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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Review: Iron Sky

I was really  intrigued by this film when I first heard its premise (thanks to Mark Kermode a film reviewer with an excellent show on BBC Radio Five Live) but it seemed to experience some difficulty get distribution in the UK and I feared it was going to end up going straight to DVD. Then the distributors announced a one day screening at a limited number cinemas across the UK. This has been expanded and it looks like it will get a wider release than just one day. It is also out on Bluray / DVD Monday 28 May.

Two American astronauts land on the dark side of the Moon with two missions: a publicity stunt to help get the President re-elected and to hunt for Helium-3, an isotope of Helium that is rare on Earth but could used to fuel fusion reactors. They discover a large Helium-3 mine and soldiers in Nazi uniform appear out of nowhere, shoot one dead and capture the second one. It turns out that in 1945 a group of Nazis made their way to the moon where they have been mining it for the resources to build an invasion fleet to enable them to return to Earth and conquer it. This is all very impressive stuff.  The only problem seems to be that they don’t have the computing power

The astronaut they captured James Washington (Christopher Kirby) is just a famous supermodel and does not know anything about any planned invasion. They are astonished to see that he is black since most of them are too young to have been to Earth so have never seen a black man before and think he has some sort of skin disease. When their top scientist Dr Richter examines Washington’s mobile phone and finds it has a more powerful processor by many orders of magnitude than their entire base the MondFührer Kurtzfleisch (Udo Kier) sends his second in command Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) back to Earth with Washington to get more phones so they can all finally return to Earth as conquering heroes. This task will be far from simple since they are up against cynical power hungry leaders of modern nations and especially the Sarah Palin lookalike (but definitely not her) US President (Stephanie Paul) and her sociopathic campaign manager Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant).

I really enjoyed this film. It is not only pretty funny it also looks really good. There is a lot of CGI used but it is never out-of-place and it’s all very well designed with it clear that a lot of time and thought has clearly gone into it. I cannot think of any point where this film showed that it had a very low-budget. The film looks like it been based on films such as Mars Attacks! or even Earth Vs The Flying Saucers and elements of steam punk where archaic technology has been designed to carry out advanced functions normally done by modern electronics

There’s a lot of broad satire on modern politics especially from the scenes at the World Council with petty bickering between the representatives of different nations but there’s also the culture clash humour which was sometimes nice and subtle with really good use of the Chaplin film The Great Dictator that assumes a familiarity with the film to work. The cast are all great but I really fell hard for the big evil Nazi bastard Klaus Adler played with some gusto by Götz Otto. I should also mention Adler’s girlfriend Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) who plays an idealistic Nazi schoolteacher who really believes the Nazis are a peaceful party. I know humour is very subjective but I really enjoyed this a lot more than other many films with bigger budgets and better known casts.

Rating 8/10

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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Wicker Tree

The Wicker Man is a well-crafted horror film that is fun and outrageous but carefully builds to a truly horrifying climax that retains it power even when you know that it’s coming. The 2006 remake is so bad that it has gained a reputation as an unintentional comedy. I was pretty pleased to hear the director of the original was making another take on the story. If anyone could capture the magic of the original film the surely he’s the man for the job? Tragically, no is the answer. As I watched I found it hard to believe how bad the film is.

The film introduces us to a young  American gospel singer Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) getting ready for a trip to the Scottish Borders. Beth used to be a successful pop singer but has joined an evangelical church and been “born again”. Beth and her boyfriend Steve Thomson (Henry Garrett) are going as missionaries to spread the word of Jesus to the heathens of Scotland. I think we’re supposed to laugh at these people but they all act nice and honest and sincere in their beliefs even if the acting is pretty poor and the southern accents are just appalling. Beth sings and says farewell to her friends. I had a horrible feeling about this film right from the start. The music was not unexpected as it in fit well with the original film that had a lot singing. There were some very broad lazy stereotypes being used here and the worst was cowboy Steve who has a cowboy hat which he hardly ever takes off.

Next we’re in Scotland and Beth and Steve are being welcomed by Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish) and his wife Lady Delia (Jacqueline Leonard) who are sponsoring their visit to Scotland and take them into the city while Lady Delia talks to Beth and Steve about their Christian beliefs while also talking about her own pagan beliefs. They have arranged a concert back at their own village the following night but in the meantime Beth and Steve are going to go door-to-door proselytizing to the heathens. We get a montage of them failing to convert anyone and they return to their hotel room feeling bit down. Now this pair seems very unworldly and innocent but we learn that they aren’t. They both have past that they’re ashamed of.

