Archive for January, 2017

Every apocalypse deserves an after-party!

Director : Steve Barkerthe-rezort-1-500x760

Year Released : 2015

Starring : Jessica De Gouw,  Dougray Scott, Martin McCann, Elen Rhys and Claire Goose

You know when you see a trailer for a  film and you know exactly what films have influenced it, that’s basically the cast with “Rezort”. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is clearly inspired by the “Jurassic Park” franchise and is basically the exact same film, but with dinosaurs replaced by zombies. As you can probably tell, I’ve actually watched the film before starting this review, which is very rare for me as I tend to want to do just the opening section first, and leaving the rest until afterwards.

I’m not going to say at this stage whether I liked it or not, but it would appear that if I do then I would comfortably be in the minority as “The Rezort” currently has an average rating of just 5.1/10 on IMDB from just over one thousand votes, comfortably a low ranking film.

So, before I get onto telling you whether I joined the majority, or was in the minority, I suppose I should tell you about the plot.

Plot

Several years after a worldwide outbreak of a zombie virus was finally stopped, one woman (Goose) saved several of the zombies that were created on an island just west of Africa. The resort, called ‘Rezort’, allows people to take their frustrations out on zombies, but one of the guests (Rhys) implants a virus into the system and it causes all safety measures to fail. All of the zombies are suddenly free to roam the island.

A group of tourists are trapped out in the park and their guide realises that ‘Brimstone’, a weapons based purge of the island, has been implemented and they only have a few hours to make it to the dock for a boat that is supposed to get staff off of the island. This is made even trickier when all staff on the island are killed, meaning that virtually no access routes to the boats are actually free.

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So, am I in the minority of people who liked it?

Whilst I will say that there were the odd bits here and there that I did like, I am definitely more in the camp that don’t like this film.

Now let’s address the obvious, this is basically a zombified rip of off the “Jurassic Park” franchise, right down to even minor things. Now don’t get me wrong, finding inspiration from another film is not a bad thing, afterall, my favourite film “Willow” has obvious inspirations from the “Lord of the Rings” novella by J.R.R. Tolkien, but unlike that “Rezort” doesn’t use that well.

Here are the similarities/blatant rip offs;

  • There is a boat that takes the staff members off of the island
  • There are fences separating large areas of the park
  • The computers are struck with a virus by someone who seemingly merges into the background
  • None of the other supposed computer experts can fix this
  • The characters end up in the control centre, trying to avoid those that are eating them
  • The characters go out into the park in a safari jeep
  • There are two annoying youths who are the only people competent with computers in their group.

I could go on and I’m sure if I was making a list as the film went on then I could easily fill a A4 piece of paper.

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The problem with this film is that is feels completely unoriginal and doesn’t offer anything that I haven’t seen before. Everything, even the bits which aren’t a blatant rip off of Jurassic Park scenes, feel like something that I have seen numerous times before and it’s hard to really get excited about watching it. Infact I would go as far as saying that whilst I wasn’t bored, I certainly wasn’t enthralled.

This isn’t helped by a bunch of stereotypes that are portrayed as characters. For example, Dougray Scott’s “Archer” is given little, if any, character development or story. He is just this guy that is a sharpshooter, rarely missing, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the actual character outside of this characteristic. In many ways he is similar to the character of Muldoon in “Jurassic Park” but without any semblance of a secondary characteristic. For example, Muldoon is quite clearly a very stern and to the point character, but he is humanised by a clear fear of the dinosaurs, especially the raptors, but Archer just seems to take everything in his stride. It feels effortless.

Deaths feel completely uninspired and out of the blue. There is very little tension created in the build ups to several the death of some of the characters, and the zombie attacks sometimes literally came out of nowhere.

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Summary

Even if you can ignore the blatant rip of the “Jurassic Park” films then you’e still unlikely to join a film that will feel very familiar. There is very little originality in the run time of this film and in the end I found myself not really caring about the fate of those on the screen.

There isn’t any real tension or anything remotely resembling a worthwhile plot.

As it’s on Netflix at the moment it’s not like you’ll need to go out of your way to watch it, but I would certainly not actively recommending that you select it for playing compared to the other zombie films that are currently on there.

Director : Pearry Reginald Teocurse-of-sleeping-beauty-poster

Starring : Ethan Peck, India Eisley, Natalie Hall and Bruce Davison

You know when you see a film advertised that would be perfect for the low budget TV station ‘The Horror Channel’ in the UK but it has somehow found its way onto Netflix? That’s what you have with ‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty”.

