(From left) Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Woody Harrelson play the usual friends who want a traditional family day out, even if it kills them.
(From left) Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and Woody Harrelson play the usual friends who want a traditional family day out, even if it kills them.

Attack of the cliché



Zombieland is a one-joke movie that nonetheless travels admirably far - into the third act, in fact - on that single gag: namely, what would happen if you inserted a neurotic wallflower with intellectual ambitions (an archetype more at home in Woody Allen dramas) into the fulsome pell-mell carnage of a zombie cannibal film?

The answer, initially, is delivered with self-deprecating wit and the brash genre awareness was popularised by the Scream films. Thus we are first introduced to nervy anti-hero Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg from The Squid and the Whale), a compulsive list-maker travelling through a post-apocalyptic America that has been ravaged by a lethal zombie virus. Columbus (characters are named after their hometowns; real names are deemed too upsetting, reminiscent of the old ways) survives this eminently hostile terrain by filling a small notebook with 47 handy hints for surviving zombie attacks. Illustrated examples of his rules, shown in snappy, gory, interstitial bites, include "Number 8: avoid bathrooms" - cut to shot of zombie attacking seated man from underneath public stalls. And then there's the gloriously direct "Number 1: cardio", which is overlaid with slow-motion footage of an obese man being tackled by a blood-drenched zombie on a football field. "The zombie lives an active life," observes Columbus in wry voice-over, before adding, "So should you."

So far so droll. So free from story. However, the narrative soon kicks in when Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the bizarre gun-toting cowboy, followed closely by two devious female hitchhikers called Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The pair join Tallahassee and Columbus on a road trip to an LA amusement park called Pacific Playland where the older, sisterly Wichita plans to give young Little Rock a traditional family day out, even if it literally kills her.

Along the way the film effectively indulges its central comedic premise by watching Columbus flail hopelessly in the face of death, and become even more emasculated next to the macho antics of Harrelson's action man. "What are you doing - prospecting?" asks a nervously stuttering Columbus, delivering one of many Allen-esque one-liners, as Tallahassee produces a giant zombie-killing pickaxe from the back of his car. Similarly, Columbus gives a fantastically deadpan account of an earlier romantic tryst with an alluring neighbour who is transformed mid-date into a zombie.

Of course, as soon as the film exhausts the comedic possibilities of Columbus's discomfit it quickly runs aground. The trip to Pacific Playland isn't strong enough to sustain an entire narrative, and so the film takes a random diversion to the Beverly Hills home of actor Bill Murray (here playing an overblown egomaniacal version of himself). The sequence is mildly amusing, and Murray seems to relish the self-satire (his mansion is dotted with the letters BM), but it only serves to underscore the fact that when a narrative veers so blatantly off-piste it isn't always a sign of directorial confidence.

For the rest of the movie, the director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, all television veterans making their film feature debut, simply throw their hands up in the air and let Zombieland sink under the weight of tediously overplayed ultra-violence and narrative non sequiturs. Our foursome find themselves, utterly illogically, in Pacific Playland and armed to the teeth with automatic weapons facing an interminable battle with an ever-growing throng of zombies. Here the movie suddenly expects to harness dramatic tension from a device (the slow limping attack of zombie villains) that has up until now been played entirely for laughs.

Worse still, the film completely inverts its own comedic premise and transforms Columbus into a decisive action hero. Instead of playing the original nerd-meets-zombies hook truthfully (think of Woody Allen's inept freedom fighter in Sleeper), the final battle is a transformative moment, where Columbus rids himself of self-doubt and taps his inner Rambo. Thus, the disappointingly rote answer to the original question, poised by a movie that's only briefly inventive, is that when a neurotic wallflower is inserted into the carnage of a zombie film, he does what every modern American movie hero does - he kicks ass.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Top financial tips for graduates

Araminta Robertson, of the Financially Mint blog, shares her financial advice for university leavers:

1. Build digital or technical skills: After graduation, people can find it extremely hard to find jobs. From programming to digital marketing, your early twenties are for building skills. Future employers will want people with tech skills.

