Dawn Of The Dead (2004) Review

I’m re-posting this now so that I can post my Army Of The Dead review tomorrow.

This is a review I did as a guest on another blog a long time ago. I’ve sadly lost contact with the people running a lot of the blogs I wrote for in the past, so I’ll be re-posting some of my favorite guest reviews here before the blogs also disappear. As this is a favorite film of mine & as I often tweet this review, it made sense to finally re-post it here after the release of Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead.

This was originally written for Mike at Screenkicker for the Screenkicker Olympics, a great blogathon in which people discussed something movie-related from where they grew up or where they now live. So I chose Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead to represent Wisconsin. You can read the original post HERE, which contains an intro as well but I’ll get straight to the review below…

Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

Directed by Zack Snyder

Screenplay by James Gunn

Based on Dawn of the Dead by George A Romero

Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Ty Burrell, Kevin Zegers, Mekhi Phifer

Running time: 100 minutes/110 minutes (Director’s Cut)

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Dawn of the Dead is a remake of George A Romero’s 1978 film of the same name. The film depicts a handful of human survivors living in a shopping mall located in the fictional town of Everett, Wisconsin surrounded by swarms of zombies.

My Opinion:

I love zombies. I loved zombies before they were cool, dammit! It’s like those Grateful Dead fans who became fans after Touch Of Grey – What do they call them? Touch Heads? Where am I going with this – I don’t even like The Grateful Dead. Well… I like that “Drivin’ that train, high on cocaine” song! And Touch Of Grey. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And I’ve loved zombies since I first watched Romero’s amazing Night Of The Living Dead and then Dawn Of The Dead (1978), which is just as amazing in a different way and is now one of my all-time favorite movies. Then, in 2004, it was remade. Those who know me may have seen me ranting about how much remakes piss me off! Especially of my favorite movies. So how do I feel about Wisconsin boy Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead remake…?

I love it! There’s a shopping mall and, of course, zombies. But otherwise this feels like a whole new movie – A reimagining as opposed to an inferior copy (like the 2013 Carrie remake – it wasn’t horrible but was completely pointless). 2004’s Dawn Of The Dead gave us lots of varied characters, zombies we couldn’t outrun, a cool spot-the-celebrity-lookalike-zombie game, Disturbed, and a very different feel from the Romero zombie flicks.

I think what works for me, more than anything, are the characters in the film. They feel real. Sure you have a couple of assholes but even they feel like your typical every day assholes as opposed to the psychotic murdering rapist types you get in other post-apocalyptic movies. Okay – things have only just begun (I mean, the world goes to hell in this in just a few hours!) but I like to think we wouldn’t all turn into complete assholes quite so quickly after an apocalypse. The characters help each other and you find yourself liking a lot of them. They’re as developed as they need to be for a horror movie (actually, they’re very well developed as far as horror movies go, where we usually just get a bunch of idiotic girls with big tits dying in various ways). Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, and Jake Weber are the highlights for me (I had a crush on Jake Weber in this – I’d totally hook up with him in a zombie apocalypse). But even all the lesser characters in this are memorable, such as tough old lady Norma & father/daughter Lindy Booth and… Max Headroom! (Does anyone younger than me know Max Headroom?). Michael Kelly is perfect for his character as he has such a “hey, it’s that guy!” look about him. And I especially love gun-store Andy and all the interaction with him on the rooftop – those are probably my favorite bits of the movie.

I’ll wrap this up but first I have to make a mention of the music & the cameos. I loved the great cameos from original Dawn Of The Dead stars Scott H. Reiniger, Tom Savini (giving yet another Oscar-worthy performance) & especially Ken Foree as a televangelist. And it was nice seeing the “Gaylen Ross” store in the mall. Finally, they did a great job choosing the music in the film. I read at IMDb that Snyder personally chose most of the music, including The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash & Richard Cheese’s cover of Down With The Sickness so… Good job, Snyder! Those worked perfectly. Also loved the elevator music such as Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Have A Nice Day by Stereophonics was a perfect way to start the movie. And the proper Disturbed version of Down With The Sickness at the end is fine by me as I think that’s one of the best songs of the past 15 years. (*2021 update: That song is much more than 15 years old now and man I feel old having to type this*)

All in all, there’s not really anything that I don’t like about this movie. I’m not sure how I feel about the very end (through the credits) but I find that most horror films don’t know how to end. As far as horror movies go, this is a hell of a lot better than most. And as far as zombie movies go, this was definitely a worthy addition and, more importantly, respectful to the original.

