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Cockneys Vs Zombies

July 8, 2013

Cockneys vs Zombies

As the name suggests, this is a very serious British period piece set shortly before the death of Queen Victoria, the general plot follows an assassination attempt on……

No, it’s cockneys, guns, zombies, guns, old people, and guns.  It is everything that you’d hope the film would be, scene stealing actors (not great actors but scene stealing ones), zombie action, and some of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in a movie in  years.  It is camp to the extreme, but done brilliantly for the budget and keeps the laughs coming.

I was fortunate enough to see this film as CONvergence, a yearly con in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, at a screening prior to it’s limited US release and with James Moran, the screenwriter, in the audience.  There was then a question and answer section after that.  So a bit of “history” on this film, it was the idea of the films director, with the original idea being a more serious film until James Moran got his hands onto it and turned it into a hilarious comedy/action film.  He had a few goals in this film, which included coming up with three things that he had never seen in a zombie film before, I would write what they are, but I only remember two of them and they are a bit spoilerish, albeit on the light spoiler side.  This film also has a moment that James Moran said was the best idea he’d ever come up with and that he wouldn’t ever come up with anything as great again, it is one of the most hilarious scenes in the film and very memorable as well.

The story is pretty simple, two brothers are trying to help out their granddad, but don’t have any legal means to do it, so they decide to rob a bank, while they are in the bank, the zombie apocalypse happens in London and they have to fight there way to try and save their granddad with various adventures and odd moments along the way.  What works with how this is written is, firstly it doesn’t take itself seriously, at all.  It keeps the jokes coming quickly, and with non-stop hilarity.  Secondly, the characters have their own stories and personalities.  Thirdly, for the type of story it is, it has a happy ending, and one that works perfectly with the film, I get a momentary chill thinking about it, it doesn’t seem like a happy ending was stuck on, but a sad ending would have been so out of place that it would have ruined much of the first part of the film.  And the blend of characters works well, you have a good sized range in age and type, plus none of the characters are pigeon holed into one area.    And Moran doesn’t do two common zombie things, firstly, he doesn’t spend time explaining where the zombies come from, they are found in a tomb, genetic experiment, contaminated ground water, previous zombie outbreak, who knows, but it doesn’t matter.  And lastly, he doesn’t spend time explaining about the head shot.  This takes place in modern day London, if you and I know to take out a zombie with a head shot, why wouldn’t these people.

The big names in this film aren’t really the main characters for the most part.  Alan Ford and Richard Briers, Snatch and Watershipdown respectively,  have rolls in this film and are on screen for a strong period of time, but aren’t the two major protagonists.  Rasmus Hardiker and Harry Treadaway play the two main characters, they do a good job in those roles, they play off of each other well, as does everyone else in the film, but they are minor names when it comes to American knowledge of their acting with City of Ember and Your Highness being the most recognizable names on their IMDB pages, after Cockneys vs Zombies (or at least I hope it will become that).  I should also mention Michelle Ryan who has been in a number of things as well including Jekyll and Cashback, her role is different than the normal girlfriend sort of roll she’s had and she apparently jumped at the opportunity to play a stronger smarter character.

Visually this film has a low budget, the make-up and special effects are solid, but there aren’t a ton of them like you would get with something like Zombieland, but it works well enough in this film, and zombies are so popular now that they had extras coming out from everywhere who wanted to be zombies.  One of the extras even sent a 20 minute screen test of himself being a zombie in to become an extra, he got a slightly larger roll than most zombie extras in one of the most memorable scenes.  But there aren’t any major mistakes in this film that I caught with continuity or anything like that, and with the type of film it is, who cares.   The music also works very well for the film, and a British Cockney band, Chas ‘n’ Dave wanted to be in the film ,but it wouldn’t work with their schedule so they wrote original end credit music for the film.

Overall this is a film I could gush over a long time.  Find this film, watch it, it’s coming out in 8 cities in the beginning of August in the US, but also VOD the same day.  It is hilarious, well done, and a feel good film.  My best comparison for this films is Black Sheep (NZ), but it isn’t nearly as bloody and gory as that film was, and I think it works better that way.  It doesn’t try and have the zombie horror jumps, it just is a very straight forward action/comedy film with zombies, and while zombies are starting to get over played a little bit, this is one case where they remain simply fabulous and work.

Critical Grade: C

Entertainment Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

Just a quick reason for the grade, this film isn’t meant to be looked at through such a critical lens, there are films like this that are just meant to be enjoyed for the absurdity that they are, and if they don’t completely suck in other ways they can be enjoyed, so that is why this has an overall grade of an A while maintaining a C critical grade.

