Archive for the Reviews Category

2012 (2009)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2009 by cultfriction

2012 (2009) Dir: Roland Emmerich Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofar, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover and Woody Harrelson. Released nationwide in cinemas November 13th 2009

Maybe we should cancel the 2012 Olympics!?!

That’s if director Roland Emmerich’s diabolical predictions come to fruition in his latest end of days blockbuster 2012 are to be believed! However unlike most Hollywood disaster epics this film has a long way to go insofar as convincing the world that this will actually happen. If you are a stickler for scientific accuracy in your films 2012 will not make for very comfortable viewing. Take past disaster films from the past say Armageddon or Deep Impact for instance. Giant asteroid/comet is heading for planet and threatens to wipe out life as we know it. Simple! Or Titanic. Large ocean liner hits iceberg and sinks. Easy! In 2012 it’s neutrino emissions from the sun heating up the inside of the earth like an egg in a microwave causing gaping fissures in the planet’s crust swallowing everything and causing massive tidal waves, earthquakes and a shift in the polar magnetic fields. Confused? Don’t panic. There is a simple flash animation during the movie that fills you in on all the jargon.

Rest assured, once you get over rubbing your head in your hands over the sheer ridiculousness of the plot  you are in for a visual smorgasbord of special effects that will blow you away. Given Roland Emmerich’s track record with films such as Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow, this is a director who really knows how to destroy the world. One can compare him to a child with a lego set building vast cities and monuments only to destroy them with his fists. What sets the SFX apart from previous endeavours is the sheer scale and detail (which in part was helped by the pushing back of the films release date from the summer to the winter). One scene in particular has our protagonists flying through the toppling skyscrapers of Los Angeles only for them to look in slow mo horror at the masses of office workers clinging on to their desks as they fall from the building. And the wow factor does not stop there. With volcanic eruptions, showering fireballs, floods and earthquakes 2012 takes on each mode of destruction to another level. This movies effects team will certainly be looking at an Academy Award Nomination for their stunning efforts but it seems likely that Jim Cameron’s upcoming Avatar will be the bookies favourite given the hype behind the new 3D and camera technology behind the scenes.

So where do all these apocalyptic visions come from? Should we be making plans to build underground bunkers and life rafts in order to survive? According to some doomsday prophets the answer is yes and that the end has been written in the stone tablets of history since the dawn of time. According to the ancient Mayan calendar, which was renowned for its astrological accuracy, 2012 is when time will literally run out This rather chilling prospect has been taken apart by numerologists, astrologists and physicists over the years. One such scholar, John Major Jenkins, has been described by the New York Times as “applying academic rigour” to such theories and has proved that the calendar has indeed predicted astrological alignments that “metaphorically” symbolise a great change for the earth. The internet is also awash with conspiracy theories and predictions on the specific date the world is apparently going to end (21/12/2012 to be precise) so do be prepared to wade through a load of claptrap amid your Armageddon preparations.  Please bear in mind the Y2K events of 2000 and how that turned out least you want to lose any sleep at night.

Oh yes! This film has a plot as well!  Central to the human element of the story that experiences the end of the world is Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a writer whose devotion to his failed but possibly brilliant novel broke up his marriage and left his family in flux. But Jackson remains a loyal dad and he will prove anything to save his family. As LA has as new backside torn into it Jackson and his family will begin a desperate journey over land, sea and air in order to survive.

Meanwhile the world’s leaders (all reduced to Hollywood clichés) argue and debate over the fate of the planet. President Wilson (Danny Glover) knows that he will not be able to save everyone and along with his science advisors come up with a plan to save a few. The plan is to build a dozen ‘arks,’ giant super ships, built by the Chinese and financed by the G8 countries that will be mankind’s only way to survive the world wide floods. The only person outside the government who realises what is going on is crackpot Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson) who brings comic relief to the film by making his zany predictions via a radio transmitter in his motor home.

