Dawn Of The Dead (Remake)

Being a zombie movie fan i have much enjoyed the recent (continuing) resurgence of the genre. As i believe that Romero’s Dawn is not only the best zombie movie ever, but one of the best horror movies, i was both excited and sceptical to hear about a remake. Reasons for excitement- 1. It’s zombies. 2. A big budget. 3. If done right, could be brilliant. Reasons for scepticism- 1. A big budget. 2. Less gore, less shock value. 3. If done wrong could be awful, and possibly tarnish the name of the original in some people’s eyes.

I soon heard that the zombies would be able to run- a source of many arguments among fans and purists. On one side, the zombies were scarier because their slow speed was irrelevant, they would probably get you in the end through sheer numbers or by the fact that they don’t get tired. Slow zombies were scary because they were falling to pieces. However, on the other side, people who have recently turned may still be in good shape so should be able to run until they begin to decay. Fast zombies make the threat more immediate and therefore give rise to more jumpy moments. Fast zombies mean we have an even smaller chance of survival as we may not be able to outrun them. Some have said the zombies in this are ‘super-fast’, but this is nonsense. A zombie should only be as fast as it was before it turned, more likely slower, but will not get out of breath. All this running will however mean quicker decay. What it all boils down too in the end is whether you can make your choice effective, and in both films, both directors succeed.

A Nurse, Ana, during and after a heavy shift fails to notice the news reports that the dead are attacking the living. It is probably rubbish anyway, and she just wants to get home to suburbia. The next morning, her young neighbour enters her bedroom; She seems to be hurt. When her husband investigates, she attacks him, biting off part of his throat. He dies, the phone is engaged, but he quickly rises again and goes for his wife. When she escapes the house she witnesses chaos, people screaming, houses on fire and being attacked, her neighbour with a gun, promptly run over by an ambulance. She escapes in her car only to crash after seeing the scale of the madness. Soon she meets with a cop- Kenneth, Michael, Andre and his pregnant girlfriend Luda. They decide to hide in a local mall only to find that Store guards have claimed it for their own. However, they work out a compromise and soon other survivors join them. As the days pass, they try to work out a solution, how to maintain their safety and sanity. When an attempt to send food to Andy, a survivor on the roof of a gun shop a few hundred yards away goes wrong, the zombies get into the mall, and the remaining survivors flee. Their plan to escape to an island by boat seems good, but it is based on pure hope, and the desire to get out of their present situation, rushed, and the hordes continue to chase.

The film lacks the brains and atmosphere of Romero’s masterpiece. But it makes up for this by giving an excellent view of how contemporary people would likely react to the situation. The film begins quickly, and to the director’s credit, the pace continues throughout. Anytime something good happens, something worse happens to bring the characters to an even lower state. It is frantic, but never out of control, and their is a fair amount of tension. Once we realise the zombies are fast, we are on edge, prepared for one or one hundred to come racing round the nearest shadowy corner. The actors all do well, particularly Polley and the excellent Weber. His character is just a normal guy, a failure at many things, but who will not give up. Rhames is tough, but doesn’t set out on his own, knowing that he is needed. The soundtrack is more conventional,with booming rock songs being played over each attack, but this heightens the chaos. There is little hope left at the end, and little time for discussion over why this has happened. There are a few good set pieces, and the gore is good for a modern mainstream film. There are a few funny moments, and of course, another staple of zombie films, an annoying character-Steve. The best of the recent serious zombie films by a wide margin, lets see if Romero can regain his crown.

The DVD has a few good extras, the commentary is amusing, and the last days of Andy feature is well worth watching.

Dawn Of The Dead
As always, feel free to leave any comments- is this better than the original? How do you feel about fast zombies?

Conan The Barbarian

Before Arnie became The Terminator he was Conan the Barbarian in this visually stunning fantasy film based on the books of Robert E. Howard. An endlessly influential film, withe recent films such as the Matrix and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy taking elements from it, a film with much greater depth than most give it credit for, clever, emotive, with a smart script, one of the best soundtracks of all time, strong performances and great action. Conan the Barbarian is an underrated classic, but one which all Arnie fans love, one which deserves to be recognised for what it is rather than criticising it as brainless violence.

