June 2005

Dead Wreckoning

by Tim Dodd on June 23, 2005

in Uncategorized

ZolarCzakl slaughters Romero!

In the wonderfully twisted world of horror and exploitation flicks exists the lumbering, rotting, twitching beast of apocalyptic doom and gut-wrenching gore known as the zombie film. Most fans of these movies know that George A. Romero was essentially the creator of the modern zombie film; before his groundbreaking low budget feature Night of the Living Dead (1968) zombies were of the robotic voodoo kind, controlled by an evil master to do his will. Night of the Living Dead presented zombies as re-animated dead bodies, mindlessly devouring human flesh in an evil quest to destroy and conquer all life on the planet. Pretty heavy stuff, except that Night and the two sequels that followed are so damned fun to watch and are hallmarks of truly great horror entertainment.
Night had a simple premise: a radiation accident causes the bodies of the recently deceased to rise from their graves and start munching on the living, a small group of which hole up in an abandoned farmhouse and try to fend off the ghouls. Romero followed this eleven years later with the much gorier Dawn of the Dead, which concentrates on a group of survivors fending off the zombies in a shopping mall. The third installment of the series was 1985’s Day of the Dead, where a group of soldiers and a group of scientists wage battles on each other while trying to survive in an underground bunker and fend off the relentless walking dead.
So now twenty years later, George A. Romero has unleashed the fourth installment in his Living Dead series, Land of the Dead. With the recent success of movies such as 28 Days Later, Cabin Fever, the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and splatter-comedy Shaun of the Dead, it would seem that zombies are making a comeback, and who better to show them all how it’s done than Romero himself? Surely with studio backing, a fairly large budget, famous actors such as John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper, and today’s special effects technology, Romero has finally made his zombie masterpiece, right?
Well, kiddies, I’m sorry to say that it just ain’t so.
But first, the story: it is the present day and many years since the initial zombie attacks. A group of military-like zombie hunters, led by the perfectly-coiffed Riley (Simon Baker) and racial stereotype Cholo (John Leguizamo) protect the inner sanctum of what may be the last city populated by the living. The wealthy live in a mall-like fortress owned by businessman Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), who eventually hires Riley to take care of a little business concerning Cholo and some missing weaponry. Added to this, the throng of living dead are beginning to organize themselves a bit more and soon become a major threat as they start to march upon the walled-in city. Riley and his small group of loyal friends find themselves with a lot of problems to fix and thousands of zombies to decimate in many stomach-churning ways.

Let me get right to it and tell you that this movie left me feeling on the colder side of lukewarm. While all of the Dead films concentrate on the conflicts that occur between the living humans as they struggle against the zombies, Land does this in a far less convincing manner than the other three. The other Dead movies have something that this one lacks: heart. A big part of this comes from the one-dimensional characters that simply don’t allow you to care about whether they live or die. You don’t care about their motivations and you don’t care about their problems, therefore you ultimately don’t care about the movie.
Sure, you might say that these movies are mainly about the zombies and the blood and the intestines being pulled out of people’s body cavities, but if you think that’s what makes the Romero Dead movies great then you’re missing half the picture. You can get gore almost anywhere; check out Cabin Fever and a slew of other half-assed movies for that. What you get with a Romero picture is the action and gore plus little observations on humanity that might just make you think a bit about life. You get both for the price of one, and at eight bucks a movie ticket, you should be getting that with Land of the Dead. Unfortunately, it seems that someone shot this movie in the head on the way from script to screen.
What do we get in Land of the Dead? We get a overly good-looking and thorougly unconvincing “hero” in Riley, who is sensitive and perfect in everything that he does and has about as much depth as a plastic kiddie pool. We get Cholo, who acts like the most cliched “spic” that Hollywood could come up with and has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. You also get Dennis Hopper, who puts in a decent enough performance but seems like he’s just going through the motions in a lot of it. He has his moments of that patented Hopper craziness and gets in a few good lines here and there, but ultimately seems kind of wasted in this role.
There’s also a love interest of sorts for Riley in the character of Slack (Asia Argento), whom Riley rescues from being eaten by zombies in a kind of gladiator game in the city’s underground (if that sounds really stupid, it’s because it is). She’s a hooker, but given the chance just happens to be incredibly handy with high-tech weaponry and guerilla tactics. In other words, she’s a horribly contrived and completely unbelievable character who only exists to be a sexy counterpart to our bland leading man.
Ok, ok, we get it. The characters suck. But you still haven’t convinced me that this isn’t all about blood and guts. How are the zombies?

