Film Reviews

Fido, a Romantic Zomedy

Hello blogging compadres!  I’ll be heading to merry old England for a couple of weeks and probably won’t post much while I’m away.  I realized my last couple of posts have been about movies I’ve hated, so I thought I’d leave you on a positive note (for once) with a movie I adore.  Part satire, part romantic comedy.  With zombies (of course).

The Film:

Fido

Where to Watch:

Netflix, Prime

The Premise:

A boy forms an unlikely friendship with the family’s new pet zombie, Fido, in an alternate 1950s.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film opens with a 1950s-style educational video about the Zombie Wars. The discovery that zombies could be controlled through remote-controlled collars made by Zomcon turned the Zombie Wars around. When zombies wear the collar, they become docile servants, and thus can be trained to perform basic household chores. Zomcon also provides burials complete with a head coffin, guaranteeing a burial you won’t wake up from.

The educational video alone makes this movie worth watching.
The educational video alone makes this movie worth watching.

Like all 1950s-set movies made after Grease (and, in my opinion, including Grease [shudder]), there is something dark and sinister lurking beneath the seemingly perfect suburban life. Timmy, our protagonist, and the other elementary school children receive training on loading and firing guns. He can’t help noticing Cindy, the daughter of Zomcon’s new security chief, is a total badass. Timmy, on the other hand, is pretty terrible at target practice, which earns him some teasing from the class bullies, two Zomcon cadets.

Though a zombie is a status symbol, Timmy’s father, Bill is strongly opposed to having a zombie after traumatic experiences in the Zombie Wars (it’s later revealed that he had to kill his father at the age of 11 when he turned into a zombie). However, in an effort to impress the new neighbors, Timmy’s mother, Helen acquires a zombie, the titular Fido (played by Billy Connolly!).

At first, Timmy treats Fido like a servant or pet with no feelings. Soon, however, Fido is Timmy’s only companion, as he has no friends at school and his parents have little time for him.

Screenshot_2014-10-22-23-24-46
This has to be the most adorable zombie movie ever made.

One day, Timmy takes Fido to the park. Fido defends him when the bullies arrive and threaten to shoot him with a BB gun. Timmy and Fido play catch, which ends in tragedy when Fido’s collar malfunctions, leading him to kill and eat Mrs. Henderson, the elderly woman who lives across the street. Luckily, when Timmy finds him, his collar has switched back on.

That night, Mrs. Henderson rises and kills a man out walking his dog, beginning a minor zombie outbreak. Timmy returns to the park and manages to find and decapitate Mrs. Henderson with a shovel, burying her under a flowerbed.

Fido’s collar stops functioning again later that night, and Timmy is trying to calm him down when Mr. Theopolis appears and helps Timmy fix the collar. One of the more eccentric neighbors, Mr. Theopolis, used to work for Zomcon. His zombie, Tammy, is pretty much his girlfriend, though Zomcon discourages people from getting overly attached to their zombies. I think he gets turned on whenever she tries to eat him?

Later, Timmy goes on a long walk with Fido through a meadow when they encounter the bullies, who are armed. They tie Timmy and Fido to trees and break Fido’s collar. Their plan is to set Fido free and kill him before he reaches Timmy in an effort to paint themselves as heroes; however, one is shot accidentally, and Fido kills the other. Fido returns to Timmy and tries to set him free, but is too clumsy to unknot the ropes. Fido brings Helen to help.

When she notices his collar isn’t working and wonders why, he makes significant eye contact. I think this may be the first romantic zombie movie. Helen and Fido arrive, locking the zombie boys in a shed and setting it on fire (I promise this movie is much funnier than it sounds. If you have a very twisted sense of humor like me).

Nothing brings a family together like killing zombies and lighting their corpses on fire.
Nothing brings a family together like killing zombies and lighting their corpses on fire.

Meanwhile, Zomcon discovers the body of Mrs. Henderson in the park, and Cindy’s dad, Mr. Bottoms realizes Fido is responsible for the outbreak. Fido is taken away to be put down.

Bill tries to give Timmy some words of wisdom, but this backfires horribly because he is the typical 1950s male who doesn’t know how to talk about emotions. “I know when you’re a kid you feel things. A lot of…feelings. But you have to get over that.” TRUTH. At this point, Bill gives up and gives Timmy his first handgun.

Cindy, who has befriended Timmy, tells him that Fido is still alive in Zomcon headquarters. They enlist the help of Mr. Theopolis to break Fido out. Mr. Bottoms discovers what Timmy has done and locks him outside of the fence, in the wild zone. Meanwhile, Bill discovers Timmy’s plan and rushes to Zomcon to help him. After Mr. Bottoms shoots Bill, Fido attacks and kills Mr. Bottoms.

Bill, who had a mortal fear of becoming a zombie, gets a funeral complete with head coffin as he requested. Mr. Bottoms becomes a zombie and a much nicer human being.

And they all lived happily ever after.  Or whatever it is zombies do.
And they all lived happily ever after. Or whatever it is zombies do.

The Critique:

The concept sounds terrible, but the satire and dark humor of this movie work really well.

