Saturday, August 23, 2008

Movie Review – The Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008)

Huh?!? I waited 20 years for this?!?

That was my initial thought after sitting through this latest attempt to rape my childhood. I promised myself that I wouldn’t watch this when it came out. I swore I wouldn’t be sucked into a sequel to a movie that was an essential and inescapable part of my high school life. Dear dark gods! How I wanted to be Michael from the Lost Boys. I grew a mullet like him, I pierced my ear like him, I even bought a leather jacket and took to wearing wayfarer sunglasses at night. The girl I dated all through high school would call me Michael, and I’d call her Starr. We’d answer the door and say, “…and you must be Max.” Jesus… I still have two or three songs from the soundtrack on my iPod right now. Seriously.

And I was going to hold firm, dammit. I was NOT going to see what was certain to be a horrible movie. And then I started watching the reality show, The Two Coreys. I got sucked into it and actually broke down when I saw that Fel-dog and the Haimster and the other Frog brother, Jason Newlander, were going to be in the sequel. So, when it came up, I put it on my Netflix queue.

Yeah, I knew that Haim’s a slow motion, slurring, chain-smoking, dope-addicted train wreck. And I knew that he was only going to be in a couple of scenes, but I actually convinced myself that Feldman is actually a reasonable guy and wouldn’t commit career suicide or risk whatever legacy he might have. In other words, I bought into the fake reality that is their reality show.

Boy was I disappointed.

The Lost Boys: The Tribe is, essentially, a modernized remake of the original Lost Boys. It started out with some promise. Some surfers sneak onto an ocean-side estate to surf at night. The estate, owned by a vampire played in a surprising cameo by Tom Savini, confronts the surfers with the intention of having a late night snack. Unfortunately, the surfers are the new Lost Boys and quickly turn the tables on Savini as they dog-pile him, kill him, and rip his head off.

Cool! I thought, Awesome gore and an even better cameo… this might actually be good.

From there, we roll into the credits and it’s similar to the beginning of the original Lost Boys with scenes of street people, alternative types, and tattoos aplenty. However, where in the original it was kind of cool and alternative and Santa Carla had the look of a cool place to live; this time it looks like the walking dead, white trash, and drug addicts that can be found in the seedier parts of any big city. I did have to laugh when they had a quick shot of a guy standing on a corner playing a saxophone… it looked to be the same guy who was performing on the beach when Michael meets Starr in the original, right down to the leather pants and long hair… only he’s no longer oiled and buff with muscles. Now he’s old, wrinkled, and sports a potbelly.

The story is simple, a brother and sister move to a new town to live with a batty aunt after the death of their parents in a car accident. The brother, Chris Emerson (played by Tad Hilgenbrek), is an ex-pro surfer who got kicked off the pro-circuit for fighting and his sister, Nicole (Autumn Reeser), end up moving into a rat-hole house. They go to a party on their first night; where they run into the Lost Boys, lead by another ex-surfer turned vampire – Shane. Shane is played by Keifer Sutherland’s little brother, Angus.

Shane takes a liking to Nicole. She drinks his blood, starts to become a vampire, and Chris needs to save her. He hooks up with Edgar Frog, who happens to be living in town, and they go fight and kill the Lost Boys, saving Nicole.
Like I said – this movie is an updated, remake of the original. Feldman basically walks around in his old costume, spouting entire lines of dialogue from the original. The fact that Sam and Chris’ last name is Emerson is never mentioned (I’m assuming they must be the kids of Michael and Starr… but it’s never made clear or mentioned, besides the fact that Nicole has long brown hair and is ‘the spitting image’ of her mother.). The story alludes to Edgar having lost his own brother, Allan, to vampires. The only appearance of Allan comes in the special features as an alternative ending where Allan, now a “Master Vampire” is coming to get Edgar. As the credits roll, we’re treated to a showdown between Edgar and a vampire Sam, but that’s all of about 30 seconds.

And here is where my main gripe with this movie is. The writers and director made this movie that is a watered down remake, but then – as an afterthought – added the bits with Haim, Feldman, and Newlander. And the bits they added (or decided to delete) hint at a great story. For me, the movie should have been about what’s happened to the characters of Sam, Edgar, and Allan in the 20 years since the death of Max and his original band of Lost Boys. Somewhere in there; Sam and Allan have become vampires, Starr and Michael have married and had kids, and Edgar has carried on slaying vampires despite the devastating loss of his brother to the enemy. That’s the fucking story I want! Not some rehash with a bunch of pretty people whose sole acting contributions consist of guest appearances on One Tree Hill and the OC!

And – although Haim has become a walking E! True Hollywood Story – his parts were good. Feldman was the shining star of the cast. What pains Doctor Zombie the most is the potential there. Aaarrrgghh!

