introducing five character aside from the protagonists. Jeez, I wonder which who the stalker is? Do you think maybe one of the only other character we’ve meet could be behind it? No way. They’re too obvious. Yeah. They are.

The failings of this movie lie in the writer. The acting is totally fine. In fact I thought Erin Cahil did a better than the movie demanded job. Edi Gathegi did just alright. I was hoping for more from him seeing as he played one of my favorite X-Men from the comics. They did his character wrong in First Class…just sayin’. Everyone else in this movie isn’t worth mentioning. Aside from Riley Baron. This is only his second outing, so I’m not going to fault the dude.

All in all, I’d say if you’re pressed for time in the viewing department (and who among us isn’t?), then I’d say you can probably skip this one.

 

Logan (2017)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Holy fuck. This movie is really rated R. I mean, it felt like they really doubled down on the rating. Patrick Stewart dropped like twenty fucks. That’s like ten more fucks than he dropped in Green Room and he played a God damn Nazi in that movie. And the violence. The glorious violence. Hugh Jackman stabbed so many people through the face; like a whole room full of people get face stabbed. I guess I should probably talk about the plot or something before I keep ranting about the blood shed and fuck bombs.

The story starts in the year 2029. No new mutants have been born in years, the X-Men are all dead save for Wolverine and Professor X who are old men on the verge of death. Logan and Chuck are lives out the rest of their dead on the Mexican border when this little girl (Dafne Keen) is dropped in their laps. Logan reluctantly agrees to take her up to Canada after the Reavers (cyborg mercenaries) come to collect her.

One of the things that I really liked about this film was how accessible it was. The themes of the movie are plainly stated simply by showing a couple clips from the movie Shane. I also liked the violence. And the swears. At times, the swears seemed forced, like “Oh, we can say ‘fuck’? Well shit, let’s say ‘fuck’ at least once every other line.” The violence doesn’t play the same way. That’s one of those inherent things about the character that the studio never really got right. Wolverine is a guy with knives attached to his hands, he’s going to spend a good deal of time slicing body parts off. Can’t do that in a PG-13 flick. Here, the first scene sets the tone, Logan’s chops a guys hand clean off.

I guess what I really liked about this movie is how well it worked as a final Wolverine film for Hugh Jackman. We’ve seen the character mature to an old man filled with regrets, who knows he can’t change who he is to spite the fact that he indeed has. They manage to tell a broad story with limited details on what happened in the gap years of the series (The Wolverine takes place in 2013, so there’s 16 years unaccounted for). To sum it up, this movie surprised me in more ways than one which was refreshing.

Now go watch Patrick Stewart give several fucks.

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 3.4 out of 5 stars

James Wan’s follow up to his 2013 film, The Conjuring, (not that you couldn’t have guess what The Conjuring 2 was a follow up to), didn’t quite…conjure…the same magic. That’s not to say that there weren’t enjoyable and scary moments.

This time around, the Warren’s (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) travel to England to investigate a haunting in Enfield. There, a single mother (Frances O’Connor) and her four kids are being…well…haunted.

The story behind the haunting was engaging, and much like with the original film, you actually care about what happens to the people being affected by the poltergeist. The thing that sorta holds the movie back, however, is its similarity to its predecessor. It felt at times like it was just the same old bag of tricks being re-opened. The taunt scares just weren’t there like in the first one. What this movie did better was build up the ghost behind the haunting.

In the first movie, you find out over the course of the movie who the ghost is, way it’s haunting the house, blah blah blah. In this one, the hat is tipped sooner with a darker mystery working in the background. The inherit downside to “the darker mystery at work” is that it means there is going to be yet another spin off much in the way there was an Annabelle spin off (which, by the way, there’s another one of those train-wrecks coming down the pipe later this year). I guess my main beef with this movie was that did tried so hard to be like the original while still being open enough to have legs to run off into another movie.

Some parts hit the mark, others missed wide, others felt pandering. All in all, it was worth the watch, but you can tell that it won’t hold up on a second or third viewing like the original. There was a real artistry behind the first one, holding to the film ascetics of the 1960’s, the wonderful paces of the jump scares. There wasn’t really any of that here, which is sad because James Wan passed up a literal boat load of money to direct the next Fast and Furious movie to direct Conjuring 2. 

The Similars (2015)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

From the very opening of this Spanish language film, you can tell that film maker Isaac Ezban was inspired by The Twilight Zone. From the mostly black and white color to the book-ended voice over, this movie plays like and extra long episode of the cult classic. The idea of working around the frame work of the Rod Sterling property is great, however, this, in part, straight rips off an episode of the show.

The Similars tells the story of a group of strangers in 1960’s Mexico waiting in a bus station. Single location, just like The Zone. The strangers are stuck in the station due to the severe rain storm outside. They get these messages over the radio that something is happening around the world, something unexplainable. Everyone is turning into the same person, but only in the face. Hilariously terrifying. You’re probably thinking, “Well that’s Twilight Zone ish, but that wasn’t in an episode.” True. But that’s not the great twist in the movie.

I won’t ruin it here. Instead, I’m going to talk about how weird it is to see porn stars with the face of a middle aged Mexican man with a beard. That’s an image that is going to be scarred into my mind for a while. I’m shuttering just thinking about it. And then I laugh, because of how goofy the whole thing is.

Seriously, this movie is worth the watch. THe only beef I had is the previously stated fact that it’s a total rip off.