Movinโ€™ Like Bernie

Weekend at Bernie’s II was dead on arrival. How do you make a sequel for what should clearly be a rotting corpse by now? The first movie was such an unexpected hit that they had to keep the story going. Weekend at Bernie’s is a dark over-the-top guilty pleasure, but Weekend at Bernie’s II is way more ridiculous than I was expecting. The original was understandably PG-13. The sequel is PG and contains an animated opening credits. You’d swear they wanted this dead body movie to appeal to children.

The most WTF thing about the sequel is how they bring back Bernie. They actually use African voodoo to turn Bernie into a zombie that only moves to music. Sure the first movie was a suspension of disbelief, but who’s idea was this?! A voodoo queen was hired by the mob to find Bernie’s buried treasure and this was the only way to find it. If you thought Larry and Richard were depraved before, they steal Bernie’s body from the morgue in order to clear their names (and Larry grave robs him for good measure).

Just like the original, a misfortunate secondary antagonist tries to hunt them down and one of the guy’s has a love interest. Gwen is never mentioned, so the voodoo officiant native Claudia takes her place. The corpse humor is more stupid than clever since they added the supernatural element. The only good thing to come out of this painful sequel is an amusing dance Bernie does while moving. The second easiest money Terry Kiser has made. Weekend at Bernie’s II should’ve stayed buried.

Weekend at Bernie's II

Charles (right) and Henry (left) dance with Bernie (corpse)

Preceded by: Weekend at Bernie’s

Dead Man Walking

Weekend at Bernie’s kills me everytime. Of course your enjoyment depends on how twisted your sense of humor is. Weekend at Bernie’s is a black comedy about a pair of schmucks pretending their dead boss is still alive. Apart from a hilarious parody on The Simpsons, my mom was the one who brought the movie to my attention. The reaction she got from co-workers being told the plot was too comical to pass up seeing it for myself. You’d think a gimmick like this would be one note, but Weekend at Bernie’s is consistently funny throughout.

I guess it’s just the breezy 80’s atmosphere. Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman are a fun bumbling duo playing Larry and Richard respectfully. Richard is the responsible one with a crush on his co-worker Gwen and Larry is his irresponsible jokester best friend. They both work for an insurance company where they unknowingly discover their boss is embezzling money. Bernie Lomax is your typical wealthy douche bag, but he becomes a hilarious punching bag when his mob connections backfire on him.

Easiest money Terry Kiser ever made. All he does is play a corpse about 34 minutes into the movie. Larry and Richard take advantage of Bernie’s beachfront property by propping him up with sunglasses and moving him with strings. Sure it’s sick, but the physical comedy is gold. The situation just continues to escalate as the moochers and beach babes are none the wiser. The only thing keeping the plot going is Bernie’s killer continuously thinking he’s still alive. Weekend at Bernie’s is guaranteed to make you die laughing.

Weekend at Bernie's

Larry (right) and Richard (left) hang out with Bernie (corpse)

Followed by: Weekend at Bernie’s II

The End Will Be WCKD

Maze Runner: The Death Cure broke free from several trends seen in a YA dystopian world. Unlike every other Young Adult adaptation of a final book, The Death Cure thankfully wasn’t split into 2 parts. I guess Hollywood learned their lesson when Allegent bombed. Regardless of how The Death Cure turned out, at least it’s a complete story that doesn’t drag out events. The Maze Runner has its dedicated fans, but my brother remained the only one between us to see the trilogy in theaters. He just had to wait 3 years, because Dylan O’Brien’s on set car accident delayed production. The Death Cure is very long, but at least it wraps up a franchise I’m only a little invested in.

The three remaining Gladers: Thomas, Newt, and Frypan intend on rescuing Minho after he was captured by WCKD. The wicked organization targets them since their immunity may lead to a cure for the Flare virus. Thomas works with the rebel Right Arm group, as well as his Scorch Trials allies Jorge and Brenda, in order to infiltrate WCKD trains full of immune kids. Rosa Salazar grew her hair out and became a more likely love interest. Thomas is just hung up on Teresa after she betrayed them to work with WCKD. Their only hope of rescue is for them to sneak into the “Last City.” Literally the last functioning city ran by WCKD. It’s configured like a maze just so it has some ties to what came before.

