New from The Movie Snob.
Shaun of the Dead (B). I had seen plenty of good reviews of this British “zombie romantic comedy,” so I was expecting greatness. And for almost an hour, the movie delivered. Shaun is a 29-year-old slacker with a dead-end job, a monstrous slob of a best friend, and a peach of a girlfriend who is about ready to kick him to the curb for his refusal to grow up. To top things off, some sort of virus or something is turning the population of London into zombies — mindless, shambling, flesh-eating ghouls. But Shaun is so lost in his troubles that it takes him quite a while to notice this little problem, which is the source of much hilarity in the early going. Eventually, however, the zombies start to outnumber the normals, and Shaun has to shuck his slackerhood in order to don the mantle of heroism. Unfortunately, after this point I thought the movie quickly lost steam and, indeed, virtually ground to a halt. Still, I laughed so hard and so often in the early going that I have to give it a good grade. Check it out.
Friday Night Lights (A-). I’m really not much of a sports fan, but I generally enjoy movies about sports (Remember the Titans, The Bad News Bears, Necessary Roughness). I thought this flick was excellent. Based on a true story, this movie follows a legendary Texas high school football team (the Odessa-Permian Panthers) through a single season, from beginning to end. Billy Bob Thornton does a fine job as the head coach, and country singer Tim McGraw is surprisingly good as the scary, often-drunk former star who tries to relive his glory days by pushing and goading his running back son to the breaking point. The young actors playing the football players are also uniformly good. And the director does a great job of capturing the town’s obsession with its football team through lots of concrete details — shots contrasting the desolate flatness of the West Texas oil country with the huge football stadium, snippets of chatter on local talk radio, barely concealed threats from the team’s boosters as they purport to express their confidence in the coach. If you like football in the least, I’ll guarantee that you’ll like this movie.