Survival of the Dead
Only a Thread
Romero Loses His Credibility
By Cole Smithey
Sometimes nothing is better than something. George A. Romero's latest zombie retread demotes the 70-year-old filmmaker to a pale imitation of the groundbreaking director who invented zombie satire in 1968 with "Night of the Living Dead," and then shifted to full-on postmodernism with "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) and "Day of the Dead" (1985). This time around, anachronisms abound. On the Delaware island of Plum rival Irish families feud about how to handle their kith and kin after they've been infected by the ever-approaching rampaging zombies. A rogue military squad led by Guardsman Sarge (Alan Van Sprang) learns about the island refuge from a hipster boy (portrayed inadequately by Devon Bostick) they capture along with an armored truck filled with three million bucks. The team ends up embroiled in the crossfire of a family squabble after making their way onto the idyllic island. Strident patriarch Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) has no hesitation about killing anyone infected by a zombie bite, while his rival Shamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) would rather keep his zombie relatives on a short chain. Muldoon hopes to train them to eat animal flesh rather than human meat. Athena Karkanis plays Tomboy, the unit's token lesbian, whose chances of finding love are zero. Zombie blood gets gratuitously splattered, but there's nothing at stake in a movie that should never have been made. "Survival of the Dead" doesn't even qualify as a guilty pleasure.
Zombies represent hell on earth. Brueghel the Elder's 1562 painting "The Triumph of Death" shows a terrible vision of an army of skeletons attacking a village while dark fires burn across the sky in the background. It's much more than a nightmare. It's a scenario that no matter how much you study it, the more bewildering and frightening it becomes.
We have come to understand zombies very well. We know they are slow but tenacious, mindless creatures singularly obsessed with ripping apart live human flesh. Unlike Brueghel, Romero has lost sight of the nightmare of such an environment. He prefers to embrace it as more of a dream from which the viewer might not be bothered to be awoken for all of its comforting elements. There's no horror, and as such no satire.
The Viet Nam War weighed heavily in the gritty subtext of "Night of the Living Dead." Romero's commentary on race relations gave the film an unmistakable backbone of au currant import that hit you in the gut. "Dawn of the Dead" foreshadowed the military industrial complex and radical right wing extremism that have come to rule every spectrum of America's social and political spectrum.
By comparison "Survival of the Dead" represents a throwing in of the towel. It's a cartoon rather than a work of rigorous cinematic art. Rather than contextualize the breakdown of global societies (witness the current crises in Greece, Thailand, and the U.S.), Romero has written a story that would fit better into a '60s era "Star Trek" television episode. The film doesn't come anywhere near the thematic heft of a half-hour episode of Rod Serling's "Night Gallery" (also from '60s television).
Horror films shouldn't necessarily respond to the overwhelming circumstances of economic, natural, and social catastrophes, but when you are the progenitor of the myth, you do have a certain obligation to rise to the level you established. Where "Night of the Living Dead" was a tapestry, "Survival of the Dead" is barely a thread.
Rated R. 90 mins. (D+) (One Star - out of five/no halves)
Jean-Luc Godard's Socialism Poster
The 63rd Cannes Film Festival Awards
LUNG BOONMEE RALUEK CHAT (Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives) by Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL
DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX (Of Gods And Men) by Xavier BEAUVOIS
Award for the Best Director
Mathieu AMALRIC for TOURNÉE (On Tour)
UN HOMME QUI CRIE (A Screaming Man) by Mahamat-Saleh HAROUN
Best Performance for an Actor
Javier BARDEM in BIUTIFUL réalisé par Alejandro GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU
Elio GERMANO in LA NOSTRA VITA (Our Life) réalisé par Daniele LUCHETTI
Best Performance for an Actress
Juliette BINOCHE in COPIE CONFORME (Certified Copy) by Abbas KIAROSTAMI
Award for the Best Screenplay
LEE Chang-dong for POETRY
SHORT FILMS IN COMPETTION
CHIENNE D’HISTOIRE (Barking Island) by Serge AVÉDIKIAN
MICKY BADER (Bathing Micky) by Frida KEMPFF
AÑO BISIESTO réalisé par Michael ROWE présenté dans le cadre de la Quinzaine des Réalisateurs
UN CERTAIN REGARD
Un Certain Regard Prize – Fondation Groupama GAN pour le cinéma
HAHAHA by HONG Sangsoo
OCTUBRE (Octobre) by Daniel VEGA & Diego VEGA
The Prize for Best Performance Un Certain Regard
Adela SANCHEZ, Eva BIANCO, Victoria RAPOSO in LOS LABIOS (The lips) by Ivan FUND & Santiago LOZA
First Cinéfondation Prize
TAULUKAUPPIAAT (The Painting Sellers) by Juho KUOSMANEN
Second Cinéfondation Prize
COUCOU-LES-NUAGES (Anywhere out of the world) by Vincent CARDONA
Third Cinéfondation Prize
HINKERORT ZORASUNE (The Fith Column) by Vatche BOULGHOURJIAN
A VEC JESAM SVE ONO ŠTO ŽELIM DA IMAM (I Already am Everything I Want to Have) by Dane KOMLJEN
The Jury of the CST awarded the "PRIX VULCAIN DE L’ARTISTE-TECHNICIEN" to :
Leslie SHATZ, for the sound of the film BIUTIFUL by Alejandro GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU.
