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Radio End-of-Days

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Altman has never been one for connecting dots, but even he can’t escape the insistent subtext. At 81, with an honorary Oscar (the kind that might as well be shaped like a tombstone), our greatest living American director has likely thought once or twice about the arrival of Virginia Madsen. But given the unruly vitality of this marvelous film, it’s also likely he’s thinking of her in more ways than one.

Yet another remake no one needs is The Omen, based on an empty 1976 horror vessel that caught the public’s imagination largely because of a juicy Jerry Goldsmith score and a state-of-the-art Rube Goldberg plate-glass decapitation. With minor variations, John Moore’s version is a beat-for-beat copy. It feels predetermined—and I don’t mean it was predicted in Revelations.

Last time, the joke was that all-American archetypes Gregory Peck and Lee Remick played the parents of the Antichrist—a joke that’s lost with the more naturalistic Liev Schreiber (does his word-processing program automatically change his name to “Live” the way mine does?) and Julia Stiles. The stunt casting in this one is Mia Farrow, once the Antichrist’s unwitting mom and now his witting—and devilishly cheerful—nanny. Moore is a resourceful director, but the Final Destination movies have set the bar pretty high on Rube Goldberg splatter.

There ought to be creepier overtones in a modern Omen, what with even non-religiosos like me worrying that we’re approaching the End of Days. The remake does open with (exploitative, offensive) footage of the World Trade Center collapsing, the space shuttle exploding, etc.—the sorts of disasters that make Pat Robertson nod and say, “That’s what comes of gay marriage.” Maybe it’s time to revise our notions of the Devil. The people who have put this world in peril believe that God is on their side.

A Prairie Home Companion
Directed by Robert Altman. Picturehouse. PG-13.

The Omen
Directed by John Moore. Twentieth Century Fox. R.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com


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