Thursday, September 30, 2010

George A Romero's Survival Of The Dead Trailer

Survival of the Dead (2010)

The fanboys have been criticizing George Romero since he returned to zombie films with Land of the Dead, so I took it with a grain of salt when I heard them bitching about this one, the most recent zombie film from the man who largely created the genre with Night of the Living Dead.* Good thing too because the critics are wrong- this one's a keeper.

You know the Romero formula- unlike the old Voodoo Zombie movies, his ghouls are more like a plague of some sort- a public health crisis. Here, there's an island filled with humans and the hope of security. Alas, humans always fuck it up for themselves in Romero's films. In this case, two warring families with an age-old grudge can't agree on whether to shoot all the living dead in the heads or keep them around and try to live with them. All hell breaks loose in the last reel, as it always does in these movies.

Romero injects social criticism into most of his movies, and in Survival of the Dead, he's depicting the small minds of small towns and their endless grudges. For me, Romero is best when his critiques come in the form of parables- as in Survival of the Dead or his earlier Season of the Witch- than they do when he takes an action story and tries to shoehorn in commentary- as in Diary of the Dead. Because he's working in the parable mode in Survival, he can develop a fully fleshed-out story with compelling characters. Even though his dialogue is still clunky, this movie feels literary, or at least Stephen King level literary.

So there are compelling characters, a darkly funny parable, and plenty of zombies being shot in the head or eating each other. It's nothing great- and not really on the level of Dawn of the Dead- but, seriously, it's enough for me!

*(There were zombie films before Night, but Romero updated the concept greatly by treating the zombies as a public health issue/outbreak scenario; just like he updated vampires with Martin and witches with Season of the Witch. In this case, everyone has ripped of Night of the Living Dead.)

Postscript: One criticism- directors, please stop with all the CG- it looks fake and cartoony.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Van Nuys Blvd. (1979) trailer

Van Nuys Blvd. (1979)

Bobby loves his van. He has big dreams of leaving his boring small town and racing that van on Van Nuys Boulevard, dreams that probably indicate this is a 70s movie, since nowadays it’s mostly middle-aged moms who love their vans. The small-town kid with big city dreams is also a staple of 70s films, although in this case, Bobby is hoping to ditch a hot blonde who gets naked and wants to have sex with him when he’d rather drink beer and watch television news reports about cars. Bobby is kind of a douche.

The Van Nuys Boulevard strip was known for the customized car enthusiasts who would cruise on weekends and this film is a tribute to them in the style of American Graffiti. Actually, very much in the style of American Graffiti; the car-nut character “the Chooch” in this one seems straight out of that film. Then you have the young redheaded boy pining for a cute girl he saw in a dream, who seems like a low-rent Ron Howard (well, other than Clint Howard). Finally, you have Wanda the carhop who is really cute and has casual foodie smosh sex with Bobby when he orders a burger just because she can. I really like her moxie. Bobby quickly loses interest in Wanda in order to compete angrily with Moon, a blonde who maybe he really loves, but can’t get over his competitive streak. Moon is, I think, supposed to be a 70s feminist. Bobby, again, is kind of a douche.

Van Nuys Blvd is a teenage farce that suffers from not being particularly funny. It features two interesting characters- Wanda and the Chooch- and four less-interesting ones doing fun teenager activities, like go-karts, rollercoasters, discos, drag racing, table hockey and fucking. It is not a good film, per se, but it does serve to remind old timers like myself that things like hamburgers, California beaches, hot rods, dancing and sexually liberated women are unquestionably good things. So, for that, let’s be thankful.