Well, there’s a main zombie, a former gas station attendant who kind of leads the ghouls around on their quest to kill and eat. The problems I found with this zombie are that first of all, he looks less like a zombie and more like one of the vampires from From Dusk Til Dawn, and second, there’s no real exploration of why he can suddenly think where all the other zombies before weren’t really able to. This zombie suddenly knows what’s going on and feels compassion for his fallen zombie brethren and finally leads the attack on the city. Ok, how?


Beyond that, all of the other zombies look cool and act like zombies should. The special effects are executed well and there are plenty of gross-out moments to please any fan of gurgling blood and ripped out spines. It’s all fine and good, but honestly I was expecting a little more. Each Dead movie has had a progression in its over-the-top violence and inventive ways of killing creatures off, but this one seems to just recycle things from past movies. There’s nothing really all that memorable in any of the gory scenes, especially if you compare them to the scene at the end of Day of the Dead where the zombies rip screaming Joe Pilato in half and show him his guts. Now that’s great stuff.
I imagine many people will see this film and say that it is a fine addition to the hallowed halls of the zombie film, which it may be. Others may be encouraged to tell me to take the stick out of my ass and just enjoy the goddamn movie. Well, perhaps they have a point. But I feel that there is a lot of room for artistic creativity in the realm of horror and exploitation, even if that art only ends up being visible as a nice attempt. I think that there wasn’t even an attempt made in Land of the Dead and that disappoints me. However, I’ve thought about it and realized that even if this movie had nothing to do with the series and was made by another director, I would still be disappointed. And that’s what ultimately counts in my appraisal of this zombie flick.

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Home Movies: Season 2

by Aaron on June 15, 2005

in Uncategorized

Quite simply, Home Movies has long been one of my favorite animated series (or even in general), and I’m delighted that these sets might give the show the kind of exposure it truly deserves. It’s smart, touching comedy delivered with brilliant style, so do yourself a favor and give it whirl. Fans will find lots to love on this must-have set, and initiates will discover this is a perfect introduction to a show that’s worthy of your time and money. Go! Go now! Get Home Movies: Season 2. You won’t be disappointed.

Home Movies : Season 2
5 Stars

Home Movies was the kind of show that was just too good to stick around for long. After debuting on UPN and promptly going on hiatus, it jumped over to Cartoon Network as part of the Adult Swim lineup where it lasted another 3 seasons before finally caving in against the hordes of talking food, whacked out scientists, and Mission Hill reruns, but over the course of it’s 4 year run Home Movies became the epitome of a great sitcom. Great characters, perfect dialogue, and hilariously goofy situations all delivered in a style that would be impossible to imitate.

You need this

Shout! Factory has just recently released the Season 2 DVD set, which marked the Cartoon Network debut, along with the abandonment of Squiggle-Vision animation in favor of a more traditional (if still minimalist) style. While a great continuation of the first season, Season 2 found creator Brendon Small and his cast of cohorts still finding their footing in the now expanded world of Small’s eponymous creation, but this time out the jokes are a little tighter, the scenarios more elaborate, and the humor just a tad more biting.

