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PCR # 274  (Vol. 6, No. 25)  This edition is for the week of June 20--26, 2005.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Land of the Dead"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Three stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Simon Baker, Asia Argento, Dennis Hopper, Robert Joy and John Leguazamo
Directed by: George A. Romero
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hours 33 mins

Back in the early '80s a director named George released his third film in what became a popular trilogy. No, not THAT George. In 1968, George A. Romero made a black and white horror film in his home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That film, "Night of the Living Dead," created a whole new horror film genre' - the Zombie film. He followed that film with 1978s "Dawn of the Dead" and 1985s "Day of the Dead." Recently such films as "28 Days Later," the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" and the funny but gory "Shaun of the Dead" have given new life (excuse the pun) to the Zombie film. So, who better to continue the story he started almost 40 years ago then Romero, who does so with a flourish with "Land of the Dead."

A quick education for the zombie-challenged: some THING has caused the recent dead to rise again and attack the living for food. Those still alive have barricaded themselves into makeshift villages. Unbeknownst to them, the zombies are evolving into thinking creatures. Led by a gas station attendant wearing a shirt with the name patch "Big Daddy," (Eugene Clark) the zombies make their way towards a brightly lit high rise where Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) has created a high style village for the affluent. Meanwhile, a small group makes their living by going out among the dead and bringing back supplies from the abandoned stores. Led by Riley (Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguazamo), they are constantly fighting the monsters that roam the streets. Riley does it to help his fellow man. Cholo does it because he wants to gain admittance to Kaufman's utopia. Riley also wants to leave the safety of the village and head north. Thinking he has purchased a car for the trip he is instead set up and ends up sharing a cell with a woman whose life he has just saved (Asia Argento.) A deal with Kaufman puts them in a final confrontation with the flesh eating creatures.

With the original "Dawn of the Dead," Romero set the bar for incredibly gory special effects. Heads exploding, arms being ripped off, all captured in glorious color. The effects in "Land of the Dead" are even more amazingly staged. For whatever reason, the powers that be at the Academy have failed to recognize this style of make up award worthy. If it were up to me, make up master Greg Nicotero and his assistant, Howard Berger, are more then worthy of at least a nomination. Romero's script, as with the previous films, is full of humor and situations that seem to speak about the state of the world today. The cast does a fine job with Baker and Leguazamo standing out. And the casting of Argento, whose father, Dario, is another master of the horror genre', is not only a good choice acting wise but a great tribute to her father's work. Add to the mix long time make up designer Tom Savini showing up as a zombie and you get a film that is both a great time in the present and a fine tribute to the past.

With fantastic effects and a budget that allowed for great production values, "Land of the Dead" is more than worthy to take its place alongside Romero's other classics. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Land of the Dead"  Three stars

This week's movie review of "Land of the Dead" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2005, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.