Changes, Bill Murray and X-Men

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Since the fall of 2006, I’ve had the pleasure of writing about movies for the Coeur d’Alene Press’ Entertainment section. From my time as a full-time reporter and through the last eight years as a freelancer/stay-at-home dad, I’ve been here, more or less, in the Friday edition of the Coeur d’Alene Press.

I won’t be here next week.

That’s because I’m moving to Saturdays! My film reviews and columns will now appear in the Coeur Voice section of the Press every Saturday. Unless I forget to turn in an article. So most Saturdays! Same Bat Channel. Just different Bat Day.

Jarmusch whiffs on zombies

Even as “The Walking Dead” treks on at AMC, the zombie genre essentially ran out of juice sometime around “World War Z.” If anyone could freshen the landscape, it’s filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, the guy behind “Dead Man,” “Ghost Dog,” and the introspective vampire exercise “Only Lovers Left Alive” from 2013.

Unfortunately for “The Dead Don’t Die,” now available on home video platforms, Jarmusch relies on the same tired tropes and stale thematic ideas as the dozens of zombie movies before it. Even with some of his best recent collaborators along for the ride (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Adam Driver), the film never finds much to say.

The only novel concept in “The Dead Don’t Die” is Driver’s small-town cop character being inexplicably aware that he’s starring in a movie. He knows the story “will end badly,” and even regards the frequent needle drops of the titular Sturgill Simpson ditty as the movie’s “theme song.”

His character, especially when sharing these asides to his baffled partner (Murray), conjures a few moments of deadpan levity. The character shrugs, and I guess we as the audience are supposed to shrug along with him, but it also makes it difficult to invest in any of the story.

The likes of Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny and Selena Gomez roll through the movie with underdeveloped parts, and, as expected, Tilda Swinton plays a crazy person (she’s a samurai sword-wielding mortician). Shrug.

Jarmusch nauseatingly overplays his criticism of modern culture by repeating a “joke” where the zombies in town return to their favorite passions in life (coffee, wi-fi, etc.). It’s all material George Romero did better decades earlier.

Without laughs or tension, “The Dead Don’t Die” is just a star-studded disappointment.

‘Dark Phoenix’ and diminished expectations

Fox’s final “X-Men” film (Disney now controls the property) debuted earlier this summer with a thud. Bad reviews and a lackluster marketing push resulted in a tepid box office performance. It’s now available on home video and makes for an excellent $2 Redbox curiosity.

Look, the movie itself is a complete mess. It leans too hard on its younger cast of mutant heroes while underutilizing the established heavyweights of the “First Class” series (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, etc.). However, as another attempt to retell the famous “Phoenix Saga” from the comics, “Dark Phoenix” at least avoids the overstuffed goofiness of 2006’s “The Last Stand.”

It’s also significantly more engaging than the previous “X-Men” movie — the disastrous “X-Men: Apocalypse” in 2016. It isn’t the grandiose climax many probably wanted from this franchise, but it works as a diverting, if hollow superhero adventure. Worth exactly $2.

• • •

Tyler Wilson can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com.

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