Next day Lord and Lady Morrison take Beth and Steve back to their village which seems to be full of truly terrible actors. The acting up to this point has been poor but the village is full of the worst acting I have seen, school plays included. They are all weird and enthusiastic and everything is played very arch and creepy. Beth and Steve seem oblivious and think they are being welcomed by friendly locals who are eager to hear Beth’s sermon and join in singing her songs. Steve and Beth are happy to take part in some old local customs and Beth agrees to be the May Queen, while Steve is persuaded to be the Laddie in their ceremonies, but if you have seen the original you know that something darker is going on. The ending is not the climax of a carefully orchestrated plan, but instead we just get extended scenes of stupid things happening and lots of semi-naked amateur actors singing.

Summing up, this is nothing at all like the original film. It liberally insults Christians, pagans, Scots and Americans with a stupid ham-fisted story that is incompetently acted. I really hoped I would like this but I don’t at all. There was never any time where I could suspend my disbelief and accept any of the performances. It has only one saving grave, Henry Garrett gets naked and the camera lingers for quite a while on his rather pleasant naked rear. Oh yeah and in spite anything you heard Christopher Lee only has a tiny scene in a flashback scene. And the Wicker Tree is totally pointless.

Rating 1/10

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Avengers Assemble

There has been a lot of preparation for this film with origin stories for four of the main characters or five if you include Loki’s introduction as the villain in Thor so now the film has finally been released it is a great relief that the preparation has really paid off in a film that the delivers the best translation of a comic book into a film so far.

In a continuing comic book series the job of setting up the characters and some of the plot has been done in previous issues or even in issues of separate solo series. This film is in that same position so it can get straight down to the plot from the start. Villainous Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plots with the leader of the alien Chitauri race. He offers them a tesseract if they give him army to conquer Earth, the planet it is on. This tesseract is a source of almost limitless power and was left on Earth by Odin, king of the Asgardians and Loki’s adopted father. The tesseract was tracked down by Johan Schmidt, a Nazi scientist better known as the Red Skull who used it to power his own attempt to create weapons he would use to conquer the Earth for himself. His plans were thwarted by Captain America who crashed Red Skull’s plane into the Arctic where he was frozen in ice for 70 years. A search at the time failed to recover Captain America’s body but they did recover the tesseract.

The tesseract is currently in a SHIELD research facility, being worked on by physicist Dr Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) when it starts putting out bursts of energy and drawing the attention of SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) The tesseract has the power to open portals to other worlds and Loki uses this to teleport himself right into the lab. He uses his power staff to attack Nick Fury and the SHIELD agents guarding the lab. He also uses his staff to turn Selvig and several agents into his obedient slaves, including sharp shooting hi-tech archer Clint Barton or Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). With his new slaves he escapes with the tesseract.

Fury needs help to retrieve the tesseract from someone as powerful as Loki and to that end he first calls in his best field agent Natasha Romanov or Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and sends her to bring in the world’s foremost expert in gamma radiation Dr Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo)  and the Hulk to help them find a way to locate the tesseract by tracing the gamma radiation it gives off. He also calls in billionaire hi-tech manufacturer and Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) to take down Loki when they find him. It doesn’t take long for Stark and Banner to locate the tesseract and it’s very easy to trace Loki when he attacks people at a wealthy dinner party in Germany. Iron Man and Captain America manage to capture him but not the tesseract so they are taking him back to the SHIELD heli-carrier to be interrogated. Suddenly they get attacked by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Loki’s adopted brother who wants to take Loki back to Asgard. Iron Man and Thor battles for while but Captain America interrupts the fight and talks some sense into them. There really is fantastic interplay of the characters of this very mismatched team and there is a lot of big egos and butting heads before they pull together at the end to fight to save Earth from Loki’s mad schemes

This story could be lifted right from an issue of the Avengers comic and the film really is the closest I’ve seen to a film with the authentic feel of a comic book. The whole thing plays out just the stories in the comic books and the characters are very well written and directed by someone who understands how to translate the insane action sequences of a comic book like The Avengers onto film. There is a so much going in the climactic battle but I managed to follow everything easily.

Like a comic it spends very little time on back story, diving straight into the plot with the luxury of having most of their character development done on earlier episodes but this shows the characters learning to interact as a team. We learn a bit more about Hawkeye and Black Widow and we get to see how even though they are “only” highly trained humans they get to play a part in team of powerhouses like Iron Man, Hulk and Thor. In particular I’d say the surprise for me was really how right the Hulk and Banner are in this film and I’m glad that Mark Ruffalo has agreed to do more films featuring the Hulk. As Banner he is very carefully calm and quiet with a wry humour. As the Hulk we get to see him on a raging rampage but also later as the calmer powerhouse easily ripping through the enemy ranks. He also has more brutal sense of humour with some excellent scenes that really stand out and I’m not surprised the general reaction after seeing the film is a desire for more Hulk.

This really is a must see film for fans of superhero comic books as well as anyone who enjoys big science fiction adventure films. The dialogue is full of humour but nothing goes too over the top.

Rating 9/10

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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