Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

The camera sees what it sees!

Year Released : 2015camino-poster
Director : Josh Waller
Cast : Zoe Bell, Nacho Vigalondo, Francisco Barriero and Tenoch Huerta

I mentioned in my recent review for “Approaching the Unknown” that my preferred type of films are ones that offer completely original ideas, in other words something that whilst it may borrow elements from other films, the story is largely completely original, and so I decided to take a film that has been on my “Films I Want to Watch” list for a while now and review it.

“Camino” looks like nothing that I have seen before, and I can’t say that I’m overly familiar with anyone involved in the movie, even though Zoe Bell was in the Quentin Tarantino flick “The Hateful Eight”, and therefore I go into this with a relatively open mind.

I think that is something that plagues a lot of smaller films that star people that you’ve heard of before, especially if you’ve seen a lot of their films, you just have expectations. My only exposure to anyone in the cast before has come in a minor part in a very, very long film, so my canvas of expectation is fairly blank for a change.

Plot

Famed war-photographer Avery (Bell) has gained success throughout her career due to taking pictures of the true nature of war. She doesn’t have an agenda and doesn’t take sides, therefore allowing her to get the best pictures and ones that represent war as it truly is. In 1985 she is asked to document a man called Guillermo (Vigalondo), a supposed warlord in Columbia.

At first she finds no issues with Guillermo and finds him and his group to be very likeable, but in the dusk of a morning she goes for a walk and notices him with huge piles of drugs and killing a child. Guillermo is only alerted to her presence when her camera starts rewinding the film. She runs off fearing the worst, and Guillermo convinces the rest of his group (that weren’t present) that Avery had killed the child.

How long can Avery survive, especially when the dangerous Alejo (Huerto) finds her?

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Original?

I will definitely give it to those behind “Camino” in saying that it’s definitely original. I can’t think of another film that is like this, so for that I give the filmmakers kudos, however, just because it’s relatively original it doesn’t mean that it’s that interesting.

Whilst the concept for “Camino” certainly grabbed my attention, I certainly couldn’t say the same about the execution as I regularly found myself able to drift in and out of the story, checking my phone, grabbing a drink, etc, all without even pausing the film. That’s never a good sign and the reason I was able to do that is because minutes pass by without anything happening, and then minutes turn into tens of minutes and for lack of better words, I just became very disinterested as the film went along.

That being said, when something does happen it is often brutal, engaging and interesting. For example, when Alejo and Avery have their fight, it’s unforgiving, bone crunching and brutal. The sound effects add to what is an already intense scene. There are maybe four or five moments throughout the run time that are actually worth watching, but the problem is that it feels like one big lost opportunity as whilst those scenes are brilliantly done, there parts in between just don’t really excite on any level.

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The reason that I saw it as a missed opportunity is that they have caught onto a very interesting psychological aspect and that is that everyone has two different personalities, the one the you wants others to see, and the one that you are when no-one is watching, and the scene in which Avery discovers what Guillermo is really like is very symbolic of that. It’s the first film that I can think of that uses that psychological process, but by doing so it means that the plot makes very little sense.

Guillermo’s troubles start when Avery catches him killing a child, but why would he do that when he knows that she is around and has already said that she would take pictures of anything and everything, and wouldn’t try and hide what was happening? It’s a bit strange that he gets so angry that he is caught doing it, even though he must have realised that it was a possibility.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad at all, the soundtrack for the film is fantastic and the acting is competent from everyone concerned. I just wish that they had come up with something that actually keeps you interested, or at least not tempted to look away from the screen on a regular basis.

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Summary

“Camino” is a bit of a missed opportunity from a psychological perspective. It’s not an awful film by any stretch but it definitely doesn’t reach a level where you want to keep watching.

The acting is fine and the soundtrack is great, but there is just something about the film that made me not really feel that engaged.

It could have been worse, but it definitely could have been better.

And it’s a really hard life, because you have no… you have no life. You have no friends

Year Released : 2015Victoria_(2015_film)_POSTER
Director : Sebastian Schipper
Cast :Laia Costa , Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Max Mauff, Burak Yigit and Andre Hennicke

So two weeks ago I left my full time job and I attended a job interview in Sheffield. The interview finished early because it turns out that the company lied in the job advert and over the phone, and I was no longer interested in the role, but I had a few hours to kill before heading back to Leeds so I looked on my phone and there was the usual mix of big blockbuster films and smaller, albeit relatively well known film…..but the Curzon Cinema was showing a film called “Victoria”.

It had incredible reviews on the Flixster app, and what appealed to me a lot was the relatively unique aspect of it apparently being shot in a single take, and not in a “Birdman” way in which it looks like it’s all one take when it isn’t. I can’t think of a single film, especially not one that’s over 2 hours, that is all done in one take and even just with that it’s an exceptional achievement by all concerned.

…..but is it actually any good?

 

Plot

Victoria (Costa) is enjoying a night out when she decides to go home. On her way out a group of friends approach her and be friendly, she joins them on a walk around the city. The group bonds before Victoria says that she has to leave to go to go home before work in the morning, she is joined in the walk by Sonne (Lau), but she soon realises that if she did go home then it’d be near enough time to go to work straight away, so she takes him to the cafe. The two bond before one of the other members of the group, Boxer (Rogowski), suddenly turns up and demands that Sonne go with him. The two leave with the rest of the group, leaving Victoria alone.

They soon return and Boxer demands that Victoria join the group for a task that she doesn’t know about. They all travel to a meeting with a former protector of Boxer from prison, Andi (Hennicke). He demands that they steal a large sum of money, and they threaten to take Victoria hostage if they refuse. The group are forced to take drugs to increase their awareness.

The group feels compelled to fulfill the demands an set out to rob the bank. Just how crazy can this night get?

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So, decent?

“Victoria” is one of the more interesting films that I’ve seen because of the one shot gimmick, although I discovered in my research into the film that it took 3 attempts to do it (I believe it was on IMDB), so technically the pride in the “one take” aspect isn’t necessarily true. I was closely looking throughout the film to notice jumps, or parts in which it is questionable whether it is all one shot, and I couldn’t find a single moment where it wasn’t. It is seamless as far as I can tell and because of this, I have the ultimate respect for all involved.

The conversations feel very natural due to most of the film being improvised. The actors were given the absolute basic description of the scenes and told to go with it, and this causes a very life-like feel to the conversations as there are a few occasions where no-one seems to know what to say, and characters talk over each other. If they weren’t told to make up their own lines then all concerned, especially Costa and Lau (due to their length of time on screen without a gap) is not only impressive, but brilliant.

I felt a genuine affection for the main characters, and I actually found myself really enjoying Laia Costa’s performance and much like her compatriot, Manuela Velasco from the [REC] franchise, she has that “girl next door” quality to her, and she is instantly likable, even if for some strange reason she decides to go out clubbing until the early hours of the morning when she is due in work at 7am.

Despite it being a relatively slow film in terms of pace, I wasn’t bored. Don’t go into “Victoria” expecting a fast-paced thriller because you’ll only end up disappointed. It does feel a little draggy in parts, but nothing that made me bored at any stage, although I did feel compelled to take a break every now and then.

