By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
"ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP"
Pity the poor zombies. Not too long ago,
they had zoomed to the top of the horror hierarchy as the scariest
and nastiest bringers of terror. But these days they just seem to be
the backdrop to drama- or comedy-enhanced horror. In "The Walking
Dead," for example, when beloved characters like Glenn and Herschel
are killed by humans rather than the revived dead, it's a sign that
their glory is fleeting. But that must be expected. After all,
zombies are a tough sell to maintain a movie -- motivationally
one-dimensional (BRAINS!), lack of personalities and beset by
enormous hygiene issues.
Ten years ago, "Zombieland" hit the
theaters, featuring a mismatch of four apocalypse survivors who end
up forming an unlikely and shaky alliance. And of course, the movie
was driven by the humor and human charm of these characters rather
than the ravenous ghouls. There was Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the
nerdy, socially inept guy who has managed to stay alive by adhering
to a set of rules (Cardio, meaning be in shape to outrun the zombies
and Double Tap, which means making damn sure the zombie you killed
really is dead). There was Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the
gun-toting bad-ass who's really a softy inside. Then there were
Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), two sisters
adept at conning people and who strive to be independent but find
themselves reluctantly in need of allies like Columbus and
A big plus for "Zombieland: Double Tap" is
that the director of the original, Ruben Fleischer, is back as well
as the two script writers, Brett Reese and Paul Wernick, now joined
by Dave Callaham. This ensures that the texture of the movie stays
intact and that the characters remain consistent.
The movie opens with the four people
dispatching zombies by the dozens before settling into the now
abandoned White House. A few years of communal bliss have passed but
there is a restlessness in the household. Columbus and Wichita are
an item, but it seems awkward and there is a cloud always overhead
reminding them that if it were not for the zombie apocalypse, no way
in hell would they be in a relationship. Tallahassee for now seems
to be the most content, but he is a road warrior and lone wolf at
heart, currently and comfortably surrendering to paternal instincts
on being a father figure to Little Rock.
But it is Little Rock who is the most
discouraged, deprived of the social interaction with peers of which
she is being deprived. Seeing her sister so unhappy, and plagued by
her own doubts about a life with Columbus, Wichita agrees it is time
So once again it is back on the road for the
sisters, with the dangers therein, while Columbus mopes around and
Tallahassee offers little sympathy. In reality, Tallahassee longs
for the open road again and does feel a duty to go out and make sure
the young women are safe.
Boosting "Double Tap" are the introductions
of new characters that enrich this adventure.
-- Madison (Zoey Deutch) is a nice touch
as the stereotypical dumb blonde Columbus and Tallahassee encounter
in a mall. She is cute and delightfully silly, and Tallahassee
theorizes the only reason she has survived so far is that zombies
are in search of what she doesn't have -- brains. Later she ignites
jealousy in Wichita.
-- Berkeley (Avan Jogia) is an unlikely
survivor in the apocalypse that the sisters encounter. An embracer
of the hippy culture, he flirts with death being armed only with a
guitar and bag of weed. But his refreshing attitude enchants Little
-- Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff
(Thomas Middleditch) are mirror images of Tallahassee and Columbus,
with Flagstaff, like Columbus, living by decrees and Albuquerque
being the guns and ammo arm of this duo.
-- Nevada (Rosario Dawson, carrying over
some of her toughness as Gail in "Sin City") is an Elvis Presley fan
intent on keeping the memory of the The King alive and not afraid to
kick some butt to achieve that.
As in the original, we see the positive
effects of Columbus' rules and again Columbus provides the
voice-over narration. There are a couple of hilarious and gruesome
Zombie Kills of the Week as well as an update on the evolution of
the zombies which include classifications as Homers (really stupid
ones), Hawkings (smart) and Ninjas (silent and deadly), and the most
feared ones that are dubbed T-800s because they are nearly
impossible to destroy, much like the T-800s in the "Terminator"
"Double Tap" is a howling packet of fun. We
have grown fond of those four people and now a couple of more have
enriched the group. Be sure to stick around for a mid-credit scene
that hints of the possibility the zombie apocalypse might have been
triggered by the announcement of a third "Garfield" movie.
"BLACK AND BLUE"
Pretty much a standard good cop vs. bad cop
thriller, "Black and Blue," is elevated by a strong and physically
taxing performance by Naomie Harris as Alicia West, a veteran of
deployment in the Middle East who returns to her native New Orleans
and becomes a police officer.
Already getting a reality check while on
patrol with her partner Kevin (Reid Scott) about how she is
negatively perceived in her old neighborhood now that she is a cop,
Alicia volunteers to take on another shift when an officer calls in
sick, and joins a grizzled veteran officer, Deacon Brown (James
Moses Black) on patrol. When she almost tragically mishandles a
disturbance on the street, she is counseled by Brown, who lets her
know she may be black, but putting on that officer's uniform makes
her blue and naturally not one to be trusted in the community.