Even just looking at the Netflix image I get the feeling that this is going to be a horrible film. I could be completely wrong, but it basically just looks like a gothic version of the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale, but done with very little skill or affection. It does look visually distinctive, but it takes more than just looking ok to actually be a good film, and I get a feeling that in several hundred words, when I start the summary section, I won’t be overwhelmed by a great film.

I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt I will be.
Plot

Thomas (Peck) has been having a recurring dream in which he sees a beautiful woman (Eisley) sleeping, but he wakes before he can kiss her. One day he gets notified that an unknown uncle has died and left him a large house, using the word ‘curse’ several times in the process. The letter urges him to never go into the basement, but Thomas has very little intention of keeping the house and gets it valued.

Soon after first entering the house he dreams of the woman again, but this time he is able to kiss and wake her. She says that she is somewhere in the house and needs to be awoken in the real world so that they can be together. Thomas finds himself no longer able to stay away from the house for a few days without getting deathly ill, but he can’t stay there for long as an evil spirit has now awoken.

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So is this destined for “The Horror Channel”?

I have little doubts that this will end up on that channel as it is without doubt their type of horror film. Don’t get me wrong, I love “The Horror Channel” but there is little doubt that the majority of the films on there aren’t that good, so “The Curse of Sleeping Beauty” suits that perfectly. I am genuinely surprised that Netflix picked this is up.

The main problem with “The Curse of Sleeping Beauty” is that is completely lifeless and has precisely zero charisma. It’s just kind of there. Ethan Peck is a poor leading man and whilst India Eisley definitely has the look, especially in the final few scenes, her acting leaves a lot to be desired. I love that the film actually tries to look great, such as actually using camera podiums and tripods (therefore avoiding the problems of on the shoulder cameras shaking all over the place), and the lighting is actually great, but no-one that appears on screen will come out of this movie with any kind of positive credit.

There is very little to keep you interested in the film, and nothing sums that up better than the fact that after about fifty of the eighty-six minute run time, I was able to leave my house and go to the shops to buy a drink. There was no urge to see the film all of the way through, and one of the reasons for this was that not only is the story told in a boring way, it is exceptionally predictable. I was able to call the ending from near enough the beginning of the movie, and not just the obvious part of him finding her in the real world.

I really don’t know what more I can say about this film. It’s far from the worst film that I have ever watched, and it’s certainly not anywhere near as bad as a lot of the films that I have reviewed for this site, but that’s the only praise that I can really give it.

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Summary

Poor-acted snorefest that looks great, but has very little else going for it.

The cast is full of people who probably have a history of modelling, but have no acting skill to back up their looks. That sums up the film really. Visually decent but with nothing to back it up. It’s filled with jump-scares and predictable plot points that make it more tedious to watch. Even at a mercifully short eighty-six minutes, “The Curse of Sleeping Beauty” definitely drags.

Just don’t waste your time.

 

I’m a lean, mean, joint-smoking machine!

Released : 2015being_charlie_poster

Director : Rob Reiner

Main Cast : Nick Robinson, Cary Elwes, Devon Bostick, Morgan Saylor, Susan Misner, Common and Ricardo Chavira

Firstly, my apologies about the gap since my last review. I was hoping to post this review last week but I’ve spent most of that time at week and ill.

Another film from my Youtube list of films I want to watch, I am looking forward to what will hopefully be the first decent film starring Nick Robinson that I have seen. He has been in “Jurassic World” and “The Fifth Wave”, neither of which were great. He is one of a growing number of young actors that seem to constantly get roles despite not seemingly having any emotions. Having said that, I’m happy to give anyone a chance and to be fair to Nick, two bad films doesn’t necessarily make him a bad actor, so here we go.

I like stories about redemption, as well as deep and complex characters. Some of my favourite characters in movie history are those that are multi-layered and aren’t simply one-dimensional wonders. There appears to be something relatively unique about this given that the character seemingly doesn’t want to be redeemed, but feels the need to.

I’m not claiming that it is a completely new concept, but at least it’s trying something slightly different, and I applaud them for that. Having said that, the reviews I’ve read have not been good at all, so

Plot

Charlie (Robinson) leaves his rehab centre on his birthday and promises his parents that this time will be different, all before stealing the prescription medicine from the mother of a guy giving him a lift. He does eventually get back home but is sent back to rehab within minutes as his father (Elwes) is scared that he will ruin the Governors election campaign that he strong favourite for. Charlie only agrees due to convincing from his drug-taking accomplice Adam (Bostick).