It seems strange typing this but I don’t really have a lot to stay on “Victoria”. It’s good, without every really feeling like it’s going into a second gear. I will be giving it the approved stamp below but it has had virtually no impact on me. I started writing this review immediately after watching it and it’s now four days later. I’ve felt very little motivation to actually watch the film. Granted, I did spend nearly 22 hours of the weekend working at my cinema, but that’s besides the point.

Even though it is very long, it feels like an easy watch and you don’t have to think too hard about it. Don’t get me wrong, there is an big step between a good film becoming a great film, and this film is somewhere in the ether between the two.

And finally, as a bit of a warning, DO NOT WATCH THE OPENING FEW MINUTES IF YOU ARE EPILEPTIC. I have never suffered epilepsy, but the strobe lighting in the opening minutes gave me a big headache.

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Summary

A very unique idea that was completed relatively well. It’s highly competent and there are few bad words that I can say about it. It does drag a bit, but other than that this is one of my better films I’ve certainly reviewed for the site.

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The technique used to film this, i/e all in one take, is something that I’d be keen to see in a mainstream film, and I do actually mean as in a single take, not just edited to look like it’s all one seamless stretch.

“Victoria” is one of the more genuine films that I’ve ever seen, but there is a very big different between a good film and a great film, and despite giving it the approved stamp and being relatively praising of it, this falls closer to the former of the two.

Now you need a greencard to be abducted?

Year Released : 2015Untitled
Director : Aaron Han and Mario Miscione
Cast : Allegra Masters, Carter Jenkins,  Kaiwi Lyman, Michael McLafferty, Zachary Rukavina, Matt Corboy, Julie Benz, Jordi Vilasuso, Lawrence Kao and Rene Heger

If there’s one thing that Hollywood is missing these days it is original ideas. Very few films come out that are truly original. At the time of writing I have seen 40 films at the cinema in 2015, comfortably a personal best for me, and yet how many of those have been original, as in not reminding me slightly of anything else? None is the answer.

I have struggled in recent weeks to find a film that I want to review, but as soon as I saw the synopsis for Circle, as well as the trailer, I knew it would be the one as it looked like a remarkably original film. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen films in which people can vote for who will get killed, but nothing quite like this.

Plot

50 strangers wake up in a room having no memory of how they got there. They are in the circular formation with an object in the middle. The people can’t move off of their assigned circle and those that do try to move are killed instantly. After a few minutes the object starts shooting electricity at people randomly, but one of the group realises that they are infact voting for each other with their movements.

The group starts to slowly realise that it’s kill or be killed and various people emerge as potential leaders or moral guides, but are then killed off when people gang up on them for trying to vote based on age, race, gender, sexuality, religious beliefs, morals, etc. The group continues to vote before they begin to realise that ultimately the choice will come down to save a 10 year old girl (Molly Jackson) and a pregnant woman (Masters).

As time goes on and more of the surviving members are killed, the group starts to focus less on a individual issues, but instead on the one major issue of knowing that unless they kill one of either of the aforementioned, they will all die in vain as ultimately one of the two will have to die anyway. This starts mass arguments and voting swings as people on both sides of the argument seemingly get the upper hand.

Who will end up as the sole survivor?

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As original as I’d hoped?

I will start by saying this, with these types of film it is so easy to get wrong. If you don’t get your characters just right, or make the audience care about your characters, then you are never going to create a good film and ultimately it will just be 90 or so minutes of the viewer’s life that you’ve wasted. You need to make the situations genuine, suspenseful, engaging and arguably the most important, entertaining. It also helps if it is original.

Unfortunately not a lot of films manage any of that, but all of that being said, Circle is one of the best thrillers that I have ever seen.

Circle is exceptionally original and whilst it has a similar sort of look to Cube, it’s entirely it’s own film and I loved it. For 90 minutes I was just wanting more…and more….and more, and the end result left me so happy that I couldn’t wait to come on and review this for you all.

The characters are perfect. You’ve got a group filled with 50 very unique individuals, and whilst a lot of them have similar morals and beliefs, they all have differing opinions on a lot of subjects and none of the characters share a particular set of traits. This is important as the film goes on as alliances are formed, only for the same characters to then set about trying to kill each other later on in the film, and vice versa. The issues of morality are addressed perfectly in this film and I’ve never seen a film deal with so many themes in my life.

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What starts off as a seemingly generic thriller film, turns into something of a Darwinian experience as it’s the survival of the fittest, even though no-one really has control over their own fate, as evidenced later on in the film. Themes and arguments about race, age, homophobia, the class system, religion and so many other similar issues are address during the course of the film and whilst some of the deaths become predictable as a cop responds to a black man’s complaints about racial discrimination with a vile tirade about how America should only be for Americans, therefore being chosen to die next, it just shows how easily your opinion can sway.

I personally loved that at no point during the film does a single character feel genuinely safe. There are probably six or seven different characters who try and take control at one point or another, but you’re never sure how long they’re going to last and this makes it interesting. In the trailers it makes you believe that the guy at the beginning will be the lead male, and the woman is the lead female, whereas in reality both die within minutes.

There is one character who tries to encourage everyone to kill off the eldest members of the group to buy those who “aren’t close to death” (his words) more time to try and live. At first his plan works before the others turn against him for being immoral, and it just shows that things can change so quickly. Whilst I sort of knew the pregnant woman and the girl (who is pretty much the only poor character as she offers pretty much nothing to the entire film and only has two lines, spending the rest of it sobbing) would survive near enough to the final few, I couldn’t have predicted some of the others that make it to the final ten.

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That was the brilliance about this. You’re never entirely sure. Characters can seem important before being killed off suddenly, whereas several characters almost blend into the background until there are so few left that you’re like “who the hell is that?”. But for me the biggest factor in terms of the characters and how they were written is that there isn’t a clear, definable main character at all in the entire run time. This means that you become passionate about each character and you find yourself becoming emotionally invested in them.

Away from the characters, plot and theme, Circle is pretty basic visually, with just a single set used for all but the final two or so minutes of the 86 minute run time, but you don’t need anything more than the basic set for the story, and it’s simplicity in that sense is appropriate.

There isn’t a soundtrack of any variety and the simple reason for this is that one isn’t needed, the dialogue keeps the film going without any need for any music to try and make time pass, afterall, why would you need it in a film that seems to run in real time?

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Summary

One of the easier approved stamps that I have ever given and the main reason is because the film, despite having since a relatively simple premise, covers so many aspects of life that you can’t help but become engrossed in the psychology of everything. approved

The film offers a brilliant and insightful look into how people think and constantly surprises you. Characters that you think are going to be a major part of the story are then killed off seconds later, and this means that the lack of a central character actually works in this sense.

I would definitely recommend Circle. It’s one of the best low-budget thrillers that I have ever seen.

Year Released : 2015Untitled
Director : Matt Osterman
Cast : Brandon Routh, Dane Cook, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman and Tom Cavanagh

Following a two week break after a 31 reviews in as many days for October, I am now back and raring to go…..well I say raring, what I actually mean is that I didn’t intend this to be a two week break and now feel obligated to review a film.

