Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and a zombie / image courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Our weekly round up of cinema reviews
Zombieland solves the slow vs fast zombie argument by making them slow, and then speed up when they’re hungry. And there’s a lot of zombies around to test out this solution since a virus swept through 99% of the human race. Four survivors meet up and make their way to Los Angeles, where there’s a cameo that’s supposedly secret (but very obvious if you go to, say, the IMDB); a cameo “so daffy, so self-effacing and so perfectly pitched that it virtually shuts the book on any other celebrity cameos from hereon in” (Empire, 4 stars). And of the rest of the film? It’s a “smartly-written horror parody that draws comparisons with Shaun of the Dead and the Scream series” (Times, 3 stars) and “a very ridiculous film which is also a treat” according to the Guardian (4 stars).
Hold on to your seats before you jiggle off them in excitement – a new Pixar movie is here. Up “is, without doubt, the best movie produced this year” says the Evening Standard (5 stars). No longer concerned with toys, cars or superheroes, Pixar turn their attentions to a grumpy old man, determined to live his dreams of adventure before he dies. He’s accidentally joined by an overenthusiastic boy scout, a talking dog and a giant, multicoloured bird. “It teems with fabulous visual jokes, some of which fly past so quickly that you’ve barely time to laugh before another one is up and running” (Independent, 5 stars) and has “one of the most extraordinarily openings to a film, far less an animated film, ever to have been crafted” (Telegraph, 5 stars) – we’ve merely read a description of the opening and we’re a bit misty-eyed.
Peter Strickland is “an auteur from the UK who’s sprung, confident and fully formed, out of nowhere” (Guardian, 4 stars). He used his own money to create Katalin Varga, a revenge thriller set in Hungary. It’s “quietly mesmerising… [with a] slow-burning tone” (Times, 4 stars) and an “odd and unsettling atmosphere… largely due to the haunting photography of the landscape” (Independent, 4 stars).
It’s almost painful to be sitting here typing about the new Jennifer Aniston film Love Happens. She plays the – surprise – kooky love interest to Aaron Eckhart’s self-help guru who – surprise – needs help dealing with his own private trouble. It’s a “feeble romantic drama [that] purports to have serious moments about confronting the pain of grief. After wading through them, you may wish to confront some pain too” winces the Evening Standard (who seem to have been too irritated to award a star rating). Empire would have liked to focus more on Eckhart’s character; as it is, “the romance feels like an intrusion” (2 stars), while the Telegraph is just appalled by this “ghoulish claptrap” (1 star).
Shane Meadows shot Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, a virtually no-budget mockmentary over five days. “Infectious juvenile humour, plus a charismatic star turn from Paddy Considine… more than compensate for the shortcomings of this ramshackle experiment” reckons the Times (3 stars). Le Donk is a roadie trying to get a good live slot for his rapper protégé while separating from his pregnant girlfriend (the always fantastic Olivia Colman). “The film is slight, but there’s enough there for Meadows to create a plausible narrative arc with solid laughs along the way” (Guardian, 3 stars); “a warm and improvised comedy” agrees the Telegraph (3 stars).
We’re a bit worried about the bees, and since it’s unlikely that Doctor Who identified the real cause of colony collapse, the Co-op are distributing the documentary Vanishing of the Bees. It “doesn’t help itself with a sickly-sweet American female voiceover and heart-tugging, piano-led soundtrack” (Empire, 3 stars), but “you’ll probably end up worrying as much as [beekeepers] do” (Evening Standard, 3 stars). However, even though the causes of CCD are still unknown, the film “builds a convincing case against monocultures and pesticides” (Telegraph, 3 stars). Remember your movie bad science, kids.
Going Solo is an “odd-couple drama bringing optimism and resignation together in a fight to the death” (Independent, 3 stars). Solo is a Senegalese cab driver in North Carolina, disconcerted by what he suspects is a suicide plan by a retiree, so he works his way into the older man’s life. “Subtle and unflinching, this is genuine and charming” says Empire (4 stars), while the Guardian admires the way it is “entirely distinctive: about friendship and perhaps also about the impossibility of ever really knowing another person” (4 stars).
Died Young, Stayed Pretty is an “indulgent, cut-and-paste documentary” (Guardian, 2 stars) about poster art, “collaging ephemera and rooting through old magazines to find alternative graphics for bands new and established” (Telegraph, 3 stars). Unfortunately, the Times feels it “lacks any journalistic sense of the basic information the audience needs in order to grasp what’s happening” (1 star).
Next week: Heath Ledger’s final film in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and relationship shenanigans in Couples Retreat.