Shaun of the Dead

Poltergeist Poster Image

I’ve never been shy about my disinclination for horror, which is possibly my least favorite movie genre if I had to pick one. It’s not that I hate all horror films, but very generally they don’t ever immediately appeal to me. I find that I don’t scare easily, I don’t like to look at a lot of gore and I don’t have much interest in the psychology of fictional killers or the suffering of fictional victims. Most horror movies I see bore me, even those I might appreciate as being more than just a conventional series of deaths or hauntings or other frights. I often rationalize my disfavor as being the effect of watching a ton of horror movies at a very young age and becoming immune to their tricks and subtext. That might not be the truth, but I do remember having a dream around age 6 or 7 in which I was basically on a set visit to a horror film production, where I saw all the suicidal people who’d volunteered to play victims, because in that world the actors in horror films are literally killed. That makes me sound more messed up as a kid than I was, when really I think it was just my imagination reminding me that the actuality of horror movies is all just pretend. I’m sure my overthinking of the genre even then kept me from enjoying it. Anyway, whatever the reasons for my being a “horror hater” (nowadays my being a […]

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Hot Fuzz

For years, whenever I’ve found myself in conversations about the single funniest moment in moviedom, my answer has always been the “Where the white women at?” scene in Blazing Saddles, and I don’t see it being dethroned in my mind any time soon. There are dozens of elements at work making it funny, from Cleavon Little’s line delivery to the absurd environment surrounding it. Here are two actors playing character who aren’t actors who have to act in order to fool two KKK members with “Have a Nice Day” smiley faces on the back of their cloaks. The result is so stagey that it wouldn’t fool anyone, and part of why it hits the laugh button (it’s an implant) so hard is the way that Bart enters the frame, pulled like a rag doll by The Kid and flinging his line like a wooden dummy. We see the full set up, we even see Bart walk behind the rock, but his re-emergence is a small surprise punctuated by a perfect use of stereotype and hyperbole. For its minor inventiveness, I’d assume that Tony Zhou — the mind behind this fantastic video essay on Edgar Wright‘s visual style — would appreciate the playful way that Bart enters the scene. After all, this video is more than an exploration of one filmmaker’s sensibilities, it’s a much-needed prod toward modern comedies who have forgotten that movies can be more than stages for their hilarious, probably improvised dialogue. Watch and learn:

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Casablanca Movie

Sometimes, the urge to crack open a cold one when you’re stuck in the middle of a Netflix binge can get overwhelming. And it’s understandable; so many of our favorite films feature incredible bars and pubs that put our local haunts and dives to shame, intergalactic gathering spots that bring together alien races, chic international watering holes and rough roadsides that may necessitate a bodyguard or two. While we can’t frequent these cinematic watering holes, it’s okay to daydream and sip a martini or two while doing so. Here are the movie bars at which we’d love to pull up a stool.

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Shaun of the Dead Romance

On the 10th anniversary of Shaun of the Dead opening in UK theaters, let’s talk about love. Not just the love we have for Edgar Wright‘s 2004 zom-rom-com but the love that is explored in the rom-com side of that genre-splicing equation. Forget the zed word. Pretend there’s no zombies in the movie at all. They drive the plot but they’re not really relevant to the story, which is of a relationship on the rocks and the obstacles in its way of succeeding. The zombie element only exacerbates (a word I genuinely learned from this movie) the situation, heightening the tension and increasing the difficulty level while also providing a mechanism through which the main characters are able to more easily get over their relationship hurdles. I use the term “difficulty level” because, in a way, Shaun of the Dead is like a romance video game where different bosses have to be defeated in order for Shaun (Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote the script with Wright) to win back his princess, Liz (Kate Ashfield). Wright would, of course, later do the same thing very literally in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and here not all the “bosses” are in fact adversarial obstacles, at least not before they’re turned into undead monsters. The two most advanced stages of the game, for instance, involve Shaun’s mum and best mate. And if you’re a grown man in a serious relationship, maybe even marriage, you should identify with just how tough those stages are […]

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cc the worlds end

The Cornetto Trilogy is the comedic equivalent of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy for at least two reasons. First, all three films are pretty goddamn fantastic, and second, they’re not even really a trilogy. There’s no actual storyline or characters that repeat across the films, but some common themes (along with the presence of Cornetto ice cream) have turned the trio into an unofficial collective. The World’s End is the latest and last (after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), and there’s a very good chance it’s the best of the three. Edgar Wright directs and co-writes (again) with star Simon Pegg to deliver a smart, very funny, and truly engaging piece of entertainment, and as has continually been the case, they’ve filled it with a brilliant cast. Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan join Pegg as five friends attempting to revisit their youth who find an unexpected surprise instead. All of Wright’s films come loaded with gags and references, but this one beats them all in the sheer detailed genius of its structure and execution. Multiple viewings are required to catch them all, but the Wright and Pegg do a good job of highlighting several moments of foreshadowing and hints at what’s to come on their commentary track.