So based on that I have gone with a film that I found during my month long reviews, a science-fiction thriller called “400 Days”. Looking at the cast I am relatively excited as Brandon Routh was one of the best parts about the excellent “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”, Ben Feldman is a highly enjoyable actor in smaller movies, and I’ve personally never had a problem with Dane Cook, seemingly one of the few who will openly admit that on the internet.

400 Days also reminds me a lot of Sam Rockwell’s “Moon” from the trailer, and if it’s anything as good as that then I will surely enjoy it. Then again, even if it’s bad it won’t be as bad as half of the crap I watched during October.

Plot

With plans to make missions to Mars a regular thing and interstellar travel affordable to the average folk, four wannabe astronauts agree to a social experiment to see the affects of 400 days of isolation, completion of which would put them on the next mission. It has been Cole Dvorak’s (Cook) dream since he was a child, whereas Bug Kieslowski (Feldman) is just as excited, however, Theo Cooper (Routh) and Emily McTier (Lotz) aren’t thrilled about spending the next 400 days together after a recent break up.

The experiment starts and all goes fine for the first few hundred days, but then various members of the group start suffering hallucinations, when suddenly they all report seeing a man that has seemingly broken into the complex. The man running the experiment no longer responds to communication requests and the group argue about what to do. Theo believes that they should leave the experiment to investigate what is happening, even though there are less than two weeks to go, Dvorak strongly objects as he knows that doing so will end any hopes that any of them had of ever going into space, but he eventually yields.

After struggling to get out, the group eventually emerges into a pitch black environment with seemingly no buildings or plant life, and a strange dust covering the ground. After walking around for several hours they eventually find a small town with a few people there, including Zell (Cavanagh), a man who won’t give a straight answer to any questions, and the group starts debating whether something genuinely happened whilst they were underground, or whether it is simply part of the experiment.

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Anything like Moon?

In some ways it is very similar to “Moon”, it’s got relatively similar plot points in terms of a character going crazy, but the problem with 400 Days isn’t that it’s like another film in some aspects, it’s that it’s trying to be too many things at once and by doing so ends up being so convoluted that I’m not even entirely sure what genre to put it in.

Throughout a runtime of 90 minutes, 400 Days regularly changes the type of film it’s trying to be, starting off as a sci-fi movie, then turning into a thriller, then a horror and finally a post-apocalytic style movie, but the problem is that none of them are done particularly well and once the group leaves the pod for the first time, something is lost and the film becomes far, far, far less interesting.

So based on this I’m going to do something that I have never done before, and that’s a section that I like to call (and is shamelessly stolen from a popular Youtube channel)…..

How it should have ended!

Please note that I will go back to the main review after this section, and all of the below is simply how I would have written the ending to make the film not only better (in my opinion), but also stick to the theme of paranoia that the film wanted you to believe from the trailer.

So to do this I really should start with how the film actually ends. (spoiler alert). At around the half way point all of the characters escape the hatch after a man breaks in, they don’t recognise the area that they emerge from and walk for hours before finding a small town. In the town are a small group of very strange people, led by Zell (Cavanagh). The group notes that the town wasn’t there before they went in the pod and it appears that some cataclysmic event has taken place, but no-one will give them a straight answer. the film ends with Dvorak and Bug disappearing in the small town that the group discovers, with Theo and Emily the only confirmed survivors and the clock for the 400 days finally ends and an automated message played over the tannoy to congratulate them, and they look up to the previously sealed hatch and hear it opening. The film ends there.

For me personally I wouldn’t have had them leave the structure at all. I’d have had them growing increasingly restless as they approach the 400 day mark. The group survives several paranoia-driven attacks on each other before finally making it to the end and they’re all sat there as the countdown reaches 0…..and then nothing. Hours and then days pass as nothing happens, they try to force open the hatch but it won’t open.

Dvorak, who was already in a questionable mental state at this point, starts growing crazier and crazier before, a month after they were supposed to be released, he finally snaps and attempts to kill the other three members of the crew. He succeeds in killing Theo and Emily, coming down to just him and Bug. Bug runs and hides and the remainder of the film is spent like a cat-and-mouse hunt as Dvorak searches for him. Ben eventually gets the better of Dvorak and just seconds after he delivers the fatal blow, the hatch door opens. The recruiter descends into the hatch and reveals that the extra time in there was a symbol that even the best laid plans can sometimes go wrong, and they wished to see how the group would react, and whilst everyone else being dead wasn’t ideal, it shows that Bug had what was needed to survive in extreme situations. The film ends with him going into space on a real mission.

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Back to the review….

So yeah, that’s how I would have had the film go, but the problem, as I mentioned much earlier in the review, is that the film regularly changes pace and genre, almost to the point where it no longer has any genre. It’s not particularly scary so can’t be a horror film, it’s no longer particularly science fiction, it’s not a thriller as nothing’s really happening that justifies calling it that, and the only genre I can even slightly put it into by the end would be mystery….but the problem with that is there isn’t even that much mystery. I’m only putting it in the “science fiction” category for this site as it is the closest match that I can get to from the entire film.

The characters are enjoyable watch, especially Cook’s Dvorak, easily the most developed character in the film. Dvorak’s ambition and drive to be a real astronaut clouds his judgement over what should be done. Cook’s performance is a far cry from anything that he has done in the past, so those that are expecting him to be the comic relief in a tense film, think otherwise.

Routh does a decent job, as does Feldman, but Lotz doesn’t really do anything for me on any level. She is just bland, never truly looks concerned and you don’t really care about her as a character, and that’s never a good thing. I didn’t become emotionally invested with her and Routh’s characters getting over a breakup as the two don’t really share a chemistry and only level.

There isn’t really that much of a soundtrack, it’s seemingly more just a collection of noises just randomly put together, and that’s probably one of the reasons that there seems to never really be an true tension, and that doesn’t help with the struggles of find it’s genre.

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Summary

For the first 45 or so minutes I felt really engaged with 400 Days, but then it all starts taking a downward turn and becomes overly complicated, almost to the point where you’re no longer interested in what’s going on.

This is also another case of a trailer not giving you the full idea of what a film is truly like, something that is becoming an increasing trend in movies these days.

Whilst not an awful film, 400 Days never really falls into being anything more than average.

Do you believe in fate?

Year Released : 2015suicide_theory
Director : Dru Brown
Cast : Steve Mouzakis and Leon Cain

Nothing pleases me more than when I see a film based on a relatively new idea. Hollywood has too many reboots, remakes and sequels these days and you have to filter through to find truly original stories.

For example, I have recent started working at my local cinema (hence the less than frequent reviews recently) and today, whilst I’m waiting for my new full time job to start, I decided to watch some films. I watched The Water Diviner and Still Alice. Whilst both had decent enough plots, and I especially liked The Water Diviner, I wouldn’t call either film unique and neither had truly original stories.