LOUIS TO PREMIERE WITH 5 CITY TOUR IN AUGUST
LOUIS TO PREMIERE WITH 5 CITY TOUR IN LATE AUGUST
ACCOMPANIED BY WYNTON MARSALIS, CECILE LICAD
AND AN ALL-STAR JAZZ ENSEMBLE
LOUIS, a silent film directed by Dan Pritzker and starring Jackie Earle Haley, Shanti Lowry and Anthony Coleman, will premiere in US cities in late August with live musical accompaniment by Wynton Marsalis, renowned pianist Cecile Licad and a 10-piece all-star jazz ensemble, including Sherman Irby, Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, Ted Nash, Kurt Bacher, Vincent Gardner, Wycliffe Gordon, Dan Nimmer, Carlos Henriquez, Ali Jackson, and conductor Andy Farber. Marsalis will play a score comprised primarily of his own compositions. Licad will play the music of 19th century American composer L.M. Gottschalk. The group will perform live with the film in a series of special performances in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Detroit, and Philadelphia August 25 - 31.Partial proceeds from the five concerts will benefit Providence Saint Mel School in Chicago, IL in honor of Paul J. Adams III
Shot by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond as a modern re-imagining of early silent film, LOUIS is an homage to Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, beautiful women and the birth of American music. The grand Storyville bordellos, alleys and cemeteries of 1907 New Orleans provide a backdrop of lust, blood and magic for 6 year old Louis (Anthony Coleman-pictured above; photo credit: Peter Sorel) as he navigates the colorful intricacies of life in the city. Young Louis's dreams of playing the trumpet are interrupted by a chance meeting with a beautiful and vulnerable girl named Grace (Lowry) and her baby, Jasmine. Haley, in a performance reminiscent of the great comic stars of the silent screen, plays the evil Judge Perry who is determined not to let Jasmine's true heritage derail his candidacy for governor.
"The idea of accompanying a silent film telling a mythical tale of a young Louis Armstrong was appealing to me," says Marsalis (pictured below; photo credit: Frank Stewart). "Of course, calling it a silent film is a misnomer -- there will be plenty of music, and jazz is like a conversation between the players so there'll be no shortage of dialogue. I look forward to playing with Cecile. The contrast between Gottschalk's music and jazz can be a revelation to those unfamiliar with Gottschalk's music and jazz."
"The combination of Cecile playing Gottschalk and Wynton and his ensemble playing jazz reflects the wide-ranging nature of the American musical landscape," notes Pritzker. "LOUIS came about when I was writing a screenplay about Buddy Bolden, the first jazz trumpeter of New Orleans, and I took my mom to see Chaplin's 'City Lights' with the Chicago Symphony performing the score. It was without a doubt the best movie experience I ever had. The challenge of trying to tell a story visually, without dialogue, was compelling. I thought that if I was going to shoot one film, I might as well try to shoot two -- the second being a silent film that picked up where BOLDEN ended. And it put Vilmos and me on even footing -- he'd never made a silent film before either."
