Annihilation

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Annihilation  (B-).  This new sci-fi movie starring Natalie Portman (Thor) is loosely based on a novel from just a few years ago.  I think I liked the book better (see my review here).  As in the novel, a weird phenomenon kind of like a dome has descended on some remote, swampy area (Florida maybe?), and weird stuff is going on inside.  The government occasionally sends a team into the mysterious area to investigate.  (Almost) no one ever comes back.  Portman plays a soldier–biologist named Lena who joins the latest mission, a five-woman expedition led by psychologist Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding).  Once they venture into Area X, it turns into sort of a horror movie, so don’t go if you’re squeamish!  Anyhoo, I didn’t like it as well as director Alex Garland’s previous effort, Ex Machina, but Annihilation still held my attention.

I saw Annihilation at a new Alamo Drafthouse here in Dallas, and I caught most of the pre-show.  It included a couple of old music videos of a children’s rock band that featured . . . a nine-year-old Natalie Portman!  It was pretty entertaining.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A new review from the pen of The Movie Snob.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (D).  OK, this art-house flick had a couple of things going for it.  Number one, it was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed the surpassingly weird 2016 flick The Lobster.  And really number one, it stars the luminous Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!).  Unfortunately, the movie left me cold.  Colin Farrell (who was in The Lobster and recently appeared with Kidman in The Beguiled) plays Steven Murphy, a successful heart surgeon who is married to a successful eye doctor (Kidman) and has a beautiful house and two nice kids.  But as in The Lobster, everything is just a shade off; everyone is stiff, and every conversation is stilted.  And Steven has a mysterious relationship with an odd sixteen-year-old boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan, Dunkirk), who imposes himself on Steven more and more as time passes.  I can say no more without committing spoilers, but suffice to say there are elements of suspense, horror, and black humor that get ratcheted up the deeper into the movie we go.  The performances are good (accepting that the director wanted his actors to act like strange, semi-anesthetized human beings), and none other than good old Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) pops up as Martin’s mom.  But at two hours the weirdness went on a little too long for my taste, and I didn’t think the ending was great.

Alien: Covenant

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Alien: Covenant  (C-).  Looking back, I see that I liked Prometheus quite bit and had high hopes for the next Alien prequel.  Alas, those hopes are far from fulfilled in the latest flick about the almost-indestructible critters with a taste for human flesh.  The Covenant is a large spaceship carrying a huge load of people in cryogenic sleep for a 7+ year voyage to a planet they hope will be hospitable enough for them to colonize.  An accident damages the ship and leads to the waking of its small human crew.  They receive a communications signal that lures them off course to a much closer, and previously unknown, habitable planet.  Who could possibly be way out here?  The survivors of the Prometheus expedition, perhaps?  Once they arrive, it’s only a matter of time (a very short time) before the humans start getting turned into alien chow, and we don’t know or like them enough to really care that much.  I was annoyed that some of the biological “facts” I thought we knew about the aliens from the earlier films seem to be disregarded in this one.  The humans do all sorts of stupid things to earn their gruesome ends, and despite all the mayhem only one scene struck me as really, memorably horrifying.  Billy Crudup (Big Fish) plays the ineffectual captain of the Covenant, but the real stars are Katherine Waterston (Sleeping with Other People) as the Sigourney Weaveresque heroine and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) playing both android David from Prometheus and android Walter from the Covenant.  I’d say this movie is for diehard Alien fans only.

P.S. The movie has lots of ponderous philosophical window-dressing too; for more on that you can read Steven Greydanus’s review here.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night  (B-).  Somehow I missed this 2014 black & white foreign-language vampire flick during its original release, but happily a friend invited me to a special showing last night at the Alamo Drafthouse.  (Actually I tried to talk her into seeing Logan instead, but she wasn’t having it.  She’s been a big vampire fan ever since New Moon.)  It’s a weird movie, but interesting.  Our hero is some ordinary guy living in a bleak industrial town called Bad City.  His father is a junkie, and a drug dealer takes our hero’s beloved car because dad can’t pay his debts.  Then the drug dealer abuses a prostitute who works for him.  This draws the ire of our vampire (Sheila Vand, Argo), an ordinary-seeming woman who ghosts around town at night and can sprout fangs in a jiffy.  Later she menaces a little boy and takes his skateboard.  After that she meets our hero after he has gone to a costume party (as Dracula!), and instead of making a meal out of him she actually seems to start liking him.  But you’re never really sure if she’s eventually going to chomp on him or not; her affect is pretty flat.  More stuff happens after that, in a slow, moody, artsy kind of way.  It held my interest.

