Z

"What would you do to get out of debt?"
"What would you do to get out of debt?"
ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO (18)
D: Kevin Smith
The Weinstein Company/View Askew (Scott Mosier)
US 2008
97 mins

Comedy

W: Kevin Smith
DP: David Klein
Ed: Kevin Smith
Mus: James L. Venable

Seth Rogen (Zack), Elizabeth Banks (Miri), Craig Robinson (Delaney), Jason Mewes (Lester), Jeff Anderson (Deacon), Traci Lords (Bubbles), Katie Morgan (Stacey)

Two long-term platonic friends decide that the best way to get out of debt is to make an amateur pornographic film with a group of their friends.
It's nowhere near Kevin Smith's best work and it has to be said that his brand of humour struggles away from his Jay & Silent Bob characters and work which is more personal to Smith (i.e. Chasing Amy).
This does have the occasional moment which raises a smile, especially the planned pornographic version of Star Wars, which would have made a much funnier movie if they'd gone ahead with that idea. Perhaps George Lucas was looking on angrily. 
Still, it would've been a better plot than The Phantom Menace.
5/10

ZARDOZ (15)
D: John Boorman
20th Century Fox (John Boorman)
US/Ireland 1974
105 mins

Science Fiction/Fantasy

W: John Boorman
DP: Geoffrey Unsworth
Ed: John Merritt
Mus: David Munrow
PD: Anthony Pratt

Sean Connery (Zed), Charlotte Rampling (Consuella), Sara Kestelman (May), Sally Anne Newton (Avalow), John Alderton (Friend), Niall Buggy (Arthur Freyn / Zardoz)

John Boorman's sci-fi for the so-called intelligentsia is nothing more than a pretentious hodge-podge of bizarre nonsense. The film amassed a cult following who appreciate it despite its badness, but for the masses it's just Sean Connery galavanting around in a leather nappy. 
Set in the distant future where a race of humans are manipulated by a floating stone head which spews guns and orders its loyal subjects that killing is good and sex is bad. Connery, a hunter named Zed, sneaks aboard the giant head, killing the magician who controls it and is whisked away to Vortex 7, a secret society on Earth where a sterilised high society of humans with psychic powers dwell.
The whole film is a pseudo-intellectual pun on The WiZARD of OZ and there's one or two moments which make you sit up and pay attention, but they don't justify the rest of the snoozefest.
Overall, it's just a vanity project for director/producer/writer John Boorman after his plans to film Lord Of The Rings didn't materialise. 
3/10

ZATHURA: A SPACE ADVENTURE (PG)
D: Jon Favreau
Columbia (William Teitler, Scott Kroopf & Michael DeLuca)
US 2005
101 mins

Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction

W: David Koepp & John Kamps [based on the book "Zathura" by Chris Van Allsburg]
DP: Guillermo Navarro
Ed: Dan Lebenthal
Mus: John Debney
PD: J. Michael Riva

Josh Hutcherson (Walter Budwing), Jonah Bobo (Danny Budwing), Kristen Stewart (Lisa Budwing), Tim Robbins (Mr. Budwing), Dax Shepherd (The Astronaut)

A reworking of Jumanji with the jungle adventure being replaced by space, aliens, robots and all things sci-fi.
I can easily forgive the fact this movie dismisses all the laws of physics because it's a children's fantasy and on that count, it isn't totally bad, it's just cheeky that it's exactly the same movie as Jumanji in different clothing.
Tim Robbins is completely wasted in a role that any out-of-work actor could have played and Kristen Stewart doesn't ruin this (although she does practically spend the entire movie asleep).
Still, no movie trashes a house quite like John Hughes' Weird Science.
5/10

ZELIG (PG)
D: Woody Allen
Orion (Robert Greenhut)
US 1983
79 mins

Comedy

W: Woody Allen
DP: Gordon Willis
Ed: Susan E. Morse
Mus: Dick Hyman
PD: Mel Bourne
Cos: Santo Loquasto

Woody Allen (Leonard Zelig), Mia Farrow (Dr. Endora Fletcher), John Buckwater (Dr. Sindell)

Woody Allen's Citizen Kane, though nowhere near as iconic. The writer-director-star utilises a documentary style, including fictional interviews and narration to present the life of Leonard Zelig, a human chameleon, who, in the early 20th century would assimilate into various social groups who would shape history.
The central idea of the film is better than the execution, though the technical trickery which inserts Allen's image into footage of historical figures such as Adolf Hitler, Eugene O'Neill & Theodore Roosevelt is very well done.
The middle act, when the film gets bogged down in psychoanalysis babble, does drag a little, but with a running time of only 79 minutes, the film itself is rather easy going.
It think it's more intellectual than what it actually is, but the technical achievements such as cinematography, editing and visual effects are very well done.
6/10

