Posts Tagged ‘zombie


“villains.” [the many lists of 2009.]

In years past, I’ve always posted a list of my favorite films of the year. This year, I’ve decided to change it up a bit. Instead of one list which includes my favorite films, I will instead have many lists including some of my favorite characters and moments (etc.) in film this year. Those who know me are well aware that two of my greatest loves are movies and lists. So, for the next few days, I will bring those two loves together in one glorious cocktail. I hope you enjoy reading my lists as much as I enjoyed compiling them.

The first list is my favorite villains of the year. It’s not uncommon for a villain to be the part of a film I enjoy the most. The “bad guy” is often the character who stays with me the longest after the credits role. For example, in 2008, what character was more memorable than Heath Ledger’s Joker? In 2007, what character was better than Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh? Villains can be so delightfully fun, whether you love to hate them, or just plain love them.

***I have to warn you now, these lists are often filled to the brim with spoilers. Not every description of why a character or moment made the list is spoiler-heavy, but it’s safer for you to just skip the ones from films you haven’t seen but plan to enjoy in the future. I don’t want to be that guy who ruins a great movie for someone, so, you’ve been warned.***

Now, on with the villains!! (In no particular order)

1. Col. Hans Landa – Inglourious Basterds

It’s no secret that film villains are frequently heartless, ruthless bastards (no pun intended). There are many variations on the type of  villain one might find. There is the balls-out psycho, the angry revenge seeker, the zealot with a cause, the list is literally endless. I think one of my very favorite variations to watch on the screen would  be the cold, detached villains who seem to have no emotional response to their evil deeds. When this type of villain is executed well, for example, in the case of the pitch perfect Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, the result can be a satisfying cocktail of equal parts chilling and thrilling.

With Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino took this sort of villain to another level. Colonel Hans Landa wasn’t just detached from the heinous things he did, he was downright courteous about them. All manners and civility, right up until the moment he strikes. He approached his work with downright joy, as if he were doing his victims a favor. He was so matter of fact about what he did; so polite, so personable.

The opening moments of the film are so tense because of how perfectly written and acted the character of Hans Landa was, setting up exactly what our heroes and heroines would be dealing with for the duration of the film: Pure, courteous, delighted, evil. The result was terrible for many of the film’s “Basterds,” but loads of fun for the viewing audience.


2. Zombies – Zombieland and Dead Snow

Obviously, it isn’t much of a stretch for me to include zombies on my list. I could probably find some excuse to include zombies on my movie lists every year. Yet, this year is special because there was not one, but two wonderful zombie films: Zombieland and Dead Snow. The latter of which saw not only zombies, but Nazi zombies! Double your evil, double your fun.

Zombieland featured its wonderfully entertaining and well executed survival rules, great characters, along with one of the best cameos in film history. Dead Snow featured a guy getting his head ripped in half by his eyeballs as his brain drops to the floor, a fantastic and bloody finale, along with the scene in which a woman regains blurry consciousness to the sight of her own zombie disembowelment, (a scene that may be my favorite zombie scene ever!). In both films, all the enjoyment came because when creative filmmaking and the concept of surviving a zombie apocalypse come together, the results are hilarious and awesome.

Hooray for zombies!!


3. The Scary Gypsy Lady – Drag Me To Hell

If there is one life lesson movies have made quite clear, it is that all creepy old ladies are gypsies, that they all know how to perform magic of some sort, and that they are all looking for any excuse to curse another individual with gruesome and terrible consequences. The moral of the story, always be really nice to creepy old ladies.

No, the territory covered in Drag Me To Hell is definitely not new, but never before has it been as fun as it was under the expert hands of Sam Raimi. The antics of the Scary Gypsy Lady, or SGL for short, were disgusting in the most hilarious way imaginable. Eyeballs popping out, staples to the forehead, teeth flying everywhere. There was all sorts of crazy shit going on thanks to SGL. It was gross, it was absurd, and it was loads of fun.

Thank you SGL, you brought your villainous tomfoolery to a movie I had no expectations for whatsoever, and were a large part of making it one of the most surprisingly enjoyable films of the year.


4. The Shadow Man – The Princess and the Frog

While we are on the topic of voodoo type curses and black magic, we might as well stop in with a movie few would expect to see on this list, The Princess and the Frog. Like most children who grew up any time since Snow White, my childhood was filled with Disney, for better and for worse (but that is for another post). Long had I lamented the death of Disney’s traditional animation studios, first on a practical level, in that everything the studio pumped out was garbage, and then on a more concrete level when the studios were officially shut down. Then came the revived talks with Pixar  resulting in the resurrection of traditional Disney animation under the leadership of the folks at Pixar. The first movie to come along since these events is the aforementioned The Princess and the Frog. Happily, my experience of the film is that the Disney animation of my childhood, which saw the likes of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King has returned.

