UNDEAD (R, 100 minutes)
This clever horror film by Australian filmmaking brothers Peter and Michael Spierig has enough wit and visual inventiveness (on a shoestring budget) to transcend its genre as just another flesh-eating zombie flick. High school horror buffs with a level of sophistication and science-fiction savvy will find it quite a treat, if this little import can break through the summer Hollywood fare. Of course, "Undead" is exceedingly gory and violent. It shows the undead -- townsfolk infected by the alien virus and changed into zombies -- eating their own flesh and even their internal organs and going after live humans. There is plenty of blood and guts, as well as severed heads, limbs and even torsos. The protagonists fend off the zombies by shooting them in the head, splitting or knifing their skulls and more. The script includes a lot of panicky profanity and rare mild sexual innuendo.
The central character is Rene (Felicity Mason), a timid beauty queen from a rural Australian town. On a fateful drive in the country, she sees meteor-like shafts of light shooting down to Earth and encounters the ravenous undead humans. She meets a well-armed loner (Mungo McKay) -- kind of a martial arts and firearms master -- who knows how to fight the zombies. They hide in his fallout shelter, along with two incompetent cops and a married couple. The group tries to break through the undead throngs, but the aliens have something else in mind. "Undead" is nowhere near as funny as "Shaun of the Dead" (R, 2004) but makes up for that with a really intriguing plot twist and arresting visual images at the film's climax.
HEIGHTS (R, 93 minutes)
High school drama students 16 and older who are serious about exploring the art of acting should catch this sophisticated slice-of-life drama set among the arty elite in Manhattan. The film gets more than a little arch and in-with-the-in-crowd at times, but at its core, the story is quite human. As a bonus, there is Glenn Close in a fine, warm performance as a revered stage and film star trying to decide what to do about her philandering husband and her unhappy daughter (Elizabeth Banks), who seems primed to marry the wrong man. The film includes a steamy but non-graphic sexual situation and an understated kissing scene, frontally nude photos of men and themes dealing with confused sexuality and sexual preference. One scene implies the start of a sex party of some kind, with voyeurs watching through binoculars as naked couples make love in another building. Those scenes are not explicit and are filmed from a great distance. Characters also swear, drink and smoke.
Director Chris Terrio (working from Amy Fox's script) shifts the point of view from Close's grande dame, Diana, to her daughter, Isabel, to Isabel's fiance (James Marsden) to a young actor (Jesse Bradford) on whom Diana decides to bestow her kindness. Isabel seems ill-prepared for her wedding, the suburban lifestyle that looms and the end of her urban photographer's career. Her fiance has issues, too, and Mom, when she takes her mind off herself, seems to sense all of it.