The extremely disgruntled Charlie quickly makes friends at the new rehab centre, and finds himself developing a romantic relationship with the emotionally unstable Eva (Saylor). The two work their way out of the rehab centre and into half-way houses, although they are actively denied spending time with each other, although they can spend time away from the houses together with the permission of their parents. Charlie’s mother (Misner) gives permission for him to do this and the pair make their way to a beach house for a romantic get away, but can both of them stay away from the drugs, or will old habits return?

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An improvement on the usual Nick Robinson offerings?

Robinson is considerably better in this film than some of his previous efforts and I think that’s because he has found a character that has some depth to him, which is something that can’t be said for most of his other efforts. There is a scene towards the end of the film *spoiler warning* in which the character has reached such a low that he ends up taking drugs again, but even as he’s doing it you can tell that he’s trying to convince himself not to do it, and Robinson captured that very well.

That scene was the moment I realised that I liked the movie as I found myself thinking “don’t do it” and I felt very personally disappointed that the character had decided to undo all of his hard work. The thing is that you understand where he is coming from at that point in the story. I won’t reveal why he gets to that point, but you understand, even if you don’t agree.

Without revealing what it is, the reason you understand is because the film, whilst not pacey in any sense of the word, develops the characters quite well, including the minor characters, and that relationships between them are explored more than most similar films. The relationship between Charlie and Eva is fairly interesting as well and the reason for this is that you can never figure out her motivations or what she is thinking, and whilst the two have a natural connection, they never look like they will ultimately end up together due to her insecurities. In some ways the relationship is similar to Scott and Ramona from “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”, but with the insecurity being in the opposite gender.

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As mentioned above, the film doesn’t have any pacing whatsoever really, it is very much a character driven film and I can imagine that this would turn a lot of people off. For me I’d rather have a film that takes its time to have a developed set of characters, rather than something happening every single minute and yet you don’t care. For example, most of the horror films released these days fall very much into the latter. They will spend the time trying to increase the body count as quickly and violently as possible, but they don’t take the time to get you to care about the characters that are being killed.

Whilst they’re not fully fleshed out characters, you get to know quite a few of those staying at the rehab and half-way centres that Charlie and Eva are at, so you get to see what each is like interacting with others when each other isn’t around. What makes this even better is that the conversations when they’re with other people don’t revolve around the other person, which is another common trend in movies. The problem with a lot of films involving a romantic angle is that when either side of the relationship are away from their partner, that’s all they can talk about, whereas “Being Charlie” doesn’t go down that route, thankfully.

The only issue that I really have with “Being Charlie” is that it is somewhat predictable in terms of the relationship between Charlie and his father. The ending feels a bit unoriginal and whilst the majority of what was before it was fresh, the final ten or so minutes was nothing that I hadn’t already seen.

I do also find it funny that the rapper “Common” appears as one of the main cast, even though his character has maybe five minutes of screen time. It’s not even as if he is a well known name in the acting world, especially not well known enough to be credited as a main cast member.

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Summary

Don’t get in expecting a fast-paced look at the world of drugs in youth culture because you’ll be expected. Infact, if you’reapproved expecting nearly 100 minutes of anything even vaguely similar to other films where the taking of drugs is a plot point then you’ll also be disappointed, but if you are after a film that builds its characters to the point where you become emotionally involved them and their decisions.

I’m not going to lie, I’m being a bit generous by giving this the approved stamp because for the majority I wasn’t really sure whether I liked it or not. I loved that it was developing the characters, but there just wasn’t a lot happening and you are waiting for long periods of time for the story to move along somewhat.

Still, give it a watch and I am giving it my approved stamp because it is ultimately a decent film and one I think that those who read my reviews on a regular basis will enjoy for the most part.

Sometimes I think I am invisible!

Released : 2015backtrack-01

Director : Michael Petroni

Main Cast : Adrian Brody, Robin McLeavy, George Shevtsov, Sam Neill and Chloe Bayliss

The longer term readers of this site will know about the Youtube playlist that I have that contains films that I want to watch and review (if small enough and unknown enough to warrant being on this site), and one of the longest serving videos on that list was the trailer for this mystery/horror movie starring three actors I generally enjoy watching.

