Archive for October, 2014

I was looking through the thesaurus this morning and I’ve decided to go with wacko!

Year Released : 2014Left_Behind_-_Teaser_Poster
Director : Vic Armstrong
Cast : Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Lea Thompson, Cassi Thompson, Nicky Whelan and Jordin Sparks

I can already hear the readers I have from America asking why I am reviewing this film considering I specialise in films that most people haven’t heard of, well it’s because I am English and outside of America this film seems to be virtually unknown and it doesn’t even seem that well known in it’s native America.

After first hearing about this film on the Chris Stuckmann film review channel on Youtube (which I would highly recommend by the way), I decided that I had to watch this film and review it for myself, especially as I seem to be one of the few people on the internet that finds Nicolas Cage watchable having enjoyed his performances in films such as “Lord of War” and “Kick Ass”.

It also continues the seemingly very popular theme of what is described in the Bible as “The Rapture,” an event where all of the innocent people in the world are ascended to heavy whilst the rest of humanity has to survive with what’s left. There have been several mainstream films with that as a plot point in recent years including “Red State” and “This is the End”, as well as a few TV shows, but all were done significantly better than this.

Plot

Ray (Cage) and Irene (Lea Thompson) have had a rocky marriage for a year now since the latter started practicing religion and it has taken it’s toll on the rest of the family, such as Chloe (Cassi Thompson). As he returns to New York for his birthday, Ray decides to avoid the situation at home by again flying to London.

Everything appears to be running normally before a worldwide flash sees numerous people vanish in a rapture style event and those that are left behind have to deal with the immediate situations. Ray is now left without a co-pilot and facing flying amongst planes that are being left on autopilot after their pilots are taken, whereas on the ground Chloe searches for her brother.

As Ray tries to get home safely, everyone reacts in the way that they see fit, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

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Yeah, that does sound quite bad…

Let me start off by saying that I am not even slightly religious, not in any sense of the word and I had mentally prepared myself for dealing with a film that’s nearly 2 hours long and has a very religious message, or at least I thought I was prepared for the onslaught of religious tones and messages that I just watch.

I’m going to start the review off positively by saying that although it takes more than 30 minutes to get to the actual rapture section of the film, the actual scenes immediately following it are actually done relatively well with all the panicking and a lot of people that weren’t chosen for the rapture showing why they weren’t chosen, such as two people raiding the handbag of a woman who was shopping and disappeared. That’s where my positivity really ends as it’s the only decent part of the movie and lasts for a grand total of 5 minutes before returning to the horrible film making of before.

The main point of contention for the film in my opinion is that there is NO relenting in the religious tones. From the first minute two characters get into an argument about God’s intentions in the middle of an airport. In the first 12 minutes of the film, Chloe, a supposedly non-religious person, has two conversations about God with random strangers. A non-religious person does not go on about religion in every single conversation, I know I don’t, but this film would have you believe that it’s all atheists or agnostics ever talk about, hell, I doubt even religious people spend every single conversation talking about God.

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Religious overtones continue, especially when the religious mother has an argument with her non-religious daughter, and quite frankly this was one of the most painful scenes to watch in the film as there is no chemistry between the two, which is made more remarkable by the fact that they are mother and daughter in real life. Lea Thompson does well in her role as the mother and uses her years of experience to try and carry her daughter’s lack of acting ability, it ultimately fails though. The religious theme never calms down and you wouldn’t be surprised if the film had been made by the Vatican as a message to none religious people

One thing that always bugs me with films is when you have characters that fit the stereotypes and “Left Behind” is full of them. You’ve got a pilot who is cheating on his wife, numerous religious characters who refuse to accept the opinions of those that don’t believe in God, a dwarf character who has a complex about his height, a Muslim character who automatically thinks that people think he is going to blow up the plane, a mother going through a divorce who thinks that the other passengers are part of a conspiracy to kidnap her daughter, and so many more than I would care to list.

In a film that seems to be exceptionally out of touch with reality, one key message that the film gives off immediately following the rapture is that all children under the age of 10 are classed as “innocent” enough to get taken in a rapture situation. You don’t see any children under the age of 10 after the rapture happens and to suggest that virtually everyone under the age of 10 is innocent and a good person is complete and utter nonsense. Young children, say 6 and younger can be classed as innocent so I will happily go along with that one, but to suggest that kids aged 7-10 are perfectly well behaved and never cause any trouble is complete and utter nonsense. Yes, some 7-10 years would disappear, but to say that virtually all are innocent is a load of nonsense.

The music in this film is as cheesey as it gets. There’s a scene early on between Chloe and Ray when the latter is reflecting on his strained relationship with his wife, but the music in the background would be the type you would expect in a sports movie when a competitor has just lost and is watching their opponent pick up the medal or trophy. It was quite clearly just “stock music” (recorded with no specific movie in mind and then added randomly) and this continues throughout the entire movie.

Infact, the same song seems to play at various points during the near 2 hour duration, regardless of context. Don’t get me wrong, the same song being used over and over again isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, in Titanic various versions of “My Heart Will Go On” is played to good effect, and “To the Stars” features prominently in “Dragonheart”, but they both work well because they are used at the right times and don’t seem out of context when they are played. In many ways it removes any real tension from the film and I really don’t care about the plight that some of them face due to the music.

I wouldn’t even say that it’s the music that stops me caring about the characters, it’s how poorly they are written. There isn’t any character development at all and that is a very bad thing with regards to some characters, especially Chloe, who is arguably the main female character in the film. She isn’t a particularly interesting character, is poorly portrayed by Cassi Thompson and offers nothing to the overall story.

 

To be honest the whole film would have been marginally better if it had only been set on the plane and not on the ground as well as, other than the initial reactions, nothing really happens with the characters on the ground.  The characters on the plane have no way of getting updates of what has happened, whereas those on the ground can see the news. The plane based characters have the tension of not even being able to search for their loved ones, something that the ground characters do.Cassi-Thomson-in-Left-Behind-2014-Movie-Image

Summary

It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting and I have definitely seen worse films, such as the recently reviewed “Zombie Apocalypse” but saying that it’s not as bad as that isn’t really a compliment because pretty much any film could be better than that pile of rubbish.

As I said at the beginning of the last section, I’m not a religious person and therefore take the whole concept of the rapture as pure nonsense but that doesn’t mean that a film with the subject matter will be awful, afterall, I did enjoy “Red State”. The subject matter doesn’t have to be realistic for it to be a good film, but in this case the film is definitely not excellent.

Just because it’s the end of the world it doesn’t mean that people can’t clean up!

Year Released : 2011Zombie_Apocalypse_DVD
Director : Nick Lyon
Cast : Ving Rhames, Gary Weeks, Johnny Pacar, Robert Blanche,
Anya Monzikova, Lesley-Ann Brandt and Taryn Manning

I love me a good zombie film, however, before I watched Zombie Apocalypse I saw the list of films made by the same company and for a lack of better words, they have put out some absolutely diabolical films and rip offs over the last decade or so, the most famous of their films being Sharknado. It was at that moment I lost any hope that this film would be good.

It’s also generally a rule that films that debut on the channel “Syfy” are going to be generally bad. Films that appear on there are often low budget, not that being low budget necessarily means it’ll be a poor film, with fine two examples being the previously reviewed “Exit Humanity” and the werewolf romp “Ginger Snaps” but in general they have to do well not to fall into being considered trash, despite that I decided that this would be a film that I would just have to see for just two reasons. The first is the aforementioned love of zombie films and the second is that the genre is so inconsistent that despite all the misgivings, it might actually be worth while.

