Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Dawn of the Dead 2004

This is the remake of the 1978 George Romero classic of the same name.  Here is a link if you want to compare the two movie reviews.

Dawn of the dead starts with a young nurse working her shift at the hospital.  She's complaining that its been so busy that she was suppose to leave hours ago, but the complaints fall on the deaf ears of a Doctor more interested in his golf tee time the next day then the well being of his nurses.  She finally gets to go home and has a date night with her husband.  Unfortunately they are woken up the next morning by a 9-year old neighbor girl who appears to be gravely injured.  She dials 911 while her husband goes to the little girl and the little girl bites him in the neck causing extreme and rapid blood loss, causing him to die within seconds.  If only he were actually dead.

She manages to throw the little girl into the hallway and lock the door, but then her husband stands back up.  He appears fine, except when she calls his name he looks at her with a glassy stare and immediately attacks her.  Barely making it into the bathroom, she locks the door behind her while he pounds on it with all his might, never saying anything.  Finally he stops banging on the door, and what glimmer of hope she had is dashed when she calls out to him, hoping he had calmed down.  He responds by flinging himself at the door, smashing his head through it and causing severe damage to his face.  She manages to narrowly escape through the bathroom window.  What she finds outside is even worse.

The world seems like its on fire.  There is screaming everywhere, neighbors eating neighbors, cars driving by like maniacs to escape.  After an attempted car jacking she meets a police officer and follows him.  Together they meet a group of three people and they decide to team up to get into the mall.  There they will have food, shelter, weapons, and most important of all: hope.

Although this movie has some of the same elements as the original, calling it a copy is a bit of a stretch.  None of the characters are the same, their situation in the mall isn't the same, their motivations aren't the same, and to top it off the zombies are different.  George Romero zombies are always slow, their greatest strength is numbers and the unwillingness of their loved ones to put them down.  In this version they are very fast after they are turned, so their greatest strength is the speed in which they can attack and turn victims into zombies.  This change gives the zombies a more terrifying presence, and it also makes the survivors seem much stronger when they do take one down.  Any yahoo with a gun or even a hammer can kill a slowly shambling zombie, but when that zombie is running at you at top speed only skilled, trained, or incredibly lucky individuals would survive such an attack.

I know what you're thinking: But does this change make it a better movie?  I would hesitate to say it is better then the original, but I would say it is good in its own right.  They are two very different movies because the two use very different arsenals to invoke emotion and sympathy.  The original used the somber: no contact with the outside, no idea if they would ever leave the mall, and very slowly having to watch others succumb to the zombie virus. The new version uses shock: sudden, intense attacks, very quick and strong reactions from the characters, and any missions they have are usually brief and filled with firefights.

This creates two very different movies, both of which I would recommend.  The one thing the new version has over the original are the special effects.  The makeup work in the original wasn't very good (lots of blue faced zombies)  and computer graphics didn't exist yet so they had no way to smooth some rough edges and it limited them in what the characters could do.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Main Page

I'm back!

    It has been a crazy couple of weeks.  I have been getting lots of hours at work, and on top of that I have been in the middle of mid-terms.  Thankfully I'm just taking the one class, but it still took a lot of time out of my week.  Anyway,  during these last couple weeks I worked up a hankering to write more movie blogs, and with some help from a friend I decided on a new format.

     I am going to use this as my main page (hence the name) where all my posts will be linked to it so you can find a particular blog post about a particular movie.  As I write new posts I will update this post with the link.  Something else I am going to do has to do with spoilers.  Yes, that dirty word.  I want people to go and watch these movies and enjoy it being spoiled by me.  So what is it then, you ask? I am going to create a 2nd post of each movie that goes into greater detail but is full of spoilers.

I am doing that because I want to talk more about these movies and talk about particular scenes, but these scenes are deep into the movie and would definitely spoil it for you if you read it.  However if you have seen the movie, or go see it after reading my first post about that movie, then feel free to click on it and read my further thoughts!

Without further ado, enjoy my blog site!
If you're wondering about the dead links, those are movies I am planning on blogging about in the near future.

Zombie Movies
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Dawn of the Dead (1978) vs Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Day of the Dead (1985)

80s Nostalgia Movies
Monster Squad (1987)

Romantic Comedies
The Wedding Singer (1998)

90s Awesome Movies
Gross Pointe Blank (1997)

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - expanded

Dawn of the Dead Spoilers

Last chance to back out before I talk about the movie in greater detail!