LOUIS is a companion piece to Pritzker's BOLDEN, starring Anthony Mackie, Wendell Pierce and Lowry. BOLDEN will be released theatrically in 2011.
in Chicago, IL in honor of Paul J. Adams III
· Wednesday, August 25: Symphony Center, Chicago, IL
· Thursday, August 26: Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, MI
· Saturday, August 28: Strathmore Center, Bethesda, MD
· Monday, August 30: Apollo Theatre, New York, NY
· Tuesday, August 31: Keswick Theatre, Glenside (Philadelphia), PA
For additional information, please go to www.louisthemovie.com
Shrek Forever After
Bourgeoisie Critics are Opposed
By Cole Smithey
The fourth installment in the animated Shrek franchise is the most polished example of the series. There's a dearth of children's films to which parents can take their little ones before repeatedly watching the DVD until the kids incorporate every line of dialogue into their daily speech patterns. Fortunately, "Shrek Forever After" is on target, filling the void. Even audiences new to the franchise will enjoy the slapstick tone and comic timing of these easily likable characters. The premise is simple enough. Finally and happily settled down with his ogre wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their three babies, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) starts to yearn for his bachelor days, when every person and animal in the community feared his brutish gaze and stone-rattling roar. Shrek's ennui presents a perfect opportunity for Rumpelstiltskin (wonderfully voiced by Walt Dohrn), the kooky little fantasy–maker and con man. Mr. R convinces Shrek to sign away a day of his childhood in exchange for living a day free of all familial constraints. Naturally, the deal is a dirty trick played by the conniving Rumpelstiltskin, who plots to take over as king of the Far Far Away kingdom forever after. The film's theme--appreciating what you have while you have it--is supported, if only half-knowingly, by Shrek's loyal pals Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and a considerably chubbier Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas). Although the film's 3D effects seem extraneous, the spunky vocal characterizations are enjoyably spot-on and the jokes funny enough to elicit laughs from kids of all ages.
There's a tendency among elitist film critics to pooh-pooh the Shrek franchise based on its longevity. They're ready to put the final nail in the coffin of a successful children's series ostensibly because they're embarrassed to have loved it so much when they were younger, and now feel obliged to distance themselves from it.
Shrek's status as a workaday dad who pines for his more vigorous youth must surely signal a disconnect between the filmmakers and the young souls these kind of movies typically cater to. It's an instance where post-modern meets retro reality. There's a supreme satisfaction in hearing the returning cast members' voices. Mike Myers underplays his current incarnation of Shrek, while Eddie Murphy lets loose at every opportunity. Cameron Diaz gives a more throaty delivery, and Antonio Banderas injects little comic touches into every word that Puss speaks.
It's possible that co-screenwriters Josh Klausner (writer on "Shrek the Third") and Darren Lemke have elevated the franchise into a territory of maturity beyond a threshold that bourgeoisie critics can stand. "Unnecessary" is a word used to describe a children's movie that by definition is quite necessary if you, well, have children. Which brings us to the film's broader appeal. Here is a Shrek movie with barely a fart or poop joke that speaks to a universal theme of appreciating the friends and family you have. When Shrek convinces the oblivious Donkey that he's his best friend, we feel recognized in the same way. When the fat little Puss drags sideways down his scratching post to greet Shrek, it's all the more funny because we know he's showing off for his pal. And when Fiona drops her she-warrior act long enough to allow a kiss from the ogre she was destined to be with forever after, we get that special kind of romantic charge that reminds us about why and how intimate relationships are important.
Rated PG. 95 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)
“DOUCHEBAG” Gets Picked Up
RED DRAGON ACQUIRES
U.S. RIGHTS TO SUNDANCE HIT “DOUCHEBAG”
MARK URMAN'S PALADIN TO
LOS ANGELES (May 17, 2010) - DOUCHEBAG, the edgy comedy about two brothers whose reluctant reunion after years of estrangement takes them on a riotous pre-wedding road trip, has been acquired for U.S. distribution by Red Dragon, it was announced today. Founded in 2008 by entrepreneur investor Franck Dubarry, Red Dragon will partner on the project with former William Morris Independent head Cassian Elwes, along with Mark Urman, whose company, Paladin, will handle the film’s theatrical release and marketing. A September release is planned.
