Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

He’s Back…and This Time It’s Personal; plus, a plea for George’s Land

Posted by CinemaPsycho on June 15, 2005

Yes, I know it’s been awhile. I’m sure the three misguided people out there who read this site on a regular basis have been wondering what’s up. So let me fill you in, and make an attempt to catch up a little bit.

I recently began a new work situation, and naturally my schedule is completely different than it was before. Plus there are other obligations to family and friends (old and new) that take up a bit of my time as well. So I’ve been trying to adjust (and mostly succeeding) to a somewhat different lifestyle than I was previously living, which is good. However, it hasn’t left me much time to write for the site. I’m sorry about this and I do apologize to any regular readers who’ve been checking the site and finding nothing new.

Keep in mind, this is a hobby for me (with delusions of grandeur), one that I’m not always going to have as much time for as I’d like. I don’t get paid for this stuff, so one has to prioritize. Daddy’s gotta pay the bills, right?

However, I’m determined to find the time to keep writing reviews and columns as much as possible. As soon as things settle down a bit in my professional and personal lives, I’m going to find a way to make it work. I’m still getting DVD screeners on a regular basis and feel obligated to review as many of them as I can. In the meantime, I’d like to try filling in the gaps by writing semi-regular “catch-up columns” here to cover, at least superficially, the films I’ve seen theatrically recently but haven’t had time to write full reviews for. Plus I want to throw in some short little pieces with observations about movies, the industry, whatever strikes my fancy that wouldn’t necessarily merit a full column. So it’ll be a little different than before, a grab bag of random and probably disorganized stuff. Almost like a blog, but not exactly. This may be updated once a week, every other week, maybe even once a month. Not sure at this point. (The only reason I’m finding time to write this now is because my plans for the day were shot when my car wouldn’t start. That’s just the way life works sometimes, right?)

But please keep checking back on a regular basis. I promise there will be more to read soon. And if anyone feels like responding to something I’ve written, don’t hesitate to hit that Contact button. I don’t bite…anymore.

Let’s start with a roundup of movies I’ve seen that I haven’t been able to review, but I think are worth discussion:

House of Wax: I know, this was on my list of films I wanted to avoid this year, but simple curiosity got the better of me. It’s not the atrocity I expected, though anyone with a fondness for the Vincent Price original might want to pick up the recent Warner DVD instead. Two completely different beasts here. The so-called remake is an OK cheesy drive-in teen splatter flick. For what it is, it’s surprisingly not bad. Not great, but if you’re looking for cheap thrills (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you could do a lot worse. Elisha Cuthbert is a very watchable heroine (if only they’d thrown in a grizzly bear), and Paris Hilton…well, she couldn’t possibly embarrass herself any more than she already has, could she? It’s not a part that requires her to act, and watching her screen demise is shockingly cathartic. William Castle would be proud. It’s basically Texas Chainsaw lite, and if you can deal with that (and a plot that makes no sense whatsoever), it’s a kick. **1/2

Unleashed: Jet Li mixes his chocolate with Luc Besson’s peanut butter once again and comes out with the weirdest action movie of the year. Morgan Freeman as a blind American piano tuner? Bob Hoskins as an over-the-top British gangster? And they’re all in Scotland? It’s completely insane, but somehow it works. Easily Jet’s best American vehicle (and this is coming from someone who actually liked Kiss of the Dragon and The One) – Li is the thinking man’s action hero (sounds like an oxymoron, but still true). If only more thinking men would actually show up and see his movies… ***

Cinderella Man: Ron Howard may not be my favorite filmmaker in the world (didn’t it strike anyone else that Apollo 13 was essentially about a failure?), but every few years he comes out swinging, and this flick is hugely underrated in my book. Crowe is great, Giamatti is fantastic, Renee Zellweger…well she does a good Olive Oyl imitation. I normally like Renee fine, but lately her character work has gotten on my nerves. Maybe Braddock’s wife really was entirely too sensitive to be married to a boxer, but that doesn’t make the portrayal any less annoying. I kept wanting to scream, “Jesus Christ woman, he’s trying to feed you and your kids! Just let him fight already!” For God’s sake…otherwise, I think it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Howard’s depiction of the Depression really unnerved me. It’s a good reminder of what unions and social programs have done for us in the years since, and why we need to keep them (whether that was the intention or not). Just because Crowe got pissed off and threw a phone at somebody doesn’t mean the movie isn’t worth seeing, OK? Just get over it and see the damn movie. ****

