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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Zombieland



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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 31 2010 - 11:51 AM

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Zombieland

 

Studio: Sony/Columbia

Year: 2009

Rated: R

Program Length: 88 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p

Languages: English, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA; Audio Description Track Dolby 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, English, French

 

The Program

 

My mama always told me someday I’d be good at something. Who’d a-guessed that something would be zombie killing?

 

Zombieland is either the goriest comedy ever made or the funniest zombie movie ever made. Regardless of how you look at it, though, Zombieland is an original take on the zombie genre which serves up equal doss of laughs and chills. In terms of its overall tone, it reminds me of Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, except that here the world is imperiled by ravenous zombies instead of hostile Martians.

 

The premise here is that a mysterious virus has started a plague which has turned humans into flesh-devouring zombies. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a college student in Texas, has thus far survived because he has a natural inclination to avoid personal contact with others. After an encounter with zombies at a gas station he crashes his car, so he decides to set out on foot for his home town in Ohio to see if his estranged parents have survived. While hiking along a highway which it littered with abandoned vehicles, he meets up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a redneck who has amassed an arsenal of weapons and likes nothing better than killing zombies. Well, there is one thing which Tallahassee likes better – Hostess Twinkies, which are now in short supply.

 

Tallahassee’s quest for a fresh supply of spongy snack cakes leads him and Columbus to stop at an abandoned supermarket. After disposing of a few pesky zombies, they meet up with Wichita (Emma Stone) and her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The relationship between the men and the women gets off to a rocky start, but eventually they agree to head off together to California, where it is believed there is a zombie-free sanctuary. When they arrive in Los Angeles they meet up with a celebrity, whom I will not identify because half of the fun is discovering who it is. Some viewers might wonder about the fact that there is a plentiful supply of electricity – who is running the power plants? – but it seems to me that it would be churlish to insist upon logic in a zombie film.

 

The squeamish should take note of the fact that this is a very bloody film. Zombies are not exactly dainty diners, if you get my drift. Woody Harrelson is terrific as the mildly deranged, Twinkies-obsessed Tallahassee. Jesse Eisenberg is fine, if a bit bland, in a role which seems as though it could have been written for Michael Cera. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are excellent as the sisters who value their own survival above all other concerns. In particular, Little Rock’s nonchalant reaction to the Hollywood celebrity is very amusing. First-time director Ruben Fleischer also deserves praise for the pacing of the film, which has virtually no slow moments. Zombieland was both a critical and commercial success, and unsurprisingly a sequel is in development. As noted, Zombieland delivers laughs and chills in equal measure, and it is highly recommended for those who are not unduly troubled by gore.

 

The Video

 

Zombieland is properly framed at 2:40:1, and the Blu-ray transfer by Sony is, as one would expect, excellent in every respect. The images are very sharp and highly detailed, with accurate colors and strong contrasts. Black levels are solid and shadow detail is very good. There are some extremely stark and effective shots of desolation on highways and in Los Angeles. In addition, there are some thrilling action scenes which are beautifully presented here. This is yet another Blu-ray disc which proves that high definition is the best way to enjoy movies at home.

 

The Audio

 

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is excellent. The surround channels are effectively used to immerse the viewer in the sounds of gunfire during the battles with zombies. The dialogue is primarily confined to the center channel, and it is clear and intelligible (although there is one exchange between Tallahassee and the Hollywood celebrity at the conclusion of the closing credits which I could not quite make out without activating the English subtitles).

 

The Supplements

 

This Blu-ray disc includes a number of interesting and informative extras, most of which are also on the standard-definition DVD. There is a commentary track which includes comments from Harrelson, Eisenberg, director Fleischer, and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

 

“In Search of Zombieland” is a 15-minute featurette which examines the way the film was conceived and cast, as well as the production design insofar as it pertains to the look of the zombies. We hear from the four principal actors, as well as Amber Heard (who has a small but significant role in the film’s first act).

 

“Zombieland is Your Land” goes into greater detail about the film’s production design. One key goal was to create a landscape which makes it appear that very few humans are still alive. It is interesting to note that the film was originally conceived as a one-hour television pilot. This featurette has a running time of twelve minutes.

 

Several visual effects progression scenes, shown without audio, demonstrate how some of the special effects were created.

 

Also included are seven deleted scenes. There is no explanation as to why they were cut, but the finished product works fine without them.

 

Five amusing theatrical promo trailers feature Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg.

 

Blu-ray exclusives include “Beyond the Graveyard,” a picture-in-picture feature which allows the viewer to see storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage while watching the movie. BD-Live features will be activated on the release date. A digital copy of the film also is included with the Blu-ray disc.

 

The Packaging

 

The Blu-ray disc and the digital copy come is a standard-sized Blu-ray keep case.

 

The Final Analysis

 

Zombieland was one of the theatrical surprises of 2009, both in terms of its box office performance (approximately $76 million as of December) and its mostly glowing reviews. The film’s unique blend of horror and comedy is very appealing and superbly executed.

 

Equipment used for this review:

 

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player

Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen

Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver

BIC Acoustech speakers

Interconnects: Monster Cable

 

Release Date: February 2, 2010

 

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Rich Gallagher

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 31 2010 - 12:12 PM

Thanks for the review Rich.  Validation that I made the right decision to blind buy this!  Can't wait to watch it!

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   JohnS

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Posted January 31 2010 - 12:32 PM

I'd like to know how the commentary is.
I'm in the blind buy area myself.

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#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 31 2010 - 01:14 PM

John,

It's a worthwhile commentary. Sometimes five people is too many, but in this case the actors didn't know many of the technical aspects so they ask some good questions about how the effects were achieved, etc. All five men are together as the commentary is being recorded and they seem to be enjoying themselves.

Rich Gallagher

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted January 31 2010 - 03:41 PM

Loved this in the theatres, but I suspect the home presentation will have the edge, as digital to film conversions always seem to suffer in the colour and contrast departments. A great double feature with Shaun of the Dead.

"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted January 31 2010 - 04:40 PM

Not being the biggest fan of the celebrity mentioned, I thought that portion of the film dragged.

The credit sequence, however, was AWESOME.

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