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Notes From The Back Row

The ambling dead

Okay, hands up, who’s totally sick of Tom Cruise? The little guy (5’ 7") is having a tough time separating his personal, professional and religious lives these days. Not only has he been acting like a fool on his promotion tour by hopping around like a meth’ed up kangaroo mouse and touting his love for Katie Holmes, but he’s also pushing his creepy cult of Scientology on everyone who has the misfortune of being around him. Apparently Scarlett Johansson, who was set to star with Cruise in Mission Impossible 3 has backed out of that picture after half-pint Cruise surprised her with an Amway-style Scientology recruitment session the other day. And to think cults used to be cool.

But enough tabloid hype. Cruise is simply seeking any kind of attention to hype up his new flick War of the Worlds, a Spielberg movie so shrouded in secrecy I can’t tell you much about it save that it’s and end-of-the-world story told from one family’s perspective and Cruise probably had to stand on an apple box in most of the close ups (Humphrey Bogart used to have to do the same thing). War of the Worlds opens next Wednesday and hopefully Tiny Tom will calm down a bit after that.

Katie Holmes, on the other hand, needs all the hype she can get. As Bruce Wayne’s love interest, she’s the weakest part of Batman Begins , a dark, gritty retelling of the early days of Batman. Christian Bale ( American Psycho) plays Gotham’s Dark Knight and, after the last two crapfest Batman pictures, this one rules. My only real gripe is that the fight sequences were shot too tightly and edited too quickly to have any real flow or cohesion – realistic for a guy who drops from the shadows and kicks your ass but, in a film where Bruce Wayne spends almost the entire first half training to be a ninja, I’d like to actually be able to see some of those moves later on. Still, Batman Begins really stacks up.

Unlike midget Tom Cruise. In fact, when asked about her 2001 divorce to Cruise, Nicole Kidman replied, "It’s great. I can finally wear high heels again." The striking, 5’10" actress has taken a more comedic turn recently with Bewitched , an almost-remake of the classic TV show of the same name, co-starring Will Ferrell as a washed-up actor looking for an unknown actress to star in his new Bewitched remake. Kidman’s character fits the bill perfectly. However she just so happens to be a real witch looking for a normal life and egos and spells clash in this romantic comedy that uses the remake idea as a setting rather than a focus. I much prefer Ferrell in a supporting role rather than a leading man and romantic comedies generally lick. Besides, witches should be ugly, have warts and cook children in bubbling iron cauldrons not be gorgeous, naïve and nice to people. Happy witches just aren’t true to the game.

What is true to the game is Land of the Dead , the latest and greatest zombie movie from legend George A. Romero, who invented zombie movies back in ’67 with Night of the Living Dead and perfected it in ’78 with Dawn of the Dead. Well the zombies are back, more bad-ass and creepy than ever but we don’t have space to get into it here so next week we’ll have an all-zombie extravaganza.

In the meantime let’s pray one of the ambling dead bites little Tom Cruise and puts us all out of our misery.

AT VILLAGE 8 June 24-30: Land of the Dead; Bewitched; Herbie Fully Loaded; Batman Begins; Perfect Man; Cinderella Man; Madagascar; Star Wars III. Starting June 29: War of the Worlds.