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31 Days of Horror 17: Snowtown (2011) by Jamie

Unless movies have lied to me, Australia is a terrifying hellscape filled with murderers, Lord Humungus and uncanny knife discernment. This of course goes without mentioning all the terrifying poisonous animals, Steve Irwin-killing stingrays and koala bears. As a younger man I wondered why we Brits sent our criminals away from the dreary weather to what seemed like a tropical paradise. Now I realise the true horror that is Australia.

And so I return to this continent forsaken by every God of mankind’s many myths for true life horror story of Snowtown. The movie is based on the Snowtown Murders of the 1990s and it’s kinda one of the oddest films based on a true story I’ve ever seen. It follows the story of 16 year old James “Jamie” Vlassakis and how he comes to be drawn into the murderous rampage of John Bunting and his band of thugs. The reason that this is an odd film is that the murders kind of take a back seat to the other events taking place around them. You still get to see a few scenes of murder and torture but this isn’t so much a film about the murders or even the psychology of the killer, as these true life serial killer films so often are. Rather it is, as I said, about how someone can find this self in this situation and eventually come to be a complicit, even willing partner in these acts.

And the movie achieves this in a brilliant way. The way it’s shot, the way music is used, it all makes the story play out like some kind of a dream with Jamie, and by extension the viewer, drifting along with the story almost as though he is helpless to fight back against the current that is dragging him a long this dark path. And by dream I mean nightmare. This is a dark, chillingly atmospheric film that could be used to teach people about how effective music, and even the sudden absence of music, in particular can be in conveying tension in even the most seemingly pedestrian scenes, scenes that you feel should give you a break from the way things a spiralling out of control but they don’t.

So yes, this is a breathtakingly beautiful expression of absolute terror and the way the human mind can be coerced into going along with that terror be it out of fear or misplaced friendship or, most likely, a mixture of both. Five pints out of five.

Snowtown_(film)



31 Days of Horror 12: Apollo 18 (2011) by Jamie

This review contains minor spoilers for Apollo 18 but honestly, were you ever going to watch Apollo 18?

During this quest to watch horror films that I haven’t seen before it’s an inevitability that, because of the nature of horror films today, I’m going to see my fair share of found footage films. It’s just the way of the world these days. Still, I’ve tried to find films that do something original with the idea and I was somewhat pleasantly surprised with both V/H/S and The Bay so it seemed as though there was some hope that it could be a filming method that could still throw up the odd gem. In this search for originality, I remembered a film which I’d heard of but not seen, one which held some promise for the originality I’d hoped for. That film was 2011’s Apollo 18. Yes, a found footage movie set on the moon. That could be cool, right?

The basic premise is that the Apollo missions officially ended after Apollo 17 but in actuality there was a secret mission, Apollo 18 that was hushed up and never known about… Until now. And boy is it crap. When I said I’d heard about this movie, I’ll admit that what I meant was I’d heard people talk about how bad it was but I’m not one just to take that  and judge it without seeing it myself. However, this is one of those instances where I kind of wish I had. There is such a great opportunity for someone to do a genuinely creepy found footage movie about the moon and these guys squandered it for cheap jump scares and a pretty uninspired “monster”. It looks like a cross between a rock and the head-crab from Half-Life.

And that’s the core problem with this movie. Wasted potential. The moon lends istelf to creepiness. It’s a giant, dark desert were the only sound you can hear is another person talking through a shoddy speaker inside your astronaut helmet and the sound of your own breath. Even movement on the moon is rendered slightly creepy because the low gravity makes it look as though everyone is bouncing in slow motion. Terrifying slow motion. What we get here instead is a bog-standard, dull found footage movie that just happens to be set on the moon. And that’s just sad for everybody.

One pint out of five because it does have a few moments that are kind of creepy, like when an astronaut goes into a crater and the only light he gets are from the occasional flash of his camera. That was kind of creative. But otherwise avoid this one because in space no one can hear your sighs of boredom. Laterz.

The reason we never went back to the Moon, it turns out, is because it's so very, very dull.

The reason we never went back to the Moon, it turns out, is because it’s so very, very dull.



