Sequels that lag beyond four years risk squandering their marketplace traction fresh example: thatmiddling Maleficentopening butZombieland 2 has alreadybucked the trend thanks to the charismatic returning cast, the brand's comedy credibility, and the franchise's still under-appreciated legacy as a pioneer of the undead sector.
The pop culture landscape has far more zombies roaming it these days than it did back in 2009. The hungry hordes represent screen projects like The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, World War Z, iZombie, The Dead Don't Die, Z Nation, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Train to Busan, Warm Bodies, and the upcoming Daybreak. Yes, Zombielandpreceded all of those screen brands but that fact doesn't register with most young fans and won't count for much with the older fans if the new edition doesn't set itself apart from the zombie onslaught.
“We think of zombies as a genre not a fad, so it doesn't scare us away,” Reese said. “It's been around in a significant way for three or four decades so we're not worried that it's going anywhere. ButIn some ways, [the proliferation] does make it harder because you're trying to figure out ways that you can differentiate, even as a sequel and as comedy, from what's out there already and what people have seen before. For us that meant leaning into the idea of 10 years passing, and that the world is darker and more overgrown now, and that zombies have evolved and there's different types of zombies.”
The new movie certainly breaks new ground. Hollywood now has its first high-caliber showdown with zombies on the White House lawn. It also has a scene with a tricked-out monster truck mowing through walkers and scattering their flesh debris in all directions. Ever seen TV weatherman Al Roker turn into a mindless zombie and beaten with metal folding chair? Highly unlikely, until now. You may have seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person or on screen, but when was the last time you saw the landmark dropped like a hammer on an unlucky clutch of rasping Italian zombies?
Even with vivid material of that level, the real allure of the new film rests with the four human hearts beating in the middle of madness, meandering cadavers, and the ragged disrepair of civilization in collapse. The quartet are all over the map in their personas and nicknames: Woody Harrelson is the unrefined ass-kicker called Tallahassee; Jesse Eisenberg is the cerebral but self-possessed Columbus; Emma Stone is wry and flinty as the sometimes moody Wichita; and Abigail Breslin is Little Rock, the once-sunny youngster who a decade later is frustrated with the profound lack of dating options in the post-apocalyptic scene.
And, yes, the returning cast also includes Bill Murray, whose cameo in the first film became the stuff of legend among genre fans, and whose “surprise” appearance in the sequel was undermined by his inclusion in one of the film's trailers. Reuben Fleischer returns as director and came to the reunion project fresh from the success of Sony's Venom which also included Harrelson.
“When you're in a genre, you keep staring at everyone around you and try. to find the thing that will set you apart,” Reese said. “So we have those moments but what we found is that the thing that sets Zombieland apart is the people. It's the people, and the characters. It's the hang-out factor. Do I want to hang out with these four people for an hour-and-a-half? We really focused on that and getting it right and making the zombies a little more incidental. They're the gravy this time around.”
The visual of zombies dunked in gravy is more unnerving than the movie's new “ninja zombies” they're sneaky and Terminator zombies they're relentless and hard to destroy. The plot of the new film finds the human stars facing those fresh threats as well as internal division and new rivals, such as the competitive Albuquerque Luke Wilson and nerdy Flagstaff Thomas Middleditch, who represent near-doppelgängers for Tallahassee and Columbus.
The original quartet of stars arrived on the set after years of adding to the collective luster as their ensemble. When the original film came out, the quartet has two Oscar-nominated actors within its ranks Harrelson and Breslin. Now all four have been nominated and have a group total of eight career Oscar nods. Stone is the troupe's lone Oscar winner to date.
The writers of Zombielandhave also attained a higher strata. For Wernick and Reese, the early commercial trajectory of Zombieland 2: Double Tapmeans the tandem will have an R-rated rainmaker in theaters for the third consecutive year. Reese and Wernick are executive producers of Double Tap, too, but split the screenwriting credits with Dave Callaham. They also have a string of high-profile projects with notable collaborators on the horizon, with Clue Jason Bateman directing and starring with Ryan Reynolds, McScam Matt Damon starring, Ben Affleck directing, and Spiderheadwith Jospeh Kosinski directing.
The February 2016 opening weekend of Deadpool $132.4 million in domestic box office stands as the biggest bow by an R-rated film in Hollywood history. Second on that all-time list? The May 2018 opening of Deadpool 2S125 million.The Deadpool 2 victory went into extra innings, too, after Fox rereleased an edited P-13 version of the film with new footage added as a framing device. The PG-13 iteration of the sequel gave the Deadpool franchise its lucrative first chance at China.Wernick and Reese cooked up the framing premise, which was ingeniously simple and flat-out funny: a spoof of bedtime story scenes from The Princess Bridewith Fred Savage as a guest star.
