Police Story 2013 (Review)

Police Story 2013The spirit is willing. The application and desire both admirable. But the inspiration and physicality has left the inimitable Jackie Chan. Even this, one of is best in a decade, is rough around the edges and lacking in many areas.

Jackie plays a jaded senior cop calling on his precocious – read; bitchy and ungrateful – young adult daughter in a crowded hip nightclub. It is here that she has chosen to break the news that she is dating the much older nightclub owner. She feels she will get a rise out of her dad with this revelation.

She is right.

But that’s hardly relevant, as within minutes of this bombshell comes a second, far more serious one, Jackie, his daughter and several others are taken hostage within the club.

The reasons behind this hostage situation are confusing. The justification for it all is thin. This series has nothing to do with the Police Story trilogy of the 80s, that had action unparalleled and humour aplenty. This, sadly like Jackie himself, is slower and a bit tired.

It wants so badly to be Die Hard Again, but Die Hard is a young man’s game, regardless of what Liam and Denzel would have us believe.

In the glory years Jackie Chan movies scheduled some chat and a couple jokes in between the incredible fights and the jaw dropping stunts. Now it’s a few fights between long talks, with the jaw-drop causes by reluctant yawns.

Final Rating – 6 / 10. Jackie could still beat your grandpa up, but until there is a market for grandpa fights that will remain an irrelevant title.

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Chinese Zodiac (Review)

chinese_zodiac_ver2Any discussion of Jackie Chan needs to start by discussing the past. The reasons Jackie finds work in these modern times can be found in any middle-aged action movie fan’s DVD collection. The covers might gather dust but the memories are crystal clear.

But they are becoming more distant.

Police Story 2013 was a sad reminder that Jackie Chan’s best is no longer sufficient, remarkably though Chinese Zodiac goes a long way to dispelling that belief. At least partially, and mostly because Jackie permits younger legs to come in and help out.

Jackie is back as an Asian Hawk from Armour of God type. This time around for convenience’ sake he is dubbed JC throughout. Where the Armour of God films were endlessly inventive and built around young Jackie’s singularly incomparable talents, this is eventually a collective effort.

As a magazine photographer and relic collector for hire, JC is tasked with collecting the famed 12 Chinese statues of the zodiac, bronze busts with enormous value. The problem with things that are worth lots though, is that thieves, collectors and assorted rich people types want them for themselves.

This competition creates the conflict.

Chinese Zodiac improves as it goes along. After a sleepy first third it switches gear into a busy but slightly confusing Pirates of the Caribbean influenced middle section. While entertaining it is hardly vintage Jackie, but perhaps it loosened his ageing limbs up, as the last half hour is as close to ‘vintage Jackie’ as anything since his Shanghai Knights days…

There is a close quarters fight that takes place largely on a couple of couches that proves the inventiveness is still there, and a couple other fights also pay their way. Chinese Zodiac is still not a patch on Jackie’s best, but is an awfully long way ahead of much of his recent stuff.

Final Rating – 7 / 10. Don’t call it a comeback – because it isn’t – but a huge improvement nonetheless.

P.S. If nothing else the end credits include a Jackie Chan career highlights montage and a thanks message that might just bring a tear to your eye.

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The Quiet American (Review)

31371z5-P1.tiff

31371z5-P1.tiff

The Quiet American begins slowly. It is 1952 in Saigon, a Vietnamese city rife with civil unrest and torn apart through daily acts of terrorism. “You’ll learn the sound of a grenade exploding very soon”, one man tells a newcomer.

Fowler (Michael Caine) is a British reporter long since used to the atrocities perpetrated here. Almost a local, Fowler moves about the city unnoticed. He has also taken to a beautiful young girl named Phuong, a serene and calm young woman who he ‘rescued’ from a bar. Fowler offers Phuong a better life and protection. Phuong offers him a chance to find some of her calming influence.

This changes with Pyle’s (Brendan Fraser) arrival. A younger, idealistic and noble young doctor, Pyle is charismatic and charming. In a bold but extremely politely executed move, Pyle offers to take Phuong for himself, right from under Fowler’s disbelieving nose, knowing full well Fowler cannot marry her honourably as he is still technically married to a woman in the UK.

What follows is the most polite game of ‘dibs’ imaginable. Both men parry verbally, often with Phuong standing and watching on, and even though it is clear that the two men would likely be friends in another life, the tension between them is palpable.

Fowler knows that without Phuong he is empty, and Pyle obviously believes things would be better for all involved if she were to go with him.

And all the while explosions ring out in the streets daily. Some big. Some small. Though the real conflict is being waged elsewhere with mass murders and slaughter being carried out in the outskirts of the city.

Michael Caine is as always excellent, and Brendan Fraser is also very good in a pivotal role. Even though Phuong need only stand silent while looking very pretty, this is something that she does extremely well.

The film is somehow directionless for a time, seemingly tiptoeing toward a revelation that will assist Phuong with her choice. But this isn’t that film. While you might not guess the outcome the film holds course and moves deliberately towards its destination. Without spoilers, the destination is a worthwhile  though for a time you wonder why you have chosen to spend two hours with a romantic period drama.

Hold the course. It’s worth the journey.

Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. An excellent character study inside a bigger story.

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Dust Devil (Review)

dustdevilbigHe roams the orange-red African roads, inhabiting bodies and harvesting souls. He dresses like a gunslinger and wields weapons that he uses with ruthless efficiency, leaving grisly scenes in his wake. His actions are cold but calculated, performed with painstaking care and determination; ornate displays of bloody evil.

