2 Stars Movies

Charlton Heston is the alpha and The Omega Man

Now that’s a good intro: Robert Neville (Charlton Heston) cruises through an empty city with the top down. It’s eerie, but he seems happy, grooving to jazz from his onboard 8-track cassette deck. But suddenly! Screech! Ka-pow! He brakes, produces a machine gun and fires at a fleeting humanoid silhouette. A striking montage follows of a desolated, deserted city.

Heston was once known as a liberal, and here his character entertains an interracial romance (with afro-licious Rosalind Cash) no more common in movies now than it was in 1971. Unfortunately, it’s now impossible to take Heston seriously, thanks to Phil Hartman’s classic mockery on Saturday Night Live and to Heston’s own Alzheimer’s-fueled descent into right-wing senility.

Interestingly, Heston’s oeuvre is dominated by dystopian sci-fi: Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Soylent Green form a trilogy of apocalyptic despair. Remakes of Apes (by Tim Burton) and Omega (Wil Smith’s I Am Legend) made him nearly obsolete even before he died. Can a new Soylent Green (which is, incidentally, much better than its reputation suggests) be far behind?

Charlton Heston in The Omega Man
Shopping at the end of the world, like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead

Compared to the bestial vampires that populate I Am Legend, the creatures in The Omega Man are an intelligent, religious cult. They don’t attack Neville with technology (like, say, shoot him) simply because they choose not to.

As for entertainment in a time before VHS, the last man alive on earth is stuck with whatever happened to be in the theaters at the time; he screens the concert film Woodstock over and over. As for The Omega Man‘s own music, the orchestral jazz pop score is not just outdated, but bizarrely inappropriate.

The crucifixion pose at the end is a bit much. I didn’t expect much subtlety, but that’s laying it on a bit thick.


The 10 Most Disappointing Movies I Saw in 2007

As I was compiling the best and worst movies I saw in 2007, I found I still had enough for a special category: movies that absolutely don’t deserve to be called bad, even when it’s just me here talking to myself on my stupid blog. But for one reason or another, here are the movies of 2007 from which I expected something a bit more:

28 weeks later

A disappointingly conventional follow-up to the truly scary original.

american gangster

I was hoping for a bit more from Ridley Scott and the two fine actors, perhaps another crime epic on the level of Heat. But American Gangster is essentially a biopic, a genre in which good narrative storytelling is often forsaken in favor of a string of illustrated events from history. Yes, it’s interesting that these people actually lived and (more or less) did these things, but a story this does not make.

becoming jane

I loved the recent film version of Pride & Prejudice, and Becoming Jane sure sounded like a good idea: play fast & loose with the real Jane Austen’s biography to create a frothy romance in her own style. But the end result fell oddly flat, with little of the real woman’s spark. The direction and performances were fine; I think the fault lay in the script.

charlie wilson's war

Probably the finest-pedigreed film of the year, with Mike Nichols directing, Aaron Sorkin writing, and Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymore Hoffman starring. So why doesn’t the movie take off?

I Am Legend movie poster

The superb trailer all but had me waiting in line at the theater weeks before this movie came out. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it couldn’t live up to the promise; it’s full of preposterous implausibilities and plot holes (and that’s if you even accept the basic premise). The best zombie movie I’ve seen is still 28 Days Later.

knocked up

I was a big lover of Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but I don’t think Knocked Up quite measures up to its predecessor’s painful hilarity. Additionally, I could just barely swallow the premise that the two characters might hook up in an alcohol-fueled bonding moment, but not at all that they might stay together.

the lives of others

A complex character study that would have made my personal-best list had it not undone itself in the end by hailing its complicated protagonist a “good man.”

a mighty heart

Michael Winterbottom is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, and this movie held tremendous promise for me as it was done in a similar faux-documentary style as Road to Guantanamo. But whereas I wanted to tell everyone I met that Road to Guantanamo is essential viewing for every citizen of the world, I just can’t say the same for A Mighty Heart.


All apologies to Saint Neil Gaiman, for whom nearly all he touches turns to gold, but Stardust just didn’t do anything for me. Gaiman’s and Roget Avery’s script for Beowulf was brilliant, but this adaptation of his illustrated novel by another screenwriter had no pixie dust.


I know Zodiac has been praised to the high heavens, for both its special effects (didn’t notice that it even had special effects? Exactly!) and for its storytelling, but I just didn’t feel it.

Coming up next: the 11 Best Movies I’m Most Embarrassed I didn’t see in 2007!

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