Zombieland


Who wants the last ticket to the George A. Romero film festival?

Who wants the last ticket to the George A. Romero film festival?

(Columbia) Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray, Amber Heard, Derek Graf, Mike White, April Rich, Jacob C. Akins, Joan Schuermeyer, Shaun Lynch, Lynn McArthur, Michelle Sebek. Directed by Ruben Fleischer

When zombies take over the world, the remaining humans will have to adapt to not being the dominant species on the planet anymore. They will have to be ruthless, tough and pitiless. In other words, they’ll have to become assholes.

The movie is narrated by Columbus (Eisenberg), a somewhat timid nebbish attending the University of Texas in Austin who is trying to return home to Ohio to see if his parents are all right – not so much out of concern but out of curiosity since, as he repeatedly tells us during the movie, he and his parents aren’t close.

An early encounter with a comely neighbor (Heard) who becomes zombiefied leads him to develop a series of rules for survival. I won’t go over all of them but they are accompanied by graphical representations that become part of the action in amusing ways. He meets up with a redneck zombie asskicker who calls himself Tallahassee (Harrelson) because he doesn’t want to get attached to anybody by learning their real names, so he assigns everyone – including himself – a designation based on their eventual destination.

Tallahassee has several quirks, most notable of which is his single-minded obsession with Twinkies. He looks for the golden snack cakes everywhere he can, without success. On one such venture into a grocery store, they meet Wichita (Stone) and her little sister Little Rock (Breslin) who turn out to be con artists, stealing their firearms and their wheels.

After finding a hummer loaded up with big guns (“Thank God for rednecks” exclaims Tallahassee), they go out in search of the girls who robbed them and find them – only to get duped again. However, this time the girls allow the boys to come along. They’re headed to Pacific Playland, an amusement park just outside of Los Angeles which is reportedly zombie-free. Wichita confesses that she knows it’s unlikely but she wants to give her sister a chance at being a child one last time.

They crash at the mansion of Bill Murray only to find the great comedian fully human and in residence. He is dressed and made up to look like a zombie, mainly so he could go out and play golf. Columbus is starting to fall for Wichita, but both are wary of getting close to anyone in a world where death is around every corner.

This is the kind of movie that is going to achieve cult status relatively easily. It’s full of sight gags and plenty of gore. Better still, it has a sense of its own hipness and is chock full of easily memorable lines that teenagers across the country are going to be crowing back and forth to one another, either in person on school grounds or on social networking sites. I wonder how many “It’s time to nut up or shut up” statuses are going to be seen in the next couple of weeks? I’m sure some dweeb somewhere is counting.

Eisenberg plays as a kind of Michael Cera lite throughout although he does break away from that persona every now and again. However, it’s Woody Harrelson who steals the movie as the redneck with the big time Twinkie Jones. He’s amusing and his timing is dead on (we sometimes forget that he got his start on “Cheers”). He has more depth to him than any of the other characters and being the veteran actor he is, uses every bit of it to flesh out his role (pun intended).

Unfortunately, the girls are little more than afterthoughts, particularly Breslin who is criminally underutilized. They have almost nothing compelling about them and quite frankly, the movie could very easily have done without them. Basically Wichita is in the movie to belabor the point that Columbus is a virgin (and how often will I ever get the opportunity to write lines like that?) and as attractive as Stone is, she never quite captures the attention onscreen as ladies like Megan Fox have been lately.

My son saw an early screening of this movie and proclaimed it as the funniest movie of the year. I was a bit skeptical myself, until I saw a scene where the Jesse Eisenberg character was depicted hunkered down in his apartment on a Friday night, playing Worlds of Warcraft and drinking Mountain Dew Code Red. In other words, pretty much one of Jacob’s Peeps.

This is definitely a movie for rednecks; at the screening we were at there were a couple of loud and obnoxious ones sitting in the row ahead of us. Jethro and Bubba’s commentary was completely unnecessary and further illustrates why Mystery Science Theater 3000 wasn’t recruiting from the Dukes of Hazzard crowd.

