Reel Reviews: Evil double-take square off

By on October 23, 2019

As one form of evil (“Joker”) hangs on near the top of the box office, a pair of sequels with “bad guys” at the forefront opened to robust crowds at the theaters.

‘Zombieland 2: Double Tap’

It’s been 10 years since writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, now better known for their work with “Deadpool,” gave us the laugh riot “Zombieland.” Just as zombies were poised to become an oversaturated subject in pop culture, the 2009 movie was a surprise comedic hit. Ten years later, the duo has returned for “Zombieland 2: Double Tap.”

The unlikely family of zombie apocalypse survivors — Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson); Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg); Wichita (Emma Stone); and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — have taken up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C. Every day is Christmas and life is good, or so it seems.

Now a full-fledged teenager, Little Rock is wondering about the world and yearns to find a life of her own. Wichita, faced with a wedding proposal by Columbus, fleas the comfort of the White House with Little Rock to find anything new. Little Rock finds a wannabe hippie named Berkeley (Avan Jogia, “Tut”) who wants to take her to Babylon, a peace retreat where guns are not allowed. In the absence of the love of his life, Columbus meets a stereotype named Madison (Zoey Deutch, “The Politician”) who is living in a mall food court freezer, but things get chilly on another level when Wichita returns to lead the crew out to find Little Rock before she could become prey to a new class of faster and deadlier zombies — the T-800.

All the expected hilarity and zombie gore ensues as the crew hops from vehicle to vehicle, runs into mirror images of themselves (Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch) at an Elvis-themed motel, and wages the ultimate battle against a zombie horde. There are a few flashback jokes to the first movie intertwined with humor that doesn’t quite push to the edge of socially offensiveness.

“Zombieland 2: Double Tap” is quick, witty, and was pretty much what I expected. While much of the quirk-filled gimmickry that made “Zombieland” a cult phenomenon now seems old hat due to copycats all over the cinematic universe, what has stood the test of time is the acting of the leads (well, maybe with the exception of Breslin).

Sit tight after the movie for a special appearance by Bill Murray. And, spoiler, there are no Twinkie sightings in this movie.

“Zombieland 2: Double Tap,” a long-awaited sequel, stars (left to right) Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin.

‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’

Just in time for Halloween — Maleficent horns are all but sold out on Amazon — comes Disney’s follow up to the 2014 origin story for the evil fairy in “Sleeping Beauty.”

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” took the number one spot at the box office over the weekend and is poised to be the family film at theaters until “Frozen II” freezes out all other competition on Nov. 22.

The greatest thing about this sequel is Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), as director Joachim Rønning (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”) fails to deliver anything beyond impressive special effects and a broody and dark sense of beauty. For me, the antiheroine humor and conflict was absolutely unimpressive and I couldn’t help but feel I was not the target audience of this film, even while wearing my Mary Poppins t-shirt to the show.

People will say this movie is too dark. Some will say it is not dark enough. Either way, I think the majority of viewers going to see “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” will know it missed the mark in some way.

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