Young filmmaker Brendon and his pals Melissa (Melissa Bardin Gratsky) and Jason (H. Jon Benjamin) may be the center of the mostly improvised show, but the goofily deranged soccer coach John McGuirk (also voiced by Benjamin) may just be one of televisions funniest characters. Fat, lazy, and usually drunk, McGuirk dispenses his barroom wisdom to Brendon with the authority and conviction of a man possessing a complete lack of social grace and awareness. Whether it’s cashing in on his insomnia to get enough research money to buy a DVD player, or his hilariously pathetic attempts to get a date, McGuirk’s man-child antics provide the most solid humor of this show. Not to say that the rest of the cast is lacking; far from it. Small’s world is filled with oddballs and misfits, each with their own bizarre charms and idiosyncrasies that are equally exasperating and uproariously funny.

In this season, the gang films some of their best movies like “Starboy and the Captain of Outerspace” (which also happens to spawn some of my favorite songs of the series), while Brendon experiences the pain of young love when he tries to woo a young ballerina as well as dealing with his dad and his new fiancee.  Paula loses her job teaching adult education classes and embarks on a bizarre trek back into the workforce, while McGuirk is…well, McGuirk.  Which is more than enough, I assure you.  This season has two of my favorite episodes (The Party and The Wedding), both of which showcase nearly every member of Home Movie’s extended cast.  In The Party, Bredon is coerced into making a tribute film for Fenton, a whiney brat whose Robert Altman-esque birthday party enables Jason to endulge in his goofy addiction to candy, while McGuirk crashes the party with two six-packs of beer only to become both the entertainment and the voice of parental reason.  In the season finale The Wedding, Brendon’s poison ivy infection turns him into a hideous monster while Paula tries to cope with her ex-husband re-marrying.  And yet again, McGuirk steals the show when one of Paula’s friends makes some serious advances on the completely cluess soccer coach. 

It’s difficult to convey how brilliant this show is in text, as it’s genius lies in the improvised dialogue between the characters.  They talk over each other, thoughts are paused and dropped, and every conversation feels like you’re listening to real (if incredibly goofy) people talking about their lives.  It’s a show filled to the brim with inter-character chemistry, and you’ll find the subtle jokes endlessly as entertaining as the overt ones.  Say for instance in The Party, when 9 year old Jason is deep in the throes of a candy bender and responds to Melissa’s admonsihment with ‘No one’s looking at me! They’re looking at you and your litle rich bitch dress!’  It’s such a perfect take on grown-up addiction, and coming from a chocolate and gummi bear covered kid, it’s jawdroppingly funny.

Quite simply, Home Movies has long been one of my favorite animated series (or even in general), and I’m delighted that these sets might give the show the kind of exposure it truly deserves. It’s smart, touching comedy delivered with brilliant style, so do yourself a favor and give it whirl. Fans will find lots to love on this must-have set, and initiates will discover this is a perfect introduction to a show that’s worthy of your time and money. Go! Go now! Get Home Movies: Season 2. You won’t be disappointed.

Holy Graphic Novels Batman

by Alan Rapp on June 15, 2005

in Comics, Theme Week

With Batman Begins hitting theaters, I thought this would be a good opportunity to post some reviews of Batman graphic novels.  Since Bat’s has more books out there than God, I picked ones that would go with the themes of the new movie: Batman’s origin story, his early career, and the nefarious villains Ra’s Al Ghul and the Scarecrow.

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Fat Actress – The Complete First Season

by December Lambeth on June 13, 2005

in Uncategorized

Scarlet suffers through self indulgence, double fisted eating, tantrums and a Kid Rock infatuation.

Fat Actress – The Complete First Season: 1 Star

3 hours of watching Kirstie Alley stuff her face, whine and cry, beg for attention, step on people around her and just being lazy isn’t my idea of lots of fun. Yes, Kirstie is a large woman and Hollywood shuns anything over a size zero, but do we have to give confirmation and support to an already messed up system. The idea behind Fat Actress is great, it was the way it was presented that did not work. The producers and writers should have went at it with a little more subtle approach giving away to stereo-types and jokes, but not slapping us in the face with it over and over again until we are numb and there is no response left. If you are the sensitive type and feel insecure about yourself image then watch this show in short doses. I agree that people need to take a joke and look at themselves with a less critical eye, but Fat Actress goes over the top.

