[Movie] Abigail (BLURAY)
Ecklund is WAY creepier in his audition footage than the film and it's a damn shame he wasn't allowed to go as bonkers on screen like he does here. He's a creep in the film, but in his audition footage he's actually creepy. The audition also has him portraying a much more sympathetic character than the one-sided evil guy he is in the film. Why did they make him tone it down in the film? WHY?! Not only does he deliver an audition performance that trumps the one in the film, but the footage is actually more entertaining! He does basically the entire film - or at least nearly every scene that he's in. It's like a low-budget homage to Maniac, with Ecklund channeling the ghost of the almighty Joe Spinnell. That feature alone makes The Call a must-rent. Watch the movie first then jump right to Ecklund's audition and weep over the insane performance that could've been.
[Movie] Abigail (BLURAY)
The dystopic Moscow-based thriller Branded tells the story of an award-winning movie marketer who finds himself overwhelmed by the world's advertising. The son of a once-Communist British defector, Mikhail "Misha" Galkin (Ed Stoppard) cuts together film trailers usually to strong effect. Despite Misha's accolades, his American boss Bob (Jeffrey Tambor) delays giving him a promised promotion to partner. In defiance of clear orders, Misha enters into a secret relationship with Bob's niece Abby (Leelee Sobieski).Meanwhile, to reverse declining revenue in the fast food industry, marketing guru Joseph Pascal (Max von Sydow) spearheads a dramatic campaign to make fat the new standard of beauty, as it once was long ago. There appears to be some connection between this grand conspiracy and "Extreme Cosmetics", a new reality television show which Misha and Abby create as 50/50 executive producers. That surgical series lands a chubby contestant (Ulyana Lapteva) in a coma, prompting an outpouring of public response and repercussions for its makers.The film only gets weirder from here. After Misha performs some kind of sacrificial slaughter of a red cow, he suddenly sees unsettling giant fish-like creatures floating on the backs of people and others like large Thanksgiving Day parade balloons in the sky attached to buildings. The campaign to make fat, and therefore fast food, desirable again appears to be working and even Misha and Abby have a portly, greedy son.Troubled by his unshakable hallucinations and a mystery virus, Misha tries to strike back with a negative marketing campaign that raises awareness for a new chain of vegetarian Chinese restaurants.As is no doubt clear to you by now, Branded is a ridiculous film. Its ridiculousness proves all the more glaring in synopsizing, as you try to find the logic and coherency in its mess of ideas. Jamie Bradshaw and Alexander Doulerain, the duo who wrote, directed, and produced this film, deserve credit for having ideas. They're just not very good ones. It's quasi-science fiction loaded with social commentary, carrying strong views on marketing (whose invention is attributed to Lenin), fast food, and the malleability of the public. Bradshaw and Doulerain have great difficulty in channeling their criticisms into anything resembling a proper plot. The title bears more relevance to the film than its perplexing, generic home video cover. There are obvious stand-ins for real corporate giants: computer titans Yepple and Giantsoft, soft drink empire Soda Soda, and fast food king The Burger favors a familiar red, yellow, and white color scheme. The filmmakers seem to be advocating for a society where we are not engulfed by giant billboards fighting for our attention. Their resolution is to rid the world of commercialism. Is this some kind of Communist manifesto? I don't know. But I suspect that whatever it is gets partially lost in translation, as the film was made in Russia, where Doulerain has ten years of producing experience.You are right to suspect that the filmmakers used to make trailers, at least the American Bradshaw did. You're also probably right to assume that he probably will once again, following the countless failings of this film, which grossed a measly $354 thousand in 300-theater North American release (but a respectable $3.9 million in Russia, around what Taken 2 grossed there). There can't have been huge amounts of money spent on this film; the often hokey visual effects are clearly limited by budget. And there couldn't have been huge expectations in the U.S., where Stoppard is unknown and Sobieski has followed her brief stint of stardom with a decade of mostly terribly regarded movies.None of that excuses the facts that Branded is a poorly acted and virtually incomprehensible mess. Bradshaw may know how to advertise movies (he's worked on such hits as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Sin City, Cloverfield, and the first two Spider-Man movies and apparently remains the senior VP of Creative Marketing at 20th Century Fox), but he and Doulerain clearly don't know how to make them.
From here on out the suffering of both father and daughter commences, in a world that is slowly pushing away those who have been contaminated to quarantine zones. Unlike many other movies, the world is not completely destroyed and a lot of the infrastructure is still intact, offering people fairly normal lives, with the sickness lurking over their shoulders. It shows how hard it is to say goodbye to those you love, especially to those who love their children unconditionally.
The movie progresses rather slowly, albeit a pleasant kind of slow. The movie focuses almost entirely on Maggie and Wade, with Maggie receiving the biggest piece of attention. Overall it was kind of fun to see a movie approach the zombie theme in a different fashion, namely the hellish path an infected human has to walk.
