Monday, 25 February 2013

...February Film Frenzy™!

World of Blackout Film Review

Hello. I stayed indoors and watched some films this weekend. Ten of them (and if you're coming here from Facebook, I can't believe none of you put your money on ten).
There was only one rule for selection: nothing I'd seen before. Some of them were good, and some of them were awful. Awful to the point where I had to share…

Tower Block poster

Tower Block (2012)
Cert. 15 - Dir. James Nunn / Ronnie Thompson - 90 Mins
[ watch trailer ]

A film so full of unlikeable characters, that I instantly sympathised with the sniper the moment as he turned up and started slotting civilians. Hey, he's got the super-power of being able to scan an entire top-floor of a tower block for targets, through net-curtains and into the back of the rooms picking up the slightest movement. In broad daylight. This guy is instant. Like, precog instant. Give that man a biscuit.

But at least there's enough room between the awful characterisation for a cliched screenplay that I suspect was written as part of a GCSE project. A script that the shooter gets away with (mostly) having no part of, the silent, wise bastard. The internal logic of this film has more flaws than the titular block, and should be demolished in a similar fashion (flaws/floors. I made a joke. The joke is better than anything in this film).
I'm actually angry that there's a Wilhelm scream in this.

Like 'The Raid', re-imagined by Danny Dyer and produced by BBC3.
Astonishingly awful, but at least it's not 'Nazis at the Centre of the Earth'.


Star Wars connection? Stars Ric Olie from The Phantom Menace.

Iron Sky poster

Iron Sky (2012)
Cert 15 - Dir. Timo Vuorensola - 92 Mins
[ watch trailer ]

Nazis. On the moon. And they're going to invade the Earth.

It's not a perfect film, but it's made with such joy and balls-out conviction that you can't help but love the sheer lunacy of it (optional pun). Some pacing problems are overcome with nifty effects work (for a production of this size) and a heart firmly in the right place. This is how ironic schlocky exploitation cinema is meant to work, because if it doesn't then it fails completely.

Don't take it too seriously and enjoy the ride.


Star Wars connection? Stars Giddean Danu from Revenge of the Sith.

Gangsters, Guns & Zombies poster

Gangsters, Guns & Zombies (2012)
Cert 18 - Dir. Matthew Mitchell - 88 mins
[ watch trailer ]

You it's legit when you've got one of the supporting actors from Lock Stock! *sigh*

The problem is that it's never any better than average (and it's frequently worse), and when you're making a zombie film, you can't aim for that. You always want your brainchild to be the one which redefines the genre, but to do that you need something different. There is nothing remotely different about Gangsters, Guns & Zombies. It's too busy being derivative of Shaun and Lock Stock to bring anything of its own to the party. There's some nice editing occasionally, but the script, makeup and acting all points towards amateur-hour.
Features a Wilhelm Scream, but it's no consolation.

GG&Z means well, but it seems to have been made with a total lack of conviction.


Star Wars connection? Stars Fabrizio Santino who was in Captain America, directed by Joe Johnston, who was art director on Empire and Jedi.

Cockneys vs Zombies poster

Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)
Cert 15 - Dir. Mattias Hoene - 88 mins
[ watch trailer ]

Not quite as great as it wants to be, but entertaining enough. The writing's a lot more solid than you'd expect, although the elder members of the cast are pantomiming it up, just in case. Because the screenplay focuses on two groups of characters, it flows nicely and doesn't get claustrophobic in the way that GG&Z does.
With a couple of carefully placed extras and re-use of news VT footage, this could have comfortably been part of the Shaun of the Dead continuity. Sadly they didn't go down that route, which is a shame when you consider how much of a debt it owes to that film.

For the most part CvZ is coasting on charm, but everybody looks like they want to be there and that counts for a lot.


Star Wars connection? Stuntman James O'Donnell also did some diving work for the production of The Phantom Menace.Yeah, that's all I've got.

The Runaways poster

The Runaways (2010)
Cert 15 - Dir. Floria Sigismondi - 96 mins
[ watch trailer ]

The biopic of the 1970's LA rock band is beautifully filmed, with a great turn from Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. The only real problems I had were 1) while I accepted Stewart's Jett role totally, I was always aware I was watching Dakota Fanning, not Cherie Currie, and 2) At no point did I care about any of the characters.

The film could have ended at any point and I'd have just shrugged it off. It tells the story well enough, it's just not that interesting a story. Which is a damn shame when this much effort's been put into making the film.


Star Wars connection? Stars Michael Shannon as the band's manager, Kim Fowley. Michael's playing Zod in the upcoming Superman film; a role originally played by Terence Stamp, aka TPM's Chancellor Valorum.