My Rating: 8.5/10

I was going to end this post with a clip of Disturbed’s Down With The Sickness but decided to go with Johnny Cash’s fantastic The Man Comes Around instead. And this will be the only time you will find country music on this blog…

**And I apologise in advance for when I re-post my review of Brian Yuzna’s brilliant body horror Society, which I posted on another old blog HERE.

Stories We Tell (2012) Review

Stories We Tell (2012)

Directed & Written by Sarah Polley

Starring: Sarah Polley, her family, and friends

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.

My Opinion:

This is a damn good documentary. I suppose it helps that it was made by & “starring” a family of actors & writers and that it’s narrated perfectly by Sarah Polley’s stage actor father.

I’d been meaning to watch this for ages but I always have to really force myself to watch a documentary. I was finally forced to as I saw it was disappearing from UK Netflix, so… Sorry to anyone in the UK who may want to see it now as it’s no longer available in that way! This is one I’d certainly recommend to anyone interested in documentaries & filmmaking in general but I was also surprised at just how interested I was in hearing all about the lives of this family I’ve never met and, especially, the life of Sarah Polley’s mother, who died in 1990.

I’m automatically assuming that everyone here knows who Sarah Polley is as we’re all movie bloggers but I suppose she’s one who has pretty much avoided being a part of the mainstream. So I’ll just quickly say that she’s a director & actress probably best known for being in the Dawn Of The Dead remake, Splice & Go (plus a lot of other things I’ll admit to not seeing other than her small part in eXistenZ). I really need to re-watch Go but I absolutely loved Dawn Of The Dead and I actually really liked Splice’s Cronenberg-like nature although the film was absolutely bonkers and certainly not for everyone. But I prefer actors/actresses who choose unconventional roles & I’ve been intrigued by Polley since those two films. I really should check out the other films she wrote & directed (Take This Waltz & Away From Her).

It was very brave of Polley to explore her family’s history in this way, especially as the documentary doesn’t always paint everyone in the best light. As you might expect from the synopsis & the fact that there’s a story to be told here, this film focuses on the complexities of human nature and the secrets we can keep even from those closest to us.

I was worried the documentary might feel a little contrived or, worse, “attention-seeking”, but it never feels that way. It instead feels like this was Polley’s way of confronting her past and moving on with her life in the best way she knew how being from an artistic family of writers & actors.

Polley tells the story respectfully and, although some may be of the opinion that her mother made mistakes (I’m not of that opinion), the point is that we all do. Every family has its own story & no blame is placed on a woman who is no longer around to defend herself. Also, once the story was found out, there were reporters eager to write about it so Polley begged them not to so she could tell it in her own way. I’m glad they respected her wishes as she’s told a great story about a family no different from any of ours and about a quite complex and fascinating woman.

My Rating: 7.5/10

eXistenZ (1999) Review

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eXistenZ (1999)

Directed & Written by David Cronenberg

Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm, Don McKellar, Callum Keith Rennie, Sarah Polley, Christopher Eccleston, Willem Dafoe

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A game designer on the run from assassins must play her latest virtual reality creation with a marketing trainee to determine if the game has been damaged.

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My Opinion:

I’d call myself a David Cronenberg fan although there are quite a few movies of his from recent years that I haven’t seen. Looking at everything he’s directed, all my favorites are from 1979 to 1986. This is when he was at his body horror best and I far preferred that style to the more realistic violence of things like A History Of Violence (although it’s a good film). I suppose that’s why I haven’t gotten around to watching more of his post-1986 movies. 1999’s eXistenZ is a return, somewhat, to the older Cronenberg that I like best. It’s certainly not as good as The Fly, Videodrome, The Brood, etc, but I did enjoy it and it’s made me want to try harder to watch the rest of his films that I’ve not seen.

