Friday, February 15, 2008
Camera Obscura - Romero's New Dead; 'Jumper' Falls; Sly 'Eulogy'
Is there a scenario more unsettling than hordes of zombies shambling across the de-populated landscape? Perhaps, as in George Romero's new movie "Diary of the Dead", it is a media-saturated culture.
Notice the title is not "Diary of the Survivors of a Zombie Horde."
The low-budget, no-name cast is the latest in a career spanning 40 years of socio-zombie impact. The premise here is that a group of young people head out with armed with cameras to make their own horror movie and discover instead an apocalypse, which they attempt to document via the moving image. Our world today is home to cameras at intersections and attached to phones and generally stuffed into every nook and cranny imaginable. To paraphrase McLuhan, "The medium is the zombie."
And how does his new movie rate? Scott Weinberg wrote this review after seeing the movie in Toronto last fall:
"This time around Mr. Romero seems most interested in the media, and the ways in which it shapes our reactions to life's unexpected tragedies. Icing on top: By using the 'fake movie within a movie' conceit, the zombie lord gives himself ample opportunity to poke fun at the "reality" of documentary filmmaking. And poke he does! The veteran craftsman also seems entirely fascinated by the ways in which information is instantly disseminated over the internet, so there's plenty of geek-friendly cleverness to be found here. To those who simply want a good old-fashioned chomp-fest, rest assured that there's gore galore -- plus a very healthy dose of in-joke horror references that nerds like me always enjoy. And no, the funny stuff does not overwhelm the splat-tastic mayhem. As is often the case, the humor offsets the scary / gross moments and all the components congeal into a full-course genre treat."
Also, you'll hear the voices of Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King, Wes Craven and more as "news-readers" in the movie.
Also recommended reading - a fine interview with Romero at the A.V. Club, where he says:
"I was stunned by the effect of all this emerging media, and how everybody was getting sucked in not only as viewers, but as reporters. It says on CNN that if you see something outside your window, shoot it and they'll put it on the air. "
There has been heavy TV advertising for the new Doug Liman movie, "Jumper", based on a series of sci-fi books by writer Stephen Gould. The story concerns a young man who has the ability to defy time and space and transport himself to any location. Of course, he meets others with the same ability and even a kind of secret army who seek to thwart the Jumpers.
But here's the thing I most noticed about all the ads - not one mention of the two stars in the movie: Hayden Christiensen and Samuel L. Jackson. Where's the tag line: "Darth Vader and Mace Windu Meet Again!!!"
Oh yeah, that's right - Hayden was terrible in the Star Wars movies and no one knows who the heck Mace Windu is (was) outside of some fan convention.
Now if the duo teamed up for "Snakes On A Plane Part 2" .....
I am huge fan of the films of Doug Liman "Swingers", "Go", "The Bourne Identity", "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" - and even genre fave David Goyer ("Blade") aided with the story.
But reviews of "Jumper" usually end up with the movie splayed out on the concrete after, well, after a fateful jump. All the reviews too note the rather blatant There Will Be A Sequel ending. (Did I suggest "Snakes On A Plane Part 2"?) And hey, who cares what critics say? I'm sure all those folks who went to see "Fool's Gold" still tingle with good feelings.
A 2004 movie that screened at Sundance, "Eulogy", pretty much died on arrival and headed straight to DVD and remains a mostly and unjustly unknown movie. I suggest you seek out this funny comedy which is packed with hilarious performances by Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, Rip Torn, Zooey Deschanel, Debra Winger, Kelly Preston and Piper Laurie.
They are a family who reluctantly gather for the funeral of thier Dad, Rip Torn, whose habits included being unable to remember the names of his children. Deschanel plays Azaria's daughter, who is stuck with the task of writing the eulogy.
Tons of one-liners abound. I liked the one where the funeral home director describes a graveyard as "Sort of like an old folks home where you really don't need to go visit anyone."
This ensemble cast, though in a storyline seen in many other movies, provides very funny entertainment - before, during and at the funeral. Their work together clicks and hums with perfection. And there is this notion that their oddness and dysfunctions are not what seperates them, it's what connects them.
Again, this isn't some astonishing new take on an old story - just a chance to see some great actors having a great time.