Gambit poster

Gambit (1966)
Cert U - Dir. Ronald Neame - 104 mins
[ watch trailer ]

Funnier, snappier and more engaging than it's recent counterpart (although not as farcical), Gambit is a 1960's heist caper that has a lot going for it, even if Michael Caine does phone in most of his performance. Shirley MacLaine steals the show as the mouthy showgirl who's not as dumb as she acts, and Herbert Lom dials back his role as a billionaire art collector to the point where he's almost playing it straight.

Gambit struggles under its running time, but probably because that 'zing' of tension is present for most of the film, meaning the climactic sequence doesn't actually stand out at all.

Still worth a watch, and superior to the remake.


Star Wars connection? Shirley MacLaine starred in Postcards From The Edge, written by Carrie Fisher who played Princess Leia. Oh, and Caine appeared in 1998's Little Voice, alongside Ewan McGregor who would go on to be the young Obi-Wan Kenobi.

End of Watch poster

End of Watch (2012)
Cert 15 - Dir. David Ayer - 118 mins
[ watch trailer ]

I know I'm enjoying a movie when I'm itching to go and play GTA throughout the entire runtime. End of Watch is noisy, messy and rather magnificent. I can't vouch for how 'real' it is, but it feels real enough. Plus, there's a Wilhelm in first 3 mins. Oh, yeah.

Now, while it's not exactly a 'found-footage' film, the central conceit of the film is that everybody involved is filming themselves and each other, for a variety of reasons. It's repeatedly referenced, and mostly works very well until the handheld shots where there are only two people in the room and they're both on-screen. It's not a biggie, but when you're constantly reminding the audience how real it all is, it seems a shame to frequently break character like that.

One of the few justifiable (and enjoyable) uses of shaky-cam. Pretty awesome.


Star Wars connection? Michael Peña starred in 2008's Million Dollar Baby alongside Jay Baruchel, who played Windows in Fanboys.

All Good Things poster
All Good Things (2010)
Cert 15 - Dir. Andrew Jarecki - 101 mins
[ watch trailer ]

A competently made thriller, which nonetheless left me with nothing. Whether this is because the film stars my two favourite character-vacuums Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling, or because it devotes almost two hours to a staggeringly uninteresting (and ultimately unresolved) plot, is up for debate. That the story has its roots in true events does more damage than good, as the filmmakers shrug off any burden of pointing the guilt-finger. Neither the love-story or the murder-story seem to carry enough weight to build a film around, or even to use as two foundations of the same film.

There's a nice period-feel to the 1970's sequences, but it's really just a made-for-tv movie. It's by no means terrible, but it feels like there should be more to it.

Star Wars connection? Frank Langella starred in 2006's Superman Returns, as did Sam Huntingdon, who played Eric in Fanboys. *Or*, Kristen Wiig made an appearance in 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a film which starred Kristen Bell, who also played Zoe in Fanboys. *Or* Ryan Gosling starred in 2005's Stay, alongside Ewan McGregor, the Prequel Trilogy's Obi-Wan Kenobi. Look, I couldn't find anyone in this film who's been in Star Wars, okay?

War of the Dead poster
War of the Dead (2011)
Cert 15 - Dir. Marko Mäkilaakso - 85 mins
[ watch trailer ]

A Nazi/Zombie horror set during the Second World War that takes itself far more seriously than others in this class. Andrew Tiernan broods his way through as a US spec-ops trooper, dispatched to find an abandoned occult research bunker along the Russian/Finnish border. The reanimated dead, obviously, have other plans. This is probably the closest thing we've had to a Wolfenstein movie (although one of those is in development at the time of writing), and almost succeeds in matching the relentless intensity of a first-person-shooter.

There are issues with the story pacing, and it's slightly too ponderous to ever become 'fun', but worth a watch if you're into this sort of thing. It'd make a passable double-bill with Outpost.


Star Wars connection? Tiernan appeared in an episode of New Tricks which stars Dennis Lawson; Wedge Antilles in the Original Trilogy.

The Man Who Knew Too Much poster

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Cert PG - Dir. Alfred Hitchcock - 119 mins
[ watch trailer ]

The pickup scenes filmed with rear-projection don't stand the test of time, and the scene in the Royal Albert Hall is remarkably self-indulgent (and as if the assassin is going to hit the target he wants with a pistol at that range), but Hitchcock knows how to spin a good yarn, alright.

It's worth a viewing, if you can keep a straight face through some of the acting...


Star Wars Connection? James Stewart was in 1978's The Big Sleep with Don Henderson, who played General Tagge in Star Wars.

So. What have we learned?

Well, if you consider yourself moderately knowledgable about movies, and the first you hear of one is when you see it for £4 in Sainsbury's… it's probably shit.
Although I pretty much knew that already.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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