The reason I say inconsistent is that zombie films can be brilliant, such as George A Romero’s “of the Dead” films (well, Night, Dawn and Land, the rest are crap), or they can be horrendous, such as most of the Resident Evil film series, but it is probably the genre I am most open minded about and so I decided to give this film a chance. I wish I hadn’t

Plot

Following on from a outbreak of a virus that turns people into zombies, a group of survivors head to a rumoured safe-location.

As time progresses they must fight the zombies, other survivors and most importantly, their own stupidity.

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So it’s awful then?

Let me put it this way, I would not only class this as trash, but I would go as far as saying it’s one of the worst films I have ever seen in ANY genre.

First of all, it’s a very tired plot that you will see in virtually every post-apocalyptic film. It’s a group of survivors that hears of a place where they will be safe and make a dangerous journey to get there. Now, I can forgive similar plots in general, afterall how often do you see a truly original film, but this offers precisely nothing that you haven’t seen before, infact, if anything I’m certain that this film is a low-budget ripoff of both “Land of the Dead” and the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”. I know LOTD very well as it’s one of my favourite zombie films and because of this watching “Zombie Apocalypse”, even though I’d never seen it before, felt very familiar. I knew what was going to happen before it even happened and I don’t enjoy those experiences as it’s just not an enjoyable way to watch a film.

Infact, here’s a list of some the blatantly ripped off parts from the aforementioned movies.

  • The film starts with a group scavenging supplies in what appears to be a shop, one is bitten. Pretty much exactly how LOTD starts.
  • In ZA the survivors distract zombies by throwing a noisemaker at them, in LOTD they distract them by releasing fireworks.
  • In both DOTD and ZA the characters sit around a table, eating a rare prepared meal, talking about their dead family members and what they did before the outbreak.
  • One of the characters in ZA believes that the zombies like to get together in a pack and generally have a leader in each, this is one of the major plot points in LOTD.
  • Some of the characters in ZA think that their best chance of safety is to get to a dock and onto a boat, this is a major plot point towards the end of DOTD
  • Zombies in ZA learn from their experiences, such as dodging attacks or even retreating to later return with a larger group. One of the main aspects of the zombies in LOTD is that they evolve into smarter zombies and adapt to their surroundings/enemies.
  • Ving Rhames stares out from a roof across a car park full of zombies and receives a message from someone on a distant roof. Happens in both DOTD and ZA.
  • Characters find themselves trapped behind in an fence whilst the zombies try and the break through and/or climb over. They kill them by poking stuff like swords through the gaps in both DOTD and ZA

The film starts off with a brief history of the virus, including it’s origins in France and then the spread across the world. Ok, not an awful intro and it’s one that reminds me a lot of the excellent “28 Days Later” but it then loses me when the government try and solve the zombie apocalypse by detonating an EMP device for no apparent reason. Now, for those that don’t know what an EMP is, it’s an electro-magnetic pulse, which is when fired stops all electrical activity within a certain distance. If you’ve seen The Matrix trilogy, they use the technology in that on several occasions.

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Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it since the first minute and launching an EMP does pretty much sod all to prevent the infection spreading. If it was done to prevent the virus spreading via means such as planes, trains, etc, then it’s not really going to make that much difference as it’s already clearly in Europe and North America, both of which are parts of the two largest populated landmasses on the planet. You can get from the very reaches of northern Norway to the very tip of South Africa or south eastern Asia without once having to use transport, so realistically launching an EMP for those purposes is pretty pointless. Although obviously it would take a long time to walk from Norway to the aforementioned places, all an EMP would do in that situation is slow the rate of infection down but it wouldn’t stop it, meaning that there is very little point in doing it.

The only places that would be relatively safe from new infection because of an EMP would island locations with no land links to already infected countries, such as the whole of Australasia, Hawaii, Iceland, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it would have some positive affects, but they are extremely few and far between and it just feels completely pointless causing the world to lose electricity.

Infact, it starts off the film near enough as it means to go on as for the rest of the film the characters just make stupid decision after stupid decision, so much to the point where you wonder if becoming a zombie would actually impact their intelligence.

Just two examples that cover that occur when, in one of many scenes throughout that rip of “Land of the Dead”, Ramona doesn’t want to be attacked by a horde of zombies that are wandering nearby but then decides to shout at the people with her to warn them that there are zombies nearby. Within minutes a character called Billy just stands there throwing random items at the zombies that are getting extremely close to him. He ignores that he is outside and can easily escape as there is precisely nothing blocking his path his his left. Without trying to ruin the film, he gets in the exact same situation later on in the film, albeit indoors, but again he fails to take the escape route, instead he just stands there and waits for the zombies to attack him.

It’s not just the characters that are stupid in the opening scene though as after a few minutes they are joined by an arse-kicking brigade from out of nowhere and one of them has a sword. She’s swings it wildly, taking out several zombies successfully before then going to stab one of them in the heart. It’s so poorly made that you can see that there is a visible gap of at least six inches between the sword and the zombie’s chest when blood comes spurting out of it’s back like it has been stabbed all of the way through. It’s terrible film making at it’s finest. I can understand that you don’t want your actor actually hurt, but at least make it look realistic.

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As I say, it doesn’t just stop there with the stupidity and another fine example comes just just before the twenty minute mark where they don’t want to kill a zombie because it would make too much noise and attract other zombies. Within two minutes of saying that they smash open a lock, shout “are there any humans here?” and then bellow out “hello?”, it is just tedious to watch. Infact all they do is create noise throughout the film and are then surprised that the zombies are able to track them.

I often think of what I would do if there was a zombie apocalypse (doesn’t hurt to be prepared just incase) and I can safely say that in no sense would I act as stupidly as these characters do. It’s a wonder that there are still any of them left by the 20 minute mark and I almost refuse to believe that the characters could actually survive long enough to live to the post-apocalyptic stage.

With regards to this film I can’t even blame the awful acting for not caring about the characters, they’re just written in such a painfully bad way that it’s impossible to care for the characters or what happens to them, although the acting isn’t anything to write home about. No cast member comes out of this film well, especially Taryn Manning, arguably most famous for his role as the religious nutjob Tiffany in “Orange is the New Black.” Don’t get me wrong, Manning isn’t a terrible actress and her role in the aforementioned show proves that as she is excellent as that character, but she is not a strong enough actress to pull off the “girl next door” style character that you get in a lot of horror films. Some of my favourite horror films with female leads are excellent because of the performances of that actress, such as Katherine Isabelle in the excellent “Ginger Snaps” or if you want a better known example, think of Ripley in the Alien franchise.

There is one thing that surprises me about a fair few recent trash-horror films, Ving Rhames has been in a LOT of them. Ving was in a lot of enjoyable films in the 1990s, such as “Con Air” and the brilliant “Pulp Fiction” but since then he’s had a bit of a downfall and it seemed to start off with him having a role in the excellent remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, the less than excellent remake of “Day of the Dead” and the incredible ill-fated remake of Piranha, which was still better than it’s atrocious sequel, Piranha 3DD.  He just seems to play the same character in each movie and if you didn’t know any better, you would think that the character he plays in Zombie Apocalypse is the same one he played in “Dawn of the Dead”.

I’d look at getting another agent if I was Ving.

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 Summary

If you’ve seen either “Land of the Dead” or “Dawn of the Dead” then you have already seen this film.

If you fancy watching 90 minutes of pure crap then this is definitely the film for you. I would go as far as saying that this is one of the worst films I have ever seen.

All of us have seen those souls out there in the dark. How do we know that they’re not the people that we’ve already lost calling us over? How do you know that that’s not heaven and that this isn’t……..