One of the three is Robin McLeavy, who was magnetic as the dangerous and mentally disturbed Lola in “The Loved Ones”, one of my favourite horror films that I have reviewed for this site (I’m now in a mood to simply rewatch that instead). If you ever get a chance to watch that movie then I would highly recommend it.

But anyway, yes, this is a film that I have been wanting to watch for a while and as I’m determined to do more reviewing than I did in 2016, I thought I’d start working my way through the aforementioned list properly, and the first one that I was able to locate was this after trying a few at random. Rest assured that all on that list will be watched at some point or another, and potentially reviewed, with maybe the exception of “Zon 261”, which I heavily fear will never actually be made.

But anyway, let’s see if this was worth the wait.

Plot

Peter (Brody) is a psychiatrist who has recently moved to try and move on from his young daughter dying in an accident. There he inherits new patients from friend and mentor Duncan (Neill). One day he gets a visit from a mute girl named Elizabeth (Bayliss) who says nothing before leaving a note that simply reads “12887”, however, when researching Elizabeth, he realises that was the dates of her death, 12/8/87, and more worrying, all of the new patients that Duncan gave him also died around that date.

He approaches Duncan about it, but it turns out that his friend has also been dead for some time and also died on the same date as the others. Peter decides to revisit his old town to try and recover mentally. Peter runs into his old friend, but they soon argue bitterly about it and Peter becomes even more riddled with guilt as he realises that all of his patients were passengers on board a train that the two accidentally derailed when they were teenagers.

Feeling guilty, Peter goes to the police station to report the incident to officer Barbara Henning (McLeavy), daughter of one of the victims of the train accident. Peter is soon visited by the ghost of Duncan again, but it turns out there is more to the death of his daughter, and the train accident, than meets the eye.

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Worth the wait?

In short, no.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent bits about the film, such as the element of Peter being partly responsible for the deaths of all of those people who he was given as patients by Duncan, adding a great level of depth to the character, but the problem is that the film is largely boring.

I don’t like using that word when describing films of any variety, but it goes to just over half an hour into the film and it dragged so badly that I just wanted it to be over because it was just tedious. The film is presented in such a lifeless, unimaginative way that it is really hard to get invested in the movie, characters or indeed the intended emotional depth that they try to bring to the film.

“Backtrack” starts off interestingly enough, and it’s slick and stylish in it’s presentation, but realistically it gives you the twist of the train journey, and then another twist, and another, and another, so much so that it made writing the plot summary above quite tricky.

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Then again, the film is so concerned with fitting in as many twists and false-revelations that it be hard to shoe-horn that in. Whilst it wasn’t hard to follow, “Backtrack” definitely became tedious the more it went on as it kept changing things. For example, in the space of seemingly a few days, Peter goes from meeting the character to Elizabeth to practically handing himself in to the police for something he hasn’t been able to admit since his teens. If you’re going to evolve your story, at least make it feel natural and not forced beyond the point of having no sense of realism.

By the time you get to the final twist of the film, the point of having a twist has lost all realistic meaning and when it is revealed what really happened on the night of the train wreck, you no longer care because it is just yet another twist. The best twists, and by that I mean the ironic ones, are ones you don’t feel are coming, such as the ones in films such as “Fight Club” and “The Sixth Sense”, but one of the other reasons they’re so effective is because they don’t have a twist every fifteen minutes or so.

But anyway, back to the characters and the rest of the story. Every emotion feels false and unnatural, other than those revolving around Barbara when she realises that Peter caused the accident that resulted in her mother’s death. McLeavy is unsurprisingly charming, although she isn’t given the chance to show her full range of an actress with a largely uninteresting script.

The thing is that no-one is actually putting in a bad performance. I can’t look at a single performance and say that they were bad, but ultimately there is only so much that good actors can do with a film that tries to be more than it is. I believe a quote from Christopher Lee sums it up quite well, “Everyone is in bad films, the key is not to be bad in them”.

“Backtrack” is a film that I never intend on watching again, and I can’t think of a single reason to recommend it to you.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re going to watch this because you’re a Sam Neill fan, don’t bother. His screen time is five minutes, at most.

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Summary

“Backtrack” certainly tries its hardest to be a unique psychological horror film, but it fails to get the basis premise of a horror film right, in other words, make it interesting. There is a great level of emotional depth in the near ninety minute run time, but this is countered by a largely dull and lifeless script.

