February 15, 2008, - 2:50 pm

Weekend Box Office: Great Zombie Flick, Charming But Anti-Male Kids’ Film, Violent Colin Farrell Waste

By Debbie Schlussel
Yesterday, I told you about the new releases for Valentine’s Day (“Definitely, Maybe” and “Jumper). Here are the rest that come out today, a couple of good ones in the mix:
* “The Spiderwick Chronicles“: This is a very charming movie, great for kids–and their parents will enjoy it, too. But there’s one HUGE CAVEAT: Men are jerks who abandone their families in this one. It’s sad because the movie would have been perfect without that subtext. In addition, the movie might be a little too scary for younger kids. It’s especially appealing to young boys–with gross sbustances and animals–something you rarely see in the movies, the kid fare of which is more aimed at girls.


Freddie Highmore plays twin sons of a newly-divorced mother of three. They move to their mother’s crazy great-aunt’s old house in a small town in upstate New York. Soon Freddie discovers that the house is occupied by little creatures and contains a secret book of magic formulas and secrets about wildlife and fantastic creatures, written by his great-great uncle, Dr. Spiderwick.
He reads the book, and soon the creatures in the woods around the house want the book and plot to kill Freddie and his family to get it. He must protect the book and keep it inside the circle surrounding the house. The plot with good creatures to fight off the bad creatures and keep the book protected unites the unhappy and feuding family members and leads to so many new, magical discoveries.
The creatures in this movie, while mostly computer generated, are well done. The animation is superb. And the story, charming and new. Like I said, the one drawback is that Freddie longs to be with his dad, whom we learn has forsaken his family for another woman and doesn’t want to be with them or have the guts to tell Freddie. The other male father figure, Dr. Spiderwick, has abandoned his family and his daughter for a lifetime because this book was more important to him than they were. Could have done without this obvious father/male-bashing. Worth seeing if you can explain to your kids why this subtext is false and that fathers are not only in their lives, but they matter.
* “George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead“: As zombie films go, this is one of the better ones. Shot mostly on what is supposed to look like handheld cameras, it’s a little herky-jerky, like another hand-held camera story-line film, “Cloverfield.” And like “Cloverfield,” the actors are unknowns. The two are very similar and equally likeable, though this one is even better. This one is also a lot like “28 Days Later,” though without the constant urgent feel to it.
While Romero usually makes left-wing statements against things like capitalism, not the case in this one. This movie, if anything, is a statement that bloggers and YouTubers are the real authentic news of our age.
Several college students are making a horror film in the woods. They soon discover that the world around them is afflicted by a plague of zombies who eat human flesh. Dead humans come back to life as zombies and must be shot through the head in order to be permanently eliminated. As they and a professor drive to get home to their parents, they must fight off the zombies, and some of them succumb. They must shoot off their own.
Throughout, the main character is more concerned with filming the record of what’s happening than he is in even saving his own friends and girlfriend from the zombies. We watch as he eagerly edits and uploads his footage to YouTube and looks on that site for info on what’s going on around the world, as the mainstream news outlets give phony, positive news, rather than grim reports of mass murder of the worldwide zombie plague. We see a Japanese woman’s video warning: “Before bury dead, put bullet in head. First, bullet in head, before bury dead.”
The movie is entertaining, not overwhelming, and even funny at times. Extremely bloody, gory, graphic, and violent. Fun and light, but definitely not for kids.

* “In Bruges“: Colin Farrell plays a UK hitman who goes to Bruges, Belgium with a fellow hitman, at the direction of their ill-tempered boss, Ralph Fiennes. Farrell finishes off a priest, but accidentally murders a young boy in the process. He assuages his guilt in the depressing Bruges with a drug dealer, prostitutes, and an American midget actor filming a movie. He harasses Canadians he thinks are Americans, does drugs, blinds a man, etc., all while his fellow hitman has been assigned to kill him.
This extremely horrid movie is supposed to be a dark comedy and funny like “Pulp Fiction” (which I did not find to be very funny either). Instead, it’s a gratuitiously, violent, bloody, graphic, obscene, with no redeeming quality. There is nothing to like about any of the characters in the movie, save the fellow hitman who has a flicker of last-minute morality. But that’s not good enough to justify this on-screen trash. Depressing and almost two wasted hours of your life you’ll never get back. Skip this at all cost.

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4 Responses

I didn’t like PULP FICTION the first time I saw it, either. I gave it a second chance because —
Major spoiler apporaching in
— any movie where Bruce Willis machine-guns John Travolta can’t be all bad.

DocLiberty on February 15, 2008 at 9:21 pm

So often Debbie, I think how much I would hate to have to sit through and report on such movies as these. Seeing these flicks would rank with being stuck in airport, going to the mall for the day, and the worst one of all…Disneyland! How ever do you do it?

BB on February 17, 2008 at 8:12 pm

Back in 1999 I visited the beautiful, historic city of Bruges (Brugge in Dutch) and therefore looked forward to seeing this film. Thanks for the heads up.

Ripper on February 17, 2008 at 10:59 pm

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