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Zom-Com road pic with a "first time this happened" moment
First there was The Return of the Living Dead (1984). I thought nobody could make a funnier Zom-Com (Zombie-Comedy) than Dan O'Bannon's opus back then. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright proved me wrong when they made Shaun of the Dead nearly two decades later. Again, I thought nobody could top the Zom-Com hilarity in Shaun. Well, what do ya know
Ruben Fleischer and his writers didn't exactly prove me wrong this time but I must say Zombiland is just as funny and witty as Shaun. What the film impressed me most was "the first time this happened in movies" moment. Even in the most entertaining flicks, that happens so rarely nowadays, but Zombieland provided me with that moment with a vengeance. (To talk about it will undoubtedly spoil a plot element so PLEASE DON'T READ FURTHER if you haven't seen the film yet!) That moment involved the "mystery guest" and never in my life have I laughed so hard at a lovable character's tragic death scene like a maniac. Neither I recall a moment in cinematic history (not that I've watched all the movies ever made) where the "killer" and the "killed" are both so adorable. I consider that alone a huge accomplishment. After all, I wasn't laughing at James Karen's death scene in The Return and neither at Bill Nighy's in Shaun.
Outstanding cinematic creativity + retelling of an old-westish story
I knew the plot was going to be similar to Battle for Terra which might have stolen James Cameron's concept in the first place but ten minutes into the film, its sheer visual force made me forget all that. I agree with the reviewer from Spain who commented that "you've seen this story a hundred times." In place of the blue-skinned ten-foot aliens with tails, I kept seeing native Americans from The Last of the Mohicans and Dances with Wolves. In Sam Worthington's turn as a hero gone over to the other side, I kept seeing Daniel Day Lewis and Kevin Costner from the said films, and during the end-credits I realized Wes Studi from those two films also had a part in it. It even reminded me a bit of The Last Samurai. This wasn't exactly a setback cos I wasn't expecting big plot twists anyway. One of the things I enjoyed most was Sigourney Weaver's return as Cameron's heroine. Though decidedly mellower, the feisty Grace shares a lot in common with Aliens' Ripley character-wise. Kudos to Jim Cameron for having the heroic heroine smoke. I'm not a smoker myself but I'm tired of Hollywood's "only villains smoke" cliché. I also enjoyed Stephen Lang's villainous turn but is it just me or does he start looking more "alien" than the aliens themselves toward the end of the film? In spite of having no major plot twists, I admired the way Cameron handled the character arcs of some of the secondary characters. Like f.i. Giovanni Ribisi's character who starts out more or less seeming like Paul Riser's soulless yuppie in Aliens but surprises us a bit when he starts showing some conscience.