John Milius, director of Big Wednesday, writer of the Apocalypse Now screenplay and famous sections of Jaws and Dirty Harry decided to turn Howard’s classic stories into a big screen adventure. With a script by himself and Oliver Stone, they found Schwarzenegger, convinced actors such as Max Von Sydow and James Earl Jones to join the cast, and made the definitive fantasy film. Along with Basil Poledouris making the score, and a host of talented set designers and effects guys, Conan the Barbarian should not be taken lightly.

Conan The Barbarian

Conan tells the story of a man whose entire village was slaughtered when he was a child, and taken into slavery until he became an adult. During the period of slavery he pushes a giant wheel until he has grown, become strong, and everyone else has died. He is then taken and trained as a fighter and killer in small arenas, soon becoming the famous and bloodthirsty warrior in the land, forgetting his past, and becoming an emotionless machine. However, when he is released his past soon comes back to him and he seeks vengeance for the man who killed his family-Thulsa Doom. On his travels he rescues Subotai, played by surfer Gerry Lopez, a thief and they become friends. Soon they encounter Valeria, a beautiful young warrior thief who is infiltrating an evil tower owned by Doom. They go in, butcher the bad guys, steal a diamond, and Conan and Valeria fall in love. Her attitude towards life overpowers him, and the three go around the land stealing. However, the draw of the past is too much and they search for Doom who is taking over the land with his hypnotic powers, believing flesh to be stronger than steal. He is a powerful wizard and sacrifices many innocent young people who succumb to his ways, much like a modern religious cult. Doom and Conan meet again, and Doom is too strong, teaching Conan about his power, much like Conan’s father spoke of the riddle of steel. Conan is left for dead, but his friends find him, and with the help of a magician restore him in a very touching and powerful scene. Renewed, Conan once more seeks Doom, but this time it is not him who is killed, enraging him further.

Arnold’s performance here is one of his best, the kind of role he should be given and proving that he is the best at what he does. Sydow is good in a smaller part, Jones is awesome-just watch his eyes. Mako is very good as the Wizard, Gerry Lopez is superb, and Sandahl Bergman is excellent in a performance which should have sent her on to greatness. The score is easily among the best ever, perfectly complementing every scene, heightening the emotional impact whether it be a battle scene or funeral. The action is also very impressive, before masses of CG beasties, with heads sailing off and swords clashing. It is also one of the most beautifully shot films of the decade, the camera panning over wide areas much like Kurosawa in movement, a technique used again by Peter Jackson. The script is full of quotable dialogue, mixing serious ones with typical Arnie one-liners, Nietchze is referenced and other philosophical issues are discussed with an odd amount of skill for an action movie. Rather than discussion, a few one-liners are given, but they are to good effect. Certain scenes are highly emotional, and they are dealt with skilfully, and Conan is a tragic figure rather than a murderer. No-one can ever get close to him again, anyone who does dies. It is not only a great action and fantasy film, but a great love story. Worthy of Oscar nominations, but of course this type of film is always regarded as pointless. Even if you are not an Arnie film, if you are not someone with a closed mind who has made a decision as to whether you will like a film or not before you see it, then you should see the many merits here. One of the best films of the early 80’s, though unfortunately it is mostly discarded.

Try to get a 2 disc special eidition of the movie- although no matter which you choose the classification boards have done it again, cutting parts of the film which may destory our souls if we were to view them (again), but there are lots of worthwhile extra features to make this version the one to buy over others. Deleted scenes, handy commentaries, interesting documentaries. A must-have.

As always, feel free to comment on my review and the movie. Is the movie unfairly lost in the archives? Does Arnie look his toughest here? How strong an adaptation did you find the film?

The Running Man: On yer marks, set, Run!

