Among this week's new releases: A bizarre zombie satire, a movie about a child that not even Supernanny could save, and a great escape based on a POW's true story.
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Director: Andrew Currie. With Carrie-Ann Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, K'Sun Ray. (91 min.)
The Zombie Wars are over. ZomCon Corp. has developed electric collars to tame the undead as slave labor, and ZomCon's fences hold untamed zombies at bay. Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) buys the zombie Fido (Billy Connolly) as a domestic servant. Mr. Robinson (Dylan Baker) is afraid of zombies and resents the attention Fido pays Helen and Fido's friendship with their son, Timmy (K'Sun Ray). This spoof of 1950s attitudes is also a witty commentary on 21st-century issues such as homeland security and illegal immigration. Brilliant art direction and costume design go a long way to offset some rather feeble character development. Grade: B– – M.K. Terrell
Sex/nudity: 4 instances of innuendo; Profanity: 4 mild expressions; Violence: 17 scenes, including cannibalism; Drugs/alcohol/tobacco: 4 instances of alcohol, 8 instances of tobacco.
Director: George Ratliff. With Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Jacob Kogan. Michael McKean. (90 min.)
One of the better entries in the creepy-kid genre, "Joshua" is a bit like "The Omen" without the supernaturalism. Nine-year-old Joshua Cairn (Jacob Kogan) is a dead-eyed intellectual prodigy who dresses and grooms himself impeccably, disembowels his pet toys, and is fond of asking his father (Sam Rockwell) such questions as, "Do you ever feel weird about me, your weird son?" The answer is, yes, although it takes Dad an unconscionably long time to catch on to Joshua's true nature. Not so his wife (Vera Farmiga), who is shuffled off to the sanitarium for her troubles. First-time director and co-writer George Ratliff skirts, but never quite crosses, the line into absurdity. Grade: B – Peter Rainer
Sex/nudity: 5 scenes including brief nudity and a sex scene; Profanity: 26 instances, often harsh; Violence: 12 instances, including the murder of a pet; Drugs/alcohol/tobacco: 4 instances of alcohol, 2 instances of tobacco.
Rescue Dawn (PG-13)
Director: Werner Herzog. With Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Marshall Bell. (126 min.)
Werner Herzog's "Rescue Dawn" is a dramatic retelling of the escape in 1966 of downed US Navy pilot Dieter Dengler from the jungles of Laos. It's a subject Herzog had filmed 10 years before in the documentary "Little Dieter Needs to Fly." (Dengler, who was living in Northern California, died in 2001.) Christian Bale plays Dengler, whose escape from a Pathet Lao internment camp becomes, in Herzog's hands, a kind of metaphysical "Great Escape." Although nothing beats seeing and hearing the real story, Herzog has done a fairly compelling job of blending staged action with docudrama authenticity. Grade: B – P.R.
STILL in theaters 1408 (PG-13)
Director: Mikael Håfström. With John Cusack, Tony Shalhoub, Samuel L. Jackson. (94 min.)
Once-promising novelist Mike Enslin (John Cusack) now writes guidebooks to haunted inns, although he's not a believer. An anonymous tip leads to a Manhattan hotel room where 56 people have died over the years. Mike can't resist temptation and demands that the protesting hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson) allow him to check in. The room seems to know Mike's most painful memories and uses them and a lot of tricks (including a clock radio borrowed from "Groundhog Day") to drive him to madness and suicide. More thriller than horror flick, this could even be viewed as a really dark comedy. Grade: C+ – M.K.T.
Sex/nudity: 2 instances of innuendo; Profanity: 26 instances, often harsh; Violence: 20 scenes including depictions of eye gouging, suicide, and natural disasters; Drugs/alcohol/tobacco: 7 instances of alcohol, 1 instance of tobacco.