Cooties and Minions and Indians, Oh My!

Cooties (2014): written by Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan, and Josh C. Waller; directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion; starring Elijah Wood (Clint), Rainn Wilson (Wade), Alison Pill (Lucy), Jack McBrayer (Tracy), Leigh Whannell (Doug), and Nasim Pedrad (Rebekkah): Fun, uneven zombie-satire co-written by Leigh Whannell, who worked on the Saw and Insidious franchises and appears here as a loopy biology teacher. The semi-all-star cast is solid. The movie’s tone shifts a lot, from satire to earnestness and back again. 

Cooties is at its best when it’s throwing violence at the viewer. And as that violence is caused by children who’ve been turned into flesh-eating monsters by tainted chicken nuggets, there’s a certain level of hilarity involved in all the gore. The lead characters are all primary-school teachers at Ground Zero of the great child-zombie outbreak in the Illinois town of Fort Chicken. Seriously. I’ve certainly seen much less convincing straightforward zombie movies and TV shows. Recommended.

Minions (2015): written by Brian Lynch; directed by Kyole Balda and Pierre Coffin; starring the voices of Sandra Bullock (Scarlet Overkill), Jon Hamm (Herb Overkill), Michael Keaton (Walter Nelson), Alison Janney (Madge Nelson), Jennifer Saunders (Queen Elizabeth II), and Geoffrey Rush (Narrator): The jolly yellow sidekicks of the Despicable Me movies get their own movie, a prequel that explains their origins and history. The opening history sequence is funny and inventive and involves evolution. Is there an alternate cut for the Bible Belt and other evolution-free zones? 

Minions really could use Steve Carell’s reformed super-villain Gru for more than the 30 seconds he’s in this one. Sandra Bullock’s super-villainess Scarlet Overkill isn’t nearly as funny as Gru. But the minions are pretty funny, and the movie zips along, buoyed on what seems to be some sort of record for most classic songs used on a soundtrack (the film is mostly set in 1968). Jennifer Saunders shines as the voice of Queen Elizabeth II. Recommended.

Ten Little Indians (1965): adapted by Peter Yeldham and Harry Alan Towers from the play and novel by Agatha Christie; directed by George Pollock; starring Hugh O’Brian (Lombard), Shirley Eaton (Ann), Fabian (Raven), Leo Genn (General Mandrake), Stanley Holloway (Blore), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Judge Cannon), Daliah Lavi (Ilona), Dennis Price (Dr. Armstrong), Marianne Hoppe (Frau Grohmann), and Mario Adorf (Herr Grohmann): So-so second movie adaptation of Christie’s classic mystery (a.k.a And Then There Were None) has a wildly uneven cast and an uneven tone to go along with them. The movie relocates the action from an island to the Swiss Alps, to no really distinguished effect. Lightly recommended.

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