Archive for August, 2013

Set in the year 2154, a man-made space station with wealthy residents comes under threat when one of the inhabitants of the now ruined Earth threatens to bring equality to their polarised worlds.
 
Elysium has an earthy realism like director Neill Blomkamp’s own District 9 (2009), the special effects are outstanding, the on location feel, costumes, sets and music score gives it a gritty atmosphere. On display is a realistic overpopulated future Earth in contrast to the spatial Elysium both of which are wonderfully realised.
 
Matt Damon proved his worth as an action star with intelligence and stealth in The Bourne Identity (2002) but he appears slightly miscast here – that said he does a good enough job and brings some needed emotion and likability to his characters unsavoury past. Jodie Foster is simply outstanding as Delacourt, a steely no-nonsense executive although her screen time is limited. Villain Kruger played by District 9’s Sharlto Copley – and like Foster – freshly plays against the stereo-type Hollywood antagonists. There’s also a strong supporting cast including the likes of William Fichtner and Alice Braga with each of the supporting characters right down to Kruger’s sidekicks being developed and given attention by writer, director Blomkamp.
 
As with Blomkamp’s previous outing there plenty of subtext in the screenplay and amongst the great action setups and visual spectacles there’s also a straight forward story for all to enjoy. As with any film and especially in science fiction it’s difficult to come up with entirely original ideas and Elysium is no exception but everything is packaged arguably better and more authentic than in other recent sci-fi movies.
 
It’s not Blomkamp’s masterpiece but it’s still a finely executed science fiction with shrewdness which certainly raises the bar in terms visual effects. In addition, it has more to say than most films of the genre.
 
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A police officer is killed on duty, however, he is recruited by the Rest In Peace Department who capture ‘Deados’ that escape the afterlife. Sent back to Earth as a ghost with a new body of an old man he is partnered with a ghost cowboy who to the living looks like a leggy blonde.

With elements of Ghost (1990) and Ghostbusters (1984) and in the vein of Men in Black (1997) to name a few R.I.P.D is an entertaining enough ride. Kevin Bacon is on his usual fine form and has the most fun with his role, Jeff Bridges is perfectly cast as the aged Cowboy Roy, Ryan Rynolds as Nick is bemused throughout after his death and plays it straight.

Opening with an unnecessary flash forward and voice-over from Nick what follows is a fast paced predicable yet enjoyable setup as the Dedos must retrieve a load of gold to create a portal for the dead to return to Earth. Most of the fun comes from what the living people see when they look at Rynolds and Bridges as an old Asian man and a female model. There are some good one liners, the gross out effects are as outlandish as the script by Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi and David Dobkin. Director Robert Schwentke delivers some good action setups and the pace is fast enough for it never to get bogged down.

If you though Jonah Hex (2010) was scrutinised with mass hysteria you should enjoy this comic adaptation for what it is. There’s nothing to dislike in R.I.P.D with its special effects and good cast it’s just a pity it falls short due to a derivative idea and story. Nevertheless, Men in Black fans will possibly enjoy it far more than others.

R.I.P.D. On IMDB

The latest bloody vampire promotion photo, another day, another victim, another throat ripped out!
Monica takes care of another girl lost in the woods…
Previous vampire snaps:
Contemporary:
1970s horror film style:
Make up by J. Nash, Photo by C Arwel and directed/edited by myself.
A spaceship crash lands on the now inhabitable Earth, a millennium after events which forced that humanity to flee. With his father injured a boy must embark on a perilous journey to ensure their rescue.
 
Just like A-lister sci-fi Oblivion (2013) After Earth lacks originality mainly borrowing the back story of Starship Troopers (1997) and Outlander (2008). However, to M. Night Shyamalan’s credit while not as visually slick as its rival, After Earth is easier to connect with thanks to its simple premise, family and father and son themes.
 
There’s no intricate storyline, nor is it action packed. It’s a basic sci-fi survival adventure about a boy facing his fears. Those expecting a Will Smith film may be disappointed as it focuses mostly on Jaden and his character of Kitai Raige, while not the best looking lead actor he carries the film adequately with Smith Sr. playing against type cast as a serious general.
 
Shyamalan, Smith and Gary Whitta’s central story line getting from point a to b in a hostile environment is broken up with a few flashback and dream sequences, with an appearance from Zoë Kravitz. The effects for the most part are striking and the hostile environment wonderfully realised.
 
