Monday, October 25, 2004

POPCORN REVIEWS: Mixed Bag of Nuts... Dead nuts

Move over Jenny G., We're the best "Thriller" revival on film.

Shaun of the Dead: 9/10

Shaun sells electronics and appliances by day and drinks beer by night. His best friend, Ed, sells pot from Shaun's couch when he's not busy playing video games. Shaun has a prick for a step father and his girlfriend just dumped him. Nothing is going Shaun's way, so... he and Ed get drunk and spend the night playing DJ with his "Electro" records. The two who are used to ignoring the world outside themselves eventually discover that while they were downing pints, the Apocolypse had come to London. The two, after much debate, decide to steal their flatmate's car, rescue Shaun's mother, Barbara, kill his step dad, rescue Liz, Shaun's ex, then make their way to some place familier and secure where they know where the exits are and they can smoke... The Winchester, their nightly haunt. And so, they go about their quest with a shovel and cricket bat. Hilarity ensues.

As most horror movies are a comment on some social cause be it "Divorce hurts children" (The Exorcist) or "Don't have Premarital Sex" (Friday the 13th), Shaun too delivers a message without any cheesy message moments we've seen in this years comedies from 13 Going on 30 to Mean Girls to The Girl Next Door. Instead of a lesson learned type monalogue, Shaun delivers strong visual commentaries. The shot composition and sight gags are no less than brilliant making this one of the funniest films that I've ever seen. If you're a working class creature of habit, how much different are you from a brain eating zombie? Well, only you know the answer to that one.

Among the rescent ressurection of the Zombie genre, "Shaun" smacks of wit and satyr while staying true the genre. The film does for zombies what Scream did for slasher films acknowledging cliches while still adhearing to the rules. Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Day of the Dead, and the Evil Dead Trilogy were all paid tribute with honor instead of the too standard Scary Movie style mockery. Shaun is an all around solid film. Writing, Acting, Directing, Editing, and even the music were all top notch. This film is all about laughes. The "horror" only comes by the realization that you too might be a working class zombie. If you're looking for thrills, chills, and screams go elsewhere. But if it's blood, guts, and guffaws you crave, don't skip this film. Shaun of the Dead is an instant classic to be watched again and again and again making it the Office Space of Monster movies.

As for other things I've been watching, here's a random assortment of this past week's viewing:

The Omen Trilogy: 6/10 for The Omen, 3/10 for the rest.

AMC aired the entire Omen trilogy on Sunday, twice. I've often said that The Omen is to The Exorcist what Dante's Peake is to Volcano. Of course, both The Omen and The Exorcist are far superior to either lava epic. The Omen stars Gregory Peck, one of the best actors of all time, as an American ambassador in London. He and his wife (Lee Remick) are overcome with grief when their child is still born. To fill the void, the couple adopt a child. Mystery surround him and people keep dying. Faced with sign after sign and body after body, Peck decides he must kills his son. With the pint size Antichrist on the alter of an astounding gothic cathedral, he takes one of the seven knives in the world that can kill the son of Satan. The climax is dramatic, powerful, and the scene in the film. Damien: The Omen II and The Final Conflict starring Sam Neil were lacking two of best parts of The Omen... the cast and director. Both went the way of Exorcist II: The Heretic more designed to satisfy public demand than for any creative purpose. While the Exorcist III, written and directed by William Peter Blatley breathed new life into the franchise, The Final Conflict was never able to rise to the occasion. The Omen was one of Richard Donnor's (Superman, Lethal Weapon, The Goonies) first films and was solid for what it was. Does is scare? It's definately creepy in that Helter Skelter kind of way but doesn't offer up too many "eeks". The Oscar-nominated music, Ave Satani, is by far the creep driver of the film in the way that Halloween's score to this day will (or should) scare a baby sitter. This is perfect for rainy sunday afternoons, but not an absolute must see. Consequently, the most lasting effect of this film is the sense of evil forever tied to the name Damien.

Something's Gotta Give: 6/10
This film is really good, but the last act was too cheesy. Once Diane Keaton's character Erica started crying non stop, I was lost and only hung on to see how it ended. I get it, I just thought it was beneath the smartness of the first two acts. The Jack and Diane chemistry was great as was Keanu. Amanda Peet was sweet and silly departing from her normally queen bitch rolls. This film is good for what it is, but it isn't great. Jack and Diane also delivered good performances, but when don't they? This is a "mom" film and not much more.

The Rundown: 7/10
From Peter Berg, whom I've always loved as an actor, made up for his "Very Bad" directorial debut. Staring The Rock and Sean William Scott in what in essence is a "buddy movie" against the wickedly evil South American miner played by Christopher Walken. Duane couldn't have picked a better post Scorpian follow up to showoff any acting ability. And guess what, he has some. He's easily plays funny, strong, desperate, and heroic. SWS on the other hand just delivers more Stiffler Dude failing to bring anything new to the screen. This is a fun action adventure movie in the footsteps of Jewel of the Nile or Romancing the Stone. Yes, this film has spectactular action, the best this side of Kill Bill. The Rundown is definately worth the rent and makes me more eager to see Berg's Friday Night Lights which is now in theaters.

Owning Mahowny: 6/10
No one plays desperate and down trodden like Phillip Seymore Hoffman unless maybe William H. Macy, his Boogie Nights buddy. As Macy starred in the phenomenal The Cooler last year, Hoffman headlines a less pretty gambling centric film of his own. Mahowny (or Howmany?) is a top banker in Toronto who escalates his gambling addiction south of the boarder in Atlantic City and Vegas. Racking up astounding debts, he keeps playing. He gets his capital from skimming Canadian accounts he's working with then losing it all in the United States. Mahowny gives a scary view of a gambling addicts mind... it's not about the money, it's about the win. The downward spiral of this true story is scary, frustrating, and unnerving. In fact that's the biggest problem the film has... there is never hope. Every time we're up, we know we're coming back down. The director, Richard Kwietniowski, matched this downer theme in cinematography and character alike. At one point, I wondered why I should bother watching the rest of the film because I had no hope for the central character. It's a great film for the topic is was tackling, but the slow, sad, drag wasn't at all entertaining and mostly depressing.


At 11:40 AM, Blogger Darren said...

Seeing Shaun tomorrow finally! Make sure you rent Dawn of the Dead this week just to see the spectacular opening act and Sarah Polley who somehow out-babed Uma, Lindsay and Jenny G this year. Something's Gotta Give was so bleh. Yeah, I love how at the end she's just like "well, bye keanu" and he just goes away. Whatever. The Rundown is the first movie I've ever walked out of. Everything about the movie was just annoying me at the time but I probably could have tolerated it had I seen it at a different time. And I never really cared for The Omen.


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