Year Released : 2010017_vo7s_1sht_v2.indd
Director : Brad Anderson
Cast : Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo and Jacob Latimore

It’s not often that a film sums up an actor’s career. Hayden Christensen may have been a famous actor during the mid-2000s due to his involvement with the Star Wars prequels, but since then he has been restricted to smaller films due to heavy criticism over his acting style, the fact he has only starred in five films this decade tells it’s own story, and if they’re anything like this effort then it would be hard to see him returning to the limelight that playing Anakin Skywalker gave him.

Making just over 10% of it’s $10m budget, including only just securing just over $20,000 in the US box office and not being released at all in the the UK cinema, it’s hardly surprising that very few people have ever heard of this film. The fact you can also currently get it for just 9p from some online retailers so it all.

To be fair it’s not an awful film, it has a good concept to it but it’s hard to really get behind it due to it’s slow nature, lack of character development and poor acting from the majority of it’s cast.

Plot

One day all the power goes off in the city, including personal devices such as mobile phones, cars, etc, but it isn’t just the power that disappears, it’s most of the people. The few that survive wake up to streets full of clothes, empty cars, old newspapers and no sign of life.

Luke (Christensen) figures out that you are only safe when you have light shining upon you as there is something in the darkness that is hunting them down. He meets fellow survivors Paul (Leguizamo), Rosemary (Newton) and James (Latimore) and they all take refuge in a bar that had a petrol powered generator.

With time limited due to a lack of petrol, and the fact that anything that produces light seems to last for less and less time (flares burning quicker than they should, petrol burning faster, batteries lasting considerably less when they have been charged), can they survive whatever waits in the darkness…and each other?

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So is it that bad?

To be far to the film, it certainly has an interesting concept and one of the things that I like is that what has caused the darkness and what hides within is never actually fully explained. It’s a post-apocalyptic style film that isn’t like any other as it isn’t caused by illness or war, and having seen a lot of other films set in a world with very few people left alive, this is actually relatively unique.

Now, I’m going to start with the positives.

Early on the film there are some excellent scenes, such as when Luke is exploring the empty streets and a plane comes crashing down in the background, or when Rosemary is searching for her child and she stumbles across a guy in the middle of having open heart surgery and has obviously woken up after all of the drugs have worn off. You can hear his blood-curdling screams before the power goes out and he is taken by the darkness.

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Before he finds the bar there is also a scene where you get an early glimpse into the type of person that Luke is. He is sat in a car scavenging things such as batteries and flares when someone asks him for help as his lighter has run out of fluid. Luke refuses to help him and he is very quickly taken by the darkness. That theme of Luke being selfish remains throughout, and his selfishness is quite iinterestingin many ways.

That’s where the positives end.

The acting in the film is so incredibly wooden that is is hard to really feel anything for the characters. Christensen continues to be awful in any acting role that he takes up. I’ve seen him in a few films since he played Anakin Skywalker and in each he is almost painful to watch. In this you never really get the sense that he in danger because his expression never changes, even before he realises the everyone else has disappeared he plays the character in such a wooden way that it is really hard to get behind him as an actor.

Thandie Newton also continues to fail to impress me, but for me the biggest surprise was Leguizamo. I am a big fan of his and am probably one of the few that genuinely enjoys watching him if the comments on the internet are anything to go by. In a filmography that contains a lot of films, this is the first one where I have found his acting to be sub-standard. Even if he’s not playing an important character, or an unlikable one, he has generally done well in standing out in films, such as the action film “Gamer” where he is barely in the film and yet is one of the most memorable actors in it. In this he just isn’t that interesting, he doesn’t grab the screen with his usual style and charisma.

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My main complaint with the film is that all of the characters are exceptionally one dimensional. Luke is a selfish guy who will do whatever it takes to survive, Rosemary spends most of the film moping about her lost child, Paul just seems to spend a lot of the movie trying to mentally recover after initially being taken up and then being returned for whatever reason (which again is not explained) and James rarely says a sentence that doesn’t revolve around finding his mother.

I think one of the main causes that a lack of character development is that you don’t really see any of the characters before the event happens, with the exception of Paul, and even then you don’t learn a lot about him in that scene. A few characters have a flashback scene but again you don’t really learn a lot about either of them other than why Luke knows how to surround himself by light. I would have preferred that to be left as a mystery as that’s one thing that I do like about the film, some things are just better off left alone.

And finally one of my biggest problems with the film is that it keeps showing you the ghostly movements of shadows to indicate that something is there. I mean don’t get me wrong, when they’re outside I get it but it does become a bit tedious as it keeps happening over and over and over again. Sometimes the unseen threat of it happening is more interesting than actually showing the darkness creeping in. For me it takes a lot of the tension out of the film when you can’t see how close something is to them as it makes it more suspenseful. If I can see it approaching them then it just loses something for me personal.

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So is it worth watching?

This is the sort of film that you’d expect to see on The Horror Channel in the UK, a channel which specialises in showing poorly made and budget horror films, and whilst there are worse horror films out there in terms of how they look, there are many more lower budget horror films that I find more entertaining than this.

If it’s on then yeah, go ahead and watch it, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of your way to watch it if I was you.

The world is full of evil but if we hold on to each other, it goes away.

Year Released : 2012fid12394
Director : Thomas Vinterberg
Cast : Mads Mikkelsen, Alexandra Raraport, Thomas Bo Larson and Annika Wedderkopp

Despite it not being that well known, Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” is quite possibly the most high profile film I have reviewed so far due to an Oscar nomination at the 2014 Academy Awards, and the fact that at the time of writing it is 125th on the IMDB’s list of the best 250 films ever made.

This is also easily the most sensitive matter film I have reviewed so far. Whilst my other reviews have focused on horror, comedy and pure outright nonsense, yes, I’m looking at you “Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” “The Hunt” focuses on a man who becomes forsaken by his community after accusations made by a child.

It’s a subject matter that is rarely addressed in films and is dealt with in such a fantastic way that I haven’t been as brought into a film on an emotional level for such a long time, almost to the point where I forget I am watching a film.

Plot

Lucas (Mikkelsen) works at a kindergarten and loves his job, however, one day he gets invited into the office of the school’s head teacher and is informed that he has been accused of pedophilic behaviour towards a child, Klara (Wedderkopp). Despite the considerable lack of evidence against him, he soon finds himself ostracised after everyone adopts a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude.

Even after Klara admits to her parents that it was a lie, no-one chooses to believe her, especially as more children say that Lucas was also inappropriate towards them, again with a distinct lack of evidence (such as describing being taken down to a basement at Lucas’ house despite no such room in the building existing).

As Christmas approaches, Lucas struggles to lead a normal life, getting assaulted whilst buying groceries, having bricks thrown through his window and even initially rejected from entering a church for prayers on Christmas Eve.

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So….

Well I think in any film of such a serious subject matter, especially one that is rarely the subject of films, you have to be very careful about the way you portray each character and I’m not going to lie, it does a fantastic job of doing exactly what it should do.

All the way through you know that Lucas didn’t do what he is being accused of, and you actually start getting really angry at the way the characters are treating him when there is precisely no evidence against him, especially the head teacher who reacts in such a way that it actually makes the situation considerably worse with her reactions. She effectively leads the witch hunt against him for the early part of the accusations and although I understand she has to safeguard the children, it could have been dealt with in a much better way.

It’s not so much the situation that makes you start getting angry at the characters, it’s the way that they react, but in many ways it is the reaction you would expect to happen in real life and you wouldn’t blame people for getting angry at the idea of someone that they trusted having alleged pedophilic interactions with their children, but it’s the whole guilty untilnproven innocent reaction that most display that actually makes you angry. If the character was guilty then you’d understand, but as he isn’t, and you know he isn’t, it’s hard not to get angry.