While I was writing the first post I read a couple of other bloggers thoughts on the movie and they had some good points.  The rampant commercialism is a strong theme in the movie.  That even during the zombie apocalypse the zombies flock to the mall because it was familiar to them in life.  Not their parents house, not the post office, the mall.  This theme goes even deeper after the group sets up in the mall.  They start to see it as theirs.  It belongs to them, and no one else.  Sharing is out of the question.

I wonder: if the people that came weren't raiders, and instead were people who tried to communicate and ask for supplies, would the group have shared?  I'm guessing no.  At least not the men, Francine probably would have.  Is this the point at which it becomes acceptable to be greedy? It makes you wonder if mankind has any chance at that point.  If everyone is going to greedily hold onto everything they have and never share, is trade possible?

The other thing I found interesting was the thought of being invincible during a time like this.  You have guns, armor, and have survived longer than 90% of the population, you must be doing something right.  When Roger is messing around when they are moving the trucks, it's obvious that he feels invincible. Well, until he gets bitten because he wasn't watching his back.  The raiders do the same thing: they charge into the parking lot, move the truck out of the way, and then charge in guns blazing and go on a shopping spree.  Many of them end up getting killed by zombies because they weren't watching their backs either. 

I definitely felt like the moral of the story was to let go.  If you are in mortal danger, let go of your possessions.  They are just things, no matter how dear they are to you.  Don't let these things distract you from the higher goal, in this case surviving.  Francine and Peter were the only ones who learned this lesson and were able to escape.  Stephen couldn't let go, and instead fought the raiders for his stuff and he died because of it.  Not only did he die, but he came back as a zombie with the memories of their secret tunnel, so he leads the other zombies into their safety zone.

Another important message was self-reliance and anti-sexism.  At first the men won't teach Francine anything because they're protecting her: she's fragile in their eyes.  She disagrees, but they persist until finally a situation comes up where a zombie they had missed confronts an alone, unarmed, and inexperienced Francine, and she doesn't know how to fight it.  Thankfully she's able to hold out until help arrives, but she does the right thing and convinces them to teach her what she needs to survive.  She learns to shoot, and even becomes their back-up helicopter pilot.  I would say that was some foresight right there, especially after Stephen screws the pooch.

This movie was full of morals, messages, and really made me think about what I would do in the zombie apocalypse.  I hope you enjoyed it too, and I would love to hear your thoughts on the movie!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The long-awaited sequel to the horror classic, Night of the Living Dead, it follows a group of survivors who take up shelter in a mall during the zombie apocalypse.  Sound a lot like the 2004 version? Think again.  Unlike the 2004 version, these survivors can escape.  That's right, they stay because they feel its their best shot, not because they feel trapped.

I liked this movie because it gets into the "what would you do?" of the zombie apocalypse. Where would you go? How would you live?  Who would you take?

The story follows 4 survivors: Stephen, Francine, Peter, and Roger.  Stephen is a news helicopter pilot who decides he's getting the hell out of town, and asks his girlfriend (the news anchor) to come with him.  He also asks his friend, Peter, to come with because he's part of a SWAT team.  Peter asks his friend and fellow SWAT, Roger, to come with them after they finish a mission clearing zombies from an apartment building.  They both can see that they're losing this war, there's just too many zombies, so they go with Stephen and Francine in the news chopper.

One of the main themes of this movie is Greed.  1978 was near the beginning of the rampant commercialism that defined the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, and still affects us today.  Zombies greedily feasting on the living, the living envying what other survivors have, and no one willing to part with what they think is theirs.

Why should you watch this?  It is an iconic zombie movie, and it helped form the Zombie genre as we know it today.  It created the now cliche mall scene, but it did it with intelligence and purpose, not bumbling into a mall and trying to make it work.  It has some very powerful themes and gets us thinking about how, or if, we would do things differently than the characters.

Spoilers!  Click this link to hear my deeper thoughts on the movie. Just be warned that it involves me talking about things in the movie that will spoil it for you if you haven't seen it yet.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gross Pointe Blank (1997)

     Gross Pointe Blank (Rated R) is a curious movie that is several elements combined.  It's part romance, part comedy, part action, part drama, and very fun.  Stars Jon Cusack, Minnie Driver, and Dan Akroyd.

