Living with the Zombies

Zombieland takes the familiar zombie sub-genre and actually does something fresh with it. Rather than focusing on a group of survivors in one location trying to survive against a horde of zombies. Zombieland only has four confirmed survivors on the entire planet. Why four exactly? Well everyone else didn’t follow the rules. If you want to survive a zombie apocalypse, you got to follow the rules. I don’t watch a whole lot of zombie movies. So even though Zombieland got great reviews, it took me awhile to see it. I’m glad I did, because Zombieland is probably one of the best zombie movies ever made. It’s extremely funny, the zombies are just the right amount of gory, the characters are complex (which is rare for a horror comedy), and it feels unique. The main character hilariously narrates the entire movie and we even get to see some backstory. The aforementioned rules are also present throughout the entire movie. Every time a character follows a rule it appears on screen. Some of the rules include always being ready to run, avoiding confined spaces, making sure a zombie is dead, etc. Common sense for the most part. There’s also a particularly funny running gag involving Twinkies. None of the characters use there real names. Instead, they’re all named after places (just so nobody gets too familiar). Details like that make Zombieland feel unique. Hopefully it get that sequel and TV series they’ve been talking about. I just have one last question. What’s the deal with this movie and Adventureland? It can’t be a coincidence that two movies that star Jessie Eisenberg, have “land” in the title, and feature an amusement park both happened to be released in the same year.

Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita, and Little Rock

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Life is a Rollercoaster

Adventureland is a coming-of-age tale about a high school graduate who works at an amusement park to fund a trip. The amusement park he works at is the titular Adventureland. I’m not sure what its like working at an amusement park, but the movie doesn’t hold back. Games are rigged, people litter, they play the same song over and over again, and people throw up all the time. Honestly if this wasn’t a film about growing up, I’d assume it was a satire about how horrible it is working at an amusement park. Adventureland was not a movie I ever planned on seeing, but you’ll know why I did when you see tomorrow’s review. Jesse Eisenberg plays his usual awkward young man role, while Kristen Stewart plays her usual awkward young woman role. Somehow they work very well together. It’s also ironic that I watched Freaks and Geeks just last year, because Adventureland feels like an episode of that. Not just because it has Martin Starr in it. It’s also set in the 80’s, funny, and dramatically real like Freaks and Geeks (they even smoke weed like in the show). Even though I never planned on seeing Adventureland, I’m glad I did, because it was surprisingly good.

James (center) and Em (left) enjoy the fireworks at Adventureland

The Teen Years

SPOILER ALERT! Please read my review for My Girl before you read this review (the link is at the bottom). My Girl 2 is not as well known as My Girl, but it does exist, so here’s my review. Ever since I saw My Girl some years back I was against the idea of a sequel. I was surprised to know that there was one made three years after the original. It must of flown under the radar, because nobody talks about it. Unlike the original, My Girl 2 doesn’t have the emotional weight that made it so notable. Vada is now 13 and experiencing puberty. I was against the idea of a sequel, because the trailers made the movie seem like it was about Vada falling for some guy. I’m sorry, but when your best friend/ first kiss dies, you should never be with anyone else. Well My Girl 2 actually isn’t about that. It’s actually about Vada looking for answers about who her deceased mother was. It’s not as deep, but I didn’t mind it. Every actor returns even if it’s for a bit part. I like these characters, so the sequel was just okay in my opinion. Even with the new love interest. Although having them become cousins in the end felt a little weird. My Girl 2 won’t make you cry, but it’s at least worth watching if you enjoyed the first movie.

