Ah Watchmen, a movie so good that it forced me to go back and rewatch Dawn Of The Dead. Love him or hate him, Zack Synder has proven himself to be one of the most unique stylists of the modern day. I decided now was as good a time as any to go back and check out his debut feature.
Even if it’s one I loathed.
Let me explain I don’t like the original Dawn Of The Dead I love it. As well as being a damn fine horror film its one of the most blackly funny satires of America ever made. A vision of a world not unlike WALLE’s where corporate culture has infalatized us to the point where everyone from Hare Krishna to Cops to Nuns can only worship before the all mighty call of consumerism, and be devoured by their hunger. In Romero’s bleak world view we’ve voted for Mammon over God to a startling degree.
What bothered me about the remake wasn’t the fast zombies or any other such canonical nonsense, but the way this satire was stripped from the films very soul. The mall ceased to be a materialistic hellscape and became just a cool fort to hang out in. So much so that when our survivors do decide to band out their decision just seems arbitrary zombie baby or no.
Almost worse is the way the remake jettisoned the orginal’s intimate four person cast to become an ensemble piece thus losing a huge amount of the claustrophobia. The ensemble itself is a mixed bag Ving Rhames and a few others do solid work, but Sarah Polley never quite loses the “Gawd I can’t believe I’m in a zombie movie.” Indie girl vide.
At the end of the day Dawn Of The Dead became just another zombie movie, and to my mind at the time not even a particularly good one.
Watching it for the first time since theaters I can see I underrated Dawn Of The Dead. It is a particularly good zombie movie. From his opening frames Synder proved himself to be a canny stylist, taking his time building the day to day rhythms of suburbia before ruthlessly tearing it all down in one fell swoop. The carnage and the pace of the first attacks is a textbook in action filmmaking. Synder films the apocalypse with a sense of sheer scale that has never really been scene in a horror film before. Ten minutes in the viewer is left with a palatable sense of doom.
And that’s before we hit the films credit sequence scored to Johnny earth shakingly awesome “When The Man Comes Around.” Which cannily mixes real world newsfootage with staged zombie B roll until our world and the apocalypse become indistinguishable from one another. It’s a bone chilling bit of work, and for these fifteen minutes alone the film becomes worth reevaluating.
Somehow it’s even more disturbing in German.
Unfortunately once the mall is reached, theres not a whole hell of a lot that happens. As well as the claustrophobia and the intensity, the larger cast massacres a great deal of the film’s momentum as well. Dawn of The Dead keeps getting bogged down in meaningless subplot that goes nowhere after meaningless subplot that goes nowhere. Oh good! More storytime devoted to the asshole security guards power struggle. Man thank God that asshole security guard showed up because I would hate to be bored by such trivial things as THE WALKING FUCKING DEAD. Nope, Some redneck mall cop being a douche to everyone is all the drama I need.
The film has some fun moments, Ken Foree comes back to deliver his “No more room in hell.” line. There’s an intense battle in the sewers, and the scene where the characters stop to comment on what a badass Tom Savini is is pretty funny. The film picks itself up for a suitably intense finale, but it never really touches the intensity of the original ten minutes.
Perhaps the film didn’t lose its social satire so much as find a new target. It almost helps if you think of it, not as a remake of Dawn Of The Dead, but a prequel to The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman’s fantastic series, which takes the end of civilization as a chance to start following Thoreau. It’s boredom more then anything else that drives the patrons from the mall.
After all which would you rather do? Face the living dead? Or live in Starbucks for the rest of your life?
So after a cheery five month hiatus we come roaring back! With what might just be the two weakest episodes in the series.
In all honesty there’s not a lot to write about on these. To quote Johnny Cash these episodes are “Low Down and Triflin’”. Both Episodes are frankly bad, all the terrible things about Eva with none of the good. The first episode starts with perhaps the only straight filler episode in Eva. Paced with all the brevity and snap of the Bataan Death March Episode 7, finds NERV under attack for their piss poor record of saving the earth from utter annihilation a mere three times.
The Bureaucrats want something less risky then the Evangelions to deal with the angels (Understandable). So they decide on a giant clumsy mechanical beast with no human oversight and a nuclear reactor strapped inside it’s chest (Less Understandable). In an utterly unsurprising development things do not go well!
The big terrible idea goes beserk and it’s up to Misato and Shinji to stop it. The big twist is that the almost meltdown wasn’t an accident at all! No really. It was all set up by NERV. I can remember being really surprised by this at the time. You mean the good guys set it up!?!? I can only conclude that at fifteen I was a bit dim as up until this point NERV has been potrayed as so shady that I’m frankly surprised that Gendo and Co aren’t shown dining nightly on living puppies. A bit of industrial sabotage is simply not that shocking anymore.
