Sunday, May 23, 2010


Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009) [4]

I normally could care less about horror movies. It is by far my least favorite genre and it takes something other than just blood and guts to get me to see one. I was led to believe that Zombieland was a bit different, that it took an ironic wink at the the zombie film subgenre. Not really. It has all the ridiculous gore that seems to be pre-requisite with horror films these days and a few amusing moments but not much else. The problem here is the humor, which is so self-amusing in its writing ("Hey! Let's make the characters go to Bill Murray's house so maybe Bill Murray can be in this!", the stupid rules that keep popping up) that it creates far too many groan-inducing scenes for me. Most of it is a whirlwind of picking off zombies and half-hearted stabs of emotional development as the main characters come to grips with what this world of zombies have left them. That is the film's greatest lost opportunity, to take a serious examination of these characters and meld them into the horror genre, but it does not. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg have some fairly good moments together early on but as the body count increases, that fades away. What makes something like Dawn of the Dead (the Romero original, the only horror film I think rises above genre) is that it actually has a serious critique underneath its splatter. Zombieland takes moments that one could think have this possibility but then let it fitter away in mostly weak humor.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Listening Post - May 2010

The next couple of weeks find a glut of new releases, many from some of my favorite groups. The National and The Hold Steady albums will definitely be contenders for album of the year. Next week will also see a remastered re-release of Exile On Main Street, which I think is one of the best albums ever made. A lot to keep track of.

The National - High Violet
The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever
Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring
Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away

As for Josh Ritter, the new album is a little bit of a letdown. It's still quite good but even after quite a few listens, it doesn't seem to have the three or four fantastic songs that his previous two albums had. I went down to Baltimore to see him live last Monday, and even in the live format, where his material often sounds better, most of the new songs feel a little disappointing ('Change of Time' and 'Rattling Locks' the two biggest exceptions). I still like the album quite a bit but it seems like it was bound to suffer from letdown syndrome. As for the crowd, it was quite different from what I experience up here in Central New York. Almost no chatter through quiet material and a good majority of the crowd knew all of Josh's material. It could be that Ritter is a cult act with a devoted following (part true) or that people down there actually know how to behave at a concert (part true also). Anyway, it was one of the better concert experiences of the year.