Wendy is on a road trip to nowhere, driving only away from a husband that burned one last straw too many. When she picks up a handsome stranger on the roadside she isn’t thinking of danger. She isn’t thinking too hard at all…

Dust Devil sounds like a compelling concept, and the washed out colour of the arid landscape and long dialogue free scenes are admirable traits. The problem is that the film wants to be sit on the fence, to be half pregnant when that isn’t possible.

Maybe it was budget constraints. Maybe studio interference. Whatever the reason there are themes introduced and not followed up. The Dust Devil himself is explained as being something otherworldly – indeed we are given some evidence of this – but several opportunities to broaden and expand upon the character are ignored.

Some of this is exacerbated by a voiceover that also suggests there are facts left on the table, and by a finale that screams ‘incomplete’.

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. Dust Devil could have been anything. It could have been The Hitcher via Angel Heart. Instead it comes across as a passion project bedevilled by unwanted compromise.

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Hard Target 2

hard-target-2-poster1Tragedy brought former MMA fighter Wes Baylor (Scott Adkins) to Thailand. Now he fights Rambo 3 style for small purses in order to do just enough to stay off the radar and away from the horrible memories.

Only the lure of One Last Big Payday can convince Baylor to betray his principles and emerge from anonymity. Alas he trusted the wrong guy, and within hours Baylor finds himself on the run pursued through dense jungles by a group of paying clients baying for his blood and vying for the opportunity to take him down.

Solid but familiar premise, but hopelessly betrayed by inferior execution. The so called wannabe assassins are all cardboard cutout ‘ugly Americans’ with the exception of the unfortunate Rhona Mitra, who at one point seemed poised to become a minor B movie star, but somehow ended up a parody of herself. Now she looks like the offspring of Steven Tyler and an axolotl – which knowing Steven Tyler is actually a possibility – and acts with the conviction of someone trying to talk their way out of a video shop late fee. She’s trying, but she knows no one is buying it.

This isn’t a ‘who’s who’ of B movies. This is a ‘who cares’ of an instant D movie.

Against this backdrop of useless Scott Adkins has nothing to soar over, crunch through or high kick. Instead he simply wafts through proceedings with a young Thai girl name Tha, doing just little enough to allow the bad guys to remain close, and teasing us with a ‘love scene’ that never arrives. (Hey it’s an MA film, as a male it’s ingrained to expect a little female nudity!)

Two things convinced me to watch Hard Target 2: the first is the long held view that Scott Adkins has a ‘capital G’ Great Action film in him. The second is the fuzzy recollection of the original Van Damme film.

Both hopes were admittedly long shots, and both were squashed swiftly under the weight of ineptitude, both in front of, and behind, the cameras.

Final Rating – 4.5 / 10. As a result the only Capital Hard Target 2 gets is a D, both in grade, and as the first letter of Disappointment.

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Redeemer (Review)

redeemer“Get on your knees and beg for forgiveness.”

If you hear this, you are likely a bad guy being offered redemption. If you decline said offer, the alternative involves bludgeoning, stabbing and lost teeth. Better to ask for forgiveness, because when you take on the guy on the poster you rarely win.

Every night is Russian roulette vs dangerous thugs and criminals. The Redeemer has no allegiance beyond right and wrong. His sense of vengeance may be confusing, but he seems to figure that if he takes out enough random bad guys, all that will be left is the guy he really wants to nail.

That would be some flippant American white guy drug lord who sensibly hides behind the countless minions as the Redeemer slugs his way to the top.

The Redeemer has the moves but this film does not ask him to show charisma. This makes him akin to Tony Jaa, an incredible athlete and fighter looking for a film tantamount to their attributes. Unlike Tony Jaa, Jaror finds himself in a film rife with cliche and familiar tropes, which already puts him ahead of Jaa’s plotless nonsense.

Somewhere there is a young teenager watching Redeemer in wide eyed awe, just as I did with Jackie Chan in the 80s. I may be bias but while Redeemer highlights the obvious physical abilities of newcomer Marco Jaror – a man with elastic limbs, fast twitch reflexes and a love of wearing dopey hoodies – it will not have me rushing to replace my Wheels on Meals dvd.

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. Now it’s up to Jaror to find his own Police Story or Gareth Evans.

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Seven Below (Review)

7 belowA packed car swerves on a lonely road to miss a woman dressed in old-timey clothes. The car crashes. A man appears to provide assistance. He is Jack (Ving Rhames). He takes the shaken passengers to his nearby home. Among them is Bill (Val Kilmer). Bill is concussed and unsure of himself. He is acting obnoxiously. But he was acting obnoxiously well before the accident…

Jack tells them that bad weather is coming and they should settle in for the night. They grow want to leave. They try. They pick up a woman tending to a broken down car. They learn they can’t leave.

They return to the home.

At Jack’s home people who just met share deep secrets about themselves and their families. Stories of their ancestors. Things you might tell people after you have known them for years. Jack tells nothing but looks on.

The house itself has secrets of its own, and it seems even more hellbent on clumsily telling everyone about them.

Bumps. Steps. Groans. Laughs. A mirror. A bed. A peephole.

Subtle it ain’t, and it only gets louder…

7 Below is a film that was made because. This couldn’t possibly have been a priority script. There must have been a tax dodge or an studio allowance that had to be used by a deadline.

I can’t see how else anyone felt this was a good idea.

Certainly Val Kilmer sleeps through the film. Even when he isn’t unconscious onscreen he may as well be. Ving Rhames too sticks with surly mode, breaking a scowl only twice to laugh – with each occasion looking like it hurts more than any of the tedious violence that befalls anyone in the film.