The films mentioned above all had at least one thing in common: highly entertaining villains. The newest installment in the Disney catalogue is no exception, with the introduction of the evil Dr. Facilier, also known as The Shadow Man.

Voiced by Keith David, who played the other side of the magical coin this year as the black cat in Coraline, the character is all sorts of intimidating, even while we knew that his power rested in a precarious and fickle relationship with his “friends on the other side.”

Hopefully, Dr. Facilier will renew the tradition of great villains being added to the Disney canon with each new animated installment.


5. Malcolm – In The Loop

Those who know me well are quite aware that for me, just as it was for Old Man Parker, cussing is an art-form, enjoyed with vigor and enthusiasm for unique combinations and uses for so called “bad words.” The more comfortable I get with you, the more likely you are to experience a significant increase in the ‘colorful’ language you will hear.
However, for all my practice, I am but an amateur compared to the professional exploits of In The Loop’s Malcolm Tucker. He weaves a tapestry of insults and vulgarity that knows no equal, with nothing out of bounds. The coarser the phrasing, the more Malcolm likes it. He vacillates between hugely entertaining and downright off-putting, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

His entertaining cussing aside, he is also a great villain as the manifestation of all that is evil in the marriage between international media and international politics. Although, he is also as troubling as he is entertaining, because while he doesn’t exist in the concrete sense, there are plenty of women and men just like him who are all too real.


6. Summer Finn – (500) Days of Summer

Summer Finn is one of the best villains of the year because, well, she isn’t really a villain at all. She functions as a villain for most of the film, but she hasn’t really earned the title by any actions outside of the mind of Tom Hansen. In reality, it was the expectations and selective memory of our young lovelorn protagonist that made Summer a villain, not any actual slight or wrongdoing.

I think most of us have been Summer before, doing everything we could to be up front and honest, only to be hated anyway because our desire for connection led to some poor choices; and I think most of us have been Tom Hansen as well, filled with ire, frustration and angst for the object of our affection when most of the relationship is taking place in our own over-analyzation.

We all have selective memories when it comes to relationships, none more so than when the relationship in question is a crush or infatuation. We edit and filter the information to continue convincing ourselves that fate has brought this wonderful new person into the picture so we might live happily ever after. Most of the time, the result is the creation of a villain out of the unfortunate person on the other end of our obsession. It’s a common part of life, and (500) Days deals with it so honestly and with so much clarity of insight, that it resulted in a delightfully intelligent “villain.”


7. Poverty and Mental Illness – The Soloist

Most often, the villains in film are defeated in the end; they are blown up, humiliated, or overcome in some way or another so that there can be a tidy end to the story in which the heroes live happily ever after. More often than not, the myth of redemptive violence is perpetuated for good measure. Not so with The Soloist. Instead, The Soloist offers a look at the terrifying type of villain who cannot be overcome, in this case, those of poverty and mental illness.

While it is by no means a perfect film, it poignantly sheds light on the pervasive and ongoing pain of those afflicted with mental illness and homelessness, and as is so often the case in our country, those afflicted with both. As a true story, it also isn’t a trite heap of bullshit where magically, the kind-hearted white man saves the mentally disturbed, talented black prodigy from homelessness and offers him healing from his mental issues. Instead, it’s about two imperfect people trying to love one another in the midst of hopelessness and futility, and while the pain continues to exist, we see some of the mystery of how life is a little more bearable with friends.

The villains of this film are important in the way they are portrayed because they are realistically viewed. In life, there is no neat and tidy ending in which everything is alright. We will never be able to overcome the evils that surround us, and yet, all we can do is go forward and love boldly nonetheless.


8. Franklin Bean – Fantastic Mr. Fox

If you’re a a fox, the one person you probably don’t want to fuck with is Franklin Bean. He’s as clever as he is mean, he’s a dead shot with a firearm, and he spends most of his time drinking. He’s angry to begin with, and very well would have went about killing Mr. Fox for fun, so it probably wasn’t the best idea to give him a good reason to want you dead by stealing from him.

