Cinepub


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.

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Review: Iron Sky by Jamie

Moon Nazis! There you go. There’s a certain sub-section of film fans out there who will read those two words and try and see this film as soon as possible. And with good reason. Nazis coming from the moon is such a damn good idea that it’s hard to see exactly why it hasn’t been done before. We’ve already seen Nazi Zombies, though that probably has more to do with the unrelenting Zombie trend that the world is currently going through, and Nazi’s fighting cigar-chomping demons so it seems odd that it’s taken this long for the idea of Moon Nazis to make it to the big screen especially considering the fact that one theory for UFO sightings during WW2 was that they were secret Nazi aircraft.

Still, it has taken this long and it comes in the form of a fully crowdso0urced film. Yes, the money for this project came from the donations of people who wanted to see this thing made and why wouldn’t they? Again, Moon Nazis! The fund raising efforts were aided by the release of this early teaser trailer:

See that? Nazis on the Moon! And they’re coming back! So yeah, the idea for this film is certainly awesome. But does the finished product live up to this wicked awesome premise? Let’s find out with a quick synopsis. I’ll try and keep it spoiler free.

In the year 2018, The President of the United States (Stephanie Paul), under the advisement of her… adviser Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant) launches a new manned mission to the moon in order to help with her re-election campaign. One of the astronauts is shot when he discovers a secret Nazi Moon base on the satellites dark side. The other, a black gentleman by the name of James Washington (Christopher Kirby) is captured by the lunar fascists under suspicion of being a an Earth spy. Meanwhile Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) is a young teacher who is lecturing her students about ‘the most unpatriotic language’, English, as it’s the language they need to know for when they return to those who need their help the most. She seems to be fully devoted to the Nazi cause and more than a little brainwashed, believing that Hitler was well-liked on Earth and that Charlie Chaplin’s film ‘The Great Dictator” is a loving, short-film tribute to the Fuhrer. She also happens to be a perfect genetic match for Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto) whose ambition is to become take power from the current Moon Fuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier) and lead the future invasion of Earth himself.

That’s pretty much an introduction to the major players of the film and their situation at the beginning of the film. I’ll leave the rest of the story a mystery because you should probably watch the rest of the movie yourself. So yeah, spoiler alert, I enjoyed this movie. At heart the film is a satire, in particular of the extremes to which the American political process seems to go to these days. For example, the way that the American President and her adviser react to the Nazis when they make themselves known to them is all about the American parties, the Republican Party in particular and the degtree to which some people view that party as having lost it’s mind a little. The fact that the President herself is a pretty on the nose parody of Sarah Palin just drives the point home further.

Around the web I’ve seen the film compared to ‘Dr. Strangelove’ a few times and, whilst it is a fun and funny film, it is not ‘Dr. Strangelove’ good although few things are so perhaps that shouldn’t really be held against it. The film even has a little homage to Kubrick’s classic film as well as a pretty dead on parody of that scene of Hitler yelling from ‘Downfall’. If you’ve ever used YouTube, you know what scene I’m talking about.

Now, as for the negative aspects of the film, well, it’s a low budget effort so some of the acting isn’t exactly top quality tohugh that kinda helps add to the cheesy feel that a film about Moon Nazis probably should have. Yes, a film like this certainly should have a certain cheese factor to it. The first time I watched this, however, I felt a little differently. Based on that trailer above, particularly due to the music, I thought that this was going to be a serious movie about Nazis from the moon invading Earth and I was actually a little disappointed when I found out it wasn’t. Having watched the film again, however, I can say that they got the tone just right and, as the reactions to ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ have proven, sometimes a premise is so ridiculous that it can’t be taken seriously and any attempt to do so will be met with indifference or ridicule.

Overall this really was an enjoyable experience and the little film funded by fans certainly deserves to be seen by as many people as possible especially those who get excited at the phrase Moon Nazis! Four beers out of five.