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IntroBarFights

The World’s End was a great film, and amongst its many covered genres, it made a pretty big mark in the ranks of epic bar brawl movies. To celebrate, why don’t we explore some of the other great drunken tussles of the sci-fi and fantasy genres? Excellent. Glad you’re on board. Because no matter what sorcery or technology you have at your fingertips, there’s always time to get soused and hit someone.

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worldsend08

It’s pretty clear that Edgar Wright and his sometime co-writer/star Simon Pegg are movie junkies. Their series Spaced was all about allusions to their TV and film favorites, while the first two installments of the “Cornetto trilogy,” Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, were tributes to zombie and action flicks, respectively. With The World’s End, the homage and referencing continues. Even though the message of the movie is to move forward not backward, and even though it’s apparently a veiled criticism of Hollywood’s own nostalgic impulses, it’s okay for a movie this clever to have its influences and predecessors as long as the acknowledgment is through nods to the past works rather than a recycling or cloning of them. One key difference between what Wright does and what the remake/reboot machine does is he provides a gateway to older movies and the machine creates a substitution, a replacement. As a true movie lover, Wright is known for hosting programs of beloved classics and cult classics, usually in hopes of introducing his fans to stuff they’ve never seen. He also likes to name other films that have informed his work and are worth checking out either prior to or after seeing his movies. The following list is not all selections that he has credited nor that he would necessarily endorse. It’s a combination of some of his picks (found mentioned elsewhere) and some of my own, some obvious and some not, some great and some just worth a look for […]

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Edgar Wright

For most of us, our perfect Sunday includes a quiet read of the paper, a piping cup of our favorite tea leaf or coffee bean-based beverage and a hundredth screening of one of Edgar Wright‘s movies. With Shaun of the Dead and everything beyond, he’s been able to blend intimate character arcs (right down to the music) with genre tropes in a way that pretty much no one else has managed. He’s lovingly subverted genres while delivering us new fence-hopping heroes and a honed sense of comedy. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man famous for his work on Going Live!.

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zombietruth-1

If you’ve spent any time watching movies, reading news stories about bath salts, enjoying AMC original programming, or farting around on Facebook, you’ve encountered the question about whether a zombie apocalypse could actually happen. Zombie stories range from the absurd (in films like Chopper Chicks in Zombietown) to the allegedly realistic (most recently in World War Z), but they all hinge on the question of what you would do in a worldwide outbreak of brain-eaters. Now that zombies have become possibly the most revered monster in horror and popular cinema (with Twilight vampires not counting because they aren’t real monsters), some people have wondered how fictional the day rising up is, but since we like to think outside the coffin, we started wondering: If a zombie apocalypse did happen, how long would it actually last?

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Shaun of the Dead Screenplay

With hand-drawn title pages, trailers, storyboards, BTS pictures and more, this interactive script for Shaun of the Dead is a great artifact to get lost in for an afternoon. It’s also another solid excuse (like anyone needs one) for watching the movie again. One of my favorite elements is the list of ideas for actions and weapon choices in the fight with Bloody Mary. “Fem Zombie Discovers Ed’s Porn” is a gem to be treasured almost as much as the pictures of Edgar Wright displaying sheer joy at the sight of his undead hordes. Definitely entertaining in its nostalgia, there’s a lot to learn, too — both for fans and for prospective writers looking for a detailed script to break down. Of course, the commentary track had its fair share of trivia, but I’m insanely glad to see Focus Features put this out there (for free) in anticipation of the chapter that ends what Shaun began. Also, if anyone can figure out how to work “You’ve got red on you,” and “Read this script” into a pun, please let me know how. I’ve puzzled over it for ten minutes, drawing a blank. Thanks in advance.

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Photo by Steve Boland (SFCityscape on Flickr)

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, I’ve chosen one of my own favorite theaters, or at least the return of an old favorite. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor. The New Parkway Location: 474 24th Street, Oakland, CA Opened: November 30, 2012 (original Parkway Theater existed at another location from January 1997 through March 2009) No. of screens: 2 Current first-run titles: Trance; Olympus Has Fallen; Disconnect

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IntroBadassWounds

So you’ve been shot/stabbed/eaten/burned/dismembered/amputated/face melted by an ancient artifact, what are you going to do next? If you answered, “go into shock while screaming like an asshole” then you’re probably on track. In the movies, of course, that’s a different story – people like to do cool stuff while dying in movies, act all badass for our amusement. Let’s look at 20 such fallen heroes. Spoilers should go without saying. But we said it. Right there. So no one can complain.

