Thursday, June 30, 2005

A 3-Piece Review of "Land of the Dead"

Last Friday on opening night Heather, my son Justin, my brother Trevor, his girlfriend Sarah* and I went to the opening night showing of the new George Romero kitten filled extravaganza 'Land of the Dead'. It was a wonderful, yet sad movie about a group of kittens trying to make it on their own after mamma cat and daddy cat run off to Las Vegas to seek fame and fortune. One of the hardest hitting moments in the film was when the baby kitten had to be traded to the corner grocer for a box of Meow Mix™. It really tugged at the heart strings... Oh. Wait. That wasn't 'Land of the Dead'. That was something else entirely. That's right! 'Land of the Dead' was that ZOMBIE flick! No kittens. There was a rat though.

After the movie I got the idea that Heather, Justin and I would each write what we thought of the film and I would post it. Am I not a genius? Nononono... Don't shake your head. Nod your head. Yeah. Like that.

Here we go!

Heather's Review:

I'm not as big of a zombie-movie aficionado as dear Collin is so it was with some trepidation that I followed him to the theatre to see Land Of The Dead, the latest installment in George Romero's zombie collection. After all, Bewitched had opened that same day and I'm a HUGE fan of Samantha Stevens. But, I love Collin so I said, "We must go see Land Of The Dead."

I wasn't expecting much - just a lot of blood, gore, guts and brain smorgasbords. I was pleasantly surprised.

I liked the characters for the most part. Simon Baker did a good job being the hero, doing what needed to be done. I loved John Leguizamo as the good bad guy & Dennis Hopper is one the most perfect men to play the villain. And he had a couple of great laugh-out-loud lines.

As for the zombies, I liked the way they started to think a bit more than just rushing around willy-nilly looking for brains to eat. The lead zombie, Big Daddy, was just cool, plain & simple. At a point where someone shot at him, I actually heard myself yelling, "NO!" and feeling relief when the shot missed. I hadn't expected that of me.

There were a couple other characters that I really liked - Baker's sidekick was great... a very sympathetic & likable role... and also the guard Pillsbury. I adored him!

I'm sure by now you've all heard that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the two leads from Shaun Of The Dead, were given roles as zombie extras which I think ROCKS! However, Collin had forgotten about this little tidbit until the middle of the movie so by then, their part had already passed. If you haven't seen it already, look for the two zombies in the "Get Your Picture With A Zombie" booth. That's them!!

Some people are complaining about the ending... I didn't see anything wrong with it. I'm a romantic & I like things to turn out the best for everyone, even zombies.

Justin's Review (after much complaining and "Do I have to?"s):

Land Of The Deaf.. i mean Dead

Well I think mainly what makes this zombie movie different from others is not only that zombies learn (go figure), but that it starts with 0.0 seconds (not counting intro of blank screen) of no zombies. It starts off after the zombie break out. Oh and also this has GOTTA be the mightiest fall of all anti-zombie bases ever in all of zombie movie history... IT WAS A WHOLE CITY!!!!! (all armed and ready, except for homeless :-( ). Now I'd say this was a very decent movie, it was definitely worth the 10-30 bucks it costs, but id rather have it on dvd. It was a funny, serious, scary and cool movie (there were very gory parts and very humorous parts)(or am i thinking of Shaun Of The Dead?). This is my first review on anything (games,movies,w/e).

And finally, my review, the bulk of which is hidden to protect your mind from the horrors... horrors... and spoilers:

I think it was quite well done, especially considering the last zombie movie Romero made was 20 years ago. And to be honest, I didn't really care that much for 'Day of the Dead'. I found it quite frustrating, although I may need to watch it again just to be sure. 'Land' was overall satisfying to the zombie movie lover in me.

There were plenty of scenes where zombies were doing what zombies do best, and it was nice to see that Romero didn't deviate from his original slowly walking dead. I did enjoy the speedy "infected (they weren't really "zombies")" in '28 Days Later' because that fit well with the idea behind the Rage victims. The fear behind that movie was how quickly people could change and attack you and how fast you had to be to stay alive. The fear that fuels Romero's zombies is the fact that unless you are caught off guard, one or two zombies aren't going to be a problem. But the longer you are stuck in one area the more zombies will arrive until no matter how well prepared you think you are, you will be overwhelmed.