Zombie Month Repost: Dead Set by Jamie

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear in the past but I’m quite the fan of Zombie films. I’m not sure why. There’s just something mildly appealing about being one of the few last members of a doomed species surrounded by the undead who want nothing more than to consume your flesh. That may seem odd but who wouldn’t want to be one of those survivors, no more of the drudgery of everyday life, going to work and earning a wage but fighting back the shambling hordes just so you could say you survived. Yeah, for me the Zombie Apocalypse is escapism.

There’s also a fantastic sense of hopelessness in zombie films. In the best ones it seems as though once the infection has begun to spread then the fight is already over. The zombies have already won simply through sheer numbers. The infection often seems to be global and it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before the remaining survivors succumb to either a natural or unnatural end. This is why my favourite zombie films are the original Day and Dawn of the Dead. It’s made very clear in those films that the undead dominance is practically total. The same is also true of the absolutely fantastic piece of Zombie-related televisual entertainment I’ll be looking at today, Dead Set.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way right at the outset. Dead Set’s zombies are the runners that are becoming more and more prominent throughout zombie fiction. Whilst still being a zombie purist and preferring the shambling, rotting kind who are no real threat on their own but amass in huge numbers causing survivors to become trapped and ideally turn on each other, I will admit that, when used correctly, the runners can be effective. This was perhaps best demonstrated recently in ‘Zombieland’. Running zombies were perfect for that film because the survivors didn’t spend most of their time trapped in one location. It was essentially a road movie and in that kind of film I can see why the runners would be more effective than the traditional Romero variety.

In Dead Set, the running zombies are effective but for different reasons that Charlie Brooker, the writer of this and all-around genius, has stated himself in response to friendly criticism he received from Simon Pegg, well known slow zombie advocate. Basically the runners are used due to budgetary constraints restricting the number of crowd shots, the need to differentiate itself from Pegg’s own ‘Shaun of the Dead’, and the fact that infection needed to spread quick enough to stop an evacuation of the studio being possible. That last one will make more sense once I get into the actual review which I seem to be having some difficulty in doing. Anyway, to sum up these are all fair enough reasons.

Right, to the synopsis then. ‘Dead Set’ starts off during an eviction night for the reality series Big Brother. Throughout the day there have been reports of massive riots or some such thing occurring throughout Britain but despite the possible ramifications of this, the producer decides to take Big Brother to air as normal. During the eviction, however, something horrific happens and before long the only people left alive are those inside the Big Brother house, unaware of what’s happening outside, a show runner, the producer and the evicted contestant. There are a couple of other survivors but the main focus is really on these and, later on, the show runners boyfriend who is trying to make his way to the Big Brother house.

The show runner, Kelly, soon finds out that the outside world is pretty much devoid of life and decides to make her way into the Big Brother house, what with it being possibly the safest place in the world right now. When she makes it inside the house mates think that she’s a new contestant, albeit a fairly crazy one. When a zombie manages to get in and bites one of them, however, they soon realise the situation they are in.

And that’s pretty much where I’m going to leave the synopsis. I’ll say right now that this really is a must watch. It’s available in all of it’s fantastic five part glory through Channel 4’s YouTube page here. My apologies to people outside the UK. I know how these things often work so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some kind of content restriction message. You can always buy the region 2 DVD, which I would recommend for anyone if I’m honest. It’s always nicer to have a physical copy of something. There are of course other methods you could employ which I will no way endorse here.

So what makes Dead Set so pants-wettingly brilliant? Well, everything really. The very idea of taking Big Brother and putting a zombie apocalypse around it, is in itself a wonderfully simple idea and allows for all the satire and commentary that the best zombie films are known for. In this case it’s reality TV that’s on the chopping block, obviously, and the culture that surrounds it. All of the contestants are the kinds of twattish stereotypes that Big Brother and it’s generally twattish audience thrive on. From blonde bimbo to flamboyantly gay transvestite, all the archetypes are covered. There’s even that one who’s a little bit stupid but likeable enough that he’d probably never actually win. From what I’ve seen of Big Brother those are generally regarded as background characters who never get much screen time because they aren’t as twattish as their housemates. I need to stop using the word twattish.

