The Italian horror film “Zombie” (AKA “Zombie 2,” “Zombi,” “Zombie Flesh Eaters”) features some of the best practical effects I’ve seen. The gore is extremely graphic and incredibly well done. CGI will never be able to match effects like these. See the scene where a zombie pierces the eyeball of a woman with splintered wood.
However, if it weren’t for all the brain eating, eye gouging and free-flowing blood, the film would be pretty damn boring. The characters are bland and basically stereotypical cardboard cut-outs of what you’d expect in a zombie movie. They have little to no depth.
I enjoyed the implementation of the zombie genre’s voodoo roots and gleefully watched as a zombie went into a combat against a shark. Yes, a zombie-shark showdown makes this film at least worth a single viewing.
Last night I caught Matthew Vaughn’s latest film “Kick Ass.” Prior to “Kick Ass,” Vaughn directed the films “Layer Cake” and “Stardust.” I had been kind of turned off by the trailer’s for this film, but I had read and heard some pretty good things about it. Specifically it was Vaughn’s interview with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW’s “The Treatment” that made me want to give the movie a chance. You can find that interview here.
Sadly, I found the interview more interesting than the actual film. “Kick Ass” feels extremely disjointed. It tries to both satirize the super hero genre and be apart of it. It’s a complaint I have a lot about a lot of super stylized films. Movies such as these want to have fun with themselves and act as a parody, but then at certain points they seem to decide that they want their audiences to take them very seriously. This kind of inconsistent storytelling gives me a headache and it speaks of a director who isn’t entirely sure of what he wants.
I will say that there are some spectacularly shot action sequences. Generally, I find a lot of recent action movies boring and tune out during their big spectacle set pieces. The action in “Kick Ass” managed to captivate me, never making me want to take my eyes off of the screen. If only I didn’t have this nagging morality preventing me from fully enjoying an eleven year-old girl laying to waste a room of minorities. Gotta love my liberal education.
Final point: Nicholas Cage steals every scene he’s in.
It’s really no secret what a fan I am of Leone’s ‘Dollars’ trilogy. “A Fistful of Dollars” is one of my favorite movies of all time and I even have a poster of the film hung up in my room. That in mind, I was pretty excited Sunday night when I took advantage of my streaming Netflix and watched another Leone Spaghetti Western.
Leone doesn’t disappoint and “Duck, You Sucker!” proves to be another strong film by the late director. James Coburn is great as John Mallory, the Irish nationalist demolitions expert. The film offers commentary on friendship and class struggle, using the tumultuous Mexican Revolution as the story’s historical backdrop.
Once again Ennio Morricone proves himself to be a musical genius. The score, like every Morricone score, is absolutely incredible. His composition for the film’s main theme is catchy, dramatic and unique. Listen to it here.
The movie gets a high recommendation and is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Westerns and/or Leone.
I’ll leave you with this quote from the character Juan Miranda (Rid Steiger).
I know what I am talking about when I am talking about the revolutions. The people who read the books go to the people who can’t read the books, the poor people, and say, “We have to have a change.” So, the poor people make the change, ah? And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They’re dead! That’s your revolution. Shhh… So, please, don’t tell me about revolutions! And what happens afterwards? The same fucking thing starts all over again!
The only word I can think of to describe this movie is fun. “Creepshow” is just a really fun movie to watch. The film is an anthology of shorts based on stories written by horror author Stephen King. It is done in the style of 1950’s horror comic books and features some surprising cast members, including Ed Harris, Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen. In true Romero fashion, “Creepshow” contains some incredible practical gore effects and plenty of zombies. This film is the perfect film to sit around and watch with a bunch a friends, especially near Halloween.
As you can probably tell, I have been watching a lot of zombie films. I got an idea for a zombie movie a couple months back and I have been trying to immerse myself in the genre. That way, when I start writing, I know which concepts have already been tackled and which aspects of zombie movies I can improve upon.
Prior to starting this film journal, I revisited “Night of the Living Dead,” as well as Romero’s original “Dawn of the Dead,” and now have finally finished up his original zombie trilogy by watching “Day of the Dead.”
The first thirty minutes of this film are less then stellar. Over-the-top characters and some crummy dialogue make for a lackluster beginning. You don’t really want to root for anyone and every person you encounter is kind of an asshole. However, once you get to spend sometime with the characters away from situations that require constant yelling and berating, the film becomes much more enjoyable. This improvement in pacing could also have something to do with increased zombie encounters that showcase Tom Savini’s patented gore effects.
“Day of the Dead’s” social commentary is a little in your face, but the last hour is incredibly action packed, providing some exhilarating genre thrills that let you forget the film’s lack of subtlety. I really enjoy the ‘Bub’ character, a zombie who has been tamed and even taught to use fire-arms. Fans of zombie films definitely need to check this out. Stick with “Day of the Dead” through the first third and enjoy the bloody good hour that follows.
