Richard Donner's original Omen (1976) is one of the best creepy movies of all time. What could be more frisson-inducing fun than a son of Satan (Harvey Stephens) who wants to kill his adopted mother (Lee Remick) and may very well move on to dear old Dad (Gregory Peck) ' not to mention world domination ' if he isn't summarily staked to the altar of the nearest cathedral? Evil nannies, deranged priests, devil dogs, apocalyptic poetry, photos with ghostly impressions ' all these and more are navigated with high holy seriousness by the inspired Remick and Peck. The Omen is where camp rounds the corner and comes home.
Still, it's hard to begrudge the marketers a second go-round with young Damien, timing it as they did for 6-6-06 and trumpeting it with shockingly blood-red ads in a frenzy of delightfully un-divine inspiration. Director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) adheres almost religiously to the framework of David Seltzer's original script, although he can't resist a Sept. 11 image or two in his end-of-the-world, beginning-of-the-movie montage, and he does modernize a few deaths here and there. (The beheading is ridiculous and spectacular.) These, and a few others, are mostly acceptable tweaks. Liev Schreiber (the Scream series, RKO 281) is a surprisingly solid stand-in for the stentorian gravitas of Peck. In each film, we believe because Robert Thorn believes.
What we can't believe, however, is the rest of the remake's casting. Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance) looks and acts like a little girl parading around in big-girl clothes; she's too young, too wooden, and incapable of approaching Remick's fear or fragility. She does, however, attempt to pretend that she's in a serious film. Someone obviously told Mia Farrow (who, let's face it, hasn't been worth watching since Rosemary's Baby) that she was starring in a spoof; this Nanny Baylock is a monstrous failure, her early girlish innocence as affected as her eventual banshee madness. Paired with a child (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) who's apparently been told that squinting makes him look demonic ' when all Stephens had to do was stand there ' she is laughable.
In the end, The Omen is at war with itself. Loving homage? Or camp recreation? The devil may care, but fans of the original may not.
With stunning animation and a heart as open as the highway, Cars is Pixar perfect.
There was absolutely nothing about Cars' previews that made a test drive seem like a can't-miss. The animated film looked fast and sleek, all zippy and quippy instead of pretty and witty. It looked, quite frankly, like a Pixar knock-off, one of these visual but vapid substitutes flooding the market. Boy, can looks be deceiving.
The story of a big-shot hot rod that gets stuck in the slow lane of a small town, Cars is fun and funny, a vrooming valentine to scenic highways and afternoon drives. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is a brash rookie racecar who thinks he doesn't need anyone to keep on winning. En route to a big race in California, he finds himself ' through a series of misadventures ' impounded in the one-stop-light backwater of Radiator Springs under the testy tutelage of the town judge and physician Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Stuck for a while, McQueen befriends Mater, a rusty truck one tow short of a full lot (voiced with clueless enthusiasm by Larry the Cable Guy), and Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt), a pretty Porsche who's nostalgic for the old days when cars cruised beneath a neon glow and no interstate highway bypassed the charming town. Can McQueen slow down long enough to appreciate nights of tractor-tipping with Mater and pipe down long enough to win Sally's heart? You bet he can ' and then some.
A total of 10 writers and actors (is that a record?) contributed to Cars' story, but the resulting script is surprisingly seamless. Car jokes ' of course ' come fast and furious, but the film is genuinely amusing enough to appeal to even the most automotively challenged among us. (Take it from someone who knows.) Co-directors John Lasseter (the Toy Story films) and the late Joe Ranft (also a voice artist) put together a visually stunning, but simultaneously heartwarming fairy tale. McQueen and Sally's afternoon driving sequence through Ornament Valley (where the red-rock formations resemble car parts and paraphernalia) at times looks real enough to be, well, real. But for all the digital mastery ' and it is considerable ' the geniuses at Pixar prove they still know enough to let the journey be the destination.
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