 

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Warlock: The Armageddon

March 12, 2013

Warlock: The Armageddon

I, for one, can’t call this a good film.  In fact, it was really a pretty bad film, because the acting was bad, the writing was bad, and the special effects were beyond bad.  This movie was made in the early 90’s, but I have to say, that there is little to no hope for the special effects or the movie with the whole premise, and everything that went on with it.

The story dates back to the middle ages when there were a set of six stones which were needed to summon Satan, but only the Warlock could summon him, and only once in a while, every 500 years, I believe, could the Devil be summoned.  So the Warlock comes to Earth, and he has a few days to get all of the stones, otherwise the time will have passed and they will have to wait a long time again.  So the Warlock comes, who looks surprisingly like Julian Assange, and finds most of the stones, but there are two warriors who can stop them, but they are kids, and they don’t know they are warriors until a day or so earlier, after the Warlock has come to earth.  However, their combined power, and love for each other they are able to defeat Warlock.

The acting in this film is bad.  The Warlock is played by Julian Sands, which is why I find it hilarious that he looks so much like Julian Assange.  Otherwise the rest of the cast isn’t worth noting, not of the actors or actresses are really memorable.  And that is probably because this was such a bad thing, and I have to imagine whatever they are doing now (hopefully not acting) is better.

Visually is where this film really “shines”.  The visuals are just terrible as they try and do computer generated effects, but that doesn’t work well in the early 90’s.  In fact they try and show a dagger one second as the real dagger and next as this blocky pixelated mess which they then decide is a good idea to show on the screen for the next few minutes making terrible turns as it moves between two characters who are trying to kill each other.  It isn’t bad, it isn’t hilariously bad, it is almost unwatchably bad.

This film is a definite skip.  I’m trying to think of any redeeming qualities, and the best one that I can come up with is that Julian Sands and Julian Assange look extremely similar which made seeing the Warlock on screen kind of funny.  But other than that, there isn’t anything that makes it worth watching.  I’ll suggest to everyone that they skip it, if you want to see the resemblance, I’m sure there is some youtube video of 30 seconds of the film that would be better to watch to see it than actually watching this mess of a film.

Critical Grade: F

Entertainment Grade: D-

Overall Grade: F

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Batman: Under the Red Hood

March 12, 2013

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Yes, I know that this is a cartoon, but I had to watch it, because it was a shorter film, and I like to nerd out from time to time.  It ended up being a good batman story, they didn’t hide what it was going to end up at all that much, but it was pretty entertaining.  And it is a pretty nice Batman story because unlike the live action Betman movies it didn’t seem to be the same thing pretty much over and over again and it didn’t have a nice little third act to wrap everything up in a stupid little bow.  Sorry, as you can tell, I wasn’t that huge a fan of The Dark Knight Rises, it was entertaining, but a bit long, this was more focused.

The story starts with a new villain coming into town, and he seems to be taking over the criminal world, but at the same time, he is taking a more violent approach to taking care of criminals.  But to Batman this new Red Hood seems familiar, and he becomes convinced that it is his supposed to be dead former helper Robin.  It opens up old wounds for Batman as he faces many of his old villains and he has to come through a lot of emotions to face off against the Red Hood.  I’ll leave it at that, but I was pleased with the storyline.

The voice talent for Marvel and DC animated movies is actually surprisingly good.  Jensen Ackles takes on Red Hood, he might be familiar to some as he’s one of the lead characters in Supernatural.  Neil Patrick Harris and John DiMaggio are also in this film.  Neil Patrick Harris obviously has a big name for himself from How I Met Your Mother and many other things.  John DiMaggio is from Futurama lending his voice talent that.

This film is pretty well put together and the voice talent is very solid as well.  For an animated film it isn’t too bad in terms of direction and in terms of feel.  It has that grittier side, in many ways thanks to the Red Hood.  With Batman stories I’ve said it’s really been about the villain, he has stronger villains, and they will often make up for some slight problems with Batman being a weaker main character, or maybe it is that he is overshadowed by the villains, but that works really well and I like it a lot.

Overall, I haven’t seen enough Batman animated films to know where to rank this, but it isn’t too bad.  It was more serious than some superhero animated films that I’ve seen.  It’s entertaining, but I will said, you probably need to be a bit of a nerd to watch and enjoy it.  But if you are, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll enjoy the villains and you’ll enjoy the whole story.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade; C+

Overall Grade B-

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50 New Movies in 100 Days: Transylvania 6-5000

March 12, 2013

Transylvania 6-5000

This is probably the only G movie that will make the list, but it had Jeff Goldblum in it so I had to watch it.  He’s always entertaining on the night shows and in the other movies I’ve seen him in, and that is what drove me this movie.  It is kind of a goofy sort of movie, I would call it an early spoof playing off of creature features and turning them into a fun lighthearted family movie, but still something that is quite funny.

