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Zombieland (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Zombieland on Blu-ray and DVDReviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Amber Heard, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


There’s nothing — and I mean nothing — I enjoy more than a good old-fashioned zombie movie. Something about these undead creatures is endearing to the tenth power. I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way either as these cold cadavers have remained hot in the hearts of the fans for decades, as demonstrated by some better than average box office when a really good one is released. Is Ruben Fleischer’s latest foray into the world of the flesh-eater one of those really classic films? We’ll get to all that in a bit.

Zombieland tells the tale of four unlikely friends (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin) who are basically sticking to their own set of rules as a means to survive an apocalypse that has left the dead walking the streets. I’d tell you more about the story, but that’s basically about it, and there lies Zombieland‘s biggest flaw … there’s no real meat on these bones.

Zombieland on Blu-ray and DVDThere’s no message. No subtext. Hell, there’s not even as much zombie action as there should have been. The undead mayhem is strong in the beginning and at the end, but the middle? It’s dry like the Sahara. The second act of the film, while home to quite possibly the best celebrity cameo of the last ten years, does nothing to make you care about the characters either and in the end only exposes the lack of an interesting plot even further.

Still, when the film is firing on all cylinders, it can be a damned good time with a few flashes of absolute brilliance strewn amongst the rapid-fire sight gags and carnage. There’s just nothing to really hold onto along the way. It kills me. As a zombie fan I should love this movie. In fact I want to love it. I just don’t. Shaun of the Dead this is not.

In terms of the DVD and the Blu-ray, while the DVD offers some solid sound and picture quality, the Blu is absolutely stunning. Really, folks, this is as good as it gets. The level of detail can be mind-blowing, especially during one of the film’s many slow motion scenes. You get it all! Every bit of shattered bone, feasted upon flesh, and squirting blood in incredible high definition goodness with barely a hint of background noise. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack also goes a long way in completing this truly excellent package. Wow. Just wow. This is what next-gen viewing is all about.

Zombieland on Blu-ray and DVDAs for the bonus goodies the Blu-ray is also home to three exclusives. First up is the Beyond the Graveyard picture-in-picture track, which illustrates a ton of behind-the-scenes goodies from set construction to interviews as you’re watching the flick. Also included are MovieIQ: BD-Live enabled and a digital copy for your portable players. In addition to that, if you’re watching on a PS3, you’ll have access via your cross media bar to download a new custom Zombieland background for your system. Pretty nifty!

The rest of the features appear on both the DVD and Blu-ray editions. We get a commentary with actors Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, director Ruben Fleischer, and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick that ends up being as much fun as the film itself, two above average behind-the-scenes featurettes clocking in at nearly a half-hour combined, seven deleted scenes, several included scenes that show off various stages of visual effects progression, and finally a chaser of five theatrical promo trailers. This is really, really good stuff that, despite the film’s flaws, contributes to making this one of the first must-buy packages of the year.

In the end, Zombieland is fun while it lasts but ultimately a pretty shallow experience. Still, you could certainly do worse, and some zombie fun is always better than no zombie fun. My best advice? Pop it in, grab a Twinkie, and turn your brain off.

Special Features

  • Commentary with actors Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, director Ruben Fleischer, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
  • In Search of Zombieland featurette
  • Zombieland is Your Land featurette
  • Visual Effects Progression Scenes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Promo Trailers

    Also, Only on Blu-ray High Def

  • Beyond the Graveyard Picture-in-Picture Track
  • MovieIQ: BD-Live enabled technology
  • Digital copy of the film for PSP®, PC and iTunes

    Film:

    3 out of 5

    Special Features:

    5 out of 5

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    Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product

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    DesolationStarring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols

    Directed by Sam Patton


    I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.

    The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.

    So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”

    As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.

    • Film
    2.5

    Summary

    Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.

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    User Rating 2.87 (15 votes)
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    Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political

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    Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside

    Directed by Eitan Gafny

    Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


    Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.

    Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.

    Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.

    The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.

    The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.

    So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.

    Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.

    The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.

    Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.

    • Children of the Fall
    2.5

    Summary

    While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.

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    User Rating 3.24 (21 votes)
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    Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama

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    Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein

    Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker

    Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


    One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.

    The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.

    Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.

    The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.

    While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.

    All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.

    • Madam Yankelova's Fine Literature Club
    3.5

    Summary

    Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.

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    User Rating 3.58 (19 votes)
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