Speaking of guest stars and Deadpool, why wasn't the always game Reynolds in Zombieland 2: Double Tap?Turns out Reese and Wernick tried mightily to include the quick-witted Reynolds into the mix but the in-demand stars schedule both with his screen projects and his expanding family responsibilities now as a father of three sabotaged every attempt. The early days plan was for Reynolds to portray Wilson's character, Albuquerque, the instant adversary of Harrelson's Tallahassee. The two respond to each other like a pair of betta fish sharing a coffee mug full of water.
“We made it a goal to do only Ryan Reynolds movies ,” Wernick said in a winking tone. “But this one slipped through our fingers. Luke was amazing and it worked out terrific for us.”
The long gap between Zombieland movies was due to scheduling challenges and a focus by all involved that the material live up to the stature of the assembled cast. A third movie is very much a possibility, especially if Double Tapcan show some legs. “Woody says he wants to make 10 more of these,” Reese said f the cast enthusiasm. “He has said more than once that he had more fun making the first film than he has on any other set in his career.”
For Reese and Wernick the 2009 movie propelled them toward their now-soaring success by proving itself to be a zombie film that aspired to have a brain and eat them, too.The writing tandem noted that the first Zombielandactually set the stage for The Walking Dead, the massively successful television series on AMC that has tie-in feature films and a second spin-off on the way. Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead in its native medium, comic books, even approached Wernick in a theater lobby to shake his hand in appreciation for playing a part in The Walking Dead's television life, which began with the show's Halloween night premiere in 2010.
“It was a Deadpool screening many years ago and he came up to me and said that Zombieland really opened the doors for The Walking Dead's transition to television and to AMC,” Wernick said. “ Zombieland really was one of the zombie genre's first commercial hits. The movies before us mostly had cult followings. Great movies like 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Deadhad come out but they really hadn't hit that commercial spectrum in a way that would inspire studios to take those risks that they're always fearful of taking. He said that Zombieland's commercial success actually gave AMC the courage to move forward with the show so he was very complimentary and thankful.”
Asked if Kirkman's appreciation was also expressed with a paper bag full of $100 bills, Reese groaned. “Yeah, we wish. They could buy and sell us with that Walking Dead money.”
There's another twist to the Zombielandproperty's odyssey. Before the first feature film was locked in, Reese and Wernick shopped the concept around as a primetime television series. That pursuit come close to fruition twice, too, and a “yes” the first time would have likely nixed the possibility of the Zombieland films and could have potentially torpedoed Kirkman's bid to adapt his Skybound/ Image Comics series 2003-2019 as a small-screen drama.
“We sold it to CBS in 2005 before it became a movie,” Wernick said. “We had the idea of zombies on TV before The Walking Dead,believe it or not, long ago, but obviously CBS didn't move forward with the pilot. When that didn't happen Zombieland became the feature we know today.”
If Kirkman and company felt any debt was owed to Zombieland, Reese said the television franchise's International success has knocked down cultural barriers that would have muted the new film's foreign appeal.
“I think it's a little easier for everyone because The Walking Dead sort of firmed the runway for zombie stories for people who didn't understand them, or get them or really know what they were all about. A lot of people thought of it as a fringe or cult thing but then The Walking Deadpushed zombies into the mainstream even more then we did. I think that's going to help us with box-office overseas in some places that didn't really know what zombies were before.”
What are the chances that Zombieland could still expand its apocalypse saga to the small screen? Could the horror comedy shamble in the footsteps of bog-screen emigrants like Fargo, Lethal Weapon, Heathers, Hannibal, to name just a few? The duo said they don't see that happening.
“I doubt it, we went down that path twice already,” Reese said. “We did it as an original pilot that sold [to CBS] but then did not get made. And then a pilot for Amazon a few years back [after the first feature film] and then that also didn't happen. So I think we're sticking to the movie realm for now. Although we joke that there could be a great Zombieland Broadway musical, too, but I think we're only half-joking. It could be fun. Or it could be terrible, too. It's fun to think about but for sure It's a high-risk, high-reward proposition.”
