Monthly Archives: June 2013

Chernobyl Diaries

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)chernobyl-diaries

Stars: Olivia Dudley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips

 

There is something about a group of American “teenagers” going on a trip to Europe that you just know is all going to go wrong. Just look at Hostel for example. Young lovers Chris (McCartney) and Natalie (Dudley) head on a road trip with friend Amanda (Devin Kelley) across Europe. We see shots of London, Rome, Paris, and Venice. It sets the scene nicely. They arrive in Kiev to visit Chris’ brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) en route to Moscow, but are quickly convinced by Paul to take a quick detour on an extreme ride into the city of Pripyat, the now abandoned former home of the workers of Chernobyl. The party is led by guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) who takes them on a tour of the site. On arrival at the checkpoint, Uri is informed that they can go no further due to maintenance work being conducted on the site, but he has another route in.

The city is a desolate shell of its previous state and unnerving reminders of a life gone by are still visible. After the tour the party head back to the van they find it won’t start. On closer inspection the vans battery has been damaged and they soon realise that the once abandoned city actually has inhabitants.

Chernobyl Diaries ticks all the boxes of modern horror cliché. We have the clean cut, good looking Americans, plenty of “High-Fiving” and “Dude” moments and the obligatory purpose to the trip, in this instance Chris is going to propose to Natalie, so naturally it all has to go horribly wrong.  In ticking all the boxes it therefore doesn’t have the originality you may look for in a horror. The template of this particular horror has been written with comparisons from The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre mixed in there. What works in its favour is that the film decides against doing what many of its predecessors have done when using attractive American women and not centre the focus on skimpy up close shots and wet T-shirts. This has retained its class and focuses on what it does best, scare.

The filming style is clever with the camera playing an unseen character and therefore always at the heart of the action.  The deserted city of Pripyat adds to the tension and the unnerving theme of the movie. There are truly tense moments and scenes that you won’t expect to make you jump, but it’s the director’s decision to keep the evil that lurks in the shadows always hidden during the story which adds appeal. There are usually moments in a horror when we see the full revelation and it eases us into the rest of the story. You don’t get that with Chernobyl Diaries, just long camera shots with shadows moving in the background, compounding fear and unease.

Oren Peli is no stranger to the horror genre having produced the Paranormal Activity films and you can sense his experience within this movie, but it doesn’t have a category on its own unlike Paranormal Activity, instead sharing one with many others.

If you enjoy the pressure of putting yourself through the ordeal of a horror film then you won’t be disappointed with this movie. But, there is still nothing of originality in the movie as it’s all been done before.

Rating: 6/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Chernobyl Diaries

 

 

Advertisements

Contagion

Contagion (2013)Contagion-movies-wallpaper

Stars: Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Jude Law

 

Steven Soderbergh doesn’t just do films. He DOES films and when he is involved the whole of the acting world want to be part of it. His previous work includes Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels and Traffic in which all films have boasted some of Hollywood’s finest performers. Contagion itself involves over seven heavy weights of the acting world.

The action centres on an airborne virus that starts to infect people all over the world. The victims start by having seizures eventually resulting in death. The story follows the development of the virus and its fight against it from Day 2. Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a trip to the Far East and falls ill. She suffers from convulsions and is rushed to hospital with her husband, Mitch (Damon), by her side, but it is all in vain as the virus takes her life. All over the world the virus takes the lives of much of the population as scientists and doctors struggle to figure out the reasons and ultimately a cure. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) heads up the research and development for a vaccine and is the forefront of media questioning until a conspiracy is raised against him by journalist, Alan Krumwiede (Law). Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) works for Cheever on the field providing expert analysis and opinion, visiting victims to determine the cause, but with the virus claiming more and more lives it is a race against time to find a cure.

Boasting the talents of some of the finest young and old actors of our generation, performance was never a question throughout the film. Academy Award winners and nominees are involved in the film and some with bigger roles than others, but it is their involvement alone that has the overall impact.

The film itself is split into various stories with each individual dealing with the outcome of the virus in their own particular way and I like the way that throughout the duration of the movie, the population become more and more restless which transpires to an outbreak of pandemonium which is what you would expect in situations like these.

The movie itself can be “stop start” in places with the potential of the action really heating up only to slow it’s pace back down again and doesn’t really give it the chance to get going. The writer, Scott Z. Burns cleverly begins the story from the second day and the beginning of the outbreak and concludes the story at Day 1 after going full circle to reveal the cause. The script intertwines the stories of the main players involved with a blend of panic occasionally softened with some of the movies beautiful moments involving acceptance. To accept the situation they are faced with, to make the most of what could possibly be left and to accept that what is happening is happening and life has to carry on.

