Saturday, November 14, 2009

Zombieland (2009)

Movie quotes:
"I haven't cried like that since Titanic!"
- Tallahassee

"I could tell she knew what I was feeling, we all are orphans in Zombieland."
- Columbus

"You're like a giant... cock blocking robot, like developed in a secret fucking government lab."
- Columbus (to Tallahassee)

Tallahassee: Sno-Balls? Sno-Balls? Where the fuck are the God damn Twinkies?
Columbus: I love Sno-Balls.
Tallahassee: I hate coconut. Not the flavor, but the consistency.

Columbus: You know there's a place untouched by all this crap?
Tallahassee: Out east, yeah?
Columbus: Yeah.
Tallahassee: Out west, we hear it's out east, out east they hear it's out west. It's all bullshit. It's like you're a penguin at the North Pole hears the South Pole is real nice this time of year.
Columbus: There are no penguins in the North Pole.
Tallahassee: You wanna feel how hard I can punch?

Tallahassee: [referring to Wichita and Little Rock, who previously hijacked them] They're in the back, aren't they?
Little Rock: [pops up holding shotgun] Just me.
Tallahassee: You got taken hostage by a little girl?
Columbus: She was like a crouching tiger...
Tallahassee: She's twelve!
Columbus: Well, girls mature way faster than boys. She's way ahead of where I was at that age.
Little Rock: Twelve's the new twenty.

"No! She's only famous when she's Hannah Montana! She's only famous when she's wearing the wig!"
- Little Rock (to Tallahassee)

"In those moments where you're not quite sure if the undead are really dead, dead, don't get all stingy with your bullets. I mean, one more clean shot to the head, and this lady could have avoided becoming a human Happy Meal. Woulda... coulda... shoulda."
- Columbus

Little Rock: Have you heard about Pacific Playland? There are no zombies there.
Columbus: The amusement park?
Little Rock: Yep!
Tallahassee: That place totally blows!
[Little Rock and Wichita shoot Tallahassee angry looks]
Tallahassee: ... my mind. Just fun for the whole family.

Little Rock: [as Bill Murray is dying] Do you have any regrets?
Bill Murray: Garfield maybe.

At a glance:
Even non-gore fans will love the constant laughs and the smart scripting of Zombieland

Our review (with spoilers):
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, channeling Michael Cera) never liked people very much, anyway, so when mad cow disease turns almost everyone into cannibal zombies, he doesn’t miss the human company all that much. His loner life and anal retentiveness has prepared him to be a survivor. He lives by a long list of rules like "Don’t be a hero" and "Double Tap" (don’t spare ammunition – always shoot until the zombies are dead). Still, he misses his parents and hopes that his home town of Columbus was spared. As he heads there, he meets a cowboy-hat-wearing non-zombie: Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson). Tallahassee’s ‘no fear’ attitude compliments the phobias of Columbus. These guys seem to be savvy survivors, but in a moment of weakness, they are scammed by two con artist sisters, Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin). For a while, the battle between human and zombie is usurped by the feud between the guys and the girls.

Zombieland has it all: the movement of a road movie, a witty and often hilarious script, a coming of age story for Columbus, and vomiting, bleeding-from-the-mouth, ravenous zombies. There’s also a big surprise ‘guest’ appearance when the non-zombies choose a Beverly Hills mansion as a rest stop – and I’ve already said too much about that. There are also some quirky touches – like everyone except the big star is referred to by their home. Columbus even calls his first ‘girlfriend’ by her apartment number (406).

Brimming with topical pop humor and movie in-jokes, Zombieland is laugh-inducing – and sometimes stomach-churning – from start to finish, often at the same moments. I am not at all a fan of gore, but if every gore movie was as funny and as well-written as Zombieland, I’d watch them all.

Rating: 3.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"This spoof on the zombie genre literally and figuratively is killer. It's laugh-out-loud funny, the gore is beautifully over-the-top, and the wicked script is laced with a cutting wit."
- Christopher Smith (Bangor Daily News [Maine]

"Very funny, often thrilling and full of neat little touches that should make it entirely rewatchable, Zombieland sees Fleischer join the ranks of directors – Romero, Wright, Raimi, Snyder – whose first films aren’t just zombie films, but great films."
- Chris Hewitt [UK] Empire Magazine

Terminator Salvation (2009)

Movie quotes:
Kate Connor: What should I tell your men when they find out you're gone?
John Connor: I'll be back.

At a glance:
The fourth Terminator installment is packed with loud battle scenes and imaginative special effects, but director McG and the usually brilliant Christian Bale can’t deliver the required emotional depth

Our review (with spoilers):
In the Terminator-infested future, two of the most important people in the history of the saga intersect: the almost terminally indestructible resistance leader, John Connor (Christian Bale), and a teenage boy named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), fighting almost on his own . It matters little that Connor is a man and Reese a boy; through the miracle of time travel, Reese is Connor’s father. Separate but linked by Connor’s radio broadcasts, they battle against a varied array of SkyNet-brand threats: motorcycles, jets, and the usual army of walking skeleton machines. Into the mix is a new element, a machine who thinks he is a man, with the strength of a Terminator but the conscience of someone who has made mistakes and wants to make things right.