This is all true, unless of course you happen to be fantastic, which is exactly what Mr. Fox is, so the diabolical Mr. Bean just ends up being the perfect foil to show the world just how fantastic Mr. Fox really is.


9. Lord Blackwood  – Sherlock Holmes

Lord Blackwood is one creepy, ominous son of a bitch. When he isn’t murdering young women, coming back from the dead, or lighting dudes on fire, he is plotting to take over the entire world. Not a bad resume for a villain. However, the best part of Lord Blackwood is that he is merely a dangerous pawn throughout the entire film, unwittingly moved about to serve the purposes of Sherlock’s soon to be arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. So, here he is being used again, included in this list just so we can discover that it won’t be long before Moriarty is on his way (perhaps Brad Pitt?). Let’s go Guy Ritchie, get this thing rolling.


10. Michael Bay

Michael Bay…. is a dick. He is, bar none, the most baselessly self-important filmmaker in the history of cinema. I believe it is entirely possible that his next film will be entirely in slow motion, and that it will be nothing more than CGI robots fighting in front of a series of large explosions, moving away from the fighting periodically to film down the shirt of Meghan Fox as she runs for cover from the destruction. That’s basically what we got with his last film, with the brief exception being that there were a few scenes in Revenge of the Fallen that took place at normal speed.

Sadly, he isn’t some fictional character in a movie, he’s a genuine, real life villain. His goal? To make an ass load of money by singlehandedly destroying American film.

He ate his fiber, took a huge dump, called it Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and then everyone paid to go see it. My understanding is that even though much of Avatar’s total gross will come in 2010, the fact that it was released in 2009 means that it will still count toward overtaking T:ROTF as the highest grossing movie of 2009. That is somewhat comforting, but the fact that it took one of the greatest technological feats in cinema history to draw more people to the movies than T:ROTF did is at once mind-numbing and rousingly infuriating.

Hopefully, with films like Iron Man 2 and Inception on their way, 2010 will see the forces of good overcome the darkness once again.


Halloween Moviefest 2009

I’ve never really been much into horror movies. Mostly because of associations with films like Nightmare on Elm St. and such, which aren’t really my cup of tea. However, realizing the silly popular horror films aren’t representative of horror films in general, I want to broaden my horizons a bit into the hugely diverse realm of scary(ish) movies. Thus, this year, I was struck with the inspiration to watch a different movie from the horror (or similar) genre every night on the days leading up to Halloween, culminating in a joyous viewing of my favorite related film, Shaun of the Dead.

Most of the films I watched were films I already planned on watching and this was just a good excuse to finally get to them, while some of the films were movies I probably never would have seen were it not for this Halloween themed celebration of film.

As your friend, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the trailers for the films, especially if you are unfamiliar with a particular film!

Day One: 28 Weeks Later


Sequels are always a dicey proposition. We’ve all had franchises we loved murdered by the likes of the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the At World’s End type films of the past. Thus, when 28 Days Later got the sequel treatment but Danny Boyle didn’t return as director and none of the original cast came back, I avoided it like the plague. My assumption (an unfair one as it turned out) was that an American film studio had cranked out another mindless horror film and slapped the 28 Days Later moniker on it to add credibility.

Since it was while watching 28 Days Later a few weeks ago that I got the inspiration to watch a different horror movie every night leading up to Halloween, it only made sense to kick it off with 28 Weeks Later. It didn’t hurt the cause that I learned after deciding to watch it that Danny Boyle was involved creatively on the project even though he didn’t direct (he even directed some secondary unit stuff!).

Lots of zombie fans dislike the 28 films because they don’t like the fact that the infected aren’t officially undead and fans loathe even more the fact that the ‘zombies’ are fast (although Danny Boyle insists they aren’t zombies, much like George Romero did after Night of the Living Dead came out). I understand the trouble with zombies being created by a rage virus, but it isn’t a problem I share. 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are both great films and while they do turn the zombie genre on its head, it is in the best possible way. The first 5 minutes of 28 Weeks Later may be the best zombie sequence I’ve ever seen.

28 Weeks isn’t as strong as 28 Days Later, but we still had a great time watching it. It will certainly make an appearance during ‘Halloween Moviefest 2010.’

Click the photo below to watch the trailer for the film, and to be honest, watching the trailer again I wonder why I waited so long to watch the movie!