DOUCHEBAG debuted in competition at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival to wide acclaim from audiences and critics alike, and marked the second feature for director Drake Doremus, whose first film, SPOONER, debuted in competition at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival. DOUCHEBAG was produced by Jonathan Schwartz through his Super Crispy Entertainment shingle (which also produced SPOONER), along with Marius Markevicius. The film, which stars Andrew Dickler and Ben York Jones as the brothers, received rave reviews from top critics, including Los Angeles Times' Kenny Turan, Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman and KCRW’s “The Treatment” critic Elvis Mitchell, among numerous others.
About the deal producer Schwartz says, “Drake and I are ecstatic to have Mark Urman and Franck Dubarry pushing this film and believing in it so much. Mark has always had amazing taste, and we’ve seen his success in the past with Sundance films like HALF NELSON. It’s exciting to have people on board who share our enthusiasm for the genuine laughs and emotions that our beloved DOUCHEBAG provides.”
Urman adds, “I am extremely excited to be teaming with Franck and Red Dragon, as well as Cassian, who brought us all together, in such an innovative distribution arrangement, which is only fitting given how fresh and original DOUCHEBAG itself is. Drake is a very accomplished filmmaker, wise beyond his years, and I think we are pretty wise ourselves for helping him further what will doubtless be a great career.”
The deal was negotiated by UTA’s Independent Film Group, which represented the film on behalf of the producers, along with attorney Lawrence Kopeikin of the firm Barnes Morris.
ABOUT RED DRAGON
Red Dragon Independent Film Company is focused on the creation, development, and production of genre films, particularly thriller and action, in the $10-$35 million range. The company has already completed the production of Gela Babluani's “13” with Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, and Sam Riley. It is currently developing Alex Litvak’s penned action story FIVE AGAINST A BULLET. Also in development is a psychological thriller FOCAL POINT scripted by Craig Garber, as well as the Israeli spy thriller LAND OF OUR FATHERS, written by Soo Hugh and based on a true story.
Formed in the summer of 2009 by independent film veteran Mark Urman, Paladin’s first release was the award-winning DISGRACE, based on the acclaimed novel by Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee, and starring two-time Oscar nominee John Malkovich. Other titles distributed by the company include Tennessee Williams’ THE LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND, starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Ellen Burstyn, THE GREATEST, starring Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, and Carey Mulligan, HANDSOME HARRY, starring Jamey Sheridan, Steve Buscemi, Campbell Scott and Aidan Quinn and, coming in July, Angela Ismailos’ documentary, GREAT DIRECTORS, starring Bernardo Bertolucci, Ken Loach, John Sayles, and Agnes Varda, among others. Paladin recently announced the May 21st release of KITES, a Bollywood romantic adventure that it will distribute in association with Reliance Big Pictures, followed by the May 28th release of the English-language version of the film entitled, KITES: THE REMIX, which Brett Ratner supervised and will officially present.
ABOUT SUPER CRISPY ENTERTAINMENT
DOUCHEBAG producer Jonathan Schwartz’s Super Crispy Entertainment produced previous Sundance and critical faves WRISTCUTTERS A LOVE STORY and Michael Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES, as well as three other films this year, including THE WAY BACK, directed by Peter Weir and starring Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, and Ed Harris, and the Cannes-bound KABOOM directed by Gregg Araki.
ABOUT UNITED TALENT AGENCY
United Talent Agency is one of the entertainment industry’s premier talent and literary agencies, representing many of world’s most widely-known figures in every current and emerging area of entertainment, including motion pictures, television, books, music, digital media and live entertainment. The agency is also globally recognized in the areas of film finance, film packaging, corporate consulting, branding & licensing, endorsements and the representation of production talent. The DOUCHEBAG sale marks the fourth Sundance deal this year for UTA’s Independent Film Group which also sold Rodrigo Cortes’ BURIED to Lionsgate, Sebastian Junger’s RESTREPO to National Geographic, and David Michod’s World Cinema Jury Prize winner ANIMAL KINGDOM to Sony Pictures Classics.
David Carr and Steampunk
In his New York Times article on Ridley Scott, David Carr erroneously calls the look of Scott's "Aliens" and "Blade Runner" films "steampunk."
To quote Wikipedia:
"The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England — but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of "the path not taken" of such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or digital mechanical computers (such as Charles Babbage's Analytical engine); these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality."
Tony Scott doesn't know what neorealism is, and David Carr hasn't a clue about steampunk.
So much for corporate film critics.