There are some great performances in this movie and the reality of the situation will disturb you and question your own ethics and actions during the course of the day. Dialogue and theme can tend to get quite technical, but not at risk of spoiling the movie.

 

Rating:  6/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Contagion

 

 

A Good Day To Die Hard

A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)AGDTDH+QUAD_lo

Stars: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch

 

The title of this movie wasn’t received well, particularly by its own star, Bruce Willis, who even questioned it. I don’t see what’s wrong with simply adding a number to the movie’s title to imply that it is a sequel or a series of films, Die Hard 5 for example.  Yet Hollywood feel the need to have a sub title underneath the main title as opposed to a numeric or they have to play on a movie title. But let’s not get bogged down with names of movies; let’s just get onto the review of Die Hard 5.

It’s been 25 years since Die Hard was released and you just know that for John McClane life isn’t going to be normal. In 2007’s Die Hard 4.0 or “Live Free or Die Hard” to give its original title we were introduced to McClane’s daughter. This time around we meet his son, Jack.

For the first time in the franchise the movie is set overseas in a storyline which sees John McClane heading to Russia to see his estranged son, Jack, who has just been arrested for murder by Russian officials. During the court case there is an explosion in which Jack (Jai Courtney) and Komarov (Koch) escape pursued by the Russians.  Unbeknown to John, his son Jack is working for the CIA undercover in Moscow in a mission to protect political prisoner of war, Komarov, who holds vital information against a Russian Political Leader’s secret nuclear arms storage. The first meeting of father and son is uncomfortable and you can instantly tell there is no love loss. After a slight twist to the plot, McClane’s senior and junior have to put their differences aside to join forces in order to fight against the Russians to protect Komarov and overthrow the Russian government.

A Good Day To Die Hard has all that you would expect in an action film, but it will always draw comparisons to the previous films in the saga.  It struggles with the originality of the first film, but the scope for development is extended to the whole of Moscow, so there is plenty of room for action. The filming is quick and punchy, throwing us back and forth between dialogue and action which adds the imperative reality of the situation and although somewhat jerky, it brings real life to the action.

Bruce Willis reprises his role of John McClane for the fifth time and judging by this performance it probably won’t be the last of the Die Hard movies (there were rumours years ago of the action being set in the jungle). Gone is the white vest and this time around is replaced by a blue checked flannel shirt over a white T-shirt, but McClane’s irritable, grouchy characteristics are still there, as is the line from the film that makes all the Die Hard movies what they are. For an actor approaching his sixties he doesn’t look his age and can still run, jump and fight like a man twenty years younger.

Jai Courtney plays the role of Jack McClane. It was always going to be a challenging role for any actor to portray and I admit I hadn’t heard much about the actor prior to this role, but his performance was outstanding and he certainly has all the credentials to be the new American action hero. The next Bruce Willis perhaps?

The storyline isn’t complex as such and it ticks all the boxes for action films, but there are times in which the movie gets the Hollywood treatment and money is thrown at over-the-top, unrealistic action sequences. Homage is paid to the first film towards the end (you may see why) and the movie leaves you feeling settled and content with the outcome.

It has the ability to stand out as an individual action movie. It is not fantastic, but it is entertaining and enjoyable and won’t spoil a Saturday night on the sofa.

 

Rating:  7/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for A Good Day To Die Hard

 

 

Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids (2011)friends with kids

 

Stars: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Maya Rudolph

For anyone that has taken the crossover from adult to parent you may watch this movie to reflect on many of the situations that you can relate to. That was one of the reasons that I took to viewing.

A group of six 30-somethings enjoy their lives, their partners, their jobs and their social lives. During a meal it is announced that one couple, Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudoplh and Chris O’Dowd) are expecting a baby and then the action cuts to four years later. The change in their lives is evident. The once emotional romanticism has been replaced by arguments and fatigue. Another couple, Missy and Ben (Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm) have gone from being a steamy, loved up couple to having a young baby of their own and the strains of the relationship waning. This leaves our two stars, Jason and Julie (Adam Scott & Jennifer Wesfeldt), a couple who have been friends for years, but never romantically involved, watching from the sidelines at the destruction of their friends lives. Julie loves the idea of motherhood and wants a child of her own. On hearing this Jason comes up with a plan to get the best of both worlds. He offers to impregnate her and they would bring up the child together, but without the strains of a relationship. They will still have the opportunity to continue dating other people while enjoying the ‘perks’ of parenthood.