What’s interesting is that most of the characters, whilst still retaining may of their stereotypical charactersitics, manage to undergo major developments. For example Veronica, the blonde bimbo character, upon finding out about the zombie apocalypse enquires “Does this mean we’re not on the telly anymore?” but by the end she’s able to come up with a plan in order to take down a zombie lose in the garden. It manages to take what should be a relatively unlikeable cast of people and make you care about them and what happens to them in a way that I imagine Big Brother itself would have trouble doing in two months of programming.

It’s also quite clear that a large portion of the zombies are drawn to the Big Brother house, something which makes sense because most of the people there probably where fans of the show who were turned on the night of the eviction and one of the contestants even muses that they the house was almost like a temple to them in life. This echoes Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ where it is theorised that the zombies come to the mall due to some fading half-memory of their former life in which they considered it to be an important place for them. In this case the people used to come here to feed on the micro-fame of the people inside the house and now they’re back to feed on them once more, only this time in a much more literal sense.

Of course, you could talk about the satire and social commentary in zombie films until the cows come home and I’m sure people will continue to do so until the inevitable real life Zombie Apocalypse. The most important thing is how is this invasion of the undead portrayed on screen and all I’ll say is that Dead Set does not disappoint. It is exquisitely gory, revelling in the dismemberment of people by the ravenous monsters. Seriously, for a TV mini-series it seems as though absolutely no punches were pulled. You get to see a zombie get it’s head smashed in with a fire extinguisher, a zombie being carved up for bait and British television ‘favourite’ Davina McCall getting her throat bitten out. The whole thing is enhanced by the fucking fantastic sound effects, each squelch and stab being presented in sickeningly, crisp detail. Awesome. Speaking of sounds, I should also say that setting the initial zombie outbreak to Mika’s ‘Grace Kelly’ was an ingenious idea.

Right, I think I’ve spoken enough about this now. If you haven’t watched it yet, find a way to do so and do it now! Five pints out of five. I‘ll be back tomorrow with either a new list, a review of ‘Antichrist’ or the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ which I‘ve decided to rewatch after my softening on the whole running zombie thing. Laterz.



Review: Dead Set by Jamie

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear in the past but I’m quite the fan of Zombie films. I’m not sure why. There’s just something mildly appealing about being one of the few last members of a doomed species surrounded by the undead who want nothing more than to consume your flesh. That may seem odd but who wouldn’t want to be one of those survivors, no more of the drudgery of everyday life, going to work and earning a wage but fighting back the shambling hordes just so you could say you survived. Yeah, for me the Zombie Apocalypse is escapism.

There’s also a fantastic sense of hopelessness in zombie films. In the best ones it seems as though once the infection has begun to spread then the fight is already over. The zombies have already won simply through sheer numbers. The infection often seems to be global and it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before the remaining survivors succumb to either a natural or unnatural end. This is why my favourite zombie films are the original Day and Dawn of the Dead. It’s made very clear in those films that the undead dominance is practically total. The same is also true of the absolutely fantastic piece of Zombie-related televisual entertainment I’ll be looking at today, Dead Set.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way right at the outset. Dead Set’s zombies are the runners that are becoming more and more prominent throughout zombie fiction. Whilst still being a zombie purist and preferring the shambling, rotting kind who are no real threat on their own but amass in huge numbers causing survivors to become trapped and ideally turn on each other, I will admit that, when used correctly, the runners can be effective. This was perhaps best demonstrated recently in ‘Zombieland’. Running zombies were perfect for that film because the survivors didn’t spend most of their time trapped in one location. It was essentially a road movie and in that kind of film I can see why the runners would be more effective than the traditional Romero variety.

In Dead Set, the running zombies are effective but for different reasons that Charlie Brooker, the writer of this and all-around genius, has stated himself in response to friendly criticism he received from Simon Pegg, well known slow zombie advocate. Basically the runners are used due to budgetary constraints restricting the number of crowd shots, the need to differentiate itself from Pegg’s own ‘Shaun of the Dead’, and the fact that infection needed to spread quick enough to stop an evacuation of the studio being possible. That last one will make more sense once I get into the actual review which I seem to be having some difficulty in doing. Anyway, to sum up these are all fair enough reasons.

