Army of the Dead: The Ugliest Looking Snyder Movie


REPPED: If Dwayne Johnson is Rocky Balboa at the start of Rocky III, then Dave Bautista is Mr. T working his way to the title. Bautista is the thinking man’s meathead and while Army of the Dead might not be the best use of his talents, Bautista still manages to carry this film on his broad ass shoulders. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel something when I saw Bautista’s Scott Ward flipping burgers at some rundown diner. The film’s prologue has Scott saving people during the initial zombie invasion which could have been its own movie but then we come to the present and we see the reward for his heroism and it’s not much. Where you have Dwayne Johnson and his constant need to show how badass he is, Bautista isn’t afraid to show some vulnerability and it’s refreshing to see some range with these physically imposing actors. Of course, this is still a Zack Snyder zombie movie so you’re gonna need the action and Bautista brings it! For all its problems, the one shining moment was seeing Bautista going full berserker and slamming zombies! Army of the Dead’s greatest sin was never having Bautista square off one-on-one with the Alpha Zombie. The fight we end up getting in the film is super lame and I was really hoping for a wrestling match between Ward and the Alpha.

NEGGED: I ABHOR Netflix-produced content because of how digital and lifeless it looks and Army of the Dead has to be one of the biggest offenders of this. I’ve seen The Irishman and despite being a Netflix film, it looks better than Army of the Dead, so what was going on here? Well, it appears as if Zack Snyder was also the cinematographer and it’s apparent that he can’t hold a camera properly. It’s almost unfathomable that this was shot by Zack Snyder because he’s always been a visually stimulating director; say what you want about his other films, but you can’t say he’s ever directed an ugly film, that is, until now. Visually, Army of the Dead seems like his most uninspired work.

FINAL VERDICT: Army of the Dead is about as bloated as I get after eating a bag of French Fries, and I do get very bloated! You’d think that with such a long runtime Snyder would take advantage and fully flesh out his impressive ensemble of characters but for all the talent he managed to bring aboard this project, no one has any real personality. They fall victim to the “Boba Fett Syndrome” where they would make for cool action figures but they have nothing going on underneath the surface. It’s a heist film in title only and lacks any sort of character or tension. From the concept to the characters to its Las Vegas setting, Army of the Dead hardly utilizes any of it to good effect and the result is a film that feels as lifeless as the undead themselves.

300: On Second Thought Thursday

Dear 300, thank you for giving us Spartacus and Gerard Butler but please, take back CrossFit.

AT FIRST, I WAS LIKE: 300 is a visual treat! Zack Snyder’s biggest strength is making his heroes larger than life and it’s never been more prevalent than in 300. “We Spartans are descended from Hercules himself,” says Dilios. These Spartans aren’t soldiers, they’re gods and every shot establishes them as such. The makeup and costume design is top notch too. On one side, you have the Spartan uniform which is iconic and very vibrant with their simple red capes, and on the other side, you have Xerxes’ army which has a bunch of wild designs. Xerxes and his messengers are all decked out in bling as opposed to the Immortals who are more monstrous and demonic in their designs. I understand where the controversy in depicting the Persians as they are in the film but it never seemed to bother me. Granted, I was a brain dead teenager at the time so I never picked up on the subtext, but even then, it’s tonally consistent with the rest of the movie. How else would you interpret an army of villainous invaders from a foreign land when the heroes themselves are depicted as gods? 300 is a hyperreal depiction of the Battle of Thermopylae where the protagonists are gods and the antagonists are demons so it seems unfair to place criticism on a choice that seems to have been intentional from the start.

BUT NOW, I’M LIKE: There’s one thing that seems to be consistent with Snyder films, and it’s that he’s thematically inconsistent. ” ‘Goodbye, my love.’ He doesn’t say it. There’s no room for softness. Not in Sparta. No place for weakness. only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans. Only the hard, only the strong.” This is what Dilios says in voiceover during King Leonidas’ goodbye to his Queen Gorgo as Leonidas and his men prepare to embark for war. This is the overall tone for the entirety of 300 which glorifies the warrior mentality. However, there’s one sequence involving Captain Artemis following the death of his son Astinos that seems to be a critique on this sort of masculinity. “I had lived my entire life without regret until now. It’s not that my son gave up his life for his country. It’s just that I never told him that I loved him the most. That he stood by me with honor. That he was all that was best in me.” This is about the only time Snyder challenges this idea on what being a man is but it’s only ever surface-level and it never has any sort of payoff at the end. I don’t know if I was looking too much into something that was never really there, but during my rewatch, I couldn’t help but feel as if Snyder’s intent was to deconstruct our notions of masculinity but his message is drowned out with all the glamorous shots of war, shields, and rippling abdominals.