Hollywood has done pretty much all it can to destroy life as we know it and frankly it’s running out of ideas. 2012 is a pretty standard fare when it comes to disaster movies with it’s ridiculous over the top god bless America approach to everything. But silly as it may seem on the surface you will have fun watching this movie on the big screen. The science behind it may not hold much water but who really cares when it come to watching entire cities fall into the sea. It’s a fantastic salute to what special effects can achieve in this day in age as well as being a welcome original screenplay amidst the plethora of sequels, remakes and adaptations. Buy the ticket and take the ride. Oh and don’t forget to take swimming lessons in the next three years if you need them. You’ll thank me when the time comes!

Lets party like its 2299! Star Trek (2009) Dir JJ Abrams

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2009 by cultfriction

I’m not sure if i’ve been swept away in the hype about this film. I’ve been waiting quite a long time for this to come around and as a Star Trek fan I feel that my excitement would cloud my critical analysis. However after leaving the screening I felt that I was satisfied as a movie goer and as a self professed Trekkie.

My one criticism of the entire Star Trek franchise is that it has always taken itself far too seriously. When a non fan would sit with me watching the show they would laugh at the silly alien makeup or turn their eyes up at the overcomplicated plots filled to the brim with baffling scientific jargon. The last time Star Trek planned a comeback was thirty years ago with The Motion Picture, riding on the back of success of Star Wars, had television actors in a rigid plot that did nothing but further the series from the fun of space travel. Only a few of the Trek movies from days gone by have tried to bridge the gap between the die hards and the rest of the public, most notably Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (the one with the whales) which fell short of farce. I feel that now the wait is over. The trick that JJ Abrams had to pull off was to make a Sci Fi Blockbuster without dumbing down the content for the regular Trek fan and now after the flop that was Nemesis and the disastrous Enterprise he has found the right combination. To put it lightly, Trek has gained some serious chutzpah. 

Where to begin? Visually the film is bursting with rich visual details. This is the Star Trek any discerning fan has always dreamed about seeing in a Star Trek film, exploding hulls with crew members being sucked out into space, planetary destruction that makes Alderann look like a party popper, even the nods to the original sound effects mixed in with iMac chic. The future has never looked so good. The costumes are wonderfully recreated for the big screen. In reshaping the Enterprise, the production designers have kept to the original essence of the kitsch 60’s feeling, something that should have been done in the Enterprise TV series.

One of the main tasks that the actors had to face was to portray characters that are much loved and known without turning them into over camped parodies of the originals. Chris Pine does a great job as the womanising rebellious Kirk. Whilst embodying the old Shatneresque traits of over cockiness yet Pine keeps it at a James Dean level rather than hamming up his performance. Qunito does an excellent job, playing more to Spock’s human side more than Nimoy ever did. This film recognises more than ever the internal conflict that is raging within Spock’s character. My highest praise however has to go to Karl Urban who portrays the old country doctor “Bones” McCoy. Urban doesn’t mimic the original Deforest Kelly performance yet he embodies the original essence of Doctor McCoy that we all know and love. It’s quite spooky at times. Sulu, Uhura, Scotty are all given new leases of life with their new actors. Be warned though, Chekov got a little too “Jar Jar” for me at times, almost becoming a shadow of Wesley Crusher, a Star Trek memory most of us would like to have placed in a photon tube and shot into space.

The music is scored by Michael Giacchino and surprisingly uses very little of the themes used in the previous incarnations of Trek. The opening blast of horns heralds the start of a new era for the series; only at the end are we given a sumptuous rendition of the Alexander Courage theme.

One of the great “Deus Ex Machina’s” within any Star Trek plot is the ability to use Time Travel to sort everything out and fix everything at the end of the day. Here the entire reboot of Star Trek uses temporal bending of the space time continuum to completely wipe the slate clean on the entire trek universe. It makes me wonder if in twenty years time they’ll reboot the Next Generation and DS9. Never the less given Paramount’s commitment to a sequel, we are assured that there will be further adventures with the USS Enterprise.

Though I know as I type many fans across the world will have differing opinions. All I can say is this. To those who dislike it, Star Trek will never die because of this film. The previous incarnations will be there on DVD forever and you can watch them again and again. Those memories will never fade. To those who did, well I can say that we needed a fresh pair of hands to really show the world how fun Star Trek is. You never know, it may become cool! This summer, I’m pretty sure it will.

