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So much ha-ha horror

Hallelujah! Here’s a horror-comedy narrated with tongue planted firmly in cheek. First-time director Fleisher asserts that genre-bending can be as much fun as the proverbial barrelful of monkeys, writes Rashid Irani.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2010 23:13 IST

ZOMBIELAND

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg

Direction: Ruben Fleisher

Rating: HHHH

Hallelujah! Here’s a horror-comedy narrated with tongue planted firmly in cheek. First-time director Fleisher asserts that genre-bending can be as much fun as the proverbial barrelful of monkeys.

Cut, then, to a futuristic America overrun by ravenous flesh-eaters. Against all odds, a gangly 20-something (Eisenberg) has survived the zombie epidemic.

In his foolhardy mission to find his missing family, he teams up with a gung-ho gunman (Harrelson) and a pair of wacko sisters (Emma Stone-Abigail Breslin).

Next: the quartet combats a continentful of creepy-crawlies. Clichéd? Perhaps, but also outrageously funny. The outcome is cartoonishly gory and yet thought provoking while tackling the subject of family relationships.

Zombieland is remarkable, too, for a brilliant sequence featuring Bill Murray, playing himself, disguised as one of the ‘born-again’ dead.

Packed with belly laughs, the script also makes striking use of voice-over narration. Towards the climax, though, the goings-on become way over-the-top.

On the acting front, Woody Harrelson is nothing short of extraordinary. The young trio Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, are all likeable.

For its technical bravura and irreverent humour, Zombieland is a ticket to buy.

Those creature comforts

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

Cast: Max Records, Catherine Keener

Direction: Spike Jonze

Rating: HHHH

Neither of director Jonze’s first two features — Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation (2002) — made it to our multiplexes. Auspiciously, his adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children’s bestseller is here.

Now, collaborating with the novelist-scriptwriter, Dave Eggers, Jonze faithfully captures the spirit of Sendak’s illustrated book that was first published in 1963.

The Wizard of Oz-like odyssey of a nine-year-old boy (Records) features exotic creatures, stunning sets and a catchy background music score. It’s a feast for the senses, all right.

After a frenetically staged pre-credits sequence, the director transports us to the faraway island of the ‘Wild Things’. Upset with his single mom (Keener), the lad has escaped into the dreamscapes of his mind.

When his concerted efforts to lord over the animal kingdom (with a voice cast led by James Gandolfini) begin to fray, the little big hero decides it’s time to return home.

Atmospheric and intriguing, Where The Wild Things Are casts its own wondrous spell. Beguiling time guaranteed.

That Apple bug

NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU

Cast: Natalie Portman, Julie Christie, etc.

Direction: Yvan Attal, Mira Nair, Shekhar Kapur and others

Rating: HH

Those who remember Paris, je t’aime (2006) fondly are likely to thumb up this bite of the Big Apple. Others may be disappointed, though, with the hodgepodge of styles offered by the various eight-to-ten minute vignettes served by 10 directors.

The brief segments just don’t come together to make a common point. As disturbingly, native New Yorkers such as Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee are conspicuous by their absence in this tribute of sorts to Gothamville.

As it happens, the strongest episode comes from the French director Yvan Attal. It depicts the efforts of a smooth-talking author (the wonderful Ethan Hawke) to seduce an attractive Asian woman (Maggie Q.) on the sidewalk outside a restaurant.

In Mira Nair’s passable contribution, Natalie Portman is a Jewish bride-to-be who encounters a Jain diamond merchant (Irrfan Khan).

Working from a script by the late British director, Anthony Minghella, Shekhar Kapur overdoes a story about a retired diva (Julie Christie). Much too pretentious, this.

The most poignant episode features an aged couple (nonagenarians Cloris Leachman-Eli Wallach) who step out for a walk to Brighton Beach.

Surprisingly, the little-known director Joshua Marston conveys the magic and madness of living in New York City. Applause, please! It makes this movie worth a visit.