Overall, it’s a solid popcorn science fiction adventure.
 
After Earth on IMDB
After an accident in which their father dies two young girls become feral, when they are rescued they are looked after by their uncle and his girlfriend, soon it becomes apparent that their survival was due to a spirit who won’t let them go and the terror begins.Thankfully the child actors are impressive, actor Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau is excellent in the dual role of the uncle and his twin although his screen time is sporadic. Lead roles include an almost unrecognisable Jessica Chastain as Annabel along with Daniel Kash as the doctor. There’s also a strong supporting cast of worn faces, for a horror film the acting is far above average.

As supernatural thriller the first half is finely crafted by director Andrés Muschietti and packed with tension and chills. The sound design and music by Fernando Velázquez complement the scares and eeriness. However, the second half chooses to reveal the ghost too often and steals the fright factor of what Muschietti had created earlier, especially in the closing.

What starts as an intriguing mystery with genuine creepiness unravels becoming a special effects fest by the end (more finely tuned but reminiscent of The Nun (2005) effects). Mama is a solid ghost story with an interesting premise that revolves around the two girls and the back story of Mama. There’s a cabin in the wood, a large house with a disgruntled spirit, creepy kids, the clichés are there but they are delivered efficiently. Nevertheless, Andrés & Barbara Muschietti’s story leaves a few niggling questions unanswered, not around the antagonistic ‘Mama’ but some of the other characters.

Overall Mama is special effects laden which is a shame considering the added intricacies and strong retelling of a classic-esque ghost story. Still it’s a strong well made addition to the genre.

Mama on IMDB

A couple of bloody vampire promotion photos for Blood Hunger as two characters become lunch, one contemporary the other 1970 tone style.

1970s horror film style:

Make up by J. Nash, Photo by C Arwel and directed/edited by myself.

Blood Hunger out now

demonsIn a cinema lobby a woman is scratched by a mask on display and later becomes a demon. A group of film goers become trapped inside the picture house and try to evade becoming demons themselves.

Produced by Dario Argento, it suffers from the usual bad dubbing and choppy editing. That said, director Lamberto Bava and team serve up some great practical special effects (thankfully made in 1985 predating CGI) the lighting is excellent for the most part creating a creepy atmosphere.

Dardano Sacchetti’s story, the film within a film and four punks breaking in breakup the linear storyline, it ooze 80s atmosphere and has a great soundtrack featuring many bands of the day. There’s also an effective fitting score by Claudio Simonetti which adds to the surreal quality. The acting is a mixed bag, leads Natasha Hovey as Cheryl and Paola Cozzo as Kathy are effective but they get very little to do. Urbano Barberini is modelled on Evil Dead’s (1981) character Ash in the later half. Both Nicoletta Elmi and an unknown Emanuela Zicosky as June leave an impression.

Although dated the nihilistic ending and the gooey special effects and set ups give Demons that lasting appeal. It still has all the faults as it did on its original release but is still worth checking out as much of it holds up today.

Demons on IMDB

dark skies

An everyday American family with money troubles are harassed by extraterrestrial beings who plan on experimenting and eventually abducting their first contacted host.
 
Dark Skies is in the vein of Signs (2002), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), The Fourth Kind (2009), Fire in the Sky (1993) and so on. Nevertheless, director Scott Stewart’s traditionally shot offering is more reminiscent of Paranormal Activity and Poltergeist (1982) in its format. It’s a slow burner, household items are mysteriously stacked, surveillance cameras are set up in the home and the occupants encounters with the ‘Greys’ become progressively more terrifying each night. Of course they seek help from the local expert played by J.K. Simmons who appears briefly.
 
The few special effects that are on display are finely done, hollowed out eye sockets, birds smashing into windows, the glimpse of the aliens themselves to name a few. The makeup bruises on the children and nose bleeds are effective. Actress Keri Russell is impressive as the concerned mother, Josh Hamilton is adequate as the doubting father, with both child actors Kadan Rockett and Dakota Goyo doing a good job. There’s are a few subplots involving the eldest son teenage struggles, suspected domestic abuse and the family financial troubles which prevent Dark Skies from becoming stale.
 
Stewart builds the tension nicely throughout and delivers a few jump scares, essentially it’s a crafted suburban chillier, with the home-invaders or ghosts antagonists replaced with aliens.
 
