Monday, 25 May 2015

Burying The Ex zombie review

*** This review may contain dead girlfriend spoilers ***
A guy's overbearing girlfriend, who he's afraid to break up with dies in a freak accident. However, she rises from the grave hampering his new relationship.

Written by Alan Trezza reminiscent of IZombie, Big, Over Her Dead Body (2008) only with the ghost aspect replaced with a zombie and Death becomes Her to name a few just a few, Burying The Ex has its own inner city charm. Packed with horror references, it's a genre aficionados dream thanks to Joe Dante's magic touch, effects, score and on location shoot. 

Things get interesting when vegan Ashley Greene's Evelyn returns from the grave and Anton Yelchin as Max tries to juggle his new crush, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario) and possessive ex. Yelchin gives the same great every guy performance as he did in Odd Thomas. Greene steels the show with some good makeup effects, from spewing up embalming fluid to being a drop dead gorgeous psycho corpse.

There's touches of the Howling (1981) with the old reference books and Amazing Stories (1986). Some jokes fall flat, but most of the lines, gross out gags are on the money. There's some eerie scenes, vileness and blood when Evelyn realises what zombies enjoy. The film then takes a macabre turn in the latter Evil Dead-like half.

Dante creates a unique off beat atmosphere as he did with Gremlins and Small Soldiers. While zombies have become stale and saturated lately Dante injects some life in what could have been a Twilight Zone, Monsters, Tales from the Darkside or Crypt anthology episode into a snappy horror comedy film. It's not John Landis' American Werewolf but it's a hoot for old school horror, practical effects fans.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Supergirl 2015 TV show review

 *** This review contains super spoilers ***

Durning the destruction of Krypton a girl is sent to earth to escape and to protect her cousin but when she arrives her mission becomes something very different.

In episode one Kara goes undercover becoming a regular person with a few knowing her true powers. There's a nod to the DC Super franchise with cameos from Dean Cain, Helen Slater and a flash of the Man of Steel himself. While debately not as striking as 1984's Slater, Melissa Benoist looks far more comfortable in the duel Kara geek/ Supergirl superhero role. Opening with a expository flashback, an explanation of her delay in The Phantom Zone, arriving late to earth it turns out there's no need to protect Kai-El. And maybe no need for two alien super beings.

Its fittingly goofy at times, it's fun, with some good action setups, it has nice effects for a TV show, the tone is also serious at times reminiscent of the Adrianne Palicki Wonder Woman pilot.

After Supergirl reveals herself to the world it gets interesting when her presence has a far more of a rippling effect than her cousins and she's introduced to an underground alien monitoring organisation. It's also humorous when Kara begs her boss Calista Flockhart not to coin the 'Super Girl' name. There's some warm scenes with her sister Alex and her mother and it finishes on a teaser with the introduction of her aunty.

With a predominantly female cast, it has a positive young vibe and comic book feel, which may give it some longevity in a saturated superhero TV schedule. It's up, up and okay.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Mad Max Fury Road is buggy good after all

Set in a future desert wasteland a woman is hunted down after smuggling out five wives of a cult leader who have been specially selected for breeding aided by a caged slave who is being used as a blood donor.

Without drawing comparisons to Gibson and George Miller's previous three Mad Max outings and the countless cash-in Italian films it spawned what's clear from the get go is that with some great camera work Miller knows how to give a film a contemporary look and feel while retaining a Mad Max vibe.

Mad Max Fury Road looks absolutely gorgeous, with sweeping shots of deserts, fitting costumes, great make up, sets and vehicle designs. The sub character are likable and the unlikely alliances formed are interesting. Even though the dialogue is limited there is never a dull moment with some fresh, original, dare I say unique action setups. With people leaping from one car to another using poles reminiscent of giant dune buggy aerials to name just one. It's one long road trip in a strange, post-apocalyptic world from start to finish with branding, skin tattoos, siren like females and a combination flamethrower/guitarist on a bungee to name a few. 

Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris' basic screenplay has plenty of surprises and it tries to move away from the paint by numbers actioner that have flooded the screens for an age. 

The acting is solid, Charlize Theron has fantastic presence as the one armed Furiosa, lacking any levity which gives credence to the character who is trying to help a group of women (including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who also shows she can act) escape for a better life.

Tom Hardy is on fine form as the dream and nightmare vision afflicted Max but is on a equal footing with Theron in terms of screen time as they face danger together throughout against rival nomads and the memorable cult leader Joe played menacingly by Keays- Byrne. Nicholas Hoult Nux leaves an impression and characters develop and refreshingly change. Even the eccentric characters and over the top stunts, gun-play and explosions feel grounded because you buy into the world where gasoline and water are scarce.

Its not glossy like the Jurassic World nor Terminator Genesys, Fury Road is dusty, gritty, surreal in places, visually impressive entertainment, perfectly executed and more than just another action movie.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Ex Machina love for a robot

A 26 year old coding expert wins an opportunity to spend time with a bearded, tetchy, technology genius and his latest experiment, a humanoid robot.

