Friday, September 07, 2007

Camera Obscura - Romero's New Dead; Cronenberg's Crimes; Torchwood

Two filmmakers have consistently offered mind-breaking, visually stunning and unforgettable tales of humanity's darkest and strangest days and do so to this day.

First, George Romero provides another terrifying satirical poke at the living and the living dead as his new zombie movie, "Diary of the Dead", gets high profile praise and placement in the Toronto Film Festival. All other would-be pretenders to the Zombie Mythos fall on their splintered bony knees before Romero. From his first zombie film to the present one, the movies are cinematic poems to the best and worst in all of us.

In "Diary", when the movie poster says "shoot to kill", the shooting referred to is done by camera, from the constant filming in modern culture via cell phones to surveillance cameras. USA Today has more on the new movie:

The action centers on a group of students filming an old-fashioned horror movie for school. The scares turn real when they see shocking TV footage of corpses feasting on the living. The class assignment evolves into a documentary, obsessively shot by Jason (Joshua Close), who is driven to record every terrifying moment of their frantic escape in a Winnebago.

Though the movie might sound Blair Witch Project-inspired, the handheld camera doesn't shake and the background blares with news reports (some of it actual coverage of Katrina and 9/11), radio broadcasts and amateur Web accounts.

"During the shootings at Virginia Tech, people were filming out of the windows," Romero says. "CNN was asking flood victims to send in pictures. We have all this information now, but it's not being managed."

Though Diary is a departure, it also retains much of the lore and the gore from the director's original four-part Dead saga, but with a few tasty twists. Instead of halting zombies by just shooting them in the head, one stalker gets his brains eaten by chemicals. The slow vs. swift zombie debate continues, with Romero making a humorous case for his shambling brand.

And there are cameos. Those who pay attention might recognize voice-overs by Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Simon Pegg, Wes Craven and Guillermo Del Toro."

I am more than eager to see this one.

The other filmmaker whose movies have been powerfully unforgettable - David Cronenberg. He may have at long last found one actor to be his protagonist who is as twisted as he is, Viggo Mortgensen. Viggo was both riveting and funny and scary in "A History of Violence" and he takes his ragged intensity to the old Soviet nations in "Eastern Promises" with actress Naomi Watts.

Cronenberg stirs together such disturbing images and stories in all his films, and never fails to create a film which embeds itself in your brain. This interview with Cronenberg has all the details about his newest project.

Sci-fi/fantasy fans from all over are eagerly waiting for the premiere of "Torchwood" which arrives this Saturday night on the BBC channel. It's a spinoff from the makers of the current "Dr. Who" series. And yes, the title is is sly play on the words Doctor Who.

Reviews are sketchy, as they usually are when it comes to a spin-off series. This one follows a Time-traveling Captain Jack (not Sparrow) who was in last season's "Who", and who finds a Buffy-inspired Hellmouth in Cardiff, where all things extra-terrestial seem to be congregating. The Cap'n then gathers his goofy but lovable misfit gang of pals to combat the unending parade of the unearthly.

As I said, the reviews range from bad to tolerable to ... well, here's one from the UK and another from the US, and the reviewers at IMDB are about 8 to 2 against it. You can decide for yourself if you have BBC on your cable/dish provider.

Now for the strangest movie story of the week:

I recall reading some years back that one of the Wachowski Brothers, they of "The Matrix" fame, was having some .... ah, um ... well there's no other way to say it - brother Larry was undergoing a sex change. I had thought it might be just weird internet rumors. And this week FOX said it was all untrue.

The oddly black leather androgyny of "The Matrix" aside, this rumor has had legs for two years. Why the sudden attention on it now? Perhaps because the G-rated "Speed Racer" movie from the brothers needs some press attention and internet buzz?

Next Friday, right here on this page, I'll have some freebies to give away from the very funny TV series on FX, "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," which kicks off it's third season next week. Stay tuned for details!


  1. Last time I saw Larry Wachowski, he was halfway to Lana. He'll be all the way there soon enough.

  2. heh heh.

    FOX reported he was a'changing genders in 2006, and this week reported that was all bogus.

    FOX tell an untruth? say it ain't so!!

  3. Cinemonkey10:53 PM

    Check out the Torchwood forum (under "Sci-Fi" at TelevisionWithoutPity for a more varied (& perhaps balanced) view of Torchwood. Any more, I trust IMDB's reviews about as much as I do Betsy Pickle's.