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Monthly Archives: December 2011

End of year Top 10 list and other stuff

My first annual round-up of a year of watching films and I think it has been a good year for good films and there are many that I haven’t managed to watch, some that may even have been candidates for the top ten. Black Swan would have made to top of the list if it hadn’t had a limited release in 2010 so not really qualifying as a 2011 film. I just regret that the horror genre does not seem to have had a strong showing in 2011 with more turning up in my Worst 10 than in my Top 10.

10. Captain America – The First Avenger
A weedy runt wants to fight Nazis in WWII so he agrees to undergo an experimental treatment to become a super-soldier then finds himself up against the maniacal Red Skull. This has been the best of the films laying  groundwork for The Avengers film due out spring. My Review

9. Paul
Affectionate buddy comedy with two sci-fi geeks playing two sci-fi geeks who find themselves with an alien travelling companion who is on the run from a shady government agency. The CGI Paul really works well and the film is filled with cultural references that geeks will love spotting. My Review

8. Source Code
An American pilot finds himself part of an experiment where his mind get put into the mind of a passenger on a train that is going get blown up by a bomb. He is tasked with finding out the identity of the bomber to prevent a second larger bombing and has to replay the scene until he gets the information and of course he falls in love with one the doomed passengers. My Review

7. Final Destination 5
A return to form for the series with death hunting down those who escaped death on a collapsing bridge. It doesn’t have lot of characterisation but does have some really nice death scenes with good effects using a mixture of physical effects and CGI. My Review

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The series ends with Harry Potter facing his ultimate battle with Voldemort. The film ties up the series nicely and there’s not much to be said that isn’t spoilery.

7. Hobo with a Shotgun
When the Hobo rolls up in a town run by a ruthless gangster called Drake the depravity he sees forces him to take action. Armed with a shotgun he starts cleaning up the town. My Review

4. X-Men First Class
Is it a reboot or is it a prequel? Who cares? This plays fast and loose with continuity to gives a great cold war thriller young Charles Xavier and young Eric Lehnsherr working together to create the a team of mutants to combat a global threat posed by another mutant Sebastian Shaw

3. Super 8
A group of children making a film at an old railway station witness a military train derailed by a truck and they see something escape. This really is a tribute to Spielberg’s big family friendly films such as the Goonies and ET and the young cast are excellent. My Review

2. Attack the Block
A group of tough-acting teenage boys in a council estate find themselves on the run from horny black hairy alien creatures with huge teeth. Nice action film with a good bit of dark humour. My Review

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This is my top pick of this year’s films. It is a great up-dating of the series that still respects the original series and knows what was great about them. The motion capture animation was fantastic and Andy Sirkis really did a great job of making Ceasar the heart at the centre this film. My Review

My worst films of 2011 will not get descriptions, I’ll just list them
10. Cross
9. Respire
8. Sucker Punch
7. Cowboys and Zombies
6. Howling Reborn
5. Fading of the Cries
4. Ferocious Planet
3. Hellraiser Revelations
2. Hidden 3D
1. The Legend of Harrow Woods
Now that’s 2011 over with now I can hardly wait to see what 2012 will bring.
Happy New Year to all my readers

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Posted by on December 31, 2011 in Film

 

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Review: Final Destination 5

Final Destination 5

Image via Wikipedia

Death is angry again in this latest film in the Final Destination series. Anyone familiar with this series knows that death is going to get creative with some really nasty accidental deaths. A group of office workers at a factory are going on team building exercise. As they travel over a suspension bridge it starts to fall apart, killing everyone as they try to escape, except for Molly Harper (Emma Bell)  who gets saved by her boyfriend Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto).

Then Sam wakes on the bus just before disaster strikes and when Dust in the Wind starts playing on radio he leaps into action grabbing Molly’s hand and taking her off the bus, warning the others to follow him as the bridge is going to collapse. His best friend Peter follows as does Peter’s girlfriend Candice (Ellen Wroe). Others soon follow them too including the boss Dennis (David Koechner), Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta), Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) and creepy IT tech Isaac (P.J. Byrne). When the bridge does start collapsing these eight people have enough of a head start to get to safety but Sam saw seven of them die in his vision, including himself. These are who death is coming for.

These films all follow the formula established in the first film, death will come for each of them in the same order that they should have died on the bridge. At the funeral of their co-workers William Bludworth (Tony Todd) the creepy coroner turns up to warn them that death doesn’t like being cheated. I’ve been increasingly suspicious of Mr Bludworth and in this one he increases my suspicions when he tells them that death is coming for them and casually drops in the idea that you can stop death coming for you by stealing someone’s else’s life so death can balance the books. This seems to be confirmed when Nathan avoids death but causes the death of a co-worker while trying to save him.