Final Rating – 5 / 10. This exact same film has been made 499 films before this one was produced, 460 of them turned out better than this film.

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Agency of Vengeance – Dark Rising (Review)

Agency of VengeanceI didn’t know there was an Agency of Vengeance #1 when I chanced upon this on Netflix. I don’t think it matters. I didn’t understand what was going on as it happened, and I don’t remember what I just saw anyway.

When Tremors worms killed her husband on their wedding day, Summer Vale retired to the Men in Black style agency that exists to fight evil.

Summer learns that she must find the Book of Shadows to prevent some demon guy taking over the world. Apparently this requires her to engage in hand to hand combat while clad in nothing but lingerie. Three separate times. Another has Summer fighting another cute girl who is wearing lingerie.

In the Agency, you are most vulnerable to being attacked when you are standing about in your undies. Which is to say extremely often.

While none of the jokes really work you admire the cast for trying to turn this into a screwball comedy without resorting to lazy cameos and body fluid jokes.

This is the product of people who grew up on Nickelodeon shows and then found puberty both a troubling and inspiring time. Then, after a Xena marathon and the launch of the Lingerie Football League, inspiration hit. Low key inspiration, but while Agency of Vengeance is amateurish and sloppy, it’s hard to hate something that refuses to take itself seriously.

Besides, good looking women fight in their undies…

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. There’s something to be said for at least trying to entertain, even if you ultimately fail.

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The Good, the (Not) Bad & the Ugly: Your OGR Guide to the post-apocalypse

Premise first: There are a million cinematic genres out there just waiting for you to find them. Within those genres are countless films ranging from atrocious to (hopefully) all time great.We care at OGR, so since 2012 we have been periodically highlighting a different genre and identifying which films in your respective genre are;

The GOOD: 8 / 10 and above

They might not all be great, but we wholeheartedly recommend that you check these out, as they represent some of the best the genre has to offer.

The (NOT) BAD: 6.5 / 10 to 7.5 / 10

These films might have a few flaws and probably won’t blow you away, but they aren’t terrible, boast at least a few decent moments and who knows there might just find a gem or two in here that works better for you.

&

The UGLY: 6 / 10 and below

Films that are ordinary at best, and worse… not much joy to be found here I’m afraid.

For the most part I will let the full reviews in the links tell the story. Feel free to let me know what I missed or which of your favourites is ranked too low.

Since I launched this site in 2009 the most over-used phrases that I have found myself typing are ‘in a dystopian future’, or ‘we open in post-apocalyptic meh…’

Seriously it’s like Hollywood is convinced that 99% of the planet will perish in one of many especially unpalatable ways, with the survivors remaining only to provide still more entertainment through their ongoing struggles against zombies, vampires, cannibal or ideally all of the above.

nuclear_explosionThe Cinematic handling of the near extinction of human-kind!

While a post-apocalyptic landscape is indeed cinematically effective, often cheap to create, and allows the production crew a clean slate on which to reimagine how society might look, it isn’t always a sure fire recipe for success. The cost efficiencies that can allow one director to build a striking and memorable landscape can also permit a shitty director to think a pile of boxes covered in graffiti represents the demise of civilisation – instead of a pile of boxes covered in texta.

For the purposes of this list I have decided that any apocalyptic event should be one that has at least appeared to have wiped out the larger proportion of humanity. I have set the bar at 90%. The reasons behind the massive death toll are largely irrelevant, as is the landscape that remains in the aftermath. A group of sexy vampires eating some rich people isn’t the apocalypse. A vampire outbreak that wipes out almost all of the population of the United States, and turns the survivors into either religious zealots, cannibals, marauding opportunists – or all of the above – sounds pretty apocalyptic to me.

And in the case of Tank Girl, some filmmakers shouldn’t be allowed to have any ideas about how the future might look. Let’s just say hip-hop slang talking kangaroos are less likely than a clothed Miley Cyrus at this point in time.

And if the future is to be as ‘sassy’ as that film makes out, then I welcome my fiery demise in the apocalypse.

There seem to be five recurring causes for the apocalypse in the list below, with almost all having a close alignment with one or other. They are;

  1. Nuclear War
  2. Plague (usually man made)
  3. Robot Uprising
  4. Weather changes
  5. Zombie outbreak

Now let’s get dealing with the destruction…

Zombie-ApocalypseThe Good,

Probably not such a thing as a ‘good apocalypse’, however works of fiction dealing with same can entertain if carefully and expertly crafted. Here are films that provide a viable reason for the near extinction of the human race, a plot that actually does something with this knowledge, and a film with well drawn characters and compelling content.

You still don’t look forward to a world on the brink, but for a couple hours you can happily watch others deal with it.

book_of_eliThe Book of Eli

Cause of apocalypse – Someone pushed the red button, triggering nuclear war
One word description of aftermath – Wastelands
How we deal with it – The usual wasteland way. Keep to yourself or gang up and attack those keeping to themselves.

On the surface this film could take place in the same environment as The Road, even Mad Max, but make no mistake, this is a one trick film. It’s just a good thing that the one trick is a pretty good one, and that the guy playing the guy playing the trick, is ever reliable Denzel Washington.

Of course, once you know the one trick the replay value drops away considerably, and you realise just how close to average some of the action scenes are. But I never recommend that people watch a film twice, merely suggest they might enjoy it on the first occasion. Choosing to revisit said film on subsequent occasions is up to them

dawn_of_the_dead_ver2Dawn of the Dead

Cause of apocalypse – A nasty case of zombie-itis. (Eat one braaaaaiinnn and call me in the morning.)
One word description of aftermath – Hungry
How we deal with it – Laying low with periodic running away.