Vada (right) and Nick (left) search for answers

Preceded by: My Girl

Back to School Again

Grease 2 is no comparison to Grease. What was the point of making a sequel if they weren’t going to use the original cast. Why do I care about these new people? Not that there aren’t some returning cast members. Just the teachers, principal, some students, and Frenchy (for some reason). The new cast is just not nearly as interesting as the original. The only good thing about the cast is that it gives Michelle Pfeiffer her first starring role. Which is defiantly a positive. The rest of the cast is just dull and unmemorable. The plot is just a rehash of Grease, but in a new package. Instead of a good girl/ bad boy couple, we have a good boy/ bad girl couple. Sandy’s British cousin is the good boy and a Pink Lady is the bad girl. Which wouldn’t be a problem if the couple actually felt believable. The songs are also pretty forgettable. “Back to School Again” is alright, but most of the songs are pointless. Why do we need a song about reproduction and nuclear war? Grease is a classic and Grease 2 is just embarrassing. Some people might like it as a guilty pleasure movie, but I’ll probably never see it again.

“We’re gonna score tonight!”

Preceded by: Grease

Grease is the Word

Grease is one of my personal favorite musicals that I’ve seen. I’ve seen it many times, I know all the songs, and even though its moral is kind of iffy, (more on that later) I love watching it. Like most classic movies I’ve seen, I first discovered Grease while watching a VHS tape. I don’t mean that I watched Grease on VHS. I saw a preview for Grease several times on a VHS tape that I can’t remember. I actually first saw Grease when I was in middle school. Since then, I watch it anytime it comes on TV. Not only is it a great musical, it’s also a great teen movie. Even though the actors are clearly not teenagers. Heck, Olivia Newton-John was 28 when she played Sandy. I won’t say spoiler alert, because if you haven’t seen Grease yet, what are you waiting for. Grease at its core is a love story. Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson fall for each other at the beach during summer vacation. Sandy is a good girl from Australia and Danny is a bad boy greaser. Since it’s a summer romance they think they’ll never see each other again. But since this is only the beginning, of course they end up going to the same school…

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“You’re the one that I want”

It’s there we meet Danny’s greaser gang the T-Birds. As well as the Pink Ladies, an all female clique that Sandy later joins. Like most teen movies, Grease is about a whole bunch of things. There’s a plot involving a dance, a drag race, a possible pregnancy, but like I said, the main focus is on the romance. Danny and Sandy are one the best couples to come out of the 70’s. They share a romance that’s all about changing yourself for the one you care about. Which like I said, is kind of an iffy moral. However, that doesn’t make the moment where Sandy shows up with her new bad girl image any less iconic. John Travolta shows off his singing ability in one of his best hammy performances. While Olivia Newton-John became an instant sex symbol. The songs are all terrific. With “Grease is the Word,” “Summer Nights,” “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “You’re the One that I Want,” and “We Go Together” being my personal favorites. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was even nominated for Best Original Song. Grease is also notable for being one of a few movies that were re-rated. It was originally PG, then it became PG-13. In a whole, Grease is one of the most iconic musical to film adaptations ever made. The way it ends isn’t enough to take away from the fun high school movie that it is. Grease is the word!

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“We’ll always be together!”

Followed by: Grease 2

A Timeless Message

Our Friend, Martin will always be my favorite movie about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As good as Selma is, this is the movie I grew up with. There’s also a good chance you’ve never heard of this movie. Unless you’re about my age and your teacher showed it to you when you were in school. That’s how I saw this movie (twice actually). For those who don’t know, Our Friend, Martin is an animated direct-to-video film about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Told in the craziest way possible. Two friends (one black, one white) time travel through MLK’s life. From when he’s a kid, a young man, and eventually growing into the man we remember today. They witness major events like the Birmingham riot and the “I have a dream speech.” The animation is actually pretty good for a direct-to-video movie. Not just that, the voice cast is also very impressive. Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, James Earl Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover, Ed Asner, Ashley Judd, Susan Sarandon, John Travolta, and Oprah Winfrey all lend their voices for this under the radar direct-to-video movie. I guess making a movie about MLK was enough to convince them. My favorite thing about this movie is something that happens at the end. We see what the world would be like if Dr. King never existed. It ain’t pretty. So I would highly recommend watching Our friend, Martin this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Miles (left) and Randy (right) time travel