IN THE END, I’M JUST LIKE: It’s amazing how culturally relevant this was back in the day. It was the breakout role for Gerard Butler, it influenced shows like Spartacus, and it’s the go-to Halloween costume for every Zyzz wannabe. This is the most iconic dude-bro movie to ever exist and despite how badly it’s aged in terms of its representation of foreigners and its view of masculinity, this still remains an enjoyable viewing experience for me. If there’s one consistency among the inconsistency, it’s that Snyder shoots action in a way very few can. With the exception of the warehouse sequence in Batman v Superman, this is probably the best action Snyder’s ever shot. It’s epic but never overbearing and for $70 million it looks a lot more expensive than that. Every action trope you can expect from a Zack Snyder movie is present in 300, but unlike Man of Steel’s overuse of destruction porn, 300’s action is exciting rather than draining. Rewatching 300 in context of Snyder’s other films, this fits right in with his work. He’s never been one for humanizing his characters, but he knows how to establish his protagonists as icons and larger than life. In turn, it’s difficult to relate to these characters on a personal level but Snyder’s technical mastery is enough to get his audience involved with the story even if it’s only surface level.

Those Who Wish Me Dead: Not As Sizzlin’ As It Looks

You know you’re watching a Taylor Sheridan film when Jon Bernthal appears onscreen.

REPPED: You wanna know who gives the best performance in the film? It’s not Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, or Jon Bernthal. It’s Medina Senghore as Jon Bernthal’s wife, Allison Sawyer. Who would’ve thought the pregnant housewife would be a more interesting protagonist than Angelina Jolie? The marketing had Angelina Jolie all over it and while she does a fine job, this should have been Senghore’s movie. Right from the start, you assume Senghore would be nothing more than a damsel in distress but Sheridan does a great job of subverting that expectation by making her character an actual badass. She’s not written to be an overpowered killing machine, but as a relatable character who’s able to handle herself. In a lot of ways, you could compare this character to action heroes like Sarah Connor and John McClane who are working class average joes placed in outlandish circumstances. I’m putting a lot of stock in Medina Senghore because I think she has potential to grow into a bigger action star.

NEGGED: Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen are so inept at their job that they’d be perfect for a Home Alone film! These are some terribly written antagonists who are outsmarted at every turn. Both are terrific actors and it’s great seeing Nicholas Hoult taking on more sinister roles, but their menace starts to dissipate the further along the movie goes. Aidan Gillen and Ben Mendelsohn need to be in a movie where they play nice guys because all of their recent film roles have them playing the same type of villain! I’m not looking for a Heath Ledger performance in a film like this, but the villain should be formidable enough to challenge the protagonist as well as to keep the audience on edge. They’re thankless roles but Hoult and Gillen do the best with what they’re given, which isn’t very much.

FINAL VERDICT: In a time when superheroes dominate the filmmaking landscape, we still have directors like Taylor Sheridan who are able to make films like Those Who Wish Me Dead which focus on the working class average joe as opposed to the larger than life beefcake that fills our screens today. Those Who Wish Me Dead is uneven and never seems to have a consistent focus on any particular character, but the thrills are there and it’s nice to see Angelina Jolie star in a film like this before she ventures off with Marvel. If you’re in the mood for an old-school action thriller with a breakout performance from Medina Senghore, then you should absolutely give this one a watch.

Fantasia: An Acid Trip of Epic Proportions

A visual and audio treat in the same way that Fury Road and Dunkirk are.

REPPED: What a lovely blend of music and animation! Since it’s presented as an anthology of short segments, each segment has its own unique style that plays around with different themes and visuals. Some segments are lively and colorful while others are somber and muted and it’s very welcoming to see a Disney film deal with darker material. The Pastoral Symphony and Night on Bald Mountain were my favorites. The Pastoral Symphony has a lot of artwork that reminded me of Disney’s Hercules and Night on Bald Mountain is terrifying but is also a lovely celebration of all things spooky. Fantasia feels like the result of a drug-induced spark of creativity and the way the film balances color with music and sound gives the viewer a feeling of serenity amidst its operatic scale.

NEGGED: I don’t know who Deems Taylor is but having the film jump back to him in between segments was boring. The film has so much energy during the musical sequences that I didn’t want to take a break, I just wanted it to keep going. Deems Taylor does a professional job in presenting, but jumping from animation to live action disrupted the flow of the film. I was also up late at night trying to cram this movie in so the live action scenes added extra time I didn’t need.

FINAL VERDICT: Fantasia is like walking into a strip club: eye candy all around! Fantasia was meant to be a marketing tool for the character of Mickey Mouse, but in my eyes, it ended up being a creative endeavor that celebrates the art of film and its ability to move audiences through its marriage of music and animation.