I find it hard to believe that there was a time when Zack Snyder was a director that I could have sworn was going to take over. History shows that while his films are often profitable, they are never very good.

This one though. This one took George Romero’s original, stripped away any semblance of social commentary, and put a truly mismatched group of survivors in the last bastion of hope, surrounded by mindless, flesh hungry zombies.

Whip smart, ferocious and nasty as hell, this is for mine clearly superior to all three of Romero’s original trilogy.

mad_max_two_the_road_warriorThe Mad Max Quadrilogy

Cause of apocalypse – Energy and fuel shortages (actually one of the more possible justifications if you think about it.
One word description of aftermath – High-octane
How we deal with it – Oiling up the muscles, grabbing a natty haircut and reaching for the megaphone.

Mad Max was pretty much a society gone rogue. It seemed that while there were many decent people, the wilder elements had grown more and more uncontrollable. By Mad Max 2 though things were far worse; small pockets huddled together in fortified accomodations, constantly watching for, and warding off, shirtless hoons, armed with primitive but still deadly weapons, extreme haircuts and extremely quick vehicles.

The first might well have made this list on its own merits, the second definitely belongs here, and the third… well I’m still trying to pretend the third never happened.

Then of course Mad Max: Fury Road came along and blew the doors off everything last year. I have written both too much and not enough about this magnificent comeback. Perhaps search ‘awesome’ and see what comes up.

matrix_ver1The Matrix

Cause of apocalypse – Robo-takeover, and not one of those violent type ones from Terminator.
One word description of aftermath – Ground-breaking
How we deal with it – While most lay back in tubes of goo stuffed with tubes, some of the most stylish try to fight back.

Now that The Matrix is but a touchstone for old nerds, cosplay enthusiasts, meme generators and people – like me – who enjoy poking fun at the way Keanu says ‘Woah’, it’s easy to forget that The Matrix (well the first one) kicked all kinds of vinyl clad arse.

A truly original concept, with distinctive characters and an easy to hate enemy, The Matrix was also savvy enough to have us leaving the cinemas wondering if our ‘real selves’ might be elsewhere, hooked on tubes and powering Monstropolis.

9_poster_99

Cause of apocalypse – Again with the machine uprising. Befriend your toaster just in case…
One word description of aftermath – Mesmerising
How we deal with it – ‘We’ don’t have much to do. This is a film predominantly about puppets and non-human characters. We sit this one out.

It’s hard to get the word out about a film when it is essentially a cartoon about a group of numbered dolls trying to navigate across a post-apocalyptic world. Nevertheless this is that film, and it’s a bloody good one. While definitely adult in tone and content, this isn’t an especially bloody or violent film, just animation for grown ups with astonishing visuals and a solid – if slightly muddled – storyline.

9 is too grown up for the Shrek and Nemo set, and most adults won’t attend an animated film unless they are taking a whipper-snapper. I guess that makes it our little secret. A pity though, because this is a very good film.

reign_of_fireReign of Fire

Cause of apocalypse – Oh, you know, dragons.
One word description of aftermath – Medium-well.
How we deal with it – Move to the nearest castle, slap on some SPF 812.

Another original premise at least. In the wake of the rise of dragons (Khaleesi!!!) humanity is unprepared, and rightly so, I mean who the hell thought that could happen. In their eternal search for sustenance, all turns to ash, cities, civilisation, arable land. Then of course the Americans with their big ideas, bulging muscles and bald heads show up.

Absurdly enjoyable, brought to life by remembering the little touches, and made stronger by solid performances by Christian Bale and yes, Matthew McConaughey, Reign of Fire is better than you think when you squiz at the cover.

THE_ROAD_movie_poster_by_KarezoidThe Road

Cause of apocalypse – Unspecified, but it has left all plant and animal life practically non-existent, and that means both carnivores and vegans are mighty hungry.
One word description of aftermath – Bleak (as fuck)
How we deal with it – Any way you can. When some would eat you, some would kill you, some would have a chat and most would be as scared of you as you are of them, it’s hard for beggars to be choosers.

Possibly the most realistic portrayal of how All Things might end. With humanity on the precipice all pretence of social contract ends. Every man for himself soon turns to ‘every man and his crew, killing other men’ for himself. Stuck between a rock and a hard place; if you ‘do’ you’re a cannibal. If you ‘don’t’ you’re the main course.

And smack dab in the middle of this harrowing, heart-sinking mess is a good man trying to keep his young son alive.

That’s true horror folks.

snowpiercer-internationalposter-snowytrain-fullSnowpiercer

Cause of apocalypse – Global Ice Age – take that Al Gore.
One word description of aftermath – Chilly
How we deal with it – A rich guy with the world’s biggest Hot Wheels track intends to have his train run laps of the globe for all eternity. Why? Look! A squirrel!

A modern day Terry Gilliam film, only made by a Korean with a cast from all over. The plot is nonsensical but the superior production makes it nearly work, and the basic premise of the poor and unfortunate ‘climbing’ to the train’s front, and home of the well-to-do, plays out like the various waves of different enemies and locations in King Kong and 300.

The reality is that the film is a mixed bag, but a most stylish one.

stake-land-movie-posterStake Land

Cause of apocalypse – Vampire outbreak, triggering wholesale chaos.
One word description of aftermath – Road-esque
How we deal with it – See The Road.

As good – if not better – than Zombieland, but lacking the jokes and star-power cost it a wider audience. In any case this film has more in common with The Road. Vampires have sent the world into a tizzy, with everyone reacting differently; cannibalism, religious extremism, rogue groups of scumbags revelling in anarchy.

