Shaun of the Dead

I shiver at the thought of ghosts in the hallway. I jump at an eerie howl coming from the distance. Blood, gore, goblins, and ghouls all make me weak at the knees. I refuse to watch horror films. I refuse to put myself through that kind of torture. So why is it that "Shaun of the Dead" is one of my all time favorite movies?

The story, my friends, the story is the answer. It’s not just about blood and zombies and blowing their heads to bits. I mean it is and it isn’t. The story is about living, in both senses of the word. I mean obviously they have to survive the zombie invasion but the main character, Shaun, also has to learn how to grow up and master the world around him; go out and get what he wants out of life instead of waiting for it to happen to him. Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) have such a natural relationship that it’s easy to join their world and share in their adventures. Pegg and Frost used to live together as flat mates so the dynamics you see between them are never forced. They are friends through and through but like all friends, their relationship isn’t perfect. Keeping reality in check, Shaun and Ed disagree and argue on several points throughout the film. Add in their roommate, Pete, Shaun’s love interest, Liz, and you’ve got all sorts of juicy conflict and witty dialogue.

The script, together with Edgar Wright’s direction and Chris Dickens’ editing makes for a visually stimulating goldmine. If you have the pleasure of watching “Hot Fuzz” you’ll notice the same editing techniques with fast action cuts and long uninterrupted shots. The romantic zombie comedy (rom zom com) also pays homage to several other zombie films of the past including but not limited to "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), and "The Evil Dead" (1981). You can check out the references and some other cool trivia at http://www.neatorama.com/2009/01/18/movie-trivia-shaun-of-the-dead/. And don’t forget to follow the awesome Brit himself on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/simonpegg. Pegg, Frost, and Wright have something brewing for their next project together so it’s best to stay in touch.


Once Upon a Time

The ads for Once Upon a Time ran for months, touting the show’s pedigree (“From the writers of Lost”), and giving glimpses of Vancouver doubling for both the land of fairy tales and Storybrooke, Maine, a slightly off-looking small town that serves as the characters’ prison.

I loved Lost—I watched every episode and marveled at how the production designers made Hawaii look like any place in the world they needed it to be. However, the writing was uneven. At times wonderful, at times good, it too often relied too much on the actors to raise the dialogue above mediocrity. Some of that carries over to Once Upon a Time, but the cast is largely up to the task. However, I hesitate to judge the writing solely on the basis of the pilot because of the extensive amount of exposition this series seems to require. Also, Jane Espenson’s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones) presence as co-executive producer should help. (Read an interview with Espenson here.)

The production values are as high as anything you’ll see on television, and surpass those of some feature films. Vancouver was absolutely the right choice of location for this series. When we’re watching the fairy tale scenes, it looks like a richly illustrated book of children’s stories, and when we’re watching the Storybrooke scenes, it looks like a fairy tale character’s slightly off impression of our world. This is a beautiful show.

This brings us to the cast. When I initially saw the line-up, I couldn’t wait for the show to start. Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love, Something Borrowed) makes a good Snow White, but she seems more effective in her Storybrooke role. Jennifer Morrison (House M.D., How I Met Your Mother, Star Trek) is very good as Emma Swan, and her character looks to have some interesting things to do in the coming weeks. Jared Gilmore (The Back-Up Plan, Mad Men), who plays Henry, had some awkward exposition in the premiere and did pretty well with it, but exposition is difficult and a few lines seemed a bit much for him. He has great promise, though.

Lana Parrilla (24, Boomtown, and two episodes of Lost) looks like she’s relishing every line and every scene. Her problem, though, is that her villainy is less menacing than that of another character, Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold, played by Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty, 28 Weeks Later). When Parrilla threatens first Snow White and then Emma Swan with “I will destroy you if it’s the last thing I do,” you believe she will die trying, but she’s so close to the evil queens in the Disney princess movies that you know eventually she will die trying and fail. Carlyle, on the other hand, can make your skin crawl by saying something trivial like “Enjoy your stay.” His portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin is the most physical performance on the show so far, and his scenes in both worlds give the show all of its edge and any uncertainty as to its eventual outcome. His presence on the show is great news for the audience.

While I think the pilot episode had some issues, it also had enough going for it to give the series a few more weeks before deciding whether to keep watching.