[B]Released on DVD May 24[/B]

Kirstie Alley stars in a hybrid comedy between reality tv and a sitcom with her as the main focus; more like her weight and failing career being the main focus. A great deal of the show centers on the fact that Kirstie has become a plus size actress and is sex crazed and wanting a break in the Hollywood feeding frenzy. Alley, with the assistance of her make-up and hair artist Kevyn (Rachael Harris) and personal assistant and goffer boy Eddie (Bryan Callen), sticks to a slap stick comedy based on the humor of making fun of stereo-types and fat women. Nothing thrown at the double standards to fat men or balding and aging men in the industry, just fat women. Maybe next season will start slinging a little mud out towards other Hollywood standard flaws. Kirstie goes through daily tasks of eating and eating more and making a complete fool of herself, not willing to change to make a difference in her life and not working at getting a job, but rather having the money handed over to her for sexual favors.

The episodes:
[B]1-1 Big Butts[/B]
In this episode she starts out on the scales and has a total melt down over her weight, to the point of collapsing on the floor and crying like a baby. She talks to her agent like he is a child and claims that this is it she is dyeing. In response guest star John Travolta calls the cops thinking something is truly wrong and Kirstie is being held captive, when she is out getting a greasy burger and fries to feed her manic fat depression. Most of the episode is a winey fat actress, crying about getting a boyfriend and being noticed. It is comical to see her hit John Travolta up for a job on his new film or doing another Look Who’s Talking.

[B]1-2 Charlie’s Angels[/B]
Oh Yeah! This is the beginning of the Kid Rock infatuation. Kirstie goes gaga for Kid Rock, meeting up with him in a bar at the same time she meets up with a low rent director. She is trying to get a part in a funky version of Charlie’s Angels and get a little Kid Rock action on the side, but she took a ton of laxatives before showing up and spends most of the episode in the bathroom. She gets the part, but misses out on Kid Rock.

[B]1-3 Holy Lesbo Batman[/B]
Kirstie tries to fit in with Gwen Stefani by pretending like she is a jogger and finds herself in a secret parking situation and thrown in jail. The jailer likes her a lot and starts hitting on her, by the way the jailer is a woman. Kirstie borrows a phone from her and calls Kelly Preston to get her out. Kelly plays a bad advice dietician who puts on a big scene in front of the paparazzi with Kirstie to get notice in the tabloids.

[B]1-4 The Koi Effect[/B]
This episode Blossom shows up, yes Blossom from NBC’s series Blossom, Mayim Bialik plays Kirstie’s next door neighbor who hates her with a vengeance. Mayim suggests that Kirstie is fat because she is in such a large house and maybe she should move into a smaller space to shrink in size. This episode has plenty of little people, little shoes, little play houses etc. as Kirstie tries the Koi Effect in shrinking. Think small and you will be small, what a joke. Blossom sleeping with Kirstie’s looser assistant is pretty funny.

[B]1-5 Crack For Good[/B]
Kirstie is trying to get Oprah to redesign her kitchen to help her loose weight and as soon as the camera crews show up so does her crack addicted brother (Christopher McDonald), alcoholic father (Geoffrey Lewis) and self-absorbed mother (Connie Stevens) to embarrass her. This episode is humorous because the brother is trying to save Kirstie from her weight problems, comparing crack to food and trying to convince her that crack is better for her.

[B]1-6 Cry Baby McGuire[/B]
Kirstie has found her guy, or has she. She is invited to a high dollar party where she runs into a millionaire who buys her the world, but cries at the drop of the hat. He balls about bumping his leg, not getting his way and not getting dinner, then he leaves Kirstie claiming that she is emotionally unbalanced and disturbed. This episode comes off as completely annoying and shows that Kirstie is a fat woman who is desperate for anything.