A weathered and fatigued man reluctantly takes a young boy under his wing and teaches him the way of the (fucked up) world. See what I said about The Road?

Suffers just a little with the wannabe Blade ending, but a memorable and striking film nonetheless.

terminator_salvationTerminator Salvation

Cause of apocalypse – Like the first three films didn’t give you a clue? Skynet baby!
One word description of aftermath – Expensive
How we deal with it – Looking surly, fighting back and yelling at lighting guys.

While the first two films in the franchise are landmarks in the sci-fi genre, they aren’t dealing with the post-apocalypse – which I guess puts them in the ‘pre-apocalypse’ basket along with thousands of others.

In Terminator: Salvation though the robotic chickens have come home to roost and we learn that the heroics from the first three films still couldn’t stop the ipod uprising.

Depending on your level of love for T1 or T2 you can see this film as a blight on the landscape or a patent waste of time. I call it a welcome improvement from the third film, and a decent enough film in its own right.

12monkeysTwelve Monkeys

Cause of apocalypse – We did it. More experiments gone wrong.
One word description of aftermath – Musty
How we deal with it – We taking the game underground baby!

Considering the low budget by today’s standards, Twelve Monkeys paints an extremely vivid picture of the aftermath of the ‘end’. When everything above ground is contaminated and everything underground dank and claustrophobic, no wonder Brad Pitt’s character is already a lunatic, and Bruce Willis’s is openly questioning his own reality.

Twelve Monkeys is as wilfully non-mainstream as they come, a film that questions the establishment and our willingness to be lead in the same breath – and unlike Fight Club and V for Vendetta, it’s actually subtle and rewarding.

twenty_eight_weeks_later28 Weeks Later

Cause of apocalypse – Us. Again. DAMN YOU SCIENCE! Test monkeys freed by hippies bite the wrong people – And they bite two friends. And they bite two friends. And they… you get the picture.
One word description of aftermath – Tumbleweeds
How we deal with it – Slowly and clinically, with diligence and no doubt Key Performance Indicators.

For my convenience I am assuming that in 28 Days Later, only some regions were affected by the Rage (read: Zombie making) Virus – meaning I can leave that film – which I have said is inferior to this many a time – off the list guilt free.

As the name suggests the film kicks off about seven months after the initial festivities. The survivors have established a base and are clearing up the debris and zombie ‘leftovers’ one area at a time. You could argue that the central family run into each other all too conveniently all too often. You couldn’t argue that the film is consistently good, with a few scenes that are simply outstanding.

wall_eWall-E

Cause of apocalypse – Humans. Lazy, fat, careless humans.
One word description of aftermath – Messy
How we deal with it – We basically left the keys in the mailbox and buggered off on an eternal holiday. Let the robo-maid sort it out.

This might be the only film on this list where not only do cockroaches survive the end, but they are almost central characters. Wall-e is a small trash compactor though, and one more easy to like than you would think. While he slaves away in vain trying to make the world a more liveable place, fat ass humans slob away in deep space, getting fatter, lazier and even less interested in giving a collective shit.

When a robot and a disease carrying bug upstage the entire human race, maybe it’s time to listen?

zombieland_ver2Zombieland

Cause of apocalypse – Unexplained, run of the mill zombification of millions.
One word description of aftermath – Unconventional
How we deal with it – Adhering to a strict set of rules, or by winging it, depending on who you ask.

A rare creation that adheres to genre conventions yet still manages to elevate itself beyond them by clearly defining and poking fun at the normally accepted boundaries. Not bad for a zombie comedy.

The creativity is evident, but the strength here is the characters; Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone create solid approximations of real people dealing with extraordinary circumstances, while cadging every laugh they can from the rich material.

Apocalypse_by_pierremassineThe Not Bad… 

Because films don’t always cover all the bases. Films in this category are lacking something (production, budget, a plot, a cast), but they have enough to warrant a look.

batteryThe Battery

Cause of apocalypse – More zombification
One word description of aftermath – Hipster-friendly
How we deal with it – Oh you know man. We make do. No sense having a freak out just because the world got a little crazy right?

Everyone handles adversity differently. This film surmises that some people will just carry on as they did before the ‘change’, albeit with a few necessary lifestyle modifications. Despite the isolation, the stench of death, the feel of inevitable doom, these two young guys keep chatting about everything and nothing, keep tossing the ball around, keep wandering about aimlessly. It’s just the same ol’ same ol’, only you have to bash some people’s heads in with a bat periodically.

The only problem with slacker – slash – hipsters doing their thing, is that you spend ninety minutes watching slacker – slash – hipsters. Something I wouldn’t ordinarily choose to do. If you have zombies – use the damn zombies.

bounty-killer-movie-poster-2013-1010768324-212x300Bounty Killer

Cause of apocalypse – The need to justify an action film with sex and violence.
One word description of aftermath – Low-budget
How we deal with it – Apparently by rising up and killing all the rich and powerful people – they’re the bad guys after all. Or at least that’s what this sweeping generation of a film would have us believe.

Made on the cheap and it shows. A film that steals production design from Mad Max, dialogue from Tarantino’s shredding basket and nudity from films that realise movie viewers 18-39 like nudity. Even when it fails in the first two categories the third category helps cover over a lot of flaws.

Forgettable, but harmless, straight to DVD fare.

carriersCarriers

Cause of apocalypse – Pandemic! One bug can ruin your civilisation.
One word description of aftermath – Perplexing
How we deal with it – Apparently by making a series of increasingly odd decisions.

