Zombieland: Double Tap Review

Making a sequel to a hit movie is hard enough. Making a sequel to a movie that went on to be considered something of a cult classic is even harder. Fortunately, for those of you who only want to know whether Zombieland: Double Tap is as good as the original, the answer, as far as I’m concerned, is yeah, pretty much. Is it better? No.

After the success of Zombieland, there was pressure for director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to try and deliver a sequel pretty quickly. That didn’t happen as planned. While it has been a long wait to reunite with Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock, the time is right, and the results are wildly satisfying.

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Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Review

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot plays in theaters Oct. 15 and Oct. 17 via Fathom Events.

It’s been 25 years since Kevin Smith introduced audiences to hyperactive slackers Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks. They functioned as a vehicle for some of the movie’s raunchiest jokes, a function that’s remained largely the same in their subsequent appearances. The Askewniverse films have always been Smith’s most personal, so when news came that he was revisiting that world with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, it seemed a little strange that he could just be using these characters to take potshots (heh) at the Hollywood machine. But Reboot ends up being a surprisingly heartfelt look at growing older and growing up… punctuated with a whole hell of a lot of dirty humor. Just don’t expect a reinvention of the wheel in the story department.

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Doom: Annihilation Review

Doom: Annihilation is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and HD Digital.

The writing seemed to be on the wall for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Doom: Annihilation after current Doom game developer Bethesda put out a statement distancing themselves from the project. Released straight to home video, this second crack at a cinematic Doom incorporates a few more elements of the game lore, but at the cost of having to exist in the first place. Boring action, uninteresting characters, and a permeating sense of cheapness make Doom: Annihilation a chore to watch.

The broad strokes of Doom: Annihilation’s plot are going to feel very familiar to anyone who’s played a game in the series. Or watched the previous film adaptation from 2005. Or watched Event Horizon. Or… you get it. A bunch of space marines get called to a space research station that the space government has lost space communication with. Wouldn’t you know it, once they arrive, it turns out that the portal covered in Sumerian runes they’ve been studying there doesn’t connect to an alien utopia, but straight to Hell... which has broken loose in the station. It’s not like the Doom franchise has ever been known for a well-developed plot, but the laziness of the storytelling here is hard to overstate. At one point, when trying to puzzle out what they’re up against, one of the marines exclaims “it’s aliens!” You’ll be hard-pressed not to hear that line with a capital “A” and wish you were watching James Cameron’s masterclass in sci-fi action instead.

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Review

It's been five years since Angelina Jolie took on the iconic role of Maleficent, reimagining the stylish but one-note villain from Disney's classic Sleeping Beauty for a whole new generation. Its sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, is a definite step up from the first movie by expanding the story beyond its fairy tale inspiration and bringing in compelling new characters (and actors to play them), though it is held back by pacing issues.

The first movie expanded on the fairy tale by introducing a backstory that saw the horned fairy betrayed by the ambitious and cruel man that she once loved so he could become king, and eventually having her become surrogate mother to Aurora (Elle Fanning). Though you don't need to have seen the first film to enjoy Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, this sequel gets the audience up to speed from its opening "Once Upon a Time" intro. It follows on directly from the end of that fairytale with Aurora living as the Queen of the Moors (the fairy folk), but both their lives are upended when Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) asks Aurora to marry him, setting off a devastating chain of events.

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El Camino Spoiler-Free Review

Warning! Some minor spoilers from the movie are mentioned in the review below.

Back in 2013, Breaking Bad’s seminal five-season run ended with an ideal send-off for one of TV’s most iconic characters -- Bryan Cranston’s Walter “Heisenberg” White. During the series finale “Felina,” Walter was able to say his goodbyes and make amends, but what about his ex drug-dealing companion Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), who was last seen speeding down a dirt road on his way to freedom? Where is his swan song? El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is the first (and probably last) entry in the Methamphetamine Cinematic Universe that attempts to answer that particular question. It appears that the what-happened-to-Jesse scenario is a creative itch Breaking Bad creator and El Camino writer-director Vince Gilligan had to scratch… And we’re sure glad he did.