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IntroRedemption

Sometimes a person just doesn’t get along. In films, it can be the other characters that don’t mesh, or sometimes it’s the audience themselves who just can’t stand a single idiot character that won’t go away. I believe the term is “Jar-Jaring” or, if you’re referring to television, “pulling a Lori.” Last year I gave you a pretty okay list of characters that achieved excellent redemptions for their wrongdoings. Today I want to explore those who did not. These are the asshole characters that tried and failed, or simply didn’t try at all. Hey spoilers!

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We’ve been hearing about Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s next film together as co-writers for a while. A mashup between the concepts of the pub crawl and the apocalypse, The World’s End has been said to be the third film in an informal trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Other than Wright directing and co-writing the film with Pegg, we’ve also known from the start that Pegg was set to re-team with Nick Frost as its stars. But, seeing as the film’s synopsis says that it’s about five friends in their forties trying to recreate an epic pub crawl they completed when they were younger, there’s always been a question of who else was going to be joining the cast. Well, a press release put out by Universal today not only confirms a couple names that have been floating around for a while, it also adds two more to the mix.

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Ron Guyatt Jurassic Park

Imagine how impressed your dinner guests will be when they pass by the chocolate fountain in the hallway and spy the Isla Nublar map hanging on your wall – complete with detailed information on where the Raptor and T-Rex pens are. “Is that an antique from a wealthy. erstwhile relative?” they’ll ask. “Why no,” you’ll say, “it’s a Jurassic Park-inspired print from Ron Guyatt.” And they will swoon. Guyatt’s work is simple, but dynamic, toying around with the imagery of famous films, television shows and video games alike. Targets range from Kung Fu Panda to “Scott Pilgrim” to “Tetris,” and each print is curiously affordable. Check out some of the movie prints for yourself:

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Shaun of the Dead

We all know what it feels like when a film touches on events yet to come. Usually it’s the best when it’s something that you could only pick up on after already watching the film once before – it’s like a little inside joke you get to have with the filmmakers, a reward for sitting through the movie more than once. At times it’s not even the fact that it foreshadows event in the films, but rather that it’s so subtle that it takes a few goes to even pick up on. Other times are less subtle, but just as fun. This is probably going to have spoilers in it. Just to be clear.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s the calm, both before and after the storm. It’s the thing that keeps you warm just before you slip into a night’s slumber. It’s the movie news, editorial links, audio-visual stimuli that you yearn for all day long. It’s the alpha and the omega of what’s happening in the world of entertainment news. It’s also quite playful. We begin tonight with a new shot of Bruce Willis in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, in which he plays Joe Colton, the original G.I. Joe. It’s hard to argue with the facts: that man knows how to look cool holding a gun, even if the gun in the hands of Adrianne Palicki (seen behind him) is far more badass.

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If it were up to me, every movie would be required at least one musical number. Seriously, every movie. Children Of Men would have a song in it, Sophie’s Choice as well. Why? I don’t know – it would be funny I guess. Fine, so it’s probably not a great idea. I take it back. I just get excited when a song becomes the center of a scene – especially in comedies. People rarely have the nibs to stick a good musical sequence or two in their non-musical genre films, so let’s take a moment to pay our respects to those who did it so well by arbitrarily judging them in list form.

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Shuffle. Shuffle. Groan. Crawl. Shuffle. And commentary on all of it. It’s the Halloween season, so you know the zombie movies are out there in force. But we always like a few lot of laughs with our scares. What better movie to dish out both of those along with an ample helping of heart – figurative heart, as in emotion, not actual bloody hearts being tossed about, though we have that here, too – than Edgar Wright‘s Shaun of the Dead? What’s even better, Wright has brought along a familiar and jovial voice to help him recollect some of the fun and interesting times on set. Simon Pegg is helping out with the color commentary, that color being red more than likely. So it’s time to head on down to the Winchester – provided they have a DVD player – grab a pint and your best cricket bat, watch the ball go from bat to wicket – that’s a cricket reference just to show I know a thing or two. That’s two things. I’m out. – and hear what Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have to say in this week’s Commentary Commentary. Shuffle. Crawl. Shuffle. Groan. Brains.

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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and while we don’t really know who they are exactly one thing is clear. They’re probably bilingual. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead certainly wasn’t the first horror comedy to spoof the zombie genre (it’s not even the best… Return of the Living Dead has that honor), but Wright’s film has a well earned cultural cache thanks to a smartly funny script, energetic direction, and a charismatic pair of lead actors. It’s definitely not a bad place to start when setting out to make your country’s first zombie film. Especially when that country is Cuba.

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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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published: 12.05.2014
C+


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