The movie is reasonably entertaining and director Fleischer shows a lot of imagination and promise. This was meant to be an American answer to Shaun of the Dead and while it isn’t completely successful at least manages to take some potshots at a few American sacred cows. I was a bit more taken by it than Da Queen was and a bit less in love with it than my son was. It’s decent entertainment and for the most part, as long as you don’t mind gore and poo-poo humor, you won’t walk away from the multiplex feeling you wasted your ten bucks.

REASONS TO GO: Fleischman shows some promise, with clever graphics and plenty of violent things done to the undead. Woody Harrelson takes this movie in hand and shows that while he has been a character actor in recent years, is very capable of carrying a movie on his own. The midnight movie hipness quotient is off the charts.

REASONS TO STAY: The female characters are totally unnecessary and Eisenberg continues to remind me why I find Michael Cera so annoying.  

FAMILY VALUES: There’s plenty of gore, horror violence, foul language and some sexuality; in other words, not for kids.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Tallahassee writes the numeral 3 on the side of all his trucks during the course of the film as a tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt.

HOME OR THEATER: Load up on the pork rinds and Budweisers, settle back in your recliner and be prepared to slow-mo all the parts where the zombies are blowed up real good. Give me a Hell Yeah! No, a Hell Yeah, not a Yeehaw!

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman

New Releases for the Week of October 2, 2009


Ricky Gervais is bummed because his cardboard box clashes with his suit.

Ricky Gervais is bummed because his cardboard box clashes with his suit.

THE INVENTION OF LYING

(Warner Brother) Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Tina Fey, Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan. Directed by Ricky Gervais and Matt Robinson

In an alternate universe, it hasn’t occurred to anybody to lie. People just let loose with the truth whenever they speak. For Mark, the truth is pretty painful; he’s unattractive to women, not popular in his job where he is about to be canned and generally unhappy with his reality. When he discovers that he can say something that isn’t the truth and have it be believed, his reality changes. However, as lies are wont to do, they begin to spiral out of control until he discovers that he has everything he ever dreamed of, but not what he wants the most.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for language including some sexual material and a drug reference)

Amreeka

(National Geographic) Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Alia Shawkat. A Palestinian woman living in the occupied West Bank wins a lottery for a U.S. Green Card and decides to take her teenage son with her to “Amreeka,” as they pronounce America, leaving her mother and brother behind. Once there, she encounters prejudice and economic instability, trying to make ends meet in a world just as harsh in many ways as the one she left behind.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for brief drug use involving teens, and some language)

The Other Man

(Image Entertainment) Liam Neeson, Antonio Banderas, Laura Linney, Amanda Drew. When Peter’s wife disappears, he is devastated. When he finds out she was receiving e-mails and text messages from another man that indicate she was having an affair, his emotion turns to hurt and anger. Against the advice of his daughter, he goes to Milan to confront the other man and, hopefully, find his wife.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for some sexuality/nudity and language)

Toy Story/Toy Story 2

(Disney/Pixar) Starring the voices of Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn. The two movies that essentially created the CGI Animated Feature industry (which today rakes in billions of box office dollars) are being re-released as a double feature, together for the first time. On top of that, see Woody, Buzz, Rex and all your favorites in 3D, adding a whole new dimension to what has become a family favorite for more than one generation now. Also, get a special glimpse at next year’s Toy Story 3 which is one of the most anticipated movies in 2010. This will be playing for a limited engagement of only two weeks, so don’t wait too long to get to the multiplex!

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: G

Whip It

(Fox Searchlight) Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig. When a Texas girl gives up beauty pageants for the siren call of roller derby, folks are going to raise a Texas-sized eyebrow at the very least. The directorial debut of Barrymore has a young girl pursuing her dream, despite the disapproval of those closest to her and the derision of the skaters who think of her as a bit of a pansy. Now, if they could have only gotten a cameo from Raquel Welch in her Kansas City Bomber jersey…

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including crude dialogue, language and drug material)

Zombieland

(Columbia) Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone. The world has been overrun by zombies. Don’t you just hate when that happens? So do the survivors; Tallahassee, a kicker of zombie tush and Columbus, who much prefers running away and hiding, preferably with a girlish scream. With the living in short supply, these two misfits will have to fight off armies of the rampaging undead – and each other – in order to survive.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for zombie horror violence/gore and language)