2. Side hustle: At 16, I lived in a village and started teaching online, as well as doing work as a virtual assistant and marketer. There are six skills you can use online: translation; teaching; programming; digital marketing; design and writing. If you master two, you’ll always be able to make money.

3. Networking: Knowing how to make connections is extremely useful. Use LinkedIn to find people who have the job you want, connect and ask to meet for coffee. Ask how they did it and if they know anyone who can help you. I secured quite a few clients this way.

4. Pay yourself first: The minute you receive any income, put about 15 per cent aside into a savings account you won’t touch, to go towards your emergency fund or to start investing. I do 20 per cent. It helped me start saving immediately.

Company Profile:

Name: The Protein Bakeshop

Date of start: 2013

Founders: Rashi Chowdhary and Saad Umerani

Based: Dubai

Size, number of employees: 12

Funding/investors: $400,000 (2018)

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Roll of Honour, men’s domestic rugby season

West Asia Premiership
Champions: Dubai Tigers
Runners up: Bahrain

UAE Premiership
Champions: Jebel Ali Dragons
Runners up: Dubai Hurricanes

UAE Division 1
Champions: Dubai Sharks
Runners up: Abu Dhabi Harlequins II

UAE Division 2
Champions: Dubai Tigers III
Runners up: Dubai Sharks II

Dubai Sevens
Champions: Dubai Tigers
Runners up: Dubai Hurricanes

Women’s World T20, Asia Qualifier, in Bangkok

UAE fixtures Mon Nov 20, v China; Tue Nov 21, v Thailand; Thu Nov 23, v Nepal; Fri Nov 24, v Hong Kong; Sun Nov 26, v Malaysia; Mon Nov 27, Final

(The winners will progress to the Global Qualifier)

Results

4pm: Al Bastakiya – Listed (TB) $150,000 (Dirt) 1,900m; Winner: Panadol, Mickael Barzalona (jockey), Salem bin Ghadayer (trainer)

4.35pm: Dubai City Of Gold – Group 2 (TB) $228,000 (Turf) 2,410m; Winner: Walton Street, William Buick, Charlie Appleby

5.10pm: Mahab Al Shimaal – Group 3 (TB) $228,000 (D) 1,200m; Winner: Canvassed, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson

5.45pm: Burj Nahaar – Group 3 (TB) $228,000 (D) 1,600m; Winner: Midnight Sands, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson

6.20pm: Jebel Hatta – Group 1 (TB) $260,000 (T) 1,800m; Winner: Lord Glitters, Daniel Tudhope, David O’Meara

6.55pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 – Group 1 (TB) $390,000 (D) 2,000m; Winner: Salute The Soldier, Adrie de Vries, Fawzi Nass

7.30pm: Nad Al Sheba – Group 3 (TB) $228,000 (T) 1,200m; Winner: Final Song, Frankie Dettori, Saeed bin Suroor

UAE set for Scotland series

The UAE will host Scotland for a three-match T20I series at the Dubai International Stadium next month.
The two sides will start their Cricket World Cup League 2 campaigns with a tri-series also involving Canada, starting on January 29.
That series will be followed by a bilateral T20 series on March 11, 13 and 14.

BIGGEST CYBER SECURITY INCIDENTS IN RECENT TIMES

SolarWinds supply chain attack: Came to light in December 2020 but had taken root for several months, compromising major tech companies, governments and its entities

Microsoft Exchange server exploitation: March 2021; attackers used a vulnerability to steal emails

Kaseya attack: July 2021; ransomware hit perpetrated REvil, resulting in severe downtime for more than 1,000 companies

Log4j breach: December 2021; attackers exploited the Java-written code to inflitrate businesses and governments

How it works

Booklava works on a subscription model. On signing up you receive a free book as part of a 30-day-trial period, after which you pay US$9.99 (Dh36.70) per month to gain access to a library of books and discounts of up to 30 per cent on selected titles. You can cancel your subscription at any time. For more details go to www.booklava.com