As is usual the film spend little time on character development except for the main couple Sam and Molly the rest get enough plot to set them up for their death scene which is what this series is all about – the elaborate accidental death scenes. The bridge disaster that they avoid is pretty well shot an although it not as good as the car crash scene from the second film or the roller coaster deaths from the third it is still very well filmed. The first death that of Candice in a gymnastic accident has a long scene of almost tortuous tension created as the camera dwells on every flaw and safety hazard and the resultant accident is a nasty and effectively squicky mixture of physical effects and CGI. I think it was the best of the death scenes though the drawn out game death seemed to play with the sleazy Isaac was pretty amusing too.

This film gives fans of the series more of what he have come to expect. There’s no more answers about the main questions about where the visions come from, and how connected Bludworth is to the events.There is a neat little surprise at the end which seems to a hint that the film-makers might want to bring the series to an end. The film nicely plays with tension and plays along with audience with the close-ups highlighting each step in the chain of accidents that cause the deaths and including just a few false leads (or are they?) I think the popularity of the series is down to how easy it is to put yourself in the place of the characters. I also enjoyed seeing how the death scenes play out. I recommend to anyone, especially those who enjoyed the other films in the series

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Super 8

This film really has been noted by many reviewers as an homage to the type of family adventure film that Steven Spielberg made his own in the 80s and that really is what J.J. Abrams and Spielberg have delivered,

A group of junior high school boys are creating a film with the intention of entering it into a competition. They talk an older girl from their school Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) into acting in the film and she also drives them to a disused train station to shoot a scene. When they see a train coming Charles (Riley Griffiths) the writer/director gets them to rush into action to take advantage of the train hurtling past to give their film some realism. Joe (Joel Courtney) sees a truck drive onto the track and deliberately head for the train. The crash is spectacular with metal flying all around as Alice and boys run for safety. Once the chaos dies down and things stop exploding Joe sees something smash its way out of one rail-car and escape into the night but he doesn’t get a good look at it.

Incredibly they find the truck driver is still alive but badly hurt and that he’s their science teacher Dr Woodard (Glynn Turman). When he comes round he is very agitated and he warns them that they mustn’t let anyone else know they saw any of this as it would put both themselves and their families in danger.  A load of military vehicles appear and Alice insists on leaving right away before they get caught.

Time to back up a bit because much more has happened that I’ve skipped. The film opens at a factory with one of those signs counting the number of days since the last accident and we see a number in the 4000s taken down and replaced by the number 1. Next we are at Joe’s house after the funeral of Joe’s mother. Joe is outside alone while his friends are inside with other guests eating and Charles is worried about Joe’s involvement in his film project. Alice’s father Dainard (Ron Eldard) drives up to the house and enters. Moments later Joe’s father Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) is angrily pushing Dainard back out of the house and arresting him. The reactions of anger and guilt fuelled by grief are more important part of this film than the story of the alien creature.

The film blends this drama with typical elements of a science fiction thriller. The military are all over the crash site and denying there was anything dangerous on the train. Next they are all over the town searching for something. Jackson is the town’s deputy sheriff and he’s kept busy investigating people and dogs disappearing and lot strange thefts. The sheriff himself is one of those who has gone missing leaving Jackson in charge. Meanwhile Joe is  trying to find out more about the crash,  much to the frustration of Charles who wants to use presence military in the town in his film.

The scenes with the young actors are really nice with some great dialogue and lot of humour. The adult characters are a bit more thinly drawn and other than Jackson we don’t really get to see them do very much, other than get in way. The military are the bad guys with secrets they are willing to kill to keep which is typical in a lot of 80s films involving aliens that this film is an homage to. There were lots of nice touches that fixed the film in the late 1970s such as the film technology the boys used, the Super 8 film

When the alien finally appears it is grey coloured CGI. It’s not good or evil, just angry, hungry and desperate to get home but we don’t get to know very much about it. The start of this film is really great but the ending is a bit of a let-down. I strongly recommend this film because the strong start is worth watching even if it tends to fizzle out at the end.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Dr Moreau’s House of Pain

This film is a sort of sequel to events in the original story The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells. I know that was made into films and that one had Marlon Brando as Dr Moreau and I don’t remember much else about it other that I didn’t like it enough to remember it. There’s no such problem with Charles Band at the helm of this entertaining low-budget take.

