Welcome to the latest chapter in our series, as The Snooty Ushers trawl through the cast expanse of Netflix. Braving the unknown… discovering the hidden gems… risking the dire and the dreadful… all so you don’t have to.
So, how was everyone’s New Year? Enjoy Christmas? Star Wars: Force Awakens was rather good, don’t you agree? Yes, it’s been a while, and so there’s been a bit of a backlog with these films since my last Negotiating Netflix just after Halloween – although Dan’s latest entry more than filled the gap! Give it a read, it’s really top notch.
So, here we go…
Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009)
This was a film that just missed out in my Halloween viewing schedule. I enjoyed it a lot when I first saw it in cinemas, was surprised at just how funny it was. I bought the DVD almost as soon as it cam out, but for one reason or another have never revisited it. Does it stand up to the memory?
Based in an America that has been destroyed by an outbreak from a virus in a bad burger that turned people into zombies. Jesse Eisenberg is Colombus (so called because that is where he is originally from) a college student surviving by following a set of self imposed rules, who meets up with the gun-toting Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) who survives by toting guns. They decide to travel together for a while, Colombus trying to get back to see his parents while Tallahassee is on the hunt for a Twinkie – before the last of them goes out of date. The guys are then ambushed – twice! – by Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Bresnan), and slowly the group work their way to safety via Pacific Playland.
The four leads are all incredibly engaging, the banter between all four is great (even the young Bresnan, especially when explaining Hannah Montana to a perplexed Harrelson). A wonderful comedy with a surprisingly touching heart. A follow up TV series (I was waiting for this to arrive before re-watching) faltered at the pilot stage, but talk of a sequel has started up again – and it would be a welcome return to Zombieland. Of course it stands up to the memory, in fact it will go into rotation as one of those films I frequently re-watch.
One of the great (albeit spoiled) cameos of all time as well.
R.I.P.D. (Robert Schwentke, 2013)
When Boston Detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is killed by his partner (Kevin Bacon) in the middle of a raid, he is recruited by the Rest In Peace Department. The RIPD finds and deals with souls who refuse to leave the earth after they have died. He is teamed up with former Wild West US Marshall Roycephus Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges) and the two are straight to work investigating various after-death crimes, which eventually leads them back to Walker’s ex-partner.
This film is aiming to be Men In Black, with “deados” replacing aliens. Even the interrogation scenes are very similar. Jeff Bridges is having a ball as old fashioned Roy, Reynolds is likable enough in the role, but just isn’t Will Smith! I have no doubt that Deadpool will be a success, but if it isn’t, Ryan Reynolds really doesn’t have many options left, as this is another big budget failure on his record.
All the pieces are there for a great franchise, and R.I.P.D. isn’t a bad film, but it’s just a bit dull really. Don’t bother.
Mortdecai (David Koepp, 2015)
Johnny Depp has had a pretty poor time of it at the box office outside of Pirates Of The Caribbean. His latest box office failure is Mortdecai, based on the series of books by Kyril Bonfiglioli, about a roguish art dealer and his man servant Jock (played here by Paul Bettany). The books have been liked to PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster, and both Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are fans. So, did Mortdecai deserve the mauling it got? Surely a cast as talented as this (including Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor) will at least be entertaining?
Unfortunately not.The rest of the cast are simply supporting players to Depp’s central performance. And his performance is just so bad it derails the entire film. Not only that, the Charles Mortdecai character presented here is totally at odds with both the world created around him. He is a broke, posh twit, but even by the ridiculous standards of the British upper class and the heightened reality of this film, he is so over the top to render the character unbelievable and the film almost unwatchable, distracting from what is basically a rather harmless farce that should romp from the English countryside to America and Russia.
Remember Paul Whitehouse’s Rowley Birkin QC from The Fast Show?
Charles Mortdecai’s voice is clearly based on a slightly more lucid version of this character. Whitehouse himself has a brief cameo, but even this is ends in a violent death, totally out of keeping with what should be a light-hearted caper.
A film so bad it made it onto Worst Films of 2015 list. Depp also had Black Mass in 2015, which makes this ill-judged, misguided performance even worse. Really, really don’t bother.
Horns (Alexandre Aja, 2012)
Another film that just missed out on a Halloween viewing. Daniel Radcliffe seems to be serious about having a post-Harry Potter career, and this is another interesting, low-budget role that he has taken on.
Here he plays Ig, a man accused of murdering his girlfriend and shunned by the small town community, who all assume his guilt. After a drunken night, Ig wakes up with two horns growing from his forehead. This not only leads to him having a series of flashbacks to his childhood and the beginning of his relationship with his dead girlfriend, but also to makes people around him reveal their innermost feelings. He also has an ability to read people’s memories when he touches them.
These gifts (rather conveniently for the story teller) allow Ig to investigate the people of his community and try and prove his innocence, which leads to him uncovering some uncomfortable truths about his oldest friends.
Ig Parrish is an original, complex, interesting character, innocent of the crime of which he is accused, but not a hero by any measure. Director Alexandre Aja has worked mostly in horror, but this is more focused on Ig’s relationships with his friends and community, and how the terrible crime that has been committed affects them all.
An interesting film that is definitely worth a watch.
Hobo With A Shotgun (Jason Eisner, 2011)
When Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino made Grindhouse, a bunch of their film maker friends made trailers to go between the two films. As well as Rodriguez’s own Machete, Eli Roth made Thanksgiving (a slasher movie based around that holiday), Edgar Wright did Don’t (in the style of a 1970s Hammer Horror), and Rob Zombie contributed Werewolf Women of the SS.
Alongside these were competition winners Jason Eisener, John Davies, and Rob Cotterill, who made Hobo With A Shotgun. A few years later, they got the chance to make it into a feature length film, with Rutger Hauer taking the lead role.
And building on the trailer, Eisner and co. delivers a tribute to ultra-violent exploitation films. The story is simple – a hobo hops a train into Hope Town, and soon witnesses the crime and corruption that riddles the town, which is practically run by a gangster called The Drake (Brian Downey). He rescues a prostitute (Molly Dunsworth) from The Drake’s sons, and is given a bed to stay in for the night. After begging and fighting his way to enough money, he goes to buy a $49.99 lawnmower from the pawn shop, but the shop is robbed as he is there, and he has to use a shotgun to fight them off. The shotgun also costs $49.99, so the Hobo takes it and sets off to rid Hope Town of the criminals, in increasingly brutally violent ways.
The Hobo becomes a heroic vigilante and starts to give the townspeople hope – leading to The Drake to perform more and more outlandish acts to keep the people fearing him. It leads to one last stand, before which the hobo and the prostitute talk about his plans for the future – a business mowing people’s lawns – if they can survive the night.
Hobo With A Shotgun does exactly what it says on the tin. Rutger Hauer actually does a good job to give the hobo some depth, and the supporting characters are all more than just perfunctory. As long as you can get passed the splatter and the gore, this is a very enjoyable film.
So that’s it for this edition. Zombieland and Hobo With A Shotgun are two very good films that I will be rewatching many times in the future, and Horns is interesting and a definite recommendation for at least one watch. Mortdecai and R.I.P.D. are two very disappointing films that commit one of the worst sins in Negotiating Netflix’s opinion: being boring!
You can check all of our Netflix columns so far by clicking the tab at the top, including our spin-offs Investigating the iPlayer and Perusing Prime, both of which could soon be being revisited. I hope to be Negotiating Netflix again soon. Until then, thanks for reading!
See you next time.
PS As a special treat for reading right to the end, here is the original Grindhouse-trailer for Hobo With A Shotgun.