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by Bill Gibron

27 Jun 2009

Titles are a tough thing. Ask any writer or creative individual and they will agree - naming a thing is far more difficult than making it up in the first place. Such labels have to legitimize your efforts, explain them without fully giving away the entire premise. Sometimes, the shell game works too well. Who would have imagined that There Will Be Blood would wind up telling the story of a wildcatting oil man at the turn of the century? On the other hand, Masked Vigilante vs. a Psycho in Clown Make Up sounds a heck of a lot sillier than the far more brooding The Dark Knight. Sitting somewhere in the middle is the latest from Troma Entertainment, Pot Zombies. Yes, like the classic chainsaw massacre Pieces once stated, this is exactly what you think it is. On the other hand, the up front moniker masks a movie almost rebellious in its flailing exactitude.

A bunch of rednecks come across a marijuana field tainted with radioactive waste. A few blunts later and they are hankering for human flesh. When some of this wicked wacky weed winds up in local smoker’s circles, the cannabis’s cannibalistic tendencies start to spread. As more and more young people light up, a full blown zombie Armageddon occurs. That’s it. No major league hero steps in to save the day. No game government reaction to the entire bleary eyed living dead mess. No last girl limping around waiting for her date with the undead’s incisors. It’s just people getting high and then (as the cover art claims) getting the munchies for people pudding pops. Yum!

Pot Zombies is the senseless shampoo of scary movies. Director Justin Powers simply sets up his roach = reaction conceit, breaks out the green face paint, and repeats. Ad nauseam. As the mind behind the lame HP homage LovecraCked! The Movie, Master P is a titan of limited financial returns. He can make a mockery of no budget cinematics and still find a way to undermine one’s expectations - for good and for bad. Like a broken record, a hyperactive teen, or an accused politician, Powers constantly duplicates his ditzy horror hack brilliance as if we didn’t quite get it the first 253 times. Actors attempting to replicate news reporters do their damnedest to undermine our suspension of disbelief, and it’s not long before we wonder why it took a team of four - that FOUR - screenwriters to come up with what is, in essence, a collection of cinematic sameness.

The answer, of course, is desire. Moxie can make up for a lot in the world of independent art, and with Troma’s own Lloyd Kaufman as a lisping pizza “boy” flitting around the fringes (he appears and disappears for no apparent reason), Powers is clearly inspired by his peers. It takes guts the size of Godzilla to offer up third rate lesbians (why do all post-modern girl lovers have to be covered in a collection of proto-punk prison tattoos???), glowing green-eyed hillbillies, and arterial spray that looks like red Kool-Aid laced with cherry Hi-C. Powers doesn’t pretend to have a plot, can’t be bothered with things like characterization, storytelling subtlety, or directorial prowess. Had he made a movie about giant battling robots looking for some goofy garbage known as the All Spark, he’d be Michael Bay. With Pot Zombies, he’s more like Michael Bong.

Taken on its own Make Your Own Damn Movie terms (a call to aesthetic arms fostered by Kaufman and his company), Pot Zombies is still a direct to digital disaster. One imagines apes with amputated frontal lobes could foster a more fulfilling scary movie experience. But if you move beyond such bourgeois mainstream expectations and take this film for what it is, Powers’ peculiar approach will finally have its way with you. Instead of being humiliating, Pot Zombies becomes humorous. Instead of representing the bottom of the barrel in homemade horror comedies, we wind up with something dangerously close to the cream of the crop. Sure, it’s stunted, stupid, and sloppy, but it’s also a pure representation of one man’s desire to mimic the media that inspired him in the first place.

And isn’t that the main purpose behind any real work of art. Da Vinci wasn’t painting some manly she-male named Mona (or Lisa) because he was the Glamour Shots of Ancient Rome. Picasso didn’t fidget with the human form because he hoped someone would name an entire painting movement after him. Everything in expression, from Georgia O’Keefe’s vaginal flowers to Robert Maplethorpe’s S&M sex pics were crafted because of an unfettered need to create. Pot Zombies is the same way. Powers can be called all manner of misguided names - amateurish, unskilled, braindead, retarded - but he’s not. He’s merely bitten by the artisan’s bug, and the bite is clearly infected and running with pus. If he doesn’t pick at it, it will never scab over and heal.

