This week’s three wide releases have some things in common: they’re all updates of stuff we’ve seen before, and they all deal with the supernatural. Which will cast a spell over the critics: a car that can love, a witch, or thoughtful, perceptive (but still bloodthirsty) zombies?
George A. Romero’s "Night of the Living Dead" is one of the masterworks of modern horror films, a movie so copied and so influential that, like "2001" or "Metropolis," it may be difficult to fully understand a world without it. Romero’s subsequent "Dead" works, "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the Dead," have maintained a level of quality and integrity where other horror series have retreated to camp and gore. "Land of the Dead," which depicts a bleak future of class conflict and zombies who can think and communicate, is winning high praise in some circles, but at 40 percent, the majority of critics feel it’s a step down for one of the genre’s masters.
Another week, another TV remake: "Bewitched," starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, avoids some of the pratfalls of recent rehashings by adding a self-reflexive, show-within-a-film plotline, but it’s still basically the story of a witch who gets married to an average Joe. Actually, “average” is a good adjective in this case; critics are less than, ahem, bewitched by this one, with only 36 percent under its spell. The plot involves a pompous actor’s attempt to restart his career by starring in an update of "Bewitched." Hilarity ensues when the actress who takes the Elizabeth Montgomery role is actually a witch. Or rather, occasional hilarity ensues.
From "Turbo Teen" to "Knight Rider" to the forthcoming "Cars," it’s clear that Americans have a thing for anthropomorphizing their fictional automobiles. And one of the original attempts to do this (excepting such non-classics as "My Mother the Car," of course) was "Herbie the Love Bug." Well, that loveable VW is back in "Herbie: Fully Loaded," starring Disney remake queen Lindsay Lohan. At 43 percent on the Tomatometer, there’s a reason the movie isn’t being called "Fully Lauded." Critics say while this tale of rescuing the famed bug from the scrap heap and taking on NASCAR might appeal to kids (really little kids), there’s not a whole lot under the hood, it’s low on gas, parents could use a pit stop from this juvenilia, insert auto maintenance cliché here.