Maggie shows us that Arnold is still capable of pulling off some other roles, as he will have to start taking things a bit more slowly on his age. Nonetheless, the star of the movie remains Abigail Breslin as she wades us through an ocean of pain in a decaying world, where society still remains intact but has taken heavy blows. If you wish to see a rather realistic interpretation of what a zombie epidemic could cause, Maggie is probably one of those diamonds in the rough that could give you a glimpse of such a scenario. Be warned, not only zombies will be frightening, but also the emotions this one might bring up.
As the clean, original copy of the film remains unreleased, it is unknown if the injunction awarded to Warner is still active. In 2013, a 16mm print of the movie was screened at The CineFamily. It is also suggested that Warner not only instigated a lawsuit against the film, but also confiscated all of the copies produced in 1975.
The FilmRule #1 - CardioRule #2 - Beware of BathroomsRule #3 - SeatbeltsRule #4 - The Double TapThose are but a few of the rules you'll need to follow if you have any hope of surviving "Zombieland," the blood-stained landscape formerly known as the old U.S. of A. After a viral plague turns most of the world's citizens into flesh-eating evildoers, nerdy shut-in "Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg) discovers that he can stay alive as long as he follows his rules to the letter. After believing for weeks that he may just be the last human on Earth who'd rather eat Snowballs than eyeballs, you can imagine his surprise when he comes across "Tallahassee," (Woody Harrelson) "Wichita" (Emma Stone) and "Little Rock" (Abigail Breslin).The manner in which this foursome comes to be together is best left unsaid, but suffice to say that Zombieland is full of surprises and it routinely zigs when you expect a zag. And on the subject of surprises, it should be noted that Zombieland features an absolutely brilliant and hilarious cameo from a major A-List actor. If you know what's good for you, stay away from IMDb until you've seen the film.Getting back to the film's cast, it is, in a word, superb. Each of these four actors adds a unique and welcome dynamic to this twisted, de facto family. Woody Harrselson looks like he's having the time of his life as a gun-toting, alligator skin-wearing nut job; Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) continues to impress as the geeky-but-charming leading man; the lovely Emma Stone strikes a delightful balance as the girl next door who can also kick your ass; and Abigail Breslin wisely shows us that Little Miss Sunshine isn't afraid to get her hands dirty - or bloody, as the case may be. It's a testament to first-time Director Ruben Fleischer that Zombieland gives Shaun of the Dead a serious run for its money as the king of the Zombie Comedy genre. (Yes, it's that good.) Part road movie, part horror flick and part action/adventure, Zombieland is an unexpectedly delicious treat best enjoyed with a bunch of friends and a box of Twinkies. The PictureSony brings Zombieland to Blu-ray Disc featuring an exceptional AVC MPEG-4 transfer. The film's 1080p image is rife with fine detail everywhere you look while skin tones (on our four heroes at least) appear to be spot-on. Colors are bold and punchy - especially on the yellow Hummer - while shadow delineation is extremely solid with sufficiently deep blacks.It should also be pointed out that unlike the recent deluge of graduates from Paul Greengrass' Shaky-Cam College, Zombieland's visuals are blissfully coherent. On-screen action is expertly-staged and smartly-framed so as to allow the viewer to, you know, actually see what's happening. My hat's off to Director Ruben Fleischer and his Director of Photography (DP) Michael Bonvillain (the Emmy-winning DP on TV's "Alias.")The SoundEqually strong is Zombieland's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. From its music-filled opening montage to its bullet-riddled grand finale, this lossless track shows a good deal of dynamic range with crisp highs and guttural lows whenever the 12-gauge is doing the talking. Dialogue is clear and intelligible throughout and there are quite a few scenes featuring effective use of the surround channels. The haunted house sequence in particular will have you peeking over your shoulder once or twice. Drawing attention to the rear channels isn't usually a desirable thing, but it's used to good effect here.The ExtrasBonus material is the one department where this disc comes up a bit short. We do get two HD featurettes on the making of the film as well as its casting and set design, but unlike so many movies where the film is crap and it's inundated with extras, here I couldn't get enough of Zombieland and Sony's Blu-ray left me wanting more."Beyond the Graveyard" is a Picture-in-Picture track which features most of the disc's bonus material diced up and served as the film plays out. There's not much new here so you'll probably find it easier to watch these pieces separately after you've watched the film. Sony also includes their BD LIVE-based movieIQ feature as well as a Digital Copy of the film on Disc Two. Final ThoughtsIn case you couldn't tell, I loved Zombieland. From a sheer entertainment perspective, Zombieland delivers in spades. The film is funny, scary (but not TOO scary), unpredictable and best of all, it's fun. Sony's Blu-ray Disc may be somewhat lacking in the extras department, but its nearly reference-grade picture and sound make it an easy recommendation.