28 Weeks Later

Day Two: Let The Right One In

Let The Right One In

This film was hands down, by far, in every way my favorite new film watched during HM2009. It was quiet, understated, beautiful, while also deeply disturbing and troubling in the best possible way. It wasn’t particularly scary in the traditional sense, but maybe that’s just me. However, it was brilliant, moving, engaging storytelling that ruminates on the violence and desperation of vampire mythology, while also making it human by setting it in the pain, brokenness and grit of real life and childhood.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who can stomach a fair amount of blood and violent content. Again, click on the photo below to see the trailer.

Let The Right One In

Day Three: The Orphanage

The Orphanage

The Orphanage was the second movie in a row that was more creepy than scary, which I am realizing is a great thing. Fortunately, it also continued the trend of great storytelling. A story of tragedy, loss, unfailing love, and creepy ghost children, it didn’t bring anything new to the table as far as ghost stories go, but it used the old conventions and devices to weave a moving, engaging tale. There were many similarities between The Orphanage and Poltergeist, but in all the places where Poltergeist swung and missed for me (which I’ll get to later) The Orphanage hit it out of the park!

As of night three, we were batting a thousand for film selections.


Day Four: Ghostbusters


What needs to be said? The primary reason for the inclusion of Ghostbusters is that it is the only film I knew my wife Emily would watch with us, so I wanted to get her in on the fun.

The movie is a classic, there aren’t many a child who grew up in the 80’s for whom the Ghostbusters weren’t a regular part of their lives. From Hi-C Ecto-cooler to ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ cartoon series, I would be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time I pretended to be busting ghosts as a kid.

Day Five: Poltergeist


This was included because of its status as a classic in the ghostly activity genre. I looked forward to catching up on what I’d been missing since I had been too much of  a wuss to watch it when I was young. Sadly, while it was intentionally funny fairly consistently, it was also unintentionally funny even more consistently. It wasn’t scary as much as it was flat out ridiculous. Maybe it was the era, maybe it was just my personal tastes, maybe it was how dated it is by now; whatever it was, I wasn’t impressed. I wasn’t scared or creeped out, I didn’t care about the characters at all, and I found myself wondering how much longer it was until the movie was over.

I respect the fact that it is a classic, that it was really well received critically, and that it was huge in the 80’s, so it must be me, I just wasn’t into the Poltergeist action.

Day Six: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

night-of-the-living-dead-postersI had never seen Night of the Living Dead before. Obviously, as a fan of zombie lore I needed to finally be initiated into what became the inception of the modern zombie sub-genre. Sadly, much of the punch the film would have had for the original audiences was lost on me because I’ve already seen this material rehashed so many times, as well as because the legendary ending had been spoiled many times over.

However, I couldn’t help but appreciate how the effectively creepy, siege based storytelling which gives every viewer the opportunity to imagine how they would respond in the same situation spawned the sub-genre so close to my heart. If I had to pick characters from various zombie films who would be in my corner in the event of  a real zombie apocalypse, the films main character, Ben, would certainly be included!



Day Seven: Part I – Evil Dead

Evil Dead

Who doesn’t love Ash? There are plenty of complaints one can have about the Evil Dead franchise, and rightly so, but as a character you can’t find a more absurd, hilarious, over the top, bad ass than Bruce Campbell as Ashley Williams. I hadn’t actually seen Evil Dead before, I’d only seen Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Since we knew later in the day we would be watching Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell it made perfect sense to kick things off with the film that started it all for Raimi. It was everything one might think it would be, much more an absurd, ultra-violent, ridiculous gore-fest as opposed to anything scary or frightening. Well, it was potentially frightening in one way, you may be frightened by the horrible thing on screen you just laughed at in any given scene like a pencil to the ankle or lopped off head.

Part II – Drag Me To Hell

Drag Me To Hell

Watching the trailers alone I had no plans to see Drag Me To Hell. However, when it consistently received great reviews from critics and wasn’t discarded as another mindless scary movie I took notice and decided to include it in HM2009. Boy am I glad I did. Drag Me To Hell was like Evil Dead with a brain. It embraced all of it’s camp and silliness and reveled in it. Staples to the forehead, a sacrificed kitten that resurfaced in the most ridiculous way later on, and a scary, gross old lady as the villain are just some of the delightfully absurd thrills the film offers. At the end of the day, it was just loads of fun to watch, and it was nice to see Raimi back at the top of his game.

As is always the case for trailers with embedding disabled, click on the photo to view the trailer.