In the Year 2027

Children of Men is easily one of the bleakest depictions of the future in a film. I didn’t even know it was set in the future when I heard the title some years back. It’s not quite post-apocalyptic. There isn’t that much futuristic technology, unless you count the windshields. So I had no idea it was a science fiction movie. Children of Men is about a future where all women are infertile and the youngest person on Earth is 18 years old. The world is also filled with war and chaos. The disillusioned lead character Theo, is tasked with escorting a woman to a safe location. SPOILER ALERT! The woman in question is pregnant! Her name is Kee, and she’s an African American illegal immigrant. Her being illegal is why she has to be escorted secretly. Alfonso Cuarón directs Children of Men to perfection. One of his primary directing styles is shooting scenes with a single take. Something he’s so dedicated to that they didn’t even bother wiping off the blood that splatters onto the camera during an action scene. I’m still not even sure if that was intentional or not. Children of Men is so bleak that just about every character dies. Don’t get too attached to anyone is all I’ll say. I sincerely hope this future is never a reality. Children are a gift and Children of Men executes that message brilliantly.

Theo (left) helps Kee (right) get to safety

( ) ( ) ( ) ( )

Arrival is the thinking man’s sci-fi movie. Without giving too much away, Arrival is about a linguistics expert who’s tasked with communicating with aliens that have recently arrived on Earth. They arrive in what I could only describe as half egg shaped spaceships. With the alien’s themselves looking like giant squid creatures. They communicate with a series of circular ink patterns that the main character has to decipher. Director Denis Villeneuve managers to craft a movie with atmosphere that leaves you with more questions than answers. Amy Adams also delivers one of her best performances to date. I’m a big fan of alien invasion movies, so I was curious when I first saw the trailer. Though I wasn’t initially sold. The overall look of the movie didn’t grab me at first. However, when I found out it maintained a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes (not anymore though), I did plan on going to the theaters to see it. It didn’t pan out, but I did still hope the movie would win some Oscar attention. We’ve already had a fantasy win Best Picture. Now if we could only get a science fiction film to win. Well if more movies are made like Arrival, I think it could happen one day.

The heptapod spaceship

Johnny 5: Lost in New York

Short Circuit 2 is the just as underrated sequel to Short Circuit. Only instead of taking place in the countryside, Short Circuit 2 moves the action to the big city. Ben (the racist Indian stereotype from the first movie) is now a toymaker who sells Johnny 5 toys on the street. So after a series of events involving bank robbers, Johnny 5 is sent to help Ben build toys. While the first movie was more focused on whether or not a robot could be alive. The second movie is more focused on giving Johnny 5 a personality. Along with his new name, Johnny 5 also wears a red handkerchief, and replaced his laser with a tool box. I actually enjoyed Short Circuit 2 just as much as the first movie. The Ben stuff isn’t as bad as it might have been. The bank robbing stuff is kinda meh, but if you like Johnny 5, it won’t matter. I saw Short Circuit and Short Circuit 2 pretty much back to back, so I see them as a package deal. There was talk about a remake, but I don’t think that’s necessary. Both movies are simply fun (sometimes dramatic) robot flicks.

Johnny 5 travels around New York

Preceded by: Short Circuit

Number 5 is Alive!

Short Circuit is the story of a military robot named Number 5 that gains sentience when it’s struck by lightning. I had no idea this movie existed until my mom pointed it out to me several years ago. I couldn’t help but wonder what the robot would look like. Well I’d say Number 5 looks like a tall version of WALL•E. Complete with binocular eyes, wheels for feet, and since it’s a military robot, a shoulder mounted laser cannon. Which is admittedly a pretty cool design for a robot. When Number 5 does gain sentience, he wanders off, and encounters Stephanie. A woman with a serious love for animals. Meanwhile, the military tracks Number 5 down, with plans to disassemble him. Along with a generic scientist named Newton and a racist Indian stereotype named Ben. Short Circuit isn’t a great movie, but I really enjoy it. Number 5 is a very likeable robot. He craves input, talks like a TV, and just wants to prove that he’s alive. And in the end, he chooses the name Johnny 5, because it sounds better than Number 5. Short Circuit is an underrated gem that anyone who loves robots should watch.

Number 5 uses his laser

Followed by: Short Circuit 2