Friday, May 26, 2006

Camera Obscura: Cemetery Man, X-Men, Comics Galore

The critic is: IN. The movies: Obscure and Mainstream. The News: Sneak peeks at movies out this summer. Ah, yes, faithful followers, it's time to talk movies and we have a bona fide horror gem from the early 90s fresh to DVD; a Canadian treasure; a look at what oddities are ahead this summer and the bad news about X-Men 3.

This week new previews of Marvel Comics "Ghost Rider" were released (the movie stars Nicolas Cage, who turned down a proposed "Superman" role and went for the flamin' skeleton on a motorcycle. Who wouldn't? The preview is here.

Director Jon Favreau has "Iron Man" details here, in a deal that takes all the Marvel titles away from Hollywood control. In fact, Marvel has a whole stack of heroes in the pipeline, including Nick Fury!! (Please never watch that lousy David Hasselhoff TV movie from a few years ago.)

The big comics-to-movies news is the third X-Men movie - and the critics so far say it's all hat and no cattle. Meaning it's effects-heavy and story-light. I admit, the idea of Kelsey Grammer as The Beast is almost enough to keep me away from the movie. It opens everywhere today. (and remember, film critics seldom get the comic book lovers appreciation for the stories told in panels and word balloons.)

And wouldn't you know it - the one movie featured at the Cannes Festival I'd like to see, "Southland Tales" by the director/writer of "Donnie Darko" can't seem to find a distributor. J. Hoberman has a review of "Southland Tales", a Phillip Dick inspired sci-fi end-of-the world musical and satiric jab at national security issues, along with a wrap-up of all things Cannes here. He calls "Southland" one of the first great, visionary flicks of 2006. (Also the movie is linked to a series of soon to be released graphic novels.)
"Southland Tales"

Constant readers here know how much I looooove horror films and I have a real gem from the 1990s today, thanks to the folks at Anchor Bay and M-80 Teams for the screener copy of "Cemetery Man."

Released in the mid-90s and made in 1994 "Cemetery Man" is a jaw-dropping mix of zombies and doomed love starrring Rupert Everett. I caught this movie on it's original run and the Italian-French production (dubbed in English) presents a very stylish and gruesome movie -- imagine if Fellini and Bergman made a zombie movie with Sam Raimi and you'll get an idea of what the movie is like. I think it's the only art-house zombie flick I've ever seen.
"Cemetery Man"

Rupert plays the watchman at a cemetery, along with a nearly mute helper, who has a problem - the dead keep coming back. He does his best to keep the zombies at bay, but when he sees a widow, an ephemeral beauty in black, one day, he falls in love - of course, she's bitten by her dead husband and becomes a member of the walking dead club.

This is the surface of the story, but the real surprise is how smart the script is and how gorgeous the visuals look. There are many layers here and many surprises. It's very funny, grim and artfully made. It was way past time for a decent DVD version of this movie and I think it's a forgotten classic of the genre. Pick up a copy when it's released in June. (And remember, NEVER bury a motorcyle with a corpse.)

This week a reader asked if I had seen a very odd release from director Guy Maddin, called "The Saddest Music In The World", and what my thoughts on it were. This is not a typical movie in any way. Maddin, a Canadian, seldom uses any technology not available to filmmakers in the early silent cinema of the 1900s. Using eight and sixteen millimeter for the most part, filming mostly black and white, smearing lenses with vaseline and using iris-outs, his movies seldom appeal to the masses.

"Saddest Music" is about a competition to find the saddest music, hosted by beer baroness Isabella Rossellini, who has lost her legs and replaced them with glass legs. It only gets stranger as you watch it. There is much satire here and much, much strangeness as only Maddin could make.

I first encountered Maddin in 1991 when I saw his movie "Archangel" in a dinky screening room in Greenwich Village. Maddin somehow always makes amputees and amnesia central to his movies, which I suppose is his preferred metaphor for the theme in all his movies - loss. He's an acquired taste, no doubt. Though I have enjoyed his movies, I was not able to sit through his version of Dracula, titled "Dracula: Pages From A Virgin's Diary", as it was really a filmed ballet. Yes, I said ballet.

Some things are too weird, even for me.

UPDATE: The announced release of the original theatrical "Star Wars" movies got worse - no letterbox version, just a pan and scan format for TV screens.

And weep for Britney/Federline 'cause it's over.

"Kung Fu" creators are taking Caine's story to the big screen.


  1. Anonymous1:05 PM

    Man, and here I thought GAC and I were the only fans of 'Cemetary Man'!

  2. Yay Cemetery Man! One of my top 10 favorite movies ever. It'a about time they gave it a decent DVD release. It is one of the very few zombie movies since Romero's original trilogy that understands how zombie movies aren't really about zombies. Life... goes on.

  3. I LOVE CEMETERY MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. OHMIGOD. Cemetery Man rocks the house. That movie kicks so much ass. Thank you for the reminder.

  5. Yes, "Cemetery Man" is as good as you recall, and defintely worth an addition to your collection of zombie movies.

    The new DVD is out June 13th.

  6. Anonymous11:02 AM

    AT and I caught this movie on Skinemax back in '98 or so and have been looking for it on dvd ever since. Oddly enough, I found it on vhs at a rinky-dink rental place in LaFollette a number of years ago. We gave up a couple of months ago and got it on vhs. Nice to know supply is finally catching up with demand.