(I’m categorizing it as a foreign film because it’s in Farsi, but I have read that it was actually shot in California.  The director, Ana Lily Amirpour, is Iranian-American.)

This was my first trip to an Alamo Drafthouse, and it was a pretty interesting experience.  We got to our theater pretty early, and before getting to the real previews they showed a bunch of film clips and trailers from cheesy old horror movies back-to-back.  It was fine to set the mood, I guess, but it made conversation difficult.  I got food, which I seldom do at movie theaters, and got a mediocre Royale Burger with Cheese and some cold fries out of the deal.  The seats were comfy, though.

Split

The Movie Snob is creeped out—but not in a good way.

Split  (F).  I had not seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since Lady in the Water, but it sounded like many critics were hailing this as a return to form, or at least the director’s best work in a long while.  And I was curious to see good guy James “Professor Xavier” McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse) play the villain.  So I decided to give it a try.  I found that I agreed with the minority of critics who have criticized this movie as a nasty, icky, exploitative piece of work.  McAvoy plays a fellow with multiple-personality disorder.  At the beginning of the movie he kidnaps three teenaged girls and locks them up in some sort of industrial-looking subterranean labyrinth.  He takes some of their clothes.  He ominously warns them that they are going to become “sacred food” for “the beast.”  In short, the threat of sexual violence is omnipresent.  Making matters worse, child abuse and child sexual abuse are alluded to in some very unpleasant flashbacks.  I hope the young co-stars (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch; Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen; Jessica Sula, TV’s Recovery Road) find better movies to star in.  Much better.

P.S. I always like to make a note when I am the only person in the theater for a movie, and I think that was the case with this one.  It was a few days ago, though, so don’t quote me on that.

Morgan

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Morgan  (D).  Okay, you are probably asking yourself, “Why did The Movie Snob waste his time with this poorly reviewed sci-fi thriller?”  Basically, I saw it because it features Anya Taylor-Joy, who was quite good in the recent spookfest The Witch: A New-England Folktale, and I wanted to see more of her acting chops.  Unfortunately, this movie was not a good showcase for anybody.  Kate Mara (The Martian) stars as Lee Weathers, a corporate honcho sent to investigate an “accident” at a secret research facility under a spooky old backwoods house.  Turns out that genetic experiments have resulted in the creation of Morgan (Taylor-Joy), a freaky smart and strong teenaged girl who is actually only 5 years old.  And we all know how playing God with genetic experiments goes.  There’s very little fun to be had, but it is sort of fun watching notable actors you didn’t know were in the movie pop up unexpectedly.  Hey, there’s Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Spectacular Now)!  And Paul Giamatti (Rock of Ages)!  And that guy who played Agamemnon in Troy!  But the movie is basically a stale retread of other movies, some better (Ex Machina, Hanna) and some not (Species).  The ending is a real howler.  Skip it.

10 Cloverfield Lane

The Movie Snob dishes up a new review.

10 Cloverfield Lane  (B).  I didn’t see Cloverfield, so I have no idea how or if this new movie dovetails with that one.  But if you like your movies suspenseful with a side of intense paranoia, this may be the movie for you.  The set-up is fast and intense.  Within the first few minutes, an attractive woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed) flees her current boyfriend for undisclosed reasons, gets into a bad car wreck in the middle of nowhere, and wakes up in some sort of underground bunker.  Her captor, Howard (a menacing John Goodman, Argo), insists that the world above ground has been destroyed in some kind of “attack”—possibly by Martians.  Obviously he seems to be crazy . . . but is he?  There are some parts when I just couldn’t suspend disbelief, but the movie generally managed to keep me in the moment.  One final note: the theater where I saw the movie had the volume uncomfortably loud a lot of the time, to the point that I covered my ears sometimes.  Maybe it was just the place where I saw it (a Studio Movie Grill), but be warned!

The Witch: A New-England Folktale

A new review from The Movie Snob.