The Water Diviner, for example, is similar in terms of basic plot to Saving Private Ryan. Both revolve around the search for sons, with the majority being killed and them trying desperately to find the final one. Although there is more to them than that, they share a similar premise.

Now, I write this before I watch Suicide Theory, but from what I have seen this is a fairly unique film and plot. I am quite looking forward to this and whilst I don’t doubt that it will probably end up being terrible, it’s a while since I’ve gone into reviewing a film and been excited about what is about to come.

Plot

Steven (Mouzakis) is a professional assassin and he receives a phone call one day from a man that wants to die. With his curiousity peaked, Steven meets Percival (Cain), a man who claims that he can’t die. Percival’s body, especially his face, is covered in scars and burns from alleged previous attempts at suicide.  Steven refuses to believe that Percival can’t die and gladly takes the job and shoots him three times within seconds of taking the money.

Whilst on his way to his next job, Steven is shocked to see that Percival not only survived the bullets, but has now decided to jump off of a building and onto his cab. Steven is even more surprised when he sees Percival walking about normally the next day. Even further intrigued, Steven starts becoming more and more frustrated as Percival survives every single attempted assassination. Percival simply won’t die.

The two soon develop a bond as they combat their demons. When Percival is visually beaten by a homophobic bartender and his friends, Steven enacts revenge on his behalf by torturing and killing the attackers. As the two develop a friendship, will an unexpected development re-encourage Steven to fulfill the contract?

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So was it original?

Yes, actually. As far as I am aware there are no other films that I have seen that are like this. I was sat watching the film for it’s 96 minute run time and I couldn’t think of anything like it. It is truly unique.

In what other film would you see an assassin that is afraid to cross the road , or more importantly, being fully intent on fulfilling his contract, all whilst developing a personal relationship with the target? The two end up going to play arcade games together, etc. I’ll go more into the relationship later but first I want to talk about my least favourite part of the film and something that always bugs me.

Now, whilst that shit might fly in the film’s native Australia, I like my films to be factually correct (obviously I’ll give it a bit of artistic licence in science fiction films, but otherwise no film gets a pass with that), so much to the point where stupid errors aren’t made because of the writers and directors not caring enough to research what they are writing.

In the first scene that he is in, Percival mentions that he tried killing himself by jumping off of the Humber Bridge in London. Now, my only issue with that is that the Humber Bridge isn’t in London, or even close. In terms of the layout of England, it’s nowhere near London. The reason I know this is because I live in Lincoln, which is around 40 miles south of the Humber Bridge….and London is a further 120 or so miles south.

I know some will look at this error as being a simple character error and leave it at that, but it’s just not an excusable mistake and there is no way that the character could make that mistake. If you’re on the Humber Bridge you’ll know you’re not in London, and if you’re in London, you’ll have a hard time finding the Humber Bridge.

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But other than that complete fuck up, I genuinely enjoyed Suicide Theory. It is a brilliantly written film that isn’t driven my special effects, cliches or your typical Hollywoodisms. It’s driven by characters. Too many films these days forget the most important element of the film and that is the characters. If you don’t have good characters then why should I care about the story?

The character of Steven is introduced in the best possible fashion. The scene that he is introduced in perfect because although it’s short, it tells you everything that you need to know about the character. He is a man who can build great personal relationships, but is also a man of principles and will teach a lesson to those who are rude, obnoxious and any other similarly negative character trait.

Steven tries desperately to help Percival realise his dream of dying and does what he can to try and help, but it develops into more than a simple job. It turns almost into a friend helping out another. The two develop a genuine friendship and as the story progresses, Steven becomes a really engaging character and his growth throughout the runtime is very well done.

Percival isn’t quite as engaging as Steven, but is still highly entertaining and multi-dimensional. His desperation at losing his partner and to end his despair really bring you into his life and story. Because of Cain’s portrayal, you truly end up feeling for the character and that’s what you want when you’re watching someone in a film. You want to feel everything that they are feeling.

The story links the two together so well and the twist at the end is worth the wait. It’s a twist that you don’t see coming and leaves you wanting more….and you get that with yet another twist at the very end. The dynamic completely changes and the music helps tremendously when they next see each other. The soundtrack throughout is fantastic, but during the twists at the end, the soundtrack augments it so well.

And finally, onto the bit that I love that most about the film, both of the main characters reach a natural ending to the story. Neither of the endings for the characters feel forced or completely irrelevant to the rest of the story. Both work.

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Summary

If you can ignore the basic error in geography then this film is definitely worth your time. I don’t often approvedgive my stamp of approval but I have to give it here. Infact, I approve it to such a level that I’m now introducing a literal stamp of approval. I don’t really do a ranking system in terms of scores, grades, or anything else, but on the rare occasions that I deem it necessary, I will give a film the official seal of approval.

Suicide Theory works so well because it’s such a simple premise and it doesn’t deviate from that. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is and because of that it can focus of story and character development.

Whilst there are minor flaws here and there, they are countered many times over by the positives.

There’s a storm on the way!

Year Released : 2015tt3029476
Director : Ron Scalpello
Cast : Danny Huston, Matthew Goode, Joe Cole and Alan McKenna

One of the biggest surprises that I saw in the cinema last year was Black Sea, a film about an underwater salvage crew staring Jude Law. I loved it for numerous reasons and arguably was the claustrophobic nature and the feeling that anyone could die at any moment and that it would be believable, something which is very rare in films.

I enjoyed Black Sea so much that it made my Top 10 films of 2014 and when I found out that there was a similar film by the name of Pressure, I just had to look into it.

It also contained two actors that I have previously been impressed by. Danny Huston is generally enjoyable in anything that he is in, and Matthew Goode had a great presence as Adrian Veidt in Watchmen. I hadn’t heard of Joe Cole or Alan McKenna before this so I can’t really comment on them.

Plot

A maintenance crew arrive at the site of an underwater pipe following instructions from their boss to go and fix it. With a storm approaching the crew are less than keen to go down, but the captain forces four men to go down and mend the problem. The group of four consists of Engel (Huston), Mitchell (Goode), Jones (Cole) and Hurst (McKenna), with the latter in the middle of an alcoholic binge.

Everything seems fine at first and the pipe is repaired quickly, but in the middle of returning to the surface, the pod containing all four suddenly plunges back to the surface of the ocean. With those of the ship not communicating, the four theorise about what is happening, with Mitchell speculating that the storm arrived and caused them to drop the ship.

Engel, a natural pessimist, goes out to inspect the damage and all appears fine until he comes across several dead bodies. It’s the rest of the crew and he realises that the ship has sank. The four are now trapped under several hundred metres under water with no means of escape and an ever dwindling oxygen supply. They can’t swim to the surface because the oxygen cables aren’t long enough and even if they did reach the surface, the pressure would cause their lungs to explode.

The four soon start developing claustrophobia and adopt different responses to the situation. Hurst becomes delusional and goes out to find the ship for himself, but his health, both physical and mental, is clearly gone and during an argument between Engel and Mitchell, Jones cuts off the oxygen supply to Hurst and he quickly dies.

