Up until now we've been focusing on the smaller features, which probably is giving the 'powers that be'
up in the misty accounting mountains of Spill
a heart attack. So, I figured it's probably time to tackle at least a few of the big release films we got and why not start things off with one of the absolute best films of the festival, and hell, I gotta admit, one of the best films of the whole damn year, "Zombieland"
. I haven't had this much fun in a horror comedy since, well, since"Shaun of the Dead"
and honestly, while maybe not QUITE up to that level of quality, ZL
ain't that far from it either. But it's not even fair to compare because this goes about things entirely differently.
I wasn't expecting much from "Zombieland"
. After reading an interview with the writers where they recounted their favorite zombie films, I stamped POSER on their resumes and decided to catch it on video. Co-Host
's praise after a press-screening made me change my mind. I'm glad they did. Shrug off any preconceptions you have about this one, even if it's baggage involving your love for 'Shaun'
. There's more than enough room in your heart to love two zombie comedies. 'Zombieland'
is clever, well paced and acted, and just damned funny. As with most zombie apocalypse films, little explanation is given to what has caused hell to fill up and spill over into earth. The story kicks off well after the end of the world with Columbus
) giving you lessons on how to survive the zombie plague, setting the tone and establishing a recurring joke that hits every time.
It does, doesn't it? Early in the film I was sighing with the realization that the voice-over narration and animated titles (who apparently got some side work during the season break from "Fringe"
) were going to become tired by the end, but relative new comer director Ruben Fleischer
manages to make it all feel fresh and funny every damn time. And not just chuckle funny either: Laugh your frakking ass off, hope no one saw you spit out your popcorn, funny. Eisenberg
is used perfectly here but the entire cast really works well in their roles. Emma Stone
and Abigail Breslin
, who show up as two con artist sisters, are nice foils for the jokes as well as, in Emma's case, a romantic interest for Eisenberg, but the killer performance here is by Woody Harrrelson
. He shows up as a kind of redneck fella with a genuine talent for killing zombies. He's an 'artist'
at the double tap to the undead head and the film has lots of fun following his violent creativity.
The cast is excellent all around. In the past, I'd disparaged Eisenberg
as a mealy-mouthed, poor-man's Michael Cera
. I can take a bit of that malice back. He's still something of a non-entity, but he fills the role perfectly here, along with Breslin
, two unlikely highwaymen. And yes, Cyrus
is spot on. Harrelson
is awesome. He was made for this part, a man who has found his niche as droll road warrior of the apocalypse. The movie is mostly laughs, but there are indeed a few tense moments as the living dead swarms our heroes. It's gruesome, funny, and satisfying. Oh, and the opening credit sequence is one of the best since, well, the "Dawn of the Dead"
remake. For Whom The Bell Tolls
Given a second viewing, I might be able to find a weak spot in the film, but right now, I just can't. FULL PRICE
One warning: you'll have heard there is a great cameo in this film. That's absolutely correct and it may be the best cameo of all time, but if you can, try to avoid letting anyone spoil it for you. Not that it still won't be great but you'll appreciate it even more if it comes out of left field 'atcha. I guess I might seriously consider avoiding reading the comments below because there's always at least ONE jagoff who wants to spoil the fun for everybody.
is so completely full of win that I can't even think of anything to make fun of Jason
for in his review. This is SUCH a no-brainer of a FULL PRICE
movie, that I'm tempted to go that extra step...but no. I've actually had good sex so I know how ridiculous that...other...rating is. Regardless, this is a don't miss pick.
On the other side of the good/bad spectrum, let's take a look at another one of the big premieres of Fantastic Fest
this year, the third film by Jared Hess
, Nacho Libre
), the uber-nerd comedy "Gentlemen Broncos"
This is another entry about misfits stumbling around one of Jared Hess
's off kilter worlds. Michael Angarano
, an adolescent who aspires to write science fiction. His idol and eventual nemesis is the one and only Hiphopapotamus
, Jemaine Clement
, playing the droll and pretentious Ronald Chevalier
. After a brief encounter at a young writer's retreat, Chevalier
's magnum opus 'Yeast Lords'
, which is every bit as strange as it sounds. What follows is a succession of quirky situations involving the same sort oddball menagerie we've come to expect from 'Napoleon Dynamite'
and 'Nacho Libre'.
Which would be fine if someone had shown some restraint. The characters in "Napoleon Dynamite"
are the type of oddball freaks you actually believe maybe could exist somewhere. Not so in "Gentlemen Broncos"
where the freaks have become exaggerated to the point of being merely caricatures. The only person who seems even vaguely real is Benjamin
, who Angarano
plays so downbeat that you'd think George Lucas
was directing him: he becomes wholly uninteresting. Sure, he's a big nerd and all that but he also is the center of the film and he's so emotionally frictionless that none of our feelings about his shitty situation can stick to him. Even I
wanted to give him a super-wedgie.
Spot on. The more I think about the film, the more I dislike it. Even relatively early in his career, Hess
seems to have already started to slide into self parody. Here he even goes for scat and vomit jokes. I expect that by his next film he'll bottom out at nut-punching. And yes, the main character is stunningly boring. Dead-eyed and drifting through the forced weirdness like so much flotsam. On the upside, Sam Rockwell
is hilarious. He plays multiple roles here and, despite being a very minor character, relishes the outlandishness of it. There's more to film making than this, however. You can't just spit out some freaks into your off center reflection of reality. While "Napoleon Dynamite"
was low key as it wrapped you up in its bizarre tendrils, 'Broncos'
discards subtlety in exchange for a snake crapping on a guy. RENTAL
I'm embarrassed to admit that the snake crapping was one of my few out loud laughs of the film for me but there were a few others. The only things that managed to amuse were all involving either Jemaine Clement
's oddball affected writer, which did get decidedly old by the half way point, or Sam Rockwell
as the main character "Bronco/Brutus"
's envisionings of his sci-fi novel. His story plays the so-weird-and-lame-its-cute card that the rest of the film mis-fires on but which is more palatable because it's presented as the fiction of a teenage boy who wouldn't know any better. What's unbelievable is that so many other
people who should know better, don't which is exactly how I'm going to react to those who love this film because it's just a RENTAL
More reviews as our FF coverage begins to wind down shortly...