By embracing the common consumer sense of truth in advertising - there are no lovelorn Yetis, dreamboat vampires, cocaine sniffing werewolves, or meth-crazed aliens in this able arthouse triumph - and delivering nothing but said reefer rejects, Justin Powers makes the convolution of cinematic standards into its own unique visionary statement. Sure, LovecraCked! will kill you with its overriding rancidness, and it’s hard to see anything helpful coming out of this undead doobie delight. Still, for all its gaping flaws, for its need to entertain and its middling ability to do so successfully, Pot Zombies should be celebrated. Go in expecting Mozart and you’ll be kicking yourself for days. Drop those designs down a couple hundred notches and you’ll be giggling all the way to the nearest Santeria head shop.

by Matt Mazur

26 Jun 2009

This one is self-explanatory and might blow your mind!

by Karen Zarker & Sarah Zupko

26 Jun 2009

PopMatters attends a Balkan wedding – and funeral…

It’s a perfect summer evening for a Balkan wedding—breezy, a light coolness to the air floating just above the silky warmth of summer brushing lightly against our bare skin. Ideal weather, too, for a funeral.  Either occasion is fine with us, as both call for plenty of ‘Alkohol’ and the communal feeling it evokes.

In the company of Serbian, Russian, and Polish-speaking people we stroll the meticulous grounds and enjoy the polished staff at Ravinia, anticipating the arrival of Goran Bregović & His Wedding and Funeral Orchestra. We see three, perhaps even four generations enjoying picnics in their familial clusters. It’s a good-looking crowd, dressy even in casual attire—some dolled up just short of formal.

by Matt Mazur

26 Jun 2009

Rose’s adaptation of the revered novel by Leo Tolstoy stars Danny Huston, Elisabeth Rohm, and Anjelica Huston. You can find it now playing through 9/22 exclusively On Demand via IFC Festival Direct.

by shathley Q

26 Jun 2009

Following on from the October 2002 cover-dated ‘Inside Out’, Mark Waid continues Mister Fantastic’s secret confession to his daughter Val: ‘Without proper preparation or shielding he took his friends through a wave of radiation that made them all something other than human. His guilt was unbearable and deserved. These were the people he loved, and he’d destroyed their lives. Thanks to him, they were fated to be freaks, lab specimens or worse. Unless he changed that fate somehow. Unless he made the world see them for what they were: three of the best and bravest people anyone could hope to meet. So he refused to let them operate in secret. He gave them a home in a city of eight million. He gave them costumes. And a flying car. And he encouraged them to parade around with some pretty outlandish names. “Mister Fantastic”. Does that sound like something anyone would really want to call themselves? No but that’s the kind of thing that made headlines. And t-shirts. And action figures. He knew that would keep people from fearing them. You see glamour and fame weren’t options. They were necessities. Because by maybe turning his friends into celebrities he could be forgiven for taking their normal lives away. Someday.’

‘Inside Out’ marks the launch-issue of a new Fantastic Four creative team, writer Mark Waid reuniting with longtime Flash collaborator Mike Wieringo. Waid crafts a story about the seemingly unique mid-life crisis of Fantastic Four team leader, Reed Richards. It is a crisis that manifests as a desire for more media attention, a desire so deep that Richards hires a PR consultancy to promote a new image for Marvel’s First Family. But in a secret confession to his daughter Val, Mister Fantastic admits that it was always about the costumes and the celebrity; just not in the way most people imagine. Celebrity was their only tool to prevent a Frankenstein ending filled with pitchforks and torches. And in return, Reed Richards gave the world something entirely new; trailblazers on the road to tomorrow.

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