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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
George A. Romero
Cast:
Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, Robert Joy, Eugene Clark, Joanne Boland, Tony Nappo, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks
Writing Credits:
George A. Romero

Tagline:
The Legendary Filmmaker Brings You His Ultimate Zombie Masterpiece.

Synopsis:
While the walking dead wreak havoc across the globe, the citizens of a walled city try to scrape out a zombie-free existence. Riley (Baker) leads a crew of soldiers given the task of protecting the living from the undead. But Riley notices a disturbing trend: The zombies are developing intelligence and organizing an army.

Box Office:
Budget
$18 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.221 million on 2249 screens.
Domestic Gross
$20.433 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 10/18/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director George Romero, Producer Peter Grunwald, and Editor Michael Daughtery
• “Undead Again: The Making of Land of the Dead” Featurette
• “A Day With the Living Dead” Featurette
• “Bringing the Dead to Life” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• “When Shaun Met George” Featurette
• “Scenes of Carnage” Featurette
• “Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene” Featurette
• “Bringing the Storyboards to Life” Featurette
• “Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call”
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


Land Of The Dead: Unrated Director's Cut (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 31, 2005)

Despite the fact that he started making films in 1968, director George Romero hasn’t mustered much of a résumé. Over 37 years, the less-than-prolific filmmaker has only managed to direct 13 flicks. That’s barely one every three years, a surprisingly low number.

Because of that, his “Dead” films even more heavily dominate Romero’s legacy. This series started with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead and continued with 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. It looked like Romero would wrap up the supposed trilogy with 1985’s Day of the Dead, but after a 20-year absence from the zombies, he returned with 2005’s Land of the Dead.

Romero stresses that this isn’t really a sequel, as none of the four Dead films connect together with common characters or stories. They simply share the zombie theme, and this one starts with a world dominated by the undead. We see a virtual walled city populated by haves and have-nots. The latter live in poverty on the streets, while the former reside in the swank condo community called Fiddler’s Green. Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) runs this estate, and he hires scavengers to go out in a massive armed RV called “Dead Reckoning” to dig up the supplies they need to survive in style.

This group includes two leaders: Riley (Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguizamo). Both aspire to lead different lives. Riley wants out of the area completely, as he hopes to leave and settle someplace up north where no other people remain. He plans to take his dim-witted sharpshooter pal Charlie (Robert Joy) with him.

As for Cholo, he wants to do a George and Weezie, as he dreams that if he saves enough money, he can buy a spot at Fiddler’s Green. Alas, segregation remains alive and well in Kaufman’s world, as he makes it clear that the Latin Cholo isn’t welcome in the luxury world.

This doesn’t sit well with Cholo, who attempts to exact his revenge. He threatens Kaufman with destruction if he doesn’t receive a ransom. Kaufman promises Riley a decent payoff if he takes Dead Reckoning out to handle Cholo. The movie follows that thread as well as the slow approach of the zombies. They’ve started to develop intelligence, and “Big Daddy” (Eugene Clark) leads them on a slow assault on Fiddler’s Green.

I thought the first three Dead movies presented a series of diminishing returns. Night was very good, Dawn was decent, and Day stunk. Especially due to Romero’s 20-year absence from the zombies, I didn’t expect any better from Land.

Happily, Land offered a better than anticipated piece of work. Perhaps my low expectations were a factor, as I can’t say I thought I’d find anything very good based on Romero’s prior flicks. In particular, the abundance of other zombie movies over the last few years made me worry that Romero would be behind the times and would fare especially badly.

Romero has kept up with his competition, though some fans may not see that as a good thing. Land seems much more like modern movies such as dsadsadsadsad 28 Days Later or the 2004 Dawn remake. It utilizes a quicker pace and superior elements across the board.

Can stronger production values alone make a movie superior to its predecessors? No, but in the case of Land, they sure do make a big difference here. Romero’s prior Dead flicks were low-rent affairs that suffered from cheap visuals and weak acting.

Both areas improve significantly here and make Land much more appealing. Across the board, we find better makeup and effects, and the movie actually uses real actors, so the performances are a big step up from the earlier efforts. On their own, these don’t make Land a good movie, but they remove obstacles that marred prior flicks.

None of the films presented concise stories, and that remains something of an issue in Land. Nonetheless, it has a decent plot that it follows in a reasonably concise manner. There’s not much to the tale, but we don’t expect complexity and depth from a zombie movie, so I don’t find any problems here.

Fans will certainly enjoy the over-the-top gore of Land, especially in this unrated cut. It adds a couple of short scenes such as one in which Cholo takes care of a Fiddler’s Green resident who killed himself, but most of the changes stem from added violence and nastiness. Dead partisans dig all that stuff, and they’ll find more of what they crave in this unrated edition.

I don’t know where those fans rank Land of the Dead among its predecessors, but I think it’s Romero’s best effort since the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead. It develops some intriguing threads and kicks out the desired action and gore. Don’t expect perfection and you’ll enjoy this lively little zombie movie.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+

Land of the Dead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.351 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No major issues occurred, but the transfer lacked the spark necessary for an “A”-level mark.

None of the problems related to sharpness. Maybe a smidgen of softness interfered on a few wide shots, but those remained minor. The vast majority of the movie seemed crisp and concise. Jagged edges and shimmering created no issues, and only a tiny amount of edge enhancement was apparent. Print flaws appeared absent, as I noticed no defects during the film.