Batman Begins: The Best BATMAN Movie

Patrick Bateman? More like Patrick BATMAN! Am I right, fellas?!?

REPPED: You can add Christian Bale to the Mount Rushmore of superhero performances because he brings legitimacy and nuance to Batman in a way that hadn’t been fully realized until Batman Begins! Bale has such a reverence for this character and it shows in every facet of his performance. He’s able to balance the playboy billionaire and brooding avenger in seamless fashion and they’re all consistent with the character’s comic book origins. While the bat nipples are long gone, we’ve entered another extreme on the other side of the spectrum: the bat voice. It makes sense for Bruce Wayne to change his voice when putting on the cowl, but it does feel a little goofy at some points. Despite that, Christian Bale’s Batman is menacing but vulnerable, smart but amateur and this still remains the peak live action version of Batman.

NEGGED: Most superhero films, with the exception of a few, have a villain problem and it’s an offense that not even Nolan can escape from. Having a seasoned thespian like Liam Neeson is always a plus and he’s great as the mentor, but he’s not in it enough to make a lasting impression. The character of Ducard is interesting because he’s the inverse of Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas Wayne. While Thomas Wayne is rich and benevolent, Ducard is a much gruffer father figure to Bruce and serves as the essential piece to Bruce’s eventual turn as Batman. Of course, every superhero film needs a villain with an evil plan, but introducing the real villain near the end of the second act never makes him a true menace to Batman.

FINAL VERDICT: This isn’t simply a movie about a rich guy becoming a superhero, it’s about a broken man learning to come to terms with his guilt and fear. Batman Begins felt like the first Batman film where Batman was the most compelling part of the film and not the villains. Nolan and Bale tackled this source material with respect for the character and in doing so they created a compelling character drama under the guise of a comic book film. This still remains one of my all time favorite superhero films of all time!

Haywire: On Second Thought Thursday

Gina Carano deserved to be a bigger leading lady. She could’ve been one of the best action stars.

AT FIRST, I WAS LIKE: Completely forgettable. I couldn’t get into anything going on but I liked the action as well as Gina Carano’s performance. The one thing I vividly remember from my first watch was the fight on the beach between Gina Carano and Ewan McGregor. That sequence has a lot of overhead shots which has stuck with me ever since my first watch. The action is very different from other action sequences because of how unglamorous it is; it’s intimate and raw. Other than that, I largely dismissed it as forgettable.

BUT NOW, I’M LIKE: Haywire is actually better than I remember it being! I picked up so many things this time around. The action is still just as good as the first time I watched it, but I admire it for how raw it was; every kick and punch thrown had me cringing from how painful it looked. It’s never romanticized and it’s shot from a distance which helps keep it grounded. Say what you want about Carano as an actress but I think she has a great onscreen presence and her prowess as an MMA fighter is on full display here! If we’re going to rank modern action heroines, she’d easily be on that list.

IN THE END, I’M JUST LIKE: Steven Soderbergh needs to do more action films because he has a really unique take on the genre. The editing is so smooth and the cinematography is experimental in a way most modern action films aren’t. I’ve never been one for plot and given that Haywire is a spy film, it requires you to keep up. Despite that, Haywire is shot and edited in a way that gauges your interest and it never lets you go. This was one of the most rewarding rewatched I’ve had in a long time and I’d recommend this to anyone who loves action and spy films

Wrath of Man: Ehh

My YouTube Review

Guy Ritchie knows how to make his characters stylish even when they’re wearing a bathrobe.

REPPED: The opening banter between the characters is a lot of fun. There are plenty of people who don’t enjoy Ritchie’s macho dialogue but I’m one of the few guys who do. It’s nice to see a bunch of blue collar guys and gals breaking each other’s balls; you rarely get that with most movies now. Granted, the dialogue isn’t well-written and it’d fit right in with a Schwarzenegger-led action film, but that’s exactly why I liked it so much. In fact, Wrath of Man should have had more of that dynamic going on because the actual plot itself is an absolute slog.

NEGGED: What could have been a straightforward action movie turns out to be a narratively convoluted mess that had no reason to be. It’s typical Guy Ritchie to have his movies jump back and forth in time but it serves absolutely no purpose to a film like Wrath of Man. The only thing the time jump does is add to the runtime and remove any sort of tension because we’re now watching two different films altogether. No one, with the exception of Jason Statham, have any real personality so it’s baffling that Wrath of Man would add more characters and backstory instead of focusing on the characters we had at the start.