Carriers generally surprises on the upside. Your average post-apocalypse is dusty and deserted, two things that don’t cost a lot of money. The cast too is better than you expect in such a film, albeit I have totes forgot who they are.

What I do recall is that the film is sidetracked by a stream of inane arguments and ridiculous choices. I understand that this ratchets up the drama and that getting audiences to yell “no. don’t do that. Do this!’ invites involvement, but after the 23rd stupid decision you start thinking “well if that’s the way you’re gonna be then die already”.

cyborg_poster_01Cyborg

Cause of apocalypse – Plague
One word description of aftermath – Like so many warehouses and vacant blocks (OK more than one word)
How we deal with it – High kicking, shirt shedding and doing the splits.

Before Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career plateaued in the direct to VHS strata, he made a bunch of low budget films to get known. This was one of them, a dirty and grimy little pic that made the most of the budget by dressing everyone as varying degrees of hobo-pirate and having them stand still while JCVD threw roundhouse kicks at them.

It is hardly High Art, but if you like watching buff guys kick crap out of morons, you could do a lot worse. Amazingly Cyborg 2 isn’t an abomination of cinema either.

equilibriumEquilibrium

Cause of apocalypse – World War 3
One word description of aftermath – Eye-catching
How we deal with it – Drugs. Lots of drugs. And by hitting each other with guns… for some reason.

Guns don’t kill people. But they sure do leave a mark. That’s because in this stylish and ambitious low budget film, people wage fierce hand to hand combat by using their weapons to strike each other. It saves on bullets and looks momentarily cool, but you will still eventually scratch your head and say ‘Didn’t anyone bring bullets?”

It’s like V for Vendetta with as little sense but far less pretentious dribble.

The rest is 50/50, with each ‘cool and new’ credit offset equally by a ‘derivative and bland’ debit.

night_of_the_living_deadThe George Romero ‘… of the Deads’

Cause of apocalypse – Sing along with The Cranberries “Zom-bie. Zom-bie. Zom-bayih-ayih-ayih…
One word description of aftermath – Genre-defining
How we deal with it – Usually by getting eaten just before the credits.

Yes Poppy George shaped the zombie into the cinema mainstay it has become. Yes his films are gruelling, bloody and pull no punches. They are also slow, occasionally clumsy and please once again spare me the cries of social commentary. The first had a black guy so it’s about social inequality. The second was in a mall so it was about consumer ennui. The third was in an army base so it was about military corruption. The fourth had a wealthy guy in a tower so it was about the divide between the rich and the poor. I get it. And at the same time I don’t care.

Zack Snyder’s film was simply better than all four, and yes, given his subsequent work I am as surprised as you. But that doesn’t change the fact that the four films (and some of the increasingly crappy sequels ol’ George churns out) are mediocre by comparison, and only a die hard core of uber-puritans still say otherwise.

hardware-poster-2Hardware

Cause of apocalypse – War started it. Then disease finished the job.
One word description of aftermath – Alternative
How we deal with it – By relying on our good old technological innovations. Oh wait. That isn’t such a good idea.

There’s a 99.6% chance that whoever made Hardware had 80s death metal videos and those weird Japanese films like Tetsuo on a loop. This is a little like a dystopian Pump up the Volume crossed with Short Circuit, only Number Five is a vicious killing machine.

Stylish and confronting as all hell though.

Hell%20Comes%20To%20Frogtown%20DVDHell comes to Frogtown

Cause of apocalypse – Ummm, the apocalypse? Look this isn’t a film about ‘why’ or ‘how’, more a film about ‘what next?’
One word description of aftermath – Warty
How we deal with it – With the damage already done, it seems all that’s left to do is get back to repopulatin’, one 80s music video chickie at a time.

Hey, every list needs a film with an ex-wrestler tasked with the chore of impregnating as many women as possible to repopulate the Earth, while steering clear of the nefarious frog-people who have mutated in the

Given the subject matter it should be no surprise that this film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and who better as the personification of that ethos than Rowdy Roddy Piper, who takes conversing, fighting and flirting with bad actors in surprisingly effective giant frog masks in his cocksure stride.

Don’t knock it till you see it (after which you’ll probably knock it anyway).

i_am_legend_ver2I am Legend

Cause of apocalypse – A sudden sweeping plague
One word description of aftermath – Misguided
How we deal with it – Sleeping in the bathtub. Creating a plot-hole big enough that Will Smith’s head could get through.

At the risk of infuriating myself again, I might point out that I am Legend is half of a very solid film let down by cowardice, compromise and concessions to Will Smith’s vanity. The film ditches the ‘sole survivor’ thing to cram in a nonsensical and improbable scene, with the sole purpose to make Smith’s character more noble and give him someone to talk to – and save. And of course the ending straight up ignores the script and renders the title worthless in the same breath.

Still, one nice taut sequence when Smith chases his dog into the building… *SOB* (What should have been a great film is a frustratingly mediocre one.)

oblivionOblivion

Cause of apocalypse – A war between humanity and an alien race.
One word description of aftermath – Slick
How we deal with it – Chilling in chic furniture in pristine homes, occasionally pausing to fly cutting edge aircraft and talking in calm tones to colleagues.

What is it with big stars these days that makes them veer outside their comfort zone. Naomi Watts can be in a straight up horror film. Brad Pitt fights zombies! Adam Sandler co-stars with Drew Barrymore in a lousy cash-in! (Well I guess some things never change.)

Tom Cruise doesn’t go too far out of his lane with Oblivion, but he does get to rock a nice white space suit and cruise about in nifty rocket ships. Here is yet another unneeded film about how dangerous it can be to blindly follow orders, yet ironically by the ending the film itself has fallen into lock-step with the cinematic conventions of such films.