It's official: Joker is now the highest-grossing rated-R movie of all-time when not adjusted for inflation. The Batman spin-off, directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, and Marc “Grown Male Nerdchilds” Maron, has now earned $785.5 million worldwide — nearly 66 percent of the total gross is international; 34 percent is domestic — which is more the previous 17-and-above record-holders, Deadpool 2 $785,046,920 and Deadpool $783,112,979 million.
To both celebrate and mock the occasion, Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds uploaded an image of Arthur Fleck at the top of those now-ubiquitous Bronx stairs with a caption that reads, “You mother f*cker.” It also shows all the characters and movies Joker passed on the way to the top: Deadpool Deadpool and Deadpool 2, which is technically that high because of the PG-13 cut and maybe shouldn't count, but I digress, Neo The Matrix Reloaded, Pennywise It, Jesus The Passion of the Christ, Hugh Jackman Logan, the Wolfpack The Hangover Part II, Mr. Grey Fifty Shades of Grey, and Ted Ted.
It's all the greats, from the Joker to Jesus to, uh, Ted.
Joker is rated R for “strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language, and brief sexual images,” while the Motion Picture Association of America went easier fewer commas on Deadpool “strong violence and language throughout, sexual content, and graphic nudity” and Deadpool 2 “strong violence and language throughout, sexual references, and brief drug material”. My personal favorite rating description remains “quirky situations, action, and mild language” for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
It was reported early on that Zombieland Double Tap would feature a Ghostbusters reunion between Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. That didn't actually happen. Murray did show up in the post-credit scene. But it's not at all what the screenwriters had originally envisioned. Their original idea even included other Ghostbusters stars Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis.
Now, if you sit through the post-credit scene for Zombieland 2, you will be treated to Bill Murray and Al Roker discussing the fictional sequel Garfield 3. As legend has it, Bill Murray took the voice role in Garfield because he believed one of the Coen Brothers had written the script. He was contracted to do the sequel. And Murray often refers to it as one of his biggest regrets. Here he is, in the fictional Zombieland universe, going back to that franchise.
But screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were originally intent on including Murray's other, bigger franchise in this end credits moment. They wanted a scene that brought Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson all together. This idea was conceived before Harold Ramis had passed away, with Double Tap a sequel that has been a decade in the making.
Related: Zombieland: Double Tap Was Delayed by Deadpool Says Jesse Eisenberg
When the writing duo first set out to write the sequel post-2009, they wanted to find a way to bring Murray back onto the mix that would have been bigger and better than the original surprise cameo. This despite the fact that fictional Bill Murray bit the big piss biscuit in the sky during that first outing. They conjured a post-credit flashback to the day the zombie apocalypse begins. Reese revealed this.
"Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson got Bill Murray out on a golf course and were trying to convince him to do a sequel to Ghostbusters. Dan Aykroyd becomes a zombie and attacks Bill and there are golf carts going in the lake and golf clubs being swung at people."
Joe Pesci was also going to be involved in this scene. But the whole idea no longer worked once 2018 rolled around. And the film actually entered production. Harold Ramis passed away in 2014. And an all-new Ghostbusters featuring an all-female cast of spook chasers hit theaters in 2016. Now, Jason Reitman has just wrapped another Ghostbusters movie featuring the original cast that will hit theaters in 2020. Reese goes onto say this.
"It was really fun, but then with the passage of time, with anything else, it had to be something else."
It has been made quite well know by Bill Murray himself that he hates Garfield. So the writers decided to jump on that idea and go for jokes there. Reese explains this about the post-credit scene, a part of which was revealed in a TV trailer in the lead-up to Zombieland: Double Tap's release in theaters this past weekend.
"Bill just clicked right in. Those actors know what it's like to go on a press junket and to suffer through a million questions and he definitely ran with that. Bill Murray had a lot of funny stuff that ended up on the cutting-room floor for time."
The two writers admit that some of these deleted scenes featuring Bill Murray may be included on the impending Blu-ray and digital release of the sequel. Zombieland: Double Tap is in theaters now. This interesting tidbit comes from The Hollywood Reporter.
T he Morning Watch is a recurring feature that highlights a handful of noteworthy videos from around the web. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows.
In this edition, watch some of the hilarious outtakes from the horror comedy sequel Zombieland: Double Tap. Plus, spend some time getting to know Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman, the new featured players of Saturday Night Live, and listen as Nick Kroll breaks down some of the voices he’s best known for creating.
First up, watch as Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin have some trouble keeping a straight face during various flubbed scenes from Zombieland: Double Tap. Props don’t work, lines get forgotten, and more, but the best part is when Woody Harrelson improvises a little bit with Luke Wilson, and the two almost but can’t keep it together.
