Cooties – Movie Review

Cooties takes a new twist on the zombie apocalypse, children are the new zombies and the summer school staff must survive the zombie onslaught.

Release Date: September 18, 2015
Writer: Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan
Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Cast: Elijah Wood, Allison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Nasim Pedrad, Jorge Garcia, Leigh Whannell

The city of Fort Chicken is the center of the U.S. chicken nugget industry. Unfortunately, a bad batch of chicken nuggets is turning America’s children into cannibalistic zombies. This means trouble for the local summer school staff at Fort Chicken Elementary.

Using children as the target of horror is a tricky task for filmmakers. There is a thin line that has to be walked to create a terrifying horror film versus an offensive movie that makes light of physical violence against children. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion successfully walks that line by creating two movies: a comedy and a horror film. Like a light switch, the movie flips back and forth between comedy and horror. The best part is that the comedy portion is laugh-out-loud funny and the horror is horrifically horrible.

This movie could not work if it weren’t for the brilliant cast. Elijah Wood plays Clint, a New York writer returning home to finally finish his horror novel. Soon, we discover that Clint is a horrible writer and is destined to be an elementary school teacher. Alison Pill is the cute teacher, who is caught in a love triangle between long lost friend Clint and her P.E. Teacher boyfriend, Wade (Rainn Wilson). Yes, Wade is the Dwight-Schrute of P.E. Teachers. Before you roll your eyes, Wilson has many brilliant moments throughout the film.

Rounding out the cast is Jorge Garcia as Rick, the drugged out crossing guard. Nasim Pedrad is Rebekkah, the conservative, Christian teacher and hilariously defends teaching Creationism in her class. Jack McBrayer as Tracy, does what does best and plays a version of himself as a teacher.

The best character of the film is Doug, played the film’s writer, Leigh Whannell. He plays the loner science teacher and manages to save all the best comedy for his character. As Wade, Whannell gets to play the creepy science guys, that no one takes seriously and he also gets to perform several autopsies and experiments on the dead children.

Cooties is the perfect blend of comedy and horror. Horror fans will have fun with the storyline and comedy fans will find the humor takes the edge off the moments of horror that may dissuade them from seeing a horror film in the first place.

Black Mass – Movie Review

Inspired by the true story of James “Whitey” Bulger, Black Mass is a modern day mob story proving that real life is not always as exciting as fiction.

Release Date: September 18, 2015
Writer: Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Joel Edgerton

Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) is one of many mob bosses in 1970’s Boston. When a childhood friend, FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) returns to his hometown of Boston, he brokers an alliance with Whitey and the FBI. Whitey would give up intelligence on the Italian mob in Boston, and the FBI would turn a blind eye to Whitey’s activities as long as it didn’t include drugs and murder.

Black Mass follows two paths: Bulger’s and Agent Connolly. With a deal in place, Bulger gains a higher level of confidence and power. This power turns for the worse, when his son becomes brain dead from meningitis, and his girlfriend, Lindsey (Dakota Johnson) wants to pull the plug. Bulger becomes more power hungry and more merciless.

The real story of Black Mass is that of Agent John Connolly. Assigned to his hometown of Boston, Connolly is interested in justice. But justice soon conflicts with loyalty because, as kids, Bulger protected Connolly. The FBI deal was brokered out of Connolly’s loyalty to Bulger. Connolly’s loyalty to Bulger soon becomes more important than even his job.

The main problem with Black Mass is that it is just not that interesting. Sometimes real life is not as exciting on screen as an over-the-top fictional story. There is a line that filmmakers walk between telling a true story using the actual facts and stretching the truth to make the story engaging. Black Mass serves only to document the events surround Bulger and the FBI.

We see themes that are not new to the mob genre. The most obvious is Bulger’s personal corruption from the vast amounts of power he’s given. Bulger also becomes paranoid and kills anyone who can possibly end his comfortable life of crime.

Johnny Depp is a good actor, but as Whitey Bulger it is more about the make-up and character affectation than about creating a unique character. The supporting actors also do an excellent job portraying their real life characters. One riveting moment is Bulger confronting John Connolly’s wife, Marianne (Julianne Nicholson), who chooses not to join the corrupt Bulger at a Bar-B-Que at her home. It is the tension of this moment when Bulger accuses Marianne of being rude to not only her guest but to the mobster Bulger.

At best, Black Mass is a fine docu-drama of Whitey Bulger and how he manipulated the FBI. Void of anything original or big moments, Black Mass will be just another mob movie.