Right Arm leader Vince is against their actions, but the horribly disfigured Lawrence helps them through. They’re joined on their mission by Gally, who somehow survived and turns out to be good. The epic finale takes Thomas, an infected Newt, and Gally inside the belly of the beast where Teresa explains her actions. The action is well executed with a “bus drop” being a highlight. SPOILER ALERT! Ava Paige tries to convince Thomas to sacrifice himself for a cure, but Janson reveals himself to be the true bad guy. A Crank Newt and a redeemed Teresa don’t survive, but there’s still hope for everyone else when a safe haven is established with Thomas’ cure. Maze Runner: The Death Cure concluded with a respectable thud that effectively ended YA franchises at least for now.

Maze Runner The Death Cure

Thomas sees the way

Preceded by: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

The Maze Was Just the Beginning

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials abandons the Maze for an on the run trek through a YA dystopian world. Like other Young Adult book sequels, The Scorch Trials was published a year after The Maze Runner. The movie adaptation of course follows the same pattern of an annual release. Although I liked The Maze Runner well enough, my brother was still on his own seeing the sequel in theaters. I just wasn’t sure how to feel without the Maze that drew me in the first place. The titular “Scorch” refers to what became of the Earth when the solar flares hit. Its a post-apocalyptic wasteland with destroyed buildings and sand covering everything else.

Thomas, Teresa, Newt, Minho, Frypan, and Winston are sent to a presumably safe location where they discover they weren’t the only Maze. Their newest ally Aris was once part of a gender flipped “Group B” Maze where he was the only boy amongst a society of girls. Dylan O’Brien gives Thomas a bit more definable depth as he becomes a leader and starts to have conflicting thoughts regarding WCKD. Kaya Scodelario is similarly conflicted as Teresa, but much more mysterious about it. The often punchable Aidan Gillen is the clearly evil Mr. Janson who hunts the former Gladers down when they discover he’s working for WCKD. Ava Paige is also still alive to continue experimenting on teens in order to find a cure. The previously hinted at “Cranks” are revealed to be zombie-like Flare infected humans with disturbing veiny appearances.

The Scorch action is entertaining, if very similar to other zombie movies. The most memorable sequence is a bomb detonating to the tune of “Walking After Midnight.” The explosion was set off by Scorch survivors Jorge and Brenda. Giancarlo Esposito’s Jorge is the father figure to the up and coming Rosa Salazar’s Brenda. A love triangle of sorts forms between Thomas, Teresa, and Brenda, but it’s not entirely mutual. It’s mostly seen when Thomas and Brenda are sidetracked by the partying Blondie giving them hallucinatory drugs. When the group reunites, they make their way to a resistance group called the “Right Arm.” SPOILER ALERT! Alliances begin to crumble as WCKD ambushes the Right Arm and Teresa decides to join them. I should be satisfied by Thomas declaring his intent to kill Ava Paige, but the sequel didn’t feel conclusive enough for me to care. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials cranks up the action, but fails to tell an engaging enough story.

Maze Runner The Scorch Trials

Thomas and others avoid detection

Preceded by: The Maze Runner & Followed by: Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Get Ready to Run

The Maze Runner is Lord of the Flies if it were set in the YA dystopian world. Young Adult book adaptations never seemed to let up in the 2010’s. The Maze Runner was published in 2009 by James Dashner and adapted 5 years later. I eventually grew tired of the same formula over and over again. My brother went to see The Maze Runner, but I stayed behind. I guess the boy centric take on The Hunger Games and/or Divergent just didn’t appeal to me. When I finally watched The Maze Runner, I found it to be an entertaining enough fast-paced concept. We begin with our good looking protagonist Thomas. Dylan O’Brien doesn’t give Thomas too many easily definable traits, but he is good at showing his growing maturity. Thomas is one of many teenage boys sent from an underground elevator into a grassy civilization with no memory apart from their name. Like most YA stories, everything has a cute nickname. The all-boy society is called the “Glade,” the boys are called the “Gladers,” and new arrivals are called “Greenies.” Not to mention the various jobs performed by the Gladers that also have nicknames to remember.

