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Non-Review Review: Army of the Dead

Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead arrives with relatively few expectations.

There’s something very refreshing and very appealing in this, particularly given the way that Snyder has become a cultural flashpoint due to his work on films like Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, not to mention everything involving the production and release (and subsequent restoration) of Justice League. With all of that in the rear view mirror, it is exciting to sit down and watch as Zack Snyder movie that is… just a Zack Snyder movie.

Warding off evil.

Indeed, Army of the Dead is arguably something of a throwback for the director, marking a return to his earliest work. As a hyper-violent zombie action movie with a satirical edge, Army of the Dead invites comparisons to his first feature-length film, his remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. However, Army of the Dead is not a belated sequel or continuation. It is that rare modern big-budget genre film that stands as much on its own as it is possible for a high-concept zombie movie.

Army of the Dead is not a masterpiece by any stretch. It’s a little indulgent and overlong, suffering from the familiar pacing and tonal issues that affect many movies produced by Netflix. However, Army of the Dead is a fun and interesting genre if approached on its own terms. More than anything, freed from the constraints of established properties and shared universes and the ensuing scrutiny, Army of the Dead feels like Snyder is actually having fun. It is hard to begrudge it that.

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Non-Review Review: The Expendables 2

There’s a very thin line between being a tribute to something and becoming an example of it. The Expendables sold itself as an affectionate homage to the cheesy eighties action movies that you’d find populating the godforsaken post-midnight hours on a local television station. They’re the kind of movies we remember with a sense of casual fondness – we don’t lie to ourselves that they were great, but focus on the cheesy one-liners and the ridiculous stunts and the scenery-chewing bad guys. Unfortunately, those movies generally weren’t as good as we remember them. We omit certain details – the terrible pseudo-political subtext shoehorned in, the cringe-worthy character work, the pacing issues, the performances that aren’t so bad they become good, but are instead so bad that they remain bad. The Expendables felt like a revived eighties late-night action movie, rather than a tribute to our cultural memory of one.

So I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed The Expendables 2, the sequel to the all-star actioner. It seems to have learned a lot from its predecessor and feels like exactly the sort of light and brainless entertainment we remember, rather than the mind-numbingly bad films we actually watched.

Eighties action movie reunion!

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