Salvation is loud, exciting, and sometimes dumbed down, but not with that charming Bruckheimer self-awareness of its dumbness (a la National Treasure). Bale is a wonderful actor, but he’s often rendered ineffective by clichéd dialogue. There are parts of Salvation that work smoothly. I was intrigued by the concept of the ‘human’ terminator becoming aware of who he is (although I’m sure a lot of people would cringe at a terminator turned into someone with a conscience, just as many people felt that later Trek franchises humanized – and weakened- the Borg). There’s a great ‘cameo’ by an almost nude and fully terrifying Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike (made with a scan of Arnie’s face CGI’d onto another actor). Other bits of Salvation don’t work quite so well. There are some scenes, such as Marcus’s computer interaction in SkyNet headquarters that are almost yawn inducing. And the terminators and their various and sundry forms (planes, motorcycles, etc.) are creative, but they are also not as terrifying as they were before. Sure, they are relentless and everywhere, but they also seem a lot easier to defeat. Finally, SkyNet hasn’t learned anything from all those James Bond films. They still make the Villain’s Mistake: their spokesperson (Helena Bonham Carter, sounding like an arrogant schoolmarm) tells their entire evil plan to Marcus just in time for him to attempt to foil it. If only they had continued the façade a little longer! And of course, the ultra machines know how to pursue in slow, measured steps (rather than, say, running and attacking quickly), just as all monsters have done since the days of Frankenstein. This gives the victims time to drop various molten liquids and shoot frozen hydrogen on them: very obliging!

Rating:  of 2.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"It's easy to see why Bale was attracted to this role, but this often fascinating actor gives one of his least interesting performances."
- Jake Wilson (The Age [Australia]

"Unfortunately, whenever this film attempts to depict anything resembling the motivational keys of emotional storytelling -- love, revenge, anger -- it feels like McG is wishing he could be blowing stuff up."
- Jason Di Rosso (MovieTime, ABC Radio National)

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Movie quotes:
Micah: You're screaming like that over a spider?
Katie: Well, yeah... did you go run and get the camera first?

"What is your quest? What is your favorite color?"
- Micah (trying to communicate with the entity)

At a glance:
Paranormal Activity defies its shoestring budget to generate tension and suspense from its simple poltergeist story

Our review (with spoilers):
Katie has been haunted by a shadowy specter since she was five. Although it appears to be mostly a poltergeist (turning on taps, scratching the walls, etc.), there was that unexplained house fire as a child; her family survived but lost the house and everything in it. Now she wants to find out what this thing is. She invites in a psychologist, and her boyfriend Micah buys an expensive camera and monitors their bedroom at night: the hotspot for visitations (but not much else while the camera is on). Micah’s filming and his ‘bring it on’ attitude seems to be aggravating the demon spirit, to the point where visits become louder and more frequent. And since Micah’s attitude toward the visitor is in direct counterpoint to Katie’s (she doesn’t want to challenge or aggravate it, or to find out what it wants), it is causing a rift to develop in what used to be a healthy relationship.

Paranormal Activity is a successful film for so many reasons. First of all, it epitomizes what indie film is all about. At the same time as you can completely enjoy the film’s created tension and inexperienced but ultra-effective performances, you can marvel at the tiny budget. Oren Peli does a lot with a single camera, two actors, and one set.

True, there are weaknesses of repetition – although this somehow works to build suspense. Katie Featherston character – and performance – has more depth to it than the one-note Micah Sloat. It’s difficult to tell if this is the actor’s fault, as Micah simply does not grow much during the film, remaining almost constantly arrogant and disbelieving. And, as in most horror films, the characters are not proactive enough to actually try to do something to get out of their predicament. The expert says it won’t help to leave the house, so they don’t leave. This seemed more like a budgetary limitation than a rational decision. Likewise, Micah is a day trader who works on a computer all day, but when it comes to research on demons, all he finds (and shares with us, anyway) is one website that, again, tells him what they shouldn’t do. You would think that many people would be trying lots of things: garlic, potions, chants – even a panic room. After all, this thing does seem to be able to close doors. Maybe it would have trouble opening a locked door.

But despite minor weaknesses, Paranormal Activity is a major success.

Rating:  3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Fun, creepy, unpretentious little haunted house rides like these are so hard to come by these days that slight overpraise is understandable."
- Michael Dequina (

"The time counter clicks away in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, and you'll find your eyes clinging to it like a life preserver."
- Josh Larsen (LarsenOnFilm)