George Romero's back and he brought some old friends with him.
Land of the Dead is finally released in the UK after a ridiculously long wait compared to our American cousins. Londonist already reviewed the thing last month, but now the big boys have turned their attention to it - sort of. What will Peter Bradshaw make of the 'stenches' and Asia Argento's underwear?
Well it turns out hekind of likes it in a three star kind of way and actually brings up Charles Dickens and TS Eliot to underline his point, suggesting that if the latter were still around with his facility for conjuring up hollow men and zonked-out commuters on the London Underground, he might well be getting zombie screenplays off to his agent. Nice.
After a brief overview of the current zombie revival he turns his attention to Romero - His new corpse-opera is entertaining stuff in its distinctively grisly way, and delivers a very high yeeccch-factor, but also has some hilariously clunky moments which channel the spirit of Ed Wood Jr. He goes on to point out a couple of the best gags which we won't spoil for you here, but who'd have thought Bradders would have such an eye for gory guffaws? As with all the other Romero flicks (not just the Dead trilogy) you always have to mention the social commentary:
It is tempting, and enjoyable, to read this movie as a comment on race and class in America: the zombies are leading a kind of unending, futile spartacist uprising against the Wasp rulers in their shopping malls and thousand-dollar suits. On the other hand, the zombies could be a comment on undead America - the cultureless, valueless service-economy drones in their trailer parks and project housing.
We'll forgive him for calling Asia wooden - we've never found her to be anything but pink and soft.
Speaking of wooden, James Christopher in The Times goes for a hokey letter writing approach to his review and makes us wonder if we actually saw the same film:
Dear George, why? You invented one of the greatest scares in moving picture history in 1968 — the flesh-eating zombies in Night of the Living Dead. Now you want us to take you seriously all over again. The shocking joy of your horror is that the zombies learn to bite back when, for some strange reason, they discover the joy of civil rights.
The rest of the review is garbled and hard to follow but from the two stars we assume it wasn't his cup of tea.
Moving on then and we find that The Independent hasn't actually bothered to review it at all. Two stars and a couple of paragraphs covering the plot. Do Independent readers just not go to the cinema anymore? It's always struck us as odd that they don't have a real film section and just shove everything under that clunky 'Enjoyment' banner. Weird.
Romero's influence continues in Hollywood with remakes of both The Crazies and Day of the Dead on the way (sadly with no direct involvement from the man himself) but this is your only chance to go see Dennis Hopper interact with the walking dead. Go see it.
Next up this it's a largely unwelcome return to the world of Guy 'one trick pony' Ritchie and his latest gangster caper debacle, Revolver.
You might remember that last week Peter Bradshaw got ahead of the game by calling Revolver a "a metaphysical thriller that is so long and so boring that each of its minutes lasts long enough for a Test match".
Can it get any worse? You bet your Lordship it can!
In the Independent this week, Ritchie picks up another one star review to add to his collection and Anthony Quinn isn't pulling any punches:
Of the many gnomic utterances that are repeated through this film, one hit the bull's-eye: "Nothing hurts more than humiliation and a little money loss." If this thing gets its deserts, then Guy Ritchie will be hurting very badly indeed.
Quinn also tries out the adjectives "smug, lumpen and meaningless," before he moves on to the slighlty more highbrow style of drubbing: "a meretricious and militantly boring movie".
This lesson in 'How to write a critical mauling in three easy lessons' is completed over in the Times, where it's a final one star from Jimmy Christopher.
The film doesn’t make any sense. It is a stodgy, expensive revenge movie with a pompous belief in its own brilliance. The arrogance could cost Ritchie his Hollywood career.
Christopher's review does contain the only details that might actually make us want to go and see this film though, and it concerns Ray Liotta's performance: "he wears heavy black eyeliner; he issues death threats in the nude, and he cries when his personal space is invaded."
We have a feeling that the Ritchie/Chiccone household might look a lot like that in the coming weeks.
Finally this week, it's the much-anticipated a>Howl's Moving Castle from Hayao Miyazaki.
Quinn's mood hasn't recovered and Howl's Moving Castle gets off to a bad start in the Independent with just two stars and (the horror!) a comparison to Revolver. It's "barely more intelligible, though infinitely more likeable," than Ritchie's nighmare claims Christopher, who cites an unintelligable plot as the film's main downfall: "While there's no denying Miyazaki's visual flair and tip-top draughtsmanship, I found myself less than enchanted by the mile-high convolutions of the plot".
The film does slightly better in the Times, where James Christopher gives it three stars even though the storylines remain a bit of a sticking point:
The artwork is faultless; in fact it’s magical. But the tale of the vain young wizard, Howl (voiced by Christian Bale), who is cursed by witches and blessed by his friends, suffers from a force ten gale of whimsy.
James is also confused about who the film is aimed at, complaining that "the fairytale grammar is too subtle and understated for under-tens, and too cloying to appeal to teens."
The film gets its best review in the Guardian where it picks up four stars from Bradshaw, a self-confessed Miyazaki fanboy:
He is a real artist of cinema who works with hand-drawn images in the old style while everyone about him is fully immersed in computer techniques. I came relatively late to his rich, kaleidoscopic fantasies, having been baffled but intrigued by his Princess Mononoke, and then utterly bowled over by his great movie Spirited Away. Howl's Moving Castle has worked its charm on me as well: a floatingly delightful fairytale with its heart set on repealing the law of gravity.
Unfortunately Bradshaw then spends the next five paragraphs giving away most of the plot of the film. Maybe he's worried we won't understand it if he doesn't explain it to us, but IT'S REALLY ANNOYING and the next time we read a film critic complaining that the movie industry continually underestimates the public then we're going to whip out a copy of this review as a little reminder of their screaming hypocrisy.
Anyway...where were we?
Oh yes: Howls Moving Castle. Bradshaw likes it and disagrees that it won't find a ready audience: "you will find yourself floating, buoyed up by his gentleness, his visual exuberance, and his unshowy intelligence and emotional literacy. It is a lovely film for all ages."
And so on to this week's news.
What the Americans call a 'TV Spot' for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire can now be downloaded here if you so desire (it's a Zip file).
But to tell the truth Londonist is far more excited about the prospect of two of our fevourite people coming together for Them - Adventures with extremists. Yes, Jon Ronson's book is being made into a film to be directed by Edgar "Shaun of the Dead" Wright. Hurray!
We're also liking the look of Rockstar Games' adaptation of The Warriors. Any site where you have to verify your age before you can look at it is ok by us.
Trailer of the week is the magnificent Philip Seymour Hoffman on helium as Capote. Can't wait.