The most important job storywise is the titular “Runner.” The primitive society is surrounded by an enormous stone wall and blocked off by the titular Maze. The Maze was my biggest draw, because it was just different enough to set it apart from other YA movies. Runners explore the Maze in an attempt to find a way out and leave before it turns dark. Night feels like a horror movie whenever robotic spiders called “Grievers” come out to hunt. I don’t know much about the book, but the cast seems to be very close to their book descriptions. Alby is the African American leader of the Glade, Chuck is the younger pudgy kid who hangs around Thomas, and Minho is the Asian head Runner who works directly with Thomas. An older Thomas Brodie-Sangster proves likable as second-in-command Newt. He becomes a close friend to Thomas and recruits him as a Runner when his decisive skills prove useful. Will Poulter is the only one doubting Thomas as the antagonistic Gally.

Their entire society gets turned upside down when a girl is the last to arrive in the Glade. Kaya Scodelario fills the role of attractive YA brunette as Teresa. She knows Thomas’ name and shares a connection with him. Society begins to crumble when the Grievers are let loose. Leaving Thomas, Teresa, and the rest of his loyal friends with plans to escape. The massive labyrinth is full of high tech puzzles that are ever changing, but they eventually find their way out. SPOILER ALERT! They end up in the WCKD lab that Thomas and Teresa both have vague memories of. Turns out there was some kind of post-apocalyptic event where a solar flare lead to a virus outbreak called the “Flare.” It turns people into solar zombies, and placing teenagers in a deadly maze was somehow supposed to lead to a cure. All this is being explained on screen by the only high profile actress Patricia Clarkson playing the vaguely sinister head of WCKD Ava Paige. Surviving Gladers are then sent to the sandy surface to initiate Phase Two aka the sequel. The Maze Runner is far from original, but its competent production ran up its appeal.

The Maze Runner

The Maze runners

Followed by: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Bomb Disposal

The Hurt Locker is the first Best Picture winner directed by a woman. The 2009 Academy Awards ceremony was dubbed the “Battle of the exes” between James Cameron and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow. Although I was rooting for Avatar since I’d already seen it in theaters, I appreciated the milestone of Kathryn Bigelow winning Best Director. Bigelow won because she’s a great filmmaker who makes movies that speak to anyone regardless of gender. The Hurt Locker is the most masterfully crafted film about the Iraq War. The third major American war to win Best Picture.

Best Original Screenplay winner Mark Boal drew from his own experience as a journalist alongside a bomb disposal unit. The Hurt Locker doesn’t give a political slant to the controversial war, it just tells a gripping story with as much realism as possible. I was on edge every time a complex bomb was being defused or set off in the Middle Eastern terran. Bigelow got dangerously close to actual battlefields and makes you as anxious as the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. It’s a dangerous job that can take a toll on a person since they’re not always able to save everyone.

Conflicting ideologies are seen when the EOD receives a new team leader. Jeremy Renner is the thrill seeking wild man First Class Sergeant William James and Anthony Mackie is the by the book war-weary Sergeant J. T. Sanborn. Specialist Owen Eldridge is caught in the middle of their feud that eventually finds common ground. The sad truth is that some men want to leave and others find civilian life to be the true struggle. The Hurt Locker is also unique for containing many future MCU actors. The first bomb disposal leader is Aldrich Killian, Hawkeye works with Falcon, and Hawkeye’s ex-wife ends up being the Wasp. The Hurt Locker left an impact on both the Iraq War and the entire film industry.

