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.
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
The Zombies were a 1960s rock band and part of the so-called British Invasion. A minor part, to be sure: they charted only three singles in America, all of which made the Top Ten. They broke up in late 1967, and their last hit (“Time of the Season”) peaked in 1969. But like their undead namesakes, the Zombies proved tough to kill. Keyboardist Rod Argent formed a band called Argent that had a Top Ten hit in 1972 (“Hold Your Head Up”). Vocalist Colin Blunstone occasionally contributed vocals to The Alan Parsons Project, which was a favorite band of mine back in the day. And Wikipedia says that various reincarnations of the Zombies have been kicking around for a while. Now they are kicking off a new American tour, and their first show was two nights ago in Dallas’s historic Majestic Theatre. They are promoting a new album, but they are also performing their last 1960s album, Odessey and Oracle, in its entirety. It’s a good album–trippy, tuneful, and said by the cognoscenti to be very influential on other musicians. Anyhow, the show was good (if a little too loud). The first half featured several new songs, a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” and the Zombies’ other two Top Ten hits, “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There.” After a short intermission, they came back and played Odessey and Oracle straight through, ending with “Time of the Season,” and then doing a reprise of “She’s Not There” for the encore. For a bunch of old British guys in a band that broke up 48 years ago, they played quite well. Blunstone’s distinctive voice, high and breathy, is pretty much the same as it ever was. If you like the Zombies, or at least their three hit songs, I encourage you to give a listen to “Old and Wise,” a Blunstone track on the Alan Parsons Project album Eye in the Sky.
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 Cooties. Will 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.