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I find that a lot of these older “virtual reality” movies don’t really age well. That sort of thing is so much more advanced than we’d have thought possible even back in 1999 so, although it may have been groundbreaking at the time(?), that side of things isn’t as impressive when watching this for the first time in 2015. Just like Snow Crash was a great book in 1992 but it’s weird that they’re choosing to make it into a film now (although I’m really anxious to see if they manage to do a good job with that one!). Can I just say that I think it should be a law or something that any cyberpunk film being made nowadays should have a score by Daft Punk? Yes, I did like TRON: Legacy more than a lot of people seemed to. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hey – since I’m totally off track now (I’ll get back to eXistenZ in a minute), can someone please tell me the name of a horror movie I caught part of on cable in maybe 1996/1997 or so where these teenagers were being killed inside a video game? No, I can’t even name any of the actors in it. I’ve been trying to find out what that movie was for years now… Okay – back to eXistenZ!

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I didn’t hate Jude Law in this! I mean, I didn’t love him but he was totally tolerable. I also thought Jennifer Jason Leigh was very good – I’ve always thought she was a bit of an odd one but this role really “fit” her. Maybe she should have done more strange films like this one? And I loved her hair! I liked the partially crimped thing she had at first and then how it was fully done while in the virtual world. I know I sound like a girly girl going on about a hairstyle but, looking back on how this movie ended, I’m thinking the hair is kind of important to figuring out what the hell is going on… Amiright?! Probably not but, if I watch this again, I’m going to watch her hair more closely throughout it. I thought she was really pretty in this, actually – I never really thought that about her. I’d have to say this is my favorite role of hers now.

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The story in eXistenZ first felt pretty straightforward, then was a bit all over the place Cronenberg-style, then the ending felt a bit “really? that’s it?! I could have guessed that but it seemed too simple!”. But maybe it’s NOT that simple? I suppose it’s one of those movies that could do with a second (or third) viewing to fully understand what’s going on but I often like to think there’s more to movies than there really is. I’m sure I missed some symbolism (other than the usual, obvious vaginal thing that Cronenberg loves, this time in the form of a “port” in people’s lower backs that they use to link directly into Leigh’s virtual reality game. with a cord that looks like a cross between an umbilical cord & a penis, of course!). It was pretty gross, actually. I loved it! Very Cronenberg. As was a very cool “gun” made out of bones & human teeth.

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There are several big names in this so it was surprising that they all had pretty small roles (Ian Holm, Christopher Eccleston, Willem Dafoe). They’re not necessarily unimportant roles but Law & Leigh are in it the most by far, so it’s good that they worked really well for the film & had a good chemistry. Perhaps it’s why this film isn’t as big as some of Cronenberg’s others, though, as the two main stars weren’t exactly big names compared to other films he’d done (Law is more famous now than I remember him being in 1999). Plus, they’re a bit younger and they’re attractive so it almost feels like this movie is aimed more at a younger generation but I don’t think a young audience (early twenties) will have gone for this movie as it’s far too “strange” for a time when American Pie was the big movie of the year. (I’m not trashing American Pie – I like that one too).

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Anyway, eXistenZ passed me by at the time (as I think it did a lot of other people) but, although it’s not as good as Cronenberg’s very best, it’s still of a similar sort of style to his best films and I enjoyed it. There’s just enough “WTF?” and “that’s kind of disgusting” moments to keep Cronenberg fans happy but I’d probably only recommend this one to his fans.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Dawn Of The Dead (2004) Review

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Mike over at Screenkicker has been running the Screenkicker Olympics, a great blogathon in which people have discussed something movie-related from where they grew up or where they now live. It’s been a really fun blogathon & I’ve enjoyed reading all the entries & voting for the best actors & actresses from around the world in a series of polls (I voted for Chris Hemsworth several times but I don’t think it counted all my extra votes!). Thanks for letting me join in on the fun, Mike! ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, I chose the 2004 flesh-eating zombie film Dawn Of The Dead to represent my home state. You can read my review HERE. ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, and, what the hell? Are there seriously so few other Twilight Zone lovers?! That show was AWESOME! Here are my All-Time Top Ten TV Shows if you missed it.

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