Monday, March 29, 2004

Movie Review(Dawn of the Dead)...

Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead is a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 zombie film of the same name. Romero’s film was also a sly satire on consumerism claiming that “once the survivors locked themselves into the womb of consumerism, they become numb in lives of meaningless distraction”. It was not by coincidence that his characters ended up fending off mindless zombies from inside a shopping mall.
Updated for a new generation, Dawn of the Dead ‘2004’ favours all out action in place of meaningful story and subtext. First-time director Zack Snyder and screenwriter James Gunn have constructed a fast paced action thriller which deals with the nightmare of a zombie apocalypse. “When there is no room left in hell, the dead will walk the earth” runs the tagline.
The story begins when Anna, a young nurse, played by Sarah Polley, wakes up to find that her husband has been bitten by an intruder in their house. Chaos ensues and the infection spreads. Anna realises that her whole neighbourhood has fallen victim to this bizarre disease. She escapes and finally meets up with Kenneth (Ving Rhames), a hardened local cop. Upon discovering a handful of other survivors, they take refuge in a local shopping mall.
Although the concept sounds ridiculous, the movie works. The sometimes violent humour (zombie shooting competition!), laugh-out-loud one liners and many exciting set pieces combine to make Dawn of the Dead one of the most consistently entertaining horror films in years. The plot is wafer thin, the characters are barely developed, and the dialogue is as cheesy as it gets, but when a movie is this much fun, who cares? Just leave your brain at the popcorn counter and enjoy the show.
3 out of 5

Movie Review(The Passion of the Christ)...

The Passion of the Christ

Directed by Mel Gibson, The Passion of The Christ is a graphic depiction of the final twelve hours of Jesus’ life. Opening in the Garden of Gethsemane, we are introduced to the main characters through the betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth. He is brought repeatedly before hesitant Roman governor Pontius Pilate who eventually gives the crowd of Pharisees a choice to release either Jesus or the convicted murderer Barabbas. The crowd chooses to have Barabbas freed and condemn Jesus, who they see as a dangerous blasphemer, to punishment by the Roman soldiers and death by crucifixion.

From here on in the movie is essentially an extended torture scene in which we watch Jesus’ body being reduced to a bloody pulp. Once he is taken into custody, Jesus is cuffed and kicked and then whipped, first with stiff canes and then with leather strips tipped with sharp stones, glass and bone. After the crown of thorns is forced onto his head he is barely recognizable as a heap of wounded and bloody flesh, barely conscious, moaning in pain.

Jim Caviezels portrayal of Christ is quite an achievement for the relatively unknown actor. Although largely a physical role, Caviezel brings a real emotional intensity to the screen. Maia Morgenstern as Mary and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene are well cast if somewhat under used. The real standout though is Hristo Shopov whose performance as conflicted Pontius Pilate is superb. The stunning cinematograpy by Caleb Deschanel ensures that, at Gibsons request, the movie looks like a “caravaggio in motion”.

Gibson’s decision to introduce a supernatural element in the form of demonic children and indeed Satan herself, is inexcusable, completely contradicting the ‘realistic’ style he was striving for. The make up and special effects used to transform actress Rosalinda Celentano into an androgynous Satan are laughable and somewhat undermine the excellence of those used for the torture and crucifixion sequences.

In showing the pain and torture Jesus endured in such graphic detail, Gibson seems determined to draw a reaction from the audience, no matter what religious beliefs they embrace. The problem here though is that while the audience is being assaulted with such intense and violent imagery, the sacrifice central to the story becomes completely overshadowed.

3 out of 5

For your consideration...

21 Grams

This is the superb story of Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), a dying mathematician in need of a heart transplant, Christina Peck (Naomi Watts), happily married and mother of two little girls, and Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), an ex-con who has found god. The three characters are brought together by a terrible accident changing their lives forever. A magnificently acted and innovatively told story, 21 Grams is highly recommended viewing.
4 out of 5

Zatoichi

Cult Japanese anti-hero Zatoichi is back in a sword-fighting adventure written, directed and starring Takeshi Kitano. Zatoichi, a blind man, makes his living by gambling. Secretly, Zatoichi is a master swordsman who wanders into a town overrun by gangs and a powerful samurai. An incredibly entertaining take on a samurai story, Zatoichi will tide you over until Kill Bill Volume 2 arrives.
4 out of 5

Movie Review(Starsky and Hutch)...

Starsky and Hutch

Director Todd Phillips was charged with the task of updating seventies television show Starsky and Hutch for the big screen. The hugely successful show ran from 1975 to 1979 and made stars of David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser. While the subtle comedy of the television show was almost tongue-in-cheek, the movie aims to make fun of everything from the fashion of the time to the technology and the indisputably ‘close’ relationship between the two cops.

Ben Stiller replaces Glaser as uptight Bay City detective David Starsky while Owen Wilson steps into Souls shoes as laid-back Ken Hutchinson. This is Stiller and Wilson’s sixth movie together and there is no denying that the pairing works, as anybody who has seen ‘Zoolander’ can confirm. Todd Phillips’ previous movie ‘Old School’ featured particularly outrageous performances by Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell, who both return here in equally hilarious roles as an enterprising cocaine dealer, and a lonely prison inmate, respectively.

For such a hilarious concept though, the laughs do not come as frequently as they should. There are long gaps between laugh-out-loud moments where the movie veers off course completely. On the other hand, when the good gags arrive, such as the pony and mime scene, Stiller and Wilson seem unstoppable. Snoop Dogg does and admirable job as Hutch’s streetwise informant Huggy Bear, while the red Gran Torino steals nearly every scene it appears in.

All in all, Starsky and Hutch succeeds in its efforts to poke fun at a decade remembered for its grandiosity and excesses, but nothing more. It’s fun while it lasts, but ultimately forgettable, and I can’t help but feel that this was a missed opportunity for Stiller and Wilson.

2.5 out of 5