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Mikkelsen does an excellent job as Lucas and even though he doesn’t show a lot of emotion through the majority of the film, something that is becoming somewhat of a trademark for the actor, you don’t have to see shock on his face when he is initially told of the accusation as his body language and the look in his eyes tells you all that you need to know. This isn’t like the monotone acting of Keanu Reeves, Kirsten Stewart or any of the other actors who show no emotion and have dead eyes, Mikkelson does the non-visible emotions so well it seems like it’s just simple second nature.

The only two characters (that aren’t related to Lucas) who even give it minor thought that he hadn’t done it are Theo (his best friend and father of the child) and his girlfriend, Nadja (although that doesn’t last that long). Just after the accusation is made there is an excellent scene between Lucas and Theo where they discuss what is happening. The scene is exceptionally well acted by Thomas Bo Larson, infact I would go as far as saying it’s one of the best acting performances in a single scene that I’ve seen in a long time as the internal conflict is clear as he doesn’t know whether to believe that his best friend would ever do such a thing or whether to trust what his daughter said.

Even much later in the film after Lucas has been assaulted whilst out buying groceries, Theo sees him from his car, covered in blood and even after all that has happened, you can still see the emotional conflict that he is going through and you can definitely tell that he is not 100% convinced that Lucas did indeed do anything inappropriate in front of Klara. In many ways he also obviously feels guilt for the way that Lucas has been treated by the fellow townsfolk.

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Some scenes in the film take me by surprise, such as when Lucas’ son turns up and whilst talking to Theo, Klara comes along and he starts asking her questions, she refuses to tell the truth (we already know it’s a lie as she has admitted it to her parents by then) and his reaction is to spit on her. I have seen some very surprising scenes in films but that has to be one of the most surprising as the character is at most four years old. It surprised me through the pure emotional reactions from the character.

That is pretty much the only reaction from all of the characters that didn’t seem real. That’s the highest praise that I can give the film, the sense that this could all easily happen in real life and be exactly the same as what has happened on film, and those are the types of films that get you emotionally invested. Don’t get me wrong, I love films that have very little place in reality, such as Willow (my favourite film), but there is something extra special when you find yourself forgetting that you’re watching a film.

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Summary

Not many foreign language films find their way into the Top 250 of IMDB’s best films in history, but this approvedis one of them and for good reason. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years and it’s exceptionally harrow.

I don’t think I really need to say anything more to laud the film and even though you might not be keen on foreign language films, this is worth 115 minutes of your time.

Watch it. Watch it now!

When you’re ripped from your life too quickly, you have to let go of whatever is keeping you here

Year Released : 2014Uçuş-7500-7500-Film-Afişi
Director : Takashi Shimizu
Cast : Amy Smart, Ryan Kwanton, Jamie Chung, Scout Taylor-Compton, Leslie Bibb and Nicky Whelan

I first heard of “7500” several years ago and was eagerly anticipating it. It got delayed several times but then I got the chance to watch it unexpectedly and I was very excited. This turned into what is an increasing occurrence in my movie-watching experience. I get excited about a film, wait a long time for it to come out and then I wish I hadn’t.

There haven’t been many films set on a plane in recent years, and there is probably a very good reason for that. Whilst there is the occasional good entry, such as the recent Liam Neeson film “Non-stop”, the majority are terrible, not very well thought out and not very interesting because of the constricting setting. One horror film comes to mind that is set on a plane that didn’t really work and that was “Flight of the Living Dead”, a zombie film with much of the same problems that I am about to go into with this film.

The “Resident Evil” series slow motions you to death, the “Paranormal Activity” series bores you to death, the “Saw” franchise makes you desensitised to death, 7500 clichés you to death and I would go as far as saying that this film shows why it wasn’t going to get a major release, even before it was finished..

Plot

The 7500 flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo sets off as normal with honeymooners, tourists, backpackers and the usual assortment of characters that you get on flights. Nothing seems out of the ordinary on the flight as everyone settles in for the ten hour flight before hitting light turbulence after less than an hour. Although things seem normal at first, a passenger unexpectedly dies from unknown causes but the pilot agrees with the ground crew to continue as planned.

Despite everyone being uneasy due to the death, everything runs relatively smoothly until the plane hits more several turbulence and descends rapidly from the sky before stabilising.

Soon afterwards more mysterious happenings occur, including the disappearance of people, even the dead body, passing F16 Fighter Jets and a mist filling various sections of the plane at random intervals. Can they make it to Tokyo safely?

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So what are the main problems.

The very fact I’ve just struggled to put the plot into more than two sentences should tell it’s own story.

Well it’s hard to get invested in a film which is only 76 minutes long, regardless of Wikipedia trying to claim it’s nearly 100 minutes long. I watched the film online and from the second it starts to the second the credits start rolling is just a few seconds over the 76 minute mark. I’m not saying that short films are necessarily bad films, afterall, you get TV shows where the pilot is only an hour long and it makes you want to go back and watch some more. However, TV is very different to movies and in the latter, if your film is only going to be 76 minutes long, you really need to have something pretty amazing to make you care about the situation or the characters, and this fails miserably.

The characters are about as clichéd as it gets. I wasn’t routing for a single one of them because they’re not particularly interesting and most are one dimensional. I think of the recent film “Cabin in the Woods” and the reason that was so successful was because it actually took the clichés from the horror genre and all of the monsters and actually made them sync together, “7500” doesn’t do anything of the sort. Infact, I can’t recall seeing as many clichés in such a short amount of time for a film with so few characters, infact, here is the list of the main characters and their clichés;

Martin and Pia : A couple that has recently split up but haven’t told any of their friends, including the couple they are going on holiday with (a couple who might I add actually you never see again after the plane takes off). Pia consistently sees a mother and child playing together and is saddened due to their failed attempts to have a child.

Laura : Flight attendant who is having an affair with the pilot.

Jamie : Recently engaged but is unsure whether she actually wants to marry her fiance.

Lance : A mysterious business man who remains mysterious before he is the first character that dies. Even after he dies and they investigate his belongs you don’t really know anything about him.

Alex : Racist thief who thinks he knows better than anyone else.

Racquel : She might be pregnant, she might not, the main question is do we actually care?

Jacinta : Emo/gothic girl who obsessed with death and being anti-social.

….and finally….

Rick and Liz : Recently married couple who are heading on their honeymoon. Rick doesn’t want to talk about the marriage with completely strangers but Liz is quite possibly the most pathetic character of them all.

Liz, who is rightfully nicknamed “Bridezilla” by the flight attendants, is quite possibly the most irritating person in the film and you know instantly what type of character you are going to get when the first time you meet her is when she is sitting down and going through everyone walking towards her, begging for that person not to be sat next to her. She forces her wedding photos on people who openly say that they don’t care and is one of the most superficial characters in the history of cinema. She doesn’t develop at all throughout the entire film to the point where her character is painful to watch.

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I’d be as scared as Jacinta (left) if I had to sit next to Bridezilla

Infact, I’m going to spoil how the film ends just so you can see just how painfully one-dimensional the character is. I will put this in white font so that if you don’t want to see then you don’t have to. To see just highlight the next few lines following this.

So basically at the second event of major turbulence the plane’s structure actually develops a rupture and causes a major decompression event, causing the loss of oxygen in the cabin. The oxygen masks develop a malfunction and all passengers on board die. They do not realise that they are dead as they are in some form of purgatory and at the end of the film. When they realise that they have been dead whilst all of the mysterious occurrences have been going on (via seeing a TV report that pops up on the main screens and seeing their own dead bodies), they all accept their fate and move on into the afterlife…….except “Bridezilla” who remains there, unable to accept the fact that she is dead.

That’s the spoiler over with, so now back to the review…..