The Witch: A New-England Folktale  (B).  I don’t usually do horror movies, but I decided to give this one a try because (i) it has been getting very good reviews, and (ii) it looked more spooky than really horrifying.  It is pretty darned spooky, all right.  It’s the story of a Puritan family recently arrived in 1600s New England.  This crew is too puritanical even for the Puritans, and in the opening scene they are booted right out of the settlement.  So William, Katherine, and their five kids load their meager belongings onto a cart and start a farm right on the edge of a deep, spooky forest.  They pray all the time, constantly lamenting their disgusting sinfulness.  Weird and unsettling things start to happen.  We see the action mostly through the eyes of the oldest child, Tomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, Vampire Academy, looking much like a young Michelle Williams), a girl on the edge of puberty who scares her younger sister by claiming to be a witch.  Director Robert Eggers adeptly amps up the tension with long blank cuts between scenes and haunting music.  If you like eerie movies with a slowly building sense of dread, or if you are into the Salem Witch Trials, The Witch is the movie for you.  (Rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity.)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The Movie Snob is disappointed.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  (D).  I love Jane Austen and I am pretty fond of zombies, so this seemed like a can’t-miss proposition:  Take the characters, setting, and basic plot of Pride & Prejudice, add a liberal helping of brain-hungry undead, and mix well.  I was unfamiliar with most of the cast, but I thought having lovely Lily James (Cinderella) play Elizabeth Bennet and an eye-patched Lena Headey (300) play Lady Catherine de Bourgh could only help the cause.  I was right, but unfortunately the ladies’ charms can’t rescue this murky, mucky production.  The scenes that are lifted more or less intact from the novel are all right, although I found Darcy (Sam Riley, Maleficent) underwhelming.  The zombie scenes are uniformly a mess of quick cuts and unintelligible action.  The additional plotline involving the zombies made no sense to me.  I say skip it.  If you’re craving love in the time of zombies, check out Warm Bodies instead.

Crimson Peak

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Crimson Peak  (B).  Horror movies aren’t usually my thing, but I have enjoyed some of director Guillermo del Toro’s past work (Pan’s Labyrinth, the first Hellboy).  Plus, the three headliners are two top-notch actresses (Jessica Chastain, The Martian, and Mia Wasikowska, Only Lovers Left Alive), and the entertaining Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers).  Anyway, this is a gonzo, over-the-top ghost story set back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, an attractive young lady and aspiring writer who occasionally sees freaky apparitions.  She falls in love with Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), a mysterious Englishman who seems to be accompanied everywhere by his chilly sister Lucy (Chastain).  Turns out that Thomas and Lucy are down-on-their-luck aristocrats who own a gloomy, falling-to-pieces mansion back in not-so-jolly England.  Could the creepy old mansion, with a gaping hole in its roof and garish red clay oozing up from the ground below, be haunted?  Are Thomas and Lucy hiding something?  Do bears like honey?  I didn’t think this was as strong a movie as the inventive but bleak Pan’s Labyrinth, but definitely it held my attention for a couple of hours.  The R rating is well earned for some very strong violence and some pretty ghastly ghosts.

Cooties

The Movie Snob is badly disappointed.

Cooties  (D-).  Kids at an elementary school get a virus that turns them into horrible, flesh-eating zombies, forcing the teachers to fight for their very survival.  Sounds like an awesome premise for a horror-comedy, right?  Alas, the makers of Cooties botched it almost completely.  The movie is simply not funny.  I laughed harder at a preview of a Will Ferrell movie than I did at anything in CootiesWill Ferrell!!  I do remember chuckling when gonzo P.E. teacher Wade (Rainn Wilson, TV’s The Office) called diminutive Elijah Wood (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) a hobbit, but that was about it.  There are buckets of fakey gore, but the only real gross part was the opening credits, which played over disgusting images from what may or may not have been an actual chicken-processing plant.  (The zombie virus in this scenario came from tainted chicken nuggets.)  Skip this movie at all costs.

Maggie

The Movie Snob pans a current release.

Maggie  (F).  Perhaps the “F” grade isn’t quite fair—if you want a movie that will simply make you feel bad, this one will do the trick.  Otherwise, I urge you to steer clear.  It’s kind of like The Fault in Our Stars, except in Maggie the attractive young woman has the zombie virus instead of cancer.  Which is way worse, of course, because at least cancer sometimes goes into remission.  Arnold Schwarzenegger (Batman & Robin) stars as a simple Midwestern farmer, trying to eke out a living in a post-zombie-apocalypse America where law and order have been reasonably well restored.  Unfortunately, his sweet teen-aged daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin, Zombieland) has been bitten by one of the hungry undead, and in this version of the zombocalypse, victims live on for six to eight weeks before finally succumbing to the virus.  So for 95 minutes, we get to watch Arnold watch his beloved daughter slowly turn all grey and veiny and gross.  It is a long, depressing slog.

