Movie Review: ‘The Dead Don’t Die,’ And Neither Does the Droll Energy in Jim Jarmusch’s Zombie Goof-Off

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CREDIT: Abbot Genser/Focus Features

Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Austin Butler, Eszter Balint, Luka Sabbat, Larry Fessenden

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: R for Ironic, But Visceral Zombie Violence

Release Date: June 14, 2019 (Limited)

Sometime around 2010, it was determined that it was every filmmaker’s God-given right to make their very own zombie movie. In the case of Jim Jarmusch, he was divinely matched with The Dead Don’t Die, a droll, occasionally fourth wall-breaking portrait of ravaged-by-the-undead small town life patrolled by Police Officers Bill Murray and Adam Driver. In a post-Shaun of the Dead world, The Dead Don’t Die is far from necessary, but it is sufficiently diverting. It adds an environmental wrinkle to the zombie mythos, as fracking is implied to be the culprit behind the upending of nature. If Jarmusch is crying out for us to protect the Earth, that warning is perhaps a little too late, considering how disastrous climate change has already become. But that’s no big deal (for the movie, that is – the planet is screwed), as he seems to have more goofball ideas on his mind anyway.

The zombie blood and guts are sufficiently hardcore, with the bodily fluids as wet and unleashed as the dialogue is dry and bottled-up. But the main attraction are not the ghouls so much as the characters and their unique ways of being human and/or inhuman. That is to say, while Tilda Swinton has badass sword skills as the town’s new undertaker, it’s more amusing that she gets to lean into a hardcore Scottish persona. This is the type of movie in which Selena Gomez tells Caleb Landry Jones, “Your film knowledge is impressive,” after he mentions some pretty basic info about George Romero, and then Larry Fessenden refers to Gomez and her friends who are passing through town as “hipsters from the city” and “hipsters with their irony” (the odds seem to be that they’re from Cleveland). If that sounds hilarious to you, you know who you are, and you can expect to mostly be satisfied, though you may (or may not) have issues with the shaggy, shambling plot structure.

The Dead Don’t Die is Recommended If You Like: Remaining at an ironic remove, but not being too-cool-for-school about it

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Diner Coffee Pots

This Is a Movie Review: Paterson

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This review was originally published on News Cult in December 2016.

Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Nellie the English Bulldog

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rating: R for Language Apparently, But I Don’t Remember Anything Particularly Harsh

Release Date: December 28, 2016 (Limited)

In Paterson, the latest from director Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man, Ghost Dog, Broken Flowers), Adam Driver plays a bus driver named Paterson in Paterson, NJ who writes poetry in between his routes. Maybe that sounds way boring to you, or maybe it sounds very lovely. Either way, this film will most likely not change your mind. But I urge those who are skeptical to give it a chance. The multiplex culture of cinema dictates that high-intensity action must be going on at all times, which relegates films like Paterson to a ghetto in which they can only be appreciated by “arthouse” nerds. But any living human being can find value in taking the time to appreciate the rhythms of daily life as realized by Jarmusch and Driver.

In addition to driving his routes and writing his verses, Paterson spends his days at home with his supportive wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who encourages him to publish his poems. (It helps a great deal that we can actually agree with Laura in regards to the high quality of her husband’s literary skills.) He also walks his bulldog Marvin to a local bar and gets a drink alongside some crazy characters. They are not sitcom-grade stereotypes, but real people, you know? But some sitcom-worthy shenanigans do go down, y’all.

Driver’s intense sensitivity (or is that sensitive intensity?) anchors the whole proceedings. As much as I believe in the power of reflective, low-stakes cinema in and of itself, it requires an especially magnetic actor to be particularly worthwhile. Driver is proving himself to be the type of performer who can make anything compelling. What he can accomplish just by listening is evident when he has a chance encounter with a Japanese tourist who also loves poetry. That scene is the apotheosis of Paterson’s entire purpose.

A final note: special recognition must be given to Nellie, the later canine actor who portrays Marvin in a gender-bending performance that was good enough to win the Palm Dog Award at the last Cannes Film Festival.

Paterson is Recommended If You Like: Free Verse

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Sensitive Man Poems