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Much like most other horror films of the last 20 or so years ago, the film seems to rely on jump scares and you are not even slightly terrified by what you see. Everything about this movie is a cliche and considering it’s a horror film, there is nothing that is actually worth your time. In America this was released as a PG-13, their equivalent of the UK’s 12A rating. Now again, don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to necessarily have an 18 rating to have a scary movie, but if you’re going to have it at a level where even kids can watch it, you’re going to have to do something very unusual in order to make it scary, and again this film fails miserably.

There is a force that the characters can see (which we don’t) after the second load of turbulence that is never explained. What happened to the businessman is never explained (especially the part where his eyes change shape and colour briefly) and those are just two of the many elements that the film wants to you effectively try and figure out yourself. Now, don’t get me wrong again, some of the best films in recent years have had elements where you have to figure it out for yourself, or left you guessing (such as what happens at the very end of “Inception”) but the reason it works in those films and not “7500” is because you actually care about what is happening in those films, you care about the characters and figuring it out for yourself is one of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. You don’t get anything close to that in “7500”.

If you’re going to try to be an intelligent horror movie, come up with something that people haven’t seen before, because otherwise people won’t care.

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Summary

If you like clichés in your horror films then this is definitely for you. Some films that are actually quite good don’t make it to the big screen because of various reasons, but it is obvious from the outset why this barely saw the light of day in a cinema.

I have reviewed some awful films for this site in the relatively short history, but this has to be one of the least enjoyable experiences of the lot. Don’t waste your time.

If I don’t wanna talk about things, and I don’t know what they wanna hear, and I just wanna play ball. Does that make me the bad guy?

Year Released : 200189J6qPZ6alGafob9ZqQNw6zeczx
Director : Billy Crystal
Cast : Thomas Jane, Barry Pepper, Jennifer Crystal Foley, Chris Bauer and Bruce McGill

Being English I don’t really have an affinity with a lot of American sports, infact the only one I have a true interest in is ice hockey, but there is always been a mild interest in baseball after watching films such as “A League of Their Own”, the “Major League” franchise and more recent “Moneyball”.

Following that I watched a film a few years ago called 61*, a baseball movie based on a professional rivalry between baseball legends Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris as both try break the record set by “Babe” Ruth for the most home runs in a season.

Whilst it might not have the big budgets that some of the aforementioned films had, and the fact it was a movie made for American television, it’s hardly surprising that it’s not that well known outside of America or outside of the sport of baseball, however, it is an interesting look at how two very different characters dealt with the increasing pressure as they neared the record.

Plot

The 1961 baseball season sees the New York Yankees making headlines as two of it’s high profile players both compete to break the record of the legendary “Babe” Ruth. Mickey Mantle (Jane) is the media darling, loved by everyone and is widely regarded as the best player for the Yankees, Roger Maris (Pepper) is the opposite, a family man who despite winning the MVP award for the previous season, isn’t in the spotlight and that suits him just fine.

Both hit early slumps in their season and Maris is even threatened with being traded, however, as the season goes on both hit form. As their friendship grows, one where who will break the record is joked about, both must deal with the pressure of approaching the record. It’s a pressure that keeps growing to the point where the administrator of the league becomes desperate to see that Ruth’s record remains intact due to their friendship, changing the way records are kept midway through a season.

Things continue as normal for Mantle as he loved by the public, but things are very different for Maris as he is often purposefully misquoted by the media and portrayed in a very negative light, leading to him being booed at his own stadium, receiving death threats through the mail and having someone threaten to kidnap his new born son.

As the stressful situation becomes more strained, especially when “fans” start trying to assault Maris on the field, can either of them actually hold up to the pressure and break the record?”

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Is it just like every other sports movie?

In many ways it is because like most sports movies, it has a happy ending. I’m not sure if it would technically count as a spoiler though as it is, for the most part, an historically accurate film for what happens on the pitch. Whilst “Moneyball” bent the truth somewhat (such as suggesting that some of the players were new to the club when they had actually been at the club the year before, such as Chad Radford), “61*” seems to remain truth to historical events on the field. Now, I would caveat that by saying I’m not a huge baseball fan and the stating that it seems to be historically accurate is based on the Wikipedia page.

What I found very interesting about the film was the media manipulation of Roger Maris. Whilst I’m sure it still happens today, because of the lack of major media coverage back then, it would be very easy to ruin Maris’ reputation in the media and that’s what happens when, because he gives only basic answers, the media puts his quotes into the wrong context and vilify him. The media treatment he receives causes severe stress, hair loss, death threats and other such things, and it reminded me a lot of when David Beckham was sent off in the World Cup in 1998 and how he was made out to be public enemy number one.

One other mis-representation by the media in the film is that despite forming a corporation together, Mantle and Maris couldn’t stand each other. This was far from the truth as they lived together and Mantle often acknowledges that Maris turned his life around by helping him stay off of alcohol and leading a more mature lifestyle.

Maris is excellent played by Barry Pepper. If Maris really was that serious in real life then Pepper is probably the best actor around to have played him. Pepper, in a carer spanning more than 20 years, has rarely had a lead role and has often been restricted to sub-roles, and is is interesting to see that some of the films that he has been in are some of the biggest in recent memory, such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Green Mile”…..the less said about “Battlefield Earth” the better. He has always been an actor that has on occasion been allowed to show emotion, but often ends in roles where his character is of a serious nature, and he does it excellent each time.

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Thomas Jane is also partly enjoyable as Mantle, I say partly because he is excellent at portraying the character when drunk, however, when the character starts renouncing alcohol you get the feeling that you could have really gotten any actor to play the role and it wouldn’t have made a different. That’s not anything against Jane, it’s just the character is not written very strongly after he gives up alcohol

Sub-plots are also important to the movie and the one where the league administrator doesn’t want Maris to break the record because he was friends with “Babe” Ruth. Ford Frick, played by Donald Moffat, is so against someone who isn’t “bigger than the game” breaking the record that he changes the rule midway through the season and openly hopes it doesn’t happen. Almost 20 years after the season, Maris said (not in the film) “They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the records books or something.”

I only have two concerns with regards to the film, the first of which is the music. It’s a very strange soundtrack accompanying the film, for example, when Roger is talking about the threats with Mickey, there is music in the background that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Disney film when they’re discovering something awesome for the first time. It just didn’t feel well used at all and ruined some scenes that were supposed to be very serious.

The second concern isn’t even really a concern and that is that there’s no character development at all, with the exception of Mickey giving up alcohol. The only reason I say it’s not a concern when it’s usually one of the things I look for is that it’s hard to really have character development in a film based on actual events.

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Summary

An enjoyable two hour movie that tells a good sporting story. Don’t expect anything that you haven’t seenapproved before, but if you enjoyed all of the aforementioned baseball films then I think you will enjoy this.

As it was a made-for-TV movie, it’s unlikely that if you live outside of the US that you will see this anywhere other than on the internet, but if you have a spare two hours then I would recommend it.

 

Can you believe that? What’s he supposed to do, you tell a teacher and they tell the bullies off and that gives them an excuse to come after you. You tell your parents and they just say stand up for yourself. Darren couldn’t stand up for himself

Year Released : 2009poster_tormented_poster2
Director : Stephen Prentice
Cast : Alex Pettyfer, Tuppence Middleton, April Pearson, Calvin Dean, Tom Hopper and Dimitri Leonidas

I mentioned in a previous review that I used to work in a cinema and one of the perks of doing so was that I could watch films for free. During my 11 months working there I watched many films that I wouldn’t have considered seeing otherwise and Tormented was one of them. It’s not that it looked like a bad film (that despite it’s current rating of 5.2/10 on IMDB) but rather that it wasn’t my type of film.