High Tension: I remember reading the TV Guide movie listings’ description of I Know What You Did Last Summer as a “dripping gorefest”. Phffft…please, OK? THIS is a dripping gorefest. It’s pretty amazing that Lions Gate actually thought this brutal, nasty, disturbing as hell French horror film could compete against the summer blockbusters – it’s just way too hardcore for the “mainstream” audience to handle. I can’t remember the last time I saw something this violent and unsettling on the big screen (no, Saw doesn’t even come close). This is that rare horror movie that’s genuinely horrific – the intention isn’t to entertain you, it’s to scar you for life. The controversial twist ending doesn’t make logical sense at all, and it’s not supposed to. It makes emotional sense, if you’re paying attention to what the main character says and does throughout the film. We’re being told the story from her point of view, and she’s as unreliable a narrator as it gets. The graphic and creative bloodshed will please the gorehounds (it was cut down from an NC-17 version, but you sure wouldn’t know it), but it’s that ending that sticks with you, love it or hate it. I saw it on a Saturday afternoon, and there were only 2 other people in the theater. More’s the pity. Next time some art snob goes on about how Hollywood movies are all violent crap and foreign films are all wonderful, poignant works of art, mention this film and they’ll shut up real fast. I hope. I wouldn’t say it’s a classic of the genre, but there’s certainly nothing else like it out there. ***1/2

Mr. and Mrs. Smith: The kind of star power-driven movie you almost hate yourself for enjoying. Almost. Nothing in the entire movie makes any sense at all (these assassins work for organizations that know everything about everyone, but they don’t know that two of their employees are married to each other? For six years? Come on…), but it’s so much damn fun that you just don’t care. This is not a serious film, folks, it’s a comedy. Some critics don’t seem to grasp that (yes, I mean you, Mr. Wells), and they’re denying themselves the pure insane pleasure of it all. Pitt and Jolie have so much chemistry that if they’re really not fucking, they damn well oughta be. I can’t recall Angelina ever being so funny and likable on screen (not to mention GORGEOUS) – that chill she used to project in her action roles is totally gone, and it’s a glorious thing to see. Suddenly she’s a movie star again! Look, this isn’t a Hitchcock movie, it’s not a smart spy thriller like The Bourne Identity, it’s not even True Lies. It’s a movie about two charming stars mixing it up on screen, and that’s as old-school Hollywood as it gets. A great movie? No. Entertaining as hell? Absolutely. ***

All right, that about covers it for recent theatrical releases. I’d love to cover more foreign and independent stuff, but unfortunately those movies don’t come to my neck of the woods too often. The nearest art house to me is 45 minutes away, and they usually get movies just before they hit DVD, so there’s not much point in making the trip. Oh well. You do the best you can with what you have to work with, right?

Rob Zombie recently told Fangoria.com that he wants his latest movie, The Devil’s Rejects, to “crush Lindsay Lohan!!!” That’s all well and good (I still have yet to actually see a Lohan movie), but there’s one problem with that. Zombie’s film opens on July 22nd, while Lohan’s Herbie: Fully Loaded opens on…JUNE 22nd. Dude…buy a calendar.

If anything should “crush Lindsay Lohan”, it really ought to be George Romero’s Land of the Dead, which opens on June 24th. Now, I normally just give my opinion and don’t campaign for movies this way, but I really believe that Universal is dropping the ball on this one. Sure, the trailers and clips are all over the Internet, but that’s just not enough to get the non-hardcore fans in. The TV ads are OK, but I rarely see them – the film opens in nine days, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen an ad for it. And I watch quite a bit of TV, so I can only imagine that the average person probably hasn’t seen any.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t think that’s going to cut it. This is a very competitive summer season, and the movie is opening against two heavily hyped “family-friendly” pictures, Bewitched and Herbie. Not to mention the gargantuan War of the Worlds is coming out a mere 5 days later, another big event for genre fans. It’s very easy to imagine Land getting lost in the shuffle, and that would be a real shame. I mean, this is only the biggest horror-movie event of the year (and possibly the decade, at least for hardcore fans). A major studio giving an old-school master like Romero a shot at continuing his legendary series is nothing less than a momentous occasion. Romero fans have been anticipating this film for years, just like the hardcore Star Wars fans anticipated Revenge of the Sith. For a lot of people, this is a very, very big deal. Considering that it’s been 20 years since his last Dead movie, and almost 15 years since one of his movies got a theatrical release, I’d say that no one genuinely deserves a break more than Mr. George A. Romero.

So if you’re a Romero fan, a general horror fan, or even a casual film geek, I want to urge you to check out Land of the Dead on opening weekend. Obviously I haven’t seen the movie yet (I wish), but I can pretty much guarantee it’ll be worth your time and money. If you like modern horror films, well, George Romero was one of the handful of guys who defined the modern horror film. I say let’s welcome the man back with open arms. Let’s show Universal that their investment was well-spent, and their faith in Romero was well-earned. We all know that Hollywood executives only understand one thing: money. And there’s been a long-held belief in Hollywood that “Romero films don’t make money”. It’s time for the fans to step up and prove that to be a lie. I’m not expecting it to be the #1 movie of the weekend, or anything like that. But a solid opening weekend would show Hollywood that we want more Romero movies, and that there’s still a large audience out there who love the great horror filmmakers.

There are millions of fans out there who admire the man and his work. This is the movie we’ve all been waiting for. So let’s go out there and see it! You don’t have to do anything other than go see a good zombie movie. Let’s show up for George Romero!

That about covers it for now. Talk to you soon (promise).

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