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Diary of the Dead

DIMENSION
MOVIE D+
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 3 (OUT OF 10)

Let it be noted that James DiGiovanna gave this a positive review a couple of months ago. Actually, a lot of reviewers seemed to like this, George Romero's latest zombie-film experiment.

Certainly, everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. As for me, I hate this movie--on many levels. This is another one of those mockumentary films in which people manage to keep filming shit while death and destruction are occurring around them. I was OK with this sort of thing in Cloverfield, and that's mainly because the acting and script were better than this garbage. The Cloverfield gang did a better job of looking spontaneous. In other words, they did a better job of acting like they weren't acting.

With this, Romero is looking to reboot his zombie franchise after the minor disappointment that was Land of the Dead. Land was one of Romero's weaker efforts, but it had decent production values and maintained some of Romero's sick, satiric humor. However, Diary of the Dead is just a roster of actors chewing the scenery with some of Romero's worst dialogue to date. No doubt: He's never done such a poor job directing.

The film takes place on the first night of a zombie infestation, during which some college students are out in the forest filming a mummy movie (as modern-day college students often do). There's the usual crew of collegiate stereotypes, including the drunken film professor, who has no qualms about draining liquor bottles in front of his students, even before the monster stuff starts. His character is basically a lesson in Shit Acting 101.

There are some random moments of terror and humor that work well, but those moments are usually cancelled out by execrable acting. This film is an example of a decent director getting a new toy and playing with it like a selfish baby. He's so amused by his idea that he allows the supposed novelty of that idea to overwhelm his filmmaking. It's a movie that's supposed to feel real, but it sure as hell doesn't.

There are a couple of audio clips from Night of Living Dead, suggesting that this film takes place on the same night as Romero's original. Yeah ... OK.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Romero gives a commentary that's more interesting than the movie. There are plenty of documentaries and director interviews for the fans.


Night of the Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Special Edition

DIMENSION
MOVIE A-
SPECIAL FEATURES B+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 7.5 (OUT OF 10)

Diary of the Dead becomes even more depressing when you go back and watch this one, Romero's original zombie masterpiece, which was released 40 years ago. With this movie, Romero changed the course of horror films forever. Dark from beginning to end, and featuring zombies gorging on human flesh, the film stunned the viewing public, eventually became a cult phenomenon, and established Romero as the king of zombie films.

The movie still has relevance. Filmed at the height of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, Romero's underlying, satirical statements still ring true today. He would top this film with his Dawn of the Dead, satirizing American consumers. Things then went downhill from there, with the so-so Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead. It all bottomed out with Diary of the Dead.

Romero is actually in talks for a sequel to Diary. I, for one, will pretend the saga began with Night and ended with Land--and that's it. Romero was a trailblazer, but his recent tendency to take a done-to-death technique and try to convince us that it is original is annoying.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There have been many releases of this film to DVD--but the producers keep presenting new special features that may make you want to buy the latest. One for the Fire features the original Johnny and Barbra driving to the cemetery 40 years later and reminiscing about the filming experience. Romero and his filming partners all participate, and it is well worth a cult-film fanatic's time. Romero provides a commentary, and the disc features the last interview with actor Duane Jones.


The Muppet Show: Season Three

BUENA VISTA
SHOW A
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 8 (OUT OF 10)

This was probably my favorite season when I was a kid. I had a crush on Cheryl Ladd, who guest-starred, as did my hero of the time, Sylvester Stallone. Also along for the ride were the likes of Gilda Radner, Alice Cooper trying to get souls for the devil, Loretta Lynn and Liberace. (Yes ... Liberace!)

The highlight would be Stallone doing a big gladiator music number, and sparring with a talking punching bag. And, yes, the very presence of Ladd in any sketch made me happy. Hey, I was 10, and she was pretty.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commercials featuring Rowlf the dog hawking Purina in the '60s are fun to watch, as is a documentary hosted by creator Jim Henson in the late '60s. There's also a modern doc about the company players who performed the Muppets.

More by Bob Grimm

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