And, as for the other characters - the head vampire Shane wandered around half shaved, with long hair, and a fey voice. I suspect he and Haim will share a stint in rehab at some point because he delivered all of his lines as if he were stoned or drunk. And – this may just be me – but the actors who played Chris and Nicole Emerson were both good… but they had a really strong chemistry between each other. Normally, this is a good thing for actors and actresses to have – but not when they’re playing brother and sister. Seriously…I kept expecting them to kiss each other. It was like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith chemistry. There was a scene where Nicole’s standing in a towel, talking to him, and I was certain they were going to get totally incestuous. Creepy! I got the shudders thinking about it!

So – what’s the final verdict? Doctor Z.’s gotta say – pass on it. Pull out your copy of the original Lost Boys and revel in the sheer 80’s awesomeness and save yourself the frustration of watching a sequel that could have been great, but was more than happy being simply less than mediocre. Rating-wise, I’m giving it a 2 out of 5 only because Haim had some great, funny lines. There were also some great gory scenes and gratuitous nudity, which I’m always happy to see, but the script and acting sucked… literally. (Get it? The script sucked?!? That’s a vampire joke…get it? Oh, never mind…)

Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Chomped Brain

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Movie Review – George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead (2007)

George Romero’s triumphant return to the horror genre that he created is truthfully –only slightly triumphant. After all of the anticipation, and all of the whinging on my part that Ohio had only one theatrical showing of Diary of the Dead (in Columbus – 2 hours away!) I finally secured a copy on DVD and sat down to watch it with some popcorn, the lights out, and a giddy feeling in my stomach. After viewing it, I’ve got to say I was a bit underwhelmed.

The movie is told in the cineme verite style of The Blair Witch Project, or Cloverfield and is told from the point of view of several college film students. While out in the woods filming a low budget Mummy movie, they hear a radio report of strange attacks. The soon find themselves in the midst of the zombie apocalypse and the film is related as they see it through their own cameras.

In terms of the behind the camera point of view, Romero does a great job of making it much more polished and herky-jerky than the nausea-fests Blair Witch and Cloverfield represented, but it lacks the realism that the prior two films had and excelled at. At several points in the film – especially when they understand that they are truly being attacked by the living dead, they stand by as zombies approach, rolling the film.

From an acting standpoint, and as expected, most of the actors and actresses were pretty, young, and forgettable. A quick perusal of IMDB shows that none of them have any sort of extensive acting resumes - - and their inexperience shows through. The acting was stilted and most of their lines were delivered poorly. The only stand outs were the character of Debra Moynihan, as played by Michelle Morgan, and the alcoholic, bitter, nihilistic film professor (Scott Wentworth). Debra plays the ex-girlfriend of the protagonist and, although she plays the character as overly bitchy and angry, she far surpasses her peers in acting ability and I expect to see great things from her.

So – what did Romero do well? Well, despite my apparent disdain for the movie – it was still a Romero zombie film. And nobody – and I mean nobody – does zombies as well as George does. Visually, there were some great things here. The opening scene, where a news crew rolls up on a fatal domestic, is brilliant. The terror is palpable as the deceased combatants tear their way out of their body bags and attack the EMT’s and the news crew itself. Additionally, there were some great zombie killings. As they roll through Pittsburgh, the main characters run into a group of African-Americans who’ve fortified and dug in. There’s some great suspense as one of the survivors' now undead members stalks all in an abandoned industrial complex. And, when he is finally cornered, he’s killed with acid and I’ve got to say it was one of the best effects of the movie.

Romero also has a knack for creating memorable, almost iconic characters. In Night of the Living Dead, there was Ben – a black man in post Civil rights, rural Pennsylvania protecting himself and others; in Dawn, you had Peter. In Day of the Dead, you had the awesomeness that was Captain Rhodes; and in Land of the Dead, you had Charlie – the mentally disabled, burn-scarred Alvin York of Romero’s post-apocalyptic world. What makes these characters great is that they are a juxtaposed mingling of flaws and nobility. They are characters who have depths that are only hinted at. Romero follows through in this film with the Professor’s character, but the true icon from this movie is the deaf, Amish farmer and bad-ass – Joshua. I won’t ruin it for you, but I will say that scythes rock!

Also – the later scenes at a mansion they end up at are great; especially the pool scene. Again, it’s something you’ll need to see, but it’s great. There is an over-reliance on computer animation in this film, just like in Land of the Dead, but I was disappointed to see it. Yes, Doctor Z. gets that it’s cheaper to do CGI head shots; but they’re obviously fake and computer generated. There’s a difference between CGI and a good, well placed blood squib. Call me a purist or old school, but I like to see some real effects and splatter… not something plugged in as an afterthought in post-production.

As for Romero’s trademark social commentary – it’s here, but it’s not as resonant as it was in prior living dead films. Romero spends the movie commenting on the “media”-fication of our society and our reliance on new technology and the globalization it’s brought. It’s an indictment on a world filled with cell phones, and YouTube, and 24 hour media coverage. And I get the sense he’s also condemning Gen Y’s reliance on the same. He spends the movie criticizing his young, selfish filmmaker characters – but it rings untrue and, honestly, sort of hypocritical. The characters are doing the same thing he did back in 1968 in Evansville PA. And I guaran-damn-tee that, if the zombies rose up then, he’d have spent what little time he had filming the fall of humanity.