      Jon Cusack plays an assassin who gets a 10 year reunion invitation at the same time as a contract in his home town of Gross Pointe, Michigan.  He originally uses the reunion as a cover but going home brings up some unfinished business, especially with his former high school girlfriend (played by Driver).  He meets old friends, family, and  rivals, and finds out that his business rivals (another assassin played by Dan Akroyd) are in town going after the same target.

     This movie has some witty dialogue, interesting scenarios, and Jon Cusack's voice (as it always does) has an almost comedic tone to it that helps keep the movie from getting too serious.  It always feels light-hearted, from start to finish, and features some of the best rock music of the 80s.  I try to watch this movie every few years, both because it's fun and to see how its aged over the years. 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Monster Squad (1987)

When thinking back to 80s movies that make me nostalgic, The Monster Squad (1987) is definitely among the top 10.  As a kid I loved this movie, and it may be one of the reasons I enjoy movies about the supernatural/paranormal even to this day.

 The premise of the movie is that 100 years before the story Van Helsing storms Dracula's castle and tries to use a powerful magical amulet and create a portal to limbo to pull Dracula and his undead minions into the portal.  Unfortunately he failed.  Dracula was not pulled into the portal but Van Helsing was, so Van Helsing's associates take the amulet to America, far out of reach of Dracula.  Fast forward to modern day (1987). A bunch of kids ranging from 12 to 16 have a clubhouse where they meet and discuss monsters and monster movies.

The leader of the club is given a book that his mother found at an estate sale that turns out to be Van Helsing's journal.  Unfortunately its in German.  They don't think much of it until members of their club start reporting seeing real-life monsters such as the Mummy, Gill Man (creature from the black lagoon), and Frankenstein's monster.  They try to tell their parents about everything but understandably they don't believe the kids, so the kids have to take matters into their own hands and find a way to stop their town from being invaded by monsters.

I watched this again around Halloween 2012, and I noticed watching it as a kid and watching it as an adult are two different things.  When I watched it as a kid I saw the kids as peers and so when they get picked on, grounded by their parents, and told that monsters don't exist I sided with them and fully backed them on disobeying their parents to go stop the monsters.

As an adult I see it much differently.  I see a bunch of kids that, despite meaning well, disobey orders their parents gave them to keep them safe.  They sneak out after dark, lie, steal, blackmail, and build weapons to aid them in their fight against the forces of evil.  Thank goodness they have parents that care for their safety, especially one of the father's who's a cop.

Still, its a fun movie that has aged surprisingly well and if you haven't seen it since you were a kid I suggest giving it another watch.  You would be amazed how differently you see the movie through more experienced eyes.  There is a little bit of swearing (they say sh*$) and a few scenes of graphic violence, so it earns its PG-13 rating, so use your judgement on when to let your kids watch it.

Also, for those that have seen the movie and love it, there are a couple websites out there that have interesting artistic theories about the movie, like what the deeper meaning behind Phoebe throwing Frankenstein the Teddy Bear.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Wedding Singer (1998)

I received a little bit of feedback since my last post that I definitely found helpful.  The first is to not focus too much on one genre, the second is to put a link to the imdb page of the movie so that if someone wants more information about the movie they can go straight to it from that blog post. 

To keep with the first suggestion I am reviewing The Wedding Singer (1998) starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.  Yes, that's right, a romantic comedy.  Why? Because this is one of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen.  Let me explain.

The movie is set in the mid-80s, I believe 1985.  I found it pretty hilarious that it's a period piece for a period that was only 13 years before the movie was filmed.  I know there are other movies on similar time lines (dazed and confused, set in 1976 and filmed in 1993) and those are good too, but that is not the only reason I like this movie.

The 80s hold a special place in my heart.  I was very young when they were going on so by the time I was old enough to get into the culture, shows, technology, and music it was already fading as the 90s took center stage.  This movie brings all of these things to the forefront with references, especially references to music.  Music is the primary theme in this movie and it shows throughout it.