31 Days of Horror 10: Stripperland (2011) by Jamie

Find and replace. It can be a pretty handy tool. Say you realize you’ve been spelling something wrong all the way through what ever your writing and for some reason your spellcheck hasn’t picked it up. A quick find and replace and bam! That little misspelling is banished to the digital afterlife, to be laughed at forever by it’s correctly spelled friends… Man, I need to stop anthropomorphising everything. Anyway, my point is that it can be a tool for good or it can result in some real shit like say if someone got there hands on the script for Zombieland and used find and replace to replace every use of the word ‘Zombie’ in that script with the word ‘Stripper’. Yes, that’d be pretty awful.

And yet someone did that, as near as I can tell. Someone took the script of Zombieland and said “You know what this movie needs? Strippers!” Except that they are really still just Zombies. Zombies dressed as strippers. So in essence this is Zombieland with a bunch of girls in another terrible “Sexy” Halloween costume. They even reference Zombieland as “That movie where they call each other by where they come from”. It’s pretty terrible.

Ok, so maybe I’m being a little unfair. It does deviate from the plot of Zombieland somewhat which is a shame because these deviations mean that this film clocks in it at just under one hour and 45 minutes, lumbering from unfunny set piece to unfunny set piece.

I just don’t understand the idea behind making a parody of a comedy, especially when the original is so much funnier than your piss-poor piss-take. Then there’s the whole idea of sexualising zombies which I’ve dealt with before a number of times.

So yeah, this film is just kinda shitty. Not even a cameo from Lloyd Kaufman, father of Troma (the only studio that can seem to get these kinds of intentionally bad films right) isn’t enough to save it. Seriously, if you want to watch a Zombie comedy there are better films out there, if you want to see scantily clad women there are better films out there as well as actual human women and the internet. If you want to see scantily clad zombies, get the fuck outta my house. Half a pint out of five since there were a couple of moments that made me chuckle slightly. Laterz.

Oh, and Daniel Baldwin is a rapper. Fuck this movie.

81DFInMjb4L._AA1500_



Review: Inseparable by Jamie

Every now and then you hear about a film that you just have to check out. For me, ‘Inseparable’ was one of those films. All I really knew about it was that it was a Chinese film that starred Kevin Spacey and featured superheroes somehow. Yes, Kevin Spacey dressed somewhat like Batman was more than enough to get me on board. I wasn’t really sure what to expect maybe just another run of the mill superhero flick with a Chinese flavour or perhaps an outright Chinese rip-off of ‘Kick Ass’ but I certainly wasn’t expecting the film I got.

Danny Wu stars as Li, a man who has suffered some recent tragedies and as a result he’s having some trouble with his marriage and at work. How bad are things going for Li? Well, let’s just say that the film opens with his attempted suicide which is cut short by the intervention of his ex-pat American neighbour Chuck (Kevin Spacey). Whilst Li is depressed and morose, Chuck is carefree and all about living life. He keeps a secret garden on the roof of their apartment building and enjoys fine, large cigars. He’s that kind of guy. Through his new found friendship with Chuck, Li begins to finally enjoy his life again and decides it’s time to do something good with his life.

Li’s wife Pang (Gong Beibi) is a news reporter and a recent undercover investigation that she had gone on revealed that a company which manufactured a folic acid supplement for pregnant women was doing so without actually putting the folic acid in it and so Li and Chuck don their superhero costumes and go to bring righteous justice upon them.

That’s all I’m really going to say about the plot because really, this is a film that I think you should see for yourself. The film is never really breaking any new ground in terms of what’s happening plot wise but it’s the way it delivers the action in a quirky, charming way that makes it a must-see. Besides, in the end the plot isn’t really what’s important here as you realise that this isn’t just some Kick Ass rip-off but rather an examination of the character of Li and just how deeply the tragedies in his life have effected him.

Perhaps the best part of the whole thing is Kevin Spacey. He’s here doing something which I sometimes think people forget he can do very well, playing cool, calm and collected. It’s something he’s definitely brought to Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ and it’s something that’s on full glorious display here. It’s almost as though his character from ‘American Beauty’ survived and moved out to China. Hell, all of the actors do a great job which is particularly important in the terms of viewing this as a character study.

