Zombieland: Double Tap

It is strongly recommended that you see 2009’s Zombieland prior to seeing this sequel.
Ok, now on to the fun and games.
Trailers facetiously promote the cast via their respective academy award statuses: Woody Harrelson, nominee (The People vs Larry Flint and The Messenger); Jesse Eisenberg, nominee (The Social Network); Emma Stone, winner (La La Land); and Abigail Breslin, nominee (Little Miss Sunshine.) This film is decidedly not a medium for culturing awards. But as a fun exercise in the genre-bending comedy/horror category, it must have been a fun assignment for all involved.
The four stars of 2009’s Zombieland return here to reprise their roles as Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock (Harrelson, Eisenberg, Stone and Breslin respectively), on their continuing mission to survive a viral pandemic that reduced the world to a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by hordes of brain-eating living dead. As we have now come to know with the help of TV series like The Walking DeadThe Santa Clarita Diet and many others, the only thing that “kills” a zombie is a grotesque head trauma that destroys their already dead brain. This has been an absolutely boon for video editors and makeup artists in Hollywood. Comically horrific visual and audio special effects abound in these films.
The basic formula established in 2009 has not changed. Wandering apocalypse survivors team up in a quest to find a safe place to call “home” against all odds in a world where there are very few safe places. The White House becomes the setting for some initial survivor hijinks, desecrating objects and settings no longer sacred in the decimated United States.
New friends team up with the gang, but like the red-shirted disposables in Star Trek, are quickly infected and dispatched, usually following a stomach-turning zombie battle. The zombies have been categorized and named since the last film, and Columbus’s obsession with rules leads to some intrusive 3D titles that crumble and fall to the ground after their purpose has been served. A vehicle even crashes into a low-hanging title at one point. A quest for the “kill of the year” honor results in a couple of scenes completely outside of the main story, but are opportunities for additional laughs.
There are references to some events from 2009 that uninformed viewers will find puzzling, but otherwise do not derail the script. This is all about characters bantering in the most unlikely situations, inventing rules for a world where no rules apply. But even in the apocalypse, it pays to “beware of bathrooms” doesn’t it?
Woody Harrelson is at his goofy “Cheers” best here. He has proved his mettle as an actor over the years and is entitled to have some mindless fun, as are we. Ditto for Emma Stone. Directing and writing credits remain intact ten years later, and although not as new, or even as fun and imaginative as the original, fans who have been awaiting a sequel will thoroughly enjoy this 99 minutes of brainless (pun intended) fun. If you’re squeamish, just forget it.
Note: stay past the initial credits. Some of the greatest fun in Zombieland: Double Tap comes in a lengthy revisiting of the 2009 chapter of this once-a-decade franchise.

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) runs 1 hour 39 minutes and is rated R.
Should I see this movie?


If you can imagine seeing a train leave a station with the understanding that it is going to experience an agonizing, slow motion and unavoidable wreck, the movie Judy gives you a gut wrenching, trackside view of such a journey. Along for the ride are various audiences, friends, family, fans and industry parasites that witness the spectacle and ride on the coat tails of Judy Garland’s career, spanning forty-five years, beginning at age two.
Judy Garland became a household name with her performance in the Wizard of Oz in 1939. The film won best song that year, sung by Garland, and was nominated for best picture. But it was a big year for movies. Gone With the Wind took best picture. Both films were directed by Victor Fleming.
This is essentially a one-woman show starring Renee Zellweger. I was unconvinced by previews but must say after seeing the film that I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job of channeling the late Garland. The film recounts Judy’s life at a stage during the winter of 1968 when drugs and alcohol had derailed her career in the United States, causing her to leave her children with ex husband Sid Luft while she attempted to pull herself together in England.
As a biopic of a famous figure, Judy is interesting but not outstanding. It’s Zellweger’s portrayal of the fierce and fragile paradox embodied in the tiny (4’ 11”) legendary performer that kicks this movie up a couple of levels and makes it worth seeing. For those old enough to remember, or current fans with audio collections, the fact that Zellweger sang in the film is courageous. Garland’s vocal range and smooth delivery deteriorated over the years, in part due to her chronic smoking habit. The warbling vibrato she became known for is seen by some as a tactic to reach notes as she aged. But she could still belt out songs and thrill her audiences, fueled by a combination of drugs, alcohol, adrenaline, fame and transcendent willpower. 
I remember Judy Garland from appearances on the Tonight Show, first with Jack Paar and later with Johnny Carson. (Thanks Mom and Dad for letting me stay up late and watch.) She was one of those late night couch dwellers that oozed charisma and was just quirky enough to be really interesting. Zellweger captures Judy’s mannerisms and jerky stage presence but just can’t approach her vocal talent. That should not be taken as criticism. She did an admirable, believable job. That said, she will probably be nominated for an academy award for this role.
Flashbacks to Garland at sixteen help explain the extent to which she spends her life as a victim of abuse at the hands of parents, producers and a string of husbands. She is never taught, or allowed, to make good choices, suffers from insomnia and is fed pills to sustain her through eighteen hour days. This becomes habitual and carries her through her early career. The abused becomes the abuser.
Zellweger is no stranger to controversy. Her rather strangely changed appearance following a lengthy absence from the limelight had the media speculating about all sorts of unidentified conditions. She claims that she just…aged. So be it.
Even in death, Garland could find no initial peace. Her remains were moved from Manhattan to Hollywood and re-interred at the request of her children in 2017. Her death was ruled an accident resulting from accumulated barbiturates, not a suicide. She was only 47 years old.
The film ends with a final song on stage. Yes, that song. You know the one.

Judy (2019) runs 1 hour 58 minutes and is rated PG-13
Should I see this movie?  


The theater was surprisingly full for a Saturday matinee of this family-friendly film. That was a happy post-pandemic reality. And it wasn’t...