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31 Days Of Horror 16: Frankenweenie by Jamie

So I figured I might as well male this animated diversion a trilogy since I was reminded that Frankenweenie existed at some point and out of the three, it could be said that this film has the largest horror pedigree because it is obvious that Tim Burton loves classic horror films, 1931’s Frankenstein in particular.

The story concerns Victor Frankenstein… wait a minute, Victor Frankenstein? Huh, fine. So yes, Victor Frankenstein loves his dog Sparky. Unfortunately Sparky is hit by a car and killed. Inspired by an experiment in his science class, Victor decides to try and reanimate his beloved pet and, living up to his namesake, he is successful. His classmates learn of this and, worried that Victor will show them up at the science fair, they decide to try and get the secret of animal resurrection for themselves.

So like I said, for the most part this is a pretty straightforward take on Frankenstein (the movie more so than the book). It follows it pretty much directly with a few diversions here or there to reference a number of other horror films (from Godzilla to Gremlins). There are differences of course. Re-animated Sparky retains his former personality rather than becoming a lumbering, misunderstood beast-dog, though he still does wind up being misunderstood of course.

Now I don’t have a problem with Frankenweenie basically being Frankenstein with a dog, in fact it’s really rather enjoyable because I love 1931’s Frankenstein too. It even manages to put a more modern spin on the story. The message of Frankenweenie isn’t “Science has dared to spit in the eye of God!” Rather the message is science is awesome and it is neither good nor bad but it can be used both ways. The middle of the movie even contains a great scene that is essentially science vs ignorance with one character complaining about how Pluto isn’t even a planet any more thanks to science. It’s great.

he movie does have another message however, one about loss and letting go, a message that seemed to have sunk in by the end of the movie in rather a nice, heartfelt way until it is completely negated by the film’s ending which is a shame. If Burton had had the guts to stick to where the movie looked like where it was heading, it would have been a vastly superior film.

Still this is probably Burton’s best film in years, reminiscent of his earlier stuff like Edward Scissorhands and, by virtue of it being stop animated and being filled with horror references, A Nightmare Before Christmas. This makes sense since it’s based on a short film of his from 1984 and it was nice to see him returning to an original idea of his rather than taking an existing property and ‘Burtonizing’ it. Hopefully, he’ll stay on this path for a bit longer. Three and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

Frankenweenie_(2012_film)_poster

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31 Days Of Horror 14: Monsters University (2013) by Jamie

Ok… I know I was stretching the definition of horror with Stoker. Yes, there is no way that Monsters University could truly be defined as a “horror” film but Monsters is right there in the title and I’ve been enveloped in gore, murder and all that kind of stuff lately and god damnit I need something light so I’m going ahead with this one… Did I mention that the word Monsters was in the title?

So, the original Monsters Inc. It’s a good movie I can’t deny that but I was never a massive fan of it.  It had some interesting ideas but it was kinda formulaic especially after Toy Story 1 and 2. It kinda falls above Bug’s Life for me but definitely near the bottom of the Pixar pile, a good pile though it may be. So how good could a prequel released twelve years after the original actually be especially given the fact that prequel is almost a curse word by this point?

Well, honestly I think I preferred it to the original. Scrap that. I definitely preferred it to the original. I’ll admit, I was sceptical as many were when I first heard of this film. It seemed as though lately Pixar had been falling into a sequel quagmire and their latest original film wasn’t exactly ground-breaking (Yes, I’m looking at you Brave). Monsters University was just another attempt at a soulless cash in by a company that was running out of good original ideas. I also wondered exactly why they were releasing a movie set at a university, a movie ostensibly aimed at kids.

Having watched it though, I can say that whilst this may not be Pixar’s most heart-warming movie, though it still has it’s moments, it is one of their funniest. I also realised that despite the colourful monster designs this isn’t a movie aimed squarely at kids like the Cars franchise is and it made sense to me when I considered that twelve year gap between films. The kids who saw the first movie are probably around University age themselves now. There’s no way kids are gonna get jokes about new age philosophy or subtly implied accidental incest jokes but the kids who watched that first movie twelve years ago are and this is a movie for them. There’s still plenty of jokes and stuff kids will enjoy, don’t get me wrong, but I firmly believe that kids today aren’t the primary audience for this film.

Pixar are really good at this ageing with their audience thing and getting a good balance between appealing to both kids and adults. Hell, just look at Toy Story 3 released ffteen years after the first film. It’s all about growing up and leaving behind your childhood, about parents saying goodbye to their kids. It’s a film that I absolutely believes resonates more with the generation who grew up watching that first film than it does with kids today.

Still, it does fall into a few traps that prequels inevitably do. The crammed in jokes that serve as a bridge between the two films. They aren’t anywhere egregious as the hoops Lucas jumped through to ensure that every little thing in the Star Wars prequels was connected to everything else (3PO was built by Vader! Obi-Wan was chased by Boba Fett and his dad! Yoda hung out with Chewbacca!) but there is a plot thread featuring Randall from the first film which seems like it just stops at one point, feeling like an excuse to have the character there because, you know, prequel.

