New arrivals on DVD and Blu-ray for February 2 include the horror comedy Zombieland, starring Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg; the drama, Amelia, with Hilary Swank and Richard Gere; plus the romantic drama Love Happens.
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Zombieland was quite simply the feel good zombie movie of 2009, and now for 2010 it is definitely the first must-own DVD and Blu-ray releases.
Setting itself apart from you average zombie movie, director Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland is a fun, fresh, laugh-out-loud trip across a devastated America where the new national pastime is killing zombies. Somewhat in the vein of Shaun of the Dead, the film is a tongue-in-cheek romp that comes through with lots of laughs, and more than a little heart.
Starring Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee, the hard-living terrorizer of the dead, and Jesse Eisenberg as the young, but prepared Columbus, Zombieland is a what-if kind of film about the downfall of America at the hands of the undead.
Actually, that ‘undead’ part isn’t quite true since these zombies are apparently suffering from a much-mutated version of mad cow disease, but the effect is the same. The infected are disgusting, crazed, blood-thirsty creatures intent on eating the innards of anyone they can corner.
In this harsh reality, which has claimed pretty much everyone in the country, Tallahassee and Columbus set out together for no particular reason, and end up stumbling on two other survivors. What they didn’t count on was that these two, dubbed Wichita and Little Rock and played by Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin respectively, are actually con artists who don’t believe in trusting anyone but themselves.
Admittedly, the second half of the film is slightly weaker than the first, meandering a little as the film’s purpose gets muddied, but that problem is not quite noticeable thanks to a brilliant cameo by Bill Murray, and a big, blood-spattered, fun-filled finale.
The oddest part is that, for a zombie movie, the film is incredibly high spirited. There is a constant sense of doom around the corner, but that is eclipsed by the barrage of sight gags and jokes delivered by this clever group of actors, and the brilliant script that’s stuffed with witty dialogue and bloody good humour.
I also can’t help but mention the fact that Fleischer deserves huge credit for crafting such a wickedly fun movie, which has some big, wonderfully put together sets. His work with his lead actors, Harrelson and Eisenberg in particular, is the glue that ties this story together in the end. I also can’t praise Fleischer and his cinematographer Michael Bonvillain enough for the stunning slow-motion sequences that opens the film, which effectively sets the stage for the rest of the movie.
Extras included on the DVD package range from the excellent commentary track, featuring Harrelson, Eisenberg, Fleischer, and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, to a few making-of featurettes. There are also deleted scenes, and a featurette on making the visual effects for a couple of the key scenes.
Other new arrivals…
Starring: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston
Director: Mira Nair
A strong character, with huge charisma, Amelia Earhart was America’s sweetheart in the summer of 1937, and it seemed only fitting that she should make the history books with a trip that would become world-famous. Starring Hilary Swank as Amelia and Richard Gere as her husband and promoter, George P. Putnam, the film follows Amelia leading up to her fateful solo attempt to fly around the world. Urged on by Gene Vidal, her friend and long-time lover, played here by Ewan McGregor, the film attempts to give one of America’s most notable women the spotlight she deserves.
The film, which I would clearly call Oscar fodder, failed to inspire anyone while it was in theatres, and deserves no more recognition on DVD either. Critics have soundly lambasted the film for not only being clumsy, but also poorly acted, and trite.
“Amelia leaves you wondering how its abundantly gifted director, Mira Nair, and its Oscar-winning star, Hilary Swank, could have been complicit in such clumsiness,” Joe Morgenstern wrote for the Wall Street Journal.
While Peter Howell of the Toronto Star wrote, “Courting Oscar with unseemly lust, while also promoting Earhart as an early feminist, the film strives too hard to be profound and not enough to be merely human.”
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Dan Fogler, Judy Greer
Director: Brandon Camp
Lastly this week, Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston star in a romantic drama about two somewhat broken people who can’t keep their eyes off each other.
Eckhart plays self-help author Dr. Burke Ryan, who speaks to sold-out seminars, but can’t accept his own advice it seems, even as he works on a major deal that could change his life. Aniston on the other hand is a florist who stumbles into the good doctor’s life. Even though she has essentially sworn off men, she can’t help but feel drawn to him, but can they forget about their pasts long enough to find something together?
Looking across the board at the major critics, Love Happens is one of the worst reviewed films from the past few weeks, not to mention when it came out in theatres. The only film with worse reviews recently was Whiteout.
Robert Abele from the Los Angeles Times called it a “superficial romance” suffering from “clichéd insipidity” that he called “irksome.” While Brian Lowry wrote for Variety, “Excise the love story, and there’s a pretty good movie buried within Love Happens struggling to get out, mostly to little avail.”