MOVIE REVIEW | The Omega Man (1971)

Originally filmed as the Last Man on Earth in 1964, another film attempt at the novel I Am Legend appeared seven years late, this time with with added Charlton Heston, in The Omega Man.  While the original version was all mood and restraint, with the delightfully mincing narration of the delightfully mincing Vincent Price, the remake is built on action, quips, Heston’s glistening, hairy chest and hubris.  And it’s great.

Instead of arthritically shuffling around his empty town like Price, The Omega Man opens with big, bad Chuck H, belting through the streets of an abandoned downtown Los Angeles in his candy apple red convertible.  Like Price’s Robert Morgan, Heston’s Robert Neville is a man of science, looking for a cure to the plague that turned the rest of humanity into vampire like monsters.  Unlike Price’s Morgan, Heston’s Neville is also a stone cold ass kicker. Morgan hand turns wooden stakes on a lathe, Neville amasses an arsenal of automatic weapons.  Morgan sports a nice a cardigan, Neville busts out a blue jumpsuit and naval officer’s hat to show he really means business.

Another difference between the two films, the cause of the plague is left a little ambiguous in The Last Man on Earth.  In The Omega Man?  A border conflict between Russia and China results in chemical warfare with effects that reached all the way to America.  You see, there’s no way the great nation of the United Stated of America could ever cause something like this to happen.  It was those damn commie Ruskies and Chinese.   And now it’s up to one great ‘Merican to put things right and fix the world.

It also diverges from 1964 version in its depiction of the infected.  Instead of the slow, incompetent, almost mono-syllabic, almost zombie-like creatures of Last Man, Heston has to contend with a cult of known as “The Family”, conscious former humans of sound body and mind who can actually think of a plan to take him down and follow it through.  His one advantage is their fear of technology.   Blaming modern science for the plague, they refuse to use things like electricity and guns (but are somehow cool with sporting a pair of Ray Bans to help with their light tolerance issues).  These baddies make a much more convincing threat than the bumbling boobs in 1964.

Eventually, Heston meets other survivors, followed by sustained moments of getting it on, before things ramp up for one last, winner take sit all smack down with The Family.  At first, I thought it was clueless 70s cheese with extra machismo forced into the movie by Heston, but as it went on, I became more and more convinced that The Omega Man might actually be full aware of its cheese and machismo, making it all the better.  While affection for The Last Man on Earth seems to be based on its campy, Z-grade charms, The Omega Man is the real deal.  A legit actioner with a charismatic lead performance, a threatening antagonist and even a few intentional laughs.

MUSIC | Transplants – In a War Zone (2013)

In case you suffer immediate short term memory loss in the split second between pressing play and the album starting, Transplants are sure to remind you that you’re listening to In a War Zone, by handily chanting “In a war zone” no less than a dozen times in the first 20 seconds.  And that almost sums up what really works in this third long player from Tim Armstrong (Rancid, Operation Ivy), Travis Barker (Blink 182) and singer / rapper, Skinhead Rob.


MOVIE REVIEW | The Last Man on Earth (1964)

When Will Smith’s I Am Legend came out in 2007, I remember the reviews and general feeling being kind of apathetic.  No one calling it outright bad, but no one jumping to its defence either.  I finally caught it on DVD a few months later and thought it was pretty good for what it was.  I totally capable actioner with a strong Will Smith performance, which was pretty handy since a fair whack of the movie is just the Fresh Prince and his dog with the odd burst of action and monster fighting (much like The Queen starring Helen Mirren*).

Before 2007’s I Am Legend, there was the book I Am Legend, then The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston in 1971.  But in between the book and the Heston joint was the first film adaptation, 1964’s I Am Legend, starring Vincent Price.  Having now seen this version, I see a lot more flaws in the Smith vehicle.  2007’s version came with the kind of budget, slick effects and intense action sequences you’d expect from a Will Smith blockbuster.  Whereas The Last Man on Earth looks like it was made for about $7.50 and stars an old man in a cardigan who can’t run.   Yet, for all that, the older version is the most effective of the two in telling the story.

For the most part, the stories are the same.  Vincent Price, the titular last man, is a scientist who has somehow proved immune to an airborne virus that has turned the rest of the world into vampires (although, they’re more zombie like…  If zombies could half-talk).  He lives a miserable life of monotony, sneaking about killing vampires by day, bunkering down in his home at night while they try to gullumph their way in.

Also similar to the Smith version, Price’s Robert Morgan meets another survivor, but here’s why they diverge.  In 2007, Smith just meets a couple of survivors and that’s about as deep as their characters go.  In The Last Man on Earth, the new woman in Price’s life actually comes with a back story that is intrinsically linked to Price and his story.  It also makes the title I Am Legend mean so much more.  Which is ironic since this version ditched the title while embracing the book’s twisty payoff, while 2007’s kept the title while losing all relevance to it.

The Last Man on Earth accomplishes all this despite what looks like a non-existent budget and even less knowledge from anyone involved on how to make a movie.  Actually, that’s being a little harsh.  The shot composition, editing and most other technical aspects aren’t terrible, but the fight scenes and stunts undeniably are.  I wasn’t exaggerating earlier when I said Vincent Price can’t run.  In a sequence where he chases the other survivor on foot, you can see her trying to run slower to avoid leaving Price in the dust.  And the stunt work is even worse.  Every altercation with the vampires, and the climactic set piece, look like rehearsals for a bad school play, roughly blocking the scene, but never bothering to figure out the specifics of how it will play out on show night.  If only 1964’s The Last Man on Earth had 2007’s I Am Legend budget. Exclusive**  You can watch the entire movie free, right now, right here !

*I never got around to actually seeing The Queen, but I think I got the gist of it from the trailers.