The Hurt Locker

A bomb detonates

Creatures vs. Extraterrestrials

Monsters vs. Aliens is out of this world. I miss the days when DreamWorks Animation made more satirical projects centered around subjects that most children wouldn’t understand. I wasn’t like most children at 13 years old. I’ve always been a huge fan of monster attack B movies or alien invasion pictures of the 1950’s. Monsters vs. Aliens sounded like a lot of fun the moment it was announced. It was originally meant to be an adaptation of a comic called Rex Havoc before being turned into more of a classic monster movie homage. I was still very familiar with each monster type despite not seeing everything that was being parodied at the time. It may have been 2009 and/or a reference to drive-in cinema, but the 3D is still pretty obnoxious. Monsters vs. Aliens is the first DreamWorks movie to make a considerable leap with its computer animation. Resulting in realistically textured humans with unattractive appearances. Except for Susan, she’s probably the hottest DreamWorks woman in my opinion. Reese Witherspoon brings plenty of character growth to the lead monster. Susan is hit by a meteor before her wedding to douche bag reporter Derek voiced by Paul Rudd. Her hair turns white and she grows to ginormic size just like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

The government takes her to what is essentially Area 51, led by the hardened General W. R. Monger. Kiefer Sutherland makes an impression as the stereotypical southern general. The rest of the monsters make up an enjoyable ensemble with the usual innuendo filled DreamWorks banter. Hugh Laurie’s sophisticated British voice is best suited for Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. A half cockroach mad scientist modeled after The Fly. Seth Rogen brings the laughs in his second DreamWorks role as B.O.B. An indestructible gelatinous mass with a single eyeball and no brain modeled after The Blob. Will Arnett is fun as the macho monster the Missing Link. A 20,000 year old fish man likely modeled after Creature from the Black Lagoon. Susan, Dr. Cockroach, Link, and B.O.B. are the only monsters who can have banter since the fifth monster is bigger than even the 50ft. Susan. The final monster is the building sized Insectosaurus. A giant bug dinosaur either modeled after Godzilla or Mothra. When a UFO lands in America, the President of the United States is sent to negotiate Close Encounters style.

Stephen Colbert voices what is probably the most incompetent President in movie history. All the political commentary is unusual to see in a kids movie, but the war room is the best place for Monger to initiate his monsters vs. aliens idea. The alien probe makes its way to San Francisco where it wrecks the Golden Gate Bridge. The first battle is highly uncoordinated, but it does lead to Susan literally discovering the strength she never knew she had. Although the other monsters fear they’ll never be accepted by society, Susan finds the confidence she needs to dump Derek and own the title of Ginormica. The alien in the title is actually just one extraterrestrial. Rainn Wilson voices the very eccentric big headed tentacle alien Gallaxhar. He plots to extract Susan’s quantonium in order to clone himself and invade the Earth. The final fight in the UFO is a thrilling, occasionally childish battle that saves all mankind and earns each monster their acceptance. Monsters vs. Aliens was a movie begging to have a sequel, but DreamWorks felt the parody approach didn’t pay well enough. So they made a video game, a 3D short called B.O.B.’s Big Break, two clever Halloween specials, and a lackluster one season Nickelodeon TV series. Monsters vs. Aliens is more than enough fun as long as you enjoy the classics.

15. Monsters vs. Aliens

The monsters

Strike Three

xXx: Return of Xander Cage made Vin Diesel a three time action star. After the unwanted xXx: State of the Union, the xXx franchise was given the Fast Five treatment. So Diesel returned to the tattooed, fur coat wearing role of Xander Cage 15 years after his apparent death. Despite playing Dominic Toretto five times in between, Return of Xander Cage maintained the extreme dumb fun spy action that worked in the early 2000’s. Fast and Furious logic meant less laws of physics and a team of ethnically diverse thrillseekers.