Unfortunately, as street wise as Brown is,
he has dirty hands and when he meets with some drug dealers and
undercover cops, he instructs Alicia to stay in the police unit. But
gunshots lure her into the abandoned facility where the meeting is
taking place, and she witnesses the execution of the drug dealers by
one of the narcs, Terry Malone (Frank Grillo from two of the "Purge"
movies). In addition to being a witness to the killing, Alicia also
has her body cam going, which records the crime. Shot while trying
to flee, Alicia manages to elude the pursuing officers, but when she
seeks help in the neighborhood, she is shunned. And Malone uses his
ties to drug dealers to get the word out that Alicia shot the drug
Before long, Alicia has only one ally in
"Mouse" Jackson (Tyrese Gibson), and even he is reluctant to get
involved at first.
"Black and Blue" becomes a deadly
cat-and-mouse pursuit and the only mysteries to be revealed are who
among Alicia's former peers (including an ex-best friend Missy
(Nafessa Williams), a single mom with ties to the drug dealers, will
come through in the pinch, and will Kevin turn out to be a friend or
The screenplay by Peter A. Dowling, who
scripted the Judy Foster thriller "Flightplan," and the direction by
Deon Taylor ("The Intruder" featuring Dennis Quaid earlier this
year) keep the movie clipping along at a brisk place. But there is
the obligatory speech by the bad guy, Malone, feeling compelled to
explain why he is now a crooked cop, the usual "it's not really my
Harris injects heart into this
action-thriller as Alicia West, a young woman with a firm set of
values that she never abandons despite the perilous circumstances in
which they have led her. Gibson adds strong support as Mouse, one
who has benignly accepted the way things are but becomes inspired by
Alicia to muster up some courage and fight the odds.
"BLACK AND BLUE"
Just a matter of time before the home
technology we have incorporated so heavily into our lives has become
the basis for a new genre of horror in which computers, the internet
and mobile devices are instruments of death. We have seen this with
"Unfriended" and "Dark Web," and even the "Paranormal Activity"
series has used surveillance cameras and PCs to illustrate sources
"Countdown," the feature-length movie debut
of writer-director Justin Dec, presents a new premise in which an
app, Countdown, is being offered that supposedly lets the user know
when he or she will die. Kind of morbid but definitely something
that may attract people, particularly younger folk blithely immersed
in their confidence that they are immortal.
At a party several young people decide to
download the Countdown app to their mobile devices. While most of
them are informed they have several decades of life left, one girl,
Courtney (Anne Winters), gets grim news that has just hours to live.
Everybody scoffs, of course, but Courtney does get spooked,
especially later when her drunk boyfriend, Evan (Dillon Lane),
insists he is able to drive her home. Nevertheless, Courtney opts
to walk. Evan indeed has an accident and if Courtney had been in the
vehicle she would have been killed. But she dies anyway, apparently
murdered by some entity.
"Countdown" has some elements of the "Final
Destination" movies in that it seems futile to try and cheat death.
Later in the hospital, Quinn (Elizabeth
Lail), a newly certified nurse, has Evan as one of her patients and
he is shook up because his mobile device, also with the Countdown
app, has predicted he will die in a couple of days, likely when he
undergoes a pending surgery.
Curious about this app Evan mentions, Quinn
downloads it to her device and learns her clock is ticking close to
the end -- about three days. When Evan indeed dies, Quinn is
understandably shook up. Now the movie assumes some elements of
"Happy Death Day" in which a person faces a deadline to try and stop
whatever horrifying power is causing this.
In her attempts to find a way to stop this
scary prospect, she meets Matt (Jordan Calloway), a young man also
facing a rapidly approaching mortal deadline.
Together they try to figure out if they can
possibly foil the app's grim prognostications. Their efforts lead
them to Father John (P.J. Byrne, who interestingly was the guy who
got his head crushed by a Buddha statue in a massage parlor in
"Final Destination 5"), a bookworm priest who theorizes that whoever
wrote the code for the app managed to encrypt a curse from centuries
Quinn and Matt find that every strategy they
use doesn't work, and when Quinn's younger sister Jordan (Talitha
Bateman) also downloads the app and has her pending death just hours
away, the stakes increase.
"Countdown" is a pretty decent horror movie
that like others dealing with this electronic and social media era,
serves as a cautionary tale about how these devices can lead to all
sorts of trouble.
The acting is competent, with Lail
presenting an attractive Quinn, dedicated to her job but haunted by
a family tragedy that has her on the brink of being alienated from
Jordan and her father. Calloway is a decent young man also carrying
a burden of guilt over something he did as a child.
"Countdown" does get a bit bogged down by a
side story about a doctor (Peter Facinelli) who is a sexual
predator, but other than that presents some compelling ideas about
trying to alter fate and whether the selfish mistakes made in your
life eventually will catch up to you.