Eric Carson (John Patrick Jordan) is looking for his brother who has gone missing . He goes to the strip club where he was last seen alive and the barman tells he him that his brother was obsessed with a stripper Alliana (Lorielle New). Someone else obsessed with her is sitting watching just then, a gangster called Johnny Q. After Alliana has finished her set she leaves the club and Johnny Q follows her to her car. Eric follows to and watches from a distance as Alliana punches a hole through Johnny Q’s  head. She then drags the body into her car and drives off.

Eric goes to two reporters Mary Anne (Debra Mayer) and Judith (Jessica Lancaster) who were waiting outside the club in their car, hoping that there is a story in Eric’s missing brother. The three of them follow Alliana to a large remote building. As they look around the outside of the building Peewee (B.J. Smith), a large ugly creature, appears out of nowhere grabs Mary Anne and vanishes into a secret passage with her.

Eric and Judith look around for away into the building and they also get captured by Dr Pak (Ling Aum) who has a scythe and Gallagher (Peter Donald Badalamenti II) a small man with the face of a pig. Gallagher tells them that they will be used as experimental subjects. Dr Moreau is continuing his work on creating humans out of animals but his manimals have revolted and along his former assistant Pak and are forcing him to continue his work for their benefit. The manimals want him to complete his work on making them human and Pak wants him to work on his daughter who is a half-deformed fish.

Eric finds himself attracting the attention of Alliana who is mostly human but used to be a leopard. She gets naked and has sex with him. This makes Gallagher jealous who turns his attention to Judith. Eric frees Dr Moreau and they try to escape which leads to Moreau, Pak and manimals being killed and at one point Judith gets injected with an experimental serum. The film ends with Judith dancing on the stage at the strip club while Eric drinks at the bar and Judith has a long forked snake tongue.

I thought this film was a fun watch. The make-up effects were quite poor but this was kind of justified in that Gallagher and Peewee were unfinished. The science is very silly with some mixture of organ grafting and some sort of serum and with a bit of genetics thrown in but then viable science is never major feature of mad science horror films.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Cyclops

This film was going cheap in HMV and I saw Roger Corman‘s name on it and thought it worth a look since it would probably an entertaining enough B-movie. But this is only produced by Roger Corman and it really struggles to make it to the D-list. I think it was a made on a TV show budget and probably shown on the SyFy channel (short for syphilis I think)

The story is that there’s a cyclops who killed people who robbed him. Cyclops is CGI about 20 foot tall and looks strangely shiny. Anyway clearly Cyclops is not a tax payer because when Emperor Tiberius (Eric Roberts) hears about it he sends a troop of Roman soldiers off to capture him. The soldiers are lead by a centurion called Marcus (Kevin Stapleton) who is kind of doughy looking but I guess on their budget they couldn’t afford anyone with a gym membership. They also don’t seem to have more than 20 Roman soldier outfits

Marcus and his men capture the Cyclops and take it back to Rome. Falco (Craig Archibald) is nephew of the Emperor and he has some sot of grudge against Marcus. This one of those characters that only exist in these films to further the plot by causing trouble and being a vain petty selfish idiot much like the Emperor only cheaper. It was his idea to send Marcus and his men after Cyclops so he is very happy to see Marcus’s men arrive back wounded and dead. He’s not so happy when Marcus appears heading the rest of his troops in triumph with Cyclops in a cage.

Falco is also unhappy with his builder so he suggests to the Emperor that he feeds the builder’s slaves to Cyclops in the arena. A slave girl called Barbara (Frida Farrell) let’s the other slaves in on these plans which doesn’t make them very happy. Meanwhile Cyclops is chained up out in the street and some little brat is teasing him with a dead rat on a stick. This leads to the brat losing his rat and his hand and in the panic that ensues (in the real world it would have been laughter) Cyclops manages to break free and rampage through the streets killing and eating people. This includes the guard outside the slave quarters so led by a slave called Gordian (Mike Straub) the slaves kill their master and escape from Rome.

Marcus and his men capture Cyclops and put him in a cage at the arena and Marcus comes up with the genius idea of feeding him now and again. After that he gets promoted then demoted again then sent out to recapture the slaves only this time Falco will lead them. He is told to both show them no mercy and to bring back as many alive as possible. This goes as well as you’d expect with Marcus interfering with Falco’s attempt to crucify Gordian and subsequently being made into a slave by the Emperor.