Another Tom Cruise Certified product. Have at it easily lead movie goers.

pandorumPandorum

Cause of apocalypse – An all too lengthy nap for humankind, while the non-snoozers go right on with evolving.
One word description of aftermath – Event-Horizon-esque
How we deal with it – Initially, by fleeing in a big spaceship, but when that becomes infested new ideas become a scarce commodity indeed.

Noble beginnings give way to formula. The early ‘what the hell are we dealing with?’ tensions dissipate quickly with the realisation that we are dealing with an Event Horizon replica, only with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster in the lead.

I should probably add an asterisk to this one; it is worthwhile*…

* Only if you haven’t seen Event Horizon.

PriestPriest

Cause of apocalypse – The aftermath of a war between vampires and humans
One word description of aftermath – Computer-generated
How we deal with it – By stylishly cruising through manufactured landscapes and continuing the brave and noble fight.

The dawn of a new era of cheap CGI must infuriate John Carpenter. If computer effects were as readily available in the 80s he could have churned out a dozen Priest type films annually in his sleep. Unfortunately nowadays he can barely make a film that reminds us of even average John Carpenter.

Part vampire film, part Equilibrium style B movie, Priest tries – and ultimately fails – to make a leading man of Paul Bettany and a leading bad guy of Karl Urban. Both things which should be obvious in retrospect.

Still, some striking visuals and a few decent moments in a film that does nearly enough. That can’t be all bad.

screamersScreamers

Cause of apocalypse – Nuclear war. Again.
One word description of aftermath – Earnest
How we deal with it – By fighting off bad guys and vicious robotic groundhog type things.

Another moderate triumph for low budget sci-fi. Screamers takes an original but flawed premise and does its best. The thought of vicious robot gophers is confronting, that’s true, but after they’ve killed a few oblivious muppets the gloss comes off pretty quick.

Credit for effort and a few semi original ideas, but if you’re totally ill equipped from the get-go, you kinda wonder why you would bother showing up at all.

waterworldWaterworld

Cause of apocalypse – Global Warming. Take THAT Snowpiercer! I hope your train sank…
One word description of aftermath – Wet (In EVERY sense of the word)
How we deal with it – By pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the sea and all agreeing to never again let Kevin Costner headline a big budget film.

Wow. Who let Mr Costner indulge his pirate fantasies in a Mad Max replica? An unemployed Producer. That’s who!

This ultra-expensive work of incompetence sought to make a noble, nearly silent hero out of Costner (could have happened), a babbling idiot out of Dennis Hopper (hardly a stretch), a sexy babe of Jeannette Triplehorn (nervous) and an actin extravaganza out of a film that uses water as currency and people growing gills as a supposed showstopper!

That the film isn’t entirely abysmal shouldn’t be viewed as a silver lining, not with the incredible budget involved. Costner was given free reign and full studio backing in a film that became the punchline to a million ‘overrated’ jokes. That’s around one hundred and fifty million dollars worth of misguided Ouch right there.

codpocalypse…The Ugly 

By giving your film a post-apocalyptic backdrop you can save money. Money that can be used elsewhere to hire quality actors, pay for top notch computer generated effects, stunts and action sequences… or not.

It’s not always humanity that cops the wrong end of the stick. Sometimes it’s the poor saps watching the film themselves.

divideThe Divide

Cause of apocalypse – Nuclear war.
One word description of aftermath – Depraved
How we deal with it – Going underground, instantly turning on each other, forming cliques and basically ‘gettin’ mine’, regardless of the cost to others.

Look. This might actually be the most accurate depiction of a post apocalyptic environment on film (it isn’t), but it is certainly the most repugnant and troubling. (Hardly a surprise since the director made Frontier(s).)

An altogether disposable and attention seeking example of the illogical next level of torture porn.

Also; it’s rubbish.

doomsday_ver10Doomsday

Cause of apocalypse – A plague.
One word description of aftermath – Purloined
How we deal with it – Working on our ‘look. Good hair and the right combination of tattoos and piercings can make even the most painful apocalypse more bearable…

The only film on this list that I couldn’t recall enough about to give an ill-informed and hasty opinion. Revisiting Doomsday some five years after my initial viewing only served to remind me of just how much it stole from other, infinitely better, films.

This is like a greatest hits mixtape of other artists, all half assedly thrown together by someone who couldn’t be bothered sitting down and coming up with new ideas.

judge_dredd_ver2Judge Dredd

Cause of apocalypse – Unspecified, but most land is uninhabitable wasteland.
One word description of aftermath – Helmeted
How we deal with it – Survivors more to the super-cities, where crime is rife, violence is common, and crappy movies are spawned.

Having Rob Schneider present and making quirky comments sounds exactly like the apocalypse to me. If that isn’t bad enough the plot ends any chance of redemption for a film that was essentially a vanity project gone awry for Stallone. The fact that a couple years ago a reboot starring Karl Urban (!) of all people left this film in the shade, should make the filmmakers responsible very sad indeed.

postman_ver3The Postman

Cause of apocalypse – Nuclear war.
One word description of aftermath – Drab
How we deal with it – By falling patiently in line behind the postal service, instead of waiting in line impatiently at the post office.

Kevin Costner is so determined, so sincere, so noble, as the titular Postman, a man who uses his uniform to initially mislead, then inspire, the remainder of polite humanity, that you might forget that this film is such a bloated, misguided and wasteful effort. Actually no you probably wouldn’t be that silly. This film is shit.

resident_evil_apocalypseResident Evil 2 through the rest

Cause of apocalypse – Experiments gone wrong, leading to unchecked zombiism.
One word description of aftermath – Unnecessary
How we deal with it – By making the same shitty film again and again and again.