In a genre saturated with really bad films, this is well made – if you like alien mysteries especially from a family perspective this is probably one of the best of the bunch.
 
 
 
Dark Skies on IMDB
An alien invasion triggers a nuclear war that decimates the Earth. 60 years later the few aliens called Scavengers are kept at bay by drones which guard generators producing fuel for the human survivors one of Saturn’s Moons. When a generator is sabotaged the ‘Tech’ drone engineer, Commander Jack Harper, begins to believe that there is a conspiracy at work.
 
Credit to director Joseph Kosinski it’s a fantastic looking film, the special effects are wonderfully finished, it is a visual treat from the decimated moon to the wastelands of New York City, Oblivion feels and looks real with the few action scenes a finely executed. The futuristic Apple-like props and set designs with slick costumes ooze cool even if reminiscent of opening of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes re-imagining.
 
Despite a handful of writers, even with its generic script thanks to the high concept coupled with Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko’s performances it has its emotional core. Andrea Riseborough is notable as Victoria and is the most effective of the cast while the talents of Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau are limited to expository bit parts. Even Kurylenko really isn’t given much to do.
 
The score by Anthony Gonzalez’s French electronic band M83 is outstanding, this coupled with the old soundtrack tunes add to the atmosphere and nostalgic themes running through Oblivion.
 
The few Lucas-like chase scenes albeit breathtaking are nothing we haven’t seen before and the whole film hinges on another film’s concept. That said, if you’ve not seen Duncan Jones subtler 2009 science fiction offering Oblivion may deliver more surprises. Sci-fi ideas are often recycled – here concepts from the original Planet of the Apes, Solaris and Logan’s Run to name a few, to be honest it would be an extensive list to name everything Oblivion borrows.
 
As a sci-fi homage it works, for new comers to the genre it should be a blast. Nevertheless, for an A-list film with so much talent involved you expect something more original, even definitive or less derivative.
 
Still it is great to see Cruise in another sci-fi and with a great score Kosinski’s offers a grand looking, solid piece of entertainment. Recommended.
 
Oblivion on IMDB

A group of youngster visit a cabin to help their friend detox, however, they so find them themselves pawns in a prophesy to raise an abomination.

Evil Dead ‘re-imagining’ was overseen by Sam Raimi himself, there’s a few tweaks and a couple of beloved things are missing (mostly comedy setups), it follows Evil Dead’s highs and lows story blueprint wisely hitting all the right notes, loss, sacrifice, possession, supernatural high-jinks, the book of the dead, a cellar, cabin and so on.

However, gone is the mix of wackiness with horror and what we’re left with is just horror. Packed with jump scares there’s blood – more blood than you can possibly imagine coupled with gratuitous and graphic violence, a nail gun, chainsaw, and claw hammer action.

It’s dark, ominous, gritty and wonderfully shot by Fede Alvarez. The special effect and music score a worthy of note. The opening is reminiscent of a million torture-porn films and adds little to the proceedings, although the series is known for irregular continuities, if anything the setup robs Evil Dead of being a sequel to the original. In addition, there’s a odd homage after the credits that takes Evil Dead 2013 stand alone stature. It’s as if Raimi and Co. couldn’t cut the umbilical cord to the original video nasty, or avoid backlash from fans.

The cast are a group of good looking kids and on the whole the acting is pretty good, lead Jane Levy is exceptional. But the group of twenty something Americans has been done to death and steals any novelty away from Dead by default. Nevertheless, there’s a welcomed gender change and duel role that allows Levy to really excel.

All in all as someone who avoids horror-comedy I thought a serious remake would be a good idea, that said, The Evil Dead 1981 was a basic concept and it was its style that made it. It goes to show that you should be careful what you wish for.

To Alvarez’s credit as horror film it is skilfully made, and if you’ve not seen its 1981 counterpart it excels. Nevertheless, if you’re familiar with the Evil Dead, its novelty , choppy charm, resourcefulness and it’s mix of scares humour, you may feel that this in some peculiar uncanny way falls short. There’s a reason archetypal books don’t get rewritten – the same could possibly be applied to cult films.

Ultimately, even with it’s ‘Evil Dead’ shortcomings it’s an entertaining piece of horror and still a must for horror fans.

Evil Dead on IMDB