**This offer is in no way exclusive to

MUSIC REVIEW | Falling in Reverse – Fashionably Late (2013)

What happens when “heavy” and “edgy” are watered down in an attempt to appeal to tweens?  Fashionably Late from Falling in Reverse happens, that’s what.  While vocalist Ronnie Radke is pushing thirty, his lyrics sound like a middle added man writing the way he thinks “cool kids” talk.  Radke’s so hip and now, he calls shoes “sneaks”.  “Bag Girls Club” is the worst offender, all poppy synths, Avril Lavigne style bad grrrl ‘heys’ and references to Twitter, hash tags and Google.  Lyrically, Fashionably Late really is on the cutting edge of 2010.


MOVIE REVIEW | Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

One of the advantages to watching old movies is, you can really go in cold, having absolutely no idea what you’re about to see.  It’s impossible to avoid the marketing for new release big blockbusters where you see most of movie in the trailer.  And if you read movie blogs and pop culture sites like The AV Club or Vulture, chances are you already even know a fare bit about the latest little indy films too.  But when you watch a movie that’s half a century old, it really is possible to know absolutely nothing about it going.  Which is exactly what happened when I pressed play on Days of Wine and Roses.

I don’t even remember where I got my copy, I just know I’d been meaning to watch it for ages, but the opening titles were enough to convince me I’d made the right choice.  When you see the names Jack Lemon and Lee Remick, you’re on a winner.  For the first fifteen or twenty minutes, I assumed I was watching a rom-com.  Lemon plays Joe Clay, a PR guy for San Francisco firm.  They meet-cute as Lemon delightfully mistakes Remick for a prostitute he’d arranged for a Saudi oil prince… Maybe the darkness of this should have tipped me off to what was to come, but there was still another ten minutes of them fight / flirting before Remick’s Kirsten finally agrees to go on a date with Lemon.  It turns out, rom-com clichés are even older than I thought.  But it also turns out, this is no rom-com.

Until this stage, Lemon’s character has been shown as a fun, funny, sociable drinker…  Much like Dudley Moore as his hilarious character ‘Arthur’.  But it turns out, Lemon’s Joe Clay is really a desperate, annoying, horrendously un-funny  drunk…  Much like Dudley more in his real life role as Dudley Moore.  But the real kicker?  Remick is a teetotaller and has never touched the stuff…  Until Lemon lies to her about the alcoholic content of Brandy Alexander.   She discovers the joys of getting muntered, they fall in love, get married and pop out a kid.  The end.  Well, it would be the end if it wasn’t only half an hour into the movie and director Blake Edwards had no interest in kicking you in the guts with a massive mood swing.

The remainder of Days and Wine and Roses is a viscous cycle of drinking, attempted sobriety, redemption won and lost, an awesome performance by Jack Klugman and some of the best drunk acting you’ll ever see.  Lemon and Remick both get to showcase the full gamut of tying one on.  From minor slurs and stumbles like your uncle on Christmas morning, to full blown booze-based euphoria like your uncle after Christmas lunch, to guilt addled depression like your uncle on Boxing Day, Lemon and Remick nail them all.

It flies through the exposition, the years and the stages of their problems faster than I was expecting and glosses over the little things giving the scenes that matter, and the performances in those scenes, plenty of room to breathe.  Lemon and Remick were both Oscar nominated for Days of Wine and Roses and after watching it, that really isn’t a surprise.

MOVIE REVIEW | Cape Fear (1962)

So it turns out, they don’t make men like they used to.  If you’re a dude under 60, Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum have done craps manlier than you and every bloke you know.  The second these two badasses come face to face, you know it’ll be an epic match up.  And even better, that initial standoff happens almost immediately.  Which is one of the many strong points if Cape Fear, it’s not here to mess around.

Peck plays lawyer Sam Bowden, the man of morals who eight years ago gave testimony that sealed the conviction of Mitchum’s Max Cady, a sociopath who takes whatever and hurts whoever he wants, never once stopping to even consider what gives him the right to do so.  After a stretch in the big house, Mitchum approaches Peck in the courthouse carpark and makess his vengeful intentions pretty clear from the get go.  This movie seriously has no intention of starting slow, it’s out of the gates and racing from the get go.

Straight away, Peck calls in a favour from his police chief friend who’s more than happy to enact little gross misuse of power and start harassing Mitchum.  But Mitchum’s smart, he’s always just on the right side of the law, meaning Peck is more and more seen as the antagonist.  Soon, Peck is compromising is morals and integrity in an attempt to keep up with Mitchum’s increased harassment.

What’s that you say?  You’re not overwhelmed by the engine oil musked manliness of a Peck / Mitchum combo?  “Fuck you”, says Cape Fear as it does a one handed push up.   “How about I throw in some Telly Sevalas?”, it growls, taking a belt of scotch and repressing its emotions.  Oh yeah, you better believe this movie doubles down on the masculinity and  transforms the Peck / Mitchum dude-duo into a Peck / Mitchum / Sevalas holy trinity of testosterone when Peck hires Sevalas’ PI,   Charlie Sievers.

But it’s more than just the balls out blokiness of these three going head to head to (not yet bald Sevalas) head.  The movie is sure to throw in a little passive aggressive misogyny too, like when Peck tells his teenage daughter, “It’s a mistake to teach women how to tell time. They always hold it against you.”

By starting at full throttle and only getting more intense from there, Cape Fear really is one of the most effective thrillers I’ve ever seen.  And even though the ending is ultimately pretty predictable the way it gets there more than makes up for it.  It even manages to work in a pretty interesting message about the importance of the law, even when you don’t like the people it’s protecting.  This is summed up by Police Chief Mark Dutton (Mark Balsam), “Either we have too many laws, or not enough”.