With just a few hours of air left, the crew receives a transmission from a ship that has picked up their distress signal, but without knowing their exact location due to the crash, it is a race against time before the ship arrives. Will the remaining crew survive long enough to be found?

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As good as Black Sea?

With all due respect to Pressure, it’s not in the same league as Black Sea. Whilst not an awful film, it lacks a lot of what I enjoyed about Black Sea, such as the development of the relationships between the characters, their development as characters and the impressive display of Ben Mendelsohn.

Let’s start with the very first part of the film, even before the characters are introduced, the opening credits. Now, normally I don’t talk about the opening credits at all, I have briefly mentioned it in one other review in passing, but for me I found myself getting pissed off for the first 70 or so seconds as it spends 40 seconds giving you all of the logos of the numerous studios involved, only to then show their names again, one by one, in plain text straight and on a plain background. So before they show anything other than a logo and a blank screen, we have been told about each studio twice.

Isn’t it amazing that studios seem to think we give a crap about who produced them. I don’t watch a film based on the studio, I watch it based on plot, who is in it, etc, and I couldn’t honestly give two shits about the film studios that brought it. I own close on 3,000 DVDs and I’d be hard pushed to tell you who the studio was for more than 1% of them, and even then I’d be hard pushed to get to just that.

Anyway, onto the film itself. Well the film works well in the thriller sense as you’re in a very claustrophobic environment. Once the crew are in the sea and their ship sinks, there is literally nowhere for them to go as they’re several hundred metres under water and the cords that allow them to breathe whilst repairing the pipes only stretch so far. Even if they were closer to the surface, they can’t just swim up to the surface as the pressure would almost certainly kill them, a point which is made very clear at the beginning of the film.

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In an environment where the characters can’t go anywhere, either by choice or forced, it brings along the feeling that they are truly trapped, and the visuals of the characters swimming around in pitch black shows just that. The film does look fantastic and the lighting used is extra-ordinary. They have made it look realistic and that is very important for films like this.

Unfortunately the characters just aren’t that interesting and counteract the look. With such a small cast you really need engaging characters to make the film enjoyable, and yet none of the characters are memorable or well developed. Only one of them changes because of the experiences and that is probably because he is the cause of the death of one of the other three and arguably another. He show signs of going from a cocky know-it-all, to someone full of remorse, but other than that each character ends pretty much as they started.

Danny Huston plays the pessimistic Engel well, but his character is on screen more than the others and doesn’t really change at all throughout the entire run time of the film. I’ve obviously just given it away that his character is in the film until pretty much the end, but again he starts pretty much how he starts.

However, despite the lack of development of the characters, that’s not my main problem with them. You are given no reason to want any of them to survive. I was sat there and not once did I give a crap if any of them lived or died and that’s a terrible thing. Where’s the tension if you aren’t invested in the characters and don’t care about their fates?

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Summary

Whilst not an awful film and it sets it self up for being tense with the claustrophobic feeling, it then ruins it with a set of characters that underdeveloped and largely unlikable. Any film is doomed when you don’t really care about the characters and their fate.

The film is visually fantastic and that is the biggest praise I can give it, but there are far, far better films set in underwater environments that might not look as good, but work much better because of the time invested in the characters.

I can only really recommend this film if you are on a marathon is films set underwater.

Year Released : 2015Area_51_Film_Poster
Director : Oren Peli
Cast : Reid Warner, Darrin Bragg, Ben Rovner and Jelena Nik

Much like zombie films, I found myself reviewing far too many found footage films recently and this will be the last one I review for a whilst as I often find myself saying similar things, and unfortunately it’s going to be the case with Area 51.

Now, I was actually quite intrigued by the premise of someone trying to break into Area 51. I personally do believe in life elsewhere in the universe as I find it exceptionally unlikely that Earth is the only planet that has life, even if it’s only bacteria elsewhere. It’s through this belief that I am quite a big fan of the science fiction genre, but the reason I bring this up is because Area 51 is alleged to be heavily involved in working on alien life, such as the Roswell incident, so I found it interesting to see how someone would portray this in film.

However, despite being intrigued and somewhat excited by the film, it was disappointingly predictable and you know what’s going to happen long before it actually happens. This ruins it for me.

For a change I am writing this introduction after I have actually watched the film, 24 hours afterwards to be precise (and I’m writing this on Monday evening), as I wanted to spend some time thinking it over and trying to think of any positives I could give to the film. As you can probably tell already, the positives are few and far between and I feel that the average rating of 4.1/10 on IMDB at the time of writing is too high. Infact, I’d struggle to give it anything more than a 3.

Plot

After disappearing at a party, Reid (Warner – yes, they did all use their real names for their character names) is found by his friend Darrin (Bragg) and Ben (Rovner), but he has completely changed. He has become obsessed by UFOs and aliens and comes up with a plan to break into Area 51 to find proof that aliens exist. He talks Darrin and Ben into taking a trip to Nevada with him and there they meet up with Jelena (yep, you’ve guessed it, Nik), someone who has inside knowledge.

The group proceeds to then follow a suspected employee of Area 51 to his home, eventually breaking in, stealing his ID and a bottle of cologne, gaining his finger print in the process. Ben suddenly grows exceptionally nervous as he wasn’t expecting Reid to take things as far as he was, as well as breaking the law in numerous ways. Despite this, Reid and Darrin convince him to drive them to the border of where Area 51 supposedly is.

When they arrive, Reid, Darrin and Jelena start their journey to break into the complex, avoiding helicopters, land mines and random patrols on their way in. They do eventually make it into the complex and find their proof of alien life, but whereas getting in was difficult enough, getting out would be nigh on impossible, especially after they accidentally release something.

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So, a good addition to the found footage genre or another entry that shows the genre should die.

As I mentioned in other reviews, when they’re done right, found footage style films can be excellent. [REC], Cloverfield, VHS and As Above, So Below, are examples of the genre being done right, but Area 51 falls someway short of being included in the good category.

It suffers with the same old problems of the genre, in other words, it’s predictable and defies the logic of something running for their life but still filming and turning around, focusing the camera on what’s chasing them and then running again. This wouldn’t happen in real life. If I was getting chased by something that is probably going to kill me if it catches me, I am not going to stop and film what’s chasing me. It just doesn’t happen.

It’s certainly not the only problem with this film and there are two main ones that I think take a larger spotlight.

The first main problem with Area 51 is that right at the beginning of the film, it effectively tells you what is going to happen. If you’ve watched the excellent “District 9” then you will remember that at the beginning of the film a documentary takes place where characters recall what Wikus was like and then how they all reacted to what happened to him, so at point you knew what was going to happen but you were never entirely sure. Area 51 tries to do a very similar thing in which it has an interview set up at first with various people and they all tell you that the three characters just disappeared.

This sets out as the film effectively spoiling itself in the first few minutes as you knew that the characters had no chance, and even when one of them escapes late on, you know that something is going to happen as the film has already told you that that character never returned and completely disappeared. The last thing I want in a film is for it to tell me what happens in the end.

