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Sequel, remake, or whatever. It feels like the same movie.
A lot has been discussed about whether this movie is really a sequel to the 1990 version or if it's a remake. Whatever it is, it feels an awful lot like the same movie. The one thing that could distinguish between the two are the presence of Keifer Sutherland. After having seen the movie, I don't even know if he's playing the same character from the original or not. Having him appear here felt pretty pointless. There's also no references or mentions of the previous experiment from the first film, further proving that this is in fact more of a remake. The characters and the things they do felt a lot like the ones in the original. One positive I will say is, I was glad to see the movie had the guts to kill off a character. In the first one, other than Sutherland's character, you never feel like any of them are in any real physical danger from their post-flatlining experiences. Here it feels like the stakes are upped a little more.
All in all, it just felt like a really unnecessary sequel/remake that just didn't do a whole lot to set itself apart.
A surprise hit in a unique genre
While we've seen plenty of mockumentaries before it's not every year we see a new one. It's a genre that goes mostly unexplored, especially in mainstream cinema. From the trio of The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer) we get Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Popstar follows Samberg's Conner4real, a Justin Bieber-like performer with A-list celebrity status, from his time with the boy band The Style Boyz to his solo career. On the verge of his negatively received new album and a world tour Conner must cope with the potential decline of his career and his celebrity status. The film works as a hilarious satire on the music industry while also being a parody of the concert tour documentaries we've come to see from various artists such as Katy Perry, One Direction, and The Jonas Brothers. Comedy veterans Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows make supporting appearances and Chris Redd has fun with a potential breakout role as Hunter the Hungry, a fellow musician who's on the way up while Conner is on the way down. Not every joke in the movie hit, but the ones that did had me nearly falling out of my chair in laughter. The Lonely Island are known for their super catchy and occasionally raunchy songs and Popstar delivers in that department. So much so you'll likely have the songs stuck in your head in the following days. Popstar is an overall fun time at the theater. Also, be sure to be on the lookout for the plethora of celebrity cameos Popstar sprinkles within it's 87 minute run time.
Murder Party (2007)
Saulnier's first is also his worst
After having seen Blue Ruin and Green Room I was very curious to check out Jeremy Saulnier's first film, Murder Party. The plot sounded interesting and Blue Ruin was excellent while Green Room is one of my favorites of 2016. However, I felt Murder Party was lacking. With this being his first movie and since he was very clearly working with a limited budget, certain things such as low production values can be excused. That aside the movie really didn't really do much to be scary, thrilling, or even funny. The movie mostly consists of our protagonist being strapped to a chair while all the other characters don't really do much of anything that's interesting or fun to watch. From then, nothing really happens up until the film's bloody finale. Murder Party has a lot in common with Green Room. Both movies consist of our main characters getting thrown into life and death situations that take place in one singular location. Green Room just delivers on the thrills while Murder Party does not. Though watching this movie after having seen his other two films, it was interesting to see how he's grown as a filmmaker. I look forward to more from Jeremy Saulnier.