FINAL VERDICT: Wrath of Man focuses too much on the things it shouldn’t and less on the things it should. The film starts out promising enough with an introduction resembling Michael Mann’s Heat and some banter that’s both funny and cheesy. As it progresses, Wrath of Man slows down a bit too much by going into extreme detail about Statham’s backstory and backstory of the robbers who killed his son. The third act is what Wrath of Man should have been from the beginning, but its unnecessary use of time jumps ultimately makes Wrath of Man kinda fun, kinda boring, and completely forgettable.

Baby Driver: On Second Thought Thursday

AT FIRST, I WAS LIKE: For all of the technical mastery that Edgar Wright displays here, Baby Driver slightly lacks in character. The romance between Ansel Elgort and Lily James isn’t given enough time to develop which makes their relationship seem too sudden. Baby Driver has a lot of great action and the soundtrack is killer but perhaps it’s the style that kept me at bay from actually getting to know the character of Baby.

BUT NOW I’M LIKE: After the fourth time watching it, it’s definitely sat better with me. The car chases are clean and slick and it really did enrapture me from a visual standpoint. I also think Jon Hamm is an absolute terror when he’s allowed to let loose. In a way, Jon Hamm’s character can be charming and welcoming but he’s also an unstoppable force. I also really love the aesthetic of all the bad guys having tattoos.

IN THE END, I’M JUST LIKE: I’ve come to accept that Baby Driver isn’t going to give me all the substance and character that I want, so I’m just going to focus on the stuff that does work: the action and the editing. Edgar Wright knows how to effectively maneuver the camera in a way that feels slick and natural and it’s present especially during the car chases. The character of Baby might not be the most interesting protagonist, but the world surrounding him is.

Insomnia: Pacino Just Wants Some Sleep

It’s a Nolan movie but it’s also not really a Nolan movie

REPPED: Nolan yet again draws a solid performance from his actors and this time it’s from Al Pacino as Will Dormer! Detective Will Dormer has some good things going for him: he’s smart, attentive, organized and charming but as the film progresses you also see he has some red on his ledger. This moral ambiguity and the guilt Dormer carries is Insomnia’s central theme. We’re all aware of the “HOO-AHH’S” and the “HA’S” but Pacino tones it down for Insomnia which is a welcome change of pace. In the context of Pacino’s other performances, this probably wouldn’t even crack a Top 20 for most, but I implore everyone to give it a rewatch because Pacino does so much here with just the look on his weary eyes.

NEGGED: The actual mystery of who murdered Kay Connell is uninteresting and even Nolan knows that. The fact that Robin Williams doesn’t even appear until an hour into the film further supports the idea that Insomnia isn’t about the mystery at all. Rather, the real story lies in the character of Will Dormer and the guilt he feels in his pursuit of justice and the greater good. Nolan does enough to make that narrative as interesting as he can but it’s obvious where everyone’s interests truly lie.

FINAL VERDICT: Insomnia might not be Nolan or Pacino’s best work but it still manages to be an engaging murder mystery with great performances all around! Nolan doesn’t rely on plot twists or nonlinear narratives to tell his story; he simply presents it as it is. Even with a film as conventional as Insomnia, Nolan manages to inject something fresh and exciting into a film that, under lesser hands, could have been dismissed as another generic thriller. Pacino and Williams deliver effective performances and the cinematography has some gorgeous landscape shots which he’ll use to great effect for Batman Begins. Thematically and tonally, Insomnia fits right in with Nolan’s past and future filmography and it further establishes Nolan as a bold director who can take conventional material and turn it into something transcendent.

Memento: It’s Rewind Time

“Which would be worse: to live as a monster or to die as a good man?”

REPPED: Guy Pearce’s performance is a top-five Nolan performance for sure. He’s able to balance the various personality traits of Leonard while also delivering a performance that’s very emotional and sympathetic. As a revenge flick, Leonard has all the makings of the typical protagonist: he’s methodical and organized but that’s not the only thing we know about him; you see, he’s also got a condition known as anterograde amnesia which prevents him from creating new memories. It’s an effective narrative choice because we’re now following an unreliable narrator which places the audience in a state of unease and uncertainty.

NEGGED: I mean, I don’t know if there really is anything negative to say about Memento. I’ve read some reviews dismissing the reverse narrative as a gimmick, but that seems to be missing the point of the film. It’s a mirror into Leonard’s mental state which in turn has us questioning whether we can trust his point of view or not. It’s all in service to the story and themes being presented.

FINAL VERDICT: I see many parallels between Memento and Shutter Island and the lies we tell ourselves to escape our guilt. This theme of guilt will carry over throughout Nolan’s filmography, but it’s never been more effective than in Memento. The small budget does Nolan a lot of favors as he’s able to focus more on character rather than spectacle. Memento is the reason why dude-bros like myself gravitate towards Nolan and his films: he’s able to make high concept ideas easy to understand while also adding a human element to anchor it all down.