FlixChatter Review: Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

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Review by Vitali Gueron

One of my favorite comedic slasher movies came out in mid-October 2017. Happy Death Day, from Blumhouse Productions and directed by Christopher Landon, was a breakout hit that year and earned big bucks (over $100 million) for the studio when it only cost less than $5 million to make. Flixchatter’s own Laura Schaubschlager reviewed Happy Death Day when it came out. She had just seen some other fresh horror movies and was ready to be thoroughly disappointed. In her review, Laura said that “…despite its problems, Happy Death Day is a surprisingly fun movie, although if you’re looking for a more typical horror movie, you might want to skip it.” She gave it 3 out of 5 stars and said that it didn’t disappoint her. When I learned that they were planning on making a sequel, I wasn’t at all surprised based on its box office success and relatively positive critical reviews.

The sequel, titled Happy Death Day 2U, stars the same set of actors as the original. In the leading roles we have Jessica Rothe as sorority girl Tree, and Israel Broussard as her nerdy classmate Carter. As we remember in Happy Death Day, Tree wakes up in Carter’s dorm room on her birthday, and he tells her that he brought her to his own room because she had passed out from drunken partying the previous evening and could not make it back to her sorority house. Carter’s roommate Ryan (played by Phi Vu) interrupts them as Tree is getting dressed and she runs out of the dorm to make her way back to the sorority house. On her way she encounters several strangers and acquaintances, all in a sequential order, before she makes enters her sorority house and meets up with her housemate Lori. She eventually ends up being lured into a campus overpass tunnel and there she is murdered by a figure shadowy figure wearing the school mascot’s creepy baby mask. (More on that later….) She wakes up in Carter’s room, only to discover that the previous day’s events are repeating themselves.

The start of Happy Death Day 2U is a bit like the start of the first movie, but unlike its predecessor, the movie starts with Carter’s roommate Ryan sleeping in a van parked down the street from his dorm room. We soon discover that it’s the day after the events in Happy Death Day, and Tree and Carter are back together after spending the entire previous day fending off Tree’s would-be killer. Ryan goes to his lab where he meets up with fellow science students Samar and Dre (newcomers Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin) who are working on their experimental quantum reactor. (Cue Back to the Future music with Doc Brown and Marty McFly powering up the DeLorean time machine)

What follows is less of a comedic slasher movie but more of a sci-fi/thriller with less killing and more comedy. We are introduced to the University’s Dean Bronson (hilariously played by Steve Zissis), and Tree’s mother Julie (Missy Yager) as the movie takes us in Tree’s alternate dimension where her mother is alive but her new boyfriend Carter is dating her sorority sister Danielle Bouseman (Rachel Matthews) instead of Tree. She then must choose whether she wants Ryan, Samar and Dre to configure the experimental quantum reactor with the correct algorithm to stay in the current dimension or go back to the previous one. Because of the time loop she has once again found herself in, she has to die several times (again being chased by the killer in a creepy baby mask) in order to help the group find the correct algorithm.

The ending of Happy Death Day 2U is not as surprising as you might think, and easily sets up for another sequel, banking on this one being another big box office success with it only costing $9 million to make. In fact, there is a mid-credits scene where a government official from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) whisks Tree, Carter, Ryan, Samar and Dre away for what can only be considered the start of the third movie. While Happy Death Day 2U does not have the same originality or horror elements that the original had, there are other things that it does do well. They use the new characters well, especially Dean Bronson and Danielle Bouseman. The scene where Danielle distracts Bronson while Tree and the others successfully recover the reactor that the confiscated is hilarious and well written.

Overall, the sequel to Happy Death Day is more predictable than the first but also more comedic at the same time. I’ve even grown to enjoy the school mascot’s creepy baby mask…well maybe I shouldn’t go that far. I am looking forward to what Happy Death Day 3 (or whatever they end up calling it) brings to the table and how it (hopefully) concludes the story.


Have you seen Happy Death Day 2U? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Million Dollar Arm (2014)

AshleyBanner

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We all know Disney is capable of creating compelling stories, and Million Dollar Arm is no exception. While some may prematurely write this off as just another sports flick, they’d be missing the opportunity to see a fun, light-hearted film. Million Dollar Arm is based on a true story about two young Indian teenagers who were plucked from obscurity and thrown in to the sports spotlight.

JB (Jon Hamm) is a sports agent who once was mingling in the upper echelons of athletic society but now is struggling to sign clients and make ends meet. After losing out on a deal that would save his lifestyle and business, JB is offered a Hail Mary. Flipping between the channels, “Britain’s Got Talent” and a game of cricket catches JB’s eye. (Fun fact, the footage of BGT is of Susan Boyle’s iconic rendition of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables.) JB, initially prejudiced against the game, is flabbergasted by the bowler’s speed, even if the form is a little nontraditional. After a creative stroke of genius and with the help of an investor, Hamm strikes a deal to run a talent contest in India. The two most promising candidates will not only have the chance to win $1,000,000 but also come to America, in order to be groomed for a professional baseball tryout. Hence the name: Million Dollar Arm.

As I said, the film is primarily light-hearted, but it also touches on the poverty in India. It doesn’t do a deep dive by any means, but goes from one sweep of the Taj Mahal and wider shots to show the disparaging shacks and murky communal waters. With that said, I was thrilled the film didn’t go in the opposite direction by showing uber cheesy Bollywood stereotypes. The brief glimpses we do see of India, gives a good sense of what the culture and people are actually like. Some parts are quite humorous (“we never bribe in India, we just pay money to bypass the system”) and others are very emotionally charged. The village, where the two boys are from, has what appears to be a religious dedication/blessing ceremony. We see traditional dancing, Hindu marking and the fact that it literally takes the entire village to properly see them on their way. These themes are carried throughout the entire film.

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The two young boys, Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) captured my heart. On one hand they were typical teenage boys interested in the goings on of the girl next door, but on the other hand showed maturity well beyond their years. These boys were thrown into something so far beyond their comfort level and experience, but they handled the pressure with grace. Another fun fact, we learn neither one of them like cricket and had never thrown a baseball in their entire lives!

I absolutely loved Brenda (Lake Bell), and thought she offered the perfect mix of comedic relief and concerned mother. She actually befriends the boys and learns about their struggles with not only learning American customs but also trying to perfect the techniques of baseball in only a few months’ time. We see her participating in yoga sessions and offering late night/early morning advice (she’s a night-time RN). Brenda is the moral compass of the film, while the boys are the heart and soul.

Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Jon Hamm; however, I do enjoy Mad Men. I felt like his portrayal was too similar to Don Draper, and found his performance a bit distracting to watch on screen. I think someone like Aaron Eckhart may have been better suited for the role. Eckhart has proven he can play the suave jackal and redeeming father figure (think Thank You For Smoking). With that said, it was fun to watch Hamm’s character arc from selfish ladies’ man to surrogate father.

Overall, this movie does not disappoint, and offers a little something for everyone. And, as a bonus, the score and/or soundtrack was super fun. The sound was a hip hop/Bollywood fusion. Million Dollar Arm is humorous, serious and, even though it’s a true story, will have you on the edge of your seat!

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PostByAshley


What do you think of Million Dollar Arm?