Seemingly written to the tastes of underachieving five-year-olds, director Roger Kumble ("Cruel Intentions") is hamstrung to create an even mildly entertaining children's comedy. A doughy Brendan Fraser attempts to milk the last drop of his outdated Boy Scout charm as Dan Sanders, a gag prone real estate developer who moves his wife (played blankly by Brooke Shields) and son to a "model home" in the middle of a protected Oregon forest. Blind to his capitalist pig boss Neal Lyman's (Ken Jeong) long term plan to rape and pillage the verdant land, Dan becomes enemy #1 to the area's woodland creatures who constantly assault him with a barrage of animal-made booby traps--like a crew of skunks that wait in Dan's "hybrid" SUV for the chance to ruin his day. Although the animals are a "live action" collection of raccoons, birds, and bears they don't speak in a language audiences will understand. This dropped comic opportunity, along with obvious cost-cutting production techniques, combine to present a thoroughly unsatisfying movie for which audiences should demand a refund. It's time Brendan Fraser grew up and stopped making kids' movies.
Rated PG. 92 mins. (D) (One Star - out of five/no stars)
Intended as an airy allegory about familial and media inflicted disinformation, "Dogtooth" is a piece of experimental exploitation cinema that collapses under the weight of its own abstract provocations. Greek enfant terrible filmmaker Yrogos Lanthimos doesn't bother to give names to the five members of a family whose parents home-school their three now-teenaged children who have never set foot outside their home compound. The father (Christos Stergioglou) works at a sterile factory of unknown product from which he hires the company's female parking lot security attendant Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou) to service his son's sexual needs. Bisexual Christina stirs up a hornet's nest when she starts bartering sexual favors from the two daughters, who in turn try out their newly learned skills on one another. The children's heads have been filled with plenty of erroneous information by their poker faced parents. The children believe that cats are man-eating beasts and the word "pussy" means "light switch." This undeserving winner of the 2009 Cannes Festival Un Certain Regard award comes across as a smug exploration of non-sequitur minimalist cinema. There is no rigor here, only cold intentionality.
Not Rated. 94 mins. (D-) (Zero Stars)
In the twilight of his career Robert Duvall holds an astonishing ability to create a character that transforms before your eyes. He does so with such subtlety that it's only upon reflection that you can digest the magnitude of the performance. Certainly, director Aaron Schneider could not have hoped for a better actor to play Tennessee '30s folk legend Felix Bush. Duvall's irritable character lives as a hermit on a large plot of wilderness land where visitors are not welcome. Felix makes a rare journey into town to offer the local minister a huge wad of cash if he will preside over his funeral--the catch being that Felix wants to attend the ceremony while he's still alive to hear the infamous stories his neighbors have to tell about him. The minister refuses. Enter Bill Murray as the ambitious but honest funeral home owner Frank Quinn and his earnest assistant Buddy (Lucas Black). The pair work with Felix to concoct a plan to sell $5 raffle tickets to the funerary event they will organize, of which the winner will take ownership of Felix's property and many acres of land upon his actual death. The deceptively simple premise allows for some especially dry but funny one-liners from Bill Murray. But it's Duvall who captures your imagination as he gradually peels away layers of buried emotion to express fully the reason for Felix's self-imposed exile. "Get Low" is yet another gem in Duvall's storied acting crown.
Rated PG-13. 102 mins. (A-) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)
The Disappearance of Alice Creed
The British crime drama genre gets a hot blast of undiluted adrenaline from debut writer/director J Blakeson. A dialogue-free first act allows the audience to wonder at the precise preparation that ex-cons-turned-kidnappers Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) go through to sound-proof and secure the sparsely furnished apartment where they will keep their intended prey, a twentysomething Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton). Crafted with the plot precision of a diamond cutter, the story erupts and seeps with hidden character revelations that up the ante on the millions of pounds the duo expect to extract from Alice's wealthy father in exchange for her safe return. Apart from the outstanding performances from its talented three-person cast, Blakeson's theatrically bound action builds excruciating suspense inside the claustrophobic apartment where no amount of bondage and gagging can keep Alice from trying to escape. There's an elegant simplicity in this chamber piece of the criminal mind that seduces you into seeing the outrageous circumstances from each character's perspective. Utterly priceless.
Rated R. 98 mins. (A) (Five Stars)