Opening with an environment of modern architecture, mod cons and technology in contrast to natures wonderfully filmed mountains and forests Ex Machina is a crisp looking film. Mirroring much of The Machine's (2013) elements (turing test, similar score, robot conspiracy even the same main characters name) it's a much different delivered film. Ex Machina is more grounded and a less action orientated Frankenstein tale but like the great low budget aforementioned and the recent Automata (2014) it tackles the relationship between humans and machine.

There's a small ensemble cast with good supporting actors, lead Oscar Isaac is excellent as the dislikable intelligent alcohol fuelled scientist Nathan, Domhnall Gleeson's Caleb, a student questioning his love for a robot is interesting but the star here is Alicia Vikander as Ava the world's first artificial intelligent beautiful female robot.

Writer/director Alex Garland's offering is intriguing, with its atmosphere enhanced by a fitting futuristic pulse percussion score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow which complements its modest, near enough photo real effects. With the facility nestled in the wilderness, a fantastic picturesque location, there's impressive designed rooms, with great lighting and colour shemes to match.

With no outside contact permitted it's claustrophobic at times as Caleb builds his relationship with Ava and Nathan in the compact mirrored rooms and narrow frosted glass corridors of the mini facility. It's thought provoking, with tension and some surreal moments. In the closing it becomes a cat and mouse mind game duel with a nice fulfilling twist.

Ex Machina has great production values, it's finely filmed, nicely paced and while not as punchy, conventional or mainstream satisfying as The Machine it has a subtler more stylised polished take on the same theme.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Maggie - Schwarzenegger comes down to earth

A Midwest father ensures he spends time with his a teenage girl who has contracted a disease which will eventually turn her into a zombie. 

Arnie disposes of a zombie within the first ten minutes then another two before the half hour mark. But this isn't the frantic pace of many of the contemporary outbreak flicks, it's pace is the opposite. Here Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't play Arnold the action hero, he plays a 6 foot odd dad whose daughter has weeks to live and with his neighbours expiring around him the locals want his daughter quarantined. To Schwarzenegger credit it's a refreshing change of pace and even though he's done the dishevelled look before, here he gives one of his most deep performances. 

The Midwest looks ominous thanks to cinematography from Lukas Ettlin. It's a slow pace character driven piece wonderfully filmed by director Henry Hobson with a muted pallet accompanied by an effective eerie score from David Wingo . As the decay takes hold there's some effective Icky makeup effects including, cloudy eyes, sores, a severed finger and garbage sink disposal scene. 

While John Scott III screenplay doesn't offer the sub genre any great shakes it's well written and subtle. Grim, touching in places with some creepy dream like images, notably a little dead girl that will give chills, don't expect Romero or WWZ for a big budget film it captures an elegant indiefilm feel reminiscent of The Battery or Autumn. With a subtext of death, terminal illness, suicide and euthanasia, from the simple things to a kiss on a forehead to flowers in a garden, it's like watching a film about the Titanic with the inevitable lurking in the shadows.

Worth viewing if a change of momentum floats your boat.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Mordecai - Depp's a hoot

A debonair art dealer and part time rogue must recover a stolen painting juggling the Russian mob, Mi5 and an international terrorist.

To get the most out David Koepp's Mordecai you probably have to be familiar with the sub- genre crime fiction caper story. Acclaimed screenplay writer Koepp takes up the directing chair in this throwback contemporary set heist caper. Johnny Depp does his best impression of English comedian and character actor Terry Thomas with a hint of David Niven and Peter Sellers thrown in.

Based on Kyril Bonfiglioli novel Eric Aronson screenplay the narrative needless meanders in places, but it's all good fun especially when Depp seemingly appears to be ad-libbing. As with Depp's overlooked and debatably unfairly judged The Tourist (2010) which encompassed the spirit of Hitchcock and other classic thrillers Mordecai goes about to do the same. It's has that British comedic action style that viewers will either appreciate where it's coming from or they won't. As a homage it works perfectly, with its ongoing gags, fisticuffs and one liners.

There's some great, set, costumes, global locations and nice comedic action set ups throughout, most of which feature Paul Bettany's hard man Jock, Mordecai's Pink Panther's Kato like man servant. Bettany pulls the character off with ease and brings to life a role that would usually go to a nobody actor.

The supporting cast are an array of familiar faces including the likes of UK's Paul White House doing his worst Italian accent and USA's Jeff Goldblum to name a few. Gwyneth Paltrow is delightful as the typical aristocrat wife, Ewan McGregor is on form looking as if he's auditioning for James Bond and curly moustached Depp is a hoot.

Granted it's predicable and some of the gags fall short but Koepp still offers guilty, glitzy fun especially when viewed in the context of the genre its emulating.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Avengers Age of Ultron and Iron Man minions

*** This review does 100% contain spoilers ***

After a knock back by a self made foe, Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor and other superheroes team up to stop the new threat with the help of gifted twins to save the Earth from a global catastrophe.

