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2005, dir. George A. Romero
93 min, Rated R.
Starring: Simon Baker, Luigi Mario, Dennis of Hopper, Dario's hot daughter.

Review by Keith Nichols

Dear Romero Fans,

I went to see Land of the Dead last night with you.

It... was not good. I was severely disappointed. It wasn't quite bad enough for me to want to find Romero, eviscerate Romero, and eat Romero while he dies screaming. I don't even want my money back or anything. I had some fun. But come ON, dude.

Okay everyone, smile and say "braaaaaain"!

Mr. Romero, you've got a great franchise, the grandaddy of them all, and this is the best you can do? There have been a bunch of innovations to the genre over the past few years and this is the best you can do? You've got Asia fricken Argento and that's the best you can do? No. I refuse to believe that. Maybe you just need to listen to a little constructive criticism, take stock, and think about the future.

Good concept. The undead have taken over most of the country, most of the planet. There's a large population of The Living bunkered-down in a walled and militia-protected quadrant of some Pennsylvania city. The place is called Fiddler's Green and there happens to be something extra-sinister bubbling under the surface of this already-beyond-surreal world. I dunno if Fiddler's Green is a real place, but it IS an old army song and it seems pretty appropriate:

"Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers' Green."

It's a stopover halfway to hell, but maybe there's some kind of salvation. Could we make it back from the brink? You'd think that a well-organized, well-equipped force could strike-out with impunity against undisciplined individual zombies. You'd think that a solid bastion, disciplined and well-defended, could make a stand against the aimless masses of undead. Then again, there's the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that the disorder in an isolated system tends to increase. In other words: complacent people, left to their own devices, generally make things worse, not better.

Things going to hell... THAT I can handle. What I can't handle is poor execution of the good concept that makes this movie. How can a professional zombie-meister in the year 2005 still be stumbling over the same old clichés? How can a director with a dozen movies under his belt allow his actors and characters to be so... sub-standard? I don't know if the average movie-goer dug it, but zombie afficionados expect more than the same-old same-old with just a few interesting nuggets thrown-in. You gotta at least try to impress us.

The main character, Riley, is played by a boring-ass Simon Baker. Asia Argento isn't given enough of a character with which to work. John Leguizamo is way too naive/simple as "Cholo" when he shoulda been alittle more "Benny Blanco from the Bronx". Dennis Hopper underwhelms as the greedy "mayor" of Fiddler's Green. Dead Reckoning, the armageddon-mobile, is actually the best character in the movie.

The zombies are cool-enough though and at least Romero didn't submit to the latest "zombies on speed" trend. These Dead are still just shuffling along. Romero continues to define the involuntary/autonomic/automatic responses that Keep them shuffling -- and then tries to illustrate the next-logical-step. I say "tries" because he does it so clumsily. There's little or no transition (during this 48 hour snapshot) of zombies going from mindless husks to vengeance demons with bad intentions.

Romero did a great job with the first three movies imagining how things might have been. He even had a good concept for the fourth movie. Maybe he could've used some more time (this one was only 93 minutes), but there's a lot more to it than that. Part of the problem is that zombie movies (and some videogame storylines) have pushed the envelope out farther. We've come to expect more. The other part of the problem is that Romero just executed it poorly, making the kinds of logical mistakes that'll have most novice zombie fans moaning "that wouldn't happen" every ten minutes. -Especially during scenes where we all see & hear zombies coming from a mile away, but nevertheless people are still sitting sipping cappucino when the zombie hordes "suddenly" bum-rush the show. I'm not going to bore you with too long a list of specifics, but here, Mr. Romero, is some of the other stuff I'm talking about...

The "flower" gimmick was weak and overplayed.
The "rebellion" element was weak and overplayed.
The particular-zombie-as-main-character was completely overplayed.
The cash macro-economy thing was nearly unbelievable.
The protagonist's philosophical lines about zombies being people too was EXCREBLE.

Are you Trying to kill your franchise?

Do us a favor. Do us the favor that George Lucas didn't do his fans after Star Wars: Episode JarJarBinks. First, rescreen your first three movies. Second, screen some of your competition (28 Days Later, Resident Evil, Dawn of the Dead 2004). Third, concentrate on characters and plot rather than just visuals. Then, consider some of the fansites or common-knowledge (disaster) resources out there (like This one). Finally... rise from the dead and boldly re-assert your legacy.


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