In summation Inseparable is a film that doesn’t bring anything particular original in terms of plot but brings a lot in terms of character and emotional depth. It manages to swing deftly from comedy, drama and even psychological thriller. It’s a little bit Kick Ass, a little bit ‘Fight Club’ and a little bit ‘He Was A Quiet Man‘ all wrapped up in a neat, quirky little package and I heartily recommend it to everyone, so grab yourself a copy and enjoy. Four pints out five. Laterz.

Inseparable



Murder Week: Bernie by Jamie

I don’t know what it says about our culture that the first to movies I’m reviewing for Murder Week are comedies. Also not sure what the hell it says about me. Still, up on the docket today is another little known comedy which reunites “School of Rock” director Richard Linklater and star Jack Black by the name of “Bernie”. Now, there’s one thing that really kind stands out about this movie and that’s that it’s a comedy based on a real murder. And not a real life murder that happened two centuries ago as is the case with John Landis’ “Burke and Hare”. No, this was an actual murder that happened in 1996. Stranger still, the film contains testimonials featuring people from the town where the murder happened. So, yeah, I think it’s fair to say I’ve never really seen anything quite like this before. Now, there are spoilers ahead but it’s not really the kind of film that can be spoiled. The characters and how they react to the plot are far more important than the plot itself.

Bernie (Black) is the assistant funeral director in the small town of Carthage, Texas. His good and exceedingly giving nature has made him the most beloved member of the community, particularly the fact that he goes out of his way to ensure the well-being of the relatives of the departed. Due to this, he soon becomes the only friend of the recently widowed Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), someone who is pretty much reviled in Carthage. It isn’t long until Nugent is abusing Bernie’s insanely kind nature and soon the poor man’s seemingly infinite patience begins to run thin. In a fit of blind rage, Bernie picks up a gun and shoots Nugent four times in the back. He finds he can keep the crime hidden for some time because of Nugent’s unpopularity in town. He finds that few people ask questions about her and those that do quickly take his word for it. He also begins to use Nugent’s money to help out people in town and using pretty much none of it for himself.

Unfortunately for Bernie, there’s one person who isn’t satisfied with Bernie’s answers and that’s Nugent’s Stock Broker. He brings in the District Attorney, Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) who quickly uncovers Bernie crime. Davidson suddenly finds himself in a bit of a bind. He quickly discovers that, even though Bernie is clearly guilty and has confessed to the crime, none of the townsfolk will convict him if they are on the jury. In an unprecedented move, Davidson requested that the trial be moved to San Augustine, not because he felt that Bernie would be convicted unfairly but because it seemed as though conviction would be completely impossible for a conviction at all in Carthage.

So that’s pretty much the plot of the film, though I’ll leave the result of the trial out so there’s something there for you to find out for yourself. I’ve got to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Jack Black is playing a very different character from what he usually does and it’s a pleasant change indeed. He manages to pull off the loveable murderer brilliantly and for the most part, he plays it fairly straight with most of the humour from his character basically coming from just how unbelievably nice he is. Also worthy of note are MConaughey and MacLaine who are both excellent, particularly McConaughey as he becomes more and more frustrated with a town who has pretty much decided that they don’t care if Bernie has murdered someone.

The real star of this film and the main source of its humour, however, is the town of Carthage. The testimonials from the townspeople are just fantastic and the fact that Linklater decided to include them is truly a stroke of genius. It’s the gossip nature of this film that really sells it and the thing that really kept me watching what would otherwise be a serviceable if somewhat played out true crime film. You just cannot help but fall in love with these people as they express their love for Bernie. In particular there’s an older women who keeps on insulting Nugent whilst another woman just sits next to her laughing. It’s great.

So yeah, I would definitely recommend Bernie if you want to see a comedy about a true life murder. I’d recommend it if you want to see Jack Black do something different. And I’d definetly recommend it if you want to see something that you’ve probably never seen before. Four pints out of five. Laterz.



