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Dawn of the Dead
Unrated Director's Cut, Director's Cut
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Packed with more blood, more gore, and more bone-chilling, jaw-dropping thrills, Dawn of the Dead Unrated Director's Cut is the version too terrifying to be shown in theaters! Starring Mekhi Phifer, Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley in an edgy, electrifying thrill-ride.When a mysterious virus turns people into mindless, flesh-eating zombies, a handful of survivors wage a desperate, last-stand battle to stay alive…and human.
Many had their doubts, but in all honesty the Dawn of the Dead unrated director's cut DVD is everything a horror/zombie fan could ever hope for. Yes, the film is not Romero's and fans of the original were set to dismiss the film as a cheap way to cash in on a classic. However, Zack Snyder's Dawn is not simply a remake, but a retelling of George's brilliant vision. The DVD begins with Zack Snyder giving a cool and laidback introduction to this unrated version. He openly admits it is more gory, has more character development, and is a little longer, but it is his preferred version, the one the MPAA wouldn't allow to be released with an R rating. The commentary on this DVD is so much fun. It features a sharp, cool dialogue between the first-time movie director and producer Eric Newman; interestingly, it was recorded before the theatrical version of the film opened. There is nothing like listening to ambitious, funny, excited filmmakers enthusiastically discuss every facet of the filmmaking experience.
Though it has no full-on "making of" documentaries, the DVD includes a nice suite of extras geared towards giving the viewer more background information on the zombie apocalypse. There is 15 minutes of home video footage documenting "Andy's"' final days fighting off the zombies from his gun shop. Special Report: Zombie Invasion is a very cool 20-minute collage of news coverage giving governmental and scientific updates of the zombie crisis from across the country. The three unrated documentaries all showcase the special effects team and their fearless leader, David LeRoy Anderson. They focus on how to explode heads, the most memorable zombie kills, and the zombie makeup process. It's definitely not for the squeamish, but will be fascinating for those who dare to take a look. The strangest thing about this DVD is the almost non-mention of George Romero and his Dead films. In fact, if you missed the credit "Based on a screenplay by George Romero," you may never know it was his vision that laid the foundation. Is this a legal issue? Who knows, but it is definitely a little odd. However, this should not hold genre fans back from seeing this film. You will not be disappointed because this DVD and the film rock. --Rob Bracco
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In essence, The Dawn of the Dead (2004), directed by Zack Snyder (S.W.A.T.) is a remake of George Romero's 1978 film of the same name, and a pretty good one, at least in my opinion. The film stars Sarah Polley (eXistenZ), Ving Rhames (Out of Sight), and Jake Weber (Wendigo). Also appearing is Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile), Ty Burrell (Black Hawk Down, Michael Kelly (Unbreakable), Matt `what the hell happened to my career' Frewer (Max Headroom) and special effects artist/director/stuntman/actor Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn).
The film, set in Wisconsin (that's all we need...zombie cheese heads) opens pleasantly enough, with Ana (Polley), a nurse working in a local hospital emergency room, returning to her suburban home to meet her husband/boyfriend (I'm unsure which). They share some intimacies and then retire for the evening. Seems like a pretty good ending to a normal day...enjoy it while you can, as the morning brings forth a whole boatload of bad mojo (and zombies). As the film progresses, a small group of survivors, including Polley, Rhames, Weber, and Phifer, make their way to a local shopping mall, seeking refuge from the insanity that has ensued, as the epidemic of the dead spreads quickly. The local, still-living population is ripe for the picking, as they are still unaware of what's actually happening, and the nature of the disease, virus, or whatever...tensions run high as personalities clash and more information becomes available, and those not infected begin to understand the reality of what's happening, and also their new place on the food chain. Haphazard plans are formulated and tossed about, but how do you escape from something that's everywhere? No...this becomes an exercise in survival, and a seemingly futile one at that. Is this the end of the human race? Are we destined to become zombie chow for the ever-growing legion of the undead? It's a zombie nation, and we're the minority...
I did have fun watching this film, and thought it was done well, despite certain changes from the original. The direction from Snyder was slick, fast paced, and engaging, showing he's certainly a capable director, able to take an established storyline and infusing a certain amount of creativity, keeping most of the relevant parts, losing the outdated material from the original, while maintaining a level of respect from whence the story came. I did feel the production lost a little bit of heart from the original film (the group here never really seemed to gel as well as those in the original), focusing more on high-tech special effects rather than the character driven elements of the story, resulting in sometimes 2 dimensional characterizations (CJ the gun totin' hick, Ana the bleeding heart liberal, Michael the somewhat logical pragmatic) that you really couldn't care for if they lived or died. I thought the actors did reasonably well, but I felt they probably had little to work with, and ultimately wasted at times, which is a big difference for me from the original. There really weren't any standout performances, but I did like the guy who played Steve (Burrell), the ever-sarcastic pessimist always handy with a smarmy comment. His part was small, but memorable. I suppose the biggest difference between this film and the source was the speed of the zombies (who look really excellent, by the way). I think most of us are used to the shambling, doddering, slow as all out undead, ones we could easily evade, unless their numbers were too great. Not so here as the creatures moved extremely fast, showing excellent mobility and agility. This goes against what I would think of how a dead person would move, especially once rigor mortis begins to set. I suppose this was done to heighten the tension, which it tends to do, but it seems entirely uncharacteristic. I prefer my zombies to amble about, rather than running around like hyper children hopped up on Pixie Stix and soda pop. I did like the special effects a lot, especially those of a grand nature (do kerosene tanks really explode like small A bombs when fired upon?) Gore hounds will find sweet spots throughout, but I was a little surprised at the overall lack of visceral material (what there is is pretty intense).
The widescreen picture looks excellent, and the Dolby digital audio is clear and sharp, pretty much what I would have expected from such a recent release. Included are scads of extra features, listed here adequately enough so I won't do it again, but I did find them entertaining and worthwhile. All in all, I thought the effort was really good here, albeit superficial.