Monday, April 16, 2007

They're zombies! Oh, and those others like to take a bite out of your necks...

Dawn of the Dead is, like, terrifying. Seriously. I don't think I've been this scared by a film since I saw Blue Velvet years ago and was constantly shivering from utter terror. There's one particular bit in Dawn of the Dead to do with a pregnancy that was so obviously going to be horrifying but it made me so uncomfortable that I almost fainted. And this was from watching on DVD! The film itself- which is, as I'm sure you're aware, a remake of George A. Romero 1978 sequel (which I haven't seen- I tried once, when it was on tv, but I just wasn't in the mood for gore then) to the terrific Night of the Living Dead- isn't overloaded with gore (though it's still pretty violent), but is more concerned with sustaining an atmosphere, as a group of survivors of the sudden zombie epidemic hide out in a well-protected shopping mall and try to plot a way to escape. The film is remarkably well-cast when you consider what it is- no big names so to speak, but indie-regular Sarah Polley (who directs the soon-to-be-released Away From Her with Julie Christie) headlines, with solid background names including Ving Rhames and Mekhi Phifer astutely playing their purposely surface roles- these aren't people we ever have time or need to get to know, as they don't with each other for the most part. To its credit, Dawn of the Dead never divides itself into set-pieces, never repeats itself, and feels remarkably fresh and modern. Grade: B+

The Holiday, meanwhile, clearly wants to be fresh and modern, what with all its gleaming, expensive and expansive L.A. mod-cons and its cosy, extraordinarily remote English cottages, but all in all it feels rather backward, not just because of its squishy romantic sensibility but because of its antiquated ideas of what British life is like (Cameron Diaz is disturbed by how small Kate Winslet's lovely cottage is- bitch should try living in my house) and how freakin' manipulative it is. Also there's an enormous subplot- I say subplot, but the supposed romance between Kate and Jack Black is hijacked by her friendship with Diaz's elderly screenwriter neighbour Eli Wallach, while Diaz spends all her time snogging the face off Jude Law, because, eww, if the girl isn't a stick and the guy is a tiny bit portly no-one wants to see more than a peck! Anyway, said subplot is all about how Wallach (and thus Winslet) bemoan the kind of movies we have today (the kind Diaz, as a maker of movie trailers, is all about making "look like a hit"), yet all the while director/writer Nancy Meyers is indulging in exactly that! I don't think The Holiday is totally bad, because there are some nice touches in there (Diaz can't stop that familiar trailer voice from overlaying her own predicaments) and the cast are a capable bunch who do their best to paper over the creaky, sentimental gaps, but The Holiday is never truly heart-warming, even in the corny sense, and even though its all so bloody long (2 hours and ten minutes!) I doubt it'll leave much of an impression on anyone at all. Oh, and it hasn't snowed like that in England at Christmas for ages. Grade: C

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