It turned into a rather pleasant surprise and whilst it isn’t one of the best horror comedies that I have ever seen, I would certainly recommend it for a few hours entertainment.

Several of the cast have since gone on to bigger and better things, with Alex Pettyfer starring in several Hollywood films such as Beastly, I Am Number Four, Magic Mike and several others, whereas Tuppence Middleton is in the upcoming film adaptation of Jupiter Ascending.

Plot

Soon after the funeral of pupil Darren Mullet (Dean), school head-girl Justine (Middleton) starts dating the popular Alex (Leonidas) and finds herself suddenly thrust into the popular group in school. The group is mainly mixed towards the inclusion of Justine due to her previous “good-girl” reputation, especially Bradley (Pettyfer), the leader of the group.

Whilst everything seems normal at first, several students start getting tortured and killed by the ghost of Darren. Although they refuse to believe what is effectively right in front of them, the group continues to be troubled by Darren’s ghost and after initially not understanding why this group has been targeted, Justine soon discovers that the group were actually responsible for his death after bullying him for several months, with the main aspect of the bullying coming from his attraction to Justine.

Justine must choose between leaving her new group to their fate or helping them.

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So why do I like it when most don’t

Well for me it’s very different from the American style school based horror films, such as “The Faculty” and any number of slasher flicks that are filled by identikit characters , each of these characters is actually written quite well. For example, Justine is written as a girl that you’re never entirely sure if you actually like her or not. Early on she is revealed to someone who tries to say the right thing, even if she literally has no idea what she’s talking about when she mourns Darren Mullet at his funeral before seconds legend being called the fact that she didn’t know who he was.

The casting for the role of Justine was tremendous as she is definitely upper-middle class and you definitely believe that Middleton would be an excellent candidate for not only her school’s head girl in real life, but also that she is generally viewed as a geek from the popular kids in school. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all, it was almost perfect casting for that role.

Bradley is also very well cast and after a false dawn with Stormbreaker in the mid-2000s, this film arguably restarted Alex Pettyfer’s career as his next two pictures were “I Am Number Four” and “Beastly”, were two relatively high budget films for their genres and both relatively enjoyable. Pettyfer is brilliant as Bradley, really showcasing that ego of the “big guy in school” that usually accompanies the most attractive men in the the school. He seemingly plays the role with ease and makes you route for a character who is portrayed as an antagonist. The charisma he brings to the role, even when saying something threatening, was actually refreshing to see.

Tormented-2009-Bullied

If you know British schools and the way that the social aspect works, it actually makes you look at tormented and realise that, ignoring the part about the ghost, the film is actually very realistic, although there is definitely a high level of stereotyping. For example, the character of Marcus, Bradley’s best friend, is stereotyped as the athletic but rather stupid

One of my favour aspects about the film that make it stand out are some of the hilarious death scenes. One in particular always makes me laugh and that’s the first one. Sophie, played by Georgia King (daughter of actor Jonathan Hyde of Titanic, Jumanji and many others) is the first main character to bite the dust when she thinks that a teenage boy is watching her get dressed, approaching him before realising it’s the ghost of Darren, falling into the pool and then the ghost proceeds to sit on her, not allowing her to move and eventually drowning. All the deaths are imaginative and really well put together considering the budget.

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However, despite all of the above, the aspect I enjoyed most about the film is that as the film progresses you do actually stop feeling sorry for Darren, who is supposed to be an protagonist, and actually start wanting the antagonists to survive. It’s quite an interesting play and whilst at first Bradley the group are very easily to dislike, you soon find yourself routing for them and at the end you actually realise that Darren, despite what happened to him being a tragedy, it isn’t really until how the film ends that I realised when watching it that he was actually a very vindictive and twisted individual. It’s not many films that make you question who you should actually route for, the supposed protagonists or the obvious antagonists.

Despite all of it’s good attributes, there are a few negatives.

I appreciate that the film didn’t have a high budget, even by British film standards, but the ghost of Darren wasn’t even slightly convincing, nor scary. I know the film is a horror/comedy but even then it has to look realistic to become a believable film. One of the key successes to films like Ghostbusters, obviously ignoring the huge difference in budgets, is that their ghosts looked realistic, even the puppets. Darren, although played with gormless excellence by Calvin Dean, is just not convincing and even when you seen the posthumous clips of him being bullied, you never actually believe that the character would be capable or willing to go around killing people who bullied him.

There is also the problem with the sub-characters. Characters such as Nasser and his group of emo-stereotype characters aren’t developed at all, and Jason, Darren’s best friend before he died, is your stereotypical nerd. He is always whinging, complaining and has a definitely “the world is against me” attitude, and if anything it puts me off getting behind him as a character as well.

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Summary

It’s certainly not a bad attempt at horror for a relatively young cast. There are many positives about the approvedfilm and it is genuinely enjoyable, afterall, where do you get to see someone try to subdue a ghost in the showers with a cricket bad? It’s never going to get any film of the year awards but I found it to be a pleasant movie experience.

With a rating of just 5.2/10 on IMDB (at the time of writing), it would be easy to be put off by this film but I would recommend hanging in there as this isn’t just your typical horror/comedy, the moral message of don’t bully people because you never know what might happen is excellent and very well portrayed.

I won’t make light of the fact it is clearly aimed at a younger audience (25 and under), but I thoroughly believe that you don’t have to be young to enjoy it.

The test is simple in comparison, yet it will determine who leaves this room with a contract of employment, and who leaves with bus fare home.

Year Released : 2009Exam-film
Director : Stuart Hazeldine
Cast : Jimmy Mistry, Luke Mably, Colin Salmon, Nathalie Cox and Pollyanna McIntosh

I would like to think that I have a good knowledge of British cinema, and I am always surprised to see a British film receive straight to DVD treatment as even when I worked in a cinema, the most boring and tedious English films still got at least one week of being run at each cinema, but Exam didn’t have that. I am normally sceptical of these kind of films but the advert on TV made me very intrigued and I went and purchased it with low expectations.

It has a largely unknown cast, with the two best known to the worldwide audience being Jimmy Mistry (2012 and Blood Diamond) and Colin Salmon (several James Bond films, Resident Evil and Alien vs Predator) but other than that the best that the rest of the cast has been involved in is small parts in films (such as Luke Mably in 28 Days Later and Pollyanna McIntosh in Robin Hood), but sometimes having a relatively unknown cast is not a bad thing and in this film it works very well.

Whilst Exam isn’t going to top anyone’s “best film of the year” award, you are constantly sat there as puzzled as the characters as to what is actually going on in one of the most unique psychological thrillers in recent years.

Plot

Eight strangers are invited for the final stage of a job interview. They are lead into a room with eight tables and a piece of paper and are met by a man simply known as “The Invigilator” (Salmon). He explains the rules of the interview, such as the candidates are not allowed to spoil their papers, either on purpose or accidentally, nor are they allowed to communicate with anyone who works for the company. They are told that there is one question that they need to answer and they have 80 minutes to answer it.

Upon his departure the characters realise that the pieces of paper are actually blank and they don’t know what the question is. One candidate decides that it is a simple case of writing an essay about why they should get the job, and she in very promptly removed from the room and is disqualified.

Shocked by what has happened, the other candidates remain puzzled as to how to answer a question that they don’t know the answer to and decide to work together, although that proves more difficult than they could have imagined.

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So do they ever figure out what the question is?

Well one of them does, but to reveal all of that would spoil the film and actually mean that you didn’t get to experience being as puzzled as the characters as they try and figure out what the question is via various methods.

