REVIEW: “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES” (2016) Lionsgate

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Featuring a talented, mostly younger British cast of actors that I truly like and admire, I must admit I have been looking forward to this take on Jane Austen/Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash-up of “Pride and Predjudice and Zombies” for some time now. And yes, it delivers – if of course what you are looking for is a sure-fun little take on an iconic story. Here the zombie apocalypse has landed in the middle of Austen’s prim and proper story, including the now-famous attraction between Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley).

Anyone expecting the seriousness of Ms. Austen’s 1813 novel will be disappointed ~ hence the title should have provided a pretty solid hint of that to most. While her characters and general story line act as a structure here, I expect most critics to destroy this one because it’s made simply for fun, not for art.
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Of course, any Pride and Prejudice spin-off ~ even one with zombies ~ must pay meticulous homage to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. In this versions, it turns out that Elizabeth and her four sisters are highly trained warriors raised to survive and fight against the undead. Mr. Darcy is billed as a zombie hunter and protector of Mr. Bingley, the rich bachelor hooked on Jane Bennett. We follow suit on the original story as things are still made topsy-turvy by the devious Mr. Wickham, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and especially the flamboyant Parson Collins. The interactions between the characters juggle between loyalty, romantic attraction, emotional chaos and hand-to-hand combat – with just enough comedic elements that most viewers will find plenty of opportunities to get some good laughs in. Make no mistake though, this is no ‘Walking Dead’ rip-off and it’s nowhere near as gory with it’s details.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.


And yes, this talented cast is all in. They play it mostly straight to achieve the balance between somber and silly. Lily James and Sam Riley again, are both fun to watch as Elizabeth and Darcy. They are the film’s best fighters with both swords and words. Jane (Bella Heathcoate) is “the pretty one”, who is wooed by the simply stunning Douglas Booth as Mr. Bingley.
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Lena Headey makes an impression in her limited screen time as an eye-patched Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Jack Huston is well cast as the devious Mr. Wickham. Screen veterans Charles Dance and Sally Phillips take on the role of parents to the five Bennett daughters, but it’s Matt Smith, who turns the film fun with his comedic timing and his unconventional twist on the oddball Parson Collins, who pretty much steals each of his scenes.
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Even though this entertaining film offers plenty of fun with laughs, action and romance, I am hoping it doesn’t kick off a new zombie-adaptation trend as that would truly get annoying and mundane. Personally, I just like to be entertained, even sometimes in the silliest ways like this film did for me.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Nationwide release on Friday, February 5, 2016

“LOST RIVER” (2015) Review/Q & A interview w/Ryan Gosling

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Note: Screening at Sundance Sunset Cinemas ~ Sunday, April 12th.

Ryan Gosling has always moved to the beat of his own drum..and in his directorial debut “Lost River” definitely shows you it’s no ordinary drumbeat that he’s moving to.

The once vibrant town known as simply as “Motor City”, Detroit is sadly now decaying and it’s newsworthy abandoned-house scary-ness, sets up the rather miserable and macabre foundation of this story of “Billy” (Christina Hendricks), a single mother of two, who is swept into this bizarro underworld trying to do what is needed to survive with her family, while “Bones” (Iain De Caestecker) her teenage son, discovers a secret road that leads him to a underwater town. lost river 3

The broad overline of this ‘fairy tale’ gone bad, looks at the lengths to which a single mother will go to avoid defaulting on her mortgage. As her attempt to renegotiate terrible loan terms fails, and the sleazy wolf of this tale is her bank manager,“Dave” (Ben Mendelsohn), who not only will make you think twice about ever walking in to your bank branch again, but offers her work in the macabre vaudevillian fetish den he manages on the side. With “Cat” (Eva Mendes) as her “mentor” in this macabre world with scenes that will definitely not be for every one, as while they are shot in amazing fashion, not always easy to watch or even make sense for that matter.
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In the meantime, Bones is stealing metal scraps to fund the repairs to the broke-down vehicle that seems to be thought of as his only viable means of escape. At night, him and his wannabe girlfriend “Rat” (Saoirse Ronan) are stalked by local thug king “Bully” (Matt Smith), who sits atop an actual throne that’s affixed to his souped-up motor city chariot, in another case of where the fairy tale references are too roundabout and evasive.
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All the while this two waaay different sides of the film is going on, we find out about an urban myth which blames the residents’ poor fortunes on a curse of bad town planning, which P.S. also gives you the meaning to the film’s (and the town’s) name. As Bones finds the existence of this underwater city, long since drowned out, he goes to retrieve a piece of it as this will ‘end the curse’

By this time, trust me, you are pretty lost in following whatever story/fable it is that is trying to be told here. Truly, see this film at your own risk. All I can say is Ryan Gosling, I adore you, but if this is what’s in your head..

Luckily for me, this was a Q & A screening and I got “Hot Fuzz” director Edgar Wright and Ryan Gosling himself to talk about the film. Gosling opened up about the process of making his first film, stating that his biggest surprise was the production timeline.
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“I didn’t know it was going to take three years. You don’t know how to make a movie until you make one. As many as I’ve made as an actor, it doesn’t prepare you at all,” he admitted. “But that’s also the best part about it, the thing that I love the most. I got to spend this big chunk of time with this one thing. When you act, it’s amazing, but it’s a few months and that’s it. So the long game of it all was really a surprise to me, but in the end, it’s probably one of the best parts.”

He also noted that though he didn’t realize it, it was pointed out to him that it’s his version of dark ‘Goonies,’
Gosling also said he confided to director Nicolas Winding Refn, telling him that he wasn’t sure if the $5 million he raised to make the film would be enough; “$5 million?” replied Refn. “You can make ‘Star Wars’ for $5 million!” This gave Gosling the confidence to follow through with making the film. “That’s bullshit by the way,” Wright jumped in at the Q&A, referring to Refn’s claim.

Before he had even had a story in mind, Gosling started gathering footage around Detroit. Later, he wrote the script to accompany what inspiration he took from the decaying Detroit landscape. Gosling said he then took the footage and the story idea to director Guillermo del Toro, who told him, “If you don’t direct it, I will.” Gosling said he “felt like the wizard had given me my sword and my shield and sent me off on my mission.”

So at least I understand now the ‘how & why’ it got made, it didn’t change my mind about the movie I’d just watched, but it did make me hopeful that Gosling’s next venture will be so much more.

Grade: ‘D’
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