Murder Week: Salvation Boulevard (2011) by Jamie

Quite by accident, I ended up watching a number of films that all seemed to revolve around the worst crime a human being can commit that doesn’t involve touching children in inappropriate ways. So I’ve decided that, hell, I might as well review ’em and make a theme week out of it. So yeah, murder. It’s something that humans are pretty good at. There are those out there that would say that humans are especially evil being the only species that kill their own kind. To that I’d say that Black Widow Spiders and Praying Mantises would have a number of arms to raise in objection to that. Hell, we’re not even the only species to go to war.

Still, there’s something which fascinates us about this darker side of human nature. The fascination with death is probably only second in the human psyche to our fascination with sex. It probably comes with being, as far as we know, the only species that is fully aware of our mortality. It’s why we created myths to ease the fear of death. The fact that we could comprehend that we were alive made it hard to accept that one day everything we were would come to an end, hence we came up with the idea of the afterlife. This idea was then taken by the ruling classes of several different societies and cultures in order to keep the peasants in line. Just work hard and do as you’re told in this life, and you’ll get rewarded in the next. Its Marx’s opiate of the masses, if you will. And so it is that we come to today’s film, Salivation Boulevard, a comedy-thriller-religious satire from 2011. Yeah, that’s right. All that build up was for the review of a little known comedy film. I’ll admit, the opening got away from me a bit there.

The most notable thing about this film is probably the cast. Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marissa Tomei, Ed Harris, Jim Gaffigan, Ciarán Hinds. Hell, that’s a fairly impressive list of pretty solid people. So how was it that this thing slipped through the cracks and ended up with a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes?

Well, to be fair, it’s just not that great of a film. To be fair I don’t think it’s really 21% bad but it could have done so much more with the premise. The basic set-up is that Pierce Brosnan plays Pastor Dan Day, the head of a Mega Church in a small town in Western America. He’s beloved by the community, in particular former Deadhead turned Christian Carl Vandermeer (Kinnear) and his wife Gwen (Connelly). The Mega Church that every obedient follower of the Lord could want, including a daycare centre with colouring books featuring Pastor Dan’s smiling face. Yes, the people of the town pretty much worship Dan as much as they do a 2000 year old Jewish Carpenter Zombie and the film isn’t particularly subtle about it, at least at first.

After Dan engages in a spirited debate with atheist Dr Paul Blaylock (Harris), he and Carl head back to the professor’s office for a night cap. One thing leads to another and the Pastor accidentally shoots Blaylock in the head. Fearing that the shooting will put his plans for a new Christian community that he plans to build in jeopardy, he tries to pass off the shooting as an attempted suicide whilst also trying to silence Carl. “Hilarity” ensues and all manner of madcap mix-ups and misunderstandings occur.

The main problem with the film is that it never quite balances its genres. It feels like it could have been a decent enough comedy about a man wrongly accused of a crime or a decent religious satire but in trying to combine the two, the final product is a bit of an unsatisfying mess. It’s the religious satire aspect, in particular, that really seems to suffer. It just never seems to go beyond the fairly obvious. Also I was a little disappointed that Pastor Dan actually seems to believe in the product he’s selling. Yes, he’s using that belief to gain and profit for himself but it’s pretty clear that he’s a believer himself and he suffers a great deal of guilt over what he’s done. Not enough to come clean but still, it tortures his religious soul. Personally, I feel it would have been better from a satirical viewpoint to have Dan simply pay lip service to Christianity in order to get what he wants. Sure, that might have been obvious too but it could have been a little more biting.

Perhaps the oddest thing in the whole film is Pierce Brosnan’s accent. It starts of as one thing and ends up something like an Australian accent and I honestly have no idea why. Honestly, it’s just bizarre. Why not just have him using his normal, British accent if he’s not going to play an American anyway? It’s possible it’s inspired by Australian Ken Hamm, director of the Creation Museum and a man whose choice of facial hair leaves him looking far more like a product of an evolutionary process he insists didn’t happen.