What Episode 7 has in obtuseness Episode 8 makes up for in stupidity. It’s dumb. No I mean REAAALLYY Dumb. The episode, unlike 7 at least have a nominal purpose, namely bringing the last two main players, the pilot Askua, and double agent/ Old Flame of Misato’s/ General N’er do well into well play. Part of Eva’s greatness is its Watchmen like ability (note I didn’t say quality) at busting down the stock characters that make up any given series. Unfortunately this means that at first blush these characters appear to be just as boring as any a standard Giant Robot show has to offer. While Kaji and Asuka would later reveal the hidden depths and insecurities that drive them, for now they remain safely hidden under a bland veneer. A shrill unlikable bland veneer.
Which means that most of the episode is devoted to “hilarious” single entendres by the “wacky” supporting cast crosscut with “fascinating” bureaucratic chatter, and a fucking awful action sequence that makes Michael Bay look like a physics professor.
The final sequence and the reveal of Kaji’s cargo bring the intrigue back, while we’re still a few episodes away from the game changer that would send EVA down the dark garden path, the reveal of Adam was kind enough to remind me that it’s coming.
I couldn't help but notice something strange while watching the trailer for the new Michael Mann Film Public Enemies.
Namely that it looks fucking terrible.
I'm not talking about the movie itself, I'm talking about the actual quality of the image. It's ironic that Mann was one of the first major Hollywood directors to get a bug up his ass as far as proving HD looked as good as film. It's ironic because he did do that, in Collateral, a movie that no matter what qualms you might have about it, looked astonishingly good and perhaps caught LA better then any other film I've ever seen. In short it was purty. Miami Vice on the other hand was not. And now Public Enemies, really is not.
The type of degraded image that Mann shows in the trailer is simply perplexing. I mean it looks bad. While other directors and cinematographers are showing just how far this thing could go, Mann seems hell bent on showing you how tawdry and cheap video looks, AFTER he has already convinced you otherwise. He's like a traveling salesmen who blurts out that he's fucked your wife after he's already sold you a couple of vacuums.
When is someone going to admit that the emperor has no clothes. Michael Mann apparently makes Ugly films now. I'll repeat that. Michael Mann the guy who made Heat and fucking Last Of The Mochicans has now produced two films in a row that look like I could have put them together on my camcorder.
It’s very easy to get jaded as a critic. It’s the hazard of the profession. You see so much stuff that it’s practically inevitable. You start to see the patterns and the formulas more then the films. You judge by what you’ve seen before and what you hope to have seen more then what you did see. After awhile it’s almost like your judging by some strict sense of personal dogma. You start giving things passes that you shouldn’t and unduly harsh to others. You make rules.
But every once in awhile you see something that makes you forget all of that and makes you fall in love. Like you used to. The only difference is now you understand what a rare and valuable thing that love is.
Ah but that’s the trick isn’t it. Because love is blind. The little foilables and cute eccentricities and imperfections of those we love may be wonderful to us and nails on a chalkboard to others. But that’s OK. Love makes you look vulnerable. Love makes you look foolish.
I cannot tell you if you’ll love The Brother’s Bloom, I can only tell you that I did. Completely.
From the very first sequence The Brother’s Bloom is the movie it set out to be. A real confidence fills the entire proceeding. Once again this is a blessing and a curse, you’ll either fall for Johnson’s fairy tale or reject it utterly. But either way Bloom confirms what Brick hinted at, that Rian Johnson is an American filmmaker of original wit and style with a natural eye. A rare and valuable thing. Someone who can make a scene laugh out loud funny simply by the framing, and heart breaking in the same way, while laughing his head off the entire time. He’s what we all wished Richard Kelly was.
The Brother’s Bloom tells the story of the titular siblings. Introduced in a long and strangely beautiful opening that tells their story in a poem narrated by the irreplaceable Ricky Jay. The opening is the key to the movie, either you invest yourself in The Brother’s Story or you don’t. Flashing forward twenty five years later, the brothers have become uber successful con men, assisted by their girl Friday Bang Bang, an anarchistic nearly mute Japanese explosive expert, played by Rinko Kikuchi in a performance that makes her turn in Babel seem staid, and will either be the final bit of icing on the cake, or the thing that makes you start to tear up your theater seat in the urge to find something to throw at the screen.
The Brother’s played in adulthood by Mark Ruffalo, whose never been quite so much fun, and a convincingly damaged Adrien Brody, start on one last con to swindle the fantastically rich and completely adorable Rachel Weisz out of some small part of her vast fortune. Things are of course complicated by love, but the surprise comes from just whose love does the complicating.
Because for all it’s stylistic tics and cartoonish moments that’s all The Brother’s Bloom is, a love story. One that affected me deeply. I hope you feel the same.