Zombieland

October 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer (debut)
Written by: Rhett Reese (“Cruel Intentions 3”) and Paul Wernick (debut)
 
It’s all about survival of the fittest in the riotous new zom-com (zombie comedy) “Zombieland,” a surprisingly fresh crack at the subgenre by first-time director Ruben Fleischer. It’s also a farther step away from the type of movies director George A. Romero popularized in the late 60s. To put it simply: “Zombieland” isn’t your grandma’s zombie movie.
 
Zombie flicks first started evolving in 2003 when British director Edgar Wright and comedians Simon Pegg and Nick Frost made destroying a zombie’s brain a hilarious delight instead of a chore in the insanely clever “Shaun of the Dead.” Now, in “Zombieland,” Fleischer stylizes his own outrageous war against the undead and does it in a most amusing way.
 
Reminiscent of the book “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead,” in which author Max Brooks gives tips about how to survive in a world flooded with flesh-eaters, “Zombieland” serves up its own thoughtful pointers. Here to guide the audience through the post-apocalyptic United States is Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a delicate young loner who has managed to avoid becoming a zombie’s midday snack by following his own personal rules for survival.

On his way to Ohio to see if his parents are still alive, Columbus (no one uses their real names to avoid personal attachment) teams up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), an eccentric, Twinkie-craving cowboy who packs some serious heat and loves showing off his zombie-killing skills whenever he gets the chance.

Tallahassee gets to do a lot of point-blank-range shooting since that’s basically what “Zombieland” is all about. Without much of a plot, Fleisher, who comes from the music video industry, pays specific attention to the crazy ways zombies meet their demise. Sisters Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and Wichita (Emma Stone) join the diverse group and set off on a road trip to a rumored zombie-free theme park. No one believes it’ll really be safe there, but what else are they going to do with their time?

As Tallahassee, Harrelson steals the show in the same manner as Robert Downey Jr. does in “Tropic Thunder.” Harrelson might not earn an Oscar nod like Downey did, but it’s definitely his funniest role since playing Roy Munson, a one-handed bowler in 1996’s Farrelly Brother comedy “Kingpin.” 

While it’s almost impossible to offer up anything new in zombie mythology (here the zombies emerge from a strain of mad cow disease), it’s the playful and mischievous dark humor that makes “Zombieland’ such a hoot.

The House Bunny

August 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Anna Faris, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone
Directed by: Fred Wolf (“Strange Wilderness”)
Written by: Karen McCullah Lutz (“She’s the Man”) and Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde”)

With drama happening in the real life Playboy Mansion (if you haven’t heard, word on the street is Hugh Hefner is moving in another bunny and his three girlfriends aren’t very happy about it), it’s great publicity for the new comedy “The House Bunny,” which is being released by Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison.

I bring this up because Happy Madison’s track record isn’t one to boast. “Strange Wilderness,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” and “The Benchwarmers” are just a sample of the refuse the studio has put out in the last two years. In “The House Bunny,” not much has evolved except for the addition of more T&A. And even then, the T&A we are talking about is attached to actress Anna Faris, who may look like a Playboy model, but can’t carry a film on her own – at least not with this material.

The story begins by introducing us to Shelley Darlingson (Faris). Once an unwanted orphan, Shelley grows up, gets boobs, and ends up living in the Playboy Mansion along with Hugh Hefner and the other Girls Next Door. Shelley isn’t quite centerfold material, although she has posed in a nude pictorial called Girls with GEDs, but she is happy just being part of the gang of blonde bombshells.

But when Shelley is booted out of the mansion for supposedly being too old (she just turned 27, which is “59 in Bunny years”), she turns to sorority life and tries to become a house mother for a group of unpopular and socially-awkward college girls, whose Zeta Alpha Zeta house is going to be taken from them if they can’t come up with 30 new pledges before the start of the semester.

Cue the predictable and formulaic montages beginning with Shelley teaching the girls about style, how to apply makeup, and how to get guys to notice them. The so-called ugly girls are actually pretty ones hiding behind thick glasses, baggy clothes, and/or any other number of distracting props a la Rachel Leigh Cook in “She’s All That” or Lindsay Lohan in “Mean Girls.” The girls return the favor in a medley of ridiculous scenes by showing Shelly that while boys might be into looks, some, like Oliver (Colin Hanks), a guy who Shelly is crushing on, like girls with a little smarts, too.

It’s no surprise that writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith of “Legally Blonde are behind this cinematic travesty. While “Blonde” had its moments, “Bunny” is a bad rehash of the same story this time with a bit more skin. In it’s basic form, it’s a 97-minute long blonde joke without a noteworthy punch line.

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