This man certainly didn’t evolve from apes…

So yeah, I kinda had high hopes for this film. The subject matter put it firmly in my wheel house and I thought that maybe it might be a nice little treasure that I could appreciate even if the critics didn’t but sadly I was disappointed. There were a few moments where I did laugh out loud and Kinnear puts in a great, believable performance as poor put-upon Carl but as a whole the movie just leaves you wishing it had been so much more. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



2011 in Film: Number 4: Green Hornet by Jamie

(This is a repost of a review from 17, February, 2011)

Nothing really too spoilery as far as I can tell. Still, be warned.

I’ve never seen the 60s Green Hornet show as far as I can remember. Never listened to any of the old radio shows and if there are or have been comic books as well then I’ve never read ‘em. Still, I have some knowledge of the characters involved simply due to the way that pop culture just generally seems to infect my brain. Still, I can’t say I was really anticipating this film but everything else good had already been seen and ‘True Grit’ wasn’t coming out for another week so what the hell.

The story is that Britt Reid (Played by Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen) is the layabout, no good partying son of newspaper tycoon James (Tom Wilkinson). One day James is killed by a bee sting and Britt fires his mansions staff except for the maid. The next morning he finds that his coffee is not to his usual liking. He discovers that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) used to make the coffee. It turns out that Kato is a technological genius as well as a Master of the martial arts. Britt also inherits his father newspaper, a position which he doesn’t really want and decides to basically leave it in the hands of Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos playing a watered down version of William Adama if he worked at a newspaper).

Britt and Kato get hammered and come to the conclusion that both of them hated Britt’s father. They decide to cut the head of off his memorial statue but, during the process, they see a couple being mugged and the two leap into action to save them with Kato doing most of the actual saving thanks to his Kato vision (?) and his ability to make cars multiply or something (???). The two are mistaken for criminals themselves, which technically they are having just committed vandalism, and they flee the area.

Britt convinces Kato that they should join forces as a crime fighting duo who pose as criminals in order to get into the seedy criminal underworld of what ever city this is supposed to be… Los Angeles. Right… And also in order to protect the innocent people in there lives which, considering they’re both orphans who don’t seem to have any friends apart from each other, seems to be an odd reason. Britt uses his position at the newspaper, deciding he should take a more active role in the way it’s run, to raise the profile of the newly dubbed Green Hornet (a name which was thunk up by Kato after Britt suggested the name The Green Bee in a scene so hilarious I had to stab myself in the legs to prevent myself from laughing too hard… Yes. That was sarcasm… Actually to be fair that scene did include the one line which I probably laughed at the hardest involving blowing this man all out of proportion…)

Anyway, Britt hires Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to be his personal assistant after she comes in looking for a temp job. She has a degree in criminology and so Britt uses her to try and figure out what moves The Green Hornet should make next. This also begs the question as to why someone with a degree in criminology is seeking a temp job at a newspaper rather than doing some criminologying but whatever. And so The Green Hornet and Kato start blowing up meth labs much to the chagrin of local crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz playing a watered down version of the Jew Hunter if he was a crime lord rather than a Nazi).

That’ll do for the synopsis I reckon. Needless to say the villains and heros clash and more things occur. Also there’s a shitty kind of love triangle that develops between Britt, Kato and Lenore. You know, kind of like what happened with Peter Parker, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3. And I guess that’s my biggest problem with this film. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If you want a film about an ordinary guy who decides he wants to be a superhero, you’ve got Kick Ass. If you want a film about a billionaire who can afford all kinds of shit to help him fight crime then you’ve got the Batman films. If you want a Seth Rogen comedy then you’ve got a lot better Seth Rogen films out there you could be watching instead.

Also, why the fuck is Michel Gondry directing this film? There where a few of his stylistic touches here and there like the aforementioned baffling car multiplying and an interesting kind of dream sequence type thing but other than that I honestly can’t think why he’d sign up for this. It was just… weird. And not in the good Michel Gondry weird way.

I will say this. The film was a little funnier than I expected but not really funny enough and then the action scenes just seemed to kind of bore me. There were interesting moments but overall the whole thing just seemed to fall a bit flat. Speaking of which, the 3D was utterly pointless. Two pints out of five. Laterz.




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