The story starts with Jack and Gil being sent off on a after there is some found footage of Frankenstein.  They are sent there find if there is something actually going on for a tabloid.  Things in the town don’t seem quite normal, and Jack falls in love, while Gil decides that the stories are definitely real.  However, things don’t go all that well, Jack doesn’t believe Gil.  Things change with Jack’s flame’s daughter gets kidnapped by one of the monsters from all the old horror movies, Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy, and many more.  The town folks come to kill the monsters, but it turns out they aren’t quite as monstrous as they seem.

The acting talent is pretty good.  Jeff Goldblum is obviously the actor of note in the film, and it is a pretty good film because of that.  He has his normal nice goofy quality to the film.  Ed Begley Jr, Spinal Tap and other films.  So there is a second name with some note in it the film, and they play off each other fairly well as the two main characters.  The supporting cast is good too.  It seems, the acting style is actually pretty old in terms of how they wanted it to look, it makes sense because they are spoofing a lot of old films, but they do so very well and it fits the whole goofy mood of the film.

Visually this film works, like I said, playing off of an older style and feel, where it mirrors more closely to the older creature features.  It has a nice light and goofy feel to it, and it is a very entertaining G film.  It has a fairly predictable twist at the end of it, but it comes off really nice and is enjoyable, even with the goofiness.

Overall this is a film that is very out of my character, I don’t watch all that many goofy children’s films, but this one, like I said has Jeff Goldblum in it, so that is why I watched it.  Overall I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.  Twist was pretty predictable but overall I don’t think it should have ended another way.

Critical Grade: B-

Entertainment Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

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50 Movies in 100 Days: The Order of the Black Eagle

February 22, 2013

The Order of the Black Eagle

This is a late 80’s parody of James Bond, it is somewhat funny from time to time, but ends up being more of a drag than anything else.  The main character is actually pretty good, but the story just seems to drag on and on.  The Jax is kind of closer to Clouseau than to James Bond, but in a comedy that should work.

The story starts with a Nazi group kidnapping a scientist to try and take over the world.  The best spy is brought in to try and take them down, Duncan Jax, along with the help of Tiffany, a blond Interpol agent.  They manage to infiltrate the gang and find out that as well as using a laser beam to destroy countries, they are planning on bringing Hitler back from the dead.  Duncan escapes, but Tiffany is captured, and Duncan meets up with some people he’s worked with before.  They manage to get back and defeat the Nazi’s and blow everything up at the last moment.

Like I said, for the most part the acting is suspect, and everything in it is pretty suspect.  Ian Hunter is actually pretty entertaining as an actor in this film, he is obviously a caricature of James Bond trying to be as suave as possible, and then ends up being nearly a complete failure.  The other actors are pretty blah.

This movie almost seems like it had a decently sized budget, not because there is any actual talent in the film, but because everything seems really cheesy, and like they try and make something that is pretty grand.  The music in the film is pretty awesome 80’s sound, but overall not that hot. And it kind of just rambles on and on through many a different character and plot line.

This is one of those 80’s films that had a fair amount of potential but ends up being pretty much a failure.  The plot is kind of entertaining at least as a premise, but ends up being a failure as the characters are absurd, and it isn’t all that entertaining.  It has some jokes on it, but for the most part it seems to take itself more seriously than it should, or maybe more so it just is a poorly written joke.

Critical Grade: D-

Entertainment Grade: D+

Overall Grade: D

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Unicorn City

February 22, 2013

Unicorn City

This is a fun indie comedy about all things nerdy.  It is mainly about LARP-ing and role playing quest games but it’s done so in a very entertaining way and is completely over the top.  It is semi-predictable but they do a good job in character development as well as a good job with creating a villain that you really don’t like.

The story revolves around, Voss, a loser nerd who can’t keep a job and who basically just enjoys playing role playing games.  But when the dungeon master of their game kills him and he interviews for his dream job, he ends up creating Unicorn City.  Unicorn City is a place where people can play their role playing characters.  The “city” starts to flourish until Shadowhawk, the dungeon master from the RPG, comes and parks next to them, he steals all the LARP’ers away from Voss.  Things fall apart and Voss is kicked out of Unicorn City.  He decides to come back and save Marsha, the girl who loves him, but he hadn’t figured out that he liked her until now.