Only Lovers Left Alive

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Only Lovers Left Alive  (C).  Here’s a new take on the vampire genre.  In this film directed by Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers), the vampires are fairly traditional: they seem to be basically immortal, but they require human blood to survive, and they are vulnerable to sunlight and wooden stakes through the coronary region.  Otherwise, they seem reasonably human in personality (although they rather insultingly refer to human beings as “zombies”), and they can make their way through human society when need be (at night, of course).  The film focuses on a married couple of vamps, Adam and Eve (played by Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers, and the amazingly pallid Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel).  They’ve been separated for a long while, and Adam, a musician, is getting pretty depressed in his ramshackle house in the ramshackle city of Detroit.  Eve figures out that her hubby is really bad off, so she takes a night flight out of Tangiers to join him and cheer him up.  The movie is rather slow and talky; don’t go expecting a lot of gore (although there is a little) or hot werewolf-versus-vampire action (there is none).  Indeed, Adam and Eve are so civilized they prefer to do their grocery shopping on the medical black market rather than harvest their sustenance straight from the source.  Things perk up a little bit when Eve’s troublemaking little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker) shows up uninvited, but otherwise this is a pretty low key and meditative sort of movie.

The Last Man on Earth

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

The Last Man on Earth  (D+).  When I bought this DVD for a dollar, I did not realize I was buying the first film adaptation of the 1954 novel I Am Legend, which was later turned into the rather more famous films The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston and I Am Legend starring Will Smith.  In this 1964 black-and-white film, Vincent Price (House of Wax) stars as the titular character–the only survivor of an apocalyptic plague that turned everyone else into creatures that he calls vampires but that act more like zombies.  Indeed, according to IMDB.com, this movie was an inspiration for George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the godfather of all subsequent zombie movies.  Unfortunately, this film is not very good.  The acting is poor, and the long flashback to show how Price’s character got where he is now just isn’t very compelling.  There’s only one fairly creepy scene, and it is short.  Otherwise, pretty forgettable stuff.  At least it’s short (86 minutes).

The Shining

New from The Movie Snob.

The Shining  (B).  I’m no horror buff, but a local Cinemark theater showed this Stanley Kubrick film as part of its classic film series, and I figured I should give it a try.  You’ve probably already seen it, or at least know the story.  There’s a big hotel/resort up in the Colorado mountains, and a fellow named Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, Wolf) gets a job as the caretaker for the winter, when the place is completely shut down.  So he moves in with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall, Time Bandits), and their very little boy Danny, and everybody else in the place leaves.  Things go downhill from there, because the place is severely haunted.  Not only did a previous caretaker go crazy and kill his whole family there some years earlier, but the whole place is apparently built on an ancient Indian burial ground.  Danny, who seems to have psychic gifts of some sort, has some freaky visions, and Jack starts a steep downhill slide into madness.  It is a pretty spooky film, in a Sixth Sense kind of way, much enhanced with spooky music and effective cinematography of the big spooky hotel and the spooky hedge maze.  But I can’t give it an A; too much stuff goes unexplained, and Nicholson’s performance is so over the top as to be pretty distracting by the end.  Still, it was fun to go see it on the big screen.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

A DVD review by The Movie Snob.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)  (C-).  Well, Halloween is coming up, so I thought I should take the time to fill up an unfortunate gap in my movie-watching experience by watching the original Night of the Living Dead.  If I understand right, this film kind of established the basic rules that apply in most zombie movies.  For example, zombies are reanimated corpses that hunger for the flesh of living human beings.  A zombie can be killed by delivering severe trauma to its brain.  Zombies aren’t very intelligent and they are usually pretty slow-moving, but they often travel in numbers large enough to overwhelm lone humans or humans in small groups.  This movie features a small band of humans who, by chance, take refuge from the zombie menace in the same farmhouse.  They’re all white except for one black guy, and I thought it was interesting, given when the movie was made, that the black guy is generally the most level-headed and sensible person in the bunch.  Also interesting, I don’t think I ever heard the word “zombie” in the whole movie (the phrase “flesh-eating ghouls” did come up once or twice).  Anyway, I’m glad I saw it for purposes of historical research, but it’s no World War Z or Warm Bodies.

The Walking Dead – Season One

A TV review from The Movie Snob – only a few years late.

