Cinepub


TelePub: Zombieland Pilot by Jamie

The popularity of the Undead gained new unlife in 2004 with the double header of the ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remake and ‘Shaun of the Dead’. Yes, zombies as we know them had been shambling around since 1968 with the original ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and ‘28 Days Later’ had started the trend somewhat in 2002 but they weren’t even really zombies in that film so I’m not counting it. No, it was 2004 where zombies went viral and the world hasn’t really been the same since.

In 2009, already five years into this zombie resurrection, a little comedy film came out called ‘Zombieland’. Sure, it was no Shaun of the Dead but I for one enjoyed it and it had one of the best surprise cameos in all of film history.

It was a film that originally began life as a script for a pilot for a TV show about survivors of a Zombie Apocalypse seeking shelter in their devastated world. Well, it seems as though those small screen dreams are finally coming true as Amazon ordered a pilot, no doubt wanting to get into the scripted original content business like Netflix, and it’s now available to watch online completely free of charge. See, here’s the link for UK people who can watch it on Lovefilm even if you’re not subscribed to their service.

Of course, the question is, even if it is free your time is not. Should you spend that precious half hour watching a televisual internet adaptation of a movie that came out three years ago with a completely different cast playing characters from said movie. Well…

“It’s the tiniest bit funny.” This is a line spoken by Wichita (Maiara Walsh replacing Emma Stone) and I was tempted to use it to describe the show but honestly, that’s being a little bit too hard on it. I will say that the opening scene is one of the most god-awful attempts at comedy I have ever seen in my life. It involves two employees at an unspecified job discussing the bad morning one of them has had whilst the Zombie Apocalypse occurs through a window behind them. It’s awful and laced with profanity which, hey I’m all for, but you can tell when layering something with fucks is forced in an attempt to illicit humour and it just falls flat. It’s truly fucking abysmal.

Still things do pick up after this very, very lacklustre opening scene when we’re “reunited” with the characters from the first film. There the aforementioned Wichita, Little Rock (Izabela Vodovic replacing Abigail Breslin), Columbus (Tyler Ross replacing Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Kirk Ward replacing Woody Harrelson). Kirk Ward probably comes off best here. Sure, he’s no Woody and no one ever will be, but Tallahassee is a fun character and though I disagree a little with the direction here, seeming to bring him to almost Homer Simpson levels of stupidity, I think that he’s probably be the easiest character to step into the shoes off and Ward is certainly likeable enough in the role. Perhaps the biggest loser in this is Tyler Ross who is doing something of a knock off of pre-‘Social Network’ Jesse Eisenberg which consequently makes him seem like a knock off of a knock off Michael Cera. It worked for Eisenberg because he’s at least good at that schtick. Tyler Ross, not so much.

Perhaps the biggest casualty of the shift to the small screen is the effects budget. In the opening sequence a plane crashes in the background and it looks like something someone might have made while pissing about with After Effects for the first time. And the zombies? Oooh, the zombies take a nasty leap down in quality from what we saw in the movie and from what we expect from television Zombies thanks to ‘The Walking Dead’. They just look like someone splashed a bit of fake blood on them and stuck a few plasticy scabs on. They are not good, is what I’m trying to say.

Still despite all there is bad to say about this, there could be something good in there. The humour in this pilot is certainly a little more slapstick than I remember the movie being but that’s not always bad. If it gets picked up, I’ll give the next episode a watch just to see since there’s also a chance that getting picked up could improve their budget a bit which would solve some criticisms. I will say that I’m annoyed that the show undoes the end of the film my having had Wichita and Columbus break up but I suppose you need some kind of conflict to keep the story going in a series and yeah, it makes sense. So this pilot, not so great but I can see the potential in it and would be willing to give it another chance if it made it to a full series. Two and a half out of five. Laterz.

Zombieland Cast

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Review – The Hunger Games (2012) by Jamie

Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead.

There is a reason that I’m only now getting around to reviewing this film. I, like so many others who had no familiarity with the books, heard about this film and immediately saw it as nothing more than a terrible rip-off of our precious Battle Royale. Yes, we all felt pretty high and mighty with our ability to reference one of the most well known Japanese films that didn’t have a giant radioactive lizard in it. Weren’t we clever?

Of course, the idea of people being forced to kill each other wasn’t even really original when Battle Royale came out. Hell, the Romans were doing it even before Jesus Harold Christ was getting up to all kinds of japery in the desert. Yes, the idea of kids having to do it was a bit original but , although not forced to do so, children have been killing each other on a deserted island since at least 1954 thanks to William Golding. The point I believe that I’m belabouring here is that nothing’s original. At this point in human history, it’s all just variations on a theme.