The Age of Ultron a sequel to Avengers Assemble and linked to the other recent Marvel film outings is a more satisfying superhero film than its predecessor thanks to some further character development, genuine emotion and the introduction of Ultron, perfectly executed by James Spader. Both Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Wanda and Pietro Maximoff are great in their roles. 

Director Joss Whedon manages to tap into the style of Iron Man 3 and Winter Solider giving this addition more of a human edge. There is a clear gap between the two outings and no exposition is required to see where the characters are at. Paul Bettany with some great makeup design is a fine addition as Vision and the closing assemble of the new Avengers crew including the likes of Falcon and War Machine is interesting.

Danny Elfman's music score is memorable and heightens the on screen robot action setups accordingly as the team look for Loki's weapon, then later take on Ultron and his minions. Whedon and team like the first inning manages to integrate the comic book action with the drama and visual effects effortlessly. 

Here Jeremy Renne's Hawkeye gets much more screen time and storyline, Mark Ruffalo returns as Hulk/Banner alongside Robert Downey, Jr. (who again steals the show as Tony Stark even when looking for secret passages), Chris Evans, Don Cheadle, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson. A few sub- characters including S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter also appear. While not perfect, the story feels more heartfelt and its biggest strength is its pacing, for such a long film it never lags and it remains pretty close to the early comic book spirit and roots.

Packed with more hit and miss one liners, outstanding effects (although I still feel Hulk is a little off) and great comic book characters it sets it up nicely for the next instalment with its tag on Thanos teaser ending.

Chappie - number five is alive

A state of the art robot is damaged, becomes self aware and must chose his own path of right or wrong.

Reminiscent of Ridley Scott's classic Blade Runner theme, Chappie is another defining film about what it means to be human. Borrowing the interesting elements and some design cues from Robocop, I-Robot and Short Circuit 2 to name a few it displays more of director Neill Blomkamp's visual panache. 

With a nod to He-Man it is very much about morales. It has a fulfilling narrative, intelligence, artificial or otherwise, its one of the better of robot-themed action films that starts with a Bambi like childlike droid brought to life by excellent effects and Sharlto Copley who shines amongst the unscrupulous characters. It's fast paced, meaningful, compelling and should hold the A.I. crowd or action viewers attention.

As with the recent smaller budgeted film Automata it has interesting concepts with themes touching on child soldiers, drones and gang pressure to name a few. From the beginning to the fitting closing it peaks intrigue. While cartoonish in places with its shootouts and 'bad guys' it has grit, ragged edges and realism synonymous with Blomkamp's work. It's has a good score and fantastic earthly effects and the location shoot sells it. 

Chappie's dirty grimy world has lots of subtext and plenty to say, which maybe overlooked, even if a little paint by numbers it's amalgamated ideas and presentation makes it a must see science fiction film.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Vampire in the archives

Something's gone bump in the archives! Blood Hunger characters Lucia vs Iliana.

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Lazarus Effect Wilde is back from the dead

*** This review may contain medical research undead spoilers ***

A group of medical researchers develop a serum intended to assist coma patients but it actually can bring the dead back to life.

In the first act a laboratory is closed down just as a team is on the cusp of a new discovery reminiscent of elements Flatliners and Hollow Man and naturally Frankenstein with scientists playing God, it's a paint by numbers affair but stylishly filmed by director David Gelb with its moody lighting, torches and strobe effects in the modern laboratory interiors and it has some computer generated effects to match.

With a small cast ensemble it's finely acted, Sarah Bolger is good as Eva who is documenting the experiments, notable is the creditable Olivia Wilde as Zoe, American Horror Story's Evan Peters shines and there's a cameo from Twin Peaks Ray Wise. The second act takes a turn In direction after an accident and a team member is brought back from the dead allowing them to use 90 percent of their brain with neurological extra sensory powers - telekinesis, enhanced hearing, psychic powers and the like. Just like Deadly Friend and the aforementioned movies you know it's not going to end well but it's entertaining never the less.

With music by Sarah Schachner the base and pulse like score add to mood of Gelb's dark tone. The third act touches on thought projection with the director offering some abstract imagery with A Nightmare on Elm Street style coupled with Event Horizon consequences to the team as they are picked off one by one by Zoe. Gelb even throws in some CCTV footage segments and Ring/Grudge/Shutter chills for good measure.

Written by Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater they offer some logical convincing scientific dialogue but the story as you can tell from the comparable amount of films mentioned it doesn't scream originality. While the twist in the closing doesn't offer any earth shattering kabooms to those familiar with the genre it's a decent update on an age old interesting subject and really showcases what a talented actor Wilde is proving she can shoulder a film effortlessly. Gelb, Dawson and Slater do give a refreshing nihilistic ending which teases a welcomed sequel debatably  more enticing that its parent.

Overall The Lazarus Effect is a mash-up of ideas with a universal interesting theme in which Bolger and Wilde's performance shine in the darkly lit sets.