Day Eight: Trick ‘r Treat

Trick 'r  Treat

For the most part, I enjoyed Trick ‘r Treat. We are all quite familiar with stories that celebrate the joy, peace and love of the Christmas spirit. Well, this is a film that celebrates the fun, danger, terror and mischief of the Halloween spirit. Not as much a continuous story as a loose connection of stories that intersect (á la Pulp Fiction). Each storyline acts as a playful interaction with various conventions and myths of Halloween. It succeeds on a number of levels as a fun 90 minutes to spend on an October evening. It includes everything from Anna Paquin turning the story of Little Red Riding Hood on its head, to Dylan Baker as a serial killing principal, as well as Halloween’s version of Scrooge getting a dark lesson in celebrating Halloween the right way.

The biggest disappointment came from what had been my favorite part of the film for the majority of the movie. Wandering throughout the story is the spirit of Halloween. What looked like a creepy little kid trick or treating was actually a murderous little menace who had a list of who was naughty and who was nice, purely by Halloween standards. Instead of getting a lump of coal, you would instead die a gruesome death. The reason it wound up being a disappointment was because for a few brief minutes they remove the characters mask, and it was utterly ridiculous in the worst possible way. He immediately went from my favorite character of HM2009 to the most disappointing one. Sad. Hopefully I can have enough of a selective memory to edit the brief lame portion out of my head.


Day Nine: Dead Snow


You really only need two words to understand what you’re getting into with Dead Snow: Nazi. Zombies.

As I tweeted immediately after watching: Dead Snow was campy, hilarious, gory as all hell, filled to the gills with movie reference tips of the cap, and soooooooooooo fun!

The folks who made this film love movies, and more, love zombie movies, and it comes through in every moment of this film. It was at once campy and beautifully shot, it was pitch perfect, and it had everything you could possibly want in a zombie movie, including bad ass victims who aren’t willing to go down without a fight. Also, while I won’t ruin the surprises for those who choose to watch it, it has one of the best scenes in the history of zombie films, as well as some of the best zombie fighting. Also a strength is that their numerous movie references are often subtle, and are always used to great effect as opposed to just pointing out that they are referencing a movie, it actually works on a storytelling level too.

These aren’t your grandfather’s zombies kids… well, unless your grandfather fought in WWII, then I guess technically they are his zombies. As opposed to being mindless flesh eating monsters, they are a bunch of bastards so evil and greedy they won’t stay dead, thus they still think and act like humans hellbent on getting back their Nazi treasure. When these zombies eat flesh, it’s because they think it’s fun, not because of a zombie bloodlust. Again, a different twist on zombie lore, and a great addition to the family!!!



Day Ten: Dawn of the Dead [2004]

Dawn of the Dead

Sadly, I’d have to call the updated Dawn of the Dead the biggest disappointment of HM2009. I enjoyed it more than Poltergeist, but I wasn’t expecting as much. I really thought Dawn of the Dead was going to be an entertaining film, but instead it was just dumb. More often than not I was just yelling at the screen because of how frustrated I was with how infuriatingly dumb and illogical the characters in the film were. Also, while I don’t have a problem with fast zombies, the zombies in this film were more superhuman in their speed and agility. It makes sense that Danny Boyle’s zombies would act the way they do because they were overcome by pure rage, why Zac Snyder’s zombies have their attributes is completely inexplicable, but little girls can suddenly jump up like cats and zombies with no legs can swing around from pipes like apes. WTF?!?

As I summed it up on Twitter later that evening: Dumb.


Day Eleven: Shaun of the Dead


The crown jewel of my plans for HM2009, this isn’t just one of my favorite zombie or horror movies, it’s one of my favorite movies. It succeeds on every level possible and delivers me so much joy, laughter and fun that it should probably be illegal. I LOVE this movie, and I’m so happy to have discovered another excuse to watch it. When we do HM2010, Halloween night will once again involve a viewing of Shaun of the Dead 



I enjoyed doing the themed movie nights so much that I have already decided to continue doing more of the same. I did find out during this little experiment that they already do something similar over at Ain’t It Cool News, I guess great minds think alike or some such nonsense.

Next will be a Time Travel themed week or two of movie goodness. So far, off the top of our heads, the titles to be included are Primer, Time Bandits, Timecrimes, Back to the Future I & II, and Donnie Darko. I would LOVE suggestions on other great time travel movies that should be included! Sadly, I checked and Hot Tub Time Machine doesn’t come out until March. We aren’t waiting that long.


new red band trailer for zombieland. [trailer park.]

The new R rated trailer for the zombie comedy. Since embedding has been disabled, click on the poster to see the trailer.


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