The rest of the film is set in the arena, the tiny little low-budget arena. We see Cyclops against four slaves chained together. Then we get the typical battle between friends Gordian and Marcus. Marcus befriends Cyclops. Then there’s big fight in the arena that leads to overthrow of the tyrant Tiberius.

This film was not really a fun watch which is what you want out of a B-movie like this. There’s plenty of gore in  it I suppose but it’s all CGI. Cyclops is done pretty well and the CGI does an okay job at making it look like Cyclops is interacting with the environment. I wonder why they went for the shiny look Cyclops? It made him look more plastic than anything. The actors are not so good their part of the illusion and there’s just no charisma or conviction in any the acting. The reason it wasn’t fun was all the action was hung around this feeble story of politics, insecurity and jealousy. It was sub-par TV writing and I bet the life of Tiberius was much more interesting than the guff we got in this film.

Rating 3/10

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Rare Exports – A Christmas Tale

This film is from Finland and is mostly in Finnish and is subtititled. I saw the trailers that heavily hinted that was going to be a horror film but instead it is a dark fantasy comedy.

A scientist called Riley (Per Christian Ellefsen) is searching for something in the remote Korvatunturi mountains in Finland and he has a team working on excavating a mountain and they have found layers of sawdust buried deep in the Mountain. Riley explains to the foreman Greene (Jonathan Hutchings) that sawdust is used by people in Finland to preserve things frozen in ice and he suspects that the mountain is a man-made construction to bury something. He warns Greene that the workers must obey a strict set of rules of behaviour and that the mountain should be regarded as a sacred site.

Two boys have been spying on the excavation site, Pietari (Onni Tommila) the hero of the story and an older boy Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää). The boys return home through a hole Juuso cut in the fence with wire cutters. Juuso mocks Pietari for still believing in Santa Claus but Pietari does not believe in the warm friendly Santa of modern western (American/English) culture. This Santa is a horned flesh-eating pre-Christian beast god that punishes wicked children by stealing and eating them.

Pietari lives alone with his father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) who is a reindeer herder. His mother left him many books on folklore but she died. Pietari consults his books on the local folklore of Santa to learn what he may up against. Next day all the local men get ready for the reindeer herd’s annual migration through the mountains and Pietari and Juuso are there too. This clearly one of the most important events for the local economy. But the herd don’t turn up, just one or two deer. The men go to investigate and they find the herd was slaughtered. They are baffled but think it must have been wolves displaced from the mountain by the excavation work. It is going to be a very lean time for them all this Christmas.

At home Rauno digs a trapping pit with the bottom lined with wooden stakes and baits it with a pig’s head hung over the pit to catch any wolves prowling round. The next morning they find something in the pit, or rather someone. It is a filthy old man with white hair and a dirty white beard (Peeter Jakobi). Juuso’s father Piiparinen is doing his rounds as Santa so helps Rauno take the body into Rauno’s slaughterhouse where then man doesn’t respond and they think he’s dead. They examine the clothes that he’s wearing and find a passport that belongs to one of the workers at the dig.

Pietari has a look at the pit himself and he finds a sack with a crudely carved life-size wooden doll. This old man is one of Santa’s helpers who goes out on Christmas Eve to take away naughty children in sacks for Santa and leaves wooden dolls in their place. When Pietari goes into the slaughterhouse the old man reacts by sniffing the boy’s scent.

Now that they know he’s alive Rauno goes to get Aimo, a local man who can speak English and who tries communicating with old man. They believe he one of the excavation team and they want to hold him hostage and will return him to excavation team when they get the money they would have earned from the reindeer. Their efforts to communicate are useless Only Pietari knows the truth and his worst fears are confirmed when he has Piiparinen phone home to check on Juuso whose mother thinks Juuso has gone out early and left a wooden doll in his bed as a prank. Santa has many helpers and they’ve all been busy.

They take the old man up to the excavation site to discuss with Riley exchanging him for money. Once there they see what Riley’s team dug up and they realise Pietari was right. It is then up to Peitari to come with a plan to not only save all the naughty children from Santa but to save his family and friends from financial ruin.

I like films that take the time get you deeply involved with the life of the characters and I felt a real sense of the pressure Rauno was under. I thought that the performances from Onni and Jorma Tormilla as Pietari and Rauno were so convincing I wonder if they are actually father and son. The ending made me laugh a few times with its twisted pragmatism. This is probably not suitable for young children but this would be okay as a family film.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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