Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Movie Review: Zombieland

Movie Review: Zombieland

Woody Harrelson’s character in Zombieland, a man that goes by Tallahassee, is pretty simple minded. He likes to enjoy the little things in life, whether it’s driving a Cadillac, eating a Twinkie, or railing on a ravenous zombie with a banjo. Much like Tallahassee, Zombieland doesn’t have a whole lot of substance. However, again drawing a comparison with Harrelson’s character, that shouldn’t suggest that Zombieland isn’t a great deal of fun and a thoroughly entertaining movie. It is, simply said.

All that considered, Tallahassee is not the film’s main protagonist. It’s a young boy named Columbus, (played by Jesse Eisenberg, doing his best Michael Cera impression) who has learned to survive on his own by being extremely paranoid and self-dependent. A classic movie nerd, Columbus has had limited and awkward experiences with girls and does not show a great deal of self-confidence. Enter the supremely confident Tallahassee. You can probably guess how their relationship develops. Then two badass sisters, Wichita and Little Rock, (played respectively by super hot Emma Stone and super young Abigail Breslin) show up and serve to further develop Eisenberg’s character.

The plot isn’t terribly unique. Based on those previous character descriptions, you can figure out how things develop. Rather, the plot fills in gaps between the movie’s main draw: killing zombies. Yes, as you can probably guess, Zombieland is a fanboy’s fantasia—a symphony of blood, guts, and violence, all executed with a comedic tone. Hedge clippers, sledgehammers, and even pianos play a part in defeating zombies. The overly theatrical violence evokes feelings of Tarantino in some brief instances. Now, comparing Zombieland to a Tarantino is probably blasphemous, but the treatment of violence is definitely comparable. For a movie that could be rife with suspenseful scenes, Zombieland tends to avoid those moments and is more content as a grotesque comedy. To that end, the movie succeeds remarkably. The laughs come frequently and the violence is disgustingly hilarious. The movie certainly delivers on its promise.

So, if you’re looking for two hours of fun, zombie killing, and an unexpected (yet brilliant) celebrity cameo, Zombieland is the film for you. If you’re hoping for something else (I don’t know why you would be), then go next door and watch The Invention of Lying. From this reviewer’s perspective, Zombieland is a riot even if it doesn’t have much of a message. But to be fair, I didn’t really think I’d be getting one. It’s that simple.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Album Review: Revolution

If there’s one artist I wish people would take a chance on, it’s Miranda Lambert. For the third time in a row, she’s created a CD that expresses a range of emotions through incredible craftsmanship, witty lyrics, heartfelt singing, and slick production. Even more impressively, she manages to do this while maintaining one of the strongest artistic identities in the country genre. Her unique brand of defiant feminism makes another blond reality show winner seem like a cardboard cutout. No name-dropping here, but you can probably guess the reference.

The title of her third LP, Revolution, is both a misnomer and the perfect name for this album. Upon learning the title, I assumed I would be in store for the same defiance and rebellion Lambert’s superlative second disc, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, exhibited. Alas (or fortunately), Revolution takes Lambert’s sound in a softer and more mature direction. Granted, her personality shows through, but she’s grown up now. Love, loss, and relationships are treated with a greater degree of nuance and subtly. The lead single, Dead Flowers, laments a relationship that does not seem to quit. “I feel like the flowers in this vase/He just brought ‘em home one day/Ain’t they beautiful, he said/They’ve been here in the kitchen and the water’s turning gray/They’re sitting in the vase, but now they’re dead. Dead flowers.” It’s this sort of powerful imagery and creative writing that makes Revolution feel like a more even and complete CD than any of Lambert’s earlier efforts.

That being said, the only slight disappointment is that Revolution doesn’t contain any songs that are as dramatic as some of the best moments of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This time, there aren’t any bar fights, yet Lambert does manage to inject her special brand of spunk on a few numbers. Only Prettier is a kiss-off to some sort of rival. Perhaps is a political statement, perhaps it’s a message to a certain blond singer, and perhaps it’s just directed at anyone. The writing is good enough to translate the song to a variety of situations. Her choice to cover That’s The Way the World Goes Round also shows her feisty side.

I do have to say, I think I prefer Revolution for its artistic consistency. Two of the best songs Lambert has ever recorded appear here, yet they’re both subtle and elegant—characteristics that didn’t apply to her previous works. Heart Like Mine has Lambert accepting her flaws with dignity and a bit of humor and The House That Built Me is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year (or ever, for that matter). With Revolution, Lambert shows that she’s the real deal. This is one carnival ride actually worth taking. Get the hint?

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Savage Songs: Dead Flowers, Only Prettier, Heart Like Mine, The House That Built Me