Most of the characters are excellently written and from the first scene in the film, where they are all shown at their homes preparing for the interview, you get to know some of their traits from that, such as that a religious man that isn’t afraid to get violent as he washes blood off of his sleeve, another is laid back, as he chews gum and flips a coin, and so on. Infact, the film only really makes you curious about one character, and the rest are actually explored quite well, especially the character of “White” (Malby). Early on he decides that there’s no point in learning each other’s names and instead refers to them all by what he deems their most obvious physical trait, such as hair or skin colour, the latter of which really riles the non-white members of the group.

“White” is easily the most enjoyable character of the group to watch and doesn’t hold back and try to be professional like the others, ranging from his racist comments, right through to getting some of the other candidates disqualified through manipulation. He also cleverly deduces that whilst it’s worth working together, you have to make yourself stand out as not once has it been clarified how many positions are going. There could be one, there could have been eight, in that sense he treats it like the TV show “The Apprentice,” working in a team whilst trying to shine.

Each of the characters are very different in many ways that their interactions with each other become increasingly interesting as time goes on. For example, at one point “White” needs medication and because of his behaviour throughout the rest of the film, and even the internal conflict of some of the characters in that situation means that you genuinely don’t know if they will actually give him his medication.

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Infact, there are two tortures scenes in the film, and the second one involves “Brown” and “Dark” when it is revealed that the later already works for the company and is an internal candidate. “Brown” isn’t convinced that she is there for genuine reasons and tries to force an admission out of her by going to paper-cut her leg and then her eye open. That scene is tremendously well acted and you genuinely feel that Mistry got a thrill out of torturing her based on how well it is done. Obviously I’m not saying he enjoys torturing someone, but it is arguably the most thrilling and intense scene in the film.

Another interesting aspect of the film is the characters trying to figure out the vague meanings of what the invigilator and how his words can be interpreted. For example “if you spoil your paper, intentionally or accidentally, you will be disqualified” and after they examine the sentence, they realise that although they can’t damage their own paper in any way, they can damage each other’s without risking being chucked out. Alternatively, during the torture sequence they consider throwing him out of the room as that would see him disqualified under the rule “if you choose to leave the room for whatever reason, you will be disqualified,” however, they don’t do this because he wouldn’t be choosing to leave the room.

Throughout the film you are lead to believe one thing and it turns out to be something completely different, in that sense you never know what’s coming and that leads to some interesting aspects of the film. Neither us as the audience, or the characters themselves, ever get a full idea of what’s happening. Unlike some other films we never see what’s happening in the background that the characters can’t see, so we’re left guessing as much as the character.

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There are two major things I have with the film and one of them might be a tiny bit of a spoiler. One of the characters that remains at the end isn’t really developed that well. It’s like in horror films when a character makes it to the end that hasn’t really been involved for most of the film, sometimes it works, such as Ripley in “Alien” but the majority of the time it doesn’t, and it becomes ridiculous. Infact, as I write this sentence I am 42 minutes into watching the film for the purposes of reviewing it and this character has only said two sentences, and both were pretty meaningless. Each of the other seven candidates that remain as this point have either already been developed well, or are intriguing, but this character is just bland, uninteresting and the majority of the film is spent with them in the background, not really contributing.

The second is something that bugs and that is that the way they get to some of the solutions to the problems they face is a bit far fetched. For example, it is pointed out that all the candidates are very intelligent, which is fair enough, but there is a scene early on in the film where they start thinking that light will reveal the answer and this eventually involves into them hitting the lights with chairs, revealing blacklight and infrared. It becomes very far fetched.

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Summary

An enjoyable 95 minute film that constantly makes you question what you think you know about what theapproved film is about and what is being said. It becomes a bit tedious at time but not once, except for right at the end, do you fully understand what is happening and that’s what makes you keep going.

It may be very low budget, but low budget isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If I had to liken this to any other film it would be the incredible “Cube”, it’s claustrophobic, the characters don’t really know what’s going on (although in this they actually have a way out) and you’re constantly left guessing as to what is happening.

Strangers don’t fare well in these parts

Year Released : 2008cottagepostbig
Director : Paul Andrew Williams
Cast : Andy Serkis, Reece Shearsmith, Steve O’Donnell, Jennifer Ellison

I am a big fan of British cinema, being British myself it is only natural, but for me British cinema beats any other in the world for pure originality, great film making and actually making me want to watch films again. In the future I will be reviewing several other British horrors, such as Creep and possibly Severance, although I think the latter is too well known.

Anyway, I digress.

The Cottage is one of my favourite British films of the last 10 years and one of the most original horror films that I have ever seen, probably because it’s not really presented like a horror. Infact, I’m not even entirely convinced if you can class it as horror or a dark comedy, because it fits into both equally

Plot

David (Serkis) wants to escape a life of crime and decides that the best way to do this is to get his brother, Peter (Shearsmith), to kidnap the daughter (Ellison) or David’s boss and hold her to ransom. The only problem with the plan is that David and Peter have completely different personalities and David only manages to convince Peter to help via blackmail.

As the evening progresses David struggles to maintain order due becoming increasingly frustrated with his brother’s behaviour, that his prisoner is actually more dangerous than either of them, that his boss knows it’s him that kidnapped his daughter and is sending people to “sort him out” and various other things.

It soon becomes apparent that David will not only do well to get out of the situation with any money, but also get out alive as the evening continues taking a more sinister turn.

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So what sets it apart from other horror films?

Well as I mention in the top part of this review, this has many elements of a horror film but is actually presented as a dark comedy. The reason I say that is that the film isn’t presented as a horror until much later on in the film and only truly in the last ten or so minutes does it fully transition from dark comedy into horror.

The relationship between David and Peter dominates the story and it never feels overplayed or indeed underdeveloped. It is done perfectly and you genuinely believe that although they care for each other, they could easily break into a fight throughout and the way the relationship develops throughout the film feels natural as it is a situation that would prove stressful if you were involved, especially towards the end of the film when they meet the main antagonist.

Infact, the introduction of the antagonist introduces an interesting dynamic to the film as it doesn’t start really coming into the story until at least two-thirds of the way through and after developing the main characters, in one way they have are taken in another direction and you access other parts of their personalities that you rarely see in other horror, which I think sets this apart from other films with a horror element.

Horror is a genre that has become far too predictable in recent years and have far too many cliches, this film has none of them, and even at the end the main antagonist is unpredictable. Unlike most horror films, the characters are developed correctly and you actually begin to care what happens to them, rather than just being presented with 6 or 7 teenage characters (invariably played by 30 year olds) who die before you’ve even learned their names. Each character is excellently written.

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The best horror films are the ones where you actually care about the characters, such as the Jeff Goldblum remake of “The Fly”, the 1982 classic “The Thing” and various other films of a similar nature. If you’re going to make a good horror film then you really need to have decent characters, and “The Fly” proved that you didn’t need need a large cast of characters because if they are written well and, more importantly, well acted, which leads me neatly onto the excellent performances from the cast.

Serkis is absolutely fantastic as David and you really start to feel his frustration as the evening goes on due to being surrounded by the incompetence of others. One such example is when a third conspirator turns up and was supposed to buy ski-masks so that they can do the ransom anonymously, only for him to turn up with masks that reveal the entirety of the face, effectively nullifying the point of getting one. David ultimately phones his former boss and the resignation in his voice when he knows that he won’t get away with what he has done was done with such subtlety that you appreciate the effort that Serkis has put in.

In a filmography that includes excellent motion capture work on Lord of the Rings, King King and the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, his performance in The Cottage is arguably my favourite performance of his as it shows almost perfectly how to make an antagonistic character seem very likable. For me this film actually made me respect Serkis a lot more (not that I disrespected him before) as he showed that he isn’t a one trick pony and can pull of roles where you actually see his face on screen.