So – what’s Doctor Z’s overall appraisal of Diary of the Dead? It was still a zombie flick, and it was done by the father of the genre. Despite its flaws, it was still compelling and moved along at a good pace. The effects were good, the camera work was good, and the zombies were out-fucking-standing. All of this – however – was marred by the bad acting and the characters themselves. I truthfully didn’t care about them like I did past Romero characters. They were unlikable archetypes. But, despite that, it’s still good escapist fun.

My hope was that, when George was allowed to go back to his roots and do some guerilla filmmaking, he’d turn out something visceral and powerful. I have to say I was disappointed. In fact, I’d have to go out on a limb and say that I liked Land of the Dead better. Which says a lot, I think. It’s still a must see, and it’s still got some awesome zombie action, but it’s definitely in the bottom of my ranking as far as Romero’s Holy Quintet goes. Fortunately, he will have the chance to redeem himself. Word is that he will begin filming of Diary of the Dead 2 in September. We’ll have to see. So – as a zombie fan and a lover of all things Romero – I recommend Diary of the Dead.

Let me put it this way, even Romero’s worst zombie film is a hundred times better than most of the other low budget, low rent crap out there that passes as zombie films today. Every modern zombie filmmaker needs to bend a knee and kiss Romero’s ring. So; see it, own it, add it to the collection – just don’t expect it to be more than it is…

Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 Chomped Brains

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm such a 10 year old...

I absolutely can't stop laughing at this picture.

I don't know why it's so funny... it just is. Whether it's the onomatopaeic qualities, or just the fact that it's a perfect encapsulation of what the picture should sound like. It's comic genius. I'm seriously sitting in my cube and having trouble breathing because I'm trying not to laugh outloud, lest my cubemates think I'm suffering some sort of psychotic breakdown. Oh god. it hurts.

Oh, jeez... I just laughed so hard a little pee came out...

***In way of giving proper photo credits... the poster was gratuitously stolen from Zombie Squad's Motivational Poster thread, and it was created by super mod /crazy Welshman, Brash.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Crap! Where've I Been?!?

So yeah... I've been away for a month. Where'd the time go?

I'd like to say that I've been gone because I've been off on a secret mission for the CIA, or something cool like that. But, alas, it's been much more mundane than all that.

Let's see... I've been working, working, working; and I've had no time to post up here. Truth be told, things are tight with the economy and Dr. Z's had to get himself a second job. So, when I'm not working for the man as a corporate drone during the week... I'm working double shifts on the weekends at our local hospital.

That's right, Doctor Z's a security guard. I've got a uniform, with a badge, a radio, and some keys...

It's not as glamorous as mall security, but it's got it's excitement.

I get to babysit psych patients, manhandle Saturday night drunks, roust the homeless from the hospital chapel, and... here's the best part.. I get to carry, check in, and check out bodies from the morgue.

That's right, folks. I somehow always end up with the dead bodies. It's the burden of being Doctor Zombie I guess.

So that's part of the reason I haven't been posting as much. The other's just plain laziness.

So... just some quick thoughts off the top of my head....

Movies: I haven't seen half of the movies I wanted to see because I've been so busy with work. No X-Files, no Hellboy. I did see Dark Knight and it was every bit as good as I'd heard. "Wanna see a magic trick?" is my new favorite quote! I've also been doing the dollar movies thing lately becauxse it's cheaper, but every flick I've seen I've taken WolfGirl or Zombie Boy to see... so I've seen Speed Racer, Prince Caspian, and Iron Man (for the second time). If there's anything I lament about my new, busy work life; it's my inability to see good quality movies. I did get a copy of Romero's Diary of the Dead finally. I'll be posting a review of it soon...

What else? Hmmm... Oh yeah! A friend at work loaned me Seasons One and Two of the Venture Bros. My god! This is the greatest cartoon of all time!!! If you haven't seen it yet, please please please check it out. You won't regret it...

Finally, last night was the first pre-season game for my beloved Clevleand Browns. Yeah... it sucked. Our first team came out and kicked ass and took names. Brady Quinn did a good job besides throwing an interception, and even recovered from that to march the ball down field for a TD. (I'm still not convinced that Quinn is the god-like figure many here in Cleveland paint him to be. Derek Anderson is a hell of a quarterback and his showing last season has earned him the first position... no matter how many whinge that Quinn is like Brian Sipe incarnated.) What else did I want to say about the Browns? Let's see, the second half sucked ass and if Ken Dorsey NEVER plays again, I'll be happy. He threw 15 incomplete passes - IN A ROW. Eight of those were to receivers in the damned end zone. Grrrrr... Oh well, it's preseason, and the first stringers looked good. This is the year... I can feel it...

Anyway, gotta go. I'll post more next week, I promise...