SO you’re back from your FIFO stint at the mines, and wondering what to watch at the movies? Here are some of the current and recently-released films you might want to catch at the cinemas or on a DVD.
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP
Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone
IT’S hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the original Zombieland broke new ground with a hilarious jaunt through the undead apocalypse.
Remarkably, the four principal cast members return for the sequel looking hardly worse for wear, but they’re certainly wiser, having accrued either Oscar nominations or, in Stone’s case, winning the coveted award itself in the intervening decade.
Thankfully, you don’t need to have seen the first chapter – or if you’ve forgotten what transpired – to understand the basic premise of Eisenberg’s nerdy Columbus, Harrelson’s redneck Tallahasee and Stone (Wichita) and Breslin (Little Rock)’s sister act banding together in a world infected with zombies.
The movie focuses on the group’s cross-country trip to find Little Rock, who ventures out on her own after meeting guitar-playing, Kumbaya-singing Berkeley.
The climax takes place in a hippie peace-loving commune called Babylon, where weapons and survival skills are traded in for drum circles, patchouli, and bags of weed, and where Little Rock and Berkeley have escaped to.
When the enclave is attacked on by hordes of zombies, there’s no paucity of carnage in the ensuing free-for-all – nor in fact, throughout the entire movie – with plenty of Matrix-esque slo-mo gunplay, rotting dead walkers and multiple exploding heads aimed at raising the mirth level.
And therein lies perhaps a moral conundrum: is it right to so blatantly slam the peaceniks while glorifying, and enjoying, the violence championed by Tallahassee? Can society just passively sit back and accept an attitude that makes light of such extreme aggression?
But then again, people who don’t get the over-the-top scenes of brutality and bloodshed for the exaggerated caricatures that they are, probably won’t see this movie anyway.
Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro
THE movie delves into the making of the madman who will become the arch nemesis of everyone’s favourite pointy-eared caped crusader.
Arthur Fleck is a struggling comedian beset by some inner demons and a Tourette’s-level compulsion to laugh at random moments, and who lives with his infirm mother in a Gotham City wracked by crime, class warfare and increasing dissatisfaction with the law.
During the day, Arthur ekes out a living as a rent-a-clown at an agency where one of his peers loans him a handgun for protection.
When he is assaulted by a group of drunk men on the subway, the firearm is used to full effect, empowering him and enabling his dark alter ego to emerge.
The rage is fuelled as misfortune upon misfortune falls upon him through no fault of his own, including discovering that he may be the illegitimate, abandoned son of wealthy businessman Thomas Wayne (who, of course, is father of Bruce, AKA Batman himself).
The metamorphosis into madman is complete after Arthur is invited onto late night TV host Murray Franklin’s show as a guest, during which he liberates his pent-up frustrations of the system to full effect, making him a champion of protesting and angry disenfrachised communities.
It’s no exaggeration to claim Joaquin’s performance as a career-defining one. The actor never flinches, as he brings Arthur to life via contortions and convulsions in a nuanced dance that hovers through humanity to a state of virtuoso insanity.
This is not a happy movie. But any discomfort or objections to the film will derive from the uncomfortable realisation, that most people, under provocation, are capable of some pretty terrible things.
Will Smith x2
THE movie casts Will Smith as two characters: retired hitman Henry Brogan, and a younger clone of himself who has been tasked with killing him after his assassin agency turns against him.
The whole novelty of the film revolves round the two versions of the same actor, who are so equally matched that their fight scenes together end up being brutal stalemates.
The current special effects repository available to director Ang Lee ensures that the clone looks truly like a genuine fresh prince from Bel-Aire, while the high frame rates employed make the action scenes shine in all their glory.
Everything is clear and incandescent, whether it’s a rooftop shootout, spectacularly choreographed parkour ballets or a motorcycle chase in broad daylight, or a savage brawl in skull-lined catacombs lit only by the flashlight on a gun.
The let-down is the script in general, which is composed of oft-risible dialogue, cursory characterisation, and tired international espionage plots: while the premise may have been fresh in the 90s, it’s now weary to see yet another adventure of a once-decorated hero pursued by his former government employers.
Still, it’s a fun bit of popcorn entertainment, and the tricks and tech make this movie worth the price of admission alone, even if the substance doesn’t quite approach the grandeur of the style.