It’s also interspersed with these 1950s-style commercials for horrific things like funerals with head coffins and the Zomcon version of Life Alert. “The elderly—they seem friendly enough, but can you really trust them? No.” That’s why you need Life Alert, which contacts Zomcon as soon as the heart stops.

The only thing that still puzzles me about this film is the logic behind Zomcon’s cover-ups. I suppose in a satirical film, government cover-ups can occur for no apparent reason, but it was still an unsatisfactory element of the movie. After the outbreak at Zomcon, the news reports that a random security guard was responsible. Why blame the security guard? To maintain the status quo and uphold the idea that Zomcon always has its shit together?

Maybe I’m overanalyzing. But that’s unlikely because I NEVER do that. EVER. It just felt like there was some kind of conspiracy theory in the script that was either cut or never fully developed.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther4/5 Pink Panther heads

I flipping love this movie. It’s like Lassie or maybe Pleasantville with zombies. What’s not to love?

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Film Reviews

Gummo, or: Dead Cats Will Haunt Me

The Film:

Gummo

Where to Watch:

If you can’t find this at your library, you may want to give up unless you can find it online. I would not advise you to rent this movie unless you are very comfortable with looking at dead cats (none of which appear in this post).

The Premise:

I love the IMDb summary, which reads “Lonely residents of a tornado-stricken Ohio town wander the deserted landscape trying to fulfill their boring, nihilistic lives.”

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

I know I say this a lot, but this is a strange one.  It’s closer to a series of vignettes than a film with any sort of traditional narrative structure.

The film follows Solly and his friend Tummler, as well as some other post-1974 tornado residents of Xenia.

At the beginning of the movie, Solly drowns a cat; then he and Tummler engage in some hardcore bicycling—just this extended scene in which they bicycle around as heavy metal music plays. When they arrive at their destination, they trade a bag of dead animals for cash, which they use to buy milkshakes.

BICYCLING IS HARDCORE.
BICYCLING IS HARDCORE.

Then Tummler pays to have sex with this mentally and possibly physically disabled woman. Solly goes in to see her as well, and she tells him his fortune: “Your wife will die in a hay fire.”

Whatever happened to "Your life line is very long" or "Avoid strangers with one eye"???
Whatever happened to “Your life line is very long” or “Avoid strangers with one eye”???

Solly and Tummler then hang a dead cat from a tree and beat it with sticks.

Later, Solly is working out with weights he has made by taping a bunch of utensils together. He goes into the basement and lifts while listening to “Like a Prayer.” His mother comes downstairs and tells him not to stunt his growth by lifting. She then starts tap dancing and trying to make Solly smile.

“If you don’t smile, I’m going to kill you.”  It's like a cripplingly depressing version of Billy Elliot.
“If you don’t smile, I’m going to kill you.” It’s like a cripplingly depressing version of Billy Elliot.

Meanwhile, Tummler is spending time with his father’s group of friends. There is a lot of arm wrestling, which becomes wrestling in general, complete with breaking chairs.

Solly and Tummler reunite to break into another boy’s house, who is their competition in the killing animals department.  The boy’s grandmother is resting there hooked up to a machine. Tummler turns off the machine and she dies; in his words, “She’s always been dead.”

Other people of interest(?) in Xenia include Helen, her blonde older sisters, and their black cat, Foot Foot. Early in the film, Tummler is going to kill the cat, but Solly stops him, as it is a house cat. Helen brings the cat inside, and the sisters hope the cat isn’t pregnant because they’ll have to drown any kittens she births. The two older sisters’ favorite hobby is to watch this guy with a really strange haircut play tennis.

We also have Bunny Ears, a kid who wanders around wearing nothing but shorts and bunny ears, never speaking. He likes to hang around on a bridge above the highway and spit onto the traffic below. Apparently he also enjoys playing the accordion in public bathrooms. He later makes out with the older two blonde sisters in a pool in the rain.

It's not possible for me to add any insightful commentary to this image.
It’s not possible for me to add any insightful commentary to this image.

Towards the end of the movie, Foot Foot goes missing, and the girls ask people to look out for her.  Solly and Tummler are practicing loading their guns while aiming at a dead cat:  Foot Foot.  At the end, Bunny Ears runs toward the camera holding the dead cat.

RIP Foot Foot.
RIP Foot Foot.

The Critique:

I was already nervous about watching this film because of the IMDb discussion boards (even though you can dismiss the IMDb discussion boards 90% of the time).  A few of the top subjects include: “This is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen,” “Why did you decide to watch Gummo?” and “how graphic is the animal violence?”

If you are opposed to killing cats and animal cruelty in general, this may not be your movie. In fact, if you have ever walked by a cat without kicking it or immediately thinking, “Motherfucker needs to die,” you may want to pass on this film.

I, personally, don’t ever want to see another dead cat. No more Nature specials, no more Narnia, no more The Fly, no more Lion King.

The Rating:

Small Pink Panther - Angry 1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads

I’m going with 1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads because a) I didn’t understand this movie and b) the Pink Panther would probably be opposed to the amount of cat killing in this film.

