The Ruling Class (****)

Posted on October 31st, 2009 in Engineerboy,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy
Jesus Christ, it's the 14th Earl of Gurney!

Jesus Christ, it's the 14th Earl of Gurney!

I am amazed that I had never heard of this film until very recently.  We watched it last night (via Netflix Watch Instantly), and it was one of the most profoundly absurd, amusing, and disturbing films I’ve ever seen.  If you think you may one day have any plans to see it, my advice is to stop reading reviews right now, and come back after you’ve seen it.

Part of the power of this film is that it starts out as what feels like a quirky little comedy, then evolves into a sort of absurdist satire of the English class system, takes a turn into the blackest of black comedy, and then…well…let’s just say that the longer you watch the stranger it gets, until the end when it will elicit from the viewer an involuntary “WTF?!?”, whether one likes the film or not.

And we liked it, very much.  Well, as much as a disturbing move can be liked, that is.  However, I wouldn’t give it a blanket recommendation to every potential viewer, because it’s just so…bizarre.  I’ll put it this way, if you think that a film that is sort of a combination of Eraserhead, Monty Python, A Clockwork Orange, Murder by Death, and Jesus Christ: Superstar sounds intriguing, then this might be a film for you.

The key ingredient that allows this film’s radical elements to coalesce into a near-masterpiece is the transcendent performance of Peter O’Toole, for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (losing to Marlon Brando in The Godfather).  He enters the film sporting both the appearance of, and belief that he is, Jesus Christ.  When asked how he knows that he is God, he responds, “Simple. When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself.”

If you find that quote witty and sublime, you might enjoy this film.  If you find it blasphemous and/or offensive then you may want to skip this movie altogether, because it only gets worse (or better, depending on one’s perspective) from there.  In another example, while reciting his marriage vows he promises to love his bride “…from the bottom of my soul to the tip of my penis.”  Again, if you think you could find that line funny in the proper context, this might be a film you would enjoy.

The basic storyline is that, after his father’s (jaw dropping) death, Jack (Peter O’Toole) returns to inherit his vast estate and title as the 14th Earl of Gurney.  Jack has spent the last few years in and out of asylums, as he is quite mad, but his powerful father would never allow him to be committed, as that would bring shame and disgrace on the family name.  Jack’s surviving relatives begrudge him the inheritance, and so plot and scheme to take control away from him.

That could be the synopsis for a benign and forgettable English parlor

Zombieland (***½)

Posted on October 3rd, 2009 in Commentary,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy
Zombieland Rule #1: Cardio

Zombieland Rule #1: Cardio

To survive in Zombieland, you have to follow the rules:

Rule #1: Cardio.  These are fast, famished zombies and they will run you down…unless you have speed and stamina.

Rule #2: Beware of bathrooms.  You’re exposed and encumbered, and there’s usually only one exit.

Rule #3: Seatbelts.  When you’re whipping around trying to run over and/or shake off zombies, you want to be sure that *you* stay put.

Rule #4: Doubletap.  Shoot ‘em once to stop ‘em, shoot ‘em again to make sure they stay stopped.

And so on.  These are the first few of an ever-expanding set of rules that Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has derived for survival in Zombieland.  It seems that mad cow disease mutated into a more immediate and vile infection, one which causes the infected to become black-goo-spewing, human-flesh-eating, fast-running, not-very-smart zombies, who roam America looking for their next man-wich. 

Columbus is a nice young man who is trying to wend his way back from his dorm in Austin, Texas to his parent’s home in Columbus, Ohio (hence his nickname).  He meets up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who is a hard-bitten, hard-driving, hard-hitting, zombie-killing machine (with a cool hat, more on that below).  The unlikely duo decide to join forces for as long as they can stand each other, and along the way manage to get conned by a couple of grifting sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who take the boys’ Escalade and leave them stranded.

The tale unfolds from there, and I won’t say much more about the plot.  Zombieland is both a zombie film and a comedy, and it does both genres very, very well.  It compares vaguely to Shaun of the Dead, but it has a much different vibe, and is better as both a zombie film and a comedy. 

And the laughs are big…BIG.  After the film, my throat hurt from the laughing and hooting I’d been doing throughout almost the entire film, which is amazingly short at 83 minutes.  There was even an eye-misting interlude shuffled in between the carnage and mayhem, which was suprisingly effective and well-done.

The film also earns its R rating, as the violence and gore are excrutiatingly high-def and are often presented in super-ultra-mega-slo-motion, so that you can practically count the droplets in the spray of zombie-ejecta, and count the shreds of flesh between their teeth.

However, if you can handle over-the-top-gore and convulsive laughter, then Zombieland just might be the picture for you.

Oh, and stay all the way through the credits.

The Real Deal

The Real Deal

Okay, now, about the hat.  Woody Harrelson’s character is wearing his hat (seen to the left) in virtually every single scene.  And I can tell you from direct experience that that is one cool hat.  It’s made by a company called Real Deal Brazil, and they make them from reclaimed/recycled tarps used on trucks that