Yeah! Everyone knows Arnie is the greetest Acting Star ever and everyone one of his films (except don’t throw mummy off the train) is a classic. Based on a Steve Kingsly album this film sees Arnie entered into a popular game in the future. Blockbusters? Nope. This game is of life and death, and of running and fighting. The contestants (including Arnie’s girlfriend Amber and two of his mates) are claimed to be criminals, and the game show is designed as punishment for criminals. They have to enter an underground city and get from one end to the other without being killed, but there are lots of obstacles in their way, such as Skipping Stones, Single Roller, and Bridge Ball. As well as these there are gladiators chasing them- skilled fighters with special powers- one is a tough ice hockey player, one shoots fire, one shoots lightening etc. Normally this would be a good way to treat criminals, and teach them not to steal groceries anymore, but we know that Arnie et al have been framed. There is lots of action. There is lots of humour:

Mic: Mr. Spock, you have the com. Underground Tech: Ay aye, Lord Vader.

And lots of classic Arnie one liners such as :

Ben Richards: Killian, here’s Subzero, now nothing but a lifeless body. Like a snowman. Heh heh.

And:

Amber: (after Richards cut Buzzsaw in half with a chain saw) What happened to Buzzsaw? Ben Richards: He half to go away!

And of course:

Ben Richards: (after strangling Sub-Zero with barbed wire) Every rose has its thorn!

Not forgetting:

Ben Richards: (trying to get Dynamo’s attention) Hey, Lighthead! Hey, Christmas Tree! Yeah, you! Come here so I can turn you on!

A highlight of the film is the relationship between Arnie’s character and Amber. At first they are enemies, quipping:

Amber: I warn you I get sick. Car sick, air sick. And I’m going to throw up all over you. Richards: You wouldn’t dare. Just remember, I can break your neck like an Irishman’s.

But afterwards they fall for each other reluctantly:

Amber: They think I’m your girlfriend. Ben Richards: Well, um, you could be. The camera can’t see round that corner. Wanna feel the Austrian Oak? Amber: OOOH MATRON!

Arnie also quips with the lead bad guy- the game show host (played by Roy Walker) throughout the film. Before the game begins:

Ben Richards: Killian! I’ll be back! Damon Killian: Sorry, your microphone isn’t working.

During the game:

Ben Richards: You’re gonna eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach! Then, I’m gonna feed you bag after bag of money, cos that’s all you love, and when you start dumping out quarters sideways, I’m gonna be in the toilet with you, laughing!

And after the game:

Damon Killian: I’ll have a gun please, Bob. Ben Richards: I don’t do requests.

Indeed, with all this classic dialogue from Arnie the rest of the cast may feel neglected. The script writers were clever though and let the rest of the cast have some dialogue which is worthy of being in Shakespeare:

Amber: They’re running men. Last season’s winners. Fireball: Yeah. They wasted their money on an orgy of crack. 12 hours later all that was left were 2 shrivelled, mangled corpses. Funny huh?

And:

Laughlin: I’m going somewhere, but not with you. Buzzsaw took care of my travelling arrangements. Ben: Must be Disneyland. I’m still banned after that incident with Sleeping Beauty.

And:

Damon Killian: What’s the matter? Steroids make you deaf? Sven: WHAT!? I CAN”T HEAR YOU!

The rest of the cast are pretty good in their roles, from Arnie’s mates to the sweet assortment of goons. They make the film incredibly realistic and make you wish the future would hurry up so that you could watch this game every Saturday night on TV. If I was in the game I would hide until I found a machine gun, and then shoot my way out. No one would get me as I have over a year’s experience in the Armed Forces and frequently spend my days working out survival tactics, inventing booby traps and creating scenarios where I am trapped in space or surrounded by bad guys and have to escape. Les Forsyth does a good job as the Host at warming up the audience into a frenzy, so that they buy lots of merchandise I assume:

Damon Killian: Who loves you and who do you love? Audience: Jerry! Jerry!

The action here is very good, with lots of killings, fights, guns, and bloods and I would say that it is one of the best movies based on a Steve King play.

Best Scene: When Arnie is trying to hack into the computer system so that he can turn off the cameras and meet the underground army of rebels and his friend keeps shouting Uplink Undergorund!

Ben Richards- Uplink underground, up-link underground. If you say that one more time, I’ll up-link your ass, and you’ll be underground! Friend- Uplink underground! Montage of shots showing Arnie fetching tools, digging a hole, blow-torching something, and eventually putting friend in hole, and filling hole with dirt.

I also liked the bit where the guy’s head explodes.