"For ten years one woman never stopped searching for the most wanted man in history."
"For ten years one woman never stopped searching for the most wanted man in history."
ZERO DARK THIRTY (15)
D: Kathryn Bigelow
Columbia/Universal/Annapurna (Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal & Megan Ellison)
US 2012
157 mins

War/Drama

W: Mark Boal
DP: Greig Fraser
Ed: Dylan Tichenor & William Goldenberg
Mus: Alexandre Desplat

Jessica Chastain (Maya), Jason Clarke (Dan), Jennifer Ehle (Jessica), Mark Strong (George), Kyle Chandler (Joseph Bradley), Joel Edgerton (Patrick), Chris Pratt (Justin)

Kathryn Bigelow's follow up to the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker is another Gulf War saga, this time it's about the CIA's efforts to target and eliminate Osama Bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks.
I have to admit I was quite disappointed with this movie. It's 2 hours of build up for a climax that takes place in pitch darkness and you can barely make out what's going on. Fair enough that it's trying to be as realistic as possible with its documentary style edge and Cinema Verite photography, but I felt I could've learned more about the operation from reading a few books or watching some real documentaries. Bigelow's film is all Anti-Muslim and Pro-America.
Jessica Chastain plays a composite of real life characters as the agent leading the operation & her only real character development is to argue with her bureaucratic authorities.
The film briefly touches on the 7/7 London bombings, but since no Americans died in that, it quickly moves on. 
Personally, I expected and wanted more from this film. At best, it's a decent TV-movie-of-the-week thriller & at worst, it's a Michael Bay movie.
A film which will mean a lot more in America than it does outside of it.
6/10

ZODIAC (15)
D: David Fincher
Warner Bros./Paramount/Phoenix (Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Bradley J. Fischer, James Vanderbilt & Céan Chaffin)
US 2007
151 mins

Mystery/Thriller

W: James Vanderbilt [based on the book by Robert Graysmith]
DP: Harris Savides
Ed: Angus Wall
Mus: David Shire
Pd: Donald Graham Burt

Jake Gyllenhaal (Robert Graysmith), Mark Ruffalo (Dave Toschi), Robert Downey, Jr. (Paul Avery), Anthony Edwards (Bill Armstrong), Brian Cox (Marvin Belli), Chloe Sevigny (Melanie Graysmith)

An impeccably well directed thriller with excellent cinematography following the hunt for one of the most notorious serial killers of recent American history with a lot of emphasis on characterisation rather than the crimes themselves. 
Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey, Jr. are all fantastic as investigators and reporters who won't give up without discovering the truth.
It's slightly too long and could have easily had half an hour or so shaved off in the editing room, but some of the more grizzly scenes leaves a lasting impression, even if the film still doesn't bring any closure to a still-unsolved series of events.
7/10

"It really was the wrong time of the month."
"It really was the wrong time of the month."
ZOMBIE WOMEN OF SATAN (18)
D: Steve O'Brien & Warren Speed
Revolver/24:25/Growling Clown (Steve O'Brien)
UK 2009
85 mins

Horror/Comedy

W: Steve O'Brien, Warren Speed & Seymour Mace
DP: Steve O'Brien
Ed: Richard Johnstone
Mus: Dan Bewick

Warren Speed (Pervo The Clown), Seymour Mace (Johnny Hellfire), Victoria Hopkins (Skye), Victoria Broom (Rachel)

The title says it all. Shot on no budget of £70,000 in the North East of England, a collection of travelling circus members battle a horde of naked women zombies in the woods.
The obvious budgetary limitations can't be blamed for amateur performances, cheesy makeup effects and generally poor production values, but budget shouldn't even come into the fold when it comes to likeable, competently-written characters, well-timed comedy or even framing a shot well. This has none of these traits and merely seemed like an excuse for a pair of amateur filmmakers to trick wannabe  young actresses into getting their kit off for their own amusement.
Terrible. Even for a 'bad film'.
1/10

ZOMBIELAND (15)
D: Ruben Fleischer
Columbia/Relativity Media (Gavin Palone)
US 2009
84 mins