Still overall this a damn enjoyable film and, to further justify this being included in my horror month, one of the final scenes is a pretty nice homage to horror movies in general. It even takes place at a summer camp. It’s a scene where a character finally realizes… Well, saying anymore would be entering spoiler territory but it’s a surprisingly different place than I thought the movie would go so good for it. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

 

Monsters_University_poster_3



Review: Iron Man 3 by Jamie

In 2008, Marvel began an experiment in cinema. Could a cinematic series work in the same way as a comic book continuity? Could you have a hero regularly appearing in his own series but also bring that hero together with others for a team flick? It was a grand experiment that culminated in ‘The Avengers’ in 2012 and I think we can all agree that it was pretty sweet. Marvel and Disney had somehow managed to pull it off and create a consistent cinematic universe where everything just worked. Now the question is, where do things go from here? How would ‘Phase 2’ as it’s called work in a post-Avengers world?

Well, our first taste of Phase 2 came in the form of Iron Man 3, a continuation of the story of the hero that started it all, Tony Stark. So can Marvel continue to ride high on the wave of success that The Avengers brought or has that wave crashed on the rocky shore of failure? Well, I’m rather pleased to say that I fucking loved this movie.

The biggest problem that any of these movies faces is returning to the single character format after the ensemble movie. This is a little easier to do in comics because a) The team books aren’t always necessarily taking place within the same time frame or even continuity that the single character books are and b) Fuck it, if you want to put a character or team from another book in then you can just write and draw them in. Iron Man 3 manages to craft a believable story that both acknowledges the events of The Avengers whilst still very much being a story about Tony. True, there are some moments where you find yourself thinking “Well, if this is going on why has no one called in at least Captain America or something?” but for the most part it works.

Perhaps the two biggest surprises that I can talk about here without being spoilers are that the film takes place at Christmas (which I believe can be attributed to Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black who wrote and directed this film) which is a nice little touch, though it annoyed me a little because it made me break my arbitrary rule about only watching Christmas films at Christmas, and that this film is funny. I mean really funny and it’s tone is consistent the whole way through. With most action films that try their hand at comedy they suddenly become deadly serious in the third act in a tonal shift that can be quite jarring. Iron Man 3 keeps it’s humorous, playful mood all the way through and it works. It works really well for both the character and the story. Perhaps an even bigger surprise is just where the humour is derived from. Iron Man 3 is not a parody but it is certainly a film that plays with expectations. It knows what you expect from certain situations in action movies and superhero movies and it flips them on their head and I for one thought it was brilliant. There’s one moment in particular that’s going to really piss of a select group of this movie’s audience but I loved it. LOVED IT.

What else can I say that wouldn’t be spoilery? Well, it’s great to see a little less reliance on CGI than we’ve had in the past. Things actually blow all the shit up in this movie and there’s a sequence involving people falling out of a plane that was at least partially shot using a team of skydivers. Sure CGI has come a long way since even the first Iron Man but it’s still more impressive to see things done for real every now and then.

As for the acting, well, the main cast you know. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark at this point and he’s just as good as he’s ever been. Gwyneth Paltrow get’s play a larger part here which frankly I like. Sure, she may not be everyone’s favourite person but within this series of movies I think she’s great especially working with the handicap of playing a character called Pepper Potts. Freed from the directing duties, Jon Favreau also has a slightly expanded role which is a nice touch and plays on the friendship between Tony and Happy Hogan. Hell, now that I think about it even JARVIS (Paul Bettany) has more to do here. It makes sense really. This film is very much about Tony Stark and what better way to do that than with more interaction with the people he cares about. In fact, the only person who might have less screen time that in Iron Man 2 is Don Cheadle as Rhodey. He still has an integral role to play and he’s very good but I guess the biggest interaction and confrontation we really need between Tony and Rhodey was in Iron Man 2.

As for the new people, Guy Pearce is great as Killian Aldritch, founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics who has had a rather unpleasant experience with Tony Stark in the past. There‘s the worry early on that he’s just going to be a retread of Sam Rockwell’s character from 2 but as the film progresses it’s clear that he isn’t. Rebecca Hall is decent enough as Dr. Maya Hensen, a botanist who helped to create a virus with regenerative qualities who once had a fling with a young Mr Stark. The main problem I have, I guess, is not so much the actress but some aspects of the character just didn’t make much sense to me. Of course the person that everyone is wondering about is Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. Well, he’s great. Fucking brilliant. He’s part Osama Bin Laden, part history teacher with maybe just a dash of Fred Phelps thrown in but he’s also so much more. So, so much more.

So Phase 2, and 2013’s Summer Blockbuster Season, kicks of not with a whimper but with a bang. An awesome bang. So yeah, go and see Iron Man 3. I mean, you were probably going to anyway. Oh, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this but stick around for after the credits. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

Iron Man 3

If this were a Marvel movie, this would be the after credit sequence letting you know that there’s a full on, spoilerific video discussion coming some time in the near future once everyone’s had a chance to see it. Stay tuned.



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.




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