The main character, Robbie Hart, is a kindly wedding singer with aspirations of starting a family and making it big as a singer/songwriter.  It starts off very upbeat, with him performing well with some great music at a wedding, telling everyone about how he hopes to be as happy at his own upcoming wedding, and even defusing a situation the groom's drunken brother causes.  Also, that same night he meets Julia, a new waitress at the wedding hall, who tells him how she's getting married too.  She's new to town though, so he offers to help her with her wedding.

It gets a little dark when Robbie's wedding does not go as planned when the bride doesn't show up and sends a message that she never will.  After a rough time he is helped by Julia because she holds him to his promise to help her with her wedding, and so he is able to move on by getting lost helping her with her wedding preparations.

Through a variety of 80s flair and style, and many, many songs from the 80s the story progresses as the two become very good friends to the point they both start to wonder if she's marrying the right person. 

Sadly my description does not do it justice since a lot of the story is held together by terrific acting on behalf of the two main characters.  It's a fun movie with a happy ending, and it is a great date movie.  The main reason I like it so much though is that I like the relationship between Robbie and Julia.  That being with someone should be about mutual respect and that the two of you should be best friends before you decide to become partners for life.  It shines a bright light on marriage, both on why to get married, and why not to get married.

Oh, and watching an 81 year old woman performing "Rapper's Delight" always makes me smile. 

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

The whole Zombie genre has always caught my fancy.  I watch zombie movies, play zombie video games and board games, read books about Zombies, and I think about what I would do during the zombie apocalypse to survive.  Costco even made sure I knew about their long-term food supply kits

Knowing these things now, it is no small wonder that I enjoyed Night of the Living Dead (1968).  It wasn't the first zombie movie, but it was the first zombie movie done right.  It embodies all the elements that are fascinating about zombie survival horror.  Also, do not mistake it for the cheesy 80s horror movie "Return of the Living Dead".  The two are very, very different.

The Night of the Living Dead starts out with a brother and sister driving out into the country to visit their father's grave.  His brother is being an ass most of the trip, and when they arrive at the cemetery she says she has a bad feeling about this place.  He makes light of it by pointing at a stranger in a suit and saying (in a mocking tone) "he's coming for you!" And then laughs, and laughs, while she walks over to the stranger to apologize for her brother.

When she approaches the stranger and apologizes, the man turns around with a blank look in his eyes and grabs her and she starts screaming.  Her brother comes running and pulls the stranger off of her but stumbles during the fight and hits his head really hard on a tombstone and is knocked unconscious.  Not knowing what to do, she runs away, screaming for help.  Her brother had the car keys, so the car is useless, so she keeps running.  Along the way she sees more and more of these people with blank stares who see her and start walking toward her in the same way the stranger in the cemetery did. 

Finally, she finds a house on a farm and runs inside where two people are already hold up, and shortly after another man joins them.  This is where the movie truly begins.  Shock, denial, fear, and being in the dark on what's happening beyond the house all play into this tale of survival horror while these strangers find themselves relying on each other to survive.

Although this movie came out nearly 50 years ago, I will not spoil it for anyone.  I hope that you will find a copy, grab a blanket and some popcorn, turn off the lights, and watch this. 

There are 5 sequels spanning the 48 years since the original movie came out: Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2009).  I will talk more about these movies later.

A Movie Critic is Born

Hi there.  So last night at work my co-workers told me that I should start a blog talking about movies.  Why? That is because I have seen a lot of movies, and I always seem to have something to say about every movie.  I have a knack for remembering stories, so books, movies, shows, and history always seem to stick with me.  On top of that, I tend to like nearly every movie I see, or at least able to find something I like in it so talking movies with me is more fun than talking with most of the cynical movie critics out there.

An example would be The Punisher (2004) starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta.  All my friends felt it was one of the worst movies they had ever seen.  It contains terrible acting, a rushed story line, a main character that should have been played by someone else, and you could tell that they had a requisite amount of time John Travolta had to be on the screen despite being the villain.  Still, I liked the fight scenes, and I always enjoy the modifications the punisher makes to his car/vehicle.  When the first assassin gunning for the punisher walks right into the restaurant he's eating at and tells him he's gunning for him, it was very "honor among thieves."  I like that.

I realize that everyone has different views and so there will be people that disagree with me.  If you disagree with me, send me a message, I'd love to have your take on it.  Just please keep it civil.

Anyway, I will be talking about movies here mostly, and I will talk about other things some times, namely special events, or if I hear a memorable quote.  Let's get this started!