Next up, Saturday Night Live properly introduces us to their two new featured players though there were almost three, Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman. Find out what some of their favorite SNL sketches are, hear their advice for anyone who might want to follow in their footsteps and find out what they think about astrology and more.
Nick Kroll has been in the comedy game for a long time, but in recent years, he’s become a little more famous for his work in the sound booth by providing voices for animated characters. For Vanity Fair, Kroll breaks down the characters he plays in the Netflix series Big Mouth, the Illumination Entertainment movie Sing, the raunchy comedy Sausage Party, and as an extra, his character from Oh, Hello, which originated alongside John Mulaney on Kroll Show.
It was a big weekend for sequels, with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil coming in first place. Joker slid into second place, with Zombieland: Double Tap doing better than expected in third. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was actually a bit soft in its opening, only pulling in $36 million. A couple of indie movies also did well this weekend, with Neon's Parasite, A24's The Lighthouse and Fox Searchlight's Jojo Rabbit all arriving with a strong debut in limited release.
Disney was expecting a little more from their Maleficent sequel at the box office this weekend. The domestic total arrives at nearly half of what the original made in 2014, debuting at $69.4 million. Those who did watch the sequel apparently enjoyed Angelina Jolie's return as the Dark Fey. Audiences have given the movie an 'A' CinemaScore. It also has a 96% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opened simultaneous in all major markets overseas. There it earned an extra $117 million, which makes its global tally $153 million, so you can pretty much call it a hit out of the gate, despite fewer people opting to see it in the states. Chinese audiences spent $22.4 million on tickets this weekend. Russia paid $10.7 million, Mexico pulled in $7.8 million, with Italy at $4.7 million, Korea at $4.6 million, Brazil at $4.5 million, UK nabbing $4.3 million, France with $3.9 million, Thailand at $3.7 million, Philippines with $3.5 million, Germany at $3.4 million and Spain bring up the rear with $3.2 million.
Related: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Trailer Has Angelina Jolie & Michelle Pfeiffer at War
Joker continues to be a big blockbuster hit, and is well on its way to becoming the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time. In its third weekend of release, it only saw an audience dip of 48%. It has earned an additional $29.2 million in the states. That puts its total at $247 million. Overseas, it pulled in an additional $77.8 million, and now sits at $737.5 million worldwide. Not bad for a standalone DC Comics movie about a villain descending into madness with no superheroes in sight.
Ten years in the making, the sequel Zombieland Double Tap lands in third place with a higher than expected take of $26.7 million over the three day weekend. It arrives with bigger debut numbers than the original, which pulled in $24.7 way back in 2009. This latest adventure with Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock earned a 'B+' CinemaScore. The zombie-infested follow-up is playing in 17 overseas markets, where it pulled in an additional $5 million.
The Addams Family animated comedy comes in at number four in its second weekend at the box office, earning an additional $16.05 million. That puts its domestic total at $56.8 million over the course of ten days. Rounding out the top five is Gemini Man, which fell off -59% in its second weekend of release. It nabbed just $8.5 million, working off a staggering $138 million budget. We may have to chalk this one up as a bomb. It has only made $36.5 million in the states thus far. Overseas, the movie fared better with $33.4 million, with $21 million of that coming from opening day in China. The movie has made $118.7 million worldwide.
Rounding out the top five is Paramount's Gemini Man dipping -59% as it kicks off its sophomore frame with an estimated $8.5 million for a domestic cume that now stands at $36.5 million. Internationally, the film brought in an estimated $33.4 million this weekend, the bulk of which comes from a $21 million opening in China. The film's overseas cume now stands at $82.2 million for a global total reaching $118.7 million.
Abominable is in sixth place with $3.5 million in its 4th weekend of release, its domestic total standing at $53.9 million. Downton Abbey lands at number 7 with another $3.08 million, becoming Focus Feature's highest grossing movie ever. The movie has earned $88.6 million total domestically. Judy slides into the 8th spot with another $2.05 million for a domestic total of $19 million thus far. In at number 9 is Hustlers with $2.05 million as well. It's a certified hit with $101.8 million. And in at number 10 is horror blockbuster IT: Chapter Two with an additional $1.5 million added to its domestic total of $209 million.
Parasite arrives just outside the top ten, earning $1.2 million in just 33 theaters. A24's The Lighthouse also had a strong showing playing at just 8 locations, earning $419,764. It will go wider next weekend, arriving in 500 theaters. And then we have Jojo Rabbit, the movie about a boy and his imaginary friend Hitler. It played in just five locations with earnings of $350,000. These numbers come in from Box Office Mojo.
