Capsule Thoughts: Southbound, Deadpool, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, JeruZalem
So, I've watched these four 2016 movies since I published my review for 13 Hours, but I haven't written about any of them. For the most part, I have no excuse for this. I'll try to keep my writing up in the coming days, until then, here are my latest Capsule Thoughts on the last of the 2016 movies that I've seen so far.
Director(s): Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, Radio Silence
Cast: Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Kristina Pesic, Fabianne Therese, Nathalie Love, Hannah Marks, Dana Gould, Anessa Ramsey, Susan Burke, David Johnson, Tipper Newton, Gerald Downey, Kate Beahan, Maria Olsen, Hassie Harrison, Matter Peters, David Yow, Karla Droege, Zoe Cooper, Justin Welborn, Tallulah Mounce, Max Folkman, Nick Folkman, Karina Fontes, Roxanne Benjamin
Southbound is a sci-fi/horror anthology where the less you know about the stories going in, the better. Set on a stretch of road through the California desert (where apparently a number of demons reside), the movie tells five stories – the first involves two men in a beat-up pick-up truck who keep running into the same diner, no matter where they turn; the second involves three female jazz players who receive roadside assistance from the creepiest couple imaginable; the third and best (not to mention the goriest) involves a distracted driver who hits a woman with his car and tries to do the right thing; the fourth involves a shotgun carrying old man who raids an evil bar in search of his sister; and the final is a home invasion story that takes a very strange turn (let’s leave it at that) – which are directed by four different filmmakers, and they each imbue their stories with the surreal and hypnotic vibe of a bad dream. Some of it is quite creepy (the second story in particular is nightmarish), and they each deal with the themes of unrepentant sinners being punished for their crimes. The result is a very effective low budget horror anthology that’s carried by strong performances, creepy visuals, and a number of unexpected and clever story twists. There is more to say about the movie, but if you want to know more, you have to see the movie for yourself. I’m not saying another word.
Not Rated, but would be a hard R for violence, blood and gore, an extremely disturbing operation scene, thematic material, profanity
Final Grade: *** ½ (out of ****)
Director: Tim Miller
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccari, Gina Carano, Briana Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams
Right from the very beginning, Deadpool works very hard to stand apart from all the other Marvel movies, starting with some admittedly funny opening credits (which says that the film stars “God’s Perfect Idiot,” features “A Gratuitous Cameo” (guess who!), and is directed by “An Overpaid Tool”) and features a lead character who constantly breaks the fourth wall (I’ve never really been a fan of this technique) and even jokes about his own movie’s budget (and in case you forgot that there are currently two actors who play Professor Xavier, he’ll remind you of that too). Some of it is really funny (I laughed the hardest when Deadpool tries punching and kicking the steel bodied X-Man Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and winds up…well, you’ll see), and actor Ryan Reynolds is note-perfect as the title character (this movie was a dream project of his that he spent 11 years trying to get made). Unfortunately, outside of Reynolds’ terrific performance and a few hearty laughs, the movie overall is kind of forgettable. Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, a mercenary-for-hire who agrees to undergo a secret experiment that’s supposed to cure him of his terminal cancer. Unbeknownst to him is the fact that it’s an experiment that’ll turn him into a mutant, and in order for the transformation to take place, he’ll have to be tortured mercilessly for weeks (his backstory is intriguingly dark). Once the transformation is complete, he now has the ability to heal from any wound (at one point, he gets stabbed in the head with a knife and lives), but he’s also left horribly disfigured, and because the “British Villain” (Ed Skrein) behind the experiment left him for dead in a burning building, he wants revenge. The action scenes are well-staged, but they’re not very exciting because Deadpool is basically unkillable (where’s the suspense in that?). No matter what you do to him, he’s gonna bounce right back (he’s made to cut off his own hand in one scene, and it just grows right back), and unlike Wolverine (who was weakened of his powers in his last stand alone movie), he doesn’t seem to have any weakness at all (fans of the comic books, which I haven’t read, probably won’t have a problem with this). And while Reynolds is always a joy to watch, the rest of the cast barely registers. Skrein is just bland as the main villain Ajax; Gina Carano is so forgettable as Ajax’s henchwoman that I don’t even remember her character’s name (only that she was freakishly strong and liked to chew on matches); and while Morena Baccari brings a lot of spunk in the earlier scenes as Wade’s love interest Vanessa, she’s reduced to a standard issue damsel-in-distress by the second half. Deadpool is not at all as terrible as I felt the trailers made it look, but does it really deserve all the hype that it’s getting? So many people seem to think so (Two dear friends of mine told me they loved it). Agree to disagree.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, non-stop profanity, sexual content, graphic nudity. An hour through the film, I saw a woman walk out with her two small children. Don’t make the same mistake. THIS IS NOT FOR KIDS!!!!