[B]1-7 Hold This[/B]
She’s broke, lost it all, her holding deal is up and she is left holding an empty wallet and no show to get paid for. Kirstie’s assistants and agent sets up a deal with Jeff Zucker, NBC exec, to get her more money and a new holding deal. Jeff ends up meeting Kirstie on her grounds, actually in her bathroom while she is in a bubble bath and gets put into a compromising situation and offers her a 2 million dollar show deal and runs out of the house in tears. Kirstie decides to throw a party, but she finds out the love of her life, Kid Rock, has married another and is never coming for her. The last scene in the show is Kirstie falling to the floor and playing Scarlet “As God as my witness, I’ll never be fat again”.

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High Tension (Haute tension)

by December Lambeth on June 10, 2005

in Uncategorized

Scarlet starts therapy to deal with the tension

High Tension (2005) (Haute tension): 2 Stars

I have not seen so much blood since Hellraiser and I mean all the Hellraisers added together may not equal the amount of blood that is in High Tension. It’s gritty, gory, dark, scary, tense, freakish, creepy, insane, I could keep going, but you wouldn’t understand without actually seeing it for yourself. I’m still a little freaked out about the whole experience and may have serious problems sleeping.

[B]In Theaters June 10[/B]

I will tell you straight up, the French holds no bars when it comes to gore, guts and complete horror. High Tension starts with a grungy grimy guy getting a bj in the front of his truck and when he is finished he tosses the head out the window. Marie (Cécile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) are two college buddies who head out to Alex’s parent’s secluded farmhouse for a short holiday and some study time. Little do they know, that they are in for a night of pure hell. A knock at the door and before you know it Alex’s whole family has been slaughtered, including her little brother. I wasn’t lying when I said the French don’t joke around about horror, this film has an experience equivalent to every nasty scary 70’s horror film you could imagine, think of adding a little bit of Chainsaw Massacre, House on the Corner, The Hills Have Eyes and today’s House of a 1000 Corpses and then you may get the jist. The psychotic killer takes Alex hostage and drives off, not knowing he’s got Marie in the back with her. He stops at a gas station only long enough to fill up, slaughter the clerk, and move on to his attended agenda of raping, torturing, and possibly killing Alex. Marie sneaks out the back only to find herself stuck in the killers path and hiding out in the men’s restroom until he leaves. She calls the police, but gets nowhere and decides to chase after the killer and her friend without their help. This is where the film becomes very interesting and I can’t truly tell you any more with out giving the story away.
Writer/director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Gregory Levasseur wanted to create a film based off of the whole 70’s horror style, they wanted to do something different for French film and High Tension was just that. Using darkness and intense sounds, they created this whole tension and despair feeling that surrounds and engulfs the audience. The film is true horror, not in the style of the supernatural or over the top campy, but the type that makes you check your locks 2 or 3 times and think twice before you head off on holiday to some secluded area.
Adding to the reality of the angst that actors felt in the film was the shooting schedule, which took place in the middle of a very cold night, and the loss of the keys to unlock the chains that bound the actress who played Alex. The actors had a very tight shooting schedule that added to the tension on set and the comraderie that helped the film with the relationship compatibility between the two girls. The film is originally shot in French and the creators had to work through the language barrier to bring High Tension to main stream. They realized if they subtitled the film, it would only hit the art houses and they wanted it to go wide, so without compromising the style and dialogue they came up with a mix of dub and subtitle. Luckily, High Tension, is not a heavy dialogue film and the dub only last throughout part of the beginning and end. The film would have been better off if it was completely subtitled, the dub didn’t work so well and made it a little campy. Remember this is a foreign film and made on a low budget, it doesn’t have any fancy special effects and it’s completely in your face. The bloody splatter and slicing and dicing sounds are very realistic and the faint of heart shouldn’t even bother, it will turn stomachs.

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