Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Will you pay to see this movie? A Woody Harrelson double feature!

There have been absolute standouts - Mickey Knox in Natural Born Killers, Larry Flint in The People vs. Larry Flint (earning Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Actor) and Carson Wells in No Country for Old Men. Some genuine laughs stretching back to Hank Gordon in Doc Hollywood and Roy Munson in Kingpin. Even a bit of fairly hilarious singing as Dusty in A Prairie Home Companion. It's been a long, substantive and varied film career since Woody the Cheers bartender became better known as Woody Harrelson, movie star. From the varied roles to his willingness to play small parts and play in small movies, we get the impression that Woody Harrelson probably prefers "actor" to "star" and in most examples on his resumé, we're in agreement. Likable, humorous, versatile and sometimes volatile, Harrelson has genuine talent.
Nothing in that last paragraph explains our first impression from watching the trailer for Mr. Harrelson's scheduled October release of Zombieland. And nothing up there seems to relate in the slightest to our first, second or third (and we assume ad infinitum) impression from watching the trailer for this month's Toronto Film Festival screening of Defendor. We're at a loss and there's only one way to begin to explain. Click anywhere in this sentence, jump over to Moviedozer.com and watch the trailers for yourself. (Scroll down to the trailers toward the bottom of the page when you get there.) Be patient and let them load on your screen, we think you'll want to watch each of them more than once. When you're done, click on a link next to the trailers and drop back here to leave your comments.

For the record, Zombieland, is set to be released by Columbia Pictures on October 2nd. Television marketing is already underway and of the two films we're talking about here, this one is certainly the more mainstream. Zombie horror flicks have always been a staple and doing the walking dead thing with a dark streak of humor started way back with George A. Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead and stretches to the sly and clever Shaun of the Dead from 2004. With a bit of a twist, Woody Harrelson's cowboy hatted, redneck slugger of a zombie killer is a new take on a classic character. We can't help feeling though, that there's a hole here that a stronger, funnier and more interesting cast may have filled nicely. Sorry, Abigail Breslin and Jesse Eisenberg (and Bill Murray as a zombie) don't cut it for us. From the looks of the trailer, this is all Woody's show and that means the script better have some drop-dead funny (sorry) set pieces.

And then there's Defendor. The homemade superhero thing isn't new either. In fact, if you're the comic book type, you already know lots of them. (The big one in the movie chute is Kick-Ass scheduled from Lionsgate for 2010 and starring Nicholas Cage and Aaron Johnson.) The trailer for Defendor has been sneaking onto websites just a couple of weeks before a bow at the Toronto Film Festival and, without having an announced release date, is getting its first chance at grabbing some buzz. Woody plays Arthur Poppington, an ordinary guy un-endowed with any super powers, who nonetheless fashions a "D" out of ducktape on the back of a makeshift cape and calls himself Defendor. It's all rather baffling until you catch, perhaps, a small hint in the storyline. Arthur may be just a little bit nuts and equally naive about his ability to right wrongs. And in that, maybe, there's a charming, endearing side to why we might want to watch Woody traipsing about in tights.

So one again readers and moviegoers, we leave it to you. Has Woody lost it completely, gone for an easy paycheck (Zombieland) or done a friend a favor by being in his first directing project (Defendor)? Or will he elevate Zombieland to a fall comedy hit and surprise us with a quirky but moving character piece in Defendor? Trailers are just glimpses of a whole but they're supposed to sell the movie, judging by these - will you pay to see these movies?

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