The other reason that it took me so long to finally get around to watching this was the running time. This film is two hours and twenty-two minutes long. That’s a good chunk of time for me to dedicate to a film that I only have a passing interest in. Still I recently watched all of the Best Picture Nominees and most of them were long and I was only really interested in three of them, hence why my reviews for them kind of dried up. Honestly, I haven’t watched a film just for the sake of watching a film in a long time. It’s either been watching for the Oscars or watching terrible films for various bad film podcasts. I needed to watch a film just for the sake of watching a film. I decided to finally visit the nation of Panem.

The most basic synopsis I can give is this: In the future, America has become the dystopian nation of Panem, a nation made up of a capitol inhabited by the wealthy class which is surrounded by twelve districts, each one filled with an underclass who perform the various tasks required to keep the country going such as farming, mining, fishing etc.

A long ago rebellion of these poor folks was quashed by the Capitol and led to the formation of the eponymous Hunger Games in which each district must provide one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in a televised death match of which there can be only one survivor. The tributes, as they are called, are chosen on a day called ‘The Reaping’.

During the Reaping for the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) of District 12’s younger sister is chosen on her first time being eligible. Katniss decides that she can’t allow this and volunteers to go in her place. And so she and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are chosen to represent District 12 in a fight to the death.

There, I think that’s a fairly nice description of things. Now, I suppose the thing that surprised me most about this film is how much, for the most part, I enjoyed it. It’s actually a fairly decent entry into the ‘people forced to kill other people for the entertainment of others’ genre.

What I enjoyed most about the film was the amount of world building that went into it. I love me some world building. It’s one of the reasons I love Star Wars. Lucas can’t write dialogue for shit but if there’s one thing that he can do well it’s create a universe that’s satisfyingly different from out own whilst still being familiar. That’s something that The Hunger Games does to great effect too. It’s possible to see that this world could have descended from our own and there are obvious parallels to our history. The inhabitants of the Capitol are a class of people who don’t have to work. They wear ridiculous, unpractical costumes and watch TV shows about children killing each other because, well, what else are they going to do? I got a real opulence before the fall of Rome vibe from the whole thing. Oh, and if it turns out that this film is right and the future we’re headed for is one were “Gay Parisian Disco Clown” becomes a fashionable style then I too will be volunteering to enter the Games.

Yes, the setup of the world is really, really excellent and had me hooked into the film’s premise quite early on. The two leads playing District 12’s tributes are both excellent, Jennifer Lawrence in particular has an undeniable likeability that seems to come through in everything I’ve ever seen her in. The tertiary characters in these early scenes are also great with Woody Harrelson as an alcoholic former Games winner, Elizabeth Banks as one of the aforementioned Gay Parisian Disco Clowns, Stanley Tucci perfectly portraying a schmoozy talk show host and even Lenny Kravitz surprisingly bringing a nice emotional centre to the whole affair.

Unfortunately not everything can be great and things kinda go down hill once the actual show itself starts. Everything in this section of the film seems a bit rushed and I can imagine it’s all expanded upon in a great deal more detail in the book. Katniss forms relationships in this section that, in the time frame they develop within, seem completely unrealistic. I’ll admit that I believe that one of these relationships is merely played up for the cameras as Katniss believes it will give her a better chance of survival and I hope that the sequels prove this theory to be true or I’ll be greatly disappointed.

There’s also some really dodgy shaky cam, particularly during some of the very early scenes that almost had me turning the film off before I’d even begun to watch it due to it making me feel a little queasy. Yes, I’ll accept some shaky cam during an intense action scene but when you’re literally just showing an old, bearded man eating then I don’t think it’s really required. On the subject of filming techniques, there are also several times during the film were Katniss is injured or stung by hallucinatory wasps and the filmmaker decides to warp or cut the audio completely and play about with the focus for entirely too long. Again, this is fine maybe once during a film but if you repeat this trick one too many times it starts becoming nauseating rather than disorientating.

There’s also the problem that the film is a 12A and you’d think that that’d be detrimental for a film where many of the characters are supposed to slaughter each other but honestly there was a lot more violence shown than I originally expected and though you don’t see that much, it kind of works to the films advantage as the brief flashes of a stabbing hand and a scream actually cause your mind to fill in the blanks which, as Jaws taught us, is always more terrifying.

Oh, I do have one last criticism. Ropey looking CGI dogs with man faces? Piss off. They probably have an explanation in the book but they certainly don’t in the film and so they just come off as the director realising he’s run out of time so he really needs to wrap things up quickly.Oh, and the uniform of the peacekeeprs looks very low-budget early 70s sci-fi. Not really the kind of thing you can get away with in a post Stormtroopers world.