Congratulations Mr. Romero, you seem to be parodying yourself. “Diary of the “Dead” has an interesting premise, but very poor execution. Shooting a zombie movie like a documentary from the POV of the characters seems like an extremely awesome set-up. Romero, however, doesn’t take full advantage of it.
“Diary of the Dead” is far too polished for Romero to pass it off as a gritty, realistic view of a zombie apocalypse. On top of that, the dialogue is flat and the social commentary is so obvious you would think it was Romero’s freshmen term paper. Skip this one and stick to the original three “Dead” films.
It’s hard to discuss my feelings on “Moon” without giving away important plot points, but I will sincerely try because I wouldn’t want to spoil this film for anyone.
“Moon” is the first film from English director Duncan Jones. It star Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, a man living and working on the moon. The film opens as as Sam nears the end of his three-year, solitary work term.
The film explores classic sci-fi themes such as humanity, artificial intelligence and the alienation of technology. I can’t say the film breaks any new ground in the genre, but the film is still enjoyable and it is a showcase for the talents of Mr. Rockwell. The man is a tremendous performer and he does some great work here.
Kudos to Tony Noble, the movie’s production designer, for creating a believable and immersive world. The film’s style and design is reminiscent of late 60s/early 70s sci-fi, but manages to add a modern twist.
Clint Mansell’s score (“Requiem for a Dream,” “The Fountain) brings the entire film together. He creates such a fascinating and distinct mood with his memorable musical compositions.
Fans of the science fiction genre should add this to their Netflix Instant Queue ASAP.
I’ve debated whether or not to write about “Captain EO” since I revisited it last Sunday while at Disneyland. However, I enjoyed the hell out of it and it features some pretty prominent figures in film history, so why not?
“Captain EO” is a 3D short film at Disneyland theme parks. It was produced by George Lucas, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and stars the late Michael Jackson, as well as Anjelica Huston. After running at the park for about ten years, it was taken out and replaced by “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.” Since the death of Jackson, fans have been clamoring for its return and Disney finally rereleased it in February of this year.
The movie is pure spectacle entertainment, I mean, it’s a theme park ride. But it’s 70mm, 3D projection, and sensory special effects are pretty damn cool looking even today. I also have an affectionate for Muppet looking alien creatures.
I think what I enjoyed the most about the movie was the way it showcased several big names when they were at, or around the peak of their careers. This was a few years after “Return of the Jedi” for Lucas, between the albums “Thriller” and “Bad” for Jackson and the same year Coppola released “Peggy Sue Got Married.” “Captain EO” is a time capsule for the few things I actually enjoyed about 80s pop culture.
It’s also just an absurd amount of fun. Did I mention that the voice of Snowmiser is credited in the film? Awesome.
Last Friday was the thirtieth anniversary of one of my favorite films of all time, “The Empire Strikes Back.” I really can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this movie. It’s been with me since childhood and I am fairly certain this was the first “Star Wars” film I ever saw. However, it had been at least a couple years since I actually sat down and watched it. I indulged my inner fanboy and did just that this past weekend.
I grew up loving “Star Wars,” and while my love for certain entries in the franchise has definitely waned, my love of “Empire” stays strong.
“The Empire Strikes Back” features some of my favorite movie moments. I love the design of the film (as a kid I wanted to live on Hoth and in Cloud City), it features some hilariously clever banter (“I’d just as soon kiss a wookie,” and “Never tell me the odds,”) not to mention a collection of visually stunning set pieces that hold the test of the time. The battle of Hoth and the asteroid field chase are my two favorites and I still can’t believe how great they look considering they were all created with models, miniatures and green screens.
If George Lucas had managed to create six films that were equal to the caliber of “Empire,” he would probably go down as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. His strengths obviously lie in world building, not character, story and dialogue. It makes perfect sense then why Lucas did not direct this emotionally heavy and plot driven installment to his “Star Wars” saga.
Revisit this class and remember why “Star Wars” is a staple of American cinema.
The directorial debut of writer/director Noah Baumbach tackles the issues of post-collegiate angst, a topic I am a little familiar with.
Baumbach, known for his collaborations with director Wes Anderson (“The Life Aquatic” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”) as well as his solo features (“The Squid and the Whale” and “Greenberg”), has an ear for quick, witty dialogue. You can see this talent in “Kicking and Screaming,” however in an unrefined form. At times, the banter between the characters is almost too witty, thus interfering with my suspension of disbelief.
Still, the problem of figuring out what to do with one’s life following graduation is territory I have also treaded. And, to my surprise, the location used for the college in the movie is none other than my own alma mater: Occidental College. This just added an extra surreal element to my viewing experience. If you’ve dealt with the same issues, or are a fan of Baumbach, I recommended checking out “Kicking and Screaming.”