Land of the Dead. George A. Romero returns to the genre he invented. Unfortunately, the movie is a bit tired, and the ever-present social satire is too obvious this time around. If we hadn’t seen better zombie movies made by Romero’s fans over the past several years, Land of the Dead might be more interesting. But this one isn’t up to the standards of Romero’s own Dawn of the Dead … nor is it up to the standard of 28 Days/Weeks Later, or even the Dawn of the Dead remake. Worth 97 minutes of your time, but disappointing. 6/10.
Tarnation. Remarkable autobiographical documentary made for a couple of hundred dollars (at least until they had to pay for music rights). Director Jonathan Caouette uses some distancing methods (flashy graphics, narration that is written rather than spoken), because without them, the film would be too raw to watch … not raw in a technical sense but in an emotional sense. Caouette puts himself on the screen seemingly without filters, using footage he’s been shooting since he was 11 years old. The movie gets a bit more troublesome, though, when he does the same with his family members, most notably his schizophrenic mother. It’s not clear how much these other people approve of having their lives exposed on the big screen. The result is a piercing reality, but with disturbing undertones that aren’t necessarily the same undertones that Caouette intended. #162 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 films of the 21st century. 7/10.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God. All of the elements come together in this obsessive masterpiece. Klaus Kinski inhabits the 16th century madman as if he was born 400 years ago. Werner Herzog creates the atmosphere necessary to draw out Kinski’s madness. All of it done dirt cheap in the Peruvian jungle. Apocalypse Now is the most obvious example of this film’s influence. But Kinski isn’t Martin Sheen … he’s Francis Ford Coppola, Herzog is Eleanor, and Aguirre, the Wrath of God foreshadows Hearts of Darkness. #91 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 10/10.