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The Dead Don’t Die

Zombie movies get a quirky comedy sendup 


 © Focus Features/ Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver must save the peaceful town of Centerville from a zombie horde when the dead start rising from their graves.

      In the sleepy town of Centerville, everything seems routine. Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and his Deputy Ronnie (Adam Driver) ride lazily through the streets, stopping at the local diner for coffee and checking on a farmer’s missing chicken.

     But when zombies start munching through the town populace, Robertson, Ronnie and a Scottish undertaker with a penchant for samurai swords (Tilda Swinton) are the town’s — and the human species’ — line of defense. Is humanity on the menu?

     Writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s weird, wry and entertaining sendup zombie genre has unexpected depth.

     Like Night of the Living Dead director George Romero, Jarmusch likens the zombies to thoughtless consumers. The undead crave the things they loved in life as much as human flesh. One zombie moans “coffee” while taking a break from disemboweling a woman. Another demands chardonnay as she’s reaching for a kill.

     The real problem, as Jarmusch sees it, is not the dead but the living. The town is called Centerville for a reason. Jarmusch creates a rather savage portrait of people who place themselves in the ideological center. They listen blankly to news about human-made environmental disasters. They tolerate a virulent racist because it’s not worth the effort to argue. They even seem unconcerned when time stands still.

     When Centerville finally realizes that the world is ending, it’s too late. Appealing to a higher power won’t help. Their superhero stand-ins leave when things look bleak. 

     Jarmusch also gleefully breaks the fourth wall, with the actors chatting about their film from script to soundtrack. The running gag helps solidify Jarmusch’s view on the dangerous complacency of remaining in Centerville. The characters literally have the script — but still do little to avoid their fates. 

Good Zombie Movie • R • 104 mins.

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     Anna Poliatova (Sasha Luss) looks sweet as well as beautiful. But looks are deceiving. She is a world-class assassin. But she wants out of the life of crime into which she was forced.

    Writer/director Luc Besson is known for bombastic action thrillers. He loves nothing more than long hand-to-hand fights and sexy women in skimpy clothes. No surprise that his female characters tend to be underdeveloped. Even as the protagonist, Anna may be little more than a male fantasy. 

Prospects: Flickering • R • 118 mins. 


Child’s Play

     Karen (Aubrey Plaza) gives her lonely son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a doll as a companion. But this doll is possessed by the spirit of an executed serial killer. Andy realizes fairly quickly that his doll isn’t exactly on the side of the angels. But will anyone believe him?

     This remake of the classic 1980s’ horror movie that made children everywhere throw out their dolls should be a campy tale of murder and mayhem. Voicing the Chucky doll is Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, who has built a great career voicing maniacal villains in Saturday morning cartoons.

Prospects: Flickering • R • 90 mins. 


Toy Story 4

     In his new life as Bonnie’s toy, Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) is no longer his child’s favorite. Though Bonnie doesn’t love him as Andy did, Woody is determined to devote himself to her. So Woody takes Bonnie’s handmade new favorite — made from trash and a used spork — under his wing.

      However Forky (Tony Hale) has no interest in life as a child’s play thing. When he escapes, Woody leaves his secure life to find the wayward toy.

      Uproarious, adventure filled and bursting with wonderful new characters, Toy Story 4 is a welcome addition to the series. It’s not as emotionally deep as some of the other Toy Stories, but it is by far the funniest. Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key offer standout performances. For fans of the series and of hilarious and heartfelt storytelling, this flick is well worth the ticket.

Prospects: Bright • G • 100 mins.