When it’s done with subtlety it’s not too bad if the film spoils itself. For example, I watched Unfriended at the cinema recently and I quite liked it, and what you don’t realise until you read about the film afterwards is that within the first five seconds of being on the screen, each character that eventually dies actually shows you how they end up dying, and that’s pretty cool and how it should be done. It shouldn’t be made blatantly obvious and it wasn’t until afterwards that I realised. That was subtle, Area 51’s was not as you knew all of the way through the film that the characters weren’t getting out.

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The second issue that I have with the film is that it is actually built quite well. It’s a slow build that is paced quite well….but then it keeps building…..and building…..and building….and when they do finally get into the facility, the majority of the film is already gone. They go from a reasonable build to not leaving themselves a lot of time to actually get what happens in the facility to an exciting level.

This leads to a less than exciting ending which is done at such a rushed pace that you are left asking what is actually going on, and no film should do that.

Another trend that I’ve noticed with similar films is that to add a sense of realism to the film, the writers are giving the characters the same first name as the actor or actress playing them. There is another film coming out later in the year called The Gallows (which has one of the most basic trailers I’ve ever seen in my life) and all of the characters share their first name with the actor or actress.

Whilst I am sure that this is done with a genuine attempt to connect to the characters, I find it a bit pathetic that you’re having to do that to try and get a connection. Connections with characters shouldn’t be with things like this, they should be natural and organic. Trying to shove something down my throat is not the way to get me connected to the characters and in this sense it fails miserably. It certainly doesn’t help when none of the characters, other than Ben (and even then that’s at a push) develop or change throughout the film. They all pretty much finish how they started out and don’t seem to learn anything.

The ONLY positive that I can give the film is that it at least has the decency to try and do something different from most other found footage style films. By that I mean that it’s a found footage film that isn’t in the horror genre. There are very few horror elements to it and that makes a refreshing change from the usual genre that you find this style film in. But other than that, I can’t think of anything noteworthily (if that’s even a word) good about the film.

For me it is one that focuses too much on style and not substance, but even the style isn’t particularly well done, and what worries me even more is that I highly doubt that Area 51 is left so relatively unprotected at night. The characters get to the door so incredibly easily that it makes you question the realism of a film. I’ve never been to Area 51 and I have no intention of going, not that I’d be allowed anything, but I can’t imagine for a second that the only security measures that they have are a few people sat in jeeps and a helicopter. There’s no fencing of any variety, no guard towers, nothing. I appreciate that they’d want to keep a certain level of security, but to suggest that they have very little security is quite frankly laughable.

Even when they get into the facility, there is minimal security around. There are only a few employees here and there, there is seemingly no camera system and the characters are able to wander freely around the complex, rarely coming up against anything that would stop them progression. Even when they eventually find what they’re looking for, there’s nothing to stop them getting in that room, not even enhanced security procedures, and again, I highly doubt that Area 51 would be so insecure.

Again, I am making that assumption and I could be completely wrong. For all I know there could be precisely fuck all security at Area 51, but the only way to find out would be to risk spending the rest of my life in a prison cell somewhere. As much fun as I’m sure that would be, I think I’ll pass.

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Summary

Whilst it tries a slightly different approach in the found footage genre by making something that isn’t a horror film, it ultimately fails to make you enjoy the film. It has a decent enough build, but the build goes on for far, far too long and by the end it tries to fit too much into a short about of time, and everything after they enter the building feels force, rather than natural.

There are very few positives about Area 51 and it is a poor attempt at film-making. Then again, this is the same director that started the horrible Paranormal Activity franchise, so I’m not sure what I was expecting.

Avoid.

 My language? Do you hear that, he’s worried about my language. We’re hanging here squeezed like fucking sardines 50 floors up and my language is the problem?

Year Released : 2011elevator00 (1)
Director : Stig Svendsen
Cast : Christopher Bakus, Anita Briem, John Getz, Shirley Knight, Tehmina Sunny, Joey Slotnick, Devin Ratray, Waleed Zuaiter, Rachel Pace and Amanda Pace

You know, in this section before I go into the plot I like to talk about my previous experiences in films, whether positive or negative, and until about five minutes before I wrote this sentence I was struggling with what to write, but then I saw the movie poster that appears on the right hand side of your screen.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a movie poster which is false or lying. There was a film called “Hardwired” several years ago with Val Kilmer where the character appears considerably different on the cover to what they do in the film. On the cover he looks like he did in the height of his popularity, but in the film he looks like an overweight alcoholic, but even then that doesn’t compare with the shambles going on in this poster.

I don’t even know where to begin with this poster so let’s go with the most obvious, that woman who takes up probably 1/3 of the poster isn’t actually in the movie. The film has precisely eleven characters in it, two of which are only in it for a few minutes, and she isn’t one of them. I don’t know who she is, but she isn’t a character from this film.

Secondly, there is a hand reaching out of the elevator to symbolise that someone is trying to keep her in there by dragging her back in, this doesn’t happen in the film. Out of those 11 characters, 9 are trapped in the elevator and there is nothing keeping them in there other than the simple fact that they’re in between floors. Infact, even the antagonist, if you can call her that, wants to get out of there and admits that she doesn’t want the others to be in there either.

And then we finish with the subtitle at the bottom, this and the picture above indicate that this is a horror film that will scare you. It’s not a horror, it doesn’t try to be a horror film and I don’t know what film whoever wrote the subtitle was watching, but it certainly wasn’t this film.

Anyway, after that mini-rant, onto the plot.

Plot

Henry Barton (Getz) is throwing a party in which he intends to announce he is retiring. He and his grand-daughter Madeline (Rachel and Amanda Pace) enter an elevator filled with his party guests. Madeline soon becomes annoyed by racist comments made by George (Slotnick) and she decides to antagonise his claustrophobia by hitting the emergency stop button.

All efforts to get the elevator moving again fail and they are forced to wait for maintenance to arrive. As time passes the group discusses various things before Jane Redding (Knight), the wife of an investor into Barton’s company reveals her husband shot himself when the investment failed. Barton insincerely apologises and Jane launches into a rant that causes her to have a heart-attack and subsequently die, but not before she manages to utter that she has a bomb.

The group starts panicking and after investigating they find that it wasn’t an empty threat and she has an explosive device attached to her waist. The group must hurry to try and escape as there is no timer on the bomb and it could go off at any minute, but it turns out to be hard to work as a team when issues such as racism and infidelity arise.

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Worth it?

I did actually enjoy Elevator. For this review I watched it for the first time in at least two years and I still enjoyed it as much as the first (and only) time I watched it. I love that it doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. It is a low budget thriller and despite having just one set for the majority of the film and a confined space to work in, I think they pulled off a great job.

The strength of any film is the characters, it’s one of the reasons that the Hobbit trilogy was received in such a luke-warm manner. As I mentioned in my breakdown of 2014, there were thirteen dwarves that are central to the storyline of the trilogy and you learn precisely nothing about most of them, and the worst part is that they killed off the ones that they did actually take time to develop. I couldn’t care less about the dwarves in the trilogy because over the space of around 8 hours in total, they don’t develop at all.