From the outset the message is a poor one in my own opinion. The movie poster itself details three ‘tick box’ options of “Love”, “Happiness”, and “Kids” and then says to “Pick Two”. It conveys a message that you do not have the benefits of being happy, in love and to be a parent which in many cases is part of the package.

A decision to have a child between two friends, out of wedlock and out of a stable relationship is a dangerous choice and one that portrays the benefits of not having commitment which is a poor message to bring up a baby.

To give the movie its credit it does have a balance between a steady relationship and a fractured one and shows a period of transition where the ideas of people and situations change.  The dialogue is quick and punchy and at times almost feels unscripted, but there are pieces of dialogue during scenes which are questionable and unfunny. In terms of performances all the ensemble performs well. Megan Fox has an almost cameo appearance as Jason’s girlfriend while the dependable Ed Burns plays the boyfriend of Julie. In my honest opinion it was the performance of Irish actor and star of The IT Crowd, Chris O’Dowd that brought back some credibility with a performance so convincing that I’m sure people who didn’t know him would not realise he was Irish. O’Dowd is making a name for himself in the States with appearances in a lot of American comedies and based on this performance you can see why.

The finale of the movie does play out to become the perfect resolution for the situation, but once again the appalling dialogue ruins another potentially perfect scene.

As a parent myself I am glad I have made the decisions that I have in my life and if anything love and happiness had grown and is not a choice.

Rating: 4/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Friends With Kids

 

 

Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies (2013)warm_bodies_poster_2

Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

 

In 2008 the world of zombie movies was revolutionised with the introduction of a new film simply called, Colin. It was the first and only movie of its kind to show it from the zombie’s perspective. The brainchild of Marc Price, the film reportedly cost £45 to make and was made up of actors recruited via MySpace and Facebook.  It was a step in a new direction for the zombie genre and one that has generated inspiration.

Warm Bodies is the adaptation of the novel by the same name written by Isaac Marion and tells the story of how ultimately love triumphs over all. Nicholas Hoult plays the title role of R a zombie living an undead life. “R” is the initial of the name that he cannot remember. He spends his days living in an abandoned airport with other zombies and provides a slightly amusing narration to life as the undead. There are two types of zombie. There are the undead and then there is the next stage of zombie. A living, walking skeletal demon that will eat anything with a heartbeat.

During an attack on a group of humans, R meets Julie (Palmer) a resistance soldier fighting against the zombies with a group of friends and her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco – James’ younger brother) who is killed and whose brains subsequently removed by R. R then sees Julie and it sparks something in the hollow, dead shell of his body. On eating some of Perry’s brains, R obtains his memories and sees happier times with Julie before the outbreak. R rescues Julie and takes her to the aeroplane that he has used as his home.

Over the next few days R discovers something is changing inside him. His thoughts and actions are different and realises that he is beginning to feel emotions. R and Julie decide to escape the aeroplane and head further towards town. As they flee the demonic zombies they are cornered by a group headed by a zombie known as M (Rob Corddry) who happens to be R’s zombie friend. On seeing the affection shown by Julie and R they part and let them leave. It is the witness of that emotion that rekindles life into the zombies.

With the demonic zombies in pursuit, Julie fights her way back to her father (John Malkovich) who heads the resistance followed by R who needs to speak to Julie to let her known that he is changing. He is becoming human again.

The theme of Warm Bodies is warm and compelling. It promotes love as the dominant affection in the living as well as the dead. It is a new approach to the genre and it is cleverly crafted. British actor Nicholas Hoult (the once young, basin haired child from About A Boy) heads up this “Rom-Zom-Com” as R in an experienced performance. Portraying a role performed by so many others is difficult enough by trying to put your own mark on it, but R comes across as a zombie different to others. The narration that he provides almost mocks the life as a zombie in a comical way and in one scene we are shown the friendship between R and M which is a combination of staring and grunting noises.

Teresa Palmer plays the role of Julie. A typical, American girl-next-door type of role and like R you will find yourself drawn to her in an affectionate way. John Malkovich is excellent as the over-protective father in a role in which he doesn’t get enough screen time, but it is the theme of the movie that wins in my eyes. Zombie movies pretty much have one subject matter and one direction that they can go in, but since Colin it proves that a category of movie can have no boundaries or rules. Rules are there for us to break.

The one thing I was waiting for was a back story for R, but with a prequel to Warm Bodies already written (The New Hunger) it might not be the last we see of R and it may mean that we discover his actual name.

Rating: 8/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Warm Bodies