Final Grade: ** ½ (out of ****)
Director: Burr Steers
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith, Charles Dance, Lena Headey, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Douglas Booth, Sally Phillips, Jack Huston, Emma Greenwell
Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Green (the same man who gave us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Pride+Prejudice+Zombies (hereafter PPZ) delivers exactly what the title says: It’s Jane Austin’s story, with zombies. It sounds like a wildly and entertainingly goofy idea for a movie, let alone a book, and for the most part, it delivers. Writer and director Burr Steers does a good job bringing a modern action-horror movie spin to those scenes that everyone familiar with the story knows by now. Remember that scene where the stiff and prideful Darcy (Sam Riley), who’s now a colonel in the zombie war here, reveals his love for Elizabeth (Lily James)? That scene is here, although let’s just say that Elizabeth doesn’t let him down gently this time. Another nice touch: Darcy carries around a vial of flies that can detect when a zombie is near (you’ll know when the buzzing stops). In one of my personal favorite scenes, he tries using the flies on Elizabeth’s sister Jane after she’s attacked by a zombie, with Elizabeth in the room, with surprisingly funny results. The performances are also very good. James is spunky and charming as Elizabeth, Riley is charismatic as Darcy (he and James also have really good chemistry), and Matt Smith is an absolute riot as the pompous idiot Mr. Collins (and his moment of chivalry when Elizabeth is made to carry a whole bunch of rifles is priceless). The sets and costumes are splendid, and I smiled at the scene inserted during the end credits (which is a punchline, of sorts, to Mrs. Bennet’s determination to marry off her daughters in a zombie infested landscape). The problem with the movie is that the action scenes are terrible. Filmed in shaky camera shots and choppy edits (can someone explain why filmmakers keep doing action scenes this way?), the action in PPZ is never exciting, because you can’t really see what’s going on up there on the screen. (Of course, the camera remains still when the fighting stops. Go figure.) By the final third, the movie had lost some of its charm, and Steers seemed to play the rest of the movie out on auto-pilot. PPZ has enough to make it a good rental, but as for a trip to the theaters, it doesn’t quite make the cut (it is close though).
Rated PG-13 (somehow) for violence, gore (exploding heads, chopped off limbs, etc.), some suggestive material. The film is really violent, so I don’t know what the MPAA was smoking when they gave it the PG-13 rating.
Final Grade: ** ½ (out of ****)
Director: The Paz Brothers
Cast: Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn, Tom Graziani, Fares Hananya
What a complete waste of time this movie is. JeruZalem is about two American girls you can’t really care much about (and no clichéd back story about a dead brother can change that) who vacation to the Holy City when, wouldn’t you know it, a monster apocalypse just happens to break out. Prior to the monsters showing up (and they look painfully fake, by the way), we follow the two girls as they go through Jerusalem partying, smoking pot, having sex, and behaving like typical idiotic horror movie characters. There is not a second of this dreadful piece of trash that is worth a moment of your time. The acting is terrible, the scares are non-existent, and the movie’s prologue (which involves leaders of different religions executing a woman who died and came back as a winged demon) is visually painful and painfully dumb. To make matters worse, this is a found footage movie, and because the camera is a feature on the leading ladies smart glasses (which is able to play music, video games, and pull up someone’s Facebook profile the second you look at them), you can be doubly darn sure the movie has a number of head-ache inducing shaky camera shots. The movie doesn’t even make good use of its location (and it was filmed on location in Jerusalem). If there’s going to be a worse movie released this year, then God help us all!
Rated R for violence (including a few suicides), gore, profanity, sexual content, nudity, drug use
Final Grade: no stars (out of ****)