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Star Trek: Short Treks – “Q&A” Review

Full spoilers follow for this episode.

It’s an age-old storytelling trick. Take two characters, lock them in a room (or a basement, or a closet, or an… elevator), and let them talk it out until they’ve reached some kind of new level of understanding and connection. Television has been doing this forever -- including Star Trek -- and now the Enterprise’s Spock and Number One are the latest pair to get the treatment.

Ethan Peck’s Spock and Rebecca Romijn’s Number One were introduced last season on Star Trek: Discovery, along with Anson Mount’s Captain Pike, a recreation/continuation of the original Star Trek crew from the very first pilot episode of The Original Series, “The Cage.” By the end of the season, there was even a redesigned USS Enterprise bridge set, and many fans were buzzing about the possibility of the trio getting their own series. (Star Trek: The Pre-Generation?) That has yet to happen, but the latest batch of Short Treks promises to give us at least three adventures set in the Pike era, starting with this tale.

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Netflix’s Marriage Story Review

This is an advance review out of the New York Film Festival. Marriage Story opens in limited theatrical release Nov. 6 and debuts on Netflix on Dec. 6.

Director Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story opens with a brilliant dual opening scene in which Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson’s respective characters narrate a list of things they love about the other. It’s a closed-door view of two perspectives on a marriage that has since fallen apart, the tragedy being that they refuse to read what they wrote about each other in a divorce counseling session, which perfectly sets the tone for this grueling view of love that doesn’t always last.

But there’s a note Nicole (Johansson) makes about Charlie (Driver) in her writing that also illustrates a larger problem with how Baumbach goes about this intimate, potentially semi-autobiographical exploration (his ex-wife, director and actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, filed for divorce in 2010) of a relationship. She tells us right from the start that her husband often gets lost in his own world. You see, Charlie is a somewhat renowned theater director Off-Broadway, while Nicole is his chameleon-like leading lady, and also had a memorable part in a fictional ‘90s teen comedy. “She’s my favorite actress,” he tells us in his opening. Marriage Story is a film desperate to be ordinary in its portrait of a difficult divorce, and it succeeds very often. But Charlie and Nicole are immediately established as extraordinary people, the former more or less a vessel through which Baumbach sees himself. He’s lost in his own world, and it makes Marriage Story as a whole a little less ordinary than intended.

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The Addams Family Review

It's hard to reimagine a classic property, yet it's been a theme of 2019. The newest attempt is this charmingly animated adaptation of The Addams Family, which seems like a pretty hard sell after both the iconic TV series and two Barry Sonnenfeld films. Luckily, by some sort of Halloween miracle, this iteration of the spooky and kooky family is a totally wonderful addition to the popular franchise that both updates it for a new audience whilst balancing that with an impressive grasp of what made the previous iterations so beloved.

Opening with an introduction to Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) as they try to get married only to be chased away by pitchfork-wielding locals, The Addams Family works as a perfect jumping on point for new viewers. This passionate and healthy -- if completely strange -- relationship has always been at the heart of the Addams Family and it works wonderfully here.

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Gemini Man Review

The script for Gemini Man has been floating around Hollywood since 1997 and in those 22 years, it has gained something of a mythic status. Throughout its development, it's seen huge stars attached including Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and even Sean Connery. Eventually, Will Smith landed the lead and with Ang Lee at the helm, Gemini Man finally saw the light of day. So was the long-gestating action flick worth the two decade-plus wait? That depends on what you like from your action movies.

The big draw here is, of course, Smith, who's fun in dual roles as a former soldier turned assassin, Henry Brogan, and the young man, Junior, who's hunting him down. Imagining this film as a late '90s high-concept action romp makes a lot of sense, but sadly the finished flick feels very much like a product of 2019 and that's not a particularly good thing. Despite the fun, if gimmicky concept, Gemini Man feels pretty rote throughout with a script that lacks (intentional) humor and characters that we know so little about that it's hard to feel invested in any of them.

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