Blood on the ice – Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in -2009)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2009 by cultfriction

A Swedish romantic vampire film directed by Tomas Alfredson, based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. It tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a vampire in Blackeberg, a suburb to Stockholm.

Having already been screened in America and Europe it was hard for anyone to ignore the critical acclaim the film has already garnered. Any foreign language horror film is always worth its weight in gold when you hear that plans for “Hollywood-ising” the original are underway. Even amidst the hype one cannot be swept away by such sweeping statements that this is truly a modern classic .

Having recently been bombarded with vampire films such as emo/goth/silly screaming girl film Twilight and the ridiculous over budged over exposed Lesbian Vampire Killers, Let the Right One In is the renaissance for the wizened genre we have all been waiting for.

Stripping away the stereotypical Gothic aesthetics that dominate the traditional  films, Let The Right One In is placed in a clinical, sterile domestic environment of 1980’s Sweeden which adds more urgency to the films more frightening scenes. Arguably the films strengths as a horror film come not from its vampire led violence but from seeing our protagonist being sadistically bullied by his peers over and over again. Even scenes where Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is being verbally taunted are harder to watch than some of the more gruesome attacks. This is a film dedicated to anyone who had a tough time growing up in the cold confides of pre adolescence.

The burgeoning love between the young boy and the vampire girl is chillingly touching, evoking an awkward memories of any short lived teenage romance. Eli (Lina Leandersson0) has a real other world presence on screen and her portrayal of a vampire, (traditionally  brash, foppish characters) is beautifully timid and restrained.

Be warned that even though the BBFC have rated this film as a 15, there are plenty of moments that are guaranteed to frighten you to the core. Much of the shock factor comes from the under stylised violence, still camera work, brooding lighting and subtle sound effects. For example, in one of the most disturbing scenes in the film we have a young boy being surgically bled to death by the child vampires minder. While much of the action is blocked and hidden, the sound of the victims blood dripping into a Tupperware canister is enough to induce nausea.

Without spoiling the plot at the end, may I suggest reading the original book to highlight some of the blips in the films plot i.e. the relationship between Eli and her helper at the beginning and to Oskars implied future at the end. This is sure to fuel much Internet and pub debates post viewing. In short there is nothing more this review can add to the mountain of critical laurels other than suggest that you go and see it before Eli Roth gets his hands on it.

Let the Right One In opens in cinemas nationwide on April 10th 2009.

Our Maher Who Art in Heaven…. Religulous (dir Larry Charles)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on April 5, 2009 by cultfriction

Award-winning Maher reflects on his own religious upbringing and travels to Jerusalem, Egypt, London, Amsterdam, The Vatican and across the United States exploring the role of religion in today’s society. Along the way he talks to believers, non-believers, religious leaders, self professed messiahs, atheists, extremists, politicians, agnostics, academics and the average man on the street looking to lift the lid on their beliefs.

This is ultimately a film about doubt! Yes my friends Bill Maher has taken it to the mountain top and shouted it loud.When released in America in the fall of 2008 it was amid the Presidential election and the appointment of one Sarah Palin as Republican VP Candidate. With the benefit of hindsight we can relax (we hope) with the election of Barack Obama but a mere few months ago there existed a very real possibility that someone such as Palin was about to be a mere heartbeat away from the highest office in the land. “What scares me is that people who run this country believe in talking snakes!,” Maher exclaims at US Senator Mark Pryor. ” You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.”

Religulous takes apart the Jesus franchise (amongst others) and holds it up to the light for what it really is. Although the film takes shots at Judaism and Islam it leaves out others such as Hinduism, Buddhism. Maher explains why he thought Religion was a subject he had tackle. “Since starting on Politically Incorrect in 1993, it has been my pleasure over the last decade and a half to make organised religion one of my favourite targets.  I often explained to people, “I don’t need to make fun of religion, it makes fun of itself.”  And, then I go ahead and make fun of it too, just for laughs. “

With religious fanatics like George Bush and Osama bin Laden now taking over the world, it seemed to me in recent years that this issue — this cause of debunking the man behind the curtain — needed to have a larger, more insistent and focused forum than late night television.  I wanted to make a documentary, and I wanted it to be funny.  In fact, since there is nothing more ridiculous than the ancient mythological stories that live on as today’s religions, this movie would try to be a real knee slapper.  Unless, of course, you’re religious, then you might not like it.” 