1 Maleficent: Mistress of Evil2Joker3 Zombieland Double Tap4The Addams Family5Gemini Man6Abominable7Downton Abbey8Judy9Hustlers10IT Chapter Two
[Editor's note: The following post contains spoilers for “Zombieland: Double Tap.”]
Halfway through Ruben Fleischer’s long-awaited “Zombieland” sequel, “Zombieland: Double Tap,” the seemingly inevitable happens: someone mentions Bill Murray. It’s not a happy memory for anyone involved. In the original 2009 film, the beloved comedian played himself in an amusing cameo, welcoming the film’s core four Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin into his Hollywood mansion after a long journey. Murray again, as himself has survived the zombie plague by utilizing his acting talents for a fresh role: he pretends to be a zombie, all the better to keep the brain-gobblers confused. It’s a classic zombie movie trick, but one thrown into total disarray when Eisenberg’s notoriously jumpy Columbus is spooked by a costumed Murray, who amiably waddles into his swanky screening room to surprise Columbus and Breslin’s Little Rock.
Columbus shoots him dead, thus knocking off one more red-blooded human and a Hollywood legend to boot. It’s one of the best gags of the film, an instant classic that inevitably led to plenty of chatter about Murray’s possible return for the long-gestating sequel. Could Murray finally be a real zombie?
He’s not, but he is something of a looming specter in “Double Tap.” When the gang meets up with Rosario Dawson’s character first known simply as Nevada, because she’s not giving anyone more details about her life other than her home state, she jokes that she nearly “Murray-ed” Columbus, almost shooting him when he appears in her Elvis-themed Hound Dog Hotel, and she mistakes him for a zombie. Columbus, understandably, is a little put-out by the use of the term — to kill a human you mistakingly believe to be a “z” — and tries to play it cool when feisty Nevada makes it clear she’d happily kill the guy who offed Murray. Columbus, of course, is only barely able to hide that he’s the bad guy, a winking in-joke for the audience.
And, still, Murray doesn’t appear — until the film’s single post-credits scene, introduced by way of one of Eisenberg’s signature self-reflexive voiceovers, where Columbus explains to the audience that really, there was no way they could make another “Zombieland” without Murray. Presumably hamstrung by the lack of emotional pop Murray-as-a-zombie could deliver after all this time — we know what he’s like as a fake zombie, and it’s good! — Fleischer and screenwriters Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Dave Callaham opt for a smart twist on the now-standard post-credits scene, using it as a prologue to their story, one centered on Murray himself.
Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray in “Zombieland”
It’s Day Zero of the zombie apocalypse, and Murray is spending his day the way so many big stars do: at a press junket for his latest film. In the real, non-“Zombieland” world, Murray only starred in a pair of animated Garfield films Murray has, quite amusingly, claimed that he only did the films because he thought the screenwriter Joel Cohen was Joel Coen. But in “Double Tap,” he’s completed a third go-round as the lasagna-loving housecat this one: “Garfield 3: Flabby Tabby” and now he’s expected to chat about it with the press. In true Murray style, he’s not very into it. And that’s before everyone starts asking him to pretend to hack up a Garfield hairball.
Set at random hotel as so many junkets typically are, the post-credits scene follows both a downtrodden Murray and a group of reporters including recognizable talking heads like NBC’s Al Roker and MTV’s Josh Horowitz as they cycle through five-minute video interviews, all of which inevitably end in a request for Murray to imitate a cat vomiting up some of his fur. The glamour of Hollywood!
As Murray is hacking away, a game Roker joins him, but at some point during the horrifying hack-a-thon, Roker’s choking turns real. And then Roker himself turns into a zombie. While he might not be the patient zero, he’s the starting point for a massive outbreak during the “Garfield 3” junket, and as the rest of the press clan and video village turns into vomiting, screaming, brain-hungry monsters, it’s Murray who makes it his business to kill anyone who comes across his path. And, yes, that includes Roker and Horowitz, along with plenty of other junket-goers milling around the event.
From plates to giant silver platters, Murray fights his way through the horde, upping the film’s already quite high zombie body count, never stopping to question just what the hell is going on. It’s easy to see why he survived so long, at least until itchy-fingered Columbus got to him. His best weapon? A large, hard-backed poster of “Garfield 3,” the fake film finally proving useful to someone.
And, yes, it ends as only a Garfield-centric gag could, with a deadpan Murray telling the camera, “I hate Mondays.”