The Walking Dead – Season One.  (B).  As usual, I’m a late-comer to this TV series, and I have made my way through only the first season at this point.  As my grade indicates, I thought it was good, but not really great.  The set-up is pretty cool.  A Georgia sheriff named Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, Love Actually) gets shot in the line of duty and falls into a coma.  Some time later, he wakes up in a deserted hospital to a world that has fallen to a zombie apocalypse.  It’s a pretty effective way to draw the viewer into Rick’s predicament, watching him try to understand and navigate the nightmare world he now inhabits.  Once he gets his feet under him, he sets out to try to find his wife and son.  The zombie special effects are quite well done, and it is an amazingly gory show, even by cable TV standards (I would think; I don’t have cable myself).  I’d give it a higher grade, but occasionally the show did seem a little hokey, a little “TV-ish.”  Explosively tense situations seemed to crop up all the time, only to be defused a little too quickly and easily.  Characters occasionally make choices that are not particularly believable.  And the whole season is only six episodes long—what’s up with that?  The extras on the DVDs are okay, but nothing to write home about.  Still and all, season one was pretty good, if you’re a fan of hungry zombies.

World War Z – a concurring opinion

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

World War Z  (B).  Zombie-apocalypse movies come and go, but not many can boast the star power of Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading).  For that matter, not many zombie movies also serve double-duty as big wet kisses to the U.N., but this one does.  Pitt plays a retired U.N troubleshooter who gets called back into active duty when a standard zombie plague threatens the survival of mankind.  He jets all over the world, searching for some way to defeat or at least defend against the ravenous undead.  Needless to say, he has lots of narrow escapes from creepy zombies along the way.  I thought it was an enjoyable movie, although it was almost spoiled by one scene in which the human defenders act so ridiculously stupidly that I would’ve thrown my popcorn at the screen if I had had any popcorn.  (For The Borg Queen’s review of this movie, click here.)

This Is the End – a second opinion

New from The Movie Snob

This Is the End  (D).  Mom Under Cover reviewed this movie a little while back (click here for her take), so I’ll add only a short note.  I think my grade is lower than hers because my expectations were higher.  The premise seemed so promising—a bunch of movie stars playing themselves are having a party at James Franco’s house when they are suddenly confronted with a real Book-of-Revelation-style apocalypse.  But as Mom Under Cover hints, the vulgarity and crassness are beyond description—probably something like Your Highness, reviewed by The Borg Queen on this site.  There are a few humorous moments, and I thought it was interesting to get Hollywood’s take on Christian eschatology, but overall I cannot say I enjoyed it.

This is the End

Mom Under Cover gives us a glimpse of the End Times.

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s Apocalyptic offering is profane, narcissistic, campy, and yes, funny.  For me, it succeeded best as a campy horror flick.  The premise is simple:  James Baruchel visits his buddy Rogen in Hollywood and the two attend a party hosted by James Franco. All the actors play themselves.  Also attending the party are: Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Paul Rudd, David Krumholtz, Aziz Ansari, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kevin Hart, Martin Starr and Emma Watson.  The Apocalypse happens during the party.   Some people are immediately sucked up to Heaven in a tunnel of blue light; others fall into a crevice that opens up in front of Franco’s house.  The rest (all male with the exception of Emma Watson for a short time in a funny ax wielding performance) are left to navigate the post-Apocalyptic world complete with strange anatomically (enhanced) correct monsters as well as limited food, water and resources.  The actors make fun of themselves but primarily the humor is pure frat boy (read:  pot jokes, sex jokes, flatulence jokes, masturbation jokes) and the movie drags a bit.  Confession:  I suspect you will find this movie more funny than I did if you are up on all the roles these actors have played.  The ending is bizarre–in a “we-didn’t-know-how-to-end-the-movie” kind of way.  The suspense is well timed.  This movie deserves its hard R rating.  Don’t take your mom or your children!

World War Z

The Borg Queen steps outside her comfort zone.