Shearsmith is also excellent as Peter, a character with a far more varied range of experiences and emotions throughout the film, whether it be raging at this brother to being under-the-thumb when his wife phones him. I have not seen any of his other work before or since this film so I can only go off of his performance in The Cottage, and it was a genuinely enjoyable portrayal of a man whom is treading the line of staying sane on a regular basis.

The very fact that the character is terrified by moths means that Shearsmith would have to produce a feeling of dread in the several scenes where he is trapped with them, and the way that Shearsmtih plays it makes you think that he has a genuine fear of them, although it does feel a tiny bit slapstick. Below is one such scene.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Jennifer Ellison, even dating back to the days when she was in Brookside, however, she was remarkably believable as a gangster’s daughter. There is a genuine menace to her ability to scare Peter, even when she is completely tied up. Maybe it’s the scouse (a dialect from the area of Liverpool for those who don’t live in the UK) accent, or the threatening tone in her voice as she gives evil eyes to the main characters, but either way she does a very respectable job of making you believe

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Summary

The Cottage is an excellent horror/dark comedy that I would highly recommend if you’re looking to be approvedentertained for 90 minutes.

With excellent characters and development through it’s run time, it’s hard not to enjoy this film, especially when it starts transitioning between the genres, and whilst it will never be considered a classic in the genre, it certainly has elements that made the classics successful.

I must say it’s pretty much the only trailer I have ever seen for a film where it is clips from pretty much exclusively the final third of the film and it doesn’t reflect the nature of the first two thirds, which is strange.

Anger is the only thing they left me. Anger is my refuge, it’s my shield. Anger is my birthright!

Year Released : 201411178902_800
Director : Lenny Abrahamson
Cast : Robin Williams, Mila Kunis, Peter Dinklage and James Earl Jones

This is probably the most mainstream film that I have reviewed so far on this site, however, it qualifies for this site because of a lack of a wide release and that it only barely got past the $500,000 mark in America, and that is an amount that barely registered. I would implore you all of avoid it like the plague if you ever get the chance, but this film is almost famous as in many ways has it’s own place in history as it was the last film released before the death of it’s main star, Robin Williams.

For those who are expecting this review to be hugely positive just because Williams has died, you’re in for a surprise. I’m not going to say a film was good just because the main actor had died, or indeed that it was an excellent performance if it wasn’t, and that is definitely the case for this film. In a career that spanned almost 40 years, Williams was not involved in many films worse than this and his performance seemed a million miles away from when he was at the height of his fame in the early-mid 1990s.

Like most other films that don’t get released on a large scale, this suffers from the basics of having a decent concept but an exceptionally poor execution.

Plot

Henry (Williams) is pissed at the world. Ever since his son died a few years ago he has been getting angrier and angrier, but his world is soon blown apart and realises that he must set things right quickly when he is told by Dr Sharon Gill (Kunis) that he will be dead within the next 90 minutes due to a tumour. There’s only one problem and that’s that that was a lie. Gill was having a bad day and decided to like to Henry about his diagnoses as he was harassing her at an appointment.

Henry immediately rushes to see his friends and family, however, that’s not easy given that he has alienated people to the point where they’re not going to drop everything to see him. Along the way he finds out his wife is sleeping with the next door neighbour, he realises criticising his son’s decision to work at a dance studio was wrong and his brother (Dinklage) misses the days when they used to be close.

As Williams tries to patch things up with people he has alienated during his life, Gill rushes to try and find him to correct her mistake and somehow avoid being sacked on the spot by her hospital when she admits to her boss  what had happened almost immediately after lying to Henry.

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So is it actually that bad?

The title is misleading as the only times you see Henry angry before his diagnosis for a brain aneurysm are when he is hit by a taxi and then has to wait for more than two hours for his doctor to arrive for his hospital appointment, and yet the title suggests that it’s highly unusual to get angry in these situations normally. Infact, right at the beginning of a film there is a long list of things that Henry hates and I actually hate those same things, but don’t consider myself to be an angry person. If I got hit by a taxi then I’d be pissed, so what qualifies Henry as “the angriest man” when anyone would get angry in the same situation. There is not one thing about the character of Henry that makes you actually agree that his anger is unusual and there isn’t the angriest man anywhere.

Infact, during the entire film you only see him get angry on three occasions, totaling maybe a minute, at most. An 83 minute film, take out five minutes for credits, leaving 78 minutes overall, and he’s only angry for less than 1% of the film. There is no build up to the anger, you’re just thrown in to this guy’s life and are just expected to know that he’s angry all the time without knowing why. This is made obvious from the first minute as the words uttered in the film comes as Henry lists all the things he hates, but again, everyone has a list of stuff that they hate. They expect us to think this guy is the angriest man in Brooklyn simply because he has a lot of things as gets angry, such as when he is hit by another driver and has to wait for two hours to see a doctor? I’d get pissed off at that, hell, a Buddhist monk would get pissed off in that situation, so this guy isn’t special and is just like 99% of people in the world.

Henry’s family only learns about his condition after they reject his attempts to connect and they launch a desperate attempt to find him. If it takes him dying for them to think they will miss him, then it does make you wonder if it was worth it and whether the relationships would be stronger at the end of this ordeal, or whether things would eventually go back to the way they have been.

There is precisely no character development in his film, seriously, none. You would actually think that there is at least some as the main character supposedly goes from being angry at the world to loving everything, but nope. You always have the view that Henry is a bit of a dick. Whether it be threatening to deport a taxi driver by reporting him to the authorities to mocking a camera salesman with a severe stutter, you almost start to genuinely wish that Dr Gill was correct and that he only had 90 minutes to live.

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The performances are dull and Williams had put in yet another performance where you wonder if he was actually trying. Williams’ career was definitely in decline and had been for many years,? I know some people will say “what about Mrs Doubtfire?”, well given that film is about a man who openly tries to kill his soon-to-be divorced wife’s new boyfriend, I would say that answer is no. It’s such a shame that Williams died on the back of years choosing poor films to be in and not actually acting that well and the last film I can recall him actually being good in was 2002’s excellent “One Hour Photo”.

Mila Kunis continues to be on her regular form, in other words being a terrible actress. I love her in the role as Meg in Family Guy and there’s no denying she’s definitely an attractive woman, but watching her act is painful due to that beautiful face being completely expressionless during each and every film she is in. In this film her character is supposedly very sad that her cat just jumped out of a 10th floor flat window, and but for all we know she could be absolutely delighted at it as there is no range in her acting ability. She was the same in “The Book of Eli” as well.

The other characters are seriously underdeveloped and whilst you can sympathise with them because of Henry’s behaviour, ultimately you don’t care about them whatsoever.

*WARNING, THIS NEXT BIT CONTAINS A SPOILER, I WILL INDICATE WHEN SPOILER ENDS SO YOU CAN CONTINUE READING

For me the most painful scene to watch was right at the end. Henry did die afterall, eight days after the events of the majority of the film, and his family release his ashes into the river. They are confronted by a member of the ship’s crew and they all start shouting at him in a way that they think Henry would have. They could have simply said that they were spreading ashes, but nope, they had to deliver this in a way that was exceptionally painful and cheesy to watch.

*SPOILER FINISHED*

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Summary

I would implore all you to avoid this film at any cost. The trailer makes it look reasonable but it really, really isn’t. Horrible, horrible film.

This film did have potential as it’s an interesting concept, and one improvement would be for the film to last 90 minutes from the point that Henry is told he has 90 minutes to live, but the film as a whole doesn’t last 90 minutes. With a better script, director and cast this film could have actually be very watchable and enjoyable, but alas, we were stuck with this rubbish.