Film Reviews

Alex & Emma: Or, Personal Goals Are My Kryptonite

It might be wise for me to find every instance in which I proclaimed to the world my goal of updating this blog once a week, but I have chosen the (slightly) easier alternative of profusely apologizing to my readers and myself with no intention whatsoever to change my behavior.

This evening’s film is part of the oft-neglected “Remembrance of Films Past” series: Alex & Emma.  I LOVED this movie when it first came out. So let’s evaluate it (tear it apart) critically.

The Film:

Alex & Emma

Where to Watch:

Watch on Youtube; borrow from the library (though I acknowledge that it could be embarrassing to be seen walking around in public with this movie); die slightly from shame that you already own this movie (coincidentally, I have a friend who is getting rid of a copy of this movie. Free to a good home. Or a not-so-good home). The takeaway: don’t pay to watch this.

The Premise:

Luke Wilson plays Alex, a writer with a gambling problem, who must write a novel in 30 days or Cuban thugs will murder him. Alex hires Emma, a stenographer to help him. Yes, A STENOGRAPHER.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Let’s start with the credits. I actually really like the way the credits are animated and wish the entire film had been done this way. Sadly, it was not.

1

The movie begins with the aforementioned Cuban thugs breaking in to Alex’s apartment and, among other things, LIGHTING HIS COMPUTER ON FIRE. They also dangle him out of the window and give him 30 days to write a novel, which will cover the cost of his gambling debt…or else. I have trouble believing Alex would really be paid so much for a novel that he would make so much money that he could pay off his debts and live happily ever after (though if this is the case, WHO IS THIS PUBLISHER AND WHERE CAN I FIND THEM???).

3
This movie was released in 2003, so he’s burning like $3,000 right there.

One of the Cuban thugs is apparently played by a man named Chino XL. Spinoff about the Cuban mafia? It would have been so much better than this particular movie.

Anyway….the Cuban thugs are going to kill Alex because HE CAN’T WRITE A GODDAMN NOVEL. I think this may be a recurring nightmare for writers who never meet their deadlines.

Apparently Alex wrote a best-selling first novel entitled Love Is Always Having to Say You’re Sorry (this was perhaps the only detail of the film that I found mildly entertaining). Since he no longer has a computer, Alex hires a stenographer to help him write his novel (OBVIOUSLY).

The movie then switches between Alex and Emma writing the novel/ falling in love in bland, generic rom-com fashion and Alex, Emma, and Sophie Marceau playing out the plot of the novel, set in the 1920s.

I won’t go into the details of the plot because it is pretty much the most generic romantic comedy plot you can think of. 1920s Alex falls in love with the beautiful French heiress even though girl-next-door-type 1920s Kate Hudson would be better for him. Meanwhile, present-day Alex and Emma bicker, but only because they’re falling in looooooooooooooooooooooooove and secretly giving each other significant stares.

6
Emma’s odd but charming quirk is that she reads the end of a book first to determine whether it will be worth her time. As a book nerd, social acceptance of this concept is a recurring nightmare for me.

Probably the major problem with this film is they are not writing a particularly good novel. There’s a lot of deliberately bad writing. Then there’s Kate Hudson putting on a Swedish accent, then German, then Spanish. It’s so very painful.

5
Her accents are about as convincing as you imagine.

The Critique:

I don’t understand why I liked this movie so much.

Possibly because Luke Wilson is really pretty in period clothing.

4
If you want to talk about celebrities who do not age…

Here are a few major hang-ups for me regarding this movie:

Maybe Alex and Emma should have been putting on a play? I’m not convinced this would have made the film significantly better, but it seems like a generally more successful/interesting premise for a movie than writing a novel. Like Moulin Rouge? Or Shakespeare in Love? The Muppets?

Another significant flaw of this movie (and perhaps I’m just projecting my own personal experience with deadlines): if I had 30 days to write a novel with another person, I don’t think I would fall in love with my collaborator. I would probably claw his/her eyes out.

Plus let’s consider the financial issues that plagued me throughout the entire film. If Alex is a starving artist with a gambling problem and still has a really nice fucking apartment in Boston, I have a new career goal. And he gets $125,000 for his novel. WHAT. HOW CAN I MAKE THIS MY LIFE??? Do I have to fall in love with Kate Hudson? Fuck.

Also Alex’s gambling problem basically disappears. Just like in real life. Ha…

The Rating:

Small Pink Panther - Angry 1/5 Angry Pink Panther heads

This wasn’t even a fun bad movie to watch. I kept checking the case to see how long it was, hoping that 96 minutes on the back was a typo, just praying that it would all end soon.

Probably one of the worst movies of Luke Wilson’s career, which (I’m sorry, Luke Wilson) is saying something (and Kate Hudson’s…which is really saying something).  It’s for sure the worst of Rob Reiner’s. Yeah…Princess Bride Rob Reiner. THAT Rob Reiner. This movie is even sadder now.

If I ever made you watch this movie, I sincerely apologize. I deserve to be defenestrated.