In Elevator there are nine central characters and the focus shifts between them throughout, but each develops really well. None of the characters start off as what they started as, which is very rare. For example, Henry Barton starts off as a generally nice and friendly man but he soon turns into an unpleasant person as he defends selling an investment that everyone knew would fail. Martin (played by the guy who was Buzz in the Home Alone films) starts as someone who kisses everyone’s arse but soon drops that and plays the blame game. Even George (Slotnick) starts off as incredibly racist, especially towards Mohammed, but by the end he is surprisingly playing the peace-maker between everyone.

Each character transformation isn’t forced and the best part is that if you look out for it at the beginning one you’ve seen the film once, it’s obvious that some of the characters have an agenda or a antagonistic history with each other, which probably helps the transition from one personality type to another.

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The one thing that you always need to be careful of in a film of this nature is not over developing a single character to the point where they stand out above the rest, almost to the point where you almost don’t want them to survive. Elevator did a great job of developing a character slightly each time before moving on, you can digest it easily and appreciate it more. Only one of the characters, Mohammed, isn’t developed as much as the others, mainly because he’s stood at the back for most of the film, but other than that the characters seemed to be given a relatively equal share of the development time.

For me one of the best aspects for the character of Madeline. It’s extremely rare to have a child in a film and not have them single handedly ruin it for you, for example, War of the Worlds would have been a thoroughly enjoyable film had it not been for Dakota Fanning. Whenever I see a child on screen and know they’re going to be a major part in the film, it fills me with dread because they’re usually just awful, but not this time. The Pace sisters did an excellent job of portraying Madeline and for me the best part was that the character wasn’t at all what I had predicted.

She is the cause of the elevator getting stuck and as she sees the mayhem around her, especially after one character’s arm becomes severed, she enters a state of shock as she admits to herself that she caused all of what is happening and she reacts in a refreshing way. She doesn’t scream her head off Dakota Fanning style, she doesn’t cry (well, not much anyway) and isn’t actually an irritant. She effectively has a mental breakdown and sits there rocking back and forth, repeating herself. It was a genuine reaction. It was so refreshing to not hate a character that’s a child, so refreshing.

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*SPOILER ALERT*

Another refreshing part for me was that this wasn’t a blood bath and the body count is extremely low. Out of the 11 characters that are on screen in the film, only two actually die and one of them is only because he couldn’t fit through the Elevator door at the end and gets caught in the explosion.

In most films of a similar nature you are just bombarded with a high body count and you stop generally caring, but this wasn’t like that and I had to use this word again, but it was refreshing.

*SPOILER ENDS*

Summary

It’s not often I get to post a positive review on here but this is one that falls into that category. It’s never going to win any wards but it approvedis one of those where you can sit back and enjoy it.

In many ways it’s a shame that they have chosen to use that poster (it’s different on the DVD cover in the UK) because it would give anyone who saw it in a store the wrong impression of what the film was about, because it is far better than the film gives it credit for.

If you get a spare 90 minutes or so, sit back and enjoy Elevator.

The sarlacc pit. From “Return of the Jedi”. Uh, hello. Being slowly digested over a 1000 years – worst death ever.

Year Released : 2010Frozen_Poster
Director : Adam Green
Cast : Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers

Yesterday I watched “Whiplash” at the cinema and whilst I enjoyed it, I couldn’t help feel that it was overrated somewhat, although it was still worthy of at least a 7/10. That got me thinking onto other overrated films and naturally the first one that came to mind was Disney’s “Frozen”. I can’t even put into words how overrated that film really is and I really wish it was obscure enough to rip it to shreds, but alas, too many children have poor taste and liked it to make it one of the most successful films of the last few years.

Anyway, after that I started to think of other films and one of them was the 2010 film that shared the same name, the thriller “Frozen”. Whilst slightly better known than most of the films I review on this site, I think that after a few weeks off from writing reviews for various reasons, I should return with a film I know relatively well.

Unlike it’s namesake, the 2010 “Frozen” is an enjoyable film that entertains throughout, is actually worth watching and is realistic. I’m not going to sit here and claim it’s the best film that ever existed but if you have a spare 93 minutes and don’t want to spend it watching an overrated piece of non-sense, then this might be the film for you.

Plot

Dan (Zegers), Joe (Ashmore) and Parker (Bell) go on holiday together to a New England ski resort called Mount Holliston and are about to travel home when they realise that there is another time for one last run on the mountain. After convincing the ski lift attendant to let them go up, a misunderstanding sees the lift turned off with them still on it.

Joe and Dan convince themselves everything will be alright before Parker remembers that the mountain was actually going to be closed for a week and knowing that they won’t survive that long, it becomes clear that at least one of them must find their way down to get help.

As the group struggles to come to terms with what they need to do, but their options become increasingly limited as their bodies start succumbing to the effects of long exposure to the cold. Soon wolves catch the scent of warm meat, further restricting the group’s options.

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So why is it good?

Much like any film with so few main characters, it relies a lot on the performances of the actors. A lot of films with smaller cast of characters struggle because of the lack of strength of the actors, whereas some of the better films are because of the exact opposite. For example, the 1986 remake of “The Fly” only had three main characters and no other characters were on screen for more than 2 minutes, and the reason it works it because Jeff Goldblum, John Getz and Geena Davis all put in exceptional performances.

Whilst I am not saying that the performances of Bell, Ashmore and Zegers are comparable to those three actors, they all put in very good performances, almost to the point you start to believe that they genuinely were left up on a ski lift for days on end. It’s hard to single any of them out because they all do very well, but it’s arguably Bell that stands out for me, not only because she her character goes through the most physical torture throughout the film.

There are several scenes where she has fallen asleep with body parts touching the frozen metal of the lift and she has to rip herself away, leaving all of the skin behind and it would naturally be hard to convincingly portray a pain that you’ve never realistically experienced, but Bell does an exceptional job. It would naturally be easy to overact in this situation and very few relatively unknown actresses could pull off making it look realistic without it looking ridiculous.

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All of the characters suffer heavy physical pain throughout the film, and they are shown to be very human in this regard. Some Hollywood films are very unrealistic with regards to injury and there is one scene where Dan breaks both of his legs when jumping off of the ski-lift. In most Hollywood films the character would largely be fine, with the most being suffered is a limp, but if you’re going to jump roughly 10 metres (at least) onto snow and ice, you’re not only going to walk away with a limp, infact, you’re not going to walk away at all. The film doesn’t hold back from showing you the legs being broken and Dan’s panicked reaction to this because whilst he is out of the ski-lift, there is no way for him to get down to the bottom of the mountain.

When Joe tries to escape by climbing down the wires that the ski lift operates on, it quickly tears his hands to shreds and he has to endure this once he gets going because he doesn’t have the strength to go up hill and return to the lift. Again, this is realistic. Whilst I love some films that aren’t realistic or have very little basis in reality (I am watching The Hobbit whilst writing this to give you an example of that), in films like this there needs to be a sense of realism and that’s exactly what you get with “Frozen”. It doesn’t hold back, it doesn’t bullshit you into thinking that these characters won’t suffer.

