The American zombie movie was born in October 1968 with the release of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and it’s a measure of how subversive that film and its sequels truly were that zombies only became palatable to the major studios in 2004, when a kid named Zack Snyder stripped Dawn of the Dead of its original class-conscious, anti-consumerist premise–inverted it, even, by making a zombie movie that pandered to the shopping-mall multiplex crowd rather than ripping into it. Given its success, it’s hard to believe it has taken almost another ten years for the sub-genre to be completely transformed by a Hollywood establishment that’s turned so timid and equivocal in its thrill-seeking ways that it begrudges even the zombies their killing sport. Yes, somebody somewhere decided that what zombies really need, more than forty years on, is a redemption story. Director Jonathan Levine doesn’t put a stake through the heart of the sub-genre, quite, but he does something that might be worse. With Warm Bodies, he’s made the first middle-aged zombie film.
I’ve fantasized for a good twenty years now about Anhedonia, the 140-minute workprint of what eventually became Annie Hall. The original title of the project–which seems in its reflexive analysis of Allen’s public persona to have been intended as something akin to an essay film–referred to an inability to experience pleasure. As unseen movies go, it has a lower pedigree than Tod Browning’s London After Midnight, Hitchcock’s The Mountain Eagle, or Orson Welles’s cut of The Magnificent Ambersons; the few who have seen it would agree that the released version was infinitely superior. But it’s tantalizing, because Woody Allen in 1976 and 1977 was such a formidable comic.
The highly entertaining George Clooney and Vera Farmiga are in very fine form as occasional jet-set lovers, but this comedy-drama about a businessman whose job involves traveling around the country from corporate office to corporate office and handing people their pink slips — plus a pep talk about the positive aspects of unemployment — quickly devolves from slick recession satire into glumly moralizing parable. In the film’s first half, Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a smug free spirit, finding degrees of happiness in his first-class seating privileges and accumulated airline mileage even as he disassociates himself emotionally from the reality of the lives he’s disrupting. He even gives motivational speeches about the dangers of accumulating material goods and personal relationships, advocating a highly mobile, narrow-footprint existence. And thus the film’s second half contrives to teach him a lesson about the importance of companionship, the significance of family and grown roots, and the general emptiness of his frequent-flier pursuits.
First, the obvious. Made of Honor is what’s generally known as a “chick flick.” I’m not totally comfortable deploying that term,
especially in its usual derogatory, casually-sexist usage–but in a purely descriptive and possibly cynical sense, that’s what we have here. It’s a love story, featuring a conventionally handsome leading man (Patrick Dempsey) playing opposite a conventionally pretty woman (Michelle Monaghan) whose character is engaged to marry the conventionally wrong guy (blond Scot Kevin McKidd). It’s directed by a man (Paul Weiland), although to its credit there is a woman prominently involved (co-writer Deborah Kaplan), and it’s designed from the bottom up to appeal to undemanding female filmgoers.
My review of P.S. I Love You on Blu-ray Disc is online at filmfreakcentral.net:
step up right about now and say, “You know what? Not only is this kind
of creepy, it’s also probably not helpful.”
Yes, the first half of WALL•E is as good as everyone says it is. It’s essentially a silent comedy, built out of scrap metal, consumer cast-offs, and a forbidding end-of-the-world landscape — New York City as a far-future archeological dig. Our hero is a plucky bucket of bolts who sees through binocular eyes and burbles like R2D2 as he makes orderly piles out of the refuse left by the erstwhile Earthlings who fled their ruined planet hundreds of years before for the machine-assisted comforts of a distant space station. Their absence is what makes WALL•E’s Manhattan so charming — the irony is that these miserable, junk-strewn environs are attractive to the old-school WALL•E, who busies himself by collecting and categorizing — a Rubik’s Cube here, a light bulb there — the detritus of civilization. It’s not until EVE, a sleek, iPod-styled girl robot shows up on the scene that WALL•E becomes aware of his own loneliness.