Who could I get to direct me on such an epic quest?  In reality, there was only one man, and his name is Larry Charles.  I hope that together we fulfilled that quest.  Which really isn’t that hard, considering that comedically speaking, the topic of religion is pretty much hitting the side of a barn.”   

Towards the end Mahers message gets a little preachy as he turns from doubter to die hard atheist however it highlights for him the evils of religion. There are moments where Maher sees the good in faih yet these are few and far between. The film is cleverly edited for real laugh out loud moments that highlight the absurdities of religion. 

Overall this is a very funny film with very little flaws. So to wrap up here are my top five moments in the movie (Warning Spoilers Ahead)

5) Upon realising who he is, staff members of the Holy Land Exprerience (a Jesus Theme Park in Orlando Florida) get very angry! 

4) The Iman who has Led Zeppelins Kashmir as his ringtone which interrupts the interview.

3) Maher’s innuendo laden exchanges with Pastor John Westcott, a formerly gay minister who can exorcise homosexuality.

2) Ferre van Beveren, head of the Cannabis Ministry, (a religion devoted to getting high) is so wasted he doesn’t realise his hair is on fire.

1) A disguised Maher in speakers corner preaching the beliefs of Scientology.

 Religulous opens nationwide April 3rd 2009.

All chills, No Bite – Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2009 by cultfriction

Lesbian Vampire Killers is the new Brit Comedy/Horror flick and first feature outing for comedy duo James Corden and Matthew Horne stars of Gavin and Stacy.

Plot Summary: Fletch (Corden) and Jimmy (Horne) are two blokes looking for an escape from their urban surroundings. Taking off to an unfeasbly large woodland area (supposedly in Wales) they unfortunatly stumble upon a hoard of lesbian vampires. Their only hope lies with a manic priest (Paul McGann) and the revelation of an ancient propecy that Jimmy might be the chosen vampire slayer.

Lesbian Vampire Killers is the 21st century homage to the Hammer horror film. Unofrtunaly this comedy doesn’t quite cut corpses along with the likes of The Evil Dead Trilogy and Bad Taste.

LVK is a fallen into the rut of the already exhausted genre of the Britcom/Horror film that arguably began and frankly ended with Sean of the Dead. Unlike similar films produced by our esteemed American counterparts this film tries to take on each fantastical situation with a whim of fool hardy English one liners which frankly become tiresome towards the end of the film. Corden is ultimately the most watchable person but even his one off quips and gratuitous swearing  become predicable and a bit boring. Hornes character just seems to react bug eyed to every event that takes place around him and comes across as dull as opposed to his comedic partner. Paul McGann on the other hand does credit to his craft in the role of the Shakespearean exorcist however its a shame that his talents are to be seen wasted in such a project.

Our titular stars won’t fail to disappoint the “red blooded” male audience that this film is being unabashedly marketed at with plenty of attractive semi naked women making out in lengthy shots that after a while become a bit much to look at after the sixth of seventh time. And given the entire premise of the film it does very little for the womens lib movement with our typical blonde heroine (MyAnna Buring) ,fulfilling her role as eye candy for our protagonists, doing very little apart from the odd outburst of heroism here and there.

Visually the film doesn’t dissapoint. The special effects are far from the shoe string budgeted premise and various head splitting and limb slicing moments are sure to delight any gorno/splatter fan alike. It is however the overuse of FX that detaches the silly story from the desired impression that the box office punters were expecting. Perhaps a low budget look might have hieghend the campness and made the film better but in overall it probably would have added a mere half a star to this already starless review.

Overall LSK aint trying to be Dr Zhivago but it won’t rank alongside some of the great so bad they’re good classics which is something this film is trying really hard to be. We are sure to join Corden and Horne, already beeing touted as the new Morcambe and Wise, in more on screen high jinx in the future however it remains to be seen if they can transfer the comdey success they have enjoyed from the plasma to silver screen.

Lesbian Vampire Killers opens nationwide on the 20th of March 2009.