I feel the bulk of the actors did a fine job.

So, I really enjoyed the movie and will be happy to add it to my DVD collection when it's finally released. However I'm one of those people who didn't really like the ending and I'll tell you why in stealth text since it contains spoilers. Highlight the area between the two sets of "***"s if you aren't worried about having the ending ruined.

***
One of the main characteristics I feel is vital to a zombie movie, or any horror movie really, is the knowledge that no character, no matter how much you may like him or her, is guaranteed to make it out alive. In Romero's first movie the last person left alive after a night of fighting off the living dead steps out of the house he was holed up in and is shot through the head by one of the redneck groups who were clearing the area of the wobbling dead. It was a very powerful ending in my opinion. Nobody's safe.

In the original Dawn of the Dead, if I'm remembering correctly, two of the original three people to whole up in the mall make it out alive, but they do it in a helicopter with no idea where they are going next. Not a happy ending.

In Day of the Dead nobody makes it out alive, but the bulk of that is due to the few remaining survivors fighting among themselves. The eggheads versus the jocks with the zombies basically sidelined until the end when they get loose, swoop in and destroy the scattered remaining living. Bub was cool though.

And now we have the fourth in the series. Halfway through the movie when Heather leaned over to me and said that she really liked Charlie (Baker's sidekick) I replied with, "Me too, but don't get too attached. Remember that nobody is safe in a zombie movie."

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING!

With the exception of the likable rookie scavenger that dies at the beginning of the movie, not a single one of the major character "good guys" is killed by the zombies or otherwise. Not one. Oh sure, there are several close shaves to keep the tension high, and a couple of them are very cool, but no fatalities among the good. You might say, "What about that guy that was bit by the flip top zombie?" He wasn't around long enough to determine if he was a good guy or a bad guy. He, along with two other soldiers, was placed with the good guys by the over all head bad guy Dennis Hopper. So, to me, he doesn't count.

So there's that.

But this last bit really gets to me. I wanted to overlook it because the rest of the movie was really good but the more I think about it, the more it bugs me. When it happened Trevor said quite loudly, "That was LAME!" Here's what happens: Everyone is back in the Dead Reckoning (armored assault vehicle they had just rescued from 'The Pest'), they've just blown open the electrified gates and freed some of the trapped living, one of whom we last saw being taken into custody for being a reactionary so no idea how he got loose. Some zombies are seen crossing a foot bridge in the distance and we zoom in to see that one of them is Big Daddy, the smartest zombie in the area. The person manning the miniguns of the vehicle reaches for the triggers to blow them back to the grave and Baker says, "Stop. All they want is somewhere to go. Same as us."

... um...

Okay. Perhaps he's just sick of killing. That's what I thought at first. "Leave them be. Enough is enough. I'm off to Canada anyhow and there's no way he'll get a passport." Except for one teensy problem. Big Daddy isn't some repressed minority sticking it to the man. He's a zombie that is learning new things like how to kill with a gun and flame, and he's trying to teach the other zombies. When he's done trashing that human outpost he's probably going to move on and kill more people, pass along his knowledge to more zombies. He's not going to settle in and raise zombie chickens. He's going to remain a threat to living humans for as long as he's capable of locomotion. The gunner SHOULD have given Baker a "What? Are you crazy?" look and then squeezed the triggers and mowed them all back to hell. But no. She didn't. Instead they start the drive to Canada and decide against all logic that just because the zombies here are no longer mesmerized by the fireworks they no longer need them and fire them all off as they go. Hello?! They may still work on the Canadian zombies you big hearted dummy. And unless that vehicle has a fusion reactor you may have a bit of trouble taking it all the way to Canada.

In spite of this flaw (as I see it) I would still happily watch it again.
***

And there you have it.

---
* I think that's how she spells her name. I know there are several ways to spell "Sarah" and I've never seen her way in writing before. She couldn't have a simple name to spell like "Bob" or something. Oh well. If I'm wrong I'm sure I'll hear about it.

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MamaD said...

Thanks for your reviews. I was sceptical at first because the last thing I wanted to see was another lame zombie flick. I was hoping George would not let us down but I was still unsure. After reading your reviews I pleasantly found myself watching the film. I'm 50/50 on the ending...but what can you do right?
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