Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—Z is For


      Ah, Z day...the last day of the A-to-Z Challenge. Should I "jump, jump" like Kris Kross or "get jiggy with it" like Will Smith. Frankly, I only adopt such enthusiastic measures "when I got patron in my cup...tell the DJ play my shit, On that club music shit." Since this is entirely a virtual atmosphere, I will simply borrow the trademark phrase of the infamous, magnanimous, blasphemous Charlie Sheen, "Winning" (okay, in my blatant attempt to mimic Mike Tyson, which word doesn't belong, as a suitable descriptor for the former Two and A Half's kind of like an SAT question, huh)? 
      With all kidding aside, it has been a terrific month. I want to send my sincerest thanks to all of you who have joined my blog this past month. I've made new friends and didn't lose any old ones, so I would also like to thank those of you who have stuck with me. I hope to keep seeing you all around. I also want to send a special thanks to the co-hosts of the Challenge. It's a wonderful concept and it was executed with great class and ability. I'm proud to be a participant...and I signed up on the inaugural day. 
      I'll have to borrow a line from Seinfeld to sum up my current A-to-Z Challenge mood:
Kramer: "I'm out there Jerry [substitute with blogosphere] and I'm loving every minute of it!"


      So, let's get back to what I do best. Talk movies. Who deserves the final slot in my Great Alphabet? It's really only a two-movie race. I have not seen the enormously praised Costa-Gavras film, Z nor have I been fortunate enough to observe the incomparable Woody Allen delve into the mockumentary genre with Zelig. I'm sure one of these films is deserving of my spot, but I can't attest to their greatness. Instead, I have seen David Fincher's Zodiac and Ruben Fleischer's Zombieland. Since Fincher already clinched a berth with Fight Club, I've decided to award my final letter to the raucously funny, shrewdly entertaining, wonderfully acted zombie-comedy, Zombieland. Go Fleischer, "it's your birthday, we gon' party like it's your birthday." Actually, to be quite honest, I highly doubt today is his birthday, but at least, subconsciously thinking it is, makes me feel even more giddy about my selection..."And you know we don't give a f**k cause it's not your birthday!"
      Zombies have infested every corner of the world. An unremarkable, nebbish college student named Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and a tough talkin', gun-totin', zombie-slayin', bad mofo named Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) join forces.  Columbus, sort of a big wuss, follows a hilarious, but well-conceived set of rules—such as "double-tap," "get a kickass partner," "avoid strip clubs"—to survive the mayhem or determine the fate of his family in Ohio while the seasoned zombie slayer Tallahassee, is on a relentless, no holds barred mission to find the last Twinkie on Earth. The peculiar duo stumble upon a feisty sister-sister pairing, consisting of Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who have resorted to some rather unorthodox and conniving methods to survive the zombie outbreak. Diffident partners in the battle against the undead, the fearsome foursome soon begin to question their allegiance, wondering if it may be more advantageous to fight alone, ala Leon the least until a young Natalie Portman intervened. But then we arrive at Pacific Playland where zombie killing was never quite this fun. 

      Ruben Fleischer captains a raucous adventure, complements of a rowdy, wholly original script—co-authored by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick—which oozes with raw wit and fantastical, gore-smashing absurdity. The real beauty of Zombieland is it's brazen appetite for undead carnage. There's a casual allusion to romance and an unfettered scale of ridiculousness, but the single most endearing quality of Fleischer's Zombieland—a land that dictates an us-against-the-flesh-eating-world-of-zombies-at-every-conceivable-turn mentality—is its wildly entertaining, varying mishmash-approach for dispatching of these lumbering, witless oafs who readily line up for slaughtering. I'm talking about adopting such inventive, indiscriminate measures as turning a piano into a violent weapon, wielding AK-47's like John Rambo, "double-tapping" with shotguns, swinging baseball bats better than "The Bear Jew," using gardening equipment in ways Martha Stewart would never imagine, slamming car doors more violently than the guy who just got a ticket, using a toilet-bowl lid to ruthlessly pummel your undead-bride-to-be, and miraculously battering a zombie with a tire iron—and mind you, all of these inventive kill tactics are executed with pure, enthusiastic, sledgehammering awesomeness. 
      Jesse Eisenberg is a good actor who has demonstrated, pre-The Social Network, an ability to casually inhabit the inner-quirks of clumsy, shy and reluctant protagonists. In Zombieland, he breathes a new vigorous life into this low-key approach, poking fun at his character's humdrum. Similarly, Woody Harrelson takes a great deal of relish in routinely and violently disposing of zombies. He strikes an almost devilish delight in festering his character's machismo. Harrelson's greatest appeal is his comedic delivery. He is an unapologetic badass who exudes a relaxed and sharp-as-nails wit. The audience worships Harrelson about as much as Woody worships Bill Murray, and it all has to do with his almost psychotic appetite for vanquishing zombies. And Emma Stone is one sexy and sultry heroine.  But even if Stone's Wichita is a beautiful femme fatale, who connives her way to the top, she adopts a straight-talking persona. Despite her contagious zest, she's not quite the tough girl she purports to be. Her sister also gives a solid, youthful performance, but the real star of the whole production, above all else, is Bill Murray's cameo, proving that if used judiciously, cameos can be an amazing source of comedy. It was the single best movie-cameo I've seen in a long time, and I loved Tyson's Hangover cameo. Bill Murray being Bill Murray with an elaborate coating of zombie make-up and textbook zombie mannerisms is just fantastic.