Being realistic is a key aspect to any film that is supposed to be serious. For example, one of the reasons that the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy was so successful was because it was far more realistic than it’s more comedic and camp nature from the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher installments from the 1980s and 1990s.

If I have a criticism of the film then it would be that it’s a very slow paced film. There isn’t a lot that actually happens throughout the 93 minutes and there are long gaps without anything happening to advance the plot. Don’t get me wrong, at 93 minutes it’s not a long time and with a plot premise that is simple, you don’t really need to progress at an overly fast rate, which is another common sin amongst films, but as I say there are lengthy gaps without anything at all happening.

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Summary

If you want to watch a film called Frozen that’s set on a mountain and isn’t full of incessant singing, then this is the choice for you. As Iapproved said earlier, I’m going to sit here earlier and claim it’s the best film ever but what it is is realistic. You don’t get enough of that in films these days but when it’s done right, it makes a good film.

With a small cast, they achieve a lot and the young cast excels. They give a realistic portrayal of what would happen to people in that environment and situation.

If you’ve got a spare one hundred so or minutes then give it a shout.

Wait! Don’t I get a choice? Don’t all the condemned get a choice? I choose death!

Year Released : 2004MV5BMTM4OTUyNzgxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDQ4NjcyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_
Director : Ernie Barbarash
Cast : Zachary Bennett, Stephanie Moore, David Huband, Martin Roach and Michael Riley

I commented in my review for “Cube 2” that sequels are very rarely as good as the first film, but is even rarer is a good third film in a trilogy. When I think of poor “threequels” there are a few that jump immediately to mind as not being needed, being awful, not adding anything to the previous two, not really resolving anything from the first two films or on a regular basis, all of the above.

Some examples of very poor “threequels” are;

  • Terminator 3
  • Neverending Story 3
  • Hangover 3
  • The Matrix : Revolutions
  • Jurassic Park 3
  • The Mummy : Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

You get the idea.

Whilst the first Cube film was amazing and could have left to a new, long running franchise, they decided to then ruin the long term chances of that with the second installment, the horrendously boring “Cube 2 : Hypercube”, so my excitement for the third film was very, well, non-existent going into it, and whilst it is still nowhere near as good as the first film, it does start going back into the right direction.

It sees the return of trapped cubes, deaths of characters and actually expands on the universe by introducing the characters who control what happens in the cubes.

Plot

Wynn (Bennett) is a technician for a company that puts people who break the law in a form of rehabilitation, a maze of cubes, some of which are armed with traps that are designed to kill. Much to the frustration of his fellow technician, Dodd (Huband), Wynn keeps asking questions that he really shouldn’t be asking.

Meanwhile, a new group of participants had entered, headed by Cassandra (Moore), who takes an instant dislike to Kaskell (Roach) due to his job as a bounty hunter, either though he doesn’t remember it. As they move through the cubes the group starts to dwindle due to being trapped by flesh eating viruses, soundwaves and many others.

Things seem to be going as normal until suddenly an entrant from a previous group has found their way to the exist and Wynn notices that it is a former colleague of his. When he is killed by Dodd, despite surviving the cube, Wynn decides to take things into his own hands and enters the cube system to help Cassandra’s group escape via the hidden exit. Dodd soon finds himself accompanied by his supervisor who is determined to kill of Wynn within the cube.

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So why is it better than the second one but not the first?

Well, it doesn’t take a lot to be better than the second one, although the one thing that they do have in common is poor female characters. In “Cube 2” there are four female characters, one is a boring woman with no personality, one is a senile old woman, one is a blind girl who can’t do anything for herself, and the other is one who has sex with literally the first man that she sees, and in “Cube Zero” there are only two female characters, with the main one being the irritating Cassandra.

Cassandra is an awful character, she makes herself unlikeable from the first second but turning on Haskell, despite it being obvious that he is no longer under control from the people who turned him into a bounty hunter (they are shown in flashbacks as having bright, lime green eyes when under control), she isn’t prepared to listen to his pleas of not knowing who he is and literally spits in his face.

She has no likeable qualities whatsoever and I was desperate for her to die and you shouldn’t have that from a film that is trying to promote them as one of the chief protagonists. When you want one of the protagonists to die, the filmmakers have not done a good job at all.

I didn’t feel the same sort of tension that I did in the first one and there is very little character development. Now, I mention character development in pretty much all of my reviews and whilst it’s not vitally important, you do want your characters to grow in some way, but they don’t. All the characters are the same from when you first see them until either when they die or the end of the film, depending on which is appropriate.

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What I did like however was that it did expand on the situation by revealing some very clever elements, including;

  • Realising at the end of the film that Kazan from the first film was more than likely a former employee of the company the runs the cube.
  • Every cube is trapped but can be turned off and on, although in theory this does make the numbers completely irrelevant.
  • Pretty much everyone within the cubes, barring one or two exceptions, actually gave their consent to be in there, regardless of whether they remember doing so or not.

That’s just a few of them but I do like that they thought to expand the universe rather than just shove people in a cube again to fight their way out. A lot of franchises, especially in the horror genre (although this isn’t horror), just repeat the same thing over and over again and that’s why a lot of people get bored of them very quickly. “Saw” is an excellent example of this. It’s almost unanimously agreed by anyone who has watched all seven that the first two are the best two, but after that nothing really changes.

Characters get put into a situation where they have the mutilate themselves, or others, in other to survive, and whilst there is a story going on in the background, you need what’s happening on the inside of these stories to be more than convenient ways of getting people to kill themselves.

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For me one of the most important things that they did was completely abandon the portals and alternative reality nonsense that the second film turned into. They’ve taken what made the first film work and expanded on it, and whilst it’s nowhere near as good as the first one for many reasons, I will give it credit for trying.

The flipping between the cube and the control work both works and doesn’t work at the same time. It works because it expands on the first film and shows that the environment is control, there is a scene where the group enters a cube and Dodd’s supervisor turns on the traps in all of the surrounding cubes, and that was quite cool. However, it doesn’t work in one sense because one of the elements that made the first so intriguing was the claustrophobic environment, but due to the constant flipping you don’t feel as confined as the characters do and in a way the film loses some of the elements that made the first film so tense.

Finally, it’s hard not to talk about “Cube Zero” without talking about the traps and despite most of the film not being as good as the first, I did actually think that the traps in this film were actually better than in the first. For example, one of the characters gets infected with a very fast acting flesh-eating virus and all of a sudden no-one wants to be anywhere near her, nor the person who she accidentally infects.

Due to a slightly higher budget they were able to come up with a lot more interesting method of death, and this is evident from the first screen when a character is walking through a cube, gets sprayed with what he thinks is water, but it actually turns out to be something that corrodes his skin and his body literally falls to pieces. That was quite well done.

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Summary

If you’re going into the film expecting it to be better than the first film then you’ll be wrong. It lacks a lot of what made the first film so good and whilst it does offer something new, the elements that it lost are too hard to overlook.

It is a definitely improvement from the second installment though, however, it’s probably for the best that the franchise stopped after this one. You can’t continue a franchise after only one of the installments was actually good, and whilst “Cube Zero” did try, it ultimately failed.