This post was written by LR Simon as part of an ongoing series of posts on horror/fantasy films and television series.



Zombieland is a road picture. It’s a buddy picture (two buddy pictures, actually). It’s a romantic comedy (sort of). It’s a chase film. It’s a horror flick. It’s a post-apocalyptic survivor story.

The film is narrated by Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who begins by setting up some of the future action with his rules of survival (cardio, beware of bathrooms, double tap). Columbus is leaving Austin, Texas to find his parents when he encounters Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), another survivor. Tallahassee’s approach to survival differs from (and sometimes complements) Columbus’.

Their humorously prickly friendship would not have been sufficient to carry the film. The writers wisely introduce Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who provide a lot of the twists and turns of the story. They complicate matters for Columbus and Tallahassee several times, and the actresses both hold their own comedically with their co-stars.

The other stars of the film are the script and the sets. The script attempts to hit a lot of different notes and make them sound good together. Zombieland is not the only film to attempt a complicated mix of genres, but it is one of the few films that tries to be many things and succeeds. It never feels like it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be.

Future set designers are advised to watch the special feature on the DVD that includes interviews with Zombieland’s production designer, Maher Ahmad. He discussed the challenges in making scenes look abandoned. He also talks about decisions he had to make in all the main locations, and some of the tricks he used to make it look like there were more props than there actually were.

There are scarier zombie movies than Zombieland, but this movie is more about establishing characters and relationships than scaring the audience. The zombie make-up, however, is very realistic and… unappetizing to look at, so viewers with especially weak stomachs should keep that in mind when deciding to watch. Still, Zombieland may be a good movie for people who think they don’t like zombie films. And if Contagion scared you, Zombieland might take the edge off.

This post was written by LR Simon as part of a series on horror films and television series.


American Horror Story

FX has a new original series called American Horror Story that shows on Wednesday nights. It appears that Ryan Murphy has done it again as he is the creator of two other successful prime time shows, Nip/Tuck and Glee. American Horror Story stars Dylan McDermott (The Practice), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Jessica Lange. A husband and wife move with their daughter from Boston to Los Angeles for a fresh start. They had hoped to leave their evils behind simply to be introduced to a life that is far more ominous than they could have ever expected.

Out of the gate the show grabbed me. They get away with things on this show that I never would have thought possible on basic cable. The characters are some of the richest and most complex characters I've seen on TV in I don't know how long. One of the most interesting elements to the first two shows was that they used popular Bernard Herrmann scores as the basic score for the show. In the Pilot they used the suite from Vertigo and in the second episode ("Home Invasion") they used the suite from Psycho. Both scores were used in popular Alfred Hitchcock films. Using this technique seemed positively seamless like the scores were written for the scenes in American Horror Story. Each episode is like a mini movie and the audience completely forgets that they're watching a television show. At the end of each episode you're utterly confused, but dying for more.

FX premiered the show on October 4th, so if you aren't watching American Horror Story yet it's not too late to catch up. I can't say enough good things about this show and I highly recommend it to anyone that's a true horror far or just in the mood for something different.

This post was written by Teresa Skibinski.

This is the first in a series of posts about new fantasy/horror television series and movies, both current and classic.


Lyrical Lifestyle

This post was written by CoyoteMoon Films' Megan Guthrie, producer and actor in "The 3 O'Clock," as well as host and producer of Lyrical Lifestyle on YouTube.

I am proud to announce that Holston United Methodist Home for Children has partnered with Lyrical Lifestyle to promote our interview with platinum recording artist, Rodney Atkins!

Rodney's Video
Rodney's Article
Holston United Methodist Home for Children Link

Also, please see our latest video and article link with Republic Nashville recording artist, Sunny Sweeney and Hunter Hayes (little known fact, Hunter was just six years old when he received his first guitar... And it was given to him by Academy Award-winning actor Robert Duvall).

Music fans, have you heard Blake Shelton's single, "God Gave Me You?" The hit is featured in Lyrical Lifestyle's latest section: Top Music Video Pick of the Week.

For more information on the story behind the music video where Blake discusses his wife Miranda Lambert visit The Boot. If you are interested in reading more of Rodney's adoption story check out the USA Today article.

Stay tuned for upcoming Lyrical Lifestyle interviews with Tracy Lawrence and top selling country artist of 2011, Jason Aldean!

Thank you for your support!