       Zombies can be scary, but Fleischer eschews this 28 Days Later approach, instead, focusing on the fact that zombies can also be a source of reckless humor. This filmmaking trio—writers Reese and Wernick, and director Fleishcer—harbor zero restraint in reminding us just how funny they can be. They illustrate polished inventiveness and well-tuned comedic timing. Fleischer's movie dwells in a naturally light, buoyant atmosphere of undead wreckage, but never surrenders the primal focus of his story. He demonstrates a steady discipline as his movie is terrifically paced, with an exhilarating, comically violent opening, a raucous, but harmonious middle-third, and a finale filled with colorful droves of crushed zombies.
      Zombieland is wickedly funny. It is a comedy, an occasional romance, an unrestrained road movie and a guns blazing horrorfest. I think, quite intentionally, Fleischer didn't command an us-against-the-zombies parable. Rather, Fleischer was more invigorated by the idea of a spontaneous thrill ride that drew more from in-your-face humor and campy horror with some modern styling cues. It's an unapologetic hor-com (horror-comedy) that doesn't hide its affection for the zombie-movie genre charted by George A. Romero's, Night of the Living Dead nor does it recklessly rejoice in its modern-day appraisal of our video-game crazed nation. Instead, it is simply an exaggerated, but well-executed combination of all things horror, everything gory, and somethings gaming.  

*What, what!! Zombieland trailer


  1. I haven't seen this one, but the trailer is hilarious :)

  2. I've heard zombieland was a great movie- I'm going to have to check it out! Congrats on finishing the challenge and thanks for stopping by my blog on the way :-)

  3. @ Dezmond

    Friggen awesome trailer. You must see this movie!

    @ Melissa

    You're welcome :)

    And it is an excellent movie. Just pure fun with a ton of laughs. It's the kind of movie the theater was designed for. And it's great to watch at home as well!

    And thank you!

  4. "Where are you, you spongy, yellow delicious bastards?" Zombieland is the shit. I have seen this movie so many times and just cracked up. From the dialogue to the characters to the zombies themselves, it is one raucous adventure from start to finish. Bill Murray kills it and the Ghostbusters scene will live in my heart forever. They are doing Zombieland 2 and I cannot wait to see what they have cooked up. Rockin way to finish up the ol A to Z. Congrats on a well executed challenge, an amazingly cool list and in making so many new friends. FilmMattic rules!

  5. Another great choice! It has been always always entertaining to come to your blogsite. I will be watching out for you.

  6. Gotta love Zombieland!! It is such an amazing movie. I'm still shocked that it was Fleischer's first film, he did such a wonderful job. I just hope he directs the second installment. Fabulous review, it makes me want to watch it again. Congratulations on completing your A-Z challenge!! You really should be proud that was quite a task you successfully conquered.

  7. Another great pick, Matty! "Zombieland" is one of my favorite movies of 2010, and also one of the best horror comedies I've seen in my life. In fact, I enjoyed it even more than "Shaun of the Dead". The slow-mo opening sequence was spectacular! Awesome review, bud. ;)

  8. @ Melissa

    Haha, what an awesome quote. The dialogue is really sharp-witted. I mean, pretty much, I can laugh even if Harrelson just stands around and doesn't say anything. He totally morphs into that eccentric badass mofo pretty early on. Oohhh, and I can't wait for Zombieland 2. This will be hard to top, but at least, we'll know there will be a ton of laughs and kick-ass zombie killings.

    Thank you so much! I always value your comments, as they are very thoughtful and interesting. Kudos to your Challenge work as well. Your posts are money!

    @ Susan

    Thank you! I really appreciate your comments. And esp., thanks for reading!

  9. @ Nicole

    Absolutely! Yeah, I realized this was his directorial debut, and I was sort of blown away. His pacing and style were very polished for a so called first timer. He had some experience in TV, but this was his first film, and really big opportunity. Needless to say, he hit it out of the park.

    And thank you so much. It was a lot of fun!

    @ Nebular

    Thank homie! It was definitely one of the best films of '09. It was the kind of film you didn't expect much from, but then turned out to be one of your top movie experiences of the year. Those kind of films are the best.

  10. Excellent Z choice! Tallahassee is a BAMF. Period. I may have to put him up on the BAMF wall of fame. I love him to death. And I also love Jesse Eisenberg in this movie. As you said, he does a great job at playing the nerdy, quirky character. He kinda reminded me of a sort of Michael Cera character, except where Michael Cera has turned into this hyper-stylized "geeky" teenager, Jesse Eisenberg's character had a genuine humanity to him that was really endearing. Plus, Zombieland is just a fun as hell movie. Great review!

  11. Thanks! Yeah, I would definitely love to see Tallahassee take home your BAMF title. Your reasoning behind it would be equally BAMF worthy. He is such an effortlessly cool zombie slayin' mofo. Comparing Eisenberg to Cera is pretty apt. I think they both excel in their "geeky" comfort zones.

  12. This was a good movie - and I saw it in the perfect company of my brother-in-law and nephew - who made the viewing that much more fun - but keeping it real Matty - Quiz Show is now #25... ;)

  13. Nice. That is the perfect way to watch it. I watched it with a bunch of like-minded friends, and we had a blast.

    And you make a fair point. In terms of pure enjoyment, Zombieland eeks by Quiz Show. But in terms of a more technical appraisal—i.e. what's a "better" film—Quiz Show wins that argument. Whether one is 25 or 26 though, they both made my Alphabet. And that is one heck of an achievement, lol.