The acting in this film is surprisingly good.  Jon Gries is probably the biggest name having been in MIB, Supernatural, and other movies and shows.  He is a very solid bad guy in this film, not really evil, just egotistical, which is evil in the world of nerds.  Devin McGinn and Jaclyn Hales are Voss and Marsha.  McGinn is actually in The Last Lovecraft, which is also a very good movie and I’ve seen for the 50 new movies in 100 days.  He hasn’t done much besides that, but he’s a really good nerdy actor.  Hales hasn’t been in much else.

Visually much about this film is pretty low budget but looks good and is well done.  It is a character piece as much as having a major story developing Voss and the vilain.  They hit the nail on the head with how nerds are portrayed, those who believe themselves to be elite and better than everyone, and nerds who rage from time to time, and the much simpler just nerds for nerds.

Overall this is a really funny film that I highly recommend people.  It’s quirky, it is a good character character development, and a lot of good humor.  It is smart, and deals well with the nerd community and how it works.  Some of the nerd rage and elitism really reminds me of Batman fanboys flipping out when The Dark Knight Rises got less than perfect reviews, and that is what makes it work.  It is probably too nerdy for some, but the majority of people will like it.

Entertainment Grade: A-

Critical Grade: C+

Overall Grade: B

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Safety Not Guaranteed

February 18, 2013

Safety Not Guaranteed

This indie comedy is an enjoyable ride through some character development and fun situations.  It isn’t what you expect when you start it out which is nice and enjoyable, unfortunately about half way through it is easy to figure out what else is going to happen in the film and it ends up being pretty predictable at the end.  It works well though and is an entertaining film that is put together with a bunch of heart.

The story revolves around a newspaper add stating that someone is looking for someone to travel back in time with them, safety isn’t guaranteed and you have to bring your open weapons.  A Seattle based magazine decides to write a story about it, mainly so the writer can try and find an old girlfriend of his who still lives in their home town.  He takes along two interns and they track down the old girlfriend and the time traveler.  Things aren’t quite as they seem, the girlfriend isn’t the same and the time traveler isn’t all that right in the head, but he really believes what he is doing.  The journalist can’t get in with the time traveler (eventually does with the old girlfriend) but Darius, the intern can.  They continue collecting on the story and Darius becomes the fellow traveler, but the story falls apart when the journalist is rejected by his old girlfriend after they sleep together and it turns out that the time traveler is going back to save someone that didn’t die, but was an old crush of his that never had the same feelings about him.  But he was rightfully paranoid throughout the whole thing as the government did suspect him as a terrorist and were trying to find him.  He turns on the time machine and we’ll leave my retelling of the story there.

The acting in the film is good.  Aubrey Plaza, Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Parks & Rec, does a very good job as Darius, it isn’t a step outside of her comfort zone, she is still quiet and awkward and sarcastic, but she does a really good job of it.  Mark Duplass is good as the crazy time traveler, from the League, he comes across as paranoid, slightly insane and damaged but not as a dangerous crazy person, but someone who is off, probably suffering from some social mental disorder, but brilliant otherwise.  Jake Johnson is solid as the reporter who is fairly all over the place, he has a high image of himself but isn’t an outright bad person.  That is one thing interesting about this film, none of the characters are outright bad people, there is no pure villain, even the government officials aren’t bad, they have reason to be worried about the time traveler after he stole from government buildings, and they aren’t jerks.  Everyone is just normal in many ways, well very abnormal people, but normal in that there aren’t clear cut good and bad, everyone has their good things about them and everyone has their bad things about them.

Direction wise, this is a well put together film.  It has polish to it and doesn’t get caught up in trying to be stylized.  It is simply shot and shown and is a great character piece because of it, the characters only develop a little throughout the film in terms of progression, but there is a deep and rich back story which sheds light onto the characters as you go along.  There isn’t anything about this film that is overdone, even the time machine was a impressive looking machine is clearly cobbled together by the time traveler and isn’t this slick device.  It is bulky and the time traveler believes it will work, but no one else is completely sure about it and is very skeptical throughout the whole film.

The more I think about it, the better I like it.  The depth and flavor of character is really well done, even the side characters have their own back story which we get to hear part of.  It is predictable in the end, but that doesn’t detract a ton from the film.  Safety Not Guaranteed is a well crafted story that is very character driven in a very unique situation, and it doesn’t get bogged down in trying to be clever and people don’t act like they wouldn’t in those situations, so while the premise is very far fetched, the acting and everything seems very realistic in tone and makes for an enjoyable watch that I would highly recommend as a film that most everyone can enjoy.

 

Critical Grade: B

Entertainment Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+