Blame me as much as anyone. I liked the first film, and I guess several others did. Enough of us to see a second. And a third. And too many more. I don’t know what they are up to now and frankly I don’t care. Only the first film even bothered showing zombies – you know, like the mainstay of the games – and with every new bland faceless character and every wire-heavy, slo-mo infused acrobatics masquerading as fight scene, my heart breaks just a little bit more.

So many ‘good to brilliant’ zombie films are made with a pittance, Paul W.S. Anderson manages to take hundreds of millions every couple years and turn it into a migraine.

tank_girl_ver1Tank Girl

Cause of apocalypse – Water scarcity has left liveable land scarce, and big corporations control the water – and humanity.
One word description of aftermath – Bile-inducing
How we deal with it – Sassy quips, inane banter and sticking it da man. In fact all men apparently.

If there is a worse mid-budget film made in the last three decades then thankfully I can’t think of it right now. Can I just pretend that it takes 250 words to say ‘Ice-T plays an irreverent kangaroo’ and rest my case?

total_recallTotal Recall (2013)

Cause of apocalypse – Global pollution has left the earth with only two hospitable areas for humankind.
One word description of aftermath – Unnecessary
How we deal with it – By disappointing anyone who ever saw the 1990 original – and taking millions to do it.

For a start the first film is still perfectly adequate and in no need of a reboot thanks. In fact it looks more cutting edge and contemporary than this misguided effort, despite being a quarter century older.

But there is so much more to bag this film about. How about thinking Colin Farrell might have the charisma and presence of Arnie? How about thinking that robots are somehow cooler than mutants? How about making the entire shambles a PG affair?

Poor old Kuarto is turning over in his grave.

ultravioletUltraviolet

Cause of apocalypse – A blood disease that the uninfected will kill to keep clear of.
One word description of aftermath – Lurid
How we deal with it – By doing Resident Evil type things in slo-mo while wearing ridiculous outfits.

Milla Jovovich proves it isn’t the Resident Evil franchise that is preventing her from credibility. This insanely poorly conceived attempt at building a franchise suggests bright colours are the answer for everything, and that we live in a world where our soldiers stand about waiting patiently to be felled by a skinny waif held aloft by wires and filmed in slo-mo.

vanishing_on_seventh_street_ver2A Vanishing on 7th Street

Cause of apocalypse – So like, darknessss, instantly kills everyone.
One word description of aftermath – Shadowy
How we deal with it – By remaining near a source of light by any means necessary.

Evidence that being unique and new isn’t necessarily a good thing. Watching a somewhat talented cast try to convince us that playing ‘the floor is lava’ with darkness in place of the floor was depressing. The fact that the survivors became instantly petrified of their own shadow wasn’t tension building, it was ludicrous.

There are numerous reasons in film to be scared of the dark. This film proves that the dark itself isn’t the scary thing.

Dreamy-Fantasy-Apocalypse-Artwork-WallpaperIn Summation

I think we can all agree that the concept of global apocalypse is a depressing yet omnipresent one. Hollywood in particular seems to relish finding new ways to justify the death of almost all of us simultaneously. When it comes to watching the finished products though, the usual rules for film still apply.

You must still spend your budget wisely. You must still provide compelling characters and / or action. You must excel at generating suspense, humour, scares or thrills, depending on your chosen genre.

The films nearer the top of this list manage that, the films in the final third could all be lumped together more concisely under the banner of ‘FAIL’.

But so long as the Good films keep a coming, I’ll keep checking in periodically to see just how we are dealing with our near extinction. This time.

OGR

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Keanu (Review)

keanuKey and Peele are famous for their insightful and incisive lampooning of modern race relations in their skit based comedy series that only recently ended. I haven’t seen the show, didn’t feel the need seeing as I can recite most of Dave Chappelle’s classics almost verbatim. But I have seen them interviewed on more than a few occasions, and it is obvious that they are quite funny.

So a mistaken identity movie that starts with a stolen car seems a little… off.
Clarence (one of them) and Rell (the other one) are boring suburbanites, tending to monotony by ferrying kids about, running errands and only swearing when the wives are out of the room. Not only are Clarence and Rell aware of their lack of street cred, they lament it, as if ‘hardness’ is somehow close to ‘worthiness’.

It is when the actual street gang called the 17th Street Blips take Keanu, the tiny kitten that Rell credits with getting his life back in order, that *ebonicsplease* da boyz got git hard.
Sigh. So any chance of a modern day comedy classic just got dropped into the litter box.
Now the self-dubbed Tectonic and Shark Tank must bluff and bluster their way through a dangerous world in which they clearly don’t belong. They come up with impromptu stories and fake street slang to pull the wool over the eyes of gang leader Cheddar (Method Man) and his crew, who of course assume they are the dangerous pair of hired killers that they recently called for – but obviously have never seen.

It was when Rell accidentally killed a known Hollywood actress in a botched deal while Clarence convinced some hardened thugs of the merits of George Michael that I felt my life force ooze away. This is hardly a terrible film, just a terribly lazy one, and frankly if they weren’t ‘Key and Peele’ there’s zero chance that this would have made a ripple in the box office ocean.

Final Rating – 6 / 10. Ironically it is their comedic street cred that lead to duo Key and Peele making a humourless and inspiration free film about a duo seeking street cred in desperation.

Posted in Film, Movie Reviews, The Grey Area | Leave a comment