No-one is actually bad in this film, it’s just a bad film. There are too many twists and false “true” versions of what happened that by the time you actually get to what has happened, you don’t really care, and no film should ever make you not care.

Australian cinema has much better films to offer, so if you’re going to watch one then please watch something else.

When we start something, we finish it!

Director : André Øvredalautopsyofjanedoe

Starring : Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch and Olwen Kelly

So after taking a few days to rest after writing more than 35,000 words for my end of year review, I decided to jump at the chance to watch “The Autopsy of Jane Joe”, a film that I saw the trailer of some time ago.

This film is one that is actually seemingly known on an ok basis in America as it has a decent amount of votes for a relatively new film, but over in my native UK I couldn’t find anyone that had even seen a trailer, so when I got the unexpected chance to watch and review it, I thought why not.

Readers of this site will know that I’m not really big on horror films, they’re overly predictable and easily replicated. There are very rarely any horror films that I find entertaining, and there was only one release at the cinema in 2016 that I found interesting and that was “The Witch”, which finished at number eleven in my top one hundred.

What looks interesting about “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is that I can’t recall seeing another film like it, so there is an least a seeming originality about it, and I that proves to be correct.

Plot : Austin (Hirsch) and Tommy (Cox) are a father/son team of morticians that are given an unusual case one night. The body of an unknown woman (Kelly) is wheeled into their autopsy room after being found buried by several layers of soil. There are no outwardly obvious signs of anything that would kill her, although her wrists and ankles are both fractured. What makes it even more obvious is that despite being dead for seemingly some time, rigor mortis has not set in, and bloody rushes to the surface when they cut into her to start the autopsy.

Despite being perfectly normal on the outside, the body is beaten, bruised and heavily scarred on the inside, with lungs that are more burnt that someone who smoked consistently for thirty years, and a rag contained within her intestines that is perfectly in tact, that despite the fact it should have been easily dissolved by the stomach acid.

Pretty soon unusual events start occuring, such as doors opening by themselves, people being seen in panoramic mirrors that simply aren’t there, and more worrying, electricity failing around the building, trapping the pair inside.

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So, is it original and a surprisingly good horror movie?

There is definitely something different about “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”, and whilst there is a reliance on jump scares that seems overwhelmingly familiar, there is the uncommon element of suspense that you don’t get often in the genre. I found myself intrigued by what was on show throughout the film and it is very far from boring. You’re there with the characters throughout, learning as they learn. The film feeds you bit of information in pieces, meaning that you never have the full picture as an audience member until the end. This is different from a lot of horror films that give you too much information early on.

I think that is one of the problems with a lot of horror films these days, they’re too keen to get the information to you that there is no real way to actually feel like the next surprise could be just around the corner. For example, there were quite a few horror films in the 80-71 section of my look at 2016 and not a single one of them tried to build as it went along, with only the first and third act really proving even remotely (and I do use that word very generously) interesting and good for development, whereas “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” concentrates on building the two central characters in the first act, and having the second and third acts to build momentum and establish the information.

It would be hard to think that a film set largely in one room and only has two characters (well, characters that are alive at least) that feature prominently could be as intriguing as I’m making it sound, but it is like an 86 minute puzzle, and each piece makes you more curious, so much to the point where it isn’t until the very end that it all fits together. Whilst the ending is a little out there, it certainly isn’t predictable and I never saw it coming, nor the origins of the body. It was very refreshing to be surprised by the ending to a horror film.

Cox and Hirsch make an interesting double team and whilst I don’t believe for a second that they make a convincing father-son combination on screen, they do at least have a decent enough chemistry, which is again something that can be rarely said about some other films from the genre.

My only real issue with “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is the aforementioned jump scares, which are most definitely used to no real benefit to the story. They have made it tense in places with other scenes, such as when you can hear the bell tagged to a corpse slowly ringing closer and closer, but they then counter that with unnecessary jump scares.

Oh well, can’t have everything.

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Summary

It’s nice to start 2017 by giving my “approved” tag to a horror film, which is somethingapproved that I don’t do often.

Whilst “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is far from perfect, the aspects that make it like a puzzle that needs to put together sets it apart from most other horror films that I have seen recently. You learn as the characters learn, and you certainly aren’t force-fed information like a lot of horror films.

This is certainly one of the better efforts in the genre in recent years.