World War Z – B

I am not a fan of scary movies, and I absolutely loathe zombie movies.  So, I’m not sure what possessed me to see World War Z.  This movie centers on a United Nations employee (Brad Pitt) who is traveling the world trying to find a cure for a pandemic of unknown origins that is causing people to turn into zombies.  One bite, and you’re a zombie seconds later.  The movie wastes no time getting straight into the action and it’s a roller coaster ride all the way to the end.  I was constantly on the edge of my seat (or, under it sometimes) and engaged with the film.  The movie has its fair share of scares and, thankfully, is not gory.  The camera work, especially in the action sequences, is too shaky for my taste, making it hard to see what is actually taking place at times.  I also heard some people grumbling outside the theater about the movie being different from the book upon which the film is based.  So, I guess if you’ve read the book, be open to differences.  Overall, though, this movie is a fun night out.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

New from The Movie Snob.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters  (D).  I deliberately waited until this one arrived in the dollar theaters, but I still got burned because it was showing in 3D, so it wound up setting me back $3.25.  Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans) star as the sibling pair of fairy-tale fame.  Now they are all grown up and hire themselves out to kill pesky witches.  It’s a grim, muddy, super-gory movie with no panache or sense of humor.  Famke Janssen (X-Men: The Last Stand) plays the main evil witch, and IMDB.com reports that she has said she took the role only to pay off her mortgage.  An attractive Finnish actress named Pihla Viitala somewhat relieves the drabness of the production in her couple of scenes.  Rated R for “strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language.”  That pretty well sums it up.

Warm Bodies

New from The Movie Snob.

Warm Bodies  (B).  Fans of zombie movies and fans of romantic comedies can rejoice as those two great tastes are brought together in one enjoyable movie.  Okay, that’s not exactly true; hard-core zombie fans probably won’t care for this rather light-hearted twist on the formula.  There’s been a standard-issue zombie apocalypse, but there’s a decidedly non-standard zombie amongst the living dead.  This particular zombie, “R,” has a rich interior life and yearns to be able to communicate with those around him.  And although he does feast on the flesh and especially the brains of the living, at least he has the decency to feel conflicted about it.  Anyhow, some zombies corner some humans and turn most of them into meals, but for some reason R rescues one of them, a Kristen Stewart lookalike named Julie (Teresa Palmer, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).  From then on, the story is more Beauty and the Beast than Dawn of the Dead.  I got a kick out of it, even if the movie ignores conventional zombie wisdom that zombies never ever change.  Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy) does a good job as R, and John Malkovich (Burn After Reading) and Analeigh Tipton (Damsels in Distress) have nice supporting roles.  It’s rated PG-13 for some mild profanity and some decently gruesome zombie violence, but I think most 13-year-olds will be fine with it.  In fact, I took my 13-year-old goddaughter, and she gave it an A+.

Frankenweenie

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Frankenweenie  (B-).  The latest film from the twisted mind of director Tim Burton (Dark Shadows) is a relatively low-key animated “horror” movie.  In the town of New Holland, young Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan, I Am Legend) is a budding film director with only one real friend, his dog Sparky.  When Sparky is killed in an accident, Victor decides to put the science he has been learning at school into practice.  His experiment is a success, but when his efforts to keep his discovery a secret fail, disaster threatens to strike!  I give Burton credit for trying to come up with a fresh story to tell, and I enjoyed the mash-up of so many old-timey horror-movie conventions.  Martin Landau (City of Ember) voices the weird, Vincent-Price-looking science teacher; Catherine O’Hara (Waiting for Guffman) voices Victor’s mom, and Winona Ryder (Star Trek) voices Victor’s sad next-door neighbor Elsa Van Helsing.  The film has an interestingly creepy look, being done in black and white stop-motion.  On the minus side, I didn’t think the story made a whole lot of sense.  Still, I appreciated the effort to make an original story, and I think this film is mild enough for all but the littlest children this Halloween.

Prometheus

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Prometheus  (B+).  I barely managed to see this new sci-fi/horror flick before it leaves the theaters, and I’m glad I made the effort.  Director Ridley Scott returns to the universe of his 1979 classic Alien for the tale of a space expedition to a remote world that may hold the secret to the origins of life on Earth.  Once the astronauts arrive, they discover huge alien structures full of dead humanoid aliens, not to mention weirder and slimier artifacts of disturbing import.  I found plenty to like about the movie–the acting was good, and Scott had no trouble ratcheting up the suspense and dread.  There is plenty of gruesome stuff, which will surprise no one who saw Alien or its sequel Aliens.  On the down side, it seemed like an awful lot of stuff was left unexplained, and some of the characters did some things that made very little sense, or that seemed physically impossible.  And I thought Charlize Theron (Young Adult) was sadly underused as the icy corporate representative on the mission.  But in the end, I enjoyed the movie and left the theater hoping there will be a sequel.  If you’re one of the few folks who hasn’t seen the original Alien, I do think you will enjoy Prometheus more if you take the trouble to screen a DVD of Alien first.