So there you have it. It’s not a film without flaws but I was pretty entertained throughout. I feel a lot of this is down to Jennifer Lawrence and just some genuinely interesting world building. I might even give the books a read now since I’m sure they expand on that aspect to an even greater degree. So yeah, if you’ve got a free afternoon or evening you there are worst ways you could spend your time. Three and a half out of five. Laterz and may the odds be ever in your favour.

TheHungerGames



Review: 2012 by Jamie

Review: 2012

Massive, World Ending Spoilers Ahead! (Including things to do specifically with the films ending. You have been warned)

Roland Emmerich is a guy who has pretty much made a career out of destroying shit. Sure he’s dallied with other projects like Stargate (Which gets an instant pass from me for starring His Holiness Kurt Russell) but at the end of the day what he’ll be most known for is destroying the absolute fuck out of landmarks. Whether it’s blowing up the White House in ‘Independence Day’ or ruining the hopes and dreams of every Godzilla fan with the American ‘Godzilla’, Emmerich just likes to destroy things.

So where do you go after ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ when you’ve managed to destory quite a large portion of the world? Well, you have to destroy the entire world of course! And so he took this logical step with 2009’s ‘2012’.

When I saw the trailer, I pretty much described it as Disaster Porn and on watching the film I’ve gotta say that my opinion of the film in that regard hasn’t really changed much. What I was slightly surprised by, however, was there was actually a fairly enjoyable plot. Nothing world changing or anything but it wasn’t anyway near as bad as I thought is was gonna be and by the end of the film I was genuinely engaged in the characters predicaments and the story as a whole. Admittedly, the plot doesn’t actually really get interesting until the last part of the film, the first hour or so all being filled with set-up, techno-babble and exposition but once the destruction starts you can’t help but take some small delight in what appears to be the near extinction of the human race. Then the cataclysmic events come to a bit of an end and the plot suddenly kicks in and just kinda draws you in somewhat.

Now, as a sceptic I think you can already guess what one of the major problems I have with this film is. Yes, that’s right, I really, really dislike the whole 2012 Mayan prediction aspect of it. It’s a personal problem I understand but it’s these kind of films that are just going to draw more people into believing this kind of shit is somewhat possible. Of course, if you actually take a look into the Mayans you’ll find there’s nothing to suggest that they predicted the world would end in 2012. Not only that but even if they had predicted such a thing, I’m not going to trust the prediction of a civilisation that couldn’t even predict that their civilisation would come to an end.

There’s another slight little problem which, as an Englishman, I feel I just had to mention. What is the deal with Roland Emmerich taking little jabs at Britain in his disaster films? Seriously, in Independence Day there’s a scene where there are some British soldiers just sitting out in the desert when I radio message comes. One of the limey bastards picks up the note and exclaims with delight “It’s from the Americans! They want to organise a counter-attack!” To which his equally posh-accented chap replies “It’s about bloody time!” Yes, that’s right. Whilst the world went to shit, we sat around and waited for the Americans to come up with a bloody plan. May I take this opportunity to point out that whilst America was dithering about whether or not to join World War 2, we successfully defended our country in the Battle of Britain. We weren’t waiting for the Americans too come up with a plan like the bloody French!

Then in ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, we Brits take on a somewhat more heroic role. We’re the ones who provide a lot of the sciencey data that help everyone to figure out what’s going on but when it comes down to it, it’s made very clear that Britain is totally fucked and doomed to freeze to death. Thanks Roland. Finally, in 2012 there is a slightly more comical swipe taking at Ol’ Blighty. The US president Danny Glover has decided that he’s just too old for this getting saved shit and decides to go down with his country. But who do we see shuffling onto one of the rescue ships in a later scene? Her Majesty The Queen walking a couple of corgis! This is ridiculous. Of course the Queen would die with England because a) she knows that no one on a multinational ship would take any of her ‘One is right royal’ bullshit and b) There’s no way she’d be walking her own corgis.

Wait. Didn’t Emmerich direct ‘The Patriot’ as well? Fuck. I don’t understand it Emmerich’s not even American, he’s German… Oh, right.

Anyway, sorry about that. Just had to get that of my chest. So 2012. Yeah, umm… The cast does a pretty decent job. It’s almost impossible not to like John Cusack in anything even though he is kinda playing a douche here. Woody Harrelson is playing a weird conspiracy theorist type and is adequately crazy and who doesn’t love Danny Glover? Nobody. That’s who.

The special effects are pretty mind blowing and do the job that is required of them. Blowing shit up, cracking open land masses and crumbling statues of Christ. It’s all you could really ask for in an apocalypse movie. At the end of the day it’s big, dumb fun and though it sometimes tries to be above what it is, it generally doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Oh, and I also really liked the ending where the last survivors of humanity have to make there way back to Africa. It was kind of like a nice little home-coming for humanity, returning to the cradle of our species. Three pints out of five. Laterz.




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