Zombie flicks don’t lend themselves to bright hues, so Land presented a severely restricted palette. It suited the grim urban setting. When colors appeared, they seemed fine, but don’t expect much from the intensely gray-blue visuals.

Blacks were fairly dense and deep, but shadows were erratic. Too many dark shots seemed tough to discern. For example, one scene showed the zombies as they massed in the streets. Unfortunately, because of the heavy shadows, it was tough to make out the actors, so the scene left us without the desired impact. Ultimately, that factor was the main issue with the transfer, as it made this dark movie a little less watchable than I’d expect. Otherwise this was a fine transfer.

Matters improved for the film’s soundtracks. Land of the Dead presented both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Both seemed very similar to me, as I noticed no differences between the two.

Given the movie’s many action scenes, I expected a lot of auditory information, and the tracks delivered. The mixes opened up matters well and delivered a lively, involving setting. Gunfire created the most prominent element, as bullets zipped all around us. Other effects also popped up in logical spots and created a fine sense of place. The mix cranked the action into high gear and did so well.

Audio quality was solid. Speech consistently appeared natural and distinctive, with no edginess or concerns related to intelligibility. Music was bright and bold, as the score showed good range and detail. Effects packed a punch. Gunfire and explosions blasted us with clean, realistic tones. Bass response occasionally seemed slightly boomy, but usually the low-end was smooth and tight. All told, both tracks created solid audio.

While not packed with extras, Land of the Dead comes with a mix of materials. First we find an audio commentary with director George Romero, producer Peter Grunwald, and editor Michael Daughtery. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific piece. They talk about locations and sets, stunts and practical elements, visual effects, characters and the cast, and general notes from the shoot. They also detail the differences between this cut and the theatrical version.

Boy, that sounds like this adds up to a complete commentary, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the reality is far less appealing. I like the parts that talk about changes made for this unrated cut, but almost everything else bores. The notes remain brief and superficial, as the track almost never really digs into the film’s creation. Lots of dead air occurs with precious little useful information to punctuate the lulls. This commentary comes across as a dull dud.

From there we find a slew of featurettes. Undead Again: The Making of Land of the Dead runs 12 minutes, 55 seconds and presents the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We get notes from Romero, Grunwald, producers Mark Canton and Bernie Goldmann, water safety specialists Liise Keeling and Darren Marshall, special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero, and actors Robert Joy, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, John Leguizamo, Eugene Clark, Tom Savini, and Simon Baker. Mostly “Again” acts as an homage to the perceived Greatness That Is Romero. Everyone raves about him in this gushy piece. We get a few decent notes such as performance influences and issues related to shooting in water, but we don’t learn much in this featurette.

In the seven-minute and 34-second A Day With the Living Dead, Leguizamo takes us on a tour of various parts of the shoot. He offers plenty of irreverent – and often profane – remarks as we see different elements. It’s not the most informative piece, but it’s very entertaining.

Bringing the Dead to Life lasts nine and a half minutes. It includes remarks from Romero, Grunwald, Argento, Hopper, Leguizamo, Canton, Joy, Nicotero, Goldmann, Clark and stunt coordinator Matt Birman. Greg dominates as we tour his makeup studio and shows us how he created the various disgusting pieces. As with the prior pieces, this one’s a little too flashy and glossy, but Nicotero’s behind the scenes details make it useful and winning.

Six cut pieces show up under The Remaining Bits. These last a mere two minutes, 55 seconds and don’t really qualify as deleted scenes. They’re all small snippets of segments and don’t add up to much.

Worlds collide in the 12-minute and 59-second When Shaun Met George. Shaun of the Dead actor/co-writer Simon Pegg and director/co-writer Edgar Wright did a cameo as zombies in Land, and this featurette shows their experiences. We also find remarks from Nicotero, Romero’s assistant Gwilym Roddick, and associate producer Silenn Thomas. Pegg and Wright don’t tell us much outside of the “it was great fun” vein, but at least the show presents a decent look behind the scenes to see what it’s like to act as a zombie – albeit high-profile ones.

At only 103 seconds, Scenes of Carnage just shows a series of disgusting shots from the movie. What’s the point? I don’t know. I suppose it can be considered a version of the movie for those who love gore but lack the patience to sit through the whole film.

Technical matters come to the forefront in the three-minute and 18-second Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene. This presents simple comparison shots. We see many clips before and after completion of their visual effects. I’d like this better if it included commentary to discuss the work, but it’s still moderately interesting to see the elements in their raw state.

More of this kind of material shows up in the seven-minute and 55-second Bringing the Storyboards to Life. This presents direct comparisons as it puts the boards in the top left corner and the movie in the lower half of the screen. It’s the standard piece of this sort and should satisfy those who enjoy this sort of thing.

Finally, Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call runs 64 seconds. I thought this would offer a look at the casting of actors to play zombies. Instead, it shows crude CG zombies who do the big dance from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. (Alas, the clip doesn’t include that music.) This is the kind of thing better suited to be an Easter egg than a real feature.

The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for the Land of the Dead: The Road to Fiddler’s Green videogame, The Skeleton Key, American Pie Presents Band Camp, and Unleashed. No trailer for Land of the Dead appears.

A pretty spry zombie flick, Land of the Dead digs into its subject well. The movie doesn’t excel at much, but it delivers an entertainingly nasty and violent experience. The DVD presents very good picture and audio along with erratic extras marred by a deadly dull audio commentary. If you dig horrific gore-fests, give this one a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2608 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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