Comedy/Horror

W: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
DP: Michael Bonvillain
Ed: Peter Amundsen & Alan Baumgarten
Mus: David Sardy
Pd: Maher Ahmad
Cos: Magali Guidasci

Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus), Emma Stone (Wichita), Abigail Breslin (Little Rock), Amber Heard (406), Bill Murray (himself)

Fun twist on the zombie genre with a comic view not seen since George Romero's seminal classic Dawn Of The Dead.
Four survivors of a zombie apocalypse stay alive by following a strict list of rules and try to make it to a California amusement park so they can experience enjoyment amongst the bloodshed.
Woody Harrelson steals the movie as a zombie-killing, Twinkie-obsessed redneck and the movie has a big bonus for fans of Bill Murray, with the comedy legend delivering a memorable and hilarious cameo appearance.
7/10

"3% body fat. 1% brain activity."
"3% body fat. 1% brain activity."
ZOOLANDER (15)
D: Ben Stiller
Paramount/Village Roadshow/VH1 (Scott Rudin, Ben Stiller & Stuart Cornfeld)
US/Germany/Australia 2001
89 mins
 
Comedy
 
W: Drake Sather & Ben Stiller
DP: Barry Petersen
Ed: Greg Hayden
Mus: David Arnold
PD: Robin Standefer
 
Ben Stiller (Derek Zoolander), Owen Wilson (Hansel McDonald), Will Ferrell (Jacobim Mugatu), Milla Jovovich (Katinka Ingabogovinanana), Jon Voight (Larry Zoolander)
 
A vain male model has a jealous rivalry with a new supermodel.
Part-satire on the fashion industry with a bizarre subplot involving Derek Zoolander (Stiller) being brainwashed to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
It's all quite silly and is practically a one-joke movie, but it did amass a big legion of fans.
Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson seem to have a lot of fun embodying their roles and there are a couple of funny moments. It just isn't quite a model example of brilliant comedy filmmaking.
6/10

ZOOTOPIA (aka ZOOTROPOLIS) (PG)
D: Byron Howard & Rich Moore
Disney (Clark Spencer)
US 2016
108 mins

Animated

W: Jared Bush & Phil Johnston
Mus: Michael Giacchino

voices of: Ginnifer Goodwin (Judy Hopps), Jason Bateman (Nick Wilde), Idris Elba (Chief Bogo), Jenny Slate (Dawn Bellwether), J.K. Simmons (Leodore Lionheart), Bonnie Hunt (Bonnie Hopps), Don Lake (Stu Hopps)

Originally released under the title Zootopia, the film was renamed Zootropolis for European audiences. The reason why remains a mystery. 
Set in a city where anthropomorphic animals of various species live in relative harmony, a rookie bunny cop, the first of her kind, is given 48 hours to solve a missing persons case or face expulsion from the force, with the assistance of a cunning fox confidence trickster, they uncover a plot that something, or someone, is turning the tame animals feral in a reversion to their evolution.
Zootopia is huge fun, with the excellent standard of animation you'd expect from Disney, but it's also blessed with a good story which is a slight throwback to classic detective movies of the 1940's, as well as holding some clever subplots, such as chasing your dreams, not giving up and a rich anti-racism sentiment which runs throughout the film. Some of the visual humour and one-liners won't be appreciated by young children, but adults will understand what is being alluded to.
The film was a huge box office hit, and must surely be the front runner for the Best Animated Film Oscar come the time of next year's ceremony.
8/10

ZULU (PG)
D: Cy Endfield
Paramount/Diamond (Stanley Baker & Cy Endfield)
UK 1964
135 mins

War

W: John Prebble & Cy Endfield
DP: Stephen Dade
Ed: John Jympson
Mus: John Barry

Stanley Baker (Lt. John Chard), Jack Hawkins (Rev. Otto Witt), Michael Caine (Lt. Gonville Bromhead), Ulla Jacobsson (Margareta Witt), James Booth (Pvt. Henry Hook), Nigel Green (Sgt. Frank Bourne)

In the UK, Zulu is as big a staple of public holiday TV scheduling as The Great Escape or a Bond movie, with a tale of heroics at the Battle of Rorke's Drift which is to the Brits what The Alamo or Custer's Last Stand would be to Americans.
Set at a time during British colonial rule in Africa, a small platoon of soldiers must protect a fort from the attack of thousands of warriors from a Zulu tribe.
For the time of production, the reconstruction of the battle is excellent and the performances are all very good.
Overall, it's a film which will be better appreciated by those revisiting it for nostalgic reasons rather than those who are only just discovering it.
7/10