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The Undead Comedy Hour 

If you quease easily, you're going to miss the funniest movie of the year

  • Zombieland


Opening Friday, Oct. 16, is the film adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are* , *based on Maurice Sendak's beloved children's book. Max journeys to the land of Wild Things, where he becomes their new ruler, but soon finds that relationships are harder then he thought. Expect to sit in a theater full of weepy adults. Rated PG for adventure action. 94m. At Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

Jamie Foxx plays an upstanding family man whose wife and daughter are murdered in Law Abiding Citizen. When the killer receives a light sentence, Foxx's character plots his revenge against both murderer and the lawyer who defended him. Rated R for violence, torture and language. 122m. At Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

When Michael returns home from military school, he finds that his mother has fallen in love with another man in Stepfather. Is the new love interest hiding a dark secret? Rated PG-13 for violence and mature subject matter. 102m. At Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.


ZOMBIELAND: The flesh-eating undead are not, understandably, every movie-goer's cup of tea. There are plenty of folks who will peruse their local movie listings, and -- whether due to assumptions about quality or a queasy stomach -- won't bother going past the first six letters of the title Zombieland. And that's a shame, because they're going to miss what may turn out to be the funniest American comedy of 2009.

It's sort of axiomatic at this point that theatrical audiences don't tend to like the genre-mixing equivalent of somebody sticking chocolate in their peanut butter. In 2004, the hilarious horror-comedy mashup Shaun of the Dead managed to scrape together only $13 million at the box office during its U.S. run -- or less than Soul Plane made that same year, if you want some really depressing perspective. We get the predictable, easily marketable nonsense we deserve. Heaven forbid smart filmmakers should be able to take gore and use it as seasoning for something where you're going to laugh yourself stupid.

Zombieland starts with a familiar apocalyptic premise: Some strange virus has swept through the population, turning 99 percent of humans into relentless, flesh-hungry beasts. But a few survivors try to make their way, including a neurotic college student known as Columbus (Adventureland's Jesse Eisenberg) because that's the hometown he's trying to make his way back to. That geographic-name notion comes from Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the taciturn road warrior Columbus encounters, but who doesn't think it's wise to form attachments. And his philosophy makes sense when the next two people they encounter -- sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) -- promptly con them out of their car and their guns.

The opening minutes of Zombieland suggest that director Ruben Fleischer is going to crank up the high-energy nihilism, with the credits and onscreen captions becoming physical objects bumped and shattered by the characters as they chomp and/or get chomped. Columbus' narration focuses on the many, many survival rules he follows, with Eisenberg brilliantly capturing a Type-A personality whose anxieties have been granted legitimacy -- particularly when the hot girl he's been too insecure to talk to ultimately tries to eat him for breakfast.

But while the first act offers plenty of bile-drooling, fat-chewing, no-personal-hygiene-having antagonists, they disappear almost entirely for the middle third of the film. The zombies become little more than the set-up for why these four characters are traveling together, and the rest is turned over to the snappy line readings from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's razor-sharp script. And while plenty of the humor comes from hip dialogue, there's also great stuff in the way it's presented, like a montage capturing the mundane road-trip chatter with which our heroes get to know one another. By the time Columbus and company reach Los Angeles -- and an encounter with an A-list movie star whose name you'll have to look for elsewhere -- the humor is flying much faster than blood or bullets.

And then it all kicks into high gear again for the amusement-park set finale. Fleischer cross-cuts between locations in a way that dampens some of the tension, but he provides more than enough effective set-pieces -- including the two sisters trapped on a free-fall ride -- to make up for it. Unless a zombie falling like a melon to its splattering demise troubles you deeply, this isn't the kind of stuff that'll haunt your dreams.

Are there places to nitpick Zombieland's scenario? Oh, sure: There's no addressing whether the infection has spread worldwide, nor is there an explanation for why electricity and gas continue to be available, nor is there an answer for why the flesh-feasting menaces don't just eat one another. That, however, is the kind of stuff you worry about in a movie that's taking itself seriously. This one simply wants to have a laugh-out-loud blast with the end of the world, the kind that actually makes me hope that there could be a sequel in the future.

And that, of course, would require people to come out and see it -- even those who might ordinarily cringe at a little horror getting into their comedy. Rated R. 88m. At Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

-- Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly


9. In a post-apocalyptic world, a group of like beings band together to take on the machines intent on their extinction. Rated PG-13. 79m. At the Movies, Mill Creek.

ALL ABOUT STEVE. Sandra Bullock makes crosswords for a living and is set up on a blind date with cameraman Thomas Haden Church. Hilarity ensues. Rated PG-13. 99m. At the Movies and Mill Creek.

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY. Michael Moore vs. Wall Street. Who will surrender first? Rated R. 127m. At Broadway and the Minor.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS. Based on the beloved children's book where it rains food. The cure for the recession? Rated PG. 90m. At Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

COUPLES RETREAT. Vince Vaughn leads a group of married friends to a tropical island resort in Couples Retreat. They soon discover that participation in the hotel's couples therapy is not optional. Rated PG-13. 108m. At Broadway and Mill Creek.

DISTRICT 9. What will humanity do with the aliens of South Africa? Rated R. 120m. At the Movies.

FAME. Musical remake about high school students who want to "make it big." Lots of singing. Rated PG. 107m. At the Movies.

INFORMANT! Matt Damon gains weight and plays a whistleblower who exposes his company's price fixing scheme to the FBI. Rated R. 108m. At Broadway.

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS. The gang makes a rescue mission for Sid that takes them into a mysterious underground world where they have close encounters with dinos and generally run amuck. Rated PG. 87 m. At The Movies.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. A special unit of Jewish-American soldiers is sent behind enemy lines to spread shock and awe among German troops in Nazi-occupied France in Quentin Tarantino's latest film. 153m. At Broadway.

INVENTION OF LYING. In a world where no one has ever lied, someone starts lying. Hilarity ensues. Rated PG-13. 88m. At Broadway and Mill Creek.

JENNIFER'S BODY. Megan Fox stars as a demon-possessed high-schooler with an insatiable appetite. Rated R. 103m. At the Movies.

JULIE & JULIA. Two chicks for the price of a flick! N. Ephron intersperses Julia Child biopic with tale of bored 30-something New Yorker seeking inspiration. Rated PG-13. 123m. At the Movies.

LOVE HAPPENS. Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart jump on the romantic-comedy train. Rated PG-13. 109m. At Fortuna.

PANDORUM. Astronauts awaken on their spaceship unsure of their whereabouts and mission but become aware of a deep rumbling emanating from somewhere aboard. Rated R. 106m. At the Movies.

PONYO. "The Little Mermaid" through the lens of Japanese animation Rated G. 103m. At the Movies.

SURROGATES. Bruce Willis is an FBI agent with a murder to solve in a future utopia where people are represented in society by robotic representations. Rated PG-13. 89m. At the Movies, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

TOY STORY & TOY STORY 2 IN 3D. Double-feature. How much Pixar can you handle, folks? Test your limits. Rated G. 183m. At Broadway.

WHIP IT. Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut with a Roller Derby flick. Sweet. Rated PG-13. 113m. At Broadway.

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Scott Renshaw

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