Drive-By DVD Reviews

And now for some quick reviews for movies I've seen in the last few weeks...

Alright, So I’ll admit that Nosferatu is old. 1922 silent film old. But it’s been over ten years since I saw the movie and honestly, my film aptitude has grown exponentially. I’m not sure what led me to recently search out this vampire classic but I’m glad I did. And rather than settle for an online, streaming version of the movie or a cheap, poor quality DVD release, I hunted down the Kino edition that features a newly restored, hi definition transfer of Nosferatu with accurate color tinting and two musical scores in digital stereo. That may sound kinda film school snobbish but all you have to do is see some of the crappy DVD transfers of Nosferatu compared to the Kino edition to see that it makes a difference, especially when watching a movie that is 85-years-old. That being said…

Aside from the story (which is essentially a plagiarized adaptation of Dracula), I was amazed by how amazing Nosferatu is cinematically. I mean…wow. I got the same reaction the first time I saw Citizen Kane. Both movies and both directors (Orson Welles and F.W. Murnau, respectively) are working on another level entirely. Their use of composition, contrast, and shadows is stunning, creating two perfect examples of film as veritable fine art. Watching Nosferatu got me so excited that I immediately went out and bought Shadow of the Vampire; a fictionalized account behind the making of Nosferatu where the title character is not an actor, but rather, an actual vampire.

If you’ve never watched Nosferatu and you’re a fan of film or horror, you owe it to yourself to see this incredible piece of art.

After penning the first two Blade movies and directing the third in the trilogy, David Goyer has settled nicely into the director’s chair with his latest movie, The Invisible. Overall, the flick was entertaining, primarily due to the amount of time the film devotes to introducing the characters before going into Twilight Zone land. In the role of the main character, actor Justin Chatwin comes off as an intelligent albeit repressed teen in a seemingly standard genre outing that could’ve taken the easy CW/OC/I Know What You Did Last Summer way out. If I have a complaint, it’s in the ending. Things get WAY too melodramatic in the last few scenes to the point where I found myself laughing out load at how ridiculous things were playing out. But aside from that, it’d say it’s a 2 ½ star rental.

So after the Miramax-Weinstein split, The Weinstein Company brings along directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez to direct the two-biller Grindhouse. What could’ve been the first of a series of genre double feature flicks unfortunately turned into box office disappointment. What’s a Weinstein Company to do? Well, if you want to make up some of the money you lost you break up Grindhouse into two DVD releases with next to no special features and hope that film fanatics will snatch them up twice when the eventual unrated/unedited/extended edition hits DVD shelves. Until then, I was happy to part ways with a few bucks and rent, not buy, both Grindhouse movies and watch them back to back.

First up: Rodriguez’s Planet Terror...

If anyone can hang their hat on guerilla film-making, it’s Robert Rodriguez. So after seeing Planet Terror, I was rather disappointed. The man behind El Mariachi who used a ladder in the bed of a pickup truck to get a moving crane shot and a wheelchair to get a dolly shot resorts to a faux grindhouse look in order to pull off his end of the double bill. Don’t get me wrong; the script, the B-list actors, and the gore are all in tact. Those elements of the movie feel genuine enough to pass the grindhouse smell test. But the phony film dirt, scratches, and CGI trickery distract. It’s like Rodriguez was trying so hard to make a true grindhouse film that he forgot to hold himself back from using the digital tools at his disposal. After the Spy Kids movies and Sin City, it’s obvious that the director can do CGI on the cheap and do it right. But it comes off as too much for a movie that is attempting to emulate the grindhouse filmmakers that had so little to work with.

Aside from that knock, Planet Terror was a lot of fun to watch. A part of me wants to pick it up on DVD but I’d rather hold off for the full Grindhouse DVD experience with special features galore and all the other fake trailers that were not included in this release.

And now for Tarantino’s Death Proof...

When I saw Death Proof in the theatre, I was getting impatient about ten minutes into the movie. I’m all for patented Tarantino dialogue but for my part, he was pushing it, especially since Tarantino was bringing up the rear of the double feature. Now on DVD, in the comfort of my living room, Death Proof doesn’t play nearly as slow as it did at my local Cineplex. The conversations between the two sets of girls are entertaining enough to keep things moving considering that nothing is really happening. But when the shit goes down, Tarantino drops the hammer and goes into full grindhouse gear. The last twenty minutes are particularly sweet.

As a side note, I remember reading that Mickey Rourke was originally going to play the movie’s baddie. However, Rourke bowed out and Kurt Russell swooped in. That’s the best thing that could’ve happened to the film because there is no way in heaven I could ever see Mickey Rourke as a charming AND crazy psycho. Crazy? Sure. Charming? Not so much. Nine 1/2 Weeks was a long time ago.

So what’s the final verdict? Definite rental.

Zombies. On a plane. Pretty simple…and pretty decent. I was expecting this to be half insulting, half abysmal but the movie is solid. Here’s yet another situation where Denny Green’s logic comes into play: Flight of the Living Dead is what you would think it is. Again, Zombies…on a plane. So crown the director for a sound direct-to-DVD zombie flick and let’s get on with the apparent sequel - Flight of the Living Dead 2: Grounded.

There are times when you have to ask the big question: Why? I know the George Romero helmed original is in public domain which makes the movie’s title and the premise fair game but, seriously…3D? It didn’t work for Jaws. It didn’t work for Jason. And it doesn’t work for the undead.

All you have to do is watch the making-of featurette on the DVD to realize that this movie is going to blow serious chunks. The producer/financier, in his infinite wisdom, was only willing to produce and distribute a horror film if it was a recognizable brand. Thus, Night of the Living Dead. But then to add that extra layer, the film would be in 3D. And not to be completely unoriginal, this remake would replace the solitary house from the original with a marijuana farm. Cheech and Chong meet the undead. Wow. I’d give the director credit for working under these outlandish conditions but in his infinite wisdom, he felt it was crucial to the film’s success to cast actor Sid Haig because, you know, he’s so amazing. Don’t get me wrong; I dig Sid Haig. He was awesome in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. But any production that feels it necessary to cast Sid Haig in order to be an achievement has problems.

Don’t rent this movie and certainly don’t buy it. Stay far, far away.


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