Right, to the synopsis then. ‘Dead Set’ starts off during an eviction night for the reality series Big Brother. Throughout the day there have been reports of massive riots or some such thing occurring throughout Britain but despite the possible ramifications of this, the producer decides to take Big Brother to air as normal. During the eviction, however, something horrific happens and before long the only people left alive are those inside the Big Brother house, unaware of what’s happening outside, a show runner, the producer and the evicted contestant. There are a couple of other survivors but the main focus is really on these and, later on, the show runners boyfriend who is trying to make his way to the Big Brother house.

The show runner, Kelly, soon finds out that the outside world is pretty much devoid of life and decides to make her way into the Big Brother house, what with it being possibly the safest place in the world right now. When she makes it inside the house mates think that she’s a new contestant, albeit a fairly crazy one. When a zombie manages to get in and bites one of them, however, they soon realise the situation they are in.

And that’s pretty much where I’m going to leave the synopsis. I’ll say right now that this really is a must watch. It’s available in all of it’s fantastic five part glory through Channel 4’s YouTube page here. My apologies to people outside the UK. I know how these things often work so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some kind of content restriction message. You can always buy the region 2 DVD, which I would recommend for anyone if I’m honest. It’s always nicer to have a physical copy of something. There are of course other methods you could employ which I will no way endorse here.

So what makes Dead Set so pants-wettingly brilliant? Well, everything really. The very idea of taking Big Brother and putting a zombie apocalypse around it, is in itself a wonderfully simple idea and allows for all the satire and commentary that the best zombie films are known for. In this case it’s reality TV that’s on the chopping block, obviously, and the culture that surrounds it. All of the contestants are the kinds of twattish stereotypes that Big Brother and it’s generally twattish audience thrive on. From blonde bimbo to flamboyantly gay transvestite, all the archetypes are covered. There’s even that one who’s a little bit stupid but likeable enough that he’d probably never actually win. From what I’ve seen of Big Brother those are generally regarded as background characters who never get much screen time because they aren’t as twattish as their housemates. I need to stop using the word twattish.

What’s interesting is that most of the characters, whilst still retaining may of their stereotypical charactersitics, manage to undergo major developments. For example Veronica, the blonde bimbo character, upon finding out about the zombie apocalypse enquires “Does this mean we’re not on the telly anymore?” but by the end she’s able to come up with a plan in order to take down a zombie lose in the garden. It manages to take what should be a relatively unlikeable cast of people and make you care about them and what happens to them in a way that I imagine Big Brother itself would have trouble doing in two months of programming.

It’s also quite clear that a large portion of the zombies are drawn to the Big Brother house, something which makes sense because most of the people there probably where fans of the show who were turned on the night of the eviction and one of the contestants even muses that they the house was almost like a temple to them in life. This echoes Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ where it is theorised that the zombies come to the mall due to some fading half-memory of their former life in which they considered it to be an important place for them. In this case the people used to come here to feed on the micro-fame of the people inside the house and now they’re back to feed on them once more, only this time in a much more literal sense.

Of course, you could talk about the satire and social commentary in zombie films until the cows come home and I’m sure people will continue to do so until the inevitable real life Zombie Apocalypse. The most important thing is how is this invasion of the undead portrayed on screen and all I’ll say is that Dead Set does not disappoint. It is exquisitely gory, revelling in the dismemberment of people by the ravenous monsters. Seriously, for a TV mini-series it seems as though absolutely no punches were pulled. You get to see a zombie get it’s head smashed in with a fire extinguisher, a zombie being carved up for bait and British television ‘favourite’ Davina McCall getting her throat bitten out. The whole thing is enhanced by the fucking fantastic sound effects, each squelch and stab being presented in sickeningly, crisp detail. Awesome. Speaking of sounds, I should also say that setting the initial zombie outbreak to Mika’s ‘Grace Kelly’ was an ingenious idea.

Right, I think I’ve spoken enough about this now. If you haven’t watched it yet, find a way to do so and do it now! Five pints out of five. I‘ll be back tomorrow with either a new list, a review of ‘Antichrist’ or the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ which I‘ve decided to rewatch after my softening on the whole running zombie thing. Laterz.




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