Every Triple X agent is given stats since all of them appear for the first time. Between more gorgeous women in exotic locations, is a cast of athletes, models, rappers, and martial artists. Ruby Rose stands out the most as a sharpshooter, while Nina Dobrev is the adorkable gadgets expert. Deepika Padukone becomes Cage’s new foreign love interest and Toni Collette becomes the new Gibbons who tasks the team with retrieving another world ending McGuffin called “Pandora’s Box.” The villains stand out more with Donnie Yen getting some martial arts in as a defected xXx agent.

Samuel L. Jackson finds time to play xXx founder Gibbons before he dies for the second time. His survival was spoiled in the trailer just like Ice Cube’s last minute return as Darius Stone. Return of Xander Cage is more Mission: Impossible than Bond, with xXx continuing to perform awesome death defying stunts. Cage skis downhill after base jumping, skateboards through the Dominican Republic, jet skis with a motorcycle, and jumps out a plane without a parachute. xXx: Return of Xander Cage is low on brains, but high on Diesel.

xXx Return of Xander Cage

Xander Cage gets discovered

Preceded by: xXx: State of the Union

Low on Diesel

xXx: State of the Union sucked all the fun out the extreme franchise. If xXx is exactly like The Fast and the Furious, then State of the Union is exactly like 2 Fast 2 Furious. Since Vin Diesel left the sequel only to be replaced by a black early 2000’s celebrity. Ice Cube is definitely anti-establishment, but former Navy Seal turned convict Darius Stone is all attitude with nothing to show for it. All practical extreme stunts and heavy metal are replaced by terrible CGI action and hip-hop.

In case the Bond similarity wasn’t already obvious, Die Another Day director Lee Tamahori is the one who replaced Rob Cohen. State of the Union is somehow more convoluted with an overly complex mission involving the President. Even with gorgeous women, big guns, and sports cars, State of the Union is seriously generic. It’s so generic that Willem Dafoe is supposed to be a surprise villain. The NSA is now more involved with Samuel L. Jackson returning as Gibbins alongside gadgets expert Shavers.

Their agency is targeted by the bad guys who killed Xander Cage off-screen like he never mattered. I’d probably be more insulted if I actually saw xXx at a young age. Stone being the new Agent Triple X is constantly brought up with characters comparing him to the far superior Cage. The Capitol infiltrating climax even ends with Stone bearing the xXx tattoo that he doesn’t deserve. xXx: State of the Union doesn’t work without the extreme nonsense of early 2000’s spy action.

xXx State of the Union

Darius Stone takes aim

Preceded by: xXx & Followed by: xXx: Return of Xander Cage


xXx has the early 2000’s written all over it. It’s basically a Bond film with extreme sports, a dated heavy metal soundtrack, and Vin Diesel in his third major action role. The title xXx makes it very difficult to google for obvious reasons, but I’d been wanting to see the movie ever since I saw a trailer on my Spider-Man VHS tape. Xander Cage is an anti-establishment extreme sports enthusiast who frequently performs death defying stunts.

If any of xXx looks similar to The Fast and the Furious, it’s because this was producer Neal H. Moritz, director Rob Cohen, and star Vin Diesel’s second collaboration. xXx is loads of dumb fun that totally appeals to the teenage boy in me. Samuel L. Jackson plays one of his many shadowy government types as the scarred NSA official Gibbons. Cage is recruited as Agent Triple X since his tattoos and rough attitude are more suited for an undercover spy in Russia. The mission: stop Russian bad guys from destroying the world with a biological weapon called “Silent Night.”

xXx is a lot like 007 with his international adventures, sleeping with gorgeous women, and gadgets. Agent Shavers is his own personal Q who equips him with X-ray binoculars, darts, exploding band-aids, and a souped up sports car. Asia Argento is the primary xXx girl Yeleno who helps Cage on his mission. The sickest highlight of xXx is every extreme stunt Cage performs in a variety of kick-ass action sequences. Cage parachutes from a red corvette, jumps a motorcycle, snowboards out of a plane, and defeats Anarchy 99 by hang gliding out of his moving spy car. xXx is an awesome time capsule.


Xander Cage gets recruited

Followed by: xXx: State of the Union